Archive for the 'Miscellany' Category


Tuesday, May 30th, 2006

Seems to me that any weekend spent mainly dividing one’s time between beaches and barbecues can’t be all bad. And if it’s possible to avoid a sunburn in the process, all the better.

Grab Bag II

Thursday, May 25th, 2006

Just over a month ago, I posted a few random things that didn’t merit a full post of their own. Let’s do it again, shall we?

Let me start with some stuff I’ve had for a couple of months. These are two screens from Adorama camera. First, the checkout screen includes this option:
'Simple Checkout' form

Skip past the work of creating a password I’ll never remember? Kudos!

The same goes for the credit card form:
wide credit card blank

There’s a nice wide space, and it allows for spaces and dashes — just like all card input boxes should. Also, you don’t need to choose the card type; the system is smart enough to recognize it from the length/prefix. Not sure why they allowed “2005” in the expiration pulldown, but that’s a minor quibble.

Sadly, Adorama’s order processing doesn’t hold up to their order taking. Originally, I was so pleased with the smooth checkout experience that I took these shots with the intention of making a post entitled “I Adore Adorama.”

My adoration quickly faded when my camera order was held up with unclear status messages that were ultimately revealed to mean “We’re holding this order until a rep can call you and attempt to upsell filters, memory cards and other gear.” Very annoying. I’ll have to look to B&H in the future.

OK, next we have spell-checking by search engine. A few days ago I discovered a user from visited my site because I’m listed as using the non-(English-)word “reelation”:

Sorry, Norwegians! It was just a typo. Fixed now.

On to network names. A few weeks ago, I had to fire up my laptop for some Windows-related work. Our wireless router’s been a little hinky lately, so I did a scan and got this back:
networks list with phone number

Obviously, somebody within a few hundred feet of me thought it would be a good idea to use his/her telephone number as a network ID. Clever! Then when someone cracks the encryption, s/he’ll know how to find the address as well.

I also enjoy the “Customer ID” option. I picture somebody following instructions to the letter: “In the SSID field, enter your customer ID.”

Still, neither of these compare to one I found at home awhile back:
network named 'your wife has nice (o)(o)'

Stay classy, Fat Dog!

Speaking of classy, let’s move on to the reason Adblock was invented, also known as an incredibly tacky ad:

I went back and forth as to whether I would actually reward this advertiser by clicking it. Finally, I decided I should — so that I might report my findings, in true quasi-journo fashion.

Well, here’s the report: it makes no noise, but instead urges you to download a “jokes toolbar.” Ugh. Why do I use Safari again? Oh yeah, great PDF rendering.

…and also, how else would I get my weird-ass mortgage ad fix? This one comes from the Trib. She’s melting!
stills of woman pouring liquid soap on herself

Well, actually she’s… pouring body wash on herself? Outside? I don’t know. All I know is this Flash ad would continually loop this woman squeezing goo over herself and silently laughing/screaming like she’s having a gay ol’ time. Of course. It makes so much sense…

I’ll tell you something that does make sense now, in hindsight. That would be the reason C-SPAN pulled Colbert from YouTube. Sure, they’re said it was because they wanted to put an authorized version on Google Video, but seems they wanted to put it somewhere else as well:

Can’t blame ’em, I guess. Name another time everyone was clamoring for C-SPAN content…

Que es Mariposa?

Tuesday, April 11th, 2006

So I’m checking up on the torrents site, as one does, and I find this interesting title I haven’t seen before: “mariposaHD.” It’s available in HD (720p and 1080i, Windows Media format) and bills itself as “The World’s First HDTV Show for the Internet.” It’s even available in a Creative Commons license, with free online distribution encouraged! Impressive, eh?

Who are these trendsetters, blazing a trail for high tech, flexible copyright, and new distribution models? What stories are they using all this shiny newness to tell?

man with camcorder aimed at woman in bikini

Oh. Right.


Tuesday, April 4th, 2006

Hello! Just a quick note to say: yes, I’m still alive, and thanks to those of you who e-mailed to ask. I’ve been quite busy the last few weeks (for example, I’ve slept in 3 different places in the last 3 days) but I expect it all to settle down mid-week. (Sometime after 01:02:03 04/05/06, say…)

Expect posting to resume (and e-mails to be answered) around then.

Asleep at the Wheel

Tuesday, February 28th, 2006

Well, would you look at that. Last week my Google Pontiac post was mentioned in a “ClickZ Network” post, and my traffic nearly tripled versus a typical Thursday. Of course, since I was out of town at the time (with a barely-charged laptop and no adapter, even) I didn’t even notice until a week later.

