Tuesday, December 22, 2009

Reading: Nation of Rebels (a.k.a. The Rebel Sell) by Joseph Heath and Andrew Potter

Counterculture claims to be revolutionary by its very nature. In fact, it claims to be revolution, especially after the collapse of Communism, which is supposed to have killed Karl Marx dead. However, Joseph Heath and Andrew Potter claim in Nation of Rebels: Why Counterculture Became Consumer Culture (original title: The Rebel Sell: Why The Culture Can't Be Jammed), not only has counterculture not brought down the system, it has only strengthened it. Even the most furious efforts by the "culture jammers" led by Kalle Lasn and Adbusters magazine can't make a dent against the corporate system, precisely because countercultural "revolutionary" deviance is so profitable. What's the single strongest force driving the explosion of consumer capitalism since that fateful decade, the 1960s? Nothing else but counterculture. As culture jamming is a purely countercultural strategy, it therefore cannot work.

There's a fatal flaw undermining counterculture's effectiveness: it conflates deviance with dissent. The problem is that deviance and dissent are two completely different things. Most deviants, in fact, don't dissent; they're too busy being deviant, and political things bore them. Dissent threatens authoritarian systems, which is why dictators suppress it so ruthlessly (as in the case of the election-stealing theocrats of Iran). Deviance only threatens the accepted morality, or threatens the system only as mere criminality; but if there's little morality left to be accepted, as in the postmodern West, deviance loses its power to shake the system or even shock. And that's why counterculture fails whenever it tries to be revolutionary. Instead, it has become the ultimate consumerist cash cow. Deviance may not be able to bring down oppressive systems, but it sure is interesting enough to sell lots of units. The book's original title is The Rebel Sell for a reason.

Thursday, December 10, 2009

Reading: Welcome to the Urban Revolution, by Jeb Brugmann

There's a medieval German proverb, "Stadtluft macht frei," which means "City air makes free." The city has always been the alchemical cauldron of human society, the great laboratory of human evolution, the birthplace and home of freedom itself. Now I've found a book, Welcome to the Urban Revolution by Jeb Brugmann, which explains exactly how and why the urban form's changing the human and even natural world. What's more, he even goes so far as to say that the world's cities are coalescing into a network strong enough that we can call it a single World City.

So what makes the urban form so inherently revolutionary? It's a simple matter of the mathematics of human association. In a hunter-gatherer tribe or agricultural village or small town, there's a limited number of people one can associate with. Society is tightly knit and highly conformist. The classic village or small town is notorious for its surveillance networks of town gossips. Social control is much easier in a society where most people are peasants and herdsmen. That's why an agricultural society almost always takes the political form of an absolute monarchy with a feudal hierarchy. This is the traditional form of civilization.

A large city is different. The modern city, which grew out of the medieval city republics modelled on ancient democratic Athens, was built by merchants out of trading posts. The larger and denser it is, the more potential associations a person can have. The more personal associations are possible, the greater diversity and dynamism the city generates. That's why in a capitalist and/or industrial society, the city is always the engine of the economy. Plus, the multiplication of association networks produces a levelling force that, even though capitalism has produced a neofeudal corporatist aristocracy of merchant princes and robber barons, makes the modern city an especially friendly environment for a democratic politics. The inevitable democracy of the city, as Brugmann calls it, makes it extremely difficult for tyrants to hold onto absolute power. For in urban politics as in capitalist economics, as Marx said, "all that is solid melts into air." Modern cities have always had a revolutionary effect on the societies they come to dominate, and all too frequently, whenever social evolution comes up against various forms of institutional stasis up to and including outright despotism, actual revolutions are the result and governments are overthrown. Brugmann gives as examples the fall of the Soviet Union and the Shah of Iran. The nominally Marxist overlords of the absolutist Soviet Empire found that out too late: once they had modernized and urbanized their countries, they found they had created a kind of democratic Frankenstein's monster that destroyed them.

And now the cities of the world, especially the Third World, are growing so large and dense so quickly that the "Great Migration" from the countryside to the cities is fundamentally transforming not only the nature of civilization itself, but even the natural environment planetwide. Though the world is currently organized into nation-states originating in the absolute monarchies that sprang up during the late Middle Ages, both economy and society are now organizing themselves by city regions and networks of cities. The city, not the obsolete nation-state and the international institutions (e.g., the United Nations, the World Bank, the World Trade Organization) built around it, is the fundamental unit of global civilization today. Sooner or later, the nation-state will have to go, and international institutions will have to become or be made interurban.

Which leads to the major consequence to the urbanization of the entire human race that not many people foresaw, and that's the consolidation of the cities of the world into a World City. The Cosmopolis has usually been dismissed as the pie-in-the-sky ideal of an ancient Greek philosopher named Isocrates. But the industrial and information revolutions have produced a corresponding urban revolution so huge and all-transforming that Isocrates' vision of the World City is finally becoming our reality.

But this has its own problems. For one thing, world industrialism is producing such a mountain of waste that it threatens to destroy the global ecology. Another problem is economic and has to do with urban development: with the recent global economic boom, many countries have simply imported a commoditized urban form, the American suburban "edge city", that is merely plopped right down in place without any care for the surrounding urban context. In many countries, this process (misnamed "urban renewal" in the US) requires massive "slum clearance" and relocations, which tends to cause huge riots. This happens all the time in China, for example.

