Tuesday, August 31, 2004

Why won't you buy my crap on Ebay?

You know, with all the crap I've bought on Ebay, I find it frustrating that people aren't jumping at the chance to buy my crap. Okay, that's not entirely true. I sold my 1953 copy of Roy Rogers, King of the Cowboys right out of the chute. But now my 5 x 7 autographed black-and-white photo of Christopher Lee is just sitting there waiting for a bid. Were talking a major star here and he's being dissed by the Ebay community.

Come on people, this is my bid (no pun intended) for freedom here. I'm tired of working. It has just led to accumulating crap...much of it from Ebay. Now, I figure if I can unload that crap on other workers, I can quit my day job and watch satellite television (once it has been restored after the tree service screwed it up) all day and rake in the dough (money for those not versed in American idioms and slang).

I mean, I've got tons of this odd accumulation of garbage that for some reason I figured would be worth something someday. When I was 19, I bought two boxes of Star Wars trading cards and hung onto them thinking they'd be worth something someday. Log on to Ebay and see how many of the stinking things are out there.

I've got a World War II tank periscope (don't ask). Someone is already selling one on Ebay.

I've got an autographed copy of a TV Guide featuring Robert Blake as Baretta. I figured this was money in the bank if he ever pulled an OJ and drove around in a White Ford Bronco. But no, he just sits there in jail not making himself anything but pitiful and I'm stuck with his worthless autograph.

I won't even go into all of the worthless Elvis junk I've accumulated. And then there are the troll dolls...I've even got a two-headed one.

Want deco cocktail shakers? I've got about ten. How about restaurant ware? Tons of it.

Ever hankered to own a coyote skull? I've got four.

You see, I'm tired of collecting things. So please, got to Ebay and buy. I'm about to put my swizzle stick collection up for sale and you definitely don't want to miss that.

Friday, August 27, 2004

Log blog II: Got wood?

No, this isn't an ad for Viagra.

Just to show you how powerful this blog is, when I got home last night the tree service had returned and finished cutting up the logs in question. No note, no word of apology, but at least I now have 40 or so 18-inch rounds of wood instead of a log the size of Michigan. But as they say, the bark is worse than the bite.

Seriously, if you come by, split it up and haul it away, it's yours. Oh, and if you fix my satellite television reception (the tree people pulled the cable apart while they were killing the trees), I'll throw in an autographed photo of Burl Ives.

Wednesday, August 25, 2004

The log blog

First, let me get this right up front, I like trees. I say this, because when I tell you that I hired someone to cut down a couple of trees in my backyard, you could misconstrue that I have a grudge against nature. Not so. It's just that these two particular trees...Conifers I believe...have plagued my patio for years with an endless supply of needles, sap and debris. I've scrubbed and painted that damned patio for years trying to keep it clean and along comes wind and rain and it's covered with crap again.

So, I decided to put a stop to the madness. But getting trees removed is not as simple as it sounds. You don't just call lumberjacks.com and have a bunch of guys with chainsaws swoop down and carve cute little bears out of the logs. You have to call trained tree engineers or arborists and coax them into driving all the way out to the suburbs and giving you an estimate. It's not unlike looking for a relationship in the personals. I called one person three times trying to get them to come out and give me an estimate. But nope. Apparently tree removers are pretty busy and can be real selective. It's like, "Sorry, your trees just don't sound interesting to me. It's not you, it's me."

Finally, out of nowhere one day I get a spam e-mail from a tree service in my area. A sign, I thought. I went to the guy's Web site and sent him an e-mail asking for an estimate. I like Web sites with e-mail contact forms. I don't like to talk on the telephone, especially with strangers. It's one of my quirks, but that's for another blog.

Okay, the guy responds and says he'll drive by and leave an estimate. I'm hopeful, almost giddy at the thought of actually having someone respond. So I wait. He stands me up. Then another e-mail apologizing and a promise to show up in a couple of days. And true to his word, he drops by and leaves an estimate. He'll cut down both trees, cut the wood into 18-inch rounds for firewood and chip and remove the branches plus clean up! All this for $750. Okay, it sounded reasonable to me. At no time did I stop to consider that a). 18-inch rounds of wood are pretty horking big and b). My fireplace is gas. This was stupid mistake on my part number 1.

The tree remover asks that I leave a check for the tree removal for them when they arrive the next day to remove the trees. I do so. This was stupid mistake on my part number 2.

