Thursday, July 31, 2003

utterly beautiful day ...

The temperature was perfect, the humidity low, the dewpoint was low, not a cloud in the sky, a perfect breeze. One of those perfect summer days when it's a sin to be indoors.

I was perfectly willing to spend the entire day outside, working in the garden, or doing nada, playing with the dog. But ... the school that's right next door to us is getting a new roof. So the entire neighborhood is redolent of tar. Ah shit. So I worked instead.
posted by lee on 07/31/03 at 07:12 PM

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Sunday, July 27, 2003

Northfork: great movie or bullshit?

We went to see Northfork this afternoon. I'm not sure what I think of it. The acting is superb. The cinemtography is unbelievably good. Nick Nolte was outstanding as Father Harlan.

But I don't see the point of the movie. It's as if it's some kind of joke that I'm not privy to. Or maybe the point is there is no point to it. It's as if whichever Polish brother wrote it had some kind of hallucination, wrote it down, and then they filmed it -- it makes that little sense. They don't provide enough depth for any character to make you care for any of them -- not even the dying orphan. I dunno -- maybe something will click as I think about the movie, and I'll realize that it really is about something. But then again, maybe it wasn't about anything. It was wonderful to watch the actors, and it was filmed magnificently, but it was also extremely irritating because there was no point to anything. I've never been in to watching someone else's trip. The verdict is still out for me.

Friday evening we went to see Pirates of the Caribbean etc. That was fun--Pirates was never meant to be anything but an adventure. The only things I didn't like about it was the mascara smeared underneath Jack Swallow's eyes (what was that all about? It made Depp look like a drag queen rather than a pirate) and the fact that the dialog was so muted in spots that nobody could understand what was being said. Neither Stanley nor I quite understood some of the plot points -- maybe they mumbled through those scenes because there are no real plot points to explain things such as why only William's blood would do to lift the curse. But what can you expect of a movie based on an amusement park ride? It was fun, at any rate.

Which brings me to a beef. Hoyts Wilton raised the ticket price to $9.00. Yep, that's NINE BUCKS. Now, I wouldn't care so much except for the freaking 20 minutes of stupid ass commercials we're forced to sit through before the movie begins. Really offensive commercials at that. Isn't there a lawsuit about that going on somewhere? I wonder how it's progressing and if they're looking for more people to join it?
posted by lee on 07/27/03 at 06:34 PM

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a site for the soul

I found ArtsJournal: Daily Arts News courtesy of an Edward Tufte comment in his ASK E.T. "column."

ArtsJournal has a link to an article about the 15th Edition of the Chicago Manual of Style, which is now available. The article was in The Chronicle of Higher Education, which mentioned that the Manual has it's own website (though did not provide a link to it).

The 15th edition has a lot to say about citing web references, and rules for usage related to sources found on the Internet. Yay! You can buy it via that website for the measly sum of $55, or you can get it via Amazon for $38.50.

And this all came about because I was reading an article on Boxes and Arrows (linked to the right) about information design. Not a very good article -- don't bother unless you're curious.
posted by lee on 07/27/03 at 12:35 PM

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Saturday, July 26, 2003

Liebermouth:
a new kind of Democrat—the Republican kind

Lieberman, a Republican in Democrat clothing. A fascinating look at his platform. Here are some examples:

Issue: He wanted to blast Iraq into the stone age before GW was even elected

Isn't this great? If we'd invaded Iraq 5 years ago, like I suggested, we'd only have 10 to 15 more years of occupation left. By now, we'd have lost many hundreds of soldiers to hostile forces, killed thousands, violated the human rights of millions, and lit an eternal flame of hatred for the west in the hearts of an entire generation of Iraqis.

Now we'll be lucky to reap the benefits of our invasion by 2010.If I'm elected, I promise that delays like this will be a thing of the past.


Issue: Protecting Our Children From Violence

Standing up to evil. Every day. I'm known around Washington as the conscience of the Senate, and I'm proud of that title. I believe that morals are important, which is why I'm always starting some new initiative with William Bennett or Jesse Helms. I've taken strong stands against imaginary violence and fictional representations of crime in video games, and when it comes to fake debauchery, there's no greater opponent on the Hill.

But real violence? I can't get enough. I was calling for an unprovoked attack on Iraq long before George W. came on the scene, and if you're looking for support for another overpriced and unnecessary piece of military hardware, just show me where to sign. Of course, it helps if some of that hardware is manufactured in my home state. In fact, it helps a lot.


