Leaving Messages

It has been decades since the telephone answering machine came into common use. In the intervening years, the answering machine has morphed into the now almost ubiquitous voice mail. Technological changes aside, the functionality is little changed. Whether accomplished through a device attached to a telephone line or through software on the telephone company’s switch, the fundamental purpose is the same: to allow callers to leave messages if the callee is not available. In the following discussion, I will use the term voice mail to refer to all such technologies.

Given the length of time voice mail has been around, and its near ubiquity for many years, one would think that people would know how to leave messages. Alas, this turns out not to be the case. People make a plethora of errors that make retrieving or acting on such messages painful or even impossible. Let’s survey a few more common offenses.

Perhaps the most annoying is the long winded message. This is typified by the caller who talks for several minutes, often unrelated to the reason for the call, before mentioning his name or telephone number. In fact, these messages often run to the end of the allotted message time before getting to such important details. These callers often combine their dissertation with several other offenses making it extremely painful to extract useful information from the message. Often this technique is used by the caller to figure out just why he called or to cover up other confusion or cluelessness.

The tongue chewer or mumbler is a close runner-up to the long winded message. This caller can be easily identified. The message, especially important information such as the caller’s name and telephone number, is largely unintelligible. Sometimes it is possible to extract the information after listening to the message fifty or sixty times but there is no guarantee that what it sounds like is what was intended. This technique is often employed by the confused or clueless caller as a coverup.

The tentative or confused caller is another source of endless frustration. This type of caller will often talk very slowly or intersperse long silences or filler words like "ummmm" into the message. Important information will often be left out entirely or saved until the end of the message, often added as an afterthought with words to the effect of, "Oh, yeah, um, I guess you need my, um, number. Um. You can call me at, um…". This is very painful to listen to but because it engenders an involuntary sense of sympathy for the caller, or at least a sense of suspense, it is just marginally more bearable than the long winded message, even though it has all the same drawbacks.

Related to the confused caller is the clueless one. This caller does not know his own name or his telephone number. Indeed, he often has no idea who he is calling or why. Often the message left by such a caller is otherwise perfect. It will contain a telephone number and a name and possibly even a message such as "Please call me". Unfortunately, any of the critical information may be wrong. Additional points are awarded for the caller having left the callee’s telephone number instead of his own.

The speed demon is a perennial favorite. This caller will rattle off everything you need in a message and hang up. The advantage is the message takes very little time to listen to. Unfortunately, by the time you finish writing down the first two digits of his telephone number, the entire message has ended. Thus, you have to listen to the message half a dozen or more times just to extract the important information. This offense, while annoying, is not nearly so bad as the others. This technique is sometimes used by the confused or clueless caller to hand wave his confusion away.

I should note that even good message leavers end up leaving bad messages sometimes, often through no fault of their own. Often, technology fails causing calls to be dropped or otherwise be interfered with. Such messages are just as frustrating to the recipient as the offenses listed previously, but there is usually some audible cue that this happened (such as choppy audio or a sharp click before the message cuts off).

What would a list of complaints be without a constructive set of recommendations? No, wait, don’t answer that. It would be like any other blogger whining about life. Just to be different, I will provide several recommendations for leaving voice mail messages.

