Monthly Archive for December, 2003

What I got for Christmas

This may seem a bit silly, but this is my list of stuff I got for Christmas. I’m by no means bragging, just saving it for myself (it’s my blog).

  • League of Extraordinary Gentlemen DVD
  • Raiders, Temple, etc. DVD Box Set
  • Bunch of black, brown, and other colored dress socks
  • Set of 3 black “Gold-toe” brand black socks
  • 8 “AA” batteries
  • A really great Pronto Uomo dress shirt
  • A big hand-painted Santa statue
  • Texas Born, Texas Proud” t-shirt
  • A set of nice silver cuff-links
  • A money-clip
  • Desert Storm II Playstation 2 game and strategy guide
  • Nintendo GameCube
  • Zelda for GameCube
  • Two Wireless Nintendo GameCube controllers
  • SSX3 for GameCube
  • Boucheron pour Homme cologne

I hope you enjoyed your Holidays (whatever your religious beliefs) and that you are looking forward to 2004 as much as I am.

weblogs.com pinging fixed

I just love asking questions on my weblog, because I almost always get a useful answer. In this case, I got a bunch of great answers.

Brent gets props for giving me the right answer first… turns out the URL for pinging weblogs.com shouldn’t have a trailing slash after it… I have no idea if I screwed that up, or if it was part of the default MT install and Dave changed it… Thanks Brent.

Beth gets props for getting me to add the manual ping form to my bookmarks bar, just in case weblogs.com gets finicky again.

This is a good error message:

Ping ‘http://rpc.weblogs.com/RPC2′ failed: Ping error: Thanks for the ping, however we can only accept one ping every half-hour. It’s cool that you’re updating so often, however, if I may be so bold as to offer some advice — take a break, you’ll enjoy

Thanks all.

weblogs.com errors?

Why do I see this entry in my MT activity log so often:

Ping ‘http://rpc.weblogs.com/RPC2/’ failed: HTTP error: 404 Not Found

Anyone know?

Beware the customer

If you own or run a company that sells a service to people, then beware of your customer. If they feel like they’re going to get shitty service from you, they’ll probably find someone else to find the service you’re providing for them now. I say this because, if Earthlink is really shipping all of its call-centers over-seas, I’ll be calling to cancel my subscription soon.

Good service was one of the reasons I used to recommend Earthlink.

Seeking a Good Multi-User Wishlist System

Our family Christmas was a lot of fun this year. It always is, but this year, it was better than normal.

You see, each year, we trade names for Christmas gifts and stocking stuffer duty, so that each of us will get a good gift or two, and it won’t cost each of us $5,000 buying gifts for everyone in the family. We all love each other, but who can afford to buy more than a few people really great gifts year in and year out?

So, we trade names each year, and we set a limit each year for gift purchases. This year it was $75 for the main gift, and $25 for the stocking stuffers. And each person has two people to buy gifts for.

The family is spread all over the country, so it’s a bit tough to trade “wishlists” without letting the person whose name you have know you have their name, so we put the Christmas wishlists on the web this year.

It was a huge help to all gift-givers, because I hyperlinked what I could easily hyperlink, and was as specific as I could be based on the recipient’s instructions… People coule easily buy online. Givers could also just print out the page of gifts and take it into a store to buy what they needed to buy.

But it sucked away some time from my day, and is not how I’d like to manage the long term health of our wishlists… The thought is that someone could easily maintain their wishlist during the year, so that come gift-giving time, the recipients could always have a list of potential gifts that is their real list, not something they came up with in the last-minute “get your lists to me so I can put them online” time-frame that we always seem to fall into at the end of the year.

So, I’m on the lookout for a good multi-user wishlist management system (written in PHP using MySQL for data management, preferrably). It’d be really cool if recipients could a) register, b) put in some basic contact and ‘gift-date’ information, c) enter gifts they want, and d) remove, edit or otherwise change the information they’ve entered at will. It’d also be really useful to have the system display things like a) price from Amazon (if available), b) date item was added to the list, c) sort by “age” of item, and d) allow the sys-admin the ability to add more users and organize them by groupings possibly. I realize that’s not a full-spec, but at this point, I’m just dreaming out-loud.

If you know of one, or see one around, please let me know. I’d even be willing to spend a bit of money for this system, were one available. (I’ve searched the couple of open-source repositories I know of, and none of the currently available systems meet my needs).

