Thursday, February 2, 2006

Groundhog Day 2006

It's Frisket's birthday today, she turns four.  For her birthday she slept in on the bed and then took a walk around the neighborhood. 

I had a post all written up in my head about the flight back from Fort Lauderdale but ended up never actually writing it down.  Suffice to say, while the flight itself was ok, it didn't take off until 9:00, but boarded at 7:45 (was scheduled to depart at 7:36p.m.).  On arriving home I discovered the newly installed hot water heater had gone out and we had no hot water.  After some tossing and turning worrying over whether there was a gas leak in the basement, I did the questionably smart thing and went down (at 2:00 a.m.), opened up the basement door, turned on the flashlight outside and descended.  Didn't smell any gas, the pilot had just gone out.  Rather than try to figure out how to relight it, I just turned off the gas feed to the heater and returned to bed.

After getting some sleep I did relight the pilot and all seems well, hasn't gone out since.

Am trying out ecto for blog editing again.  I'm tired of writing in HTML, though ecto seems to be either Rich Text or HTML, you can't easily swap between the two (it strips out HTML tags it doesn't understand apparently).

Otherwise not much going on.  No travel planned for February, no major events.  I'm sure that will change but am presently enjoying the blank slate of the month while it lasts.

e.p.c. posted this at 17:39 GMT on 2-Feb-2006 .

Congrats to Gemini, er Apollo, er

Kudos to IBM's team (aka Intranet team) on being named one of the ten best by Jakob Nielsen's consultancy: IBM's Intranet One of the World's Top Ten.  See, I don't always criticize IBM. [Via Keith Instone] started out as a mirror of on an ancient RS/6000 320 box.  It sat under my desk in Armonk, with the unfortunate consequence that just the right placement of toes could power it off.  The mirror ran from some time in February 1995 until June 4th, 1995.  I know the end date because I was told to shut it down for the announcement the following day: IBM's (hostile) takeover of Lotus Development Corporation.

The internal mirror never restarted after was too much a pain to copy files back and forth (we didn't have ssh, scp, or rsync at that point).  Later in 1995 was resurrected as part of the "Gemini" project, then renamed "Apollo" as we sort of wandered through what it meant to have a separate internal corporate homepage.  It continued to stumble along through 1996 until being re-re-relaunched by a separate dedicated intranet team, members of which are still involved with the IBM intranet's day to day activities.

For the record, I believe it was Michael Niksch who coined the w3 term.

Anyway congratulations w3-ers, though I still wonder if search has ever improved since the days of Guru.

e.p.c. posted this at 23:51 GMT on 2-Feb-2006 .


Alex had a rough night Monday night.

Western Union has ceased sending telegrams [via kottke and david singer].

Interesting article at the ACLU: Eavesdropping 101: What Can The NSA Do?.  The administration argues that the only people who are targeted are those who are in contact with Al Qaeda.  That implies that they know who these people are.  If they do know who they are, are they going to do better than in 2001 when they had various bits of information?  I suspect not.  Just my jaded lefty view I suppose.

I think I've linked to this before, but the ACLU has a fun demo of what happens when everyone has access to all of your data all the time: Not Just Pizza.

I'm getting frustrated with Bloglines.  If you peek under the covers you see that it loads massive Javascript structures.  So massive that when I try to edit my blogroll Firefox frequently complains that the script is taking too long to run.  I am surprised they haven't implemented some Ajax-y functions to transfer XML data back and forth instead of creating these Javascript files.  I also find that I want to read my news  / feedstream in a different way.  I want to be able to sort by date across all the posts or the posts within a given folder.  I'd like to have different slices of, be able to categorize feeds multiple ways.  For example there are several VC blogs I read which I've filed in my "Finance & VC" folder.  But several of these VCs are in New York, so I'd like to pull them up with a view on New York blogs.  I haven't looked at any other web based services yet (I do have a Google reader account, count me unimpressed; I've tried Rojo and Kinja on their initial launches, perhaps it's time to review them again).

