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About the Blog

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

Friday, September 28, 2007

Major League Baseball: Best End of Season Ever!!!


For those who don't follow Major League Baseball (and even for those who do), this last weekend of games is going to be the wildest finish to a baseball season in history. Nothing has ever come close. I will now attempt to summarize (please stand back, this might get messy):

AL East
The Red Sox lead the Yankees by two games with three games left to play. So, if the Red Sox lose all three of their games and the Yankees win at least two of theirs, or if the Red Sox lose two of their three games and the Yankees win all three of theirs, the Yankees would win the AL East and the Red Sox would be the American League Wildcard. Otherwise, the Red Sox would win the AL East and the Yankees would be the Wildcard (this is because the Yankees beat the Red Sox in head-to-head matchups this year, 10 games to 8, so if they end in a tie, the Yankees win).

Think that's confusing? Oh Lord, we haven't even gotten started yet...

AL Central
The Indians have clinched the division title, but currently have the same record as the Red Sox, which makes them tied for the best record in the league. They are also two games ahead of the Angels, who have clinched the AL West. If they finish with a better record than the Angels, they'll play the Yankees in the AL Division Series (ALDS). If not (same deal as above - Indians lose two and Angels win three, or Indians lose three and Angels win two), then the Angels will play the Yankees, and the Indians will play the Red Sox.

AL West
As mentioned above, the Angels have clinched the division title, but the last three games still helps determine who they play first.

Then, of course, there's the matter of home field advantage. The Red Sox are currently two games ahead of the Angels. If they hold onto that lead, the Red Sox/Angels series will play three of five games in Boston. If the Angels pick up two games on the Red Sox, then the advantage would go to the Angels, unless the Yankees also pick up two games on the Red Sox, in which case, they win the Division and play Angels in Anaheim. Unless the Indians stay ahead of the Angels (also currently a two game lead), in which case the Yankees play the Indians in Cleveland, and the Angels/Red Sox series stays in Anaheim.

And then there are ties: If the Indians and the Red Sox wind up with the same record, the series starts in Boston, because the Red Sox won the season series against the Indians 5 games to 2. If the Angels and the Red Sox finish in a tie, the series also starts in Boston, because Boston won that season series 6 games to 4. If the Angels and the Indians finish in a tie, there's a problem, because their season series was also tied (5 games to 5). In that case, the Indians would have home field advantage because their record inside their own division (46-23) is better than the Angels record inside of their own division (30-21).

Oh, wait - we're still not up to the fun part...

NL East
The Phillies and the Mets are tied for first place right now. Also, two teams in the NL West, the Padres and the Rockies, have similar records (the Padres have one more win, the Rockies have the exact same record as the Phillies and the Mets). If the Phillies and the Mets end up tied, and their record is better than both the Padres and the Rockies, then the Phillies would win the NL East, since they won the season series against the Mets (12-6). But, if the Padres or Rockies had a better record than the (tied) Phillies and Mets, then they would win the Wildcard, and the Phillies and Mets would have to play a one-game playoff on Monday (in Philadelphia) to determine who wins the division and who goes home. The location of the game was decided by a coin flip.

NL Central
The Brewers are two games behind the Cubs with three games left to play, so they are in the exact same situation as the Yankees and the Red Sox in the AL East, except the Brewers record is not as good as the Rockies or the Padres in the NL West, so if they don't catch the Cubs, they don't make the playoffs. If the two teams tie, they will also play a one-game playoff on Monday (in Chicago - also decided by coin flip).

NL West
Now, we're up to the fun part. The Diamondbacks are leading the division right now. The Padres are one game back with three left to play, and the Rockies are two games back with three left to play. So any one of those teams can win the division. The other two will be competing not only with each other, but with the loser of the Phillies/Mets in the NL East for the NL Wildcard.

Here's what happens if two teams tie for the NL West lead:
If the Diamondbacks and the Padres finish tied, they will play a one-game playoff on Monday in Arizona.
If the Rockies and the Padres finish tied, they will play a one-game playoff on Monday in San Diego.
The Diamondbacks and the Rockies cannot finish tied, because they play the final three games of the season against each other (this makes everything simple, right?!?)

And here's what happens if two teams tie for the NL Wildcard:
If the Padres and the Phillies tie for the Wildcard, they will play a one-game playoff on Monday in San Diego.
If the Padres and Rockies tie for the Wildcard, they will play a one-game playoff on Monday in Colorado.
If the Phillies and the Rockies tie for the Wildcard, they will play a one-game playoff on Monday in Colorado as well.

But wait, there's STILL more.

If the Phillies, Rockies and Padres end in a three way tie for the NL Wildcard, then the teams get to choose what happens next. The Rockies, who have the best combined record against the Phillies and Padres could either play two playoff games in their home stadium, or accept a bye for the first game, and then play the winner of that game on the road. If they decide to accept the bye, the Phillies would host the Padres on Monday, and the winner would play the Rockies in their home park on Tuesday. If the Rockies choose the two home games, the Phillies can choose to either play the Rockies in Colorado on Monday, with the possibility of playing the Padres in Philadelphia on Tuesday, or to take the bye and guarantee themselves a road game on Tuesday.

If the Mets, Rockies and Padres end in a three way tie for the NL Wilddcard, the same system applies, and the choices are as follows: The Rockies still choose first - either a two home games or a bye. If they choose two home games, the Padres choose between playing in Colorado on Monday and then (hopefully) San Diego on Tuesday, or taking the bye, meaning playing an away game on Tuesday against the winner of the Rockies and Mets.

