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August 2010

August - I totally posted once a day

augustirule.jpgAs I sat here trying to think of something (ANYTHING) to blog about it hit me: why was I trying to blog before going to bed? Because I wanted to post every day during the month of August.

Since this is the last day of August, I can now declare: Mission accomplished! Woo!

What were some of my favorite posts this month? Why, I'm glad you asked! Here they are:

I can't say that I'll be blogging every day in September, but I will try to blog more regularly.

OED Online only? OMG.


Recently Nigel Portwood, the chief executive of the Oxford University Press, caused something of a kerfuffle when he suggested that in 10 years time (when the 3rd edition of the OED might be ready for publishing) that they might not actually print a third edition.

Lots of people (many of whom, I am sure, have never actually seen let alone used the OED) decided they should pipe up and use this offhand comment as a jumping off point to pontificate about the future of publishing (which is now a hot topic amongst tech writers who know very little about the subject, but feel compelled to write about it because Apple introduced the iPad a few months ago and it is going to CHANGE EVERYTHING, i.e. they can get some cheap traffic by mentioning Apple and some other industry in the same article).

First, a little about me and the OED. I've long been a fan of the OED, mostly because I admire any dictionary that says, those other dictionaries define words, we define the language. The OED is less about trying to figure out what a word means and more about researching how it came to mean what it does. The OED does this through etymology (they don't do it through entomology as I first said, though I imagine someone at the OED enjoys insects). and by quoting the first known time a word has been used to mean a particular thing in writing.

I always had it in the back of my head that I wanted to own the second Edition of the OED (which is the one that is currently in print and consists of 20 volumes plus 3 additional update volumes). I told Marisa that I wanted to buy it, and she said yes thinking it was just a plain old dictionary. When the 5 boxes from Amazon showed up she was a little taken aback, but as you can see above in the very crappy picture I took for this post they've found quite a nice home in our den.

Now, the OED is a fantastic set of books to leaf through... but honestly is much more useful on a day to day basis. It is more up to date, easier to search, and more convenient. Now, unless I miss my guess I think that in ten years time, when the 3rd edition of the OED is complete it will be available in print. It will just be a very expensive, limited edition print version. Something for collectors and reference sections of libraries. Most people will just subscribe to the OED's service and have the OED app on their tablet or whatever the heck we'll be using in ten years time.

One final note to cement the fact that most people writing about this issue, at least on the tech Web sites, don't have a clue about the OED. Mathew Ingram writing for the usually excellent GigaOm has a piece called Oxford Dictionary Goes Online. Do You Really Care? Right off the bat the headline has two problems: the title of the tomes in question is the Oxford English Dictionary. Oxford University Press does publish a number of dictionaries, but only one is worthy of the OED monicker. The headline also creates the impression that the OED hasn't been online up until this very point. has been online for a decade, and available on CD long before that.

Of course the headline isn't the worst part of Ingram's post. He ends it with this thought:

But should a major reference work like the OED go online only? It seems inevitable, but just because the dictionary publishes online doesn’t mean it has to submit completely to the real-time frenzy of the web, and try to emulate Wikipedia. The OUP could continue to update the dictionary only at certain intervals, but this job would be a whole lot easier — not to mention substantially less expensive — without the need to print dozens of books for just a single copy of the finished product.

First off, it makes no sense what-so-ever to update the online version of the OED only at certain times... why adapt the worst aspect of the print version to the online version? Good thing the OUP doesn't do this.

Secondly, it would appear that Mr. Ingram isn't all that familiar with the OED otherwise he would be aware that Wikipedia itself has its roots in the way the Oxford English Dictionary is created. The fine lexicographers at Oxford are very talented but they can't research every word in the English language alone. The dictionary wouldn't exist if there wasn't a legion of 'readers' that submit quotations they believe to be the first use of a particular word in the English language. If you're gotten this far in the post you'll recall earlier I mentioned what set the OED apart from other dictionaries, in part, were the quotations. The OED is the great-grandfather of Wikipedia, and the Internet has only made the process more efficient (check out how you can help them find words here).