The internet made our Christmas better and more enjoyable, and I’d like to turn that into a long-term year-round solution for gift-giving time, whenever that time happens to be.

Schnitzel

It’s been too long since I’ve had a good dinner or lunch of good old fashioned, german made Schnitzel. Ummm… I can taste it in my head already.

This post on aprendiz de todo made me think of the last time I had schnitzel, and made me want to get in the car and drive to Welfare to get some schnitzel.

The last time I ate schnitzel, I was stationed at Fort Knox, Kentucky, and just outside the south gate of the post, there was this little old building, with a little old German lady in it, who made schnitzel every day, along with all of the traditional sides. She also served a drink I’d never had before, and haven’t had since, called Spietze [pronounced "Spiet-zee"] (I think that’s how it is spelled).

Spietze is poured in a tall glass packed full of ice. First you pour the glass about half full of orange juice, and then top it off with coca-cola. Or at least, that’s what I think I remember it was… like I said, it’s been too long since I had it, but it sure did go well with a home-made lunch of schnitzel on a hot day. (If you’ve had the drink I’m referring to and have a ‘proper’ recipe, please post a comment about how to make it correctly)

Well, the wife and I are going to have to make a trip to the Welfare Cafe for a bit of schnitzel next time we get a chance on an upcoming weekend…

I Robot Now – order an NS-5

Wow!!!

If you haven’t seen IRobotNow.com, then you’re missing the best online advertisement I’ve ever seen…

IRobotNow.com is a website where you can order your very own robot, completely configured the way you want it. You can watch videos of the NS-5 in action and learn more about how a personal domestic assistant can improve your life, how it was developed, and who’s behind it. And best of all, the company behind the NS-5 will be shipping them on July 16th.

Dean Kamen of Segway fame doesn’t hold a candle to Dr. Alfred Lanning, inventor of the NS-5.

The NS-5 will revolutionize the world, or at least that’s what the product literature available online says…

… or will it?

In reality, there is no such thing as the NS-5. It’s a marketing ploy for a movie… but you’d never know that from the website.

The only giveaway that this website isn’t real is the link to the privacy policy on the ‘sign up for updates’ page. From the privacy policy, it’s pretty clear that Fox Films is behind this website, and that they’re using it as some sort of viral marketing tool for their movie I, Robot, coming out next summer and based on Isaac Asimov’s writings of the same name. And if you haven’t read the books, you’re missing out on a huge piece of Sci-fi history.

Best damned advertisement I’ve seen for an upcoming movie yet.

Too bad, I really want one.

Stealing or Not?

The public posting by Noel from a few days ago about Nick Denton ‘stealing’ his work has taught me some great lessons, and might teach the rest of us a few too. I’ll try to list a few of them here:

1. Free never means free.

It’s become apparent that Noel did some work for free and in good faith, for Nick and his company. He showed that work (and all the raw work behind it) to Nick without promise of payment. Nick used the work that Noel did, without restitution for said work, and now Noel’s mad about it. Nick’s gotten a little bad publicity out of the whole deal, and thus the ‘free’ work that Noel did has ended up costing Nick something, thought how much that bad PR hurts Nick in the long term is anyones guess.

2. Understandings aren’t always understood.

It’s pretty clear that Nick and Noel each had their own ‘understanding’ of what the fair use parameters for Noel’s work was. Both understandings weren’t clear to the other party though. Communication broke down between these two parties, and that’s really sad. Noel has pretty much lost the opportunity for further work with Nick (not that Nick had guaranteed Noel any paying work in the future) and Nick’s lost the faith and readership of a few people that also don’t understand the reality of the miscommunication, but have nonetheless made up their minds about who cheated whom.

3. Blogs opened this conversation up

Not that this will astound anyone, but without weblogs, a few things wouldn’t have happened here: a) Noel wouldn’t have been able to comment this publicly about the deeds involved, b) Nick wouldn’t have been able to comment on his attackers own website for all the world to see, c) I wouldn’t have been able to join the conversation, and d) We all might not have seen this little event transpire.

I used to work for a person that was pretty ruthless in business. He wasn’t all that honest with the people that worked for and with him all the time… he was sort of slimy to say the least. That doesn’t mean he didn’t have the best of intentions, he just wasn’t all that ethical. At the beginning of all of this, I jumped to conclusions and thought for sure Nick Denton was just like my old boss… but…

After reading all of the comments from Nick, Rick, and others, all I’ve decided at this point is that Noel and Nick had a misunderstanding that should likely have been resolved privately. Nick probably handled the situation badly at first, and Noel grew frustrated enough to post a public comment about what had transpired up to that point. The result is a likely impassable situation that no-one wins from.

