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Archive for May, 2005

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Primetime TV update #2

Friday, May 20th, 2005

(SPOILER WARNING: If you haven’t seen The Apprentice or ER finales, stop reading now).

The Apprentice: Redemption is mine! Tana got crushed, and for precisely the reason I stated. Kudos to her for coralling the team after she saw how bad she looked on air & trying the contrite apology thing, but that was a dead end all the way. Also, kudos to Donald Trump for telling Kendra that crying at work is over the top (and then for hiring her anyway).

Did anyone notice, by the way, that The Donald was extremely awkward and unsure of himself as the host of a live TV show? Last year, they had Regis Philbin around to gloss over the awkward moments (like when Trump’s CFO was literally speechless on camera). Last night, Trump looked uncomfortable and the show never really built to a fever pitch.

And what’s up with Martha Stewart? Apparently, this was announced back in February. I completely missed it, and haven’t heard about it since. I’m also amazed (and quite happy) that they didn’t plug it each & every week during this season.

As for ER, this was one of those interesting shows that provides a break between the “formula” shows. The transition from Noah Wylie to the new cast was excellent, as were the callbacks to the old cast members (very subtle – not too schmaltzy). The cliffhanger was a good one too. Yet again, another season awaits. I’m feeling pretty good about my prediction…

Categories: Primetime TV | No Comments »

A Palm in your hand is worth er, well…nevermind

Friday, May 20th, 2005

Some months ago, I bought this as part of my ongoing PDA upgrade process (wherein my wife’s PDA becomes unusable, and I buy a cool new one for myself and give her my old one).

At the time, it’s “wow” features were the huge 320×480 display, the ability to display in landscape orientation, the MP3 playing functionality, and the whopping 256MB of storage, which could be used like a USB drive, without all that nasty synching. The complaints were the lack of WiFi, and the lack of voice recording capability.

Yesterday, a friend sent me this link. Almost as if by magic, WiFi and voice recording are here. Not only that, we’re talking about 4GB of storage. One could not only digitize their photo collection, but carry the whole thing around with them at all times.

It’s great to see innovation at work, but I probably won’t upgrade right now. I don’t need the voice recorder, I’m not using anywhere near the 256MB I have, and the WiFi card for the Tungsten T5 is only $100. Including the $350 I spent on the device, that’s still cheaper than the $500 they want for the LifeDrive. (This seems to be a theme, by the way, since they’re offering a free WiFi card with the purchase of a T5 right now. I guess you’re basically paying $150 for a voice recorder and 3.75GB of memory…)

Categories: Tech Talk | No Comments »

Newsweek – Weak news

Tuesday, May 17th, 2005

I was going to say something about this yesterday, but held my tongue (fingers?) since it all seemed to be a lot of posturing on all sides. After doing some more reading on the subject, though, here are a few thoughts:

First of all, Newsweek didn’t cause the death of anyone if Afghanistan. What they did was provide a spark that some seriously crazy killers used to incite anger and fan it into violent rage. Let’s always remember that it was the killers who caused the death, not Newsweek. Blaming them for these deaths is akin to blaming George Bush for the September 11th attacks.

That’s not to say that Newsweek didn’t do anything wrong here. Their first mistake, of course, was printing something that they couldn’t confirm to be true. That’s just bad journalism, and whether it incites terrorists, sways elections, or ruins reputations, it’s still a bad (and easily avoidable) move.

Their second mistake is a bit more subtle, and also more endemic to today’s media: they jumped on a bandwagon and underestimated the consequences of their actions. There’s no doubt in my mind that had the Abu Ghraib scandal not occurred, this story would never have been printed. “Abuse by American Guards” is a hot story right now. It has “legs.” Someone at Newsweek heard an accusation about mistreating the Koran, and saw an opportunity to play “gotcha.”

