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June 30, 2003


Happy birthday to Ian. Keep looking for that final fix.

00:00 | Stuff

The War On Spam

This will be the last thing I have to say about Bill Gates' solutions to spam, I guarantee. In this USA Today article he touches on the pay-for-email scheme Ryan and Matt brought up, and even hints the Microsoft is implementing something like this. I don't have any first-hand knowledge of this strategy, but it will be interesting to see how it plays out.

00:00 | Nerd

June 29, 2003


Travis came down from Vancouver to visit me this weekend. We did some touristy things like eat fish in Pike's Place Market and had coffee at the first Starbucks. He got a real kick out of spending American money, so I let him treat me to lunch.

I also got my diploma in the mail. It was a little creased, but otherwise in good shape. Also inside the envelope was a convocation program booklet, an official alumnus card, an ad for Bachelors hoods, and my co-op transcript. Whoever printed up the transcript thoughtfully let the last entry get cut off. I guess the administration couldn't bear to let me go without screwing me one last time.

00:00 | Stuff

Paying For Ads

Yet another take on the spam problem: Matt Langeman pointed me to a 1998 Bill Gates article about opting to pay to read spam. Here's what Matt thinks about it:

I think it has the potential of working. If you could adjust the payment amount you should be able reduce the financial incentives of spamming. Maybe even each individual could set the amount that must be paid in order to send them an email. Of course micro payments would need to be easy and integrated into email clients etc.

Like Joel Spolsky's idea, this requires that all email move to a pay system, otherwise why would spammers ever use this when they can send you mail for free?

Does anyone remember All Advantage? It was a company that would pay you to look at ads online. This site seems to be all that's left of the "great new Internet company that pays its members to surf the Web". If a pay-for-ads system is to ever work, we would have to learn from the mistakes of All Advantage and its ilk.

00:00 | Nerd

June 26, 2003

The Great Coffee Divide

I got an email from John (no link available), which included an article about the great Canadian culture division. No, not independence for Québec. The Great Coffee Divide. I'll take a one-milk-one-sugar over a grande non-fat any day.

00:00 | Canada

Mail Bag

In response to my spam post, Ryan pointed me to this article by Joel Spolsky. Ryan then had this to say about it:

Unfortunately it requires a "boil the ocean" approach. You'd have to say, I'm not going to accept email from anyone outside this new system.

And I'd raise the cost: if it's a legit email, the cost will be returned anyway. And if you're not a spammer & the receiver keeps your dime, then chances are you won't be emailing them much anymore.

I'm going to have to go ahead and disagree with Ryan (and Joel) here. Let's use telemarketers as an example. They have to pay for the phone calls, not to mention people to do the phoning. And despite legislature, call display, and other dubious technologies, people still get calls from telemarketers (I used to get two calls a week from AT&T while at my temporary apartment in Redmond. It didn't matter to them that I was only a temporary tenant and couldn't give permission to switch long distance providers. It also didn't concern them that I requested to be put on their "Do-Not-Call List" every time they called, since whenever they called back, they told me they had no record of such a request).

00:00 | Nerd

June 24, 2003

Spam, Eggs, Bacon and Spam

Today Bill Gates sent out a company-wide email (I still get a kick out of seeing an email from billg in my inbox) and press release about how bad spam is. I'm sure most of us didn't need an email from Chief Software Architect of the world's largest software company to tell us that spam sucks.

What I find interesting is that spam isn't a technological problem. What I mean is, spam isn't a problem caused by insufficient technology (like the insecurity of PINs instead of, say, retina scans). It's not a problem that's easily fixed by technology, but held back for political or business reasons (like instant messenger interoperability). It's not even a matter of the government not investing enough money into the problem.

The problem, as stupid and low-tech as it is, is people. It's people who are sending out the one million bulk emails about printer cartridges, or penis enlargers every day. And as long as they keep getting a response rate of 0.01%, it will be cost a effective and successful business.

