Merry Christmas

This year the weather is forecasting a white Christmas. There can be no doubt: this is my favorite holiday. Merry Christmas to all of you. Enjoy your time off work. Relax.


And if this isn't a cry for help...

Recall my post on scams and the like.

Now, we all get those annoying scam emails, the ones from random people claiming to be from Africa, offering millions of dollars in return for an offshore bank account. Today, however, I got one that is simply too good to pass up.

I present to you Obi_1's cry: Don't worry, the Therapist is on his way.
(I apologize for the caps throughout. That's how it came.)

Date: Wed, 22 Dec 2004 05:38:44 +0100
From: hopeobi_1@excite.co.uk

Notice the name. Hope_Obi_1. Obi_1, are you about to tell me you're my only hope? Moving on to the subject... do I really need to say anything, other than an obvious jab that yes, this truly is a cry for help?


I always find introductions like this to these sorts of emails borderline blasphemous.




Just to avoid any confusion... ;-)


Hello Ms. Hope Obi 23yrs.


Merely pointing out the bad grammar in this paragraph misses it's true potential. According to Fact Monster, the main export in Benin is palm oil. Because I have too much time on my hands, I also did a search for cocoa production in Benin and found that yes, there does seem to be some cocoa industry. However, it is small. Also, according to the World Fact Book, Benin is extremely poor, even poorer than most of its neighbours. It only does about $485 million a year in exports and the average household income is about $1,100. Also, it does not list cocoa at all, so the industry is probably very small.
But I have a question.
Why do I need to know that her father was poisoned to death by his business associates?
What sort of a business deal was it?
And why Africa?
Can't you be more creative?
Why does no one send scam emails from, I dunno, Tahiti?


Are you sure you don't live in Utah?


As he did most every night...


Just in case you can't read numbers, it's been spelled out.


So, it's in Europe already?
Perhaps this is related to his subsequent poisoning, Hope.


How did I ever guess?
I'm tempted to ask the good Ms. Hope why she needs my help if the money is already in a bank account in Europe.

Ooh! ooh! Here comes my favorite part!


Would an internetional passport be the required documentation for visiting websites in other countries?
(I crack me up.)
Gotta love this to-do list though. It's so easy to follow. If I were scamming somebody, this is the sort of list I would create. However, I would be inclined to add 6) DO NOT SHOW THIS EMAIL TO ANYONE, AS IT IS TOP-SECRET.
I love the last request. Secure a residential permit.
This is Canada.
Clearly you have no clue how slow our bureaucracy is if you think I can just secure you a permit at the drop of a hat.


Let's see. You just gave me a to-do list and all you're willing to offer is 20% of the loot? Not a chance chump! I expect at least a 50-50 split.
Actually, seeing as you are willing to drop it into the account that I have opened up fro you, maybe I'll just take all of it.


But what if I'm not willing?
What then?


Hold it, hold it, hold it!
You're Dad's lawyer is still alive?
What if he was involved in the poisoning?


I wonder what sort of success Obi 1 has with atheists?


Thus ends the Cry for Help. If I were to write her a response, I think I would dub myself Mrs. Wan-Kenobi. I could set her up with my mythical son Ben, who has some strange and wonderful powers.
I'm sure that'd be pushing it.


Get a load of these guys

The so-called Blogger's Code of Ethics

Vanity, vanity.
All is vanity...

People who publish stuff like this and present it as some sort of high-minded goal for the rest of the world to follow are, in my mind, beyond arrogant. This isn't some sort of great list of ethics. It is someone's opinion and should not be presented as anything more than that.

An overheard word of wisdom

"Everyone has disfunction in their life."
"That's right. And it's good to know if they do, because that can explain certain things."

I just over heard this from two (older) co-workers of mine.
This is so true.
If it is known that something is going on in a person's life, people will often cut them more slack than they would otherwise.


And I'm right again

The One Lion .net

Aw come on!
This is too easy!

There are a few people out there who will know that I predicted that the folks from TORn would put something together for the long awaited Chronicles of Narnia. The moment I heard they were making a movie, that was one of the first things out of my mouth.
And sure enough...

I guarantee the brilliance of this site.
Trust me.
I watched, truly intrigued, at the growth of TORn, and I fully expect lightening to strike twice.


You know you're famous when...

You are a Jeopardy Category

It's official!

Look here...

According to Webster's, the dictionary upon which dictionary.com is based, "google" is a word.


The Google Scholar

Look here...

I love Google. I love the ideas they come up with and the stuff they do. I love that the motto for this website is "Stand on the shoulders of giants."
I am sure Sir Isaac would be proud.


What I saw on a children's website...

Look here.
Now scroll to the bottom.
Do you notice anything odd?
Why is there a link to Adult Material @ Sex.ca on a children's website?
Does this not strike anyone as being somewhat problematic?


Last night I saw a commercial for CyberTales. It is a joint venture between Telus and The Northern Alberta International Children's Festival.
It's an interesting idea. Children work on portions of a story, and their teachers post them online for everyone to read. Students at other schools are also working on portions of their own. All the bits are combined online to create a larger story.


Cheer up Max

Do you remember these two blog entries?
Feast your eyes upon this sucker.

Spatula Clark

Last night two of my many sisters and I were teaching my Dad some of the finer points of messaging.
What a hoot!
I'm not sure what was funnier, his curious question about what was "making that tinkling sound" (me trying to get his attention on MSN) or Spatula Clark.
With him being away, MSN is a great thing to use to keep the family within communication's reach. I am sure he and mom will both get the hang of it quickly, especially when they see it cutting down their phone bills.


Making good use of technology

My husband and I want to put our wedding pictures on CD.
He took them to Black's. After all, Black's is photography, right?
Well, they wanted to charge $2 a negative. When you have more than 200 negatives, this is not a reasonable price. Apparently, each negative must be scanned individual, and it is a time consuming process.
So last night we went to Walmart.
They will throw the whole lot into their machine, change us $3.97 for the fist 40 and $0.97 for every 10 pictures after that. We can have them back tonight.
$26 vs $480

This is an excellent demonstration of the correct use of technology. Make it fast, make it cheap and people will appreciate it.
I know I do.

It must be true...

Occaisionally, a quiz can be fun.
I took the What herb are you quiz? by Quizilla.com. As is my habit, I did the test several times, just to check my results. Each and every time, I got:
You are catnip

Interestingly enough, mint is not an option.


What a girl wants...

I need a good forum where people discuss IT Management ideas.
Can anyone recommend a good one?
I don't need a tech support one where everyone complains about their stupid customers. There are plenty of those and most of them are highly repetitive.
What I need is a place where people swap ideas on what works and what definitely does not when introducing new technologies into their companies, and I need it to be free.
Do you know if such a Utopia exists? If so, send me an email or leave a comment.

The Ars Technica site was suggested, but I'm not sure it's what I really need.


Window dressing

Window Blinds is a cool program.
It doesn't allow for the same amount of customization that GNOME, Enlightenment or Sawfish do, but it's a start.


We Remember...

Today is Remembrance Day.
I am too young to remember the wars. They happened long before I was born.
If you are like myself, working, and cannot make it to a service, please think on your freedom and consider those who gave their lives.

Nerdy Humour

// The Bridge of Khazad-dum in pseudo-code.
// Written by: A greater nerd than I

// import required classes
import gandalf;
import balrog;
import bridge_of_khazad-dum;

public class GandalfvsBalrog extends Moria

//declare variables
Wizard Gandalf;
Balrog misterSparkles;

// main program
Gandalf.print("You Shall NOT PASS!!!);




return One_Smoted_Balrog;
// end main
// end GandalfvsBalrog


The Perfect Number

In an effort to make our department more customer friendly, it was suggested in a meeting today that we either publicize the acronym for our help desk extension (2-Help) or we pick a new (and shorter) number.
No, that's already in use everywhere outside the system. That would be confusing.
We could pick a two digit number.
Hey, that would be great!
Yes, but what would be useful?
What would really show customers that we are here to solve their problems?
Aw, c'mon guys. You're making this too easy for me.
What's the answer to life, the universe and everything?

A Silver Bullet

In my last post I told you that a banking issue was resolved in about five minutes.

I am sorry to say that I lied unknowingly.
I won't explain all the gory details, but let's just say this is the banking experience from hell. If I ever needed proof that the government hires only the incompetent, I had more than enough yesterday. It's bad when not even a Branch Manager can get enough information from the Student Loan Centre.

What financial institutions need is a Silver Bullet, an Omni Program, the Great Communicator. They desperately need something that will talk to all the other programs they run and provide any information they need in a clean, concise and understandable manner.
Yesterday I watched as the Manager of my branch typed (into a blank screen no less) a cryptic string of letters and numbers that looked something like:
TX 678BDA42
That brought up some information on my loan.
However, it brought up different information than was showing at the Loan Centre. She then typed in another cryptic string of letters and numbers hat looked like:
TX 65FG4269
(give or take).

