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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

Thursday, August 30, 2007

The Gaffe Machine

Let's talk for a minute about this woman:

Her name is Caitlin Upton, and she was the fourth place finisher in the 2007 Miss Teen USA Pageant. Despite the fact that the pageant didn't even make the Top 20 Nielsen ratings, the above video has (as of this writing) been viewed by approximately 1.5 million people. Other versions of the video are on YouTube as well, and two of them are currently listed in YouTube's Top 10 Most Viewed video list. It's safe to say that more people have seen the video clip than watched the actual pageant to begin with.

It's also safe to say that every last one of them thinks Ms. Upton is as dumb as a brick. The user comments on the above video call her everything from a "moron" to a "dumb bitch" to one who "only exists to give pleasure to men." The thing is, she's not so dumb. This from MSNBC:

Held up on the Internet as the quintessential dumb blonde, Upton was an honor student in high school who played varsity soccer for four years. This summer, she traveled to Germany with an elite soccer team that placed second in a tournament involving teams from a number of European countries. In her junior and senior years, she was her school's president of SkillsUSA, which describes itself as "a partnership of students, teachers and industry working together to ensure America has a skilled work force."

Upton's long-term goals include enrolling in Appalachian State University to major in graphic design. On graduation, she wants to study special effects at the International Academy of Design Technology in Los Angeles and embark on a career designing special effects for movies and television.

On the Today Show the following day, she gave a much more coherent answer to the pageant's question, and also came back later in the show to deliver "a flawless explanation of lunar eclipses."

So what we have here is a character assassination. Caitlin Upton is not a dumb blonde, but she did commit the worst sin in America: she looked bad on television. Once she did that, millions of Americans formed and cemented their opinions, and no amount of explanation or second chances was going to help.

She's also not the first non-moron to fall victim to this phenomenon. President Bush jumps immediately to mind. As does former Vice President Dan Quayle, and Vice Presidential candidate James Stockdale (of "Who am I? Why am I here?" infamy).

But there's something else going on here as well. This is a new, 21st Century version of character assassination, in which no individual or group conspires to destroy a person. At least in the cases of Bush or Quayle, one could argue that their political enemies conspired to spin up injurious tales about them, altering public perceptions to achieve their own ends. In Ms. Upton's case, our cultural mechanisms, including the glut of entertainment content available across thousands of cable and satellite channels, not to mention the almighty Internet, seem to automatically generate this kind of story, leaving the victim no one to blame and no effective recourse, despite the fact that the message is horribly inaccurate.

It feels as though the pageant is not so much televised to be viewed by the public, but to provide raw materials for those who would scan through it, find an embarrassing or humorous moment, and then highlight it for the world via YouTube or some similar vehicle. Then, social networking takes over and distributes the "gaffe" around the world, pointing people back to the source material only if they'd like further context.

In a weird way, the same can be said of the 29 "Presidential" debates that have been scheduled so far. I put the word "Presidential" in quotes because we all seem to be ignoring the fact that there is no presidential election this year, and so these debates are really about giving the candidates the opportunity to say something newsworthy. There is no real reason to watch them when they happen (and, in fact, very few people have). Instead, we count on the teeming millions out there (mainstream media and bloggers alike) to extract any controversial, embarrassing, humorous, or otherwise interesting snippet from them, post them in a publicly viewable forum, and then spread the word to the rest of us.

Both the pageants and the debates (and while you're at it, throw in Reality TV shows, Award shows, most sporting events, and anything that's ever been on C-SPAN), are no longer the end product. They are inputs for the giant Gaffe Machine that we've built with our technological capabilities and our short attention spans.

It all makes me wonder whether this Gaffe Machine is the cause or the effect. If the only way to see the gaffe was to watch the debate, might the entire debate be more informative? If the only way to hear Ms. Upton fumble on about "U.S. Americans" was to watch the pageant, would the pageant itself be more popular, and by extension, more entertaining?

posted by Brian at 1:51 PM | 4 comments

It Ain't Over 'Til It's Over...

Coming up on September 1st, and the Red Sox lead the Yankees by six games in the American League East. As Mike Francesa of Mike and the Mad Dog (WFAN, New York) says, "The Red Sox are like the timezones - ahead in the spring and behind in the fall." Look at this chart:

With the exception of 2004 (their World Series year), where they actually made a mini-run at the division at the end of the season, the pattern is always the same - build a small lead in the beginning of the season, and then watch it fade away by October.

