Friday, December 28, 2007

Fun Rant on Arguments

Enjoy this long fun rant on Things My Girlfriend and I Have Argued About

I tend to get quite a few men writing to me saying, 'Think your girlfriend's a nightmare, well mine's worse.' Now, this always surprises me. First of all, I wasn't aware that I was giving the impression that Margret is something of a trial to live with. I'm here merely stating the facts, without bias or embellishment: a simple camera pointed at the scene, recording it with complete neutrality. I am, frankly, shocked and disturbed that anyone might think I'm here to make the case that my girlfriend is, say, as mad as an eel.
...
Margret is sitting at this computer (which is in the attic room, incidentally) typing something. I'm flopped in a chair close by with a paper and pad, scribbling away at a bit of work.
I pause and say to her, 'Tortoise and turtle is the same word in German, isn't it?'
She stops typing, reaches over, pulls off one of my Birkenstock shoes, throws it down through trapdoor (I hear it thud below, then flip-flop down the stairs) and returns to her typing. All in a single, silent movement.
Your guess is as good as mine, frankly.

Tuesday, December 25, 2007

Monday, December 24, 2007

Gmail Security Tip

The problem has supposedly been fixed but here is what happened. User logs into Gmail. User visits site with infection code. Site injects a filter into Gmail to have the users email matching the filter to be forwarded to any email they like.

Google’s GMail security failure leaves my business sabotaged

If you use GMail, it’s absolutely vital that you check your account settings now.

Here's what to do:

When logged into GMail, click on the 'settings' tab in the upper right of the screen. Then check both the 'Filters' and the 'Forwarding and POP' sections.


If you see any filters you don't want - delete them. You also might want to forward any evidence of illegal action to the authorities. Unfortunately I am not convinced they invest enough in policing internet crimes. But hopefully they can be encouraged to actually prosecute such crime.

Sunday, December 16, 2007

Promises and more movies

I watched Promises yesterday. It was a very good documentary on Israeli and Palestinian children. It was nominated for an Academy Award in 2002.

Another good, little known movie is Whale Rider. I really liked this movie and just figured I would mention it too. And while I am at it here are some fun movies: 5th Element, Modern Times (Charlie Chaplan), What About Bob?, Blade Runner, Planes, Trains and Automobiles and Monsters, Inc..

Friday, December 14, 2007

What is Wrong with Copyright Taking Public Good for Private Special Interests

Why Has Copyright Expanded? Analysis and Critique by Neil Netanal:

Numerous commentators have decried the growth of copyright holder rights in recent decades. Copyright's expansion is widely said to be inimical to copyright's core goals and economic rational. If so, why has that expansion occurred? Without question, there are multiple causes. This essay surveys and critiques a number of them, beginning with the copyright industries' raw political muscle and moving to the rhetorical and theoretical frameworks for expansion.
...
the public interest – as reflected in some 300 years of copyright precedent – is for a narrowly tailored incentive for authors to contribute to the store of knowledge and enrich the public domain. Copyright is meant to spur creativity and expressive diversity. When it has the opposite effect – when authors cannot freely build upon their predecessors’ works in creating new expression and when copyright serves as a tool for entrenching media conglomerates – something has gone awry.


This is another good look at the failure of public policy that is the current ever increasing special interest favors at the expense of society.

Related: Intellectual Property Rights and Innovation - The Differences Between Culture and Code - Lessig Video on Information Revolution - Innovation and Creative Commons - DMCA Debacle

Thursday, December 13, 2007

Virtual Personal Assistants

Get Friday

Does anyone have experience with virtual personal assistants? Any recommendations or warnings?

Tuesday, December 11, 2007

Amazing Japanese Nursery Train




ever been on a train this nice?

believe it or not, the photo above is of a train interior in japan.

with the results looking nicer than most nurseries, the japanese have taken the idea of ‘child-friendly public transport’ to the next level with these 2 beauties, both designed by eiji mitooka. he was the artistic force behind ‘omoden’ (toy train) and ‘ichigo ec’ (strawberry train), a couple of regional trains which travel on a daily basis on the 14.3km kishigawa line in japan. the japanase are intent on making train travel a more comfortable experience for everyone, women and children especially, and the results are incredible.

both trains contain hundreds of toys, tv screens showing cartoons, immaculately clean wooden flooring and cots for younger children.

Sunday, December 09, 2007

Drew Carey Defends Poker

Drew Carey Defends Poker

Maybe Dallas wouldn't be ranked as the 34th most dangerous city in America if Dallas police weren't devoting precious resources to raiding friendly poker games played by veterans. In his latest video for Reason.tv, Drew Carey examines a paramilitary-style raid on a poker game at the Veterans of Foreign Wars Post 1837 in Dallas, which has now been forced to close its doors.

"Poker is about as American as baseball and apple pie," Carey says in theReason.tv video. "It was born here in America. Mark Twain loved it. He's a great American. Until recently, Supreme Court justices had a monthly game. They're great Americans. You'd think playing poker in a VFW hall would be about as American as anything you could do."


How can they justify a SWAT style raid for a poker game at a VFW Hall? It is well known the excessive use of swat style raids has lead to many deaths of innocent people. Evidence of systemic failure of police with SWAT raids.

Sunday, December 02, 2007

Are Paid Links 100% Untrustworthy?

In reply to Dave

> from reading your post you appear to be suggesting that Google
> allow pages to buy their way up the organic SERPs?

Not really. Unless you count as "buying their way up" something like hiring Scoble to write for you. Then people link to his stuff and the stuff he writes about and as part of that your content rises.

What I think is that it is not the most effective model to treat certain paid for content as completely untrustworthy. It seems to me the proper model to factor in the bias.

When Fox has news stories about their TV shows my personal view is that is a significant indication of bias their "news" (and of course, as I think any logical person would do it brings into question the merit of any other "news" presented). But I don't think they are 100% untrustworthy. When Some prestigious academic is funded by a drug company I believe they are biased but I do not believe the results are 100% untrustworthy.

If Matt writes about some neat new Google product I know there are biases - even if the only bias is he is much more likely to hear about a cool Google product than one from some other company because he works for them. But I figure if he says he likes some new Google that is worth factoring into my decision whether to look at it. And in fact I give him something like 97% credibility on doing so. If he thinks some new Google offering is junk I don't think he will say it is great. I just don't, I could be wrong but I am confident of that. Would the Fox site links to some new TV show that is horrible? Yes I do believe it would.

If some other blogger I trust highly writes on say Ruby on Rails and then says they are sponsored by the annual Ruby on Rails conference which they attended the last 2 years and it is great and they highly recommend it I find that valuable. And yes I do believe the best search result would be enhanced by giving value to this recommendation of this blogger even though it is likely they will provide more links to the conference due to the conference than they would have if they did not receive pay to do so. This certainly could be seen as buying your way up the search results.

I don't automatically ignore all advice where the author has some personal financial incentive or stake. That is one factor, but it is not a binary operation (0% trustworthy or 100% trustworthy). It seems to me to select the best search results you would need to apply the same logic. Granted I have no real idea how to do that. But I do have the opinion Google can figure out good ways to do that. And I think that would be the correct strategy.

