Angle brackets don’t grow on trees

January 25th, 2003 § Three comments § permalink

After a long year of neglect, I’ve finally resumed work on the underpinnings of this Web site. I left many loose ends in my rush to get it working. Now is the time to start tying them up. (Feel free to suggest incriminating ways to use the last sentence out of context.)

Most of what I’m doing is behind-the-scenes cleanup, but there’s one enhancement that’s worth mentioning. This Web site now has an RSS feed, which makes it easy to find out when I’ve posted something new. If you’re using Windows, you can use FeedReader or Syndirella to read RSS feeds; on Mac OS X, I recommend NetNewsWire; on Linux, try Straw. Thousands of Web sites have RSS feeds, and most newsreaders include a list of sites to help you get started.

I’ll be rewriting all of my crappy, non-semantic markup in the days, weeks, and possibly months ahead, depending on how lazy I am. Please let me know if I break anything or if things look weirder than usual.

Technology’s environmental toll

January 23rd, 2003 § Comments off § permalink

A group of researchers at Japan’s United Nations University decided to find out what materials are needed to make a 32-megabyte memory chip, which weighs about two grams. Their findings: For each chip, manufacturers consume “32 kg of water, 1.6 kg of fossil fuels, 700 grams of elemental gases (mainly nitrogen), and 72 grams of chemicals (hundreds are used, including lethal arsine gas and corrosive hydrogen fluoride).”

Boxing cities in

January 21st, 2003 § One comment § permalink

Outside of London’s Tower Hill Underground station, at the beginning of what turned out to be an excellent Jack the Ripper walking tour, the guide pointed out an ancient-looking stone wall near the station’s exit. The base of the wall, he explained, dated from Roman times, when London was one square mile of land protected on all sides by the wall. Although most of the wall no longer stands, its effects linger. Jack the Ripper, for example, exploited the fact that the City of London, the area once enclosed by the wall, had a separate police force from the rest of Greater London.

Other medieval cities, such as Paris, were protected by walls as well. The walls constrained the cities’ growth and dictated the extent to which they could expand. Paris built and destroyed three walls before it gave up on them entirely. The pattern was roughly the same each time: The wall went up, and builders filled in the enclosed city; middle-class merchants started building homes just outside of the wall; eventually, a new wall was built that included the land on which the merchants lived. (Some of those details may be wrong, since I’m writing from memory, but you get the idea.)

Anyhow, all of that got me thinking about how American cities have never had walls to constrain their growth, and how urban sprawl is the natural consequence of that historical accident (especially combined with America’s land-grabbing past). It occurred to me that greenbelts sometimes act as the modern equivalent of a city wall, since greenbelts form a definite physical boundary that limits an urban area’s size. There are obvious differences—once breached, for example, a greenbelt can’t simply be rebuilt—but it was an interesting comparison to think about during my vacation.

No wonder 58 percent of Britons are overweight

January 14th, 2003 § Eight comments § permalink

If Jesus died for my sins, he was surely resurrected so I would have an excuse to eat Cadbury’s Creme Eggs every spring. During my childhood, Cadbury’s Creme Eggs were the best thing about Easter; now that I’m an adult heathen, they are the only thing about Easter. They are, to put it mildly, not very good for you, but I would eat Cadbury’s Creme Eggs even if they were found to contain partially hydrogenated baby heads. That’s how much I like them.

Knowing all that, you can imagine how excited I was to discover that in England, you can buy Cadbury’s Creme Eggs from vending machines on the London Underground. A three-pack costs a pound. I managed to limit myself to a single pack, purchased at Paddington station on my way out of the country.

They also do all sorts of wonderful things with white chocolate in England. My favorite was easily the Kit Kat White, which is just a Kit Kat Big Kat with white chocolate instead of milk chocolate. There’s also the Cadbury’s SnowFlake, a crumbly, flaky swirl of white chocolate coated in milk chocolate, and Cadbury’s Dream Snow Bites, which are small candies with a white chocolate coating around a tasty center whose contents escape me at the moment.

Oh, yes, and there was also the Nestle Aero Mint, a milk chocolate bar with minty bubbly things in it. Mmmmmmm.

I wonder if Cadbury’s Creme Eggs are on sale here yet.

The failing to recall what I was missing all that time in England

January 12th, 2003 § Comments off § permalink

My trip to the UK ended over a week ago. Coming back seemed like a good idea after three weeks of traveling. Now that I’ve returned to work, though, and discovered that there was yet another round of layoffs while I was gone, being someplace else sounds better.

If I can get myself even slightly motivated, I’ll post some little tidbits about my trip during the next week or so. What I really want to do, thanks to the combined effects of jet lag, gloomy weather, and a persistent cold, is to spend the entire week napping.

Where am I?

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