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Friday, December 31, 2020

The year has around 5 hours left in the tank (less 3-millionths of a second, thanks to the recent Indonesian earthquake). Adieu 2004, bonjour 2005!

I could declare a resolution or two, and share that with Technorati’s World Live Web. But, despite the likely effectiveness of sticking to such declarations after putting them in writing, I’ll pass. I do have certain hopes and goals to accomplish in the coming year, but nothing I choose to yak about here unless/until they come closer to actual fruition (and maybe not even then).

It’s funny how time flies. There’ve been various points in my life where I was sure I’d never see the light of 2005; I’m still somewhat bemused that the calendar will read thus tomorrow, and that my eyes will be taking it in. Wonders never cease.

Anyway, I’ve got to start prepping for the night’s festivities. I might have the geek sensibility to blog throughout the passage of one year to another, but it’s not going to happen on this night (even if I had a Treo or similar portable device that was fully Web-enabled). There’s a time and a place for everything, and tonight’s a time for some good ol’ offline fun.

However you choose to usher in the New Year, have a blast! See you on the other side.

by Costa Tsiokos, Fri 12/31/2004 07:05:42 PM
Category: General
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Speaking of gift certificates, I redeemed one yesterday at Blockbuster. I went into the store having a videogame in mind, but I didn’t find anything in that department. So I browsed through the movies, and found a copy of The Barbarian Invasions, a flick I really enjoyed in theaters earlier this year. I watched it again this morning, along with a little documentary discussing the film’s themes. Good as ever.

Watching Invasions reminded me of my post from April about what it and other works dealt with. While not an especially strong piece, I think it’s worth a re-reading. And so, instead of simply linking back to it (which doesn’t guarantee anyone will actually read it), I’m re-posting it here:

I went to see The Barbarian Invasions this afternoon. It was the second time I’ve gone to a theater to see it; last time was about a month or two ago. I practically never go catch a movie in theaters twice, so it’s a strong indication of how much I enjoyed it the first go-round.

As it began today, I was suddenly struck by how much the core theme from Invasions mirrored another film I’ve seen fairly recently: Big Fish. Essentially, both movies are about strained relationships between fathers and sons, with the impending death of the fathers triggering moves toward reconciliation and resolution (of sorts). That one movie was largely a fantasy (Fish), while the other was a more sober look at mortality and regrets (Invasions) doesn’t diminish their common strengths. In each case, it made for an engrossing and (for me) unexpectedly touching story. It’s hard to craft a good male-bonding relationship on film without it coming off as either sickly sweet or else goofy, but I think the directors for these two flicks did it beautifully.

The other common theme in them is their settings: The American South for Fish and Quebec for Invasions. Both regions are hinterlands of sorts; I tried to get across my feelings on that for the South shortly after seeing Fish, and more recently found those ideas recast in terms of the political landscape. Quebec, in relation to the rest of Canada (and even North America), is often cast in the same light. In both movies, place is as much a factor in shaping the characters that propel the story.

by Costa Tsiokos, Fri 12/31/2004 06:46:27 PM
Category: Bloggin', Movies
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It’s the thought that counts, but what the hell were they thinking when when they got you a gift card for Wicks’n'Sticks?

Rather than deposit that little piece of plastic into the local landfill, you can hit the appropriate websites to swap out your gift currency for some to a store that’s more your style.

The swapping I can understand, even if the dollar amounts don’t exactly match. I mean, if you’re not going to ever step foot into a Home Depot, then it’s worthwhile for you to trade that $50 certificate to someone who loves the place, and take his $25 gift card for the local Apple store (if that’s how you roll) in exchange.

What’s harder to understand is buying a gift card on eBay for more than face value, as you occasionally hear about (I’d try to find an example online, but I currently don’t feel like it).

You’d think the retailers would object to this trading market, but so far, they’re cool with it:

CardAvenue and SwapAGift said interest is increasing as word spreads, and there’s no question about the popularity of the gift cards. The National Retail Federation, the world’s largest retail trade association, said consumers planned to spend more than $17 billion on gift cards this holiday season.

Spokeswoman Ellen Tolley said the federation didn’t have a position about the Internet reselling of gift cards, but pointed out that retailers do, in fact, want customers to use their gift cards.

