sneedle flipsock

3 September 2004: I can see your house from here

home page | blog

flipsockgrrl @ gmail .com

This week:

Wireless in Philadelphia

For about US$10 million, Philadelphia could become the world's largest wireless Internet hot spot. Transmitters would be placed atop lamp-posts, delivering wireless broadband across the city's 135 square miles.

via flite | 2 September 2004 | top of page

Creepy, spooky, scary

Explore the 99 rooms: beautiful, creepy and occasionally scary. (requires Flash/Shockwave and sound) (thanks, Claire)

Teddy-bear snuff movies are not for the soft-hearted. (via BoingBoing)

JD Smith wants to show you his collection of fecal tongs. For more in this vein, the Museum of Hoaxes has more gross stuff than you can poke a body part at. There's lots of tongs at the Tong Wiki. (thanks, Trevor)

2 September 2004 | top of page

Asking the big questions

Could a single dark matter particle be light-years wide?

Fifty years ago Hendrik Casimir was trying to understand why mayonnaise moves so slowly. He ended up discovering that space itself generates a force, and these days evidence is accumulating that most of the energy in the universe is 'dark energy'. You can see the Casimir Effect with an atomic force microscope.

Many people living in the southern hemisphere have never seen a false dawn. Now you can, with explanatory notes.

New research indicates that chronic drug use changes in the structure and function of the brain's neurons, and the changes can last for weeks, months or years after the last fix. "These adaptations, perversely, dampen the pleasurable effects... yet also increase the cravings..."

1 September 2004 | top of page


A qualification is a qualification, not the meaning of life. The British government insists that high-school graduates are "magically getting brighter", based on ever-increasing pass numbers in the A-level exams. The obvious riposte is that kids aren't necessarily getting brighter--instead, the exams are getting easier.

This year Georgetown University in Washington DC is using a computer-based matching system for assigning dormitory room-mates. With anonymous messaging and common-interest search tools, the system resembles popular dating web sites.

In the USA the university ratings season is starting. "As part of the ritual, college president associations send press releases every year to education reporters... saying how hideous these rankings are and reminding us that each of their campuses in special in its own way. Most of us who write about college admissions share the view that the rankings are tacky and unscientific, although that doesn't stop us from referring to them often in our stories." Nevertheless, comparing rankings over a period of years reveals something new: "A Harvard degree isn't the status symbol it used to be... and that goes for Yale and Princeton too."

Government officials "are touting the success of the 1-year-old Web-based system that tracks foreign students at US universities and colleges and has led to 187 arrests for various violations." Students who commute daily across the US-Mexico border to attend classes also face increased security checks.

"First, computers learned to beat people at chess, then they started answering 411 [directory assistance] calls. Now, computers endowed with artificial intelligence are going where only teachers ventured before: they're grading essays." One day, they may even become good at it.

"Arts faculty subjects at Monash University will be cut by 20 per cent during the next two years, with the university claiming the move will rationalise the faculty and increase its research output."

The universities quality agency praised the University of South Australia for its "culture of innovation" and ability "to accommodate change without being afraid of it". The UniSA audit also highlights academic staff concerns over increasing workloads.

How to get ahead in business: if you're planning something a bit risky, somewhat expensive and with potential to damage the organisation's reputation if it fails, then remember to tell the boss before you actually do it. That way, you won't be escorted off the premises by security guards, as happened this week at the University of Southern Queensland.

Every second year, the president (vice-chancellor) of the University of Georgia teaches a first-year politics class. It's part of an initiative to offer small classes of less than 20 to new students, and it also keeps senior academics in touch with the student population.

Three Massachusetts state colleges will require students to own laptops this year. By 2009, around 30,000 students will be using portable computers on campus.

1 September 2004 | top of page

Usability and design

How to draw a useful site diagram: "...keep an open mind and to be creative. The ultimate goal is to produce a diagram that accurately describes either what has been created or what is yet to be created, and do so in a manner easily grasped by various stakeholder groups."

Put this on your wishlist for Santa: a fishtank toilet cistern. (thanks, Paul and Justina)

Comparison shopping: iPod versus compact cassette. (thanks, Fraser)

This user profiling and testing toolkit will help you understand what your customers want when they visit your web site or contact your organisation.

A blob of plasticine endlessly divides and mutliplies, then combines and reforms. It's like a web version of a Sesame Street animation. (requires Flash) (thanks, Michael)

31 August 2004 | top of page

Your eye in the sky

Enter a latitude and longitude, then click 'update' to see the view of your house from space. For example, Melbourne is 37°47' south, 144°58' east. Bewdiful. Use the same site to view the Moon.

31 August 2004 | top of page

Operations research

Eric B Hansen's 1992 treatise "On Drying of Laundry" holds a treasured place in the collections and hearts of countless mathematicians, engineers, and persons of the cloth.

