Monday, December 24, 2007


Louisville was fun. It was great seeing my friend there again. We had dinner at Ramsi's Cafe on the World, a must-visit for whoever passes through Louisville. The drive to Cleveland was quick and easy thanks to the long list of podcasts that I queued for this trip. My favorite was an interview with James Jason Goodwin about his Istanbul detective stories.

I am now hibernating with family and friends in the suburbs of Cleveland. Planning on feasting more than once old country style at Taza's. Make sure to have their garlic sauce... plenty of it. Avoid staying in small spaces afterwards.

Friday, December 21, 2007

Web Branding

I made this domain name and blog instead of my previous semi-anonymous one to take charge of my online persona. Many times when I meet new interviewees or potential roommates, I google them. I didn't particularly like the mess that came up when I googled my name. One prank that a couple of my friends played on me, way back in the hay day of the internet was post a comment on a certain website falsely under my name. It wasn't offensive or anything, but it has appeared relatively high on google search for the better part of this decade. I can't seem to wipe that away. There are also one or two other Firas Wehbe's that I befriended on Facebook (and incidentally, if you are reading this, let me know if I can do anything to help out with disambiguating our collective online presence). I want to collect and curate online pointers to my name under the brand and clearly endorse those that are mine. I am planning on making a static page on the main site that lists and explains all my official and unofficial online profiles.

An intended side-effect of this effort is to keep my life in the US transparent to the authorities. I am after all a visitor, and my stay here is very much dependent on the assessments of immigration officials. My personal opinion about privacy is irrelevant and will have no effect in case one day I face the misfortune of having my name falsely entangled in something nefarious. What CAN help, though, is if I have an established, up-to-date, well-kept online presences linking me to the reputable institutions and activities that I am affiliated with.

Read here about how having a "bad name" got Hasan Elahi in trouble and how he countered by putting his whole life online. Again, I am being a realist. This is not about what I think the world should be with respect to privacy. This is about taking preemptive ownership of my online presence and making it work to my advantage rather than against it.

Elahi's site is the perfect alibi. Or an audacious art project. Or both. The Bangladeshi-born American says the US government mistakenly listed him on its terrorist watch list — and once you're on, it's hard to get off. To convince the Feds of his innocence, Elahi has made his life an open book. Whenever they want, officials can go to his site and see where he is and what he's doing. Indeed, his server logs show hits from the Pentagon, the Secretary of Defense, and the Executive Office of the President, among others.

PS: I found Google's Webmaster Tools to be a great resource for keeping track of who links to your domain, and how it appears to Googlebot (a.k.a. GOD). I also recommend using robots.txt and sitemap.xml files to tweak how your domain interacts with search engines. Google Analytics will help you analyze traffic sources and visitor profiles.

Wednesday, December 19, 2007

Twitter Blog: T-Mobile Mix-Up Was Technical

T-Mobile stopped working with twitter last weekend, and it was thought to be due to T-Mobile being anti-twitter. I declare that I will cancel my contract with T-Mobile should this be true. (1) I like using Twitter, (2) I am going on a road trip soon and want to send twitter updates, and (3) most importantly I don't like the net-neutrality implications of providers dictating what applications or technologies can or can't be used.

Feeds Galore!

I am now using Feedburner. There are six (yes, six!) feeds you can choose from. Feedburner does not allow you to mix and match feeds the way Yahoo! Pipes does. You can only add bookmarks (delicious) and pictures (flickr) into the mix. So my feeds are:

Where Do the Laws of Nature Come From?

[Via slashdot] Interesting read, and a follow up on a controversial Op-Ed.

The author seems to be poking fun at himself by quoting Richard Feynman's epigram, 'Philosophy of science is about as useful to scientists as ornithology is to birds.'

Tuesday, December 18, 2007

Testing Backlinks

This post is to check that the backlink code is working

Monday, December 17, 2007

I Registered for Half-Marathon

... in April. In 2005, I trained for the full marathon. I injured myself 2 months before the race and ended up doing the half marathon in 2:43. This time I will aim lower: (1) To prevent injury, and (2) because I'm starting off weighing 213.5 pounds! I found out that I fit in what is called in many races, the Clydesdale category.

I am hoping to finish in less than 2:20 this time.

Terry Pratchett Diagnosed with Early Alzheimer

I wish him all the best. The discworld is one of my "happy places".

PS I would just like to draw attention to everyone reading the above that this should be interpreted as 'I am not dead'. I will, of course, be dead at some future point, as will everybody else. For me, this maybe further off than you think - it's too soon to tell. I know it's a very human thing to say "Is there anything I can do", but in this case I would only entertain offers from very high-end experts in brain chemistry.

Friday, December 14, 2007

Getting There

It's getting there. I think it looks like an information rich newspaper page. This may not be a bad thing if I want people to come back. The trick is to avoid clutter. Edward Tufte says there is no information overload, only bad design (not very accurate, recalling what I think I heard in his seminar).


  • Twitter Badge
  • Improve the Reader Feed Share on the left, maybe split it into categories. I would have to write my own code for that. For now, the clip code from GR should do. Another reason to write my own rendering code is so I can put the json call at the bottom of the page so it loads first then queries GR.
  • Stuff on the right besides archive and previous posts. Any thoughts? I'm thinking permanent categories like informatics, meerah, etc.
  • imp! insert backlink code in individual item pages

Thursday, December 13, 2007

Hello World

Greetings. This blog is still in it's infancy at the time of this post. It is not yet advertised, but if you are here, somehow, then welcome! Please excuse the mess, and please keep coming back!