Now I live in Seattle and this summer has been unusually dry. We went without our signature rain for months. So, ironically the day they are scheduled to work on the trees, it begins to rain. I come home expecting no trees and instead find a large chipper parked in my driveway and a tree and a half still standing. I'm assuming the rain has made it more difficult to cut down trees so I am patient. Day two, one tree was down but number two is still holding fast to life. Finally I come home on day three and both trees were gone, the chipper had been removed and my patio was swept clean. The corpses of my former conifers lay where the trees fell and appeared to be cut in the 18-inch rounds. On closer inspection, only one of the trees had actually been cut into 18-inch rounds. Only half of the other tree seemed to be cut up into sections. I was left with a backyard full of wood rounds and an eight-foot log that would require a burley Scotsman to pick up and move. Having no plans to hold Highlander's Games in my backyard and not having easy access to a chainsaw, I was left with a dilemma and lots of wood. Add insult to injury, the wood was covered with thick vines of ivy that had been choking the poor trees for years, ivy that one assumed would have been chipped with the branches and hauled away.

Okay, so I'm assuming that there has been some misunderstanding and I e-mail the unnamed tree service and ask why the wood wasn't cut up as promised and the debris hauled away. I get an apologetic e-mail saying a crew would be dispatched that week to finish up. This was two weeks ago. He won't return my e-mails now. I can't call because of that issue I have with telephones. So, basically, I'm screwed.

Bottom line is that you shouldn't trust people who remove trees for a living (especially ones who spam you) and never pay for things until the job is complete. So I'm a sap in this scenario (ha ha ha ha...at least I can laugh at myself).

By the way, anybody out there want some free wood or an eight-foot confer log? They make great Christmas presents.

Friday, August 20, 2004

Don’t mess with the monkey



There is something about a mechanical monkey with cymbals that both cracks me up and kind of disturbs me. This monkey sits above my computer screen and glares at me. I found him on sale at an antique mall. Even with batteries, he doesn’t play the cymbals anymore, unless you manually push on his head. Unfortunately, over the years one too many people have pushed on his head and the fake fur on his forehead has slipped a bit, giving him this kind of demented look of someone who has had a lobotomy.

And why do I keep a demented, non-functional mechanical monkey sitting above my computer screen? Heck if I know. He kind of grows on you.

I tried finding out the history of my mechanical monkey on Google. You can find out an amazing amount of minutia on the Web. I half way expected to find a mechanical-monkey-playing-the-cymbals.com or the unofficial mechanical-monkey-playing-the-cymbals Web site, but nope. Not this time. There were tons of pages about mechanical monkeys. I did find out that my monkey (well, one like him anyway) was featured in a bad 1984 scary picture called “The Devil’s Gift.” It was about a little boy who receives a mechanical, cymbal-playing monkey as a gift (nice thing to give a little kid). Every time the monkey plays the cymbals, someone dies. It was rumored that the movie was loosely based on a Stephan King short story with the same plot. And we all know how well Stephan King stories do when they are turned into movies. Yes, the movie bombed and was re-cut into a 1996 movie about Merlin’s Toy Shop. I gather that, too, bombed and is probably out there somewhere on DVD. But the bottom line is I’m not the only one who thinks the mechanical monkey is kind of demonic looking (not unlike the people who write reviews at Epinions.com).

My search for the monkey’s history did trigger a memory of seeing one on television way back in the days of black-and-white TVs (yes, I’m that old). I think it was on a rerun of an old Ernie Kovak show (and no, I’m not old enough to have seen the original). They used to do this disturbing skit with what was called, the Nairobi Trio. Actors dressed as monkeys would play this song and one of them would always use the other one’s head as a drum. And somewhere in there I think was my mechanical monkey banging his cymbals and grinning his obscene little grimace.

So, there you have it. From somewhere in my subconscious mind, a memory from early television, surfaced when I walked through the antique mall and saw my mechanical monkey. And now he sits watching me, frozen in time.

But on this blog, he will bang his cymbals forever every time the pages is refreshed and never have to worry about dead batteries again.

Thursday, August 19, 2004

Engaging the enemy: the spam wars

I realize it isn't terribly original to respond to spammers. Some guy actually scammed a book out of his replies to spammers. But I just couldn't resist sharing my most recent experience with the ultimate in annoying spam scams.

