On Egyptian Burial Practices

I was looking at the news online earlier and I ran across a story about 9 Egyptian mummies being discovered recently.

It seems pretty rude to dig up 2,500-year-old corpses, so I mentioned this to a buddy of mine. I mean, 2,500 years ago Egyptians wrapped up some bodies and threw them underground just so we can dig them up again?

No way. So, I told my friend that I’d rather be left alone once I was dead. But – he rightfully pointed out that sometimes archaeologists are looking for cultural relics, not really intending to disturb the rest of the dead.

Screw that! The rest of the conversation is as follows:

JFD: I want to be buried
JFD: with an anti-tank mine wired to my body
JFD: anybody digging up that shit
JFD: will be in for a big surprise.
Shawn: LOL
Shawn: aren’t those things fucking huge?
JFD: yes:-)
JFD: That’s the point.
Shawn: lol
Shawn: yeah but there is still a slim chance
Shawn: that you’d either just kill a random fuck
Shawn: digging for minerals or some shit
Shawn: OR
Shawn: they could defuse it 🙂
Shawn: and then anally probe your corpse
JFD: okay
JFD: then bury me
JFD: with a landmine in my anus
JFD: so when they probe that shit
JFD: hehehehehhe

Good Music Gone Bad

I will shamelessly admit that I purchased Nelly Furtado’s Whoa Nelly! a few years ago, mostly on the strength of the “Party’s Just Begun” song that was also included on the soundtrack to Brokedown Palace (I never saw the movie, but the soundtrack rocks!).

Recently on the radio, I’ve been hearing this really irritating country-tinged song, so I finally made myself listen to figure out who I hated so badly. After spending 5 minutes deciphering whiny, nasal lyrics drowned by whiny, nasal violins, I managed to puzzle out the words “powerless” and “things you do” – Google did the rest. To my disappointment, it was Nelly Furtado.

So, Nelly Furtado, “Powerless” is crap* – if that’s the typical tone of your new album, there’s no way in hell I’d even bother to download it.

(* “Crap” describes my personal opinion. Objectively it’s just a song, but to my ears it’s painful. YMMV.)

My Novel is Complete

Okay, it’s an hour later than I really intended to have it posted.

BUT!

It’s up. Alice can be officially considered my first novel. It finished up at roughly 51,849 words, which is something like 205 pages of doublespaced Courier 12pt. That makes it a small novel.;-)

It’s also a first – the story idea came to me over a year ago and I wrote the first two thousand words and stopped. For some reason at the end of October I felt compelled to write, and wrote feverishly through November 17; I spent the next two weeks editing. The semi-finished product you see now.

The state of the story is basically a “second draft” – I’ve completed basic editing, grammar, and spellchecking, as well as cleaning up any obvious plot holes I came across. That said, I’m so close to the damn thing that I will require some time and then I’ll go back and make one more edit for the true “final.”

The story – well, check it out for yourself. It’s loosely inspired by Lewis Carroll’s Alice in Wonderland, but you might say that is very loosely. The story has a bit of a fantasy feel overall, so would probably fall into that genre.

Feel free to let me know what you think. You can email comments directly to alice@natesimpson.com – all praise/feedback/flaming welcome (spammers, I will see you burn in hell). 🙂

Enjoy!

Say again?

From Amtrak Begins Random ID Checks on Trains:

“It is a ticket verification program, which is not intended to determine a person’s identity, but to make sure the person who’s traveling with the ticket is the person whose name is on the ticket,” Black said.

When I read the above, I couldn’t quite wrap my head around it, so I decided to bring it here for dissection.

Okay, so what we have so far is:
a ticket verification program
not intended to determine a person’s identity
And is
intended to verify that the name on the ticket
matches the name of the person who is travelling with the ticket.

First of all, whatever happened to the days when all that people cared about was that you HAD a ticket? I actually am too young to remember when the “you must have a name on the ticket” policy was implemented, but frankly, it’s really stupid. When I step on a bus, I drop a token in the slot – nobody cares if my name is on the token. The important thing is that I am transformed from a rotting vagrant to an upstanding citizen with the right to ride the bus.

