My reality show concept: Celebrity Karaoke Roulette

Shakespeare’s Sister question of the day the other day was: “You’ve been given unlimited resources and creative control to create your own contest reality show (a la Project Runway) or game show: What’s your concept?”

I’ve had this one rolling around in my head: Celebrity Karaoke Roulette.

Take five famous musicians, throw them up on stage with microphones, hit shuffle on the karaoke machine, and make one of them sing whatever song comes up. Rate them on best performance, and whomever “wins” gets money for their favorite charity. In between, they could perform one of their own songs or promote their album.

It would give artists a chance to promote a recent album, let out-of-the-spotlight celebrities make a comeback, promote a worthy cause, give us a slew of interesting covers to listen to by people who are already established as good singers, and perhaps be comedic as well if they screw up a performance.

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How Primary Elections Could Be Better

The U.S. would have five days of political primaries, each a week apart, starting the last week of March. The first primary day would consist of the 10 states with the smallest voting population; the rest would increase upward until the fifth week when the largest voting states would hold their primaries in the final week of April. Then there would be a month of campaigning before nominating conventions in May.

The campaigning would be compressed into a shorter cycle that would make it easier for people to follow, and something would actually HAPPEN regularly, rather than endless shots of candidates’ tour buses and baby kissing. The primary wins would actually be representative of the various states and we wouldn’t be unduly influenced by states that don’t really affect the election cycle.

But it isn’t up to me, so there you go.

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Everything is Miscellaneous

Everything Is Miscellaneous
Everything Is Miscellaneous
I mentioned the book Everything is Miscellaneous a few posts back on my list of recent reads, but I wanted to pull it out and write more about it, because it was very thought provoking, and a book I intend to buy (I borrowed it from the library) because I want to read it again.

In the book, author David Weinberger is discussing how we think about and organize knowledge, and about how the internet is changing the way we do that. He starts by discussing the hierarchical nature of traditional organizing schemes (what he calls first and second order schemes) like the Dewey Decimal System, and Linnaeus’ taxonomic scheme of organizing the natural world, and then examines some of the flaws with those systems. Among them: Dewey isn’t flexible enough to account for new knowledge or allow changes in categorization (libraries would have to move and relabel all of their books) and doesn’t allow books to be located in more than one spot in the system (the history of military cooking is an example of a problematic book). Linnaeus’s taxonomy forces us to make rigid decisions about what fits where, when there are grey areas in between. Both systems are authoritarian in nature; neither allow for additions or contributions by lay people who might possess knowledge the system authors do not. My paraphrasing of his ideas is pretty simplistic here, and I’m leaving lots out, unfortunately.

Weinberger then examines what he calls the “third order” organizational scheme that the internet has given rise to – hyperlinking and tagging are examples. Hyperlinking, of course, allows anyone creating a page to associate any idea to any other by linking pages together. Tagging allows people to create their own robust systems of metadata about a piece of knowledge by “tagging” it with words they associate with it – excellent examples are sites I use every day to do that very thing – Flickr, where I describe my photos using tags,, where I bookmark links and tag them with descriptions. Systems like these are democratic in nature (anyone can provide tags that mean something to them), flexible enough to accomodate grey areas and restructuring, and allow a one-to-many association of ideas.

It’s a thought-provoking book for me because I’ve pondered some of the same flaws in hierarchical systems while organizing my graphics, photos, personal design work, blog entries, fonts, library catalog and my library itself, and I want to buy a copy and re-read it thinking about my own systems specifically. I’m hopeful that I can solve many of my long-standing doubts about my approaches to those systems – the biggest being that list of topics over there in the right column of this site.

Incidentally, the problem with first and second order organization schemes is exactly what I’ve been frustrated with and trying describe the flaws of in my rants about how Movable Type treats templates for category pages.

David Weinberger was also one of the authors of another book I found very thought-provoking years ago: The Cluetrain Manifesto (a book I wish we’d paid more attention to at work, frankly) and his website/blog is also a great regular read.

Weinberger spoke recently to the employees of about his book and about the web; here are the notes from a fellow who attended that lecture.

Weinberger has been thrust into the debate with Andrew Keen, a former technophile who recently wrote a book about his change of beliefs, for a variety of complex reasons. Weinberger comments on Keens book and numerous public appearances at Huffington Post, and that was a really interesting read as well.

