Saturday, 31 January 2009

One Month Of 2009.

More recent stories that make me think that we're not worth the land air and water we're in any case ruining around ourselves:

  •,21985,24914027-662,00.html Kiwis gouging bereft parents.

    Can you say just plain laziness in researching before reaching for the keyboard?  And then to offer that arch, stiff, non-apology, well that's just the height of rudeness.  Also, if I'm not mistaken, The Reg puts the slant fair and squar eon the Kiwis but the owner or spokesperson of that company appears to be Asian if I'm not mistaken, and I wonder if he's even an NZ citizen.

  • The best bets for finding intelligent life are probably not on Earth...

    I maintain that if we think we're a cosmic fluke then we need to re-evaluate our state of mind.  A lot.  If we're right and the Universe is infinite then there must be at least one identical civilisation out there.  If we're right and the Universe is a gigantic hologram then someone or something is running the hologram - and that means that there's still at least one other life form out there.
  • Our lovely advertising companies, still lying cheating and gouging after all these years.

    Advertising that takes advantage of people's lack of tech knowledge and gullibility: It's kind of a law of the wild, and the Internet is still the Wild frontier.  People who don't understand the technology they're using are a major contributor to the spam and botnet problem and it's a pity that they aren't under Darwinian pressure to learn or lose their access.  Maybe that's the way it's going to go soon, a Gibsonesque / Stephensonesque ecosystem that will heal itself around lamers and botbait.  
  •,25197,24913858-2702,00.html rough justice for a drug dealer. And,25197,24914427-2702,00.html - a global warming and political heating victim.

    I'd probably not investigate too closely in the case of the murdered dealer, and I'm half in agreement that Bananarama has made his bed, but there are things like the dealer's wife and the people of Fiji that beg to be handled differently.  She is a victim whose family needs closure, the people of Fiji are pretty much under their leader's thumb and therefore it's their military that needs to take a long hard look at what they're supporting and act accordingly.  Let's face it, that's how they got into this situation in the first place...
Oh well.  Sorry some of these are old but I needed time to read them and work out my comments, besides, it's just a round-up of interesting tidbits.  Enjoy, and feel free to use the comments and give your view.

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Friday, 30 January 2009

Multiverse, insert $2 for continued play

Have you heard of the "many worlds" theory?  In the broadest sense, it means that at every instant, the universe duplicates itself but with minor differences in each copy.  So in some copies an atom is *here* in it's probability cloud, and in some, it's *there.*  And so forth.  As good as any other theory, I guess.

And someone said to me once that olives disprove the MWT - their reasoning is as follows:  A person in one reality eats an olive, and in another, she does not.  There should then be, according to my friend, a world where she eats all of an olive bar one molecule, another where she eats all of an olive bar two molecules, all the way to eating just one molecule of an olive.  Since we NEVER hear of anyone eating just one molecule of olive, the theory goes, that must mean that MWT is not a valid model of the Universe(s).

I actually think that kind of proves it.  We've pretty much established that our Universe is a quantum one - that is, it's not a grey goo but discrete lumps which are only ever divisible into other discrete lumps.  There's no Universe where a person eats a string of a quark of a particle of an atom of a molecule of an olive, either.  And no Universe where she eats an olive tree, either.  Quantum mechanics therefore will pretty much limit what alternatives branch off at any point.

Also - we - that's you and I - are in a particular branch of the MWT Universes where perhaps olive quantum division isn't the norm.  So it stands to reason that we will see very few cases of anyone eating her olives one subatomic particle at a time in this branch.

One more thing I always consider when making sweeping statements like "Many Worlds Theory is a crock" and that is that as far as we can establish, the Universe is infinite, and so is Time.  By definition, that means that everything that we can imagine must exist *somewhere* in this infinity of possibilities.  Not just once, but an infinite number of times over.

And that means that there has been, or will be, or is, somewhere in the Universe, a place where MWT holds true.  And once it's true in that spot, it will be true all through the Universe.  It's freaky to imagine that this has already happened at least once, when at some point in the Universe, a Universe decided to exist...  Our question shouldn't be "what branch of the multiverse" but "why this one?"

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Interested In How Much We REALLY Trust Our Leaders?

How much trust do we really have in our current leaders?  Do we think they are up to scratch? If you'd like to know the answer to this, then try going to this survey and contributing your point of view.  As soon as I have a significant number of responses I'll post the results here.

