May 30, 2002
Another spam rant

E-Commerce News: Fed Up with Spammers. It has a bunch of spamblaster programs listed that I hadn't heard of, such as MailWasher. Meanwhile, Yahoo continues to be the biggest conduit of spam into my emailbox. I faithfully send off each and every piece of Yahoo-sent spam to, though it doesn't seem to work very well. Wasn't Yahoo going to start charging for an emailbox there? I wonder if that'll help lighten the spam load?

Posted by Lee at 03:59 PM | Comments (0)
May 27, 2002
boobs in terroristland

Thanks for the Heads-Up by Frank Rich, New York Times, May 25, 2002 (registration required, but it's free).

Rich asks, "With all the talent in this country and all that's at stake, is this the best we can muster?"

Watching "our" Administration try to deal with terrorism would be as funny as watching the Keystone Kops if the consequences weren't so deadly.

A snippet of Rich's column:
"We are the richest, most can-do country in the world, but at home we're pursuing the war on terrorism with a management style that's pure Kmart. Back in October Mr. Bush declared that his new director of homeland security, Tom Ridge, in charge of coordinating some 70 federal agencies and countless local ones, would "have the full attention and complete support of the very highest levels of our government." Nine months later, Mr. Ridge has neither. What he does have is a new, less-than-high-tech headquarters, with an aboveground Washington address that can be taken out simultaneously with the White House.

"The nation's nuclear plants are vulnerable from the air. Its borders are porous to malevolent visitors and matériel (only 2 percent of incoming ship cargo is inspected). The anthrax manhunt is stalled and there has been scant progress in the supposed push to bring local hospitals up to speed in identifying and countering bioterrorism. The I.N.S.'s failure to coordinate with the Social Security Administration, The Times' Robert Pear reports, is still allowing tens of thousands of foreigners to secure illegal Social Security numbers and concoct the fake identities that proved so useful to some of the Sept. 11 hijackers.

"Remember Argenbright, the rent-a-guard company that was found to have employed convicts and illegal aliens to enforce airport security? It's still manning the fort in five major airports, from Orlando to O'Hare, where it no doubt continues to do a crack job of strip-searching little old ladies. This week USA Today reported that the new Transportation Security Administration has failed to fix the known security flaws that could allow the easy planting of bombs in the virtually unscreened cargo on passenger jets; the paper also found evidence that the same agency is cutting back on marksmanship training for the federal air marshals it is hiring to do the shooting it prohibits for pilots. As for the airport bomb-detecting machines mandated by Congress, The Wall Street Journal finds 190 in place, with a mere 1,100 still to go."


This was picked up while checking out the net chatter (looking for those imminent attacks):

From: To: so it's goin' pretty well, dad. Lot of Germans in the street with signs sayin' somethin' about "COWBOY" and "TOD". Don't know him, but sounds a good man. Afterwards Jacques and Gerhard and the Belgian foreign minister guy say, c'mon, let's grab a little lunch at the EU cafeteria, and I'm at the table lookin' at the menu and this big ol' French waiter dude says, "Oui, monsieur?" An' I'm thinkin', well, now's my chance to be all multilateral, so I say, "Qu'est-ce que c'est la soupe du jour?" And the Belgian foreign minister guy goes, "It means 'soup of the day', idiot." Which I thought was pretty funny for a Belgian, and I was about to say, "Hey, they should get you for Austin Powers III", but instead Jacques yells, "Mer de Crete, tiens!", which Condi's interpreter helpfully translates for me, "Sea of Crete, hey!" An' I'm thinkin', what's the deal with that? Flippin' through the ol' mental Rolodex an' comin' up blank, pop. But I tell Jacques, "Yeah, Crete. Could get messy there, Landslide. Got Colin keepin' an eye on things..."

Your can find the original at Daily Telegraph Opinion. (If this link doesn't work, go to the Daily Telegraph's site and look for the article titled "Bush makes an impact in Europe" By Mark Steyn, May 25, 2002.)

I think it might be funnier if it weren't punctuated correctly.


busterspin.jpgThis logo certainly inspries confidence in the CIA. I got this image off the CIA's website. I kid you not. Does anyone actually use it? Do CIA operatives have jumpsuits with this logo emblazoned on the back? Did we pay for this logo, or is this just a doodle some bored CIA hack came up with? Is that what this so-called war on terrorism is, some kind of cartoon joke? What has the CIA done to earn its billions lately? (Or even ever.) I want to know what I'm paying for.

Posted by Lee at 12:02 PM | Comments (0)
May 26, 2002
my new hero

Kitten.gifSonya has replaced Miss Cleo in my pantheon of heros. Miss Cleo only dealt with people.

