Thursday, June 29, 2006

Second World

Rob, Vern and I met up last night to plan the future direction of Arizona economic, spiritual, moral and agrarian development. Rob has written an account of it here so I won't repeat that save to say that it was a Virgin Mary and not a Bloody Mary that I was drinking. I have friends that call it a Bloody Shame.

At one point we broadened our discussion beyond the Arizona borders and discussed world economies and touched on first, second and third world countries. I was taught at school that a first world country was a developed economy, a second world country was a communist country and a third world country was a developing country. Developing here is generally a euphemism for stagnating or regressing.

It appears that I may have been one of the only people given those definitions of 1st, 2nd, and 3rd world countries and so today quickly checked the definition of them on wikipedia and here is a snippet that fits what I claim.

One of Wikipedia's Second World definitions
Alternatively, First World countries may be defined as having developed market economies, Second World as having developed planned economies, and Third World as having developing economies that may follow either the market or (less often) the planned model, often characterized more by many features in common with feudalistic economies, than by either free-market or planned economies.

The history and development of the terms is far more convoluted than I realized and I encourage you as a self-improving knowledge seeker and all-around know-it-all to read up on the definition.

The bar we were in last night claimed to have 113 beers on tap. Now I've been in bars before that have had 100's of beers but only ever a few on tap. These were all piped right to a barrel. Very impressive - even for someone who has taken a hiatus from drinking.

Wednesday, June 28, 2006

Unlikely Locations

After looking at the cluster map I see that Lessy (from Florida) has popped up on there after I mentioned her. She thought that she was hiding behind an anonymizer but I think that she's out in the open now. No hiding for you Lessy.

According to the cluster map it appears that the odd person is stumbling across this blog so I will keep it clean, straight and moral. I used to keep my travel journal that way because I knew that someone was reading it to my grandmother and I didn't want to offend her. Now I guess I just don't want to offend anyone. That's certainly not going to happen. Just writing a single word on one web page is bound to outrage someone. That's the way things work. So I'll let it be.

I was thinking of challenging Rob to a "most unlikely visitor" or "exotic location" hit on the Cluster Map. Where, in the world, do you think it most unlikely that a visitor would come from?

I was thinking of somewhere in Central Africa or perhaps a Pacific island country. I heard that the country of Nuie is the only country to have 100% wireless free internet access. How true this is I'm not sure. Perhaps a hit from Nuie would be unusual. How would you mastermind getting a visitor from Nuie? Perhaps by mentioning Nuie Island frequently in this blog then Google will index it and someone will stumble across it from Nuie by accident - although that is unlikely because one of the 2,166 inhabitants of Nuie would be unlikely to be using Nuie in a search term because they already know everything there is to know about their island.

I was going to include a link to the Wikipedia entry about Nuie but I discovered that there wasn't one - which is unusual. The best that I can give you is the CIA Factbook about Nuie. The CIA do NOT consider Nuie to be a military threat.

The Vatican City probably has free wireless internet access. I wonder how many countries in the world have 100% coverage of free wireless internet access?

Friday, June 23, 2006

Cluster Maps

Ultramaroon rises again blog writing genius Rob put me onto Cluster Maps. If you look in the right hand column - that's filled with junk that nobody ever knows what to do with - you will see a small map of the world. Clicking on this will bring up a larger map of the world and on it you will see dots marking the geographical location of people that have visited this blog. My fears that someone reads the blog were confirmed because there is an unidentified (perhaps two) geographical location marked on the map.

In Australia, it looks like there is a visitor from Melbourne. Now I would expect a mark on Sydney because I have a brother there but not in Melbourne. Singapore - John is that you? Near New York - I'm guessing that's you Chris. But my friend Lessy from Miami area is missing. I know that she read it because she sent me an email commenting on every entry I've made over the last 2 months. Perhaps I put the map up after she visited.

Wednesday, June 21, 2006


We saw our first rattler last night. A friend of mine was visiting from out-of-state and wanted to go for a walk in the desert and so we joked that the only animal we hadn't seen since arriving in Arizona 8 months ago was a rattle snake and that we were bound to see one that evening - and so we did.

Neither my friend nor I heard the rattler. We heard my wife scream and saw her run. It was amazingly well camouflaged as you can see in this photo. Not happy with being disturbed it had its head up in strike position but we kept our distance.

Here's a trivia question for you. What type of person is most often bitten by rattlers in Arizona? The answer: 95% of rattlesnake bite victims are drunk men. I presume that they were playing with them. I am tempted to add some of my own adjectives to help describe what else these men were/are but I will restrain myself.

My wife's bravery amazed me. Our first encounter with a deadly animal was a couple of weeks after we arrived here and discovered a tarantula crossing a quiet road which bordered the desert. I got out of the car and took a photo of it. She wound the windows up and locked the doors (with me outside) so that it couldn't get to her. She had obviously heard about how good tarantulas were at opening car doors and hence the need to lock them from the inside. I'm not sure if their dexterity extends to house doors as well? Perhaps if I find myself locked out in the garden one day this could be why.

