Lawn chair balloonist Kent Couch’s chair found!

Kent_Couch_Cluster_Balloon It has been ten months since I reported about a local business owner and cluster balloon enthusiast Kent Couch took his ride from Bend across Oregon.  After a little more than 10 months, someone finally found his lawn chair and video camera!

Congratulations to Kent!  I know that the longer the lawn chair and video camera stayed missing, the less likely that it would ever be found and reported.  I’m sure he’s quite happy about it since the camera contained the documentary of his flight from the perspective of the rider.

Serious phone fraud you should warn your loved ones about

Most emails that I receive concerning some new scam turn out to be little more than a hoax.  It’s the sad state of our society that many find easy methods to waste time of those they do not know.

Today I received an email from a source I trust which sounded like an example of the above; however, I did my due diligence to make the determination for myself due to the regard I have for the person who sent it.  To my surprise it turned out to be the one in a thousand (or more) that is true.

If you have loved ones that may not be savvy to official sounding phone calls, who are perhaps not as skeptical as you are when someone asks for information, please, I implore you to make them aware of this and impart the seriousness. This is identity theft via social engineering at its worst.

According to snopes.com, the scam first surfaced in 2001.  It has cropped back up several times in different states up to at least 2005 which probably means it is destined to show up again.

First the corroborating links, then the story:

Jury Duty Scam

From the Tinley Park Police Department,
This has been verified by the FBI (their link is also included below).
Please pass this on to everyone in your e-mail address book. It is
spreading fast so be prepared should you get this call. Most of us take
those summonses for jury duty seriously, but enough people skip out on
their civic duty, that a new and ominous kind of fraud has surfaced.

The caller claims to be a jury coordinator. If you protest that you never
received a summons for jury duty, the scammer asks you for your Social
Security number and date of birth so he or she can verify the information
and cancel the arrest warrant. Give out any of this information and
bingo; your identity was just stolen.

The fraud has been reported so far in 11 states, including Oklahoma ,
Illinois , and Colorado . This (swindle) is particularly insidious
because they use intimidation over the phone to try to bully people into
giving information by pretending they are with the court system. The FBI
and the federal court system have issued nationwide alerts on their web
sites, warning consumers about the fraud.

The Changing Face of Humor

Scott Adams, creator of Dilbert, wrote an interesting post entitled Humor as as Seasoning. He brings up an interesting view on the way society has changed what we accept as funny. I agree with his points.

Things that I found very funny 10 – 20 years ago (American Pie, Saturday Night Live) I now watch with little more than a chuckle, if that. Today things that give me a good belly roll are more interspersed with drama, action or something else. Even the comedy “classics” such as the 3 Stooges or Laurel and Hardy are no longer enough to keep most people from changing the channel.

There are a new breed of classics; however, that have incorporated the recipe that Scott has voiced. Some of them have been around for a long time and are a testament to the vision of the driving force behind them. Think about some of the older movies that you would probably watch again. For me the list includes flicks such as American Graffiti, The Princess Bride and Grosse Pointe Blank. I’m sure you have your list too.

The thing that these movies have in common is that they use humor as an enhancement for the movie and I believe that in 20 years I’ll still enjoy these movies as much as I do today.

So why is that? Why don’t the faddish, straight out in-your-face comedies have the longevity? I think it is because these movies that use “humor as a seasoning” reflect reality more. We relate to them because life is drama, action, tragedy, or just boring same-old, same-old with smatterings of comedic moments. I think these filmmakers had a vision that mimic what we know and live in to some degree or another and that is what sticks with us. Most of the movies that I think of in that light a lot of the people that I know feel similarly about from an entertainment point of view.

I think that’s also why shows like Seinfeld were so successful. It was a show about nothing after all! But nothing, sprinkled with funny bits is an average day for many of us. Of course the trick is to take the funny bits further otherwise we would quickly become bored.

Grey’s Anatomy is a great example. Here is yet another drama about doctors. Oh god, please no! But wait, these doctors are dysfunctional, like real people! They can be callous and compassionate, brilliant and idiotic all in one day. Sure, the stories are more extreme than normal life, but not by too far of a stretch. There’s comedy in there again. I think this one could last.

Scott goes on to talk about the decrease in sitcom popularity while “reality” TV is on the rise. I tend to think that this is another fad. It is different, and it attempts to sprinkle reality, comedy and other things together; however, it is too contrived. The thing about watching something like Boston Legal is that we know it isn’t suppose to be real, yet there are aspects that remind us of reality. Contrast that to a typical “reality” show like The Bachelor. Here’s a show that is suppose to reflect something we might relate to, yet it feels overly contrived.

In the end, I think that is what will prove the fad aspect of these shows. They simply feel too fake when they are penned as “reality,” whereas the “humor seasoned” shows fell more real when they are suppose to be fake.