Any number of more positive outcomes could have presented themselves if both parties had worked a little harder with the other toward a more tenable solution, but it’s almost too late for that.

Big Lesson: If you don’t have something nice to say, don’t say anything at all.

I could have followed that lesson when I originally posted about the situation between Noel and Gawker. Some of the other people commenting on this situation probably could have too. Noel could have followed that lesson when he first brought the situation into the open. I’m sure things could have worked out better had the communication lines been more open.

Some Good News: Noel has posted an update saying that “Negotiations are in the works.” Good to hear they’re communicating again.

Dell CD-ROM drive issues

Yesterday my CD-ROM drive on my year old Dell Latitude starting having issues. It won’t stay closed and sporadiacally opens on its own. It’s very annoying to be sitting in a presentation and have the CD-ROM drive just pop-open. You initial response is to just push it back in, but when you have a CD in the drive, Windows has the annoying ‘auto-play’ feature that opens the disk you just inserted in a folder view over the presenation you’re presenting in Powerpoint. It’s really damned annoying. Glad I learned that Windows did that before the clients I was presenting to walked into the room.

I’ll get the corporate IT folks to order me a replacement drive from Dell when I get into the office… I’m sure it can’t cost more then $5 the way Dell prices their stuff. They make cheap stuff, so it’s gotta be priced cheaply too, I’d guess.

Stupid thing keeps popping open while I try to type and hitting my wrists… stupid, stupid drive bay thing. It’s like it’s sensitive to the wrist pressure I put on it… stupid thing. I wish I had the floppy drive with me, I’d take the CD-ROM drive out and replace it with the floppy insert so this stopped happening… heh… just thought of something… I haven’t used a floppy disk in at least 5 years… how funny.

One other bitch about this Dell… the battery never lasts more than 2 hours… that just sucks when you’re trying to work on a plane and the plane ride is more than 2 hours long. Glad I’ve got my iPod with me. I may start bringing my Powerbook with me on business trips so I don’t have all these issues… but then I might end up watching a DVD or playing a game instead of working on work.

Flew to Minneapolis

On Wednesday, I flew to Minneapolis to meet with potential clients, and I have to say that I was impressed. We met with one of the largest retailers in the country, and they’re finally starting to ‘get it’ when it comes to the importance of the internet, and online marketing.

I’m looking for big things from that client in the next two or three years… maybe not directly, but indirectly in that they’ll really start pushing the envelope and that’ll make others in their industry follow them because they’re doing it. I can finally say online marketing (in my opinion) is really starting to come back, and it’s not the dot coms that are pushing the business… It’s the big box retailers that have so much pull in their industry… that’s just great news to me.

We also took a trip to the Mall of America in Minneapolis in the evening, and had a great time. I had the opportunity to take my colleagues to a Rainforest Cafe, which is a fun restaurant, and then we walked around the mall looking for holiday specials… we didn’t really buy anything though, because the prices weren’t any better than they are back home, and I personally didn’t feel like lugging more stuff on and off an airplane just so I could say I bought something at the mall.

We didn’t ‘make the sale’ we set out to make, but we did learn a lot about how the client we were meeting with is starting to operate. Overall the trip was worth making.

The Screwing of Noel (and Joe)

First, let me say, I don’t know Nick Denton at all. I also only know Noel Jackson through email (though we’ve emailed a bit for two complete strangers) and I’ve only read some of Joe Clark’s stuff online, here and there.

But, when I read this post by Noel, and then more here on the same topic by Joe, I couldn’t help but feel like Noel and Joe obviously got the royal Denton for Christmas this year. The big question for me is “what can Nick and/or Joe do about what’s happened?”

The best answer I can come up with is “pretty much, nothing.”

Sure, they could likely sue Nick and/or Gawker Media, but that would most likely cost more than it was worth, and they did submit an unsolicited idea to a company… those unsolicited ideas are generally not something an individual can claim much of a pay-off for after giving them to a company, unless those ideas really pay off in the long term for the company that ‘steals’ those ideas.

