Friday, December 30, 2005

One Red Paperclip

Here's another zany idea -- start with a paper clip and field trade offers for it. Keep trading up for other items until you get... a house?

Thursday, December 29, 2005

The Million Dollar Home Page

I know that going to school can be expensive, but I didn't know it was a million dollars expensive.

An entreprenurial student is selling 10x10 pixel blocks on his site for a buck a pixel (you have to buy at least one block minimum... a hundred bucks) for the purpose of putting himself through school (and I'm guessing a nice vehicle may be in the works).

Don't laugh. He launched the site in August, and as of right now he's cleared 900k. Wish I was that smart.

Apples and Staples

Remember my belly aching a year ago trying to get out of a Staples? Peter Burrows of BusinessWeek Online observed my retail dreamworld doing his Christmas shopping last week:
I experienced it on Dec. 24, when I made my last pre-Christmas stop at an Apple store to pick up a new Mac game for my 5-year-old. There, I saw a table set up just to sell iPods, with a big monitor set-up advising customers which models were in stock. It's called the iPod Express table. But the best part was that the Apple "Geniuses" behind the table had wireless gizmos for scanning credit cards, and Apple had worked out a totally wireless, paperless checkout process, called EasyPay. Once scanned, they advise you that the receipt will be in your inbox within an hour (since I'm already a registered Apple customer, they didn't even need to take my email or other information).
 
I'm no expert in retail operations, but this experience certainly made me wonder why this wouldn't, or shouldn't, be the future of retail. Given the pace at which folks were leaving that store with products in hand, clearly the increased velocity of order-taking was a good thing for Apple.
No, Mr. Burrows, you are an expert in retail operations. Separating customers from their money as efficiently as possible equals a) the ability to process customers with the same or less amount of resources (yay for the retailer) and b) customer loyalty -- they had the bread in hand and you gave them what they wanted without getting in their way (yay for the customer).

Join the iCult

 

Pass the Lipitor

The Volokh Conspiracy is uncovering that Pfizer may have had a little more to do with the Kelo takings than the Supreme Court was aware of, or willing to admit.

UPDATE: Or not. It seems the post has been taken down.

Cookie Monster

Scandalous! Amid all the ohmygoodnesswe'rebeingspiedon controversy swirling around the president we're hear this today about the NSA:
The National Security Agency's Internet site has been placing files on visitors' computers that can track their Web surfing activity despite strict federal rules banning most of them.
 
These files, known as "cookies," disappeared after a privacy activist complained and The Associated Press made inquiries this week, and agency officials acknowledged Wednesday they had made a mistake.
 
Nonetheless, the issue raises questions about privacy at a spy agency already on the defensive amid reports of a secretive eavesdropping program in the United States.
 
"Considering the surveillance power the NSA has, cookies are not exactly a major concern," said Ari Schwartz, associate director at the Center for Democracy and Technology, a privacy advocacy group in Washington, D.C.
Well, no kidding. And, considering just about every well-visited website uses cookies it seems like a heck of a thing to expect the NSA to not track the surfing habits of visitors on their own website.
 
If you really want to get your undies in a bunch over surf tracking, try a little research on what the big web ad agencies do. It'll make your skin crawl.
Until Tuesday, the NSA site created two cookie files that do not expire until 2035 — likely beyond the life of any computer in use today.
This is quite a common practice with web programmers to remember users when they return to their site. How do you think Amazon remembers who you are time after time when you visit their site from the same computer?
But privacy advocates complain that cookies can also track Web surfing, even if no personal information is actually collected.
Privacy advocates should look into disabling cookies if it's that much of a problem. If you think tracking by cookie is bad, just think of how the RIAA is tracking down folks to sue -- by finding the IP address of suspect computers and then requesting a subpoena of the user records of the person using that address from the ISP who owns it. Web servers track surfing habits, too.
 
At the end of the day these aren't really privacy advocates bellyaching, they are anonymity advocates. It's one thing to expect privacy when sharing personal information with an agency of some sort for the purposes of conducting some sort of business with that agency. It's quite another to expect to not be traceable when you are the person requesting resources off another person's or agency's property.

Behold, the iMeat


Via Gizmodo.

Wednesday, December 28, 2005

The Chronic(WHAT?)les of Narnia

Tire Sculptures

Here's a little something to do with your left-over tires.

Why Not?

Eric Sinrod (kind of an interesting last name considering the content of the article) of Duane Morris thinks it's time to implement a .xxx top-level domain (tld).
 
I think it's a great idea, especially if content providers are forced to use the tld - surfers, parents, and sysadmins can easily identify and/or filter objectionable content. It could also help filter (some) spam.
 
Hey, perhaps if they force content providers to use a .crap tld when selling body altering substances, dating services, or the other junk that fills people's inboxes we'd really make a dent in filtering Internet pollution.

Saturday, December 24, 2005

The VEEP Is In The Cult, Too

Looks like VP Cheney ticked off a few reporters on a flight back to Washington when he used one of only two outlets on Air Force Two to charge his iPod.
 
For what it's worth, Cheney has Johnny Cash on his iPod, so those reporters can just suck it up and wait.

