Archives » August, 2006

August 18, 2006

Get Rich Rip Off of the Week

I got this letter today about the “FREE Internet Marketing Conference” being held in the area. Of course my radar immediately went off and I figured it would be crap. These things usually are. Plus, if it was a real “conference”, it wouldn’t be being held at ten different times, or at a Holiday Inn.

The offer of a “FREE Business Organizer” for me and my guest was rather tempting, but I was still skeptical. So I googled it, and came back with more information than I could ever hope for. Not only is it just another scam of charging you hundreds of dollars to learn how to use affiliate links, they also try to sell you a $6,000 e-commerce package that doesn’t even work right, then refuse to refund your money. Scum all around.

If you get one of these envelopes in the mail, just chuck it. There are ways to make money online, but these guys don’t have the answers.

More here:
RipOff Report
RipOff Report 2
RipOff Report Search
My Kenora
Liz Waldner
Creative Work at Home

August 16, 2006

Twelve Planets?

While you were sleeping last night the solar system got an upgrade. You went to bed with visions of nine planets dancing in your head, the nine that have been taught to us in school for our entire lives. But as of today that list of nine has been thrown out the window, replaced with the new list of twelve. And no, there weren’t three new planets created out of swirling gas last night, it’s just that the rules for what can be called a planet have changed, and under the new rules we’ve let three new applicants into the club.

So what changed, and how did we end up with twelve planets? It’s something that’s been in the works over at the International Astronomical Union for a while now. They’ve been meeting behind closed doors and trying to figure out what to do about the fact that a KBO (Kuiper Belt Object) was found a few years ago that’s bigger than Pluto. Good old 2003 UB313, which can only be seen with a powerful telescope, is about 2,400 kilometers across. Just a smidge bigger than Pluto’s 2,300. So it was clear that new rules had to be pinned down, so that either both of them were planets or neither of them were. I wrote about all of this a few months ago.

The IAU has been working on this for months, and last night they announced their decisions. They’ve come up with a new category of planets, called “plutons”. A pluton is something that is out past Neptune, with a wild orbit, but is still round and planet-like. Pluto’s been added to this new category, as has 2003 UB313. And, in a big surprise, so has Charon, which is actually a moon of Pluto. Through some very creative accounting, they’ve decided that Charon really isn’t a moon, it’s actually a partner of Pluto, and the two of them make up a “double planet” system. The two are really orbiting each other, they say, instead of acting like a normal planet-and-moon system. That’s enough to give Charon a huge promotion in planetary status.

Is your head swimming yet? Well, grab hold of something because we’re not done. You’ll notice that adding Charon and 2003 UB313 to the list only brings us to a total of 11 planets. Where’s #12? That would be Ceres, which ever since the 1850s has been called an asteroid. It’s in the asteroid belt, between Mars and Jupiter, and it’s also so tiny that you need a telescope to see it. But it’s round, just like the other planets, and it fits the new definitions, so it got squeezed into the list. In fact, they invented a whole new category just for it; no longer an asteroid, now it’s considered a “dwarf planet”.

So there we have the new solar system, with twelve planets in all. And a whole host of new rules that pretty much guarantees that the number will go up. There surely are countless more “plutons” out there that we haven’t found yet, and each one of them will be added to the list as they’re discovered.

For much more (and far better) coverage, check out Phil Plait’s Bad Astronomy website. He’s got the whole rundown, as well as a few educated opinions on these new developments.

August 11, 2006


What happened to this semi?

Overturned Semi

Go and find out!

August 10, 2006

Why Writers Starve

From, Why Writers Starve:

The average writer’s annual income falls closer to $7,000. I’ve never tracked down the origin of that often-quoted estimate, but it sounds right. A first-time science fiction or mystery writer is considered lucky to get an advance of two to five thousand dollars…

…This is how it works. The author earns roughly a tenth-of what the publisher makes and the publisher takes in about half of the cover price. The book distributor gets a chunk, as much as twice the author’s income. The bigger chunk goes to the book seller, minus whatever discounts the bookstore offers in order to compete with chain stores and online sales. I once wrote a small book and was paid $1,500. A single local bookstore owner sold 800 copies of that book, for an income of $8,000…

…A typical $20 regional history book printed in an edition of 2,000 — if it sells completely out — nets the author a cool $2,000. Not exactly a windfall for a year’s worth of writing.

It seems like a compelling argument for self-publishing your books. But publishing is a tough business too:

The publisher, who makes the lion’s share, seems like the natural enemy, but the publisher takes all the risk. He or she invests in the project and takes the hit if the book falls flat. The publisher pays for the editing and proofing, the book design and printing, the marketing and warehousing of all those copies. It’s the publisher who gets kicked around by the distributors and the retailers who, in turn, are competing with the super-discount rates on

August 8, 2006

Virginia City Then And Now

Virginia City C Street Historc Scene

New Then And Now article over at Around Carson: #25 – Virginia City – C Street 2. Not much text to go along with this one, because this is one of the new “better, faster, cheaper” entries. I haven’t been doing nearly as many of these Then and Now entries as I wanted to, and it’s probably because I pressure myself to write these huge long articles to go along with the pictures. So I’ve got to start doing more quick ones like this.


What happened to this bicycle? Click through to see the disturbing truth. Don’t go if you haven’t eaten breakfast yet!

Ewwwww. I warned you.

Hat tip: Bad Astronomy.

August 5, 2006

2,499 Videos

With YouTube exploding in popularity, it makes sense that sites would spring up that do nothing but aggregate videos from the site. That’s what the two sites and do. Both of them are nothing but a list of music videos that are posted on YouTube; the first one is all 80s videos, the other draws from all over.