Also, if you haven't yet gone to the Readership Engagement Survey would you please take the few minutes to do so?  It will help produce a set of results for seeing how readers engage with this blog and others, which will help me and others produce more engaging blogs...

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Thursday, 29 January 2009

Partial Survey Results: Readership And How They Interact

Thanks to everyone that's taken the SurveyMonkey survey I put up last week, there are preliminary results already, enough to spot a few trends.  (Please note that the survey is still open, these are only preliminary results and you are invited to participate.)

My average reader is more likely (almost 2/3) to be a woman, all my readership is between the ages of 30 and 60, over half are bloggers, blog readers, read the comments, and a few contribute comments.  So comments are a valuable part of the blog.  (This to satisfy myself of the validity of my take on this article at Laurel Papworth's blog.)

Commentary: It's been apparent for some time that there are more women than men online, and the age group is just about right.  The fact that so far I've had 100% in the one age group indicates that this group is the most prominent in the readership, and I don't see that changing for a while yet.

Between one third and one half of the people who have so far responded to the survey, (remember you can still follow the links to the survey and participate, it isn't closed yet,) are Twitter users.  In the interests of brevity I didn't ask for twitternames or statistics so it's unclear if they are big users or irregulars such as myself.

Commentary: People who read blogs are socially active online.  You'll get discussed.  At least one of my respondents is also a close personal friend.  So remember that if you post.  Once, a reader would tell the people around her in real life what you said - now she is likely to discuss it with a sizeable portion of your readership and potential readership all over the Internet... 

What is for sure though is that half my respondents read one of my Twitterfeed microposts on Twitter and came to articles through that, while a small percentage (< 20%) saw links on other blogs.  That last figure might be improved if I had more links back on other blogs, but in general I don't get that much link love.  (Well, one of my respondents has apparently linked to one of my posts, but in general my articles have not been reposted, retweeted, or otherwise disseminated by the respondents of the survey.  But I know from experience that a few people have done this, so they have probably not responded to the survey yet.)

Commentary: Just bears me out - there is a LOT more social interaction and not always will you catch that in a survey, it's something you have to judge from snippets and conversations with people as you socialise with your readership and potential readership online.  

A few of my readers have been longtime readers (more than two years) and the rest split evenly between being recent (in the last year) and medium-recent (two years) age.  Not too many people use feed readers to read my blog (although the recently absorbed-by-Googleborg FeedBurner says I do have about half my readership using feed readers) and half check back manually from time to time or use Twitter and those Twitterfeed microposts to see when something new has happened.

Commentary: This is about as I'd expect it to be - I put on a bit of a readership drive from time to time by posting far and wide, begging, doing tricks for crumbs of attention, and so forth... %)  It generally nets a few hundred people, of whom two or three will hang around for longer.

Almost all the respondents indicated that they used the Internet as a source of news and articles, meaning blog posts get added in there as sources of news, right between hard news and diarist columns depending I guess on your blog's slant.

Commentary: Did you get this?  you are regarded as a source of news.  That means you have a bit of a responsibility to act semi responsibly at least some of the time.  At the very least, remember that your post will be discussed in some places where you flat-out didn't expect to see them, and it could be embarassing / unfortunate / legally vexing or some combination of those...  %)

So there you have it - the average readership is likely to be a woman in her 30's or so, who has a 50% chance of being a blogger, a much lower chance of contributing a comment (so a very silent majority) and whom you probably know through Twitter.  They will have stumbled across you by word of mouth, and be following your posts by RSS or directly looking at the site from time to time.

If you haven't responded yet, please do go to the SurveyMonkey survey and fill out the statistics a little more.

Commentary: Please also bear in mind that these are readers of my suite of blogs and may not reflect accurately the readership of a magazine style or news style blog with a writing staff and editorial staff - this is a one person operation here and I can't generate the sheer volume that some of those sites can, nor can I afford to stay as single-specific-area focused as such sites are, and therefore the results are extremely likely to be different.

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Tuesday, 27 January 2009

Lost Your Dinner?

It's not right, Richard.  It might be a Virgin flight but that meal was...  not virgin...

I've got news for the penman, they're all like that these days...