By the way, I busted out my OED to see where the word 'kerfuffle' comes from. Turns out kerfuffle is a colloquial version of curfuffle, which has its first known use in 1813 by George Bruce in the following sentence, "An' Jeannie's kirtle, aye sae neat, Gat there a sad carfuffle"

What are you reading?

OK, Blankbaby readers! Here's a little experiment. Over the last year or so Blankbaby has been somewhat fallow. However, you might have noticed an uptick in posts as of late.

I have no idea how many people still read this blog (to be honest, I never really understood why anyone would read this, but that's a subject for another time), so in an effort to see how popular I am (you like me! You really like me) I thought I ask for a little audience interaction.

As you know, I love to read but I tend to fall into ruts in my reading:

  • SciFi (and various sub-genres)
  • Fantasy from time to time
  • Historical/literary mysteries
  • Contemporary Fiction (i.e. 'serious fiction')

Sound off in the comments and let me know what you're reading, or what you've read recently you really enjoyed.

I just finished The Good Thief's Guide to Vegas which is a nice, light read.

My Kindle 3 arrives tomorrow


Can you tell I'm a little excited? Ok, it is true I might have a Kindle problem, but thanks to the low price of the Kindle WiFi model and $70 worth of Amazon credits I had this Kindle only cost me $78. It is like Amazon is paying me to buy it.

For those keeping score, here's my Kindle score card (keep in mind this only takes into account the current generation of Kindle hardware):


Obviously I need to get myself an Android phone.

Mockingjay - what the heck?

mockingjay.jpgI'm not a teenaged girl (shocking, I know) so there are some cultural phenomenon that escape my attention until they become or prevalent that one is forced to know what they are.

Twilight is a recent example (sparkly vampires and hunky werewolves? Brilliant!). It seems the next Twilight (though I have no idea if anyone is calling it that, other than me) is the Hunger Games trilogy by Suzanne Collins (of which the last book, Mockingjay
, was just released).

Here's how Scholastic, the publisher of the Hunger Games trilogy (which, I suppose, means I should compare it to Harry Potter) describes the first book in the series (titled The Hunger Games

Twenty-four are forced to enter. Only the winner survives.

In the ruins of a place once known as North America lies the nation of Panem, a shining Capitol surrounded by twelve outlying districts. Each year, the districts are forced by the Capitol to send one boy and one girl between the ages of twelve and eighteen to participate in the Hunger Games, a brutal and terrifying fight to the death – televised for all of Panem to see.

Survival is second nature for sixteen-year-old Katniss Everdeen, who struggles to feed her mother and younger sister by secretly hunting and gathering beyond the fences of District 12. When Katniss steps in to take the place of her sister in the Hunger Games, she knows it may be her death sentence. If she is to survive, she must weigh survival against humanity and life against love.

You know what? That actually sounds kind of interesting. Perhaps I'll try and convince the folk on the Incomparable podcast that we should talk about it in a future episode so I'll have an excuse to read it.

I really do like libraries

Library Cards

Just because I own a pile of eReaders doesn't mean I hate books (well, physical books). As anyone who has visited my home can attest to, I love books.

I was rooting around in a desk drawer looking for something, as you do, when I came across the pile of library cards pictured above. The red one is for the New York Public Library, the yellow one hails from the Bethlehem Area Public Library, and the gray one is for the Yonkers Public Library.

I clearly remember my mom taking me to the Will Library on Central Avenue to get my very first library card (I was very young, though I can't recall exactly how old I was). Here's what the Will Library looks like, courtesy of Flickr user bitchcakesny:

Will Library, Yonkers

When I was a kid I didn't really give the architecture too much though, it was just my library. However, looking at it now I really dig the building, and the font they used on the Yonkers Public Library sign.

