Capturing Ephemera
My new Blog

I may someday try to figure out how to port this stuff over, but I’m not posting here anymore (I don’t think) in lieu of posting more personal stuff about my life in southern Africa at


Bluegrass Rap

This is an awesome bluegrass version of Blu Cantrell’s Hit ‘Em Up Style.   I meant to post it several months ago, but it’s timeless.  This song reminds me of high school, I think.

Book Recommendation: Let The Great World Spin

Let the Great World Spin by Collum McCann

My rating: 5 of 5 stars This is the first book I’ve read in 2010 that I would recommend to almost anyone who asks. Colum McCann integrates the lives of characters from all walks of life in New York in a way that captures the essence of the city and left me wanting to read more. 

The writing and style of the book often follow the same themes he attributes to the city. My instant favorite theme (liable to change with time): New York is a city that never looks back, doesn’t concern itself with statues or monuments or celebrate formerly great men. It is constantly looking forward, toward the next day, the next idea, the next million dollars to be made. The book felt the same way—always moving forward toward some future point, with no particular beginning and no end in sight.

Writing in 2009 about New York at the moment the Twin Towers were nearing completion necessarily triggers thoughts of the 9/11 attacks and the current city. I would have been content to consider the connection between the creation and destruction of the towers without the book addressing it specifically, though McCann does a nice job of specifically addressing the tension as the book comes to a close.

If I have a complaint, it’s that at times the connections between characters were a little to tidy, but I usually didn’t see them coming and was consistently taken by surprise at the ways in which he developed the interactions.

Overall, a great read and highly recommended.

Why DRM Doesn’t Work
Funny.  And true.

Why DRM Doesn’t Work

Funny.  And true.

A Plastic Bag’s Search for Meaning — Werner Herzog

"They Told me It’s out there, the Pacific Vortex, Paradise. … "No one needs me here anymore, not even my maker."

Combined with stunning imagery, Werner Herzog’s emotional, sometimes chilling voiceover of a plastic bag’s search for meaning focuses on very human themes and immortality. Thought provoking and interesting to watch, I assure you that watching this 15 minute video about a plastic bag is worth your time.

h/t Matt Jones for evangelizing this enough that I finally watched it: “This is the best thing on the Internet right now.”

Help Me Name My Blog

Okay, I need help from the 7 to 10 people who read this thing.  Now that the number of clicks reaches double digits (!) for some posts, this blog deserves a title that doesn’t suck.  

I’m hopelessly uncreative when it comes to titling, so that’s where you come in.  Got any ideas?  Credit in the “About This Blog” to the most helpful/winning suggestion.


Update:  Is this a “bleg?”  I promise never to use that term again.

Update 2: I’m looking at you, Ryan Jones…

Update 3: I realize I’ve eliminated the comment section, fixing now. Fixed.

Infographic: Yemen On the Brink

The Atlantic once again demonstrates its prowess with graphical display of information, this time on the subject of the conflicts and challenges facing Yemen.

Here’s a larger version that you can actually read, sorry I can’t figure out how to get Tumblr to do that natively.  From the accompanying Text:

At the heart of all these problems is Yemen’s looming economic collapse. Already the poorest country in the Arab world, Yemen is rapidly depleting its oil reserves and lacks any options for creating a sustainable post-oil economy. Unemployment is estimated at 35 percent, higher than what the U.S. faced during the Great Depression.
Accelerating the economic decline is a protracted civil war in the north between Shia insurgents and the Sana’a-based government. The war has caused a refugee crisis and extensive damage to infrastructure, and its costs will result in a major budget deficit next year. (The government is already burning through roughly $200 million in foreign-currency reserves per month.)
The US Population, Comfortably in New Hampshire

A cool way of thinking about the population of the United States.  Too bad it snows in New Hampshire 5 months a year, so no one would actually want to live there.

Originally created by Shane Keaney for a competition.

$4960 per square foot.  What a deal!  At least you could go to Harrod’s regularly.
This Flat in London costs More Than $300,000 - Visboo

$4960 per square foot.  What a deal!  At least you could go to Harrod’s regularly.

This Flat in London costs More Than $300,000 - Visboo

The Future is a Game, Ctd.

Carnegie Mellon professor Jessie Schell recently predicted that we’d soon be earning virtual points for “achieving” things in our daily life.  To paraphrase one example, he suggests we’ll get messages from our toothbrush like: “Congratulations, you brushed your teeth for three minutes this morning, you get 50 points.”

Schell argues that these kinds of “points” will increase our status as an individual or part of a group, and potentially be redeemable at our favorite stores or some such thing. We’ve started to see versions of this in apps like Foursquare or other Facebook applications, and it strikes me as an interesting type of incentive for certain behaviors.

And it must be mainstream now that we have a major city’s municipal government getting in on the act.

The 311 service provided by the city of Washington, DC is linking with Facebook and the iPhone to allow people to report municipal problems — a fallen tree, say, or a pothole on your block — and earn status points on for doing so.  To quote the introduction

"And finally you will be recognized by DC residents and could appear in the Hall of Fame, where the most active and attentive residents are displayed for all to know."

It’s a new twist to an old life lesson: Help thy neighbor so you can be in the hall of fame.  I wonder if it will get to enough critical mass to change behavior.