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Wednesday, 21 January 2009

First Irony In Obama's Victory

The most ironic part of this article?  Has to be this para:

“To those who cling to power through corruption and deceit and the silencing of dissent, know that you are on the wrong side of history,” the president said.” Whilst the sentence was kept again for the English language version, the Chinese version saw the line removed.

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Basic Engagement Survey

Quick - survey!  Please pop over to SurveyMonkey and take the three minutes to let me know what you think!

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Tuesday, 20 January 2009

Ghetto Robotics

A bit of fun was to be had the last two days.  I don't know about you, but the "bring out your dead" verge collection days bring out the collecting instinct in me.  Totally unnecessary find of the week was a kids 6V ride-on toy truck.  Completely corroded electrics and (of course) a dead lead-acid gel battery but it's a start.  With my sister and niece helping and Ghostie as usual retired to (in good ole Army parlance) a safe distance and supervising from there, we stripped the extraneous body bits and put them in for recycling, this being the kind of plastic that recycles quite well.

Then tested the motor with a set of small jumper leads to a 12V battery and discovered that the motor is just fine thanks, it runs quite handily at 12V.  (Most of these ride-on toys do, they use a 12V motor and run it at 6V to preserve the life of the motor and keep the acceleration low.)  A bit of trimming to fit the larger battery in the chassis, a hunk of trailer cable, and I have a small robotics platform that has battery onboard, and a forward/reverse switch on the end of the cable.

It has good ground clearance since I removed the "anti-wheelie" skeg at the back, and the wheels are a bit bigger than the size of a CD.  (That's a CD in a paper sleeve leaning against the wheel, for scale.)  It had only one driven wheel (and of course it is almost totally bald) but I used a pair of screws to lock both wheels to the axle so now it has twice the traction and goes over the fairly uneven and sandy "lawn" I have here, quite nicely.  I may even find some old inner tube and cut two slices of that to put over the hard plastic tyres to provide a bit more traction, but so far the combination of the weight of the battery and the solar panel temporarily fixed onto it seems to be doing the trick.

No steering mechanism yet but that won't take long, and no speed control but all I need for that is an old battery drill that's burnt out its motor or worn out its chuck.  And the drill body would serve as a handheld I could mount the reversing switch to as well.  (Nice thing about the battery being onboard - no battery for me to lug around...)

I have a 4W solar panel/battery charger combo on it too - so I'll fit a few chunky rails to the chassis and mount the solar panel permanently above it, then find my new robot a job to do.  (Not visible in these pics, I removed it again so I could take pics of the guts of it - more pics later when I mount it properly to those chunky rails.)  At the moment I'm all in favour of adding a small lawn cutting blade underneath, and making a controller that just moves it around to follow the sun, and cuts grass as long as there's enough juice available.  Maybe later I'll find one of those WiFi enabled kits (or hack one together) and then I can use it also to patrol the yard with a wireless camera, mic, I/R sensors and perhaps a speaker and a grabber as well as the mower underneath.

So far the project's cost me $100 for the solar charger, (which was actually bought for another project that never eventuated,) and a few bucks for leftover trailer cable from another job.  The battery came out of a dead UPS, and the reversing switch was the "gearshift" of the original ride-on toy, and three or four self-tappers and a bit of epoxy cement have locked the two rear wheels together on the rear axle.

Here's a quick vid of it in action:

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Monday, 19 January 2009

Honest St Vinnie's? Nuh-uh...

The society president of the St Vincent de Paul Society demonstrates on national TV how to lie:

 ". . . we have a policy of treating everyone equally - especially in Queensland."  (Sorry I have to paraphrase him as this was one of those WTF moments...)

I won't even bother to dissect that load of contradiction and playing to the audience.  Don't donate to St Vinnie's for a few years, give this kind of bullshit a chance to ooze out of the organisation...

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Sunday, 18 January 2009

Do Your Pets Have Weird Names?

Meh, weird names for pets - been there, done that.  Almost all my pets have had - unique, let's say - names.  Currently my two pets and two unwanted houseguests have a whole slew of names to them.  Ghostie was named because A) he was pale as a ghost when he was born and B) couldn't move his back legs, so when he gained use of them and I decided to keep him, he got his name because of how close he'd come to having to be put down and become a ghost himself.  But his full name only became obvious when he wouldn't leave a particular paperback of mine alone, he followed it everywhere, sat on it, snuggled up to it, purred each time he was near it.  He even abandoned a perfectly good feeding spot on his mother for it sometimes.

