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Adam Fields

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New blog [05 Dec 2004|01:54am]
I've got a new blog.

I will still post here from time to time (I'm not sure what yet, but something), but the daily stuff goes there now.

Go there now.
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Tagging things [13 Oct 2004|02:12pm]
I've started tracking:

Smarmy election behavior links:

Emerging Star Trek techology:
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Backup delicious and lj [12 Oct 2004|10:12am]
Here are crontab entries to back up your delicious and lj posts from a unix box on a daily basis:

30 6 * * * /usr/bin/wget -O /backup/web_services/delicious/delicious_`date +\%F`.xml http://del.icio.us/api/posts/recent?count=100000
30 6 * * * /usr/bin/wget -O /backup/web_services/lj/lj_`date +\%F`.xml http://www.livejournal.com/users/<USERNAME>/data/atom

This requires that your put your login information in .netrc (reminder - chmod 600). See man netrc for more info on that. Obviously, the directories you're backing up into must also exist.

This is particularly timely given the recent outages that del.icio.us has had.
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[10 Oct 2004|12:57pm]
I realized that I never posted here my review of our wonderful Per Se meal back in May. So here it is:


It's not so much a restaurant as it is a very well oiled food perfection delivery machine. Not everything was 100% perfect, mind you, but the things that weren't were mostly of no consequence (or wrong only out of convention and not in the sense of being, say, inferior in any way), and only served to add character to the things that were. More on that.

I can't remember the last time going out to eat gave me the giggles.

To say that the food was exquisite is missing the point - it's just in a different class altogether. Every bite is full of both genius and playfulness. Keller's lighthearted flavor fugue is all over the place, and it shows. For example:

Bread. They start with a choice of three kinds of bread - 9-grain, "simple" country white, or a french bread roll, with two kinds of butter. All great. But then later, they bring out something else - "this is the only bread we make here". It's a "Parker House roll", little quatrains of fleur de sel crusted puffy cubes. Imagine a pretzel crossed with a croissant, and you're mostly there. But it doesn't stop. At the end of the explanation of the bread, the service captain tells us "we'll revisit this later". The dessert course has a bunch of amazing simple things on the plate; one of them is a little puddle of cream. "Remember I said we'd come back to the Parker House rolls?" The cream is '"Pain au Lait" Coulis', and it's made out of the rolls. They pulverize them in a food processor, then cook them down in a process I don't entirely understand. But it's outstanding.

Wine. The wine was reasonably priced. We had a bottle of Neyers 2002 Chardonnay ($50), which was great. The captain recommended individual glasses of sharper whites (which I don't remember) for the second course, which we did and was the right decision. The bottle went with everything, one bottle lasted the meal, and it hit a perfect match with the lobster course. The wine list is a staggering book of much more expensive choices, but I think this was a fine selection.

They have over 200 kinds of plates, most of which were custom designed by Chef Thomas with Limoges. This attention to detail is in every aspect of the meal.

We each started with the Per Se cocktail - ciroc vodka with a white port, glasses washed with a fruity liquor, and garnished with two red grapes. Extremely refreshing, and smooth.

A note on the service. About halfway through the meal, we got fairly confused about who was doing what and had to have it explained. There were no fewer than 6 people involved in various parts of our meal - the waiter, the sommelier, two or three servers, and also a service captain to top it all off. They were very well coordinated, and the service was exceptionally attentive and, for lack of a better word, bright. I felt like everyone was extremely proud of their job, and rightly so.

Shortly after drinks, we ordered, and Chef Thomas's signature amuse-bouche was presented to us - salmon tartare "ice cream cones". A black sesame tuile filled with onion creme fraiche, topped with salmon tartare. Delightful and fresh.

** Course 1:

"Oysters and Pearls"
"Saybayon" of Pearl Tapioca with Island Creek Oysters and Iranian
Osetra Caviar

Fantastic! Thomas Keller talks a great deal about the texture of luxury in his cookbook. Strain strain strain. This is it. A sweetish custardy pudding with droplets of oceanic salty goodness.

** Course 2:

Marinated Holland White Asparagus
White Asparagus Terrine and Garden Mache

"I feel like I'm eating Spring."

"Peach Melba"
Moulard Duck "Foie Gras Au Torchon"
Frog Hollow Farms Peach Jelly, Pickled White Peaches, Marinated Red Onion, and Crispy Carolina Rice

"I feel like I'm eating a big fat duck liver."