FIRST E-MAIL, SUBJECT:Attention

Dear H****

I am Ray Morgan a Business Partner to Mr. Emmanuel H**** a national of your
country, who lived in Dubai United Arab Emirate.

Here in after shall be referred to as my client. On the 30th of June 2002, my client, was involved in a car accident along sagbama express road.All occupants of the vehicle unfortunately lost there lives.

I have contacted you to assist in repatriating the money and property left behind by my client before they get confiscated or declared unserviceable by the bank where this huge deposits was lodged.

Particularly, where the deceased had an account valued at about 2.6 million dollars has issued me a notice to provide the next of kin or have the account confisicated within the next 30 official working days.

Since I have been unsuccesfull in locating the relatives for over 2 years now I seek your consent to present you as the next of kin of the deceased since you have the same last name so that the proceeds of this account valued at 2.6 million dollars can be paid to you. If you agree we can discuss your percentage.

I have all necessary legal documents that can be used to back up any claim we may make. All I require is your honest cooperation to enable us see this deal through. I guarantee that this will be executed under a legitimate arrangement that will protect you from anybreach of the law. Awaiting your response.

Best
regards, RAY mORGAN



MY FIRST RESPONSE: The insult

Dear Ray (You don’t mind if I call you Ray do you?)

Come on now, Emmanuel H****? H**** is an Irish name. If you are going to make up a name at least call him Sean H**** or Patrick H****y or Mick H****. Those are Irish names. But you are too stupid to know that aren’t you.

And why is it spammers can’t type worth crap? This is your job isn’t it? Take some pride man! If you are going to write me an obviously fraudulent letter using a hoax that’s been around as long as e-mail, at least type the damned thing nicely.

I hope your private parts, small as they are, fall off.

Sincerely, T

SECOND E-MAIL, SUBJECT: Urgent Reply Needed

Dear H****,

Thanks very much for your mail,

take note I contacted you because you have the same last name with my client mr Emmanuel H**** who is a U S citizen but have been living in Dubia for over 21 years now,

the Finance Company were this money was Deposited has informed me to look for the Relative but I cannot find them that was why I contacted you,

I am a British by birth but have been living in Dubia for over 27 years now , I and late Mr Emmanuel H**** are Business Partner for over 12 years ,

you have nothing to fear about ,and this transaction is 100% risk free,and also you have to keep it confidential ,and also this transaction required Honesty and
Truth.

Two ways of claming this money,

1) You have to come down to Dubia to sign the necessary Documents from the Finance Company and also open an Account with one of the Apex Bank here in
Dubai.

2) You can been in your Country and I will look for an Attoney here who can do every thing over here,what you have to do is to send your Account information then the money will be transfered to your Account in your home Country,

then I will fly over there for my 60% ,you will be having 40% of the total fund , I lived in Dare U A E ,I will like you to give me your number for me to communicate with you or you call me so that we talk,

am now in Africa for a Confrence 234-8033266267 or dial 011-234-8033266267 call me now so that we will discuss more.

Waiting for your fast response

Thanks
Ray Morgan.

MY SECOND RESPONSE: Okay, let's play ball

Hey Ray!

Good to hear from you. Okay, here's the plan. I'm coming
to Dubai. Here's the flight information:

Mon, Aug 30
1:15pm Depart -
Seattle/Tacoma, WA (SEA) Northwest Airlines 34
Tue, Aug 31
7:50am Arrive - Amsterdam, Netherlands
(AMS) Nonstop
Tue, Aug 31
2:20pm Depart - Amsterdam, Netherlands
(AMS) Northwest Airlines 8371 operated by KLM ROYAL
DUTCH AIRLINES
10:45pm Arrive - Dubai, United Arab Emirates
(DXB) Nonstop

Can you pick me up at the airport? I'll probably be pretty wasted after that layover in Amsterdam if you know what I mean! ;)

Anyway, after I get there and catch some zzz's we can wrap up the business at hand. In the meantime, can you spot me the cash for the ticket? It's $2795 US dollars. Maybe you could send it to me via Paypal, okay?

Oh and while I'm in Dubai, can I bunk with you? You don't know any hot
chicks, do you? Let's party and use some of that dough ray me!

Looking forward to hearing from you!

Tim


The Third E-Mail -- RE: Urgent Reply Needed

Are you ready to contacted the finance institution for the release of this money, so that I myself can fly to you there in the State. Thanks Ray Morgan.