Wednesday, December 21, 2005

It Almost Makes Me Want To Go Back To School

CNet has a post on the current state of digital note taking, highlighting a system called Tegrity Campus which allows students to take notes on regular paper using a digital pen. The student is able to then upload a digital version of their notes to the school website where it is synchronized to a digital version of the lecture they were taking the notes from. The synchronization is possible because the digital pen apparently is keeping time during the lecture.

Why didn't I think of that? If you combine this type of technology with other tried-and-true collaborative methods such as newsgroups and message boards the learning process could be more of a group function rather than a "cracking open my notes and textbook at one in the morning" exercise.

Tuesday, December 20, 2005

Missing Episode III Scene

Not quite sure why this scene was deleted from the final cut.

Wednesday, December 14, 2005

Mr. Fusion Coming Closer to Reality

Who knew that Doc was onto something in 1985? First there was vegetable bio-diesel, now it looks like a Canadien company is coming up with a way to convert raw cow parts into fuel for your vehicle.

So, gather ye up your mad cows, fire up the Delorean and get the flux capacitor... fluxxing.

Monday, December 12, 2005

NOT On My Christmas List

Of all the iCrap you can buy during this holiday season, please, please do not get me a pair of these.

Sunday, December 04, 2005

Eastern Chill

When we arrived in San Diego a week and a half ago, I had a small sense of reprieve. I had just crammed on a project and got it to a somewhat self-managing state, and now I had 10 days in front of me to relax with the wife and family. Last year it rained every day we were in San Diego, but we had nothing but sunshine this time around, making it fairly trivial to choose a "local" destination and take a day trip.

Today we wake up to a couple inches of snow coming down. But, as they say, too bad.

I can almost swear that each of these trips gets shorter each time around. The time just goes by and, all of a sudden, you're packing your bags and hopping back on the plane. Yes, the time goes by faster each time around, and with each trip out I get the sense that the time to do these trips is evaporating.

Photos from the Seaport Village day tripOn that happy note, here are a few more sets of pictures from the trip. On the Monday we were out we hit Julian, which I already posted some pictures from. Tuesday we had lunch with some folks I used to work with then headed out to one of our favorite spots, Seaport Village, and browsed around the shops as well as walking around the USS Midway, which apparently is docked there as a museum now, although I don't know if that is full time or not.

Compared to prior trips here (this was our third), it was rather empty. Surprising, considering it was the beginning of the Christmas shopping season and all of that.

Wednesday morning Lori, myself, and my father had breakfast with my Aunt and Uncle. They are headed out to Peru soon for their 5th and 4th (respectively) missions trip, and had a lot to share with Lori who just recently returned from Honduras herself (I'll try to post some stuff from that later).

Photos from our trip to Coronado IslandBy the time we left my Aunt & Uncle's it was early afternoon. We drove across the Coronado Bay Bridge and visited the "island"1 of Coronado. Half the island seems to be taken up with the naval base where my dad used to work, and the other half is a combination of housing, touristy areas, parks and beaches.

We spent some time in a little mall diving in and out of shops. We also walked along the beach behind the shops which faces the bay and gives you an excellent view of the San Diego skyline. Afterwards we headed to the other side of the island and walked up and down Orange street. As the sun started heading down, we took to the beach behind the Hotel Del Coronado and captured the sun as it sank into the ocean.

Again, not very busy anywhere we went this day.

Photos from our Sea World visitThursday we headed out to Sea World. I haven't been there in 25 years or so, and Lori had been to the one in Orlando some years back but not San Diego. It's much different than I remember... almost smaller. We caught all the shows we could and hit all the aquariums, which tend to be my favorite thing to see.

The park was a virtual ghost town, and everybody that was in the park probably attended each show we were at and still did not fill the arena up.

That evening we swapped Christmas gifts at my parents, since we will not be in town at that time (we alternate each year). Talk turned to my brother afterwards, who has gone AWOL since July when he started a new job in Las Vegas. He's been fairly determined to live his own life it seems, but we all miss the heck out of that guy. Oh brother, where art thou?

Photos from our vineyard hoppingMy mother took Friday off and took us to the vineyards of Temecula, just bit north of where they live in San Marcos. The closest I've gotten to alcohol consumption is Vick's Formula 44d, so I pretty much played the role of designated driver. In order, we visited the Thornton, Wilson Creek, and Ponte Family Estate wineries, having lunch at the last place. Lori and Mom had a wine tasting at Wilson Creek, and the grounds there are beautiful. The food was excellent at Ponte.

The funny thing is, the wineries were probably more populated than any of the other places we visited during the week. It's a bit strange how folks get really dressed up for tastings and come out in groups - in the middle of the day on Friday. It's a whole foreign world to me, I guess.

I miss my folks much, and am already scheming a way to see them again ahead of our next scheduled date. Until then, thanks mom and dad for being our hotel and rental car agency once again. Thanks, Dave, for being our tour guide in the Gaslamp District (which I unfortunately did not get pictures of). And thank you, San Diego, for staying at home, work, or school (and out of our way) while we acted like tourists.

Photo links:

[1] It's not really an island as there is a very skinny connector to Chula Vista.