Wednesday, January 31, 2007

TV Network Takes Responsibility For 'Hoax Devices'

Perhaps the worst result of the September 11th terrorist attacks, other than the obvious loss of life, is that it has given people an excuse to act like complete and utter pussies. The more I heard about this ridiculous story all day, the more I just wanted to punch someone. There are so many unidentified objects that are encountered everyday that could be or could hold bombs that it's completely ridiculous to treat every one of them like it actually is a bomb. Luckily, we don't do that. We only do it for the objects seen by some freaking paranoid person who reports it to the wrong other paranoid person. What are the chances that a terrorist is going to try and blow some shit up and is going to plant bombs that are mysterious looking electronic devices? My guess is they would actually try to disguise the bomb, maybe put it in a bag of trash and throw it in a trashcan on a busy street, but no, apparently the terrorists we're dealing with get all their ideas from watching cartoons. So everyone be on the look out for bowling ball looking devices with fuses sticking out of them. Actually, I would think by now that terrorist would just give up on blowing shit up and instead adopt a plan to just leave mysterious objects lying around everywhere. Sure, they wouldn't actually hurt anyone, but they'd probably do a hell of a lot more damage to our way of life.

Now, granted that this probably wasn't the best idea for a marketing campaign, but it's only a bad idea in light of the paranoid pussified state that we live in these days.

And what's with all this "hoax devices" shit? What's the hoax exactly? Hoax doesn't just mean that you were mistaken about the true purpose of something, it also requires the intent to deceive you in the first place.

"Public safety officials are all working together. There is no time for anyone to panic. We believe we have the situation in hand. Go about your business," Menino said. "The individuals who placed these packages should be warned that there is a heavy penalty -- two to five years imprisonment for each one of them. We are not playing around."

So, they want to make sure everyone doesn't panic, way to set a fine example. As for penalties, the only people that need to be penalized here are the morons who overreacted in the first place.

I know watching 24 makes you feel like there are terrorists waiting to kill you around every corner, but that simply isn't the case. People need to realize that unknown does not automatically equal suspicious. I'm all for investigating things that are actually suspicious, but there has to be a better reason for labeling it suspicious than someone saw it and didn't know what it was. If that's truly our standard, then there's a whole shitload of stuff out there in the big scary world that we need to be investigating.

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Saturday, January 27, 2007

NFL Predictions Revisited

As I stated in my NFL Predictions at the beginning of the season, now I can look back and see how stupid I was, so here we go.

AFC East - I wasn't ready to believe anyone in this division could dethrone the Patriots, particularly the trendy pick of the Dolphins, so I was right about that. Unfortunately, I also said that the Bills and the Jets both sucked, but obviously the Jets proved me wrong.

AFC North - I wanted to pick the Bengals here, but thankfully, I didn't with Carson Palmer coming off a major injury. Unfortunately, I did pick the Steelers. I did think that with the addition of McNair, Baltimore would be improved, but I didn't think it would be enough to get over the hump. I did correctly predict that Cleveland would blow.

AFC South - I thought the Jaguars would go around 8-8, so I was on the money there, and I also correctly picked the Colts to win the division. I didn't think The Titans would be able to do as well as they did, as much as I was pulling for Vince Young. I knew that the Texans wouldn't be any good and that Mario Williams couldn't hope to compare to Reggie Bush.

AFC West - I did say I liked the Chargers a lot, but didn't pick them with a new starting QB. I had the Chiefs pegged pretty well as being one dimensional, but I didn't see them making the playoffs. Picking the Broncos here looks like my worst pick so far. And I correctly predicted that the Raiders would suck and that Aaron Brooks was a lousy acquisition.

NFC West - I pretty much had this entire division figured out, though I thought Arizona might be a little better and I thought San Francisco would be worse. Otherwise, I pretty much nailed it.

NFC North - I got the winner right here, though I didn't think they would be as good as they were, and I figured the rest of the division would suck which was about right, though I thought Green Bay would probably be worse than they actually were.

NFC South - Though I did think the Saints could be improved, I didn't see them winning the division. I thought Atlanta would be worse than they were, and I thought Carolina would be much better, a pick right up there with the Broncos. I thought the Bucs would be solid, which they obviously weren't.

