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ScrapBook

I have a huge library of articles and stories from the web on my PC that was growing out of control. 700 megs worth of knowledge and history that just sits there, backed up on CD. Not anymore. Using ScrapBook, a Firefox extension, I’ve organized my library and now it is a searchable personal reference. Lifehacker has a handy howto.

I need to get around to trying EverNote, a similar free tool with more capability, however, I’ve been looking for a lightweight, simple tool that gets out of my way and lets me work the way I work and ScrapBook is just about perfect. I’m partial to using my file system as a database, I don’t want to need the software to access my library directly. ScrapBook does that and builds a RDF document describing my library’s contents that I can parse for reusing my library in different ways with a little bit of Python or Perl. Shoot, I could simply consume the RDF and library (it’s HTML after all) and build my own UI with minimal effort.

“the best feeling in the entire world”

Emma is now very, very aware of her surroundings. Her smile fills up my heart like nothing else. She’s shares it all the time now – when she recognizes faces, hears voices in the room, when Richelle or me baby talk, when she’s being changed, even when she catches a glance of Xena walking by.

So when I read, anonymous rowhouse, the other day, this spoke to me:

i used to wonder what made people take their kids to all kinds of crazy places, i mean if i had my druthers sometimes i wish it were 1862 and my child(ren) would sit quietly making samplers while i worked on my latest collection of poetry (we’d be wealthy and have domestics).

but that isn’t what it’s really like.

somewhere between conception and kindergarten, if not at the moment of their arrival, you develop an almost palpable determination to hear your offspring go, “wow!” and see their eyes get big and witness all their delight and wonder at the smallest happenstance.

that is the best feeling in the entire world.

it starts, perhaps with the very first laugh … and continues through every redemption of prize tickets, rollercoaster, and bucket of seawater with a little crab in it, all through the seasons of their growing up.

‘Perfectly proportioned’ websites may be the worst

New Scientist:

…a study by Paul van Schaik at the University of Teesside, UK, has found that the golden ratio does not benefit all designs. Websites with golden proportions can be harder to extract information from, he says.

Van Schaik put 98 students into five groups and asked them all to answer questions using information on five separate websites. He recorded the time it took participants to answer each question, together with the number of web pages they looked at to do so.

All the sites had a navigation bar with links to other sections of the site on the left of the page and a frame for content on the right, but the sizes of these two sections differed for each group. The pages of one group were divided according to the golden ratio, while the websites of the other four groups gave over less space to the navigation bar.

Those in the golden group answered the questions slowest, taking an average of 15.8 seconds to answer each question – 3.5 seconds longer than the fastest group. The golden ratio group also took 2 seconds longer than the next slowest group and had to visit more pages to find the information required.

“It has been suggested since antiquity that the ratio is aesthetically pleasing,” says Van Schaik. “But we found that not only is it not liked in web pages, it is also less efficient in terms of accuracy and speed.”

From the hard drive: December 2002 – The Ratt Trap

NYTimes: Chuck Klosterman: The Ratt Trap:

Dee Dee Ramone and Robbin Crosby were both shaggy-haired musicians who wrote aggressive music for teenagers. Both were unabashed heroin addicts. Neither was the star of his respective band: Dee Dee played bass for the Ramones, a seminal late-70’s punk band; Crosby played guitar for Ratt, a seminal early-80’s heavy-metal band. They died within 24 hours of each other last spring, and each had only himself to blame for the way he perished. In a macro sense, they were symmetrical, self-destructive clones; for anyone who isn’t obsessed with rock ‘n’ roll, they were basically the same guy.

Yet anyone who is obsessed with rock ‘n’ roll would define these two humans as diametrically different. To rock aficionados, Dee Dee and the Ramones were ”important” and Crosby and Ratt were not. We are all supposed to concede this. We are supposed to know that the Ramones saved rock ‘n’ roll by fabricating their surnames, sniffing glue and playing consciously unpolished three-chord songs in the Bowery district of New York. We are likewise supposed to acknowledge that Ratt sullied rock ‘n’ roll by abusing hair spray, snorting cocaine and playing highly produced six-chord songs on Hollywood’s Sunset Strip.

