I finally took the plunge and chose a syndication aggregator. My blogrolling list was getting out of hand and there are lots of sites that don't ping places so I know when they've updated.
Here are a couple things I wanted in an aggregator for my home use.
1) Handled RSS & Atom feeds
2) Separate app from email and browser
3) Displayed CSS & images of feeds
4) Auto-discovery of feeds
5) Auto-search for terms
6) Runs on my platform - Windows XP
I looked at several good apps, but in the end, I chose FeedDemon. I found it had pretty much everything I wanted.
I like the interface.
It's not for everyone, but it works for me.
I used it extensively at SXSW to keep track of things and I even got to speak to the guy behind FeedDemon, Nick Bradbury. He explained a few things to me and now I know how to sync up multiple computers with FeedDemon on it so I see the same sites at home and on my laptop.
Over the weekend, I finished another book.
I am a huge fan of the C. S. Forrester series on Horatio Hornblower. I tried reading Patrick O'Brien's books on the Age of Sail, but I don't like his style.
Last holiday season, I was wandering in the book store looking for gifts when I spied a book with an obvious nautical theme. I looked it over and saw that it was the latest novel by Lambdin in his Alan Lewrie series.
At home I googled up the info and found the first book in the series was The King's Coat. I added it to my wishlist. After several months I got the chance to order and read it.
Lambdin's style is good. Much more like Forrester than the wordy O'Brien style. The story begins with our hero, Alan Lewie, being booted out of his aristocratic luxury and into the navy as a midshipman. Not knwing one whit about seamanship, Lewrie finds himself in a world of hurt. To the reader's amazement, we find that Lewrie takes to the sea and life in the Navy like a duck to water.
The main differences in the style of the book to that of Forrester and O'Brien are clear. Lewrie is a randy chap. He enjoys the company of women and the author points this out at every occasion, pairing our hero with lonely wives in secret rendezvous. Also, the author believes in cursing, as do I. In this book, the characters are sailors and they swear like them. Often.
Plot and action are good, in accordance with typical Age of Sail norms with duels, gun battles, boardings, and mass destruction. The only thing I can fault the author with is an obsession with correct and detailed sailing info on the exact configuration of the sails. Mr. Lambdin is obviously a sailor himself and wants us to know that he knows what he is talking about. Passage after passage about the current set of canvas fill the novel. Here's an actual quote from the book:
To ease the wind aloft, Ariadne came more southerly to take the wind abeam. Waisters hauled in braces to larboard. With the third reef came the need for preventer braces and backstays, parrels aloft to keep the yards from swinging and flogging sails, not so much with an eye to sail or yard damage, but to keep the topmen from being flung out and down by a heavy smack by the flying canvas.
See what I mean. I've read dozen's of books like this and passages like this still make me scratch my head at passages like this.
But this point is minor. If you like the Jack Aubrey and Horatio Hornblower books, then you will enjoy the Alan Lewrie series.
Yesterday was a day of rest after the crawfish party.
Late in the afternoon, the girls and I took the train downtown to a meetup for people from #joiito IRC channel. The meetup was at Phillipe's: Home of the French Dip, one of my favorite places in LA.
The meetup wasn't very big, just Grant and his girlfriend Jill showed up. I had met Grant in San Diego at ETech and it was good to see him again. As Grant mentions, it was more like dinner with a friend than a meetup, but fun none the less. My girls had a great time.
A number of people have commented on the picture of the girls playing the Battlefield Vietnam. Well, they are well rounded gamers. Here is Zoe playing a Barbie video game where they get to give virtual makeovers. At one point I looked over and the had put a mud mask on the face and cucumbers on the eyes.
Go, go, girl gamers!
Yesterday was the Annual Crawfish Party at Len & Monique's house. In addition to cooking and eating somewhere around 200 pounds of crawfish, it was Kate Perruzi's 4th birthday too.
You can see all the photos in the Crawfish 2004 Gallery
I switched Michele over to using TypePad instead of MovableType for her blog and finally I got the DNS issues resolved.