Marshall McLuhan famously spoke of the "global village." He was only half right. For that matter, the neoliberal globalists are also half wrong. They thought that global capitalism was sufficient to unite the world. The spoke of the world market. What is actually emerging as the true face of globalization is the unification of all the world's civilizations into a single World City, in which every city is a neighborhood and every city region or network is a district. The world is becoming a single city, with all the consequences that entails. This really is a new stage of history. It is, well, revolutionary.

Testing A Heavily Extended Chrome Browser

It's official: Google's Chrome Extensions gallery is now officially open! But even before that, the instant I downloaded the latest developer version of Chrome, I went straight to Chrome Extensions, an unofficial extensions gallery, to load up on extensions. I'm posting this using an official Google extension from the official extensions gallery, called Blog This! Now all I need is a few more of my favorite extensions to appear, and bye-bye Firefox.

The problem with Firefox is that it's gotten bloated, memory-heavy, and processor-intensive over the years. When you load up on extensions, it takes forever to start. I'm the type of person who must must must! pack my web browser with extensions and plugins. Firefox has great extensions, but a heavily extended Firefox has performance issues.

Now the official Chrome extension gallery is officially open. Sure enough, I'm loaded up on extensions. Some of my holdover favorites include IE Tab, StumbleUpon, and WOT, and surely more are coming. The great thing is that they don't slow Chrome down. Maybe it loads a bit slower, but nowhere near as slow as Firefox. Soon enough, I won't need Firefox anymore. I don't use IE itself except for Windows Update (and in IE Tab, in both Firefox and Chrome).

Now I'm waiting for Google to add just one more thing, and that's the "purge memory" button, and I'll be happy...

Wednesday, October 21, 2009

Hoax Week On Twitter!

One thing I like about Twitter is that it allows me to get the news in real time. Well, the other day, the news was of a balloon that escaped apparently with a child on board. The boy, who became known as "Balloon Boy", turned out to be hiding in a box in the attic. Then it all turned out to be a hoax. The hoaxer was the father, a narcissistic attention whore obsessed with reality television, a misogynist who became a star of the reality TV series Wife Swap, who wanted to become famous before the world ends in 2012. Now "RIP Kanye West" is trending, and it turns out to be another fake celebrity death prank courtesy those pranksters at 4chan.

This is starting to get annoying.

Face it. Twitter's trends can be gamed. 4chan proved it when they put the hashtag #gorillapenis among the top trending topics. The Kanye West death hoax is far from the first to deceive people this year; this last summer, Rick Astley and Jeff Goldblum were allegedly dead. This time, 4chan merely pranked the Internet, specifically Twitter and Google. But Richard Heene pulled his hoax on the cops, the National Guard, the news media (especially the cable news networks), the Internet — indeed, the whole world — just because he wanted to fulfill his mad desire to become famous before the world ends.

Those 4chan guys pull their pranks for the "lulz". But the "Balloon Boy Incident" is what happens when the desire for fame becomes all-consuming and destroys one's sanity. Richard Heene is so obsessed with becoming a celebrity that he's willing to risk his family's lives, and in fact he even has a history of violence. In fact, I nominate him as worst celebrity parent in the world.

As for the 4chan guys: Some guy obsessed with becoming a reality TV celebrity outpranked them. And he didn't do it for mere "lulz"; he did it because he was driven by a monster ego. How can they possibly outdo him? Of course, they couldn't resist inserting themselves into the Balloon Boy hoax and pranking Heene himself; they even delivered pizza! Already I can see a bunch of pranksters, their own egos offended by being outdone by some celebrity wannabe, plotting their biggest prank ever in the chatrooms of /b/...

Heene won't be the last celebrity-mad egomaniac who will pull a fast one on the authorities and the media for the sake of fame. In fact, this might only be the beginning of a trend. Celebrity death hoaxes are starting to look mundane in comparison, though you and I know people will do them as long as there's celebrities.

Of course I'm waiting for the next hoax to trend #1 on Twitter. Stay tuned...

Friday, October 16, 2009

I Don't Tweet My Rants, I Blog Them: A Blogger Rants About Ranting

In the past few days I've seen some people on Twitter tweet some long rants. Now, I write long rants too. (This is probably one of my shorter ones, just so you know.) But I don't tweet them. Taking up several tweets just for one rant is simply not my way. But then, I'm a blogger, and they're probably not. Since I'm a blogger, I blog my rants. I want my readers to read each rant in one gulp. Then, about 12 hours apart, I have FriendFeed and TwitterFeed tweet the title and the link. I'd rather do this than risk "Twitter jail".

Consider this something of a "meta-rant".

I like to rant. I try to keep it under control, and I don't think I've truly overstepped any boundaries yet, though I suspect my current obscurity may be the only reason I haven't stepped on anybody's brittle egos yet. I love controversies, and sometimes I throw myself into some.

Twitter is great for getting oneself into the middle of a controversial issue in real time. Take the case of a certain now-infamous British Enron clone called Trafigura, already in trouble for dumping toxic waste in poor African countries, which got into some extra deep doo-doo the other day thanks to its law firm, Carter-Ruck, which managed to slap a total ban, or super injunction, on covering Parliament against the media. Sure enough, it backfired: Twitter went berserk; thanks to something called the Streisand Effect, Trafigura is now as infamous as Enron itself, and the already notorious Carter-Ruck have earned themselves a new level of well-deserved infamy. When I found the terms "Trafigura" and "Carter-Ruck" appearing in my Twitter stream attached to tweets denouncing censorship, and then trending among Twitter's top search terms, I knew at once that I had to get involved. Here's my blog post on the scandal (in my project blog, interestingly), and my 140-character summary.

But for long rants, Twitter just won't cut it. Being the blogger type I am, I prefer you down my whole rant in one gulp. So that's why I don't tweet my rants like the non-blogger tweeps do. I blog them.

