Posted on Tuesday, January 14th, 2014
If there were ever any doubts that our American politicians and courts are in the pocket of lobbyists and corporations, you can pretty much shove them aside now that the FCC has struck a blow to net neutrality.
I don't think I'm understating things when I say that the internet... the one true outlet for freedom and equality left in this country... is now totally fucked.
Unless this gets overturned or revised, you are no longer in control of the internet content available to you. Your Internet Service Provider is in control. Which, odds are, is a mega-corporation like Comcast, Time-Warner, Charter, Verizon, Cox, Frontier... and their confederates and owners. This is horrendously bad for many, many reasons, but your government just doesn't give a flying fuck. They're bought and paid for just like everything else in this country...
And so on. And so on. And so on.
There are people, of course, who feel that the free market will sort all this out. And I feel sorry for those who cling to this delusion, because there is no free market any more. The people who own everything will be deciding how you access the internet, and there's nothing "free" about that. Especially if you're in a rural area where you don't have any options for which company you can use to even get access to the internet in the first place.
When I think of all the tax dollars... OUR tax dollars... that went into building the internet only to have it fall into the hands of corporations, I'm shocked and disgusted. I know I shouldn't be, because that's the way everything else has gone, but I am. I always thought that the outcry against unfettered access to the internet would be so huge that there was no way it could ever happen.
Yet here we are.
Or maybe it's just me. For all I know, your ISP could decide that Blogography is an undesirable risk to their revenue stream, and my blog will no longer be accessible.
In that case, it's been nice knowing you.
Posted on Friday, January 17th, 2014
My "not-my-day-job" job requires a lot of patience, perseverance, humility, dedication and, above all... flexibility. Most every appointment I make involves my being "squeezed in" to somebody's calnedar, and things often change with only a moment's notice. Most times I will fly into a city a day early and leave two days late because I just don't know when I can get in the door. Often times, the trip itself happens without warning because an opportunity arises. Once I got a call as I was driving home from the airport telling me I had to turn around, go back to the airport, and be on the next flight to Orlando (which left in 90 minutes). Good thing I had a clean pair of underwear left over.
Needless to say, making personal plans while on the job is not easy. Often times it's impossible. Not that this stops me from trying. Fortunately, most of my friends in far away places are very understanding and forgiving when it comes to my having to change or cancel plans. They know it's not my choice that I can't make it to dinner or show up for a movie... it's just part of the game.
But it's not something everybody can handle.
Next week I have to be in San Francisco. Last time I was in the city for work, it was very last-minute, but my appointments were pretty well nailed-down to the daytime. So I made plans to get a tattoo and attend a farewell party during my free evenings... knowing full well that either could be canceled without notice. Lucky for me they weren't, and everything worked out fine. Until I got an email from a friend who was upset that I didn't contact them for a meet-up while I was there. I explained that the trip was a last-minute thing and all my time was booked, but promised I'd let them know the next time I was in San Francisco.
Except when I went to message them on Facebook once my schedule had been tightened up, I found out that I had been unfriended.
Like I said, my wildly erratic work and travel schedule is not something everybody can handle.
Which makes me really appreciate those friends who can put up with me.
Because sometimes it's all I can do to put up with myself.
Posted on Saturday, February 22nd, 2014
It seems so very simple. If you have a penis, you're male. If you have a vagina, you're female. Yes, there are people who are born with/without sexual organs that challenge this two-party system, but it's a rare event and shouldn't change established conventions, right?
Unless you happen to be one of those precious few people who aren't born 100% male or 100% female, in which case being forced to check a box on a form that doesn't address your sexual identity seems unfair. Society treats your existence like some kind of a mistake, when you're just living your life the way God or biology made you. And that IS unfair.
But it's just the tip of the iceberg.
Because a person's sex... even if defined 100%... doesn't necessarily match your intrinsic sexual being. Which is where gender enters the picture.
I was once working with a team on a massive project that consumed our lives. As the days flew by, all our waking moments were spent in each other's company and we became quite close. As we were eating dinner one evening, one of the guys was lamenting how tough the gay dating scene had become. He thought that "Straight World" had more opportunities for finding someone than "Planet Gay," and he had resigned himself to dying alone. I didn't know if it's true that straights have more opportunities, but I assured him that it was no easier for dorky straight guys like myself to find somebody. One of the ladies chimed in with horror stories of being a woman in dating hell, and the competition for who had it worse was on. Until...
"You all have it easy. Try being trans and finding somebody to date!"
Turns out Margot had started out in life as Mark.
