Vacuum weblog 0001 E. Vielmetti next

books music travel jobs food people networks

nature abhors a vacuum

Welcome to Vacuum!

Have a look around. If you like what you see, join the mailing list. Back issues on line include discussions of the changing world of work and the network structure of social capital. See the whole list.

On top of the book pile

The Joy of Not Working by Ernie Zelinski. Structural Holes by Ronald Burt. The Right to Write by Julia Cameron. The Meme Machine by Susan Blackmore. More books.

Left side / right side

30% of my time I will spend thinking about the left side of the page; and 55% the right side. That leaves 15% for white space.

What we're looking for

Bound, acid-free, quadrille ruled notebooks. Paul Saffo notes that he can find things reliably in the interview notebooks he keeps; I've got paper going back to 1993 or so in which I happily go and grab more detail put in ink that I could ever retain in ASCII.

Weblog software. It appears to be easy enough to just type in the raw HTML, but some part of me wants to believe that bits of this process should be automated.

What we're listening to

Deb is reading for Assistive Media; tonight's live reading is on human cannibalism (brrr). April's recordings are up at the moment. Assistive Media is a finalist for the 1999 Progressive Streamers Award - the best non-profit website using RealMedia - presented by RealNetworks.

Radio Habana Cuba on shortwave on 6000 Khz, late night EST. I'm using a fall-of-the-Berlin Wall vintage Sony ICF 2010 receiver to pick up broadcasts. International shortwave broadcasting gears up during conflicts like the one in Kosovo.

Hedningarna's Karelia Visa on the Northside label. Super Nordic roots sounds from this label, I don't think anything yet I've gotten from them has been a miss.

Finding your way back

You might have come here from



14 May 1999

I'm typing this from O'Hare airport, in a cool service called Laptop Lane near gate B-15. For less than the cost of a cell phone roaming call you get a little cubicle with a PC, an Internet connection, and a phone with long distance service, printer and fax.

13 May 1999

New issue of Vacuum, the newsletter is out, on creative problem solving and some musings on work. (It's ascii, not html, so the links won't link and it will be kind of plain looking.)

12 May 1999

Huh, this daily weblog stuff is too hard. But I can manage it a few times a week. I'm on the road this week in San Jose, so some of the links will reflect that.

David Erdody's Assistive Media won the 1999 Streamers award for best use of streaming media by a non-profit. Watch the presentation (the award is about 41 minutes in). A big surprise went with the award - an anonymous donor presented Assistive Media with a check for $10,000 !

Right Brain Works is a creativity shop - they have a mailing list that goes out called Heads Up! with links to web stuff and news that relate to the creative impulse.

The Weather Underground has offices in Ann Arbor and in San Francisco. They have all manner of cool references that let you link in to the current weather.
Ann Arbor, Michigan

In the changing world of work series: The LA Times ran a story about techie burnout that is worth a read. It quotes from Richard Sennett's book The Corrosion of Character : The Personal Consequences of Work in the New Capitalism, which I haven't read (Amazon reviews are mixed, but who trusts Amazon readers?)

Vacuum reader and GeneHack weblogger John S Jacobs Anderson unearthed a tool for maintaining weblogs called genpage, which is said to help automate the process of laying out pages and maintaining consistency.

Thanks to Judi Clark for organizing an outing in Palo Alto. We got to see the high tech headquarters of Palo Alto high speed ISP NanoSpace.

7 May 1999

Several Vacuum readers are at Edgewise 99 in New York City. (At the very least, Peter Merholz, Lou Rosenfeld, and Jerry Michalski.) Peter's weblog of the event is particularly worth a look.

If you're like me, you sometimes have a hard time getting up in the morning because you were up too late the night before looking at the web. And alarms don't have the same sting when you're working at home. I'm going to try to schedule wakeup calls with Mr. Wakeup and see if that rouses me a bit better.

Before you go into a big box appliance store looking to buy your next bit of electronic apparatus, go to mySimon and generate a price comparison list. You'll be better informed than the floor salesman, and much better armed to walk away with what you want at a price that's reasonable. (And if they won't deal, you can walk away and order from the net.)

The 4 May Robot Wisdom weblog run by Jorn Barger took notice of what's going on here at Vacuum. Jorn writes: "New weblog from Ed Vielmetti, who's been on the Net forever." (Not quite forever, but more than 100 dog-years, which means I should be able to retire soon right?)

Jorn picked up a story from the San Francisco Examiner on microloans, offering poor people around the world access to commercial credit to help bootstrap them out of poverty.

