MonthMarch 2004

one-two punch for walmart

Yes, it’s that time again folks! Let’s bash Wal-Mart!

First, the funny. A woman is nearly crushed to death trying to get to a $30 DVD player .

Now, the depressing. Fast Company’s analysis of Wal-Mart’s strategy for abusing suppliers, which revolves around a gallon jar of pickles. What’s good for Wal-Mart is good for the country, right? Right?

blub blub

The entirety of last weekend was absorbed in scuba training with Leslie. I was actually certified back when I was sixteen for a trip my family took to Cozumel, and I did a bit of diving in Costa Rica in ’98, and then another trip to Cozumel in (I think) 1999. The upshot is that it’s probably been five years since I’ve been underwater, and so I figured my skills could use a bit of polishing. And, of course, Leslie needed to get the training under her belt, too.

The dive shop where we were trained is called “Diver Dan’s Wet Pleasure.” No, really. It’s very near our apartment, and the staff there really seem to have their shit together. We happened to be trained by some high PADI mucky-muck, so there were a bunch of aspiring instructors there to help. Actually, there were about 10 instructors and only 8 students, so the ratio worked out pretty well. We took the “accelerated course,” which means 3 hours on Friday, 9 on Sat/Sun, and four dives next weekend in Monterrey Bay. In honesty, if you read the book outside of class, the time spent in the pool is really the only time not wasted. I’d suspect Leslie would have been fine just coming in, taking the final exam in about 30 mins, and spending 4 hours or so in the pool.

Let me tell you a story about water temperatures. You might think that 70 degrees is a pleasant temperature to go swimming in. Well, it’s not. It’s really frickin cold. Even 80 can get cold after a while. Why? Because your body is 98.6, and even dropping that a few degrees can cause uncontrollable shivering and hypothermia. And water can wick heat away from your body like no one’s business. Any way, when I first got certified in Austin, we went diving in Lake Travis (Windy Point, to be exact). The water was in the low 70s, and it was pretty damned cold. We’re going for ocean dives in the Pacific, which makes Lake Travis in winter look like a hot tub. The current water temperature in Monterey is 54 degrees. I’m shaking just thinking about it.

We’re supposed to be in Monterey (about an hour and a half from where we live) at 7:30 next Saturday morning. Lemons to lemonade, we’ve decided to make a little weekend trip out of it. We’ll probably head out Friday afternoon, shack up at the Travelodge and take it easy. Maybe on Saturday afternoon when Leslie is recovering/grading papers, I can sneak off and visit Laguna Seca. Hmm…

gays in video games…

I went back and forth between loving and hating this article about five times in the course of reading it. Maybe he makes some good points, maybe he just goes in one big, self-indulgent circle.

thoughts for a thursday

Instead of worrying about the RIAA sending you a lawsuit, why not pay for privacy? In the end, though, maybe we can legitimize P2P. I don’t know. I always think it’s kind of funny when people try to quash file-sharing on the internet in one way or another, technically or legislatively. It’s funny because what they fundamentally want to prevent people from doing is sending bits to one another, and that’s all the internet does anyway. They want to turn the internet into television, pushing out all the products to you that you should buy. They hate the fact that the quivering masses out there have the ability to push stuff out to, and they especially hate it when they payed for the creation of that stuff. It’s understandable. They just want to make money like any reasonable corporation.

I’m not worried, really. It may be true that corporations are better at purchasing legislation than the American people, but in the end not even as corrupt a government as we have will turn their constituents into criminals. As more and more people realize that for essentially zero marginal cost they can make a copy of their CD, their DVD, their video game, you can bet your DMCA they’re going to do it, regardless of the law. It’s so easy. It doesn’t *feel* illegal. And even when they think of whom they’re screwing, they don’t Imagine it’s Peter Jackson or Eminem. They think of Sony Entertainment and BMG, and who gives a fuck about them, anyway? People just want to listen to music. If it were easier to pay for it, people would. People are lazy.

But it’s too hard to pay for it. Even though, to copy a DVD, I have to rip it, decrypt it, and remove region encoding (30 mins), then I have to trasncode it to fit on a DVD-R (1 hr), then I have to burn the finished product back to a DVD-R (20 mins), which costs me $1 in materials and quite a bit of time, it’s still more compelling than going to the store to spend over $20 for something which will entertain you for at best 6-7 hours for the duration of your ownership.

One of two things is going to happen:
(a) nothing. people will continue to be treated as criminals by media companies with no concern for customer satisfaction beyond the profit motive. Piracy will get easier and easier on old technology (CDs, DVDs, TV) and new technology will get more and more restrictive. It will be a constant arms race between pirates and content producers, and everyone will lose.
(b) someone will figure out how to make money by selling something worth buying. If I could buy a DVD movie for $7, I would do it in a second. I *know* they could make money on it. If I could by a CD for $7, I’d do it in a second. It’d be even easier to make money on that. CDs and DVDs cost pennies to manufacture. Cut prices drastically, and recover production costs in staggering volume.

