Just a short note to let readers know that there’s a new site section ready in advance of my trip to Italy this summer. Actually it is just a dressed up category archive, but well-dressed I must say. The Return to Barile subsite will collect all my posts on the homecoming (and there are many already queued). It also includes some background on the whole thing, an interactive map, and links to photos and such. These extras of course are only available on the site. Sorry, feedreaders! Obviously it will fill up quite a bit more as the trip nears and proceeds.

Enjoy: Return to Barile.

29 bulbs

Today was the first day in months that my calendar had not a single colored box on it. Nothing. Zip. Not a single thing to do. A good thing, too, since I got home at 4:30 this morning after a day I wasn’t sure I would live through.

Start with a friend’s annual Kentucky Derby party early in the afternoon, add a Cubs home win (.500 baby!), season with Cinco de Mayo cheer and a frozen margarita machine, then cap off with a concert that started at 1 AM at the Metro. (Amon Tobin. Mixed live in 5.1 surround. Sick sick beats. My mouth was agape half the show.)

So needless to say I woke late, way late. Had lunch with my saintly wife and the three kids who she mercifully steered clear of me. (Mercy for them, I am sure. I was no role model.) Then, of course, nap time for all. So, essentially my day began at 3:30 PM today. And then I started to feel guilty about wasting a completely open day. You know, the guilt of a thousand to do’s paired with an empty calendar.

Why not enjoy the free day, you say? Well, I did an inventory of home tasks and here’s what the list read:

Rear screen door is permanently locked from a particularly hard wind-slam. We’ve removed the glass pane for exit, but my kids have biffed over the door frame so many times that it seems parentally negligent not to remove the whole thing from the threshold.

Grill on the deck is rotting from the inside-out. Not that we didn’t cook dinner on it tonight, but it is a serious fire hazard. Basically it is no longer a grill. It is a open gas line where one may prop foodstuffs upon several layers of carbonized former foods for cooking.

Car with expired temporary tags and plates that simply need to be affixed. You’d think I would have gotten to this after the latest ticket. Sigh.

But here’s the kicker. There are 29 burnt-out lights in this house. Yes, 29. Can bulbs, regular bulbs, vanity bulbs, chandelier bulbs, outdoor floods. This place is a like a medieval scriptorium.

How did it get to this point? Not entirely sure. I kinda exhausted myself inventorying all the burnt out bulbs so now I’m on the couch catching up on Lost episodes with thelovelywife. I guess it’ll all have to wait until the next empty calendar day.

UPDATE: Wife reports that the oven light is burnt out. That should be nice and dangerous to replace. Total: 30.

Nano is the new micro

Long time readers of this blog (hello, you two) might remember the micropost. It was a little area for blurbs too small to be full posts. I discontinued it in June 2005 for the simple reason that it was too difficult. I had to edit the homepage Movable Type template each time.

But now comes Twitter, a service built around microposting or nanoblogging, as I like to call it. So, like the marginalia, music playlist, bookshelf, and photostream (all powered by sites elsewhere and excerpted here) the micropost now surfaces on the blog via Twitter. An experiment — as everything on this blog is, but one that I think might have staying power because of the administrative simplicity.

Feed readers: the micropost lives in the upper right of the blog home page. For now it a little bonus for coming to the actual webpage (until Feedburner supports Twitter, that is). You can subscribe to the microposts separately, though.

For nostalgists here are all the microposts prior to me canning them the first time.

Wired loves this little stuff.

Spring dust-off

Except it isn’t spring in these parts for about two more months.

For those of you who follow Ascent Stage in a feed reader, I have changed the blended feed for the main posts and marginalia to This feed appends [] to all Marginalia links to ease the distress of clicking on a link only to learn it is merely a link and not a meaty post. You know who you are. The old feed should still work properly. And if you’re not subscribing to the blended feed, why not? By the way, the margin links are not ads. They’re other places in the tubosphere that I find interesting.

MediaLoom, that dinosaur project that I’m still rather fond of, has been moved into the Ascent Stage empire. Nostalgic for Macromedia Director and platform incompatibility? Click here!

Many busted links fixed. Not all, certainly. But many.

That is all.

Favorite posts of 2006

Lists. That’s what the end of the year is about.