Pableaux Johnson writes about Texas food, travel, and drink from his outpost in Austin.

5 May 1999

A major forest fire is burning in western Marquette County, Michigan in the Upper Peninsula near the small towns of Republic, Champion, and Michigamme. The information hotline is at 1-800-227-9668 set up by WNMU TV13 and staffed by volunteers. The folks at Travel U.P. have been keeping an eye on the fire and have pictures of smoke and weather reports. The Marquette County chapter of the American Red Cross is providing disaster relief; you can send contributions to them at 1500 W Washington St, Suite #6, Marquette MI 49855.

Joyce Wycoff runs the Innovation Network which publishes a weekly "Good Morning Thinkers" newsletter collecting ideas and responses from a farflug network of readers. This week's issue focuses on questions to stimulate creativity. My favorite was from (Serge) who suggests "In how many ways can we ..." as the classic brainstorm question.

Ron Dwelle in alt.great-lakes recommends the Lake Michigan Circle Tour guide as a source for travel information for scenic highways. The newsgroup is helping someone plan a bike trip around the lake - Ron also notes and I would concur that the nice way across the Straits of Mackinac is to take the ferry from St. Ignace to Mackinac Island and go from there to Mackinaw City again by ferry. No cars on the island (just horses, bikes, tourists and fudge).

Anyone have any good contacts at the Amazon affiliates program? It's nice to get a quarterly statement and a check, but it should be possible to turn that quarterly statement directly into more book sales (generate some HTML from it that points back at you and there you go). Chris Locke has done this for books bought by Entropy Gradient Reversals readers, but only at the expense of a bunch of manual labor. It should be easy!

Roger Breisch,, runs the Midwest Organizational Learning Network based in Chicago. (Five hours by train from here, too far to pop over for an evening's event, but still close enough to feel like I should know what's going on there). He notes a forthcoming conference on "People and the New Economy: A forum for resolving the paradox between economic reality & human values" in Chicago July 28-30. On the speaker list is Margaret Wheatley, author of A Simpler Way.

3 May 1999

The Toledo Mud Hens are 10-14 on the year so far. (Has their win-loss record ever stopped anyone from going to a game?)

Anaconda has tools for sale that automate the process of building an Amazon bookstore. It's aimed at making the process "sticky" to give you the maximum commissions. Thanks to Steven Champeon for the pointer, (though he doesn't use it himself).

Another source for Lomo cameras (inexpensive Russian snapshot camera with nice lens) is Freestyle Sales Co in California. $13-15 a piece, I have two on order. A review on a LomoChat BBS says "a really cool little camera!! It is plastic but the back fits tight and it's quite well made."

1 May 1999

Jim Scheuler at Total Quality Infosystems is looking for anyone willing to share an office in Ann Arbor near downtown with a high speed connection.

30 April 1999

Phil Agre on Life after Cyberspace, from the Red Rock Eater news and clippings list. (What's big and red and eats rocks?)

General purpose computers capable of running standard operating systems are getting better, faster, smaller, cheaper, lighter, and less power-hungry. This puts them in a place to challenge special purpose computers - so called "embedded systems" - that have been traditionally used in low-power environments. See the world's smallest web server, matchbox sized, as one example. Noted by Richard Campbell via Joe McConnell.

Lindsay Marshall has fired up his own weblog, for which he built a tcl/tk application to make maintenance easy. (Me, I hack the html. vi is your friend.)

Lindsay pointed me at this site on Lomography, a small, inexpensive Russian camera with a unique lens.

29 April 1999

Brigitte Eaton runs a weblog on a site called EatonWeb. Her reading list is online too, see the link to a bunch of people's reading lists on our books page.

Owen Medd at CareerSite Corp. runs the Ann Arbor CareerSite, a confidential 15-employer consolidated job and resume service.

28 April 1999

The Soo Locks Web Cam is back up by popular demand. They're working on getting better quality cameras.

Brief review on today's CamWorld pegs this effort as an Ann Arbor weblog "[Wow!]". I guess I get a lot of Ann Arbor stuff in my mailbox.

I talked with Scott Hapgood at Eureka Lab Book, in Holyoke MA (1-413-534-5671). He's sending me one of their "Standard Laboratory Notebooks" on approval, and if I like it I'll mail him a check for $23. They do customer printing in lots of 100 or so. Lined or quadrille, round-back binding so you can paste in sheets without breaking the binding, choice of cover colors, acid-free archival quality paper. I'll report when it comes in.

