Saturday, February 23, 2008

Vistaprint tempts me with free loot. Successfully.

And they would like to tempt you too. Boy, did they dangle lots of different choices in front of me - but I can only take two offers a day, and prefer to limit myself to one. Unless I'm really, really, really bored and have no other ideas.

Well, this following boilerplate had my ears perking up...

VistaPrint offers a wide array of printing services including: postcards, address labels, magnets, checks, and stamps! You can customize all of their products to your liking!

I a lot of business customizing things and selling them, it's still the primary support for this blog, so I'm always looking for stuff I can customize and resell. If I've ever been to Vistaprint, it hasn't been for a long, long time. (Here's the link I finally clicked, for save the date magnets,)

My art, super smooth vinyl, full color and full bleed - I'm drooling already! And free! But of course, I had to work this into a legitimate post about something. Ok, I didn't HAVE to, but like I said, I'm bored and had no ideas for a post that didn't make me want to shoot myself in the head.

I had a think about what I might actually want to do with one of their offerings, what you might want to have - and what could result in a legitimate follow-up post. After some thought, I settled on 25 free magnets (Coupon code “Blog25FreeMag”) though I was tempted by another offer for their pre-inked stamps. I'm tossing this code in for free, because it fits the post - I'll let you know why later. (Use coupon code “Stamp25” at checkout to receive 25% off your stamp order. )

People keep telling me is that offline publicity is something you really ought to consider doing. I've never done it. Hell, I have to be dragged kicking and screaming to do it ONline. So it has to be fun and easy or I will "forget."

I'm a graphic artist, so I look for things that will show off my skills.

And of course, we get a defined, limited number of magnets. It's perfect for our test - and perfect for yours, if you are interested in playing along with me.

I need to have a way of verifying the test over time, so I need to send results somewhere they will be counted. I don't have a perfect solution for this, but I'm getting very low traffic to my cafepress store, so results should show up and persist even using statcounter, which limits me to five hundred results. I'll figure out a way of including a coded link and include it in the graphics.

Server side stats would be better, but I can't do that right now.

Here's what the magnets look like, you can use a template, or upload your own, full bleed art. (specs below.)

Small Family Magnets

Full Bleed Size 3.54" x 2.05"
90mm x 52mm
1062 x 615 pixels

I'm going to post this and keyword it, so that all the follow-ups will show up on the same page.

My next post will be to show you what I upload, and then I'll follow up with a picture of what I get - and then finally, the results, which is the point to the exercise - gettin' me some free publicity and having some fun in the process.

Of course, if it proves that this is a really good way of getting publicity - I doubt Vistaprint will be at all unhappy with me. (Tips are always appreciated!) (So are links!)

Why did I mention the stamps? Well, when you have a pre-inked stamp, you can stamp your blog url on anything. Your mail, for instance. One blogger reported that simply by stamping the return envelopes of her bills, she saw significant increases in traffic.

Others stamp their money - and of course, you can stamp blank business cards. If you go to a craft store, you can find tools and supplies that turn that into a way of making cards that you would swear cost five dollars apiece. It's an ideal solution for mostly broke bloggers who still have a need to blow the socks off people once in a while.

I was a lot torn - but I have a pre-inked stamp already, and I use photo-prints for business cards. I figure your mileage may vary.

Thursday, February 21, 2008

Ralph Hall, Revisited

Every once in a while I revisit older pieces to see what developments have presented themselves. I'm particularly fond of the soaring heights of rhetoric I reached in which I sarcastically implied that a vote for Ralph Hall was a vote for the return of slavery in Texas.

Well, it appears they went and re-elected the sonofabitch.

Graphictruth: Teen Sex Slave Called a Liar by Texas Congressman

So it seems quite possible that Hall is accurately and faithfully representing the people he is beholden to and it would be wrong and irresponsible of me to suggest otherwise. The Mariana affair was well publicized at the time, and he apparently was neither investigated for his role in it, nor politically embarrassed by it, so it's quite a reasonable assumption for me to make.