End of meta-rant. ;)

Saturday, October 3, 2009

50 Songs In 90 Days is over, and my muse got out of her coma just in time...

October 1 was the last day of 50 Songs in 90 Days. The previous day, I discovered that I'd forgotten most of the songs I'd started writing for 50/90. Some of them were in the directory I'd set up just for this year's 50/90; others were on sheets of paper hidden somewhere. All of them, of course, were unfinished: either tunes without lyrics or lyrics without tunes. I found them and posted them just in time. I'm finishing them now. Once I get all the lyrics composed, I'll start recording the demos so there will be actual songs to hear.

My 50/90 profile is here. If you're registered at 50/90 or FAWM, you can even leave comments. And I still have a lot of "zongs" (songs without comments) left to "bust"...

Friday, September 25, 2009

The File Sharing Controversy in Britain: Are We Americans Seeing It Wrong?

In America over the past decade, the debate has been over whether file sharing is detrimental to the music industry. Well, certainly the record and radio companies are suffering. They blame file sharing, though the evidence points more toward the corporations, sabotaging themselves through increasingly expensive mergers, acquisitions, and contracts which buried them in debt. Some musicians are taking the record companies' side, while others embrace file sharing, saying it's no more or less destructive than taping used to be. In my last two posts, it seems, I viewed the controversy over a proposed British law through my American experience. The law would ban file sharers convicted of music piracy from the Internet. Apparently there's no controversy over whether file sharing's good or bad over there: both sides agree that it's bad. What they're arguing about is whether the file sharers should be banned from the Internet. So I misconstrued the real issue. So did Perez Hilton and any other American who took sides in the British brouhaha.

On one side, you have Radiohead, who post their albums online before they release them on CD (and now on LP), plus members of Pink Floyd and Blur. They form the core of the Featured Artists Coalition. On the other, you have the British record industry, plus certain musicians who have taken it upon themselves to speak for the industry, including Lily Allen and James Blunt. On one side, you have moderates who believe that file sharing is harmful but file sharers shouldn't be given the Internet equivalent of the death penalty. On the other, you have the record industry and its corporate tools taking the extremist position that file sharing will kill the industry, and therefore file sharers should be banned — and the American record industry cartel, the RIAA, and its militant army of savage corporate lawyers add that they should be thrown in jail for decades and fined tens of thousands of dollars minimum. The issue is not whether file sharing should be tolerated, like in the US, where the two opposing positions are taken by the tech companies (for) and the record companies (against), with musicians taking one or the other extreme. In the UK, the issue is punishment: should it be lenient or draconian?

So I and my fellow Americans have been taking sides in the wrong controversy. Our controversy. We see RIAA allies Metallica and Garth Brooks attacking Napster back in 2000 whenever we hear Lily Allen making them look calm and rational in comparison. We Americans should remember, though, that the UK is not the US. Some of the rights and freedoms we take for granted here simply don't exist over there; some of them never did, which is why the American Founders and their successors established them in the first place. We were (and are) fighting against or for the RIAA over the definition of "free speech" as protected under the US Constitution; they're haggling over penalties, leaving the definition of file sharing as "piracy" unchallenged.

Thursday, September 24, 2009

Lily Allen, Hypocrite

Since my last post, I've discovered that British pop tart Lily Allen, who recently declared war against file sharers, calling them crooks and pirates, is herself a plagiarist! Not only did she do some unauthorized mixtapes a few years ago (which she's trying to weasel out from under), her anti-file-sharing blog itself swipes from several newspapers!

When Metallica, partly under the influence of Ayn Rand, denounced Napster and helped destroy it, some wag put their integrity up for sale on eBay. And, like I said last time, Metallica are themselves a corporation as well as a rock band. It seems Miss Allen has already sold her integrity, and of course she sold it to EMI. (Cue the Sex Pistols song now!)

One thing I forgot to mention last time, when I called her a corporate tool, is that she owns none of her music. It's all EMI's property. You see, ever since the days of Tin Pan Alley a century ago, the record companies have been the sole proprietors of recorded music. That's why Metallica had to become a corporation. If you don't own your music but rage against "piracy", you've got to be raging on the company's behalf, as the company's shill. That's why I lost all my respect for Metallica and Garth Brooks a decade ago in the first place.

She can denounce Radiohead and Pink Floyd for music piracy (i.e., stealing from the corporate overlords who actually own the music) all she wants. She can denounce me as much as she wants, for that matter. But a crusader against file sharing (as "music piracy") who herself is a plagiarist? If even Perez Hilton calls her out, I'd say Lily Allen's got herself a major integrity problem!

Wednesday, September 23, 2009

Lily Allen Is Hot, But She's A Corporate Tool

First Metallica. Then Garth Brooks. Now British pop tart Lily Allen has declared war against everybody who trades songs online. Here's her declaration of war.

What's with these musicians who claim that file sharing will destroy their careers? Every single person who trades a song online is a pirate who must, must, MUST be punished. As if all those millions of fans using LimeWire or Kazaa are no different from illegal CD duplicators.

The record companies tell them so. They're just, so to speak, retweeting the official corporate propaganda.

Let me tell you what I learned about the record companies. Did you know that big record companies force you to pay for your contract and the like? This commenter on this article has it exactly right: "The label is basically a loan shark. They get to make a risk free investment, and prey upon artists who desperately want to be on signed band." That's the record biz in a nutshell.

