Sunday, June 27, 2004

Via Fark

Fahrenheit 9/11

I was one of the many people who lined up to see Michael Moore's latest documentary. Even though Karen had the foresight to order tickets online days in advance, we still had to wait in a long line to pick up the tickets at the theater. People who walked in consistently remarked that they had never seen the theater so busy. We eventually got our tickets, found our seats and settled in.

The movie itself was quite striking. Parts of it were hilarious while others, especially the beheading, were simply horrifying. Moore's treatment of the 9/11 attack was thoughtful and effective, bringing back tears that have not dried up despite the number of times the events of that day have been rebroadcast. The portion of the film where Moore read the Patriot Act to Congress over the loudspeaker of an ice cream truck (that's not revealing, it's in the trailer) is also inspired. It highlights the eviscerating wit that has served Moore so well.

The film is not perfect though. Some of it sinks to pranks that ring hollow or into just plain silliness. The film also does not help to distinguish Moore's behavior from that of the administration he is railing against. The assessment that F911 is a two-hour negative campaign ad is not without merit.

Calling the film uneven is warranted which leads one to wonder why it was so successful at Cannes. I think the reason for this is not because it is an impeccable documentary. Rather, it is a high profile, and alarmingly rare, piece that is critical of George Bush and his administration. Our country, which once had a proud and honorable tradition of political discourse, is finally waking up to the fact that our leader may be doing us a great disservice. We have finally found a dissenting voice that is speaking loud enough to catch the attention of every distracted citizen.

The movie is getting people talking. It is getting people involved; provoking questions; inspiring action. In a country where so many don't even bother to vote, that is an accomplishment. F911 is as partisan as the things it criticizes, but the reactions to it are strong on both sides of the fence. Outside of the theater it seems to be generating the kind of multi-lateral discourse that the film itself is not capable of and that is what makes it worth seeing.

Saturday, June 26, 2004

Jane's Dead?

Jonah at LA Blogs points us to a blog run by most of the guys formerly in Jane's Addiction. An unnamed project is supposedly in the works.

Free association with: Velvet Revolver

We the People

I saw Farenheit 9/11 last night and it has no doubt excited a fury that I must first direct at an existing issue. My thoughts on the movie will be reserved for another day. For now, my attention is focused on the Induce Act and another meandering thought.

"It may soon be possible to carry around an AK-47 assault rifle and an iPod with you down the street - and be arrested for carrying the iPod."
- From this piece in The Register

"The reality of this is that you're going to have a world where Hollywood controls technology"
- EFF attorney Jason Schultz in this Wired article

I am beginning to feel that people in this country are being treated less as citizens and more like a resource; as a group to be controlled rather than a constituency to be served.

If corporations can exert their will over the legislators, and incite them to enact regulations that give its desires priority over the rights of citizens, business gives rise to a kind of privatized law. The policy-making power, relinquished by despairing citizens, is adopted by business and used to serve its own needs. Law becomes the way to extract money from a demographic. It becomes the new marketing.

The legislators listen because businesses are aggressively visible and the benefits are intensely alluring.

No doubt I oversimplify and under-comprehend what's happening here. But there is a pit in my stomach that says much of this is revolting and it wonders why we are not. And the new patriotism says...

Thursday, June 24, 2004


Seriously, is it even humanly possible to quantify how much this rules?

~via Kottke

Inducing Infringement of Copyrights Act of 2004

There's been a lot of noise today about some pending legislation that wants to sting the digital pirates of the world by making it a crime to simply "induce" piracy. Even worse, this legislation may just slide past Congress without any significant exploration of the consequences. It moved me enough to write to a Senator:

Dear Senator Hatch:

I urge you to withdraw your support of the Inducing Infringement of Copyrights Act of 2004. By making it a crime to "induce" any infringement of copyright law this legislation will stifle future innovation and further erode our fair use rights.

This act would criminalize many existing devices that have legitimate, non-infringing uses. Plus, it will have the added consequence of limiting technological innovation since developers will have to work with copyright holders to ensure future devices do not have unacceptable infringing uses.

Not every temptation is a crime. Not every citizen is a criminal.


[The Mollusk]

Read on: Lessig | Gillmor | Miller

EDIT: Boing Boing points us all to the EFF and their thoughts on what the future may hold if this legislation goes through. Creepy.

Spam continued...

Boing Boing points us to this story of a spammer. He and his accomplice are accused of stealing 92 million AOL screen names and using them to market a gambling operation and penile enhancement pills. If they're found guilty they would face a possible five years in prison and at least $250,000 in fines.

