Local Loser

Could’ve been worse, I suppose, if it weren’t so amusing.

According to this article on Bend.com, Jodie Lynn Ackerman was released from jail last Wednesday (the 8th) due to overcrowding. By Saturday night (three days later), she “was booked back into the jail on charges of second-degree theft, unauthorized use of a motor vehicle, first-degree criminal mischief and a probation violation.” Seems to me that if you suddenly got a “get out of jail free” card, shouldn’t you not do something stupid, like, oh, I don’t know, steal a car and some beer and evade the police?

(This also showed up on UtterlyBoring.com.)

Towel Amnesty Day

Am I just cynical? Holiday Inn is declaring today Towel Amnesty Day in which anyone who has ever stolen a towel (or anything else, I imagine) from a hotel can tell their story, and Holiday Inn will donate $1.00 to charity (plus 25 lucky people will “win” a souvenir towel). You know what I see when I look at this? A “Towel Information Awareness” (take that, TIA!) database that Holiday Inn can then use to red-flag future customers. “Even stolen a towel? They did? Charge them an extra $10 for this room.”

Don’t think so? Why else would their entry form ask for your full name, address, phone number and email?

Cynical, indeed.

FUD Alert

There’s this site called Technofile written by some guy named Al Fasoldt that has this article that I thought was pretty FUDish. I found it because my wife sent me a link to online news source Syracuse.com that had picked up this article. It’s about alleged spyware Hotbar, and after reviewing the article, I’ve pretty much come to the conclusion that this Al Fasoldt doesn’t know what he’s talking about.

Hotbar is apparently similar to the Google Toolbar (which I use at work, and it’s great): a browser plugin that offers information on related sites to ones you are browsing, and additionally allows you to install skins that replace the flat gray on the Internet Explorer toolbar with overlaid graphic images. Okay, no big gotchas here so far.

But to quote the article:

But it’s actually monitoring the surfing habits of all users and reporting this information back to a central site so it can be marketed to anyone who wants to buy it.

Hmmm. Sounds like any other website to me. Then the article mentions a problem with slower browsing and crashing Windows, and that there are problems with popup blockers—Hotbar still lets some popups through, apparently. Interesting, but still doesn’t really raise any red flags.

Then the article begins spouting off about some “startling admissions” about what Hotbar does, admitted by Hotbar (gasp!) on their own website.

This is funny: it’s a direct quote from the article again, itself quoting the Hotbar site:

Here are excerpts from the Hotbar site:

“For every Web page you view . . . the Hotbar software transmits and stores the following information from your computer to Hotbar: Your IP Address, which may include a domain name; the full URL of the Web page you are visiting; general information about your browser; general information about your computer’s operating system; your Hotbar cookie number . . . and the date and time the above information is logged.”

Excuse me? This is exactly what every webserver on the internet does! There’s no conspiracy here, no unethical behavior on the part of Hotbar from this excerpt, this is how the web works.

At this point I pretty much decided this Fasoldt guy has no business writing about technology. All I can see he’s doing is spreading FUD without any real knowledge of how things operate.

(Out of curiosity, I checked out Hotbar’s privacy policy. It’s pretty standard, and it’s pretty clear that any additional information they collect about you (aside from standard web log data) is something you would know about, since you have to provide it yourself in the registration forms. I know a thing or two about this type of browser application, too, and I’m pretty sure it’s not spyware any more than the Google Toolbar is.)

Hey Al—you better watch out! I’m collecting your IP address, the pages and files requested, the browser you’re running, and where you came from too! And I track the dates and times! I even track what you search for when you use the search box feature on my site!!

And oh man, you better avoid any search engine sites, like Google, because not only can they track all those things, they can also track every search term you’ve ever tried, and if they wanted to, they could track what sites you visited from the results list they gave you!!


San Francisco Trip, Day 1

Herewith the beginning of several entries detailing our anniversary trip to San Francisco last weekend (the 11th through the 13th).

It was a good trip! We had to get up too early, though: five in the morning on Friday, so we could be at the airport by 6 or so (our flight was 7:15). I always dread traveling when I have to get up early, but this time it wasn’t too bad.