In a sea of a meal of the best things I've ever tasted, this stands out. Wow. Foie gras and peaches. Perfectly smooth, fruity, creamy, and surrounded by crunchy crisp bits.

Another note on the service here. Two of the aforementioned minor imperfections in the service were on this course. First, the server spilled some of the rice crispies on the table while spooning them into the bowl. Unforgivable. Second, they served this with three slices of melba toast, and were about 45 seconds after I thought "they really should have served this with more toast" with offering more. They were going for a surprise, but missed it. Terrible.
As you can see, the service was less than outstanding. :)

** Course 3:
"Pave" of South Florida Cobia "A La Plancha"
Fava Beans, Chanterelle Mushrooms, and a Preserved Meyer Lemon Emulsion

I wasn't familiar with Cobia before, but I think this was the most well-balanced fish course I've ever had. The texture was great, perfect crust, a little citrus.

** Course 4:
Sweet Butter Poached Maine Lobster
"Cuit Sous Vide"
Wilted Arrowleaf Spinach and a Saffron-Vanilla Sauce

Yeah... It's just indescribably good. I can't even try.

** Course 5:
Pan Roasted Cavendish Farms Quail
"Puree" of Spring Onions, Apple Wood Smoked Bacon "Lardons" and Split English Peas

This seemed a little out of place to me, seasonally. But it was still amazing.

** Course 6:
Elysian Fields Farm "Carre D'Agneau Roti Entier"
Grilled Swiss Chard Ribs "en Ravigote", Roasted Sweet Peppers, and a Nicoise Olive Sauce

I think this qualifies as a "main" course. Lamb is all good.

** Course 7:
"La Tur"
"Gelee de Pomme Verte", Satur Famrs Red Beets and English Walnut Short Bread

Cheese course, a wedge of something creamy with tart apple gel and beets. Anne doesn't like beets, but I found this very refreshing.

** Course 8:
Napa Valley "Verjus" Sorbet
Poached Cherries and Cream Cheese "Bavarois"

Sorbet course. My palate was refreshed!

** Course 9:
"Tentation Au Chocolat, Noisette Et Lait"
Milk Chocolate "Cremeux", Hazelnet "Streusel" with Condensed Milk Sorbet and "Sweetened Salty Hazelnuts" and "Pain au Lait" Coulis

Formal dessert, basically a chocolate mousse with puddles of creamy things, and the Parker House bread pudding.

** "Mignardises 1"

Creme Brulee

Anne really liked this, but I found it, to my surprise, to be too smooth. It's the texture of luxury, but I still think that Le Cirque has it beat. It was quite delicious, but it wasn't right for me.

Hazelnut Panna Cotta w/ Apricots

This is Keller's take on yogurt with fruit on the bottom. Yummy.

** "Mignardises 2"
Assortment of cookies & chocolates
Rosemary / Thyme chocolate

Here, I had an espresso, and we both had white tea. I'm quite pleased that more restaurants seem to be offering high-end teas.

The cookies were tasty and buttery, but the standout here was the filled chocolates, particularly one with a rosemary and thyme cream.

So, that's it. Afterwards, we got a tour of the kitchen, which is like some sort of serene temple.

I had a fabulous time. Previously, I didn't really feel up to the task of tackling any of the recipes in the French Laundry cookbook, but now I feel like I have some idea of where they're supposed to go. This is unmistakably one of the standout meals in my appreciation for the art of cooking.
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My take on the debate [01 Oct 2004|09:48am]
Better than I'd expected, not as aggressive as I'd hoped.

I'd have paid real money to see Kerry come out with "You're against nuclear proliferation?!? You can't even fucking PRONOUNCE it!".
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Ideas for RNC protesters [22 Jul 2004|01:58pm]
I think it would be great to get a few hundred thousand people out on the streets carrying signs that say... nothing.

A blank white paper sign says, I think, far more than any sort of protest message could.

  • It's emblematic of the lack of a coherent plan in our current semblance of government.
  • It represents curtailing of free speech rights.
  • It will leave TV viewers wondering if the signs have been edited out of broadcasts.
  • It will leave the protest up to the imagination of the viewer.
  • It's a hook to get people thinking.
  • No one can possibly complain about the content.
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[20 Jul 2004|07:22pm]
This comment on an <a href="http://ask.metafilter.com/mefi/8866">Ask Metafilter thread</a> pretty much exactly sums up everything that's wrong with social software services.

