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Archive for November, 2005


Just don’t call them dummies…

Tuesday, November 29th, 2005

A lingerie shop in Augusta, Maine is using live models in their store window to attract (mostly male) customers. Here’s the quote that caught my eye, though:

“It’s like a New York thing. It’s urban. It’s edgy,” said Stacy Gervais, owner of Stacy’s Hallmark Store and a founder of a downtown merchants group. “We need a shtick

Categories: The World Wide Weird | 2 Comments »

Kids today…

Monday, November 21st, 2005

My wife is flying back home from a business conference in Orlando today. My mother-in-law is babysitting the kids until my wife or I return home. There’s some nasty weather in the northeast, and her flight was delayed about an hour taking off.

My mother-in-law called the airline a couple of times to get a status and ETA on the flight. My 5-year old son showed my mother-in-law how to get on the internet, find the airline’s website and bring up a (near) real-time map showing the plane’s current position along it’s route and ETA.

I’m told he’s also drawn a map on paper, and is tracking the flight as it makes its way home, just so Mommy knows what happened while she was in the air.

Remember that movie where the teenage kid builds a space shuttle in his spare time & launches it through the roof of his house? Talk to me in 2015…

Categories: Family Matters | No Comments »

Dick Cheney and the Dangling Participle

Monday, November 21st, 2005

Vice President Dick Cheney::

“Although our coalition has not found WMD stockpiles in Iraq, I repeat that we never had the burden of proof. Saddam Hussein did. We operated on the best available intelligence gathered over a period of years and within a totalitarian society ruled by fear and secret police.”

A quick note to Jeff Porten, among others: the totalitarian society he refers to here is Iraq, not the United States (at least I hope that’s what he meant…)


Categories: Political Rantings | No Comments »

Important People Born on This Day

Friday, November 18th, 2005

Sojourner Truth (1797)
W. S. Gilbert (of Gilbert & Sullivan fame) (1836)
Dr. George H. Gallup (1901)
Imogene Coca (1908)
Alan Shepard, Jr. (1923)
Mickey Mouse (in the first Steamboat Willie cartoon) (1928)

and oh yeah… ME!

Categories: Family Matters | No Comments »

GDBMS – Google Base arrives

Wednesday, November 16th, 2005

Google just put their Google Base product into beta. All of the articles I’ve read about this are repeating the same meme – this will be competition for auction sites and classified ad sites (like eBay or Craig’s List). That’s true, of course, but I think this has the potential of being much, much bigger.

A database is the backbone of just about every significant software application, regardless of its business model. If you’re a large company, you’ve got your application living on one or more web servers, talking to a database living on one or more database servers, and all the architectural components that come with that (routers, load balancers, etc.). The hardware, software and support required creates a barrier to entry for smaller, start-up companies. These folks are generally relegated to hosting their applications through some ISP-provided add-on service (like Blogger, GeoCities, CafePress, etc.), and manage their data through FTP tools, with an occasional canned server-side script or two.

If Google gets serious about this service (and by serious, I mean they guarantee some level of uptime, response time for high volumes, backup & restore functionality), they could become the default web server for thousands of small businesses that are limping along with a half-baked solution today. This is fascinating because such a solution would be a big boon to their customers (who may even pay a fee for it), but wouldn’t do much to augment their search services. What good would it be, for instance, if a Google search for “Nike sneakers” returned an online shoe vendor’s current inventory or a distributor’s customer record for Nike’s shipping department?

There’s also the omnipresent issue of security. The very idea of putting your database server outside the firewall is heresey today if the data is at all sensitive/private. If Google builds a security architecture that people can trust, they may gain some larger customers as well. At that point, though, the data needs to be actively excluded from the search results.

There are lots of options here. I think we’ll see it develop into a lot more than a classified ad engine.

Categories: Tech Talk | No Comments »

More Vista reviews

Wednesday, November 9th, 2005

The folks at InternetWeek have posted their latest review of the Windows Vista Beta. Most of the review, sadly, basically says “this is interesting, but they haven’t turned it on yet so it’s too soon to tell.” Thanks guys. I know you’ve got publishing deadlines and all, but if you don’t have much to say, why not wait before publishing the review?

More interesting to me was the review of Internet Explorer 7. Again, Microsoft seems to be using the new OS as an opportunity to add new UI experiences, rather than just tweak the ones we have. Such is the case with QuickTabs, which will show you a thumbnail view of all your open tabs on one screen, so you can click on one of them & expand it to full screen based on the thumbnail. Usability will obviously be judged when we’ve got it in our grubby little hands, but the concept (and the screen shot) are cool so far.

