Wednesday, May 14, 2003

Disease of the Month Club

Now that AIDS is out of the way (cough, cough, hey buddy, wanna buy a bridge?), it’s time to select the big important disease of the next 15 years, the one to get all the research bucks and to get conservatives all up in arms about the attention being paid to it and the groups it affects most.  So which one will it be…
  • Ebola?  Coming from deepest, darkest Africa, with unknown origins and even unclear methods of transmission, Ebola has all the makings of a panic inducer.  On the other hand, it is largely confined to the Third World at this point.  Can it really be a worry if it isn’t affecting middle class white males in the United States?
  • West Nile Virus?  Malaria redux, and you can get it just by being outside when mosquitoes are out.  Doubly scary because it affect crows, too.  And horses.  And llamas.  And crocodiles.  And…
  • SARS?  The double whammy of having a four-letter acronym (which might change once we learn more, of course; AIDS was originally GRID) and coming out of China, giving an easily identifiable group of people to point at and run from.  May also have jumped the species barrier, akin to some theories on the origin of AIDS.
  • Something else?  It’s seems like a new deadly disease has shown up every couple years for the past decade, so there may be more on the way, things to topple even these three as King of the Hill.

Updated on May 31, 2003

Updated on July 26, 2010
Something else, obviously: H1N1 Bird Flu.  Attack kids.  Comes from Mexico, or Southeast Asia, or somewhere that people have different colored skin.  Perfect.

Tuesday, May 13, 2003

Dinner, Anyone?

Courtesy of the March 2003 issue of National Geographic is today’s fun word:
A fork used by cannibals in Fiji to feed people who were considered too holy to touch food.

Sunday, May 11, 2003

Caller ID

Sometimes Caller ID gives the wrong information, by accident.

Saturday night, I got a call from “Emerald Hospita” (Caller ID only gives 15 characters).  My mind filled in the missing letter, so when I answered the phone, my heart rate was already up, and when my boyfriend’s voice was on the other end, it jumped another notch.

“Are you all right?” I said, scared.  “Why are you at the hospital?”

“I’m at work.”  My boyfriend works for a hotel chain, the local branch of which is operated under the name “Emerald Hospitality.”  Whew!

Thursday, May 8, 2003

Look Both Ways… Please!

A few years ago, I saw an e-mail list which included this: “You know you live in Seattle if… you stand on a deserted street corner in the rain waiting for the light to change.”  (Item #3 on that list.  To which I added: “And it’s 2:00 in the morning.”)  Of course, probably the biggest part of this is that jaywalking in Seattle actually can get you a ticket!  Still, Seattle has a reputation for polite and patient pedestrians.

But it also has incredibly stupid ones.

Twice in the past week, someone has been crossing the street in front of my car — mid-block, not at a crosswalk, so much for waiting for the light to change — and they look to see that I’m coming, then walk out into the street.  Which itself is fine, since I’ve not been right on them, ready to hit them the second they step out.  But as they walk across my lane, with my car barrelling toward them at 30 miles an hour (or more, undoubtedly a couple miles over the speed limit, like everyone else), they are looking away from me.  While it’s good to check where the cars are in the next lane over, I personally would want to see if the car I’m already in front of is, say, being driven by a homicidal maniac who sees me as a target and is bearing down on me even faster.  You know, pay attention to the more immediate threat.

If they want to pretend that I’m the Ravenous Bugblatter Beast of Traal — that if they can’t see me, then I can’t see them, and thus they can’t be hit by the Ravenous Bugblatter Beastmobile — then I wish they would at least be properly froopy and put towels over their heads.  It would make clean-up after they get hit that much easier.

Updated on July 23, 2010

Targeted Advertising

You’ve probably heard about “targeted advertising,” where advertising pertinent to specific person viewing it is inserted into a magazine or a television show.  You can see it in its basest form when an ad for a local business airs on a nationally syndicated television show.  You can also see regional newspapers which will have a section aimed at a specific county or city.  They could even use their databases to say “In this zip code, the average income is this high, so put in ads for that luxury car, but in the next zip code, incomes are lower, so include ads for an economy car.”  Or for an extreme, they could (in theory) include ads targeted for the specific profile of each subscriber to a magazine.