Just my two cents. What are your thoughts?

Should social networks such as Facebook censor content?

I just finished reading the post on Slashdot this morning about a “hate” group created on Facebook on July 21st of this year.  The hate group used profanity in their name as a derogatory against a religious group.

Before I continue, I want to make it clear that I am just about as middle-of-the-road as you can get.  I have nothing against any religeous group unless their overall philosophy is ‘kill everyone.”  I don’t  believe there are many of those around these days and if there are they must keep pretty quiet.  I also feel that anyone that is strongly bigot-ted towards any group have some serious issues that need to be worked out.  It saddens me to see people feel that much hate and anger towards anything.

Now that the disclaimer is out of the way the real question is of censorship.  Should we expect our social networks to censor?  I am a parent among other things so that is a tough question.  I’ll admit that I use censoring software on my children’s computer to keep away all the nasty things that are not fit for an eight year old so I am guilty of censorship.

I do not, however, censor my wife’s access.  Nor do I feel anyone should censor other adults.  Does that make me a hypocrite or simply a good parent and open minded adult?  You tell me.

In the case of Facebook,  shortly after they were Slashdotted about the hate group the group was apparently shut down.  Now if you try to go to it you are redirected to your home page.  I suppose that it is probably a good thing, however; the group set up to petition Slashdot to remove the group is still active.  They have the hate group’s name in their title as well.  If your going to shut down one, why not the other?

And what does that mean for censorship?  Well, it means that money drives it.  It means that since the group has become a public hot topic it endangers membership and, more importantly, advertising.  Money is the way of the world, even with social networks.  It’s the motivating force behind most decisions to cut something.  Just ask Michael Vick.

I suppose it’s not good or bad, but just the way things work.

The Future of Finding Your Way

Robert Scoble was recently ripped to shreds again concerning his recent video. (Note, part II and part III in case you didn’t see them on the site.) I can understand why. His ideas are diametrically opposed to the current business view of finding things today.

I say Bravo. As a developer working with the intricacies, guesswork and sheer superstition surrounded the art of gaining rank with Google, Yahoo and MSN I have been dealing with many frustrations. You see, software engineers like to work in a couple of ways. First, they like to build something. In order to do that, you have to know what you are building. Trying to build pages that work with the algorithms in place today is guesswork at best. Second, we like to break things. We like to get the new gadget, tear it apart to understand it and then put it back together. Once we’ve done that, we know how to build something for it.

Today’s search paradigms do not fit within that mold. It is impossible, no matter what someone tells you, to be certain of what will affect the algorithms in what manner. Want proof? Just look at the great viewstate debate. From tests I’ve seen there is absolutely no evidence that search engines do not like it. In fact, in the test a co-worker of mine performed a page with a huge viewstate ranked highest out of other samples!

Circle of Trust - Meet the FockersSo what’s all this about? Maybe a shift in the way we think about finding credible information on the Internet.  Finally entering the Circle of Trust.  Scoble has some interesting points and let’s face it, this is what he does. He’s been deep into finding the new, better thing for many years now, he must know something! Is he always right? I doubt it. he’d probably admit that as well, but is it worth a listen? Absolutely.

Frankly, I hope he is right. I want to find my way easier, faster and with better success then Google lets me today. I am already starting to believe his hype about Facebook when at first I viewed it as just another “MySpace”. Now even my wife is using it! (Here’s my page if you want me to add you as a friend).

Oh, and check out Mahalo, it’s pretty nice.

Kent Couch with Jay Leno

Kent is certainly getting his 15 minutes of fame.  I watched his segment on The Tonight Show with Jay Leno this morning (DVR’s are the ONLY way to go!) and I must say he handled himself very well.  We was funny and appeared calm.

Jay Leno Balloon RideMy coworkers Mark and Doug, good friends of Kent, flew down to Burbank to help with a special project.  They constructed a lawn chair with about 80 balloons for Jay to take a tethered flight in.  Mark and Doug even made it into the show holding the chair while Jay got ready to launch, way to go guys!

Still no recovery of the original chair, video camera and other equipment from Kent’s 193 mile balloon ride.  Hopefully somebody will find it and claim the reward.

Lawn Chair Balloonist Update

For those of you readers that get my content through an aggregator that does not inform you of updated posts, here’s the latest on Kent Couch’s lawn chair ballooon ride.

[Update] Kent is going to appear with Jay Leno on The Tonight Show this evening.  Tuesday July 7th for those of you that didn’t see the date 😉

[Update] His balloon and chair has been reported as seen over Michigan by two sources.
Side Note: Google Maps is just downright cool!

[Update] I just found out that the video has been posted on You Tube and can be seen here.

[Update] Looks like you can now digg this story as well.