My Reply: Can you hear me now, Ray?

Ray,

I was beginning to think that we had really made a connection. I felt we had something special and your last e-mail seemed so brusk...even distant. Have I done something wrong? Maybe you got scared when I said I'd booked a flight to Dubai to meet you. Is that it? Are you shy? Are you afraid I won't like you because you are horribly disfigured from that terrible acne you had as a kid. Don't worry. I see the inner Ray anyway. Don't reject me, because if I lose you now, I'm not sure what I'd do.

Let's just start over. I'm ready to contacted the finance instituion for the release of this money. Just say the word, Ray. But let's split it 50/50, okay. We're partners, right?

Waiting breathlessly for your reply

--T

SENSITIVE RAY REPLIES: HELLO HONEST BROTHER

Dear Honest Brother,

Thank you for your prompt response, I want you to know that I am not that worried when you say you are coming or booked for the flight coming to dubai, because for now i am not presently in dubai, I am here in one of the africa country for a conference and it Nigeria, so after that I do not know when the programme will be ending and the conference, so I think you do not have to travel for now to dubai.

I will love to meet you also, I am not scared like you want to know and not shy if you say you want to see me as who I am to be. No you have not done wrong simply that you ask me something okay, I want you to know that i am considering what I am offering you here and i do not want whereby situation I will be pay back with nothing when this money as been finaly transfer to you in the state.

I am not rejecting you okay, I am wanting you to contact the finance institution now so that you can get their email in dubai what their requesting you to bring and do for now so that we know how their are going to get this money transferred into your bank account in the state where you now.

I am giving you now the contact of the finance institution and get in touched withthem to ask them what you need to do that i Mr.Ray Morgan the business friend partner with late Mr.Emmanuel and that you are the next person to him and the relative and only brother that their where told about that will aplly in for the release and transference of the funds.

Here is the finance institution contact email address. Name Of Finance: Central Finance & Securities Limited Email Address: http://webmail.nwlink.com/src/compose.php?send_to=customerservice_cfsl%40mail2banker.com

Please send to the finance institution an email and I need you presently to provide me with you telephone number I need to call you so that we can talk better more on the telephone, it always add for me to get on internet all the time when busy. Await your soonest response after you have contacted the finance institution and response to me when you hear from them, in case their write you back okay.

Kindest Regards.

Mr. Ray Morgan.


MY FINAL REPLY: DEAR RAY

Dear Ray,

This is a very hard letter for me to write. Since I hadn't heard from you, I assumed it was over between us. I well, let me just say it, I responded to another bogus e-mail from a guy in Nigeria, maybe you know him, Barrister Ihaza Williams,the Personal Attorney to late Engineer A. H****. Anyway, one thing led to another and well, I'm taking his $12 million dollars. I'm having it transferred to that account you set up for me at Central Finance & Securities Limited. I hope you don't mind.

Anyway, I hope you don't take this personally. I know how sensitive you are. It's not you, it's me. Ihaza just has a better spam scheme than you do.

So, here's looking at you Ray. We'll always have Dubai. Good bye forever!

--T


Tuesday, August 17, 2004

We've come a long way, baby!

Once you start shaving, you're doomed to one of those endless tasks like making the bed or mowing the lawn. You've got to do it over and over for the rest of your life. Sure, you can grow a beard and pray that nature and genetics gives a full, heavy, manly beard instead of something that looks like moss growing on the north side of tree that's been mauled by a bear. But trust me, very few guys can grow a beard that looks decent and hides our double chins. So, we shave. And, I for one am always looking for a razer that rises above the hype and actually gives you a close, clean shave without a trip to the emergency room.

So, when Gillette introduced Mach 3 with it's macho body armor look and three blades, I had to toss my disposible blades and try it. It was okay, but despite the hype it was still just a shave with a shaver that got dull quickly and charged you an arm and a leg for replacement blades. And then, low and behold, along came M3Power-- a souped up version of the Mach 3 that Gillette's blades and razors division president Peter Hoffman called "a new system for men that delivers the best shave, and the best shaving experience."

