Hell is a Phone Network

17.03.00 - Mark

I'm traveling this weekend and I would really, really like to have tripping the rift on DVD while I'm on it. Sure I've got some nerdtv and DrunkenBlog's EAA video to watch, but those only go so far.

Unfortunately best buy is a wretched corporation whose idea of a good joke/business model is to get disgruntled customers to to do the work of disgruntled employees. Who needs to outsource to india when you've got plenty of customers pissed off enough to work just to get their products?!?!

I know my item is on "backorder" (a fancy term for "we'll ship it when you'll pay full price for it" or "We're screwing you over by not honoring the price we advertised and accepted billing information for") but oddly every store in the area has a copy. A nice new, shiny, glistening shrinkwrapped copy at its physical location. How do I know this? Well first it says so on the website - right there under local pickup, secondly the minimum wage college drop out I called at the store (who BTW isn't in on this scheme) told me they had a freaking copy in the store. So why then, do you idiots at the phone bank spew bullshit about "sir, there are no copies at the stores in your area." and offer the useless advice of "call the store's inventory department and have them update theier database"?


I am the customer. Notice me giving you money, not taking it. Under NO CIRCUMSTANCES should I have to call a fucking inventory department at one of YOUR stores! None. Hell I should have to place 4 separate phone calls to you half assed organization.

I might be a devil, but you made the bad deal, at least live up to it.

I think I need to get irate with a phone farm managerial goon at Worst Buy.


(after thought, its slightly ironic that I want to pick this up before going to a screening of Walmart, the High Cost of Low Prices)

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19.08.00 - Mark

So long blogspot! Thanks for all the free hosting.

Thats right, after months of threatening, I am finally moving off of blogspot and onto my own paid servers at the domain I have been trying, rather unsuccessfully, to promote, Markw.us. Blogger does not make moving off of blogspot let alone Blogger simple, so for now I will continue using Blogger for updates after the move, but hopefully that will change by the end of the year as well. At the very least I'll make a change over next year when I should be able to write it off as a class assignment. (crosses fingers) Anyways I'm setting up some redirect scripts to get you form blogspot to markw.us, and if I can figure out how, try and get you to the right post (assuming all goes well in the move)

Its a shame that its nearly impossible to move, but its something I've known I'd need to do for a while. So, update your bookmarks/memory/feed (if you aren't using the feedburner feed, which I'll try and move over shortly) and I'll try to make this thing work.

If not expect a miserable and explosive failure peaking as a violent and expletive filled rant in an hour or two.

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Obsure Economic Metrics

18.15.00 - Mark

FARK has noted that copper is an obscure economic metric. The article they link to notes that it is more accurate economic measure than gold. Which reminded me of a post I wrote in May where I did the math on how much the pennies in your pocket are really worth. Newer coins are pretty much worthless as anything other than currency (materials are worth .4 cents), but older pennies were getting close to being worth as much as their raw materials.

After reading the article and looking back on the post, I looked up the current copper prices. Right now, all those pre '82 pennies are worth about 1.1 cents on the metals market. Too bad that after processing the metal it wouldn't be worth enough to make it profitable, at least, not yet...

Fun wikipedia articles for this post:
Gold Standard

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01.06.00 - Mark

I was just looking over my basic sitemeter traffic reports, and noticed I just passed 50,000 page views. I searched though my archives to pull some numbers, and it took me 26 months (10/6/2002 to 12/6/2004) to get to 25,000 page views and another month to get to 10,000 visitors.

The second 25,000 visits took about 23 weeks and I'll pass 20,000 visitors sometime early next week.

Not bad.

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Stupid is...

20.36.00 - Mark

Stupid is standardized email address naming schemes.
Stupid is a public address book with 3176 listings of standardized email addresses.
Stupid is attaching 3176 real names to those email addresses.
Stupid is making those 3176 listings quickly and easily downloadable and converted into a bulk mailing friendly format.
Stupid is giving those 3176 email addresses a shared default password every four months.
Stupid is assuming that you're going to get 3176 people to change the password on an account many of those 3176 people don't realize they have.
Stupid is not realizing what makes the above facts stupid.

