Past Absurdities

The following are the snippets and stragglings I wrote to this space between 2001 and 2006. Some I’m proud of. Some I’d rather forget. Here they are at any rate in a somewhat reverse chronological order. I’ll begin publishing comments to these and sorting through them as time permits. Enjoy for what they’re worth!

22:34 EDT | @190 :: web

I’m helping a local friend of mine with a project of his. The site’s called GetToKnow: The Power of Personal Marketing. It’s a bit of conundrum in terms of what “space” it belongs in, but it’s huge in terms of where it’s going to move people.

Some of the current functionality:

  • Picture upload and display
  • VCard download
  • Guided personal brand development
  • Freely navigable profile

Stuff coming up:

  • I can’t tell you, but — like I said above — it’s huge.

We’re building the thing so that people can develop a personal brand. We want folks to forget about the symbols of rigid institutionalism and those practices that don’t spend enough time on who people are. GetToKnow is an attack on the status quo, and it could be perfect for you.

It’s a guided profile builder that lets you explore who you really are. By the time you’re done, you’ve created a page that represents you more than any resume, profile, or bulletin board can do. GetToKnow is your avatar. And it’s that avatar that could change your life.

Head on over if you want to take part in the alpha test. Just send GTK an email requesting a PIN code. Make sure to explain how you feel the site can help you. Maybe even tell ’em you heard it from me. 😉

In the meantime, GetToKnow me here.

14:10 EDT | @840 :: web

Homo sine religione sic ut equus sine freno.
– Medieval Saying

The above Latin phrase seems to be from an unknown author. It means “Man without religion is like a horse without a bridle”. To me, there are two ways to interpret that. One is that religion is required in order for humanity to be domesticated and focus on their work. The other is that without religion, humanity is free to live life as it sees fit.

I can presume that because it’s in Latin and from the Middle Ages, the author intended for it to mean the former: religion is necessary in order for humanity to fulfill its purpose. A Medieval Christian would have believed that a horse’s purpose is to be bridled to a wagon or plow, to transport men to and fro, to live fettered and “protected” by its master.

Whatever the intended meaning, it is the truth. Religion is a hindrance — either welcome or not — that provides a control structure for humanity. So yes, religion is a bridle in the mouth of humanity. Either you’re restless and you chomp at the bit — breaking your bonds and freeing yourself, or you bow your head and trudge forward, the weight of the universe dragging behind you.

The choice is yours. Meanwhile, I’ll be out here, my bit and bridle far behind me, waiting for you to stop by and say hi.

21:59 EDT | @165 :: web

I’m sitting here realizing the power of good code commenting. I’ve been working on my own blog software (geckoblog powers this site) for about 6 months. Well, I haven’t looked at it in nearly 3 of those 6 months and there are about 26 and a half lines of code that I have no memory of. I literally have no idea why they are there and what they do. Sure, I can go through a code-read and get a good sense of what it’s supposed to do, but if I’d just commented them properly, I wouldn’t have to worry about it, now would I?

Out of a list of 10 items that I feel a blog must have, geckoblog has three. It does those three reasonably well, but as you can tell, I have a ways to go before I’m done.

19:05 EDT | @045 :: web

Just a quick post from the train. Two words: south dakota. I find it absolutely unfathomable that in the year 2006 there are people who think it’s ok to tell women what they can do with their bodies. There is on medical evidence that life begins before a brain starts thinking. That being the case, this anti-abortion law is born out of ignorance and mis-directed ideals.

10:04 EDT | @670 :: web

31 years old. I had the thought yesterday that maybe I’ve always been in my 30s and just never knew it. During my 20s, I tried to be too old for my age and did a lot of things wrong. In my teens, it was worse. Maybe it’s the same for everyone. I’m not sure. It could be that the maladjustments we have during our teen years are because the world around isn’t ready to accept that we feel like adults. Maybe our attempt at seriousness and maturity during our 20s is our way of fighting against the world’s desire for us to be older.

I’m not sure if it’s the same for everyone, but I know that’s pretty much how I felt. But now — Here at the beginning of my second year of the 30s — I feel absolutely right on. Together. Right where I should be. I’m looking forward to whatever adventures await me as a husband and father. I don’t feel older. I feel more connected.

So since this is kind of the beginning of my “fiscal year”, I’m going to resolve to try and post here more often. I’m hoping to finish my blogging software in the next couple of months, too. Once that’s done I’ll be able to release all of these thoughts and intermittent postings as real RSS (oh boy!).

I haven’t got anything left to say right now, and my tea’s waiting for me, so I’ll sign off.

22:23 EDT | @183 :: web

In the area around South Station, there are concrete barriers, piles of dirt and debris, scattered remnants of Dunkin’ Donuts coffee cups, and — in the midst of all of that — a man selling fresh fruit from a cart.

Having never worked directly in Boston for any more than 2 – 3 hours a day, it was a surprise. Not only because the fruit was cheap (3/$1.00), or that it was really tasty, but also that in the middle of all that crap there would be the fruit guy.

19:43 EDT | @071 :: web

I like Wikis for the same reason that they’re dangerous to maintain: anyone can edit them. This, of course, leads to all kinds of crappy spam monkeys coming in and doing damage to them. It’s happened to every Wiki I know of, and it just plain annoys me.

My quest for employment is now over! I got hired on January 7th, 2006 by a financial services firm in Boston as an Information Architect. It’s my absolute dream job, and I couldn’t be happier with it.

20:46 EDT | @115 :: web

Creating an Origami animal from a simple, blank piece of paper is like the quests for literary meaning I used to go on, but inversed. During the literary quests, the crux of the story is sought out amongst the woven folds of story and character, plot and setting. Every valley and mountain of the plot is examined until the reader can come out with a single, simple meaning that transcends all others and leads him or her towards a deeper understanding of the world.

I took up Origami a few days ago in an effort to regain the literary curiosity I used to have towards life. The quest for meaning in the everyday workings of things. The calm puzzlement through the world as I tried to unravel those tangled moments that presented themselves to me.

My logic was that if I could work my way through increasingly complex Origami patterns without getting frustrated, but instead try to come to an understanding of how the model was formed, then I would be healed of these bouts of frustration I’ve developed.

Ten years ago I had the false realization that nobody could ever love me for who I am, and so I made the effort to change myself into something better for my wife. Now — with the ever-mounting evidence that I was wrong (at least as far as she was concerned) — I am working to remember who I was when we got married. Working to be the person who enjoys the quest, the thoughtful meandering through life. Working to be the person it seems my wife fell in love with.

I still don’t believe for myself that anyone could love that person, but at some point we become bigger than ourselves. Our responsibilities become greater, and it becomes time to take that into account when we align our personal philosophies. Whether I believe it or not, I need to be willing to believe it. For my family’s sake.

Origami starts with the simple meaning and out of it you create an intricate balance of mountains and valleys as you work toward the story. The purpose of folding.

Origami, then, is like writing. An exploration through an increasingly complex process of folds and manipulations. It is like life. A blank slate that will become the vision we have only if we value each step along the way.

21:40 EDT | @153 :: web

Just a quick update, here. I added a new song to the audio content. I wrote it on 15-Nov during a quick lunch break and recorded it to just get it down. I haven’t filtered, tweaked, or otherwise made it better than it is, but give a listen, anyhow (mp4).

18:54 EDT | @037 :: web

I’ve started a new project in the background: AdverWiki. it’s an attempt to create a collaborative knowledge base for the advertising industry. Think of it as a cross between IAWiki and WikiPedia. The idea is that as people visit they will add pages and the content will expand. Eventually, it could become a solid resource for students or professionals to find information on job descriptions, pay rates, advertising practices, history, etc.

17:57 EDT | @956 :: web

I’m actively seeking a position as a full-time information architect. Sherbert is going very well, but I’ve realized that the role I enjoy the most in the web design/development process is that of the architect.

It’s a position that requires patience, the ability to be creative, a thick skin, and interpersonal skills matching those of a police negotiator. It’s a complex role with a simple goal: provide the easiest and most intuitive access to information. The duties required to accomplish that goal are touched upon here, and border from the mundane to the fantastic (and I love every one of them).

If you know of an open position somewhere, or if there’s one where you work, please please send my resume along.

19:28 EDT | @019 :: web

The Store hasn’t been as active as I would like. Therefore, I’m going to be adding some one of a kind, hand-crafted items in the near future. The perfect gift for no one in particular, they will shock you with mediocrity!

09:15 EDT | @593 :: web

Addendum to the below: Seems as soon as I enabled Postfix with custom permissions, my ability to sync went squarely away. Not sure what the connection is between the two, to be honest — if there is one — but it’s downright annoying. Postfix is what I run on my machine as a development mail server for the work I do. Without it, I can’t test client sites. With it, I can’t sync my addresses, appointments, and phone numbers. Truly annoying.

01:51 EDT | @285 :: web

Ever since I installed Apple’s 10.3.9 (Panther), I had been unable to sync my N-Gage using iSync 1.5. Lots of people have had this problem, and there have been discussions on the various ways to fix the issue as well as descriptions of similar issues all over the place. I was not alone, but it made my pain no lighter. Friends, I’m here to tell you I finally got my seemingly unwilling N-Gage and eMac to talk with each other as if they were old friends!

Now, I’m not saying that this is going to work for everyone, nor am I saying that what I did was safe, secure, or condonable, but it’s working so far (after a full sync of years-old data and a follow-up sync). So for the sake of completion, and to add a success story to all those stories of woe, I will describe everything I did prior to it working. That said, I don’t know which event actually fixed it, but I found some errors that other folks weren’t mentioning and worked on that angle in addition to trying everything everyone else had tried, as well.

First thing I did was make sure that I was indeed running the latest versions of iCal, iSync and Bluetooth for 10.3.9. Then — because I had read this somewhere a few months back — I did a permissions update (which, by the way, eradicates any Postfix settings you may have done, so be prepared for that if you use Postfix in any way). I then poked around the .plist files based on the discussion in the Symbian forum linked above. But what I did was I copied the 3650AgendaMappings, and 3650mappings files and named them N-GageAgendaMappings and N-Gagemappings (case-sensitive, and make sure the hyphen’s in there). I used the 3650 files because that and the N-Gage are always mentioned in the same sentences for Symbian software. It turns out, though, that the 3650 and 7650 .plist files iSync uses are identical, so it doesn’t matter which one you use. All three models run the same version of Symbian, I believe.

I added the following two lines to the SymbianConduit_phones.plist file (mentioned above):

<key>Nokia--separator--Nokia N-Gage</key>

Then I saved and closed it. Then I made sure the following block of XML was in the SupportedDevicesInfo file (mentioned above):

<string>Nokia N-Gage</string>

To be on the safe side, I installed FExplorer on my N-Gage to ensure that the paths to the calendar and iSync.ini files that Apple uses in their .plist files are correct. They are, so if you use the block above for your N-Gage, it will work just fine.

At this point, I tried a few immediate re-syncs and failed. After watching Constantine with Danielle, I opened up, looked at the errors, and found some interesting stuff to search on that I hadn’t found mentioned before.

I was finding that I was getting an error indicating that mRouter was disonnecting after dialing into the N-Gage through Bluetooth. A similar error to the one this guy was getting. So I installed Z-Term, opened a file transfer connection over Bluetooth to the N-Gage and fired off the AT+CGMM command, as well as the ATI3 command — the one that the iSync XML files seem to use — through Z-Term to make sure that iSync was looking for the right response. My N-Gage returned “Nokia N-Gage” as the device name, so that was all working just fine.

NOTE: If you use this example for a phone other than an N-Gage classic, make sure to ensure that the device name spit out into Z-Term is what you are using as a) the prefix to the .plist files mentioned above and b) within the XML itself. Otherwise, iSync will not be able to find the device.

Satisifed that the XML was correct, I dug around a bit more and did a search on family specific matching fails in Google because it was the error that showed up in directly after the mRouter connection was killed. That led me to some information about Extensions, with a long discussion on MacFixit about how to clear out cached extensions. Since they were not discussing syncing per se, but rather a potential fix for an issue with a D-Link USB dongle (a different model than the one I have), I didn’t actually touch any of that, but I figured I’d give the fsck -y command a try.

NOTE: fsck -y answers any question that the fsck program may ask with a “yes”. It’s not entirely safe. And if you have Journaling on (which I think most of us do), you’ll have to use fsck with the -f flag after it. I used it and it worked just fine.

I rebooted, holding down Command-S to log in as root under Darwin. It took about 20 – 30 minutes to run through, check the filesystem, and make some changes. I had enough time to lose very badly to Nokia’s CardDeck (playing Klondike) while it ran.

After it finished, I typed reboot and the Mac started back up. When I tried to sync to the N-Gage from iSync, it worked like a charm. It’s running as I type this, actually! So after many, many frustrating month, millions of minutes worth of Google searches, and attempts to understand a fix, it finally works and I can be in love with my N-Gage again (because of course, love depends on a reliable syncing solution… ).

I am still not entirely sure why it wasn’t Syncing or which part of my lengthy process fixed it. I still get the family specific matching fails error when I run iSync, but mRouter no longer disconnects. I suspect that the combination of restarting after updating the XML files mentioned above and running fsck -f is what made it all happen.

I sincerely hope that this post somehow ends up out there in the ether as some kind of light at the end of the tunnel for those of you who are having this problem. It’s absurd that it has to be this complicated, but there we go.

00:46 EDT | @240 :: web

I’ve been doing a lot of work on figuring out the state of mobile marketing in the U.S. It’s an interesting place, to say the least, and I am by no means satisfied with where I’ve ended up. Turns out people would like to be using their phones for what I’m going to call “Quick Fix Information” or QFI. QFI hits involve directions, weather, sports scores, traffic updates, etc. They’re not so interested in the idea of Mobile Content that you have to go out and find. Rather, they want information texted to them at a certain time or under certain conditions.

And as is typical with an American vs. World audience, “fun” is not something generally associated with the idea of mobile content. Nor is innovation. There are always niche market gamers who love to get games through their phone, or people who think it’s “cool” or “nifty” to scan your phone at the grocery store for savings, but overall most cell phone users are after QFI.

The same could be said for PDA users. QFI when connected. So it makes for interesting place to try and figure out marketing tactics. I don’t tend to trust the tactics that are used in other areas, so I like starting from scratch. Thinking about what type of messaging these QFI users would be interested in? How would they get it? And from whom? Why would they want it?

The challenge is the same it is everywhere: get the message across effectively, but without being over-zealous. Nobody likes a brick-against-the-head marketer. Least of all tech-savvy, early-adopters. The first smell of a demographic study or blatant advertisement, and they’re gone.

15:04 EDT | @836 :: web

Meditation towards an existential life is not a meditation rooted in the concept of “no-mind” or in a complete state of “enlightenment”. Existential meditation is an attempt to find the thing in your life that gives your existence meaning. This is not to be confused with the meaning of existence, which is a purely fictional and global concept. Existential meditation works on finding that very personal thing that makes your life worthwhile. In short, the essence of your joy. It could be friends, family, trees, a box of mismatched puzzle pieces — anything, really. The important thing is to find the real joy/love of your life.

So maybe you need to start with a session in order to find that thing. You may know the surface of it, but finding the nugget of the joy is what you need to do. Make yourself comfortable. Breathe deep from the diaphragm in through the nose and exhale through the mouth. Any length of time on the breaths is fine. You’re not really meditating, your breathing. That’s all you’ve got to do is breathe.

Now here’s the real trick: do not empty your mind. Let it wander. Let moments of the recent past, noises from outside, fears, accomplishments, memories all drift around un-burdened. All the while, keep breathing deep and let those thoughts move through your brain.

It’s an unsettling feeling. It takes time. As those thoughts move through your head, a few will repeat over and over. Let them. Eventually, these thoughts will leave you alone and be replaced by deeper memories or thoughts. It’s okay. As these thoughts filter through your head, you will begin to come upon what it is in your life that makes you happy. In fact, you might even smile or laugh at loud at it. Keep breathing and laugh. Keep breathing deep from your diaphraghm and smile.

It may take two or three 20-minute sessions to finally hit upon what it is that makes you happy. Be patient. It might take more depending on how practiced you are at meditating. Once you’ve found the joy, though, you’ll know it. Hold on to it. Remember it. Write it down if you have to.

Now, that joy is your strength. Your reason for living. The thing that keeps you moving from one moment to the next, one day to the next, one week to the next. It is the thing that separates you from a life as an automaton. It is — in short — the existential meaning of your life. You will use it from now on as a foundation to build the rest of your life on.

The first time you meditate after you find your joy, you’re going to think about that thing. You’ll have other thoughts, but keep the joy in your head as the other thoughts filter themselves out. Breathe deeply as before. In through the nose, out through the mouth. Simple and natural. As you do this breathing, feel the joy swell in you from a spot just behind your navel and below your diaphragm. Feel it the way you feel real love. Gutsy and honest. Real and gritty, but you wouldn’t trade it for anything in the world.

As you breathe, let that feeling expand through your body and fill your skin to the very edge. Once your body’s filled with that joy, let it filter out of your skin into the air, the room, the world around you. Once you’ve filled yourself with that joy as much as you can, let go of the meditation and go do your job, your life, your homework or whatever it is you need to do that day.

Every day you repeat this exercise, you will push your joy further out into the world around you and you will embed your very reason for life into everything you do, making a stronger, happier and overall better-to-deal-with person.

If you’re being treated for depression or hypthyroidism or similar, this exercise should be used as a supplement to your treatment. Maybe if you’re an accomplished Yogi, Zen or Aikido master you can treat depression with meditation alone. For the rest of us, take the pills you’re supposed to take and use the exercise to gain strength for the every day tasks we all must face.

I do the above as much as I can, and when I do my day becomes a little easier to manage. Things become a little less overwhelming. When I do it consistently, I gain the power and motivation I need to be who I need to be for the people around me. Existentialism is, after all, about helping the world by fixing yourself.

18:35 EDT | @983 :: web

The smell of curry is wafting over to me from the new kitchen, which is looking a little bit sparklier and such. It’s our second full day in the new place, and it’s only just beginning to feel like home. Boxes litter the pathways, toothpaste and such lay un-stored on the bathroom sink/counter combination. No matter. Soon all will be stored and placed where proper and appropriate and we can get back to living our normal lives.

The other day I read in the Boston Globe about The site purports to be outing fraudulent poetry contests around the country. Fraudulent meaning that most of the people who get chosen as winners are either students of the judges, graduates of the programs running the contest, or have some other similar relationship.

I’m not sure how I feel about this. Having graduated as part of this whole in-bred literary society, my first response to his allegations is “Well, ahhhm, yeah. Of course. Did you expect anything else?” I mean seriously. Of course judges are going to award the prizes to those who’ve graduated from the variety of writer’s workshops. The idea is that once you’ve been through those programs, you’re a better poet. Not getting an award after going through, say, The Iowa’s Writer’s Workshop, doesn’t say much for the program, now does it? So the people who care the most about the program will naturally do everything in their power to justify its existence. Everyone who’s been through a solid writing/literature program and attempts getting published knows damned well that it’s more about who you know than how well you can write. If you happen to be a good writer as well as know important people, more power to you.

