Archive for February, 2003

A time to scrimp and a time to spend

Monday, February 10th, 2003

So, about that crate… My crates aren’t milk crates, they’re wooden crates with both the top and bottom open - no good for transporting milk, but marginally useful as shelves. Right now the green crates are concealing my beige plastic crates, which are also not milkcrates but the sorts of plastic crates you buy in college instead of stealing milkcrates. The milk confusion arose from the paint I used, milk paint from The Old Fashioned Milk Paint Co. Those who don’t know what color bayberry green is can look at their color chart.

Milk paint is non-toxic and doesn’t stink up your apartment, even in the winter with the kitchen window barely cracked open. I just made the happy discovery that the blah beige crates could be concealed inside the exciting green crates this weekend, and now I’ve reduced the general crate-count in my apartment, leaving more room for the rocking chair.

The rocking chair has been a floor-space problem ever since I dragged it in off the front sidewalk. The crates are also Garbage Nouveau, as are the low bookshelves. There’s also a large selection of Post-Veronica chairs, and the remainder of my decor is Late American Thrift Shop.

The point being, I’m cheap. I don’t even have a TV or a stereo, just a couple of boom boxes that date back to when they were called boom boxes. No VCR, no microwave, no cable. The only piece of furniture I bought new was a set of black wire bookshelves to match the black metal Garbage Nouveau rocking chair, unless you consider the Powerbook a piece of furniture. (The lamp was provided by Veronica.)

So yes, my furniture was discarded by other people, but it’s still nice. If it’s not nice, I paint it green and then it’s nice. I’m also picky about food - you won’t catch me cooking store-brand pasta. Barilla is the brand for me. You only live once, and there’s no excuse for anything less than the genuine Italian article.

So it never ceases to surprise me when people complain about their PC’s. I don’t mean people (like me) who get paid to work with PC’s - I mean non-geeks who buy these things and bring them into their homes and sit in front of them for large chunks of their free time. If you don’t like PC’s, or if you can’t get them to run stable, then you should get a Mac. You only live once, and you shouldn’t be wasting your time fighting with your computer, or retyping the last hour’s work that it crashed and burned. In the long run, the aggravation is just not worth the (apparent) savings. If you’re really all that poor, buy a used mac. The virtual thrift-shop is open.

Life is short. Switch.

Got iMilk?

Monday, February 10th, 2003

I’ve been mocked for painting crates and mac advocacy. News at 11.

Solidarity Goods

Monday, February 10th, 2003

With RSS, my virtual finger is on the pulse of the A-list blogs. Real Blogger Phil Ringnalda linked Clay Shirky’s article on Power Laws, Weblogs, and Inequality, in which the power law is applied to blogging and most of us end up at the skinny, low-audience end of the hit distribution.

I read a couple of other articles on Shirky’s site: The Price of Information Has Fallen and It Can’t Get Up and Weblogs and Publishing, both of which deal with the devaluation of the electronic word when the market is, essentially, glutted with blogs.

Here’s a section from the original article:

Note that [the power law] model is absolutely mute as to why one blog might be preferred over another. Perhaps some writing is simply better than average (a preference for quality), perhaps people want the recommendations of others (a preference for marketing), perhaps there is value in reading the same blogs as your friends (a preference for “solidarity goods”, things best enjoyed by a group). It could be all three, or some other effect entirely, and it could be different for different readers and different writers. What matters is that any tendency towards agreement in diverse and free systems, however and for whatever reason, can create power law distributions.

I thought first of LiveJournal, in which the tendency is toward short, name-dropping entries aimed at one’s friends:

LiveJournal had this figured out years ago, by assuming that people would be writing for their friends, rather than some impersonal audience. Publishing an essay and having 3 random people read it is a recipe for disappointment, but publishing an account of your Saturday night and having your 3 closest friends read it feels like a conversation, especially if they follow up with their own accounts.

Then I thought, fanfic! This explains it all: Perhaps some writing is simply better than average (a preference for quality), perhaps people want the recommendations of others (a preference for marketing), perhaps there is value in reading the same blogs as your friends (a preference for “solidarity goods”, things best enjoyed by a group). Some fic is actually good (quality), some is famous or recommended (marketing), and the rest is cranked out to satisfy the voracious and undiscriminating appetites of subgenre fans (solidarity goods).

In another sense, all fanfic is solidarity goods - best enjoyed by the fannish group. Non-fans don’t even understand the concept, never mind value the results. Anyone, within reason, can read an A-list blog, and anyone, within reason, can read a sci-fi novel off the bookshelves. On the other hand, you have to be in a certain group to follow most LiveJournals, and you have to know and love Star Trek to read Trek fanfic.

I’m not much of one for solidarity. I’d rather write original sci-fi than fanfic. I’d rather read an A-list blog essay than a LJ about last Saturday night. I tend to write essays like this one, no matter how low my power-law standing. That’s not a matter of audience but of author preference.

NetNewsWire with MovableType

Sunday, February 9th, 2003

Instructions are now up at for using NetNewsWire to post to a MovableType blog. This will spare me the trouble of trying out EspressoBlog, another Mac-only program that lets you post to MT and (theoretically) Blogger weblogs.