Issue How do we handle North Korea?:

We're surrounded. There's no escaping the fact that our enemies are everywhere. And the proper response to such a situation is blind panic, which is why I was one of the first Democrats to sign on to the Missile Defense Shield. Today, I'm happy to stand by our President as he pushes for even more money for military contractors, many of whom happen to have facilities in my own home state.

If you listen to scientists you'll hear lots of big phrases like "infeasible," "defies the laws of physics," and "only a moron would believe such a thing could work." But I have faith that the small, highly-paid group of military contractors, who so far have been unable to get this system to pass any realistic test, will soon produce a system with magical powers to protect our homeland from the military equipment that we sold to our former allies in the 70s and 80s.


I don't know who's behind this site--whois lists a couple of people from Madison, WI. If I knew who was really behind it, I'd make a donation to keep the site going.

At any rate, the site is well done and clever. And it heartens me to see that more and more people are starting to see Lieberman for what he is. When he ran for re-election in the Senate at the same time he was running for VP, I realized what a bullshit artist he is (too bad my fellow Nutmeggers didn't see it as well). It demonstrated how little faith he had in the presidential campaign -- maybe if he would've put all of his effort into the presidential campaign instead of two-timing Gore, the outcome might have been different. Or maybe he knew in advance what the outcome was going to be--and wanted to make sure he still had a job come January. I've never been much for conspiracy theories--but events since 2000 have made me wonder.

But I digress. Just go poke around this site--it's fun in a queasy kind of way.
posted by lee on 07/26/03 at 10:56 AM

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Friday, July 25, 2003

kinda creepy

Time Tales is "a collection of found photographs. found at fleamarkets, thriftshops, some are scooped up from streets and alleyways, fallen from an overstuffed bag or torn pocket. others turn up in a cabinets hidden compartment, found while wandering the rooms of an abandoned house ... " They even take submissions. It's fascinating in a creepy sort of way.

Odds & Ends
Over the past couple of days, I managed to get a LOT of odds and ends done. You know, the kind of stuff that needs to be done, yet somehow piles up until tackling the pile seems daunting. Things like billing and bookkeeping and fixing links and answering questions. I managed to reduce the height of the [virtual] pile considerably. Though the nature of the tasks are such that even though I cleared up a lot of stuff, I still don't feel as though I got a lot accomplished. Maybe because the stack isn't completely gone.

My goal is to have no piles at all by August 20. No work pile or house pile or garden pile. I've never quite managed it before, getting stuff cleared away before going on vacation. I'll print out my to-do lists ... tomorrow. Meanwhile, we're going to go see Pirates of the Caribbean this evening -- only because Depp is in it. We'll go see Northfork at the local art house tomorrow or Sunday, and get Lara Crap Tomb Raider 2 in at some point (matinҩe, as in cheaper, I hope).
posted by lee on 07/25/03 at 03:44 PM

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Wednesday, July 23, 2003

things that are bugging me right now

Why did Jessica Lynch receive a Bronze Star? I can understand her Purple Heart and the POW medals (which I'm sure most soldiers would rather not be eligible for), but a Bronze Star? Nothing I've seen has indicated WHY she got a Bronze Star. Seems to devalue the medal, to award it for no reason. Unless they're now giving it away to anyone who goes along with the Pentagon bullshit machine.

Why do certain charities spend so much money on paper? I signed up for Working Assets long distance because some percentage goes toward causes I support. But I've been inundated with paper from them. Lots and lots of paper, mainly trying to get me to get others to join or offering books or other crap I will never order. Why can't they just save a few trees and make all this stuff downloadable or something, and put the stamp/printing money toward one of those causes they brag about supporting?

But worse than Working Assets is Amnesty International. I gave them $20. And I've been rewarded with an avalanche of dead trees -- most begging for more money or printing the crappy glossy magazine that I doubt anyone ever reads. I don't want this shit -- I want my $20 to help someone who needs help. If I could have afforded more, I would've donated more to begin with -- stop bugging me! If I'd had any idea that the $20 I donated would be spent setting the begging machine in motion, I would've sent it to UNICEF or to a soup kitchen. That's where my next donation is going to go, I think, to a soup kitchen. Or I'll just go buy some crap I don't really need at the Goodwill.

