Archive for June, 2010

The 10 Best Websites Ever

While reminding Facebook recently about a particularly awesome site, I used the phrase “one of the 10 best websites ever”. This got me to thinking: What are the ten best websites ever? Well, here they are.

(I thought about writing a big paragraph for each of these, but then I decided not to, since I’ve been copyediting all day, and I really want to play a video game before the day is done.)

  1. Wikipedia. You know why. Don’t believe the hype!
  2. Homestarrunner. Could you detect me to the nearest bus stamp?
  3. DemocracyNow. One hour of excellent news coverage every weekday. Free. No ads, no corporate BS.
  4. Google. Search, docs, maps, mail, images, video, etc etc. I’ve got to hand it to them: Whatever Google does, they do well.
  5. isolatr. Forget MySpace and Twitter and all that crap. isolatr is all you need. I can’t wait ’til they’re out of beta and I can set up my own isolatr page.
  6. pixlr. I only just found it recently, but it does most of the things I use Photoshop for, and it’s free, and it’s online, and it’s fast.
  7. Facebook. It’s not as bad as its illuminati iconography suggests.
  8. The Floating Brain of Eric S. Piotrowski. Dude!
  9. YouTube. Fair’s fair (again). Entire albums are up, movie trailers, and crazy German WoW kid.
  10. Metacritic. Reviews are one thing. Emergent properties of review clouds are where it’s really at.


A cool Lego movie about ideas. The main character totally looks like my late father. (Who was also totally awesome — Happy Father’s Day, dad!)

Today I’m listening to: Sun Rise Above! (You can download his latest album for free.)

WOOOO Summer!!

Yay! It’s summer break! WOOO! It’s so nice to sleep late (6:00 AM), goof off (wash dishes), and dress however I want (I’ve been wearing the same shirt since Saturday evening).

But I’ve also been super-productive! In the last 24 hours, I’ve done the following:

  • Cleaned all the crap off my desk and stash school stuff down in the basement
  • Cleaned out my email inbox (150+ messages, about 2/3 spam)
  • Read all the most interesting things on my GoogleReader (esp. The Oatmeal’s Justin Bieber Quiz)
  • Updated AidEastTimor with info about the medical ship that will be in East Timor. (Contact your Congressional representatives so doctors can do heart surgery on it and save lives!)
  • Badgered people at Feingold’s and Baldwin’s offices about the above East Timor issue, not to mention Dr. Dan’s visit
  • Washed the dishes

Woo! First real day of summer! Let the good times roll! But — lest you think my summer will just be cleaning and web work — I also plan to do the following things in the next 2.5 months:

  1. Nothing. I will spend one week moving as little as possible, not reading emails or helping anyone with anything.
  2. Mass Effect 2. I’ve been waiting to have a big block of time to tackle BioWare’s latest. I’ve finally recovered from DragonAge‘s excruciating final battles, and I’m ready to bring Commander Shepard out of retirement.
  3. Transmutation: Second Draft. I spent five years doing the first draft of my fourth novel; now I need to spend five weeks doing the second draft. I’m blocking off July for this.
  4. Visiting My Father-In-Law. My wife and I will be driving out to New Jersey to see her dad. Also we’ll be transporting some stuff back here to Madison.
  5. More Nothing. I’m always teetering on the edge of cataclysmic insanity by the end of the school year. I need to spend plenty of time resting and being inactive in order to regain my sanity.
  6. Exercising? Maybe? I’m always so tired by the end of the school day, so exercise always seems like a really bad idea. But I clearly need to get more exercise, so the hope is that I’ll be more willing now that school is out.
  7. Finish Reading — And Then Play — Metro 2033. I’ve been reading this Russian post-apocalyptic novel, on which the video game is based. Once I finish the book (only 150 pages left), I can get the game and play it.
  8. Get Pei to FA. For months I’ve been working bit by bit to improve the Wikipedia article on Chinese-American architect I.M. Pei. It’s been reviewed and re-reviewed, and I think we’re nearly ready to nominate it as a Featured Article.
  9. Sleep. I’m going to sleep the sleep out of some sleep, as my buddy Paul used to say. No classes, no stress, no waking up at 4:00 AM every day. Hurray!
  10. Watch the World Cup. The US is going down. We’re going to lose to Slovenia or Algeria, or both. We drew with England, which I still can’t believe. Goooo Cameroon!

Okay, enough of this activity and work. Time to play some video games! (Oh yeah — awesome sunflower pic from SocksOff.)


Stadium Status from Internets Celebrities on Vimeo. Good stuff!

Today I’m listening to: A compilation of Fugazi conversing with audiences. Logic + Angry punks = WIN!


My WikiFriend Awadewit recently co-authored a very interesting piece called Wiki-hacking: Opening up the academy with Wikipedia. For many years, she worked under a pseudonym at Wikipedia, worried that her intense devotion to that important project might be considered untoward by the academic community. Fortunately, scholarship has evolved with time, and she’s now able to work out in the open. Even more, she’s helping others do the same.

As the authors write, “Like an uninvited guest at a party, Wikipedia hovers at the fringes of academia.” I suppose I’m lucky as a high school teacher, because I face no rigorous “publish or perish” mandate. (Although given the intense pressures of No Child Left Behind and the Race to the Top, there are other paperwork needs for us to meet.)

Given its anarchistic nature, I’m not surprised that the ivory towers don’t care for Wikipedia. However, given its tremendous success (not only in terms of popularity, but also its intellectual rigor), I’m not surprised that academicians are warming to it.

One particular bit that caught my attention was this one:

students are seldom motivated to re-read and reflect upon their own work. Often they scarcely glance at the comments professors write laboriously on their work.

Yeah, I know a little something about that, heh. However, they make a good case for why Wikipedia feedback can be a categorical improvement on the standard authoritarian structures of the classroom. Elsewhere they explore the role of college-level Wikipedia projects that have combined online collaborative writing with student-centered reflective processes. (I’ve been peripherally supportive of such things on Wikipedia, but never had the kind of involvement I should have had.)

I would love to do some kind of Wikipedia project with my own students, but (a) I worry that they won’t be motivated to follow through with any meaningful contributions, and (b) the district is pretty strict about how and where students should participate in online work from school.

Still, there’s some very good food for thought there. My suspicion is that they slapped a photo of Chinua Achebe (who was the focus on my second Featured Article) just to hook me into their web of fandom, but I guess it worked!


Nomi Prins was a managing director of Goldman Sachs before she realized how sick and immoral Wall Street can be. She left to write about her experience and how we should take action to fix the US financial sector. Check out her interview with Super-Awesome Senator Number One Bernie Sanders on BookTV.

Today I’m listening to: Groove Salad!

Six years ago I wrote about how silly it was to blame Abu Ghraib on a few bad apples in the prison itself. And as the documentary film Standard Operating Procedure pointed out, the investigation was the coverup.

So how can we take the Israeli Defense Forces seriously when they complain that activists ferrying supplies to Gaza attacked with deck chairs and marbles (I swear to god I’m not making this up), and the IDF super-soldiers had no choice but to dive overboard into the water to escape?

This constant throwing up of hands and pleading of incapacity is always trotted out when the only possible alternative is an unconscionable lapse of human decency and/or adherence to standard laws of international engagement and/or warfare. I’m really sick of it, because I don’t buy it for a second — they can maintain an iron grip on occupied territories for forty years, seal up borders with a huge cement wall, prevent wounded people in ambulances from getting through checkpoints.. But when Nobel Peace Prize Laureate Maired Corrigan comes at you with medicine, WATCH OUT!

Obama told Netanyahu to “get the facts“. Not “stop killing people in supply convoys that aren’t attacking you”, but “get the facts”. Yeah, okay. Good work there, O. Now we know you’re a true US President. Never a bad word to Israel. Nice one.

The US, of course, stood up for Israel and backed the passage of a meek UN condemnation of the “acts” that took place. The Security Council also called for “a credible and transparent investigation” blah blah blah. Yeah, let’s spend another six months creating another comprehensive report documenting all the things Israel and its enemies did wrong, which Israel can also ignore.

This whole thing makes me sick, and most of the people I talked to today had no idea what I was talking about, or why I was so mad. So I’m going to go play video games, where I can pretend like things are getting better.


This prank from German TV is pretty funny. I think I originally saw it over at Madsimian.

Today I’m listening to: Braintax!