Stupid is... is a follow up to a post I made a few weeks ago called Stupid Security Practices

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20.00.00 - Mark

A few day ago I linked in passing to a blogspot blog that's quickly become the core of a student protest in planning at the community college I'm attending. Its only been around for about 2 weeks but its already collected 100+ comments and based on the few links floating back to me and my experiences with the hyper-paranoid administration, a good deal of traffic. Now its really starting to get some attention. The local (and mostly inept) newspaper has taken notice of the situation (due in part because of the blogs existence) and is starting to probe around with a reporter (who didn't care to send traffic to the blog).

Wednesday the Student Government Association voted to launch a committee to look into some of the claims and will come back in a few weeks to see about moving this up the chain. The SGA also decided to investigate relaunching a school newspaper/newsletter, again due in part to the buzz generated by the anonymous blog.

I'm a much different demographic than those involved most with this. I'm tech savvy and have been blogging for a couple years, and maintained a web presence for longer than that.

However its pretty neat that students at a community college serving an area that for decades was (and still wishes it was) based in textiles and tobacco managed to start change though a fairly disorganized, distrustful, and mostly anonymous blog (some comments criticize that point).

Now that there's some more formal structure and coverage, I expect more to be done, but its neat that in an area you would least expect it, blogs are being used to turn things around.

I'm hoping, and will probably be emailing some of the people working on the committee and with the people starting the newspaper, to try and convince them to stay online with blogs and online tools. I doubt this area is enlightened enough, and tech savvy enough to follow the path Greensboro, Raleigh-Durham, Chapel Hill, and Charlotte are blazing, but maybe there's some hope.

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Least Expected Weapons Research Group

16.30.00 - Mark

"Alaska Eskimo Whaling Commission's Weapons Improvement Program" from an article on its advancements in humane whaling methods. Note to self - don't piss off the eskimos.

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Keep the magic smoke in

15.04.00 - Mark

User Friendly Comic for Nov 10th

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18.36.00 - Mark

About a week ago I ordered a pair of Griffin Technology EarJams for something like $10 shipped, I got them the other day so I've been giving them a work out. I'm not a $500 for 1 AV cable audio nut, but a pair of earjams on top of my iPod earbuds made a noticeable difference. They are slightly more comfortable than the naked earbuds, and the volume is louder, and I can hear things I normally don't, but anymore than $10 and I would probably feel ripped off. However, I think I might understand why people pay $100+ for real canal-phones. In a month or two, I might be getting real canal-phones (not the custom molded $200 things tho', maybe a decent pair around $70)

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I'm afraid, I am very, very afraid

19.56.00 - Mark

I don't trust the dweebs at radio shack to know how to use the windows wares and cell phones they currently hoc, but they're now an Apple Authorized Retailer? Reminds me of back when Sears and Best Buys were trying (miserably) to sell Macs in the 90's.

I know there are more than a few differences between now and then, like the fact Apple has clean product lines that stand on their own, and iPods don't even need salesmen, but Radio Shack? Every Radio Shack employee I've known has had the customer relation abilities of a rattlesnake and technical knowledge on par with a chimp's.

Maybe they'll just stick to stocking iPods.

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Blogs to Read

17.52.00 - Mark

Graduate from the Electoral College. I was talking about how borked the electoral college is in our modern society, before and after the '04 election. However, he does it much, much better than I can. Lot more research too with links to comments by politicians and PACs, analysis of various solutions, and a good look into how the votes are split up among states. Combine this with some of the stuff I discussed with CommonCensus and we may yet again have a working political system in the USA.

Forever Geek a blogger recycling a lot of content from other sites like engadget and MAKE, but I like multi-layer filtering. It helps keep me from missing things I really like.

Writer's Block Live This guy is treating his blog like a wiki, which plays some havoc with my news reader, but it also makes it pretty cool. The content, which is pretty focused on his experiences as an Apple employee a few years ago, is supposed to evolve into a book (hence the name) so while it is non-linear nearly to the point of confusing, its a good read on several levels.

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Err, Whatever

13.03.00 - Mark

I'm getting pretty bad about checking my feeds on a timely basis (I've got another 2100 sitting in NNW now) but Grokster made some deal with someone about something involving those obscure copyright-wingish things.