I used LinkedIn for a while, and it was cool at first. It's meant to help you find people with specific interests or skills within your broad business/social circle, so you can look for an "information architect" or "marketing expert", and find a resource that's also within a degree or two of someone you know well.

Pretty quickly, though, I ran into what's got to become a systemic problem on these things--someone I know got joined to some kind of mad link whore, who had like 1,000 1st-degree links.

Now all of a sudden, this guy's just two degrees away, and my "3rd-degree" network jumps to 1,200 people. Since half the people he links to are link whores as well, my fourth-degree network is like 10,000 people, and the whole thing is totally useless. Every search gets 500+ hits, and they're all through some guy I definitely don't want to know.

You know what I call the remaining list of people who are all within one or two degrees of connection to me? My friggin' address book.

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Brief intro to RSS for non-techies [08 Jul 2004|12:10pm]
An RSS feed (and I use that as a catchall term for several syndication formats, including different versions of RSS and Atom) is just an XML file, usually served by a webserver and updated reasonably dynamically. The idea is this - each piece of "content" is an item in the feed, tagged with a unique ID and a datestamp. Programs reading the feeds (RSS aggregators) can grab the feed, then they typically compare the items to the ones you've read before, so you only get the new items displayed.

Yes, it's an alternative way of reading blogs (and news, and weather, and whatever), but it's also a centralized one with some advantages. I now have 90 feeds - there's no way I could keep up with that much without an RSS reader.


1) It only shows me the new stuff.

2) It allows me to set up folders so I can break new content to read into logical chunks that I can deal with when I have time.

In short, it lets me read 90 feeds daily without hitting each one separately, and does the work of trying to figure out what I've already read. The rest of the potential remains to be seen.

There are RSS readers for desktops, but I use a web-based one (bloglines.com) so I can maintain state between home and work. Registration is free. Bloglines also recently added some new features, including easily maintaining your own blog made up of interesting stuff (which people can also subscribe to using RSS).

As far as good feeds, you can check out my feeds at http://www.bloglines.com/public/fields, and bloglines also has a directory of popular feeds once you make an account. If you have a bloglines account and you're browsing my feeds, you can subscribe to them directly from there. Web searches for "whatever + rss" seem to work pretty well. Many pages also have an orange "XML" or "Syndication" icon with a link to the feed.
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[18 May 2004|04:38pm]
Salon article on opening up your home network for plausible deniability for copyright infringements with your IP address attached:


This article has some good points, but doesn't pick up on the critical one. If you really want to do this, there's no need to open up access to the machines on your home network. Set up two wireless routers, chain them, and connect your computers to the "inside" one. That way, the outside world can connect freely using your outbound internet connection (and public IP address), but your other machines aren't vulnerable to port scans on the open wifi channel. Since your internet connection is likely much slower than even the slowest wifi network, you can use a really cheap 802.11b router for the outside connection.
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[07 May 2004|02:15pm]
I had an idea that I think might address some of the privacy concerns with leaving RFID tags in consumer items. Taking the tag out of the item isn't a good solution, because there are obvious benefits to having items tagged once you get them home (clothes with washing instructions, etc...).

Would it be feasible to construct a type of tag that would have a very small effective range (say, 1-6") with small numbers of them, but if you get a lot of them together, they amplify each other's signal?

So - a whole box full of razor handles could be scanned from a few feet away in the warehouse, but one tag attached to a razor in your bag couldn't be scanned easily.

You could also construct two-part tags for theft prevention, where one half has just one tag, which you leave attached, and the other half has a whole bunch which breaks off and is reused by the store.

Any thoughts on this?
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The central message of Buddhism is not "every man for himself". [03 May 2004|11:23pm]
But it might be "don't buy an SUV, you dumb fuck".

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[26 Apr 2004|09:05am]
I believe that much of my behavior can be traced to an extensive set of rules that were taught to me when I was very little, and which I no longer remember consciously, but which bubble up to meet me from time to time.

One of them is "ALWAYS - sign your work.".
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On bashing [15 Apr 2004|12:09pm]
When someone is wrong, and you point that out, and then you point that out repeatedly, that's not "bashing".
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Here's what I have to say about electronic voting [15 Apr 2004|12:08pm]
When pig shit flows from the faucet, it doesn't matter how many cups you have.
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The real Google app [08 Apr 2004|11:20am]
This was pointed out to me: http://www.j-bradford-delong.net/movable_type/2004_archives/000574.html

There are a few really big pieces missing from this analysis.