So do I think these contests should be changed to give all entrants a fair chance? Sure, why not. Do I think it’s worth all of this hullabaloo? Nope, not really. Do I feel bad for the people who didn’t win? Not one stitch. Here’s a hint: any time you’re asked to fork over cash to enter a contest, don’t do it. That’s one of the first things I learned when I was trying to get published.

So why am I so unconcerned with this blatant nepotism? Because there are better ways to get noticed. Publish in univeristy-run literary magazines that don’t have an entry fee. Look for quarterly journals that are accepting entries. Submit regularly to The New Yorker, etc. Publish in your local newspaper or literary journal so you have a base for a publishing history. If you’re a good writer and work hard, you will get noticed. If you’re a crappy writer, nepotism doesn’t matter unless you are on the receiving end of it.

Whatever you do, don’t spend money for contests. There are very few contests worth entering if they charge a fee. And winning a contest does not guarantee future publication. It just doesn’t. Whether you’re sleeping with the judges or not.

Write well. Network where necessary. Be smart about where you publish. Write better on the next attempt. Keep working. That’s what has to happen.

02:29 EDT | @312 :: web

What a long and crazy few days this has been. First-off, is now being hosted on my account at 1&1. Not because I endorse or approve of them, but because I had some available space there and I can no longer host out of our apartment. Why, pray tell? Because DSL and the static IP address that went with it is no longer available in our building (in case you missed my last post on this subject, scroll on down. I’ll be here when you get back.

In order for Comcast to wipe clean the bad taste of cable internet access for Danielle and I, they needed to dazzle us. Wow us with their techincal acumen and shower us with connection speeds heretofore undreamed. Comcast needed to rise above the rabble and rumors around what it means to have cable internet and show us what it could really do. Well, that’s what they needed to do, and unfortunately Danielle and I will be rinsing this bad taste from our mouths for a while, yet. For the short version, skip to the last two paragraphs. If you like to have a story unfold, read on through.

The service got installed on Monday — as scheduled — and the guy dropped off the modem and the “self-install” kit. I moved our computers from upstairs down here later that day (early evening or so), got them hooked up and got about 50% through the registration proces when I was told by their really helpful little wizard that “an unexpected error [had] ocurred” and that I should “call 1-800-COMCAST” for assistance. Seeing as we have no phone in our new place yet, I limped my way — I had been carrying boxes and furniture all day — to the local pay phone (about two blocks away).

After waiting on hold for not too long (points there), I was informed that there was no modem listed on our account and that I needed to provide them with the serial/model number and MAC address. So I drove back home.

I wrote those things down and drove back to the phone and placed my call. I got a different person on the line. He told me that the modem was on our account, and he would push our registration through. What username would you like? He asked me. I told him. Would you please supply me with your IP Address, he said. IP address? I responded. I’m at a pay phone. After a short little altercation where he treats me like an idiot for using the only means available to communicate with him, he pulls in a supervisor and we go back and forth trying to push the registration, but it’s no good. I drove back home.

By this time we’re tired and hungry. We have some food, rest a bit, and I go back to the pay phone with the IP address. The woman who answered asked me about the username again, so I told her. She clicked on some kind of typing device there, but couldn’t push my registration through because her system was failing, she said. Happens to one out of every 10 people, she said. So she had a colleague try it. I’m not sure how that ended up because I got cut off and never found out. I called them back.

The new person on the line again tried to push our registration through with the now recorded username. Not sure how that turned out, because just as he said “Ah! I see what the problem is,” I got cut off. I called them back.

And now it’s 11:30 at night. I’m being watched like I’m a vagrant because I look like one in dirty khakis and sneakers and — frankly — I smelled like one from all the moving sweat and dust. The guy from Comcast I talked with this timetold me that my modem wasn’t online. He did some key-tapping magic from his super-position in comcast land, there, and then told me that the signal was weak for our connection and that a tech person would be dispatched the next day (19-July) to look into it.

The sun rose per usual, and around 15:00 or so Manny and some guy with white hair come by our place. They’ve got the red shirts and the tool belt and the pole-climbing, face-smashing boots on, and I figure we’ve got this cable internet thing beat now, boy. Three hours and four techinicians later, we have a new and “better modem”, an extremely choked upload speed, an alternating-between-1/3-and-1/4 download speed, and a team is going to be dispatched to isolate the issue at some box on our street. How will we know when that work has been finished? You’re speed will be faster, Manny said. We’re not going to get a phone call or something? I ask (remembering fondly the tech support and troubletickets of Speakeasy.). Nope, he says. And oh yeah, we still haven’t completed the registration process. No email or password has been revealed to us through any of this.

Comcast has utterly failed to show us that cable is better than DSL. Say what you will, but it sucks. As soon as we can either convince Verizon to remove the limiters from their fiber-optic cable in the area or afford a T1 we’re dropping cable like a bad date. Because that’s what it is.

We were expecting luncheon at Chez Raoul’s, and we get a stale chicken sandwich from Burger King.

17:41 EDT | @945 :: web

T-minus two days and counting. You’d think that moving from one floor to another in the same building is easier than moving across town or to a different state. You’d think so. It’s not that it’s any harder, it’s just not easier is all.

Based on the time it took me to move Gabe’s room downstairs, it’ll take another 18 hours just to move our stuff. That means that if I put in 8 hours of moving time each day, I won’t be done in time. Heh. 😉

Not to mention the painting’s not quite done. I still need to do the damned bumpy ceilings — whoever invented that spray-on crap ought to be shot. Twice. And the floors could still use a nice MinWax bath in certain places.

Also, there’s sad news in the way of DSL coverage in our building. Turns out Verizon is replacing the copper wire in the area with fiber-optic lines that aren’t equipped to carry DSL. Which means we have the last solid copper pair in the building right now, so there aren’t any left for downstairs. Even if we cancelled this line, there’s no guarantee Verizon would allow Speakeasy to use it for DSL. Bastards.

So after 3+ years of fantastic DSL from Speakeasy, and almost a year of VoIP phone we have to say goodbye. I put the call into Comcast yesterday and we’re going to have — shudder — cable broadband installed on Monday. Comcast is promising a speed of 6Mbps/768k, but we’ll see. We’re definitely skeptical.

Well, that’s about it for now. More once we’ve moved in, probably. And check this space for some project information. It’s been awhile since I’ve gotten my fingers dirty working on personal projects, and there are a lot of things that have been brewing. Hopefully something will show up here soon.

15:23 EDT | @849 :: web

Paint! Let slip the gobs of Behr and Glidden! Avast ye hearties and batten down the rollers! Yarr!

We’re painting our new place over the next week or so. I think we’re just about halfway done. I’ve learned a few things about painting that I want to share.

1. Always listen to the person in the paint department when s/he says “… use a tinted primer …”, because now I’m going to have to do four coats of this really nice color so that it ends up being a really nice color.

2. Red Devil spackle is better than anything else on the market. Period. Use it. Buy it. Love it.

3. If you have one of those ceilings with the bumpy sprayed-on coating and you want to know how much paint you’ll need to cover it, double your estimate. You think it’s 120 ft2? It’s not. It’s 240. Trust me on this.

14:04 EDT | @794 :: web

Huh. Here are a few more of those quotes.

“Journalists must avoid impropriety and the appearance of impropriety, as well as any conflict of interest or the appearance of conflict.”
— ASNE Statement of Priniciples

“Financial investments by staff members or other outside business interests that could conflict with the newspaper’s ability to report the news or that would create the impression of such conflict should be avoided.”
— APME Code of Ethics

One of the things that bothered me — and continues to do so, actually — is that reporters en large are not taken care of by their paper in such a way as to foster ethical and effective reporting. Low salaries, not-so-hot health plans contribute to a person’s desire to not do their best job.

News gathering and reporting is one of the most important duties in a truly democratic society. Unless reporters are taken care of in such a way as to ensure their well-being and solidity as people, they are not going to be able to deliver the news in the manner in which it needs to be delivered.

Of course, now I can hear the “If they don’t like it, they can quit” people chiming in. Well, that’s just stupid. The salary and benefits are so bad, you’re not going to find a reporter who doesn’t like what they’re doing. There’s no motivation other than enjoyment for being a reporter. It’s not a question of “liking” it’s a question of working yourself to death without fair recompense.

Reporters and teachers are the two professions that are the most under-appreciated — monetarily speaking — in relation to their importance to this country’s well-being.

01:29 EDT | @270 :: web

I was leafing through some old journals I have in the house and found some quotes about journalism I had jotted down back then. They still mean something to me, so I figured I’d drop them in here.

“Newspapermen and women who abuse the power of their professional role for selfish motives or unworthy purposes are faithless to that public trust.”
— ASNE Statement of Priniciples

“Journalists acknowledge the newsman’s ethic of protecting confidential sources of information.”
— SDX Code of Ethics

“News sources should be disclosed unless there is a clear reason not to do so. When it is necessary to protect the confidentiality of a source the reason should be explained.”
— APME Code of Ethics

“Pledges of confidentiality to news sources must be honored at all costs, and therefore should not be given lightly. Unless there is clear and pressing need to maintain confidences, sources of information should be identified.”
— ASNE Statement of Priniciples

Confidentiality and sources were very important to me. And it was something that was often challenged. Getting a story through confidential sources only works if you’re able to use the confidential information to find documentation that leads to viable, public sources.

21:29 EDT | @145 :: web

It took me a long time to understand what Hunter S. Thompson was doing, and it wasn’t until I left the newspaper business that it really sunk in.

I started as a reporter at The Gardner News in 1998. Fresh out of college with a degree in Literature, I had read Fear and Loathing, learned about who Thompson was and what he stood for, but I didn’t believe in Gonzo Journalism. I was a believer in “Deep Reporting”. Getting the news behind the news. Straight reporting. “Just the facts M’am.” No subjectivity.

When I left newspapers — thrown out, really, but I feel like I escaped — I got the chance to breathe, relax, and see what it’s really all about. It’s not about reporting the news, it’s about telling the story. The reporter, journalist, essayist: they are all the modern-day bards. Relating tales of daring, excitement, passion, and remorse in order that the general public know — more than what is happening — how they fit in to the world at large. You don’t get that level of involvement with objectivity. I didn’t understand that 7 years ago.

In the time since my exodus, though, I’ve come to respect Thompson. Not for his on-the-edge lifestyle that some will say ultimately killed him. Not for his antics and drug-imbibing days of yore. I’ve come to respect Thompson as what he was: one of the greatest writers this country has ever seen.

In order to be a Gonzo Journalist, you have to understand your audience and their perceptions. You have to know their language and their style as well as your own. If you don’t, you can’t get through to them, and you’re not doing what you’re supposed to do. Telling a story. Thompson could tell one hell of a story.

Through his lens, his perception, his analysis, we could see the strings that pulled the puppets. We could understand the reasons — or lack thereof — behind the decisions in Washington and everywhere else. We could laugh at debauchery, marvel at idiocy, and otherwise be exposed to the reality of a world we could never enter. We can do that no longer. All we can do is try to remember what we’ve learned.

Ultimately, what I came to understand is that the power of a story is not in the tale itself, but in the telling. Thompson was a storyteller and will be missed. I hold him up to the other great writers this country has known: Twain, Hemingway, Wolfe, Kerouac. I can only hope we aren’t overrun with poseurs and wannabes.

23:43 EDT | @238 :: web

When I first got my glasses two years ago, I could work at the computer for about 30 minutes before I felt I needed them. Now, if I forget to put them on before I look at the screen, I begin to get nauseous. My vision blurs and the screen sort of fades in and out of focus in front of me. I like my glasses. Don’t get my wrong. And I’m not complaining (as a matter-of-fact, I just don’t have anything else to talk about, really). The problem is that I keep forgetting to put the !@#$ things on.

So I work at the computer for a living and never remember to put my glasses on. Consequently, I spend a good deal of time with blurred vision, headaches, and frustration. That has just GOT to stop. Fer Christ’s Sake!

Funny Gmail story to tell. An online friend of my wife’s gave her a Gmail address. Naturally, I was jealous, not having a Gmail account myself. She set it up, promising to invite me as soon as she was able to. We set out looking to see how that might happen. No luck.

About 12 hours passed, and she gets an email from Google. It turns out that her very own Gmail account is now ready — from when she signed on to their mailing list about 6 months ago — and would she go ahead and set it up. So now she has two (2) TWO Gmail accounts. CUT TO: Me. Livid with jealousy. Still no (none) idea on how to get invited to have an account. Grrrrr.

So the next day (ie, yesterday), a business associate and friend of mine sends me an invitation for a Gmail account. He had gotten an account a few weeks ago, and promised to send me an invitation when he could. I had forgotten all about it …

It’s late, here. A couple of last notes:

  1. I’m at the point where I’m seriously going to buy Panther just so I can use the newest Safari.
  2. Firefox is now my default browser, though I don’t like it as much as Safari. But it doesn’t freeze up on me.
  3. Why does open-source always seem to mean “lots of cool features for the geeks, but clunky, badly-design interface”?

10:37 EDT | @692 :: web

The sun is bright outside the apartment, and the snow is slowly receding to wherever it is that snow goes this time of year. I like this part of winter. The diminishing of the snow, the increase in sun light, my birthday.

When we lived in Vermont, March 4th was not just my birthday, it was also the birthday of the state. March 4th, 1791 is when VT became the 14th state of the Union. So this year Vermont turns 214, and I turn 30. The only time I was ever surprised with a party was during Vermont’s bicentennial — my 16th birthday.

My friends convinced me that it would be fun to go play basketball or something, and while we were doing that my mom was setting up a party. I got completely bamboozled. I was told there was going to be a party for the bicentennial, and so was shocked — SHOCKED, I tell you — when we went back to my house and all of my friends were there. Movies. Making out. Overnight in Greensboro. More making out. Some random groping. Angry glances from those who weren’t being groped/doing the groping (Gosh it was fun being 16 😉 ).

And now I’m turning 30. An Uh-dolt. I never thought I’d make it past 25, and here I am. Am I sad? Melancholy? Regretful? Do I look wistfully back on the past and say: “I wish that were me again”? Hell, no. I love my life. My marriage. My son. My wife. My job. I love moving out of my 20’s and forward into whatever it is that faces me. As long as those I love and who love me are still here, life is worth moving through, no matter what age.

Linux world is going on in Boston this week. And I’m sure there’s other stuff going on in the world, but I’ve been kind of too busy to notice much. Hell, I haven’t even read the comics in like four weeks or something. To be honest, that whole opening paragraph about the sunshine and stuff? I just noticed it this morning. And only because I opened the curtain to get at the window.

11:21 EDT | @722 :: web

Well, it’s official. To kick-off another year of blatant consumerism, I’ve launched the Dada Store! Based on affiliate links and such so far, I’m building up a supply of items that I feel represent, reflect, enchance, or destroy the concept of daDA in the 21st century. Music, movies, art, objects, comedy, etc. will all be added to and enhanced throughout the rest of time.

The hope is three-fold:

  1. Raise awareness about what DAdA is/was/can be in a very educational sense
  2. Spread the concept of dADa out into the universe so that it can be further perverted by well-meaning middle-class artsy-types.
  3. Fondle my buttocks by raising tiny Chevrolets to believe in Jesus as our plumber.

08:57 EDT | @623 :: web

New Beck EP on iTunes Music Store. Get them. Seriously, really get them. Very good soundscape digital dada “music” with Beck’s ever-present weird voice. Good stuff.

  • GAMEBOY/HOMEBOY (Que’ Onda Guero)
  • BAD CARTRIDGE (E-Pro) [Remix]

11:50 EDT | @743 :: web

The blizzard out here is absolutely crazy. Snow everywhere: piled over our car, burying our porch. I love it! I always have. There’s something exciting to me about driving a front-wheel drive car through drifting snow. The thrill of adventure, the challenge of not dying. It’s always been something I’ve looked forward to.

When I’m not out driving, I spend time at the computer. Doing “things”. This morning I thought it would be fun to make some background pictures for my N-Gage. They turned out alright, so I’m sharing them here. They’re each just over 40k, are in JPG format, and measure 174×132. mobile phone background pics

02:01 EDT | @334 :: web

And so a new day dawns! Hark!

Okay, so it’s not quite so Wordsworthian as all that. I made some changes around here. Danielle pointed out that for an information architect, my site was really badly organized. I ditched some things and split others up.

I got rid of the “stuff” directory, and split it into “photos” and “audio”, both of which will be updated more frequently from here on out. The “comics”, “spew”, “profile”, and “dada” sections are all still there, as they continue to make sense (in a structural way, anyhow). The “audio” section will be the place to watch. Found sounds, original songs, snippets of conversation, and other vocalizations. Vox Blog Populae!

There’s no more image map nav. Gone gone, the map is gone. The sections are all accessible on the nav to the left. When you see the “»” symbol, that means the section has been updated in the last week. Be not like Hansel & Gretel: use the breadcrumbs to find your way back.

New this week are some songs and snippets in the “audio” section, and new pics in the “photos” section.

I’ll be rolling my own RSS feeds later this week, and hope to get spread out on to all the hip, independent blog channels! Yeah! ;). Through the magic of <![CDATA[…]]> I hope to include audio updates, photo updates, and more. An RSS version of the Exquisite Corpse? Mayhaps, fair one. Mayhaps!

12:44 EDT | @280 :: web

New Year’s Resolutions, 2005

I never do this, so I thought for once I’d give it a shot. Here we go, in no particular order:

  • File and pay taxes on time
  • Continue to find ways to be a better husband and father
  • Start a “Nest Egg”
  • Grow my company by at least 30%
  • Make the leader boards in Pocket Kingdom
  • Lose weight (yeah, I know, but unlike everyone else, I mean it)
  • Buy a G5
  • Earn a good reputation in World of Warcraft
  • Have a generally good time

I think that covers it. There are things I want to accomplish this year that aren’t listed above, but they can either go unsaid, or things that I need to resolve to do because they’re, well, fun.

Happy 2005 everyone. Hope it’s a good one all-around.

20:15 EDT | @969 :: web

I woke up this morning knowing that the death toll around the Indian Ocean was around 65,000. So when I checked the news and saw 114,000 dead, I didn’t know how to react. Shock. Amazement at the brutality of nature. Overwhelming sorrow. Anger at those who I know will turn this into a political or theological discussion.

The futility of the human existence is no more apparent than in an incident involving a 5 – 10 minute earthquake. Our lives can so easily be pried from our grasping fingers. It’s nothing for 100,000 people to be killed in a matter of minutes. The Existential truth of it, however, doesn’t lessen the blow.

I’ve spent today mired in a clinging saddness I can only attribute to events half a world away. I didn’t know anyone directly affected by the tsunami: all of my relatives and friends are safe in their snowed-in homes or sun-warmed west coast apartments. I’m not generally a charitable person. I have no religious morality connecting me to anyone’s life. So why does it affect me? Because we’re all human. Because we can feel it when one — or more — of our own are removed from the planet. And it hurts.

