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The thoughts and theories of a guy who basically should have gone to bed hours ago.

I know, I know - what's the point? But look at it this way - I stayed up late writing it, but you're reading it...

Let's call ourselves even & move on, OK?

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I Should Be Sleeping

Sunday, October 30, 2005

Mac users need not apply...

It seems if you're a Mac user, you're going to need to jump through some hoops to work at American Express, Target or Sears:

At American Express, for example, job seekers are greeted with this warning: "At this time, the system does not support Mac environments. If you don't have access to a PC at home or work, please check out a local public library for Internet access, local Internet cafes, or the nearest government Work Force Center." . . . job seekers at Target and Sears may just get an error message or have their browser crash when using Apple's Safari browser.

They're all using the same third party vendor who's software doesn't support Safari. They claim they'll have a Firefox compatible version out by December, but they're in no rush to support Safari because "customers aren't clamoring for it."

So here's my question: Forgetting about American Express for a second, don't Target and Sears at least sell Mac accessories (if not Macs themselves?) Can anyone say PR problem?

posted by Brian at 2:07 AM | 0 comments

Friday, October 28, 2005

The World Series - When's That On?

The TV ratings are out on the 2005 World Series, and they're the worst they've ever been. Before you write off the Fall Classic, though, think about this:

Despite rating so low in comparison to other World Series, the four games of this series were each the highest rated prime-time network programs on their respective nights.

So the World Series was the most popular show on television last week, but also the least watched World Series in history. I think what we have here is a commentary on the number of choices on television, not the popularity of the Series itself. Don't forget - the last time the White Sox were in the World Series (1959), most TV's had fewer than ten channels to choose from. The other two times they were involved (1917 & 1919), TV's didn't exist (but that's another story).

The other variable here is the fact that each World Series is not created equal. When the teams like the Yankees, Red Sox, Dodgers, or Braves are involved, there's a much wider "hometown" audience to draw from, which has got to boost the ratings. Heck - if the Cubs were in the series instead of the White Sox, I bet the number of viewers in Chicago would have gone up tremendously. So comparing TV ratings between World Series is like comparing homeruns in Yankee Stadium to homeruns in Fenway Park - apples to oranges...

posted by Brian at 1:23 PM | 0 comments

Hitting the iPod nail on the head...

This article wonders if the incompatability of most of the common iPod accessories will put existing iPod owners off from buy a new iPod. Here's my answer, anyway: Yes.

My iPod is well used, and I've purchased two accessories - the iTrip for playing music in the car with the kids, and the Nyko button relocator for listening by myself on a crowded commuter train. When the Nano came out, I figured the next thing would be a 20GB (or more) flash version, at which point I'd probably buy a second one so my wife would have one for driving around town with the kids while I'm at work.

Now, I have to deal with the following realities:

  • The new 30GB model does not cost $299 as advertised. It costs $359, because I need to shell out $30 each for a new iTrip and button relocator (both of which are not yet available)
  • When the iPod charge runs down, I typically recharge it while playing music (especially with the kids in the car who don't want to hear about "recharging" on a long trip without their music). Now that the devices will use the Dock connector, this won't be possible (unless they build a passthrough port). All of this besides the point that I'm not sure I see how you do a button relocator if you need to connect to the bottom of the device.
  • Apple is now requiring a licensing fee from the people that make the peripherals (the article linked above says 10% of the wholesale price), so it's possible that the replacement devices will run me more than $30 each.
Seems the tempation to flex that monopoly muscle lives outside of Remond, WA after all...

posted by Brian at 12:24 AM | 0 comments

Thursday, October 27, 2005

The Shame of the Plame Game

They're saying the special prosecutor is going to announce indictments in the Valerie Plame matter tomorrow, so before it all starts, allow me to go on record: Shame on us all. To wit:

Shame on the American people for not seeing what is coming a mile away, and rising up as one to say, "Enough already!" This has got Lewinsky-gate written all over it: an investigation about one thing, yielding charges about something else, all in an effort to punish people for a third thing (which isn't illegal, but has really ticked people off). The last time we allowed this to happen, we got so distracted as a nation that the mainstream media was actually debating whether or not bombing Osama bin Laden might have been a diversionary tactic to take the focus off the President's legal troubles. What will we let slide this time?

Shame on Republicans like Kay Bailey Hutchison, who are refuting all charges before they're even made, suggesting that there's no reason to, you know - actually examine the charges before declaring them bogus. I'm sure some spin doctor out there has indicated the need for positive voices to counter all the negative voices out there, but IMHO, doing this only weakens the case later if the charges are bogus. Also, how in the name of all that is holy can she say something like this:

I certainly hope that if there is going to be an indictment that says something happened, that it is an indictment on a crime and not some perjury technicality where they couldn't indict on the crime and so they go to something just to show that their two years of investigation was not a waste of time and taxpayer dollars.

