Pet Peeve: Web Pages with "Free" Signups

I don't read the New York Times online. This is inconvenient, but I do it as a matter of principle.

There is, in my humble opinion, absolutely no reason to sign up a "free" account for such services. What's the point if it's free? What benefit do you, the reader, gain from having this superfluous hoop to jump through?

You might say, "Well, this allows them to customize the default page to my interests". News Flash: That's a nice feature, but why does this require that they block me from reading articles?

You might say, "Well, what's the harm in setting up the free account?"
This just in: Giving out your personal information unnecessarily is bad. That and I don't particularly like the oblique attempts at making me a part of their mailing list/random offers.

You might say, "Just make up someone and get a bogus free account!"

What we are suggesting here is that in order to circumvent a silly and superfluous concept, readers should fill in the free account with gobbledygook. This is an activity that generally doesn't require much time and effort.

This does not change the fact that the existence of this arbitrary barrier is unnecessary. This does not change the fact that it only serves as a tool by which they take your personal information, your browsing habits, and your email and use them for personal gain. All this does is allow me, one person, to circumvent the system and confuse their numbers.

Will I? No way.

I'm too deeply offended by their assumption that I, like the gibbering masses of uninformed internet browsers, am so ingratiated to them for publicizing their articles on the internet that I will gladly join their Big Brother Club and subject myself to their scrutiny. It's a needless hassle, a pointless hurdle, an inconvenient shenanigan and I won't even validate with a bogus account.

There is absolutely no benefit conferred to me by playing their games. I don't gain anything from having a free account between me and their articles. It's ridiculous and I will have none of it.

So you say, "Hey, it costs money to make that paper, they need to make cash somehow!"
Bulletin: The Washington Post and the Boston Globe don't cost money to view online, and they also don't require free accounts to do so. The whole account this is a voluntary perk, a benefit to those that truly want it.

If money was really a problem, they'd charge people to view it. As it stands they more than make up their operating costs on ads, and by suckering people into "free" accounts.

I treat all such institutions the same way. Any site that requires me to sign up to download something, to view something, or basically to do whatever it is I wanted to do with no noticeable benefit, I just turn the other way and go home.

I miss out on some nice things this way, but I think it's worth it.


My Tank is Fight

Or was it "My Economy is Tank"?

Today the house rejected the $700bn bailout plan. The majority of Democrats voted for, and the majority of Republicans voted against. More Republicans voted against than Democrats voted for.

I'm not an economic expert, but I personally think this is a good thing. I wouldn't have been terribly upset if it had passed, but the bill moved far too quickly through the system to have been properly vetted. As a corollary to Obama's excellent point from the debate, "$700bn is really freaking important."

In any case, the aftermath of this is going to be huge both economically and politically. Economically you might have noticed the 500 point dive on the Dow. Personally, I think investors are far too jittery; instant communication is not doing the economy any favors today. Politically, just wow.

Both Obama and McCain stand to be hurt by this. Obama may not have been quite as gung ho as McCain, but the general impression he has been giving is that of support for the bill. That won't help his image in the eyes of many people I know who opposed the bill. Similarly, the surprising lack of Democratic support (a full 40% of Democrats voted against) could count against him among those who supported the bill. The McCain camp has already made accusations to that effect.

However, McCain stands to lose a lot more than Obama. He made a huge show last week of returning to Washington to fix this, and has been worked hard all weekend to establish his role as a key figure in making this happen. That it didn't happen, and the way in which it didn't happen, destroys and corrupts this narrative.

That 65% of Republicans, his party he was supposed to bring in line, voted against the bill undermines his credibility as a leader in his own party. As much as he might complain about Obama's inability to do better with the Democrats, the total failure of the Republicans to support their candidate's crusade for a resolution is going to sting McCain and hard.

You might speculate that Pelosi intentionally gave a partisan speech hoping for just such a result, and malicious intent or no she deserves a serious "WTF" for thinking that was a good idea. Still, it was Republicans who stabbed McCain in the back. It's going to be more than difficult to blame the Democrats for failing to support a bill they outvoted Republicans on by a 2-1 ratio.

McCain is now in a very perilous position. He gambled, and lost, on this bill. When and if it passes, even if it were later today, the narrative of McCain as the leader and diplomat is shattered. He may even be seen as at fault for the failure by bringing in the disruptive influence of presidential politics into the mix. Whatever the consequences of his crapshoot, the economy will continue to be the #1 topic for the rest of the week at least as Washington scrambles to revamp the bill for a second go. Biden and Palin will face off Thursday which, barring a miracle or some extreme spin, will likely be less a debate and more of a massacre.