I also think this is an interesting area to think about. How to find the best results for a search. How to reward behavior Google would like (say good title text) and how to punish behavior Google doesn't. But really those are just methods to the true aim which is the best search results. Google does it pretty well I think but I think they can do much much better. Which I think is pretty much what the people working at Google think. Users of the search engine don't care what the title text is (basically) they want the best pages for them. They don't care if they comply to Google's recommendations. It does make it easier for Google to find the best results if the title text is relevant but that is an issue for Google. So Google tries to help sites make it easier for Google to return results by providing guidelines - that is very sensible. And in the same way I have no problem with Google having guidelines on certain types of paid links.

I happen to think on this matter - that certain paid links are to be 100% ignored is not the correct strategy (to create the best search results). But I may certainly be wrong, maybe it is. I think the best strategy would be to rank the content and links on other factors. The pay is not the problem. Some bad practice that are encouraged by pay are the problem. So weigh those. If it is links to low quality sites then factor in any link to "low quality" sites. If it is unrelated links in a footer across a whole site, factor that in. If link keywords are the problem then attach that - whether they are paid for and how they are paid for does not invalidate them (as a source of useful data to rank search results), in my opinion.

Certain authors are much more swayed by payment. That again is a factor as a human we consider. If a great Ruby on Rails blog promotes certain gambling, mesothelioma and mortgage loans with no insight I lose respect for their opinions. Wether they were paid or not (but obviously pay is a likely reason for such writing. On the other hand, if they include a few off topic posts that are sensible I have not problem accepting that as more input to consider (probably I give a bit less weight than I would to posts on Ruby on Rails) but I still value it.

I don't have any problem with Google campaigning against certain paid links (I believe Matt has said several times the current campaign is against specific types of paid links other links that are more indirect [and which as a matter of course most often involve much more money] are not being campaigned against. I just find it interesting to examine the assumptions behind the current strategy.

Related: Google's Search Results - Should Factors Other Than User Value be Used - Google's Displayed PageRank - Improvement Ideas for Google (2006) - Web Search Improvements (2005) - posts on Google management practices

Saturday, December 01, 2007

Google's Search Results - Should Factors Other Than User Value be Used

Comment on: Selling links that pass PageRank:

I agree I wouldn't give that post much weight. What if it were a pre-eminent brain tumor researcher that was posting while being paid by the Mayo Clinic (because they decided that was a good way to encourage publicizing content that would reach the public) and he suggested further reading at the Mayo Clinic. Then I would have no problem reading it and giving that content a high value and following his advice and reading more at the Mayo Clinic. The issue is the value of the content. Knowing the ways the author might be biased (who is paying them) is one valid thing to consider.

The idea for Pagerank came from the citation of academic papers. Google's current position would be that citations from those papers that are funded by other than the author should be ignored. That is not how citation value is calculated in the academic world. An I do not believe it would be an improvement to do so, though I can believe there is a minority that believes exactly that.

Google should be allowed to decide to calculate pagerank however it likes. It could be that ignoring all sponsored, paid and otherwise influenced links (wherever exactly the current guidelines draw that line today), on balance, is the best method. I doubt it. But it might be that until organizations (Google, Yahoo...) better figure out how to improve determining value in such cases this is the best strategy. Google certainly knows better than me the limitations of their ability to judge such potentially biased content.

Your example, in this post, though doesn't make a good case though - I don't think. The value of posts by a knowledgeable, well meaning doctor would be good regardless if they were paid or not. Disclosing that they have financial interests is valuable. Then people can weigh that, as one factor. If I were making decisions for Google I would want to mimic that human ability to weigh that factor as one measure in determining how much weight to give to the doctors links on the page. I can't believe that this isn't exactly what Google would like to be able to do.

Perhaps that ability to manage the "grey area" is beyond the ability of Google's models today. I can't believe it is, but the current explanations seem to indicate a desire by Google to eliminate this "grey area" (there are plenty of other "grey areas" being left "grey"). So it appears that either Google decided it was unable to effectively produce results managing this "grey area." Or decided that it could, and doing so was a bad idea. If Google can do so and choose not to I would say that is a bad idea. But one Google can make and frankly I don't know why Google would care what I think - they have plenty of smart people that I am sure have thought of whatever I can on this topic.

It would seem to me rather than the explanation in your post, the real issue is whether Google can try to balance what a smart human would try to do when evaluating content or not. Saying that bad content that is paid for should not be given a high value by readers is true, but does nothing to explain why paid content is automatically untrustworthy. I would think most people would say it is not automatically untrustworthy, it might be, it might not - I will use the fact it was paid as one factor in valuing that content.

I think it is great that Google is at least somewhat open about discussing these issues even as Google is criticized.

To me the bottom line is that Google needs to provide users the best results. My guess is if Google were to say that because the Mayo Clinic (just as an example) engaged in some practice that Google did not like that Google heavily penalized there search results users of Google would be dissatisfied. Google has done a good job of making the decisions of what shows up in search results in the past. I can understand a desire to take action against those Google thinks are not doing thing the way it likes. However, I don't think Google can put too much weight on site owners following exactly the practices we want versus the shall we say un-penalized pagerank of a page. As long as it works and high value sites searches want to see were to modify their sites to comply with what Google wants there is no problem (because then Google can provide users what they want and get sites to do what Google wants).

But if sites did not and Google chose to not display those sites to users obviously that just makes Google's results less valuable. Here, for the sake of argument (and clarity), I am seperating out the issues of value of the content to searcher and complying with Google's desires. Those 2 factors obviously can be separate (they could also be interrelated but for the sake of clarity lets say in this example, that they are not. Then Google's option is to 1) return the best results it can to users or 2) punish a site for some factor users don't care about but Google does. Google has a lead is providing good results. So Google can afford to degrade the results provided to users in order to penalize sites not adopting practices Google wishes them to. That is real bottom line.

The anger of people that their site rises and falls based on certain things matters to them - but the real issue for Google is how good are the results to users. If any factor other than providing the best results to users is used in producing the search results then the value to users is degraded. I am not ignoring that factors which may not seem to be relevant may in fact be. So, if in fact it were true that a site that was sponsored and didn't use no follow when it linked to that sponsor web site were worse results than sites that did not adopt that practice then the factor is being used in order to provide the best results to users. But any factor that is merely to make it easier for Google and results in degraded search results. I just can't see Google adopting over the long term. It provides competitors a weakness to exploit.

And the same with ignoring the links recommended by lets say high authority sites that don't exactly follow Google's desires. Google could just choose to ignore the "votes" of those sites but if those "votes" are not of 0 value (lets say 100% corrupt) then Google would be throwing away valuable insight (by ignoring the votes of that site). Obviously that is Google's choice but it seems to be pretty obvious that doing so is far from an ideal engineering solution. There is value (votes of an authority) being ignored. Too much ignoring of worthwhile information (even if that information is tainted by payment) and it provides an opening for competitors to make better use of that information to provide results. I just can't see that as in Google's interest.

Anyway those are my rather long thoughts on this topic.