The problem here is that media is cheaper and more global than it’s ever been before. They can read Newsweek in Afghanistan now. They have CNN and BBC in Iraq. Anti-war protests are visible to our enemies. Our media still has an obligation to report the facts and investigate the news, but we need to be prepared to face the full consequences of the free press we hold so dear.

In the first Gulf War, the Iraqi army seemed to fold up at the very sight of American troops. This time around, they fought back. I firmly believe the news coverage of the war protests and the various commentators who called the U.S. and the President “evil” had a lot to do with this. Our enemy, who had been too scared to fight 12 years earlier, had been enboldened by the appearance of a divided America – an America that appeared unsure of its commitment to the fight. Soldiers probably watched 250,000 people marching in Times Square and figured that some percentage of the American soldiers in Baghdad would surrender or run when the fighting got hot.

As they say, freedom isn’t free. We should never stop expressing our opinions, but we have to take our heads out of the sand and understand what happens when we do. Our actions have more consequences today than they used to.

Categories: News and/or Media | 4 Comments »

Primetime TV update

Monday, May 16th, 2005

(Spoiler warning – if you taped Survivor & haven’t watched it yet, stop reading now)

OK, so I’m 0-1. I was right about Katie voting for Jen, but I had not counted on Ian falling on his own sword like that. Those friendships will have an interesting dynamic from now on, huh? Can you imagine:

Ian: Tom, can you come over tomorrow & help me move this sofa?
Tom: Sorry, tomorrow’s really inconvenient for me.
Ian: Giving up a million bucks was pretty inconvient for me too – be here at 10…

Good luck guys…

Categories: Primetime TV | No Comments »

Primetime TV Wrap Up

Friday, May 13th, 2005

On a lighter note, some thoughts on all the primetime shows that are wrapping up in May. I know, I know – this is such a colossal waste of time. Remember, the blog’s called “I Should Be Sleeping.” Here’s some of the reason why…

Survivor: Katie showed her loyalty to Ian, which means that Jen is toast next week unless she wins immunity. Of the Tom, Ian, Katie final three, both Katie and Tom will likely take Ian to the final two if the choice is theirs, since they’ll figure Ian is the weakest in the jury’s eyes. If it’s Ian’s choice, I think he takes Katie, based on that tear-fest over dinner & a car ride. Assuming it’s true that the jury is anti-Ian, that means Katie’s got a 2 in 3 shot at this, and Tom has a 1 in 3 shot. Prediction: Katie

American Idol: A pretty even final three (and unlike last year, the right three). I think next week’s a crapshoot, but if I had to predict, I’d say Vonzell goes home. The finale’s going to turn into another Rueben/Clay thing, where regardless of who wins, they both become stars. Bo’s the better performer. Carrie has a face made for television. Prediction: Bo (but it doesn’t really matter)

The Amazing Race: OK, everyone got what they wanted. Uchenna and Joyce got the money they needed for in vitro, and Rob & Amber got a 16-week promo for their televised wedding. Those two are fun to watch – they’re going to make a living for the next few years just being Rob & Amber.

The Apprentice: Tana’s very creative, but she writes people off too quickly and disrespects them to others. Nothing makes people trust you less than to hear you badmouth others behind their backs. Kendra’s strikes me as too young and emotional, but could probably grow into the job. Prediction: Kendra

Two side notes, though: First, the whole Book Smarts vs. Street Smarts thing is a crock. I can find you a set of 10 high school graduates and 10 college graduates where I’d rather work with the high schoolers, and I can find you a set where I’d rather work with the college grads. It’s about the individuals, not the categories. Second, there have got to be better folks out there to work for than Donald Trump, no?

