Sunday, February 28, 2010

John Adams Review

So two years ago I started seeing all kinds of advertisements in the Metro around D.C. for a forth-coming series on HBO about John Adams, our nation's second president. The tagline was "He united the states of America."

In D.C., stuff goes over really well. Here's the intro:

I didn't see the series at the time, but I'm watching it on DVD right now. It is by every measure spectacular. It's patriotic without being propagandistic.

The birth of America and its first few steps as an infant democracy are well known, and the hagiography of our Founding Fathers is well established. John Adams is easily lost amidst Washington, Jefferson, Franklin, and Hamilton. (Indeed, of the five mentioned in the last sentence, only one does not appear on our coinage: Mr. Adams.)

Playing to this -- he in one scene disappoints the French aristocracy when he is introduced as John Adams, rather than Samuel Adams, his charismatic and reactionary cousin -- the film-makers establish John Adams as an under-dog and an every-man. As we are introduced to these world-striding collosuses (notably Washington and Franklin), the viewer is star-struck along with Mr. Adams. He is surprised to be met, on his return from his English Ambassadorship, by cheering crowds ... but the Congress ignores him once President Washington walks into the room 10 minutes later. These scenes reinforce our national ideal that every American can be a great American (even if they don't get credit), but never in a way that is sappy, cheap, or cloying.

Here's the scene where Thomas Jefferson shows his first draft of the Declaration of Independence to Adams and Ben Franklin. It demonstrates that while Jefferson had the eloquence and the prominence to make the document ring, Adams was the driving passion behind it. The poignancy of the scene is underscored by the fact that we know Adam's and Jefferson's friend/partnership will end in bitter alienation.

The best bit is where Jefferson just shrugs and says "Well, it's what I believe."

I'm only half-way through with the series. I may have another post on the subject when I finish.

Wednesday, February 24, 2010


I remember when my brother Mark showed me this new website to look for stuff on the Internet. The Internet was still pretty wild west, and I felt reasonably cool to know about this new sheriff in town: Google.

Of course Google is now the most popular website in the world, and for someone to not know about it, they would have to have spent the last 10 years in a cave. With their eyes shut. And fingers in their ears. On Mars.

Anyway -- there's a cool article about Google over on It's really long, but here's this interesting time line from the article of Google's dominance:

[September 1997]

This search engine, which had run on Stanford’s servers for almost two years, is renamed Google. Its breakthrough innovation: ranking searches based on the number and quality of incoming links.

New algorithm
[August 2001]

The search algorithm is completely revamped to incorporate additional ranking criteria more easily.

Local connectivity analysis
[February 2003]

Google’s first patent is granted for this feature, which gives more weight to links from authoritative sites.

[Summer 2003]

This initiative allows Google to update its index constantly, instead of in big batches.

Personalized results
[June 2005]

Users can choose to let Google mine their own search behavior to provide individualized results.

[December 2005]

Engine update allows for more-comprehensive Web crawling.

Universal search
[May 2007]

Building on Image Search, Google News, and Book Search, the new Universal Search allows users to get links to any medium on the same results page.

Real-Time Search
[December 2009]

Displays results from Twitter and blogs as they are published.

Wednesday, February 17, 2010

My Dad On Google Maps

Check it out:

This is my childhood home, as seen from the west on Google Maps. The individual walking up the hill? My father. The Interwebs -- I love it!

Sunday, February 7, 2010


This weekend was the Snowpocalypse in D.C.

This is my car.

This is after I'd carved a bit of snow off of it.

Here it is (on the right) after we'd unburied it.


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