I've been thinking a lot about Martin Luther King lately, and despite the great strides he took towards equality, to me something has always seemed wrong about his "I have a dream" speech. This is the bit that troubles me:
I have a dream that my four little children will one day live in a nation where they will not be judged by the color of their skin but by the content of their character.
So, prior to his speech, people of color were routinely not allowed at lunch counters, they had separate seating on transport, they couldn't get jobs, etc. This is clearly not right. It is wrong that they were treated this way -- but not just because of a disparity of skin color. I believe that people shouldn't be discriminated against for any reason, not just the color of their skin.
The way Martin Luther King would have it, it'd be wrong to judge based on skin color, but it would be just fine to do so based on 'content of character.' This dream vision world he spoke of in his historic address would not allow for 'coloreds only' water fountains, but it would allow for -- require even -- separate water fountains for assholes. Sure, he specifically said "judge," not "discriminate," but he was using them in a synonymous fashion and I submit that they're pretty much the same, anyway; you can't discriminate against someone without judging them first.
In a world where Dr. King's dreams were to have actually come to pass, the following statements would be commonplace:
"Hey there, 'dick.' What are you doing up here? Dontchoo know that 'dicks' have to sit in the back of the bus?"
"We don't serve your kind here, 'complainer.'"
"This isn't your restroom... the 'pussy' restroom is over there."
Don't get me wrong, I'm a big fan of equality, I just don't think his vision leaves our world in any better position than it was all those troubled years ago. Luckily, I think I'm the only person who took his words literally enough to postulate what such a future might look like, ensuring that the beneficial parts of his argument were heeded and now commonly-held beliefs.
I just wish he'd had the forethought to think through what he was arguing for.
I have a really big favor to ask: Could you all refrain from putting TV spoilers in your blog posts and titles of blog posts so that those of us who cannot stay up late enough to watch shows in real-time will still enjoy them the next day when we watch them on our PVRs?
This is specifically directed towards Battlestar Galactica, but I can imagine that there are other shows people might be upset about having spoiled as well.
All day going through my Google Reader subscriptions I kept coming across titles and posts saying things like "Frak!," "Frack!," "Frakk!," etc, and I had to work pretty hard to avoid reading anything else in them. This also means that anything insightful that you said about BSG will most likely be lost forever as I'll never be able to go back and find all those posts again.
Seriously, it's bad enough that Ron Moore has spoiled some of it for me in his podcast ( and even worse still that SciFi spoiled some of it for those who don't listen to the podcast ) without having to carefully read through my mountain of blogs to just enjoy the one show I care about.
I've been a long-time flickr user, having signed up and paid for a pro account way back in the day, staying relatively happy most of this time. Now, though, I seem to be unable to access my account due to some malicious behavior on the part of one or more of your users.
It seems as if some jerk has hacked your site, and is currently engaging in some sort of "phishing" activity, because the site now requires me to give my personal information to them before I can access my account -- or any other flickr page, for that matter. Even pictures submitted by my friends and contacts cannot be viewed until I submit my personal information to them. They're going by the vaguely-insulting moniker "Yahoo!," which I can only assume means "Yahoo! All these people are giving me their personal information... muhaha. Now I'll pet my overly-furry white cat."
I figured that this is surely something you'd want to know about so you can take steps to ensure that this "Yahoo!" guy doesn't keep persisting with this identity-theft ruse. I'm not giving my information to "Yahoo!," so anything you can do would be appreciated.
Also: I was bothered enough by your seemingly lacking security (if someone can hack it so that everything a user does would require submitting information to a dubiously sketchy individual, it's sure not making me feel confident that my information is secure) that I was tempted to delete my account. Oddly, I discovered that in order to do so, I'd have to give my info to "Yahoo!" first.
Let me repeat that. I'm upset that I don't want to give this "Yahoo!" guy my info, so I decided to delete my account, but to do that, I have to give my info to "Yahoo!" first??!
This is just too much.
Oh, also: I could no longer find any kind of contact info on your site, so I just sorta guessed at an email address that seemed plausible. Just to be safe, I've posted this letter on my fairly popular blog so that you might find it in your referral logs in the event that it gets lost on its way to you.
A few days ago I was asked the following peculiar question by a Jiffy Lube employee:
"Do you guys make those magnets or something?"
I was equal parts flummoxed and intrigued. (Flummtrigued?)
After confessing that I did not, in fact, have the slightest inkling of an idea as to what he was going on about, things became clear. He pointed out the window at my car, specifically at the homebrew bumper sticker about which I had completely forgotten.
"Oh, that," I said. "That's just an ironic statement about the commercialism of American culture overlayed upon the tendency to 'keep up with the Joneses.'"
He didn't get it.
"See," I tried again. "People want to show that they 'support the troops,' and they want to do it the same way the Joneses are: by putting a magnet on the back of their car. The thing is, the people who are actually being supported are the ones in Hong Kong, Korea, and Singapore who are making them and selling them to us."