After the initial scream and run my wife returned to the spot were the rattler was and using my friend and I as a buffer zone she watched in interest as we snapped it. Given her tarantula performance I thought that that would have been the last that we would have seen of her until we got home later. If anybody can identify what type of rattler (diamondback, lesser breasted sulfer crested etc.) please let me know by posting a comment to this.

We didn't see any more rattlers on the walk but there were three very skittish hikers that jumped when a cotton tailed bunny (dangerous vicious creatures) or bird zoomed by.

Tuesday, June 20, 2006

Countries Visited

I was surprised to discover that I had visited on 49 countries or 21% of countries out there. And there I was thinking that I was well travelled.

States visted

Apparently I've visited 33 states. 17 to go. Suggestions about how and when to tackle that road trip please...

Changing Forum Software

NCover asked the question: Does anyone have any advice for me for migrating the old forum posts? in his Site Redesign posting.

I tried to post a comment on his blog posting but Community Server (CS) generated an error and considering that I though that the end of my response was somewhat interesting I decided to post it here in my blog:

CS accepts forum posts by email right? (Or is it DotNetNuke that supports that?)

Well you could write a script that loops through the old forums and emails the contents of each post to the new forum. Not sure if you could regenerate the threads this way or if you'd have to put all the contents of each thread into 1 new thread...

You may also need to throttle the the script so that it doesn't flood the CS server with incoming mail. Also you might generate spam alerts along the line through ISPs etc - unless they are on the same server and you don't go out to the Internet.

Another idea:
There should be a common bridging format developed to allow people to move from one forum to another. For example, most contact lists can be imported and exported from one system to another by using a CSV file as the intermediary. So all forums should allow the importing of forum postings from a structured XML file. Likewise, all forums should allow the exporting to the same XML structure etc.

(or am I just dreaming of Utopia?)

Monday, June 19, 2006

Forum and Blog Spam

As email spam starts to be brought under control by sophisticated anti-spamming software, legislation and prosecution the spammers are looking for new spam targets and they have found this in forums and blogs.

Spam bots trawl the net and now instead of collecting email addresses they are registering themselves on forums and blogs so that they can post new topics, threads and comments with links to their spam sites or products. Depending on the sophistication of these bots, they register multiple aliases and sometimes they lie dormant for several months before attacking - this fools the algorithms that watch newly registered accounts to see if they will spam and gets by the probationary period.

In the fight against spam on forums and blogs, the spam fighters have a slight advantage which they don't have in the email war. When a spam bot tries to register itself on a forum, and if it is identified as a spam bot, the forum can immediately fight back by making requests to the domain from which the spam bot is coming from and deny registration. (This sort of counter attack is not possible in email.) This will create a type of SDOS on the bot.

What is a SDoS? It's a new acronym I've just invented. Self Denial of Service - the counter attack to DDoS. The attacker is looped back onto itself.

In order for this to work the forums and blogs need to work together in order to identify domains and IP's that are hostile. This list needs to be shared and kept up-to-date. When a registration is attempted by a known attacker the forum or blog will redirect the attacker back to itself. Send it home without supper - so to speak.

Do you want to see this in action?

Try and register yourself with an email address of [email protected] (a known domain used by spam registrants) on the Emini Futures Forum. You will notice that instead of getting a friendly "check your email" message you will find yourself sent back to yourself and probably see an error page.

Of course this could just be wild fiction...

Friday, June 16, 2006

Ultramaroon rises again

Rob writes in the blog Ultramaroon rises again. I met up with him (and Vern) on Wednesday evening and discovered that in the less-than-2-years that he's been writing this blog he's penned around 285,000 words. Now that's a lot of words. I once worked out that an average novel has 80,000 words and so this is about 3.5 books. An impressive achievement. I'm guessing that by his second year anniversary he'll have written 320,000 words and round off 4 books.

This is about the right speed, in my opinion, to write. I wrote a novel called Wild Fiction and I worked out that it took me about 6 months to write. It actually took about 8 years but if I was to add up all the time spent on it I guessed that it took about 6 months of 40 hour weeks. This included 4 revisions to the 85,000 words of magical realism which one rarely executes on a blog.

A blog is, in my opinion, the new and best way to write a book. A blog is the ideal way to get around writers block. If you set up categories on your blog then when you come up with the next idea or time to add to your book you blog it and stick it in the book category. If you don't have anything to add to your book then you blog on something else. The great thing about a blog is that it lets you practise your writing and keeps you writing until you're ready to the your magnum opus.

Thursday, June 15, 2006

Dangerous Sports - meaningless stats

Today (see link in title) reported that Basketball rated as the most dangerous sport during 2005 with 512,213 people put the ER and wrestling coming in at number 15 with 33,724.

These stats are completely meaningless if you are trying to work out which sport is safer than the other as they don't take into account hours played per person per sport.

As an example, if there were a total of 33,724 hours of wrestling done during 2005 then the injury rate would be 1 per hour. If there were 512,213,000 hours of basketball played then the injury rate would be 1 per 1,000 hours. Doesn't wrestling look a bit more dangerous now with my hypothetical hours?

