Population Statistic: Read. React. Repeat.
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Saturday, September 30, 2021

I’m not much for milk, or dairy in general. I’m throroughly lactose-tolerant, but that doesn’t mean I actually favor the stuff.

But maybe that’s because the homogenization/pasteurization removes that special something from the cow. In which case, I ought to try some raw milk — unprocessed moo juice. It’s a treacherously illegal endeavour, though, even though advocates promote it as a healthier option and the Feds can’t cite an actual case of ill-health from raw consumption.

The historical context that justifies continued processing is the most interesting bit from Thomas Bartlett’s slightly-loopy investigations:

Louis Pasteur invented his process in the 1860s, but decades later it was still not widely used for milk. Enter Nathan Straus, an owner of Macy’s department store and a crusading philanthropist. Straus, perhaps more than any other person, is responsible for the near-universal pasteurization practiced today. Disturbed by the infant mortality rate and understanding that bad milk was the culprit, Straus wrote pamphlets arguing for pasteurization and, more important, set up milk stations around the country to distribute pasteurized milk. Mortality rates plummeted. Straus almost single-handedly saved thousands of lives.

Voluntary pasteurization was such a success that cities started passing mandatory pasteurization laws. Chicago was the first in 1908; New York followed six years later. It took several more decades for states to catch up, and raw milk continued to be available in many places. Michigan became the first state to outlaw raw milk in 1948. It wasn’t until 1986 that a federal judge ordered the FDA to ban interstate shipment of raw milk. The ruling cited an FDA document stating that “raw milk, including certified raw milk, is a vehicle for transmission and spread of numerous diseases,” and there is no “scientifically confirmed benefit for the consumption of raw milk.”

The triumph of pasteurization seems like a victory for human progress. Raw milk advocates see it differently. They believe the health problem was caused by lack of regulation and refrigeration, not raw milk. On farms, people drank fresh raw milk. In cities, where the majority of deaths occurred, the dairies were filthy, and there were lax standards for transportation and storage. In addition, suppliers were often unscrupulous, as Cattle, a history of the cow by Laurie Winn Carlson, attests: “Milk was commonly mixed with additives to gain profit. Then, to make it look whole, additives were mixed in, such as carbonized carrots, grilled onions, caramel, marigold petals, chalk, plaster, white clay and starch. To replace the cream that had been removed, emulsions of almonds and animal brains were dissolved in the liquid to thicken it.”

I’ve heard of raw milk being a prized commodity for cheese production in New York State. I’m guessing they get around the FDA for their manufacturing purposes.

I’m thinking that, should raw milk ever get the legal clearance, it would still have to be diddled with in one respect: Its naturally yellowish color. Mass consumers will be repelled by that on contact. They’ll have to add food coloring to make it pure white, like folks are accustomed to.

by Costa Tsiokos, Sat 09/30/2006 05:46:59 PM
Category: Food
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not actual size
I downloaded iTunes 7 a couple of weeks ago. It’s got a look-and-feel revamp, with little extras like the vaunted cover flow feature and gapless playback (finally!).

But that’s not what compelled me to upgrade. No, what hooked me was a little button on the iTunes Store (note, no longer “iTunes Music Store”, since Apple’s branched out to other media) that proclaimed, “iTunes Games”. And one of those games was Pac-Man.

Enough said. I upgraded to 7 because that was the only way to buy any of the games (a masterful stroke by Apple to make the new promos and sections visible in iTunes 6, but not accessible unless you got the new version). Once I installed it, I paid the five bucks without thinking twice, and synced the game over to my iPod. Incidentally, the iTunes upgrade included an update for the iPod’s firmware, to 2.1; it seems to fix some performance-lag bugs, and also brings a much-needed brightness control function to the device. Plus, you can’ t play any of the iTunes Games without it, so…

How does it play on the tiny screen? It’s not quite as microscopic as the action on the world’s tiniest website. That’s not saying much, though. And trying to manipulate Mr. Pac through the maze via scrollwheel is tough stuff — doubly so on a moving train, which is where I usually play it. It’s superb as a timekiller, but I’m not expecting to break any scoring records with it. I’ve yet to get past the Orange stage.

