The Boston Diaries

The ongoing saga of a programmer who doesn't live in Boston, nor does he even like Boston, but yet named his weblog/journal “The Boston Diaries.”

Go figure.

Friday, March 01, 2002

More about Star Wars than you'd care to read

I love the fact that Lucas still hasn't been crystal clear about the whole Darth Sidious/Palpatine issue. Nor has he made it evident how such a powerful Sith master could deal face-to-face with the greatest Jedi of the day without being detected. I think there are still twists to come here …

Via Robot Wisdom, Ain't It Cool News—The Jedi

There are spoilers in that article about the upcoming Star Wars film: Attack of the Clones so reader beware. And if the spoilers are true, then expect a movie as good as The Empire Strikes Back (which I consider to be the high point of the original trilogy).

Now, George Lucas is paying for all this, so he gets to call the shots, but that still hasn't stopped my friend Hoade and I from playing arm chair quarterbacks and spending days (much to the dismay of his Significant Other) going over what George should have done.

And guess what? You are now the latest to be subjected to these mad ramblings. No spoilers here—just a bunch of über fans telling George how it should have gone down.

Our divergent history starts with the last act of The Empire Strikes Back. whining boy Luke rushes off to save his friends and as he leaves, Yoda and the ghostly figure of Ben “Obi-Wan” Kenobi talk amongst themselves. Yoda makes mention of a mysterious “other one” that can restore the Jedi order should Luke fall to the Dark Side.

Next, cut to the climatic scene when Darth Vader cuts off Luke's hand and gives the revelation of 1980: “Luke, I am your father!” To which Luke really starts whining and in a fit of disbelief jumps off the platform and plummets to the bowels of Cloud City to the shock of the entire Star Wars fan base.

Whoa!

And we believed it! That's the amazing part.

Here's Darth Vader. The first time we see him in Star Wars he walks over, picks up one of the Rebel Scum™ and chokes him to death. Next scene, he's choking an officer on his own side (it's not made clear if it's a superior officer or one of equal rank, but still, that is not a nice thing to do, even if Lord Vader finds his lack of faith … disturbing). He kills Ben “Obi-Wan” Kenobi (although this is open to interpretation). You do not cross this guy. Throughout The Empire Strikes Back he's promoting Captains as fast as he's killing them for failure of duty. He has a direct line to the Emperor! You do not want to work for this guy either.

He also wears black. In our Western culture this, along with everything else he's done, makes him The Bad Guy. They lie. They cheat. They play underhanded.

So why would we believe him when he says “Luke, I am your father!”? What? You mean Ol' Ben lied? Hold on a second … the supposed Good Guy lies, and the supposed Bad Guy tells the truth?

It is with this that Hoade and I start our divergent histories with George “Forgive me Howard the Duck!” Lucas.

The first two movies stay the same. Well, almost. Strike the “Star Wars: A New Hope” Special Edition. It didn't happen. Nope. Not at all. Han Solo is a cynical bastard that will shoot first to save his own skin (come on, Greedo missing from point blank?). Okay, so the first two movies stay the same.

The Return of the Jedi is something completely different. And I'm not even sure if all of this can be done in a single film—it'll have to be some very tight plotting for sure.

Darth Vader is lying. Of course, he's The Bad Guy. But Luke is conflicted over this—is Darth Vader really his father? Knowledge and revenge seeking, he goes after Darth Vader and we get that wonderful fight scene (which, really, was the only good part of “Return of the Jedi”) with the Emperor edging him on. Luke (like it was prophesied in one of the films) does kill the Emperor and in doing so, falls to the Dark Side. Circle complete [S/X—Emperor laughing].

Meanwhile, this mysterious other mentioned towards the end of “The Empire Strikes Back?” Who better than Han “Give me a blaster over this Force mumbo-jumbo” Solo? Who would of thunk it? The cynic turns believer (even if it might take a bit of the Jedi Mind Trick™ to help him along) and puts an end to the rather short rule of Darth Vader and Kid in the last reel (and for pity's sake, there are no Ewoks).

Okay, so there the slight problem of Han being frozen and in the hands of Jabba the Hutt, but we can leave it to Lando and Chewbacca to get him back (no, I don't believe that Leia would be allowed to go on that mission—she's just too important for the Rebellion for that (although she did look quite nice in that slave outfit, but still, that's no excuse) and Luke is busy hunting down and falling to the Dark Side to help). Minor plot point but still, it has to be worked out.

Okay, maybe it's not as upbeat as it could have been, but Campbellian heros aren't perfect and they do die eventually so it would still fit the mold. And it makes for a more dramatic story without Ewoks.


Flying cars

I want the flying cars, damnit! I want the 20 hour work weeks. I want giant wheel shaped space stations! I want a Gernsbackian future! Is that asking too much? Especially in the light of barely drivable cars, 80 hour work weeks (“and you'll like it too, god damn you!”), small soda-can shaped space station (note! singular!) and a Gibsonian future looming over all of us.

From email I sent to Hoade

Well, I guess flying cars do currently exist (and the M400 is sweet! I want one). So I guess all that's left are the 20 hour work weeks and the giant wheel shaped space stations.


Fat Mouse is in the House

FATMOUSE TAKES UMBRAGE AT THE SIGHT OF YOUR SMALL TORSO AND WEAK FLACCID LIMBS. FATMOUSE IS NEVER FOOLED BY IMITATORS.

FATMOUSE IS COMING FOR YOU!


Postcards from

PostcardsFrom is a labor of love. It has to be—they gave up their jobs for it. It's a cool site—they make their own postcards from each state in the U.S. I think they could do well actually selling the postcards.

Saturday, March 02, 2002

“Get thee from our city … ”

Even though the Mayor of Inglis, Florida banned Satan from entering the town, I seriously have doubts as to the power the Mayor has over such supernatual beings. Sure, you might have the major ingresses covered by such proclamations (according to legend, vampires cannot enter one's home unless explicitely invited) but does that cover city limits in their entirety? What about areas not covered by roads?

And given that Satan supposedly lives below, shouldn't she have buried the proclamations? Okay, so maybe it's a metaphorical below so that might not work. But still, the whole notion is rather silly. It's the Mayor for crying out loud—here in the States, we have this bit in the Constitution separating Church and State.

Now, had the head of the local church done that …

Sunday, March 03, 2002

We don't need no education

So Martin [the father] threw himself into it the way he had thrown himself into glassblowing, silversmithing, puzzlemaking, and filmmaking, among various other pursuits. He fired the nanny and came up with a plan: They would live on $5,000 a year. They would travel by bus, support themselves with craft shows and the proceeds of the “Erik & Dad Puzzle Co.,” and attempt to feed themselves on a budget of $1 per meal per person (a goal Martin admits sheepishly now they did not always achieve). Martin would work as little as possible.

