October 28, 2004

Ryan Seacrest is my Father

There's something amusing about carrying on a conversation via your father with AIM, as he tools off toward another state for a couple days.

There's something altogether terrifying about him ending that conversation with "Out!", as if he's some sort of hip to the jive lingo yo dude.

A thin line is somewhere between dry humor and seriousness, and with some people (like my dad) you can never tell which side they're on...

Posted by Colin at 11:28 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

Cheesey

While suffering through immense boredom this rainy afternoon, I stopped off at the iTunes Music Store and picked up Richard Cheese's "Lounge Against the Machine" album.

There's just something day-brightening about listening to "Closer" rendered as a lounge tune, replete with xylophones. It probably doesn't hurt that Cheese sounds so happy as he calls out the lyrics. But that's nothing compared to the rethinking of "Rape Me."

Good fun.

Posted by Colin at 8:49 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

October 26, 2004

New iPods

Two new iPods were announced today. iPod Photo: Cool. iPod U2 Special Edition: Ugly as sin.

The iPod photo is spifftastic. Color screen, 15 hours of music playback, connect to a TV or use the iPod's screen for slideshows... Good stuff. 60 gigabytes, too. Mmm. Nothing in that list I need, but it's fun to drool over.

U2 edition, not so much. In fact, I think it's rather hideous. Bright red scrollwheel and dark black body. Beautiful. If you're blind. Plus it comes preloaded with U2 music which, as my brother pointed out, sounds more and more the same.

Posted by Colin at 11:50 AM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

October 25, 2004

ImageCapture SDK

Note to self: you aren't crazy. There is an ImageCapture API. It's part of Carbon. SDK with sample code and documentation is here. Throw TWAIN out the window. It sucks.

Posted by Colin at 9:08 AM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

October 24, 2004

New Age Milli Vanilli

Ashlee Simpson had an interesting performance on Saturday Night Live last night. Her lips weren't moving, but the words were sure coming. Fascinating, that, that somehow she sings a song without opening her mouth, proceeds to look confused, and then runs offstage. _Exeunt stage right_ indeed. Heh. And so [history repeats itself](http://www.museumofhoaxes.com/millivanilli.html). Sadder: I'd almost put money on Britney Spears' performances on SNL actually being live. Whereas Ashlee's crap last night was way too perfect, the Britney performances had actual flaws. Sadder Yet: Young Ms. Simpson reportedly recently said in an interview (in so many words) that lip syncing is for talentless losers. Apparently now she's either a talentless loser, or all the cool kids are doing it. You be the judge.
Posted by Colin at 6:44 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

October 23, 2004

How lazy are we?

I had to visit OfficeMax on the way home yesterday to pick up some boxes. As it was an OfficeMax I haven't shopped at in a couple years, I was completely lost and ended up down several aisles before finding what I needed. On one of these aisles was one of the most bizarrely decadent contraptions I've seen in months. Sold by Avery-Dennison, the label people, is an electric _automatic label peeler_. You put your sheets of self-adhesive labels in and it peels them off for you as it feeds the sheet through. For just $259, you can be completely sedentary and Hutt-like even when preparing bulk mailings! Who's the target market for this? People with no fingers? It's not like it could be that much faster than doing it the old-fashioned way. Plus to use the damn thing, you have to have enough room for an ugly printer-sized chunk of plastic, someplace to plug it in, and a tolerance for the noise I'm sure it makes. For less than the label peeler's cost, you could pick up an old workhorse two-tray LaserJet, throw in a new toner cartridge, and not only print directly on the envelopes but also mail merge whatever you're stuffing into them. You could even use completely blank #10 envelopes instead of having your return address and postage printed on them professionally. Gasp! But you know by the fact Avery's selling the damn things that some focus group of pointy-haired bosses somewhere said "Ooooh, a machine that peels labels! We must have one!"
Posted by Colin at 6:02 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

McDonald's Chicken Selects

I don't generally eat at McDonald's, as I've been of the opinion for years that their food sucks. Their fries have always been good, and their shakes are tasty, but the bizzarely spongy burgers just ain't right.

With the new ad campaign for their chicken selects, I figured I'd give them a shot today for lunch.

Bad.

While the Chicken Selects look tasty enough, the texture is a lot like the burgers: not at all right for what it's supposed to be. Rather than chewing anything like chicken, it's more like something too soft and too nondescript. To their credit, it was all white, though "meat" may be pushing the limits of truth in advertising.

The dipping sauces were pretty sad too. Not being a barbecue sauce fan, and having ranch at home, I asked for honey mustard. My first bite, I thought "this doesn't taste like honey or mustard." My second bite, I pondered, tasted more like sugar than either of the halves of the equation. A quick look at the ingredients list confirmed my suspicions: the first two ingredients (and thus the most common) are water and sugar.

My shake was tasty enough, though. Thick and chocolatey and a reminder of years of my childhood.

Posted by Colin at 1:29 PM | Comments (1) | TrackBack

Qwest Update

After the Qwest debacle, I expected some sort of response. If the operations people wanted to be stupid, they could have responded and told me I was full of shit (which would have pushed all the wrong buttons). Really, though, I expected at least a retraction of the far too nebulous "abuse warning." While an apology for the inconvenience and unsubstantiated conclusion-jumping would be super, I certainly wasn't and am not expecting one. Companies like Qwest don't care enough to apologize.

But apparently companies like Qwest don't even care enough to acknowledge that (a) they got my message and (b) were aware of the facts presented in it.

I'm now waiting for more abuse letters, as in the course of getting my new router up and running I've gone through three more IPs. Given we already know Qwest apparently doesn't track who actually has their IPs at the time of an incident, I'm just waiting for complaints to roll in about one of the three I've had today.

