Archive for January 2004

Kinja is one big-a** baby

During a meeting this afternoon, it occurred to me that I've been working on Kinja for so long that it would have taken me less time to have a baby!

Rovers on Mars

MarsLast night NOVA broadcast MARS Dead or Alive, an examination of the current project to send two rovers, Spirit and Opportunity, to Mars to search for signs of life. Less than 24 hours after Spirit's successful landing, NOVA showed the jubilant team celebrating the initial success of the mission. The show will be re-broadcast tomorrow night (Tuesday) and will have the latest updates. It's full of interesting information about the rovers, and contains lots of interviews with scientists and engineers at the Jet Propulsion Laboratory. I recommend it if you're at all interested in Mars, MERs (Mars Exploratory Rovers), and space exploration.

Also, Sprit is now sending back color photos of the Martian landscape at Gusev Crater which NASA is supposed to release today. In another week or so, Spirit should begin its exploration of the surface (driving around, collecting samples, taking pictures, etc.) and sending back even more cool data! And then on January 24th, the second rover, Opportunity, is expected to land. So cool! I love the rovers, and I'm so glad to see another one successfully landed. For more information, here's NASA's Mars Exploration Rover Mission website. And just for kicks, here's a Mars rover family photo, showing the new rover and its predecessor, a spare from the 1997 Pathfinder mission. The new rovers are so much bigger!

Dearth of content

I don't know what's happened around here, I just seem to have lost all interest in posting. Usually this urge (or lack of urge) passes, and it doesn't concern me. But perhaps I should now be concerned? Perhaps after 4.5 years, the megnut bug has gone? Well no matter, in order to hoist some content up here, I'm falling back on the old tried-and-true technique of just making a list of stuff. Herewith, a list of things I've enjoyed in the past few weeks, with links as appropriate:

Don't lock me in

There's no shortage of articles hyping the Google IPO and today the Washington Post contributes to the buzz machine with Google Fans Fill Web With Buzz Over IPO. Skimming through it, I came across a passage (on page 3) that struck me, though I've probably read the same sentiments a hundred times over the years. Regarding Google's competition, the Post writes,

Yahoo is counting on its roster of registered users and its portal status to give it the upper hand...Microsoft, having seen the rich margins available in search, has also decided to make a play there...In comparison with Microsoft and Yahoo, many analysts say, Google is at an inherent disadvantage because it has no locked-in users: It doesn't require people to pay or register for its services.

Shouldn't the goal be to have services people use, not because they're forced to, but because they want to? Though Google hasn't locked me in according to "analysts," I depend on them wholly for all kinds of things I do daily online, from spell-checking to news reading to basic old-fashioned searching, because they meet my needs. I have no interest in switching to some new improved Yahoo or Microsoft search unless Google fails me.

It seems to me that Google's on the right track, and the analysts are full of bunk. Focus on pleasing the users, give them what they want, and they'll stick with you. You don't need to trap them with registrations, you need to make it easy and pleasant for them to do what they want to do and then let them get on with their lives. It will only be when Google stops giving me what I want that I'd consider changing search engines. Happy users are loyal users, and that's all the lock-in you need.

Marsarific Google!

I love how Google changes their logo, and I just noticed that today's has the Spirit rover and Martians!! I saved a copy of the image here in case it's gone by the time you go look. So good.

Update: reader Chris T. writes to point out Google's holiday logo museum, which I wasn't aware of. The rover logo isn't in there yet, but I imagine it will be added.

To the moon

Buzz Aldrin on the moon during Apollow 11Bush Outlines Plan for 2015 Moon Landing is the first thing that President Bush has proposed that I'm actually in agreement with (well that's not true, I supported his State of the Union proposal to send millions to Africa for AIDS, but last I heard, that money still hasn't been sent). I've always been sad that we haven't returned to the moon since December 1972 -- nearly my whole life! And the thought of renewed exploration of the moon and then Mars thrills me, maybe I can even go! But, I can't help but wonder a) where the money will come from for all this and b) how the heck Bush can actually think he's for smaller government when, according to the Cato Institute, "based on his first three budgets, President Bush is the biggest spending president in decades."

And of course, with Americans carrying record amounts of consumer debt, 17 percent of American children living in poverty, and millions of Americans going without health insurance, returning to the moon doesn't seem like the highest priority.

Meanwhile, on Mars, Sprit's rolled off its landing platform and is ready to begin its roving exploration of the Martian surface. Woo hoo!

Friday fun

You got your Kottke in my Megnut!

You got your Megnut in my Kottke!

Pitter-patter goes my heart

For my birthday this year, I asked my parents for a Polar S120 heart rate monitor, but what with being sick and the frigid and horrible weather, I hadn't had a chance to try it out. Until this afternoon at 3 PM, when I strapped it on to monitor my heart rate while I watched the New England Patriots play the Indianapolis Colts for the AFC Championship, and a trip to the Super Bowl.

