Archives » November, 2002

November 14, 2002

Peter Morville

Peter Morville is hot on the trail again this week. His latest Semantics Column is “The Definition of Information Architecture”, and he also has an article in New Architect called “Bottoms Up”. Bottoms up, indeed. I feel like I need a shot after having so much information go right over my head.

November 12, 2002

Stirling Engine

How’d you like to have a hand-held perpetual motion machine? Well, you can get one here, for only $299! Or, you could get me one for Christmas. Your choice.

Actually, it’s a little miniature Stirling Engine. That’s supposedly the kind of power source that Dean Kamen is working on to put inside a future version of the Segway. And who knows. With how secretive that guy is, he could be working on a Segway that can fly around the world twice on a thumbleful of corn oil.

November 11, 2002

Not Bad

The day can’t be all that bad when you wake up to this and this.

November 8, 2002

Tim Berners-Lee Interview

Thanks to Shirley Kaiser I was able to find this interview with Tim Berners-Lee that was done on NPR last week. Tim, of course, is the inventor of the World Wide Web, the man who took the concepts of Internet connections and hypertext and markup languages and combined it all into this new idea, a web of interlinked pages, accessible from anywhere and expandable by anyone. It’s hard to imagine that something like the WWW, which consumes a large majority of my time and is so essential to the way so many things are done, has only been around for twelve years. And it’s only really had public recognition for seven or eight. And so it’s equally surprising to hear an interview with “The Inventor Of” something so huge and world-changing, and to find him so young, so vibrant, so full of new ideas. It somehow doesn’t seem right, like turning on the radio and hearing someone interviewing Thomas Edison or the Wright brothers.

The interview, though, is fantastic. He touches on so many topics, yet he describes them in such a way that I just start shouting out, “That’s right! That’s right!” Unfortunately, my brain isn’t up to the task of retaining so much knowledge, but hearing him talk made me want to jump up and start doing things, start learning more about the Semantic Web: XML, machine-readable documents, and the systems that can use them. I wanted to start contributing something myself — in a way, I guess that’s what I’m doing by writing here. But I especially think that effect was enhanced by the fact that it was in audio. It was totally unlike reading an interview on the screen, in that you can hear the enthusiasm in his voice when he is talking; you can tell how truly he believes in what he’s saying. You can even hear his English accent (or I should say his American accent) fade in and out as he gets more excited and more thoughtful. And, of course, without the audio, we wouldn’t be able to hear his impression of a modem handshake. It’s a gem.

And the rain rain rain came down down down…

I guess the entire West Coast is getting hit by this storm. Doc and Dave are both talking about big water coming down, and Dave’s power even went out all last night. I guess that beats my hour and a half of ’Net downtime.

Here in the rain shadow we’ve been getting it pretty steady, which tells me it must be a huge storm. Usually the Sierra Nevada mountains stop any wetness from coming our way, dumping it all instead in Lake Tahoe. But in the last 24 hours, we’ve gotten more rain than we have all year, and it’s still coming. It’s starting to feel like Washington around here. Which, well, isn’t really a bad thing.

November 7, 2002

Mr Scott, Jinxer of Cable Modems

I must have some kind of Net curse following me around. Last week the T1 line at work went out. Now, the cable modem at home is on the fritz. And – again – I’m posting through AOL. Steve Case, what would I do without thee?

At least I know it’s nothing that’s my fault this time. I can still access all of Charter Pipeline’s servers, I just can’t get past them to the outside world. Plus, half of the cable TV channels are out right now too. And we’re having the most raging storm outside that we’ve had since May. Gosh — if I put the clues together, it sure doesn’t seem like a coincidence.

So what does this mean? No distractions, nothing to keep me up, so it’s a perfect chance to actually get to bed early for once. I better go before everything gets fixed.

Update: Oh balls, it’s back. Wasn’t fast enough.

Format and Reinstall

That’s the mantra of Windows users the world over – Format and Reinstall. The ultimate fix to any problem. A yearly ritual, or even more often for some people. This was the week it came to the Schrantz household.

I guess it’s my fault for still running Windows 98. But 2000 has its limitations, notably with games, and I’m still staying away from XP just on ground of principle against Product Activation. So what’s that leave me with? 98. So, I choke it down, and part of the compromise is the knowledge that the time’s going to come sooner or later. The house of cards falls down, and it will be time to whip out the old Windows CD. Maybe one day we’ll have self-healing computers. Or maybe one day I’ll feel comfortable enough with Linux to make the switch. But for now, when I’m getting “Windows Protection Error. You must restart your computer.” twice a day, I know it’s part of the territory.

Anyway, is there a moral to this story? No. An amusing tale of tragedy? No. It was a pretty routine install, but it’s annoying that I had to do it at all. Let’s just hope things get better one day.

November 6, 2002

Nevada Hates Gays

It’s official — the fag-haters have had their way, and I have never been more ashamed to call myself a Nevadan. Question 2 passed handily last night, mandating a change to the Constitution that says, Only a marriage between a male and a female will be recognized in this state. What century is this? Aren’t we supposed to be an enlightened people now? Is this still the 1950’s, with the “queers” running around threatening the rest of us “normal” folk? What’s next? A law banning gays from even entering the state? I can imagine it now: California already has their Agricultural Inspection stations along the border, now Nevada is going to set up Sexual Orientation Inspection stations. Armed guards will stop all cars and search the occupant’s wallets for pictures of signifigant others. Cars with a man and a woman, preferably with kids, will be waved through. Rainbow bumper stickers, Barbra Streisand CDs, or any pink clothing will be grounds for immediate arrest.

Jesus, it can’t be far behind.

One of the proponent’s biggest arguments was that if this law isn’t passed, Nevada’s schools were going to start teaching homosexuality. Now that’s FUD at a level that the tech industry hasn’t even reached yet. And the people freaking bought it! Everybody here is apparently so afraid of their kids turning gay that they’ll do anything to stop it, and it doesn’t matter what consenting adults they have to step on along the way. This law was designed to prop up archane ideals, and to protect people from the inevitable tide of progress. It used to be illegal for blacks and women to vote, too. And look what happened there.

Nevada is like the shriveled black tumor in the colon of the nation. People here are of two kinds: the ones who haven’t looked outside the border in a hundred years, and the ones who came here to escape California. The problem is: where do you go to escape Nevada? My vote is for Seattle, and after yesterday’s election, I’m that much closer to hopping on the next train.

November 4, 2002

New Good Thing Happens

In the world of Good Things, another one has just appeared. The Asilomar Institute for Information Architecture has now opened its doors for business. It’s a non-profit organization dedicated to spreading the word about Information Architecture, and acting as a central community gathering point for IAs all over the world to join, teach, learn, play, kibitz, study, and help make the Web a better place. And since it was created by such dignitaries as Christina Wodtke, Lou Rosenfeld and Peter Morville, and is thus a melding of Argus and Boxes and Arrows, it is already the 800-pound Gorilla of the IA field. Some of the promising sections already up include their 25 Theses and a list of “Elevator Pitches” for promoting IA in the hallway.

The field of Information Architecture has certainly been ballooning over the last few years, and I’ve been watching it as an interested outsider. There is so much information that is being poured onto the Internet, and without some way to organize it all it’s going to quickly become a huge mess. Not that it isn’t already a mess, but the need to organize data grows exponentially as you add more and more. The people of SIG-IA, Argus, Adaptive Path, and now AIFIA, are the pioneers that have been birthing new ideas and processes in organizing and making sense of information. They are shaping the techniques that we will all use one day, and I, for one, am keeping my eyes open and trying to soak up as much of the good stuff as I can.