reading list update

Wednesday, December 2nd, 2009

the evolving self – robert kegan
the river why – david james duncan
the wind’s twelve quarters – ursula k. leguin
east of eden – john steinbeck
the yiddish policeman’s union – michael chabon
[arrival in watsonville]

other stuff i read but didn’t succeed in posting at the time

Tuesday, July 14th, 2009

in roughly reverse chronological order, stepping back to where i left off on my reading list:

cryptonomicon – neal stephenson
a wild sheep chase – haruki marukami
legends of the fall – jim harrison
hell’s angels – hunter s. thompson
the tortilla curtain – t.c. boyle
[san diego]

son of a witch – gregory maguire
wicked – gregory maguire

plains of passage – jean m auel
tihkal – alexander and jane shulgin
[colorado for the holidays]

servant of the bones – anne rice
dreams of my father – barack obama
the kite runner – khaled hosseini
[reconnecting with bloomington]

sometimes a great notion – ken kesey
[lingering in oregon]

social bookmarking idea of the day – I’d Buy That!

Monday, November 5th, 2007

so lots of people do what i just did (and am doing now… MY META FRIES YOUR BRAIN!!) and say “hey it’d be cool if blah” and then nothing happens because making ideas happen is a skill that is much rarer than just making ideas up.

but the complexities of actual production and distribution aside, one of the things that keeps people from feeling compelled to invest much energy in their ideas is the fact that it’s hard to really gauge how ridiculous something is, and it’s hard to know how much things should cost.

i therefore present a fun web 2.0 challenge:
a website and associated blog-ready button a la rss, digg,, or technorati with interaction as follows:
P “the Rock” Rastinator is reading blogs at work and happens over kynthia’s sweet idea about a daylight schmavings time alarm clock. he clicks on the button below the post that says “I’d Buy That!” and a little box comes up that says:
Good Idea! I’d buy that for [dropdown menu – “actually, you’d have to pay me”, “less than $10”, “$10 – $25”, “$25 – $50”, “$50 – $100”, “lots!”].

maybe then there’s a follow up that says “Seriously?” and gives choices like – “i mean, maybe, if i already bought new outfits in secondlife that month”, “as long as i don’t get fired for reading your blog first, beeyotch”, “really truly”, and “if i’m lying you can have my firstborn child”.

it would also be fun to have sister services to handle responses like: “that already exists, dumbass” and “hey, that’s my idea!”
because those would undoubtedly crop up, and it would be sweet to start linking related ideas together because folks could join forces and/or throw themselves off of buildings because their life’s work has already been accomplished.

i’m not saying market research would be totally replaced, but it would give people some fun data to start with and i bet we’d see some really interesting stuff happening as a result.

and like all things intarwebbian, it would only get more interesting when other people made the next thing better.

apparently when i procrastinate when i know i should writing, i come up with ideas!
either i should stick with being a designer, or my entire graduate education has just been revealed as a huge diversionary plot by my subconscious…

i pick both!

idea of the day for the freelance market – daylight schmavings time

Monday, November 5th, 2007

a personalized alarm clock that asks the user to answer two questions:

  • 1. Sunrise should occur at: _______
  • 2. I want to wake up __________ (hours/minutes) after sunrise.

so for example, one might answer:

  • 1. Sunrise should occur at: 6:30 am
  • 2. I want to wake up 1.5 hours after sunrise.

and then the alarm would go off based on whenever sunrise was set to happen each day, but it would always tell you it was 8:00.

the sun would therefore set at different times throughout the year (silly sun), but you would always wake up at the same time lightwise, and probably automatically get more sleep in the winter, which you arguably need.

the clock would probably need another feature where it automatically translates for you between your time and “sucker” time. so you can go: “jim wants to meet for drinks at what he says is 7:00 pm. what time is that for sane people?”
it says: about 5:45. (today in portland, sunrise was 7:51, so the offset for my example would be -1:21. i think the clock should round a bit to avoid making people think of time as complex math, but there could be an anal adjustment setting.)
you go: ok, i guess i can be there by 6 or so. set an alarm for 5.
and then you call jim like “hey, i’ll be there, but i might be 15 or 20 minutes late, k? see you then.”

i think that would be hella fun.