I will admit, though, that despite my love of libraries I couldn't find my Philadelphia library card to add to the photo-shoot. I have one, though I have no idea where it is.

1: "We'll Always Have Zeppelins" - The Incomparable

TheIncomparable.jpgThe Internet is an odd place, don't you think? Where else could an innocent request for some reading suggestions turn into a podcast about geek culture?

A while back John Siracusa (at least I think it was him) asked folks on Twitter for some book recommendations. A flurry of suggestions popped up (the Venn diagram of the people I follow and the people John follows overlaps greatly), which gave Jason Snell an idea: why not create a podcast to talk about SciFi/fantasy books as well as comics, TV and movies?

That podcast is the Incomparable, and the first episode is "We'll Always Have Zeppelins". This episode features Glenn Fleishman, Dan Moren, Jason Snell, and myself chatting about geeky books. Given the fact that I hadn't read two of the three books discussed, there isn't an overwhelming amount of the patented "McNulty charm" in this episode, but rest assured that it will be on display in future episodes.

Anywho, here are links to the books that I mentioned in this episode, should you want to read one for yourself:

The last 7 Augusts of my life

I remember a time when people thought I was odd for having a blog (I'm odd for many reason, but blogging isn't one of them). When I started blogging 10 years ago no one knew what a blog was.

Now everyone knows what a blog is, but nobody seems to care about personal blogs. Blog have moved on, become corporate (I should know, I run a corporate blog!), become magazines... have become part of the wallpaper of our lives.

One of the greatest benefits of keeping a personal blog, though, is being able to delve into the archives and recall what you were doing at moments in the past... in your own words.

I thought it would be fun to see what I was doing, and thinking about, in each of the Augusts for which I have a blog archive. For some reason I have archives from August 2000 and then it skips to August 2003 so we'll consider 2001 and 2002 my 'Lost Augusts,' which would make a great title of a book.

August 2000: I saw some nuns, went to the dentist (twice!), and attended an Alumni Relations conference (I still remember the deafening sound of small talk).

August 2003: I'd been living in Philadelphia for about five months, and I was discovering the blogging community here. I was also obsessed with Macromedia (now Adobe) products for some reason.

August 2004: I watched some bad movies, thought about going to Ireland (spoiler alert: I haven't been to Ireland yet, I was excited to get a Pocket PC (hey, this was YEARS before the iPhone, people), and had my boss point out that I had a lot of gray hair (and she thought I was several years older than I actually was at the time).

August 2005: A neologism ('blankbabied') was coined and briefly in Wikipedia before their editors rejected it, was told "You would never be Jesus" which still holds true, looked back at the start of my blogging life (odd that here it is August, and once again I'm looking back at my blogging life), and stated once more my desire to go to Ireland.

August 2006: I went to see a Jonathan Coulton concert (before he got modestly famous), bought some books about libraries, shaved off my beard, and found out I was fat (I was as shocked as you are to here the news).

August 2007: I found that Sour Cream and Onion Quakes are quite tasty, purchased my first iPhone (and posted way too many pictures from it), created a promo video for a Viddler content with Marisa, and called Thad a jackass.

August 2008: I left TUAW, saw Neal Diamond in concert (for the second time), joined up with the merry crew at Macworld/MacUser (and I'll be blogging more over there soon!), and bought a new fridge.

August 2009: I created a blog for the purpose of posting pictures I wanted to Tweet (that blog has been abandoned), read a book, and and received a very cute key chain from Marisa.

Cool posters from Vintagraph

1939WorldsFair.jpgI was born in the wrong era. Well, maybe not since if I had been born in the 30's I wouldn't be able to enjoy all the gadgets (and blogs) that I spend so much of my time obsessing over.

Thankfully, Vintagraph is there to provide me with artwork so I can enjoy both my iPad and WPA produced posters. Isn't the world a wonderful place?

