Warmth and Brightness

One of the best photoblogs around, for my money, is 101-365. In addition to some stunning photography, Chris Heilman has posted several investigations into the color of wine, and postulates that you can uniquely describe the shape of a wine sample’s transmission spectrum with two parameters, warmth and brightness. (He also looks at absorption spectra.) The next question is, does knowing the shape of the spectral curve help predict the flavor?

Best Lists of Bests lists

No, that’s not a typo. Bill Turner (of Brilliant Corners) unveiled the Lists of Bests site last week. Built on the Amazon Associates web services API, it presents interactive versions of various “best of” lists for movies, books, and music; allows you to use them as checklists and remembers which ones you’ve read, watched, or heard from list to list; and allows you to rate and build your own lists. There’s some natural synergy here with Blogcritics, and with anyone who ever felt like John Cusack’s character in High Fidelity (which is curiously not in either movie or book lists on the site that I can see; have to rectify that).

What Bill has done is to move something like Amazon’s ListMania out from under the Amazon umbrella and make it more discoverable.

Wish list for Lists of Bests:

  • Allow me to add new items to a list without them being already on the site, by Amazon number or ISBN
  • …hmm, that’s it, really.

I want to be able to add things like the KEXP Top 90.3 albums lists, books that have profoundly moved me, the best works of comic fiction of all time, and other stuff that’s not constrained by the works on the Best Of lists.

Your advice requested

My trusty Nokia 3360 is about to go the way of all cellphones. Lately the display screen has stopped working. I can usually get the display back if I press hard above the screen on the case, but it’s getting to be a real pain.

For various reasons (primarily cost and lack of availability through my current carrier) I’m not considering a PDA/phone hybrid right now. Given that constraint, what cell phone should I buy?

Currently in the running: the Sony/Ericsson T68i (though I wasn’t impressed with the flimsy case when I picked one up on Saturday) or one of the new Nokia 3650s with the built in camera. Or the Motorola T720—though if the battery on that is anything like the battery in my old Motorola it’s way way out of the running.

The definition of “good weekend”

  1. The Matrix Reloaded on Friday night. One thousand and one nights of late night college existential arguments summarized in 138 minutes of beautiful mindblowing kung-fu computer footage.
  2. The first Copper River King salmon of the season Saturday night at Anthony’s Pier 66. Along with a plate of fantastic northwest oysters.
  3. A gorgeous late spring day in the garden, finally getting ground cover started in the new bed under the cherry tree, three new roses planted along the driveway…
  4. …our new grill assembled and a batch of hamburgers (made with an onion from our garden and some rosemary from one of our plants…
  5. …and props from Doc Searls.

Nope, doesn’t get much better.

Doc: It’s not that we blog so much, it’s that you blog so little

Doc takes on some folks who argue (along with the impossible Andrew Orlowski) that blogs shouldn’t be indexed because they noise up Google too much:

Here’s a thought. What would happen if the archives of all the print publications out there were open to the Web, linkable by anybody, and crawlable by Google’s bots? Would the density of blogs “above the fold” (on page one) of Google searches go down while hard copy sources go up? I’ll betcha it would.

My point: Maybe this isn’t about “gaming” algorithms, but rather about a situation where one particular type of highly numerous journal has entirely exposed archives while less common (though perhaps on the whole more authoritative) others do not.

In other words, if you choose not to participate on the public, freely linkable, not for pay Web, don’t complain when others who do participate by the rules of the game are easier to find.

A year ago today

I turned in my last papers, blogged about a ton of stuff, and finally remembered to say “I’m done.” At the time it didn’t feel like the enormous milestone that it turned out to be. Like anyone else I miss being in school, but I’m glad I’m out—not just because I’m no longer accruing debt, but because it means I actually get to work on meaningful things.

Meeting the winemaker

Pike and Western held a tasting last night to sample the wines created by Ricardo Cotarella, the Italian winemaker behind Falesco, who helped lead a revolution in Italian viniculture by convincing grape growers to experiment with new grapes such as Merlot and improve old grapes like the Sicilian Nero d’Avola. Over the course of the evening (and seven wines from Sicily, Lazio, Umbria, and Tuscany), we learned quite a lot about the industry, such as the importance of decreasing plant yield to provide intense flavor.

Afterwards Lisa asked Cotarella if he had consulted at any Campagnian vineyards. “Yes, several,” he said. “Feudi…”

“Mastroberardino?” Lisa asked.

“No, no,” he replied, and held his hands apart palm up. “If you consult for Feudi, is no longer possible to work for Mastroberardino.” (The two winemakers split in a family feud about ten years ago.)

He told us that his favorite Campagnian varietal was probably Greco di Tufo. Lisa challenged him, asking about Fiano di Avellino, but he said he preferred Greco because while Fiano might be mistaken for other indigenous white wines such as Falenghina, Greco always was clearly Greco.

Alas, June Carter Cash

I was in a meeting yesterday when someone said June Carter Cash had passed away. It’s like the departure of an elemental force as well as a touchstone back to the Carter Family and the long-lost roots of a distinctly American music. And an American love story. Who else but June could have brought Johnny back to the straight and narrow? Who else but June could have written “Ring of Fire”?