Tuesday, June 22, 2004


In a world full of tedious automated phone trees, cumbersome online help libraries and costly premiums for personal support, the help I have received from Blogger is a welcome and unexpected joy.

I've had a few minor issues with my other top-secret blog and I have received excellent attention from Blogger and Listenlab (the folks who run the audio blogging service). In each instance my problems were addressed and solved within a day.

Compare that with the help I received from Cingular when I tried to change to a local number. Contradictory information from multiple phone operators and b&m store employees resulted in an extended and frustrating ordeal.

Or compare it with my bank, whose rapid expansion and curious negotiations have made my account, since it was opened in California, autonomous and beyond the reach of my local branch here in Washington. What is their proposed way around this internal schism? Open a separate Washington account despite the fact that there is no consumer benefit and that it would require me to maintain sovereign online and offline records for each. Nonsense!

Granted, my blog is not as complex as cellular communications or interstate banking, but there have been issues. When there are I email the folks in charge. They explain. They fix.

And I love them for it.

Monday, June 21, 2004


When I was driving back to CA from CT I ended a (very) long day of driving in Las Vegas; specifically, at the New York, New York Hotel & Casino. I thought it would be fun since it would be a very long time before I would see anything even remotely New York-related again.

But lingering memories of the Big Apple were not the things I remembered most about my stay there. Instead I was fascinated by how efficient the systems in Las Vegas are at diverting money out of your pocket. The casino is a staggering revenue generator. The methods that have been developed to entice (or delude) visitors and persuade them to "take a chance" are as sly as they are seductive. Spend some time in a Vegas casino and you don't feel like you lost money, or worse, that the casino took it from you. Instead you feel as if your bankroll simply evaporated. And you're ok with that and you'll come back because that's what happens in Vegas.

The other systems are not as clandestine. Everything costs extra. You want movies? You pay. Internet? You pay. Parking? That's extra. See the show! Ride the rollercoaster! Everyone wants a piece of you, even the casino owners who certainly weren't happy with the 300 bucks that just vanished from your wallet. My stay seemed to be less about hospitality and more about highway robbery.

But the prevailing attitudes on the Vegas strip are nothing when compared to the motivations of a spammer. Slashdot points us to the confessions of such a creature. I always thought that spammers were concurrently the lowest form of life and the highest form of greed, but this article proves it. The hucksters out in Vegas at least try to entertain you a little. These guys would sell their kids for a few thousand valid email addresses.

God I hate junk mail.

Sunday, June 20, 2004

Happy, Happy, Joi, Joi

It seems that the perpetually-airborne mega blogger known as Joi Ito somehow generated a link to the outskirts of the blogosphere: me. I figure it has something to do with Technorati and automation as I can not figure out any reason why Joi's audience would be interested in my political views or my camping pictures. Nor can I find such a link on his site now. Nevertheless, I feel inclined to reciprocate.

Joi's certainly worth keeping track of. You should plug in his RSS feed if for no other reason than to watch as he accrues a billion frequent flyer miles. That is no small feat, but it is likely only a footnote considering what else he is up to.

Lt. Dan, ice cream...

Ok, um...this

And an ice cream truck just drove past my apartment.

An ice cream truck!

If there's milk on my doorstep in the morning I'm going to freak out.

Rugged Mountain People

The last big adventure before I begin teaching was incredible. I packed up a wiley assortment of bargain purchases and borrowed equipment and we headed out to the Silver Fir campground near Mt. Baker.

After hunting around the campground a little we negotiated a change of location from the modest spot that was reserved to a sprawling double site with tent pads and river access. We weren't a moment too soon as five minutes after we claimed it a stream of folks in RVs drove by and asked if it was available. We unpacked the gear, spent a little time with my tent's instructions and had it up and running (after a little help with the rain fly) in just a few minutes. It would be home for the next few days and my only shelter from the rain that was beginning to look a little threatening. Thankfully the storm died down soon after we set up camp, leaving us with pleasantly cool weather and a lot of time to relax by the (achingly cold) river. Jeremy and Emma braved the frigid waters both with a wetsuit and without although I don't know how. I dipped my feet in and experienced physical pain after about fifteen seconds.

The next day was not quite as restful as we hiked up one of the closed roads to a spot with beautiful views of Mt. Baker and the surrounding peaks. Being the only novice hiker in the group (and an absent-minded one at that) I forgot to put on sunscreen, the consequences of which you can see in my pictures. Six miles later we were down by the river again to be joined later by Brian and Natalya.

Karen prepared the second of two wonderful dinners that night giving me a welcome break from my rabid consumption of Wheat Thins. It was an early night. Everyone was in bed before it was even completely dark out (granted that was a little after 10).