Drawbacks aside, the graphics are wonderously beautiful. The option to turn off the game’s sound effects is nice, as it allows you to listen to the iPod’s playlist. I also appreciate that the game designers included the time of day in the upper-left corner of the tiny screen; you know how the minutes can slip away while your popping power pills! The need for the game to load up is odd, and distinct from the iPod’s built-in firmware games; but it seems like that saves on battery power somehow.

I almost think someone’s going to come out with a little snap-on stub joystick for the iPod in response to this. Not sure I’d buy it, but I’d love to see it.

by Costa Tsiokos, Sat 09/30/2006 05:00:31 PM
Category: Videogames, iPod
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Friday, September 29, 2021

A rare delving into some of my personal drama, such as it is, through the instant messenger filter.

I usually veer quite clear of this sort of thing when blogging, not so much for my own sense of privacy as for the other party’s. But since I’m still chuckling over it a day later, and it represents a closed chapter, why not:

She: hey, u there
Me: What’s up?
She: call me so I can find my phone
Me: What do you mean?
She: I lost my phone and I need u to call it so when it rings I’ll know where it is
Me: That’s a weird way to locate your phone
Me: How do you know it’s in your house
She: why are u being a jerk?
Me: I’m not
She: just call me why is that a big deal
Me: It’s not, I’m just saying
She: you’re just being a jerk!!!!!
Me: Fine, I’m a jerk
Me: I’m calling you now
She: i don’t hear it
Me: Well, it’s ringing
She: are you really calling
Me: Yes, really, and now it’s going into voicemail
Me: You don’t believe that I’m calling do you?
She: well why should i since you’re being a jerk right now
Me: I’m a jerk because you lost your phone?
She: whatever i can’t hear it
Me: You’ll see I called from the caller ID
She: no message tho right
Me: Why, you know who it is because we’re talking now
She: forget it
Me: You sure it’s turned on?
She: it’s on but maybe to vibrate
Me: Am I still a jerk?
She: [silence]

by Costa Tsiokos, Fri 09/29/2006 05:24:14 PM
Category: Comedy, Tech, Women
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Okay, Beppe Severgnini has convinced me: After I peruse his “La Bella Figura: A Field Guide to the Italian Mind”, I’m going to renew my passport, catch the next flight to Italy, and just take in the action near the gates.

An airport in Italy is violently Italian. It’s a zoo with air conditioning, where the animals don’t bite and only the odd comment is likely to be poisonous. You have to know how to interpret the sounds and signals. Italy is a place where things are always about to happen. Generally, those things are unpredictable. For us, normality is an exception. Do you remember The Terminal? If the film had been set in [Milan’s] Malpensa Airport, Tom Hanks wouldn’t just have fallen in love with Catherine Zeta-Jones. He’d have founded a political party, promoted a referendum, opened a restaurant, and organized a farmers’ market…

Malpensa encapsulates the nation. Only a naive observer would mistake this for confusion. Actually, it’s performance art. It’s improvisation by gifted actors. No one believes for one minute he or she is an extra. Everyone’s a star, no matter how modest the part. Federico Fellini would have made a good prime minister, if he’d wanted the job. It takes an outstanding director to govern the Italians.

Go where you can capture the essence of the national character, I say. Kinda like a tour of New Jersey, via the mall circuit.

by Costa Tsiokos, Fri 09/29/2006 08:44:15 AM
Category: Comedy, Publishing
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Thursday, September 28, 2021

The American importation of the telenovela was relayed nearly a year ago.

And while the new ABC series “Ugly Betty” isn’t being explicitly marketed as a translation of “Yo soy Betty, la fea”, the soapy template is transparent enough. All the gushing reviews indicate that the homely-girl-makes-good schtick will play big, keeping this syrupy-sweet concotion on the air for the next several years.

Just to ensure plenty of viewers, the network unleashed legions of Betty clones on the streets of New York this morning, all wearing the star’s signature frumpy glasses, black hair, and “Guadalajara”-emblazoned poncho.