…What the parallel deaths of Ramone and Crosby prove is that it really doesn’t matter what you do artistically, nor does it matter how many people like what you create; what matters is who likes what you do artistically and what liking that art is supposed to say about who you are. Ratt was profoundly uncool (read: populist) and the Ramones were profoundly significant (read: interesting to rock critics). Consequently, it has become totally acceptable to say that the Ramones’ ”I Wanna Be Sedated” changed your life; in fact, saying that would define you as part of a generation that became disenfranchised with the soullessness of suburbia, only to rediscover salvation through the integrity of simplicity. However, it is laughable to admit (without irony) that Ratt’s ”I Want a Woman” was your favorite song in 1989; that would mean you were stupid, and that your teenage experience meant nothing, and that you probably had a tragic haircut.

The reason Crosby’s June 6 death was mostly ignored is that his band seemed corporate and fake and pedestrian; the reason Ramone’s June 5 death will be remembered is that his band was seen as representative of a counterculture that lacked a voice. But the contradiction is that countercultures get endless media attention: the only American perspectives thought to have any meaningful impact are those that come from the fringes. The voice of the counterculture is, in fact, inexplicably deafening. Meanwhile, mainstream culture (i.e., the millions and millions of people who bought Ratt albums merely because that music happened to be the soundtrack for their lives) is usually portrayed as an army of mindless automatons who provide that counterculture with something to rail against. The things that matter to normal people are not supposed to matter to smart people.

Now, I know what you’re thinking; you’re thinking I’m overlooking the obvious, which is that the Ramones made ”good music” and Ratt made ”bad music,” and that’s the real explanation as to why we care about Dee Dee’s passing while disregarding Robbin’s. And that rebuttal makes sense, I suppose, if you’re the kind of person who honestly believes the concept of ”good taste” is anything more than a subjective device used to create gaps in the intellectual class structure (emphasis mine – Karl). I would argue that Crosby’s death was actually a more significant metaphor than Ramone’s, because Crosby was the first major hair-metal artist from the Reagan years to die from AIDS. The genre spent a decade consciously glamorizing (and aggressively experiencing) faceless sex and copious drug use. It will be interesting to see whether the hesher casualties now start piling up. Meanwhile, I don’t know if Ramone’s death was a metaphor for anything; he’s just a good guy who died on his couch from shooting junk. But as long as you have the right friends, your funeral will always matter a whole lot more.

Long live The Ramones. Long live Ratt n’ Roll. Down with fuckin’ elitism.

“Why people still believe in the Waterfall model”

Psyc+Tech: Don’t draw diagrams of wrong practices:

The Waterfall model is originally invented by Winston W. Royce in 1970. He wrote a scientific article that contained his personal views on software development. In the first half of the article, he discusses a process that he calls “grandiose”. He even drew a figure of the model, and another showing why it doesn’t work (because the requirements always change). This model is the waterfall. He used it as an example of a process that simply does not work. In the latter half of the article he describes an iterative process that he deems much better.

OK, so why do people still advocate the waterfall? If you look at the scientific articles on software engineering that discuss the waterfall, they all cite Royce’s article. In other words, they’re saying something like “The waterfall is a proven method (Royce, 1970).” So they base their claims on an article that actually says the opposite: that the model does not work.

This is how science (unfortunately) often works – researchers just cite something, because everyone else does so as well, and don’t really read the publications that they refer to. So eventually an often cited claim becomes “fact”.

I would argue that Waterfall methodologies can work, however just like Agile, it depends on the project, the team, and the environment. As always, pick the right tool for the job. A development methology is just another tool. Just another means to an end.

You KNOW it’s bad when even FOX News…

Recognizes our unpopular President and the public’s views towards his administration.