that tree is upside-down.

Heh. Some blog commenter summarized Republican policies: "The future they destroyed has arrived." Ugh.

Much like my 3.5-week break in between jobs, unemployment is remarkably busy. Yesterday I went to Stanford to see law professor Lawrence Lessig's last talk on copyright: after working on it all these years, he realized that we can't solve copyright entirely without fixing the larger corruption in the judicial/legislative system, so he's moving on to work on that. He's a brilliant thinker and an incredible public speaker, so I recommend seeing him speak even if you think you don't care about what he's talking about (though if you're the least bit civic-minded, you do care).

Microsoft has made a takeover bid for Yahoo. I own some Yahoo stock that I got real cheap back when I worked for, and as a result haven't felt compelled to do anything with--I haven't needed the cash, and I get free money any time I sell, so I might as well just hold it on the theory that ultimately stocks go up. (Note that this turns out not to be particularly true in Yahoo's case. My repeated joke is "YHOO: Failing to keep up with inflation, since 1995".) Except for the prospect of Microsoft owning Flickr, I don't really care much one way or the other; I'm happy to take some cash and have some Microsoft stock left over. Yeah, I dislike the company, but it's not like they're one of Dick Cheney's mercenary outfits.

I bought a used Ikea bookcase yesterday, in pretty good shape for $50. It looks all right, and it's incredibly nice to have my books out where I can see, pet, drool on, and possibly use them (the remaining boxes were mostly tech books). As I get the place cleaned up and I'm spending days reading or on the computer, I'm realizing I actually need a table and chairs, so I can vary my body position as I'm computing or reading--right now I have my couch, and the floor. I'm scouting Craigslist, though I may punt and get a long plastic folding table from OSH, since I've wanted one for a while. I could arrange help with transporting a real table, and it'd be nice to have a bit more real furniture, but I'm also on this bit of a minimalism kick where I want to be able to move quickly, or put my stuff into storage.

I'm reading, among other things, Everything Is Miscellaneous, which is quite good. It articulates some stuff that is pretty obvious to those of us who work well with digital information, and it's a bit grandiose because the author is just like that, but I think it's important to have those things articulated. The basis of the book is that the fact that with digital information, we can slice it any way we want, unfettered by physical limits. For example, consider an old card catalog (if you're under 20, take a few minutes to go look it up. stupid kids, GET OFF MY LAWN). We had books indexed by Author, Title, and Subject, but that's hardly the only way to organize them, right? Even setting aside how many different subjects you can put a book in--to steal an example, a book of photographs of Massachusetts Civil War soldiers could easily be under Photography, Civil War, Massachusetts, and Military History--we'd like to have other information--metadata--about the contents of the book. We'd like a list of all the books containing photographs of Emily Dickinson, or which quote from T.S. Eliot's The Waste Land. A card catalog containing all that information is essentially impossible, between its cost, physical size, and difficulty of use. But with computers, it's trivial. Want pictures of dogs in sweaters? Flickr has them. Good luck finding that in a card catalog.

I think it's a pretty important book in summarizing and stating the changes taken place in information over the past decade. I actually think kids should read it, around sixth grade, when they've grown up a bit and are able to introspect and analyze the nature of the flood of information they've grown up with. Everything Is Miscellaneous will give them a sense of history and perspective about ways of organizing information that to them are perfectly natural, but they will have more power and wisdom in their interactions if they understand where that organization fits in the grand scheme of things.

And finally, I had a phone screen with Google last night. It was kind of fun: I had to think really hard, and it illuminated several gaps in my experience, like data structures and algorithms I learned about in school but have never actually had to use, so they don't come to mind when I'm solving problems. Part of the fun was that I got to design, in stages, a distributed, fault-tolerant data store; it ended up looking a lot like Amazon's Dynamo system, since reading the paper about it is where I learned most of the technical details I know about such things. Not everyone can read the paper all the way through and understand it, I guess, so that's something. All told, except for my general sense of wanting to be good at everything, it was a low-stress phone screen, since, well, I'm not sure Google has any use for me, I'm not sure I want to work there, and I definitely don't want a job right now anyway.