I was floored!
I cannot believe that this is how banks operate.
I take it back.
I once worked at a bank for two summers in a row and I remember a program used for checking customer information that was not so lovingly referred to as The Big Green Monster. I have no idea what it was really called. I know it ran on a mainframe somewhere. I know it was brutal to use.

You would think that big institutions that are making hundreds of millions of dollars a year could afford to do better.


Online Banking

The best thing about online banking is that you can see mistakes as soon as they happen. You don't have to wait for an incorrect bill to show up in your mail, then take it to the bank, wait for them to process it, wait for them to mail you back indicating the correction has been made.
For example, this morning I noticed that I was charged interest on a loan that has already been paid off. I called my branch, informed them of the error, and the mistake was fixed over the phone.
It took a total of five minutes.
Everyone should do business this way. It was quick and painless for both parties.


Confessions of a Web Addict

My name is Ruth and I'm a web addict.

It's terrible.
Yesterday, on one of my preferred communities, I came perilously close to trolling an inexperienced debater. She was simply too easy a target.
"Bush won! The world is going to end! The democratic process has failed! The people voted wrong!"
How could I resist?
And there I was, hitting refresh as I waited for her next, very predictable response, two or three steps ahead of her, laying my bait.
Besides, I had to work late anyway.
As I drove home, I found myself thinking of possible responses, arguments, witty replies and so forth.
And there it was.
My old habit.
I thought it had died.
It makes you feel like a hunter.
I began thinking about the old days of bb.net. What a great community that was. It's too bad it's gone. I am not the only person who misses "the good old days." I still keep in touch with some of the original group. It's interesting to reminisce about shared online experiences.

Dr. Alan Kay once said everyone is a communication junkie. That description of the human need to communicate and interact with other individuals may not be far from the truth. In his book "The Virtual Community: Homesteading on the Electronic Frontier," Rheingold describes a community experience he once had. A member of one his communities used to tell the most outrageous stories, that he knew millionaires and famous people. He was one of those disruptive individuals that used to annoy everyone with his obnoxious behaviour. When he told the group he had a crack problem, no one believed him. He claimed that the group was now filling the void his crack addiction had.
And then, after many months of absense from the community, this fellow died. He had returned to his old crack habit, and accidentally killed himself by overdosing.
Rheingold, among others from the community, went to his funeral.
Imagine their surprise when they discovered everything this fellow said was true.
In her book "The Psychology of the Internet," Patricia Wallace also tells a few interesting anecdotes of communitiy experiences she has had.

Manwe is up to its eyeballs in presidential debates. Many months ago, however, someone asked why people would argue and debate. Responses ranged from learning, to sharpening their wit, to the desire for basic interaction with others, but the underlying need to meet and communicate was always there. Many members hone their skills against particular "worthy opponents." Nearly everyone says things they could not possibly get away with in public at least once.
It's curious though.
TORc is trying to have their annual awards ceremony.
Most of Manwe is not interested and very few members have voted.
This particular portion of the community doesn't need a badge to tell them they are good. You just know.
When someone you know is probably smarter than you finally caves and says "That was brilliant," you know you're good.
Most of the community aims for that, the respect of their peers and intellectual equals or superiors.
Those who cannot argue or cannot express themselves in an articulate manner are ignored. It's harsh, too harsh for some, but that's reality. When you enter Manwe, you have to learn to leave your emotions at the door, and learning can be hard work.


Website of the week

Arts and Letters Daily

This is such a useful website. I like to read it to find interesting articles to post here on my blog. There is always something good to read, especially in the Essays and Opinions section.
Given the amount of information it displays, I would say that it is very well laid out. The only problem is that the main page can tend to be rather long. I rarely, if ever scroll. I simply look at the first few entries.
Scrolling down, however, reveals this marvelous link: da Vinci the consultant.


More on Elmasry

The UW Daily Bulletin for October 28th.

The Canadian Islamic Congress announced yesterday that Mohamed Elmasry, the UW professor who has been in the national news following his comments about Israelis and Palestinians on a TV talk show last week, had offered his resignation as president of the CIC. The congress's board turned down the resignation, the statement says, but did accept an apology "for the way I expressed myself last week on the Michael Coren Show . . . for the distress I caused . . . for any public remarks I made which offended Canada's Muslim, Jewish, Palestinian, and Arab communities and Canadians at large." The CIC board said Elmasry has made a 30-year contribution to social justice and Muslim communities, and "one unintentional mistake does not wipe out an exemplary record." An article in today's Globe and Mail reports on reaction, and points out that other groups including the Muslim Canadian Congress are questioning the CIC's claim to speak for all the estimated 600,000 Muslims in this country.

Of course the CIC didn't let him resign.
Why would they?
"There there Mo. It's ok that you advocated genocide. We all do that sometimes. People will forget about it before long and everything will be as it was."

I hope UW does the right thing and fires this guy. It doesn't matter what the CIC says, he had no business making that comment, especially on live TV.

Helpline Categories

I should add BSOD as a CallType.
I should also add PEBKAC.

The problem is that only one person on the Helpline would get it and only a handful of people in the entire department would appreciate the humour.


Seeking public support

(Note: This was supposed to be posted yesterday, but I had problems emailing the post to Blogger.)

Global National

Yesterday, in their Sound Off! section, Global National posted the following questions. They also asked this on the news last evening, and it would appear they are looking for public support and opinion on what to do with hostage tapes.

We're finding ourselves less certain about how to handle the now steady-stream of videos we receive in our newsroom from the people holding others hostage in Iraq.
For example today, two new videos released showing a kidnapped aid worker and a Japanese hostage pleading for their lives again. Both clearly aimed at trying to influence political leaders and the general public.
So should we be showing them to you? We've never had such a steady stream of television images like this before, so we are in the process of developing a journalistic policy on it. And we'd like your advice.
A couple of things to consider on whether broadcasting these videos are in the public interest. Sometimes refusing to cover a particular aspect of a story clouds the viewers perspective of it and prevents informed opinion.
Not all news is pretty to watch and how much should we protect people from seeing the ugly side of a conflict?
On the other hand, hostage video is clearly a shock tool terrorists are using more and more to influence opinion.
Does seeing hostages tell you more than you need to know, namely that they're alive and asking for help?
Should media outlets broadcast hostage videos?

This question, in my opinion comes late. Admittedly, late is better than never, but this issue should have been addressed with the first hostage video ever received. I do not think these tapes should be aired on television. If people are that desperate to see them, then they can download them from the Global National website.
There are lots of arguments for and against airing the hostage tapes. The argument in favour of airing the tapes is centered almost entirely around the people's "right to know." The argument against airing the tapes is centered around the publicity for the terrorist groups. This is the side that I am on.
As much as it pains me to say it, information is not free. I often wish it were, but copyrights, patents and privacy laws all detract from the true freedom of information. You do not have the right to know. There is simply no law in our constitution enshrining your right to know other people's business.
So, it's not an argument to say that the hostage videotapes should be show because people have a right to know.
They do not.
Those in favour of viewing the tapes should show that they somehow benefit our society. No one has done that, as far as I am concerned.
No one has said anything even remotely resembling "Airing those tapes makes us stronger as a nation and weakens the terrorists."
In fact, the argument against airing the tapes says the very opposite. Repeated viewings serve as free publicity for the no-goods, puts fear into the hearts and minds of our people and does nothing whatsoever to further the freedom of the hostages.


The responsibility of a professor

Professors and teachers are charged with the distinct and very important task of shaping the minds of our youth. In an ideal world, this should also be a parents first responsibility, but many feel they are not capable. This is why we have schools.
Higher education is so valued and considered so important by so many cultures that we are willing to pay for it. Indeed, many often joke that an "education is something people are willing to pay for and yet not receive."

Driving to work today, I was listening to Jazz.fm, as I always do. I was appalled to hear of a professor of Engineering at the University of Waterloo. He was a a guest on Michael Coren Live, a Canadian talk show. Occasionally, I like to watch it, but admittedly this is rare.
I wish I had seen the show in question.
The following exchange took place (and if you google Michael Coren Canadian Islamic Congress, you will find multiple entries on this.)

Elmasry: "The totally innocent people [are] obviously the children, but they are not innocent if they are part of a total population which is the total population of Israel [which] is part of the army... They are part of the Israeli army, even if they have civilian clothes."
Coren: "If Israeli children are killed, that is a valid use of military force by the Palestinians?"
Elmasry: "No, they are not valid ..."
Coren: "What are you saying?"
Elmasry: "I'm saying that it has to be totally innocent. Totally innocent are the children, obviously, but they are not innocent if they are military in civilian clothes."
Coren: "What about women?
Elmasry: "The same, if they are women in the army ... anybody above 18 is part of the Israeli popular army."
Coren: "Anyone and everyone in Israel, irrespective of gender, over the age of 18 is a valid target?"
Elmasry: "Yes."

More searching on Google will show that Mr. Coren told the National Post that "he and the other panelists on the daily talk show, which is broadcast across most of Ontario, were stunned at Dr. Elmasry's comments.
"We've done dozens and dozens of shows on the Middle East and I've talked to probably every Palestinian or Muslim leader in Canada," he said. "And I've never heard anyone say something so extreme."...
The Muslim leader did not blurt out the comments in the heat of the moment, Mr. Coren said. "He completely volunteered this and I gave him every chance to back away from it, but he wouldn't."