NFC East - I thought this division would be the best in football, and while it probably wasn't, three of the four teams made the playoffs, so it wasn't too far off with that. I thought the Cowboys would win it, and they really should have, but they collapsed down the stretch. I thought the Eagles would suck, and obviously they didn't. I thought the Redskins would be a lot better than they were, and I was pretty close on the Giants, though I couldn't have predicted how they got there.

AFC Playoffs - I only got two of the playoff teams correct, which is pretty lousy. I also predicted the Steelers would get a bye, so that sucked. Didn't pick either wild care anywhere near correct.

NFC Playoffs - I got four of the playoff teams here, which isn't so bad, though I picked both byes and one of the wild cards incorrectly.

My bonus prediction was the Mets over the Yankess in the World Series, but that was mostly wishful thinking.

Anyway, there you have it, the reasons that I'm not a gambler and don't have my own 900 sports betting line.

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Wednesday, January 17, 2007

Activists angry over f-word shirt

What the fuck is wrong with people? So the word fuck was on TV for five seconds. Who exactly was hurt by this?

...sucker punch from Fox that millions of children and families received...

Oh right, the children. And the families. I guess all those children will begin lives of crime and debauchery despite their fine parents because they saw this horrible word on TV. And those families will now be destroyed as they all try to come to grips with living in a world where the word fuck can be carelessly displayed on a t shirt. This is horrible. What is the world coming to?

I found the following comment on another article about the incident:
was watching the game with my two seven-year old sons, both of whom can read quite well -- and they both asked me what her shirt said. These people don't have the right to inject that into my living room and rub it in my kids' faces.

Ok, so which is it? If your kids can read quite well, why would they need to ask you what it said? And if your kids were actually asking you what it meant, then how is it that FOX is rubbing it in their faces? If they don't know what it means, then it seems difficult for me to believe they'd be at all offended by it. So, if you told them what it means, it's actually you that rubbed it in their faces. When the word was on TV, you had the same choice that you have every other day to either tell your kids what fuck means or not. Anyway, do your kids ask what every word on every shirt shown in the stands of every football game means? Seems like this would get pretty old. If they don't, it seems a little odd that they would pick the one that happens to be profanity to ask you about. Maybe your kids are little smart asses that already know what fuck means, or maybe you're just making the whole thing up.

Seriously, what I'd like to know is how these people managed to even see the game in the first place. How can you see the TV from underneath the bed where all these people surely must spend the majority of their time?

And also, the shirt was right, Fuck the Eagles. Who doesn't hate the Eagles?

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Saturday, January 13, 2007

Due Process?

It's nice to know that the deputy assistant secretary of defense for detainee affairs doesn't believe in the presumption of innocence or due process -

Charles "Cully" Stimson, the deputy assistant secretary of defense for detainee affairs, said in a radio interview last week that companies might want to consider taking their business to firms that do not represent suspected terrorists.


Stimson on Thursday told Federal News Radio, a local commercial station that covers the government, that he found it "shocking" that lawyers at many of the nation's top law firms represent detainees.

Stimson listed the names of more than a dozen major firms he suggested should be boycotted.

"And I think, quite honestly, when corporate CEOs see that those firms are representing the very terrorists who hit their bottom line back in 2001, those CEOs are going to make those law firms choose between representing terrorists or representing reputable firms," Stimson said.

Asked who might be paying the law firms to represent Guantanamo detainees, Stimson hinted at wrongdoing.

"It's not clear, is it? Some will maintain that they're doing it out of the goodness of their heart -- that they're doing it pro bono, and I suspect they are," he said. "Others are receiving monies from who knows where and I'd be curious to have them explain that."

So not only should the detainees not be represented, their lawyers are on the take from Al Qaeda? Is that what he's saying?

Of course, the pentagon has disavowed Stimson's statements, but call me cycnical, it sounds like a case of having their cake and eating it too.

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Friday, January 12, 2007

Art Meme - Chris edition

Ok, I'll take a shot at this since Toast tagged me.