For one, retailers typically do not record a sale as made until the gift card is redeemed. And, she said, gift cards provide a good way for a store to introduce itself to consumers or to boost spending.

“Retailers’ hope is that people will redeem the gift card, and spend a little extra,” she said.

Really, it’s a no-lose proposition for retailers: The vast majority of gift card redeemers will wind up spending more than the value of card, resulting in a sale where one may never have existed. That percentage of cards that never get redeemed wind up as free money to the stores; whether they get counted as actual sales is irrelevent, it’s still dollars tacked onto the bottom line (minus whatever cut the gift card services get, which isn’t much).

by Costa Tsiokos, Fri 12/31/2004 06:33:46 PM
Category: Business, Internet
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Thursday, December 30, 2020

Thanks to my officemate Jamie, I have the lyrics from “On Our Own”, the signature song from Ghostbusters II, rattling around my skull.

Not all the lyrics, mind you. Just the rap hook:

Too hot to handle
Too cold to hold
They’re called the Ghostbusters
And they’re in control

So, I can handle that. I don’t think I’d be able to handle it if it were these lyrics plaguing me instead:

Found out about Vigo
The master of evil
Try to battle my boys
That’s not legal

Bobby Brown never sounded so good.

Ghostbusters II holds a special place in my memory banks: It’s the first-ever movie I walked out on, some 12 years ago now. I’ve blocked out most of it, but I remember enduring about an hour of it. Finally, I leaned over to the friend I was with, and said something like, “Man, I swear, if the Statue of Liberty ends up coming alive and walking around, I am the fuck out of here!”

Sure enough, the Statue walked. And then, so did I. ‘Cause that’s not legal.

by Costa Tsiokos, Thu 12/30/2004 05:58:04 PM
Category: Movies, Pop Culture
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Nice way to wrap up the year: It’s been a ridiculously beautiful day today, sunny blue sky and 70-something degrees. I left the office around 1, ran around doing a little shopping and general hanging-out, and looking forward to a fun night.

The weather’s supposed to be just as nice tomorrow. I’m thinking a couple of hours of sun will give me a nice New Year’s Eve tan.

by Costa Tsiokos, Thu 12/30/2004 05:38:30 PM
Category: Florida Livin', Weather
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What if, instead of the infamous “wardrobe malfunction”, Janet Jackson and Justine Timberlake pulled off their choreographed routine without a breast-baring hitch?

The AP’s Jake Coyle offers a compelling alternate reality for the past year’s entertainment landscape, minus the ripple effect of the tempest-in-a-C-cup. Among the sea changes:

Cameron Diaz, mortified by her boyfriend’s failed attempt to reach second base, breaks up with Timberlake before the Super Bowl is even over. She immediately sends word to New England Patriots quarterback Tom Brady that she’s available.

The flustered Brady is a wreck in the second half, and the Carolina Panthers cruise to a surprise victory…

Without the Super Bowl controversy, Disney sees no risk in distributing Michael Moore’s “Fahrenheit 9/11.” The box-office hit saves the job of beleaguered Disney chief Michael Eisner. However, an out-of-date memo stating Eisner will be fired ends up at CBS News, which erroneously reports that the CEO is being ousted.

Though a considerable embarrassment, the experience forces CBS and Dan Rather to tighten up their fact-checking. The President Bush/National Guard story never makes it on air. Rather’s job is secure for the next 10 years…

Meanwhile, Mel Gibson decides not to subtitle the Aramaic dialogue in “The Passion of the Christ,” and moviegoers stay away… To shore up his image, Gibson signs on to produce his own ABC drama, “Fundamentalist Housewives.” But a Monday Night Football lead-in showing Monica Belluci shedding her ankle-length dress and jumping into the arms of Eagles receiver Terrell Owens elicits nationwide condemnation. Red State viewers flee NFL broadcasts in droves.

Seeking to boost ratings, the NFL picks Lindsay Lohan to perform at halftime of the 2005 Super Bowl. The show (featuring her much-debated, um, maturing physique) is wildly over the top. An onlooking Usher can only exclaim, “Yeah!”

Welcome to 2005. Even fake history is doomed to repeat itself.

