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Archive for September, 2009

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Surfing the Video Web

Wednesday, September 30th, 2009

A whole slate of cool/funny/interesting videos made their way in front of my eyeballs today, so I thought I’d share:

First up, President Obama’s Amazingly Consistent Smile (Hat Tip: Scalzi)

Barack Obama’s amazingly consistent smile from Eric Spiegelman on Vimeo.

Next up, Christopher Reeve’s first appearance on Johnny Carson’s Tonight Show, promoting Superman: The Movie (Hat Tip: Bennion)

Next, Hugh Jackman on the Broadway Stage when a cellphone interrupts his performance (Hat Tip: E! Online)

[Editor's Note: I've long held the unpopular opinion that receiving a cellphone call during a performance is not inherently evil. The phone should be on vibrate to avoid what happened here, but people sometimes get equally pissed when a person answers the (silent) phone - even if he/she quietly tells the caller to hold and then walks out of the theater. This is caused by two potentially inaccurate assumptions: first, that the ringing phone is the fault of the callee, not the caller, and second, that the subject of the call is, by default, less important than the brief interruption they had to endure while the person quietly excused himself/herself. Next time you see someone do it, consider that the caller might be a doctor in an emergency room, or a babysitter reporting a problem with the person's child, etc.. OK, off my soapbox]

And finally, CNET’s Mailbag video, added here for its “Auto Incorrect” segment (Tip for everyone: don’t use your iPhone to text your boyfriend/girlfriend that you’re the “King of Sudoku”):

Categories: Random Acts of Blogging | No Comments »

Why Are We Still Arguing About Keyboards?

Tuesday, September 29th, 2009

Speculist has an item up that once again bemoans the inferior QWERTY keyboard that persists over the superior Dvorak keyboard, despite its roots as a mechanical speed bump to prevent fast typists from jamming early typewriters. Speculist examines this age-old issue, as you might imagine, from a new perspective – that of the sticking power of well-established standards in the face of newer, better alternatives. They provide examples of other “QWERTYies” in our world – the English measuring system, the “office at work” in a work-at-home world, and others. Pretty interesting stuff…

A commenter took it one step further: a lot of our newer keyboards are not physical devices, but virtual keyboards appearing on a touch screen device (iPhone, Palm Pre, etc.). Surely, it would be easier to swap between QWERTY and Dvorak on those devices, right? All of the problems surrounding the conversion of physical keyboards melt away – you don’t need multiple keyboard drivers, you don’t have to worry about relabeling (or dual-labeling) the physical keys, multiple users of the device can change the setting back without having to know what it’s currently set to, and so on.

But then I got to thinking: touch-screen, “virtual” keyboards can do even better. They can let the users customize their own keyboard layouts. Perhaps you learned to type on a QWERTY keyboard, but your last name contains a “Z,” and it’s always bugged you that this frequently typed key was stuck on the weak, pinkie finger of your left hand. What’s to prevent you from starting with a QWERTY layout, and then swapping the “Z” key with, let’s say, the “J” or the “M” key? Or maybe you’re a writer/blogger/twitterer who writes a lot about UNIX. You could swap the home-row keys on your dominant hand from “JKL;” to “UNIX” (finding new homes for the the J, K, L, and semi-colon keys, of course). Any combination should be equally easy for the device – after all, they must have a graphics map built somewhere already that tells them what spot(s) on the touchscreen correspond to each letter. So all they’d have to do is update that map!

The downside, of course, would be that your customized keyboard wouldn’t be (automatically) available on other devices. For something as ubiquitous as an iPhone, that could be solved by allowing users to e-mail their keyboard layouts to each other, or post them on websites for easy download/installation, reverting back to the original when the guest is done typing. More ad-hoc devices (like public kiosks, for instance) might have to stick with a common few – also selectable by the user at start-up.

Suddenly, it occurs to me that there’s another definition of QWERTYies. They’re not just standards that stick because we’ve all become accustomed to them. In some cases, they’re standards that exist because we used to need standards in places where we don’t anymore. Telephone rings come to mind – it used to be that every telephone had the same RRRRRRING!!!!! Today, we have the ring-tone. TV Remote Controls used to have standard layouts, depending on the model of your TV. Today, universal remotes can be programmed with any layout and/or new key combinations.

I’m sure there are more, and I’m equally sure that as time goes on, the list will only get longer. In the meantime, though, I’m going to start designing my ideal, personalized keyboard…

Categories: Tech Talk | 3 Comments »

Teacher Abuses Student over Yankees/Red Sox Rivalry

Sunday, September 27th, 2009

I know the Yankees have been beating up on the Red Sox lately, which can often lead to some harsh words in both ballparks, but you’d think we could keep the fourth grade classrooms in upstate New York peaceful, no?

