Starting today until the beginning of June, I’m working on Health/Science reporting.

My beat is Technology/Gadgets/Nanotech. If you should happen to have any good tips on these subjects, please please contact me and clue me in (ian at I finally have a beat that I can write about with some kind of clarity, so I’m looking to make it as interesting as possible.

Thanks in advance!

I caught a cold. It even came with a minor ear infection.  So I’ve been popping the amoxicillin and OTC cold remedies.  Bummer.

I saw Watchmen. I liked it.  It got a bum rap from the fanboys (and critics), but then again, how could it not?  Some of the reviews have said that it was too “reverent” towards it’s source material, but I thought that translated into a unique tone through the movie.  Plus, at almost three hours, it was a good entertainment bargain.

It's dark, but this was at the beginning of the show.

I saw Ratatat. Man, what a good band.  I can’t believe that this was the first time that I got to see them, but it was.  As it happens, the show was sold out, and I was worried about getting in.  But Mr. Baptiste was on their tour crew, and he and I used to trade stacks back and forth at the infamous games of the Armenian Poker Cartel, so he got me on the list and into the show. Thanks sir!!

The openers were interesting, too.  I particularly liked Despot, a rapper on Def Jux.  His set was a little drunk and disorderly, but he had a good flow.

Ratatat music video:

I read a horror book. The Descent, by Jeff Long.  No, it’s not the inspiration for the movie that came out a few years ago, but there are a lot of the same elements.  They both focus on monsterous homonids that live in deep caves.  But the movie was just that and nothing more, while the book gets a bit more lavish, postulating an incredibly vast underworld existing deep within the earth and providing an environment for an alternate evolution of creatures decended from Homo Erectus.  These creatures and the underworld they inhabit give rise to the traditional notions of “hell” and “demons”.  It wasn’t a perfect book, but I liked it.  It was certainly ambitious.  I understand there’s a sequel, and if I happen upon it, I’ll probably give it a read.  Or maybe not.

Casino floor at the Horseshoe, just outside the poker room.

Casino floor at the Horseshoe, just outside the poker room.

I went to the Horseshoe Casino, just south of Chicago, in Hammond, Indiana.  At last!  A real, live, full-blown casino, instead of a crappy dog track or indian joint with no table games and bullshit slots.  The Horseshoe was pretty nice, actually.  Got myself into a $1-2 no-limit hold ’em game for a reasonably paced seven-hour session.  Walked away about $250 up, too.  That’s a rate of almost $36/hour, which is adequate.

Oh, and I got a haircut. First time I’ve had short hair since I was 12 years old.


Is there anything more jaded than to use the financial meltdown as a cheesy sales gimmick?

I hereby pledge not to do any business with any company that uses the words stimulus, bail-out, or the mainstreet/Wall St. dichotomy as part of their advertising.

This fellow gets it.

Everyone knows by now that the newspaper industry is broken, possibly beyond repair, but, particularly over the last three or four years, I’ve come across countless folks that want to sell you a solution to “fix” it.  But it can’t be fixed.  The environment has changed, and the niche that newspapers have thrived in for decades has dried up.  The “newspaper organism” is going to become as extinct as the dodo.  This is neither a good thing nor a bad thing; it’s just what’s happening.

Clay Shirky understands, though:

Society doesn’t need newspapers. What we need is journalism. For a century, the imperatives to strengthen journalism and to strengthen newspapers have been so tightly wound as to be indistinguishable. That’s been a fine accident to have, but when that accident stops, as it is stopping before our eyes, we’re going to need lots of other ways to strengthen journalism instead.

When we shift our attention from ’save newspapers’ to ’save society’, the imperative changes from ‘preserve the current institutions’ to ‘do whatever works.’ And what works today isn’t the same as what used to work.

We don’t know who the Aldus Manutius of the current age is. It could be Craig Newmark, or Caterina Fake. It could be Martin Nisenholtz, or Emily Bell. It could be some 19 year old kid few of us have heard of, working on something we won’t recognize as vital until a decade hence. Any experiment, though, designed to provide new models for journalism is going to be an improvement over hiding from the real, especially in a year when, for many papers, the unthinkable future is already in the past.

Found via mental_floss.

Happy St. Patrick’s Day! This is the first time I’ve been in a city that starts celebrating a full week before St. Patty’s.  Please enjoy this video shot at the South Side Irish St. Patrick’s Day parade on Sunday.

[flashvideo file=”flash_video/st.pats.flv” /]

*** Update, 3/27/2009 ***

Looks like this was the last South Side Irish Parade that will ever be.  The organizers have decided to cancel it, after it was reported that some of the attendees attacked police officers that were doing crowd control.

If you think about it, 54 arrests for 300,000 people isn’t all that bad — that’s barely 2 arrests per 10,000 attendees.  That’s lower than the per capita murder rate in Tulsa, Oklahoma.

I’m glad I got to see it once, though.

This is really excellent.  This fellow took a bajillion unrelated YouTube videos of people playing instruments, or singing or whathaveyou, and edited them all down into a “virtual album” of seven tracks, including the original video samples with the music.  The results are brilliant.  It kind of reminds me of Coldcut’s Timber video, but that was done back in the mid-’90s, and it used custom software as part of the composition process…

Go to his site to see the rest of the songs, and to find out more about the project.  The website implies that there might be more coming, and I certainly hope there will be.

This is interesting. is reporting that some folks at the University of Exeter have used game-theoretical models to predict strange food gathering behaviors that ravens exhibit only in particular geographic conditions…

“The researchers built a mathematical model to understand how this behaviour evolved and why it might occur in some roosts and not others. The model designed for this study was based on techniques used in other game theory models, which identify the most profitable behaviours of individuals in different situations to predict what would be favoured by evolution.

The study revealed two strategies as being most profitable for ravens to find food. One is for birds to search independently for food and recruit each other. The other is for the birds to forage in gangs.”

[flashvideo file=”flash_video/UnemploymentSeminar.flv” /]

This is the first video that I’ve turned in for Northwestern that hasn’t been completely terrible.  It’s a story about a group in Chicago that provides support services for the unemployed to assist in their job search called the Career Transitions Center.