general


This post is entirely self-referential, but I don’t care! In fact, I’ve added a new category to allow me to talk about my blog and categorize it appropriately. It’s called self-referential. Deal with it.

I’ve added a couple of new ‘features’ to my blog. The first thing I added was a cool little site icon that should show up in your browser’s address window next to my URL. It should also show up in your RSS reader if you re-subscribe to my blog.

I decided to do this, first because I was bored on Saturday afternoon after waking up late and missing a birthday party in the park, secondly because I wanted to figure out how to do it, and finally to meet the overwhelming demands of my reader base (jeannie), that I post a picture of myself to my website. I killed two birds with one stone by making my site icon a picture of me.

I found some helpful resources on how to create a site icon on Wikepedia’s Favicon entry. This was actually really easy to do for browsers, but more difficult for RSS readers. The reason is that RSS readers (or at least my rss reader) wants the standard “ICON” image type, with the standard name “favicon.ico,” in the root location of the website. I think this is a legacy issue, but it’s so not forward thinking to require a Windows machine and Windows software to create a Windows filetype for something to be published over the web on different platforms.

Now for the Tag Cloud. The folks over at TechCrunch profile Zoom Clouds, a service that builds a ‘tag cloud’ of the words in your site, and gives the user a code snippet to post the cloud to their site. I’m not totally clear how ZoomClouds is any different from Tag Cloud, but I think there is a little bit more in the way of customization.

The idea of a tag cloud is simple: build a frequency distribution of words used in a particular context (here the context is my blog); then display those words to visualize the frequency of their occurence. Generally, tags (or words) that appear more frequently are displayed in a bigger font, although I’ve seen other ways that frequencies are visualized, such as color.

Tag clouds are a useful way to display folksonomies — where users have tagged different documents (blog pages, pictures, music files, etc) with common descriptive words, for example on del.icio.us, Flickr, and MusicStrands. In those contexts, the clouds are very useful because there are many people contributing to the tag set — and at any aggregate level from a single picture to the site as a whole, one gets a sense of what the popular tags are, and what the content might be about. It’s a nice way to summarize folksonomy data.

But in the context of a single site, like mine, where the ‘cloud’ isn’t aggregating and weighting any tags, but rather just the words in the posts themselves, the cloud shouldn’t be called a Tag Cloud, but rather a Word Cloud. The WordCloud really just provides a quick summary of what the hell I’m talking about in my blog. Still a useful tool for people who might encounter a site and want to know whether the content is relevant to them or not.

Frogman Attacks!

Image is copyrighted http://www.jimsugar.com.

This weekend, I went down to Monterey to do my check-out dives for my SSI Level 1 scuba certification. I’m now a certified Open Water diver, which means I can dive in most recreation situations, including on my upcoming trip to Belize! Yay! The picture to the right is not me, and the gear shown is what is used by Navy Seals, not recreational divers. Our guns aren’t nearly as cool ;). Credit goes to Jim Sugar for the photo.

I got certified through Bamboo Reef. I highly recommend this diveshop. They have shops in SF, Monterey and the Northbay. They are highly competant and fun to work with. Their instructors are excellent, and they really understand how to make new and prospective divers comfortable and confident.

To be honest, I was anxious about completing my scuba certification. The classroom session were boring (despite a great teacher), and the pool work was very low risk. But to get certified, you have to get out in open water and prove your skills. I didn’t know what to expect. I had never dived in open water, never gone deeper than ten feet, and couldn’t imagine diving in the cold waters of the Pacific in the middle of February. But the open water dives were really well planned to get new divers accustomed to the unfamiliar environment in incremental steps.

Our check-out dives were in San Carlos Beach in Monterey. There were literally hundreds of scuba divers gearing up on Saturday morning at 8:00am — we looked like an army of frogmen preparing for an amphibious assault. Or something like that.