Wow, I’m sorry I missed out on all that.

by Costa Tsiokos, Thu 12/30/2004 05:33:10 PM
Category: Celebrity, Media
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Wednesday, December 29, 2020

yo mama
Because I know all my readers are faithful and fervent fans of “Aqua Teen Hunger Force”, I present to you my D.Film re-interpretation of the “Insult Master” tete-a-tete, using elves.

This is, of course, derived from the “Video Ouija” episode of ATHF.

Burn! I am the Insult Master!

Here’s the immortal dialogue, most of which was incorporated into the Flash movie-lette:

Guy #1: Hey man. You stole my wristwatch.
Guy #2: You dumb. I already have a wristwatch. You dumb.
Video Game Announcer: BURNED!!!
Meatwad: Hehehe. Burned.
Guy #1: I saw you looking at it.
Guy #2: Yo mama you did.
Video Game Announcer: Classic Comeback!!
(Meatwad plays some more to make Guy #2 say “Yo Mama Yo Mama Yo Mama”)
Video Game Announcer: INCINERATED!!! You are the Insult Master!

I had to use the elves, because none of the other characters available in D.Film’s stockpile came close enough to the Atari 2600-reminiscent videogame characters featured in the episode. If I could figure out how to upload appropriate block-pixel combatants, I would. In compensation, I think the funky ’70s-era keyboards soundtrack comes damn close to the oldschool videogame sound effects.

by Costa Tsiokos, Wed 12/29/2004 11:32:40 PM
Category: Comedy, Pop Culture
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i'm kosher
Boy, do I feel dumb for not catching this when it was announced two years ago (must have been before I started blogging):

Religious merger creates 900 million HinJews.

Sadly, this bold experiment in joining religious and philosophical efficiencies hasn’t worked out:

“On paper, this was a textbook alliance — two smaller competitors join forces to take on a larger adversary [Islam],” said New Delhi resident Chandra Gopan. “But the synergies are just not there. For instance, I still believe I must pursue my own dharmic path to ultimate happiness, but when I get there, I just know my mother will find something wrong with it.”

Just as well. What’s a Passover seder without brisket, anyway?

by Costa Tsiokos, Wed 12/29/2004 11:07:29 PM
Category: Comedy, Society
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funky state university
You’re looking at a map of what Florida State University’s campus would look like if a controversial chiropractic school is allowed to open, against the vehement objections of FSU faculty.

Just for fun (and search engine optimization), I’ll list these proposed fake schools of pseudo-knowledge:

- Crop Circle Simulation Laboratory

- Yeti Foundation

- School of Astrology

- Institute of Telekinesis

- Bigfoot Institute

- Department of ESP Studies

- Faith Healing

- College of Homeopathic Medicine

- Foundation for Prayer Healing Studies

- School of UFO Abduction Studies

- School of Channeling and Remote Sensing

- Creationism Foundation

- Past Life Studies

- College of Dowsing

- Palmistry

- Tarot Studies

Hey, in my humble opinion, FSU could do a lot worse than land an Institute of Telekinesis. It would be ahead of the curve, academically.

My compliments to the nameless FSU professor who came up with this doomsday map. Who knew chiropracty was such a reviled field? Despite my wreck of a back, I think I’ll put off my first chiropractic appointment…

by Costa Tsiokos, Wed 12/29/2004 10:44:40 PM
Category: Comedy, Science
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Tuesday, December 28, 2020

Ecstacy moves from the clubs to the deathbeds as the Multidisciplinary Association for Psychedelic Studies (MAPS) is embarking upon a pilot program, under FDA approval, for giving the drug to terminal cancer patients to help them pass more gently into that good night.

MAPS, of course, has long advocated using mind/mood-altering substances for these purposes.

Categorically, of all drug-induced effects I’ve experienced (first- or secondhand), X is by far the most unsettling to me. The swings from mellowness to euphoria and back again can be downright eerie, and generally unsettling.

by Costa Tsiokos, Tue 12/28/2004 11:29:13 PM
Category: Science
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Last night, due to an inability to get to sleep in my own bed, I sacked out on the couch for the first time in forever.

