September 30, 2006

Amusing Yahoo! Beck Video

Okay, the secret was out a while ago. Beck played at Yahoo for our Hack Day and the show was fantastic. Best of all is the video they made.

It's a probably a bit less funny to see out of the context of the show, but hopefully amusing anyway. If that embedded video doesn't work for you, you can view it on Yahoo! Video or see the original MP4.

I'm blown away by Hack Day so far. Everyone on the team is amazed that we managed to pull this off. :-)

More to come...

Posted by jzawodn at 12:12 AM

September 29, 2006

Yahoo's Browser Based Authentication (BBAuth) Launched

Last night I mentioned that we'd have a few more announcements on the Yahoo! Developer Network today.

I just posted the latest: Browser Based Authentication or BBAuth as we like to call it.

Our Browser Based Authentication (BBAuth) is a generic mechanism that will allow users to grant 3rd party web-based applications access their Yahoo! data. There's already a similar mechanism in place on Flickr and used by services like MOO. BBAuth is the protocol that's going to open the door to doing the same thing for many Yahoo! branded services in the coming months. Stay tuned for those announcements. :-)
Beyond that, BBAuth also makes it possible to use Yahoo! as a single sign-on for your site, thus removing a barrier to entry for a whole lot of people (over 200 million to be exact). This is still fairly experimental, so we'd love to get your feedback and input on how to make it even more useful.

The first two Yahoo! services supporting BBAuth are Yahoo! Photos (API) and Yahoo! Mail (API only available to Hack Day attendees at the moment).

This was a long time in the making, so it's quite a relief to get it out the door. Special thanks to the folks in Photos and Mail for getting support enabled in time for Hack Day.

And special thanks to Dan Theurer, who did a ton of the work on the YDN side. See Launching the Un-Launch-Able post for his take.

Posted by jzawodn at 10:02 AM

September 28, 2006

Yahoo! Open Hack Day Starts Tomorrow

Well, "tomorrow" means "today" by the time most of you read this. But that matters not. I now present a list of random Hack Day related tidbits and pointers to announcements.

With that, I have a few more things to do before trying to sleep.

Hope to see some of you at Hack Day. I'll do my best to report what's going on and snap pictures, but it's gonna be tough--there's a lot going on. Keep an eye on the sources I noted above, along with Technorati and the usual suspects.

Update: David Filo has posted The Hackers Are Coming on the corporate blog.

Posted by jzawodn at 11:02 PM

Gmail Related Topics

Is this new?

gmail related topics

I noticed today that in place of Web Clips and the normal Sponsored Links, I sometimes see "related topics." A few searches reveal little discussion of this elsewhere, so I'm wondering if it might be a small bucket test.

Anyone know?

Posted by jzawodn at 08:42 AM

September 27, 2006

Hack Day Goodies

Prizes and Goodies for Hack Day (preview):

Sharp LCD TVs!

There's more to come... :-)

Posted by jzawodn at 11:16 AM

September 26, 2006

Hack Day Preview and Notes

hack day t-shirt Things are crazy in YDN (Yahoo! Developer Network) Central on the 2nd floor of building B this week. Really crazy.

We're all juggling about 1,000 balls each to get ready for Hack Day.

Given that I should be writing docs, looking at some code, making maps, updating a wiki, and tending to a photocopier that's spitting out YUI docs, I'll keep this short:

  • The schedule is online as part of the Hack Day Blog
  • Keep an eye on the YDN Blog too. We've got a few more things to launch before Friday. :-)
  • If you're looking at the Friday workshop/session schedule and aren't sure what to see, I highly recommend either Andy Baio's talk on Virtual Communities or Ryan Kennedy's talk on the Y! Mail API
  • Have you ever seen an Internet enabled copier? One that can use Yahoo! APIs to print you a color map showing traffic when you punch in your zip code? You will.
  • Mike Arrington was right. The Friday night entertainment will rock. It will be historic.
  • The prizes are pretty cool. And they're sitting right next to my cube at work, teasing all of us.
  • We've assimilated Matt McAlister!

That is all. I have way to much stuff to do before Friday...

Update: Oh, we have some goodies appearing now. :-)

Posted by jzawodn at 09:23 PM

Yahoo! Management's Response to the Forced Vacation Backlash

It's fair to say that the wide coverage of Yahoo's decision to mandate that we take a few days off at the end of the year caused quite a stir. But even without the Valleywag and press coverage, our internal backchannel (we have something not unlike the bad attitude forum of Netscape fame) was very active.

