Growing Up on YouTube

My daughters are perhaps among the first who will grow up seeing much more YouTube than POTV (my newly coined acronym, “Plain Old TV.”) Esther, now 2½, has still never seen anything on a television (recorded, broadcast, or cable). (Havi, a week old today, may not have seen anything at all at this point.)

In addition to frequently watching videos from her own blog, Esther loves YouTube. Her most requested videos are embedded below, thanks to the excellent recently-installed Viper’s Video Quicktags.

Thus Esther may never know anything but on-demand and user-generated culture. At least those will be her basic assumptions about how it’s supposed to work. It’s possible that this next generation will spell the end of network-scheduled and traditional advertising-interrupted media. I can never understand why anyone would bother to arrange their schedule to watch a show on TV and sit through commercials when they can rent it from Netflix or buy it from Amazon or iTunes and watch it when and how they want — and I grew up, to some extent, with the old TV model. Esther can barely wait for whichever video she wants now. I can’t see her putting up with content on someone else’s schedule as she grows up.

Now the videos, as promised (both strong indicators that Esther adheres to the Long Tail theory):



Actually, it turns out I didn’t coin POTV. It’s already defined here.

[Tags]Culture, Kids, YouTube, UGC[/Tags]

Sara Havah Rosi-Kessel

Born today 8:19am, 9 lbs 4 oz, 20 inches.

MBTA Responds

To follow up on yesterday’s MBTA philippic, I received a response from the T’s customer service regarding my complaints. Although it doesn’t give me hope that things will improve, it’s nice that they have at least hired someone to write personalized, polished replies. At least they can do that right:

Dear Mr. Kessel,

Thank you for your email concerning service on the Needham Line.

The past couple of months have been difficult for our passengers, and I want you to know we are very sorry for the inconveniences this has been causing. The causes of these delays have ranged from signal and mechanical issues to long stops boarding passengers at stations, and even track work on other lines.

I know that it may seem odd that trains on other lines can impact your trains, but I assure you that is true. The Franklin, Needham, Providence, and Stoughton lines, as well as Amtrak all share the rail between Hyde Park and Boston. All it takes is one delayed train in this area to cause a cascading effect that delays other lines. There’s also the fact that trains may come in from one line to go out as another. For example, a train on the Worcester Line comes to Boston, and either the train set, or the crew (sometimes both) head out as an outbound Needham train. If the inbound is late from Worcester, then the outbound Needham will be late, which also means that its “turn,” the next inbound, will be delayed.

In response to your comment about the doors not all being opened, even with a full compliment of conductors, crews are not able to staff every door, and especially at ground level stations we want to ensure that all customers are able to board and detrain safely. This is why conductors do not open all doors to the train.

I contacted our Mechanical Department, asking that the PA system on train 625 be checked out to make sure everything is working properly.

Please know that delays in service are not something that we take lightly, and all departments are committed to working together to ensure that our customers receive timely, safe, and reliable service.

Once again, I am sorry for the inconvenience this has caused you. Thank you for writing.


Linda Dillon
MBCR Customer Service Manager

MBTA Out of Order

Steve points out that the T has been falling apart lately. My own experience gives it a solid D minus as well.

Over the three years I’ve lived in Roslindale, I’ve been quite satisfied with the commuter rail. Unlike other lines (e.g., Worcester), the Needham Heights line does not share tracks with other carriers, and thus does not regularly get tens of minutes off schedule waiting for freight or other traffic to pass. (Why freight gets priority over passengers is a question for another day.) I live about 90 seconds walk from the commuter rail station, and I could calibrate my departure to be within one minute of the train every time.

Over the past few months, however, it has been a steady downhill slide. None of these complaints are novel, but I’ll enumerate them anyway: Trains have been canceled without notice (you didn’t really need to be at work by 9am, did you?). Nearly every train is late — I’ve started thinking of the 8:23am as the “8:30” because it hasn’t arrived before that time since early in the summer. Many trains are missing cars, so the remaining cars end up being standing-room only. Almost every day the train needs to wait for a free track at South Station, no matter which train I’m on. (I’ve never understood why this happens with 12 tracks, many of them empty.) Trains are often short conductors, which means not all the doors open at stops, which further exacerbates delay. And my personal favorite complaint: the PA system is often so loud that passengers have to cover their ears. Except when it’s broken and you can’t hear any announcements.

I hate to kvetch, but there must be something wrong here beyond technical glitches. Perhaps the most frustrating part is having no clue about the inner machinations that provide this result.

Other complaints from today (about different parts of the system).

