Population Statistic: Read. React. Repeat.

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Tuesday, August 24, 2021

up a tree
In light of the Hurricane Charley-induced hassles I went through (which I realize were nothing compared with what happened where it actually made landfall), I’ve since been loathe to talk or think any more about the storm than I’ve had to. I’ve contributed to relief efforts, but past that, have avoided most of the latest news about the post-Charley recovery.

But the above image caught my eye. It was snapped in Punta Gorda, the heart of the hurricane’s path, by Kinfay Moroti as the companion to an article about some of the personal, priceless items lost to Charley.

Mainly, I just liked the juxtaposition of what appears to be a largely intact Bible amid strewn debris. That it’s open to the New Testament is especially apt: It conveys a sense of the more compassionate, forgiving God arriving in the wake of some Old Testament-style destruction.

- Costa Tsiokos, Tue 08/24/2004 11:21:12 PM
Category: Weather, Florida Livin' | Permalink | Feedback


Part Tamagotchi, part 1-900 number: It’s Artificial Life’s Virtual Girlfriend, on a 3G mobile phone near you.

I foresee a bunch of sticky phones resulting from this…

(Via The Moderate Voice)

- Costa Tsiokos, Tue 08/24/2004 10:33:31 PM
Category: Pop Culture, Tech | Permalink | Feedback


One more reason to forsake the stovetop and nuke your food: Sharp Corp. has come up with a microwave that burns away excess fat, oil and salt by generating 572-degree superheated steam.

Keep an eye out for the chubby moron near you who uses this amazing device as his rationalization for scarfing down three or four microwavable burritos. Gotta have that afternoon “power snack”!

- Costa Tsiokos, Tue 08/24/2004 10:09:12 PM
Category: Tech | Permalink | Feedback


Sharon Fink takes note of the flood of brand names within this year’s Billboard Top 20 tunes:

The song with the most brands mentioned is Twista’s Overnight Celebrity. The rapper squeezed in nine: fellow rapper Nelly’s Apple Bottom Jeans; clothing companies and designers BCBG, Bebe, Gucci, Marc Jacobs and Roberto Cavalli; shoemaker Jimmy Choo; MTV; and Range Rover.

Fink reasons that the lack of public distaste for all this name-dropping is the lack of payment for most of these musical mentions. I question that: Two years ago, Island Def Jam was the first major label to declare itself open for business in the lyrical product-placement game, and I’m sure the rest of the industry followed, publicly or not. I’d bet that the majority of those brand names were, in fact, paid for.

Aside from that, even if it was generally known (or even suspected) that the lyrics were “bought”, most of the audience wouldn’t care. Song placement is probably an ideal form of ad immersion: Unlike other mediums, it’s almost harder to make brand names seem grafted onto musical rhymes. Also, the long history of the advertising jingle set a precedent; it’s not so unusual to consider ad pitches as purely musical pieces — and infectious ones, at that.

It’s not mentioned directly, but rap songs are the primary territory for all this ad insertion. There are a couple of reasons for this:

One, most rap songs are first-person narratives, so personalized that they better lend themselves to endorsement-type ad pitches. Two, rappers tend to not invest their songs with a sort of sanctity that would make in-lyric advertising a transgression; indeed, the rap world sees no shame in collecting supplemental cash and merchandise through rhyme-droppin’.

By contrast, I doubt there’s very much brand placement in other musical genres. In fact, it probably would be looked down upon. It’s a double standard — Britney Spears or U2 aren’t supposed to sell their precious songs (unless they’ve been clearly reworked as commercial jingles), but it’s acceptable for Jay-Z and Ludacris to do so.

- Costa Tsiokos, Tue 08/24/2004 03:58:56 PM
Category: Advert./Mktg., Pop Culture | Permalink | Feedback (1)


I wondered how the recent theft of one of “The Scream” paintings would impact my local notable arthole, the Salvador Dali Museum.

The answer? Armed off-duty cops will be protecting Dali’s famous melting watches and optical-illusion mosaics.