Related: Google's Displayed PageRank

One more point that Google likes to avoid. They say they wish to limit the penalties to sites that buy or sell links to manipulate page rank. They have, by not disclosing that they oppose, paid for links when the payments are the style that large companies make. Say when Google partners with CNN. Exposure and links are part of the bargin they strike with one another. Links from those partnerships are paid as any human would see the issue. But Google's statement make it clear they do not see such links as untrustworthy. I would agree those links are trustworthy. Large corporations that agree to cooperate invest a great deal of money in that venture and the "vote" that this organization we agreed to partner with is worth valuing. It is however non-the-less paid.

So, just remember it is the links bought by small organizations Google is basically targeting. That is obviously their right. But it doesn't seem to follow that certain paid links are 100% trustworthy and certain paid links are 100% untrustworthy. This is not to say that Google doesn't have the right to decide to act as though this is the case. They do.

This is mainly just me thinking out loud about a further the understanding of the scope of the issue. Which I think is an interesting engineering challenge: how to pick the best results to display. And how to do so when actors are consciously trying to manipulate the results and actions of other actors. And how Google is acting in the process not just as a evaluator but to persuade content owners to behave in ways Google would prefer.

It makes perfect sense for Google to do this. They can make there results better if they can get content owners to follow practices that help them better evaluate pages. In this I just think the implications of Google's words are not the best practice.

Since I think Google has proven to be very smart, my guess is that you can't assume the implications will be followed through (another alternative is that my understanding is faulty in some way which is certainly very possible). It is in Google's interest to get as many sites to comply as it can - it should be easier to evaluate if everyone follows your guidelines).

But it is not in Google's interest (I don't believe) to punish otherwise good sites that do not comply (by lowering their rankings in search results). This is not in Google's interest because then worse results are shown to users. In addition it is not in Google's interest to ignore valuable information ("votes by authoritative site") even if those sites don't play exactly by all Google's rules. However, in order to convince people that they have to follow Google's guidelines I can certainly see people making a judgment that, while some people might get mad at us, it is worth it if we can get more compliance to make our job of picking the best results easier. As long as though degraded results were still the best results (and useful) it actually wouldn't have a negative impact. But I don't believe their lead is so great they can degrade the results much without losing market share.

Anyway this is an interesting topic to think about.

Wednesday, November 21, 2007

Buy Nothing Day



Adbusters says MTV refused to take this ad. It obviously expresses a minority point of view but hardly seems ban worthy. If you need to spend money the day after Thanksgiving how about giving money to charities like Trickle Up and help people in need.

Related: Buy less stuff. Save more. - Saving for Retirement - Microfinancing Entrepreneurs - Affluenza (epidemic of overconsumption)

Sunday, November 18, 2007

Google's Displayed PageRank

As I said in a post on a new link based web page authority I do hope we get a new metric that I can use. I figure Google has the right to do what they want with their metric. But while I used to find the pagerank figure a small but useful indication of page authority it is much less so now and so I want an alternative to provide a small bit of info (that the pagerank used to serve). By making the pagerank less useful they have opened a market to a replacement. So far none seems to be filling that gap, though.

I can't see Google degrading their search results much. They have a small but significant gap over the competitors - so they can afford to degrade the results a bit to punish behavior they don't like. But if they degrade them too much users will switch to Yahoo...

The public pagerank number however doesn't degrade the search results and therefor Google can make the guess that the frustration some webmaster/bloggers feel about seeing the number lowered is worth the benefit to getting people to act in a way that makes it easier for Google to provide good search results. It seems pretty obvious while Google is willing to display a low pagerank they have not yet been willing to apply that displayed pagerank to search results (which to me means it is really showing a "fake pagerank" in order to coerce behavior it wants). Which I figure is their right.

I think Google might be risking more than just the bloggers (that like to see a nice pagerank on their pages) however. When Google changes the public pagerank of those bloggers they then write negative posts about Google, will be predisposed to criticize Google, will promote competitors... that is the obvious risk of this strategy.

But a less obvious risk, is that users of the toolbar with the pagerank figure could start to lose faith in Google overall. When the pagerank figure doesn't match with their expectations they will wonder why should I trust what else Google tells me? This will be a small effect but it is tricky to count on people being willing to ignore the less useful data you provide.

Still Google has been very successful making the right decisions. So even though I am skeptical of their decisions on the public pageranks they chose to display, I would have to say it is hard to argue with their track record. I am sure they have thought of everything I have and much more. So I will just hope someone else comes along with an alternative I can use.

Related: Web Search Improvement - Suggestions for Improving Google (Jan 2006) - Alexa for Firefox - Compete Toolbar

Saturday, November 10, 2007

Co-worker Living Life

Ryan worked with me at ASEE. Earlier this year he left to write a novel full time over the summer. Here is a great read on how his summer went - Guest in Progress: Ryan Krausmann:

Most importantly after having spent the summer as a novelist I emerged as a looser and more open writer. The next draft needs better dialogue, a tighter plot, more detail in the secondary characters, a better ending, and cleaner prose – but that is all for 2008 and even beyond. As of now, I am less afraid of the white page and more open to let the characters evolve as they want to evolve. My fingers are even literally looser on the keyboard as the words come to me. I have grown to be more open and loose and in sympathy with my characters and hopefully with the world.


Life is for living. Don't forget that you get to choose how you spend your time.

Friday, October 26, 2007

Web Page Authority

I believe that the move by Google to adjust public page ranks for uncertain reasons (that do not appear to be related to actually "authority") that a market opportunity has been created. I think it would be a great move to create a Page Authority rank along the lines of the authority of pages pointing to a page. Page Rank is often overstated in importance but it is an interesting figure to see. Since the Google one now seems to be inaccurate (for the way most people want to use it) a market exists for someone willing to provide such a rank. Lets just take ove very obvious example - the home page of the Washington Post has a pagerank of 5. My management improvement blog has a page rank of 5. That is obviously totally misleading, the Post has much more authority - even if all you do is use the linking behavior on the web.

The task would require some smart programming and a fair amount of computing power but I think is within the power of many people. I wish I were one of them, I would do it.

Related: Google Pagerank Update - Innovation and Google

Thursday, October 25, 2007

Get Your Hands Off the Web

Get Your Hands Off the Web

A bit over a year ago, I wrote a column arguing that innovation on the Internet would be best served if the government mostly kept its hands off. I've changed my mind. The behavior of the top telecommunications companies, especially Verizon Communications (VZ) and AT&T (T), has convinced me that more government involvement is needed to keep communications free of corporate interference.
...
Until a recent change in the terms of its broadband service—again in response to a public flap—AT&T claimed the right to terminate the connection of customers for "conduct that…tends to damage the name or reputation of AT&T." Verizon retains similar language in its terms of service.
...
The hands-off approach hasn't served consumers well. And the Web is far too important to entrust the free flow of information to the shifting whims of a few big companies. Government must step in and tell them to leave our content alone.


He is right. Internet bandwidth is a utility like electricity and water. It is too bad our politicians are so poorly informed they don't understand capitalism. Actual capitalists understand that the government is suppose to regulate monopolies to maximize the benefit to society. Instead politicians vote to allow monopolies to tax users for the private gains of the companies (that give huge amounts of cash to those politicians).