This was a bit confusing to me. Trans? Meaning transexual? What does that even mean? The extent of my knowledge on the subject was hearing a crude joke about "chicks with dicks," which meant I knew absolutely nothing. And since I hate wallowing around in ignorance... especially when it comes to somebody as great as Margot... I did the only thing I knew how.
I asked her.
A part of me worried that asking about something so personal would be offensive, but Margot wasn't offended at all. I guess she would rather somebody care enough to ask than to speculate, which is true for all of us, I suppose. And so I found out how being born with a penis is not necessarily the defining attribute of a person's sexuality. Yes, young Mark liked boys, but his feelings went beyond identifying as "gay." He was never comfortable as a boy, never felt like a boy, didn't fit in as a boy, and felt trapped pretending to be a boy. It's not that he didn't want to BE a boy... penis notwithstanding, he simply WASN'T a boy. Not on the inside. So when it came time for the boy to become a man, Mark decided his sanity and survival depended on giving up on pretending and finally embracing who he was always meant to be... which turned out to be a woman.
Which is why I just don't get the continuing drama over Facebook adding a bunch of gender identity options for people's profile page. Apparently it makes some people "uncomfortable" to be exposed to the idea that humans exist who are not decisively male or female. And because they are "uncomfortable," these humans should be forced to conform to somebody else's personal standards as to what constitutes "gender."
And how fucked up is that?
Somebody telling you how to define who you are?
I mean, seriously, how does somebody wanting to identify as "trans" affect you? It makes you "uncomfortable?" Welcome to LIFE. If it makes them happy, makes their life bearable, makes them feel true to themselves, why would you give a fuck? It's their life. They are the one who has to live with it. Just be happy they're happy and live your own life for a change.
I don't understand how anybody thinks this world would be better off if everybody conformed to the exact specifications they have in their head as "normal." I have even a harder time understanding why people who feel this way decide to force their "normal" on others. Because, hey, everybody is abnormal to somebody.
Margot went through a fucking gauntlet to get to where she needed to be. Her entire childhood was a battle that most people wouldn't survive. She faces challenges in day-to-day life that would humble most people. And yet she made it through. She's figured out what makes her happy, and is content being who she is.
I think she's fucking earned the right to define her gender however the heck she wants to.
Anybody who disagrees doesn't have the strength to put themselves in her shoes for even ten minutes.
Which is a shame, because she always wears such nice ones.
Posted on Thursday, February 27th, 2014
This morning I woke up in a panic because I could no longer recall my CompuServe ID number. I don't know why it bothered me so much... I haven't used CompuServe in decades and there is no earthly reason I'd ever need to know it... but it did.
After thinking about it all day, I'm sure it's something like 74724.1609 — but that's not it. Darnit.
There was a time I was more familiar with my CompuServe ID than my own birthday. For those too young or not geeky enough to know what "CompuServe" was, Wikipedia to the rescue...
CompuServe (CompuServe Information Service, also known by its acronym CIS) was the first major commercial online service in the United States. It dominated the field during the 1980s and remained a major player through the mid-1990s, when it was sidelined by the rise of services such as AOL with monthly subscriptions rather than hourly rates.
While nowhere near as magical as the modern-day internet, CompuServe certainly felt more magical back in the day. Despite the fact it was glacially slow and massively expensive, it was 200% wonderful, and I would have spent all day using it if I had the time and money to do so. Finding new friends... joining common interest groups... exchanging information... downloading programs... doing research... even accessing a rudimentary internet gateway... CompuServe had it all. For a big fat price.
Luckily we all had Bulletin Board Systems to fill the gap. They were every bit as entertaining in their own way and, most importantly, free... assuming you could get past a busy signal.
Until AOL came along.
Cheaper, faster, prettier, more expansive, and a lot easier to use... AOL bested CompuServe in almost every way.
Just like the internet would eventually best AOL.
And everything else.
Still, nostalgia for the good ol' days dictates that I should still remember my CompuServe ID...
Nope. I got nuthin'.
Posted on Friday, February 28th, 2014
Odds are, this post isn't going to be of any interest to you.
But the math geek in me feels that it should, so I am pushing onward.
Wolfram Research is a company that's been evolving the language of mathematics for over 25 years now. Initially, this was via a program called Mathematica, which I used back in the late 90's to map out data for a shareholder newsletter I was responsible for. It's an elegant and easy solution to creating visuals out of complex sets of information. Eventually Mathematica lead to Wolfram Alpha, a "computational knowledge engine." It's a really cool tool that anybody can use for free on the Wolfram Alpha website (click on the "examples" link to get some idea of the amazing things it can do). If you have an iPhone and ask Siri something which requires calculation, you're already familiar with Wolfram Alpha, because that's where Siri goes for answers.
