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Archive for May, 2008

                    

It was a Dark and Stormy Night…

Saturday, May 24th, 2008

From Eric Swanson of the Penn Band, we present a dramatic reading:

I stood there on the stoop, staring down at her, and she stared back. Her promise of return had last year seemed an eternity away, and yet now it felt as if the interim had been removed by the vacuum of time, and we stood in a single unbroken moment. Though her question rattled around in my head, I could make no response, intoxicated by her presence. Her flowing green dress seemed to whisper with the promise of tomorrow, while her red hair spilled from under her fashionable beret like a waterfall of late afternoon sunshine. Again she spoke, her angelic voice shaking me out of my hypnosis, shaking me to my core.
“‘I said ‘Would you like to buy some cookies,’ sir!,” she repeated.
Yes, I thought to myself… yes I would like to buy some cookies.

What??? What were you thinking about?

You should be ashamed of yourself. Now if you’ll excuse me, I have to go take a shower…

Categories: Random Acts of Blogging | 2 Comments »

Jeff Porten Buries the Lede

Thursday, May 22nd, 2008

So I pay my daily visit to The Vast Jeff Wing Conspiracy (highly recommended, by the way, if you’re not already a regular reader…), and I see the title of his recent post: Back in TidBITS, and Jeff gets Boinged.

So right away, I’m thinking, “Wow…Jeff has shared too much. I hope this is safe for work.” Then, I click on the link to his TidBITS article, and I read the first line:

When I was reporting from CES in Las Vegas last January, one of the more interesting technology experiences I had was away from the show floor, back in my hotel room.

Oh lord, this doesn’t look good. But, we persevere:

There were a few dozen local and cable channels . . . most amusing: the $40 daily package for both wireless Internet and the entire library of, ahem, adult entertainment.

Ugh…maybe I shouldn’t be reading this on my lunch hour, and just check it out at home. After the kids go to sleep. And maybe the wife. Ah, what the heck, let’s keep reading:

But I had other options, in case . . . the remote control was too far away from the bed.

Note to self: point out to Jeff that nothing, repeat, NOTHING should substitute for a remote control. Especially in an article like this…

I love technology, but this is just whack

Alright, enough of that. I’m kidding, of course. The article is actually about the social implications of Digital Rights Management (DRM) technology. Here’s a quote that’s much more representative of the article:

We have been carefully and methodically trained to believe it’s our fault when important technologies make us feel inadequate and incapable. We have accepted the creation of a category of digital have-nots, who either rely on tech-savvy friends and family, or who do without.

But too often, the “value” [of entertainment content] is based upon an indirect conspiracy to make it difficult or impossible to use the media you’ve already paid for, making the end result a tax on the technological have-nots.”

Jeff makes a very interesting argument here. If the tech-savvy of the world can (legally) access content for free, is it fair that the non-tech-savvy have to pay for it? Are the content providers simply taking advantage of their ignorance, rather than serving them better by showing them how to access it, or making it just as easy for everyone?

I hesitate to comment before reading Part 2 of his article, but I’ll throw out one question for Jeff to chew on in the interim: Is the form factor of entertainment content really independent from the content itself? If I buy a Spider Man 3 DVD, am I really buying a license to watch the movie whenever and however I want (akin to purchasing a single-seat software license, where I can copy the software onto multiple devices as long as I only use one at a time?)? Or is the form factor more like a service level (akin to paying extra for the service package to that software, where I get more features/service for paying the extra price)? So perhaps the DVD is a service level that includes the “carry it with you and play it whenever/however you want” feature, while the On-Demand version only comes with the “watch it on this TV as many times as you like for the next 24 hours” package.

Food for thought…

Categories: Tech Talk | No Comments »

Illinois Highway Closed due to Stuff

Monday, May 19th, 2008

Actually, Double Stuff:

Police say a trailer loaded with 14 tons of double-stuffed Oreos has overturned, spilling the cookies still in their plastic sleeves into the median and roadway. Illinois State Police Sgt. Brian Mahoney says the truck’s driver was traveling from Chicago to Morris on Interstate 80 around 4 a.m. Monday when he fell asleep at the wheel and slammed into the median.

Mahoney says no charges have been filed but both lanes of traffic remain closed while authorities remove the cookies.

The only thing better would have been a school bus full of kids following behind him to stop and clean up the cookies with their tongues. That or a milk truck…

(Hat tip: Eamonn O’Callaghan)

Categories: Random Acts of Blogging | No Comments »

Deconstructing the Democratic Stump Speech

Sunday, May 11th, 2008

With his recent victory in North Carolina and draw in Indiana, Barack Obama has all but sewn up the Democratic Presidential nomination, despite the fact that we seem to have agreed, as a country, to ignore that fact for the next couple of months so the mass media news networks can continue to run high-drama 24-hour coverage of the remaining primary elections and, quite possibly, the convention itself.

At any rate, Obama gave a victory speech in North Carolina the other day that many are hailing as his first speech as the presumptive nominee, rather than a Democratic primary candidate.

