Elliott C. Back: Internet & Technology

Americans: “If I can’t have it, neither can you.”

Posted in Holiday,Jobs,Law by Elliott Back on December 15th, 2010.

I was reading the news today and came across this article, US sues school over denial of Muslim pilgrimage, which details an interesting case of law:

The federal government sued a suburban Chicago school district Monday for denying a Muslim middle school teacher unpaid leave to make a pilgrimage to Mecca that is a central part of her religion. […]

Khan wanted to perform the Hajj, the pilgrimage to Mecca in Saudi Arabia which every adult Muslim is supposed to make at least once in a lifetime if they are physically and financially able to. Millions go each year. […]

Berkeley School District compelled Khan to choose between her job and her religious beliefs, the lawsuit said.

Interesting stuff. As an employer, I believe that you should make every possible effort to strike reasonable work-life balance for your employees. Unpaid time away to get married, look after family, and fulfilling religious obligations are all the sorts of things that you would reasonably expect accommodation for. In more civilized countries, you would be accorded sufficient paid holidays to do much of this. Unfortunately, in the United States, by law, there is no requirement to offer any holidays at all!

Ignoring the religious and racial overtones in this news article, what I found interesting was the comments thread. Check these high-rated gems out:

  • “they want, want, want but don’t want to give. Special treatment! Whatever happened to the (former) American work ethic?”
  • “Contract, obey the rules and live with them or dont sign up”
  • “Whoever hired her should be fired.”
  • “This is a sham on the american way of life”
  • “Seperation of Church and State. Take a Religous Holiday when everyone else does.”
  • ” She signed a contract, then did not like it. Tough. Think I like paying my credit cards? No, but I have a contractual relationship to pay .”
  • “What a bunch of bull. This should not even go to court. She should be denied time off for this. Try this at a real job and they will tell you “no”! Here is why, if you want the time off then use your vacation time. That is what it is for. Your employer is not obligated to give you any more time off then what you have accrued.”

It’s an interesting fact that Americans have the least paid vacation days in the world (0 by law), some of the most mediocre students in the world, the largest wealth-gap between the rich and poor, etc. Yet when confronted by an individual who is trying to improve the American standard of living (by advocating for improved time-off rules), American internet commenters essentially say, “I don’t have this right; why should you?”

I don’t understand this.

Do you want America to suck? You should be cheering this woman and the ALCU on, because they are fighting for your rights. (If you feel like commenting that I’m an elitist foreigner who should shut up and work harder, please don’t even bother to leave a comment.)

Update: It’s nice to see Netflix lets its staff take as much holiday as they want, whenever they want – and it works come out today.

Happy April Fools Day! [Collection]

Posted in Holiday by Elliott Back on April 1st, 2007.

Happy April 1st!! A lot of funny things are already floating around the internet, so I’m going to try to collect as many as I can right here. As updates come in, I’ll keep adding to the list of April Fool’s Day pranks:

0) WoW Tinfoil Hat

The WoW tinfoil hat item is just great. Then again, Blizzard is always busting stuff out for the holidays. But, this takes the April fools cake!

1) Google Gmail Paper

Google is offering a new email to paper product for GMAIL called Gmail Paper. Tired of reading email on a computer? No problem, they’ll print and deliver it to your home for free.

2) Avalonstart Redesign Imminent

Dear Avalonstar Readers,

Many of you may know my name from the times Bryan has mentioned me in his entries, podcasts, etc. I am Jen, Bryan’s fiancé. I know how important this site is to Bryan and all the people who have supported him over the years, so I wanted to make sure that you guys are not entirely in the dark even though I am limited in what I’m allowed to say.

Due to circumstances beyond his control, Bryan has been forced to take Avalonstar down indefinitely. He is needless to say a bit restless and emotional and he doesn’t seem to want to talk about it too much. He has, however, allowed me to write this message. We are trying to make any arrangements that are possible, but it’s proving… complicated. As of right now we are uncertain of what is going to happen and even the feasibility of bringing Avalonstar back. In the meantime, I ask that you all continue to support Bryan and Avalonstar as usual, and please wish for the best.

Like I said, nothing is certain at the moment but I will say one thing… this could change everything.

Jen V.

Our favorite WP/Facebook associated designer Bryan Veloso has disappeared off the web, but we know he’ll be back.

