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October 28, 2002

The Once and Future King

Rest In Peace, Richard Harris.

PGP Signed Entry

October 19, 2002

On the Nature of the Internet

In Spring of 1993, I was introduced to a program called NCSA Mosaic by a very good friend of mine. At that point, I had had an Internet e-mail address for almost three years. In the years since, I’ve worked, played, socialized, kept in touch with friends, made new ones, and more, all on the net. It’s with little false modesty that I say that the Internet has made a significant impact on my life, and that I have witnessed its growth from the domain of the intelligentsia into the popular culture. A lot has transpired in the world in the nearly ten years that have passed. A lot has changed. But a lot hasn’t. It is of the disappointments that I write tonight.

Before I proceed, though, the reader must set themselves into the proper mindset. How do you think of the Internet? A global information network? A melting pot where you can meet people from all over the world? A quick way to find what you’re looking for? Perhaps you see it as a means to drive commerce? It is, of course, all of these and more. I challenge you think of the Internet as a means to empower the individual. The single greatest step in de-centralizing the engines of commerce, politics, and society.

If you think about it, the Internet could have brought society into a new age of efficiency and empowerment of the individual over the institutions of the Old Economy and the Old Establishment. Take, for my first example, the creation, distribution, and subsequent enjoyment of recorded music. Ask anyone who buys music from the major recording labels and almost all of them will complain that they are paying too much. However, if you ask most artists signed to these labels, a lot of them will complain about lack of creative freedom, restrictive contracts, and, believe it or not, how little they actually make from selling albums. It’s a pretty well documented fact that the record labels take most of the money that you’re paying for that CD. Factor in the inefficient means of distribution (printing, shipping, warehousing, stocking, retail outlets) and you can see how your hard earned dollar spent on that recording isn’t really becoming much of a hard earned dollar for your favorite artist. The Internet could have taken out all of that inefficiency in one fell swoop. Empowered artists could have made their music available to the masses directly, and they could have been paid directly by the fans. Why is the RIAA is persecuting mp3 distribution networks and the people who set them up and use them? On the surface, they would argue that distributing mp3s is akin to theft. On the surface, that is what they argue because that is what the law allows them to argue. The recording industry is one of the slowest, poorest adopters of Internet technologies, because the fact is, they fear the Internet. The recording industry is built on the old establishment of centralized control and distribution. The Internet, by its very nature, bucks against this model. Remember, music is not a compact disc. The true essence of music is the creative information. The distribution of this information is extraordinarily well suited to a stateless medium such as the Internet. The question is, why doesn’t the industry make better use of this beautiful medium, for which they have to make very little technological investment in developing? Not because they are afraid people will give copies of the music to their friends, fundamentally. That is what they’d have you believe. But the real reason is that once they start using the Internet as a distribution medium, it becomes an incrementally smaller leap to make the transition to cutting out the record label from the distribution process entirely. In short, the industry would lose control over the medium, and without control of the medium, they have little with which to leverage their control of the creative process. They will become obsolete. With any amount of vision, artists and consumers could have already made this a reality two years ago. Instead, our collective lack of foresight and action have allowed the industry to impose the stagnation that they need to survive.

The Internet, with all its potential, is still only as effective as the individuals that use it. Back in 1995, I began to get most of my news on the Internet. Initially, this was mostly through cnn.com, but in the past couple of years, I’ve broadened my Internet news gathering to many other sources, as they have become available on the web. The new news.google.com portal is certainly a great help with this, but I think most Americans do not make use of the Internet as a means to learn more about the issues that shape the world around them. This is a crying shame, if you ask me. Instead, as CNN proudly proclaims, most Americans simply trust CNN. This kind of complacency breeds the ignorance which much of the rest of the world pins on the stereotypical American. Remember that no news source is unbiased. Nobody should trust any single news source. I read cnn.com and watch CNN, but only as a starting point in my explorations of the issues of the day. There are many sides to every issue, and it is important to explore as many as possible when trying to develop an understanding of the issue. Because we live in an interdependent world, this means getting international perspectives. Reading The New York Times and CNN simply isn’t enough. But neither is reading the Financial Times and the Straits Times. The power of the Internet is that we don’t have to get our information from the established media. While they have certainly tried to assert their control of news and information over the new medium of the Internet, the decentralized nature of the Internet allows you to pursue other avenues for your news and information. The thing is, the media corporations are trying to make your Internet experience just like your television or newspaper experience. That is, you take whatever it is they give you. If you allow this to happen, you will have failed to capitalize on the potential of the Internet. It’s not as easy to make proactive use of the Internet as it is to sit and watch TV. The Internet is still based on the fundamentally “pull” method of gathering information, that is, you must actively seek and obtain the information. On the one hand, this is very powerful because you only have to receive the information that you are looking for. On the other hand, sometimes finding that information can be challenging, and furthermore, a complacent individual might never go beyond the AOL Time Warner version of everything on the net. It is the responsibility of every individual to fight complacency and seek out the deeper meaning of the issues.

