Archive for March, 2005

Very special Amazon UK discounts

March 31st, 2005

I had some purchases in the UK version of Amazon
in the past. So they’re sending me (with permission, this isn’t the
problem here) the occasional promotional emails about new releases and
special discounts.

The latest such message contained some interesting offers. Like:

The 4 DVDs for GBP 20 promotion applies to listed titles only, which are subject to change and availability. DVDs may be purchased individually for GBP 4.97.

Now, let me run this by you again. You can purchase, in a special promotion price, a pack of four DVDs, for a total of 20 GBP. Do the math, it comes to 5 GBP each. Or, you could forgo the special offer, and buy them individually, in which case they will cost 4.97 GBP each. Which is less.
So for example, if you really want four, you’re better off getting them
as four individuals instead of using the special promotion. Brilliant
offer, isn’t it?

But wait, there’s more:

The 3 paperbacks for GBP 12
promotion applies to listed titles only, which are subject to change
and availability. Books in this promotion may be purchased individually for GBP 3.99.

Yes,
that’s almost exactly the same thing. It’s not as bad here as in the previous
case, but you’re still either better off, or the same, buying them
individually instead of in the special offer pack. Would it have really
hurt them to say that each one is 4 GBP and be done with it, without any special offers?

Special offer – get exactly your money’s worth

March 31st, 2005

With passover approaching, as with a few more of the main holidays,
many companies and businesses feel the need to get a holiday gift to
their employees (That’s not an altruistic feeling, in particular. It’s
so ingrained that people deserve it, that companies will face serious
disaffection and disgruntlement if they won’t do it. Cheaper to get the
gifts, and retain the good feelings of the employees. Some places, it may even be in the contract).

And a gift which is becoming more and more popular is a
multi-coupon, that’s worth a certain amount of money in a large amount
of store networks – clothing, music, books, toys, and supermarkets.
Actually, there are people using the opportunity to buy these things
privately, since if you buy at the included stores anyway, you save
money. the coupon price is less than it’s value in the store (not that
big a problem for stores, they give up a little of their mark-up for a
chance of getting more customers. If they didn’t think it was worth it,
they wouldn’t do it).

Now, in most places, it’s easy. If the coupon has a stated value of 100 ILS, then you can buy 100 ILS
worth of goods in it. Simple enough. But for a long time some of the
large clothing stores, and supermarket network, accept these coupons
for a reduced value, so the same coupon will be worth, for example, 95 ILS
there. These are probably the places that get lots of traffic anyway,
so they assume nearly all shoppers will be regular one that take
advantage of the coupons, rather than new customers that wouldn’t have
bought anything otherwise.

Personally, I found this irking enough that I wouldn’t go there with
the coupon out of principal. It feels too much like being cheated out
of money.

And now, one of the supermarket chains had these radio commercials that
I’ve been hearing over the last few days. And it’s a very sad state of
affairs that this sort of thing is considered by their PR
flacks to be an advantage worth publishing. It’s even sadder that many
people may actually see this as the special discount offer that those
commercial presents.

See, what they claim is that, very special offer, the coupons will
be worth their stated value in their store. Yes, you read that right,
this amazing and unbelievable offer, you could buy things in the sum
stated on the coupon as it’s value. Now is that the best deal you’ve
heard of in a long time, or what?

Music and Sports don’t mix

March 29th, 2005

On Saturday evening I went to a performance by Shlomit Aharon.
A terrific singer, with a wonderful voice (She has been at it for a
number of years now, and a friend asked me if she isn’t too old by now,
so to make it absolutely clear, she’s far from it).
Also accompanying were:

  • Peter Wertheimer on a saxophone. He was excellent, and
    it’s not the first time I get to hear him play in some capacity. He
    usually plays (at least the bit I got to hear) Jazz, as was also
    evident when in some of the songs in this show he did a little solo
    parts and slight improvs. He’s a good player, and has a good sound.
    Also seemed like a nice person, but that could have just been a little
    stage persona, hard to tell.
  • Michal Rahat on the drums. Don’t think I heard her before.
    She played alright. But a bass drum was set to a resonant frequency for
    something most people carry inside their chests, which made all the
    bass strokes very uncomfortable. I know that music that touches your
    heart is supposed to be good, but I think that sentence really did not
    intend for it to be taken literally…
  • Dror Alexander on the keyboards. Didn’t hear him before as
    well, and I may have misspelled the name here, not sure. Also did good
    enough a job, if there were any big glitches, I missed them. He ran
    some small banter with Shlomit, as a part of the show, and managed to
    sound almost like it’s all fresh, even though the conversations were
    apparently nearly identical to previous shows of them together.

Anyway, the show was excellent, I like her music, and love her singing.

The show took place in the hall at our city country-club. Tickets for members were at a ridiculously low price, as usual.

This was also the night of some big sport game (soccer?), between an
Israeli team and Ireland (I think). As you may sense, I’m not that much
into sports…

But plenty of other people are. Enough so that the country-club also
had, in their second large hall, a huge-screen cast of the game,
starting at 19:30 (Local time, that’s GMT+2).