I used to give a damn about how many people the RIAA/MPAA was suing that day but you know. I could care less at this point. The little music I really enjoy I've either already digitized, get from artists who release under Creative Commons licenses, or by from not a big name label groups usually found though podcasts. There are a a few exceptions, an occasional classic rock song I don't have already or a full CD like Verve Remixes (unlike most of the RIAA approved content, they aren't dreak) but over all I stopped caring about what type of anti-american activities they're up to.

Blessed internet.

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11.28.00 - Mark

Its never a good thing then it seems like a class is (or might as well be) taught by a duck. Supposedly my teacher is qualified to teach Flash, but what should be a simple question took 15 minutes to solve and even then, the "qualified" individual didn't solve it, they gave up. So I ended up solving it. I hate flash, more so when obnoxious sounds are involved (currently, they are). (That would be signifiantly unqualified)

So something's wrong with that equation.

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Mmmm mmm code

12.52.00 - Mark

This has been a code week for me. Sometimes I just hit my stride and know what I want to produce then code it up. Today I've been messing around with a blogger template idea, and while its not really for me, its reminded me that coding for blogger isn't that complicated. So maybe if I don't have some other project pop up I'll get back to my own redesign, especially since my latest creation got me thinking about a few tricks that should work a lot better than where I was headed in my last attempt at recoding the blog a few weeks ago.

What I should do though is try and theme for wordpress or possibly ignore the existing systems and go back to my own blogging system, because as I've pointed out before, blogger isn't meeting my needs, and well programming, like the designing is fun.

Anyways, I've been at it since this afternoon and my body is telling me I'm done.

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Pounding Ground

20.16.00 - Mark

It seems like every time I go camping, I come back wanting to write about it. To me there's nothing like getting out into the world, hopefully away from the connectivity hot zones and power outlets that I usually inundate myself with. When I started camping though Boy Scouts years ago, I was the guy that took out a tent or two, a sleeping bag, sleeping pads, a hammock, a lounge chair, a folding reclining chair, a couple folding stools, the coolers, the tarps, rope, two backpacks, flashlights out the wazoo, more pots and pans than the average small kitchen, etc. I'm sure my geeky nature shows in that, but more recently I've picked up a zen like camping style. On the camping trip I took up to Raven Knob a week ago I had a tent (I didn't end up using but always pack just in case), a sleeping pad (again not used, but always pack), a sleeping bag, a backpack with cloths for the weekend, a couple Nalgene water bottles, a mess kit, some trail mix, my cameras and a phone. Not a whole lot.

I didn't have to worry about food myself since it was a group trip, but aside from food I still wouldn't have taken much more.

To me there's a zen to camping, the idea is to get away from the information overload and stresses of everyday life. I know I have 48 some hours of podcasts, hours of video to chew though and a pile of books to read, and yes if I wanted I could take them with me, but I'm not going to take them. In daily life I would feel guilty if I idle around, but last week I did just slightly more than nothing and didn't feel the least bit bad about it.

What's odd is, that although I count my self among the digerati, I turned off all of technology I had with me, at least other than my cameras. I left my ipod in the car, the cell phone was turned off, the GPS was in my pack unused. I even had my laptop in the trunk of the car (because I forgot to leave it at home) and I wasn't the least bit tempted to turn it on. Yet I saw half a dozen pod people, not to mention people concerned with cellphones, a GPS device, radios or some other form of an electronic tether. I've even known people to bring personal video devices and TVs to camp with which combined with the gear some of those people bring, almost entirely defeats the purpose of camping. I can't think of something more ironic, or disheartening, than a camper yelling "Hey what's on Survivor over there" (Yes, I have heard this said while camping)

So I'm back to less is more. As long as I'm warm at night and can eat during the day, I'm fine. In the end that's all you really need, and when you strip away all the technology and communications to get back to mankind's pre-tech roots, it reminds you of how little you really need.

Camping really does wonders for the soul. (and hopefully next time, it won't take me a week to write up my experiances.)

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21.00.00 - Mark

CommonCensus is a really neat project, and is yet another example of where I need to do more than just talk about my ideas.

