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High-Speed Pizza Delivery: A Jack Phelps Production [entries|archive|friends|userinfo]
Jack Phelps

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(no subject) [Oct. 14th, 2004|04:29 pm]
Jack Phelps

This thing is fucking awesome, but why the hell can't it search GMail?

I guess what I want to say here is that Microsoft has failed time and time again to build their systems with any degree of useability beyond the basic "doing stuff." It's an incredibly short-sighted way to do things, and it prompts the average computer user to lose things all the time and open up all kinds of security vulnerabilities, and the Google Desktop seems like one of the first consumer tools in a while that improves the user experience rather than just adding extra features and without losing security.
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Yeah I got an open letter for ya [Oct. 7th, 2004|09:22 am]
Jack Phelps
This open letter from me to the lead singer of the dictators, Handsome Dick Manitoba (Richard Blum), is regarding Blum's lawsuit against one of the best musical artists ever to exist, Dan Snaith, who for four years has released under the name 'Manitoba.' See Snaith's release (and check out his incredible music) here. He will now be called Caribou.

From: Jack Phelps
To: dictators7@aol.com
Date: Thu, 7 Oct 2004 09:20:05 -0400
Subject: Manitoba Rules

Dear Handsome Dick Manitoba,

Nobody knows who you are, you litigious asshole. Your trademarked name
is worthless, and to use it against one of the most brilliant creative
minds of our generation, Dan Snaith, is a worthless action fit only
for keeping other people down. Dan is not The Man, you faux-punk
prick, so you don't need to fight him. Were you sitting there logged
into AOL reading your channelized All-American news, and were suddenly
shocked to realize that there is an entire Canadian province bearing
the same name you assumed years ago when you didn't suck quite so
much? So shocked you decided to sue anything you could reasonably take
down? How many other lawsuits have you and your corporate masters
thrown at people who couldn't afford to defend themselves?

You get up there on your little 128 kilobit Sirius speakers and preach
decades-old punk mantras without a cent of originality. If anybody is
killing punk, Dick, it's you. You've taken something that was great
almost thirty years ago and gradually twisted it until it's nothing
more than a brand and a way for Nike to pump a little more profit out
of its Converse acquisition. You are like Avril Lavigne, you ancient
loser: you exist only to sell crap and keep legitimate artists from
bringing their brilliance to the public.

Give it up and die,
Jack Phelps
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This is my rant on allen wrenches [Oct. 6th, 2004|08:12 pm]
Jack Phelps
Auto response from Tekunokurato: I am a mexican
food god!

I am making the most of a most excellent free night

working on my new bike

Tekunokurato: you have no idea how much I loathe allen

Tekunokurato: no other tool has ever given me so much

bizdog27: why?

bizdog27: they rule

bizdog27: so many options

Tekunokurato: they're such an industry conspiracy

Tekunokurato: that's the problem!

Tekunokurato: you need to own too many!

Tekunokurato: what the fuck is wrong with a fucking
phillips, or even a REGULAR OLD SCREWDRIVER

Tekunokurato: arg

Tekunokurato: essentially, the problem is that I don't own
the correct one to work on my bike now

Tekunokurato: see, the tool industry makes as many
different kinds of allen fittings as possible, and makes allen
wrenches small and easy to loose

bizdog27: hmm

Tekunokurato: lose

bizdog27: you clearly need a better tool kit

Tekunokurato: and then charges a premium for them

Tekunokurato: haha

Tekunokurato: that's what they WANT you to think!

Tekunokurato: it could all be done with one or two tools

Tekunokurato: but they've got you and everyone else
convinced that you need thirty!

Tekunokurato: GRRR

Tekunokurato: I bet they deliberately rise and drop the
prices of different screws so people always pick the
cheapest, and that's always different

Tekunokurato: then there are thirty million different
screws that need many different tools to work

Tekunokurato: I mean, what is the POINT of many
different allen wrenches??

Tekunokurato: to line their pockets, that's what!

bizdog27: style

Tekunokurato: ha

Tekunokurato: riiiiiight

Tekunokurato: they suck nick

Tekunokurato: they are a plague on our earth!</html>
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The reason I have been too busy to post [Oct. 4th, 2004|02:23 pm]
Jack Phelps

Is because I have been killed by Samantha's (of wellesley SFF fame) custom-job chain-mailed barbie and am gradually working my way back from the dead. The last two weeks have been 80+ hours, and I hope to achieve some brief respite by going to visit Nick in park slope this weekend
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This week's FreeP article since I have nothing better to post and the marginal effort required is ni [Sep. 29th, 2004|07:28 pm]
Jack Phelps
I wrote this for the freep. I think it's the most hilarious piece of journalism I've ever created. The alternate title in case the gods of journalism threatened to smite me for choosing "Consumers… In… Spaaaaaace!" was to be "Melvill puts the Ace back in Consumer Space Flight." I figure I put the hype back in hyperactive stupid journalism, but whatever.

