What do you have against Facebook, meanie?

From some recent jesush comments, recast as an instant message so I don’t look like a complete Luddite when talking yang about social networking:

using_the_whole_fist_doc: facebook and myspace and all of those social networking sites that require me to be a member to see anything are horseshit.
al_abut: as for the closed garden debate, I’m on the fence. there’s a lot of shit that people don’t feel like airing out in public so the semi-private nature of it is actually a draw for many people, not a deterrent. i don’t give a rat’s ass but a lot of people i do give a rat’s ass about do care, so that’s my prostitute’s rationale.

Here’s the longer-form critique I have of Myspace and Facebook.

  1. They’re designed to pump up membership and page views, first and foremost. Al mentions the semi-privacy angle above, and that’s fine–it’d certainly be possible to build in privacy (make a blog post visible to only people who are logged in, or even restricted to friends and family accounts) and make the default condition that content is viewable by everyone unless the writer explicitly configures their stuff otherwise. But that’s not the way this stuff works. If I go to someone’s Myspace page, I generally get an awful-looking mess of favorites, friends, thumbnailed photos, a flash music player playing some shitty mp3 or other, and a fraction of the user’s latest blog post. Then I have to click on something–and log in–to see anything else. Facebook is even more exclusionary–I can’t see a damn thing without giving up my username and password.

    Also, once I logged in, if I wanted to read something like this blog entry in Myspace I’d have to click about twelve times to get to this point, with ads all over the place on each subsequent page. (I don’t know what stuff like this looks like in Facebook. I’ve never seen a Facebook page, though I’ve read about the framework.)

    That’s really annoying, and I’ma go ahead and opt out of that whole system.

  2. You’re subject to the whims of the Internet. Let’s say I’m a new web user. I decide I want to start building a profile, contacts, a blog, or whatever, and so I choose the most popular of these systems and bust a move. A few years later, I’ve got my online presence just the way I want it. I’ve turned into a compelling blogger, with hundreds of posts to my name. The world is my oyster.

    Only a few years ago I would have chosen to do all this stuff on Friendster, and now I’d be fucked because nobody gives a shit about Friendster anymore.

  3. You’re handing the keys to the bus to someone you don’t know and can’t trust. The people running Myspace and Facebook might seem like great guys. Maybe they are great guys–and yes, I know Tom Anderson is your special Myspace friend, that’s very nice. But Tom Anderson sold out. Here’s how tomorrow’s meeting might go:

    Rupert Murdoch: Anderson, there are media properties to fuck up and politicians to make dance, and I want some quick cash. My team at FIM has come up with three ideas for Myspace:

    i. Myspace2.
    ii. sell our user list to anyone with two nickels to rub together.
    iii. search the content of all our users for potentially embarrassing phrases. generate press releases with this content and real names for anyone who doesn’t pay a “Privacy License Fee”.

    What order do we roll these out in?
    Tom Anderson: uh…
    Murdoch: all at once. I like the way you think.
    Anderson: That’s not the vision we had for Myspace going forward, sir.
    Murdoch: change of plans, bitch. Make it happen, or I’ll give Myspace to Lachlan to play with.

    Now, I’m not saying that will happen. I’m saying stranger things have happened.

The value of your online presence is generally proportional to the amount of work you put into developing it. If you want to click around for hours friending people and leaving one-line 133t-speak comments, I’m sure not about to sign up with Facebook just to hang out with you and do the same thing, no matter how much I like you in real life.

On the other hand, maybe you’re fighting the good fight and putting yourself out there and being a compelling content creator… in that case, you can do yourself and the entire Internet a favor and hook up with a system that gives you as much control over your content as you can get. It’s really really affordable to get your own domain, your own web space, and your own blog installation. Then you can say what you want, link to what you want, and not worry about the system you’re using suddenly being infected with evil incarnate and screwing up all your stuff.

Unless you suddenly turn evil, in which case I guess it’s cool.

Crib for Sale

Over the summer, we got our old house on 68th St–yeah, the one I blogged about scouting out in 2002–cleaned up and ready to sell. The sell-versus-rent question is one that people are talking over lately, and it’s certainly something we thought a lot about.

Front view

After we moved, we worked on the place weekends. We gave the place a good cleaning, got painters in and painted inside and out, cleaned up the yard, and did a number on the kitchen. The main impediment to sale according to our realtor would be the dicked-up oatmeal hued tile kitchen countertops, so that was where we ended up doing most of our work. Pop came by and we laid new tile on the kitchen counters and replaced the marginal 70’s-era goldenrod appliances with newer versions. By early September, the work was done and we were ready to list.

New kitchen

As we were leaving after cleaning up from the tile job, we thought how funny it was that the place never looked this good when we actually lived there.