A MMPORG gaming guild, The Syndicate, has obtained a trademark on its name for all things related to online gaming.  It's interesting because it's yet another crossover between the gaming world and the real world (cf. my interest in the crossover between the game-world economies and real-world economies, the exchange for gaming world credits for real world dollars).

For some reason, it's news that the NPR show This American Life is moving to New York.  I have been walking by their Brooklyn studios daily for the past year or more.  Maybe that is just an outpost and this is a separate team moving to NYC.  I feel a little bad, I don't listen to the show, but I've been mostly off-radio unless I manage to remember to turn on the Sirius receiver (which gets two NPR channels, so I now have no excuse, do I?).

e.p.c. posted this at 23:53 GMT on 2-Feb-2006 .

Friday, February 3, 2006

Let he who is without a vote cast the first stone

During the 2004 Summer Olympic Games, a bunch of guys in D.C., after spitting up their beers, wondered why Puerto Rico has an Olympic team (which beat the U.S. in basketball).  Probably some more beers later and voila, the District of Columbia Olympic Committee.  According to this Washington Post article, they are focussing their efforts on building a competitive curling team (ok, tongue in cheek, they can't even practice curling in D.C. but have to go to Laurel, MD).

e.p.c. posted this at 01:40 GMT on 3-Feb-2006 . , Comments [2]

Sunday, February 12, 2006


We have about three feet of snow on the upstairs deck. It's only snowed about 8-10 inches but we're at the end of this U-shaped wind tunnel of buildings.

I took Frisket out at 7:30. The normal walk to Cranberry's and back is about 20 minutes, plus or minus waiting time. Was more like 45 minutes today, nothing had been shovelled and somebody just had the need to drill her head into snowbanks every few steps.

e.p.c. posted this at 16:20 GMT on 12-Feb-2006 .

Les XX Jeux Olympique d'Torino

The Olympic Games are back...I don't plan to watch any events except by accident. When you're in the thick of the Games it seems like there's nothing else going on in the world. It's been six years since my last Games and it's, there's more interesting things to do. At least in Sydney the TV coverage was a little more balanced (Aussie focussed but not to the exclusion of all other sports/nations). If you're looking for the schedule of TV coverage on NBC in the U.S., MSNBC has posted it Winter Olympics TV Schedule.

One point of interest: NBC appears to have partnered with Sun Microsystems for the web site. This is there third technology partner in as many Olympic Games (admittedly I don't know who they partnered with for Athens).

I find it curious, from a web geek perspective, that they redirect to "index.html". Just an oddity. Although they are using Apache, they are forcing replies using HTTP/1.0 which is a silly thing to do with a high-traffic website. They also have requests set to expire immediately and not cache, another silly thing.

They are responding to requests to encode the response in a compressed payload, using gzip instead of deflate, though only from and not their CDN

e.p.c. posted this at 16:26 GMT on 12-Feb-2006 .

NYT: The Lowdown on Sweet?

In The Lowdown on Sweet?, an article describing an Italian researcher's findings that aspartame (aka Nutrasweet) can cause cancer in rats we read: In an analysis of 166 articles published in medical journals from 1980 to 1985, Dr. Ralph G. Walton, a professor of psychiatry at Northeastern Ohio Universities College of Medicine found that all 74 studies that were financed by the industry attested to sweetener's safety. Of the 92 independently funded articles, 84 identified adverse health effects.

The food industry is claiming that the study is flawed because the research team allowed the rats used in the study to live longer (to their natural lifespams) rather than a two year standard used in the U.S. to study toxic effects.

In other unrelated news, it has been a year since I ceased drinking diet soda. Also, unrelated I'm sure, the psoriasis which I've had in my hands for the last several years abated dramatically over the course of the past year. With the winter weather it has returned but not as severely as it had in past years.

e.p.c. posted this at 23:25 GMT on 12-Feb-2006 .