It was a slower year on Ascent Stage than last, but as I’ve said I think the quality went up a notch. As the primary (sometimes sole) reader of this blog, I offer you my favorite posts of 2006.

“Mama, I gotta make my guitar louder”
“Today one of my colleagues noted that he was going to devote the next few years of his life to becoming as young as Les Paul. To this Les, in a room full of academics and museum-types, leaned back on his chair and mimicked taking a long drag from a joint. This man is 90 years old.

City of the Dead
“On this gray day nearly every mausoleum was stained about four feet off the ground with the puke-green demarcation of high water — a grim reminder that most of the bodies of loved ones were submerged during the weeks before the floodwaters receded.”

Turkish delight
“This is no massage. For one, you’re on hard marble. For another, these gentlemen are probably former interrogators from the Turkish military. Despite the presence of soap and a loofah glove the whole thing is like a wrestling match where you’re not allowed to fight back.”

“See, five blades does give a nice shave on the open fields of ones cheeks, but for actual styling or for navigating any kind of variance in facial topography it is simply too big. I have a goatee, so getting close in to the beard is key. If I don’t I look like a hick meth addict festooned with different lengths of hair around my mouth.”

“Only a specialist could point to what is original to the hall’s 1406 construction and what parts are copies installed since. This happens in the West too, of course, but the difference as I’ve experienced it in China is that it doesn’t matter. The originality of the building is the idea of it, what it represents.”

In which I offer a series of exciting thoughts about punctuation in the 21st century
“What it comes down to is only this: I am getting to the point where I don’t trust online writing that does not contain links. Just like you’re wary of the grocer who sells “apple’s” or the the writer whose sentences run on for miles without a period, I’m increasingly uncomfortable with writing that’s link-free.”

Bathroom ethnography
“The Stall Jiggler – This is the guy who won’t take no for an answer when he encounters a locked stall door.”

Urban scar tissue
“We were driving posts into the dirt for a fence on an irregular diagonal property border when we hit something solid that turned out to be a railroad tie. We later learned that the screwy lot line was the result of surface train tracks that once cut through the area, the remains of which we had dug up.”

Culinary turntablism
“What would this meal sound like if the zhuan pan were a recording?”

The Forbidden City: Beyond Space and Time
“System design verges on science fiction here as we move through the implications of a community space that exists on different timelines. For example what happens to the field trip group when some of your classmates decide to peel off for the 16th century?”

How to create a LEGO mosaic
“My daughter was born a few weeks ago and so naturally I went back to the Brick-o-lizer to create her mosaic. Imagine my horror to find out that it isn’t available anymore. How could I deprive my baby girl of her LEGO mosaic? Well. Obviously. I couldn’t.”

Zodiac desktops
“Not sure who first said ‘wallpaper makes bad stationery,’ but it was my guiding principle. Backgrounds need to be easy to work against, contrasting highly with the folders and files that live on it. Photos of children, hot rods, and (sigh) rocket ships generally don’t offer this.”

Wired up in my capsule to the moon
“A few weeks ago I went back to the tanks armed with a heartrate monitor in addition to the waterproof iPod. In I went, on came the album, and the simple EKG started logging.”

Ore consequences
“I struggle to list a hazard that this mine doesn’t contain so in the interest of having something to blog about I’ll here detail those that it does.”

Nike plus iPod minus Nike
“But I hate Nike running shoes. I think most people hate Nike running shoes. Well, this sucks. It’s like … Nike is locking people in to proprietary hardware just like … Apple.”

All it takes is one bad apple
“At one point in this process my wife asked nonchalantly ‘Is there any possibility that this will kill us when we drink it?'”

When the metaverse is your town hall
“You just try corralling talented, curious, script-wielding colleagues in Second Life to serve as virtual extras. It is like arranging toddlers for a photo shoot. Everyone wants to show off their latest set of wings or ability to make it rain.”

Party as a verb
“We were worried about the fire marshal and the ATF. The first because we invited way too many people and we don’t have a gigantic space. The second because, well, let’s just say the freeze-distillation of the homemade apple cider succeeded.”

Terrible Twos

On Oct. 1 Ascent Stage turned two. True to form the blog is behaving like a toddler: less predictable, more prone to outbursts, and frankly stinkier.

But let’s have a look at this objectively.

