Discrimination Fades? Who Do You Want to Be Today?

The virtual world is fertile ground for exploration of social and identity issues. Like the crucible of competitive sports controversies, synthetic worlds let us burn away irrelevancies to reach abstract truths about, e.g., gender and sexuality. The computer-as-laboratory lets you control the environment and change one variable at a time, and every possible interaction and gesture can be recorded for examination.

Social worlds are the most numerous and have the most users, and so provide the most opportunity for study. Although the examples are still from social worlds, this article is the first I’ve seen that addresses avatar gender in the workplace. My take-away is, “On the internet, no one knows you’re a dog of the wrong gender.” Men can be women if it helps a sale. Women can be men if it helps a negotiation. Otherwise, it’s just not a big deal.

I suspect, though, that we can do even better. I think we’ll see a Village People effect in which we will become both more aware and more comfortable with differences that are now still scary to many people.
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Hey Verizon: You hijack my url, I hijack your customer support

If you get Internet from Verizon (as I do) you’ve probably mistyped an URL from time to time and been redirected by Verizon to their “did you mean” spamo site. If you’re like me, this has probably pissed you off.

Well, Dennis Jerz is like me, and over on his Jerz’s Literacy Weblog he’s written an amusing account of how he got rid of the Verizon intruder, and cost Verizon a few dollars for so doing, just to make things fair.

The blog is generally interesting on other topics as well. Check it out.

Hanging out on Martha’s Vineyard with Barack & Michelle

As all six of my regular readers know, I live on Martha’s Vineyard, where, among other things, I’m a volunteer firefighter. So today, on facebook, I put up a tweet about the Tisbury Firefighter’s Association Dinner last night.

Almost immediately I got a private message from my pen pal the Boston Globe columnist Alex Beam, who distilled the hard-won wisdom of his decades in the journalistic trenches into two pithy sentences:

Be posting on Obama, bro!

that’s what the people want

Well that made me laugh. What the hell do I have to say about Obama? That my wife saw three helicopters flying over our house on the day the “First Family” arrived? That I know where Blue Heron Farm is, where Nancy’s is? Other than that I got nuttin, Honey, I wrote back to Mr. Beam. I suggested that maybe I should go interview Cindy Sheehan instead. But Beam was having none of it.

let me rpt: all obama, all the time.

Well, it’s not every day that a distinguished professional curmudgeon like Alex Beam swoops into my life to give me free wisdom bits, and upon reflection I realized that Beam was right: since I have been hanging out with Barack & Michelle I do have a story to tell, and The People not only want to hear it, The People have a Right to hear it. They are, after all, The People.

And so, below the fold, the true story of my recent time with Mr. & Mrs. President on the little bit of Paradise that I call home: Martha’s Vineyard.

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Design Contest Yeilds Adorable Machine of Loving Grace

Electroluxe is sponsoring a design contest for products that we will see in the next 90 years. One of the entries is a little robot whose sole purpose in life is to take care of a single plant on Mars or similar hostile environment. I think there’s something Wall-Eesque about the little fella diligently going about his work. And, of course, it brought to mind Brautigan’s poem. Of course, in practice, I suspect the little robot would be stressing out as his plant’s health fluctuates, much like I’ve been distressed over the sudden die-off of shrimp in my fish tank, probably due to some unknown water issue, which I hope I’ve worked out.

Plot point for the next Sundman novel: Mystery Laptops Sent to State Governors

Some evil mastermind’s plan to take over the governorships of the strategically vital states of err… Vermont, West Virginia, and Wyoming, has been foiled. Seems that laptops showing up unbidden tends to alarm people. So, it’s likely that the hypnotizing software/belligerent AI/super-stealth hackzors warez won’t be fired up by an unsuspecting governor any time soon. Or maybe it was just a prepaid World of Warcraft account that would suck the state officials into spend all of their time on raids. Whichever. (via Slashdot).

On Writing

I’ve been bumming about my postings (or lack) lately. I want to write about cool possibilities and what they might mean, but most of what I do can’t be talked about until it is released. It seems like it shouldn’t matter whether you write about what you’re doing versus what you’ve done, but I think it does. I feel like everything I write about the latest cool thing my colleagues or I did ends up sounding like an ad. Not an effective and entertaining thing, but just that it sounds like I’m trying to sell something.

Sorry about that. As far as I am aware, I write to sort out ideas. I was taught that if I can’t name something or talk about it effectively, then I don’t understand it. And I write to to document my journey. In both cases, I should be discussing work in progress. But even the entries I made while working at the University of Wisconsin all seem to be about actual working results, rather than projects that I was still designing. And I’m not sure why, but it feels like the out-of-sync aspect is getting worse. There is a commercial relevance. For example, way more than a year ago I had been very happy when a new reader told me what a delight it was to find my blog, and he offered some interesting comments. But it turns out that this fellow was from a ginormous company that is now a (hopefully) happy repeat customer. While I don’t clear anything I write with anyone at work, I can’t pretend that I am unaware of any potential commercial impact. Not sure what to about all that.