Dr. Elmasry is currently under investigation. It is being decided whether or not this will qualify as a hate crime. There is also speculation as to whether or not he will lose his position as the head of the Canadian Islamic Congress.
What I would like to know, and no one seems to have so much as broached the subject, is whether or not he will be allowed to continue as a professor at the University of Waterloo.
After further searching, I discovered that this is not Dr. Elmasry's first indiscretion. As well as favouring a boycott of Israel, he wrote an article which I thought interesting, under the circumstances. Here you will find a reprint of this article, written for the National Post.
Why would any academic support a propaganda machine such as al-Jazeera? Most of the article doesn't even make logical sense, not something one would expect from an academic. How does:
"It seems the CJC is more concerned about potential anti-Jewish hate speech than Israeli Jews themselves."
follow from:
"If what the CJC has alleged is true, would it not make more sense that Israel itself would ban al-Jazeera reporters from Israel and the occupied Palestinian territories? So far, it has never done so." ?
How does:
"But the charge makes little sense: As U.S. military bases and armament stores within Qatar's borders demonstrate, nobody can accuse Qataris of working against U.S. interests."
follow from:
"For the past year or so, the Bush administration has also voiced ongoing criticism of the network's coverage in Iraq. Washington asserts that al-Jazeera broadcasts encourage anti-American feeling in the Arab world and accused it of being a co-opted mouthpiece to spread terrorists' statements to the world." ?
Bush denouncing al-Jazeera has nothing to do with whether or not Qatar allows hims to stoer American weapons there.
To ask the question:
"Why target only al-Jazeera? Why not other networks, such as CNN, BBC or even our CBC? "
is outrageously foolish! Why would the government censor the CBC when it is a government funded station in the first place?
Interestingly enough, this:
"In a democratic society, all voices should be heard -- even ones whose viewpoint some of us might oppose." is not what the law says. Free speech in Canada does not mean you have the right to spout whatever you choose. The Criminal Code of Canada has a section for hate speech.
The very first statement in this section is as follows:
318: (1) Every one who advocates or promotes genocide is guilty of an indictable offence and liable to imprisonment for a term not exceeding five years.

It is my opinion that, not only should this man be removed from his current position at the University of Waterloo, but that he should not be rehired at any Canadian University at all. Whether the courts find it or not, this man has advocated genocide. Under no circumstances should any undeveloped mind be left in the care of such an individual.
It is dangerous to the future of our society.

According to the Daily Bulletin at the University of Waterloo, a review of Dr. Elmasry is underway. The review will determine whether or not discipline is in order.

The "Who is a Terrorist?" episode of Michael Coren is being re-aired tonight, so it looks as though I will get my wish.



Sometimes quizzes just seem like the "in" thing to do, and therefore I avoid them.
The extension quiz seemed particularly nerdy, so I had to try it.
The first time, I got

You are .jpg You are very colorful.  Sometimes you forget things, or distort the truth.  You like working with pictures more than words.
Which File Extension are You?

This seems unlikely at best.
I mean, really now. This is my first picture on this entire blog.
Second if you include Minerva over there.
Time to redo the test.
Got it again.
Still a .jpg.
Not that I'm opposed to being a .jpg;
Oh well.
Why don't they have a "None of the above" option for quizzes like this? Or all of the above? If I were a quiz writer, I would ensure that all or none of the above was an option for every question.

Mr. E. Jones

Take a peek at the website...

(I recommend viewing the high bandwidth version).
This is one of the most clever portfolios I have seen. A friend showed it to me quite sometime ago. I don't know why I haven't posted it yet.
It makes me think of a Bogart flick.
I love it.


The medium is the message

Over the weekend, my husband was playing "Call of Duty." As an aside, that game has killer graphics but a discussion on visual effects is not the purpose of my post.

I was intrigued by a particular feature of the game. In between levels, quotes from famous people are displayed. A portion of Winston Churchill's "We shall fight them on the beaches" speech was given, as was a particularly good quote on war by John Stuart Mill (it has since become my signature). There were others, but those are the two currently impressed on my mind.

I began thinking about Marshall McLuhan's work "The Medium is the Message" this morning. What message do games like "Call of Duty" give us? More importantly, what do they say about our society? Many people of my generation, and especially my younger brother's generation, express a very strong anti-war sentiment. It is interesting to me however, that games like "Call of Duty" are always enormously popular. Movies like "Saving Private Ryan" and "Schindler's List," although very difficult to watch, are also popular. World War Two has been impressed on the societal consciousness as a pivotal point in our history, and with good reason.

And yet, as my husband and I were discussing last night, prior to the war, most people wanted to let Germany be. There was enormous pressure for Britain to disarm... and ironically, she did, much to her detriment later on! How is it that people assume that, were WWII to happen again, we would be able to fight as bravely as our grandparents? There is certainly that underlying hope that we would be as brave, but with the anti-war and peace at any price point of view being embraced so widely, how could we be sure?


A five minute job

Yesterday I emailed one of the network guys where I work, requesting a new IP address for the machine that will be dedicated to a few apps associated with the project I have been working on. He got back to me this morning with the address, I set up the machine and began installing the Windows updates.

Within about five minutes of being on the network, another co-worker of mine who also happens to be in the network group stops by my office.
"Which of these machine is x.x.x.71?"
"That one," says I, indicating the newly ip'd machine.
"It's port scanning 445."

It took five minutes for my machine to get a worm.
Five only!
It turns out this is a new one, related to rbot. The file, in case you are wondering, is called bling.exe and puts registry entries in Run and RunOnce. I had to get rid of it manually, because Norton doesn't seem to be detecting it. Not sure if Sophos is or not.

But, back to the rant I was going to have.

Why do people bother me with this crap? Why are you writing viruses and wasting my time? I have to find it, clean it and hope I got rid of everything so that the bugger doesn't come back to haunt me in a half an hour. It doesn't make you cool. It doesn't win you any respect from those who actually can program. You're just a random script kiddie keeping Symantec and co. in business. If you hate "the man" or "the machine" so much, why don't you do something useful with your time, like donate to charity or be the next Mother Theresa.
You aren't a hactivist, so quit bragging to your friends.
You're just a loser without a girlfriend and you, whoever you are, are getting on my nerves.


Quote of the day...

When you steal from one person, you're just a thief.
When you steal from lots of people, it's called research.


Very punny...

We just purchased a certain piece of software where I work. I have been actively involved in this project on many levels. We went live on Wednesday.
So anyway, yesterday, Co-worker A says to Co-worker B, who had just wandered in, "Do you have Heat?" (The software we bought.)
Obliviously, Co-worker B answered "Yes. It's plenty warm in my office."


Money, money, money makes you poor or makes you rich....

Driving to work this morning, I was listening to Jazz FM , as is my habit. As usual, about 7:45am or so, they discussed the morning headlines. One of them caught my attention.

Apparently, Howard Stern has just been signed for a 9 figured contract with a satellite radio station. I believe it was called Sirius Radio, or something to that effect. The idea is to put Howard on satellite radio and use him as an attraction. As the fellow presenting the story said, the goal is to convince people to buy what they can already get for free: radio. Of course, now they will be getting it via satellite.

I have no idea if this will work or not.
It might, it might not.
But I would be willing to bet that in 15 years or so we will all be paying for our radio.
People will be convinced that satellite will give them bigger, better and more radio, and everyone will think "Ooh! I want one!" They'll go off and buy their satellite, much in the way they do for television, yet more mega-corporations will form by combining services such as TV, radio, internet and telephone.
And everyone will complain.

How do I know this?
Because I know everything.
And because people are stupid, that's why they do everything.
Worse than that people are greedy. Someone out there is going to have this idea, rub his or her hands together like Burns and think "I am gonna be so rich." Not one person will stop to ask the question "Do we really need this?" or "Is it really going to benefit us?" And the first person who does, will find themselves fired from their job. Millions of angst-ridden teenagers, especially in the west, will rage against the so-called evil corporation and "them" but will then turn right around and plug in whatever mega-device is used to get all their information never even once thinking that thing they just spent $250 on is the very thing they should be angry at.

Maybe it's a great idea.
Maybe it will benefit all of mankind.
I don't know.
But the fact that there is even so much as the hint of "people can be convinced to pay for what they already get for free" makes me frustrated.
Why money?
There's a reason radio is free.
It's for the spread of information.


What was your point, again?

Read the article...

I read this, assuming the writer was making a very serious point.
And then I got to the end of the article and read:
Undoubtedly, this sort of critical machinery deepens the cultural experience. But it threatens something precious: disposability, and the confidence that most cultural offerings are things you don't need to think about. I'm pretty sure America could survive the end of NEA-sponsored Shakespeare festivals. But the end of trash culture would really be a loss worth mourning.
So, I changed my opinion for a moment and assumed the article must be a joke.
But I read it again, looked at the title "Improving ourselves to death" again, and realized that this closing "argument" was indeed deadly serious.