I guess I’d better think twice the next time I try to snap a couple of cameraphone photos of “Slave Market with the Disappearing Bust of Voltaire”. The docents are snippy enough, and they’re not even armed.

- Costa Tsiokos, Tue 08/24/2004 02:25:21 PM
Category: Pop Culture, Celebrity | Permalink | Feedback

Monday, August 23, 2021

sail away
When you’re an alumnus of a small liberal arts college, you tend to notice the rare occasions when it makes national headlines. Usually that elicits pride.

I’m not sure I can derive much pride from seeing Eckerd College as Exhibit A in a story about rowdiness among students in study-abroad programs.

I guess the school’s distinction in sending a bigger portion of its students abroad than any other college in the nation merits its mention here. And it’s nice to know that the spirit that ruled my freshman year is alive somewhere.

I never did take advantage of the study abroad program at Eckerd. I’d always regretted it a bit, especially after hearing about friends’ experiences in England, Spain and other locales. Then again, it wouldn’t have been too cool to have ended up in a Midnight Express-type incident.

I’ll have to grill my friend Chris about that London trip he was always raving about during our Junior year. The most notable thing I recall him relating is the need to hit the pubs really early, because everything closed down by 11ish.

- Costa Tsiokos, Mon 08/23/2004 11:52:48 PM
Category: Florida Livin' | Permalink | Feedback (4)


The St. Pete Times Forum, home of the Stanley Cup Champion Tampa Bay Lightning, is going wi-fi.

I imagine the immediate beneficiaries will be reporters covering events there; they won’t have to hunt for data jacks for their notebook computers anymore. But past that? Ticketholders to hockey games and concerts aren’t likely to be lugging notebooks with them. PDAs are generally on the way out, and the phones that are replacing them are already able to tap into cellular service networks. As more and more Bluetooth-enabled devices (aside from phones) flood the market, I’m sure an arena-sized hotspot will be much appreciated. But for now, it’s more effective as a marketing plug.

- Costa Tsiokos, Mon 08/23/2004 11:27:31 PM
Category: Wi-Fi | Permalink | Feedback


Scan the grocery store shelves for olive oil, and what do you see? Virgin, extra virgin, pure, light — what the hell’s the difference??

Chef Gui Alinat sheds some much-needed light on which oil is which.

For my own reference, I’ll list the definitions here. (What, you don’t use your blog to help you stock your cupboard?)

- Extra Virgin: Top-notch highest quality, cold-pressed, extremely low acidity (less than 0.8 percent).

- Virgin: Almost as good as Extra Virgin, also cold-pressed, slightly higher acidity (0.8 to 3 percent).

- Pure: Low-quality, chemically-processed, higher acidity.

- Just “olive oil” (no descriptor): Midrange-quality, blend of Extra Virgin/Virgin and Pure, low acidity (less than 1 percent).

- Light: Low-quality, generally the same as Pure (only pricier).

So the keyword is “virgin”. But isn’t it always…

- Costa Tsiokos, Mon 08/23/2004 11:10:03 PM
Category: General | Permalink | Feedback (1)


no-touch league
The NFL’s mandate to have refs actually call pass interference penalties will have a big impact on this coming season. But not a good one, according to Green Bay safety Darren Sharper:

“If the NFL wants to see more points scored, how about you just don’t play any defenses out there? Just let the offenses go out there and play by themselves, because that’s what they’re trying to do,” Sharper said Saturday night after Green Bay’s 19-14 exhibition victory over New Orleans.

Sharper had quite a bit to say about this stricter interpretation of what, we’re constantly reminded, are existing rules:

Sharper told reporters he hoped they had a “beep” button before he spoke his mind on the penalties.

“Those calls that were called are ridiculous because the guys are running with them and Joey [Thomas] has his head turned, his eyes looking back to the ball and they still throw a flag when both guys are like chicken fighting back there and doing little things that are not impeding anyone’s progress,” Sharper fumed.

