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Archive for December, 2009

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Helping or Hurting the Little Guy: Big Booksellers Sell Cheap Books

Monday, December 28th, 2009

Building on the book theme from yesterday, we turn to this post

Categories: Money Talk, Random Acts of Blogging | 3 Comments »

ISBS Review: The Amazon Kindle

Sunday, December 27th, 2009

I realize that this probably would have been more useful before Christmas, but I’ve been using the Amazon Kindle for about a month now, and I’ve finally found the time to write up a review. So, if you didn’t get one for Christmas and you’ve got stuff to return at Amazon, maybe this will help you out.

One sentence: The Amazon Kindle is surprisingly good at what it does, but surprisingly stubborn in its desire to only do that one thing.

More than one sentence: When I read a book on the Amazon Kindle, I quite often forget that I’m not reading a real book, sometimes to the point where I reach for the upper-right corner of the page to turn it, rather than pushing the “Next Page” button. Reasons for this include screen resolution, form factor and simple design.

Read the rest of this entry »

Categories: ISBS Reviews, Tech Talk | 2 Comments »

Getting Ready for the Big Party…

Saturday, December 26th, 2009

Now that Christmas is over, New York’s gearing up for the big party of the year:

Here’s hoping you’re someplace warm this New Year’s Eve. I know I will be (even at a distance of 30 miles, I’d still rather watch the ball fall on television…)

Categories: New York, New York | 1 Comment »

Some Christmas (Bronx) Cheer…

Thursday, December 24th, 2009

OK, quick Christmas quiz: when you see a guy on the streets of New York dressed up like a popular children’s character, carrying a bag that says “Tips,” and harassing tourist families for money, what’s the first word that comes to mind?

Answer: Pooh.

Categories: New York, New York | 3 Comments »

How People Found Me – 2009 Edition

Thursday, December 24th, 2009

Back by popular demand (well, OK, back by Ilya’s demand, but heck – I’m easy…), it’s a roundup of the most interesting and/or disturbing Google searches that led people to I Should Be Sleeping.

I used to do this monthly, but eventually slacked off. So, to make up for it, I’ve culled through the 5,930 different queries that brought people here this year, and pulled out my favorite 50. I even divided them into categories for your reading pleasure…

1) The Financial Funnies

Since this year was all about the collapsing financial markets, I thought I’d start with some “money funnies…” (sorry, but you might as well be warned, it’s going to be that kind of blog post…):

dick fuld astrological birth chartThis guy has a different theory on why Lehman Brothers went out of business

Categories: Tech Talk | 4 Comments »

Figuring out the world at Age 9 – Part 692

Wednesday, December 23rd, 2009

My older son, Avery, asked me two interesting questions about Christmas the other day. I’ll remind you that we’re Jewish and don’t celebrate Christmas religiously, although he does have a lot of Christian friends.

Q1) Daddy, what does Santa Claus bringing presents to kids have to do with the birth of Jesus?

My answer: Nothing at all, Avery. Nothing at all. They are two completely separate parts of the Christmas holiday. And oh, by the way – excellent question.

Q2) Daddy, do YOU think Santa Claus is real?

My answer: first, I made him read this world-famous New York Sun editorial from 1897. In it, editor Francis Pharcellus Church writes:

Yes, VIRGINIA, there is a Santa Claus. He exists as certainly as love and generosity and devotion exist, and you know that they abound and give to your life its highest beauty and joy. Alas! how dreary would be the world if there were no Santa Claus.


You might get your papa to hire men to watch in all the chimneys on Christmas Eve to catch Santa Claus, but even if they did not see Santa Claus coming down, what would that prove? Nobody sees Santa Claus, but that is no sign that there is no Santa Claus. The most real things in the world are those that neither children nor men can see.


Only faith, fancy, poetry, love, romance, can push aside that curtain and view and picture the supernal beauty and glory beyond. Is it all real? Ah, VIRGINIA, in all this world there is nothing else real and abiding. No Santa Claus! Thank God! he lives, and he lives forever. A thousand years from now, Virginia, nay, ten times ten thousand years from now, he will continue to make glad the heart of childhood.

The language is a little esoteric for a 9-year old, but it led to an interesting discussion. I asked him if he thought feelings like love and happiness were real. He said yes, of course, so I asked him how he knew, given that he’d never seen either of them. He essentially said, “I just know.” And so, I explained, that billions of people all over the world give presents to their friends and families at Christmas time, and have done so for hundreds, if not thousands of years. And the feeling that makes all of those people do this is Santa Claus.