It didn’t work on me, even though I walked headlong into one of these viral marketing mobs on 57th Street. But while I missed out on the premiere episode, I did come away with a little square compact mirror that the Betties were handing out. It’s pink and stamped with the show’s title — not exactly a useful item for this guy. Heck, it’s even too small to be a decent coke mirror… Not that I’d know anything about that, of course.

by Costa Tsiokos, Thu 09/28/2006 11:50:55 PM
Category: Advert./Mktg., New Yorkin', TV
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Following in the footsteps of Dell’s acquisition of Alienware, Hewlett-Packard is nabbing Voodoo PC, the other notable niche manufacturer in the high-end gaming computer sector.

I think the jokes about conjuring up corporate black magic, in light of HP’s unfolding boardroom espionage criminal investigation, are all too apparent.

by Costa Tsiokos, Thu 09/28/2006 11:11:37 PM
Category: Business, True Crime, Videogames
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go back to taxechusetts
By no means is it a stretch to say that the main reason I still pick up the Daily News is to get an early-morning offline jolt of “Get Fuzzy”.

And every so often, a strip will come along, like today’s, that causes an audible chuckle to escape my pre-caffeinated groggy carcass. When that happens, I just have to snag the online version and post the pertinent excerpt here, for posterity (or near enough):

Rob: “Otis”? Bucky, your family is from Massachusetts!

Bucky: Blast! I’m a filthy communist!!!

Self-realization comes harshly sometimes, but come it must. Even for a warped talking cat.

by Costa Tsiokos, Thu 09/28/2006 10:52:24 PM
Category: Comedy
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Wednesday, September 27, 2021

by degrees
They ditched the “Phoenix” signifier years ago, but the Arizona Cardinals find themselves tagged with their home state’s largest city once again. The team’s sparkling new roost in Glendale will be rechristened University of Phoenix Stadium, after the for-profit higher education company ponied up $154.5 million over the next 20 years for the privilege.

Yes, fans in the desert are rolling their eyes, both over the crass commercialism and the unwelcomed school ties.

On top of all that, while the proximity of the city of Phoenix would seem to make this a most appropriate product placement, the potential for confusion probably trumps that. Fact is, U of P is going to be so nondescript in this branding that this ranks right up there with the Monster Stadium misfire in San Francisco.

by Costa Tsiokos, Wed 09/27/2006 11:58:47 PM
Category: Advert./Mktg., Football, SportsBiz
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Is Hugo Chavez responsible for 7-Eleven cutting ties with its longtime gasoline provider Citgo?

You’d think so, from the spin applied in the convenience store king’s announcement. But the experts aren’t buying it:

But 7-Eleven had been considering creating its own brand of fuel since at least early last year, and some analysts suggested 7-Eleven may now be hyping the political angle as a way to curry favor with U.S. consumers.

“This has nothing to do with Chavez,” said Oil Price Information Service director Tom Kloza. “They (7-Eleven) just didn’t want to be tied to one supplier.”

Of course, Chavez has been thumbing his nose at the U.S. for several years now, so 7-Eleven’s intention to not renew their 20-year contract with the Venezuelan petroleum company could have had a longer-term run-up. The fact is, the way the political backdrop is developing, it was looking like the timing of any potential renewal announcement with Citgo would reflect badly. That alone could trigger grassroots boycott impulses, and the situation could easily get out of hand.

And so, a more fortuitious timing, that just happens to dovetail with 7-Eleven’s desire to diversify. Actually a very deft move by management.

Then again, how widespread is the knowledge that Citgo is a Venezeulan concern, anyway? I’d bet most consumers just assume Citgo is part of the 7-Eleven brand, reinforced by the fact that you never see free-standing Citgo stations. Heck, even with the recent controversies, I doubt most Americans could even identify Venezuela as an oil-producing company. Just reinforces the idea that this is a preemptive business strategum.

by Costa Tsiokos, Wed 09/27/2006 11:24:47 PM
Category: Business, Political
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Opinion, please: Is it a good thing or a bad thing that I had to force myself to fix up a gin and tonic tonight?

