Things Consumed

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Monday, April 05, 2010

Shake, rattle, and roll

  The USGS Recent Earthquake Maps for Northern California and Nevada ( have been full of fascinating graphics for the last day or two, as aftershock after aftershock stacks up in SoCal.

I love this site, and visit it often, but... it is so FULL right now. At left: a close-up of the impacted area.

Yes, I need to refresh my emergency water supply.

Yes, I'm signed up for AlertSF at, San Francisco's emergency preparedness website.

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posted by Arlene (Beth)10:13 PM

Monday, March 29, 2010

Behold, the uses for the Internet

  When I could contain myself no longer, I went to Apple - QuickTime - Apple Special Event January 2010 and watched the iPad presentation. Then the sky opened up, angels wearing iPods sang (or at least lip-synced), and a Voice pointed out that it is possible to navigate information without having to use a mouse, that interface design is alive and well, and that personal computing devices can actually be a pleasure to use.

[Have you ever watched Star Trek? Have you ever seen people on ST clicking through folder after folder to get to some program they need to launch with some lame pointing device? No. Why? Because the people who design the tech for sci-fi shows are OPTIMISTS. They assume we'll move past the interfaces we have now, just like we switched over from all those cool, light-up analog-style buttons, knobs and sliders. Which I kind of miss, actually.]

One passionate detractor described the iPad to me as "just a big iPhone," which made me laugh: it's not like that's an insult, and it's not like she doesn't own a post-iPhone touchscreen phone that mimics the interface to a point, which seemingly never would have been introduced if not for the iPhone's existence.

But this detractor was missing the point: the iPad isn't as much of an innovation as the infrastructure behind it is. iTunes will now carry apps for the iPad also, plus books, plus everything it has already been carrying for iPhones and iPods and iPodTouches. The apps, the genius of having a clearing house for them, of doing quality control and then making them available cheaply, is incredible. INCREDIBLE! The iToys are shiny and beautiful and thoughtfully designed, yes, but it's iTunes that makes this all so clever.

Fake Steve Jobs ( has gone on some brilliant tirades about the nature of Apple's business. Apple's business isn't the sexy iToys so much as it is Digital Asset Management: the selling of songs, movies, apps, books, and any other media currently in the works. Selling them differently than others sell them.


Software: okay, look: say I'm a programmer, and I want to sell a program that does something on a personal computing device. In the past, this would mean I'd write my program, and then go to a publisher, design packaging, get a manufacturer to burn discs, have the packages shipped to a distributor, work out deals with big box stores to try to get them to carry my product, set up my websites, hire a marketing company... To make this work, considering all of that overhead, I'd have to sell approximately a gazillion copies. If this product wasn't going to be big in all possible markets, it wouldn't be worth making, because it would never pay for itself.

If my program was for an Apple device, I could skip most of the steps after writing it: I could test it, form a little company, hire a designer to design a cool icon and website for me, and Apple basically does the rest. My overhead drops down low enough that this could be a side project. A pet project. Frivolous, even, or serious. But it is both low overhead and low risk.

How many people do you know wrote a major piece of PC software based on their own ideas and got it published for retail sale? How about an iPhone app? I know people who are writing iPhone apps. I read articles about people writing iPhone apps. I hear stories of people taking time off their main jobs to write iPhone apps. Not to go the old route, but because the new route makes so many more things possible. Massive funding up front is no longer the filter for ideas.

Even big media is figuring this out: they only figured out that they could sell DVDs of popular television programs a few years ago. But even that entails risk, and the production costs are high. Now viewers can subscribe to those shows in iTunes - no packaging, no manufacturing forecasts, no shipping, much less risk.

(Yes, on iTunes. Not on their own sites. You did notice this, didn't you?)

iTunes is a digital media platform that major networks and lone programmers can both get their work out through. Its strength lies in its one-stop, comprehensive nature. And that's what other companies have been figuring out in recent years.

Music? This works a lot like software does.

Books? I'm a huge fan of independent bookstores, which is where I do most of my book shopping, but Amazon is now catering to tiny, independent booksellers. If you have ten rare and obscure titles that you collected for sale, it will take a long time for people to find you; but if you sell through Amazon (where huge volumes of people are already looking, and which rates well in search engines), you can be found and can sell under Amazon's umbrella.

Stock photography? You used to have to publish a print catalog of your own images for sale and distribute it to buyers around the world, and the collection would have to be comprehensive to get any attention. Now dozens of heavily consolidated stock agencies use thousands of independent photographers to flesh out their catalogs. There's no way a shipping company in Korea would have found the image they purchased for a calendar from me if I were acting alone, but with my images as part of Alamy's agency database (, I was exactly where they were looking.

Obscure camera equipment? My little neighborhood camera stores have to carry what people are most likely to buy regularly, so a specialist in obscure parts or rare collectibles isn't going to get a lot of mileage out of their storefront. But on eBay, they can reach freaks like me who are actually looking for 8x10 Fidelity film holders, or lenses from decommissioned equipment, or replacement parts for equipment that was last manufactured before I was born. The odds of someone in any particular city needing these things is low; the odds of someone with an Internet connection needing these things... it is completely different.

Handmade paper goods and crafts? I don't think I need to explain Etsy to you.

Many big retailers and media companies are still figuring out how to make money on the Internet, and perhaps they never will. Look how long it took record companies to figure it out - they had to have it explained to them, and they had ideal products to sell digitally - they just couldn't conceptualize it. But there are tools now so that little media - "little" programmers, independent artists and musicians, collectors, makers of obscure specialty equipment - can benefit from retail outlets that have never been available to them before.

The Internet: it's getting interesting.

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posted by Arlene (Beth)10:00 PM

Saturday, March 20, 2010

Coming soon: Things Consumed 2

  Blogger, which I have been using since 2002, is (sensibly) discontinuing their FTP publishing service. I publish via this blog via FTP currently, and will have to choose how to proceed so that the functionality I like - especially mobile publishing - can work more fluidly than the current FTP structure allows.

I had been considering a switch regardless: the FTP functionality has been declining for a while. The post I published prior to this one took about a minute to publish: Blogger not only updated the main page, monthly archive page, the one page devoted to the tag I used, but actually updated ALL of the pages for ALL of the tags -- that little text-only update involved 141 files and (mysteriously) 2 MB of data.

In addition to speed, I want some of the snappy embed functions I get so effortlessly with other publishing tools.

I don't think I want or need to port the entire 7+ year archive to a new site, so I may just keep all of this as an archive and start fresh. I'll post updates and links accordingly when I do make the switch. (If you are reading this through FB, you won't notice a change: I'll have the new blog imported just like this one is.)


posted by Arlene (Beth)10:21 PM

Friday, January 22, 2010

Handmade science books

  The New York Public Library has a full set of scans up of its copy of Anna Atkins' masterpiece! NYPL Digital Gallery | Ocean Flowers: Anna Atkins' Cyanotypes of British Algae ( fills the search results you can peform if you search for "cyanotype." The NYPL's summary:
Photographs of British Algae is a landmark in the histories both of photography and of publishing: the first photographic work by a woman, and the first book produced entirely by photographic means. Instantly recognizable today as the blueprint process, the cyanotypes lend themselves beautifully to illustrate objects found in the sea. The Library's copy of British Algae originally belonged to Sir John Herschel (1792-1871), inventor of the blueprint process, among his many other photographic as well as scientific advances.
My favorite single image may be Dictyota dichotoma, but I've been known to change my mind.

I love the idea of producing small editions of hand-bound books of unique prints. In my spare time. While I'm resting.

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posted by Arlene (Beth)10:00 PM

Friday, January 01, 2010

Development: Hunting/Gathering -> Cottage Industries -> Mass Manufacturing -> Cottage Industries

  Bigger isn't always better.

I'm reading one of several entries in the Uppercase Magazine blog about mainstream magazines that have ceased publication (, and am doing a bit of comparing & contrasting. Uppercase is a small operation: the founder has a small team that works with her, has a great website, a small gallery and shop, an adorable line of products, and more than 900 subscribers, so she doesn't need to be solely beholden to advertisers. The mainstream big magazines that are being shut down are vast enterprises with huge offices, vast editorial departments, huge sales organizations, thick layers of well-paid business managers... The sort of model business we have always been told is best, the business we should all want to have, because bigger is better.

Yet bigger is better ceased publication months ago.

Those big publishing houses, for periodicals and for books, are supposed to be an be-all-end-all dream for all those of us who work in any medium that needs to be printed -- we know, because the stuff they print tells us so. But there is increasing evidence that this just isn't the case.


