Archives: “that tangled Web”

Block Retweets in Twitterrific (and Twitter in general)

blockretweets.pngHere’s the thing: for the most part I really enjoy and get a lot of personal value out of Twitter. But besides the annoying (but easily ignored) infiltration of Twitter by the PR/marketing webcockerati the one thing that’s harder to ignore is the “retweet”.


Retweeting (or simply “RT”) is when someone reposts someone else’s tweet. It’s really that simple. And it drives me nuts, for a few reasons:

  1. Chances are if I was interested in the person being retweeted I probably follow them already, so the retweet just ends up being duplication and noise.
  2. If there’s something Big and Momentous going on (see: sporting events, political brouhahas, Apple announcements, etc.), many people often retweet the same tweet, which is like #1 but even more annoying.
  3. Many retweets often consist of links to “cool stuff”. For the most part I’m not really that interested as I already have enough sources for cool links (delicious, digg, my newsreader, Tumblr, etc.), and the value of Twitter for me is more in stalking staying in touch with friends than in any so-called “viral messaging”.

    I just gave myself gas typing those two words. The things I do for this web site.

  4. If you absolutely had to retweet something, common courtesy would be to link to that person’s tweet rather than regurgitate the text wholesale. The same courtesy already exists for weblogs, so why not microblogs like Twitter?

So, fuck ‘em. For those of you who use Twitterrific, here’s a little application that sets up retweet blocking.

Download the Block Retweets application (posted March 14, 2009, version 1.1)

(Looking for the source code? It’s available from the project page on Github.)

Instructions on how to use this and how it works are included, but don’t worry: this is completely safe and 100% reversible. Basically, download, decompress, run, click “Block”, and enjoy your retweet-free Twitterrific.

How do I block retweets on the Twitter web site?

For those of you using the Twitter web site with Firefox or Safari there’s still hope. With the Firefox Greasemonkey add-on or the GreaseKit plugin (which works in Safari, OmniWeb, Fluid, or any other WebKit-based browser) you can block retweets with “beejaminBoy’s” No Retweets userscript. I just installed it and it’s working for me, but I didn’t write this so your mileage may vary.

Google adds some illustration into the mix

Screenshot of Google personalized homepage

I was rather surprised by the new themes that Google rolled out recently for their personalized homepage product. Could this be the influence of über-designer Doug Bowman? At any rate, it’s nice to see Google finally adding some nice illustration and visual design to their products. Austere can only get you so far.

Leslie Harpold

I was at work this morning when I read the news that Leslie Harpold had died. The news hit me like a washing machine through the chest; all at once bewildering and stunning.

Leslie's web site was one of the first I remembering reading that truly made me feel the strength. intelligence, and character of the individual behind it. You couldn't read her writing without feeling deeply inspired by just how fucking amazing her talent was. Her 500 is some of the best writing I've seen anywhere, online or otherwise.

I started this web site in part because reading her words made me itch and squirm and want to weave together a few of my own.

Everyone has a list of people that they'd love to meet, and Leslie was high on mine. I never got the chance, but I did exchange a number of emails with her around the time she started soliciting photos for more inspiration for her Harpold 500. She was funny, friendly, and shockingly gracious and generous with her time.

I'm not sure where I'm going with this entry, but I've been thinking about this all day and wanted to get it out of my system. All I know is that the world feels like a poorer, duller place today without Leslie Harpold in it.

I've reopened this entry a half dozen times, trying to think of a way to summarize how I felt about a person I barely knew and why it makes me so sad that they are gone. The irony is that for someone who crafted and inspired so many words I really haven't found the right ones.

Others remember Leslie: Merlin, Dan, Kevin, Emily, Brad, Lia, Chris, Lance, and more.



I just launched the first stage of a site redesign for a friend’s band that I wanted to quickly pimp. Novillero (spanish for “novice bullfighter”) hail from my hometown of Winnipeg, and I think they’re just super. They’ve got this interesting mix of pop, rock, and soul, mixed with a healthy does of energy and melodies that quickly become pleasantly embedded in one’s cerebral cortex.

If you believe that the company one keeps is an indication of worthiness, you should know that they’re signed to the same label that is home to The New Pornographers and Neko Case - Mint Records.

At any rate, I took on their site initially as a favour because I thought (and still think) that designers need to use their superskills to spread the word on interesting or cool things. In my book Novillero passes that test with flying colours. Do yourself a favour and check them out.

10 lists worth reading

Work is kicking my ass in more ways than I care to describe, so instead I’ll wimp out and post a meta-list of sorts. It does seem like the web is really getting into lists these days.

  1. 10 things every new mac owner should know
  2. Full-time freelancing: 10 things learned in 180 days
  3. 10 rules for web startups
  4. 9 Canadian bands rocking the passport
  5. The top 40 bands in America today
  6. Overheard: Goblet of Fire edition
  7. 10 ways to please us, the customers
  8. My top ten CSS tricks
  9. Five terrible fake entrees from the dotcom era
  10. List of CDs infected with Sony’s craptacular rootkit digital rights management

And that’s just in the last few weeks. Just wait until all of the music and film webloggers start posting best-of lists for 2005. Sproing!

Cool musicians who blog

I thought it would be cool to start compiling links to musicians I enjoy who run their own weblogs, so let’s at ‘er. When I talk about cool, I guess I’m talking about cool as it pertains to me (who else?), and when I talk about weblog, I’m talking something fairly frequently updated by the artist themselves. If you know of a musician I’ve missed, please let me know.

Clarification: If I can find the artist listed on (which uses the All Music Guide data in a site that doesn’t suck ass), Metacritic, or Pitchfork, it gets added to the list. Not a very good (or fair) definition of “cool”, but I gotta have some kind of criterion.

Follow the jump for a rather massive list.

» Cool musicians who blog continues...

Around the bend and back home again

Austin Sunset

I’m back from , feeling exhausted but still vibrating from the exhilaration of the past six days. This was my first year at the conference and I wasn’t quite sure what to expect, but I was pretty much pleased with the whole experience. My brain still feels like oatmeal in a Baggie, so instead of writing a rambling 2000-word that might verge on the incoherent, I’ll summarize in bullet points.

» Around the bend and back home again continues...

South by Southwest or bust

sxswAfter years of sitting on the sidelines (due to busyness, laziness, or lack of financial wherewithal), I’m finally getting off of my duffel bag and headed down to South by Southwest. Judging by the list of panels and speakers, it looks like half the web is going, too.