This year, unfortunately, has been a bit different. The annual, mid-season lead spiked to double digits for the first time in six years, and this is their biggest lead for September 1st in that timeframe (data prior to 2001 was not easily available on the web). The biggest 9/1 lead they've blown has been 5.5 games (in 2001), so it's not out of the realm of possibilities, but it's going to be tough...


posted by Brian at 12:55 AM | 2 comments

Wednesday, August 29, 2007

Strange Bedfellows...

TO:Senator Larry Craig
FROM:Fmr. Attorney General Alberto Gonzalez
DATE:August 28, 2007


Thanks for the air cover. Your timing is impeccable. Sorry I couldn't meet you in that bathroom stall in Minneapolis like we'd planned. Maybe next time, OK?


posted by Brian at 12:19 AM | 0 comments

Monday, August 27, 2007

In Minnesota, Your 15 Minutes Is Easier to Come By...

Just got back from a wonderful four-day weekend visiting family in Maple Grove, Minnesota (just outside of Minneapolis). We did the standard things, I suppose - marvelled at the Mall of America (including the theme park formerly known as Camp Snoopy), sampled some local restaurants, and cooked S'mores in a bonfire on the driveway while neighborhood kids came by to play and dance to various Hannah Montana & High School Musical tunes.

As a daily Bleat reader, I made one additional suggestion. Isn't the Minnesota State Fair going on? Wouldn't the kids enjoy spending a day there? Also, I know someone who's working there (well, "know" in the web-sense of the word - read what he writes every day & send him an occasional e-mail, which he reads and occasionally responds to as one of a sea of e-mails he receives from loyal readers).

Anyway, off to the fair we went:

A few rides, a TON of food (including several things "on a stick" that you wouldn't expect to find on a stick - including a Snickers Bar), and then the long walk back to the car (we had a pretty good parking spot. I believe they call the lot "Wisconsin.") Anyway, on the way back we passed the Star Tribune booth and I dragged the family off the beaten path for a second. "Excuse me, is James Lileks here?" "Why sure - he's on the back porch."


And so it was that I got to meet the man who writes the words I read every morning on my way to work. I told him so, and he said it made his day. Then he gave us some sage advice about holding our breath during the tour of the animal exhibits, and we were off - him to his writing, us to our car. The next morning, this time at the Minneapolis-St. Paul Airport waiting for our flight, I pull up the today's Daily Bleat. Lo & behold, look what I see:

It's wonderfully gratifying to meet people at the Fair who read the stuff and enjoy it. (One fellow came up to the Official Porch today, and told me he reads the Bleat on his Blackberry while taking the train into NYC. To Rockefeller Center! Made my day.)

Now how friggin' cool is that? James, if you're reading this (and there's a chance you are, since I'm going to e-mail it to you as soon as I'm done posting it), please know that reading the reference to us the next morning made my day as well (and my wife's day & my kids' day...)

One more picture from the fair. It strikes me as something the Bleat-master himself might have posted if he had taken it (and, of course, he's free to pilfer it as his discretion if he so chooses). Some contextual irony that can only be understood after passing the "Gator on a Stick" and "Teriyaki Ostrich on a Stick" booths:

Like I said - Perfect.

posted by Brian at 9:31 PM | 1 comments

Friday, August 24, 2007

Welcome, Class of 2011

Beloit College has released it's Class of 2011 Mindset list. This is a list of 70 things the incoming college freshmen have always believed to be true. The link has the whole list, of course, but here are my Top Ten:

4. They've never “rolled down” a car window.
9. Nelson Mandela has always been free and a force in South Africa.
10. Pete Rose has never played baseball.
15. Russia has always had a multi-party political system.
23. Wal-Mart has always been a larger retailer than Sears and has always employed more workers than GM.
27. Al Gore has always been running for president or thinking about it.
45. They learned about JFK from Oliver Stone and Malcolm X from Spike Lee.
47. High definition television has always been available
55. MTV has never featured music videos.
61. They never saw Johnny Carson live on television.

(Hatp tip: IvyGate)


posted by Brian at 1:48 AM | 1 comments

For those keeping score at home...