Okay, like I said, I'm always look for the ultimate shaving experience. It's my holy grail. The power in the M3 Power comes from a battery and tiny motor, which Hoffman goes on to say,
"stimulates whiskers up and away from the skin, so the blades cut in just one stroke." Got to have it, got to have it! Plus, the blades are coated with a "thin uniform telomer" that isn't affected by use (don't have a clue what a telomer is, but smack my ass and call me Sally, it sounds good.) All this and, your face gets a gentle massage.

Come to papa M3 Power! Sounds so good, you'd think you'd need to smoke a cigarette after you shave.

So I put the Mach 3 in the cupboard and bought me a M3 Power. I mean, we're talking about being turned lose in the shower with a vibrating razor without being branded a pervert. This is marketing at its finest.

Bottom line...it was okay. It basically was a Mach 3 that vibrated. The shave wasn't noticeably different. It didn't stay sharp long and replacement blades cost even more if you can find them.

So now I'm waiting for SonicCare toothbrushes to come out with a razor that uses sound waves. Now that would be a razor.

Thursday, August 12, 2004

The ghosts of Union Station


I work in a haunted building. At least there are stories of it being haunted. It is an old train station in downtown Seattle that opened in May, 1911 and closed its doors in 1971. It remained derelict until it was restored in 1999.
Union Station in 1911
Union Station today.

Many of the reports of hauntings come from our 24-hour security people. Lights mysteriously turn on and off. Doors open and close. Sounds of children playing are heard in the great hall. Shadowy figures are glimpsed on survellence cameras, but aren't captured on tape. In particular, a woman dressed in a white Victorian dress has been seen several times at what was once the baggage level of the old station. She is seen pacing in aggitation and disappears when approached. A more sensitive security guard claims that the woman communicated with her and haunts the station because she was raped and killed there years ago.
Another frequent visitor is a former railroad security officer killed by a train in the distant past. A grim reminder of the station's violent past are bullet holes in one of the old benches that line the great hall.

Photos taken by security reportedly show misty figures sitting on this very bench.

Haunted? You be the judge.

Free Willie


I like Willie Nelson. He's no Elvis, mind you, but he is living proof that you don't need to sing particularily well to make it in the music biz. And hell, his most famous song, Whiskey River, really only has about three or four lines repeated over and over:

Whiskey River take my mind,
Don't let her mem'ry torture me.
Whiskey River don't run dry,
You're all I've got, take care of me.

Whiskey River take my mind,
Don't let her mem'ry torture me.
Whiskey River don't run dry,
You're all I've got, take care of me.

I'm drowning in a whiskey river,
Bathing my mem'ried mind in the wetness of its soul.
Feeling the amber current flowin' from my mind.
And warm an empty heart you left so cold.

Whiskey River take my mind,
Don't let her mem'ry torture me.
Whiskey River don't run dry,
You're all I've got, take care of me.
It's a good song, though. It's the kind of song you holler out requests for while you are sitting at a lounge in Reno drinking whiskey and feeling pretty darn good. It's better than hollering out requests for Friends in Low Places by Garth Brooks after drinking tequila. House bands in Reno don't take too kindly to that, especially at Fitzgeralds. Trust me on this one.

I actually like Willie's My heroes have always been cowboys and Momma, don't let your babies grow up to be cowboys better than Whiskey River. Those are classic country. It's none of that crap that Billy Ray Cyrus dumped on the country music scene. Achy Breaky Heart will go down in history as one of the worst pieces of crap ever to hit the air waves. Never trust a former Chippendale with a mullet is my motto.

Anyway, I digress. Here's to Willie! Long may he sing in whatever key he manages to croak out!

Wednesday, August 11, 2004

Guess where I'm blogging from?

Yep, the good ol' Barko-Lounger. I've got Web TV as well as a regular Internet connection. Not sure how I've got Web TV. Somehow it came with my Ultimate TV (which is like Tivo, but made by Microsoft and really hasn't been marketed too well). The Ultimate TV is part of my DirectTV package which costs me an arm and a leg (not literally, but that wouldn't matter since I am in a recliner and don't need both arms and legs). Butit's better than cable despite what Comcast would lead you to believe. Though reception is spotty when it rains at times. Kind of a bitch in Seattle.

Anyway, I'm typing away on my wireless keyboard looking at my 32 inch television and marveling at modern technology. Why am I blogging instead of watching the expensive premium channel package I pay dearly for? Because even with 300 channels to choose from I can't seem to find anything decent to watch. The butt waxing special was on last night and I missed it.

But I digress.