I have to say, it turned out to be the soundest night of sleep I’ve had in a long while. I may just do it again tonight.

by Costa Tsiokos, Tue 12/28/2004 09:36:18 PM
Category: General
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What’s more insidious: Having your blog monitored by the CIA, or by Bacon’s Information? Starting next month, Bacon’s MediaSource will keep tabs on some 250 of the “most reputable” blogs out there, for the benefit of filling in PR and corporate communications types on the latest buzzworthiness.

Reputable… I’d say that leaves me out. Actually, unless your blog’s name happens to be Instapundit, Wonkette or Volokh Conspiracy, it probably leaves you out too.

by Costa Tsiokos, Tue 12/28/2004 09:31:56 PM
Category: Bloggin', Media
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Monday, December 27, 2020

When the Santy worm spread through the Web last week, I took notice. I don’t have any forums to protect, but the fact that the worm was targting PHP-powered pages made me worry. This site, along with all WordPress-powered blogs, runs on PHP. So, depending on how clean the coding here is, I might be in the sights of this new variant of the Santy worm, which is going after any PHP site.

I’m not much on the technical end here; most of it was set up for me by the Blog Moxie crew. So I’m crossing my fingers that all the digital i’s are dotted and t’s are crossed, and I won’t have to worry about this scourge.

If this site abruptly disappears in the near future, you’ll know why. Hopefully, it’ll be temporary and fixable. If it’s something that’s severe, I’ve always got a backup plan (although I’d prefer to not use it).

by Costa Tsiokos, Mon 12/27/2004 10:44:08 PM
Category: Internet
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The new numbers from Nielsen/NetRatings show that, at long last, broadband Internet use in American homes has surpassed dialup, 53 percent to 47 percent.

The break-even point doesn’t mean much: In order to launch true mass-market-targeted multimedia content, providers will have to up that level to at least 75 percent. That’s likely on the way, as competitive pricing is helping to spread broadband. The other consideration is whether or not consumers will bother to keep their computers up-to-speed enough to handle all those Flash animations and the like.

But in the meantime, Pew Internet & American Life studies show how going to broadband changes the fundamental way people use the Web:

Surveys from the Pew Internet and American Life Project find that 69 percent of broadband users go online on a typical day, compared with 51 percent for dial-up. Broadband users who went online averaged 107 minutes surfing the Web, checking e-mail and otherwise engaged, 21 minutes longer than dial-up users.

Taking advantage of their always-on connection, they practice “infosnacking.”

“People are more able and willing to just walk up to the Internet to get a quick snippet of what they need, send a quick e-mail, read a quick news article, check a sports score,” said Jim Bankoff, executive vice president for programming at America Online Inc.

Not having to wait several minutes to log on to a dial-up account, broadband user Jeannie Tatum will quickly check prices before heading out to a store. The Spring, Texas, Web designer will visit Blockbuster’s site to see if a new release is out yet, noting that with dial-up, “it would take less time to pick up the phone and call.”

Telephone books? Gathering dust on the shelf.

Atlases? What are they?

Communal behavior also is tempered by the broadband effect.

Family members arguing a point over dinner are more apt, if they have broadband, to “look it up online rather than continue to yell at each other,” said Lee Rainie, Pew’s director.

Or, in the absence of verbal interaction, families can have heated discussions in Internet chat rooms - individual members each sitting in separate rooms in front of computer screens.

Infosnacking is the key. I don’t keep my machine on 24/7, but I do turn it on as soon as I get home at night, and leave it on until I’m ready for bed. On weekends, it’s on from the time I get up until bedtime, even if I know I’ll be out of the house for long stretches. The convenience of being able to access online info fairly quickly makes “loggin on” a completely different experience than it was even five years ago.

This is the kind of scenario that was pitched to me five years ago, when residential broadband was just starting to gain traction. Five years is a pretty slow pace. It shouldn’t take that long to conquer the rest of online users: Critical mass has been reached, and other technologies like wi-fi will help things along quicker. And there’s always the ahead-of-the-curve users overseas.

Still, while content creators don’t like to hear this, dial-up is sticking around for a while yet:

In the meantime, Internet usability expert Jakob Nielsen has a word of caution for the broadband crowd:

Respect the dial-up population. It remains large. Think twice before sending friends large photo files as attachments. Those photos could sour their Internet experience.

On the other hand, come to think of it, those photos could encourage them to finally spring for broadband.

