sneedle flipsock

28 May 2004: two people every minute

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flipsockgrrl @ gmail .com

This week:


Warsaw's caring policepersons

Visiting Warsaw, Maciej Ceglowski was assaulted in broad daylight by incompetent thugs. He flagged down a passing police van to report the incident:

"I barely had time to get my foot off the pavement before we were shooting down the highway in the wrong direction, sirens blaring, shotguns skittering around on the floor.


Says Maciej, "If you are ever, ever in Warsaw, I highly recommend you flag down a passing cop car and tell them you've been assaulted. You will meet with a kind of unconditional acceptance and emotional support that I didn't know could be found outside one's immediate family. "

28 May 2004 | top of page

Rock, paper, scissors

Play Roshambo online: it's a much slower, more relaxed (Zen-like?) version than the live-action game. The site's creator comments:

"I should point out that a very frequently asked question I get now about Roshambo is along the lines of, 'I thought it was that game on South Park where you kick each other in the nuts as hard as you can.' Kids, kids -- that's a joke. Roshambo has always been another name for that Rock-Paper-Scissors game. (The name comes from 'phonetic French for Rock Paper Scissors' or so we are told.) Stop taking cartoons so seriously."

thanks, Paul | 28 May 2004 | top of page

Tog's top 10 reasons not to shop on the Internet

Usability advocate Bruce Togazzini lists 10 common e-commerce problems.

28 May 2004 | top of page


A nurse turned spy for the Union in the American Civil War, Private Franklin Thompson became a master of disguise as he infiltrated enemy camps learning their secrets. To be caught meant certain death, but Thompson was well versed in secrets. After all, he had a secret of his own--his real name was Sarah Emma Edmonds.

28 May 2004 | top of page

Bureaucratic stupidity (a continuing saga)

Harper's has a transcript of a phone call from a prison inmate to his parents--who had just buried another inmate, thinking he was their son.

This doesn't happen in New South Wales, where we have a slightly more sophisticated way of identifying people before they're buried: we get a relative to view and identify the body.

If this kind of identification is not possible (common in hanging suicides because of the facial disfigurement) then the fingerprints are checked against police records--which, of course, every prisoner has, even if s/he is only on remand.

Elementary, really.

And so you'd have to ask: how stupid does one have to be in order to run an American prison?

28 May 2004 | top of page

The rock-star philosopher

For a man who gets about in a flaccid brown jumper, Alain de Botton is quite the rock star.

His books are "a curious, charming combination of diary, commonplace book and essay."

Recently he has turned his attention to "a quest for love as secret and shameful as it is compulsive. Status anxiety is a worry that we may fail 'to conform to the ideals of success laid down by our society and that we may as a result be stripped of dignity and respect'."

Ambition is good, de Botton commented at a Readings event this week: without it, we stop trying and lose interest in life. The problem with status anxiety is that "We may spoil the best moments of our brief lives concerned about what other people (who won't be there at our funerals) make of us. If we cannot stop worrying, it is especially poignant that we should spend so much of our lives worrying about the wrong things."

The Onion reports this week on an excellent example of status anxiety:

No-Makeup Look Easier To Achieve Than Elle Claims
NEW YORK—Contrary to claims in the June issue of Elle magazine, the no-makeup look actually requires little effort, a licensed cosmetologist reported Monday. "The article '20 Minutes To A More Natural You' suggests an application of under-eye concealer, light powder, natural lip gloss, and clear mascara to achieve the makeup-free look," said Michelle Karns-Daley, spokeswoman for the American Association of Cosmetology. "But really, a quick shower and a towel-off will do the trick just as well." Similarly, experts say Elle's six-page article "Building Your Self-Esteem" can be more simply stated as "Stop giving a shit about what people think."

Flipsock friend Iza points to the hazards of posting your photo on the Internet: people are likely to play with it.

27 May 2004 | top of page

Web demographics

A Jupiter Research study found nearly half of the surveyed (US) corporations have two to four major Web site implementations planned for 2004, and nearly 25 per cent are prepared to spend at least US$1 million on their web operations, compared to 20 per cent in 2003.

A study of 24 people's web searching behavior found users tend to look only at the first 1-3 search results and, if they find a credible link there, will almost always click on it. Only five of the 24 went to the second page of results rather than launching a new search. The researchers also found users are much more likely to use a search engine to look for information about a product or service they want to buy; use of search engines drops off as the user draws closer to the actual purchase transaction.