“Those are just terrible calls. And then Ahmad [Carroll]’s call, it’s thrown out of bounds and they call pass interference on that. It’s just ridiculous.”

Sharper said he’s afraid that offenses will just throw the ball deep during the regular season and pray for a flag on what used to be brushed aside as incidental contact.

“That’s going to be the game plan,” Sharper predicted. “Tell the receiver to run into the defensive back when the ball is in the air and get a flag. And what kind of game is that going to be?”

Sharper said it would be a shame for a playoff game or a late-season game with postseason implications to come down to “a bogus call like that, a ball that’s not catchable or a guy that doesn’t impede the receiver to catch the ball and it’s on the 1-yard line, score and they win a game like that.”

It’s easy to dismiss Sharper as an aging player who won’t be able to adapt and is afraid of getting scorched every play. But he’s right: The offenses are going to exploit the crackdown on defensive backs, and the strategy of drawing first-down penalties will work, at least for a little while. Meanwhile, defensive lines are going to be less inclined to blitz, and thus be hemmed in.

This controversy echos the ongoing one in the NHL over obstruction calls. When the neutral-ice trap regained prominence in the mid-’90s, the league pledged to make refs start calling obstruction penalties. As with the NFL this year, new rules weren’t introduced, but rather, emphasis was placed on enforcing the existing rules.

Unfortunately, this increased enforcement resulted in parades of players going to the penalty box, which disrupted the flow of the game. Every year, the pattern became familiar: Referees would start the season by calling games tight, then would lose the war of attrition as teams continued to press and criticism of choppy gameplay increased. By midseason, trapping teams would be back to business as usual, and the obstruction crackdown would be deferred until next season, when the process would start all over again.

The parallels between the NHL’s obstruction and the NFL’s pass interference situations are fairly clear. So I think the pattern established in hockey will appear in football: Early rigorous enforcement, then retrenchment in the face of pressure from teams and owners. Despite the league’s perpetual desire for higher-scoring games (which the NHL shares, actually), things will be back to the typical lax pass interference calls by Week 8 or so.

Hopefully, this won’t spark any calls in the NFL for a reduction of men on the field, similar to the calls for full-time 4-on-4 hockey in the NHL. (It’s hard to argue the football field is getting too cramped, but you never know.)

I think it’s appropriate to frame this in the classic word-association structure:

NFL : Pass Interference :: NHL : Obstruction

Don’t worry, there won’t be a test on this later.

- Costa Tsiokos, Mon 08/23/2004 10:29:32 PM
Category: Hockey, Football | Permalink | Feedback (1)


Just a quick note: The permalink and trackback problemas mentioned earlier have (I hope) been fixed. More details on how later today. In the meantime, feel free to link away.

The few comments that were left here last week are currently gone, but not lost. I will restore them this evening. D’oh! I’m afraid I’ll have to eat my words on that. The comments left by Eric and Tommy are indeed gone for good. My apologies, guys; completely unintentional. Won’t happen again ;) In the meantime, don’t let that scare you off from adding more!

UPDATE: It took a lot of doing to get the links up to speed. Basically, after several fruitless hours of tinkering, I finally wiped the mySQL database clean, re-installed WordPress, and followed the instructions on switching directories while resolving the permalink structure.

Even after that, it didn’t work.

So I messed with it for another couple of hours after that, FTPing files back and forth, until I finally, somehow, got it all working. I use “working” somewhat loosely — a couple of backend things are still broken, including my inability to edit this index page except through FTP. But at this point, I don’t care. The frontend stuff works, visitors should be no more the wiser, and that’s all that matters.

I’d like to take this opportunity to send out a big NO-thank-you to WordPress support, whose members either ignored my questions or provided largely irrelevant feedback. Apparently they’re too busy flaming one another and playing petty geek dictator to actually provide some support. Snarky on my part? Sure. Deserved on their part? Oh yeah. But hey, you get what you pay for, naturally. I’ll figure things out as I go along.

Anyway, enough of this. The last thing I want here is a typical geek blog that’s about nothing but how the blog software works (or doesn’t). Back to our usual programming.

