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31 July, 2003

Perplexing Times

Brandan Alexander, shown here, is just a baby. Like most babies, he's often perplexed about things. That's why there's Perplexing Times.

For example, he's perplexed about an incredible warming trend:

Over the course of my life, I've watched some pretty serious and alarming changes in our environment. Back when I was a kid, like in late December to early January, temperatures averaged around 45 degrees. But just a couple days ago, temperatures broke the 90 degree mark, and it's been in the 80's for DAYS now.

Posted on 31 July, 2003

Indie Music Stores

The music industry is in bad shape, right? Well, I guess it depends on what type of music you're talking about. According to Blogcritics, Indie music stores are doing well.

So how is it that Amoeba and other independent record stores are flourishing despite record label and industry lobbying group claims that the music industry is in a slump?

Pricing is one of the reasons.

With CD prices closing in on $20, major labels and retailers may be further distancing themselves from the very record buyers they need to stay in business. "The majors pushing prices up to $19 per CD is very hard for people to stomach," Other Music's Madell says. "There are not that many people who can afford to shell out $70 for a couple of new records."

Another is passion -- or the lack thereof.

"I'm at a loss to understand how all these supposedly creative [industry] people are unable to come up with exciting and creative alternatives when you're talking about a product that is just pure soul," says an indignant Weinstein. "It's the greatest product anyone could be involved with. I love selling music. It's everyman's art form. It's available to everybody and can be made by anybody. It's absurd that these jokers can't figure out how to market it to me."

Amoeba, referred to above, is a physical store. CD Baby, on the other hand, is an online store. They're also doing quite well:

Exactly 5 years after I started this little online record store, our payouts to musicians just hit the $3 million mark. What's best is that it took: 3.5 years to hit the first $1 million, 9 months to hit $2 million, only 4.5 months to hit $3 million.

So what's this about the music industry being in a slump? Perhaps it's only the major labels that are slumping while the independents are thriving?

Posted on 31 July, 2003

Blog Census

According to the NITLE Blog Census, there are 711,607 blogs. About 55% of them are in English.

We find weblogs by crawling the web - starting at one site, and following all of the outbound links to see if any of those sites are weblogs. We also seed our crawl queue with lists of known weblog URLs.

Posted on 31 July, 2003

Crazy Eyes

These are some unusual contact lenses. Just one of several varieties available.

Posted on 31 July, 2003

Mozilla Usage in July

On 18 July, I posted an item in which I announced that I had dumped Internet Explorer, and started using Mozilla Firebird (see Goodbye IE, Hello Firebird).

I was curious to see if that announcement had any effect on the people who read this blog. I heard from 5-6 people who followed my lead and switched to Firebird. I also examined my referral log, which lists the browser used by each visitor. The daily Mozilla usage for July is shown in the chart below. Each bar represents the percentage of Mozilla users on that day (I did not break it down by Mozilla Firebird vs. other versions of Mozilla).

The green bars show Mozilla usage prior to 18 July, and the red bars show Mozilla usage after my announcement.  Clearly, Mozilla usage has increased. The average of the green bars is 5.83%. The average of the red bars is 14.9%.

This is a good trend. I remain convinced that Mozilla Firebird is vastly superior to Microsoft Internet Explorer. In fact, it has literally changed the way I access the Web.

Unfortunately, I still need to keep IE handy. Some sites are simply designed to work only with IE.

Posted on 31 July, 2003

Kind Words From The Presurfer

The Presurfer had some nice things to say about me:

The J-Walk Blog is one of my most favourite weblogs. John Walkenbach manages to create an 'atmosphere' I'm very much attracted to. He always amazes me with his interesting, funny and eclectic topics... If there's ever a blog I absolutely want to visit every day, it's the J-Walk Blog.

Why thank you, Gerard!

Posted on 31 July, 2003

Place Your Bets

Gamblers might like uBetWhat.