Related: Net Neutrality - This is serious - Lobbyists Keep Tax Off Billion Dollar Private Equities Deals - Estate Tax Repeal

Sunday, October 21, 2007

The Sad State of Cell Phone Service

Breaking Up Is Hard to Do: Consumer Switching Costs in the U.S. Marketplace for Wireless Telephone Service - a report fron AARP:

In 2004, 2005 and 2006, cell phone service was the most complained about industry in the United States.
...
Each of the national wireless carriers has mostly or completely ignored repeated FCC requests to submit network coverage maps and other information about their quality of service and service availability.


They list sensible policy recommendations that politicians undoubtably would pass if not for huge payments they receive to allow continued bad practices.

Related: More Bad Customer Service Examples :-( - Telephone Savings - Poor AT&T "customer service" - Standard Prepaid Cell Phone Policy - Companies in Need of Customer Focus

Saturday, October 20, 2007

Ubuntu 7.1

I upgraded to Ubuntu 7.1 today. It went very well. It was a large download but otherwise no problems at all. Simple download, upgraded Ubuntu and lots of supported applications. And it removed some no longer supported applications. It is a wonderful free operating system based on Linux for the desktop and very good for non-IT geeks. It automatically notifies you of updates and installs the updates with no need to reboot most of the time. Also it is Linux based and therefore very secure.

I did have one problem with Ubuntu last week. I could not download the photos from my digital camera. I tried various thing but couldn't figure it out. My friend was able to figure out there was a limitation in the software I was using that failed with over something like 1,000 photos (I had 1,085 photos from my trip). We tried another photos software but it failed too. I was able to delete some (that I got off the camera using a Windows computer at work) and then it worked fine.

Saturday, October 13, 2007

Code Monkey

Code Monkey mp3 by Jonathan Coulton

Code Monkey get up get coffee
Code Monkey go to job
have boring meeting with boring manager Rob
Rob say Code Monkey very diligent
but his output stink
his code not functional or elegant
what do Code Monkey think
Code Monkey think maybe manager oughta write goddamn login page himself
Code Monkey not say it out loud
Code Monkey not crazy just proud
...

Related: CD Baby

Saturday, October 06, 2007

Thursday, October 04, 2007

Google Challenges Baidu for China Market Share

Google Challenges Baidu for China Market Share by Andy Beal:

Well, Google's proving that the #1 spot can be challenged–at least in China. Reuters is reporting Google grew its market share by 4% (to 22.8%) while Baidu grew just 1% (to 58.1%).

Maybe this will give Yahoo, Microsoft, and Ask.com hope that they too can challenge Google's #1 US dominance. Then again, they might be thinking "crap, Google’s going to dominate the entire world!"


I would guess the dominate the entire world option :-) But it is very true if Google fails to return the best results they can easily fall fast.

Related: Search Share Data - Checking the ACSI - Is Google Overpriced

Sunday, September 16, 2007

The Rise of Indian English

The rise of Indian English:

A glossary of the latest lingo as spoken on the streets of India
Teachress - a female teacher.
She freaked out last night - she had a good time.
Hue and Cry notice - title of police missing person newspaper advertisement.

Monday, September 03, 2007

Flashdrive Your Electronic Life

Portable Apps is an open source freeware initative that collects a ton of useful programs (Firefox, Gimp, Open Office...) that you can take with you on a flash drive and use on whatever computer is handy. This looks very cool.

via: Cool trick to make your life more portable

Saturday, September 01, 2007

Appalachian State stuns Michigan

Appalachian State (division I-AA) beats No. 5 Michigan 34-32. Good. I am a Wisconsin fan but I don't dislike Michigan or other Big Ten teams. But I do find it lame to schedule teams that are the equivalent of picking a fight with the 98 pound weakling. I am glad to see one of these bullies get beaten. Wisconsin schedules the weaklings too - I wish they wouldn't.

Some of the scores this week from big time football schools playing teams they shouldn't: 49-3, 38-6, 59-0, 73-10. And that doesn't include USC's game against Idaho which will be another blowout.

Wednesday, August 22, 2007

The First Amendment

I read one of those headlines: "more people can name lame pop culture... than rights granted by the first amendment to the constitution." So, this isn't much but here is hoping I can be part to remind some people in the USA what our government was formed to do for us. The First Amendment to the Constitution, rights:

  • Freedom of religion

  • Freedom of the press

  • Freedom of speech

  • Freedom of peaceful assemble

  • Right to petition the government for redress


"Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the government for a redress of grievances."

The USA has some great things going for it but without vigilance there is always danger to the ideals the country was founded on.

"Those who would give up essential liberty to purchase a little temporary safety deserve neither liberty nor safety."
Benjamin Franklin

"I would rather be exposed to the inconveniences attending too much liberty than to those attending too small a degree of it."
Thomas Jefferson

"First they came for the communists, and I did not speak out - because I was not a communist;
Then they came for the socialists, and I did not speak out - because I was not a socialist;
Then they came for the trade unionists, and I did not speak out — because I was not a trade unionist;
Then they came for the Jews, and I did not speak out — because I was not a Jew;
Then they came for me — and there was no one left to speak out for me."
Martin Niemoeller

Saturday, August 18, 2007

Washington's Worst Jobs

I ran across this portion of an article from the City Paper awhile back with an article on Washington's Worst jobs listing the 10 worst jobs in Washington DC. I had one of them at the time and the write up they included was hilarious - I don't think it really was close to actually being one of the worst jobs but I can see why they chose to include it. From the article:

Unlike for instance the Department of Interior, where the drudgery and anonymity of government work could be mitigated by a built-in sense of larger purpose, OPM exists solely to manage the red tape of the federal government employment. It is the bureaucracy of the bureaucracy.
...
"Some stay longer," says one benefits specialist. "But they're like prisoners who have stayed in jail so long they don't want to leave."
...
Once the proper documents have been assembled, the benefits specialist figures out what retirement rules apply to the retiree. Since the guidelines are constantly changing, determining what a retiree is owed is often so Byzantine a calculation as to be an open question, a matter of interpretation.
...
And while they are scurrying to juggle several cases a day, they are getting calls and questions for cash-strapped and confused retirees as well as supervisors who are constantly reviewing and sending back work.
...
"It's similar to assembly-line work," says one benefits specialists. "It's just one after another. And there's not a lot of camaraderie here, not many friendships. You can come in, do your work all day, never speak to anyone, and then go home."


I thought is was great write up. Not really accurate but funny and with just enough hints of truth - just framed in the way to make the best story not the most accurate one. I remember it also listed a job for city rat exterminator - now that probably is one of the worst jobs. I can't really see sitting in an air conditioned room moving paper from one side of your desk to another and trying to improve processes (well I was - and not getting too much help with that though there were a few people that did) is really that horrible. See what I have done since.

Friday, August 17, 2007

Voting Machine Failures

Diebold vote-hack roundup provides a series of quotes and links on problems with electronic voting machines:

"Electronic voting machine breakdowns have wreaked havoc in recent state primaries, disenfranchising thousands of voters and calling into question election results, " said Holly Jacobson co-director of Voter Action. "While we are pleased with today's verdict, the serious security flaws inherent in electronic voting technology - confirmed in a new study by Princeton University experts last week, underscore the need for more secure and verifiable voting systems. Paper ballots do not fail to boot up and can be reliably counted, audited and recounted. This is why half the counties in the country are using them. Maryland 's Governor Ehrlich announced his support for returning his state to paper ballots earlier this week".