To help sell the place, we set up the utility room as a kitchenette and pushed the new owner’s ability to double-bolt a bedroom door and turn the house into separate 2BR/1BA and 1BR/1BA units with no shared living space. This is a feature that I was happy to have when I bought the place, even if I never took advantage of it. Had things worked out differently financially for me over the last few years, I could have broken off the 1BR/1BA unit and had an SDSU student helping pay my mortgage.

The utility room, in kitchenette form

We listed in September, and the house is still on the market. Until last week, I was thinking I’d hold pretty firm on the price, and if the place didn’t sell by about now we’d look at renting for a year. My thinking was I’ve been told by people who are close to the real estate market that we were about six months from turning it around for about nine months now, and holding on to the place and renting it for a year or two would be a small price to pay for getting something closer to 2005 price when we sell.

The backyard, a year after reclamation

That thinking has changed. Here’s why:

* Turnaround timetable. I’m not hearing the six months thing all that much anymore. Real estate continues to stagnate or fall in many areas locally. The dumb-ass financial institutions that screwed around with subprime lending continue to have their problems. The Fed isn’t giving up the additional rate cuts everybody is whining for last time I looked.

If the market goes down into 2008 and then rebounds to current prices–or even a little higher–by 2010, we’ve gained virtually nothing for holding on to the house until then.

* Hillary. We’ve got to sell by 2010 or we pay capital gains on the sale. I haven’t been that successful at influencing political events around here but I’d be kind of surprised if the Republicans keep the Presidency in 2008 at this point. If they don’t, capital gains goes up, just reinforcing the importance of that date.

* I don’t want to be a landlord. Renting wouldn’t be a problem as far as keeping the house occupied, since it’s so close to SDSU, but I really don’t want to rent if we can avoid it. First of all, we can’t likely cover our mortgage if we rent, meaning we’ll have to rent at a loss (albeit a small one). We have to deal with tenants, and with Alex on the way and plenty of other stuff to keep me busy I can say with conviction there’s a lot of stuff I’d rather do than deal with tenants.

And Lord help us if we get the wrong tenants. Someone rebuilding an engine block on the hardwood or something would make me want to put my fist through the wall.

* Risk aversion. For every month we hold on to the house, we not only make another mortgage payment, we run the risk of something catastrophic happening that dicks up the property or our timetable. As much derision as the concept of ‘cutting and running’ gets these days, I’m ready to cut and run, and get out while the getting is good.

Dig the cellular shades. Wired for surround sound.

We’re going to push forward on this sale as quickly as we can, getting to and even getting a little below current market price if required. Here’s the listing… tell your friends that the seller is motivated!

Dream Into Action

For years, I’ve had this vision enter my head when October comes around. It’s a set of jack o’ lanterns carved to look like a string of shrunken heads hanging in some voodoo priest’s workshop (or perhaps a cheesy New Orleans pub). Heck, I even took the time to draw up a schematic one year.

I’m sure this is culturally insensitive. My bad.

There were a couple of problems with bringing this concept to fabrication. First and foremost, the old house sucked ass when it came to trick-or-treaters. I never got any, and that did a lot to kill the momentum on any decorate-the-pad-for-Halloween initiative.

Second, I’m kind of low-effort as far as Halloween observance goes, especially for a JesusH-er. I did go so far as to dress up as Ron Mexico for Halloween last year, but even that pales in comparison to a real JesusH costume effort.

This year, though, we’re finally in a Halloween-y neighborhood, the energy level’s never been higher, and the wife had never carved a pumpkin, so after converting pennies into money we blew a couple of hours turning three pumpkins into the real thing.

jack o lanterns, in the daytime
Not so scary in the daytime…

jack o lanterns, in the dark
…but night’s another story.

We ended up cutting the access holes in the back of the pumpkins, rather than cutting the crowns off, and had to use the little battery-powered fake candles from the centerpiece we stole from Paul and Jen’s reception instead of the real thing so the whole works didn’t catch on fire. The hair was black bootlaces strung through holes on the top of the pumpkins to broken chopstick supports in the bottoms.

I cut the bottom jack to match what I had in mind, but it had been so long since I did one of these I wasn’t sure it’d show enough light, so I carved the middle pumpkin a little more conventionally. The top pumpkin is Michelle’s first jack o’ lantern. He’s bringing happy back.

Q: What could you buy for $1.1 trillion?

A: You could pay, in full, the federal taxes of every person in the US and A.

A: Everything the US Military plans to buy for the next two years.

A: Every share of stock traded in the Russian stock market.

A: 100% ownership of Microsoft, Google, GE, and Qualcomm.

A: PetroChina, the Chinese national oil company which listed on the Shanghai stock exchange yesterday.


As funny as Homeboys from Outer Space.

You may have heard that there’s a writer’s strike going on in Hollywood.

I don’t care at all about the strike itself, but this is the first photo I’ve seen of the strikers and I have to say, I expected more pithy, well-written slogans than “ON STRIKE” on the signs. The protesters might want to think about bringing in some strike doctors to punch up the production a little bit.