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.

Thursday, November 13, 2008


I was talking with Hoade the other day and found out he's on MyFaceSpaceBook (it wasn't easy to find that link—heck, the whole site is maddening, but more on that in a bit) and he convinced me that I too, should jump off the bridge with the rest of the lemmings and get my own MyFaceSpaceBook page.

Good XXXXXXX Lord! Was I the last person on the planet without a MyFaceSpaceBook page? People I haven't thought of in years suddenly popped up on my computer screen. People like Naomi Peyton neé Dominguez—we played the elder Kirbys in You Can't Take It With You when I was a sophmore in high school (she was a junior at the time). Or Jae Kim, a fellow high school classmate from '87. And so on. High school, college, just about everyone I knew from the past twenty years or so is on MyFaceSpaceBook.

But I'm finding the site very difficult to use, mainly because it keeps defying my expectations of what a social site should be, despite not having any real preconceived notions of what a social site should be. For a site that supposedly exists to connect people up, seeing what the site has to offer when you aren't a member is impossible. And even when you are a member, you often times can't see much of anything on a person's profile, which makes it difficult (or at least, I find it difficult) to determine if the person listed is who I think the person listed is.

I suppose it's set up to protect privacy, but I come from a tradition of an open Internet, where everything you put up on a website is meant for public consumption. So this “lock everything down” mentality is alien to how I work on the Internet (even back at FAU, I deliberately kept my computer files mostly accessible—if they were important, I would restrict access, and I deeply resented when the sysadmins of the Computer Science and Engineering Department reset permissions on my files to prevent anyone from reading them, multiple times! I don't need to be protected from myself, you know?).

It also reminds me of a walled community, much like AOL or CompuServe in the 90s. Mediate the users experience; give the user limited options; one-stop shopping as it were. I'm not thrilled with MyFaceSpaceBook, but I doubt I'm their target audience. I run my own webserver (and have done so since 1994 when I put up my first website) and do not have to suffer the whims of some large faceless company (only the whims of a small hosting company, who will personally deliver any lawyerly threats to my doorstep for me to take care of).

I'll probably still use the site (much like I use my LiveJournal account) to keep up with friends; it's just not my primary home on the Intarwebs.

Reason #23 why I sometimes wonder how I even have a job

“How hard can it be to email a webpage?” asked Smirk.

“Very hard,” I said.

“Why do you insist on using 80s technolgy?”

“Technically, mutt was written in the 90s, and can handle attachments.”


I started using the Internet in the late 80s, back in a time when sending files via email was frowned upon, and every computer on the Internet was a true peer to every other computer on the Internet. And yes, intellectually, I understand that time has moved on and we've regressed to walled gardens of mediated digital experiences and people never think twice of emailing Microsoft Office to themselves so they can work on the Johnson Account at home (and least you think I'm engaging in a bit of hyperbole with Microsoft Office, I'm not—I handled the technical support call for just that situation a few years ago).

But it still just doesn't feel right to send files via email.

Anyway, I've tried using more modern email clients, and I found them all slower than the text based email client elm running on a 32MHz computer. But given that elm is no longer being maintained, I've upgraded to the slightly slower (if a bit more featureful) text based email client mutt (which is okay, because I'm running it on a 2.6GHz computer).

And in order to keep the speed up (especially given the size of today's emails—I mean, do you realize how big Microsoft Office is these days?) I read the mail directly on my server. That has two benefits—one, I don't have to suck down huge emails over a slow Internet connection, and two, I can check my email from any computer without being forced into using some horrible excuse of an email client over the web.

That means, technically, I don't check my email on my local computer here, and therefore, it's a bit difficult to actually send a webpage. In fact, for me to send a file via email, I have to upload it to the server, and if I'm doing that, I might as well put it in a web-accessible location and send a link via email. This also means that yes, things that most people would consider “trivial” (like mailing Microsoft Office) aren't “trivial” for me (and let's not even discuss sending me Microsoft Word documents … ).

The Amazing Randi on Pseudoscience in the New Millennium

Bunny and I attended Pseudoscience in the New Millennium, a lecture given by James Randi.

[James Randi.  Photograph by Bunny]

His lecture started out with him walking up to the podium, microphone in hand, and asking the audience to raise their hands if they considered themselves a “skeptic.” And after the entire audience raised their hands, he proceeded to tell us that we weren't very skeptical since he's already fooled us. Twice. In less than two minutes. The microphone he was using? Not even turned on; we just assumed he was using that because he had it (his actual microphone was in his shirt). And second, the glasses he was wearing? They too weren't real. The point of that was to show that just saying one is “skeptical” isn't always enough.

And after that, he started his lecture, going into details about various pseudoscientific quackery, like homeopathy, spritual healers and psychic surgery (which didn't save Andy Kaufman), during which he performed a few magical tricks to keep us on our toes.

He also mentioned his $1,000,000 Paranormal Challenge, which no one has won since it begain in 1964. This prompted one lady during the question-and-answer session (she was the last “question” during the night) to offer Randi “proof” that spirits exist (and with this, she brought forward a huge carrying case with her “proof”), although she didn't really want his money (a common response from many applicants, according to Randi; a few members of the audience asked if she would donate the winnings to them). Randi humored her and told her to apply for the prize.

I doubt she will. I also suspect Randi feels the same, but I can't prove it.

[Randi is my homeboy]

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