  • Talk clearly. This means pronouncing all your words correctly, or at least as correctly as you can. This also means that you do not mumble or chew on your words.
  • Talk slowly but not unnaturally so. This allows the recipient a reasonable chance of keeping up as he transcribes the important details for later use. It also helps with the previous point. This is especially important if your accent differs from that of the recipient. Remember, not everyone’s ears are tuned to the particular foibles of your accent or speech patterns.
  • Enunciate extremely clearly for important details. In particular, slow down even more when leaving telephone numbers or other contact information, especially when the recipient is not certain to know the information. This also includes names, especially names that are likely to be foreign to the recipient.
  • Be brief, but not too brief. Keep the message as short as you can without leaving out critical information. In particular, voice mail is not the place to leave a life story or even an excruciatingly detailed description of the reason for the call. Even when the greeting says to leave a detailed message, it is not an invitation for a long winded message.
  • Include your name and telephone number at the beginning of the message. This way, if the recipient needs to replay the message to retrieve the telephone number or name, he does not have to listen to the entire message multiple times. This is especially important if you must leave a long winded message for some reason.
  • Repeat the telephone number. One repetition is enough. This will reduce the chance that technological trouble will render the number unintelligible. It may also eliminate the need for the recipient to replay the message.
  • Speak up. That is, do not whisper. Also, you may think your are talking loudly enough but if you are not talking into the mouthpiece of your telephone, you will sound like you are whispering. In particular, if you have the mouthpiece of the phone below your chin, odds are you cannot be heard clearly.
  • Know the reason for your call and be prepared to leave a message. This is, perhaps, the single most important piece of advice. If you are prepared to leave a message, you are less likely to commit any of the offenses listed above. Remember, your callee is not sitting by the telephone waiting for your call. He may not be there. There is always a chance you will have to leave a message so be prepared to do so.

No doubt, people will be leaving terrible messages until the end of time. Still, there is no need for you to be one of them, especially since it is so easy to leave a good message.

Moronic Planners

I just had the misfortune of being caught in an completely avoidable traffic jam on southbound Deerfoot Trail between Airport Trail and McKnight Boulevard. It turns out they had lanes closed for road repairs which I can’t say that I really have an issue with. After all, the road does need to be fixed. What I have an issue with is how they went about it.

I entered the freeway from Country Hills Boulevard. On Country Hills, there was no indication whatsoever that there was any kind of work going on on Deerfoot. Nothing. The last exit before the construction zone is Airport Trail. There was absolutely nothing at all indicating what was going on before that exit. The last chance to get out of the traffic jam and there was no warning. Brilliant.

Now, here’s the really brilliant part. They had a sign on the merge from Airport Trail indicating major delays. What’s the point of that? There is no possible way to avoid them at that point. I do have to give the guy operating the sign truck some credit, though, because he was out taking pictures of the traffic backlog and on the radio to the work crew to get out of the way and clear traffic. And, when I was coming back the other way, it was clear that traffic had cleared a large amount.

My questions are as follows. Why were there no warning signs on the cross roads before the work? Why was there no warning prior to the Airport Trail exit (the last chance to exit before the work)? And, why wasn’t this work being done at night? The volume of traffic that uses Deerfoot Trail on a daily basis, even on weekends, is astounding. Had they done the work at night, it would have taken less time and been much less disruptive! They usually do this kind of work at night. So why not this time?

The State of Printing in Linux

I just bought a new printer today on account of my old one has some sort of electronics fault (it will only print one or two pages after a complete cold reset and reinstall of the printer on the host computer). I picked up an HP Color LaserJet CP1518ni which I picked because it said on the box that it supports PCL and PostScript which pretty much guaranteed that it would work on my Linux box. It also connects via the network or by USB. And, it happened to be on for about 25% off.

So I got the thing home, scanned the "read this first" documents, removed all the extraneous shipping material, and connected it up to my computer. At this point, I expected a manual step or ten would be required to get the printer working.

Now, I should state at this point that I am running Ubuntu 8.04 on this particular computer. Thus, the installation instructions for Windows or Mac are useless. I only needed the printed instructions to know how to physically set the printer up. I fully expected some trials and tribulations to get things working.

Okay, so I powered up my monitor and the printer. While the printer was doing some interminable initialization task, I noticed a thing pop up on my computer screen saying it had detected the printer and installed a driver for it. The driver was for a different model but I thought, hey, it may well be correct. Once the printer finished it’s initializing and calibrating, I brought up the printer management system and printed a test page. And, wonder of wonders, it printed.

There was only one minor thing I needed to fix. The printer configuration defaulted to A4 paper which nobody uses in North America. I hear tell that most of the rest of the world does but that makes no difference to me since the readily available paper here is Letter size. Well, I tooled through the settings in the printer configuration tool and found the setting. I changed it, applied it, and printed another test page. And it worked.

