Baked Virginia Spam

Virginia has passed legislation that makes fraudulent spammers criminally liable. The law was apparently inspired by an FTC report that 66 percent of spam contains a fraudulent claim. The report, which I can’t seem to find, analyzed 1,000 emails from FTC databases and government mail boxes. I wonder how long it took them to gather 1,000 emails.
According to this article, AOL, Yahoo, and MSN have agreed to pool their resources to fight spam. Spam annoys me as much as anyone else, but while it takes me one keystroke to delete a spam email, it takes me two clicks to get rid of a pop-under ad (one to maximize the ad window, another to close it). What are these companies doing about this problem? They’re selling it: AOL, Yahoo (check out the example ad), MSN.

Moving More Than Mice

MouseMiles is a utility / art project (mostly art project) that records the distance that you move your mouse (nothing to install, just open a pop-up window). The program keeps track of the vertical, horizontal, and total distance that the mouse is moved and adds this to the total from other users around the world. For effect, there is a miniature train somewhere that moves the exact distance that we’ve all moved our mice. It’s kind of like a parallel universe except it’s not a universe, it’s just someone’s house.
If a cat were watching me now, he would see only a human and a little box. I see text and graphics. I exchange ideas, learn, laugh, and gaze. Ahh intangibles.
And now I also move tiny trains.

New Shaw’s Supermarket

I checked out the grand opening of the brand new Back Bay Shaw’s yesterday. I don’t know why I get excited about new supermarkets opening, but I do. Plus, in these final days before exams, there’s not much else going on.
The new store is designed much like the streets of Boston: all crooked like. (a little ironic that it is in the only modern grid-style area of Boston: the Back Bay) This, coupled with the opening day crowds, led to more cart gridlock than Toy’s R Us at Christmas (and I used to work at Toy’s R Us so I know). Amazingly, the store has no place for carts to go. They had some guys on the sidewalk trying to gather them up and get them back into the store, but even the most helpful customers couldn’t figure out what they were supposed to do with their carts as they left the store.
Nothing about the design of the store is that amazing, but I was impressed with the fact that they had an alcohol section. For some reason, Massachusetts grocery stores don’t usually have alcohol. They obviously can carry alcohol with a permit. Trader Joe’s has wine and beer (imagine a Trader Joe’s without!), but generally if you want booze in Boston, you have to go into a dodgy liquor store where they give you all kinds of attitude, ask for five IDs, and don’t publish their prices. It’s nice to finally have a clean, well-lighted place for booze in Boston. I probably live too far from the new Shaw’s to take advantage of the labels, sales, and selection. Instead I’ll be subjected to my local store with a security monitor above the door that no one but the customer can see (just to let you know that you’re being taped). Still, nice to know there’s another option.
Most importantly, it’s nice to see supermarkets adopting urban settings. The new store makes great use of space (it’s over the freeway) and it features a loading zone for cabs and such. When I live in San Francisco, it was a 25 minute walk to the nearest grocery store (or a 25 minute bus ride – but you might as well walk then). In Boston I can walk for about 10 minutes to get to a supermarket, 5 minutes to a medium-size store, and 20 minutes to a couple of nicer supermarkets. Food should be easy to acquire.

EPIC Privacy Threat Index

EPIC has announced its privacy threat index “to track the growing threat to privacy resulting from the expansion of government surveillance.” (pr) (via Life, Law, Libido)
One cool thing about this is that the image is hosted at EPIC, so when (if ever) the privacy threat index is raised or lowered, the change will show up here. At the time of this writing, the threat was “Elevated”.
EPIC Privacy Threat Index
A word about the potential irony of supporting a pro-privacy group immediately after advocating to have all of my personal information stored on a credit card (on a website that makes it very easy to find information about me): I value the right to privacy, I just don’t value mine that much.

Miniature Credit Card

Bank of America has introduced the “Mini Card”. It’s like a regular credit card but smaller. The idea is that it attaches to your key ring like one of those little supermarket cards. How convenient? It works in slide-style machines, but you’ll have to make sure your keys don’t get in the way. If you have to hand your card to the clerk you may encounter resistance, or may be denied use outright. That means you’ll have to have your full size card with you as a backup, which defeats the purpose of having the mini-card.
The card purports to be safer because the numbers are small. I’m not too worried about people memorizing my 16 digit number after spying my card as it swipes through the swiper, but I would be worried if my card got stolen or lost. In that case, at least I’d know that the occasionally clerk might check the signature on the card – something that is sure never to happen with the mini-card.
Overall, I’m happy to see innovation in consumer products, but I’d opt for technological advances that actually made life easier than gimmicks like useless microchips and smaller cards. How about a card that includes supermarket data? You could just print the barcode from my Shaw’s Card onto my credit card and clean up my wallet. Why not print my frequent flyer number on there too, and my movie rental account information? (Or encode it directly on the card, or in a database that can be accessed with the card.) How about getting rid of the key ring all together? How about a card that is the key.
P.S. Check out Cockerham’s Safeway Card Prank!

Creed Fans Sue Creed

Fans of the band Creed (muhahaha) are bring a class-action suit against the band for failing to “substantially perform” when the lead singer “was so intoxicated and/or medicated that he was unable to sing the lyrics of a single Creed song.”
This is one of those cases that sounds frivolous to people reading the articles (suing a band because they didn’t like the concert), but actually makes a lot of sense (in my opinion). Certainly, a duty to perform was created when the tickets were sold. Depending on what that duty was (would have to do a little research and analyze the specific facts), it’s conceivable if not probable that Creed breached their duty by failing to perform. I can’t seem to find a copy of the full complaint, but The Smoking Gun has the Statement of Facts section.

Patriots Day Report

It’s Patriots Day in Massachusetts, and I’d say it’s one of the better holidays around here. I happen to live very close to the Boston Marathon route, so there are all sorts of people milling about in the street. The stretch of street on which I actually live gets closed, so marathon cheering replaces traffic noise. Finally, in terms of weather, comfortable days are rare in Boston. Today wasn’t too hot or too cold. Goldilocks would have been content.

Mountain Rock

I checked out a local bluegrass band at a pub this evening. Afterward, conversation turned to the sociological and geological merits of various mountain ranges. The Appalachians may have music, religion, and culture, but I still gaze in awe at the jagged rocks of the Cascades.
The National Park Service has some cool maps and information regarding the Geologic provinces of the United States. Any site that can meaningfully use the phrase, “when dinosaurs roamed the Earth” is worth a visit.