So that's it, right? WRONG!!! What if there's a four way tie? There are two possible ways that can happen:

Mets, Phillies, Diamondbacks and Padres: The Mets/Phillies and Diamondbacks/Padres each play for their division titles on Monday (in Philly and Arizona, respecitvely), and then the two losers would play for the Wildcard on Tuesday. The Diamondbacks would have to go to Philly or New York. The Padres would host the Phillies, and the Mets would host the Padres. Got it?

Mets, Phillies, Rockies and Padres: The Mets/Phillies and Rockies/Padres would each play for their division titles on Monday (in Philly and San Diego, respectively), and then the two losers would play for the Wildcard on Tuesday. The Rockies would host either Philly or New York. The Padres would host the Phillies, and the Mets would host the Padres.

Thankfully, there can't be a five way tie, for the same reason their can't be a three way tie in the West - the Diamondbacks are playing the Rockies this weekend.

Ok, that's the scoop. Grab some provisions, park yourself in front of your TV, and fire up the calculator - it's going to be a very, very wild weekend...

posted by Brian at 3:55 PM | 0 comments

Thursday, September 27, 2007

The unknown dangers of RSS feeds


Check out what the RSS Feed on My Yahoo! page did to my Life Lessons post. Reads a little like Daddy isn't being very nice to his Child, doesn't it?

For the record, Daddy's line at that point is "Go for it." I swear. Click through and look if you don't believe me. Please click through. Before Child Services comes to my home to "discuss" it.

Ugh...

posted by Brian at 6:16 PM | 0 comments

Wednesday, September 26, 2007

From the "Can't Catch a Break" File...


George W. Bush, campaigning in January, 2000 on the "No Child Left Behind" bill:


"Rarely is the question asked: Is our children learning?"

President George W. Bush, September 26, 2007, advocating for the renewal of the No Child Left Behind Law:


"As yesterday's positive report card shows, childrens do learn when standards are high and results are measured."

George W. Bush - snatching defeat from the jaws of victory at every turn...

posted by Brian at 3:45 PM | 0 comments

Life Lessons


A 10-year-old decides she wants a pony:

Child:Daddy, can I have a pony?
Daddy:No.
Child:Why not?
Daddy:It's against the law.
Child:It's a dumb law. We should change it.
Daddy:Go for it.

Later...

Child:It's a dumb law. You should change it.
City Hall:No.
Child:But it's a dumb law.
City Hall:We're going to make the law better, so other kids like you don't call it a dumb law. And since you're a kid and we don't want to be seen as cold, heartless jerks, we'll invite you to be on the committee that changes the law. Can we go now?


I'm willing to bet that no kid has ever learned so much about how the world really works just by asking for a pony.

(Hat tip: James Lileks at buzz.mn)

 

posted by Brian at 12:55 PM | 0 comments

Monday, September 24, 2007

Columbia Upholds Free Speech, Exposes Idiocy to the World


Last Thursday, in my Random Acts of Blogging post, I casually said this:


Also note that while I'm glad Ahmadinejad will not be visiting Ground Zero, I'd be fine with him speaking at the University of California at Davis.

Well, I was close:


Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad clashed with an American university president who called him a "petty and cruel dictator" at a forum on Monday where Ahmadinejad criticized Israel and the United States and said Iran was a peaceful nation.

Introducing the Iranian president, Columbia University President Lee Bollinger said Ahmadinejad behaved as a "petty and cruel dictator" and that his Holocaust denials suggested he was either "brazenly provocative or astonishingly uneducated."

Bollinger asked a string of pointed questions, most of which Ahmadinejad ignored in a speech that dwelt at length on science as a gift from God and the importance of using knowledge and learning purely and in a pious way.

Many Columbia students and faculty opposed the decision to let him speak, although many others supported it. Just about everyone (if not absolutely everyone) condemned Ahmadinejad's positions, though.

I'll say I stand by my earlier statement. I find it very hard to believe that there's anyone in the world (with the possible exception of Iran) who honestly believes that by allowing Ahmadinejad to speak, Columbia University is endorsing anything he has to say. I also think that the quickest way to convince Americans of this guy's insanity is to let them hear him speak, as opposed to counting on the likes of Rush Limbaugh or Sean Hannity to explain it to them. So go ahead, Mr. Ahmadinejad, say something to show the world just how nuts you are:


Ahmadinejad ... rejected criticism of human rights in his country, notably persecution of homosexuals: "In Iran, we don't have homosexuals like in your country," he said, drawing loud laughter from the audience.

Thank you kindly.

Your Honor, I rest my case.

posted by Brian at 11:20 PM | 3 comments

So what have *YOU* done since graduation?


I graduated from the University of Pennsylvania's Wharton School in 1991. Every time I start to feel good about my job in Wall Street technology, someone or something comes along to put my feet back on the ground. This time, it was my former classmate, Garrett Reisman (who, for the record, I have no recollection of knowing or even meeting - it's a big school):


"I just wanted to let everyone know that I am finally getting off this rock: I will blast into space as part of Space Shuttle mission STS-123, currently scheduled to launch on Feb. 14. I'll perform a spacewalk, and then stay behind as a flight engineer on the International Space Station for expeditions 16 and 17. This long-duration spaceflight is planned for about six months. I promise to take a good group portrait when our orbit takes us over Philly: I'll only have time to take one shot, so don't blink."

Godspeed, Garrett Reisman. Sorry you'll be missing the reunion this year, but it sounds like you've got a pretty good excuse.

posted by Brian at 11:12 PM | 2 comments

The High Holidays, They Are a Changin'


Apparently, famed singer/songwriter Bob Dylan (otherwise known as Zushe ben Avraham) attended Yom Kippur services at the Chabad-Lubavitch of Georgia:


Recording legend Bob Dylan joined Chabad-Lubavitch of Georgia for Yom Kippur services over the weekend. Dylan, who was in town for a concert following the holiday, was called up to the Torah, but otherwise did not cause much of a stir among the congregation.