So, the entire process of installing the printer was basically painless and involved no command line magic or Mad Skillz of any kind. The only problem was that, even though my time zone is North American, the paper size defaulted to the wrong thing. Still, even with A4 paper selected, the printer would be usable for the most part.

Granted, a different printer might not have worked so well. Still, that fact that any printer did is indicative of great progress in usability for Linux. I expect I would have had to jump through a few hoops with the CD that came with the printer for Windows or Mac, yet my Linux installation had a driver already and did almost all of the setup for me. Just a year or so ago, this would not have happened.

So, kudos to the Ubuntu team and all the other developers who contribute to the software that makes up Ubuntu. Keep up the good work and pretty soon we’ll have all the features of Windows and then some.And it will be implemented better.

“Anti-Union” Reforms

In Alberta, we’ve had a story break this week about the Stelmach government bringing in new anti-union labour code reforms. It has been particularly interesting listening to the canted media coverage although much of this cant can be explained by the opposing opinion simply not being organized or not seeing a need to legitimize the union groups.

Basically, the new legislation will make EMS an essential service, thus removing their right to strike. Of course, that will not prevent them from striking if they really feel they have a grievance. If you have a bad enough grievance, you will act, legally or otherwise. Quite frankly, I’m surprised EMS wasn’t classified an essential service before now.

That’s not the particularly controversial part of the legislation, however. Based on media coverage, the legislation would make the practice of "salting" illegal as well as forbidding unions from subsidizing contract bids by union shops when competing against non-union shops. It is this that the big union groups are claiming is anti-union. More on that later.

Salting is the practice of union supporters gaining employment with a non-union employer for the purpose of unionizing that employer. This might sound innocuous on the surface, but how is it different from invading another country by having a large number of your citizens become citizens of that country and then causing that country to democratically merge with your country. It sounds all nice an legitimate on the surface but it really is coercion. It should be noted that by making salting illegal, it DOES NOT prevent the employees of a non-union shop from unionizing. It just prevents the unions from forcing the issue by having their supporters join the company for that purpose.

The other issue is somewhat thorny. It is apparently common practice for a union to subsidize a unionized shop when it is competing for a contract (particularly a government one) against a non-union shop. What this means is that even though the non-union shop may have lower costs, it can’t compete with the union bid because of the subsidy. Even if the actual cost of performing the contract is not subsidized, the cost of preparing the bid often is. The non-union shop does not have that luxury and thus has to build the cost of bidding into the final contract so it can cover those costs if it wins the contract. Either practice creates an unfair advantage to the union shop since there should be no preference for a union shop over a non-union shop. The preference should be solely based on the quality of the bid, not the means by which employees negotiate with the employer. Basically, making this practice illegal levels the playing field.

As far as the legislation being anti-union, it really is. The union groups are saying that it is in retaliation for the personal attacks on Ed Stelmach during the election. No doubt, there is an element of revenge. Attack ads have rarely worked in Alberta. Albertans do not generally like them. The union groups are also saying that they spent so much money lobbying the government to see their point of view and now that is all for nothing. The implication there is that because they spent money lobbying, they should have got their way. That’s an interesting point of view since they’re accusing the "big money" companies of doing exactly the same thing.

Even better, the union groups are saying that this is an prime example of a conservative government behaving like a conservative government. Funny, that. Albertans elected a conservative government and we’re getting one. If Albertans wanted the unions to have more power, we would have elected the NDP to govern. We didn’t. That should say something.

In this whole thing, there is an implication by the unions that only by unionizing the whole province can employees have their rights protected. There is an implication that because unions are not getting their way, employees have no rights. I challenge anyone who believes this to be true to read the Alberta labour code. There are a great many rights in the labour code. In my opinion, they are mostly balanced between the employer having the right to conduct business as they see fit and the employee rights. Sure, there are some issues with the labour code but as a whole it is quite reasonable. In fact, it is skewed somewhat in favour of long-term employees.

