Huckabee Versus Budweiser: Where's the media when you need them?

How many journalists are covering the Republican presidential candidates right now? Probably thousands. But how many have read what front-runner Mike Huckabee hath written? Apparently very few. For example I can't find anyone looking into his attack on Budweiser.

No, I'm not talking about dredging the distant past for lost sermons but a text he published last year: Character Makes a Difference: Where I'm From, Where I've Been, and What I Believe (Paperback, June, 2007).

The problem that Huckabee has with Budweiser is the way the company's advertisements play to the selfish nature of man, for according to Huckabee, "We are not basically good; rather, we are basically self-centered, look to ourselves first, and preserve ourselves first at all costs."

Amazing Audio Assistant: Free content in convenient format, no fees required

A lot of the Christmas shopping buzz this year has been about digital this and i-that. Unfortunately, a lot of these digital gizmos cost at least $100. Consider iphone and PSP and Wii and digital cameras, pdas, smart phones, and various mp3 players. Not much in this category for the under $50 crowd. But wait, what is that cool silhouette in the corner?

This is a very cool palm-size, hand-held gizmo that I found for under$30. It delivers a non-stop music stream or current news, for weeks on just 2 AA batteries, with no subscription fees. It has a built-in clock and an alarm and operates in multiple languages. It comes with cool ear buds plus a speaker that is actually built into the device, no external pieces or cables required. And the whole thing is totally wireless.

Our XO Arrives: ahead of [revised] schedule!

We got our order in on 11/24/07 and our unit arrived yesterday, 12/22/07. A bit of surprise because I got email from OLPC on 12/21/07 saying it would not arrive by 12/24/07. But hey, I'm not complaining. For more on shipping check out this blog.

The timing is a bit unfortunate because we are away for a few days and not there to enjoy it, but we have house sitters who promise to take good care of it until we return. Meanwhile, we can enjoy that warm glow of righteous giving all over the holidays, knowing that OLPC will be delivering our 'given' machine to children in either Afghanistan, Cambodia, Haiti, Mongolia or Rwanda. Yeah!

In the meantime, I am finding all sorts of XO resources popping up. There is One Laptop Per Child News. There is olpc dot com. And there is the OLPC Wiki. Puget Sound has perhaps the first XO User Group. I'm not rating these sites, yet, just listing them for you to check out.

OLPC Getting Closer

Can you do this with your laptop?The excitement is mounting for people who placed an order for the XO under the "Buy-one-get-one" program, previously blogged here. Shipments are now rolling and the wonderful folks at One Laptop Per Child are working round the clock (is it too twee or non-PC to say they are working "like elves"?) to get as many machines as possible shipped to North American customers by the 25th of this month.

If the Fedex truck does not roll up with your XO by then, it will likely arrive shortly thereafter. And if you haven't ordered one yet, and Santa doesn't bring you one, the Give One Get One program is now open through December 31.

I plan to post my review as soon as mine arrives [or the eggnog haze clears, whichever comes later :-)]. In the meantime there is an extensive look at the XO on the blog of veteran LISP programmer Bill Clementson.

Rough on Romney or Religion? Tim Russert needs a broader perspective

Did you see Meet the Press? Am I the only one who thinks it is unfair to prod Mitt (Republican presidential hopeful) Romney about his religious beliefs? At least there should be some reciprocity. Today we had Tim Russert asking Romney "was it wrong for your faith to exclude [blacks from the priesthood]"? C'mon Tim, are you going to ask Roman Catholic candidates if it is wrong for their faith to continue their ban on women in the priesthood?

And I don't recall Russert, a commentator I normally admire, asking Candidate Lieberman if he was ashamed that his faith did not ordain women rabbis until 1972? For sadly there seems be a lingering institutionalized hypocrisy about religion and politics in America. The advert for America chould read

"We are the land of religious freedom!"
(Some restrictions may apply and your mileage may vary, especially if running for public office. Note that freedom of religion may be interpreted as freedom to chose between a select group of religions. Religion is not optional, non-believers need not apply. Women may be denied equal standing.)

PayPal Broken? It certainly isn't working for me right now.

PayPal LogoIs anyone else having a problem with missing or invalid transaction numbers in PayPal? Here's the situation:

I sent someone money via PayPal but the recipient cannot collect it because "the transaction ID is invalid or missing." The recipient cannot query PayPal about the problem because "the transaction ID is invalid or missing."