Interestingly, he asked me if parents bought their kids gifts at Christmas time during The Great Depression. I pointed him to the history of the Rockefeller Center Christmas Tree, which he has seen lit several times. The first tree in Rockefeller Center was erected in 1931, during the heart of the Great Depression. It was decorated with cranberries, paper garland and tin cans – all items that could be found readily at hand without spending much money. Avery concluded that Santa Claus made the workers put up the tree, so people would feel good during the holidays, even during the Depression.

I realize this is not the high-pressure question that it would be for a Christian family, but I feel pretty good about the conversation, and I think that Avery (and his younger brother, Brandon, who was listening to the whole thing) understand it pretty well now.

Categories: Family Matters | 14 Comments »

Carrie Fisher, Episode Two – Attack of the Country Singing Clones

Tuesday, December 22nd, 2009

It seems that country singing superstar Carrie Underwood is engaged to marry the NHL’s Ottowa Senators’ Mike Fisher. Which, in the extremely unlikely event that she chose to change her world-famous name, would make her Carrie Fisher.

Attention 40-something year-old men: you may now commence picturing Carrie Underwood in a metal bikini. That is all…

Categories: Sports Talk, Words about Music | 5 Comments »

Closing the barn door after the tomatoes have run away…

Friday, December 18th, 2009

Those who follow Sarah Palin (either with amusement or disdain) may have heard that at a recent book signing in Minneapolis, a man threw two tomatoes at her from a second floor balcony.

So when she showed up at a Costco in Salt Lake City, the store manager took steps to prevent another drive-by fruiting:

While going through the check-out lane, again with no wait, [Helen Rappaport] told the clerk she forgot to get some grape tomatoes, which she loves, so she would be right back. That’s when the bells went off. The clerk told her they had no tomatoes that day. No tomatoes? At Costco?

As she was leaving, she noticed a man with a store manager’s name tag and asked him why they had no tomatoes. He informed her the store did have tomatoes, but they were taken off the shelves for a few hours. It turns out that Palin had been pelted with a tomato at an earlier stop on her book tour and the management at the Costco was determined it wouldn’t happen here. The manager told an employee to go into the storage area and get Rappaport some tomatoes, which he gave her for free.

The Costco store manager believes, apparently, that someone out there had decided to throw things at Sarah Palin when she visited the local Costco, went to Costco empty-handed, proceeded immediately to the tomato aisle, saw there were no tomatoes available, and then decided to give up and go home, rather than, you know, throwing something else at her.

Score one for the ingenuity and quick action of the Salt Lake Costco manager…

Categories: Political Rantings, Random Acts of Blogging | 2 Comments »

A “Fundamental Moment” in Cancer Research

Thursday, December 17th, 2009


Scientists have unlocked the entire genetic code of two of the most common cancers – skin and lung – a move they say could revolutionise cancer care. Not only will the cancer maps pave the way for blood tests to spot tumours far earlier, they will also yield new drug targets, says the Wellcome Trust team.

Scientists around the globe are now working to catalogue all the genes that go wrong in many types of human cancer. The UK is looking at breast cancer, Japan at liver and India at mouth. China is studying stomach cancer, and the US is looking at cancers of the brain, ovary and pancreas.

Basically, this redefines cancer from a disease to a series of genetic mutations, each of which can be studied, prevented, treated, or cured. Skin cancer (melanoma) is a combination of 30,000 “errors” in the DNA of the cancerous cells which are not present in the healthy cells. Lung cancer is a series of 23,000 errors. So now, we not only know that sun exposure causes skin cancer and smoking causes lung cancer, but we know why and how they cause it.

I found this particularly eye-opening:

The experts estimate a typical smoker acquires one new mutation for every 15 cigarettes they smoke. Although many of these mutations will be harmless, some will trigger cancer.

Wellcome Trust researcher Dr Peter Campbell, who conducted this research, published in the journal Nature, said: “It’s like playing Russian roulette. Most of the time the mutations will land in innocent parts of the genome, but some will hit the right targets for cancer.”

By quitting smoking, people could reduce their cancer risk back down to “normal” with time, he said. The suspicion is lung cells containing mutations are eventually replaced with new ones free of genetic errors.

So, if you’re incredibly unlucky (meaning every genetic mutation you cause by smoking contributes to lung cancer), then you’ll have cancerous cells in your lungs after 1,534 cigarettes. Or, at a pack per day, in about 77 days. If only one mutation in ten hits the cancer jackpot, then you’ve got 767 days, or just over two years. After that, you’re counting on your body to produce healthy, “error-free” cells at an equal or faster rate than the cancer cells die. Too many cancer cells, and they’ll survive long enough to multiply faster than the healthy cells, at which point, you’ve got yourself a tumor.