So I leave you tonight with that challenge. Make more of the Internet than the establishment wants you to. Think of it as more than porn, pop-ups, and packaged truth. Think of the Internet as it was meant to be: your portal into the future, and your tool to shape that future.

PGP Signed Entry

October 15, 2002

On Life

"There's no "normal" life. There's just life. Now get on with it."                                   -- Doc Holliday, Tombstone

PGP Signed Entry

United Airlines Purity Test

Below is the United Airlines Purity Test from 2000 or so. At that time, I scored a 2. Now, I score 4, but only because some of the questions are out of date. Take a bonus point if you know which questions are out of date now.

Some of us fly to get from A to B. Some of us fly because we enjoy seeing the destinations. Others of us fly because we have a love affair with United Airlines. Most of us are some combination, but to see how deeply you fall into the last category I've devised the following quiz in the spirit of a good Cosmo quiz to determine your level of smitteness.
First take the test, counting how many you answer NO to.

I fly UA even if it means adding a connection/paying more.
If UA does not serve the destination, I fly UA as far as possible and connect into the UA-less city on some other "sub-standard airline."
I have the UA website bookmarked.
I have Premex's Premier website bookmarked.
I receive the domestic e-fares each week.
I receive the int'l e-fares each week.
I have an RCC membership.
I have to pay for my RCC membership myself.
On business travel I have made up fare differences out of my own pocket to stay on UA.
I have taken "unnecessary" flights to obtain/maintain status.
I have a something with a UA logo in my office.
I have something with a UA logo on my office wall.
I have a Rhapsody in Blue MP3 on my computer.
My Rhapsody in Blue MP3 automatically plays when I log into UC software, UA website and/or FT.
I know the name and face of at least five UA employees.
I have told UA employees things about UA that they did not know.
My favorite carryon has a RCC luggage identifier on it.
My favorite carryon has a 1k luggage tag on it.
My favorite carryon has 2 or more 1k luggage tags on it.
I get a feeling of calm and peace when sitting in a UA aircraft staring at the blue/gray/red carpet on the bulkhead.
I can recite the pre-flight safety announcement along with the purser.
I know the good seats in each class of service on all the planes in the UA fleet.
I tell friends/family to fly UA even when I know it will cost them more and be less convenient and they will have a "non-elite" experience.
The abbreviations RCC, 1k, Premex, ORD, DEN, IAD, LAX, SFO are major players in my lexicon.
I have a copy of Hemispheres within reach right now.
I have a paper UA schedule within reach right now.
Channel 9 turned on means happiness.
A friend/loved one has recently told me that I am "obsessed" with UA.
Friends/loved ones ask me questions about UA.
I know who Denise Harvill is.
My RCC pass/MP card is in the area in my wallet purse typically reserved for a drivers license.
No matter how poorly I've been treated by UA, the thought of ending my relationship is too frightening to consider.
I am more pleased to receive mail from UA than from my parents/children.
It pisses me off when people who do not regularly fly UA criticize the airline or pass along derogatory information.

OK, now score yourself:
0-3 NOs: Face it, you're hopelessly, helplessly in love. Some might call it an obsession but it's ok, because while UA can be a fickle lover, your adoration is not totally unrequited.
4-6 NOs: You love UA the same way you love your wife/husband. You are always there for UA and UA is (almost) always there for you.
7-10 NOs: You have a healthy crush on UA that you can more or less keep under control (or at least so you think).
10-13 NOs: You love UA like you love your dog; it's ok but if push came to shove, you would put it to sleep.
13 or more NOs: You love UA like you love your hooker/gigolo: You use it and ride it and in the end you never get out of it what you thought you would going in…and you regret all that money you spent…

PGP Signed Entry

October 14, 2002

On Privacy

Excerpted from my latest Contact page:

My Privacy Policy

I just wanted to say a little something here about respecting reach others' privacy.  I am a staunch believer in privacy.  I will never give your contact information to anyone without your permission, period.  If someone wishes to contact you, then I will tell them to give me their contact information to pass along to you.  That way, you can establish contact with the third party on your terms, or not at all, if you wish.