Arriving in a ski cap and tallit, Dylan stayed for the duration of the morning services, during which he was called up by his Jewish name Zushe ben Avraham. The singer/songwriter said the blessings in Hebrew without stumbling, like a pro, reported Rabbi Yossi Lew, co-director of the Chabad House.

Dylan's appearance was kept under wraps at the request of his manager, who found the Chabad House through Chabad.org's online director.

I wonder if those fluent in Hebrew could understand a word he said in that language...

posted by Brian at 11:04 PM | 0 comments

How Not to Design a User Interface


For those of you who design user interfaces for web applications (you'd be surprised, there's quite a few of us...), here's an object lesson on how to do it wrong.

Ladies and gentlemen, the University of Pennsylvania's Residential Maintenance Request System, FacilityFocus, provided by a software company called Maximus who, quite frankly, should be ashamed of themselves...

(Hat tip: Mel Kramer)

 

posted by Brian at 9:36 PM | 0 comments

Problems Uploading using FTP to Yahoo GeoCities


Attention, my five or six regular readers: the reason I disappeared for a few days and then returned with four posts in a row was late last week, my Yahoo! GeoCities account stopped allowing me to upload files to my familygreenberg.com domain. When I tried, the GeoCities File Manager would return an "invalid file" error message. Furthermore, since this blog is hosted on that domain, the Blogger publish function also produced errors. In most cases, I received a message that said "Unknown FTP Error, Port=0" (even though Blogger gives you no apparent way to set the port and the function had always worked in the past).

Somewhat skeptically, I e-mailed customer service at GeoCities who, to their credit, responded within a few hours with some suggestions, and requested permission to login to my account and test my problem themselves. I described the problem in more detail, provided a screen shot of the error message, and gave them permission. By the end of the next business day, they had tested the problem, were unable to replicate it, and told me that it was probably transient. I agree with them, although I suspect "transient" means that one of their servers went down and needed a reboot. Anyway, FTP is back up and running.

An important note to Blogger users who might be experiencing problems with the publish function, though: even after the FTP problem was fixed on the Yahoo! side, Blogger was still timing out while trying to post. In looking at the settings, I noticed that my FTP user id was set to "bgreenber," which is my Yahoo! user name. On the Yahoo! site, the suggested user id is "bgreenber@familygreenberg.com" (no quotes in both cases). I changed the blogger user name (which has been working properly for many months now) and the publishing timeout went away. So, if you're having trouble publishing to GeoCities (or anywhere else, for that matter), you might want to consider adding your domain name to your FTP user id.

We now return you to your regularly scheduled nonsense...

posted by Brian at 8:39 PM | 0 comments

Bush Endorses Clinton


President Bush says he believes that Hillary Clinton will be the Democratic nominee for President:


President Bush, breaking his rule not to talk about presidential politics, says he believes Hillary Rodham Clinton will defeat Barack Obama in the Democratic presidential primaries.

Bush also predicts that Clinton will be defeated in the general election by the Republican nominee. "I believe our candidate can beat her but it's going to be a tough race," the president said.

"She's got a great national presence and this is becoming a national primary," Bush told [journalist Bill Sammon]. "And therefore the person with the national presence, who has got the ability to raise enough money to sustain an effort in a multiplicity of sites, has got a good chance to be nominated."

Bush also expressed "surprise" over Rudy Giuliani's status as the Republican front-runner, given Giuliani's more liberal positions on social and cultural issues. The Washington Post quotes Bush as saying "Giuliani's popularity was a sign of how important the terrorism issue is to Republican voters."

Giuliani's candidacy continues to intrigue me. I heard quite a few liberal commentators this weekend who were accusing him of being a one-issue candidate who was attempting to parlay his center-stage role on 9/11 into the U.S. Presidency. Meanwhile, folks on the right prove that he's not a one-issue candidate by taking every opportunity to criticize just about every other position he's taken. So here's a candidate that can get the Democrats talking about 9/11 and the Republicans talking about abortion and gay marriage. Go figure...

posted by Brian at 2:23 PM | 0 comments

Sunday, September 23, 2007

Marcel Marceau: 1923-2007


Famed French mime, Marcel Marceau has died.

The family had no comment.

posted by Brian at 1:12 PM | 2 comments

Saturday, September 22, 2007

The Dangers of Online Chatrooms...


This from the Daily Telegraph:


A married couple who didn't realise they were chatting each other up on the internet are divorcing.

Sana Klaric and husband Adnan, who used the names "Sweetie" and "Prince of Joy" in an online chatroom, spent hours telling each other about their marriage troubles, Metro.co.uk reported.

The truth emerged when the two turned up for a date. Now the pair, from Zenica in central Bosnia, are divorcing after accusing each other of being unfaithful.

"I was suddenly in love. It was amazing. We seemed to be stuck in the same kind of miserable marriage. How right that turned out to be," Sana, 27, said.

Adnan, 32, said: "I still find it hard to believe that Sweetie, who wrote such wonderful things, is actually the same woman I married and who has not said a nice word to me for years".

Not mentioned in the article: both Sana and Adnan like Pina Coladas and getting caught in the rain...

posted by Brian at 10:43 PM | 1 comments

Friday, September 21, 2007

ISBS Concert Review: Jimmy Buffett at Madison Square Garden


When I was seventeen, a friend and I went to Florida to hang out at beaches and stare at girls. At one point, we found ourselves in a small beachside bar in Tampa, where we set ourselves up for a few hours with a nice view, some food and drink and a lot of sun. I remember that particular bar because there was a guy there in a Hawaiian shirt with a guitar, a stool, and a microphone. The first thing we heard him say was, "How 'bout a little Jimmy Buffett?" Then he played a Jimmy Buffett tune. Then he said, "How 'bout a little Jimmy Buffett?" and played another Buffett tune. Then he did it again. And again. And again. And...well, you get the idea.