I haven’t read the proposed legislation so I don’t know if there are some other things being slid into it that are a bad thing but that fact that the unions are not talking about such things indicates to me that they are not there. After all, they would be using every bit of ammunition they could find.

As a final though, I challenge anyone to find a reference in the Canadian Constitution or the Charter of Rights and Freedoms which provides rights for employees specifically. Likewise for employers. Likewise for unions. Likewise for corporations. And, yes, I know employees are people and thus have all the rights and freedoms listed in the aforementioned documents. However, does any one of those rights talk about employment specifically?


Recently, I heard a discussion about legalization of marijuana. The debate was quite heated although it did remain civil. It did get me thinking, however, about just what I think about the issue. Let me start by stating my position. I do not support prohibition of drugs. I support legalizing them and controlling them.

Let us consider the alcohol prohibition as attempted by the United States in the early twentieth century. This failed completely. Speakeasies appeared and a massive underground market and culture grew up around alcohol. People wanted alcohol so they found ways to get it, despite the laws at the time. Eventually, the United States was forced to reverse the prohibition.

At a quick glance, I fail to see how the prohibition of alcohol is any different than the prohibition of marijuana. Alcohol impairs judgement and ability to react and has deleterious effects on the user’s health. So does marijuana. So does nicotine. (I do not intend to debate that point on anecdotal evidence. If you wish to debate it, provide scientific research.) Obviously, the quantity and the user’s physiology will affect the result.

We, as a society, permit the use of alcohol and nicotine, both of which have clearly deleterious effects and one of which causes significant impairment. Yet we disallow marijuana which, at least on the surface, appears to have less of a deleterious effect than alcohol. We spend a great many man hours and dollars capturing and incarcerating marijuana users. Why? Is it truly any different than tobacco?

I contend that we should legalize marijuana and regulate it in some manner just like we do with alcohol and tobacco. We can put in place quality controls and collect income and sales taxes from it. We can create a legal market for something that people clearly want. We can make it illegal to sell to minors, just like we do with alcohol and tobacco. Operating a motor vehicle while impaired by marijuana should be just as much of an offense as operating a motor vehicle while impaired by alcohol.

Note that I’m not saying that legalizing marijuana should give everyone carte blanche to do what they will. I hear a lot of the opponents of legalization saying that we’ll have a massive upswing in crime if we legalize it but they can’t point to just how that will happen. A great many people already use marijuana but don’t cause trouble. They would not suddenly go on rampages just because their drug of choice became legally available.

Proponents of legalization like to claim that we would save significant resources that are currently directed at enforcing the prohibition. I do not contend that this is the case, however. I contend we would save money by not incarcerating many people simply due to their possession or use of marijuana. Law enforcement would still be as over worked as it is today as there will always be a class of crimes perpetrated by those who abuse marijuana just like there are with those who abuse alcohol.

Basically, I’m saying that rather than simply accepting the propaganda promulgated by the media and government that says that we must win the war on drugs, think about it. Can we truly eliminate the use of these drugs? Can we even markedly reduce it? If the answer is no, then there is no point in a war on drugs. Rather, efforts should be directed at minimizing the impact and risk to those who choose not to use them. After all, a great many things people do are dangerous (sky diving, eating, breathing, walking, running, etc.) but they are not prohibited.

The astute among you may have realized that you can replace marijuana anywhere in the preceeding discussion with many other things. In my opinion, prostitution fits into the same basic argument structure. There are likely many other drugs that could also be argued the same way.

So, to sum up. We should legalize marijuana and institute some controls on quality and use, similar to alcohol and tobacco.

How Not to Interview for a Job

I had the opportunity to serve as one of the interviewers at a job interview the other day. The result is a case study in how to totally bomb a job interview.

My employer has been looking to hire a programmer type person. To that end, we have been interviewing candidates. I have had the opportunity to be one of the interviewers (although, I’m not sure how much of an opportunity it actually is). Unsurprisingly, we’ve had a variety of results. One, however, is particularly interesting.