Some people were upset with being told to take those specific days off. Most understood the reasoning for it, even though the powers that be tried to put a positive spin on it. As the bitchfest progressed, that turned out to be the real focus. Many were okay with being told that we need to burn off some vacation time but would have preferred to be told why in an upfront manner. And wouldn’t it be nice if we got to have some say in choosing the dates?

Apparently enough of the rattling filtered back up the chain and the response came pretty quickly. Libby just let us know that they've thought about it and realized that there's a more flexible way to do this.

Instead of being told when to use those days, that's being left up to us--as long as it happens this calendar year. People who don't have the vacation time to spare are not penalized in any way.

Thanks, Libby. It's reassuring to see that Yahoo! can be flexible about this and respond quickly.

Posted by jzawodn at 08:51 PM

Biggest Crop Duster Ever! C-130 Spraying for Mosquitos

Most of the crop dusting aircraft I'm used to seeing are old biplanes, Piper Pawnees (though they mostly tow gliders and banners), and the Cessna Ag series. But I noticed this photo in my uncle's Flickr photostream.

Apparently they're using C-130s to spray for Mosquitos!

That's rather impressive. It also feels like it could, just maybe, be construed as typical government overkill. :-) But even so, it goes to show just how damned versatile the C-130 Hercules really is.

Posted by jzawodn at 11:43 AM

Brinkman SL-7 Motion Activated Solar Security Light

brinkman sl-7 About a month ago I stumbled across a reference to the Brinkman SL-7 solar security light. After looking at the info a bit, I found a decent price and decided to get one. (It helps that I'm a bit of a solar gadget freak.)

It's a pretty straightforward setup. It looks like any other motion sensing security light, but comes with a small 6 volt solar panel which can be mounted several feet away from the light. Inside the housing is a 6 volt battery that appears to be roughly the same size as a 4 amp hour battery.

Mine arrived with a the power socket broken, meaning that I couldn't plug the solar panel in. Luckily I was able to repair that with a bit of epoxy (it was a good excuse to open it up and look around inside). A few days later, I used the template on the last page of the instruction manual to put a couple of screws in the wood next to my back door and hung the unit.

I mounted the solar panel up a bit higher and let it charge for a few days (the manual recommends 2-3 days of good sunlight before turning it on). I tested the battery before putting it outside and knew it was pretty well charged already, but the solar panel is pretty small--just enough to trickle charge.

A few days later, I put turned it, aimed the sensor, adjusted sensitivity, and haven't touched it since then. The unit "just works" and has the added benefit of lighting my grill reasonable well now that it's getting darker around dinner time.

My next solar device review will be less favorable.

Posted by jzawodn at 07:26 AM

September 25, 2006

NTSB Preliminary Report on the Glider and Hawker Collision

A few weeks ago I wrote about the Mid-Air Collision of Glider and Jet near Reno: ASG-29 vs. Hawker XP800 and speculated about the glider's transponder.

We won't really know everything that we can until the NTSB finishes their investigation. Based on the information I've read and heard this week, there's a good chance that the accident was preventable.
I'm led to believe that the ASG-29 had a working transponder on board but that it wasn't currently powered up. If that's the case, it means the glider was virtually invisible to the jet's pilot and co-pilot, not to mention Reno Air Traffic Control. Even if the jet pilots couldn't have visually detected the glider (which is pretty difficult going that fast), their TCAS would have picked up the transponder signal and suggested a safe diversion.
There's a lot more I could say about this, but I'll hold off until the NTSB publishes their report a few months from now.

Since then I've had the chance to hear from people who met with the NTSB investigators and learn a lot more about the incident. But I waited to say anything more until the NTSB released their preliminary findings, which they recently did.

Here's the relevant section from those findings:

The glider was equipped with a panel mounted communication radio, global positioning system (GPS) unit, and a transponder; however, the pilot did not turn on the GPS and transponder. The transponder's activation is not required for glider operations (for more details see 14 CFR Part 91.215). According to the glider pilot, he did not turn on the transponder because he was only intending on remaining in the local glider area, and because he wanted to reserve his batteries for radio use. The glider was equipped with two batteries (one main and one spare), however, due to the previous glider flights, the pilot was unsure of the remaining charge in the battery.

So there we have it.