I want to look at these two (profoundly stupid) statements:
"The end of trash culture would be a loss worth mourning."
"...Cultural offerings are things you don't need to think about."

I looked up culture on Dictionary.com. Forgive me if my meanings are less than accurate. The word culture comes from the Latin cultus, which means to till, that is to till the earth for growing whatever crop you want. We use the word culture to indicate not only the growth of our society, but the climate in which societal growth takes place. Art, science, technology... this is the soil from which invention and new thought springs. Necessity is also the mother of invention. Combine at least these four and you have the beginnings of culture.
The Latin word cultus also seems to mean worship. Worship is that reverent love and devotion accorded to God, and the ceremonies, prayers, or other behaviours by which this love is expressed. It should not surprise anyone when art and religion are combined as in the Sistine Chapel, philosophy and religion meet in persons such as Sir Thomas More (and others). Many feel that science and religion should not meet... but of course, I would dispute this. Religion certainly makes use of technology; it has since before the time of Gutenburg's printing press and will continue to do so as long as there are preachers.

But here we have, from this guy, "trash culture" and "you don't need to think."
This guy doesn't know what he's talking about!
He's right up there with the guy from my "If I were a rich man" entry who said "I'm not anti-education, I just don't know if economically it makes sense," as though education is best measured in coin!

Please tell me he was kidding.


I am listed in Blogs Canada, under the Nerd section... that is, Computers and Internet. You may have to order the page by date in order to see me, as I was only added today.


How Herrings communicate....

Get a load of this... half way down the page...

And I quote "The Ig Nobel prizes, in typical fashion, represented the best of the worst of scientific research. Winners of the prize this year included researchers who proved the "five-second rule," that it is safe to eat food after it has been dropped on the floor, and those who discovered that herrings communicate by farting."

Read the rest of the article.
Although the awards are sort of a joke, the research seems to be legit.
Herrings communicate by farting.
Is now the time to crack a man joke?

Interview tips...

I spent a large portion of Saturday and Sunday driving.
I happened to catch the following "job tips" on the radio. Please note, I have summarized, and taken a fair amount of poetic license.

1. Don't wear jeans on casual day, even though you are allowed. Really, it looks sloppy, so wear khakis instead.
2. Don't wear spaghetti straps if you are a woman. Don't wear Hawaiian shirts of you are a man. (Again, this is a "tip" for casual day). You wouldn't want people to think you are too relaxed or attention seeking.
3. Always wear navy to interviews.
4. Flash your watch during interviews. It shows you are "conscientious."
5. Never be late or early for any meeting at all. Always show up exactly on time. Drive around the block if necessary to achieve this illusion.

There were other tips, but I don't remember what they are.

Just a few counter-tips for those who listened to the same show and thought "Hey wow! What great advice!"
1. It's casual day. If you can't relax on casual day, you are too uptight.
2. Let me repeat that; it's casual day. If your clothes are what got you your job, then you should probably be fired.
3. Comb your hair, brush your teeth and wow them with your skills. Unless you are in sales, your suit will not be what sustains you in the hard times.
4. Never, ever flash your watch during interviews. It makes you look anxious and worried. When you are in an interview, give your future employer 100% of your attention. Focus on nothing else but the task at hand. There is nothing more irritating than people who act like they have somewhere "important" to be.
5. Show up on time. If you are early, great. If you are late, have a good excuse. Don't waste gas.


A picture is worth a thousand words

And I have thousands of words, but only one picture... and that you can barely see.
I should fix this.


I love it

The Rogue Nation of My Travelling Harem is a massive, environmentally stunning nation, notable for its compulsory military service. Its hard-nosed, hard-working population of 3.397 billion are either ruled by a small, efficient government or a conglomerate of multinational corporations; it's difficult to tell which.
Not sure when I made military service compulsory, but ok...
It is difficult to tell where the omnipresent government stops and the rest of society begins, but it concentrates mainly on Law & Order, although the Environment and Defence are secondary priorities. Citizens pay a flat income tax of 73%. A powerhouse of a private sector is dominated by the Gambling industry.
73% tax! Ack!
The problem is, of course, that some decisions you make affect you income tax. You don't get as many chances to give tax breaks as I would like.
Recent protests against birds flying too low have resulted in bloodshed, organ donation rates are among the lowest in the region, My Travelling Harem's educational system is the envy of many and regarded as a pinnacle of educational achievement,
Not sure what decision I made to get that, but hey, I'm pretty good
and moles are considered a delicacy. Crime -- especially youth-related -- is a major problem. My Travelling Harem's national animal is the mole, which is also the nation's favorite main course, and its currency is the dollar.
I keep trying pass laws to lower crime, but it's not working.

Sometimes, the issues you get are just great. There's one on immigration where you can start a show called "Who wants to be an Immigrant?" in order to solve your problems.
One of today's issues is doling out parental licenses... yes folks, if you want to limit who can breed and who can't, go right ahead. We also have an abortion issue today. Here's one of the choices:
"Abortion has to be legal if we're going to last as a nation," says Akira Li, President of the Society of Bitter Old People. "Have you ever thought that with My Travelling Harem's growing population of 3397 million, we soon aren't going to be able to squeeze any more people within our borders? If we use abortion to control the population, we'll make great savings and can spend the money elsewhere. One child per family should just about do it I think. Extraneous ones can be sold to other countries."
Wonder how they come up with that idea? ;-)
Occasionally, you get something resembling a "real-life" issue. Today, one of my issues (I have a buildup of a few days, actually) is privacy: to tap the phones of suspected criminals or not.
If I say no, my crime will increase, I just know it.
But if I say yes, my Civil Liberties will decrease.
I can always dismiss the issue... but is that best?

Oh the pressures of being the leader of a country.



This post has nothing to do with technology at all... but it must be said.

The American Presidential debate is on TV tonight.
Apparently, it is nothing at all like the Canadian Prime Minister's Debate.

According to what I heard on the radio (Jazz.fm) on my way to work this morning, the Presidential Debate comes with 40 pages of rules. Forty pages!!! What is with people and their love of rules? One of the rules is something like "the Candidates are not allowed to argue with each other."
Before I ask the obvious question (ie: what kind of stupid debate is that?), I'd like to talk about the Canadian leadership debate. I can't believe I didn't post on it, as I did watch it this year, and was quite stunned. I did, however, write an email to a friend about. The Canadian Debate consisted of four old guys yelling at each other, trying to look manly.
Here's what I thought at the time:

Martin was terrible. He wasn't prepared. He didn't answer a single question. He spent the whole night dodging. Is this supposed to instill confidence in the Canadian people? ...His arguments and attacks were terrible. He would simply dismiss anything said by his opposition... He should have been much calmer, much cooler, more organized and more direct. Worse yet, he'd had the same debate the night before, only in French and produced exactly the same results. He should have reviewed his performance and improved his tactics ... Even his grammar needed help in some areas. Phrases like "significantly increase the significance of..." popping out of his mouth.
Layton also needs much improvement. He was not very articulate, despite having a PhD. He only answered half of his questions directly, only half of his... questions were well phrased and he simply could not resist plugging the NDP. His arguments were punctuated with "Vote for the NDP. We'll fix it for you! We're a viable alternative." This doesn't do anything at all for the party's credibility. We all know why you are here Layton. Everyone else is here for the same reason. So stop flagging yourself and stick to the issues at hand.
Harper was good. I would say that he was able to answer 85-95% of the questions posed to him directly. There were only a few that needed work. He also needs to work on the way he asks questions. When he was looking for answers from Martin on scandals, money and responsibility, he did very well. In other areas, he needed a little bit of work. He couldn't quite articulate his questions pointedly enough.
Duceppe was by far the most articulate. I suspect this has to do with the fact that he knows full well that the Bloc will not win a government of any kind. They have styled themselves as the opposition in order to leverage this position. He was almost never on the defensive and so had plenty of time to attack. His questions were direct and very well worded. In terms of ability, he was by far the best. Too bad he's the leader for the Bloc. Why does Quebec get the best leader?

Thoughts on the evening:
I would like to have heard the leader of the Green party speak. I watched Countdown, hosted by Mike Duffy afterwards, and he was there. I think it would be interesting to hear his views There were some comments on poor moderation. I disagree entirely. Let them have at it! I also disagree with the notion that the arguments on a whole were poor and the evening was just four grumpy old men arguing, and that somehow this is either bad or unexpected.

Very different from what will be on TV tonight.
As the chap on the radio said this morning, here in Canada we are spoiled. How do the American people put up with such a sanitized debate? Bush and Kerry should be able to duke it out. The campaign has been dirty enough anyway, so what are people afraid of? Unfair play? People should voice their opinions, and loudly. This is especially true if they are going to run a country. If you are voting for someone to be in charge, then I would think that you might want to know what they think about certain things.
I mean, I do.
We have all this freedom to say what we like, so why don't people use it? Why fear offending someone? People should speak out!