The performance was supposed to start at 21:00, but at some point
they realized the game won’t be over, and many people are in the same
target audience, so they delayed it to 21:30. This only took place at
Thursday, two days in advance, so some people missed the notice and
arrived for 21:00, but better late than never.

Of course, sport games never end on time, or so I’m told. We arrived
in plenty to time to 21:30… Plenty of chair occupied by jackets and
bags, but the people were all in the other room watching the game.

The performance itself started only at about 22:00. But at least
people seemed happy, apparently the game was 1:0 against us (I use us
for Israel here, though I don’t particularly feel for any side in this
matter) from about 3 minutes after the game started, and changed to 1:1
at about 3 minutes before the game ended. Personally, it doesn’t strike
me as a huge victory, but what do I know?

It was interesting to see that Shlomit isn’t more of a sports buff
than I am. She mentioned the game, and seemed just as puzzled over the
whole thing. I’ll hazard a guess she wasn’t too thrilled about having
to sit and wait for an extra half an hour, but if that’s true, she
certainly didn’t show it.

So what is this Purim all about?

March 25th, 2005

[Update: I got a message from someone claiming that:

I am Jewish, I'm American and I take deep offense at what, in my opinion is a blasphemous misinterpretation of the holiday of Purim. It is not only a misinterpretation but such irresponsible explanations engender anti-Semitism.

If you want to give explanations of holidays, I'd suggest giving straight ones.

So, just to make it absoloutly obvious for the extra obtuse, this is supposed to be homour. Yes, it's closely based on the actual Scroll of Esther and the holiday customs, but the tone, and the interpretations, are pure satire/comedy. OK? CLEAR?]

This being the Jewish holiday of Purim now, you might have asked
yourself what is this Purim all about, where does it come from, and
what does it mean. Right?

Well, wonder no longer, here is the full explanation. First, we’ll go
over the story from the scroll of Esther, which details the whole
thing, and when we’re done, we’ll cover the ways it’s currently
celebrated.

Now, the scroll of Esther leaves a lot of important details out, but
have no fear, in here, for the first time, you’ll get a
behind-the-scene and honest look.

Who is this Esther you ask, and why is the scroll named after her?
Well, Esther is the dumb Jewish blonde which through sheer stupidity
and incompetence managed to nearly fail in every opportunity presented
to her to prevent a great war. But she’s a beautiful blonde, so as often
happen when men write the history, she’s considered one of the heroes
of the tale, and gets a lot of the credit.

Now, onward to the story.

It all supposedly took place a long long time ago, in ancient Persia.
The king of Persia at the time was called Achashverosh (Yes, it’s a
funny name, but nobody told him after he executed the first few). And
he had a very beautiful wife (Funny how this is the main criteria for
all these ancient kings in choosing wives, isn’t it?) called Vashti.

If this was an episode of the original Star-Trek series, Vashti would be
the ensign expendable… Achashverosh was having a large feast,
inviting all his important friends from all over. And after a few days
of celebrating he thought it may be a good idea to bring in the little
misses, to show off to his guests. So he sent for her. Alas, Vashti
wasn’t really a party person, and was having a bit of a headache, so
she said no. After much discussion with all the advisers, they reached
the inevitable conclusion, and he had her executed. No, seriously. He
also passed a law that women should do what their husbands tell them,
so some would say it wasn’t all bad.

And so started the search for a new queen. Obviously, this time he
wanted someone smart, intelligent, and a good conversationalist, to
make for a good marriage. No, no, kidding! Got you there for a moment,
didn’t I? He wanted someone beautiful. So agents were sent to scour the
country, looking for beautiful women. Then these women were pampered
for a whole year to make them look pretty, and presented to the king.

Now, you’d expect this to be a huge hit, with everyone sending their
cross-eyed daughter as well, in case they’ll get lucky and score the
king as a husband. And mostly, that what happened. Kings are always
considered a good catch. Now, remember Esther? Well, Esther was
different. Maybe her mum dropped her on the head when she was little,
or maybe it’s just the blonde thing. In any case, she spent something
like four years trying to run away and not get found by the agents.
Yes, this also mean the king was so picky that he didn’t find anyone
pretty enough for all those years, I guess those Persian women weren’t
something to behold…

Well, eventually Esther was caught. In comes the next actor is our
story Mordecai. Mordecai was a relative of Esther, and the guy who
raised her. Mordecai was also one of those paranoid Jews, who were sure
everyone were out to get the Jews, even though at this time nobody
really was. So the main advice he had to give Esther was to not tell
anyone she’s a Jew. Seriously.

Fast forward a year later. Esther is finally to be presented before the
king. Being a petulant girl, she refused to wear the standard perfume
and make-up. Luckily, this otherwise pretty stupid act was actually a
good move, since after seeing hundreds of heavily perfumed and more
heavily made up women, Achashverosh was probably just very happy to see
someone with a normal skin tone, and who didn’t stank of myrrh. So he
married Esther and made her queen.

She didn’t tell him she was a Jew, of course, so I suppose the marriage wasn’t Jewish. Terrible.

