30 October 2010

Accumulating and intersecting categories

As this blog evolves, I'm interested by the process of tagging its posts into categories and observing where they fit.  In essence, the tags reflect a taxonomy of interests, updated incrementally.  It struck me that the preceding post was the first one that qualified for three preexisting tags, demonstrating appeal (at least to me) in several distinct dimensions. I often think that the most intriguing topics to consider are those that are hard to characterize, or that could fall equally well into several alternatives.  This can be a problem in bookstores, where a finite number of physical copies must be placed into one (or sometimes a few) shelves with fixed themes, but can be easier to manage when it's possible to create and manage multiple tags.  Nonetheless, it's only effective if tags are selected usefully: too few, and they're not helpful; too many, and the tag space itself becomes hard to grasp.

22 October 2010

Bonzo election anthem recalled

It being US election season, it seems apt to (ir)reverently recognize a satirical icon for the political realm, the Bonzo Dog Band reunion single No Matter Who You Vote For, The Government Always Gets In, thanks to neilinnes.org. (Audio button follows lyrics there. Don't miss it. Headphones recommended.)

21 October 2010

Perhaps the oddest words ever set to music

From about :38 in at this YouTube link, per this NPR story broadcast today. (Warning: rather tasteless, but perhaps an archetypal example of cheerful exuberance applied to an incongruous subject.)

What does posting quantity imply about quality?

Many interactive forum systems prominently associate posters' avatars with counts of the number of posts their originator has made in that forum.  I'm not sure how useful this is, except perhaps to encourage authors' continued loyalty and output by conferring a form of accumulated status.  As a reader, it would be convenient to have a concise assessment of the quality of a commentator's posts, but the number of posts seems an arbitrary approximation.  If a world-class expert enters a forum to make a single insightful observation, his or her "1 post here" score would deprecate its value in favor of someone else with less expertise but more exposure in that community.  For me, I've been using email on a daily basis for several decades; as a very rough guess, I may have sent somewhere around 100,000 messages in this period. I'm not inclined, however, to add a message header with a counter that advances for each one to indicate my ongoing usage.  If I received such a message, I think I'd find it more obnoxious than indicative of substantive and increasing value within.

19 October 2010

TMBG: We Live In A Dump video

I hadn't been aware of a new They Might Be Giants video for a while, and so was entertained to discover this YouTube link. (Some tacky-for-effect images within, but I quite like the puppets.)

13 October 2010

Seeing for miles

I'm usually more of a walker, sometimes a "pedestrian" hiker, but look forward to an annual visit to Mt. Watatic in Central Massachusetts.  This year's air was exceptionally clear. There were visible mountains and ranges in most directions, as well as the Boston skyline roughly 40 miles to the ESE.  The peak towards the right is Mt. Wachusett.

11 October 2010

Evocative typography

I appreciate effective technology and design aesthetics, but often find one appearing without the other, as their experts often seem to live in parallel universes.  As such, I was pleased to note The Ubuntu Font, and interested to note that the simple fact of using a different combination of pixels to represent menu characters could confer a noticeably different user experience. At least to me, it seems evocatively British, providing a welcome transatlantic contrast to many user interfaces.

10 October 2010

Whoa, meter, you are wrong!

Looking up at this flower backed by a saturated October sky, it was clear that the metered exposure might be off.  I was impressed to see how much difference came from introducing less than a stop's worth of exposure compensation, from the meter's best guess of 1/320 @ f/10 up to 1/200 @ f/11.

09 October 2010

Privileges and principles

The Principle of Least Privilege is a well-established premise that designers employ in order to build secure systems.  In a mirror view, it occurs to me that their adversaries may benefit from an ability to assume a Privilege of Least Principle, limiting ethical constraints on their selection of attack methods and targets.

06 October 2010

Campaign signs

It's autumn in a US election season, and campaign signs are rising on lawns as leaves are falling.  I've always found this somewhat puzzling, as I don't believe that visibility or quantity of signs for a candidate has ever motivated my vote in that candidate's direction.  Perhaps more often, signs have magnetically repelled my vote, as when they suggest popularity of a candidate that I'm opposing and remind me of my ballot's importance, or if supporters block traffic in their enthusiasm.  I could be more likely to vote for a candidate if I were convinced of their ability to win, but polls (if available) seem like a better basis on which to make that assessment.

05 October 2010

A pleasant surprise last January

I didn't expect to see this bluebird when walking on a snowy day.

Yes, Virginia, an encrypted object can compress (in a special case)

Not new news, but a nice delighter to discover by experiment - when the rsync command (with -z compression and -c checksum options) transfers a TrueCrypt volume to replace a prior copy, following changes to selected files within the volume, it manages to do so without resending all of the encrypted volume's data.