I figure it would take a full week to watch all these videos straight through. So grab a cup of coffee!

August 4, 2006

AOL For Free

On the surface this may seem like a move of desperation. AOL is giving away its client software and e-mail for free to anyone who has a broadband connection. This software, with its built-in e-mail client and web browser, has always been the heart of AOL’s offerings. They’re still charging you if you use AOL for your dial-up access, but everyone else can get an account for free. It’s no secret that AOL has been hemmoraging subscribers as people move away from dial-up and onto faster connections. This could be seen as a way to get people back. In fact, they’ve admitted it:

For members who’ve left us over the past two years, we’ve kept your e-mail address. When this effort is fully operational in early September, you’ll be able to come home again — for free.

So is this the last gasp of a dying company, struggling to hold on? No, it’s actually part of the shift at AOL from being an ISP to being a content provider and advertising-based company. They’re moving everything they used to charge for towards being free, and putting ads next to it all. And they’re more successful at that than they were at charging people for dial-up. Probably one of the smartest things they’ve done in the last year was buying Weblogs, Inc. and getting Jason Calacanis to come on board as a vice president. That guy knows how to make money online, and how to attract attention and publicity.

AOL is trying to turn itself around, to become reborn. I don’t know how successful it will be, but I do know it’s headed in the right direction at least.

And, it will save me $10.91 a month on that AOL account that my mother-in-law just won’t let go of.

August 3, 2006

Ungrade the Regrade

Now here’s a nutty idea. But first some background.

Seattle is a pretty hilly place. Parts of it are almost as hilly as San Francisco. To get from the Waterfront to the Pike Place Market, for example, you have to go up about six stories worth of elevators (or stairs…yipe!) But in the past Seattle was even more hilly than it is now. What happened was that in the ealy 1900s, the Forces Of Progress banded together to Do Something about all those hills. They were hard to walk up, hard to get horses to go up, and just generally got in your way. So a huge project was undertaken, actually several small projects over the course of three decades, to level out the hills. Steam shovels and water hoses were brought in to tear down the hills, and the resulting dirt was taken by conveyer belt and dumped into the bay. This was called the “Regrade Effort”, and it was done all over downtown. Jackson Street was regraded and the dirt used to fill in the tideflats, where the baseball and football stadiums now sit. A small hill in the middle of downtown, where the University used to be located in the 1800s, was knocked down too. But the biggest regrade project was done just north of downtown, in the space between Pike Place and the Space Needle.

This area used to be called Denny Hill, named after the Denny family who were one of Seattle’s first settlers. This hill was pretty steep in some places, and separated downtown Seattle from Lake Union and the Queen Anne areas, which back then were just beginning to grow. So the city decided to tackle Denny Hill with a massive regrade project, the largest in the city’s history. Countless tons of dirt were pulled out of the area and dumped into the sea. In some places the land was lowered nearly 100 feet in an effort to level out the ground. Hundreds of houses were demolished, although a few were brave (and wealthy) enough to have the houses lowered too. Even the Washington Hotel, which sat at the very top of the hill, and which at the time was Seattle’s largest and most opulent, was lost to the regrade. It had only been open for less than ten years, but down it came. Finally, in the 1930s, all the work was done, the hill was gone, and all the dirt had extended the Seattle waterfront a few hundred feet further out into the bay. The area formerly known as Denny Hill was now called Denny Regrade, and was flat as could be.

So now, 70 years later, comes architect Jerry Garcia and his new plan for the area. In the middle of the Denny Regrade is a small city park called Denny Park (Denny sure got around, didn’t he?) Garcia’s idea is to reverse the regrade, bringing in enough dirt to raise the park back up to its original height, 60 feet above where it is now. The idea is to create a “people’s vantage point” that would allow “us all to rise to the promontory that would have been ours” if the regrade never happened. And there would be a funicular train to take people to the top of the hill. And (and!) on top of the hill, he would recreate the original topography of the land and build an interpretive center that tries to explain why there’s this huge dirt mound in the middle of town. The total price tag? $20 million.

This is such a silly idea, and there’s not a chance in hell of it getting built. Of course, Seattle is the city that has a giant concrete troll emerging from underneath a bridge, so I guess anything’s possible. But when you look at all the good ideas that have been shot down, like increased public transportation, the thought of public money going towards this is ludicrous. The article does talk about private funding, but I can’t imagine anyone willing to put forward that money, and risk having their name on something that’s sure to become a joke.

The best quote is from my man Paul Dorpat, who says he admires the “wonderful satire” of the project. Satire is the perfect word for it. If only this guy were joking.

August 2, 2006

DreamHost Downtime

A few weeks ago I switched the hosting for this site and Around Carson over to a new host, DreamHost. And maybe it’s just that I brought the bad luck with me, but July of 2006 just happened to turn out to be their worst month ever, in terms of system failures, network problems, and power outages. But instead of keeping it all quiet and making their customers wonder why their sites were unavailable so often (and making me wonder if I made a bad decision), they instead detailed the whole mess on their blog. And they’re even brave enough to say that they’re still having router problems, and that not everything is fixed yet. They also keep a running status page detailing every little bit of downtime, so you can always check and find out why your site is acting squirrely.

This is the way companies should communicate with their customers. And it doesn’t hurt that they’ve peppered the post with photos of hurricanes, fires, floods, and the Hindenburg. Kind of gives you a sense that maybe a couple of hours downtime on your website isn’t that bad, when you look at it.