It's a sad truth for thousands:
It's a sad truth for thousands:
"There's no doubt his hatred is mainly directed at us. There's no doubt he can't stand us. After all, this is a guy that tried to kill my dad at one time."
-- PRESIDENT BUSH,speaking of Saddam Hussein.
Y'know, just in case anyone wasn't convinced a tiny part of why we're going after Saddam is to settle an old personal vendetta, this should help clear that up.
Deceptive business practice of the day: popunder ads made to mimic Windows XP program widgets to the exact pixel.
While it's been pretty common to incorporate window elements like minimize/maximize/close, and often you'll find ads made to look like OK/Cancel dialog boxes, these fastclick ads take it a few steps further, not only appearing to be something clickable, but to mimic the OS exactly, and look as if it is part of your computer's control panel or operating system.
Idea of the day: Why isn't there a photo service online that does something like what Cafepress does for shirts and trinkets? Imagine being able to look at someone's gallery of photos, say travel photos from Italy or Siberia, and clicking on a link to buy a 8x10 reprint for $10 or so, knowing full well that the person that took the photo and offerred the service will get a $4 kickback from it?
I know some service like ofoto or snapfish let other people order photos from galleries (like site visitors, family, etc), but they seemed to charge users actual printing prices. What I envision is a site more like Cafepress that gives you a photo "storefront", so that photographers have incentives to create high quality photos espeically for resale as prints, and maybe make a few bucks along the way.
Feeling nostalgic tonight, I wandered over to Craig Mitchell's Myboot for the first time in a year or so. I see that there's a chapter of She Hates My Futon I haven't read before, but I can't remember what was going on in the story when I left off in chapter 22. It's sad to see it sit unfinished to this day, as it was just a chapter or two away from completion back when he was working on it.
Reading the story back in 1999, it was one of the first moments I realized that maybe the web could really give old media a run for its money, creatively speaking. I remember sitting down and reading chapters 1 through 22 in one day, over the course of several hours. The story's pretty much a 20-something, generation x tale of love lost and found. It reminded me a lot of Chasing Amy, and I'm surprised it hasn't been turned into some sort of screenplay by now.
From: "Bernard Shifman" <firstname.lastname@example.org>
Subject: Content about Bernard Shifman
Date: Tue, 24 Sep 2002 09:40:39 -0500
Would it be possible for you to remove the content about me from your website. I'm really not a spammer and I was just looking for a job. Many of the responses that are posted from "me" have been doctored to me me look like a jerk. The content on your site is causing problems for me as you can imagine and it would be very kind of you to remove all content about me from your site. Why would you want to prevent me from getting work? I don't understand....
Bernard Shifman amazes me, he really does. I'm fully convinced he's learned nothing from this moron spammer adventures. I've searched this site, and can only find one (tangential) reference to him, and there's one reference on MetaFilter.
But look at today's email above. He's convinced he wasn't spamming when he sent out (by my estimate, at least) 20,000 unsolicited resumes as word doc attachments to any and all email addresses scraped off the web. I got several copies, all to addresses found somewhere online, and from talking with people that also got copies, his email scraping bot sent messages to anything found in text that resembled an email address. Then he goes into the sob story of not finding work. If you google for "Bernard Shifman" you're gonna get 1900 matches, most all pointing to his screwups, so much so that eradicating it from the web is going to be completely impossible.
I can understand someone new to online etiquette making a few mistakes along the way, and I do feel bad for people out of work having a tough time finding new positions, but Bernard here has screwed up so often, so consistently, and for so long, without learning from or even admitting he's ever made a mistake, that I have no sympathy for him. Two things in this email also clinch it: the last two sentences, added as some backhanded guilt trip that I'm keeping him from finding work, not his own actions, and the CC line. He openly taints his request with a subtle legal threat, not learning in the past year that barratry is no way to gain understanding from others, not to mention the fact he hasn't sued anyone he has threatened.
While getting back up on the horse after you've fallen is usually a good plan, at some point when you've fallen hundreds of times and kicked the horse several times, it's time to think about other modes of transportation.
A MetaFilter post on fake self-help "doctors" lead me to this blog post about a series of fake, mail order universities (there's a great exchange between a reporter and representitive of one here). Some of the links were outdated, so I decided to search Google for one of the fake colleges, Brentwick University.