Fast forward to today, and we get the Wolfram Language... a programming language leveraging the power of Mathematica. Mind-blowing stuff.
Galileo Galilei is noted for saying "Mathematics is the language with which God has written the universe." If this is true, here's your chance to play God...
I think of myself as a kid learning how to program code using crude computer languages like BASIC and PASCAL, and I can't help but wonder what I might have created if tools like the Wolfram Language were around.
Oh the interesting times we live in.
Posted on Friday, March 14th, 2014
Veronica Mars is my second favorite television show of all time. Coincidentally enough, Veronica Mars creator Rob Thomas (not the singer) is also responsible for my first favorite television show of all time, Cupid (the Jeremy Piven original, not the shitty remake). Given my adoration of all things Rob Thomas, I had zero hesitation in joining 91,584 other fans in supporting his highly successful Kickstarter campaign to bring Veronica Mars to the big screen.
As part of my "reward" for being a backer, I get a digital copy of the film so I can watch it on the day of release. Which is today. Much to my horror, the code to access the film wasn't through iTunes, but instead via UltraViolet, which is one of the single biggest technological pieces of shit of all time. But I'll get into that in an extended entry. Meanwhile, back to the movie...
I'm just going to come out and say it. The central "whodunit mystery" around which the story revolves is pretty lame. A few red herrings, but none of the twists and turns or shocking revelations that made the television show so compelling. This is hardly surprising. The movie has the rather daunting disadvantage of having to educate viewers new to the franchise plus showcasing enough insider goodies to satisfy die-hard fans as well as having to catch up with an entire cast of characters people haven't seen for seven years.
To be honest, I'm surprised they managed to fit a mystery in there at all.
But squeeze it in they did, and the result is a love-letter to everybody who put up their hard-earned money to get the film made. Which is to say it's a total success story, and I don't think anybody who's a fan of the show is going to be disappointed.
The plot is fairly straight-forward. Veronica's bad-boy ex-boyfriend, Logan Echolls, has been framed for murder, which results in Veronica dropping her new life in New York City so she can return home to help him out after nine long years away. Once back in Neptune, which is even more deadly, ruthless, and corrupt than ever, we catch up with all her old friends and enemies. Well, not all of them... but most of them. The laundry list of cameo appearances is shockingly long.
Where the movie shines is in the way the Rob Thomas manages to get everybody on that list involved in the story. Yes, a few of the cameos are just quick distractions (hey, Corny!), but the bulk of them are carefully interwoven into events so they are appearing for a reason. Not many writers could pull that off without everything degenerating into a pile of crap, but Thomas seems to excel at it. And that's the fun. That's what makes the movie so darn good. Yes, your appreciation of the murder mystery is deeper if you know that Carrie Bishop put herself in the firing line to seek revenge for her best friend Susan Knight getting seduced and knocked up by their history professor. Yes, Piz's familiarity with Wallace and Mac makes more sense if you knew that Piz was Wallace's roommate in college. Yes, Veronica's relationship with her father is more meaningful if you know that she destroyed his chance at a career, but he still loves her unconditionally anyway. Yes, there are scads of moments in the film that only pay-off fully if you're intimately familiar with the Veronica Mars universe. But, much to my surprise, it's still perfectly watchable even if you've never seen a minute of the television show.
But totally watch all three seasons of the television show if you plan on seeing the movie. It's so much sweeter if you do, and the original show is required viewing anyway.
So two thumbs way up and no spoilers from me!
And my heartfelt thanks and gratitude to Rob Thomas, Kristen Bell, and everybody else who worked so hard to get the movie made. It was worth the wait. And if there's a Kickstarter campaign for a sequel... TAKE ALL MY MONEY, PLEASE! Heaven only knows the ending to the movie leaves that door wide open (perfect for the forthcoming line of books).
BONUS FEATURE! I was very happy to hear that one of my favorite bands, Mackintosh Braun, has a great new song on the Veronica Mars soundtrack. Here's their lyrics video for Don't Give In for your listening pleasure...
And now, for anybody who wants to read a rant about my efforts to plow though the pile of shit that is the "UltraViolet" digital video service, that's in an extended entry...→ Click here to continue reading this entry...
Posted on Tuesday, April 8th, 2014
This morning I needed to dig out a software manual from storage (remember when software came with printed manuals?) and had a small blue pressboard binder fall on my head. It looked familiar, but I didn't know why.
Remember when I was lamenting that I couldn't remember my CompuServe ID Number? Well, yeah, the small blue pressboard binder had all my CompuServe stuff in it... including my ID...
Now that I see it... 70717,3107... I can't imagine how I ever forgot it. Those digits flow through my mind like my own name, because it was my name for a number of years. When I typed it just then, I didn't even need to take a second look, my fingers automatically keyed it in. Just like old times.