One thing you need to know, is about Mordecai. According to the scroll,
the guy was constantly at the palace gate, and wandering around the
palace. Most critics take it to mean he was important and respected. A
more sensible outlook would be that he was a beggar hobo, but one of
those odd characters which goes everywhere, and which everybody knows.
This would fit the facts perfectly. Now, at some point during the
following years these two servants decided to try and kill
Achashverosh. Maybe they were blonde too, but in any case they talked
about it at great length, without paying attention to their surrounding,
so Mordecai was walking by, and heard them speaking. Being a good
citizen, and probably hoping for a warm meal, he reported it. The two
servants were caught, and, as you probably guessed, went to meet their
makers. Now Esther made sure that the king be aware the credit belongs
to Mordecai, and it was even written in the annals of the kingdom. What
further did the king do about it? Nothing! Who cares if some hobo saves
your life? It’s his duty, after all, no?

Fast forward a little more, and introduce our new actor, Haman. Haman
was one of those egotist and ambitious persons, who have enough
charisma to make people like and trust them. So he became one of
Achashverosh’s advisers, and at some point the head advisor. This is
like head vizier, and anyone who have ever watched a Disney movie know
how they come out, right? Evil, scheming, and full of himself. Haman
fit the bill perfectly. And, as is always the case, the king really
listened to him and gave him nearly free reign.

One of the first things Haman did was arrange for a law forcing
everyone to bow down to him. It made him feel all important inside.
Which takes us back to Mordecai. As we already mentioned, the guy had
some odd notions about what being a Jew meant, and decided he won’t be
bowing his head to anyone except to god. This annoyed Haman a great
deal, but being all important he couldn’t really complain, since people
would laugh at him, so he just let it simmer inside, and took it all on
his wife.

Well, not entirely. He wanted to get rid of Mordecai. But how do you
do it without admitting the hobo gets to you? A problem, indeed. Here
comes in the character which isn’t mentioned in scroll, or in any other
place. Yes, you get here an exclusive first tale of what really
happened. There was a witch involved, you see. An evil witch, scheming
mischief throughout the kingdom. She noticed Haman’s malice (Witches
are good at that), and knew exactly what to do. So she came over, and
suggested a solution. Get rid of all the Jews. All of them, to the
last. Since Mordecai is a Jew, that would neatly take care of the
problem.

Haman of course liked the idea, and went about it. Now, he didn’t want
it to happen too soon, so if anyone saw him talking with the witch, it
won’t be apparent. So he decided to cast a random lot. In Hebrew, this
can be called a "Pur", and this is why the holiday is called "Purim".
Yes, seriously! Absurd, isn’t it? Anyway, he picked a date, and went to
the king.

Now the king might refuse if he was told "Listen, I wanna get rid of
the Jews, what do you say?", so Haman put a spin on it. He told the
king that there are people in his country who plot against him and do
not obey his rules. He got the king so worked up about them, that when
he offered the customary bribe, the king refused. He gave Haman his
signet, and told him to deal with it however he wants to. Remember the
signet, it will be important later.

Haman, being like all great viziers too fond of overly elaborate and
complex plans, wrote and order for the Jews to be attacked and
destroyed on the given date, and sent it throughout the realm.

The Jews heard about it, and were bewildered. It really did came out of
nowhere, since nobody had a problem with Jews. Remember, this was not a
release of old cultural angers, but rather a revenge against Mordecai
that was manipulated and blown out of proportion.

In typical Jewish fashion, Mordecai did what any intelligent men would
do when hearing such news. He tore off his clothes, and wore sackcloth
and ashes (Probably got them at a sale, and was looking for a good
excuse to use them. Who knows?). And this being a grand gesture, the
other bewildered Jews followed suit.

But Mordecai wasn’t a complete idiot. He knew the queen is a relative,
and as a queen may have an effect on the king. So he approached her,
and asked her to talk to the king. Esther, being an excitable blonde,
reacted even more dramatically, and in a fit responded that she’ll
first go on a fast, and that she won’t (imagine much stomping of feet)
talk to the king unless all the Jews do likewise. So they did.

Actually, there was another reason she didn’t want to talk to the kind
directly. See, Achashverosh, being an important king, was not to be
disturbed. If you approached him without being invited, well, off with
your head! Now, a normal beautiful queen would probably have been able
to figure out that just wandering near him scantily clothed may get her
an invite. If not, it was always possible to send a message. The king
was seeing people, like all his advisers, and many servants. But, you
know, blonde.

So she fasted three days, to make sure she’ll look haggard instead of
beautifully radiant, and then just walked over to him. Luckily, he
noticed her before she quite reached him, and invited her to come over.
The king was still besotted, so she asked her what she wanted, up to
half his kingdom (They always do that, did you notice? No wonder there
were all those tiny kingdoms around, everyone getting anything from any
king ever was always offered half the kingdom, odd).

What would you have done? Asked to spare the Jews, of course. They
weren’t close to being half the kingdom. But Esther, well, blonde. It
has been three days, so she didn’t really remember what she wanted,
only that she really needed to ask the king for something, and that
Haman was somehow involved. Also, she hadn’t eaten for three days, so
was thinking about food. So what boon did she ask? That the king and
Haman will drop over for dinner. Yes, seriously.

