Tuesday, September 27, 2005

...and Blingo was its name-O

So I just got an invite from a friend for this "new" search engine called Blingo. Here's the form-letter email:

I've been using Blingo to search the web. It's just like
searching at Google or Yahoo except Blingo gives away prizes,
like iPods and PlayStation Portables. Check it out and sign up
as my Blingo Friend.


Tallasiandude has invited you to visit Blingo and join Blingo
Friends. Blingo gives away prizes every day just for searching
the web: 60 prizes yesterday and 1,327 prizes in the past 30
To visit Blingo and see your invitation, click here (or
paste the link into your browser):


The Blingo Team
I find it amusing that they state that it's "just like searching at Google." I mean, yes, it is... but in a literal sense: it's not some other search engine, they really are using the Google search engine, only you have to go through their front end. I find it somewhat disingenuous, but I guess it's really the opposite: it's freakish transparency. "Hi! We're a search engine, but we're not really a search engine, we're just using someone else's search engine and tacking on a gimmick to make some dough!" It feels like some kind of underhanded scheme, even though I'm sure it's all kosher and they've got all the legal I's and T's dotted and crossed. But if they're serving their own ads, I'm curious as to what Google is getting out of the deal, since I thought that was their revenue model. A fixed license fee? A percentage?

It kind of reminds me of the web portal iWon.com, which gave away free money to use their services, and which I'm surprised still exists. (Looks like they got bought out by askJeeves, which apparently is itself getting subsumed by InterActiveCorp) I figured that kind of thing went the way of the dinosaurs, the internet bubble and soaring NASDAQ stocks, but I guess there will always be yet another way to exploit a person's desire to get something for (almost) nothing.

Speaking of which, feel free to be my Blingo friend, although I admit that even suggesting it makes me feel a little dirty. I certainly don't expect to remember to use them. And honestly, I don't want to encourage people to spread what is effectively yet-another-chain-letter in order to get more free stuff like all those free iPod deals. (although at least you don't have to sign up for an actual service that will cost you money after you forget to cancel when the trial membership period expires.)

Friday, September 23, 2005

Time Out For Fun

An interview with Mark Mothersbaugh [thanks, Cardhouse].

Mothersbaugh has since written songs for more than a hundred television shows and movies, including Pee Wee's Playhouse, The Rugrats Movie, and The Wacky Adventures of Ronald McDonald: The Visitors from Outer Space, as well as a number of jingles -- though he never misses an opportunity to adulterate. He's suggested that it's "?entirely possible" he's embedded the words "Sugar is bad for you" into a cereal commercial; and he has admitted to sneaking the phrase "Question Authority" into a kids' show tune.
In high school, I remember taping a bunch of songs on an old reel-to-reel audio recorder with a some friends and swapping reels and doing the whole play it backwards thing. We tried a few songs, but I specifically remember trying "Another One Bites the Dust" by Queen and "Time out for fun" by Devo. I remember there being a rumor floating around that there was supposed to be some kind of message on the Queen song but we couldn't hear it. (although this does a pretty good job of pointing it out.) However, with the Devo song it was pretty clear that it was back-masked. When played backwards, at the point where they sing the chorus:
"Time out for fun!"
you hear:
"They'll call time out!"

Yes, they will. I've learned that. But it was still cool and fun back when we were young and carefree. Well, as carefree as you're gonna get when you're in school. It's all relative afterall.

I also love this quote:

MM: Here's what it was. Somewhere around 1974, a friend of ours, Chuck Statler, came over to where we were rehearsing. He said, "Check this out." It was a Popular Science article all about laserdiscs. "Everyone will have them next year!" it said. And they were described as whole albums which not only had sounds, but visuals. You could almost get a whole movie on them, the original ones, and they looked just like a vinyl record. And we thought, "Damn! That's the end of rock and roll, because the great artists are going to be the ones who are into both sound and vision."

We became totally convinced then that we wanted to make art for that world -- the one beyond rock and roll, which we were sure was going to be populated by people who had something to say both visually and musically. Which felt good to us, since we were visual artists in college. So we were writing music that was saying good-bye to rock and roll. That's what we thought we were doing: deconstructing music that was popular at the time -- disco and concert rock, like Styx and Foreigner. The message for that music was "I'm white, I'm stupid, I'm a conspicuous consumer and I'm proud of it." Disco, on the other hand, was music that was like a beautiful woman with no brain.
Good stuff.

Thursday, September 15, 2005

What I've Learned...

My friend K celebrated her birthday at a bar in town tonight. Juje (with whom I carpooled) said it was like she was holding an open house -- K looking pretty hawt decked out in her colorful and festive dress, receiving wave after wave of well-wishing friends, socializing, mingling. Only, at a bar. Pretty cool.