An interesting discussion broke out on an old-fashioned mailing list for specialist photographers recently on a related topic. A fellow photographer was shocked to learn that his publisher had decided not to continue publishing his textbook: he was more or less told that reliable sales of small editions/print runs were no longer worth the publisher's while, and they were going to focus on books with wider appeal for bigger print runs. The author was devastated - his students will no longer be able to buy the book he wrote - and he had no input on the decision not to continue printing it.

He proposed a letter-writing campaign to the publisher to demand that they continue to print it. This is a position that assumes that a big publisher is the best option, or perhaps the only option. He received several supportive replies for this plan.

The majority of replies were NOT supportive of this plan. Most writers asked why he should be satisfied with a publisher whose decision-makers he would never meet controlling his book, and with it his ability to teach. Two major solutions were put forward by a range of authors: small press publishing and print-on-demand. Small press publishing had advocacy from several authors who had chosen that route and had with pleasing results: in support, an actual press representative wrote to discuss their abilities, and how their small size allows them to generate competitive small runs. Since the printing requires an outlay of cash that the author hadn't planned for, print-on-demand was also proposed: POD technology allows for beautifully printed books to stay "in print" indefinitely, for little or no up-front out-of-pocket cost, though at a higher per-unit cost (since they are printed in editions of 1 using more expensive equipment).

No one really stepped up on behalf of the publisher who was discontinuing his book, so the services a big publisher may offer (editing, design assistance, distribution, advertising) weren't talked up, to the extent that is even an option. The abandoned author didn't gush about those services, assuming he had once received them.


I am telling these stories about magazine and book publishers, but there are similar stories with record companies, film companies, greeting card companies, photographic supply companies... You name it. I'm reading more and more in support of the comments I made in the Perils and Profits of Scale which is basically this: companies whose entire business model is pinned to the fundamental economics of quantity really aren't supporting most creatives and others whose primary product is quality. (Or specificity, for that matter.)

The technologies that can allow people to build a successful small business based on quality and/or specificity are maturing now. I now have a choice of POD services to print books for me in a range of formats and paper qualities; I receive catalogs from companies that will burn my music onto CDs and print up packaging for me in large or small runs, or who will sell me the equipment to do so myself; I know people who are running, or have run, small businesses using sites such as eBay or Amazon Marketplace which allow them to specialize in their area of expertise without needing to be the next have-one-of-everything, breadth-without-depth chainstore...

In an economy where more and more of us are learning that big employers aren't the safest places to plan our futures, especially if employment doesn't quite meet all of our expressive needs, having these sorts of tools is a GREAT thing.


People who like the top-down options that the big companies give them - the blond pop vixen of the week, celebrity hairstyles, top ten paperback bestsellers, Tom Cruise movies - might only be aware of these things when some celebrity turns up wearing an outfit from obscure fashion designer running a label out of her garage, or carrying a bag she found on Etsy. Inexplicably, some people I know are using new technologies to follow old-technology companies - as if CNN/EPSN/UNFUN hasn't already told you six different ways the same stuff they're going to tweet to you! But it really doesn't matter so long as the people who DO want to use these tools to sell or buy things that meet their needs can use these tools to their advantage.

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posted by Arlene (Beth)12:55 PM

Friday, December 11, 2009

Bloated, like a colossal lizard

  Exercise and food journals are a good idea. Some are just more interesting than others. McSweeney's Internet Tendency: Godzilla's Food, Exercise, and Dream Diary by Kate Hahn (, 11/17/09) is a great example.
11:50 AM: Exercise: Breathe fire at attacking airplanes. Calories burned: 5,342,000

11:55 AM: Snack: Pilots and parachutes. (27) Calories: 5,342,000. (Why bother to exercise?) Feeling: defensive, misunderstood, freakishly colossal.
After lunch yesterday, I also felt freakishly colossal: I'll have to work on that breathing fire thing.

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posted by Arlene (Beth)2:59 PM

Tuesday, November 10, 2009

Pumpkin cookies and profanity

  These were the major themes of the day. 

These may also be the two features of my completely imaginary Burning Man theme camp next year. Generally, both themes are within my skill set. 


In other news: I still really, really, really miss DSL service. Maybe I'll have it back tomorrow. Maybe. Oh, how I hope it will return...


posted by Arlene (Beth)8:29 PM

Sunday, November 08, 2009

My syrupy Internet connection

  Have you ever thought of your high speed Internet account as being thick and gooey?  That is how I'm thinking of mine now. 

I closed one account/package with my DSL carrier, and opened a new service package in my name, tied to my cellular service.   The old phone plus DSL lines were disconnected Friday. The new DSL cannot be switched on because (among other reasons) some time must pass for the signal to "drain."

Excuse me?

I was hoping for additional explanations, such as, "and that takes longer in winter, because the lines are cold."

If I'm suspiciously quiet when I should be blogging about my recent trip to NYC, about how Harvard has come right out and said that meat is bad for you, or about how much I miss late summer's sweet, pale green plums, you'll have to wait until I have DSL again, perhaps by late Wednesday night. 

Unless the signal freezes, or is eaten by ants.

On a related note: if you have a home phone number for me in your phone book, strike it out.  


posted by Arlene (Beth)9:53 PM

Wednesday, October 14, 2009

Earthquakes and Oracles

  October 2009 contains the 20th anniversary of the Loma Prieta Earthquake, also known locally as the Great Quake of '89. October 2009 also contains the 20th anniversary of the manifestation of the Internet Oracle, then known as the Usenet Oracle (

Coincidence? Perhaps. Evidence that I'm really really old? Hush, child. Just hush.

The Usenet Oracle is still in active service. If you have any important, unresolved questions and are good at groveling, go submit a question.

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posted by Arlene (Beth)12:10 AM

Tuesday, October 13, 2009

Mock Swedish: the International Language of Computing

  Yes, I said MOCK Swedish. As in, the language that 'ze sveedish chef' from the Muppets ( speaks. As in: Google - Bork, bork, bork! (

Better than Google in Elmer Fudd or Google in Hacker. Similar in excellence to Google in Pirate.


posted by Arlene (Beth)10:47 PM

Saturday, October 10, 2009

Mainframe manipulations

  I often write about how much I enjoy Fake Steve Jobs and his blog. The blog is very often funny. It is very often pissy. As an added bonus, like so much good humor, it is quite often just true enough to be educational as well as humorous.

The Secret Diary of Steve Jobs: Why IBM is in trouble with the antitrust police discusses the mainframe industry, and the trap that IBM has set for its customers: namely, that they can't ever leave the monopoly that IBM has built. Fake Steve both credits them for their business savvy and mocks them for their tech backwardness, and gets a dig in on Microsoft:
The real story here is that this is about Microsoft trying to crack the glass house. They covet the billions that IBM makes with mainframes and have believed since the 1980s that they would one day take that business away from IBM. I distinctly remember getting high with Bill Gates in a hot tub at the Alexis Park during a Comdex in Las Vegas and having him tell me he'd control that market by the mid-1990s.
We do all know that lawsuits like this brought by Microsoft-related companies aren't really about 'fairness,' right?

Also informative: 2 BILLION app store downloads - why no one can touch us, where Fake Steve points out, in his cheeky way, that Palm and Microsoft are not even in the same business that Apple is in, but don't seem to know it, and that's why they are trapped following Apple's lead.

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posted by Arlene (Beth)5:25 PM

Wednesday, September 23, 2009

I [heart] the Warning Label Generator

  godzilla warning labelThe Warning Label Generator at is my favorite thing on the web right now. Probably because I am a silly person. But the labels are EXCELLENT.

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posted by Arlene (Beth)9:30 PM

Tuesday, September 22, 2009

Parody news source over the pond

  The Daily Mash ('It's News To Us') ( is one of the UK's answers to the Onion ( So, if you've been hoping for an Onion that makes fun of the royal family, or has articles with titles like "ONLY WAY TO SAVE BLACKPOOL TOURISM IS TO DESTROY REST OF UK, SAY EXPERTS," you should click on the link above.

My favorite item there recently: The Daily Mash - MICROSOFT OFFERS STUDENTS CUT-PRICE INFURIATING CRAP:
The company said the operating system will be ready to download from 22 October and after clicking through all the user agreements and restarting your system 85 times it should be ready to install unsuccessfully by Christmas.
Since I haven't linked to the Onion for at least a paragraph, let me also note the excellence of the following: Melting Ice Caps Expose Hundreds Of Secret Arctic Lairs (, 9/18/2009) and this awesome cover of the Onion Weekender (, 9/20/2009).

