The Critical 'I'

Read. React. Repeat.

Friday, February 28, 2003

AND NOW, YOU BETTER WATCH WHAT YOU SAY
Gee, I never saw this one coming... The Maine public school system is telling it's teachers to keep a lid on their criticism of the Iraq war buildup, lest they upset some students.

Naturally, educators should foster debate about both sides of any issue, and not be dismissive of the side they oppose. That's not at issue here. What this is is basically an edict from higher powers in the Maine educational system telling its rank-and-file to clam up. Rather than tell the disaffected students to stand up for themselves and counterargue, and maybe learn something in the process, they decide to try to stifle the unpopular speech. And how much you want to bet this is taking place all over the country?

I can only hope the pendulum swings back soon. Actually, I have little doubt that it will at some point. But the getting there is the hardest part.
THE MOURNING CONTINUES
The passing of Fred Rogers elicits further ink. This editorial from this morning's St. Petersburg Times is a fine example. I especially liked that it cited, as did I, the homage that was Mister Robinson's Neighborhood.

Thursday, February 27, 2003

WHY THE WEB ATTRACTS AFFLUENT DEMOGRAPHICS
I just looooove survey results. (Good thing, then, that they're part of my work.) Here are some good ones: Research shows that affluent consumers aggressively use the Web to research products and services they're thinking of buying. So naturally, the conclusion drawn by advertisers is that the Web is the place to be so they can expose their wares to those juicy demographics.

It's a natural assumption. However. Did it occur to these ad/marketing drones that a likely key reason that online research is so popular is that it is, in fact, largely devoid of advertising hype (at least compared to other media)? Once the Internet becomes oversaturated with ads and other junk, it will become a less attractive destination, at least as a whole.
ROBOTIC SWARMS!
This is pretty neat-o. Egghead James McLurkin has won a prize at MIT for developing a bunch of mini-robots that exhibit behavior very much like swarming bees. A more in-depth article is available here. Wild stuff.
R.I.P. MISTER ROGERS
goodbye children
It's a sad day in the neighboorhood. Long-time PBS icon Mister Rogers died earlier today from cancer.

What's to say? Most American kids growing up over the past quarter-century got a healthy dose of Mister Rogers during their formative years. The show was like one big electronicized Prozac hit. I can't say I remember any favorite parts of it; I'm sure plenty of folks will hold up the Postman's visit or that train that ran through the magical kingdom as their fondest memories. Me, I remember I liked it, but I don't remember going nuts for it (could anyone possibly go nuts over such a sedate dude?).

I do recall clearly that, among my schoolmates, there was a distinct backlash against ol' Fred as soon as we reached the age where it was deemed uncool to still watch PBS kiddie shows (other kiddie shows, like ThunderCats and He-Man, were just fine, though). Probably around age 7 or 8, my classmates decided we were too old/cool to continue to visit Mister Rogers' Neighborhood, and proceeded to savagely taunt anyone who still liked it (my younger brother being my chief target).

Fond memories of Mister Rogers' Neighborhood helped make Eddie Murphy's Mister Robinson's Neighborhood skit that much funnier. "That reminds me of another word, boys and girls, that begins with 'X' - 'Ex-scape'!"

After moving to Florida, I did find out about a Mister Rogers connection here. He is probably the most--heck, the only--famous graduate of little Rollins College, right up the road from me in Orlando. As a graduate of Eckerd College, all those Rollins rich boys are of course my sworn enemies.

Oh well. Rest in peace, Fred. Nevermore will we enjoy your insightful quotes.

Wednesday, February 26, 2003

PEARLS OF WISDOM, MAXIM-STYLE
Ran across this whilst just screwing around--it's just that kind of night, baby. Felix Dennis, that incorrigable limey who hatched Dennis Publishing and, by extension, the whole lad-mag industry, shares with the world some basic rules by which to live, and observations on life in general. Highlights include noting that television is a life-draining force, and there's no such thing as too much sex.

Maybe I'm in a schmatlzy, sentimental mood, but I gotta tell ya: I agree with most of what he's saying. Maybe it's the influence of the copy of Maxim lying not six feet away from me.
BEGONE, BLASTED BOOKCROSSING!
does anyone read anymore??
Well sir, as I predicted, I've gotten tired of the BookCrossing.com thing and therefore, I banish it from this blogsite. The above logo, which previously resided along the left-hand column of this page, will no longer be featured on this site. I wash my hands of it.

I released a dozen books "into the wild", in various spots here in town and in New York (ancestral homeland, at least for the last half-century). Not one response. NOT ONE. I even found a book myself from someone else! And no feedback on that, either. The final straw was when I attended a meet-up of all the area members one night, and only three people showed up (that includes me).

So, screw it. I've divested myself of the books I wanted to ditch, and I'm done. Upon reflection, I should have just thrown them in the garbage--same end result, basically. I'm not going to put any more thought into it. The idea had potential, but I guess people are too lazy to follow up.

Tuesday, February 25, 2003

WEATHER AS AN ADVERTISING METRIC
Broadcast media is really, at its heart, a nebulous craft. Prices are set according to established criteria, but those criteria are determined by pretty arbritary standards: i.e., people tend to be outdoors more in the summer (and thus not glued to the TV as much), the evening through late night is the sweet spot for maximum viewer audience, etc. Even if some of those assumptions are questionable, they're adhered to because they seem to work. I'm betting twenty years from now, such statistical guesswork will be laughed at heartily.

So anyway, since rates are determined by such capricious standards, it shouldn't seem strange that The Weather Channel should devise a method to base advertising slot prices on the current weather in any particular region.

I'm guessing rainy days will get somewhat higher ad rates than sun-shiny days, since people are more likely to be indoors at those times. Blizzards must be jackpots!
KIDS GETTING DRUNK, BLAH BLAH BLAH
Attempting to press a panic button over something that's pretty common knowledge anyway, the Journal of the American Medical Association has released a reworked study that tells us some 20% of all alchohol consumed in these United States is chug-chug-chugged by underaged drinkers.

My reaction is, it's only 20%?? Betcha anything it's more than that.

By funny coincidence, I'm drunk right now. No, just kidding.

But the real coincidence is that I was just earlier today reminiscing about my college days, many of which were spent doing the requisite (and then some) amount of under-21 drinking.

Monday, February 24, 2003

CONSTITUTION, SHMONSTITUTION (IN FLORIDA)
Governance is a tricky business. As important as the rule of law, as promulgated in written documents, is, it ultimately means nothing if a strong political culture isn't in place to support it. That's why the task of "nation-building" in places like Afghanistan and (soon) Iraq is fraught with peril, and often is a thankless, useless exercise.

Still, a constitution is a constitution, right? Certainly on a national level. But what about on a State, as in U.S. State, level? We in Florida have to wonder, as our state officials are doing their best to ignore voter mandates in regards to a few new amendments added to the Florida Constitution. From dragging their feet on building a statewide high-speed train to rendering a university system oversight board toothless, politicians in the Sunshine State seem to consider amendments as optional, rather than fundamental State laws which they are legally bound to enforce.

My adopted home state is more and more starting to resemble the banana republics that lie not too far from our shores. First we need to call in official observers to ensure a smooth, democratic election, and now we're having trouble enforcing a constitution. What's next, a ruling junta taking power in Tallahassee?

Thus was the topic in today's Howard Troxler column in the St. Pete Times. He argues that amendments is amendments, officials are duty-bound to execute them, and there should be penalties for trying to circumvent or kill them.

