Attentive readers have probably noticed that my articles tend to reference the NYTimes, the Wall Street Journal, or other blogs. I don't, however, reference CNN that frequently. Why is this, you ask? Because CNN tends to be full of crap articles. While they certainly make sure to run stories on all the big stories, they tend to dilute that flow with a bunch of human-interest stories - which I tend to view as crap.

A (biased) sampling of articles looks like this:
* Frat brothers jailed for paddling pledge
* Model Niki Taylor: I was slandered by E! show
* Overly ambitious eagle knocks out power
* Cats lose visiting privileges at women's prison
* Angelina Jolie's mother dies
* Mountain lion victim may need more surgery

While a good chunk of these stories may be interesting, it's really a stretch to call any of these things news. Considering that CNN has global reach, you would think that they'd focus on stories with a bit more import. Who the hell cares about a mountain lion victim and his surgery? Anyway, that's my beef.

Now that I'm done bitching about how retarded CNN is, here's an article that they just wrote on postsecret. For those of you not in the know, postsecret publishes secret-bearing postcards that have been sent in from all over the place. Some of the secrets are funny, some of them are sad. It's all pretty interesting. Take a look.

Terrible or Awesome?

Sorry about the picture quality, my blog is too narrow. Just click on it for a better view.

This is the essence of a "Natural Selection Speed Date" event that's being held (of course) in New York city. I'm not sure what's more upsetting, the fact that this kind of stuff really happens or that I'm too poor to participate (yes, yes, already have hot girlfriend, blah blah blah).

Ah, College

Students at Tarleton, a college in Texas, had a party on MLK Day where a bunch of white kids dressed up as gang members (or Aunt Jemima), ate fried chicken and drank malt liquor. If it was in the summer, I bet there would have been some watermelon too.

Of course, someone had to go and post photos on facebook. And then the president of the school's NAACP chapter had to find the photos and then send them to the smoking gun. And now a bunch of dumb kids that didn't know any better than to have their racial stereotyping party are all being revealed as either retards or bigots (not that the two descriptions are mutually exclusive).

The sad part is that I'm guessing that these people were spoofing stereotypes of black people and just thought that it would be a funny thing to do while they got hammered. Of course, this is in Texas, so I could be totally wrong.

Oops, did I just make a gross generalization?

Again, this comes courtesy of the Freakonomics blog.

Pilotless Drone

The S.F Chronicle has podcasts with the voice messages left by angry readers. There are a variety of things that the SF Chronicle does that might upset you. What these are, I wouldn't really know, since I haven't read the SF Chronicle since I was about twelve. However, I'd imagine that it would have something to do with editorial slants, the running of some stories versus others, etc. The usual things that make people angry.

The guy on this recording clearly has a very different list of "things that piss me off" than I do.

Drone! Drone! Drone! Pilotless airplane! Not pilotless drone!

Link courtesy of Freakonomics Blog

Blogging style

After thinking a bit about why it is that my blog has not hit any sort of stride, I've landed upon the following: I write a lot like the last thing that I read. Unfortunately, I read a lot of different sources with varying aims, contents, and styles. If I've just gone through Fred Wilson's blog, I'll probably try to write something that's simple, straight to the point, and yet relatively informative (these posts never get posted, because I can't do them). Phonelesscord inspires me to write witty rebukes to political assholishness (I might have written one of these once, I can't remember). The New York Times nudges me towards some sort of educated response to something, whatever it may be (these also go in the trash heap).

After having spent a good while reading Tim Urban's stuff, I will undoubtedly start writing a bunch of Seinfeldian opinions about nothing. I will try and stay away from uttering timeless truths, like:

"If peeing in the shower is wrong, then I don't want to be right."

That being said, I can't help but be influenced. Already, you can see the self-referentiality seeping into my prose, the endless parentheses, the references to parentheses, and so on.

All things being equal, this is probably the easiest style to write in. You don't have to know anything beyond yourself and what you think, meaning that you don't have to sit around and look for a link to the informative tidbit that you think the world should see via your post. Since your post will be about nothing, there's no real reason to find a pithy image to fit with it. You're not trying to convince anyone about the validity of some point or other, so you don't have to cover your ass and think about an issue from a bunch of angles. And since the post is ultimately about you and what you're currently thinking, it's totally fine to just end at some arbitrary point, because that says just as much about the subject matter as anything else (i.e. I don't care enough to finish thinking this through).

Really, this is blogging at its laziest/most convenient. That other stuff, in one way or another, just feels like work. And to be perfectly honest, if I'm writing on this blog while I'm at work, it's because I'd rather not be working.