That’s right, I had to practically coerce myself into having a drink. Just one more oddity in what’s shaping up to be a really off-kilter week. Hope the approaching weekend yields the appropriate payoff.

by Costa Tsiokos, Wed 09/27/2006 10:45:14 PM
Category: General
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Let that Tim guy take you on a haphazard Web surfing safari as he uses Firefox’s tabbed browsing feature as an opportunity to nurture his Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder. From Harlan Ellison to leatherworking to progressive rock to The Beatles, and all it took was two computers and a lot of wasted time.

The virtues of Mozilla’s browser often center on the tabs; it’s probably the second-most cited advantage over Internet Explorer (after security). As Tim points out, the tabbed interface is something that you either get or don’t get. I prefer it, and it’s the chief reason I use FF myself (and why the first thing I do when using a Mac is to turn on the tabs option in Safari). But for most users (i.e., non-geeks), who don’t consider that a browsing option other than IE even exists, it’s initially a hard concept to grasp. It even comes off as an unnecessary additional interface layer, given that opening new windows and having them reside in the computer’s taskbar is not such a big deal. And as I point out on Tim’s blog, Windows XP defaults to a quasi-tab organization for all program windows that display in the taskbar, which seemingly supplants the need for browser tabs (and if that doesn’t, the forthcoming IE 7 will include tabs as well).

What works and doesn’t work in graphical user interface designs has always been fascinating to me. Paramount in this area is what’s configured as the default behavior when the computer or program comes right out of the box — a fact that most hardcore users never quite grok. Casual everyday users are not going to dive into menus and submenus to tweak — they simply won’t. It’s a daunting exercise, fraught with the danger of somehow screwing things up. So those default settings determine what 90 percent (probably more) of users take in as the commonly-recognized parameters for an operating environment.

Tabbed browsing falls into that category. It’s not a default setting on Windows or Mac (note how even usually ahead-of-the-curve Apple doesn’t make it truly native on Safari; having it as an optional turn-on is nice, but ensures that it won’t be widespread), and so it’s going to be a minority experience. The new IE might change this, unless (as I suspect) Microsoft follows Apple’s lead and doesn’t make it a default setting in the new browser.

Actually, given Tim’s time-sucking experience with having so many pages loaded into the background (an experience many, including me, have shared), I think there’s even more disincentive for going tabbed. Who needs more reason to stay glued to the computer monitor?

by Costa Tsiokos, Wed 09/27/2006 09:26:19 AM
Category: Internet, Tech
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Tuesday, September 26, 2021

The current Times three-parter about New York State’s crooked-as-can-be Justice of the Peace system undoubtedly has merit in exposing the judicial system as a dysfunctional mess, in severe need of overhaul.

But I’m amused, sort of, by the Third World-like picture it paints of the upstate landscape. A sampling:

Several justices have threatened to arrest litigants in small-claims cases, showing they do not understand the difference between civil and criminal cases. Others have told the judicial conduct commission that they disagreed with the constitutional guarantee that a defendant is entitled to a lawyer.

John D. Cox, a quarry manager in Le Ray, near Watertown, summarily jailed people who were unable to pay fines, the commission said. But he received the lightest public penalty, an admonition, in 2002 after he explained that in 22 years in office, he had never been taught that state law allows defendants a new hearing and a lawyer when they say they cannot pay their fine…

In 20 years in office in Haverstraw, north of New York City in Rockland County, Justice Ralph T. Romano drew attention for his opinions on women, state files show. Arraigning a man in 1997 on charges that he had hit his wife in the face with a telephone, he laughed and asked, “What was wrong with this?” Arraigning a woman on charges that she had sexually abused a 12-year-old boy, the justice asked his courtroom, “Where were girls like this when I was 12?

And on and on, slight variations on the same theme. I don’t know why this story needs three parts to it — the specifics hardly matter.

Really, this reads exactly like a confirmation of most City-dwellers conception of the land outside the five boroughs and Long Island: Full of yokels on the make for extortion plays. The message is clear: Drive north of the Bronx, and you’re in a practically law-by-fiat hinterland. Enter at your own risk — or better yet, never leave Manhattan.

