Misc: February 2010 Archives


February 28, 2010

A persistent problem at races is long lines for the portapotties. I've actually missed the start of races because I was waiting in line. I've often wished that races would sell some sort of premier access where you would pay a little extra on your race fee and get to use special portapotties. (This is effectively Odzlyko's Paris Metro Pricing idea applied to a different kind of uh, resource.) Actually, what I would probably prefer would be a guarantee that the race would have an extra premier toilet for each X racers that paid for premier access.

Anyway, the New Orleans Rock and Roll Marathon seems to have implemented a more elaborate version of this:

To get your race off to the best possible start, we'll have comfortable, climate-controlled restroom trailers set up at the starting line. Running water, flushing toilets, and some Run Happy® surprises await.

To access this pre-race luxury, you'll need to snag a Brooks VIP Porta Potty pass in one of two easy ways:

1. Head to Varsity Sports between 2/1 and 2/27 and purchase $50 in Brooks or Moving Comfort apparel or Brooks shoes. Offer valid at both Varsity Sports locations.


2. Come to the Rock 'n' Roll Mardi Gras Marathon™ & 1/2 Marathon Health and Fitness Expo on Friday 2/26, or Saturday 2/27, and purchase $150 in official Rock 'n' Roll Marathon merchandise, Brooks apparel or shoes, or Moving Comfort apparel.

Either way, you'll receive a sticker for your race bib. The sticker is your race-day pass to Brooks' VIP Porta Potty, to be expertly staffed by Varsity Sports volunteers and Brooks employees,

It's hard to figure out how much this really costs: I don't wear Brooks shoes, but presumably I could find some Brooks gear that would be comfortable, so figure like 20% of the amount you're expected to spend, which isn't so bad. Anyway, I've got no objection to emptying my bladder in comfort, of course—and the portapotties at races can get pretty bad—but really my priority is being able to go without having to wait. I'd be interested to hear from anyone who was at this event and used this service how long the line was.


February 8, 2010

I recently had occasion to rent a car from Enterprise (long story). As I picked up the car and prepared to drive away, I noticed that the tank was only half full. I pointed this out to the customer service guy and he informed me that this was part of their new "half full/half empty policy", i.e., ordinarily you get the car full and you bring it back full. Here, they give it to you half full and you bring it back half full. I couldn't quite tell if this was what Enterprise always does now or just something they sometimes do, but while it seems superficially the same as the original policy, it's actually quite a bit worse for the renter.

With the old policy, life was simple: you found a gas station close to the car return, filled up the tank, maybe grabbed a receipt, and dropped the car off. By contrast, what happens here is that you drive around, filling up the tank if necessary, and at some point you need to return the car. If you're over 1/2 full then you just end up gifting the remainder to Enterprise (who can just fill up the tank completely and require the next customer to return it full). (What, you were going to drive the car around until you had burned up the gas? Or maybe you were going to siphon it out into some empty Gatorade bottles...) You could, of course, never fill the tank above 1/2 way, but this is a huge pain. Even if you're lucky enough to be at less than 1/2 full when you need to return the car, you're unlikely to be exactly at 1/2, in which case you need to put some gas in. You're reasonably likely to overshoot (again, taking gas out of the tank isn't easy.), in which case Enterprise again gets some free gas.

Either way, this is likely to be a win for Enterprise and a lose for you.


February 2, 2010

My friend Terence just got written up in the Stranger as the first purchaser of Caleb Larsen's A Tool to Deceive and Slaughter (hereafter ATtDaS). Briefly, ATtDaS is a black cube with some electronics inside that, when connected to the Internet, attempts to sell itself on eBay. (Current auction here). The purchaser is (allegedly) required to provide an Internet connection (semi-absurd EULA can be found at the auction site. sample quote: "Any failure to follow these terms without prior consent of Artist will forfeit the status of the Artwork as a legitimate work of art. The item will no longer be considered a genuine work by the Artist and any value associated with it will be reduced to its value as a material object and not a work of art.") and has to kick back 15% of the profits from the sale to Larsen.

Terence paid a stupefying $6400 for the privilege of not-really owning this object. Here's what he has to say for himself:

It sort of uniformly falls into two categories: either, That's an enormously appealing, thought-provoking piece of art, or the other thing is, That's the most foolish thing I've ever seen. They're really defensive about it.

I hang out with a bunch of computer security people because I'm a computer security person myself, so they want to know, are you going to hack the box? Is there some way to put it behind a firewall to slow it down so it can't sell itself? Which really adds a whole other dimension because you buy the box and the box immediately starts trying to escape from you. So part of the impulse is, is there a way I can subvert the process of it trying to escape from me? By doing that, you'd in some ways be removing the reason it's interesting.

I'm (of course) one of the people who suggested that it be firewalled off. Obviously, just firewalling it off would be cheating and arguably violate the license agreement (not that I'm convinced it's actually binding). But the natural security guy reaction is to try to find some way to stop ATtDaS from selling itself in some way that complies with the agreement. My suggestion was to firewall off eBay alone, or just forge TCP RST packets. This seems to me the qualify with the relevant term:

Collector agrees that the Artwork will remain connected to a live Internet connection at all times, with disconnections allowed only for the transportation of the work from one venue to another.

Option 2 seems to be to "transport" it from its current venue in Seattle to a venue somewhere in the Himalayas via yak, Sherpa, or the like.

I tried to explain to Terence that this wasn't removing the interesting part but rather going taking an allegedly subversive piece and going meta-subversive, but he didn't bite. Some people just don't appreciate art.