I agree wholeheartedly. That does not mean, however, that I agree with the process that makes it relatively easy to add amendments willy-nilly to the Constitution. Pig-farming provisions shouldn't be written in Constitutional stone. The way the system is currently set up, the amendment route is simply the road of least resistance to getting a law enacted, and overuse will eventually weaken the effectiveness of the Constitution (more thoughts on this from my very own workplace, Florida Trend (free registration required)). I don't know that I agree with the concept of putting the amendment process more in the counties' hands, but I definitely think what's now essentially a loophole in the legislative process needs to be addressed.

Sunday, February 23, 2003

IS SILICON VALLEY'S ADDRESS STILL WORTH IT?
Long after the tech bubble burst, business and residential cost-of-living in California's venerable Silicon Valley (roughly consisting of southern San Francisco Bay) remains sky-high. This is justified by the Valley's long history as the heart of the computer/high-tech industry, a history that extends far beyond the dot-com boom of the late 90s. By extension, this also makes the area a high-powered center of tech resources, from a highly-skilled workforce to the base for the industry's premier movers and shakers. The relative geographic proximity to the Asian market also is a bonus.

Still, with the lean times the computer and technology field has experienced, and the sprouting of high-tech zones in a dozen other cities, bottom-line concerns force companies to ask: Is there any real advantage to being based in Silicon Valley anymore?

Establishment in any business, even the supposedly ultra-dynamic tech sector, counts for a lot. Silicon Valley is still synonymous with the industry, thanks to the beginnings of that association back in the 70s. And even as areas like New York's Silicon Alley and North Carolina's Research Triangle have taken off, there is no other area with as much of a concentration of companies, money and talent as northern Cali. The high rents will be a problem, but as long as people decide they're worth it, they'll stay that high. Doesn't mean that will always be the case.

Update: The Valley may still be peachy-keen for tech companies, but not enough so for the money boys. Old-line investment banking firm Goldman Sachs is moving on out and re-consolidating operations in San Francisco, only four years after placing an office on Sand Hill Road amid much fanfare. They are still paying some $12 million in rent in the area, however.
E-TITHING TO YOUR HOUSE OF WORSHIP
It was bound to catch on: The convergence of religion and technology in what some would say is the only way that counts. If you can't, or just won't, drag your sinful ass to the pews regularly on Sunday (and hey, during football season, who can blame you?), you can still show the Lord you care by dropping your digitized coins into an electronic collection plate. Coming to a church--and, I'm sure in no time, a synogogue/mosque/temple--near you.

For those that aren't aware, the tithe is defined as "a tenth part of one's annual income contributed voluntarily or due as a tax, especially for the support of the clergy or church". I'm not sure how strictly anyone takes that 10% portion nowadays; I imagine most contribute far less, while more devoted worshippers might go as high as 15-20%.

My friend Kirby concocted a broad framework of ideas a few years back that he dubbed "Casual Catholic"; I think he may have amended it to "Casual Christian". Pretty much applied the convenience-store model to religious worship. Ideas included drive-through confessionals, personal-serving sacraments and other innovative (if likely sacrilegious) breakthroughs. I'm thinking e-tithing would fit nicely into this whole concept. Hallelujah!
THE RIGHT WAY, THE WRONG WAY, AND THE SEGWAY
outta my way!
After nearly a year of built-up, secretive hype, the Segway transportation device is making its presence felt among the ultra-hip stratem of American (and probably world) society. These things have been promo-ed all over television, and outfits like the Postal Service are looking at utilizing them.

Will swarms of Segways buzzing up and down sidewalks soon be a common sight in major urban, or even suburban, settings? Well, as long as these suckers cost $5,000 a pop, not likely. But if/when the price point comes down to where more and more people can justify the purchase, we could be seeing a lot more of these things around inside the next, oh, five years.

That's good and bad news. Good news in that it could help with traffic congestion, even if slightly. Bad news in that it's one more thing for pedestrians to have to watch out for while walking along, and could potentially open up a world of legal suits and backtracking protective legislation.

It's hard to say what could happen without actually trying one of these things for yourself, and like I said, as long as it's 5 grand apiece for a gimmick gadget, not a whole lot of people will get the chance to experience them. It could be that they are amazingly maneuverable enough that they'd be no more dangerous than a bike or skateboard--but then, both those vehicles are prohibited from sidewalks. Is the Segway that different? I tend to doubt it. As responsive as it may be, it's still a vehicle. It's hard to imagine someone having more control over it than they would their own two feet.
EMAIL ADDRESS=PHONE NUMBER
Should your email/Internet IP address be directly, and transparetly, linked to your phone number? That's the plan under a new international proposal known as ENUM (Electronic Numbering System).

Here's the clearest example from this article on what this means:

When ENUM domains become active, users will be identified by their telephone number including the country code. What that means is a phone number such as +46-8-9761234 would be mapped to the 4.3.2.1.6.7.9.8.6.4.e164.arpa Internet address in a process that is expected to become automated and transparent to the user.

So, basically, if you have any single aspect of someone's contact information--even if it's just a phone number or fax number--you automatically can figure out all the various ways to contact that person: mobile phone, email, instant messaging, etc.

The comments at the referring page bring up a lot of the obvious concerns. Anonymity on the Net becomes much harder under something like this, unless you're really determined to mask yourself (and in some cases, for good or bad intent, you are). The worst aspect of it is, of course, the big boon it is for telemarketers and other slime, who will use this as a means to annoy ever more people every more completely.

The problem with this is that it's, at first glance, pretty innocuous, which is why chances are very good it will come into being without a hitch.
THE ART OF THE AD DODGE
The life of a media consumer is one consisting of the constant dodge. Whether you're trying to get critical information out of the morning's Wall Street Journal, or just vegging out to an old Seinfeld rerun, you're going to get ads thrown in your face. And contrary to what ad industry professionals like to imagine, you don't particularly want to see any of them--you're primarily interested in consuming the content you came to see/read/hear. So, media interaction is often a matter of avoiding, or dodging, the advertising pitches you have to tolerate in order to get at what you want. As advertising becomes more pervasive with things like product placement, the dodge game becomes harder.

Of course, this is strictly from the consumer's perspective. Everyone knows that there is no real free ride, and that ad dollars pay for media.

Still, we can dream of a wholly ad-free environment. Some people do their best to experience this, between TiVo devices, pop-up killers and Web filters.

Saturday, February 22, 2003

DISNEY EVERLASTING
nip 'n tuck
The movie Tuck Everlasting is being released on video pretty soon. It was a nice big fat flop in the theaters a few months back, despite being the feature film debut for the enchanting Alexis Bledel, she of Gilmore Girls fame. (Not that it was a particularly good debut role for her; she's gaining TV popularity for being a coming-of-age fox, and they put her in a film where her character's like 12 years old? Brain-dead decision for all involved.)

So who cares? Normally I wouldn't, but I've seen the commercial for the upcoming DVD/VHS, and I noticed that the film is now being touted as "Walt Disney's Tuck Everlasting". This was not how it was promoted during it's theatrical release, I guess because it was a joint production among four companies, including Disney. I'm betting that they considered putting the Disney label on the theatrical release at some point, but decided against it because it would scare off a broader audience who'd think it was strictly a family/kids movie (that broader audience being, primarily, Bledel's teenage devotees from Gilmore Girls).

It appears that "Tuck" is the subject of some dynamic re-branding. The strategy is, since it flopped on the weakness of its own name recognition in the theaters, it's bound to do so again on store shelves. So, by adding the Disney tag onto it, that alone should give it a new, more recognizable and commoditifiable brand, which should be good for a decent amount of sales.