If they're stupid enough to threaten my account again, they're going to get an earful. As it stands, they'll probably be getting a letter to their corporate office, as this (ignoring the issue and being entirely clueless) sure as hell is no way to run any sort of internet service. Really, it's no wonder they shipped the majority of their customers off to MSN. It's just a shame they didn't do the same for their VDSL customers.

Posted by Colin at 7:20 AM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

October 21, 2004

D-Link DI-604

I ran over to CompUSA to pick up a broadband router tonight, as I've grown tired of wasting electricity and generating heat just to allow multiple computers on the internet at once. After rebate, they've got D-Link's DI-604 wired router for $10. I had already narrowed the router search down to that model or a Netgear model months ago, and I figured for $10 it could be absolute crap and I could throw it away if need be. Initial impressions: it's solid and works well. Construction feels a little chintzy, and it takes a couple minutes to figure out what the heck the included optional feet are, but the actual function is great. D-Link's site was helpful in configuring firewall rules for common applications. Firmware upgrades have to be the simplest I've ever encountered on any device. That said, two things that bug me: 1. After a firmware upgrade, everything's back to factory defaults. As you can't load saved configurations generated under earlier firmware revisions, it's a gigantic pain in the ass to re-enter your settings whenever D-Link offers an upgrade. (I now have screenshots of the management pages for this purpose.) 2. You're never warned that an action is going to cause a reboot of the router -- they just happen. I was happily chatting away with a couple friends while changing some router settings, clicked "Apply" to save them, and was greeted with "The router is now restarting" and loss of internet connectivity. I apologized, and was then promptly disconnected briefly again after changing another setting. The moral: set up router completely first, _then_ talk to friends.
Posted by Colin at 10:50 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

Wishlists bad!

I've got to stop browsing other people's Amazon wishlists. They only give me more ideas for my own gargantuan list, which has become an unruly three-page monstrosity cataloging dozens of things that have piqued my interest and need to be remembered for later. Like after winning the lottery later, when I can buy them all in one gigantic Amazon order which will require an entire UPS truck to itself.

Trinity has the gorgeous Rider-Waite tarot in hers, but moreover she's got the damn Holga camera kit. The Holga was safely out of sight and out of mind until I saw it in her list. Now it's bound to end up in my own wishlist and quite possibly on my Christmas list (which a handful of relations will begin bugging me for any moment now, and I haven't even started to think about).

Posted by Colin at 10:38 PM | Comments (1) | TrackBack

The Banner People Cometh

Following my post last weekend about the banner-wielding protesters, I began wondering if it wasn't some sort of bizarre performance art. After all, they had the same style sign and what looked to be the same people as I saw months before protesting elsewhere in the EV.

I just drove by them on the way home. Today they're outside the assisted living home on Dobson Road, protesting Healing Hearts. Clipping by at full speed, I didn't have time to catch the rest of the sign. The only Healing Hearts I could find a was ministry for parents who had abortions, so I doubt they're protesting a labor dispute today. Unless it's some really odd performance art.

Frankly, I'm fascinated with this as it marks the fourth time I've seen them making dissonant protests. I'd love to trek back over there and ask them what the hell's up, but I don't have the time. If you're reading this and want to check it out yourself, they're presently in Chandler, on Dobson Road between Ray Road and Chandler Boulevard. Can't miss 'em -- they're on the east side of the road, in front of an assisted living place, with a big banner.

Posted by Colin at 11:20 AM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

NetNewsWire keyboard shortcuts

Apparently I'm really slow, as I just discovered that a fair chunk of NetNewsWire's keyboard shortcuts don't really need the command key at all. Hit K, everything's marked read. Hit U, the selected headlines are marked unread. B opens in your browser.

I wish I had discovered this sooner, as it's a lot easier to use one finger than to do the old thumb-plus-random-finger stretch.

Update: Now that Brent Simmons, NetNewsWire's creator, has commented on this entry, I suppose I should mention it's no fault of his that I didn't know this. ;)

Rather, I had never explored the full gamut of NetNewsWire because I was quite satisfied with what I'd found in five minutes of playing around. Even when he's added and announced new features, I've generally ignored them. It's met my needs brilliantly with very little effort, and only with the addition of my iBook did I finally start to more fully explore NNW: touchpads are far less efficient than mousing, and there's a vast difference in the way I use my Power Mac and my iBook now (mouse-heavy with the occasional keyboard shortcut on one, keyboard-heavy with the occasional mouse use on the other).

Consider it glowing praise for Ranchero Software and NetNewsWire that it had features I didn't even realize I needed.

Posted by Colin at 9:42 AM | Comments (1) | TrackBack

October 19, 2004

Bono Can't Count

I'm flummoxed by the U2 iPod ads, namely the "Vertigo" song used therein.

Bono counts the song off as "uno, dos, tres, catorce" -- which is 1, 2, 3, 14.

Fourteen?

I even checked the lyrics, where it's listed as catorce. Weird.

But it gets odder: while the versions I'd heard on the radio thus far all had the 14 the ad version did, I heard a radio cut tonight that "corrected" it to 4 (cuatro). At first I thought the 14 was used on purpose, but after hearing it with a very distinct 4 this evening, I'm at a loss. Maybe Bono just really, really sucks at Spanish and nobody (?) caught it before the release.

Initial theories included Pi (3.14) and some 3:14 Bible passage, but I have yet to read anything corroborating theories of significance. And with the apparently edited version floating about, that theory's pretty much shot to hell.

Posted by Colin at 11:01 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

Yay for shopping!

I've resigned myself to everything going on sale or being updated shortly after my price protection window expires. You've just got to throw caution to the wind and buy, knowing life will mock you shortly thereafter (and you won't be able to find the receipt, even if you still qualify). It's the way it always works.

And it's no different with my iBook G4! Bought it September 3rd, and today Apple releases a whole new crop of speed-bumped iBooks for $100 less and with preinstalled wireless networking. That's... $50 + $69... $120 I could have stuffed back into the savings account to fund the digital SLR I'm going to need in a couple months.