Tim Russert took the words right out of my mouth:

But the fact is perjury or obstruction of justice is a very serious crime and Republicans certainly thought so when charges were placed against Bill Clinton before the United States Senate.

Check out the whole conversation if you like - perhaps Clinton was charged with more than just perjury, but perjury was the main charge (certainly the one most people remember), and to suggest now that perjury doesn't warrant the indictment of a government official is so hypocritical that it's almost impressively so.

Shame on the media (and not just the mainstream this time - bloggers too!) who talk about the crime as theoretical, but discuss the rationale behind it as fact. I've yet to read that Rove & Libby are accused of "disclosing the name of a CIA agent." Instead, I read that they are accused of "disclosing the name of a CIA agent in order to get revenge on her husband for publicly criticizing the President's main justification for going to war in Iraq." Not that I put revenge past these guys, but I can easily see a scenario where the crime was committed but the rationale was different. Consider: Wilson writes his Op-Ed piece in the New York Times. High ranking government officials get deluged with questions about his trip to Africa - Why was he there? Who did he talk to? What did he find out? At some point, one of them tells a reporter that the CIA sent him there (as opposed to the White House or anyone else), and mentions that his wife works for the CIA and maybe that had something to do with why he was selected. The crime (disclosing her name) is still present, but let's face it - this could have been background data run amok just as easily as it could have been revenge.

And finally, shame on the Democrats who've been planning this since the day Clinton was impeached. Obviously, I can't prove this, but I've always had the feeling that there were folks out there vowing to impeach the next Republican President for something, either for pure revenge or to lessen the historical importance of Clinton's impeachment. The war in Iraq felt like the right venue for such a stunt (and yes, it's a stunt), but the war has yet to produce an actual crime among the executive branch - just a lot of decisions that royally pissed off those who disagreed with them.

The constant repetition of the rationale (to get revenge on her husband for publicly criticizing the President) strikes me as the tell-tale sign of game at hand. The "linking" game also seems to point that way. For example, Tuesday's NYTimes reported on the front page that Libby had learned about Plame from Dick Cheney, rather than from a reporter. This strikes me as an excuse to mention Cheney's name in conjunction with the whole affair, even though speaking to his own Chief of Staff hardly sounds like a crime of any kind.

Bottom line: if crimes were committed, the guilty should be punished in accordance with the severity of their crimes. But we've been through the process of turning the executive branch into a hot, new reality show. We know the downsides. And if we do it again, then shame on us all.

posted by Brian at 12:41 PM | 0 comments

Miers cleans up the mess

Harriet Miers has withdrawn her name from consideration.

As I wrote earlier, this sounds like exactly what the senate was trying to do - give her a way out that didn't embarrass herself or the President (much), without having to vote her down.

Right result; wrong reasons.

posted by Brian at 12:03 PM | 0 comments

Friday, October 21, 2005

A bad influence...

Now, this is funny...

WYRM - I'm sorry to hear you think I'm a bad influence on my children. You may be interested to know that that kid is five years old now, and when I told him that the World Series starts in Chicago tomorrow night, he said, "That's because the White Sox won home field advantage, right Daddy?" With this kind of head start, I'm guessing that when he gets to be your age, he'll know what the squiggle is above the 'n' in Spanish words...

Oh, and by the way, he has a brother who I'm similarly corrupting...

posted by Brian at 5:12 PM | 1 comments

Getting out of the Miers Mess

I haven't written anything here about the Miers (or Roberts) nomination because, quite frankly, I don't know much about Supreme Court Justices or how they should be chosen. I will say this, though:

It shocked me that there is no law (or at least an unbreakable tradition) that states that Supreme Court Justice nominees must be judges by profession. I'm told other non-judges have been appointed in the past, but on the face of it, it seems to suggest that there isn't a single judge working in the U.S. today that is more qualified to be on the Supreme Court than this non-judge.

I've also been amazed at the reaction to Ms. Miers from those who call themselves conservatives. The concern seems to be primarily around her lack of qualifications as a conservative and her lack of stated conviction that Roe v. Wade must be overturned. Those who do mention her lack of experience as a judge tend to do so glancingly, either as an intro to the above two points, or as an afterthought. It makes me think that Bush could nominate a trained monkey for the court, and some people out there would complain that the monkey isn't sufficiently pro-life.

Then there's this (hat tip: InstaPundit). By asking Bush & Miers to violate attorney/client priviledge as part of the confirmation process, it seems as though Miers has to decide her first case before even broaching the confirmation hearings. The irony, of course, is that if she exhibits a strict belief in the right to privacy (which many advocate in a Supreme Court justice), then she's forced to withdraw her nomination. If she's willing to violate that right, then it could be used against her during the confirmation process as evidence of her willingness to legislate from the (hearing room) bench. All in all, a pretty slick political move for Graham & Brownback.

