All posts made in Dec. 2000:

There are a variety of visual traceroute utilities to show your paths across the internet on a map of the world. Just like in the movies.

Oh, and Mapping How The Data Flows discusses what traceroute really means. All those bits, bouncing around, being routed, diverted, caught, thrown, lost. All individually, but all in unison. So complex, and so beautiful. And so, soo like Chu Chu Rocket, which has just taken over my brain.

Change the look of the page, and whenever you return - through the magic of cookies - it'll appear just as you like it. If you skin this weblog your life will be better.

Hey geezers, new weblog skin. It's another proof of tech really, just to show that I'm not just altering the template, but the entire way it's rendered. So: It's frames based, and the posts look different (all the links are altered to open in a new window) -- you might recognise it as a (repurposed) guest design I did for plasticbag a while back. You'll also see a link to a cookies-based skinner, so you can maintain your chosen skin between visits to this page. It looks a bit ugly at the moment, but I'll give it a paintjob and launch officially either today or tomorrow. Bug reports to please.

New Upsideclown today. In an exclusive interview, James meets Santa in the wind-down from another Christmas. And the most important lesson? Never drink with men in red.

You know I bet you never even noticed, but things have changed around here. We're cooking with xml. Skinable weblog anyone? Let's start with a plain and simple one. Coming up: cookies and decent skins.

One of the more interesting points in Evhead's new colophon is the xml backend (interesting for me, anyway. Shut up). I've discovered that xml parsing in php is considerably faster than in Perl. So much faster, in fact, that it's actually useful. With that in mind, I'm looking for an xml weblog schema. Evhead's xml has the right balance of nested tags and tag attributes for me -- and Blogger have an xml and asp howto that covers the xml in a little more depth.

To be honest, what's going to take the time is making sure all the old archive links and permalinks still work and that there are no visible changes to the front end. Iterative change, that's what I like. And geeky stuff. And techno. And a good chicken pie. Mmm. And cheese, oh yes, let's not forget cheese. A good Canadian cheddar gets you a long way towards perfection.

Ooh, very cool. Hasciicam "makes it possible to have live ascii video on the web. It captures video from a tv card and renders it into ascii, formatting the output into an html page with a refresh tag or in a live ascii window or in a simple text file" [via dutchbint]. I wonder if I can rig this up to a webcam?

Intriguing. Boswell is a (Mac only) application to store and retrieve text. Each piece of text (like an email, an article, or a phone number) is an entry; entries are collected into notebooks; each entry can be in one or more notebooks. Brilliantly, notebooks are not hierarchic, so no outliners here. From what I can make out, you have to enter entries yourself (so that's copying and pasting from other applications then), but notebooks can be either manually or automatically created. An app whose time has not yet come, I'd say, but for over $100 I'm not about to try it out. Now, if only there was a www version...

This reminds me of an email application (again for the Mac) that didn't store your email in traditional folders but rather as "views". Each view (manually or automatically created) was basically a simple or complex search result, but without the waiting time (or a cross-section through email storage space, if you prefer to think of it like that). Of course this means that email can exist in more than one folder/view, but then again why not? A great idea, but I can't remember the name of the application. Balls.

Just because it's Christmas Day in this particular Western World commuter village, it's still a Monday in the land of Upsideclown (fresh Mondays and Thursdays) and that's what counts.

Now, the first thing I want us to do is just to take a moment to reflect on what it is that has brought us here. What was it that you were expecting? What were your hopes? What about your anxieties? I'm not going to ask you to share them with everyone because sometimes there can be something very personal about our fears but bear them in mind because it helps us to remember that we are all bringing our outside experiences in with us today and taking this experience back out. Above all I want to help you realise that this site is a mirror, it causes us to see and to understand ourselves as much as it may inform or entertain.

Today we have a fantastic piece from Neil in which, as his gift to you (whether you want it or not) he'll explain a little about the spirit of Upsideclown. We hope it helps. For your entertainment, delight, and (above all) spiritual enlightenment: Many in Body, One in Mind.

Extremely good article about the different aspects of the Christian Christmas celebrations and their origins in various religions over the past several thousand years: Welcome to Winterval. Have a happy one.