I also like the idea of being able to open up a set of tabs, and then bookmark the whole thing (so that later, you can retrieve all those pages at once). The reviewer has a problem with the UI for this, but I guess that’s what betas are for. Even with a clunky UI, I can easily see myself using this feature – depending on what I’m working on, I often find myself with the same three or four websites open at once. To be able to open them all with one (or even a few) clicks would be super-convenient.

Categories: Tech Talk | 1 Comment »

Another College List

Wednesday, November 9th, 2005

Jeff Porten sent me a link to the Washington Monthly College Guide. Here’s the setup:

[Colleges] produce most of the country’s cutting-edge scientific research and are therefore indirectly responsible for much of our national wealth and prosperity. They are the path to the American dream, the surest route for hard-working poor kids to achieve a better life in a changing economy. And they shape, in profound and subtle ways, students’ ideas about American society and their place in it. It seemed obvious to us that these heavily subsidized institutions ought to be graded on how well they perform in these roles, so we set out to create the first annual Washington Monthly College Rankings. While other guides ask what colleges can do for students, we ask what colleges are doing for the country.

This is fascinating, especially since our Alma Mater, the University of Pennsylvania, came out #9 on the list (one of only three Ivy League schools to crack the top ten, and one of only three US News top ten to repeat on this list).

The authors conclude with this:

Imagine, then, what would happen if thousands of schools were suddenly motivated to try to boost their scores on The Washington Monthly College Rankings. They’d start enrolling greater numbers of low-income students and putting great effort into ensuring that these students graduate. They’d encourage more of their students to join the Peace Corps or the military. They’d intensify their focus on producing more Ph.D. graduates in science and engineering. And as a result, we all would benefit from a wealthier, freer, more vibrant, and democratic country.

OK, so this is going to sound really obnoxious, but here’s the thing: I wasn’t a low-income student. I also didn’t attend college in the hopes of joining the military or the Peace Corps. I went to college to get a good job that could turn into a career.

I think the Washington Monthly list is a valuable one, if the attributes measured are what one is looking for in a college. The right school can literally be a life saver for a kid who’s caught in a downward economic or social spiral, and this gives great insight into which schools excel at providing that service.

On the other hand, I don’t think I’m that unique in my collegiate goals. If memory serves, a great many of my fellow students also viewed college as the path to a career, rather than a societal “leg up.” My guess is that this has to do with their middle-class upbringings, in which college was affordable (or at least close to it) for most, and expected by just about all. High school could probably get you a job, but college enabled you to have a career. Given that, I’d love to see someone produce a list of colleges that are best at preparing their students for the job market. Factors could include strength of the recruiting department, number of interviews per graduating student, number of job offers, average starting salary, average salary after 5 years, etc.

Given that my kids will probably view college in much the same way I did (and given that my kids have yet to go to college), this would be both a valuable and interesting list to peruse.

Categories: Random Acts of Blogging | No Comments »

Sentences that didn’t make sense 5 years ago: “Excuse me while I Yahoo my TiVo.”

Monday, November 7th, 2005

I’ve been wondering out loud for many years about why no one’s built a VCR or other recording device that can be programmed remotely (either via telephone or internet). It seems Yahoo and TiVo have finally gotten the job done:

TiVo Inc. (Nasdaq:TIVO – news) and Yahoo Inc. (Nasdaq:YHOO – news) on Monday launched a service that allows TiVo users to program their digital video recorders remotely using Yahoo’s television information Web sites.

I’m not a TiVo user, but if this catches on, I’m sure the other DVR providers (I use Comcast’s) will follow suit relatively quickly for fear of losing subscribers. So now, when I expected to be home in time to watch <fill in favorite mindless TV entertainment vehicle here>, but find myself stuck in traffic, working late, or whatever, I can pop over to my web browser (or my blackberry, or my PDA) and tell the DVR to tape the show I’m now going to miss.

Still more evidence that we were all born at exactly the right time…

Categories: Tech Talk, The Future is Now | 3 Comments »

Only in New York

Wednesday, November 2nd, 2005

Check this out:

So I’m at building X and I need to get to building 1. I didn’t realize it was only a couple of blocks away, so I go to company 1‘s website to get directions, and this is the map I get back. The yellow line is their recommended route.

I was aghast until I realized – they think I’m in a car! The streets are all one way, you see, so to get from X to 1, you need to make four left turns. Apparently, the software isn’t smart enough to say, “Park the car & walk – it’s two blocks away!”

Categories: New York, New York | 1 Comment »