Tomorrow a class full of undergrads awaits me and there may be anouther camping trip before my trip home in July. Its only a matter of time before I grow out my beard, start eating bugs and keep a bear as a pet.

Thursday, June 17, 2004


Apple needs to revisit their approach to the .Mac email system. It's been down for over three hours now. My frustration with this is directly proportional to my ignorance of email infrastructure and my inability to do anything about it. And so I post.

Tomorrow I camp.

Wednesday, June 16, 2004

Reprinted without permission

"I am very happy to say, Roxanne and I have lost all
control of our senses and have decided to get

Yep- we fly off to her homeland Singapore on July 8th
where I will meet her folks and if her dad doesn't
kill me, we will be getting hitched on July 24th. I
know it would be extremely difficult for any of you to
fly out on such short notice (or even with long notice
for that matter) but I did want to extend an invite to
anyone who is insane enough (ed) to fly for 18+ hours
(Priceline, air fair is $850) to attend a wedding with
350 strangers. But if anyone does decide to come, I
will promise you to help with any accomidations as
well as a truly great time.

Oh and for those folks who I haven't spoke to in a
while- Rox and I bought a house last month and when we
get back we will be throwing a party sometime in


Congratulations to you both!

On a lighter note...

Yesterday I learned that I am not at all prepared to summit on Mt. Ranier and that I am quite happy just meandering around it's base.


The New Yorker tells us how secret intelligence operations brought us very public scandal at Abu Ghraib.

Lisa Rein directs.

The Tyranny of Evil Men

Dan Gillmor points us to an interesting Washington Post article about the potential scale of the torture scandal and who, ultimately, can do something about it. We can.

Of course "we" are distracted, disenfranchised, disillusioned and unmotivated. And our democratic leaders know it. The behavior of this administration seems to indicate that our elected leaders no longer feel they are accountable; they no longer fear reprisals from the People. Thus it seems that some (certainly not all and probably not most) no longer feel the obligation to serve them.

If this ambivalence continues we will indeed get the government we deserve and the concepts of the "american dream" or "government by the people" will become as empty as that of "public service."

There is a new urgency that surrounds the upcoming election. We have to become the defenders of democracy because our highest officials seem to have lost the motivation, or even the ability, to do so.

Monday, June 14, 2004

The blogosphere visits...

I don't know how she found me or what she was up to the first time...but she's at it again.

Hi and welcome and thanks and stuff.


A fellow Seattle blogger inadvertantly reminded me of what I am supposed to do today:

Find this movie.

Sunday, June 13, 2004

On Magick

"...Every man and every woman has a course, depending partly on the self, and partly on the environment which is natural and necessary for each. Anyone who is forced from his own course, either through not understanding himself, or through external opposition, comes into conflict with the order of the Universe, and suffers accordingly.

A man whose conscious will is at odds with his True Will is wasting his strength. He cannot hope to influence his environment efficiently.

A man who is doing his True Will has the inertia of the Universe to assist him..."

-via Ming via Aleister Crowley

I'm a whiner.

The power of blogging is now clear to me. How else could this meager digest be mentioned in the same sentence as Seth Godin.

One good turn deserves another...

The Hallway

I've been systematically trying the coffee places in my neighborhood but none compare to the first one I tried. It's called Hines Public Market but the only signage in front is the word "Coffee" on a row of windows above the door. Not sure of what the proper name was I dubbed it "the hallway" and, with my roommate at least, the name is sticking.

It's a tiny place and they aren't open late (the hours of operation are still unclear to me) but the coffee is tremendous and it is the only one I have seen with trophies. The spirit of a small neighborhood business is alive and well there. During my last visit an older gentleman was ready to leave when he realized he had left his wallet at home. But the guy behind the counter offered to make his order and said they could settle things on his next visit. The same guy (whose name I will surely know soon) placed a free cup of espresso on my table so I could taste it, boldly claiming that "this is what espresso is supposed to taste like." Now I know why I prefer to cut my coffee with lots of milk...chocolate...whipped cream...sugar. I'll leave the bitterness to the professionals.

The people there are clearly passionate about their product. They have their own roaster and offer up a dizzying variety of beans. While preparing an order for a gentleman they tossed the espresso and started over, one guy claiming that he had never seen a shot "turn" so quickly...mere seconds apparently. What that means is not clear to me but they were astonished and talked about what could have caused it for more than a few minutes after it happened.

Just before I left a couple of business men stopped in. One tried to fake his way around his lack of coffee knowledge and obscure his amateur status by ordering a cup of "that black tar stuff." When the barista (baristo?) asked for a little more clarification, the businessman confessed his ignorance and said that he just wanted something that would keep him awake. Our fair host promised to take care of him.

