Wednesday, January 28, 2009

Blog Spam from Google?

I’m sure they must have done this before, but I’ve never heard of it. Since I mentioned Google’s settlement of their class action suits and wrote abouta quote from Google co-founder Sergey Brin, I must have been scooped up by google’s self-googling because I got the e-mail below today.
Date: Wed, 28 Jan 2009 14:56:16 -0600
From: "Dolan, Nancy"
To: "Huddleston, Brian"
Subject: Google Book Settlement Information

Thank you for your blog post about the Google Book Search settlement
( The process of notifying authors and publishers about the settlement has begun. If you would like to update your readers with the court-approved Notice, which summarizes the settlement, important terms, claims process,
and key dates, it is available at Rightsholders may now claim their works at

Thank you again for your previous post about the settlement, and please feel free to contact me if you need any additional information to help with future entries. If you do post this information for your readers, we would very much appreciate a quick email letting us know that you've done so. Thanks very much.

Nancy Dolan
Project Manager
Kinsella/Novak Communications, LLC (court-approved Notice Provider)
My “readers”? You would think they would cross-reference the blogs that mentioned the settlement and only e-mail blogs that, uh, actually HAVE readers.

And what is “Kinsella/Novak”? I thought they would be the law firm that represented Google in the settlement but, no, they are a “nationally recognized legal notification firm specializing in media-based class action and bankruptcy notification programs.” The heading on their web site trumpets “The Art & Science of Legal Notification”. There are firms that just do legal notification work? The web site goes on to say that they have:
developed and directed some of the largest and most complex national and international notification programs in the legal arena. The scope of the firm’s work includes notification programs in antitrust, bankruptcy, consumer fraud, mass tort and product liability litigation. Specific cases have involved, among others, asbestos, breast implants, home siding and roofing products, infant formula, pharmaceuticals, polybutylene plumbing, tobacco, and Holocaust claims. The firm has developed or consulted on over 500 notification programs, placing over $205 million in media notice.
So they place ads and spam bloggers? I’m sure their parents are very proud of them. Must be great small talk at parties. “What do you do?” “I work for one of the country’s leading legal notification firms.” Zzzzzzzzz......

Full blog post...

Tuesday, January 20, 2009

Did Outgoing Bush Staff Remove the "O"s from all the White House Computer Keyboards?

No, of course not. And further keeping with this "new civility", incoming senior officials of the new Obama administration also comported themselves with dignity:
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(Reuters photo via Yahoo! News.)

And, with the final numbers in, this chart shows that both Truman and Nixon were less popular during the last part of their administrations:

(From the Wall Street Journal On-Line.)

Full blog post...

Sunday, January 11, 2009

Prospect.1 New Orleans

No, this isn’t a group costume for Mardi Gras.
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Its a bit too early for that. We finally went to the various installations of Prospect.1 New Orleans, the “largest biennial of international contemporary art ever organized in the United States”, which got a LOT of press around the country, but was something that a lot of locals like us didn’t take a lot of notice of, at least, again like us, until it was about to end.

The figures in bunny suits on the roof of the old Falstaff brewery was one of the installations. Draw your own conclusions as to meaning and significance. Some of the galleries were more interesting than the site-specific stuff, and one of our favorite pieces was this welded assembly of scrap metal:
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My wife hasn’t seen Pulp Fiction enough to recognize the source, but I didn’t have $14,000 to buy it for her anyway.

Full blog post...

Tuesday, January 6, 2009

Big “Duh” Quote from Sergey Brin

This news story discusses Google’s ramping up of its book scanning project since the settlement of its two lawsuits with publishers and authors last fall:

Google gives out-of-print books a new life online
(International Herald Tribune, January 5, 2009)

But the headline for this story, based on this one quote from Sergey Brin, could be “Google Co-Founder Learns what Every Librarian Knew from Day One of Library School”:

“There is fantastic information in books. Often when I do a search, what is in a book is miles ahead of what I find on a Web site.”

What Google is doing with their books project is amazing and its been very useful to me recently both to deliberately answer some question and to serendipitously uncover some resource I hadn’t known about before. But, and this is one point the article eventually makes, it’s a means to an end: the best use of it isn’t to mine tidbits from the books excerpts they make available, but to go to the book itself after you find some useful information through Google books.