Baldwinsville teacher, a Red Sox fan, makes student turn Yankees T-shirt inside out

Van Buren, NY — Van Buren Elementary fourth-grader Nathan Johns thought his teacher was kidding Wednesday when he instructed him to go to the bathroom and turn his Yankees T-shirt inside out.

Nate complied, and said he was later told to wear it that way until dismissal. At lunch, Nate said the fifth-graders made fun of him because he wearing his shirt inside out. “It was such a horrible day.” Nate said. “I don’t ever want anything like to happen again.” Nate said he felt he was treated unfairly. “Just because my teacher doesn’t like the Yankees, I should still have the right to wear a Yankees shirt,” Nate said Thursday after school. The teacher has Boston Red Sox paraphernalia displayed all over the classroom, he said.

This teacher needs to move back to Boston, for everybody’s sake…

Categories: Sports Talk | 2 Comments »

Life Imitates Art – The Story of the Turkeys and the Frog

Thursday, September 24th, 2009

OK, you’ve got to bear with me here, but trust me on this – the payoff is so worth it.

First, there’s this clip from the old WKRP in Cincinnati show:


WKRP in Cincinnati: Thanksgiving Turkey Bomb! @ Yahoo! Video

Then, the hilarious conclusion (credits to the same show, different video clip):

And, finally, this from the Glen Beck show on Fox News Channel:

As God as my witness, I thought frogs jumped out of boiling water…

UPDATE: It’s possible that Glenn Beck did not actually throw a live frog into the water. See the comments below for more…

Categories: Primetime TV | 11 Comments »

Microsoft Tablet Looks Awesome…

Wednesday, September 23rd, 2009

WANT!

There’s a very cool video on the gizmodo site, but it doesn’t have an embedding option. Go check it out – trust me…

(Hat tip: Jeff Porten)
 

Categories: Tech Talk | No Comments »

Easy Come, Easy Go…

Wednesday, September 16th, 2009

Kind of makes you understand how Michael Jackson felt when he held his kid over the railing, huh?

Kidding people! I’M KIDDING!!!

(Hat tip: Pam Konde) 

Categories: Sports Talk | 2 Comments »

Cold-War Era Search Service?

Monday, September 14th, 2009

There’s been a lot of political talk on my blog of late, and there’s sure to be more, so I thought I’d take a quick break and discuss something a little more frivolous – like Soviet intelligence agencies.

Seriously, who in their right minds decided to name a search service KGB? Were they assuming that they’d have absolutely zero customers over the age of 30? Makes me think the service is going to text me answers to questions before I even ask them…

And not only that, it’s entirely phone-based. I can’t even type a question into their website and get an answer on screen. I need to type in my 10-digit mobile telephone number and receive the answer on my phone. Even though they know I’m currently using a web browser. Really, folks? In an era where almost every phone can access Google almost as easily as a text message, and Google (especially with its excellent mobile version) can provide multiple responses (from multiple sources) to the same question at once? Why, this technology seems like something that was built when, well…when the original KGB was still around.

Congratulations, KGB! You’ve created an inferior product that inherently limits my interaction with it, and you expect to use it to compete with one of the largest and most successful technology companies in existence today. Oh, and you appear to be spending millions of dollars advertising it on television. How many TV ads do you see for Google? That’s right, none. You know why? Anyone who uses the web already knows about it.

Enjoy your fifteen minutes of fame, KGB…

Categories: Tech Talk | 5 Comments »

Derek Jeter – All-Time Yankee Hit Leader

Saturday, September 12th, 2009

Been There. Seen That. Got the T-shirt.

No, seriously, I got the t-shirt. But more on that later.

First, I need to describe one of those Yankee Stadium moments. As I told a New York Post reporter earlier this week (who, by the way, never put it in an article…), every time you buy a ticket to a game in Yankee Stadium, there’s a chance that you’re going to see something magical. Over the years, I’ve seen milestones (including Derek Jeter’s 2,000th hit), special accomplishments (including A-Rod hitting three homeruns in a game) and other surprises (including Roger Clemmens’ announcement that he was returning to the Yankees). I’ve accidentally wound up at both Ron Guidry Day and Bob Sheppard Day. And that’s not to mention the special games I intentionally bought tickets for – Old Timers’ Day, playoff games, World Series games – you name it.

Last night was, literally, a perfect storm at Yankee Stadium. It was raining all day, to the point where I thought there was no way they were even going to play the game. As it turned out, they had a rain delay of roughly ninety minutes, which allowed the excited crowd to get, well…let’s call it “lubricated” before the game began. Then, there was an emotional tribute to the anniversary of 9/11/01, including the dedication of the USS New York, a ship that will be launched into military service in November, which contains 7.5 tons of steel recovered from the World Trade Center site. And then finally, the game began.

