Monthly Archives: September 2011

Delicious, “mangled by carpetbaggers”

Once upon a time it was, and it was the new cool way to use bookmarks and tagging, and I used it all the time. I put more than 10,000 bookmarks into the system. This was when Flickr was on the top of the world and before Facebook and Twitter had made much of a dent. turned into, got bought by Yahoo. Some cool people started to work there supporting it. Yahoo gave it a loving embrace, and those cool people left to do other cool things. They warned me on their way out, and I moved my 10,000 bookmarks to pinboard and mostly stopped using both systems because I wasn't ready to invest heavily in something that other people didn't trust.

Yahoo sold to the founders of Youtube, who now run a company called AVOS. By all accounts the transition hasn't gone very well, e.g. your most loyal users say that the system has been mangled by carpetbaggers. From Violet Blue on ZDNet:

When Yahoo! got caught with its finger on the trigger to kill Delicious, an amazing cry came up from the internets to save it. Then AVOS rode in on a white unicorn to save it. Yay!

But, no. What we got was our worst fears about the bubble, confirmed.

Delicious is a bitter lesson for everyone. It’s the difference between how people actually use a product versus how rich, out-of-touch knuckleheads think people should be using that product, all to further their own self-interests.

If you make a startup we like, such as Delicious: please don’t sell it.

Pinboard has been doing well, but it's a one-person show with a very modest balance sheet. 

I don't really know what to conclude about this phase of network history, other than to note that the anti-internet texts of the 1990s provide some small measure of solace, and that if you want to keep something that you find on the net in order to find it again making a copy of it in addition to bookmarking it is appopriate.


Nickel Plate 765 steaming through Ann Arbor

I spotted Nickel Plate 765 as it was heading north through Ann Arbor on Tuesday, September 27, 2011. It was easy to recognize from the clouds of black smoke and the distinctive steam whistle.

This is the historic steam locomotive no. 765: a high-stepping, fourteen wheeled magnificent machine that stands 15 feet tall, weighs 404 tons, and goes over 60 miles an hour; restored to the way it looked and sounded when it was built by the Lima Locomotive Works in 1944.

More background from the account of the 2009 journey; this video is from Ross Orr, and is used with permission (CC BY-NC-ND 2.0).

UARS reentry tracking

The UARS satellite is making its way back to earth. Here’s some parts of the ways to track it. (Think of it as research for your next disaster movie.)

On Twitter, the #UARS hash tag has a lot of traffic. I’m following @UARS_Reentry and @NASA and that’s enough to get the summary information.

Heavens Above has an orbital display with current location information; you’ll need to refresh periodically.

I wouldn’t know where to start looking on Facebook for information.

On Wikipedia, the Upper Atmosphere Research Satellite page is getting an edit every few minutes, as wikipedians try to decide the proper balance between newsworthiness and encyclopedic content.

There are a few video channels that people are hosting, but none of them are very interesting. Instead, watch Weekend Update science editor John Belushi reporting on the impending fall of Skylab.


Facebook changes

Facebook is changing, again; that's not really news, since it seems to change all the time. Some people will like it, some people will hate it, and for the most part people will get used to it since they always seem to.

I turned on the new profile page, and started monkeying around. The most notable part was a nice and very usable timeline that unearthed a few gems from the not so distant past, and that also surfaced a small handful of posts that I was able to delete because I didn't want to see them again. It's remarkable that even stuff from four years ago was relatively easy to dig up; to do the same task on Twitter is impossible at the moment, and blog archive systems could learn a thing or two as well.

I'm never going to end up with all of my digital history tucked away neatly inside the Facebook world; for better or for worse, it's too messy to find and not worthwhile to even think how to relive enough of the past. Still, there's something appealing now to a system that really has a sense of time, and where things that are old don't disappear. 

The day after: what 9/12/2001 was like

I wrote this for a now defunct mailing list on the day after 9/11. It seems reasonable to post it now, to remember what happened in a way that doesn't focus on the event, but rather how much things have changed since then.