Joey: Joey kissing Alex smelled an awful lot like shark-jumping to me. It’s so clearly an attempt to generate the same “Ross kissed Rachel” vibe they had with Friends, and it so clearly shows how good the writing was on the previous show. Don’t get me wrong, I like “Joey,” but they should have ridden this a little longer. Prediction: Look for Friends cameos early next season

ER: Farewell, Noah Wylie. This show’s been on its last legs for years. It’s three or four formula shows in a row (doctor breaks the rules out of a moral obligation & gets away with it; doctor makes a romantic relationship more complicated than it needs to be; doctor kills a patient and questions his/her reason for living – take your pick), followed by a truly interesting show. I keep watching for the interesting ones, but most weeks, I walk away shaking my head. Prediction: Another year of “This is the show’s last year” predictions

Categories: Primetime TV | No Comments »

Rule #1 – Somebody Tell George

Friday, May 13th, 2005

One of my biggest pet peeves is government officials telling us something that isn’t true with a straight face, and fully expecting us to believe it:

White House defends not telling Bush of scare – Yahoo! News

White House spokesman Scott McClellan said the Secret Service followed proper procedures and did not need to tell Bush immediately about the incident because the president was not in danger and the situation was defused in a matter of minutes.

Mr. McClellan: The president wasn’t in danger because the Cessna that was 3 miles from the White House wasn’t carrying a dirty bomb, or crop dusting equipment filled with anthrax, or a pilot with a death wish.

I realize that in a crisis, the President doesn’t sit in the oval office with a headset on, directing the precise movements of everyone under his command. I realize that had he been informed, he likely wouldn’t have done anything in particular. And I realize that the people who’s job it is to actually deal with this type of situation did so in exactly the right manner.

All of this is very reassuring, but for the fact that this obviously could have turned into something that required the President’s direction in a moment’s notice. And if that happened, these 40 minutes would have been tacked right on the end of the first 7 minutes of the September 11th disaster, when Bush portrayed confidence to the news media rather than running off to a command post to watch TV like the rest of us…

I know he’d never slam one of his own in public, but I’m hoping that privately, Bush is extremely pissed off, and whoever made the decision to keep him in the dark is looking for a job right now.

Categories: Political Rantings | No Comments »

Google obtains Big Bad Wolf status

Wednesday, May 11th, 2005

Fred Wilson (link via Jeff Jarvis) wonders if Google has gotten too big.

This is an old tale indeed. When a small company comes out of nowhere to dominate a space, they’re living the American dream. When they get hyper-successful, though, they become giant, evil corporations.

Look at AOL. In the early 1900′s, AOL was the internet’s savior – easy to use, a logical way to pull together existing content, enough heft to draw the big names, etc. As their growth exploded, though, they became known for the “newbie” nature of their members, their agressive marketing campaigns, their network outages, and finally, their sagging stock price.

Microsoft is another example. Bill Gates was a hero in the early 1990′s (think back to Windows 3.1, the first version of Windows that really made it big). Today, of course, Microsoft is responsible for every bad thing on the planet, with the possible exception of world hunger.

It’s jealousy, I tell ya – simple jealousy.

As for Google: I used to hear it referred to as “God’s Mind.” Then the company went public and the founders got stinkin’ rich. And almost instantly it started: Gmail was serving ads based on e-mail content, which was an invasion of privacy. AutoFill was giving certain vendors (like Amazon) preferrential treatment, and was violating copyright ethics by modifying an author’s content without his/her permission. Accelerator is “caching the internet,” a double whammy in that it both captures the web surfing habits of individuals and creates a “walled off community” like AOL did. Isn’t it amazing that none of these problems existed when the company was a “small, privately held firm?”

I’m a big fan of Google (and, full disclosure, a stockholder) because their innovations almost always seem to be based on new and innovative techology. The PageRank system revolutionized search, and has yet to be fully duplicated to my knowledge. GoogleNews’ aggregation concept is a novel one, as is Google Scholar, Google Suggest and others.

The companies from the dotcom bubble days that succeeded (and yes, some of them did) were all characterized with good technology & good implementation first, and good marketing & hype second. IMHO, Google still has that going for it.

