Random link roundup

November 23rd, 2004 § One comment § permalink

Here are some links that I’ve been meaning to post for ages. These should keep you all busy for a while:

Not very professional

August 10th, 2004 § Two comments § permalink

This paragraph, from an article about Koko the gorilla’s recent dental work, made me giggle:

Doctors gathered in Koko’s “apartment” and crowded around the gorilla, who asked a woman wearing red to come closer. The woman politely offered Koko a business card, which the gorilla ate.

No two are alike

March 3rd, 2003 § Two comments § permalink

Nature is remarkable.

Reliving horror

September 22nd, 2002 § Comments off § permalink

Alzheimer’s is a terrible disease by any measure, but consider how much worse it must be for survivors of the Holocaust.

Semantic Web

September 2nd, 2002 § Comments off § permalink

The W3C‘s Semantic Web initiative proposes to make the Web machine-readable, so that automated tools can make better use of the Web’s resources. I had a hard time getting excited about that idea until I read Paul Ford’s vision of how the Semantic Web might work.

Fake persuaders

May 21st, 2002 § Comments off § permalink

Do you think that scientific papers should be retracted because of the machinations of a public relations firm? Would it bother you to learn that just such a thing happened recently?

Serendipity

April 24th, 2002 § One comment § permalink

A coworker and I went for a walk during our lunch break today, and we started discussing the next version of a Web application we both work on. I complained that some of our developers had thrown away one of my ideas for the UI and implemented something far less user-friendly. As I explained the problem, though, I realized that my original idea wouldn’t have worked. Then I came up with a new idea that will.

After work, I came home, picked up A Pattern Language, opened it to pattern 131 (“The Flow Through Rooms”), and chanced upon this paragraph:

The following incident shows how important freedom of movement is to the life of a building. An industrial company in Lausanne…installed TV-phone intercoms between all offices to improve communication. A few months later, the firm was going down the drain—and they called in a management consultant. He finally traced their problems back to the TV-phones. People were calling each other on the TV-phone to ask specific questions—but as a result, people never talked in the halls and passages any more—no more “Hey, how are you, say, by the way, what do you think of this idea…” The organization was falling apart, because the informal talk—the glue which held the organization together—had been destroyed. The consultant advised them to junk the TV-phones—and they lived happily ever after.

Big Larry is watching you

April 14th, 2002 § Comments off § permalink

Today’s New York Times Magazine included a great article about Silicon Valley’s post-September 11 rush to help the federal government track its citizens (l/p: pinchydotorg), including a scary interview with some Oracle executives:

As the databases are consolidated, I asked, who should decide the proper balance between privacy and access? How do you avoid a situation in which someone could be kept off a plane because he had skipped jury duty or had an overdue parking ticket? A hush fell over the room, and people looked awkwardly at their sandwiches.

Finally [Tim Hoechst, a senior vice president for technology at Oracle,] spoke up. “You’ll notice that we all became suspiciously quiet when we started talking about policy questions,” he said. “At Oracle, we leave that to our customers to decide. We become a little stymied when we start talking about the ‘should wes’ and the ‘whys’ and the ‘hows,’ because it’s not our expertise.”

The Tom Lehrer song about the Nazi rocket scientist who defected to America popped into my head: “‘Once ze rockets are up, who cares where they come down?/That’s not my department,’ says Wernher von Braun.”

Busy busy

April 3rd, 2002 § One comment § permalink

Oops. Distracted again.

I started redesigning pinchy.org a few weeks ago, but then I got busy with CSS wrangling at work. After spending an afternoon trying to figure out which browsers support each CSS2 table property, I’m just not in the mood to come home and do more Web development.

If you want an idea of what I’ve been up to lately, check out Jesse James Garrett’s visual vocabulary for information architecture and interaction design. For everyone else, why not enjoy an adorable, cursor-hungry bunny?

Mind the gap

March 7th, 2002 § Comments off § permalink

Why does it take so long to mend an escalator? The London Review of Books examines the intersection of technology, transportation planning, and human behavior:

“As more and more architecture is finally unmasked as the mere organisation of flow—shopping centres, airports—it is evident that circulation is what makes or breaks public architecture,” Rem Koolhaas has written in another context. “Two simple, almost primitive, inventions have driven modernisation towards mass occupancy of previously unattainable heights: the elevator and the escalator.” Of these, the escalator is the winner in places where large crowds have to be taken up or down moderate heights over short distances. The reason for this is clear: a lift leaves people waiting in impatient groups; an escalator lets them stream. In most situations it is the short-distance vertical mass-transport system of choice. Those who design and manage escalators must keep the cost of the machine’s tendency to hurl, pinch and grab at a level acceptable in terms of injury and damaged machinery.

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