Another study, with a sample of 1649 people, found similar behaviors. Fifty-seven per cent of these users said they use the same search engine all the time; another 30.5 per cent have several favorites that they use interchangeably. Older people and women tend to abandon a results page faster than youngsters and men.

In this second study, preferences for 'natural' over paid listings also showed some demographic biases:

  • College graduates: 65 per cent prefer 'natural' results
    Non-graduates: 56 per cent

  • Full time employees: 65 per cent
    Part time employees: 61 per cent
    Unemployed: 55 per cent

  • Frequent Internet users: 65 per cent
    Infrequent Internet users: 56 per cent

(MSN users preferred paid listings.)

The American Library Association provides an annotated list of knowledge management resources on the web.

A collection of 300 icons from 1800 web sites shows some emerging trends in web design: like road and safety signs, these icons represent concepts that are understood across cultures. If you can make them both usable and pretty, you're on a winner. (thanks, Justina via Paul)

27 May 2004 | top of page

A catchy tune you won't hear on American radio

"Fuck you all so very much," sings Eric Idle in his new "FCC Song". He's unimpressed with the dominant conservatism of the United States that squashes free speech and punishes the wrong criminals.

He comments, among other things, about the FCC's propensity to fine people for speaking freely on the radio: half of the US$4 million in FCC fines since 1990 have been levied on one person, shock jock Howard Stern.

I love that Idle's voice sounds so very very nice, and yet his mind definitely is not.

via Doc Searls | 27 May 2004 | top of page

Pass the PK

Singapore has relaxed its ban on chewing gum. Registered users may buy medicinal chewy from pharmacists. This is a direct result of Singapore's free-trade agreement with the United States, which came into effect earlier in the year.

26 May 2004 | top of page

Seductive, fragmented cityscapes

Architect Zaha Hadid's "seductive paintings of fragmented cityscapes became an antidote to the self-referential pomposity of postmodernism and the crushing banality of British development" in the 1980s. Until recently, few of her designs had made the leap from paper to the real world, yet her status as the world's top female architect is secure.

Volkmar Klien and Ed Lear followed a trail of fire across an urban landscape: they 'lost' cigarette lighters in pubs, to be found and picked up, then tracked the lighters' movement through the city of Limerick:

"From daily routines, temporal cycles and locational patterns the shapes of habitats emerge; fleshing out the data-creature and the home-range its movement suggests - a glimpse of the territory in which the subject’s life takes place."

The result is a real-world gallery exhibition and a web exhibition. (thanks, Paul)

26 May 2004 | top of page

Where did the readable critics go?

Poets and novelists tend to have degrees these days, and academic critique of literature is a thriving industry. Since the 1950s "literary criticism as a discourse available for, and even attractive to, the common reader has all but disappeared. Literature as criticism--DeLillo's knowing essayism, Rushdie's parables about hybridity, Franzen's postmodern riffs --has burgeoned, while criticism as literature, what RP Blackmur called 'the formal discourse of an amateur', has faded."

26 May 2004 | top of page


An art consultant will be hired for Parliament House in Canberra after some government backbenchers complained its A$40 million collection is too modern.

Michael Klein started his curating career at Microsoft by firing the art committee that hired him. He has a budget of close to US$750,000 a year and thinks "Art is a vital part of people's lives. I think, by living with it at Microsoft, employees see the world in a richer and deeper way than they would without it." He's built a corporate art collection that features mainly contemporary artists from the Pacific North-West area of North America.

How to fake a Gaugin and get away with it.

How to restore Michaelangelo's David (NYT) and confound the critics by doing a good job. David has suffered the slings and arrows of outrageous fortune in his 500 years: as well as being made of low-quality marble, he's "been struck by lightning, had an arm broken off by rioters, had a toe smashed with a hammer, and suffered the indignity of a metal fig leaf being attached to his genitals." (The NYT link needs a username = flipsock and password = sneedle)

A bunch of librarians and archivists have formed the International Internet Preservation Consortium in an effort to prevent certain electrons being recycled into oblivion.

26 May 2004 | top of page

Swing it, boys

Glenn Miller and Fats Waller "embody the A side and B side of a time when melodic tranquillity and robust rhythms found common cause. People who come of age in such a period think it will last forever--ask any veteran of Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band. But the swing era expired in short order; hip-hop is already twice its age... Beyond the pleasures of their performances, Waller and Miller provide an unexpected service: they humble critical stereotypes and show ways that jazz and pop once enriched each other, and might still."