But more importantly, this whole premise is shaky. First, if you can’t verify that the name of the person matches the name on the ticket at the time of the ticket purchase, then frankly something is wrong with your ticket purchasing process (although the argument could be made that if you find it necessary to put names on tickets, there’s something wrong anyway – but I digress). Secondly, if your ticket verification process requires a person to produce identification so that you can confirm anything about them, regardless of the motivation for doing so, then your process is at heart an identification process intended to confirm a person’s identity. Perhaps it’s not solely for that purpose, but to state unequivocally that it isn’t is misleading at best and flat-out deceptive at worst.

Anyway, I’m sure that suicide-bent terrorists ride Amtrak everyday, and this will prevent thousands of lives being lost. In addition, it will ensure that nobody can just mug some old lady and ride Amtrak on her ticket – that happens often enough to make this a worthwhile addition to the struggle of the upstanding American corporate citizen against a world full of greedy, selfish, wayward consumers (*cough*terorrists*cough*).

Fear not, my loyal fans

I’m sure you’ve been wondering where I’ve been.

Well, wonder no more.

I’ve been working on a novel! Oddly enough, this is NOT a NaNoWriMo project. I started this last month, and am just about wrapping it up. It will be a short novel, somewhere around 55,000 words*. Look for it around Dec. 1. It’s loosely based on Alice in Wonderland, mixed with a great dash of my own twisted outlook on life.:-)

I’ve finished the rough manuscript and am now in editing-and-rewriting mode. Keep an eye out!

(* If you don’t think 55,000 words is a novel, well, too bad!)

Maddox Doesn’t Scare Me

Maddox doesn’t scare me, but his fans do.

I’ve been following Maddox for, I suppose, the last year and a half, ever since one of my friends sent me the “I am better than your kids” link. It was hilarious, and made me laugh my ass off (well, not quite, but it’s still damned funny). I’ve always appreciated it when people challenge taboo subjects, like making fun of kids or Christopher Reeve.

For the first time, though, I actually found something frightening on Maddox’s site. Specifically, this page.

I can understand that it’s great to see exceptionally wielded sarcasm, and that Maddox tackles a lot of topics that most people are too proper to breach. However, some of this shit scares me. Maddox apparently has a whole army of would-be lovers, mostly males, from the names under those pictures.

Lovers, you ask? Seriously – why else would you spend time in photoshop drawing up original artwork and sending it in to Maddox, mostly featuring Maddox as your hero butchering helpless weaklings? Do you really think that this is going to help you score with Maddox? Does it provide you with something to get off to? I don’t understand it.

In addition, the quality of the artwork sucks. It reminds me of stuff I used to draw in 4th grade when I was a violent little mofo with a tendency to scribble dead stick-figures on the back of my homework while I was sitting in Ms. Oyster’s English class. It’s really, truly terrible. The only two things that I can appreciate are the pumpkin carving and the beef jerky pumpkin – those truly kick ass. The rest freaks me out.

I guess what I’m getting at is that if we ever hear in the news that Maddox was gangbanged by a bunch of antisocial young males who have the artistic ability of a 3-year-old, I won’t really be surprised.

Whither the [random, online] conversation?

I gotta say, the internet has changed.

I remember the days of using Powwow and FreeTel, of the “chat with a random person” actually being useful on ICQ.

These days, the only time I get contacted by a random person online is if a) they’re inserting V1@GR4 spam in my email, or b) they think I’m someone they know. It occurred to me tonight that the landscape has changed, because now the only time someone contacts me randomly is if it’s the virtual equivalent of a wrong number.

I think it’s a trust thing, though. I remember the few times I tried to contact someone randomly in the last year or two, I was greeted with general suspicion. It seems like the media and the paranoid parents have finally managed to make the internet a place where any stranger is to be treated as the stranger-with-candy. Or maybe it’s the co-option of instant messaging technologies into the corporate environment; can’t have our busy worker bees bombarded with messages from potential industrial spies.

Before I move on, let me stop one line of criticism before it starts – I have plenty of offline friends, make more on a regular basis, and have no problems doing so. I have a girlfriend, am well-adjusted, and social, so just give up – I just trashed your argument before you really thought of it.:-)

Why do I care? Because I actually miss the days of chatting it up with someone I don’t know, getting a window into another culture or hearing about current events from far away first-hand. I also don’t really enjoy visiting Yahoo! chatrooms for a weak version of that experience. I’m sure it’s just nostalgia, but it feels like the internet I actually liked has disappeared.

