Monthly Archives: May 2002

Mark Pilgrim has a great

Mark Pilgrim has a great idea for RSS auto-discovery: use the <link> tag to point to the XML version of the page. I’ve made the change on the template for this site. Hopefully it won’t be long before we see smart news aggregators that can pay attention to this extra bit of metadata, or search engines that can automatically find sites with an RSS feed.

A few days ago I

A few days ago I took Paper Dreams off my bookshelf and read a few chapters that I hadn’t looked at before. One was on Bill Peet, storyman from Disney on some of their classics, including most of Song of the South, 101 Dalmatians, and Sword in the Stone. Yesterday I picked up another book that I have owned for years, Storytelling in Animation, and noticed a panel discussion from 1988 conducted by John Canemaker that included Bill Peet. What an interesting coincidence. I made a mental note to look for his biography and maybe get a few of his children’s books for my kids when they are older.

Today I see that Bill Peet had passed away just two weeks ago.

It seems that all the great ones are passing on. When I finally discovered Shamus Culhane’s books a couple of years ago, I found that he had died already too.

When news of Chuck Jones’ death came, I flipped through Chuck Amuck, remembering when I first received it as a gift. In the inside cover an inscription dated Christmas 1989 reads: “For Manton, budding cartoonist.” That brought a smile. Still not quite there yet, though. :-)

I saw Enigma a week

I saw Enigma a week ago. We’ve seen many movies about technology come and go, but so far only Enigma deserves a place next to Sneakers as one of the best ever. Some may be bothered that the characters are fictional, but the rest of the movie was so true to the spirit and technology of the time that I easily fell into the story without a thought to Alan Turing’s absence until I left the theater. From the dials and plugs on the Enigma machine, to the explanation of cryptanalysis and the handwritten notes as the code breakers worked out a problem — it all felt real, a refreshing break from the fake computer interfaces usually designed by Hollywood.

That Turing’s story could be great on the big screen, I have no doubt. But Enigma’s story — romance, cryptography, war — also has its place. The look of the film is perfect, and with dialogue to match. You might recognize Tom Stoppard in the screenplay credit; his other credits include Shakespear in Love, Rosencrantz and Guildenstern Are Dead, and Empire of the Sun.

When I got home, I searched my bookshelves for other crypto books to supplement the film. Here’s a paragraph from The Code Book, detailing the “weather report” code which was referenced in the film but not entirely explained:

“…experience showed that the Germans sent a regular enciphered weather report shortly after 6 a.m. each day. So, an encrypted message intercepted at 6.05 a.m. would be almost certain to contain wetter, the German word for ‘weather’. The regorous protocol used by any military organisation meant that such messages were highliy regimented in style, so Turing could even be confident about the location of wetter within the encrypted message.”

You gotta love this stuff.

Yesterday I finished reading Steven

Yesterday I finished reading Steven Johnson’s Emergence: The Connected Lives of Ants, Brains, Cities, and Software. It was one of those rare books that leaves you with a dozen different things to think about.

It’s a fascinating book, and the topics are woven together beautifully. I get the feeling that Johnson did thorough research, planned out the entire structure of the book, but then wrote many sections straight through without stopping to edit — it flows with a rhythm and pace that makes for an easy read.

A related ant story in the news two weeks ago: “A supercolony of ants has been discovered stretching thousands of miles from the Italian Riviera along the coastline to northwest Spain.”