As Far As I Can Tell

Red Eyed Thanksgiving

In a handful of minutes I’ll be on my way to Chicago to pick up my brother from the airport. I just checked his flight schedule and it’s delayed, meaning he won’t touch down until 1:30a.m. tomorrow morning. It’s going to be a long and tired drive to Sturgis afterwards. On the upside, I get to hang out in Chicago for the evening. On the downside it just started snowing like crazy.

I was looking at my server logs and noticed that lots of people (167 this month) are finding my site though an incorrect spelling of the current holiday: “thanksgiven”. I made a post with that title two years ago and meant it to be a way to say “after Thanksgiving.” The weird thing I just noticed from Googling is that Miguel made a post with that name last year. How odd that now both of our weblogs show up on the first Google results page for a misspelling.

Anyway, enough rambling. Enjoy your family and friends. Eat till you puke.



gah! why do i still not have your phone number?! gah! email me if for some reason you get this.

Posted by: jim on November 24, 2004 8:36 PM


Posted by: jim on November 24, 2004 8:41 PM

Happy turkey day Simon. Eat a piece of pumpkin pie for me, please. In Japanese, turkey translates literally to seven faced bird. —jake

Posted by: jake on November 25, 2004 5:30 AM

Hey Simon! Did you listen to ‘this american life’ today? In the second ‘act’, ‘postcards from the dead,’ they mention a man named Simon King who had an image of his face put on his grave stone. You should listen to it- it’s a good episode.

Posted by: vanessa on November 26, 2004 9:04 PM

I actually did eat until I puked. It was just like the Romans! I also ate more after puking, I know, its totally gross.

Posted by: ivo on November 30, 2004 12:00 PM

dear simon’s words: i miss you. love, jim

Posted by: jim on January 3, 2005 1:34 PM

New Camera

I don’t take a ton of photos but I want to start doing it more, and more consciously. I recently bought a new camera, my third digital model. My first was the Nikon Coolpix 900, which I really liked but the technology quickly outgrew it. That was back before they measured cameras in mega-pixels and just listed the resolution. My next purchase was the Canon S200, sometimes called the Digital Elph. The attraction was entirely size; I can slip it in my pant’s pocket and have it with me anywhere. Lately I’ve been disappointed by it’s features and quality though, which brings me to my latest buy, the 8 mega-pixel Olympus C-8080 Wide Zoom.

Some of you probably thought I was leading up to a digital SLR. After all the DSLR is the professional choice, and with its larger sensor size it takes crisper pictures in a range of ISO settings that can’t be beat. I was considering it for a while, weighing the options and nearly getting either a Nikon D70 or the Canon Digital Rebel.

The reason I went with the Olympus is because it has all the manual controls, but still feels like a digital camera. I want live preview, I want a constantly updated histogram, and although more serious photographers always deride it I want to take crappy little video clips. The C-8080 has the best of all worlds for the way I use digital cameras. I’m blown away by all the options on this thing, and I haven’t played with half of them yet.

So maybe I’ll start posting more photos to this weblog, or start a photo-blog. Who knows.

Bruno's Pizza Outdoor Sign



your color scheme is so patriotic.

Posted by: meredith on November 23, 2004 10:20 PM

When I picked this color scheme at the beginning of the month I was hoping to be happy about that.

Posted by: Simon on November 23, 2004 10:21 PM

if you ever feel like unloading one of the old ones, you now know who to call. (mainly because i love what mike doughty does with his blog: )

Posted by: jim on November 24, 2004 12:57 AM

I miss Brunos. I might be the only one in the world that truly likes Brunos. Will you bring me Brunos when you come to Chicago?

Posted by: ivo on November 30, 2004 12:02 PM

The new girl next door is phat!

MemoryLifter is a free program to help you reduce your learning time on all sorts of topics like learning a foreign language, studying geography, flags of the world, or my favorite: “college slang”.

phat (adj.)



I seriously need this to understand what my fellow co-eds are saying. Why can’t they say the full word for anything?

Posted by: meredith on November 18, 2004 7:41 PM

meredith called them “co-eds.” you two are the funny.

Posted by: jim on November 18, 2004 11:01 PM

The politics of fear drives RFID acceptance

There’s another interesting story about RFID in the NYTimes: Texas, 28,000 students test an electronic eye. It’s a straight forward example of people willingly trading privacy for a tiny bit of security, fueled by the politics of fear. In short, a community in Texas has adopted an RFID based system to track their children as they go to and from school. The rationale is to prevent kidnapping and ease parental fears, though the district admits to having no cases of kidnapping in their past.