The book?  Something to do with Mayan history.  The honorific?  Plain old Ghostie became Ghostie Catpatlican, Mayan noblecat.

So now I have Ghostie Catpatlican, aka Special K (Special Kitteh) aka Furball aka Furbag (and most often aka Furboy. Specially when he acts all gangsta.)

The rabbit was supposed to be named Peter Rabbit, but got Peta Rabbit instead, aka Buniella Rabbitini, aka Bimbombunny aka Bunways Airlines.  (When she gets airborne during her mad runs around the place, which is often.)

And the two unwanted possum guests (well, okay - they're wanted, just not sleeping in the ceiling) are named after the ABC series Banana In Pajamas and their copious micturition habits, and are now Peewun and Peetoo.  Their basecamp tree is now the Pee Tree. 

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Saturday, 17 January 2009

Teddy Dundee And The Claws Of Death At Gonad Height

Dilemma: There's a 3kg - 5kg wild animal with excellent night vision, razor sharp claws, and teeth that can grind wood to pulp.  It's 30cm away from you. You're in your boxer shorts with an LED torch shining on the animal.  The animal's natural reaction to panic is to climb a tree, and it is taking a healthy interest in pinching your torch out of your hand.  Do you move and panic the crittur, turn off the light so it can see (and maybe decide your legs are the nearest thing it can climb) or shit yourself and run?

Quick, quick, time's a-ticking here...

Personally, I always go for the "aw it's got soft fur, I wonder if I can pat it?" approach every time.  I'd gone out to check the rabbit was okay, and the possum had been digging around in the shed and I got between it and its tree.  It ran along until it bumped into my leg and froze, and I further immobilised it with the bright light of a 9-LED torch, then patted it.  Result?  Possum (not sure if it was Peewun or Peetoo) shat kittens and blue lights and shot past me and into the tree.  But not *too* far up, because it was curious about me too.

So I patted it again and it jumped out of the tree - "Damn! That thing is in the tree with me!!!" - and we were back in substantially the same situation, except that this time I shone the torch on the ground in front of it and held it an inch from the PeeX's nose.  It got all excited about the smell of aluminium and grabbed the torch and sniffed it all over, nearly wrestled it out of my hand.  Meanwhile, I got another pat in and can report that possum fur is lovely, soft but with good spring to it.

Then PeeX shot up the tree again and again stopped about four feet up so it could suss me out.  This time when I patted it, it jumped and landed on my foot.  And got such a shock that it shot right back up the tree again.  This time I grabbed its tail and that decided the little possum, and it shot up to a safe height of eight feet and sat there looking me over, then glided out of sight.

Yet another reason why I love this place!  I have magpies clowning on the lawn, kookaburras that will fly down and pinch bait out of your hand on the wing, possums that amuse me hugely, and of course I have the interactions of Ghostie and Peta:  She adores him and follows him all around the lounge room and kitchen, he feels crowded and smacks her (no claws, just a lift under the ear type of smack) when she gets too close.

Trish asked me a few weeks back if I was lonely out here, I think she can see the answer.  I rarely turn on the TV because there's so much playing out amongst the animals.  Two nights ago I went to check on the bunny and there was a little black shape on the far side of the Peta Rabbit Lifetime Hutch trying to reach a paw in as far as it could , to hook out a piece of apple.  Which Peta was still chewing on the other side of, mind you.

I get a bit keen to talk to people sometimes, but there's a mobile phone and a VOIP phone, and there's Internet contacts galore.  And I have relatives 15km away, friends in all the adjacent houses, and of course the Teddlesruss Amazing Zoo to keep me amused.  Bring me another beer!

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Thursday, 15 January 2009

Holographic 404 Error

Funny as hell - loading this page resulted in an error message "Not found - error to origin." The Universe striking back!

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Just My Luck To Find New Phishing Scam First.

Watch out for new phishing attacks , that pop a dialog box when you visit affected websites.  And bow before my sheer luck ability to get hit by one of these things a week before the mainstream learned about them.  To be fair, I did submit that particular page to CERT and several other virus/malware protection sites so that may have contributed to the discovery of the hack.  Oh, and Wired did finally shake off that extraneous code, despite them apparently not having an abuse or info or webmaster email address to direct such information to.

