13 June 2010

Reading on the iPad

I'm finding that the two most useful applications on my iPad are Instapaper and GoodReader.

Instapaper is a service for reading long articles published on the web. There's a little javascript link that you can bookmark in your browser that tells the Instapaper service that you want to read the article. The service then intelligently extracts the article content out from the navigation, advertisements, and other cruft, and makes that content available in a standard, readable format at InstaPaper.com and on your iPhone and iPad.

Over the past several years I've read more and more long-form stuff on the web, and it's always been a pain: often the articles are published in poorly readable formats, and more significantly if you find something you really want to read, you have to either read it right when you find it or keep track of the link to find it later. With Instapaper, I can find something interesting, hit the link to tuck it away for later, and know that I will read it eventually.

GoodReader is a PDF reader, and it has completely changed my relationship to PDFs. It used to be if there was something I wanted to read that was published as a PDF, I resented it: it meant either reading from a computer screen or printing it out and schlepping around the printout. This has deterred me from reading a lot of stuff. Now, I'm delighted when something is published as a PDF, because it means that I can get it immediately and I'll have it with me to read at my convenience.

Since I bring my iPad with me almost everywhere, with these two apps I know that even if I cannot connect to the internet, I always have a wide variety of interesting things to read: long and short, light and serious, improving and entertaining. Since I'm about to transition into a more public-transit-intensive lifestyle, this is a godsend.

Both applications include a simple foldering system for organizing your stuff, and after a little experimentation I've converged on a satisfying set of folders that I use for both:

  • Art
  • Big ideas
  • Design
  • Games
  • Kulturkampf
  • Occult
  • Popkultur
  • Public interest
  • Technoscience
  • Weirdness

I'm almost embarrassed by how much I enjoy looking at that list.

08 June 2010

California election day

What, again?

Vote early. Vote often. Vote no.

Except for 15 and (though I resent having to vote on something that passed the legislature with a supermajority already) 13.

07 June 2010


Physicians for Human Rights has a new report:

In the most comprehensive investigation to date of health professionals’ involvement in the CIA’s “enhanced” interrogation program (EIP), Physicians For Human Rights has uncovered evidence that indicates the Bush administration apparently conducted illegal and unethical human experimentation and research on detainees in CIA custody. The apparent experimentation and research appear to have been performed to provide legal cover for torture, as well as to help justify and shape future procedures and policies governing the use of the “enhanced” interrogation techniques. The PHR report, Experiments in Torture: Human Subject Research and Evidence of Experimentation in the ‘Enhanced’ Interrogation Program, is the first to provide evidence that CIA medical personnel engaged in the crime of illegal experimentation after 9/11, in addition to the previously disclosed crime of torture.

They were researching ways to torture better.

How I wish I were surprised.

03 June 2010

Tricks for Entourage on the Mac

I just learned one of these tricks from a colleague, and circulated the other two to my coworkers in return, and it occurred to me that I might have readers who might find these tricks useful as well. So if you're doing email in Entourage, read on ...

Grouping conversations

If you don’t like the way Entourage’s default “Arrange By: Conversation” sorts messages within a conversation from oldest to newest instead of newest to oldest, you can create your own custom sort.

  1. From the menu: View > Arrange By > Edit Custom Arrangements... > New
  2. Do the following settings:

    Custom arrangement name: Conversation (Newest to Oldest)

    Group items by: Conversation

    Sort groups by: Received | Newest on top

    Sort items within groups by: Conversation Index | Newest on top

    Default display for groups: Expanded

Instead of deleting

Since Entourage’s Trash buffer doesn’t work the right way, I simulate the correct behavior by dragging unwanted emails into a folder named ZZZ. I periodically purge ZZZ, but always leave the last few days’ worth of emails in place. I also do an actual delete of emails I’m sure about not needing again, but having some recoverability in ZZZ means that I’m much more willing to z-delete items of only transient interest.

Managing my work queue

I fell off the wagon with my personal email, but I maintain Inbox Zero with my work email. Every message I receive I file into a folder as soon as I’ve read it. If I need to keep an email “on my desk” (usually because it’s something I need to do), before I file it into its topical folder (Design, Reference, Administridia, et cetera) I click the red flag. When I want to survey what I need to do, first I purge my Inbox of anything new, then I look in my saved search for flagged items. Then when I’ve dealt with the flagged item, I click the red flag again; it disappears from my saved search, but is still retained in the topical folder.

Here’s how to create the saved search:

  1. Go into the menu bar: File > New > Saved Search
  2. At the top of the workspace, click on All Messages
  3. Leave “Match if all criteria are met” dropdown in place
  4. Click “Item contains” dropdown to switch to “To Do Flag” then switch the secondary dropdown to “Not Completed”
  5. Click [Save] in the upper right of the workspace
  6. Name it “Flagged”
  7. (If you don’t have the favorites folder bar shown below the icon toolbar at the top) Go into the menu bar: View > Show Favorites Bar
  8. (If you don’t have the folder list shown on the left) Go into the men bar: View > Show Folder List
  9. In the folder list, find Mail Views at the bottom. You should see your Flagged search listed among the default views
  10. Drag the Flagged search you created into the favorites folder bar below the icon toolbar, so you can find it again

01 June 2010


Kevin Drum says what I’ve been thinking about Israel’s attack on the ship bringing aid to Gaza.

It’s also a little hard to write about since I don’t have anything original to say. A million people have already said it. Fanatics on both sides have been in control of the region for years — the hardline Orthodox population relentlessly gaining influence in Israel and Hamas terrorists among the Palestinians — both convinced that they can win if they can only provoke enough insane overreactions from the other side. Which they do with depressing regularity. Hamas’s rocket attacks are indefensible, the Gaza embargo in return is indefensible, the blockade runners in their turn were plainly hoping to provoke an overreaction that would force Israel’s hand, and the Israelis then went insanely beyond anyone’s expectations by landing commandos on one of the ships and killing more than a dozen people while it was still far off in international waters. And now, there are rumors that the Turkish navy might escort the next ship that tries to run the blockade.

In David Petraeus’s famous phrase, How does this end?

Not well, obviously. I despair.