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5th-Apr-2014 03:39 pm - new blog
I have a new blog. Won't you join me at The Right to Write?

I'm loyal to LiveJournal, and I expect to continue to maintain my posts here, but this site isn't working for me anymore. I have a problem with comment management. I'll be happy to go into detail if you ask. I think WordPress is better, and I started writing there last year. Even before that I had been writing at Posterous, but Twitter bought them and closed them down soon after. Those posts are archived at purl.org/net/tbc/posterous all the way back to my first post November 15, 2009. I don't plan to update my PURL (http://purl.org/net/tbc/blog) because I'm not ready to migrate the individual posts, e.g. "Why my username is either tbc or tbchambers or tbc0" (http://purl.org/net/tbc/blog/28607.html).

Edited to account for the fact that my PURL will continue to point here for quite some time.
It's been bothering me that twistory.net doesn't show my whole Twitter stream. backupmytweets.com is an excellent free service, but they don't generate iCalendar format. So I tweeted to both, challenging them to solve my problem. No joy. Then today I woke up at 3am with an idea. I don't need a mashup. All I had to do was use my XML backup to generate the iCalendar data! It was fun and only took me a few hours in Perl: bumtXML2ics.pl. I love the line in All About Steve about cruciverbalists creating crossword puzzles that have three attributes: they're solvable, they're entertaining, and they sparkle. My Perl script was like that for me.

I hadn't bothered to upload my backups to my Website, but getting Google calendar to work motivated me, because it requires a URL to subscribe to. I guess I could import directly, but I like the way Twistory does it. So now my stream is available in the following formats: HTML, XML, JSON, and iCalendar. The link to my stream in a format that Google calendar can subscribe to looks like this: www.google.com/calendar/render?cid=http://home.pcisys.net/%7Etbc/09/twitter.tbc0.ics. Thanks for the idea, Twistory!

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David Baldaro wrote, "My 'Recent Nomination to Presidential Who's Who' leaves me feeling like a VIP!." I tried to comment. His PHP didn't give me any feedback, so I don't know if I was moderated or what. I tried twice. (Sorry for the dupe, David.) My comment didn't appear, so I'm going to blog about it myself. Let's see which one Google likes better. :)

I'm a VIP, too -- I was addressed by first and last name. The email is only three days old. (I've been busy and didn't read it until today.) From markanthony.mcguiness at gmail.com. Scam sites: rm.resultsmail.com and 2009presidentialwhoswho.net. I know the exact source: zoominfo.com. I gave that site my email on 2007-10-28, traced using the technique I used (sub-addressing) before I started using Sxipper. Tip to readers: use Firefox to browse the Web, and use Sxipper to generate disposable email addresses that can be traced.

5th-Aug-2009 06:07 pm - A book list

A friend introduced me to this list of books. For fun (practicing my ad hoc data munging skills to put it in a table), I filled out the information. Movies don't count. This is about reading books. I think it'll be a good conversation starter.