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posted by Arlene (Beth)10:00 PM

Saturday, September 12, 2009

Birdie bandwidth

  You know you are spoiled. Every time you complain about how a movie isn't playing properly on your phone, you know it. Here is a reminder of what the high tech life is like in the rest of the world: BBC NEWS | Africa | SA pigeon 'faster than broadband' (, 9/10/09):
A Durban IT company pitted an 11-month-old bird armed with a 4GB memory stick against the ADSL service from the country's biggest web firm, Telkom.

Winston the pigeon took two hours to carry the data 60 miles - in the same time the ADSL had sent 4% of the data.
Pigeons shouldn't carry DVDs to you, so don't get any funny ideas.


posted by Arlene (Beth)10:00 PM

Saturday, September 05, 2009

Watch the Bay Bridge Labor Day weekend construction through web stills

  Of course there is a webcam on the Bay Bridge at Treasure Island ( Yes, someone should really wipe the exhaust soot off of it.

Yes, it is wild to see the bridge with only construction vehicles on it.

I was a little stunned when a local paper reminded me this morning that the bridge hasn't been closed this long since the Loma Prieta earthquake 20 years ago. (TWENTY YEARS AGO!?!?!?! [scream])


posted by Arlene (Beth)9:36 AM

Thursday, September 03, 2009

Moby has a blog

  You likely know this. I get notifications of various sorts from him in Facebook - where in London he is DJing, where in New York he will drop by, all very glam stuff - but hadn't looked at the blog directly for a while.

His blog is fun, and reflects his ongoing concerns about the health of the planet. Of course! Here is an excerpt: just arrived in sweden. |
it's a concert to draw attention to and benefit the european union's climate change initiative. which i'm happy to talk about as long as no one minds me mentioning that 24% of climate change is the result of animal production (according to a united nations report a few years ago).

i asked al gore about why he didn't mention this in an 'inconvenient truth' (as animal production is responsible for more greenhouse gases than every car, bus, truck, bus, plane, boat on the planet COMBINED). he answered honestly, basically saying that getting people to drive a hybrid car isn't that difficult. getting people to give up animal products is almost impossible.
Right now you are likely thinking one of two things: either, 'golly, moby is not a fan of capitalization' or 'this really complicates my justifications for more of my heavily polluting lifestyle choices.' In both cases, you are correct!

In ten minutes, only one of these topics will be on your mind. Yes, you'll be ranting to someone about crimes against capitalization.

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posted by Arlene (Beth)10:00 PM

Wednesday, September 02, 2009

Technology advice from journalists, hand puppets, or both

  Compare and contrast: A Review of Apple’s Snow Leopard by Walter Mossberg at (


A review of Snow Leopard by puppet Walt Mossberg, 'the only technology journalist in the world' (shut up) (

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posted by Arlene (Beth)10:00 PM

Sunday, August 23, 2009

Celebrity to die for

  Can you imagine being an artist included on a death list maintained by a country your country was at war with? Especially if you were a playwright? It would make writing plays feel so... important. Like you were a valuable cultural treasure, even if this was the weirdest way of having your status revealed.

I was tickled by this item from Noël Coward - Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia:
Had the Nazis invaded Britain, Coward was scheduled to be arrested and killed, as he was in The Black Book along with other figures such as Virginia Woolf, Paul Robeson, Bertrand Russell and H. G. Wells. When this came to light after the war, Coward wrote: 'If anyone had told me at that time I was high up on the Nazi blacklist, I should have laughed ... I remember [writer] Rebecca West, who was one of the many who shared the honour with me, sent me a telegram which read: 'My dear – the people we should have been seen dead with'.
(This must have made covering the Nuremberg Trials even more interesting for Ms. West.)

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posted by Arlene (Beth)11:55 AM

Saturday, August 08, 2009

Oh, how I love Wikipedia

  If I had been born before photography was invented, and were permitted to pursue interests similar to the interests I have now, I probably would have been a scientific illustrator. So I love things like this: File:Haeckel Asteridea.jpg - The 40th plate from Ernst Haeckel's Kunstformen der Natur (1904), depicting organisms classified as Asteridea. (

LOVE. Love love love.

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posted by Arlene (Beth)10:00 PM

Tuesday, July 28, 2009

Stanislaus: my latest book project

  You've seen a lot of my infrared landscape images at, but I have many, many more images that I haven't widely shared. I've put some of my favorites from the river that runs near my parents' homes into a photo books, and have made it available through Blurb to enter into their Photography.Book.Now competition.

It's my first book with them, and I kept this edition short and simple. Blurb did a lovely job of printing it. You can see the entire book/photo essay by following the link below:

By A.E. Graves
Book Preview
Photo book

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posted by Arlene (Beth)10:00 PM

Wednesday, July 22, 2009


  Data mining, in all of its forms, is a topic of some concern to privacy advocates, including me. But as an urban woman familiar with routine personal security precautions, I'm rather aware of what I post on-line, and how others could use it to locate me or observe more of my habits than I would like to generally have known.

I will sound old fashioned if I go on a rant about how easy potential stalkers have it nowadays: once, they'd have to spend hours following a person around to establish details of their habits, friends, and schedules. Now, their intended targets likely post so much information about what they are doing that they could bore a stalker to tears - and keep them from ever leaving their couch to buy binoculars.

People who would historically be outraged at the idea of anyone snooping are quite happy to post exactly where they are at nearly any hour of the day. Interview: the men who made Twitter tweet - Times Online (, 5/10/09) is a lively article explaining what Twitter is (cute summary: "e-mail without responsibility"), how popular it is... and how institutions are interested in the data. Very interested.
What was once private information is now very public and searchable. Jacqui Smith, the home secretary, has asked Twitter, Facebook et al to record all internet contacts between people in the UK as she modernises Britain’s increasingly disturbing surveillance policies. Workers who tweet are being monitored by their bosses, and potential employees are having their tweets analysed. Right now, nobody seems to mind.
Perhaps because no one is thinking clearly about it.

I am not the sort of person who worries unduly: my mother's advice not to ever have my name listed in the phone book, because just having a female name could attract stalkers, went unheeded; her advice not to list my home address beside my name in the phone book was taken. I'm not afraid, but am practical. I know that potential colleagues, employers, and friends can scope me out with technology, for better or for worse, and so I am aware of what I post.

Just think: even now someone is figuring out that (a) I like spicy food, (b) I write a lot, (c) I was a bit sensitive about those wrinkle ads, and (d) that the closing line of this entry should be read in a dry, mildly sarcastic tone. Technology has taken us so far.

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posted by Arlene (Beth)10:10 PM

Advertising machine logic

  The weirdest things pop up in the ad sidebars when you use various 'free' on-line services. Those services pay attention to your text and data mine it, though they generally miss the context. This is likely for the best, because you might be uncomfortable if the ads were too specific to the private conversation you are having in the main part of the screen.

Not that you should think that your text is private. I made a comment/complaint on my Facebook status about the alarming number of anti-wrinkle ads I was getting in my sidebar. I haven't received a single age or skin related ad since posting my comment. Not one. This is not a coincidence, though I don't think I was supposed to notice the change.

Anyway, I have no idea what inspired this combination of ads in the sidebar of an email service I use, but to summarize, the ads were for:

-a Weird Al spoof of The Doors

-some sort of Russian propaganda paper about US guards sleeping on the job at a military facility

-martial arts training

-a romantic French restaurant

-expert relationship advice, post-breakup.

I'm not saying these ads came up over the course of my checking e-mail over a day, or over several messages. These came up together. As a set. Once.

If they target market with the data they gather on me at all, this means they believe I am a Weird Al fan interested in the Russian perspective of world affairs who enjoys hand-to-hand combat, romantic French dinners, and relationship counseling. Perhaps all in one day.

Does anything go better together than combat, French food, and relationship counseling? I bet not. Thank you, Internet!


posted by Arlene (Beth)10:00 PM

"It's very exciting to be in government."

  What could the excitement be? A new administration, leading the country (and, perhaps, the world) in a new direction? Yes! Well, yes, in the context of social media. Obama and Twitter: White House Social-Networking - TIME (, 5/6/09) talks about how we finally have leadership that is willing to bring government into the current age, technology-wise. Though there are still some sticking points.
The White House communications team, for instance, is not able to access the government's Facebook postings and Twitter feeds, let alone those of reporters from the press corps, because of filters installed at the White House. (The White House New Media team, which posts on the networks from four old speech-writing rooms in the Eisenhower Executive Office Building, has been able to win an exemption from this policy.)
I laughed when I read this. Many of my law firm colleagues have found their access to such sites blocked at work, even though they are asked to use them as part of their jobs to research potential witnesses and experts. (I did mention that the new media don't offer much privacy, didn't I?) Meanwhile, my own employer, eager to drum up support for its free accounts on services like Twitter and Facebook as a way of saving on "marketing spend" (what we used to call "money" in the old economy) actually sent instructions to employees through the company e-mail system, providing instructions on how to sign up. At work!