Today, while driving to work, I had a bit of targeted advertising shock.  While listening to the local NPR station, there was an ad (oops, a “sponsorship message”) for Wallingford Center, a small shopping complex in Seattle’s Wallingford neighborhood.  I was stopped at a red light at the moment, and looked over to the left… and there was Wallingford Center.

Spooky feeling.

Updated on January 28, 2004
In January, 2004, I had a repeat of this, with a Taco Bell commercial coming on while I was sitting at a light in Rainier Valley, right next to a Taco Bell.
Updated on July 22, 2010
I first encountered this idea when I was working for SoftBook Press — an eBook company which preceded the Kindle and company by a decade — in 1998–2000.  One of our projects was to-your-device delivery of e-versions of newspapers and magazines; you would leave the device plugged in to your Ethernet connection, with a device timer set to wake it up at like 4:00 am and do the download, so the newspaper would be there for you to read at breakfast.  As part of this, we discussed but never implemented, the ability to target advertising based on user profile geography or demographics.

I also briefly worked for Classmates in 2000, and they had some implementation of this, working with advertising partners to be able to supply more targeted advertising attached to their e-mail communications to subscribers.

Google, of course, puts content-related ads in their stuff, so you may well see a Kindle ad attached to this very post.

Tuesday, May 6, 2003

Mutant Trivial Pursuit

No, this has nothing to do with X2: X-Men United.

Back in my college days (1984-1990, including grad school), Trivial Pursuit was in high flower.  The original Genus Edition had been out for a while and we were just starting to see all the various sub-editions (Silver Screen, etc.), plus all the card sets put out by other companies which could be used with the game (I remember a religious one, and I know there were others).

My college crew had been playing Trivial Pursuit for a few years, and by then, most of us had gone through the entire original card set: mostly legally, although some people had just sat down to read every question/answer pair in the set.  So the game itself was getting a little boring.  Until we came up with our own spin on the game: Mutant Trivial Pursuit!

Here are the rules:
  • Everyone takes a stack of cards (50 or 100, maybe; it doesn’t really matter).
  • Choose one person to be the first reader.
  • The reader chooses a question from his or her top card and reads it aloud.
  • Everyone else chooses the “best” (funniest, usually) answer from their top card.
  • The reader (or group consensus) chooses the “winner” from the answers provided, and that person becomes the next reader.
A guideline for choosing what question to use:
  • Avoid questions whose correct answer is a number; many cards will have no adequate answer.
Some guidelines for choosing what answer to use:
  • A truly correct answer (it happens) always wins.
  • Answers involving dead presidents or sex are good choices.
  • Answers which are numbers don’t usually work.
Some of our best mutant question/answer pairs:
  • What do you throw into a boxing ring to stop the fight?
    — John F. Kennedy.  (Guaranteed to work, no?)
  • What is receding from the Earth at a foot per year?
    — A brassiere.
  • What is the symbol for the zodiac sign Gemini?
    — Testicles.  (Twins, eh?)
(You can also reverse the game, of course, and read an answer, with the other players offering the best question.  That’s Mutant Jeopardy!, though.)

Note that there is no score kept and no overall winner (although you certainly could score based on how many rounds each person won).  The point is to have an hour or so of offbeat hilarity.

Long Dry Spell

Whoof.  It’s been a month since I added anything to this log.  Mostly, that’s because I’ve been busy: a trip to Kansas City, tax time, some deadlines at work, and a new boyfriend.  Time to get some more content in here.

Updated on July 22, 2010
Later updates would be much longer than one month, so this seems so minor now.

The “new boyfriend” turned into a 4.5 year relationship, so that wasn’t so minor.