At least Metallica have an excuse or two. One: they're a corporation in their own right. Two: they're followers of that fanatic for capitalism, Ayn Rand. And Garth Brooks and those other country types were pretty much embedded in the Shrub Bush dictatorship; country music tends to be a right-wing thing anyway, from the most right-wing part of America.

But Lily Allen? She's just a pop tart. The kind who lip-syncs in concert. Have you even heard of her? If you're not British, you probably haven't.

Capitalism. Don't ya love it.

Lily Allen is hot, sure. But now we know what she really is: just another corporate tool.

Monday, September 21, 2009

H. G. Wells Is 143 Today

This day in 1866, Herbert George Wells was born in Bromley, Kent, England. From 1895 to 1898, his first four novels were released: The Time Machine, The Island of Doctor Moreau, The Invisible Man, and The War of the Worlds. And thus science fiction was born. He isn't responsible for science fiction getting kicked out of the literary mainstream (that's mostly the fault of an increasingly narrow and dogmatic literary establishment, and partly the responsibility of pulp magazine publisher Hugo Gernsback). But he is the real founder of the genre. So, happy 143rd birthday to H.G. Wells.

Sunday, August 16, 2009

WebKit Problems, Part 2

[Note: The issue I was dealing with has been obsolete since expandable posts became an integral part of Blogger. For more information, read this post.]

You have a blog on Blogger. You modified your template(s) for expandable posts. You start in "Edit HTML" mode and then switch to the "Compose" tab; when you go back, the and tags disappear. You type them back in. When you post your entry, it works just fine in IE, Firefox, Opera, and the like. Unless your browser is based on WebKit: that means, for example, Chrome, Safari, or Konqueror. (WebKit is a superset of Konqueror's KHTML developed by Apple for Safari.) Then the entry you just posted is expanded on your blog's homepage. Which, of course, you don't want. It's as if those <span> tags never existed for WebKit browsers.

(If this post is expanded on the front page, then you won't see this line.) [Note: this no longer applies. Read the post linked at the top.]

The result: You see this text on the blog's front page! If you're using a non-WebKit browser, you won't see it till you click the link to the rest of this post (or any of its other permalinks on the front page). But if you're on the front page and you see this text, you're using a WebKit browser for sure.

But is the glitch in WebKit, or in Blogger? In any case, it shouldn't be happening.

Is this happening to your Blogger blog? Go to http://webkit.org and tell them.

Thursday, August 13, 2009

St. PUID: @Adambuckled Wins The #stpuid Thread!

I like to think of myself as a spreader of memes (it's in my official bio blurb). But I don't really know if I've actually publicly mutated one into something truly wild and crazy. @StephenAmbrose and @Adambuckled did. And they did it to #stpuid.

Yesterday, @chrispirillo posted this on Twitter:

@abacusfinch and others thought the whole idea was #stpuid in itself (also see what @BacTalan thinks). However, a whole bunch of other tweeps decided to try to give him his wish, including @Outsanity, @QKnuckles, @theqwertyblog, @steezytrina, @BuzzEdition, @Garyx24, @FredGITXM, @primatage, @geeseloverr123, @AwesomeJay, @maryland157, @absolutelytrue, @ItStartsWithUs, @katalee02, and of course @dennis_jernberg, who is also blogging about this (case in point: this entry you're reading right now, and also this one).

Then @StephenAntoine started running away with the subject. He started tweeting about things like Secure Transport Protocol User ID and St. Pucchi, Inc. designs.

But the one who won this whole #stpuid thing? @Adambuckled, who tweeted this:

I should have figured something really weird would come out of this. *grins*

The attempt to trend #stpuid died down last night, and the hashtag isn't getting much use today. But there's a lot of tweeps out there who just love #stpuid ideas. #stpuid may rise again, and even reach the top of the Twitter top ten trends list. Who knows? It's worth another try...

Retweet This Blog Post!

You've probably noticed something to the right of the text of each entry: a "retweet" button which allows those with Twitter accounts to post the title and link to the entry. And it's on not just this blog, but my project and opinion blogs as well. TweetMeme provides the service.

Most people I know find Twitter useless, but I'm one of those select few who get a lot of use out of it. I myself retweet articles and posts quite often. For those like me, I've provided the button.

Turns out that Blogger does not provide an easy way to put the button in — no Google Gadgets exist for this. I found out about this on Twitter. @cheth posted a link to his tutorial, and in it he links to TweetMeme's instructions. Instead, I Googled up "add retweet button to Blogger" and found the instructions I actually used, on this page in @virtuosoblogger's blog. I followed the instructions and inserted the code into my blogs' templates.

So that's how I managed to add that retweet button you see to the right. Who knows? I might add another such service if I deem it useful enough...

Wednesday, August 12, 2009

Facebook Buys FriendFeed: A More Objective Look (with more links, too)

Two days ago, Facebook bought FriendFeed. I was far from the only one who was shocked; but I posted a harsh criticism in the opening to my first post on this subject. Then I followed it up with a whole bunch of relevant links. Having had two days to cool off, I'm now more able to look at it objectively. And, of course, the news is getting even more interesting.

Some of us FriendFeed users branched out to new services: in my case, these are Posterous, Streamy, and Amplifeeder (link is to the FriendFeed version rather than the ASP.NET version). There are those who believe that FriendFeed is already a dead letter. I am not one of them; I've already announced on FriendFeed that I'm sticking around for the long haul. But then, it just happens that I've got accounts with both FriendFeed and Facebook.

Most of us FriendFeed users are sticking with the service. It's not dead. Yet. The fate of Yahoo 360 (i.e., oblivion) may still be in its future, but for now it's still going strong, and both Facebook the FriendFeed founders intend to keep it going at least for the time being. Significantly, it's still being updated with new features.