Unlike some people, though, I just laugh it off. There's nothing else to do. Technology's constantly changing, and there is no winning against new product lineups. So many people I've worked with get angry when new products come out, as if they're in a keeping up with the Joneses competition with the manufacturer. Just because Apple bumped the speeds up 200 MHz doesn't suddenly make my iBook less useful (and really, 200MHz is fairly insignificant). Get a grip, people. Your computer/camera/car still serves you as well now as it did before. It's not like the company is going to send out Crippling Slowdown Rays!!! to make you buy a new computer.

On the other hand, obsessive buyers do tend to flood the eBay market shortly after an announcement like this, throwing supply and demand in favor of the buyer. So take advantage of your high-strung neighbors and pick yourself up a laptop on the cheap!

Posted by Colin at 10:25 AM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

October 17, 2004

Kitty Love

Nothing says love quite like a cat stuffing his paw up your nostril and then happily licking your nose whilst purring.

Posted by Colin at 12:57 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

October 16, 2004

LazyWeb: Center for Arizona Policy

Political LazyWeb: If anyone can manage to get a copy of the Center for Arizona Policy's (http://www.azpolicy.org) "Voter's Guide 2004" and send it to my Gmail address (this blog's name, no spaces @ gmail.com), I'd rightly appreciate it. I've tried using several addresses with their braindead mandatory registration scheme and it barfs on every one of them, even those that are actual valid addresses.

Posted by Colin at 11:31 PM | Comments (2) | TrackBack

Protesting Whatnow?

I had to laugh yesterday as I drove past the gigantic Bank of America building in south Mesa. East Valley residents will recognize it as the building that glows with a blue outline at night, acting as a navigation beacon for many of us living here.

There on the sidewalk were three protestors with a big banner, dissatisfied with the behavior of a large national bank. "Shame on Wachovia Bank," it said, "Stop the labor dispute!"

Wachovia and Bank of America are two completely distinct entities. Though they're both based in Charlotte, North Carolina, they're not sister companies and in fact compete for business.

Apparently they realized this about the time I pointed and my brother started laughing, as they had starting dismantling their gigantic vinyl-and-PVC banner. Wachovia, in fact, doesn't maintain an Arizona presence. I'm not sure what braindead union sent those guys out to protest in Arizona, much less in front of the wrong damn bank. It made for a brief interjection of humor as my brother and I spent the next several miles pondering how you miss the gigantic "Bank of America" logo, and considering other companies to mis-protest.

Posted by Colin at 3:23 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

Three Scenarios

These will return in a later topic, but just for the moment, three scenarios involving parents and technology.

Scene 1

A father and his child are in the Apple Store, walking down the software aisle.

DAD: Is this for the Mac? I didn't think they made that for the Mac.

CHILD, SIGHING: We're in the Apple Store. Yes, that runs on the Mac. Everything here is for the Mac.


Scene 2

A FATHER receives a digital camera for his birthday. He's quite elated, and takes it with him on his trips in lieu of a traditional film camera. He learns how to store the pictures on his computer, and that since they've been copied, they can be safely deleted from the card to free up space. Some time later, the FATHER comes to his SON.

FATHER: What store has the best prices on memory cards? I think I'm going to have to buy another one soon. This one is almost full.


Scene 3

A MOTHER works in the IT department of a large national company. At work, she has multiple computers of her own and a large network fileshare where her files are stored and she regularly finds other files she needs.

At home, the MOTHER is worried that her Word documents will use up too much space, and that she'll never find them again on such a large drive. As a result, she stores all of her files on unlabeled floppy disks, and continues to do so even after one of the disks goes bad and destroys multiple important files.

Posted by Colin at 12:32 AM | Comments (1) | TrackBack

October 15, 2004

Apple Store

I wandered around the Apple Store at Chandler Fashion Center for about an hour tonight, looking for anything that struck my fancy. Not finding anything that screamed "buy me!" that couldn't be rationalized away or dismissed by my plans to stick to a budget that will put a Canon Digital Rebel in my hands, I proudly left the store.

And promptly came home and bought music from the iTunes Music Store, having heard some good stuff on the store computers and then being entranced by the suggestions the music store made based on my cart.

As for the Apple Store: they were damn busy. Numerous Windows users were drawn in by the promise of the iMac G5 (yeah, so I eavesdrop -- err, I mean, "overhear!"), which I do believe now outnumbers every other system in the store. Part of the reason I stayed so long was in hopes of getting to play with one, but alas, the floor models were in such high demand I could never get near one.

I watched two or three of them go out the door in the time I was there, and several more were being prepared for later pickup by the Genius Bar employees.

And in case anyone's dying to know the current trends among 16-24 year old females, the green iPod mini is apparently "the cutest" and "so cool." Of the young women that stopped to look at the iPods in the 5 minutes or so I was in front of the iPod accessories, three -- none of them together -- commented positively in some fashion or another about the green mini. So apparently pastel green is the new black. I don't get it either, but there you have it. (Sex toy makers, start your engines vibrators in pastel green!)

Every corporate whore in the market is all over the iPod phenomenon. Among the iPod cases the Apple Store stocked: a napa leather case and an ass-ugly case branded with the DC Shoe Co (I'm sorry, DCSHOECOUSA, if you want to be pedantic) logo. When being a poseur hoping to effect the experienced skater vibe, apparently just overpriced crap shoes and caps are no longer enough. No, now you need the DC trifecta: shoes, hat, and iPod case. And don't forget your lip ring and jet black hair, which will fully initiate you into the soulless flock of sheep. Oh, wait, you're doing it to "be different" and "an individual." Right. Which is why you're wearing a studded belt and black socks like every other new kid on the block, right? Right.

Hmm. I think I went off on a tangent there somewhere, but I can't quite put my finger on it.