Sonya, however, deals with ANIMALS! For just $300, she'll spend an hour on the phone telling you what Fluffy and Fido and even your fish or geckos are trying to tell you. It's so amazing - Miss Cleo could only speak English and this strange English dialect that was supposed to sound Jamaican. But Sonya, SONYA!, can speak hundreds of animal languages!

Sonya's website is SO informative, providing ALL KINDS of information on how to buy her books and videos and schedule a consultation, er, reading. Or where to go for a seminar (just $55!!) Well, no, there's no information about animals or possible pet problems and what to do with them or, well, nothing at all about where to find info for helping pets ... but there are the details, twice, on when to watch her on Animal Planet.

As Stanley wrote when he sent me Sonya's link, "we're in the wrong business."

Posted by Lee at 02:25 PM | Comments (0)
Euro View of Shrub's desired attack on that axis of evil member Iraq

Don't wag your finger at us, Mr Bush, where "Henry Porter, a proud friend of America, reluctantly concludes that the President must listen more and lecture less if he is to win Europe's support."

"The President's lecture tour of Europe and Russia reminds us how little experience he has of foreign affairs and how recent is his discovery of the history and complexities of issues which have been unquestionably better covered and probably better understood in Europe than in the US. As if to underline this point, the US Joint Chiefs of Staff have used the Commander-in-Chief's absence from Washington to reveal their deep concerns about any attack on Iraq.

"Europe may have its faults, as Bush and Colin Powell reminded us last week, but whatever our weaknesses of coordination, resolution and principle, it still seems mightily rich of Bush to expect us to go along with a policy General Tommy Franks, head of US Central Command, said would require at least 200,000 US troops and result in large casualties. "


"What Americans - currently in a more edgy and defensive mood than I can ever remember - do not recognise is that the vast majority of Europeans are not at base anti-American. It's just that we require more in the way of solid reasoning and debate if we are to support serial campaigns against the members of the 'axis of evil' - an awkward phrase which was, incidentally, chosen by the great wordsmith himself. The American attitude to Iraq, for instance, seems to Europeans to be utterly baffling. While Bush instructs his commanders to consider the options for attack, on the grounds that Saddam has built a vast stockpile of biological, chemical and radiological - if not nuclear - weapons, (an arsenal which is probably less dangerous than Pakistan's, incidentally), his administration does everything to undermine the freely elected opposition, the Iraqi National Congress."

Posted by Lee at 02:02 PM | Comments (0)
Old Time Radio webcaster

OTRNow - play those old-time radio broadcast shows like Dragnet. Clicking "Jive" gets you to Glenn Miller, Freddy Duchin, and more.

Posted by Lee at 01:50 PM | Comments (0)
May 25, 2002
the emperor has no clothes

Note: go to the original column (linked below) to check out Morford's hyperlinks -- they're worth checking out.

Evildoers In The Hood / Another batch of fresh terrorist warnings from the government, and you without your skepticism

by Mark Morford, "Notes & Errata" colum of May 24, 2002

The evildoers are coming. Again.

No really, they are. This time we really mean it. Those last 17 times we only partially meant it but this time we really really mean it and look even pallid and barely animate VP Cheney is muttering through the scary side of his disquieting mouth that fresh terrorist attacks on the US are "almost a certainty."

And you know he'd never lie about a thing like that, because he's too honest and pure and despite all contrary evidence doesn't actually adore war like Oprah adores cheesecake.

And look here's the FBI again, popping up like some sort of agitated gopher, saying very sorry but it simply won't be able to prevent any nutjob suicidal religious fanatics from strapping C-4 to their chests and blowing up a crowded Starbucks in downtown Chicago or maybe Seattle or maybe right down the street from where you live, and isn't that horrible and aren't you just terribly scared good now please hush up and stop asking questions.

This is the pattern. This is the message. Like some horrible clockwork they come, fresh terrorist attack warnings from the Bush administration or possibly a stern-faced government security agency, paced out every month or so just so you don't get too complacent, too wary, too, you know, suspicious.

Just so you don't possibly become a little too skeptical and maybe start looking around and noticing you seem to have misplaced a great many of your civil liberties and maybe your healthy cautious patriotism not to mention all those nail clippers at the airport and hey, aren't we still bombing the hell out of Afghanistan every day, nonstop, costing millions per diem? Is there anything even left over there?

And by the way, when's that huge government investment in alternative energy and fuels coming to get us away from our hate-inducing oil gluttony in the first place? Whoops, sorry. Bad question. Shhh.

Even the media is becoming skeptical. Even the toe-the-line, bandwagon-ready, not-nearly-as-liberal-as-you-think major media outlets from ABC to awfully coifed MSNBC have begun to look askance at the recent rash of warnings, unable to avoid the glaring coincidences that said divinations just happen to be shrieked right when lawmakers and the populace at large are beginning to question the war and just what Bush & Co. might've known about the pre-9/11 terrorist threat.