She's been blogging on the road. Check out -> Scarymommy
I've been playing Battlefield Vietnam, the successor to Battlefield: 1942 for a little over a week now. I really enjoyed BF:1942, and have been looking forward to this game for quite a while.
A few screen shots:
In the game you can do everything flying jets, to planting land mines, to sniping, to driving a tank, to simply carrying an M-16. Overall it's a great games with fairly good balance.
I've got a couple of gripes with the overpowered M60 machine gun and the underpowered anti-aircraft capabilities of infantry, but they'll be fixed in upcoming patches.
I also have Unreal Tournament 2004, but I really haven't played it much yet. All in good time.
The girls saw me practicing with a joystick, learning how to fly in the game and wanted to try. Who am I to deny my daughters wholesome gaming fun? Soon they were driving all the vehicles in the game and even flying the aircraft. The call it The Crashing Game since all they like to do is crash things.
I'm so proud they are turning out to be fine young gamers.
Lastly, since SXSW my arm has been hurting from too much computer usage. Since I spend all day at one and most of the evening at one, it gets little time to heal up. As a result, my forearm is a throbbing and even a handful of Advil wasn't killing the pain.
So I broke down and got a brace. I can kinda type, but slowly. Moving a mouse it difficult. Looks like I just have to lay off the keyboard for a while. Maybe I'll even *gasp* watch some TV.
Michele is out of town this week, so when I get home, I listen to the various phone messages people have left during the day.
When I get a message from one of my friends (read: another man), it usually is something like, "Dude, call me."
Hearing the messages that are meant for Michele is an eye-opening experience. The messages are usually one to two minutes long and involved detailed explanations of some sort, that will inevitably be said again when Michele calls back.
I simply am amazed at the length and detailed nature of these messages that explain not only what they are calling about, but their motivation for calling and usually some extraneous topic tossed in for good measure.
Today I listened to call asking if Zoe wanted a playdate that went on a 90 second detour on why an extra helmet was needed during the overall 3 mintue call.
With women's gift for verbosity, I'm surprised that all of our politicians aren't women.
When I went off to SXSW I finished three books I had been reading.
For Us, The Living by Robert A. Heinlein
I saw this book and was startled. I have read every Heinlein book written and this was not one of them, until now... Evidently, Heinlein wrote this book in 1939, before he really began his successful writing career. The book has been missing and rarely talked about for years. Robert James, a Heinlein scholar, tracked down the book and got permission to get it published. Amazing story. Literally, there was one last manuscript in the world, unnoticed for almost 50 years, and he found it.
The book is not for general science fiction fans. The story is rather weak and has a few major holes. Heinlein fans on the other hand, will find it fascinating. This book, from 1939, basically lays out the world view that Heinlein expounds upon in his novels for the rest of his career. The novel is the genesis for most of his themes on personal liberty, sexual freedom, libertarianism, military service, and even information technology. His vision in this book carried his stories well into the 60s where he found widespead fame.
If you've never read Heinlein, this book is not for you. If you appreciate Heinlein, this book is worth the read.
Eastern Standard Tribe by Cory Doctorow
This is Cory's second book and I devoured it in a couple of days. I really enjoyed his first book and was looking forward to this one. He doesn't disappoint. Set a little over 15 years into the future, the novel touches on many interesting ideas like the world spanning tribes, communication technology, electronic currency, industrial sabotage, and even police methods.
But the book seems rushed. Not that I can point out a hole in the storyline, but everytime I wanted to know a little more about something, we were off to the rest of the story. The book zips through the story in record speed getting to the end and leaving the reader wanting to know more. I don't know if was an editing decision or Cory's own fast paced nature, but I was left wondering where they put all the extra stuff. Are the deeper explanations of tribes and their history stored in a folder on Cory's laptop? If so, I want a copy...
I'm not asking for Cory to go Neal Stephenson style, but he should feel freer to expound upon his ideas and characters in the book. Perhaps his experience in writing short fiction is where this comes from, where you write to size and brevity matters.
Don't get me wrong, it's a great book and you should go pick up a copy immediately. You'll enjoy the book immensely. I just wanted a longer novel.
The Knight by Gene Wolfe
This is the first book in a new series by Gene Wolfe. I assume that since the subtitle is The Wizard Knight, Book 1 and it appears Book 2 is to follow.
