Diversity Photography


I thought I would share a photo of Missouri’s colorful flora. Yes, you never know what exotic bloom you’ll come upon when out walking in these hills.

This silk floral lei was hanging from a tree in the middle of the forest that surrounds the Illinois end of the the Chain or Rocks Bridge. For ‘junk’ it was surprisingly pretty and fit the lush green of a typical Missouri marsh in summer. Artful graffiti. That’s the surprising thing about Chain of Rocks — not that there isn’t graffiti, but that the graffiti is rather attractive, and somehow appropriate.

I discovered the lei when I went with my roommate early yesterday morning to the Chain of Rocks: me to walk the Bridge, him to take his new bike on the bike path that follows the Mississippi until downtown. We picked morning since with the summer comes the summer heat and humidity.

Yesterday was only a start on the festivities I’ll attend this week. Missouri has come alive with a rich tapestry of interesting, and free, events. Tomorrow my daily outing will be the St. Louis Zoo, to see the king penguin baby and the new Fragile Forest exhibit. Also tomorrow, the first of the weekly concert series at the Botanical Gardens; Friday brings the first of the musical evenings at the zoo. Forest Park features the Shakespeare play, The Tempest, in the wonderful outdoor amphitheater. Next week brings the finest ragtime festival in the world to Sedalia, Missouri. All nice breaks from the web page design, coding, and writing.

Not that I don’t spend a lot of time regardless with the latter. We finished Loren’s Wordform conversion this weekend, and I really do like the look of his site. The “Floating Clouds” design takes on new meaning with his sky blue photographs and use of transparent sidebar. I wish I could take credit for these design additions, but Loren decided on both, and it really works for his site and the overall layout and concept.

We also broke the “800×600″ barrier with his site — the center columns combine to 900 pixels. It was that or shrink Loren’s photos, and I’m not sure that the need to ‘rigidly’ follow this standard outweighs the effect of this shrinkage. If a person has an 800×600 monitor, they will need to scroll past the sidebar somewhat to get to Loren’s writing, but all of the content column will fit in the viewer, and I think this is the critical element. Hard to say, because I’m perceiving the design from monitors supporting 1024, or higher, resolution.

Speaking of perceptions. I, like some others, also listened to the Chris Lydon OpenSource radio program last night. I wasn’t even aware of it until people started mentioning it yesterday, and then I had to catch the ‘last showing’ in Seattle at 9pm (11pm my time).

From a radio perspective, I thought there was too many interruptions in the show — phone numbers to call, station breaks, notes about sponsors. I don’t listen to much talk radio so perhaps this is normal.

The guests were David WeinbergerDave Winer, and Doc Searls. As has been noted already elsewhere, this may not have been the best of choices for a show on Web 2.0–not that the people aren’t involved in it; but that this group has decidely focused viewpoints that don’t necessarily reflect that of the general populace.

For instance, a person named Catherine called into the show and noted that the internet fosters communication but in a sterile manner. This was mild criticism, but the guys didn’t necessarily address it so much as they tried to bury it with their enthusiasm. This seems to be all too common: critical debate has a very fragile existence in weblogging conversations. Discussions are either love fests or flame wars; there is very little in-between.

I also have one minor correction to make about what was discussed: Doc Searls and David Weinberger both mentioned how open source is owned by everyone and can be worked on by anyone, but that’s not entirely true. Open source is like proprietary source in that there are always those who control the direction and modifications of a specific piece of software–it’s just with open source, those who disagree with this direction can make a choice to start in a different direction, spun off from the main.

This is important to keep in mind because one misinformed criticism leveled at open source is that it is ‘too chaotic’–an assertion recently made as a reason not to release Java, as open source.

(Now what this has to do with Chris Lydon’s radio broadcast, leading to the title “OpenSource”, I have no idea.)

But I digress. David mentioned that he spent the weekend in a place with little internet access, and how cut off he felt by it. Lydon responded with the question: Is David addicted?

Riding over Drugs

Dave Winer made a statement in reply to another caller (Ruth) that jarred badly. In response to her observation about the use of the internet by people in Vietnam and her wonder how they’re using it, he jumped in with a quip that people in Vietnam are online primarily looking for sex. He said this also applies to LiveJournalers. He may have been semi-joking, but it showed little respect for the caller, and her comments. It was a glib, offhand response that added little to the discussion.

This statement aside, if there is one thing that would have given the show more grit, it would have been to include a more diverse group of interviewees. This particular group shares many of the same enthusiasms; without critical feedback, the show puffed a little overly much, becoming more of a pep rally than a true discussion of Web 2.0. This did, however, lead to the funniest part of the broadcast: after a particularly exuberant set of statements about how the web is going to change the world, a station break mentioned that the show, Living on Earth, would follow.