CD sales in the US have risen 9.4% in the year to date. Says Keith Jopling of the International Federation for the Phonographic Industry, "If this is the result of a combined formula of anti-piracy lawsuits knocking people off file-sharing sites and the massive adoption of legal services and a spike in CD sales then it could be good news for everyone." This sounds like spin to me: Jopling admits that people who download music are also buying pre-recorded CDs, and I see no reason why people who download free music would be any different from those who pay for legally registered downloads.

26 May 2004 | top of page

What's the view from your window?

One of the advantages of being an astronaut (or cosmonaut) would be the great view from your workplace window: see these beautiful NASA pictures of Earth from space for a sample.

Also, finds out what Mars and Mormons have in common.

26 May 2004 | top of page


Troy observes at that "in this world of floater brands and fickle consumers, these corporate-political brands have had to increasingly up the wattage... [B]ig brands like 'The USA', have had to call in the experts to break down the nation-brand monsters and make them more agile and able to flex and flow through the ever changing needs of the political players, and retain the ability coax and influence the minds and hearts of the masses."

25 May 2004 | top of page

Cambridge tops league table again

Cambridge has again been named Britain's top university, according to the Guardian newspaper's annual 'league table'.

Barring 11th-hour concessions, British universities that cater for part-time students will be left worse off by the introduction of top-up fees.

Birmingham academic Mike Grojean is studying the leadership style of junior army officers in Iraq.

25 May 2004 | top of page

Understanding ice hockey

I used to play hockey. Then, in university, a member of the Canberra Knights frequented the student residences and I discovered ice hockey. Don Lane's late-night explanations are but a dim memory, so here's a rundown on the basics of the game.

25 May 2004 | top of page

Fame thrust upon himself

Scientist Peter Knight is tired of waiting for greatness to be thrust upon him, so he has invented his own unit of measurement and thrust fame upon himself. If you fancy having the units of luminosity, power, current, work or heat named after you, says Knight, "it is the usual plain brown envelope job. They will be up for auction on eBay next week."

25 May 2004 | top of page

Two people every minute

Every minute of the day, two people are killed in a war somewhere. The BBC program "One Day of War" follows individual fighters in 16 of these wars, over the same 24 hour period. The program's web site provides background about the wars, why people are fighting, how long it's been going on, how many have died, and what it's like to be there.

One wartime US President, George W Bush, "being Bush, thinks abstractions and good intentions will conquer... unpleasant facts. To Bush, they aren't even facts; they're illusions. The reality is the great narrative of the war on terror, whose infallible course is set by a higher power. 'The way forward may sometimes appear chaotic; yet our coalition is strong, and our efforts are focused and unrelenting, and no power of the enemy will stop Iraq's progress,' Bush insisted... Close your eyes, and you can almost see it."

24 May 2004 | top of page

Wanted: Gilligan's professor for new 'reality' TV show

Have you ever dreamed of being stranded on a deserted island with a movie star?

Can you make a telephone out of a coconut?

Does the idea of being on a cool new reality series excite you out of your proverbial lab coat?

A well-credentialled US production company wants to hear from suitably qualified nerds willing to re-enact Gilligan's Island as a 'reality' TV show.

24 May 2004 | top of page

Language and writing

Shakespeare by Damon Runyan: from Harry of the Five Points:

"So now we make to parley. On our feet,
Is everybody packin’ proper heat?
We own that joint. They just ain’t got the word.
And if they still don’t, we must bust stuff up,
And run things big, like Barnum tendin’ bar
In big fat France, her racetracks and her numbers,
And maybe we will blow it. Them’s the breaks.
There have been lots of guys we only knew
From all the flowers at their funerals.
And if I get a daisy-patch in France
These Frogs will know that they was right messed with,
And all of Harry’s guys will take the Fifth."


Says Flipsock friend Ioannis, "Imagine (Think of) a world of English without any French influence (impact), including linguistic. Some beautiful folks at the Christian Science (Studies) Monitor have done just that." I love Anglo-Saxon as much as the next person, but English sans French? Quelle frommage!

thanks, John |24 May 2004 | top of page

Getting around blogger's block

Should I ever suffer blogger's block, I'll refer to this template of a standard blog entry for inspiration.

via | 24 May 2004 | top of page

Chernobyl update

Last month we noted the web site about a woman who goes for a motorbike ride through the dead zone surrounding Chernobyl. This month we learn it isn't quite what it seems.