I guess the City psyche needs a refresher course in upstate-snubbing every so often. Probably fuels the infrequent calls for NYC to split from Albany and set up the 51st State of Gotham.

by Costa Tsiokos, Tue 09/26/2006 11:42:15 PM
Category: New Yorkin', Society
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Monday, September 25, 2021

Geico decided to give their spokeslizard a vacation and turn over their television advertising to an assortment of celebrity endorsers.

Succinctly: The spots mostly suck. I like Peter Graves as much as anybody does, but his attempt at faux-ironic non sequituring (”I put on some tangerine lip gloss”) just comes off as awkward.

But there is one spot that does work, and work wonderfully. Don LaFontaine, the near-ubiquitous booming voice in all those movie-theater trailers, does a masterful self-spoofing of the tagline cliches that he often writes himself.

I particularly enjoyed the off-the-bat use of what’s probably his signature narrative gimmick:

Customer: When the storm hit, both our cars were totally underwater.

LaFontaine: IN A WORLD where both of our cars were totally underwater…

Customer: We thought it would take forever to get some help.

LaFontaine: But a new wind was about to blow!

Customer: With Geico, we had our check in two days.

LaFontaine: Payback — this time, it’s for real.

The beauty of this one is that LaFontaine’s quips, as intentionally corny as they are, actually do service as effective punchlines when paired with the cinematic-dramatic theme music. And that self-satisfied nod while he removes his headphones was just the cherry on top. Enjoy!

by Costa Tsiokos, Mon 09/25/2006 11:47:15 PM
Category: Advert./Mktg.
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cute snippernot-so-cute snipper
Yes, I realize Discover Card’s “What If” little scissors are supposed to be Fantasia-grade cute. And I appreciate the thought Discover and the Martin Agency put into the conceptualization.

But, sorry. I look at the TV spot, and I still see the scary-ass Zuni voodoo dolls from my B-grade movie memories. Fortified, I guess, by the prospect of credit card debt. Yaaaggghh!

As I figured, the key to dulling the potentially malevolent cutting tools was the background music:

To avoid any sense of foreboding, the TV commercials use an “unapologetically celebratory” soundtrack, [Martin creative director Hal] Tench says, created by a music production company called Horrible Music, which gives the sense the scissors are “objects on a mission” rather than menacing.

Hmm. My imp of the perverse is tempting me to remix this commercial, subbing in a more ominous musical track, in the style of Sleepless in Seattle as a horror movie. The hour’s getting late for me, but if you’d like to take a crack at it, here’s the QuickTime clip.

by Costa Tsiokos, Mon 09/25/2006 11:15:49 PM
Category: Advert./Mktg., Movies
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One John Barbas (whose name is vaguely familiar on a personal/family level, although I can’t place it) has his cover blown on the N Train:

As I looked at my daughter, I casually commented in Greek: “Honey, your hair is a mess. Why didn’t you comb it?” To which she responded, in staccato Greek, “Daddy! Leave me alone!”

At the next stop, the elderly lady stood up and, as she walked past us, looked at my daughter with an adoring grandmotherly expression, and told her in flawless Greek: “Sweetheart, you look adorable. Dads can be a pain sometimes.”

Then, staring at me with the nerve-chilling countenance of a 19th-century schoolmistress, she admonished me. “As for you, my son, you have a lot more to learn about little girls.” Walking down the ramp, she turned and waved goodbye with a smile.

What’s left unsaid here: When your second language is a fairly obscure one in New York, like Greek is (as opposed to Spanish or Mandarin, which are supported by much larger communities), you feel pretty assured in shooting your mouth off in public without being understood by anyone other than your companion. So when a third party picks up on what you consider to be a secret code, it’s more of a shocker. You figure Greeks are so thin on the ground, and you never encounter any that you don’t already know, that the odds of being overheard are rare enough to throw discretion to the wind.