- Costa Tsiokos, Mon 08/23/2004 12:07:44 PM
Category: Bloggin' | Permalink | Feedback (1)

Sunday, August 22, 2021

You can take the blog out of Blogger, but you can’t take Blogger out of the blog. Not out of this one, anyway.

Three months ago, I posted my admiration for “Eats, Shoots & Leaves”, Lynne Truss’ enjoyable screed against reckless punctuation. I failed to draw a direct relationship between the general subject of writing and blogging. I think it would have been a somewhat useless argument, given the rampant grammatical larceny within the blogosphere (and the Web in general).

It turns out I didn’t have to, because Jennifer Garrett did the job admirably in a guest essay for Blogger’s Knowledgebase. She also realizes it’s wishful thinking, but makes a good case nonetheless.

As a bonus, Garrett also points to a New Yorker magazine piece that jabs into Truss’ own punctuational peculiarities in her book. Nobody’s perfect!

- Costa Tsiokos, Sun 08/22/2004 10:06:32 PM
Category: Bloggin', Publishing | Permalink | Feedback (1)


scream blackula scream!
That should be the sound emanating from the Norwegian Ministry of Culture after Edvard Munch’s iconic painting “The Scream” was stolen today in broad daylight.

If you’re gonna steal a Munch painting, “The Scream” is the one to nab:

Munch made four versions of “The Scream”, an image that has fascinated experts and the general public for decades. Art historians and amateurs alike have pondered the meaning of the enigmatic, seemingly bleak image, which over the years has found fame in the popular culture in serious reproductions but also cartoons and novelty items.

Novelty items like the inflatable Scream figure doll, which I see almost every day in the art department of my magazine. Truly a sign of pop-cultural assimilation.

It seems the curators at the Munch Museum were trusting enough of the public to not install any sort of alarm system or other protections on the priceless artwork they’re displaying. Someone over there should be sprucing up their resume right now, because they’ll be on the streets soon.

I’m thinking that if the powers-that-be at the Salvador Dali Museum, here in Tampa Bay, don’t want a copycat crime, they’ll either install protective devices or doublecheck the ones they’ve got. Munch has only one painting that’s crossed into the pop culture landscape; Dali has a huge body of work that’s done so.

- Costa Tsiokos, Sun 08/22/2004 03:49:00 PM
Category: Pop Culture, Celebrity | Permalink | Feedback (4)


A couple of weeks ago, I commented on the icky impression that eHarmony.com’s television commercials left on me.

Over the past couple of days, I’ve seen a few new commercials for the online dating shop. Their presentation has been modified in subtle but significant ways, many of which address the things I disliked.

It looks like I wasn’t the only one who thought that twangy guitar music exuded a cheesy quality, because it’s been ditched in favor of some new-agey tonal sounds. I don’t particularly like the new sound, but it’s far less disingenuous than the previous background noise.

Amazingly, founder Neil Clark Warren’s role in these spots have been reduced significantly; in one of them, he doesn’t appear at all (although he still does the voiceovers). I think this only helps; to me, he doesn’t come across as particularly trustworthy.

To compensate for Warren’s decreased screen time, the focus has shifted even more to the testimonials of the happy couples who have hooked up through eHarmony.com. They still speak in the soundbites that they previously had, but they’re extended several seconds. There’s also more emphasis on showing the couples together, in loving poses, rather than separately. I still don’t buy any of it — I’m pretty sure they’re all actors — but it is effective imagery.

All told, I think the re-jiggered commercials are an improvement. They were probably a necessity in response to the increased competition from Match.com and True.com. Still, I wouldn’t touch any of them.

- Costa Tsiokos, Sun 08/22/2004 03:23:06 PM
Category: Internet, Advert./Mktg. | Permalink | Feedback (1)

Saturday, August 21, 2021

A distinct sub-genre has emerged within the reality TV universe: Cosmetic surgery makeovers. “The Swan” started it, amid plenty of criticism. The concept has evolved from a contest-style show to a “purer” behind-the-scenes format — resulting in some curious brands.

