In the next couple of days, a backup mail server that I run is going to be moving to upstate New York, and needs to be offline for a few weeks. As a result, I’m looking for a good, reliable provider as a temporary replacement. What I need is an ISP or hosting company that, instead of having some huge package that includes (as an afterthought) backup mail service for the domains that you host with them, has an inexpensive package specifically for providing store-and-forward SMTP service for domains that are hosted elsewhere. I’d also prefer a service that will let me host multiple domains for minimal extra coin. Most hosting providers seem to have a ton of online detail about how much it’ll cost me to host my website with them, but then have a “contact us” email link for anything less than that, so it’s hard to get any sense of who provides backup mail hosting service, and what it costs. Does anyone have any recommendations?
How did I miss Dahlia Lithwick’s Slate piece last week on the Massachusetts gay marriage ruling? She dissects the most popular argument used by critics of the ruling, that gay marriage tarnishes all marriages, by listing some of the real threats to the institution of marriage in America (like the fact that nearly half of all U.S. marriages end in divorce). Of course, my real question is whether there’s anyone out there who really believes the weakening-of-marriage argument, or whether it’s just something that’s knowingly thrown out there by people who fully realize that they actually just hate the lifestyle of gay people (but also realize that they can’t use that as their argument without exposing themselves as bigots).
I will cut taxes, balance the budget, and rid the world of Skeletor. Skeletor is evil. Skeletor does not believe in free trade.
I guess I’m not the only one that noticed that a customer service phone number no longer appears anywhere obvious on Amazon’s website. (A few months ago, I bought a wireless keyboard from them, and when it was broken on arrival, went hunting for the proper way to deal with the problem. Alas, my biggest question — whether Amazon would pay for the return shipping on the broken keyboard — was left ambiguously unanswered by the help section of their website. Looking to get an answer, I then noticed that a phone number was nowhere to be found, replaced by forms that allowed me to submit my issue. Then I remembered that, way back in Amazon’s first days, I had put the phone number into my Palm… and sure enough, there it was, and it was still connected to the customer service department. By speaking with someone, I was able to handle the new order and return shipment in under three minutes. Of course, this was probably because nobody else knows how to call the company…)

It’s hard not to be impressed with the way that Wesley Clark’s campaign for the 2004 Presidential campaign has embraced weblogs. Going way beyond the now-requisite candidate weblog, the campaign registered, and (under Cam Barrett’s guidance) is using it to create smaller communities of supporters that are able both to coordinate their efforts locally and share them globally. There’s a Massachusetts for Clark weblog, an environmentalists for Clark weblog, a Clark fundraising weblog, and as many other ones as you could imagine; they all feed into the same content management system, which allows for communication between communities. The Community Network also allows for a uniform user experience when poking around all of the individual communities, establishing a clear brand that’s even stronger than many corporate identities on the web today. It’s so far beyond what any other candidate has implemented, and I’d be surprised if it isn’t significantly simplifying the communication within Clark’s campaign in the run for the White House.

A few browser-related thoughts that have crossed through my mind over the past few days…

First, why did it take so long for someone to come up with a free pop-up blocking toolbar for Internet Explorer? It’s been a while since every other browser on the market incorporated the functionality into their respective cores; Microsoft has held off on adding it into IE, for whatever reason, so the logical next step has always been for an ambitious third party to whip up a barricade to the annoyance of pop-up, pop-under, and whole-computer-taking-over advertising. Before the Google Toolbar, I tended to use other browsers just to avoid ads; now that the Toolbar has blocking features, it’s a pleasure to be able to go back to the speed of IE.

That being said, though, I’m currently playing around with Mozilla Firebird, and I like what I see. (I know, most cool people started using Firebird months ago…) The interface is clean and less dissimilar from the general Windows UI as have been past Mozilla products (but not completely… for example, why can’t Firebird abide by my preference to hide underlined letters for keyboard navigation until I press the Alt key?), tabbed browsing works beautifully, and the rendering engine is darned fast. One of the things I love most about Mozilla, the DOM Inspector, doesn’t seem to be part of Firebird, but seeing as it’s supposed to be a lean user-level browser, that’s understandable. Likewise, there are a few options missing that should be in the core package, like an easy way to switch search engines. All that being said, Firebird is advertised as a technology preview, and if the final product builds upon what’s already available, it’ll be a pretty damn fine browser.

