September 30, 2004

Bloggers v. Journalists

Barney emailed me a link to an article about a columnist who was bad mouthing the blogging community. I replied to Barney with what I thought, and he said "You should blog that". I didn't feel like it at the time. Blame it on the blogging cycle if you will, but I think I'm so much of a geek I now have no readers. Well I have some readers but they can't get into most of the things that I blog about.

But then, Jake decided to blog about it here: "UtterlyBoring.com: Bloggers are 'net Version of Sad Guys with Police Radios" so I've wagered that getting to play with trackbacks some more could justify the effort of posting what I initially had to say. *sigh* I'm sucha pushover. ;)


I dunno. If I want to hear about the finer points of being a journalist or not, I think I'd rather listen to a journalist than whoever this guy is :) He doesn't build any kind of foundation for his premise or flesh out any permutations. For instance, he doesn't define what a "blogger" is or what a "Journalist" is.. or whether a person could be both, like perhaps this James Lileks fellow he is arguing with.. who appears to be at least as well credentialed as he is. (they are both columnists after all)

The truth is, at the end of the day, credentials do not make a journalist. Journalism makes a journalist. You either research and report facts or you don't. You either present information coherently or you don't. Most bloggers don't claim to be journalists, and most of their audiences appreciate whatever content they publish or they would not be there.

Listening to police radios in your basement is quite a lonely activity, while blogging is about disseminating information, regardless of how small of a scale it is on, and most of the time obtaining feedback therein.

So, I'll bet if this Coleman fellow could get past his knee-jerk defensiveness at not being able to grasp a new trend, he might actually be able to form some useful notions on the subject. At which point, we can all go read them on his blog.

Posted by jesse at 02:34 AM | Comments (4)

September 27, 2004

Second Life

I'm the most transcendental one in the group *cough*hack*
After reading a sideways Wired article about a Massively multiplayer online game (MMOG) called Second Life, I figured I would go check out this game and see what was up. It is worth a look. :)

(This is a stub article. If you would like to expand it, then leave a comment and prove that this blog is even being read at the moment, and perhaps I'll elaborate on my thoughts about this subject. Furthermore if you do not get the point of this joke, then you need to go and spend some more time on a wiki. Thank you :)

Posted by jesse at 11:45 PM | Comments (2)

September 26, 2004

Dreams

Chris recently posted about dreaming (and he has no trackback) so I figure it's high time I should talk about it too.

I can remember my dreams. Not always, but more frequently than you can. So I know lots about the mechanics of dreaming. And I'm not talking symbolism of missing teeth or any of that astrological hoo ha.

Dreams are rad.. unless you're having nightmares. They are fun to talk/write about, interesting to read about/listen to, more entertaining to have and cheaper than a movie. And of course they have volumes to tell about us as a species.

So I propose a Dream Wiki! If you all are with me, I shall convert my stillborn Brain Surf wiki into a place where anyone's dreams can be catalogued and discussed. I'll be able to enter several hundred time permitting, as I can remember dreams I have had as far back as Kindergarten.

So let me know if such a project sounds intriguing.

Also, this happens to be my 100th blog entry. Yay blog! Thanks for visiting :)

Posted by jesse at 02:18 AM | Comments (2)

September 25, 2004

Wiki

We always hear about the wonderous content management properties of a Wiki.. it's ability to self correct, it's ability to harness the zeal of a community. But seriously, aside from Wikipedia what other wiki's have really garnered any spotlight?

I've seen a few wiki documentation pages such as the one for NoCatAuth but a good percentage of the time when I check them out they have been extensively trolled and nobody has done anything about it.

So what are some other good examples people? Is wiki really all hype? :)

Posted by jesse at 12:59 PM | Comments (0)

September 24, 2004

No soup for... who?

Alright, so apparently some big wigs at Unicom here in town just called my house to ask why droves of their customers were getting 403 / Forbidden errors trying to access local news website bend.com.

Yeah, that's right, my house. Where do these people get my number?

I let them know that I had some Unicom IP addresses blocked out because there was a robot skipping around that IP address range requesting several pages per second during a period of time last week when the servers were being unnaturally slow.. thus more vulnerable to DoS. I'd blocked quite a few web spiders including Ask Jeeves. The unicom guy said that there were more than spiders on that IP address range that was their entire network.

