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the dredwerkz

latest comments:

Private Ryan | edward

Forget SmartCards... | dwight

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A Good Hack | edward

It was nothing. | edward

Ahem | edward

could we create our own sins? | deborah

Which Homer was it—the Greek or the Springfieldian—who offered the following paradoxical encomium: “Ouzo: the cause of—and solution to—all of life’s problems”? (I may by paraphrasing; forgive me.) Anyway, this article from today’s New York Times points to a central contradiction in my new career. Bad writing causes some 75% of my problems at work...but the very abundance of that bad writing is largely the reason I have a job in the first place…

(I should specify that I’m mostly working in the realm of business and marketing communications. All you government folk: is the writing in your realm better or worse?)

posted at: 2004-12-07 17:07:54 with 0 comments

It seems someone in my old workplace was stabbed. Weird.

There always was a lot of tension over there...

posted at: 2004-12-07 14:22:34 with 0 comments

Where did it come from—this indie rock convention that any remotely catchy tune must open with 20 seconds of sludge? Do they believe the remainder of the song will be taken more seriously (in the same way that the carnage that kicks off Saving Private Ryan obscures the fact that Spielberg remade E.T. as a WW2 film)? Or is it just to drive away any potential frat-related eavesdroppers? The world may never know.

Despite this, “Fallout” by Pidgeon, off the new From Gutter with Love, is still a Track You Should Be Listening To Right Now. Garage guitars churn behind really sweet twee-girl vocals that bounce around and push back against their content: “Did your heart wake up to someone else? / This morning mine did / I know I don’t belong.” Fans of Go Sailor! should be pleased; if you’re more mainstream, think Belly when they were practicing in the basement. (Alas, I’ve scoured the Web but failed to find a clip of “Fallout” anywhere. As always, you can request it here; otherwise, you can find more info and other tracks here and here.)

posted at: 2004-12-07 13:53:18 with 1 comments

This is awesome.

WMATA's website would be incredible if one could track where your friends went, and where you went. Man, that'd be sweet. Throw in a credit card and I'm hooked.

The only thing better would be if you could get an RFID chip in your hand so that you wouldn't even need a card (smartrip or credit!) to board the metro or purchase a soda. That's the future. I want to see it today.

posted at: 2004-12-07 11:47:43 with 1 comments

I'm now in...so if anyone wants an invitation to Netflix Friends feel free to e-mail me.

A special shout out to Mike over at HackingNetflix for his help. Everyone should go see his cool site to learn all the trix to hacking the 'flix.

On a side note, I've rated over 560 movies. Yet the premier netflix critic has only rated 967 movies. Hmm. You'd think a professional movie critic would've seen more than twice as many movies as I have. Let's see if I can catch him...

posted at: 2004-12-06 16:21:49 with 1 comments

Thought that these are two provocative news stories that I could share:

AMSTERDAM (Reuters) - Scientists said on Monday they have come up with a cell phone cover that will grow into a sunflower when thrown away.

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - For customers who either love to plan ahead or hate monthly bills, a small Massachusetts telecommunications firm has launched a $999 offer of unlimited Internet-based telephone service for life.

posted at: 2004-12-06 15:18:10 with 1 comments

The Pentagon Metro station has been evacuated...

A good time to remind everyone to sign up for the DC Emergency Alert Message System.

posted at: 2004-12-06 10:55:10 with 1 comments

Those of you with a sound card and three minutes of your life to burn should head here. This is what you get links to when your dad retires and takes up surfing the Internet as his hobby. but it's funny... and just a bit subversive!

posted at: 2004-12-03 19:07:12 with 0 comments

I currently have the odd feeling of knowing I've completed tons of work, under the hood, for the next big dredwerkz feature. But it's a mixture of pride (and wanting to show everyone the new Stuff) and anxiety (because it's not finished yet...and I don't want to ruin the surprise) which leaves me not quite certain how I should feel.

Regardless, I'm only a few hours of coding away from completion. Once I finish, it'll be a big addition to the site. And it will mean only two major coding projects left until the site is finally no longer alpha-version.