The New York Times has a moving obituary.

In the Beginning

One last program for the year with the Cascadian Chorale, this one featuring Fauré’s Requiem and Copland’s In the Beginning. It’s fun to sing the Fauré, though I have to confess that, this being my fourth or fifth lifetime performance, I have to remind myself to stop and listen every now and then to appreciate the beauty.

The Copland is a different story. A rare piece for Copland, it’s written for a cappella choir and soprano solo and is more akin to his early avant garde works than later symphonies such as Appalachian Spring with their explicitly folk-tune based melodies. The piece is is no specific key or meter, but visits about twelve different tonalities throughout, all with hummable melodies and each yielding to the next in a slow chromatic rise of pitch throughout the piece until the final lines are sung in an ecstatic seventh above where the music started. The rhythms are propelled by the natural rhythms of the text, the first chapters of Genesis. The whole work is said to be one of the most challenging choral compositions of the twentieth century. I believe it. But it’s also one of the most beautiful.

Hope to see you all at the concert

Keiretsu: Matrix, Paris, life changes, nostalgia

Quick sweep through the keiretsu this morning:

  • Shuman has been blogging like his hair was on fire, writing about summer movies, TV, and the iTunes Music Store. Today he tweaks the folks who expected deep meaning in The Matrix Reloaded: “The Matrix is not a terribly intelligent series. But that doesn’t matter in the least, nor should it detract from the movies. Just as die-hard Star Wars fans grew up to find all kinds of hidden meaning in what George Lucas admits were intended to be children’s movies, fans of The Matrix are remembering it as more than it was intended to be.”
  • George and Becky are back from Paris and George is blogging the experience, complete with nightly menu readings. So far, to recap, it’s been canard, escargot, foie gras, more escargot, lamb, pork, Chateau Forquet, and a Basque meal. I’ll have to find out how George talked Becky into the sewer tour. I’ve always been drawn to hidden places in cities like that, but I could never convince Lisa about the catacombs in Rome, much less sewers.
  • Craig has finished some major coursework but is taking the summer off to focus on writing. He says “The most recent book I had a hand in, Teach Yourself Web Services in 24 Hours, just hit the shelves.” Cool.
  • Esta brings back some serious found object nostalgia. In return: the smoked glass candy dish on the table in one grandmother’s house and the bobble-head dolls from Africa in the other grandmother’s curio cabinet.


I tried to post something from Houston, but I lost my draft. Just as well; I was teed off about the funky Internet access there—a Wayport access point with no DHCP, and a four-point access station that offered paid wired connections but no wireless connections—and that would have you swipe your credit card to pay for an electrical connection.

But all of that is irrelevant, since I’m home now. I’m sorry I wasn’t able to spend the rest of the week with my relatives and my uncle’s friends, but getting to spend the rest of it with Lisa more than makes up for it.

Anyone for tennis?

On this, the last full day of vacation (since I spend almost all of tomorrow in a plane; I love east coast/west coast trips), I thought I’d end up eating more sensibly and exercising more. I was half right.

Breakfast was simpler this morning, by which I mean fewer vegetables (my dad and I weren’t cooking). Scrambled eggs with ramps and onions, country ham, biscuits, and grits. Surprisingly I wasn’t stuffed, having been pretty selective in how much I ate, and Mom and I went for a short walk after breakfast to settle everything in.

Man, if yesterday was the worst of late spring South Carolina weather, today was the best. Though the high was almost where yesterday’s was, the morning was much cooler and the humidity was almost nonexistent all day, and while the sky had threatened and oppressed on Sunday, today it was clear blue with only a few wispy clouds.

Which, I suppose, is how I got the idea that racquet sports would be a good idea. I dragged Mom over to the badminton court first, knowing full well that it was too windy and that we would end up at tennis. To get the full humor of this, you have to know that PE was the only high school class I ever got a C in, and the last time Mom played tennis was almost 40 years ago. Thankfully, between lots of extra tennis balls, perseverance, and the lack of jeering spectators, we managed to avoid making complete fools of ourselves.

That was probably the high point of the day. The rest: a snack, sleep, swimming, fish fry (with hush puppies), Alka Seltzer (to settle the fried fish and hush puppies), Whose Line is it Anyway?, and bed.

Tomorrow’s blog forecast: clear tomorrow with a 15% chance of early morning bloggage, clear in the afternoon across the whole country from Charleston to Dallas to the Pacific Northwest, and a likely late-evening blog flurry coming in from Seattle.

More on disappearing albums

In a comment on my article about Radiohead’s albums disappearing from the iTunes Music Store (as reposted at Blogcritics), Matt MacInnis makes excellent points about the leverage that bands like Radiohead and Sigur Ros may have in their contracts to negotiate better royalties for new form factors. I wonder why other artists with equally high leverage, like U2 and Sting, haven’t done so. Maybe because they’re on Universal?

Another milestone API

Dave Sifry at Technorati has posted an API for Technorati. Unlike the other milestone web APIs (Google, MetaWeblog, Amazon), it uses simple REST and parameters passed in URIs to get information such as the link cosmos for a URL, information about a given blog, or all the blogs that are linked to by a given blogger, all in clean XML.