This week we made some performance improvements so I removed the block on Unicom. We should be able to survive a rogue spider or three now. The unicom guy thanked me, and gave me some 24/7 contact information so that we could let them know immediately if any more problems originate from their network so that they can send out vinnie and guido to handle things.

Now I am no proponent of "collateral damage" tactics. I was honestly bot-hunting the logs and it fully looked like that was the IP range of a bot which was behaving pretty badly. And I know I might sound a lot like Slashdot who I have recently boycotted for their reaction to people pulling their RSS feed... but this isn't an RSS feed I was fussing over, it is the spidering of full web pages which serve ads from remote servers on every view. Our RSS feed could be pulled a thousand times as often as it is without bothering us.

Posted by jesse at 11:56 AM | Comments (3)

September 22, 2004

Banks

I bank at Wells Fargo, and have done so since before they purchased First Interstate in the early 1990's. Things there are more or less ok, but I recently called them up to reduce the $20 of monthly charges I was paying on my account $3 for a savings account < $300, $3 fee to use quicken, $7 fee to pay bills through quicken, and another $7 fee to pay bills through their website. I only used quicken for a couple of months last year (it blows) so I figured it's time to stop paying $10/month to use a $30 peice of software. Also, since I've had thousands of dollars in my savings account before and never earned more than 30 per month, I figured the odds were stacked against me of a savings account ever ever being a profitable endeavor, and had them change it into a checking account.

The helpful lad on the phone informed me that since I've had the account for over a decade, there would not be a charge to have that checking account. He also said he'd have to reissue my debit card to link a third account to it... I asked him to unlink an account I never used and if that would mean he wouldn't have to reissue my card; he said that was correct.

However, my card stopped working today. So I have no faith that my new checking account is free either.

Wells fargo charges $1.75 for you to use someone elses ATM.. even only for a balance inquiry. This is on top of the standard $1.50 charge generic ATM's usually charge you.. even for a balance inquiry. This means if I have no cash at a McDonalds I pay $8 for an extra value meal.

I think if I call their 24 hour 1-800 number more than 2 times in a month I get dinged $2 per as well.

And there has been more than one time that I have deposited checks at the ATM that did not post to my account for 3 or more business (non-holiday, non-weekend) days. I always write my account numbers on the checks, dot all of my t's, cross all of my i's......

I am a hair's breadth away from switching banks. What banks do you use? What banks have you heard good things about? I keep hearing good things about the Bank of the Cascades. Both of my employers also bank there, which aids me in case their checks want to bounce ;) What say ye?

Posted by jesse at 01:02 AM | Comments (2)

September 21, 2004

My name is *JESSE*!

For the entirety of my life, no matter where I go, no matter what I do.. from Seattle to Los Angeles, from Newport to Indianapolis.. Since I was old enough to write my own name, up to 3 times this very week.. it happens.

Whenever I have to tell somebody my name.. and they write it down (normally this is in the service industry I guess.. banks, fast food, anywhere that they write out an invoice) they figure out some provocatively new way to spell it.

My name is Jesse.
I was named after Jesse James, the bank robber.
He in turn was named after the biblical Jesse son of Obed father of King David of Israel.

Nobody ever misspells their names, they only misspell mine.

I wouldn't be put off by this so much if my name was jehosiphat, or zecharia, or else if there were an overwhelming number of Jesse's with their names spelled in these different ways instead of the canonical J-E-S-S-E.

I, however, have always believed that this spelling is the most prevalent spelling. By a magnitude or so in fact. I so infrequently meet other Jesse's, so I've never been able to put my theory to the test.. until now.