Here's a taste:

Array ( [0970742215] => on [B0000694ZB] => on )

Array ( [B00006SFM2] => 5 [B00009RGC6] => 5 [B00005LC19] => 5 [B00006SFM1] => 5 [B00008MTY4] => 5 [B00009PSDX] => 5 [B000063UYN] => 5 [B0000694ZA] => 5 [0970742215] => 4 [B0000694ZB] => 5 )

add? 0970742215 - on

Fun, eh?

Hooray!

Oh, the new name of the section is called "Stuff". Mull on that.

posted at: 2004-12-03 17:52:30 with 0 comments

I am very hungry. Argh.

posted at: 2004-12-03 15:57:13 with 0 comments

I don't normally comment on issues like this one. But the blogosphere seems to have gotten it wrong in this case, and I feel a correction is in order.

Put simply, Philadelphia decided to roll out free WiFi access city-wide. Verizon caught a whiff of this, realized it stood to lose millions, and fought back.

Here's the result.

Governor Rendell, in order to protect the Philly plan, let Verizon maintain a "right of first refusal" across the rest of the commonwealth. This move has generated tons of idiotic criticism from across the blogosphere. Let's examine why:

First, Philadelphia, through this new law, will still be on track to provide free WiFi service. Even the law's detractors have argued that this is good. However, many feel that it is only a temporary victory. I think not. Once a major U.S. city provides free WiFi service to its residents, other cities will follow suit. This is why Verizon is so concerned. But there's no way they can stop such a movement in the long term. In the short term, they may be able to lobby to delay such a move, but the cost savings alone justify Philly's move. And best of all, once Philly has the WiFi in place, any town mayor can point to Philly and say "see, they did it...why can't we?" as a justification. Philly is the beachhead that establishes the WiFi revolution in cities across the U.S.

Second, some people have suggested that the rest of the commonwealth was served poorly by the new law. They're wrong. Here's why: the law requires Verizon to provide broadband service (we're not talking WiFi anymore!) to the entire state by 2015. That seems far off but constructing a statewide system that goes the last mile across the entire commonwealth is a huge deal. Best of all, the so-called Verizon Veto is not as it seems. Communities have until 2006 to begin with before Verizon gets the right of first refusal. Any network systems that have begun to be built by then are excluded from the deal. And after 2006, should Verizon exercise its "veto", it would be required to provide the same service within 14 months.

Read that last line again.

Essentially, it means that any community which doesn't want broadband internet badly enough before 2006, but does before 2015, can just draw up a plan to provide internet service to the community for a fee. Why for a fee? Well, because any communities that wish to do it for free are excluded from the verizon veto in the first place. Once they draw up a plan, should Verizon veto it, Verizon would be forced to build a broadband network in its place, well ahead of schedule. So in the end, residents get a broadband network within a year of 2006 regardless of who provides it.

Third, Verizon didn't win. They lost. Just look at the major complaint aired against the veto provision requiring Verizon to provide service within a year after a community proposes a plan. Some have argued that Verizon could ratchet the price of the broadband service up to a level that most people cannot afford it. What these people fail to realize is that the major price of getting broadband to everyone is laying the physical infrastructure. Once you've got dark fiber in the last mile to every home in Pennsylvania, the costs of operating the system are negligible. Therefore, requiring Verizon to put a network in place for every community that draws up a plan is a huge expense. Once Verizon has already built the network, why would they try to only recover some of their money? More likely, Verizon would charge prices as high as they could reasonably to get as many people as possible to justify the fact that they had to put dark fiber to the home in. Once you look at the law's requirement that Verizon provide broadband service to every community by 2015, you start to realize that the deal actually helps PA. When a local government grants a monopoly power for a public good, they make a trade off. In this case, PA told Verizon it could have control over broadband, so long as it provided it to everyone in the state. That's a clear deal. If PA had continued to require Verizon to provide broadband to the state, but had then demanded another ISP do the same, that would've been idiotic and wasteful. But if a local government tries the same...why is Verizon any less screwed than before? Don't get me wrong: Verizon is not a great company by any means. But when you require a private company to spend large amounts of money to build network infrastructure, turning around and stabbing them in the back isn't just bad policy: it's unfair.