And last, though certainly not least, is our mayor, Alex Knopf (Norwalk, CT). Who ran on and was elected for just two issues: traffic and taxes. Since he was elected, traffic has gotten worse, not better. Money has been spent on studies, but we haven't seen any enforcement of the bloody existing traffic regulations here on Strawberry Hill Avenue. Traffic has gotten even heavier and faster than ever and nobody seems to know the rules for driving on a one-lane road. This is the ONLY thing that has been done to attempt to deal with traffic (it was posted in front of Nathan Hale Middle School, our next-door neighbor):

sign.jpg


Aside from the idiotic grammatical error (they took down the sign and painted out the "Your" since this photo was taken), what is the point of this sign? It is always flashing except when the light is red. How much did these stupid signs cost? Why can't they just put up stop signs at Tierney and Strawberry Hill Avenue, which would cut the speeding down considerably? Why do the freaking city buses make the signs flash like crazy?

Taxes: Knopf said he'd do something about taxes. So what happened? Of course: our tax bill went UP. He claimed the sewer tax wouldn't increase our tax bill. Yeah, right -- so why did it? So are we better off with Knopf as mayor than we were with Emperor Esposito as mayor? Not that I can see. How many of the big boxes lining the Post Road and Main Street are paying enough in taxes to justify the huge burdens they impose on the city infrastructure? Bet the amount hasn't gone up even one point since the previous administration opened the door for them.

There are more things bugging me, but this is enough for now.

I really, really can't wait until we go to Michigan. We leave in exactly one month.
posted by lee on 07/23/03 at 07:30 PM

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Monday, July 21, 2003

phishing

Look-alike e-mail scams on the rise (This is on MSNBC.com -- I have no idea if it will work after July 21.)

THE E-MAIL MAY HAVE A FEW corporate logos and links back to the real company site. It may even urge recipients to click on a link which looks authentic. But the link really sends the victim to a criminals Web page, and a few clicks later, the victimҒs personal data has slipped into the hands of an identity thief.

Its called ғphishing, and while itԒs been around for years, authorities say theres been a huge spike in these crimes of late, so large a spike that itҒs drawn the attention of federal authorities. The FBI, Federal Trade Commission, the National Consumers League and Earthlink held a joint press conference in Washington on Monday to call attention to the problem.

This is the hot new fad amongst online con artists trying to pry money out of peopleӒs wallets, said FBI spokesman Bill Murray. ԓThe first line of defense is with the consumer. The consumer has to be savvy.


This is the first actual mainstream news story I've noticed about this particular scam. I've gotten lots and lots of these emails over the last year or two -- mostly asking for PayPal information. I never knew it was called phishing, though. Catchy name.

The FTC actually has a website devoted to identity theft: ways to avoid it, what to do if you're ripped off, other stuff. It's worth the refresher course if you know this stuff, but it's definitely a must-see if identity theft is new concept to you.
posted by lee on 07/21/03 at 02:18 PM

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Sunday, July 20, 2003

spam filter

Our new webserver comes with a handy-dandy spam filter so we can filter out spam at the root level. Stanley says email that meets the criterion in the spam filter gets sent to the black hole, which is an actual destination. I've spent some time yesterday and today putting domains, IP numbers, and email addresses into the spam filter. I don't know how well it will work, but I sure hope it cuts down on some of it. The bulk of spam still comes from a set of five or six domains, none of which I can filter out since colleagues, friends, and relatives use them: yahoo.com, aol.com, hotmail.com, msn.com, earthlink.net, a few others. I wish people would at least get real email addresses via their isp -- that way, if enough people just turn off the yahoo.com spigot, say, it should cut down on a load of spam. Why do people use these, anyway? Even our attorney uses hotmail, so I can't turn hotmail off since the new server doesn't provide a way of, say, blocking all of hotmail except the maybe two hotmail addresses that anyone on any of the 60 or so sites on our server needs.

MEANWHILE ... WE'RE PLANNING OUR VACATION
We decided that we're taking our vacation from August 22 to return September 10. The return date is still tentative -- we don't HAVE to be back by then, at least not that we know of right now.

Besides going to Oscoda, Michigan, we plan to get to Petoskey, MI and the wild coastline along Lake Michigan between Cross Village and the Mackinac Bridge. I can't wait -- I am so so so SO ready for a vacation and seeing Mom and Dad and the dog needs to go swimming and to run like crazy far away from the self-absorbed assholes of Fairfield County, CT. (Yes, I do need a vacation, yes indeed.)
posted by lee on 07/20/03 at 01:57 PM

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Thursday, July 17, 2003

we’re moved and all is almost well

Movable Type is not easy. It used to be, but isn't any more. But that's okay, we got everything moved and, with the exception of one bloody blog I still have to set up, everything seems to be working just fine in blogland.

