This just in
- Lewis Shiner and Bruce Sterling: Turkey
City Lexicon, a useful list of terms for common problems in
SF writing. Finally, I can describe my
penchant for writing dialogue scenes without describing where the characters are
or what they’re doing (“Brenda Starr dialogue”).
(via Cory Doctorow)
- Steven Levy: Lawrence
Lessig’s Supreme Showdown, a look at the life of the famed cyber-legal-thinking-guy.
(via Doc Searls)
- Cleveland Scene: The
Wal-Mart Menace, a look at Wal-Mart’s rather shady history of dealing
with lawsuits. Need another reason to hate Wal-Mart? How about their utter
contempt for the law, their employees, and you personally?
- David Brin: Essences,
Orcs, and Civilization, a keynote given to the Libertarian National Convention and
a fascinating look at the idealist/pragmatist divide that runs orthogonal to the
more familiar liberal/conservative split. Also a reminder that, no matter how dreadful
our present civilization may seem, it’s way better than anything which preceded it
(via Wes Felter)
Forgot to mention…
One of the problems with posting when you’re falling asleep
(a mistake I’m this close to repeating as I write this) is that you
forget stuff. Like, the major reason I wanted to mention Metropolis
was that I rented it from the local video store, which all of a sudden has
an anime section. It’s no Allen Street Video (an establishment near Penn
State which nourished many a budding anime fan), but it’s a heck of a lot
more than their previous selection (none).
Of course, Suncoast also has a big anime section, and Cartoon Network
has whole anime blocks now—which fans with long memories still find ironic.
I should explain that: Back when Pokémon had not reached American
shores, there was a controversy over a particular episode of the anime
which apparently caused seizures in a number of kids. At the time, some
Cartoon Network exec swore that their network would never show this “anime”
stuff, because it was too complicated and violent. (I don’t have a reference
handy, so I can’t promise complete accuracy.)
To go even further on a tangent, I’ve seen the seizure episode (untranslated,
not that it mattered much). No ill effects, but I also wasn’t sitting right
in front of a big-screen TV, and no one was saying I could stay home from
school if I had had seizures. (An insinuation I make entirely without
evidence, by the way. Heck, just disregard this paragraph entirely.)
Dumb blond-related reporting
Apparently, a number of news organizations reported on an allegedly
recent study asserting that blond hair would die out in 200 years
or so. (I encountered the BBC
Supposedly, too few people now carry the “blond gene” for it to last
much longer. Hilariously, it also suggests that “so-called bottle
blondes may be to blame for the demise of their natural rivals.”
Naturally, this spread widely through the blogosphere, as can
be seen in the Blogdex listings for the
for some reason, the BBC
provided multiple addresses for the article). The problem, as you
may have guessed, is two-fold:
- The study is actually several years old
- The proposition makes no sense
As the New
York Times (registration required) puts it, “Apparently it fell into the category
‘too good to check.’”
First off, blondness is not caused by a gene. Hair color is much
too complex to be the work of a single gene. My hair, for example, is
brown, which is somewhere between my parents’ hair (black and blonde).
Second, genes don’t just disappear unless there’s something bad about them.
Non-blondes may still have recessive blond genes that could result in
blond children. Hair colors mix, yes, but it isn’t like mixing inks.
The component parts still exist and can show up in unexpected combinations
in later generations.
Honestly, didn’t anyone pay attention in biology?
Want to know what I’ve been spending time on lately? Well,
one of Shelley
Powers’s query to the RSS community got me thinking about the
essential nature of RSS: What is it, and what does it need to
do what it does? I concluded that, in terms of its data model, the
thing RSS does which makes it
special is associate a resource (called a channel) with a list
of resources (called items) which, at any given time, are considered
current. The most common uses for that are things like headline
feeds, such as a newspaper (a channel) listing its most recent
articles (the items).
In terms of RDF,
all that is needed is a single property (call it “current”), which
associates a resource with a collection of resources. Everything else,
titles, addresses, descriptions, saying what the contents of the
collection are, can be handled by the core RDF
vocabulary or common vocabularies like the Dublin Core.
I quickly threw together a description of this idea
which I linked to from a comment on Ms Powers’s post. To my surprise, this
actually lead to an outside comment
from Timothy Appnel, who called it “quite an intriguing and interesting concept.”
That, apparently, was all the encouragement I needed. So, I have now posted
a much more detailed description of RDF Channel.
The basic vocabulary is slightly different (Item is gone, but there is
now a distinction between Channels and Feeds), but the big addition is
the lengthy guidelines on how to describe a channel and the examples.
It’s not quite complete, but it should be enough to get a rough sense
of what it’s about.
Naturally, this means I disagree with Ms Powers’s suggestion that
RDF is not suited
to describing transient information such as syndication feeds. In fact,
to prove that it could be done, and that RDF
Channel is sufficiently detailed for real-world use (and to give me some
experience using Python), I’ve put together a working aggregator that
reads RDF Channel
feeds (which include RSS 1.0 and
TDL feeds). Given some
more time to complete its primitive UI
and add support for some new ideas, I’ll have something I’ll can post here
as an example. For now, I’ll just say: It can be done.