Population Statistic: Read. React. Repeat.
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Thursday, January 31, 2021

We’re always hearing about how Europeans rush over Stateside and load up on everything with a pricetag attached. Now we know why: Continental retail is ridiculously regulated.

Not only are out-of-season sales banned in countries including Belgium, Italy, Spain, Greece and France, but a jungle of regulations also keeps European retailers in lock step: In most countries, they can’t sell below cost; in others they can’t advertise reduced prices in advance of sales or discount items until they have been on shelves more than a month.

A recent study in France explained that these bans were conceived to preserve “le jeu loyal de la concurrence,” or “the loyal game of competition.” Almost like a duel at dawn, fair competition isn’t considered possible without regulation to set a time and place for it.

Very Soviet-style. It’s a wonder EU economies are as robust as they are.

Despite the avowed nod to general welfare, there are black roots to this set of practices:

Some are said to have originated in the mid-1930s in Germany, when the Nazi Party wanted to protect the public from what it regarded as overly competitive “Jewish” practices by some shopkeepers.

Reform is afoot to liberate the sales-bonanza mechanism in France and other countries. Sweet chaos, via markdown prices!

by Costa Tsiokos, Thu 01/31/2008 11:18pm
Category: Business, Political, Society
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in at the win
Chaz over at Dustbury got a real kick out of the pre-Super Sunday existence of an Amazon.com pre-order page for “19-0: The Historic Championship Season of New England’s Unbeatable Patriots (Paperback)”. So much so that he took a screenshot for posterity.

Not only should he update that screenshot to include the new Tom Brady cover on display, he may also want to snap a jpg of the companion “New York Giants: 2008 Super Bowl Champions [ILLUSTRATED] (Hardcover)”.

Yes, only one set of prospective memorabilia collectors will get their money’s worth. Take into account the money-hole that such pieces of publishing kitsch are, and interpret that previous sentence either way.

by Costa Tsiokos, Thu 01/31/2008 10:40pm
Category: Football, Publishing
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Wednesday, January 30, 2021

i'm sorry timmyIt’s been 15 years since little brother Timmy critiqued George Costanza on the sanitary hazards of snack-chip double-dipping.

And now, finally, there’s scientific rigor from Clemson University to give backbone to that germophobic stance:

On average, the students found that three to six double dips transferred about 10,000 bacteria from the eater’s mouth to the remaining dip.

Each cracker picked up between one and two grams of dip. That means that sporadic double dipping in a cup of dip would transfer at least 50 to 100 bacteria from one mouth to another with every bite…

Professor Dawson said that Timmy was essentially correct. “The way I would put it is, before you have some dip at a party, look around and ask yourself, would I be willing to kiss everyone here? Because you don’t know who might be double dipping, and those who do are sharing their saliva with you.”

I’m almost sure that funding for this research round was provided by The Human Fund.

by Costa Tsiokos, Wed 01/30/2008 11:19pm
Category: Comedy, Science, TV
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As the Federal government strains to deliver an economic stimulus package that would net average taxpayers some $600 in intended extra spending money, Economy.com argues that pumping up more traditional welfare-state programs would be more effective more quickly.

In findings echoed by other economists and studies, [economist Mark Zandi] said the study shows the fastest way to infuse money into the economy is through expanding the food-stamp program. For every dollar spent on that program $1.73 is generated throughout the economy, he said…

Tracking that single dollar spent through the economic chain shows what economists call the ripple effect, Zandi said. For example, that dollar spent at the grocery store in turn helps to pay the salaries of the grocery clerks, pays the truckers who haul the food and produce cross-country, and finally goes to the farmer who grows the crops.

The report pointed to expanding unemployment benefits as the program that gets the next biggest bang for the buck. That’s because, although the unemployed are already getting checks, they need to spend the money. For every dollar spent here, the economy would see a return of $1.64, Zandi said.

These are very much bottom-up methods of juicing the economy: Spur more necessary spending among the huge mass of have-nots, and the ripple effect will be substantial. The real question is if that effect will be sustainable.

It makes more sense to me than that one-time $600 bonus, which to me is a ridiculous proposition for kickstarting a wave of economic activity. What does 600 bucks represent for middle and upper class households — a weekend or two of fun-money spending? It’s a laughable token giveback.

by Costa Tsiokos, Wed 01/30/2008 11:01pm
Category: Business, Politics, Society
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full frontal
2008 marks the 50th anniversary of the introduction of the Smurfs.

