Thursday, January 24, 2008
Tonight's online time-wasting has been slightly different from most nights' time-wasting:
1. We need the form to get the form. John discovered that he never got his car registration renewal notice in the mail. In Arizona that's essentially the new registration itself, except that it's not valid until marked as paid. In practice that means that either you go wait in line at the MVD, mail it in and wait for a new copy to arrive by mail with tags attached, or go online and take care of it, print out a receipt, and wait for a new one to arrive by mail with tags attached.
The online renewal option, from a site called ServiceArizona.com, is generally efficient and painless, but not in this particular instance. Because John doesn't have the renewal, he's worried about going to the emissions place without the renewal. and without the emissions printout, he can't register online and get the new registration form. I navigated ServiceArizona for a while on his behalf, but basically he's going to have to let the emissions people take his info from the old registration. He'll be fine, really. But the online portion of the process was a bit Catch-22ish tonight.
2. Wikipedia is depressing me these days. First there was a push to delete "nonfree" images (any image the copyright holder hasn't released into the wild) unless they had some sort of fair use explanation attached to the article or the image. Then it had to be attached to the image. Then it had to say certain things in a way that a software bot can read it. Then it needed a separate one for each use in an article, with the article name attached. Then the article name had to be written in a specific place so the bots would see it. And now, even if one goes through all those hoops, there are people looking to delete as many fair use images as possible anyway, based on the strictest possible interpretation of guidelines. So I've been trying to fix the images I uploaded, but I'm sure I've missed a few here and there. And meanwhile, every day some article I watch has an image deleted because whoever uploaded it isn't on Wikipedia anymore, or doesn't care enough to jump through the hoops, or because someone or some bot accidentally deleted something that did have a valid fair use rationale. Suddenly there's no picture of Madeleine L'Engle, Annette Funicello, the Mickey Mouse Club logo, and on and on. The only image on each of various Doctor Who episode articles is falling daily, almost unnoticed. Debate rages about whether an article about the Doctor is allowed to have one tiny image of the Fourth Doctor as part of a changing faces montage, and a second image as part of a detailed discussion of the Doctor's changing tastes in clothing, most notably the long scarf he used to famously wear. And the Back to the Future Timeline just survived another challenge to its existence. Honestly, it feels like the forces of repression and paranoia are out to strip Wikipedia of anything remotely informative or fun. That's not quite what's happening, but it feels that way. Last night I uploaded a "free" image of the Hotel Congress to Wikipedia. Try to clamp down on that, anti-image warriors!
And remember all the stuff I wrote nearly a year and a half ago, when a certain person made my Wikilife miserable for months on end, saying horrible things to me and others for not wanting him to turn the Disemvoweling article into an attack on the technique and its inventor? After a year of peace, that's all started up again, too. This time, somebody else with an axe to grind is trying to claim that the technique (which consists of taking all the vowels out of someone's comments) is used to stifle dissent. The problem is, the example given, according to the moderator, at least, is actually about making rudeness harder to read. And now the person who called me names throughout that previous dispute has turned up again to spew more bile. Frankly, I'm not even going to read what he wrote this time, much less try to negotiate with him and this other person. Lt smn ls dl wth t fr chng. I feel a little guilty about that, but I can't face the aggravation again.
3. Please log in again, even if we make it impossible. I tried to pay bills online the other night. Most of them were no problem, but one well-known credit card bank's web site said the site was unavailable, and to try again later. So I tried again tonight. I was redirected to a page that said my login had timed out, and to login again. So I clicked the login link, and was sent to a page that said my login had timed out, and to login again. This wonderfully frustrating time loop took place no matter how I tried to get to the login screen. I even deleted two cookies for that bank, whereupon the page got hung up in and endless loop and wouldn't load at all. And the asp still said my login had timed out.
Then I went to the site using IE instead of Firefox and got right in. D'oh!
Enough. The more I work on this entry, the more annoyed I get. Time for bed!