They came for dinner, had lots of wonderful small talk, and at the end
of the evening the king again asked her if she wants anything. But she
still wasn’t able to really remember, so she just invited the both of
them to come again tomorrow evening.

Now, flash back to the undocumented story of the witch. She got her
nefarious plot in place, but had one problem. Witnesses. She knew of
the trouble brewing, and needed to find a way to make sure Haman would
die when everything will fall into place. Come in Haman’s wife Zeresh,
which according to the scroll is going to be introduced in the scene
later that evening. But this is a little flash back for background. You
See, according to the scroll, she was a pompous women as well, who
desired the glory and advancement of her husband. This could not be
further from the truth. They had ten kids, which she had to raise by
herself while he was having fun at the palace. She had to take care of
the house. She had to do whatever silly thing her husband demanded, by
law. And worst, she had to bow to him all the time, even if she was
doing the dishes. She hated the guy’s guts. So a few weeks before this
evening she went to look for someone to help her get rid of him. An
apothecary to sell her poison, or some such. And the witch found her,
and promised to help, without evidence that Zeresh had something to do
with it, provided at the right time Zeresh would do as she tells her to.

Back to the scroll time line and documented plot. Haman is just leaving
dinner, more full of himself than ever, on account of being invited to
eat with the king and queen. And he passes the ever lurking Mordecai,
who doesn’t bow. Haman knows what is going to happen to him pretty
soon, but he still fumes, especially this night.

The witch makes her move, goes to Zeresh, and instructs her. When Haman
comes home, instead of patiently ignoring his usual whines and fuming,
she pretends to really care, and suggests a solution. She tells Haman
to build a huge gallows, and that later he would find a reason to hang
Mordecai there. He was so astounded that his wide suddenly gave him
the appreciation he deserved, that it seemed to him like a good idea,
instead of as a totally silly one, and promptly arranged for a gallows
to be built.

Now, at this night, like many others, Achashverosh couldn’t sleep. So
he asked for the annals to be read to him. Usually the parts were
selected in random (seriously. Maybe it helped keep him interested).
This time, we can say that a certain meddling witch passed certain
bribed, and among the randomly selected bits was the not so randomly
selected story about how Mordecai saved his life.

And, as expected, he decided that maybe he should do something about
it. He was in a good mood himself, after all, and felt magnanimous.
But as you may have noticed, he was more accustomed to killing people
than in having them honoured, so the next day he called his trusted
assistant Haman for consultation.

Now, everyone of you who worked with pompous bosses, or with clients,
will agree that they are usually very bad at saying what they really
want and need. Achashverosh was no different. Instead of saying
"Remember that Mordecai guy who saved my life once? What do you think
would be a nice way to show my appreciation, and to make sure that the
rest of the population see how magnanimous I am?", he just said "So,
Haman, what do you think I should do with a person that I like really
want to honour?" . And so, understandably, Haman thought it was all
about him, and suggested the should be dressed in all the kings
regalia, and paraded throughout the city on the king’s horse by one of
the king’s trusted officers.

To which, to Haman’s chagrin, the king replied "Cool, so go do that to
Mordecai, will you?". And poor Haman had no choice, and had to parade
Mordecai throughout the city. But he knew what was going to happen to
Mordecai soon, so this must have been great comfort to him throughout.

Forward to the evening. Another dinner with Esther, Achashverosh, and
Haman. This time, Esther nearly managed to collect her wits together,
and when the king again asked what is it that she wanted, she asked to
spare the lives of her and her people that are being destroyed by an
evil person. Now, you all remember that Mordecai told her not to say
she was a Jew, so up to this point it never occurred to her it could be
a good idea to change that. Ergo, the king looked at her totally
stunned, and asked what the heck she was talking about. Esther, being
ever vigilant about her priorities, told the king it was Haman, but
didn’t quite paid enough attention to mention the whole being a Jew
thing and that there is already a decree  against the Jews. As the
furious king was wondering what to do about Haman, Haman tried to beg
the queen for forgiveness. The king was apparently insanely Jealous,
since when he saw Haman holding the queen, he assumed Haman was
assaulting her, and got even madder.

At this point another servant, previously primed and prompted no doubt
by the witch, mentioned the gallows which were just finished. This
seemed perfect to the king, and Haman was hanged. Knowledge of the
witch’s involvement went to the grave with him, not to surface again
until now.

The next day Mordecai noticed that something is still missing, so he
dragged Esther, and they went to talk to the king about that decree.
This is where you needed to remember the signet for. Apparently,
anything signed with the royal signet cannot be revoked. yes, again,
seriously.
I mean, how stupid is that? The king cannot change his mind if he
signed something with the signet? And this king? I want to see how long
will someone stay alive after telling the king "No frigging way, your
highness, your signet is on it, forget about it!"… Not to mention the
possibility for conflicting edicts. But in any case, that’s the way it
was.