I contacted PayPal via the Help center email. No reply.

I called PayPal's 888 number. "Your wait time is expected to be longer than 20 minutes."

I tried the Dispute Resolution section of the PayPal web site but of course, I should have guessed, that won't work because: "This transaction cannot be disputed at this time. This is usually because the transaction has not yet been completed." You can't dispute a payment if the payment has not happened. The payment has not happened because the system somehow went wrong (it's not like I assigned the transaction number).

So, $150 left my account on December 8 and is still not in the payee's account. I have a Premier PayPal account and I have to say this is the first time this has happened, but it is very troubling. How could the transaction ID not be correct? That suggests a serious glitch. And why is the wait time impossibly long? Have there been a lot of glitches?

Maybe I should have just put a check in the mail. But wait, it's"The Holidays" so I doubt that would work any better.

SLAM Bam, Thank You Tony: Reading Nick Hornby's Latest Masterpiece

SLAM by Nick HornbyVery good article today in the Washington Post, about Nick Hornby and his new novel. The novel is SLAM and it is something of a sleeper because you probably won't see it in the regular novel section of your local bookstore. Why?

YA!

As in Young Adult, a category of book that book stores tend to shove in the back. That's right, SLAM is published as a Young Adult book. And while I can heartily recommend SLAM to any teenager looking for a good book to read, I can also recommend it, just as heartily, to adults; it definitely challenges the whole idea of categorizing novels. (Shouldn't Catcher in the Rye be YA?)

SLAM is a brilliant novel, regardless of how you categorize it, but I only knew about it because the YA section is on the way to bathroom in my local Barnes & Noble. Now I am recommending it to friends. It is a word of mouth winner, a hidden gem. (Especially if you have a lot of literary friends who don't got to the bathroom at B&N, you get a chance to say "Oh, you haven't read Hornby's latest?")

But seriously,

Love Man: Otis Redding, 1941-1967

Otis Redding 1941-1967Otis Redding died forty years ago today, on December 10, 1967, when his plane crashed during a storm en route to a concert in Madison. He was just 26 years old.

Not only did Otis bring joy to millions around the world with his music, he blazed a trail for independent black artists. He owned his own plane (so he would never miss a gig). He retained the rights to much of his material so that it would continue to provide for his family. Otis was devoted to his fans. We remain devoted to him. Thanks Otis, for all the songs you gave us, including:

  • Respect

  • These Arms Of Mine

  • Pain In My Heart

  • (Sittin' On The) Dock Of The Bay

  • I've Got Dreams To Remember

  • Love Man

  • Chained and Bound

  • That's How Strong My Love Is

  • Mr. Pitiful

  • I've Been Loving You Too Long

  • I Can't Turn You Loose

  • My Lover's Prayer

  • Fa-Fa-Fa-Fa-Fa (Sad Song)

  • Shake

  • The Happy Song (Dum-Dum)

  • Stay in School

  • I'm Depending on You

  • Your One and Only Man


Thanks as well for the songs you made your own, with performances like "Try a Little Tenderness." Your music has become part of the sound track of our lives. It's hard to think of an artist whose recordings crop up in more movies than yours. Just one of the many ways you will always be with us.

Sad State of the Internet: Criminals on the attack

There is no longer any doubt that as Wired recently pointed out, the Internet has become a huge playground for criminal hackers out to make a buck, something that security professionals have been predicting for years. Consider the number of malware detections reported by F-Secure, not a company given to exageration. Number of malware detections

The total number of detections in the years prior to 2007: 250,000.

Total number at the end of 2007: 500,000.

In other words, it took just one year to double a number reached over a 20 year period.

F-Secure is quick to point out that most of the new malware detected were variants on past code: "Genuine innovation appears to be on the decline and is currently being replaced with volume and mass-produced kit malware."

However, there is not really much consolation or comfort in this. The research indicates that "while new techniques weren't developed—the existing techniques were refined and adapted for much greater effectiveness. There are some very dangerous faces in the big crowd."

As Seen on 60 Minutes: Go XO!

XO on 60 MinutesNice one CBS, a big plug for XO on this evening's edition of 60 minutes. Can't wait to get my hands on mine! I'm not going to put a live link to laptop.org in here because it looks like they are swamped with hits right now.

