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A Modern Day Tower of "Babel"
Posted by Gerrit at 2007-10-24 21:57:24

Watching Babel with Sam (SPOILER ALERT, SAM!  DON'T READ IF YOU DON'T WANT TO KNOW THE ENDING!), I thought to myself:

"What a clever directorial touch, a movie about people speaking different languages that does not have subtitles.1  What a brilliant idea!  Just like a modern day tower of Babel, both the characters and the audience are only able to understand a quarter of the scenes.  As an English speaker, the only scenes I'll be able to understand are those of the talented Brad Pitt and the intriguing Cate Blanchett!  Yet I can watch the brilliant Gael García Bernaz in a language I do not understand.  And it's still so richly told, you can decipher the whole story simply through their body language!"

Once I figured out how to turn the subtitles on, it was actually a hackneyed, stale movie.  Better than Syriana, worse than Traffic.

This is also a problem I had with VHS.  My friend Anna and I were trying to watch the Godfather, so we grabbed a tape2 from the library.  I thought it intriguing that all the main characters, including the legendary Marlon Brando, were murdered in the first fifteen minutes (NO SPOILER ALERT!  I certainly didn't get one.  Plus you should all know the ending to Godfather by now.)

1 Babel is supposed to contain subtitles, if you operate the DVD correctly

2 The Godfather is two tapes

Permalink | 2 Comments | 2,000 points

Filed Under: technology, idiots
On Net Neutrality
Posted by Gerrit at 2007-10-30 21:55:57

Every time I'm surfing the net for more information on Guitar Hero III or Craiglist's missed connections or something, I inadvertently see sites asking me to "Support Net Neutrality."  Since it seems to be such a big deal on the intertubes, I decided to try to understand the issue.

Whoops!  It turns out, no human being could understand it.  I'm tech-savvy, and it's still complete gibberish.  Look at this... who could honestly get worked up over this:

"At the IP layer, differentiated services code point (DSCP) markings use the first 6 bits in the TOS field of the IP packet header. At the MAC layer, VLAN IEEE 802.1q and IEEE 802.1D can be used to carry essentially the same information."

Ummm... I'm for this?  Against this?  My eyes go bleary, and so I cruise back to the Guitar Hero III tracklist.  I mean seriously, Story of My Life, School's Out, Sunshine of Your Love, Sabotage, Suck My Kiss...

But I'm supposed to be writing about net neutrality.  It seems like there's a couple of basic principles at stake.  Like free speech.  Both sides are claiming free speech.  Rockers also claim free speech.  Rockers like Slash, who plays you in a boss battle in Guitar Hero.  Also, Welcome to the Jungle is on the game, continuing the tradition of crossing over great songs from GTA.  Raining Blood by Slayer.  Cherub Rock by Smashing Pumpkins.  And don't get me started on Anarchy in the U.K. 

FOCUS!  Is legislating on Net Neutrality a solution in search of a problem, or vice versa?  It strikes me that the saying "information wants to be free" is stupid.  On the other hand, Bulls on Parade by Rage Against the Machine is an amazing song.  Black Magic Woman... quit melting my heart.  And I don't recognize the Stevie Ray Vaughan song, but please Rock n' Roll, fill up my soul like Night Man.

Calm down!  Intern, bring me a block of ice to sit on!  I'm clearly not going to be able to think about net neutrality while I have rock pulsing through my veins.  I'm going to go Rock and Roll All Nite (ALSO ON THE SET LIST!)  I'll postulate more later.

Permalink | 1 Comment | 393 points

Filed Under: technology, digression
You May Have Missed It...
Posted by Gerrit at 2007-11-29 08:52:44

The problem with live2logs is that they have a habit of disappearing the things that was on the main page.  For a real blog, this wouldn't be a problem, as you could just click on the "Previous Page" link.  Fortunately and unfortunately, Ao2 relies on completely home-grown technology.  Since I'm the only geek in the bunch, this means the burden is on me to program in a button that says "Previous Page".  Until I get around to doing this (more complicated than you might think), here's some of the best posts from yesterday which may have disappeared in the live2log:

"Ao2 doesn’t fear change, and certainly not competition.  It’s how we get better.  Think you make video that can rock ours?  Hit us with a link, we’ll post the shit out of it.  Wrote something so pants-crappingly funny the AMA has you on their most wanted list?  Bust that shit out."


