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First Week: For the first time since 2005 I've been leaving the house every day to go work in an office. The office is Betaworks' big open-plan incubator office in the meatpacking district, holding a zillion startups, including Findings, the company I work for.

There are lots of cool features I want to work on, but I spent this week taking responsibility for the back end, adding useful things like unit tests. That's almost done, so next week I'll get to the really interesting part... which I can't talk about yet. (Another thing that hasn't happened since 2005.) But I think pretty much everyone who reads this weblog will be interested in this, for one reason or another.

My main complaint is the commute, which takes about an hour in each direction. I know, you've probably got it way worse, with your cars and your traffic jams. I'm starting to see the appeal of my friends' "do something after work in Manhattan, then go home and crash" lifestyles.

: Yesterday I suggested to Sumana that there should be a LEGO model of the International Space Station. I think we mainly wanted a LEGO Canadarm. It turns out there is an official ISS model, but reaction to it is mixed, so check out Augie Krater's indie version.

: Another bit from New Cosmic Horizons: Space Astronomy from the V2 to the Hubble Space Telescope, this time about the Hubble Space Telescope itself (née the Large Space Telescope):

[F]urther budgetary problems forced NASA to reduce the mirror diameter of the LST from 3.0 m to 2.4 m, saving an estimated $61m in 1975 dollars. Later in 1975 the Large Space Telescope's name was changed to Space Telescope, so as to avoid giving Congress and the tax payers the impression that NASA were being greedy in asking for anything 'large' during a time of financial stringency in the USA. Some astronomers were concerned that this change in name signaled that NASA were eventually going to cut its diameter even more to 1.8 m, which George Low, NASA's deputy administrator, assured them was not the case.

It did launch with the 2.4-meter mirror.

[Comments] (5) Solaris: We were talking to Zed Lopez and he mentioned there was some author one book of whose he's never read, because he doesn't want to live in a world where he's read all of this person's work. I don't think he meant it as dramatically as all that, but it brought to mind my own similar pledge about Stanislaw Lem. I've read all the available English translations of his work, except Solaris. I have Solaris, I just didn't want to live in a world in which I'd read all of Lem.

But that conversation with Zed made me realize that living in a world with no more Lem to read was much better than dying without having read all of Lem. And those are the only two options, barring a tricky race-condition maneuver. So over the past week I read Solaris on the subway. And now there's no more English Lem for me to read.

I don't think I'll ever write anything as good as Solaris but I'm pretty sure I can do better than the English translation of Solaris. Not really recommended; for pure mind-blowing Lem action it's gotta be His Master's Voice or Fiasco.

: While doing research for Roy's Postcards I found one of the upcoming postcards in a "vintage postcards" Flickr stream. This was a little depressing, but "vintage" just means "time-indexed" so really, just about any postcard is "vintage". Anyway, check out some old-ass postcards.

Findings: Week Two: We've now got good test coverage for all the server-side code, and as a side effect of writing those tests I've now gone through everything, I understand the code, and I've refactored the hell out of it. Next week I start on new features. The other big triumph of last week was getting a written-down list of the features we absolutely must have to launch a public beta.

These status updates are important for me to write but probably useless to you. I get the feeling we're playing our cards pretty close to our chest right now, but next week I'll also try to get some guidelines from Corey about what he's OK with me talking about.

Nothing In Biology Makes Sense Except In The Light Of Evolution:

Maggie is always asking "Do horses lay eggs?" or saying "Bears lay eggs!" etc. We finally made a chart to help her remember the different types of animals and which ones lay eggs.

Best activity ever!

: Adam is on fire with his poem-a-day April experiments. See his ZZT poems and The Average Unicode Character.

[Comments] (2) Findings: Week Three: This week we had a lot of meetings with people from other companies and I think I can talk about what Findings is doing in a way that's interesting without giving away all the secrets we're saving for the product launch.