For them coffee is more craft than high margin product which is as refreshing as my cappucino was. I love that place.

Thursday, June 10, 2004

Preach On Brother...

Mr. Godin puts into words what was for me a distinctly emotional response to the LA Times and their incredibly annoying spam activities. I registered for the NYT site long ago and I have treasured the information I've gotten on the site ever since. I respect the paper for the information they provide and, for the most part, leaving me alone.

The LAT is a different story. Confirming the purpose of my garbage email address, the newspaper has dutifully filled it with all kinds of meaningless messages that skillfully evade the junk mail filters. I no doubt fell victim to the chicanery that Seth describes.

I wonder if this "trickery" has any measurable effect on the credibility of an organization that trades upon the trust it has gained with its readers.

The Double Deuce

BitterTree is the catalyst for this unexpected second post as well. Just yesterday we were discussing this new mobile imaging service service, the state of camera phones, the abhorrent quality of my little T616 and some manufacturer's plan to offer 6MP camera phones in the not too distant future.

I laughed at the idea of impractically large images transferring over Bluetooth at such absurdly slow speeds that the battery on the phone would die before the transfer finished. And then along comes this novel innovation. I remain dubious and await the catch. I also think a 6MP phone cam is ridiculous but this new spec makes it a little less funny.


The artist formerly known as BitterTree pointed me to an interesting application of some of the principles I will be teaching this summer. I don't think it is complete though. Obviously some care was taken in this new creation. Why not go the extra mile and include the actual text that is in the declassified document? Seems like that would be an excellent way to test the effectiveness of the new design.

The author probably should have run a spell check too.

Sunday, June 06, 2004


We appropriated all the furnishings we have in our apartment from the guys who were moving out below us. In recognition of our large purchase they gave us their propane grill. It's as beat to hell as all the furniture but it was a BBQ and it was FREE! We would grill up tons of savory summertime fare on our balcony...

So much for that idea.

Saturday, June 05, 2004

I'll play...

Nigritude Ultramarine

I helped out Star Wars Kid so it's only fair.

Blog Mortaility Rate

I don't know where I saw it so I cannot point you to the specific article, but someone, somewhere recently posted some interesting statistics on the total number of blogs and the total number that are frequently updated. As Technorati illustrates, new blogs are popping up at an astounding rate. It is reasonable to assume then that the number of cobweblogs (ooo, that's new I think) is increasing at an equally astounding rate. But why? Yesterday, while preparing for the class I'll be teaching this summer, I stumbled upon one possible factor. Amongst the ethical requirements, university policies and sample work was an article entitled "Teaching Assistants as Teachers and Writers: Developmental Issues in TA Training" (The Writing Instructor: Winter 1986) and the following thought:

"[Lev] Vygotsky posits a "zone of proximal development" which he defines as " the distance between the actual developmental level as determined by independent problem solving and the level of potential development as determined through problem solving under adult guidance or in collaboration with more capable peers" (Mind in Society, 86). In other words, we grow through helpful mediation and intervention. Development is social and interactive. It doesn't take place in a vacuum."

With over 2.6 million weblogs being tracked by Technorati alone, most blogs (including this one) are in a vacuum. we talk to ourselves hoping to snag a reader or two from the transient audience that lands on our sites by accident. The "community" promised by weblogs (evidenced by insanely long blogrolls) remains an illusion for the thousands of personal publishers whose efforts rarely yield any more than a comment. Clay Shirky addresses this in his article Power Laws, Weblogs, and Inequality. From the article:

"Though there are more new bloggers and more new readers every day, most of the new readers are adding to the traffic of the top few blogs, while most new blogs are getting below average traffic, a gap that will grow as the weblog world does. It's not impossible to launch a good new blog and become widely read, but it's harder than it was last year, and it will be harder still next year."

Surely it would be unreasonable to expect a new blog to ascend to the level of Instapundit or other worthy A-list blogs like Boing Boing or Tony Pierce's Busblog, but what motivates the base of the blog power pyramid to continue with the effort when it is not clear if anyone is even paying attention? In this environment blogging becomes almost anti-social. There is no collaboration and there is no community. There is also no audience, which leaves the writer in a vacuum.

This is not meant to be a jealous indictment of the blogging elite...without them this site would not exist and I would have much less of interest to read online. It is merely a possible explanation why so many blogs go dark. They never find people to collaborate with, learn from and speak to.

Thursday, June 03, 2004

Visual Aid

For some reason this seemed like an effective way to illustrate my earlier point.