We are a unique subscription-based message-board for the Gaming Community, where our members can discuss and place person-to-person bets with each other. Unlike a traditional broker, we do not take a commission. You Can Bet With Cash, Stuff or just for Fun!

There's a huge variety of things to bet on. For example:

  • Kobe Bryant Walks Free
  • Yahoo's stock price drops to $28 by August 15
  • There will be sunshine on Mothers Day in Smithtown, NY
  • Christine Aguilera is pregnant

(via Electric Venom)

Posted on 31 July, 2003

A Hard Days Nite

You may not be familiar with Benton, Illinois. But it's home to the Hard Days Nite Bed and Breakfast. The house used to be owned by George Harrison's sister. And 40 years ago, George even stayed there while visiting his sister.

Return to Louise Harrison's house in Benton and spend a night, just as George did back in '63. It will be a night that every Beatles fan -- either serious or casual -- or anyone with an interest in history, will not soon forget.

And they even have a Beatles museum. Well, it's actually a mini-museum.

Shown here is the shower in "George's Room." It's not known if George actually used this shower.

Posted on 31 July, 2003

Buy Some Holy Water or Holy Cosmetics

You think bottled drinking water is expensive? How about some bottled holy water?

Baptize your child with the same water John the Baptist baptized Jesus Christ, or Benefit from the curative powers of the Jordan River Holywater, or Just have the peaceful feeling that you have something HOLY in your home.

Two bottles for $8.00 (there's no indication of the size of the bottles, but I'm thinking they're tiny). But it's cheaper by the case. A 36-bottle case of holy water will set you back only $86. Buying an entire case is especially handy when you need to baptize a huge crowd of people.

If holy water isn't your thing, check out their line of Dead Sea Cosmetic Products. Shown here is a Dead Sea Facial Mud Mask. It...

...is 100% concentration of carefully sifted Dead Sea Black Mud. This one-of-a-kind mask is composed of the same mud that draws thousands of people to the Dead Sea region each year to benefit from its strange wonders. Used just once or twice a week, Black Mud Mask leaves the skin feeling supple and firm. Suitable and beneficial for all skin types

Posted on 31 July, 2003

Microsoft's New EULA Program

A humorous item from BBspot: New EULA Program from Microsoft

Microsoft announced today the availability of a several services and products relating to their various End User License Agreements or EULA, including monthly subscriptions on DVD. Microsoft's Herman Warren, Chief EULA Officer, called the DVD subscriptions "the legal equivalent of the MSDN."

Posted on 31 July, 2003

Disposable Digital Cameras

It was bound to happen. Ritz Camera now sells disposable digital cameras.

Ritz Camera Centers, the largest retail camera and photo chain in the United States, announced today the nationwide launch of the Dakota Digital Single-Use Camera at select Ritz Camera and Wolf Camera locations. The cameras, the first to offer consumers a high-quality, fully digital experience at a single-use price, will sell for $10.99 under the company's Dakota Digital brand.

It does not have an LCD, so you can't review your shots -- which is pretty much the key advantage to using a digital camera. But it does have a "delete" feature so you can delete photos that you suspect aren't good.

Posted on 31 July, 2003

Bill Maher's Blog

Yes folks, Bill Maher has a weblog. Yesterday's entry is pretty funny.

Posted on 31 July, 2003

Banned on eBay!

Moron Salt is a silly and perfectly harmless parody of Morton Salt. "Wacky Packages" Moron Salt stickers have been around for about 35 years. They are now considered collectibles. But...

Incredibly, the humorless corporation Morton Salt is still upset about Wacky Packages after all these years. Who could believe it but they have actually forced eBay to ban auctions of a 35 year old children's trading card: Moron Salt.

In March/April of 2003 the rumor started going around about this, the first I am aware of to have problems was ebayer janardana (see testimony). At first nobody could believe it, so a collector ran a test and sure enough the auction was ended by the eBay watch guards.

So now, people who have never heard of Moron Salt are finding out about it. And the lawyers at Morton Salt come off as the true morons.

