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There Is Nowhere To Eat Dinner In DC

I'm at a cafe about a block from the White House, watching the world go by. There's a man to my left on a cell phone, with about ten large cameras hanging from his body. He's talking animatedly about cameras into the cell phone.

I've spent the last three days in a weird mix of meetings, slide demonstrations, and late night peregrinations through an Edward Hopper landscape, looking fo…



Columbia has a news digest site they call Newsblaster which is the best I've ever seen. Each news category has a summary auto-synthesized out of a slew of articles that their crawler finds. Unlike Google news, which just pastes together the lead sentences of several stories, Columbia does some sophisticated processing on the text to actually p…


Blogs And Google

I'm knee-deep in preparation for a slide talk tomorrow, but I can't resist posting a link to a pretty mind-numbing open letter to Dave Winer from a certain Daniel Brandt.

The gist of Brandt's letter is to ask Dave Winer to take down his blogroll, which (in combination with a zillion other blogrolls) is skewing Google's rankings to fa…


Azeem Azhar Talks Semantics

Azeem Azhar has an excellent summary of the two schools of thought in search engine design, and how they pertain to Google's recently announced purchase of Applied Semantics.

I'm starting to cringe at the word "semantic", Lord knows I've done my share of harm there. It applies to both very structured Aristotelian type 'al…


Aroma Elite

The coffee maker in this Westin hotel room is called "Aroma Elite". I love the idea that someone spent thousands of dollars coming up with that name. And now I have joined the Aroma Elite, as I sip my cup of joe.

The Westin is a schizophrenic place. Promises of endless luxury, and rapacious fees for the tiniest bit of service. They have strangely fetishized the beds here - the ele…


Peer-to-Peer Search

I've set up a discussion list on peer-to-peer search engines, since there seemed to be a lot of interest in the topic at the O'Reilly conference. The ultimate goal is to come up with a lightweight, flexible protocol that search engines can use to ask questions of each other, but it's a hard nut to crack.

If you'd like to be in on this information retrieval geek fiesta, send me an email…


Nothing Is New

Via Tim Oren, a reference to a search algorithm very similar to contextual networks, called "Spreading Activation Search". Some hunting around leads me to a 1981 dissertation by Scott Preece, which is not available online, and describes exactly the kind of system …


Etech Slides

I've put my slides for the Emerging Technology conference online, as well as my original script for the talk. This script is something I wrote to try and organize the presentation my head, and should put the slides in context.

The gist of the presentation is building search engi…


Announcing Contextual Network Graphs

Contextual network graphs! A better-than-keyword-search, scalable, brand spanking new partially reinvented search algorithm.

You can read the paper in PDF form, if you have a technical bent and…


Heading to ETCON

It's time for me to cross the continent towards the O'Reilly Emerging Technology conference.

For the past few months, I've been very good about keeping search engine geekiness out of this weblog, trying instead to distill it into my talk. It's called "Peer-to-Peer Semantic Search Engines", and it's on Wednesday afternoon. If you are at the conference, please come! The peer-to-peer b…


Interview With Daniel Cohn-Bendit

One of the best things about the country of my birth is that, since the fall of Communism, the print media have been second to none. Much of this is thanks to the former dissident Adam Michnik, and the daily newspaper he founded, Gazeta Wyborcza. I don't know enough about contemporary journalism to praise the paper properly - all I know is that it manages to be sharp, funny, and fair at th…


Stacked and Packed

Stacked and Packed: Mature gun-toting women in lingerie cavorting with G. Gordon Liddy.

"Frankly speaking, if you don't care to see gorgeous women wearing lingerie or less and posing with a firearm, then don't look."

Me, I like the picture where the gun is 04.15.2003

Human Genome Zzzzz...

The Human Genome is complete!

Big whup.

"It's a bit like moving from a first-attempt demo music tape to a classic CD", says the New Scientist. A hell of a metaphor. I wonder if they'll be releasing the genome on vinyl, for purists who don't …


Despite - Or Perhaps Because Of - Sucks

Despite - or perhaps because of - the fact that I learned English as a second language, I get irrationally worked up sometimes about questions of usage. Some cliché string of words will rear its ugly head once too often, catch my attention, and then I just see it everywhere. This begs the question: is it better to try and stamp out these abominations, or just learn to live with them? And…


Painting Fund

Dearest readers,

It's time for me to join the crowd and come to you, hat in hand, to solicit a donation. The difference is, instead of encouraging my writing habit, any contributions you make will go into the Idle Words painting fund.

As regular readers know, I've been trying to wean myself from the world of computers and try again to make a life as a painter. Naturally, my fi…


WMD in Syria

This is pretty brazen - the 'hot potato' school of pre-emptive war. How come we can't find chemical or biological weapons in Iraq? Because they were moved to Syria!

Washington intelligence sources claim that weapons of mass destruction that Saddam was alleged to have possessed were shipped to Syria after inspectors were sent by the United Nations to find them.

One o…


Baked By Mom

You know how pot is supposed to be a gateway drug, leading inexorably to hard drug use and untimely death? A different take on the matter, by a mom who kept her son baked so he wouldn't touch the demon rum:

An Austrian woman who made her 16 year old son smoke up to ten marijuana joints a day to keep him from drinking alcohol was arrested in Villach, in southern Austria, accor…


Belfast, Ireland

A tasty morsel buried in today's New York Times article on the Blair/Bush summit:

The White House, however, seemed not to be paying much attention to Northern Ireland diplomacy. The schedules and credentials it distributed to reporters here listed the site as "Belfast, Ireland."


The Chemistry of Art

Last night's post got me thinking about pigments, and their curious history. Art historians (most of them) don't make a big fuss about pigments. I have my own, uncharitable theories about why this is so. But a lot of nineteenth century art would be unrecognizable if it hadn't been for some major advances in industrial chemistry. Odds are good we would be waxing poetic about Van Gogh's su…


Van Gogh in Art Class

It's a bachelor weekend here at Idle Words, which means lots of electric guitar, meat (as of last week, the better half is a vegan), naps, general laying about, and very little wearing of pants.

I have been roaming the Internet like a wild panther, and came across some interesting art lesson plans on teaching Van Gogh, at least in those schools that still offer art classes. An 04.02.2003

Mesonychoteuthis Hamiltoni

April is the clueless month. We woke up today to six inches of beautiful, fluffy snow, and the laconic weatherman forecasts more to come later in the week.

If you watch gangster movies, you'll be familiar with the scene where the mafia enforcer pays a visit to some shlub who hasn't paid back his debts, and beats him within an inch of his life. These scenes always end with a quiet mome…

Greatest Hits

The Alameda-Weehawken Burrito Tunnel
The story of America's most awesome infrastructure project.

Argentina on Two Steaks A Day
Eating the happiest cows in the world

Scott and Scurvy
Why did 19th century explorers forget the simple cure for scurvy?

No Evidence of Disease
A cancer story with an unfortunate complication.

Controlled Tango Into Terrain
Trying to learn how to dance in Argentina

Dabblers and Blowhards
Calling out Paul Graham for a silly essay about painting

Attacked By Thugs
Warsaw police hijinks

Dating Without Kundera
Practical alternatives to the Slavic Dave Matthews

A Rocket To Nowhere
A Space Shuttle rant

Best Practices For Time Travelers
The story of John Titor, visitor from the future

100 Years Of Turbulence
The Wright Brothers and the harmful effects of patent law

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