It's not you, it's me

I've been trying to hit my stride with this blogging practice for a while. It's difficult - it takes time, thought, and in some cases, research. In my worldview, I have to do research-like functions for my job, and I'd rather not have them encroaching into my precious personal time. In general, that time is reserved for flipping through channels, mindlessly sifting through NBA fantasy stats for that one bargain player that nobody's yet picked up, and reading news articles that I'll promptly forget in the next day.

In any case, here's an example of a guy that seems to have found his blogging stride. He's currently on the Apprentice LA, which seems to be tracking with the other recent seasons in terms of its suckitude. On a more personal note, he lived right below me freshman year, and was the guy that we enlisted to play the keyboard when we started grilling burgers outside in the Yard. I'm pretty sure that he played Billy Joel's "Pianoman" about fifteen bazillion times, in a successful bid to get attention from passing females. From what I can recall, he was friendly, amusing, and frequently drunk. I also recall him getting belligerently upset when one of his roommates (who shall remain nameless) vomited all over his stuff one night, and then passing out without doing much about it. Said stuff included the interior of his shoes.

I never really talked to him following freshman year. For that matter, I don't think I even saw him after that. He's firmly in the category of "people that I definitely met at one point, to whom I am relatively indifferent." The amusing nature of his posts nudges him a couple ticks closer to being likable.

A couple plugs

First: 30 Rock. Much like Studio 60 on the Sunset Strip, it's loosely based around the people that write and produce Saturday Night Live. Unlike Studio 60, it's actually funny, which is something that you would expect out of a show with the aforementioned content.

It reminds me of Arrested Development in some ways - reasonably strong ensemble cast, none of the characters are particularly likable as people, but they're all so clearly oblivious that you like them anyway. Unfortunately, it's not quite as funny as R-Dev... except for the moments when Alec Baldwin walks on-screen, at which point I promptly crap my pants with laughter.

I'd put up a clip, but this show is not popular enough to have any good YouTube clips.

Second: Violent Acres. I came across this blog while going through AKA's bookmarks and have been steadily growing more interested with each post. It's sort of what I would imagine Tucker Max to be like if he was a 30-something woman with a sense of responsibility, and a lack of alcohol-induced retardation. This person, who keeps enough to herself that she is speculated to be a dude, basically slams on assholes and self-indulgent women.

Here are some hilarious posts:

There's a lot in here that might make me think she is a man, or possibly a Republican. Either way, it's still hilarious.

Third: Thomas. Happy Birthday, douche!


The Chinese post office is giving a boon to all of its poor underpaid secretaries and mail-stuffers. This year's stamps will smell and taste like sweet-and-sour pork. A part of me vaguely wants to call, "Bullshit?" But hey, what do I know.

According to CNN (which seems to be full of generally crap stories, come to think of it), 2006 was the warmest year on record for the US. Citing the National Climatic Data Center, they stated:

"... the average temperature for the 48 contiguous states last year as 55 degrees Fahrenheit. That's 2.2 degrees warmer than average and 0.07 degree warmer than 1998, the previous warmest year on record."

Additional analysis from arstechnica, citing information from the National Oceanic and Atmospheric administration, says that:

"NOAA blames December's exceptional warmth on an ongoing El Niño event
in the Pacific, which kept Arctic air out of the US. December alone
wouldn't have been enough to set an annual record, however, if 2006
weren't already generally hot—NOAA explicitly blames that heat on
greenhouse gases. Both factors are likely to keep heating up 2007: El
Niño isn't going away immediately, and the generally high temperatures
are part of a trend that now puts 16 of the past 25 years onto the list
of the top 25 warmest years on record."

I don't really have anything to add to this. Except that the U.S. really should have done the right thing and stuck with the Kyoto protocols, and George W. Bush really should have thought about more than just his constituency when he decided to back out of them.

Netflix is dead?

Thanks to Techmeme, I ran into a set of articles about Netflix that I thought were pretty silly. The first was from Robert Scoble, who melodramatically claimed that "Netflix is dead." Or rather, it will be killed by a new P2P service from Verisign, which would basically distribute HD-DVD quality videos. His argument seems to be that if people can just download a video, why bother waiting for it to come in the mail?

The second article came from Hacking Netflix, which basically said that Scoble "is way off," as Netflix apparently is already working on a digital download strategy, which should be coming out some time this month. On top of that, there's a content question, as "existing download services have at most 2,000 movies, and Netflix stocks 70,000 titles."