Coincidentally, one of the contributing factors to my switching to broadband DSL last year was the increasing receipt of mega-large photo files from friends. Ironically, I haven’t been getting nearly as many of those emails of late.

by Costa Tsiokos, Mon 12/27/2004 10:32:31 PM
Category: Internet
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buy me
Someone’s smitten with the blonde girlie in those Old Navy holiday carollers commercials, enough so to launch a BlogSpot blog on her.

Just remember: There is a fine line between admiration and weirdo fixation.

Of course, there may be a less creepy, and more cynical, motivation behind this blogwork. When Adrants gave it a plug, it raised the possibility that Old Navy’s PR people might be behind it. I wouldn’t put it past them, although for some reason, my gut tells me it really is just a lone fan.

Incidentally, the blog author has somehow tracked down a name for the object of his affection: Lauren Hastings. If it’s the same “Lauren Hastings” listed at IMDb (based strictly on the dates and occupations of the other listings there, I’ve narrowed it down to this one), her acting resume is quite thin, so every little bit of exposure would help her.

Personally, if I were to obsess over one of the girls in those ads, I’d go for the Asian girl in the back row. Or, even better, the super-cute bowling-alley girl:
What can I say, I dig the brunettes.

By the way, I may have mentioned it here before, but I suspect I’m the only white man in America who doesn’t like Old Navy.

(Via Micro Persuasion)

UPDATE: I’m sure there are plenty of other sources for this, but Adweek featured one of the Old Navy carollers spots as one of their “Best Ads”, and the names of all the actors are in the writeup, Lauren Hastings included. So apparently, that’s her name.

The same Adweek source lists a “Camille Chen” as one of the carollers. I’ll assume that’s the name of the aforementioned Asian girl in the back row. I’m tempted to start posting up pics of her on the Web, but I’ll refrain.

by Costa Tsiokos, Mon 12/27/2004 09:48:16 PM
Category: Advert./Mktg., Bloggin'
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One currency, one trade market — and now, the EU gets a single set of Generally Accepted Accounting Principles, part of a streamlining of how Europe’s big companies do business.

Predictably, there was some griping:

Some European companies had lobbied to block the requirement that they deduct stock options from earnings, saying that it would put them at a disadvantage compared with competitors in the United States. However, the U.S. accounting rulemaker, the Financial Accounting Standards Board, this month announced a final rule on stock-option expensing that is expected to go into effect next year. The EU requirement is expected to take effect later in January.

This news comes in the wake of the luring of some emerging-market companies to London’s City stock market instead of U.S. exchange boards, ostensibly to avoid Sarbanes-Oxley requirements. I’m wondering if EU’s harmonized GAAP rules will make it less attractive for companies from China and the like to go to London instead of New York. Complying with the new rules isn’t supposed to cost companies any more. But, just as American firms have concocted all sorts of excuses as to why Sarbanes-Oxley is such a hardship, I’m sure Euro businesses will invent a litany of grievances over this development.

by Costa Tsiokos, Mon 12/27/2004 06:04:40 PM
Category: Business
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Sunday, December 26, 2020

Traffic in Tampa Bay is bad and getting worse. One of the most acute areas is New Tampa, in northern Hillsborough County. And since most of the clog is on Bruce B. Downs Boulevard, projects to widen that road are in the works, despite misgivings about whether or not it will improve the situation in a rapidly-growing sprawl zone.

This article by Michael Van Sickler has a lot of great information about the wider debate over continued exburb-like planning in Tampa, which make road projects like this more of an issue. The wrinkle for New Tampa is the just-as-robust development happening right across the county line in Pasco; Tampa has no control over that, but the resultant traffic that pours onto Bruce B. Downs impacts the city. Despite half-hearted measures to stem and plan this kind of growth, it’s only getting more chaotic.

How is it manifesting itself, aside from the traffic jams?

Not only do area residents pay the taxes that support further road expansion, they pay a greater percentage of their incomes for the cars they need to get to work.

A 2003 study by [Surface Transportation Policy Project] showed that Tampa families spend 25 percent of their income on transportation. That is the highest percentage in the United States and more than three times what they spend on health care.

And that basically wipes out the property value and tax advantages that the area has over comparable metro areas in other states. Along with the weather, that’s been a hallmark incentive for attracting residents.