So yeah, I guess it’s just about the right time for live-action smurf porn, perhaps a groundbreaking Deep Throat-like interpretation (though probably not. The clip is in badly-dubbed Spanish, so no telling if that omnipurpose verb “to smurf” is invoked as part of the hot Smurf-on-Smurfette action.

I’ll never be able to think of the term “blue balls” quite the same way again.

by Costa Tsiokos, Wed 01/30/2008 10:18pm
Category: Comedy, Pop Culture
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Tuesday, January 29, 2021

With a recession looming, a lot of people will be going to a lot of job interviews in the coming months. So why not monetize that experience?

That’s roughly the concept at play with NotchUp.com, a job-recruiting startup that’s facilitating company payout fees to prospective job candidates, just for showing up and interviewing.

The idea is that companies should strive to snag in-demand talent, which by their nature are hard to land:

“In every job I’ve had, I’ve had to, under time pressure, build a team of engineers. I learned years ago that the best people you want to hire are the people who aren’t in the job market,” said [co-founder Jim] Ambras, who was vice president of engineering at the search engine AltaVista.

So some enterprising serial interviewee could really make a cottage industry out of cup-of-coffee chats over where they see themselves in five years, etc.

Technically, the money’s not that easy. Participating companies — which, as hinted by the quote above, include tech-engineering hungry outfits like Google and Yahoo! — put the bid fee into escrow, and don’t authorize payment until after the interview, when they decide whether or not to take the process further (second interview, offer extension, etc.). So if someone goes into this flippantly, they’ll just wind up wasting their time (unless they get some live-interview practice out of it). Even someone who garners interest would presumably start raising red flags if s/he is tracked, via NotchUp, as continually turning down deeper interviews.

Overall, it seems like a relatively low-risk proposition for larger companies. They’d spend comparable or larger amounts in that $200-$500 per candidate range in recruiting efforts, so this serves as a reciprocal filter to hone the process early. It’s still a struggle to wrest a high-demand work talent out of their current gig, but this is another way to grease the wheel.

I do question the timing, though. Like I said, a recession seems likely, so the labor market will be flooded with candidates soon enough. Potential NotchUp.com client companies will feel less compelled to ante up meet-and-greet bonuses when they’re in a buyers’ market. In which case, NotchUp.com itself might have to start looking for interview-cash opps…

Just for fun, I plugged my particulars into the NotchUp build-your-bid calculator. My current marketing consultant gig, which I’ve been doing for two years now, yielded a suggested bid amount of $230. I think that’s on the low side, but honestly, I was expecting it to come in way less. At least I know where to login if I need an extra couple of hundred bucks.

by Costa Tsiokos, Tue 01/29/2008 11:39pm
Category: Business, Creative
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Monday, January 28, 2021

Is it (ko-pen-HAY-gen) or (ko-pen-HAH-gen)?

That’s the conundrum I found myself in today when I chose the latter pronunciation for the capital city of Denmark. The purpose of which was to order a Copenhagen Zesto sandwich at Pax.

I guess I’m in a distinct minority among lunchers in midtown Manhattan, because the order-taker did a double-take and asked me to repeat the name of the sandwich. I did so, then jabbed my finger at the glass to make sure there was no further confusion.

Maybe I should reconsider my choice of long or short vowel for Hans Christian Andersen’s turf. Although maybe not, both because I’ll invoke my first-generation Euro heritage and because I’m hesitant to let a deli-counter jockey dictate my diction.

And to further hint at where my head was at after this encounter, I actually walked away with the Beastie Boys’ “Super Disco Breakin’” reverberating in my mind. Specifically the lyrical snippet, “When I’m in Holland, I eat the pannenkoeken”. Dutch, not Danish, but somehow it felt like a proper coda.

by Costa Tsiokos, Mon 01/28/2008 05:37pm
Category: Food, New Yorkin', Pop Culture
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Sunday, January 27, 2021

replicatedThe future is arriving for Los Angeles, in the form of those skyscraper-sized video ads that opened the dystopian cityscape of Blade Runner. Inspired by that very movie, businessman Sonny Astani is planning to include such ads on a 33-story condo he’s building in the city’s downtown.

If it comes off, it would be just the tip of the iceberg:

Astani’s plan seeks the creation of a special district where at least two high-rises could be partly covered with rows of tiny panels embedded with LEDs, or light-emitting diodes — a concept viewed by some at City Hall as the next frontier in outdoor advertising.

Although office towers in Los Angeles already have “supergraphics” — enormous vinyl sheets stretched across one side of a building — those images are static. Should Astani succeed, sign companies looking to show animated advertising could view the city’s high-rises as enormous blank canvases.

