Nov 052011

Lifeless Bio

Over the course of the past week I must have written, un-written and re-written about 4,000 words as I tried to write a review of Walter Isaacson’s biography of Steve Jobs. But I grew tired of my own complaining, that’s how much of it there was.

So let me just get to the point. The long and the short of it is Isaacson is a boring writer writing about something he’s not all that interested in. He borrows heavily from previous biographies and provides little that is new. Details are rare, huge things are glossed over, and nearly all the detailed bits are uninteresting or depressing. The end result is a generic, detached and slightly morose depiction of a fascinating man’s life. It should have been better.

Isaacson reports taking over 40 interviews to write this biography. Something tells me that a rote transcript of those interviews would make for much more interesting reading.

For evidence that Steve Jobs sometimes made mistakes, you need look no farther than his choice of biographer.

 Posted by at 7:19 pm
Feb 242009

That is the sentence (apparently translated from the original Swedish) that was just removed from the charges faced by the operators of the Pirate Bay in their trial in Swedish court.

ARS: As charges change (again), Pirate Bay writes a book

I want to know why. Is it maybe because that charge applies as equally to a little service we call The Internet as well as it does to the Pirate Bay specifically?

Continue reading »

Feb 162009

I’m done. Finished. No more will I lay on the couch nearly every Sunday afternoon from February through November watching a block of dumb go-karts with nice bodywork roll slowly around a big circle in Blue Angels-tight formation for 5+ hours. NASCAR has jumped the shark. Actually, they have jumped a fake shark in a dunk tank on a segway at half-throttle.

This is not an over-reaction to Sunday’s Daytona SnoreHundred or whatever. In fact my favorite driver won in particularly smart fashion, leading exactly one lap before the skies opened and God Himself decided Matt Kenseth shall win. No, this is the culmination of thoughts after watching a long slide from relevancy to pointlessness that rivals the WWE in authenticity.

Continue reading »

Jan 012009

The beginning of a new year is a common-yet-arbitrary time to assess our selves and our world, but common and arbitrary is better than not at all so here I go again!

Resolutions: Last year my solitary resolution was to do more social networking, more openly. Here I am on my own blog doing just that, and combined with Twitter I’m pretty happy with my ‘platform’. Verdict: Success.

Continue reading »

Oct 092008

Attention right-wing nutjobs and those in danger of being influenced by them. All the crap being spewed from fringe right-wing media about the advocacy group ACORN’s voter registration activities is a slick way to get the neocon base up in arms (literally, I think they qualify as a lynch mob right about now), but the REAL election fraud is going on in the election official’s offices of pretty much every swing state.

While ACORN’s voter registration drives may be resulting in ‘hundreds’ of duplicate registrations (and may not be dups at all, since people actually do move on occasion and need to re-register BY LAW in order to vote), six states are purging HUNDREDS of THOUSANDS of voter registrations from their systems less than 90 days before the election, in clear violation of federal law. Conveniently being done (possibly to you) after the deadline for registering to vote:

NYTimes: States’ Actions to Block Voters Appear Illegal

There is the real crime here, folks.

Oct 052008

or, Mystery Science Comments 3000

Help me out with this week’s experiment, folks.

RE: Ability to make comments.

I have received e-mail and twitters from friends and family pointing out and/or lamenting that comments are not enabled here. Well I say they are enabled, because those e-mails and tweets are comments and anyone can use those methods to convey them.

Sorry, I don’t mean to be snarky. Please don’t go! Actually my site was all set up for comments. It’s even set up to use OpenID, so you can log in using your livejournal (or any other OpenID site’s) credentials. I just haven’t enabled comments on any posts yet. Instead I’m messing with creating a comment form that just sends me an e-mail as opposed to adding comments to the bottom of the article. Why? Because I have an ongoing inner conflict regarding blog commenting. Perhaps you can help me.

This is probably anti-community and everything, but I don’t see the point of a little enclave of people posting to each other about each other’s writing. And I believe a small group of the same people responding to each other’s journal actually discourages strangers (and even people who know me but aren’t part of the online clique) from joining in on the conversation.