This was all too complicated for poor Achashverosh, who has just lost
his head advisor so couldn’t even consult him. Can you guess what he
did? Gave the signet to Mordecai, and told him to deal with it in
whatever way he wants. Very free and loose with his signet, this
Achashverosh dude…

Now, given that much power, many things could have been done. The
previous edict, while not revoked, could have been altered. Even
something silly like "but you can only try to kill Jews for the first
five minutes, and don’t try too hard", or something like that.

Instead, Mordecai chose differently. He arranged for a law allowing the
Jews to defend themselves against anyone who would attack them. And
notified all the Jews throughout the land about it.

Yes, seriously. Because, of course, otherwise being good citizens, the
Jews would have certainly just rolled over nicely and turned the other
cheek, no doubt. The entire thing is very unclear. What’s important is
that on the day there were fighting throughout the land, many houses
were razed, and many people died, both Jews and otherwise. Fun all
around.

But Jews survived mostly, so officially they won. The scroll even
mentioned that they were generous, and didn’t take spoils from the war.
Well, duh! The queen pretty much took care of this for them, in a
frenzy for being a nice Jew and giving away to the needy. Trust me,
after a little civil war, they were all needy. why object to the spoils
going to the crown, if the crown will give them back, eh? In fact, this
was so blatant, that tons of gifts were sent, and many delicacies and
food items were distributed in the days of wild feasting afterwards.

Oh, yes, and Haman’s sons were hanged as well. Why not, right? I don’t
think the daughters were, but nobody paid much attention to daughters
anyway these days…

Mordecai was made an advisor to the king (and hopefully gave back the
signet, though it’s not explicitly stated), and is remembered as one
taking good care of his people. Today we’d say he was robbing the
kingdom in the favour of his own constituency, but then he was just a
good Jewish guy.

And there concludes the story. On to the customs of the holiday.

The first one is of course lots and lots of partying. You’re supposed
to party madly and get so drunk you won’t even be able to tell Mordecai
and Haman apart (pretty easy, they both probably look like specks of
dust these days). Probably to symbolize the crazy drunkard victory
celebrations and non-looting that went after winning, and the victims
be damned.

Another one is using a loud and annoying rattler (called gragger in
English for some reason I don’t fathom) whenever the name of Haman is
mentioned. Officially he is "The Evil Haman", and this is so that we
won’t have to hear his name. Yep, Jewish logic again, instead of not
saying it, make more noise so it won’t be heard. Of course you have to
know when it is said to do that, so you don’t really lose any
information. Very bright.

The most important of all is the wearing of costumes. Everybody dresses
up. Traditionally there are many Mordecai and Esther outfits, but
everything goes. As the years go by, it becomes as commercialized as
Halloween, only without the morbid undertones. Whatever is popular for
kid’s books and TV shows, or movies, goes.

Then there are the special cookies, called Hamantashen in English. In
Hebrew it’s "Ozney Haman", which means Ears of Haman. Someone at some
point, maybe after drinking enough alcohol, decided those triangular
cookies look like ears. I don’t see it. You make it by making a round
thin layer of dough, put filling in the middle, and fold it from three
direction so that you get an open triangle with the filling showing in
the middle. Poppy seeds are the common filling, but variations abound.

Gifts to the poor are officially another holiday custom. Practically,
you don’t see it so much on a personal level. This is of course to
celebrate the plunder that was divided after the fighting subsided.

And the "sending gifts of food", in Hebrew it’s "Mishloach Manot",
which is like Sending Rations or something of the sort. Basically, you
take a bunch of cookies, candies, and small toys, pack them with pretty
ribbons, and give them as gifts to friends, or strangers (not much of
that going on, except for schools where you sometimes randomly switch
between class members). Sadly, the custom is being ruined in recent
years by modern and healthy versions of those gift baskets.

And that’s about it. Happy Purim everyone!

Monkey steals peach

March 25th, 2005

Self denfence trick…
Painful self defence trick.

From the text on the lower-left corner:

Followers of the Iron Hand styles immediately clench their fists tightly, with a crushing grip, and jerk the hand sharply back to the near hip, effectively ripping away the genitals

Brr…

Original image taken from here. Hat tip to Monkey Methods.

Satan has gotten quite a creative streak lately

March 25th, 2005

Yes, it’s true.

The devil does no longer lurk in the hearts of men. It has some entirely new tricks up its sleeves.

Like, er, drawing self-portraits on turtle-shells apparently.

Nice craftsmanship, though the style seems like an odd blend of ancient
Egyptian and post-modern. But who am I to play art critic for the devil?

Referrer log roundup, the second

March 24th, 2005

Another month, another bunch of odd search queries that brought
people here instead of some place useful. Well, for some of them, I
doubt there is some place useful.