Somehow, I feel more complete than I did yesterday.
ALSO in the small blue pressboard binder... COMPUSERVE INFORMATION SERVICE RATES: 1984!"
A few things...
All told, I'm currently on the internet for one thing or another at least 5 hours a day. That's minimum 35 hours a week... probably much more. Putting two hours of that in the daytime and three hours of that in the evening, in 2014 dollars I'd be spending $58.76 per day... $411.32 per week... just to get online.
And "being online" then sure ain't what it is now.
How in the hell did we ever make it out of the dark ages of technology?
Posted on Wednesday, April 9th, 2014
I'm going to just come right out and say it... I love McDonalds.
And that's no hyperbole, it's the truth. Sure I wish that they would take the McVeggie Deluxe national so I had a burger I could eat there but, even without a veggie option, I still like the chain. I love their fries. I like their egg & cheese breakfast biscuits. I like their side salads. I like their shakes. I like their McFlurries. I like their hot caramel sundaes. I like their fruit-n-yogurt parfaits. I even like their apple pies (just not as much as when they were fried). They've got food I like that's served fast at decent prices. What's not to love?*
But heaven forbid I ever mention liking McDonalds. Even hinting at having eaten there brings out all the people who think it's their mission in life to tell people what they can and cannot like...
"McDONALD'S IS TOXIC GARBAGE! I WOULDN'T FEED THEIR 'FOOD' TO MY DOG!"
"McDONALD'S IS DESTROYING THE PLANET! WHEN YOU EAT THERE, YOU'RE HELPING THEM!"
"ARE YOU STUPID? WHY NOT JUST EAT RAT POISON IF YOU'RE INTENT ON BEING SO UNHEALTHY?"
"WHAT KIND OF IDIOT RUINS THEIR BODY WITH FAT, SUGAR, AND CHEMICALS BY EATING AT McDONALDS?"
"McDONALD'S TARGETS CHILDREN FOR UNHEALTHY EATING HABITS WITH TOYS!"
"SO GROSS! THEIR CRAP ISN'T EVEN REAL FOOD!"
Etc. Etc. Etc.
Well, whatever. I honestly don't give a fuck. You don't like it? DON'T EAT THERE! You think it's unhealthy? DON'T EAT THERE! You have a problem with the food? DON'T EAT THERE! As for me? There's nothing wrong with an occasional bag of fries and a chocolate shake at McDonalds... AND I enjoy it, so just leave me the hell alone. I mean, thanks, but I am fully aware of the nutritional content (or lack thereof) of what I'm eating.
And then today a McDonalds post pops up in my Facebook feed.
The number of hateful comments shouldn't have surprised me, but it did.
For reasons completely unknown, there are people who hate McDonald's so much that they spend their valuable time ripping McDonald's to shit IN FACEBOOK COMMENTS! Which probably ranks right up there with "screaming into a pillow" when it comes to effectiveness, but whatever. At least when people feel the need to rip into me personally for my food choices, they think they're helping me out (or something) so they can feel good about doing me a solid. What possible benefit is there to leaving nasty comments for McDonalds on Facebook? Could there be a bigger waste of time?
Like blogging about it, I suppose.
* Well, okay, I DON'T love McDonald's clown figurehead, Ronald McDonald, who is terrifying...
Posted on Friday, April 11th, 2014
This has been the single most frustrating and anger-inducing experience I've had in years. I have spent more time screaming at my computer in two days than I have in all previous days since the dawn of computing. It would be nice if I could lay the blame for my rage on a single doorstep, but the reason this has been such a horrible ordeal is that just about everybody is responsible...
Too many websites make it too fucking difficult to change your password. Not only because they've hidden the option to make the change, but because they have absurdly stupid requirements as to what is acceptable for a password...
SORRY! Password must not be similar to your old password!
SORRY! Password must have at least one capital letter!
SORRY! Password must contain at least one number!
SORRY! Password must contain at least one non-alphanumeric character!
SORRY! Password must not contain two of the same characters in a row!
SORRY! Password must be a minimum of fifty-six characters in length!
The list goes on and on, and it drives me insane. It's MY password. If somebody guesses it because I don't have a number in it, that's MY fucking problem. All your efforts to force me into some absurdly random string of characters only ensures that I will never be able to remember it for those times I am forced to enter it by hand.
But here's the even worse part. Some websites force you to create some abstract password you'll never remember... THEN NOT ALLOW APPLE'S SAFARI BROWSER TO REMEMBER IT FOR YOU! Every time Safari pops up with a note that says "Safari cannot remember this password because the website has requested it not be stored" I want to put my fist through the screen and burn down the company who would make such a stupid fucking decision.
