For some time I’ve been noticing a peculiar bug in my server logs, a curious variable added to every url, on both blogdex and overstated:


At first this struck me as a programmatic glitch or tag for some spider. But it dawned on me a few days ago that this could be a sort of cryptic message touting the fabulous words of the Jackson 5. Abc is not only as easy as 123, it is god darned equal to it! Of course I assumed it to be Anil, but it struck no such chord.

It’s actually an ingenious way of marking your way around the internet, throwing an arbitrary variable onto the end of every url. Most servers will parse the unused signifier and discard it, but it will exist eternally, archived for antiquity in server logs. Call it modern-day graf for the web.

So I charge: reveal yourself mysterious tagger! Bring forth your wisdom in the act of web graffiti! Show your identity!

Update: Some of the other bombs left by visitors recently: cameron=noremac_backwards, anilisvisitingyou=true, youandme=cantyouse

The agony of a memestardom

soccer players with handbags
Carl Baldwin is the photoshopper who fashioned the image of handbag-toting Argentinean soccer players that spread around the world, and crossed over into mainstream publication. The blokes at B3TA caught up with him and asked him a few questions about being a memestar.

While the discussion thankfully degrades into regular B3TAisms (i.e. “what animals would you breed if you could cross breed anything,” or “which would you rather: be forced to wear a hospital gown for the rest of your life or have soup ladles for hands?”), there are a few good insights into the lifestyle of the photoshopper.

B3TA: Carl Baldwin interview

Come on Saddam

I caught the opening sequence to Dune a few nights back, and came to quite a strange realization:

President Shaddam, controller of Arrakis, has domain over the valuable resource spice.

With a little linguistic legwork and metaphor we have:

President Saddam, controller of Iraq, has domain over the valuable resource oil.

Coincidence?!? I think not. The movie was released at just about the same time as Saddam’s ascension to power, but these names are from Herbert’s novel right? Who is this guy, Rasputin?

Les Paul Digitales

digital les paulGibson has just released the first ethernet guitar, complete with cat5 jack alongside the time-honored quarter-inch plug.

It’s quite a computational beast, with onboard Sharc DSP, FPGA and 100 megabit ethernet. Of course this sort of digital advocacy begs the question: aren’t some things cheaper/better/simpler in analog form?

Think of the complexity involved in making feedback with this bad boy: Sound is analyzed, run through a DSP, sent over a network with tons of software to ensure timing, fed into a computer, run through a feedback VST effect, and out through a sound card. Or you could just plug into an amp and hold the guitar close by. (via boingboing)

EE Times: Guitar maker preps digital network platform

The adventures of MashiMaro

mashimaroA small, chubby bunny who enjoys aggressive behavior, late-night snacks, swanky jazz and bathroom humor. Oolong? No way, he’s dead.. It’s Mashimaro! He’s adorable and grody just like your five year old cousin.

Sometimes I’m blown away by the stuff that’s been out there for 3 years that I still haven’t seen. What else is waiting in the dark matter that is .jp and .kr?

Pirate battle

Today commences the battle of the pirates, and I’m sure that one of the pirates will totally kick ass. But we must remember in times like this that the only thing badder assed than pirates are ninjas. It would be totally sweet if a ninja flew in at half time and started chopping pirates heads off. All the pirates would storm the ninja and everything would look bad for our ninja friend except a guitar would start wailing and all of the crowd would rip off their skin and then there would be 40,000 ninjas waliing on sweet guitars.

Why, you might ask, isn’t there a ninja football team to kick the pirates asses? The answer is obvious:

Umm…ninjas don’t have a football team because they are too busy flipping out, porking, flying, stabbing, wailing on guitars, and eating pasta. If ninjas did have a team they would kill the whole NFL and not even think twice about it.

Academic marathon

As part of every Ph.D. there comes a time when your superiors decide to test your knowledge in order to ensure that you’re academic material. In my case, these are tests called general examinations, consisting of 3 written and one oral examination. Today I’m taking the first written one, a 24 hour essay marathon on the topic of Social Networks.

