Many have complained about the lack of posts on this blog of late, but one reader has stepped up to do something about it. Watch this space for guest posts from novelist, finance veteran, and regular commenter JSpur, who has volunteered to share his thoughts on the current state of the markets and economic policy. Meanwhile, I will continue to post on my somewhat erratic schedule.
Content disclaimer: I've given JSpur keys to the blog so that he can post at will; therefore his posts are not edited by me, and my approval or endorsement is not required to post here.
Technical disclaimer: I moved the byline up to the top of the posts to avoid confusion. Please let me know if this isn't working somewhere. Also, I apologize if this causes old posts to reappear on the RSS feed.
I didn't realize it had broken in the upgrade until this week, but I think I've fixed the comment preview template so previewing should work again. Now I just need to post more often so there's a reason for people to comment...
(Second try at this post...)
Portions of my Movable Type install (which is the software behind the blog) mysteriously broke during the recent inactivity, and rather than just reinstall I took the opportunity to upgrade to the newest version, MT 4.1. This is pretty much guaranteed to break more stuff (in fact, this has already happened), so here's a thread for posting comments if you notice something not working.
Once I get this sorted out I might get around to blogging about how the move to New York went...
UPDATE: The search box is still broken, but for a different reason.
Earlier this week I mentioned that I've revived my del.icio.us account. The links here are items that I found interesting but didn't have enough extended commentary on to warrant a full blog post. They get a sentence or two of commentary plus tags. There's about a week's worth of recent links up now, plus some from a while back when I'd been using the account before.
There's good reason to cross-post these links here: it adds more content for discussion (del.icio.us doesn't have comments), and allows readers to get everything on one page rather than having to check my del.icio.us page separately. I used to collect items like these into periodic links posts; del.icio.us can do this automatically, which is the approach I'm thinking of using. Several blogs I read use this feature, for example Uncertain Principles. (Scroll down to see recent links posts.)
I'll turn this on soon but I wanted to check first in case people secretly hate this sort of thing. If there are objections I'll put it in the sidebar instead, possibly with periodically-renewed comment threads like I did for Project 365.
I never realized how terrible this page looks if there aren't actually any recent posts. I'm deep into the thesis-writing right now so posting will be very sporadic at best for a while longer, but check back in about a month.
I recently cut down on the number of blogs I subscribe to in order since I wasn't able to keep up with all of them. This required me to remove a number of very good blogs that I simply didn't have time to read. In some cases I am relying on the fact that good posts from certain prolific bloggers will be linked by other blogs that I do read. Anyway, I've updated my blogroll to reflect what I'm actually reading now.
One addition to the blogroll is Zifnab's new blog Labyrinth.
I also removed the media links on the sidebar since I haven't been updating them.
While posting frequency is at a historical low, as of today this blog has reached the four-year mark. Some of you will recall from previous posts that this blog shares a start date with Dinosaur Comics, which you should all be reading. (The recent strip about the standard kilogram was brilliant.)
Also, happy birthday to commenter JSpur!
Despite not posting here, I continue to post one photo per day over at my Flickr page; the Project 365 set now contains a month's worth of photos, and I've geotagged them all so you can look at a map of where they were taken. (Right now the map is fairly uninteresting except perhaps zoomed in on Berkeley.)
I'm intrigued by this idea (via Lifehacker) of taking a photo every day for a year to compile a year-long photographic record. I'm thinking of doing this (starting either on 22 November or 1 January); the challenges would be remembering to take a photo every day, and finding sufficiently interesting subjects for the photos. (Similar to the challenges of blogging regularly, which I don't quite achieve as often as daily.)
Naturally I would post the photos on my Flickr page; I could also post them here, but it might get annoying for those who come for the text (one photo post per day would become more than 50% of the content). So it might be better to put them on a separate page, and only post highlights here.
I almost forgot to do this. All these are from the old site since the new one has yet to obtain a high ranking in the various search engines.
My post about the liquid nitrogen incident drew a few links from other blogs, with a majority of hits coming from MetaFilter. This was great fodder for my obsession with site statistics, and the MeFi-driven traffic spike was especially interesting: it looks just like an excitation process in physics, with a saturation region that lasted about half an hour and then an exponential decay with about a 90 minute half-life.
