Mount Sutro: An Electronic Periodical

0020Hours EDT

The Familiar Stranger

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After completing a routine read-through of my bookmarks, I moved on to Wikipedia in search of a few topics I had read about and found interesting earlier. I am not entirely sure of the six degrees of separation involved, but I eventually found myself reading about the music industry.

After a few more hops, I came upon an Associated Press article from 09 July 2006. It stated that music album sales in the United States were down 4.2 percent (12 million albums) in the first half of 2006, while online music sales surged 77 percent during the same period.

Those are some interesting figures, considering we are regularly told that free (illegal) file sharing mediums are negatively impacting album sales. I would like to know if those unsold 12 million albums were actually purchased in the form of the 281 million singles or the 14 million full-length albums downloaded.

Regardless, the article's prominent header graphic—as inserted by the publisher,, where I happened to be reading the above—was the soundtrack album cover for the Disney Channel movie High School Musical. In a one sentence mention it is said this album was the best selling so far this year, pushing 2.6 million copies.

Back at Wikipedia, I browsed the page about this soundtrack whose music was apparently quite popular. At a glance, it appears to be exactly as you would expect: pop fluff for kids.

The "Mainstream success" segment of the page detailed music chart histories, online sales figures and other statistics. From these tables of data it popped out at me like a familiar stranger does, walking toward then past.

Listed as singer on multiple tracks was Andrew Seeley. It seemed possible that the person that popped into my mind could be one and the same. I searched for the name and in doing so discovered my original inclination was correct.

Many of the details are long washed away, but I remember when Andrew Seeley started at Lake Brantley High School. He made himself popularly known through his thespian performances and general sociality. I knew him mostly due to the close relationship between the Drama and Band departments, the latter of which I partook.

It was amusing to watch a pack of giddy sixteen year old girls frothing as the so-called hot newbie from Canada passed in the corridor. From our limited interaction, he seemed like a nice enough guy filled with motivation and budding talent. And a nice smile, as I recall.

Photo Credit: Andrew Seeley

Above: Remix of official promotional photograph.

Below: Junior yearbook picture, Lake Brantley High School, 1999

Andrew Seeley, Junior yearbook picture, Lake Brantley High School, 1999

It seems the exhibitions I witnessed were indeed a prelude to more, as he has done some Hollywood acting, released original music, performed a live tour and played a hand in several other ventures, including the disc that indirectly brought these memories to the surface.

I found it interesting to note that of the cited Lake Brantley performances in Andrew's IMDb biographyInto the Woods, Gypsy, Once Upon A Mattress, The Miracle Worker and The Merchant of Venice—I remember having seen them all. Not due to a secret love for stage shows, mind you, but in doing sound booth work and the support of my friends, both on stage and in the pit.

I suppose if someone can go from one red paperclip to a house in fourteen trades, I should not be shocked to randomly stumble upon someone I once knew, if only barely. I do find it refreshing to learn that some people are doing what they want, what they have wanted to do from an early age, and are succeeding.

The First Storm

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I am starting to get the feeling like tropical cyclones have a bounty out on my head. Last year's hurricane barrage by Charlie, Dennis, Frances and Jeanne more than made up for the relative lack of tropical activity during the balance of my nearly seventeen years in the Sunshine State.

Then, just as I was moving to Tallahassee last year, Hurricane Katrina threatened the area but shifted course only a day or two before. Looking back on the events that followed that change in weather gives me some pause, realizing how things may have turned out had a Category Five hurricane made landfall the weekend I moved to town.

In all of those cases, luck was on my side. And now, only thirteen days into the official tropical season the first named storm of 2006, Tropical Storm Alberto, makes waves nearby. It currently looks to make landfall in the "Big Bend" region sometime early this morning, but some of the outer bands have already blown through the area.

Earlier tonight there were some gusty sustained winds and heavy rain that proceeded through the region for a good hour or so. Since then, the weather has been rather calm, with only light winds and residual precipitation peppering the area. I imagine that by the time I awaken tomorrow for work—which is still open according to the emergency status number—the situation may very well be different as Alberto will have moved inland.

Hopefully my luck with tropical cyclones did not end with the conclusion of the 2005 season.

UPDATE: 13 June 2006, 1807

The wind and rain continued overnight and through most of the day with some stronger bursts here and there. Overall, it has been a pleasant day with temperatures in the mid-seventies. Local news reported some trees and power lines were downed before dawn, but nothing so severe as to keep any roads closed.

