Oh, the interwebs -- ten years and still kludging

A belated happy 10th birthday to my other domain, cygnals.com.

When I graduated university in 1995, Internet access was from only one room in the school, and I did everything through a shell (text-based) interface. I knew how to check my email (with Pine), and I could use IRC.

Some of the other students were checking out something new called Mosaic, which was a graphical interface to something new called the World Wide Web. I wasn't that interested. Hell, we had gopher, newsgroups, muds, all that cool stuff. Graphics? Pfft!

A while later, my friend Cindy, who'd been schooled in journalism and didn't have much interest in computers beyond the page-layout programs of the day, started to learn about HTML. She told me a few basics -- that it was a matter of putting tags around text to make them bold or italic or whatever, and adding links and images.

So, I picked up a book called HTML For Dummies and set about learning. This was back in the era where the BLINK tag was brand new. In hindsight, the HTML of the day was basic basic basic. Tables were new and controversial and probably not quite standard. Internet Explorer hadn't been invented, if I recall correctly.

I set up a little web site at Toronto's first real ISP, but I was still viewing everything in black and white text through a little program called Lynx. That forced me to design all my web stuff to look decent both in plain text and on the Netscape of the day. It built some habits that stood well for the time -- keep images as compressed as possible (GIF only, natch) and always use the ALT tags so people could get around. It was a rare treat to go to a machine hooked up to "real" internet with a "real" browser and see if the graphics looked like they were "supposed to".

When that ISP shut down, I moved to Interlog. Interlog was bought by someone, which was bought by someone else, etc. You remember the tech bubble. Rogers@Home came along and I got into the high-speed era.

1998 rolled around, and with all that HTML-ing experience under my belt -- all by hand, kids --that's when I registered cygnals.com. And old friend from the BBS days, Vic Metcalfe at Zymurgy Systems, had his own hosting company, and graciously hosted the web site.

As best as I can tell, that was back in 1998. I noticed the date a month or two ago when the domain came up for renewal again. I finally moved away from Network Solutions, which was one of the only places you could register a name back in those days.

Ten years.

Ten years is a long long long time on the internets. Much of the stuff over at http://www.cygnals.com/ is still about that old. My 1998-era web design skills just don't hold up. I moved away from being a geek at just the time being a geek was starting to pay off and be cool. The internet passed me by in a lot of ways. I'd love to tidy up the old site and make it pretty again, but it seems like it'd be so much work. Meh. This blog works fine.

And now it's almost time to renew the bigasssuperstar.com domain for another few years (and get away from register.com).

I saw a news story this week about how the internet's naming authority is about to open up the net to a free-for-all of domain names. The old-timey geek in me thinks that's just wrong. Wrong wrong wrong. The whole idea of a hierarchical domain name system seemed so bloody efficient. Top-level domains, and you work your way down. If it can be anything-dot-anything, that just feels like chaos.

Then again, the net is a lot more chaotic now than it used to be. Back in the "early days", there was so little content to go around, being a little fish in a little pond was enough. Now you really have to be somebody to be somebody. I don't even think I'm the #1 Scott Simpson on the net any more!

And in the eyes of Google, I'm not somebody any more. I've got bad PR, so to speak.

I was wondering this week why my PayPerPost opportunities had dried up to dessicated remnants of the drizzling shits. It turns out my Google PageRank has fallen.

My PageRank is zero. Zero! Yeah, I guess it's probably because I do the PPP thing in the first place. (Tangent: anyone remember when you had to set up all your internet settings manually through a Winsock program, and PPP was one of the protocol options you could choose when buying your ISP subscription? No? Just me? Yeah, I'm old.)

One thing that could, as I understand it, get my PageRank back up is to have inbound links from relevant, well-ranked web sites. Many thanks to Cindy, Rasheed and the couple of others who've linked here from their blogs. I totally dig your spirit. But if any other readers come here for something more than "big ass pics" and other Google-stumbling, hey, hook a fella up. Blogroll me or somethin', would ya? Maybe?