Atheists are not without feeling. We’re without religion. It doesn’t require belief in a higher being or supernatural power to feel pain, anguish, sorrow, fear, compassion, or love. There is no shining heaven or other afterlife for these people. There is no justification for their deaths. There is nothing but the frailty of human life and the cold machinations of the planet we try to live on.

And somehow the harsh realities of that drive us towards a deeper understanding of life, a truer compassion for our fellow man, and a desire to do more for our own families and friends. At least, it should.

20:22 EDT | @974 :: web

The tsunamis in Asia are top on my mind today. I subscribe to an email list from the Gospel for Asia group (to keep up with what the idiots are up to), and in the email today was the following quote:

Amid the death and destruction, however, Brother K.P. reported this morning on how God’s hand protected one Believer’s Church congregation.

“In one of our churches in Sri Lanka, our believers were spared even though their entire village was washed away,” Brother K.P. explained. “At the time the wave hit, they were all in church, and their church building is located up in the mountains.”

Intimating that because the Asians had converted to Christianity they were saved from the tsunami is about the most disgusting thing I’ve heard of. If the region had an early-warning system available to them, then people would’ve been in the mountains whether they were Christian or not.

I understand that people need to feel some kind of guidance; that people are afraid to face the world on their own. But to use a disaster such as what happened today as propaganda to further their cause is low, base, and unconscionable. Sad.

16:00 EDT | @792 :: web

A birthday party for a good friend was held at The Burren. Here’s a few clips (in MPEG-4 format) of what it sounded like:

  • The Burren, 27-Nov-2004 (1)
  • The Burren, 27-Nov-2004 (2)

23:35 EDT | @066 :: web

Vote early. Vote often. But vote, god dammit. Vote. All you knee-jerks out there who won’t get off your asses and head to the polls on November 2nd are a waste of air. Contribute or stop breathing.

I was in the book store tonight not 20 minutes ago and a woman ahead of me in line said to the clerk “I’m not registered to vote and I don’t plan on doing it any time soon,” or something to that effect. The clerk nodded and said something non-threatening to her. “That’ll be twenty-three ninety-eight. Thanks for not upholding democracy.”

Voting this year is not about choosing the best president, rather, it’s about showing that we still care. That Americans haven’t lost their edge — did we have one? — and are willing to brave dastardly traffic jams and hungover early-risings to help frame our destiny.

It puzzles me how the ones who think god rules their lives are more likely to vote than the rest. Don’t let those christian pansies show us up this year again. Satanists and Anarchists! Existential teachers and Bhuddist stock brokers! Rejoice! Seize the one moment in time when we get to make our mark on history. It may not count towards who becomes president, but it counts when they tally the number of Americans who care.

Rue the day the headlines proclaim “Americans Have Lost the Will to Vote. Mickey Mouse not even Considered for Write-In”. That will be a sad day indeed. Surely on that day the Republican christian fear-monger fuck-sticks will rise as one and burn our books and keep our women from making decisions.

The terror is in the White House and the only fear is ours, and they can smell it. We stink up the place with our fear. FBI Probes Leads on Election Terror Plot here, but there is No Evidence of US Election Linked Terror Plot. If there’s no evidence, what are the probing? Feds like to probe.

Note the lack of quotes from people who matter and the frequent “on conditions of anonymity”.

So vote. Do it or we lose. Not just our party’s shot at the White House — for those of you with party affiliations — but our honor. Our pride. Our ability to determine our own fates.

20:49 EDT | @950 :: web

I’ll be voting for John Kerry in a couple of weeks. Not because I necessarily feel that he will make a good president, rather, I feel that he will make a better president than Bush. Why does it have to be like that?

I’m voting only because I will not become part of the growing number of Americans who don’t. I’m voting because if we don’t, it can be taken away from us. I’m voting because I feel I need to defend my privilege. Unfortunately, I’m not voting for the reasons I should be: passion about a candidate, excitement about the potential for change, an urgency to defend the candidate I desire.

To me, neither Bush nor Kerry fit the bill for what we need in a president this year. We need strength of leadership — not bully pilpit-ism. We need someone strong enough to know the difference between what is a public issue and what is a private issue. We need a president who will defend what it means to be American, while also pushing that definition in new directions.

To those of you reading this who aren’t from the USA, don’t hate the people. We work hard to try and make our way over here shadowed by the leaders we are stuck with. America is lost. Americans are lost. We need a president who admits that. Who knows what to do and is willing to do it. War? Religion? Marriage? Are they issues we should be choosing a president by? How about health care, leadership, vision for the future?

Anyone out there with vision for the future? Anyone at all?

14:16 EDT | @803 :: web

I was on TV!!! 😀

There’s quite a bit of footage with me in it (much more than I expected and more than I’m comfortable with, frankly). The show is called Beyond Boston, and it’s an episode of the “Weird Travels” television series on The Travel Channel. I got to portray — perhaps stand in for is a better term — Sherriff George Corwin, of 1692 Witch Trial fame.

I got the chance to take part in the filming this past summer while I was working as a tour guide. in Salem, MA.

It’s a cheesy show with bad film (video, really) effects. The next airing is on October 24th if you want to see what I look like in a long period shirt and women’s vest ;).

22:18 EDT | @137 :: web

We did it. Gabe will be homeschooled from here on out. The superintendant called us today to let us know. Last week we sent an education plan over to the district office for approval. I think it was a good one — a nice blend of Socratic and Montessori learning styles all wrapped up in a good Kindergarten plan.

Gabe’s very excited, and so are we to finally be doing this. It was our original plan to homeschool, and now we’re back to it. Very cool.

24:31 EDT | @230 :: web

I put together a little movie involving Ueshiba Morihei doing Aikido (7.2 MB) to some Daft Punk music. I got the video clips from this site, and the music is Daft Punk’s Harder, Better, Faster, Stronger from their “Discovery” album.

I also put optimized it as a 3gp file (694 Kb). It runs pretty well on my N-Gage, but I had to encode the sound as vocal as opposed to music. I think it might have to do with RealPlayer and AAC? At any rate, enjoy!

20:40 EDT | @069 :: web

I did a lot of work on Sherbert Interactive’s server this weekend. Here’s a partial list of what’s been completed:

  • Installed vm_pop3d and PostFix, so now POP3 mail is not tied directly into users of the system
  • Configured mod_watch and MRTG in order to do som rudimentary bandwidth monitoring.

Yeah, so that’s all well and good, but here’s what I have left to do:

  1. Build an automated sign-up procedure incorporating no less than 35 steps required to create a new user as a part of the existing system.
  2. Create a MySQL database of users, account types, invoices, etc. for billing and tracking purposes.
  3. Install and configure mod_frontpage for all accounts.
  4. Install and configure Tomcat to run in conjunction with Apache 2.0 and VirtualHosts.
  5. Build and/or find a front-end system for users to do their own account management.
    • Adding POP3 accounts.
    • Adding email aliases.
    • Adding subdomains.
    • … etc.
  6. Build in some bandwidth accounting procedures.
  7. Market the server and space available.
  8. … and probably some stuff I don’t remember right now.

In other words, a ton of stuff to do. The experience is good, though. I like maintaining our own server and when I get the services up and running, I feel better about selling them. I mean, at least it’s not some cheesy reseller account, right?

14:24 EDT | @808 :: web

Shameful capitalist! Spiteful bourgeoisie purchaser of crass items! Visit our store and purchase in vain!.

The Series I Dada Comic is now available as an offensive article of clothing. Wear it to the store and watch confusion set in as you don’t garner any comments regaling you with compliments on your stylish clothing options!

13:32 EDT | @772 :: web

The site’s been down for a bit while I switched the server over. I’m hosted now at Sherbert Interactive’s server. Everything should be back to normal by now. Drop me a line if it’s not.

12:27 EDT | @602 :: web

Existential Business Practices:

  • Understand that the only real reason your business exists is because you want it to. There need be no other justification/reason for its existance.
  • Always have a goal. Maybe have two: short-term and long-term. Don’t be afraid to make the long-term goal huge.
  • Envision the path to your goal and understand the decisions that need to be made along the way.
  • Understand how your life and the lives of those you care about are directly related to and affected by your business and its goals. Make decisions accordingly.
  • Hard work, determination, long hours and confidence do more for your success than wishing, hoping, waiting or praying.
  • Do not judge your ability to succeed by the success/failures of those around you. You are in charge of your fate.
  • Greet everyone you meet with the same personal/professional attitude. Whether they are a client, neighbor or grocery store check-out clerk. Nobody is better than anyone else and everyone deserves a friendly greeting.
  • The only person who needs to belive in your business is you. Do so with fervor.

Existentialism is the philosophy of living as though the only purpose we have is existence. The idea gives us the freedom to make our lives into what we want. The idea also gives us the responsibility of knowing how our life decisions affect those around us.

When understood, Existentialism gives us the power to live ethical and fulfuilling lives, without being bogged down by religious or societal morals. A business run in an Existential manner will be better equipped to deal with the day-to-day decisions. The only reason an existential business needs in order to exist is the one the business owner has.

21:03 EDT | @960 :: web

Listening to music and finishing up another day. I took some time out to publish my iTunes playlist. If you’ve got iTunes, you can see the list here. You can see the entire playlist on if you don’t happen to use iTunes.

I taught an Information Architecture class last night. It was a good time, I think. I hope that the people taking the class had as good of a time as I did. The next one will be after the Democratic National Convention.

18:27 EDT | @852 :: web

I have no real idea how many people read this site. But if you’re seeing this, please please inform everyone you know of this article on MSNBC.

From Newsweek: July 19 issue – American counterterrorism officials, citing what they call “alarming” intelligence about a possible Qaeda strike inside the United States this fall, are reviewing a proposal that could allow for the postponement of the November presidential election in the event of such an attack, NEWSWEEK has learned.

I don’t know how much of this is true, or even if it’s worth blogging about, however, the first thing that happend before the rise of the Nazi party in Germany was a postponement of the national elections.

I’m being alarmist because I feel it’s necessary. And by the way (assuming this is true, and for the sake of argument): disrupting the election schedule is — in fact — allowing the terrorists to “disrupt federal elections”. I’m just sayin’, iz all.

26:22 EDT | @182 :: web

A bill has been introduced in the Senate that would define marriage as a union between a man and woman only. The bill would become effective at a federal level and be part of a continuing erosion of Americans’ rights by an increasingly narrow-minded right-wing Christian agenda.

This is a copy of the email I sent to Senators Kennedy (D-MA) and Kerry (D-MA) this evening. Please copy and distribute. Send to your own senators. Do not allow the government to continue eroding our rights. It doesn’t matter if you’re gay or not, married or single, right- or left-wing: a bill such as this is just one more of many roadblocks to our freedom as humans, as Americans. Shoot this bill down.

Copy of the email follows:

Senators Kennedy and Kerry,

I urge you to work towards ensuring that all Americans retain the ability

to make their own choices regarding marriage. Do not allow marriage to be

defined as a union between a man and a woman. Do not continue to eliminate

the ways in which Americans can express their freedoms. Do not allow a

religious definition of marriage to work its way into the laws of this

country. Do not allow a compromise and push for “civil unions”.


Civil Unions are the equivalent of allowing blacks to eat in the

restaurant, but only at a certain counter or time. Denying same-sex

couples the right to a marriage is arbitrary, contrary to this country’s

history of freedom for all as well as homophobic.


By narrowly defining marriage as the union between a man and a woman, you

deny the ability of Americans to marry whom they choose and allow the

furtherance of a right-wing, Christian agenda in this country.


I will be monitoring your actions on this issue, and hope you vote with

your consituents in mind.



Sabin Densmore

24:52 EDT | @119 :: web

I was having trouble with using CSS2’s vertical-align: middle;. It just wouldn’t work with the other CSS I had implemented on a site I’m working on. Since the images that I need to align that way are written out to the page dynamically, I used some php trickery to do it.

function functionName($var1, $var2)
    while($row = mysql_fetch_array($sql_query))
        $img_id = $row["img_id"];
        $img_filename = $row["img_filename"];
        $img_foldername = $row["img_foldername"];
        list($width, $height, $type, $attr) = getimagesize("images/photos/".$img_foldername."/".$img_filename);
/* **
This is the line that figures out the padding to place at the top of the image.
* **/
        $padding = round((384 - $height)/2);
        echo "<img src=\"/images/photos/$img_foldername/$img_filename\" height=\"$height\" width=\"$width\" alt=\"snazzy alt tag.\" border=\"0\" style=\"padding-top: ".$padding."px\" />\n";

I know the height of the <div> that the images are dropped into (384px), so I simply subtract the height of the image in question from that height, divide that result by two and use that as the padding at the top of the image.

It’s a hack. It’s a bit of the easy way out, but I’m on a deadline ;).

14:22 EDT | @682 :: web

I just finished reading Frankenstein (1818). I’d never read it before. We had a copy, so I figured I’d give it a shot. The thing of the story that impressed me most was the artful way that Shelley moves the reader beyond the simple Romanticism that absorbed the attentions of writers of the day and introduces now cliche Gothic tones. To illustrate this, I’ve compared a few passages of Frankenstein with a few from The Fall of the House of Usher, by Edgar Allen Poe. Usher (1839) is arguably one of Poe’s most Gothic tales, which is why I’ve used it in this example.

Firstly is Victor Frankenstein himself. Once a student of nature and “natural philosophy” he adores Geneva’s environs: Mont Blanc, the lake, the forests. All of which represent a Romantic view of nature (see P.B. Shelley’s poem Mont Blanc). He eventually attends school and begins to focus on chemistry: a science that he feels will allow him to save humanity from death.

“I thought that if I could bestow animation upon lifeless matter, I might in process of time … renew life where death had apparently devoted the body to corruption.”

Rather than proceed with calm and order, however, he proceeds with a vigor and drive that gives us our first glimpse of the Gothic man (strikingly similar to a tuberculosis victim). “[His] cheek had grown pale with study, and [his] person had become emaciated with confinement.” In Poe’s Usher, we read a similar description of Roderick Usher, the protagonist: “A cadaverousness of complexion … The now ghastly pallor of the skin …”.

Frankenstein works himself sick in an attempt to achieve his lofty goals. He eventually achieves them, but not by the light of day that other Romantic goals are achieved, but in the dark, dreariness of night. “It was on a dreary night of November, that I beheld the accomplishment of my toils”.

If Frankenstein is the epitome of the future Gothic man, his creation is the evolutionary extension of that. He is a grotesque figure standing eight feet tall with “… skin [that] scarcely covered the work of muscles and arteries beneath”. In a seeming twist, however, Frankenstein gave his creation “well-proportioned limbs”, lustrous and flowing black hair and pearly white teeth. We can again look at Usher for similar descriptions.

“The silken hair, too, had been suffered to grow all unheeded, and as, in its wild goassamer texture, it floated rather than fell about the face, I could not … connect its Arabesque expression with any idea of simple humanity.”

Both Roderick Usher and Frankenstein’s monster are decayed versions of the Romanic ideal. One is decayed by melancholy and the other by creation. Both of them also have a singular presence of mind. Usher continues to study and read throughout his illness, and Frankenstein’s monster learns on his own to read and speak.

Romanticism represents the ripeness and sweetness of nature: perfection in nature and in form; a sweetness that is alluring and comforting. These notions had been in public circulation since the release of Lyrical Ballads (1802) by William Wordsworth — 16 years by the time Frankenstein was published. When something stays ripe for too long, it begins to decay. To rot. The sweet scent becomes a cloying and oppressive perfume. The perfection of form of the Romantic ideal will rot and turn grotesque if left too long. And so it did.

Not to be writing a “paper” (and I’m rusty, to boot), but the story impressed me as being the first step towards the Gothic vein. Where the rains were once nurishing, they became torrential; where nature once was ripe and sweet, it became rotten and cloying; where human nature once was pure, it became immured with lethargy, melancholy and indecision.

14:45 EDT | @698 :: web

Dreams are by far one of the strangest things a human being can undergo. Nevermind when you have a dream that is nearly the same as someone you’re close to. That happened last night.

Danielle dreamed there was a terrible world war in progress. The violence was horrific and all-encompassing. In her dream, all of the citizens had been conscripted into the military #&8212; and were proud of it. She watched with horror while there were great patriotic military parades and displays of firepower: missles, aircraft, soldiers. Powerless to fight against it, she headed off to war, wishing she could break free. Find some place to run.

My dream also took place in the midst of a world war. About 20 of us were in some kind of safehouse or bunker. There were televisions everywhere showing reports on the war: explosions, bloody carnage, missle fire. Everyone in the bunker was feeling patriotic. They watched the death of foreign citizens with a horrible fervor. Someone else and I were trying to show them how wrong the war was. Describing to them in an empathic way what was going on. How wrong it was. Just before I woke up, I was named one of the spiritual leaders of that group of 20 people. The responsibility terrified me.

I very rarely remember my dreams. Danielle remembers all of them. The one night that I should remember my dream and it’s the same theme as one that she had is — to me — really bizarre but also wonderful.

I share everything with Danielle: family, friends, life, food and money, shelter. We’ve been married for eight years and in love for longer than that. To have a dream even somewhat similar to hers is beautiful to me.

11:02 EDT | @543 :: web

Well, now this is an interesting little article. According to this, in March 2003, legal teams for the Bush administration did research about whether certain interrogation techniques can be used by the United States without violating the Geneva Convention. Among the “findings” are that Afghanistan does not fall under the Geneva Convention, and certain methods of interrogation can be used in Guantánamo Bay because that area is either outside or inside the jurisdiction of the US (it’s a bit fuzzy on that point).

Frankly, I’m not surprised that this kind of thing is going on. This administration definitely seems to take things too far, and this is just another example. I’m also not surprised that the article reports the study being headed by the Air Force. The Air Information Agency is the wing of the military that is in charge of Information and Psychological Warfare, and is directly connected to the Air Force — per a bill signed by President Bill Clinton in 1993.

13:27 EDT | @644 :: web

I’m in my little home office listening to iTunes 4.5’s shuffle playlist and really just enjoying how it works when it hits me: most of the music I enjoy and seek out has been heavily influenced by Danielle.

How much of who we are is created by those we love and admire? How much of our “individual personality” is actually formed by taking bits of information from the people we hold dearest to our hearts? I am no more than the sum of my own background plus the bits and pieces of my friends and loved-ones.

And I have to admit, that when I hear the music that has come to me through Danielle’s influence, I am moved and made happy. Touched by the fact that she’s in my life and that I am able to benefit from her presence. And then there’s the fact that the music I chose on my own sounds really good played before or after those songs from her influence. It’s like musical sex.

3:30 EDT | @229 :: web

So this is interesting. The theme song to Chariots of Fire is the same as the melody of “On top of Old Smokey”. The man who wrote the screenplay to Chariots of Fire — Colin Welland — played a character called Geyser in Cowboys where one of the episodes was called “On top of Old Smokey”.

Do you think that Vangelis (Chariots of Fire composer) knew the melody?