Now for some of today's relevant articles (add your own in the comments):

Ars Technica: Stream resistance is futile: Facebook assimilates FriendFeed
New York Daily News: So Facebook just bought FriendFeed... What is FriendFeed?
Entertainment Weekly: Facebook buys FriendFeed: Why this is a good thing
PC World: FriendFeed Buy Helps Facebook Compete With Google and Twitter
PC World: Facebook Buys FriendFeed: What Does It Mean?

Mark Krynsky: My Thoughts on the Current State of FriendFeed
Om Malik at GigaOm: Why Facebook Wants FriendFeed
Franklin Pettit: The Rise and Fall of FriendFeed
Louis Gray: Hi Facebook, It's Me, FriendFeed. This Relationship? It's Complicated.
Know The Network: It's Not About FriendFeed, It's About Friends — A Requiem
Alexander van Elsas: My 2 cts on Facebook buying FriendFeed
Jesse Stay: Facebook to FriendFeed: You Complete Me

My Links:
Twitter, FriendFeed, Facebook, Posterous (note: yet another blog!), deviantART (currently neglected), Flickr, Picasa, Google Reader (note: nothing shared yet),
I may make these permanent links in the "My Sites" section of the sidebar.

I am not going to mention Facebook Lite, or the new Facebook messaging API intended to take on MySpace Mail as well as webmail, or whatever. These aren't relevant to this post.

But Facebook Lite aside, what will Facebook actually do to FriendFeed? Right now, we can only wait and see...

Tuesday, August 11, 2009

Reading: Infected, by Scott Sigler

Something has gotten inside you. It entered through your eyes and has lodged itself into your brain. It torments your every waking moment and turns all your dreams into nightmares. It grows and grows, feeding on your mind like the ichneumon wasp larva feeds on its caterpillar host. And now it's squirming...

You've been infected — by Infected.

Horror writer Scott Sigler is a pioneering author of podcast novels. Infected was the first of his novels to make it into print.

The movie-friendly high concept: The Andromeda Strain meets Alien. Sure enough, there's a deal to make a movie out of it. Sigler says the script is already in the works.

Some kind of pathogen is turning ordinary people into blood-crazed mass murderers. While the CIA (agent on the case: hardened veteran Dew Phillips) and the Centers for Disease Control (point woman: epidemiologist Margaret Montoya) are hot on the case, one host in particular, former football star, finds that he's been infected by who knows what. Then the triangles appear. Which turn out to be a group of parasitic organisms, of extraterrestrial origin as it turns out. And then the voices begin. And the parasites have plans...

No, I'm not revealing any spoilers.

Monday, August 10, 2009

Big Social Media News of the Day: Facebook Assimilates FriendFeed

Damn. Just a few days after I followed Robert Scoble from Twitter to FriendFeed, here comes Facebook to take it over. Maybe it's a good thing I have an account on both networks. However, I'm far from alone in feeling betrayed by FriendFeed's eagerness in selling out to the Borg.

So here's what I've found on the Net searching Google and TechMeme:

Facebook Acquires FriendFeed (TechCrunch)
Facebook Acquires FriendFeed (Mashable)
Facebook Acquires Start-Up FriendFeed (Wall Street Journal)
Facebook Acquires FriendFeed in Play for Relevance (Fast Company)
The Facebook/FriendFeed Deal Signed Upder The Cover Of Night (TechCrunch)
Users Shocked by Facebook Acquisition (Mashable)
First Interview After Acquisition With FriendFeed and Facebook (TechCrunch)
FriendFeed Co-Founder: Facebook Acquisition Talks Began in 2007 (Mashable)
FriendFeed Office Deserted: Whole Team Already At Facebook (Mashable)
3 Key Reason Facebook Bought FriendFeed (Mashable)
Facebook Takes FriendFeed To Take On Twitter (TechCrunch)
Facebook Flips The Switch On Real-Time Search, Goes After Twitter Where It Really Hurts (TechCrunch)
Facebook in challenge to Google (BBC News)

Press Releases:
Facebook: Facebook Agrees To Acquire Sharing Service FriendFeed
FriendFeed: FriendFeed Accepts Facebook Friend Request

TechGeist: Facebook Acquires FriendFeed? Ya, It's No Joke
SocializeMobilize: What Does Facebook's Latest Acquisition Mean for FriendFeed, Facebook & Social Media Enthusiasts?
CNET News: The Social: Facebook Buys FriendFeed: Is this a big deal?
Robert Scoble: Oh, FriendFeed is now Facebooks's "official" R&D department! (Says Facebook's real target is Google, not Twitter.)
Ouriel Aharon: 10 random thoughts on FriendFeed acquisition by Facebook
Shawn Farner: Stabbed in the back by FriendFeed
Soap Box Included: So Much For My FriendFeed Book!
Steve Rubel: FriendFeed Should Be Facebook Labs
Michelle's Blog: Why Facebook's Acquisition of FriendFeed Is Culturally Significant
And, of course, a lot more blog entries than I can list, including this one.

It's not often that I join a social network service only to find it snatched out from under me just a few days later. It took a couple years from the time I discovered Yahoo 360° for Yahoo to shut it down. But here you go. I wasn't using Facebook much anyway, mainly to keep track of some relatives and a few friends and such. I guess I'll have to find at least one replacement for FriendFeed, like some others there are. Oh well...