One "solution" is email filters on the user level. This may stop 99.99% of the spam that reaches your inbox, but it doesn't solve the problem. It doesn't even slow it down. In fact, spammers try innovative ways to slip past filters, like by putting periods in the middle of words ("Sa.ve mon.ey on stuf.f"), purposely misspell words, or giving really misleading subjects ("I missed your call..."). Why they think tricking people into reading their emails will make them more willing to buy their herbal Viagra is beyond me.

Despite how much spam you're stopping, the spam is still out there, literally clogging the Internet's pipes, forcing businesses to invest time and money dealing with it. Recently Microsoft has tried a very low-tech (and very American) way to help curb the flow of spam: lawsuits.

So what's the "magic bullet" to stop spam? Spam filters? Paul Graham thinks so. I personally don't share his optimism, especially if spammers keep getting sneakier. Is litigation the answer? Not if spammers move their operations to countries that don't have any such laws.

I don't know what the solution is, but I personally don't see an end to spam anytime soon. Now to go clean out my inbox.

00:00 | Nerd

By Bill Gates

Like almost everyone, I receive a lot of spam every day, much of it offering to help me get out of debt or get rich quick. It's ridiculous.

00:00 | Quotes

June 23, 2003

Principia Numismatica

One of the things I can't get used to here in the United States is their money. Sure, it's one of the most powerful currencies in the world, universally recognized and, uh, green, but there are things about that annoy me. All too often I've glanced into my wallet, seen a wad of bills, thought to myself Well, I certainly have enough cash to pay for dinner, then realized I had 9 ones and had to wash dishes to pay off the rest of the bill.

(That's a lie, I haven't ever had to do that. Plus American's don't call it "The Bill", but inexplicably prefer to call it "The Check", complete with a hand gesture of writing a giant check mark onto one's palm. Do you think anyone here would find it funny to pay the check by cheque? But I digress...)

But there is hope. The US Mint recently announced that they will be colourising their bills, starting with the twenty. Although the new design won't make the bills as easily identifiable as Canada's "Monopoly Money", the mint hopes it will curb counterfeiting.

In 2000 the US Mint started issuing Sacagawea, or Golden Dollars, which are the same size and colour as Canada's Loonie. Being a big fan of the Loonie, I thought this was great, except that after living here for 6 months, I have only seen one such coin. I guess Americans are too attached to the Greenback, or maybe prefer lighter pockets.

I want to go to a bank, get about a hundred of these coins and try using them everywhere. I wonder how many places will refuse to take them. I guess if I really wanted to freak people out, I could use the even rarer American two dollar bill (accepted in almost as many places as the 200 dollar George W. Bush bill).

00:00 | Stuff

June 22, 2003

Splendor Solstice

This weekend was a typical rainy Seattle one. Saturday was the Solstice Parade in Fremont, just outside of Seattle. Attending the parade was an interesting experience. There were Seuss-like floats, cyclists wearing body paint (and not much else), and more naked people than I care to see in one day. The whole Solstice Festival had (surprise, surprise) a very hippy feel to it. There were tents where you could buy crafts, tie-dye shirts and even sign up for the Green Party. The tent that seemed the most out of place was the Vietnam Veteran's tent. Did they really think that a hippy festival would be the best place to set up shop?

Walking among the tents, I was stopped by a man with a clipboard.

Man with clipboard: "Sir, could I get your signature..."
Me: "For what?"
Man with clipboard: "To support women's right to vote."
Me: "What?!"
Man with clipboard: "Oh, I mean, uh, to support, uh..."

Look, don't expect people to sign your petition if you can't even explain what the petition is for.

After walking in the rain for a few hours (and seeing more than I cared to see of the citizens of Fremont), we headed home.

00:00 | Seattle

June 21, 2003

How Chris Got His Groove Back

I saw something last night that both confused and amazed me. A few of us went out for dinner and drinks and ended up at Belltown Billiards for some pool. After an excruciatingly long game of 5-person cutthroat (pool in Seattle just isn't the same without Wan Li) we hit the dance floor.

Anyone who knows me knows how bad I am at dancing. I would much prefer to sit in a pub and down pints of dark beers than to have my eardrums pierced by thumping beats. Regardless, dancing was what everyone else seemed to want to do, so I went along.

