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Archive for April, 2009

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Real Time Reality TV

Wednesday, April 15th, 2009

By now, most everyone is aware of the escalating violence off the coast of Somalia. Since Sunday, Somali pirates have taken seventy-five additional hostages and fired upon American ships bearing food aid, all in response to this past weekend’s rescue of American Captain Richard Phillips and several French sailors. A spokesman for the pirates (yes, they apparently have spokesmen) said, “Our latest hijackings are meant to show that no one can deter us from protecting our waters from the enemy because we believe in dying for our land.”

A serious situation, to be sure. So imagine my surprise when I saw this banner ad in my Yahoo! news feed:

Apparently, a company called 44 Blue Productions will station TV crews aboard U.S. Navy vessels patrolling the Somali waters for pirates. Rasha Drachkovitch, 44 Blue’s president and founder says he will have access to dozens of navy cameras along with his own. He feels it’s his job to “find the characters and stories to focus upon.”

Spike’s senior VP for original series, Sharon Levy, said she didn’t know if the incident with Richard Phillips would “kill the deal or seal the deal,” but feels that “following the work of Navy personnel on this mission is the sort of action Spike craves. . . The cable channel targets young male viewers aged 18 to 34, potentially making ‘Pirate Hunters: USN’ a strong recruiting tool for the Navy.”

The Navy, believe it or not, agrees. Navy spokesman Commander Richard K. Anderson (who was terrific in The Matrix, by the way): “That’s the Spike demographic and (recruiting) is a factor. We also have a responsibility to inform the American public about what we are doing.”

To all of which, I can only add this: Seriously? The U.S. Navy needs a Reality TV show to inform the American public about what they’re doing to fight Somali pirates? Isn’t that what the news media is for? Isn’t it enough that the President of the United States has publicly vowed to halt the piracy? Or is that just advance marketing for the TV show now?

And do we really need to “find characters and stories to focus upon?” Here’s a story: a group of Navy Seals took out three pirates with high-powered rifles in open water without so much as splashing water on the hostage. Sorry, but I don’t need touching background footage of their wives & kids back home to consider them heroes.

This is reality. It doesn’t need to be reality television.

Categories: News and/or Media, Primetime TV | 1 Comment »

Some thoughts on Citi Field

Tuesday, April 14th, 2009

The New York Mets christened their new stadium last night, making them the first of two baseball teams in New York to do so this week. I’m obviously a biased source here, but I’ve gotta say – what went on in Flushing, NY last night strikes me as emblematic of everything that makes the Mets New York’s “other baseball team.”

First, there’s the stadium itself. It’s a throwback to Brooklyn’s old Ebbet’s field, complete with the famous rotunda, which has been fashioned in Citi Field as a memorial to Jackie Robinson. Now, Ebbet’s field was a revered ballpark in New York, and it is simply not possible to honor Jackie Robinson enough for what he did for baseball and for the country, so these homages are not inherently bad. But here’s the thing – Jackie Robinson didn’t play for the Mets. He played for the Dodgers, a team that still exists, and will eventually visit Citi Field (July 7, 8, and 9th). As much as Mets fans might fondly remember Ebbet’s field and Jackie Robinson, I can’t help thinking the Dodgers will enjoy their “home away from home” when they arrive in July.

Inside the stadium, the problems apparently get more serious. One day into the season, it seems many fans are already unhappy with the poor sight lines in their new ballpark. Despite the stadium’s claims of being “cozy” for fans, many of the outfield seats apparently offer obstructed views of the outfield, blocked entirely from view or viewable only through glass panels.

Moving on to the opening ceremony, it’s easy for me, as a Yankee fan, to bemoan the Mets lack of history. After all, the Yankees have played in roughly one third of all the World Series ever held, and have won 26 of them. The Mets have only been in existence for thirty-five years, and have a paltry World Series record of 2-2. That said, the pregame ceremony had precious little to do with the Mets. There was a nice tribute to America’s armed forces and a giant American flag, but the only reference to the home team was an encore performance of Tom Seaver and Mike Piazza’s “last pitch at Shea” from last September. After that, Seaver went to the press box, and Piazza went home. Allegations swirl about whether he was avoiding the press because of a recent steroid allegation and whatnot, but media aside, you’d think the guys they hold up as their team icons would be interested enough in their new ballpark to at least stick around for the opening game!?!

And what about the National Anthem?  A New York icon, perahps?  Liza Minelli, Tony Bennett, or Billy Joel?  Or perhaps a callback to Shea Stadium’s musical history with Sir Paul McCartney?  No – the Mets secured the cast of a Broadway revival, West Side Story, and then arranged the microphones such that the singers singing melody were standing in the back, creating what can charitably be described as a “different” interpretation of the song.  I guess a state-of-the-art sound system is too much to ask from a brand new ballpark, huh?