yesterday tif and i were talking about how the bitch of DST is adjusting to a new schedule, but then this morning i was like “yeah, but at least it reminds me that time is totally arbitrary so i should just decide on my OWN when i think the day starts and be like ‘ok! it’s 9 now! go to work!’ ”

and that’s oneathose things that makes you go “hmmm….”

i also recently had an idea for an alarm clock that is just a timer.
like, you set it for 8 hours, and when you go to bed, you hit it to start the countdown.
this allows you to self-enforce “enough sleep”, and creates an incentive to go to bed on time if you want to get up on time that isn’t there otherwise.

so maybe i’m going into the alarm clock business. :)

note to self and all those who are so far able to interpret such babble: clocks are pockets for time.

Prometheus Rising – Robert Anton Wilson

Sunday, September 30th, 2007

city life

Thursday, August 16th, 2007

i just read a book that closes with the argument that city living is the future of human existence, not simply because overpopulation is cramming us together, but because cities are actually becoming healthier and more sustainable places to live. here is an interesting quote from the epilogue, attributed to the new yorker’s david owen:

By the most significant measures, New York is the greenest community in the United States, and one of the greenest cities in the world. The most devastating damage humans have done to the environment has arisen from the heedless burning of fossil fuels, a category in which New Yorkers are practically prehistoric. The average Manhattanite comsumes gasoline at a rate that the country as a whole hasn’t matched since the mid-nineteen-twenties, when the most widely owned car in the United States was the Ford Model T. Eighty-two percent of Manhattan residents travel to work by public transit, by bicycle, or on foot. That’s ten times the rate for Americans in general, and eight times the rate for residents of Los Angeles County. New York City is more populous than all but eleven states; if it were granted statehood, it would rank fifty-first in per-capita energy use.

now, this is a rather skewed little presentation that privileges our recent obsesssion with energy use and carbon footprints and kind of forgets about all the environmental damage that big cities had to muck through to get to where they are now, but it’s still interesting, and actually, the whole bit about what cities had to muck through is the point of the book as a whole.

the book, you see, is called The Ghost Map, and it’s about what was arguably the deadliest cholera epidemic in london’s history – an outbreak which took place over the course of a single week in 1854, killing thousands with a vicious rapidity that cholera had never exhibited before. many of the victims died within twelve hours of infection, and several families were entirely erased from history within the span of a few days.

cholera was (and is) such a devastating and terrifying enemy because cities in europe in the mid 19th century were (and are, in the developing world today) growing more quickly than they could manage their waste, and one consequence of poor waste management tends to be a contaminated water supply. cholera is a bacteria that is spread by the ingestion of its victims’ waste, and this happens most often by drinking contaminated water.

The Ghost Map tells the story of how the london epidemic of 1854 helped a certain committed doctor by the name of john snow finally begin to convince the establishment of the waterborne nature of transmission, and it argues that the very features of the city that lead to the large-scale horror of infectious diseases such as cholera are also the features that enable society to overcome them. cities cram people together, which makes them more susceptible to disease, but they also make trends more visible, foster deeper and more rapid intellectual exchange, and, in the long term, keep everyone healthier through proximity to hospitals and specialty shops and services of all sorts.
the story of the cholera outbreak was chosen because it can be seen as the point where the balance began to shift for cities on their journey from risky and precarious to beneficial and stable places for humans to live. once we got the whole “build sewers and don’t empty them into the water supply” thing down, apparently things just started looking up.

the book is by steven johnson, who is a bigwig in pop science tomes these days, having written things like Interface Culture (which my fellow IU HCIers and i read for jeff bardzell’s class first year, remember?), Emergence: the Connected Lives of Ants, Brains, Cities, and Software (which is referenced in the radio show that i cited in my last post), and Everything Bad Is Good for You (the title of which makes people chuckle and mysteriously crave chocolate). on the whole, i find his books to follow a similar pattern: Interesting! -> Engaging! -> interesting (i think)… -> repetitive -> annoying -> self-important -> ok, interesting -> masturbatory -> cheesy -> good grief, it’s over. since you can read them about as quickly as a spy novel, though, the interesting bits can be worth the time.