Terrifying Sunday Times article by William Hague about how he plans to win the next election: Bush shows Conservatism can win again. Hague talks welfare reform, new audiences, the "forces of the third way" (echoing Blair's "forces of conservatism" mantra), and low taxes. Oh, and he calls Labour the liberal elite. Hopefully Labour will win the debate that higher taxes can be good, and I think it's a little odd to use the liberal elite label given we don't even have a true libertarian party in the UK, but there we go.

Very good Media Guardian article about the blurred line between facts, commentary and the apparent "balanced reporting" we're treated to: Missing Manchester values.

I wanted to do all kinds of nifty things with png (funky loss-less graphics format that's replacing gif) but browser support is abysmal. The W3C png page links to places to test your own browser (scroll down). Quick summary: Your png viewing is broken unless you have MSIE5/Mac or a late Mozilla build. Bugger.

Wow, specialise in Relationship Closure cards (now there's a great euphemism), but sadly their 'site is down. Still got the Google cache of c-ya though. I wonder if I can think of anything that isn't somewhere on the www? Apart from up-to-date, accurate information I mean. Obviously.

More e-cards for breaking up. Some wonderfully harsh messages.

Did you know that KPMG has a theme song [cheers Flat James]? I'm not taking the piss, this is the real thing. Fucking hell though, how did they come up with those lyrics? "K - P - M - G, We're as strong as can be".

Hey remember months ago, when I mentioned my mate Andrew McCargow has appeared on some packaging and in so doing short-circuited the system, criss-crossed the wires of the consumer hierarchy? Yeah? Well, I finally got the photo developed.

As long as you're going to pay people to do stupid things [via the wetlog], I suppose you may as well put pictures and full video of the event on screen. But I'm not sure which is wronger: getting girls to rodeo naked, or poking people hanging on a highbar with a cattleprod. And it's not like you're guaranteed cash, it's a competition. And people beg to do dares, because they need the cash for education, or holidays or something. Fucking hell.

Good grief. Send free electronic greetings cards to your ex.

Roll up, roll up for your fresh Upsideclown.

I left my advent calendar on the windowsill. The sun came out. Now a piece of chocolate that used to look like Santa is seeping from Homer Simpson's left eye.

Jamie isn't exactly in the festive spirit: fuck xmas.

Talking of which... Upsideclown will be running as normal over the festive season, which means you can pick up fresh clown both on Christmas and New Year's Day. Bloody hell, aren't we working hard?

The Shoreditch Workers' Club brings together the New Media Proletariat of affluent East London to network and drink. Concerningly, I think I might be outside the catchment area. Nice pseudo communist design, but really. "dot.Comrades" indeed.

Ted Nelson summarises the aims of Project Xanadu, and where it goes from here, in a recent (late 1999) article Xanalogical Media: Needed Now More Than Ever. A point raised is the important of linking to content rather than documents and how to do this; interestingly it's something the W3C are tackling with xml linking. It seems that TBL's vision of the semantic web brings us closer to Xanadu.

Information Management: A Proposal, March 1989: Tim Berners-Lee's original proposal for what would become the www.

The Electronic Labyrinth is a guide to hypertext technology, written in hypertext. Each section is short, digestible, and crosslinked.

Ted Nelson coined the term "hypertext" in 1963 and initiated Project Xanadu [Xanadu homepage], a hypertext system with version control and transpublishing that the www is nothing like. I can't believe I've not mentioned Xanadu on this homepage before, but now is not the time.

Ted Nelson came to hypertext through his own world view; Xanadu is a product of a certain way of seeing the universe rather than an application to fulfil a requirements document (although I won't deny that Tim Berners-Lee has vision, the World Wide Web is a solution to a problem which is iteratively solving the problem better with each revision). Nelson is an interesting character from this perspective, especially as my own world view resonates strongly with the network/interconnectedness metaphor.

