Publish or Perish

June 16th, 2003

The good news: A version of my column “How to Fix an Election” appeared this month in the Association for Computing Machinery’s SIGCHI Bulletin. (I wrote the original version for the general public; I rewrote this newer version to target readers in the Human Computer Interactions industry).

This was not an academic paper. But still it’s my first publication in an HCI periodical. Hooray.

The bad news: I submitted the essay (and posted the original on cheesebikini) nine months ago. That was just after the second Florida election fiasco, which the essay addresses. Now the Florida elections are old news. But the essay’s points still hold true.

Illegal Art

June 12th, 2003


Illegal Art is coming to the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art’s Artist Gallery at Fort Mason next month (July 2 through July 25).

Yum. I can hardly wait.

From the exhibition Web site:

…copyright was originally intended to facilitate the exchange of ideas but is now being used to stifle it.

The Illegal Art Exhibit will celebrate what is rapidly becoming the “degenerate art” of a corporate age: art and ideas on the legal fringes of intellectual property. Some of the pieces in the show have eluded lawyers; others have had to appear in court.

Loaded with gray areas, intellectual property law inevitably has a silencing effect, discouraging the creation of new works.

The last time I was at Fort Mason, a security guard kicked me out for photographing portions of the Toulouse-Lautrec exhibit which I pieced together that afternoon in my own bit of illegal art.

(By the way — we were good tenants; we were evicted because the house was sold and the new owner was moving in.)

UPDATE: Here’s an intriguing column that reflects Creative Commons’ take on this exhibit.

So Long Travis

June 2nd, 2003

click to enlarge

Wherever you are now, I know you’re not taking any shit.

Stick It to Safeway

June 1st, 2003

Don't Let Safeway Abuse YouStop using your Safeway Club Card. Use mine instead.

Safeway is one of those monstrous inescapable inhuman supermarket chains that saturates a regional market, peddling overpriced Frankenfood and driving smaller local merchants out of business.

One of Safeway’s more deceptive tactics is to raise overall prices while providing slightly lower prices to those consumers who agree to use a “Safeway Club Card.”

Safeway expects you to divulge a home address, a birth date and a bunch of other information in return for a card. If you want to avoid paying the highest prices you’re supposed to present that card every time you shop at Safeway, so the company can monitor and store your whereabouts and your purchase patterns.

In short: Safeway uses deception to extract an ongoing stream of private and personal information from shoppers, while providing nothing but smoke in return. Safeway marketing drones disguise this swindle as a selling point, as a humanitarian service that Safeway provides to the public out of kindness.

Don’t accept this abuse. Jam Safeway’s customer surveillance system.

One way to do this: throw out your card and use mine instead. Safeway doesn’t demand that you slide your card through the scanner; instead you can just enter your Club Card number (which is the same as your telephone number) at checkout. So write down my card number, and the next time you go to Safeway, type it in at checkout: 408-354-0579.

Tell your friends to do the same. That will hopelessly jumble together our purchase data and restore a bit of our privacy. Choke on that, fascist Safeway wonks.

sfway-cares.gifWhat if you don’t live in Safeway’s shadow? Then join forces with your friends; use this strategy to protect your privacy from whatever giant card-wielding supermarket chain dominates your neighborhood.

For more about megacorporate “loyalty card” scams, visit

DISCLAIMER: Safeway occasionally sends piddling discount coupons and the like to cardholders. I’m not doing this as a scheme to get coupons. If I receive more than $5 worth of benefits (coupons that I actually use, or free bottle openers or anything) within six months, I’ll donate that amount of money to the Electronic Frontier Foundation. If you don’t want to use my card number at all, just use your own card with your friends and neighbors.

UPDATE: Not surprisingly, someone else is way ahead of me. Rob at not only offers to let you use his Safeway card, he scanned the UPC code from his card and he printed it on stickers. He’ll send a UPC sticker to you so that you can stick it on your own card, effectively making your card a clone of his. NOTE: This isn’t necessary because Safeway will let you just type in your phone number instead of swiping a card. But more power to Rob.

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