Monthly Archives: November 2003


iPod’s Dirty Secret is a short public service video from the Neistat Brothers about problems with their iPod battery.

More stencil art, this in Ann Arbor:

Tomo’s clips of More Ann Arbor Stencil graffiti and A message from Ann Arbor.

mtc’s stencil gallery.

Jose’s more stencils from around Ann Arbor.


Antisocial software

I’ve been feeling antisocial for the past week or so, in part because I have some things to do that require attention to detail over long periods of time and that don’t get done particularly well when I’m being interrupted. Past interrupts have piled up to the tune of 250 emails, 20+ voice mails, a stack of paper mail and a long set of things that would be nice to read but aren’t really that important, plus an office to keep orderly, books to read, a house to get ready for winter, and looming holidays which will be lovely but which will demand time and attention.

Now, in a better world there would be a network that you could plug into that only showed you what you wanted to focus on and would let you disregard the rest, but I don’t know any version of that which is workable. So I have to carry around and use technologies that carry with them the ability to interrupt me (in small amounts) while giving me vast leeway to ignore or defer pings. That’s a delicate balancing act.

Back in the day, there was a big distinction between “online” and “offline”, and you had to make a big choice to go online. Now, I have to make a big choice to go offline.

Some tactics:

Put in an antispam filter. I’m using Spam Assassin, and it works great.

Change modes on people in your reply. If you get voice mail on your cell phone, don’t answer it – just send back an email (perhaps from that same cellphone) explaining the current situation and deferring contact until later. Your reply if it is detailed enough might just be enough of an answer, even if you didn’t hear the question. It’s too bad the US never really picked up on SMS, because there are a ton of voice mails that I get that are probably 40 characters or less as text.

Send one message out that goes to lots of people, rather than a series of individual notes. This is probably rude, but it might be effective, especially if it handles the burden of an “I’m still here” periodic ping. (E.g. this weblog posting.)

Go dark. Turn off the cellphone, the answering machine, the instant messenger. Be invisible to the all-seeing eye of presence and buddy lists. Be present by your absence. You probably have so much stuff to do that someone will notice that you’re still there just by the things that you accomplish, but it doesn’t have to be all that visible.

Deliberately break parts of your network. Go into your wifi settings and select a network that you’d rather be at that the place you are now.

Unplug your laptop. When you run out of battery, it’s obviously time to take a break.

Close some windows on your screen.

Unlearn some bad browser habits. My fingers know how to type “” way too quickly.

Is this heresy? I work for a “social software” company. I love being able to throw notes into a wiki and come back to them the next day to find someone has left something for me to consider. It’s wonderful to be able to do more than one thing at a time, and to do that well. But sometimes you have to give it a rest, and sometimes what is important most of all is a nice chunk of thinking time that isn’t divided into three minute task intervals.

I worry too about a conference I’m going to, one that last year had a few people in the room with wifi and chat and other distractions, where not enough people were present and too many people were distracted (or distractions).

Ann Arbor District Library lookup bookmarklet

Jon Udell writes about his “Library Lookup” tool and how web standards based on interchange of URLs (so called REST systems, an acronym that escapes me) make for easy interoperability between systems. You don’t have to know how every last detail of a system works in all of its inner beauty to make interconnections between two that share common structure for URLs (in the case of book sites, ISBN numbers).

I found out that my favorite Ann Arbor District Library has a catalog that’s supported by his lookup tool. (In short, you use Amazon as your catalog, and then click on a bookmarklet to jump to the AADL library page.) Go to the Library Lookup generator, and fill in the blanks with “Ann Arbor District Library”, “”, and “Sirsi/DRA”. Poof, you can now go one click from Amazon into the library catalog.

Mark Lombardi

Amazing drawings of “conspiracy art”. I saw the show that was at the Slusser Gallery in Ann Arbor and got a chance to look at the pencil drawings up close; the companion book for the exhibition does a good job of rendering them, but to appreciate the fine hand it really helps to get there.

I understand there’s a show in New York City going on, see the Times article below for a review.

Some recent press:

New York Times review: Mark Lombard: Global Networks, organized by Independent Curators International, is at the Drawing Center, 35 Wooster Street, SoHo, (212)219-2166, through Dec. 18 2003.