Oh - and no, I didn't submit my Twitter details, I just screenshotted it and sent the warnings...  

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Monday, 12 January 2009

Antisocial Networking

Revelation: It's called "Social" networking for a reason, website builders!  Many people who build website SN (Social Networking) apps seem to have a very restricted view of the world.  Their sites insist "If you don't know this person you should not add them, because this is a social networking site."  All I can say is bullshit, developers and owners of those sites!

It's a pity they have us so whipped into their mindset.  Because, while they define themselves as a social networking site, their definition of "social" appears to be based on Victorian standards, because by their existence, social networks have completely changed the definition of social.  When you strip all the definitions down, they add up to "people who socialise together."  And even several millenia ago, thanks to messengers and messages passed back and forth, some people already socialised together without ever having met.

With the coming of mail post, societies could become more geographically diverse, with the telephone, even more so.  BBS systems created social groups spread out all over the world, and with the Internet, our "social circles" include circles with astronauts in orbit, and even a small robot on Mars.

In this sort of environment, the injunction to stick to people you know seems a bit small-minded, petty-fogging, limiting, and counter-productive.  Why do I use SNs?  Because it enables me to meet people I would otherwise never get the chance to meet.  I get to give and receive ideas from some of the smartest and most knowledgeable people in the world, no matter where they are.  Limiting me to only the people I already know is a bit like saying "only use your telephone to call other people in the house, no outside calls..."

Isn't it time the "social" networks redefined themselves again?

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How To Gain Street Cred ...

... if you're a President-elect ...

This has to be good publicity for Barak O.  He's gained street cred for frequenting a well-know eatery, peace cred for the way it was quietly organised, and mega-cred for eating chilli franks.  Between himself and K-Rudd there's a new breed of country leaders emerging, and as long as they have what it takes to handle the strife and pressure, we should probably welcome more accessible representatives like that.

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Friday, 9 January 2009

The Year So Far, Not Impressed.

In the news of 2009, lots of brickbats already.  First up, it's been revealed that (gasp!  Who'd a thunk it?) ISPs and telcos lie a lot about their network performance. Tell me about it - Telstra for four years told me my telephone line was okay - despite the totally shoddy performance of even just dialup on the line.  And did nothing   This is despite Telstra's "earnest desire" to be included in the National Broadband Network project.  Stuff me gently - they can't even get ADSL working properly in a capital city and they want to wire the whole nation up?  Gimme a break...

My ISP who provided me that service over that Telstra phone line, they're no angels either...  Back when there was only ADSL and no fancy high speed alternatives like ADSL2 and ADSL2+, ADSL connections were sold by the maximum speed of the line.  Imagine my surprise when, after two years of paying for a 512k line speed, (and two years of bitching that I'd never achieved more than 210k speeds,) it turns out that they had throttled my connection to 256k for all that time.  But happily charged me top dollar for the 512k rate...  To their credit, they did refund me the difference for one of those years.  But it's to be noted that even when I was shifted to ostensibly ADSL2 speeds (which I can't take advantage of, having only a very old modem,) the speed throttling was in effect for a year of my ADSL2 unmetered service too...  In fact, they have not been very fair or honest in their dealings with me at all.

Not that I think Telstra fares that much better.  I wanted to take mobile broadband for when I'm travelling - and Telstra's service ranks as one of the most expensive, for the least benefit.  When I pointed this out to a sales rep, I basically got told I could lump it or like it.  So I'm using another provider for my mobile broadband needs now when I am travelling...

I was told that some services would be free on Telstra, but when I stopped believeing the sales rep's bullshit and checked, it turned out that I'd been fed a few porkie pies...  The services were NOT free on mobile broadband after all and would have cost me several hundred dollars more - a month! - had I believed the person on the phone.

This is the same Telstra whose CEO claims that their not being allowed to tender for the NBN may now cost $2bn in profits.  On a $15bn job, that's almost 15% of the money Telstra would have just silently pocketed... And Sol Trujillo says this is a "low margin revenue" job, at that!  Is it any wonder the economies of the world have gone down given blatant gouging like that?

Oh.  Wait.  I forgot. We're all like that, apparently.  Defiant to the last, unions are determined that since we seem to have survived the worldwide recession better than most countries, they will dig their heels in and keep gouging until we are damn well down there in the shit with the rest of the world... 