It's pretty sneaky. It's also a good business move. It certainly can't hurt, and likely will translate into at least a modest jump in sales. Best-case, it could become a pleasant surprise.
PATRIOT ACT PURGE
The USA Patriot Act was a knee-jerk piece of legislation passed in the panic-drenched aftermath of 9/11. Basically, it puts a sharp curb on civil liberties by allow law-enforcement agencies to... pretty much do whatever they want, all in the name of "fighting terrorism".

One of the questionable methods of fighting terrorism on these shores is to check someone's book-buying history. Apparently, if it's uncovered that you've purchased The Anarchist Cookbook, then you're under suspicion as a shady character. Gosh, I feel safer already! Never mind that someone who really wanted to do serious damage would likely not be dumb enough to leave that kind of paper/digital trail.

Some booksellers in Vermont feel much the same way, and so they've decided to delete all their customer records of past purchases, thereby making it practically impossible for them to comply with the Patriot Act if asked.

It's a brave move, on a few levels: They willingly sacrifice potentially lucrative demographic information, and they of course become targets for future hassles with the Feds. Unfortunately, at this point this represents a BB-gun shot against a behemoth. Unless the bigger companies across the nation follow suit--and I'm not holding my breath, especially when it's so effortless to keep things the way they are--then this will really be more of a symbolic gesture. An important one, nevertheless.
ACCOUNTING FOR COMMERCIALS AT MOVIE THEATERS
Anyone who goes to the movie theater knows that they have to put up with several minutes of advertising (including trailers for upcoming movies, as well cas soda and candy commercials) before the feature presentation comes on screen. Well, some people are mad about that, and have decided they aren't gonna take it no mo'. A woman in Chicago has filed a class-action suit against one theater chain, claiming that showing all that non-feature junk before start time amounts to deceptive business practices.

Good for her! Even though I'm sure she has practically no chance at all of effecting a change. The ads are here to stay, no matter what. But hey, just in case, I'd like to get a bit of scratch from any settlement; I go to the movies too!

I manage to hit the theaters at least once a month, and usually 2-4 times monthly. I've timed the trailers they run before the real showtime, and I've found all that stuff runs from 10-15 minutes before the real movie starts. So for me, it's simple: I just account for that time when setting out for the theater. If the listings say a movie start time is 7:10, then I know the movie itself won't start until 7:20 at the earliest. I've never had a problem getting there 10 minutes or later after the "official" start time.

I'm all for advertising as a revenue source, but really, when I'm paying close to $10 for a ticket, plus an outrageously jacked-up price for refreshments, my patience with all this wears thin. But hey, as long as going to the movies is the rock-solid default setting for a night on the town, or simply for "something to do", then they can charge whatever they want and likely get away with it.
KILLER NIGHTCLUBS!
So what's with the rash of death-trap nightclubs of late? First there's a stampede in a Chicago nightclub that kills a few people, and now a place in Rhode Island catches fire, thanks to a washed-up metal band's pyrotechnics.

[WARNING, WARNING: INSENSITIVE COMMENT COMING (DEAL WITH IT)]

You ask me, if you're stupid enough to want to go to a club to watch a sucky has-been band like Great White play, well sir, you deserve to die. Hell, you were obviously brain-dead to begin with, so it's no big loss in any case.

Looks like those hair-band refugees are in for a snootful of trouble, as it's apparent that they weren't authorized to shoot off their firecrackers (or whatever) on stage. The evidence is mounting that they've sprung these little surprises on a regular basis.

I think that long, purty hair they put so much energy into looking its best will serve them well in their upcoming roles as prison bitches.

Friday, February 21, 2003

TURN IT DOWN!
If you surf the Web a good deal, and you've noticed more and more ads that incorporate audio, it's not your imagination. Internet advertising is resorting more and more to sound in order to make their ads more noticable.

I have to admit I haven't noticed much a spike in this, and between work and home, I'm constantly on the Web. There are two likely reasons I've avoided the annoying audio: I use a pop-up killer program on my work computer (I used to have it on my home one, but it caused malfunctions), which kills off the ads before they can load up; and at home, I'm on dialup, which slows ads up enough for me to kill them as soon as they pop up.

One thing they didn't mention in this article is the inherent drawback to having rampant noise coming out of your computer: namely, it makes it really, really hard to discreetly surf for fun at work. It's pretty embarrassing to be quietly, privately checking the news or some messageboard, and then have some damn ad come up and blare an annoying song/pitchline, exposing you. Kind of takes the air out of the purposefullness of surfing while you work.
VROOOOOOOOOOOOOOOM! VROOM VROOM!!
round and round they go
As I arrived in beautiful downtown St. Petersburg this morning and started walking toward my office building, I heard an incessant whine from the distance fill the air. For a split-second, I wondered what the hell that was. Then, I realized it was the opening sounds of the inaugural Grand Prix of St. Petersburg! That's right, they're racing cars at high triple-digit speeds down city streets! Chaotic funtime!

I'm not at all into racing, either CART (which is what the St. Pete race is kicking off), IRL or NASCAR. But how often does something like this happen in your hometown? And, I've got a bunch of free ticket vouchers for today's activities.

So, I'm meeting up with my friend Tom, who's a big open-wheel racing (non-NASCAR) fan, for lunch down here, and from there we'll be mosying over to catch the afternoon's racing. Like I need an excuse to play hooky from work.... Depending on what I think of it, I might splurge on tickets for the rest of the weekend too.

It occurs to me that those who tout the journalistic aspects of blogging point to the ability of bloggers to report on events happening right in their backyards. I suppose this qualifies for me? Should I report on this later today? I can't do it wirelessly from the event, due to lack of equipment (my phone is web-enabled, but only WAP, not very advanced at all). If anyone would like to see a followup report from today, and possibly the weekend, let me know.
INTERNET ALIASES AND INTEGRITY
One of the most appealing things about the Internet, right from the start of it's mass appeal almost a decade ago, was the anonymity it afforded. When your interface is, basically, a keyboard, monitor and IP address, you pretty much are at casual liberty to assume any identity you choose. I'd say most people, most of the time, go ahead and reveal who they are readily anyway, perhaps for no other reason than lack of imagination. But then, there are people who, for instance, cruise dating chatrooms pretending to be of the opposite sex, just for kicks. Or on a less warped level, others will participate in a range of debates by assuming a personality that's nothing like their everyday one: Usually, a meek Joe Average who spends his nights being a belligerent loudmouth, emboldened by the buffer his computer and Internet connection provide.

Is there something fundamentally wrong with any of this? It's dishonest, sure, but does it really do any harm? In my mind, it's a matter of application and degrees. I don't think it's the end of the world if someone wants to vent some frustration through this method, using an outlet that's just not replicable in real life. And if the stakes are nothing more than trying to win a neverending argument over abortion rights or U.S. foreign policy or why Shaq O'Neal is overpaid, then I say have at it.

Then there are other cases. Like the one involving John R. Lott. Lott, a research scholar who held high posts at Yale and the University of Chicago, was recently caught using a made-up alias on several Web message boards and other sites, in all cases offering effusive praise to himself and his work, for a three-year period. Part of his maneuvers included having his son join in the fun under the same pseudonym, "Mary Rosh".

Did Lott do anything wrong? Like I said, there's no harm in my mind in creating an anonymous doppleganger for use in engaging in arguments across the web; and in the case of well-known (or at least fairly well-known) figures, it's probably liberating and advantageous to do so. This is Lott's defense of himself in a nutshell.