It should come as no surprise that pilots in the Reno area have a renewed interest in battery life and keeping their transponders on as long as possible. Many are also looking at TPAS devices such as the Monoroy ATD-300 Traffic Watch

Posted by jzawodn at 07:30 AM

September 21, 2006

Yahoo! Developer Network Flash and Ruby Development Centers Launched

hack day t-shirt

It wasn't that long ago that I wrote to point at the YDN Python Development Center. As of today we also have a Flash Development Center (announcement) and a Ruby Development Center (announcement).

What languages should we do next? :-)

Not only that, but the final plans for our big Hack Day are in full swing and things are coming together nicely. Food, t-shirts, maps, schwag, camping, music, prizes, and so on. Crazy stuff. Watch the blog for details.

Posted by jzawodn at 02:22 PM

September 20, 2006 BBQ Birthday Party at Yahoo!

It's hard to believe, but is 3 years old (which means that I've averaged around 3 bookmarks per day if you were to assume that I used it on day #1).

That, of course, means it's time for a party.

Join us at Yahoo! HQ in Sunnyvale, California for some BBQ and links on the afternoon of October 3rd. And make sure to ask Joshua what he thinks of living in the Bay Area versus New York City. :-)

Posted by jzawodn at 08:19 PM

Beef Taccota in C Minor with a glass of Mountain Fugue

One of the blogs I've been reading the longest is Matthew Baldwin's defective yeti. His writing style and sense of humor are so in line with what entertains me that I can't help but to read everything he writes.

Today's post on Taco Bell And The Ozone Layer is no exception. He starts of wondering how Taco Bell got its name and tells the tale of his father saying it was a play on Pachelbel.

Fair enough. But what really got me laughing was how the doubt begins to manifest itself:

That answer satisfied me for a decade and a half. Recently, though, while driving by another of the ubiquitous fast-food outlets, the question popped back into my head, and it occurred to me that a restaurant boasting a "Cheesy Gordita Crunch Supreme" for 99¢ was probably not named in honor of a seventeenth century Baroque organist. Maybe if they served a "Beef Taccota in C minor," or their soda machine dispensed "Mountain Fugue."

Now, I won't spoil the story by giving away the ending. But I did want to make sure that his talents are appreciated. :-)

See Also: The Tacobell Canon

Posted by jzawodn at 01:17 PM

September 18, 2006

Are Dolphins Smarter Than Costco Employees?

Believe it or not, this is a serious question. You see, not to long ago I read an article titled Deep Thinkers and came away amazed by how intelligent dolphins appear to be.

Smart Dolphins

Allow me to quote the first three paragraphs of that story to provide some background for this unusual comparison.

First off, we learn that some dolphins have been trained to keep their pool clean by removing litter in exchange for fish:

At the Institute for Marine Mammal Studies in Mississippi, Kelly the dolphin has built up quite a reputation. All the dolphins at the institute are trained to hold onto any litter that falls into their pools until they see a trainer, when they can trade the litter for fish. In this way, the dolphins help to keep their pools clean.

But Kelly has demonstrated that she's figured out the system much as a clever child would:

Kelly has taken this task one step further. When people drop paper into the water she hides it under a rock at the bottom of the pool. The next time a trainer passes, she goes down to the rock and tears off a piece of paper to give to the trainer. After a fish reward, she goes back down, tears off another piece of paper, gets another fish, and so on. This behaviour is interesting because it shows that Kelly has a sense of the future and delays gratification. She has realised that a big piece of paper gets the same reward as a small piece and so delivers only small pieces to keep the extra food coming. She has, in effect, trained the humans.

Not bad, huh?

It gets better. She realized that it was possible to move even farther up the food chain, so to speak...

Her cunning has not stopped there. One day, when a gull flew into her pool, she grabbed it, waited for the trainers and then gave it to them. It was a large bird and so the trainers gave her lots of fish. This seemed to give Kelly a new idea. The next time she was fed, instead of eating the last fish, she took it to the bottom of the pool and hid it under the rock where she had been hiding the paper. When no trainers were present, she brought the fish to the surface and used it to lure the gulls, which she would catch to get even more fish. After mastering this lucrative strategy, she taught her calf, who taught other calves, and so gull-baiting has become a hot game among the dolphins.


Contrast this with my experience at Costco on Sunday. Costco, like Sam's Club, is a "warehouse" store that specializes in selling bulk items at a discount. You pay a membership fee for the privilege of shopping there and presumably make up for it by spending less for the goods over the course of the year.