Still, let see if I can help, in case they’ll come back again. So what have people been searching?

how to increase hotmail mailbox size
Easy, move to Puerto Rico. Or to the US.
Then wait, and pretty quickly they’ll upgrade it to 250MB. And while we
don’t condone this behaviour, rumours have reached us that it’s possible
to lie to hotmail regarding your location. Or to put it differently,
maybe you can feel like you live in the US in spirit…

On the other hand, Go open an account on Gmail to get 1GB today, or
Yahoo! Mail, to get 250MB today, and be upgraded to 1GB pretty soon…

email address of business men in ghana 2005
I know
it’s sad, but there are quite a lot of business men in Ghana. Lots and
lots of them. And the most amazing thing is, they don’t all share the
same email address! No, seriously! Not in 2005, not before, and
probably not in the future.

download jag episodes
On some parts of the world
this may be of questionable legality. I really cannot recommend doing
it, well, not unless you want to see JAG and don’t happen to live where
it’s broadcasted.
Rumour has it that there is quite a difference
between looking for old JAG episodes, and getting brand new JAG
episodes. For the old ones, try eMule, and just search for the episode name and number. For the new ones, you’ll want BitTorrent (Azureus is a good client). Then go to one of the sites offering listings of new TV episodes, and get the torrent file.

chauvinist behaviour blog
Hey, I may not be an avid feminist, but let’s not go to far with it, OK? Wrong address!

teenagers-behaviour
That’s easy. Mad, crazy, and uncontrollable. Nothing to it.

workhours of population in egypt
Morning till dusk, like the rest of us?

some people think driving is fun
Yes, some people
do. I’m not one of them, but you’re right. If you want to search for
them, however, may I recommend leaving the computer, and getting on the
street?

math attention grabbers
How about:

Proof!!! 1+1=3 !!!!

That ought to grab some attention!

glasses contacts weaken vision conspiracy
It’s not really a conspiracy you know. It’s also not always true.

  • Up to the age of seven, anything that prevents you from seeing
    clearly can have terrible effects on your vision, since the brain is
    still learning to use the eyes. Put glasses, or contacts (for little
    kids?! Contacts?!) that you don’t need, and it will weaken your vision.
  • Reading glasses will weaken your near vision. It’s like wearing a
    cast. The glasses reduce strain from the muscles contracting the lens,
    the muscles will become weaker, and you’ll need a higher correction for
    your next glasses. On the other hand, if you can’t read without the
    glasses, it doesn’t really matter, does it? So not much of a conspiracy.
  • If you put contacts, and don’t clean them, or don’t take care of
    them and disinfect them, or let a foreign body come between the contact
    the and cornea without feeling it, you’ll damage the cornea, and maybe
    more. This will weaken your vision. But that’s not a conspiracy, that’s
    tissue damage. And you’ll only have yourself to blame, since you should
    have worn glasses instead of contacts.

legal issues of smoking
Too many of those to cover
here. For some obscure reason it’s perfectly legal to smoke cigarettes
on most countries. Go figure. Maybe the tobacco industry just has very
strong political clout.
Smoking in public places is forbidden in
many countries, but the definition of public varies, and most places
circumvent it by designating special smoking areas, and expecting the
smoke to stay in place just because it’s told to. The law for some
reason accept that an imaginary border line can stop smoke. Maybe
lawmakers were smoking something a bit stronger when coming up with
those things.
And recently there have been legal fights over the
ability to fire workers for smoking. For privately held companies, it’s
probably legal.
Beyond all that, I wouldn’t know why hurting yourself, and the innocent bystanders around you, should be legal.

mckennitt loreena oops greensleeves lyrics
Oops?! I mean, the rest of this search is fine, but "oops" ?! Seriously?

pirate in malacca trait
Sadly enough, there is a
trait for there being pirates in the Malacca straits. I don’t run the
Indonesian navy, so don’t blame me. I suppose this trait comes from
there being money in it. Make it too dangerous, and the trait will go
away.

bullying neighbours windows privacy
If you want
windows privacy, you don’t need to bully your neighbour, until they
avoid looking. There is a new patent, state-of-the-art, recently
imported from Japan, available in select electronics stores, called
curtains. Buy curtains, put behind the windows, and there you have it.
Windows privacy, and no need to bully the neighbours.

Maybe I should start watching more MTV

March 24th, 2005

Again from the long line of people who have too much free time on their hands, so are wasting it doing idiotic research.

The latest one? Checking how much sexually explicit content is there on the MTV channel.

In 171 hours of MTV programming, PTC analysts found 1,548
sexual scenes containing 3,056 depictions of sex or various forms of
nudity and 2,881 verbal sexual references

And they found a lot. So much so that it’s absolutely ridiculous.

And it is. I don’t really watch the MTV
channel on television. But occasionally I do get to to tune in for a
clip, or have it open for a little while in the background when I’m
doing something else. And there really isn’t that much sex there.
Seriously.

Heck, I doubt hard-core porn channels have so much sexual scenes on
them. Makes me wonder what MTV channel they were watching, since it’s
certainly not the one I have on TV…

They’re just fonts, calm down.

March 24th, 2005

Microsoft intends to release a pack of six new fonts.

Yes, not all that exciting, I agree.

But some people in the fonts and design business apparently think otherwise, like this review of the fonts.

and the review is… well, here are some ways in which fonts are described there:

  • It has a warm, friendly personality
  • robust, all-purpose workhorse
  • strong and sophisticated
  • designed with function and flexibility in mind
  • less cuddly, more assertive

And so on and so forth.

You’d think we were talking people, or something.