  • Ted Nelson's homepage is a good hub of personal information and his current projects.
  • Nelson's Computing Paradigm expressed as one-liners come as close as anything else I've seen to explaining his world view. I won't quote from it, but if you read only one of these links, this is the one you should follow.
  • There exists online excerpts from Nelson's unfinished autobiography. The sentences are fragmentary; it reads like a linearised hypertext, like a card index of his life taken from its box and shuffled. From his early life you can see the stirrings of his connections-based metaphor set.
  • There are physical reasons for Nelson's views. Wired ran a long feature, The Curse of Xanadu, covering the person as well as the project. Nelson suffers badly from Attention Deficit Disorder. He has to record everything he says, and with this archive he's become extremely nonlinear. (Although I also read that Nelson himself is very unhappy with this article.)

dmoz has further Ted Nelson links.

Hey, if you were a server and you'd been hit 7598 times in 23 hours by a single machine and you were trying to serve a dynamically generated page with every hit, well you'd have been running pretty slow recently too. But Interconnected should be up to full speed again now.

Ooh, yes, very useful. Filtering Mail FAQ [via prolific].

There are so many ways to choose colours, for packaging or websites or whatever. The Red Queen Color Theory covers a few [via eatonweb].

Previous to designing (this revision of) this 'site, I'd been locked into the idea of colour "chords" (as I called them) or triads for a long time; it was quite constraining, but I couldn't think of any other ways to choose. Simply put, it's two similar colours and a constrasting one which "work" together. Once I had the idea in my head I couldn't shift it. When it came to redesigning this page, everyone was using blue, orange and grey and I wanted to move away from that. I started with obnoxious colours, brown and red mainly, and worked from there. It's much more of a challenge to take horrible colours and make something that looks okay. I think it kinda worked (many people really hate the scheme, but that's a good thing. I don't want to please everyone), but I've still not managed to completely escape the triad concept.

A link from a few days ago broke over the weekend -- but there's a mirror of the Apache, php4 and MySQL packages for Mac OS X. The installation of these is covered pretty well on a thread on the MacNN forums. (btw, these packages work a treat too.)

Monday is a new week and a new Upsideclown.

We all feel low sometimes. That's why God gave us two arms - to hold each other up. My father told me that. It was, I found, a most inspiring lesson.

Oh, no. He is no longer with us. Going down, by the way? Excellent.

Today Dan is descending to The Loa Depths.

Am I [     ] or NOT? Fucking brilliant.

It's the homepage. No comment.

"In Japan, toilet paper is not available at the majority of restrooms in train or metro stations. Many of these restrooms are dirty and smell awful". So (naturally), here are photographs of dirty toilets in Tokyo.

Er. FYI: Manga of women with multiple breasts can be found at the Boobs Frontier, should you be interested.

(It's the little stories by the pictures that I really love: "She was a princess of old kingdom at her past. But she had been abducted by evil Sorcerer and modificated into multi-breasted slave". Well, of course.)

Come over to the geek side my son. MySQL, Apache, and php4 are posted as pre-built packages for Mac OS X [via OS X Talk]. Now there's no excuse.

Unmetered UK internet arrives at last. Or soon, anyway. I'm not sure whether the free subscription (but pay for calls) model held this up or not. On one hand, it stopped market entry for more complex payment models, but on the other it brought more consumers into the market, and pulled the carpet out from under the old model of pay for everything. Now, if only we had broadband...

While browsing for WordNet interfaces, I found this guy's list of software projects. Apart from Lingua::WordNet (which is what I came for), I also found:

  • Lingua::LinkParser, a grammar parser which can be used in Natural Language processing. It's really a Perl api to the CMU Link Grammar Parser. Link grammer is "an original theory of English syntax. Given a sentence, the system assigns to it a syntactic structure, which consists of a set of labeled links connecting pairs of words". This latest version derives a representation of the sentence in terms of noun phrases, verb phrases, etc. There was an article on Lingua::LinkParser in The Perl Journal.
  • The Glass Bead Game Network, an as-yet nonexistent game, but one - if it fulfils the listed requirements - would be fantastic. And he's asking for help. Any game designers out there? Go help this guy!

Oh, there was also an article on Lingua::Wordnet in the TPJ. This could be very useful.