There was a long tail that remained after many time constants; I suspect there are a couple different populations of MeFi readers, one that visits the site about once an hour and another that visits much less often, maybe once a day.
Since I tagged archived posts for the past year, I've put the category listing in the sidebar under the monthly archives. I may tweak the formatting some. I'd also like to tag posts further back in the archive—at least as far as the beginning of 2005—but it may not happen immediately.
I guess it's been a while since I posted an open thread, partly due to not having much to review lately and partly due to pure negligence. I need to listen to some new CDs so that I can get back to my usual schedule of posting reviews. (The new Sunset Rubdown album is good on first listen; I'll probably review it next week.)
An Inconvenient Truth: I finally got around to seeing Berkeley's most popular date movie, in which Al Gore delivers a Powerpoint talk on global warming. I'm not someone who needs convincing at this point, but I was curious to see what he had to say. Maybe it's just that I've seen too many scientific Powerpoint talks, but I thought it was rather disorganized—it seemed to jump around between different topics without a clear direction. The film is interspersed with vignettes from Gore's life, to explain why he's taken up this particular issue; I thought these were mostly just distracting, but for a popular audience maybe it helps humanize the issue. Visually the film is sometimes very compelling (especially the section showing various major cities flooding as the sea level rises—there's a GMaps app where you can try this yourself) but sometimes a little too twee (the polar bear, the frog). Gore is optimistic that global warming can be solved through what seemed like relatively minor improvements in energy efficiency and emissions reduction. Maybe this kind of ending is necessary to convince people the problem can be solved at all, but I'm much more pessimistic. Rating: 2.5/5
Metroid Prime: Hunters: I'm catching up on all those DS games now that I can play them. Unlike the Gamecube predecessors in the Metroid Prime series, this installment is focused much more on deathmatch than exploration. In the single-player mode the various maps are often clearly just the deathmatch levels stitched together, and the layout is more straightforward than is typical for a Metroid game. Combat is faster and more dynamic than in earlier Prime games as well. There's a steep learning curve for the stylus/d-pad control scheme, but once I got used to it I was suprised at how well I could move and aim. The game's biggest flaw is the bosses: a game this combat-oriented should have appropriately interesting boss fights, but instead of coming up with eight different enemies it keeps repeating the same two with slightly different capabilities. Apart from this, the single-player game is pretty solid. Now I just need to round up some opponents for the multiplayer. Rating: 3.5/5
I rewrote the comments-feed.xml template and it now appears in Google Reader again. Hopefully this didn't break anything elsewhere. Any other issues with the RSS feeds?
I'm going back through the archives and fixing internal links and images, as well as tagging old posts. This is proving to be a time-consuming process, but the category pages will gradually fill up. I also need to fix the archive templates so that they display the tags on each post, and set up the list of tags on the sidebar. Meanwhile, Google Reader continues to ignore me.
Zero 7: The Garden: I'm willing to defend Zero 7 against charges that they play glorified elevator music. Their previous album, When It Falls, may have been mellow and calming but was filled with interesting emotional undertones. Unfortunately, their new release doesn't measure up: while I'm not ready to consign them to the elevator yet, these songs really are fairly boring. Generally I warm up to new music over time, but this is one of those CDs that I find myself liking less every time I listen to it. The tracks that aren't merely forgettable are actually annoying. You can listen to samples at their website or a few full tracks at their MySpace page; "Seeing Things" is better than most, but skip "Pageant of the Bizarre". Or, just listen to the older tracks: "Somersault" from When It Falls is recommended. Rating: 2/5
So I added my own feed (the version with comments) to Google Reader to see how it behaves. The answer seems to be "very badly"; it hasn't shown an update since Wednesday even though the feed was updated several times, and queried by Google's feedfetcher (according to the server logs). So, I don't know what's going on.
I've set the comments feed to be generated dynamically now; for those of you reading it directly I'm hoping it will now show an update whenever a new comment is posted. Unfortunately, it will also be a little slower to load. Let me know if this breaks anything in your RSS reader.
Also: as several of you have noticed, comments don't always show up immediately upon posting. I don't know what's causing this but it looks like the page rebuilds are just delayed (maybe due to server load); if your comment doesn't show up immediately wait a few seconds and check again.
UPDATE: Dynamic updating didn't work out for comments-feed.xml, so I switched it back to static.
