Archive for July, 2006
Very, very cool.
When Wall Street analysts start focusing on inflation, you wind up with headlines like this:
STOCK PRICES RALLY ON SLOWDOWN IN GDP
The article explains itself nicely: Basically, when the economy grows at a slower rate, there’s less inflation, which means the Federal Reserve doesn’t have to raise interest rates. This keeps corporations’ costs for borrowing money from going up, which suggests higher profits in the future, so the stock market goes up.
Still reads funny, though…
Condi Rice met yesterday with Lebanese Prime Minister Fouad Siniora to try and mediate the armed conflict raging between Israel and Hezbollah (and, by extension, Lebanon).
Last night, Jon Stewart of the always-funny Daily Show ran this rather unflattering picture of Condi, and compared her facial expression on what he called the “Condi-meter” to determine how badly things were going with her negotiations. It was very funny and, in my opinion, entirely appropriate. He used an awkward picture of a public official to make light of a very serious situation, and a good time was had by all.
Then, this morning, I see this picture on the front page of the New York Times, alongside the headline CEASE-FIRE TALKS STALL AS FIGHTING RAGES ON 2 FRONTS. This time, it’s not as funny, and certainly not as appropriate, unless Condi was making that gesture in response to a question like “How are things going?” which strikes me as highly unlikely.
A much more likely scenario is that this was just one of those unfortunate moments we all have that happened to get caught on film. When Jon Stewart takes advantage of it for comedic purposes, it’s well played. When the New York Times takes advantage of it for dramatic effect, it’s at best misleading.
To drive home the point, here’s another picture from the same press conference that I found on the web from another news outlet covering the same story. Judging solely from the picture, things look to be in much better shape here, don’t they?
Some more updates from the bizarro world where “Who’s Pizza is better – NYC or SLC?” is the top story:
– Several folks, including some of my friends & co-workers in New York and some folks in Utah are concerned that in order for the test to be fair, the New York pizza must also be made 24 hours in advance and kept unrefrigerated, etc. just like the Utah one. I’m beginning to understand why Congress has so much trouble passing laws…
– Dave, proprietor of Este pizza, has tested a frozen pie and says this:
It was very good but lacked some the punch of a true, fresh pie. We’ve ruled out the frozen option and believe it puts each contender into a position where they feel they have an inferior product.
Yes, that’s right. He said “contender.” He’s also running test trials. I plan to begin my training by, you know, eating some pizza. It’s rough, but if you’re going to compete at this level, you have to be prepared.
– The current plan is to fly Dave to New York with a “chilled” pizza, the rules being that he make as much of it as possible in Salt Lake City and then have a “bakeoff” (quite literally) somewhere in/near Rockefeller Center. This is where I start wondering what will happen when I walk into a local pizzeria and ask the manager if some guy I don’t know from Utah can use his pizza oven (most likely outcome: “Get out of my store, you crazy bastard!” Throwing of pizza cutters is on the list as well, but significantly less likely, I think)
– My suggestion was we get the local ABC affiliate to recruit someone in New York to help me out. If I walk into a pizza joint with an actual TV person, I think we stand a better chance of the store manager buying into the idea.
– I’m also told that Dave has three top New York pizzerias that he’d love to go head-to-head with. Who knew there were rivalries among these folks? I wonder if they get up every morning and check their stats on some webpage somewhere…
– In what I can only describe as a flourish of overconfidence, Dave has also mentioned that there’s a pizzeria in Cincinnati that he wants to challenge next. Apparently, our little show is fated to become a nation-wide tour. Here’s my question, though: if you prevail in New York (Hah!), what do you prove by prevailing in Cincinnati also? And if suffer the agony of defeat that most certainly awaits you in the Big Apple, how much of a consolation would it be to beat up on poor Cincy?
And, of course, the main questions: in the unlikely event that you prevail in New York and lose in Cincinnati, am I really going to go through this again with a pizza maker out there? Will ABC cover it again? At what point does this go from a segment on the local news to our very own reality show?
The mind continues to boggle…
UPDATE: Momentum fades, but hopefully only briefly. Here’s the latest status.
This little pizza challenge is starting to take on a life of its own. Rather than try to describe it, here’s the latest e-mail from chenopup:
I met with Dave [the owner of Este pizza] today. He’s very excited and is in fact brainstorming with his cooks at this time to figure out the best way to prepare the pie for shipping. He’s wanting to go up against the best there is in New York so this should be a blast.
