Friday, August 01, 2003

ACME Catalog

The Illustrated Catalog of ACME Products. Absolutely essential stuff.

Thanks to Mark Hurst for mentioning this in his Good Experience newsletter. Check out Mark's new report, Managing Incoming E-mail. It's free, though a $10 donation is requested. I haven't donated yet--since his stuff is generally excellent, I'm sure I will since I ALWAYS contribute to stuff I use, such as and Digital Web Magazine. Otherwise, they go away.
posted by lee on 08/01/03 at 10:20 AM
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Saturday, August 02, 2003

Dead Like Me & Lara Crap Tomb Raider etc. etc. etc.

We managed to remember to watch the premier of Dead Like Me in June, and have been watching it ever since. A very odd show, but excellent. It's NOT a ripoff, in any way shape or form, of Six Feet Under [snore]. It's very funny, and develops characters carefully, featuring characters who are like people you actually know. It's not religious like that horrible Touched in the Head by an Angel -- not at all. Being a Grim Reaper is a job, like being a draftee in the Army, not a calling or a mission. As I said, a very odd show, but wicked funny.

And we went to see Lara Crap 2 yesterday. It was better than the first one, and fun, but about as substantive as a puddle. Less believable than James Bond's unbelievable stunts, but cool to watch, nevertheless, especially the jump off some ionospherescraper in TaiPei or Shanghai or maybe it was Hong Kong. That was cool. I like the Kenya segment the best--the scenery was spectacular and the characters were interesting. It would be just as interesting, I think, for Lara to go off tomb raiding and puzzle solving without having to have all that drekky bad guy crap going on. The subplot was weak. But then, I keep forgetting that this is based on a videogame designed for boys. So, given that, it was pretty good. At matine prices, though.

The Hoyts Cinema in Wilton WAS our favorite place to go. Not any more. It's been heading straight to the toilet lately, disorganized, dirty, stuff broken, no adults present. Ticket prices went up, which is bad enough. The commercials got longer, which is worse. But yesterday, I had to shout to get someone to actually show up and take my money.

Then, because I'm very deaf, I tried to get a set of headphones ("assisted listening devices"). The kid behind the counter said I had to give her my driver's license to get a set. Huh? I'm going to hand over my identity for two hours to some teenager? I don't think so. So I asked for the manager, who reiterated that a driver's license was required. The last time, mind you, my library card sufficed. Not any more -- I guess there's a hot market for those crappy headsets that don't even work half the time. All the other theaters around here just hand 'em to me, or ask for my name and phone number in case I forget to turn them in. Nobody requires a driver's license, except this place. So I didn't get them, and as a result, missed some dialog. For this movie, it didn't particularly matter. But for most, it does.

And yes, I will be filing complaints -- especially since the manager, or whatever she was, was pretty rude. I THINK Hoyts is owned by Regal now, but I'll have to call them to be sure. And I have to finish figuring out where I file a complaint about their lack of compliance for accommodating the handicapped. Since when does anyone need ID to go see a movie?
posted by lee on 08/02/03 at 10:24 AM
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Tuesday, August 05, 2003

little bits

"So," my sister asked, "can Ben ride with you guys to Michigan?" Ben is my 11-year-old nephew.

"Of course, but why? Aren't you heading out there next week?"

Sister the second has been feeling more sickish than usual, she thought maybe it was still the chemo poisons or maybe just sick in general because she has no immune system left. So the thought of a fifteen-hour drive is enough to make her weep, and then to have to do it again to get back home ... she couldn't face it. But she felt horrible about Ben not getting to see Mamie and Papa Jim this year, and she knew Stanley and I are headed out that way soon, so what the hell ... He'd ride out there with us, catch a flight back home in time to start school on time (though he volunteered to miss the first week of school so he could ride back with us. Did I mention he's 11?)

So I am psyched--Ben's a good traveler and a fun kid and it will be a riot. We ordered Harry Potter 5 to listen to on the way, and Ben is looking forward to that. Plus, the icing on the cake is that both Ginger and Twitch are going too. I assured M that we'd get him to Detroit in time for his flight back to La Guardia (we'll be about 4 hours north of Detroit). All I have to do is alter our hotel reservation to two double beds instead of the queen we usually get. Easy.

It's been quite a while since I've been on a road trip with Ben. The first time, he puked all over me before we even got out of Connecticut--that was when we learned not to give him any milk products before a car trip. The next trip was listening to Raffi sing Baby Beluga oh about 300 times. And spending half the night telling silly jokes in whispers with his sister Kate, terrified that Momilla the Hun would wake up and yell at us for waking her up but having such a goofy good time we didn't REALLY care. I like being an aunt.