I found pieces of it fascinating, and wanted to deconstruct them here.
By way of disclaimer: while I’m often branded a “conservative” (sometimes correctly, sometimes not), I have not decided who I’m voting for yet. If I was forced at gunpoint to choose right now, though, I’d probably choose Obama over McCain. But that’s purely on the “inspiring leadership” metric, which is all I’ve really heard so far, and not typically near the top of my list when I actually cast my vote in November. I hope that colors the following as more of an independent analysis than a right-wing slash & burn piece. I suspect that some people will never be convinced, though. Ah well, don’t say I didn’t warn you.

On to Obama:

This fall, we intend to march forward as one Democratic Party, united by a common vision for this country, because we all agree that at this defining moment in our history, a moment when we are facing two wars, an economy in turmoil, a planet in peril, a dream that feels like it’s slipping away for too many Americans, we can’t afford to give John McCain the chance to serve out George Bush’s third term.

I’ve heard this theme from many prominent Democrats over the last couple of weeks (most recently, from Howard Dean, Chairman of the DNC, on The Daily Show
with John Stewart). John McCain was on The Daily Show the next night, and said very matter-of-factly that there are many issues on which he disagrees with the President (torture, the way in which the Iraqi war was waged, immigration, campaign finance reform) and others on which he agrees with the President. It strikes me as a very simple task for John McCain to define himself as different enough from George W. Bush to negate this line of attack, once we get to the general election campaign this fall. If the Democrats are counting on it, as they seem to be right now, I believe they’re in some serious trouble.

Somewhere along the line, between all the bickering and the influence-peddling and the game-playing of the last few decades, Washington and Wall Street have lost touch with these core values, these American values.

And while I honor John McCain’s service to his country . . . his plan to win in November appears to come from the very same playbook that his side has used time after time in election after election.

Yes, we know what’s coming. I’m not naive. We’ve already seen it, the same names and labels they always pin on everyone who doesn’t agree with all their ideas, the same efforts to distract us from the issues that affect our lives, by pouncing on every gaffe and association and fake controversy, in the hopes that the media will play along.

The attempts to play on our fears and exploit our differences, to turn us against each other for political gain, to slice and dice this country into red states and blue states, blue collar and white collar, white, black, brown, young, old, rich, poor…

… this is the race we expect, no matter whether it’s myself or Senator Clinton who is the nominee. The question then is not what kind of campaign they will run; it’s what kind of campaign we will run.

This is the passage that made me fall off my chair. Just 19 days ago, I, too, complained against this kind of dirty politics. In my complaint, though, I said this:

I document this today, the day of the hard-fought Pennsylvania primary, because I know people have short memories, and once the media changes the national conversation, others will call me crazy for suggesting what is common knowledge right now. And that is this:

On April 22, 2008, Barack Obama has already been called unpatriotic, racist, unqualified, unprepared, inexperienced, beholden to lobbyists, elitist and Muslim. Hillary Clinton has been called a liar, a hypocrite, a war hawk, over-emotional, contrived, out of touch and willing to rig elections with changes to primary rules and reliance on super delegates. His health care plan has been criticized for leaving millions uninsured. Her position on NAFTA has been criticized as being inconsistent with her previous votes on the subject. He’s been accused of a willingness to mollycoddle world leaders. She’s been accused of fear mongering.

And all of it, every single bit of it, is coming from within the Democratic party. There’s no conceivable way to blame any of this on John McCain, Karl Rove, or the RNC. They have wisely stayed on the sidelines and watched the Democrats feast on each other, well on their way to throwing away an easy victory in November for the third time in a row.

I went on to predict that come September/October, the Democrats would be criticizing the Republicans for using these same tactics, despite using them so vociferously themselves in March/April. Apparently, I was wrong. It didn’t take until September/October. It’s happening right now. Barack Obama seems to believe he can convince me that all of the nasty, bogus, dirty-politics attacks he’s endured over the last couple of months have come from the John McCain’s “side.”

My friends, I’m still not sure how calling people bitter is considered elitist. But talking to me like I can’t remember more than a few weeks of history? That suggests a perceived intellectual superiority that, quite frankly, boggles the mind.

More:

The other side can label and name-call all they want, but I trust the American people to recognize that it is not surrender to end the war in Iraq so that we can rebuild our military and go after Al Qaida’s leaders.

I trust the American people to understand that it is not weakness, but wisdom to talk not just to our friends, but to our enemies, like Roosevelt did, and Kennedy did, and Truman did.

…and Carter did, and Clinton did. Odd how he left out the two most recent Democrats, huh? Particularly when those two engineered perhaps the two most famous handshakes in the history of the White House Lawn? Maybe it’s because Carter’s award-winning handshake led directly to the assassination of one leader, and did nothing to create peace for Israel in the subsequent 30 years? Or maybe it’s because Clinton’s ventures in personal diplomacy with hostile leaders also led to an assassination, this time of our ally’s leader, not to mention that little deal with the North Koreans, which we recently learned they began violating before the ink was dry? Or, quite possibly, because Carter is back to demonstrate additional “wisdom” by meeting with the leaders of Hamas, despite requests from the State Department to stay the hell out of the way?