So, as I approach my 35th birthday this summer, I say happy birthday to a part of me I've spent some years distancing myself from -- the relics of my old, excessive, immature, embarrassing life on the net at cygnals.com.

Happy 15th Birthday!

Happy recent 15th birthday to Canada's first All News Radio station, Toronto powerhouse 680News.

I grew up listening to All-Hits 680 CFTR. One morning in June 1993, the music stopped and the news started. It was a bold experiment, and it's paid of handsomely.

I joined the station a few months later in February 1994, and I've been with the company ever since, although now I'm in Halifax after helping bring the format east in 2005.

I remember the 5th birthday party (I think they gave us calculators) and the 10th (a clock/thermometer/barometer, hanging on the living room wall), and from what I hear, the 15th birthday party was a blast. Wish I could've been there!

Free stuff -- get it?

Cheap stuff is good.

Free stuff is better.

I was touring some personal finance blogs a few weeks ago and happened upon one called I've got A Little Space To Fill.

The blogger had a post with links to free stuff. Free stuff? Too good to be true? Sure, sometimes it is. But sometimes companies are perfectly willing to send you free stuff in hopes you'll like it enough to buy it.

Then I did a Google search for 'free stuff canada' and hit upon Canadianfreestuff.com, which has a messageboard where people post links to freebies around the net. I spent some time signing up for a ton of goodies, knowing full well I was just as likely to be drowning in spam within days.

But, with a few small exceptions, (I'm looking at you, Readers Digest ... although that was from my sweepstakes entry phase) I've had no spam problems and no junk mail.

And, bless corporate Canada, I'm getting my free stuff in the mail!

First up was a three-pack of OB Tampons! W00t! OB tampons in a cute little plastic carrying case. These bad boys are TINY, yo! Okay, so I don't have the requisite parts for tampon use, but my partner does. The lack of an applicator is a concern, but I'll leave out the gory details here cuz -- hey, it's FREE! Coupons, too.

Next, a sample of the new fragrance from Lacoste arrived. No, not a little bottle. It was a peel-away-single-application sample attached to a postcard. I haven't tried it yet to see if it stinks, but, hey, it's FREE!

Yesterday I got another envelope. Wow, a pack of Carnation Breakfast Anytime, in my favourite flavour, chocolate! And it came with a coupon for a free box of more. FREE!

So, if this continues, ever few days, I'm going to come home to more and more free stuff. Hot diggity damn.

My biggest lol today

Stoopid hoomans. Couch looks better on fire.

Letter to the editor about Big Ass Superstar

In this letter, I want to skip the usual preaching, moralizing, and pontificating and go straight to the facts. For the sake of review, Mr. Big Ass Superstar has called people like me besotted disgusting-types, untoward creeps, and sinful individuals so many times that these accusations no longer have any sting. Mr. Superstar undeniably continues to employ such insults because he's run out of logical arguments. I suppose an alternate explanation is that those who fail to learn from history are doomed to repeat it. Of course, if Mr. Superstar had learned anything from history, he'd know that his refrains can be subtle. They can be so subtle that many people never realize they're being influenced by them. That's why we must proactively notify humanity that I myself am a law-and-order kind of person. I hate to see crimes go unpunished. That's why I honestly hope that Mr. Superstar serves a long prison term for his illegal attempts to silence anyone whom he considers obtuse.


Although I agree with those who profess that I wish Mr. Superstar would vanish into the same logistical nothingness that his arguments invariably lead to, nevertheless, I cannot agree with the subject matter and attitude that is woven into every one of Mr. Superstar's unrestrained, subhuman words. It's a pity that two thousand years after Christ, the voices of pathetic ignoramuses like him can still be heard, worse still that they're listened to, and worst of all that anyone believes them. A long time ago I wrote that "it may be helpful to take a step back and promote peace, prosperity, and quality of life, both here and abroad". Today I might add that I recently overheard a couple of irritable profiteers say that the worst sorts of prissy shysters there are are more deserving of honor than our nation's war heroes. Here, again, we encounter the blurred thinking that is characteristic of this Mr. Superstar-induced era of slogans and propaganda.


