A9, A why?

I tried out the latest new Internet toy, the new search environment, A9 from Amazon. I searched on both my name and my weblog and thought that the results were rather cleanly presented. There were some surprises, too. For instance, someone had fun signing my name to comments on other weblogs in regards to the TypeKey topic. Always good to know when I’ve given another a bit of fun, or a giggle.

The Site Info feature attached to each link is rather interesting. Accessing my site I saw that, first of all, it displays a snapshot of my page from over a year ago. I have no idea why they have such an old snapshot; nor am I particularly overjoyed at seeing my page listed in the context of Amazon’s already overburdened and cluttered selling environment–as if this site were a ‘product’ rather than what it is: a personal writing environment.

Still, no biggie. It wasn’t until I was looking at other sites that I noticed that you can actually review the site, just as you can review any Amazon product. Others may dislike A9 for potential privacy issues, but I thought this was nothing but trouble waiting to happen.

For instance, look at the entry for Scripting News. Already the game is being played out with people either loving Dave Winer or hating him, and do we need to have this permanently recorded within the Amazon marketing venue?

Book authors and editors have long been wary of Amazon’s little star and rating system. The problem with it is that anyone can make a review, without attaching their name, and the quality of the reviews can vary widely–but the stars all add up the same. If you look at the reviews for Practical RDF–not an activity that gives me that much joy, unfortunately–you’ll see some thoughtful, though negative reviews, side by side with a throwaway one from a person who said the entire book is outdated because it covers an older version of one specific tool. (And totally discounting the fact that I published tutorials and new sample code for just that tool at the Practical RDF.)

The process is too easy, too anonymous, and too permanent.

As difficult as it is for an author to go through these types of reviews, we have to expect it as part of doing business, and to be expected when writing professionally. However, I can see great potential for abuse of this rating system when it comes to personal weblogs and other web sites.

You only have to read the reviews attached to Scripting News to realize that people can be personal, hurtful, and petty. In our weblogs or comments, these types of writings pass into archives and fade over time. Not with good old Amazon’s permastar ranking and review system, though. Now, pettiness can live on through the ages.



Recovered from the Wayback Machine.

My media setup in my bedroom/office/living room is relatively complete. I have a nice sound system, a television with cable, and when I want to watch DVDs, I can watch them on my TiBook.

However, I have an extensive library of old VHS tapes and the only VHS player was downstairs in the living room. I chatted with my roommate and asked if he ever used it. He said the only time it’s been used is to watch the tapes I check out from the library, and he isn’t all that interested in most of them (we have different tastes). I asked would he mind if I grabbed it, and he not only didn’t mind, he set it up for me. (I have a great roommate.)

The last couple of nights I’ve been watching some of my old, old friends. I do prefer DVD movies, but I bought these old movies a long time ago and can’t afford to replace them, or they haven’t come out on DVD (and most likely won’t). Among them are some classic old black & white sci-fi films that would be put to shame by today’s modern special effects, but I love them anyway.

Today’s movies just aren’t the same as the oldies. Somehow, they don’t allow for the watcher’s imagination to fill in the the blanks, or to stretch far enough to ignore that the bug is mechanical. Though many are excellent, they don’t have something that the old sci-fi movies had. I’m not sure what it is, but I do know that every time I watch one of these old movies, I feel as if I were a kid again in the movie theater in town, with my big rootbeer and popcorn; or at home Saturday night when Mom would let us stay up, or on a rainy afternoon–about to be scared, but that good kind of scared. It was a nice break from duck and cover.

I watched the original Thing (or, more properly, “The Thing from Another World”), and I still think this was an extremely well done movie. It had one of the most natural dialogues I’ve ever seen in a movie, with characters talking over each other at times, something that does happen in real life when people are stressed. (Forget the guy having hysterics before getting a glass of water splashed in his face.)

I also liked the female lead, and the humor, and James Arness as a big, malevolent brocolli.

Another favorite is Behemoth, the Sea Monster, which I’ll watch tonight. It’s not as highly rated, or as well acted, but I’ve always liked the Big Creature from the Deep flicks.

Of course, the best and baddest of the old creature flicks was Them!. This was my favorite old sci-fi flick, and one of the first I bought. Unfortunately, it was also in the storage unit whose contents I sold, in bulk, so I no longer have the film. However, I’ve watched it so many times, I don’t know if I do need it. I remember every scene.

For instance, one of my favorite scenes is of the young girl in the hospital in a state of shock, and the old scientist passing a beaker of formic acid under her nose. She blinks her eyes, as if coming out of a deep sleep, and then she scrunches all inwards, screaming at the top of her lungs:

Arggghhhh! Them! Them!

This scene does an excellent job of setting the suspense for the movie (that and the deputy watching the old cafe at night); and the kid did a great job with the phrase. It’s such a useful phrase, too–one that never goes out of style.

Yesterday was tax day in the States and I spent the day surrounded by tax papers.

Arggghhhh! Them! Them!

Yesterday was also bill day.

Arggghhhh! Them! Them!

More social software tools have been released this week.

Arggghhhh! Them! Them!


Bang bang

I developed seven rolls of film, including a few rolls that had been banging around my camera bag. You know, of course, that you’ll be inundated with images as a result over the next day or two. Or three.

Except for one roll. I’m not sure how I did it, but the roll was double-exposed. Somehow, when the film rewound, it didn’t rewind all the way, and next time I used the camera body, I must have thought it was a new roll. Neither roll of film had any photos that seem particularly great, but some of the double images are rather interesting.


I went to Powder Valley early afternoon for a walk, and it was lovely. However, at the farthest end of the park, the closest to the freeway, I heard banging sounds. They didn’t sound like hammer or nail gun shots – not enough of a thunk at the end. They did, however, sound like 22 rifle shots, or loud firecrackers. I thought about walking through the park to see if I could spot what caused the sound, but I didn’t want to run the risk of walking through poison ivy for what was probably something innocuous. I have enough problems with rash not to actively seek out additional skin irritants.

I finished my walk and decided to drive over to Emmenegger Park to take some photos when I noticed a great deal of smoke. Crossing the bridge over I270, I could see the hillside was on fire. I turned around to go back when a fire engine and police cars rushed up.


They got the fire under control quickly, but the sound and the fire were too close together not to be related; I talked to the police, told them what happened, and they took down my info. I wish there was a way of finding out if they discovered what caused the fire.