How dare you ask such questions in a sensitive patriotic warmongering time like this, mutters a grumpled and wan Cheney, as Rumsfeld stands behind him, sticking red pins into an oversize wall map of the Middle East and making cute little explosion noises with his mouth. Pschew! Kerplow! Kaboom!

No no no we don't need any special commission to look into just how poorly the pre-9/11 terrorist information was mishandled, grouses Bush and the GOP, shuffling their feet and looking all indignant while quietly checking their ExxonMobil and Lockheed Martin stock. And by the way, how's our new oil pipeline through Kandahar coming along? Whoops did I say that out loud?

This is the feeling. Skepticism and wariness and a general mistrust. It is not pleasant and it is not desirable but it is all too available and clear. This is the queasy sensation, that they're pummeling us with alarmism and manufactured threats, hammering the country's fear synapse and ringing the big bell of dread at every opportunity and at very specific times in order to deflect attention and get a specific reaction.

Just when you might be beginning to question their maneuvers and motivations and rather sinister levels of secrecy, their lack of discernable results in this war-that's-not-really-a-war because there are no actual results to be had except the ongoing promulgation of, yes, more war.

Too cynical? Too bitter? Don't want to think our government might actually be capable of such deceit and manipulation, of manufacturing rumors and strategically fabricating news stories and making it sound like if you don't blindly endorse every carefully constructed pro-war blurb muttered by Ari Fleischer or Rummy, the terrorists will surely break down your door any minute now and steal all your ice cream and sodomize your cat?

Possibly. After all, no one actually wants to believe Bush & Co. have essentially transformed 9/11 from an epic human tragedy into a blanket excuse to foist their pro-corporate big-oil agenda on a fear-addled nation and pump billions into the military-industrial complex and then keep the whole steamroller of savage karmic pain going for at least a few more years by preparing to bomb Iraq and enlisting a slew of new "nukuler" enemies.

You really do want to believe these are grumpy white pro-corporate pro-oil men of integrity and humane perspective who no more knew about the clear possibility of a 9/11-type terrorist attack than Bush could find Afghanistan on a map a year ago. And of course some of these terrorist threats are quite genuine and dangerous. They always are. But now they're being used as excuses. Weapons. Defense.

You really do want to believe they would never spread a truly odious strain of fear and alarmism around the nation as a means to deflect attention from their potential misdeeds, from this increasingly unnecessary and hollow war to their cozy ties to Enron to their decision to crank up the US arsenal of nifty short-range nuclear weapons while graciously cutting back slightly on all those thousands of musty old long-range missiles aimed at Russia.

You really do want to believe they'd like this cryptically defined "war" to be over as soon as possible, that they really do desire a full and honest investigation of, say, American flight school records and the FBI's knowledge of any swarthy students with blatant ties to known terrorist factions who just so happened to be in the US, learning to fly big commercial jetliners.

Oh but never mind. One forgets that Bush is a very nice fellow. Charming. Doing the Right Thing, he is. Do not question the president. You are either with us or against us. This is for your own good.

This is what they want you to think. Lots of mean evil people out there really really hate us simply because we're good honest pure democratic Christian folk with lots of money and giant malls who don't have to wear beards or heavy burlap outerwear, and Bush & Co. are merely trying to protect us all in the best way they know how: by blowing up as much as possible and denying everything else. Us versus Them. Good versus the evildoers.

Believe it? Good. Now please stop asking so many damn questions. And don't forget to hide your cat.

Posted by Lee at 01:36 PM | Comments (0)
May 24, 2002
The Producers and The Universe

theaterreview_13_175.jpgWe went to see The Producers on Tuesday. I was kind of bummed out that Nathan Lane had been replaced by Brad Oscar, but I have to say Oscar won me over in about five minutes. The play is a LOT of fun. I loved the Old Lady Land dance with the walkers, and Carmen Ghia, and Steven Weber's voice ...

This is an interesting interview with Brad Oscar: TheaterMania: Brad Oscar settles into his new role as full-time star of The Producers

I would love to see this again. Too bad Broadway plays cost so much - we'd probably go more if the ticket prices were not so outrageous.

Since we were heading to NYC, we decided to make a day of it and go to the American Museum of Natural History first. We were dying to see the new Rose Center


and to see a show at the Hayden Planetarium.


The Rose Center is amazing. We saw "The Search for Life in the Universe" at the planetarium. I wish it had been longer - it was so cool. We watched the Big Bang and walked down the Cosmic Pathway. Big Bang is nothing special and the Cosmic Pathway is pretty boring - okay if you don't have to wait in line, but if there's a line, don't bother. The one thing we noticed is that wherever the age of the universe is displayed (13 billion years), the actual number is replaceable. So, I guess if the scientists ever decide the universe is, say, 14 billion years old, the displays can be changed without much hassle.

