Five years, one day

Yesterday I realized it has been five years since Evan and I founded Pyra, the company that led to Blogger. We used to have a company weblog called pyrAlert! (actually the software we wrote to publish pyrAlert! was what lead to the creation of Blogger). This morning Paulo wrote to point out that pyrAlert! is still online and you can go back into the archives and read what was going on at Pyra in 1999. You may also notice that there are no permalinks on any of the posts, because these posts were made BP, or before permalink! It's funny to see the kind of stuff we used to write about.

Pitter-patter goes my heart

For my birthday this year, I asked my parents for a Polar S120 heart rate monitor, but what with being sick and the frigid and horrible weather, I hadn't had a chance to try it out. Until this afternoon at 3 PM, when I strapped it on to monitor my heart rate while I watched the New England Patriots play the Indianapolis Colts for the AFC Championship, and a trip to the Super Bowl.

Below you can see my heart rate during the course of the game, mapped against the score of each team and some key plays. Throughout the course of the game, I wrote down my data, the time, and what was happening.

chart of heart rate while watching AFC Championship game

Average heart rate during game: 87 bpm

Max heart rate during game: 125 bpm

Average heart rate during the day: ~68 bpm

I didn't even see that max rate, it was just told to me by the watch after the game. It must have happened at the beginning. Anyway, my heart's very erratic when I watch the Pats, but probably not as erratic as when I was watching the Red Sox last fall. Next up? Hopefully just tracking my progress during a run along the Hudson River.

To the moon

Buzz Aldrin on the moon during Apollow 11Bush Outlines Plan for 2015 Moon Landing is the first thing that President Bush has proposed that I'm actually in agreement with (well that's not true, I supported his State of the Union proposal to send millions to Africa for AIDS, but last I heard, that money still hasn't been sent). I've always been sad that we haven't returned to the moon since December 1972 — nearly my whole life! And the thought of renewed exploration of the moon and then Mars thrills me, maybe I can even go! But, I can't help but wonder a) where the money will come from for all this and b) how the heck Bush can actually think he's for smaller government when, according to the Cato Institute, "based on his first three budgets, President Bush is the biggest spending president in decades."

And of course, with Americans carrying record amounts of consumer debt, 17 percent of American children living in poverty, and millions of Americans going without health insurance, returning to the moon doesn't seem like the highest priority.

Meanwhile, on Mars, Sprit's rolled off its landing platform and is ready to begin its roving exploration of the Martian surface. Woo hoo!

Don’t lock me in

There's no shortage of articles hyping the Google IPO and today the Washington Post contributes to the buzz machine with Google Fans Fill Web With Buzz Over IPO. Skimming through it, I came across a passage (on page 3) that struck me, though I've probably read the same sentiments a hundred times over the years. Regarding Google's competition, the Post writes,

Yahoo is counting on its roster of registered users and its portal status to give it the upper hand…Microsoft, having seen the rich margins available in search, has also decided to make a play there…In comparison with Microsoft and Yahoo, many analysts say, Google is at an inherent disadvantage because it has no locked-in users: It doesn't require people to pay or register for its services.

Shouldn't the goal be to have services people use, not because they're forced to, but because they want to? Though Google hasn't locked me in according to "analysts," I depend on them wholly for all kinds of things I do daily online, from spell-checking to news reading to basic old-fashioned searching, because they meet my needs. I have no interest in switching to some new improved Yahoo or Microsoft search unless Google fails me.

It seems to me that Google's on the right track, and the analysts are full of bunk. Focus on pleasing the users, give them what they want, and they'll stick with you. You don't need to trap them with registrations, you need to make it easy and pleasant for them to do what they want to do and then let them get on with their lives. It will only be when Google stops giving me what I want that I'd consider changing search engines. Happy users are loyal users, and that's all the lock-in you need.

Dearth of content

I don't know what's happened around here, I just seem to have lost all interest in posting. Usually this urge (or lack of urge) passes, and it doesn't concern me. But perhaps I should now be concerned? Perhaps after 4.5 years, the megnut bug has gone? Well no matter, in order to hoist some content up here, I'm falling back on the old tried-and-true technique of just making a list of stuff. Herewith, a list of things I've enjoyed in the past few weeks, with links as appropriate:

Rovers on Mars

MarsLast night NOVA broadcast MARS Dead or Alive, an examination of the current project to send two rovers, Spirit and Opportunity, to Mars to search for signs of life. Less than 24 hours after Spirit's successful landing, NOVA showed the jubilant team celebrating the initial success of the mission. The show will be re-broadcast tomorrow night (Tuesday) and will have the latest updates. It's full of interesting information about the rovers, and contains lots of interviews with scientists and engineers at the Jet Propulsion Laboratory. I recommend it if you're at all interested in Mars, MERs (Mars Exploratory Rovers), and space exploration.

Also, Sprit is now sending back color photos of the Martian landscape at Gusev Crater which NASA is supposed to release today. In another week or so, Spirit should begin its exploration of the surface (driving around, collecting samples, taking pictures, etc.) and sending back even more cool data! And then on January 24th, the second rover, Opportunity, is expected to land. So cool! I love the rovers, and I'm so glad to see another one successfully landed. For more information, here's NASA's Mars Exploration Rover Mission website. And just for kicks, here's a Mars rover family photo, showing the new rover and its predecessor, a spare from the 1997 Pathfinder mission. The new rovers are so much bigger!

Amazon wish list mysteries

I checked my Amazon wish list the other day and discovered that lots of items have been purchased but I haven't received them. Have they been sent to me? Or have people ordered items for themselves off my wish list? Who knows?

While I love the wish list feature, I wish it worked better. Whenever an item is ordered from my wish list, whether it's sent to me or to someone else, it's flagged as purchased, meaning that to future list browsers it looks like I've already received it. But in some cases, I haven't. So I have to delete the item from my wish list and add it again so that it won't appear purchased.

Problem #2 is Amazon's privacy policy, which is so strict that I cannot get any information about these purchases, not even vague info like, "did the items get shipped to any of the addresses associated with my account?" So now I don't know if a) someone sent me something that never arrived, or b) bought something for his/herself off my list. While I understand the need for a stern policy, it seems a bit extreme.

I would like to see Amazon re-evaluate the wish list feature (and privacy policy) with some additional scenarios:

  • An item is bought from my wish list but not shipped to any of my wish list addresses
  • An item is purchased by a "stranger" for another "stranger"

In the first instance, it would be nice if the item didn't get flagged as purchased. The "stranger" instance is trickier. It appears that Amazon assumes a certain level of communication between giver and receiver, so that if a gift is sent but not acknowledged, the giver will be alerted that something is amiss and can rectify the situation. But in the 21st century gift economy/weblog world, that's not always the situation. Someone who I don't know could very well send me something. I, not knowing to expect a gift, do nothing when I don't receive it. The giver, hearing nothing from me in response (either through email or via a message on my site), assumes I'm a total ingrate jerk face, turns bitter, and stops reading my site. But I'm not an ingrate jerk face! I don't want to be an ingrate jerk face!

So to get to the bottom of this mystery the only way I know how, here's a list of the MIA wish list items:

If you bought any of the following items for me (and it wasn't really recent as a Christmas present that maybe just hasn't arrived), could you please contact Amazon and tell them the package never arrived? And let me know as well. Thanks.