The point is, I'm talking back to my television. How very Fahrenheit 451 of me (Bradbury fan's will get the reference). Unfortunately, as with the rest of my blogs, it isn't listening either.

But at least I'm comfortable.

I like the Blue Man Group


This isn't a review of Blue Man Group. Suffice it to say, I really like the Blue Man Group. A review would require me to tell you my opinion of their music and shows and act like I have a right to judge them. That would put me in the same category of those geeks at Epinions.com and by now, we all know how I feel about them. Let's just leave at saying, I personally enjoy their shows and music.

I think they have one of the best shows in Las Vegas. I've been to it three times. I sat in the Poncho section twice. The only difference there is in the Poncho section is that you sit in one of the first three or four rows and they give you plastic ponchos so you don't get spattered with paint and jello ( I guess this would make more sense if you have actually been to their show). They aren't really fancy ponchos or anything. They are more like a garbage bag with a hole for your head. You feel pretty silly putting them on at first, but then again, you feel pretty silly, too when they ask you to tie toilet paper around your head. But I'm giving away too much about the Blue Man Group show experience. Check it out yourself. Trust me, it's worth the $100.

I've also seen their Complex Tour show when it came to Seattle. Venus Hum was one of the bands that performed with them. I now also like Venus Hum. But this blog entry is about Blue Man Group.

You've got to admire the versatility of the Blue Man Group. They can entertain you with instruments fashioned out of PVC Pipe (yes there is a pvcpipe.com). They can catch marshmellows in their mouths and they can create music using Cap'n Crunch (and I'll be damned if there isn't a CapnCrunch.com as well...it comes in four flavors now). And after putting on a great show with no intermission, they wait outside and pose for photos and shake your hand. Just expect to get paint on your hand, though.

And they have great music, too. I own all of their CDs. Of course there are only two. So, actually when I say I own all of them I should just say I own both of their CDs so I don't sound too pretentuous. They are both great CDs though they never get playtime on mainstream radio. Most really good stuff doesn't. Though one of their songs was used in the last Terminator movie (which did have a pretty sexy terminator in it, I might say...the woman robot, not Arnold Schwartzenegger).

But anyway, I really like the Blue Man Group.

Tuesday, August 10, 2004

Every King needs a throne - the recline of civilization: the Barcalounger

Barcalounger -- a haiku

The King settles down,
Into his leather-clad throne.
Recline and find peace.
When you come home from a long day's work, there's nothing better than kicking off the boots so the dogs can breath, stripping down to your boxers, popping the top off a cold one and settling down in the Cadillac of recliners -- the Barcalounger. Or, Barko-Lounger as we used to call them back in Idaho. Hearing the sound of genuine vinyl fart as you nestle down and throw the handle to prop up your tired feet is just what the doctor ordered for pure relaxation. Throw in a big screen tv and surroundsound and you are pretty much in hog heaven.

And how many chairs have their own domain name (okay, so there is http://www.la-z-boy.com/)? But ahead and check out the original online at http://barcalounger.com/

Oh you've got your pretenders and johnny-come-latelies trying to be recliners. They come with massageers, built-in coolers and telephones. But nothing compares to the Baby-Make-Me-Bark-Like-A-Dog Barcalounger.

And that's all I have to say on that topic.


Monday, August 09, 2004

Epinions.com is the devil!

I speak, here, metaphorically, of course. I don't really think Epinions.com is the devil, per se. It is definitely a devil, however. What makes it so evil is that it is an electronic community of would be critics-without-a-clue, striving to one-up each other in reviewing trivial products and dwelling on minutiae to the point of nausea. They divide themselves into these areas of emphasis such as electronics and travel and have created hierarchies of advisors and leads who jockey for the position of who can be the most obsequies to each other and abusive to innocent people who are new to the site and actually think the purpose of the site is to cite your experience with a product or business. Epinions.com confirms the adage that "opinions are like assholes, everyone has one." And many of the people who review other people's reviews at Epinions are.

I stumbled onto Epinions.com innocently enough. I like to travel. And there are lots of helpful sites out there like tripadvisor.com that allow you to review hotels and destinations. Basically you can read about people's experiences at a hotel before plunking down your credit card and staying at a dive. A reasonably intelligent person can weed out the reviews that are obviously written by a person with a bone to pick and those written by someone with useful information to share. This works fine with tripadvisor.com. You simply write a review, the check it over for nasty language and links to porn sites and then they post it. It's as simple as that. Not so with Epinions.com. Epinions.com is a community. An being a community, they have standards. So you can post a review there, but then the review is rated by "the community." It's not unlike a village stoning if you are new to the community and don't match the style of the "leads" or "advisors."