Blogs Canada

I discovered the Blogs Canada website today.
I've listed myself and am waiting for approval.

Neat idea actually, listing blogs by countries.
They also have a top ten blog list.

On wings, as eagles...

Have a look...

Click on the Eagle tracker.
The wonders of GIS.

Pamela and Olivia can now be watched by the world... well, their stars can. It's a neat idea. I'd love to have some idea of their actual flight patterns though. It's hard to tell where they've been from this map.

The Bird Studies Canada main page could use some work.
It's very...


New look

Not sure if I like it or not.
I might fiddle with it later.

If I were a rich man...

Read the article...

I'd love to have my own business, but I don't agree with these guys.
Dropping out of school in order to make a quick buck seems like short term thinking to me. Statements like "My current analysis is that the real cost and opportunity cost are greater than the potential benefit I would receive from going to school. I'm not anti-education, I just don't know if economically it makes sense," are, in my opinion, ignorant.
How can you weigh education solely in money?
If you do, then you've missed the point I think.
I guess that's why they're rich and I'm not.
But then, I'm not sure I'd start my own business for the sole purpose of getting rich anyway. I'd like to do something useful, something that people really need in order to make life easier. Half of the Dot Com business weren't.

The ultimate business or job would be, for me, to do something that I love and to have people really need it.
If I ever find that perfect niche that will never run dry, I'll let you know.


1984 never came

It's amazing how paranoid people are about the Internet and government. Every time I hear the profoundly stupid idea about how the "Government," (but what really is meant is the American government) is scanning all Internet traffic for key words so they can find terrorists, I want to get up on my soap box and give a lecture on how the Internet works.

Usually, I can't resist the urge and I go off on a tangent for a few minutes.

Unless you work for the FBI, or the NSA or the CIA, or are already a criminal with a record, it is extremely unlikely that anyone from the US government is taking the time to scan your PC for secret terrorist messages. They certainly are NOT monitoring all possibly traffic coming in and out of your machine. If you aren't living in the US, it is even less likely that everything coming in and out of your PC is being monitored. I am 100% certain that if you send a message to a friend in Alberta and it never leaves CA net that it is NOT going to some mythic server in the Whitehouse or Pentagon for scanning.
It's just not how the Internet works.
It never was.
It is extremely unlikely that it ever will be.
Stop worrying folks.
Big Brother is not watching you.
He's got better things to do with his time.
Like play golf.


Scholar's who blog

Take a look...

I wonder if it would be presumptuous to add myself?


Black Plague

Black Plague

There has to be an easier way to create a Google bomb.
This is someone else's idea, but I have to admit, I rather like it.

Yet another person who thinks like me

Remember my "What Max needs" entry from a few day ago?

This just in: the best way to deal with email overload is, and I quote, "not to become overloaded."

People who think like I do

A clip from the MaxBarry.com email I received this morning:

"Neuromarketing experiments suggest that a particular part of the brain is related to product affection—that is, it gets busy when people look at products they like. So if marketers can find a way to stimulate that part of the brain, consumers will start drooling and fumbling for their credit cards no matter what crappy product they’re being offered"

Note that last one "no matter what crappy product they're being offered."
Now go back a few days to the "Epidermal Disorganization" entry.
Of course, I am more cynical and believe that people really are dumb enough to buy what they're told. ;-)


And now for a piece of wit

Read this...
and this also...

I needed to clean my mouth out after that last post ;-)

The second one is brilliant

Flaming Glory

A few years back, I wrote a paper on Web Community development for the McMaster World Congress on eCommerce. I have mentioned it before; never mind what I said about it, just know that I still think community development in the online world is an important and useful subject. A well-developed web community has enormous potential as a marketing tool, I am convinced.
One of the reasons I wrote the paper is that I was inspired by a community I frequented. It was fun, interesting and seemed to have a lot of potential. In fact it, plus another web community, were samples used in the paper.
Last summer, the official community was disbanded. A few unofficial communities had already sprung up, but a particular group of individuals decided to create a new community that would house the members of the isbanded forum.
Of course, I volunteered.
For whatever reason, no one wanted to listen to what I had to say, despite the fact that I was the second oldest remaining member (and by oldest, I don't mean age but attendance). I knew the most people, knew what they wanted and repeatedly stuck up for those who unfairly became the underdog.
I hate to say I told you so, but I did.
I didn't predict it would be this bad (no one could have), but I did tell you there were problems.
What a disaster!
A once great community has since become a case study in everything that one should not do. I should write a blog with everything that went wrong. Maybe I will.
Time went by and I lost interest, but I would keep dropping by to monitor what was going on and offer advice which was not accepted on even one occasion. Arbitrary closure of discussion drove members away. The forum developed an entire ROOM of 6 or 7 threads solely devoted to rules (and nothing else). It's not as though any of these rules were a good idea, either. Two examples:
Members could link to their personal websites, but not to their blogs or live journals. The reason for this was the potential for "inappropriate content."
Members could not exchange services for fees or start charity projects, but they could donate to the administrator of the site. No accounting of any donations was ever made.
I later discovered that the administrator had told people she had more than 18 years of "professional web administrator experience."
Do the math folks.
That's 1986.
She had a web community on DARPANET?
The "web" as we know it wasn't released by CERN until 1991.
She also needed an 18 year old kid to set up her site for her, as she could not do it at all. How is it possible, if she has that much experience?
Think about it.

The administrator finally stepped down several months ago, but there was little if any improvement. She remained as "Administrator Emeritus," and continued to control the direction of the site.
Over the Labour Day long weekend, she left permanently. However, she could not do it gracefully.
Below is an unedited (except for references to the community's name) portion of her closing remarks to a once truly great community. It was diverse, dynamic, fun and full of life. You will be sickened, I am sure.

"Folks, I am retiring from fandom.
I will no longer be a member of this community, or any other fan community, and this will be my final blog entry.
I'm going to say a few words before I go, to the people who are friends and associates of the XYZ forums.
During the first difficult days of the XYZ forums' existence, a handful of ugly, bitter and manipulative members of the fan community launched a public and behind-the-scenes assault against the staff of this forum... in the pursuit of a personal and collective agenda to discredit me, and to discredit and divide the XYZ community.
In doing so, they quadrupled the workload and magnified the fatigue of the hard working staff members of this place who were struggling around the clock at that time, to develop a home for displaced friends and giving 100 PERCENT EFFORT to the task.
The disruption was INTENTIONAL, vile, self-serving, manipulative and arrogant.
The consistant attacks and harassement against this community, both on the forum and behind the scenes, has contunued over a period of ten long months... the arrogant behavior has been astonishing, and the competitive behind the scenes maneuvering, manipulation, and backbiting has been nauseating.
An even more arrogant and self-serving project, was the founding of the ABCD forms... a community that was deployed by former members of the QRS staff and arrogant "old guard" members of the QRS community to "protect" the loons from the evil staff members at XYZ who were threatening forum closure.
When it was explained to these individuals that the reason behind our closure warning was that some of the XYZ staff members involved in the launch of this forum had been harrassed beyond their ability to cope and PERSONALLY THREATENED AND FRIGHTENED INTO SILENCE... there was absolutely NO CONCERN expressed, from any of the former QRS moderators or disssenters. In fact, we were told that we should expect it.
The self-serving meanness of the people who have attacked this community over the last ten months on the forum, on other forums, and in chatrooms and blogs has been mind boggling. Their attitude of exclusivity, and their arrogant and manipulative behavior, are a rotting cancer that is destroying this fan community from within, and collapse is imminent. I'm not going to be around when it happens."

Later she writes:
"This job has cost me many friendships, and it has cost me my health. I no longer wish to have my spirit soiled by the mean, ugly, vomitus members of Celebrity QRS' fandom and his representation... and I'm walking away.
We all have choices; this is mine."

I am posting this publicly for one reason only: It is the worst example of human behaviour I have ever come across online. I have met many strange and unusual people that I would not be comfortable meeting in person, but I have never "met" anyone who exhibited this degree of contempt for her fellow human being.

If you are a moderator of a community or an administrator, let this be a harsh lesson to you.
Never, ever become this, no matter how angry you are, no matter how difficult the job. Potentially, the entire world can see this, if they wish, and venom like this will give you a bad reputation. If you open a community, when it becomes difficult, remind yourself that it was you who chose to do so. If the burden is too great, close your community in quietness and discretion. Maintain your self respect and a modicum of integrity. Flamboyant displays of rage are no more appropriate in the online world than they are in the "real" world.



On whose opinion the developer should look to:
(Taken from Plato's Republic, Book 10)

Socrates: Nay, hardly even the workers in brass and leather who make them; only the horseman who knows how to use them --he knows their right form.

Glaucon: Most true.

Socrates: And may we not say the same of all things?

Glaucon: What?

Socrates: That there are three arts which are concerned with all things: one which uses, another which makes, a third which imitates them?

Glaucon: Yes.

Socrates: And the excellence or beauty or truth of every structure, animate or inanimate, and of every action of man, is relative to the use for which nature or the artist has intended them.

Glaucon: True.