Vuze: the new Gator

Several years ago (seems like a lifetime ago) in a misguided attempt to help my younger daughter legally download free music, I installed something called “Gator” on my home computer.

Almost immediately I realized I was stuck in the equivalent of the innocent young couple in the movie Pacific Heights, in which Michael Keaton (perfectly) plays the role of their charming, evil, smarmy, horrible evil tenant that they cannot get rid of (until the climax, when he meets a very (to the audience) satisfying end).

Gator was just like the Keaton character. It pretended to be friendly and charming, but really it was from hell. It took over everything and fucked up everything. I don’t know if I ever got rid of it or if I simply went out and bought a new computer. I had frackin nightmares about Gator.

Then things changed and along came MP3s and there was standardization and itunes and everything was groovy.

A few months ago a friend of mine installed the peer-to-peer program Vuze on my machine. Since then I’ve used it to download a bunch of old films. Some obscure French films and some porno from the 80’s. About 7 flicks, total, I think. Recently it got hung, so I deleted and downloaded it & reinstalled it again tonight. And then I did a Mac OS & Safari software update & rebooted.

And now there is a Vuze toolbar in both my Safari and my Firefox. It’s late and I can’t figure out how to get rid of them. I’ll figure it out tomorrow.

But for now, when I see Vuze I’m seeing Gator, and I’m not liking it one bit.

Fuck you Vuze. Who told you you could mess with my browsers? By what right do you come in and mess with my stuff? Fuck you Vuze, you pigs. Fuck you vuze. Fuck you, Vuze. I don’t care what you say. This is malware tactics. Bite me.

I guess it serves me right for violating the sacrosanct copyright of 40 year old movies. But damn, does it piss me off.

Vuze, the new Gator. Sheesh.

Whether Obama Will Fight For Public Option Is Irrelevant. The Question Is, Will We?

Chris Bowers, as usual, hits it dead on in this piece on OpenLeft. While we may despair of the Democrats lack of spine, the question is whether we are willing to stand up and fight for our principles.

Opponents of the public option are willing to make angry calls, attend rallies, spend money like water to make their point. Why shouldn’t a rational member of Congress assume that they carry the majority if we cannot muster a tenth of the enthusiasm to fight for our principles?

Donna Edwards (D-MD) spoke at America’s Future Now in June. As the audience pressed their demands she responded “Look, I’ve been to a whole bunch of Progressive retreats. I know what the demands are. The question is whether any of you will actually make calls to members of Congress to try to make this happen.”

And now we find that the Obama Administration has taken the silence of the Progressive movement as a willingness to compromise. Why are we surprised? But the question is not whether Obama is a good or bad person, a traitor, a realist, a disappointment, or anything having to do with Obama. The question is, what are we going to do. As the Bible tells us:

It is not in Heaven, that you shall say: “Who shall ascend into Heaven and bring down the Word to us that we may hear it and obey.” Nor is it over the sea, that you shall say: “Who shall go over the sea and bring back the Word that we may hear it and obey.” For the Word is near to you, it is in your mouth and in your heart for YOU TO DO. (Deut. 30:12-14 )

As always, we must rely upon ourselves, not some imagined political party. How can we be betrayed if we will not even get up off our ass to fight?

Stay tuned . . . .

Canada Continues To Play With Itself For My Amusement — CRTC Allows New Tarrif for Metered/Capacity Limited Wholesale Services.

Back in December, I was very excited by the decision of the Canadian Radio-Telecommunications Commission (CRTC) to permit Bell Canada to throttle traffic for its wholesale customers. This represented the first OECD country taking a major step away from mandatory unbundling since the FCC deregulated our telcos in 2005. As a lover of empirical data, the thought of another country playing games with its critical infrastructure to test market absolutism struck me as a welcome relief from the U.S. always playing the guinea pig on free market absolutism.

And now, CRTC has gone further. In this Order, the CRTC approves an interim tariff for usage based billing (UBB) or, as we would call it here, metered billing with a capacity cap. I’m not sure if, reading this, it merely permits Bell Canada to offer a wholesale metered plan or if it allows Bell Canada to drop their unmetered plans and offer only metered plans. If the later, CRTC has pretty much delegated the entire industry structure over to Bell Canada. But even if this is just an option, it lets Bell Canada set the business model for how ISPs can do metered billing. So again, Bell Canada is going to have pretty tremendous influence on how the business model for DSL delivery evolves going forward.

Bell Canada had also asked for a fairly steep charge against an ISP if the ISP could not identify the specific customer using capacity, since that would evade the capacity cap. Happily for independent ISPs in Canada, the CRTC decided to hold off on that one for a bit.

As always, I shall be very interested to see what happens as a result. It’s always rare to see a similarly situated country willing to become a laboratory for experiments with its critical infrastructure. I look forward to seeing multi-year data on what happens to their broadband penetration, pricing, and overall use as a consequence.

Stay tuned . . . .