Tuesday, July 28, 2009

Heat Wave in the Great Northwest

I like to joke that every year the Seattle area has to suffer one 100°F day (about 38°C) every year. This year, it's no joke. Around here, we're going through an entire week above 90°, and there could be more than one 100° day ahead of us.

My problem is that I don't have, and never had, air conditioning. I could go swimming or sunbathing or find someplace indoors where it's cool. But then I have to come home to the heat. It's disrupting my sleep. I'm getting tired of it. I find myself longing for the weekend, when the weather forecasters have promised temperature dropping back to a mere 80°. As it is, the nighttime lows have risen to above 70°, and it's getting extremely uncomfortable when I can't cool down my overheated apartment.

This really shouldn't interrupt my writing, though. The heat can serve me as a convenient excuse, sure. But I've written nonstop through heat waves before, and in longhand.

Update: Seattle Times article on the heat wave: Seattle Hits 97 Today; Is 100 On The Way? If you think it's bad enough around here, it's getting even worse tomorrow — that's our 100° day! And, if the KING 5 weather forecast is correct, this heat wave ain't ending any time soon...

Blog Search 2: Following

Tonight's blog search isn't for the blogroll of this or any other of my blogs. Instead, I decided to use Blogger's "Follow" feature to follow other people's blogs. This puts them on my Blogger dashboard, where they're immediately accessible. This is more convenient than viewing one of my blogs, waiting for it to load, scrolling down, and clicking on the blogroll. Of course, I can always add some of the blogs I follow onto one of my blogrolls if I want people to read them alongside mine.

"Following" is a social-network feature that Google added to its blogging platform. Click "Follow Blog", and then you can follow a blog (at least a Blogger/BlogSpot one, or one that takes part in the "Google Friend Connect" program) just like you follow someone on, say, Twitter. This allows you to easily build up a collection of blogs that you can access from the Blogger dashboard. You won't have to bookmark every blog you come across (just the WordPress, TypePad, etc. ones ;) ), and you won't have to go on wild goose chases all over the Web.

Of course, as with my blogrolls, I'll have to take the time (several days or longer) to build up the number of blogs I follow. I've only started just now.

You might notice that I've started posting a series of cyberpunk short stories related to my proposed webmanga Spanner to my project blog. I just realized: this blog here would be the perfect place for me to post short stories unrelated to Spanner, or anything else science-fictional. I could also post poems once I start writing them again. I should also post weekly updates for Project 365 and 50 Songs in 90 Days.

And now, back to writing 2,000 words for JulNoWriMo while waiting for my apartment to cool off from the day's extreme heat...

Friday, July 24, 2009

A WebKit Glitch in My Blogs

[Note: The issue I was dealing with has been obsolete since expandable posts became an integral part of Blogger. For more information, read this post.]

Here's an annoying bug. On the main page of my project blog, one of the entries (one of my wilder short stories) does not collapse when you view it in Chrome or Safari (or presumably Konqueror). Instead, you see the full entry, right there on the main page. You don't see that happen in either IE8 (which has its own special problems, but that's not one of 'em) or Mozilla/Gecko. When I saw it happen in Safari, I knew the problem was a glitch in WebKit.

So I made a Google search of WebKit Blogger bug. Turns out WebKit still has many bugs specifically connected to Blogger (and WordPress as well). As the bug affects both Chrome and Safari, I know neither Google nor Apple is to blame. The fault lies strictly at the WebKit project's proverbial feet. Let's home the WebKit people can squash this bug soon. I don't like having a single entry dominating the blog's entire main page.

Update 7/28/09: I checked the main page of this blog and found the same WebKit glitch doing the same thing to this post.

Friday, July 17, 2009

The Blog Search Finally Begins

At last I have begun the long-delayed search for other people's blogs, or at least the ones I think are appropriate for my project blog. I knew it would be a long search, so I put it off for several days, which became weeks and then months, and threatened to turn into years. Then the random thought came to me that now would be the time to start it. And so I did.

It did not go perfectly, of course. Somewhere in the middle of my initial search, Windows gave me a Blue Screen Of Death and crashed randomly on one of its many bugs. (Good thing I don't use Vista!) But I rebooted and resumed the search until I found enough blogs for one day.

It isn't the end of this, of course. I still have many more blogs to find and put in the blogrolls of all my blogs. I still haven't found enough cyberpunks and cartoonists to fill my growing Spanner's World blogroll, I haven't gotten to my other blogs yet. But it's finally begun...

Back to The Space Helmet Show...

Wednesday, July 15, 2009

After a Busy Week...

#JulNo #5090 #songwriting #writers #Bloggers The second week of July '09 was surprisingly busy for me. At the end of it, though, I got my most important Internet-related business out of the way (getting rid of that archaic and extremely slow dialup connection and joining the modern world), so I can now get back to the proper business of writing. (As for those hash terms I'm now putting at the beginning of my posts: those are Twitter search terms for my Twibes. The Twibes in question are the JulNoWriMo, 50 Songs in 90 Days, Songwriting, Writers, and Bloggers Twibes respectively. That's because TwitterFeed tweets my blog posts.)

Most of my business had nothing to do with writing (novels, songs, blogs). However, I did get one short story written, added to my JulNoWriMo word count, and posted to my project blog (warning: some people may not be able to handle it, hence the many disclaimers). Now that I've finally upgraded my internet connection and immediately upgraded all the software that needed upgrading, I'll be able to return to my 50 Songs in 90 Days songs and my JulNo novel writing.

I'll be a lot more productive in the next week. First, though, I need to get some good rest. Waiting for that dialup connection kept me up at nights...

Back to The Space Helmet Show...

Friday, July 3, 2009

Project 365 Returns! Or, at least I started mine again...