I'm going to say it again: WordNet fucking rocks. The WordNet online interface lets you browse the synonyms and hypernyms (X is a hypernym of Y if Y is a type of X) of far too many words. Awesome lexical hierarchy.

As the sun rises on another Thursday, so I upload the latest Upsideclown article, today from Victor.

Oh God no, not that. I really don't think you should. But, let's face it. No matter what I say, you're going to do it anyway. I know that. Advice never works. So don't ask for it. You don't want it and you're not going to take it. Let me tell you what you do want.

Victor gives you (yes, you) some useful - and if I may be so bold, much needed - advice in Deliverance. is a (UK) printshop -- you upload your images and can print onto t-shirts, mugs, coasters, etc. Looks pretty good value, and is remarkably easy to use (as long as you don't mind Flash and popup windows). The only bad thing I can see is that the product examples, with your own images, don't give a very good impression of the final result. But overall, impressive.

This is getting stupid. The new Nokia's 8250 has clip-on covers in various colours. And I quote:

The phone also comes with changeable Xpress-on covers in four unique colours: Illicit Green, Mysterious Blue, Elusive Gold and Bewildered Red. In the standard sales package, the phone comes in a Clandestine Silver Xpress-on cover.

Bewildered Red? What the fuck?

London weblog meet tonight.

I suddenly like now they've sold the shit stuff and only have usenet left [I know this because MeFi knows this]. Superkewl. Omigod and the 'site is usable again too. Is this the start of something new?

News just in: Amazon give up trying to take over the world and go back to selling books.

I'm going to have to install this. Flame monitors system load on Mac OS X, and displays the result as an animated flame that can sit in the dock. And my favourite thing about it? "Displaying the animated flame in the dock can consume a large percentage of cpu time" -- but it gets better: "if you are really concerned about system load, you shouldn't be running this program". Staggering. Just, staggering.

The Guardian have an interactive guide to EU enlargement [Flash] giving the stances of current and prospective members across the continent.

Excellent, is functioning again. Many, many great 'sites listed for your browsing pleasure.

m-o-o-t [via gorjuss] is an open-source secure (yet legally compliant) OS and apps package, all contained on a single multiplatform CD. Need I say, most of it isn't written yet -- but what a concept. The faq and product notes say all you need to know.

This Monday we come to the end of another cycle of authors (it's Victor again on Thursday) as George takes sloppy sevenths at the Upsideclown. Fresh today, presenting George's: You can't put that into a soufflé; at least, not with the skin still on.

Question: Suppose I wanted a digital camera, and suppose I wanted it to work with my Mac and with PCs, and have quality comparable to my regular pocket camera (an Ixus). Also suppose that I didn't want the best camera in the world, but a decent one I could use most of the time, and I didn't want to end up with a cheap one (or, worse, bad quality but expensive).

Now suppose I know bugger all about digital cameras. Hypothetically, what would you advise me to get? Or even would you have any hints? Okay, now write down those valuable nuggets of wisdom, and email them to me. Ta!

Two word games to play for fun and profit, and a not very good surprise:

  • Everything you say, only say the first three letters. Is it possible to guess what other people are saying just by context? I've found that since the words are so short, the sentences have to be really long (isn't this a characteristic of languages with short words? Hm, can't remember). You end up spe lik thi. You don say the wor pho, but as if the fir thr let wer a wor in the [You don't say the words phonetically, but as if the first three letters were a word in itself].
  • Have a conversation without using any words over four letters. Not too hard, but a lot of fun. A few of us had a play of this game in the pub, and even the man in the fish and chip shop had a go - but he did not know it - when he said that what we got him to put on the food was "bad for your sexy life". (Before you say anything, it was vinegar on chips. We didn't ask for bromine or anything.)

Not very good surprise: There's not profit involved. Just fun. If you're that way inclined. Like me. Ahem.

It's always handy to have the complete list of Netscape 6 bugs around [via Captain Cursor].

The Web Thesaurus Compendium links to thesauri around the www, broken up by subject.

A page of links to 'sites about words focusing on misused words, Latin and Greek derivations, unusual words, word origins, new words and slang.

A huge list of dictionaries, all online, of many kinds.