And don't get me started on websites which don't allow you to paste a password from your clipboard, but instead require that it be typed in manually. That should be punishable by death.
APPLETo their credit, Apple at least attempted to make password management easy by allowing you to have Safari suggest new passwords and then remember the password you enter. Safari then syncs that password across all your Apple devices (including iPhones, iPads, other Macs, etc.), which is astoundingly useful and cool. When it works, it's great. But, as mentioned above, it doesn't always work. Some sites disallow it. Sometimes Safari just doesn't save the hideously complex password it just suggested. Sometimes the login is not associated with the right website. There's all kinds of problems that can happen, and I'm guessing Safari's "remember password" feature only manages to work 50% of the time.
But it gets better.
Apple doesn't allow the stored password in Safari to be applied to other Apple apps! It goes something like this: 1) Go to change my AppleID password. 2) Safari suggests a randomly generated password that you'll never remember. 3) Safari saves your new AppleID password, then kindly asks if you want to apply the password for other Apple Services like iMessage, iCloud, and Facetime... which is so nice! 4) You go to buy a new song in the iTunes Store and APPLE FUCKING ASKS YOU FOR YOUR APPLEID PASSWORD! AND, YOU GUESSED IT, THE ONLY WAY TO ENTER THE PASSWORD INTO ITUNES IS TO TYPE IT IN MANUALLY! And since you can't fucking remember something like "RJ%P-TK3sO-#cD9yp*o-Ibn" you have to switch to Safari, go to the password manageer, locate your AppleID, enter your login password, copy the AppleID password, go back to iTunes, paste the password... then hope that you don't have to copy something else to the clipboard before iTunes asks for the password again since it asks for your password every five minutes (especially if you use iTunes Match, it would seem).
This is MIND-BOGGLINGLY FUCKING STUPID, APPLE! You have to allow iTunes to have access to your AppleID password when a user is logged in. Otherwise, people aren't going to use complex passwords. Which means that when it comes to people choosing shitty, easily-cracked passwords... YOU ARE THE PROBLEM!
UPDATE: BWAH HA HA HAAAA! How fucking embarrassing. I get to work expecting my work computer will have synced my keychain with all the changed passwords... NOPE! I had to enter everything all over again! In order to get the NEW passwords to sync, I have to disable iCloud Keychain Syncing... THEN REACTIVATE iCLOUD KEYCHAIN SYNCING. Apple: It Just Works!
UPDATE UPDATE: And, my iPhone required me to log back into all my Apple apps... like "Find My Friends" because it is ALSO too fucking stupid to use the damn keychain with my AppleID and password THAT IT IS ALREADY SYNCING TO! What a fucking joke. I thought that with iCloud, Apple would FINALLY get syncing done right since they botched it so badly in .Mac and MobileMe... NOPE! Still a horrendous pile of shit. And don't get me started how every time I do fucking ANYTHING with my password on my iPhone, it broadcasts an announcement to all my other Apple devices that it's using FaceTime now... AS IT HAS BEEN SINCE FACETIME WAS AVAILABLE!! Heaven only knows how many years it will be until Apple finally gets this crap all figured out. At this rate, probably never.
Long before Apple built a password manager into Safari, I was already using a nifty password managing app called 1Password by AgileBits. I've had a few minor problems with it over the years but, for the most part, it's a terrific piece of software. It does a greatjob of creating, storing, managing, and filling-in all kinds of passwords, credit cards, bank accounts, identities, encrypted notes, and such.
When I started changing all my passwords, I discovered that the version of 1Password I'm using was outdated, and I needed to upgrade to version 4. Well, they don't offer an upgrade, so you have to purchase an all-new copy... but it was on sale for half-price ($24.99) thanks to the Heartbleed bug, so I just went ahead and paid for the shit.
Only to have one of the most frustrating upgrade experiences ever. Seriously... upgrading from 1Password v3 to v4 was worse than getting punched in the fucking face.
First of all, they warn you to sync your Safari Plugin data with your main data store. This is done by creating a new fake login, which they don't really explain how to do. Eventually I just went to a shopping site and created a real login so I could force 1Password to add it to my main data store and be sure everything was synced. But it never worked. Each time I'd create a login, I'd go to the main 1Password app, but the login never showed up. After 20 minutes of this stupid crap, I finally didn't give a fuck, and just uninstalled the 1Password Safari Plugin. Who knows what data I lost.
Then it came time to install the v4 Safari Plugin. I couldn't find a separate link on their download page, so I Googled their site to find it. But after installing the plugin found at the link, Safari reported it was v3. So I uninstalled again and Googled for instructions, only to find that I could choose "Install Browser Extensions" from the 1Password app. Well that's easy, right?