1. Name a book that you want to share so much that you keep giving away copies:

I give books to my parents and John all the time, and vice versa. But there's no one particular book I give away. The question does remind me of the teacher I interned for. She and her husband really liked Robertson Davies' Deptford trilogy and loaned me the first book, Fifth Business. They told me they had loaned out their old copy but never got it back, and so had to buy it again. This was in 1993. I still have their copy Fifth Business, so I guess they had to buy it yet again, and I still haven't read it. Started it several times, but I just couldn't get into it.

2. Name a piece of music that changed the way you listen to music:

I don't know if it changed the way I listen, but there was a CD that captured my rather aimless musical taste and got me pointed firmly in one direction - it was The Premiere Collection: The Best Of Andrew Lloyd Webber. It was this CD that really introduced me to musicals, which now make up the majority of my music collection. I'm sure this is why John tags me as artsy-fartsy.

3. Name a film you can watch again and again without fatigue:

Like John, I could come up with quite a few of these. The one that immediately comes to mind is The Shawshank Redemption. It's funny that Stephen King seems to have a reputation for bad movie adaptations, (yes, there have been some clunkers), yet he has been responsible for several outstanding films. Besides Shawshank, there's Stand By Me, Misery, and The Green Mile to name a few.

And I have to say, although I like Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan, for me, it would get a little old after the first 100 viewings or so.

4. Name a performer for whom you suspend of all disbelief:

Hmmm... I like a lot of different actors and actresses, but no one in particular jumps out for me. By the way, why is it that some many people are using the term actor for females? I don't think that any indication of difference between the sexes is automatically demeaning. I've never thought of actress as inferior to actor. In fact, it seems to me that acting is one place where it's useful to mark the difference in sexes. Some roles can be handled by either sex, but most roles are pretty sex-specific, I would say.

5. Name a work of art you'd like to live with:

There are all kinds of paintings I'd like to have. I've always liked this painting by Dali The Temptaion of St. Anthony. Not for any particular reason other than I just like the way it looks. I'm not very analytical when it comes to art.

6. Name a work of fiction which has penetrated your real life:

I'm sure numerous works of fiction have had some effect on my thinking in small ways, but I can't point to any one book or movie that has actually had a significant impact on my real life.

7. Name a punch line that always makes you laugh:

Mmm, sacrilicious.

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Cool T-Shirt

Since I both love Samuel L. Jackson and hate the word blogoshpere, I might have to get me one of these.

I tried to put in a picture, but Blogger sucks ass, so you'll have to click the link.

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Thursday, January 11, 2007

Art Meme

Toast tagged me with this, so I'll give it a shot even though I think my answers will be even less interesting than my answers to previous memes, since I'm not much of an artsy guy. But Toast also tagged my brother, who is so artsy, he might as well be gay, so expect better answers to follow.

1. Name a book that you want to share so much that you keep giving away copies:

I don't even buy books for myself, much less for anyone else, but if there was something I would hand out, it probably would have been Ender's Game until I found out that Orson Scott Card was a lunatic.

2. Name a piece of music that changed the way you listen to music:

I honestly can't think of one. I'm not much of a music listener. Back in high school I had three tapes that I played over, and over, and over again, though. Liscensed to Ill by The Beastie Boys, ...And Justice for All by Metallica, and Eazy Duz It by Eazy-E, so those probably influenced whatever musical tastes I have more than anything else.

3. Name a film you can watch again and again without fatigue:

Oh, there's a bunch of these. Off the top of my head, Sixteen Candles, Real Genius, Lean on Me, and probably a handful more I can come up with if I thought about it for a while.

4. Name a performer for whom you suspend of all disbelief:

Morgan Freeman, I think he's excellent in everything he does that doesn't also have Ashley Judd.

5. Name a work of art you'd like to live with:

Anything I could chaarge substantial admission for people to come see.

6. Name a work of fiction which has penetrated your real life:

I can't think of anything, I don't really ever look at things that way. I just want to be entertained.

7. Name a punch line that always makes you laugh:

"And you want to be my latex salesman."

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Tuesday, January 09, 2007

Apple's iPhone

So Apple finally unveiled the iPhone today. It looks and sounds very nice. I am curious to see how and if it's going to take off. According to this review at PC Mag, it has an uphill battle.

What does this mean for everyone else in the industry? Not all that much, really. Apple is trying to invent a new niche: the consumer smartphone. It's something Motorola, Samsung and T-Mobile have stabbed at somewhat with the Q, Blackjack, and Dash, but those are serious power-user products; this hopes to replace an iPod as a consumer accessory.

Existing smartphone vendors and operating system developers are mostly focused on either the enterprise market or intense e-mailers/text messagers. The iPhone isn't: It's a multimedia/Web access device.

Apple also isn't playing in the mass market here, the millions of people who don't want to spend more than $100 for a cell phone. This is a niche product, a revolution for the few. Hopefully, the innovations seen here will spread over the next few years so more people can enjoy them.

Fair enough, the trend in cell phones seems to be toward smaller, more powerful smartphones, not PDA-like devices. But after reading this, I did wonder - what did people say about the iPod? And I found this 2001 review -

Analysts offered mixed reactions to the iPod--especially to its $399 price tag.

IDC analyst Bryan Ma said Apple may take some heat for entering the consumer electronics market, which typically has lower profit margins than Apple gets from its computers. But, he added, the iPod could serve an important function: convincing people to buy a Mac instead of a PC.

"It's another incentive for them that can convince people to buy a Mac," Ma said.


Technology Business Research analyst Tim Deal dinged the $399 price as "a little high." But he noted that the iPod's FireWire connectivity allows for faster song downloading than USB. The iPod also sports "a significant battery life and a fast recharge speed," he said.


The iPod is another stab at Sony's success in the consumer market, Deal noted.

"Clearly Apple is following Sony's lead by integrating consumer electronics devices into its marketing strategy, but Apple lacks the richness of Sony's product offering. And introducing new consumer products right now is risky, especially if they cannot be priced attractively," Deal said.

Stephen Baker, an analyst at NPD Intelect, said that the iPod will likely stand out for its large storage capacity but predicted that the device may have trouble digging out a niche in the market.

The most expensive MP3 players that use flash memory sell for around $249 right now, with the average player selling for less. Many are also adding features for playing mini-CDs. Sonicblue's Rio 600, for instance, sells for $199. It comes with 64MB of flash memory for storage. Apple's new device has far more storage--enough for 50 hours of music--but it costs twice as much.

The iPod has "good features, but this is a pretty competitive category," Baker said. "The question is whether people want that robust of a feature set with that high of a price."

What I take away from this is that we can pretty much ignore most of what "industry analysts" have to say.

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Thursday, January 04, 2007

Check your voice mail!

Let's say you missed a call or two on your cell phone, for whatever reason. You check your phone and you see the missed calls and a voice mail icon. DO NOT immediately call the person you missed. Check your voice mail first. I hate leaving a detailed voice mail message and then having to repeat the whole thing because the person I called didn't listen to it. But it's happened so many times, that I've started to leave nothing more than a quick "Call me". Why waste my time? As a corollary, if you missed a call yesterday, or even a few hours ago, and there aren't any voicemails or further calls from that same number/person, DO NOT call them and say "Hey, I saw you called me?". If I didn't leave a message or call you back, it almost always means that it was nothing important, or I had something to talk to you about at the time I called. This concludes today's lesson on cell phone manners.

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The Zune - A review

I decided I wanted to get a hard-drive video/music player so I put a Zune on my Christmas list this year. My wife obliged and I'm now the proud owner of a brown Zune. So why a Zune and not a video ipod? One reason is that I have over 5000 songs in wma format, and I don't want to re-rip everything in mp3 format. For another, the main reason I wanted one of these wasn't to cart my music library around, but to play videos, and I liked the larger screen. Yes, I know it has the same resolution as the smaller video ipod screen, but at that size, I'd rather have the extra half inch than a slightly sharper picture. And last, I'm intrigued by the wireless capability. As everyone who's interested in this kind of thing already knows, it's basically useless for the time being, as the wifi can only connect to other Zunes to do that song sharing thing (I refuse to call it squirting). But that's a software limitation, and I fully expect it to be fully enabled either officially by Microsoft, or by a hacker.

If you're looking for reviews and opinions online about the Zune, it's hard to get past people's bias. There's so much existing antipathy toward Microsoft, especially from the hardcore ipod crowd, it's hard to get an honest opinion. I am neither a lover or hater of either Microsoft or Apple. I just want what works best for me. I have held and played with my niece's video ipod for a few minutes, but I've never owned or used any kind of ipod, so I don't have any ipod bias. So here we go.

There are basically two parts to the Zune, the software on the pc and the device itself.

The software - It blows. There's really no other way to say it. It takes for-fucking-ever to install. I've installed it on 4 different pcs and it took as much as an hour on each one. And if that's not bad enough, on some pcs you first have to install an update to the Microsoft update software itself. And after you install the Zune software, guess what - that's right, you have to restart the pc. Now look, I use a lot of Microsoft software, and I have no problem with a lot of it, but so far the Zune software is like a bad parody of all the problems with Microsoft bloatware. It's slow, it insinuates itself all over your pc without telling you, it locks up.

Ok, after it finally installs and it's running, how does it work? Well, again, it's slow. It takes a long time to connect to the Zune and a long time to browse once you've got content. The interface is kind of confusing, although not bad-looking. And, of course, it's the only way to get stuff onto the Zune. One bright spot, when syncing supported file types, it's very fast. I can get several gigabytes of wmv video loaded in a couple of minutes. But rather than creating a whole new bloated software product, they should have just created a Zune plug-in for Windows media Player, which I actually like and use all the time.

A couple of notable missing features from the software - it doesn't support Microsoft's exisitng DRM. How stupid is that? It doesn't really make a difference for me since I refuse to buy music with DRM, but it's just an example of what makes people hate Microsoft. Another bigger problem, it doesn't let you use it as a portable hard drive. Yes, there are registry settings you can edit, but even then, it's difficult and slow. So overall, I give the Zune software a big fat F.

The device - As I mentioned above, I have the brown Zune. I like it. It's different but not flashy. It only looks like poop to the Microsoft haters. I like the rubbery feel of it and the simple design, which is obviously influenced by the ipod, as is almost every media player on the market today. The round wheel is not a touch click wheel, but it's easy to use. The screen is big and bright and the picture is plenty sharp. The volume is also good. The main reason I got this was to watch tv shows while I'm on the treadmill at the gym. It works great for that. It was easy to see the picture and to hear the sound. Operation of the software on the device is easy. There's a simple menu, the device responds quickly and the video plays smoothly. I also fooled around with the FM radio and it's also easy to use and sounds great.

The biggest problems with the device - as I mentioned, the crippled wifi. If Microsoft enables this, it could actually drive some people to buy it over the ipod. Imagine if you could connect to the internet and download songs and video on the go and sync wirelessly with your pc. Second, there doesn't seem to be any way to manage content on the device directly. Maybe I haven't found it yet. There's no reason I shouldn't be able to delete files, move stuff into different folders and create playlists on the device itself. That wouldn't be as big a deal if I didn't have to deal with the shitty Zune software. I give the device a B+.

Overall, I would say I like the Zune itself, but I hate the software. If you do try to cut through all the BS on the web, I think this is what you'll find. It's certainly not going to make most people want a Zune over an ipod. By the time I'm ready for a new device, if they haven't fixed some of these problems, I'll definitely be buying something else. Until then, I'm content to enjoy the good things and try to work with the bad.

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Tuesday, January 02, 2007

House of Pain

I haven't been posting much lately, and the main reason is that I've been pretty busy. I don't know if I ever mentioned this, but we were selling our house and moving. Shortly (and I mean very shortly) before Christmas, we finally closed and I am relieved to no longer be burdened by the duties of home ownership. Everything is great now, but jesus, what an incredibly stressful process. Next time I buy a house, I want to make sure it's one we want to live in forever because selling a house really sucks. All in all, we ended up doing pretty well, putting it on the market and getting it sold in a total of about three months. But boy was it a pain in the ass in between. We had a very long closing, which was a bad idea, since it meant more time for things to go wrong, including the buyers' loan falling through the day before closing. And on top of all that stress, we had to find a place to live and move. Luckily a friend of mine was renting a house that we always loved anyway, so that worked out well. We had a great realtor (Rebecca Kitkowski from Re/max), without whom, the whole thing probably would have blown up a couple of times. Anyway, we're happily settled in our new home (where if anything breaks, I can call someone else to deal with it), so maybe I'll start posting more often now.

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