24 May 2004 | top of page

Japan's desert island

Built on a coal reef in the 1800s, this ghost city on Gunkanjima was abandoned when the ore ran out in the 1970s.

via | 24 May 2004 | top of page

Time to shed the metaphorskin

Ever-eloquent Matt Jones on where IT is going:

Drill the digital ground and you'll see that the surface strata of interface has not moved as quickly as what lies beneath.

The shape has changed...

The stuff has changed...

The scale has changed...

The context of computing is vastly different from the west coast labs that windows, icons, menus and pointers originated in. It's mobile, urban, rural, outdoors, underground, personal, intimate, immediate.

Time to shed the metaphorskin of the last 40 years. We won't carry a desktop into the street, a trashcan in our pocket. We'll remap technology to the environment, to our bodies, our relationships, our places and culture, instead of the other way round.

Tangible, embodied interfaces will make the world the interface, instead of our interfaces carving our attention from the world. Worth doing, and worth starting now.

Time to remap everything.

At the Queensland University of Technology, they've been thinking hard about planning their IT infrastructure. Universities tend to have lots of floor space in lots of buildings, sometimes in different parts of a city and often in separate cities altogether. Add heritage buildings, funding constraints and a captive audience of highly tecnoliterate students and staff, and you have some big challenges in planning and installing network cables, servers and other IT hardware.

via | 24 May 2004 | top of page

A Scanner Darkly

Filming has begun on A Scanner Darkly, the Philip K Dick adaptation in which Keanu Reeves stars as the narc who goes crazy when ordered to spy on himself.

Meanwhile, in Bloomsbury, Batman.

24 May 2004 | top of page

Down the rabbit hole

The US Government has dubbed its latest anti-terrorism data-mining project Matrix. The American Civil Liberties Union says:

"This surveillance system combines information about individuals from government databases and private-sector data companies. It then makes those dossiers available for search by government officials and combs through the millions of files in a search for 'anomalies' that may be indicative of terrorist or other criminal activity."

Wearing sunglasses and ultra-cool leather coats may or may not help you when the Matrix gets involved.

24 May 2004 | top of page

last week's stuff



2004 flipsocks:

17 Dec: the sock has flipped
10 Dec: anything anywhere any time
3 Dec: instant flattery
26 Nov: the steamroller of branding
19 Nov: fried v rice
5 Nov: the page with no name
29 Oct: and then there were none
22 Oct: filled with naughty laughter
15 Oct: get souls and disconcert the public
8 Oct: ooh, aah, ooh
1 Oct: pinch and a punch
24 Sep: design is the new art
17 Sep: footsteps of Aeneas
10 Sep: slow art, viral aesthetic
3 Sep: I can see your house from here
27 Aug: forever blowing bubbles
20 Aug: jargon for the digital age
13 Aug: beautiful plumage, the Norwegian blue
6 Aug: brokenated terribility
23 Jul: Alice underground
16 Jul: color-coded
2 Jul: for so long treated as nouns
25 Jun: looking for love, echidna-style
18 Jun: joy-to-stuff ratio
11 Jun: fun's fun but a girl can't dance all night
4 Jun: pink dinosaur
28 May: two people every minute
21 May: incompitnce [sic]
14 May: zygomatic smile
5 May: mailbox
30 Apr: bananaguard
23 Apr: mmmmmWAH!
15 Apr: playtime
8 Apr: googlewhack
2 Apr: we wish to inform you...
18 Mar: daffy dills
12 Mar: echo chamber
9 Jan: refund profologies


Also on this site:

about this site
home page

who is geoffrey ebert?
testing for the fun factor
chicken at the (higher education) crossroads
crawford's theory of interactivity

home-page real-estate wars
the eagle has landed

must-reads for web people
recent reads

pop-culture quotes

they shoulda been words

lemon and rosemary risotto

Written In Blood by Chris Lawson
The Salmon of Doubt by Douglas Adams

Without whom (web):

frankenstein journal (Chris)
tbn97 (Troy)
webster's encyclopedia [sic]
science playwiths (Peter) (Neroli)
Maverick IT network consultants (Rick)
Look! There's a castle! (Brent)
Cairns Corporation (Gerald)
Homosapien Books (Julie and Bruce)
Southern Sky Watch (Ian)
Panda's Thumb (Ian again)
ABC Science-Matters (official)
science-matters (unofficial)
Bovios (Alex Burns)
Lee Battersby
Little Malop Gallery
Digest of Usability Resources and News (Dey)
WooWooWoo (Andrew)



Without whom (also):

Ramona P Lovechild
Katherine with a K
Katherine (no relation)
Claire (no relation)
Toby and Jann
Paul, Warren, Dr K and The New Reality


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