Paris Hilton: 3 weeks in jail for violating probation due to DUI.
Lindsay Lohan: 1 day in jail for cocaine posession and DUI.
Nicole Richie: 1 hour in jail for driving while on drugs.

Quite the impressive bunch, huh?

posted by Brian at 1:40 AM | 0 comments

I'm Sure Someone Else is Curing Cancer - Part Three

Scientists at the Karolinska Institute in Sweden found a way to induce an out-of-body experience in people without using drugs.

Now, first of all, thank God they didn't use drugs, because we all remember those scientist doping scandals in the 1990's. Heck, there are still those out there who think the whole Viagra discovery should have an asterisk.

But beyond that, the two main questions here are 1) What exactly have they done here, and 2) For the love of everything holy, WHY?!?!?

Taking the first question first:

Using virtual reality goggles to mix up the sensory signals reaching the brain, they induced the volunteers into projecting their awareness into a virtual body. Participants confirmed they had experienced sitting behind their physical body and looking at it. The illusion was so strong that the volunteers reacted with a palpable sense of fear when their virtual selves were threatened with physical force.

So they're temporarily re-wiring your brain in order to give you a hallucination that you're outside of your body. OK, moving on to question #2:

Inducing people to have out-of-body experiences could have wide-ranging uses, [says Henrik Ehrsson, a neuroscientist formerly of University College London, and now at the Karolinska Institute].

"This is essentially a means of projecting yourself, a form of teleportation. If we can project people into a virtual character, so they feel and respond as if they were really in a virtual version of themselves, just imagine the implications.

The experience of video games could reach a whole new level, but it could go much beyond that. For example, a surgeon could perform remote surgery, by controlling their virtual self from a different location."

Say what?!?

OK, granted, I should have seen the video game thing coming, but surgery? First of all, we understand that the surgeon would only think he were somewhere else, but not actually be somewhere else, right? Second, anyone want their surgeon operating on them while experiencing a scientifically induced delusion?

posted by Brian at 1:11 AM | 0 comments

Wednesday, August 22, 2007

Rangers miss extra point, win by four touchdowns

Now this, my friends, is a baseball game:

This game set so many records, it probably set a record for setting records. I'll spare you the very long list and just throw out three fun facts:

1) The last time a team scored 30 or more runs in a game was 110 years ago (that's 1897, for the math-impaired)

2) The Baltimore Ravens haven't allowed 30 points in a game since Week 12 of 2005.

3) After three innings, Baltimore was leading this game 3-0.

Man, what a game...

posted by Brian at 11:27 PM | 0 comments

Sunday, August 19, 2007

The I Should Be Sleeping Museum

A little bit of tech-geek history, for those who like that sort of thing:

Ladies and gentelmen, my second modem. The first was a 1200 baud model that someone gave me when I was in high school. This one, though, is the first modem I purchased myself, and it's the one that got me through college. It's a Hayes Accura 288 V.34 + Fax, maximum speed - a scorching 28.8 kilobits per second. Or, to put it another way, about 100 times slower than my current internet connection.

My, how far we've come...

posted by Brian at 4:25 PM | 0 comments

Yankee Stadium Blogging...

Here's something most people who go to Yankee Stadium don't see:

That's the construction site across the street from the stadium, which will become the new Yankee Stadium at the beginning of the 2009 season. When Phil Rizzuto died, the construction workers apparently spray-painted "Scooter Rizzuto, MVP" on some of their materials. From the picture, it looks like temporary wooden boards used during the building process, but I'd like to think that those boards will somehow become part of the completed stadium, and that Scooter's name will be entombed in the new stadium for as long as it stands. Unless I find out differently, I think I'll choose to believe that story from now on...

Oh, and as long as I have your attention, here's something most people who go to Yankee Stadium do see:


posted by Brian at 4:08 PM | 0 comments

Saturday, August 18, 2007

Al Qaeda and Iraq - Interesting Tidbits

Just a couple of quick things I read on the train home today:

First, remember Jose Padilla? He's the Brooklyn born man who was held without trial in a military court for three and a half years, until finally being transferred to a Miami civilian court, where he was convicted of all charges against him. Apparently, one of the pieces of evidence that convinced the jury was an application he filled out to attend an Al Qaeda training in Afghanistan in 2000. For those who don't believe that Al Qaeda was a well-organized operation before we went after them, here's a PDF of the application, along with an English translation.