So let's summarize:

  • Verizon cannot block the Philly WiFi project
  • Verizon has to provide the entire commonwealth of PA broadband access by 2015
  • Any community in PA that provides broadband access and doesn't charge for it can do so
  • Verizon has to provide broadband access to any community that wishes to start a broadband service for a fee, within 14 months
  • Once Philly has WiFi, other cities will follow suit

It seems to me Verizon actually is fighting a losing battle. And this PA law will be viewed, in hindsight, as the first real step toward greater broadband access for all.

posted at: 2004-12-03 14:24:40 with 0 comments

Test Test 123, is this working. Ummm, everyone must go here.

posted at: 2004-12-02 19:37:17 with 1 comments

If 85 more people sign up for 43 things and add one of the ideas I came up with it'll crack the top ten for most popular things overall!

So sign up today and help defeat the Republicans!

posted at: 2004-12-02 15:48:27 with 3 comments

Ceci Connolly is a hack. She produces awful articles and is almost Nedra Pickler like in her ability to disgrace the news organization she works for. (The Washington Post...yes, I'm sorry about that.

But her article on the front page of the Post today sure as hell doesn't bury the lede:

Many American youngsters participating in federally funded abstinence-only programs have been taught over the past three years that abortion can lead to sterility and suicide, that half the gay male teenagers in the United States have tested positive for the AIDS virus, and that touching a person's genitals "can result in pregnancy," a congressional staff analysis has found.

Those and other assertions are examples of the "false, misleading, or distorted information" in the programs' teaching materials, said the analysis, released yesterday, which reviewed the curricula of more than a dozen projects aimed at preventing teenage pregnancy and sexually transmitted disease.

Damn. She's actually hard-hitting for once. Maybe I'll have to revise my hack statement...of course, she saves the most absurd moment for last (ed. note....next time, guys, cut the final paragraph):

Some course materials cited in Waxman's report present as scientific fact notions about a man's need for "admiration" and "sexual fulfillment" compared with a woman's need for "financial support." One book in the "Choosing Best" series tells the story of a knight who married a village maiden instead of the princess because the princess offered so many tips on slaying the local dragon. "Moral of the story," notes the popular text: "Occasional suggestions and assistance may be alright, but too much of it will lessen a man's confidence or even turn him away from his princess."

Bizarre.

posted at: 2004-12-02 12:10:56 with 0 comments

I don't really like Adobe. They have had years to merge Photoshop and Illustrator into one killer app, but never done so. They were slow to see Quark in the rear-view mirror, and InDesign still has trouble integrating files from Photoshop/Illustrator properly. And then let's not forget their idiotic font decisions in the past.

But by far, their biggest annoyance is the idiotic PDF format. Billed as "a document standard", it has enabled countless generations to abuse the web as their personal playground for embedding ordinary word documents. Here's the chain of events:

  1. Crappy HR Person demands that company newsletter, published in Microsoft Word, be put on The Internets.
  2. Overworked Web Designer (who has been forced into servitude as a Web Developer) told to put newsletter on the internet. OWD spends hours converting word document into html and stripping out all the unnecessary tags Microsoft threw into their word->html converter.
  3. The html page is uploaded to website.
  4. Crappy HR Person complains that web page doesn't look like Word Document...demands word document itself be placed on website.
  5. OWD argues, is overruled by management, and is forced to upload Word document to website. As a parting way to save face, he notes on the link itself that the document is a Word document.
  6. Users from branch office begin to call in to complain that they cannot open Word document because they use WordPerfect 2.0 for DOS circa 1988.
  7. Upper management hears complaints, passes directive down that document should be "converted to acrobat" because "everyone has acrobat".
  8. OWD goes on four hour fruitless search for the one worker in the office who actually has Acrobat, not merely Acrobat Reader. Copy turns out to be stolen. And all the dialog boxes are in Russian. OWD converts document, discovers text is in cyrillic. Tweaks settings. Converts again.
  9. OWD uploads pdf document to website, includes caveat that link points to a pdf.
  10. Lower level web designer sees caveat, removes it to "save bandwidth".
  11. Edward browses the web, sees a link to the site, clicks it.
  12. Five minutes later, Acrobat Reader stops loading and Edward can access his web browser again.
  13. Edward fires off an angry screed on his blog about said pdf document.