I am meeting with him again tomorrow after he’s had some time to plan it out. I’m going to look at arranging a videographer there in NY to come shoot the final taste test if that is okay with you. If I can get the right price on a ticket, I’ll even fly out myself. I was supposed to be in New York the last week of August anyway, I may have to try to pick up that gig again :)
I pitched it to my local ABC affiliate here and they love it and want to do a segment for their morning show. The program director will also look into contact Regis and Kelly as well since they’re ABC as well.
So things in the works at this point…
- Este is a go.
-Dave wants to go up against the best NY has to offer. (He’s from NY) :)
- We need to decide on a type of pie and the best way to send it / comparable pie to be cooked with it in one of the top locations in Rockefeller area.
- Blind taste test with local NY’ers as to which is the better pie.
- Sit back and wait for all the news stories to roll in… see what you started?
OK, so first of all – cooks? Plural? How many cooks does it take to make a NY style pizza? Each guy in Manhattan makes a few at a time during the lunch rush. I’m starting to wonder just how serious these Utah folks are about their pizza.
Second, Regis? Seriously? The only downside, of course, would be eating pizza for breakfast. The things we endure for our adoring public…
UPDATE: The next installment is available here.
InternetWeek has published a State of the Spam article, in which they claim that 80% of all e-mail traffic during the first three months of 2006 was spam.
The article includes this stunning piece of analysis on page 3:
[Michael] Geist, the [Canada Research Chair in Internet and E-Commerce Law at the University of Ottawa], figures that if 80 percent of e-mail is spam, “then four out of five e-mail servers are there to deal with spam, not to deal with legitimate mail.”
Ya know, I think the guy has a point – I mean, four out of five is right around that 80% figure quoted earlier in the article…
The latest from the pizza front:
Chenopup (that would be the Defender of Utah Pizza) and I have exchanged several e-mails. The first idea was to send the pizza to my home in New Jersey, and have me bring a New York pizza home from work for a home-based taste test. An OK idea for starters, but it just doesn’t have that New York feel…
Moving on to idea number two: we’re going to try and have the pizza delivered to my office in Rockefeller Center, home of the Ice Rink, the Christmas Tree, the Today Show Studio, and NBC World Headquarters. I will see if I can convince a local pizza shop (there are something like twenty of them within spitting distance around here) to warm the pizza up in one of their ovens, so we can do a pie-to-pie comparison in an honest-to-goodness New York Pizzeria.
Chenopup (who, I may have neglected to mention, is a filmmaker) is pleased with the idea, and is considering getting a cameraman to join us and film the entire episode. This, as well as some film of the Utah pizza being prepared in its home state, and perhaps even some free press in Utah about the event (yeah, that’s right – I called it an event. Problem?!?)
Not to be outdone, I mentioned that once the press was involved, someone should alert either Conan O’Brien (who tapes across the street every day at around 5:30) or David Letterman (who tapes about five blocks from here, also at around 5:30). This is exactly the kind of schtick those guys do professionally every day of the week…
Stay tuned. This is starting to have the potential to move from the ridiculous to the sublime…
UPDATE: Apparently, I jumped too quickly to the Late Night mode. It seems ABC considers this worthy of their morning show (yes, I’m serious. Why do you ask?) and are even considering talking to Regis & Kelly about it. Read the details here.
Well, this is interesting…
Jason Bennion, who blogs at Simple Tricks and Nonsense, has a friend who makes the rather ridiculous claim that a pizza place in Salt Lake City, Utah (Este) makes a pizza that “rivals or excels over the best New York has to offer.” I, of course, suggested that this claim is likely based on the assumption that none of his customers will ever travel to New York and compare. Little does this pizza store owner know about the power of the internet’s long tail…
Long story short, Jason’s friend has agreed to reach out to the pizza store owner (Dave) and have him send me a pizza. He even plans to create a short film about it. My role is to eat said pizza, and blog about the relative similarities/differences to a genuine New York pie.
As Jasons says on his blog:
I, of course, am planning to blog the whole process and am simply thrilled that my little corner of cyberspace has finally given rise to one of those ridiculous stunts that the Internet seems to have been invented for…
As am I, Jason. As am I.
Gentlemen, start your ovens…
UPDATE: More info here.
