I like Amazon’s wishlist system,

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.

Here’s a screenshot of the current status

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

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.

I had a great

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”.

Photos from Fray Day 6

I spent most of today

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.

…perhaps we’d be better off

…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

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