Ann Arbor high-tech social scene: New Media Friday on 30 April at 5pm at Arbor Brewing Company. Contact Catherine Titta.

Argus Associates is looking for an office manager for their downtown Ann Arbor office.

The Wood-Charles page has been updated, with features on automobiles in Manhattan, Who We're Walking, and more of Joe's silly quizzes.

27 April 1999

Jock Gill has written a page on Forecasting the Internet Weather, "a few thoughts on why the internet is truly, not simply incrementally, different."

Microsoft is buying Jump, a service that I've used with modest success to sync up my personal organizer / calendar / people list to the web. They're planning to roll it into MSN. (Read about it in the New York Times, but I dno't have a link; there's no news yet of it on the Jump site itself. But I do believe the Times. Mostly.)

A team of sixteen employees from a major Silicon Valley ISP is looking to move en masse to a new company - and they're using an auction on eBay to set their price for jumping ship. Min. bid $3.1m for the first year, not including benefits.

A new edition of Arborfood is out, featuring transcripts of Arborfood on the Air with Vacuum reader David C. Bloom at the mike on WEMU Tuesdays at 9:30am.

26 April 1999

Advertisements that could have run, but didn't. In Jeffrey Zeldman's The Ad Graveyard.

Amazon filed plans today to acquire Alexa Internet, according to an article on and a press release on the site. Amazon's also buying the parent of Bibliofind (see below). Buy buy buy.

Dan Pink's Free Agent Nation is out with a new newsletter. In it he recommends iPrint as a good source for web-order business cards. He's giving away Free Agent Nation fridge magnets (if you are a magnet collector) - just send mail to with the subject "Sure, Dan, I'll take a magnet."

Powell's Books has an enormous catalog of used and new books, they're definitely worth a look when you are book hunting. I found a copy of the Lee Ash Subject Collections reference book there, a directory of special libraries and special collections within public and research libraries. Looking forward to the shipment arriving. Another source recommended by Powell's for used books is Bibliofind, which will save a search for you and e-mail the results if a book comes in to one of their many participating used book network stores.

Deb heard a *marvelous* piece on NPR yesterday on "This American Life" about a kindergarten/first-grade teacher who instituted the rule "You can't say you can't play", to keep her kids from excluding each other from playing. She says "I was so moved, that I went and listened to it again." It's at 47:00 into the selection. The teacher is Vivian Paley, and she wrote a book also titled You can't say you can't play.

Cooking with 7-up, and other culinary delights at James Lileks Gallery of Regrettable Food. Very much in the flavor of the Square Meals "Cuisine of Suburbia" chapter. (Thanks Deb)

25 April 1999

Log off now

Need To Know, a UK weblog, reports on a Europe-wide telecommunications boycott for 1999-06-06 aimed at getting rates down and eliminating per-minute charges on local calls. This is echoed in an unattributed Net Strike 2000-2003 calling for a general boycott of the Internet for three years: "The refusal to labour is the chief weapon of workers fighting the system; networkers can use the same weapon."


I've given a look at about a dozen other weblog sites. The one I look at the most regularly (aside from this site, naturally) is Peter Merholz's peterme; Peter recommends Cameron Barrett's CamWorld as a fine example of the genre and a comprehensive source of pointers to other sites. This Vacuum version is somewhat uglier than the norm, but that's a tradition.


Sunday New York Times, $4 at the Blue Front (pix credit Molly Trecker). In the book reviews: The Meme Machine by Susan Blackmore. It's been 23 years since Richard Dawkins "Selfish Gene", and the meme meme has gone pretty far in propogating itself. The Times has a copy of the first chapter of Blackmore's book online; looks pretty promising. Here's what they say at Amazon. (later) I picked up a copy at Shaman Drum in the Science / Environment section; a pretty good read. I guess I've been taken in by the weblog meme.


Home office reorg, with Deb's help! Moved all the furniture counterclockwise, put up new bookshelves, set the filing cabinet next to my desk so there's a spot for the telephone and for books and papers. Much better. Rachel Selk from Twenty-fifth hour has been helping me out with the process of breaking through the piles of junk and paper that have somehow accumulated around me, very helpful.

Notes afterwards

Are tables hideous and ugly and should they just be avoided? I am used to marginalia in my work, it's kind of nice to have it here. Need to get precision measurements for layout so that it starts to be more exactly what's on paper.

This looks pretty good when it just fits the page. Nice to know at least that the old notebook is about a screenful if you format it right.