The concept is that states and other political territories are very, very bad at truly representing what people in a region actually want. I personally identify with more northern and urban areas like Chicago but end up living in the middle of no where in particular where they want to kill all overseas production and will instigate riots if you even think of suggesting to place a ban on tobacco products in public spaces. I'm a little extreme since I'm a certified geek, but in a physical sense the same thing occurs. Someone in a South east Iowa might agree more with northern Missouri politics while someone an hour north might better associate with Chicago. Another hour north and off to the west they might be sympathetic to Minnesota policy and thats no minor difference.

If you look at state government there is very little they really regulate. Natural and public resources. fish and wildlife, agriculture, transportation, in some cases a limited influence on schools and other public service agencies (highway police, national guard), but more or less local issues slide down to counties and cities/towns while larger issues and matters of money go up.

Right now with the pretty lines someone started drawing back in the late 1700s aren't working as a political system. Take the few real functions of the state and break those up into geographically similar areas. The concerns of the DOT in the Mountainous portions of North Carolina have a lot more in common with the mountainous regions of Virginia than the costal regions of the state. Its literally the difference between preparing for an ice storm and a hurricane. The other state managed offices, like fish and wild life have similar differences. One might be worried with bears, the other with crabs, so why force an odd couple under the same roof? Its a waste of resources.

With natural resources taken care of that leaves a political mess, how to divide congress? Thats where commoncensus comes back into play. By plotting the community ties in an area you can come up with better districting, and while you'll never get over the Red Vs Blue Syndrome until people start remembering that this is not just a 2 party political system, you can help make sure that representatives in an area are more in tune with the beliefs of their constituents because you end up forcing the federal government to act more like a responsive, local government.

However, it won't take. There's far too much invested to simply drop the old system, and even if there wasn't, such a movement would need to put forth a heroic effort to educate most people about such a system, because unlike the states, its hard to talk about dynamic geopolitical influences

Right now the project is on its forth map, however the next one should be coming out soon (900 more people need to fill out the survey) so head on over to look at the current map and take the poll. While nothing will likely come out of it, in terms of food for thought, this is a nice big juicy steak.

For the politically uninterested there is a sports based sister project.

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Leaves, or Wandering Minds

01.51.00 - Mark

Its November, and since we're having unusually temperate weather it means the leaves are really starting to show their colors (ironically about two weeks after the areas "Autumn Leaves Festival") so since I've had a hacked up CVS one time use disposable camcorder, a marvelous little goodie that only cost me $30 I decided to start shooting some of the trees. Some of the 15 minutes I took was really good, most of it was rancid to a level far beyond just shaky cam. The 1 and a half minutes that were useable have been edited into a 2 and a three forth minute movie clip with some music.

The music is Thoughts, by Phil Cooper which is released under a Creative Commons Attribution Share Alike 2.5 license. Since I'm a good copyfighter the movie is also released under that license

Leaves (17.1MB 320x240 Quicktime Movie)

Creative Commons License

This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 2.5 License.

Forgive the cruddy editing in the second half, after the first 90 seconds got edited I wanted to finish the sucker and publish it. I think it still floats around like my mind when I'm thinking, so I doubt I'll go in to recut it if/when I get some more footage.

However, right now its 2 AM and I have every intention of falling asleep once this is up. If feedburner doesn't catch it and make it an enclosure, that can come later much later, like not 2 in the morning later..

Edit (at not 2 am in the morning): Feed burner made enclosures, of the CC logo. I've shuffled them around and when feedburner updates it should (i hope) make the movie, and not the logo the enclosure.

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I need to go on a media diet

13.34.00 - Mark

I now have 2009 unread news items in Net News Wire

At least 50 of them are unedited posts that blogger spits out in its own spontaneous manner.

I really need to get around to reorganizing my RSS feeds, and removing some of the junky ones, as well as resetting the feed persistence on a few (500 some items are 2 days worth of deal sites, another 500 worth of tech blogs) maybe after I chew though this crop of feeds and whatever interesting stuff I can harvest.