We found a lot of people saying that the “lyrics to ‘On top of Old Smokey’ track perfectly” to the Chariots theme song. It’s the same song! Maybe the Chariots version is cooler because it’s all “composed”, but “Smokey” has been around for a long loooooong time. Who in their right mind approved a bluegrass porch tune for the theme song of an Oscar-bound movie? And why would the Academy take such a movie seriously? That’s how we know everyone was snorting cocaine in 1981.

3:52 EDT | @245 :: phone
Lying in bed waiting for sleep to come. Life is so crazy now with the business and just trying to make everything happen properly. Sleep just hit, so i’m going to sign off now.

13:33 EDT | @648 :: web

I moved to a new server. I’m running off of my OS X box here at home. Nothing should change as far as content or the functionality I’ve got on here, but the site might move a little slower depending.

Sherbert Interactive seems to be doing well, though I’m not sure I’ll ever say out loud that it’s successful unless the exact criteria in my head is met first. If you’re in need of a web design/development/consulting company that provides agency-level service to small, medium, start-up and non-profit companies, drop us a line.

20:36 EDT | @108 :: web

Happy Birthday! (to me)

Twenty-nine years old today. I was born at 08:20 on Town Meeting day in 1975. Born to disrupt politics, I guess. Danielle and I were playing a neat game earlier: researching the kinds of events that happened on our birthdays to see if there’s anything there that would indicate who we are as people. Most of mine are political-type things (presidential inaugurations, signing of constitutions, governmental overthrows, etc). Most of Danielle’s events were music-based: album releases, bands forming and breaking up. We used this “day in history” [] website to do it. Most of Gabe’s events were of the destructive nature: earthquakes, volcanoes, mudslides that killed thousands of people. You know, happy happy fun stuff.

I got this great card from Danielle. I love her. Fully and completely, I love her.

7:41 EDT | @570 :: web
I took Kirby out to the beach this morning. I don’t know why I hadn’t done that before. It’s nice to just walk around, listen to the late winter waves and scoop his poop in a Stop and Shop bag.

I read yesterday that Webmonkey had closed. What a blogger. Wired writes the article and mentions the buzz o’ the blogosphere, and I write it a day late. Ah well. I never was much for talking about things I’ve found out, let alone blog about them.

I’m learning that running your own business is fun, but not easy. So many things to think about outside the daily routine of writing good code and doing good work. Things that I’m learning fast, but need to remember to hold on to. A few things I’ve learned:

  • Keep track of all clients in a spreadsheet. Note when they were signed on, what the project amount is, how much has been invoiced and when and how much remains in the budget. Review it daily.
  • Whiteboards can be used for more than diagramming. Keep one near your desk and use it to track daily to-do items. PIM applications are fine, but when you’re coding, do you really open iCal every 10 minutes to see what needs to be done?
  • Review your business plan at least once a week in the early stages, once a month later on. Are you moving in the direction you hoped? If not, why not? Should you do things to refocus direction?
  • Don’t be afraid to say no to work that doesn’t fit with your business’ — or your — sense of purpose.
  • Ask for help. Even if it’s for small things. Be honest about those things you need help with.
  • Always remember: family is the most important thing of all. Take time out for them. This is difficult especially when your office is in the living room, but it has to be done.

By no means extensive nor exhaustive of what I’ve picked up over the past few months, the above provides some examples of what I’ve realized needs to be thought of in order to run a business.

19:37 EDT | @067 :: web
New Year’s Eve. BAM! Just like that, and 2003 is over and a new year begins. When I was ten, I remember trying to do the math — am still not all that good at math — in my head about how old I would be in 2000. Here it is the end of 2003, and I’m wondering what Gabe’s going through growing up in the 21st century.

An article we published on Sherbert Interactive’s site got linked to from Pixelcharmer, which is pretty cool. The ideas in our article aren’t new, but I think what we’re trying to do is bring them to not just an audience of mega companies, but small and medium businesses, too. At any rate, in 2000 (I was 25, btw) Peter Merholz presented a similar concept.

I read through his presentation and it’s very solid, and I have to say I agree with him about what dynamic architecture is. It’s organic structure. It’s not replacing main navigation with ever-changing links, rather it’s providing addendums to that navigation based on where the person has visited the most or least.

And with that, I’m heading out for some New Year’s revelry (movie and then UNO at home). I am jealous of bloggers because the good one’s have so much to say about every little thing, whereas I’m much more private — holding my thoughts in my head or sharing only with my wife.

9:21 EDT | @640 :: phone
Waiting in the drive-through line @ dunkin’ donuts. I’m enjoying myself a lot. Enough time away from vermont and you start creating your own traditions, starting a new series of memories. I’m happy.

11:34 EDT | @732 :: web
I’ve been doing a lot of work over on Sherbert lately. I’m really excited about it, as I think we’re offering something that no one else like us does. To that end, I’ve published some of my articles over there. They’ve been updated and refreshed to reflect some new thoughts I’ve had lately.

17:07 EDT | @963 :: web
Sherbert Interactive is live! It’s been a little less than a year in the works, and now it’s done. Head on over and check us out.

24:55 EDT | @288 :: phone
Standing outside the burren in boston. Good place, and the party was fun.

00:04 EDT | @252 :: web
MPoster 0.1.8
After a lot of troubleshooting and testing (as is evident by my previous entries here), I’ve been able to release a relatively stable version of MPoster: a mobile blogging application written in J2ME. It’s not feature complete by any means, but it will allow you to enter a URL and post to it, and will save that URL for any future posting. All that, and under 5k! 😉

To install, you can grab the MPoster.jad file to install locally, or point your J2ME phone at for an OTA install.

Future versions of MPoster will allow the ability to store multiple URLs, will incorporate APIs for a number of popular blogs, and be RSS/XML-RPC compliant. My goal is to do all of this under 30k or so.

11:16 EDT | @719 :: web
MPoster is at about version .4, now. I’m in the middle of re-architecting the main class and how the flow of the program runs. I’m not going to be releasing another version until at least .6. My goal is to at least release an application that can post to any url, save previous urls for quick recall, as well as add or delete urls as the user sees fit. All of this, and under 30k.

I’m running at about 4k now, so I think it can be done. Version one will include support for major blogging sites, as well as other protocols, but I’ll worry about that later. I’ll release some sort of roadmap in a few days, as it comes together a little better.

11:20 EDT | @722 :: web
I’ve composed a poem entitled Ode to HTML 3.2

How lowly is the empty table cell.
What empty existence it doth live.
Developers made angry by it’s caused hell,
and bouts of raging frustration doth it give.
So span an image just as long
as the empty table cell should really be,
and evermore will th’ developer’s morbid song
be replaced by joy. Happiness from then on shall he see.
Oh, coding with a table layout grid of lines
and curved corners of designs
can bring frustation, yes it’s true,
But also calming Zen of mind
can this patient exercise bring to you.

Can anybody guess what I’m doing today? Anyone?

11:54 EDT | @746 :: web
There’s been a lot of discussion around about mobile blogging, and that kind of thing. There are photo blogs, and there’s an article on sun’s wireless developer site about Mobile Blogging. Will it take off? Most likely. I saw a lot of folks in Salem on Halloween weekend taking photos with phones.

When I did the first iteration of Working Stiff’s website in 2001, I wanted to build a system to post some award info to the site from my phone, but never got around to it. Until now.

I built a J2ME application so I can post to this site. I describe the application on this page, and am releasing it under the GNU Public License.

20:29 EDT | @103 :: web
My first comic is up here if you want to check it out. I had a good time with it, and will be doing more.

I’m going to buy an N-Gage soon. I have an issue with the fact that Nokia’s tried to make it be all cool. They should’ve just given it a number, and let us decide whether or not we’ll like it. Fact is: I’ve always wanted an internet-access-phone-pda-videogame device. Now I can buy one :).

The Zoloft is working very nicely for me. I’m on 100 mg, and things seem to be leveling out nicely. I feel better than I’ve felt in a decade (literally: I haven’t felt this good since 1993). My brain is rapid fire and moves faster than my mouth can keep up, so I babble a bit, and I lose my connection to things around me every once in awhile, but not in a depressed way. When I’m connected (which is nearly 98% of the time) I’m fully connected. That’s all I’ve wanted.

Well, back to watch Angel: Season Two on DVD. The Ghost Tours are over, so I get some time in the evenings again. Nice!

15:50 EDT | @867 :: web
A little Netscape 6.x coding note: when combining CSS Level 1 (or 2) with Table-based layout, make sure to include the following in the stylesheet: img { display: block; }. Also, add a class called .inline for images that need to be displayed next to each other: img.inline { display: inline; }. If you don’t do this, the images all have about two to four extra pixels of padding around them, destorying any precise layout attempted using the tables. This bug is not carried forward into Netscape versions 7.x.

Granted, the ideal situation would be to stay completely away from table-based layouts, but that is just not possible for larger/less liquid clients and corporations. Many still have Netscape 4.x as a standard for QA — such as the one for which I write most of my company code.

Human Ethics vs. Societal Rules

08.01.03 08:00:17 | Sabin Densmore

I’m an Atheist and an Anarchist. I’m a believer in Existentialism and the power of humanity to do what’s fair and to do what’s just. In other words, I believe in an ethical humanity. Unfortunately, none of those qualities benefit my ability to be part of — or contribute to — society.

See, the creation of society means the creation of a set of rules — written and unwritten – that members of society must live by in order to be comfortable and accepted. Those rules can be categorized in one of the following areas:

  • Law (rules enforced by the Justice System)
  • Morality (rules enforced by religious institutions)
  • Ethics (rules enforced by a common belief of what is right and/or just)

Laws require us to obey rules set forth either by an individual or a group of people, whether those laws are for the good of society or the good of the leaders. Soviet Russia, for instance, had a set of laws that hindered it’s inhabitants’ abilties to communicate, travel, live safely, etc. The laws of the USSR allowed terrible living conditions to perpetuate, despite them being detrimental to the health and well-being of its people. Eventually, the laws themselves caused the collapse of that society.

Morals require us to do what is “good” according to our particular religion, whether or not those actions are beneficial to humankind or even society. The Spanish Inquistion was a moral attempt by the Catholic Church to root out all immoral — pagan, heathen, non-Christian — people and have them converted or put to death. While nobody would argue that those activites were beneficial to humankind — at least, nobody should argue that — they were carried out because Christian Morality dictated so. Milder cases include the continued conversion of Hindu, Shinto, Bhuddist, Muslim and pagan cultures in the Phillipines, Africa and Asia by Christian ministers.

There is a sense of duty attached to religious morality that never questions whether actions are good for the well-being of humanity. Morality gives humans an arbitrary sense of “right” and “wrong” or “good” and “bad” based on what the religion needs. There is no evidence that a greater population of Christians — or Muslims or Bhuddists, for that matter — will benefit humanity. Without morality, humans would do what was best for themselves, which is antithetical to the purpose of religion: to perpetuate itself.

Which leaves us with Ethics. Ethics are rules that make sense to us because we’re human. Before there were societies, before there were religions, there were Ethics. It’s what keeps us from killing each other, from hurting others’ feelings and from being detrimental to ourselves as a species.

It is both Ethical and Lawful to not shoot someone in the head. It is both Ethical and Moral to not pollute the earth. Ethics are the basis of law and morality, but are often left behind or obscured by the laws and religions they gave rise to.

The real test of Ethics comes into play when ethical decisions are antithetical to Lawful or Moral decisions. Theft of high-priced pharmaceuticals is a common example of an ethical dilemma. Stealing is unlawful, but sometimes it may be the ethical thing to do. Abortion — despite religion’s insistance otherwise — is an ethical dilemma because it’s an extremely personal matter.

Only by continuously questioning the laws that govern our societies; only by eschewing organized religion and the resulting morality can we make ethical decisions. Living ethically means trusting ourselves completely with our own dilemmas. It means looking inward instead of outward, taking action instead of saying prayers. Ethical laws are those that benefit and protect the human condition, and not just particular aspects of society.

It is an unfortunate side-effect of Law and Morality that humans forget how to live ethically, but I’m an optimist. Humanity must preserve itself over its institutions. Ethics are the foundation of Law and Morality. Humanity will eventually dispose of detrimental laws and unsubscribe from selfish religions as it realizes the future is being narrowed by Law and Morality.

In the meantime, however, I continue to remain mostly outside the sphere of society. As do others like me. Political and social outcasts who crave companionship, but will not settle nor dumb down their beliefs. Rather, we work towards an ethical society by living as best we can, caring for those close to us, and trying to improve that which we influence directly. No, we’re not good corporate citizens, nor active members of society. We’re dodgy and on the edge. Acutely aware of our cosmic loneliness, but strengthened by the freedom to do what’s right. To do what’s best for humanity.

Renaissance Interactive

05.22.03 06:15:44 | Sabin Densmore

Having worked in advertising (interactive) for almost three years now, I’ve learned some things about how things work and had some thoughts about how things should. One of the things I’ve learned is the direction in which this business — meaning Advertising/Interactive — is heading.

As the economy begins to level off and companies continue to examine the effects of the dot-bomb spending era, they will change how they spend money on companies like us. They’ll be looking for not the flashy hype that they once sought, but smart and effective advertising that reaches across channels, across the spectrum of outlets. People who work in the advertising industry will need to be prepared for the effects of this shift. I predict the following (some of which will seem painfully obvious):

  1. Clients will care more about their customers’ experience on- and off-line.
  2. Branding will become solidly connected to ROI.
  3. Clients will want Media, Interactive, PR, Direct wrapped up into one comprehensive “Advertising Plan”, and will no longer accept separate pitches for each segment.
  4. Clients will want more return for their money, and will need to spend less to get it.

Clients will care more about their customers’ experience on- and off-line
It’s becoming commonplace for a client to inquire about what user experience their customers’ will have. As Information Architects improve their presence and methods, companies will better understand how IA affects their business and what to do about it. This is a good thing, and will lead to a better understanding of their customers’ behaviors and needs. It may be, however, that the client will ask a direct mail creative director what happens to the target audience once they get online, and will expect an intelligent answer.

Branding will become solidly connect to ROI
Tracking methods for both on- and off-line messaging are becoming more advanced, and clients are getting smarter about how to use them. They will want to connect a particular branding effort to an increase or decrease in sales. There will be situations where the media account lead will need to answer questions about how their efforts have improved online sales.

Clients will want one comprehensive “Advertising Plan”
Clients won’t want to keep track of each channel of advertising, necessarily, but be advised as to how the overall plan is coming along. While each channel will continue to need to be accounted for, it’s the overall picture that tells the client how well their money is being used.

Clients will want more return for their money, and will need to spend less to get it.
The era was good. Too good, and clients have learned their lesson: spend wisely, spend well and get a good return on that money. Cyberbrews and launch parties are a thing of the past, and agencies will need to adjust. As the client gets smarter about money, agencies will need to get smarter as well. And that’s what’s going to change the face of advertising forever.

Right now, a typical full-service team for a large client can contain as many as 50 people. And each person is necessary, as there are so many different channels to cover. For now, that’s okay. For now, the client is used to this model and is peacefully going along with it.

However, given the four points above, given the evolution of business practices and the fact that agencies will need to adapt to the shift in their clients’ plans, the current model will fail. There’s just no way an agency can maintain profitability with that many people working on the same client. Especially as the client spends less money.

And as client expectations increase while their spending decreases, agencies will need to respond. As agencies look for ways of becoming more cost-effective, there will be lay-offs and reassignments. Those who can demonstrate an understanding of the business on a global level will become more valuable to an agency looking to cut costs.

Agencies will need to tighten down their staff, but will still need to maintain coverage on all channels in order to deliver the same level of service. How will they do that? They will cnoslidate by keeping only those people who can work cross-channel and cross-discipline.

A designer who is fluent in direct mail, print and interactive. An account person who has a solid grasp of how all channels interact. A planner who knows how radio, TV, print and PR flow into each other. A developer/IA who understands and can develop a website from user needs to server code. A team of 50 will get cut to a team of 10 who are not only masters of their discipline, but who can hold their own in other areas, too.

It’s already started. Check any job listings in the industry. Agencies are looking for cross-disciplined account leaders, developers who know more than just web languages, designers who can use photoshop, quark and understand HTML. It will continue. We will all be expected to branch out into more than just skills within our disciplines. Roles will be combined. Dynamics will shift. Face it, the linear, channel-specific advertising process will be replaced with a modular, channel-agnostic, customer-centric focus. It will affect our current jobs and future hireability. Just make sure to be ready for it.

OSX and Virtual Hosts

05.19.03 18:55:31 | Sabin Densmore

It took me three days to figure out how to get virtual hosts working on my iMac, so I figured I’d put this little how-to together and hopefully save someone from the same fate.

The key is to remember that you need to have all web-serving content served from “/Library/WebServer/” or the Apache user (www) won’t have permission to read it, and you’ll get a 403 error. What I did was create a folder within that path, and then create an alias of it in my working directory (“/Users/sabin/Documents/Websites/”). Just to make it easier to get to.

That said, here’s what needs to happen:

  1. Using Netinfo Manager, copy the localhost entry, and name it something related to your project. This will be the url you type into your browser to see your project. It looks like this.
  2. Next, alter the bottom of your http.conf file so that it looks like this. Replace the directory paths with paths to your particular project. Don’t touch anything in there but the bottom lines.
  3. Use sudo apachectl graceful restart to restart Apache, then type your project url (what you entered into Netinfo Manager above) and you should see your test page.

Religion and patriots

02.17.03 07:08:26 | Sabin Densmore

There is a serious problem in this country with lack of tolerance and understanding for other cultures, religions and lifestyles. This is an attempt to sort through some of the issues, and will continue to be written about here.

Religion has become a political tool and a public nuisance to those of us who don’t choose it.

People are starting to think that being American means being Christian. Why shouldn’t they? When our president is so prone to public and official outbursts of “God bless something,” and “may God protect our country” speeches. Not to mention his righteous and holy-sounding speeches of vengance. And when “God Bless America” is plastered over virtually store window and Leows Theatre movie screen. Why shouldn’t people start to think being American equals being Christian?

Because fourteen percent of us aren’t, that’s why. That’s approximately 39.3 million people (1). More people are non-Christian than there are gays in this country. Only five percent more people are disabled (2). That’s even more non-Judeo-Christian people than there are African-American people (3).

Christianity is not our national religion. Nor should we have one. Being American does not mean being religious, any more than being American means being heterosexual or being white. Let’s get that right out of the way. If I don’t say “God Bless America”, I am no less a patriot. God has nothing to do with love of country, though it seems people want us to believe that. “In God We Trust” is on our money. The Pledge of Allegiance includes “… under God”. And no, you can’t argue that any of those are a reference to a generic concept of “god”. Non-denominational does not account for atheists. Maybe we should put “In caucasions we trust” on our money. Or perhaps we could pledge allegiance to a nation “… under heteros”.

The world’s perception of the United States is becoming critical. Is it smart to have our leaders portray the country as being on the side of a “Just and righteous God”? Nothing is more volatile than a religious war. Think Crusades. Think Israel vs. Palestine. I don’t want to die, or have the life of my wife and son threatened because somebody thinks I believe in the same God as my leaders. However, the more our President says things like the 17th’s closing: “And may God continue to bless America” during a broadcast sent to the world, the more the world will perceive us as Christian rather than American.