Not so much. I then spent a half hour trying to get it to install. First of all, it kept installing version 3.9.20 even though I was double-clicking on the version 4 plugin. Don't ask me why. I had to reboot my MacBook before it would finally install the new version. But then the real battle began.
The problem being that 1Password must be running for the Safari install to work, but it keeps quitting before the install happens. It was a game of Catch-22 over and over and over again...
Start 1Password, press "Try again," 1Password quits. Repeat. TIMES INFINITY!
Even a complete re-install didn't work. Eventually I had to uninstall the entire app plus its support files... then start all over again with a backup data store synced on DropBox. What a fucking joke. I just paid $25 to waste nearly and hour of my precious time... for an upgrade. Thanks, AgileBits!
P.S. Why in the hell does AgileBits feel the need to install 1Password 4 inside of a FOLDER? Especially when the app is the ONLY item in the fucking folder. I'm guessing it has to do with problems writing to the Apps folder if the old 1Password is in place... but wouldn't a better solution be to rename the app with the new version number added?
And now, after TWO DAYS wasted, I finally have most all my passwords changed. Whether or not I'll actually be able to retrieve them to log in anywhere remains to be seen.
Posted on Tuesday, April 22nd, 2014
Time for a YouTube time-suck!
Good luck getting out alive.
I. Am. So. Old...
"I feel bad for people in the 90's, I really do."
Reason No. 765,236 why I love Betty White...
Nice to know that Larry King is still alive... and as creepy as ever.
And now for something completely different...
Lastly, one of many lists telling you what to see before you die (even if they put Santorini in Italy and don't know how to pronounce "buttes"...
I've barely been to a third of them...
Guess I'd better pack a suitcase...
Posted on Thursday, April 24th, 2014
Well, today didn't go as planned.
Not that this is in any way surprising.
In other news?
Posted on Thursday, May 1st, 2014
Today it reached 84° F
Tomorrow it's supposed to hit 86° F
And so I'm guessing this means Spring is over. Which is upsetting since it never really started until three weeks ago. So much for my favorite season.
As if that weren't horrible enough, THIS pretty much sums up my day...
The good news is that not all the links I needed were broken.
Most of them were just linking to the wrong page.
I'm not sure whether this is the case of us spending too many tax dollars... or too little. But it would be nice if Secretary of State John Kerry could get his shit fixed.
Posted on Thursday, August 14th, 2014
I loathe shopping.
I've never enjoyed it. If given the choice between going to the mall or getting water-boarded, I'd probably take the water-boarding. Especially during the holidays (at least the first time... as I've read that being water-boarded is seriously no fun at all). Now-a-days I rarely go to a mall or physical store to shop, I buy everything on the internet. And while I still loathe shopping, at least with online shopping I don't have to put pants on.
But that's not the only difference.
The biggest difference to me is that online shopping comes with customer reviews. When shopping at Amazon (my online store of choice) I have immediate access to the opinions of other people who have purchased the item I'm looking at. This can be a big plus. Except sometimes the reviews are paid or planted to make a product sound better than it is, in which case it's a huge detriment. They can also be sabotaged by people with nothing better to do than trash perfectly good products for petty reasons. But, overall, I trust reviews to even out and paint an accurate picture of what you'll be getting.
And, for the most part, this trust is not misplaced.
But what happens when it does?
I really like my current camera bag, a Tamrac Velocity 7x, but it's now too small to hold all my equipment and it screams "I'M A CAMERA BAG!!!" which probably acts like a beacon to thieves looking for an easy score. So I decided to buy something new. Which isn't an easy feat because no photographer I know has found the perfect bag. But this doesn't stop them from battling to the death in promoting the bag they prefer while brutally cutting up bags they don't. As you can imagine, this makes researching which bag to buy incredibly difficult. But I put in the time anyway and eventually landed on one which looked perfect for me.
Enter "The Brixton" by Ona Bags...
First of all, it's one of the best-looking camera bags I've ever seen. It looks like a high-end messenger bag and doesn't say "I'm a camera bag" at all. Sure, for the sake of the cows that died to make it, I wish it didn't have leather accents, but at least those poor animals can rest in peace knowing that their hide was used to make something so beautiful.
But, when it comes to baggage, I'll take functionality over beauty any day, so how well does it work as a camera bag?
Well, according to all the reviews I read, it was the most amazing thing since sliced bread. Honestly, I had a hard time finding anything bad that was said about it. Photographers loved the thing. So I did my best to ignore the TWO HUNDRED AND SEVENTY-NINE DOLLAR PRICE TAG, and placed my order with B&H Photo.