After a few minutes on the dance floor (and hearing that Indian-style song with the Knight Rider beat), this guy showed up. He was wearing a white Elvis-style jumpsuit with gold sequin, complete with half-length cape. Then the amazing thing happened. After dancing alone for about ten seconds, no less than three girls grabbed him and pulled him into their circle. They then proceeded to grind with him and strip his top off.

Had this guy stumbled on the ultimate secret to get girls? Is sequin what women look for in a man when they go dancing? As far as I know this guy left with all three girls and was "Kung-fu Fighting" all night long.

00:00 | Stuff


Happy Birthday Dave, wherever you are.

00:00 | Stuff

June 20, 2003

Damn, That's Funky!

The latest trend in the blogging world is to determine whether or not one's feed is funky. Dave Winer suggests that the content of a feed is the place to be funky, not the structure, meaning a feed should have be stuctured in a well-defined format that readers expect.

As you know this site doesn't yet have a feed. But when I do get one (yes, it will be soon) you can be assured that although the structure may be as expected, my content will be funky enough to make Bootsy proud.

00:00 | Blog

June 18, 2003

Almost Famous

Yesterday as I was going into the gym, who should walk past me, but none other than Microsoft CEO Steve Ballmer. Of course he was much too busy to talk to me, but I'm sure he appreciates all the work I've been doing.

00:00 | Work

Bloggin Commune

It looks like I missed my chance to acquaint myself with yet another community, the Seattle Bloggers. Who knew that typing up a personal log at home on a computer could be such a social experience?

00:00 | Blog

June 17, 2003

Community Service

Today I spend a good deal of time with various communities. First, I helped out some members of Microsoft's online customer community by answered a few technical questions on some of Microsoft's public news groups. Granted, the questions weren't terribly difficult, but I'm still new and wouldn't trust my own advice.

I also attended a Microsoft weblogger panel discussion, which touched upon such important issues of what's appropriate to blog about, how blogging impacts Microsoft, and how the world will look at you in a different light due to the fact you're a Microsoft blogger. A lot of good points were raised, and I was pleased to find out that Microsoft has no plans to shut down my little soapbox.

One member of the panel was none other than Microsoft evangelist and blogging superstar Robert Scoble, who even answered my question. I asked for those of us who have been blogging since before we started at Microsoft, if, from a legal standpoint, we should scrub our archives clean of any criticisms of Microsoft products, or praises to competitor's.

The answer of course, is no. That would be a sin to the blogging world, and as I already stated, I'm against the idea anyway (besides, Google cache makes it almost impossible to destroy data once it goes live). I just wanted to make sure I wouldn't get fired, or quoted on The Register (whatever you consider worse) because I said I liked Mozilla more than IE.

00:00 | Work

June 16, 2003

G'day, Eh?

We (my roommate Andy, our friend Megan and myself) headed up to Vancouver, Canada around 10:00 Sunday morning. We hit the border around noon, and were greeted by an unfriendly customs officer who seemed more concerned with how much cash we were bringing with us than proof of our citizenship (she didn't even ask to see our passports). I guess American cash is all the identification you need to get into Canada.

On our way into Vancouver I forced Andy to pull over at the first Tim Hortons and drank my fill. He and Megan seemed to enjoy the sour cream doughnuts they picked up. I realized then that I had forgotten my Canadian bank card at home. Luckily I had a five dollar bill on me to pay for the coffee and my Canadian credit card for any other expenses.

When we got into Chinatown, we decided to stop for something to eat. We let Andy pick the restaurant, since he had a hankerin' for some Vietnamese Pho. It turned out to be the only cash-only restaurant in Vancouver, so I had to play the exchange game at a bank machine.

We met up with Travis, a friend of mine from high school, who I hadn't seen since my going-away party to Japan in 2000. He took us to Kitsilano beach where we walked in the sand and enjoyed the nice weather (sunny and 20°C. I refused to use anything but Metric measurements while in Canada. Also I said "eh" a lot and laughed at Andy and Megan's "American accents". Yes, I'm a jerk).

