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© St. Petersburg Times, published September 27, 1999

It's all in the presentation

The Securities and Exchange Commission's EDGAR database isn't exactly the most user-friendly place on the planet. And if you think visually, trying to make any sense of the information returned can be hard work. I was reminded by a bean-counting friend that if you think visually and can't make sense of the information, you shouldn't be dabbling with EDGAR anyway. Guess who's fixing his own PC the next time something goes on the fritz?

Stand and deliver!

The most paranoid financial site I've ever accessed is my personal American Express statement online. If I lose my password, the service mails it to me via the good old U.S. Postal Service. After reading this shock-horror piece, I'm glad. It seems that some of the United Kingdom banks would rather roll over and pay computer crackers than take the time to make sure their online systems are secure. How are we doing in the United States? Until something like this is publicized, we'll never know.

Custom kids

Don't like your fridge in that shade of white? Car just the wrong shade of purple for you? Cat's ears too big? With enough money to throw at the problem, these inanimate objects (my cat sleeps 98 percent of the day and is, therefore, classified as inanimate) can be changed today. But what if you could change other areas of your life, such as your child's sex, disposition or resistance to disease? Would you do it? This parody site presents a simulated future choice in glorious hyper consumer style. It's tongue-in-cheek horror for grown-ups.

Wish you were here

Cast your mind back to simpler times when people would write "Fla." instead of "FL," a wholesome era when sending a postcard from a vacation in Florida didn't involve cleavage. Here's a great selection of vintage postcards of the greater Miami area, neatly organized and presented in modem and cable-modem friendly sizes.

Pint-size thanks

Believe it or not, there are people out there who do dumber things than I do in my spare time. Of course, how someone enjoys spare time is totally subjective, but in these fast times, the cockles of my heart are mildly warmed at the thought of a person taking the time to write a letter. Not e-mail -- a letter. While my romantic side sees a vast writing table of mahogany, perfectly handcrafted writing paper and antique ink pens, the realist spoils the vision with a cramped kitchen desk and a cheap PC hooked to an inkjet printer. Well, now we're all back down to Earth. If you've got a pulse, William Hertes' letters to Ben & Jerry's will make you chuckle.

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