Space Shuttle lost
Update: Nixlog has a growing collection of infographics and interactive graphics related to the crash.

Update: some eyewitness photos (hard to get good photos at that distance...)

Update: Timeline of Columbia's last mission (another timeline).

Update: "Nick has access to orbital data for various satellites and other objects. He and Chris started looking at the data before it got locked up, and it appears that Columbia pulled up around 3 am, and continued to erratically change its path." (Juby)

Update: video of NASA TV broadcast when NASA lost contact with Columbia. Video of NASA trying to reestablish communication with Columbia.

Update: a radar image of Shuttle debris over Texas.

Update: NASA says a piece of foam that impacted the left side of the shuttle on takeoff may be to blame, but unlikely. I mean, how much damage can a piece of foam do? I guess we'll know more when we get a look at what that foam actually looks like.

From NASA:

"A Space Shuttle contingency has been declared in Mission Control, Houston, as a result of the loss of communication with the Space Shuttle Columbia at approximately 9 a.m. EST Saturday as it descended toward a landing at the Kennedy Space Center, Fla. It was scheduled to touchdown at 9:16 a.m. EST.

"Communication and tracking of the shuttle was lost at 9 a.m. EST at an altitude of about 203,000 feet in the area above north central Texas. At the time communications were lost. The shuttle was traveling approximately 12,500 miles per hour (Mach 18). No communication and tracking information were received in Mission Control after that time."

[insert Adaptation pun here]
The pace of news has slowed over the past month or so, but I'm still posting away on the Adaptation weblog on Susan Orlean's site and will continue to do so until after the Oscars. If you've seen the movie, you might want to check out the site for background about how it all came about.

Particular posts I would recommend are:

Susan says Adapation is "amazing"
Deleted scenes
Behind the scenes pictures
Artist renderings
The Heisenberg Uncertainty Principle and how it relates to reporting
Adding to the pile
Spoof?
New Yorker review

And of course, there's the book on which the movie was based: The Orchid Thief.

RSS readers misusing the referer field?
Since I began publishing RSS feeds for this site, my server logs are full of referers from various RSS readers. Six of my top ten referers are from RSS readers like NetNewsWire and the brand new Syndirella.

Very few of these are true referers. No one clicked on a link on the NewsGator page to get to my site, yet I have almost 2000 referers from that page in my logs for this month. Checking my logs more closely, it appears that each time an RSS file from my site is loaded by one of these applications, a referer is deposited in the log file. Each time I load a page in Internet Explorer, I don't leave a referer for www.microsoft.com/ie in the log files of the site whose page I loaded, so why should any of the RSS readers be different?

The definition of referer from RFC 2616 on HTTP 1.1 seems relevant to the question. It states that "The Referer[sic] request-header field allows the client to specify, for the server's benefit, the address (URI) of the resource from which the Request-URI was obtained" and that "the Referer field MUST NOT be sent if the Request-URI was obtained from a source that does not have its own URI".

I need a do over
Update: I updated the stereo photography post yet again (you can't write a weblog without embracing writing as an iterative process). Taking a closer look at how I screwed up the placement of the images for viewing, I found the photo taken from the left-most vantage point needs to go on the right side and vice versa. That way, when you cross your eyes, the left eye sees the photo taken from the left and the right eye sees the photo taken from the right.

Earlier post: This is embarrassing. After advising all of you to "keep track of which is the left most photo and right most photo" in my post about stereoscopic photography, I completely ignored that with my examples. Except for the Lisa/Wiggum pair, each of the examples had the left and right images transposed. This means that unless you were standing on your head, you either couldn't see the effect or saw it in a kind of reverse 3-D with the far objects near and the near objects far.

Anyway, you should take another look if you failed to see the effect before...they are all much better now. Thanks to David for catching this.

The idea of web browser as something more is catching on
Dave Hyatt, member of the Safari team at Apple and former contributer to Chimera, posted a bit on his weblog yesterday about integrating RSS reading into the web browser:

"I've heard a lot of people state that RSS and news aggregators are for 'geeks' and 'blogging enthusiasts,' but I simply don't believe that to be true. It should be possible to make an application for managing a large amount of information flow that is accessible to mainstream users. Browsers are trying to make information easier to manage with smarter bookmarking systems and page management capabilities (tabs), and news readers are emerging that (in effect) push new information to you in as it's posted and allow you to switch rapidly between different information sets as well."

His comments and the ensuing thread mirror much of the discussion around the Sherfari idea (follow-up). I envy Dave...I think this would be a really fun project to work on for Apple.

Update: yet another post/thread on Dave's weblog re: Browser++. The ensuing thread is useful only if you like reading about what technically-inclined power users (about 0.0002% of the population) want out of a web browser. User-centered whuzzah?