It’s really exciting to finally get a chance to go to the festival, and will be equally cool and overwhelming to be around so many web nerds. The possibility of finally putting faces, and more importantly voices to names and URLs is going to be a blast.

If you see me wandering around with a glazed donut look on my face, feel free to grab me and say hello. At the very least, please be kind enough to point me in the direction of the nearest caffeinated beverage.

Painting with Sound

You’ve probably played “the hypothetical game” with friends way back when you were kicking it, high school-style. No doubt you were lying out on some cool, freshly cut grass with the stars twinkling overhead, a bottle of illegitimately procured alcohol beside you, and The Cure’s “A Night Like This” reverberating from a car parked nearby, when the person you were with asked:

If you had to lose one sense, which one would it be: taste, smell, touch, sight, or hearing?

This question would always provoke a deep contemplation on what life would be like with part of the sensory spectrum removed. For me, a life without a sense of taste or smell would be disastrous, but a life without the ability to hear would be unbearable.

oldEarsSound was ever-present at home. As a kid, I was brought up enveloped in the routine of music lessons (accordian, organ, piano, school band, etc.), as were my sister and brothers. I remember basking in the cacophony that were the stereo wars my two older brothers waged; punk rock and new wave vs. arena schlock and early 80’s guitar posturing. Upstairs, my father played crooners, 60’s lounge music, and a seemingly neverending stream of classic music to help inspire our piano playing.

No doubt because of this, my favourite art is sound-based. Music (the playing of and listening to) has played a huge role in my life, and to this day if I’m feeling stressed out or melancholy, plucking an acoustic guitar or listening to a choice album always helps. Playing music is what helped define who I felt I was in my late teens and earlier twenties. I won’t allow myself to stoop to rampant cliché (too late), but I don’t know what I would have done without music then. Music doth soothe the savage beast, indeed.

Sound fascinates me. I’m especially fascinated by animals and people with highly attuned senses of hearing, like the blind person who can tell who is approaching by the sound of their walk, or my cats, who ignore the sounds of anyone else opening the main door of our building, but leap to attention when some secret auditory signal tells them that Renée has just opened the door.

The idea of sound, and the act of actually listening to and absorbing the sounds you are hearing, are what opens up the possibilities of existence. This, even more so than seeing, allows you to truly connect with the act of living. Between experiences and memory is sound.

This post was inspired by the discovery this afternoon of The Quiet American’s One-Minute Vacation, which describes itself as:

“Surely you can spare a minute to clean your ears? Take a one-minute vacation from the life you are living.

One-minute vacations are unedited recordings of somewhere, somewhen. Sixty seconds of something else. Sixty seconds to be someone else.”

My answer to that hypothetical question posed so long ago? “Anything, as long as it wasn’t the ability to hear.”

All Music Guide redesign disaster

All Music GuideFrom the “redesigns that made things worse” file comes the brand-spanking new All Music Guide redesign which just launched today. There were a lot of problems with the previous site, and I had much hope that this redesign would improve what I think is one of the most useful sites online.

There are so many problems with this redesign I literally don’t know where to start.

» All Music Guide redesign disaster continues...

The immateriality of memories

I’ve been in a quiet, pensive mood for the past week or two, as the post-school calm starts to seep in. After the hurly-burly of the last three weeks and constant activity has passed, the stillness and quiet feels somehow wrong. I find myself with much less to do, and I feel strangely cranky and melancholy because of it.

It was in this state of mind that I stumbled across today’s NPR’s “Day to Day”, which had the most beautiful, heartbreaking segment entitled “Saving Phone Messages as a Living Memorial”. Here, Dmae Roberts talks about (and shares) phone messages from her mother, who passed away two years ago.

Saving Phone Messages as a Living Memorial

My story has been intrinsically linked to my mom’s story—a world war two Taiwanese woman who never had a childhood because she was sold as a baby to be a servant to other people-her adopted step-parents.

It constantly amazes me how the cold, clinical touch of technology can transport such intense, almost overwhelming warmth and humanity. This is one of most moving, sublime things I have ever heard.

Listen to the segment as an MP3 stream or a realaudio stream. You can also read the transcript at

The march of the clueless

I read with interest this post from one of my favourite web sites Boing Boing regarding the incredible gullibility of some people:

“Check out the comments on this thread. I posted this note about Bill Gates’ philanthropy. There are dozens of comments from people who apparently think Bill Gates posted it and will give them money. It’s fascinating to read — what are these people thinking? I thought about shutting off the comments, but I have this perverse desire to read them. Every couple of comments I have someone leave their phone number and/or home address that I have to go edit out.”

This reminded me of the article I wrote a long time about Dean Kamen, creator of the massively hyped, poorly sold Segway. At the end, a bunch of people posted comments thinking they were writing directly to Kamen himself. This is even though it’s patently obvious to anyone with an iota of active brain cells that this site has about as much to do with Kamen as I do with a mutated Siberian yak named Shirley.

I don’t mean to sound cruel, but are some people’s heads filled with particle board, or what?

(Update): Here’s another priceless one: people who think this site’s author is none other than Maury Povich:


I was so impressed with what you did for the little girl with the club feet and hands, how you got a wheelchair van, and computer for her. we need more people like you maury, who will lift the spirits of others.

I weep for humanity.

Designers and their Pets

rajEmma.jpgContinuing the vein of photographs somewhat related to me, I recently added a photo of my cats to Orca Girl's Animals & their Designers. Send in your favourite animal buddy, too!

My favourite pet photos are probably Todd Dominey's Burger, or nate's cat Jenny. Two fine tabbies.

Pet owners should not be allowed to dress up their pets. Ever.


In a fit of pure narcissism (I guess that's what it was), I submitted shots of yours truly to the Baby Picture Project over at When I Was Little. There's thirty years separating these two photographs. I don't know what I should think about that.

In more congratulatory news, congraulations are in order once more to Jeffrey Zeldman and Carrie Bickner on their upcoming wedding plans. (Insert bad joke here about web standards and validation). Love is a many splendored thing.

One of my students loaned me the DVD set of Six Feet Under's first season. Being HBO-deficient, this is a cause for celebration.

Thanks to this tip over at MacOSXHints, Apple's Safari moves one step closer to becoming my default browser. Now all they need to do is make the tab system work like Camino's: I like to have external links open in existing windows, and not in a new tab, but I can't have both. If I want tabs, external links have to open in a new tab. Hopefully this is fixed at some point.