Perhaps most frustrating of all, the resources spent in New Tampa detract from the downtown initiatives that Tampa is keen on jumpstarting:

Although officials say disaster awaits if they don’t widen the road, [associate professor of urban planning Ruth] Steiner, of the University of Florida, questions the timing. This is, after all, a time when Mayor Pam Iorio is pushing for more redevelopment of the city’s inner core.

“If you make it too easy to develop out there, you’re not encouraging redevelopment,” Steiner said.

Nor does it make for a faster commute. [Surface Transportation Policy Project president Anne] Canby said cities that invested heavily in expanding road capacity didn’t get less traffic than those cities that spent less.

The Texas Transportation Institute released a study this year that showed commuting trips got longer between 1982 and 2002, despite millions spent on road projects.

The average motorist in the Tampa Bay area was stuck in traffic 18 hours a year in 1982. By 2002, that delay had climbed to 42 hours a year.

Tampa is uncomfortably committed here, naturally. While redevelopment in the city center is preferable, it can’t abandon the north county development. As long as people continue to vote with their mortgages, New Tampa will be a factor. Twenty years of annexation of county land and developer deals aren’t going to be reversed. It’s looking very much like a situation that will have to implode, in the form of some massive economic slowdown, before a managable solution is found.

The viewpoint here is obviously very biased against a car-centric living area (one that I share). Proponents of the wide-open suburb/exburb spaces will argue that the continued influx of residents, which follows a national trend, shows that the concerns are exaggerated and not a factor for the very people most affected. If it comes down to it, higher tax and service rates would take care of the costs. If the area can do that and continue its growth, and not lose out to Pasco and other neighboring areas, so be it.

For me, when even the best-case scenario means hellaciously long commutes, I’d just as soon see the growth of condos and mixed-use development. Living half your life in a car isn’t a particularly appealing option. I’m not counting on ever seeing a dense-but-livable urban area like Manhattan or San Francisco develop here, but anything close would be welcomed.

by Costa Tsiokos, Sun 12/26/2004 11:34:09 PM
Category: Political, Society
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bats tackles hoops pucks
With collective bargaining agreements on the minds of hockey fans (those who haven’t succumbed to total apathy, anyway), this Sporting News comparison of the recent/current CBAs in the NHL, MLB, NBA and NFL offers a useful shorthand reference on how players and owners coexist in the major sports leagues. It also includes various tidbits of related info, like attendance numbers and TV ratings.

Given that the content is syndicated on Yahoo!, and thus has a likely short online shelf life, I’m going to reproduce the factual information here. The editorial “Is it working?” parts I’ll leave out, not because I disagree with their conclusions (although mostly, I do, especially on the soon-to-be-deadlocked NBA), but because I figure they’re most subject to any copyright issues. By all means, follow the link to read them if you’re interested in the interpretations.

National Hockey Leaguepucks
Teams: 30
Players per team: 23
CBA expired: September 15, 2021
Highest-paid player: $11 million, Jaromir Jagr, Rangers
Average salary: $1.81 million
Most valuable franchise: Rangers, $282 million
Average payroll: $41.6 million
Players’ share of revenue: 75 percent
League revenue: $2 billion
Average attendance: 16,533 (includes record crowd of 57,167 at outdoor game in Edmonton)
Salary cap: None
Payroll tax: None
TV deal: TV revenues from national contracts in the U.S. and Canada are shared equally; last season, that was about $4 million per team. As for the new deal signed with NBC, “If the NHL sees a penny from NBC, it’s only because the guys at NBC are good guys,” a FOX executive told Alan Hahn of Newsday.
TV audience: 1.1 rating on ABC, 0.47 on ESPN and 0.24 on ESPN2
Revenue sharing: 10 percent
Free-agent system: Players become restricted after their first entry-level contract, unrestricted after turning 31 if they have at least four years of NHL experience.
Rookie system: 2004 draft picks had a rookie cap of $1.295 million and can’t sign anything longer than a three-year deal; excessive and easy-to-attain performance bonuses have made the cap ineffective.