Below you can see my heart rate during the course of the game, mapped against the score of each team and some key plays. Throughout the course of the game, I wrote down my data, the time, and what was happening.

chart of heart rate while watching AFC Championship game

Average heart rate during game: 87 bpm

Max heart rate during game: 125 bpm

Average heart rate during the day: ~68 bpm

I didn't even see that max rate, it was just told to me by the watch after the game. It must have happened at the beginning. Anyway, my heart's very erratic when I watch the Pats, but probably not as erratic as when I was watching the Red Sox last fall. Next up? Hopefully just tracking my progress during a run along the Hudson River.

Five years, one day

Yesterday I realized it has been five years since Evan and I founded Pyra, the company that led to Blogger. We used to have a company weblog called pyrAlert! (actually the software we wrote to publish pyrAlert! was what lead to the creation of Blogger). This morning Paulo wrote to point out that pyrAlert! is still online and you can go back into the archives and read what was going on at Pyra in 1999. You may also notice that there are no permalinks on any of the posts, because these posts were made BP, or before permalink! It's funny to see the kind of stuff we used to write about.

Five restaurants in Paris

The New York Times had an article the other day about Comfort Food at Comforting Prices in Paris. While all five spots sound delicious, I'm especially tempted by Le Petit Pontoise if only because it's located on rue de Pontoise, the location of my mother's first apartment, rented for her 1996 sabbatical.

[O]n a recent visit, there was a wood crate filled with freshly gathered girolle mushrooms. It's the season, and the mushrooms were too tempting not to order. Quickly sautéed so that they remained juicy and slightly chewy, they were perfectly accented with garlic and parsley.

I'm really longing for a trip to Paris, it's been just long enough (seven months) that I'm missing it very much, especially since my favorite mittens from La Samaritaine got a hole in the thumb! I mean, I could replace my mittens here in NYC, but somehow French mittens seem superior, certainly these ones are, except for their hole.

On comments and weblogs

I've thought a lot about comments on weblogs over the years, and for a mailing list I'm on, I finally summarized some of my thoughts. Since it might be useful for others, I'm reposting them here. They're a few questions I ask myself related to enabling comments on weblogs posts I make. With the proliferation of commenting-ability in today's weblog tools, it might make sense for people to think a bit before blindly turning on comments, whether for an individual or group blog.

1. Do I want feedback on what I'm writing?

I never turn on comments on megnut unless I specifically want feedback, and I'd encourage people to think about this when they're posting to their sites as well. Are you writing about something that can engender a discussion? And do you want to have a discussion about it? Not everything needs a discussion, and if it doesn't, think about disabling comments for a post, if only to avoid spammers and trolls.

2. Do I have time to manage a conversation right now?

It's easy to turn on comments, it takes work to host a discussion. Especially when the post is controversial or inflammatory, the poster needs to be prepared to stay on top of the thread. Do you have the time to nurture that discussion and keep on top of it, delete the trolls, refocus the discussion when it gets derailed, etc.? If not, perhaps posting, or turning on comments, isn't such a good idea. I know I try and help out if I see a thread going awry but it's the poster's responsibility to make sure
her thread stays on target and remains as civil as possible.

3. Is this conversation over?

There comes a point in every thread when the conversation is done, either because posts have petered out or because it's gotten so out of control and unpleasant that it needs to end. Either way, the poster should go back in and set comments to "Closed." This will prevent people/spammers/trolls from posting in old threads, and keep the discussions alive and active on "current" posts.

Rather than just having a blanket rule -- whether that's "comments on" or "comments off" -- it would be nice if we could consider these questions before posting. Turning on comments is an opportunity and a responsibility.

Things that seemed cool when I was little...

...that don't seem so cool now that I'm older.

One in an occasionally series.

My best friend when I was little (who was also named Meg but is a Margaret not a Meghan) and I used to go to gymnastics several times a week. We were very limber and could do splits with both our right legs and our left legs forward (not at the same time, of course). We were also very into the movie Grease and I had the album (which was an awesome double-album with pictures from the movies in the middle). So when Margaret would come over after school (I always called her Margaret because otherwise it was like I was talking to myself), we'd always play Grease on my parents' stereo. And for some reason, we'd do splits. And we'd hold them for the whole side of the album, because for some reason this seemed like a really really really cool thing to do.

It occurred to me as I was telling Gina about this today at work that perhaps it, in fact, wasn't as cool as it seemed at the time.

Sunday fiddling

For years now, the megnut design hasn't been working quite right and you've probably noticed that sometimes the footer graphic comes up and overlaps the content whenever the left-hand side has less than the right-hand side. Well, hopefully it's a problem no more! I've spent the afternoon tweaking the style sheet and it should be fixed. Of course, this hasn't been tested on anything but my browser (Camino on OS X) so please let me know if it's all messed up now. Hopefully it isn't. Of course, there are a million other little things to change around: archive styles and URLs, legacy code, unused junk, and all that. But that will all wait for another day. Today it's just the layout. Baby steps, baby steps.

Thinking of the turtles

It's continuing to be bitterly cold here in New York City (8° F this morning with -6° F windchill) and so my thoughts have turned to tropical climates and other seasons. And I started thinking about my trip to Hawaii in 2000 and when we went snorkeling and swam with turtles. So I poked around and found my two favorite pictures from that experience, both taken by Jason. Here's me swimming behind the turtle, going too deep and here's another of me and a turtle closer to the surface. [sigh] Hawaii sure was swell and those turtles sure were cute.