SEO spammers wearing a printout of my face as their mask

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Over the past year, I’ve cut way back on my plethora of wacky domains used on long-lost web projects. I’ve let loads of domains go and only updated the few I still use or need. As a result, most projects have been lost to the ether but there’s a good enough record of them in The Internet Archive’s Wayback Machine that I started to feel OK about it. But this week I learned one of the long-running projects I let lapse ended up in a particularly strange state.

Ten Years of My Life was one of my earlier projects, started in 2003 as a photoblog I intended to run for a decade, which seemed ludicrous at the time (there was no Flickr, no Google Photos, no real photo hosting of any kind in Fall of 2003). I built it out of Movable Type, made sure URLs were as short and stable as possible, and began posting my favorite photos. I had a backlog of great shots, so it was daily at first.

Within the first week of launch, it started to gather mentions on other blogs, and people immediately gathered that I wasn’t just doing a photoblog for ten years hence, but I would be doing it daily (I never intended this) but being young and stupid, I took it up as a challenge, and from then on out, it was daily.

Reality caught up with me about two years later, when my daughter was born and being able to casually spend 15 minutes each night tweaking my favorite daily shot in Photoshop became too tall of an order. Those first couple years were incredibly instructive to me, I went from terrible amateur photographer to vaguely better amateur photographer and began to understand how light and lenses worked.

Since late 2005, the site sat in a holding pattern. At first, I went to a favorite weekly photo, but it quickly became less often than that. Post-iPhone release in 2007-2008, I tried to streamline posting by removing all friction. In the end, I had it working where I simply needed to upload a photo to Flickr, tag it with a special tag, and it would automatically import to the blog as a new entry. Even with all the speedbumps smoothed over, I was posting a new photo an average of 3-4 times a year.

As a result, the project always felt unfinished and unrealized and it bummed me out a bit, but I also had half a dozen other things going on, as well as a growing family member that thankfully took more of my time.

Fast forward to two months ago, at the 14 year mark, I felt like it was time to finally let go. I hadn’t touched or even loaded the URL in a couple years, and I felt like whatever guilt I had about not fulfilling the original goals for it were long since passed. As you can guess, the URL was snapped up and repurposed by domain squatter/SEO spammer types.

I’m not going to link to the site, but here’s a couple screenshots. For some odd reason, they copied a handful of posts from 2004-2005, took my text descriptions word-for-word, then added a generic image (likely gathered from Google Image Search) related to the titles. You end up with weird stuff like this, using the exact same URL pattern I made in 2003:

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They took these tactics to hilarious ends when you see the About page, which is an about page I had last touched around 2010, along with a random cycling image they found.

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I’ve had domains lapse and fall into strangers’ hands in the past, and sometimes they tried to put up related content to what was there previously, but this time, making a copy of a half-dozen pages and inserting random images to match was a new low to me.

Project Runway “We’re sleeping where?”

Apologies for getting this out a week late on account of travel, but here we go.

The episode opens with the hilarious surprise they get to sleep on the top of the Empire State Building, and while that’s probably fun for a boy scout troop, if you’ve ever been up there, you know it’s windy as fuck and couldn’t have been relaxing or comfortable for the designers.

I still love this season’s cast for their diverse talent, but the editors of the show are the same editors using the same tricks to try and coax storylines out of everything. This episode seemed to focus on Kenya and her difficulty with the challenge, which was surprising since she’d knocked all the previous ones out of the park.

But here’s the thing, you go on a show, and they don’t film once a week, they’re much more intense, where they’re filming an entire season in the span of a few weeks, so you just go go go. Kenya is a kickass designer, but through the whole season, they’ll be asked to make a dozen or more looks in a very short time and no one on earth is going to be perfect every time. Even the greatest genius is going to punt on a challenge once in a while as their creative energy ebbs and flows.

The Runway


Shawn’s look was terrific. As much as I hate the way the editors put so much of the hijinks from the twins into episodes this season, I’m starting to realize I really like Shawn’s work and it’s on a higher level than her sister Claire. This looks fantastic, sophisticated, and sexy without being revealing. Plus a great print on top. It’s one of my favorites.


Samantha’s look was ok. Great colors and blocking, but overall a boring sillouhette.


I liked the Chrysler Building reference in Michael’s look, as well as the color and the interesting straps on top. Nice work.

pr16-ep4-ma-finalMargarita’s look is pretty boring. A nice ombré dyed fabric, but the rest of it looks downright ordinary, like anything you’d buy in a lingere section of JC Penny.


Kentaro’s look was probably my absolute favorite. Beautiful colors and print, fits here well and looked great.