The biggest supporters of Mr. Superstar's gruesome, spiteful philosophies are lackluster, tactless dingbats and profligate card sharks. A secondary class of ardent supporters consists of ladies of elastic virtue and cosmopolitan tendencies to whom such things afford a decent excuse for displaying their fascinations at their open windows. Mr. Superstar fervently believes that free speech is wonderful as long as you're not bashing him and the obnoxious criminal masterminds in his retinue. This shows that he is not merely mistaken about one little fact among millions of facts but that Mr. Superstar gets a lot of perks from the system. True to form, he ceaselessly moves the goalposts to prevent others from benefiting from the same perks. This suggests that the term "idiot savant" comes to mind when thinking of Mr. Superstar. Admittedly, that term applies only halfway to him, which is why I warrant that Mr. Superstar has already been able to violate all the rules of decorum. What worries me more than that, however, is that if Mr. Superstar ever manages to twist our entire societal valuation of love and relationships beyond all insanity, that's when the defecation will really hit the air conditioning.


Only through education can individuals gain the independent tools they need to serve on the side of Truth. But the first step is to acknowledge that everyone ought to read my award-winning essay, "The Naked Aggression of Big Ass Superstar". In it, I chronicle all of Mr. Superstar's epigrams from the hateful to the cuckoo and conclude that Mr. Superstar teaches workshops on obscurantism. Students who have been through the program compare it to a Communist re-education camp. Mr. Superstar's hypocrisy is transparent. Even the least discerning among us can see right through it. All of the bad things that are currently going on are a symptom of Mr. Superstar's pestiferous, nugatory writings. They are not a cause; they are an effect.


We must understand that it has been, and is, my great undertaking to encourage the ethos of exchange value over use value. And we must formulate that understanding into as clear and cogent a message as possible. Mr. Superstar's subordinates want to threaten the existence of human life, perhaps all life on the planet, for one purpose and one purpose only: to cause (or at least contribute to) a variety of social ills. No matter how bad you think Mr. Superstar's initiatives are, I assure you that they are far, far worse than you think. Perhaps I accept the call to put to rest the animosities that have kept various groups of people from enjoying anything other than superficial unity, but remember that his devotees all look like him, think like him, act like him, and strip people of their rights to free expression and individuality, just like Mr. Superstar does. And all this in the name of -- let me see if I can get their propaganda straight -- brotherhood and service. Ha!


As one commentator put it, there's an important difference between me and Mr. Superstar. Namely, I am willing to die for my cause. Mr. Superstar, in contrast, is willing to kill for his -- or, if not to kill, at least to turn over our country to obscene execrable-types. I want nothing more -- or less -- than to resolve our disputes without violence. To that task I have consecrated my life and I invite you to do likewise.


While Mr. Superstar's beliefs (as I would certainly not call them logically reasoned arguments) are not just retroactively ineffective but proactively inert, I have a message for him. My message is that, for the good of us all, he should never make serious dialogue difficult or impossible. He should never even try to do such a reckless thing. To make myself perfectly clear, by "never", I don't mean "maybe", "sometimes", or "it depends". I mean only that if it weren't for brain-damaged sad sacks, Mr. Superstar would have no friends.


Mr. Superstar's shell games are slaphappy to the core. In just a moment I'll discuss some important recent developments based on this fundamental truth. First, however, I want to add a bit to what I wrote previously. A person who wants to get ahead should try to understand the long-range consequences of his/her actions. Mr. Superstar has never had that faculty. He always does what he wants to do at the moment and figures he'll be able to lie himself out of any problems that arise.


Even though Mr. Superstar has aired his disapproval of being criticized, I still believe that he claims that uneducated urban guerrillas should be fĂȘted at wine-and-cheese fund-raisers. Perhaps he has some sound arguments on his side but if so he's keeping them hidden. I'd say it's far more likely that Mr. Superstar says that his opinions represent the opinions of the majority -- or even a plurality. That's a stupid thing to say. It's like saying that Bonapartism is a be-all, end-all system that should be forcefully imposed upon us. I don't like to repeat myself, but by writing this letter, I am unmistakably sticking my head far above the parapet. The big danger is that Mr. Superstar will retaliate against me. He'll most likely try to force me to have to fight with one hand tied behind my back although another possibility is that his eccentricity is surpassed only by his vanity and his vanity is surpassed only by his empty theorizing. (Remember his theory that his canards enhance performance standards, productivity, and competitiveness?)