Thankfully, the article notes that the White House (now the subject of all kinds of reverent references from other organizations, who can start out their requests within their organizations with, 'but the White House is already doing it') is actually trying to utilize these services in ways that serve some public interests.

Someday, the whole idea of a Presidential Tweet will be normal. Perhaps that day is next week, because in just a few years, the idea of a Tweet could be 'so ten minutes ago' that future administrations will have technologically incompatible data archives, and we'll come up with generic terms for each of the broadcast/network fads of their respective moments, which seems more likely. Someone at the Library of Congress (and/or the future Obama Presidential Digital Archive) is losing sleep over this even now.


posted by Arlene (Beth)12:10 AM

Tuesday, July 21, 2009

I heart Fake Steve

  I have always adored the REAL Steve Jobs. As a young geek back in... the day, let's just say, he was a vaguely religious figure to me: someone who connected the geek world to the rest of the universe by sheer force of will. The Secret Diary of Steve Jobs ( is not written by the Steve Jobs I have admired: it is written by a witty, brutal impersonator. An impersonator with a micro-engineered sharp wit.

Fake Steve has posts with titles like, Ballmer: In future, when you scream at your miserable frozen piece of shit Windows PC, it will be smart enough to understand why you're angry. After reporters from Forbes started loitering at Apple hangouts, looking for dirt on Steve, he provided instructions on how to stalk people at Forbes, complete with tips on overwhelming the unarmed, sleepy guard. And oh, the post-liver-transplant commentary! Especially the comments mocking Palm, like these:
Palm, which has reinvented itself with a business model that basically involves doing whatever Apple does, only two years later, announced today that its CEO, Jon Rubinstein, is planning to receive a liver transplant.... Palm says Rubinstein's liver will have features that my liver lacks, though they won't say what those features are. Meanwhile Roger McNamee has been posting Facebook updates saying he has seen a working prototype of Ruby's liver and it totally blows my liver away. Just like the Pre blows away the iPhone, right?
The action hero photo of Fake Steve that serves as a profile image goes well with NY Times mocking commentary such as this:
I will tell you this about iLiver 2.0: It's nanoengineered, and it kicks ass. I wake up every morning feeling like Shaft, Superfly, James Bond and Kung Fu all put together. I'm bench-pressing twice my body weight, and I am so friggin ready to kick some low-rent tabloid hack wannabe ass that's it not even funny. So bring it, Brad Stone and you other jealous, sanctimonious gits at the New York Times. Seriously. Bring your A game, you clueless, classless...
well, I can stop there.

Real Steve Jobs doesn't have the time to share harsh commentary, notes about hanging out with Bono, his plans for putting LSD into the Palo Alto water supply, or any of the other valuable insights that Fake Steve does. So it is great that Fake Steve is providing this fabulous service.

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posted by Arlene (Beth)9:58 PM

Monday, July 20, 2009

I'll never think of the phrase "Head Of State" the same way again.

  There was a lot of commemorative inaugural merchandise all of this spring in celebration of our new president. I made the mistake of looking at some of it recently, and... well... The title says it all: Barack Obama Dildo Could Ruin Sex, Obama For You - The Sexist - Washington City Paper (

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posted by Arlene (Beth)10:00 PM

Sunday, June 28, 2009


  Tears of laughter ran down my face from the very idea that customers at the pirate supply store were offended by the 'kitten plank' - a plank for use when making a disloyal kitten "walk the plank" to depart your pirate ship...

I'm getting ahead of myself.

It is a gorgeous, sunny, hot weekend in San Francisco. Today, in between my favorite, distant, Chinese supermarket and my favorite inner Richmond cafe, I was violently sucked into Green Apple Books (, my favorite bookstore in San Francisco. Among other purchases (oh, how they torment me with books I want!), I acquired Essentially Odd: A Catalog of Products Created For and Sold At the 826 National Stores ( It is the best, and funniest, catalog I have ever owned.826 Valencia peg leg oil

826 National is the umbrella organization behind the tutoring centers that Dave Eggers set up, starting with 826 Valencia ( Yes, you've been past it. If you're walking north on Valencia on the west side of the street, you pass a park, an alley with a cool mural, a restaurant, a cooperative art gallery, a pirate supply store, a natural history shop... Yes, it is the pirate supply store.

Of course it is the pirate supply store.

That's just the front of the building: there is a tutoring store in the back. But, for various reasons explained in the book, they needed to sell things up front, and they decided the building looked a bit like a ship interior, and the pirate supply shop was born.

Early on, the 826 founders decided that the shop should serve working pirates, as opposed to being a kitschy shop about pirates.
Medicine for scurvy, mermaid repellent/bait, cannon fuses, peg leg oil, beard extensions...

I know, I know, you are wondering how you have lived without having visited this shop. And I'm saying: go! Go now! Well, okay, wait until it's open. But definitely go.

But this catalog does not MERELY contain images and descriptions of the items available in SF's shop. Oh no. There are other 826 tutoring centers. And they each have a shop. A different kind of shop. One, for example, sells only super hero supplies. Another: time travel necessities. Another: robot repair & maintenance supplies.

Yes, they really SELL these things. They do! And all of the sales go to support the tutoring centers.

You'll see me sporting a Liberty Street Robot Supply & Repair hoodie as soon as I get my long, tapering, alien hands on one. Once you have the catalog, you can visit the appropriate 826 center's website to order their cool merchandise. (It looks like the 826 National Store will eventually be able to centralize sales inquiries.)

Creative people who love reading, good design, and ambient wackiness ROCK.

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posted by Arlene (Beth)9:23 PM

Why aren't you here doing my bidding?!?

  Well? What do you have to say for yourself?


[This post brought to you by the Random Outburst Department, the same department that brought you "Why didn't you go before you left the house?" at inappropriate times (at tea with the Queen, in the middle of the business proposal, at the all-hands meeting, etc.).

This is also a reminder that, if you are reading this in the form of a Facebook "note," that this note originates on my blog at, and Facebook is serving as a cool aggregator by posting it where you can see it. When it looks like I am posting while not visibly logged on, it is because Facebook is collecting this post from my blog on its own schedule, and/or on Blogger's schedule, since I can set up posts in advance to be published later. Status updates from my Twitter feed are usually posted from my phone while on the go, and also do not reflect logged-on time.]


posted by Arlene (Beth)7:55 PM

Wednesday, June 17, 2009

New review up at Review of Diffusion Magazine, Volume One is a brief new article discussing a new, alternative photographic process magazine that just published its inaugural issue. The magazine looks great, and I think it fills an interesting niche.

Links elsewhere at will take you to a sample article from the magazine, and provide links for you to buy it if you are interested.

(The link I provided is to the review I wrote: I am not associated with the magazine.)

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posted by Arlene (Beth)9:04 PM

Thursday, June 11, 2009

The blog that I feed

  mosaic arrow, Lake Merritt BART stationI've been... under duress in recent weeks, and very tired. So I am backlogged with notes about my future things consumed blog entries, but simply can't stay awake to write them out properly.

The blog I'm feeding on the go is, my iPhone photo blog. It's a visual diary, and I post images there regularly, the same day I take them. You can tell quite a few things about what I'm up to just by looking at it. If you're a local, you can try to figure out where I took the images (a popular pastime, considering some of the questions I get).


posted by Arlene (Beth)10:12 PM

Tuesday, May 19, 2009

Next up: robots recommend a barbecue sauce that will smell GREAT on you

  Robot Identifies Human Flesh As Bacon | Table Of Malcontents (, from waaay back in 11/2006).

I don't really need to say much about this: it is perfect as it is.

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posted by Arlene (Beth)9:53 PM

Monday, April 27, 2009

They don't charge you for being kind to them

  There actually is a website called Once you pick yourself up on the floor, you can enjoy such gems as:
Lawyers are just as good as bubble wrap and ice cream, in fact, they're better.
Obviously, this is hyperbole: when was the last time a lawyer kept your fragile package contents from breaking, or padded your thighs while curing your sweet tooth on a hot day?


posted by Arlene (Beth)10:00 PM

Sunday, April 19, 2009

Zombiefied Jane Austen plus Our Battlestar Galactica-obsessed President

  Recent spectacular highlights from the Onion (, "America's Finest News Source:"

l. Obama Depressed, Distant Since 'Battlestar Galactica' Series Finale ( The Onion has done a highly enjoyable job of giving our new president all manner of interests and personality traits, but there is something so special about Hamid Karzai discussing his insights on the President's favorite aspects of the series that just makes it PERFECT.