Too bad it's a crock. As I said, it's a question of application and degrees. Regardless of his original intent in creating this screen name, Lott obviously crossed the line of personal and professional integrity by shamelessly using this tool for self-promotion. Even using this alias to argue about his own work is pretty shady, to say nothing of his need to engage in hoi-polloi level debates in the first place. The fake glowing reviews of his book on Amazon.com takes his shenanigans to absurd levels, and to me pretty much blast apart any credibility he might have had left.

If Lott really believes he doesn't think he's done any harm through all this, he'll wake up to reality pretty soon. Someone in his field is buoyed solely on his integrity and credibility. When those things are called into question, as they are now, the work he produces pretty steadily turns to mud, because the quality of that work is automatically called into question thanks to his reputation.

Lott's already being subjected to this: His well-known research work in gun control is being picked apart, and the best he can offer is the equivalent of "my dog ate my homework". He'd better get used to it. At this point, it's not like anyone would want to collaborate with him, since he'll do nothing but bring a perceived (rightly or wrongly) taint to the work.

I haven't even mentioned his questionable parenting skills in teaching his son the family business. I've got to assume that his son has other influences in his life that affect him as much as his dad's teachings. He's got a mind of his own, and he'll have to decide for himself what to think about proper conduct in the personal and professional spheres. I just hope Lott isn't too surprised when his kid(s) start pulling the same sort of crap in other facets of life, at some point screwing him over too. You reap what you sow.

Thursday, February 20, 2003

THE DEARTH OF SPORTS MASCOTS
Fans and pundits in all the major pro sports will gladly tell you how expansion has ruined their favorite sport. This ruination comes courtesy of dilution. So, instead of a league of, say, 20 teams with rosters stocked with at least adequate talent, you get 30 teams with alot of those same players, but spread too thin for any one team to really shine. And those deficiencies blaze forth through individual shortcomings: Second-line scoring wings who are lucky to pot 20 goals, or middle-rotation pitchers with ERAs hovering at 3.50, and so on.

With all this, the true crisis brought on by rampant expansion over the past 15 years is being ignored. Or it was, until Slate bravely brought it to light. Namely, it's about team names. With about 120 franchises spread among the NHL, NFL, NBA and MLB, it seems that all the good team nicknames have been used up.

Horrors! Set up a Presidential commission to look into this, quick!

It's a fun article. It brought to mind an old Simpsons episode, I believe title "Bart Star". It's the one where Bart joins the youth football team, along with most of the other kids in town. Ned Flanders is their coach starting out (Homer later takes over, when wackiness, predictably, ensues), and just before their first game, he starts out his pep talk like so:

NED FLANDERS: Okay gang, who are we?
TEAM (IN UNISON): The Wildcats!
NED FLANDERS: Who are we gonna beat?
TEAM: The Wildcats!


(If you catch this episode in syndication, pay special attention to Ned Flanders' sons, Rod and Todd, and the uniform numbers they're wearing. Alert, hidden joke!)

I could write far more than necessary about my team name preferences. In short, I really dislike singlular nouns as team names, like the Heat, the Wild and so on (yes, my local rooting team is the Lightning; I'm not crazy about it, but what the heck). Singular names like that just seem dumb, and even very minor-league-ish.

By the way, I was going to adorn this entry with all the pro team logos I've got saved. But as I intimated, that would be about 120-odd images. Too much work, and it would probably make the page slow as molasses to load up.

Wednesday, February 19, 2003

THE BAYESIAN WEB
Who's Thomas Bayes? Nope, I didn't know either. Aside from being a dead white man who tried using mathematical models to irrefutably prove the existence of God, I still don't really know who he was. But the theoretical work he did 200 years ago is now all the rage in computer programming for the web.

Most of this stuff is over my head, but I find it fascinating nonetheless.

Funny thing. I instantly thought of my old college buddy, Pete, as I was reading this article, as I do whenever I read anything focused on advanced math or number theory. Pete was a math major, and he ate this stuff up. And what a coincidence, I got an email from him just this evening! We don't correspond that often, so it really was something. I even emailed him back and told him to check out this blog entry. So if you're reading this, Pete: Comment on it!
I'M OLD, AND MY CHOICE OF VIDEOGAMES SHOWS IT
the classics never die, mon
I bought the Xbox edition of Namco Museum this past weekend. I have not been able to stop playing it.

I'm afraid I've officially entered old-geezer-hood. Or the beginnings of it, anyway. I just find these low-tech games from 2+ decades ago to be so much more satisfying than the supercharged, studio-quality productions that are standard fare today. They're more satisfying on a gut level. (Relatively) simple pleasures for (somewhat) simple minds, I suppose.

I can't find the article, but I read a piece a while ago on some computer geeks around my age who were still writing programs for the Commodore 64 and other old-school computers. (Incidentally, some 20 years after it hit the scene, it looks like the C-64 is getting an (unoffical) upgrade.) One of these guys summed up what he liked most about the old 80s-era games: Namely, that with such a puny amount of computing power to work with, there's no place for the programmer to hide. In other words, these old games couldn't cruise on pretty graphics or other gimmicks; they had to be playable, and actually fun. Which they are.

The games on this Namco Museum disc--all in their original low-tech glory, not updated at all--are:

- Pac-Man
- Ms. Pac-Man
- Galaga
- Galaxian
- Dig Dug
- Pole Position

Gotta love it! Pole Position is the only one I don't care for; I didn't like racing games back then, and I still don't. Also included are sequels to some of these games. I originally thought they were upgraded versions produced just for this disc, but it turns out that Namco did put out these sequels back in the mid-to-late 80s. That explains the long-rumored Galaga sequel, where you could line up 3 ships....

Tuesday, February 18, 2003

BLOG COMMENTS DOWN... STILL
It figures. As soon as I mention that I'd like to get more feedback via my commenting links, the damn commenting system goes down. It went down this past Saturday, and remains down as of this writing. What's worse, it seems like it being down is causing this whole blog to take forever to load up, further pissing me off.

I was just starting to do a web search for commenting alternatives, when I tried the Haloscan site once again. To my surprise, it came up, and with a new message to boot. Looks like they had some hardware problems, and are fixing them now. Everything should be back to working order by tomorrow. Yippee.

Actually, I'm fully aware that I have little room to complain. For one thing, it's a free service, and a pretty no-maintenance one at that. It's ludicrous to lob complaints when you aren't paying a dime for the thing. (I suppose I could find a pay-for version somewhere, but my big fear with that is that I'll end up paying for something, and it'll work no better or worse than Haloscan, including breakdowns.) For another, it's not like I get many comments anyway, so really, what am I missing out on? Likely nothing. If someone wanted to share their thoughts that badly, they could always email me.

Still, it's frustrating. I'm thinking that perhaps the recent acquisition of Blogger.com by Google could be an opportunity to add an integrated blog commenting system into the Blogger service (preferably one that doesn't involve a separate pop-up window, but instead appends comments to the bottom of each posting--now that's the ticket!). I don't know why they didn't do it in the first place, along with a counter and a couple of other bells and whistles; it'd make things a lot easier and probably be a big competitive advantage. In fact, having an integrated blog commenting system would probably be the one thing that would entice me enough to upgrade to the pay-for Blogger Pro. You listening, bigwigs?

Monday, February 17, 2003

AUSTIN POWERS IN CASABLANCA, BABY
Monkeying around with old movies is an idea that's sure to raise enough hackles to generate a good deal of buzz. So is the case with Mike Myers' announcement that he will be electronically inserting himself into a number of classic films and releasing them as new projects.

