I think it's great that Google has a bunch of blogs now; they've always been weak at informal communication. But sometimes a blog post can hit a sour note, like this health advertising blog post, which uses Sicko as an opening to sell more ads to healthcare companies.
Does negative press make you Sicko?

... Moore's film portrays the industry as money and marketing driven, and fails to show healthcare's interest in patient well-being and care. Sound familiar? Of course. The healthcare industry is no stranger to negative press. ...

Many of our clients face these issues; companies come to us hoping we can help them better manage their reputations through "Get the Facts" or issue management campaigns. Your brand or corporate site may already have these informational assets, but can users easily find them?

We can place text ads, video ads, and rich media ads in paid search results or in relevant websites within our ever-expanding content network. Whatever the problem, Google can act as a platform for educating the public and promoting your message.

I'll be charitable and assume the person who posted this blog entry hasn't actually seen the film. Because if she had, she'd realize that you want to stay very, very far away from this story.

In a funny way I think Google is to be applauded for mistakes like this. It suggests that there's some openness in letting employees do things on their own. The company does not speak with one voice. And that's good, even if some of the chorus is shilling for evil.

  2007-06-30 16:48 Z
Do you have the need to track your time across different projects? Maybe you're billing for consulting hours or just trying to keep track of how much time you spend on email vs. coding vs. meetings. There are a zillion timer apps out there that all suck. I finally found one I like: Slimtimer.

Slimtimer is web based. That sounds terrible, but the little tracker app has just enough Javascript and AJAX love to work well. In particular, it's smart to not break when you close the browser without stopping your current task. And since all the data lives on someone's web server you can access it anywhere, get a lot of fancy reports, access it via an API, etc.

My only complaint is it's a bit geeky. Everything is tracked down to the seconds. And getting a simple time sheet involves the words "Pivot" and "Rows" and "Columns". But it's still all very usable, and in general the application is very well executed. Recommended.

  2007-06-29 18:03 Z
In the early days of US home broadband you had a static IP address and a live real TCP/IP connection. Because of the demands of security and customer support that's been whittled away. Now we have the hassle of dynamic IP addresses and abominations like PPPoE.

I just upgraded my home connection to sonic.net, a small California ISP where the person who answers the support line actually knows what they're doing and respects you might, too. So far so good, except sadly I find they're blocking all traffic on port 25. So much for running a mail server at home. I can't exactly blame them, but it's a nuisance.

I'm on my fourth home router in twelve months; the junky Buffalo router didn't turn back on after I unplugged it today. No blinky lights = no internet. This time I'm trying a Belkin router. At $40 they're essentially disposable, but I'd still gladly pay more for one that actually worked.

  2007-06-28 22:42 Z
I've been enjoying two lovely erotic novels recently, books thoughtful enough to be engaging as well as prurient. This blog post is safe for work but the links are generally not.

My Secret Life is a autobiographical novel of a gentleman's vigorous sexual life in Victorian London. The book is mostly an encyclopedic account of various encounters, growing increasingly byzantine as the book progresses. But between all the debauchery is a remarkably honest and sympathetic protagonist.

Then came reflection. Had I really frigged a man ... An act I had certainly heard of being done by men to each other, yet all but disbelieved, and looked on as a very foul action yet I had done it, had enjoyed it all. ... It ended in reflecting that I never had intended to do those things, that opportunity had let me unwittingly to do them, and resolving that I would never do it again, I fell asleep.
Sometimes he's very libertine, sometimes quite conflicted. There's a lot of interesting class-related observations. The relentless sexual combinations with only slight variation sometimes read like Penthouse Forum letters, but there's enough thought behind it to keep my interest. The book is available free online, I'm reading an abridged edition.
The other book I've enjoyed recently is Lost Girls, Alan Moore's porno graphic novel. Obviously not a Victorian book itself, but set in Victorian Austria. Nominally the story is about the erotic hijinks of Alice (of Wonderland), Dorothy (of Oz), and Wendy (of Nevernever Land). The writing doesn't always work, but some of the reimagining of classic childrens' stories are quite good.

But as a graphic novel it's not really about the text, it's the art. And the art is a lovely diaphonous dreamworld, mixing eroticism and innocence and vibrancy in a very powerful way. Some good page samples: 1, 2, 3. At $60 it's not cheap but the print quality is beautiful.