2. Tomato Genetically Modified To Be More Expensive ( This makes the most sense of any story about genetically engineered foods that I have ever read.

3. A review of the book Pride and Prejudice and Zombies by Jane Austen and Seth Grahame-Smith, a book review at The Onion's entertainment supplement which has just determined that THIS is the book I am reading next. From the review:
To the already-irresistible story of the prejudiced Elizabeth Bennett and the proud Mr. Darcy, Grahame-Smith adds only the lightest sprinkling of walking corpses, Shaolin training, katana duels, dojos on country estates, and young ladies succumbing to the strange plague. In his version, in addition to balls and officers and marriage, the Bennett sisters are committed to the defense of England against the undead armies of Lucifer, through their mastery of deadly Oriental arts. Yet such is the emotional power of Austen’s story and characters that not even revivified brain-chompers (easily fooled by cauliflowers, happily) detract from Elizabeth and Darcy’s rocky love affair.
Oh. My. Gawd. How do I not already own this?

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posted by Arlene (Beth)7:40 PM

Sunday, March 29, 2009

At some point, the ideal came to stand for something superficial and shallow

  The fabulous photo-eye newsletter currently features an article with some retro-cool photographic illustrations - Kodak Coloramas! - and a lot of thoughtful prose. Rethinking the American Dream | (April 2009) performs a review going back to the 1930s book where the "American Dream" phrase was coined, and makes some interesting observations about the way 'the dream' has changed. Economically challenging times can inspire some interesting thoughts about our very materialistic culture, and the article does some interesting comparisons with thoughts from the previous major depression to now.

It is interesting to see how a country can have its ideals change from such topics as freedom from class boundaries, self-reliance, independence and opportunity to merely the freedom to own lots of stuff.
More soberly and less bombastically, Roosevelt, in his 1941 State of the Union address, prepared America for war by articulating the “four essential human freedoms” that the U.S. would be fighting for: “freedom of speech and expression”; “freedom of every person to worship God in his own way”; “freedom from want”; and “freedom from fear.” Like Luce, Roosevelt was upholding the American way as a model for other nations to follow—he suffixed each of these freedoms with the phrase “everywhere in the world”—but he presented the four freedoms not as the lofty principles of a benevolent super race but as the homespun, bedrock values of a good, hardworking, unextravagant people.
I'm certain we have always had Americans who have not been invested in these values, who have always thought of their own comforts first and foremost, but I believe now it is much more acceptable - perhaps even normal - to think only of oneself, and to do so quite publicly. It is not only the business pages that drool over business opportunities in China - not to spread freedoms, but in hopes of getting rich in the absence of each freedom on this list (and, not coincidentally, in the absence of consumer- and worker-favorable regulation). Spreading 'our way of life' is currently about material goods and the worship thereof far more than it is about any other value we may hold dear (or claim to hold dear).

Aside from prescient quotations from days gone by about Americans losing the concepts of the common good and modest successes, there is a discussion about rational, sustainable limits on doing better than your parents. How much better? If they were successful here, how much is enough for you to 'top' them by?

All this AND Coloramas!

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posted by Arlene (Beth)9:17 PM

Thursday, March 19, 2009

Good with his tools

  Twitter / markmorford, from famed Mark Morford of the quite wonderful "Morning Fix" as well as Notes and Errata on, is now, well, on Twitter. Not to tell us where he is buying coffee, or which yoga posture he is in right now, but for very concise blogging.

His current formula: one sentence plus a link.

There are some mighty fine links there. Links you might not expect from that one sentence.

My only warning: the vast majority of the links I visited that he posted were most decidedly Not Safe For Work (NSFW). Perhaps even So Very Not Safe For Work, What Was I Thinking Opening That Here (SVNSFWWWTOTH).


posted by Arlene (Beth)11:56 PM

Monday, March 16, 2009

The Canadian Flag Is The Key

  I know, on some level, I'm not supposed to enjoy this... but I do.

The lead news story today at my favorite reference website is The Chaser APEC pranks - Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia. Why do I like it? I enjoy humor, I enjoy satire, I enjoy authoritarian security officials making fools of themselves.
The most prominent prank was the breach of an APEC restricted zone in the heart of Sydney central business district on 6 September. Julian Morrow directed a fake Canadian motorcade, which was allowed through the restricted zone by police and not detected until Chas Licciardello alighted, dressed as Osama bin Laden.
There's something about their casual faux-motorcade, whose most official-looking detail was a few Canadian flags, that makes this so... So...

Just go read it.


posted by Arlene (Beth)8:33 PM

Sunday, March 01, 2009

Love Wikipedia while on the go

  Of course Wikipedia has a mobile site: is the English front page, mobile style.

It's zippy fast, though it likely won't save you from losing entire days following links that suddenly interest you.


posted by Arlene (Beth)8:53 PM

Tuesday, February 24, 2009

Internet job searching, intentional or otherwise

  I hadn’t realized that myspace jobs tries to customize Google searches that hit it:
| MySpace Jobs

We couldn't find any jobs for Benevolent Overlord. Please check the keyword terms you entered. You can also try using some other keywords, or enter fewer ... - 43k - Cached
So much for THAT plan...


posted by Arlene (Beth)12:10 AM

Tuesday, January 06, 2009

Random Google Trivia

  There are currently 457 Google results for "hot elf action."

Don't ask.


posted by Arlene (Beth)7:49 PM

Sunday, January 04, 2009

Infect Me Not! *Song Competition*

  Perhaps you, like me, are loving the advertisements up, telling you to stay home when you're sick. I especially like the bus shelter poster that reads, "Considerate Co-worker or Office Outcast?" (, in PDF format). The polka-dot graphic is SO CUTE! (It looks kind of like you, Scaryann!)

The problem of sick people coming to work and getting others sick is called "presenteeism," which can be worse than absenteeism. Though it's compounded by lame employers who don't grant enough time off. I'm just sayin'.

What? I do have hobbies, actually.

Anyway, what made me laugh maniacally in front of my computer here at home was the fact that the Infect Me Not Campaign has... SONGS! YES! They had a song contest! And got entries! And picked winners, and did the sort of things you do in contests, even though they are a health department! I swear, I'm not making this up. See: Song Competition - Communicable Disease Control and Prevention, San Francisco Department of Public Health (

[Sound of Arlene listening to the songs]
[*hysterical laughter*]

I love the Internet!

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posted by Arlene (Beth)5:35 PM

Saturday, December 20, 2008

When wildlife pisses you off

  One of the MANY nice things about reading the BART Twitter feeds I had described earlier, is that the people who say witty things about BART often say witty things generally, or find amusement in the sort of humor I do.

So, the tweet about the frog I posted earlier led to a Twitter feed with a reference to Fuck You, Penguin (, which... Okay, how could I NOT go to a blog so named?

Sample entry titles: "Moose are the biggest dorks ever" and "Camels are played out."

The quality of the ranting is high. I recommend this.

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posted by Arlene (Beth)12:38 PM

Thursday, December 18, 2008

Modern communications technologies, and how they rule

  I was busy sharing links to Bay Area Rapid Transit's various websites and blogs with colleagues, when it was pointed out to me that I was omitting a few links. Namely, is better than for getting real time estimates using your smart phone or other mobile device: the interface is zippy and gives you estimates for trains in all directions from the station of your choice. I have now have a button for this site on my iPhone.

BART also has a blog with pictures at, and different content from the other links I posted previously. This is kind of a magazine-version of the blog: it is relatively fancy.


Best bumper sticker about blogging, as displayed on the rear window of [Mini]'s truck: "How's My Blogging? Call 1-888-STFU."


Steven now has his own Twitter feed at I knew something was up when he asked me what the syllable count for haiku is. Imitation is the sincerest form of flattery and all, but there are other things he could be doing with the feed ASIDE FROM using Twitter precisely the way I use Twitter. I'm just sayin'.

(Larry's Twitter feed ( remains awesome, of course. Favorite recent tweet: "I have an eight-sided die that's older than some of my co-workers.")


Speaking of blogs and tweets, my recent change in relationship status has had an unanticipated impact on the readership levels for both my Facebook page and my Twitter feed. After I removed the statement that I was in a relationship from my Facebook page, Steven, with whom I had been in a relationship, and who previously insisted that there is no point in reading any of my websites, since he speaks with me anyway, actually reviewed all of my tweets and began asking very specific questions about them. As in, reading my haiku from months ago back to me and asking if specific poems were about him.

This was unexpected.

Also, one of his relatives (a mutual Facebook friend) is scrutinizing my interactions with my 130 Facebook friends, seeking suspicious patterns. Steven has had to answer questions about my acquaintances of his acquaintance, and why they might be sending me virtual candy in Facebook.