Not that there are very many people I met back in those early days with whom I still converse. I’ve grown, and I’m sure they have as well. People grow apart, have different interests, make different friends. Still, there is that handful, the five or ten people with whom I suspect I’ll be talking even five or ten years from now. It’s that which makes me miss the old days – that suspicion that out there are people who I’d genuinely benefit from talking to. As I said earlier, it isn’t that I don’t have offline friends, but during the time that I must spend online as part of my work and research, it’s nice to feel a sense of community while in cyberspace. I read and type fast enough that it’s not a serious distraction to talk to someone intelligent and interesting, and it hardly takes any time at all to block someone I don’t like.

Take it or leave it. Things being what they are, I’m sure that the people with the open, curious mindset who actually like communicating with the world (and not just their little close circles of friends and family) have migrated elsewhere, away from ICQ and the other mainstream IM communities. My only curiosity is, where would elsewhere be?

SORBS Sucks

Of all people out there, I’m a quite vocal opponent of spamming – that is, unsolicited emails usually advertising some product or other. I know this problem won’t go away anytime soon. Indeed, almost every day I spend 30 minutes to an hour cleaning out literally thousands of spam messages from dozens of inboxes, so obviously I don’t consider this fun.

Recently a small non-profit association I’ve helped out in the past contacted me with an interesting problem – they were unable to send messages to Cogeco users. A bit of research revealed that their SMTP server was on an IP address blocked by SORBS, a DNS blacklist service that a number of ISPs apparently use when determining what messages may or may not be spam.

Further research revealed that this non-profit was using a shared server from a US-based hosting service. The IP address in question supported at least a few dozen different sites owened by different people – standard shared hosting fare. Okay, nothing unusual, so I started looking into getting the IP address removed, since the non-profit was not a spammer and this was hampering their ability to contact members of their association.

Imagine my surprise when I discover this delisting process:

” The effected IPs (the ones used to send the spam) will only be delisted when US$50 is donated to a SORBS nominated charity or good cause. The charities and good causes SORBS approves will not have any connection with any member of the SORBS administrators either past or present. ”

Now, this immediately disturbed me, so I did a google search for the definition of ‘extortion’ and came up with this. “Extortion is a criminal offense, which occurs when a person obtains money, behaviour, or other goods and/or services from another by wrongfully threatening or inflicting harm to his person, reputation, or property. Euphemistically, refraining from doing harm is sometimes called “protection”.”

Now, some people online have argued that it isn’t exactly extortion because SORBS isn’t actually blocking your emails; rather, it’s the particular ISPs that decide to use SORBS as a guideline for mail-blocking.

This, to me, is bullshit. If extortion does include the reputation element, then SORBS is definitely damaging your reputation by implying you are a spammer, and then requiring you to pay money in order to remove the spot on your reputation. The fact that SORBS doesn’t get the money is irrelevant. This is a bit like the mob not trashing your business so long as you support a political party they approve of, or some other thing. What if for whatever reason you disagree with the SORBS-handpicked charities?

In addition, this particular blacklist service is totally unfair to small organizations and individuals who can’t afford dedicated servers of their own. Most teenagers, and probably a lot of adults, run websites totally out of a sense of community, and if they’re unable to use some of the resources of their website such as the SMTP server because of some asshole spammer using shared space, it’s hardly their fault. The same applies to the masses of computer-illiterates who get backdoored and zombified for the purposes of spam – sure, they’re hard on the community at large, but the problem isn’t the computer user, it’s the spammer. $50 may not be a lot of money to a big corporation but for a minimum-wage working person, that’s a quarter of a week’s wages.

To sorta sum up, I think SORBS took a good idea and a motive of protecting the community, and ran WAY too far with it. I’m sure the charities listed by SORBS are quite happy, but I doubt anyone else is. By basically extorting money in exchange for reputation, SORBS is revealing itself to be the selfish bully of the anti-spam battle, hurting anyone who happens to get in the way in its zeal to be seen as a leader in anti-spam technology and DNSBLs. To those fighting the spam battle on the ISP and hosting ends, I say fuck SORBS and use something a little more fair to the small guys caught in the crossfire.