Our previous posts on this topics: Security of Electronic Voting

Sunday, August 12, 2007

Monday, July 30, 2007

Tired of Incompetent Government Harassment

I am getting tired of all the reported instances of police officer harassment of people going about their own business. If police officers, federal law enforcement officers... don't put a stop to these repeated ridicules actions by their co-workers they are going to deal with having lost the respect for their positions. On the other hand in this case it provided an example that legislators do actually have a role in society (little used to serve as a check on unrestrained police powers) thanks to Congressman Rick Boucher for putting a stop to the abuse in this instance. Abuse of power by National Park Service police:

I pulled off the road ahead of the second NPS patrol car, grabbed my camera and headed back to take a photo of the police action. As I approached, the Park Service officer wheeled around and pointed at me.

"Sir, if you raise that camera to take a photograph I will place you under arrest," he barked. I identified myself as a working journalist on assignment and said I was simply covering a news event.

"Sir," he retorted, "this is U.S. government property and under the provisions of the USA Patriot Act you cannot take photographs of official government activity without authorization. Put your camera down now!"
...
he National Park Service recalled their CIT unit and ordered them back to Asheville after Congressman Rick Boucher, who represents the area, intervened on behalf of the festival. Boucher's office received numerous calls of complaints about the NPS police activity on Thursday and Friday and called the director of the National Park Service. Security for the remaining two days of the festival was turned over to the Virginia State Police who patrolled the Parkway but did not harass festival attendees.


It is critical to use police force in a responsible way. Authority given to restrict the rights of others is not something that a society can afford to leave in the hands of people that abuse that authority.

Related: Failure to Address Systemic SWAT Raid Failures - The Photographer’s Right

Wednesday, July 25, 2007

7 Clever Google Tricks Worth Knowing

There are lots of these list of tips. Some are good some are not. Here is one with some good ideas: 7 Clever Google Tricks Worth Knowing:

Find the Face Behind the Result... appending the code &imgtype=face to the end of the URL address after you perform a standard Google Image search.
...
Google + Social Media Sites = Quality Free Stuff... Examples: site:reddit.com free "wordpress templates"

Wednesday, July 18, 2007

Alexa for Firefox

Alexa toolbar for Firefox - I can't really understand why it took Alexa so long but they finally have a toolbar for Firefox users. Alexa is far from perfect but it provides the best data available for free (so even though the data is highly questionable it is used to gage the traffic to sites).

curiouscat.com report on Alexa

Curious Cat blog report on Alexa

Related: Compete Toolbar

Share a virtual Desktop Between Two Computers

Matt Cutts details how to share a virtual desktop between two different computers using Synergy.

Do you wish you could cut and paste between computers? Now you can! ... It's as if all your computers shared a single clipboard (and separate primary selection for you X11 users). It even converts newlines to each computer's native form so cut and paste between different operating systems works seamlessly. And it does it all in Unicode so any text can be copied.
...
Synergy also understands multiple screens attached to the same computer.


Looks very cool.

Sunday, July 15, 2007

The Economic Benefits of Walkable Communities

The Economic Benefits of Walkable Communities. Examples of walkable design leading to higher property values, increased private investment, tourism, etc.. This is an example of positive externalities and the economic gain possible to all through proper regulation.

Related: Urban Planning - Designing Cities for People, Rather than Cars - Car-free zones

Friday, July 06, 2007

Wednesday, July 04, 2007

Grandcentral and Spock

Grandcentral is a personal phone management system that manages voicemail messages, lets you listen to voicemail messages while they are being left, switch an active call from your cell to your landline phone (or the reverse), have different callers routed to different phones, have calls routed to different phones depending on the time of day, filter to weed out unwanted telemarketer calls automatically... Google bought the company yesterday

Spock helps users find and discover people. Over one hundred million people already indexed and millions are added every day.

Both of these sites are in invitation only beta release. Please let me know if you are interested in an invitation by adding a comment.

Saturday, June 16, 2007

The First Blogger



According to Technorati (see image above) I last updated the Curious Cat Management Improvement blog sometime during 1970. I think this makes me the first blogger :-)

Sunday, June 10, 2007

The Economist Evaluates Recycling

The truth about recycling:

Based on this study, WRAP calculated that Britain's recycling efforts reduce its carbon-dioxide emissions by 10m-15m tonnes per year. That is equivalent to a 10% reduction in Britain's annual carbon-dioxide emissions from transport, or roughly equivalent to taking 3.5m cars off the roads. Similarly, America's Environmental Protection Agency estimates that recycling reduced the country's carbon emissions by 49m tonnes in 2005.

Recycling has many other benefits, too. It conserves natural resources. It also reduces the amount of waste that is buried or burnt, hardly ideal ways to get rid of the stuff. (Landfills take up valuable space and emit methane, a potent greenhouse gas; and although incinerators are not as polluting as they once were, they still produce noxious emissions, so people dislike having them around.) But perhaps the most valuable benefit of recycling is the saving in energy and the reduction in greenhouse gases and pollution that result when scrap materials are substituted for virgin feedstock.

Saturday, June 09, 2007

Company Culture



via: Crunch Notes "Whatever company this is, they should use this as one of their primary recruiting tools." It certainly does show part of the culture of the company. The company? Connected Ventures, which is now part of InterActive Corp. Specifically, these are the teams from Vimeo, CollegeHumor, and Busted Tees.

Wednesday, June 06, 2007

Dofollow Trackbacks Plugin

Dofollow Trackbacks Plugin - new wordpress plugin that will remove nofollow attribute from trackback comments (rather than just removing the nofollow attribute from all comments). Thus those that link to your blog and are approved for display by you will have an actual link to their blog not a nofollow link. For more info see the link and Dofollow on bumpZee.

Saturday, June 02, 2007

Flag Pie Charts

Flags by Colours - pie charts of country flag colors.

Friday, June 01, 2007

Seperation of Church and State

An easy way to determine whether separation of Church and State exists in a particular instance is to substitute religions that are not approved by whoever proposes some item that might blur the line for whatever religion they want to promote. This post provides a great example:

Backpack Blowback: Religious Right Activists Want Preferential Treatment From Public School Forum They Created

Wednesday, May 23, 2007

Outsmart Your Toddler

Outsmart Your Toddler: 5 tricks for getting yours to do what you want

Act like an idiot

"Even the most defiant toddler will take pity on us if we seem like total incompetents," says Harvey Karp, M.D., author of the DVD and book "The Happiest Toddler on the Block." The trick is to convince your child that you should be helped, not resisted:
...
Be wrong. Next time you foresee a battle getting your toddler in the stroller, try squeezing into it yourself. Chances are good she'll announce, "That's mine!" Finally her possessive streak is good for something.

Be incompetent. Put your coat on backward and place your shoes on your hands. Say, "I'm ready to go, are you?" She'll laugh, straighten you out, and get her own shoes on for once.

Saturday, May 19, 2007

Using Multiple Firefox Profiles at the Same Time in Ubuntu

There are several reasons to run multiple FireFox windows that are disconnected (not the same profile). Using the same FireFox profile means all windows are connected so all cookies are set the same for each window - which can be annoying at times (for example having multiple accounts with a web site). Another reason could be to separate extensions onto different profiles (in case they conflict or are slowing down FireFox due to the sheer number of extensions you have).