Finally, a question: if everyone (and it really does seem like everyone) thinks she's a bad choice, shouldn't the senate, who is hired to represent us, reject her nomination in a vote that resembles 100-0? Doesn't the fact that, despite all the dissatisfaction, she still stands a pretty good chance of being confirmed bother anyone? To me, it calls into question the purpose of the confirmation process in the first place.

posted by Brian at 12:58 PM | 2 comments

Thursday, October 20, 2005

Philosophical Questions for the 21st Century

If the person you're talking to sneezes with his phone on mute, do you need to say "God Bless You?"

And if you say "God Bless You" while you're on mute, and the person doesn't hear it, is he really blessed?


posted by Brian at 9:28 AM | 2 comments

Wednesday, October 19, 2005

Perhaps a giant India-shaped blanket?

It seems the President of India is worried that terrorists will use Google Earth to attack his country:

High-resolution pictures are freely available on the Internet and are provided by many sites in addition to Google Earth, Kalam said. He cautioned officers during his speech to be aware of emerging "open-source intelligence." He also showed the audience aerial pictures of some of the sensitive locations in India.

"When you look deeper into it, you would realize that the specific laws in some countries, regarding spatial observations over their territory and UN recommendations about the display of spatial observations, are inadequate," he noted.

I thought we were past the days of "the Internet is only good for porn" and "How did kids survive before electric typewriters?" Look - all good technologies have the potential to be used for evil. The problem, in every one of these cases, is the evil. Not the technology.

posted by Brian at 12:01 AM | 0 comments

Saturday, October 15, 2005

Finally, someone said it!

The truth about spam!

posted by Brian at 1:36 AM | 0 comments

Wednesday, October 12, 2005

Vista Watch - Beta 1.99

InternetWeek has a review up of the latest Windows Vista beta. Some quick thoughts:

DISCLAIMER: It's never a good idea to review software based on someone else's review, rather than seeing the software yourself. So everything here is just speculation based on what the reviewer (in this case, Scot Finnie) wrote and the screen shots he's included:

- Performance is better.
Good news. Not surprising, but still good news. I like the goal they've set for themselves - "Windows will turn on & off in two or three seconds - like a television." I have no expecatations of that actually happening, but I like the way they're thinking.

- Live Thumbnails
Hover over the taskbar, and you can see a minature version of the minimized window (complete with working video, etc. if it exists on the page). This sounds moderately useful, but I'll need the actual user experience to know for sure. It also occurs to me that if your machine is a little light on memory, this is the kind of thing that could make the hard drive thrash just by navigating around. If it's snappy, though, it could be a good thing.

- Flip
They built the same minatures into the Alt-Tab function (which I basically have in XP through some add-in someone sent me years ago). That's probably more useful than the live thumbnails. Again, though, time will tell.

Microsoft's answer to Apple's Expose. I liked Expose when I saw it, but Microsoft's answer sounds better to me. Expose was a little invasive (all the windows moved all at once). This seems more seprated from the actual user experience - sort of a timeout while I select a new app. As above, we'll see...

-Windows SlideShow
Finally, the ability to re-create those movies where the person's screen saver says "You've got e-mail" over a floating envelope graphic or some such nonsense. Cute idea when integrated with other, non-PC devices. Another example of using the new OS as an opportunity to expand the human-computer interaction beyond the current paradigm (rather than just making everything faster or slicker).

-Windows Gadgets
Sounds like a direct competitor to OS X's widgets. The review doesn't say too much about them. I found them kitschy on the Mac, and expect the same on Vista.

posted by Brian at 12:57 AM | 0 comments

Monday, October 10, 2005

Why Statistics Professors Don't Enjoy Baseball Games...

So, what's more amazing? The fact that one guy caught two homerun balls in a single baseball game (alright, a double baseball game - it was 18 innings long), or the fact that the Chairman of the Department of Statistics at Stamford University calculates the odds of catching a homerun ball, without factoring in the thousands of seat-sized spaces in the outfield where a homerun could land and no one would catch it?

(Side note: I bet the guy figured he had million dollar souvenirs on his hands. Must've been a letdown when someone offerred him $20 for the pair...

posted by Brian at 5:08 PM | 2 comments

Friday, October 07, 2005

Al Qaeda - Take Your Business Elsewhere

I'm writing this from on board the uptown E train, which started at the World Trade Center station and is heading toward my office in midtown Manhattan. This is the same subway I rode on the morning of September 11, 2001.

Apparently, Al Qaeda would prefer that I be too scared to ride this train today

Well, consider this a big, old fashioned !#*@(' Off, Al Qaeda. Take your terror threats someplace where people care, OK? It's our subway, and we know better than to run scared from the likes of you

There's my stop - I gotta go. You lose this round, guys...

posted by Brian at 8:42 AM | 0 comments

TiVo In Your Pocket

It sounds like there a still a few glitches to be worked out, but we've finally gotten to TV In Your Pocket.

It's not exactly a click-and-go sort of thing, but neither is it very difficult to send your favorite programs to your Windows-powered mobile device.


posted by Brian at 12:28 AM | 0 comments