I realized I can ask Google how to spell my name. :) I use it to check the spelling of other sundry words.. including and espescially well known but hard to spell names.. surely it will know what is the most popular spelling, and to what degree. So, I just searched for each variant and interpreted the "number of pages found" value as an authorative example of how prevalan each spelling is. Here are the results:

Jesse:4,800,000
Jessie:1,750,000
Jesi:376,000
Jessy:264,000
Jessi:256,000
Jessee:74,700

This seems to correlate precicely with how common I feel each of these spellings are. Now, if you modify "Jesse" to have a value of 100,000 instead of 4.8 million, then that shows you how frequently my name gets (mis)-spelled by the common person. EG, the only misspelling that happens less frequently than a correct spelling is jessee, which is of course just silly. :)

In other news, it is entirely appropriate to shorten my name to "Jess" in informal situations (not much shorter to write, but half the syllables) and Google gives that spelling 1.5 million hits, more than any of the misspellings except for the all too virulent "Jessie".

I suppose it doesn't help to have a name also used by some number of girls in various spellings, and even less popular than it's feminine form "Jessica" (8.4 million hits on Google).. but my name was here first gol darn it, go get your own name(s). :)

Posted by jesse at 11:51 AM | Comments (0)

September 20, 2004

Let's play 20 questions

So apparently there is a website that can play twenty questions with you, and it is pretty good at it. They have also made a handheld version. What will they think of next?

Posted by jesse at 09:00 PM | Comments (2)

AlbinoBlacksheep

Yeah, I'm sorry for posting about two flash's from albinoblacksheep in a row, but this one is pretty funny. :) I mean you have to wait for it for awhile (quite a little while) for it to start getting into a groove, but it ruled. :)

Posted by jesse at 12:26 AM | Comments (3)

September 17, 2004

Yay! I get to blog about some narcotic game before Jake does!

It's called Squares. It is oddly balletic but gets frustrating after awhile.

Mangia!

Posted by jesse at 09:16 PM | Comments (3)

Innocence

Ghost in the Shell II comes out tommorrow. (technically, it's 2am, so today). It does not appear that it will be in Bend, but does appear to be released in most places. I'm sad I won't be able to see it on a screen of biggness. Ah well, at least I can go watch Hero or something.

Here is a review from some guy at Wired for the film. Here is an E! Online review.

Here is the film's website (or, if you can read it, the japanese origional)

Everyone's seen the regular trailer for this (though the very high res one one looked pretty rad I think) I prefer the longer japanese trailer which, if nothing else, proves that the anime industry is very, very sorry for butchering our language so poorly in 1990's anime theme songs (so badly that even South Park riffed on it with the musical genius of "Let's Fighting Love") and that they have come a very, very long way since.

Posted by jesse at 02:49 AM | Comments (0)

September 14, 2004

View a JPG, get pwned.

US-CERT Cyber Security Alert SA04-258A

Overview: A buffer overflow vulnerability in the Microsoft Windows GDI+ JPEG parsing component could allow a remote attacker to execute arbitrary code on a vulnerable system.

This affects all windows operating systems XP and above, including some backpatched older OS'. Affected products include Microsoft Office, Visio, Project, Word, Excell, Internet Explorer, and a plethora of third party applications who use the GDI+ graphic interface. (and who doesn't?)

Microsoft has apparently issued a security bulletin with this patch: MS04-028.

Thanks to Barney for the head's up.

A few years back there was a Zlib vulnerability which led to a similar problem with the PNG file format, but that is because the format was very young at the time.. and far from braod acceptance. JPG is the mainstay of the web and the format dates back to 1990.. AND the format is NOT at fault in this vulnerability. It is microsoft's very skillfully crafted displaying apparatus.

This is the online analogue of getting E-coli from rubbing alcohol. There is now actually no file format (except perhaps for a short time TXT) that can be safely opened on an unpatched Microsoft Windows machine. May this travesty of a corporation BURN IN HELL.

Thank you.

Posted by jesse at 05:53 PM | Comments (0)

Voting machines printing receipts

In Wired's artcle Wired News: Nevada's Seamless E-Vote, right in the first sentence it calls the machines "ATM-like" and yet everyone seems worried that it is impossible to make these machines reliable. "Printers are too expensive" they say. "Printers complicate things and poll workers won't know how to use them".

To which of course I ask: for real, how are these machines different than ATM's? I've seriously never seen an ATM "glitch". ATM's print receipts and those seem to work ok. If I can deposit $200 in an envelope, part cash part checks, and that $200 appears in my account statement online 3 seconds later, you'd think these clowns could make a voting machine. Instead, all we hear are "whoops, it didn't record any votes for the last half hour". "Woops, somebody browsed to our website to download a demo, edited the url to get rid of the filename, and saw a directory listing including all of the plaintext files containing everyone's voting records". "Woops, that same folder is in our public FTP space and people could upload their own BS, including modifying people's voting records on the spot".