Both articles have a point. Scoble is right - Netflix's distribution method (i.e. mail) is a liability that's bound to get exploited by a provider with digital distribution. The guy obsessed with Netflix also has a point about lack of content being a problem, particularly with Netflix's long-tail strategy.

I think the best point was made by a guy way down in the Netflix blog's comment section, who said:

"Lets see here I have probably 10k invested in my home theater. Why
would I degrade my home theater by watching a movie on my 21 inch
computer moniter[sic] wearing headphones."

I think that's a great point, particularly as more and more Americans are dropping wads of cash on flatscreen HDTV's. Certainly, there are options out there for piping movies from your computer to your TV (Slingbox?) But really, when I'm sitting at home, I'd much rather flip through whatever movies happen to be on cable than go over to my computer, surf around for a movie and then wait an hour or five for it to download. This is why I'm really big on Movies-on-demand type services from the cable companies, since they let me use my [girlfriend's] giant television to do the movie-watching that I want, when I want (sort of).

This option has drawbacks at the moment. The interface is slow. The selection is drastically smaller than anything you'd find through Netflix, Blockbuster, etc. The on-demand movies are not yet in HD. And on top of that, they're still charging per movie, on top of normal rates for cable subscription. These are all serious problems that need to be dealt with. But, given my limited knowledge situation, the cable companies are already sitting on top of bandwidth needed to send out the signal. All they'd need to do is figure out how to properly license the necessary content from the media companies, fix up the interface some, etc.

I think the key is that consumers will find it simpler to adapt to an addition to their current method of video intake, as opposed to an entirely new means of video acquisition. While P2P is certainly all the rage these days, my take is that that's only relevant to a certain set of technically savvy people. I think it would take some significant work to get my mom to understand how to download and watch a movie. Remote controls, she understands.

So, going back to Scoble's original claim, is Netflix dead? Probably not for a while. I really doubt that the cable companies are going to move fast enough to capitalize on the opportunity here. In the meantime, Netflix will probably just have to grapple with Blockbuster.

Obama is smoking

I found this link to a Dallas Morning News article via David Winer's Scripting News.

Apparently, Barack Obama smokes cigarettes. Will this news tarnish his golden boy image with the taint of weakness, or burnish it with the luster of "he's one of us" normality? Will parents think of him as a bad influence on their children, or just shake their heads in amusement, much like they did with Bush's blatant stupidity?

It's hard to tell. Americans are fickle people. They seem to think that a person's consumptive habits somehow define their moral character more accurately than their actual history of decision-making. I would be pretty disappointed if this ever became an issue, though. There are so many more important criteria to think about (e.g. positions on the environment, Iraq, taxes, religion) that if this one actually gains traction, then my faith in democracy as a political system will drop by about five points.

**** Update ****
As I don't want to be yet another vector for anti-Obama sentiment, I removed the picture.

Saving the World (for us)

Happy New Year everybody. Hope everyone did something exciting. More importantly, I hope people are still setting out their resolutions.

I don't really take to resolutions. It's a pretty arbitrary thing to do - completely changing one habit or another because it just happens to hit a certain day of the year. But sometimes, the need is such that any catalyst will do.

I just watched Al Gore's movie, An Inconvenient Truth. Going into the movie, I wasn't exactly a skeptic. I've been listening to people talk about global warming since I was in grade school. I never doubted that the Earth was gradually getting warmer, or that mankind was the reason for this effect.

I was, however, not particularly motivated to do anything about it. It seemed like yet another issue that would probably percolate for many years before actually being dealt with.

Perhaps one of the most important reasons to see this movie is that it presents you with stark images of what global warming has already done. Gigantic ice shelfs falling off of Antarctica. Mountains losing their snow caps. Lakes and rivers withering away. It may not sound like much. But it's frightening when you look at it.

This year, I would like to think that I'm going to do something that will help change the way that this story goes. Being cognizant of my weaknesses, I'm aware of the relatively high probability that I will stop thinking about this tomorrow, or next week, or the week after that. But at the least, I'll urge everyone to go see this movie. In fact, I'll go one better, and point you to a place where you can see it for free. Unless you are an asshole, I promise that you won't consider it to be a waste of time.

Alternately, you can go to and see all of the corporate plugging that's been legitimately set out for the movie.

Update: Apparently, boingboing logged the "liberation" of a gigantic ice shelf off the coast of Canada. The CNN source article states:

A giant ice shelf the size of 11,000 football fields has snapped free from Canada's Arctic. The mass of ice broke clear 16 months ago from the coast of Ellesmere Island, about 800 kilometers (497 miles) south of the North Pole, but no one was present to see it in Canada's remote north.

If you saw the movie, this will make you scared.


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