Singlesaints 4.0 Beta almost ready…

Woo hoo! The new site is soooo close! Yesterday I built a pretty decent feed-reader for users’ home pages, and a page to manage feeds. Still choking a bit on CDATA tags in feeds (I’m looking at YOU, Eric D. Snider), but otherwise it’s coming right along.

Some stuff that I still would like to add before launch:

  • Security checks for form submissions. Yikes!
  • Saved searches
  • Recent new results for your saved searches on your home page
  • WYSIWYG editor for various form submissions
  • All the ad code, and a decent ad-rotater

Other stuff that I need to add eventually:

  • Classified ads
  • Favorites list for books & movies, with links to Amazon with Singlesaints referral code
  • Wish list links — we’ll see if I can get a referral code in there, too
  • Profile page & home page templates — so users can customize their profile and home page
  • Group mailer — ability to email all your friends at once
  • Export mail as a .csv; perhaps even filtered to a single user
  • Group creation, a la Yahoo Groups
  • Oooooh — I could register singlesaints@yahoo.com and let the site subscribe to Yahoo Groups from a Singlesaints Group. Wonder what that would take.
  • Moderator nomination, election
  • Support desk

But we’re close! Yay! I think the new site will be extremely nifty.  And my off-the-cuff estimate is that traffic triples.

If it DOESN’T… hoo boy. That would be most unfortunate. Would have to reevaluate everything at that point.

Places You Can Put Corn

Last week, Rebecca coughed while she was eating some corn.

Then she told me she had coughed a kernel INTO HER NASAL CAVITY.

The rest of the evening was spent trying to dislodge this no-longer-delectable morsel. It was a bust. The next day the irritation waned, and she convinced herself it was all her imagination, and forgot about it.

This morning, she blew her nose and, lo and behold, found the corn. Apparently using some nasal spray had helped enlarge the cavity some, and the kernel could make its way out.

She asked me if I wanted to see it. I said no.

An Interesting Development

Dang it. I wrote a decently long post here, but it’s divulging too much. 

Suffice it to say I’m looking at a neat new project with a friend of mine, one that is entertainment-related, and it’s pretty exciting.

The Eternal First-Class Stamp

Neato! The US Postal Service is selling new “Forever Stamps” that cost $.41 each, but will remain valid as first-class postage regardless of any future postage hikes.

That there is some marketing, people! In an era of dwindling mail use by consumers, here’s an alluring way to get folks to buy stamps — whether or not they’ll ever use them.

At first glance it would seem like such a scheme is robbing the USPS of future sales — killing the goose that lays the golden egg, so to speak.  But in this case, the goose is already sick. Per the postal service itself, the “mail volume decline continued for First-Class Mail (0.5 percent decrease from the previous year)” in 2006 (emphasis added).

We’re emailing each other now. We pay our bills online. Some businesses and utilities will happily switch to e-statements, and stop mailing you your paper reminders. Writing actual letters or sending physical invitations is reserved for special occasions, or for getting bonus points in thoughtfulness. (Not sure why a physical envelope shows more thoughtfulness, but whatever — it’s fun for me to show my daughter when she’s received a new letter from grandma. It gets her more excited than video conferencing over the computer.)

Now, the USPS isn’t in any trouble. The US Department of Labor says they expect a decline in mail carrier jobs due to less mail usage, but we’re also sending lots more packages than we ever used to, and those have a higher profit margin.  Any idea how many packages get sent by US mail because of auctions on Ebay? 

I’m gonna go out on a limb here and say “lots”.

So First Class mailings will decrease, but shipping is still increasing, and is part of the reason why “(CFO) Walker said growth in Standard and Priority Mail helped increase overall mail volume to 213 billion pieces. Walker also reported that the fiscal year ended with a record 7th consecutive year in positive total factor productivity.”

But still — marketing genius, I say! The whole stamp-collecting thing is great and all, and fostering purchases that will never cost you anything is clever, but the Forever Stamp takes it to a whole new level.  I don’t know what kind of numbers they’re hoping for, but I can imagine a whole lot of people “investing” in these stamps, and never getting around to using them.

Go USPS! Now if we could just privatize you and buy stock….