And finally, of course, there was the game itself.  Now, I’m not saying the Mets are a failure for losing their first game in the new stadium. Heck – they lost their first game at the Polo Grounds in 1962 and their first game at Shea Stadium in 1964 (both by a score of 4-3, and both to the Pittsburgh Pirates).  Baseball is baseball, and no one’s going to win every game.  But a homerun on the third pitch to the first batter (first time in baseball history, by the way)?  A pitcher falling off the mound in the second inning?  A stray cat getting loose and running around behind home plate during the game?  A three-base error by an outfielder in a game that’s tied 5-5 in the sixth inning?  And then a balk to bring home the eventual winning run?  A freakin’ BALK?!?

There’s bad luck and then there’s failing to perform under pressure. The Mets blew it last night in almost every way possible. I’m looking forward to Thursday in the Bronx.

Categories: New York, New York, Sports Talk | 1 Comment »

Minor Blog Maintenance

Tuesday, April 14th, 2009

Lately, I’ve found myself using the “Recent Comments” widgets on other blogs more frequently, in order to keep tabs on comments I’ve made, whether or not people have responded, etc.. That realization led to a second realization, which is that my blog didn’t have a “Recent Comments” widget.

As you can see on the right sidebar, this travesty was finally rectified this morning.  Astute observers will also notice that I’ve also made the hyperlinks on the right sidebar consistent with the rest of the site, and have finally figured out how to get bullet points to show up there without destroying the site layout.

As is typically the case with updates to a blog template, most of this matters more to me than to any of you, but I will ask my regular readers (the few, the proud!) to let me know if anything looks askew on their particular combination of hardware, operating system, and web browser.

Thanks all…

Categories: Blogging about Blogs | 5 Comments »


Sunday, April 12th, 2009



Categories: Money Talk | No Comments »

After the Beep, Please Send E-mail

Thursday, April 9th, 2009

The New York Times ran an interesting article last week about the impending obsolescence of voice mail. Some quotes:

Over 30 percent of voice messages linger unheard for three days or longer and that more than 20 percent of people with messages in their mailboxes “rarely even dial in” to check them. By contrast, 91 percent of people under 30 respond to text messages within an hour, and they are four times more likely to respond to texts than to voice messages within minutes. Even adults 30 and older are twice as likely to respond within minutes to a text than to a voice message.

“Voice mails are totally trapped info,” Mr. Siminoff said. Because the average person can read at least twice as quickly as he or she can speak, and text messages require no log-ins or waiting, Mr. Siminoff estimates that textual voice messaging is about 15 to 20 times faster than traditional voice mail.

According to Nielsen Mobile, users 13 to 17 now send or receive an average of 1,742 text messages a month, versus 231 cellphone calls, and they spend nearly the same amount of time on their phones texting as talking.

Again and again, people under 25 recount returning calls from older colleagues and family members without bothering to listen to messages first. Thanks to cellphone technology, they can see who called and hit the Send button to reply without calling their voice mail box. “Didn’t you get my message?” parents ask. “No,” their children reply, “but I saw that you called.”

That last quote, in particular, strikes a familiar chord with me (and my parents). The “missed call” list on my phone usually tells me all I need to know before I start returning calls. And the more accessible people become (now that everyone has a cellphone or other text-messaging device), the more efficient it is to just click a single “Reply” or “Return Call” button and ask them what they wanted to tell me, rather than logging into my voicemail box to find out. At best, the voicemail is a backup system – the message I listen to if I can’t reach the person immediately upon learning that they called.

Now, if the content of the voicemails themselves were as accessible as the “missed call” list…

Visual Voicemail, which comes standard on the iPhone and is available on other smart phones, displays messages in a visual in-box, just like e-mail, and allows users to listen to messages one by one, in any order, so important calls can be returned first and others saved.

PhoneTag, for a monthly or per-message fee, [will convert] subscribers’ messages into typed texts, which are then automatically delivered to phones or e-mail in-boxes.

I’m sure the transcription services aren’t perfect, but I bet they’re good enough to get the gist of the message across, which is all you really need before clicking “Reply.”

Another option: reduce the need for messages altogether, by making it more likely that you’ll answer the phone in the first place:

Google plans to introduce a competing free service, Google Voice, in a matter of weeks. The service will ring each phone a person uses at once — cell, home, office — and centralize all the messages received. Most important for the voice-mail-averse, Google Voice will also transcribe voice mails at no cost.