Now the only thing to look forward to is the oppressive heat that we have been promised. The forecast from the National Weather Service has only this to say about the expected conditions Friday: Hot.

The Leeches

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When I last changed hosting providers nearly four years ago, I made sure that my plan had room to grow. I wanted plenty of monthly data transfer, a decent chunk of hard drive space and various other bells and whistles. My industry friend Marty fixed me up well and thus I shall remain with TLC Web Enterprises indefinitely.

With ample features in hand, the current iteration of Mount Sutro took form and in its own way gained some popularity. Certainly there has always been more traffic from people using web and image search tools versus that from regular readers, but never disproportionately so.

That is, until January of this year rolled around. Between connectivity issues—which, aside from a few recent examples, have been fixed—and my lack of interest in writing for the site, regular updates have been notably infrequent in the time between then and now. I naturally expected to see a drop-off in overall traffic as a result.

When I checked the site logs in early February 2006, I was rather surprised to see January 2006 was the new record holder for data transfer used. Over ten and a half gigabytes of data passed from my server to the world that month.

These figures may seem small in comparison to hard drives you can purchase for $100 today or the amount of transfer seen by mainstream blogs and websites, but for my little operation I have to admit being a bit impressed.

February rolled through and with under eight gigs transferred, I assumed the expected slow down was occurring. While the hiatus continued, traffic did its normal ebb and flow, but kicking between nine and eleven gigabytes of transfer monthly instead of the usual six to nine.

I knew there must be a logical reason for all this so I set out to find it. You do not have be no Sherlock Holmes to figure out this mystery, either. A simple in-depth review of the log files told the story loudly and clearly.


The social cum media-frenzying phenomenon known as MySpace might be getting people's panties in a twist over the charge the networking site, popular with minors, is the unwilling accomplice to child exploitation, pedophilia and pornography. My gripes are a little different, as you might imagine.

First, and these are in no particular order, not since GeoCities has there been so impressive a centralized repository of ugly, unreadable, compliance-hating, auto play multimedia-filled sites. At least GeoCities users have the excuse of time, since the mid-nineties saw the web come into its own. I will take animated GIFs and <BLINK> tags over MySpace sites any day.

Second, as with other social networking sites like Friendster, after some initial amusement I find no real purpose or need for them. I maintain my own website so I can advertise the information I choose to advertise, without the help of any profiles or three page forms. Specific to MySpace, I am not at all interested in the daily ramblings of high school students, nor do I have a desire to meet other people on the basis of which American Idol star I may or may not prefer.

Third, embedded auto play multimedia sucks. Yes, I know I mentioned this item already, but it is so offensive I had to mention it again. It used to be cool to have music play on your pages, I feel mostly because MIDI technology was just getting to the point where commercially-available sound cards could adequately play those nifty rock band songs. Share all the music you want, but at least make me have to press play first. And if you cannot comply with that simple wish, at least stream me something decent.

Fourth, did you know that when MySpace was acquired by News Corporation, the terms of service contract was modified to include a clause (6:1) effectively giving MySpace and hence News unrestricted rights to "use, copy, modify, adapt, translate, publicly perform, publicly display, store, reproduce, transmit and distribute" any and all content posted by users. Without having to pay for it, I might add. All this from a free service actively inviting bands and musicians to set-up a MySpace account and post their otherwise copyright protected lyrics and music.

Fifth, the leeches and yes, the main point.

Search engines have always been friendly to my site, but the multimedia searches can be deadly. As I posted more and the search engines indexed more, incoming traffic for and the leeching of images increased. At first I would check out the offending site and decide if I cared or not. Most often I did not if the site contained nothing objectionable and if it was personal or non-profit.

But the growing popularity of MySpace has served to exacerbate this issue. After recently reviewing my logs, I quickly concluded that although my downloadable assets for Sutro Tower and the MasterCard advert featuring Robert De Niro accounted for a noticeable portion of the increased data transfer, the majority of it was the result of leeching from MySpace.

One by one I identified the graphics most commonly hotlinked and decided on an appropriate bait and switch tactic. Instead of simply renaming the images and leaving "red x" placeholders on the leeches' pages, I knew I wanted to program a redirect so that an alternative image would instead be displayed. Further, I was going to use a public resource I (indirectly) support to host the replacement graphic, therefore achieving two goals: data transfer reduction and leech dissuasion.

Wanting to take the high road while also selecting a replacement image that would not be legally dubious, as my plan would affect countless minor's pages, I narrowed down my choices to one.