I could always go begging over at Safari developer David Hyatt's weblog, but that would be rude, wouldn't it?

Edit:Now that I'm using Safari part-time, I just found a bug in Safari's CSS-handling. If you're using Safari, you'll see the title for these posts repeated twice.

I'm using the :first-letter pseudo-class to change the colour and size of just the first letter of each entries titles - it seems Safari doesn't like that very much. Time to file a bug report...


Congratulations and word to your mother to:

  1. Mark Pilgrim on his big day.
  2. Jeffrey "The Touque" Zeldman on the publication of his long-awaited book, Designing with Web Standards.
  3. Lana Stewart and her impending adventure to that place over there.
  4. Derek Powazek for joining the club..
  5. Todd Dominey on his new digs.
  6. Me, for finally seeing the light at the end of the tunnel for this cold.
  7. You, for being so suave and sassy. Yeah, you know it.

May Day (some other day)

Well, I was really looking forward to participating in the May Day Project, where participants would take one photo every hour today to chronicle what their life was like today.

But I'm still brutally sick with this infernal cold. It would be a rather pitiful representation of my life to have pictures of cold remedy bottles, tea mugs, and other crap around my apartment.

So even though this breaks the spirit of the project, I'm going to postpone my "day of photos" until I'm actually normal again.

It's a rather cool idea, though - go and check it out. <achoo!>

Your tax dollars at work

cbcradio3.jpgThe CBC must have gone on a designer hiring spree recently, as I've been finding a lot of really nice work through their site.

The redesigned and relaunched CBC Radio 3 site is a perfect example of this: clean, crisp design, with some tasty use of flash and a nice magazine format.

Posts have returned to their bite-sized, low-fat portions while I try to wrestle with some class curriculum that just has to get done. This is a temporary thing, though.

CBC Archives

An acquaintance of mine mentioned that she was one of the many people working on this project, which is rather cool: a gigantic archive of everything the CBC has ever broadcast, all available online.

At least, that's the lofty goal. I have no idea how close they are to moving everything online, but there is a lot of good ol' Canadian content here. Unfortunately they chose the rather crapulent Windows Media format for their clips, which of course is a P.O.S., especially when running on a Mac. Ah well.

I'm constantly surprised by the hidden, woefully under-marketed sites that the CBC has scattered around, like the flash-tastic, or the clip collections at the stupidly named ZeD.

The CBC is amazing at marketing their news stuff (having Peter Mansbridge and all of the other anchors mention the site during every newscast helps), but suck at marketing the rest of their sprawling properties. It's too bad - they've got some interesting gems here and there.


I'm not quite sure what advent calendars are; they have something to do originally with Roman Catholic church, right? Darn non-religious upbringing. I still don't understand what Lent is all about, either.

Anyway, I've really been enjoying the online advent calendars I've found. Specifically:

Any others that ya'll have found?

(Oh. I learned a little about Advent calendars from this site, which also has a bunch of nice "historical" examples. Still, I'm not sure I understand the religious connection...)

Sweet RSS and Dirty Blogdex

My life (well, okay: my Web existence) changed when I discovered Brent Simmons' NetNewsWire. Being able to quickly scan through the headlines from 60 or 70 Web sites in fifteen minutes is truly devo-licious. It's also helped eliminate a lot of the aimless browsing I used to get trapped in every morning as I went around to all of my bookmarked sites.

One site whose RSS feed I have subscribed to is the Blogdex. As an aggregator of all that is hot and linked (as pornographic as that sounds), it used to be a good barometer of worthy browsing.

So, let's see what the headlines are these days:

Scientist burns penis with hot laptop
Piqua's library has to flesh out its own Web site
Report of sex in kindergarten investigated
Police find 17 sex toys in local woman's car
Porn shows up in businessman's slide show

(These were all in the top ten when I checked Blogdex.)

Let's compare to what Blogdex reported in the top ten a year ago:

US shuts down Somalia Internet
Adbusters: Buy nothing day
Food Fight (an article about consumerism in Iraq)
A List Apart: Reading Design
(A Japanese site for some fancy, geeky watch)

More and more, Blogdex is listing the kind of sensationalistic tripe found most often in the pages of the supermarket tabloids.

Is this another sign of the increasing mainstreaming of the Blog world? Or, has it always been like this but I've never noticed?

My name is bruce…

Dear god, this is why some people shouldn't be allowed to bear children if they're going to be allowed to name them, too:
It seems to me that the name "Scatman" is a great one. you know: after semi-singer and comedian Scatman Crothers.

I keep envision having a son named Scatman. I can imagine everyone he meets saying, 'What a cool name.' Which is good because that way they'll have something to like about him even if his personality is really off-putting. Or if he's shallow or a bully when he's like 13, when he should be getting into punk rock or something. At least they'll think he has a hip name.

But don't use it, cause I thought of it.
Brought to you by Baby's Named a Bad, Bad Thing: A Primer on Parent Cruelty.

Link unearthed over at the Backup Brain.


Our deepest condolences to Leslie Harpold, mourning the loss of her beloved cat Marco.

Il fait froid (and linkage)

Damn, but it's cold. And this is only the beginning.

  • The always swank and well-dressed Lana has moved to a shiny, equally swank new home: Place and Thyme. Go and say hello.
  • The generous and most kind PJ (thanks for the magazine!) has also relocated. I owe you a coke.
  • In other Web news, the world shakes its fist in the air (while bellowing, "nooooo!") as Dennis Mahoney and Tobias Seamon put their visit-worthy site 0format on the shelf. When will they return? "Sometime in 2003." I say: crap.
  • Why sign-off is a ridiculous thing.
  • Mena Trott, 1/2 of the squeaky-keen Movable Type team, has also launched a wonderful redesign of her personal site.
  • LiteBrite.

My god, am I just totally not ready for winter.

a reddening of the face

This is why I love the Web.

Less than eight hours after I asked for information on the Web User article that seemed to mention this site, Paula Jeffrey posted an excerpt from it in the comments.

Then, Chris Eades followed that up thirty minutes later with a scan from the magazine.

You guys rock the house!

A favour

U.K.-based BeatnikPad readers:

webUser coverI need a small favour. It seems the BeatnikPad was mentioned in the September 19th issue of the Brit Web mag Web User. The article is called "Dear weblog", on page 30 from issue #40. Because it's a bi-weekly publication I highly doubt it'll be available here in Canada, and I'm dying to found out what it says.