“Here a front, there a front, everywhere a terror front.” In today’s New York Times, Maureen Dowd analyzes the first Republican television ad in the campaign for the 2004 election, and finds that it’s less an ad for Bush and more an ad to press people into voting Republican on the basis of fear. Even sillier, the ad uses clips of Bush’s statements from the State of the Union address — the same one in which we now know that our President used misleading or wholly false information as the basis of his terrorism fearmongering. I just hope that the American voter sees through this, and calls Bush out next year.
On this, the 140th anniversary of President Abraham Lincoln’s address on a former battlefield in Gettysburg, Pennsylvania, I point you to the only known photo of Lincoln at the ceremony. More interesting than the photo is the story behind the photo; according to the Library of Congress website, the glass plate negative sat unrecognized in the National Archives for over 50 years before someone recognized Lincoln buried in the crowd. (Test yourself by checking out the entire photo before clicking through to the detail; I bet you can’t find him!)
It’s been a lot of fun to listen to the various reactions, all around Boston and in the media, to yesterday’s affirmation of gays’ right to marry. As you’d expect, the most amusing group of people has been the nutjob representatives of the religious right, ready and willing to decry the “pro-homosexual agenda of the Court” that aims to “knock out the underpinnings of modern society as we know it.” (I actually heard some hysterical intolerant utter this phrase on the radio today.) There’s plenty of fear and loathing coming out of the far right, predicting the downfall of Massachusetts, America, and the entire Western way of life if a ruling stands which lets gay people enjoy the same rights as their straight brethren. While the fear generally makes me laugh, the people that make me cringe are those who try to convince otherwise reasonable people of their ways with arguments that are based on a fabulously flawed understanding of the American system of government. For example, I’ve heard a handful of opponents of gay marriage say that the Court “ignored the will of the people of Massachusetts with its ruling,” as if any court’s purpose was to interpret the law according to public opinion. (The fact that there are two women and a black man on the Supreme Judicial Court of Massachusetts is a fine testament to the fact that past courts ignored public opinon and gave people who weren’t white men the right to vote, as well as own property, receive public money, and attend school.) Others claim that “law shouldn’t be made in the courtroom,” as if interpreting the law is the same as creating it. (The fact that the Court threw the issue back to the legislature is a good demonstration of the differences between the two branches.) Have as jackassed a perspective on the rights of man as you want, but don’t try to blame views that don’t mesh with your own on an overexuberant judiciary; a major part of the true foundation of this country has always been the existence of a branch of government that’s concerned more with the rights of the people than with their opinions.

I don’t know about you guys, but I’m getting a kick out of the “we can’t print anything at all about the allegation against the man in line to the British throne” thing going on right now. I’d imagine that news editors across Great Britain are getting sick of trying to figure out new ways to talk around the story, and getting sicker of reading the complete details in the print of their French and American counterparts. It’s interesting to me, though, that while it’s (apparently) against British law for newspapers to print the rumors that a former royal valet walked in on Prince Charles having sex with a male aide, it’s not against the law for those same papers to print the Prince’s retaliatory allegations that the valet was an alcoholic sufferer of PTSD. How very odd!

This certainly puts into perspective the preparation — and expense — that’s goes into Bush’s trip to London. But honestly, why does he have to bring 150 national security advisors with him?
While I’m completely in agreement with the sentiment behind Adam Kalsey’s Comment Spam Manifesto, I can’t help but feel like it’s just pointless. Remembering back to a few years ago, I was all into shutting down email spammers. I’d spend a few minutes here and a few minutes there emailing or calling ISPs to let them know about a customer of theirs who was sending out unsolicited email, and getting accounts shut down, full of righteous rage (as the unfortunate people who shared an office with me can attest) and feeling like I could make a difference. Unfortunately, then the spam explosion occurred. Today, I get somewhere between 200 and 300 unsolicited email messages a day, and if I were to count the messages sent to the 30 email addresses I’ve shunted directly into the bit bucket, that number would be around 750. Therein lies the problem with the strategy of deterrence through reporting — it very quickly becomes an exercise in futility.
I’ve been underwater in the bone marrow transplant unit for the past week, and as a result, I’ve been mostly offline. As a means of catching myself up, here are a few things other people have taken note of in the past few days that interest me: That’s it for now…
Wow — the U.S. baseball team won’t be making the trip to Athens for the Olympics next year, having lost to Mexico in the quarterfinals of the qualifying tournament yesterday. There was even a lot of talk about Roger Clemens pitching for the team, but alas, it wasn’t to be.

Apparently, for today only, there’s a deal on online shopping through affiliates over at Dell (that link goes to Dell through their affiliate front-end); you can get $25 off of purchases of software or peripherals $350 or more by entering the coupon code “FCC8FD174C14” when checking out. Dunno if anyone’s looking for a reason to buy something today, but if so, maybe this is it…