Second, this from Captain's Quarters about U.S. Representative Brian Baird, a five-term Democrat who voted against the war in 2002:

U.S. Rep. Brian Baird said Thursday that his recent trip to Iraq convinced him the military needs more time in the region, and that a hasty pullout would cause chaos that helps Iran and harms U.S. security.

"I believe that the decision to invade Iraq and the post-invasion management of that country were among the largest foreign-policy mistakes in the history of our nation. I voted against them, and I still think they were the right votes," Baird said in a telephone interview from Washington, D.C.

"But we're on the ground now. We have a responsibility to the Iraqi people and a strategic interest in making this work."

Baird, a five-term Democrat, voted against President Bush ordering the Iraq invasion — at a time when he was in a minority in Congress and at risk of alienating voters. He returned late Tuesday from a trip that included stops in Israel, Jordan and Iraq, where he met troops, U.S. advisers and Iraqis, whose stories have convinced him that U.S. troops must stay longer.

Rep. Baird cites two reasons for his change of heart - first, his conclusion that a quick withdrawal would mean chaos for the Iraqis and go against our national interests, and second, his belief that General Petraeus had made real progress and should not have to withdrawal while success can still be achieved.

I've been reading a few, small encouraging items about Iraq lately - the rate of major insurgency attacks are down, the Iraqi people are turning in the insurgents to US and Iraqi troops more often now, etc. I tend to read news like this with a high degree of skepticism, since it's typically someone with a political agenda trying to prove his/her point. But Rep. Baird's views are a little more interesting. If he reached these (politically unpopular) conclusions after spending time over there, then perhaps the progress is for real?

One can only hope...

posted by Brian at 2:32 AM | 0 comments

Tuesday, August 14, 2007

LinkedIn Gets Serious

Quite a choice, huh?
(Hat tip: Steve Walsh)


posted by Brian at 10:34 PM | 0 comments

A Truly Holy Cow...

"I guess heaven must have needed a shortstop."
 -- George Steinbrenner
-- August 14, 2007

"Fly ball to deep right field. Tony Armas going back, back, back, at the wall . . .
Holy Cow, did you see that?!?!?"
 -- Phil Rizzuto
-- Radio Broadcast
-- Late 1970's


posted by Brian at 3:49 PM | 0 comments

The OJ story gets weirder

Back in November, I blogged about a book OJ Simpson was writing called If I Did It, in which he described how he would have gone about murdering his ex-wife and her boyfriend, if he had, in fact, committed the crime.

Well, as it turns out, this very strange story was only just starting to get strange. Fasten your seat belts, this is a doozy:

It seems HarperCollins, the would-be publishers of this book, gave OJ a $630,000 advance for the book. Simpson then went and setup a shell corporation to keep the money away from the Goldman and Brown families (who are supposed to receive a portion of his earnings as part of the civil suit they won after the murders).

Last month, a Florida judge awarded the rights of the (completed) manuscript to the Goldman family. Let's review that again: a judge awarded the right to sell the book describing how OJ Simpson would have killed Ron Goldman to the surviving family of Ron Goldman, who had decried the entire project as "immoral" when it first happened. But wait, you say, maybe by winning legal rights to the manuscript, their goal is simply to ensure that no one ever publishes such trash? No such luck:

The Goldmans are responsible for the costs of getting the book out there, but will be entitled to 90 percent of any proceeds, with the remaining 10 percent being split among the Brown family and the bankruptcy trustee that took charge of Simpson's bogus enterprise, Lorraine Brooke Associates.

After they won the book rights, the Goldmans' attorney said they were planning to change the name of the ghostwritten tome to Confessions of a Double Murderer and market it as a confessional.

"The family and publisher have pledged to leave Simpson's manuscript entirely intact, but they will also add key commentary," [a spokesman for the publisher] said in a statement. "The Goldmans, the publisher and [the Goldman's literary agent, Sharlene Martin] will all contribute portions of sales proceeds to the Ron Goldman Foundation for Justice."

So Ron Goldman's family is now going to profit from his murder, by publishing what they call a confessional, when the author says it isn't, even though the whole thing was ghost-written to begin with.