Kenya’s look was a mess, and she knew it, but the editors made sure it looked like she barely squeaked by.


Deyonté’s look is a trainwreck. The top is cut terribly and doesn’t show off any of the model’s figure. The waistband looks weird and bulky and cuts her in a weird way, and when untucked, the outfit kind of screams that someone is wearing a baggy shirt and dress and doesn’t give af about anything.


Ugh, Claire’s look feels unfinished and unrefined. I’d put this in the bottom three.


Brandon’s look was ok, kind of in his wheelhouse in terms of style, fit, and color, but not really any sort of custom print going on either. It’s less provocative sleepwear and more like street wear.


I really liked Batani’s look. It moved really well on the runway and the top looked fresh and sexy. I hoped this would be a top three look, even though the print was a tad sloppy.


Ayana’s look was ok, but nothing really stood out. Impressive to get three pieces out in the short amount of time, but otherwise kind of blah.


Amy’s print here is interesting but the silhouette is kind of abysmal. Her model looks wrapped in a bedsheet.


Aaron’s look was boring, from the color to the cut, to the way it looked on the runway. About the only cool thing was the print, but it made the fabric heavy and unwieldy.


Not much to disagree with this week. I would have given the win to Kentaro, but I liked Micahel’s winning look as well. Deyonté was definitely one of the bottom looks and he’s faltered in earlier challenges so overall, I was happy with the results.

Project Runway: A Leap of Innovation

A surprisingly great runway this week. Some looks appeared to be a bit hasty and pinned together, but otherwise a good show.



Kenya continues to absolutely kill it. She does unbelievably good work in a single day challenge. Even through TV, you can tell things are impeccably constructed. Hope she’s in the running for the win this week.


Brandon loved his look, and I liked the back and how it looked when still. The sleeves had an almost Hamilton the Musical quality, but that weird open front while his model walked left the overall look feeling kind of meh for me.


Michael’s look was a tad shiny but looked well done considering satin can amplify sloppy sewing.


Margarita’s dress was a great concept, to update a classic Latin dance dress, but the top didn’t look flattering on her model and overall it might be a bit too simple for the judges.


Deyonté’s look was a boring dress done poorly. I know he’ll be on the bottom and I wonder if he’s going home for it.


Amy continues to put out incredible work that approaches actual engineering. So much structure and clever ideas, it’ll be a ripoff if she’s not in the top three.


Kudzanai’s dress is an awesome concept. I love the colors and feathers remind me of New Orleans parade dresses but he needed more time to do it right. He’ll be on the bottom three for it.


I hated Claire’s work this week. It looks like a mess, terrible silhouette, hope she’s on the bottom.


Ayana’s dress is pretty forgettable. Not much to write home about. Maybe “reach for the stars” by painting stars on fabric was taking things way too literally?


As much as I hate the show’s producers love of The Twins, I actually loved Shawn’s outfit this week. It looks “dancey” but also stylish as hell and I could see the look being worn on stage.


Aaron’s piece was just plain weird. I like his concept to exaggerate aspects of the look where movement occurs, but his model didn’t strike a pose to show that aspect off. So it’s just weird.


Batani’s cape dress had some incredible color, but I really wished I could see the wings in motion as the model walked, instead of just as a static pose.


Kentaro’s top is cool but the bottom is a mess. How can someone mess up booty shorts on a beautiful model? The contrast between the top and bottom looks like he ran out of time and this could be going home material.


Samantha’s dress was incredible. Sure, she kind of made something she’d wear herself and it looks similar to her earlier work, but it definitely works for this challenge. It’s a great tough dress that can move and I can’t believe she did it in one day. Could be my absolute favorite.


Damn. My top-3 would be Kenya, Amy, and Samantha, and they were all just safe. That said, the judges’ choices were understandable and I mostly agreed with their top and bottom three picks.

I can see why Brandon won, though I hope he can find something to love every week of the competition. He hit this one out of the park because he connected with his model and the challenge and could do something in his wheelhouse. In the past, he’s struggled with other challenges.

Kentaro was lucky to not be in the bottom two. WOW, I can’t believe they cut Kudzanai over Deyonté, I guess Deyonté got to stay because of his early success. I wanted to see Kudzanai stick around to flex his muscles on other challenges, oh well.



Project Runway “Unconventional Recycling”


The second episode of the season had a lot going on. An unconventional materials challenge. A team challenge. A 5-piece collection in one day. I suppose the show runners wanted chaos because it seems like a good recipe for it in this episode.

Overall, the thing that set apart any designer was being able to craft literal recycling garbage into what appeared to be good materials. For less successful designs, those designers struggled to get a good silhouette. It was certainly difficult material to work with, but it made their models look boxy or clunky, or that they were wearing garbage.