I've never seen an atm "forget" my deposit. I've never known a bank to leave my bank account records in a ridiculously readable/writable FTP folder. So why should the one be so much harder than the other?

Why should it be impossible to train poll workers on how to maintain a receipt printer? Safeway trains minimum wage teenagers to maintain those can return machines outside. Fred Meyers and Wal-mart train minimum wage (or less?) employees to administrate 4 self-serv checkout lanes at a time.

And then of course I loved this gem, in regards to having the paper trail: "In a small precinct, it would be easy to sit and observe what order people voted in."

Everything else aside (the ballot has been all-paper for centuries now, etc) I can't see why they don't print bar codes instead of plaintext results. accompany the bar codes with numbers in case the bars get smudged. If anything that would also dramatically speed up any recount attempts. And if you can't train a poll worker to maintain a receipt printer (we had 3 of them at McDonalds when I worked there) you can't expect them to know how to decode barcodes in their heads.

Posted by jesse at 01:18 PM | Comments (3)

September 13, 2004

Silmarillion

Man, when The Return of the King Extended Edition comes out in November, I am sooo getting the whole extended trilogy and selling off my two theatrical editions. :) Chris Merydith tells me not to, but I drinks it. I mean, I don't think there's any advantage to having the theatrical disks when you have the extended disks. :)

So I wonder to what depth my readers know about Tolkein's The Lord of the Rings? Have you watched the movies? The Extended Editions (before they got hacked to bits into Theatrical Editions)? Have you read the books? Have you read The Hobbit? The Silmarillion? Does it mean anything to you if I say things like "Luthien Tinuviel" or "Numenor"? Does anyone remember when Galadriel took up the oath of Feanor and took part in the Kinslaying, before the Sun and the Moon had a place in the sky, and before the birth of Man?

I just wonder about these sorts of things. I have no faith in my fellowman so I'm forced to believe that most people just think to themselves "Yaaay, Frodo is short!" and wait for Spiderman 3 to come out.

Posted by jesse at 12:02 PM | Comments (3)

September 12, 2004

Where'd all the XML go?

Was anyone developing websites around the turn of the century, who recalls all the furvor over XML? with WML it could put content on your cell phones, your PDA's, with SVG it could put interactive vector content on your web pages. It's one format that any parser can read and write, friendly with all languages and character encodings, it can be parsed lightning fast with the beautiful Expat engine, so that applications can forever be seperated from presentation. So that data can be stored, transfered, and then presented in a fashion that is always easy to manipulate, and always has room for expansion.

So this weekend I had the time to try to work on a project I've been gunning at since 2001; making an XML driven templating engine.

I put together a prototype in PERL that employed selective SAX filtering (one filter multiplexing to other filters). My Parser is Expat. I'm using SAX2, subclassing off of XML::SAX::base, I've got all my i's dotted and my T's crossed. I'm using probably 10 lines of dead simple code that actually accomplishes anything 1 SAX filter that looks for tags to decide what other SAX filter to pass things to, while the other puts parenthesis around text. My test xml file weighs 4 kilobytes, and is <P>Hello <B>world</B></P> repeated a lot.

Processing the file takes over one second.
Processing a 40k file also takes 10 seconds, so I know this is not the overhead of loading up the libraries or initializing memory structures. My project involves a daemon that does all of this, so I would be leaping for joy if it took ten minutes to load the libraries, so long as it could process the data at more than a hundred kilobytes per second on a standard 1Ghz machine. But no, I am using dead simple XML::SAX on an unloaded machine and it is processing data slower than a 33.6 modem.

I can't see much documentation about the matter, but is that why XML page delivery was such hot shit two or three years ago, and nobody talks about it anymore, and to this day people are still molesting XML with regular expressions?