Can someone over the big pond stop by their local news stand and see what it says? They also seem to mention Lee's site Bluezfire; I'm sure she'd be interested to know what they said about her, too...

dooce redux / this rambling iPod

Travelin' iPodHer acerbic wit may have been sorely missed, but never fear: is back on the air. Put them hands in the air and exult to the sky...

(Hosannas to Sour Bob for the tip.)

Have iPod, will travel: this reminds me so much of the "Garden Gnome's Travels" from Jean-Paul Jeunet's splendorous Amelié. Creepy (I mean geeky) and awesome.

Expeditious Sustenance

There must be some kind of wacky synchronicity at work. Today, McDonald's announced that they would try to reduce the amount of fat in their French fries.

Presciently, The Onion posted this piece.

"With Americans becoming increasingly health-conscious and litigious, the restaurant industry felt it necessary to protect itself with a self-imposed cheese cap," said Paul Conklin, president of the National Association of Fast-Food Retailers. "Gone are the days when we could load a burger with seven slices of fatty, cholesterol-laden American cheese without fear of reprisal."


What is Web Culture?

I need your help.

If, as the Oxford English Dictionary defines it, culture is:
1. a. the arts and other manifestations of human intellectual achievement regarded collectively 2.a. the customs, civilization, and achievements of a particular society or group

... what would you say would be included in the idea of the Web's culture?

In other words, academic notions aside, what Web sites would you say represent (in part, of course) the concept of the Web as a cultural medium?

The reason I ask: I'm working on a curriculum for the school on "Digital Culture" (I didn't name the course), and the one thing I'm positive of is that it's impossible for me to know every single interesting / great / thought-provoking / cool / hilarious / artistic Web site out there. So I'm hoping you can help.

Post away in the comments your URLs, and please include a tiny description of what is significant about the site you're mentioning. Anything goes. Be creative. Think outside of the blog. Ask a friend, ask your site visitors - the more, the absolutely merrier. Thank you.

A message from Oz

The traffic around these parts has been rather elevated these days (as has my ego). This 15 minutes of giddiness is largely due in part to the BeatnikPad being spotlighted over at the Movable Type Web site.

What's Movable Type, you ask? Well, it's a bunch of things, but the most important one these days is that it's the engine that makes this site work. The design is all mine (and don't steal it or I'll send Dom Deluise over to your house to smooch you into a convulsing wreck - kidding, sort of), but the main piece that actually gets the words from my brain onto your screen is Movable Type.

You probably already know all of this. as you're probably already one of the, er, "movies" who's switched over to Movable Type from some other lesser journaling software. If you haven't, do yourself a favour (and this isn't just reciprocal linking) and download it for a test run.

It will change your life, make you more attractive to the opposite sex, clean your washroom, rotate your tires, retype your dissertation for you, drive your annoying mother-in-law to her dentist appointment, teach you how to play pentatonic solos like Yngwie Malmsteem (not to mention help you grow your hair like him), and fill you with a deep sense of bliss and fulfillment.

Well, it will save you from the hell of having your precious blog hosted by some other, much more unreliable service, and it has an astounding range of abilities. That, my friends, is precious. The Movable Type creators - Mena, creative pixelologist and Ben, swank code orchestrator are also swell, helpful people. Send them some of your pizza money.

(I haven't really sent Movable Type enough hosannas lately, which provoked this fawning post. Ttrust me: it deserves it. There's still small, niggling problems, but what software doesn't have a few? Heck, at least it isn't Windows, folks.) launched

amazon.gifIt looks like is now live, after months of innuendo and rumourmongering by the media.

Lots of pontificating about Amazon's foray into the Great White North later (I used to be a bookseller). I believe this may be a soft launch as I haven't seen any press about it yet (someone correct me?) - at any rate, enjoy your cheap books, but remember to support independant booksellers if possible.

(I was hesitant to post this, as I want to keep the Letter Project on the home page. This will just kick my ass to get me to design a special section for it, which it deserves, anyway.)

Late night griping

I don't know about you, but I am getting really sick and tired of Weblogs and online journals written either in the third person, or using the Royal We in a rather limp attempt to sound arch and intelligent.

Sure, there's a bunch of very, very good Websites that use the royal we quite well - is a good example of that - but personal sites should never use the third person. That is, they should never use the third person all the time, less they come off as sounding overtly pretentious, slightly creepy, and very annoying.

Oh, and I won diddly-squat in the Super 7 draw. As if.

More VeriSign Slime

VeriSignAs if the unending proof that VeriSign and Network Solutions are completely unethical, bumbling idiots wasn't enough, check this out: VeriSign is now sending snail mail spam to non-customers in an attempt to trick them into transferring their domains from another registrar to Versign.

My brother received a letter from Verisign last week which, at first glance, looks like a warning that his domain is about to expire. It states in large letters at the top, "Domain Name Expiration Notice", and just underneath, "Reply by: May 15th, 2002". For all intensive purposes if you didn't look really closely, it seems like a legitimate expiry notice.

But, if you squint WAY down to small print at the bottom of the page, you'll see a very tiny note to Review the terms and conditions on the back of this form.

It's there, hidden in the small print on the back that you'll find that this is actually a marketing ploy and not a real expiry notice.

The catch, of course, is that I registered this domain for my brother, and it has never been maintained by VeriSign / Network Solutions. In fact, neither of us have registered domains with them because of their terrible service and reputation. This domain was actually registered with the competent folks at, an OpenSRS-approved registrar. So, there's no way that VeriSign could legitimately have my brother's postal address in their system.

That means that VeriSign, like a lowly porn e-mail spammer, is spidering other registrars WHOIS databases for their address information. Truly unbelievable. I'm sure this has a lot to do with their increasing lack of ethics. Will someone please smote these idiots with a massive class-action suit sooner rather than later?

Bombing the system

Do your bit to help a sister out: Dean of has a new Google Bomb that he needs everyone's help with. It's to help spread the word about Leslie Harpold and the manhandling and overwhelming incompetence and indifference she has suffered at the hands of Verisign.

Verisign, if you remember the tale, sold Leslie's wonderful domains and right out of Leslie's grasp, to some morally deficient weiner. It could have happened to anyone. Spread the word about Verisign. It's for a good, righteous cause.