This is a fantasy book that combine some elements from the traditional elf/giants/magic realm and mixes in a little 'fish out of water' story with (of course) the courageous hero.
Our hero appears in a new world by magic and doesn't seem too concerned that he has left the modern world and been thrown into a magical land of monsters and adventure. He quickly becomes a player on the stage of this world and gets himself into all kinds of trouble.
Wolfe doesn't bother with much of the Tolkeinesque order and cohesiveness. Sir Able simply falls in and out of Aelfworld and the reader is given little explanation as to what is really going on. Kinda like watching a movie and every 10 minutes you fast forward though 5 minutes, getting a flash of images, but not really understanding how we got to where we are.
The overall prose is great with the detailed scenes conjuring wonderful images and characters. The various characters encountered are great and look to be fun, ongoing presences in the ongoing storyline. Wolfe's vision of how a Knight acts and behaves is an interesting take on the concept of the Hero Knight that has been written about for centuries.
I look forward to the next book in the series and will try not to let my desire for details and logic to derail my enjoyment of the book.
The LA Times website sucks.
I subscribe to the physical newspaper and read it daily. Today I read an article in the paper and wanted to send a link to it my brother.
Going the latimes.com site required me to login, as do many newspaper sites. I resent this, but logged in anyways. I was surprised to find that the article was hidden behind the pay only portion of the site. They wanted me to pay them money to get to a news article on the internet.
You know, fuck that.
It's enough that I pay money for the physical paper. It's enough that I log in to the site. It's enough to endure the relentless ads on the site.
But it's too much to pay for news on the web.
The LA Times people but have their heads buried way up their rear ends. Go check out Yahoo News or Google News. There's no barrier to entry to get the news there.
I eagerly await the day when Yahoo or Google print me a customized newspaper nightly and drop it off at my house, replacing the old school and destined to fail LA Times. If I can get the NY Times at my house every morning before the LA Times arrives, I'm sure there's a place for custom printed newspapers in the near future.
LA Times, wake up or you will find yourself going the way of the typewriter.
There are a number of anti-war protests going on today. I read this in a Yahoo News story:
In Cincinnati, several hundred people gathered in a downtown park to call for a U.S. troop withdrawal. Claire Mugavin, clad in a biohazard suit, pretended to look for weapons of mass destruction beneath benches and garbage cans.
"We figure they're not in Iraq," said the 24-year-old Cincinnati resident. "So we figured we'd come look for them in Fountain Square."
I'm a bonafide publisher now, and you can be one too.
A couple weeks ago, Cory Doctorow relicensed his book Down and out in the Magic Kingdom with the least restrictive Creative Commons license possible. Basically, I can take Cory's book and do what ever I like with it as long as it's non-commercial and I give Cory credit for writing the original book.
I got to think about what I could do and quickly realized that there wasn't much I wanted to do with his book. I considered taking the text, reformatting it and publishing with the new instant book publishing systems. But I want Cory to make some money off of the book, so I dropped the idea.
In the shower one morning, I was pondering what book to read next. I had just finished my latest book and needed something different. The John Carter, Warlord of Mars series popped into my mind. I pondered re-reading it. But I didn't have the books and would have to visit the library or buy the books. Then it hit me. The entire book series is in the Gutenberg Library online.
The Gutenberg Library is an online collection of FREE books that you can download and read. Truly amazing. Almost 10,000 books are available currently.
Then I knew what I wanted to do. I downloaded A Princess of Mars, the first book in Edgar Rice Burroughs's Warlod of Mars series. It took me about 45 minutes to format the text into the right format and add a table of contents. Cafepress offers instant book printing and make it extremely easy to do. If you can make it into a PDF file, you can publish it. Within about an hour, I had everything uploaded to Cafepress and ordered a copy.
About 4 days later the book arrived, and I was amazed. It was a real book, like any paperback you could buy in the book store.
As you can see, I made a fairly plain cover graphic. Anything you can make into a jpeg file, you can make the cover, spine, and back of the book. I'm sure you creative types can do better.