Wednesday, June 14, 2006

Millers Light

Today on RocketBoom Amanda chugs back what appears to be a Millers Light. I think she overfilled her mouth because we can see some escaping here on the freeze-frame. If you pause today's vlog and step through that part of the video you can notice some interesting things.

The first is that she can't keep her eyes open while the brusky is inverted - actually I don't think that I can do that either. If I did the tears would probably be running down my forehead instead of my cheeks.

Secondly, and much more interestingly, you can see her Adam's Apple proving that she really isn't a she.

But that's not what this posting is about. What I really wanted to know is why not show the beer label? I'm guessing that it's for one of two possible reasons.

1. She negotiating with a beer sponsor for product placement and using this as a sample video clip.
2. There's something legal preventing her from showing the label.

Nothing wrong with reason 1 and if that's what she's doing I hope that someone sponsors her so that she can "product place" her brusky. Will the brewery teach her to drink with her eyes open or pay to have that Adam's Apple shaved off?

Wednesday, June 07, 2006

Not Easily Impressed

I'm not easily impressed. Last night I caught a few of the acts on Last Comic Standing and fell off my chair laughing at Josh Blue. Here's this guy with cerebral palsy and he comes on stage to do stand-up comedy with this disability. He was outstanding and seriously impressed me. He also impressed the audience who immediately gave him a standing ovation - he is a very funny man.

What killed me was his response to Kathy Griffin's question "Why did you decide to become a comic?" to which he responded "Well I didn't really have any choice. I can't exactly direct traffic with my arms like this."

I didn't see the end of the show yesterday evening but I learned today that he won. Well done that man! I'm looking forward to seeing you live one day.

Monday, June 05, 2006

Social Web

One of the very positive (in my opinion) new directions that the web is evolving in is the social voting for content that takes place on the more proactive and better web sites. Two sites immediately spring to mind when I talk about this. They are Digg and Sites that appear under the "most popular" category are usually justified in being there. Both of these web sites use a voting system by registered users to push popular content to the top of the list and both include spam fighting software to prevent malicious spammers from promoting self-interest and spam content.

One of the problems that comes with the web is spam web sites with duplicate or spam content. Google are doing a good job of eliminating spam content from their indexes by using humans to check sites.

There is another solution for Google, Digg, and that would involve social anti-voting. By allowing registered users to block certain web sites (and monitor which sites users blocked) would give them the power to see which sites the users didn't want to visit every again (via their web site) and form a social blacklist. This social blacklist could then be checked by the moderators and if justified be de-indexed from their sites.

Of course this does have some problems. What if a user blocks a site that is useful but does not interest them? The solution here would be to allow the blocking user to select a reason for the block. For example: "spam", "not interested", "not my native language", "other" etc.

What if a user registers lots of accounts to try and spam block a competitor? This should be obvious through IP address discovery or by a quick human check of the site.

What happens if you block a bunch of web sites now that you have no interest in but in a few months time that becomes an area of interest for you? Well Google already has a feature at the bottom of their search page which says something like: "We have excluded content which is similar... but if you want to re-run the search including that content then click here..." So, these web sites would include the same sort of line "16 results not shown because they are on your block list. Click here to show block list results."

Friday, June 02, 2006

Easiest job in the world

I have discovered what must be the easiest job in the world. That is being a meteorologist in Arizona. The 7 day forecast is: Clear skies, sunshine, dry and hot.

These 2 photos were taken this morning at around 5:20 and 5:23 which is another thing that always amazes me - the speed of sunrise and sunset. I remember spending a week on a particular beach in Coast Rica and every evening I'd make a point of watching the sunset - mostly because I had nothing else to do. I'd carefully watch as the bottom of the sun touched the water and then start my stopwatch to see how long it took the sun to disappear. It was under 2 minutes if I remember correctly. The other thing that I think I remember is that the speed of the sunset was getting faster each day - but this is a few years ago so I don't remember the details.

Thursday, June 01, 2006

Joseph Wong Wing Ping

Joseph Wong Wing Ping is his real name. I'm not making this up. He has been the Hong Kong Special Administrative Region's Secretary for Commerce, Industry and Technology since 22 January 2006.

Ordering photos online - part 3

Well I've just received an offer from York Photo for some free prints (excluding shipping of course). I mention this because they come in at a way lower price per print of 10 cents compared to Snapfish and Photoworks who are 12 and 15 cents respectively.

York Photo, however, are using a standard mail order pricing trick that most of you should be able to see through. They are shifting the cost to the shipping which much higher. Their competitive price comparison chart shows costs against, Shutterfly, and Kodak Gallery and uses a sample of 40 photos which will push up the latter(s) costs and make York Photo look better by comparison.

There is, of course, nothing wrong with doing this because every company does it and needs to do it in order to survive. I merely point this out to you to help you when comparing the offers.

I do, however, find it frustrating when trying to compare prices online that you can often not find the shipping cost until you've entered all your details and arrived at the final check-out page. This almost always involves giving away your email address and the subsequent consequences of junk mail and often your credit card details.