The funny thing is, about half of the 70 or so results are about the place being a fraud, but among the remainder are people openly purporting to be Brentwick graduates (some with multiple degrees, and even some claiming honors!). There are company leaders boasting masters degrees, city supervisors with staff purporting to be graduates, and whatever a life coach is supposed to be.
The most brazen graduate is a city council member in El Paso, Texas. Listed on her election campaign page last year was her bachelor's in political science from the mail order degree program. After fighting hard against breaches of ethics among her fellow city council members, she was even outed as a fraud in a local El Paso paper. But the absolute kicker is that she still holds her city council position even though her degree is a meaningless piece of paper purchased for a few hundred dollars, most likely in response to some spam she was sent years ago.
Some resumes from people reporting to have graduated from these fake colleges: Harrington, Brentwick, University of San Moritz, and Glencullen University, which happen to be all operated by the same guy, out of several P.O. boxes throughout Europe.
Anil's recent post on race rang especially true for me since I got the opportunity to witness it firsthand.
When I was in New York a couple weeks ago (the first time I spent any real time there, if you can call a few days real time), I finally understood all The Common New York Things That Are Supposed To Happen. I learned what "the city that never sleeps" really means. I got to see first hand what a real melting pot is like, from the people on the streets and subways to the neighborhoods to the stores and restaurants that abound. NYC seemed like the most integrated, culturally diverse and rich place I've ever been. I kept comparing my experiences in NYC with San Francisco, and it wasn't that NYC was merely 10 San Franciscos smashed together tightly, it went well beyond that and embodied a place like no other.
But... there's always the race thing.
I've known Anil for a few years now, and talk to him daily. It probably helps that most of our contact is virtual, as I've never really identified him by race. When I first met him face to face, I was so familiar with him that it still wasn't something that surprised me or weighed heavily in my mind. Kind of like when an old friend reveals a long-held secret that makes no difference in a relationship. I won't claim that I am 100% free of prejudice, as I think no human is, but one of the strengths of the internet is that it allows people to interact free of those constraints; an idealized universe where people can be judged solely on the merit of their contributions.
So back in NYC, I was working in a building in SoHo. In the main lobby of the office building, there was a huge desk with a security guy behind it, and placard that stated "ALL VISITORS MUST REGISTER." When I first arrived, I knew which office I was looking for, noticed no one said a thing to the guard, and walked right by to the elevators. I went through the office lobby a handful of times over the next two days, always with the same results. And then Anil, my accommodating host for the stay, tagged along with me to meet some of the people I was working with. That's when we got "Can I Help You?" in a booming voice during our crossing of the lobby. I actually kept walking at first, not thinking the guard was talking to us, then had to explain what office I was working in and we were allowed to proceed. I mentioned to Anil my surprise and disbelief at what just occurred, based on the previous day of passing through unnoticed and he simply said "That was some of that code orange, heightened security. Now, more than ever."
Anil treated it with humor, but I had a hard time masking my surprise and anger at being reminded my friend and I were worthy of being questioned, simply based on the way he looks.
"Weblogs. You know. Like a 'home page' with a tuxedo t-shirt."
-- Merlin Mann
I like Amazon's wishlist system, I really do. It's a nice tool for rough collaborative filtering, by letting me see things my friends are interested in, and I even like Amazon's power to tell me when friends have upcoming birthdays.
About once a month I buy something for a friend, off their wishlist, for their upcoming birthday, and in the past, it's worked out really well. With the gigantic influx of birthdays happening in the next two months (apparently the holiday festivities between thanksgiving and xmas are optimum times to procreate), I've bought three gifts for friends this month already, and the process has been less than ideal. The first gift, noted for it's "shipping in 2-3 days" availability was ordered a week before a birthday, with 2nd day air attached to make sure the birthday boy had his birthday gift on his birthday. It shipped 9 days after his birthday, and still hasn't shown up as of five days later. Two day air, my ass.
I learned my lesson on that one, so I made sure to order the next birthday gift early, doing so over two weeks before the person's date.
Note a few things here (some bits are blurred to protect the possibility of the birthday person reading it), namely: ordered on the 12th, both items ship within 24 hours. Even though super saver shipping was ordered (adding 5-9 days which I knew about, but hey, I had over two weeks to spare), they project shipment to occur 16 days after it was ordered. That's a full week over their top estimate of 9 days.
