The Reno Quake Swarm of 2008

Updated: May 8 2008
Update 2: May 16 2008

Around early March the northwestern Reno neighborhoods of Mogul and Somersett began getting a lot of seismic activity, sometimes dozens of small M1-M2 quakes in a single day. There have also been a number of M3s and a few M4s, including a late-hight M4.7 that shook up a lot of people. Because most of these quakes have been very shallow they are very noticeable, even M1 and M2 "micro-quakes" that usually  escape notice. And the M4s are way more violent and frightening than any M4 quake should be.

At the moment the rate of the quakes seems to have dropped off quite a bit and are no longer a kind of all-day background shimmer, but the sudden and often booming shakes continue. Just last night (about 4am) for instance a sudden loud M2.6 sounded like the ceiling cracking open.

The USGS web site has a lot of interesting data feeds so I thought I'd generate a bit of chart porn for the 2008 Reno Quake Swarm.

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And then there were Two

Well Kindle has finally hit the streets and the Sony vs Amazon smackdown has begun in earnest.

First-off, whatever the ultimate fate of the Kindle, Amazon has certainly got the PR game in hand. Kindle is all over the popular press right now, including a lengthy Newsweek cover piece by Steven Levy. The Sony Reader may have a year's head start but I wonder how much of that sales advantage will evaporate in the coming weeks.

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A Year with the Reader

In October 2006 Sony began shipping its ebook reader (henceforth referred to as the 'Reader') and I couldn't wait to get one. For me a usable electronic book is almost a mythical entity living in a world of the future that we've somehow missed, along  with the flying car.
Over the years I've used a variety of phones, PDAs, micro-laptops and one or two short-lived "electronic book" devices but none have provided a particularly satisfying ebook experience. Enter, the Reader.

The Screen
Once unwrapped and powered on you immediately see "The Screen", the lauded E-Ink display technology making its large-scale consumer debut in the Reader.


This new display technology renders text that is crisp and flat and really beautiful. The background is slightly more dull light-gray than white, but the contrast is quite acceptable. And right away you encounter the difference between the e-ink screen and a backlit LCD. The E-ink screen, like a regular paper book, gets easier to read in brighter light. So unlike for instance, a regular backlit PDA, the Reader allows one to lounge around the patio reading, in the sun. More importantly, the display is very easy on the eyes, and I have personally experienced none of the eyestrain I had come to expect from reading text on a backlit phone or PDA display. Whatever happens to the Reader, the E-Ink display has set a new standard for portable display quality.

There is one display quirk in the form of a very noticeable flicker during page turns. It appears to invert black to white as the new page is rendered on the screen. It takes about a second for this repaint operation to complete, and the impression is of a "flicker". Fortunately you habituate to this after about 15 minutes or so.

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Absurdity and Obscenity:

Homer Simpson (cartoon charactor, verbal stylist) vs Cerne Abbas Giant (pagan icon, well-hung stick figure)

I'm not a big TV watcher, in fact I didn't even own a TV for about a decade. So I sometimes feel like a bit of a TV-age yokel even now, after many years of ownership and sporadic watching. Like tonight for instance. I've seen several of Keith Olbermann's "special comment" clips on the web and on very rare occasions I will tune in for his Countdown show on MSNBC. During the news summary segment they mentioned the silly story of Homer and the Pagans from several days ago, no doubt because the Simpson's movie opens today in the US.
You can read about the prank at any of the links I've provided, but basically some wiseacres in England painted a giant line drawing of Homer Simpson next to an equally large, ancient etched drawing of a Pagan fertility symbol (the "Cerne Abbas Giant"). The locals weren't amused.

Anyway, after a thorough 10 sec overview the MSNBC reporter flashed up the same aerial photo that had been printed in the other stories over a week before. Except it's not exactly the same as there is a blob of pixelation over the crotch area of the Cerne Abbas stick figure. The line-drawn penis is apparently too risque for MSNBC.
Here's a quick googleful of major news organizations printed the very same photo sans pixelation.

Daily Mail
Times of London
Guardian UK
Sky News
Daily Telegraph

Naturally I looked to see if the MSNBC Countdown pages displayed the full monty, but found that search was not working. OK MSBNC, I know you're a major corporation and all but here's a tip guys, if you put a button that says "search" on your site, maybe it should actually, you know, return some search results.*

But enough of the canonical schtick. Click on any of the links above and you will see two large line drawings. One of them depicts a grown man-character in his underwear and is little more than light-hearted brandalism recently added to coincide with the release of a cartoon movie. The other is a religious/cultural symbol etched into the ground in the 1700s, maybe earlier. One of them (sorry Homer) has a stylized penis, and apparently is just too much of an obscenity for TV. This is insulting and absurd.

A 300 year old stick-figure penis must be hidden yet it's completely acceptable to saturate our television content with drug ads and tragedy porn? That's the real obscenity here.

* And don't start with the browser-compatibility jibberish. I used a very standard browser with generic settings. I also tried with IE.

Ad Madness: Web Edition

Television is saturated with advertising and crap content designed to foster and promote more advertising. And for the majority of Americans at least, we get the pleasure of paying for these ads, delivered each month with the cable/dsl/dish bill. A nice scam. When cable was first introduced the primary selling points were movie channels and NO ADs. Not so today, as the entire structure of commercial television is to provide a pipeline through which ads can be pumped to a captive audience. Content is just the shiny, ribboned box the ads come in. So die TV, die die die! We've got the web, chumps!

But the web is also undergoing a nasty ad-centric adaptation that is disheartening as it creeps from the short head to the long tail. It may be a co-evolution, but it doesn't necessarily lead to a positive fork.

The web has thus far been a priceless enhancer of human communication and knowledge. But while the big picture is awesome and fabulistic, the current ground-level experience is plagued with a bunch of minor boo-boos that add up to an ugly festering gob.

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Is this thing on?

So I am finally getting around to this archive. Some content has previously appeared here and there around the web under one or more pseudonyms. And between the IMs, the txts, the 'casts, the tweets, the communities, the voips and the emails, I'll add some new stuff as well.

From the archives...

Mars Pathfinder pic, circa the 1997 Usenet. Coming up on the tenth anniversary of that landing, wow! And just around the corner in 2009, the 40th anniversary of the Apollo 11 moon landing. Almost 40 years and we haven't been back. That's just sick.