"Basically, while trying to show your support for our troops, you're actually supporting the Axis of Evil1. Buying magnets isn't actually helping the troops one bit. Nice, huh?"
He got it then, and seemed really surprised that he hadn't thought of this before.
I personally find it equal-parts beautiful and sad that entire industries have popped up with soley to provide Americans with foreign-made tchotchkies so that we can show eachother just how much we love our country. Judging by the number of these magnets I see, we really love it a lot.
1: I realize that these countries aren't really the Axis of Evil, but it sure has a nice ring to it, doesn't it? I also realize that there are American companies that make these things as well, but I bet you don't know whether the ones on your car are made by them or by the afore-mentioned foreign profiteers. Besides, does it really matter who it is that's cashing in on your natural tendency to want to show people how much you care? Really what matters is that that money might have been better spent in some way that actually can impact someone other than the guy sitting behind you in rush hour.
I've been preparing for some time to write a long treatise on the evils of "partial-text" RSS feeds, and how I think everyone should switch to "full-text" feeds instead. I was going to point out that requiring people to actually come to your site to get the content is soooo 1999, and that the only conceivable reason for doing so was to improve your ad revenue. I'm not against ads per se, I just don't think they ought to inform your decisions on how your readers read your site.
Imagine my surprise when I discovered that there are peope who actually prefer to subscribe to feeds that don't contain the full text of articles. Presumably this is so they can more easily skim the content they don't want to read. It's not my cup of tea, but I now recognize that insisting that everyone use the type of feeds I like is pretty short-sighted. Now I'm going to argue that anyone providing RSS feeds of their content really ought to provide both a full-text and a partial-text feed, allowing the subscribers to make this decision.
With than in mind, I've now updated the site with new badges and new 'autodetected' feeds for browsers that can handle them. I'll also be updating the UI of the site to reflect the fact that pretty much anything can be read as an RSS feed, but in the meantime, any feed on the site can now be made a partial-text feed by simply tacking on "?partial" to the end of the url.
I did this by mucking around with the actual guts of my blog software, but for those of you who don't want to (or can't) engage in this type of haxoring, I suspect that there are 3rd-party feed services one could install. I know when I was looking into aggregating my feeds into the Nyquil Network feed, 95% of the different feed manipulator services I tried only generated partial-text feeds, so it ought to be a snap to get one of them to make you such a feed. Maybe Yahoo Pipes?
Will people subscribe to these partial-text feeds? I really doubt it, but they're there should someone want to. I'd hate to find out that someone who might otherwise be interested in my drivel was turned away because they couldn't subscribe the way they want. I know that I've sure unsubscribed from people for not using full-text feeds, so I think this is a wise step to have made.
Thoughts? Problems? (Oh, also: apologies to anyone whose feed reader caught me in the middle of haxoring. All sorts of crazy stuff was happening for a while there.)
It seems to me that the point of Digg -- and by extension, any of the different social network aggregators -- is to provide a mechanism for a community to discover things that are of interest to other members of said community. Someone submits something, and other users who agree that it is cool go ahead and "digg" it, increasing its profile in the network, thus drawing in more eyes. This creates a layer of trust among the community; if a bunch of people dig stuff, chances are you might like it too. People involved in said community know the sorts of things they want to digg, and have mechanisms allowing them to easily do so when they come across something they want to share. This may be browser extensions or bookmarklets or what-have-you, but I maintain that active Diggers don't need a little button on every one of your posts to digg you.
So therefore, the only purpose of including said buttons is to incite people -- people who otherwise wouldn't be bothered -- to go ahead and digg you. I mean, it's just one click right? What does this accomplish? Well, in the short-run it might get a few more eyes to see your content, but in the long-run what it accomplishes is a dilution of the network. If suddenly a bunch of people start digging your content because it's easy rather than because it merits digging, pretty soon the whole system is going to break down. Who wants to use a social network where everything anyone ever creates gets submitted? Not me.
(But in full disclosure, I don't use any of those social networks now. I just see the value they currently hold, and understand that this value will very quickly dissolve with sudden influxes of uninteresting content.)
Sure, everything is of interest to someone -- the fact that a handful of people see my content attests to this -- but I can't imagine submitting any of it "to the masses." If you're creating something that you think is diggworthy, then by all means throw a link in and beg people to digg it, but automatically doing that on everything you create is just plain arrogant. Chances are, many people who might otherwise digg you will not do so because it seems as if you're begging for it. I submit that by putting said links in, you are begging for it.