Consumers… In… Spaaaaaace!
Jack S. Phelps
Business & Technology Editor Emeritus

SpaceShipOne, the Paul Allen-funded, Burt Rutan-Engineered private space vehicle, made its first successful flight Wednesday. The ship was engineered in Allen’s ongoing quest for the Ansari X Prize, a $10 million award established in 1996 to offer an incentive for the development of private space flight. In order to take the prize, a ship needs to make two flights to 100 km carrying the weight of two people (and preferably return safely to earth). For SpaceShipOne it’s one down, one to go.

But what happens after Allen or one of the other contenders wins the $10 mils? Is the private space race over?

You better believe it’s not. The space race, which for fifty years involved principally NASA and various iterations of the Russian government, is rapidly expanding to include Allen, a Microsoft co-founder; Virgin’s Richard Branson; and anyone who has a few thousand bucks to throw towards being a space consumer.

Talking low-level, near-space flight, Zero Gravity Corporation is now offering parabolic joyrides in modified 727s for under $3000. While these trips only go to around 40,000 feet, they give participants many minutes of zero- and low-gravity flight, and it’s a great way to get the same sort of rush SpaceShipOne pilot Mike Melvill gets when he flies that vehicle. Tech journalist Xeni Jardin recently partook of the company’s service for Wired Magazine, National Public Radio, and her popular weblog BoingBoing, and gave it two sharp thumbs up.

Virgin pioneer and all-around crazy person Richard Branson wants to be the first real portal into space for wealthy, eccentric consumers. The entrepreneur announced Tuesday his plan to put the “return” into “return-trip” with the founding of Virgin Galactic, the first consumer enterprise directed at space flight.

His plan for that company is to license the SpaceShipOne design from Allen and offer space flight for about 100,000 Pounds Sterling, just under that $200,000 price point we’ve all been waiting for.

No really--that’s a lot of money, but consider willingness of certain boy band members just a few years ago to pay tens of millions for the same privilege. At a $20 million dollar price point in September 2002 to Branson’s proposed $200,000 price point by September 2005, the reduction isn’t order-of-magnitudal, but it’s not far from it.

As any business student should know, when the US government and its NGOs spend $30 million on something like a single space flight, enterprise can do it for a thousandth of the cost given the proper incentive. And with hype about space approaching levels not seen since Armstrong’s small step, the increase in consumer demand for this decreasingly-scarce service will most assuredly lead to an affordable price.

Start your enterprises, Babson students, and go talk to some Olin engineers, because a whole new industry is opening up.
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(no subject) [Sep. 27th, 2004|05:27 pm]
Jack Phelps
If I were to start any organization, it would be a non-profit, non-affiliated website which would publish open letters from prominent people. We’d send invitations to celebrities, scientists, politicians, economists, educators, and more and solicit their open letters directed towards some contrary person or organization That person or a representative from that organization would get the chance to respond on the same forum, once and only once. On special occasions, we’d invite pairs for an ongoing debate of maybe four letters. With particularly prominent, prescient, or important letters, we’d have a bi-weekly spot in the NY Times and Time or People. Posting about three letter pairs a week and having consistently-important and rationally-constructed open letters would provide a forum where anybody could go to read expert perspectives on the most important issues of our day.

OpenLetter.Org. It’d be a great outpouring of rational thought, and people would be able to post their own views, without media distortion, without heat-of-the-moment pressure. For anyone willing to throw down the gauntlet, a reputation could be made or broken.

And of course it’d be in Slashcode so we’d have a super hot user-moderated commenting system.
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sometimes things are just beautiful [Sep. 23rd, 2004|10:25 pm]
Jack Phelps
Wow. This is one of those really weird and inexplicable things that happens every so often.

So I was googling for the lyrics to the song in the I (heart) Huckabees trailer, and punched this phrase in: "why were put in this mess is anybody's guess might be a test." Well, if you hit that link, you come upon this livejournal entry by someone about why their cat died.

But the second post down is someone saying that they, too, stumbled upon this entry in a search for the song in the I love huckabees trailer. Then another, and another.