Permalink | 7 Comments | -94,369 points

Filed Under: links, tech
2log 2.0
Posted by Gerrit at 2007-12-05 11:39:49

The work never ends.  Comments are on my shortlist for technical improvements to the 2log:

  • Easier formatting of comments
  • Delete/edit your comments
  • Preview a comment before posting
  • Adding comment history to the RSS feed (speaking of which... if you're not using Google Reader, you really should)

Readers/commenters... any other suggestions for the long-term?  Do you want the ability to create accounts... for to keep a record of the points you've made, attach a profile picture to your comments, and the like?  A not safe for work section to encourage more inappropriate posting?  A button that sends you a free jar of ice cream?

Sky's the limit, people... tell me how I can improve the Ao2 site for everybody.

Permalink | 6 Comments | 2,000,056 points

Filed Under: Ao2 backstage, tech
Bad Santa
Posted by Gerrit at 2007-12-05 18:01:23

Microsoft came out with an online Santa featuring artificial intelligence.  The idea is that kids could talk with Santa, and he would learn over time.

Well, gee.  What do anonymous critters on the internet talk about?  In no time flat, Santa's filters had been poisoned:

Santa: It's fun to talk about oral sex, but I want to chat about something else...
Teen: You dirty bastard!
Santa: I think you're the dirty bastard

Full story here

Permalink | 5 Comments | -932 points

Filed Under: animal nature, cunning linguistics, male sexuality, tech
Don't Ask, Don't Sell
Posted by Gerrit at 2007-12-11 13:00:50

My retirement... probably a good career move.In a misguided attempt to compete with Google on privacy, is adding a service to erase people's private search data.

Looking at technical logistics, their system for keeping people's private search history confidential is the world's most foolproof system:

  1. Nobody has ever actually run a search on
  2. Therefore, there's no private data that could ever be abused.
  3. [Lack of] Profit!

Permalink | 5 Comments | 1,278.21 points

Filed Under: tech, google
Kindle-ing for the Fire
Posted by Gerrit at 2007-12-14 12:18:11

Between alien invasions and hobo wine, Sam's got most of the X-mas wish list covered.  Since he's half Jewish, however, he should only expect to receive half of the items he asks for.

There's a notable and tactical omission, however.'s terrible Kindle.  Our enemies at have a mildly grin-inducing fake ad.  Core 77 had a design contest to come up with a better Kindle.  It wasn't hard.  Despite Newsweek's puff piece, the Kindle didn't seem to spark any fires.

But the other morning on the subway, between spurts of blood, I saw it.  I decided I need it.  Yet I don't want it.  In fact, I would reject it outright if I somehow came across one.  Other than the e-ink, it's so badly designed, it would actually anger me to own it.  If other people didn't beat me up, I would beat myself up.  It is one of the clunkiest and worst pieces of technology I have ever seen.  It looks less sophisticated than the Apple IIe, which was released a quarter century ago.

But after this crappy first draft, I know they'll release a good second version.  I don't think I'll be able to resist at that point.  I could finally get myself a subscription to the Wall Street Journal and New York Times and be able to read it every morning on the subway.  I wouldn't need to bring a huge backpack on the plane with me every time I fly.  I could make enough room in my man-purse to carry around a loaded gun.  Conceptually, it's more exciting to me than an iPhone.

If Apple had made it, it would be amazing and I'd probably skip buying X-mas presents for other people to buy one right now.  So my pocketbook and my friends owe Amazon a thank you for making a must-have item so frightfully bad that I'm able to resist.

Permalink | 0 Comments | 0 points

Filed Under: tech, literature
Cause Knol is Power!
Posted by Gerrit at 2007-12-14 14:20:42

A lot of buzz around the blogs about Google's new Wikipedia killer called Knol.  Google is peeved that Google searches just go straight to Wikipedia pages, because Google doesn't get any cheddar from serving ads on Wikipedia pages.  So they're coming up with their own Wikipedia that they can push to people when they run Google searches.

It's vaguely like Squidoo, in that it gives editors ownership of their "knol" and a financial incentive to get people looking at it.  It also contains Google's favorite trick with Adsense: getting people to compete against each other.  As many people who like can write a knol for any given topic, but the only way to rake in cash is to be the king of the hill.

