Category Archives: Internet

Missed opportunities

Via Dave Bacon, venture capital firm OVP has an amusing list of deals missed. For instance:

A guy walks into your office in the late 1980’s and says he wants to open a chain of retail shops selling a commodity product you can get anywhere for 25 cents, but he will charge 2 dollars. Of course, you listen politely, and then fall off your chair laughing when he leaves. Howard Shultz didn’t see this as humorous. And we didn’t make 500 times our money.

“Not investing in Starbucks in 1986″ should go into the regret index

Six Degrees of Wikipedia

I assume that someone somewhere has done this before, but in lab today we were inspired to play this game by a recent xkcd comic. The rules:

  1. Go to Wikipedia.

  2. Click the random article link in the sidebar.
  3. Open a second random article in another tab.
  4. Try to find a chain of links (as short as possible) starting from the first article that leads to the second.

I drew Eastern Region of British Railways and Packed bed, which I connected through:

  1. Eastern Region of British Railways

  2. British Rail
  3. History of rail transport in Great Britain
  4. Steam locomotive
  5. Fire-tube boiler
  6. Smokestack
  7. Flue gas desulfurization (this article mentions packed beds but doesn’t link to the page)
  8. Wet scrubbing
  9. Packed bed absorber

If you try it, post any interesting results in the comments!

RSS bankruptcy

With uncounted hundreds of unread posts stacked up in Google Reader after my vacation, I am declaring RSS bankruptcy. After catching up on a few essential blogs, I just clicked “Mark all as read” and started fresh. If there’s something brilliant I might have missed, let me know.

On seeing the 100% perfect t-shirt

I was reading wigu when something improbable happened: I actually noticed a banner ad. (My brain’s banner ad filter has been extremely good since about 1997.) It was an ad for t-shirt shop Seibei, and the reason I noticed it is that it had a list of topics which included “Murakami”. Of course this was Haruki Murakami, one of my favorite writers (as opposed to pulp novelist Ryu Murakami). Sadly, the shirt in question doesn’t appeal to me—I guess I’m not that fond of sandwiches.
The shirt is a reference to the (very) short story, “On Seeing the 100% Perfect Girl One Beautiful April Morning”, which can be found online and which you should all read. It can also be found in the collection The Elephant Vanishes. He’s got a new collection of short stories out, which I haven’t picked up yet (because it’s still in hardcover), but I’m looking forward to it.
There was an interview with Murakami recently in the Wall Street Journal (via JSpur), but I’m pretty sure it’s behind their subscription wall so I can’t link to it.
In conclusion, better Murakami t-shirts are needed.
UPDATE: Here’s the WSJ piece, thanks again to JSpur.

Penny Stock Spam: Who falls for this?

The New York Times had an article yesterday about the recent surge in spam volume (which I’d definitely noticed, although Gmail and Thunderbird catch almost all of it). The article reports that the most profitable form of spam is penny stock advertisements:

Many of the messages in the latest spam wave promote penny stocks — part of a scheme that antispam researchers call the “pump and dump.” Spammers buy the inexpensive stock of an obscure company and send out messages hyping it. They sell their shares when the gullible masses respond and snap up the stock. No links to Web sites are needed in the messages.
Though the scam sounds obvious, a joint study by researchers at Purdue University and Oxford University this summer found that spam stock cons work. Enough recipients buy the stock that spammers can make a 5 percent to 6 percent return in two days, the study concluded.

I get lots of these messages myself, so this must be correct. But still: I know there’s a lot of stupidity in the world, but who are these people dumb enough to actually buy stocks based on e-mail recommendations from strangers? And how are they able to tie their own shoes? Could anything be more obviously a scam?

Library Anticorrelations

Like the opposite of Amazon book recommendations, LibraryThing’s UnSuggester lists books that are unlikely to be found in the same library as a given title. I entered one of my favorite books, Haruki Murakami’s masterpiece of surrealist fiction The Wind-Up Bird Chronicle, and was amused to get a list of mostly Christian devotional books. It’s not that Wind-Up Bird is anti-religious in any way, so I imagine it’s a result of demographics more than anything else. (Via Unfogged.)
Last.fm should do a version of this for music.

Yo La Tengo and Hold Steady collecting videos

Two of my favorite bands are requesting videos from fans: Yo La Tengo simply want a reading of their upcoming album’s title, I Am Not Afraid Of You And I Will Beat Your Ass. The Hold Steady have more open-ended instructions: “We want to you know about what you think about the opposite sex, relationships, love, the whole shebang.” They’re both posting submitted videos on their respective sites.
Video’s not really my preferred medium, so I won’t contribute to either unless I get really inspired, but I like the concept. The YLT album comes out on September 12, and Hold Steady’s on October 3.