On the down side, I can’t try either of these blogging interfaces yet, because both NetNewsWire (as opposed to NetNewsWire Lite) and EspressoBlog require MacOS 10.2 (Jaguar), and I’m still running OS 10.1.5 (here, kitty, kitty?). I’m getting a new 17″ iMac soon, and my folder of Jaguar-only things to install and/or do with my new Mac is growing daily.

If I weren’t getting the new iMac, I’d be getting annoyed by now. I can understand Apple doing the Jaguar-only thing with new software like iCal - Apple is the one who gets the $129.00 when someone upgrades to 10.2 - but I don’t understand why other mac developers are following in Apple’s upgrade-forcing footsteps. It used to be that mac developers went out of their way to support every version of the OS back to 7. Now no one even feels obliged to provide an excuse for not supporting 10.1.5.

I’m a geek, so I can imagine what sorts of technical difficulties would come up with supporting 10.1.5 and excuse developers for not surmounting them. What I can’t imagine is going around saying you only support 10.2 without saying why, or whether you expect to support 10.1.5 in the future. It makes the buyer nervous. Am I going to have to buy 10.3, and 10.4, and so on, just to run your software? Say it isn’t so.

Backblogged Again

Saturday, February 8th, 2003

Using dive into mark’s RSS 2.0 template for MovableType, I’ve added a feed with the full entries:
XML full entires

During my unplanned week of not blogging, my apartment got cleaner and cleaner and I got further and further behind on the blogables. Here’s my current backblog list:

  • The Columbia, of course
  • The final installment of MBTI Theater
  • Reviews of Between the Rivers and Looking Backwards

That’s not as many as I thought. I may even catch up soon.


Friday, February 7th, 2003

iBlog is a great idea. It lets you both blog and subscribe to RSS feeds. As far as I can tell, iBlog publishes to a .mac account, not to a pre-existing blog.

I have just one question: how long will they get away with using the Apple website’s look-and-feel? They had me fooled until I looked at the URL.

Rich Site Summaries

Friday, February 7th, 2003

The Blog Realm has cleared up the mystery of RSS for me. Now I can tell people Rich Site Summary when they ask.

For those unfortunates without a Mac who cannot run NetNewsWire, here’s a popular RSS aggregator that runs on Windows (as well as Mac and Linux): AmphetaDesk. I’m trying it out at work now - the option to run it on a server sounds useful.

I’m still working on that full RSS feed for the blog. I’ll use RSS 2.0 for it, but it won’t happen today. For now, my feed is just extracts.

Addicted to RSS, Really

Friday, February 7th, 2003

I should point out that RSS makes weblog reading very much like reading USENET. –Mark A. Hershberger in Phil Ringnalda’s comments

I’m still up, reading all the blogs I never get around to because it’s just so difficult to follow fifteen geek blogs and fifteen fan blogs. At first I found the name NetNewsWire a little confusing, since I think of news as NNTP (e.g., alt.startrek.creative), but now I se that just as newsgroups are much more convenient than mailing lists, RSS is much more convenient than web pages. Less clicking around means fewer fic taxes.

At the moment, I’m trying to figure out how to get a second RSS feed here, one that does the whole entry content rather than the entry summary (which MT generates automatically). Yes, I should be sleeping rather than geeking, but RSS is just too cool for words.

Addicted to RSS

Thursday, February 6th, 2003

I checked out the Surfin’ Safari blog today and ended up at, blog of the maker of NetNewsWire for MacOS X. I also grabbed TigerLaunch while I was there.

NetNewsWire looks like a newsreader or an email program, but instead, it reads blogs and other RSS newsfeeds. I set it up to read my blog and others, along with some of the defaults. Here’s a screenshot for anyone who doesn’t grok RSS, the way I didn’t until very recently. It’s a cool little app, in which you navigate between the panels with the tab key, through the blogs and entries with the up and down arrows, and open the original page in your default browser with the right arrow. It’s much simpler than browsing through all the pages individually, and cleaner than a friends page.

I’ve added a bunch of LJ blogs, whose RSS URLs look like this: Not surprisingly, they’re pretty flakey with whether they provide summaries. MovableType does summaries by default in your index.rdf page. I’ve linked the RSS feed (the MT “syndicate” link) using one of the buttons from antipixel: XML
You, too, can be an RSS addict.

Under the Wire

Wednesday, February 5th, 2003

I have two new stories up, thanks to last Friday’s ASC Awards deadline. Up until now they’ve been available at my revived mirror at Crosswinds. The redirector is still pointing there because some people can’t reach Freeshell at the moment due to old DNS. Note that the mirror at Prohosting is no longer supported - the stories below are not there.

What’s Left of Her (30k) is an alternate, more realistic ending to “Unimatrix Zero,” starring the EMH. It was supposed to star Tom Paris, for Seema’s sake, but it didn’t quite work out that way.

The Lamne’rau (24k) is about Seven’s brief childhood, as glimpsed in “Dark Frontier,” “The Raven,” “Author, Author” and other episodes. This is the first story in the forthcoming “Tertiary” series (the long-promised Seven Saga). The Tertiary index page also has a list of all my Seven and Borg stories.

On the Mac front, the new iMacs came out yesterday. Once I have one, I think I’ll go shopping for SG-1 DVD’s and get myself a new, less depressing fandom.