The father's educational theory went like this: Apart from one hour of home schooling a day, the child should pursue his own interests. They spent a few weeks at a commune in Tennessee, a year in Providence, six months in Chicago. During a three-year stint in Miami Beach, he sat Erik down with a neighbor to see if he was interested in learning Chinese; the language instruction went nowhere, but the neighbor had a computer.

Via Robot Wisdom, Road scholar finds home at MIT

Not only is Erik 20 years old and an assistant professor at MIT but his speciality is in computational origami (and the link there is an article about Erik solving the problem of why maps are so hard to fold) which isn't your everyday ordinary discipline.

I do notice though, that parents that have an interest in their childrens' education often produce intelligent children, reguardless of formal education (as this shows).

Monday, March 04, 2002

Progresso, Florida

I find old maps interesting. For instance, South Florida here used to be one entire county—Dade with some lovely sounding towns that are for the most part, no longer around. The upper portion of Dade (from 1895) there to the left shows such places as Hillsboro (now just a street in Northern Broward), Hypoluxo (now a street in Palm Beach County), Jewell (which no longer exists as a town or a street as far as I know) and Progresso (which became Wilton Manors).

I found these old maps at the Color Landform Atlas of the United States, which has more modern maps of the United States. I suppose the webmaster put these scans of an 1985 road atlas on the site, just because. I probably would have—they're very beautiful.


Office space

New space, new Computer Room. At Condo Conner, the Computer Room was a separate room in which I (and later Spring) stuffed all my (our) computers in. That was in 1994. Prior to that I had the home computers sharing my bedroom, and for now, it looks like the Computer Room at the Facility in the Middle of Nohwere is also the master bedroom as well.

Such is life.

The last work office I actually liked the most was my FAU office I had in the Math Department while I was a Computer Science undergrad working for a professor and graduate student from Complex Systems and Brain Sciences. Yes, quite the interdisciplinary work experience there and I had pretty much an entire office to myself (officially, I shared it with two graduate students who were almost never there). Black board, shelves of reference material, a fold out bed and a couple of computers all to myself. My only complaint, and it isn't much of one: no window, so it was easy to loose oneself in time.

I spent a good four years working out of that office, ostensibly part time (and at one tremendious rate for an undergrad) and loving nearly every minute of it. Ask me what I did though, and I couldn't tell you—heck, I didn't fully understand what I was working on there, just that it involved some heavy math and some light visualization work (one project took over a year to compute, and three days to transfer the images to video tape).

I don't think I will ever have an office quite like that again.


Droogish owl

Having just checked the Computer Science and Engineering Department of FAU for my previous entry and I see that they are still using that Clockwork Orange Owl mascot.

There must be a milk bar on campus somewhere …

Tuesday, March 05, 2002

For Sale: Nuclear Bombs and other Atomic Ordnance

I had wanted a picture of the U.S. $20 bill. I wanted to scan one (just for the picture of Andrew Jackson; why I wanted that will have to wait) but since neither Spring nor I had one, I decided to look for one on the Internet, so I figured the best place to start would be the U.S. Treasury.

Instead I come across the Defense Reutilization and Marketing Service Public Sales Listing and imagine my surprise when I see a page selling Nuclear Ordnance Equipment. Just like that. Nuclear Ordnance Equipment. Nestled between Weapons and Accessories and Fire Control Equipment.

Um …

So I check three items marked under Nuclear Ordnance Equipment and fortunately it didn't seem like anything was available. Of course, now my IP address is associated with checking for the existance of Nuclear Ordnance Equipment so I guess I can expect a visit by some serious men in business suits and dark glasses …


That's not Andrew Jackson, that's Jeff Conaway

Here's why I wanted Andrew Jackson's picture from the U. S. $20 bill. When the bills were first introduced, besides thinking they don't look like real money, I felt that the image of Andrew Jackson looks like that of actor Jeff Conaway, known for playing Bobby Wheeler on Taxi and Zach Allan on Babylon 5.

When I bring this up, most people are like “Who?” and I'm going “Jeff Conaway … you know … the dude from Taxi,” and all the time I'm getting blank stares from people, or the scrunched up face of concentration as they try to remember this semi-familiar name from a TV show from 20 years ago.

But now I have proof! Photographic proof no less!

And for the record, Jeff Conaway has a Kevin Bacon number of two.

Wednesday, March 06, 2002

More on Text Ads

Looks like Kuro5hin is now doing text ads since their relationship with OSDN has ended and the response has been good. We'll see if text ads are the way to go, but until my readership goes waaaaay up there it's not cost effective for me to do this.

Thursday, March 07, 2002

A message to a spammer

Spam is pretty much a constant now but for some reason this particular piece of spam got on my nerves:

From: none@conman.org
Reply-To: none@conman.org
To: sean@conman.org
Subject: none
Sender: none@conman.org
Date: Thu, 7 Mar 2002 22:29:42 -0500

——you are recieving this message because you responded to a posted advertisement. if you are recieving this and did not respond to an advertisement please send an e-mail to m0neyhungry_19@yahoo.com to be REMOVED———

Dear Friend, I am looking for 10 people that are willing to dedicate 5-15 hours a week. I will personally be there, every step of the way, to assist you on your journey, whether your goals include more free time, more money in your pocket, or just overall happiness, I would like to help you.

Blah blah blah. It goes on and I'm not going to waste space here sending out this person's message of wealth and happiness. So a little bit of searching, and I find Spam Laws, a site that has all the current anti-spam legislation currently enacted or being worked on. Quite a nice site and it allowed me to send the following back to the spammer:

To whom it may concern:

I did not wish to receive this information, nor have I responded to a posted advertisement from this address. I wish to advise you that you are fortunate in having sent this email from a facility located in Indiana, which has no current laws against unsolicited email, to a facility located in Florida, which has no current laws against unsolicited email that apply in this case. But a majority of the states have enacted laws against unsolicited email that make you liable for criminal prosecution, especially in reguards to forged headers and routing information:

Return-Path: <none>
Received: from yourwebsite.com (XXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXX
 [XXXXXXXXXXXXXX])
 by conman.org (8.8.7/8.8.7) with SMTP id WAA03767
 for <sean@conman.org>; Thu, 7 Mar 2002 22:29:43 -0500
From: none@conman.org
Message-Id: <200203080329.WAA03767@conman.org>
Reply-To: none@conman.org
To: sean@conman.org
Subject: none
Sender: none@conman.org
Date: Thu, 7 Mar 2002 22:29:42 -0500

You have currently forged the email from a user on this system (whether it is a real account or not is irrelevent—this is plainly a forged header) which, had I or you been in Arkansas, Colorado, Connecticut, Delaware, Idaho, Illinois, Iowa, Louisiana, Nevada, North Carolina, Oklahoma, Rhode Island, Tennessee, Virginia, Washington or West Virginia you could have faced criminal charges. Furthermore, under California, Colorado, Illinois, Nevada, Pennsylvania, Tennessee, Washington, West Virginia or Wisconsin you may face criminal charges for misleading or mislabeling the email on the subject line, as you clearly have done above.