The complete lack of objection from parents or teachers is disturbing. It seems that increasingly people are willing to accept Big Brother technology as long as their not the prole begin monitored. Those in power get to feel “in control”, and the students being tracked are too young, powerless, or uninformed to do anything about it. The thing that kills me is how useless this is. The kids are already getting to school safely, so why implement this costly and invasive system?

“I’m sure we’re being overprotective, but you hear about all this violence,” said Elisa Temple-Harvey, 34, the parent of a fourth grader. “I’m not saying this will curtail it, or stop it, but at least I know she made it to campus.”

Paranoia is making people abandon common sense.

…they do see broader possibilities, such as implanting RFID tags under the skin of children to avoid problems with lost or forgotten tags. More immediately, they said, they could see using the technology to track whether students attend individual classes.

They want to embed radio transmitters under children’s skin so they don’t have to call their names for attendance at the beginning of class. Pure techno-lust mixed with fear and irresponsibility.

Update: There’s a great comic strip satirizing this topic over at OK/Cancel.



In America today, homosexual relations are widely considered unnatural, but: In October, the Food and Drug Administration approved use of an RFID chip that could be implanted under a patient’s skin and would carry a number that linked to the patient’s medical records. Here we go……. On a lighter note: Asked what might cause someone to get lost, he said, “If they’re in second grade they might not know which street is their home.” At least that’s pretty cute.

Posted by: andrea on November 17, 2004 10:16 AM

Interface Deisgn in the News

Today in the New York Times is an article entitled Wanted by the Police: A Good Interface that details the failures of a new in-car computer system in San Jose. It’s a classic case of bad design with little research and no testing with end users. Good interface design is particularly important for such specialized systems and brought to light here because cumbersome interactions could be a life or death matter.

There’s a telling paragraph near the beginning:

At the heart of the dispute is the question of how much the technology itself is to blame, how much is a training problem and how much can be attributed to the predictable pains associated with learning something new.

While any specialized system requires some training it’s inappropriate to blame the users when it so clearly wasn’t researched or tested. It’s a classic situation of blaming everything on “human error”. That may be true, but the humans in question for this case are the designers, not the users.



good good. I’m going to be building a database in a few weeks and am painfully aware of all this. I like this article.

Posted by: andrea on November 11, 2004 3:44 PM

The House of Wigs

Maybe I can relate because we’re both trapped in advertising land, but lately I’ve been really enjoying The House of Wigs. From November 4th:

OK yesterday I’m reminded that to be an American is to be both arrogant and incompetent (you’d think one would cancel out the other! so weird!), and the problem is then I come in to work at an ad agency. And if you’re already thinking “our country is fuckola’d,” the last place you want to walk into is an ad agency. The last thing you want to have to do is sit in a meeting and talk about how to coerce people into buying more processed cheese, because then it’s really hard to dodge the fact that you are The Problem. Yes I’m using second-person to distance myself from the horrible truth — it’s the magic of writing.



RSS for Everyone

I don’t know if you’ve been sucked into the world of RSS and syndicated content yet, but I sure have. Luckily most of the sites I read offer a feed I can subscribe to. Now-a-days I hardly ever visit a website without knowing ahead of time that it’s been updated. Not all websites have jumped on the bandwagon though, most notably Dairyland.

Luckily today I stumbled across Feed Fire, a website where you can make RSS feeds for any website. It has to guess at the structure but does a pretty good job. It works particularly well when pointed towards links pages like Diaryland’s “older entries” archive page.

Now I can enjoy the diary stylings of The Red Army through my favorite newsreader. If you’re interested in any of this at all I recommend FeedDemon as a good RSS client on Windows.



heh heh. updating…. yeah… look for my update on November 17th. If everything goes as planned, I’ll be making the switch to MP3 blogging.

Posted by: e_prime on November 10, 2004 12:28 PM

ooh. me too. I’ve been considering mp3 blogging. e, I didn’t even know you blogged.

Posted by: andrea on November 10, 2004 6:26 PM

Western Herald’s Peter Schinkai attacks Moped Army

In contrast to all the positive press we’ve received lately, the Western Herald’s Peter Schinkai has published an opinion piece today that directly attacks the Moped Army. He calls us a “plague”, refers to mopeds as “fake motorcycles”, and tells us to “join the world of adults” by driving our cars to the bar instead of our mopeds to the Rocket Star. His piece misinforms people about mopeds, directly attacks those who ride them, disrespects the Moped Army, and advocates mindless conformity to societal norms.