Stephen

p.s. Nice one Negroponte also, and Google, and other corporates who are helping out XO including T-Mobile USA (giving away a year of free access to its nearly 8,500 wireless Internet hotspots in the United States to G1G1 donors) and Electronic Arts (giving the original "SimCity" to OLPC to put on laptops for free).

Just in Time for Cyber Monday: XO give 1 get 1 + a grin that will last for years!

XO ComputerThat's right, for a limited time you can get your own XO laptop [great for your kids or your sister's kids or your own personal use or app dev work] AND a child somewhere in world who has no computer will also get one, courtesy of you. Plus you get a $200 tax deduction AND a year of free T-Mobile Hotspot access. Not to mention a warm sense of satisfaction that will last for years. Just click on the cool machine and DO IT!

UK Child Data Missing: Mother of all data cock-ups?

First let me say that the choice of words in not mine. Apparently it is okay--in the UK--to use the term "cock-up" in a daily newspaper, as in "the mother of all cock-ups that has left half of Britain vulnerable to identity theft." (The Daily Telegraph)

The quote is from an opinion column that summarizes the situation so far. The basic facts are this: Two unecrypted CDs have gone missing, handed to a courier service and never delivered, potentially exposing the names, addresses, dates of birth and National Insurance [Social Security] numbers of the entire UK government child benefit database (this includes the bank account details of more than seven million parents, guardians and carers). As the Washington Post and others point out, that means it could affect more than 40 percent of the British population.

Please note the word "could" because, despite an array of armagedon-style prognostications from pundits, this incident, which is the talk of the nation in the UK at the moment, is not...

Give a Laptop, Get a Laptop: And a great big grin!

Thanksgiving. Christmas. Time to give, thanks and gifts. Time to get. And this year the giving and getting has never been better for geeks. Why? The XO is here.

XO ComputerYes, Oh happy day! XO Day! For the XO is the little laptop that could, as in 'could change the world.'

Come on all of you geeks out there. Get back to the edge. Buy an XO! Forget Wii. Forget Xbox. Forget Playstation and Bezos' Brain Fart (a.k.a. the Kindle). What your soul really wants is the coolest tech gift this year AND a very special feeling, a way to feel good about yourself for years to come: righteousness! And you get that from getting the XO.

That's because the XO is the laptop designed and destined for the developing world, places where they need computers that work and work cheap. The XO is the embodiment of One Laptop per Child and until we reach that target, surely anything else is just a diversion?

And right now is THE time to buy. If you live in North America and buy before Christmas, laying out about $400, roughly the same price as you would for Bezos' electronic version of a paperback book, you can get your own XO, a totally cool and very unique machine, AND have one delivered to a child in a developing country who really needs one. BUT WAIT, THERE'S MORE...

U. S. Sentencing Commission Considers Shortening Terms for Imprisoned Crack Offenders

Good article here on the debate about the U. S. Sentencing Commission considering shortening terms for imprisoned crack offenders. This may be the end of one of the most obvious forms of institutionalized racism in America. Consider this congressionally imposed rule:
"The mere possession of five grams of crack cocaine requires a court to impose a minimum term of five years' imprisonment, regardless of mitigating factors that may be present in the case. In contrast, the possession with intent to distribute 500 grams of powder cocaine is required to trigger the five-year mandatory minimum."

So white folks who do powder get to slide, while black folks who do crack get serious jail time. Hello? Crack IS cocaine. This is discrimination, pure and simple. The good news is that things may be changing. Too bad about all those families ripped apart by this late twentieth century incarnation of the Jim Crow mentality.

Intellectual Property Inanity: Genes, Surnames, Our Past

I've just finished reading Michael Crichton's Next, a hoot of a book that totally skewers the patenting of genes (along with a lot of other harmful trends in scientific and medical research). He makes a convincing case for ending the patenting of genes and a lot of other naturally occuring material. As the strangely inspired judge states toward the end of the book:

GWMO Saga: We make it to Nashville (promise we won't sing)

Tuesday morning was wait-and-see time in our Fairfield Inn hotel room in Centerville, Ohio. Waiting for the phone to ring and Jim, the service manager at Planet Ford, to say "Your vehicle is ready." Jim called before noon. He said the necessary belts had been ordered and we would be ready to go by about 5PM for an estimated $450. We took Jim at his word and checked out of the hotel. We headed to a nearby Starbucks. Layla wore her Service Dog outfit and behaved wonderfully, as usual.

