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15 November 2005 to 1 November 2005

Danforth Museum of Art, Framingham
When designing software that displays lists, remember that you're trying to optimize for the user's experience, not the page size or the roundness of numbers.  

1. Scrolling is far easier than paging, so generally the more you put on each page, the better off anybody is. For brief items like query results, think 100 instead of 10, for example, and adjust from there. Preferably up.  

2. Never orphan a page with less than half as many items as the page size. That is, if you have less than 1.5x items to show, put them all on the same page. 104 items with a nominal page size of 100 items should produce a single 104-item page, not a 100-item first page and a 4-item second page. 428 items should be shown on 4 pages, not 5. And that's 1-128, 129-228, 229-328 and 329-428, not 1-100, 101-200, 201-300 and 301-428. A little more information never hurt anybody much.  

3. After spending 5% of your effort on paging, put the other 95% into obsessively tweaking the format of the results so that they convey as much information as can be conceivably clearly expressed. If you haven't read Tufte, read Tufte. If you've read Tufte but think his advice doesn't apply to your case, read him again.
I'm trying to avoid falling back into thinking about everything in terms of music, but it was acknowledgement to begin with, not laziness, so I guess it's no surprise that it keeps happening. Music is a tangible manifestation of emotional resonance, and anything with no emotional resonance isn't going to hold my attention very long anyway.  

But that doesn't necessarily make it any easier to understand what the associations mean. I'm riding the train to work today, thinking about individual expression, data analysis, implicit semantic coding and XML syntax, and listening to the demo version of Jimmy Eat World's Futures, and it's clearly trying to tell me something. Something about how the physical understanding of home (in both the housing and location senses) is still so much more tenuous and artificial in information space, or how informal schema might make it possible to improvise in those spaces.  

The important thing about blogging, maybe, isn't the current content of any body of blogs, or any hypothetical change in the dynamics of news propagation or critical consensus, but only that, as with email and IM before it, it is an emerging human function for networked computers. And maybe it's more interesting than email or IM because it's something most people weren't doing before. It is a solution that may be on the way to finding its problem.
Two observations after attending a (self-selected) "Web Innovators Meetup" in Cambridge last night:  

1. I need fewer, better, more-unified processes and things in my life, not yet more disconnected worlds in which one tiny aspect is better than in the others. I have too many mutually oblivious and only-semi-redundant sources, too many disjoint and inadequate pseudo-communities, too many earnest self-improvement schemes that cheerfully demand that I start at the beginning again. But most of my interesting problems exist in context, and although sometimes replacing the context is the only way out, more often it's just a panic button, and the new context only "solves" the old problems by the ancient expedient of trading them for new ones. I'm not looking for another Bazaar of the Flawed, I'm looking for a better future.  

2. The web needs women.  

The sheer congruent magnitude of the two suggests that they might be related.
Some things from the second half of The Blue Octavo Notebooks.  

Sin always comes openly and can at once be grasped by means of the senses. It walks on its roots and does not have to be torn out.  

Poseidon grew tired of his seas. The trident fell from his grasp. Silent, there he sat on a rocky coast, and a gull, stupefied by his presence, flashed in wavering circles round his head.  

But here is something for you to tell your workmates downstairs: we here shall not rest until we have made a drawing-room of your shaft, and if you do not all finally go to your doom in patent-leather shoes, then you shall not go at all.  

All human errors are impatience.  

It is comforting to reflect that the disproportion of things in the world seems to be only arithmetical.  

One tells as few lies as possible only by telling as few lies as possible, and not by having the least possible opportunity to do so.  

Association with human beings lures one into self-observation.  

Two tasks at the beginning of your life: to narrow your orbit more and more, and ever and again to check whether you are not in hiding somewhere outside your orbit.  

Many people assume that besides the great primal deception there is also in every individual case a little special deception provided for their benefit, in other words that when a drama of love is performed on the stage, the actress has, apart from the hypocritical smile for her lover, also an especially insidious smile for the quite particular spectator in the top balcony. This is going too far.  

Our art is a way of being dazzled by the truth.  

There is no need for you to leave the house. Stay at your table and listen. Don't even listen, just wait. Don't even wait, be completely quiet and alone. The world will offer itself to you to be unmasked; it can't do otherwise; in raptures it will writhe before you.
Today my brain seems to have cross-wired déjà vu and short-term memory, so that everything I try to remember recedes infinitely and incomprehensibly.  