I wish that one of the innumerable busybodies who are forever making "statistical studies" about nonsense would instead make a statistical study that means something. For example, I'd like to see a statistical study of Mr. Superstar's capacity to learn the obvious. Also worthwhile would be a statistical study of how many slovenly exhibitionists realize that the whole of Mr. Superstar's uppity worldview may perhaps be expressed in one simple word. That word is "revanchism". Let me explain: The objection may still be raised that we're supposed to shut up and smile when Mr. Superstar says demonic things. At first glance this sounds almost believable yet the following must be borne in mind: We must give to bigotry no sanction, to persecution no assistance. Mr. Superstar's editorials are an icon for the deterioration of the city, for its slow slide into crime, malaise, and filth. Let's be honest here: I should note that I find that I am embarrassed. Embarrassed that some people don't realize that if Mr. Superstar opened his eyes, he'd realize that his outrage at complaints about him is indicative of his self-esteem and value system. I could be wrong about any or all of this, but at the moment, the above fits what I know of history, people, and current conditions. If anyone sees anything wrong or has some new facts or theories on this, I'd love to hear about them.

Two wins, one loss

That newsy post about being fat got a really good response from folks, so I've tried to keep some momentum rolling (or building) through the weekend.

Amanda had some bidniz to take care of on Saturday, so I went to the gym. True. I went. I did two circuits through the weight training machines, then 20 minutes on the treadmill. So far so good.

That night we went to a BBQ at my boss' place. There was drinking, and we don't drink and drive, so we left the car in the south end. That necessetated a long walk to the south end on Sunday to pick up the car. Well done. Good walk.

So here I am on Monday, and I'm stuck with the problem of the taekwondo gym. Master Yang moved the facility closer to where I live -- good for the trip home, not good for the trip there. As it was, I was *just* making it on time by walking to class right after work. That's not feasible now. I've yet to nail down a bus route that'll get me there on time. And I'm not keen on taking a taxi twice a week.

My plan today was to ride my bike to work and ride to class. I put on shorts, a running shirt and my dry-fit underwear and loaded my backpack up with a new shirt and a towel. I got out my helmet and biking gloves. I put the extra keys on my key ring and headed downstairs. Unlocked the bike cage in the parking garage. And found my bike. Tires. Moosh. Not enough air. Well, damn. Totally blew my plan.

Rats. Gotta keep on rollin', though.

Local fat radio guy tired of being fat

Local fat radio guy tired of being fat

HALIFAX (BAS) -- Sources close to local fat radio guy Scott Simpson say he's grown tired of being fat.

"He seems to get this way every once in a while," says a friend. "He eats those cinnamon buns for months, drinks his energy drinks and chocolate milk, then suddenly one day decides he's too fat."

A sales rep from Nubody's gym at Halifax's Scotia Square confirms that Simpson paid for a year's membership this spring but has yet to walk through the door even once to break a sweat.

Simpson made several weak attempts to get into shape in years past. One effort in the late 1990s earned him an award from the Radio & Television News Directors' association. Nearly ten years later, Simpson auditioned for the documentary series X-Weighted in an effort to turn his newfound maturity into physical action. The show moved production to other cities in Canada, leaving Simpson to attempt fitness on his own again. Despite signs of progress, the effort was ultimately unsuccessful.

"Now he's saying he's too poor to afford smoking," says an unnamed coworker of the fat news anchor. "He loaded up his online banking and kept muttering about not having enough to buy cigarettes any more. Frankly, all this money sh*t is getting pretty tiresome. I almost wish he'd go back to ranting about Scientology."

Friends say Simpson, whose weight has drifted between 185 pounds and more than 230 pounds in the past decade, has spent most of his adult life in the 220 pound range.