On the other hand, if I can prove that your email message was routed through any network in Iowa you may be liable under Iowa law section 714E.1 subsection 5 but truth be told it may be difficult actually conduct such a case, but it is possible.

I do request that you remove the email address “sean@conman.org” from your list as I do not wish to receive any futher unsolicited email from you.

Thank you for your time and consideration of this matter.

Sean Conner

I can't wait to see the response to this.

Saturday, March 09, 2002

Snippit of conversation overhead while walking out of a supermarket

“ … man that is bad.”

“And they haven't even found the body yet after two days of looking.”

“Jeeze ‥ ”

Sunday, March 10, 2002

It ain't five stars unless it's open 24 hours

Fortunately, I awoke in time to catch my roommate Rob and friends Shane and Kim going to lunch (or dinner, depending upon your viewpoint). We ended up eating at the Boca-Glades Gourmet Diner, just up the street (well, two miles up the street) from the Facility in the Middle of Nowhere. It's easy enough to miss unless you look closely, nestled as it is just next to the Florida Turnpike exit on Glades Road and dispite the name, it isn't a diner (critieria #1: it's not open 24 hours. Bummer. Criteria #2: Rob won't eat at diners).

The inside is upscale, yet the prices are very reasonable and the food—well, it's very good. Everything (including the bread, the hummus dip, the desserts) is home made, and much to Rob's delight, they have a wonderful selection of beers and aren't afraid to serve them for breakfast (he checked—he gets off from work around 8:00 am) nor are they afraid of serving huge it in pint sized glasses either.

And the service was wonderful; we all pretty much fell in love with the waitress—cute, smart and funny. Can't beat that at all.

Down side, like I said—it's not open 24 hours. Sigh.

Tuesday, March 12, 2002

Feeping creaturism

I've spent the past week or so adding a new feature to The Boston Diaries and I'm finally rolling it out—email notification of updates!

A week for a simple feature might seem like overkill, but I did want to do this right and with as little breakage as possible. And it's not quite as straight forward as you may think either.

Design strategy number one: avoid complaints of spam as much as possible. As a result, I added a verification scheme. Upon first submitting an email address, the program displays a page saying the email address has been collected and at the same time, an email has been sent to the email address requesting verification. This is to keep a malicious person from submitting an email address to some unsuspecting person who then starts receiving emails about some oddball site being updated. So simply adding an email address to the end of a list is right out.

To this end, there are two lists maintained—one list of addresses that I am waiting a reply from, and the second one that actually gets sent the notifications of updates.

When the person subscribing replies, the reply email is sent to a program that gets the email address that doing the replying, and looks it up in the pending list, and if so, removes it from the pending list and adds the email to the notification list, and sends an email saying as much.

The program that processes new entries then goes sequentially through the notification list and sends out an email message.

Fairly straightforward, although there are some details I skimped out on (like checks to see if the address is already in one of the lists, unsubscribing, just small details) that's pretty much how it works. The time spent though, was making sure I got all the details (big and small) right. Oh, and making it such that Spring could use it for her journal as well.


Still waiting …

I've yet to hear back from the spammer, which isn't all that surprising; I doubt I'll ever hear from him. Bummer.

In other news, I've received several pieces of spam from what looks to be Microsoft, but is, in fact, yet another piece of viral software attempting to propagate itself across the internet via Microsoft Windows.

Sigh.


“Hunting of the Snark”

What made this hunt so hard? Puzzles like the 192-letter cryptogram, for one thing. As Jean notes, “A cipher of that length should be a snap to break. And this one wouldn't have been bad at all if I'd thought to mention that the hidden message was in Spanish. But I didn't. I also neglected to note that the pairs 'll', 'rr,' and 'ch' stood for single letters, as they do in the Spanish alphabet.” Chalk up some frustrated victims for this ruse, particularly the people on the Spanish House team, who were among the last to figure out the trick.

Via my dog wants to be on the radio, The Great Annual MIT Mystery Hunt

So there we were, Bill, Dave and I, driving along this lone stretch of road looking dilligently for the next clue and not finding it at all. We eventually went back to the previous point in the treasure hunt, and carefully traced the clue back to that same lone stretch of highway. This time we found the clue but were the last team to do so.

It turns out that we had solved the puzzle too quickly and the person handing out the clue didn't arrive in time.

I think we ended up coming in second or third place.

And I never was on a winning scavenger hunt team. Not that we didn't have fun while doing it.


A Gina Gershon Sock Puppet

Sasha McNeal, one of the show's writers and puppeteers, admits that it takes a twisted mind to dream up the idea of performing “Showgirls” with sock puppets, let alone pull it off. But once the idea had been broached, the group couldn't ignore its comedic potential. “I think that as actors we find it amusing because (the movie) is just so bad,” she says. “And you can get away with so much more with sock puppets. If it were just ourselves redoing 'Showgirls,' no one would care.”

Gotta see it to believe it

Showgirls. Sock puppets.

I'm sorry, I just can't wrap my brain around the concept.

Too bad it's only showing in Chicago.

Wednesday, March 13, 2002

An economic lesson on umemployment

Anyway, by some mysterious process, we've arrived at a recession level of unemployment that's lower than the expansion level of five years ago. Pretty neat stuff. Which only leaves us one question:

Where the hell's my job

Via InstaPundit.Com, Megan McArdle on unemployment

Rob and I were talking about unemployment the other day. I had remarked that economists (or business leaders, or both) had said that there is a minimum amount of unemployment that is needed to keep the economy working. At the time, we both theorized that it was the level required to keep those employed in line (the Cynical/Conspriatorial Theory).

The article above (mediumish length, but worth it) goes into detail about how this minimum level of unemployment to sustain our economy comes (or came) about. It's less a conspriacy and more a way companies find the maximum profit given the rules of the game.


Blog commentary

Several weeks ago someone asked if it would be possible for people to leave comments here, a feature that a log of online journals/weblogs have (such as Live Journal). I took it under consideration, and even wrote a long entry about it that I never got around to posting since it was long and rather dry.

In a nutshell, I talked about the problems I had in integrating it into the format I use here—not actual storage problems, but referencing problems. As I have it now, you can select arbitrary portions of my journal (c.f. The Electric King James Bible) I never thought of ways to exclude content from the range. And therein is the crux of the problem—I don't necessarily want to always print the comments for an entry, but it should be easy to view them and, as always, get ranges of comments.