Major League Baseballbats
Teams: 30
Players per team: 25
CBA expires: December 17, 2021
Highest-paid player: $22.5 million, Manny Ramirez, Red Sox
Average salary: $2.5 million
Most valuable franchise: Yankees, $832 million
Average payroll: $68.1 million
Players’ share of revenue: 63 percent
MLB revenue: $4.1 billion
Average attendance: 30,401
Salary cap: None
Payroll tax: In 2004, first offenders were taxed 22.5 percent for anything above $120.5 million; second offenders paid 30 percent.
TV deal: The league has a six-year, $2.5 billion deal with FOX through 2006 and a six-year, $851 million deal with ESPN through 2005.
TV audience: 2.7 rating on FOX, 1.1 on ESPN and 0.6 on ESPN2
Revenue sharing: 34 percent of local revenue, including gate receipts, is shared equally among the teams.
Free-agent system: Players who have six or more seasons of experience become unrestricted after their contracts expire.
Rookie system: None

National Basketball Associationhoops
Teams: 30
Players per team: 15 (12 active)
CBA expires: June 30, 2021
Highest-paid player: $29.5 million, Shaquille O’Neal, Heat
Average salary: $4.92 million
Most valuable franchise: Lakers, $447 million
Average payroll: $59 million
Players’ share of revenue: 57 percent
League revenue: $3.1 billion
Average attendance: 17,050
Salary cap: A complex system of sliding caps is the base. Effectively, the soft cap for 2003-04 was $43.9 million, extending to an average of $59 million after free-agent exceptions.
Payroll tax: Teams are taxed one dollar for each dollar over $54.6 million, but only if leaguewide salaries exceed a specific percentage of revenue.
TV deal: A six-year, $4.6 billion deal with ABC, ESPN and TNT brings each team $25.5 million each season.
TV audience: 2.4 rating on ABC, 1.3 on ESPN, 0.9 on ESPN2 and 1.4 on TNT
Revenue sharing: 35 percent of total revenues
Free-agent system: Players are eligible for contract extensions after three years, become restricted free agents after four (they can be unrestricted if the team does not pick up the option) and are unrestricted after five.
Rookie system: Fixed three-year contracts for first-round picks are figured on a sliding scale based on where players were selected in the draft; contracts have two option years, though the second rarely is used.

National Football Leaguetackles
Teams: 32
Players per team: 53 (45 active)
CBA expires: After the 2008 draft; 2007 is an uncapped season
Highest-paid player: $17.8 million, Peyton Manning, Colts (note: Michael Vick’s recently reworked contract probably puts him in the top spot)
Average salary: $1.25 million
Most valuable franchise: Redskins, $1.1 billion
Average payroll: $71.8 million
Players’ share of revenue: 64 percent
League revenue: $4.8 billion
Average attendance: 66,817
Salary cap: $80.58 million (64.75 percent of gross league revenues)
Salary floor: $67.3 million
Payroll tax: None
TV deal: An eight-year, $17.6 billion deal with ABC, CBS, FOX and ESPN expires after 2005. The deal gives each team $78 million (a six-year extension was signed November 8 by FOX and CBS; FOX will pay $4.3 billion for NFC games, CBS will pay $3.7 billion for AFC games). The NFL also has $3.5 billion satellite deal with DirecTV.
TV audience: 9.0 rating on CBS, 9.9 on FOX, 7.1 on ESPN and 11.0 on ABC.
Revenue sharing: 80 percent of all gate receipts, among other things, are spread evenly among the teams.
Free-agent system: Players who have four years of experience become unrestricted after their contracts expire. Teams can retain a key free agent by designating him a franchise player and paying him the average of the top five salaries at his position.
Rookie system: There is no limit for top draft picks.

While direct comparisons among the four can distort unavoidable inequities — for instance, baseball and football naturally have higher average attendance than hoops and hockey because of larger stadia — this gives a good once-over to the team-based major sports landscape. It’s especially useful for me regarding the NBA’s agreement: I was vaguely familiar with the changes from what they used to have, but I never did see a capsule version.

Again, this is just a snapshot look. A deeper dig might shed some light on how things like overall league revenue is calculated, and how salary/contract arbitration factors in.