Seal of the President of the United States of America

I only wish I could have been there as the junior "webmasters" came to their site and found hero Johnny Cash replaced with that. Not to mention the proprietors and users of the forums and other sites I took action against.

Return visits to leech sites have shown most people have now removed the offending hyperlinks, but the Seal still decorates some Spaces. A picture of the Constitution was the runner-up, by the way. The Seal won in the end because of its size and dimensions.

The lesson here, kids, is to not leech images. Upload them to your own space. That is why they call it MySpace, after all. Are you given insufficient space? If so, you should complain! I think the $23.9 billion dollar father News should be able to swing an upgrade.

The Notice

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Due to the recent use of the domain name in spoofed e-mail headers and the subsequent deluge of "return to sender" reports from mail servers worldwide, any and all electronic mail sent to the domain will bounce and never be delivered. This change is effective immediately and shall remain in effect until further notice.

See the Contact page for alternatives.

Photo Credit: Decoven, Inc.

The Call

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I have been experiencing several odd issues with my telephone of late, including a mysterious new icon that appeared today and the complaint of callers that my voice mail service is acting wonky. I decided I would call my provider and enter that living hell of phone trees and people that regularly offer no assistance.

As soon as the connection to the customer service number was complete, I was greeted by the standard welcome message with one minor modification. It identified the line as the "Business Support Center." Interesting, I thought, considering this account is in my name alone, unlike others that use my d/b/a. Now, after completing my call, I am extremely happy I was directed as such and hope future calls will be similarly connected.

While I was not able to resolve the technical aspects of two questions from above—due to the fact I was using the telephone in question and have no access to a land line at home—my experience with the customer service representative was incredible. He was courteous, knowledgeable, friendly and explanatory, expertly providing other answers to policy questions. I have never received more than sub-par support from this provider, so that this experience even occurred amazes me.

I suppose my surprise is somewhat illogical given I have always maintained you should connect to the "small business" or "business" call center of ISPs and computer manufacturers. Instead of dealing with typical level one questions, the business-only representatives generally allow you to detail your situation and provide direct help.

Quod erat demonstrandum. Thus, it is proved.

The Birthday

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Though somewhat hard to believe, Wednesday (01 March 2006) is the six-month anniversary of my preliminary move to Tallahassee and of my first day at The Agency. Although it does not seem like much time has passed, I cannot help but notice how much my life has changed—for the better—in that span.

In lieu of droning on about self-worth and accomplishment, I thought it might be a good idea to go back and tell a few stories from those mostly undocumented months. The first stop is my birthday, Sunday, 29 January 2006.

I had not planned to do anything special for the day, but as it approached and interest in having a social gathering grew, plans started to take shape. Chris drove in from Orlando to spend the weekend in town. Tom, here on business, was not going to be around by the weekend but did manage to go out with me during the week.

Thanks to Marc, a final schedule of events was assembled: dinner at Julie's Place on Monroe Street, participation in a local tradition called The Tennessee Waltz and finally, drinks and dancing at Brothers.

I started the evening by making two mistakes. First, I quickly consumed several well-made cocktails—Grey Goose and tonic, of course—on an empty stomach. Second, I ordered a light meal consisting of variously prepared shrimp and rice. I learned that if you are planning on consuming alcohol throughout the course of your evening, order the steak. Boy, I wish I had. Regardless, the food and company was excellent.

Our next destination was the Tennessee Strip, consisting of a few blocks of restaurants, shops and bars. Okay, mostly bars. This area is the one-stop shop for many college students' party needs, so I generally avoid it. Nevertheless, since I do enjoy one joint within the strip—Poor Paul's, which features no cover, decent drink specials and darts—I was convinced to participate in the Waltz.

Traditionally a Tallahassee rite-of-passage for those turning the magical drinking age of twenty-one, the Waltz executes more like a stumble or blur for most. The idea is to travel from one bar to the next, enjoying a free birthday drink at each. We decided to modify things a bit and only went to Poor Paul's and then Bullwinkle's. The latter location gave me a sticker to commemorate my Waltz and a drink coupon that purchased me a small pitcher of cocktail. No surprise, this is around the time my memory of the evening starts to dissipate.

We wrapped things up as planned by attending Brothers' famous eighties night. Needless to say, I do not have much narrative from here on out. I know I was on the dance floor with the group, then outside on the patio for the rest of the time desperately trying to maintain consciousness. I finally tossed the towel shortly after one in the morning and had Chris take me home.