The questions raised in the article pretty much cover my thoughts. I'm surprised that among the examples they cited of past works like this, they failed to mention the most recent, Kung Pow: Enter The Fist (a pretty terrible effort, one of the few movies I've ever walked out on; although I've heard it did well with the kids).

Another film-altering experiment that's similar to this so-called "film sampling" was colorization. That was an issue that really drew sharp opinions nearly 20 years ago, for much the same reasons: Tampering with existing works of art. The whole thing culminated in requiring new copyrights for colorized versions of films, essentially making them distinct from the originals. It's interesting that colorization never caught on, mostly out of public apathy--it seems you either wanted to watch an old movie, or you didn't, regardless of whether it was in color or not. In the face of that, the colorization proponents decided it wasn't worth the time, money and hassle to keep doing it.

Somehow, I think film sampling will turn out the same way. It'll be good for some gimmicky interest, but it's not going to bring about any huge changes.
NEW SHERIFF IN BLOGGERTOWN
the old bossthe new boss
Well, the news is out: Pyra Labs, best known as Blogger.com, has been purchased by Google. That includes blogspot.com, which plays host to this blog, along with about a million others.

Good for the Pyra boys. I'm sure they got a pretty sweet deal out of it. They get their money, plus they get to continue working with Google's largesse behind them.

Naturally, non-Blogger blogensteins are worried about conflict of interest, as many depend on Google listings to bring them some traffice. That's justifiable. I'm sure in a year from now, there'll be claims of blogs on Movable Type, LiveJournal and the others getting snubbed in favor of the Google-branded blogs. Google will just have to be diligent about not doing that.

I would like to point out that Google is taking the same path that Yahoo! took: Veering away from their focus as a search-engine company and morphing into other things. Can they continue to maintain their much-lauded search utility at the level people have come to expect? Time will tell. I will note that one of the chief reasons Google rocketed to the top so quickly was because Yahoo! had already ceded its leadership in the search-engine space by the time Google came on the scene, in favor of all the other stuff Yahoo! now does. Google's moves so far definitely mirror this.

Sunday, February 16, 2003

SNOW AND OMENS
Just in case anyone's forgotten, it's still wintertime. People in the Midwest and Mid-Atlantic don't need that reminder, as they're currently getting a crapload of snow and ice dumped on them.

Yes, I live in Florida and I'm laughing. But that laughter has an edge to it. Let me let you in on a little secret: Those of us in the Sunshine State get a lot of pleasure from knowing we're avoiding the ugly weather up north. But we also know that every horrible winter creates a delayed exodus of people who've decided they've finally had enough of all the snow and slush, and pack up for Florida as soon as the thaw comes. And that's not so good. It means the state gets more crowded by the day, typically by bumpkins who you wish had just as soon stayed in Pennsylvania or Ohio or wherever. Worse still, the moment they come here, they instantly start bleating about how it's not the same as where they came from, and they miss the seasons all of a sudden, and they miss their families, and how they wish they'd never moved.

So, if anyone's reading this while they're holed up in a snow-bound house, let me send you a message: Don't move to my state. By all means, come for a vacation, but forget about moving here. The odds are you aren't going to like any aspect of it for too long, and you'll eventually turn tail and run back anyway, so don't bother. OK? OK.
THE CHURCH OF THE JEDI?
a god? i'm one step up from kermit the frog
Those Brits sure know how to have fun! The results of the latest census count turn up some 390,000 royal subjects citing Jedi as their religion of choice. Yes, that's "Jedi" as in Star Wars/Luke Skywalker/Darth Vader etc. The big showing was thanks to an Internet campaign, and was done very much tongue-in-cheek. (A somewhat more complete look at the census results shows that these fledgling Jedi knights are very much a minority, as Christianity still holds sway with the vast majority of Britons.)

But I wouldn't be surprised to see some semi-serious Church of the Jedi sprout up in my lifetime. There are enough idiots out there for it. Let's face it, if Scientology can get to where it's got after starting out as a bar bet, then anything's possible.
AN OPERATIC BORK
borky borky bork bork
Taking the battle over universal web standards to child-like levels, little Opera has released a new version of its browser software that makes a gobbledygook out of Microsoft's MSN homepage.

The issue is Microsoft's insistence on setting its own rules on web programming languages (i.e. style sheets) that pretty much force people to use only Microsoft's Internet Explorer browser. Hey, why pick on MS here? They're only doing what comes naturally to a monopolistic company.

It's good to see Swedish Chef getting some props in this day and age. I hope Pigs In Space is next!

Saturday, February 15, 2003

FENG SHUI THIS, YOU AIRHEAD
Everybody's been going feng-shui for the past few years, ever since the practice became widely known in the West. Turns out that this ancient Chinese secret (anyone old enough to recognize that line?) can be morphed into all sorts of niches. Like fashion, frinstance. That's the idea behind the book "Feng Shui Chic", anyway. It tells how clothing and accessorizing the feng-shui way can lead to a more balanced, and by extension, happier life. You go, girl!

This thing is a laugh-riot. Note this gem from the esteemed author:

For instance, what a woman wears to work in an office is usually quite different from what she would wear on a date. "If a women goes on a date straight from the office, she is forgetting to take in the moment," Meltzer says. "Her date will treat her as an authority figure."

And at home, if you wear your business suit rather than comfy clothes, you'll have a hard time accepting the home world, she says.


That's right, thousands of professional women must be guilty of failing to "take a moment". And who knows how many ladies have been living unbearable lives all this time because they've been experiencing their home life in their business suits instead of their comfies??

I think the most proper feng-shui (why the heck do I keep mis-typing those words??) move would have been to avoid killing all the trees that went into printing this piece-o-crap book.

And in the meantime, take my advice and feng-shui the Brady way.
STEALING MY MATERIAL?
So, I'm watching some stand-up comedian doing his 5 minutes on Letterman last night, and he's ok. Then, to wrap up his act, he goes into a little bit about how he hurt his neck while taking a nap--the joke being, he's pushing 40 or 50 (I forget), and he's at the age where he "can't sleep like he did when he was younger" (his words).

As I watch, I can't help but be reminded of my exact same thoughts on this subject. (The finger still aches a bit, by the way.)

Did this hack steal my stuff? Actually, I kinda doubt it. It's not like I'm the first schmoe to get older and start experience physcial deterioration. But stuff like this does make me wonder...

I've noted a few instances where thoughts I've jotted down here have ended up being echoed in more mass media. It's not impossible that this blog is being read by an influential audience. Then again, I think it's probably more a case of me being on the same wavelength as a larger population of people out there. (So Mom was wrong, I'm not so special....)

I know I get a decent amount of hits every day on this site; I just wish I'd get more in the way of feedback. That's why I've got the friggin' comments links on here, y'know.

Friday, February 14, 2003

R.I.P. DOLLY
baaaaaa-bye
Dolly the sheep, of cloned sheep fame, was put to sleep today. There's some debate raging over whether or not her cloned nature has any real connection to the premature aging, and associative sicknesses, she exhibited.

Naturally, the larger continuing debate over cloning that her birth brought won't die with her. That's here for some time yet.
SO LONG SALON
big s
The dot-com bomb may come late, but it seems to come no matter what. At least for some. It looks like Salon.com will be the next casualty. An inability to pay the rent--literally!--is a pretty good sign that the end is damn near.

Frankly, Salon's problem stems directly from a pretty myopic vision by its management. This is pretty ironic, considering how forward-thinking and visionary all those Internet prophets claimed to be during their heyday. The simple truth is, Salon stubbornly stuck to a business model that depended wholly on the Internet advertising market, even well past the time when it was obvious that this market was not going to be mature enough soon enough to sustain an otherwise free publication. Instead of taking the IPO money and putting it into other operations that could generate some real revenue, like Amazon.com and even Yahoo! did, management decided to stand pat. And now, the result is this.