Socrates: Then the user of them must have the greatest experience of them, and he must indicate to the maker the good or bad qualities which develop themselves in use; for example, the flute-player will tell the flute-maker which of his flutes is satisfactory to the performer; he will tell him how he ought to make them, and the other will attend to his instructions?

Glaucon: Of course.

Socrates: The one knows and therefore speaks with authority about the goodness and badness of flutes, while the other, confiding in him, will do what he is told by him?

Glaucon: True.

Socrates: The instrument is the same, but about the excellence or badness of it the maker will only attain to a correct belief; and this he will gain from him who knows, by talking to him and being compelled to hear what he has to say, whereas the user will have knowledge?

Glaucon: True.

Socrates: But will the imitator have either? Will he know from use whether or no his drawing is correct or beautiful? Or will he have right opinion from being compelled to associate with another who knows and gives him instructions about what he should draw?

Glaucon: Neither.

Socrates: Then he will no more have true opinion than he will have knowledge about the goodness or badness of his imitations?

Glaucon: I suppose not.

What Max needs

This from MaxBarry.com:

"As regular readers of this site already know, I am a long way behind on this. I have a page that lets you know exactly how long, and this has been standing firm at 12 weeks. Which is heinous enough, right?
Except when life got a little crazy a couple of months ago, I stopped relying to e-mail and stopped updating this page, too. So when I sucked it up and came back to my Inbox today, I knew it would be bad. But when I saw exactly how bad, I was dumbfounded. I am now 23 weeks behind."

I cannot imagine being this far behind in my email (as I average about 50 messages a day, not including all my spam, more if work is busy, and 23 weeks worth is over 8,000 emails).
What Max needs is a plan.

Read your email every day Max.
Take half an hour and do nothing but email.
Do it first thing in the morning. That's what I do when I get in to work. I do nothing but email for the first 15 minutes of my day, often with a coffee.
Then I answer them as they come.
When I get back from holiday, the first thing I try and take care of is my email.
Otherwise, you have to sit and get caught up.
And that takes a very long time, as I am sure you know.

If I had 8,000 emails to go through, they'd all be getting the delete button.


Trying to weed out the competition?

Apparently Yahoo! and Hotmail filter Gmail invites into the spam folder.

That is one act of desperation if ever I saw one.
Especially given that I have no friends without a Gmail account, all of them have invites that they are trying to pass off to their friends (who are all doing the same thing).


Epidermal Disorganization

I don't know very much about marketing.
I only know one thing: no matter how stupid it sounds, if you invent something and give it a long name that sounds extremely serious, people will buy anything.

Including certain Vichy facial products, which do enough good in their own right and don't need a non-existent, fancy sounding facial disorder in order to sell.

I can only imagine the look on the face of the poor chap that had to read that commercial the first time.

Customer Service

Over the weekend I happened to watch a show.
I don't remember the name of it and I don't remember the channel, only that it was either PBS or TVO.

The show was a documentary about customer service and management at Heathrow Airport.
All I remember is thinking "That's the sort of job I would love to have."
The documentary the manager of Heathrow Airport around over the course of several days. At the time of shooting, Heathrow was undergoing some renovations. It was this fellows job to ensure that things flowed smoothly and that everyone, customers in particular, was satisfied. It was very useful job and one that I don't think enough people value as much as they should. The fellow would speak with various departments getting input and feedback on various issues. He even happened to help a lost customer on the way (the customer had no idea he was the manager. She seemed to think he was a bellboy.)

His goal in life was to improve life for everyone else.
This is a goal I value, and one that I think more people should share.


What your mission is not...

If you are going to have a mission statement, for crying out loud don't make it a rewording of your rules. That's not a mission statement.

A sample mission statement (for newbies)

At Almighty Technical Corporation our purpose is the discovery, communication, and preservation of knowledge. In our research and development, we are committed to creativity, innovation, and excellence. We value integrity, quality, and teamwork in everything we do. We strive to inspire critical thinking, personal growth, and a passion for discovering the unknown. We serve the social, cultural, and economic needs of our community and our society.

Now, if you want a mission statement for your community, I suggest something like this (as the above is probably not appropriate) :

Our mission is to benefit the community. We strive to perfect the art of good communication while respecting the individuality of all members. We value honesty, integrity, original thought, respect and the free exchange of ideas. We seek to provide a family friendly environment, free of hostility.


Your mission, should you choose to accept...

I found a few useful definitions of mission statement on Google.

A few that I liked:

"A philosophical or value statement that seeks to respond to the "why" of the organization's existence, its basic reason for being. Mission statement is not defined in expressions of goals or objectives, rather it reflects a realistic but farsighted determination of who the organization is, who it serves, what it does, and what it can accomplish."

"A general statement of a vision in word form. It is important to have a rich representation of the vision in all the senses. Then the mission statement can be written in language which allows all parties to it to derive meaning from it, yet be precise enough to guide them towards achieving it."

"A statement of the role, or purpose, by which an organization intends to serve its stakeholders. Describes what the organization does (current capabilities), who it serves (stakeholders), and what makes the organization unique (justification for existence)."


In the presence of many counselors...

I love it when people listen to me.
I love it when people listen to those who know more than they do about a particular subject, even it's not me at that given moment.
I love it when people not only listen and do what they're told, but go the extra mile and do us all one better.

Recall my entry from a few days ago about over moderation. This was actually happening at my favorite web community. I logged in this morning to check up on events. The discussion was locked, but some very good things had been decided. Among them were that the moderating community would enforce rules as they were defined in the Terms of Service, just as they always had, decisions would be made to benefit the community as much as possible, and a Mission Statement would be forth coming. This Mission Statement, when combined with the Terms of Service will become the driving force in community policy.

"But isn't that over-moderation?"

Not at all.
Mission Statements tend to be positive documents. They focus on beliefs, desires and over-reaching goals for a particular organization. A poorly written one is vague, meaningless. A well written one beautifully says what everyone is already thinking.

I am very anxious to see the effect this will have on the community.
I foresee good things.


Creating a knowlege base

Did you ever wonder: "If I write these tips, will the intended customers read them?"

I am wondering that now. If you have any tips for encouraging people to read instructions, I would be happy to hear them.

Community Government

If I could give web community developers a piece of most-neglected advice, it would be this:

Do not over-govern your community.

Time and again I have seen it happen. Community administrators and moderators perceive what they feel is a bad vibe within the community and try to "fix" it. Everyone should be able to "get along," after all, we are all adults, we should be tolerant, etc.

If you are a community moderator and see your "beloved community going down the tubes," I would caution you to take a step back before you take any action. If there has been no direct violation of your rules, if there is no flame war, if nothing illegal is going on, then perhaps things aren't as bad as you think.
Most community leaders are in place because they are keenly interested in the community, its focus, the people, and so on. Because of this, most moderators also do their job on a volunteer basis, have an emotional attachment to the community and often feel a sense of entitlement as a result of their work. Community moderation is, after all, hard work.
However, emotional attachments to a community should not be the driving force in policy development. What you "feel" is best or what you "feel" is wrong may not necessarily be so. Has there been an increase in undesirable debate or insulting behaviour within your community? Are you certain? What is the margin of increase? If you compare current behaviour with that of, say, a year ago, is it actually different?
Just as you would if you were running a business, do not allow mood to drive your decisions. Use facts. Do not make grandiose statements on what you think is happening within the community: state what actually has happened and give examples. If you do not, community members (especially those who were not involved or view themselves as innocent) will not react favourably.


Email signatures

One of my email signatures reads thusly:

To trudge...
The slow, weary, depressing yet determined walk of a man who has nothing left in his life except the impulse to simply soldier on.

I received yet another question about it and, because people are so unoriginal, it was the same question I always get. "Why trudge? Is life really that bad?"

Now, before I give you the canned answer that no, life isn't bad at all and that this line is from "A Knight's Tale," let me ask you a question.
Does this look like a serious line?
Honestly, when you read this, do you immediately think "Wow! This girl's life must be horrible. Look at her signature." Please, do not give me the excuse that "well, one really can't determine sarcasm over the web." If you have ever read a book in your life, then you know perfectly well that printed words can be and often are sarcastic. This fact does not change just because the words are now printed on a screen instead of a page.
And even if you still don't believe me and do think my life must be horrible in order to warrant the signature above, I have email. How bad can my life possibly be? Obviously I'm not starving to death. I'm not walking down a random road naked because I've compulsively gambled away every last thing that I own, including my clothing.

And now for the boring, pre-fabbed answer.

This line is from the movie "A Knight's Tale." It's only ok as movies go, but it has some rather ingenius moments, All of said moments involve Paul Bettany, who brilliantly plays Geoffrey Chaucer the medieval author. The character has, among other faults, a compulsive gambling problem, and in this scene (unbeknownst to first time viewers) he is walking down the road naked because he has gambled away all of his clothes. Knight and Co. have no idea who Chaucer is, adding to the wit of the momet. When asked what he is doing, he replies that he is trudging and then, because no one knows what he's talking about, defines the word as above. I have always liked it.

