Quick hits of February

A couple random observations, then more links.

  • I was ego surfing today and decided to check on some of the neological phrases I’ve used in this blog. I’m now first on Google for “cognitive subroutines”, “information carnivore”, and “conservative postmodernism”. Of course, nobody but me has really referred to any of those phrases yet. But I will continue to use them, and eventually my wacky brand of punditry will sweep across the nation, carried by such phrases.
  • Here’s a random observation that a co-worker and I made a while ago. I don’t remember how we got onto the topic, but for some reason we started listing off firms that had achieved success through business process innovation rather than technical innovation. Names at the top of the list: Microsoft, Amazon, Starbucks. All from Seattle. We have no idea what this means. But it’s kind of curious. And, yes, while writing this up, I realized that there are plenty of other companies that could qualify here that weren’t started in Seattle, like Dell, but I’m trying to make a point here. Even if I don’t know what that point is.
  • Another friend pointed me to this essay by Bob Laughlin, a physics professor down at Stanford. I like some of Laughlin’s ideas, although I think he expresses them unclearly (a characteristic which I found to be true the one time I took a class with him). I like the idea of emergent behavior, from the science of networks to sync, or, as he puts it, “that the organization can acquire meaning and life of its own and begin to transcend the parts from which it is made.” However, while I agree in principle with Laughlin’s assertion that there will always be new physics to explore, I don’t believe that physics is where relevant science is going to come from for the foreseeable future, unless you count complexity theory and other emergent behavior studies under physics. Then again, I dropped out of physics, so it’s not surprising I dismiss it as a field of interest.
  • From the New York Times (registration required), A heart-breaking story about the downward spiral of drug addiction. It’s just not controllable. And there’s nothing anybody can do once you’re in the spiral.
  • I think this Wired article, describing the shift from the “Information Age” to the “Conceptual Age”, captures a lot of my ambivalence towards programming right now. And why I want to become a pundit. Or at least some sort of systems-level thinker.
  • The Flickr Color Picker. Flickr is a neat idea – it’s the del.icio.us of photos (or vice versa) – but this is a neat little app on top of it that lets you choose a color, and it collects photos with that color dominant. Just a nifty little toy that brings a smile to one’s face.
  • fac.etio.us is a cute take on how to take advantage of the tags of del.icio.us, and let users slice the data in various ways by partitioning based a sequence of user choices. I like the idea because it reflects how I think our brains actually work.
  • Seth Green on Fresh air. Seth Green was Oz on Buffy, of course. He’s the Kevin Bacon of his generation, having been in a wide variety of films with pretty much every other actor of his age group. It was fun listening to him and finding out that he’s pretty much just as laconic and dryly funny as Oz.
  • I like this description of being a micro-Medici, a patron in the mold of the great Medici family of the Renaissance, but on a smaller scale. I tend to subscribe to this theory as well; when I see a band I like, I buy their CD or a T-shirt. I’ve given money to web comics that I enjoy, especially when I hear that the creator is trying to go full-time like Questionable Content. With the web and Paypal, it’s so easy to make a quick donation that there’s no reason not to. And it makes me feel good, too.

We’ll return to your regularly scheduled rants about obscure topics tomorrow when I’m not braindead from trying to figure out my finances.