Tonight, twenty years later, I had myself a Cheeseburger in Paradise (actually at the Hard Rock Cafe, but let's not pick nits) and set myself up in a seat in Madison Square Garden to listen to "a little Jimmy Buffett."

What a fun show. It's important to focus on how much fun it was, because focusing on anything else can get a little depressing.

So let's focus on the fun, shall we? Buffett came on stage barefoot, riding a bicycle, and wearing a turquoise t-shirt and yellow shorts. His attitude was as relaxed as his attire. He did not stop smiling the entire show, chatted with the audience between songs (and sometimes even during songs), occasionally stepped away from the microphone to kick a beach ball or two back into the audience, and genuinely seemed to be enjoying the evening. There were no teleprompters for lyrics or between-song banter as I've seen in other shows. This is a man who's doing something he loves, and revels in that fact at all times. At one point, when the entire Coral Reefer Band had left the stage, leaving him alone with his guitar to serenade us with Boat Drinks, he commented that he was standing alone, center stage at Madison Square Garden. He said, "It took me a long time to get here, and I'm going to enjoy every second of it." Nothing sums up the general tone & feeling of the show more than that single statement.

He played many of the Jimmy Buffett tunes you'd expect - Cheeseburger in Paradise, Boat Drinks, Come Monday, Changes in Latitudes, Volcano Rock, Margaritaville, and others. Unlike the guy at the beach bar in Tampa, though, he also played a few songs by other artists, including Willie Nelson's On the Road Again, Van Morrison's Brown-Eyed Girl, and Bruce Springsteen's Glory Days (a version which proved, incidentally, that The Boss' music should never, ever be played in Buffett's signature beach-party style). The entire set list is here.

The Coral Reefer band was outstanding, especially his two guests - Sonny Landreth on slide guitar and Billy Payne (founder of Little Feat), who did a tribute to New York on the keyboard, mashing together songs by various well known New York artists, culminating in a rousing version of Little Feat's Dixie Chicken.

Throughout the show, the giant monitors on the sides of the stage alternated nicely between shots of Buffett and the band on stage, and what was basically Jimmy's home movies - shots of him sailing, surfing, and partying with his fans, including the occasional Parrothead flashing her breasts to the camera. Like I said before, what a fun show...

Here's the thing, though: Jimmy Buffett is sixty years old. And (there's really no nice way of saying this) he can't really sing anymore. For many of the songs, especially the slower ones, he half sang, half spoke the lyrics, particularly at the end of a sentence where he was obviously running out of breath, or where the melody called for a note that was uncomfortably high for him.

It was a shame, but to be honest, it really didn't matter. Because the fact is this: Jimmy Buffett, standing on stage at Madison Square Garden, half-singing Margaritaville while 16,000 fans sing it back at him at the top of their lungs makes for a pretty awesome sound on its own. It's as if his presence and his voice are close enough to the original to allow people to hear it in their heads, and that's really all they need. Well, that and a brightly colored Hawaiian shirt, preferably one with a parrot on it.

posted by Brian at 1:52 AM | 3 comments

Thursday, September 20, 2007

Random Acts of Blogging


I usually try to avoid posts like this, but there's a list of things I've been meaning to blog about and I just haven't been able to find the time. So, some quick hits:

- The Yankees have pulled within 1 1/2 games of the Red Sox in the American League East. On May 30th, the Red Sox lead was 14 1/2 games. Just two weeks ago, the lead was 7 games. Ah, September baseball...

- Former President of Harvard University, Larry Summers, has been uninvited to speak at the University of California at Davis due to pressure from a group of female professors who signed an online petition. The petition called Summers a "keynote speaker who has come to symbolize gender and racial prejudice in academia." Leaving aside the idea that they're preventing someone from speaking because they're offended by his views (a concept that seems completely antithetical to free speech), note that their concern is his symbolism regarding gender and racial prejudice, not the prejudice itself. I think that speaks volumes about the protesters' real intent here.

- Speaking of turning down visitors, New York City has denied a request by Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad to visit Ground Zero. I think this is the right answer, both because his presence would offend the many, many people who think of this space as hallowed ground, and also because of the official reason given by the New York City Police Department: security. There is no doubt in my mind that President Ahmadinejad would encounter an angry mob if he showed up at the site. On the upside, Ahmadinejad apparently acknowledges the existence of 9/11, as opposed to the Holocaust, which he famously regards as a hoax. Also note that while I'm glad Ahmadinejad will not be visiting Ground Zero, I'd be fine with him speaking at the University of California at Davis.

- Dan Rather - September 10th, 2004:


"I believe, I know that this story is true. I believe the witnesses and the documents are authentic. We wouldn't have gone to air if they had not been."

Dan Rather - September 18, 2007:


Dan Rather filed a $70 million lawsuit Wednesday against CBS, alleging that the network made him a 'scapegoat' for a discredited story about President Bush's National Guard service. The 75-year-old Rather, whose final months were clouded by controversy over the report, says the complaint stems from 'CBS' intentional mishandling' of the aftermath of the story.

Is it me, or is he really not helping his own credibility here?

posted by Brian at 1:04 PM | 0 comments

Tuesday, September 18, 2007

Taxi!


Live from Rockefeller Center...it's a burning taxi cab! Well, at this point, a burnt taxi cab.

