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My Archives: January 2004

Monday, January 26, 2004

Useless web site of the day
Posted by CKL @ 03:43 PM PST
A friend of mine invited me to a Super Bowl party on Sunday. I'm not a football fan, and I wanted to find out which teams were playing, so I went to to look it up. Surprise! Not a single freakin' mention of the team names anywhere on the home page. I had to go to "scoreboard" to find the region names, and then go to two different pages to see the team names. That's two levels deep, at least five clicks, not at all intuitive, and totally unacceptable.

Let's think for a minute: what is, possibly, the most important information related to the Super Bowl? The date? Hey, that's on the home page, in tiny text in a non-searchable header image. The teams who are playing? Well, gee, I guess that's not so important, otherwise it would be easy to find.


I suppose the site designers thought that if I were actually a football fan, I'd already know which teams were playing. Well, it's nice to be repudiated so immediately upon visiting a web site. I know when I'm not welcome. The incompetent morass that is will never sully my web browser again.


Friday, January 23, 2004

Orkut's Palace of Love
Posted by CKL @ 02:28 PM PST
I'm not a huge fan of social networking sites, but Orkut shows more promise than the crap-fest that is Friendster. I don't anticipate spending huge amounts of time on Orkut, myself, since I'm not a teenage girl, and I'm not convinced anyone can actually make money doing this. But if anyone can figure it out, I'm sure Google can.

As always, the slashdot discussion is lively. I think comparing social networking sites to high school is somewhat pessimistic; if done properly, the mechanism by which you interact will engender no worse effects than you would experience in real life. People form cliques. Not everyone gets along. Technology won't solve that, but it may drive certain changes in how we deal with interpersonal relationships.

If, instead of having to hire a private detective, you can do a five-second web search for all of your blind date's past boyfriends and map all their acquaintances against your own network of friends, how will that information affect your interactions with her? I believe there are no absolute taboos, only societal norms, and our concept of normalcy is always in flux. Changing what we can do forces us to reexamine our ideas of what we should do. And that's often a Good Thing.


Thursday, January 22, 2004

sale phones
Posted by CKL @ 09:16 AM PST
"AT&T Wireless on Thursday confirmed widespread speculation that it's for sale. Chief Executive John Zeglis told financial analysts that the nation's third largest provider of cell phone service has received 'significant interest from a number of companies'... recent news reports in recent days [sic] have identified potential suitors as U.S. companies Cingular Wireless and Nextel Communications; Japanese carrier NTT DoCoMo; and British giant Vodafone, which is a part owner of Verizon Wireless."



Wednesday, January 21, 2004

Penguin Physics
Posted by CKL @ 04:09 PM PST
Who says penguins can't fly? They just need a little help from their friendly neighborhood Abominable Snowman:

War! What is it good for? Not TV.
Posted by CKL @ 08:51 AM PST
"The war in Iraq and the Bush administration's deployment of enormous forces of enlisted men and reserves in many Middle East hot spots may be largely responsible for the sudden drop in 18-34-year-old male viewers reported by Nielsen Research (and challenged by the TV networks), according to a study by Rainbow National Cable Networks and reported today (Tuesday) by MediaPost's online MediaDailyNews.Charlene Weisler, senior vice president-research at Rainbow, told the trade publication that she estimates that the deployment of young adults into active military positions could represent as much as 5.8 percent of Nielsen's 18-34-year-old demo. The figure is in line with Nielsen's conclusion that about 6 percent of that demo has vanished from the viewing audience."

-- IMDB Studio Briefing


Monday, January 19, 2004

The Lost Weekend
Posted by CKL @ 11:47 AM PST
I had brought my laptop home on Friday, thinking I might have some time to work on Python programming over the weekend. Boy, was I wrong, and I'm glad.

Saturday: went out to breakfast, ran into Elena at Hobees and chatted. Drove by the bank and got cash. Stood in line at Fry's to return unwanted netcam. Stopped by Ray's house to help sort his LEGO collection and watch Coupling. Got dinner at Jamba Juice. Went to Game Night at Laura & Alexei's.

Sunday: walked with IdaRose & Neil to Farmers Market and got breakfast to go. Visited Woman's Club of Palo Alto to see if we like it for a wedding location. Shopped at Trader Joe's. Went to Annie's 30th birthday party and wine tasting. Had a late tea and Dickens reading at Pauline's. Ended the night with Loren & Suzie, cooking pizza with homemade dough and chatting until midnight.

Should probably have tried to get more than six hours' sleep last night, but overall, no regrets.


Thursday, January 15, 2004

Space, the Feckless Frontier
Posted by CKL @ 04:44 PM PST
"Cape of Fear: I consider [President George W.] Bush to be exceedingly incurious. What on [E]arth would he gain from a manned flight to Mars, other than the false impression that he embraces science and reason, the mortal enemies of religious fundamentalists. Am I being cynical here?

"Dr. John H. Gibbons: Well, just like the fabled hydrogen economy, what he's proposing won't come due during his watch. He's putting out tantalizing visions of what is possible, then escaping the real price.