Well I’m American and I’m not Christian. I have a choice, and I’m choosing right now to say that I do not approve of this portrayal of the U.S. as an executor of God’s Will. It will do nothing but cause serious problems, and continue to separate Americans from those countries who once supported us.

Religion has done nothing but cause wars, hinder social development, affect kids’ psychology in bad ways and make people blind to all the choices available in life. And it will continue to do the same in the future if we let it.

According to the last study, 39 million people in this country can not be classified as believing in a Christian God, and a good percentage of them believe in none at all.

Religion should not be used as a political tool. It is not a reason to go to war. It is not a reason to persecute those who are different than you. Religion doesn’t make you better. It doesn’t make you anything but religious. Religion — and non-religion — are private matters. Private matters that continue to be made public, despite the danger.

Keep religion out of schools. Keep religion out of politics. And keep religion out of a concept of patriotism. Stop religion-based harassment. In the long run, it will do nothing but divide us when we should be honoring our bonds. What you believe and what I believe are not as important as the fate of humanity.

1: A total of 19% of the population had some sort of disability, according to The Center for an Accessible Society. up

2: Statistically speaking, 14 out of 100 people in 1999 declared “none” or “other” when asked of their religous preference in a Princeton Relgion Research Center Pool. The data is based on surveys conducted by The Gallup Organization, Inc. Check out page 62 of the survey (as a PDF) to get more details. up

3: Census Data. up

America is no different

09.11.02 12:06:17 | Sabin Densmore

Senate Minority Leader Trent Lott, a Mississippi Republican, said, “America’s most important rebuilding is not the shattered walls of the Pentagon or the scars in the earth now in New York City.

“What we have restored in the last year cannot be measured in granite or steel. I think we have rebuilt the wall of resolve, of determination, of steady purpose,” Lott said.

Racism. Murder. Anthrax attacks that were probably domestic. More kidnappings in one year than I can remember. Pedaphilic priests and disillusioued Catholics. Angry commuters. High stress, low-paying jobs. An economy going down. Lay-offs. Continued police violence.

Does that sound like a country filled with people who have “rebuilt the wall of resolve”? Does it seem like an environment of “determination, of steady purpose”? Once again, our “leaders” are resorting to propaganda tactics in order to make it sound as though Americans are one country, one soul.

Maybe all of the Southern Christian Caucasian Americans are feeling like one body, but what about Arab-americans in boston? Blacks in L.A.? Asian-americans? What about the hispanic population?

And even if Lott speaks for all of them (which I doubt), what about the Pagans, the Jews, the Hindus, the Bhuddists and Shintoists and all of the other people in this country who aren’t Christian? Do they feel represented by a leadership that is so obviously “God-fearing” they might as well be televangelists?

These propagandists like Lott and Bush and all the others aren’t leaders. They’re sheep. Following what they think is a trend. A trend created by fickle people who are too scared to know what to do.

A leader in this kind of environment knows how to reach out to people — all people no matter their race creed religion or sex — and comfort them. A leader doesn’t promise continued acts of violence against countries that have nothing to do with the pain. A leader doesn’t resort to lip-service propaganda to try and sum up the feelings of a country.

A leader will stand tall and encourage us to reach out to those around us. To reach out and feel their feelings. Live their plights. A leader encourages people to take care of their own. Tend to their lives and allow others to do the same. A leader doesn’t try to drive wedges between he and his associates just because of party lines. If they can’t work togther, how can they expect us to?

Maybe if these men and women in Washington were leaders, maybe if they could find the words to express their consituents’ rage and pain and sorrow, we could respect them. Honor their work. Maybe we could bond as a country if we had leaders. But we don’t. Not anymore. Leaders get shot. And nobody’s willing to take that chance anymore.

America has not bonded and moved forward. There is still hatred and crime and anger and rage. Various groups talking violence. Talking anger and retalliation.

If the people of this country were to bond, really get together and decide that terrorism is something more important than all of the other petty crap, maybe there would be a change. Maybe we would stop being afraid of every non-caucasian we saw. Maybe we could try and understand the people around us a little better. We might even grow to like them.

You know what though? It’s not going to happen. Humans (and Americans especially) have one simple view of the world: theirs. Humans as a species are incapable of seeing someone else’s point of view, feeling another person’s pain, understanding another way of life. Consequently, we’ll still keep killing each other and hating each other’s color and taking each other’s children and cursing each other’s gods and on and on until we’re all dead.

There’s an awful lot of maybes up there, and at the rate we’re going I give us 1,000 years to extinction. I’d like to be proven wrong.

Depression: example and metaphor

07.29.02 14:11:50 | Sabin Densmore

From a journal entry dated 07.24.2002:

I can no longer sit still without thinking that the people around me are talking about me, plotting my elimination from the company. Not to use the schizophrenic words, but that’s a little bit of what I’m feeling. I guess it’s time to break out the celexa so at least I can eliminate the paranoia.

I can’t concentrate for very long at a time, and I’m slacking a bit in my work — mostly because I just don’t care about it all that much. Healthier living might be part of it. More exercise, better food, better drink. I want to think that I’ll get better with more interesting work, but I’m not so sure about that either.

All I know is that right now I feel as thought life is closing in on me and I can hardly think or breathe. I don’t want to feel this way and I don’t know how to get out of it, other than drugs. Meditation, continue the exercise from this morning, better eating, healthier thoughts: all of those may do it. None of them may.

I’m worried about money, even though everything looks like it’s going well. I’m worried about the apartment, even though Priscilla seems to think that it’s all good. I feel tired and worn out, and I’m afraid I’m not doing well at work.

End journal entry.

Depression is not something that causes you to be goth or listen to hard music or wear cool clothes or whine about how depressed you are. Depression makes you wish you weren’t alive, but not in the way you might think. Not in the “end my life now with a gun” kind of way.

Depression is an impermeable shell. A glass cage you can see out of, but can’t move through. The shell is filled with a thick liquid that restricts all of your movements. Every movement and thought is slow and unresponsive. More tiring. Every action requires more effort than the one before it.

The cage is glass. People can see your stumbling movements, your faltering steps and out-of-line thoughts. You realize how you look and begin to wonder if you’re affecting people’s opinion of you. Paranoia sets in. You struggle harder against the thinkness of sludge surrounding you, but only wear yourself out even more.

One day, it occurs to you that maybe you can’t try any harder. That maybe you’re using as much energy as you have, and life will never get easier. You’re tired, worn out, worried and paranoid. That’s when your life ends — slowly, without precision or warning, imperceptibly. That’s the day you wake up and realize that you don’t want to die, but it doesn’t matter to you anymore because living is so damned hard.

Copyleft and the independent content producer

04.15.02 08:17:10 | Sabin Densmore

This article can also be seen on afterchaos. Same content, better graphics :).

How do we distribute our work technologically, and still create some kind of income for ourselves? How do we ensure that our rights to that work will not be violated? Should we make money everytime someone reads/uses/listens to our product? Does it matter, really?

Organizations like BMG, RIAA, Sony and others have spent millions of dollars to date (and counting) on ensuring that the artists under their wings get proper recognition and kick-back. At the same time, there are the little people who write software and articles, create designs and fan art that are also concerned with their rights and their profits.

There are examples of groups ( comes to mind) who are working out methods of ensuring that these content producers get properly credited and — in some cases — rewarded for their efforts. No matter the place, though, it’s always a big discussion. Lots at stake, tons to talk about, no real answers. One constant rings through all the arguments, though: the internet has made copyright and intellectual property too difficult to manage, and will limit our ability as content producers to make money from our work. I don’t believe that.

First: the internet was designed to distribute data with no consideration as to that data’s origination. Whether audio, video, graphic or text, created by the distributor or not, it’s all composed of bits and bytes and flows back and forth as data.

Second: copyright is pretty cut and dry. If you can prove that you were the first person to create a work (audio, video, written or otherwise) or idea, then it’s yours. Whether that work has been published (distributed to others) or not doesn’t matter.

In my eyes, the two are not connected in such a way that one hampers or disturbs the other. Also, neither of them is particularly concerned with profitability of the work.

The internet has made it possible for the small-time content producer to distribute their works for less money and to more people than was possible before. On the other side, it has also increased the distribution channels of large-company creations, wresting control from those companies. However, neither of the above changes the fact that a work — created by someone — is being distributed. Neither of the above changes the fact that the work is someone’s intellectual property.

Larger companies don’t seem to grasp that, however, and smaller content creators remain worried that someone will steal their ideas. I can understand that. There is some hope, though, for solving the copyright problem: copyleft. Simply put, it’s a licensing method for software that requires the initial release to be free, and all subsequent releases to be free, as well. Programs like emacs, languages like perl and php, and operating systems (Linux, BSD) have all been released under this license. Furthermore, the creators of those technologies have all remained named in each subsequent release, ensuring that full credit is given.

If your product/work/text is so important, and people really need it, then charge a download fee. The point, though, is to not worry about what happens to it afterwards. How many of you have used the paperback exhange at a local library? Does Danielle Steele get commission for each book of hers you take out of the free box?

It’s possible that at some point in time, all content will be released under some kind of public use license (David Bowie on copyright). All work could be altered in any way, as long as the original author/creator remains known. For that matter, all work can be altered now. It has always been possible to alter someone else’s work. We have a word for it: plagairism.

In other words, don’t be so worried about it. For years it has been possible to rip off the independent content producer, the larger corporations. Nothing’s changed. Except for the fact that now the independents can get their work out faster.

How to profit from that work is still up in the air, but the internet has also changed nothing about supply, demand and the appreciation that people have for quality …

Establishing 21st-century DaDA

04.08.02 15:10:15 | Sabin Densmore

What is dada in this age of almost full-acceptance? Do the activities of Tzara, Ball and others — if undertaken in 2002 — still have the same effect as they did in 1917? What does it take to piss off the 21st century Bourgeousie? This essay will explore these questions and others and attempt to explain how to practice Dada as a modern activity.

Dada is more than cut-outs from Victorian Sears Catalogs, weird sites and sad attempts at automatic poetry. The point of Dada is to offend, to disarm and to generally bother the mass populace. In order for Dada to be as effective now as it was at the moment of its creation it must be understood — not in terms of what it is, per se, but in terms of what its purpose is.

Dada has no purpose. As the Bourgeousie revelled in their impressionist paintings and decadent post-Victorian couches, the dadaists revelled in railing against it. Dada was begun in 1917 as a revolution against mainstream art, philosophy and class.

In fact, to imply that Dada does have a purpose is to fall into the very class of people that Dada rails against. So we will not discuss its purpose any further.

In order for 21st century dadaists to have the same impact that the early 20th century dadaists had, the target must be decided. Without wasting too much time on thought and theory (both anti-dada sentiments) we must decide who it is that is to be disgusted by our acts. Who, exactly, are the Bourgeousie?

If our traget is the contemporary art scene (as was the case in 1917) then we have to do more than print clip-art pamphlets and wear strange costumes while reciting nonsensical voice-poems. We have to do more than be racist, bigoted and “weird”. We have to do two things: be offensive and be confusing.

So, how do we do that? How does one offend and confuse an establishment that is prepared for it? The contemporary artistic establishment has an advantage over the establishment of 80 years ago. The 21st century artsists have studied Dada, Surrealism and everything afterwards: Pop-art, Trash Art, Performance Art. That is of no avail, however, as all art is mainstream art as far as the dadaist is concerned.

The punk performance artist will argue the point, as will the trash artist, the environmental artists, the techno artists. All of them will argue until their tempera dries that they are NOT mainstream. They are not able to comprehend any other truth.

So the first step to re-establishing Dada: we must lump all art into a singular ball of malformed puss and call it mainstream. This will offend all artists equally, and puts the contemporary dadaist well on his/her way of fulfilling the needs of Dada.

We have to remember, however, that actions — in of themselves — are not dadaist. An action can not be considered a dada action until someone becomes so confused or offended that they fail to recognize your activity as anything other than vulgar.

If we simply mimic the activities of Tzara et al, we are falling into a preconceived definition of dada, thus putting us into the mainstream. Dada is outside of the realm of current thought: and that’s the key. In order to be dada, we must remain outside this “realm of current thought”. If something we do is recognized or — and this is important — appreciated by someone other than ourselves, we have failed and must move on.

If our target is Middle Society, the “Salt of the Earth,” the Working-class folks, forget it. Dada thinks they are beautiful. Education for those who need it. A true Dadaist enjoys the company of the watchers of Fox News, as they despise the artists and — let’s face facts — artists don’t do much (1) and it is they who need the whack upside the head. They don’t need censoring, by any means. Everyone should have the right to make themselves look stupid. They just need to do something.

  • Remain outside realm of current artistic thought: contemporaries must never recognize our activities as art in any form. NEVER must these mainstream artists be able to rationalize what we do by remembering or inferring from something they’ve read. NEVER.
  • Lump ALL art as being mainstream. This will help us keep separate from those who are “cutting edge” and “edgy” and “current”. Dada is current because Dada changes over time and can never be classified.
  • Shit. Shit on anything you can and then don’t wipe your ass. This is not art. HOWEVER: never shit on stage. That is not Dada, that is performance art.

Dada is not as it was in 1917. Dada is a frame of mind, rooted in a contextual realization of current time streams and popular habits. Dada always offends, always confuses, and is never popular or well-received. As soon as it becomes popular, in fact, it disappears and Hugo Ball goes and becomes a newspaper reporter, Hans Arp and Tristan Tzara have a nasty fight and then the French surrender Paris.

1: if you make paintings that have a statement; if you write poetry that has a statement; if you do anything other than hard labor, and say you have a statment, you fall into the above “artists don’t do much” class of people. if you want to make a difference, then make it. don’t fucking draw something. up

User-centric content organization

04.01.02 14:21:41 | Sabin Densmore

In order for a website to be useful, the content must be organized towards a user’s ability to understand, search and find the information within it. A website must be contextual to the audience’s pyschology and state of mind.

The above is not a ground-breaking revelation. It’s not revolutionary. In fact, there are lots and lots of IAs saying it. However, unless the above statement is adhered to, most people will not be given the access they deserve to the information they need.

Let’s look at a brick-and-mortar scenario for a brick-upside-the-head comparison:

Shelia needs a book about the mating habits of East Coast slugs, so she heads on over to her local library. The books there are organized using the Dewey Decimal System. They should be alphabetized, non-fiction separated from the fiction — the whole deal. Shelia also expects the library catalog to be updated, accurate and easily searchable, as well as the staff to be helpful.

Shelia has no problems finding the book she needs, and heads home happy, ready to raise her own slugs.

Luckily for Shelia and her interest in slugs, library architects understand the potential dilemmas and pitfalls of library use. They provide a standard and familiar paradigm that allow for usability and near-immediate adaptation. Even if Shelia used a different library, her expectations of how a library should be organized would be met.

What would have happened if the fiction and non-fiction titles were mixed together, or there were no fiction and non-fiction titles at all? Or what if her library used “furng” and “pootie” as classification names without telling anyone? What if suddenly the Dewey Decimal System was replaced with something new? Something revolutionary? Something that not even the staff understood because it was designed by an “artist” (1).

So many websites I’ve seen fail in terms of usability because they do not fulfill what people expect from them. The design may look great, but the audience doesn’t understand how to use it because the paradigm is far different from what they are used to or expecting. The content is not organized in a manner that is useful to them.

I’m not advocating that we turn the Internet into a library, or that we go as far as Jakob Nielsen. Far from it. There are places for revolution and rule-breaking. However, it is very possible to create effective design that answers the expectations of a site’s audience — both informationally and pyschologically — without sacrificing evolution and aesthetics (2).

Answer these three questions:

  1. Where does the site audience come from?
  2. Why are they here?
  3. Who are they, anyway?

Knowing where the audience comes from can help designers figure out what to use for navigation, layout, colors etc. Information about use of white space, positioning of search boxes, delineation of links can also be gleaned. Other sites will set an audience’s expectations. Use that knowledge to meet, exceed or shatter those expectations.

Finding out why the audience is visiting will help decide what content to highlight and what content to bury. The UI can be tweaked to provide the most intuitive experience possible (3). What kinds of advertising to carry (if you’re into that sort of thing), whether a user might be willing to pay for content and what other sites could be partnered with are also things that could be informed by question #2.

Perhaps the most important thing to do is to find out who the audience is. Demo, socio, and psychographics, baby. Determine what information is needed, but it can all be important. What typeface, colors, layout, content tone are best? Most importantly, their sociological tendencies can be revealed: what do they (in general) like, dislike? How do they tend to interact with websites?

Though an architect planning a library doesn’t know as much about a patron as designers, IAs and developers need to know about a web audience, s/he does know what people expect when they come to a library and will design the building and space accordingly. We need to know what our audience expects from websites to build accordingly, as well.

Next time, I’ll talk about web-based methods of gleaning some answers to the above questions.

1: “artist” in terms of heady, flighty, more concerned with the look than the function. a good web designer is a combination of abstract and practical, artistic and technical. up

2: some sites may not look as “cool” as other sites (depending on the audience intended) but all sites will be usable by their intended audience. up

3: navigation designed around what a user wants or expects will provide the most intuitive access possible for any site. up

The future of web design

| Sabin Densmore

In six months, the web will look markedly different than it does now. Why? Because the “browser war” should be decided and 98% of web users will be using a W3C-compliant browser.

W3C standards allow complete control of layout and presentation through Cascading Style Sheets. Tables will be passe and so will — by default — the complicated embedded table layouts that are so prevalent now.

Perhaps designs will be as simple as, or even my site ;). But they certainly won’t be the clumsy behemoths that any other table-based site is.

Whatever they look like, sites will focus more on organization of content and a clean presentation than the complicated “newspaper” look they have now.

People want easy access to content and care very little about design, look and feel and all of that. Of course, companies (such as the one I work for) will have branding and “market space” concerns that designs will have to address. There will always be designs, but they’ll be simple, clean and healthy.

CSS allows sophisticated layout paradigms, while encouraging simplified, better-organized pages. Much like we moved from the unattractive fit-everything-on-one-page-that-the-editor-can layouts of the “broadsheet” newspapers in the early twentieth century, so will we move from the convoluted layouts of table-based websites.

In six months — maybe less — we’ll see a significant difference in the web. Maybe not on all corporate sites, but believe me: if the developers I know have any say over it, tech standards will be redefined and sites will no longer support version 4 browsers, no longer use tables for layout of content and no longer be ugly.

Chuck Jones died

02.24.02 16:46:30 | Sabin Densmore

Chuck Jones died on February 23, 2002.

I can’t imagine him not being around to create more cartoons. He was — simply put — amazing. Everything he did had style, panache, elegance and artfulness. If you see a Chuck Jones cartoon, you know what it is. Anything else isn’t half as good.

