Saturday, June 27, 2009

2009 Summer Vacation, Day 1: Weaning Off The 'Net.

Today is the first day of my summer vacation. Since I am no longer in school full time, I am forced to relish mustard this time off of work that I get. For me, this means trying to stay away from the Internet, and this will be easy once Jess and I get to upstate New York on Tuesday, where we will have little-to-no access to a computer, and where our cell phones may very well get no service at all (sorry fellow Twitter-ers).

Today we made it from Tallahassee, FL to Melbourne, FL on the first leg of our vacation journey. This weekend is for visiting family and old haunts. And since there is a newer computer here at home (us kids bought it for our parents for a Christmas gift), I've decided to wean myself off the Internet as opposed to going cold turkey. So tonight I will be spending only one hour online, the girth of which will be taken up by composing this post and uploading four pictures to Flickr. (My parents are still on DSL here, and trying to upload to Flickr here is a little like taking a Razor mini-scooter out on the information superhighway. But I digress.)

After a boring start this morning (chores and errands not worth taking the time to even mention... whoops), we started off in the sweltering Florida heat on the sweltering Interstate 10 in my sweltering 1998 Buick, which unfortunately does not have working air conditioning. If I pump it full of freon, it will work for a couple weeks or so, maybe, but it's pretty much called it quits.

Humans being hot in Florida is not much of a story, but throw in a domestic cat, and... well, maybe you'll have PETA writing an email. We decided to take Simon with us (for whatever reason), and he decided to freak out and meow/yelp/sound-like-a-tortured-boy for a few minutes before we took him out of the (amply sized) metal barred cage we had put him in. Jessica held him in her lap in the front seat, and everything was okay. Except then he started panting. I wish I would have gotten a picture. Simon panting looked very much like a cross between The Joker and some Daemon Basement Cat.

Thinking quickly, we stopped to grab a bag of gas station ice ($2.53, really?), threw a towel over it, and laid the cat on top of this makeshift ice station. He cooled down right quick, and we continued on our journey. (Note that Simon does not mind ice cubes being rubbed all over his long-furred body. Ssh. Don't tell PETA.)

Driving through my hometown was just as eerie as every time I'd been away for a while before. (Prize for most best understandable/grammatical sentence, plz.) When I got home, I saw that Shadow's getting old.


Sidetracking Anecdote: I grabbed my digital camera to upload photos, and I spent about three minutes trying to fit the USB cord that goes with the camera into the side of the camera. Then I realized that the USB cord I had brought was in fact for my other, crappier digital camera (that my sister had gotten for free with something and had given me). I was frustrated... until I noticed that my parents' computer has slots for memory cards...! I popped the memory card out of my digital camera, and VIOLA [sic]! It worked.

Okay, well my online time is almost up. I'll probably be off to read some more David Foster Wallace. There will probably be nothing more to update until we've been to NY and back. So have a nice week, The Internet. Don't do anything I wouldn't do.

Thursday, June 25, 2009

Is it over yet?

Yay for sensationalism in ads!

Why would anyone who saw this online ad actually text a company that they don't know about to ask them whether a very small, very rare case of disease has ended worldwide when... they are seeing the ad on the internet??? Uh, hello? Google?

Friday, June 19, 2009

T-Pain for FSU's next president.

If you're on Twitter, please help me get T-Pain to be FSU's new president with this hash tag: #tpain4fsuprez

Google's Favored Results.

Somebody I follow on Twitter posted something about taking the bar exam, and, as I often do, I had the urge to Google the term I had just read (even though I know what the bar exam is... I was just interested, okay?).

Search 1) "bar exam"

Okay, I'm looking at the results, and I'm sort of baffled to see the Florida bar exam as the second result (I put the light yellow highlight there. The top highlight was automatically on the screen). Hmm. Florida. That's where I live. Coincidence? Is our bar exam really special or something?

I decided to further investigate this matter.

Search 2) "bar exam" (not logged in to Google)

I realized that I had been logged into my Google account (and on Chrome) when I did my first search. Google knows a ridiculous amount of info about me, so I figured that by being signed in, Google Search could have known my zip code and artificially altered the results to show me stuff that is "more relevant" to what I wanted to find. (Which is not necessarily what I want to happen when I search. For local establishments, yes. But in general, I'm just interested to know what the most popular search results are...)

So, to be safe, I open a new Firefox browser window and avoid signing into Google (while writing this, I just realized that I have Gmail notifier on my desktop... this could be affecting things... I will test that hypothesis soon...).

For Search 2, I get... The. Same. Exact. Page. (But interestingly, no colored ad at the top of the results?)

Okay. So either Florida bar exam is really a top result, or else Google still knows where I live without being signed in. Fine.