"There's a quote from Max Born: 'Intellect distinguishes between the possible and the impossible, reason distinguishes between the sensible and the senseless. Even the possible can be senseless.' [my emphasis -CKL]

"And I think that's what we have here. I would much rather have our president address the issues that lay before us in this first decade of the 21st century and to address critical issues like climate change and species loss, population explosion... it's a long list... so that we could become captains of our own ship in this century."



Numfar! Use the search engine of shame!
Posted by CKL @ 10:53 AM PST
"Like it or not, many of us in the Internet generation have left a digital trail on the World Wide Web. There's a good chance that a random smattering of your personal information is dangling out there for anyone to peruse. That information could be fairly benign, as is the case for Jeff's date, or in the case of Jeff, downright embarrassing... sooner or later, someone, somewhere will pull up your curriculum googlae."

-- Toronto Star columnist Christopher Hutsul


Wednesday, January 14, 2004

Game On
Posted by CKL @ 09:28 AM PST
Last night, Acorn, who works for EA, brought over a pre-release copy of James Bond: Everything or Nothing (does that mean it's James Bond: Binary?) and a development PS2 to show off his collision detection code.

This was cool for two reasons: first, I got to play the game a good month before its actual release (plus probably several more until it's available for Xbox); and second, the assembled geeks had an in-depth discussion of why and how the development PS2 hardware will only play specially encoded discs, which are also digitally watermarked with Acorn's name.

Of course, the real money for EA would be in selling official, licensed expansion packs for The Sims, if they could ever work it out with the copyright owners. James Bond, the Simpsons, Star Trek, Harry Potter...


Tuesday, January 13, 2004

apples and... potatoes
Posted by CKL @ 12:22 AM PST
Headline of the week (so far):
"German Police Investigate Potato Computer Scam"

Saturday, January 10, 2004

amen to that
Posted by CKL @ 02:28 PM PST
From the best review of The Matrix Revolutions I've seen yet (MINOR SPOILER):

"In the Matrix, Agent Smith eats Neo, and then Neo turns into Jesus and shoots Jesus lasers out of his eyes, which consume all the Agent Smiths with Jesus power." -- RavenBlog


Friday, January 9, 2004

Frivolous Lawsuit of the Week
Posted by CKL @ 09:03 AM PST
Man says heís addicted to cable; wants to sue Charter
Cable TV made a West Bend man addicted to TV, caused his wife to be overweight and his kids to be lazy, he says... Timothy Dumouchel of West Bend [Wisconsin] wants $5,000 or three computers, and a lifetime supply of free Internet service from Charter Communications to settle what he says will be a small claims suit.
So this guy wants to cure his TV addiction with... the Internet? Yeah, that'll work. But wait, there's more! [more]

Thursday, January 8, 2004

Ignorance is bliss. Knowledge is power.
Posted by CKL @ 01:49 AM PST
There's been a lot of fuss lately about mad cow disease coming to the United States, and I think it's pretty damn stupid. My workplace cafeteria served steak earlier this week-- cut from free-range, grass-fed cattle-- and the chefs were disappointed that very few people went for the entree. But they bounced back with grace the next day, serving "mad cow vegetable" soup. For the record, I ate and enjoyed both dishes.

The thing is, none of us is really at any more risk of eating diseased beef than we were a few months ago, or even a year ago, probably. Mad cow disease, or bovine spongiform encephalopathy (BSE), is still a poorly understood phenomenon, as evidenced by New Scientist's BSE and vCJD FAQ: [more]


Tuesday, January 6, 2004

They Call Him Bruce
Posted by CKL @ 09:37 AM PST
Science fiction author Bruce Sterling provides some much-needed perspective:

"Iím not really all that interested in what Hollywood does with its stuff. I mean, theyíre only the size of the porn industry. I think the real revolution is in industrial production. Itís about manipulating factory processes, itís about mass customization, itís about a revolution in industry that gets the toxins out of the air and is more efficient by, say, a factor of four than what we had. When that happens weíll have a genuinely new world. Playing movies off handhelds, thatís not really that big of a deal."

And a qualified endorsement:

"Iíve got Google up all the time. It gives you this veneer of command of the facts which you do not, in point of fact, have. Itís extremely useful for novelists but somewhat dangerous if youíre pretending to be a brain surgeon."


Monday, January 5, 2004

Dinero Desperadoes
Posted by CKL @ 11:19 AM PST
Last night, DeeAnn and I played Lawless, a game which one of our friends had given us as a holiday gift. Basically, you're a cattle rancher in the Old West, and you play action cards and roll dice to increase your four resources (number of ranges in your ranch, number of cattle herds, number of cowboys in your employ, or amount of gold you own) or to influence an opponent's ranch.

For a game named "Lawless," there was an awful lot of accounting. The endgame involves counting up how many resources you have, and awarding first-, second-, third-, and fourth-place points to the players who have the most of each resource (5 points for 1st place, 3 points for 2nd place, etc.); which seems unnecessarily complex to me, since you could just count how many of each resource every player actually has and use those numbers directly. Shrug.

It's probably more fun with more than two players. Or maybe we could pretend it's set in the Firefly universe...


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