That said, I’m surprised that I haven’t run into this scenario more often myself. So far, I’ve got only one instance, from a few months back. I sat down in a Chinese restaurant on the Upper West Side, and of all things, I hear two middle-aged women a couple of tables over chirping in Greek. It was the typical American dialect, too: Slightly inelegant, with noticable sprinkles of English filler words like “y’know”. I didn’t reveal myself as being in the know, but I was tempted; as it was, they were just chatting about random personal gossip, nothing noteworthy. It made for a slightly surrealistic experience for me: A steady stream of Greek from people who weren’t my relatives, while dining on fried rice.

by Costa Tsiokos, Mon 09/25/2006 10:11:19 PM
Category: New Yorkin'
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Sunday, September 24, 2021

I could use a little liquid refreshment. Should I have tea (a caffeinated stimulant, which I suck down with daily regularity), or a cocktail (an alcoholic depressant, which I suck down with far lesser regularity)?

No need for me to choose. A nascent signature-drink trend involving tea infused with spirits is taking hold in the city’s hipper watering holes.

Among the staging areas are Flatiron Lounge, with its Hibiscus Swizzle; Pegu Club, which features an Earl Grey MarTEAni (sounds a tad too cutesy for my tastes); and Hotel Gansevoort’s G Spa:

With the help of Tavalon, a Union Square tea purveyor, the G Spa expanded the concept of the cup of tea that customarily greets spa patrons to encompass a rum, mango and peony tea punch; a chamomile-tinged Cosmopolitan; and a Champagne fizz made with a marmalade-ish Korean citron fruit tea. “They’re a little guiltless,” [spa director Rachel] Lang said of the tea cocktails. “People think, there’s tea in it, so it’s not like a real drink. I mean, tea is a tonic.”

Hey, achieve the right mix of brew and hooch, and it’s all a tonic, babe.

I really should forward these joints my recipe for black currant tea marinade for steak. I can’t think of a better complementary bar snack.

by Costa Tsiokos, Sun 09/24/2006 10:54:35 PM
Category: Food, New Yorkin'
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out of the oldLook who’s buzzing up the InterWeb again: Lauren Hastings, last seen around here in 2004, in her role in a series of Old Navy TV commercials featuring kitschy holiday carollers.

That old post is ringing up mad traffic, thanks to Hastings’ improbable public resurfacing as a victim of Nicole Richie’s celebutante wrath, for having the temerity to show up at a party in tow with Richie’s ex, DJ AM. Which means that everyone is now trying to dig up the backstory on this little-known actress-turned-aspiring-model, meaning that Richie actually did her a career-boosting favor. A snubbing backfire, basically.

I’d say this is a prime time to revive that long-abandoned “Blonde Girl from the Old Navy Commercials” tribute-obsessive blog. Although perhaps that’s been made superfluous by Hastings’ MySpace page.

by Costa Tsiokos, Sun 09/24/2006 04:13:46 PM
Category: Advert./Mktg., Bloggin', Celebrity
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“I disapprove of what you say, but I will defend to the death your right to say it.”

Thus goes the most famous quotation attributed to Enlightenment luminary Voltaire. It’s a pithy summation of the principles behind democratic discourse.

But any scholar familiar with the French philosopher knows that, in fact, that quote is nowhere to be found in his works. For good reason, because while Voltaire espoused the essence of that sentiment, he never put it precisely in those words.

The “defend to the death” soundbite turns out to be a reinterpretation of this snippet from “Essay on Tolerance”:

“Think for yourselves and let others enjoy the privilege to do so too.”

Not quite as snappy, is it? I guess even the great thinkers need a healthy dose of spin to make their big ideas more relatable to the hoi polloi.

by Costa Tsiokos, Sun 09/24/2006 03:06:58 PM
Category: History, Wordsmithing
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Geez, I’m a dunce.

Those persistent pings from Bryant Park’s wi-fi network, that compelled me to issue a call-out? Guess where they were coming from. Not the park at all, but from that very same aforementioned post.

How? Without getting too technical, when I hyperlinked to my traffic stats, in my haste I wrongly used a location-generated query-string link. Thus, every time that post and/or this site’s index page logged a visit, a phantom hit seemingly coming from the park also registered. In essence, the site was pinging itself.