Saul and I went swimming today at the Y. The big pool was full of kids taking lessons, and the little pool had 3 parents and their kids splashing and kicking and in Saul's case swallowing a bit of water. The radio was on rather loud in the lifeguard's office, with what sounded like NPR news going. Earlier in the day we went to farmer's market – it's nearing the end of the peach season, but there are peppers in abundance, and plenty of tomatoes.

It's definitely starting to be fall here, with leaves turning red on at least one tree on my regular path downtown. […]

A fighter jet made a circle over the center of campus as [we] were heading downtown, the only plane in the sky the whole day. On Labor Day there had been a low-flying small plane trailing an advertising banner for a bank (I won't bank there, now) but nothing like that today. Totally clear blue skies and no jet contrails like normal.

By 11 am there were no copies of the New York Times, Wall St. Journal, or even USA Today to be had from vending machines or from Borders.

My immediate family is checking in, and everyone is accounted for. I have three cousins in New York City, and my parents are visiting my brother and sister-in-law in DC. There are stories to tell but
not now, I am not ready for that quite yet.

Big rally on the Diag last night, something like 15,000 people were there, the coverage from the student newspaper. We were putting Saul to bed at the time.

I spent far too much of Tuesday glued to the net, the radio, and to my phone, and then late at night I finally hauled up our TV from the basement and looked at some pictures.

It's late now, and I don't really have a lot more to say. I would like to hear what you are doing. I know that not everything is all right, but even a few words about what your day is like, the sights and sounds around you, would be nice to hear.

For those of you who lost friends and loved ones yesterday, my thoughts are with you.

September 2011 flooding on the Susquehanna River basin after Tropical Storm Lee

The remnants of Tropical Storm Lee have made their way slowly from the Gulf of Mexico to the northeastern United States, bringing a storm with a slow-moving heavy rain. There is widespread flooding in the Susquehanna River basin and flash floods across the area. The Weather Underground's Jeff Masters has commentary on the storm from the morning of September 8, 2011, saying

An extreme rainfall event unprecedented in recorded history has hit the Binghamton, New York area, where 7.49" fell yesterday. This is the second year in a row Binghamton has recorded a 1-in-100 year rain event; their previous all-time record was set last September, when 4.68" fell on Sep 30 – Oct. 1, 2010. Records go back to 1890 in the city. The skies have now cleared in Binghamton, with this morning's rain bringing the city's total rainfall for the 40-hour event to 9.02". However, another large region of rain lies just to the south in Pennsylvania, and all of the rivers in the surrounding region are in major or record flood. The Susquehanna River at Binghamton is at 25', its highest level since records began in 1847, and is expected to overtop the flood walls protecting the city this afternoon. In Hershey, Pennsylvania, Swatara Creek is 18' over flood stage, and more than 8' above its record flood crest. Widespread flash flooding is occurring across the entire area, and over 10,000 people have been evacuated from their homes.

For current information, tune in to local news. Among the sources I have found that are broadcasting emergency flood coverage are WNEP TV-16 Scranton, the Times Leader in Wilkes-Barre, the Times Tribune, and WBNG-TV 12 Binghamton.

Emergency services channels can be tuned in via Radio Reference for Binghamton, Broome, Tioga, and Susquehanna CountiesLycoming County Public SafetyBradford County FireSchoharie County Public Safety; and other systems.

Here are some maps.

The Middle Atlantic River Forecast Center is a good first place to look for current information. This map from Wednesday, September 7, 2011 shows the flooding outlook for the area.

From the same source, point by point forecast river conditions:


This rain map, which Jeremy Denlinger pulled from the National Weather Service, shows a 72 hour rainfall total for the area.

Flooding in the Wilkes-Barre, PA area lead to mandatory evacuation of low-lying areas of the Wyoming Valley, according to a story in the Times-Leader which ran this map of affected areas:


Forecasters are comparing the impact of this storm to the 1972 Hurricane Agnes. The National Weather Service has a detailed meteorological account of the flooding from that storm.