Read it?
(Yes or blank)
CommentsList RankingTitleAuthor
yesreading now1Pride and PrejudiceJane Austen
yesas a youth2The Lord of the RingsJRR Tolkien
  3Jane EyreCharlotte Bronte
yesonly the early ones4Harry Potter seriesJK Rowling
yesas an adult5To Kill a MockingbirdHarper Lee
yesmany times as an adult6The Biblevarious
  7Wuthering HeightsEmily Bronte
yesas a student8Nineteen Eighty FourGeorge Orwell
 on my blacklist9His Dark MaterialsPhilip Pullman
  10Great ExpectationsCharles Dickens
  11Little WomenLouisa M Alcott
  12Tess of the D'UrbervillesThomas Hardy
  13Catch 22Joseph Heller
yesonly some as a student14Complete WorksShakespeare
  15RebeccaDaphne Du Maurier
yesas a youth16The HobbitJRR Tolkien
  17BirdsongSebastian Faulk
yesas a young adult18Catcher in the RyeJD Salinger
  19The Time Traveler's WifeAudrey Niffenegger
  20MiddlemarchGeorge Eliot
  21Gone With The WindMargaret Mitchell
yesas a young adult22The Great GatsbyF Scott Fitzgerald
  23Bleak HouseCharles Dickens
yesstarted but didn't finish, planning on it24War and PeaceLeo Tolstoy
yesin college25The Hitch Hiker's Guide to the GalaxyDouglas Adams
  26Brideshead RevisitedEvelyn Waugh
yesgrade 1227Crime and PunishmentFyodor Dostoyevsky
yesyes, I think, as a student28Grapes of WrathJohn Steinbeck
yesas a young adult29Alice in WonderlandLewis Carroll
yesyes, I think, as a student30The Wind in the WillowsKenneth Grahame
  31Anna KareninaLeo Tolstoy
yesas an adult32David CopperfieldCharles Dickens
yesonly the early ones33Chronicles of NarniaCS Lewis
yesloved the movie34EmmaJane Austen
  35PersuasionJane Austen
yesas a youth36The Lion, The Witch and The WardrobeCS Lewis
yesyes, but why the hype37The Kite RunnerKhaled Hosseini
  38Captain Corelli's MandolinLouis De Bernieres
  39Memoirs of a GeishaArthur Golden
  40Winnie the PoohAA Milne
yesas a student41Animal FarmGeorge Orwell
yeson my blacklist42The Da Vinci CodeDan Brown
  43One Hundred Years of SolitudeGabriel Garcia Marquez
  44A Prayer for Owen MeaneyJohn Irving
  45The Woman in WhiteWilkie Collins
  46Anne of Green GablesLM Montgomery
  47Far From The Madding CrowdThomas Hardy
yeson my blacklist48The Handmaid's TaleMargaret Atwood
yesas a student49Lord of the FliesWilliam Golding
  50AtonementIan McEwan
yesenjoyed it as an adult last year51Life of PiYann Martel
yesas a youth52DuneFrank Herbert
  53Cold Comfort FarmStella Gibbons
  54Sense and SensibilityJane Austen
  55A Suitable BoyVikram Seth
  56The Shadow of the WindCarlos Ruiz Zafon
  57A Tale Of Two CitiesCharles Dickens
yesas a student58Brave New WorldAldous Huxley
  59The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-TimeMark Haddon
  60Love In The Time Of CholeraGabriel Garcia Marquez
  61Of Mice and MenJohn Steinbeck
  62LolitaVladimir Nabokov
  63The Secret HistoryDonna Tartt
  64The Lovely BonesAlice Sebold
  65Count of Monte CristoAlexandre Dumas
  66On The RoadJack Kerouac
  67Jude the ObscureThomas Hardy
  68Bridget Jones's DiaryHelen Fielding
  69Midnight's ChildrenSalman Rushdie
yesas a young adult70Moby DickHerman Melville
yesas an adult71Oliver TwistCharles Dickens
  72DraculaBram Stoker
  73The Secret GardenFrances Hodgson Burnett
  74Notes From A Small IslandBill Bryson
yeson my list, need a block of time to concentrate75UlyssesJames Joyce
yeslast year76The InfernoDante
  77Swallows and AmazonsArthur Ransome
  78GerminalEmile Zola
  79Vanity FairWilliam Makepeace Thackeray
  80PossessionAS Byatt
  81A Christmas CarolCharles Dickens
  82Cloud AtlasDavid Mitchell
  83The Color PurpleAlice Walker
  84The Remains of the DayKazuo Ishiguro
  85Madame BovaryGustave Flaubert
  86A Fine BalanceRohinton Mistry
yeswas read to me as a student87Charlotte's WebEB White
  88The Five People You Meet In HeavenMitch Albom
yesas a young adult, will read again89Adventures of Sherlock HolmesSir Arthur Conan Doyle
  90The Faraway Tree CollectionEnid Blyton
  91Heart of DarknessJoseph Conrad
  92The Little PrinceAntoine De SaintExupery
  93The Wasp FactoryIain Banks
yesa couple years ago94Watership DownRichard Adams
  95A Confederacy of DuncesJohn Kennedy Toole
  96A Town Like AliceNevil Shute
  97The Three MusketeersAlexandre Dumas
yesas a student98HamletWilliam Shakespeare
yeswas read to me as a student99Charlie and the Chocolate FactoryRoald Dahl
  100Les MiserablesVictor Hugo
26th-May-2009 01:18 am - Hey, Zumbox, now what?
The Zumbox blog has an entry called "I've Got My Zumbox. Now What?," but comments are closed. I just got set up tonight. I am asking the same question: now what?