We ended up also seeing Mammals and Their Extinct Relatives (we were looking for the cafe, which turned out to be closed) and the reptiles and amphibians. To be honest, the reptiles and amphibians display is looking very raggedy - we saw an old newspaper that dated the display to something like 1963. A lot of the dioramas could use some sprucing up, updating, or at least some fresh paint. Maybe the curator should watch Animal Planet to get a few new ideas.

I thought the extinct mammals display was much more interesting, and was fascinated to learn that whales are classified an ungulates. I was also very interested in cladistics, which are evolutionary trees in which organisms are grouped according to shared features. Below is a picture of a dimetrodon, which is a very distant relative of ours.


Posted by Lee at 05:07 PM | Comments (0)
May 20, 2002
parrots in the pine, lovebirds on the loose, bats in the belfry?

Our friend Alice has 16 lovebirds plus four baby lovebirds (and a ferret). She sent this picture, which she says is of three of her birds discussing how to finish tearing down the wallpaper. I guess they don't like the pattern.


Alice says she has to take the baby birds with her when she visits friends -- I think because they are now being hand fed so that they get used to humans. I asked her if she used a cage or if she has little leashes, but I haven't heard back from her yet.

The parrots were back yesterday -- heard them, but I didn't spot them.

Posted by Lee at 12:36 PM | Comments (1)
well, we won't get to see it

Solar Eclipse June 10 over North America. Not a total eclipse, but still cool. We won't get to see it here in Connecticut since it begins at sunset (for us) - but almost everyone else in North America will be able to see it (if skies are clear, anyway). Here is the viewing map from


It would be fun to be in San Diego, or Baja California, to see it. Since this is not in the cards, we'll have to be content to look at photos of it - I'm sure, since it's at sunset, there are going to be plenty of spectacular shots.

Posted by Lee at 12:11 PM | Comments (0)
where we came from

Becoming Human: Paleoanthropology, Evolution and Human Origins is a fascinating (and beautiful) site from Arizona State University.

Posted by Lee at 10:36 AM | Comments (0)
May 17, 2002
squirrel haven seems to have new tenants

Well, we figured out the digital zoom. Not that it helped much -- the shots are only a bit closer.

This is one parrot in the pine tree:


And the other in the catalpa tree:


They decided to get together:


We tossed some peanuts out for them -- don't know if they eat them or not. Tomorrow, when we go to Petco, we'll get some sunflower seeds or something. Though the squirrels will probably eat them. What do parrots eat, anyway?

Ginger decided to do a little landscaping:


She's trying to dig out a big root. Or go to China. Good thing we didn't plant anything there yet.


Maybe she's building a house for herself? Not that she'd have the guts to stay there when the bus goes by. Or the garbage truck. Don't know what's going on inside that little doggy brain.


"Give that back to me! I need it for my house!"


Today: very little accomplished, but a fairly peaceful day. Except for trying to deal with the company that manages our web server. But I'll save that for some other post - maybe.

Posted by Lee at 06:20 PM | Comments (0)
noisy damn critters

I couldn't get a clear shot, or rather, a close-up shot, of this bird (have to read the directions for our digital camera, I guess). So take my word for it for now -- it's a parrot. I don't know what kind of parrot yet, since I don't know much about them -- actually identifying it will have to wait until we can get a closeup.


I guess a lot of folks wouldn't consider a parrot in a pine tree very interesting or even worth noting. Unless, of couse, they live in New England, which is not normally a wild parrot habitat. A few days ago, I was sitting on the porch with mutt Ginger, and heard this god-awful racket coming from this bird way up in our pine tree. I looked up, and at the time I thought it was a parrot, but decided I must be delusional.

Then, this afternoon, Stanley said, "There are parrots in the back yard!" "Hmm," I thought, maybe I wasn't nuts after all (well, about wild parrots in the back yard, anyway). So Stanley dug out the binoculars, and I grabbed the Toshiba. Sure enough, way the hell up in the huge pine tree, we saw two parrots. It sounded like there should be 40 of them; they make so much noise it's hard to believe that it comes from those two little bodies.

No wonder kitty Twitch was going nuts at the window this morning. (Twitch is an indoor cat, so Mr. & Mrs. Parrot are safe. From him anyway, though Twitch would sure like to change this.)

I hope they decide to stay and nest there. Even though they're so noisy, we think it's pretty neat to have parrots in the pine tree.

And we hope it drives our weasel neighbor Koutsoukos nuts -- they're right outside his bedroom window.