The other day, we had a candidate come in for an interview. Let’s call him L. First of all, L was late. He apparently got a detail in our address confused and ended up several blocks away. While he did call and let us know he had gone to the wrong address, it was several minutes after the interview time that he did so.

When he did arrive, he didn’t come in the front door. I actually met him at the back stairwell in the building as he was trying to figure out how to get to us by talking to employees of the other company in the building. This seems odd since everyone else has been able to find the correct door and ring the buzzer to be let in.

L did seem quite personable initially. He asked me which Linux I used and when I answered, there was an undercurrent of disdain in is reaction. I didn’t consciously pick that up at the time.

Once the interview was underway, he asked using gestures whether we were okay with him keeping is sunglasses on. Since there are valid reasons for such a thing, we said it was okay. Still, if you are going to ask about something like that, use your voice and ask. Even better, explain why. We have since figured that he wanted them on so we couldn’t figure out what his eyes were doing.

Now it should be understood that we were interviewing for a PHP programmer with an understanding of HTML and CSS. L’s résumé indicated very little PHP experience but a lot of JSP and Java knowledge. Based on that and the fact that he applied for a PHP position, we felt that he could learn PHP quickly enough and that it would be worth talking to him. Because of the position we were interviewing for, I had a lot of questions related to PHP, HTML, CSS, and related technologies.

While I was asking my questions, it was quickly clear from L’s body language that he felt the questions were not worth his time. He attempted to evade many of the questions rather than answer them. He answered a question about his familiarity with a web-related technology with a question about my familiarity with a Java technology. He then used that to imply that I was an idiot for asking him my question and also an idiot because I didn’t know the answer to his.

One of my questions involved a description of a scenario and then a request to explain the steps he would take to actually implement the site described. After I finished reading the scenario but before I got to the question, he interrupted me. He asked me to repeat what I just said. When I started to, he put his hand on my question page and demanded I repeat it without reading. I think he was shocked when I was able to do so. Exactly why he did that is unclear but one of my co-interviewers thinks he was trying to cover up for not paying attention. I wasn’t watching him while I was reading the scenario to him so I don’t know what his body language was and with his eyes hidden by his sunglasses, it was even harder to assess.

Shortly after this, the president of the company abruptly stated that he felt there was no position we could offer L and left the interview. This is an unusual step for him. You would think that that would have been the end of the interview, but there’s more.

Once the president had left, a bit of a discussion occurred. This quickly devolved into L lecturing us for something like ten minutes on his experience and what he was good at. It was as though he felt we hadn’t given him a fair assessment with our questions. He repeatedly stated that he though we might have a JSP project. When it was explained to him why we chose to interview him, he lectured us about how PHP is only good for simple web things. He further went on about how MySQL is useless as a database engine because it was designed for web sites and not real databases. He went on to imply that we were stupid for choosing both technologies to implement our projects.

Eventually, we convinced him to leave. All of the interviewers agreed that whether L was qualified or not, we would never hire him for any position. I’m sure that most of you reading this have a pretty good idea why but I’ll explain below.

Primarily, L’s attitude stank. He came into the interview with the attitude that he was clearly the best person. It was clear that in his mind his was was the only correct way to do anything. With that kind of an attitude, you will never fit into any kind of a team. Any company that hires such an individual is foolish.

Almost as bad was that he clearly didn’t know what position he had applied for. It was obvious from his lecture that he had done no research about just what we did. He had clearly not even understood the job posting in the first place which clearly indicated that PHP, HTML, and CSS were required. Since L couldn’t be bothered to know what he was applying for and further couldn’t be bothered to know what the company he was applying to did, we would have been fools to hire him for any position.

L’s antics related to the scenario question would have been amusing in any other context. However, in an interview, the interviewer is the one who chooses how to conduct the interview, not the interviewee. Asking the interviewer to phrase a question differently or without reading it or anything else is fine as long as it is done respectfully. Reaching across the table and covering up the question sheet is not respectful. In the interview, the interviewee is in the subordinate position and must understand as much. L was asking us to hire him by applying for the job. It is up to him to impress us. While there is an aspect of the company being interviewed and that is an important factor, it is not the dominant one. L’s actions showed a clear disrespect for authority and in our opinion would mean that he would be insolent and insubordinate as an employee.

