Today’s Amazon Special: Flip-Flops

Amazon.com has taken brief, Kerry-esque, we-were-for-it-until-we-were-against-it stands on recent controversies.

  • That’s What Pedophilia Means? A month ago Amazon.com received heat for selling The Pedophile’s Guide to Love and Pleasure: a Child-lover’s Code of Conduct, a self-published rulebook by the self-appointed Mr. Manners of pedophilia.   Amazon.com defended its right to sell–and purchasers’ right to purchase–books on controversial topics.  “Amazon believes it is censorship not to sell certain books simply because we or others believe their message is objectionable.  Amazon does not support or promote hatred or criminal acts, however, we do support the right of every individual to make their own purchasing decisions.”   Amazon.com should have added “we will continue to support this right for 24 hours or until we cave to customer pressure, whichever occurs first.”  One day later it pulled the book–figuratively, of course, and without comment–from its electronic shelves. I am mildly critical of its decision not to sell the book. The First Amendment protects the book’s content, repellent as it may be, but Amazon.com’s mission is selling stuff, not defending First Amendment rights.  On a continuum of American values Amazon.com is closer to Wal-Mart and Sears than Feisty Independent Urban Bookstore.  My values are not Wal-Martian (pronounced “mar-tee-an”, nor “marshan”) but I respect that Wal-Mart would have known it’s opposition to the Pedophile’s Guide from jump. Amazon.com should have known more of its customers would howl in protest than applaud its courage.  It should have known that however heady the experience of staunchly defending the Bill of Rights, defiance in the face of threatened boycotts is not in its corporate DNA.  Better to be honest and say “we sell so much stuff that inappropriate content sometimes gets through our filters. We respect the First Amendment but we respect our customers’ patronage more.  We screwed up and we’re pulling the book.  Be aware it is likely to happen again, because we sell so much stuff that we can’t monitor all of it.”
  • We’re Hosting That WikiLeaks? Hackers targeted WikiLeaks after its release of hundreds of thousands of classified U.S. diplomatic documents.  Last week WikiLeaks moved its server operations to Amazon.com which, in addition to selling lots of stuff, hosts other websites, offering them the same robust protection from DDoS attacks and other hacker misanthropy that it provides itself.  A few days later Connecticut Senator Joseph Lieberman called Amazon with pointed questions about hosting WikiLeaks on its cloud servers.  A day later, denying Lieberman’s criticism was the cause, Amazon.com terminated WikiLeaks’ hosting account.  Why?  Because WikiLeaks’ was violating Amazon.com’s Terms of Service by providing access to content–the diplomatic cables–that violated a third-party’s rights to the content. This was not a late-breaking development in the WikiLeaks story. It moved its hosting to Amazon.com because it wanted protection from DDoS attacks directed at WikiLeaks in retaliation for its release of the cables.  A cynic might believe that WikiLeaks played Amazon.com like a cheap harmonica, knowing its penchant for waffling would result in Amazon.com throwing WikiLeaks back into the cold, cruel world only days after offering shelter.*

*Which makes me wonder if WikiLeaks founder/face/czar Julian Assange has a Christ complex.  But that’s a topic for another post.

This is dedicated* . . .

This site now has a dedicated IP address.  The transition caused some minor glitches; they lasted less than 12 hours but before I knew their duration I felt badly enough about their potential impact on students posting wiki projects on AFC Legal Resources that I extended the project deadline by two days.   One student thanked the DNS gods responsible for the extension with “now I can get back to perendinating,” warming my heart by (1) showing she reads the blog, (2) properly using a form of “to perendinate,” and (3) acknowledging that the projects would still be completed at the last minute, which is how I would spend the extra time.

The IP address is 67.222.61.203.  If you are on the other side of the world, need your Randall blog fix, and cannot remember “trudalane.net” then just type the IP address into your browser’s address bar and you will be good to go.  It’s easy to remember:

  • 67 = my age
  • 222 = my IQ
  • 61 = the number of years until my investment portfolio recovers sufficiently for me to retire, and
  • 203 = the number of times this semester I’ve reminded students to check my BU Calendar if they want to find when and where I’ll be at the school.

Nothing could be simpler.

*if you don’t complete this sentence with “to the one I love” and hear the Shirelles singing, then you are just too young.

A Good Idea at the Time

Recently I had the bright idea to switch this blog’s web host. It germinated when I could not install a plugin to my WordPress blog software because it required a newer edition of WordPress. Upgrading WordPress is not hard but does require paying more attention than I wanted to spend. Wondering if there might be an easier way to go I learned about Fantastico, a script installation manager offered by many webhosting companies–but not by Startlogic, my then-host. One-button installation of WordPress upgrades and other goodies? I can make a good cup of espresso with one button, so why not? After a day of surveying prices, packages, and customer feedback I signed up with BlueHost. Then the fun began.

That you are reading this shows that I was successful but I could have installed new WordPress software on my old host in 1/20th of the time I spent transferring the WordPress databases to the new host. My goals were simple: transfer the blog without losing any posts, comments, or other data, and simplify the site’s structure. I can figure out most of the computer- and network-related problems I encounter, but the process ain’t pretty. For instance, the blog had been installed in a directory yielding the ugly URL trudalane.net/afcblog/wordpress. The occasion of this transfer was an opportunity to change the installation to the cleaner trudalane.net.

This was a case of working for a week to save a half-hour upgrading WordPress . I wandered lost though the alleys and by-ways of MySQL, an unfathomable place where the natives speak a lingo I don’t comprehend. Like Paris, without the Seine, Eiffel Tower, and exquisite food. I’ve pondered over statements such You will get a MySQL query syntax error number 1064 when you incorrectly use a reserved word in your query such as “when” or “order”. Okay, so how do I fix the syntax? Easy! Read the appropriate MySQL manual. I can deal with the Internal Revenue Code (with some whining) but I could not crack the MySQL 5.0 Reference Manual.

User-maintained forums at WordPress Support made the difference. They told me which web-hosting companies were best (I still went with BlueHost), how to transfer to a new host and install WordPress in the root directory, how to transfer database files, and how to access my installation while changing domain-name registrars. The forums contain a typical amount of web chaff but useful nuggets did not require an inordinate amount of digging. Those nuggets kept my frustration within tolerable limits and allowed, with ample trial-and-error experimentation, successful data transfer. Now, if I can just get the RSS feeds to work . . .