Amazon, if you're going to claim free shipping adds a few days, at least warn people that sometimes it can add over two weeks to a delivery time so I won't miss more birthdays due to it (this would be two this month).
This also reminds me once again that it would be useful to start a site chronicling all the things Amazon is doing wrong (even though 99% of what they do is great, they've been slipping in the past couple years). I can think of several major interface changes they've done to their site that I have no doubt lowers their sales.
It started small, as it always does. "I'd really like to get one of them new fangled mp3 playing cd players for my car" I said when Kay asked what I wanted for my upcoming birthday. I shopped online and off, and ended up saving us a ton of money by using eBay. It appears that people with business licenses must be ordering new stereo equipment and selling it online, sans storefronts or operating costs and passing the savings along. However they're doing it, there are dozens and dozens of folks selling brand new, unopened stuff about 25% cheaper than I could find anywhere online or off. I picked up a powered subwoofer setup to round out the sound (now, before you accuse me of going for the booming bass, know that I was merely aiming to finish out the bottom end of the current stock speaker set which is almost adequate -- sonic accuracy is always the goal).
Today was the day I had the stuff installed, and on first listen everything sounded nice, but it wasn't a night and day difference I had experienced when upgrading other cars. Overall it was a more realistic sound, and it could go much louder than it used to. The ability to play mp3s recorded on CDR is fantastic. I tossed the 20 or 30 audio CDs that were in my car, and quickly ripped 8-12 albums worth of music on a blank CD. Then I did it again, putting another 200 songs on a new disc. Bulky CD changers are a thing of the past now, with technology letting you compress a ten disc collection into one CD. I know compression means lower quality sound, but driving along at 60mph, I couldn't tell the difference. The new head unit is by Kenwood, and although I've figured out the basics, the interface is garbage compared to the intuitiveness of my old Blaupunkt. I'm still surprised car stereo designers haven't solved the problems of usability after a couple dozen years working on it. It's the same problem year in and year out: lots of features in a tight space that require reuse of elements, and (if possible) provide tactile feedback so people can keep their eyes on the road. Alas, few seem to do it well enough to appear that they even consider humans during the design process.
I eventually tuned the sound and realized why it wasn't blowing my socks off: I was listening to exclusively rock music. Weezer, Dealership, Tenacious D, The Hives, The Strokes, and Spoon don't sound much different with or without a high powered bottom end. And then I got to my folder of Chemical Brothers tracks. Yee-ow, Star Guitar can extract your teeth fillings.
Go see Bryan's photos from Europe. Especially Lithuania. Go now.
I had a great time at last night's Fray Day in SF. Bands rocked (though I missed FMTM), people told stories both hilarious and touching, and there were a ton of people to talk to. It was refreshing to see a lot of new (to me) faces on stage, as the best stories came from local authors that featured phrases such as "So, I began the day by robbing four banks in the San Diego Area", "The past two days of driving the Porsche got me in touch with my inner Asshole", and "I'd like my death to involve wildebeests, though that would require some active participation and planning to make it happen".
I spent most of today working on projects, but I took a short break to play around. I explored a bit more of the Prelinger Archives (interview with Rick about the archives here) at the recently revamped archive.org. There are over 1200 movies, and I've only seen a handful, all of which are an absolute hoot.
After downloading a couple and exploring, I came up with an idea. These are all public domain movies, so you can do anything you want with them. I downloaded a few, but settled on a Coney Island short to use for footage. I recently saw a Strokes video featuring what appeared to be public domain footage, so I decided to grab an mp3 and set it to the Coney Island short cut up into bits.
I'll admit the result (7.8Mb quicktime) is not all that great, but it's not all that bad either. I spent about a half hour on this total, given more time, I'd scour the archives for similar films, do more cuts in time to the music changes, and try to weave the images into some sort of story instead of the mismash of cheesy images.
Part of this was an exercise, to goof off for a while on a Sunday, but another reason was to get my mind thinking about what having a rich pool of source material free for use really means to creators. Got a band that needs a video? Grab some public domain content and go nuts. Got a student film and you need a score? Download some free audio to complete your work. The revamped archive.org is a rich pool of resources, asking to be ripped, mixed, and burned into new creations, and I can't wait to see what works come out of this.