Search 3) "bar exam" through an anonymous proxy

I learned about anonymous proxies over a year ago -- they are servers hosted in different places that allow you to first connect to someone's established server and then connect to the internet. Theoretically, this would allow you to connect to sites that have been blocked or restricted at your IP address (you would be sort of adopting someone else's IP for a while... I think that's how it works).

So I decided to search through an anonymous proxy. I Googled and tried out a few proxies on on the first page of results...

This site called (pic above) did not have the Florida bar exam in the first three results (it was still on the first page of results, though).

Neither did (pic above). But you'll notice something else... at the top right, you can see that the number of returned search items is significantly lower through these proxies than it was normally. 936,000 results for the proxies; 2,260,000 normal returns.

Search 4) another anonymous proxy

It only took me one more try to find another anonymous proxy that would return the original number of results. I also did it in Internet Explorer, just for kicks.

Good. Number of results same. This anonymous proxy was probably located at a server that was nowhere near me and it came up with no Florida bar exam in the first three results (but Florida bar exam was still on the first page of results... near the bottom)... wait a second. Where is this anonymous proxy hosted? Since I think that living in Florida might have been an influence in my original search, perhaps this new location will have some bizarre influence on...


You've got to be kidding me.

The anonymous proxy based in Illinois... had a paid ad result from... Illinois bar exam.

So, in conclusion...

-Google definitely changes results based on where you live. (I'm no professional scientist, but I think I can conclude that.)

-Google might change results without you even signed in.

Weird, but, I guess, understandable.

(Note: I don't feel like checking on the Gmail notifier influence on this effect. Nor do I wish to test this further right now. But let me know if you find out anything else about this, or if you think I'm an idiot for not knowing about this to begin with.)

Tuesday, June 16, 2009

Recent call about my domain registration. (An Email Sent To

To Whom It May Concern:

I am not particularly happy with a recent call I received from one of your telemarketers offering website services to me simply because I recently purchased a domain. I am well aware of the workings of search engines and websites and the Google Machine and how to (or not to, depending) appear in such-and-such a site's search results, and thus I do not require any of your tutelage (however profound it might be) in these areas.

This call was placed at my normally hectic yet efficient workplace today, Tuesday June 16 around 11:20 a.m. Eastern Standard Time (USA) by one "Leo Fernandez." I would rather not bother with such telemarketers while I'm at my professional workplace for the state government. (I realize that telemarketers are also in a professional workplace, and I realize they also have a job to do, but I believe I have a right to do my job "quod erat demonstrandum" without the interruption of phone calls from telemarketers.) It's a particularly busy period now, too, with many reports to do and phone calls to make and emails to write and receive and messages, messages, messages to take and deliver (exacerbated by the abscence of one of my co-workers for the next two weeks while she is out of the office and out of town).

I realize that domain registration is public information. Mr. Fernandez told me that he could not locate my website via searches. But he was obviously able to locate my domain registration and work phone number via searches. (It's quite easy to find my work phone number via a search, actually, since it is located on a public website for my department. It's also easy to find other websites with my information on them: yet another indication that I do not require your web services. But I don't believe my work phone number should be tied to my domain registration information [if I did happen to list it that way, which is entirely possible, that's my bad]).

I'd like to ask that you please remove my name and phone number from your records and call lists. If calls persist, I will be forced to report these to the appropriate authorities.

Thank you,

Justin de la Cruz, B.S., B.A.
Webmaster / Purveyor,
Work Phone Number: [REDACTED]

P.S. I am only supplying my phone number and website URL so you can remove them from your records (as you obviously already have them in your records). Please do not call me about removing my number from your lists. (You may visit my website if you'd like, although, as I indicated to Mr. Fernandez on the phone, I have not begun to develop it.) If you need to communicate with me, you may reply to this email.

P.P.S. I took time out of my precious lunch break to compose this email, in case you were wondering about the validity/veracity of the aforementioned reports about my busy workplace.

Incoming Phone Call (At My Work Phone Number) From Someone Representing

~11:23 a.m.~

[] = Actions
() = Additional Info / Comments

"Hello, could I speak with ... [looking up info on his screen] ... Justin de la Cruz?"

"This is Justin." (Sometimes I respond to this with: "Speaking"; "This is he"; "Yes?")

"Hi, my name is Leo and I'm from I see here that you recently registered ''?" (Said my last name in my url with a Spanish accent, which, I guess is more correct than normal. It just threw me off because he said it without an accent when he first greeted me on the phone.)


"Do you have a website there?"

"Yeah, well, I'm working on something. So, what - are you trying to sell me something?"

"I just noticed that it doesn't come up when I search for it."

"Well, yeah. I haven't put in the title or anything in the header, and I don't really have anything developed for it."

"Oh. I see it. Is it this blue webpage?"

"...Yes." (Nice job "searching out" my site when you already had the url...)