I am trying more coffee, only because I can't think how to try less.
Just a handful of things from early in Franz Kafka's The Blue Octavo Notebooks, which is currently causing me to beam wickedly every few seconds while riding the train:  

Leopards break into the temple and drink to the dregs what is in the sacrificial pitchers; this is repeated over and over again; finally it can be calculated in advance, and it becomes a part of the ceremony.  

The unfitness of the object may cause one to overlook the unfitness of the means.  

Anyone who does miracles says: I cannot let go of the earth.  

He runs after facts like a beginner learning to skate, who, furthermore, practices somewhere where it is forbidden.  

The crows maintain that a single crow could destroy the heavens. There is no doubt of that, but it proves nothing against the heavens, for heaven simply means: the impossibility of crows.  

One cannot pay Evil in installments -- and one always keeps on trying to.  

They were given the choice of becoming kings or the kings' messengers. As is the way with children, they all wanted to be messngers.  

He gobbles up the leavings and crumbs that fall from his own table; in this way he is, of course, for a little while more thoroughly sated than all the rest, but he forgets how to eat from the table itself. In this way, however, there cease to be any crumbs and leavings.  

On the pretext of going hunting he leaves thehouse, on the pretext of wanting to keep an eye on the house he climbs the most unscalable heights, if we did not know that he was going hunting we should hold him back.  

The voices of the world becoming quieter and fewer.
Darkwell: Fate Prisoner (2.3M mp3)  

Another one for an introduction to Angel Metal.
I can tell from the way he puts the empty potato-chip bag down beside him that he's going to leave it there when he gets up. He has too deliberately kept it beside him, not stuffed it under the seats. It's an in-house convenience-store brand, which probably shouldn't exist to begin with, and between it and the newspaper, surely he could have afforded something less idiotic for breakfast. The old woman across from us is watching him, too.  

The train pulls into the final station. He gets up, without the bag, and starts to go. "Oh, come on, take your trash with you", I say. "Sorry," he mutters before even turning, trying to flinch away from me but kind of bouncing back off the rubber edge of the doorway as he does. He retrieves the bag. There's a trash can on the platform, exactly where this door opened. He drops the bag in the trash and lingers there a moment, carefully looking away from me. The old woman walks around to the other side of the can and stops right across from him. He looks up at her. I'm behind him, and can't see his face. She puts on her reading glasses, inspects him sourly, and then nods. To him, to me, to herself.
There are good mistakes and bad mistakes. For a good example, watch New England Revolution defender Michael Parkhurst on this goal by Youri Djorkaeff. Parkhurst demonstrates excellent awareness, anticipation, positioning and self-confidence. He also misses the ball, springing Djorkaeff on an unimpeded run to goal. He recovers instantly and nearly catches him (but doesn't), avoids fouling to give Matt Reis a chance to make the breakaway save (which in this case he doesn't) and does not get red-carded to force his team to play the rest of the game and a potential decisive overtime (which doesn't turn out to happen) shorthanded. Although Parkhurst's initial decision did result in an opponents' goal, it was still right, as were his subsequent failed attempts to recover. Every defensive play has risks, and if he tried the same things on a hundred repetitions of this one, I doubt the Metrostars score on any other of them.  

For contrast, watch goalkeeper Nick Rimando on Jack Stewart's opening goal in DC United's collapse against the Chicago Fire. It gets funnier with every replay. Rimando is nearly at the back post (otherwise ungarded, you'll note) when the corner kick is struck, with two players almost directly in front of him. As the ball swings in, he charges wildly across the goal mouth, flinging himself uncontrollably into the air in apparent anticipation of a Jim Curtin header that doesn't come that close to happening and he'd have been wildly lucky to touch if it had. This not only puts him yards out of position for the ensuing shot, but since he'd assumed personal responsibility for the back post, opens the exact space into which the shot goes. This is dismal individual decision-making, woeful defensive organization, obliviously self-destructive team play, and probably even flawed coaching. Repeat this one a hundred times and although Chicago won't always score, it will almost never be Rimando's actions that prevent them.  

DC is now in the off-season. The Revs host the Eastern Conference Final on Sunday, and Michael Parkhurst just won Rookie of the Year.
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