Hoopla returns, Dooce leaves

After a prolonged, unintentional hiatus, Leslie Harpold has returned to the land of Web publishing with a temporary site until her domain is returned to her.

Updated: One returns, and one leaves. Heather Hamilton, the self-proclaimed "whiny bitch", has stopped updating

I'd love to be able to sit here and say that artistic expression and freedom are worth all the damage they have wreaked on the personal relationships I have with family, friends, neighbors and employers, but I cannot and will not. The people in my life just aren't ready for it.

I believe that there are some things that are better left unsaid. Still, I admired her for letting it all hang out for all to see. Hope her absence isn't for too long.

Mystery of the disappearing blogs


WhereohWhere First, Leslie Harpold's mind-blowingly good "writing experiment" Hoopla disappears completely from the Web. Chalk it up to the complete idiocy of Network Solutions - they apparently sold the domain to another person by accident (!). And now that person, as far as I can tell, has refused to give it back.

Now, it seems that Alison Headley's smartly-written journal bluishorange has also pulled a vanishing act. Repeated domain lookups have proved fruitless, but at least from the WHOIS it seems she still owns it (thank goodness). I've noticed, however, that the whois puts her domain as expired Feb. 12th of this year - could she have forgotten to pay for the renewal? Yikes.

Conspiracy, or rampant stupidity (on the part of registrars, not the bloggers)? Or are my ISPs domain name servers just totally oblivious?

Update: Dean Allen's Textism has some of the skinny on the hoopla: here, and then an update here. There's a rather large and ongoing MetaFilter thread that Leslie has been contributing to. And Cory at BoingBoing says, "Let's put NetSol to death.". Hear hear. I am very angry.


  • More kick-ass Chinese Propoganda posters to gawk at slack-jawed.
  • Season Two of the must-see PhotoShop Tennis has already kicked off on the 5th with some ogle-worthy work by Karen Ingram and Kevin Cornell. Next up, Rinzen vs. Benfal. I'm in heaven.
  • Speaking of competitions, the Iconfactory has opened up public voting for the annual pixelpalooza icon building contest.
  • » The Great Buildings collection is a huge and well-researched resource for, well, great buildings. There's 3D models and photos of some of the world's best structures, as well as discourse on various schools of architectural styles, and the architects themselves. Lovely.

Bizarre Searches, vol. 2

More strange search requests used to arrive here:
  • the search phrase "touching chestnuts methodologic marquis saran", quickly followed by searches for "noisiness tread risked chestnuts whites" and "preimagine dismemberer phlegmy unmanner groundless". Dada-esque search poetry? If you know, Let me know.
  • "women enjoying size visual penis". Er, okay.
  • "can i have sex with the google server please". Ditto.
  • "meet people pee drinking". That's what the Web is all about: connecting strange people all over the world.
  • "shitty Website". Tada!

And to the person (or persons) who ended up on this site searching for anything related to "gory WTC photos" or "gross September 11th photos": go fuck yourself. Thanks.

He has Barry White in him

One thing about the Web that I've found consistently fascinating is how we fill in the gaps. We can come to learn incredibly personal things about a person via their blog or journal, but still have absolutely no idea of what something as truly intimate as their voice really sounds like.

I don't know if you do this, but when I'm reading someone's site, I get an approximation completely make up in my head a guess of what their voice might sound like. It helps make the experience of reading that person's writing that much more fraternal and conjoining, even though it's a total fantasy extrapolated from: their writing style; the design of the site; the usage of the third voice; abuse of the words "buttcrack" or "fart"; a trillion sundry things. At any rate, it is, in a way, very similar to what we do when we read books and imagine aspects of a certain character's appearance. I like to fill in the gaps.

So it was with a rather bemused smile that I realized that Jeffrey's voice, a voice I'd imagined countless times when visiting his site, was exactly as I imagined it would be. (RealAudio stream, courtesy of the {fray} cafe 2.)


I was trying to figure out where all of the German visitors were coming from and now I know. Tag, und wie geht es Ihnen to all of the BeatnikPad's German visitors, courtesy of the swankily named Bloghaus, and specifically contributor Claus.

My German isn't very good, but I should clear up one thing mentioned by the Bloghaus crew: I only used to live in Toronto. There's a lot of interesting Weblogs out of Hogtown (go hang with the GTA Bloggers for an evening if you don't believe me), but the BeatnikPad isn't one of them.

That is, not any more: this here be a Prairie blog you're soaking in, steeped in Western Canadian golden sunshine, hail-like snowstorms, and american-built automobiles.

Old = Good

Ask anyone who knows me at all and they'll confirm it as true: I like old things. My style of dress could be called "1950's Texaco gas station attendant", my musical tastes tend to skew south of 1982 (and further), and most of my favorite films were made by directors that none of the movie-going hoi polloi considers relevant anymore.

So it was with predictable glee that I discovered the Web site Reel Radio. Reel Radio catalogues and streams hundreds of "air checks", which were seemingly random tapings of radio programming to ensure proper signal transmission.

Reel Radio's collection spans decades of "Top 40" radio, however, and some of them last hours, and include music, advertising, on-air interviews, and DJ banter. The coolest thing (for me, at least) are the air checks from the 50's and 60's, ads and all. Nostalgia is king.

ManzanarOther "old" things I'm presently enjoying includes a moving collection of Ansel Adams photographs, entitled "Suffering under a Great Injustice", taken from the Japanese-American internment camp at Manzanar, 1943. Adam's legendary usage of photographic contrast is put to amazing use here; a historical and artistic treasure.

(Update: just found the master list of the entire photographic catalogue contained in the Library of Congress. Methinks I'm going to be spending a lot of time here...)

Finally, something fun: the dMarie Time Capsule. Songs on the charts the day I was born: Bridge over Troubled Water by Simon and Garfunkel, I'll Be There by the Jackson Five, and I think I Love You by the mighty Partridge Family.

I wonder if one can tell their fortune from the songs that were hits when they were born. I'd like to get my "charts" done. Arg arg arg. Okay, enough already.

Arcata, California

I'm not quite sure where Arcata, California is, but the city's Web site is a pretty interesting place to visit.

The highlights are a pair of "logs": a Police Log, and a Fire Log. Some excerpts:

"4:40 a.m. In the 500 block of G Street, layabout leisurites lounged loudly on a loading dock, perhaps trying to say that three times fast. An outdoorsman was warned regarding unlawful lodging."