Posted by jesse at 04:17 PM | Comments (2)

September 11, 2004

"Monk" Boots Bitty

Up until midway through this season, Golden Globe nominee Bitty Schram played Sharona Fleming on the hit TV series 'Monk'.
An article on E! Online which did a little more reporting past the AP feed lets us in on the scoop that it was apparently caused by a salary dispute. Other golden cast members Ted Levine and Jason Gray-Stanford (the two cops) apparently also tried to negotiate a higher salary, and the studio's response was to run one episode without all three of them.. and then to excommunicate Bitty.

Well, that's one fewer channel for me to keep track of when I turn on the Telly. I just hope she lands on her feet and reappears on.. er.. what else do I watch? Animal Planet? Cartoon Network? Spike? I'll see about getting her a cameo on Homestar Runner or something then. :)

Posted by jesse at 01:25 AM | Comments (4)

September 10, 2004

Rubik's Magic Links

In addition to the Rubik's Cube, I've always liked the Rubik's Magic Links thingy. I don't know if Ernesto Rubik is responsible for this design as well, but it does share a very important trait with the cube: magic hinges.

Both the cube and this puzzle toy are capable of fluid deterministic motion along hinges which are mutable.. eg, the hinges can move, or change, or in the right circumstances unhinge completely. The object you were hinged to a second ago is nowhere near you now. I find it very amazing.

Here is my Rubik's Magic Links toy:

As you can see, it starts as a 2x4 rectangle of smaller squares, hinged together along the sides. You can fold up the rectangle almost like a peice of paper, or perferated stiff cardboard. It starts with an illustration of three unlinked rings on one side.. and gibberish on the other.

Here I am starting to fold the thing lengthwise:

When I fold it all the way it lies folded, which doesn't look interesting enough to photograph. But I can pull up on one side and it will prop up..... as a ring of squares?!

There are an infinitude of ways you can fold the thing. Your initial goal is to "link the rings", aka fold it until you get this shape and illustration.

Needless to say, these linked rings arise out of the gibberish that started out on the back-side ;) The squares can rehinge themselves in fairly astonishing ways, but the images on them behave normally.

To see some more pictures of the object being folded up in the most outlandish ways imaginable (worth a look if you've never seen this thing before, not kidding!) I've collected a bunch of other photos in a *gallery*, including a series of photos which can step you through a tricky bit in arriving at the initial solution also explained in the link I made at the beginning of this post. I say "initial" because once you've figured that out pedestrian puzzle, you begin to amuse yourself by seeing what forms of heresy you can fold this into. It really is quite astounding :)

Posted by jesse at 01:28 AM | Comments (0)

September 08, 2004

Slides Rule

So I just came across an article on Wired that talks about the history of Slide Rules, and about the hanger-onners who still collect them, use them, and geek out over the entire concept.

What an amazing coincidence :)

Here is my slide rule collection:

The small white one and medium sized yellow ones I got from my childhood neighbor Garth Steltonpohl. The yellow one is a picket, and only one step down in class from the large white one, which I got from my uncle David (who also gave me an 8088 that he bought in 1984 for upwards of $4000). And then there is the peice of resistance, the small round slide rule, given to me by Lauren Rasmussen. All of these artifacts were actually used by their previous owners in previous professions where they all worked in electrical engineering or architecture.

Here is a closeup of the large white slide and it's instruction manual:

This slide rule has extra scales which allow it to do exponentiation and some other ridiculously crazy things. I used to be able to read these blasted manuals :)

Here is a closeup on the round slide and it's impossibly rad insert:

I only show one side of the insert, but this tiny 3x4" card is packed with literally every scientific, geometric, measure conversion, or chemistry formula I've ever even vaguely heard about. You can see them in the blowup, the opposite side has eight conversion tables and a copy of the greek alphabet.

And get what's on the back:

A full featured, highly detailed periodic table. That thing happens to be the most potently scientific object of non-electronic persuation I've ever laid eyes on. You'll notice a crack along the bottom and the hairline slider tip is broken off because I used to carry it around in my pocket everywhere I went in eighth grade.

My stand is that, in an age where we nearly run down the batteries doing remote firmware installs on a martian rover and JPL can't tell feet from meters and loses two martian probes, it is interesting to remember how slide rules built the golden gate bridge, statue of liberty, and guided apollo 13 safely home.