I’m told they were saying on television that the stadium had a playoff atmosphere that night. They were right. In the first inning, the rain was still falling pretty hard, and everyone was extremely pumped up. Derek Jeter came to bat in the bottom of the first and struck out, but everytime he swung the bat, ten thousand flashbulbs went off. And when he made contact (foul balls), the place collectively gasped.

The Yankees put a few hits together, so he led off the third inning as well. And that was when it happened. A line-drive single down the right field line, past the Orioles’ diving first baseman and into history.

The Yankees, having obviously discussed this ahead of time, poured out of the dugout and hugged him, one at a time. Not a single handshake in the bunch – all hugs. He is their teammate and their captain, and you could see the respect and admiration they all have for him personally. You could also tell that they recognized the enormity of what he had just accomplished. After all, Lou Gehrig held this record for more than seventy years, and given the way players jump between teams today, Jeter may well hold it forever.

I could go on and on, but it’s probably easier just to show you the video I shot of the whole thing:

Congratulations to Derek Jeter, the all-time Yankee hit leader. Glad I was there to see it happen!

Oh, yeah – about that T-shirt…

Minutes after he broke the record, the Yankees were running advertisements on the stadium scoreboard that T-shirts and pennants commemorating the event were now available in the Yankee Stadium stores. My friend and I laughed about it at first, but two innings later, decided to go check it out. I was going to buy a T-shirt for myself and a pennant for each of my kids, but when we got there, I found that they were almost out of extra-large T-shirts (they had plenty of small and 2XL shirts, but neither of those would fit me) and they were completely out of pennants. I picked up a couple of commemorative 8×10 photos of Jeter for the kids and set out to find the end of a very, very long line to pay for it all (it took a full inning to finally pay). During my search for the end of the line, I passed a guy who was holding at least fifty pennants, at which point I realized that the Yankees had not put any kind of “maximum – 5 items per person” limit on these items, so people were scooping them up for sale on eBay or whatever after the game. Shame on that guy and others like him, and shame on the Yankees for not taking the steps necessary to ensure everyone who wanted one of these items could get one.

Categories: Sports Talk | 3 Comments »

New York City Sights – 9/11/09

Friday, September 11th, 2009

It’s time for a very special edition of New York City Sights which, of course, coincides with my annual tradition of posting some thoughts about the anniversary of September 11, 2001 (others can be found here: 2002, 2003, 2005, 2006, 2007, 2008)

We start with a sight that few people see on television. It’s one of the last beams that was removed from the World Trade Center site (“Ground Zero”) when the massive clean-up effort ended in early November, 2001. These two beams, which the attacks left in the shape of a cross, were ceremoniously removed from the pit by the rescue workers and mounted outside the city courthouse a few blocks away.

Next, a view of downtown Manhattan, as it looks today:

Now that they’ve been gone for eight years, I think we forget just how massive and skyline-defining those towers were. Here’s a feeble attempt to draw them into the above picture (this isn’t accurate in any real sense, although I did look at about a dozen pictures taken from the Hudson river to approximate size and position, so it’s pretty close):

And now, if you’ll permit me, a few thoughts:

This is the first anniversary of the 9/11 attacks under a new President. Barack Obama is nothing if not eloquent, and I’m sure his words will be heartfelt and bring comfort to those who need it. Still, it is just now occurring to me for the first time that the President of the United States addressed a joint session of Congress on September 9, 2009 and didn’t as much as mention the upcoming anniversary. I’m not saying that it’s a good thing or a bad thing, mind you, just noting how different it is. It’s inconceivable that George W. Bush would give a speech in that chamber on September 9th of any year without at least noting the upcoming anniversary.

Again, without casting any aspersions on Barack Obama whatsoever, I get the feeling that no president will ever take 9/11/01 as personally as George W. Bush did. And this gives me pause, because quite frankly, it’s just as personal to me this year as it was last year. The local TV stations will cover the reading of the names as they always do, but I note on the TV listings that the Today show’s planned programming is “Today’s Pets, real estate, personally tailored diets, and ambush makeovers.”

The nation is truly moving on. Re-reading some of my older posts, I realize that I am moving on as well. It’s the signs that point it out so explicitly that bother me, I think. If you’re reading this, I hope that you are moving on as well, and that my words haven’t interrupted that process. But as we move on, I think it’s healthy to take a moment, especially today, and look back.

God Bless America.

Categories: New York, New York | 8 Comments »

A Quick Shot of Healthcare, Part 4 – Deconstructing Sarah Palin . . . Again

Wednesday, September 9th, 2009

On the eve of President Obama’s address to a joint session of Congress regarding healthcare reform, the former governor of Alaska, Sarah Palin, has written an Op-Ed piece in the Wall Street Journal. What follows is an object lesson both in how news media must be consumed these days, and some enlightening facts (enlightening to me, at least) about the current healthcare debate.

Read the rest of this entry »

Categories: Political Rantings | 24 Comments »

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