When I read a good book, I encounter lots of interesting bits that really stick in my mind, for about five minutes. Once I finish the book I'm left with just a general impression of what it said, unless I engage with it while reading by taking notes and highlighting passages. But then I give the book away, so I never see the notes and highlights again. Or the book goes on my shelf, where I probably won't look at it again unless I need to look something up.

Since the 1990s, when I first read about electronic ink coming out of the MIT Media Lab, I've fantasized not just about having access to a lot of books in a small space, but of having random access to my distilled readings of all the books I've read. This would make me (functionally) much smarter and a better writer.

Fifteen years later, electronic-paper hardware is now good enough that I want to use it to read books.[0] But I'm mainly interested in the software. I don't like being done with a book after I read it. I want to pull that extratextual layer out of the book as data. At Findings we're writing software to manage this extratextual layer. Once you extract your reading of a book as data, a lot of interesting social interactions become possible around that data, so we're also writing software to catalyze those interactions.

Yeah, it's vague, but hopefully you get the idea.

[0] That's a pretty low bar, though--I never liked the original "book" hardware all that much. If ZaReason started putting out an electronic-paper book reader for which I could write software, I would buy ten.

[Comments] (2) : Yesterday was Sumana's and my fifth wedding anniversary. We've been married about half the time we've known each other! Pretty amazing. To celebrate (not to celebrate), Sumana did standup at a local bookstore yesterday and was great. If you're in New York you can see her on Saturday in Brooklyn.

I told Sumana: "The fifth anniversary is the wooden anniversary, so I got you Minecraft." She got this joke, but I don't think she appreciated it, so I'm throwing it out there for you.

[Comments] (3) Dada Dwarf Dozens: Yesterday I was a guest critic for Adam's "Reading and Writing Electronic Text" class. His students are preparing their final projects (to be performed on May 6!), and the sight was inspiring. It made me want to bring back the randomness that has kind of been missing from my life recently. In a similar vein, Adam mentioned that his poem-a-day project came from seeing his students being really creative while he wasn't really doing much.

And so, Adam and I have decided to bring our generative creativity to bear even after the end of National Poetry Month, with a feature I like to call... whatever we decide to call it when we think of a name. The idea is that we'll trade off posting poems and other textual projects, each trying to outdo the other. It's kind of like Layer Tennis, except we won't be directly riffing on each others' work, just trying to put out the best texts. But hopefully my work will provide inspiration for Adam and vice versa.

Anyway, here's my first entry, "Dada Dwarf Dozens". I took the poignant internal monologues from Dwarf Fortress and turned them into incongruous "your mama" jokes.

"Price Fixing"
Your mama's so conceited, she has suffered the pain of having to give somebody water lately.
She's so lazy, she has complained of the lack of dining tables lately.
She's so fat, she has altered the prices of goods.

"Organization Is For Chumps"
Your mama's so dumb, she became a parent.
She's so lazy, she was overjoyed to be able to help somebody to bed lately.
She's so conceited, she tries to live a well-organized life.

"Backhanded Compliments"
Your mama's so stupid, she is interested only in facts and the real world.
She's so fat, she is easily moved to pity.
She's so dumb, she conducted a meeting in a good setting recently.

"No Shoes"
Your mama's so lazy, she was embarrassed to have no shoes lately.
She's so stupid, she loves new and fresh ideas.
She's so fat, she ate a legendary meal lately.

"Production Shortfall"
Your mama's so stupid, she was upset to have disappointed a noble lately.
She's so lazy, she was unable to request weapon production lately.
She's so conceited, she is open-minded to new ideas.

"Something Unpleasant"
Your mama's so ugly, she has been tired lately.
She's so stupid, she has mandated the construction of certain goods.
She's so ugly, she saw something unpleasant in a pond recently.

"It May Actually Be Stress"
Your mama's so stupid, she was forced to eat a beloved creature to survive lately.
She's so conceited, she is impervious to the effects of stress.
She's so lazy, she is quick to wink at others.

I got the values from the Dwarf Fortress binary using strings, but I should have just scraped that wiki page. Live and learn!

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