So, Sis said she'd call and book Ben's return ticket and call me back and let me know the details. Like within a couple of hours. Only she didn't. Which was weird.

But I did get a call from brother-in-law the next morning: M was in the hospital again. Appendicitis. I wanted to weep--I was afraid it would turn out to be something worse. But it wasn't worse--not that appendicitis is trivial, but with her Wegener's granulomatosis, it could have been much much more serious. Apparently the pain kicked in a nasty way about an hour after she hung up the phone. The docs told her that appendicitis is not uncommon for people undergoing chemotherapy: suppressed immune system plus chronic diarrhea from the chemo will often trigger it. I hadn't known that, but it make sense, I suppose.

M said the only good thing was she could tell the nurses where they could effectively inject pain meds since she was so used to injecting herself with Procrit anything they did was a piece of cake. Sort of.

She's home and recuperating and really annoyed that she got sick when there are so many things she wants to get done this week. But at least the chemo is over and hopefully the Wegener's will stay in remission forever.

And we get to spend a week with Ben--beach, walks, canoing, wandering. I'm happy about that. I wish Kate was going as well, but she'll be at soccer camp, so oh well.

On Stanley's to-do list is to learn how to play Yu Gi Oh so at least one of us knows what the hell Ben is talking about.

. . .

Stanley is the scanner here. He's got everything set up so it's not a major pain in the ass for him to do it. So, Sunday he went to scan something so I could add a picture to a website I'd built for a client last week. No big deal.

Only, when he turned on the laptop, all that could be heard was an ugly whirring sound. The hard drive on the Toshiba is toast. On the one hand, the machine is only 4.5 years old and has never been used particularly heavily. On the other hand, the machine is 4.5 years old and has been moved around a lot. Hmm. Remember when I was accused of putting water in the gas tank so we had to get a new car? Hmm ...

At any rate, we HAVE to have a laptop (or notebook, I guess they're called now). And if it was going to break, I'm glad it broke BEFORE we hit the road rather than while we were in Four-hours-to-the-nearest-mall-land, MI. So we did a quick check of prices and quickly settled on a Dell for less than $1,400. Very fast, lots of ram, cd-rw, all that stuff. And I know it'll be obsolete two weeks after we get it and Dell will probably offer the same thing for $500 less. Oh well. That bite out of the budget hurts--a very unexpected expense, yuck.

It's funny: even though I don't particularly like working on notebooks and probably won't use it nearly as much as I hope Stanley does, I want to have it already. But we have to wait quite a while for it, damn it. I guess I just want to see what it's like working on a 2.2GHz machine. And to test drive XP. And it's going to be nice having such a huge hard drive so we can put everything we need on it rather than just the bare minimum.

But $1,400 hurts. A lot.
posted by lee on 08/05/03 at 11:51 PM
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Thursday, August 07, 2003

just two

One: is a very interesting place to poke around. Definitely not your typical blog layout for his "Publick Journal."

Two: Cats have 48 whiskers.
posted by lee on 08/07/03 at 03:21 PM
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Tuesday, August 12, 2003

yes, the RIAA is being stupid about song theft, but ...

Theft is theft. Songs are intellectual property, just as are software programs, websites, photographs, artworks, books, broadcasts, and product designs. Downloading a song off the Internet that is not freely offered by the artist or the producer is theft--no two ways about it, no shades of gray.

And it's quite refreshing to see a university newspaper actually acknowledge this: Oregon Daily Emerald - Editorial staff shakes ass to downloads

... Some of us will admit that file sharing is theft but will quickly counter that it's OK. The recording industry is, after all, evil. Musical stars, too, have quite enough money, so they don't mind. Maybe the best one, though, is the argument that the Internet is here for the expression of free thought -- and by all means MP3s certainly fit that criterion.

Perhaps the recording industry is malicious. Today, don't you almost feel lucky to pick up a CD on sale for $14.99? After all, the suggested retail price seems to linger somewhere around $18.

Conversely, record sales are declining. Many say this slump has nothing to do with online trading; it's purely happenchance. Equally as coincidental as, say, Milli Vanilli losing all respectability after being shown for what they really were: two lookers with locks who couldn't sing a lick (but they sure could dance).

What college students don't understand is that downloading songs off the Internet is the same as walking into the local record store and lifting a couple of CDs. Music is intellectual property, and taking it without paying for it is theft. Yeah, maybe rock stars have a lot of money, but they damn well deserve it, as does anyone who makes and sells something ...