Posted by Lee at 04:57 PM | Comments (0)
May 16, 2002
Fungi food sparks latest round of nuttiness

What's in Those Nuggets? Meat Substitute Stirs Debate. (Log-in required - but it's free).

It's all about Quorn. "Quorn ... is a meat substitute made from a kind of a fungus, grown in giant fermentation tanks and processed into a low-fat, protein-rich substance that has some of the texture of meat."

Now 'shroom growers and various overlords of our health & food industry infrastructure are protesting a food that's been eaten by millions in Europe for more than 15 years. Spreading all this alarm in their neverending effort to protect us from ourselves whether we want them to or not. After all, there are no greater concerns for these foodies to worry about - such as all those people who don't get enough of any kind of food. No sirree - let's make mountains out of those anthills.

Posted by Lee at 12:21 PM | Comments (0)
May 15, 2002
What is twitch yelling about now?

Researcher Analyzes the Meaning of Meows. Well, we know when Twitch wants to be picked up, when he wants to eat, when he's stuck and needs some help ... cats say the darndest things.

Posted by Lee at 08:20 PM | Comments (0)
Oh I am so shocked, just shocked ...

Survey says $180 million anti-drug campaign has not discouraged teen use. Hmm, teen drug use went up among the ad viewers. White House drug policy office wanker Tom Riley sez oh my, we spent millions and whaddaya know, no return on investment. Millions down the toilet. For an ad campaign budgeted for $180 million. It's just too stupid for words ...

Posted by Lee at 01:56 PM | Comments (2)
May 14, 2002
my favorite quote so far this month

From the Washington Post article about the changes recommended for the Smithsonian's National Museum of American History:

"Perhaps because of the pressure to reflect the fullness of American history, NMAH has taken the metaphor of 'America's Attic' to a regrettable extreme," the report stated.

Very effective way of saying the NMAH is a cluttered mess. It's not a charming bit of clutter, either - it's just a mess. It's about time someone tackled organizing the attic.

Posted by Lee at 02:18 PM | Comments (0)
appropos absolutely nothing

a lot of work went into this -- a hideous amount of work ...

Posted by Lee at 09:44 AM | Comments (1)
May 13, 2002
Rep. Chris Shays (CT) Says to Kill Internet Radio

Congressman Christopher Shays
Fourth District, Connecticut
1126 Longworth Building
Washington, DC 20515-0704

Dear Christopher,
Thank you for your letter dated May 8, 2002 in response to my fax opposing the current recommendation of the Copyright Arbitration Royalty Panel (CARP) to implement compulsory license rates for public performance by digital transmission.

It is quite clear from your letter that you do not have a complete grasp of the issues involved or of the facts of the matter. The facts are quite easy to find on the Internet and I'm disappointed that my congressperson's staff didn't bother to check them before preparing the response to my fax.

You wrote, "On February 20, the CARP recommended a performance fee of $0.14 per performance and a short-lived license fee of nine percent." You are wrong. The CARP recommended a performance fee of ˘0.14 per performance PER LISTENER (vs. .07˘ per song for commercial radio station simulcasts, and .02˘ per song for noncommercial radio simulcasts) with royalties due retroactively to October 1998.

Here's how the 14/100 of a cent per performance royalty rate would translate for a webcaster with 500 listeners per day: 500 listeners x .0014 dollars x 15 songs per hour x 24 hours = $250 per day or $90,000 per year, retroactive to 1998. Between the exorbitant fee and the paperwork requirements, most, if not all, webcasters will be forced to shut down. Is this your goal? Even the recording industry was not asking for this much money - the RIAA asked for fifteen percent of revenue (which is twice as high as what commercial radio stations pay).

I am not saying webcasters should not pay royalties. I am saying webcasters should be subject to the same formulas based on percentages as commercial radio.

You wrote, "In its report, the CARP concluded the impact of Internet webcasting on record sales is indeterminate. Webcasters argue their medium, like radio broadcasts, contributes positively to artist exposure and sales." I do not know the statistics - nobody does - but based on my experience, I would tend to agree with the Webcasters' position because I've purchased numerous CDs that I never would have bought otherwise just because I heard the artist on Internet radio. Internet radio is a supportive medium for independent artists, unlike commercial radio. If you really do support the arts, as you claim on your website, then you should be vociferously opposing the death of Internet radio.

You wrote, "For its own good, the industry [recording industry] should embrace business models based on electronic distribution. The approach that eventually succeeds will have to be built on the principle of respect for the rights of artists, producers, broadcasters and consumers." Your position on the CARP recommendations makes it clear that you have not considered the impact of this ruling on the rights of artists, webcasters, or consumers - only commercial producers and commercial broadcasters. I suspect you have more constituents who are artists and consumers than are members of the Recording Industry Association of America (has the RIAA made contributions to your campaign?)