Important safety tip: farmers should beware when entering manure pits.

The world's vast collection of research journals contain many reports about positive results that turn out, later, to be simply not so. The Journal of Negative Results and the Journal of Articles in Support of the Null Hypothesis try to keep track of these reports. (via the Annals of Improbable Research)

Lots of research papers from Bell Labs staff who are trying to measure, describe and predict Internet traffic.

31 August 2004 | top of page

Dear Abby

Email addicts and the people who love them.

You need a collection of skills and people to make your intranet work well as a knowledge management and communication tool. Here's a summary; for an external-facing web site, you'd add a marketing/public affairs specialist.

You're an IT tech, you're around 40 years old. You don't necessarily have to become a manager in order to continue having a fulfilling, well-paid career. Here's how to avoid the manager trap and keep working on stuff you love.

If you do choose the management career path, make sure you understand when to manage and when to lead.

How to manage workplace conflict: finding a balance of creativity and stability for an IT team can help turn conflict into more productive working relationships.

How to get money to upgrade your organisation's IT hardware: communicate and persevere.

Productive mentoring relationships require proper planning; agreement on goals, objectives, and expected outcomes; and proper follow-through on agreements and promises made by both the mentor and person being mentored.

30 August 2004 | top of page

Sales figures

People who own more DVDs also rent more DVDs--and more VHS videos too.

via Fast Company

Ten years ago the US Government decided to stop subsidising the student loan industry. Today, lenders are billing the government nearly US$1 billion a year, four times the amount they charged three years ago, exploiting a legal loophole that guarantees the lenders big profits at taxpayer expense. <rhetorical> Wouldn't it be smarter for the government to pay the money directly to universities? </rhetorical>
(Username for the New York Times link = flipsock, password = sneedle)

How Google keeps innovating:

Most Fridays at Google, ... Marissa Mayer and about 50 engineers and other employees sit down to do a search of their own. Mayer, an intense, fast-talking product manager, scribbles rapidly as the engineers race to explain and defend the new ideas that they've posted to an internal Web site. By the end of the hour-long meeting, six, seven, or sometimes even eight new ideas are fleshed out enough to take to the next level of development. Some of those ideas might become new features on Google, new code or search algorithms, or a new way to juice up the Google home page.

... The sessions are kept to one hour, and individual presenters never get more than 10 minutes. But everyone knows that the conversation won't end when the meeting does. Promising ideas are quickly outlined on the intranet site. Usually, the person who came up with the idea is put in charge of turning it into a feature. "I never have to hammer on people," says Rosenberg. "They showcase their ideas and then move on them."

30 August 2004 | top of page

Boobs have brains too

Murdoch's topless page-three girls have a strong political consciousness, apparently.

On 22 July Anna (22, from London) asked:

"Why has it taken so long to bring out a 22-page pamphlet on basic planning for emergencies like keeping a supply of batteries, food and water? This should have been rushed out after 9/11."

On 22 March, Melanie (22, from Watford) was concerned about government waste:

"To think that £20billion of taxpayers' money can be squandered on red tape is horrifying. Our schools and hospitals desperately need that money, not a bunch of bureaucrats. It's got to be tightened up to make sure our taxes reach frontline services."

Other topless 'models' have commented on teenage pregnancy and drunkenness, the fantastic work of British soldiers in Iraq, the retirement of Colonel Tim Collins and other weighty matters of state. Oh, and the size of Enrique Iglesias's willy.

via BoingBoing | 30 August 2004 | top of page

Shifting centre

"[A]n informal, 'top-of-the-world' cultural confederation is forming; knitting Vladivostock, Sapporo, Vancouver, Rekyjavik, Helsinki and Beijing, and points between, somehow." Will the new axis of world leadership be closer to the Arctic Circle than to the equator?

30 August 2004 | top of page


"IT alone has never delivered value or competitive advantage. It's the combination of technology and innovation that helps companies outpace rivals."

DIY hamster-powered nightlight. (via BoingBoing)

Tell a GPS-enabled artificial intelligence system where you've been for a month and it'll guess where you're going next. It will also detect strange behavior.

Five postcards from the bleeding edge of technology: smart tags that track products through their production and distribution networks; bio-simulation software to hasten drug development; a printer that produces 3D plastic models; distributed renewable-power generation; and autonomic computers that configure themselves, balance intense workloads, and know how to predict and address problems before they happen.

Why libraries should not use RFID tags in books: "Library books should remain a private partner in a relationship of exploration and learning with the borrower. RFID tags give library books something they don't need: a transmitter that can become a blabbermouth."