To wit:

“Dr. 90210″ on E! started airing this summer. To counter, Bravo will soon debut “Miami Slice”.

From these titles, I’m inferring that we can look forward to episodes featuring Luke Perry and Don Johnson getting Botox tuneups and ass-lifts.

I don’t watch reality shows, but… Hell, I still wouldn’t watch this. Not even if they had an episode with Jennie Garth getting a boob job.

- Costa Tsiokos, Sat 08/21/2004 07:20:56 PM
Category: Reality Check, Pop Culture | Permalink | Feedback


sexy city
I do like those promos for “Sex and the City” reruns on TBS, where Carrie and crew are depicted as gossipy teenage girls in a highschool cafeteria. The girl playing a young Charlotte bears an especially strong resemblance to the adult version.

However, to keep things chronologically accurate among the girls, shouldn’t the Samantha character be aged about 10 years older than the rest of them? I’m thinking she should be their homeroom teacher or something…

- Costa Tsiokos, Sat 08/21/2004 06:48:49 PM
Category: Advert./Mktg., TV | Permalink | Feedback


I was out this morning running a couple of errands. The last errand was to stop by one of the several Publix Super Markets in my general neighborhood to get various household items, including lunch. I was in the mood for sushi, which Publix does a decent job of making.

As I entered this store and started shopping, it hit me: I wouldn’t be able to get sushi here. Of the dozens of Publixes in the Tampa Bay area, I inadvertently picked the one — maybe the only one? — that doesn’t have a sushi chef.

What’s the deal? The rest of the Publix stores around here promote the hell out of their sushi selection; they even plant little lawn signs around the stores announcing that they’re holding rice rolls! In addition, there are a couple of other Publix stores within a five-mile radius of this one, the Gateway Mall store, that I know have sushi.

Why this single Publix chooses not to stock it, I cannot fathom. Maybe the demographics of the immediate neighborhood dictate that sushi wouldn’t move in this store. I don’t know for sure, but it does seem that the majority of dwellings around Gateway Mall are seniors, and I’m guessing most of them would never touch the stuff. Then again, I’m reasonably closeby, and there are other 20- and 30-somethings around who would go for it.

I guess my biggest gripe is the notion that I even have to take into consideration that individual branches of a major grocery chain wouldn’t have a consistent product selection. It’s like going to a particular McDonald’s and finding out that it doesn’t serve up Big Macs.

- Costa Tsiokos, Sat 08/21/2004 06:25:12 PM
Category: Florida Livin' | Permalink | Feedback (1)


Sometimes it takes a while. Author S.E. Hinton, who has teen novel classics like “The Outsiders” and “Rumble Fish” to her credit, is back in business with “Hawkes Harbor”, her first book in 16 years.

Sounds like she had an extended writer juice drought.

Limited output certainly isn’t an indictment. Harper Lee wrote only one book in her whole life, and she managed to make it a grand-slam homerun.

- Costa Tsiokos, Sat 08/21/2004 05:01:12 PM
Category: Publishing | Permalink | Feedback


vap-o-glug
I drink, but don’t smoke. I’ve learned the subtle art of how to nurse a drink in social situations (verus the old chug-a-lug of my teenage and college years), if only just to pace myself and avoid looking like an alcoholic. But it’s an awkward procedure: The mere act of holding a glass while shifting from conversation to conversation feels unnatural.

In that sense, I’ve sort of envied smokers. Smoking itself isn’t particularly attractive to me, but the act of smoking is. It makes one look casually engaged while socializing, and unlike sipping from a glass, it appears more effortless.

What do to? Enter the Alcohol Without Liquid, or AWOL, vaporizer. Instead of taking up smoking, I now have the option of snorting my spirits.

Personally, I think a better name for this little doodad would be “Booze Hookah“.