  2007-06-21 19:26 Z
Well, at least it was only 90 minutes.
  2007-06-19 21:38 Z
I made a snarky linkblog entry about a BoingBoing post that read more like an eBay ad. A friend of mine IMed me to suggest I look at BoingBoing without Adblock Plus, that it looked like NASCAR now. Boy howdy! There's at least three graphical ad units (two animated) and three textual ad units on a single blog post. That's not counting the fourteen or so badges on the left hand side promoting stuff the authors are personally involved with.

I love BoingBoing, I really do, and I read it every day and I love what they do and I still remember back when it was a zine on paper. And it's great that Battelle is building a media empire out of advertising; sometimes journalism leads to riches! But really, six ad units on a single blog post? Is that a good idea? I particularly like how the FMPub text ads are colored almost like you'd already clicked on the link; I wonder if camouflage increases clickthrough?

I've made a screenshot of a BoingBoing page with the actual post content helpfully grayed out so it doesn't distract you. Sorry the screenshot isn't animated; the chump on the left is smiling and nodding at his phone like he's in a Mentos commercial.

More inside ...

  2007-06-18 20:09 Z
How is it that despite a 10 year head start on the Internet the online experience of PC games is so much worse than consoles? XBox Live is worlds better than the pastiche of special accounts, downloaders, and patch systems of PC games. Yesterday I decided on a whim to buy Battlefield 2142. And since I was lazy, I bought it online rather than at a store. If I'd known it would take six hours to install during which time my computer wasn't fully usable, I wouldn't have bothered.

I now have three or four different systems for installing and managing games on my PC: Steam, Stardock, etc. All of them suck. And every single game has a different login system, a different account, a different way to find friends online and play. Compare to Xbox Live, a seamless integrated experience. PC games are screwed.

Here's all the idiotic steps the install took.

More inside ...

  2007-06-17 15:53 Z
Thanks to Metafilter I've enjoyed watching an old Beatles video for the song Rain. That's one of my favourite overlooked Beatles songs and the video is just lovely.
Hard to imagine that music like this could survive in today's hipster ironic world. "Rain" is just straightforward and sweet and a little goofy. And the boys are cute and nice, not snarling tortured artists hating their world or gangsta thugs demeaning women.

I tend to be pretty snidely ironic myself. It's an obnoxious reflex, a lazy substitute for actual wit. Why not speak plainly and pleasantly? I mostly fail to banish my own irony, but I have at least learned to appreciate honest things.

  2007-06-10 15:14 Z
I'm failing to enjoy Lord of the Rings Online. It has amazing graphics, the best fantasy backstory material available, and a strong fan community. The instance-based epic quests make LotRO the first MMOG with a strong storyline and the deeds system is a clever innovation to give some purpose to grinding. But the gameplay experience is failing. The graphics engine is broken. The combat seems simplistic. And it's terribly, terribly laggy. Monsters jump around as network packets arrive, crowded areas take forever to load, and the whole game is played under the miasma of a 200ms delay.

For example, as a Hunter what I do is run up to a monster and then shoot an arrow at it. So I take my finger off of W, the run key, and use that finger to press 1, the shoot key. Every single time, I'm told "you cannot do that while moving". It seems the the client is waiting for the server to acknowledge I stopped moving before letting me shoot, forcing me to wait 200+ms for the round trip before my input is accepted. It's not network congestion or ping time (those are fine), it's just the software isn't designed to feel like realtime.

All this makes me appreciate the brilliant gameplay experience of World of Warcraft. I pretty much never feel lag in WoW, the game plays like an action RPG. In combat it feels like my ability to execute move combinations swiftly makes a real difference. Thanks to an addon I know that there's actually a 200-300ms delay between actions, but the client and server must be working together doing speculative execution to make it feel like realtime. It's not easy to do that and make it work, but it's very important to gameplay.

  2007-06-07 18:06 Z
Neither Ken nor I are naturally tidy. Newspapers accumulate in the living room until trash day, I leave three pairs of shoes under the coffee table, Ken left one unsuccessful Christmas present right where it was unwrapped until April. We're not totally filthy slobs, but the clutter accumulates.

When we were in Paris we tried an experiment of complete order. Nothing stayed out where it didn't belong. Books on bookshelves, magazines in a neat pile out of sight, electronics and eyeglasses stored away in drawers. It was easy to start since the apartment was entirely orderly when we arrived. And we found keeping a tidy home was actually pleasant.

So now we're bringing order to our home in San Francisco. So far we've organized the living room and dining room; the bedroom comes next. I'm finding that having less clutter in my life makes me calm and happy. The next step for me is to throw away, give away, or sell a bunch of the crap I've accumulated and no longer want.


  2007-06-03 18:25 Z