Fonts…

Yahoo!/Satmetrix survey

March 23rd, 2005

I was discussion with Yahoo!’s customer support a problem causing my
Yahoo! Messenger to be always marked as on-line from web pages and
Yahoo! Groups. After a few days they managed to sort it out, and that
was that.

Then I got an email asking me to take an on-line survey about their
customer care. I took the survey. The survey was very badly designed,
and had some serious flaws. They did provide an email address to send
other comments about the survey, so I took the opportunity and emailed
them (Satmetrix, which was running the survey for Yahoo!. I’m not sure
why, Yahoo! are big enough to be able to make bad surveys by
themselves. A good survey is something else, and may require previous
practice, but this?) my main complaints.

First, They had a series of question of the rate between 1-5 the following aspects
kind. One was for "Professionalism and courtesy of response". This is
something I saw on several past surveys, and it always ticks me off. Courtesy and professionalism are two entirely different things when dealing with technical support.
Courtesy is how nice and polite the person is. Professionalism is how
much it seems like they have a clue what they’re talking about.

Yahoo! support emails are always very courteous. I dealt with them
several times in the past, and I can’t fault their courtesy at all. But
part of it is because they use pre-written responses, which were went
over to assure they’re courteous. They are also usually entirely
irrelevant. This specific incident was much better than previous ones,
but still the level of professionalism was way below the level of
courtesy.

So do I give a low mark, and risk them making the responses even
more meaningless, yet friendly? Or do I give a high mark, and risk them
thinking that quoting unhelpful pages, and telling me the problem was
resolved when it wasn’t, is professional enough for me?

Second, they had a question about the "Time to receive a response
after sending email to Yahoo!". This is again very unclear. I got a
response straight away, but it was an automated response, copying the
same help web page that didn’t help me a single bit originally (which
is why I turned to support in the first place, after all). This
response told me to reply to it if it wasn’t helpful, which I promptly
did. The next reply, which is the first one I’d actually term a
response, was fast, but took a little longer.

But which do they refer to here? Which do they call the first response?
If I give a lower mark, would they think that they need to send the
meaningless response even faster? If I give a high mark, would they
think that the brain-dead automatic response was good?

Third, they had a field for free text commentary, but limited to
"one" thing that Yahoo! Support needs to improve. Just one. This is
silly, what if I have several comments? Heck, I did have several
comments. But I didn’t say them, since they were asking for one.

Result? I was annoyed since I had things to say, I even took a
survey which is supposed to let me say them, and then I wasn’t allowed
to say them. And Yahoo! loses as well, since they got reviews from
actual customers that they didn’t get. If this is the case with me,
this is the case in aggregate. They lose valuable customer feedback, and annoy customers. Why?

So I sent my message. I wasn’t sure how much attention it would get, but I did my bit, and tried to help.

Guess what, I received a response. Is that a good thing? Well,
considering the response, no! Satmetrix made themselves appear entirely
unprofessional (and discourteous <g> ).

Of course the response was automated. That’s alright, I expected an
automated response. But I expected one saying that the received my
comments and will later review them, or something of the sort.

Anyone want to guess the method of automation used? An "Out of
Office AutoReply". They just set the email address as a personal email
address, with a setting used generally when someone is on vacation and
want to notify people that they won’t be able to reply for a while.

Technically, it does the job, yes. But this is so unprofessional.
It feels amateurish. It’s really not that difficult to send automatic
replies that don’t look like that. When I get a response from a company
after sending comments to an address they specified, I do not want to
see the subject of the response message telling me that someone isn’t
at the office. I sent it to an address meant to be a recipient of
messages for further processing, not a personal one.

In addition, they had spam filters installed to monitor this
address. How do I know? Because it added the word "[spam]" to the
subject. You do not put automatic spam monitoring on an address set to autoreply to everything, or one meant to receive public comments. Yet they did.

So the spam filter thinks it’s spam, adds the word "[spam]" to the
subject, and let the message go on.  Once past it, it gets caught
be the Out of Office AutoReply mechanism, which replies to it with the
pre-written text. And as a result I am told that they believe my
message is spam. Good to know. That’s rude, people.

Either you don’t filter this address, or you don’t reply to messages
you think are spam. But doing it like they really did it, bad, bad, bad.

All in all, if I had to fill a survey about my experience with Satmetrix, they would get very poor marks.

Mycroft search plug-in submission is too slow

March 23rd, 2005

Mycroft provide a huge collection, the collection, of search plug-ins for Mozilla/FireFox.
They have a very large repository, and since a basic plug-in is pretty
easy to make, they make it simple for people to check their own search
plug-ins and submit them.

And provide a warning that they’re swamped, so it may take a while until the submission is accepted.

I found a site I wanted to use, with no plug-in ready on the list,
so I decided to make one of my own, and send it to them for inclusion.
I sent it before mid-January. Today I got back an email, automated (or
just sent in bulk as a pre-made form. It’s alright, since they claim to
have too many submissions to be able to respond personally), letting me
know that the submission is rejected, because they already have a
plug-in for that site.

Which surprised me a bit, since in the passing months (That’s about 2.5 months) I checked occasionally and didn’t see anything.

And lo and behold, there was indeed such a search plug-in there. Which was listed as being entered today.