One possibility to branch out, which was long-rumored, was to launch a print version of Salon. Despite the questionable wisdom of sinking a ton of money into a magazine start-up, I really wish they had done this. I think this would have been quite successful, as there was an established audience to mine for subscriptions. Ad dollars would have been easy to come by (at least in the early going). That's all academic now, I guess.

It's too bad. I've enjoyed Salon, although it's never been a must-read for me. They did some good work, though, and had a great style. It'll be fondlly missed.

Thursday, February 13, 2003

THE PENN-BING THING
This one's pretty bizarre. Outspoken actor Sean Penn and movie producer Steve Bing are suing each other over a movie deal gone sour. The twist here is that Penn claims he was screwed over due to his well-publicized opposition to the coming war in Iraq. Bing, of course, denies that was ever an issue, and says that Penn threatened to use that to smear Bing publicly.

Anyone who cares enough will be keeping track. My opinion, uninformed save for the referenced article, is that I tend to believe Penn is lying. Since when does an actor get blacklisted for being anti-war? A producer like Bing is all about the dollars, and Penn's never going to be a big enough liability over his political views to cause anyone to pass him over for a role. Indeed, he's a big enough star that he'll pull in a good chunk of box office scratch.

Wednesday, February 12, 2003

DOG APLENTY
bowsey-wowsey
I find it interesting that two major dog-centric events--the Westminster Dog Show and the Iditarod--take place just about concurrently. I know you do too. I mean, what, they couldn't space these two things out a little?

While the froo-froo doggie show concluded just yesterday, the dog race took an unexpected, and unprecedented, turn.

Admit it--every time you see the word "iditarod", you just feel compelled to say "idiot-rod". Am I right?

Tuesday, February 11, 2003

GOOGLE STRONGER THAN COKE
There are plenty of bogus surveys conducted and touted every single day, so there's no reason why one more should garner much attention. However, the results of this one are worth noting. According to a worldwide sample of 1,300 souls, Google and Apple are more effective and recognizable brandnames than Coca-Cola.

The comment at the bottom of the page called "It's called sampling" pretty much touches on all that's wrong with this survey. But it's worth bringing it up. I've had loads of experience crafting professional-grade surveys and crunching their numbers, so this is an area that's near (not necessarily dear) to my heart.
WHO'S YOUR DADDY--THE SHOW
Y'see what happens when you break a self-imposed rule? It begets even more rule-breaking. What's worse, not only am I linking to another blog--bad enough--but I'm linking to another blog that's linking to yet another blog. Where will the madness end??

Oh, anyway, I thought this idea for a reality TV show was pretty funny, particularly the title. Although, keeping that title in mind, I think a better premise would be something involving DNA testing to establish paternity.
MARDI GRAS, MOBILE-STYLE
And that's Mobile as in Mobile, Alabama, you Yankee curs. (It's pronounced mo-BEEL, not MO-bil--say it wrong while you're there, and you're bound to get an earful about it.)

Yes, a little-known fact is that Mardi Gras celebrations in North America first took place, not in New Orleans as you'd expect, but in little ol' Mobile. And so it is that while Naw'lins has it's world-famous big-time blowout every year, a much calmer, quieter celebration takes place about 150 miles to the east.

What's that? Of course Mobile Mardi Gras has its own official website.

I've never been to Mardi Gras in New Orleans. I have been to Mobile Mardi Gras three or four times (can't remember exactly right now). This is because I had a college friend/roommate from Mobile, and he took a bunch of us up to his parents' house there every year for the celebration. It was usually a good time. Mobile's not a huge city, but it's sizable enough, and plenty of fun on a relatively hectic weekend like Mardi Gras.

That friend, Flipper, has pretty much dropped out of sight lately. (Then again, to a lot of people, so have I.) If he's out there, he should give a shout back.
TERRORISM STRIKES HOME
Unless your head has been under a rock the past, oh, couple of years, you'll know that there's a heightened awareness of anti-U.S. terrorism these days. And every purported recording of a certain expatriate Saudi richboy draws heaps of attention. In such a jittery atmosphere, you've got to expect, at the least, an occasional wrinkle or two in the daily routine.

So it is with me and my life in sunny St. Petersburg. In the wake of the recent Code Orange alert, I found a letter taped to my front door when I got home this evening. The gist of it was that apartment complexes, one of which I live in, are the types of places al-Quaeda has targeted as "soft" targets. So, I need to keep my eyes and ears open.

Am I worried? Can't say I am, any more than I'd be walking down the street or flying in a plane. It's a dangerous world, and was even before 9/11. But I must say this note was a first for me. Definitely memorable.

Monday, February 10, 2003

THE HEAD-BUTT APPROACH TO ADVERTISING
In a development sure to cheer acromegaly sufferers everywhere (or maybe terrify them), a British marketing firm will be renting out ad space on people's foreheads.

This is actually one of those future trends that have been envisioned for years. It's long been assumed that, following the ubiquity of clothing that prominently displays designer logos, the next step for advertising opportunity would be the skin. The beautiful, popular skin, of course; I'm betting that if this scheme takes off at all, they'll quickly restrict the dole-outs to the physically attractive. It's all about image, after all.

I wonder if the upcoming Daredevil movie will help fuel this idea on this side of the Atlantic? One of the main villians in it, Bullseye, happens to have a big ol' tattoo on his forehead (guess what it is; he didn't have this in the original comic books, by the way).
DUDE, YOU'RE UNDER ARREST
dude, does Dell sell bongs?
Well, if this doesn't kill off the Dell Dude ad campaign once and for all, nothing will. (And I'm sure that previous link will be dead in no time in light of today's event.) Goofy Steven was cold-busted in NYC on possession of the chiba.

In a way, this is poetic. The subtext to characters like Steven, or Bill & Ted, or Wayne & Garth, or any number of other goofball/slacker hybrids, has always been that they used a little herbal/chemical help in achieving their "dude-osity". (I can't believe I just used that word...) So this just confirms it, right? ;)
MAN'S BEST (LEGALLY-RECOGNIZED) FRIEND
i am not an animal!!! oh, wait a minute...
In a move mainly based upon monetary/legal concerns over veterinarian malpractice, Colorado is poised to pass a bill that would change the status of pets from mere property to full-fledged companions.

Kind of makes sense. So many people dote on their pooches and pussies so much, this was bound to happen anyway. Offhand, I'd say this also advances the cause of animal rights.

Let's hope that this measure, and any future ones, includes a strictly-worded definition of "companionship". Otherwise, it could have the unintended consequence of benefiting some people who have a decidedly... different idea about human-animal relationships.

Sunday, February 09, 2003

AND IT TOOK THEM ONLY THIRTY YEARS TO FIGURE THIS OUT
A new study on television advertising reveals that--gasp!--viewers tend to pay less attention to the standard commercial break than they do to the main programming. Is this supposed to be a shock to the system?

In a way, it is. It's incredible how so many people in marketing and advertising brainwash themselves into--get this--actually believing that consumers enthusiastically look forward to watching product pitches! I mean, I've talked to these individuals, and they really think that the infomercial is the people's choice of perfect television entertainment, over sitcoms or dramas. Incredible!

In any case, one wrinkle in the study finds that viewers are more likely to ignore commercials when they're watching with other people in the room. It seems live human interaction beats out the latest Budweiser commercial... The natural converse is that the solitary viewer, who has fewer distractions, is a more rapt audience. Makes sense, right?