I have my eye on a few of their posters:

Hooked on Classics

Hooked on ClassicsI like classical music (I have enough of it in my iTunes library to listen to only classical music for 8 days non-stop) but I really know very little about it. It is relaxing and enjoyable, but I can't tell Mozart from Rachmaninov (actually, I probably could... but I'm trying to make a point here!).

I also happen to like Amazon, so when Amazon sent me an email listing a bunch of classical music albums on sale for $5 (these are MP3s, not CDs) I knew I was going to blow some cash, but I didn't think I would be transported back to my childhood.

When I was a little boy my family had an old record player in the livingroom, stored up on top of a built in china cabinet. Every once and awhile I would get it down and listen to some records that my parents had. I don't recall what any of those records were with one exception: Hooked On Classics.

What's Hooked On Classics? I suggest you check out the Amazon page and listen to the previews... think classical music meets disco and you'll have a good idea of what it sounds like.

Needless to say I'm $5 poorer but richer in the childhood memories that come flowing back whenever I hear a track from the album. Seems like a fair trade to me.

My Strand haul


The other day I went to the Strand, and if you know anything about me you know I can't leave the Strand without buying some books. The next question that should come to mind is, what books did you get, Scott?

Here's the list:

And now you know!

New York City - Day Three

Sunday was our last day in New York City, and since we had to check out of our hotel at noon and our bus didn't leave until 4:40 we had some time to kill.

Thanks to a suggest by Dave Caolo we checked out the Tenement Museum. No photography of any kind was allowed within the museum itself, so here is where you buy tickets:


Luckily for us, the Tenement Museum was right by another recommended NYC stop (thanks, Philafoodie), Doughnut Plant:

Doughnut Plant

As you might guess this place is a fancy-pants doughnut shop (the doughnuts are fancy, the shop itself has an industrial vibe going on.. and it is tiny! Though the line moves very quickly):

Doughnut Plant

Doughnut Plant sells two different categories of doughtnuts: yeast and cake. I was planning on ordering one of each type, but then I saw the creme brulee doughnut (which is a yeast doughtnut). This thing was tiny, but very very tasty:

creme brulee

I also got another yeast doughnut, the vanilla bean. This one was a vanilla-y glazed doughtnut that was really good (read Marisa's thoughts about her peach doughtnut to see the amazing power of Doughtnut Plant):

Vanilla Bean

We then stumbled upon a little outdoors market which included, for some reason, a ping pong table. Some kids were playing each other and this boy was levitating the ball WITH HIS MIND:


That was all the fun we had time for in New York City. This is Marisa enjoying some of our last moments in the city by standing in the middle of the street like a real New Yorkers. I'm walking here!


New York City - Day Two in pictures

We woke up hungry, but we wanted to get going. We down to Union Square to check out the green market there. Before we did any serious checking, though we had breakfast at the Coffee Shop (I had pancakes, if you're wondering):


Mmmm, carrots:


It wasn't that hot out, but clearly this dog wasn't enjoying being out and about... so he sought some shade under a table:


Marisa samples some of the local flora:


Hippy teas:


I took this picture for Jason Snell (he knows why):


The Strand, one of my favorite stops in NYC:


Five days a week for four years I took the subway to this stop:


To go here:


Marisa thought my high school was 'fancy.' Well, it is on the Upper Eastside and all:


Speaking of fancy, we stopped by this little jewelry store (this is one of Tiffany's flagship stores... 6 floors of expensive, shiny things):


Some lucky girl got a present:


Then we walked back to the hotel before meeting up with my brother for some dinner. On the way we stopped in at the LEGO store in Rockefeller Center which features some LEGO renditions of some famous Art Deco pieces:




And then we played checkers on a Microsoft Surface (Marisa beat me):


Walking down 6th Avenue I snapped this picture... a great end tothe day:


New York City - Day One in pictures

This is what I saw the entire way to New York on the Megabus (when I wasn't sleeping):