Plaza Fountain
Originally uploaded by Dennis Jernberg

On July 1, I restarted my Project 365. That's where you take and upload at least one photo a day for a year. I carried my camera around with me, went downtown, and took this picture. Now all I need to do is keep my camera with me (and not forgetfully leave it in the house), take one picture at minimum, and upload it — every single day for the next year.

Should be easy. Actually harder than you think. In January, I stopped after only 15 days.

I used to have a blog at Photoblog as well. However, that was a bit too much when I already have my Flickr account and this here general-purpose blog, so I pretty much abandoned it. (If it's still around, it's here.) The Flickr photostream can be treated as if it were its own blog, so that's how I'm treating it. All my Project 365 photos uploaded to Flickr, from both attempts at it, are in their own photo set.

And so once again I've decided I want to do this again. I even think I'll be able to pull this off. However, back in January I wasn't able to continue Project 365 and write 65,000 words for JanNoWriMo at the same time. Can I pull it off this time while simultaneously doing not just JulNoWriMo and 50 Songs in 90 Days? We'll see. All I need to do is take one picture a day...

Back to The Space Helmet Show...

Saturday, June 27, 2009

Preparation for 50 Songs In 90 Days

On July 4, 50 Songs in 90 Days begins. I already have some songs ready for it — they're incomplete, but they're trying to jump the gun on me. As a warmup, I'm writing two songs for the pre-50/90 "song in key of D minor that contains the word 'earth'" challenge. I'll link to the MP3s so my fellow "5090ers" can hear the results, and I'll also post the lyrics and the song links to the Yahoo 50/90 mailing list.

The history behind this: After NaNoWriMo '07 (when I started writing my novel Bad Company), I found out in a Chris Baty email about February Album Writing Month, or FAWM. I signed up, but did nothing last year in either FAWM or 50/90. I had the software, mostly in Linux (Audacity, LMMS, plus various others that came with Ubuntu Studio). I realized I couldn't use them. But by the time FAWM '09 came around, I found myself in possession of a Casio WK-200 keyboard and two guitars, one acoustic and one acoustic-electric. I downloaded the open source tablature editor TuxGuitar, the windows version of LMMS, and the digital audio workstation Reaper. I already had Audacity for Windows. In mid-February I started taking guitar lessons. And the proverbial dam broke: in FAWM, you win if you write 14 songs, but I wrote 38 and recorded 24 of them, leaving a whole FAWM's worth of songs unrecorded. It wasn't until last week that I realized what it did to me: before, I was what I called a "frustrated guitarist" with manic-depressive tendencies. It was when FAWM '09 unleashed my musical creativity that my depression disappeared. Completely. I no longer even have a tendency to get depressed. The "guitar therapy" worked! (I'll explain this further in a future entry.)

I have a whole bunch of half-finished songs prepared for this year's 50/90. Some of them are fragments I programmed in TuxGuitar; others are notations on scratch paper from idly strumming one of my guitars (I now also have an electric) and coming up with chord progressions I like. Some are lyrics without music; others are music without lyrics. Why such a backlog of songs? Mainly because I've been putting my primary focus between FAWM and 50/90 on learning and practicing the guitar. I write my songs fragments and put them aside so I can return to them during 50/90. I want to make sure I play all the guitar parts when I record those songs, though the solos will probably have to come later (I'm having problems learning scales, arpeggios, etc.).

Consider this the official announcement (outside the FAWMer/5090er community) of my intent to participate in 50/90.

Back to The Space Helmet Show...

Increasing My Online Presence, Part 2

Thanks to the death of Yahoo! 360 (which is why I'm no longer providing a link to it), my art blog is gone! So I'm looking for a new place to put it. I'm considering using the still unused blog I got with a My Opera account (profile still more or less empty, so no link there yet either) for that purpose. If I do, I'll let you all know.

Meanwhile, something got me out of the 50 Songs in 90 Days forums. In one word: Twitter.

I had been waiting to set up a Twitter account until I got a broadband Internet connection, as my dialup link is, as you'd expect, way too slow. But then I was reading the Twitter thread on the 50/90 forums, and I started getting that familiar feeling of being left out. So I fired up my Flock browser, activated its Twitter function, and set up my account. Then, in the Twitter help, I discovered how to put my most recent tweets into the sidebar of my blogs. (If you want to actually follow me on Twitter, click "Follow Me On Twitter" in the sidebar.) That had an Unintended Consequence...

I decided to actually post new blog entries. This is the first. I'll also post to the project blog and update my music projects blog for 50/90.

Anyway, this entry and my first tweets are really about the online presence itself: tweeting about Twitter and blogging about...well, just look at this entry's title. No profound, important, or even very social or personal stuff, really.

So I made a big step toward increasing my online presence by signing up for Twitter, and I'm also reactivating my existing presence in the form of my blogs. Maybe I should get my Flickr, Picasa, and Photoblog accounts going again as well...

Sunday, June 14, 2009

Yes, I Can!

Until today*, I couldn't. "I can't" was my motto and my life story. That's why I became a professional slacker in the first place. Then I realized for the first time where I got it: from the extreme difficulty I had in learning how to tie my shoes when I was three. Eventually I learned to tie my shoes, but "I can't" never left me. But then a magical thing occurred: my awareness cured my problem! I had just proved a psychological principle I was previously skeptical of: full awareness of your problem (such as my belief in my incompetence) leads to overcoming your problem. Sometimes this occurs spontaneously. This is what just happened to me: a 40-year brainlock suddenly released. Before, I couldn't because I believed I couldn't. Now, I can!