After the beach, Trav took us into town for some great burgers at Fatzo's. He drove with us to the border and dropped us off at the duty-free, where I picked up a Coffee Crisp, some Canadian Club, and a maple leaf patch for my backpack (gotta keep up the stereotypes).

The American border guard was a little more discriminating, and carefully poured over my passport before finally letting us through.

I had a great time visiting with Trav, reacquainting myself with BC and showing off our beautiful country (it was Megan's first time in Canada). Now to take my proper place in my friends' social circle as "dirty immigrant who steals American jobs".

00:00 | Canada

June 15, 2003

Loonies And Toonies

Just got back from Vancouver, British Columbia and I'm exhausted. Too tired to blog about it tonight, but a brief synopsis: had a lot of fun, hung out with an old high school friend (and avid One Big Rant reader, Travis) and enjoyed some great coffee. Fortunately for me, crossing the border back into the States was no problem. It always surprises me how the US customs officers always seemed to be friendlier than the Canadian ones.

00:00 | Canada

June 14, 2003

Hello Newman

It was Newman's (one of the people I met out here) birthday yesterday, so a bunch of us got together and planned a night of sushi and bowling. Since the plans were made at the last possible minute (5pm), a lot of people couldn't make it, including Newman. But we had a good time anyway. I introduced a few people to unagi and Asahi Super Dry. They were not disappointed.

00:00 | Stuff

Everything In Its Right Place

This morning Ikea delivered the rest of my bedroom furniture. I can finally move out of the boxes I had stacked in the corner of my room. Now that I have a desk, I can move my computer out of my closet where it had been perched on a shelf for the past month. I'll probably spend the rest of the day setting up my room and generally making a mess.

00:00 | Stuff

June 12, 2003

Up North

While I was sitting in my office today thinking how much more rational we Canadians are than our southern neighbours, I happened to find this article on the CBC. Brief synopsis: angry that Children's Services took her children away, this woman attacks the neighbour who reported her, and cuts off her hands. Obviously this neighbour had no idea what she was talking about, I mean just look how rational and able to look after children the mother is.

It makes me just sick.

Speaking of Canada, my roommate Andy just sprung the news on me that he's planning a trip to Vancouver this weekend. My heart leapt at the thought of just one cup of Tim's special blend. I should have some interesting stories to write about when I get back. That is if I don't get held at customs and shipped to Guantanamo Bay.

00:00 | Canada

June 10, 2003

Thanks Joe

Thanks to Joe Bork who's helping me with my MT and database woes. And congrats on his one year at Microsoft. I think on my one year anniversary, I'll bring in a kilogram of Smarties, just to be different (and Canadian).

00:00 | Nerd

The Gloaming

I went and picked up Radiohead's new album Hail To The Thief today. I've listened to it a few times at work and so far so good. I'm a recent Radiohead convert, having been introduced to them through my brother's wacky roommates during my few months "in between jobs". I think it's earned a place in my daily listening selection.

00:00 | Entertainment

By Radiohead

Now no one likes a smart arse
But we all like stars

00:00 | Quotes

June 9, 2003

My Most Hated Of All Bases

Does anyone have experience with Movable Type? I'm trying to set it up, but my provider has no database support (actually, I don't want to pay twice what I am now just for MySQL plus a load of useless features). Is there a way to have archiving without a database backend?

Where's Dave when you need him? He's my go-to guy when it comes to web site stuff (including my upcoming redesign... but perhaps I've said too much). Dave has helped with the colour schemes and layouts for the last two site designs, and has been really helpful with my MT questions.

By the way, I realize the irony of a Microsoft employee inquiring about Open Source solutions, so don't bother pointing that out. Read my obligatory disclaimer if you're still confused.

00:00 | Nerd

June 8, 2003

Convocate This

I had a dream last night that Waterloo took away my degree because they discovered I was half a credit short. I then had to quit my job and move back home to complete a math course.