I was at lunch when it happened, but I'm told flames started shooting out from under the hood, and the cabbie just stopped the car, got out of the cab and watched it burn. He got his 15 minutes of fame talking to news reporters, etc. on the scene.

When I got back from lunch, the remaining melted hunk of metal, glass and plastic was sitting in the street, surrounded by two firetrucks, several firemen, and about two dozen tourists, all taking pictures of the wreckage (gotta love Rockefeller Center...). This picture was taken from my office window in 50 Rockefeller Plaza, as a forklift took the cab away.

Another colleague has pictures of the actual fire, but needs to send them to me from his home account tonight. When I get them, I'll post them here.

UPDATE: More pictures here. (Hat tip: Gothamist)

 

UPDATE #2: Three more pictures from my colleague, Joe Woods. Click to see the larger versions:


posted by Brian at 2:05 PM | 1 comments

Monday, September 17, 2007

Red Sox Memories...


Since the Yankees are currently giving the Red Sox a run for the AL East, I thought I'd post this video for inspiration: It's the bottom of the tenth inning in Game 6 of the 1986 World Series between the New York Mets and the Boston Red Sox, complete with actual audio, re-enacted with a video game called RBI Baseball.

It's a little long, but you can fast forward to the end if you just want to relive the worst moment in Bill Buckner's life...

posted by Brian at 10:22 PM | 1 comments

Tuesday, September 11, 2007

Keeping the Blood Pressure High...




Thump...thump...thump...thump...thump...thump...thump...thump....



Thump.................thump...............thump..............thump.................

posted by Brian at 11:01 AM | 1 comments

9/11/07


It has become a tradition of mine to post my thoughts about September 11, 2001 on its anniversary each year (2002, 2003, 2005, 2006). This year is different in several ways.

First, I'm not in New York. Due to an important business trip, I won't be in or near New York City on the anniversary of the attacks, and will likely not see much (if any) of the annual memorial service at Ground Zero. Intellectually, I know it doesn't matter much at all; I've never gone to Ground Zero for the ceremonies, or even taken time off of work to watch them on television.

The closest I've come to a personal memorial has been to try and do something nice for a New York Police Officer on 9/11. In 2002, an officer was on line in front of me at a pizza place and I insisted on buying him his dinner. In 2004, while stuck in traffic approaching the Lincoln Tunnel on a hot 9/11 afternoon, I offered to buy the cop directing traffic a drink from a nearby street vendor (he politely refused). This year, as in other years, I won't come into contact with any of New York's Finest, but they'll be in my thoughts.

Also new this year: my wife and I told my older son, Avery, about the attacks this weekend. He was 18 months old when they happened, but he's seven now and has just begun second grade. We figured there was a pretty good chance that either a teacher or fellow student would mention it today, and we wanted him to hear about it from us, rather than from someone else.

I have to say, he took it very well. When I told him that 3,000 people died, he looked scared, but recovered very quickly and began asking questions: Did the buildings hit other buildings when they fell down? Did the bad men who hijacked the airplanes die too? Why would anyone do something that they knew would kill them? Why would anyone think that God would like it if they killed people? We answered all his questions as best we could, and then he said, "Can I go now?" and ran back upstairs to play with his brother.

I suspect he'll have more questions in the coming days, weeks, or even years. That's okay - I've been preparing myself to answer them for six years now, and while it made me nervous to bring it up (more nervous than it made him to hear it), I felt well prepared to answer his questions and to reassure him from his fears.

Finally, a few words about Osama Bin Laden's latest video. I have to say, I thought he was dead. That's not to say I thought we killed him, mind you. I thought that years of running and hiding, given his poor health to begin with, had taken its toll, that he'd died of natural causes, and that Al Qaeda had covered it up in order to claim his ability to avoid capture as an ever-present victory over the United States.

I was also found some of the things he said fascinating. For instance:


"All praise is due to Allah, who built the heavens and earth in justice, and created man as a favor and grace from Him. And from His ways is that the days rotate between the people, and from His Law is retaliation in kind: an eye for an eye, a tooth for a tooth and the killer is killed."

It's revealing that he reads that ancient proverb as one of retaliation. James Lileks points out Dennis Prager's thoughts:


It's not about retaliation. It's not an injunction to do unto others for the sake of vengeance. The message is proportionality. An eye for an eye, not two. A tooth for a tooth, not a mouthful.

The fact that Bin Laden sees it as a command to exact revenge on his enemies shows you the specific way in which his mind is severely twisted. Here's more:


"There are two solutions for stopping [the Global War on Terror]. The first is from our side, and it is to continue to escalate the killing and fighting against you. This is our duty, and our brothers are carrying it out, and I ask Allah to grant them resolve and victory."

To reiterate: the best thing he can do to stop the war is to continue killing and fighting against us. The second solution, by the way, is for all of us to convert to Islam.

Bin Laden's message is rife with our most public complaints about the Bush administration: negative public opinion polling, corporate influence on government policy, the Democrats' unwillingness to halt war funding, civilian deaths in Afghanistan and Iraq, the federal deficit, high taxes, global warming, and even the recent difficulties in the home mortgage market. Consistent with his reading of "an eye for an eye," he sees these problems as a rationale for abandoning the democratic way of life, and embracing Islam. Our government has wronged us, he reasons, so out of revenge, we should wrong our government by running toward Islam. If we do so:


"It will also achieve your desire to stop the war as a consequence, because as soon as the warmongering owners of the major corporations realize that you have lost confidence in your democratic system and begun to search for an alternative, and that this alternative is Islam, they will run after you to please you and achieve what you want to steer you away from Islam. So your true compliance with Islam will deprive them of the opportunity to defraud the peoples and take their money under numerous pretexts, like arms deals and so on."