His use of color to elicit feeling (How the Grinch Stole Christmas) and his minimalistic post-modern backgrounding style (the 1950’s era Looney Tunes) were revolutionary, in my eyes, and allowed other animators to do the same, and move out of the standard animation style of the 30’s and 40’s.

Not only with color, but Jones’ gags are brilliant. The timing, the originality, the writing (“Iranium Pu-36 Explosive Space Modulator” is still one of the funniest things I’ve ever heard).

I will always find it funny seeing Wile E. Coyote’s legs move before his head, and the insides of the tunnel being pulled out from Road Runner’s speed. Never, as far as I can tell, will I ever be tired of Jones’ gags.

Watching his animations, paying attention to his art, reading his words, taking in his style: all of these have had a profound affect on my life. Countless Saturday mornings spent with my father, laughing uncontrollably (“Whut come after three in countin’ pappy?”). Countless hours to come as I sit with Gabe doing the same thing.

It was through Jones and Looney Tunes that I first learned of Mozart, Shakespseare and opera. I’ve wanted to do animation and comic strips solely because of Dot and Line, and I’m sure my love of dada started there, too.

This isn’t well organized, and it’s not very well written, but I just wanted to express my sadness (for real) at Jones’ death. I just hope that his legacy lives on and animators continue to push the limits of the craft — artistically and socially.

So here’s to the tiny elephant in Manhattan, the martian in the baby carriage, The Dot and the Line and the drunken mouse who thought the diamond was ice. To the Cricket in Times Square, The Grinch, and the bear who was mistaken for being a human. And here’s to the Looney Tunes characters he gave new life to.

I’m really going to miss Chuck Jones.

Privacy control

02.24.02 13:42:11 | Sabin Densmore

Privacy has historically been one of those ethereal ideals taken for granted by most people in America. The fifth amendment, the protection from search and seisure and even miranda rights are all examples of how the “right” to privacy has been protected in America.

Because of the advent of faster, cheaper and better electronic communications, however, what we take for granted is no longer true. Within an hour of posting to your favorite newsgroup, google has spidered and archived what you said and when.

Your name, IP address and email are attached to that information as well. Police and government agencies with sensitive heat- and sonar-based detection units have also added to the mix, not to mention advertising, marketing and other content-driven information-based industries.

The advent of portable “always-on” devices will add to the mix as well, complicating and extending the potential for privacy invasion. Our location. Our occupation at any given moment in time. Our interests. All will be available based on our use and disuse of cell-phones, connected PDAs, our location, and our calling preferences.

Each of us has become a node on the human network: delivering and receiving bits of data just as servers do that are networked into the internet. Sometimes that data goes by unnoticed.

Privacy is no longer a right, but an act. An act of self-preservation and protection of the distribution of personal information.

So like the Existential question of Morality we have two choices: fend for ourselves and make our own way, or allow the actions of other people to drive us into depression and despair. Disconnect from the network and be left out of the stream of potentially useful information, or learn how to adapt. How to control the distribution of the data from your node.

I’ll choose to control the distritubtion. Learn about the information we reveal about ourselves. Much as a company controls its branding, or a country controls its airspace, learn how to control the ways people contact us. Learn how to control the information gathered about us and what is done with that information. Take control.

The work on the semantic web will help: the ability for each node to determine what information is needed and the ability of the unwanted information to be blocked. But only by being connected to other nodes can we be certain that we are in control of our own. We need to be actively aware of data, and let nothing go by unnoticed.

Privacy is now a verb. Something to be acted on. We can no longer trust government, corporate or social bodies to protect our individual privacy. We have to take control, determine what information is released to other nodes, and choose carefully the information sent to us

Subjective reality

02.24.02 13:42:00 | Sabin Densmore

Finding value in our lives. That’s the thing to do. What is it that makes us move or think or act or love more than anything else does? What makes us tick? For real. To come up with the answer is to come that much closer to finding ourselves.

The other developers and I at work were bribed with pizza to help a creative team for Rational try and “get into the minds of developers.” To find out what makes “us” tick. The thing is, we’re all different, which is something that pissed one writer off in particular.

Everyone has different values, different interests and passions. Why would anyone think otherwise? But there it was: this writer expected us to have a connection, something tangible that made us a “market”. Such is advertising. She had a deadline. She was stressed out.

What happens, though, when it moves beyond advertising? When people start believing that the things they do, the things they like, the people they talk with and the passions they have are better than everyone else’s?

I think we’ve seen it. I think there have been enough wars and death and destruction and all that to satisfy any kind of empirical machinations we would have in this area. I don’t think any more experimentation is necessary.

However, there are always people that really do believe they’re better than everyone else. They compare and contrast their subjective reality with your subjective reality as if there was any comparison. They make decisions about character based on the results of the comparisons.

It’s a hard thing to not do, though. Admittedly, there are plenty of places on this site where I do it. The last article I wrote here goes too far sometimes, I think. Reading it now, I wish I hadn’t said some of what I did. I can’t change it, but I can be more aware and more careful the next time.

We all create our own realities, and we can only glimpse at other’s realities in a very subjective manner. Relativity, Phenomenology, Existentialism: they all acknowledge this subjective observation. Nothing that we perceive is from an objective view point.

I guess what I’m saying is that if no two developers are alike, no two viewpoints the same, then what makes someone think that everyone should be like them? Or that ridiculing someone based on their differences is valid or intelligent? You’ll all agree with that, there’s no doubt. But some of you will click away from here thinking: “Anyone who ridicules others’ values is bad, and I’m better than that.” Well, you’re not. Neither am I. And neither are they.

We’re all just here searching for those values that appeal to us. But that doesn’t mean that once we find them, our values are better than someone elses’.

Design and the independent web

02.24.02 13:41:52 | Sabin Densmore

I’m not a designer. Let’s get that right out of the way. I admit freely that my aesthetic sense is firmly rooted in the past and fed by Dada. However, I know a pattern when I see it.

Browsing and browsing and browsing the independent web reveals nothing but blog after blog after blog with seemingly the same aesthetic: gentle, under-expressed lines in muted tones and/or undulating (gently, of course) curves — all harkening to something that exists somewhere between European minimalism and early ’90’s underground print design.

Is it the blog? Is it the knowledge that they are revealing their “inner-most thoughts” to the world that causes them to understate? Or does the independent web draw a certain type of aesthetic to it? I have no idea, nor do I pretend to.

Of course, the personalities are different. None of the people’s sites I’ve seen express the same personality, just the same aesthetic. Over and over and over and over.

On aortal it says to contribute to the independent web by, well, contributing: reviewing, submitting, talking about and linking to sites and such. What I great idea, thought I. A place to kind of belong to. People to connect with. At least, that’s what I was thinking a week ago.

I don’t think I’m cool enough. I don’t blog. My site doesn’t come in versions, and I don’t want a “best of the web” award (nor will I ever win one).

I guess it all gets back to what we have websites for. Will, as one independent webber said, bloggers become the celebrities of the future? Do we desire popularity, fans, comments on our work? I don’t have a clue.

All I know is that it’s all looking the same: there’s the LSD designs of the corporated web and the “organic nature” of the independent web. Are those my only choices? If so, I’m content with my #ffda00 background and white links. At least I know it’s mine.

Moving beyond the monitor

04.01.02 14:02:08 | Sabin Densmore

We’ve got writing that goes beyond readers’ expectations. We’re not as controlled by advertising or other outside interests. We’ve got opinion and power and a growing audience. We’re purely democratic. We’ve created a veritable anarchy of text, music and pictures. Real content. Honest, revolutionary stuff.

But the future is going to look different. Not in terms of content, but in terms of delivery.

One reader will use a PDA, an internet device or a Palmtop PC to read while on the train to work. Her brother will use a WAP or iMode-capable phone and wristwatch when he gets out of the movies. Readers will always have the urge to read, listen, watch or write independent content. However, in the future they’ll do it from wherever they are, whenever they want. Free from wires, from desks, from eye-blasting monitors. We won’t know for sure what they’re using. We’ll just know they’re not using what we expect.

Our websites need to become functional applications that deliver data no matter the device. We need to think about design and presentation in regards to more than just browsers, or we run the risk of Babelizing ourselves — driving apart what is just starting to come together.

And this is the best time to come together. The dot-com bubble has burst. Ecommerce is just another buzz word in the American Heritage dictionary. Businesses are shoring up and vacating the internet. Banner-clicks are down. If the independent web is going to take over abandoned digital space, it needs to address the independence of its audience as well as its content.

That’s something the main-stream web never quite grasped. People aren’t tied down to the web. It’s not just a static “workspace” or eStore.

After more than 10 years, the internet is still about one thing: democratic communication. Email, ftp, gopher, veronica, IM, usenet, WWW. No matter how you sell it or wrap it, it’s all about connection, dissemination and decentralization. WAP, iMode and other wireless technologies are allowing that dissemination to happen in more places, with more freedom, than ever before.

People are communicating. Anyway they want. Pure anarchistic data streaming uncontrolled into an infinite sea of devices.

Again with the web war

| Sabin Densmore

I held off on this until now. Christmas is over, though, so here we go :). The italicized stuff is from Dave, my comments start with the “>” beneath each block of italics.

my initial reaction: Hormel doesn’t have a monopoly on SPAM. (i think this largely had to do with the e-mail, because quoting 112+ lines of e-mail for what amounts to 3 lines of content added in two e- mails is…sad. loser-ish. horribly pathetic. you decide.) at least when i e-mail people, i write my own words, and don’t have to excessively quote other messages.
>Funny how someone who feels as though he has a right to email folks as he pleases, with no regard to appropriateness, would talk about SPAM. And does that same person deserve any consideration in terms of “netiquette”?

no matter. moving along, i come to a nicely memorable (and thoroughly lying) “I will, of course, back up my statements with evidence…” but, alas…the evidence is sorely lacking. that it was written by an ex-journalist makes it even more amusing, because it so perfectly exemplifies my absolute favourite media rant: that no-one bothers to check their “facts.”
>I answered an attack by reiterating rules for debate. Rules that you have echoed in the past. I wrote down what was going to happen. Now it is. Now I answer you point by point, ad infinatum, until your fingers crack from carpal tunnel. Either that, or you don’t respond. But I don’t think you’ll be able to contain yourself. You need the attention so very badly — evidenced by sharing all of this with your friends. By being cc’d on both emails sent to me by your groupies.

And just so you can follow along, I’ll tell you now that some of the following paragraphs will be opinion. I don’t need to back up opinion with evidence. Just in case you forgot.

[you have to be lying about not caring about something when you read it compulsively. does one read the opinions of dirt? i didn’t think so.]
>One reads the opinions of dirt when it pertains to himself. I orginally read your site because what you say is funny, and your egotism is entertaining. Like a limping clown with an incurable case of the Clap is funny. Like Baywatch is entertaining. I thought about responding to you when you harassed a 16-year old, but refrained. It wasn’t my business, as disgusted as I was. I imagined what it would be like if you ever tried that with me, though, and now you are.

so let’s address that first, shall we? in order to be a credit to a school, one must first attend it. strike one. i have not attended, nor do i ever plan to attend FIU.
>You didn’t attend FIU? Maybe you should have.

next. in order for my readers to think that i’m stupid, this would require a consensus consisting of some number greater than merely two, which is an insanely infinitesimal fraction of the people who apparently find something worthwhile enough to justify both repeat visits and taking the time to read the archive. but of course, the reporter is always right; one shouldn’t take the time to quibble with facts or statistics.
>It just doesn’t occur to you that you’re laughed at, does it Dave? That’s your problem. Sure, you laugh at yourself, but you don’t expect others to do it, too. You get hits because bored people who work in offices (as opposed to losers like you) want something to do between coffee break and lunch. Your site is no more interesting than a popular forward about a parking-lot stalker, or a recipe for cookies. Get over yourself.

[make sure that you get that, Pete…you’re absolutely wasting your time with the statistics.] that the reality fails to meet the statement? an inconvenience, nothing more. strike two. at this point i note that it’s a good thing we aren’t playing baseball. one more supported statement and the nimrod at bat is gone…if it were only that easy. as easy as pointing out that ‘are you any true sort of rational, thinking human being if your response to politely worded ideas boils down to “don’t ever write to me again” and then raging at people who have done nothing to you?”‘ is not a request, but rather, a rhetorical statement.
>Actually, it was an imperative statement, a direct command. And you’re still quoting me wrong. “Don’t email me again,” is what I said. A very direct statement, which is what I referred to it as in the first place. I called your translation of it an “adverb-ridden request” because it rolls off the tongue nicely. That’s called alliteration. “Rhetorical statement” just doesn’t do it for me.

let’s cover some basic grammar, shall we?
>In a bit, Dave.

for something to be a request, one has to be asking someone to do something. break it down into simple terms. since when is “are you any kind of _____?” a request? bzzzt. thank you for playing. you can skip the door prizes, you didn’t warrant any.
>I wasn’t talking about “…rational, thinking human being…”, moron. Read above. Have it made clear for you, because apparently your comprehension skills are terrible.

to the best of my knowledge, freedom of speech allows me to comment on anything that i wish to. that these things indirectly affect me because they involve people whom i consider friends or that i have “relationships” with is beside the point. it’s a small matter, though, and i expect that an ex-reporter would be more versed at freedom of speech than i would.
>You’re right. I do know more about it than you. Sure, you can say anything you want. But, have you heard the phrase “freedom stops at another person’s doorstep”? Or perhaps you’ve read — you do read stuff other than your own website, right — that what you say can’t be limited, but the time, manner and place can be? That’s why you can say whatever you want, but you can’t send me an email. Understand? And then there’s the line of decency and all that other stuff, but we can get into that in a later post, if you’d like. Not like you’d understand it, if we did.

if you really needed an example of stupidity…how brilliant is someone who repeatedly screws up a link to another site wholly because he just isn’t bright enough to click on two links? yes, let us just arbitrarily make up our links, just as the media arbitrarily makes up the “facts.” that it will only go to the current entry because my PHP ignores his server variable that gets passed to the document? a triviality. … here. since not even the webmonkey can manage this, i’ll give you a tutorial on getting my correct direct links to the current entry in its archived form, though. you want a URI? either click “previous” and then “next” on that entry, or “first” and then “current.” you can even click on “archive” and then select the newest one from that list. (a hint: it’s right at the top.) it’s just that difficult.
> This is such an indicator of just how desperate you are to show off to your “friends”. The whole purpose of your .php is so that people can’t link to an article on your site. It worked. What’s your point? Other than demonstrating “how cool” you are and living up to your status as a “PHP god” in front of your friends, this does nothing. It certainly doesn’t make me look bad. And by the way, a URI is not represented by directions to links on your pages.

but back to the grammar lesson: “You, who refuses to capitalize and throws commas into your sentences like you’re addicted.” hrm. let’s examine “You refuses”? “You throws”? nice agreement of tenses. obviously the product of sleeping through English classes or some other failing, as i seem to remember being taught to make the subject and the verb to agree, not only in English, but in other languages, as well. a pinnacle of literacy, no doubt.
>Right. Subject and verb have to agree. At least you’ve learned that much. Since you’re very limited in your exposure to different styles of writing, however, let *me* give *you* the grammar lesson.

English is kind of complicated, though, so I don’t expect you to understand all of this right away.

1) A pronoun takes the case of its antecedent (in this case “You” replaces “Dave”).
2) When “who” is used in a sentence (like the sentence that I wrote), the verb takes the case, gender and tense of the antecedent of “who”, ie the subject of the sentence: “You”.
3) “Dave” is a singular noun. The form of the verb “refuse” that matches the subject, in this instance, is “refuses” (see below for more detail on this).

Would you write “Dave, who refuse …”? No. You’d write “Dave, who refuses…”. Since “You” is replacing “Dave” the sentence is correct as is.

There are other mitigating circumstances, as well: tense of an implied subject, rules for rehtorical style.

Not to mention that my construction was not demonstrative or imperative. It was declarative. I wasn’t saying “You refuse,” or ordering you to refuse. I was declaring that “Dave, who refuses to pay attention and get a brain, is stupid”. If this is all too much for you, I could write in a style that’s easier for you to understand, just let me know. Never mind about the editor gig. You disappoint me.

perhaps reading the other entries would clear up why i customarily don’t use capitalization for “i” or for the beginnings of sentences. call it anti-egotism. “i” doesn’t warrant a capital. certainly, there are exceptions.
>How can you call yourself an anti-egotist when all you do is write about yourself, or how you fit into your friends’ lives, or how they fit into yours? Your subjects belie your style claims. Even in various entries written “for” people, you spend most of the space on you. It’s okay, though, because with your intellect, there’s probably very little you could write on with any authority. And I’m sure you don’t have any opinions on anything other than what you and your groupies like, anyhow.

what this has to do with typoing and brazen misspellings of words, i have absolutely no clue. ellipses are not a spelling or grammatical error, but rather, a matter of style. claiming style as an error is a rather puerile defense, even for media types who are unable or perhaps unwilling to check their facts. feeble. and trying to slag someone’s use of commas when you yourself don’t use them properly? it’s laughable.
>You can’t even get verb tenses right. What makes you think I don’t use commas correctly? I’ve tutored high-schoolers with better writing-skills than you.

but i think that i’ve attacked grammar enough for one entry.
>No, no. Keep going. It’s fun watching you trip over yourself.

if we wanted to tackle style, or questions of an aesthetic nature…what kind of design sense is it to use two different link colours on the same background colour, scattered seemingly at random in the midst of the page? i could have a field day with that lack of style, especially after listening to Ujimushi-san go off about it in far more colourful terms than i would use. even the dresden e-mail covers it. bright white links on a bright yellow page? i don’t think that i even need to comment.
>See, you are stupid. If you weren’t you’d have notice that red links — by and large — link to sites off of White links link to documents within You should have caught that. Someone from your group spent more than three hours on my site this past week, and I know you talk to each other. Someone must have noticed.

And that’s another thing. Have you got nothing better to do than visit my site? I’m flattered, but Christ, Dave, get a life. “Erin” even sent me an email on Christmas Eve (and cc’d you, so you could see what a cool message it was). Or tell your groupies to get a life. Not to mention: you spend that much time there, and all you can come up with is harassing my code? My site works everywhere. You can obviously use it without much trouble, and it doesn’t break any browsers. Sounds like solid coding to me.

but hey, whatever. my music sucks, my readers all think that i’m an idiot, and i curl up into a ball of impotent pus whenever i don’t get my way. yep. you’ve got me pegged. go listen to “Any Moment Now” and tell me how much i suck afterwards. or “yasoukyoku.” i’m abysmal. next, i suppose that the people who miss me while i’m gone are misguided, as well? more than likely. i shudder to think how fitfully ignorant and dimwitted you’d have to be, were you to happen to actually be my friend or something.
>Tone change: higher level of sarcasm and shorter sentences. Hmmm. Touchy subject, eh? That’s what I meant by “impotent ball of pus”. You’re whining and getting defensive. Throwing a tantrum. I’ve listened to all of your music, Dave. I’ve listened to the songs you mention above and more. You need help. No progression, no themes. It’s so crappy, it can’t even be called New Age. Windham Hill wouldn’t pick up your songs. I mean, even John Cage has more tonality in his atonal pieces. Work harder, Dave. Work a lot harder. Your MIDI choices are terrible, and it always sounds like there’s no synchronicity between the instruments. Do you quantize or try to do it by ear? I’d quantize, if you don’t already.