Here's the capper - OJ Simpson is outraged:

Simpson claimed in a streamed online interview that he only agreed to include one chapter about the murders after his original publisher, Judith Regan, swore that it would be labeled as purely hypothetical.

"I find it sort of hypocritical that they talked everybody in America to boycott the book: It was 'immoral,' it was 'blood money,'" he said, referring to the Goldmans' acquisition of the publishing rights. "But we now see it wasn't 'blood money' if they got the money."

Not that OJ has the moral high ground here, but I gotta say - in this case, the man's got a point.

posted by Brian at 9:44 AM | 2 comments

Monday, August 13, 2007

JibJab gets personal

Hey - remember JibJab? They're the folks that made that hilarious This Land is Your Land parody back around the 2004 election? Also, they're the kids who grew up two doors down from me in central New Jersey. I'm happy to report that they're much better at web video than they ever were at kickball on Barklay Street.

Anyway, they've got a new service available now, where you can upload your own faces & star in your own JibJab video. Too cool to resist, so...

Ladies & Gentelmen, Brian & Sherry dance the Charleston (with some help from the JibJab boys...):

Check them out at!

posted by Brian at 10:31 PM | 2 comments

Sunday, August 12, 2007

The 13-year old Finnish Fact Checker Strikes Again...

Gotta love this:

News agency Reuters has been forced to admit that footage it released last week purportedly showing Russian submersibles on the seabed of the North Pole actually came from the movie Titanic.

The images were reproduced around the world - including by the Guardian and Guardian Unlimited - alongside the story of Russia planting its flag below the North Pole on Thursday last week. But it has now emerged that the footage actually showed two Finnish-made Mir submersibles that were employed on location filming at the scene of the wreck of the RMS Titanic ship in the north Atlantic some 10 years ago. This footage was used in sequences in James Cameron's 1997 blockbuster about the 1912 disaster.

The mistake was only revealed after a 13-year-old Finnish schoolboy contacted a local newspaper to tell them the images looked identical to those used in the movie.


posted by Brian at 11:54 PM | 0 comments

A Week of Milestone Homeruns

Just catching up on some blogging tonight, so for posterity sake, here are the videos for three notable homeruns, all of which took place in the space of three days:

Barry Bonds ties Hank Aaron with #755 (August 4, 2007):

Alex Rodriguez hits homerun #500 - youngest player ever to accomplish the feat (August 4, 2007):

Barry Bonds breaks Hank Aaron's homerun record by hitting #756 (August 7, 2007):

And because people will ask, here's my take on the steroid scandal: Baseball's obsession with statistics and records has always been misplaced. Yes, it's likely that Bonds used steroids and Aaron did not. But Bonds and Aaron also played in different sized ballparks, with bats that were made differently. Bonds had access to weight lifting equipment that Aaron did not have, as well as training facilities, rehab facilities, medical procedures, and conditioning techniques that didn't exist in the 60s and 70s. So much has changed in 33 years, that the only thing I can think of that is exactly the same between the two eras is the distance between the bases, which doesn't matter a lick when it comes to hitting homeruns.

So I don't really care who holds the record for most career homeruns. Both men have hit a lot of homeruns and will long be regarded as two of the best long ball hitters ever to play the game. What matters is this: To my knowledge, Aaron didn't cheat. I (and, apparently, no one else) can prove that Bonds cheated, but the evidence seems to suggest that he did. If it turns out that's not the case, then please put me first in line to apologize to Mr. Bonds. Until then, I can tell my 7 and 4-year old sons that Hank Aaron was a great baseball player. I'll be telling them that Bonds was a great baseball player too, but also a stupid man (they've learned in school, and at home, that people who take drugs are stupid people) and a cheater (they've also learned in school, and at home, that if you cheat, no one will want to play with you again). If I'm raising them right (and, of course, I believe that I am), then they'll grow up to understand both men's accomplishments, and hold Hank Aaron in far greater regard than Barry Bonds. That's about right, I think.

posted by Brian at 11:44 PM | 4 comments

Thursday, August 09, 2007

The Latest Unbelievable OJ Thing...

OK, here's the picture:

The address is 360 North Rockingham Avenue in Los Angeles. That's OJ Simpson's house.

The van says "Knife Sharpening Service" on the side. Seriously.

(Hat tip: Instapundit)


posted by Brian at 12:56 AM | 0 comments

Monday, August 06, 2007

Voting made easy...