Since inception there have been 458 posts, but only 142 posts in its second year. Way behind year one pace. In fact, I’d have to exceed the number of posts year-to-date in the last two months of this year to equal last year.

There have been 303 comments to date. The most commented posts almost perfectly correspond to the most viewed pages (which makes sense). Here are the top three most visited pages:

How To Build a Lego Mosaic
Ascent Stage Home Page

These three pages account for almost two-thirds of all content views. Even more striking is that the two actual posts minus the home page account for 44% of all site traffic. That’s kinda depressing. Almost half of traffic for two lousy posts? Clearly Howto’s and obscure medical phenomema are key to Google-derived traffic nirvana.

Rounding out the top ten, but far, far distant from the top three are:

The Genographic Project
The Forbidden City: Beyond Space and Time
Outlook Detox
The topic category Science/Tech
Nike plus iPod minus Nike
The topic category Music
Deprivation and Focus

Most of the top posts came from this year. Quality not quantity, baby. Strangely missing from the top ten is Satisfying Inconvenience, the most commented-on post ever.

I’ve posted 865 marginalia links on since inception. That, at least, exceeds one a day.

Browser stats:
Internet Explorer: 57%
Firefox: 34%
Safari: 7%

The IE numbers are dead on for the Internet average while Firefox is slightly higher than the norm. I guess I’ve pissed off Opera users somewhere along the way.

And the platform breakdown:
Windows: 85%
Mac: 14%
Linux: <1% That's about 10% higher for Mac users than the Internet norm. Does this mean I'm cool? Happy birthday, Ascent Stage.


Blogchores. Nothing but blogchores on this Labor Day.
Some housekeeping notes:

  • The main page has been tidied up a bit.
    • Gone is the blogroll (it’s not you, it’s me).
    • Search, feed subscriptions, and links to topics by date and by category live only on the archive page now.
    • The photo sidebar now shows the five latest Flickr pics rather than a random one.
    • The very bottom of the sidebar lists upcoming events, usually conferences I’ll be attending.
  • Comments no longer need approval. Taking a gamble on this one, but with spam mostly curbed (thanks to this) it’ll be easier. Wish I could turn trackbacks back on, though. Sigh.
  • Post titles in the title bar. I know, I know. Curb your urge to leap skyward in joy.
  • Upgrade to Movable Type 3.32. This means virtually nothing to you, the reader, but it makes things a tad easier for me. Support for tags (about time), widgets (basically scriptable includes), and tighter external feed integration (promising but very 1.0) may lead to new functionality later on.

If you’ve made it this far, you clearly care way too much about my blog so … I have a question for you (way down below). You know the marginalia links, yes? Well they are powered by It couldn’t be easier for me. But there are some drawbacks. The one that most irritates is that apostrophes (single quotes) get stripped out of the feed, presumably by the Javascript required to include it. Escaping the ‘ doesn’t work. Using the numeric code for the ‘ does work but makes the actual entries on and associated RSS look awful. Sucking the feed in using MT’s new feed integration doesn’t include the link notes.

Witness the marginalia, denuded of the single quote (thrice)! Top is, bottom is the sidebar run through the Javascript shucker.


I can’t abide this. Even the loss of one type of punctuation gets my dander up.

As I see it, I have three options.

  1. Live with the lack of apostrophe, losing my footing on the slippery path that leads to complete punctutaion anarchy.
  2. Use the blog function that posts recent additions once daily (like this). I don’t like this so much because, well, because it only happens once daily.
  3. Really drop the hammer by dumping and integrating links as quasi-posts right in the body, all Kottke remaindered links-like. The big advantage here is a more flexible format than linked title + short link-free description. But crap it is a lot of work to implement.


Those who dwell in the gutter

Lots of travel these days which ironically provides the best blog material and the least time to write about it. More soon.

Since the time I have for composting the blogosphere is also a bit limited these days I’ve asked my pal Chris to man the marginalia link farm for a bit. Hope you enjoy his unique approach to agribusiness.

Get in here before we both starve!


In all the RSS retooling I forgot to mention that the original site feed (no comments, no marginalia) has changed. If you follow Ascent Stage in a newsreader and you want this feed please make sure to subscribe to All other feeds are at the bottom of the home page.