Book Meme
stolen from ijason

1. The Da Vinci Code (Dan Brown)
2. Pride and Prejudice (Jane Austen)
3. To Kill A Mockingbird (Harper Lee)
4. Gone With The Wind (Margaret Mitchell)
5. The Lord of the Rings: Return of the King (Tolkien)
6. The Lord of the Rings: Fellowship of the Ring (Tolkien)
7. The Lord of the Rings: Two Towers (Tolkien)

8. Anne of Green Gables (L.M. Montgomery)
9. Outlander (Diana Gabaldon)
10. A Fine Balance (Rohinton Mistry)
11. Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire (Rowling)
12. Angels and Demons (Dan Brown)
13. Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix (Rowling)
14. A Prayer for Owen Meany (John Irving)
15. Memoirs of a Geisha (Arthur Golden)
16. Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s (*ahem* Philosopher (Hello??)) Stone (Rowling)
17. Fall on Your Knees (Ann-Marie MacDonald)
18. The Stand (Stephen King)
19. Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban (Rowling)
20. Jane Eyre (Charlotte Bronte)
21. the hobbit
22. the catcher in the rye(J.D. Salinger)
23. Little Women (Louisa May Alcott)
24. The Lovely Bones (Alice Sebold)
25. Life of Pi (Yann Martel)
26. The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy (Douglas Adams)
27. Wuthering Heights (Emily Bronte)
28. The Lion, The Witch and the Wardrobe (C. S. Lewis)
29. East of Eden (John Steinbeck)
30. Tuesdays with Morrie (Mitch Albom)
31. Dune (Frank Herbert)
32. The Notebook (Nicholas Sparks)
33. Atlas Shrugged (Ayn Rand)
34. 1984 (Orwell)
35. The Mists of Avalon (Marion Zimmer Bradley)
36. The Pillars of the Earth (Ken Follett)
37. The Power of One (Bryce Courtenay)
38. I Know This Much is True (Wally Lamb)
39. the red tent(Anita Diamant)
40. The Alchemist (Paulo Coelho)
41. The Clan of the Cave Bear (Jean M. Auel)
42. The Kite Runner (Khaled Hosseini)
43. Confessions of a Shopaholic (Sophie Kinsella)
44. The Five People You Meet In Heaven
45. Bible
46. Anna Karenina (Tolstoy)
47. The Count of Monte Cristo (Alexandre Dumas)
48. Angela’s Ashes (Frank McCourt)
49. The Grapes of Wrath (John Steinbeck)
50. She’s Come Undone (Wally Lamb)
51. The Poisonwood Bible (Barbara Kingsolver)
52. A Tale of Two Cities (Dickens)
53. Ender’s Game (Orson Scott Card)
54. Great Expectations (Dickens)
55. The Great Gatsby (Fitzgerald)
56. The Stone Angel (Margaret Laurence)
57. Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets (Rowling)
58. The Thorn birds (Colleen McCullough)
59. The Handmaid’s Tale (Margaret Atwood)
60. The Time Traveller’s Wife (Audrew Niffenegger)
61. Crime and Punishment (Fyodor Dostoyevsky)
62. The Fountainhead (Ayn Rand)
63. War and Peace (Tolstoy)
64. Interview With The Vampire (Anne Rice)
65. Fifth Business (Robertson Davis)
66. One Hundred Years Of Solitude (Gabriel Garcia Marquez)
67. The Sisterhood of the Travelling Pants (Ann Brashares)
68. Catch-22 (Joseph Heller)
69. Les Miserables (Hugo)
70. The Little Prince (Antoine de Saint-Exupery)
71. Bridget Jones’ Diary (Fielding)
72. Love in the Time of Cholera (Marquez)
73. Shogun (James Clavell)
74. The English Patient (Michael Ondaatje)
75. The Secret Garden (Frances Hodgson Burnett)
76. The Summer Tree (Guy Gavriel Kay)
77. A Tree Grows in Brooklyn (Betty Smith)
78. The World According To Garp (John Irving)
79. The Diviners (Margaret Laurence)
80. Charlotte’s Web (E.B. White)
81. Not Wanted On The Voyage (Timothy Findley)
82. Of Mice And Men (Steinbeck)
83. Rebecca (Daphne DuMaurier)
84. Wizard’s First Rule (Terry Goodkind)
85. Emma (Jane Austen)
86. Watership Down(Richard Adams)
87. Brave New World (Aldous Huxley)
88. The Stone Diaries (Carol Shields)
89. Blindness (Jose Saramago)
90. Kane and Abel (Jeffrey Archer)
91. In The Skin Of A Lion (Ondaatje)
92. Lord of the Flies (Golding)
93. The Good Earth (Pearl S. Buck)
94. The Secret Life of Bees (Sue Monk Kidd)
95. The Bourne Identity (Robert Ludlum)
96. The Outsiders (S.E. Hinton)
97. White Oleander (Janet Fitch)
98. A Woman of Substance (Barbara Taylor Bradford)
99. The Celestine Prophecy (James Redfield)
100. Ulysses (James Joyce) 

Kinda embarrassing. But then, this list doesn’t claim to be all the best books or anything like that.