What Bin Laden doesn't realize - what he's never been able to realize - is that our constant carping signifies the strength in our system, not its weakness. We do not need to seek revenge against our government to change its policies. We need only make our disagreements public in a way that convinces the leadership (or the voters) to change direction. To one who has never known this freedom, our complaints may sound like desperate rage. And, as I've discussed on these pages before, perhaps we've been going about it in somewhat ineffective ways lately, reinforcing that idea.

In the end, though, the open debate of ideas is precisely what will allow us to persevere long after Bin Laden has sacrificed himself to gain "entrance into Paradise." It is what truly makes us the greatest country in the history of the world.

God Bless America.

posted by Brian at 2:07 AM | 0 comments

Friday, September 07, 2007

WABC-TV Comes to its Senses


This morning, the news director at ABC's New York affiliate, Kenny Plotnik told the New York Daily News that his station will not air the traditional reading of the victim's names on the morning of September 11, 2007.


"We decided to provide continuous coverage on our Digital Channel and Web site so our audience could have a choice between their regular programming and the Sept. 11 ceremony. We hope to be respectful to the families and serve our audience. This is not about ratings, it's about what's right."

"What's right," according to Mr. Plotnik, includes "Live with Regis and Kelly," "Rachael Ray," and "The View." The fact that these shows have paid advertisers and the 9/11 memorial service would not, Mr. Plotnik is suggesting, has nothing to do with it. It would just be "wrong" to deny viewers their daily dose of Regis, Rachel & the girls for a silly thing like a national day of mourning.

Well, after this announcement (and before I could write a truly outraged blog posting), all hell broke loose. Or, as the beleaguered Mr. Plotnik puts it:


"I made some calls, I spoke to families, we got some emails. People were upset and confused. They were upset. It was upset and confusion. There wasn't any anger.

Yeah, right. At any rate, to avoid further upsetting all of those non-angry, confused people, WABC-TV has decided to air the ceremony in full, just like every other local channel in New York.

Mr. Plotnik went on to explain that "the real issue, there is really a terrible misunderstanding with digital channels. There seems to be a situation where people don't understand the concept of digital channels." He went on to say, though, that there would be other opportunities to use the digital channel down the road, but the 9/11 ceremony was not the time to test it.

Good thinking, Mr. Plotnik. (Finally...)

posted by Brian at 1:51 PM | 2 comments

Thursday, September 06, 2007

Jews to President Bush: Happy Arbor Day!


President George W. Bush issued the following statement today, September 5, 2007:


I send greetings to those around the world celebrating Rosh Hashanah.

The sound of the Shofar heralds the beginning of a new year and a time of remembrance and renewal for the Jewish people. During these holy days, men and women are called to reflect on their faith and to honor the blessings of creation.

The enduring traditions of Rosh Hashanah remind us of the deep values of faith and family that strengthen our Nation and help guide us each day. As Jewish people around the world come together to celebrate Rosh Hashanah, it is a chance to look to the new year with hope and faith.

Laura and I send our best wishes for a blessed Rosh Hashanah and shanah tovah.

GEORGE W. BUSH

It's a lovely message, except that Rosh Hashanah doesn't begin until sundown on September 12, 2007 (next Wednesday evening).

In the spirit of the President's message, and on behalf of Jews throughout the world, I'd like to take this opportunity to wish him and his wife, Laura, a safe and happy Arbor Day.

posted by Brian at 10:35 PM | 0 comments

Wednesday, September 05, 2007

Farmers - A Dying Breed. Finally.


Via Instapundit, this sounds like pretty big news:

For the first time in 10,000 years, farming is not the dominating industry on a global basis:


Worldwide, in 1996 agriculture employed 42%, industry 21%, and services 37%. In 2006, the numbers are 36%, 22% and 42%. So in the period, services has overtaken farming on a global scale.

And thus passes a tremendous milestone in the history of our species. Farming, invented around 8000 BC, quickly dominated human activity and has so continued to for the following 10,000 years (give or take a few). And we even find that the tradition agriculture->industry->services transition doesn't hold up globally. The industry segment simply isn't big enough, so many workers skip to services.

 

posted by Brian at 11:05 PM | 3 comments

Tempted by the Apple, but No Thanks...


Fulfilling my obligation under the law that all blogs must post about Apple's new product line announcements:

Ringtones on the iPhone
I've never understood why ringtones are so popular. Maybe if they were free. But people pay real cash money to change how their phone rings. Go figure. I don't have an iPod, and I'll never pay a single penny to make my phone ring differently. I guess I'm just weird that way.

My Rating: Meh...

iPod Shuffle in New Colors
$79 for an iPod that's missing most of the cool features of an iPod. Again, I don't get it. But they sell like hotcakes, so once again, I'm the weird one. And now, you can get one to match all your different outfits.

My Rating: <Headsmack>

Redesigned Nano
The postage stamp is dead! I haven't seen it in person yet, but it looks like the screen's dimensions are much more watchable. Still a little tiny to watch more than a few minutes of video comfortably, I'm guessing, but this sounds like the reasonable low-cost alternative in the iPod line.

My Rating: Nicely done...

iPod Classic
Yeah, because "Classic" worked so well for Coca Cola. Actually, it did. I'm just bitter because my super-cool Video iPod is now called "Classic," and my 30GB is smaller than anything they currently sell. But, it does what I need and that hasn't changed with this announcement. I think this upgrade is a "check the box" move. I can't imagine anyone who has a Video iPod upgrading to a Classic. It's only for folks who don't have one yet.