And, in another part of this project, Google books may soon be the biggest print-on-demand operation. They’re going to sell, or are doing so already, copies of public domain books for six dollars or so. That would be worth it in many situations; for example, there is a 300 page novel from the early part of the 20th century that is public domain, and I have a PDF copy of it, but printing it out is a pain in the ass, and reading a big sheaf of 8 ½ x 11 pages isn’t the most convenient thing in the world, even if I print it out duplexed, on pre-punched paper, and put it in a binder. But six bucks for a decently printed and bound paperback copy would be well worth it, particularly since I haven’t found any existing copy of the book for sale for less than $25.

So go for it, Google, and full speed ahead - glad the suits were settled.

Full blog post...

Sunday, January 4, 2009

Google Ads and The Suite Life of Zack and Cody

When I set up this blog, I thought I would try out Google Ads, less as a way of getting rich (hahahahaha....) than of testing out how it selects ads based on the content of both a blog in general and for particular postings.

On the "front page" of this blog, or whatever you call the base URL that has the most recent post, there's generally some ad related to law or New Orleans, those being the two biggest things I've written about in here (and which should be reflected if I ever get around to putting up a tag cloud here - should be able to fit it in on the right along with all that other crap).

But that front page ad is rarely specific to whatever that most recent post is about, which makes sense. And sometimes they are just wildly generic ads - like the one for government grants. But the ads on individual posts in the archives are usually specific to that post's content. Like the Marine Corps Birthday post I wrote in November; the ad there is always something Marine Corps-related, though maybe only a degree program for active duty military or t-shirts for sale about Parris Island.

But I'm curious if in distributing these ads whether the text in the Title is given more weights than the content. That would be my theory: the two posts I wrote about the surviving members of The Who being honored by the Kennedy Center consistent generates an ad from some web page that offers "Instant Kennedy Center Honors Access", and I guess its for one of those services that claims to let you watch TV on your computer for free, and legally!!! They probably put this ad on any post that is about some TV show.

Which brings me to my experiment: I watched more tween-oriented television over Christmas than in my entire adult life, since our twin ten-year-old nieces let us change channels from Nickelodeon only to get an occasion weather forecast and check whether we were expecting a snowstorm or only flurries up in the Colorado Rockies.

So how much do I have to write about Zack and Cody before the google ads for this post are always related to them? Before this month, I was vaguely aware that there was some kids show called "Zack and Cody" but now I know more about "The Suite Life of Zack and Cody" than anyone my age who doesn't have kids of their own should have to know. Zack and Cody live in a Boston hotel! Their mother is a singer in the hotel lounge and so they all get to live in a suite there, hence the show is called "The Suite Life of Zack and Cody"! Zack and Cody are identical twins! The uptight hotel manager is always exasperated at the antics of Zack and Cody, those mischievous guys. Zack and Cody have a couple of friends who also live and/or work at the hotel, the candy counter girl and the rich daughter of the hotel's owner! I don't know their names because Zack and Cody are the stars of "The Suite Life of Zack and Cody".

OK, I can't take that anymore. It's a pretty dumb show. <old man-styled rant>Why, I remember when the Disney Channel used to show actual Disney Cartoons!</old man-styled rant> In one of the episodes I watched, the writers had to try to keep from cutting their throats from boredom by going all meta and having Zack and Cody get "discovered" and have a chance at being, yes, stars of their own show about twins living in a hotel!

Let's see what the ads for this post are in a day or two.

Full blog post...

Friday, January 2, 2009

A Lame/Tame New Year's Bonfire in New Orleans

We used to go to this street party each New Year's Eve a while back but I don't know what its been like recently, but this year the city was apparently cracking down on the drunken revery. The tradition was that this neighborhood in mid-City here in New Orleans would put out all their old Christmas trees on the neutral ground and light them up for a bonfire on midnight when they rang in the New Year. Of course, there was drinking and illegal fireworks in the mix, but the cops and fire department gave it all a pass. In fact, on the years we went, the fire department rolled up about a quarter past midnight and would politely put out the bonfire as it burned down.

But because the authorities threatened to crack down and prevent the party this year, a compromise was reached and the bonfire went ahead, as accounted in this news story.

But look at the picture the paper ran:
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and compare that with the short video I made a few years ago:

New Orleans, New Year Eve 2002 from BHuddle on Vimeo.

Pretty chaotic, yes, and it was amazing that no one was seriously hurt. But compare the video with the picture and pick which looks more fun. Its like a pagan bacchanal versus a Cub Scout cook-out.

Full blog post...