3) Shoemoney Lost Forever

Jeremy Shoemoney is also pulling the “make my site disappear” act today, but with more class and imagery from the tv show lost!

4) Matt Cutts Gets Hacked

Matt Cutts proclaiming “In Black SEOs we trust” is the funniest thing ever.

5) Woot’s $1,000,000 Bag Of Crap

The secret to Woot’s $1,000,000 bag of crap is to just enter “please” into your coupon code to get it for its regular price.

6) TechCrunch to buy F**cked dot COM

Tomorrow we will announce that we have acquired Philip “Pud” Kaplan’s FuckedCompany.com in a stock for assets transaction. The basic details of the transaction are included in a press release that will go out around 9 pm PST tonight, and Pud has also mentioned this on his personal blog.

I don’t find this funny at all, but TechCrunch says they’re buying F**Cked dot com, lords knows why…

7) Engadget Wants to Shock Us

Yeah, so uh, Engadget decided to make a fake gadget for the purpose of electrocution. Ouch! Our fingers hurt!

8) ThinkGeek Selling iPhone

Order the iPhone now … but you can’t click the link!

9) AlbinoBlackSheep Becomes Google: Animation

This makeover for albinoblacksheep is adorable, and who knows, maybe Google will someday do it?

10) BBC UK Sniff Screen

Them blokes at the BBC in London really want us to press our noses vigorously to the screen. Sadder, we know someone did it.

11) Google TISP

Google TISP is one of those weird ideas. Get high speed internet by lowering fiberoptic cable into your toilet? Too nerdy.

12) The Pirate Bay Finds Refuge In North Korea

Today we announce that we’re moving some of our servers to the North-Korean Embassy in Stockholm, Sweden.

After lenghty discussions with the leader of North Korea Kim Jong-Il we have decided to start a cooperation.

Some of the reasons are the extremely good bandwidth agreement we get – redundant fibre links, redundant power with diesel to last for four years makes the colocation a very good deal for us.

We are also promised immunity against foreign copyright holders and all of the crew will get North Korean citizenships.

“One of the reasons that we’re doing the move is also that the Swedish King still haven’t granted us a visit with his daughter. This ignorance towards the cultural benefits of having a site like The Pirate Bay can not be ignored.” says Tiamo, one of the founders of The Pirate Bay.

We would like to thank Kim Jong-Il for the opportunity and we would like all of our users to review their current feelings towards this great nation!

The Pirate Bay decides they’re safest in the North Korean embassy. They might even be right!

13) Facebook Injecting News

Facebook is injecting weird news bits into your feed. Check it out, it’s cool!

14) College Humour Expires

It’s a good fake Godaddy expiry page. Collegehumour couldn’t die though, or people would riot.

15) Slashdot It: Digg-like Button

Slashdot added a digg-like button they’re calling “slashdotit” to every post. It appears to actually work.

16) Technorati Anagrams

Technorati is busting out the anagrams for April Fools’ day!

17) Google Romance

This isn’t quite an april fools, but Google Romance certainly deserves a mention. Contextual dating FTW!

Notable Mentions

Uncyclopedia is running real Wikipedia entries, while McDonalds and Microsoft merge in an unprecedented hostile takeover. Meanwhile, QuakeCon is a seismology conference, and Lawrence Lessig joins the RIAA. There’s also the uberware trio which offer to speed the world up, and tattoo your toddler, for which I have no comment.

Merry Christmas Spam Email

Posted in Holiday,Spam by Elliott Back on December 22nd, 2006.

Here are some actual spam emails I’ve received, about Merry Christmas, Happy Holidays, etc:


Warm thoughts and sincere wishes for a joyful and wonderful
Holiday Season and a New Year that brings you all the best


I love the animated snow. Of course, the next one is much less interesting:

Hi folks

I hope you and your families have a wonderful and blessed Christmas and a prosperous New Year

Take care

Then there’s the “you won for xmas” scams going around:

Dear Lucky Winner,

We happily announce to you the Xmas Lottery Bonanza draw Thursday 18th December, 2006. It is yet to be unclaimed and you are getting the final NOTIFICATION as regards this. Your e-mail address attached to ticket number: 56475600545 188 with Serial number 1037 drew the lucky numbers: 07-14-29-37-41-45-04 (bonus no.04), which subsequently won you the lottery in the 2nd category i.e. match 5 plus bonus.

Wow! Plz! Send me money!

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