1) Orkut is a .NET application and the rest of their apps, as far as I know, run on customized linux. So, unless Orkut is entirely separate (which seems unlikely), either they've built a cross-platform cluster or they're running Orkut on mono or something like it. Either way, this is still more powerful than the article above would lead you to believe.

2) It sort of dances around what I'm going to say next, but fails to make the next conclusive leap. The Google cluster is supposedly based on the assumption that hardware is cheap and disposable - it routes around damage. But what if, from Google's perspective, hardware was not just effectively free and disposable, but >ACTUALLY FREE< and disposable? I suspect that they've built or are building what I've been talking about recently - a way to use the entire internet as distributed storage. Because of the Google toolbar and the ability to correlate activity to IP addresses, they've probably got a pretty good map of uptime for a large chunk of the internet (which is in itself, extremely valuable). Why should they pay for a data center cluster to run your Gmail (or whatever), when they could make you pay for it instead? To a system like this, disconnecting a machine from the internet or turning it off looks exactly like a failed disk. Sure, it happens more often, but you've got plenty of space to spread things around in for multiple layers of redundancy.
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Some simple rules for email, web, phone, and life in general [04 Mar 2004|01:27pm]
  1. Do not use Microsoft products to browse random websites or read random emails. In a controlled environment, these products do have advantages. When used with untrusted content, they behave badly and will run code without your permission or knowledge. This includes all versions of Internet Explorer, Outlook, and Outlook Express. Instead, use products that are better about executing untrusted system code - Mozilla, Opera, Netscape, and the like.
  2. If you can, use a plaintext mailreader. HTML mail is fraught with all sorts of security problems.
  3. Do not open attachments unless you are expecting the specific attachment and you know what it is. Even then, this is risky. If you're not expecting that specific attachment, it's probably an email worm or something else bad. Even if you are expecting the attachment, rather than clicking on it directly to run it, you're much better off saving it to disk, opening the program you think it should be run with, and then opening it manually. This takes a bit more time, but think of the time you save by not having your data randomly deleted by malicious attachments.
  4. If you're going to give out any information - financial info, username / password, etc... - do not click on links that are emailed to you. Always type in URLs by hand (or use bookmarks that you saved from typing URLs in by hand).
  5. Do not ever give out any information to anyone who contacts you, no matter how inconspicious it seems. Find an alternate way to find out their contact information (or use contact information you already have, which has been verified), and call them back. For example, if you get a voicemail from your credit card company telling you to contact them about some suspected fraud, don't use the number they leave. Call the number on the back of your card instead.
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More on Orkut [09 Feb 2004|12:35pm]
Here's a summary of what I see...

There are actually three issues:

1) Orkut claims irrevocable unlimited license rights to everything you post. Most people don't understand what that means. One example of this is that many of my friends have posted pictures that I've taken. This is probably not a problem, generally, but they've granted Orkut a license to use them without consulting me, and created a legal tangle should I have a problem with that, forcing me to have to perform a legal struggle with Orkut, because of their unwitting actions. I think this is rude behavior on the part of Orkut, but their prerogative to demand.

2) Orkut may share personal information with Google in an unrestricted way. Google is unwilling (so far) to discuss what use they may make of that information.

3) Google's privacy policy possibly has some holes in it with regards to data collected by way of means other than use of the google.com website.

I >suspect< that Orkut is a way for Google to gather personal information about their clientele for marketing purposes, and to try to form a more solid relationship beyond "I just use Google for search because it's convenient". This is not terribly nefarious, but the kind of data that could be collected to do so has wide potential for abuse, and people should be aware that that's what's going on. Some may not care, but many people I know are signing up without reading or understanding the implications of the above three points.

Google's position of power is somewhat due to their stringent policy of not associating searches with personally identifiable data, not only about you, but about who you know and how you interact with them. They may be able to do this now (according to the tangle of policies they've created), and if they suddenly merge Orkut and Google, they will certainly be able to do this for everyone who's used the service up until that time. The construction of such a database in a piecemeal fashion might be called nefarious. I'm not sure. It would certainly be an unprecedented collection, and I suspect that it would be ripe for abuse, both by currently legal means that didn't foresee such a resource, and by malicious intruders.

I don't have any reason to believe that there's anything sinister going on other than what I've just described, but it seems to me that the construction of such a database with the loopholes above is reason enough for some concern, or at least some explanation.