I also have a bias—I hate threaded web discussion boards (the best example of what I dislike: Slashdot. I always read the comments in “flat mode”—all comments visible (and on Slashdot, at a fairly high rating level but that's Slashdot and I'm digressing). I think what I dislike about them is the ping-ponging you ahve to do going down and up the thread chain following comments (Scripting News' commentary system is particularly bad in that reguard). But like I said, that's a bias I have and I don't want to needlessly exclude people's preferences in reading habits if I can avoid it.

But just now, via Blogger (I occasionally get curious as to what the competion is doing), I came across BlgKomm, a commentary system that has a unique feature—“[c]omments appear within your blog, below the posts, with any popups.”

I try it out, and yes, it is rather interesting—the comments are initially hidden until you select a link, then they're flushed out for that post only. Now granted, that's a display issue and not a referening issue, but it still is something for me to think about.

And I still have to figure out the whole reference to comments thing.

Thursday, March 14, 2002

A lesson learned

I set the 12-pack of Coca-Cola on its side on the counter to open it and grab a can. I peeled open the outer flap. Then the inner flap. Then cans started rolling out of the cardboard box, bouncing off the recycle bin and onto the kitchen floor, banging and clanging, some cans threatening to burst.

Lesson learned.


Falling down stairs

After much discussion, Spring and I decided to move two of the smaller shelves back downstairs, freeing up more room in the master bedroom. Rob and I managed to move the units downstairs and I then had the daunting task of moving endless stacks of books downstairs (after spending the energy moving them up stairs in the first place).

Now, before moving the units, I removed what shelves I could, to make it lighter and as they lay on the bed, I had a thought: if I have to carry both books and shelves down the stairs, why not load up each shelf with books? They're paper backs, so it's not like they'll weigh it down an intollerable amount. I mean, the books where on the shelves to begin with.

So I loaded up a shelf with six stacks of paperbacks and carried it down the stairs, feeling much like the chef from Sesame Street who would have a handful of creme pies and start walking down a set of stairs. So there I was, “Six stacks of books,” I said in a loud booming voice as I carried them down the flight of stairs.

Six times I did that, and each time I felt like that chef. Only I managed not to trip and spill any books (or creme pies) on myself.

Saturday, March 16, 2002

A virtual film festival

Via Wil Weaton Dot Net, Spring found the Chrysler Million Dollar Film Festival and we spent an enjoyable few hours watching the various films and voting for them (and of course, we had to suck up to Wil Wheaton and vote his the highest). Of the ones we did see, the ones I liked the best were:

The Good Things The entry that Wil Wheaton stars in. A poingant tail of a toll booth worker trying to find meaning and direction in his life on the day his ex-girlfriend (and it's never made real clear who dumped whom) is getting married.

The Etiquette Man The ending is weak on this one (yea, right, like that would ever happen) but watching Steve Coulter's The Etiquette Man is just gosh darn swell. Right from a 50s educational film on dating.

Indefinitely A film just as good as The Good Things. I really got into the story of a videographer who falls in love with a bride to be. My only real complaint about this one is just as I'm getting into the whole story it. End. Stop. Fini.

Wait! What about the impending marriage? Does the videographer stop the wedding? Does the bride to be drop her jerk of a fiancé? I want more!

The Parlor Talk about your sureal films. A group of people sitting in a waiting room having the wildest conversations and nobody appears to be who they say they are (a old guy claiming to be a 13 year old girl named Beth?). Spring clues in on the setup before I do, but I did manage to guess the ending.

Tower of Babble This one is high concept—two billion monkeys at two billion typewriters writing the dialog to our lives. We have three completely different stories going on, each with the same sequences of dialog. It works, and yes, the three story lines to intersect at the very end.

Monday, March 18, 2002

The TV Detective/Police Show Theory

Spring and I are eating dinner at the Starlite Diner and the motif is a 50s/early 60s. On the wall next to us is a framed article about James Garner and the TV show Maverick. Seeing that reminded me of a theory I have.

“Did I ever tell you about my TV Detective/Police Show Theory?” I asked Spring.

“Umm … ” said Spring, face scrunching up. “I don't think so.”

“It goes like this: Any television detective or police show will always look like it was filmed in the 70s.”

“Really?”

“Yes. Of course you have your actual 70s detective/police shows like The Rockford Files or Baretta but even such shows as Magnum P.I. or Simon & Simon look like they were made in the 70s.”

“Those were the 80s, right?”

“Yes,” I said. “But to look at them now, it still screams 70s. Much like Hill Street Blues.

Spring thought for a second. “What about Dragnet?” she asked.

“Um … ” She had me. I had to think fast on my feet. “Okay, make that the Color TV Detective/Police Show Theory.”

“Okay … ”

Tuesday, March 19, 2002

I knew this would pay off some day

Mark has been suggesting that I download and install Mozilla for Windows for some time now. I've never gotten around to doing it but tonight, I check Rob's LiveJournal and he mentions that the Mozilla just released Mozilla 0.9.9 and that it works flawlessly.

Okay, might as well try it.

I must say I'm impressed.

I'm even more impressed that they seem to actually use the <LINK> tags in the page. Oh my … I've been adding those tags to my pages for years (at least from '97 or '98) and now they might actually be useful.

So far, the only browser that I've seen use those tags has been Lynx, the infamous text based browser. Now it seems they've added support for the <LINK> tag in Mozilla.

But while that is nice, Lynx will use all the tags I've defined, while Mozilla seems to only use a subset. But it's a start.


Site Navigation

I just found out that Mozilla supports the <LINK> tag, but to actually enable it, you need to select “View/Show-Hide/Site Navigation Bar” from the main menu. Now maybe more sites will use the <LINK> tags.

Wednesday, March 20, 2002

Well, that was pleasant

My colocation half drops off the face of the earth. I can still ping it; I can traceroute to it, but any higher form of connection (TCP connections for example) just hang.

So the kernel is still running, not the userland stuff.

So I make plans on driving down to Ft. Lauderdale where the colocation facility I use is located. Now, last I heard, you are supposed to call down there to let them know you coming and since it's about midnight when tower (the machine in question) stopped responding, I can understand that. But Spring (who I have to pick up from work at 12:30 am) has a call phone; we can call as we drive down there.

Before I leave, Mark calls. He thinks it's a network problem at the facility. And he does have a point:

64 bytes from 66.33.1.143: icmp_seq=15 ttl=52 time=140.707 ms
64 bytes from 66.33.1.143: icmp_seq=16 ttl=52 time=155.107 ms
64 bytes from 66.33.1.143: icmp_seq=17 ttl=52 time=134.498 ms
64 bytes from 66.33.1.143: icmp_seq=18 ttl=52 time=141.993 ms
64 bytes from 66.33.1.143: icmp_seq=18 ttl=50 time=251.784 ms (DUP!)
64 bytes from 66.33.1.143: icmp_seq=18 ttl=48 time=362.700 ms (DUP!)
64 bytes from 66.33.1.143: icmp_seq=18 ttl=46 time=478.254 ms (DUP!)
64 bytes from 66.33.1.143: icmp_seq=18 ttl=44 time=584.002 ms (DUP!)
64 bytes from 66.33.1.143: icmp_seq=18 ttl=42 time=705.216 ms (DUP!)
64 bytes from 66.33.1.143: icmp_seq=18 ttl=40 time=816.821 ms (DUP!)
64 bytes from 66.33.1.143: icmp_seq=19 ttl=52 time=176.100 ms

And traceroutes also show some anomalies (note: Mark uses OpenBSD and its ping prints double ping packets. The one for Linux (which is what I use) doesn't. But traceroute under both show anomalies). So he does have a point. I call down there and with some minor hassle, get a trouble ticket submitted.