If I had my way, pdf would be dead. There's no reason for an open standard other than xhtml at this point. Combined with css, you can make almost any document structurally and stylistically the same.

But for god's sake, if you do link to a pdf, warn users that you are doing so so that those of us who don't want to waste four minutes loading fifty apis for acrobat reader can simple skip the link. Thank you.

posted at: 2004-12-02 11:58:11 with 0 comments

Welcome to Blogistan, fellow Netizens! Below is a list of some random blogs we occasionally check. This isn't the comprehensive list of websites we freequent...it's just a list of personal blogs I'd like to show some love for. There's no order to it, so don't think I'm ranking these. Without further ado, here goes:

Want to be listed? Well....just ask! The ranks of the Technorati are filled with posers just like you!

posted at: 2004-12-02 11:42:45 with 0 comments

I’ve been thinking a lot about pop music and the passage of time lately (for reasons I’ll save for the Comments section). So this video (again, found on MacHall) struck a surprising chord.

Songs are like time capsules for me; they return me to particular moments—often in a very visceral fashion; I tend to almost literally relive songs. Therefore, because “Creep” came out when I was 17, I have a very established set of teenaged associations that I replay in my emotional jukebox whenever I hear it.

This video took me by surprise, then, by totally altering my experience of the song. (Not having had MTV as a kid, I’m still susceptible to letting images alter my perceptions of music.) Because I’m in an office environment for the first time, the animation caused me to hear the lyrics as if they were totally new to me. As a result, a whole fresh set of resonances is superimposed upon—and even threatens to replace—my original reading. “Creep,” for me, has suddenly aged nine years—it’s a song potentially about being 26, instead of 17.

My question for the collective: has this happened to you (either upon viewing this video, or in general)?

posted at: 2004-12-02 11:41:46 with 2 comments

For the past several weeks, in what can only be described as a cruel joke, I have been receiving copies of the Washington Times.

It's true.

I arrived back from the election to find several copies, wrapped in orange plastic, living on my steps. At first, I was angry. A few days (and several more copies) later I assumed it was a joke. After another few days, I realized I now had perfect kindling for my firepit.

Then some Jehovah's Witnesses came to the door and dropped off some lit. On their way out, I noticed there were two copies of the Wash Times lying on the steps. (I hadn't picked them up.) Annoyed, I explained that they weren't mine. They said "sure they aren't" which was the camel straw.

I realized I had to get rid of the subscription, so I e-mailed the rag. They sent me a very nice response back today:

Dear XXX,

Your are right we do not have a subscription to your address I will ask the carrier to stop delivery immediately.

Thank you, Jxxxx Jxxxxx

I know it's not the fault of the newspaper that their subscriptions department cannot spell. But for god's sake...who uses the wrong form of your and adds the word are to follow it? It's a completely novel way to mess up the sentence.

Hopefully I won't have to see a little orange bundle of joy on my steps tomorrow morning.

posted at: 2004-12-01 15:45:37 with 0 comments

Since we’re speaking of the Seven Deadly Sins, here’s a cute clip dedicated to Lust and Envy. The animation style—recalling Disney’s foxy Robin Hood era—makes this bunny’s pain all the more precious. (Tip o’ the hat to the folks at MacHall for spotting this one, and to my bosses, who saw fit to give me a brand-spankin’-new iMac on which to dis/play such cool goodies.)

posted at: 2004-12-01 15:21:35 with 0 comments

This WaPo story is the reason the Post continues to outshine the NYT and LA Times.

"Why do you think there was such friction between the U.S. delegation and the Chilean delegation?" Morgan asked.

By the standards that the White House press pack uses to gauge a deft question, this one failed roundly: It was about yesterday's news; Bush was unlikely to answer it with any specificity, and it wouldn't "make news" (produce a headline) if he did.

In the networks' nearby transmission room, out of Bush's earshot, correspondents and producers groaned loudly and grunted their disapproval.

Yes, it focuses on the process rather than the substance. But as many reporters and editors are starting to realize, this entire administration is about media control and not public policy. How do you fight back against a White House that never gives press interviews?