Posted by jesse at 11:54 PM | Comments (2)

September 06, 2004

Labor Dabor

We had a pleasant Labor Day weekend. :)

The family and I took a drive down to Portland, caught a laser light show, hotel'd, and then drove down to eugene on Sunday to meet up with Darla's high school buddy before she shipped off with the Navy.

She wasn't there, so entire trip down the willamate valley wasted, we drove back home. *shrug*

How was your weekend? :)

Posted by jesse at 09:26 PM | Comments (2)

September 03, 2004

Watership Down

I think Watership Down would make a rad CG movie now that we have the tech under our belts. It would probably be done by 20th century fox/Blue Sky Studios since they've apparently perfected fur like nobody's business. (How come blue sky's not credited in imdb for their work on Garfield? Weren't they involved with that?)

I know there's already an animated movie and a tv series, but I think that more could be done than this for the story. I've only seen the movie myself, and it was awhile back, but I remember it as being underwhelming at best. Almost like something done by Ralph Bakshi.

So what say the lot of ye? Has anyone read the book? I think I tackled it in like 4th grade as part of a literature project or something. I like how the rabbits perceive the ordinary world in such extraordinary ways. They have their own language (oddly enough apparently named after town in Oregon.) and customs, miltary heirarchies, municiple provisions, yet they believe that cars ("hrududil") are a strange form of predator. One rabbit notices that a car will not leave it's roadway in order to "hunt down" a rabbit, and liked to taunt the car by sitting nearby the road. But at night, the dreaded creatures eyes will glow brighter than the sun and put a spell on you to murder you. (eg, the rabbit gets blinded and can't tell where the road is any more, and dashes out into it)

Despite all of this ancestral wisdom and culture, concepts like floating aboard a raft or counting to numbers higher than five totally blow them away, and rabbits capable of such acts of either genius or faith (or both) become unstoppable amongst their kindred. I find this a suitable analog to our own culture, where we believe that we know so much but we are probably misinterpreting more than we realize. Thus those among us with enough genius or faith may be able to walk the pathways of the impossible and do things others may only be able to dream of doing. This, among many reasons, leads me to believe we have CG movie material on our hands.

Posted by jesse at 06:41 PM | Comments (4)

September 02, 2004

Exciting?

No, nothing exciting has happened in the past couple of days. All bedrudgery. I layed out another paper. When I went to pick them up and deliver them to our mailing people, my car sputtered to a halt. Got a new battery. Lots of stepping clients through how to print over the phone, banging my head against the wall that is network solutions (NETSOL), playing a little bit of unreal, listening to a lot of my new CD. Come on fhqwhgads.

Posted by jesse at 08:09 PM | Comments (2)

Strong Bad Sings

So today (technically Tuesday ;) Darla got me the Strong Bad Sings CD. Yeah it r00lez :) Oddly enough the weakest songs are the ones advertised in that 2001 parody ad. It must have been difficult for them to make those into real songs. I mean, like, come on: "Somebody told me, that you were so stupid, but I didn't believe them (but now I believe them)"? They tried to mix it as some kind of a country dance song for crying out loud.

"Let's get started doing all those awesome things I suggested" was pretty rad though.. except of course that it never got started. (scratching head?)

"These peoples try to fade me" had it's high points and it's low points. Not nearly as fun to listen to nor to watch (they have a music video for it hidden on the data side of the CD) as "hip hop dance", which is on the site as the second half of the cheat-powered video "New Boots". These are both credited as singles from the album "The Z is all up ins" but I have yet to see that in stores anywhere.

Also featured are songs by What's her face, Marzipan, Taranchula, LimoZeen, and The Kind of Long-Haired Band.

LimoZeen's 'Midnight' ruled indefinately, but their 'NITE MAMAS' actually sucked really bad. Taranchula definitely rules, they kind of sound like Metalica. KLHB sounds an awful lot like Blue Rodeo, and I don't care what Strong Bad whines about they rule. "Hey, is this song really in G?"

This is all of course before they made friends with TMBG, so I am also looking forward to their next offering. :) Limozeen still has "It's tough being a box" to release.

Posted by jesse at 01:08 AM | Comments (2)