Oct 302004

I ate lunch today at Almondine, a new bakery in DUMBO. Almondine was opened by Herve Poussot and Jacques Torres. Jacques Torres also owns Jacques Torres Chocolate across the street. In addition to bread, pastries, and other items you would expect at a small bakery, they also sell small sandwiches served on freshly baked bread. I ate a prosciutto, mozzarella, and tomato sandwich served on a thick white bread with a flour-coated crust. Unlike many prosciutto sandwiches I have eaten, this prosciutto was tender and easily eaten; I was able to tear through the meat without pulling an entire piece of prosciutto off the sandwich. After the sandwich, I had a chocolate brownie with walnuts and chocolate icing.

I am meeting Harri and Kristiina shortly for dinner, so I stopped at the chocolate store to buy them some chocolate. Jacques Torres’s chocolates are exquisite. I have to start going there more often. I took my parents there a couple of months ago. My father prefers rich dark chocolate, but even he was blown away by the sharpness and richness of these chocolates. He had six or seven, which made him wired for the rest of the day.

It was damp and quiet today. This morning I could only see half of the Brooklyn Bridge because of the fog. Now, I can’t see the bridge at all. I took a couple of photos from the park at the base of the bridge earlier; hopefully, I will get a chance to post them tomorrow. The park at the base of the bridge is relaxing; you can hear the tide washing in and out, and the boardwalk is calm and peaceful. There is some noise from the cars going over the bridges to Manhattan, but the park is not something you would expect in a city this large.

 Posted by at 5:59 pm
Oct 282004

I am in the process of switching Internet providers. I hope to kill my old account within the next couple of weeks. I was with my old hosting company since 1995, when I just graduated from CMU. That company, Best Communications, was purchased by Verio a few years later. Shortly after that purchase, Verio was bought by NTT DoCoMo for around $5.5 billion dollars (see this Forbes article). The service hasn’t been horrible, but it has stagnated over the years. While the price remained fairly constant, other providers managed to provide the same service for less money.

I have switched to DreamHost. There was a really good deal for a year of service, but their regular prices are pretty good as well. In fact, I will probably upgrade my level of service next year. I have been really happy with their services so far. The servers seem to be a bit snappier, and I like their attitude more than that of Verio.

This post is only posted on my site at DreamHost; the fact that you are reading this post means that my move is going well. People who are viewing my site at Verio will not see this post.

 Posted by at 11:09 am
Oct 262004

I’ve often thought that people have a hard time understanding large numbers. For example, when you hear the numbers $10 million dollars versus $20 million dollars, is there really a distinction in your day to day life? For me, I interpret both numbers as, “More money than I will ever have.” When the numbers go into the billions, there is simply a lack of understanding of what that means. (Especially if you live in the United Kingdom. Then your definition of a billion is all wrong.)

I ran across a web site that attempts to put $87 billion dollars into perspective. This is the money that President Bush asked Congress for last year to continue to wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. $87 billion is a lot of money, no matter how you stack it.

[Link courtesy of Del.icio.us]

 Posted by at 5:02 pm
Oct 192004

A while back, I wrote that my site has started to accept advertisements through the Google AdSense program. Before I go any further, let me share some information from the Google AdSense program. The Program Policies contain the following clause:


Web pages may not include incentives of any kind for users to click on ads. This includes encouraging users to click on the ads or to visit the advertisers’ sites as well as drawing any undue attention to the ads. This activity is strictly prohibited in order to avoid potential inflation of advertiser costs. For example, your site cannot contain phrases such as “click here,” “support us,” “visit these links,” or other similar language that could apply to any ad, regardless of content.

The Terms and Conditions of the Google AdSense program contain the following clause:

7. Confidentiality. You agree not to disclose Google Confidential Information without Google’s prior written consent. “Google Confidential Information” includes without limitation: […] (b) click-through rates or other statistics relating to Site performance in the Program provided to You by Google; […]

So what does this mean to you, my dear reader? Simply put, please do not consider anything I am writing to be an exhortation to click on advertisements on my site. Nor will I reveal what I am make from the AdSense program or what advertisers are paying to be a member of the AdSense program.

I’ve been thinking a bit about the AdSense program and whether I want to continue to participate. Having advertisements is a nice way to generate income, but I’m not sure I have been happy with all of the advertisements that have been delivered by Google. For example, I wrote about bathroom equipment in Italy; astute readers may remember the ads that got placed. Frankly, these were not the most aesthetically pleasing advertisements I could have gotten. Today, I saw that Google placed an advertisement for political paraphernalia on my blog from an organization with whom I disagree. While I find it a bit ironic that this advertisement may cost the political organization money, I am not thrilled to accept money indirectly from the political organization.