To create an additional profile in FireFox (using Ubuntu) close FireFox. In terminal type firefox -profilemanger

Use profile manager to create new profiles.

Then create an additional FireFox shortcut.

Next edit the properties of that new shortcut: in the launcher tab update the command field:

firefox -P newprofilename -no-remote

where newprofilename is the name you gave your new profile in the profile manager. I hope this is helpful.

I found the following useful in getting this to work in Ubuntu 7.04 and FireFox 2.0: Use Multiple Firefox Profiles at the Same Time - Geek to Live: Manage multiple Firefox profiles

Tags: - -

Wednesday, May 16, 2007

Consumer Reports

I bought a subscription to Consumer Reports online. I can't believe they don't even provide simple sorts by obvious criteria. I want a cordless trimmer. They provide information on the major types of trimmers, one of which is cordless. Do they give me a list of those cordless models? Nope.

They list like 30 models without any indication of which are cordless and which are not. That is really lame for a web site which should be data base driven and give users an easy way to view just what they want. It seems they act like they still are printing everything on paper and you just happen to view it on your computer screen. I guess it isn't quite as bad as one pdf for each magazine and you just read from the pdf but it isn't much better.

They also don't let you click on the model and get more information. They really should do a much much better job of making the material effective over the internet.

Tuesday, May 15, 2007

Designing Cities for People, Rather than Cars

Designing Cities for People, Rather than Cars (sadly they broke the link so I removed it, why can't people figure out that breaking urls is a very bad idea):

Amsterdam only 40 percent of workers commute by car; 35 percent bike or walk, while 25 percent use public transit. Copenhagen’s commuting patterns are almost identical to Amsterdam’s. In Paris, just under half of commuters rely on cars. Even though these European cities are older, with narrow streets, they have far less congestion than Atlanta.

Not surprisingly, car-dependent cities have more congestion and less mobility than those that offer a wider range of commuting options. The very vehicle whose great promise was personal mobility is in fact virtually immobilizing entire urban populations, making it difficult for rich and poor alike to move about.

Tuesday, May 08, 2007

Fix your mom's computer for mother's day

Great marketing (and a cool product) - Fix your mom's computer for mother's day:

This Sunday is Mother's Day. Why not fix your mom's computer?
...
To make it easy, this Sunday we're making Fog Creek Copilot absolutely free.

No strings attached. Just go to https://www.copilot.com on Sunday, get a free pass, and we'll email your mom a link she can click on to download the helper application. It's really easy. P.S. Same deal applies for Father's Day, June 17.


Copilot provides a very easy way to remotely control another computer - and in this case fix your mom's computer.

Thursday, May 03, 2007

More Phone Company Fees

Once again Verizon shows the tendency to charge customers fees at every turn. Any wonder I have no interest in being a customer of them no matter how many junk mailings they send me with marketing claims? Yeah I am going to trust them to clearly disclose all the hidden fees they will charge - not.

Not calling causes a fee:

Verizon last month introduced the $2 fee. It is charged to customers who could dial out for long distance, but don't subscribe to a long-distance service and don't make long-distance calls. Durham retiree Daniel Bius discovered the $2 charge on his April bill. He says he has no use for Verizon's long-distance calling plan because he makes long-distance calls on his cell phone.

"Even though I don't have a plan with them, they say I still have the ability to make a long-distance call if I ever need to, so I have to pay them $2 a month?" Bius said. "What am I supposed to do? Am I supposed to pay them $2 for no reason?"
...
State regulators require phone companies to provide basic local-phone service. The phone companies have to give customers a way out of the new monthly fee -- but they will charge another fee to eliminate the first fee. For instance, if Bius pays a $6.75 charge to have his long-distance access disconnected, Verizon will end the monthly $2 fee, but block his outgoing long-distance calls.


How ridicules, pay us a monthly fee. Or if you don't want to pay us a don't pay the monthly fee fee.

Related: Telephone Savings - Customer Service is Important - Verizon Limits Its "Unlimited" Wireless Broadband Service

Wednesday, May 02, 2007

Car-free zones

On the rise in American cities: the car-free zone

New York is proposing to shut down perimeter roads of Central Park and Brooklyn's Prospect Park all summer long. Atlanta plans to transform 53 acres of blighted, unused land into new bike-friendly green space. Philadelphia, Cleveland, Chicago, and El Paso, Texas, are planning events to promote car-free days in public parks, most in the hope that the idea will become permanent or extend for months.

Cities across America are increasingly declaring that parks are for people, not cars, ... and closing roads within parks is one result of that," says Ben Welle with The Trust for Public Land's Center for City Park Excellence, in Washington.

Monday, April 30, 2007

Google Pagerank Update

A new Google PageRank update is underway. PageRank is a number that signifies something about the importance of a page to Google (based on the pages linking to it) that can be seen with a Google Toolbar. The PageRank is not the most important factor in search results but it is an easy view to how important a page is so is some webmasters find it interesting. I have seen many pages rise in PageRank but also some fall by one point - noticing falling PageRank seems more common this time around.

The displayed PageRank is updated perhaps every two months. Google uses live data in determining search results, so you finally seeing the updated PageRank should not effect how your site fairs in search results. PageRank follows a logarithmic scale (so, for example, a 6 PageRank is 10 times greater than a PageRank 5 - of course really it can be from just a tiny bit better [just "over the line" that separates 6 from 5] to almost 100 times greater.

Wednesday, April 18, 2007

Painless Team WhiteBoarding

Looks interesting: Twiddla - Painless Team WhiteBoarding.


1000 Signups on Day One! - "This guy had some pretty good points, so I stepped out for about 15 minutes and built the 'Lemme In!' button. I pushed the build live and Things. Went. NUTS."

Tuesday, April 10, 2007

Kate Walsh - Homemade Album #1 on iTunes

The Songbird Who's outselling Take That with her Homemade Album:

Acoustic guitarist Kate Walsh has knocked Take That off the top of the iTunes download album chart - but does not even own an iPod. The 23-year-old guitarist recorded her album in a friend's bedroom and named it Tim's House in his honour.


Kate Walsh - My Space

Monday, April 09, 2007

Google Personalize Home Page

I like Google's personalized home page. You can include news feeds, stock quotes, gmail... on one page. The Google reader is also very nice though I find it very annoying that it often is reloading that content section (when it is reloading it spins a graphic which is distracting and more importantly removes all the content). I can't imagine it is meant to work the way it does for me where it is in that reloading state more than it is in a usable state. Does anyone know how I can get it to work more effectively for me (even turning off reloading so it only reloaded when I requested it would be much better than the current state).

Google recently added some personalized graphic headers which are without any practical value but I like the one I have been using. The graphic changes throughout the day. I am sure they are working on having it reflect the weather at your location too - I would be doing so on my 20% time if I were there :-)





Related: Suggestions for Google - Web Search Improvements - Google Search Results - Cloaking..

Saturday, March 31, 2007

The Case for Physically Separated Bike Lanes

The Case for Physically Separated Bike Lanes - video with good ideas.

