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  ...of the moment  
Lately I've been thinking about how good Facebook is at what it does, and how it has become a unique cultural venue for people to write and be read and to stay in touch with casual acquaintances across gaps in time and space.

There have always been ways of staying in touch with people you were close to: e-mail and various instant message programs online, regular mail and phone, but those all had terrible "discoverability" (you had to get the address or number though some other channel) and were almost exclusively one-to-one communication.

Online, there have been one-to-many forms of communication: Usenet newsgroups and (God have mercy on your soul) website forums, but these were generally formed around mutual-interest topics and themes, not shared history in the real world.

Much of its strength comes from its ubiquity. Not being on Facebook is more of the exception than the rule.

Its curation algorithms are fantastic. I know some people balk at not seeing everything, but I don't think they realize what a firehose Facebook would become for anyone with a decent number of "friends". Facebook offers some tools to pay more attention to certain people you care about, but unlike some sites they don't force you to sort all your contacts into buckets, the tweaking is there if you need it. For everyone else, the algorithms do a pretty good job of bringing you the posts that other people have found most important. There's a bit of a bandwagon effect, and when you write a cool post that languishes uncommented and un-"liked" it's a bummer, but overall the system works well.

(Other people gripe about how oddly recalcitrant FB is about keeping feeds in strict chronological order... though I think the mix and match ordering based on time AND post activity works better for people who are more casually engaged.)

But Facebook banks on one brilliant idea, one other sites leverage as well: empowering users to assemble a collated page/wall/feed of content from people the user finds interesting. Sites using this trick -- Tumblr, LiveJournal, Twitter, Instagram and FB all had different hooks (visual collectors, diarists, pithy bon mot makers, snapshotters, and people you know, respectively) and of all of those FB's "people you know in real life" seems to be the most compelling in a universal kind of way. (Anecdotally, my high school's 20th, post-FB reunion didn't come together nearly as well as my 10th pre-FB, and while there were other factors involved I wonder how much of that is because the "where are they now?" question is so trivially answered.)

Facebook gets a huge number of UX and UI details so right. I do think the curation algorithms are under appreciated. There's no other site providing the non-geek with such a wide and known-IRL audience. Its photo handling is powerful and easy to use, and its instant messaging is a viable replacement for SMS/iMessage. Sometimes only being able to "Like" something feels limiting in a "Newspeak" kind of way, but it also cuts off a lot of negativity and fighting. Some previous annoyances (like endless game requests) have gone away for me. Other auxiliary features add to the experience: the "real time" event sidebar can lead to interesting discoveries (a kind of happenstance endure around the usual curation) and "what you posted on this date in previous years" is a good implementation of a nostalgic feature I've seen and implemented elsewhere.

My biggest complaint is about how this one site Facebook has sucked the air out of the room for the independent web and blogosphere. In the mid-2000s, my blog (which I still double post to, since it's my canonical archive) was also a small social hub, with a homebrew comments system that eventually got utterly deluged by robospam. (I also had a guest-post sidebar, that was great fun from 2002-2008) These days, only the most interesting and topical blogs can really survive and garner attention and community... Facebook has made things both more and less egalitarian in that regard.

There are other problems with Facebook, like how people put their own self-known private selves up against images of everyone else at their public best, and there's crap like vaguebooking, and privacy concerns with a machine that knows so much about mutual friends and even has face recognition. Or the idea that maybe the barrier to staying in touch should be high, like who wants to be in touch with those bozos from high school anyway, or have your elder folks know if you've been up to mischief, or see idiotic posts from that cousin whose politics you can't stand? But hearing and being heard is a very human desire, as is meaningfully staying in contact and having a support community of people you know, and FB does those things better than anything else I can think of


  ...of the moment  
The other week I had a bit of sleepy genius - a new product idea: Kitten Scented Air! I figure we can just put a little kitten in a air-filter looking box, with fans and stuff. Man, wouldn't people love that, to have their whole space smell like an adorable little kitten?