"2:11 p.m. Her heart leapt with joy as her dog, her companion, her friend ran free through the Humboldt State University campus. Others did not share in the delight. Police returned her dog, her companion, her friend, her menace, and offered cordial disillusionment."

"8:44 a.m. The Go-Away Guy became the yelling-at-the-world guy in the 900 block of H Street. He was admonished and asked to relocate."

Pretty darn entertaining stuff.

Alphabet Zoo

After all of the bad news today (more death in the Middle East. more Enron scuttlebutt, another attack in India, and Peggy Lee died)… sometimes you just need something to remind you of the simple, innocence things.

A Democracy of Photographs

I was planning to use this entry to talk about how I finally got out to indulge in the meme of the moment, Lord of the Rings. This seems more important.

911 hope imageHere is New York, subtitled "a democracy of photographs" is a massive collection of photographs taken during and after September 11th. This online gallery isn't just for viewing, however - all of the photos are for sale to the public, with the proceeds going to the Children's Aid Society WTC Relief Fund, to help support children who lost fathers and/or mothers.

As the subtitle infers, this isn't a closed exhibition. The site allows the public to upload their images to the site, thus opening up the exhibition as a collective experience for all. The photos reflect this openness, organized in categories with names like, "Onlookers", "WTC- immediate damage", "Ground Zero", and "Firemen". Some are beautifully surreal, some disturbing, some seemingly banal - all are overwhelmingly human.

Almost impossible to believe it's been four months. For me, the memories, panic, and sadness had started to fade from the forefront of daily thought. An hour spent looking through this amazing collection, and the sadness and loss are right there again; a wound that never seems to completely heal.

Why Spam doesn’t pay. And booze.

The story in a nutshell: Stupid idiot sends out a ton of spam e-mail, one of which lands in the inbox of a noted anti-spam crusader. A Web site is posted. Mayhem ensues. Truly, the life of a spammer is an interesting one. I'm still laughing as I type this.

Some excitement for the packaging designers and beer drinkers out there: a lovingly assembled and gigantic beer can collection. Now, if only I wasn't allergic to alcohol...

Chinese Propoganda and other distactions

Coudal posted this link today to a whole whack of utterly gorgeous Chinese Propoganda posters, which I'll be adding to the web love collection soon. But, here it is on the front for your enjoyment.

Speaking of enjoyment, take a second to pop on over to Barbara Fletcher's lovingly redesigned journal. It's a tableless delight. Other redesigns of note: Natalie's gone gloriously red with her journal luminescent. Ø Todd Dominey's What do I Know is a wickedly cool tableless site - his Web design shop's site Dominey Design is also quite excellent. Ø Alison's redesigned bluishorange isn't bluish (or orange, for that matter) anymore - it's gone green, and looks amazing.

All of these tableless redesigns make me want to get the lead out and put the BeatnikPad under the plastic surgeon's knife again. Progress waits for no one.

Merci, et le monde bizarre de l’internet

Thank you, Laura!

And, for your reading pleasure, some of the stranger search requests people used to find this site this week:

  • sexy ethiopian ladies - is there any other kind? :)
  • moving of living calculator - one left leg forward + one right leg forward = walking
  • nice nicknames - mine is "neilio"
  • where was former president bill clinton on new year's eve 2002 - in my hot tub, playing his saxophone and reading his favorite issue of Maxim magazine, that's where.

More on this later.

BeatnikPad: the Definite Guide

oreilly coverI love the O'Reilly book covers a lot, partially because they're such a simple but effective branding and design concept, but also because I'm crazy about 19th Century engravings and woodcuts - how boring is that?

Jay Link put together this equally clever DIY O'Reilly parody, which any discerning Web monkey will enjoy. After a bit of futzing around with it, here's what I came up with. How about you? (Via Acts of Volition.)

Speaking of the fine art of woodcuts and engraving, I love the work of Michael Halbert.


There's something mighty humbling about being linked to. Perhaps in the faceless, virtual world of the Internet it's the closest thing to physical contact that we've got; Web sites joined together by the flimsiest of gossamer...

That being said, being linked to by someone whose work you highly respect is cause for even more shoe-gazing and mumbling. Thank you, Jeffrey, for the linkup, especially to Renée's site - I've been telling her for years that her writing is good. It's incredibly satisfying to finally see others discovering her work.

Praise be Movable Type

This is one of the more compelling reasons why I moved off of blogger and started running my own system (for the record, Movable Type crossed with some back-end shenanigans of my own devising - "toot! toot!" goes my gnarled horn of geekiness <grin>.). I feel bad for a bunch of my friends who run their journals on Blogger - not only are they locked out while Ev tries to fix what was broken... but they'll probably have to change passwords and all that inconvenient stuff.

Still: in the whole scheme of things, rather insignificant. My Christmas was VERY laid back, somewhat sad due to some ongoing personal stuff, and at the same time joyous, laughter-filled, and undeniably comfy. How was yours?

Special Webby Holiday Hosannas

· Renée: for being the boog, for sharing everything, for the love of whimsy, and for les flamants.
· Barb: for the poetry, the confessions of a peepee-soaked new-media heckhole, and the on-going Brit Lust.
· Dave: for the great, gut-busting stories, and the sparkling sense of humour.
· Natalie: for the Hogtown fellowship, for the love of sushi, and for the unusual dreams.
· Mena and Ben: for creating the brilliance that is Movable Type, and for supporting it with good natured friendliness.
· Everyone on the Webdesign-l mailing list: for constantly reminding me of how much I need to learn, and for helping me get there, and to Steven for being a most excellent list-mom.
· Dean: for the intelligent, jaw-dropping hilarity, for the love of Weimaraners, and for the insights into une vie en France.
· Dooce: for the hilarity, the love of naps and breasts and grapenuts, and the fine musical taste.
· Alison: for the evocative story-telling, the wordsmithery, and the non-parrot.
· Thandi: for the honesty and friendship, and for understanding the mystical <mwah>.
· The folks at Coudal: for Photoshop Tennis, for the MoOM, and for the great linkage.
· Andrew and rosecrans: for being the news / music / pop culture filter of choice, and for the unabashed New York perspective.
· Jeffrey: for the Web Standards organization, for the heartfelt daily report, and for being so damn friendly.
· Tonia: for the great friendship, fellow geekiness, and wily franco-italian charm.
· Dan: for teaching me how to teach myself, and for the unstoppable sense of humour.
· Lance: for being the "Mark Twain of the Internet", for the inspired writing and snappy sense of design.
· You: for reading this entire list, and for coming here in the first place. And, for anyone who has ever linked to the BeatnikPad.