Layla

We nursed several lattes and cappucinos for several hours. I finished reading the truly awesome 1491: New Revelations of the Americas Before Columbus. Just as I have suspected for years, the Americas were full of people before they came into contact with Europeans, people who had been taking care of these two continents for centuries, from the woods of New England to the Amazon delta. Makes me very hesitant to call St. Augustine the oldest city without some serious qualifications.

Big Vehicles Need Bigger Vehicles

Truck recovery truckBefore buying the Great White Mobile Office, seen in the background of the picture above, and discussed at length in other posts, I had not really thought about the problems of recovering such vehicles when they go astray, or just won't go. This recovery vehicle was capable of lifting 80.000 points, a lot more than the 18,000 gross vehicle weight of the office. Operating one of these recovery trucks is obviously an art. And when you need one there is no substitute. So we were grateful to Sandy's Towing of Moraine/Dayton for sending one out so quickly, and to Richard, the operator, who came up with an ingenious solution to our immediate problem of how to get the GW to Planet Ford.

The [Great White Mobile] Office Saga: Part Deux, Ohio here I/we come

...we join the story in progress...Stephen has won the bidding on a 35 foot long mobile classroom that was up for sale on eBay, allegedly built in 1987, supposedly equipped with a 460 Ford engine , and less than 1800 miles on the clock. He plans to use it as an office in New York but first has to get the thing from Ohio to Florida where he will equip it...

Landed late in Columbus. Met by anxious Pastor Dan who drove me to the church parking lot in Urbana where the thing has been sitting. Looked it over best I could in the intermittent rain. Dan was keen to get to the Friday night high school football game that was in progress nearby [apparently attended by a huge crowd--cheers and band noise could easily be heard several miles away--the type of high school game where the ball is dropped from a helicopter].

I handed over a banker's check and...

Skybus Delivers: Cheap seats and relatively few hassles

Looking for the quickest and cheapest way to get from St. Augustine, Florida, to Columbus, Ohio? Skybus is answer. Could also be the answer if you are going between any two of these places:Skybus routes

Ten seats on every flight are sold for only $10. The rest cost more as plane fills up. I tried them out for the first time on Friday, to make the trip from Florida to Ohio to collect the Great White Office. I paid $90 including all fees, taxes, government surcharges, etc. That was at least $40 less than any other commercial flight I could find from Jacksonville, and this plane left from St Johns County airport just 3 miles and a cheap cab ride from my house, as opposed to 50 minutes and a $45 fare to JAX. To book...

The [Great White Mobile] Office Saga: An idea, an auction, a leap of faith

Once upon a time we lived in Florida and it was good. In fact, the living in Florida still is good. But a few years ago we found a magic valley in the North, in a state called New York, a hidden place peopled by cool folk and planted with many crops and trees. We bought a house on a hill there and it was good to visit. Then we thought, wouldn't it be nice to live here most of the time?

But there are some things lacking in our house on the hill, and I'm not just talking about no fibre optic net connection. There is no office space for my office stuff. There is a single car garage that would make a nice office but that would take a fair amount of professional contract work to convert, work I might not be there to oversee. So I thought, what about those offices they have on construction sites? And that's how we got into this...The [Great White] Mobile Office

What Linguistic Neck?

In my last post I mentioned sticking my linguistic neck out. Then someone said "What linguistic neck?" Here's the rap:

Covering Off the Coming of Words

One of the things I love about language is the emergence of new words and phrases. Recently my brother [who is more English than me, what with being born and raised and living there] started using the verb cover-off, as in "We need to cover off these items at our next meeting." And also, "I think all the important stuff has been covered off."

Thoughts Prompted by the Jena 6

I posted some thoughts about racism in America today over on the DNWA site.

These were prompted by the case of the Jena 6 and the fact, made evident by this case, that the form of institutionalized racism we are dealing with in America today is a lot harder to identify and target with clarity, particularly when compared with forms of racism that existed forty years ago. We need new strategies of protest and change-making, new ways of seeking justice and new alliances with which to advance them.

