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Fraud

I’m returning to the Web’s good old days

In the early days of the Web, there were only 12 pages on it.
Well, there appeared to be hundreds, even thousands, of pages on the Web, but only 12 of them actually had any real content. The rest of them were pages coded by college students, who were the only people who had time to learn HTML (they made time by signing up only for classes that met in computer labs and worked on their homepages during lecture). Their pages consisted entirely of their resume, a bunch of animated GIFs, links to however many of the 12 pages they’d discovered, and links to all their friends.

Then the college students flunked out because they didn’t pay attention in class–the professors handed them finals, and they thought it was scrap paper meant to be used to sketch out the next week’s big design–and two years later, after the school’s bureaucracy figured out they were no longer students and kicked them out, they went and got jobs.

Somehow they convinced their new employers that if they went and spent thousands and thousands of dollars on equipment and put their companies online, they’d make lots of money. The result of that convincing was the dot-com boom. The biggest difference for the students was that now they got paid a fortune to sit in the back of a cubicle programming Web pages that contained a lot of animated GIFs (provided by advertisers, rather than stolen from another Web page), and, in a novel bit of creativity, these animated GIFs themselves linked to one of the 12 pages on the Web that contained real content.

Well, after a series of IPOs that would have created hundreds of thousands of new millionaires had they not been forbidden by law from selling their stock certificates, someone finally remembered how to read a balance sheet and found that the total amount of money generated by the dotcom boom was four-fifty. Rubles. Investors panicked and sold off all their stock. Companies got investigated for fraud and the college students got laid off. (You thought I was going to say something else, didn’t you?) Once again, they hung around for a couple of years until the bloated bureaucracy figured out they didn’t work there anymore and kicked them out.

The upside of all of this is that the Web isn’t as commercial now as it was a few years ago. The downside is that the commercials are way more annoying than ever.

Meanwhile, those college students are still working on their personal pages, most of which now end in .com or .net or .org and they don’t have squiggly lines in them anymore. Now they annoy the 12 Web sites that still produce original content by deep-linking their stories on blogs and adding their own comments.

Meet the new Internet: Same as the old Internet.

So in that grand tradition, since I haven’t had an original thought all day and have absolutely nothing meaningful to say tonight, I’ll provide a couple of links to stories I found and add some worthless commentary to it. And someone will think it’s great and spectacular and declare me a visionary and I’ll start a new software company.

Or something.

Tell Pete Rose to crawl back under his rock

Pete Rose really isn’t worth this sentence.
I’m referring to the sentence I just wrote, not the sentence he’s currently serving. The only reason I’m wasting my time on Pete Rose is because this is the weekend and traffic’s going to be down, so I’ll save my worthwhile stuff for a higher-traffic day.

If you’ve never heard of Pete Rose, be glad. If you wish to lose your innocence, here’s Pete Rose in a nutshell: Pete Rose was a baseball player. He played baseball more than 20 years, mostly for the Cincinnati Reds. He holds the record for the most hits recorded by a baseball player. The previous record had stood for nearly 60 years when Rose broke it. (The previous record-holder, Ty Cobb, was a horse’s… backside, but he was honest.) Rose was banned from baseball for life in 1989 for betting on the game. He bet on baseball 400 times. Since that time, he’s been convicted of tax fraud and served time, and he’s also been accused of drug trafficking.

So how was he as a player? His nickname was Charlie Hustle. It wasn’t a term of endearment. Early in his career, other players didn’t like him much. He didn’t have a lot of natural ability. People talk about how Rose was an All-Star at five different positions. What they forget is that he was an All-Star at five different positions because he was one of those players who could play a lot of positions badly. The Reds played him where they could hide him. But to Rose’s credit, he ran out every ball he hit–no doubt some of his hits would have been outs with a more lackadaisical player running–and he took reasonably good care of himself, so he wasn’t hurt a lot and he was still able to play, albeit with severely diminished skills, into his 40s.

But that was part of the problem. As player-manager of the Reds, Rose kept penciling his name into the lineup long after he’d accomplished everything he was going to accomplish as a player, to the detriment of the team. Gary Redus, his center fielder, complained Rose was hurting the Reds by playing himself at first base in 1985, when he could have played slugger Nick Esasky at first base and opened up left field for the fleet-footed Eddie Milner, or for a prospect like Eric Davis or Paul O’Neill. But Pete Rose was too busy chasing glory to do anything like that.

In the 1970 All Star game, Pete Rose barrelled over Cleveland Indians catcher Ray Fosse. Fosse, the best young catcher in the game at the time, was injured in the play and never was the same after that. Rose ruined Fosse’s career, in a game that didn’t even count.

Baseball fans, let’s face it: Pete Rose was David Eckstein without the class.

Rose apologists are quick to point out that none of this is particularly relevant. And to a degree they’re right. Ty Cobb barrelled over more than a few players in his day, and Detroit’s left fielder hated Cobb so much that the team moved Cobb from center field to right field just to keep the two of them away from each other. You don’t ban a guy for life for being a jerk or a poor judge of his own ability or a bad fielder. And Rose apologists point out that Dads pointed to Pete Rose and told their kids they should play baseball like him. (Except for my dad. My dad pointed to Pete Rose and told me if he ever caught me playing baseball like him, he’d beat me senseless. My dad told me to be like George Brett, who played just as hard, was a better hitter anyway, and had class.)