Was this dream due to feelings of regret for missing my upcoming (June 11-14) convocation ceremony, or for not caring that I'll be missing it? A part of me wants to be there, donning cap and gown, shaking the hands of UW administration, smiling in that artificial way I do so well. But the rest of me realizes I would be sitting in a gymnasium among hundreds of strange students (since I graduated late) waiting hours for my name (which is conveniently located in the middle of the alphabet) to be called so I can go up and collect a piece of paper (which they will be mailing to me anyway).

I can't help thinking that the people I've met out here had such different experiences of university life than I. My roommate was in a fraternity and wears his MIT graduation ring. A few people here went back to Princeton this weekend for some sort of reunion. Me? I found out in a dream that my convocation is this week.

I wonder if by not attending, I've doomed myself to every June waking up in a cold sweat from nightmares of having to retake math courses.

00:00 | School

June 7, 2003

You Want I Should Do Movie Review?

Last night a few friends and I went for the midnight showing of The Hebrew Hammer as part of the Seattle International Film Festival. It was kind of like a Hasidic Shaft (complete with theme song). The Hammer is a private detective hired to save Hanukkah from the evil Andy Dick. I didn't realize how many Yiddish words I had picked up in my childhood from watching Mel Brooks movies.

The movie was funny and stupid. I recommend it to anyone who's Jewish, has Jewish friends, or thinks Jon Lovitz was the best part of SNL (alas, he wasn't in the movie).

Hopefully this won't be the last SIFF film I see, even if I have to schlep myself all the way across town to see another one.

00:00 | Entertainment

June 6, 2003

Feed Me

I got an email from my friend Rick (who's apparently an avid One Big Rant reader), telling me how mine is the only non-feed blog he actually reads. For those of you who don't know, a feed is a direct way to access the sweet sweet content a website has to offer. You can tell the feed reader to collect the feeds from your favorite sites and it will notify you when they get updated. As you have gathered, there are currently no One Big Rant feeds. This will hopefully change in the near future.

Now I know I've hinted at adding features to the site before, but as you all know by now, I'm a lazy, lazy man. But that should change soon (the new features, not my laziness). I'll be making the move over to Movable Type soon, so that means feeds, post categories, post filtering, and most importantly of all, a whole lot less HTML coding by me.

There. Now that I've announced it, I guess I'm committed.

00:00 | Blog

June 4, 2003

I'll Have The Usual

I walked up to the Starbuck's counter in my building's cafeteria and before I could order, the woman behind the counter smiled. "Grande non?" she said and rang up my usual order. I nodded and chuckled to myself. She knows my order. I've been coming here every morning for the past few weeks, always ordering the same thing, a grande non-fat milk latte (I figured non-fat is the way to go if I'm sucking back one of these every morning).

It's cool. I always wanted to go to a restaurant or some place and just day "I'll have the usual" and have the server know exactly what I want. I guess that comes part and parcel with a caffeine addiction. Then again, I frequented Tim Hortons much more than Starbuck's and they still had problems getting my order right when I order it, let alone recognizing my face.

00:00 | Stuff

June 3, 2003

The Tourist

Dave left my apartment and set off for San Francisco this morning. It was cool having him here for a few days. We stay in touch over email and IM so little time was spent catching up and more time spent enjoying the city's food (Mexican on Sunday, sushi on Monday) and music (jazz at Tula's on both nights).

After jazz yesterday we came back home and I let Dave update his blog with the first of a series of cross-American travel posts with witty titles.

I'm eager to read about the rest of his adventures in this great country they call America.

00:00 | Stuff

June 1, 2003

Art & Culture

Last night we went out to see the play Glengarry Glen Ross by David Mamet. From what I understand, you either love Mamet or hate him. Having only seen Heist, I was in the latter camp. But Glengarry Glen Ross certainly turned me around. I thought it was a good exploration of human nature and the struggle to get ahead. Also, the f-word was in every other line.

I'm now interested in seeing more of his films and plays, provided the dialog won't make me cringe.

Tonight Dave arrives in Seattle as the first American stop on his Fantabulous Canadian-American Tour. We're going to Tula's Jazz Club to soak in a little of the West Coast music scene.

Since I sit in front of a computer all day, everyday, I welcome these opportunities to experience a little art and culture.

00:00 | Entertainment