Comments on blogs

My pet peeve du jour? Commenting systems on blogs that require you to fill out both an email address and a website (rather than one or the other, or even neither), but don’t tell you that both are required until you try to post. First of all, I usually put my blog site on my comments and not my email address, in case the commenting system publishes the email address. Although Yahoo hosts my email and has great spam filtering, I don’t need any extra crap in my inbox. Secondly, what sort of sucky user interface is that? Didn’t the person who designed that ever look at the conventions for indicating required and optional fields?

Blogspotting nonsense

If you use Bell Sympatico for your DSL service and you want to post a comment on BusinessWeek’s new (faux?) blog, beware that it may not work. I read their post “Case study of a marketing blog: Nokia’s 7700” and wanted to post the following comment:

In what way is this a “slick marketing effort”, and how is it not a blog? It appears to be (as stated in the first posting) an unofficial blog about the Nokia 7710 by a bunch of people who own the device and want to share their experiences. One of the contributors is Loic Le Meur, who organized the recently LesBlogs conference in Paris, so I doubt that he’s a shill for Nokia.

Unfortunately, when I tried to do so, I was redirected to the Blackhole List site, telling me that my message was refused because my ISP allows open relay. Huh? What does that have to do with anything? I can understand that this redirection would occur if I were sending email, but I wasn’t, I was posting a comment. It had nothing to do with the email address that I used on the comment, it was detecting my IP address and blocking me on the basis of Bell Sympatico being naughty. DSBL’s online “help” for the problem made me want to scream:

We’re sorry. If you bothered coming to this page, you are probably an innocent mail user who’s mail has bounced back with a message telling you to come to this site. [Not true; I was posting a comment, not sending an email.] We’ll try to explain what’s happened. [Could you be more patronizing?]

You sent mail to a destination address. [Nope.] The person who runs the mail server at that address has chosen to refuse email from dangerously misconfigured, insecure, or abuseable servers based on a list that we publish. [Okay, I disagree with Bell Sympatico‘s marketing strategy, but “dangerously misconfigured”? Seems unlikely.] They most likely did this because blocking mail that originates from servers in our list can significantly reduce the amount of UCE (unsolicited commercial email), or spam, that users of their mail server receive.

Please understand: we’re not implying that you send spam. [Thanks, dude] The message that you received simply means that the administrator of your server either doesn’t know, or has chosen to run an open relay or open proxy.

I’m sure that there’s some logical reason why this occurred, but it still pissed me off. So, not only do I disagree with Blogspotter’s content, I have a big problem with their technology.

[UPDATE] They’ve also blocked my trackback ping from this posting to theirs. And yesterday, posted a justification for why they censor comments (and presumably, trackbacks).

My new addiction

I’ve posted previously about my Blackberry addiction, but since I’ve been working mostly from my home office, I’ve become less reliant on it as an email device over the past few months (except for the Day That My Router Died).

I must have an addictive personality, however, because I always find something new on which to fixate and waste an incredible about of time that would be better spent, say, earning my keep. Currently, it’s blogs (no surprise) and, to a lesser degree, websites. I’ve started posting more frequently here, because it’s a good outlet for me to jot down all the weird things that I come across in a day. Last month, I started a business blog. This week, I started a blog for my wine club. I’ve been posting travel diaries and travel photo galleries in a subdomain of my business site for a few years (another advantage of working for myself: I can use the corporate webspace for pretty much anything that I want). I publish family photo galleries and digital video in another subdomain, and some weird video of an annual turkey ritual in another. I’m the owner of a Yahoo groups site for my condominium. I’m the webmistress of my wine club’s main web site. [Blogger’s spell check wanted to replace “webmistress” with “webmaster” — I’m not even going to start on what I think about that.] I’m the webmistress of the site for a group of us with convertibles who occasionally (okay, once) do road rallies. That makes, let’s see…. six websites, one Yahoo group, and three blogs. When will it end? Is there some 12-step program that I can take?

Important Insurance Documents

I just received an envelope in the mail from my home/auto insurance company, a company that regularly sends me all sorts of flyers, offers to upgrade and other trash. On the outside of the envelope was printed:

Important Insurance Document
Please Open

Just how much junk mail do you have to send to your customers before you have to print notices like this on envelopes to encourage them to actually read what you send to them? If you have to print notices like this, aren’t you getting the message that no one is reading the junk, so you can save yourself the expense of sending it?

(Not) Working at Home

I can totally relate to Ces’ Drink At Work post today: although I don’t write comic strips, I do work at home and I understand the state of avoidance that leads to all sorts of other activities, ranging from dusting to watching reruns of CSI, and the total failure to attend to trivial things such as getting dressed. I’m having the opposite problem about eating, however: today for lunch, I whipped up grilled tilapia and sauteed snow peas in a whole wheat wrap. This is not my usual fare, but I managed to completely blow my schedule this week due to an urgent project deadline, a not-insignificant amount of work avoidance, and a network router that failed and managed to separate me from my beloved internet (also required for the work project) for almost an entire day. It was my plan to have three friends over for dinner tonight, after rashly promising to make them my famous crème brulée during our last outing, but I was forced to cancel so I have a fridge full of yummy stuff that was going to make dinner for four. Now, it’s making lunch and dinner for one, for a few days in a row.