Do I sound bitter? Of course I sound bitter. I wrote one review of Disney's Grand Californian. It was a nice review. I liked the place. I didn't know they don't like nice simple reviews. Apparently these people don't really get out much and need much more information than the average person. I got these patronizing comments like, "I'd rate your review higher if you provided more detail such as was the room clean." Was the room clean? This was a Disney resort. Disney has a reputation of having six people swoop out of the bushes with brooms if you drop a gum wrapper. It would seem to me that a clean hotel room would be a given at a Disney resort. If it wasn't I probably would have stated that right up front. But what really galled me was that the same person wrote, "If you revise your review based on my suggestions, e-mail me and I'll reread it. Hang in there!" Okay, lady, I'm a professional writer. I don't need somebody who changes bed pans for a living patting me on the head and telling me to hang in there, that eventually I'll get a "very helpful" rating from a bunch of geeks who have risen to the top of the toilet bowl in a community of OCDs. I mean these people write reviews of paper shredders and Miller lite beer for god's sake. Believe it or not, when I'm not babbling on in this Blog, I get paid to write.

Okay, I gave them the benefit of the doubt. I read some of their reviews to get an idea of what they thought was a helpful review. I have never seen such mindnumbing minutiae in my life. We're talking how many towels were in the John and how many parking stalls were in the parking lot. That's not a review, that's cataloging, people.

And you start seeing pattern. All of the regulars review each other's crap and then gush over each other. The only time I ever saw bad ratings was when some new reviewer made the mistake of writing a review. And sure enough they got the same comments, "Provide more detail and let us know. We'll read it again if you revise it to our standards." What are these people, "The Stepford Wives?"

Now, I'm not saying that everyone at Epinions.com is an obsessive compulsive pencil necked geek, but if the pocket protector fits, wear it.

I'm sticking to tripadvisor.com. They don't judge you there.

But that's just my opinion.

Friday, August 06, 2004

Silly rabbit, tricks are for kids


Ever sit around wondering about Fibonacci numbers? I do. I like the way it sounds. FEEB-OH-NACHI.

Anyway, Fibonacci numbers are everywhere, you know.

So, being a curious type and pretty darn proficient with Web searches I decided to find out a little bit about Fibonacci numbers. A little googling and I dug up the following info:

"Leonardo Pisano is better known by his nickname Fibonacci. He was the son of Guilielmo and a member of the Bonacci family. Fibonacci himself sometimes used the name Bigollo, which may mean good-for-nothing or a traveller. Which leads to the following question:

Did his countrymen wish to express by this epithet their disdain for a man who concerned himself with questions of no practical value, or does the word in the Tuscan dialect mean a much-travelled man, which he was?

(That cracks me up)

In 1225 Fibonacci took part in a tournament at Pisa ordered by the emperor, Frederick II. It was in just this type of competition that the following problem arose:

Beginning with a single pair of rabbits, if every month each productive pair bears a new pair, which becomes productive when they are 1 month old, how many rabbits will there be after n months?
(apparently wondering what the result of lots of rabbits "getting busy" was a burning question in 1225)

Answer to rabbit problem

Imagine that there are xn pairs of rabbits after n months. The number of pairs in month n+1 will be xn (in this problem, rabbits never die) plus the number of new pairs born. But new pairs are only born to pairs at least 1 month old, so there will be xn-1 new pairs.

xn+1 = xn + xn-1

Which is simply the rule for generating the Fibonacci numbers."

Well, duh!


The eyes have it



"Eyes, you know, are the great intruders."
--Erving Goffman
I find it increasingly amazing, that in a place as vast as the Web, many people are paranoid about being monitored by big brother. Wasn't the Web created to communicate in the first place? Aren't we all out here shouting at the top of our lungs to be heard anyway? We're like those Whos in Horton Hears a Who screaming "We are here, we are here, we are here, we are herrrrrrrrrrre!" And still no one hears us.


So how or why should we think someone is monitoring every word we write or everyplace we go on the Web? Sure IT departments must to a certain extent, but think of the mountains of reports and statistics logging Web use generates.


