Wednesday, February 29, 2012

Targeted Ads: Of course I care!

If you live on this planet, you may have noticed the recent uproars about companies mining data about you to figure out what you need to buy. Target’s ability to figure out that a girl was pregnant before her father did is way up there as a symbol of targeted ad overkill.

Frankly, I do not mind that companies distill everything they can discover about me in order to throw well-targeted ads at me.

I have been the victim of untargeted ads for over sixty years. Newspaper ads, junk mail, TV, radio, Internet, skywriting, you name it. Even though I have a wonderful Tivo box at home, those mis-aimed ads are still an extraordinary waste of my time. I wish that every ad I had ever been exposed to was about some product I might really want to buy.

I wrote system software for a company that places targeted ads, for more than a year, but that experience had no effect on my opinion: I have always wanted targeted ads! Well-targeted ads. Expertly sculptured ads. And I am willing to let Google save my search information and whatever it can profile about me, to improve the value of the ads I see online. Or offline, for that matter.

Tens of thousands of irrelevant, untargeted ads have occupied months of my life. What a waste.

Tuesday, February 28, 2012

iPad Game Reviews, Guides, FAQs:

I have been writing up the iPad games I've played. I decided that I could put the time I invested into these games to good use by putting brief ads for my two books into the reviews, and as far as I can tell, people have been reading my reviews and increasing my eBook sales.

Not all of them, though. When someone sends me an email that says, "I saw your review of game X. How do I persuade the dragon to fly me to the island?" I know that person will not read my book, because he didn't even read my guide, which explains how to persuade the dragon to fly him to the island.

My reviews, FAQs and guides point to for some excellent ways to waste your time. Here's my current list:

Thursday, February 23, 2012

Email: prior art!

This Washington Post story is about a man who has been honored by the Smithsonian for inventing Email in the late 1970's. The company I worked for in the 1960's had Email (and I believe we even called it that.) Applied Logic Corporation (a defunct company abased in Princeton, NJ, not to be confused with a current company by the same name) was a time-sharing company. If you had an account on their system, you could dial in remotely with a Teletype and use their computer services. Among these services was the ability to send electronic mail to any other account, addressing that user by name. It was Email, and it was available in 1967. We employees of ALC made extensive use of email to share our development work, APIs, etc. Years later, when I encountered Email on a Unix system, it felt like coming home.

Spring is here? (Feb 23)

I saw my first Robin today. Either Spring is here, or that was one hornswoggled robin.

Monday, February 20, 2012

The Spring of '62: New Old Mets:

The baseball season's acoming, and Robert Lipsyte has written a superb piece on the original Mets. I was there for those hapless Mets, and I expected Lipsyte's piece to be a rehash of old memories. Instead, it was fresh and alive with new insights into those old days. I can't recommend his article enough.

Wednesday, February 15, 2012

Quantum Walking to Fitness:

I have self-published a second book. This one is very short, so it is only an eBook. The book explains how to keep fit by taking many short walks during the day, walks that add up to a respectable total. I also explain how to work these walks into your daily activities, so that they do not take up too much of your time. You can preview the book or buy it here, for $0.99: Quantum Walking to Fitness.

And please allow me to remind you how to get my first fantasy novel for grownups, Raven's Gift:
eText versions for Kindle, Nook, etc.
The genuine book version at Amazon.

Tuesday, February 14, 2012

Super, Supersizing:

Macy’s is selling a cappuccino MUG. A mug! The first time I drank a cappuccino, it was served in an espresso cup. And just in case those have been supersized beyond recognition, let me explain that a traditional espresso cup holds just a few ounces of liquid.

Oh, and that  cappuccino mug? A mere twenty-four ounces.

Wednesday, February 08, 2012

Superbowl XLVI: Falling into the Endzone:

I’ve read many descriptions of that memorable play near the end of Superbowl XLVI, but none of them, I think, captures the full narrative. I shall tell it here.

There was scarcely more than a minute left, and the Giants were inside the Patriots’ ten yard line. The Giants appeared about to go ahead, as they were only two points behind. One of the NBC announcers, Chris Collingsworth, told us TV fans that the right play for the Giants, strange as it might seem, was not to score too quickly, to run out the clock.

The Giants’ coach, Tom Coughlin, did not tell his team not to score. In the huddle, Manning did not tell his team not to score.

The moment Manning handed the ball off to Ahmad Bradshaw, he saw the Patriots standing there, allowing Bradshaw to score. I suspect Manning made a sensible, quick decision: anything that the Patriot’s coach wanted to do must be wrong. It’s indisputable that Manning yelled, “Don’t score,” after the hurtling Bradshaw.

Bradshaw was running with a lot of momentum. Not just physical momentum, but also mental momentum. Here’s how he put it after the game: It’s terrible not to score the winning touchdown in the Superbowl.

Bradshaw teetered on the one foot line, trying to keep his balance, and he fell in.

There’s a miracle here. Can you imagine a Patriot running up to Bradshaw and shoving him into the endzone, to save a second on the clock? Can you imagine a Giant grabbing Bradshaw and hauling him away from those six points? I’m so glad we were saved from all that.

Thursday, February 02, 2012

The American Lockdown:

Today, Bruce Schneier commented on a good, thoughtful article about the huge incarceration rate in the U.S.: The Caging of America, by Adam Gopnik, in the New Yorker.

I would like to comment that there would be far fewer people in jail, if our country did not actively pursue people who buy marijuana and drugs, and jail the lowest level of dealers. I learned from my stretch in Grand Jury how actively the police try to catch the dealers who make less than fifty dollars a night dealing crack and marijuana. They arrest buyers as well.

The "war on drugs" is a mighty missile mis-aimed. The desire of the American People to consume drugs is what fuels the production, smuggling and dealing that we officially find so distasteful. As long as that desire remains, efforts to police the flow of drugs resemble holding a paper tissue up in a hurricane.

There's an awesome amount of hypocrisy at work here. Is there any way to sweep it away, other than to appeal most of our drug laws?