So, is there a lesson here for the rest of us? I think so:

Don’t give away unsolicited (or solicited) ideas to companies that you may want to work for in the future… It doesn’t pay you enough and not all companies follow “honourable business practices”.

Another lesson (this one for Denton) is that if you are a company that “can’t afford” to compensate someone for their ideas and work properly, don’t use those ideas and/or work… bad PR is worse than no PR.

Age of Mythology

I’ve been playing Age of Mythology pretty much non-stop for a week now… it’s a great game, but it freezes my Powerbook everytime I play it, and I have no idea why it’s doing so…

The gameplay is great, but the freezing really gets on my nerves… Hopefully, Macsoft will answer my email asking them about the problem.

Apple has a good page on the game, if you want to read up on it.

I’m not a big gamer, but am a sucker for these mythology based strategy games and get sucked into them quite easily.

Saddam Captured

Amazing: We Got Him

Without firing a shot, American forces captured a bearded and haggard-looking Saddam Hussein in an underground hide-out on a farm near his hometown of Tikrit, ending one of the most intensive manhunts in history. The arrest was a huge victory for U.S. forces battling an insurgency by the ousted dictator’s followers.

“Ladies and gentlemen, we got him,” U.S. administrator L. Paul Bremer told a news conference Sunday, eight months after American troops swept into Baghdad and toppled Saddam’s regime.

And here I thought he was already dead or something…

Quote: Tomorrow

You can always stand to learn something from the Duke:

“Tomorrow is the most important thing in life. Comes into us at midnight very clean. It’s perfect when it arrives and it puts itself in our hands. It hopes we’ve learned something from yesterday.”

John Wayne

One of my personal heros.

The History of the Internet

This history of the commercial internet is a complex one, and a history where lots of people claim to be first…

(office alert, turn down your speakers before clicking)

Here is a quick history of the internet explaining where Amazon, eBay, Yahoo, and a few other notable people and sites fit into the historical record of the internet.

Quote: Living on the Edge

I saw this on a CPA website today:

“If you’re not living on the edge, you’re taking up too much space…”

Totally turned around my image of accountants and tax professionals… had to comment on it.

The Poo Story

My friend Rick points out this choice entry:

When I was a kid, no-one really explained to me about pooing. Consequently I grew up thinking it was something only I did. Some weird form of punishment from God for my share of original sin. So I’d hoard my poos for days. It’s called constipation, and I was a religious victim of it. It took me into my 20s before I could actually get my pooing straight. And it was too late for one particular loo, which felt, along with me, the wrath of God.

I was in a frenzy. Sweating, shaking, freaking. I knew what I had to do, but I didn’t want to do it. I stood paralysed looking at the foundations for a log cabin nestling securely in the u-bend. Then I hopped about, groaning for a bit but it didn’t make the poo from hell go away.

Read the whole story and find out how it turned out… the comments are quite priceless as well.

Buying the little guy’s albums

I bought two albums from the iTunes Music Store last night. Both are Reverend Horton Heat albums that I didn’t own, but neither was really the album I wanted.

I bought “It’s Martini Time” and “Space Heater” but I really wanted to by “Smoke ‘em If You Got ‘em”. The funny thing is that even RRH’s website is sold out of that old album (scroll to the bottom). To me, that’s a perfect opportunity for RRH to make a little more money on these older albums without the additional cost and risk of printing them for distribution at their shows or at small local music shops. I want the album so I can listen to my favorite RRH tune: “Eat Steak”.

The Rev has a decent following across the country, but they aren’t quite big enough anymore to have their albums sold in Target and Wal-mart. If you want a CD, you’ve got to go to a show, or find a good local music store to buy their stuff…

Or, if the albums were at the iTunes Music Store, you could buy them there. Sadly, they aren’t.

Amazon.com does have the album in stock but it’s $1 more than it’d be at the iTMS, I have to pay for shipping, and it’ll likely take a week to get here. Apple could satisfy my instant purchase urge and sell it to me if they had it in their online store, but they don’t. In fact, Apple could even charge that $1 more for that older ‘harder to find’ album since I don’t have to pay shipping and I’d get it instantly.

So, I’ve added the album to my Amazon shopping cart, and I’ll likely stop by the local record store on the way home to check the price, and I’ll buy the album today or tomorrow from Amazon or the local store.

I really hope Apple is going to add more small distribution record labels to their store over time, so that eventually, I can just shop and buy in one place, whenever it’s convenient to me.