I figure that by tomorrow, I’ll be tired of tilapia and will have to branch out to celeriac soup, braised leeks, and a salad of baby greens and avocado with a fresh lemon and olive oil viniagrette.

Long-Distance Relationships

I have a long-distance relationship: 9.2km, according to Yahoo! maps. That may not seem like a great distance, but it keeps us apart during the week, primarily by our choice. We both work more than half the time from our respective homes so have some amount of flexibility, but neither of us can easily pick up our work and move it to the other’s place just so that we can spend a day working in close proximity. At night, Damir has martial arts classes two nights each week, and I have an active social life of wine tastings, theatre, and other things that he doesn’t really enjoy. Usually, he comes to my place on Friday afternoon and stays until Monday morning.

We’re both loners of sorts. I’ve lived alone for over five years now, as well as several years before I was married. He’s lived alone for the 11 years that he’s lived in Canada, and as I just found out, he lived with a woman once for three weeks before he came here — not sure if that’s a big red flag or something to laugh about! We may have the perfect long-distance relationship, something that I never thought that I could do: we Skype during the week and see each other every weekend, but get to spend evenings alone or with other friends.

Last week, we meandered around the subject of living together, and seem to have made some progress on that, since we both were in favour of it at the same time (something that has never happened before). Could be time for a change.

Mr. Personality

Although I’m mildly introverted, Damir is really introverted: if he were to take a Myers-Briggs test, he’d be about as far towards “Introversion” as you can get on the Extraversion-Introversion scale. However, he’s very funny and very intelligent, so when he does open his mouth, there’s a greater chance of something interesting coming out. We spend a lot of hours in comfortable silence, reading or watching TV or just hanging out at the local pub. To feed my inner extrovert (if that’s not an oxymoron), I also spend time with other friends who are a bit more vocal.

I used to be married to an extremely extroverted guy, the type whose middle name is “personality”. Unfortunately, his first name is “borderline” and his last name is “disorder”.

Life is much better now.

The last word on Bell

My actions over Bell Sympatico’s ad campaign, documented in my rants here and here, finally bore fruit a few weeks ago, thanks to the nice people at Advertising Standards Canada. Apparently, their complaints to Bell actually were heard, as opposed to those of us minions who just received the standard form letter from Bell in response. I received a letter from Advertising Standards Canda along with a copy of the letter that they received from Charlotte Burke, a senior VP of Consumer Internet Services at Bell, on March 3rd. Ms. Burke writes:

I appreciate your letter advising us of your concerns about recent advertising for Internet parental control, a Bell Sympatico security service.

First, I apologize for any offence the material caused. We have pulled it from distribution, effective immediately. The material was simply inappropriate.

[Text about what wonderful things that Bell does for children, and how they’re a stand-up corporate citizen omitted]

In this case, we made an error in judgement and for that we apologize. We are reviewing our advertising standards and the rigor of our approval process to minimize the chance that this will happen again.

Woo-hoo! It would have been nice if ol’ Char had written that letter to me, given all the letters of complaint that I sent directly to Bell, but the end result is the same.

Having a wife

All this reconnecting lately, I hooked up with someone who I went to university with over 20 years ago — that’s enough to make me feel old! When I last talked to him, his kids were about 2 and 3 years old, and they’re now 9 and 10. I’ve met his wife a few times, but she didn’t leave much of an impression; I always have to look up her name in my PDA before I talk to him. I recall one night when they were over for a dinner party with a group of other people, and one of my ex’s (odd) friends had brought his rather large parrot and let it fly around during the party. My friend’s wife was terrified of the parrot, wouldn’t eat the food that we had prepared because she only like plain cooking, and wanted to go home to the suburbs early. I don’t think that I saw her again after that, although I did see my friend occasionally for lunch or drinks after work downtown.

We had a chat on the phone to get caught up, and as it turns out, he’s out of work (seems to be an epidemic amongst my IT friends) so we talked about contracting and looking for work. He mentioned that he spends as much time looking for work as he ever did working — a very similar comment to one that I heard from another out-of-work IT professional friend a few days ago — but that when his wife came home the other day and found him working on fixing something around the house, she asked him why he wasn’t looking for work. Naturally, to be polite, I asked where she was working these days. “Oh, she never went back to work after the kids were born,” he said. I paused probably a bit longer than I should have (I don’t want to appear judgemental, even when I am), and he hastily added “but she does volunteer work.” I confess, I did judge them, and I feel bad about it. Even as I write this, I’m torn between wanting to rant about a woman in her early 40’s who chooses to not work even when her kids have been in school full-time for at least 5 years and her husband has been out of work for at least 8 months, and admiring them for making choices that they presumably feel is of benefit to their family. My inner feminist rebels, however, and she just won’t shut up.

I know that this is a feminist backlash effect, because I know another couple where the man stays home, looks after the house, and writes (although, after five years, he has yet to publish anything). They don’t have kids, but he’s every bit as much a househusband as my friend’s wife is a housewife. Yet somehow, I feel that the househusband arrangement is okay, even a bit amusing, whereas the housewife arrangement is retro, and not in a good way.

It’s always a shock when my well-hidden prejudices jump out and bite me on the ass.