Of course, it might be considered a little mean to box up a kitten like that. (Heh, reminds me of the old "The Atlantic Puppy-Grinding Company slogan: "it may be cruel, but think of the jobs!") So maybe we could just keep the kittens at a central happy kitten farm, and bottle the air, put it into spray bottles.

I think Melissa pointed out it would be a nightmare for people with allergies, so they would have to be those hypoallergenic cats.

Or if we can't get enough of those, I think we could safely offer a homeopathic product: just the air from some dude who was THINKING about kittens. Brilliant, right?

Who's with me?


  ...of the moment  
Found my keys that had been missing for a day or two. Feel like I should make a list of "places to check when you lose something" but I can't remember what should should be on it besides "the pants you were wearing the other day".

Re: yesterday's giant tuba video... on FB Major Schenk told my mom it should be on my Christmas Wishlist... I wrote "Just thinking how I would get that back up from the family homestead in NJ... I have a Scion xA, my sousaphone fits comfortably inside, but this... I think I would have to strap it to the roof, like a christmas tree...." - Sign a petition to add an "art" category in Apple's app store!
"This has been a bad week for the United States, folks. France was directly attacked by terrorists and its response was to promise to house 30,000 Syrian refugees; we weren't and one branch of our government fell over itself to put the brakes on accepting a third of that number. France is defying the very organization that attacked it while we, on the other hand, are doing exactly what that organization hoped we would do. We're being the cowardly bigots they hoped we would be, and as loudly as possible."
--John Scalzi, Frightened, Ignorant and Cowardly is No Way to Go Through Life, Son. These republican governors are chickenshit. So much of conservatism's engine is based on "fear of others".


  ...of the moment  
I just finished "The Once and Future King"... it's a frustrating book at times, so long and wandering. Maybe it needs all that wandering to get to the payoff at the end, the frame borrowed by the musical "Camelot"; King Arthur, weary, heartsick, the triangle with Lancelot and Guenevere breaking him, and also his kingdom and all he strived to create, by his ill-borne son. I was moved by it, not that "Panera" is the best place for catharsis.

I liked this passage:
Elaine recognized Lancelot in two heartbeats. The first beat was a rising one which faltered at the top. The second one caught up with it, picked up its momentum from the crest of the wave, and both came down together like a rearing horse that falls.

Also: "Every letter written is a wound inflicted on the devil." (attributed to a 'medieval abbot')

And finally, this bit of play between Lancelot and Guinevere, now well into middle age or beyond:
"Are you unhappy about something?"
"No. I was never so happy in my life. And I dare say I shall never be so happy again."
"Why so happy?"
"I don't know. It is because the spring has come after all, and there is the bright summer in front of us. Your arms will go brown again, just a flush along the top here, and a rosy round elbow. I am not sure I don't like the places where you bend best, like the insides of your elbows."

What th'


  ...of the moment  
"When firefighters show up we don't care how your car got 20 feet off the road, managed to go airborne for 30 feet, and land in the middle of someone's roof. We just want to get everyone out safely. We already know you're not the sharpest tool in the shed; you don't need to explain that to us."
--Matthew Hagerty, Firefighter, from this piece on behind the scene Firefighter details.
RIP Seattle's Pike Place Market's Gum Wall.. more photos

I'm kind of proud of this deep dive of a 33-line, 24-year-old Computer Game...


  ...of the moment  
Musée de Beux-Arts...

Chairs always make me think of my friend Sarah...

I'd love to have these last two curvy ones around.

Do people Ski-Bob?

Wall of Stuffed Animals...

Rainy night view...


  ...of the moment  
Place d'Armes - I liked the contrast of ornamentation.

Place d'Armes, Notre-Dame Basilica of Montreal. Today's theme is a walking tour of Vieux Port.

Notre-Dame Basilica of Montreal interior. We got lucky and entered just as the English guided tour was going on... such a beautiful interior, this amazing blue color

Inside the Hôtel de ville (Townhall) - I assume the chandalier was lowered for cleaning?

Window at the "Sailor's Church" Chapelle Notre-Dame-de-Bon-Secours.