Who’s got the best? Based on most measures of success, the NFL comes out on top (and Sporting News editor Paul Grant says as much in the “Is it working” notation). As I’ve mentioned before, a key reason for this is probably the nature of the NFL payroll: Composed overwhelmingly of non-guaranteed player contracts, it’s very easy for clubs to make payroll adjustments. In addition, each team’s cut of the leagues television money alone covers the payroll cap figure, so that guarantees success. I’m curious to see how the 2007 uncapped season will work (if they get there — the players and owners might work out a new CBA before then, which would supplant that final year).

I guess the similarities strike me more than anything. The NFL and MLB have comparable league revenues, for instance, despite starkly different schedules and labor setups. We’ll see how the next deals for the NHL and NBA change the makeup.

by Costa Tsiokos, Sun 12/26/2004 09:01:24 PM
Category: SportsBiz
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Yes, according to Don Diebel, “Americas #1 Singles Expert”, the ladies go all melty-melty for a guy packing a puppet:

- First, you will need a hand puppet. You can buy them at your major toy stores such as Toys R Us.

- Bring your hand puppet with you to a nightclub where there are lots of single ladies.

- When you see a girl that you’re attracted to, approach her and tap her on the shoulder lightly with your puppet and when she turns around raise your hand puppet towards her face and say something like this with your puppet, “Hi beautiful, would you like to dance with me?” Move your puppet up and down with your hand as you are saying your script just as if the puppet was really talking. And be sure to talk in a real silly voice.

- What happens next? She’s going to die laughing and think that you are so funny. Plus, you will make a very favorable impression on her because women love a guy with a sense of humor. And, of course, she will most likely dance with you.

I guess if this doesn’t work, you could make improvisational use of the hand puppet at the end of the night, during your compensatory auto-erotical session.

I’m slightly embarrassed to admit that I considered trying this, a few months back (well before finding Diebel’s article). Prior to heading out for a night of self-whoring clubbing, I stopped off for a couple of hours at a friend’s house to visit. His one-and-a-half-year-old daughter was up and about, and I obligingly did the playmate thing.

Among her mountains of toys was a hand puppet of a goat (Vincent Van Goat, actually). Sensing a winner when I saw it, I slipped it on, started with the goofy voice (hoping that it sounded like the “real” Mr. Van Goat, since I’d never heard of him before that night), and proceeded to ask the little girl for a kiss, a taste of whatever she was eating/drinking, and pretending to eat her feet.

She went nuts with laughter! She couldn’t get enough of the routine. And it was plenty of fun from my end.

So, inspired by the baby’s reaction, I actually considered borrowing the puppet as a social aid for the evening. Granted, (most) 20- and 30-year-old women are harder to please than toddlers. But I figured it would make for a unique conversation starter. Yet I also feared the potential humiliation factor if it tanked. I floated the idea past my friend as I was walking out the door, and he pretty much dismissed it, so I dropped the idea.

Maybe I should revisit the idea? It is being endorsed by “Americas #1 Singles Expert”, after all. Although any “expert” who’s got GetGirls.com as his home site gives me pause.

Any women out there want to chime in? If a guy approached you with a silly hand puppet in tow, would you take it as a sign that he’s funny and ballsy? Or a dweeb?

by Costa Tsiokos, Sun 12/26/2004 08:32:21 PM
Category: Society, Women
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Thanks to a freak high-wind system that blew through this morning, plus a seemingly-impenetrable cloud cover that’s let in zero sunshine over the past couple of days, the current temperature in the Tampa Bay area is 50 degrees.

Fifty goddamned degrees. And set to drop another 10 degrees tonight.

I don’t care that such temperatures would be cheerfully welcomed as balmy in snow-covered points north of here. That’s their problem.

I’m used to the thermometer showing 70, 80 and 90 degrees on a regular basis, with loads of sunshine accompanying. And that’s what I want to see again, the sooner the better. If nothing else, something other than grey on the horizon would serve to brighten my mood. I’ve had enough of this crap weather for one season, thanks. Bring on the subtropics.

UPDATE: Bitch, and ye shall receive. Less than 15 minutes after ranting, there was a break in the clouds, and blue sky and sun came pouring through. I was able to turn off the lamps, even! It’s not bound to last, but I’m thankful for even this.

by Costa Tsiokos, Sun 12/26/2004 02:09:08 PM
Category: Weather
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