The article isn’t on the Herald’s website yet, but you can read a copy I scanned from today’s paper.

Update: I have removed the contact information and call to respond because the Herald has now printed four of our letters. Read them here: 1, 2, 3, 4.



But motorcycles are cool, Simon. Isn’t your choice clear? Keep us posted on the response letters if you see any of them. I’d love to read. Question - do mopeds adhere to bicycle traffic laws or automobile traffic laws? Also, don’t take it personally. Let me play as if I am as narrow minded as Schinkai, and point out the fact that he’s a sports editor. Surely this explains a lot. Like duh.

Posted by: andrea on November 4, 2004 6:50 PM

I’m really surprised that it took some “assclown” so long to crap out an uninformed and sadly researched anti-moped army opinion column for the Western Herald. Has the Herald ever done a pro-MA piece? Either way, it’s a shame that Mr. Shinkai wrote such an awful article and by doing so has opened up a can that should have remained, for his sake, contained. For the Moped Army’s sake, I hope retribution comes with some sense of sanity… and there’s no Revenge of the Nerds sequel to be found within. The response letters that I’ve read so far, are solidly mature and worthy of publication. Good luck, e.

Posted by: e_prime on November 5, 2004 11:33 AM

Sorry to hijack this is a little but: F#CK PETER SCHINKAI. Not because I ride a moped but I do bike and he indirectly puts that down too. Either way, what is his problem? Does he now know that he will be targeted and brought to justice? I sincerely hope so. Loser.

Posted by: Naz on November 5, 2004 1:33 PM

PS. Somebody ought to let him know that looking like a “beatnik” is so out.

Posted by: Naz on November 5, 2004 1:34 PM

It’s totally ridiculous the way he attacks any two wheeled vehicle except “cool motorcycles”. It’s amazing this ever made it to print. The Moped Army crew has been heavily mobilized and roughly 30 letters have to written so far, including plenty from people not in the Moped Army. They don’t publish again until Monday, so we’ll have to wait until then to see how they respond. Andrea: Mopeds adhere to automobile laws. Eric: Yes, The Herald has done a pro Moped Army piece. Naz: The targeting has begun.

Posted by: simon on November 5, 2004 1:50 PM

So, once again I am embarrassed to be a WMU alumni. How could that article get published? I am all for alternate modes of transportation and am a supporter of both mopeds and bicycles, but just to put that aside for a moment, what editor, in their right mind would publish such an awful article. Even if it is merely an op-ed piece, it is still a piece of garbage. Completely unsupported statements, terrible phrasing, it might be reaching high school equivalent writing, at best. Mr. Schinkai should get over his hang ups and get his ass back in class. College kids, where do they find them these days? Also, I agree with Naz and that whole beatnik thing, sick!

Posted by: ivo on November 5, 2004 2:40 PM

I’m a WMU grad but non-MA member that mopeds dowtown Detroit. I’ll drop an email to Shinkai expressing my view of his idiocy. I doubt he’ll respond.

Posted by: tom on November 7, 2004 3:36 PM

An update. I sent the following email to beatnik: Peter, The article you wrote in the Western Herald about the Moped Army casts a pretty wide net and is somewhat slanderous to just about everyone on two wheels. I’m a WMU graduate, non-member of the Moped Army, lawyer, and I both bike and moped downtown Detroit. A few preliminary thoughts: 1) Mopeds consume far less gas than automobiles 2) Mopeds pollute far less than automobiles 3) Mopeds provide a slow, but relaxing way to travel 4) Your article equally applies to bicycles. Bikes don’t produce exhaust pollution at all, and contribute to the health of the rider 5) Mopeds provide a relaxing hobby 6) Mopeds are exceedingly convenient for WMU students, as they can avoid high parking sticker fees and difficulties finding parking spaces 7) Motorists can generally navigate around mopeds 8) Legally speaking, moped riders have just as much right to use roadways as you 9) Mopeds are not “fake” motorcycles, as opposed to “real” motorcycles. Mopeds are “motorized bicycles”. Or a bicycle with a motor, if you prefer. 10) The Moped Army is a club of mopeding enthusiasts, not a group reliving their childhood as your article suggests. I know, because I am acquainted with several MA members and they are adults that share a common interest. There are more reasons, but I think I’ve made my point. And if the point of your article was humor, it is sort of funny, but sophmoric. I personally enjoy mopeding downtown Detroit for the above reasons, among others. I’ve put my moped away for the winter. But during this past summer, rarely a day went by that someone didn’t express interest in my moped, and quite often expressed a desire to themselves buy one. Sincerely, T’su Rii His response: Dear Mr. Rii, On behalf of the Western Herald, I would like to thank you for reading our newspaper. We look forward to your readership in the future. ****************************** Peter Schinkai Sports Editor Western Herald Faunce Student Services Bldg. Kalamazoo, MI 49008 (269) 387-2099 Fax: (269) 387-2267 PRETTY LAME!