Now, I'm generally sort of existentialist, so I'm not misinterpreting this as a sign that "Everything is connected and everything matters, now isn't that cool?" like other posters, but this is pretty fucking cool.

why we're put in this mess
is anybody's guess
might be a test
or it might not be
anything we need to worry about
but if you're still in doubt
go and knock yourself out
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Google (again) [Sep. 21st, 2004|10:05 pm]
Jack Phelps
In an effort to remove the perception of myself as an unthinking Google fanboy (and because I kind of miss being an equity analyst), I will be publishing the following in tomorrow's edition of the Babson Free Press:

Google’s Math May Be Its Undoing
Jack S. Phelps
Business & Technology Editor Emeritus
Read more...Collapse )
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Arrrrrrrrrr! [Sep. 18th, 2004|09:42 pm]
Jack Phelps
I hope all ye rotten scallawags have a truly terrible talk like a pirate day! I've got me my eye patch (no, really), and I'm ready to make ye walk the plank in the blink of me ol' parrot's (Mr Squiggles) remaining eye.
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Search Technology [Sep. 16th, 2004|11:41 am]
Jack Phelps
So for the past few days at work I've been working on a profile of the enterprise search market for one of our potential clients. I hit a surprise this morning when I saw some exciting technology in action, so I thought I'd talk about it here, a bit.

First off, here's why search is important:

The internet is the largest repository of what's called 'unstructured data' ever to exist. Some people argue with the term unstructured data because all data is structured somehow, but come on--if you’ve read most people’s blogs you know what we mean when we say unstructured. It’s not a database, it’s a bunch of different file format and content types and no one program can read them all, let alone load them all at once.

All that data needs to be organized somehow in order to be useful. The traditional way of doing this is with a search engine, like Google. But the problem with traditional searching is that you have to know what you’re looking for. In the business world, that’s not good. You need to data mine--find out when things are happening that you don’t already know about. Traditionally the only way to that is to search for a million specific things and set up disgusting numbers of alarm bells so that you can be reasonably sure that you catch everything significant. It’s costly and wasteful and very, very imperfect.

There are two factors I think matter: depth and breadth. Google is a very, very deep search engine--it can get you all kinds of relevancy, but pretty much only from text or xml documents. On the other hand, a company called Convera is probably one of the broadest search engines out there--it’s under heavy-and-growing utilization by government because it makes a suite of products that can search text documents, perform voice recognition and searching for audio calls, object recognize in video recordings, and more. I would call the product of breadth and depth a “contextual coefficient,” which would act as a qualitative metric of what the most generally useful search product it is. Convera is one of the broadest out there, but it’s not deep enough yet to have a marketable contextual coefficient.

So what you need is an automated system that searches through the unstructured content out there and tells you what’s relevant based on a low-precision question. The comparison I made in conversation with Will recently was to Star Trek--you should not have to say “Tea, Earl Gray, sixty-eight degrees, and in a cup this time!” “Tea, Earl Gray, Hot” should be sufficient. More importantly, though, the government should be able to have an automated program that searches all the available information from blogs, criminal networks, wiretaps, carnivore, et al. and have only the contextually dangerous stuff show up so it doesn’t end up arresting everyone under the sun on suspicion of terrorist plotting.

This is a picture of where we are, currently. As you can see, the highest-ranked thing on the graph is a manpower-generated content organizer, the extremely popular blog BoingBoing. Corey, Xeni et al. post cool stuff they find, and it takes a lot of man-hours to get all that stuff up there.

But technology is getting closer all the time.

This morning I had my first consumer-end encounter with this sort of predictive contextualization, and it was fantastic. I was searching for the ingenious High Fidelity quote in which John Cusack talks about women’s panties (They save the best pairs for when they know they’re gonna sleep with somebody, but he just wants the white cotton pairs now, etc. etc.). I thought the quote had the word ‘panties’ in it, so I was searching for combinations involving that word. Finally I hit upon the search "high fidelity quotes" panties and found my quote (a small piece of it, anyway) in the only English search result produced. But the interesting thing about this is that the located page does not, in fact contain the word panties at all.

I have checked and rechecked the following assumption with other search results and I am now essentially positive that Google is now smarter than ever. It has created a contextualized definition of the word ‘panties’ that includes references to women’s underwear. Since it couldn’t find links with the word panties in them, directly, it instead is using that contextual definition, defined by the aggregate of the content containing that word which it indexes, and substituting some other word set (roughly, “women’s underwear”) in order to produce search results which might help me. And it succeeded.

It’s pretty incredible that the service can interpolate to that extent. What defines human intelligence except the ability to contextualize and make indirect links or ‘intuitive’ jumps? I think that sort of search relevancy is what will eventually lead directly to real, working, TNG-level AI, and it’s pretty beautiful. More importantly, it’s not as far off as you all think. When search technology produces strong relevency from vague queries (or even completely unasked for) through a sufficient variety of media, what else can you say besides "Can I be your friend when you become self-aware?"
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