Thursday, February 16, 2006

On the way to San Francisco for the weekend. Lesson one of the trip: United's p.s. service? Not so much in the premium side. From the moment we bought the tickets we were told seats would be no problem, just be patient, seats will be released at the airport, seats will be released at the gate, oops, it appears the flight is oversold and you might not get on.

So, perhaps we won't be in SFO for the weekend.

e.p.c. posted this at 17:18 GMT on 16-Feb-2006 .

Friday, February 17, 2006

We arrived last night without much incident. I'm not sure I'd fly the United p.s. service again. Just, for the fare we paid, I expect better. Sorry United employees, comfort wins out for me over cute logos, emblems and designs.

e.p.c. posted this at 20:34 GMT on 17-Feb-2006 .

Saturday, February 18, 2006

DCOC has a sponsor

A followup to Let he who is without a vote cast the first stone: the nascent D.C. Olympic Team has signed Labatt's asa sponsor: DC Curling team blogads: "momentum beyond our wildest dreams": Well, one of our buddies at Grassroots, Bill McIntyre, had been in contact with some folks at Labatt Beer from an earlier effort. He told them about the DC Olympic team. They thought it was brillliant, and agreed to sponsor it. Specifically, they sent us some sweet uniforms and are sending some full on warm-up suits.

e.p.c. posted this at 18:32 GMT on 18-Feb-2006 .

If you skyped my cell phone...

Someone called my cell phone yesterday using SkypeOUT. I know this because SkypeOut uses 10000123456 as the return phone number. Unfortunately, either Skype or T-mobile screwed up and all I heard on the message was ...trying to reach Ed Costello. So, if you're still trying to reach me, whoever you are, either skype me or send email to epcostello௫

e.p.c. posted this at 19:46 GMT on 18-Feb-2006 .

Tuesday, February 21, 2006

Adobe finds a new way to annoy me

I broke down and bought Adobe Acrobat Professional 7.0 several weeks back.  I had been using Acrobat 5.0 which was perfectly fine for creating PDFs, but editing existing PDFs was getting more difficult as more are created either with Acrobat 6 or 7, or other tools which apparently support features not in Acrobat 5.

So I upgraded.

This morning Acrobat prompts me to allow it to run a critical updates task while I'm reading my 2005 expense report from AMEX. I click ok.

It whirs for a bit.  Then asks me again to confirm an upgrade to 7.0.7.  I click ok.

It whirs for a bit and starts downloading.  It kicks off the Windows Installer which also starts running.  My  Windows Installer requests permission to upgrade Acrobat to 7.0.7.  I click ok.

At no time do any of these tasks say Oh, by the way, happen to have the install CD inserted in the computer at this moment?. Hell, I don't even have a CD drive attached to the computer right now.

So, of course I reach a point where everything stops and asks for the CD to be installed. This is so that Adobe, which has already used product activation to verify that you have a legitimate copy of the software, can re-verify that you have a legitimate copy of the software because you have a physical CD. I realize that what I should do is just create a CD image and mount it, disk space is that cheap these days.

So, I cancel out of all of the stupid windows now littering my screen and instead of taking the time to dig out the CD (for the amount of $$$ the package costs, I lock the CD up in my firesafe) and instead blog about it here.

e.p.c. posted this at 16:21 GMT on 21-Feb-2006 .

Wednesday, February 22, 2006

Two links on highly scalable databases

SQL Databases and Internet-Scale Applications: When you build web applications that have to scale up to millions of users, you sometimes end up questioning almost every aspect of your design as you hit scalability problems.

Where have all the good databases gone: Users of databases tend to ask for three very simple things:

  • Dynamic Schema
  • Dynamic Partioning of Data
  • Modern Indexing
My message is to the Open Source community that has, so ably, built LAMP [...]. Please finish the job. Do for databases what you did for web servers. Give us dynamism and robustness. Give us systems that scale linearly, are flexible and dynamically reconfigurable and load balanced and easy to use.

e.p.c. posted this at 00:14 GMT on 22-Feb-2006 .

