The Virtual Existence of Advameg

Hits: 38

Advameg.org is a toy of Lech Mazur. The Illinios-based website is a throwback to “World-Wide-Web one-point-oh”, which has recently had some CSS3 applied to it. But, it still doesn’t take away from the underlying design of the site, which are rooted in a bygone web architecture. One person said the site looked more like throwback from the days of Windows 95.

Many parts of the site appear to be somewhat up-to-date, due to their pulling of public data from whatever outside agencies collect them and make free and public. I have noticed that their RFCs are also pretty much up-to-date also. When I say “up-to-date”, is that everywhere I looked, the latest data, updates, and RFCs are from 2019. To me, this is much more up-to-date than expected (but still not really). All of this free data is curated over 72 of their websites such as City-data, Nonprofit Facts, Photo Dictionary, and one website with the ambitious name “Website Encyclopedia“. There is probably nothing in these sites that you couldn’t look up with Google and get more updated and more reliable information.  It would also be naive to think that all 200 million websites and 400 million registered domains which are currently active would be listed under Website Encyclopedia. Pile on to that the fact that there are a half million websites being added to their number each day.

What has not kept up with the times is their FAQ archive. It is a graveyard of FAQs that have not been updated in almost 20 years. This could once have been easily updated by checking the MIT FAQ archive. But since that is no longer in existence and USENET is pretty much dead in North America, most FAQ maintainers have found better ways of making their FAQs public, usually through making a web page. The founder of Advameg, Lech Mazur, was elusive and seemingly impossible to reach even prior to 2010, and by all accounts, even more difficult to reach today. It is one thing to remove a FAQ that is no longer topical or has links to other internet sites that are no longer working; it is another thing if you once posted opnions you thought were worthwhile 20 years ago, but no longer support.

As a bit of advice, if you see a FAQ title in faqs.org that interests you, try Googling the same title. Chances are you will get a more updated FAQ by the same author(s).

A website called Ripoff Report indicates that they have resisted requests to update or remove information that is no longer useable, sometimes in a way that appears intimidating, or in a way that uses their access to information about the complainants to reveal names, addresses and identities of anyone who complains about their services.

Also, it appears as though even a 200-word Wikipedia article about city-data.com was unusually difficult to maintain. There were vandals who posted content on the article accusing the discussion board of tolerating racism (this content was quickly taken down). In the Talk section there was extensive discussion about the site, including one posting in 2015 from an Lech Mazur himself who went on in excess of 500 words (more then double the word count of the original article itself) in great detail how to “bring the article up to Wikipedia standards”. He seemed mostly to be self-advocating, rather than bending Wikipedia to his will. He was posting his views on how it should be written, and the Wikipedia writers responded with their own review of how articles get written and sourced.

city-data.com has been cited a few times over the years by other websites like the New York Times as a reference to stats about things like housing prices, or in one case, their city-data discussion forum has been mentioned once when the topic of commuting from New York City to Scranton, Pennsylvania (120 miles away) came up. There was no comment on this, just a link. Therefore, it is puzzling to stumble into the review of this site from complainants to the Better Business Bureau, with various kinds of racism. The kinds appear inconsistent, with some complaining of the site becoming a hotbed for hate groups and trolls of various persuasions. The data side of this site is out of date by several years, and not that useable, as many other commenters to the BBB had noticed.

It looks as though, apart from being on LinkedIn these days, Mazur is also posting tweets about tech and science on Twitter. He is trying to position his company, it appears, in the area of artificial intelligence and natural language processing. He does not accept tech support questions on his Twitter feed. I would guess that also means no complaints about city-data or faqs.org.

Space Travel for the Masses

Hits: 12

An artist’s rendition of a family outing in “space” at a time way into the future, when we are able to populate “space” with hotels and resorts (Courtesy Hannah-Barbera).

This is a war of the billionaires. Amazon’s Jeff Bezos lost to Virgin’s Richard Branson in their bid for the space tourism dollar. Space tourism allows anyone with a quarter million bucks to see Earth in a way that was only available to astronauts.

If you have a quarter million dollars lying around, you can now put it to good use, according to Branson, who has been a passenger on the first test flight over the planet, some 50 or so miles above the Earth’s surface. While this is at the bare minimum to be considered “space” by NASA, it is just high enough for the passenger to feel the effects of zero gravity. Indeed it is space travel for the masses. That is, if the masses each have a quarter million bucks they aren’t using.

I just wonder if, in Branson’s travels, was he able to spot the massive forest fires in the northwest US, and southern British Columbia? If these rich people were taxed a little more, maybe we could do something about it, along with addressing social and economic problems.

I have heard of another, separate effort from a Florida-based company called Space Perspective, which is putting the finishing touches on a helium-filled balloon carrying 8 passengers. But rather than going to “space”, it merely goes as high as the stratosphere, just 19 miles into the sky. This is a cheaper venture, costing each passenger a mere 125 thousand dollars, half the price of Branson’s flight. It might be low enough to smell the smoke from the California fires, but I am not sure.

The Space Perspective venture is staffed by many of the same people that came up with a previous vanity project called Biosphere 2. Biosphere 2 was a failed attempt at trying to re-create the biosphere under entirely man-made conditions for the purpose of having these closed systems deployed in outer space. Located in an Arizona desert, it was marketed to rich investors who feared an apocalypse.

Early on into the project, insect species were dying, vertebrates were dying, there were enourmous cost overruns causing investors to bail out of the project, and soon the human inhabitants of the man-made biomes couldn’t stand each other, people were bringing in food and nutrients from outside of this so-called “closed system”, and there was Steve Bannon. Yes, that Steve Bannon. Before he knew Trump and ran Breitbart News, he was hired by Ed Bass (one of the project’s founders) to curb the huge runaway costs of the Biosphere 2 project.

A depiction of Steve Bannon, during his time being chief advisor to former president Agent Orange.

While Breitbart is famous for attempting to debunk global warming, Bannon was quite instrumental in promoting theories of global warming when he was justifying the basis for Biosphere 2 to potential investors. His highly politicized, misogynistic style of managing people is well-known to most people not under a rock between the years 2015-2020, since it bears similarity to Donald Trump and his cronies, among which was Bannon for a time. The only “scientists” who took the project seriously were, according to Wikipedia, the Russian Academy of Sciences. The site has since been taken over by the University of Arizona. Perhaps now the research will be halfway serious.

The real lesson which humanity could have learned is that there is no ecosystem ever made by man  that is better than the one we all get for free here on Earth. It is a lesson not lost on Abigail Alling, former researcher and resident of Biosphere 1 and a thorn in the side of Steve Bannon.