I guess some comments are being posted anonymously even when the name is filled in? I've tweaked the template but I'm not sure if this solved the problem; I'm keeping an eye on it. Meanwhile, this blog now has a LiveJournal feed here.
It seems like it's been a slow period for new music lately (hence no music review this week), but the new TV on the Radio album is coming out soon. There's been a ridiculous amount of buzz about this album, but they were awesome enough at Coachella that the hype might be accurate.
Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Man's Chest: I put on my eyepatch and bandana Friday night and headed out for some good piratey escapism. Unfortunately about the first hour and a half of this movie were insufficiently interesting and I found my mind wandering back to the real world. Doubly unfortunately, as a result of the unfreezing process the guy directly behind me had no inner monologue and was having trouble controlling the volume of his voice, so we were regaled with an endless series of "UH-OH!" and "OH NO!" and laughter at inappropriate moments. What I really wanted to do was turn around and say "Arr, matey, still yer tongue or I'll cut it out and feed it to th' sharks" but somehow I restrained myself. Um, anyway, the extended action sequence at the end of the movie acheived an acceptable level of swashbucklery, so I wasn't entirely dissatisfied. And of course Johnny Depp is awesome. But the first movie was better. Rating: 3/5
Jonathan Lethem: Gun, With Occasional Music: (Thanks to Jolene for recommending this.) After seeing Brick I was ready for more noir in unusual settings, and this book delivered with a detective story in a near-future dystopian Oakland. The fun thing about a book set in the East Bay is that many of the locations are familiar, so when the protagonist visits the El Cerrito hills or 59th and Telegraph I can visualize it exactly. Except with
Uplifted "evolved" animals walking around. Also, it is illegal to ask questions without a license, hence P.I. is "private inquisitor", and the government encourages the use of designer drugs to keep the population docile. The setting is obviously not intended to be a realistic possible future, but rather to instill a sense of confusion and alienation in the reader while fitting in with noir conventions. A very nice touch was that late in the narrative, a twist occurs which puts the detective in the same position as the reader with respect to the oddities of the future society. Any good noir story should have the narrator employ colorful and witty language, and Lethem is very good at this; I kept turning the pages looking for the next clever line as much as for the next plot twist. Rating: 4/5
I need to leave the old server up just so I have more of these next month.
The time has come to change the quote at the top of the blog. I still like the Milton quote, but it hasn't seemed as relevant lately. I'm on the lookout for something worthy to replace it. Suggestions are welcome for quotes that capture the spirit of this blog and look good at the top of the page. (This is probably also a good opportunity for subtle mockery.)
In the meantime, I will continue looking through classic literature and song lyrics.
It may look like the old Arcane Gazebo, but it's running on a new host with an upgraded version of MovableType. And there are a few changes, some of which were noted in the style/layout thread:
I'm working on the templates and stylesheet for the new incarnation of the site. So far I've just been duplicating the current look, but post a comment here if there's something I should change to make the blog more readable or just better-looking. One change I have already made is that comments will open in the current window instead of in a pop-up. (If there's a strong preference for the pop-up style I'll change it back.) I am also incorporating some requested changes to the RSS feed: it will contain the full post rather than a 40-word excerpt, and there will be a second feed that also contains comments.
I apologize for the increasingly frequent site outages. The network infrastructure in this building isn't so good, and if this persists I'm going to look into moving the blog to a different host (probably something easy like Typepad).
Search queries that led to this site last month in bold, editorial comments in italics.
Clearly I need to be posting more often, as there are only four (now five) posts on the front page. In the spirit of customer satisfaction, I am going to try an experiment: request a topic, issue, problem, or question in the comments to this post and I'll attempt to write a blog post about it. I may not address a request if I truly have nothing to say about it, but no topic is a priori off limits. So, is there anything you'd like my opinion on, or a discussion thread you'd like to see started?
Another installment of search requests from my referrer logs. Not much of interest this month, except for the guy trying to use it to ask me questions.
Should I make this a regular feature? As usual, the boldface items are search requests that led to this blog last month, and the italics are editorial comments.
356 searches for the word "gazebo" last month, almost double that of February. One could probably track seasonal demand for gazebos this way. (But what about seasonal demand for Gazebo?)