LJ has hundreds of thousands – probably millions of users, is reachable by the whole world, and after a year there I had five or six commenters (all delightful folks – you know who you are) all of whom came to me through one friend, commenting on my site. So beyond sharing an online conversation with friends, what exactly is the point? I guess it’s nice that LJ doesn’t seem to have spammers and rude people and trolls, and I have to deal with that issue myself now if I allow comments on my own site. Managing users and moderating comments is not something I’m particularly interested in. That’s one big strike against comments.

Another thing I don’t like about open comments is the occurrence of obviously personal responses placed on an open page. Pillowtalk in public. I don’t have a problem wearing my heart on my sleeve – I’ve got a couple of public posts that are pretty personal – but the conversation about that I don’t feel comfortable making out in the open. I *want* to share in a conversation with my friends about it (in addition to complete strangers), otherwise I would not have written it to begin with. But I think I get better, more complete and more open feedback if that conversation happens privately. That’s another strike against comments.

But there is an even bigger one, in my view.

Please understand that like anybody else I do genuinely crave and appreciate feedback on what I write. But as soon as one is writing feedback to a potential audience, the conversation changes. Maybe that is just what keeps it civilized. But I worry more that what it does is make the conversation a writing contest. When people want to write their thoughts on a post, they first have to read all the previous comments and decide whether they have anything meaningful to add, and if not they may try to make up something meaningful just so they can add it and not look redundant. I don’t want that to happen to anybody.

This is key: I don’t want the content of the comments to affect someone’s response to the original article. I don’t mind getting multiple comments with the same sentiment, in fact I would hate it if I was unable to judge how many people felt the same way on an issue simply because they didn’t add their thoughts because they didn’t feel they were ‘original’ enough. And I feel that a one-on-one e-mail discussion with anyone who cares to comment is the way to get that, to really connect with someone who has something to say about what I wrote.

Honestly, haven’t you ever held yourself back or toned down the emotion in a comment out of knowledge it was out in the open? Haven’t you decided not to post a comment at all because someone else already said it ‘better’ than you?

Right now I believe the right solution for this site is an e-mail form at the bottom of every article, not a list of comments and a place to add ones own.

What do you think, sirs?

11/2008 Update: Comments now disabled due to getting comment-bombed with pron spam. There is a message form here.

Oct 022008

Humans make mistakes. The best and the brightest could all tell us stories of shocking blunders and missteps.

So why is it so hard in today’s society for people to admit mistakes and move on?

Today a 21-year veteran New York City police officer was found dead, an apparent suicide. His name was Michael W. Pigott, and he was responsible for making the call to taser a distressed man on a ledge wielding a fluorescent tube and threatening to jump. That man fell to his death.

NYTimes: Police Lt in Deadly Taser Case Commits Suicide

Now I want to make it clear that I have no information other than what is in the article regarding officer Pigott and I do not know anything else about him. I do not claim to know what was in his head or what caused him to come to the decision to take his own life. But his suicide, possibly in relation to this recent event, got me thinking about how we as a society seem to have made a dramatic shift towards cover-up and denial in the face of our mistakes. And how sad it is if in some cases the consequences of accepting blame have been made too much to bear, to the point that one considers ending their own life rather than face themselves and the rest of us by admitting they have erred.

As usual, I blame George W. Bush (he makes it so easy). His dogged determination to never admit fault, never ‘change horses mid-stream’ (until it is way too late), to ‘stay the course’ (oh wait, that was his Dad), coupled with an astoundingly consistent record of incorrect snap judgments, has infected this nation. Coupled with the sharp trend toward severe criminal penalties for even non-threatening offenses and constant over-reacting to the slightest perception of a threat, we are all in danger of falling in to a pattern of covering up when we should be able and willing to fess up.

The officer in charge on that scene was balancing several conflicting goals. The safety of the public, the safety of the other officers, and the safety of the distressed man on the ledge. He made a call that he no doubt hoped would lead to disabling but not killing the man, and that is not how things worked out. Hopefully the New York police department will learn from this and move on.

I feel sad for all of us in a society where our level of denial of reality is in direct proportion to the severity of our mistakes, where personal responsibility takes a back seat to saving face even in cases of trivial misdeeds. When lying and covering up are the automatic reaction, society is weakened. When constant concealment leads to intense anxiety and internalized conflict, we all suffer. As did Officer Pigott.

God rest his soul.