It’s neat. You can write a ransom note on a pretty yellow piece of paper these days without having to look through magazines and newspapers, worry about the glue sticking, or think about the kerning of the individual letters. It’s also cool that you don’t have to take anyone hostage or kill or murder anyone. Old days be gone! Joy to the world!

My Ads Suck.

Over the past year or so, I’ve used Google’s AdSense in the left-hand column of this here blog. Others do it all the time and they seem to do very, very, well, financially.
To date, I’ve had a small ad or two up and I’ve made a grand total of $53.00. Why would a three-or-two-times-per-week blog only make about $3.00 per month with the most powerful advertising mechanism in the history of the 21st century? Because my content is all over the map. If I write a review of a book or a movie, I get one kind of ad. If I write some armchair philosophy piece on the relationship between technology and death, I get another kind of ad. And what are those ads for? Pretty much nothing.
<— Take a look.
What is there to learn from this? If you want to make money via Google's advertising network, make sure that your blog is focused, logical, and regular. If you want to post your personal thoughts about blogging, expect ads about 311 systems or studying seven months from now in India.
Postscript: I'm in good company, as usual. Trent Hamm, who writes the unusually good weblog The Simple Dollar, has just forsworn AdSense ads for very different reasons. He wrote about it today.

Vista Free.

As you probably know, I’m no big fan of Microsoft. They create crappy software, bloated operating systems, and half-hearted websites and all of them, pretty much, are based on the belief that people will continue to buy them. Things must have gotten pretty bad at Microsoft HQ, because the company apparently now has offered a free version of their new operating system. What’s the catch? Well, they get to spy on you and whatever you do and then you get to fill out a survey every so often to make sure that you’re happy with being spied on and that your computing habits match up with your impressions. It’s so insipid that I can only think Microsoft is starting to run a little scared. Who gives away one of their main product lines in order to watch you in the dressing room? Nike? J. Crew? Amazon.com? Sure, you get free cereal in the mail sometimes (or, at least, I used to) but I always assumed they didn’t put spy cameras in the sugar nuggets to make sure your body was processing the stuff correctly.


I had a kind of mini revelation tonight while looking at Facebook, watching American Idol, and petting my two cats, having finished an excellent home-cooked meal of lentils with tofu bacon and an arugala salad with blue cheese and beets at our friends’ house.
Oh, the revelation was that looking at people on Facebook (e.g. finding friends, learning about what friends are doing, and updating my own page) is essentially equivalent to shopping at Amazon. I take a look at the reviews, decide on who I want to virtually befriend, and then check in on the status of the order occasionally. With Facebook, the order is a human life. And, looking at hundreds of faces scroll by, I couldn’t help but think of our individual expiry dates, when we’re pulled from the shelves, taken back to somewhere, far away from the eyes of others. In ten or twenty or thirty or forty of fifty years, someone will pull down my page and there will be a thousand others to replace me on that sliver of server space.


What with my last post and all, I thought it would behoove me to actually register to vote. Sure, I’ve voted in almost every U.S. presidential election since I was 18. But, when I left New York City in 2005, I also relinquished my ability to easily vote. And, unless I become a citizen of Canada, I can’t vote here.
After a bit of research, I found a great site, called Democrats Abroad (and there’s a “sister” site called Republicans Abroad as well). The site has a very nice, intuitive Web-based wizard that collects your information and spits out a well-formed PDF that is then ready to send to the Federal Voting Assistance Program, an agency dedicated to helping those overseas (including those in the U.S. military) to vote. It’s all rather cool, except that, before finding the Democrats Abroad site, the information on the Web and the FVAP site was confusing to the point of being obscure. It wasn’t clear, to me, what information on the form I needed to complete and where to send the form. For instance, did I really need to provide my full Social Security number or not? (For New York State, it turns out the answer is “not.”)
After printing the completed PDF, I faxed the pre-built cover page and associated application to the 703 number provided. I then mailed the cover page and application to an address in Kings County (Brooklyn) that was also provided. (This part was never truly clarified for me but, essentially, you register to vote with the county in the state where you last resided, regardless of your current state residency status. In other words, though I’m no longer a resident of New York State, I sent my application to Kings County in New York State, which, apparently, has been given the responsibility of caring for me in my voting old age.)
Long story short, if you’re overseas and you’re an American citizen and you want to vote (and you should), use the Web wizard found on Democrats Abroad, regardless of your political affiliation.

Dirty Hands.

While Americans are out shopping intensely for their loved ones, I’ve become very saddened that so little news appears about Iraq, from what I can tell. Only a few commentators nationally are saying anything of substance about the waste of lives and treasure there; on in particular is the inimitable Bob Herbert, who writes today a piece called Now and Forever. The expenditure of funds for the misguided war continues and, according to Herbert, might go to $3.5 trillion.
Do people know how much money that is and what that same amount of money could afford them? Free health care forever, stable bridges and infrastructure, energy independence, massive educational investments, even free child care! All of that would be possible if, somehow, Americans would stand on their feet and come to terms with the squandor of their own money and the jeopardization of their children’s futures.
I ask in seriousness and seriousness of purpose: Is there mass hypnosis going on in the States?

Work Friendly.

In my previous lives, working at nonprofits and corporations for a few years, it was common that colleagues – but not me – wanted to visit websites, especially those like Metafilter. Someone behind a site called workFRIENDLY figured out a pretty good way to emulate Microsoft Word (old school flavors only) so that you can visit sites like Metafilter and not be accused of philandering, time-wasting, or even learning. The beauty of is that the WorkFRIENDLY filter itself strips out the styling of the site and converts it into Arial. There’s even a “Boss Key” that makes it look like you’re, well, thinking.
The whole thing reminds me of something I could have done myself in 1999. But I like the fact that it exists and I love the way sites look through WorkFRIENDLY, all stripped down and out. Of course, if you want to see what a website looks like without all the pretty stuff, you can always download and install Lynx, a free, text-only browser that can looks great on a Mac.