Thursday, 28 August 2008

RE: Aquarium for your toilet

Finally, Fish-n-Flush is bringing the toilet aquarium to market!

This proves: if an idea’s good enough, and you wait long enough, someone else will do it for you.

The aquarium toilet is one of my longest held It’d-Be-Cool-If ideas. I still remember the moment 15yrs ago when the idea called me. Something about the fish bringing calm and reflection to some often stressful moments. This use case means the tank isn’t the best candidate for the aquarium. I hold the stool-as-aquarium would be more interesting for all involved, but the tank-as-aquarium is close enough to justify me holding onto the idea this long.

Thanks to David Pescovitz at BoingBoing for the pointer.

Tuesday, 26 August 2008

Thursday, 21 August 2008

Look + See: Curation in Eyewear

I just picked up a new pair of glasses from George over at Look + See Eyecare in Minneapolis.

Until I found Look + See, I was weary of eyewear places. It was a classic case of the paradox of choice. Lots of potential options and difficulty discerning differences without trying on every pair in the store.

George and I actively ignored the vast majority of the frames in the store. We may have gone through 5 frames – out of the hundreds on the walls. Five. Cause, really, how many times do you want to say ‘No’?

Plus, picking 1 from the 5 George recommended was easy.

While part of my final bill was for frames and lenses, part is also for George’s expert curation and recommendations. I don’t want discount that. Remember, the fire hose is free….

Tuesday, 19 August 2008

Workaround for IE Overly Accepting in Rails’ respond_to format

Looks like Microsoft’s Internet Explorer will accept any format a web server is willing to give it.

This doesn’t play nicely with Rails’ 2.0+ respond_to feature. A slick little bit of code that asks the browser what it wants and replies accordingly.

Here’s a conversation between Rails & Firefox

Firefox: “Hey Rails, I want this url”
Rails: “No problem, which format would you like it in?”
Firefox: “HTML, please.”
Rails: “Here you go.”

Here’s the same conversation with Internet Explorer

IE: “Hey Rails, I want this url”
Rails: “No problem, which format would you like it in?”
IE: “Whatcha got?”
Rails: “I’ve got Atom, and…”
IE: (interputting) “OK THANKS!”
Rails: “…um, what? I wasn’t finished, really? ok, here you go.”

I had ordered my code alphabetically, so ‘atom‘ came before ‘html‘, like this:

respond_to do |format|


Because IE is so, um, accepting, I’ve needed to put ‘html‘ first:

respond_to do |format|


For more on this issue:

Thursday, 14 August 2008

What if We Had Just 10% More Energy Producers?

If memory serves, the internet was originally developed as a national defense mechanism. A way to keep communications – in a distributed manner – flowing after a nuclear attack.

Each node a client and a server, a receiver and producer.

Today, not only are the vast majority of Americans online (receivers), but a good chunk – 10% – are actively engaged in making online a better place (producers).

While our communications and communities are distributed, our energy is still centralized.

Broadcast if you will.

From where you’re sitting, can you see the power plant generating the electricity you’re using to read this?

Probably not.

So, we don’t see energy being generated, it’s far away, feedback takes a billing cycle, and our only way to reduce costs is to reduce demand.

And we’re surprised selling energy efficiency to the American public is an uphill battle?

But what if?

What if, just 10% of us were also putting energy back onto the grid.

1 household per block (another take on the block-by-blog idea) sucking down solar, wind, or geothermal. Covering their energy needs and putting the surplus on the grid.

Reducing demand by increasing the number of suppliers – even if they’re only nano-suppliers, cover a few households.

This may even minimize the outages from minor disasters.

The economics are tough from a private citizen doing this on their own, so I wonder – what if this was part of being a energy customer. The energy company finances and maintains the solar panels on your suburban roof. Like sitting in the exit row on an airplane. But for your neighborhood’s electricity.


(citations forthcoming)

Tuesday, 12 August 2008

Daily Bread: 12 Aug 2008

The boy and I have been making bread (almost) every morning for the past few weeks. I find it a relaxing way to start the morning as he picks at breakfast. The loaf in the photo above, I made this morning.

The simplicity of bread-making is compelling. 4 ingredients: flour, water, yeast, salt.

Separate they don’t taste like much (still, each time we make dough, the boy tastes a licked-finger full of each ingredient).

You’ve probably got those 4 items lying around your kitchen. I did.

No HFCS, no extra flavors. Still, this very simple (and forgiving) recipe makes the best bread I’ve had in a decade. Easy.

Custard-y interior with a hard, crusty exterior.

Perfect for a creamy cheese or a thick swath of Nutella.

And I’ve yet to hit reach 5 min/day, it usually takes fewer.

Artisan Bread in 5 Minutes a Day

Friday, 8 August 2008

My 11 Favorite Eponymous Laws

  • Amara’s law — “We tend to overestimate the effect of a technology in the short run and underestimate the effect in the long run”.
  • Brooks’ law: “Adding manpower to a late software project makes it later.”
  • Conway’s Law : “Any piece of software reflects the organizational structure that produced it.”
  • Edwards’ law: “You cannot apply a technological solution to a sociological problem.”
  • Goodhart’s law: “When a measure becomes a target, it ceases to be a good measure.”
  • Hanlon’s razor: “Never attribute to malice that which can be adequately explained by stupidity.”
  • Heisenberg’s Uncertainty principle: “States that one cannot measure values (with arbitrary precision) of certain conjugate quantities, which are pairs of observables of a single elementary particle. The most familiar of these pairs is the position and momentum.”
  • Keynes’ Law: “Demand creates its own supply.” (The economists’ version of Gibson’s ‘the street has it’s own use for things’)
  • Parkinson’s law: “Work expands so as to fill the time available for its completion.”
  • Sturgeon’s revelation: “90 percent of everything is crap.”
  • Winer’s rule of alternatives: “One way to do something, no matter how flawed that way is, is better than two, no matter how much better the second way is.”Two is more than twice as bad (Note: Thanks Dave!I need to find a proper citation for this. Google wasn’t helpful)

Update 11 Aug 2008
I’m interested in the relationship between Sturgeon’s Relevation and the Pareto Principle (i.e the 80-20 rule).

Wednesday, 6 August 2008

Tuesday, 5 August 2008

“It’s been devastating to innovation”

While listening to John Gruber & Dan Benjamin’s – The Talk Show #24, I was reminded about one of my pet peeves with all the free software – it completely kills the innovation1.

John and Dan were talking about email.

I feel the same way about email clients as I do about feed readers – they’re water.

And by water, I mean money.

By money, I mean: my wallet is open for something better than


“Email is built on a set of standards, and is implemented by a number of different servers, clients, etc. All this makes innovation in the email space move at a glacial pace.” – Jason @ Babelnote

1. I’m calling web browsers the exception that proves the rule. For some reason, there are plenty of desktop options for web browsers, each fairly distinct and interesting from the other. Throughout the day, I regularly alternate between Safari and Camino while usually touching Internet Explorer and Firefox every other day.

Sunday, 3 August 2008