Related: Traffic Congestion and a Non-Solution - Urban Planning in Northern Virginia - Red light cameras

Traffic Deaths:

During the same span (2003-2006), about 4 million have died worldwide in traffic accidents. The number of these deaths is rising steadily in most nations, with road fatalities on track to become the world's third-leading cause of death - —that is, traffic accidents look exactly like a pandemic.


World Health Organization Traffic Death Report: 1.2 million deaths a year.

Friday, March 23, 2007

Google Search Results - Cloaking...

My comments on: A quick word about cloaking:

I consider the issue in a much better state now, in that most (all?) Google searchers get the identical page to what Googlebot saw. But I still consider Philipp’s February posts open for investigation, and I will get to them, in the same way that I tackled Philipp’s first two posts about this.


March 4th:
Good. This is a problem with that has bothered me for a long time. Here is one post from 2005 I made: http://management.curiouscatblog.net/2005/01/30/web-search-improvements/

I would think Google could come up with a user participation tool that could help identify this type of behavior. Just give people the ability to click something saying the search link didn’t return the expected results or something (I am sure Google can work on the details). I am sure Google can figure out how to separate, from that feedback, the problematic web sites from all the mistaken, malicious… clicks. Then those few sites, site sections and pages that systemically appear could be forwarded for human examination. This really doesn’t seem like it would be very tricky.

I suppose Google might worry about he confusion such an attempt might cause regular users. Ok, just make it an option. Then users that like me use Google alot and get annoyed at having to ignore those sites I have learned won’t provide the content Google says they will can choose to participate. Yes I understand this will create a self selected population identifying problems but I really don’t see that as a problem.

Another options I mentioned in 2005 is to give me a way of adding a list of websites I don’t want returned. Actually now I can just use a Google CSE to do this. In fact I just did - http://www.google.com/coop/cse?cx=002278424765197393586%3Alfichkez90e&hl=en I excluded webmasterworld.com to test it out and it does work. Less than 2 minutes to do. This doesn’t do anything for those who think it is unfair for some to have Google return cloaked pages as results, but it does help if you just want to exclude certain sites from your results.



March 23rd:
In Search results: “Do Shareholders Have the Clout to Rein in Excessive Executive Pay...
Warren Buffett’s latest attack on excessive executive compensation is another chapter in the long-running saga about how much to pay top business leaders,”

page: knowledge.wharton.upenn.edu/article.cfm?articleid=780

But that isn’t the page the site gives web browsers who are instead forwarded to:

http://knowledge.wharton.upenn.edu/signup.cfm?CFID=6066164&CFTOKEN=76742544

As I stated before I think having these results might well be fine but options should be provided to users to exclude these sites normally (but you can click an option to provide links that are matches but require additional hoops be jumped through - hopefully the option could be separated - show free registration sites and show sites where pay is required to view results. Also over time this should have the option for me to tell Google which sites I want included by default (say I have subscriptions to 3 sites already…). When I suggested this years ago I figured it might be a bit early to expect. I would have expected it by now.

Saturday, March 17, 2007

Trackback Spam

Blogger doesn't use trackback (the ability to automatically receive notice when other posts link to your blog post) which is a shame (though Blogger does have linkback). However the trackback system has been largely broken by immoral people who have resorted to sending false trackbacks. Just like the email scammers that have caused huge amounts of grief for those that attempt to use email these trackback spammers burden others with their intrusive acts. It is a shame people insist on being so immoral but just as always there are plenty of people who insist on acting immorally and technology often makes it easier for these people to burden more people with their immoral behavior than they could impose their bad behavior on without technology.

For wordpress bloggers Akismet does a great job of filtering out spam (comments, pingbacks and trackbacks). But our blogs are now getting thousands of false trackbacks per day and I don't appreciate the huge amount of spam (which makes it impossible to check and see if any false positives were found). Many site have given up and just eliminated trackback (sort of like giving up on the auto because people put big advertising signs in the street so that no one could actual use the roads for the intended purpose and we just let these people remove the rights of others to travel).

I tried a plugin from Rice University: Trackback Validator Plugin and then WordPress 2.0 / 1.5.x Plugin: Referrer Bouncer, they didn't do enough good that I could tell (I only tried for an hour but if they did anything they just reduced the spam some).

In reading the comments on those trying the above I read about an akismet option to automatically delete any spam that is on post older than one month old. This seems to be working very well, for now, and I believe it allows posts to accept legitimate trackbacks which I think is important. Another success for open source software solutions - yay.

Thursday, March 15, 2007

Tuesday, March 13, 2007

Quinn and Dixie Go to the Racetrack

Moral Education:

The problem with lucking out with your children is that your children don't appreciate their luck—and the lucky feeling is more than half of the pleasure. You go to all this trouble to get them an education, and they promptly forget the lessons. On the drive home I explain to them that it isn't common for two little girls to walk into a racetrack in the middle of the day for a single horse race and wind up in the winner's circle, holding winning tickets, with the horse's jockey on one arm and the horse's owner on the other. Not to mention getting serious screen time on every OTB network.

Sunday, March 11, 2007

March Madness

Join the Curious Cat March Madness group on ESPN and track your picks against other Curious Cat readers. Group name is: curiouscat.

Wednesday, March 07, 2007

Think Like an Ant

Last year at this time we mentioned why it is important to plan ahead by saving for retirement:

Savings for retirement is difficult mainly because of our trouble planning for the long term, it is not at all a complex problem. The fable of the ant and the grasshopper illustrates this point very simply and it is really that simple. People need to do a better job of applying the lessons from that story to their retirement savings.


This is a great time to add to your IRA for 2006, if you have not done so already and for 2007, you have through April 15th (or when you file you taxes, I think?). If you already added to your IRA for last year take this time to add to your 2007 IRA.

Related: IRA information - Roth IRAs for everyone - retirement related posts from our investment blog

Thursday, March 01, 2007

Software For Virtual Teams

Software For Virtual Teams: Skype, GoToMeeting, Basecamp, Google Calendar, Code Repository, Backup, Accounting / Payroll.

In addition, virtual companies consist of happier employees. These are people who do not need to spend time in traffic, people who save money on gas, people who conserve resources and, perhaps most significantly, people who spend more time with their family. So perhaps this simple, yet very profound, application of technology is the beginning of a new trend and the way we will mostly work and communicate in the future.


I agree. Also IM, Wordpress and Wiki.

Wednesday, February 28, 2007

Walter Reed Patients Told to Keep Quiet

Walter Reed patients told to keep quiet:

The Pentagon also clamped down on media coverage of any and all Defense Department medical facilities, to include suspending planned projects by CNN and the Discovery Channel, saying in an e-mail to spokespeople: “It will be in most cases not appropriate to engage the media while this review takes place,” referring to an investigation of the problems at Walter Reed.


It seems to me this is the time it makes the most appropriate for the media to be engaged. The media brought to light the problem and got the Department to investigate and take action to improve conditions. It sure seems like the real reason to make it difficult for the media to report what the conditions the soldiers face is they don't want the public to know. Which is worrying.

I understand the desire to avoid bad publicity but heath care for soldiers is more important than avoiding bad publicity.