Posted by Colin at 11:30 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

October 14, 2004

Do You... Yahoo!?

Allow me to take this moment out of my day to proclaim my undying love for the Ben Stein/Al Franken Yahoo! ad. It's a nice break from the crappier television ads, particularly thanks to Franken's last line: "A lot of them get their trophy wives on Yahoo..."

Posted by Colin at 10:56 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

Name Three

Found at Trinity's, again. I feel a trend coming on.

Pet Peeves:
  1. Bad drivers
  2. People who say "axe" instead of "ask"
  3. Morons who shout into their cell phones
Favorite Sounds:
  1. The wind through the trees
  2. Rain falling on the car roof
  3. Running water
Favorite Candy:
  1. Gobstoppers
  2. Bottle Caps
  3. Milky Way
Biggest Fears:
  1. Dying
  2. Being stuck in a dead-end job
  3. Being trapped in the wilderness
Biggest Challenges:
  1. Not kicking morons in the box and shoving them (thanks Avril)
  2. Maintaining organization
  3. Finding time to fit everything into my week
Favorite Department Stores:
  1. Target
  2. JC Penney
  3. Sears
Most Used Words:
  1. Shit
  2. Fuck
  3. Really
Favorite Pizza Toppings:
  1. Pepperoni
  2. Mushrooms
  3. Onion
Favorite Cartoon Characters:
  1. Bullwinkle
  2. Freakazoid
  3. Stimpy
Movies Recently Watched:
  1. Donnie Darko
  2. Hedwig and the Angry Inch
  3. The Witness
Favorite Fruits:
  1. Bananas
  2. Gala apples
  3. Grapes (white/green)
Favorite Vegetables:
  1. Broccoli
  2. Mushrooms
  3. Lettuce
Posted by Colin at 12:49 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

Anyone? Anyone? Dubya? Dubya?

Oh my. I just had to laugh my ass off at this one. Via Queer Day: The White House has chastised John Kerry for "outing" Mary Cheney.
The White House blasted John Kerry Wednesday night for "outing" Vice President Dick Cheney's daughter as a lesbian during the third and final presidential debate. As if it were a secret. Fox debate panelist Mort Kondracke said Kerry's "outing" of Mary Cheney "struck me as a low blow designed to weaken the Bush-Cheney team with right-wingers who might not know that Dick Cheney has a lesbian daughter." Like it's a bad thing.
Uh... Uh... But wait! The hilarity grows. Queer Day's take, again:
Lynne Cheney, Mary's mom, apparently didn't know Mary was a lesbian, either. She's very upset and says Kerry's remark was "tawdry." "The only thing I can conclude is he is not a good man," she told a crowd in Pittsburgh. We remain baffled.
Someone let me know how the hell you "out" an openly gay woman. Please. Especially when -- gasp! -- Dick Cheney himself and John Edwards touched upon Mary's sexuality at the Vice Presidential debate last week. I'm flabbergasted. What rock do you have to be living under to not know Mary Cheney's a lesbian, especially after the whole debacle that ensued following Alan Keyes' rather stupid remarks (and the discovery that _his_ daughter, too, is a lesbian)?
Posted by Colin at 12:15 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

Lost

If there's one thing I've been all too good at in my life, it's losing friends. And in most cases, it wasn't even my doing that led to it. It ties largely into religion. I'll preface this by saying I'm vaguely religious. I'm not confirmed or baptized or anything -- my parents wanted to let us make our own decisions -- but I attend a local church on holidays and whenever else I feel like. Being as the belief system of that church is rather progressive, I've never had a problem with it. There's another church I do have a problem with, because I lost two good friends to it. K was a good friend, a great friend. He was always there, he had the same sense of humor as I did, and he was part of the inseparable trio composed of myself, C, and K back when we were all Boy Scouts. But then life just started weighing down on him. He was suicidal, attempting repeatedly to kill himself. I can't say I blame him, knowing how things were. But then he lit his bridges on fire, chopping them into little pieces along the way. K told his mom that my friend G and I encouraged him to finish what he had started after harassing him to see the marks on his wrists. Never had a grosser distortion of the truth been heard -- he was excitedly displaying his sutures, telling us he tried to kill himself. We were aghast and concerned about him. Apparently his brush with death (though truth be told he was using a plastic knife, didn't cut deep enough, and didn't cut the right direction to actually mean it) brought him closer to God, because he then went off the deep end. The next thing we all knew, K was gone as a person. He proclaimed G was going to hell for not accepting Christ into his life (G was Jewish) and that G's parents were going to burn in hell for raising him a Jew. My pastor was going to hell for making fun of the church. One day some of the guys were practicing rock music in the band room, and he -- no joke -- ran into one of the soundproof practice booths screaming about "get[ting] away from the devil music," and curled into a ball. He was absolutely gone. K was no more. G, J, and I were distressed by this. But none of us thought it would happen again -- until it did. This time it was J who went off the deep end. He was the quintessential preacher's son, trying to get in a little trouble here and there to shed his squeaky-clean image but never doing anything too bad. He had one of the raunchiest senses of humor I'd encountered; he was fun to be around if not a little over-the-top at times. Just all of a sudden one day, nobody in our circle of friends was Christian enough for him any more and we were all going to hell. I have no idea what happened there; maybe he caught me checking out one of his friends. At any rate, the Baptist church had claimed two. Years later, another one of my friends got caught up in an entirely different religion: homosexuality. I do say this with tongue somewhat planted in cheek, before the hate mail rolls in. Seriously, though, the mysterious "gay lifestyle" of legislators everywhere is a religion to some, who feel the need to live up to the stereotypes in every way possible. L was one of those girls. After coming out as bisexual (and attracted to my girlfriend at the time, no less), she went off the gay deep end. Newfound slutty ex-con out girlfriend (who was actually a raging closet case), bedecked in rainbow gear from stem to stern, new lesbian friends to replace her old friends... Sometimes I'd swear the only reason she kept after me was that she'd had a crush on me for ages. We ended up parting ways for two reasons: one, she wanted me (and/or M) so badly that she repeatedly tried to sabotage my relationship with M (girlfriend); two, she told me I wasn't "gay enough." Two just annoyed me to no end, but one actually culminated in a spectacular falling out -- inexplicably with four of my friends at once -- when she thought she had information I didn't. And them's my crazy soap opera war stories: lose two friends to the Church of John the Baptist, lose one to the Church of Fabulousness (and coveting thy neighbor's goods). You couldn't write better stuff. Sometimes life is far too much like being trapped in a "very special _Blossom_." (Kudos to anyone who actually gets the reference.)
Posted by Colin at 9:14 AM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

Oh, for... Stupid clocks.