I was so thrilled to have finally found the most perfect camera bag ever made that I was walking on air for days.
And then it arrived.
Yes, it is indeed beautiful... but holy shit is it a cluster-fuck of disasters...
That last bullet requires some explanation...
As you can see, instead of pointing down, the buckle prong faces upwards. This means the damn thing is pointing out ALL THE TIME! The first time I noticed this, it was because I squeezed by a $1000 wood filing cabinet only to see that The Brixton left an ugly gash in the finish. The next time I noticed it, I dropped my arm to my side where the bag was resting and got punctured (no blood, but it left a mark and hurt like a m#th@f#c%er).
This is a huge, major, massive design flaw.
BUT IT WAS NOT MENTIONED ONCE IN ANY REVIEW I READ! NOT ONCE! What the fuck?!?
Did I perhaps get a defective product or something? I jumped to Ona's own website to see if I could find out. Sure enough, right there in their own marketing photos, the little buckle prong is sticking out all over the place!
Did nobody at any point during product testing notice this problem? Nobody?! I'm the only one who has been poked and left gashes in furniture? Seriously?!
I just don't get it.
There's a lot of things to like about this bag, but it's so deeply flawed that I just can't comprehend the universal praise it's getting. In order to make it work for me, I'm going to have to...
My regret is not that I have to modify this bag so that I can use it effectively. That's bound to happen with something as varied and subjective as photography gear. It's that I paid TWO HUNDRED AND SEVENTY-NINE DOLLARS for something that didn't have a lot of thought put into it. Or maybe it did, and the designers made bad choices. I dunno. It's just maddening that no reviewer mentioned any of the shortcomings that come with owning Ona's "The Brixton."
Oh well. Eventually, with modification, it should be a good bag for me. I sure like the way it looks. And it could have been worse.
I could have paid $430 for the all-leather version.
I hate shopping.
Posted on Wednesday, September 3rd, 2014
For years now, all my email has been forwarded to a webmail account at SpamCop, a spam filtering service. While not a perfect solution, this drastically reduced the amount of spam I had to deal with, so I accepted it as a necessary evil.
But then SpamCop announced that they were discontinuing all their webmail accounts come September.
Since I had paid $30 for a year of service back in May, I was understandably upset. I had only received 1/3 of what I paid for. Under the terms I signed up with, I was entitled to a refund...
So I wrote to SpamCop Support and requested I get $20 of my payment returned.
Their reply? "I'm sorry but there are no refunds."
I've written back twice explaining that they shouldn't have promised refunds if there were no refunds, and I want my money back, but they've been ignoring me. None of my emails have been replied to.
Look, this is not about the $20.
This is entirely about living up to your promises... something that is increasingly rare now-a-days, and I'm just sick of it. Nobody seems to give a shit about living up to their word anymore. Integrity? Honesty? Ethics? Responsibility? Meh. Who cares? Yeah, I took your money with the promise of providing a service, but I don't feel like providing that service any more, so too bad! And no, I won't be giving you an explanation, And yes, I'm keeping your money.
My life would be so much easier if I could just abandon any sense of integrity, honesty, ethics, and responsibility. Sadly, I was raised better than that, so now I'm stuck in a world where possessing such qualities... and expecting such qualities in others... is a detriment.
To the tune of $20.
And my trust.
Posted on Saturday, November 15th, 2014
Back in the olden days there was an activity called blogging. This was where people wanting to share their experiences, knowledge, and observations would create a website and, using a content management system, would post such experiences, knowledge, and observations for all the world to see.
Blogging was not always easy. Especially if you were a blogger that blogged every day. Because, unless you're an astronaut or Hugh Hefner, eventually you run out of blog-worthy things to blog about.
In order to generate ideas for blog content, bloggers started developing quizzes, challenges, questionnaires, and all kinds of other idea-generating material to blog about. Not everybody appreciated memes... many people downright abhorred them... but when it's 11:55pm and you're desperate for something to blog about, memes could be your best friend.
One of the most popular meme generators on the internet back in the day was The Friday 5. Every Friday they would post five questions for you to answer in a blog post, which was an easy way to get it over with and move on to your weekend. Unfortunately The Friday Five was eventually discontinued, and there were many sad pandas across the blogosphere.
And so I decided to do something about it.
I created a new Friday meme generator and called it FridayQ.
It ran a little over a year from June 4th, 2004 until I got tired of doing it and shut it down on July 22, 2005.