It wouldn’t have been a big deal, but the activity fairly spooked me. I figured it was some malicious hacker who’d somehow used the public wi-fi network to sniff out my blog’s backend, or was trying to. I was pretty sure my computer wasn’t compromised, but I wound up running system scans and changing passwords anyway. I also tried to block the park’s IP address, in vain (now I know why that fairly simple procedure refused to work). A lot of anxiety, waiting for a possible site hijacking that in reality was baseless.

The really funny thing: This site gets dozens of hijack attempts everyday, just like most other websites. That’s part of the landscape online. But I never see much explicit evidence of it, unless I dig deep into the backend. I know it’s going on, but there’s little sense in fretting over it; I implement as many security measures as are reasonable, and leave it at that. But when it makes itself apparent, via visible traffic stats, I get antsy. By rights, I should be nervous non-stop, but because I can’t see it happening, it doesn’t faze me. Classic out of sight, out of mind phenomenon.

Oh well. If nothing else, this was an unintentional wakeup call to use some layer of encryption before my next visit to Bryant Park. Even though this was a false alarm, the threat of hacking via public wi-fi is real enough. But I’d hate to give up my semi-regular Web surfing stopovers in the park, especially while the weather’s so ideal for it.

by Costa Tsiokos, Sun 09/24/2006 02:04:23 PM
Category: Internet, New Yorkin', Wi-Fi
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Saturday, September 23, 2021

Something occurred to me while reading this NPR appreciation of George Orwell’s classic essay “Politics and the English Language”.

Note Orwell’s six simple rules for cleaner diction:

1. Never use a metaphor, simile, or other figure of speech which you are used to seeing in print.

2. Never use a long word where a short one will do.

3. If it is possible to cut a word out, always cut it out.

4. Never use the passive where you can use the active.

5. Never use a foreign phrase, a scientific word, or a jargon word if you can think of an everyday English equivalent.

6. Break any of these rules sooner than say anything outright barbarous.

Essentially, Orwell advocates lean, mean writing. Which is what has been the basic rule of thumb for Web-writing, pretty much since day one.

Orwell wrote his essay 60 years ago. It was less an effort to dumb-down interpersonal and media communications than an attempt to avoide the general verbal obuscation that accompanies propaganda; the idea was to give socio-political manipulators fewer words behind which to hide.

So… Can we draw from this that the Internet is the ultimate anti-totalitarian communication medium? If the ideal in Web communications is to keep it short and simple, then you could argue that Orwell’s vision has been somewhat realized. And not just for text, but for audiovisual too: Media snippets in the forms of songs, short film clips, podcasts and the like point to short-form as the dominant format for Web content. It’s all short and to the point — Orwell’s vision realized.

I’m not sure Orwell would have envisioned his precepts taking hold as blog posts and IMs. But we can’t always choose the fulfillments of our visions.

by Costa Tsiokos, Sat 09/23/2006 08:06:50 PM
Category: History, Internet, Wordsmithing
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kickin' it on the commonwealth
Tonight’s the night! The Florida Panthers are “at” the New York Rangers for a preseason game in San Juan, Puerto Rico, in a Caribbean first for the National Hockey League.

Curiously, the Rangers are the home team. I wonder how the Panthers got hosed out of that one, given that Miami’s so much closer. I guess there’s actually closer cultural ties between New York and the island though, despite geography. I even recall that back in 1992, before the Panthers were born as an NHL expansion club, the Rangers and the Tampa Bay Lightning played a neutral-site game in Miami, and the Rangers were the home team then, too.

Allegedly, tonight’s game at Coliseo de Puerto Rico is not exactly charging up the local sports scene. It’s hard for me to gauge; I found this item about it in El Nuevo Dia, but as I don’t comprende espanol, I’m in the dark. Maybe some Puerto Rican blogger can translate?

I’ve had my eye on this game for a while, and plan to watch at least half of it tonight on MSG Network. Confession: I actually toyed with flying down to San Juan to catch the game. Why not? But even I’m not that big of a hockey freak; maybe if it was a regular-season game…

Anyway, game on! And the equivalent in Spanish…

by Costa Tsiokos, Sat 09/23/2006 02:09:06 PM
Category: Hockey
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