So if this went on a first-sender basis, it took even more time to
get the plug-in by the other guy… And if there were two of us
starting this that long ago, how many may have done the same in the
past months?

I can see that they have other things to do, and that they are busy,
and they really do provide a good service. But if updates takes so much
time, maybe someone else should do it.

If not, at least I think they
should provide some list of pending plug-ins. Make it automatic even,
based on subject lines of submissions (which they request to include
the name of the site) or something like that. Just to let people know.

I just can’t help imagining that what they should have really sent me was "Your plug-in, like 534 others for the
same website, was rejected, because we just now added the 535th one to the
list" …

Image’s names count as well

March 22nd, 2005

Just a tiny little blooper.

This looks like a nice and friendly shop for little children’s clothing.

Check the file name for the right-side image (Right click on the image, and choose "Properties").

Now, isn’t that very nice of them?

Hat tip to NTK.

PS. In case they found out about this and fix it, this is a nice picture of a cute young Asian girl, but the file name is chink.jpg

Two silly TV-related studies

March 21st, 2005

Why do people keep coming up with these silly studies, don’t they have something better to do? And if not, can’t they at least make the same nonsense research in a proper way?!

German planning

March 21st, 2005

I’m not saying explicitly that it’s a German trait, but it is the
second time something like that happens to me with a German, and it
never happened with anyone from anywhere else.

I needed to talk with a person in a company we work with in Germany.
Couldn’t catch him the at the office all day. Finally we got hold of
his boss, who informed us that he isn’t in the office. He will be sick until Wednesday.

He’s sick, but there’s already a date set for him getting better and being back. What, are
German germs and viruses really that more disciplined than the rest?!

Bad display

March 21st, 2005

Last week we were in the Technologies 2005 exhibition in
Tel-Aviv. It’s a purely Israeli event, but there are representatives
from many of the major suppliers (and buyers) in various hi-tech
sectors.

The exhibition itself was fairly interesting (well, some aspects
more, and some less, there were very myriad types on things presented).

One mistake many presenting companies made was in the design of
their stands. Everyone made sure you could see the company name, but
some where so enthusiastic about having colours,  graphics, and eye
candy, that they made it very hard to know what they do. If someone
came over to search for then, that’s fine. For people who intend to
spend time on each stand, and talk to reps of each company, that’s fine
too. But most buyers were either generally browsing, or looking for
specific kinds of items/technologies. And when someone makes it very
hard to discern at first, or second or third, sight what it is they’re
selling, many people would not spend the effort of coming over to talk
to the rep.

And there seemed to be extremely bad judgement exhibited by many of those presenting thin LCD screens for embedded systems.

One supplier had a wall full of a large amount of models and sizes
of screens. And what did they show on them, to demonstrate the display
quality? The standard Flying Windows screen saver. So the screen was
black, with the occasional fast-moving splotches of colour. Not helping
to know anything about the screen at all, and mostly made me wonder
what were they trying to hide…

Another vendor did worse. They also had a wall covered with LCD
screens. And two huge problems. The first was a nice screen that was so
totally out of synch that the picture looked sliced and flickering.
Nobody should show that when they’re trying to sell something. It’s a
huge run away – this product we’re selling is defective sign. The
second one was that the lovely hi-res flower pictures they showed were
often replaced by a notice that this is a free demo of some commercial
screen saver product, with web address and contact details to buy the
full version. And if it’s not clear, this was not by the company making
the presentation. That’s right, they probably took a demo version of a
screen saver of the Internet, and used it for the exhibition. This is both
serious copyright infringement, and plain stupid. It looked so unprofessional. And they didn’t mind, it was like that for two days…

A third vendor of those screen had a more conceptual problem. I
heard a discussion he had with one of the exhibition’s visitors that
was taking a look at his stand, and it was obvious they completely
misunderstood each other. The mistake of the visitor was
understandable, he didn’t come from the right field. But the vendor had
to know what he was talking about.  The visitor was mainly aware
of computer screens as things you connect to personal computers. But
the screens were meant for embedded systems (closed systems that also
need to display information. Like hand-held computers). So the screens
didn’t come with a connection to a regular computer’s graphical card,
since they were not meant to be connected externally to a full
computer. They were meant to be connected to computer boards for
embedded systems, which have special types of connectors built directly
into the circuitry of the board (TFT and LVDS).
So the vendor was repeating the claim that you don’t need a graphics
card in order to use the screens (which is true, but pointless for him
to mention since hardly any of those systems use external graphics
cards anyway), and the visitor kept claiming that you have to use a
graphics card since there isn’t any other way for the computer to use a
screen (which is also entirely true, for full computers like the
visitor know from home). It was a long argument, and they both ended it
feeling that the other person is an idiot…

Plus, as usual in these exhibitions, many of the traders brought all
sorts of silly gifts and trinkets, such as free food-stuff, candies,
pens, markers, flashlights, candles, toys, and up to a company that
gave free wine (good one, even) plus the wineglasses themselves. All a
colossal expenditure of money, which I doubt helped sales in any
noticeable manner, since the people who came just to take the free stuff
rarely paid attention to what was actually sold.