Since the targets of the RIAA subpoenas are engaging in an illegal activity, they have no more right to privacy than an idiot downloading and/or distributing kiddie porn or a cracker downloading or distributing pirated software. And the ISPs SHOULD turn over the names of thieves--but only after the sort of due process that any other information seeker would have to undergo. Blanket subpoenas issued via one court, signed off by a clerk and not a judge, outside of the jurisdiction of the ISP, is NOT the usual procedure.

So the RIAA should continue its assault on piracy, but it should follow the traditional rules. The ISPs are right to object to honoring subpoenas from outside courts.

This whole thing isn't about whether the RIAA is the Bad Guy going after the Innocent Student. It's about an industry going after thieves.

The RIAA could probably figure out a better way to do it, or a more-effective way to do it, but I don't know what that would be. Probably a public awareness campaign that isn't so blatantly stupid people tune it out.

Maybe the artists most affected could do something--if they care.

Maybe the RIAA should consider getting involved in digital distribution in ways that make it affordable and more attractive to those who would spend an hour looking for a song for free rather than paying $15 for a CD with 11 songs they don't want.

There must be a better way (given that it's probably too late to instill a sense of integrity in those who would steal songs and then rationalize that it was okay)--I just don't know what it is.
posted by lee on 08/12/03 at 12:42 PM
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Friday, August 15, 2003

admitted i was powerless ...

Thousands of CT residents without power

NORWALK - More than 34,000 Connecticut residents are waking up without power Friday morning, following what's being described as the largest blackout in U.S. history.

Fortunately, we got our power back last night in time to watch the news, where we were told that although the power was back on, it wasn't fully restored so please please please don't use a lot of it. So we didn't. So it's not our fault that another transmission line into CT went down again this morning about 6am. Honest.

We haven't turned the a/c back on. At least it's a little more bearable, weatherwise, today.

I didn't mind being off the net so much -- though I really really wanted to watch the news on TV! The radio was fine, though NPR kept doing these reports on stupid stuff instead of devoting full coverage to the blackout. They're limited that way. I can't tell you about one single thing covered on All Things Considered or even Marketplace from yesterday evening, even though I listened to it all.

It was kind of interesting having actual conversations again. Alice came over to find out what was going on because she couldn't find her portable radio, and we (Stanley, Alice, and I) just talked for a couple of hours. Then we sent her home with a flashlight and a little portable radio we had, walked the dog (we could see the Milky Way!), had ham sandwiches, and, um, retired for the evening.

Yesterday, after the blackout hit, we thought somebody crashed into a utility pole or something and knocked the power out locally. Which happens once in a while. So we were going to head to WalMart or Staples to get a bag for our new laptop (we did not get the Dell. We got a Toshiba Satellite P25 instead) and maybe the power would be back on by the time we got home so we could finish working. And we heard LOTS of sirens and saw cops galore speeding toward the Post Road, so we assumed they were in a hurry to direct traffic. (Turns out that there was a bank robbery on the Post Road!! But we don't know the details yet since our local newspaper, The Norwalk Hour, is a joke.)

Then Stanley fished out the portable radio and we heard the big news. So I guessed WalMart was out of the question. Then Mom called from Michigan (the unaffected part) to ask if we were ok--THEY got to watch it on the TV NEWS!!

So the only people in my family that escaped the blackout were the Boston-area contingent and my parents. Family that lives in Ann Arbor, Dearborn Heights, Wyandotte, and Brownstown Michigan were all without power -- and I think still without power. The Ann Arbor branch headed up to my parent's house, so they're OK. I have no idea how everyone else is faring. Probably Wyandotte is OK since that town generates its own electricity and is, except for a couple of lines, off the grid. From what I can gather, the main problem is water since the pumping stations failed. I'm surprised there aren't back-up generators at the pumping stations since water is pretty crucial during any disaster. Very strange.

My favorite "Wha' happened?" theories: hackers did it or the blaster worm got into the computers and shut 'em all down.

What horrified Stanley and I the most was the thought of those poor people being stuck on those extreme roller coasters at Cedar Point in Ohio. Spending a few hours hanging 200 feet in the air ...

On the day it was supposed to ship our new Inspiron, Dell let us know there would be a delay -- like two weeks. Putting delivery well past our departure date. Why the delay? THEY RAN OUT OF HARD DRIVES. Stanley was really steamed -- why couldn't they have let us know sooner? So we canceled the order. Headed to Circuit City the next day and this lunatic salesperson sold us on a Toshiba Satellite P25 -- more expensive than planned, but also a very cool machine. A 17" monitor. Definitely a "desktop replacement" machine rather than a notebook. But we can put absolutely everything we need on it. And it came with XP Pro, so that saved us the $180 we'd have to spend to upgrade one of the other machines, so ultimately, we didn't spend a WHOLE lot more than we'd planned ... yeah, that's right.