After all, I hold most insistently to my own principles, I’m not about to suggest that others abandon theirs in favor of mine, unless our principles come into direct and practical conflict.

Slavery has deep roots in the former Confederacy, and there have been long, scholarly and highly moral tomes written to explain it in Biblical terms. I shall not presume that such beliefs are held lightly or insincerely when I know for a fact that many believe passionately otherwise; that the darker races both need and deserve the guidance of the more highly evolved White race, as well as the elevation of their racial character via judicious injections of superior genetic materials. No, for many, these are not beliefs of mere convenience; they are deeply, primordially and utterly sincere racists. Are they not also Citizens? Do they not deserve one of their own representing them?

While I cannot state for sure that his constituents would agree with my conclusions, he is still the allegedly human creature representing Texas's Fourth District - and he's STILL the subhuman enabler of child-molestation that took 30 grand from Jack Abramoff to cover up the practice of human trafficking in the Marianas Islands.

Now, given the history and views of the reddish bits of the map regarding persons of brownish hue, I probably should not be all that surprised.

But the idea of being represented by someone so astonishingly, stupidly corrupt that they could be bought off to the extent of covering up really serious felonies for thirty grand and a lap dance should just too fucking embarrassing for words. I really thought Texans would expect more of themselves.

Everything in Texas is big. With the visible exception of the moral high ground in the Texas Tenth.

A Standing O for LifeLock.

I just had a look at LifeLock, those "This is my real social security number" people. Frankly - and probably like you - I assumed that it was a stunt, and what was said in bold red at the top was completely negated with the small print at the bottom.

Come to think of it, it's damn depressing how complacent we have become in accepting as a given that any service we get from any corporation should be written as "Service*".

Now that I think of it, it's a little embarrassing to realize that it took the promise of $12.00 from a trusted third party to even get me to look, but I plead 40 years of disappointment in my fellow man as my reason.

Fortunately for them, their actual cost will be two dollars, for ten of those promised dollars will pay for my first month of their service.

Why? Well, you don't often read advertising copy like this:

If your Identity is stolen while you are a member of LifeLock, we're going to do whatever it takes to recover your good name. If you need lawyers, we're going to hire the best we can find. If you need investigators, accountants, case managers, whatever, they're yours. If you lose money as a result of the theft, we're going to give it back to you.

We will do whatever it takes to help you recover your good name and we will spend up to $1,000,000 to do it.

We don't think you will see a guarantee like this anywhere else from any other company. If you do, let us know because we'd like to do business with them. There isn't much fine print in our Guarantee. To see the details, click here.

Any half-decent lawyer will tell you the reason why you should never ever EVER write something as direct and unqualified as this. You WILL have to live up to those words in court, and they will bury you in frightening examples of the consequences of unwise and unguarded words costing businesses hundreds and thousands of words.

One of the examples I remember most clearly from my journalism and advertising courses is the case of a car dealer who promised that during his "Jungle Madness" sale, you could drive away in a new car for "just a thousand bananas."

Sure enough, someone showed up with a lawyer and one thousand fresh, golden, LITERAL Chiquitas.

They were very over-ripe bananas by the time his lawyer was sent from court by a laughing judge and a snickering jury, but that just added fruit flies to injury.

Speaking of contractual language, I'm in violation of the terms of the agreement by being clear about this being a paid post within the post and it would be technically possible for them to refuse to pay, or request a re-write. You see, they didn't want me to call attention to the fact they paid me to do this - no doubt because they are as cynical as I am for pretty much the same reasons.

It's tempting to gloss over the fact that it took the smell of money to get me to write this - but I'd prefer to be honest, and use the risk of not being paid to underline what is my real reason for going so far beyond the 200 words requested. This, you see, is no longer about that.

These are the sort of people you should absolutely do business with, even if you don't absolutely need to. And I'm not embarrassed at all to be seen doing business with people like this. Hell, if they write employment contracts and job descriptions like they do websites, they might actually be the sort of people I'd be willing to work for.

That advertising copy above is the reason. They have deliberately created conditions they will have to live up to.