And if you don't get your gouge of the money, well just hack your clients and get your ass in jail...   Are we going to survive this year at all?  So far it's all pretty much bullshit and disappointment, not a good omen for the future.

Oh - and why am I writing this?  Because I'm now out in that self-same bush that the NBN is supposed to connect as never before.  I've contacted the Broadband Guarantee to see if I, as a retired citizen, could get broadband for my bus which is my home, and was told that it doesn't qualify as it's not a fixed residence.  So the several tens of thousands of us, particularly retirees who've gone for a road change rather than a tree or sea change, or who can't afford to live in houses are just shit out of luck, sorry.  (Stephen Conroy, are you reading this?  Stop devoting so much of my already-paid-to-the-government-over-a-lifetime-of-paying-my-way tax dollars to finding ways to stuff everyone else up, and instead devote some of it to drafting legislation so that I'm not discriminated against in this way.  Teh Internet tubes - it iz ur dept and ur doin it rong...)

So I've had to rent a cottage, put on a land line, and get ADSL (and go back back to ADSLzeropointzero again, no fancy higher speeds out here despite being only ten minutes from a major population centre) in order to have affordable Internet.  When I got this one connected, I was again misled by the sales person I spoke with and ended up having to pay $25 to have my speed changed so I could actually get a useable amount of download - and to top it off I've just done speed tests and they can't even supply me the full 512k I've paid for here - the connection speed is under half of that, verified by the ISP's own speed test and an independent speed test application and service that I use.

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Has been hacked?

Has been hacked?  On this one page, it looks like something isn't right - why ask for my Twitter login details?  Dialog box popped up after every reload, too, but not on other blog.wired pages...
(image is big - >700k - so that you can open it in a new window to study it.)

This worked repeatably and consistently for me using Google Chrome full version, while IE8 remained stuck "waiting for" and Firefox with a script-stopper addon didn't show any signs at all.
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Wednesday, 7 January 2009

Below Average Journalism

An example of not thinking before you open your trap: "None of the major MP3 player brands -- not even Apple -- got better than average overall reliability and service marks in our survey." says the header paragraph.  Okay - I do sort of get what they're saying, but it's an example of poor language skills and the person responsible should be sent to ESL classes or something.

"Average" by definition means the median, the mean, that average of a group.  By definition, half the group should be above or equal to the average, and half should be below.  Saying that "none were better than average" means nothing at all, unless you qualify that as "none were better than an average overall reliability as measured across all portable electronic devices" or something.

I'm tempted to bring up the old saw: "Y'know, I've decided that half the people around me are below average..."  And then leave it up to you to decide as to which half that journo belongs in.

And we wonder why non-English speakers have so much trouble understanding us sometimes...

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Dealing With Press Releases Fail.

Some people take themselves wayyy too seriously.  Like this guy.  Hang on Eric. What makes you think those PR firms actually give any more of a toss about whether you want their PR or not?  As you freely admit, they sent those same press releases to newspapers, magazines, corner Boy Scout magazines, and anywhere else they could think of.  Without the slightest regard about the recipients wanting those PRs or not.  Those same newspapers, magazines, and Boy Scout magazines also received tons of advertising, brochures, and faxes, just as you (poor soul you) receive spam spam and more spam along with those press releases.

You know what the newspapers, magazines, and Boy Scout magazines did if they didn't like the press releases? They threw them in the bin.  Shit, Eric - you don't even have to walk to the bin, all you have to do is hit that delete key...

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Saturday, 3 January 2009

Take A Moment To Follow The Link.

Someone said to me, and we took great delight in arguing about it, that photorealism is the finest form of art.  I don't think so.  She said that all the other forms of art aren't as good, because the photorealist paints the world as it is.  My response was that we have cameras for that these days, and it's far more difficult to be a good impressionist or abstract artist because you have to interpret the world, not slavishly copy every detail.  According to this person, photographers aren't artists at all.  So after showing her the difference between amateur photos and professional retouched and perfected photos, I think we came to agree that art is in everything, it's a person's interpretation of their world.

Either way, here's a site where you can be as arty or as mundane as you want, and see how others view their world.  The lack of tags or descriptions or comments makes this as much about the art of photography as you want it to be.

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