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Month: February 2003

Place your bets

Think you know when the war’s gonna start? Put your money where your mouth is. March To War has a pool; it’s five bucks to buy in. 20% of the pool goes to the player who comes closest in the form of prepaid gas cards; the rest goes to humanitarian activity in Iraq. The agency overseeing this is Boston Mobilization — just the kind of progressive activists the right wing loves to hate. But hey, they’re not planning on keeping the money, they’re planning on funnelling it to relief organizations.

I’m in for March 23rd, midnight Baghdad time. Alas, it’s presently Massachusetts-only.

Reading your morning paper

RSS aggregators are going in the wrong direction. Here’s the problem. A good number of my friends use LiveJournal, as do I, mostly to read their journals at this point. One of the coolest things about LJ is the friends list concept, which allows you to interleave the journals of everyone you’ve marked as a friend. Good stuff. Certainly you can do that with the various desktop RSS aggregators.

Only for yourself! What if Trip decides he wants to use an aggregator, and moves his daily reading link list over there? Suddenly I don’t have access to that corner of his brain; I can’t see what he finds interesting. This is a lose. It reduces the information flow, and involuntary information flow reduction is just wrong.

There are a couple of Web-oriented RSS aggregators. Amphetadesk is cool but it is not oriented towards people who want to share their aggregations. Peerkat is cool but it is not an active project as far as I can tell. Ditto blagg, plus blagg doesn’t do RSS 1.0. There’s an RSS plugin for Movable Type (not to mention a decent RSS perl module) but now we’re moving away from the grail of easy configurability.

Actually, the closest thing to what I want is LiveJournal, come to think of it, now that they’ve allowed people to add RSS feeds to their friends lists. You’re kind of stuck if you want to read a feed that hasn’t been added to LJ yet, though, since you need a new account code to add such a feed. I’m installing Peerkat to see if that suits my needs; however, an end user shouldn’t have to dick around with installing Python and so on.

(Sidenote: Dave Winer’s aggregator list arrogantly excludes aggregators that don’t read RSS 2.0. Geeze, at least include a subcategory for ‘em or something.)

Meme watching

Last night on American Idol, after each contestant sung, they did the usual “call this number to vote for this singer” bit. But this season, they’ve added another fillip: “Or text this number!” Just like that, no explanation of what the word means. Fox knows its target audience, I guess. Or they’re just trying to look hipper.

Counting grains

The Retrosheet folks are more obsessive about a larger quantity of data (not to mention more productive) than you. I can almost guarantee this. They are engaged in the slow process of compiling as much data as possible about every Major League Baseball game ever played. They have the day by day standings for every season since 1900. Here’s April 11th, 1912. They have play by plays for most games between 1967 and 1990. They find it disappointing that they don’t know which umpires were assigned to all their games. I am in total awe.

I have a very clever idea regarding all this data, which I will debut sometime. Woot!

Note to self

A generation ago, the City fell. The world fell. It is said that a great disaster marked the date, but that none knew of its significance until it was far too late. It is said that once, men did not believe in demons. If that is so, then disbelief was washed away by a torrent of winged creatures who eat memories and leave only shadows where men once walked.

You are brookers, heirs to the tradition of your fathers, who fought the good fight on the Street of the Walls. You bargain with the merchants of the mainland, to ensure that every resident of the City can eat. You battle the demons that live in the tops of the fallen towers with sword and fire, because that is what your fathers did before they died, and you are better trained than your fathers.

You are curry men, who fearlessly ride the metal steeds of a dead era, with the sacred bags slung over one shoulder. You carry dispatches throughout the City, so that the brookers always know what to buy and what to sell. You are in more danger from the demons than anyone, as you dance around the hulks that litter the streets, but you know no fear.

You are barrers, who know the secrets of words and clauses, and the ways in which a sentence shapes those who read it. You bind the demons of the City, weaving webs of pacts and treaties, to create safe places for the curry men to ride and for the brookers to live. You worry, sometimes, that the demons take your soul even as you take their free will, but you know that the world would end without you, so you stay true to your path.

In the southern section of the City, the aged foreign wizard Soros crouches at the top of the Empeer Spire, watching all below him. He is not of the City, and it is well rumored that he treats with demons. None other safely lives above the ground, and one man can not stand against the hordes, so his corruption seems self-evident.

Far to the west, the Children of Buffet keep the spirit of Ampire pure in the great wheat fields of Witah. But that is very far from the City.

Apropos of that

Den Beste misses the point yet again. “What I think is that they [the nations of the world] already do hate our guts, and that at this point acting unilaterally won’t increase that to any significant degree.” OK, let’s let that be a given for the purposes of argument. Now cast your mind back a year and a half. How did we squander all that good will?

Kevin Drum highlights a different problem with that statement here.

(And yeah, I know the nations of the world don’t hate us. Den Beste doesn’t, though, and I don’t want to argue points I’m not trying to make.)