Now, here is where I digress a bit. One of my friends and clients colocates a server down there and since Mark and I do work for him (more in the past, still do stuff for him now) and since he doesn't use all his alloted bandwidth, he allowed us to place tower down there along with his. So it's really his account. Which is why I had a bit of a hassle getting a trouble ticket submitted (Server id? Server password? I have to submit a trouble ticket via the website? What?).

I go pick up Spring, and talk to Rob who works nights there about the problem and we both agreed it sounded more like a downed server than a network problem (although there are network problems). I'm not going through the problem I had last time and want to drive down there and reboot it myself. Spring didn't have a problem with that, although she didn't have her cell phone with her so we couldn't call ahead.

Oh well. We'll deal with getting in when we get there.

Half an hour later, I'm buzzing and knocking on the door. They're asking me questions from inside (which I can barely hear) and I'm shouting answers back to them (which they can barely hear). They finally open the door and let me in.

“You're supposed to fill out an On-Site Request Form on our webpage,” said the technician. “Then it'll be approved within two hours.”

“I wasn't aware of that,” I said. What I was thinking was, Two XXXXXXX hours? My server is down and I have to wait two XXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXX hours to be approved? What's up with that?

“But you're supposed to fill out an On-Site Request Form and be approved,” said the technician. More bantering between the two of us. “Okay, let me get you a form to fill out.” He goes off. Spring and I sit down and wait.

Where Spring works, colocation customers have 24 hour access to their boxes and they don't have to fill out “On-Site Request Forms.” When I worked for the ISP we had colocation customers with 24 hour access and no “On-Site Request Forms” to fill out.

I can see perhaps calling ahead to inform them you are on the way. I cannot see filling out a form and waiting two hours for approval, especially since we live over half an hour away (by car), even more so because the server is down and a two hour (minimum) outtage is bad.

The technician wanders back in, hands me the forms, and disappears again.

I fill out the forms. I'm not requesting adding or removing equipment (which can only be done between regular business hours by the way)—just checking out a server.

Then we wait.

Wait.

Wait.

Hold on a sec—no. Wait.

Finally I am allowed back into the server room. Spring stays behind in the lobby, not wanting to further complicate things. The technician leads me through the maze of racks to my server and hooks up a monitor and keyboard (which are on a crash cart) to it. I then get to work.

Yup. Run-a-way process sucking up all memory and not even a Ctrl-Alt-Del will bring this Linux system down (I'm able to check memory usage with Shift-ScrollLock and processes with Ctrl-ScrollLock). Power cycle. I thought I could skip the rather expensive fsck of the 17G harddrive by booting into single user mode, but alas, I was wrong (I had wanted to remove any possibility of the offending program from running). I debate about waiting around for it to finish (about half an hour) but decide against that. I manage to reboot it, this time normally and leave.

Now, what I should have done is told one of the technicians there to let the system run because it takes about 30-40 minutes for it to check the disk. But there were no technicians around and I had my fill of the place for the night.

Spring and I leave. On the way home we stop and get a bite to eat. It's almost 4:00 am we're back home and tower still isn't back up. What the …

I check the trouble ticket—as per their policy, the machine wasn't responding to any of their monitoring software so of course they rebooted it. Aarhglghlghahhhhhhhhhhhalg! The time of the last comment was about 3:40 am so tower should be nearly finished rebooting. I starting pinging and as soon as I get a response I start logging in and removing the ofending program and check the system out.

Now, I had rebooted the machine twice. They ended up rebooting it four times.

Sigh.

My guess is that they're used to customers who don't manage their own servers and leave that stuff up to them. Not bad in and of itself but it certainly isn't what I expect and having to deal with their rules is a bit grating, but I really can't beat the price right now.


The Offending Program

So, what was the ofending program?

Glad you asked (whince).

It turned out to be mod_blog, the program that runs this very site.

A friend of mine (who for now wishes to remain anonymous) is interested in blogging and I said I would set him up with my system. So I create a site for him, copy over my existing template, modify the configuration for him, etc., etc. I then send in (via email) the first post to see if things work.

Well, that's where things didn't work.

The post itself was accepted and stored correctly.

Small digression: The Boston Diaries is primarily dynamic. You type in something like http://boston.conman.org/2002/3/4 and that page is generated on the fly. I change the template, the effect takes place immediately. However, the main page, the one you get by going to http://boston.conman.org/ is not dyamic—it's actually a static page recreated whenever a new entry is posted. It doesn't have to be, but I figure that since this page is probably going to be loaded most often I might as well cache a static copy to keep the system load down.

So, part of the process of accepting and storing an entry is the generation of the main page. Normally, it works fine. But not in this case.

Another small digression: the configuration file for mod_blog needs the starting date of the blog. There are cases where I need this information and instead of wasting a lot of time going backwards from now finding the first entry, again, it's cached information.

I had thought that I may have made a mistake in the starting date. No, I got the starting date correct. What I didn't get correct was handling the situation when a blog is actually started.

When writing the software, I had already been keeping entries. In fact, I think I had a month or so worth of entries when I started the code two years ago. And I was so focused on getting the URL processing correct, that I neglected to test some border cases. And I never got around to testing those cases since they didn't affect me.

Until now.

Oops.

Problems I found:

  1. Not handling the case when there are no entries.
  2. Not handling the case when there are fewer than X days worth of entries (where X is the number of days to display on the main page).
  3. Not handling the case when there are fewer than 15 entries (note—not the same thing as having 15 days worth of entries, and this is for the RSS file).
  4. And one or two cases of not checking to see if you've past the first entry or most current entry.

Cases I should have handled (and tested for!) but neglected.

I do need to really go through the code and clean it up.

The problem I had was that I'm a bit too close to the code. I'm working towards a specific goal (new method of document storage retrieval and reference) and as such, the software is experimental and the problems I'm focusing on meant I missed some reliability details elsewhere, since hey, it works in my case.

And while some people have probably grabbed the software I doubt many, if any, are actually using the software since I'm not getting any feedback on the code itself. Okay, you do have to hunt around to find the link to the source code but it has been downloaded. And I'm sure it being written in C makes it all that much more popular.