Now that may seem rather obvious, but when I say I will never give your contact information to anyone without your permission, period, I mean, PERIOD.  This includes:

  • I will never send an e-mail to more than one person at a time without putting all recipients as bcc (blind carbon copy).  This means none of the recipients see each others' addresses.  Exception:  if I know that all recipients already have each others' info.
  • I will never send a chain-letter to you.  All of these are scams, and many of them are a veiled means for spammers to get more e-mail addresses.  I cannot tell you how absolutely angry and horrified I am when I receive a chain e-mail because I know that EVERY PERSON that the message now gets forwarded to will have my e-mail address.  STOP THIS NONSENSE.
  • I will never enter your e-mail address on a web form.  Period.  This includes web surveys, E-vites, etc.  I do not use the services of websites that require me to compromise your privacy.  If you absolutely must put my address into a web form, I ask you to use the public address described above, and to tell me that you did so (preferably to ask me for permission first, actually).
  • I will never display your e-mail address on a web page.  Period.

I ask you to do the same, and to put some thought into privacy and its importance in your life before taking action that might compromise it.  Our privacy rests in each others' hands.  It is only through our eternal vigilance that we will be able to protect it.  It is a responsibility I am all too aware of, and I hope that you will remember that whether you want this responsibility or not, it is in your hands.  Thanks.

PGP Signed Entry

October 10, 2002

I was Evil Incarnate

I have come to the conclusion that, in a previous life, I was Evil Incarnate.

This is the only explanation I have for the Hell that I am living now. Yes, this is my eternal punishment.

Take just two examples:

I am stalked by a schizophrenic, possibly psychotic bitch who seems to walk that impossibly fine line between fucking annoying and downright threat. See, if she actually demonstrated some threat I could get the restraining order, but no... she has to be just on this side of the line so she's still a complete nuisance but yet I can't do anything to get her locked up...

I pay the big bucks for rent and put up with the inconvenience of having to ride a bus for 40 minutes every day for one reason, and one reason alone:

I like sleep.

Yes, my days of college parties and drunkards and campus apartment life are long, long past. Which is why I live way out in the boonies where it's quiet and peaceful and I can sleep. It's more expensive, but it's a nice place, and it sucks to have to deal with the bus every day, but it's totally worth the peace and quiet.

Until yesterday.

See, my upstairs neighbors just had a baby. I don't know this because they came down and told us. I know this because at 4 AM, I woke up to the little bugger's crying before they did. I mean what the hell did I do in my previous life to deserve this? This is worse than college parties because there at least you can go up there and say. "Yo, mother fuckers! Turn this shit down or I'm gonna call the police!" But what am I supposed to do? Go up there, "Yo, turn that baby down, goddammit, or I'm gonna call the police!" Man. If I wanted to deal with crying babies at 4 AM, I would have gotten married and had my own for Chrissakes. I don't need this shit. I don't want it.

Hell. This is eternal punishment.

PGP Signed Entry

October 9, 2002


Got a summary statement annual report for one of the market funds I'm invested in today. The investment loss for this past year on this particular fund was $380,267,381.

To put it simply: that is NOT COOL.

PGP Signed Entry

October 2, 2002

Escape from Alcatraz

At about 10 PM on Saturday night, just before Brad Mehldau took the stage at the Justice League in San Francisco, I commented to Tawen, "yesterday at this time, I wasn't even here yet, and tomorrow by this time, I'll be long gone." Indeed, I spent a total of only 37 hours in Frisco this weekend. Still, I think it's pretty amazing that someone is able to travel across the country and spend a weekend with their friends.

During my 37 hours, I got to try a California Burger, courtesy of Eunice and Bob. This "burger" consists of vegetable bits "mashed into a convenient medium" as Bob put it. It was pretty darn good. Also visited Alcatraz for the first time, which is really something different. My first impression when I arrived was what a beautiful place this prison had been located. I was even thinking how great it would have been to have been incarcerated there compared to some other prison. I mean, the place really is beautiful, with a beautiful view and the ocean breeze coming from the Golden Gate... darn near paradise really. But not too long into my stay, I decided that it would have been, indeed, the worst place to be locked up. To have all this beauty around you, and to see the busy ships coming to and from the ports, and to sometimes even hear the goings-on of daily life from San Francisco only a seemingly short distance across the bay... to have all this around you but have to see it from behind bars and walls... that is torture.

Anyhow, afterwards Cookie made us dinner at her place, and then it was off to Justice League for the show. Now I have to admit that I don't really follow jazz very closely, but I did enjoy the show. The speaker placement left something to be desired, however, as our view of the great pianist was blocked by huge speakers. Oh well. Can't hear great music and see it too, or something.

Unfortunately, the next morning it was back to the airport, onto another plane, across the ether and back to real life...

PGP Signed Entry