Facing North from the tower of the Chapelle Notre-Dame-de-Bon-Secours...

and Facing South, the dome of the Marché Bonsecours there.

I liked the "shadow" of the old building on the brick.

Was looking into why my iPhone image/video file name counter had been set back to 0001, 0002. It's because it rolled over from 9,999... yeesh.


  ...of the moment  
at the Chalet du Mont-Royal terrace...

I dig the squirrel gargoyles at the chalet!

Croix du mont Royal

L'Oratoire Saint-Joseph...

The Oratory had some interesting light stuff inside the main area...

The shadows were cool outside as well

The interior has kind of a melgange of different art styles, and this detail from the previous photo seems to show the 60s roots...

Basilique Notre-Dame

A light dinner of Ketchup Potato Chips and Red Wine following a Kinder-Egg Amuse-Bouche. Some of why I love Québec!


  ...of the moment  
"How astonishing it is that language can almost mean,
and frightening that it does not quite."
--Jake Gilbert. That's his start to my favorite poem ever. Lately I've been thinking about the power of words. It's this feeling I'm growing increasingly aware of of fundamental weirdness: how someone can choose to say something, and it (most likely) reflects the universe as it seems to them, though they might be being deceptive). But there is that choice of what and how something is said, and what is left unsaid, and from that choice some limited ability to shape the perceptions of others...

(Ironically, or appropriately, it's not easy for me to put this vague feeling into words...)

I find subtitles in movies distracting, especially if the written version precedes the equivalent from the actor's voice, which is usually the case. It throws the whole farce of cinematic and theatrical productions in sharp relief: these characters have no agency, they, and the people typing in the subtitles, are mere outlets for authorial intent, their words (and by extension: their thoughts, their feelings, their experiences, their whole being) preordained in some script.

But we have no such script. We are actors and authors all at once, at once the product and creators of our environment. (Even with faith in the Almighty, the ultimate Author, there's a lot of free will to be exercised locally.)

How astonishing!
Fun Montreal Fact: on the Montreal Metro, doors open and passengers disembark as the train is still gliding to a gentle stop.


  ...of the moment  
For reasons that aren't quite clear to me now, I've had a desktop post-it saying 'Kirk "Sweet Life" Israel from a dream in april 2006'. I'm not sure if I wanted to tell people about that as a nickname, or what, but here is the dream as then transcribed, so I can at least put the post-it to rest:

I had an odd dream last night. Dizzy Gillespie was giving some kind of concert playing multiple pianos at once, big stride piano stuff. (yes I know that wasn't his primary instrument.) Something happened to him and he wasn't able to finish, so they did some kind of operation to me that copied his skillset so I was able to take over the show... finishing up Bach's Toccata and Fugue in D minor he had started (don't know what happened to the stride piano stuff) in front of an audience on these multiple pianos, but they were specially rigged so that they had some organ keys as well. It was very athletic, moving from piano to piano, and my general memory of the piece helped keep things moving as I read the sheet music, though my ability to play piano like that was new from the operation.

Afterwards there was an audience Q+A though most people were hoping to have asked a Dizzy a question, not me.

Finally some guy was encouraging me to take a middle nickname for myself. He explained that back in the day, talented performers would take a name that implied their ability to put themselves on easy street, though recently the practice had fallen out of vogue because people didn't want to tempt fate that way. So I chose the name Kirk "Sweet Life" Israel.


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  ...of the moment  
As Trd Cruz imitates Billy Crystal, the more he seems like a horrible Nathan Lane.
I'm up to 1991 in my blog going through all the games in COMPUTE!'s Gazette. The magazine is on the downswing (the C64 is almost ten years old at this point, and in 1991 currently Gazette is just a supplement in the parent magazine, before becoming a disk only magazine for a few years) but they've introduced a "Gazette Gallery" of user-contributed art every month. Anyway I liked Vincent D. Zahnle's "Croc".

--Joan Sfar (Charlie Hebdo cartoonist)


  ...of the moment  

...all houses matter


  ...of the moment