Wednesday, November 30, 2005

house: electronics-aware furniture part 2

Great minds think alike! Four days after I wrote about this issue and the Wiretracks iCove and Rotalia Multipot approaches, I saw an ad for the Anthro eNook in Wired magazine. The eNook is a more comprehensive solution than those two:
  • shelving - OK!
  • hidden space and power for those ^%$#@! wall-wart power supplies - OK!
  • cable management - OK!
Rather than acting as a new-millenium bedside table/kitchen table/hallway stand, the Anthro eNook is a brand-new piece of furniture: a wall-mounted flip-down surface with shallow shelving. It's missing thin drawers for all the fiddly bits (though the additional shelves sort of work for this), and it doesn't have any specific support for Ethernet or USB cabling. But it addresses a lot of issues for just US$460 with three shelves.

The problem I see is you'll leave the Anthro eNook's surface flipped down most of the time, otherwise your personal gadgets are inaccessible. So you don't just need wall space, you have about 23 inches poking out. Hence my preference for a table or stand. But the eNook could work well as a desk surface for using your notebook computer if you never plug in an external monitor. Anthro has the same idea, their Macromedia Flash movie shows a stool in front of one eNook, and even a happy medical worker standing in front of one.

How soon before businesses realize they can replace 7-foot square cubicles with 3-foot square booths containing eNooks? Office space will truly become Douglas Coupland's veal-fattening pens, with no room to sit down or turn around.

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Tuesday, November 29, 2005

writing: "The God of War"

The fiction in The New Yorker is consistently good; in the last five years I've read about Russian gangsters, drunken Irish immigrants, diffident Japanese, and ruminative Jewish grandfathers (and it's only stereotypical en masse). The November 7 issue has easily their best short story of this millenium, The God of War by Marisa Silver.

It's just a kid and his family by the hard-luck Salton Sea, but it captures character, place, family relationships, memory, and a keening fear of what's unsaid better than anything I've ever read. If you liked The curious incident of the dog in the night-time, this is far richer. There's no plot and the density of allusion would wear you out if it were any longer, but as a short story it goes beyond perfect to wondrous.

Your local library will have a copy (it has the Egyptianized NY Public Library cover), you need to hold it in your hands and read it. If you really can't, it's online.

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Saturday, November 19, 2005

house: electronics-aware furniture

Home furniture is unfriendly to the small electronic devices (cellphone, digital camera, iPod, PDA) in our lives. It doesn't provide useful storage for the tiny parts, it doesn't deal with the ^%$#@! wall-wart power supplies, and it doesn't do cable management for DC/Ethernet/USB. I've rejected conventional Ethan Allan or IKEA-style furniture and keep more and more stuff on a kick-ass SOHO desk (both the legendary Herman Miller Levity and a Biomorph — I'll post more on these some day) with their fiddly bits in office metal-drawer cabinets; this works but your home becomes an office.

The Wiretracks iCove in-wall picture frame is an interesting idea to move stuff into the wall (see my and other comments on Gizmodo), and the Rotalia Multipot electronics "vase" tries to make a functionally beautiful storage object, but neither is quite right. The surface where you place these gizmos, whether it's your bedside table, kitchen table, or hallway stand, has to become an ultra-functional mini desk.

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Monday, November 14, 2005

music: Standing in the Shadows of Motown

I'd heard of the legendary James Jamerson on bass, but the rest of the Motown players were pretty obscure, and this movie brings them well deserved recognition. 47 minutes into the movie, the aging Funk Brothers assemble "Ain't Too Proud to Beg" a bar at a time, it's magic. And hearing drummer Richard 'Pistol' Allen play the different ways he, Benny Benjamin, and Uriel Jones would play the same pick-up is fascinating.

Jack Ashford on tamborine — on tamborine for God's sake! — is a revelation.

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Friday, November 11, 2005

dogs: A few days of fame at Farley's

We inexpertly costumed our dogs for Farley's annual Halloween pet festival, and a photographer there took some pretty professional photos that later appeared at Farley's.
Halloween dogs especially #2 and #8
Portraits #2 and #8, reading left to right, top to bottom.

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Monday, November 7, 2005

computers: 55,000 Mac mail messages moved

I organized many of my e-mail on a Microsoft Exchange IMAP server at work, access to which I lost at the same time The Man pried my Mac Powerbook from my cold, dead fingers.

I transferred my mail files to this Windows machine and installed the fine free Thunderbird mail program, but it has no Tools > Import > Mac Mail option.

For a month I tried just leaving the Mac mail files on-disk. They're text and I can view them fine. But Google Desktop search wouldn't find words in them. So I decided to move the mail into Thunderbird's folders.

Many of the Mac Mail folders contained mbox files that I could simply move into the Thunderbird directory in C:\Documents and Settings\S Page\Application Data\Thunderbird\Profiles\blahblah.default\Mail\Local Folders and T'bird would spot them upon restart. I discovered the hard way that this only works for top-level files, not subdirectories.

I had a lot of duplicate e-mails, so I found a free mergebox.pl script. Installation of this on Cygwin and recent Perl was a bear. It uses the old Mail::Folder module, and when I reported bugs and fixes in this I found its maintainer "kjj" has vanished. I did get it to concatenate and remove duplicates from some mbox files.

None of this worked for the IMAP server messages. The Mac Mail in Mac OS X 10.3 Panther keeps a local copy of each message as Library/Mail/IMAP-spage@bigco.com/INBOX.imapmbox/CachedMessages/100154 . So each CachedMessages folder is sort of like a maildir folder, but mergebox.pl wouldn't process them. I could probably glue them together myself, but the hard part would be finding the messages it couldn't read and dealing with issues like attachments and multi-part messages.

Googling found "Sven" who had the same problem, and he recommended Emailchemy; it knows about Mac Mail and Thunderbird, and it converted 44,000 (!!) cached Mac Mail IMAP messages into Thunderbird format, even preserving the folder hierarchy. It hung on a few folders that were already corrupted, but the author seems willing to help even before I paid for it.

If you have a lot of messages and special needs, the $25 for Emailchemy is money well spent.

(I posted about this here and here on the Thunderbird support forum.)

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Thursday, November 3, 2005

cars: Dubai desert metal overload

The snapshots in this forum thread are so insane, it's like a hallucinatory outtake from Three Kings. The poster's invited to a drag strip at Um-Al-Quwain, and drives in with Honda S2000 and hot wife. The Ariel Atom (super rare!), Corvette C6, Ford GT, and Merceded E500AMG show up, but then some ultra-rich "RRR" sheikh unloads the unholy troika of Ferrari Enzo, Porsche Carrera GT, and Mercedes SLR!

Follow-up racist posts (now apparently deleted) flame about the excesses of money involved , but it's hardly confined to the Middle East. Lee Raymond, the CEO of ExxonMobil, took home $14M in 1999 and $81M in 2004, so in addition to building another $50M house every three years he can buy all these cars every month.

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Tuesday, November 1, 2005

music: Brian Kane on guitar

After the, uh, intense Finn in the Underworld at Berkeley Rep we spied an ignored guitarist through the window at downtown restaurant [sic] and stopped in.

He's Brian Kane, damn fine stuff. Many jazz guitarists play limp melodic lines on what is, let's face it, an inexpressive instrument; I'm always thinking "a sax player could blow some life into that lick". But Mr. Kane filled every song with inventive harmonic chord progressions as if his PhD hung in the balance, maybe it does.

Almost the same thing happened several years ago: wandered into The Connecticut Yankee where the barmaid was butchering "The Girl from Ipanema", and accompanying her was Bruce Forman, a fantastic guitarist every bit the equal of George Benson.

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