That lack of weasel-wording, the complete absence of equivocation, the blunt promise of "Whatever it takes, up to a million bucks" is damn refreshing.

If you believe in the idea of the free market, as I do, and believe that it absolutely depends on people who are not just willing, but absolutely determined to play fair, then you need to sweeten the pot for them. You have to choose to deal with people who are willing to stand by their word, live up to their obligations and go the extra mile. You also have to start expecting that standard from everyone else, with no excuses.

Putting binding promises into one's advertising copy inspires in me ten thousand times the deep warm fuzzies that can be derived from a kiloton of adhesive imitation chrome fish.

The promise implied by a chrome fish over the door of a place of business is one that cannot be enforced in a temporal court of law, one not even as impressive as membership in the BBB.

Todd Davis - well I don't know what or who else he believes in - but he surely does believe in the sort of fish you could fry in front of the ninth circuit court and it's a big enough fish to feed a multitude.

I can count on the fingers of one thumb the number of times I've had the legitimate opportunity to say something as nice as this about anything regarding the economy or the practices of American business institutions. I've gotten so damn jaded and cynical, so bleak and depressed that frankly it's become difficult to blog.

What started out as a five minute, money-making chore turned out to take a couple hours of utterly blissful wordsmithing and the high point of my day. And that, Mr. 457-55-5462, is worth ten bucks to me. Hell, it's worth twelve.

I would love to be able to write a story like this every week, and have every word be true and as heartfelt as these. I'm rubbing your nose in the fact that AT THE MOST, I was paid $12.00, in response to the obvious rhetorical question.

My skills are for sale, my my good name is not. Even if it WAS, it would take a minimum of five more decimal places plus benefits, a golden parachute and a pension to compromise my virginity in that respect.

One should should set one's price high enough that it discourages temptation. And I'm afraid that many "persons of significance" have lowered the bar to a point where even minimal standards make a decent assessment of self worth seem positively inflationary.

But it's nice to be recognized for a job done well and honestly. One of the few ways I'm sure something I've said has been read and appreciated is the sound of virtual coin clinking into my PayPal account. Money, as Robert Heinlein said, is the sincerest form of applause.

And by that means and in the same spirit I am suggesting to you that you give Lifelock a standing ovation. "Pour le encouragur le autres"

Navy's Unspoken Reasons for ASAT Shot

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The size of the debris is smaller than the Pentagon had forecast and most of the satellite's intelligence value was likely destroyed, Cartwright said. Though the Pentagon has played down that aspect of the shootdown, analysts had said one of the reasons for the operation was that officials worried that without it, larger chunks of the satellite could fall and be recovered, opening the possibility of secret technology falling into the hands of the Chinese or others.

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Maintaining secrets is a good reason for shooting down a surveillance satellite, even if the only secret is that the intelligence it provides is no better than commercially-sourced data. (Let's hope that's not true, but given the fierce drive for privatization under Regan and both Bushes, it may be closer to the truth than many expect.)

But surely the other point to the shot was the shot itself. It seems to me that the odds that a tank of hydrazine could survive re-entry is a remote risk indeed. But even chunks of satellites can give very useful insights to people who should have to work harder for them.

Nonetheless, there is a great deal going on here that remains unsaid, possibly with the hope that the taxpayers of various nations don't quite realize what's really going on.

But the facts on the table are this: The chinese have demonstrated an anti-satellite capability, using tiny maneuverable explosive satellites that must already be in orbit to attack.

The obvious unspoken message is to the Chinese - "We can do it from the ground, and we don't need no damned explosives to send out clouds of shrapnel. We can just hit it with a goddam brick."

And all of this is very compelling, so compelling that it might well cause us to forget the fact that was used to contrive the excuse for shooting down the satellite.... that it might fall down and (gasp) HARM people!

That inconvenient kinetic truth is something that was first underlined by the Soviets, as they orbited first sputnik, and then demonstrated a capability to launch and parachute land a manned capsule that, unless I'm very mistaken, was the shape and roughly the size of the Trinity device.