It was a good flight though, quick and without incident. We had everything we needed in carry-ons, so we didn’t have to worry about checking luggage. So we were able to go straight from the airport to our hotel, the Tuscan Inn, even though it was too early to check in. We left our bags with the hotel and wandered around the Fisherman’s Wharf area of San Francisco.

It was cold, too; we had just come from 90+ degree weather in Bend, to 70-ish degree wind and fog. Fortunately, it cleared up later in the day and warmed up.

Non-sequitous side note: the biggest and most interesting culture shock moment for me was seeing billboards advertising programming languages and platforms, like J2EE, Enterprise JavaBeans, stuff like that; I’m used to the “mainstream” billboards we have around here (you know, real estate, cars, etc.) and forgot that we were visiting one of the most wired cities in the world. What can I say? I’m still a country boy when you get down to it.

A good part of the afternoon was shopping at Pier 39, which, as I sit here thinking about it, isn’t really all that exciting. So I’ll skip ahead to dinner.

Friday night we did the Hornblower dinner cruise. It was very, very nice (very similar to the Portland dinner cruise we did last year). It was a three hour cruise of the Bay: you swing by Alcatraz, around Angel Island, skirt Sausalito, pass under the Golden Gate Bridge, cruise back down past the Bay Bridge and finally back to dock. Excellent food, wine, service; an all-around good choice. We had a great time.

Funny story, too: at the table next to us, a young couple were having dinner and bickering a lot. The girl seemed older than the boy (it was his 25th birthday, as it turned out), and she was pretty, but I can’t guess what their deal was. I said “funny,” it’s getting there. One of the things they were arguing about was the boy quitting smoking—I think. He was “only” smoking a cigarette a day, but he was passionately trying to make the claim that “all” writers smoked, drank, did drugs, etc., were basically messed up in the head.

All writers? I resisted the temptation to step in and correct him. It was starting to seem obvious by this time the guy was making a play with his girlfriend/spouse/significant other to get permission to party more. Because, of course, he wants to be a writer, and all writers smoke a lot, drink like fish, etc. etc.

Yeah, I know. But it gets better.

A little later, we start getting to the root of the problem. This is a direct quote, believe it or not, and I’m emphasizing just as he did: “I’m 25 years old and I write children’s books. Children’s books! Do you have any idea how unsexy that is?”

Swear to god. He actually used the word “unsexy” like that. I had to fight back laughter; I couldn’t hide my smile, so I had turned away. I think one of the first thoughts that went through my head was something along the lines of, At least he’s not equating “children” with “sexy.”

Pathetic. So he wants to be a writer, a “serious” writer, one wracked with angst and depression that only nicotine and the bottle can dull long enough to produce brilliant literary prose. You know, like every “serious” writer. But he writes children’s books, which is about as far away from the stereotype he’s so desperately seeking that it’s driving him crazy.

I hope he’s reading this, because: Get the hell over yourself. Writers don’t sit around whining about how unfair it is that they can’t write what they want, or that their lifestyle doesn’t measure up to their skewed vision of what they should be: they write. And if you really do write children’s books for a living, then you’ve already got a huge step up: you’re a published, professional writer. That’s huge in the publishing world. You’ve got instant cred, instant advantage over every other up-and-comer. So shut the hell up and write, and I don’t want to hear whiny, self-piteous shit about how unfair you think life is being because you won’t take the time to actually write what you want to write.

One more thing. Don’t knock children’s books. They’re hard to write. I should know. I have children.

Okay, my rant is over. I feel better.

So, to recap: Friday in San Francisco was good, cold in the morning, nice later, did shopping, and a dinner cruise. All went well. My next entry should deal with the rest of our trip, so stay tuned.

Well, duh.

Here’s an interesting study: Drinking alcohol makes the opposite sex look more attractive (Yahoo article; MSNBC is here). Haven’t we all known this for years? You know, along the lines of those T-shirts and bumper stickers proclaiming “Beer – helping ugly people have sex since 1883” or somesuch.

I mean, really. That’s what alcohol does. It’s the same thing that makes me really good at pool after 3 or 4 drinks.

And this right on the heels of the Beer is good for you news story. Maybe we’ll be seeing a resurgence of beer-drinking and microbreweries again.

Random web link: Henson.com, the official Jim Henson site. I was looking at this site the other day to find an image of Animal from The Muppet Show, and it seemed kind of cool.