The most amazing thing about this is that McCain's campaign will continue, and with gusto. It always strikes me how little such enormous failures affect people's choices and considerations. Obama wouldn't be where he is now if this wasn't so. McCain's campaign will easily weather this fiasco and be strong as ever come the second debate, if the economy holds out that long.


Bad Literature


The premise of this contest has always amused me. I may have to enter it next time. Here's a potential contest entry.

Horribly beweaponed warship in hand, James Flannigan warped into space forgetting that one should be wearing a space suit and/or be resting comfortably inside the simulated atmosphere of one's spacecraft.




I've had an idea on the backburner for some time. Specifically, I've been thinking about making a blog that actually had a purpose beyond providing a selfish creative outlet. The idea has been gestating for some time, and it's finally looking to go somewhere.

The concept is to make a blog about World of Warcraft, specifically targetted at the subsection of World of Warcraft players who, like me, are generalists. You know how I play every last character in Super Smash Bros? Same thing, only a different game. There isn't a blog that I've found on the subject, or at least one that's remotely popular (bad sign perhaps, but whatever).

The problem I've come across is finding a name. Website names need to be short, interesting, and easy to roll off the brain/tongue. They also should reflect your website's theme. For instance, a title like "NoBlogForOldMen", while amusing and simple, wouldn't be good for a blog about candy.

I've come up with a few titles based on the term "alt" (short for alternative) which refers to secondary characters one plays in addition to their favorite. The point of this post isn't to decide between them, but to solicit more names as the following are inadequate. Suggestions don't have to include the word alt so long as they have a sufficiently witty reference to similar concepts (such as MPD, or any concept involving one person doing/being/seeming like many things).

So, the names.

Maximum Altitude - This one was and is my favorite. It's easily shortened to MaxAlt, has some clever wordplay and implies both an extreme and excellence. Despite that, it fails on a few counts. First, pronouncing altitude with the alt from alternative is potentially awkward. Second, there are already a number of websites and blogs by that name pertaining to climbing and similar pursuits.

Altitude Problem - This too has clever wordplay and implies an extreme (though a different one). It lacks the potential implication of excellent, the easy shorthand, while still maintaining the awkward pronounciation. However, there wouldn't be a million sites by the same name.

Altaholics Anonymous - Perhaps the cleverest wordplay yet. However, it implies an attempt to recover rather than to inform. Shortening it to AA would obviously conflict with another organization.

Alternative Reality - It's nifty, plays on virtual worlds, contains the expanded version of "alt" and implies a comprehensive nature. My issue here is it doesn't seem catchy. It's lofty, high in the air, and abstract.

Alter Boy - This is catchy, but I'm pretty sure it implies Catholic over Presbyterian. It also implies I'm a lot younger then I am. (Use of Alter over Altar intentional, though either could work).

Alt Addict - Very straightforward, abbreviable, and descriptive, I just wish it had more pizazz.

Obviously no name will be perfect, but I'm sure I can find something better. Again, I'm soliciting you for names. I'll keep tryig to come up with my own, but any help will be appreciated.


Disposable Email


Personally, this is the best idea ever.

Oh, and Spore comes out in a few days.


Factual Basis

I won't bother linking the video, but I was highly amusing by an exchange between CNN's Campbell Brown and the McCain campaign's own Tucker Bounds. The exchange is reported to be the cause of McCain canceling his Larry King Live appearance.

The "interview" was interesting in that Brown asked an obvious and basic question: Given that the McCain campaign has made foreign policy experience a major issue, what experience does Sarah Palin have that qualifies her in this regard? It's a question you'd assume any decent campaign spokesperson would have an answer for.

Instead, Bounds fumbled the answer in an amazing display of political shystering. The best moment was when Brown pointed out it was the Pentagon, not the state governor, who had the authority to send the National Guard overseas. Bounds responded saying "On a factual basis they certainly do."

I like that, "on a factual basis". The implications of that statement are many and delicious.

Implication 1: There's a functional nonfactual basis the McCain campaign works from.
Implication 2: Factual bases are simply one of many at one's disposal, perhaps not even a major one.
Implication 3: Sarah Palin has no foreign policy experience worth speaking of, and hasn't made any notable executive decisions, but that's not going to stop us from making some up.

I'm riding hard on this not because I think this is at all indicative of the McCain campaign as a whole (though someone else might think that way). It's just that you'd think a campaign spokesman sent to talk with the largest news network in the nation would be better prepared to answer the single most obvious question they could be asked. This was Bounds' chance to lay a solid thwacking on Obama while building up Palin, which he blew quite solidly.