After you go through the checkout line, you have to stop at the exit so that someone can take your receipt, look at it, look at your cart, and then mark it with a marker. (Fry's electronics does this sort of thing to, but I generally don't bother to stop on my way out.)

This time the door check person took at bit longer than I'm used to and she became visibly concerned. Something wasn't adding up. She moved me and my cart off to the side to investigate without blocking traffic.

I asked what the problem appeared to be, since I had no idea. She said something like "well, there are 9 items in your cart but only 8 on the receipt." At that moment I realized two things:

  1. Counting is apparently the first line of defense for these people. It makes sense as an initial sanity check. I suppose that you'd also want to look for unusually high or low total dollar amounts too. Either could be a red flag.
  2. There's an obvious solution to finding the unaccounted for item. It may not be the most scalable algorithm, but we're talking about nine items here. It's a very small hay stack.

The next 5 minutes provided a lesson in pure comedy and a testament to our failing education system.

The checker, clearly frustrated, spent a few minutes looking at my cart and the list of items I purchased. She was unable to figure it out and refused my offer of help. Eventually she gave up, reached for a clipboard, and began looking for something. Was it a standard form? A procedure to follow in response to such an unthinkable event? I have no idea.

So then I opened my mouth and said something like "you have a list with 8 items on it and I have 9 items. This shouldn't be rocket surgery." She put the clipboard down and I started to think she realized how crazy this all was. But what happened next only served to amaze me even more!

She called a co-worker over to help.

On the one hand, this was quite funny and sad. On the other hand, I was relieved that someone else was going to come over and show her how to resolve this apparently insurmountable crisis so that I could be on my way home with at least 8 of the 9 things I thought I had purchased.

The two of them, working together, managed to crack the puzzle and devise an algorithm that identified the big box of oatmeal as the "missing item." Amusingly, I had figured that out several minutes earlier while looking over her shoulder, but I kept quiet to see how long it would take.

I surrendered the oatmeal and headed out to my car, shaking my head and laughing to myself. On the drive home I remembered the dolphin story and wondered how many fish you could buy instead of paying the useless door clerks at Costco.

I leave the "winning" search algorithm as an exercise to the reader. :-)

Posted by jzawodn at 05:20 PM

September 17, 2006

Using mod_security to shield Movable Type from Blog Comment Spam

I recently noticed an upswing in the traffic my blog gets from comment spam bots. They're never successfully able to post comments, of course, but it still results in a lot of hits to the Movable Type script that handles comment submissions: mt-comments.cgi

Notice the "cgi" there? That's right. This is a old school stand-alone Perl CGI script. I'm not running it under mod_perl, so for each request Apache must fork() and exec() to start the Perl interpreter. Then Perl has to parse and compile the script, along with all of its supporting modules.

This all culminates in an error message back to the spam bot--a message that is surely discarded. In short, it's a lot of effort to tell a spam bot to go fuck off. And it causes my 4 year old web server to strain at times.

So I decided to add a new layer to my defenses recently. I added mod_security to my Apache setup and crafted a few rules to combat most of the poorly written bots as well as those that are slightly more well designed.

You see, mod_security provides a decent framework for request filtering within Apache. You can craft all sorts of rules to validate input and check various conditions before control continues in the request handling.

Here's are a few of the rules I use:

SecFilterSelective REQUEST_METHOD "^GET$" chain
SecFilterSelective REQUEST_URI "^/mt/mt-comments.cgi"

That basically looks for GET requests attempting to access the comments script. Even though to only references on my entire site to mt-comments.cgi are in forms that specify POST, some bots try to use GET anyway. This is a simple way to guard against them.

A keen observer might point out that I should write a rule that allows only POST requests, rather than denying GETs. You never know when someone might try to use PUT requests or something equally useless.

# Don't allow POST to mt-comments.cgi without 'jeremy'
SecFilterSelective REQUEST_URI "^/mt/mt-comments.cgi" chain
SecFilterSelective POST_PAYLOAD "!jeremy" "redirect:"

That rule doesn't allow anyone to hit ht-comments.cgi unless the POST payload (the data being submitted) contains the string "jeremy" (case-insensitive). The custom field I've added to the comment form all my blog entries requires that you type my name anyway. But this pushed a loose version of that check into Apache itself.

This rule will let requests through that contain my name anywhere (in the comments, the name, the URL, whatever), but that doesn't concern me. The few that do make it through will still be checked by the Perl code anyway.