It makes so much sense that it makes even more sense in the case of the Internet, which, naturally, is dominated by single-focus viewers. It's a thought-provoking piece, although personally I think the writer should be shot for that closing line.
RENT-A-COUNTRY
Looking for a place to jam out? Consider leasing out lovely little Liechtenstein, one of the archetypical postage-stamp countries of Europe.

I'm betting 99% of the world wouldn't be able to find Liechtenstein on a map.

Saturday, February 08, 2003

INVISIBILITY!
the results are transparent
Another science fiction-like concept becomes reality! A Tokyo researcher has developed a material that creates a form of invisibility. Something about the "retroreflective" nature of the stuff. I think the photo above speaks for itself. (Of course, a photo is no proof, as it can be faked, but let's assume it the real thing.)

I wonder how those decades-old novelties, the x-ray specs, would work on this cloak?
NO SMOKING, NO TIME
This struck me as odd, albeit after the fact... About an hour ago, I stepped outside to run to the soda machine over by my apartment complex's gym (I needed something without caffeine). On the way, I passed by a guy who was standing around outside in the dark. I didn't recognize him, but I guess he had knocked on my door by accident earlier this week, so he said hello and apologized for that. Asked him what he was up to, and he said he was just outside having a smoke, and that he lived in the building next to mine. I kept walking, got my soda, went back upstairs to my place, and thought nothing of it.

Later, it occurred to me: It's kind of odd that he would have to go to the trouble of stepping outside to have to smoke, isn't it? Unless he's a neat freak, I've gotta believe it's because his roommate insists on no smoking in the house. Even so, does that mean he's not allowed to go out on his patio and smoke there? (I'm assuming he's got one, like I do.) That'd be a lot less trouble.

It's times like these I wish I was a little more sociable. Instead, I'm left with questions. Not that these questions are going to keep me awake or anything. Maybe I'll ask him next time I see him around. If I ever do, and if I recognize him....

Friday, February 07, 2003

...AND IT ALL WENT DOWNHILL FROM THERE
I ran across this This Date In History today:

Feb 07, 1882: The last bare knuckle fight for the heavyweight boxing championship took place in Mississippi City.

Yeah, those guys with gloves these days are real wussies...

Thursday, February 06, 2003

MATT MILLEN: LION KILLER
paper lions paper league
It sure looks to me like the Detroit Lions are well on their way to becoming the next designated NFL laughingstock franchise. (That title is currently, and justly, held by the Cincinnati Bungles--er, Bengals, but with the hiring of Marv Lewis as coach, maybe they're ready to start winning some games.)

Want proof? Take note of this joke of a team's latest gaffe: They're set to get fined, and give the entire league an unwarranted black eye, over blatantly disregarding the new minority-hiring directive.

To be fair, Jacksonville's recent coaching search pretty much ignored realistic black candidates too. And it's not like any team should be forced to hire a coach it doesn't feel will be the best fit and will give them the best chance to win. But the point is to open up the process and ensure that everyone has an opportunity to get their shot.

If you're a Lions fan and you need to place a name to all this recent misery, you already now what it is: Matt Millen. This chunkhead has been running the show for two years, and he's managed to run the team into the dirt. The season before he was brought in, the team went 9-7 and barely missed the playoffs. Since Millen waved his magic wand with idiotic personnel moves, the Lions have won 5 games over the last two seasons. I don't believe this to be a coincidence. Millen was a loud-mouth idiot as a television talking head, and he's more than proved that that wasn't just perception. He needs to get fired, although the damage he's done will probably take years to fix. (Actually, the sad thing is that, once fired, he'll quickly land another television job, and we'll be subjected to his blathering once again.)
FLOPPIES START THE SLOW FADE
In a move that should surprise no one, big-time computer seller Dell has begun phasing out floppy disk drives on its computers.

By coincidence, I just brought home a floppy from work yesterday. This was the first time in several months. I had some work I wanted to do from home, and while I usually will email the necessary files to my home e-mail account, in this case there were so many files that I figured it would be easier to just slide them onto a disk. Fact is, even though they were all just Word files, I was still crossing my fingers that they'd all fit on the floppy!

But of course, the age of the floppy passed by years ago. There are three killers of the old flop: the Internet, which makes file transfers easier than ever; CD/DVD drives, which provide way more storage space for when you absolutely must use a portable medium; and computer networking, which has become so ubiquitous that even lots of homes have them. You could even count ever-larger hard drives as an indirect factor, since the massive storage they provide makes removable disk storage nearly pointless.

The article notes that Apple was way ahead of the curve on this, having dropped floppy drives from its computers five years ago. They were roundly criticized for it, even though it was obvious even then that floppies were getting to be just too small to function as useful storage devices. This was, and still is, especially the case with the Mac, which because of it's wide use for memory-intensive graphic and multimedia files, really put itself out the floppy's memory neighborhood. Long story short, Apple leads the way once again.

Wednesday, February 05, 2003

RED-CARPET PREMIERE... FOR A VIDEOGAME
Yep, for a videogame. Although, it did help that the game is based on a Hollywood movie. Enter The Matrix, the interactive gaming offshoot of the Matrix films, was feted with a glitzy premiere party to announce itself to the world, complete with movie stars.

How much longer will such people really be "movie stars"? That's something this article touches upon. As videogames become more advanced and more realistic--and thus, better able to elicit interactive responses from their audience/participants--the convergence between them and traditional filmed entertainment will charge ahead, and make the entertainment media landscape even 20 years from now unrecognizable. Think about it: You'll be talking to your children, or even grandchildren, some day and be struggling to get across the concept of a "movie". They'll probably think that the notion of spending two hours of your time sitting and staring at video images that don't even respond to your interactions to be the height of uselessness. (Boy, I can't wait!)

Consider how close we are to this today. Videogames are produced on big budgets that approach those for movies. And in a telling sign, The Internet Movie Database seamlessly includes videogames alongside the movies and television shows stuffed into its records.

Here's some more, older, stuff along these lines.
LEARNING THE TRUTH AT SEVENTEEN
up for grabs en vogue
Looks like things aren't going well for venerable teen mag Seventeen. At least, not to parent company Primedia's satisfaction.

Seventeen is my lucky number, by the way. Just so you know. Let's move on:

Burdened by debt and feeling it's getting shafted as far as perceived valuation, Primedia is putting the magazine up for sale. With any luck, a bidding war will bring in something north of $250 million for the title. Not bad.

What really caught my eye was the curious wording of the official reason why Seventeen is on the block:

"Publisher Primedia Inc. said on Wednesday it was exploring strategic alternatives, including sale, for its Seventeen magazine, citing the market's lack of recognition for the strength of the title." (italics mine)

Just reading that, you get the sense of rampant spin-o-rama on the loose! "Lack of recognition for the strength of the title"... in other words, Primedia thinks the mag is peachy-keen, but no one else does? :) That's pretty much the size of it, actually. While the publishing company will argue that Seventeen is still one of the leading titles in the coveted teen girl market, and has been bolstered in that regard, it's got lots and lots of competition. As the old guard, Seventeen is in real danger of losing it's top spot to newer (and assumed "fresher") upstarts. This is why Primedia is looking to cash out now, before the title's value starts to erode. But it's still a hutzpah-like maneuver to suggest that the analysts can't recognize what Primedia, and everyone else, plainly can.