You don't have to spend much time dealing with the justice system to realize that there is considerable racial injustice. But at the end of the day it was a lot easier to rally the world to the cause of the Greensboro 4, jailed in 1960 for peacefully refusing to leave the Woolworth's lunch counter, than the Jena 6, jailed in 2007 for beating someone up.

In-Fill Blogging: Ethical? Annoying? Who Cares?

I assume there are statistics out there that will back me up when I say most blogs drop off faster than most new Year resolutions. They start ambitiously, sustained by initial enthusiasm, then the posts start to falter. Periods of revival occur from time to time.

One reason I think/know this? I have started a lot of blogs that have fallen off the wagon, so to speak. This very blog right here...

Money Handling Lags Behind Technology [in big chunks]

Finally, on 5/22, I got the payment through for cobb.com, sold 8 days earlier. As I suspected, the buyer has positioned the domain as a parking site. Whether or not the owners will now try to sell it to a "Cobb" business, I don't know. I contacted as many of those as I could ahead of the auction and they we obviously outbid by the new owner.

The length of time it took to complete the transaction was surprisingly long. What we have right now in the transaction field is a strange mix of models and technologies. Some transactions seem fast. For example, deposits to, and debit purchases from, my Bank of XXXX account seem almost immediate, although the 'posting cycle' may not match always match what you see when monitoring online. Paypal seems to happen fast and top-ups from my bank account are pretty quick.

But try moving a lot of money and things slow down. When you go from moving hundreds of dollars to shifting thousands, your choices start shrinking. At the same time, confidence in the system and trust in the customer seems to decline (as anyone who has heard the dreaded words come through the drive-thru speaker: "There'll be a hold on these funds").

As with all things commerce-related, it's all about trust and so far there is little evidence that the new forms of trust enabled by technology have outpaced the new forms of trust-abuse, a.k.a. fraud, that technology has engendered.

Anyway, cobb.com has gone, long live cobbsblog.com!

Domain Name Selling Not Cool for Quick Cash

Okay, so the auction of cobb.com ended a little after noon on May 14. Some 5 days have passed without payment actually arriving in my bank account. The domain 'broker' assures me this is normal.

Ergo, don't look to a domain name sale to raise really quick cash. I will let you know when the money does come through, and share a few tips on how to speed up the process (hint: you'll need to know your EPP code to get paid for your domain). I will also share some thoughts on the final price and tell you who bought it.

BTW, at this point I have not been told who bought cobb.com but my guess is: A domain name speculator.

Cobb.com Valuation Backed by Domain Name Expert

Interesting article came out in print on Friday, now online under headline "Cobb.com domain name worth at least $45K, experts say." [Sorry, subscription required.]

The writer of the article spoke to Ron Jackson, publisher of Domain Name Journal who had this to say: "As difficult as it is to quantify the industry, so too is appraising a name's value. Like real estate, its value often depends on someone's imagination for how it can be used. But unlike appraising real estate, it's often difficult to base estimates on comparable sales."
"Still, Jackson said cobb.com could reasonably bring $50,000 to $150,000. "It could go for more.""

Here's hoping...I don't have many finger nails left!

Five Figures by Thursday

The bid price on cobb.com passed the $10,000 mark some time on Thursday afternoon. Perhaps the PR is working, but I am still worried that the only bidders right now are domain name speculators, not serious end-users. Maybe the problem is that the various companies that identify themselves as "Cobb" are not Web 2.0 companies. I still believe that the one-time purchase of cobb.com would do more for a 'cobb-related/named company' seeking web visibility than a one-time $100K print/media campaign. (Disclaimer: that's what they call a self-serving statement--albeit one that I believe in).

Auction Fun: In a nail biting, nerve-racking kind of way

So, the auctioning of cobb.com got under way at noon on Monday. By Tuesday evening it had barely met the reserve price. This was set at $5,000 on the recommendations of Sedo, the auctioneers, whose position is as follows:
Our experience has shown that the more accessible you set the reserve, the greater the degree of competitive interest and the earlier bidding wars are likely to begin. I would strongly suggest setting the reserve as low as possible.

By Wednesday night the price had not budged from $5,000.00 and I was "too bummed to blog." (Anyone else out there ever get that feeling? You just can't find it in you to post something, even though part of you is itching to type?)

I had spent much of Tuesday emailing...