"What do you want to be when you grow up?"
...perhaps we'd be better off considering 911 a crime against humanity and engage in a global manhunt to find and bring to trial those that planned the event (remember, all the perps are dead). Should the CIA/FBI need back up, we use the military. We scour the earth and bring the suspected in front of the world's cameras at the World Court. We lock them up, diffusing their ability to be martyrs. We send a message to young men being recruited by fanatics, "If you join we will catch you and you will not be able to die, but will suffer for the crimes you commit for your natural life."Amen to that, Caleb.
I've argued a similar point when the issue of flags came up. Although nationalism is running high and we're aiming at countries that harbor terrorists, it always seemed a better approach was to remind everyone it was the entire populace of the earth versus a few hundred violent individuals, and once found, would be brought before a world court for public justice (not revenge).
When I despair, I remember that all through history the way of Truth and Love has always won. There have been tyrants and murderers, and for a time, they can seem invincible, but in the end they always fall. Think of it. Always.-- Gandhi
iCal came out today, which allows for web sharing of calendars. Since it only publishes via WebDAV, you either need to have your own server running the protocol, or it looks like you'll have to pay for a .Mac account.
Why it doesn't do ftp or scp publishing is a mystery, but after seeing it launch Apple's Mail to email out my personal calendar (even though Entourage is my current default client), and that it's new protocol webcal:// only works in IE, I'm starting to think Apple's pulling the same sort of lock-in antics that people demonize Microsoft for.
I keep meaning to upload huge galleries of images of recent trips, but it's too time consuming to sit down and process a few dozen files. Instead, I think I'm going to eek them out one at a time, whenever I have some free time each day or every few days. I used to do a daily photo on this blog when it was at haughey.com, and it was a lot of fun. It allowed me to plumb my archives for interesting photos, play with cropping a small snippet each day, and often forced me to go out and take new pictures, which is never a bad thing. I might do something with the placement so the images are always in the same spot, but I'm not sure yet.
Things learned so far while in New York.
- The city really doesn't ever sleep. Going sightseeing at midnight on a Sunday night is perfectly fine, as everything seems to be open.
- Due to my distance from the attacks last year, I never got to experience things first-hand, it was all mediated by media from 3,000 miles away. From that distance, immortalizing the event and paying tribute to it in hundreds of ways seems like it could possibly cheapen the memory, but being here now, and seeing "have you seen this person?" signs from the aftermath convinced me that the city still has some healing to do.
- I finally got to meet someone who I had been reading since 1996 and whose tutorial from then was the first bit of programming I ever tried beyond basic HTML. And he's tall. Veen tall. Of course, it had to be by accident, after midnight while walking home, as per the first item in this list.
Of the 300 million or so residents of the USA, I wonder what percentage of the population is ungoogleable. It's not easy to be ungoogleable, if you're alive and taking part in any sort of local activity, chances are your name is somewhere on a church roster to results of a fun run. If you're dead and you accomplished anything in your life, someone probably wrote about you. To be ungoogleable is to have never existed.
Maybe if we limited it to the % of the population that goes online regularly, of those, I wonder just how many aren't a link away in google.
While firing up Netscape 4.77 to test a website today, I was happy to see (screenshot) home.netscape.com redirecting people to a page urging them to upgrade. Finally, some nails can go in the coffin of Netscape 4.
Allconsuming's recommendations from friends looks fantastic. From a list of your friends, it scans their sites for amazon-related links and collects them all in one place, so you can see what your friends are reading. Cool stuff.
A smarter man said the following to me today:
...in four words: "Consume Less, Produce More."
words to live by.
Unfortunately for some (and especially those around them), there's an inate need to tinker and it tends to manifest itself in strange ways.
Thanks to guides like this, and simple bootable linux disc images on the web, tonight I backed up my newly replaced tivo (motherboard fried on the last one unfortunately, but it was under warranty) to a bigger drive, and added another drive on top. It's a 200Gb monster now that can tape more than 8 days of continuous television. Next I hope to get it on the local wireless network so I can query the data on it remotely and publish it anywhere I want.
And then someday, I'm going to paint flames on the case. No, really, it's not that I want to, but I have to. Damn these cursed hands!
Once in a while the topics at MetaTalk approach the ridiculous, and I guess that's when the real magic happens.