I was extremely disappointed that your signature was not included on the letter several of your colleagues sent to The Librarian of Congress expressing their concern over the unreasonably high rates proposed by the CARP. If you have not seen this document, you can view it here:

Unless you can explain your positions based on facts, and demonstrate more concern for your constituents than the interests of the recording industry, I will not be voting for you again.

Lee Fleming
[address omitted]
Norwalk, CT

cc: neurotwitch
Kurt Hanson RAIN: Radio And Internet Newsletter


May 8, 2002

Lee Fleming
[Address Omitted]
Norwalk, CT

Dear Lee,

Thank you for your fax expressing opposition to a recommendation by a Copyright Arbitration Royalty Panel(CARP) to implement compulsory license rates for public performances by digital transmission. I appreciate your taking the time to share your views.

I fee the process Internet radio broadcasters went through is fair to all interested parties. On February 20, the CARP recommended a performance fee of $0.14 per performance and a short-lived license fee of nine percent. This decision essentially splits the difference between what the Recording Industry Association of America and Internet broadcasters were seeking. The Librarian of Congress now has until May 21 to either accept or reject the CARP's recommendation.

The CARP also recommended a performance fee of $0.07 for Internet retransmission of over-the-air AM or FM radio broadcasts, and a performance fee of $0.02 for noncommercial broadcasters who use a webcast. In its report, the CARP concluded the impact of Internet webcasting on record sales in indeterminate. Webcasters argue their medium, like radio broadcasts, contributes positively to artist exposure and sales.

I believe the recording industry has been much too slow to adapt its business practices to the incredible opportunities presented by the Internet. It needs to realize the demand for digital transmissions on the Internet, through mediums [sic] like Internet radio and file sharing software. Much like the film industry fought against new distribution forms like video rentals -- which ended up creating incredibly valuable new opportunities for the industry -- the recording industry is finding it difficult to embrace the promise of digital distribution.

For its own good, the industry should embrace business models based on electronic distribution. The approach that eventually succeeds will have to be built on the principle of respect for the rights of artists, producers, broadcasters and consumers.

Please do not hesitate to contact my office again. Because we have not had regular mail delivery since the Anthrax threat in October, e-mails, phone calls, faxes, and in-person visits are the most effective ways to communicate with my office. I also invite you to visit my website at

[Unreadable Felt-tip Scrawl]
Christopher Shays
Member of Congress


Note: If I get anthrax, this is where it came from.

Posted by Lee at 01:24 PM | Comments (0)
May 12, 2002
stopping unintended consequences

Signing the petition mentioned below is a very easy way to show support for legislation that would require the Army Corps of Engineers to plan for environmental protection, among other things, when conducting projects affecting floodplains, waterways, and coastal areas. At present, the ACE in unchecked - there is NO oversight and the agency has managed to do irreparable damage to habitats on the basis of flawed economic analyses.

To sign a petition: Greening the Corps of Engineers - National Wildlife Federation.

To read more information about this legislation and what the Corps has been up to, go here NWF efforts in the greening of the Army Corps of Engineers.

The top 25 wasteful and harmful Corps projects are here. And the Corps vs. the Great Lakes Basin is here.

And now a storm is having an environmental impact ...

Posted by Lee at 01:29 PM | Comments (0)
May 10, 2002
'toons out the yinyang

A treasure, a total timesink, get lost in Don Markstein's Toonopedia. One of my favorite cartoonsFelix1.gif
was Felix the Cat, who, according to Toonopedia, was animation's first star - appearing in 1919! felix2.gifI love the silent ones, but also the 60s version. As far as the silent version goes, I love them because Otto Messmer managed to capture the essence of cat.

I also loved just about anything Terrytoons, like Heckle & Jeckle and Mighty Mouse.

And Toonopedia has an entry devoted to Krazy Kat, one of the earliest newspaper comic strip characters.


Posted by Lee at 02:22 PM | Comments (1)
Internet Radio Guide

Visit RadioJump for a list of good Internet radio stations. And if you like Internet radio, visit Save Internet Radio and do you part lest Internet radio vanishes on May 22nd. (It's easy. Really.)

Posted by Lee at 02:15 PM | Comments (0)
May 08, 2002
who woulda thunk ...

Pipe bomb suspect 'mild-mannered kid' / Friends, family express surprise. So Luke Helder was just your average punk rocker artist wannabe college student. So much for being able to profile terrorists.

Posted by Lee at 07:02 PM | Comments (0)
May 07, 2002
Spool rolls away

Jared Spool's current UIEtips newsletter features an article about categorization - Strategies for Categorizing Categories - which I imagine he'll post on his website some day. At any rate, in this article he talks about looking at several ecommerce sites to see if certains types of categorization schemes worked better than others when it came to customers locating and buying items from a list given to them. The result of the study was that Land's End has the best categorization scheme because the most people bought the most stuff successfully from them.