Rather than merely returning an error code, I redirect the bot to a page that tells them what was wrong--just in case it's a human, not a bot.


The results are encouraging. I've been running this setup for about 3 days now and I've blocked over 1,000 attempts. No unusual complaints have come in from would-be commenters so far.

Further Reading

I first learned of mod_security from a couple of articles:

In addition to providing a good introduction, they also provide some useful rules to plug into your configuration. I've used a handful of them in my setup, but I omitted them in the examples above.

Posted by jzawodn at 09:38 PM

September 14, 2006

A Navajo Taco in the Valley of the Gods

For reasons I no longer remember, I recently stumbled across a write-up about Valley of the Gods, Utah from VIA Magazine (AAA).

Sunrise on Valley of the Gods by jwoodphoto on Flickr

You see, I've always wanted to visit Monument Valley and I probably followed a link related to that. Maybe it was the picture above?

Anyway, the Valley of the Gods is apparently a smaller version of Monument Valley:

Many people have seen Monument Valley, the vast, iconic desert on the Arizona-Utah border that’s gorgeously interrupted by colossal sandstone monoliths, like bulky ships sailing an ocean of sand. Most often they’ve seen it in the context of a Hollywood shoot-’em-up with cowboys like John Wayne twirling six-shooters and dodging arrows. But few people know that 40 miles up the road there is another monumental valley—a geological Mini-Me known as the Valley of the Gods. A quarter the size of its famed neighbor, it has dozens of equally spectacular sandstone sculptures and spires, but on a smaller scale. What they lack in size, they make up for in brilliant color and variety. And best of all, you’re unlikely to see a single tourist bus here.

Excellent. I'll have to visit one of these days.

The most amusing thing about this article, however, came at the very end: the food recommendation.

A visit here isn’t complete without a stop at Twin Rocks Cafe, at the foot of a pair of natural sandstone towers, for a Navajo taco—chili, lettuce, and cheese served on fry bread. It’s a little like eating taco fixings slathered on a doughnut, and it’s surprisingly tasty.

Taco fixings on a doughnut? Homer Simpson would be proud! :-)

Posted by jzawodn at 05:12 PM

September 13, 2006

Burning Man Rants

One of the most entertaining and well written rants I've read in a long, long time was the result of Tim and Patrick's first trip to Burning Man (I've never attended and have no plans to--flying over, maybe someday).

The post, titled simply Burning Man: Our Review is an excellent piece that fits into a nice groove: it's not quite all out whining and their exaggerations aren't so bad that you can believe them (most of them). Though it's long, I urge you to read it yourself. But if you don't, here are a few excerpts that I particularly enjoyed.

You know it's going to be a good rant when it starts out on a strong footing:

The idea of holding a massive event in one of the hottest nastiest driest places on the planet seems stupid on the face of it. Why would almost 40,000 people pay over $200 for a ticket and probably $1000-1500 total to suffer in this godforsaken place for a week or more? For years my common sense kept me away, just as it has safely helped me avoid backpacking in Afghanistan, running an ultra-marathon in Death Valley or eating bacon wrapped hot dogs from the vendor carts in Tijuana. Though my common sense seldom fails me, my friends often do and they conned me into wasting a week of my life and about $1500 to attend Burning Man 2006.

Even though I already know the outcome (it's a bad experience), I feel compelled to read about how bad it was. I mean, shoot. I've heard such good stuff about Burning Man from people I know.

Apparently they had too...

To be fair, my friends had been conned themselves by glowing reports of the “magic” of this overrated hippie love fest at the gates of Hell. “Burning Man changed my life, man” was the word. Hey, we all want to change our lives: stop smoking, lose weight, quit drinking, fall in love. The promoters of Burning Man promised all of this and more in their feel-good web accounts of dull people who now lead exciting lives, thanks to taking the Burning Man cure. These absurd claims had the hollow ring of cult indoctrination, but I was hooked. I wanted to drink the spiked kool-aid and search for magic in the nothingness of the Black Rock Desert.

What Burning Man really is about:

Whatever Burning Man supporters claim, know this, the event is a 24/7 bacchanal of booze, drugs, nudity, S&M, public sex, and bad art, all done in a scorching flat dry oasis of misery that reminded me of the surface of Mars. This drug orgy is translated by event promoters on the BM website as a “radical experiment in self-expression.” Wasn’t that Jeffery Dahmer’s excuse when asked about the body parts in his fridge?

Bonus points for a serial killer reference!