Check out this site (hat tip: Willow Gross), which asks you for your position on 25 issues and their relative importance to you, and comes back with who you should vote for in 2008.

All the data is from a site called which, at first glance, seems like a gross overesimplification of the issues. I gotta say, though, the results are pretty consistent with how I'd have ranked the candidates if I was asked to do so by "gut feel." Here's my list. What's yours?

CandidatePartySupport (+/-)


posted by Brian at 11:57 PM | 5 comments

How People Found Me - July Edition

The Categories

CategoryJuly CountJune Count
Billy Joel6076
Celebrity Look Alikes5070
Overrated Films1919
ISBS Song/Lyrics1410

For the second month in a row, technology related queries lead the list, surpassing the once dominant Billy Joel entries. In fact, Billy Joel is in serious danger of dropping to #3, behind the inexplicably popular Celebrity Look-a-Like searches. New to the list this month are searches involving politics, searches directly involving me or my family, and a small uptick in searches for the Cal/Stanford "big game" and searches for the lyrics to a country song called "I Should be Sleeping Instead of Dreaming About You," which I've never heard.

The Referring Sites

New to the referral section this month are, a blog belonging to a friend and colleague who is currently residing in London and keeping his American (and Russian) friends & family up to date on his travels, who was nice enough to link to one of my posts (for more on that phenomenon, click here), and, where a commenter on one of their forums (which I didn't know existed until now), quoted one of my posts. All told, the above links resulted in roughly 25 visits & roughly 30 pageviews (or about 2% of the total).

The Keywords

All told, 563 queries resulted in hits to in July (about 120 fewer than were used in June). Here are some samples:

We begin with the odd and interesting:
QueryRank / # of ResultsComments
its a groovy time for a movie time4 / 1,490,000I didn't realize I was the purveyor of Austin Powers-inspired cinematic marketing slogans
feel something wrong with the world7 / 50,800,000Gotta love this logic: 1) feel something wrong with the world, 2) Google it, 3) Click on a link to find out what it is. Sorry to disappoint...
do you want to display the nonsecure items? explorer boring31 / 309Boring? I've heard it called lots of things, but never boring...
who sang dum de da34 / 279,000Er....I'm guessing just about everyone at one time or another, no?
examples of teenage cellphone voicemails148 / 271,000Are there really such things on the internet? And who's searching for them?
what are stem cells good for270 / 2,150,000It's actually quite an impressive list, and I'm proud to be on it...
ratings graph chart evening news katie couric -debut>500 / 17,700I think someone finally figured out that her debut was the exception, huh?
who needs a babysitter in lakewood,oh>500 / 21,900Quite a specific request for Google. Serves 'em right for clicking through to my site...
chez greenberg>500 / 270,000Oui, Oui, Bonjour Madame e Monsieur. Ca va?
how to sneak things onto a cruise>500 / 295,000We at ISBS do not condone such behavior...
wind blew my car into my own home will insurance pay for the damage to the home>500 / 310,000OK, this guy either lives in a tornado zone, or he has the worst excuse for driving his care into his house I've ever heard...
what do i do when my bank account balance vanished?>500 / 556,000World's most desparate Google Query?
rationale of gambling>500 / 698,000Gee, I hope it's not the same guy as the one above...
i've been working on the railroad>500 / 1,640,000Seriously? Someone should write a song about you...
sleeping the laptop good?>500 / 1,900,000Ladies & Gentlemen, the winner of this month's foreign language query!
most interesting google searches>500 / 65,000,000A query for interesting Google searches turns up a page with a list of interesting Google searches. head hurts.
one of these please>500 / 528,000,000Er...sure - help yourself. (What could he/she possibly have been Googling for?)
fighter jets over leominster man/a / 432Again, the logic astounds: hear fighter jets, Google, click on for answers...
guess the dictator sitcom star>500 / 45,500Sounds hysterical...