By going on to lecture us after he had offended the president of the company showed supreme bad judgement. Lecturing a prospective employer is a very bad idea. It shows a lack of respect. Still, L couldn’t even get the lecture right. Many of his points came down to one simple thing: the technologies we were asking him about were designed for web sites, not real work. Had he bothered to learn what we do, he would never have used that argument. After all, that’s what we do. We build web sites. Why, then, would an argument that the tools we are using were developed for web sites be anything but noise for us? By giving us the lecture, L proved that he could not even argue or debate effectively.

Upon reflection, I don’t think that L even understands that he completely bombed the interview. I don’t think he understands just what he revealed about himself during that hour. I do know that in his eyes we failed the interview, but that is fine. It doesn’t matter what he thinks about the interview because we are not going to even consider hiring him. I don’t know exactly what L’s motivations were for what he did during the interview but I do know what the result was. He convinced several smart people that he is an arrogant, self-centered, socially inept asshole.

So for all you folks who are conducting interviews, be on the lookout for L and his kind. They are exactly the people you should not hire regardless of skills. And for all you people looking for jobs, be certain you are not L or his kind. Most employers are smart enough not to hire such people.

What is an adjective anyway?

I was watching Are You Smarter Than a 5th Grader? on which we were asked to count the adjectives in the sentence “Spencer takes good care of his hairy dog.” I’ll hold the answer they gave until later.

Obviously “hairy” is an adjective describing “dog”. Also, it’s pretty clear that “good” describes “care”. I expect most of you are saying that that’s all the adjectives in the sentence. However, consider the word “his”. It tells us which dog Spencer is taking care of. That is one of the definitions of an adjective. I know many of you are shouting at me that “his” is a pronoun. This I am not contesting. But since when is a particular word limited to one function? Anyway, there is at least one source (see dictionary.com) which lists “his” as an adjective. Now, by the same logic, one might consider “the” and “a” as adjectives even though they are generally considered to be articles and so the argument could be made that “his” is really an article. On the flip side, one could argue that articles are really adjectives.

On the show, they said the answer is two. I contend the answer is three since “his” is serving as an adjective in the sentence. And yes, I would accept the contention that the articles are also adjectival in nature if that is a necessary consequence of that assertion.

Perhaps I’ll be back with more musing about grammar in the future. Meanwhile, let me end with, “Flames away!”

Census time…

My 2006 census package arrived today. Since, starting this year, it is allowed to fill it in online, I went online to do so. However, the site insisted that my browser is not compatible with the system. I looked up the requirements which said javascript, java 1.4.2, 128 bit SSL. Firefox 1.5 (on linux) has the SSL and javascript. I checked for the java plugin and that was there too. So why didn’t the thing work?

Well, I poked around at the javascript source code to the browser checking scheme. I didn’t bother tracing the execution of the code but I did determine the URL that the system was ultimately directed to if the browser was determined to be compatible. I filled that URL into my address line and lo, the java applet came up and the process got underway. Of course, it was still possible something would break so I finished the process. I now have a confirmation number stating I have comleted the census questions. Obviously their capability detection is bogus.

For those of you who are wondering, I went to the following URL (for the english census): <view source or copy the link location to see it; it’s too long to be reasonable in line>. I am not responsible if using the above link causes trouble with the law, your computer, or anything else.

It really annoys me that a government sponsored organisation like StatsCan manages to lock out a great number of people from an online census form simply because they use a non-dominant operating system.

On another note, I got the short form this year rather than the long one. That’s kind of nice since I seem to always get the long forms of anything when there’s an option involved.

Stupid Verisign Tricks

On Monday, Verisign, the company that manages the contents of the .com and .net zone files, hijacked all non-existant domains to point to an intermittently functional search service. This does not affect any top level domain other than .com and .net.