Happy with results, I ordered more copies and they arrived promptly. I sent out a few to friends that like science fiction and gave out a couple at SXSW. Everyone seems quite impressed that it's so easy to publish a book. The book is on sale at Cafepress for $13.15. There's no markup, that's the price Cafepress charges and I make no money.
Yes, you can buy the book for $6.50 new on Amazon, as long as it's in print. That's not the point.
The point is that the technology exists for no book to ever go out of print. As long a writer makes an electronic copy available, their book can be bought by readers and printed one at a time. For example, the book, NeoAddix by Jon Courtney Grimwood is out of print and I can't find a used copy. The only copy I can find is in French. If he made the book available via instant book publishing, there would be no publishing costs until I agreed to pay the price he set for it.
I've got one copy of the book left. If you are a science fiction fan, and you want it, drop me a line. BTW, if you've got a copy of NeoAddix, name your price.
I get questions about Dr. Pepper, Pepsi, Coca Cola, Dr. Slice, and Mr. Pibb all the time. For the record, here's the deal.
Dr. Pepper is a separate company from Coca Cola and Pepsi.
Dr. Pepper makes agreements to bottle and sell Dr. Pepper in areas sometimes with Coca Cola and sometimes with Pepsi.
Mr. Pibb is a Coke product that is found in towns where Coke does not distribute Dr. Pepper.
Dr. Slice is a Pepsi product that is found in towns where Pepsi does not distribute Dr. Pepper.
This year, before SXSW I had great plans to blog and write lots of stuff while I was there. I did none of that. Why? I mean last year I blogged up a storm while I was at the conference. This year was different, though. Two main things had changed.
First and foremost, my brother Matt had come to SXSW with me. Suddenly, there was someone around that I was coordinating with and talking to all the time. Last year, I spent much of the time between sessions quietly reviewing the previous session and making notes for blogs. Between sessions now, I was chatting with Matt and others about what the panels were like and what to do next. I really enjoyed having someone that was with me at the show. With acquaintances, you often run out of things to talk about. You both want to keep chatting, but you run out of things in the common frame of reference to discuss and you get those weird lulls. I never get weird lulls talking with my brother. If we stop talking it's usually because one of us is napping.
The second thing that had changed, was that I knew people and people knew me. Promptly as I arrived in Austin, I started bumping into people I knew from last SXSW and other interactions during the year. I was quite surprised to have people walk up to me knowing my name. I knew who they were, but I didn't know if people were going to remember me. It turns out that lots of people knew who I was and I found myself fully part of the SXSW tribe. Surrounded by friends and constantly meeting new people, I found myself with little time to write anything down.
Toss in that the schedule of events starts at 10AM with the first sessions goes until the wee hours with various parties, and I found little time to be able to reflect on what I saw and heard.
Here are a few of my observations:
The Cult of Mac is growing - Everywhere I turned, there was a little Apple logo staring back at me, unblinking, almost mocking me. I don't know what it is about the Mac Laptop, but many people are slaves in it's thrall. I suspect that Apple has engineered an addictive gas that is released when people use their Macs they renders them susceptible to Steve Job's mind control software.
Complaining works sometimes - When I got to the Austin conference center I was warned that 'they' were cracking down on people using power outlets and using cameras. After a bit of wingeing at the right people, these restrictions were removed, and there was much rejoicing. However, I was unable to get the problem with VPNs fixed. For some unknown reason, VPNs we getting blocked by part of the net access infrastructure. I spoke with the Austin Wireless people, the SXSW staff, and some of the Conf Center people, but nothing got fixed. For all my efforts to secure my wifi, I was completely and utterly thwarted in my endeavors.
The Echo Chamber is in full effect - There has been a lot of talk about the echo chamber is some blogging circles lately, where the same people are commenting on the same ideas and new ideas don't make it inside. This year I saw its effect. In session after session, the 'group think' was crowding out the new ideas and any idea that ran counter to the prevailing meme. Trying to convince people that wikis have a high barrier to entry, that they have to become simpler and more WYSIWYG, fell on deaf ears. If it made sense to them, they suggested it made sense to everyone. Similar kinds of thinking in sessions about blogging. To hear people talk, every social problem in society can be solved with a liberal application of weblogs like some sort of magic first aid creme for society. Trouble with large media companies? Use weblogs. Trouble with government? Use weblogs. Economic needs in third world countries? Use weblogs. Unhappy workers? Use weblogs. The trouble when you only have one tool in your toolbox (weblogs) is that everything looks like a nail. The SXSW tribe needs to invite some people to interact that actively challenge the weblog worldview and force them to think about it and defend it.