What I like best about it are the blue LEDs. So alight, that's totally stupid. I haven't really had a chance to put it through its paces yet since it's still being set up (Stanley wants it done properly), but I'm almost reluctant to since I can easily get addicted to the speed and begin to hate my very decent desktop machine.

How does a computer manufacturer run out of hard drives?
posted by lee on 08/15/03 at 01:54 PM
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Tuesday, August 19, 2003

it’s for real—I won money for filling out a survey

Sometimes I fill out surveys, sometimes I don't. Usually, if it's for a site or service I actually use a lot, I do, especially if I think the site or service sucks or if I think it's really excellent. I'm a sociologist by training, so sometimes I take the survey just because I'm interested in the construction of it, how questions are asked, how many different ways the same question is asked. One of my favorite grad school classes was all about polling and survey techniques.

Nearly every online poll offers the chance to win a bit of dinero if your email address is drawn out of a hat after the survey was complete. But I never, ever even remotely thought that I, or anyone I know or anyone they know would ever win one of the prizes. So I was pretty surprised a few weeks ago when I got a message from Dynamic Logic telling me that I was one of the winners, would I please respond with my snail mail address, etc. I didn't really believe it except that I checked out the company and it is a legit marketing research company, so what the hell -- I sent in my address.

I got the check in today's mail. A few bucks I didn't expect just before we hit the road for vacation--YAY!

I, of course, have no idea which survey I took to merit this bit of spending money. All I can say is if you're asked to do a survey by Dynamic Logic, they're legit and actually pay pretty quickly when you win.

Why all the fuss? I've been spending time working on the spam filter on our webserver, and it gets extremely depressing after a while to see bogus crap over and over and over. The cretins who dump this stuff don't even have the imagination to create different pictures or layouts. So I was in a pretty bad mood when the mail arrived, and it reminded me that there are actually more legitimate businesses on the net than spam-spewing morons.

Speaking of spam--I've found that I'm getting close to blocking entire nations, such as South Korea, China, Taiwan, Germany, Denmark ... South Korea seems to be the worst spam conduit of them all. And I've noticed disproportionate numbers of spammers use GoDaddy in some way, maybe to register domains or host, I don't know what. Comcast is another big conduit, or they're awfully easy to spoof. Something.

Ok, I've taken a long enough break -- back to spam filtering ...
posted by lee on 08/19/03 at 10:34 AM
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Wednesday, August 20, 2003

i wanna win browsercam for a year

Well, I'm not really sure what the point of Blogstakes is. It's contest, where you win things. Like a year-long subscription to BrowserCam. Which is what I would like, so click this link please please please: Win Free BrowserCam for a Year. Oh, yeah, if you win, I win. That much I did figure out.

This is Brian Alvey's creation. I think it's a hell of a great way to get your site know and I hope it succeeds wildly.

Blogstatkes launched with two contests: besides the BrowserCam subscription, the other one is for a Clip n Seal Party Pack. If you want to try to win it, then click the link. I wouldn't mind winning it, but I'd rather have the BrowserCam subscription ...

So I could experiment with Google AdSense. You can click on those links (in the right column), too, though you won't win anything (except information), but I get a fraction of a penny per click or something like that. I'm not sure about that either. I did it to find out what it's all about.

time to hit the road. Yep, I sorely need this vacation, yes indeed. I can't wait to see Mom and Dad! Yay!
posted by lee on 08/20/03 at 05:34 PM
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Thursday, August 21, 2003

to add to my almost daily reading list

Entrepreneur and web designer(s?) out Seattle way: texturadesign - dreeping in the rain. Makers of the soon- to- be- considered- essential Clip-n-Seal. (Get yours today!)
posted by lee on 08/21/03 at 08:19 AM
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Monday, August 25, 2003

so happy

We had the new Harry Potter to listen to (all 23 disks), beautiful, clear weather, no traffic (we completely bypassed New Jersey by going up to I-84 and taking that to Scranton, then 81 down to pick up 80) ... getting here was actually a pleasure this year. It took 7.45 hours from Norwalk, CT to just past Youngstown, OH. The Super 8 in Austintown, OH, was just fine -- we'll stay there again. Then, seven hours later, we were in Oscoda, MI. Ben and the creatures are all good travelers (well, the cat can be pretty noisy when we start out), so it was a fun trip.

It is so good to see Mom and Dad. Today is Mom's birthday. This afternoon, we'll take Ben shopping for Mamie's bd present and then go to the beach. Nice.

I don't even mind being on dial-up.
posted by lee on 08/25/03 at 10:15 AM
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