Among those upstarts teen mags is Teen Vogue. The offspring of the big-girl's bible is trying to go with an upscale-content approach to teeny-bopping. Good luck! Smart move to have Gwen Stefani on the first cover though; her wide appeal to both straight and gay females is sure to snag a wide audience for the premier issue.
THE GAME-PHONE!
play me!
How cool-looking is this little gadget? It's phone, it's a game-unit, it's a Nokia. The mobile phone giant is going to launch this new-fangled product soon, banking on the large percentage of phone users who also love to waste time playing games on their handsets.

Guilty as charged. I guess I'm probably at the front end of the generation to which this product holds appeal. I kill an inordinate amount of time--not to mention battery life--playing both the built-in games on my phone, and (on nights and weekends consisting of free minutes, hehe) online games through the phone's minibrowser.

And it's nothing but natural. People my age grew up playing Atari video games at home and coin-slot games at the mall. As we've grown up, videogaming was always a viable, and fun, entertainment option. So why not customize our now-indispensible phones to make it easier to play our game-lets?

Needless to say, I want one of these things. Now.

Here's a bit more on this development, mainly the business-strategic implications. Cool.
WHUMP YOU, VATICAN
I don't usually link to other blogs--heck, I don't think I ever have, as it seems redundant. But in this case, the post was so good that I just hadda share. (Besides, it came from one of my parent blogs.) Whump.com gives its insight on Catholicism's recent call on its members to not be swayed by other spiritually-related practices. I especially liked the proposed "http://thosedamnprotestantsthinktheyhavealltheanswers.org" site.

Tuesday, February 04, 2003

R.I.P. YUGOSLAVIA
shake that rump state
After 74 years of often shaky national integrity, what was left of Yugoslavia legislated itself out of existence today. Henceforth, the loosely-joined state will be known as the Union of Serbia and Montenegro. Meaning it's time for the CIA to update that fact book entry!

One other thing: What do we now call the vintage Yugo automobile?
SOUTH FLORIDA, WHERE NO NHL PLAYER IS SAFE
a league
The recent NHL All-Star Weekend in Sunrise, Florida (part of the Miami-Fort Lauderdale metroplex) concluded with a sour note, as Phoenix Coyotes defenseman Ossi Vaananen and friends suffered serious injuries after being hit by a car that a 90-year-old geezer couldn't control.

Vaananen is a good d-man, and with any luck he'll be able to come back from this as good as new. His companions are the ones who are in serious trouble, and hopefully they'll pull through reasonably intact.

That said, two things bother me about this incident:

- Note that the reason they got into harm's way in the first place was because of yet ANOTHER idiot, ass-backwards cab driver! Never mind that he couldn't speak English; the fact that he got lost and had no idea how to find his way around just blows my mind. He's a cabbie, for Christ's sake! Knowledge of the driving area, or at the very least a sense of direction, should be the basic requirement for driving a hack! (See here for a fuller expounding by yours truly on the Dumb Cabby Epidemic.)

- Naturally, it was a 90-year-old coot--who I'll bet should have had his license revoked 20 years ago--who was responsible. Like my home state of Florida doesn't get enough flack for the legions of half-blind/half-deaf (hell, let's face it, half-dead) wrinklebags crawling all over the place. Now this. I can hear the wisecracks already.
BEN AFFLECK AND HIS RED "HAIR"
i am a man without fear
As part of the forthcoming buzz over the Daredevil movie (check out some of the interesting trivia behind this one, by the way), we get to hear about what our favorite wooden actor, Ben Affleck, is up to!

According to today's reports, Ben had to dye his hair a nice red hue as part of the role of Matt Murdock, aka the Man Without Fear.

Hmmm.... but wait. I thought that the scuttlebutt was that ol' Ben was of the balding persuasion! So, in order for these two stories to jibe, one of two things had to have happened: He got himself a redheaded toupee, or.... he dyed his wig?? How vain can you get?
MP3, THE DRINK
So, a couple of nights ago, I'm having dinner with friends at a restaurant on one of the area beaches. This little drink placard on the table catches my eye. There are two drinks featured on it: One is the mojito, that old-time Cubano treat (which I actually wanted, but the waiter fed me some bull line about it being unavailable). The other drink was some blending of orange-flavored rum, pinapple juice, orange juice and lime (I wish I could remember the exact mixture). It was the name that caught my eye: the MP3.

Yep, the digital file format that's been the scourge of the entertainment industry, and the hands-down favorite of savvy music fans, has now been immortalized as a cocktail! Wacky, wild stuff.

The drink was alright. I usually don't go for sweet, fruity drinks, or even rum-based ones generally. But it was okay.

One thing, though: I payed about $4 for it. Four bucks for an MP3?? Shit, since when does anyone actually pay for an MP3?? ;)
WHY, FI?
free, unwired nation
It looks like wireless web access is spreading like a weed. Not only wireless, but FREE wireless! In theory, anyway. In order to take advantage of the floating bandwith, you need to have a fairly adept understanding of network communications, how connectivity works, etc. Not to mention a notebook or other portable computer (I suppose you could go with a desktop, but what's the point in that?).

I'd loooooove to take a whack at this myself. Problem is, a wireless modem/card isn't really that cheap at around $300; it isn't that expensive, but in terms of it being a tinkertoy, that's a bit above the playmoney range for me.

One of the companies cited in this artcle has a pretty nice icon collection of some of the major tech players. Got a good chuckle from the Microsoft Borg. Oh those funny techie-geeks!
CHOKING OFF WEBSURFING AT WORK
If you work in a white-collar office, or almost any workplace that gives you access to a computer, then you've certainly spent a certain percentage of your workday surfing the web for non-work-related purposes. These purposes can range from the purposeful--like making travel arrangements, searching (gasp!) for a new job, or even online dating--to the completely frivolous joys of, oh for instance, peeking at the lives of kittens. It can get to be a big problem with some people, as they wind up spending more time putzing around on message boards instead of actually working.

Unfortunately, the bossman is wising up to all this cyber-goofing off, and is determined to squash the fun! And you might be surprised, but it's not just you that suffers in this instance. Because many sites rely on eyeball audiences that visit only from their broadband-connected workplace, they are taking a hit in terms of webratings, and thus decreased ad rates. Classic domino effect.

There is, of course, the argument that this workplace regulation is ultimately counterproductive.

Monday, February 03, 2003

A BREAK IN THE SEQUENCE
Well, well, well.... looks like I missed a day of bloggin'. No posts for yesterday.

No real excuse for it. I did pretty much nothing but play hockey on the Xbox yesterday, and watch a couple of movies. I thought about working on the blog, but the truth is, I really had nothing compelling to write. I know the the space shuttle explosion dominated the weekend headlines; but really, I had nothing much to say on that, aside from obvious comparisons to the Challenger explosion and my memories of that.

In any case, I'll have something to write about tonight, I'm sure. Aside from what I run across during the day, I'm planning to rent 24 Hour Party People tonight. I missed it in the theaters, and there's nothing on TV tonight, so I'm gonna go with that.

Saturday, February 01, 2003

A NEW DIRECTOR FOR BATMAN
dunna dunna dunna dunna
In a big to revive the Batman movie franchise from the putrid wreckage of the Joel Schumacher era, AOL Time Warner is bringing on board a new guy with an avant-garde mentality. He's Christopher Nolan, who did a bang-up job with Memento.

Like it's a big mystery as to why the series has foundered. After doing the right thing by letting Tim Burton take the character back to his roots (in an oddball way), they let that hack Schumacher do completely unimaginative by-the-numbers sequels. Not to mention the celebrity circle-jerks those last two films became...

In the meantime, I'm sorta looking forward to the Darren Aronofsky-helmed Batman: Year One project.