Sunday, February 25, 2007

13 Things For Ubuntu

13 Things to do immediately after installing Ubuntu:

1. Enabling/Adding Extra Repositories
...
10 . Installing the extra multimedia codecs,players
12 . Installing beagle
13. Installing gdesklets

Tuesday, February 20, 2007

Tourists and Attractions


Roll up, roll up, and watch the Mona Lisa weep

Just a few weeks ago the Sistine Chapel took action to protect the Michelangelo and Botticelli frescoes, cutting opening hours and raising prices. My recent memory of this, the ultimate shrine of Christian art, was struggling to stay on my feet in the middle of a yammering mob while a team of young priests went hoarse calling for silence and respect. It was like Grand Central Station, except that there just wasn’t room to sit down and weep.


As anyone visiting popular sites has, I have noticed the same thing (the photo shows the room with the Mona Lisa in it). It seems like the only likely solution is to use attractions to draw the crowds, like months to a flame, and then try to enjoy what remains. This works better at places like the Grand Canyon where you can hike for days but most tourists spend 17 minutes outside looking at nature according the a Park Ranger the last time I was there.

Even on the South Rim hiking down one of the trails, leaves the crowds behind in just 30 minutes (and on the North Rim I hiked 2 different days without seeing more than a handful of people (granted it was literally the first 2 days the lodge on the North Rim opened.

But even this will be overwhelmed with time. So I figure they should add several trails at national parks just to attract the hoards and then I can go on more remote trails and enjoy them. Even if they are not the best trails they will still be great and I prefer having the option to avoid the crowds. With other museums I am sure you can do the same type of thing, though someone probably needs to repackage this concept to be "more positive" before it will be used on a wide scale.

A strategy for museums is to go early or late stay until closing (though even this at the Louvre is not that great a help but at many places it is).

Photos: Paris photos - Grand Canyon National Park - The MET, NYC - Rocky Mountain National Park

Monday, February 19, 2007

Havidol - drug parody

Havidol - when more is not enough

Problems can be avoided if you take HAVIDOL only when you are able to immediately benefit from its effects. To fully benefit from HAVIDOL patients are encouraged to engage in activities requiring exceptional mental, motor, and consumptive coordination. HAVIDOL is not for you if you have abruptly stopped using alcohol or sedatives. Havidol should be taken indefinitely.


Related: Drug breakthrough for fashionable new mental illness - Justine Cooper: Havidol - Epidemic of Diagnoses - Slogan Satire

Sunday, February 18, 2007

Track Conversations Online

Worth watching.

coComment is a new service which allows you to enjoy the full potential of comment-based conversation on the web. Before coComment, comments made across different sites (such as blogs, photosharing services, news sites, and others providing the ability for readers to leave comments) did not come together into a clear conversation, but were fragmented, hard to follow, and untrackable discussions.

Using coComment, you can now keep track of all the comments and discussions your are participating in or observing on the web. When someone adds something to the comment stream or discussion, you'll be notified. And, if you're a blogger, you can display the comments you make elsewhere back on your own blog.

Saturday, February 17, 2007

The Dangers of Default Passwords

The Dangers of Default Passwords:

Researchers at Symantec Corp. have devised a series of "proof-of-concept" exploits that show how an Internet user running any one of several name-brand, $50 - $100 routers under the default factory settings could be in a world of trouble in a very short time, just by browsing to a malicious Web site. One of the easiest ways to commandeer a factory-set wireless router remotely is through the use of Javascript, a powerful Web programming language that makes it easy for Web sites to monkey with or otherwise manipulate a computer's settings.

Tuesday, February 13, 2007

Time Series Data Library

Time Series Data Library - lots of time series data on all sorts of things: economics, sports, chemistry, crime, health...

Monday, February 12, 2007

Monday, February 05, 2007

Roman descendants found in China?

Roman descendants found in China?

Scientists have taken blood samples from 93 people living in and around Liqian, a settlement in north-western China on the fringes of the Gobi desert, more than 200 miles from the nearest city.
...
In 53BC Crassus was defeated disastrously and beheaded by the Parthians, a tribe occupying what is now Iran, putting an end to Rome's eastward expansion. But stories persisted that 145 Romans were taken captive and wandered the region for years.

Saturday, February 03, 2007

DMCA Debacle

The Viacom International Copyright DMCA debacle about YouTube videos--should we counter-sue???, via - boing-boing:

If Google sued every company that used indiscriminate takedown notices to remove material that it hosted -- on Blogger, YouTube, and elsewhere -- they'd put the fear of god into bullies like Viacom. They'd change the landscape so that DMCA notices were only used by people who were genuinely being ripped off, and not firehosed by idiots to every site that matches a search-term.

Sunday, January 28, 2007

Why Can't You Buy Cashews in a Shell

Cashews: the nut you can't buy in a shell:

Why? It turns out that the cashew shell is toxic. However, that raised the question of what a cashew looks like in its shell. Again, we had no idea. When we found out, we knew more people should see it. Weird looking, isn't it [follow link for photo]? And caustic, too!

Cashews, like many of the culinary nuts listed above, are not true nuts in the botanical sense. True nuts develop a hard wall around the seed (e.g. hazelnuts). Cashews instead have a lining around the seed that is filled with a nasty fluid.

Monday, January 15, 2007

Track Forwarded Links

Forwarding Tree looks like an interesting/fun idea. You can track the address you forward as it propagates around the internet. Here is a test:

http://forwardingtree.com/#engineering.curiouscatblog.net/2

Thursday, January 11, 2007

What does love mean? at 6

What does love mean? to kids 4 to 8 years old:

"Love is when you kiss all the time. Then when you get tired of kissing, you still want to be together and you talk more. My Mommy and Daddy are like that. They look gross when they kiss"
Emily - age 8

"Love is when my mommy makes coffee for my daddy and she takes a sip before giving it to him, to make sure the taste is OK."
Danny - age 7

"Love is when your puppy licks your face even after you left him alone all day."
Mary Ann - age 4

"I know my older sister loves me because she gives me all her old clothes and has to go out and buy new ones."
Lauren - age 4

Wednesday, January 10, 2007

Working for Myself

Top 10 Reasons Why I Like Working for Myself:

3. No more “9 to 5”. If I want to work at 7am then take a yoga class at 11am, I can. Likewise if I choose to sleep in a little and work late. Plus, I love those afternoon siestas!
...
8. I get to spend more time with my cat.

Tuesday, January 09, 2007

All Is Not So Bad in the State of Denmark

All Is Not So Bad in the State of Denmark

over the past 30 years, the citizens of Denmark have scored higher than any other Western country on measures of life satisfaction, and scientists think they know why.
...
the country’s secret is a culture of low expectations.
...
But on surveys, Danes continually report lower expectations for the year to come, compared with most other nations. And “year after year, they are pleasantly surprised to find that not everything is getting more rotten in the state of Denmark,” the paper concludes.

Friday, January 05, 2007

Back Up Your Gmail

Based on the announcement of gmail data being lost for a small number of users it makes sense to Back Up Your Gmail:

1) Read Google’s Help document on POP access to your Gmail account.

2) Configure an account on your mail client for your gmail account. - IMPORTANT- Build a separate account. If you’re using Outlook, make sure this is a standalone PST file. If you’re using mail.app or Thunderbird, make sure this is a standalone account.


Another description: How to use Outlook to backup your Gmail account