"Lands' End used a design that had both product descriptions and departments."

Old Navy was the next best performer in the study: "Old Navy used a combination department and gallery page where sometimes the left nav contains galleries and sometimes it contains products."

Whatever. Since I don't have access to the data, or the protocols, I have no way of evaluating if these are appropriate, or even meaningful, rankings.

But reading on, I came to this paragraph, which made me question once again whether Spool has a clue about how to analyze the research he conducts:

"The pictures on Lands' End's department page were helpful sometimes and ignorable the rest. Seeing a picture of a "twinset" helps identify
what it is, whereas the pictures of "Fine Gauge Cotton" and regular "Cotton" could be swapped and nobody would probably notice or care (except Lands' End's buyers). This means that content that doesn't lend itself to pictures (such as diseases) doesn't really need them -- it's not a necessary part of this specific design."

First of all, I bet Lands' End's online sales would plummet without pictures of the items for sale. Would you buy something, particularly clothing or home decor items, without knowing what it looks like? I sure wouldn't unless it was something I buy over and over. Just because Spool can't see the difference between a sweater made in cotton vs. fine-gauge cotton doesn't mean most people can't. And, since he didn't test to see if pictures make a difference, he shouldn't present his opinions as research findings. If it's his opinion, he should say so.

Then he says content that doesn't lend itself to pictures - he cites diseases as an example - doesn't really need them. Since he cited diseases, I can only conclude that he doesn't know what the hell he's talking about when it comes to whether or specific content lends itself to pictures or not. Pictures are essential in content about diseases - whether it's a picture of a rash or an organism or the effects of a disease or all of them.

It's these stupid, blanket comments Spool makes that leads me to discount his work. Makes me wonder what ecommerce websites he's designed - or which companies have implemented all of his recommendations and showed a significant ROI as a result.

Posted by Lee at 01:26 PM | Comments (0)
keeping track of bushisms

not a crackhead anymore

by Michael Angeles

Who also published a little useful app I use all the time: Greeked text. Thank you, Michael. (who is the author of iaslash)

Posted by Lee at 01:12 AM | Comments (1)
May 05, 2002
guess i'm just a sucker for silly quizzes

You are Spaceman Spiff!

Zounds! You are the intrepid Spaceman Spiff, the engaging explorer ensconsed in an unending universe of exotic and evil extraterrestrials! You're brave, but you should give that dictionary a rest.

Take the What Calvin are You? Quiz by!

Posted by Lee at 06:09 PM | Comments (0)
Good Fences Make good neighbors

According to Robert Frost. I never truly understood that until living next door to a weasel.

Here's the deal. We have a row of willows growing along the front third of our property line, planted a few years ago to block the view of the cement retaining wall of the house next door (a hideous, ugly house that we suspect will get toxic mold pretty soon since it went up so fast and so cheaply). The willows are austrees, and if you prune them properly they make a nice thick hedge - a pretty one that has the added advantage of acting as a noise barrier. If you keep them topped off, it's even better.

But we live next door to a weasel. His name is James D. Koutsoukos, and he's a dentist (he's so icky I always though he was a used car salesman or something) with an office on Main Street in Stamford, CT. (The thought of this weasel getting anywhere near my face makes me want to vomit. He's so ignorant it makes me wonder how he got through an American dental school. He probably went to dental school in Turkey.)

One year the weasel attacks the austrees, hacking off all the lower branches that would let them fill out. Last year he hacked off the tops and every branch on his side of the property line. Though Stanley was pretty steamed, he did not beat the weasel into a bloody pulp and restrained me from doing so.

About a week ago, the weasel came over and told us he was having tree people come over and trim the trees on his property and, as long as they were there, could he ask them to top and trim the austrees. Tree people, Stanley thought, would know how to do it properly. So he said okay, but top and trim only.

Today we went to brunch with our friend Helene, stopping at the doomed* Orem's Diner for brunch and then heading into Young's Nursery to get started on our gardens. We dropped Helene off at her daughter's house and had a lovely drive past the Aspetuck Reservoir. A pleasant day. Until we pulled into our yard.

The weasel had a couple of men at work hacking the austrees. They were not tree trimmers - they're lawn guys, you know, the guys who do a great job mowing the lawn and getting rid of the leaves but don't know squat about pruning or trimming trees. They'd already hacked up half of them. The pictures below don't do much justice to the crime unless you know what the trees looked like before and what they're supposed to look like. They supposed to look like a nice, full hedge by now. But the weasel keeps destroying them. In these pictures, too, you can't see the torn barks and ripped up trunks where they hacked through instead of getting a pruning saw and doing it properly.