Have a safe, cozy, and happy holiday season!

A case of Mistaken Identity

Okay. So it took a total of eight days from my first mention of Google's fascinating archive of newsgroup posts, to when I was googling myself. I'm amazed I could hold out so long.

Imagine my horror, however, when I realized that, oh my god! There's another person named "Neil Lee"! And, jimminy jillickers! He's a complete asshole!

Surely this guy takes the cake for being the most obnoxious streak of pelican shit god ever put breath into that has posted here.

Now, I never for once entertained the thought that I could be the only Neil Lee in the world... but why did he have to be a raving "crustie licking poo pusher"? Not only this, but all of the "we hate Neil Lee" posts are the very first results Google pulls up. Feh.

For the record, I and the Internet were not closely acquainted in 1997. Really. View the whole, gory details here.

Why this is here

Lance Arthur over at glassdog is posting a new entry every day of this month, and then deleting it at day's end. Who cares? Probably noone... but some of his writing is great stuff, indeed.

I normally hate quoting large tracts of other people's thoughts, but he recently posted something that made me say, "yeah."

So I'm gonna quote anyway, and if you don't like it, too bad.

"What's it like to be you?

Truthfully, no one asks this. And even if they did, I wouldn't really know how to answer it. Would you? I think if you know what it's like, you're either very shallow and can therefore easily define yourself for someone else (which, in some ways, in an envious position to be in) or you're lying in order to placate them and make them go away. Maybe the whole point of this entire exercise -- all the writing, all the designing, all the words and music and numbers, the sharing and hiding, the wishing and telling, the remembering and forgetting and imagining and desiring -- maybe it's all an attempt to answer that question. Why else do it? What else is a great yop into the universe for? You want to let someone know you're here.

It doesn't seem to matter who you are or what your situation is, this need to tell comes back and you keep it up and so do I. Others abandon it, finding not satisfaction but rather more of the same that they get out of life. More disappointment, more noise, more ignorance and misunderstanding. I would like to believe in karma, but I don't. I believe in chaos and happenstance. People die for absolutely no reason all the time. Other people go on living for that same absense of sense. There's no rhyme or reason to any of it, other than that you ascribe to it to try to make heads or tails out of it all. You're afraid of what mught happen, and if it does, that you'll be unprepared for it. So now here's this, reems and reems of empty space to fill up. Spill it all like milk on glass, hoping some of it sticks and someone will remember you in the bigger sense. Or maybe not, maybe there's no reason at all for any of it. Which, I must say, I find much more comforting in the end."

Ahem. Go on, now: pop on over for a visit.

Digital threads

Another cool blog toy from the folks that brought you blogdex. Now fostering connections and until now unknown friendships from the world over: the social network explorer.

schubert’s Nose launches

Renée has made the leap into the wired writing World with the launch of her weblog schubert's Nose, designed by yours truly.

I'm particularily proud of it because it's my first tableless site: it's 100% Cascading Style Sheets and valid XHTML, which is something planned for this site (when time and inspiration allows). I'm also happy because Renée finally has an outlet for all of the great writing she's done in the past (but never shown anyone). Swing on by and say hello.

Electronic Dustbins of History

20 Year Archive now Available on Google Groups: I've never been a huge Usenet user (a post here, a thread there), but Google's gathering of Usenet posting dating back to 1981 is fascinating, historic stuff. Read Tim-Berner Lee's announcement of what became the Web (Aug. 1981), the first thread on AIDS (Dec., 1982), the first mention of Madonna (July, 1983), and many other ground-breaking events!

I especially love how banal and ordinary the first post they have on record is (dated May 12, 1981):

"We have recently installed a Versatec V-80 electrostatic plotter for producing phototypesetter facsimiles. Aside from a couple of hardware problems, we are satisfied with its performance."

Why I don’t drive

Dean is usually a pretty damn funny fellow, but this is extra gut-wrenchingly hilarious. Meh.

Writing for the Web

An excellent roundtable has been posted by the folks at the Morning News on writing for the Web. Very much worth checking out.

Thinking outside the browser

While it’s doesn’t do much yet, this is one of the most amazing uses for Quicktime I’ve ever seen. is probably quite happy about this: MovTV.

damn fine.

LILEKS: I link to James Lileks's site over yonder (<-), but I felt like it needed to be highlighted somehow. He is probably one of the best writers journaling on the Web today: always funny and eloquent, and a treasure trove of pop cultural goodliness.

His writing the day after (it's strange how you probably know exactly what I mean by "the day after") is incredibly moving in its simple sublimity:

Went to Target. Life goes on, even if it's in a state of tremulous fury and worry. Bought . . . frames. Simple items that will forever be tied to this day, these events; it�s like a water faucet you installed on the day Kennedy was shot. Every time you turn the tap, somewhere in the back of your head you remember.


Help build the Sep11 Attack Archive: “ is working with The Internet Archive in collaboration with the Library of Congress to identify and archive pages and sites related to the terrorist attacks in New York and Washington on September 11, 2001. We want to be sure that there is a solid historical record of this time.” They’re apparently very interested in personal sites which have recorded feelings, experiences and opinions about the attacks, as well as non-American sites.

World in a book

CIA -- The World Factbook: This is the reason why I love the Internet so much. I saw the 2000 version of this in a bookstore, and the information fetish inside me instantly said, "Buy! Buy! Buy!".

Well, it was 70 bucks and I was broke. But now, the latest version of this incredibly informative resource is online. On Afghanistan, the CIA reports:

"Afghanistan was invaded and occupied by the Soviet Union in 1979. The USSR was forced to withdraw 10 years later by anti-communist mujahidin forces supplied and trained by the US, Saudi Arabia, Pakistan, and others. Fighting subsequently continued among the various mujahidin factions, but the fundamentalist Islamic Taliban movement has been able to seize most of the country. In addition to the continuing civil strife, the country suffers from enormous poverty, a crumbling infrastructure, and widespread land mines."


thinkdink: Not only does she have a smart-looking new redesign (which the beatnik Pad is, sadly, long overdue), but I just noticed today that Jessica has linked to this site. Strange - I sent her an e-mail a long time ago about my experiences with Zyban (smoked for 14 years, quit smoking avec Zyban, got a weird eye thing [glaucoma], was it related?