Then again, now that we know which genetic defects are at fault, we could invent the medication that prevents the defect (or corrects it, or kills cells that contain it, etc.), effectively providing the “cigarette antidote.” Think of it – a pill that comes in every pack of cigarettes. When you finish the pack, swallow this. Problem solved.

The same applies, of course, to cancers that are contracted through less voluntary means. Targeted treatment against specific defects will redefine our definitions of treatment, side effects, and research priorities. Dr. Michael Stratton, of the Wellcome Trust team, calls it a “fundamental moment in cancer research:”


Categories: The Future is Now | 6 Comments »

21 Things That Became Obsolete This Decade

Saturday, December 12th, 2009

Business Insider has published a list of the twenty-one things that have become obsolete during the 00’s. Unfortunately, it’s one of those sites that tries to increase their ad revenue by making you click twenty-one times to see the whole list (like advertisers don’t understand that it’s not twenty-one people seeing their ad, but the same person ignoring it over & over again? But, I digress). Anyway, since I’m technologically opposed to that sort of thing, here’s the full list (with links back to their pages in case you want to read the text behind each one). You’ll note that this list of twenty-one things has twenty-two items on it (a bonus item? Seriously? Sheesh…)

  1. PDA’s: Specifically, PDA’s that need a stylus, like the old Palm Pilot
  2. E-mail accounts you have to pay for: as storage got cheaper, e-mail accounts became free
  3. Dial-Up: the sound of a modem connecting to another modem has become relegated to War Games and movies like it.
  4. Getting Film Developed: Remember the old Fotomat booths in the shopping center parking lots? No more…
  5. Movie Rental Stores: Say goodbye to your local Blockbuster’s, if you still can, and sign-up for your Netflix account (or just use your TV provider’s On-Demand channel). Also obsolete: late fees.
  6. Maps: With GPS devices and Google Maps-enabled phones, why figure out how to fold (and un-fold) a map?
  7. Newspaper Classified Ads: Thank you, Craig Newmark.
  8. Landline Phones: When your cellphone works anywhere, why have a phone that plugs into your house? I’m not sure this one is gone for good yet, but it’s certainly getting there.
  9. Per-Minute Long Distance Charges: like storage (above), this got cheaper and cheaper until it became free. Most people pay a flat rate per month now, and VOIP is chasing that into oblivion too…
  10. Public Pay Phones: This one’s for you, Bennion. Again, when your cellphone works anywhere, why have a phone that plugs into a closet on a street corner?
  11. VCR’s: Even DVD’s are going away, now that Blu-Ray has won the day. The VCR has officially gone the way of the Betamax machine.
  12. Fax Machines: If anyone’s even sending faxes anymore, they’re winding up in e-mail boxes, not paper trays.
  13. Phonebooks, Dictionaries & Encyclopedias: What used to take up shelves, now takes up hard drive space. And now it’s searchable! Also becoming obsolete: the need to remember the order of the letters in the alphabet.
  14. Calling 411 for Information: My kids don’t even know about this! Phone numbers come from Google or some more specific search engine now…
  15. Music CD’s: Gone are the days of buying eight songs you don’t like to hear the two that you do like…
  16. Backing Up Data to Floppies & CD’s: This one’s a bit unfair, since it was both created and obsolesced this decade, but it’s true – backups go on external hard drives or UBS thumbnail drives now. It doesn’t save as much shelf space as the encyclopedias, but it still helps…
  17. Getting Bills in the Mail: or, for that matter, sending checks back to pay them. I honestly don’t know how much a stamp costs these days.
  18. Buttons on Electronic Devices: Touchscreens have brought us into the Minority Report world.
  19. Losing Touch with People: Thanks to Facebook and Twitter, we’re in touch with everyone we ever knew. Or ever will know…
  20. Personal Boundaries: also gone, thanks to Facebook and Twitter. Of course, I think this is more about us learning how to better use these tools than anything else. No one’s forcing you to post that picture of yourself dancing on the tables at the bar last night, ya’ know…
  21. Paper: It’s true. While everyone’s screaming about saving the environment, we’ve managed to eliminate a great deal of the paper in our lives, and it’s becoming moreso every day….
  22. Record Stores: Like the movies, people no longer need to go somewhere else to get their music. It comes to them…

A pretty good list, I think. Your turn to chime in – what did they leave off the list?

Categories: The Future is Now | 5 Comments »

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