I do not recommend this as a tactic for increasing readership.


I am in a software test group at work, and one piece of software that I am testing is microsloth's Communicator. It's an IM-type program, in which you can post a status message. The character length of the status message is of decent length.

My current status message reads, "Sorry, could you repeat that? I was having an elaborate fantasy about moving to a parallel universe where that business decision would make sense."

This can only be seen by other members of the test group who have chosen to list me as a contact. Which is a small, reasonably sympathetic universe. When the program is actually rolled out to a wider audience, I will have to decrease the snark level. I think there is a software tool for that, somewhere.


posted by Arlene (Beth)9:08 PM

Wednesday, December 17, 2008

Showing the fig

  I love I especially love the etymology dictionary entries, which contain some harsh, entertaining content. If you're into language. Which I am.

See the entry for sycophant at and you'll see what I mean.

Yes, today I used the Internet to learn an archaic vulgar gesture. How cool is that?


posted by Arlene (Beth)10:00 PM

Sunday, December 14, 2008

Even my transit system uses Twitter

  I spend entirely too much time commuting. My employer moved to the East Bay, at considerable distance from a BART Station, and so I now spend between an hour and an hour and forty-five minutes of my day traveling to and fro.

Much of that time, I spend on BART.

I look at the schedules on my phone, and was amused to notice that BART has a blog. BART - Seen and heard on BART this week: LARP, cable guy, nuns, rats, unicycle ( is more amusing than you would expect a blog by a transit system to be. This is because BART is actually searching Twitter (, the text-message-distribution-list service, for content from riders.

I know what you are thinking: you are thinking, "I search Twitter all the time for content about my transit system, and now someone else is doing that for me? How convenient!" Yes, I know. It really is great. Someone else is out there, looking for gems like:
Sounds like there's a frog on this bart train. If someone's missing a frog w/a working knowledge of public transit, it's the fremont train.
But wait, there is MORE! Bart has its OWN TWITTER FEED, to which you can subscribe or follow more subtly on the web. It Is True!

I'll give you some time to calm down and absorb all of this now.

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posted by Arlene (Beth)9:36 AM

Sunday, December 07, 2008

It really is December, isn't it?

  photograph of freshly made parasols drying in a temple hallway, Kyoto, Japan by A.E. GravesI have been back from Japan for a week as of today, but it is taking me a long time to adjust. My body seems more or less to believe that the Pacific Standard Time means something, but my urgent need for naps each midday suggests something remains awry.

At night, I am still dreaming of reading signs in hirigana neon, surrounded by decisively moving crowds, thinking carefully before I speak in hopes of being understood.

When I am awake, I still find it odd that the air near restaurants does not smell like tsukemono (Japanese pickles, which we often passed display barrels of on the street). Even the deep frying smells that are so abundant there are different from those here, likely because of the difference in what is being fried.


I have finally started to review my "real camera" photographs from the trip. I have more than 6 GB of files to look at, which will take a while even though most of that bulk is just big TIFFs, but I've started posting images from the lovely first night in Kyoto. Japan - First Night in Kyoto is a Facebook gallery which you can access without being a Facebook participant. It has shots taken after dinner on a stunningly warm autumn evening, from an experience that was a lovely re-introduction to Kyoto.


At this moment, I am saving up my energy for the San Francisco Bicycle Coalition's WINTERFEST party, which is happening tonight!!! It is my favorite holiday party, and one of my favorite fundraisers for the SFBC. (My other favorite fundraisers are also for the SFBC, just so you know.)

If you're free this evening and want to shop for art and bike merchandise for yourself or your loved ones while benefiting a fabulous local advocacy group, click the link and get details! I hope to see you there.


It may take me a while to post more images from the Japan trip. There is a lot going on in my life right now, much of which doesn't really belong on the web. But December is a complex month, full of creative projects, communications with people I've lost track of, unusually formal meals, family drama, schedule drama... Ordinarily I would have my holiday cards designed (and hand made!) by now, I would have ordered photo calendars... Projects I would have gotten a jump on during November are still waiting for me to act like I recovered from traveling in Japan. I was just in an art show in New York, and I haven't even mentioned it on my own photography website! It's that kind of time. I'll get (t)here. Soon, I hope.

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posted by Arlene (Beth)3:40 PM

Thursday, December 04, 2008

The sort of thing that makes me love McSweeney's Internet Tendency

  McSweeney's Internet Tendency: So You've Been Buried Alive by Jim Stallard ( This sort of familiar, even-toned writing is so stellar on subjects like these. Here is a sample, to lure you to the page to read the complete item:
"On the other hand, if you're not inside a coffin and someone is shoveling dirt on you, they're probably burying you alive on purpose. (This is especially true if you're moving around and making noise.) Moments like this can seem like the worst kind of betrayal, and you'll be tempted to fixate on the act itself. But think back: What could have motivated them to do something like this? In the end, the real issue isn't that you're being buried alive. It's that the relationship has serious problems that should be confronted."
This brightened my very dim, dark, gloomy evening more than I can say. In part, because I am not being buried alive.

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posted by Arlene (Beth)10:33 PM

Saturday, November 08, 2008

More iPhone silliness

  I didn't actually plan to install iZen Garden by Random Ideas, LLC (, even though I like the company name (which is almost as good as Made With Bananas, another phone software developer), but I couldn't resist the reviews.

Reviews that begin with, "Out of all the Zen Garden applications, this is clearly the most thorough..."

Out of all the Zen Garden applications??? There has been a world of zen garden applications out there that I simply have been unaware of until now? Gosh.

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posted by Arlene (Beth)10:00 PM

Thursday, November 06, 2008

Strangely meditative iPhone pastimes

  The Apple iPhone is good at being a phone. It is good at being a music player. It is good at video games. It makes for a rather fine, low MP camera. It plays movies reasonably well. It is a calculator. It can find your location on a map using cell tower triangulation. Having achieved all of those things, what is the next step?

Weirdness. Weirdness is the next step.

One of the lighthearted, applications-without-business-purposes is Koi Pond from The Blimp Pilots ( It allows you to watch virtual koi in a virtual koi pond. Something which you likely had not realized that your "smart phone" could do for you.

A designer showed it to me at a party, along with a bubble wrap popping simulator. I am running Koi Pond version 2.0 which has such improvements as "refracting koi" and "3d sound."

As someone who mainly uses her phone to track buses, post haiku, photo blog, and check messages, it would never have occurred to me to even look for an app like this. But there is something appealing about the total frivolity of it.

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posted by Arlene (Beth)10:00 PM

Monday, September 29, 2008

Educational Obits

  You already know how much I love Wikipedia, and have found yet another aspect of it to love: the obituaries. Not so much because of my interest in death (of which I have relatively little, having come to reasonable grips with my mortality, and figuring I'll have plenty of time to contemplate it in the future), but because their versions of the obituaries include job listings. Just take a look at Deaths in 2008, for example, which provides very up-to-date international death listings for people of various levels of fame.

Highlights, with the names reduced to initials:

-HP, 69, American pornographic film director, throat cancer. (ahem.)

-RY, 46, Chechen warlord and member of Russian State Duma, shot. (That works.)

-RH, 34, American murderer, execution by lethal injection. (I hadn’t really thought of being a murderer as a CAREER, but there are several listed.)

-TD, 44, German zookeeper, surrogate parent of the polar bear Knut, heart attack. (Surrogate polar bear parenting!!! Why didn’t THAT come up in our high school career options!!)

-FV, 97 American mob boss (Rochester crime family). (Strangely enough, I HAD thought of being a mafioso as an actual career – not for myself, but in general, as I assume you aren’t allowed to quit. It is remarkable to live to be 97 in such a line of work, I would think.)

-MT, 94, American manual typewriter expert, cancer. (Wow. Think of all of the quaint technologies of our era that might someday grace our obituaries. “6-head VCR expert” or “rotary telephone expert” or “Windows XP expert”…)

There are other entries that are fabulous, but you'll just have to look at them yourself. Of course, they are linked to more information. There go the next six hours of your life!


posted by Arlene (Beth)8:51 PM

Sunday, September 28, 2008

Brains? Braiiiiinnns? Brraaaaaaaains!!

  I failed to post the link to Steven's photo/video montage of the zombie mob event. It is here: We Want Brains (

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posted by Arlene (Beth)9:09 PM

Tuesday, September 16, 2008

Turns of Phrase

  I'm on the mailing list for the Uptown Nightclub ( in Oakland. It's fun to be on the Uptown's mailing list. They will write about shows featuring a "pioneering gothic strip group," or about events such as "Knocktoberfest: Knockers & Beer for a Good Cause" (a burlesque breast cancer benefit). I also had a good laugh knowing that the Voodoo Glow Skulls are coming next month in concert.

