In the wake of the magnetic laptop cord fiasco, I realized I should, just for the sake of public record, mention windshield wipers. Years ago I had an idea for a stupid feature cars should have: windshield wipers that synchronize to music. It wouldn't be very hard. Just have something listen to the stereo or the car interior, extract a rhythm pattern of approximately the right tempo (a solved problem), and tweak the wiper speed (or the delay, if in intermittent mode) so that the wiper frequency is a nice multiple or fraction of the music beat.
At long last, I've posted some photos and words of and about my trip to Laos. More specifically, it's about 200 pictures and 21000 words, which is part of what took me so long.
The other reason for the delay was that I was tired of not having a decent way to deal with photos on my site, and I spent some time fixing that. It's a work in progress, and there are some obvious features I haven't written yet, like chronological and geographic navigation of sets of photos. But it's enough to let me post 200 captioned and geocoded photos, so out it goes. I'm looking forward to adding more features, and to taking more pictures worth posting.
As to why I didn't just use Flickr, which is in many ways much nicer and already exists, I had a few reasons. They don't do anything useful with location data in the images yet; uploading photos without the Windows-or-Mac-only upload client is a huge hassle; it's not possible to update a photo; I'd need to be online to work on my photos; getting the sizes and captions into my pages that inline those images is not easy; I'd put lots of work into organizing my data, but that work would be stored in someone else's proprietary system; and lastly, I can't fix any of that in someone else's system. I still love Flickr's communal features, and I may write something to export photos from my system into theirs so more people see them.
I returned from Laos almost two months ago, and here I am still talking about it. The trip lasted just three weeks, but I spent three months preparing, a month writing about it, and I'm still working my way through a list of friends, letting them know my photos are up. Part of my motivation for writing was to have a souvenir I could use to remind myself what the trip was like. I hadn't thought of it (because I'm foolish and inexperienced), but the process of writing meant that I continued to experience the trip for another month, fixing it in my mind and letting me enjoy it longer. I recommend it for anything you want to prolong.
I didn't mean to take so long to tell people about it, and I feel a little silly announcing a write-up I posted weeks ago, but I've gotten positive feedback from a few people, and I'm happy to drag that out. I'd wanted to write about a trip that way for years, and after putting tons of work into it, it's gratifying to hear that people are enjoying it.
A few people have asked me what's next. I have no concrete plans, but I'm open to suggestions.
Today I ran across eatlunch.at, a silly web service for organizing elections for where to go out to eat. It reminds me of PizzaZone, which I wrote way back in '98. Wow. Eight years ago. PizzaZone was more specialized in that it just worked out pizza toppings, but it was also much cooler in that users didn't have to make explicit votes each time. They just registered their supposedly unchanging preferences and the system tried to come up with a decent solution based on those.
It was somewhat pointless, but the technology was neat and I learned a lot by building it. I implemented the UI as a formal state machine and the brain behind it uses genetic algorithms to optimize the estimated happiness of simulated users eating proposed solutions. A side benefit is the discovery of mushroom and pineapple pizza, which I never would have tried without its prompting.
Alas, while the UI still works, the brain suffered from library drift, so for the last few years it always suggests that everyone go hungry. I still love the slogan though: "You tell us what you like, we'll tell you what you want!", and it was a fine opportunity to quote Negativland.