Now, didn't that long explanation sap the humour out of it?


My kinda website

You have to love websites like this.


My System

Today is my last day of work until after my honeymoon.
I won't be back until the 18th, so I have to get organized before I go.

I wouldn't say I'm a sloppy person. I like, rather need, a clean bathroom and kitchen. But I would say I'm cluttered.
If I file my papers away, I will never see them again.
I have papers sitting in my black mesh tray that, at one time, were vitally important. That's why I haven't thrown them away.
But looking over at my tray, I have no idea what they are.
Every time I try to systematically organize my work, I lose it.
My own system beats me, each and every time.

Organized chaos is much better. It has no power.


Nerd for Hire

Well, I've just been told that, despite my excellent work:

I will not be paid more than a first year undergraduate student, there are no plans as of yet to move me from contract to permanent full time (which means, I will remain uneligible for benefits) there are no plans to make me the administrator for the software we are purchasing for the project I have been slaving over, despite being the only one who knows the details of what's been going on there are no plans for me past September

So, I have no plans to stay here.
If you are reading this and need or know someone who needs a hard working, high-powered, energetic individual with an MSc in Computer Science which focused on Human Computer Interaction, exceptional customer service skills, and various other assets which will no doubt be of use to you and your company, please contact me. I will be more than happy to send you my resume.

My email address is rootles@gmail.com


Copious amounts of pontifical, anonymous mugwumpery

Winston Churchill once used this phrase to describe the BBC.

I often wonder if he would not say the same thing about most of today's media .



How would you like to make $1,000 a day for doing nothing?
Become an IT Consultant, and this grotesque amount of money will be yours.

It takes very little work, but requires a substantial up front investment.
Just read a few books (I have).
Take a few 2 or 3 day courses at $2,500 a pop (I have not).
Write the certification test for a mere $1,500 (I have not).
Learn to bs (but then, who can't?).
The corporate big wigs, that is to say, the mindless fools who think  they run things, will turn over their riches to you. Reiterate what  any one of their millions of peons have been saying for months, and  they will call you the Genius Who Saved their Company. You will "drive  policy and process definition." Just be sure to snag the notes  off that peon over there in the corner who's already spent four months documenting policy and process.

Consider this: If you actually worked all 365 days of the year minus 52 Sundays, minus 52 Saturdays minus 2 weeks vacation, you would make $247k a year to tell people what they really already know, but aren't willing to do until a "professional" tells them to do it.

And by the way, that's the educational discount rate.
The regular rate for non-academics, that is people who are actually stupider than us, is $1,500 a day, which would be $370,500 for the same number of days. Apparently, both of these fees are "cheap for consultants."

But let's be realistic, shall we.
In order for you to make what I make, you only have to work 28 1/2 days a year. Not bad, considering that I have an MSc in Computer Science, with a focus on Human Computer Interaction, and you probably only have your bachelor's or a college diploma combined with an outrageously expensive course or two.
That's one month and a week, because of course, I didn't count weekends. At the regular rate, you only need to work for 19 days, or four weeks minus a day.
In order to make a "normal" wage, you only need to work 40 days of the year. That's two months. At the regular rate, 26 and 2/3 of a day is all that is required which, for those who are paying attention, is less than what is required to make what I make if you're working at the discounted rate.

Go figure.

No wonder the vendor from Friday had such a fancy suit on.

I have decided to start my own consulting company.
Opinions 'R' Us.
For a mere $1,000 a day, and remember that's the discounted rate, I'll tell you what to think.
As a measure of good will, the first lesson is free. Here it is:

People are stupid That's why everyone does everything.


Cross your fingers

"Gmail is temporarily unavailable. Cross your fingers and try again in a few minutes. We're sorry for the inconvenience."

Cross your fingers and try again!
I love it!
That has to be one of the best error messages I have ever seen.



Click here...

I just saw a commercial for this website.
Like I fool, I visited, only to be blinded by the glare of red and white of the Rogers/Yahoo corporate merger.


That is the right question

I went and saw I, Robot this weekend.
Not as inventive as Minority Report, but certainly worth
seeing. I have never read the Asimov novels on which the movie is
based, but perhaps I should make a trip to the library.

There were a number of interesting moments in the movie. It's always
the little things what catch my attention. For example, the scene
where Dr. Calvin explains to Spoon what she does at USR. He stares at
her blankly, and she rewords her response as "I make the robots seem
more human." He then asks her if that wasn't easier to say and she
replies no.
What an excellent summary of the difference between academics and the
average individual. So often it is not simpler for the academic mind
to explain things in colloquial, easy-to-understand terms. Certainly,
paper-writing doesn't help this at all. I remember vividly how hard I
tried to summarize my thesis into ten words or less so that I could
explain it to my family and computer-illiterate friends.
What an exercise.

And then there is the pre-programmed hologram.
His responses were limited, and the only way to access the required
information was to ask the right question.
The ability to ask the right question is an important and desirable
skill. I always make a mental note of those people who are able to ask
good questions. They are the ones I want to work with, and the ones I
want to review my work. A good question will jump right to the heart
of a matter. An excellent question will expose the intricacies and
problems of a particular situation. A good question does not have to
be long or detailed; it has to be perceptive.


Too much time on my hands

For fun, get yourself a gmail account.
Then, find a friend who also has a gmail account.
Then try manipulating their ads by sending each other emails filled with key words.
Computer's are so predictable. It's great.



"Do you like dry wit?" I asked a co-worker. He prefers a dry martini.

Visit this site...

There's something truly brilliant about this sort of wit.
Scam the scam artists.
Take him or her for a few.
Make them pose in women's underwear if possible.

There's something highly educational about this sort of a site, too. The FAQ is particularly useful and necessary. I can't count the number of scams I receive of this type. A number of employees here have called the Helpline about them, especially when there are viruses attached. I plan to keep some of their answers, in particular:
Q But isn't it possible that someone in a refugee camp in Togo (which is somehow equipped with internet service) managed to carry $20 million in two 'trunk boxes' through stormy seas and has somehow chosen me, out of the more than 100 million people with e-mail, to receive great wealth, through a divinely inspired plan?
A No.
Q Would you like to receive large attached files of suspect format containing big honking viruses?
A No. Plain text in the body of the e-mail will do nicely.

It's so hard to pick a favorite. They're all so good. Do I get the biggest kick from the woman who managed to get the guy into a bra (good girl) or the guy who managed to scam $100 US from the scammer? What about Sir Marmite Luny-Binns, Sir Charles Farnes-Barnes, Lord Bovril, Mr Glassov Vimto, Lord Stringfellow and His Excellency The Thane of Cawdor verses poor ol' George Okron? The overall quality of this attempt is quite good.
I wonder if internet scammers know we're making fun of them?

But really, the more I think about it, the more I think I have to award the girl who got the guy to pose in women's underwear the prize.
Taking a scammer for money is good.
Demeaning him like the dog he is, is much better.


EULA -gies

I never read the End User License Agreements before I click next. I would rather not know what I am agreeing to when I install a piece of software. I want the software... and besides, I probably only borrowed it anyway.

But, we're planning on buying a piece of software where I work, and our budget is larger than normal. I have to read the agreements. Today, in one of the bids, I happened to notice a catch to a possible price discount. The discount is only being offered because we are an educational institution. The catch involved some obligations, speaking engagements, etc. I decided to review the license agreements, just to make sure I wasn't missing anything from the other bids.

Would you like to see what I found?
Of course you do.

"Under no circumstance may <Software Company R> be liable for any special, indirect, incidental, exemplary or consequential damages of any kind or nature whatsoever arising out of or in any way related to this agreement or the software. Such limitation of damages includes, but is not limited to, lost goodwill, lost profits, lost of data or software, work stoppage or impairment of other goods, regardless of the legal theory on which the claim is brought, even if <Software Company R> has been advised of the possibility of such damage or if such damage could have been reasonably foreseen, and notwithstanding any failure of essential purpose of any exclusive remedy provided in this agreement."

"You must sign away your legal rights in order to purchase this software. It will be a cold day in hell before we admit to being responsible for anything even microscopically related to us. We have lawyers to back it up, so don't waste our time. Sign here please."

Here's another:
"In no event will <Software Company F> be liable for indirect, special, incidental or consequential damages arising out of the use or inability to use the licensed software, even if advised of the possibility of such damages."

From the Maintenance Agreement of the above company:
"In no event, under any theory of law, including but not limited to, breach of warranty, negligence, or other tort shall either party and/or its affiliates be liable to the other for any indirect, special, incidental or consequential damages or lost profits arising out of or related to this agreement, even if a party and/or its affiliates are advised of the possibility of such damages."

Only two bidders don't have a clause like this. These two bidders are not liable if something goes wrong with the software, but that is as far as it goes. One bidder must hold us (the customer) harmless if anything goes wrong. Only one bidder (not the same one) has an extensive privacy policy. The others have virtually nothing.