If you've been reading for a while, you probably know I'm hosting this blog on a server provided by 1&1 Internet. They were running a promotion a while back to get their name out there: three years of their "professional" package, free. I figured it couldn't hurt to give it a shot and thus signed up. And while it didn't hurt, and the majority of the time it's just dandy, it has had its eccentricities. I was previously one of numerous users to experience inexplicable failures of CGI scripts. That's since remedied itself, but tonight I noticed something fun: their servers are apparently observing daylight savings time. This is rather unusual: most servers are set to Universal Coordinated Time (GMT), ignore daylight savings time, and that's that. In a normal configuration, this entry would be posted at 11:41, as per my local clock. Instead, due to the pointless clock skew on 1&1's systems, it's posting an hour ahead. And for that matter, everything I post until spring will be an hour ahead unless I change my MT settings and then change them back when spring rolls around. So if I'm posting at absolutely bizarre times, keep in mind I'm probably not nearly as night-owlish as the site would have you believe. _Update_: Fixed, but I shouldn't have had to do it. Bums.
Posted by Colin at 12:37 AM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

Gmail Atom Feed

A friend let me know that Google offers an Atom feed of your Gmail inbox! Simply add https://gmail.google.com/gmail/feed/atom to your favorite Atom-capable newsreader and voila, notification and short excerpts of new messages without ever opening a browser window. There is a gotcha: If you have multiple Gmail accounts, you may run into trouble -- a lot of feed readers don't let you subscribe to the same feed URL multiple times. One more thing -- some newsreaders don't know how to handle SSL and/or feeds that require authentication (which yours must for this to work).
Posted by Colin at 12:28 AM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

October 13, 2004

Random Childhood Memory

I had a selection of babysitters through my childhood that can only be described as "interesting," so more of these little anecdotes may pop up over time.

But for now, just this one.

I had one babysitter who, upon occasion, babysat another child simultaneously. Another little boy. We got along famously, which was a nice break from some of the kids I hated. Some days we'd both have to sleep at the babysitter's house until our parents showed up.

This was all well and good, except she only had one spare bed.

Which, as little kids, doesn't matter. If there's room enough for two people and someone tells you to sleep in a bed, so be it. Especially since most of us probably shared beds in hotel rooms with brothers or sisters.

The babysitter, however, was obsessed. Two little boys sleeping in the same bed would apparently lead to wild boy-on-boy sex or homosexuality or something, and she was always adamant we not sleep like normal people. Rather, we had to sleep head-to-foot. So the foot of the bed had a pair of feet and a head while the head of the bed had a head and a pair of feet.

Granted, this sort of thing effectively precluded spooning and fucking, but it was nearly the perfect arrangement for uninhibited mutual oral sex.

Not that anything ever happened, mind you, because we were both far from puberty and sex is the last thing on your mind (and pointless, as ejaculation is years off).

I seriously don't know what was going through that babysitter's head or why she didn't consider all the sexy possibilities, but it always made for interesting nights. And makes for immense laughter all these years later as I look back on it. It's so completely insipid.

Posted by Colin at 6:11 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

200 Things

Shamelessly stolen borrowed from Trinity, it's "200 Things." Those items bolded are what I've done.