So far, I am really happy with our spiffy new NetSonic webserver. I have no idea what the actual hardware is since Netsonic custom-builds their boxes. But I'm happy. Things seem to be working just swell, and the one or two buggy things we ran into early on and learned the fixes. One thing about NetSonic: tech support is awesome. Bleau is god. I killed the Interland server last night--I wish we had done it sooner. All that remains is getting two site owners to change their nameservers.

I've had a terrible time getting things done today. I think it's pretty much fallout from finishing several big projects right in a row. Or maybe mid-July-how-long-until-our-vacation ennui. I have about eight solid hours of work to do on: spit-polishing one redesign and sending them the bill; finishing two alternative home page layouts for another; updating one site I love; working on another site I'm beginning to love; and rescuing a good site from the hacks made on it by a now-gone marcom "manager." Oh, plus finishing the infopulsellc.com redesign. And adding two new designs/redesigns to our portfolio. And adding in the new ebook to puppetpress.com. All things I want to complete before starting on our next project(s), which I'm getting very antsy to begin. I think they'll be interesting.

At any rate, all of the tasks on my plate are things I like to do. So why can't I just breeze through them, and get them over with?

TABLELESS DESIGN--WHY?
I've been trying catch up on all the web world stuff I've been too busy to pay attention to. It was kind of a few rounds of returning to old haunts over the past couple of days. Mainly because we finished building a big site.

I wanted to make it a standards-compliant site, not use tables, blah blah blah. It didn't quite work out that way. For one thing, there is no way the site design (visual design, I mean) could be handled without a table. The three columns have to be of equal length, and the left column has an image at the bottom. I searched and searched and read Meyer's stuff and Schmitt's stuff, but nowhere could I find how to make the classic three-columns-of-equal-height layout just using divs. Not when part of the column is empty. If I'm wrong, somebody please let me know.

Then, yesterday and today, I got to thinking: WHY is it such a holy grail to make a webpage without using tables? None of my clients give a rat's ass about being able to display their website on a blackberry or a palm or even a cellphone. And tables without all the style markup stuff aren't bloated. And if you do it right, but having separate tables for the header, content, and footer, the pages load very fast. SO WHAT IS THE FRELLING ADVANTAGE to TABLELESS DESIGN? Convince me.

SAME OLD SAME OLD
I also spent some time on Digital Web and Boxes and Arrows. I can't quite figure out why Digital Web is so hard to read. Maybe it has something to do with excessive navel-gazing. For example, the first article in the TOC is "An interview with Brad Smith." Now, Brad might be a mighty okay guy, and he might be god's gift to the web world. but it would be nice to see at least a little summary of why this person is being interviewed BEFORE we get into what he did when he was 16 years old. I know most of the names of the self-appointed weberati, but who cares enough to remember them all? Give me a reason for wanting to read the interview, Nick!

Boxes and Arrows: sometimes I find useful stuff here. Many times it's obvious stuff being pummeled into inflated and dense language that's designed to make it looks like there's a there there as far an information architecture for the web goes. I've yet to see a coherent definition of it. All I can figure out is that, as far as the web goes, it's a way to organize a website so that things can be found. Uh oh, finding things is wayfinding, not IA. Okay, a way to make it easy to use websites. Nope, that's usability ... Okay, so IA is a way to organize stuff. Just that. I think. Though I always thought that organization needed a purpose. Otherwise, it's just neurotic. But maybe I'm missing the point. Will someone enlighten me? (Use simple words, please.)

I think I need a vacation right now. Or at least to get more than four hours of sleep.
posted by lee on 07/17/03 at 06:16 PM

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Friday, July 11, 2003

go see 28 days later

Before it goes away. I haven't been that scared watching a movie for a long time. Maybe I'll write more later when I'm not so sleepy.

www.netkey.com, the project that's been consuming our lives for the past three or four weeks, has launched. Now I get to sleep in tomorrow! (I think.) More about this tomorrow, too. Or Sunday -- maybe I won't wake up until Sunday ... nah, the dog would get pretty upset.
posted by lee on 07/11/03 at 10:41 PM

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