During the G8 Summit, President Bush and Tony Blair had a brief conversation during which, unbeknownst to them, the microphone in front of them was on. Bush said to Blair, “See the irony is what they need to do is get Syria to get Hezbollah to stop doing this shit and it’s over.” The media and the blogosphere jumped all over the comment, not based on the implications to Syria or Hezbollah, but based on the fact that the President used the word “shit.” Interestingly, the British press basically ignored the profanity, but got all bent out of shape over the way the Bush caught Blair’s attention: “Yo, Blair!”
Detractors of the President saw a golden opportunity to paint him as an immature frat-boy, but the general reaction of most people was lukewarm. If anything, people seemed refreshed by this rarely seen, unrehearsed reaction of a politician to troubling world events.
Daily Kos took the meme one step further, by pulling some screen captures from another meeting, in which President Bush walked into the room, put his hands on (German Chancellor) Angela Merkel’s shoulders and gave her a faux-massage. Kos called it a “frat-boy prank” and said that Merkel was “not amused.” Many of his commentors called it groping, a violation of her space, sexual harassment, etc.
Ironically enough, the LA Times reported on the incident as well, and said this:
Entering the meeting room, as relayed by a Russian television camera, Bush headed directly behind the chancellor, reached out and, placing both hands on the collar of her gold jacket, gave her a short massage just below the neck.
Kos responded with:
I don’t know about you, but it does not look to me like she is smiling.”
The video is here. If this kind of story offends you, I urge you to watch the video. Chancellor Merkel puts her hands up in the air, as if Bush caught her by surprise and then, right at the end of the video, turns and smiles at the President as he walks out of the room. Here’s the screen capture that Kos didn’t include (apologies for the quality, I don’t have access to Photoshop right now. Watch the video itself for a better look):
In my opinion, the two are obviously friends, and both had a good laugh at a meaningless incident that neither would remember unless they saw the video. Your mileage, of course, may vary.
I decided to test the Celebrity Face Recognition program that I blogged about yesterday, so here’s what I did: I went to the Forbes.com Celebrity 100 list and pulled off a bunch of celebrities from the top of the list. Then I went and found a good picture (full frontal face shot) on Google Images and fed it to the Face Recognition software. Ideally, it would match the celebrity with him/herself given that it’s, well you know, the same person and all.
So here are the results. These are in the format of:
Picture I Uploaded – Highest Percentage Match (Percentage) (if not a match, whether the match occurred in any of the suggested celebrities – and if so the percentage of the actual match).
I sampled 25 celebrities. First, the matches:
David Letterman – David Letterman (100%)
Paul McCartney – Paul McCartney (100%)
Tom Hanks – Tom Hanks (100%)
Steven Spielberg – Steven Spielberg (99%)
Oprah Winfrey – Oprah Winfrey (90%)
50 Cent – 50 Cent (76%)
Brad Pitt – Brad Pitt (76%)
Johnny Depp – Johnny Depp (76%)
Donald Trump – Donald Trump (76%)
Celine Dion – Celine Dion (75%)
George Lucas – George Lucas (74%)
Jerry Seinfeld – Jerry Seinfeld (75%)
Tiger Woods – Tiger Woods (67%)
Peter Jackson – Peter Jackson (64%)
14 out of 25, or 56%. Not too shabby, although only three were perfect, 100% matches (with Spielberg at a very close 99%). Then there were two that mismatched, but eventually got it right at lower percentages:
Tom Cruise – Dean R. Koontz (73%) (Y – 64%)
Jay Leno – Wesley Clark (64%) (Y – 51%)
And the remaining nine, with some rather entertaining wrong guesses:
Muhammad Ali – Billy Zane (61%) (N)
Bruce Springsteen – Emma Watson (64%) (N)
Dr. Phil – Daniel Day Lewis (70%) (N)
Elton John – Bill Gates (71%) (N)
Howard Stern – Brian May (58%) (N)
Kobe Bryant – Andriy Shevchenko (66%) (N)
Michael Jordan – John Coltrane (72%) (N)
Phil Mickelson – Rudolf Steiner (64%) (N)
Simon Cowell – Mel Gibson (70%) (N)
I particularly like Bill Gates for Elton John, Mel Gibson for Simon Cowell, and Emma Watson (?) for Bruce Springsteen.