I was going through an old pile of paper in my office recently and encountered a set of note cards I’d accumulated years ago, back in the very small, scrappy, it-definitely-might-not-make-it startup stage. Most of the cards contained miscellaneous reminders, todos, or ideas I thought worthy of further exploration.

A few of the cards, though, had the record of an idiom mixing game my colleagues and I played back in the day (I’ve had the distinct pleasure of working with strongly multi-disciplinary and linguistically inclined geeks).

At its basic level, the game produced comprehensible phrases that amusingly combined two familiar idioms, such as “there are other fish to skin”, or “there are other cats in the sea”.

These are good for a chuckle, but not fundamentally anything more than language slapstick. Some combined idioms of similar intent in ways that made more vibrant images than did the originals, such as

“that opens up a whole new can of monkeys”

(A “can of worms” is one thing, but monkeys make everything funnier.) Rather than just “getting ducks in a row” or having things “fall in line”, we had

“all the ducks are falling in line”

Other are amusing but confusing, and almost seem as if they mean something, at least until you actually think about them. Example:

“Happier than a clam in pigsh*t”

The pinnacle of our mixed idiom game, though, were those hard to find combinations whose meanings were a novel blend of the original idioms. Most of these tended to mockingly riff on various elements of commonly accepted corporate-speak.

“I’m just putting them on the table as I see them”

for example, takes the casual (if sometimes cowardly) innocence of the defensive verbal communication standby “I’m just calling them as I see them” with the trite business-ese of “putting something on the table” to create an all-new description of an impetuous laziness thrust upon others.

Better still, in my opinion, is the lighthearted cynical foreshadowing of:

“We’ll burn that bridge when we come to it”

But my favorite, by far, is a sadly apt commentary on organizational politics gone awry:

“I dropped the ball in your court”

Have more? Oh yes you do … comment away!


… that Joseph Schumpeter once challenged a librarian to a duel (over his students’ access to books).  He won (after taking a chunk of the librarian’s shoulder out with his sword).  This book looks interesting.



Apple‘s design aesthetic – as manifest in industrial design, software usability, or GUI look and feel – is notably unique and, most would agree, “prettier” than that which otherwise prevails in the computer and consumer electronics industry. Their product packaging is similarly attractive, as evidenced by the new MacBook Pro box.

Personally, I appreciate the pretty, but I’m much more interested in what’s inside the box (mmmm… MacBook Pro…). As such, I’ve never given much thought to specifically what makes the Apple aesthetic feel superior. This video demonstrating the hypothetical treatment of the iPod packaging by the Microsoft marketing group does a great job laying out the differences. A worthwhile view.

(While you’re watching videos, check out the real-life fight club.)


I really have nothing to add to this:

SonicWALL – Comprehensive Internet Security – SonicWALL Press Releases: “SonicWALL Inc. (NASDAQ: SNWL), a leading provider of integrated network security and productivity solutions, today announced the results of a survey of 941 remote and mobile workers worldwide.”


“All respondents were relaxed about their personal habits when working remotely. While about 39% of respondents of both sexes said they wear sweats while working from home, 12% of males and 7% of females wear nothing at all.”



The hackaday / make / street tech world has covered a lot of neat “persistence of vision” things lately. Basically, these involve a microcontroller that controls LEDs to light in a particular pattern such that as the device is waved around (or, in some variatinos, the shoe or bike wheel to which it’s attached moves) a perceptible image – usually text – is created. [Update: some more really cool bike-wheel PoV displays are here.]

New Scientist reports that researchers in Japan have taken this a big step further:

The display utilises an ionisation effect which occurs when a beam of laser light is focused to a point in air. The laser beam itself is invisible to the human eye but, if the intensity of the laser pulse exceeds a threshold, the air breaks down into glowing plasma that emits visible light.

The required intensity can only be achieved by very short, powerful laser pulses – each plasma dot, or “flashpoint”, lasts for only about a nanosecond. But the resulting image appears to last longer due to persistence of vision. As with film and television, the impression of a continuous image is maintained by refreshing the flashpoints.

The neat-o factor here is considerable, and there are certainly some cool human-friendly applications of something like this to be discovered. On the other hand, the article starts: “The night sky could soon be lit up with gigantic three-dimensional adverts…“. Oh, great.

(via smartmobs)


Lawrence Lessig points out that Yahoo unveiled a creative commons aware search engine last night. He explains the point clearly:

This is exciting news for us. It confirms great news about Yahoo!. I met their senior management last October. They had, imho, precisely the right vision of a future net. Not a platform for delivering whatever, but instead a platform for communities to develop. With the acquisition of Flickr, the step into blogging and now this tool to locate the welcome mats spread across the net, that vision begins to turn real.


c|net’s news.com reports that Yahoo has purchased Flickr and its parent company.

Flickr, for the unfamiliar, is a relatively new and nifty (though apparently somewhat slashdotted at the moment) tag-based photo sharing site. It has also spawned some very cool applications like Mappr, which throws geography into the mix and demonstrates some really excellent web UI fu in the process.

It’s not the least bit surprising that Flickr was acquired, though I must admit it felt like more of a google thing than a Yahoo thing to me…



The consistently worth-reading Change This has a new piece titled “What is Open Source Marketing?” [available only as a PDF]. If you’re familiar with the cluetrain manifesto sort of take on the business lessons of the last 10 years of the technology industry, this will be familiar territory.

Basically, it argues somewhat persuasively that new consumer-involved marketing techniques have taken a page from the open source software playbook, replacing the centralized planning and war-driven metaphor of the conventional marketing campaign (“the cathedral”, as Eric Raymond famously described its software analog) with a more uncontrolled, contribution-embracing exchange among customers (ESR’s software “bazaar”).

…a new breed of marketers is emerging with a different vision of the world. Inspired
by websites such as The Cluetrain Manifesto, they understand the mindset of the modern consumer
and the influence of Open Source values. And this has set them on a very different
path from the command and control mindset of the traditional marketeer.

They understand that the powerful new markets created by Open Source values are transparent,
that they operate in real-time, that they are controlled by people not companies, that
they are global, highly reactive, flooded with information and made up of millions of interlinked
niches. And they know that effective modern marketing strategies must reflect this
new environment.

Is this a good thing? I’m not sure, and I’m not sure it matters if I think it is or not. Good or bad, the changes described strike me as accurate — I haven’t watched a commercial in I-don’t-know-how-long. Obviously the rather substantial interests behind various forms of marketing will find a way to adapt to a world in which technology increasingly makes media consumption an end-user choice rather than an obligation, and there could be worse adaptations than an increase in personal participation and customization of the marketing effort. (Or, it could turn out to be insidious and nasty, causing me to want to move to the hills.)

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