But little did I expect software I wrote to crash a Unix server. The last time I saw userland software (an application) crash a Unix server was … oh … eight years ago I think.


C and Perl

I spent some time yesturday playing with Grey Matter, which seems to be one of the more popular blogging software packages out there. I downloaded it, partly out of curiosity and partly for a project I'm working on (and yes, I'm scoping out the competition).

Now, I can see why Grey Matter is popular: it installs very easily (I had it running in a few minutes), is template driven (so the output can look exactly like you want it to) and … it's in Perl.

Which means—if the web server allows CGI, you can run Grey Matter. There is no compiling. Just stick it in, make sure the location of Perl in the scripts is correct, and go.

I think that reason alone, is why Perl is pretty much used everywhere on the World Wide Web.

Now, my software that runs this site is in C. One, I can't stand Perl. Never had. And thankfully, I've never had to maintain Perl code either. Two, tower (the server that runs this site) is a 486. A 33MHz 486. By today's standards the machine shouldn't be running, much less running a website. You can't even give 486 based machines away, which is sad, since they work. This site is proof. But anyway, this machine is slow, and running a blog written in Perl would be torture indeed.

Like Grey Matter. I'm doing my testing of it on a 120MHz machine and Grey Matter is SSS-LLL-OOO-WWW. Not quite painfully slow (painfully slow would be running it on tower) but too slow to be used by more than a few people on my local box here.


Crashing Unix

Eight years ago. I get into my office and I notice that pineal, the SGI box I use, has crashed. Hard. The kernel crashed.

For a Unix system, that's bad.

Not knowing what happened, I bring the box back up and go about my business.

A few days later, it's crashed again.

This time though, I have a slight clue as to what might be going on. I had noticed one of the users of the box doing some odd things. Normally, I wouldn't care (seeing how this user was odd to begin with) but I couldn't help thinking that the odd thing this user was doing might have caused the machine to crash.

I, suspecting what happened, bring the box back up and go about my business.

A few days later, it's crashed again.

I bring it back up, get the odd user in question, and asked him to do what he was doing just prior to the crash, exactly.

I watch as the machine crashes.

Now, I still don't know why it crashed, but at least I knew what caused it to crash. It seems that the user in question logged in and ran a program called screen. screen is a program that allows you to have multiple command lines via a single login session (like a single terminal) and it would keep the session alive if you disconnected (heck, I used that program myself for those two reasons). Then, he would log into IRC and have his IRC client log a channel to a file. He would then disconnect, leaving the IRC client running (because of screen) and logging a channel to a file. Doing both of those things would cause the system to crash.

Odd. Then again, he was an odd user.

So I basically banned the use of IRC on my box. He was the only user who used IRC and he had access to other systems with it, so it wasn't that big of a loss.

But it's odd the programs that can crash a Unix server.


Oh great …

As if things weren't bad enough I just found I lost my checkbook.

Interesting how I found something is lost. Funny how the English language works.

So now it's off to scour the Facility in the Middle of Nowhere to see if I can find a checkbook that I just found was lost.

My head hurts.


Chequing back

I finally found my checkbook. Earlier I found I lost it. Now I found what I found I lost.

And my head doesn't hurt as much.

Friday, March 22, 2002

Limiting corporate power

All have a provision similar to that of Maine's section 716: “The directors and officers of a corporation shall exercise their powers and discharge their duties with a view to the interest of the corporation and of the shareholders.”

These laws make it the legal duty of corporate directors and executives to maximize profits for shareholders.

Robert Hinkley would add a simple amendment: “… but not at the expense of the environment, human rights, the public safety, the communities in which the corporation operates, or the dignity of employees.”

Via RobotWisdom, A Corporate Lawyer Speaks Out

Interesting concept. The customers of a public company are not the ones that buy their product. No, the true customers are the shareholders, and if the shareholders feel the public company they hold stock in is not fullfilling their fudicial duties to increase shareholder value, then that public corporation can face a series of very expensive lawsuits against it.

This, plus numerous other articles I've read over the past few weeks makes me think that a large corporate backlash (on a global scale) is forming. Will anything happen of it? I don't know—the Luddites didn't stop the Industrial Revolution, and the Inquisition certainly didn't stop the powershift away from the Catholic Church.

I do know that we are still in the process of a major power shift from nationalism to corporatism and that it won't be over any time soon (the shift from religious to nationalism took several centuries to resolve. The beginnings of the corporate shift didn't start until the religious to nationalism shift was well underway (I'm placing the start of the corporatism shift around the 1600s with the formation of the British East India Company) so I don't expect to see the next shift (away from corporatism) any time soon.

One thing to look out for though: who builds the tallest buildings?


We may be forced to watch advertising

WASHINGTON, DC—In a closely watched proceeding, DC District Court Judge Natalia Wimbley ruled Friday in favor of claims by a coalition of media companies to rights to the 'attention' of consumers. “This ruling is crucial to the continued vitality of American art and culture,” explains RIAA President-elect Richard Mound. “Recognition of attention rights goes a long way to guaranteeing that artists and musicians will have access to sustainable revenue streams.”

Via Techdirt, Court Protects `Attention Rights' of Media Companies

Not really; this is a future prediction of what may come to pass (the newsitem is dated October 8, 2006). Scarily enough, it seems reasonable, given recent trends.

Saturday, March 23, 2002

How does one say em-tee-vee in Arabic anyway?

I wander downstairs to find Spring channel surfing. I sit down next to her as she's flipping through channels when she stops on i-channel.

“Oh, cool!” she says. They're playing Arabic music videos in a countdown type program (we caught the program at #15 in what I think was a top 20 countdown) and I was amazed. I was expecting any women in the videos to be at least wearing some form of headcovering, but no. In the fifteen videos we watched, all of them had women with no head covering (okay, there were one or two where the women wore some form of traditional head covering, but only for a part of the video). I found that amazing.

I also found the women quite hot but again, these are music videos—the women are supposed to be hot (or cute, which they were as well).

I'm not saying that all the videos were good. Not at all—some were quite bad I felt, but it was still interesting to watch them as some of them had rather jarring cross-cultural moments to them; an Arabic pop song segues into American rap (with obligatory African-American), another one segues from traditional Arabic dance (with women fully hidden behind form fitting outfits) into American country with boots, jeans and cowboy hats (including the women).

Fascinating.

Turn down the sound on most of them, and you would think you were watching videos from VH-1, or maybe from Spain, at least Europe.


Rise of the Corporate State

One of my readers, Marcus Livius Drusus, sent in his comments on the START OF CORPORATISM:

The British East India Company (charted on Dec. 31, 1600, you hit that part exactly right) was the first of the proto-corporations that were organized to expedite the great trading and exploration voyages.

(Parenthetical note, this was only made possible, or it might be better to say useful or desirable, by the defeat of the Spanish Armada in 1588—prior to that the Spanish and the Portugese had a deathgrip on the spice trade.)