For years after it died, the FridayQ lived on as hand-coded pages here at Blogography. I never deleted them because I had a lot of blog posts that referenced FridayQ and I didn't want to go back and have to change 52+ entries. Alas, when I converted my blog to WordPress back in February all the FridayQ pages were lost and, for reasons unknown, were never backed up. After 8 years, 6 months, and 22 days, the FridayQ was finally dead for good.
Yesterday I was updating the web code for my blog stats and noticed that somebody was trying to reach FridayQ. This got me curious as to how many other searches it was getting, so I checked. Turns out there were dozens of them throughout the year. Mostly from my own blog, but there were other surviving blogs out there still linking to the site as well.
Maybe I should look into restoring FridayQ then?
And so this morning I did just that.
I visited the Internet Archive Wayback Machine to see what I could recover. None of the graphics were there, but all of the pages had been saved. Sure, the archives were out of date by a few months, but that was an easy fix. All I had to do was go through my Blogography archives and copy the original questions. Easy.
But what about the missing graphics?
Time to pull all my old hard drives out of storage.
Surprisingly, every drive I tried actually worked. And I found a backup of the FridayQ images on my fifth drive...
Good thing I'm a packrat who doesn't throw old tech away, huh?
I uploaded the pages to Blogography, updated all the links, and voilà... FridayQ is served!
You can visit them for yourself by clicking here.
And now I just need to decide what to do with this box of old hard drives. They're probably not going to stay working forever. Hell, half of them require a FireWire port which doesn't even exist anymore (thankfully I have a FireWire to Thunderbolt converter!). Two of them are SCSI drives that would require pulling one of my old Macs with a SCSI interface out of storage to read. Hmmm... perhaps I should back them up to the cloud or transfer them to modern hard drives or something? They're all ridiculously small by today's storage standards... I could probably fit all of them on a single terabyte external drive no problem.
Blergh. One more thing added to my list that I don't have time for.
Like blogging every day. =sigh=
Posted on Friday, December 19th, 2014
A couple years ago, I pledged $58 to a Kickstarter project by Peter Molyneux's "22 Cans" so they could complete a new game called Godus. It was to be inspired by the game Populous, which is one of my favorite computer games of all time. In it, you are playing a "god" who uses their ever-escalating abilities to control the lives of your in-game "followers."
At first, things were good. 22 Cans provided regular updates, often videos with Peter Molyneux himself. As the weeks turned into months, I was quite pleased to follow along with their progress, and thought everything was coming along beautifully. When the beta was released, I played around with it for a while... but didn't have time to devote to something that was still pretty rough. Eventually I deleted the game and thought I'd wait until it was finished.
But it hasn;t been finished. They're still working on it.
Nevertheless, I wanted to see what was happening with the $58 I paid, so I downloaded the Mac and iPhone versions to see what was happening.
As expected, the game looks beautiful. I love the design aesthetic, and am very impressed with how things are working...
The game is also kind of touching, as using your god powers can have terrible consequences for your followers... like when you destroy somebody's home so you can clear the land for bigger and better things...
Things eventually turn to shit.
Because Peter Molyneux and 22 Cans aren't creating a complete game. They're building a half-baked piece of shit that contains "in-game purchases." Yes, the game is free to download (thanks to the money I and a lot of other people donated) but, in order to get the most out of it, you have to pay real money to get ahead. Dubbed "freemium" games, these horrendous blights on gamers are fucking awful because you don't own the whole game. In order to play the way it was meant to be played, you have to keep paying for it. And paying and paying and paying...
In Godus you're buying gems. The gems can then be exchanged for things like "follower flags" that increase the happiness of your followers. Because if your followers aren't happy, they'll leave. You can also buy things you need to keep the game moving... like wheat. Because if you don't buy it, you'll be waiting days to make progress and keep playing.
I'm sure Molyneux will argue that you don't have to keep paying extra money... but he'd be full of shit. Because any time you try to do anything where you don't have enough power, Godus will literally keep wagging an invitation for you to buy more gems in the corner of the screen...
And it's annoying as shit, as you might imagine.
So how do I feel after paying $58 for a complete game and getting this bullshit?
Betrayed. Lied to. And very, very angry.
I don't buy "freemium" games. They're moronic crap and I have no interest in being jerked around like this. If 22 Cans had been honest from the beginning with their intent to nickel-and-dime their supporters, I would have never donated the money.
So lesson learned. Guess I won't be Kickstarting games any more.
Jesus, what assholes.
UPDATE: And it just keeps getting better. Godus requires you to be online while playing. If you don't have internet access, you don't play. If you do have internet access, but Godus servers are down, you don't play either...
It's almost comical just how shitty this app is. I've reset my iPhone more times since installing Godus than I have in all the years since I bought my first iPhone. So much for Apple's Editor Choice awards meaning a damn thing.