(Old age reverie, presented here in black and white, with a ska/punk/retro soundtrack and in an exaggerated old lady voice: I last saw the Voodoo Glow Skulls at the no longer extant Trocadero!! Which is where I learned about the directionality of mosh pits! (Wow.))

Amazingly enough, even though the Uptown's most recent mailing had me laughing out loud, it could not top a simple discography on my favorite reference site on the web. I wanted to know more about experimental electronica act Venetian Snares (, and so obviously Wikipedia's entry on Venetian Snares was the essential place to go.

Highlights of the discography: "Winnipeg Is a Frozen Sh*thole" (2005: described on the separate Wikipedia page devoted to the album as "one of his harshest, angriest releases"), "A Giant Alien Force More Violent & Sick Than Anything You Can Imagine" (2002), and, just to show you his range, "Songs About My Cats" (2001; Wikipedia claims there are photos of the artist's cats "embedded" in one track, which can be directly viewed "with a spectrum analyzer").

This is how the Internet can steal away all the waking hours of your life. All this because the song Szerencsétlen was interesting.

In other news, iTunes taught me that I know entirely too much about late 1900s industrial music ("Oh look, I have that one, too!"), and that I want to know even more about experimental electronica ("Oh look, more Boards of Canada!"). Danger, Will Robinson, Danger!

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posted by Arlene (Beth)6:00 AM

Monday, September 15, 2008

"He Kills Me Singing"

  Ever since my employer relocated headquarters to Eville (a.k.a. Emeryville, California), I have been talking about Eville's natural soundtrack. That is, whatever the radio station of choice is for the Emery-Go-Round ( shuttle bus system, free buses which haul workers from MacArthur BART to the various reaches of Emeryville's office spaces.

2007 felt dominated by easy listening, but 2008 marked a change to KBLX, which led to... Well, okay, more easy listening. And the amusement of my most regular shuttle driver that I know all the words to Michael Jackson's 1979 album Off The Wall. The problem with so many of the tunes KBLX plays is that I know the lyrics to the songs they play. (Yes, because I am old.) And often, those lyrics stick in my head.

One morning, they played Let's Get It On. Imagine spending your day writing dry legal documents with Let's Get It On on endless loop in your head. It's just not pretty.

The source of recent mental-loop torment was the rather lovely, painfully sticky song Killing Me Softly with His Song ( by Roberta Flack. Which is a really, really persistent... [sound of struggle] Anyway, it's actually a very good song. I wanted to know more about it.

After downloading a version of it and listening to it a few times, all roads led to Wikipedia. Unsurprisingly, Wikipedia's many obsessive-compulsive contributors have outdone themselves: in addition to information about the song writers, performers, covers, and information about the hits that preceded and succeeded Roberta Flack's version on Billboard's charts, there is a relentlessly fabulous chart listing versions of this song in other languages. With the title translated.

Oh! Oh oh oh oh oh! This is the internet at it's best.


"He kills me singing" from Italy. (This covers most Italian operas.)

"Of what you live and breathe" from Estonia. (Possibly a song about oxygen and nitrogen.)

"Two little wings are not here" from the Czech Republic. (A song about... the birds that are NOT evoked in the song.)

"Every day is too much" from Finland. ("Please send anti-depressants.")

And, possibly the best translation of them all, "Something inside me became sad" from Germany.

I LOVE Wikipedia!!

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posted by Arlene (Beth)10:07 PM

Saturday, September 13, 2008

Template update: Thanks, Larry!

  I've been using Blogger since 2002, and I don't always look at my options as plainly as I should. Times change, templates change, but I haven't really paid much attention, as long as my pages keep publishing.

Facebook hasn't been importing the titles of these posts, and I had some suspicions about why: HTML has come a long way since 3.0, and it is far easier to tell programs what kind of data you are posting now than it was 'back in the day.' I figured that there was something I was supposed to be doing manually to let Blogger know what a title was versus what the rest of the body was. I thought it was a class designation, like the blogspot blogs have. But I couldn't find any really plain explanations of using class that led me to think I'd get that right on the first try.

When I asked, Larry kindly sent me the blogger template codes his blog uses... And I was surprised to see fields that my blog doesn't use. That, in turn, inspired me to look more closely at other things that have changed... Lo and Behold, there's a simple pull-down menu to establish a post title. Two or three clicks there, plus a little tweak to the template so that the title data will display the way I like, and I'm good to go.

This is what happens when you spend too much time writing painfully bare bones HTML in Notepad, and don't look at the tools that are available to have better-defined posts.

Thanks for sending me in the right direction, Larry!


posted by Arlene (Beth)3:15 PM

Thursday, August 28, 2008


Thoughts on content: Facebook.

I have played with Facebook quite a bit since I signed on many months ago, when it became the favorite "time suck" of my work peer group in their idle hours. Despite earlier recommendations from trusted friends, I had previously avoided Facebook because I feared it had the flaws of overtly awful MySpace, where users collect "friends" they don't know and will never meet, who are then responsible for leaving inane comments on users' profile pages, which often form the bulk of the "content" there. So you can have 800 friends and a page full of remarks like, "I would totally have come to ur bday party, but, like, I live in frickin' North Dakota. Oh, and I'm, like, so grounded, LOL." But without punctuation. From someone using a photo of a hamster to represent themselves.

Facebook seems to be better than MS for several reasons. The top two: the tools are better for posting photos and notes, sharing links, and adding comments to such content posted by others, and people limit their friends to people they actually know.

Also, Facebook has toys that delight me because of their pure senselessness. For example, there is a program that announces to you friends that you have thrown sheep at them. This has become my favorite thing. My delight in this type of non-sequiter is considerable: there is something about acknowledging the frivolity of on-line social networking in it, which pleases me greatly.

But yes, Virginia, it is possible to use Facebook for content sharing. Several of my friends are using it for posting announcements and invitations to political fundraisers and advocacy events; post links to films they've made and invitations to screenings; to centralize an index of links to their blogs; to post photos, including photos (1) of subjects other than themselves and (2) photos of themselves and their friends doing something other than drinking!! (If there is one truly oppressive convention in Facebook, it is the 'I consume alcohol' photo. I've joked about it, I've tried it, and I'm glad people I know are finding a wider range of events to post. There is more to life!)

As of when I first drafted this post, my own Facebook profile page contained: links to a McSweeney's H. P. Lovecraft parody; my new UnScene gallery; Facebook In Real Life by idiotsofants, a video sent by Maryann; four haiku status updates (via my Twitter feed); 28 imported notes (all from this blog, replacing my photoblog); several comments on other people's photos; 20 or so photo uploads from some of my five Facebook photo albums (Things that can poke you (other than me), Softly Wander, Oh, the horror! Zombies roam the Streets of San Francisco! (photos by Steven), Pretending I leave the house to socialize, and Mobile Uploads); and a list of 11 other minor Facebook application actions (writing on walls, sending good karma or virtual drinks, etc.).

Most Facebook users I know use it more for exchanging messages with friends and acquaintances than posting items to share (go figure - it is a 'social network'), but it is pleasing that it has decent content sharing functionality.

I need to let my friends know I'm thinking of them by throwing sheep now.


posted by Arlene (Beth)9:06 PM

Thursday, August 21, 2008


Another way to throw words at you.

Larry has talked up the mass-text-message service Twitter ( for some time, but I didn't pay any attention until I needed a text service to keep me in touch with other factions of the zombie mob. (We all have our priorities, right?) So I caved and signed up. And once I was following the zombie flash mob, it made sense to start posting my own sound-bite like messages, right?

You don't need to answer that.

There are FOUR ways to be irritated by my new Twitter feed:

-I am using it to update my status on Facebook: if you are friends with me on Facebook, you'll see my posts there, either in your newsfeed or at the top of my page.
-I have a script running near the bottom of (the splash page), which posts 10 or so recent twitterings.
-You can go to Twitter / mobilelene and read my posts on the web.
-You can follow me on Twitter with your free Twitter account (a sign-up page).

Yes, I want you to be able to CHOOSE the manner in which I can irritate you with my text-message frivolity!!

Added bonus: right now, I am only posting my thoughts as (especially, though not intentionally, bad) haiku.


I'm experimenting with both Twitter and Facebook as alternatives/supplements to posting content on my websites and blogs.

I've always been kind of content-obsessed, and have dedicated readers (thank you, readers!), but also have friends who don't have many other web-publishing-friends and don't use readers to condense feeds. They will ask me over and over where they can find my website... But can, and do, regularly comment on things I post to Facebook, since those things come up in their newsfeed.