Speaking of unspoken messages - inasmuch as the technology of the day required parachutes to ensure detonation at the correct altitude.

The mercury program responded using ICBM technology of the day to demonstrate first suborbital and later fully orbital capability with a manned space-capsule that bore an uncanny resemblance to the aeroshells we used for our own atomic weapons - but on a scale that would have held a weapon large enough to pave metropolitan Moscow in kimberlite.

If you want to know why we used disintegrating telephone poles instead of the far more elegant drop-launch technique with X-15 technology to put a man in orbit - that's why. We were waving our big sticks at each other.

So, the fact that things can fall out of orbital space with a loud bang has been pretty much the point to the entire enterprise for the last fifty years. The hard part is NOT making a smoking hole. And of course, not making a smoking hole within a relative degree of precision is also a desirable point to be made. If you can AVOID making a hole in the steppes or the Pacific ocean and recover the payload intact - well, you can put it into the same target zone and achieve a disturbing energy release.

Even without an atomic payload.

The term "smart crowbar" has been around since the early eighties, nutshelling the idea that a crowbar in space equaled at least one tank on the ground. And while delivering that crowbar with precision to take out a tank might have been iffy at the time - putting it within the "strike zone" required to turn an aircraft carrier into something that had formally been an aircraft carrier probably was a reasonable objective.

Given our current capabilities, I have little reason to doubt that we could deliver a smart slug from orbit through any particular compartment within a destroyer. It might even be possible with off-the shelf systems.

This capability, while unstated, is unavoidably available in a crude way with any satellite that has a sufficiently dense component and which can be de-orbited on command. As dense as, say, a thermionic plutonium battery. At least, were I designing a satellite that might have to be de-orbited, and which required such a power source, I would certainly try design it so that if it did de-orbit, I could ensure that component landed within as small a radius as possible and survived the impact without dispersing radioactivity.

And that is pretty much the design requirement of a dense slug penetrator.

Oddly enough, such batteries are designed in exactly such a way; whether they could be so exactly targeted is an open question, but the physics of the matter are pretty obvious to those who think about it.

And so the unspoken message by those interested in controlling the High Frontier - the Air Force - has been that of all the targets on the face of the globe for such a device, the highest value target has to belong to the Navy. For, while other nations do operate carriers, the US is the only one that maintains significant numbers.

One of the obvious implications of Star Wars tech was that anyone with the technology to launch and precisely control orbital payloads - the Air Force, for example - could take out any aircraft carrier in the world, any time it liked.

And the Navy just demonstrated (for the first time) that they could actually protect a carrier battle fleet with a deployed asset, rather than a theoretical capability.

Now while it's never wise to ignore the geopolitics of such capabilities, all politics are local, and there is no more dense locality than the Pentagon. This launch had many messages, and no doubt many intended recipients, but I'd be absolutely stunned if the primary intended recipient of this unspoken message on Navy stationary didn't have an office in the same building, on the same floor, with a parking spot within pissing distance.

SecNav just saw SecAir's smart crowbar and raised him an intelligent tomato can. I'm wondering now what the Air Force has in the hole.

Wednesday, February 20, 2008

This should make angling more interesting...

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A savage fish deadlier than a piranha that has killed people has been caught on British shores for the first time.

The giant snakehead - so called because of its long body and fearsome teeth - was caught by an angler in Lincolnshire.

Dubbed the "gangster" of the fish world, it eats everything it comes across and has even been reported to kill people.

The monster, which is from south-east Asia, can also "crawl" on land and survive out of water for up to four days.

It already has a fearsome predatory reputation in other parts of the world.

In the U.S., the fish has been described as a "FrankenFish" and "like something out of a horror film".

Andy Alder, from Lincoln, caught a 2ft snakehead while using a sprat as bait for pike on the River Witham near North Hykeham.

He said: "It had a gob full of razor-sharp teeth. To be honest it looked terrifying."

An Environment Agency source said: “The reaction was, 'Oh s***'. This is the ultimate invasive species — if it starts breeding here it's a disaster."