My biggest surprise of the evening was how nice Doc Searl’s voice is. I don’t think I’d ever heard it before, but he has a lovely voice. However, my perceptions may be a little biased because of something Doc said that was one of the most honest if quiet assertions in the entire program. When David Weinberger brought up how the weblogging environment still reflects the early dominance by Americans, and not just any Americans, but geeky Americans, Doc interjected, ‘…and males’.

For that, Doc earned a rose.

Photography Places Plants


The roses at the Missouri Botanical Garden are in full bloom, and unlike last year, I haven’t missed the early show. I spent yesterday afternoon taking photos and just walking about, enjoying the brilliant color and delicate scent.

As I was walking past the Lilypad pond on the way to the experimental rose garden, two mallard ducks swam towards me, the female hopping up on a circulation pipe, the male on the pond wall. I don’t normally pay much attention to mallards, since they’re so common. Yesterday, though, I notice how colorful the bird seemed in the bright afternoon sun.

The male has such a brilliant emerald green head, and that azure band on its wings stands out sharply against the subtle browns, blacks, and whites. The female isn’t as colorful, but does share the blue band, and the warm, dark eyes.

I started taking photos of the birds, getting close enough to pick out the intricate detail of their feathers. When was the last time I had looked closely at a mallard duck’s feathers? To notice the lacy patterns and subtle coloring, made richer by the bright, swatches of color?

Last night, as I was going through the pictures, I thought about a friend of mine who would have passed the ducks, as if they weren’t there. Chances are, though, he would also ignore the roses, the trees, the squirrels and most other things around him. He is a man who is so tightly focused on his immediate environment–his family, work, and his communication with others through the internet–that I’m not sure when the last time was he saw a rose, or really looked at a mallard.

As I uploaded the mallard photos to Flickr, I wondered if I had captured the beauty and the grace of the birds well enough to attract appreciation for their uniqueness; or would they only rate a glance and dismissal as just ducks–probably garnering more attention if they were dressed of their feathers and cooked in a delicate apricot-brandy sauce.

There are so many beautiful photos uploaded to Flickr, it’s a wonder that any photo stands out. A picture of a rose that might have drawn exclamations of delight a few years back becomes just one of many in a continuous stream of images. I’ve found that among my photos those that grab attention tend to be ones where the images are small and odd enough to not be easily identifiable. I don’t have any photos of naked people to test the hypothesis that these generate the most attention.

Speaking of which, since my ducks were preening their chest feathers, I was tempted to label the images with the tag ‘breasts’. I still might.

I’ve spent too much time on the computer today. Sometimes when I’m tired and have been staring at my computer monitor for a long time, spending hours looking at dark print on white, I’ll look up and everything in the room seems sharper, more colorful, and richer. The effect lasts only a moment, and I hold my eyes open as long as I can–until they tear. Yet I can stare at my room or out my window for hours and it will never sharpen or enhance what’s on the screen.

Not even my ducks. I showed these photos to my roommate and he said, “Uh huh. Nice. Ducks” Ducks becomes both a verb and a noun, not to mention a warning: this way there be ducks.

“What did you write about?”

“I wrote about ducks.”

“Uh huh. Nice. Ducks.”

Now when I wrote on the commonplace, the ordinary, and the benign, I’ll ‘tag’ it ducks. Who says I don’t understand how tagging works.


Scorching in the IT Kitchen

If you cast your mind waaay back, you’ll remember the IT Kitchen group effort we had at the end of last year. It was an interesting experiment–open up a weblog and a wiki to edit access by any person who came in off the street, and see what happens.

Well, like all new things it had its up and downs, not the least of them was my own fussing and hovering. But the real killer came after the Kitchen had been quiet for some time.

The Wiki was hit — hard– to the point where I didn’t even know how to recover it. The weblog, which had been relatively untouched for the longest period of time was also hit badly: in comments, trackback, and people coming in through the open doorway I provided. It got to the point that the only access to IT Kitchen was from spammers.

I ended up making a backup of the database and then closing the account. I wasn’t sure about putting it back up again, but I figured I would after a couple of months passed and the spammers hopefully had lost the address. Not the wiki — I won’t do a public wiki ever again. But a closed version of the weblog, in Wordform, so people’s links wouldn’t break.

Unfortunately, the CD I had burned of the backup ended up corrupted, and I couldn’t restore the database. The hosting company is great about backups, but not to an account that’s closed. Even then, if I had checked with them a few weeks back, they probably would have still had the backup.

There’s not much I can do to restore the entries at Kitchen, but luckily, some are still accessible through The Wayback Machine. I had hoped I would be able to also recover from Bloglines, but it looks like this service only goes back to January (or most recent 100 entries, whichever comes first).

If you do have an entry at the site you want to recover, now is the time to do it. And if anyone happens to have an aggregation of all the original entries, I sure would love a copy because I could re-build the weblog from this.

Lesson Two learned: One backup is not enough.

Lesson One learned: wikis updated by the general public only work if there’s enough people interested in helping to maintain it to offset the spammers, trolls, and script kiddies. In other words, the only viable public wiki is Wikipedia.