Posted by: tom on November 7, 2004 6:15 PM

Yeah, really lame. Thanks for writing though. I haven’t gotten any sort of response, so we’ll see what show up in tomorrow’s newspaper.

Posted by: Simon on November 7, 2004 8:37 PM

The Western Herald has responded. I figured they would print a letter from a WMU student, but at least they chose a decent one with a variety of good points.

Posted by: simon on November 8, 2004 9:20 AM

wow, dont you people have anything better to do than bitch and complain about what a journalism major/sports editor wrote as a filler piece for the WMU paper? it is obvious that the article was not intended to be taken seriously seeing that it was an opinion paper written by a sports writer… and some of the responses that are posted on the MA site are the most egregious statements i’ve ever read in my life. i mean, are you people so concerned about what a college student has to say about mopeds that you would actually consider physical harm against another human being? i’ve read numerous arguments saying that mopeds are great for the enviroment, and then you turn around and talk about burning a persons house down. all that does is make you and your fellow “moped army” members look really foolish and ignorant.

Posted by: andrew s. on November 8, 2004 11:57 PM

1. Nobody who has read that article thinks it was written with comedy in mind. If you do then you aren’t looking at it objectively. It has no trace of humor and comes off as a straight attack piece. 2. Yes, I do take it seriously when somebody attacks the organization I founded in a newspaper. I have every right to respond. 3. The Moped Army forum is public and the comments you’re referring to come from immature kids who frequent it, not from Moped Army members. The responses to the editor written by Moped Army members were intelligent and well considered.

Posted by: Simon on November 9, 2004 1:03 AM

I completely understand your anger at your little group being attacked… But if you are so passionate about these mopeds, you should at least be mature enough to deal with a little critism about it. Also, as far as i can tell, the article was writen in response to the riders around the WMU campus that often dirupt the flow of trafic. It was merely writen to vent his frustrations, much like many of the responses writen on your pages.

Posted by: andrew s. on November 9, 2004 11:13 AM

Criticism is fine. We responded appropriately and through the proper channels as outlined by the newspaper. It’s really a non-issue at this point. A mature response does not mean simply ignoring it or letting unfounded attacks go unchecked. Also, your very statement seems to be missing the point. Campus moped riders don’t disrupt the flow the traffic, the writer is simply intolerant of traffic from alternative vehicles.

Posted by: simon on November 9, 2004 11:43 AM

Newspapers are not a place for a journalist to “vent his frustrations”. A major problem here is it is completely irresponsible journalism, even if it is an opinion piece. Posting in an open web forum, like this one, is a much more appropriate place for venting, or maybe we could even say conversing. “…are you people so concerned about what a college student has to say about mopeds…” Andrew, not just a college student, a future journalist.

Posted by: ivo on November 9, 2004 11:49 AM

Four more tears

Of course by now everyone knows that Bush has won, leaving me terribly disappointed in this country. How can this administration actually gain support while acting so irresponsibly?

There are many others mourning today, both in and outside the United States. Bush has turned the world against us, and up until today we could say “Hey, don’t blame us, our president is out of control.” Now it’s our fault; given the choice we picked him again.

I think it’s telling to look at some of the leaders who are happy with the outcome: Ariel Sharon, Vladimir Putin, and Silvio Berlusconi among them. God help us.





Electoral encouragement via hand-cut paper by Nikki McClure.



Polling Places

This election year there’s lots of talk about provisional ballots, but each state has different rules. For all my fellow Michigan voters the important thing to know is a provisional ballot will only be counted if it’s cast in the correct precinct. So unlike some states, it’s usefulness is rather diminished here.

Hopefully everything will go smoothly with your voting and you won’t have to cast one anyway. Please make sure you go to the correct precinct tomorrow — use the Michigan online precinct finder to get the address and hours of your polling place.



As far as who can tell?

Chicago, IL

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