Categories: Tech Talk | No Comments »

Gary Hart on Iraq

Tuesday, May 10th, 2005

Gary Hart – IRAQ: Exit or Empire?

Though the press has been unaccountably lax in pursuing this question, the best evidence, mostly from non-”mainstream” sources, is that we are building somewhere between 12 and 14 permanent military bases.

If the goal . . . was to overthrow Saddam Hussein, install a friendly government in Baghdad, set up a permanent political and military presence in Iraq, and dominate the behavior of the region (including securing oil supplies), then you build permanent bases for some kind of permanent American military presence. If the goal was to spread democracy and freedom, then you don’t.

Interesting theory, senator. Are you suggesting, then, that we did not spread democracy and freedom in Germany, South Korea, or Bosnia? After all, we still have troops in all of those places.

Once Iraq is on its feet & functioning as a independent nation, they will likely be a strong ally of the United States. Many, including, I presume, Senator Hart, will see this as American puppeteering. I see it as a reasonable expectation on our part. And having some small number of American troops in that very volatile and strategic part of the world is not only in our best interests, but it is not mutually exclusive with spreading democracy and freedom in Iraq.

Categories: Political Rantings | 2 Comments »

More about Technorati

Monday, May 9th, 2005

Jeff Porten asked in the comments about how Technorati works:

I note that I’m now in Technorati thanks to your blogroll. Never did understand that place, so if you could elucidate in a future post, much appreciated.

I had no idea, but I did a little digging on the site…

The best page to start with is this one: Technorati: FAQ.

Basically, it talks about how you can register your blog with Technorati, which indexes it in the Technorati database, so when you search for a keyword, you’re only searching the blogosphere (plus any RSS feeds that have registered). It’s basically a blog-specific Google.

As for why Jeff wasn’t in Technorati before I started my blog, here’s what I believe happened: My blog is hosted by Blogger. When I set up the blog, it asked me “Add your Blog to our listings?” to which I said yes (heck – you get publicity where you can when you’re just starting out, right?) Anyway, it seems that answering yes to this question causes blogger to “ping” Technorati (see this), which automatically registers the blog. Once I’m registered, then all of the content on my blog is indexed (including, it would seem, my blogroll). So if you search for www.jeffporten.com, you get a hit from me.

I hasten to add, though, that Jeff’s blog is still not registered on Technorati (that is, I did a few searches on text strings from his recent posts, and they did not return entries from his blog). So Jeff, go to this page, and follow the instructions to ping Technorati with your URL. Then we’ll all be part of that big, happy family. <sniff…>

Categories: Blogging about Blogs | No Comments »

NYTimes, Heal Thyself

Monday, May 9th, 2005

Kudos to the New York Times for this:

Times Panel Proposes Steps to Build Credibility – New York Times

In order to build readers’ confidence, an internal committee at The New York Times has recommended taking a variety of steps, including having senior editors write more regularly about the workings of the paper, tracking errors in a systematic way and responding more assertively to the paper’s critics.

I think all of these are good things. As someone who doesn’t believe I have the facts straight until I’ve read at least two accounts of something, any discussion of how the author reached his conclusions can only help to identify biases (both in the author’s writing and in the critics’ complaints about the writing). A discussion about how & when errors were made (including a dressing down of people who wrongly criticize an article) also tends to clarify the facts – typically by proving that the mistake wasn’t as sinister/politically motivated as many would have us believe.

I’ll also note that blogging is noticeably absent from the list of recommended improvements. It says the Times “should make it easier for readers to send e-mail to reporters and editors,” which reads to me as a tacit rejection of allowing reporters to blog, or establishing an official blogging strategy for the paper. E-mail, after all, is so 20th century…


UPDATE! Jeff Jarvis points out that the dead-tree edition listed several recommendations, including the idea of starting a “Times blog.” Odd that they’d leave that part out of the online edition, huh?

Also, the full report from the committee is now available online here.

Categories: News and/or Media | No Comments »

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