Fun with stereographic photography
Stereographic photography (or stereo photography for short) involves taking two slightly different pictures of the same scene so that viewing them in a certain way produces a 3-dimensional image. Having seen some examples of stereo photos recently, I decided to do some research and experiment by making some of my own.

my stereo photos

To view the images in 3-D, cross your eyes until a composite image forms in the middle (it even works with the thumbnail above). From what I've read, a small percentage of you (5-10%) won't be able to see the effect, so if you can't get it to work, that might be why.

Stereo photography turns out to be fairly easy to do if you're not concerned with exact results, even if you only have one camera. Choose an appropriate scene and photograph it from two different positions a small distance apart, making sure to keep the camera as horizontal as possible. That distance depends on distance between the camera and the scene, but for most pictures, an inch or two of separation between camera positions is sufficient. For the Lisa Simpson image, the figurines were about two feet away and I moved the camera only about an inch between shots. Make sure you keep track of which photo you took from the left side and which you took from the right. That'll be important when preparing the images for viewing.

Download the photos to your computer and adjust the images in Photoshop (or a similar program) to compensate for any camera unsteadiness. They need to be horizontally & vertically aligned, color corrected, and cropped so that the two photos look as much alike as possible. The easiest way to do this in Photoshop is to paste one image on top of the other in its own layer. Decrease the opacity in the top layer to 50% and adjust to your heart's content.

When preparing the images for viewing, tall images seem to work better than wide images in getting the proper 3-D effect. Keep image sizes small; if the images get too wide, you won't be able to cross your eyes enough to see the effect. To view the images, place them side-by-side on the screen or print them out, placing the photo you took from the right side on the left and the photo you took from the left side on the right (if you don't switch the photos, you'll get a strange inverse 3-D effect). Then cross your eyes until a composite image appears in the middle.

If you're interested in trying stereo photography, here are some links to help get you started:

A Crash Course in Stereo Photography
An Introduction to 3-D (Stereoscopic) Photography
How To Take Stereoscopic Photography
A History of Stereoscopic Photography
A Guide for New Stereo Photographers
The Simple Making of Stereoscopic Photography

Better examples of stereo photography than mine:

Stereoscopic Photography of Flowers in Japan
High Quality Stereopictures
Okuyuki's 3D Photo Gallery
Early 19th Century Stereographs
Stereoviews by Dan Shelley
David's Stereoscopic Photo Gallery
Stereo Photography of Fluorescent Minerals
Celebrity Stereo Photography

Undesign
Liz Bailey recently wrote an article called Lo-Fi Allstars (PDF) for Graphics International on the trend toward simpler, more usable web design. The article includes a few quotes from me about weblog design. Here's part of a rambling email interview I did for the article:

"Weblogs have definitely affected the look and feel of the overall Web. With weblogs, the design doesn't matter so much. It's not even really design, not to the people who just want to get a blog online so they can get their voice out there quick. All they want is something reasonably readable and distinct (and even the distinct part is optional...there are loads of BlogSpot sites that look exactly the same).

"The explosion of zero-budget amateur publishing (nearly impossible before the Web) we've seen with weblogs, has resulted in a parallel development of zero-cost amateur Web/graphic design. Everyone is a writer. Everyone is a designer. As opposed to the design of personal home pages in the mid 90s where people were designing pages that expressed their individuality and personality, weblog design is much more functional in nature. There's so much content flowing through the site that the design is almost a non-factor. If people can read the posts and if the design isn't getting in the way too much, then it's done 95% of its job.

"Weblogs very much embrace the idea that the Web is ever in flux. In the late 90s, many Web design firms developed a 'prototype, test, reiterate' approach to information architecture and Web design, with various degrees of success. Webloggers seem to have developed a similar system on their own. The content they post is so fleeting that the weblog is always a work in progress. The writing is never done so why would the design ever be done either? Everything is malleable. Get a bad design up...if it works, tweak it using the feedback from your audience, and if not, throw it away and start over. But quickly, there's writing to do.

"Best practices are huge. If someone else is doing something that works, why change it? If you load up 10 weblogs at random and squint your eyes at the screen, they all look about the same."

The J. Crew school of color naming
I spent a good part of the day today looking for a full-time job (my design portfolio and resume, in case you missed the graphic over on the right there). One posting I ran across had this unusual requirement:

"Enjoy working with warm, gentle, sensuous colors, especially seafoam green"

I don't know what "seafoam green" is, but I'm pretty sure the garish green-yellow color at the top of this page ain't it.

Moving target
I just saw a UPS truck with a letter slot on the side of it. Turning a fleet of trucks into thousands of mobile drop-off spots, that's pretty smart. In theory. In reality, I wonder how many people ever use them, considering no one knows where the truck is going to be and when.
New kottke.org feature
A few weeks ago, I started recording some of the links I visited on a daily basis to a separate weblog, real quick-like. Didn't know if I was going to like it or keep it up, so I just included that weblog at the top of the page every few days.