i was thinking about all this today and decided to write a post about city life. moving to portland from bloomington has reminded me of things i both like and dislike about living in cities, and portland isn’t even very big. the idea that having more people in cities might make us smarter is interesting, for a minute, but as i tried to come to a conclusion i realized that spending the energy to formulate such an opinion actually strikes me as a rather tremendous waste of time. i like lots of things about cities. i like lots of other things about small towns. if we end up all streaming into the cities, i bet we’ll be able to look back and point to some interesting stuff that wouldn’t have been possible otherwise. the same, however, will be true if we all decide to live in quoncet huts.

people do interesting stuff, yo, and their environments fuel them in amazing ways. i think a lot of books out there today (and a lot of my blog posts as well, it’s true) try way to hard to find handy endings. everybody seems to be looking for something to point at to tell us that either THAT is the problem with the world or that actually, everything is going to be ok after all if we just hold out and THIS is why.

i kinda think we should just shut up already, and get down to the business of living.

why doesn’t this exist?

Thursday, August 9th, 2007

so i do a lot of thinking about sleep and the arising therefrom, and this morning after i got myself up and was sipping some tea i started on the track of “all i really need is to start my metabolism going, but the problem is that i’m so cozy and groggy that it is difficult to get myself to move my arms from underneath the blanket to ingest anything, even water that is sitting right beside my bed.”

this family of thought trains has brought us such ideas as: start breathing deeply as soon as i capture enough consciousness to remember to do so, because air, at least, can be consumed in any position, and is the foundation of the rest. this does a lot, but then i still need to keep stepping up the intake ladder, and so today i started musing on how it would be helpful if i could just have someone drop one of those gross jellified energy paks into my mouth, or maybe if i strapped a camelbak full of coffee to the ceiling and then just had to slide underneath the straw. thinking of silly ideas like that made me happy, but then i was like, wait… why don’t they make time-release caffeine pills that you take before bed and then kick in after 8 hours? that’s like setting the coffee machine to make the world smell good in the morning but without the step of actually having to go get the coffee. that would be brilliant!!

i asked google and found some interesting stuff. they DO make time-release caffeine pills but not in the don’t-release-anything-for-a-while style, rather in the release-this-slowly-so-i-can-code-all-night-without-buying-more-mountain-dew style, which is useful in it’s own right, but quite different.

i also learned that green tea acts as time-release caffeine because the tea is encased in tannins, which is part of why the high from green tea is mellower. that’s nice. i’ve been enjoying toasted green tea quite a bit lately. it’s good. i like to do this walkup to caffeine thing where i drink green tea early, black tea late, and coffee after lunch. but that’s not this post, i guess.

perhaps most enlightening, however, was the discovery that one can purchase time-release caffeinated tights. snake oil man sez they get rid of cellulite. methinks they get rid of pesky extra dollars.

someone else did already have my idea, but he just mentioned it in this mefi thread two years ago and everyone else ignored him.

their loss, yo. srsly.

my first thought was that it must be hard to make something time-release after multiple hours. but we make birth control that releases itself for months at a stretch. so what gives? i’m half sarcastic and half serious. do people feel more like addicts when they pop pills instead of drinking their drugs with cream and sugar? is getting up on our own a source of emotional victory such that getting help from a pill would make people depressed? does time-release feel too sci-fi for daily use? would it be possible but expensive? did i just not look far enough into my google results to find the winner? it seems like the idea crosses some sort of line, and i’m curious about what it is.


Thursday, August 2nd, 2007

the whole reason to deny rituals and acknowledgement to those on the margins is to keep them marginalized.
denying those same things from ourselves and our friends in the name of solidarity is playing into that game and accepting disempowerment.
i do not believe in keeping people i love from things that renew and inspire them.

things i think about instead of working

Tuesday, July 31st, 2007

how much would it rock if there were status message madlibs? like it could prompt you to enter what you’re doing with a certain syntax: “verb, adjective, noun, adverb” and you put in something predictable like “drinking, cinnamon, tea, slowly” and it spits out “While drinking through the cinnamon forest, Kynthia threw some tea out the window and nearly had her arm bitten off… slowly.

the words you put in could even be a different color or something, so the actual information remains, but the nonsense adds value.

and that right there shall be my new status message in the meantime.

onward now to other business.

a history of god – karen armstrong

Wednesday, July 25th, 2007