I think one of the things that keeps me from picking up more “classics” is that I’m pained when I see authors with misaligned morals.

Yeah, I’m saying that: some folks have messed-up morals. Go ahead and say that morals are based on an individuals paradigm, that moral relativity is real, etc. I’ll be over here doing something more productive than listening to you.

And I don’t want to read about it.  When I was a kid I could just enjoy the story; now, though, even old favorites — I’m looking at you, Hitchhikers — just hurt. Poor Douglas Adams. “Life is pointless, so let’s just laugh instead” is a pretty lousy philosophy.

Joseph Heller, same thing. I read bits of Catch-22  for a report in high school; not the best reading for a kid suffering from depression who thought life was pointless pain.

Whelmed.

I don’t know what it is exactly about my current project at work (read: home, where I work), but I’m having the hardest time WORKING on it. I get in a few good hours each day, but that’s just not enough to get me to my deadline on time.

I asked the CEO for a pep-talk last week, and he restored my faith in the viability of the company, but I’m still struggling here.

For example, I’m posting to my blog instead of working. After having taken a break for lunch. Which followed my midday nap.

I tend to work later in the evenings to try to compensate, but I really just need to grab ALL the other developers and brain-dump.

Better still would be to delegate. But, uh, I’m not in a position to delegate. So I guess it would be more like off-loading, passing the buck, dropping the ball (and hoping somebody catches it), or some other catchy (HA!) phrase.

Okay. Rant over; heading back to the grindstone.

I wasn’t WoWed.

So, World of Warcraft, which is probably the most profitable PC game ever, has a free 10-day trial. Being the last gamer on Earth to have played it, I decided to give it a try.

I… I don’t get it.

I really don’t see what the point is. I mean, why are hojillions of people playing it? Why did it win so many awards? I was bored, and even a little confused.

It probably doesn’t help that I really dislike the artistic style they went with, but mostly the game just fails to intrigue me. You see a zillion other characters running around, doing the same things you need to do to finish a quest. Not much story there, ya know? If everybody else is tackling this quest, why do you need MY help?

And you’d think that with that many characters, it’d seem more like a real place, a real city or whatever. Nope! Just the opposite, really — the non-player characters are just standing there, waiting to dole out quests, and the players are all running everywhere they go, clearly on one quest or another.

The ratio of adventurers to non-adventurers is like 100 to 1. It just seems silly.

Now, I can’t really offer serious suggestions on the gameplay, since the game is so popular that Blizzard employees have been able to buy small continents with their stock dividends, but here’s what I think might be more interesting:

  1. The inability to discern between NPCs and PCs. No labels floating overhead identifying who is who.

  2. The ability to GIVE quests. “Fetch me 10 herbroots. I’ll pay 5 silver.” The system automatically determines how many experience points a given quest might be worth, though I imagine it needs some careful logic to prevent leveling from happening by giving each other dumb quests. You could write your quest in whatever flowery language you want — the player who approaches you might not ever know you’re a PC, rather than an NPC.
  3. Quests that require more NPC-like actions. “Man this booth for a few sales, my dear apprentice of mercantile. I’ll return shortly.”
    “Await the messengers from the city of Burgrath. They come along quite frequently. Determine which ones you think are spies, and report.”
    “Patrol this street and report back how many mages you see over the next few minutes.”
    Maybe those are boring, because there’s no combat. But I think they could be nifty.

  4. A conversation engine for NPCs. Instead of *hear request**accept quest*, have it be language-based. “Can you do that for me?” “Y-e-s
    That would allow conversations with any NPC, making it harder to determine who is an NPC and who is a PC. The old Turing test.
    Why would you want to appear as an NPC?
    Because you could defraud other players when they complete your quest.
    The defense against this, of course, is that the players can just chat at each other and announce to those nearby in the world that “Algoroth is human — cheated me out of my quest reward.”
    Or you could attack that player if you dared, or maybe report the fraud to police.

I dunno. Maybe there’s nothing that would really get me interested in the game. But these brownies must have SOMETHING in them, because millions of folks are paying to play EVERY MONTH.