  1. Bought everyone in the pub a drink
  2. Swam with wild dolphins
  3. Climbed a mountain
  4. Taken a Ferrari for a test drive
  5. Been inside the Great Pyramid
  6. Held a tarantula.
  7. Taken a candlelit bath with someone
  8. Said 'I love you' and meant it
  9. Hugged a tree
  10. Done a striptease
  11. Bungee jumped
  12. Visited Paris
  13. Watched a lightning storm at sea
  14. Stayed up all night long, and watch the sun rise
  15. Seen the Northern Lights
  16. Gone to a huge sports game
  17. Walked the stairs to the top of the leaning Tower of Pisa
  18. Grown and eaten your own vegetables
  19. Touched an iceberg
  20. Slept under the stars
  21. Changed a baby's diaper
  22. Taken a trip in a hot air balloon
  23. Watched a meteor shower
  24. Gotten drunk on champagne
  25. Given more than you can afford to charity
  26. Looked up at the night sky through a telescope
  27. Had an uncontrollable giggling fit at the worst possible moment
  28. Had a food fight (a small, short-lived one, but a food fight nonetheless)
  29. Bet on a winning horse
  30. Taken a sick day when you're not ill
  31. Asked out a stranger
  32. Had a snowball fight
  33. Photocopied your bottom on the office photocopier
  34. Screamed as loudly as you possibly can
  35. Held a lamb
  36. Enacted a favorite fantasy
  37. Taken a midnight skinny dip
  38. Taken an ice cold bath
  39. Had a meaningful conversation with a beggar
  40. Seen a total eclipse
  41. Ridden a roller coaster
  42. Hit a home run
  43. Fit three weeks miraculously into three days
  44. Danced like a fool and not cared who was looking (I can't dance, so this is the only way I dance!)
  45. Adopted an accent for an entire day
  46. Visited the birthplace of your ancestors
  47. Actually felt happy about your life, even for just a moment
  48. Had two hard drives for your computer (Two? Ha! I had three at one point!)
  49. Visited all 50 states (nope, but it's one of my goals.)
  50. Loved your job for all accounts
  51. Taken care of someone who was shit faced
  52. Had enough money to be truly satisfied
  53. Had amazing friends
  54. Danced with a stranger in a foreign country
  55. Watched wild whales
  56. Stolen a sign
  57. Backpacked in Europe
  58. Taken a road-trip
  59. Rock climbing
  60. Lied to foreign government's official in that country to avoid notice
  61. Midnight walk on the beach
  62. Sky diving
  63. Visited Ireland
  64. Been heartbroken longer then you were actually in love
  65. In a restaurant, sat at a stranger's table and had a meal with them
  66. Visited Japan
  67. Benchpressed your own weight
  68. Milked a cow
  69. Alphabetized your records (Duh. Why mess with success?)
  70. Pretended to be a superhero (If Halloween counts, I guess so.)
  71. Sung karaoke
  72. Lounged around in bed all day
  73. Posed nude in front of strangers
  74. Scuba diving
  75. Got it on to "Let's Get It On" by Marvin Gaye
  76. Kissed in the rain (the best place to kiss)
  77. Played in the mud
  78. Played in the rain
  79. Gone to a drive-in theater
  80. Done something you should regret, but don't regret it
  81. Visited the Great Wall of China
  82. Discovered that someone who's not supposed to have known about your blog has discovered your blog
  83. Dropped Windows in favor of something better
  84. Started a business
  85. Fallen in love and not had your heart broken
  86. Toured ancient sites
  87. Taken a martial arts class
  88. Swordfought for the honor of a woman
  89. Played D&D for more than 6 hours straight
  90. Gotten married
  91. Been in a movie
  92. Crashed a party
  93. Loved someone you shouldn't have
  94. Kissed someone so passionately it made them dizzy
  95. Gotten divorced
  96. Had sex at the office
  97. Gone without food for 5 days
  98. Made cookies from scratch
  99. Won first prize in a costume contest
  100. Ridden a gondola in Venice
  101. Gotten a tattoo
  102. Found that the texture of some materials can turn you on
  103. Rafted the Snake River
  104. Been on television news programs as an "expert"
  105. Got flowers for no reason
  106. Masturbated in a public place (Why admit it? Why not? Besides -- I was young)
  107. Got so drunk you don't remember anything
  108. Been addicted to some form of illegal drug
  109. Performed on stage
  110. Been to Las Vegas
  111. Recorded music
  112. Eaten shark
  113. Had a one-night stand
  114. Gone to Thailand
  115. Seen Siouxsie live
  116. Bought a house
  117. Been in a combat zone
  118. Buried one/both of your parents
  119. Shaved or waxed your pubic hair off
  120. Been on a cruise ship
  121. Spoken more than one language fluently
  122. Gotten into a fight while attempting to defend someone
  123. Bounced a check
  124. Performed in Rocky Horror
  125. Read - and understood - your credit report
  126. Raised children
  127. Recently bought and played with a favorite childhood toy
  128. Followed your favorite band/singer on tour
  129. Created and named your own constellation of stars
  130. Taken an exotic bicycle tour in a foreign country
  131. Found out something significant that your ancestors did
  132. Called or written your Congress person
  133. Picked up and moved to another city to just start over
  134. ...more than once? - More than thrice?
  135. Walked the Golden Gate Bridge
  136. Sang loudly in the car, and didn't stop when you knew someone was looking (Hell yeah! Radio singers of the world, unite!)
  137. Had an abortion or your female partner did
  138. Had plastic surgery
  139. Survived an accident that you shouldn't have survived.
  140. Wrote articles for a large publication
  141. Lost over 100 pounds
  142. Held someone while they were having a flashback
  143. Piloted an airplane
  144. Petted a stingray (So smooth...)
  145. Broken someone's heart
  146. Helped an animal give birth
  147. Been fired or laid off from a job
  148. Won money on a T.V. game show
  149. Broken a bone
  150. Killed a human being
  151. Gone on an African photo safari
  152. Ridden a motorcycle
  153. Driven any land vehicle at a speed of greater than 100mph
  154. Had a body part of yours below the neck pierced
  155. Fired a rifle, shotgun, or pistol
  156. Eaten mushrooms that were gathered in the wild
  157. Ridden a horse
  158. Had major surgery
  159. Had sex on a moving train
  160. Had a snake as a pet
  161. Hiked to the bottom of the Grand Canyon
  162. Slept through an entire flight: takeoff, flight, and landing
  163. Slept for more than 30 hours over the course of 48 hours
  164. Visited more foreign countries than U.S. states
  165. Visited all 7 continents
  166. Taken a canoe trip that lasted more than 2 days
  167. Eaten kangaroo meat
  168. Fallen in love at an ancient Mayan burial ground
  169. Been a sperm or egg donor
  170. Eaten sushi
  171. Had your picture in the newspaper
  172. Had 2 (or more) healthy romantic relationships for over a year in your lifetime
  173. Changed someone's mind about something you care deeply about
  174. Gotten someone fired for their actions
  175. Gone back to school
  176. Parasailed
  177. Changed your name
  178. Petted a cockroach
  179. Eaten fried green tomatoes
  180. Read The Iliad
  181. Selected one "important" author who you missed in school, and read,
  182. Dined in a restaurant and stolen silverware, plates, cups because your apartment needed them
  183. ...and gotten 86'ed from the restaurant because you did it so many times, they figured out it was you
  184. Taught yourself an art from scratch
  185. Killed and prepared an animal for eating (fish are animals!)
  186. Apologized to someone years after inflicting the hurt
  187. Skipped all your school reunions (not on purpose)
  188. Communicated with someone without sharing a common spoken language
  189. Been elected to public office
  190. Written your own computer language
  191. Thought to yourself that you're living your dream
  192. Had to put someone you love into hospice care
  193. Built your own PC from parts
  194. Sold your own artwork to someone who didn't know you
  195. Had a booth at a street fair
  196. Dyed your hair
  197. Been a DJ
  198. Found out someone was going to dump you via LiveJournal
  199. Written your own role playing game
  200. Been arrested
Posted by Colin at 12:31 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

Qwest Redux

Because I'm still pissed off about yesterday's email from Qwest, let's review how exactly this came to pass.