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10.18.00 - Mark

Its being very clearly outlined to me I am being seriously screwed by High School University. I'm internet technology and I'm pretty much the only person in the degree track who is anywhere close to being able to take the capstone corse this spring. (I'm also just about the only person in the track who knows anything about internet technology other than "Ooooh Interweb"). There's one other person who says they're looking at taking it (good person, but I don't know how he is to take a capstone), and maybe one other who is ready for it. I can guartee however, that noone who might be taking the ITN project couse has all of the required classes. I'm looking at a killer load of at least 7 classes. I'm sorry but this degree isn't sleep deprivation / sucide. So 3 people, none of whom will be able to graduate after completing the class. Furthermore they cancel courses with twice as many students. I'm not holding high hopes for being able to move beyond Surry in June 2006.

There are a lot of problems with this school. A lot of problems that no one currently recieving a paycheck from the school is willing to admit or address.

I'm not the only one who recognizes this either.

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Remember Kids, Don't use your Cell Phone During Bomb Threats

20.03.00 - Mark

Note: Dear Police/FBI/Other Agency, I'm not your suspect. Ask the Fed who questioned me a few weeks ago.

Apparently some one claimed they were going to detonate a bomb they had placed within Mount Airy High School at 12:30 today. My brother goes there, and I heard about it by 2:30, partially because he also gets a kick out of the FBI file a few weeks ago but I also just heard about it though one of those annoying automated calling systems which handed me a few more details (and a lot more spin). Now I can't do as much of a threat assessment on the high school since I wasn't there, but I have an idea from when I was there.

Some one though it would be fun to get out of class for the day and left a bomb threat in one of the girls bathrooms. Someone, possibly the same person who wrote it, lets a good school official know about the note. The note quickly gets the attention of the school administration who call 911 and promptly evacuate all the students to a "secure location" by secure location they mean the football field bleachers. For the sake of avoiding another federal interviewer I'll skip the part where I mention how easy it would be to hide a few bombs in plain sight at a football field. Anyways they then sweep the building looking for a bomb and all that other good stuff and come up empty handed. So eventually they let the students come in. I'm not going to judge the management of the situation even tho' I'm a little vague on why they some teachers and staff were included in the sweep. I know some of the people in emergency services and I'm more than willing to trust them, some of the school employees on the other hand...

I doubt there was a real threat to students, as someone a little more concerned with practical security than most. Someone who leaves a note is usually an idiot (hopefully in a week or so, an arrested and publicly embarrassed idiot) who wants to cause a stir then exploit if for personal gain (get out of class for a day or two) or wants commit a mass killing (like 50% + of the student body). The other type isn't announced (Your New York, Madrid, and London Bombings) and can't be stopped.

After I wrote my last piece on Bomb evacuations some people felt I was suggesting that you not evacuate the building. Maybe I was (most buildings are strong and capable of ) but the real point I wanted to get out was if you evacuate do not cluster everyone into a single "secure" area where an attacker can cause the most amount of death with the least amount of effort. Using the cellular structure inherent in schools to distribute students over campus barely looses you anything in ability to communicate and gives you a significant increase in security/safety.

Maybe I need to diagram that concept. Anyways the last inane point of discussion in all this is. When they unleased their phone system the closing statement was to have parents remind students not to make cell phone calls during bomb threats. Huh? I've talked about how throw away cell phones are an easy way to make a remote detonation system so in the capacity not having students make phone calls makes some sense (assuming the bomber is stupid enough to be there when they detonate the bomb) I've heard, and can understand how, a family radio can be used to detonate an IED, which like the cell phones is becoming, if not is now, common practice in war zones. How ever I haven't heard of cell phone radiation (from connection) as being able to detonate anything. I'd love if someone dug up a story (factual only please) of a outgoing call causing some sort of detonation/ignition (like those gas fire stores everyone has heard - the ones that are completely myths) I think the school is actually more concerned with saving face and keeping people, ie media and parents, out of the area.

No I'm not threatening to or suggesting anyone actually blow stuff up, I'm just trying to be a little more security minded when it comes to idiots who get their kicks out of disrupting school for a few hours. I'm looking forwards to what, if anything, my brother writes about the bomb threat (he's already made a few jokes about wheat happens when our family discusses bombs and security)

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