But what I found even more cool was the book that was circulating -- a journal of fine hand-pressed paper with a brightly colored cover -- which K was requesting we fill with notes of the things we've learned in life.

It's always tricky to come up with something to write that's going to stick around for a while, like a BFF message in a yearbook, or a note in a wedding guestbook, even a birthday card. It'd be nice to say something meaningful. Not too wordy, not to trite. Maybe clever, hopefully a little funny. But it shouldn't sound like you had to pull teeth to come up with something, which of course is like saying "don't think of an elephant." (sorry, it's just on my brain today. I didn't even link to it!)

At least that's how it is for me. I can't say how other people approach it.

But anyway, I liked the idea of writing down what I've learned, so I figured I'd post the things I wrote today, and maybe I'll post others as they come to me. (Yeah, it'd be like... I'd think of something and then I'd write about it on the interweb. Like... a web-log... what a crazy idea!)

Ok, we'll try not to be cynical for a few moments so I can type these in, so here they are:

No matter how much you plan for the unexpected,
there's a reason it's called the unexpected...

joy and wonder are most often found in the spaces between the big stuff that you plan to do.

beauty is most often found in the little things that you weren't looking for.

An ounce of gold is not worth an ounce of time.

sometimes life's lessons come after dinner.

Wednesday, September 14, 2005

The Genie

This is something my friend Hedge forwarded to me:

"Gini was an Italian statistician who invented a very simple way to rate the relationship between the richest and poorest ten per cent of the population in any given country. A rating of zero in his coefficient means that there's no inequality: everyone in the land has exactly the same income. (Obviously nowhere like this actually exists.) A rating of one means that one individual is hogging the entire wealth of the land. (Some African states are a bit like this, with one gigantic palace for the president and a starving population.) If you'll allow me to play on words, think of inequality as a genie. A Gini rating of zero means this genie is absent, and a rating of 1 means the genie is there, squatting over the land like a malevolent monster. Because, yes, this genie is evil. Rather than giving you three wishes, he's going to take all your happiness away and replace it with envy, bitterness, insecurity and resentment. Unless, that is, you're already unusually rich."
there's more. Check it out, it's pretty interesting.

It's interesting to note that on the inside, I secretly cringe whenever he talks about Communism as a good thing. Perhaps I was properly programmed during the Cold War and ensuing nuclear arms race or I know enough bad things from China's history. Or maybe it's just that the word has been so vilified by contemporary American dialog that you probably couldn't bring it up without having to deal with a lot of kneejerk responses to the mere mention of it.

And come to think of it, I kneejerk on "Welfare state." I think, "no, an institutionalized welfare state is BAD! It'll be abused. People will take advantage of it. Laziness! Evil! blahbitty blah blah..." And then it occurred to me that I'm not certain that's exactly what he's talking about. Or maybe it is. But even so, the issue is much more complex that "Lazy people will take advantage of the system!" Which is exactly what George Lakoff was talking about -- framing the debate. More food for thought.

Of course, these days when I think about Capitalism, I almost immediately think: greed, irresponsible, selfishness. Well, that and the Oingo Boingo song...

Given that, I'm not sure where that leaves me at this point.

Monday, September 12, 2005

Sick sucks

So on top of the SOOTTAD moving to Chicago (yeah, old news) and still having a mostly non-functional left hand (progress is being made, but I still don't have clearance to take the splint off, and even then, it's going to be several weeks before things start getting back to normal), I've basically been sick since I got back from dance camp.

the sore throat basically started the day after we got back, and by Thursday, it felt on par with the sore throat from back when I had mono in college. I was concerned enough to try and see a doctor about it and ended up seeing the same NP that misdiagnosed my thumb. She confirmed that it wasn't strep and I turned down the Rx for a cough suppressant with codeine, figuring I had plenty of expectorant and vicadin at home if I really needed it. I tried to suck it up, but then the cough started. And then the shrill wheezing sound showed up. And at that point, I was having dinner at Gro's, and after she started making pertussis jokes, I started worrying that it really might be more serious that just another run-of-the-mill upper respiratory viral infection. I mean, I'd been hanging around with my friend Juje, and she's had this crazy cough (crazy SCARY, not crazy awesome) for almost 8 months, and was actually diagnosed with whooping cough a while back.

