Monday, January 31, 2005

The composer was a cop, by 100 Monkeys

What a stupid fictional story in the Op-Ed pages of today's New York Times. Compensation came in the form of marvelous letters to the editor. Here's one I particularly liked:

jespatimes - 9:22 AM ET January 31, 2005 (#14931 of 14946)

The Composer Was a Cop -- and Chris Marcil Is a Flop.

I cannot begin to comprehend why the NYTimes wasted space on this "Op-Ed." As far as I can tell, it does not voice any opinion about anything whatsoever. It is pointless and humorless. (Perhaps it is somehow related to the "one hundred monkeys, one hundred typewriters, one hundred years" concept.)

Perhaps I have a misconception about the operation of a newspaper like the Times, but I would have assumed that someone there would pre-read, and exercise some judgement [SIC] about, what is printed. I can't imagine that anyone with one iota of sense would consciously choose to publish such meaningless drivel.

I remember learning in one of my college English classes that the NYTimes is written at a higher language level than most other US papers -- it's typically at an eighth grade comprehension level. (Perhaps that has changed in the intervening years.) I can assure you that if I had submitted Marcil's piece to my eighth grade English teacher, she would have returned it with an "F" grade... one of her criteria was content. Marcil had absolutely none.

The editor who approved Marcil's piece is due for a review from his supervisor, reminding him that there is nothing to be gained by insulting the readers' intelligence.

Saturday, January 29, 2005

VW Bogus Suicide Bomber Ad

It's tasteless and stereotyping; I can understand why VW threatens to sue -- but, at the same time, it's hilarious!

From the Jerusalem Post's account of this story:

Volkswagen is threatening to sue the makers of what has turned out to be a bogus publicity campaign. The ad features a young Middle Eastern man with a checkered Kefiya around his neck descending the stairs of an English row house. He gets into a shiny black Polo VW, starts the motor, and drives off. CUT to people sitting at an outdoor cafe. The camera closes in on a mother holding a baby. The driver detonates an explosive belt buckled around his waist. The bomber blows himself up, but the sturdy vehicle manages to absorb the blast. CUT to a black frame with the VW logo and a slogan reading "Polo. Small but Tough."

You can see the QuickTime movie here: http://www.boreme.com/bm/JAN05/a/vw-suicide-bomber/jump_fr.htm

So, Do You Feel Lucky Punk?

Wired has published a nicely written short essay by Thomas P. M. Barnett:

Rule breakers. Lone riders. The United States may be founded on individual rights and the rule of law, but Americans love Dirty Harry and his literary and cinematic brethren... President George W. Bush embraced this archetype. "I want justice," he said a few days after 9/11, refering to Osama bin Laden. "There's an old poster out West, as I recall, that said, Wanted: Dead or Alive."

This montage didn't really come out as I wanted it to. I better keep my day job ;-)

Here's a link to the orginal poster before I tried to stich Dubya in.

Monday, January 24, 2005

Start from the Bottom or from the Top

A catalog company is on the verge of bankruptcy due to a foolish mistake.

According to a story in the New York Times, instead of mailing their catalogs to the customers most likely to place orders, Eziba.com mailed them to those least likely to buy:

... [Eziba.com] discovered that the catalogs had been sent to the wrong addresses. Because of a computer error, the catalogs had reached the members of Eziba's mailing list who showed the lowest likelihood to respond to the catalog. "Sadly, our probability estimates were correct," Mr. Sabot [Eziba's chairman and co-founder] said.

The revenue shortfall created by that event put the company in such a tenuous financial position that it was forced to halt operations temporarily on Jan. 14 while it sought cash to pay off creditors. Bill Miller, Eziba's chief executive, resigned amid the problems.
A quick visit to Eziba's home page revealed the following announcement:

Welcome to Eziba. We're currently updating and remerchandising our website but please check back soon to experience our spring collection of gift treasures from around the world. For customer service, please send us an email at...

Friday, January 21, 2005

Spam & Snow @ MIT

I'm at MIT for a geeky anti-spam conference.

It's deja-vu all over again: Bayesian filters, false positives, how many
different ways to spell Viagra -- boring...

Tuesday, January 11, 2005

One Major Event Away

Alarming quote from an interview with VeriSign's CEO, Stratton Sclavos in Sunday's SF Chronicle:

Sclavos: ... the stats (on online shopping) are way up again this year. Convenience, price and availability are winning out over security concerns. The question becomes, are we just one major event away from undermining all that confidence?

Q: And what would your answer be?

Sclavos: I think we probably are.

Saturday, January 08, 2005

Insanely High Resolution

Could this picture:

Be a detail of this:

? !

Yes! The amazing Gigapxl Project is a must-see URL.
Thanks to Richard and Jonathan for sharing this with me.