Monday, February 20, 2006

The Ministry of Weird Stuff

In Neal Stephenson's Cryptonomicon, a character named Eberhard Föhr is dubbed the "guy who does weird stuff" in the protagonist's risky tech venture. He proceeds to engage in several instances of strange technowizardry that seem to defy conventional thinking about what is and isn't possible.

As all good folk know, those who can't do teach. And, being part of a circle of friends who are bright but by no means badasses, we tend to be divided along the lines of what we know about, not what we know ourselves. One friend (named Malgas in much the way I am named Autochon) was dubbed the "Ministry of Weird Stuff" in honor of Dr. Föhr's apparently random skillset. Malgas was always the guy who knew the latest weird news (like the successful lab testing of short range lightning guns, or the latest oddball neer-heard-before musical group, or whatever).

If he's still the minister, though, I think he's become a sort of shadow minister, operating in the shadows, while I act as the Ministry's faceman. My own scouring of the Internet for fascinating tidbits covers most of the same ground as his, though he invariably find things I manage to gloss right over. But somehow, in the last few months, I've been getting the credit for being "the guy who knows something about everything, or at least knows where to find something about anything." It's a little unfair to him, but he's never been super-outgoing. And I hardly steal his thunder - I try to make it clear when I'm relaying one of his discoveries.

Neverthless, my friends are starting to eye me ascance when I get that "Hey, did you hear about..." look in my eye, because the answer is almost inevitably an exhasperated "No." Not that they aren't amused by my discoveries. But I feel that I alone should not be deserving the credit for these things. So here's the start of a list of the sources I use, daily, to keep on top of things:

Boing Boing: A so-called "directly of wonderful things," it's actually a reverse chronological tagboard of amusing things. But who's counting?
DailyKOS: Insightful leftist screed to keep those crafty conservatives at bay. I'm not nearly as far left as some of the people who post there, but I am certainly to the left of much of the country.
Digg: A recently referenced site that tracks "tech news," and uses an interesting community editting process to boost good stories and bury bad ones.
Google News: Need I say more?
Memepool: Memepool was once what Boing Boing is now. Today, it's a pale shadow of its former self, a crotchety old man with a very few tricks left up its sleeves.
ShortNews: A community news site with a similar approach to Digg, but focusing on news stories, often strange ones.
Slashdot: The largest nerd news organization the internet has to offer, Slashdot is the place to go to find out what technologies are being used against you, what games are pushing the paradigms, what exists on the edge of the galaxy, and what some "expert" thinks of some obscure programming language. It's sweet.

There! See, not so hard. Now go read some news!


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