Well, I've kept it up and I like doing it, so the links weblog found a permanent home in the right sidebar of the front page under the heading of "remaindered links". If you wish to view the links all by themselves, here's the main links page and an RSS feed for reading in your favorite RSS reader. Enjoy.

Klingon computer programming language
Var'aq is a programming language for those that speak Klingon. Here's "Hello world" in var'aq:

~ nuqneH { ~ 'u' ~ nuqneH disp disp } name
nuqneH

Roughly translated, it means "What do you want, universe?"

Better books than movies for kids probably a good thing
Some talented authors have been turning their attention lately to writing books for the younger set. Michael Chabon, recent Pulitzer recipient for The Amazing Adventures of Kavalier & Clay, penned Summerland, Neil Gaiman (American Gods) wrote Coraline, and Dave Eggers helped compile The Best American Nonrequired Reading 2002, a book aimed at the high school & college aged. Add the Harry Potter and Lemony Snicket books to the mix, and there's a lot of good reading out there for young folks.

Contrast that with movies. Movies for kids are about one thing: marketing. Disney and Nickelodeon movies are vehicles for CD, DVD, toy, and clothing sales. Independent films are little help; most of them are aimed toward adults. I'd love to see some talented directors like P.T. Anderson, Steven Soderbergh, or Spike Jonze do some high-calibre films for young people. Unfortunately, anyone who tried would face problems finding distribution and studio support (Brad Bird's Iron Giant had some difficulty with that).

Sherfari revisited
In response to my post on building a better browser, several people argued for the Unix approach to software design: build apps that do one thing well.

Q: What is this one thing that a web browser should do well?

A not-so-good answer: Judging from the comments about my post, most experienced browser users & software developers would probably say that a web browser should download and display HTML documents quickly and accurately. In the same way that cameras are designed to transfer real-life scenes to film, that is technically correct and helpful to remember when it comes to implementation.

A better answer: Let's apply the Unix approach so that it makes sense from a user-centered design standpoint rather than at the application level**. Web browsers help people find and share information on the web. Sherfari was an attempt at envisioning a browser that does this better than the current crop of browsers by adding the capability to do a few things that people commonly use the web for. Some cried "bloat", but as long as application features and capabilities are useful and appropriate to an application's function (the "one thing"), there's no bloat.

The web offers so much information and so many opportunities that there is much room for the addition of features to improve the browsing experience without creating a bloated application. With their iLife apps, Apple has demonstrated the restraint and ingenuity necessary to build balanced applications that are powerful without being overwhelming. Let's see them apply that to their web browser.

** Here's what I mean by that. If you were building tools to help people to send and receive email, ham handedly applying the Unix approach solely from an application point of view might result in one app to receive mail (or perhaps two separate apps: one to get IMAP mail and one to POP it), another app to write mail, and yet another to send it. But from a user-centered perspective, one application to do all those things (and more) makes more sense.

Links for your browsing pleasure
Twenty links, updated often:

· Online copy of first English dictionary (most definitely in the public domain)
· Can you not see that your uncle is varied by your mall content
· Fantastic NYC mob history resources @ GangRule
· Apple releases new version of iPhoto
· WriteTheWeb rides again

· Bart Simpson is a Scientologist
· Take that, you crazy vegans!
· Da Vinci collection of drawings at the Met
· We don't really have blog
· Like bloggers link like bloggers (weblogs and the growth of a scale-free network)

· Genetic analysis of "Lorem ipsum"
· Picture after picture of airline food
· If you need to get inebriated to "bond" you've got a psychological problem (love that quote)
· Noodles and Co. is my favorite chain restaurant
· The cone of shame might be just the thing for habitual cell phone users

· I honestly love this little tempest in a teapot ($10 says this is all being taped for a Fox reality show)
· Software protection and piracy
· The New York I love to hate (and I don't really love to hate it that much)
· Can you list every single game you've ever played?
· Top 10 most dangerous intersections in the US

link archive | xml

You always knew this was common
Prompted by an email from Ian urging me to update my copyright notice, I finally headed over to Creative Commons to choose the proper license for this site. I ended up going with Attribution-ShareAlike license which allows people (that's you!) to do anything you want with the content on this site as long as you provide proper attribution (Attribution) and release derivative works under an identical license (ShareAlike).

I'm doing this not because people are clamoring to use my content, but because I want to live in a society that has a large pool of material from which writers, artists, filmmakers, designers, and musicians can freely draw from to create their own work. This is my small contribution to that pool. If you'd like to contribute as well, choose the appropriate license at the Creative Commons site.

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