Sidenote: I’m getting tired of designers saying that making clothes for curvy models is a challenge. If you design clothes for sale, you should be able to design for regular people. The standard NYC model isn’t a regular woman, so I don’t know how these new designers are expecting to make a living after the show is over if they can only sell clothes for six foot tall women that weigh 100lbs.


The Wabi-Sabi team collection overall had a lot of cohesion, and some of the looks were outstanding, as a couple dresses really did look as if they were transformed into leather, but a couple of the pieces still looked boxy and like plastic garbage being worn. Their looks also generally had too much embellishment, just to make them look more similar but it negated from the outfits themselves.

The Tsunami collection had less cohesion but the story was much the same. A couple good looks while the rest seemed boring or uninspired. A couple looks still appeared to be garbage bags on models.

Ballin’ on a Budget had a crazy good collection that stood out. Great colors, good fit on everyone, and cohesive, shared elements in all. I loved something about every piece, but especially Kenya’s newspaper dress, Brandon’s checker print outfit, and Ayana’s dress that looked great in motion.



Yay! They picked the right winning team.

It was a toss-up for the losing team, but I can’t disagree much with Tsunami being there, given most of their looks still looked like garbage bags.

Ayana won, and her look was amazing in motion since it had so much movement with the fringe, but at rest, the front of the garment was boring and hodge-podge looking. I loved the bottle cap back though, it was super clever. Honestly, I would have picked Batani’s outfit for the win because it looked good in motion as well as when standing. The neck piece alone was terrific, but every other aspect of it stood out as well. It was remarkable she threw away her original design and still pulled out that gem.

I disliked several of Tsunami’s looks, and I thought they had the right people at the bottom. Sentell’s look was the least transformed of any other looks, so I fully agreed on this call. It looked sloppy, and it looked like plastic. It had no structure and no silhouette. Shawn’s look was bad, but at least it was shaped to her model’s body.

That said, I’m not looking forward to more Shawn drama because she was in the bottom twice and she’ll need to overcome another crisis of confidence on the next episode.


20 Years Ago Today

One day in the Spring of 1995, just a few months before I finished my undergrad degree a friend in the student computer lab leaned over my machine and said “check this out.” He double-clicked the NCSA Mosaic icon on the desktop and showed me the World Wide Web for the first time.

It wasn’t much to see and I wasn’t impressed. I’d heard so much hype aboutThe Information Superhighway and this was… this was all there was to it? We went through a bunch of random sports news he viewed every day and none of that clicked for me. Sensing my lack of excitement, he continued. We kept looking at random sites until eventually he showed me the David Letterman Top 10 Archive and it just about blew my mind. A college student was posting whatever Top 10 list Dave used on the previous night’s show to a giant long page on their college account. As a comedy nerd I loved Letterman but couldn’t catch every episode of Dave’s show while busy with school, so I found this to be an incredible resource. I was immediately hooked when I realized it was just some kid in some random college publishing whatever they liked and I could find it and enjoy it for free, every day going forward. I was hooked.

A few months later I graduated, but I stayed at the same university to start a Master’s program. I bought my own home computer and spent every spare moment reading the web, while also working in my advisor’s lab analyzing samples. We had a lot of downtime between sample analysis, so I could surf the web while I waited for results. By that Fall, I began a new research project while continuing to devour the web in my free time. Eventually one day I figured it was time for me to be part of this—I wanted build my own web pages instead of just reading them all day. I couched this to my graduate advisor as a way of promoting our work and publications to the greater world. He’d already been dabbling in it and gave me the green light to learn how to publish our research online.

To give you an idea of how long ago this was, I went into a Waldenbooks in a mall to buy a book on HTML. I’d dabbled in Justin Hall’s Publish Yo Self section and other online how-to guides but I knew having everything from soup-to-nuts laid out in a book in front of me would be a better tool to learn from—plus I was a college student used to paying too much for books.

It was Christmas Eve, 1995, and while the store was busy, I scoured the shelves and eventually got my choices down to two books on publishing HTML. One was about writing HTML in Microsoft Word and even then I could tell it sounded like a bad idea. Instead, I grabbed Creating Your Own Netscape Pages by Andy Shafran, which covered all aspects of HTML in plain simple text and the only helper apps mentioned were a text editor called Hotdog and an image editor called Paint Shop Pro. I bought the book.