Health Canada reports his current Body Mass Index is 36, considered Obese Class II, indicating a very high risk of health problems related to weight. The only recent bright spot on his health record is a blood pressure reading from a local visit with a new family doctor: 128/84.

Sources suggest the time may be coming soon for the fat radio guy to take action.

"When other people have problems, he jumps in like he knows what's best for everyone," says one confidante. "But when it comes to his own flaws, he talks a big game, plans everything to death, and ends up getting nothing done. He's got two excuses for every one good idea he comes up with. He's his own worst enemy with this stuff.

"If you ask me, he's going to have to give up all the fancy talk, start eating his own cooking, and just get his big ass in gear and take care of business. I sure hope so, 'cuz all his complaining about being fat, broke and out of breath is really getting on everyone's nerves."

"Yeah, and he frickin' reeks of cigarette smoke all the time," added another source. "Just gross. 'Nuff said."

Maxed Out: Good movie about bad credit

Just over a month ago, I wrote a post about In Debt We Trust, a movie about the credit industry:

I expected In Debt We Trust to be an activist movie in the style of, say, Michael Moore or the Super Size Me guy. It was more like the latter, without even as much balance as the former. Danny Schechter takes on the credit industry from the point of view that people who fall victim to crushing debt are hapless victims of an exploitative monster industry. While I don't disagree that Americans in particular have been buried by sometimes questionable practices of credit companies, I felt the film let the consumers off the hook too easily. Yes, people are sucked in by too-good-to-be-true offers which shouldn't be offered in the first place. Yes, people are sucked under by payday loans. But after all the reading I've been doing lately, the reality that spending less than you make is the key to staying afloat is virtually ignored.
The film portrays slow death by debt as a virtual inevitability in American
society.


I didn't recommend that film, but I do recommend another movie I saw this weekend.

I heard Maxed Out: Hard Times, Easy Credit and the Era of Predatory Lenders (2006) mentioned on The Dave Ramsey Show podcast. (Not to be confused with Maxed Out, the 'Til Debt Do Us Part wannabe show on Canada's Dubya Network.)

Maxed Out is the movie I wanted In Debt We Trust to be.

It shares the same themes, and even some of the same content, but it's carried out in a much more engaging fashion. The personal stories are touching. The facts are outrageous. The concepts are explained with clarity. And it stays interesting. It brought out a sense of "holy crap, that shouldn't be happening!" instead of eliciting a reaction of "oh, shut up already."

You might catch it on American cable, or check your local rental outlet ... or BitTorrent if you're into that.

Congratulations, newsies!

Big congratulations to my fellow Maritime newsies who won recognition at the Radio & Television News Directors Association (RTNDA) Atlantic awards in Fredericton on the weekend.

News 95.7 won the Gord Sinclair award for Live Special Events coverage for our weekend-long tracking of extra-tropical storm Noel. You may remember some mention of it on this blog back when it was happening. I was the man-in-the-storm guy, reporting on outside weather conditions as they happened, and providing some comic relief. My thanks go out to Amanda for lending me her raincoat (which didn't stop me from getting soaked) on the Saturday, and driving me all over the place to get great stories the day after the storm. Way to go, team!

Our Moncton station News 91.9 got the Honourable Mention in that category.

Saint John affiliate News 88.9 picked up an Honourable Mention for News Information Program for The Big Fish -- coverage of the RCMP capturing one of America's Most Wanted.

Regular Bigasssuperstar.com reader Jason White received the Honourable Mention in the Charlie Edward Award for Spot News. Shortly after joining us in Halifax, he was sent out to a column of smoke rising from buildings several blocks from the station. He spent a freezing afternoon giving us compelling reports on the fiery destruction of the North End Diner.

Great work, everyone! The Atlantic Regional winners go on to compete for the RTNDA National Awards to be presented at the RTNDA National Conference in Ottawa on June 21.

Today was my last day at work, and I'm okay with that

Today marks a weird spot on the calendar for me. It’s one of those landmarks that really doesn’t mean anything, other than to illustrate the...