But there’s something a lot of people forget about. A little rule that’s posted in every baseball clubhouse.

The rule, restated simply, says that if you’re involved in any way with a baseball team and you bet on baseball games, you’re banned for a year. And if you’re involved in any way with a baseball team and bet on a game involving your own team, you’re banned for life.

The evidence against Pete Rose isn’t all available to the public. There’s a lot of hearsay that Rose bet on his own team. But even if Rose didn’t, according to the letter of the law, Rose should have been banned for 400 years.

That wouldn’t have been a lifetime ban for Methuselah (assuming he was under age 569 at the time of the last bet), but it would be for Pete Rose and me. And probably you too.

There is a precedent. In 1920, eight members of the Chicago White Sox–pitchers Eddie Cicotte and Claude “Lefty” Williams; infielders Buck Weaver, Arnold “Chick” Gandil, Fred McMullin, and Charles “Swede” Risberg; and outfielders Oscar “Happy” Felsch and “Shoeless Joe” Jackson–were banned from baseball for life for conspiring with gamblers to throw the 1919 World Series (ironically, against the Cincinnati Reds). Although found innocent in a federal court of law, their statistics were struck off the record books and they could never so much as buy a ticket for a professional baseball game.

The ringleaders were Cicotte and Gandil. Most people believe that Jackson and Weaver were innocent–that Weaver knew about it and didn’t tell, and that Jackson knew about it, told, and went so far as to ask to be benched, but took money from the gamblers.

The ban stood until Jackson’s death in 1951.

Of the eight, the only likely Hall of Famer was Jackson. Lefty Williams was only in his fifth full season, and Cicotte would be a questionable candidate if he were eligible, though extrapolated out to a 20-year-career, both pitchers probably would have made it. But since people aren’t elected to the Hall based on what might have been, neither is likely. But Jackson had already distinguished himself by hitting .408 at age 21. Every other player who ever hit .400 over the course of a full season in the modern era is in the Hall of Fame.

Not that it matters any, but some guy nobody’s ever heard of, a guy named Babe Ruth, claimed he learned his batting style by watching Shoeless Joe.

I’m sure by now you’ve sensed my disdain for Rose and at least a small bit of admiration for Jackson.

So I’m going to surprise you by saying I believe Pete Rose belongs in the Hall of Fame. Anyone who hits 3,215 singles belongs in the Hall of Fame.

Sensing a problem, I asked my evil twin, R. Collins Farquhar IV, what he thought. This is a transcript of what he said:

I, of course, have a Solomon-like solution. (One of my favorite things about myself is that I’m so wise. One of my other favorite things about myself is that I’m so humble.) Pete Rose is banned from American Cricket for life. This also disqualifies him from the game’s quaint Hall of Fame. For life. When Pete Rose dies, his life is over, and thus his ban is over. So the simpletons should just wait until Pete Rose dies, and then elect him to the Hall of Fame.

I of course find it disturbing that I agree with everything R. Collins Farquhar IV said about Pete Rose, though not quite everything he said about himself.

What Pete Rose wants most is attention. What Pete Rose needs least is attention. Rose agreed in 1989 to a lifetime ban, and “lifetime” doesn’t mean 13 years. Rose received more than he deserved by getting the privelige of agreeing to it. Joe Jackson didn’t get to agree to his ban.

Had Rose ever shown any signs of remorse, it would probably be different. Steve Howe showed remorse. Darryl Strawberry showed remorse. When they messed up one too many times (or maybe it was because they were just too old to have any chance of being able to come back and be effective ballplayers), baseball sent them packing. Rose apologists point to both of them. But Rose has always been defiant, not remorseful. If he’s sorry, he’s sorry he got caught.

Put Joe Jackson in the Hall of Fame. He’s been dead 51 years. He’s paid his dues.

Let Pete Rose watch Joe Jackson go in. Then let him slither back under that rock he came from and ignore him. And after he dies, there’s no need to wait 51 years. Just put him on the ballot, and the people who saw him play can go on and on about what a great hitter he was, and how fun it was to watch him play the game (A David Eckstein without class can still be fun to watch), and he can go through the same voting process everyone else goes through, and he’ll be elected to the Hall of Fame, likely on the first ballot, and more likely in a red uniform than an orange one.

And then, finally, justice will all be served.

Something for your dart board

Who annoys you more than anyone else? What do they do that annoys you?
Picture me standing at the front of a room with a bunch of people, asking those questions. I’ve got a dart board and some darts, and I write those things down on the dart board. And then I show off my spectacular skill by naming those things off, throwing darts at them and hitting them as I rattle them off. Siblings who bicker over their inheritances. Drivers who pull into intersections when they’re backed up at a light and stay there, making you sit through three greens before you can finally move. Executives who commit fraud, make lots of money, and leave before the fallout is complete, money in hand, but destroying the retirement accounts of the “lesser” employees, who’ve invested much of their life’s savings in that company.