I heard about Zumbox from Triple Pundit. The idea is simple: register your postal address at zumbox.com, and you can receive mail targeted at that address. The mail is, of course, electronic. They've done the work to validate 150 million U.S. addresses already. You may have mail waiting for you. It's ideal for organizations (both for-profit and non-profit) to send you mail that they would normally pay to prepare, print, and have delivered by your postal carrier.

Individuals can send 50 pieces per month for free. I tried sending a postcard to demo addresses listed at the Zumbox site, but they're not valid.

One obvious question regarding person-to-person mail is, why not send email instead? I can give you one reason. Let's say I want to contact all my neighbors. I don't know all their email addresses. With Zumbox, I can do it electronically. There's a certain attraction to the semi-privacy of sending email to a postal address instead of an email address. I don't know their email address, and they don't know mine. But using Zumbox we can still communicate electronically.

So here are my first impressions:
  1. I need a way to query whether an address has been claimed. At other social media sites, I'm asked to upload my address book to see which email addresses are active at the social media site. Zumbox should do the same. Then automatically add those addresses into my Zumbox contacts list so I can easily send them Zumbox mail.
  2. Looking the other way, Zumbox should list the organizations who are set up to send mail to me. It's self-evident if the organizations I care about are using Zumbox. I would be getting mail from them. But maybe I want to support organizations who have gone paperless. For example, if L.L. Bean was set up, but Eddie Bauer wasn't, then maybe I want to do business with the former and not the latter.
  3. Building off the previous idea, Zumbox should also have an easy way for me to petition the organizations I care about to start using Zumbox. I should be able to search for organizations, and check a "me, too" box if someone has already petitioned them. This will be powerful ammunition for Zumbox's marketing efforts if they can show organizations that their constituencies are asking for them.
  4. Here's another variation of this idea of using demand from constituencies to drive businesses to use Zumbox: give me an email address where I can forward all of my opt-in commercial email to Zumbox. Then Zumbox can tally the pieces they're getting and market Zumbox to those commercial email producers. This could be powerful bait -- do you want to manage a list of email addresses, or do you want to reach your customers literally where they live? Having a postal mailing list guarantees no bounces, and it allows detailed analysis based on ZIP codes. Thus Zumbox could become a powerful competitor against other opt-in commerical email services. I would encourage organizations with whom I already have relationships (Amazon, eBay, etc.) to use Zumbox to reach me. I am more likely to read ads, etc. in my Zumbox account than I am in my regular mail account. I want my email inbox back! I know email is essentially free and Zumbox charges $0.05 per piece. But don't you think both sides would be willing to deal?
  5. Zumbox needs to be thinking in both directions. They're obviously set up for electronic correspondence. But it's advantageous to connect to the paper world during the transition to paperless. They should create some attractive postcard designs. Greeting cards, too. I would pay to have these pieces printed and delivered to my friends and family. They get snail mail from me, and Zumbox gets viral marketing paid for by me! How about linking up with electronic greeting card companies?
Finally, I'll point out that if this idea fragments, chaos could destroy it. I'm not going to deal with multiple providers. The U.S. Postal Office should have thought of this first. or FedEx. Or UPS. But Zumbox is in the game. I wish them the best of luck.
I'm not even done listening to the Philosophy Bites podcast featuring Allen Buchanan, who discusses biological enhancement with Nigel Warburton. I had to make a few comments immediately. This is one of the most fascinating conversations Dr. Warburton has hosted! Very fresh and thought-provoking subject! Humans have been enhancing themselves for millenia. Literacy is an enhancement. Caffeine is an enhancement. Now biology is revealing new vistas of human enhancement. What are the ethical implications?

Two other personal observations: First, I was surprised to learn that prosthetic legs give runners such an advantage that they are now disqualified from competing. I plan to look into that more. Second, this is one of my favorite podcast episodes for no other reason than because Dr. Buchanan uses the word "err" and pronounces it correctly. :)
On this tenth anniversary of the Columbine tragedy, I saw Time's story mentioned at Twitter about Americans' refusal to give up their guns. "Whatever momentum the Columbine killings gave to gun control has long since petered out." See "Ten Years After Columbine, It's Easier to Bear Arms." My first reaction was, "And this is a bad thing why?" I will always remember driving past New Life Church in Colorado Springs only hours after the tragedy was ended by a trained, armed parishioner who stopped a gunman with her concealed handgun and saved lives. The cowardly gunman was only wounded. Instead of fighting back, he committed suicide. Read Jeanne Assam's story. Why didn't Time talk about that example? We all know why. There's only one side to the debate in the mainstream media: they think the only way to reduce violence is to disarm society. I'm coming to the opposite conclusion: I'm seriously considering honoring the Columbine victims by taking firearms training, purchasing a handgun, and applying for a concealed carry permit. We all have a civic duty to protect the weak from the strong.