Prior to this new type of organization, with the creation of a fictitious persona, the corporation, any investor would have been personally liable for any losses of the venture, to the entire extent of his personal assets.

The release from personal liability afforded made it much more easy to organize and finance these extremely risky operations.

Now, with that out of the way, I will take a bit of an issue with your placement of the date of transition from nationalism to corporatism, for the following reasons:

First, if one would like to argue this date marked the first appearance of limited liability fictive entities, that would be incorrect. The early Middle Ages saw the first of these, in the form of towns, universities and religious orders. Later, the principle included guilds. This was established in English common law by the 14th century.

The other way to argue this would be to mention that this saw the first application of the concept to private enterprise and for profit entities, that is technically correct. However, charters for these enterprises were for purposes only seen by the granting government as in it's national(istic) interests. They were private tools of public policy.

It was not until after the onery American colonists revolted after 1776 was there support for enterprises unrelated to the direct public interest. (Alexander Hamilton was an early champion of the idea) Still by 1800, well over 95% of all the corporations chartered in the States were for purposes of thngs like building and operating bridges, roads, canals, and other public service tasks.

Finally, in 1811, New York enacted legislation that enabled corporations to be charted with nothing much more than a statement of the intended purposes of the business. Many of the other states took until the 1850's to do so. England did in 1825, and the other European countries followed soon after.

So, based on this, I would argue that the first part of the 19th century is the earliest time that can be considered the birth of an independent corporation. If I were forced to pick the point at which the transition to a corporate state began, I would argue that it happened immediately after the Civil War. The urgencies of the war required consolidation of the railroads, setting the stage for the first real national super-corporations with the wealth and power to influence politicians, and therefore public policy, an exact reversal of the status of the British East India Company.

If we go along those thoughts then, perhaps the start of the corporate state can be traced back to May 10th, 1886 with Santa Clara County v. Southern Pacific Railroad Company where corporations could be considered a “fictional person” under the Fourteenth Amendment of the Constitution:

Section 1. All persons born or naturalized in the United States, and subject to the jurisdiction thereof, are citizens of the United States and of the state wherein they reside. No state shall make or enforce any law which shall abridge the privileges or immunities of citizens of the United States; nor shall any state deprive any person of life, liberty, or property, without due process of law; nor deny to any person within its jurisdiction the equal protection of the laws.

Sunday, March 24, 2002

It can happen in the print world too!

If someone has not already done so, allow me to posit Scalzi's Law of Online Communication: Anything bad you ever write about someone online will get back to them sooner or later. People who don't believe this law are by all means invited to prove me wrong. Note that this invitation comes with the explicit warning that if you write me something that says “I called my mom/dad/co-worker/whatever a hideous gasbag on my Web site five years ago and s/he doesn't know,” I'll merely forward the note to them with my compliments—Scalzi's Law works because a) people can't not tell other people about their online exploits and b) other people can't not tell about your online exploits, either. If you don't want people to know what you really think about them, don't put it online. Ever. Really, it's just that simple.

John Scalzi: Whatever for February 27, 2002

I don't have much to add to that, other than it can happen in the print world as well. Surprisingly so.

I learned this the hard way.

It was 1987. I had just started a humor column for the college newspaper and I had just written a screed against my high school English teachers (no, it's not online and for good reason. Heck, the editor should have axed that column but it still ran. It wasn't until a semester or two later did I get an editor who actually edited and told me a few of my columns were not fit to print and for that I'm thankful).

Of all my columns I wrote (and I wrote the column for three years) that was the only one to get back to my high school. And boy did I hear about it. I felt bad then; I still felt bad ten years later at my high school reunion (and felt relieved that none of the teachers I wrote about showed up) and I still feel bad about it now, but the paper itself is long gone and I doubt if you can even dig up back copies at the library so that particular piece of journalism is long dead and buried.

Monday, March 25, 2002

Ludicrous Applications of Technology in the Pursuit of Food

Ring.

I answer the phone. “Hello?”

“Hey, Sean. This is Rob,” said my roommate. “What did you have in mind for dinner?”

“Are you calling from your room?”

“Yes,” he said. “It just seemed easier to call you on the cell phone.”

Mind you, he's sill about twenty feet away from me at the Facility in the Middle of Nowhere.

Tuesday, March 26, 2002

Random blathering on blogs

One of the things I noticed about Grey Matter was it's slowness, and while part of that may be due to Perl, it might also have to do with the number of pages it has to rebuild, according to Karl Martino of of Paradox1x.

Now, mod_blog also recreates some files whenever a new entry is made, but it's not quite as bad as Grey Matter or Moveable Type from what I understand. Three files are created—the first is the main page and that is for speed reasons, as that page is most likely to be loaded. It doesn't have to be made—it could be generated dynamically when requested (in fact, that's how I was doing it originally). The second file is the RSS file, and while it too could be generated dynamically, again for speed reasons I build a pre-cached version if you will. The third file is a recent addition and it's the Mozilla/Netscape Sidebar page and again, like the other two, could be generated dynamically, but for speed reasons …

Now the posting speed is another issue. Having used the Grey Matter interface, yes, that is a bit slow to respond since there is a lot of file building going on. Radio appears to respond faster, but that's because it spawns a background task to do the file rebuilding; it doesn't pause the interface until it's done. mod_blog, on the other hand, is different. The email interface responds quickly, since the email client will batch it up for sending, then the server will batch it up for sending and finally it'll arrive and be processed, so via email, the process seems instantaneous, although it may take a minute or two for everything to be processed.

The web interface is fast—less than a minute and that includes the three files being created, plus sending notification to Weblogs.com and sending the email notification (granted, there are only a few people signed up for that right now, but if it becomes an issue I can spawn a background task to send the email).

This on a 33 MHz 486 (and yes, the software is in C but what processing is done, it might be a tad slower in Perl—not entirely sure).

Archiving—that's a non-issue with mod_blog. The whole site here is dynamic (well, except for three pre-generated pages) and the concept of building archive pages just doesn't apply. Granted, I have control over the server so I can do that, but not everyone has such access. Different tools for different needs.

Wednesday, March 27, 2002

“… and now, a word from our sponsor … ”

I read The Space Merchants by Frederick Pohl and C. M. Kornbluth years ago and found it a bit over the top. It's the future and advertising dominates the average person's life. Everything is advertising. Even using Calgon in your bath wouldn't take you away from the advertising. So shut up and drink your Pepsi.

A bit later (but still a few years ago) I sat down and watched Network, a film about an over the top news program. In 1976 it must have seemed the top, but in the mid-90s? It's hard to top Jeraldo Rivera (although Rick Sanchez, a former local talking head could give Jeraldo a run for his money) these days, and Network seems rather tame.