Countdown to cobb.com Auction at Sedo.com

Just under an hour to go until the start of the cobb.com auction, that is, the auctioning of the domain name "cobb.com" to the highest bidder. It should show up here under Auction Listings.

Not sure if anyone has ever blogged the auctioning of their domain name before (although, given the size of the blogosphere today, it has probably been done many times already).

I did quite a bit of research ahead of time and found a great blog about domain names, Frank Schilling's Seven Mile. Here's an interesting discussion that took place there relative to the value of cobb.com. (And here's Frank's listing in Wikipedia, just in case you don't know who he is, and I admit I didn't until I started looking at the domain market.)

What prompted the discussion was a somewhat embarrassing lack of clarity on my part when I put out a press release about recent domain name values, like strauss.com selling for $50,000 and walkers.com going for $175,000. My intention had been to show the range of values for recent sales of 'last name' domains and perhaps my mistake was to list Tandberg.com going for $1.5M. Some people took that to mean I was asking $1.5M for cobb.com when I would be happy with something closer to walkers.com or maybe even moka.com ($72K). The latter is a good example of a four-letter dot-com name. Even better might be blue.com which was purchased for $500K, but has a more generic appeal.

Anyway, as it turns out, the only reliable way to put a price on a domain name is to sell it. "As in real estate, so in virtual real estate." Even among experts there is a huge range of pre-sale valuations (e.g. I got responses ranging from $40K to $600K in the valuations I commissioned).

So, let the bidding begin. And stay tuned for my reports on how this kind of auction feels when you are on the 'receiving end' so to speak.

Cobb.com Goes to Auction: Hot Domain Market Puts Venerable Name In Play

Here's the press release that went out Thursday:

Jacksonville, Florida, May 3, 2007 - One of the oldest 'dot com' domain names, cobb.com, will go up for sale next week in an auction conducted by Sedo, a global leader in domain marketing. The auction commences 12PM EST, May 7 (sedo.com), will last for seven days, and cobb.com will go to the highest bidder .

Tweaking the Template: Getting close to 'live'

Okay, so I have settled on an Andreas Viklund template [wp-andreas01-12]. This is available from the Wordpress themes site. I already use the andreas02 web theme for my business site (CobbAssociates.com). You can download that from Andreas' own site.

For me, this blog template is just the right balance of good looks and usability. Any issues you might have with the look "as-modified-by-me" are the result of me being a. aesthetically-challenged, and b. color-blind. They are certainly no fault of wonderful Mr. Viklund.

Now begins the long task of merging, into this blog, a number my other blogs, namely:

  • cobbontech.blogspot.com

  • cobbon.blogspot.com

  • cobbonae.blogspot.com

  • cobbontheroad.blogspot.com

  • cobbonpolitics.com

  • scobbrules.blogspot.com

  • gradez.blogspot.com

No seriously, this is a test...

...of the image wrapping ability of this theme, using a shot of the rear of my Jeep as an example.


For some reason, many of the WordPress themes show an example of an image in a post that does not wrap text. This could lead a newbie [like me] to think that particular theme was incapable of doing this wrapping, which is a pity because wrapping text around images is one of the things that makes blogging with pictures in Blogger so much fun.


But I have now solved my own problem: wrapping the text is just a click away. You select the image and click the alignment button and Voila! This seems to work in themes that show no wrapping in the WordPress Theme Browser.


Now I need to re-browse those 500 themes again, with a different perspective.


BTW, the picture on the left was selected mainly because it is tall and thin. It shows my Florida license plate: 1NFOSEC. Actually, my wife registered this plate in 2001, at which time someone had already taken INFOSEC, so she cleverly got 1NFOSEC then handed it on to me. (I am noticing that typing out this license plate is a good font test--can you see the difference between the 1 and the I?)


The logo at the bottom is on a plate that covers the towing hitch receiver. It says Browning. I am not what you would call a 'gun nut' but I do happen to own a couple of Browning firearms, and I think the logo is very clever.


Stephen

Every blog has to begin somewhere...

Welcome to Cobb's Blog, the blog, at cobbsblog.com, the site.

This blog uses WordPress and at some point it will incorporate most of my other blogs, in one common blog space, with content distinguished by categories.

The look and feel (theme) will also be changing, as soon as I have chosen something suitable and figured out how to install it.

I hope you find it worth dropping by from time to time.