A Blog Worth Reading

Miles Levin was 19 years old when he died of a rare form of pediatric cancer a few days ago. He kept a blog at hospital sponsored web site for people receiving medical treatment and their families. There’s a write up about him on CNN that I just came across, so I hunted down his blog, which is buried rather deep and can’t be linked to because you have to register as a user to access it. But here’s one of his posts from two years ago:

July 7th, 2005.

I went to the driving range the other day and I was thinking…
I was thinking how you start out with a big bucket full of golf balls, and you just start hitting away carelessly. You have dozens of them, each individual ball means nothing so you just hit, hit, hit. One ball gone is practically inconsequential when subtracted from your bottomless bucket. There are no practice swings or technique re-evaluations after a bad shot, because so many more tries remain. Yet eventually you start to have to reach down towards the bottom of the bucket to scavenge for another shot and you realize that tries are running out. Now with just a handful left, each swing becomes more meaningful. The right technique becomes more crucial, so between each shot you take a couple practice swings and a few deep breaths. There is a very strong need to end on a good note, even if every preceeding shot was horrible, getting it right at the end means a lot. You know as you tee up your last ball, “This is my final shot, I want to crush this with perfection; I must make this count.” Limited quantities or limited time brings a new, precious value and signficance to anything you do. Live every day shooting as if its your last shot, I know I have to.

I found out today 5 year survival rates are just 20%.


Slickr: The Flickr screensaver

If you like browsing through Flickr as much as I do (or if you want your son’s latest photos to be your screensaver), get it here. It does what you’d expect it to, plus two tricks:

  • Press D and the current photo becomes your destop picture.
  • Press the space bar to go to the current photo’s Flickr page.

Do you know about etree.org?

To celebrate the release of iTunes 7, last night, for the first time in ages I actually loaded some music on my iPod for a change instead of just podcats. I’m listening to a Ben Folds concert I downloaded from etree.org over a year ago. If you can figure out the technology (namely BitTorrent and how to convert lossless audio formats like flac and shorten into MP3) there’s some great music available. Check out the tracker.

iTunes 7 actually fixed my iPod. It seems to have rebuilt my corrupted database file. Not only that, I could swear the screen is brighter now.

The Cartoon Me

I’ve been slumming around on There.com lately. It’s a 3D virtual world kind of thing.

I read BoingBoing.net every day, and one of the editors, Cory Doctorow, frequently mentions the comings and goings in the online 3D world Second Life. I bought a $10 membership to the place about a year ago but never used it. A few weeks ago, after having upgraded the guts of my PC, I decided to check it out. Maybe I had totally missed out on the reason for its appeal.

Well, I didn’t. At least to me, the place just plain stinks. It’s a virtual world that takes from the worst elements of the real world–sex, vanity, gambling, materialism and consumerism–and lets people go completely out of control with them. Practically every other user-created building in Second Life is a store selling slutty fashion for women. The irony of spending real money on more virtual property than anyone could ever need is completely lost on these people. And all the cybersex that goes on, along with the necessary equipment and scripts to support it, had me scratching my head and wondering, “What is WRONG with these people?” The worst part is the 3D physics and graphics were state-of-the-art about eight years ago.

So I decided to give There.com a try. Back in 2003, they blew through $30 million to develop their world and it shows. The landscape and professionally created structures are pure eye candy. The in-world vehicles are a blast to drive. It’s more difficult for users to make money as developers, so for the most part only the most skilled people can make a living at it, so the landscape isn’t so overrun with virtual crap.

What I like best about There.com is that it’s rated PG-13. I can let my kids play in there–supervised, of course–and not worry about coming across a pair of bare naked avatars performing oral sex on each other. The three of us have spent the past two weekends barreling over the landscape in dune buggies and flying over it with a jet back strapped to our character’s back. I met some people from South America and I’ve been able to use my Spanish (my second language) for the first time in ages. I’m trying to convince my sister in the US to sign on so that her two girls and my two boys can play together.

Yeah, so anyway, I’m sure we’ll get bored with it eventually, but for now it’s pretty fun. For about $4 in accessories, I even got my avatar to look like me, right down to my shoes:

Is that a hoot or what?

My username there is “Pavster,” BTW.

Kanji lookup

In Japanese Windows 2000 or XP there’s a utility to lookup kanji characters by drawing them with your mouse, but if you can’t draw them well enough you’re screwed.

This site will let you lookup characters by choosing radicals. I just found it and it saved me the embarrassment of having to ask a coworker to read for me. (I hate doing that. It’s a man thing, like refusing to ask for directions.)


Interesting Show Notes Experiment on curry.com

People like to do nice things for people they like. I like that about people. Part of being charasmatic is letting people do nice things for you.

Someone helped Adam Curry set up a wiki for his show notes. The content is user-contributed, and fanboys listeners went whole hog with the first entry.

Not that I plan on copying the idea–seems like the kind of thing that would work only for the uberfamous like Adam–but it’s an interesting step forward in the evolution intelligent design Flying Spaghetti Monster of podcasting.

I have thought of putting up a forum, but really, I should think first about putting out content a bit more frequently. And fixing that damn comment bug.

New AJAX Customizable Portal Page Thingie

Netvibes.com is a very cool page you customize with the contents of RSS feeds, weather, etc. It’s programmed using AJAX (if you don’t understand, don’t worry) and it does the absolutely coolest thing when you add a podcast’s RSS feed. Just try it, I won’t spoil the surprise. Since I listen to podcasts at work all day and nibble incessantly on news sites, Netvibes will be my browser’s new default start page.