Well, to start, you show the raw numbers. And then you explain the press production values. All done neatly here:

Bush has held 16 solo news conferences, compared to 43 for Bill Clinton, 84 for George H.W. Bush and 26 for Ronald Reagan at this point in their presidencies, according to research by Martha Joynt Kumar of Towson University.

These sessions are a contest between Bush's desire to repeat his previously articulated views ("sticking a tape in the VCR," as one frequent Bush questioner puts it), and the reporters' quest to elicit something that will contribute to democracy, not to mention getting them on television or the front page.

By exposing how reporters carefully construct loaded questions in order to get answers, Allen makes an implicit point: that this administration wishes to hide from the press. Yes, policy points are important, but until the news media, and the public at large, realize that this administration is obsessed with secrecy, policy will have to take a back seat.

If we just had more Dickersonian questions at the press briefings, and more Milbankian/Allen/Priestly writing on the front page, the country would be far better served by the media.

posted at: 2004-12-01 12:22:47 with 0 comments

this is one of Ridge's first speeches from early 2002...

Good evening. I'm Tom Ridge. Nearly six months ago, President Bush asked me to organize and lead a new federal agency, the Office of Homeland Security. Since that time, many of you have probably wondered just what this agency has been up to and what, if anything, we are doing to prevent terrorist attacks within our borders.

Tonight, I'm proud to unveil my agency's new weapon in the War on Terror: the Homeland Security advisory system. It's a simple five level system, which uses color codes to indicate varying levels of terrorist threat. The lowest level of threat is condition OFF-WHITE, followed by CREAM, PUTTY, BONE and finally NATURAL. It is essential that every American learns to recognize and distinguish these colors. Failure to do so could cost you your life. For those who may have questions, an excellent guide will be found on page 74 of the spring J. Crew catalogue.

Now, what precisely do these threat levels indicate? Condition OFF-WHITE, the lowest level, indicates a huge risk of terrorist attack. Next highest, condition CREAM: an immense risk of terrorist attack. Condition PUTTY: an enormous risk of terrorist attack. Condition BONE: a gigantic risk of terrorist attack. And finally, the most serious, condition NATURAL: an enormous risk of terrorist attack.

Many of you probably noticed that in the preceding chart, we used the term "Enormous risk of terrorist attack" twice. This was a mistake we didn't catch in time and we're trying to fix it.

So, there you have it. The Homeland Security advisory system. This took you six months, you might ask? Well, not exactly. We lost the first few weeks with moving back to D.C., finding office space, working out the phones, etc. Also, remember: I just missed being named Vice-President. Instead, I got this as a consolation prize. And you have to admit, it's a pretty thankless job. So, perhaps in the first few months, there may have been some bitterness on my part that affected my job performance. But not anymore. Since Christmas, I have been totally happy and committed. One last point, at my request and effective immediately, the President has placed the nation on Condition TAUPE. More on that in the weeks and months ahead.

posted at: 2004-12-01 11:05:35 with 3 comments

I am cold and tired and very wet. Apropos of nothing, here are my deadly sins, ranked from first to last.

  1. Pride
  2. Sloth
  3. Lust
  4. Gluttony
  5. Wrath
  6. Avarice
  7. Envy

To be honest, I am very rarely envious of anyone. But I'm definitely on top of the other six. How would you rank yours?

posted at: 2004-12-01 01:27:25 with 12 comments

I cannot discuss money matters around my friends. So let me just say that charging a 3% "transaction fee" for a check which counts as a "cash advance" (meaning that interest begins to accrue right away) is what I would label "highway robbery".

Also, two other small coding points. The search engine, which has been down, is now back up again.

Finally, as many of you have noticed, you don't have permission to delete your own posts. Some have complained about this. My logic is this: if you really need to delete a post, get in touch with Helena, Brad or myself. We have the rights to do so. But posting and then removing is a weapon of last resort. It's the sort of thing the White House does all the time.

Information, once placed on a website, is historical. Removing it doesn't get rid of the information, it just moves it to different areas. So next time, think before you post that juicy bit of gossip about your boss.

On that note, I love my job.

posted at: 2004-11-30 18:02:37 with 0 comments

go back a week...

...go forward a week