So, that's it. We've had enough. We're going to call the surveyor in and have him mark our property line (with dayglo tape, I insist) and then bite the bullet and put up as high a fence as we can get away with here in Norwalk (I think it's eight feet), and plant bamboo in front of the fence - down the entire property line (I think it's 160 feet or something like that). We'll try to find fencing with as ugly an away side as possible to give Weasel Koutsoukos something to really make his day.

* Orem's Diner is doomed because the powers that be decided it was more important to put in a highway down Route 7 between Danbury and the Norwalk extension than it was to do anything remotely far sighted or decent such as preserve what little heritage is left along that stretch. Orem's is too close to the road, so it's going to be gone. What really makes it such a crime is that stretch runs parallel to a commuter line - the Danbury extension of Metro North. Could they possibly do something to make it attractive to the SUV hogs to use public transportation? Out of the question - the morons of Fairfield County MUST use their cars ...

Posted by Lee at 03:36 PM | Comments (2)
May 04, 2002
i'm guilty guilty guilty!

This is funny: Top Ten New Copyright Crimes. Hey, if going to pee during the tv commercials makes me a criminal, arrest me. After I pee.

I'd buy this if we didn't have to pay Cablevision in order to get "broadcast" tv without the snow. Since we're already paying for the "broadcast" 24/7, we can use it to line the birdcage if we want to. The only people who count when it comes to watching the commercials during the broadcasts are the Nielsen drones. Let the Nielsen Family schmucks forego pissing.

Posted by Lee at 01:50 PM | Comments (0)
Stanley and I played hooky

Stanley and I played hooky yesterday afternoon and went to see Spiderman. Since I am not, nor have I ever been, a comic book reader/Spiderman freak, I didn't enjoy it nearly as much as Stanley did. I thought it was a good, fun movie that had the potential to be a really good movie. Jamison and the whole newspaper scenes were done perfectly - I would've loved the movie had it been done as well as the newspaper scenes (pure comic book).

It was weird to see the spider exhibit in the Rotunda of Low Library at Columbia University - my grad school alma mater - because I don't remember it being used for anything but banquets and ceremonies - mostly it was just empty. And it was also weird seeing traffic on 116th Street on the campus mall - when I went there (way back in the Middle Ages), there was no traffic allowed.

On the whole, though, the movie was fun. A little less pointless web swinging, a little more dialogue by Spidey, and a less-stupid ending, would've made it even more fun.


Posted by Lee at 11:03 AM | Comments (0)
May 02, 2002
diagram without tears

If you've ever had to map a website or make a flowchart, you know what a horrible process it can be. Especially using MS Visio. Inspiration, however, makes it very easy and (almost) fun. The business version costs just $109 USD - I got it a few days ago and it's paid for itself already. Truly a great program, for either the PC or the Mac. Disclosure: I am not getting paid by Inspiration to write this, nor do I have any affiliate agreement with them. I just really, really like the software. Makes my life easier.

Posted by Lee at 11:01 AM | Comments (0)
May 01, 2002
Note to ecommerce people: how to win a loyal customer even though you screw something up

Chart690_106.jpgA couple week ago, I ordered two Web Color KiloCharts from VisiBone. The charts arrived in one of those triangle tubes the USPS swears is perfect for posters and stuff like that. The tube was mangled at one end and had obviously been flattened at some point during its journey from Florida to Connecticut.

I pulled out the posters (I didn't have to open the package, the post office did that for me) and found that they were bent, but not damaged (the coating wasn't cracked or anything) and would be okay if I ironed them flat (it a wonderful poster - giving me exactly the information I need and no extraneous crap). I also found a nice letter from Bob Stein, the chief and only cook and bottle washer at VisiBone. In the letter, he said he wanted to hear from me (me as customer), so I thought I'd let him know that the triangle things are a bad, bad choice for mailing his wonderful posters.

I heard back from him within a few minutes, with an apology, an explanation, and an offer to replace the posters at no cost/hassle to me. (The explanation is that they ran out of the tubes normally used so switched to the USPS tubes so people wouldn't have to wait.)

I replied that my posters are just fine and already on the wall, thank you very much. I told him to spend the postage money making more useful products. He wrote back telling me to let him know if I change my mind. Then, yesterday, I got another message from him - one he sent out to all his recent customers I would imagine - again apologizing, explaining, and offering replacements and, essentially, thanking us for letting him know the triangle crap mailers from the USPS were a bad idea.

All of this indicates to me that he has pride in his products and he's smart enough to make customers feel he cares more about them than he cares about his bottom line.

What it boils down to for me is that even if another vendor offers essentially the same type of product with the same quality at a lower price - even at a fraction of the price - I'll buy these products ONLY from VisiBone.

Posted by Lee at 02:05 PM | Comments (1)