The AWOL is causing a fuss in New York State and other places, where officials think it will encourage reckless drinking. I think that’s bogus, but patently false claims like this by the manufacturer probably don’t help:

Makers say it takes about 20 minutes to breathe in one shot, giving drinkers the effect of alcohol without the drunkenness, or hangover.

As one who’s injested a fair amount of liquor in his lifetime, I can attest: Drinking your hooch s-l-o-w-l-y doesn’t prevent you from getting trashed. At least not in the sort of situation where you’d expect to be using this device. I’d take the claims that these guys make with a good measure of salt. Their cheapy-looking website doesn’t inspire much confidence, either.

Still, the controversy will only help make the AWOL a hit, even if only for a fad-like spell. Putting one of these things on display at Trust in NYC was an odd touch, but again, will only pique everyone’s curiosity.

- Costa Tsiokos, Sat 08/21/2004 03:15:19 PM
Category: Pop Culture | Permalink | Feedback (1)

Friday, August 20, 2021

Some of you (like Tommy) have noticed that this shiny new blog is spitting out bogus permalinks and trackbacks. It’s true, the launch has not gone smoothly. These are the main things I’ll be occupying my time with this weekend; several other tweaks will be applied as well. Hopefully I’ll have it all fixed by the beginning of next week.

If anyone out there is a WordPress expert and/or backend website maestro (specifically regarding PHP), I’ll accept any help you care to give.

As a result of this, posting will likely be sparse (although not non-existent) for the next two days. There’s little point in creating a bunch of content if there’s no way to link back to it.

- Costa Tsiokos, Fri 08/20/2004 09:52:07 PM
Category: Bloggin' | Permalink | Feedback (1)


Highlighted by campaign visits from President Bush’s Hispanic nephew, Mexico is becoming an election-year battleground for these United States.

Initial thought: Just how many Electoral College votes do the Bush and Kerry campaigns imagine Mexico has?

But of course, the target is not Mexico itself, but the estimated 1 million American citizens who live there. In what’s looking like another tight race, both parties are scrounging for every vote they can get. Similar pushes are being made among expats in Europe and Asia.

- Costa Tsiokos, Fri 08/20/2004 04:53:46 PM
Category: Politics | Permalink | Feedback


Haven’t experienced a good live techno show in a while. So I think I’ll hit DJ Christopher Lawrence’s headliner show tomorrow at The Masquerade. Ten bucks — you can’t beat it.

Finally, a solid reason to hit Ybor. More to the point, a reason to visit The Masquerade for the first time in years. I believe the last time I was in there was around 1999, when Vanilla Ice was kickin’ off his nu metal tour (it was a huge disappointment, probably because I didn’t want to hear anything except the metal version of “Ice, Ice Baby” — like everyone else in the house).

I’m old enough to remember when The Masquerade was the only thing that existed, club-wise, in Ybor. Back in 1990, some friends at school dragged me out there for a rare off-campus clubbing opp. I was new to the area, and the drive seemed horrendously long from south St. Pete; for a long while after, I was convinced we had driven most of the way to Orlando…

- Costa Tsiokos, Fri 08/20/2004 02:43:59 PM
Category: General | Permalink | Feedback (1)

Thursday, August 19, 2021

Why indeed?

From The Police, Message In A Box: The Complete Recordings, extended liner notes on drummer Stewart Copeland:

And so Stewart grew up with no kind of opinion of himself. Looking back, he’s said: “I was a late developer in every respect. I was physically small for my age, bespectacled, utterly dreadful at my lessons, a real population statistic.”
(emphasis mine)

I can’t say I had the same experience as Copeland — I was pretty damn good at my lessons, for instance. More than anything, the term “population statistic” stuck with me, several years after reading those notes. I liked it.

As far as domain names go, it’s sufficiently unique that it stands out, while not being completely weird. And it was available as a “.com”, so that closed the deal for me.

It’s as good a website name as any. We’ll see how far it takes me (or I take it).

- Costa Tsiokos, Thu 08/19/2004 09:34:17 PM
Category: Bloggin' | Permalink | Feedback (1)

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