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"An Environment Agency source said: “The reaction was, 'Oh s***'."

You really never ever want any Environmental Agency Source's reaction to be "Oh s***" - especially given typical English understatement. I mean, in US terms, that's a solid "Holy F***" and some change.

She Ganked it First!

Some days a good pill is all you need...

Hmm. Drug companies market drug directly to patients via television and internet now. It's about time a useful drug hit the circuit.

A close friend sent this to me. His only question, "Where can I get MY prescription filled?"


 blog it
... but it gets even funner, in a strange way. It turns out that fuckitol is in fact the product of some genius marketer for vacation packages who hopes that a belly laugh and a moment of blogfodder will get us to give his client millions upon millions of free ad dollars.

Geeze, how gullible do they think we are?

Tuesday, February 19, 2008 video depicts evangelicals and their opinions.

The first two persons speaking, mind you, are ORDAINED, Evangelical ministers.

I usta remember when a paster was kind of expected to have some of that book larnin' that's jus' too dangerous for people like the Huckabees and the Jukes back up in the holler.

Well, 'cept for those things about not screwin' livestock. Lessn' the only other choice was your sister, 'cause, well, cain't hunt squirrels if'n you go blind.

Lots of people are saying it's unfair to pick on folks from Tennissee for such obvious stupidity. Indeed, I grew up with the same sorts in Washington State. They talk just the same (slightly different accent, same casual disregard for grammar and fact) and the wronger they were, the more sure they were right, because, the Good Book Said So.

You'd probably be unsurprised to find out that if you actually looked it up in the good book, and you could even find something vaguely like what they were referring to, it said something completely different. Funny to realize that the Catholics didn't want to give up Latin because then the People would know what the Good Book said. I imagine this sort of counter example is the sort of thing Jesuits use to torment Dominicans with.

But really and for true - these are the exact thirty percent that put Bush into cheating distance of the Presidency. These are the same thirty percent that try and shut down anyone trying to commit any act of decency or common sense in our nation. And they are just as fanatically stupid as they sound.

We have to start taking them seriously - as a serious threat. NOT as people who's faith and opinions deserve respect, (for they are, as they are more than happy to point out to you, one and the same) but as potential terrorists and of course, fomenters and cheerleaders for being terrified and using terror and torture in order to inflict "God's wrath" on unbelievers.

It is, I suppose, an ironic but fortunate truth that a disproportionate share of their offspring will be paying for the sins of their fathers. But then, seven generations ago, they were as well.

At Cemetary Ridge.

read more | digg story

Another Breathtaking Bushism

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HAVANA - An ailing, 81-year-old Fidel Castro resigned as Cuba's president Tuesday after nearly a half-century in power, saying he will not accept a new term when parliament meets Sunday.

Bush, traveling in Rwanda, pledged to "help the people of Cuba realize the blessings of liberty."

"The international community should work with the Cuban people to begin to build institutions that are necessary for democracy," he said. "Eventually, this transition ought to lead to free and fair elections — and I mean free, and I mean fair — not these kind of staged elections that the Castro brothers try to foist off as true democracy."

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George Bush, in his own person, is the single best argument against both intelligent design and an active and participant God of Justice.

I mean this quite seriously; this is the sort of thing that causes people to loose their faith - or at least, put the greater part of their faith into causes and ideals with more immediate payoffs.

After all, if there were such a god as the followers of Bush proclaim - the thirty-percenters, the name-it-claim it fringe of the ignorant, the stupid and the magical thinkers, Bush would have been incinerated by a bolt of divine lightning as he uttered these words.

On the other hand, were that the case, we'd pretty much have to live with the idea of the Divine Right of Kings, so I suppose it's a wash. Not to mention being a huge relief to personal security personnel the world over.

Still, when a Bush says they want to "help the people realize the blessings of liberty," everyone else hears a chorus of "Freedom's just another word for nothing left to lose." Cue visuals of jumping rubble, bread lines and starving children with huge eyes.


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