Apparently, Verisign has decided that any DNS query for an A (IP address) record for any second level domain in the .com or .net top level domains will now resolve to an IP address controlled by Verisign which then attempts to guess what the user is trying to do. While this sounds like a great idea on the surface, and is, in fact, markedly similar to what many web browsers and online providers do, this is a horribly bad idea. When my web browser offers to search for the domain I misspelled, it affects me and me alone. When an online provider does this, it affects only the customers of that provider. In both cases, there is the possiblity of using a different browser or service. However, the the case of Verisign doing it using the DNS system, it makes it impossible for anyone trying to access a .com or .net domain to opt out of it, regardless of provider or web browser or any other consideration.

In addition, the DNS system is designed to respond with a negative answer when a request is made for a name that does not exist. This allows web browsers, email servers, and so on, to do something useful in this circumstance, like tell the user the domain does not exist. However, by adding an A record for non-existing domains, it is now impossible for a mail server to know that the domain really doesn’t exist. And while the use can likely figure out that the web site they requested does not exist based on the response from the server Verisign is point it to, automated systems that rely this negative response behaviour have no way of deducing this. And relying on this negative response is by no means broken since that is the only way the system can indicate that a domain does not exist.

To make matters worse, Verisign provided no notice to relevant internet community groups, such as NANOG, that such a change to the standard operating procedure was going to be done. In fact, the first notice many network operators had was that nonexistant domains were suddenly resolving. Many other learned this via discussion threads on NANOG which can be read in the NANOG archive at the above link. Many others in the internet community would have learned of this from the Slashdot article and related discussion on the issue.

The uproar on this issue shows no signs of dying down any time soon either as messages fly around the internet an amazing rate.

I hereby call upon Verisign to do the right thing and cease and desist this reprehensible attempt to hijack the .com and .net domains as their own personal playground. It is high time that Verisign started acting in a manner befitting an orgranization on whom a public trust has been bestowed!

Update at 1645: It looks like the authors of the BIND name server software are creating a patch that will allow users of BIND to bypass the Verisign brain damage. See a news report here. BIND is available from the ISC.

Update at 1435, Sept 17: Debate continues to rage about this issue. Some folks have taken actions which may or may not help. The ISC has released a patch to BIND which allows people to work around the problem. In addition, one person has publicly sent a formal complaint to ICANN (the body supposedly in charge of .com and .net overall) which is worth a read for those interested.

On Movies and Critics

I was watching one of the ridiculous movie critic shows the other day. I listened to them consistently slamming just about every movie I have ever found entertaining. This got me to thinking. What makes a good film?

Obviously, what I like in a film is likely different than what you like in a film. Now, I can only truly examine what makes a movie good to my taste, so that is what I’ll do.

First, and foremost, the movie must be entertaining. If I am not entertained, there is little point watching it. At least in most cases. My motivation in going to a movie is to be entertained thus this is the most important factor. If I were going to learn something about something, then, perhaps, information would be more important.

Beyond entertaining, I have no real definition of what makes a movie good. I enjoyed such movies as Shrek, The Thirteenth Floor, The Matrix, Message in a Bottle, and, believe it or not, Star Wars: The Phantom Menace. I don’t mind really bad physics. I mean, that can be fun to pick apart. But a movie that is mostly correct but gets one or two important points glaringly wrong can be ruined. But not always. Humour helps, but is not required. Pure fantasy is great but can go horribly wrong. A good moral can help but can also hinder if there’s nothing else. Too slow of a pace or too fast can ruin an otherwise good film.

It seems to me that most people would agree that there is no single formula that makes a film good. While a particular formula may make repreated decent films, it can just as often (or more so) make duds. Predictability can be a drag or can be fun. You never can tell what will work.

And then there are films like Last Action Hero which I enjoyed but most people hate. On the other hand, there are movies which have nearly universal appeal such as It’s A Wonderful Life (which I also enjoyed). In any event, it seems to me that one should ignore the critics and simply decide what movie to go to based on one’s own taste. Don’t let anyone tell you what is a good movie and what isn’t.