1. Admittedly clueless user installs Norton Internet Security, a program which is, shall we say, alarmist at the least (Symantec couldn't make money if all their programs suggested everything was fine).
2. Admittedly clueless user reviews his NIS logs, finding IPs.
3. Admittedly clueless user admits he's clueless and puts the list of IPs -- and only a list of IPs -- into an e-mail to Qwest's abuse department. No timestamps, no datestamps, no information on what they did. Just a list of IPs. And a statement of what day these supposedly came from. "I can only assume it's bad," clueless user says in his message. [Yes, son, your report is awful, but those IPs showing up isn't necessarily bad.]
4. Apparently Qwest's network operations people also "can only assume it's bad" and don't have a clue about basic network administration or customer service, as they review it and freak out.
5. Qwest does not review their own DHCP records -- or doesn't keep any -- which would have immediately exonerated my account, as I didn't have a lease on that IP at the time. Qwest's IPs have fairly standard 90 minute leases.
6. Qwest sends me an email, including the email address, full name, and current IP of the person who reported the "abuse."

Now let's touch on why exactly so much of this is wrong.

Clueless User
Blindly following the word of a clueless customer is bad juju, folks. He even admits in his email that he doesn't have a clue. Why, then, do you break out the jackbooted thugs at the drop of a hat? What am I to do if I, like him, are a clueless user? How do I refute your claims, with which comes the threat of you canning my account the next time someone baselessly reports me as abusing the service and you don't so much as verify it?

Useless logs
Or rather, lack of logs. He didn't forward a firewall log of any sort -- there are no time or date stamps, no note of what port was attempted, or how many attempts were made. Simply "these were some IPs in my log." Qwest somehow turned this in to "MS RPC DCOM exploit," though I'm not entirely sure how. That's one hell of a logical leap from "no facts" to "RPC/DCOM." Most serious ISPs would laugh at you if you couldn't provide exact date and time stamps in addition to solid, factual information on what those IPs were doing.

Hell, those IPs could have shown up for any number of reasons. Maybe he was on a filesharing network. Or had File and Print Sharing turned on for his Internet NIC. Or he was on IRC, or instant messaging, or posted a link to files hosted on his computer... This would be how the internet works. A machine with one IP contacts a machine at another, for any one of a variety of reasons. If your firewall for any reason doesn't think this is right, it stops it and logs it. "Blocked" doesn't mean "attack."

No Logs or No Research
Qwest obviously didn't perform any research before throwing out their warning emails. This leads me to one of two possibilities: they don't log, or they don't care. If the latter, shame on them. If the former, shame on them. Let's assume for a moment they do log, however: they'd have right under their noses that fact that my machine hasn't had a lease for that IP in months. Per Qwest's own description, their IPs are dynamically assigned. Not to mention there's nothing stopping you from manually entering another, unused IP.

If you can't prove beyond a shadow of a doubt that I was indeed using that IP, you shouldn't accuse me. It's the basis of our legal system, not to mention common sense. Additionally, assuming their logic of "firewall log" to "RPC/DCOM holes" is correct, many of those attacks use forged source IPs, which means it sure as hell may not have come from me.

Equivalent logical leap and action: You're foaming at the mouth. Therefore you must have rabies. You don't know how you got rabies, therefore you must have been bitten by the neighbor's dog. Therefore, you go shoot the dog while your neighbor's at work. (Nevermind the Alka Seltzer tab in your mouth.)

Customer Hostile
Being customer-hostile does not earn you brand loyalty. I could just as soon find another ISP. I could go to satellite, or cable, or possibly find another DSL provider.

Bad business. Not that anyone has cared about good business since Qwest swallowed up USWest whole.

Violated Their Privacy Policy
According to Qwest's privacy policy, they'll never release your information to a third party -- including fun stuff like your full name.

What's in my mailbox? The reporting customer's full name, e-mail address, and IP address (which includes... Dun! Dun! Dun! his location).

Good job protecting that customer information there, folks! It makes me proud to know you're living up to your corporate goals. Were I the reporter, I could almost certainly sue you for breach, but alas, I'm only the person the charges were levied against.

The Bottom Line
I can't knock Qwest for the speed of the connection, although they could certainly increase it. Their customer service and network administration skills, however, are sorely lacking. In fact, they're the worst I've seen through five ISPs.

PSInet was pretty awful, and nobody at Earthlink could ever answer a question, but neither company ran around like a headless chicken, accusing and threatening their customers willy-nilly. This is certainly the end of my recommending Qwest's Choice Online VDSL to people who can't get ADSL. I simply can't in good conscience recommend this to people who can't effectively defend themselves from Qwest's bogus, completely clueless claims.

Posted by Colin at 10:21 AM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

October 12, 2004

Qwest: Good connection, horrible ISP

The people running Qwest.net, by far, are the least capable administrators I've ever had the displeasure of dealing with. Long ago and far away, I started with a little Oklahoma ISP gone national. They were awesome. The techs new their stuff, the admins knew their stuff, and they were friendly. They offered bleeding-edge services at the time. Webmail before most ISPs offered it, SSL toward the end of their life... they were on the ball.

And then there's Qwest. Dealing with Qwest.net makes it painfully obvious why Qwest sold off the majority of their customers to MSN -- they don't have a clue. I today received an abuse notice from Qwest. Authentic, having checked the headers myself.