NPR interview with Robert Hobbs, curator of Mark Lombardi’s “Global Networks” show of network drawings

Article on Mark’s work…Toward a diagram of Mark Lombardi.

In print only: Punk Planet #60 “Lombardi’s Web”, reprinted in the July/August 2004 “Utne Reader”.

Thanks to Valdis Krebs for the links.

Surfer’s voice, and turning off the net

The Wall Street Journal has a column today – “Technology has us so plugged into data, we have turned off” – on the malady they call “surfer’s voice”. This is the experience of talking to someone on the phone who is trying to multitask so their attention has totally wandered from your conversation and all you hear is vague uh-huhs and mumbling from the other end.

A solution, or perhaps a partial solution, says David Levy (U Washington) is to draw the line somewhere and deliberately spend time away from technological distractions. Levy spends his Shabbas away from the computer (Friday sundown to Saturday sundown) – he’s obviously not doing network operations, and nothing is mentioned of whether there’s a similar ban on cell phones or regular phones. (See notes from his LIS grad school class, History of Recorded Information.)

My own small attempt to keep a little bit of space away from 24 hour internet saturation is to spend time writing not online but in my notebooks – there at least there are no distractions from the page, and nothing to beep or blink at your to catch your eye. My computer got moved to on top of the filing cabinet and not the main desk. I still need to have an eye on it every small number of minutes in the day, but even then I’m hoping to turn the tables and have it notify me when there’s something urgent rather than wait patiently for something to happen.

Borders Books strike

We were downtown last night to see a movie (The Station Agent playing at the Michigan Theater, much recommended) right across the street from Borders store #1 in Ann Arbor. There was an active and noisy picket going on in front of the store with about 15 or 20 picketers, signs, a car painted with strike slogans parked in front of the store.

This morning’s walk to Cafe Ambrosia with Saul saw the same pickets going, and I noticed a “Support Borders Strike” sign hanging in the Graduate Employees Organization offices on Liberty St. We didn’t walk right in front of the pickets, it wasn’t on the way to campus.

Some reporting on the strike, since the Ann Arbor News is not covering it in very much detail:

The Industrial Workers of the World (Wobblies) blog “Retail Worker” posts a strike notice from the Borders Workers Union Organizing Committee listing contact numbers in Ann Arbor and Minneapolis.

The Borders Books Employee Union web site has pictures and comments and clippings from the press.

Borders Readers United is a blog with more pictures and is aimed at readers supporting the strike.

Goodspeed Update is steadily blogging strike coverage – Rob does a good job of getting local news for Ann Arbor from a left-ish leaning, student oriented perspective.

Grassy Hill Radio

I think I’ve said it here before, but repetition is the very soul of the net.

One of my favorite internet radio stations to listen to is Grassy Hill Radio, Tom Neff broadcasting from his barn in Lyme, CT. It’s all folk music all the time, with a deep playlist. “Streaming the best in new and old folk music”. I can listen for hours, it never gets tired, and there’s so much to hear.

Good radio is in some way much more compelling than trying to assemble a similar size collection on your own – let someone with a good sense for what’s good and what’s new pick them for you, and you just tune in to whoever is on at the time.

My notes for recent good tunes:

slaid cleaves – broke down – lydia (4:41)

Lots of road songs here too – there’s said to be a track Skunk Juice with a list of automotive lemons.

Dar Williams – The Green World – It Happens Everyday (3:55)

Annie Lalley – Jungle Heart – Comfort Me (3:35)

# Plant flowers in the yard
# Fill up the bird feeder
# Browsing through the paper
# I might buy a weedeater
# I’m living the small life
# Trying to do right
# Oh comfort me
# Comfort me

Fred Eaglesmith – Falling Stars and Broken Hearts – Cumberland County (4:06)

It never stops snowing in Cumberland County. Ballad of a snowplow driver. Good Upper Peninsula driving in the wintertime track.

Ellis Paul – The Speed Of Trees – The Ballad Of Chris McCandless (5:01)

John Gorka – The Company You Keep – Wisheries (5:52)

Acie Cargill, New Year’s Eve

Kate Campbell, New South from Monuments

Lucinda Williams, Minneapolis from World Without Tears