Thursday, August 30, 2007

Maps for the Children

In response to the recent call to action by Miss Teen South Carolina, Maps For Us started a blog of important maps:

Please contribute. It's for the children. Please.

Tuesday, August 28, 2007

Steampunk Tree House

...imagine another sort of tree. Maybe there aren’t natural trees anymore. Maybe there are a few left in special National Maximum Security Parks. Maybe the memory of a tree is so far gone from living memories that people try to recreate what they imagine they’ve lost using another sort of romantic imaginary, one of machinery, scavenged gears, gathered belts, hunted steam pipes, gleaned gauges, rusty metal and gobs and gobs of steam. In short, though our natural world may change, the human drive to connect with it and one another remains, it is second nature. Enter the Steampunk Tree House!

Tuesday, August 14, 2007

Romania this week...

First full day in Romania today. I'm always wary of hotels that are named after organic compounds. My current abode, Hotel UniREA is no exception. About on par with a Cozy-8 it does have the benefit of being close to the office. The A/C emits pitiful breaths of tepid air rather like an asthmatic water buffalo about to expire. Watching Seinfeld dubbed into Romanian is the most entertainment I expect to get tonight. Still, at least I'm not back in the USSR. Pictures when I download them from my camera. Sleep time...

Dumb-as-a-Stump Award of the Week

Easily winning the Dumb-as-a-Stump award this week, and of little surprise to anyone, Network Solutions handily demonstrate why they are universally disliked. Not only are their registration fees the highest in the industry, their customer service is diabolically bad. Take for instance the e-mail I received from them today, August 14, 2007: "Act Now. Don't let your service expire" it blared. Gosh - I'd better renew in case I forget, I mused. Then I noticed the expiration date **June 26 2008**. Wow - nothing like getting advanced renewal notices. Doofi.

Thursday, August 09, 2007

Slusho, water, zoom, happy, power, fish, donkey, frog

Slusho, water, zoom, happy, power, fish, donkey, frog

What would Jesus do?

From a Slashdot post today: "American Red Cross Sued for using a Red Cross". Quite a mundane story: "licensing rights.....blah blah.....exclusivity.....blah blah...". However there was at least one highly entertaining comment. Click on the image above to see.

Monday, August 06, 2007

Amazon Fresh

I must report being very satisfied with the selection from Amazon Fresh and the quality and timeliness of their deliveries. I was a big fan of Webvan in the day (and by fan I mean I enjoyed their selection and efficiency of delivery. I was not a fan of their business model - but I did reap benefit from it (I have two Webvan totes sitting in my garage - collector's items??)).

I'm picking up from Amazon PacMed (looking forward to when the new pick up building is opened so I don't need to trudge down to the sports court). Other delivery options are available. A great innovation is the Pre-Dawn Delivery for when you absolutely must have fresh pop tarts delivered overnight. I'm outside the current delivery zone, but when it expands to cover my apartment it'll be kippers and Cap'n Crunch for breakfast everyday!

William Gibson Visits

A good day today. Upon logging into my e-mail account this morning I discovered that William Gibson (for one of his characters this blog is named) was to be speaking at the Fishbowl at lunch time. I promptly cleared my calendar and mentally began to prepare my questions. Mr. Gibson read chapter 2 of Spook Country after telling us that this was originally written as Chapter 1. After the reading he answered questions. I asked him if he consciously was moving his stories back in time (Spook Country is set in 2006). He explained that he writes by pulling the strangeness he finds in everyday life into his stories and no, this was not a conscious decision. He was asked about product placement in his stories (ref. the "Sony TV" in Chapter 2 of Spook Country). Mr. Gibson explained that he intended to "[allow people of the future] to access the texture of our daily lives". That "it's not product placement ... it's memetic coloration". He signed a copy of Spook Country. I shook his hand. Today was a good day.

Saturday, August 04, 2007

Amazon Flexible Payment Service Launches

Hot on the heels of the Amazon Fresh beta launch, the Amazon Flexible Payment Service has just launched. It provides easy access to the millions of existing Amazon customers who have their payment preferences registered with Amazon. Amazon has established a very high level of trust regarding payment services (much better than, say, Paypal where if you have a problem you are SOL. Problems with Amazon payments are dealt with by Amazon customer service who's service quality is legendary). The service has a number of interesting capabilities including:
  • Developers can create payment instructions that are as simple or complex as they desire. For example, creating a relatively complex business model around micro-payments is easy to do with Amazon FPS. The aggregation feature lets you track and aggregate micro-payments into a single payment transaction, saving on transaction processing costs and avoiding having to build complex ledger functionality into your own applications. Without this capability micro-payments would be difficult or cost-prohibitive.
  • Amazon FPS exposes a different fee structure for each of the underlying payment methods enabled: credit cards, bank account debits, and Amazon Payments balance transfers. Amazon's cost to process a payment through a bank account debit is less than Amazon's cost via credit card. Amazon's cost for processing an Amazon Payments balance transfer is less still. By exposing different fees for each of these three methods, Amazon can pass on savings from bank account debits and balance transfers, allowing developers to save money. In each case, Amazon takes on the complexity of managing security and fraud protection.

  • Amazon customers can pay using the same login credentials and payment information they already have on file. This helps Amazon customers keep their payment information secure and removes the friction 3rd party developers would face if they needed to get customers to enter their payment information before they could make a purchase.

The folks at FreshBooks have been testing out Amazon FPS. Their story and feedback makes interesting reading.