For Karen

Name Dropping

Ming the Mechanic greets all visitors to his blog with a provocative statement:

An old rigid civilization is reluctantly dying. Something new, open, free and exciting is waking up.

The death of old controls, of partisan and immovable forces (for example "old media" or "big business" or "traditional marketing"), is a pervasive theme on the net and blogs in particular. It seems that in every corner of the Web lurk a thousand stories about recording industry moguls or old school journalists or slow-moving CEOs who are frantically trying to shore up their interests as a new tide continues to wash away the sand their power centers are built on. Even our own government is taking steps to deny this movement (and their motivations may be the most sinsiter of them all).

It's a fascinating thing to watch. We are witnessing nothing short of a quiet revolution, perhaps something even larger than Joi's emergent democracy. I suspect it's even more exciting to be a part of it (although as a part-time blogger I can hardly claim myself as a participant). This technological promised land is not a given and requires support and sacrifice and vigilance just like any other political effort. As Lawrence Lessig claims in his book, "there is no nature in cyberspace." We can make it into anything we want. Our task at hand is to make sure that it is shaped by the traditions and ideals that our country was once celebrated for.

Hugh gets it. Amazon gets it. Seth and EFF and in some weird way maybe even Soundscan all get it.

I am just beginning to kind of understand. A little.

Wednesday, June 02, 2004

I am an imaginary number
I don't really exist


what number are you?

this quiz by orsa


As you can see I have been hard at work updating the hyperbolic infrastructure (aka picking a new template). SquawkBox wanted me to pay for the comments now, which seems a little silly since Blogger is giving them away. If I could find a template that featured a comments link then I would be in the money, right?

Found one. Found lots! Blogger kicked down a bunch of new templates for all us personal publishers. Trouble is they don't seem to be written in easily deciphered HTML so I am having a hard time figuring out how I can re-add some of the flourishes from the old template like the blogroll, email link and RSS feed. and I'm not particularly keen on the whole recent posts thing on the home page. You can already see the recent posts. They're right in front of you! So, if any of you folks who land on this page accidently because you were doing a Google image search (that should cover everybody) know how this humble blogger can modify the template to accommodate all of those elements (and make the center column fluid), leave a comment.

Or email me at: themollusk [at] gmail [dot] com


The Great Northwestern Novel
Mutant hatchery salmon extract carcinogens from trees and use it to spread heretofore undiscovered and highly resistant cancer cells using boats, earthy northwestern women and a priceless whalebone sculpture. Only radicals from oregon can save us now.

Thanks for link and the ending substitute!

Speed Demon

So someone on Slashdot made the drive to Oregon, recorded every minute of it and processed the footage so that we could see it all in exactly six minutes or an equivalent speed of 6953mph, or mach 9.13.

Now, more than ever, I am glad I took PCH and the 101. I can handle the journey up the 5 for six minutes but I don't know if I could hang with it for 16 hours. I say that now that it's over of course. Had you asked me around the time I was trudging across 299 East which road I would prefer to travel on, the 5 would have won hands down.

Tuesday, June 01, 2004

Domestic Innovation, Part II

While I'm on the subject...
Gizmodo points us to an article that offers a solid assessment of two autonomous vacuums. While I abhor ironing with every molecule in my body, I really enjoy vacuuming. It offers tangible results on a larger scale than ironing. In terms of square footage, I can accomplish more with a Hoover than I can with the afore-mentioned Black & Decker in the same amount of time.

But even the Roomba had me excited. I heard the distant echoes of Ron Popeil's mantra: set it and forget it. From this article it seems that this shall remain a dream of mine.

Not much power. Not very smart. Not terribly efficient. Roomba, you're an iron.

WA Blogging Lecture

Lecture: Bonnie Nardi, “Blogging for the Rest of Us”
11th Jun 2004 - 12:30 PM

For the last year Dr. Nardi has been studying individually authored blogs and political blogs. She will discuss why people blog, why she believes blogging is like having a private radio station, and how democracy will be impacted by blogs and related Internet tools. The research was conducted in two milieux: blogging in and around Stanford University, and Burlington, Vermont where one of her students studied the use of blogs and other Internet tools in the Howard Dean campaign. Bonnie A. Nardi is an anthropologist in the School of Information and Computer Science at UC Irvine. She is the author of “A Small Matter of Programming:Perspectives on End User Computing” (MIT Press, 1993) editor of “Context and Consciousness: Activity Theory and Human-Computer Interaction” (MIT Press, 1996), and co-author of “Information Ecologies: Using Technology with Heart” (MIT Press, 1999).

Maybe some of the folks at SeaBlogs will be there. Or the guy from buffoonery.