My bad!

Happy Birthday Moogs!

Saturday, February 25th, 2006

We’re in that narrow stretch of time when it’s 25th Feb both here in Chi and down there in Sydney, so I want to take this opportunity to wish the lovely and talented Catherine Bender a most happy 23rd.

May the hangover gods be kind to you tomorrow.

Good Thing I’m Not Getting Married Tonight

Friday, February 17th, 2006

Forecast of -17F

So why am I not in Australia again?

Unexpected Pleasures

Wednesday, February 1st, 2006

Well, that was a string of events that pleased me:

  • I arrived at my Orlando hotel after 10 and fired up the laptop, planning to read some Web pages I’d saved to the hard drive earlier at Pech‘s. (According to both the travel agency and the hotel’s own site, there was no broadband available.) Just to be sure, I did a scan, and lo and behold: free wireless! Which was nice, because…
  • I was able to use the Wi-Fi to discover that the Loews at Universal Studios has midnight showings every night. (It’s ginormous, btw: the maximum capacity for the building is 8,000+.) As Universal Studios is just minutes away, I popped in the car, and was soon pleased to discover…
  • Parking at the complex, which is posted at $9/auto, is free after 6pm. The discounts don’t stop there, since…
  • My ticket was only $8, down from what he originally rang up ($12.) I’m not sure if that represents a midnight discount or just an intial miscalculation on his part, but I’ll take it either way.

Who knew you could do anything at Universal for eight bucks? The money saved should come in handy tomorrow as I skulk around MCO, awaiting my flight back to ORD

Don’t Ask Me How

Sunday, January 29th, 2006

Today Pech and I were waiting in the drive-through and I noticed the Dodge Ram in front of us had Puerto Rico plates. I had to fight off the urge to jump out of the car and ask how such a truck got to Florida.

Later, after some searching, I also became curious about the style. The one we saw was just black and white (plain, no background), had 7 numbers, and read “Puerto Rico” along the bottom edge. It doesn’t match any of these. Must be different for trucks…

On the Road (Again)

Wednesday, January 25th, 2006

Well, I have about 1,400 miles to drive in the next 48 hours, so I best get on it. Laters.

Miller’s Time

Monday, January 23rd, 2006

As a hardcore movie fan, I’ve seen more than my fair share of “behind-the-scenes featurettes,” and I have to tell you, I am amazed at Hollywood. What a talented, mutually-respectful love-in that must be.

Or at least it seems to be that way, given how in every interview, the star always loves the script, the director’s always a genius, every cinematographer’s a master, etc., etc. Gosh, could it be that they’re acting in those, too?

It’s always been my secret dream that some cast will just lose it and say what they really think: the script’s rubbish, the director a hack, whatever.

I’m not holding my breath.

Maybe I’ll just watch skiing instead. Bode Miller clearly doesn’t have those inhibitions, as anyone who read Newsweek‘s “You Don’t Know Bode” can attest (censorship removed):

“The U.S. skiing folks have really done a lot for me. They put up with me, and I push those fuckers hard. I am a constant pain in their ass about making them do all the shit I think they should be doing anyway. They’ve had to adapt to me just like I’ve adapted to them, and I think they’ve done exceptionally well. Look, a lot of the people involved with the U.S. Ski Team—the people that I’m representing—are unbelievable assholes. Rich, cocky, wicked conceited, super-right-wing Republicans. But because of my morals, my principles, I can’t judge them for that. The things they’ve done for me warrant respect, and I’m trying to pay them back.”

I love this guy.

P.S. Did I mention the RV?

Guess What the Last Show Is!

Wednesday, January 18th, 2006

Saw this awhile ago at B-don‘s, and it still makes me chuckle. I enjoy trying to imagine what was going through the mind of the writer who created MetaCritic’s 2006 mid-season premieres list:

“Hmm, okay, this one’s a comedy, that’s a drama… reality… hmmm, that kind of straddles drama/soap. Better put both. OK, good… Wait. What the..?! Fuck it, we’re making a new genre.”

List of networks, times, genres

Saving the World Is Hard, But Worth It

Monday, January 16th, 2006

Here in America, the Red Cross has done a lot of great work for over a century. Lately, however — perhaps in part due to their massive size — they have also made some really boneheaded missteps. The clearly fractious relationship between the multi-billion-dollar charity’s board and its executives (4 chiefs have quit in the last 6 years) can’t help. (Not that America has a monopoly on in-fighting; witness the idiotic wrangling over the red diamond amongst members of the International Movement of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies.)