Also interesting that he didn’t say “like Reagan did,” given that his well-documented personal meetings with Gorbachev led directly to the end of the cold war and the dismantling of the Soviet Union.

I sure hope this bit was about political spin because, otherwise, Obama’s in serious need of a history lesson.

Allow me to repeat the summary point of my April 22nd post:

In 2000, the Democrats were running a sitting Vice President to an extremely popular President with a few big character flaws. All Al Gore had to do was be “Bill Clinton without the oral sex,” and he would have walked into the White House practically uncontested. Instead, it was insanely close, and Gore walked into a series of White Castle’s, rather than a single, White House.

In 2004, the Democrats were running a war hero and sitting senator against a highly unpopular president who was strongly advocating for a highly unpopular war. Again, they blew it, and John Kerry took a swift boat back to Boston.

Now, we’re in 2008. 70% of Americans think the country’s on the wrong track. For the third time in a row, the Democrats are in a position to walk away with this. It’ll be interesting to see if they find a way to screw it up again…

Categories: Political Rantings | 2 Comments »

Bobble me…

Sunday, May 11th, 2008

XMBaseball.com, some kind of weird joint venture between Major League Baseball and XM Satellite Radio is currently running two web promotions. The first is a robo-call where you can have Derek Jeter or David Ortiz call your house at a particular time and basically recite a MadLib with your chosen name(s), hobbies, favorite sports teams, etc.. My son Avery would probably get a kick out of it, but when I typed in all the info, I was told that Derek can’t say the word “Avery,” and asked if he could call without mentioning a name. No thanks, robo-Derek, the effect would most certainly be lost. And of course, if he can’t say Avery, he can’t very well say Brandon, lest he upset Avery. Catch-22…

Anyway, the other web promotion is a feature that let’s you Bobble head anyone you want. That one’s easier. Ladies & gentlemen, Bobble-Brian:

 

Categories: Sports Talk, The World Wide Weird | No Comments »

Gasoline – Cheap at $4.00 per gallon

Sunday, May 11th, 2008

My Uncle Walter, now retired in Florida, sends me about 50 Internet jokes a month (kinda makes you remember 1997, no?) Anyway, this one was the first in a very long time to actually make me smile. Not so much a joke, just a little perspective:

ItemCurrent Cost per Gallon
Gasoline$4.00
Lipton Iced Tea$9.52
Ocean Spray$10.00
Gatorade$10.17
Diet Snapple$10.32
Water$21.19
Whiteout$25.42
Brake Fluid$33.60
Scope Mouthwash$84.48
Pepto Bismol$123.20
NyQuil$178.13
Printer Ink$5,200

Let’s hope the first alternative fuel car doesn’t run on printer ink, huh?

Categories: Money Talk | 2 Comments »

Paging Melanie Foreman…

Thursday, May 8th, 2008

I’ve just been informed that Mel (Melanie to all you Google fans out there) Foreman wishes to be mentioned on my blog.

Since this is the first time anyone has made such a request, I figured the least I could do is comply.

Mel Foreman – this post’s for you!

Categories: University of Pennsylvania | 1 Comment »

R2D2 gives new meaning to Blu-Ray…

Tuesday, May 6th, 2008

For anyone who has $2,800 to spend on a DVD player:

http://www.nikkoamerica.com/nhe/dvd_projector_video.html

(I’m looking at you, Bennion…)

Categories: Movie Talk, Tech Talk | 1 Comment »

Sorry, Blogger – Two strikes and you’re out

Saturday, May 3rd, 2008

For those who wondered where I went again, Blogger took another 5-day hiatus on me. Once again, no explanation and no response from any help groups, e-mails to support, etc. It seems to be up & running now (maybe it’s because it’s almost 2AM?), but I’ve officially lost faith in this previously reliable service.

My next tool of choice is WordPress, which I’ve heard good things about, and also comes with instructions on how to install on a Yahoo server. Step 1 is to create a MySQL database in Yahoo, which I (believe) I’ve successfully done. Step two is to login to that database. Right now, Yahoo is giving me a “server is not responding” message when I try to login. I called Yahoo tech support and got an actual human, who theorized the potential problem for me, reset the database and allowed me to try again. The problem persisted, but I haven’t had time to call them back during normal (Pacific time) business hours. Still – that’s more responsive than Blogger has been for me.

So here’s my plan (I know – who asked me? Leave me alone – it’s my blog & I’ve been silenced for 10 of the last 12 days. I can ramble if I want to…): I’m going to chase down the problem over at Yahoo. If I fix the problem there and Blogger starts working consistently again, I’m willing to retroactively forgive Blogger and declare the problem to be on the Yahoo side. One more Blogger outage without a Yahoo problem, though, and I’m done.

My educated guess tells me that this isn’t Yahoo’s problem, though, because Blogger is only trying to FTP to the site – it’s not using any database functionality. And I’m able to FTP to the site using Yahoo’s tools, as well as my local copy of Microsoft FrontPage. So the likely answer here is that I’m dealing with two problems, and only one of the companies is helping me solve one. Not quite a high bar for customer service, but beggars can’t be choosers…

More to come (hopefully…)

Categories: Blogging about Blogs | No Comments »