Thursday, February 23, 2006

Got your long tail right here...

Seen briefly on the ABC hit series "Lost," a surreal comic novel by an Irish author who died 40 years ago has been rescued from obscurity, Reuters reported. The novel, "The Third Policeman," was written by Flann O'Brien (1911-66), who was influenced by James Joyce, and fans of "Lost" are apparently scouring it for clues to the mysterious island where passengers from a downed airliner are marooned from 'Lost' Revives Interest in a Flann O'Brien Novel.

Within two days of the broadcast, 10,000 copies were sold. It's been amazing, said Chad Post, associate director of the Center for Book Culture at Illinois State University in Normal, publisher of O'Brien's books in the United States. In three weeks, we sold 15,000 copies, the same number as we'd sold in the last six years.

From 'Lost' Revives Interest in a Flann O'Brien Novel via

e.p.c. posted this at 17:18 GMT on 23-Feb-2006 .

Friday, February 24, 2006

Random bits for 20060224T0000Z

The Shake Shack reopens 21 March 2006. The website includes a countdown clock for those who wait in earnest for their next custard. Ooh, wait, they've included a Blog this link:

I know that by the time this was posted, or you are reading it, it is not midnight UTC as written in the title.

Lisa and I went to an event called NextNY last night at the Antarctica Bar in Tribeca. This was a relatively impromptu, ad-hoc event called by Charlie O'Donnell in his blog about two weeks ago, asking if anyone doing "Web 2.0"ish stuff would be interested in getting together. It was fun, was the first time in a long time that I've gone to a techie event in NYC and not been hit up for a job nor headhunted. Just people who are doing stuff getting together and exchanging ideas and information. I have a couple of leads I need to follow up on in the next week as a result. We actually skipped out early for dinner at Sushi Samba 7, apparently the NextNY event went on until midnight.

Fascinating writeup on MySpace by Danah Boyd here: Identity Production in a Networked Culture: Why Youth Heart MySpace. My very abrupt summary: youth are routing around the controls placed on them by today's parents by utilizing instant messenging and places like MySpace to engage in that age-old activity of "hanging out". Youth are adapting the (original) philosophy of the Internet (route around network failures automagically) to their lives. I'm not sure what to do with that yet.

I managed to make it through two episodes of The IT Crowd before hanging up. The premise of the Channel 4 (UK) produced series is the adventures and misadventures of an I/T team in a large nameless corporation. First episode: funny. Second Too much of a classic stereotype (male nerds, computer-illiterate female pipped to be their manager). I'm sure it appeals to someone, perhaps it appeals to the non-geeks in the audience.

I may have pointed to this earlier, but I found this use of Google Earth fascinating. Atlantic Yards is this stupid project over on Flatbush at Atlantic which involves condemning a number of properties which have been rehabbed in the past several years and turning them over to a private developer. The intent is to develop a massive, Battery Park City or La Defense style mega complex over the combined properties and LIRR railyards including a stadium for a basketball team the developer bought. Anyway, someone used Google Earth to mock up a visualization of what the buildings will look like. If you have Google Earth you can download a file which will give you a 3d rendering of the buildings (just cutout mockups of course) which you can pan, tilt, etc. There is another one floating around which lets you compare the pre 9/11 Manhattan Skyline with the theoretical-if-they-ever-agree-to-build-something skyline including the 541 metre Freedom Tower.

A couple weekends back, Lisa and I participated in a wine tasting with Jon Bonné, which resulted in this writeup at MSNBC: Zinfandel: The big, red Valentine wine. I have to admit, I didn't really enjoy any of the Zins, which I think indicates that I dislike the entire category.