My first shorter rant on this subject incited Matthew from eJabs.com to comment that he thinks I may have a point, and that he may consider getting rid of his automatic digg links. The fact that he took time out to tell me what he thinks and that he may change his site as a result of it suggests to me that it'd be OK to use his site as an example. Take a look at this:
That's what's at the bottom of every single one of his posts. Clicking on any one of those little icons will submit the current post to a different social network aggregator site. This may seem like a pretty extreme example of this type of pandering, but I see it pretty frequently. I bet you do too. I was going to link to a handful of them, but decided to just use the one person I've heard from as an example. (Matt, I like your site and am not picking on you!)
So I guess what I want to ask is: when you view content and see links like that, do you click them? Why would you expect that anyone else would either?
Dear Mr. Progresso, Marie Calendar, Wolfgang Puck, Bruce Campbell, Emeril (and Andre1) Agasse, and all the other soup manufacturers,
I like chicken soup. A lot.
The most convenient form of chicken soup for me is, more often than not, from one of your vibrantly-labeled cans.
While you've made quite a few advances in canned soup technology in the last few years, (pop-top rings are awesome!) one of the biggest problems still remains to be solved: the chicken in your soup sucks. Dry, chewy, flavorless zombie chunks mingle with the tasty vegetables and flavorful broth, essentially ruining an otherwise delightful soup. More distressingly, this is leaving our nation's bountiful chicken flocks depressed at the thought of giving their lives for this terrible purpose.
See, chicken soup is only good for the consumer's soul if all the chickens are contributing their souls to the soup. This can't happen if they feel the inherent purposeless in living only to contribute zombie chunks to otherwise-tasty soups. Those clinical trials you've been running? The ones that are not returning the "good-for-your-soul" data that you expect them to? You aren't getting quantifiable results because you are eradicating their flavorful life-essences before they get a chance to even become part of the soup.
My suggestion? Skip the zombie chicken, instead putting in more vegetables and a more-flavorful chickeny broth. Vegetables and better broth are bound to be less expensive than whatever magicks the zombification process entails, leaving you with a cheaper, more pleasant soup. And chickens without the soul-draining ennui that keeps your soup from being verifiably "good for the soul."
If you could please let me know when these changes have been made so that I can start buying your soups again, I'd much appreciate it.
1: I'm inferring the involvement of Andre based on the perfectly square chunks of potatos present in most of these soups. What besides a swift, forceful BAM! with a tennis racket could create such chunks?
It occurs to me that you probably never knew just how much you meant to me while you were alive. This saddens me, because, though you may not see why, you really made a difference in my life, ending up as of my most valued role models.
You taught me that it doesn't matter how inept you may seem at times, it's where your heart is that really counts. That people's expectations of what you're capable of shouldn't deter you from your course of action in those areas. That the beliefs and actions of one man can make a world of difference in the lives of others.
When you risked life and limb trying to ensure that kids have a Christmas to look forward to, I didn't take it lightly. You taught me that their joy is worth the hassles and hardships involved in helping to make them happy, and now as an adult I strive to continue your work, helping to ensure that Christmas is there for those that can't have it.
The time you spent when your life and freedom were taken from you by that "evil twin" bad guy doppleganger was pretty educational for me as well. The people who knew you could tell something wasn't right while that crook pretended to be you, but, more importantly, people could tell you weren't the crook either. Those close to him noticed the goodness in your heart, and you made a positive impact on them, bringing out the goodness they never knew could be there inside them. Though I mostly fail, I try pretty hard to make a positive impact on everyone in my life, using you as my example.
Remember when you saved Kamp Kikakee from destruction at the hands of those heartless corporate raiders? You not only helped keep joy in children's hearts, you also taught me valuable lessons about stick-to-it-iveness, the power of having faith in things I may not understand, and that one shouldn't mess with the traditions of Indians. Now, when something arises that I feel is an injustice, I feel the need to try to do something about it, sometimes at great personal risk. This often worries me, but when it does, I just think back to your experiences. Those arrows could not pierce you, and they probably won't pierce me either. But, if they do, I will hopefully have caused some change for the better in the process.
Whether trying to or not, you need to understand that you made a positive impact on the lives of countless individuals, time and time again. To this day, most people still see you as a bumbling buffoon, but those of us that can see a little deeper know how great a man you were, and strive at every turn to be just a little more like you.
As promised, I was just about to write a review recommending simplyaudiobooks.com for all your non-encrypted audiobook rental needs. Aside from the incredibly slow turnaround time on rentals (I had 3 shipments in the month of December, amounting to one and a half books and am looking at about the same this month, despite the fact that I rip them and return them the same day) I've been pretty happy with them.
Unfortunately, I just received my third "you really should pay us more money and upgrade your account, because only losers pay for the cheap plan. What's another $10 a month, anyway??" email in under a month.
I am no longer able make such a recommendation, and am now obligated to find a different mail-order audiobook rental service. (Boy am I glad I didn't pay for a whole year in advance.) I'll post another update regarding my next audiobook provider after I find one.
Why companies would think that badgering their customers is a good idea is beyond me, as it's the best sure-fire way to ensure that I stop being one.