I don’t have a lot of hope for b. But who knows? Enough ranting, I need to swap my next Netflix disc in to my Mac for ripping…

visceral hatred is bad for you

This morning I was listening to NPR. One of the lead stories was that George Bush is starting up his campaign in earnest now. He visited some car parts place called “USA industries,” where , I kid you not, the crates were painted in red, white, and blue. Then he went to a park for the ground breaking of a Sept. 11th memorial. Then he went to a different part of the same park and raised $1.7M for his campaign.

Now, I know a lot of people use blogs as a place to hash out political greivances, and, some might claim, have meaningful political debate. I’m here to say that this place won’t be one of them. Too much of what I feel about the political process and everything that swirls around it is negative. I hear about John Kerry, and I feel worse. I hear about Bush, and I feel worse. I’m frustrated by the apathy, the lack of sophistication, and the lack of independent thought that we as a populace possess. And life is too short for that much negativity.

I’m selfish. So, instead of focusing hard on issues and making myself an activist like I should, I’m going to just educate myself as much as I need, and try to focus on the things in my life that make me happy. This includes, but is not limited to, cooking and eating good food, playing outside, reading, playing video games, and plotting an eventual move to Scandinavia.

spam selling spam

One of the interesting things about running a server and owning a domain is getting all sorts of spam trying to sell you services promoting your site or brand, or offering to design logos and websites for you. This morning I got the most ridiculous of the spams I’ve seen yet: a spam offering spam services. It’s good to know that, if need be, I can send 3 million emails an hour. For your edification:

BULK ISP –DEDICATED SERVER
Providing you with 100% total bulk email and hosting solutions

BULK ISP offers:
Bandwidth: 1.5 M/S Upload and Download
Unlimited Email addresses “POP 3 Boxes”
Host up to twenty of your own websites
You can use it also as an smtp server to send your email
80 Gig hard drive Pentium 4 was build to send millions of emails
Send up to 10 million Opt-in emails a day 

Guarantee 30 days of service month to month no contract

FREE 24 hours 7 days a week technical support

Full access to the server using terminal service or Pc, anywhere or any other      remote access software you prefer

Set up time is two hours

The server comes with the following:
MOTHERBOARD:  Intel 
PROCESSOR:  PENTIUM®-4  1.8GHz 512K CACHE
MEMORY:  512MB PC2100 DDR ECC REGISTERED
HARD DRIVE:  IBM 80.0 GB EIDE HD 7200RPM
CASE: Super Micro 2 U Rackmount
CD-ROM DRIVE: C52X max.
OPERATING SYSTEM: WINDOWS 2000 SERVER / WINDOWS 2003 SERVER/ Red hat 7.3/ mandrake / or whatever OS you prefer

You will also receive two years free membership with www.ewasher.us to clean your emails  

Prices are as low as $2000 a month with $100.00 set up fee.  Please call or email me when you are ready to begin.

150,000(messages)/hour – $1,500.00   total     
300,000/hour – $3,000.00                 24/7 Free Phone and email technical support
600, 000/hour – $6,000.00
2 million/hour – $12,000.00
3 million/hour – $16,000.00   (UNLIMITED CAPACITY LICENSE)

EMAIL LISTS
We also offer you a 100% guaranteed deliverable semi opt-in email list.  Our emails go through ewasher to ensure their delivery.  If any of the emails bounce back we will replace them with emails that are deliverable free of charge.  You will receive 30 million emails for only $5000.00.  These will be yours to own.

things worth waiting for

netflix is neat

So… since we have a tendency to rent a movie or two every week, I decided it would be cool to join netflix. The idea is you queue up a bunch of movies that you want to rent, they mail you up to three at a time, and when you’re done with them, you mail them back. You can do this as many times as you want for $20/month. So, we break even if we rent more than 5 movies a month (which I’m pretty sure we do). Also, since netflix is based here in the bay, I figure we’ll get the movies lickety-split. It also doesn’t hurt that I have *cough* a DVD burner.

One of the cool things about netflix is they allow you to rate all the movies on their site, and based on your ratings, they suggest future movies that you might want to rent. This is pretty cool, and I totally spent an hour and a half clicking through hundreds of movies and rating them. Now it recommends for me “the best of the muppet show” along with “apocalypse now redux.” Hmm.

In other news, my mother has shipped me all my old scuba-diving equipment from Austin. In combination with my brother’s, which is already here in CA, the idea is not to pay through the nose for the basic stuff (mask, snorkel, fins, boots, gloves) that they require you to have for the Open Water Diver class, but refuse to rent. If we were to buy all the stuff, it would be about $200-300/person. Blech. In any case, after this we will be duly trained/refreshed for our upcoming excursion to Mexico which I am so looking forward to.

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