My Rating: Meh...

iPod Touch
Oh, the pictures looked so good. The screen looks super cool, the touch screen interface is awesome. It's got OS X, so it can do more than an iPod does - multiple windows on the screen at once, WiFi, that YouTube app, etc. And now I don't need to pay exorbitant monthly fees for a phone that I don't really want in the first place! But wait, what's this? 8GB and 16GB? Aw, crap - it's just a big Nano! Call me when you put a real iPod inside one of these cool devices, OK?

My Rating: So close, and yet so far...

WiFi on iTunes
A step in the right direction. If my friend is playing a song I really like, I can browse over to ITMS, tap a few times, spend my $0.99 and have the song on my iPod. They're starting to tap into the impulse-buy market. Good for them. Next stop - digital radio, where I can listen to music for free, and then click when I hear a song I like and buy it for a dollar. I've always considered this the killer iPod app.

My Rating: Good progress toward nirvana

iPhone Changes
Cheaper 8GB model. Good for most folks. Really sucky for people who shelled out the higher price just a couple of months ago. Also, the 4GB is dead?!? That's gotta be the shortest lifespan for a successful product in technology history, right?

My Rating: Wow...

posted by Brian at 10:15 PM | 4 comments

What a Wonderful Shadow...


This is just awesome:


 

posted by Brian at 9:47 PM | 0 comments

Air Force Bloopers...


This can't be good:


A B-52 bomber was mistakenly armed with six nuclear warheads and flown for more than three hours across several states last week, prompting an Air Force investigation and the firing of one commander, Pentagon officials said Wednesday.

The plane was carrying Advanced Cruise Missiles from Minot Air Force Base, N.D, to Barksdale Air Force Base, La., on Aug. 30, said the officials, who spoke on condition of anonymity because of a Defense Department policy not to confirm information on nuclear weapons.

The missiles, which are being decommissioned, were mounted onto pylons on the bomber's wings and it is unclear why the warheads had not been removed beforehand.

So basically what we have here is, "You mean those things are armed?!?"

President Bush and Defense Secretary Gates were informed of the incident and provided daily briefings, the munitions squad commander is now unemployed, and the crews involved have been "temporarily decertified for handling munitions."

But here's my favorite quote:


"Nothing like this has ever been reported before and we have been assured for decades that it was impossible," said Rep. Edward J. Markey, D-Mass., co-chair of the House task force on nonproliferation.

So it seems that the people who screwed up last week have also been wrong for decades about whether such a thing could occur in the first place. Makes you wonder what else they claim it's impossible to do with a nuclear weapon...

posted by Brian at 5:00 PM | 2 comments

The Gaffe Machine Processes Another Victim


Last Thursday, I blogged about what I called The Gaffe Machine - that process that seems to have developed in our culture whereby televised events go generally unwatched until something controversial happens, and then the controversial "gaffe" becomes a self-sustaining media event, generating large ratings and various other forms of public attention.

Well, it's been four days and already I have another example to share with you:


Comedian Jerry Lewis apologized on Tuesday for his use of an anti-gay slur during the weekend broadcast of his annual Labor Day Telethon for the Muscular Dystrophy Association. The controversial remark came Monday afternoon in the 18th hour of the live national telecast, when a visibly weary Lewis, 81, was joking on stage, pretending to introduce members of someone's family as he mugged for the camera.

"Oh, your family has come to see you. You remember Bart, your oldest son, Jesse, the illiterate fag ...," Lewis said, as he apparently caught himself and ceased the gag in mid-sentence, turning on his heel away from the camera.

So here we go: absolutely no one watches 21.5 hours of the telethon. Most people, if they watch at all, tune in and out throughout the day. So virtually no one heard Lewis say those words. But this morning, it's all over the Internet and every news story about the telethon is leading with it. The Gaffe Machine has begun to churn.

Enter the Gay and Lesbian Alliance Against Defamation (GLAAD):


"Jerry Lewis' on-air use of this kind of anti-gay slur is simply unacceptable," GLAAD President Neil Giuliano said in a statement, adding that the comic's remark "feeds a climate of hatred and intolerance" that could incite anti-gay violence. GLAAD urged Lewis to apologize for the comment and asked the entertainer to meet with members of the group "to help him understand why these words are so hurtful."

I'm not defending what he said, but let's think about this seriously for a moment. Jerry Lewis, a man who has dedicated the last 30+ years of his life to helping people he doesn't even know, a man who has raised (and inspired others to raise) BILLIONS of dollars for medical research, social programs and community outreach programs, has "incited anti-gay violence" by "feed[ing] a climate of hatred and intolerance," and now needs to meet with GLAAD representatives to "understand why these words are so hurtful." Let's also not forget that he's 81 years old, and had been working for eighteen hours straight at the time.

I don't know what Jerry Lewis truly thinks about gay people. None of us will ever know for sure. But I think the man's life's work puts him on the right end of the helpful/hurtful continuum, no?

On the upside, it seems as though The Gaffe Machine was unable to chew him up and spit him out, in the way it did for Don Imus, Michael Richards, Mel Gibson, Caitlin Upton, and so many others. Lewis issued this statement today:


"I obviously made a bad choice of words. Everyone who knows me understands that I hold no prejudices in this regard," he said. "The success of the (telethon) and all the good that will come from it shouldn't be lost because of one unfortunate word. I accept responsibility for what I said. There are no excuses. I am sorry."

And a spokesperson for GLAAD subsequently said this:


"GLAAD thanks Jerry Lewis for his swift and direct apology for this incident. We join millions of Americans in applauding the important work of the Muscular Dystrophy Association and wish MDA and Mr. Lewis much continued success in their efforts."