"The central myth of content management is that it can free non-technical content owners from the constraints of IT." You don't need to buy a single, expensive system to manage all your content; instead, "consider a media and entertainment conglomerate with many brands, lines of business, divisions, etc. Using the federated approach, employees can discover and repurpose content from multiple sources: images stored in Canto, videos managed in an IBM system, product content living in Stellent, and reuse rights living in a custom database.

27 August 2004 | top of page


A UCLA political science professor has reviewed "what he calls 'easily available evidence' relating to the historic use of chemical and biological weapons. He found something surprising--such weapons do not cause mass destruction."

Three cases from Pinkerton's 1873 casebook: a corpse in a bank, fraud on the railroads, and a mysterious drowning.

Researchers at the University of NSW say people who are in good moods tend to have unreliable memories, making them useless as witnesses to crime. (via BoingBoing)

27 August 2004 | top of page


Planet of the Apes as a Twilight Zone episode: Rod Serling narration, ad breaks, the lot.

When Ms Calendar told Giles she'd spent the summer at Burning Man, I had no idea what she meant. Now I have a better idea, though the organisers say that "to truly understand this event, one must participate." *sigh* Another one for the Round Tuit list.

"This is Allehe reporting live from a staged protest outside Theed Starport. Just a few moments ago protesting cartoons went suddenly missing--warped outside our great galaxy. Where have they landed? This we do not know. What we do know is people are angry... and showing their support in banning CREDIT Dupers... also known as cheaters. It appears the Great SOE GODS are favoring the cheaters over the fair and honest gameplayers. I will remain here until there is no news. This is Allehe reporting live from Theed Spaceport, Naboo, Intrepid. Back to you Dan."

From the current issue of Popular Science:

"[M]odern science fiction is facing a crisis of confidence. The recent crop of stories mostly take the form of fantasy..., alternate history... and space operas about interstellar civilizations in the year 12,000... Only a small cadre of technoprophets is attempting to extrapolate current trends and imagine what our world might look like in the next few decades. 'We’re staring into a fogbank,' Stross says, 'and we literally do not know where we’re going, only that we’re going there very fast.'"

27 August 2004 | top of page

Lifestyle choices

"The Face" magazine never enjoyed huge sales, but when it championed a look, a book, a film or a band, people took notice. "To buy into The Face was to identify with a more glamorous and materially aspirational life than your own... In recent years, however, there's a belief that maybe even the Good Life isn't such a desirable goal."

American Republican Rob Long observes that "the sad truth is, the real difference between Democrats and Republicans is that their celebrities are, like, actually famous and ours are, well, singing weirdly erotic songs about Our Savior."

27 August 2004 | top of page


How to keep the perfect employee from committing the perfect mistake: reflect, critique and challenge.

No matter how poorly you run a brainstorming meeting, some decent ideas will surface. The important thing is what you do *after* the meeting.

27 August 2004 | top of page


JibJab made a parody video of Woody Guthrie's song "This Land is Your Land", starring George W Bush and other American politicians. It was a big hit on the 'net, and a company that had bought and renewed Guthrie's intellectual property rights sent in the lawyers.

Now it turns out the evergreened rights don't actually belong to the company. Cory Doctorow comments: "If they'd just kept their lawyers in their pants, they'd still be sitting pretty."

27 August 2004 | top of page

Web and 'net

URLinfo queries lots of different data sources and search engines to find information about your web page. Type in a URL and use the tabs across the top of the screen to see which search engines are linking to your page, get a Wave accessibility report, analyse your keywords, and do lots of other nifty things.

Gmail and usability.

Eight quick ways to improve your search engine's usability.

Email marketers are worried about Google's Gmail service: what's the point of spamming Gmail users if Gmail already serves up Google-brokered advertising?

At Purdue University scientists used images from a scanning electron microscope to make a movie of the T4 virus altering its shape to attack an E. coli bacterium. Says Michael G Rossman, "A better understanding of the infection process is a step forward for fundamental science, but it also could allow scientists to alter the baseplate so that the virus could infect cells other than E. coli. T4 might then be used to deliver beneficial genes to damaged or infected human tissue."

27 August 2004 | top of page

She goes, she goes... she just goes (eventually)

Strewth! Ruth Dunkin resigned as Vice-Chancellor of RMIT University. To the last, she remained true to her view that a CEO can't be expected to have all the answers all the time, and that senior managers must collectively share responsibility for an organisation's success--and failures. And let's not forget that, in Dunkin's four years as vice-chancellor, RMIT's "research performance has improved greatly, and it has doubled its publication output and its research income."

In other .edu news this week:

27 August 2004 | top of page


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


top of page

subscribe, contribute or comment by e-mailing flipsockgrrl @ gmail .com

Creative Commons License
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Licence. Site created 30 May 1999. Home page URL