Nov 05

A History of the World in Six Glasses, by Tom Standage

I picked this book up because I read a book by Standage called The Victorian Internet, about how the telegraph (or, more specifically, speed of light communications) was the big discontinuous innovation in communications — even more significant than the Internet revolution over the past several years. That was a fantastic book; one I highly recommend.

In 6 Glasses, Standage tells the history of the world (a little tongue-in-cheek) through the lens of the 6 really major beverages:

  • Beer
  • Wine
  • Spirits
  • Tea
  • Coffee
  • Cola

It’s an interesting book — he makes compelling arguments about each drink being emblematic of the era for a particular country or region was dominant. While I thought it was a fun topic, the book reads pretty slowly, and I was a little disappointed by it. He’s got another book about Attaturk that sounds good — maybe I’ll check that out.

Nov 05


I’m currently in Pasadena for the day — making this my first business trip for Mozilla, my first work-related trip in nearly a year, and only the 3rd airplane that I’ve been on in total this year. I have to say that not traveling has been awesome — it’s been great for my time with Kathy, my diet, my health, and my mental state. Getting on a plane today was nice, though — nice to get a bit of totally disconnected time in the air, nice to drive around Pasadena and look at things I haven’t seen before. I don’t really ever want to go back to the travel schedule that I had last year — was just too much. Also, I’m struck by how much “in between” time there is — time waiting for a meeting, or when you’ve just boarded the plane, or whatever — that’s time that I get to listen to my iPod, or read my book, or things like that. Kathy & I haven’t had much of that lately, with Samosaurus around. Kind of neat once in a while.

Nov 05

Busting Vegas

I read “Bringing Down the House: The Inside Story of Six M.I.T. Students Who Took Vegas for Millions” (Ben Mezrich)

maybe a couple of years ago when it first came out — it’s the story of the MIT Blackjack Club, and how they developed team card counting techniques. Really fun read — only took a day to read and was interesting to read about what they were up to, how they ran into some (bad) trouble, etc.

This book, Busting Vegas, is a sort of unintended sequel — it’s about just a few people from MIT that, instead of developing card counting techniques, decided instead to do some observational tricks to tilt the odds into their favor a lot. The book follows these half dozen folks from MIT to Las Vegas to Atlantic City to Aruba to Monte Carlo, and talks about how they did what they did.

I was reading the epilogue, written by one of the principals, and he talked a bit about how folks would wonder why he was willing to share his techniques in detail — and he said he was lately watching the open source movement in software — particularly Firefox’s gains against Microsoft — and incredibly encouraged. So he figured he’d do the same sort of thing to bring down the casinos. Amazing, I thought.

Fun book to read — ultimately, it reads a lot like his first book about MIT nerds breaking the casinos, but is fun nonetheless.

Nov 05

Meet You in Hell, by Les Standiford

I’ve been reading this book over the past 6 weeks or so — although it’s not a long book, it’s just a little specific historically, and with the whole baby thing, it’s taken some time. What a great title, though!

The story is about the relationship between Andrew Carnegie and Henry Clay Frick — the two men who really build Carnegie Steel into a behemoth of a company — and really the beginning of the age of titans here in the United States. Pretty fascinating history, about a time (late 1800s), region (Pittsburgh & surrounds), and industry (steel) that I don’t know a ton about. The book centers around the Homestead works — a very productive steel mill near Pittsburgh — and a labor conflict that left several dead, set labor relations in America back probably 40 years, and has echoes even to the current day. As you might surmise from the title, the once cordial relationship between the 2 men didn’t end up all that amicably.

Anyway, a good book, but probably of somewhat limited interest — only really for folks who are wondering about that era (leading up to the creation of US Steel by JP Morgan and others) or why everything in sight in higher education is named after Carnegie.

Nov 05

Blown away

So much is happening on the Internet today. I’m totally blown away & can’t keep up. A few things I’ve started playing around with:

  • Typepad
  • VideoEgg
  • Ecto
  • 1001 — cool desktop app that works with Flickr
  • Growl — fun way to extend notifications on the mac
  • Flickr — photosharing, but I haven’t started using it a lot yet
  • Adium — cool multi-IM client — lots of fun icons
  • iScrobbler — keeps track of the music I listen to, makes suggestions via last.fm
  • Apple Mail — they did some nice things with filtering & search this time around; still needs a lot of work
  • Apple FrontRow — I’d like a Mac Mini with FrontRow & a cablecard to be my next Tivo, I think. otherwise Windows Media Center
  • Skype — ambivalent about VOIP. still figuring out what I think.
  • Firefox extensions — lots of great ones. GreaseMonkey is great.

Lots of great, creative things happening. Lots of ways to waste time, of course, but also incredibly cool & varied ways to share lots of info with friends & family.