I’m very interested in seeing how this will work. On the one hand, it’d be great to give out just one phone number to people and have it “follow you around.” On the other hand, there are people who I want to only call me in the office and people I want to only call me at home (more the former than the latter, but still…) Also, I wonder how they’re going to get around the problem of two people answering different phones in different locations simultaneously (i.e., I answer my cell phone and my wife answers our home phone). Do we hear each other (like picking up two extensions in the house), or does one of us get a “sorry – someone else answered the call” message?

The most important feature, as is the case with most communications technology, will be the ability to turn it off when it’s doing more harm than good.

Categories: Tech Talk | 1 Comment »

Page Not Found – Ver 1.0

Wednesday, April 8th, 2009

This made me laugh:

I’m a geek.


Categories: Random Acts of Blogging, Tech Talk | No Comments »

The Official Blog Post of the New York Yankees

Tuesday, April 7th, 2009

With the Yankees and the Mets sporting new stadiums this year, the opportunities for new sponsorship deals were numerous. Apparently, both teams took full advantage.

Some examples from the Yankees:

So, if you want to show your Yankee pride while you buy life insurance or pay your taxes, you have that option now.

The Mets are similarly opportunistic:

So, if you want to have a party, and serve pudding and fried dough, you can do it all while supporting your hometown boys from Flushing, Queens.

It gets better: both teams have official hospitals (Yankees: New York Presbyterian, Mets: Hospital For Special Surgery). Nathan’s is the Offical Hot Dog of the New York Yankees, and the Non-Kosher Hot Dog & French Fry of the New York Mets (one assumes the Mets no preference on kosher hot dogs and the Yankees don’t care what kind of french fry you eat…) The Yankees have Official Life Insurance (Met Life) and Official Health Insurance (Empire Blue Cross/Blue Shield), and the Mets have Official Auto Insurance (Geico) and an Official X-Ray Equipment Provider (NY Imaging). So you can get sick and/or die as a Yankee fan, but if you crash your car or break a bone, you better be rooting for the Mets.

Oh, one more thing: Zales is the Official National Jewelry Retailer of the New York Yankees. The Mets have no Official Jewelry Retailer. I guess they don’t expect to be buying rings anytime soon.


Categories: New York, New York, Sports Talk, The World Wide Weird | 1 Comment »

ISBS Review: The New Yankee Stadium

Saturday, April 4th, 2009

So remember that secret mission I mentioned on Thursday? The one that required a new digital camera? Well, it took two days to get all of the online documentation in place, but now I can discuss it. My older son, Avery, and I found ourselves in possession of two tickets to the New York Yankees’ Pre-Season workout at the newly opened Yankee Stadium. This was the first time the new stadium was opened to the public, and it afforded us the opportunity to spend several hours exploring the entire structure, sampling the food, taking in the new amenities and watching our beloved Yankees take batting and fielding practice.

Those who want the whole story of the day can read on below the fold. For everyone else, a collection of 57 photographs is here and a six-minute video retrospective is here. There’s also a separate video of Bernie Williams singing “Take Me Out to the Ballgame” here (which you can read more about if you continue below).

All in all, it was an amazing, historical, unforgettable day that neither my son nor I will ever forget. A reporter for the New York Post stopped us outside and asked me why I was a Yankee fan. Here’s what I told him:

And now, as they say, the rest of the story:

Read the rest of this entry »

Categories: Family Matters, New York, New York, Sports Talk | 5 Comments »

High School High

Friday, April 3rd, 2009

Both Jason and Ilya have partaken in the “My So-Called High School Life” meme, and since high school was all about peer pressure, well – here goes:

Read the rest of this entry »

Categories: Random Acts of Blogging | 8 Comments »

Free Ice Cream!

Friday, April 3rd, 2009

They say there’s no such thing as a free lunch, but no one can argue with free ice cream:

As a way to thank our customers for their support and to celebrate 31 years of scooping the chunkiest, funkiest ice cream, frozen yogurt and sorbet, Ben & Jerry’s scoop shops are happily giving it away!

Maybe it’s time for you to try a new flavor that you’ve been wondering about without committing your hard earned dollars or it’s time for you to enjoy an old favorite and savor in the deliciousness that is free ice cream? Hey, either way it’s time for you to come on in!

Around the world, Scoop Shops are opening their doors from noon to 8:00 pm [on April 21, 2009], to serve up a free scoop of your favorite flavor. Please check with your local Scoop Shop for more info!

Grab a pal and come on down to have some good, ’scream fun on us!

That’s, er…..cool!

Categories: Random Acts of Blogging | No Comments »

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