And you know, I’d say it was Dada or Fluxus, but I think that you’re actually trying to create art. You call it art, so it has to be bad art. Maybe re-brand yourself. Call it “Toilet flushing downhill”. That might help, because naming your songs with Japanese titles sure doesn’t.

And who judges it? By what standard is it good? I’ve got a pretty open mind, and I just don’t see it.

finally though, i do have to give credit where credit is due…i am a joke, i laugh at myself all of the time. honestly, i pick on myself far more than anyone else that i’m aware of. maxim: if you can’t make fun of yourself, who can you make fun of?
>The thing is, I don’t see it. You don’t act like you really believe this. That’s why your tone changed when you defended your music. You have weaknesses. There are parts of you that you can’t laugh at, and that’s why you laugh at everyone else. You like to think of yourself as a joke, because it makes you more “appealing” or something. It’s classic. Diminish your opinon of yourself to garner the pity of those around you. Of *course* you’re a joke. Poor, poor Dave. A joke. He hates himself. He laughs at himself. Awwww. Poor guy.

You and your groupies have referred to me as juvenile and a third-grader. Just remember who started this. You interrupted my life, disturbed my pleasant December 13th. Then, you couldn’t just leave it alone, you had to insult me for all of your “friends”. Remember, also, that you’re setting the rules. I’m only responding in kind.

And “onegaygecko”?! Jesus, Dave. Did I touch a nerve? Homophobe.

Ahh, Xmas

| Sabin Densmore

Dave, Dave, Dave.

For your sake (because I know how much you like to debate — having seen you harass a 16-year old girl) I’ve decided to respond.

However, lest you think otherwise, let me state categorically that I don’t care what you think. You’re dirt to me. You always will be. And despite how this little experiment goes, you will never have the right to tell me or Danielle how to raise Gabe, or what we should do in regards to dealing with loss. And, according to her, Naomi agrees.

The one and only goal of this exercise is to showcase to everyone who happens across this site exactly how immature and small-minded you are. With that said, and — since you’re egotistical enough to expect things to go your way, and you curl up into an impotent ball of pus if they don’t (just read any journal entry you’ve ever written) — I’ll play by your rules. I can adapt.

To begin with, I’ll comment in general and in broad terms on your statements (that’s what this article is). When the time comes, I will pick apart each and every little thing you say in your reply. And I know you’ll reply. You can’t resist. I’m attacking you in public. I will, of course, back up my statements with evidence (as you like it) and then leave it to you to carry the torch from there.

It’ll be fun. Just you wait and see.

First and foremost you have no right to make comment. My actions are not your concern. I am not part of your little ego-centric world-view. I don’t care what kind of relationship you have with my sister, you have no relationship with me, Danielle or Gabe.

Second, the comments that you make are baseless and of no consequence because Naomi didn’t give you the whole story — something she told me the night I got your email: read the log.

[snip (from Dave’s journal referenced above)]
“…i should expect others to live up to my sense of bushido, but a knight with no honour is no knight… i can’t help but think about the things that i read, and because of that, about the people that write those things. it’s hard to think highly of a “web designer” who seems unable to do ALT tags on images or a proper copyright symbol. *thinks . o O ( how hard is “©” or “©”? )* or of a reporter (or anyone else styling themself as a professional writer, for that matter) who seems unable to catch glaring spelling errors. are you a true *nix geek if your page is full of image file names in lynx? i don’t think so. putting ‘ALT=”something”‘ into an img tag really isn’t that difficult. and the final question…are you any true sort of rational, thinking human being if your response to politely worded ideas boils down to “don’t ever write to me again” and then raging at people who have done nothing to you?”

[] “…proper copyright symbol…” I use (c) instead of © because I like it. Did you understand what I meant? Obviously. So does it matter? Obviously not. Not a great start, Dave. Really.

[] “…unable to catch glaring spelling errors…” You, who uses ellipses like they’re going out of style. You, who refuses to capitalize and throws commas into your sentences like you’re addicted. You have the audacity to mention typos?! Then again, you do seem to have plenty of time on your hands. Would you like to be my editor? Let me know and we can work out an agreement or something. I’m sure you could use the job.

[] “…rational, thinking human being…” Who are you to define rational (need I remind you of your attack on a 16 year-old?). Besides, what I wrote to you in response to the email was “Don’t email me again.” A clear, non-emotional imperative statement. Not the whiny, weak, adverb-ridden request that you’ve quoted above. “Don’t email me again.” To the point. Something you could do well to work on being.

[] “…raging at people…” I assume you’re talking about this conversation. Read it again. See how much I’m “raging at” my sister. I believe what you’ll find are statements about how pissed I am at *you* along with statements that I’m not mad at her.

Your turn. Are you smart enough to go ’round with me, Dave? I’m a decade older than most of your targets. Take a crack at me, Dave. See what happens. It’ll be fun.

Besides, everyone knows — including you and I — that this isn’t really about what you think of me. This isn’t about “bushido”. This is about what you think of yourself. This is about what you want your “readers” to think of you.

I’ll you tell something, Dave. Your readers think you’re stupid. They think you’re entertaining. Danielle and I laugh at you, Dave. We laugh because we can’t imagine someone your age being so stupid. You debase yourself everytime you make yourself noticed. Do us all a favor and stay in the dark. Oh yeah, and your music sucks. A great credit to FIU.

You’re a joke, Dave. And as long as you wrap yourself in this self-fulfilling fantasy of wanton impotence, you’ll keep supplying us with the punch line.


I wrote to Jeff Veen

| Sabin Densmore

I sent the following to Jeff Veen, of Hotwired fame.

Jeff —

I’ve read both of your books, used webmonkey, hotbot, hotwired and all those other sites as my inspiration and motivation to being a web developer. I absorbed your tips and respected the things you said. I even recommended your books to my team for a client’s redesign we’re working on.

Imagine my surprise, then, when I sent your site to my wife (who’s browsing on a Mac using Netscape 4.7x) and she sees no design, no layout. Times New Roman, blue links and a header that tells her why she’s using the wrong browser.

You lost me, man. I work every day to ensure that the design envisioned by the people I work with can be seen by *every*body. CSS has never been an obstacle. For you to say that you can’t have the design you want for those people who use Netscape. All of the tricks you talk about in your book, the hints, the ideas. What happened?

I know it’s just your personal site, but still. Netscape (or any other browser) isn’t so bad that you have to eliminate design. As far as I can see all you have are two columns and some formatted headers. How is that hard to implement?

Okay — enough. I’m disappointed. You’re just a guy. Doing just a job. But if I were an “internationally sought after speaker” I would certainly do what I could to make my site perfect everywhere.


Needless to say, I haven’t gotten a response back. Check out his site In *any* Netscape Browser and you’ll see what I mean.

I know that a bunch of you out there *hate* Netscape. Fine. But the point of the web is to develop sites/content for everybody, not just those of you who want to be slaves to M$.


Not so bad, this geekdom

| Sabin “Going Geek” Densmore

Two years ago I was so much of a nerd that the only books I ever looked at in Barnes & Noble were the ones in the computer/programming section. Every once in awhile I’d venture into the “theoretical” computer books for a “change”.

I’ve broken that habit and am please to announce that Danielle’s Buffy scripts are *very* interesting. But I still laugh at jokes about php, MySQL. I crack puns about java and lose sleep over how a website is coded/architected. I’m still a geek. At least I’ve come to terms with myself, though.

About 15 minutes ago while I was searching for articles on cyber-geography and internet mapping techniques I realized that it’s pure, geeky academia. Cybergeography is to the developer what the study of literature is to the writer — academic clap. I love it.

I love it just as much as I liked studying literature in college. To find a paradigm that precisely describes the levels and types of data transmitted on a given network seems to me as rich an experience as trying to figure out what makes Richard II so frikkin’ impotent.

Imagine. A three-dimensional representation paradigm of the internet could lead to a point-click methodology of re-routing network traffic, or better customer service for e-commerce applications. Perhaps Richard could have used it to keep track of Bolingbroke’s movements.

Any data delivered via the internet can be tracked, stored and analyzed via the internet. I’m probably just a big ol’ data voyeur, but I can’t help it. And let’s not forget the potential for the would-be Thought Police.

From my first exposure to Gibson’s Cyberspace, to a book about applying building architecture to the web, I’ve been hooked on the potential of fully-immersive applications. Virtual-space word processors, banks, cafes. GUI representations of router traffic and patterns. I’m all for the virtual reality.

And I guess that makes me a geek. Virtual Reality seems very 1993 these days. VRML is a complete joke. Not much is heard about 3d outside the realms of those who work with it and Disney movies.

But I guess what this article is really about is my own split-personality: the Literary Writer Guy and the Geeky Internet Guy. While Richard failed to be a man and king at the same time, perhaps I can find a way to merge the literati and the geek.

//eof [courtesy phrack]

Choice: the definition is changing

| Sabin Densmore

The definition of the word “choice” is changing — slowly — into something less broad and more inisidious.

Some examples: when you sign up for service with Verizon, they thank you for choosing them. By choice, they mean “calling us and activating your service” because there is no other choice for phone service where I’m from. Same with cable: I can choose AT&T or AT&T. They give me a “choice” of packages (four or five pre-prgrammed options) to choose from. I used to be able to choose between Cablevision and Cablevision, but AT&T went ahead and bought them.

Choice used to mean that I could look at an area of interest/necessity (phone or cable service, content on TV) and decide where I want to get that service. Now choice means deciding which ready-made programming schedule I would like from the only company in my area and when I want to watch the content. I’d rather choose the source, thanks.

I’m depressed by this. Maybe I watched too much Max Headroom growing up, or read too many “Cyberpunk” novels, but it depresses me. I like to have freedom of decision. I like to know that there are options open to me. I’m happy that way. Unfortunately, it’s not becoming that way.

The world is turning into simply a network of interconnected groups all owned by a handful of companies. At some point the world will be one company. At some point, our decision-making will be limited to the volume we want to watch AOL/Disney-Warner content on our MS/Sony CPU-Monitor systems.

Or maybe our choice will be which white, conservative politician we “vote” for, or which “freedom” we choose to give up to assist with some important political fight.

Of course, I could fight it. I could not get cable or a phone. Not have access to the internet. I could not vote. The truth is that I like my phone. I like the internet. I like cable. I like to vote. What is terrible is that my likes are being taken advantage of, and I have no choice if I want these kinds of enjoyment in my life. Maybe some of you think that’s fine, that life goes on. Of course life goes on, but life can go on and we could *still* be able to choose who provides our cable service.

Without choice, we are being herded towards a future where the content and delivery of that content are done by the same companies. Are newscasts provided by the company that makes the software the news is written on and also manufactures the systems by which the broadcasts happen objective?

At some point in the near future — probably in our lifetimes — we’ll have the opportunity to find out.

What I Expect

| Sabin Densmore

I don’t expect much of people. I expect less of them than I do of myself, actually.

But I do expect people to put some kind of thought or feeling or general effort into the things that they do.

Today, at Stop ‘n Shop, I found out that I am quite possibly out $43.75 because of someone’s inability to put thought into their job.

About four weeks ago I had to cash a paycheck at the service counter. In order to do so, I had to pay $43.75 for a bounced check from a long time ago. I did so, feeling very proud of myself for “taking care of my finances”.

Today, I went there again to cash an expense check so we can get some groceries while we wait for a client’s check to come in. When I went to cash it, however, I found that the bounced check had not, in fact, been taken care of. The woman told me that in order to clear it, I had to call the Check Collection Center. Hmm. But I paid it here, I told her.

I don’t know anything about that, she said, once we put the check up for collection you have to deal with them. You can pay it here.

That’s what I did, I repeated. What happens now?

I don’t know, she said.

So did the person that took my $44 four weeks ago know? Do I have to pay this fucking thing again?

This kind of thing happens all the time. People lose money, or get crappy customer service, or lose business pitches or clients because the people who can make a difference don’t care.

I’m tired of it. All I want is people to care about what they’re doing. It’s hard. I know that. I’ve had lots of jobs — dishwasher, carpenter, short order cook, busboy, Dunkin Donuts, cafeteria line server, pizza cook — I shouldn’t have cared about, but at some level it mattered: rent money, gifts for my wife, self-satisfaction.

All I’m saying is that if I can give myself passionately to washing greasy baking pans or making donuts on the night shift, then a Stop ‘n Shop college chick employee could have given me the information for the Check Collection people so I could have called them four weeks ago.

What I Expect

| Sabin Densmore

I don’t expect much of people. I expect less of them than I do of myself, actually.

But I do expect people to put some kind of thought or feeling or general effort into the things that they do.

Today, at Stop ‘n Shop, I found out that I am quite possibly out $43.75 because of someone’s inability to put thought into their job.

About four weeks ago I had to cash a paycheck at the service counter. In order to do so, I had to pay $43.75 for a bounced check from a long time ago. I did so, feeling very proud of myself for “taking care of my finances”.

Today, I went there again to cash an expense check so we can get some groceries while we wait for a client’s check to come in. When I went to cash it, however, I found that the bounced check had not, in fact, been taken care of. The woman told me that in order to clear it, I had to call the Check Collection Center. Hmm. But I paid it here, I told her.

I don’t know anything about that, she said, once we put the check up for collection you have to deal with them. You can pay it here.

That’s what I did, I repeated. What happens now?

I don’t know, she said.

So did the person that took my $44 four weeks ago know? Do I have to pay this fucking thing again?

This kind of thing happens all the time. People lose money, or get crappy customer service, or lose business pitches or clients because the people who can make a difference don’t care.

I’m tired of it. All I want is people to care about what they’re doing. It’s hard. I know that. I’ve had lots of jobs — dishwasher, carpenter, short order cook, busboy, Dunkin Donuts, cafeteria line server, pizza cook — I shouldn’t have cared about, but at some level it mattered: rent money, gifts for my wife, self-satisfaction.

All I’m saying is that if I can give myself passionately to washing greasy baking pans or making donuts on the night shift, then a Stop ‘n Shop college chick employee could have given me the information for the Check Collection people so I could have called them four weeks ago.

Developing for PDA/WAP/HTML

| Sabin Densmore

WAP is the protocol for all wireless devices using an Openwave browser. Right now, that means phones, for the most part. You can check out their site ( to see if that’s true (haven’t checked in a couple of weeks, really).

WML is for Openwave browsers 4.x and up, HDML is for Openwave browsers 3.x and up. In order to account for Nokia, Ericsson and others, though, I write everything in WML without WMLScript (WMLScript isn’t really necessary for good apps, anyhow). Check out for a complete list of phones and Openwave browsers they run.

If you’re developing content for a PDA (handspring, Palm) then you can write it in HTML, and it can be viewed with a PDA-based browser (AvantGO is most common right now). It’s possible to write one HTML site, and have it work on both Wired browsers (Netscape, IE) and PDA Browsers (AvantGO) by writing HTML 4.0 with CSS2 positioning techniques. The PDA will ignore the style sheets and render just the HTML. Go here for information from AvantGo: and here’s the article I used from Webmonkey:

I have an example of Cross-platform PDA development at It’s not pretty (by any means) but if you look at that page in a browser, you’ll see flash, positioned layers and stuff. If you view it through AvantGo on your PDA, you’ll see a text version. Feel free to rob the source and use it ;).

If you want to have a site that’s for ALL platforms (WAP, PDA, Wired Browser) XML is the way to go. You can use JSP to build an engine that checks what device is hitting the server and then spits out the approriate XML style sheet.

Instead of XML, what I do is build a sniffer on index.html that looks at the HTTP request. If it’s Netscape or the like, I send to a home.html page, and if it’s a WAP browser I send to /m/ where I put the WAP content. Kind of clunky, but it serves the purpose. This site does that right now. Try it out, if you’d like.

Let me know if there’s anything else you need help with. I love this stuff ;).

8mm got me going

| sabin densmore

I’ve got the bug. Again.

[edited 22-Dec-2004] I’ve been involved in building the website for an indy film shot here in massachusetts.

I’m close friends with the producer on the film. He’s not really into making films again, after having spent 3 years of his life and more money than he likes to admit on the movie. I am, though.

I have this old 8mm Bell & Howell 312DF Zoom Movie camera, and am dying to use it. I tracked down some film and can finally start doing the work.

One thing. I don’t technically have anything to shoot. No real concept, no real vision, and no real ideas about how to get started. And frankly, that’s bad.

My wife is getting tired of hearing me talk about the science behind it. She wants to hear me talk about the art, the idea. She wants to see me make a film. I can’t agree with her more. It’s just that I haven’t got the faintest idea what to film right now.

con … (?)

Read Kerouac this Morning

| Sabin Densmore

Read Kerouac this morning.

The world is brighter and the trees outside these whitewashed walls are koans — glimmering in the hazy ocean-sun.

I re-discovered all that I had lost in terms of poetry and grace and fluidity of thought. Re-learned all that I had mis-remembered as being false.

It’s not academic, it’s life.

Work is just work. Life is just life. Living is all.

Information Architecture: Human Psychology of Experience

03.21.02 08:02:11 | Sabin Densmore

I’m in Detroit today on some client business, and it turns out that things we’re (Mullen) is thinking of doing will fall into these areas of thought.

This was originally jotted down somewhere in the early part of 2001. My wife and I had been talking about better internet experiences, and this is what came out of it.

The internet is about discovery. The discovery happens at a variety of levels, three of which are as follows:

Phase 1: (initial) This is the type of discovery that is similar to learning new things: reading an encyclopaedia or discovering a new word are both examples of this type. This type of discovery begins by going to a website after an initial search for a topic through a portal or search engine.

Phase 2: (interstitial) This is discovery that happens as a result of learning something new: the encyclopaedia reader may look for more information on the subject. An internet user may dig deeper into the site to find more information.

Phase 3: (self) This is the last stage of discovery. The stage that spawns the cycle all over again. The user finds that they are enthralled or disgusted with what they’ve learned. Either way, they continue on: in search of more information on the topic, or in search of a new topic.

The most important part of this process is that it must be user initiated on all levels. Unless this is a self-undertaken process, it means nothing. The challenge for the web/interactive designer/developer is to allow this process of discovery to take place, while providing the means for it to do so within the site.

As these discoveries take place on a global-to-local level (broad topic search to narrow results), so it must take place on the local-to-specific level: every website must be prepared to mirror this process of discovery for each user. Provide the user with a means to self-discovery, and the site becomes useful.

Allow the user to discover the client’s product on his/her own, and the experience — and thus the product penetration — will be much richer.

This is the point of the internet: discovery through interaction. TV: attracts, Print: appeals, Internet: engages.