This weekend we were in San Francisco, mostly for a get away but also to do some brainstorming with friends about dripldu and spotmarket. Much wine and cheese was consumed of course. We encountered VinoVenue just around the corner from our hotel. This could be the NBT of franchising. Basically, it's a place you can go and perform your own ad-hoc wine tasting. It is not the place to go and drink lots of wine, at least through the automated servers as a single tasting is priced at 1/10th of the price of a bottle. A single tasting also apparently varied in size though I didn't notice that as much. But if you want to get a chance to taste a range of, say, Syrahs or Chardonnays this is the place to go (limited of course to the ranges of wines they serve and keep in stock).

We also ate dinner at Frisson, after the tasting of wines at VinoVenue. That may have been a mistake, though I don't actually remember anything except three more plates of cheese.

Cheese seemed to rule the weekend.

Oh, and we had a taxicab ride from hell. On Friday night we took a cab from the hotel to Deep Sushi on Church Street (San Francisco). The driver took several of the hills sort of fast. Now, I haven't driven in San Francisco in maybe ten years so perhaps I shouldn't criticize, however at the bottom of the hills, where the streets temporarily flatten out before descending again, we sort of kept bottoming out. This resulted in some amount of smoke blowing away from the car as we approached the restaurant. Actually, it was a lot of smoke, so much that someone pulled alongside and asked: You know, you've got quite a lot of smoke coming out of the car? I won't print the driver's reply.

He was perplexed as to why there was a lot of smoke as well as why the car ...was
........slower up the gradual incline towards Church Street. My guess is that he either blew the transmission (the smoke smelled like transmission fluid not actual smoke from a fire) or bottomed out one too many times and caught a gear in the transmission casing.

We took SF Muni back after dinner. Well, we tried to. Being clueless New Yorkers we didn't have exact change for the trolley and ended up getting off at (I'm guessing) Dolores and Market, cabbing back to the hotel.

Yes, it was a different cab.

I've actually been surprisingly busy on the work front. I don't know if it's the weather, something in the water, or just coincidence but several projects are coming up to speed, in addition to the stuff I've been doing on my own. I have nothing to really post about yet, everything's in the initial getting-together stage, but still promising.

I'm going to tweak this site a bit over the coming days. I've finally started switching to MovableType 3.2 on my other sites and will do so here. I'm also reverting to using the Keywords field (which none of you can actually see, can you?) for keywords (sorry, of course I meant tags) instead of URLs linked to from each post. There's an MT 3.2 plugin which will skim out URLs and likely do a better job for linking than my current hack.

Enough random bits for now, go watch some Olympic Games curling action!

e.p.c. posted this at 00:42 GMT on 24-Feb-2006 .

Saturday, February 25, 2006

Dr. Macro is blogging

This will be totally obscure to probably all but one of my eleven readers, but W. Eliot Kimber a/k/a "Dr. Macro" now has a blog: Dr. Macro's XML Rants (All tools suck Some tools suck less than others). I knew Dr. Macro at IBM and very meekly participated in the development of the IBMIdDoc SGML DTD waaaayyyyy back in the day which he shepherded along. I don't know that anyone actually used IBMIdDoc, I shifted to working on before it was finished and kept hearing how it was blowing up various SGML parsers left and right. It was technically correct, just very complex.

I think the nickname Dr. Macro came about for his penchant for writing XEDIT macros, though they could have been BookMaster macros.

Update: Seem to be dropping c's today.

e.p.c. posted this at 16:32 GMT on 25-Feb-2006 . , Comments [2]

The Amen Break

Not sure where I found this originally, but I finally listened/watched a fascinating clip I downloaded about the Amen Break. Basically, the "Amen Break" is a 6 second drum riff which has been sampled, resampled, and repurposed by a variety of musicians to the extent that it shows up in Hip-Hop, Jungle, Techno tracks as well as commercial audio tracks for Jeep and "the purple pill".

The clip is here, from the artist's description page: Nate Harrison: Can I Get An Amen?

e.p.c. posted this at 17:17 GMT on 25-Feb-2006 .

Slightly acerbic and eccentric dog walker who masquerades as a web developer and occasional CTO.

Spent five years running the technology side of the circus known as

More about me here.