But how bad could it be? Here's the first day:

The first full day at BM felt like the worst jet lag of my life. I was tired from the 900-mile trip, exhausted from the heat, the dust and the 4,000 ft altitude and thin air. The word “nausea” barely covers the full body ache you feel when “acclimating” to the Martian landscape and punishing heat of Burning Man. You can’t move, you can’t escape the dust or heat and you are surrounded by some of the most perverse and deviant people you will ever meet. Everywhere you look a “porno-copia” of sagging balls, flopping peckers, hairy asses, flabby breasts and other uninvited unattractive nakedness will strip away any remnant of goodwill you may feel towards your fellow burners as the caustic alkali dust strips away your exposed skin. What gives these naked perverts the right to expose their ugly fucked-out carcasses? If being forced to view hundreds of hairy ass cracks as you gag down breakfast sounds fun, Burning Man is for you.

Appetizing, isn't it?

On the vehicular art:

Burning Man Wednesday to Friday was a cauldron of dust, heat and shabby monster trucks (some absurdly labeled as “art cars”) crammed dangerously with partiers blasting bad music from blown speakers. Every day the noise and number of yahoos increased as the weekend approached. The post-apocalyptic spirit of Mad Max and Beyond Thunderdome were all around: monster cars, noise, chaos and intimidation.

Who is the Burning Man crowd, really?

Imagine a shabby, somewhat dangerous crew of NASCAR fans, bikers and other bullies looking to inflict their lifestyle on your camp site, then circling for hours and hours all night for another round of megaphone ranting and stupidity. These are the people who tailgated us at 80mph in overloaded RVs hurtling recklessly down the infamous Donner Pass toward Reno. These are the people who complained when firearms were banned from Burning Man a few years ago. If you want to live in a trailer park with 40,000 people where insane drinking, drugging, public nudity and lawlessness are the norm, Burning Man is for you.

On "costumes" and the dress code:

Burning Man is not for non-conformists. You must wear a Burning Man outfit or risk constant abuse. I did not wear any silly costumes at Burning Man, or dress in drag, or hang my ass in the breeze, nor did my friends. Surviving the heat was plenty: we had no spare energy for playing dress up. For this breech in burner protocol, weirdoes in furry suits chided us that “jeans are not a costume.” These “furries” dress in full fur suits, like comic characters in the Ice Capades or that big rat at Chucky Cheese, and like to do drugs and have sex in their suits while in character. If there is anything worse than a pervert, it’s a self-righteous druggie pervert, dressed as a chipmunk, offering unsolicited fashion tips. If you want catty advice on how to dress from a crowd of Rocky Horror Picture Show rejects, Burning Man is for you.

On diversity:

Despite pretensions of forming an “experimental community” the Burning Man demographic is whiter than the crowds at the Republican National Convention: Dick Cheney white and twice as mean. I saw less than a half-dozen black people all week and only a few Asians. This proves my theory that blacks and Asians have way more sense than whites. The lack of diversity and total indifference to this lack seem odd considering the pretensions of many Bay Area residents and other burners to racial and ethnic inclusion. There is nothing new or experimental about an all-white community.

And a Nazi reference, just for good measure:

As the Burning Man burns, both his arms eventually fall to his side. Curiously, his left arm dropped first, leaving his right arm raised in a straight-armed Nazi salute. At that moment, a spontaneous cheer went up a thousand right arms were raised as one over the smoky playa. Heil hippie! No shit, I have it on film.

On why this was all so surprising:

If you read my review of Burning Man and assume I’m some hung-up religious prude, I can assure you this is not the case. My factual description of the event is accurate. I wrote this review because I could find nothing truly critical of Burning Man online. This is incredibly suspicious. Mother Teresa was considered a living saint yet there are many critical essays about her, but none on Burning Man? Many supporters of Burning Man defend the event as fervently as Tom Cruise defends Scientology. Anyone that is critical simply does not “get it.” My friend Tim responded in kind to a BM supporter when he replied “Is it possible I got it, but ‘it’ actually sucks ass?”

Ah, yes. Those Burning Man folks are pretty protective of their image. I believe that jwz covered this quite well in burning hypocrisy a few years back...

Burning Man is no different. Disney protects their brand because if someone else exploited their park in a way they didn't like, it would no longer be projecting the image that they want, and the park would no longer be profitable (or, "full of happy little kids" if you prefer to look at it that way.)
I don't have any problem with that.
What I have a problem with is the hypocrisy: Disney is at least honest about what they are doing and why. The Burning Man people went through such amazing verbal and mental gymnastics to avoid using the word "brand" in their press kit that it was comical.