Who knows?) but never heard back… so I assumed that was that. The Web is a wonderful place. Right back atcha!

Links journalists use

CyberTimes Navigator: Wanna be a hard-nosed New York Times reporter? Use the links they use in the newsroom, and feel the unbiased, hard-hitting investigative reporter just flooding into you…

too weird for words

DanceMonkeyBoy: I’m sure you’ve seen this already, but if not.. you really owe it to yourself. Microsoft’s Steve Ballmer incites the troops with a frantic boogaloo. Frightening. Hilarious. REAL. [3.0 mb .mov format].


Jesus Dress Up!: Christian types just hate this kind of stuff - so much so that they’ve deluged this rather amusing site’s creator with oodles and oodles of hate mail. I personally think the the Dr. Seuss hat is rather becoming…

The Neighbours Damn squatters. I had a couple pairs of these as a kid. "Insurance consulting". Very blue. Nil by Mouth: Personal site for an US-expatriate (she apparently loves this word) now living in Paris. The Neile Agency. Apparently they like their fonts "medium". I think this one belongs in Design Crimes : but then, what do I know? More goddamn squatters! Hopes visitors will "leave behind footprints of themselves and leave traces of all good, kindness and fond wishes behind!!"


Goodness gracious!

scary sock puppet

scary sock puppet: Speaking of art and beautiful, this collection of personal “dorwings”, twisted, semi-autobiographical picture books and poems is just that: lovingly put together, with more than a hint of unsettling twistedness. It’s (dare I say) reminiscent of Lemony Snicket, but with much more… bitterness. Kudos: Coudal.


spoke and axle: We’re already doing our part to keep beautiful things alive with our mirroring of the Nosepilot project (Ed.note: no longer available. Sorry), but Kelly Abbott is taking this to a whole new level. Got something beautiful or edifying that you want to share with the world? Apply.


Linked! (Better late than never..): Found in this site's referrer logs: Consolation Champs have linked to the Moving Stories Project. Here's hoping that we get to see a regroove of James's "My Waterloo". Right back'atcha, friend.

Tuneful sublimity

The Shape of Song: This is truly amazing. Choose a song (or add your own) and see the “deep structure” of the composition reflected as graphically beautiful, translucent arches. It sounds weirder than it is to try…

Yearning for Africa

h i p n o t i k a: There's only one thing as good as travelling, and that's hearing about someone else's journey. Much like Geoffrey Hiller's astoundingly great travel journal / photolog "Burma: Grace Under Pressure" is Montrealer Mickey Bhuiyan's hipnotika. The writing is poetic, the music lovely, and the photos? Mindblowing.

Renée and I have talked about going to Africa. This cinches it.

[note]: Not for the bandwidth or processor impaired.


Linked!: Shout-outs to City stories maven Derek Powazek for the link-up. His innovative, beautiful work with {fray} and City Stories was a direct inspiration for the genesis of the Moving Stories Project.

Need some inspiration yourself? Check out Derek's excellent "my new neighborhood", which is a moving story if I ever saw one...

On a related note, today is the day I fly back to Winnipeg for two years after four in Toronto. I've hugged all deserving of hugs, hoisted drinks with friends, and said my good-byes but I still feel like I'm forgetting something. I feel incredibly strange - partly sad and empty, and yet hopeful, eager, even mature - and the thought that my girlfriend and I have taken the first steps toward the dream of a life in Europe fills me with an uneasy but calming peace. As I've said so many times this week, "See you soon."

The evil that men do

Painful ignorance: The continuing saga of idiocy and buffonery is almost too mentally painful to think about: Network Solutions screws up a listing for the essential A List Apart, rendering it inaccessible.

"Only two things are infinite, the universe and human stupidity, and I'm not sure about the former."
- Albert Einstein

We be blogging

Triumph of the Weblogs: Probably tens, nay, hundreds of web logs will link to this excellent piece about Web logs and their place in the content parthenon of the Web. I've quickly come to believe, like many others, that Web logs are going to be one of the major ways that words, ideas and information are exchanged on the Web.

Forget about big content houses, portals, and other large "players" in the Web writing game - from my experiences at my job, and from what I've heard and read about other portals, many of the majors are just too inextricably tied to revenue and their strategic partners to be 100% unbiased and reliable sources.

Of course, this has been with us forever: newspapers owned by massive utility companies, music magazines in the pocket of record labels... everyone, it seems, has some kind of hand that feeds them. Web logs represent the voice of the "street" of the Web; real, passionate, and potentially untainted by commerce.

Okay, enough soapboxing for one night.


Love those tee shirts. This is so cool - folks can surf on in and design a t-shirt, completely unfettered by corporate branding or icky logos, and then visitors vote on ‘em. The ones with high ratings get printed, which then everyone can buy for dirty cheap… plus the designer gets a couple as swag. Completely brilliant.

Who says they’re the weaker sex?

10 K 4 A HO!: If this isn’t a big joke, it’s the saddest (but one of the funniest) statements about masculine buffonery I’ve every laid… um, er.. eyes on. The music alone is worth the page load. “First thing, let me state that women are insane…” Unbelievable.

The Morning News relaunches

The Morning News: Congrats to the folks at The Morning News for relaunching with a long awaited, spiffy new layout.

Stupidity in marketing, vol. 261

Marketing Myopia: Endeavors to expose silliness and plain idiocy in marketing. Considering I’m in the midst of reading Naomi Klein’s quite good “No Logo”, this is a timely find. [thanks to Zeldman for the hat tip.]

baggin’ it

Design for Chunks: “I was intrigued to see how other designers would illustrated the usually plain inflight sickbag…”

the end of the whole mess

¥ the end of the whole mess : Heartbreaking and unrefutable evidence that there are dangers in virtual intimacy.

Tolerance “Fight Hate and Promote Tolerance”. There’s tons of interesting and self-illuminating stuff here. I personally recommend the “Explore your hidden biases” psycological tests.


Cruel Site of the Day. The Weakest Link? Bah, humbug.


CadgeCinema. Episodic tidbits of Schadenfreude for the attention-span deprived.

Consume! Consume! Consume!

Who Would Buy That? Have you ever desired a John Wayne Gacy mouse pad? How’s about a Cowboy’s buttocks? Or would you prefer nothing?

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