And now, for the first time since I've been doing this, we come upon some queries that are, shall we say, "adult" in nature (WARNING: you have been warned):

QueryRank / # of ResultsComments
advancements about cervical incompetence (2005-2007)n/a / 107OK, it's a little explicit, but it's medical, so we'll give it a pass...
did harry potter sleep with emma365 / 491,000Now, now - that's just wrong...
naked pictures of kristy brinkley>500 / 167,000OK, we've achieved the common every porn search...
sleeping sex movie>500 / 3,300,000More creative, and more relevant to this site, but still rather common...
mother inlaw in lingerie>500 / 348,000Bingo - now we're into the bizarre. Forgive me while I go wash a mental image out of my head...
he gets it up the ass by a heshe1 / 713,000Well, that'll do it. Thanks. The bad news is, this is the only #1 on the list this month. The good news is this query somehow made it's way to my post on Michael Moore...
videos of any president peeing>500 / 921,000Oh, man - seriously?


posted by Brian at 11:42 PM | 2 comments Health Check - July Edition

A week late, but better late than never:

MetricJuneJuly% Change
Avg Time on Site4:134:40+10.38%
Bounce Rate78.94%81.17+2.83%
% New Visitors84.87%86.55%+1.98%

Well, that's much better. Last month, all the major statistics were down. This month, they've rebounded a bit (although not to May levels). The increase of roughly 100 pageviews is explained by topical posts (Harry Potter and the Apple iPhone), as well as a marked increase in hits to my archive files and my family's personal pages. The former doesn't seem sustainable, while the latter does, so we'll have to see how August treats me.

Also, a note to those who are curious abuot such things: Google Analytics has changed the way it calculates Average Time on Site. A big ol' hat tip goes to Yohay, who found out that they now exclude bounce visits from both the numerator (total time on site) and the demoninator (total number of visits). So, while in June, I reported 53 seconds (up from 46 in May), I'm now showing 4:40 in July (up from 4:13 in May). Still positive news, but not as positive as it might appear at first.

Altogether, a pretty good month...

posted by Brian at 10:37 PM | 0 comments

Objections to Wiretapping Mysteriously Vanish

In December, 2005, there was much ado made about the National Security Agency's secret program to wiretap phone calls to/from known terrorist phone numbers (e.g., cell phones captured in the war zone) and phones in the United States. Critics interpreted the program as an opportunity for the NSA to listen in on calls made by innocent American citizens, without the need for a search warrant or even a Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act (FISA) warrant. There was much discussion on the legality of this program, particularly during the run-up to the 2006 congressional midterm elections.

Fast forward to August 3, 2007, the summer in an off-election year, when far fewer people are watching or listening to what Congress has to say. On that day, the Senate passed a bill that amended the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act to make everything the original NSA program did legal, plus more (16 Democrats voted for the bill). Here's what the New York Times had to say:

Congressional aides and others familiar with the details of the law said that its impact went far beyond the small fixes that administration officials had said were needed to gather information about foreign terrorists. They said seemingly subtle changes in legislative language would sharply alter the legal limits on the government's ability to monitor millions of phone calls and e-mail messages going in and out of the United States.

They also said that the new law for the first time provided a legal framework for much of the surveillance without warrants that was being conducted in secret by the National Security Agency and outside the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act, the 1978 law that is supposed to regulate the way the government can listen to the private communications of American citizens.

"This more or less legalizes the N.S.A. program," said Kate Martin, director of the Center for National Security Studies in Washington, who has studied the new legislation.

But wait, it gets better. The article goes on to lay out this chain of events:

1) January - under pressure from the major telecommunication companies and members of Congress, the White House places the NSA program under the auspices of the FISA court.

2) The change suddenly swamps the FISA court with an enormous volume of search warrant applications, leading the administration to seek the new legislation.

3) The legislation is drafted and passed just before Congress adjourns for it's summer holiday.

4) The law contains language that allows the government to force telecommunication companies to comply with spying operations. Telecom companies are now threatening to challenge the law in court.

So, it seems, what started as moral outrage just before the elections turned into a logistical nightmare, which led to the passage of legislation directly opposed to the original moral outrage, and is now headed for a court challenge. Round and round we go.

No wonder no one trusts the federal government.

posted by Brian at 10:35 PM | 0 comments

This is CNN...

So check it out: CNN's story on Danica McKellar's book links back to my post on the subject.

It's in the "From the Blogs" section (you have to expand it to see). So far, eight people have clicked through.

Next thing you know, I'll be interrupting posts on important topics to talk about what Paris Hilton had for breakfast this morning...

posted by Brian at 9:50 PM | 0 comments