SXSW people are still shy - I'm a confirmed extrovert. No hiding it, I like meeting other people and don't have a problem introducing myself to strangers. Many of the people at the conference were hesitant to introduce themselves. Once you got them going, it was like a firehose of thoughts and information they had, but you had to prompt them to get them going.
More when I have time. I've been traveling for 14 hours and I need some sleep.
I'm in Austin, Texas for the SXSW Interactive conference. More to come when I get a chance.
Your review of Space Food Sticks was really entertaining to me. I run Terra Firma Products (i.e., the Space Food Sticks Preservation Society) and it was nice to see these crazy efforts I'm making noticed by someone. So thanks. Having your kids judge them really resonated with this father of three.
The part that really made me laugh was your comments about the BMX bike rider on the package (aka, WTF?). You have no idea how many times I asked the folks in Australia if they could change it back. Either that or just change the name to Bike Food Sticks and be done with it! Finally I gave up and changed the packaging myself. Strange but true, I'm actually paying folks to take the sticks out of those boxes and put them in new packaging that emphasizes a space theme!
The reason I'm writing is to tell you some real news. I am working with food engineers here in the States who are going to make new peanut butter SFS based on the original formulation. They'll be wrapped in silver foil and retain the original shape. Hopefully the packaging will recreate the original as well (it won't have any BMX bikers on it I can assure you).
Anyway I thought you might like to know a bit more about what's happening with SFS because it's something you might want to add to inform folks. Your article is influential so it would be nice (for me) if you could keep it up-to-date.
So there it is folks. Breaking news on the future of Space Food Sticks from the source. Cruft continues to bring you valuable scoops like this while traditional news journalists are focused on this pesky war & the dumb presidential election!
A couple weeks ago I snagged a box of CARAMEL Space Food Sticks off ebay. Mighty tasty I tell you. There's a few boxes up for auction now.
If you have questions or suggestions for Eric and the future of Space Food Sticks, comment away. Eric will be reading this post.
It's confirmed that Spalding Gray is dead.
For those that don't know, Spalding Gray was a monologist. He told stories to people. It sounds simple, but he was a master. In today's world of movies and TV, here was a man that could keep you spellbound with simply the sound of his voice.
Michele and I have seen him perform half a dozen times over the years. Each time was great and once I even shook his hand. We will miss Spalding.
Last night Michele and I took the girls out to the Glen Friedman opening at Sixspace. This was the first time we've taken the girls to an art gallery instead of the museum.
We were concerned that the feel of the gallery would weird them out or that they would go wild knocking frames off the walls. But they behaved well and had a good time. Zoe said, "Let's go to another gallery now!" as we left. Looks like Michele and I will need to scope out age appropriate shows going forward.
I snapped a phonecam pic of Sean at the gallery.
We got a chance to talk to a few nice people, but I was a bit nervous the whole time, trying to keep an eye on the girls. Hopefully next time I'll be relaxed. So if you know of galleries with kid friendly xhows, please let me know.
Last night was poker night at Brad's house. I didn't think I'd make it since it was the girl's talent show. We left the house at 6:30 and we back home just before 8PM. Since Brad's games go until at least midnight, I'd have a chance for a few hours of play.
I drove up and took the fifth seat at the table. Usually the betting in the early hours is low, but these guys were reaching for the buck & two buck chips right off the bat.
I played tight to get the feel of the table and see what people were doing. The play was lively with good sized pots. I played out some good hands only to get smacked down several times. Usually a Queens over sevens full boat is a winner, but I ran right into 4 eights.