I turned off trackbacks a while ago due to spam, and I see that two blogs much larger than mine (Marginal Revolution and Brad DeLong, both on my list of daily reads) have done the same. Indeed, looking in my server logs I see that there has been a massive, distributed trackback spam attack underway since last Monday—presumably this is also what's hitting the other blogs. There's no way I could have policed this last week, in Baltimore with my computer broken, so I feel vindicated in closing off trackbacks several months ago.
Making Light has a way to prevent individual links from contributing to the Google pagerank of the linked site; this will indeed make this kind of spam pointless, but I don't think it will act as a deterrent. It's basically free to post trackback spam and I doubt any spammer will bother to check which sites are tagging links with the "nofollow" attribute. Certainly they haven't noticed that I don't even have trackbacks anymore.
Ultimately the result will be the complete abandonment of the trackback protocol, as we are seeing already. I hope this won't also happen with blog comments, but since the value added to the blog is much higher for comments it's more worthwhile to police them for spam rather than close them entirely.
From the referrer logs, these were all searches leading to pages on this blog. Editorial comments in italics.
The most popular search string was (as always) "gazebo", 189 hits last month.
For a while now inverse's uptime has been limited by the time between power outages in Birge Hall. Until this morning it had almost been a year. Apparently it was the wind and rain that knocked it out, although this says more about the instability of the power here than it does about the severity of the storm. (I'm sure you've all seen the e-mail forward that purports to show storm damage in California, and displays a photo of an overturned plastic deck chair. That's about right for yesterday's weather.)
At some point before I graduate I need to move this site out of Birge Hall and to a more permanent host, but I'm only just starting to think about how I will do this. I may continue to maintain my own MT installation (or switch to Wordpress), or just move to something like Typepad. I'll probably put off this move a while longer, though.
This blog is now three years old. I'm always sort of surprised that I've been able to stick with it, as I'm usually terrible at keeping up with long-term projects. Coincidentally, the day I started blogging was also the day Ryan North started posting Dinosaur Comics. Indeed, it was a beautiful day to be stomping on things.
(It's also the birthday of commenter JSpur, who is 49 +/- 3 today. He's in Hawaii right now and therefore, I think, not reading this.)
Anyway, on this auspicious occasion I have some random trivia about the
evolution intelligent design of this blog over the years:
Ever since Google started indexing me, the most popular search leading to this page has been "gazebo". At first I was somewhere around the 60th hit for this search string; now I'm typically the 10th or 11th. (I get a lot more of these hits when I'm on the first page of search results.)
Also, the second most popular search string from last month was the title to this post; for a period of a few weeks Google decided that I was among the top five experts on this phrase, ranked just behind Fleshbot and Xeni Jardin. Fortunately they seem to have recalibrated and I no longer get these hits.
Because I am a big nerd, I have plotted monthly totals for comments and the average number of comments per post, over the blog's three-year history. Happily, the trend is increasing. (Comments are the best part of blogging, after all.)
And finally, the top five most-commented posts:
4. (tie) Everyone's talking about it [Open Thread] on October 3, 2005 (24 comments)
Finish Line on October 16, 2005 (24 comments)
2. (tie) Shyness and serotonin on September 26, 2005 (31 comments)
Halloween thread on October 31, 2005 (31 comments)
1. Essential 90's Albums/New Year's Resolution on January 6, 2006 (36 comments)
Thanks to everyone who comments here; hopefully we'll have another good year of obscure music and liberal ranting.
It's cleanup day in the lab! Those of you who have seen my lab will have some idea of what this entails. I should have taken before/after pictures but I forgot to do one before starting. Anyway, in this spirit I'm also updating my blogroll. Additions include the indispensable physics blog aggregator Mixed States, hardcore superconducting qubit blog Coherence *, and Dynamics of Cats. Mike^2, who comments here sometimes, has a new blog: Teh. And yes, I have been reading Overheard in New York. Finally, note the new address of Uncertain Principles: http://scienceblogs.com/principles
I've turned Trackback off by default, since 99% of Trackback use seems to be spam. I'll probably add Technorati links as a replacement in the near future. (There are some spam blogs that show up there, too, but it's not as bad.)
If the comments weren't working, it's because the database went down and I didn't notice. It's been fixed now.
Gremlins in the physics department took the network down, so this site was unavailable all day. Obviously we're back up, although it's not clear how stable this is. In times like this I think about moving the site to Typepad, but it's nice having my own server even if the network is flaky.
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