But.. I just checked eBay. Someone is selling a group of Wacky Packages stickers from 1967. Among them is a Moron Salt sticker. So maybe they've backed off.

Update: Mark informs me:

The Morton salt banning, while true, lasted for a very short while. I am a collector of the 1967 die-cuts of which Morton Salt is a part. The  price of the card has actually risen to about $75 from the usual $50 and has stayed there!

(via Metafilter)

Posted on 31 July, 2003

Look For More Telemarketer Tricks

From Snopes:

This is to all of you that signed up for the "do not call" law. This week I received a card in the mail that looked alright - It said "vote for your favorite cola - Pepsi or Coke - and receive a complementary 12 pack" It didn't look suspicious - but for some reason I kept looking at it.

THEN I FOUND IT !! At the bottom of the card there is a VERY small statement. It is SO small it is hard to read-but here is what it says- By completing this form, you agree that sponsors and co-sponsors of this offer may telephone you, even if your number is found on a do not call registry or list"

So there you have it. Companies will be doing everything in their power to find loopholes in the do-not-call list.

The article also cites a web hosting company called TycoonHost.

Yes when you sign up for a new web hosting account you are automatically entered to win the 2003 BMW Z4 2.5i from Tycoonhost.com.

And then scroll down...

By completing the forms on this web site, you agree the sponsors or co-sponsors of of this contest may telephone you, even if your number is found on a "do not call" registry or list.

Posted on 31 July, 2003

Daily Photos

Beginning in 1998, Jonathan has taken a photo of himself daily -- and they are all available at his web site.

Good ideas are always imitated. Now we have Jason doing the same thing. But, as you can see, Jason's photos are a bit more creative than Jonathan's.

Posted on 31 July, 2003

The Terra Wind

The world has been waiting a long time for a luxury amphibious motor coach / yacht. It's finally arrived: The Terra Wind.

We have combined the best features of world class yachts and motor coaches in a revolutionary design.

Operation in the water is very simple. Upon arrival at the ramp and safety check is done, the Terra Wind is driven directly into the water. Once afloat, the marine transmission is placed into forward gear and the road transmission is placed in neutral. That is it! Steering is provided by traditional rudders in the rear.

For a company that's trying to sell an $850,000 product, their web site sure could use some help. Because of some poorly-written Javascript, the photos are viewable only in Internet Explorer.

Posted on 31 July, 2003

Junk Faxes From America's Toner

The bastards at America's Toner have sent me two junk faxes within eight days. Junk faxes, of course, are illegal. But suing these lawbreakers requires so much effort that it's simply not worth the time. Therefore, junk faxers can easily get away with breaking the law.

Sure, I could call their number to get removed from the list. The fax says:

To no longer receive these requested promotions in the future, please call toll-free 1-888-816-2972.

First of all, these are not requested promotions. And secondly, why should I have to go through the trouble of removing my fax number from a list? Every junk fax has a different number.

Interestingly, their web site has a "fax removal" link (they must get a lot of complaints). But, not too surprisingly, clicking that link results in an "invalid hostname" message.

Apparently, they used to go by the name Central Imaging. Here's their listing at junkfax.org.

And it seems that America's Toner is also into breaking other laws. A quick Google search led me to a list at the Colorado Attorney General's Office. The list is titled "companies subject to immediate cease and desist notices" for violating Colorado's do-not-call law. America's Toner is on the list.

In related news: California AG Heaps Troubles on Fax.com

Adding to the already considerable legal woes of fax broadcaster Fax.com, the California attorney general's office filed a federal civil complaint alleging junk-fax violations by the company and seeking millions in penalties and damages.

Calling the Aliso Viejo, CA-based firm a "24-hour privacy invasion operation," California attorney general Bill Lockyer charged Fax.com with committing "millions" of violations of state law and the federal Telephone Consumer Protection Act by sending unsolicited commercial faxes and prerecorded phone messages.

Posted on 31 July, 2003