So that was the start of the whooping cough scare. Enough to look things up on the web, note the symptom similarities with the early stages (sore throat, unproductive dry cough, increasing severity of the cough), and call the doctor again today. Apparently the receptionists at doctor's offices are keyword driven just like giant internet search engine. Despite sounding like death warmed over as I tried to describe the history of my symtoms and previous visit, she seemed pretty blasé until I was able to rasp the words "whooping cough." She actually went and talked to the doctor at that point (or other people in the office, at least), and eventually coordinated getting a pertussis test kit sent over from the hospital to the local "Urgent care" clinic and planned on getting a prescription for antibiotics phoned in to the local pharmacy. I should have just told them I'd go to Newton-Wellesley, it probably would have been faster. But as it was, the whole process of getting the test and prescriptions and all ended up taking over 3 hours. Nothing like sitting in an over-air-conditioned waiting room trying not to cough on the other patients. Ugh.

So despite being opposed to the overuse of antibiotics in a one-size-fits-all healthcare system, I ended up with an antibiotic prescription and that codeine stuff that I tried not to get last week. I feel bad enough that I'm hoping that it's actually the right thing to do.

The only positive thing that came out of all of this is that instead of the 10-day program of erythromycin that I was expecting, the Urgent care doctor prescribed this new stuff called Zmax (azithromycin) that only takes one dose. Crazy shit. And bonus: voucher for a free sample. And double multi-ball bonus: they'll give me $5 to take a survey afterwards.

So anyway... that's what I've been up to recently. Oh yeah, and I went to class yesterday because they have a really annoying make-up policy and I can't afford to miss any classes. That didn't help. And I'm hoping I didn't actually get anybody *else* sick. And maybe I'll actually write about dance camp eventually, but right now, it's all about the relative suckitude.

It's no 9/11. It's no Katrina aftermath.

I understand this.

But it be really nice to not have to actually expend energy convincing myself how lucky I have things. Right now, I still feel like ass (and if you note some of the side effects of most antibiotics, that could be taken literally).

Saturday, September 10, 2005


Originally uploaded by tallasiandude.

Last day before the pin came out. (Thursday night.)

Now that it's out, it seems to be healing up quite nicely.

Google Ads

Adding Google AdSense ads, just for shits and giggles. Let me know (via email or comments) what kind of links turn up, I'm kind of curious what it's going to come up with.

Friday, September 09, 2005

Funny business at the gas pump

We had missed the sharp run up on gas prices over the weekend, isolated as we were from the rest of the world while we were at dance camp. On the drive home Monday, I remember seeing all the prices over three dollars at the local gas stations and thinking: the gas sure is expensive up here in New Hampster, maybe I'll just put a couple of gallons in the tank while we're here and do a proper fill-up when we get back to civilization. I figured it was just an issue of price gouging due to being in a remote area.

Hey, it's not like I never make mistakes.

I finally had to fill the tank for real yesterday, and by then, I'd come to see the reality of the situation. Wow, I remember when I was suffering sticker shock when the price hit 2 bucks. And all discussions aside of prices still being relatively cheap compared to historical prices when adjusting for the value of the dollar (no longer true, it would seem) or compared to the prices in other countries, it still stings, to say the least. Personally, I'm taking advantage of my contractor status and working from home as much as possible. And I switched back to regular unleaded again. The Batmobile likes the premium, but it can handle the 87 if it has to.

But I had to fill the tank yesterday, and I have to say it was an interesting experience.

First thing of note: several gas stations are refusing to take credit cards. At first I just figured that the pump was broken or too old to handle the new supersized prices, something I had read in an article earlier in the week. But no, it's not that they can't -- it's that they won't. Or rather, they can't afford to. The subject had come up during dinner on Monday, when it came up that some stations might start refusing to accept credit cards because while the credit card commission is based on a percentage of the total sale (a number which continues to increase with the price), the amount of profit (often only a few pennies per gallon) remains fixed. Which means at some point, the gas stations cannot make money if they accept credit cards.

I found this pretty frustrating, but I guess I can understand where they're coming from. I think I hit two gas stations around Main Street before I figured out what was going on. The Hess on Prospect was at $3.15 for regular. The Exxon on Main was $3.19 but I figured they'd fer sher take the plastic. Nope. Resigned, I headed up towards Trapelo where I remember seeing the Shell selling regular for $3.15. I figured that since it was closer to the house and sorta on the way, I'd check it out, and if they only took cash, I'd just suck it up.

But on my way up, I thought I'd entered bizarroland.

Originally uploaded by tallasiandude.

Yes, that's REGULAR at $3.429, and the mid-grade and PREMIUM just under 3 bucks.

It didn't register at first, and I had to pull into the parking lot of an apartment complex up the road in order to turn around and get back. Even as I drove up, I figured it was just a trick to lure people in -- the old bait-and-switch routine or something. Sorry, we're just fuckin' with you. We're totally out. But no, those really were the prices. AND... they took credit cards.

It's a crazy world, I tellya. A crazy world.