Archive for the 'Blogging' Category

January 2nd, 2007

New Year’s Update

Hello all. Over the past couple of months, this blog hasn’t seen much action, and the other alt concepts sites have also been pretty quiet in recent weeks. Apart from the holidays and related travel, Morgen and I have been frantically preparing for our upcoming trip to Indonesia and Hong Kong—we leave in a matter of minutes! There’s been so much to do that a few things, such as actual work, have gotten put on the back burner. However, I did want to provide a few updates before I head off on my big 40th Birthday Trip.

Take Control of Running Windows on a Mac: A couple of weeks ago, we released version 2.0 of this book, which reflects the huge number of changes in the Windows-on-Mac world in the last several months—major updates to both Boot Camp and Parallels Desktop, the release of CrossOver Mac, and the sort-of release of Windows Vista. Of course, no sooner did we get the new edition out than VMware went and released a beta of Fusion, yet another interesting way to run Windows on your Intel Mac. So I’ll update the book to discuss that at some point after I return from my trip. In the meantime, I think all the information there is still solid and reliable, and it’s a great improvement over the first edition.

Take Control of Mac OS X Backups: Version 2.0 of this book—a significant expansion—is also pretty much ready to go, and has been for weeks. But because of the holidays and preparations for Macworld Expo next week, it may not be released until mid-January or so. This new version discusses Time Machine to some extent, but after Leopard is released, I’ll do another update that covers it in detail.

Interesting Thing of the Day, SenseList, and The Geeky Gourmet: All these sites will be running on a greatly reduced schedule during January. We plan to collect lots of interesting things, lists, and food stories on our trip, and will be back with fresh content in February.

Macworld Expo: This’ll be the first time I’ve missed the show in I can’t remember how many years. But it’s for a good cause: you only turn 40 once. I’m sure I’ll have 32,768 email messages awaiting me on my return, informing me of all the cool things that were announced and that I must immediately buy. And, of course, there will inevitably be all sorts of books requiring updates .

So that’s the update. If there’s anything I forgot, I’m sure it’s on my list somewhere, and I’ll attend to it in February. See you then!

September 26th, 2006

Revolution Number Nine

It’s been a crazy day.

A couple of days ago, we saw a huge spike in the number of visitors to SenseList, thanks to a mention on That was pretty cool, especially since SenseList hadn’t yet attracted a great deal of attention since we launched the site in July. But today, we saw an even bigger surge of interest, this time due to a mention in Yahoo! TV’s daily The 9 (we were #5). In both cases, the post that attracted so much attention was 32 Weirdly Specific Museums. Which is funny, because that was, for me, one of those off-the-cuff, phone-it-in kinds of posts, based on an article I wrote for Interesting Thing of the Day way back when: Museums of Interesting Things.

Prior to today, I hadn’t even heard of The 9. But it was the eeriest thing to be watching a video of this perky blonde, in a very E.T.-style show, rattling off the day’s hottest nine Web pages according to Yahoo, and to have her mention SenseList as though everyone had heard of it already—complete with the SenseList logo I created up there on the screen. It was like seeing my own name in the newspaper or…I don’t even know what to compare it to. Very odd. But, I mean, way cool.

Meanwhile, Morgen and I spent the afternoon hanging out with Jillian Hardee, who has written a couple of articles for Interesting Thing of the Day (Highgate Cemetery and Assateague Island). Jillian, who lives in West Virginia, was in town for a conference her husband’s attending, and it was a delight to meet her and show her some of San Francisco’s interesting spots. The three of us turn out to have quite a bit in common. For example, we’d been planning to take her to see 826 Valencia, a pirate supply store (really), and during lunch she happened to mention how much she liked pirates. So that was a pretty groovy coincidence. We also visited Mission Dolores, all three of us having a fondness for cemeteries.

September 15th, 2006

The Second Law of Thermodynamics

Although I write about scientific topics from time to time and fantasize about being a mad scientist, my actual profession is that of a computer geek and writer, not a physicist. So what are the chances that twice, within a one-week period, I would be randomly queried about the Second Law of Thermodynamics? Pretty slim, I’d think…but then, I’m not a statistician either.

The first occasion was last Friday. Morgen and I were on vacation in Las Vegas, and we were having a drink at Quark’s Bar in the Star Trek-themed portion of the Las Vegas Hilton. (I highly recommend the Star Trek: The Experience Backstage Tour, by the way!) When I say “a drink,” I don’t mean just any drink, but the strongest drink in, probably, the entire galaxy: a Warp Core Breach, which contains 10 ounces of liquor (and various other ingredients), plus dry ice in the bottom of the fish bowl-sized glass to make a nice steam effect. (It wasn’t our first one of these, incidentally, though it was the first on this particular trip.)

So we’d gotten about a third of the way through this when a guy in full Klingon makeup and costume comes up to us and starts dishing out the usual “humans are so weak” insults. (We were also visited by an Andorian and, I think, a Ferengi.) We played along as best we could. I don’t remember the exact exchange, but it must have had something to do with the dry ice, and I was presumably making the point that humans could actually be pretty smart on occasion. The Klingon challenged me: “What’s the Second Law of Thermodynamics?” I couldn’t think of it and hesitated, pointing at the drink and complaining that it was affecting my cognition. “Fine,” he said, “What’s the Third Law of Thermodynamics?” I couldn’t think of that one either. The Klingon grunted and moved on.

Now, I would have loved to put a Klingon in his place, and I felt a bit ashamed at my performance there, because I am in fact pretty familiar with the laws of thermodynamics, having written about them in my article on Perpetual Motion Machines. Had my head been clearer, I might have rattled them off, if not necessarily in the right order. But, of course, due to the nature of my occupation, this isn’t the sort of material I generally need to keep on the tip of my tongue.

Then yesterday morning I got an email from someone who’d read the aforementioned article and claimed he’d invented a device that could “escape” the Second Law of Thermodynamics. He explained this little project in great detail, and although I didn’t fully comprehend it, it seemed to amount to a way of recovering otherwise lost heat energy and turning it into electricity. That, of course, is fine as far as it goes, but if it doesn’t go all the way, and clearly it can’t, then it won’t in fact violate the Second Law. Which, for the record, goes like this (at least in one formulation):

Heat cannot be turned into other forms of energy with 100% efficiency.

I’m at a loss to know what cosmic meaning I should attach to this remarkable coincidence, but it certainly reinforces the value of, for example, brushing up on my physics and keeping my distance from Klingons in bars.

September 14th, 2006

Blog Carnivals, Round Two

Since the first time I wrote about Interesting Thing of the Day articles being featured on blog carnivals (back in June), the number of mentions has increased to the point where I couldn’t even keep up with updating the original list. Here’s yet another round for your surfing pleasure. (Last updated: December 11, 2006)