I think this story has two interesting angles.  The first is Google stock.  I've got a lengthier post on Google stock back in the woodshed, so I don't want to go too much in depth on this subject.  The idea is certainly a financial winner for Google, since it's a solid analytic play.  But people around the web are lashing back.  Over at TechCrunch, they're running a poll entitled "Did Google Go Too Far?" in which a slim majority say "yes."  A sign of shifting waters for "Do No Evil" Google.  Can Google afford to piss people off?  Easily.  But much of its company is organized around paying people less in exchange for stock options.  If a Google backlash manifested itself in the form of a minor stock crash, Google could find the rug swiftly yanked under their feet.

I don't begrudge Google for this latest move.  Instead, it raises the more interesting question "Why has Wikipedia had its head in the sand?"  Jimmy Wales is allowing one of the greatest web innovations since Google to simply slip through his fingers.  A site with so much credibility and page views could have easily monetized itself and turned into an industry giant like Google and Yahoo before it.  Instead he just asked people for donations.  Not a great business model, and it's relatively unsurprising that Wikipedia may soon find other companies doing an end run around it.

Fortunately, as the giants on the web are busy slugging it out, you can trust Ao2 to remain unassuming, unaligned, and unread.

Permalink | 5 Comments | 506 points

Filed Under: google, tech, $$$
**** ***!
Posted by Gerrit at 2008-03-10 11:29:54

I'm not generally one to scream negativity, but it's hopeless!!!!!!!!!

I have exactly 35,000 accounts with various online sites.  Years ago, computer geeks said to never use any kind of stored password system, because it presented a security risk.  So I started storing my passwords in my web browser.  Problem solved?

No!  In the past five years, I've used two different home computers and five different work computers.  If I "store" the password to one computer someplace, there's only a 14% chance I'll be on the right computer when I need it.

So a while back I tried to move to a standard password.  One password for everything.  It had numbers, letters, foreign letters, punctuation marks, letters of marque, imaginary numbers, upper cases, lower cases, middle cases... case closed?  Well, it turns out there's no password that can fit every site's best practices.  Some sites don't allow punctuation, some sites require punctuation.

So I changed my default password.  Eventually I realized that I'd occasionally have to give this password away to people.  So I changed it again.  I came up with different tiers of passwords depending on how private the data was.  I came up with ways of customizing the password to each individual site, so that even if I gave the password to one site away, nobody would be able to figure out the password to other sites.  So now, when I sit down to enter the password to any given site, I have a very simple system:

  1. Guess how long ago I registered for this site and which password might have been in vogue at this stage of my development.
  2. Check the site's security policies, to see which combo of capitals and numbers I may have concocted to stay in compliance.
  3. Try to figure out what the heck variation I would apply to any given site to guarantee I'd never forget.
  4. Guess my username.
  5. Get an error message saying I've had too many failed login attempts.
  6. Try to get them to email my password to me, so I won't have this problem when I log in tomorrow.  This means guessing which of my dozens of email addresses I used to sign up for the site.
  7. Try to figure out what my favorite food or movie was at the time I signed up.
  8. Cry.

If I ever get this right, I'll need to find a way to do this and then also change my passwords monthly.  But I have a better idea.  From now on, my password to everything is "p4ssw0rd."

Permalink | 0 Comments | 0 points

Filed Under: technology
You're on Notice,
Posted by Gerrit at 2008-03-17 18:51:58

Apologies to anybody who's comments are being delayed.  We've recently been hit with an onslaught of the most literate spam attacks.  For example:

  • Therefore, is to pay them for buying.  It is in this manner that very great.  The French kings of hte Merovinginan race had all...
  • Produce of land which draws the fish from the waters and it is the produce as we are assured by an excellent authority, that of Sir Matthew...
  • Years before the first Punic war (Pliny, lib, xxxiii. cap 3), when a great empire, the feedmn of the inland trade appears, both...

It comes from masked ips, but seems to have its source at IP address  If anybody happens to know this jerk, please punch him/her squarely in the jaw.

In the meantime, I've had to set the homemade spam filter to the most restrictive level possible.  In the meantime, some of your comments may accidentally be getting thrown into quarantine.  They should be released pretty quickly.

Permalink | 2 Comments | 0 points

Filed Under: technology

The next contest ends in:
2015-04-24 16:00:00 GMT-06:00
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October 2007
  • A Modern Day Tower of "Babel"
  • On Net Neutrality
    November 2007
  • You May Have Missed It...
    December 2007
  • 2log 2.0
  • Bad Santa
  • Don't Ask, Don't Sell
  • Kindle-ing for the Fire
  • Cause Knol is Power!

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