"Okay. I was wondering if I could send you some reports about your site - did you know that Google and Yahoo have very specific criteria they use to search for sites---"


"---that change all the time---"


"---and that you can add things to your site to get it to show up in results?"

"Yes, I did know that. But I don't need this. I'm not trying to sell anything on my site or anything."

"Well, if you want people to come to your site, you can---"

"I already have sites that come up with my name and everything. I mean, I know how to go about doing it. I just haven't done it yet."

"Well, thank you for your time..."

"Wait! Where did you get this information?"

"When you register a domain, it's public information."

"Yes, but I mean, where did you see that I registered a site? On a website? Through a program?" (I was really genuinely interested in knowing about how telemarketers specifically access this info. Also, I was a little caught off guard and upset, but also, most importantly, very bored at work.)

"Yeah, Google."

"Oh, Google, yeah. (Even though my domain doesn't appear in search results?) But how specifically?"

"I don't know, man. I'm just a caller here."

"Okay. You said you worked for"


"And what was your name?"


"Leo. You don't have a last name?"

"Yeah... Fernandez."

"Thanks." [I hang up abruptly.]

* * *

I understand that domain registrations are public. I understand that dude was just doing his job. I understand that my work phone is listed on my work profile, which is on my department's public website, and which can be easily found by Googling my name (ironically, in this situation).

Poor guy. Has to put up with crap from people like me all the time. I was just trying to psyche him out at the end. I don't know if it worked, but I know those calls can be monitored or reviewed by his employers. He should have worked on his hard sale.

Poor guy.

Well, at least he has a job.

Sunday, June 14, 2009

Blog Issues.

I've registered a domain for the first time ( - this Drupal setup page will stay there for a while until I figure out how to work my charm on it), and now I'm wondering whether to transfer my Blogger blog to my domain. I've realized that there's a really easy way to do this where Google still hosts the information for the blog: FTP vs. Custom Domains.

I've also found out that you can download a backup of your entire blog (posts, settings and layout information and all) just by going to Settings > Basic > Import/Export/Delete blog. It downloads as an XML file, and mine was 2.76 MB. A respectable size, I might say, for five and a half years of toil.


Of course, this is also a time to think about whether to simply scrap the Blogger blog and start anew. I've used Wordpress more than a few times before, but it seems to be mostly style over substance. The behind the scenes at Wordpress is pretty confusing sometimes, and Blogger just seems simpler and just as robust. (Perhaps I have a bias since I've been using it 5.5 years. Frequent readers will know I also have an overt Google bias.)

And they have a nice redirect system in place, so when I finally decide to move everything over (I'll probably do it), you'll still be able to see my blog by going to you'll just be redirected to or something.

Friday, June 12, 2009

Ideas for Academic Success.

we should write a grant for pizza
geography of pizza
socio-spatial aspects of pepperoni

Where the pepperoni falls. A postmodern analysis.
Freud's "Repressed Sausage" Theory

Tuesday, June 02, 2009


I'm on a few email lists, and I frequently get strange messages. The following one (which I just got tonight) might take the cake. It's a trustworthy source, however, so if you're truly interested, let me know and I can hook you up...

"A friend of mine is temporarily moving to the San Diego area and is driving across the country sometime between June 9th and the 15th, and he is looking for someone to help him drive out there (pretty much a straight shot, with no motel stops, just alternating sleeping and driving). If someone is interested in doing so, he will cover all the gas and will pay for the food one eats on the way there. However, one is on one's own regarding getting back to Florida and he asks that whoever come to not drink alcohol or take any other intoxicants during the trip. So, if you (or anyone you know) want to get to the San Diego area for free in the next week and a half or so, please contact..."

Monday, June 01, 2009

Top Ten Better Names for a Search Engine.

Microsoft released its search engine, Bing. Google sez (warning: lame borrowed pun coming up), Bing it on!

Following are the top ten names that are better than "Bing" for a search engine.

10) Ping - Somewhat nerdy computer reference. But taken by what looks like a golf website.

9) Bada Bing, Bada Boom Boom - Mobster stereotype mixed with toilet humor. Gets 'em every time. ("Hold on, let me do a boom boom for 'bacon bra.'")

8) Bling

7) Hey-look-Microsoft-is-still-relevant-in-the-computer-industry-and-the-internet-and-we-know-about-web-2.0-and-we're-cool-too-and-hey-sorry-about-windows-7

6) One - One ring to rule them all, one search to look just like Google and fail miserably.

5) WolframAlpha - What the Fark does that even mean?

4) Discover - Pair with the channel (Discovery) and the credit card company for mega advertising bucks.

3) Farticle Acsmellinator - (Any name is better than "Bing.")

2) CopyCatz

1) Poodle - It sounds like "Google," but more fluffy and ferocious.

What is Microsoft going to do next -- make a web browser?


"Internet..." what?