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Biomimicry, the law of unintended consequences, Chinese water torture

Via wikipedia:


Biomimicry or biomimetics is the examination of nature, its models, systems, processes, and elements to emulate or take inspiration from in order to solve human problems. The term biomimicry and biomimetics come from the Greek words bios, meaning life, and mimesis, meaning to imitate. Similar terms include bionics.

Law of unintended consequences

In the social sciences, unintended consequences (sometimes unanticipated consequences or unforeseen consequences) are outcomes that are not the ones intended by a purposeful action. The concept has long existed but was named and popularised in the 20th century by American sociologist Robert K. Merton. Unintended consequences can be roughly grouped into three types:

  • A positive, unexpected benefit (usually referred to as luck, serendipity or a windfall).
  • A negative, unexpected detriment occurring in addition to the desired effect of the policy (e.g., while irrigation schemes provide people with water for agriculture, they can increase waterborne diseases that have devastating health effects, such as schistosomiasis).
  • A perverse effect contrary to what was originally intended (when an intended solution makes a problem worse)

Chinese water torture

Chinese water torture is a process in which water is slowly dripped onto a person’s forehead, allegedly driving the restrained victim insane. This form of torture was first described under a different name by Hippolytus de Marsiliis in Italy in the 15th or 16th century.

The term “Chinese water torture” may have arisen from Chinese Water Torture Cell (a feat of escapology introduced in Berlin at Circus Busch September 13, 1910; the escape entailed Houdini being bound and suspended upside-down in a locked glass and steel cabinet full to overflowing with water, from which he escaped), together with the Fu Manchu stories of Sax Rohmer that were popular in the 1930s (in which Fu Manchu subjected his victims to various ingenious tortures, such as the wired jacket). Hippolytus de Marsiliis is credited with the invention of a form of water torture. Having observed how drops of water falling one by one on a stone gradually created a hollow, he applied the method to the human body. Other suggestions say that the term “Chinese water torture” was invented merely to grant the method a sense of ominous mystery.

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The Golden Days of Usenet: Godwin’s Law

Godwin’s Law: prov. [Usenet] “As a Usenet argument grows longer, the probability of a comparison involving Nazis or Hitler approaches one.” There is a tradition in many groups that, once this occurs, that thread is over, and whoever mentioned the Nazis has automatically lost whatever argument was in progress. Godwin’s Law thus practically guarantees the existence of an upper bound on thread length in those groups. However there is also a widely- recognized codicil that any intentional triggering of Godwin’s Law in order to invoke its thread-ending effects will be unsuccessful.

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I Love Television

There are tons of people I know who say things like “I never watch TV.” I’m not one of those. I watch TV. A lot. Usually while doing other things, like laundry, reading, working on the house… but I watch TV. I love TV. Well, the good shows, anyway. Because of the harsh winter this year, I’ve been watching a lot of the WISH-TV’s Local Weather Service, which is 24 hour channel of local weather. This is much cooler than the weather channel because I don’t have to hear about what the weather is like in California, or Texas. It’s all about Indianapolis, all the time. I’ve also been tuning into the morning news to get the weather report, which I never did before. Mostly the local news is pretty lame.

Before I started watching all the weather, I was watching practically every home improvement show on cable TV. For a while there, HGTV was on at my house all day Saturdays and Sundays. But lately I’ve started getting a bit irritated at these shows, because they never seem to have the small niggling problems & screw-ups that I have when doing home improvement projects. And they can do the same thing I’m doing in about 1/4 the time it takes me, which is really a pain. And they never have to figure shit out, either. That’s really annoying.

So, anyway, if you like TV as much as I do, you might like this website: It’s regular people who write reviews of their favorite TV shows, and of TV viewing in general. It’s much fun.

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We’ll call it…

Why is it that when someone utters the phrase “We’ll call it….” when trying to introduce a new phrase or idiom, that whatever they come up with is invariably stupid? Idioms don’t come from pronouncements. They happen colloquially. In case you’re wondering, this is in reference to something specific someone said to me. Don’t worry, it wasn’t you.

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Control of the world cannot be handed over to evil men

In the battle between against evil, when all peaceful options are exhausted, men of good conscience must get up and fight. Control of the world cannot be handed over to evil men by good people too weak-willed to stand up against them. — Krishna, The Bhagavad Gita

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