Heh. Gotta love it.

Posted by jzawodn at 05:03 PM

September 11, 2006

Microsoft Live Search Test Drive

After reading that Live Search is Live I decided to go kick the tires a bit. This is by no means a thorough test--it's more of a drive by. :-)

I performed a few common and not so common queries on each of the search vertical which have tabs: web, images, news, local, and QnA. My impressions so far are:

  • Web: Wow. It's fast and relevant. In my queries it compares very, very well with Google and Yahoo. The design feels, for lack a better term, "friendly." Spam isn't hard to find, but it also doesn't bubble it's way up in places I might have expected. Microsoft has come a loooong way on this.
  • Images: The results are spotty and the index feels small. There's lots of room for improvement here.
  • News: It's fast but less comprehensive than the competition.
  • Local: Slow to load but the maps are easy to read. The rendering reminds me a lot of Streets & Trips, which I've always liked.
  • QnA: The user interface if far less green (and busy) than Yahoo! Answers, but it's also pulling form a smaller pool of answers. The quality and relevance seem decent in my limited poking around, however.

Have you tried it yet? What did you think?

Posted by jzawodn at 09:40 PM

Lame Fortune 500 Recruiters

sony logo I just got this email, apparently designed to make me want to work for Company X, but it had the exact opposite effect.

I am a recruiter with Company X and I sourced your resume from the Internet. Company X currently has several opportunities available. Please visit: and view our current opportunities. (You man [sic] have to copy and paste the link into your browser.) Once you have found a position you are interested in create your profile and apply online.
Upon completion kindly send me an email letting me know which requisition number you applied for so I can follow up with you.
Thanks for your time and interest in Company X.

Where should I begin with this?

  1. You "sourced" my resume? Is that lame recruiter speak for "I was punching buzzwords into Google when I ran across your resume..."?
  2. You were impressed enough with my resume (found on my own web site) to send email (with an obvious typo in it, no less), yet you felt it necessary to warn me that cut and paste might be necessary to find your web site? How insulting!
  3. Your jobs site sucks. I looked. Have you even tried it yourself?
  4. Why do I have to do all the work? You've read my resume and contacted me. Yet I'm supposed to start from scratch, search your listings, create a profile, and then contact you. Are you kidding? You interrupted my day in an attempt to get me to switch jobs. You've certainly wasted no time trying to put me to work!
  5. I never expressed an interest in Company X.

Here's a helpful hint to all Big Company recruiters out there. Before you contact someone, try putting yourself in their shoes first. Do your tactics even make sense?

Posted by jzawodn at 12:23 PM

September 09, 2006

Beware the Bad Peach

peach Just a quick tip for those of you who might unexpectedly encounter the danger fruit this weekend:

If the peach tastes funny, stop eating it right away--even if the odd smell you think you smell goes away each time to attempt to confirm it.

It's just not worth it. Not at all. When, a few hours later, the evil peach decides to rear its ugly head, you will be most unhappy with yourself.

This concludes my public service announcement.

Posted by jzawodn at 06:30 PM

September 08, 2006

WTF Today

That's the subject line of an email I almost sent a few minutes ago. Luckily, I had a few things going in my favor:

  1. I managed to actually proofread the subject line before sending. This is odd because I almost never do that--especially this early in the day.
  2. I was sending it to the small team I'm part of at work--a team with a very good[*] sense of humor.
  3. It's Friday and there's a good chance that several folks would have read right past it, expecting to see a "WFH" (working from home) message. It's fairly common for folks to work remotely on Friday if there are no face to face meetings on the calendar.

None of that stopped me from laughing really hard before fixing it and then hitting Send.

Anyway, if you were expecting something more "WTF" in this post, I suggest you read Sex Baiting Prank on Craigslist Affects Hundreds. If that doesn't make you say "WTF" today, I'm not sure what will.

[*] I desperately want to pass along an incredibly funny line from a meeting we had the other day, but I can't manage to remember the whole thing. So let's just say that it revolved around the phrase "Dan stole the marker and I planted a fart in the cushion..."

Happy Friday.

Posted by jzawodn at 08:24 AM

September 07, 2006

Excellent Flying Last Weekend

While I didn't get to fly over Burning Man, I had a blast last weekend. The soaring was quite good and I did my best to take advantage of it.