So this comes as no surprise:

Acclaim Entertainment said yesterday that it would pay relatives of the recently bereaved in return for placing small billboards on headstones, and that the offer might “particularly interest poorer families.”

Via Flutterby, Game publicity pan raises grave concerns

I'm just waiting for the day when advertising becomes mandated by law.

Oh, by the way, this post brought to you by the letter “X” and by the number “13.”

Thursday, March 28, 2002

A Google Bombing variant?

Spring has been looking for a program that will scan the webserver log files for pages served up by search engines—obstensibly for Disturbing Search Requests. She hasn't found any, so today I quickly wrote one up for her.

The odd thing I noticed though, as I watched her use the program on her site and my site and my blog is that my blog has way more search requests than hers does.

In fact, going over the three largest sites on this server (www.springdew.com, www.conman.org and boston.conman.org) that my blog/online journal here averages about twice the search requests as the other sites. I think that has something to do with the way this site works. Google (just to pick a search engine) will have indexed the same entry about five times—once on main page, once for day, once for the month, once for the year (don't want to bog down the server needlessly for that example) and once for itself.

I'm not sure how much that affects the final ranking of a particular page since they're all intrasite links but it does have to skew the results somehow. Somehow it feels like I'm Google Bombing my own site with my own site.


The 1812 Overture, on 11, as sung by squirrels.

I am not a morning person. I also tend to be a rather heavy sleeper. Mix these two things together and you have one person that is hard to wake up at times.

Lord knows my Dad has tried. He's tried John Phillips Sousa. He's tried Richard Wagner. He's even tried the 1812 Overture at eleven and that still failed to wake me up (what did work, however, was the Frozen Wash Cloth to the Face Method, and the Dump Me in Snow Method but those are not as effective as they were since he now lives in Palm Springs, California).

Spring found this out as she was trying to wake me up. She found some rather unconventional music in an attempt to wake me up. She finally shook me awake and I found the rather unconventional music more amusing than annoying or loud (give it a listen—the squirrel could use some money).

There is one type of music that I find so truely annoying that it would wake me up rather quickly, but of course I'm not going to mention what that is.

Friday, March 29, 2002

Your tax dollars at work

I don't even know where to begin with this.

Kentucky, a land locked state for those of you who might be geographically challenged, is … well … just … just read for yourself. I'm speechless.

Saturday, March 30, 2002

A lesson in usability

One of my readers reported a usability problem with my site: he couldn't see one of the links since I was using a rather dark blue to denote unvisited links and he couldn't see distinguish it from the black text (and I suppose, he had turned off underlining on links).

He also said that the typical color for unvisited links should be red, or some other visually outstanding color, to draw attention to them for the reader. My original idea was to have the visually outstanding color for links visited since you, the reader, found the link worthy of visiting.

But, given the visual problems mentioned above, I decided to switch the two colors so now unvisited links will be inviting you to click on them in red, while those tired, old, visited links will now be in blue.

Now, while I'm talking about linking colors, I'm not sure how many of you may have noticed, but the brightness of the links is an indication of how “far” the link is—the brighter it is, the “closer” it is serverwise. That is, the brightest links are to links to other entries in my journal here, while the dimmest links are completely external to my site.

Of course, you can only see it if your browser supports style sheets. And speaking of style sheets … I was expecting to have to fix about a dozen pages to fix the color aspects of the links, but for some reason it slipped my mind that I'm using a style sheet and that all that information about link color is stored in one location so it only took me like fifteen seconds to fix every page here (or rather, on The Boston Diaries—my main home page doesn't use style sheets, so there, I have to fix about a hundred pages).

Score another point for style sheets.

Sunday, March 31, 2002

Make money the Herbalife way

… Then I called the next three numbers.

They all had the SAME message. It was a woman's voice, and she started the message with a distinctive “Ya know”. In the upcoming days of phone number investigation, I heard this message dozens of times. The next one was a wrong number, the sixth number was the “ya know” message. The seventh number had a different message, but it had some aspects of the first message, “20-year industry leader” and “tap into mail-order”. This message, too, was an effort to send me a 14-page booklet.

Well. I was stunned. These signs were all over town, in scores of different designs, and they were all the work of one company. A super-secret Fortune 500 company that never put it's name of it's ugly ever-present signs.

Via CamWorld, Work from Home, unwelcome Herbalife Signs

Cam's “amateur Internet sleuthing” comment notwithstanding, this is an excellent piece of journalistic reporting. I've seen the signs here in Lower Sheol as well and have been mildly curious to look into these “work from home” businesses. But the cynincal side of me (or rather, my cynical side channeling my Dad's cynical side) goes: “If you can make tons of money working from home, why promote competition?”

A similar question pops up whenever I see an infomercial hawking money making schemes (“Buy New York City with other people's money!”)—“If you can make money doing that, why tell other people?” It seems to me that there are three reasons why anyone would do this:

  1. The person found a good way of making money and wishes to help other people realize their goals in life by making tons of money (and if so, then why are they selling it as opposed to just giving the information away? (assuming they made enough money to satisfy themselves)).
  2. There's more money to be made in telling people how to make money using [insert system being sold here] than in actually using [insert system being sold here].
  3. There's no money to be made in telling or using [insert system being sold here] but the person selling it trying to get as much return as possible in getting out of the system.

If you want, here's a way to make tons of money that I'll give away

FREE!

There are a few simple steps.

  1. Get a nice computer system set up for graphics work.
  2. Get a nice scanner.
  3. Get a nice color printer.
  4. Scan in paper money of the type you would like to make.
  5. Print said scans on similar type of paper the money normally comes on.
  6. Live it up like there's no tomorrow until the proper authorities come and arrest your conterfeiting heinie.

Okay, I never said it was a good or legal way to make money (this is satire and is information that should not be used—repeat—this is satire and you should not follow this advice).

Obligatory Picture

[Don't hate me for my sock monkey headphones.]

Obligatory Links

Obligatory Miscellaneous

You have my permission to link freely to any entry here. Go ahead, I won't bite. I promise.

The dates are the permanent links to that day's entries (or entry, if there is only one entry). The titles are the permanent links to that entry only. The format for the links are simple: Start with the base link for this site: http://boston.conman.org/, then add the date you are interested in, say 2000/08/01, so that would make the final URL:

http://boston.conman.org/2000/08/01

You can also specify the entire month by leaving off the day portion. You can even select an arbitrary portion of time.

You may also note subtle shading of the links and that's intentional: the “closer” the link is (relative to the page) the “brighter” it appears. It's an experiment in using color shading to denote the distance a link is from here. If you don't notice it, don't worry; it's not all that important.

It is assumed that every brand name, slogan, corporate name, symbol, design element, et cetera mentioned in these pages is a protected and/or trademarked entity, the sole property of its owner(s), and acknowledgement of this status is implied.

Copyright © 1999-2017 by Sean Conner. All Rights Reserved.