A little dejected, I kept to my plans and tried to play tight, getting out unless I had strength and not betting on cards yet to come. I split a large pot in anaconda and it seemed to turn things around a bit. A number of pots came my way and I was feeling good.
In one particular hand, I was suprised to find a straight flush staring back at me. I overplayed it and the group folded out on me. Never the less, it was fun to get a straight flush.
I didn't come away from the table on the plus side, but at least I walked away with some of my money in my wallet. The game was a good time and I look forward to next month, where I can donate even more money.
Today I reached a goal I set out for on New Year's Day. My own internal resolution for the new year was to lose some weight. My pants were fitting tight after a holiday season fulls of sweets and big meals.
I committed to the simple goal of weighing what it said on my driver's license. It says 165 pounds on the license. Stepping on the scale on New Year's Day I found myself at 192.1 pounds. It seemed daunting at the time.
After 66 days of dieting, this is what I saw this morning:
I feel quite happy to achieve this goal. I don't have a six pack stomach and my ribs don't show, but my clothes are loose and my belts are too big.
To lose the weight I went on the Atkins diet. The science behind it makes sense and the results are obvious. I was very strict about staying on the plan and staying focused. I didn't do any serious exercise besides push-ups and sit-ups before showering in the morning.
As you can see, I lost 27.1 pounds in 66 days at a steady downward trend with no big variation. IMHO, the Atkins diet does work well if you stick to it and don't cheat. One benefit you don't hear about is the fact that the afternoon blahs or the typical food coma people can get after lunch goes away. With your blood sugar at a roughly constant level, you feel alert during the day.
Props to Michele for putting up with the endless cooking of meat and general support while I was doing the Atkins. If she had been against it, I wouldn't have been able to get through it.
I will say that strictly eating on the Atkins diet is hard. I'm sick of meat & cheese. I miss bread and fruit and pasta. You cannot live long term on Atkins and enjoy eating. There are a plethora of 'low carb' foods hitting the market and most of them are crap. Either they are horrible tasting or full of sugar alcohols with a big laxative effect.
At this point, the challenge is to transition to a balanced diet, more like the Zone Diet, where the point is to have a balance of protein, carbohydrates, and fat at every meal and stay away from tons of processed foods. I'm a sucker for pasta, cookies, and sweets, so I need to maintain some discipline.
My advice to anyone considering using the Atkins diet:
1) Don't cheat. Stay on the diet strictly. If you break the fat burning cycle, you are wasting your time.
2) Cook food in advance, have a few meals ready in the fridge.
3) Avoid the excessive eating of the lo carb sweets (sugar alcohols) they have a formidable laxative effect.
4) Make sure your family is OK with your plans.
5) Set a goal and measure your progress.
With my trip to SXSW less than 6 days away, I'm glad I'll be able to eat somewhat normal there. Woot!
This week has been a blur. Much happens, little gets blogged. Catch up time.
Sonny at bionicjive.org has few kick ass layouts. I like the 'The Revolution' skin.
I'm moving Michele to a Typepad blog. Until I get the DNS stuff resolved, you can see the scarymommy here. Michele says Typepad is kick ass.
Martin's got a kick ass post about gay marriage.
Special Hawaiian Edition Spam. Kick ass good food.
Finally, it look's like Robert Rodriguez (Desperado, From Dusk til Dawn) is making a film based on John Carter, Warlord of Mars. Kick ass!!! I told you all it would make a good movie.
Today a friend of mine for almost 20 years crossed the line.
He's been going through some hard times with a broken heart, career struggles, and loneliness in a new city. I've tried to talk to him and cheer him up, but he sinks deeper and deeper into depression and anger.
Today he lashed out at my wife. Somehow, she's the cause of his troubles in his mind.
That crosses the line. You lash out at me, and I can take it and be ready to dish it right back. All's fair in disagreements between friends. Friendships have their ups and downs. But when you attempt to hurt and threaten my family, I will not stand for it. At all.
I wish my friend good luck in finding his way out of his troubles and hope he gets the help he so desperately needs. It's sad to see things go this way, but it's his choice to do the things he's done. I can't tell him what to do, but he has to deal with the consequences of his actions.
It's a good thing I have many friends to turn to in times like this. :)