The conditions looked quite good upon launching on Saturday. For some reason there have been an unusually high number of days this season when it was possible to fly the west side of Lake Tahoe, going down the Sierra crest.

Lake Tahoe West Side

Having never done that before, I decided to fly the length of the lake on the "far" side. Rather than race anywhere, I took it slow, snapped some pictures along the way, and just tried to enjoy the scenery. Eventually I ended up crossing just north of Emerald Bay and spending some time circling over Freel Peak and the Heavenly ski resort.

After arriving at the south end of the lake, I noticed some really nice clouds up north, so I flew diagonally across the lake toward Squaw Valley where I connected with some clouds again. From there I headed out over Reno Stead Airport and then back toward Donner Summit before landing.

There are pictures on Flickr and the flight is on OLC.


Best flight ever!

That's right. On Sunday I managed to fly my personal best flight ever out of Truckee. For distance it almost exactly tied one of my flights from last year in Parowan, Utah. But I flew it faster this year (87km/hr average speed) so it took just a bit over 5 hours. [Trace is on OLC.]

The route of flight was from Truckee to Spooner Pass (where I struggled a bit), across the Carson Valley to the south end of the Pine Nuts, Desert Creek Peak, Mt. Patterson, and then just past Bridgeport with Mono Lake clearly in view.

Then I headed east to over fly the famous Hilton Ranch. I should have continued on to Mt. Grant, but turned northwest back to the Pine Nuts and then to Air Sailing, flying over Dayton Valley and Tracy Power Plant along the way.

At Air Sailing I loitered a bit before heading back toward Truckee. Of course, I arrived back with extra height, so I burned off a bit by hitting Donner Lake before landing.

All in all it was a 5.3 hour flight that took me just under 450 kilometers. I got to see Bridgeport and the Hilton Ranch for the first time.


On Monday I flew in the TAGAR (Truckee Airport Glider Air Race), an informal contest organized by one of the local Truckee pilots. This time my goal was simply to finish the course. You see, last time we had the TAGAR, conditions were so weak that few contestants managed to do that much.

The weather was good this time: clouds that started at 13,500 and eventually topped out over 15,000 feet. There was a lot of sink out there and a decent headwind coming back on the final (and longest) leg, but all very managabe.

I came in pretty close to last, but I don't care. I had fun and learned a lot flying in the race. It was a great day to wrap up the long weekend. No pictures, but the trace is on OLC.

Posted by jzawodn at 08:26 AM

September 05, 2006

Thoughts on my network

When the team recently added social networking features, I kind of groaned to myself. I didn't look at it very closely because I was busy and half feared that I'd discover a case of annoying social software and that would make me sad.

When a fellow Yahoo suggested that I put a network badge on my blog, I groaned to myself again. I don't "do" JavaScript badges on my site (for a number of reasons that I may write about later). If you look closely, you won't find any. (AdSense doesn't count!) But that forced me to look into this "network" though enough to put an "add me to your network" link under my linkblog in the sidebar.

I'm not sure if anyone even noticed it, but I've somehow managed to attract about 100 "fans" on That's cool and all, but what I'm really digging is that people in my network are staring to tag things for:jzawodn. That means the links show up on my my "links for you" page.

This is turning out to be way more interesting than I first expected. Now when people come across something that's "interesting" but not essential for me to see, they can note that and go on with life. No need to IM or email me. Eventually I'll see it. Probably. Maybe.

This sort of lossy (or disposable?) link sharing is great for cutting down on inbox and IM clutter. And the unobtrusive implementation works in a way that doesn't ruin by trying to turn it into the next great social networking thingamagoo.

Posted by jzawodn at 05:22 PM

September 01, 2006

Flickr, Burning Man, and Flying

Last night I decided to see if there were any pictures from Burning Man 2006 on Flickr yet.


There are a ton of them (and clusters too). I always seem to underestimate how quickly stuff gets on to Flickr, even from the middle of nowhere.

Since I plan to be flying my glider around Western Nevada this weekend, I decided to revisit my fantasy from last year: flying over Black Rock City in a glider.

That’s when I dug up info on the Black Rock City Airport, the Operating Plans (from 2005), their Unicom Radio Operator’s Handbook (well done, I might add), and Air Play on the Playa (an overview of airborne stuff at Burning Man).

I'll see how the weather holds...

Have a good weekend!

Posted by jzawodn at 02:53 PM