I have a very easy choice: I can accept Google’s advertising placement or not. (I can also blacklist sites one by one, but the process is so difficult that it is impractical.) The advertisements I have seen so far do not bother me so much. Would I feel the same way if there were an anti-abortion advertisement on my web site? What about a bigoted advertisement? More importantly, how would I know such an advertisement had been placed? Google does not provide auditing facilities that show me what advertisements have been displayed on my site, and I do not visit my site very frequently.

The story becomes more interesting when you consider the advertiser’s point of view. Do you want to advertise on a web site when the web site is portraying your product in a negative light? Do you want to advertise on a web site if it portrays your competitors in a relatively positive light? For example, I felt Rossini Restaurant in Florence was a terrible restaurant. The food was merely adequate, but the experience as a whole was horrible and overpriced. Now imagine that I am one of the owners of Rossini and I wanted to place an advertisement. I would never want my advertisement to appear on this web page. People may click through my advertisement just for spite!

At Sports Illustrated, where I work, we are very concerned about advertising positioning. Most of what we do with regards to positioning is common in the publishing world. Advertisers can make sure that they are the first advertisement for their line of products in the magazine. For example, a car company may pay a premium to be the first automotive advertisement. Advertisers can also specific certain demographic or geographic splits. That is, in one part of the country, an advertiser may place one advertisement; they may place another advertisement in another part of the country. There are many other different variables, and the magazines at Time Inc. are very good at positioning advertising.

At the same time, many publishers, including Time Inc., strive to make sure that their advertising and editorial content do not conflict. This can cut both ways. I can cite two examples from my time at The Tartan, the student newspaper of Carnegie Mellon University. One time, our features section ran an article on contraception; it also briefly discussed masturbation. It was a fairly well written, serious article, and no one though two minutes about it. After our issue was printed, an advertiser from one of the local religious institutions stopped by. He was not concerned that we had run an article on this kind of topic; in fact, I believe that he would have felt foolish complaining about such an article in a college newspaper. However, he was a little disappointed with the positioning of his advertisement. Unfortunately, his advertisement for religious services was right next to the article on contraception and masturbation. Since his institution felt that both contraception and masturbation were, shall we say, less than ideal, he would have preferred a different location in the newspaper for his advertisement.

In a way, a publisher has an advantage over an advertiser–the publisher can always see the advertising content at any point in the publishing process; the advertiser cannot always see the editorial content before publication. While I was at The Tartan, an anti-abortion group asked to place an insert into the paper. The Tartan was a weekly broadsheet newspaper; the insert was a full-color tabloid size insert. Like most anti-abortion material, it was highly inflammatory and prejudicial. Personally, I was against running the insert in our paper. The group could distribute the insert on campus by themselves, and I didn’t feel we had any obligation to carry the advertising. I was outvoted, and the insert was distributed with the next issue of the paper. I wonder sometimes if I should have left the paper after this decision was made.

I wish Google AdSense were a bit more sophisticated in how it placed advertising. I can’t say a better algorithm exists, but I don’t want to give money to causes and organizations that I find objectionable. I’m not sure that Google can make this sort of guarantee. I think I will consider the issue for another month or so, but right now I am leaning towards dropping out of the program.

Do you have opinions on the topic? Send them my way.

Finally, here is a quick disclaimer: not only do friends and family work at Google, friends of mine work at Google’s competitors. And I also use many Google products myself, both in my personal and professional life. My disagreements with the Google AdSense program will probably not dissuade me from using their other fine services.

 Posted by at 8:13 pm
Oct 192004

On Sunday afternoon, I was on the subway heading towards Penn Station. At 14th Street (Union Square), a tall man in tight bright red short-shorts and a white t-shirt entered the car. He proceeded to stride towards the middle and opened up a newspaper in the largest possible manner. I thought this was very odd until I noticed that the back of his short-shorts had “Expose Bush!” printed in large block letters and his newspaper had a false front cover of “Kerry Wins!” Then I noticed that two people with video cameras had gotten on the car at the same time with another man with a large boombox. So I still thought it was odd, but at least I understood their motivation.

I looked around the rest of the car to see if other people had noticed the oddly dressed man, and then I realized that this was an organized protest. Four men and women dressed in tiny bright red short-shorts and white t-shirts had gotten on the car at once–one through each door. They all had the same newspaper and had all walked into the middle of the car and opened up their newspaper.