I'm curious about what information Google is amassing, and I think everyone has a right to know how it will be used (or at least publicize that Google is unwilling to say).
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Orkut Terms of Service [06 Feb 2004|12:52pm]
Many (http://www.zephoria.org/thoughts/, http://www.boingboing.net ) have already pointed out that the Orkut terms of service (http://www.orkut.com/terms.html) are overly broad and give Orkut an unlimited non-revocable license to anything uploaded to the service.

Jeremy Zawodny (http://jeremy.zawodny.com/blog/archives/001504.html) has pointed out that Orkut is likely a channel for Google to mine for personal information, but he overlooked the following privacy policy gap.

The Orkut privacy policy says that they can share personally identifiable information with Google. Neither the Google privacy policy nor the Orkut privacy policy seems to say anything about what Google can do with information about you that they get from Orkut. That seems to be completely unrestricted. Google's privacy policy only appears to covers information that Google itself collects on you. My email request to Google regarding their intended use of any information they may receive from Orkut has gone unanswered thus far (I will update this if I receive a response).

One possible application for this would be for Google itself to run a service allowing very highly personalized spamming or in-frame ads to your orkut account based on a combination of Google searches and personal profile data.

I think the framework is already in place for this.

This is pretty sophisticated, and it could be done in a way that's unobtrusive and not particularly nefarious.

However, simply the fact that they >can< correlate searches to identity is possibly a bad thing, even if they only make "benign" uses of it. If the data is there, it's waiting to be hacked, leaked, or abused. The fact that they've made no public mention of how or whether this information is to be used is worrying to me.
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[12 Jan 2004|12:12pm]
This company claims that wearing their multi-colored shirts, oh, I don't know, strengthens your aura or something.


Moreover, in an obvious stab at NY fashion, they claim that:

'Bio-electrography measurements seem to suggest that wearing black creates weakening and fragmenting of our electro-photonic bio-energy field. In view of the evidence collected by Dr. Chalko using bio-electrography, wearing and promoting black clothes seems to be an act against human Nature and well being.'

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New version of Photoshop won't reproduce currency [11 Jan 2004|01:14pm]
I first noticed this on Slashdot:


It's since been confired by Adobe:


If you have the latest version of Photoshop, you can test it with this image.


This is an interesting thing.

Commercial software does sometimes offer serious advantages over the (F/f)ree counterparts. Photoshop is one example - there are things you can do to an image in Photoshop that you can't do in the alternatives. But now, if you want those features, you have to also accept the (probably inappropriate) restrictions that have been imposed by the creators of that software at the behest of a governing body to aid law enforcement.

This is huge!

Not only has Adobe bowed to the government and agreed to scan every image you load for currency infringement (using up cycles on your machine; and yes, the first thing I noticed about Photoshop CS was how slow it was compared to previous versions), but the technical measures are both overly broad, ineffective, and destructive, and they've been added silently.

Overly broad: This restriction removes fair use cases allowed by the law. Photoshop won't even let you open this image, even though doing so doesn't mean you're a counterfeiter. Reproducing currency is legal in certain circumstances, and those circumstances are clearly laid out in the law.

Ineffective: Counterfeiters don't necessarily need the advanced editing features in Photoshop; but Photo editors certainly do. This feature will cause people who want to counterfeit money to look elsewhere, but the legitimate customers are shit out of luck, and technically forbidden from performing legal actions that happen to fall under the umbrella of this restriction. And, because of the DMCA, consumers are also forbidden from bypassing this restriction, even for legitimate uses.

Destructive: It's also been pointed out in this Metafilter thread on the topic that it's theoretically possible to embed the pattern that Photoshop checks for into any image, and thereby prevent that image from being edited in Photoshop.

This is exactly the same situation as every case involving Digital Rights Management, and we're going to see a lot more of them. DRM is not your friend - by its very nature, it can't stop the criminals, and it does a lot to inconvenience and restrict legitimate users. Companies haven't listened to this argument yet, because they have no reason to believe that they'll lose customers by doing this.

Cory Doctorow put it most succinctly, talking about the upcoming Tivo DRM that "allows" you to copy Tivo video to your PC:

'Where does this bizarre idea -- that the dinosaur industry that's being displaced gets to dictate terms to the mammals who are succeeding it -- come from?

I'll tell you two things that are obvious to my entrepreneurial instincts:

1. There is no market demand for TiVo's DRM -- or anyone else's. No
TiVo customer got out of bed this morning and said, "Damn, I wish
there was a way I could do less with my videos."

2. If TiVo isn't giving customers the features they want, someone else
(like a commercial packager of mythtv, for example) will.

Not delivering the products your customers demand is not good business.'

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