The test was supposed to begin at 10am, but as these things usually turn out, I’m sitting here waiting for my professor to send me the questions. I think the closest analog would be a marathon runner waiting for the gun, giddy with excitement, ignoring the pain and anguish that surely lies ahead, and of course focused on the relief that will come when the race is over. Of course I’ve never run a marathon, but I’m sure it’s probably the same feeling.

The NYC Marathon introduced a new technology recently, a tracking device that allows the organizers to make sure people stay on course, and remote spectators to keep track of their friends and favorite runners. I thought I’d do the same for my test of endurance. Stay tuned for updates on the experience:

8:30am: Up and ready for the battle, 800 pages of literature organized and neatly laid out for quick access.

9:30am: Jitters gone, two cups of coffee ingested, and waiting for the gun. A little bit of pre-marathon blogging to keep the chops up.

10am: Waiting…

10:45am: Sent an email to make sure that we’re still on.

11:08am: Word from professor: test is coming momentarily.

11:17am: Got the test over email. Two parts, each with two questions, one must be answered from each. The first part covers either social capital or diffusion of information, the second asks for either a literature review on “Online communitites as social networks” or designing a study to retest Milgram’s small-worlds hypthosis.

11:28am: Chose my questions. I’ll be taking on social capital and changes to Milgram’s original hypothesis.

1:07pm: I just finished an initial literature review, and created some basic structure for both questions. I was feeling a bit stressed and distracted when I realized that I had been staring at a computer screen in complete silence for 1.5 hours. Add Swazak to the mix and things are calmer and more organized.

7:26pm: Ok, that took longer than I thought ๐Ÿ™‚ Finished a rough draft for the first question, break for dinner, then start the second. The first answer is roughly 2500 words, and needs quite a bit of fine tuning.

8:00pm: Finished my yummy risotto, now time to recoup. I just introduced a second pot of coffee into the equation.

11:50pm: As expected, the second question flowed much more naturally. It should be fine with some minor revisions. Since it’s an Internet-meets-social-networks question, of course I need the internet to answer it ๐Ÿ™‚

1:14am: Ahh, finally the first draft of the second paper is done. Actually, this one came right on schedule. A little over 2600 words, I’m confident that it’s pretty strong (I even included some last minute research on instant messaging). I think there’s time for a quick bath and some much-needed sleep before I begin the revisions. Somehow blogging this entire experience has made it much more beareable.. I’m simultaneously freaking out, watching myself freak out, and writing about it. Blog therapy.

7:02am: Mmm.. social capital dreams… my favorite! Up and at ’em.

9:32am: It’s the final stretch.. I’m on my second, third, or fourth wind, and it seems like things are coming together. But wait until you see my apartment (definitely not together).

10:54am: Done! Exam submitted.

Total time: 23:37 minutes, 18:50 minutes spent writing. Just over 5100 words. That’s roughly one completely edited and intentional word every 10 seconds. Not bad ๐Ÿ™‚

Erdรถs said “Mathematicians are machines for turning coffee into theorems,” and someone else the lesser known corollary, “Computer Scientists are machines for turning coffee into urine.” Well it appears that social network researchers are machines for turning coffee into a hell of a lot of words. Amen. Now I return to bed.

Mitnick is back

After 8 years in withdrawl, Kevin Mitnick was finally allowed to browse the web again this Tuesday. What was his first stop on the infobahn? His girlfriend’s weblog, where she had been documenting their relationship for some time. How sweet! And it was on public television. Said Mitnick:

“The Internet is like the phone, to be without it is ridiculous. I could not use an electronic toilet without permission from the U.S. government.”

Electronic toilets? Where are these mysterious networked disposal devices? And why is the US government hiding them from us?

Wired News: Live on the Web: Kevin Mitnick