The catalyst was a book. The author is Debbie Ford, a self-help author of distinctly New Age leanings and a heavy Jungian influence. Her major subject is the psychological "shadow" as Jung described it; outside her books, she does "shadow work" in workshops. For the last several years, I'd been finding copies of The Dark Side of the Light Chasers practically every time I go to a thrift store. I picked up a copy, but I didn't really get all that much out of it. Then I found the sequel, The Secret of the Shadow, on one of my mother's living room tables, so I started reading. Then I borrowed it from her and took it home with me so I could read the whole thing. And something happened right as I was reading it. One of my "stories" — the "I can't" one — came into consciousness, origin and all. All of a sudden, it lost its power over me.

Friday, January 16, 2009

Increasing My Online Presence, Even Despite Myself

Sometimes you can increase your presence on the Internet even despite yourself, just doing a little thing that leads to another. In this case, I found myself with a new blog I had to figure out what to do with. Except that the figuring was already done for me, by a previous plan. So I stole from my own plan. The plan? It was for an art blog. Not one on my own Spanner-related stuff (like my existing project blog), but on art in general, and not just mine. And so here — this "Dennis Jernberg's _______" naming thing is starting to get a bit tedious — is my new art blog. [Note: there was a link to my Yahoo 360 blog, but Y!360 is now dead, alas...]

So what kind of stuff will I be writing about there? Any of my non-Spanner-related art, of course. (There's hardly any of it right now, but one can always hope.) Also, there's commentary on art news, and my hometown art scene. And I'll write about any art, period, as long as it interests me.

So there. I have yet another blog now. If this keeps up, I may end up needing something on the order of Blog-Zilla just to keep up with them all...

Saturday, January 3, 2009

More Maintenance, and a New Photo Blog for Project 365

Tonight, my muse took her sweet time to give me new story ideas for my novel Bad Company, so I went back to the Net, sent my brother some photos, and proceeded to set up a Flickr account and a photo blog, both for Project 365 — and so I'm retiring the photo thread in this blog, just one day after I started it.

Why Flickr when I already have an account with Picasa Web Albums? Because Flickr has a Project 365 group, which I proceeded to join once I uploaded my first photos. This, of course, is the perfect excuse for me to actually use my camera...

Meanwhile, there's some kind of glitch in the template for my opinion blog that I'll have to take care of soon.

I've had an ambitious plan for increasing my Web presence for some time now. But all of a sudden, I find myself carrying it out almost without effort. In a single day, I set up my Flickr account and Photoblog blog. Then tonight I did some more maintenance work on my blogs, replacing the "Links to My Sites" section with a new, improved one. It looks like I'll be setting up my project webpage, and maybe even a LiveJournal account, by the time I post the next entry here. Who knows what else I might end up doing this month...

Friday, January 2, 2009

Blog Maintenance: January 2009

Finally, after, say, about 6 months and the creation of an entirely new blog, I decided to do some work maintaining the blogs themselves. I added various "Gadget" features to the sidebars. I also finished the task of switching the links and blogroll from this blog to my opinion blog. That was just the beginning.

To my project blog, notice that I've added a slideshow of the Spanner album at Picasa Web Albums, Google's counterpart to Flickr. Meanwhile, I've entered Project 365, in which you take a photograph a day for a year; the thread on this blog is here. While posting a comment to the NaNoWriMo forums, I realized that I can do the same thing with drawings, posting them to my project blog just like I'm posting my Project 365 photos to this blog.

Now comes the hard part. That means the long tedious task of searching for sites to add to my link lists and blogrolls. For one thing, I need to find the right webpages and blogs for each of my blogs to link to. Furthermore, there's a very annoying bug in the template of my opinion blog that makes some of the posts almost unreadable; I need to fix that bug soon.

With my websites and a few other sites in the future, I have my work cut out for me...

Thursday, January 1, 2009

My Agenda for the First Week of January 2009

I have something of an ambitious agenda for the first week of 2009. First of all, I intend to write a whole lot. More information on that in the project blog (right here, to be exact). Once the first 30,000 words are out of the way, I intend to retool all three of my blogs, set up at least one new account (where, I'll say later), and start the initial work on my new homepage and project website.

What do I plan to do this New Year's weekend? Besides writing Bad Company, I want to get my blogs reorganized and properly customized. The political links that are still on this blog, I'll move to my opinion blog (which I also want to find the best name for), and I'll find other links I think better complement this particular blog. I'll make major changes in the blogrolls for each blog. I'll do the rest of the customization that got left behind when I abandoned my blogs back when I burned out on writing in August. I'll probably even change my template for this blog, and maybe even the project blog as well.

The other Web-related project I have in the works this weekend is my new project website. It will have the same name as my project blog — Spanner's World — and the project blog will be the associated blog. Eventually, I may even set up a "Spanner's World" forum for my projects, opening them up to public comment. The project page will be for my projects, of course, within the fictional universe that centers on my manga project Spanner and such side projects as Bad Company and its sequel Black Science.

So that's my plan for the first week of 2009. Now all I have to do is to keep myself to it...

Project 365 #1: A White New Year's


My first picture for Project 365: a snowy New Year's near Seattle.

I wanted to take part in the "Project 365" thing, in which you take a picture a day for a year. Then, around noon, when I started writing my 2007 NaNoWriMo novel Bad Company again, this time for JanNoWriMo, I looked outside the nearest window and found snow on the ground. It had snowed overnight! We not only had a white Christmas in the Seattle area this year, but a white New Year's. So I took this picture, and my Project 365 began!

And so it begins...

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