I think even GLAAD realized what they were up against this time. So hopefully, this one just goes away. We'll have to wait and see. Even if it does, though, I'll bet you a dollar that the day before Labor Day, 2008, every news story about the upcoming telethon will include a reference to this "incident."

posted by Brian at 12:09 AM | 0 comments

Saturday, September 01, 2007

How People Found Me - August Edition


The Categories

CategoryAugust CountJuly Count
Technology128184
Billy Joel6360
Celebrity Look Alikes3850
DSL3030
ISBS Song/Lyrics2814
Overrated Films2419
Cal/Stanford1716
Family1216
Politics823


Queries were down as a whole, proportionate to the traffic (see this month's healthcheck post), but technology related queries still ruled the roost, and Billy Joel still held on to the number two spot. The other categories also remained relatively stable, with the exception of "I Should Be Sleeping Instead of Thinking About You," that country song that I still haven't heard yet.


The Referring Sites

The list of referring sites remained relatively stable this month, with two notable exceptions. CNN.com and Sphere.com (the service CNN uses to link blog posts to their stories) went from nine referrals in July to fifty six in August. Note to self: when blogging about the news, link to CNN's story. Also of note, images.google.com went from their typical 73 referrals in July to just 5 in August. Weird...


The Keywords

All told, 453 queries resulted in hits to Familygreenberg.com in August (about 110 fewer than were used in July). Here are some samples:

Once again, we begin with the odd and interesting:
QueryRank / # of ResultsComments
change dsl filter every six months?1 / 445,000Well, ya know, as those DSL filters filter out line noise, they can get full. Then you need to change them before all the noise spills out all over the room...
song lyrics how i've been waiting for you ba dum ba dum oldies2 / 11,600Gee, I hope he spelled "ba dum ba dum" correctly...
isquint crippleware5 / 14I'm not sure what that is, but it sounds nasty...
lions tigers and bears blazing saddles6 / 47,000No. Lions tigers and bears Wizard of Oz. Some folks will never learn...
most rented movies all-time7 / 389,000Not a bad query to run before renting a movie. Note that Netflix was #14 and Blockbuster.com was #92.
joyce deschamps7 / 118,000This is interesting for a pretty geeky reason: Joyce is one of the commenters in my Billy Joel Concert Review post - that post is so popular that a query on her name now returns my post...
how long should a 13 year old sleep for?9 / 2,700,000Approximately one year. Then they're 14 year olds...
what's wrong with lacrosse players13 / 252,000I'm wondering exactly what this person was actually searching for...
"high resolution pictures" +"fenway park"5 / 48Hey - I take offense to that query...
new yankee stadium>500 / 2,130,000Now that's more like it...
why is j.p. morgan so important?>500 / 1,980,000I guess you should ask the thousands of people who work there and the millions who bank there...
360 rockingham, simpson
oj simpsons north rockingham avenue house
>500 / 70,800
>500 / 13,600
ISBS readers - never giving up the search for the real killer...
bar mitzvah disney world>500 / 175,000My oldest is only seven, but hey - that's a pretty cool idea...
how much to bar mitzvah cost today>500 / 223,000ya think this is the same person as the query above? ;-)
kristy brinkley>500 / 213,000As per usual: ISBS - friend to those who can't spell...
york peppermint patties>500 / 229,000I get the sensation that I've received a pageview...
supreme court fontsna / 491Nothing says justice like a good sans serif...


And, back by popular demand (OK, Lisa told me she found it funny), the "adult" queries (STANDARD WARNING: you have been warned):

QueryRank / # of ResultsComments
you're my instant pleasure dome74 / 264,000This one sounds dirty, but it's actually a Billy Joel lyric
katie couric look alike porn>500 / 44,600Ick. Ick, ick, ick...
sexmovie sleepingn/a / 427I'm no expert, but I'm guessing there isn't a lot of sleeping going on in those movies...
sleeping sex movie
sleeping sex boys
sleeping sex game
sleeping sex movie
sleeping sex pictures
>500 / <various>I'm guessing there's a new movie out called "Sleeping Sex?" And who says perusing your website's logs can't be educational!
winnie-cooper daily updated pictures>500 / 15,000Really? Daily updated pictures? Does she change that much day-to-day?
yung sodomy photos26 / 17,300There's one in every crowd. My question: Do you think they meant "Jung," as in sodomy photos of famous philosphers? Or did they mean "young," as in "Sir, you're under arrest..."

 

posted by Brian at 7:38 PM | 1 comments

Familygreenberg.com Health Check - August Edition


MetricJulyAugust% Change
Visits1,041838-19.50%
Pageviews1,5741,253-20.39%
Pages/Visit1.511.50-1.11%
Avg Time on Site4:404:45+1.76%
Bounce Rate81.17%83.29%-2.61%
% New Visitors86.55%84.25%-2.66%


Oof. No good news here. Obviously, I've become inordinately boring over the last month. Perusing the data, the main culprits are Harry Potter (45 views in July vs. 1 in August), my family's personal pages (all down roughly 50% from last month), and various archives (some down 50 pageviews or more), so maybe it's more about Google searches than the quality of my writing. Yeah, that's the ticket. Sure...

I'll also point out that it wasn't such a bad month, as much as it was a bad couple of weeks in the beginning of the month. If I re-run the stats starting on July/August 13th instead of July/August 1st, the numbers come out like this:

MetricJuly 13-31August 13-31% Change
Visits521588+12.86%
Pageviews768926+20.57%
Pages/Visit1.471.57+6.83%
Avg Time on Site3:564:51+23.01%
Bounce Rate82.34%82.82%+0.58%
% New Visitors87.14%81.29%-6.71%


So maybe things are looking up. See you in September...

posted by Brian at 1:25 PM | 0 comments