Then we checked into our hotel room (the lovely person at the front desk bumped us from a room on the 14th floor to one on the 23rd floor) I looked out the window to see this:


I took this picture at 2pm (that becomes important):


We stood in line at the Shack Shake starting at 2pm:


These guys were competing against one another to see who could solve the Rubik's Cube the fastest (any of them would beat me):


2:30 and still on the Shake Shack line:


Finally, we can order (this was taken at about 3pm):


Mmm, the food. It was good, but I don't think it was worth waiting over an hour for:


After our burger and shake we decided to walk some of that fat off on the Highline:


We saw some cool looking buildings:


We enjoyed the fauna high above the streets of NYC:


Marisa enjoyed the wooden recliners:


At the candy store we found assorted bunnies:


And the we went to the top of the Empire State building (see my Empire State Building tip):


And you can't beat the view:


Even the view looking up is pretty nice:


And to round off the evening, some nice smooth jazz 86 floors above the street:


The only Empire State Building tip you'll ever need

Buy the Express Pass tickets. When you get to the building itself (or the website) you'll wonder, just as I did, whether the extra cost (over double the price) is worth it.

Speaking as someone who opted not to get the Express Pass take my word for it: the extra expense is worth it. The Express Pass allows you to skip all the lines. When you first enter the building you'll go through security and that will make you think all the lines will be quick going.  I will say that the staff at the ESB gets a lot of people moving quickly, but you're still going to be waiting for at least an hour without the Express Pass. Buy it (and don't get the map. You don't need it).

You can have my G4 Cube when you pry it from my cold, dead hands. Actually, $200 would do it.

A work of art

July 19th, 2000. I remember one thing I did that day: ordered a new computer. How can I recall such a mundane detail? Because that's the day Apple introduced the G4 Cube.

When I saw it, I had to order it. I knew, intellectually, that it was over-priced, under-powered (despite being capable of giga-flops) and not in the least user expandable... but goodness. I had never seen a computer like it (and still really haven't).

prettymonitor.jpgThe G4 Cube is a work of art (sadly, many Cube owners were shocked to find that the manufacturing process left tiny cracks in the clear plastic of their Cubes... which they weren't fond off) and a computer.

I used my Cube as my main computer (attached to a 17 inch Apple Studio Display, which itself was a stunning piece of industrial design) for a good long while. When the time came to replace it I couldn't bring myself to give it away... so I packed it up in a box and moved it from Yonkers to my first apartment in Philadelphia to my second apartment and finally along with me when I moved in with Marisa.

It took awhile, but finally we purchased a piece of furniture worthy of displaying this work of art in the manner in which it deserves (pictured above).

This trip down memory lane brought to you by Benj Edwards' dueling G4 Cube pieces for Macworld (read 'em here and here).

McSweeney's Internet Tendency: An Objective Look at My Seven Graduate School Rejections Compared to Other Historic Rejections.

Here's a fun Scott fact: I very nearly enrolled in an MA program after graduating from college (the Creative Writing MFA program at Emerson to be exact).

Why Emerson? I applied to a number of programs, but I was rejected by all of them... save Emerson. That made the choice easier, though in the end I decided to skip the MFA all together (I do often wonder what my life would be like if I had gone ahead and enrolled in that program... I would probably be living in Boston, and I definitely wouldn't be writing this blog post!

It is for this reason that I draw your attention to McSweeney's Internet Tendency: An Objective Look at My Seven Graduate School Rejections Compared to Other Historic Rejections. Been there, done that.

Dear Hotels,

Dear Hotels,

I know this might come as a shock to you, but tall people need to shower too.

After taking a shower this morning, and getting dressed (you're welcome) I hopped back in the shower to take picture.

Hotels, can you see the problem here? No one wants to hunch over to get their head wet in the shower and I have to believe I'm not the only tall dude (or dudette) that encounters this problem at nearly every hotel I stay at.

Hugs and kisses,