That isn't what I was expecting, but there it is: a pleasant surprise. These friends also post photos and links that on Facebook that they have nowhere else to post, (and so would have to e-mail out links to some pay-service for), which I otherwise wouldn't see, so it is a fun exchange.


As of today, I am going to use this blog to feed Facebook also: these entries will be imported as notes, in place of my photoblog at While my photoblog has uploaded reliably, the images aren't previewed or stored with the other photos, and so aren't frequently viewed by my friends there. If I do import photos, I'll do it manually, so they'll show up in a "mobile upload" gallery. I will still use the photoblog regularly, just not as a direct feed to Facebook.

If you subscribe to my feed for this blog, you probably still should, since your reader is surely more sensible than the newsfeed in Facebook. Unless it isn't.

Facebook has already retroactively imported about 25 of my most recent messages into my "Notes," all without titles for some reason, so it's playing catch-up. [Postscript: my style sheets don't utilize class to indicate my post titles, which is why Facebook considers them to be untitled. I've made a note to upgrade my style sheets the next time I can't sleep.]

This may mean some redundancy if I share links both on Facebook and here. I may post in both places when it will be formatted better, and delete any redundant entries later. For example:

My UnScene Photo Gallery has been posted!!

UnScene Tour - Elizabeth Graves, UnScene Winner is something I posted a link to earlier today, and this entry will also appear in the notes... You see where I'm going. Sorry in advance.

It's a nice gallery though, isn't it?


posted by Arlene (Beth)8:47 PM

Sunday, August 03, 2008


Best new item at McSweeney's Internet Tendency.


My favorite news feed item: "Ophelia joined the group Maidens Who Don't Float."

Stellar. Absolutely stellar. Thank you, MacKenzie, for sending this link!

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posted by Arlene (Beth)4:06 PM

Wednesday, July 30, 2008


New photos.

Veiled Buddha photograph by A.E. GravesStrangely enough, I have posted some photographs to... Facebook. Seriously. Even though Facebook can't handle grayscale images, so they all looked ridiculous until I converted them to RGB and uploaded them again.

Softly Wander currently has just 9 sample images, but I plan to upload more. When you least expect me to. Hah!

(I am using the "public" link which is supposed to work outside of FB... Does it?)

I have quite a few things to say about Facebook, but right now I need to sleep.

Ooooh, sleep.

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posted by Arlene (Beth)10:17 PM

Sunday, July 20, 2008


Small website updates.

My non-blog food page has just experienced a few minor updates. I have updated the recipe index so that it is current, and have revised several of the SF restaurant recommendations. I have also added the years of my regular visits to restaurants, so you can gauge how fresh the recommendation is.

Some of the significant changes to the listings:

-Andale Mexican Restaurant (Marina): DELISTED due to closure.

-Cafe Grillades (Hayes Valley): DELISTED due to closure. It has been replaced by Stacks, a very egg-oriented, comfort-food breakfast establishment. In the place of this listing, I have posted references to a couple places that I should eat at again soon to better review.

-Great India (Richmond district): DELISTED due to... the meal I had there today.

-Kwanjai Thai (Marina): DELISTED due to closure.

-Siam Dish (Ingleside/West Portal/Sunnyside/and between): DELISTED due to closure.

-Yokoso Nippon (Castro, sort of): note that the restaurant remains closed due to fire damage. I really hope it opens soon!

I have new recommendations to make, but I don't have those notes handy. And I really want to prepare my short list of Eville restaurants before working on that.


I have updated the things consumed archive page, which provides links to my old blog entries.


I also republished my entire archive so that there is always a link available to the current blog entry... but blogger has an issue with this, and has created individual entry links that don't work. This problem is described on the Blogger Group Help pages here, but you'll notice that no one has posted a reply.

Note at 12:30 a.m.: it looks like Blogger helpfully decided to add an EXTRA, invisible #<$BlogItemNumber$> without allowing it to appear in the template, where I could see it. So, I had to delete the only #<$BlogItemNumber$> I could see, and that appears to have cleared up the problem. I have republished the entire blog. Sorry I didn't notice that Blogger had introduced this issue until now.

Sleep tight!


posted by Arlene (Beth)12:05 AM

Sunday, June 08, 2008


I have a four-image portfolio up at Artists Wanted.

cyanotype print of succulentYou can find me at (Plural in the group name, singular in the website name.) Apparently, there is voting, so if you are inclined, you can "vote" on my portfolio.

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posted by Arlene (Beth)12:03 PM

Tuesday, May 27, 2008


New work.

cyanotype print of succulent plantNo, not a new job: new artwork! Specifically, cyanotype prints of succulents, one set of what will probably be a long, happy series. (Oh, don't sound so disappointed: you know how I (mis)manage my life: a sane new job near my place of residence is not on the horizon.)

Go to Succulents (Cyanotpes) on to see seven new prints.

(Yes, I know that the listing of all my work at is getting out of hand, and I'm working on some simplistic solutions even as we speak. Well, okay, not really. But I plan to test out a few new organizational schemes soon.)

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posted by Arlene (Beth)7:00 AM

Thursday, May 15, 2008


A short list of sights seen daily from BART between the transbay tube and West Oakland BART

-Stacks of colorful shipping containers
-Trucks, speeding out of the port area
-A row of palm trees on their sad, desert island median
-Tanks of fuel, with protective moats
-A haze that obscures the east bay hills
-An engine, pushing empty container trays
-Tiny Victorian houses
-Wow Farm, a small community garden
-The back yard that had the enormous cut-out painting of a hand on the fence, which is now laying, forlorn, on the ground
-Bright red poppies on long stems
-Imperial walkers, along the near, artificial shore.

A visual photo essay on this same topic can be found at my phone photo blog, beginning with Industrial West Oakland 1 (

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posted by Arlene (Beth)10:00 PM

Thursday, April 24, 2008


My latest article is up at!

cyanotype print of architectural abstract by A.E. GravesVinegar-developed cyanotypes: Non-Toxic Midtone Contrast Control is my latest article at the fabulous site, It provides examples of how ordinary white kitchen vinegar can give you a wider range of cyanotype mid-tones and shorten your exposure times.

I was curious about the effects that vinegar might have after (1) using it in some of my early cyanotype printing experiments when I ran out of sulphuric acid, to good effect and (2) after reading horror stories on one of the alternative process web discussion groups about the terrible things that acidic water can do to your images. The experiments went so well that I'm printing a wider range of images now with vinegar.

I can hear your eyes rolling back into your head and your leg starting to twitch in that nervous way, so I'll just end this entry here, okay? Are you still conscious? Hello?

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posted by Arlene (Beth)10:19 PM


Small updates.

I have now updated Creative Expression to reflect Jay's Flickr page and Bloggity blog blog blog blog blog from Michael Andrews (blogspot). Because I can.


posted by Arlene (Beth)10:11 PM

Tuesday, April 08, 2008


Photography portfolio updates!

ferrotype of Japanese-style iron teapotI've been a busy girl this evening... And for the past several months, actually.

New galleries up at include:

Extraordinary Light: Lake Merced (Infrared)

Palace of Fine Arts (Cyanotypes)

Pumpkins (Ambrotypes: Wet Collodion on Black Glass)


Tea Set (Ferrotypes: Wet Collodion on Trophy Aluminum).

I had promised a big April update, and I do have additional recent work to post, but these galleries provide enough updates for one evening.

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posted by Arlene (Beth)11:28 PM

Saturday, March 08, 2008



I signed up on Facebook this week under my full name, Arlene Elizabeth Graves. I'm collecting friends, so if you're not one of my former scary stalkers, feel free to look me up and send me a friend request.

Facebook isn't as a great venue for posting content, though it's a great venue for squandering lots of time while 'throwing Paula Abdul' at your friends. Or joining a cartoon gang. Or... Other frivolous stuff.


posted by Arlene (Beth)10:00 PM

Thursday, January 24, 2008



I always said I wouldn't start up a photoblog, because I have too much going on already. But now that I can take low-res images on my phone and post by simply e-mailing them to a blog from my phone, there's no real reason NOT to have one. is the beginning of another fun compulsion... Or the same compulsion with different tools. Or something along those lines.

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posted by Arlene (Beth)9:43 PM

Sunday, January 20, 2008


Yes, Virginia, there is a news feed for this blog.

Up there, up near the top of the page! It's a bird! It's a plane! It's... a link to subscribe to the feed for this blog, so you can read it on your reader, or aggregator, or home page, or whatever you use to read feeds you subscribe to.

Does it work? I certainly hope so.

Thank you, friends who have pressured me to setting up a feed for so very long. Sorry I kept you waiting.


posted by Arlene (Beth)2:33 PM

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