When I walked out of the subway at 34th Street (Herald Square), I was able to see that there were participants in several subway cars. It was an interesting event, and it is part of what makes it fun to live in New York City.

Later, thanks to the mighty power of Google, I was able to find out that the event was organized by Axis of Eve and Art Hijack. It was described as John Kerry Terpsichorean Ensemble: A Flash Dance Action Eve-nt.

Axis of Eve and Art Hijack protest

 Posted by at 1:42 pm
Oct 152004

This site now validates as XHTML 1.1. It is almost identical to the strict form of XHTML 1.0. As a general user, should you care? Probably not. As a techie, should you care? It remains to be seen. The default page for this site is served as text/html. You can see view this page as application/xhtml+xml if you are using a browser that supports application/xhtml+xml. I do not believe Internet Explorer has this support.

I’ve switched from using Mozilla as my primary mail reader and web browser to a combination of Thunderbird and Firefox. All three programs are from the same organization. Thunderbird and Firefox are their new standalone mail reader and standalone web browser. Both are not completely finished products, but they are fairly stable. Firefox is going to have it’s first general release shortly. It was worth switching to Firefox for its web developer toolbar alone. This tool is going to be very helpful for me at work. Thunderbird is worth using as a mail reader because it has a well-designed and implemented interface. The icons they designed are fantastic.

Finally, I will probably be moving this site from Verio to Dreamhost. Dreamhost had a deal last week for a year of hosting for $10. At Dreamhost’s regular rates, I still pay less per month than what I pay for Verio. And Verio’s pricing has not changed in ten years! If I were to create a new account at Verio, I would be paying four times more than my new account at Dreamhost! I don’t see any big differences in functionality between the two companies. If anything, I think Dreamhost may be a bit more responsive to small customers.

 Posted by at 8:35 pm
Oct 152004

Superfine had their third birthday yesterday. I was going to go early in the evening, but because of server problems, I didn’t even leave work until 11:30 pm. It was a pretty fun evening. The Hungry Marching Band performed. They were a lot of fun.

One of the partners sang a few song a capella and made a few speeches; another owner was a DJ later in the evening. I don’t know the third owner; I believe she is the chef. [Names of the owners to follow later.]

Superfine ownerSuperfine owner

The bar at Superfine

Pretty bar.

Disco ball

Disco ball.

 Posted by at 8:25 pm
Oct 152004

Sunday morning in DUMBO

There was a storybook quality to the landscape of Manhattan last Sunday. The sky was a rich blue color with vivid fluffy clouds. I was going to a restaurant that I talk about far too much, and the stark reality of DUMBO contrasted sharply with the opposite shore.

Bloody Mary

I wasn’t going to have a drink with breakfast, but the bartender really wanted to make one. It’s a bit funny really; Bloody Marys are a lot of work for the bartenders to make at Superfine. They don’t use a mix there, and every drink is from scratch! Regardless, it was a pretty drink for a pretty day.

 Posted by at 8:20 pm
Oct 092004

On Thursday night, I went to ‘inoteca with Sarah and Jeremy. It was quite good. It’s a small restaurant with wines, small plates, and sandwiches. We had to wait around an hour to get a table, but I think it was worth it. There were 25 wines by the glass and a very nice wine list. Jeremy and I shared the assorted meat plate; it had a selection of five or six different cured meats. We all shared a heirloom tomato salad with buffalo mozzarella, fried risotto balls, and a couple of sandwiches. Sarah and Jeremy split a nutella panini for dessert; I had some roasted fruits.

They serve food until 3 am; the waiter and the host said they will be opening for breakfast soon. When their full schedule is in effect, they will be open 19 hours per day!

 Posted by at 3:47 pm
Oct 092004

I now have high speed internet access from Time Warner Cable in my house. I purchased my own cable modem/wireless gateway/switch/firewall from J&R; a couple of weeks ago. I was a bit concerned that TWC wouldn’t add my cable modem to their systems. However, less than two hours after the installation guy came by, my setup started to work perfectly. It’s interesting that they insisted on sending a technician. The technician was in and out in under 15 minutes; all he did was a line check and activation.

The Linksys device I bought was the Wireless-G Cable Gateway. By law, you should be able to use this device with any cable provider that provides internet access. However, cable companies really don’t want you to use your own equipment. When I was ordering the service, I was asked many, many times if I was sure I wanted to use my own cable modem. On the bright side, when my access goes down for some reason, I can go into my box and see exactly what is causing the problem.

 Posted by at 1:03 pm
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