The Semantic Rhyming Dictionary (now located at, part of Lycos) results from the collision of:

  • The CMU Pronouncing Dictionary
    As they say, "a machine-readable pronounciation dictionary for North American English". Handy.
  • WordNet
    It's a semantic dictionary for English, drawing together words into lexical groups. These groups are supposed to represent mental groups that we all - in general - possess, as well as reflect the etymology of the word. The two aspects go hand in hand. There's also a Perl module to query WordNet.

Sadly, in its move from academia to real life the rhyming dictionary has lost the feature to find the path from one word to another. From Dirk I know that that kind of feature is very memory and CPU intensive, but it's still a shame. Me-mo: download source materials and implement myself. Yeah, one day.

The Etymologizer [via threadnaught] is a brilliant idea (it's a mass etymological breakdown tool, so as a side-effect you'd be able to translate from one register to another. From marketing speak to geek speak to pick a particularly topical - in my life - example...). If only. But you'd need a very special kind of dictionary with which to play.

The Birdbath is "a game with no point". You're watching a birdbath... "As time goes by the creatures will feel more comfortable with you. Then they will start to talk to you. Then they will start to ask you questions.". Then they start to give you stock quotes.

Riots at the Nice EU summit? Good grief. Anti-globalisation protestors? There's something a bit odd about all these tiny groups who band together only to go and protest about how bad it is to all band together.

Today, Thursday, I am the Upsideclown. Let me once again illuminate your life with my vast and expansive knowledge.

In the universe next to ours, Adolf Hitler was nine metres tall with a moustache like a sofa and when he invaded Poland the rest of the world turned round and said, "mate, just have it."

Fresh today, and no, shut up, I'm not overcompensating. I said shut up. Fresh today at Upsideclown: You must reach this line to ride.

The Queen's speech, full text. Parliamentary activity for the next year, except if they run out of time or call an election.

"A visual vocabulary for describing information architecture and interaction design" is a whiteboard compatiable system to denote 'site structure and interaction. I've a horrible feeling I'm going to find this very useful. [via notsosoft via WanderingMind.]

Zapper [Windows] looks interesting: you highlights words and it does context sensitive searches for you, and performs little services (looking up books, translating into Spanish were two I saw on the tour). You can even create your own searches, in a primitive kind of way.

Not something I'd use. I'm fairly happy finding stuff on the www, and only really happy using new technologies when I can subvert them to my own desires. Where's the backend exposure? Where're the xml hooks? But then I guess I'm only a small market.

HTML::Munger looks useful in a sort of "one day I will maybe find this useful, perhaps" kind of way. Processes html to get rid of relative links, frames and so on, so you can do cheeky things to the text and serve it from your own 'site.

nPorta - Logs, another weblog system, this time integrated with another 'site and due to be tied in with other systems, like mailing lists and micropayments (and ftping to other servers). In the end, a weblog is just another way of viewing data, just another cross-section through dataspace. View this data however you want: collaborative filters, directories, mail lists, a one/multi-person discussion group. It'll be interesting to see where fresh brains take this idea.

Monday, Upsideclown, urban angst. [I've been meaning to talk about cities and their cultural significance; one for later I think.]

At the next stop-change, I manage to work my way past shoulders to the doors. At least this way, I can step out at the next station and see where I am. The train slows and I shut my eyes in relief. When I open them and the train has stopped, I see my face is pressed inches from a giant woman's bikini-clad crotch.

James has a bad day: The Underground is fresh today at Upsideclown.

Not quite sure how I stumbled on these. My Miserable Life (and sister 'site My Miserable Christmas) collects tales of people's terrible life stories, and not in any sympathetic way either. "Share Your Pain", they say by the submission form, "(please try to be brief)".

It's either this or stealing everything on the page. As Above: Blog is completely full of great links and absolutely spot-on comment. Go.

We are the machine. We are the ants, the connections, the interactions. We are the brownian motion that as a whole has the emergent properties that we cannot possible understand.

And the ideas: the ideas are the fixed points about which the machine turns. They are the fermions to our bosons. We mediate their conversations. The idea is my fulcrum and I am the lever. Give me a fixed idea and I could lift the earth.