I'm willing to keep an open mind, but it seems to me that an armed society is a polite society. If there were more stories of trained citizens stopping homicidal gunmen, there would be a certain level of deterrence. Gunmen not deterred risk experiencing suicide by a concealed weapon wielded by a trained citizen. I would feel differently if there were news reports of trained, law-abiding citizens causing loss of life. But what we have now are murderers preying on the unarmed. We can reduce the likelihood of future Columbine tragedies by doing our civic duty and producing more New Life Church stories.

Since blogging about becoming a Twitterer I have learned a little more. I gave up social media for Lent. (That was a very liberating and inspiring experience. I dedicated the time I had been spending socializing online toward communion with God.) Now in Easter season, I'm rethinking how I use social media. I am trying to focus the stream I'm following to a level that I can actually keep up with. I got the idea from Yammer. Not sure how long it will last, but for now both my @alum.mit.edu and @hp.com streams are quiet enough that I can read every update from everyone. To accomplish that feat with Twitter meant unfollowing several people. I expect to be more bold about following new people and unfollowing others. I haven't found the balance yet, but the initial results have been a great relief of stress. I am already using Twitter search more so I can explore what strangers have to say about things I care about. And I feel closer to the people I still follow. I actually engage in conversation, which is what Twitter is all about.
31st-Mar-2009 01:00 am - How to Plant Your Garden
My dad sent me a copy of a poem illuminated with some attractive graphics, so I decided to share it with my readers. It goes like this:

How to Plant Your Garden

First, you come to the garden alone,
While the dew is still on the roses

For the garden of your daily living,
Plant three rows of peas:

   1. Peace of mind
   2. Peace of heart
   3. Peace of soul

Plant four rows of squash:

   1. Squash gossip
   2. Squash indifference
   3. Squash grumbling
   4. Squash selfishness

Plant four rows of lettuce:

   1. Let us be faithful
   2. Let us be kind
   3. Let us be patient
   4. Let us love one another

No garden is without turnips:

   1. Turn up for meetings
   2. Turn up for service
   3. Turn up to help one another

To conclude our garden we must have thyme:

   1. Time for each other
   2. Time for family
   3. Time for friends

Water freely with patience and cultivate with love.
There is much fruit in your garden because you reap what you sow.

-- Author Unknown

I have several reasons for posting this poem on my blog even though you can find it at several other places on the Web. First, I like the graphics so much that I made my own illuminated copy of the poem at http://purl.org/net/tbc/garden/. Have a look. It's simply but attractively formatted so that you can easily copy & paste it into email. Second, I want to see how my copy spreads compared with others. Is an initial link from a blog to a PURL enough for Google to give my copy good placement? Third, since it seems that there's no stopping people from forwarding chain email, I'd like to model how to do it. Note how my illuminated copy is formatted, and note how I cite my sources. If you know the author of the poem or the designer of the graphics, please let me know. Finally, note how I add myself to the chain: "HTML formatting by Tim Chambers 1E4AF729D5CEFFD0." It frustrates me when I get chain email without sources. And note how I couple this blog entry to the copy that's suitable for forwarding. I'm sure it's a lost cause, but if I can convince just one person to improve Internet communications then it was worth the time I spent writing this blog entry.

And in case you're wondering about "1E4AF729D5CEFFD0" -- it's my GPG fingerprint. It's my totally unique identifier. Who else but me would bother including that particular hexadecimal number on Web pages? So far I've been able to use it to ensure that Google returns content unique to me with 100% accuracy.
 Today I had occasion to explain the origin of my username, so I decided to blog the answer so I can point others to it in the future.

I've been tbc on the Internet since 1981. Those are my initials. My computer account at university was automatically assigned tbc as the login ID. I've never been convinced of any reason to deviate from this convention. In 1994 AOL started infesting the Internet with hundreds of thousands of induhviduals and other naïve folk who didn't know what they were getting into. Services started springing up, and rules proliferated. I often had to use tbchambers because tbc was too short. Occasionally, tbc was already taken. I'm a computer scientist by training. We always start counting from zero. So I started using tbc0.
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