In it, they claim I've violated their AUP once by attempting to gain unauthorized access to a system. If it happens again, they say, the account may be terminated.

Except there are many holes in their logic. For starters, the claimed IP wasn't even leased to me until, oh, Saturday while the person reporting the "abuse" says it occurred in late September. Not to mention the possibility the IPs in question were spoofed, or the sender made it up completely. Further, I'm always leery of Average Joes reporting abuse. Hell, the person making the report went so far as to say all he knew was that Norton Internet Security reported these IPs and it must be something bad.

Oh, but it gets better. So much better. The reported issue? That my system is infected with a Windows virus. Which is all well and good except I'm not running Windows. The IP in question is currently leased to my Mac. Even if it was hooked up to my other system (which would have a different IP -- not one reported in the email), that runs Linux and would be similarly invulnerable to the exploit in question.

Sure, that sounds bad, but allow me to go on for a moment. Qwest included the abuse mail in its entirety. Including every IP the originator reported, and full headers. Sure, they modified out the sender's from address, but they left his IP and what looks like it may well be his Qwest username.

But what really peeves me is that basic network logging would show I didn't have possession of the IP at the time the abuse was reported.

Add this on top of the lack of webmail, the lack of SSL for POP or SMTP, and the fact that the account administration site is impossibly dense, and it's not a pretty experience.

If you've considering Qwest Choice Online -- their affordable, high-speed VDSL offering -- consider carefully if you can stand to deal with apparent incompetence. While I have the knowledge to hopefully sort this out, it would completely baffle most people (and they wouldn't stand a chance of defending themselves from the Almighty Qwest Acceptable Use Policy).

Update: Upon further examination of the e-mail, I discovered something wholly incomprehensible and unacceptable: the e-mail address of the person reporting the "abuse" is in my notification. The original email is tacked on to the report, you see, and it was due to my mail reader's settings that it wasn't appearing. Upon turning off an option, there in plain view was the originator's Qwest.net email address. Remind me never to report abuse to Qwest.

Hell, at this rate I could report the reporter for "abuse" in return for reporting me, and subscribe him to all the hardcore porn newsletters in the land. Brilliant. Absolutely brilliant, Qwest. Pardon me while I go hit their privacy policy.

Posted by Colin at 8:21 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

October 11, 2004

Richard Cheese

A while back, I learned of Richard Cheese from Sly of Your Mac Life. I had forgotten all about him, and sadly never checked out his music, until I accidentally ran across his album in the iTunes Music Store.

After previewing the whole thing, I can say Lounge Against the Machine is one of the funniest, coolest albums I've encountered in a long time. To take 16 alt-rock standards and rock them lounge-style is just too cool.

I'm not normally a fan of cover albums, but how could I not love this one?

Posted by Colin at 12:45 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

October 10, 2004

Rest In Peace

A fond farewell to actor Christopher Reeve, who died this evening.

No further details have yet been released, but his family is to release a statement tomorrow.

Nearly as indestructible as Superman himself, Reeve was astounding both in his drive to regain his life and pushing for the research that could help countless people suffering spinal injuries.

Posted by Colin at 11:27 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

October 6, 2004

Forward and Back

This bugs me every time someone confuses the two (and it does the public no favors), so let's clear this up.

Forward slash: / (or "slash")
Backslash: \

\: Backslash
/: Forward slash (or "slash")

Example Use
Read aloud the URL fragment www.apple.com/ibook/.

Answer: W W W dot apple dot com slash ibook.

Alternate answer: W W W dot apple dot com forward-slash ibook.

WRONG: W W W dot apple dot com backslash ibook.

So how the hell do I remember this?
Think of the slash as a person facing right. The bottom is its feet. The backslash (\) is thus leaning backward. The slash (/) leans forward. Got it? Good. Now stop messing them up, particularly those of you in broadcast journalism.

Posted by Colin at 9:02 AM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

Veracity and Inkjets

Taking a course in understanding photographs, one of the points hammered into your head over and over is that of veracity -- the truthfulness of the photograph. Given I am a photographer, and I've exposed every single one of my images myself, I'd long assumed I knew the veracity of my photographs. I assumed they were, in fact, a true representation of the world.

Then I went digital.

But I didn't realize until yesterday -- when I bought a new printer -- that I was perpetuating lies in my prints.

It's then I realized that printing the truth was about the only thing the Epson Stylus Photo 925 wasn't doing. The first print out of the new printer (a Canon) disappointed me. It was blown out in an area the Epson had detail and the Epson had a beautiful purple in the background that the Canon printed as blue. Needless to say I wasn't happy with the results, especially for a brand-new printer.

That's when I looked up at the screen. The newly-printed image in my hand, from the Canon, was the spitting image of what was on screen. The rocks were blown out. The background was blue. Curious how the hell the Epson came up with details that simply didn't exist, I fired up Photoshop and made numerous futile attempts at achieving the same results. It simply wasn't possible -- there was no detail in the blown-out area to bring out, and that purple just wasn't there.

So what's the Epson doing? Beats the hell out of me. But now I can appreciate the new printer, knowing I'm not going completely insane and it's not, in fact, far worse than the one I've been using.

Posted by Colin at 8:46 AM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

October 1, 2004

Automotive Fixation

Took the Jeep in for service today, and it turns out the air conditioning system decided to fail spectacularly. Far from a simple leak, the service advisor told me they found it was leaking "everywhere" (which is probably why it stopped cooling suddenly rather than gradually). There was some initially worry -- mine as well as his, mine due to the frightening cost -- that the evaporator core was toasted. But after replacing all the seals, things seem to be well.

Great news. In part because it means I don't have to spend $800 and in larger part because it's still air conditioning weather in Phoenix (and the non-rubberized portions of the 101 are slowly making me deaf when I'm trucking with the windows down, I'm sure).

Posted by Colin at 12:46 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack