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"The only blog we have to fear is blog itself."
Sunday, January 30, 2005
|Pope Loses Battle With Peace-Symbol Dove:|
Pope John Paul II shooed a dove — a symbol of peace — out his apartment window Sunday, chuckling with children who watched in delight as the bird flew back into his room overlooking St. Peter's Square.... The white birds, perhaps alarmed by Rome's unusual cold spell, almost immediately darted back into his studio.
|Hot on the heels of the MPAA-funded Junior Achievement program "What's the Diff?" program to indoctrinate Our Digital Youths on copyrights, illegal downloading, and how notions of "fair use" are Communist in origin, the Motion Picture Association of America is now bringing their resources to bear on helping parents. Software has been created to allow parents to ferret out filesharing programs and illegal files on their children's computers (or, "'puters," as the kids say).
Unfortunately, however, the program has no way of determining whether such files are illegal. On my own computer, I've helpfully created a folder for this material named "My Illegal Filez" to assist in the effort should someone scan my computer. So the program, called Parent File Scan, returns ALL media files--including Windows' own event sounds--as potentially illegal. This will be extremely helpful to parents (or "'rents," as the kids say).
The program itself apparently does frequently disclaim this legal/illegal confusion by stating:
The program does not distinguish between legal and illegal copies. It is up to the user to determine whether the files found by the program have been acquired legally, or if the material should be deleted.It also may not even be able to delete the P2P applications it discovers. So what good is this software? It sounds like a bid to get parents to delete everything on their childrens' computers' hard drive in the interest of being "better safe than sorry." This sounds like an initiative by morons, for morons (or "'rons," as the kids say).
|RESEARCHERS MAP THE SEXUAL NETWORK OF AN ENTIRE HIGH SCHOOL:|
For the first time, sociologists have mapped the romantic and sexual relationships of an entire high school over 18 months, providing evidence that these adolescent networks may be structured differently than researchers previously thought.According to the researchers' data, "Slightly more than half of all students reported having sexual intercourse, a rate comparable to the national average."
I can't help but wonder whether they correct this sample for all the lying? (and I don't mean of the supine variety)
I have purchased your TurboTax software in the past. However, I just read about your Sunset provisions on older Quicken products, which disables functional older versions of software to force users to purchase upgrades.Just sent.
Saturday, January 29, 2005
|From a 1/28 post on A Star From Mosul (the pseudonymous blog of Najma, an Iraqi teenage girl):|
They're announcing on Mosul TV that the names of the people in the lists of the elections will be announced soon! Imagine, you have elections, you have 3 days till the elections, and you still don't know who you're going to vote for! I don't know, is this really abnormal? Or am I a little confused?Always a fascinating read. You can find other blogs from ordinary Iraqis on the blogroll here.
Dr. Rubin said that if criminals did eventually duplicate his students' work, people could block eavesdroppers by keeping the key or Speedpass token in a tinfoil sheath when not in use.So says Aviel Rubin, professor of computer science at Johns Hopkins, who led a team which cracked a cryptographic system in some car keys.
All that would be required to steal a car, the researchers said, is a moment next to the car owner to extract data from the key, less than an hour of computing, and a few minutes to break in, feed the key code to the car and hot-wire it.We'll see.
|Monkeys Pay to See Female Monkey Bottoms:|
A new study found that male monkeys will give up their juice rewards in order to ogle pictures of female monkey's bottoms. The way the experiment was set up, the act is akin to paying for the images, the researchers say.Wonder what the religious right will make of this experiment. Denounce it as a perversion and an abomination perhaps.
Friday, January 28, 2005
|There's appears to be a settlement in a class action lawsuit against MGM about certain widescreen DVDs. The films apparently had a slightly different aspect ratio on the DVD than the theatrical version, despite the DVDs clearly saying on the box "theatrical release version."
As the complaint states, "[C]ertain representations on the label and package insert of MGM's widescreen DVDs are false and misleading because MGM's widescreen DVDs for films shot in the 1.85 to 1 aspect ratio have the same image width as MGM's standard screen format DVDs."
Naturally, MGM denies this, asserting that "MGM's widescreen DVDs are not defective or lacking in quality in any respect."
They are, however, settling the suit. See a list of affected DVDs here (.pdf) or look at a plaintext list in comments to this post.
Affected DVDs include many Woody Allen films, a handful of Bond movies, and popular fare like Silence of the Lambs, The Terminator, and This Is Spinal Tap (I have 7 of them; I have 3 others, but fortunately, they're the Criterion editions and not the MGM release).
According to the terms of the settlement, if you have any of the afffected DVDs can get either a new MGM DVD from a list of 325 titles (no idea, though, which DVDs are on the list) or a cash refund of $7.10.
To participate, you must call the Claims Administrator at 1-800-285-2168. If eligible, they'll send a Proof of Claim Form, the list of MGM DVD titles and a postage pre-paid mailing label to return the Proof of Claim Form and each eligible DVD.
For more info, see the the settlement website.
|First Brad & Jen, and now another A-list Hollywood couple!
I don't believe in nuthin' no more!
Thursday, January 27, 2005
|Why do you get bitten so much by mosquitos? Because you're smelly, Jack! Or, perhaps, you ain't smelly enough:|
James Logan, a research student at the BBSRC-sponsored institute Rothamsted Research in Hertfordshire, has found that some people give off "masking" odours that prevent mosquitoes from finding them. His research builds on earlier studies on cattle at Rothamsted Research, led by Professor John Pickett, which showed that the number of flies on a herd depended on certain cows being present. The scientists found these key unattractive individuals gave out different chemical signals from the other cows. When these individuals were moved to another field the number of flies afflicting the herd increased.And shall I just say that that is one lousy volunteer position. But, hey--all in the name of science, right?
|Has The Onion taken over the web? So much news reads like a joke today.
An Oklahoma senator hopes to revive cockfighting in the state by putting tiny boxing gloves on the roosters instead of razors.Oh, okay, if you can assign an amount ascribed to "lost business," it must be a good idea to bring it back. You know, for the local economy.
Hey--illegal drugs are a billion dollar industry! Why not legalize these? You know, for the local economy.
"The Rev. John H. Thomas, general minister and president of the UCC, welcomes SpongeBob Squarepants to the UCC's national offices in Cleveland. [January 2005] Randy Varcho/UCC Photo"
The UCC is the United Church of Christ. This is rather odd. And there's a whole photo diary of SpongeBob's visit to the church. One of the photos is captioned "Jesus didn't turn people away. Neither do we." Perhaps they're unaware that rather than a person, SpongeBob is a cartoon sponge.
Wednesday, January 26, 2005
|The FCC just rejected (.doc) 36 complaints by the Parents Television Council alleging various television programs featured indecent material. The Simpsons was among the targets, for the episode "The President Wore Pearls" from November 16, 2003 (the plot features Lisa running against Nelson for class president).
Material cited by the PTC (.doc) include a scene depicting students carrying picket signs that read "Don’t cut off my pianissimo" and "What would Jesus glue?" and a Otto stating "Well, I guess this story has a happy ending after all. Just like my last massage."
I guess they chose to ignore other picket signs ("Flunk Me? Flunk you!" and "Don't take away our balls") which, like "Don’t cut off my pianissimo" and the Otto quote, are double entendres specifically crafted ostensibly to have plausible deniability. Yes, they sound naughty but they have an innocent meaning--and that makes them not actionable by the FCC.
And by citing "What would Jesus glue?" in their complaint, please be reminded that these groups wish to attack heretics in addition to the dirty-minded. The PTC's official "review" of The Simpsons cautions viewers that the show ridicules religion (in addition to educators and law enforcement officials). Which is fine--caution all you want, but don't ask the government to intervene on behalf of religious sensibilities.
But, unfortunately, it's not just the pious offended who want the FCC to step in. Some want the FCC to act in cases of mere bad taste:
A New York radio station apologized on Monday for repeatedly airing a joke song that ridiculed victims of the recent tsunami in South Asia and used racial slurs, saying the piece was in poor taste.Um, mere obnoxiousness--no matter how extreme--is outside of the FCC's oversight unless the material gets into sexual or excretory functions.
Hollywood legend Dustin Hoffman has hit out at the quality of current films and theatre productions.Fox Music president Robert Kraft:
"After the success of 'Titanic,' soundtrack albums were made for every film, and songs were crow-barred into films," Robert Kraft said during a panel discussion at the Midem music market. "Soundtracks were bogus. Songs are often just marketing vehicles, and the music gets forgotten. The music must serve the film."It started with Titanic? Hmmm...
Tuesday, January 25, 2005
|I just read an AP article that was a little bizarre. The second paragraph of "Industry Aims to Deliver Music Everywhere" states:|
A generation after the birth of portable tunes on the Walkman, technology has made music available nearly everywhere for today's on-the-go consumer — and the recording industry sees a new wave to ride.Surely the 1950s transistor radio marks the mainstream "birth of portable tunes." Is the intended meaning actually the "birth of user-selected portable tunes"? Perhaps I'm being a little nitpicky on this point, so let's move to another paragraph.
Music industry veterans admit the Internet has democratized music, offering consumers the chance to be selective about songs without having the middleman of a record company producer decide for them.Umm, exactly how does a "record company producer" decide music for listeners? Okay, let's grant that in some pop music the producer chooses the material and sequences the songs on the album, but these decisions are most often made by the artists these days.
Still nitpicky? Maybe.
I'll skip the phrase "fitful on-stage antics" to describe The Who, and move to this quote:
"It's become a trilogy: Elvis, the Beatles, the iPod — that should really be a band in that third spot," said Dean Hill, an artist manager who runs the Web site www.tourdates.co.uk. "The next revolution's not in bands anymore, and I find that quite sad."Wow, just what does this quote mean? I mean, I'm pretty sure I understand the underlying intent, but "Elvis, the Beatles, the iPod"? Huh? And if one is to include changes in technology in this list--like the iPod--isn't the aforementioned Walkman noteworthy enough to go into that 30-some year gap between The Beatles and the iPod? Or maybe Nirvana?
"The most fundamental change is that people are experiencing this (music) without being tethered to a phonograph, a PC or a laptop," said [Ralph] Simon, who represents acts like U2, Justin Timberlake and Shania Twain.Whoa! Didn't we already establish that the "birth of portable tunes" happened a long time ago, regardless of whether through the Walkman or the transistor radio?
Finally the article concludes:
"A compact disc is a bit like a Kleenex these days: You take it, use it and throw it away. Finished. On to other things," [bassist for French rock band 'Leon' Manu] Fleury said.Hey, who's throwing away all these CDs? Huh?
Sometimes you just read something and scratch your head. I'll just assume it was due to a looming deadline and half a bottle of bourbon.
Sunday, January 23, 2005
|It looks like I'll be spending a lot of time this June in a place called San Andreas. Although it was previous suggested that Grand Theft Auto: San Andreas wasn't to be released for the PC until the 3rd quarter of '05, I just realized that a June 7th release date has been announced.
I strongly recommend this game to anybody with a PC that can handle it, based solely on the game's predecessors. Personally, I can't wait.
|So I was on vacation in Florida this past week (I'll be posting photos from the Burt Reynolds Museum soon), and set to travel home yesterday. By chance it happened to be Blizzard Day. That'll school me for not checking my Farmer's Almanac.
My first flight was cancelled. The day marked several "firsts" for me--I was rejected by a check-in kiosk and then got an itinerary card I've never seen before marked "Interrupted Travel for Sauter/Michael."
And it was the first time I've ever shared an airplane with Jesus Christ.
On the second flight, I had a layover in Atlanta. Shortly before the 767's descent, a guy about 5 or 6 rows behind me decided he was Jesus Christ. Seriously. He spread his arms wide and began bellowing "I am Christ! I am Jesus Christ!"
The flight attendants managed to calm him down, and paramedics met the plane at the gate. Particularly oddly, the when the man was being taken off the plane he turned around and addressed the cabin: "Sorry, everybody! I had no idea I was going to become Jesus Christ."
The guy appeared normal; he looked clean-cut and the opposite of any clichéd wild-eyed lunatic. It made the episode all the more disconcerting. As the woman sitting next to me pointed out, "Ted Bundy was a good-looking guy, too." Another passenger said he was just bracing himself for action in case the guy made a dash for the cockpit.
Strange days, indeed.
I was almost relieved when the only other issue was merely trying to convert the vehicle-sized ice sculpture back into my car in the 13 degree airport parking lot.
Saturday, January 22, 2005
|Bill Gates, during a BBC interview, on an all-media PC system:|
People don't want lots and lots of single purpose devices. They do not want to have to learn how to set up something for photos, another thing for music, another thing for video. And you do want the richness, the graphics that only the PC can provide. Now we need to make it very easy to setup, we need to show this kind of simple user interface can be provided there. The PC has more software, more competition, more richness than anything else. So making it simple and rich, that means the PC will be the key device.Hmm. I guess you can't really refute a statement that the PC has more software than, say, a TV or a radio.
It also doesn't really mean a damn thing.
While Gates may be correct that most people don't want a steep learning curve with each new media device they own--just as they get frustrated with a separate remote control for every such item--but he's completely ignoring another important observation.
Single purpose devices are engineered for obvious operation. Look for the "on" button and press, and the device takes over from there. Sure, you might need a digital Sherpa to climb the learning curve for advanced features, but basic use is designed to be so simple even the proverbial child can (and probably will) operate it.
Devices such as the PC can never be this way, precisely because they are engineered to be user-definable. My PC is frequently used to listen to, record, and edit audio, while perhaps my father's PC manages his money. Even if they're the same make and model of PC, each is extremely customized based on user needs.
It sounds like wishful thinking to want the PC to be both. "So making it simple and rich, that means the PC will be the key device," saith Gates. Simple and rich?
Can we look also forward to cars that are luxury models and affordable, food that is spicy and mild, and movie that are grittily realistic and family-friendly?
Friday, January 21, 2005
|'I don't like Monday 24 January':|
Misery is expected to peak on Monday, as 24 January has been pinpointed as the worst day of the year.You just have to be impressed by such a calculation, even if it could be about as accurate as a horoscope.
This is interesting news for us in Pittburgh, as the Steelers take on the Patriots Sunday night. The city's either in for an exceptionally bad "worst" day, or a joyful day completely smashing the misery formula.
Thursday, January 20, 2005
|All-Mom Bands Rock the House and Cradle:|
They're housewives, workaholics, PTA members and ... rock stars? Women fighting to shatter the stay-at-home-mom stereotype and rediscover their youthful voice are forming bands, such as Housewives on Prozac in suburban New York, Frump in Dallas and Placenta in Oakland, Calif.I guess this is the delayed reaction to bands like the nine-year-old combo Old Skull.
Frump has a website. More info on Housewives on Prozac. Sorry, I refuse to google Placenta.
Friday, January 14, 2005
|Union fights for Mexican Simpsons:|
The actors who voice The Simpsons for Mexican TV are involved in a dispute over the use of non-union labour.Wow. Bedding down with the characters? That's rather an odd way of phrasing it.
Thanks to Robin for the story tip.
"But it now appears the warming from greenhouse gases has been offset by a strong cooling effect from dimming - in effect two of our pollutants have been cancelling each other out."Gee, what a great solution! Solve global warming with a different byproduct of pollution.
The offsetting problem to global warming appears to be a dimming of the sun caused by pollutants in the atmosphere:
We are all seeing rather less of the Sun, according to scientists who have been looking at five decades of sunlight measurements.The dimming might be affecting climate on its own, but it also might be keeping the real near-term global warming threat cloaked:
"We're going to be in a situation unless we act where the cooling pollutant is dropping off while the warming pollutant is going up.Well, that's just charming.
Thursday, January 13, 2005
|Wikipedia Faces Growing Pains:|
Since its birth in 2001, Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia from the Wikimedia Foundation, has grown to include more than 1.1 million entries. The English-language version alone has nearly 444,000 entries, all written for no compensation by members of the Wikipedia community.The central strength of any wiki, those online collaboarative information tools, is also its primary danger: anyone can contribute. Like the Dolby noise reduction system in audio, the collective wisdom of the group has to be raised to greater than the unwanted "noise" of bad actors or self-important dumb people for the wiki to be useful.
Given a large enough pool of contributors, this should be the case. But this article implies an interesting point: when a wiki gets as large as the Wikipedia, fringe or specialized areas of knowledge almost function as a small wiki and the signal-to-noise ratio might not clear the threshold.
So I guess the moral of the story can be summed up as a parable.
When you go to a restaurant, many expert in food safety recommended that you order popular foods. That way, you are more likely to get relatively fresh and well-prepared food. But ordering the menu item that is made least by the restaurant is more likely to get food that's been sitting for a really long time in the freezer, and that hes been perhaps poorly prepared by the kitchen staff.
As a vegetarian, I understand that this approach can be problematic. But one must simply have more of a caveat emptor attitude when seeking those off-the-beaten track menu items.
Now go and seek knowledge, grasshopper.
Wednesday, January 12, 2005
|Jupiter, Florida is home to the Burt Reynolds Museum.
Yes, the Burt Reynolds Museum. I kid you not. They have a mission statement on their website:
The mission of the Burt Reynolds and Friends Museum is to preserve the history of the cultural contributions of Burt Reynolds, and provide educational opportunities to young actors and filmmakers.And, according to an article on the website:
"Ninety-nine percent of the things in here are Burt's idea. He and I hung a lot of the pictures, and he's a real good picture hanger," said Kreig "Mo" Mustaine, a friend of Reynolds since they played football together in junior high school.The Burt Reynolds Museum Collection includes a pair of lucky boots from Gene Autry, the Deliverance canoe, the Bandit Car, boots from The Best Little Whorehouse in Texas, "debuty badges" from 14 localities, and a letter from Carol Burnett.
You can volunteer at the Burt Reynolds Museum. You can even become a "member" of the Museum, although its website doesn't exactly tell you how or why you may do so.
Perhaps it's to aid in the education component of the Burt Reynolds Museum. The website avers, "The stage area comes alive when Mr. Reynolds and guest instructors conduct scene study classes at the museum. Classes include the master acting class as well as classes in film-making, scriptwriting and documentary film-making.
Some final thoughts courtesy of the Burt Reynolds Museum website...
By the way, this is the second such museum in Jupiter. The first one closed in 1999 when its namesake filed for bankruptcy. Visit this one sooner rather than later.
Tuesday, January 11, 2005
|So I started my day as I often do, sipping coffee, reading new stories from around the web, and listening to music via mp3s using wireless headphones.
You know, just another typical day as a Digital Gadabout.
I was performing a housekeeping chore in the kitchen (see, that's where those wireless headphones come in--full movement around the pad without loss of music in glorious stereo) which involved a series of precariously stacked dishes, and a brief instrumental song came on the headphones.
"Wow! What is this?" I wondered.
I was in a "je ne sais quois" mood this morning, so I was listening to 8,000 songs on shuffle. Consequently, I had no clue what the track was.
Unfortunately, my precariously stacked dishes were being rather unforgiving in allowing me to immediately return to my living-room computer to check the song artist/title. By the time I was able to negotiate a truce with the dishes, the brief song had completed.
And no DJ for me to call up and ask what song it was.
The story has a happy ending, though. I realized that my WinAmp media library keeps a handy record of when a song was played last. I sorted the list based on that criteria, et voila!
For the record, the song was "Welcome to the Soft Lightes," the gentle introductory track to the lastest album by The Incredible Moses Leroy. And it segues quite nicely into Re-Flex' "The Politics of Dancing," by the way...
Sunday, January 09, 2005
|Okay, so you've got your Super Bowl tickets for Feb. 6th. Yawn. Another Big Game crowning another football season. So how can one spruce up one's Super Bowl experience?
Why, by ponying up another $565 per person to attend Corporate Hospitality Village!
For that amount of scratch, you get live entertainment, specialty food, and beverage stations in a tent village next to the stadium. Plus--a Super Bowl merchandise kiosk! Oooo! (apparently the hoi polloi inside the stadium won't have the opportunity to purchase Super Bowl merchandise)
Another "benefit": the opportunity to purchase VIP parking! What? By paying an additional $565, I am allowed to pay an additional $25-$200 for VIP parking! Wow, sign me up!
Okay, maybe you're one of these jaded, blasé types who's completely unimpressed by the chance to visit a parking-not-included Corporate Hospitality Village. Well, you also get an NFL Corporate Hospitality Super Bowl XXXIX pin.
And if that doesn't seal the deal, check out this entertainment menu: Dennis Quaid & The Sharks playing live before the game (yes, that Dennis Quaid) and Boogie Knights performing afterwards. All you need to know about '70s-themed cover band Boogie Knights is summed up by this photo of their singer.
So this is a shindig that would probably be the biggest thing in town...you know, if it weren't for some sports event happening next door.
It's got to a be a night to remember when "non-smoking environment" and "ADA access to all areas of Stadium Club" are listed as items that the hospitality package "includes."
Well, they've got to justify the cost somehow...
|We'd better keep an eye on money pledged by governments for tsunami disaster relief. According to the Christian Science Monitor:|
If history is any guide, not all government pledges of aid will be fulfilled. By some measurements, nations promised upwards of $1 billion to help rebuild Bam, Iran, after it was devastated in a December, 2003, earthquake. But only about $17 million of that money has actually arrived, according to the Iranian government.That's pretty goddamn lame, if you ask me.
People expressed a lot of outrage at the (usually bogus) news that money donated to September 11th charities weren't being disbursed properly or in a timely fashion (e.g., see here). Hopefully, the same concern will emerge should the U.S. or the world renege on current aid pledges.
|Forget about the 'Me' Decade. This is the 'We' Decade--and I mean that with all of the earlier phrase's narcissistic implications:|
Karina Gonzalez, a sophomore at Newtown High School in Queens and a regular sender of instant messages by computer, had her phone confiscated by her mother after her text messages resulted in a $150 phone bill, triple the usual amount. "I cried," she said. "I felt like I lost a piece of me. You can send a million instant messages a day, and it won't cost you anything. If you send one text message, it can cost you like a phone call."Now people can more frequently update an ever widening gyre of others about me, Me, ME! Whether it be texting or blogging, we can now keep an already information-overloaded world abreast of the minute-to-minute trials and tribulations of daily life.
And please note: as a Selective Luddite, I can and will proudly tsk-tsk and tut-tut compulsive text-messagers and ignore all irony associated with my own blogging activities. So no 'gotcha!' comment-posting, thank you.
Finally, isn't the rapid and often dizzying changes in communications technology so wonderfully summed up in the exasperated line, "You can send a million instant messages a day, and it won't cost you anything. If you send one text message, it can cost you like a phone call."
That's, like, so...omigod!
Saturday, January 08, 2005
|Here's a website I chanced upon, an e-commerce site* called "The Hollywood Jesus Store" that points customers to Amazon to buy a series of biblically-themed films. Look at the third row of movies. Monty Python's Life of Brian??
* Isn't the word "e-commerce" so charmingly dated? Makes me weepily nostalgic for those days when people would throw together a series of links as an "e-mall" and expected people to simply do all their shopping there. Ha!
|Here's a series of before/after satellite photos of the tsunami that are simply awesome--in the worst possible way.
Let the images load, and then click on the before/after button to toggle between the pair. Then look at other pairs in the series. You'll probably never buy oceanfront property, ever--even on the Atlantic--after seeing these images.
Friday, January 07, 2005
|A college friend has brutally and unceremoniously murdered Garfield.
You know, that comics page cat which started out as a cute idea but turned into a bloated and shameless excuse for endless merchandising? Well...
'L.A. Times' Drops Daily 'Garfield' as the Comic Is Blasted and Praised:
The Los Angeles Times dropped the daily version of "Garfield," the most widely distributed comic in syndication.Rodd is a fellow WICB alum, and I am tickled pink by his worthy cat-slaying. Of course, the vicious little beast has his claws out now. I hope the L.A. Times has intestinal fortitude.
Those Garfield fans are dangerous. They're all still pissed that the bottom dropped out of the Beanie Baby market, and they're looking for a scapegoat.
UPDATE: Read Brevity yourself here.
|Race is on to claim the Arctic Circle:|
An eight-nation report in November revealed that the Arctic was warming twice as fast as the rest of the planet and that the North Pole could be ice-free in summertime by the end of the century. Around the Arctic, salmon are moving up into more northerly waters, hornets are beginning to buzz and barn owls are appearing in regions where indigenous people have never seen a barn. The Arctic report said polar bears were "unlikely to survive as a species" if the ice disappeared and they were left to compete with their better-adapted brown and grizzly cousins.So Denmark (thanks to its Greenland territory) and Canada are competing with Russia and possibly the U.S. to annex, or at least divvy up, the North Pole.
Thursday, January 06, 2005
|In an ongoing effort by this website to enlighten readers about up-to-the-minute items that are rightfully being ignored by fellow citizens everywhere, it's time to once more shine our metaphorical green laser pointer on an obscure industry's inscrutable trade publication.
For this installment, let's take a look at Better Roads, a publication devoted to busy road and roadway maintenance professionals, and of course, that fairly sizable audience of general asphalt enthusiasts. You've gotta admit, it's hard not to go completely fanboy perusing the Better Roads website.
Wednesday, January 05, 2005
|Bank gives up FleetCenter naming rights:|
Bank of America Corp. has agreed to give up its rights to put its name on the FleetCenter, freeing the arena's owner, Delaware North Cos., to open up a bidding war for naming rights to the home of the Boston Celtics and Boston Bruins.Limited-term naming rights for arenas, stadiums, and other buildings are a bad idea. Sure, it raises revenue for the building owner. But it also contributes to a culture of cynicism and rootlessness.
I have no problems with corporate naming of buildings, like Chicago's Wrigley Field or New York's Woolworth Building, as long as it's a lifetime proposition.
But renting of names to the highest bidder can only help in encouraging cynicism instead of citizenship. If people feel a declining sense of a lasting community--which includes places just as much as people--why should they make an effort to contribute to that community's long-term well-being?
This practice is akin to land developers assigning arbitrary but pleasant names to housing developments and street names. How often have you encountered a development with a name like "Rustic Village," or the like, in a suburban area that isn't even remotely "rustic"? I'd prefer that a developer would simply use their own name, as Alfred and William Levitt did when creating the Levittowns on Long Island, Pennsylvania, and New Jersey. At least this is real history and actual roots instead of an ersatz pastoralness.
I'm under no illusion that everything will, or even should last forever. New York's Pan Am Building became the Met Life Building in 1992. New Jersey's Levittown lasted only a mere four years under that name and became Willingboro in 1964 (the area was "Wellingborough" prior to becoming Levittown).
But planned obsolescence in place names is only going to make communities weaker. Personally, I doubt that that's worth the money raised from naming rights.
That said, "Mike's Minutiae" just signed a sponsorship deal and will become the "Microsoft Wal-Mart Faceless Monolith's Minutiae" effective January 31st. Address all new correspondence to mike@TheWealthyButHellbound.com. Thank you.
Sunday, January 02, 2005
|On July 28, 1976 at about 3:43AM local time, a 7.8 magnitude earthquake rocked northeastern China. Centered in the city of Tangshan (just east of Beijing), the earthquake claimed at least 240,000 lives. Some say the actual death toll was closer to 500,000 or even 650,000.
This quake, along with a 1970 cyclone (and its subsequent 16 feet storm surge) in Bangladesh which killed at least 300,000, appears to be nature's most deadly single event in history (several floods in China--in 1931, 1938/1939, and 1959--are said to have a death toll in the millions, but these tragedies appear not to be from a single, catastophic event).
During the Great Tangshan Earthquake, one Chinese county saw 180,000 buildings destroyed but only suffered one single death. And that one was from a heart attack.
There's a very interesting timeline here of how this was possible.
On July 21, 1976, administrator Wang Chunqing returned to Qinglong County. He reported on the Tangshan conference, highlighted the talk given by scientist Wang Chengmin [about the strong possibility of an imminent earthquake], and included updated information from the county's 16 lay monitoring stations. Public officials of Qinglong County took the report very seriously and acted upon the information immediately.Absent 100% incontrovertable evidence, I can't imagine disaster management officials in the U.S. moving schoolchildren outdoors and asking people to move into tents.
Saturday, January 01, 2005
|So much for the school milk carton:|
Encouraged by a milk industry study that shows children drink more dairy when it comes in round plastic bottles, a growing number of schools are ditching those clumsy paper half-pint cartons many of us grew up with.So not only does milk in plastic bottles outsell the old cartons, but it also has a "coattails" effect in overall lunch sales? Weird.
SIDEBAR: Check out that "CNN Student News" logo at the top right of the story page. Are they suggesting that schools are poorly funded and can only afford equipment with an offset letter "e"? Or are they going for the "kids don't know any better" school of design most often exemplified by a backward "S"? Hmm.