Let us suppose for a moment that the warranty on a car was like this. Suppose car manufacturers could actually say "I'm sorry. You bought the car. We knew the airbag had a problem, but you signed this piece of paper. I realize your child died when the bag went off, but it's really not our problem." If you applied a warranty like the above to a car, you could do this.
But who would accept it?
A microwave doesn't even have a policy like this.
So how are software companies getting away with it?
How is it that M$ can own anything and everything transmitted over MSN?
Why isn't anyone making a stink about this sort of behaviour?
There's really no excuse for it.

Trust and Shopping

Read the article...

First off, let me wish you a congrats on the award, Milena!

Interesting ideas presented here. I would like to read the original article. I am particularly interested in this: "More interactive features can be added to improve the shopping experience," [Hassanein] says. Such features could include mimicking 'mall shopping', by allowing multiple remote users to shop on the site simultaneously, like friends going to the mall..."

This would be very popular among teenagers, I have no doubt. You would have to add a chat feature too. He considers the trust factor, but I would add that you should certainly consider the "coolness" factor if you are going to develop this sort of an environment. Consider your average mall: is it not jammed full of teenagers, dressed in clubwear, trying to hook up? I see it often when I go shopping... in fact, it's a large part of why I dislike shopping.

It would be interesting to examine The Sims Online in this context, and in particular, all of the associated expansion packs. There are malls and restaurants included to the neighbourhood. I would be willing to bet that there would be some patterns here that could be mimicked to provide a good start for the creation of a suitable online mall.


Losing myself...

Why, oh why do some websites require an inordinate amount of personal information?
Inevitably, I make it up.
And then, what do I do?
I forget my password, AND all of my artificial information.
Of course I didn't give you my real birthdate.
No, I have no idea what I did tell you.
Give me my password!!

Ah ah ah ah! Stayin' alive!

Read the article here...
And another...

Looks like Yahoo isn't the only one worried about Google.
Microsoft is too.
Heh Heh.
Can't say as I feel sorry for them though. I'm sure they'll survive.
Especially in light of the second article. What an interesting statement this is: "Microsoft's lawyers responded that Massachusetts had sought extreme penalties that would require its engineers to redesign Windows, "almost certainly an impossible task." "
Redesigning Windows, an impossible task?
But your company built it... err... stole the idea and then modified it significantly. IE was not integrated into the system when Win 95 was first released. Why is it now impossible to remove?
Did anyone think to ask that?
If they did, I am sure any answer given was vague and did not address the issue. Bad software design? As though anyone from Microsoft would admit to that!!
Someone's on the take. They must be. Either that or abhorrently stupid, and no one becomes a judge without at least some wits. "The appeals court in Washington has proved a largely favorable venue for Microsoft. The court removed two other trial judges from the case, in 1995 and 2001, who had ruled against the company, Stanley Sporkin and Thomas Penfield Jackson. It also overturned a Jackson contempt ruling against Microsoft, and blocked Jackson's plans to break the company apart.
The same appeals court unanimously agreed with Jackson's ruling that Microsoft had illegally abused its monopoly over Windows operating system software, and it instructed Kollar-Kotelly to impose new sanctions."
And now they decide to settle?
And what's more, the move is applauded as being "in the public's best interest." I have my doubts about that.


The Greatest Email Prank

The best prank I ever heard, occured here several months ago.

Caller: "Help me! Every time I email someone and they respond, they get an inappropriate message that says it's from me."
Helpline: "I see. And you aren't sending it?"
Caller: "No! I swear I'm not! But it just went to a prof and now I'm in trouble."
Helpline: "Ok. I'll email you, and we'll see what this is."
So the email is sent, and the response received. I wish I could remember what it said. All I can remember is that it was highly inappropriate.

As it turns out, a friend had turned on his vacation message and filled it with the inappropriate response. That poor student.


Guaranteed ways to lose a bid

When an institution, be it academic or commercial, decides to purchase a piece of software, it is important to make sure that what is bought fits the need. A stringent evaluation criteria, time, patience and a clear sense of what you want is always required. In most cases, you will be offered more than one solution that fits your needs. You will also be ofered more than one solution that has nothing to do with your needs at all.

Take this fellow for example.
"I'm going to be quite blunt here at the risk of offending our evaluators." The moment and evaluator reads this, no doubt alarm bells will go off. But allow me to continue the quote.
"Putting Customizability down as a low priority (4) on your list of requirements displays a lack of understanding of what is important for an Enterprise application that needs to accomodate a range of requirements."
In other words you, the customer, don't know what you need.
Well then, my good sir, would you be so kind as to explain why exactly your solution is almost entirely unrelated to our specified problem? We requested an ITIL compliant Service Desk. Comments such as:
"The <brand name> Solution has out-of-the-box functionality to manage issues "problem management" which we interpret to mean a global problem likely affecting more than one person."
But what about our request for Change Management and Configuration Management? Also, your interpretation of Problem Management is only partially correct. Are you familiar with ITIL?
Then why are you bidding?
Yet another curious quote. This was a response to our request for improved efficiency of current Helpline Operation.
"To be completely honest software alose will not in of itself help you generate efficiencies. Anyone who tells you that has never truly implemented these types of tools."
Are you certain?
Curious you should say this when I have here beside me a bid from another company that has a proven record (and by proven, I mean an independent study was conducted) in this area. Their software and their processes consistently improve their customers efficiency. That's why they are in business.

And then there's the section on security.
Where do I begin?
Here are the actual questions (which the bidder generated, I did not) and their answers:
"Are security logging capabilities built into your product?"
"Are security auditing capabilities built into your product?"
"Does you product provide any facility for identifying suspicious
activity or possible intrusions?"
"What encryption services have been implemented and how?"
<brand name> does not encrypt data.
"Have you conducted a vulnerability assessment of your package? What
security holes did you encounter and how did you fix them?"
<brand name> does not conduct vulnerability assessments.
"How do you handle security patches to your application?"
<brand name> has never needed to release a security patch.

You're rude, incompetent, are not providing us with what we need, tell us we don't know what we need, aren't providing us with a secure system and, to top it off, are the most expensive.
Why would I give you this bid, again? Please remind me...


Silence and Denial

Do you remember in school, how you hated the importance of group work? There would always be someone who never did their share, and what would the teacher say?
"Learn to get along; this is how it is in the real world."

Truer words were never spoken. Of course, the well-meaning teacher always intended the group project to be a "learning" experience. Live in harmony with your fellow man, be a team, work together and so on. What happens though is that people learn how to slack without getting caught. Years in this system produce highly adaptable slackers and their partners, the workaholics. If we fast forward ten years, what do we see? The same people doing the same things. Of course, now the setting is not school, but work.

However, we now have a problem. Because people are now paid for their work in money rather than grades, money is required for daily life, they are unlikely to do work for which they will not get paid. Understanding
the body politic, the corporations dependence on income, the role of Project Manager is created. The lucky Project Manager gets the joyful job of keeping the minions in line, making sure that not only is work done, but it is done well, done on time and preferably under budget.
Inevitably, the Project Manager falls under the workaholic category.
The slackers are now in trouble. Years of not working have made them
incompetent at anything other than slacking. If someone discovers
their incompetence, they could lose their job. The slackers must now develop a plan to save their way of life or be discovered, and fired.

The plan involves two key elements:
Silence and Denial.

Silence is most effective in the meeting room. If the entire group refuses to say anything, the meeting will be dismissed and work can progress as normal, that is, not at all. It will be back to business as usual: the slow, grinding turn of the collective corporate wheels in the inches deep rut of political mire.
Denial is effective in the office. When asked any question, the response is simply "I don't know." Although it can be useful in the meeting room, this response is more likely to be questioned. In the office, it yields the immediate results of investigator disappearance, especially when coupled with "Joe Body might know." Joe Body may be an unsuspecting workaholic, mired up to the elbows in other important projects or a distracted manager who is too important to be bothered right now. As slacker will often not pass an investigator off to another slacker, unless of course that slacker is the distracted manager. In such cases, both workaholics and slackers will send the investigator to the distracted manager: the one out of dislike for the incompetent superior, the other because they know the investigator will wait ad infinitum for their answer.

But back to the recently hired Project Manager.
The Project Manager, whether they are new to the corporation or have been there for many years, recognizes slacker behaviour intuitively. However, intuition is not proof. How does one obtain proof?
The answer is simple:
With an effective documentation strategy, one can track slacker inactivity and provide proof of their incompetence. It is, however, of paramount importance that the documentation strategy be implemented quickly, be communicated completely, efficiently but with as little advanced warning as possible. Otherwise, you provide slackers with an opportunity to plan. Timing is of the essence! If you are too quick, slackers may use the denial tactic, claiming they "never heard anything about it." If you are too slow, slackers have time to organize a massive silence movement or they may willfully bury themselves in documentation, thereby creating a new slacking activity.

Above all, Project Managers must resist the urge to hire Consultants to help them plan their approach. 95% of all Consultants are slackers. Their goal is to get paid for telling you something you already know. No documentation ever produced by a Consultant or their team has ever led to a more productive corporation.
The better approach is to elicit useful feedback from your workaholics, not from someone else's slackers.
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