I’m sure you can name some others.

And what if after I pulled the darts out of the board, I peeled back that paper, and behind it you saw a picture of Jesus, riddled with those holes?

You don’t have to tell me your reaction. I just want you to think about it.

One of the girls in my Bible study shared that illustration this week. A monologue in text doesn’t do it justice. I think I need to save that one and use it.

The immoral, despicable “journalism” at the Church of the Nativity

Charlie asked what I, as a trained and sometimes-practicing journalist, think of Caroyln Cole’s work at the Church of the Nativity.
Well, the story linked here hits on precisely why I’m not a full-time journalist slogging words for some magazine full-time and climbing the ladder towards editorship. What usually passes for journalism today can at best be considered advocacy; in the case of what Cole sometimes practices, it’s better described as fraud.
Read More »The immoral, despicable “journalism” at the Church of the Nativity

02/02/2001

Linksys revisited. Thanks for the corrections on the Linksys router. Yes indeed, with recent firmware you can change the MAC address. It’s buried, but that’s good–you shouldn’t routinely do that anyway.

Reviews of reviews again. Time to get back in the saddle. Yee-hah.

Pentium 4 systems (THG)

In this roundup, Tom Pabst complained bitterly about PC makers’ exploiting public ignorance, selling high-clock speed systems with shoddy peripherals in order to drive down the cost. So he built systems roughly equivalent to four PCs–a low-end P4 and similarly priced Athlon, and a high-end P4 and the top-of-the-line Athlon. Then he pitted them against each other. The P4s came up sorely lacking.

Performance of the real McCoy could vary significantly (no one thinks about the power supply in performance equations, but it plays a role), so this test is anything but conclusive, but it does finally and authoritatively point out the differences good components make. People who’ve read Computer Shopper (US) religiously and seen system shootouts know this–Shopper always printed system configurations, and occasionally an overachiever would show up, with great components, and blow away supposedly higher-end systems. This article on THG examines this phenomenon and does it well, I think.

Pabst does seem to forget that businesses aren’t in business to care about consumers though–they’re in business to make money. I’d like to think the marketplace rewards straight-shooters, but considering my book sales, I know that’s not always the case. As long as Dell thinks it’s good for profits to stay in bed with Intel, Dell will be in bed with Intel, no matter what it does to consumers.

MSI MS-6339 P4 motherboard (Sharky Extreme)

This is a good look at a fairly competitive P4 board, which explains the ins and outs of this board and why Intel changed the ATX standard. It points out this board’s quirks, and benchmarks it against an Intel and an Asus board. It does a good job of pointing out the reasons why you probably don’t want to buy a P4 at this time. I found it interesting that this benchmark didn’t mention Quake 3, which is one of the few things the P4 is really good at. Refreshing (I couldn’t care less about Quake scores, and I know I’m not alone on that) but ironic.

Congratulations to a fellow Missourian. I don’t like to talk politics much here, but… My fellow Missourian John Ashcroft is the new attorney general. Appropriately, the supposed racist was sworn in by Clarence Thomas.

As for the “Missouri fired him” rhetoric, here’s the truth on that: John Ashcroft and Mel Carnahan were the two most popular governors of recent memory. Were it not for term limits, Ashcroft would probably still be governor. Ashcroft and Carnahan were locked in a too-close-to-call race up until the point when Carnahan died in a plane crash. Carnahan then attained sainthood and won the election on a sympathy vote. Possible voter fraud in the city of St. Louis didn’t help matters any. But Ashcroft is a class act, so he didn’t contest the election, either on grounds of fraud or on grounds that a senator must be a citizen, and a dead man can’t be a citizen. Carnahan’s widow was then appointed to the Senate.

Teddy Kennedy threatened to filibuster Ashcroft, because he didn’t like Ashcroft’s conservatism. Never mind Ashcroft knows what the law is, and one of the tenets of his so-objectionable religion is that you obey and you uphold your government’s laws–no government exists without God’s allowing it to exist, according to John Ashcroft’s religion and mine. John Ashcroft is responsible to God to do his job, and to do it properly. His job is not to do Congress’ job. John Ashcroft knows this.

John Ashcroft, unlike most of his predecessors, has actually been an attorney general before. It was the post he held in Missouri before he was elected governor. John Ashcroft will do no less to uphold the law than his predecessor Janet Reno. If ever there was an honest and decent man, it’s John Ashcroft.

Jean Carnahan voted against Ashcroft. She said it was a matter of conscience. Really, what she was saying was John Ashcroft is too different politically from her dead husband.

John Ashcroft’s very different from her dead husband in another way too.

John Ashcroft suspended campaigning when his opponent, Mel Carnahan, was killed. It was a matter of conscience. It cost him the election. At the time he suspended campaigning, he said he didn’t care, whatever the cost–it was the right thing to do. That’s the kind of man John Ashcroft is. He does the right thing, whatever the cost.

John Ashcroft was good for Missouri. Now he’ll be good for the United States.