Facebook Encounters

I’ve recently spent some time on Facebook, primarily out of professional interest (all the cool attorneys are doing it). (I’m also on LinkedIn, but that seems less cool.) Among other odd results, I’ve been getting lots of friend requests from people I’ve had no contact with in ten — and sometimes twenty or more — years. I’m surprised by this because I’ve always been so easy to find. I started my first “home page” in 1994, and as long as the idea of search engine rankings has existed, I’ve been at the top in searches for my name. I’ve also never made any attempt to hide my email address, and retained all addresses for nearly 15 years.

Yet, people contact me on Facebook who never before did.

I have two nonexclusive theories:

  • Facebook just induces more searching for old friends than “the web at large.”
  • Facebook allows you to reconnect with people for a minimum activation energy. You don’t have to write them an email, tell them about your life, or engage in conversation. You just click “add to friends” and you’re done. Maybe these people had found me in the past but just didn’t bother to let me know. In fact, in the case of some of these people with whom I haven’t communicated since middle school, I still haven’t communicated with them. We’re just Facebook friends.

Other ideas?

I should add that I have made some genuine connections through Facebook as well. Earlier this week, I met a college friend (whose website promises to return to service soon) for dinner whom I hadn’t seen in nearly ten years. I found out he was in town through Facebook.

JP Lantern Festival

From tonight’s Lantern Festival in Forest Hills Cemetery:

Lantern Festival

[Tags]Boston, Jamaica Plain, Lantern Festival[/Tags]

Mind Walker and Cookies

Pete, an old high school friend and biology-project partner, recently discovered my email address and we reconnected. It occurred to me that the next generation may never experience reunion with long-lost friends: they’re all on Facebook and Myspace from middle school on up, so how will they ever lose touch in the first place?

Peter wrote to ask me the name of an Amiga game we used to play in the late 1980’s. I knew immediately which game he was asking about: Mind Walker. I remembered it as a fantastic surreal action/video game exploration of the human psyche. I think it was probably more Freudian than Jungian. Only a few games stuck with me at this level — another one was Weird Dreams. (The problem with Weird Dreams was that it was impossibly difficult to get past the level where you have to smack Dali-esque statues with flying fish. If anyone ever did, I’d like to know what happened next.)

This review gives a good summary of Mind Walker:

You are a physics professor gone mad. Your course of action? Delve into your Mind, to inspire “Ideas” by tracing “Paths of Coherent Thought”, with the help of your split ego. Then through opened-up Tubes, enter your Brain, to retrieve “Shards of Sanity”. Finally, put them back together in Subconscious.

I remember Mind Walker as having amazingly spooky and captivating graphics. Then I found this screenshot:

Mind Walker Screenshot

Oh well. I’m sure it actually was impressive at the time.

This discovery reminded of times when I’ve rediscovered a favorite food from childhood — for example, a certain type of cookie — only to find that it really isn’t very good at all. Just kind of sugary and low-quality chocolate. It’s also like going back to watch the original Jurassic Park again. The amazement is gone.

Actually, even though the Mind Walker graphics aren’t as impressive as I remember them, I’m sure it was still a great game.

Anyone have screenshots from Weird Dreams?

More adventures in language acquistion

Esther turned two recently. She’s come a long way in language acquisition since January. Now she is a rich source of linguistics grammaticality problem sets:

Me: Do you want a hug?
Esther: Yes.

Me: Big hug or little hug?
Esther: None hug.

And, this morning:

Me: What’s better, music or rugula?
Esther: Rugula and music.

(Note that “rugula” is not actually the longest word in her vocabulary — that would probably be “arboretum.”)

Our household’s technology focus is also apparent: any small hook-like device is an “email.” For example, a bluetooth headset and a refrigerator hook magnet are both emails. Shorthand for “another book” is “i-book.”

Proof of Spring 2007

For anyone who doubts the arrival of Spring 2007:

Flower Spring 2007

Update: all of the below was fixed by disabling Privoxy! Who would have guessed?

Meanwhile, I can’t for the life of me get the gallery2/wordpress integration plugin (wpg2) to work. I decided it was time to get organized and stop storing/uploading photos in a totally ad hoc fashion. When I try to validate the wpg2 installation, however, I get this error:

Warning: Cannot modify header information – headers already sent by (output started at /home/adam/public_html/ in /home/adam/public_html/ on line 1221

When I then click to confirm that I want to validate, I get an empty page back.

No errors in apache logs.

This problem appears to have come up several times, and the most I can gather is the Gallery people point the finger at the Gallery Plugin people; the Gallery Plugin people point their finger at the Gallery people; and sometimes everyone points their finger at the WordPress people. E.g.

Not the best way to spend a beautiful spring day.

Blizzard 2007

We’re finally having a decent snowstorm!

Blizzard of 2007