It’s not just the big things that have me worried about (what I assume to be) the world’s biggest charity. It’s also the small, such as their new “Blood Saves” campaign, first brought to my attention in a Slate article by Seth Stevenson entitled “In Cold Blood: A nasty new public service announcement from the American Red Cross.”

What does it take to earn a PSA the label of “nasty”? Well, you can read Seth’s take for the full review, but here’s the text of the ad entitled “Julie” (available for viewing on, once you jump through some Flash/Java hoops):

I heard about this company dumping toxins in local rivers and I called their executives to say stop, but they were too busy counting profits while the rivers are being destroyed, birds and fish are dying, and the local kids are getting cancer.

So I organized a huge protest and it actually got the company shut down but now half the town’s been unemployed and the kids are twice as sick since they can’t get healthcare, since their parents lost the insurance they had when they worked for the company who dumped all the toxins in the first place.

After “Julie’s” breathless recitation, the sound of a heartbeat fades in and titles read “Saving the world isn’t easy. Saving a life is. / Just 1 pint of blood can save up to 3 lives.”

Before we get down to the ad’s idiocy, let’s dispatch with the obvious: giving blood is good. You should do it. It’s relatively fast, it’s easy, and they’ll give you a cookie. I’d do it if they’d let me.*

With that out of the way, what is this ad (or its companion, which tells the story of child labor protest letters answered with free coupons printed on rainforest-derived paper) telling us? To me, it sounds a lot like this: don’t bother. The world is too complicated for you to understand the ramifications of your actions. Just give blood, pat yourself on the back, and keep on keepin’ on. What a nice, neat television-commercial-sort-of-answer that is. Thank you, Ad Council.

Except it’s pure crap, the very same sort spouted by ExxonMobil front groups that want the mantra “Clean Environment = Fewer Jobs” burned in all our brains. Yes, it’s true that forcing companies to clean up their own messes will cut back some of the profits they’re counting in Julie’s example, and indeed, requiring more chimney scrubbers, reduced toxic waste dumps and all the rest may lead to higher costs, just as it should lead to more engineering jobs and sales for companies that make that very equipment. Transportation costs could certainly increase, making everything you buy more expensive. (Especially since most of it is coming from China.)

So what? Since when did the Constitution guarantee us $1.50/gallon? Is reducing cancer not worth a high cost? Does it really come down to a choice between polluted rivers or no healthcare, between ending child labor and saving rainforests? Is this all too complicated for us to worry about? Of course not!

Everyone should be working as much as they can to make this a better world, whether it’s through blood donation, advocacy, reduced environmental impact, volunteerism, or any of the myriad other ways to help out your fellow living things. Shame on the Ad Council, and shame on the Red Cross for minimizing all those other important efforts.

* I fall in the category of “men who’ve had sex with men since 1979” and am therefore banned. At least, I’m pretty sure I’m in that category. It was a long, long time ago…

A Minor Request for Those Who Create TV Series DVDs

Sunday, January 15th, 2006

When it comes to television shows on DVD, I have a simple test to determine if the disc mastering company knows what it’s doing: the fast-forward button.

Say you’re watching a show on DVD — no, say you’re watching the second show on the DVD. You’ve just watched the first. You want to dip in for another. The teaser ends, and the opening titles begin. You tap the fast-forward button and you get: what?

On DVDs made by clueful manufacturers, you should jump to the very last portion of the titles, just before the action resumes. Sure, it’s probably the shortest chapter on the disc, but who cares? There are no rules that say chapters must be equidistant.

Sadly, some studios don’t understand this concept. For example, in the series I’ve been watching lately, “Homicide: Life on the Street,” the (S1) discs jump about six minutes in, right in the action and well past the (frankly, somewhat annoying) titles.

No good.

The World of Macromedia

Wednesday, January 4th, 2006

This afternoon I discovered a small little feature on that pleased me. On the Studio 8 sales page, they have brief video endorsements:
man speaking with subtitles in video player

Not such a big deal in and of itself, but I enjoyed the fact that amongst the 6 speakers, four languages are spoken: German, English, and what I assume to be Japanese and Mandarin (or perhaps Min.)

Macromedia no doubt shot the testimonials for their various international divisions. Perhaps they decided to show the variety on a US page as an excuse to showcase Flash’s accessiblity features (in this case, captioning.)

Whatever the reason, I found the small reminder that people are doing great Web work all over the world refreshing.