Wankers song

| by a friend of mine

wankkkkkkkkkkkkkkkkkkkkeeeeeeeeeeeeeeee!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! kee-yah, winkie wank dooh-pah, blugger, ha-quio-chi-sizzle, rah,plug,plug, ? plolg-oh-ha, ree-diddle diddle dee sweet Jesus! Belly Flop, elephant truck, pie sweetner, Dr Bong, shhhh! Psst pass it on, Captain& TEnille, Blossom, staff of Rah, quick let it fly out a bull’s ass, stench, finger, cave dweller, gimme, some money, Bluto, Bah like a sheep dipped Commie symp, The Council of Trent, Mr Stiffie, Pez whisp, on a cherry blossom, nose diving, glue sniffing freak, panty raiding dwarf rider, one cat coming at you, what’s that Simpson, heh ya, right back at ya, drive a stick, that’s no boating accident how are you.. . … . blech.

Dada song.mp3

02.24.02 13:36:57 | Sabin “Kill Music” Densmore

dabee da da.

dada (WoooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooSH)!

ding ding ding ding ding ding ding ding ding ding
ding ding ding ding ding ding ding ding dnig dnig
dnig dnig dnig ding ding ding ding ding ding ding

And a thousand songs of of uv love lobe pope nobber hop DING!

freep fearless freeeeeepytum toiugh gitty nip pong poooooooooiuy.



gut tug gut tug gut
gubby tutu tooey tomp.

Essay on Dada

02.24.02 13:41:01 | Sabin Densmore, 1997

Art. Comedy. Fashion. Thought. Religion. Philosophy. Politics. All of these were affected in one way or another by the irreverant machinations of Hugo Ball, Tristan Tzara, Hans Aarp, Andre Breton, Benjamin Peret, Max Ernst, Marcel Duchamp, and others.

In 1917 in a cafe in Zurich, a poet named Hugo Ball began the Cabaret Voltaire, a night of poetry ejaculation [it wasn’t really reading], art, manifestoes and theatre.

The activities attracted such dignitaries as Stalin and Marx. Sprung out of the terror of the first world war, dada began as kind of a kick-in-the-face of the then-in-place bourgeousie.

Trends in art up until dada had culminated with pastels and impressionism. Dada was an anti-art, an attempt to turn anything and everything upside down as the participants cascaded from one medium to another, trying more and more to piss off the audiences.

Dada’s downfall came about when audiences began enjoying and appreciating the shows. No longer did they become angry and irritated, so it stopped and transmuted into surrealism and art by Magritte, Dali, Picasso and others.

Before its downfall, however, the dadaist movement was able to profoundly affect the art world and subsequently, other areas of society not even loosely connected to the art world.

One of the ways dada was able to affect that world was through its irreverance for convention. In other words, the dadaists were funny. Not funny in a lighthearted sense, and certainly not funny to the initial audiences at Cabaret Voltaire, but funny in the sense that they did not take themselves seriously, any more that the took the rest of the world seriously.

This is not to say that the dadaists felt that their actions were unimportant, but that there actions were irrelevant.

Comedy was dada and dada was comedy. “Dada is a virgin microbe that with the fickleness of air enters all the spaces reason has not been able to overload with words or conventions,” Tristan Tzara wrote. It should be noted that Tzara wrote literally hundreds of definitions of dada, all of which should be taken for what they were at the moment.

“Dada puts mustard in the ciboria, urine in the fonts, and margarine in the artists’ tubes of paint,” is a definition by Ribemont-Dessaignes. The point is that the dada of the early 1900’s as an art movement gave rise to comedic lines and gags of the latter half of the century.

Andy Kaufman and his controversial wrestling events, characters and dead-pan-in the-face-of-convention style is classic dada. As are the Monty Python six. Dada involves taking convention and convoluting or exaggerating it until it becomes unrecognizable.

Dadaists could be likened to children playing childish pranks, only the pranks often cost the audience a lot of money to become the target. For it was, invariably, the bourgeousie that dada targeted and destroyed.

Art of the time was bright and cheery. Pointillism, impressionism, all kinds of pastelly water colors depicting a good life while mustard gas and mortar shells killed people all over Europe. More than anything, I think, dada was an attempt to awaken the world to itself. Increase awareness of its folly, and move the middle classes to action. Even if that action was to direct assaults against dada, that was okay, nay, encouraged. Dada hated convention, and convention hated dada.

Dada, though, was successful and society tuned into the shock and the freedom of it. When this happend, dada died. As a movement created to shock must die if it ceases to do so.

Dada, however, shows up everywhere, even on the internet. Where ever there are mismatched type faces, assymetrical design, and shocking phrases, dada was there. Where ever someone stands and shouts obscenitites for no reason, dada was there. Whenever SNL makes you want to vomit and wretch because of the shock or horror, dada was there. In fact, I beleive that the dadaists would appreciate the anarchistic reality of the digital age.

Some last words. Look to this site in a few weeks for more information on dada. Also, I will continue to farm the internet for good sites on dada that can be used to supplement this.

Finally, dada can never try too hard, but must simply exist. Dadaism is a natural flow of revulsion and revolution from the core of the human mind. It can never be forced, nor repeated for once dada is done, it becomes its own creature.

Dada as Reactive Force

02.24.02 13:41:11 | Sabin Densmore

Dada as reactive force:
Dada is not reactive, proactive, active or inactive.
Dada is.
Dada is not.
Dada might.

Dada can be more effective than protests and other social activities in deterring/elucidating world events.

– Dada is uneducated and dumb and thus appeals to a wider audience than leftist protests can.
– Dada has no purpose so is a perfect match — being so similar — to world events and decisions.
– Dada doesn’t exist, so a dada activity can never be found and stopped.
– Dada has as much chance as any other useless protest.
– Dada is fun. Protests are not.

The above are but a few of the many reasons why a Dada activity can be more rewarding and more effective than your typical leftist/rightist shindig.

There’s more:
Dada can be as expensive as a regular protest, too.

– You can make soup just as well at a Dada gathering as you can at a “Food not Bombs” one.
– You don’t need to make signs for a Dada protest. Dada has many and no reasons to protest, so there’s no need for costly signs. Why not just yell out your disgust?
– Dada is art. Grants are available for artists from most local communities, so why not get the state to fund your protest? It’s outdoor theater, after all. If you want to travel to somewhere else, call it a lecture series. You’ll get more money.
– Dada has no desire to succeed so failure is never a disappointment.
– Dada will not fail.

Dada is not valid as a movement towards action. Dada is only valid if there is no need for the action being requested. Dada is most effective when it strikes from nowhere, asks nothing and results in non-action oriented confusion.

Dada asks nothing of its participants and demands nothing of its observers. Dada is lazy and seeks only to exist.

Instructions for mounting a Dada protest:

1] Reserve the protest area well in advance with local authorities. Make sure the reason of reservation is clear. Choose from any of a number of benign but popular causes that will be sure to get plenty of Bandwagon-jumpers to join.

2] Convince well-known heroes of your cause to participate. Speeches, vendors, activists of all kinds who care about your cause should be invited to attend. Promise an open agenda/mic. kind of format.

3] Advertize the event. Produce flyers, radio spots, pamphlets, posters and anything/everything else you can to make sure lots of people here about the gathering. Join and use newsgroups, mailing lists and other forms of electronic media. Create a website and announce changes in the program and fill in details left open by information on flyers. Have all forms of media point to the website for maximum penetration and ease of communication.

4] Once you’re sure people will be attending, double check local ordinances and make sure that everything is ready to go.

5] Don’t show up. If other people show up/stay around, call the police and complain about the noise.

Open letter to the press

02.24.02 13:41:28 | Sabin Densmore

The American Press is failing its audiences.

The Fourth Estate is one of the most sacred institutions of our country. The Freedom of the Press allows us to maintain an open democracy, allows us to learn about our leaders and our communities, allows us to place our lives in relation to the events that shape our world. Reporter’s credentials allow him or her to witness events that the general public can not see. It obligates him or her to report — without bias — on those events and inform the general public. But the Fourth Estate is failing America. The members of the press are failing in their duties to be objective reporters and instead are turning to sensationalism and opinion to gain “market share” and advertisers.

Day after day, event after event, news is being filtered and edited to maintain a hold on our attentions. Headlines are sensationalized. Editors relegate supporting details so far down the column that nobody ever sees them. Reporters are urged to write for a shortened attention span and ignore “dry details”. They ignore quotes that aren’t “snappy” or “intelligent” whether they help flesh out a story or not. The line between news and op-ed is further blurred every day.

It’s time for a wake up call. It’s time for the press to decide who their masters are: the public who deserves objective reporting and information, or the “market share”.

I urge every publisher, editor, reporter and copywriter to pay attention to what they say. To question themselves as to whether they’re writing to inform a general public, or to increase sales. To ask the questions that must be asked of public figures. Don’t be satisfied with a press release. Don’t be satisfied with pat, scripted answers. And if the public figure dodges or hems and haws — say so. Tell us. We deserve to know. It’s a fine line that needs to be maintained, but it must be maintained.

It’s up to you, the news industry, to maintain that line. It’s up to you to maintain the trust of the public. It’s up to you to decide whether a story is objective or sensational. Don’t be political: report on politics. Don’t be eventful: tell us about events. Don’t try to make history: tell us about current events and let us live history as it’s being made.

Our country is at war. The public is terrified of “terrorist organizations”, of bio-chemical warfare. The public is worried about health and welfare, about politics and science. Now, more than ever before, we need a responsible press. A press that is willing to report the news — as it happens, how it happens and why it happens — with integrity, honesty and objectivity. Rise to the challenge.

Be the Free Press that Jefferson spoke of. Be the Free Press that earns it’s readers, not buys them. Be the Free Press that makes politicians worry about shadiness and forces honesty into their hearts. Be the Free Press that deserves the honor Americans give you.

Freedom is being stripped II

| Sabin Densmore

Guess we’re at war. We’ve started attacking Afghanistanian “military bases” controlled by the Taliban in retaliation to strikes that may or may not have originated in that country. And as if that’s not bad enough, the press will not be told *any* information about this “War” on terrorism.

I read about this on, and nowhere does anyone say anything about it being a bad thing. This is a bad thing, people.

Being denied information that could very well affect our lives is a bad thing. A bad bad thing. Denying access to information is not the act of a democratic republic. This is an act usually attributed to a paranoid dictatorship. To a country that is turning to leadership from the top down. A country that seems to have forgotten its roots.

From CNN: “‘I want to make it clear to the American people that this administration will not talk about any plans we may or may not have,’ President Bush said Monday. ‘We will not jeopardize in any way, shape or form, anybody who wears the uniform of the United States.'”

From CNN: “The rationale, according to Pentagon officials: Terrorist organizations lack the intelligence-gathering capacity that nations possess, relying instead on news organizations to find out what their enemies are doing.”

By limiting the press, we are limiting the very thing that Jefferson said would be necessary for a free country to exist, and we aren’t really making it harder for terrorists to figure things out.

Censorship is a dangerous thing. News and information are what allows people to make judgements about the quality of their lives, the effectiveness of their leaders and plan for the future. Without information about what happens in our world — no matter the technology we have — we are thrust into Medieval times and relegated to the role of the serf.

Read “1984”. Read “Animal Farm”. Read “Fahrenheit: 451”. Read the constitution of the United States. I urge you to understand what affect a limitation of the rights of the Press will have on this country. If you do understand and continue to limit the flow of information, then I will not support you or your followers.

Do whatever you can to fight this. Call your representative, your senator, your congressman. Talk to your local newspaper. Write to Bush. Be free. Speak loudly. Be Civily Disobedient in any way you can. Secrecy and death is not the path to a world without terrorism.

I saw the article on, and have not been able to find another source for the information. I don’t know if it’s even true, or to what extent the media will be banned, if at all. When I find out more, I will post it here.

13th Generation Manifesto

| Sabin Densmore

We are the generation removed.

The generation of geniuses wrenched from America by suicide, drugs, apathy.

The generation of video gamers thin and pale for lack of sun.

The generation of let-downs who’ll never achieve the dreams of world peace our parents so publicly strived for.

We’re apathetic.

Our revulsion to society and shattered dreams and frustration with bureaucracy have made us apathetic.

For every idea we’ve shared or dream we’ve strove for, a thousand members of the faceless masses have pushed us back. A thousand voices told us to stop dreaming. A thousand faces frowned on us.

We are the depressed. The sunless. The dying masses. The slack leftovers of a drugged out era filled with false hopes and public demonstrations. We are the love children of acid and pot.

We, who grew up in the era of open-classroom geometry and dual-grade classrooms, who listened as officer friendly told us to D.A.R.E. and learned exactly how many drugs we could take before dying. We who learned to count to 12 from a disco pinball machine and learned grammar from an animated train. We who’ve watched a space shuttle destroy itself and our parents lose their jobs.

We are the unknown, the unlabled, the scapegoats of society. The first lost generation that is truly a generation and not just six dark-souled literati.

We meander through the dark bars of suburbs looking for soulmates.

We work in narrow cubicles — grey walls, digital blue glows — creating the economy that has kept our parents IRA’s intact and fat, our grandparents Social Security secure, creating the tools that our brothers and sisters impress their teachers and our parents with. The tools that replace the bad teachers we had.

We are the underclass, the overclass, the middle class.

We are not blameless.

We are mechanics, and teachers and programmers. We are bus drivers and carpenters and drunks. We are the post office clerk losing her mind and the 7/11 attendent shot in the head over $52.

We are the bullet, the gun and the rage that pulled the trigger.

We are the disinterested who have no reason to vote because we learned long ago it doesn’t matter what we think.

We are the passed over. The neglected. We are the Nietzches, the Marxes, the Camus, the Kafkas.

We live alone in over-priced apartments in upscale neighborhoods of once proud cities and drive the working-class out. We spend more money.

We dropped out of college to start our own restaurant.

We are the police, the dealers, the pimps, the City Council, the lawyers, the judge. We are those on trial.

We finished college with honors only to find work as a ski-lift operator or fast-food clerk.

We made the internet what it is. We can make it into nothing. We are responsible for banner ads and the code that knows who you are.

We are career women who want children but can’t find the time.

We are the shunned couples who don’t want children. We’re afraid we’ll end up like our parents.

Our parents are dying.

We want thrills. Nothing is too dangerous. We’re still Immortal.

We’re the ADD-enhanced brains who forego treatment. We’re not younger than 23. We’re not older than 38.

We’re a demographic that has never been targeted successfully. We’re too smart for advertising.

A million wrongs against us and still counting. American continues trying to figure us out, track our habits, analyze our click-streams, pattern our spending. American tries to understand our thinking, our needs, our wants, our past. America wants to control our future.

We’ve waived our right to protest and take non-action.

We will not care for those who don’t care for us.

We will not reach for those who don’t reach for us.

We will not cry for those who don’t cry for us.

Come to us, America, and see what it means to be ignored. See what it means to be removed. See what it means to be us.

Connection is futile.

Action is futile.

Exist through non-existence.

Do through non-doing.

Boomers’ protests have removed us. Their sit-ins taught America well: give them what they want and they’ll go away. They have.

We have nothing to protest because we have everything we’ve ever wanted. We scream in silence for something to rail against. We must fight, but there’s nothing to fight against.

Our grandparents have removed us. Their manipulation of war propaganda made them heroes: impossible to live up to.

Our younger sisters, our younger brothers have removed us. Their willingness to be perfect has made them treasures in the eyes of our parents: impossible to live up to.

Our parents have removed us. They expected us to be them and have given up trying. We’re useless and they’re tired.

So let us be removed.

Let us pull ourselves from the stink of society and culture and order and government.

Exist through non-existence: they don’t know we’re here anyhow.

Do through non-doing: that’s what they expect and won’t notice anything happening.

How to read a news article

| Sabin Densmore

Reading is an important and necessary part of gathering information, but it is also the best way for conventional media to distribute it’s own ideals. People tend to believe what they read. Don’t.

Having been a reporter for two daily newspapers, I learned to write so that readers would get from an article the information/impression that I or the editor wanted them to have. Not necessarily the information they needed. Here are some tips to use in order to get accurate information from a standard news article.

The traditional news article is arranged in a reverse triangle formation. The “most important” information presented near the beginning of the piece with supporting details organized by decreasing importance — not in the order they happened. This is supposedly because readers only go to about the third or fouth paragraph. But remember, “most important” is defined by the editor, not the news event. Don’t be influenced by organization of content. Read the entire article and decide for yourself what is the most important.

Don’t ever read the lead. The first paragraph of a news article is used as the “hook”. Often sensational and always rewritten to match the headline that’s added later, the lead is useless. It can be ignored without sacrificing an understanding of the information. If you have to, go back to it after you’ve read the rest of the piece.

The headline is not pertinent to the story either. Ignore it. Headlines are added by night editors after the story has been written and the reporter has gone home. Headlines are meant to get more people to read the paper so advertising revenues can be increased. They can’t help being sensational and are not news or fact.

Ignore adverbs and other colorful and extraneous writing. These are used to influence the way you think about a statement someone said or an action someone takes and have no place being in a news article. Stick to the nouns and verbs and draw your own conclusions about the meaning of events.

Quotes are often too short and can only tell a part of the story — when they’re accurate. Most reporters have tiny notebooks, some of them use tape recorders. They decide in a matter of seconds whether what someone is saying is usable or important enough to write down. Additionally, never pay attention to descriptions of how someone said something.

Beware rhetoric: a subliminal construction of language using natural rhythms of pronounciation. Rhetoric involves putting words, sentences and paragraphs together in a persuasive manner. Repetition of words across paragraphs is an example. Kennedy (“Ask not …”), FDR (“We have nothing to fear but fear itself”) and Martin Luther King, Jr. (“I have a dream”) used it in their speeches. It works.

The most important thing to remember is that reporters are not objective. No matter how hard they might try — *if* they try — it’s impossible to be completely objective. They are human and can’t help being affected by the events they are writing about.

Once you read an article, find at least two other articles on the same subject from different sources. If at all possible, use an “alternative” media source as one of them (zines, independent newspapers, pirate radio).

Coming attack on Afghanistan

| Sabin Densmore

According to an article on, America has sent warplanes “into the air from bases in the American heartland” (how’s that for objectivity: “American heartland”) to prepare for an invasion of Afghanistan. The USS Essex, and the USS Kitty Hawk have already sailed from Japan for the area.

We’re about to invade Afghanistan because they won’t turn over Osama Bin Laden. Taliban officials state that they want to see evidence that he is behind the attacks on the WTC, according to a CNN report on Sept. 20.

President Bush has indicated that he is unmoving in his resolve to get Bin Laden from the Taliban — as is evident by the launch of the planes.

Read the article, and decide for yourself if it’s good reporting. Is it objective?

Why is it that the Taliban’s reason for not turning over Bin Laden is so far down the article (even below economic news) that it’s almost impossible to find? Why are there economic bits of news in an article with a war-type headline?

It’s more important no than ever before that we read news articles carefully. That we try our best to discern objective fact from some editor’s truth. This article is a prime example of why.

I was once a reporter because I thought I could help people gain information and news in an objective manner. I thought I could change an industry. I was wrong, but I’ll be damned if I’m going to stand by and watch this happen now.

More as it comes …




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