Our first ‘dive’ was just a snorkeling excursion. We got comfortable cruising around in the gear and the cool sea water. I was pleasantly surprised to find the water temperature bearable. The water was ~ 50 degrees (f), but we were rocking about 14mm of wetsuit (a shortie over a farmer john) including a hood, gloves and booties. I wasn’t cold at all.

The second dive (after the snorkel dive) was just 20 feet or so, allowing me to get comfortable with being deep enough that an unplanned ascent was a bad idea. The next dive was 30 feet or so, which got me even more comfortable with the depth and also gave me a chance to practice being neutrally bouyant. The first dive of the second day (dive 4) we went down to 40 feet.

During the first couple of dives I was so focused on being underwater and not freaking out that I didn’t pay much attention to the world around me. Occasionally, I would think ‘holy shit! look at all this crazy stuff around me!’ but I didn’t become completely aware of the scenery until the 5th and final dive. The final dive was just me and my ‘buddy’. We were free to cruise around, check out what we wanted, and didn’t need to follow a group of people or worry about where we were. Our only concern was having fun, keeping at the planned depth, and keeping track of our available oxygen.

On this last dive, we saw some loveley Monterey Bay sealife. Beautiful kelp forests, funky fish and bottom dwellers, and colorful underwater foliage. The underwater environment in Belize will be much more lively, but I look forward to returning to Monterey for more dives in the near future.

On Saturday, we also visited the Monterey Bay Aquarium, which is one of the best aquariums in the world, host to some of the largest and most exotic wildlife.

I’m looking forward to diving in Belize!



Cookie Jar
Originally uploaded by bmaury.

Last saturday at the Cookie Jar recording studio. Hyde Street, SF. This was shot on my RAZR camera phone.

What a pain in the ass it was trying to install the latest iTunes/Quicktime on my PC. I’m eagerly awaiting the arrival of my latest generation iPod, so I decided to get ready by installing the latest iTunes.

Turns out that some configurations of Win2000 and WinXP don’t want to play nice with the iTunes installer (which uses InstallShield). I followed all of the suggested steps here, including cleaning out the TEMP directory, making sure the settings on various folders were correct, and installing the latest InstallShield script (version 11). Still couldn’t get the damn thing to install. I then tried uninstalling iTunes and Quicktime. Nothing. Well, I shouldn’t say nothing. In the process of uninstalling and deleting things, I managed to render my OS garbage. I had to reinstall the OS. Fortunately I store my data on a seperate disk, so nothing of value (except my Sunday) was lost.

The good news is once I reinstalled the OS, updated all of the patches (25 security patches for Windows!) and installed SP4, I was finally able to download and install iTunes 6. My new iPod had better be worth it!

I’m heading to a wedding in Texas for the weekend. Before the wedding my sister and I are going to Open House 2005 in Marfa. Open House is an art festival held every year that celebrates contemporary art. It was started by Donald Judd in 1987 and has grown to be an international draw. Yo La Tengo performs during the weekend, but we’ll miss that.

I’m officially 33 years old today. I’ve been told that 33 is a good year, because it’s how old Jesus Christ was when he was crucified. Yikes. That seems like a bad thing. Just to be safe, I’m not wearing any sandals this year. I don’t see any Romans outside with nails or crosses, so things are going pretty good so far. I can say that 33 feels pretty good. I’ll keep you updated…

Ahhh, to be done with the dang LSAT. It certainly feels good to be finished, although I almost didn’t even take it yesterday. My alarm clock, a mean cabbie and the Saturday BART schedule conspired against me in the morning, nearly preventing me from taking the bloody test. But I prevailed, filled in my 101 bubbles (hopefully correctly), wrote my little essay and bounced.

Thanks for a good time, LSAT. Don’t call me, I’ll call you.

The intersection of music, technology and law has become quite crowded as of late. With all of the talk around Web 2.0, it promises to become ever more hectic. Since these areas are of particular interest to me, I’ve decided to start documenting my thoughts and interests in this area right here. Feel free to comment…

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