So maybe someone is monitoring mundane stuff like e-mails and how many times we went to eBay while we supposed to be working. Meanwhile they ignore the stuff we desperately want people to notice like Blogs and Web sites. Am I the only one who finds this the least bit ironic?

"The main obligation is to amuse yourself."
--S. J. Perelman

Thursday, August 05, 2004

Hillbilly Cat


Okay, I just got through ranting about people posting photos of their cats. Hypocrisy is a sign of character.

He's not my cat anyway. He's my girlfriend's cat. His name is Keliki. She found him on a golf course in Jakarta when she was teaching there a few years ago. She shipped him back to Seattle just before she left Jakarta. He spent two nights in a box on the plane and a night in Amsterdam at a pet hotel doing god knows what before I picked him up at the airport. We bonded. Though after two nights in a box, I suppose he would have bonded with a cantaloupe. Not that I look like a cantaloupe. I've never really thought about what kind of vegetable I resemble. I guess I'll find that out later in life. Anyway, I digress.

Keliki is a pretty cool cat. He is also very fat. I call him Bubba because of he has a beer belly and likes to watch football. He is a big Seahawks fan and really thinks Matt Hasselback is a great quarterback. Though he thinks they really need to beef up that offensive line and cut down on the sacks.

Isn't it amazing what we can project on pets?


"It takes a long time to understand nothing."
--Edward Dahlberg
But I suppose that doesn't mean anything to you.

You ain't nuthin' but a houndblog

If Tim-Elvis writes a blog in the forest, and there's no one there to read it, does it make a point?

In the days before Dreamweaver and automated Web page programs, some of us forged our way across the Web by actually learning html. Primative as it sounds, there was some satisfaction in making the damned page look the way you wanted it. Now, everyone and their dog throws crap into a template and calls it a Web page. Who looks at most of these pages anymore? Who reads these thousands of blogs? I mean, I don't even like to look at my own vacation photos let alone some kid's college trip to Puerta Vallarta including that cool blurry shot of the beer bong contest at Senior Frogs. And what possesses people to put up 62 photos of their cat. Believe me, much as I love my cat, I know no one wants to click through 62 photos of her, no matter how cute she is.

And listen kiddies, no one but you actually cares about how miserable or happy you are at the moment about your boyfriend or girlfriend. Save it for your diary, not the Web. Have some dignity for god's sake.

Is that what blogging is all about? This desire to be virtual exhibitionists with our lives? Has the media so conditioned us to think that every aspect of our lives is open for display and interesting? Honestly, even the most famous people's lives are full of the mundane. Do we really need to see Ozzie Osbourne take a dump on television?

And while I'm ranting, if you must blog, learn to write. Just because you talk trash doesn't give you the right to type it poorly.

TCB

Wednesday, August 04, 2004

Are you lonesome tonight?

In one of Elvis' last concerts, he was trying to sing "Are you lonesome tonight?" and kept flubbing the words. Finally, he said, "Are you lonesome tonight...I am and I was."

That's as profound as I plan to get.

I mean, it really doesn't matter what you write in a blog, right? You just basically shotgun your spew into the ether and random people either read it or not and then spew back at you. Kind of like sending out that Voyager in the 70s with a recording of earth sounds on a silver record. That probably communicated to a lot of other planets now, didn't it?

But I suppose it's no less useless than writing a newspaper article or a magazine feature. You just don't have to use the damned inverted pyramid and pretend to be objective. Ok, I have a journalism degree. It seemed like the best major to get if you wanted to write and get paid for it.

No one pays you to write blogs.

Moliere once said, "Writing is like prostitution. First you do if for love. Then you do if for friends. And then you do if for money."

I like quoting people. Then you can act clever without having to think. You can quote me on that.


No, I'm not a rabid Elvis fan

Not that you really care, but occasionally I get hate mail from people thinking I'm making fun of the King. But then again, occasionally I get hate mail from people thinking I'm glorifying the King and his nasty abuse of prescription drugs.

Actually, I'm more interested in Elvis as an Icon than as a person. Though it is easy to get caught up in the minutia of his life and career (checkout my Elvis links at http://www.dizgraceland.com/bigelvis.html if you don't believe me).

Why Dizgraceland? Well, it used to be Disgraceland, but a record company stole the domain from me. I kind of like Dizgraceland better anyway.