     Eric: (hung-over)  My head hurts.
     Red: That's your brain trying to comprehend its own stupidity.

My mother decided that instead of driving to Tallahassee or having me drive to Orlando for my family dinner, we should meet at a location in between. I suggested Jacksonville since Gainesville and Ocala are not exactly renowned for fine culinary establishments. She selected The Chart House, a smallish chain of fine dining eateries.

My experience at this restaurant was nothing less than excellent. With the unfortunate exception of people who have no class and came dressed in jeans, Hawaiian t-shirts and shorts, the entire experience was fantastic. The building itself is extremely modern in design, but uses traditional materials like stone and wood. The bartenders know how to make a drink; the fillet mignon was prepared perfectly; the cut of beef itself was so prime that you hardly needed the steak knife to cut it; the lobster bisque was so good I would have liked to have ordered another; and the service was what you would expect from a restaurant of this caliber. After dinner, we took a quick trip to The Jacksonville Landing and had a quick cocktail at the The Twisted Martini. It was all extremely nice, drive or not.

Photo Credit: Daryl Singleton

The Goodbye

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click for more photos

Ever since she looked up at me, staring straight into my eyes, meowing with as much enthusiasm as all the other adoptable kittens around her, Russ and I have shared a special bond. We learned about the world around us together, played together and moved to Florida together.

She would hiss, growl and run away from visitors. Who can blame her for speaking her mind? If only I could tell people what I really think of them; she really had the advantage. When no one else was around, Russ was the sweetest cat you could be lucky to have as a companion. Other people grew-up with brothers and sisters. I grew-up with Russ.

It was foremost in my mind that moving to Tallahassee would mean moving away from my closest friend, but it would have been wrong to relocate her away from her home. Just as soon as I was settled-in here and Mom and Ross set out on their trek around the country, Russ came and lived with me. Those two months were the best. It was like old times again.

Russ was diagnosed with kidney disease a while back and we were able to keep her comfortable with antibiotics, pain medication and special food that would accommodate her delicate digestive system. We knew that it was only a matter of time before her kidneys simply stopped working. But she fought it and fought it well for quite some time.

I hope she knows that I would have done anything to have been with her today. Anything. I hope she forgives me for not coming down to visit more often. And today, I hope she remembered all of the good times we had together. I will never forget.

I love you, Russ. And I miss you.


The Disconnection

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I am again without a stable connection to the internet. I will get to my e-mail as soon as possible, so if you sent me something in the past week or so, bear with me or telephone.

I hope to resume site updates — which have been suspended due to similar outages — just as soon as connectivity is restored.

The Compliment

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Antenna art
by Elliot, Home By Six
Saturday, 31 December 2005, 2024

The Sutro Tower has fascinated me for as long as I've been in the Bay Area. I'm sure most people consider it an eyesore, especially longtime residents of SF who may remember Mt. Sutro before the tower. But I'm convinced it's the coolest looking communications tower in the world. (Not that there's much competition.)

So I was interested when I found a website called Mount It seems to be somebody's blog, but offers quite a bit of information about the tower itself, and even a PDF of the antenna layout. This guy pushes right past fascination into obsession territory. I mean, he even has a custom Sutro license plate. And it's people like that who make the Internet a great place to surf. :-)

Happy New Year to all. Have some Death Cab, some Dan Wilson, and some Jim's Big Ego to celebrate the occasion. But most importantly, have fun!
Likewise, Elliot. I was extremely amused by your post. And I recently became aware of Death Cab for Cutie myself and have enjoyed their music as well.

The Holiday

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Within the next few minutes I will be off to Orlando for the holiday weekend. I may check my e-mail in the duration, but there are no guarantees. Additionally, new articles will not be available until Tuesday or Wednesday despite a few recently received complaints about my fluctuating posting behaviour.

With me heading south into the night shall travel Russ, who has been staying with me for that last two months. I am sorry to ferry her back four hours away from my contact, but it is in her best interests given the assortment of medical issues common to a cat of her years — seventeen as of November. I will have to make a special effort to pop back to Orlando soon so that I can visit with her again.

Generally speaking, I am in a state of disbelief over the fact that Christmas is only one day away. It seems impossible that it has been one year since I left my last job. Or that it has been now three months, twenty-five days since I moved to Tallahassee and started my job with the government.

Time is an interesting character, indeed.

Photo Credit: David July