Being that I was 23 and in college, I didn’t have much money to give gifts while simultaneously being too old to get fun gifts anymore, so I had a fairly boring and uneventful Christmas at home with my parents. That night, I was having trouble getting some sleep. At around 1am, I realized I couldn’t sleepat all, and then an idea hit me like a bolt of lightning. I decided to grab the book I bought a couple days before, and read it. And not just read it, but really read it.

That night I did two unique things I’ve never repeated. I read an entire technology book cover to cover, not skipping a single page or reading anything out of order, and I read it all in one sitting, straight through, overnight.

I sat in front of my computer, opened the book at 1am, and kept reading while occasionally typing things into a text editor. I picked out images and tweaked them in Paint Shop Pro. I learned how font sizes and lists and custom bullets worked, and I wrote down everything I wanted to see on my own page. I typed up a little bio and a list of links to stuff I enjoyed. I found a web page counter and copied the appropriate code to my page. I immediately fell in love with the BLINK and HR tags and I couldn’t get enough of having giant borders on things. I was building a cool page that described what I did and liked to do, and figured the world would be impressed by my eclectic collection of links (kind of like every person in college that used the word eclectic to describe their own music collection, and how impressed everyone was supposed to be by it all).

At 7am on December 26, 1995, as the sun was ready to come up, I was finally finished with both the book and my web page, so I uploaded it to my college web server. I nervously opened up the URL in a browser and much to my surprise it worked, and it looked exactly how I pictured it would (This was one of the very few times something worked the first time). I was stoked. It was incredible—those obscure instructions I wrote down in a text editor actually made that colorful page. Holy shit, I actually made this. I finally went to sleep an hour later.

Tonight in 2015, on the anniversary of that day, I dug through tons of old hard drive backups, and the closest thing I could find was a version of that same first page from roughly 8 months after that night along with most of my personal pages from 1997 right before I bought my own domain. The copy of my homepage is linked here:

That morning I knew I’d found something incredible in learning to publish online. While I had finished a couple science degrees and was working on another, I started school as an art major and I really loved how the early Web married art and technology in ways I’d never seen before. For the first time I felt like I was using both sides of my brain simultaneously and I knew building websites would become my thing someday.

A few months later, I considered quitting my Masters program and striking out on my own to build web sites, but instead I stuck it out at school, and finished my thesis and my degree. Unsurprisingly, my first freelance gig post-graduation was building a website for my department and all its faculty, about 50 pages in all over the course of a couple months. My first real full-time job was shortly after, at an environmental engineering firm making copies, pushing pencils, and writing environmental impact reports for cellphone poles being erected all over Southern California. After years of working in a chemistry wet lab analyzing samples, I hated having a desk job doing paperwork and quickly started looking for a web design job instead, which I found at UCLA in December of 1997.

It wasn’t easy to walk away from basically seven years of college education focused on environmental science to instead start working as a web designer. But I felt it in my gut the moment I stepped into the offices of a computer group at UCLA — this was where I belonged and I needed to drop everything to come here. If I didn’t get the job I interviewed for, I would do everything to find another one like it. And it didn’t feel like quitting Science or quitting anything, but instead like moving to a place I was supposed to be all along, opening a new chapter in my life. Thankfully, I got that job and things went well there and at every other job after. Tonight, 20 years later, I can fondly remember that night with the book, and how amazed I was that first time I loaded my very own web page in a browser and it all worked correctly. Ideas from my brain down jotted down into these obscure instructions, which finally rendered on a screen for anyone in the world to see.

Today, I’m glad I got that book and stayed up all night reading it 20 years ago. Here’s to 20, 40, and hopefully 60 more years of doing the exact same thing and feeling similarly amazed by it all.

Veronica GIF so lifelike

I don’t update often here, but I feel like spending whatever small amount of Google juice is left on directing anyone searching for “Veronica GIF so lifelike” to Veronica Belmont’s excellent XOXO Festival talk where she explains how dehumanizing it has been to have a few seconds from her TV show turned into a creepy meme that has followed her around for over a decade.

It’s a great talk that really drives the point home that sometimes the Internet can be a crappy place, but on the bright side, the Internet does let people hear the rest of a story, like this one.

How to save $1,000-3,000 on any new car purchase

The Google Maps mobile app on iOS/Android has really improved in the last year or two, especially since Google acquired Waze, the crowd-sourced accident/traffic data company. Several times I’ve been using Google Maps to navigate to a spot an hour away only to have my route changed due to traffic and in at least one instance, I saw a small detour for a recent car accident save me easily 30 minutes of traffic time.

The level of detail in ever-improving maps plus the networked information about real-time accidents and traffic is something no car-based GPS navigation can come close to. If you’re car shopping, skip the navigation options entirely since the phone you already have in your pocket is more capable than anything being sold in a car today.