What could derail this plan for in-motion, larger-than-life advertising? Nothing, unless that alleged product-placement curse from the film is actually true:

Someone once noticed that a number of the companies whose logos appeared in BR had financial difficulties after the film was released:

- Atari had 70% of the home console market in 1982, but faced losses of over $2 million in the first quarter of 1991.

- Bell Telephone lost its monopoly in 1982.

- Pan-Am Airlines filed for bankruptcy protection in 1991.

- Coca-Cola released their much-hyped “new formula” New Coke, resulting in losses of millions of dollars. (It is interesting to note that since then, the Coca-Cola company has seen the biggest growth of any American company in history.)

- Cusinart filed for bankruptcy protection in July 1989.

Not that all of the above actually appeared on those massive cinematic adscapes. Just the same, Astani’s gotta hope none of his prospective advertisers run across the list.

by Costa Tsiokos, Sun 01/27/2008 10:26pm
Category: Advert./Mktg., Movies, Tech
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child proof
So I’ve already weighed in on the pros and cons of One Laptop Per Child’s XO computer. In a nutshell, I think the machine’s physical design was better thought-out than the software used to run it.

But let’s face it: I’m 3 or 4 times (or 5 times, even) older than the age of the intended user of this thing. How would a kid handle the XO?

Unfortunately, I don’t have such a pint-sized guinea pig at hand. But reporters at the Associated Press and New York Times did, and so they let their kids, ranging in age from preschool to early teens, have at it as test subjects.

Verdicts? On first contact, the XO managed to confuse more than engage, which seems like a fatal defect in something designed to draw in kids. Here’s a snippet from the AP experiment:

The OLPC runs on the Linux operating system and a chip made by Intel rival Advanced Micro Devices Inc. The software was complicated and buggy. For weeks neither my brilliant niece, nor her well educated parents, could figure out how to get it to connect online.

They eventually had to reconfigure and upgrade the operating system, a complex process certainly not doable by a computer rookie. Pity the child in a remote Cambodian village trying to figure out this instruction from the OLPC Web site: “At your root prompt, type: olpc-update (build-no) where (build-no) is the name of the build you would like.”

Even worse, in order to save trees, the OLPC arrived with very few printed instructions. Instead the users were directed to a Web site for help, which would have been an insurmountable challenge if this was their only computer.

I actually had some trouble getting the XO to access the Web as well. Thankfully, it took me only a matter of several minutes, not weeks, and I didn’t have to reconfigure/upgrade anything — which tells me that that family simply didn’t bother to poke around the thing for a sustained-enough time. But point taken: Whoever’s using the XO shouldn’t have to strive to figure out what’s probably the primary function of the computer, i.e. getting onto the Internet. That’s troubleshooting fix No. 1 for OLPC: Make sure the software detects the nearest wi-fi connection by default, automatically at startup.

The dearth of printed material in the packaging also struck me as a shortcoming, despite the stated objective of saving on costs and eco-impact. You could also argue that any paper documentation would have to be multi-lingual, but realistically, they could get away with English-only. As with the coding apps provided, I saw this as another example of the missteps that happen when you let technocratic thinking guide what’s supposed to be a mainstream product.

Meanwhile, the NYT experiment also ran into interface roadblocks, both hardware and software:

It was hard to open. That killed the communitarian buzz for awhile. I had charged it — with a standard AC jack, though it can also run off a custom-designed solar panel — but ignored the (online) instructions. Antennas, which I mistook for kickstands, needed to be raised. An enticingly big button that looked like a latch turned out to be a hinge…

The touchpad is miniature, as are the Altoid-size keys on the hermetic, rubberized qwerty keyboard, which can be peeled off and replaced with other character sets. (The XO’s default language can also be changed.) The interface is cryptic. Icons like a speech bubble and an artist’s palette abound, circling on a zodiac-like wheel. We came across some odd words too, even on the English-language XO: Concret, Byke. Cartoon images of a turtle and a drum promised “TurtleArt” and “TamTam Jam.” We tried our hand at TurtleArt. A demo showed an exploding bubble scheme, but we couldn’t create our own. The XO’s music program tinkled along arbitrarily, simulating the sounds of an electric guitar, bongos and even a cola-colored bottle.

Again, it took me a few seconds to figure out how to flip the XO’s lid as well. Actually, having the antennae double as latches is pretty ingenious, so I don’t see that as a big problem. But again, that software is aptly described as “cryptic”, although I specifically singled out TamTam Jam as one of the bright spots in the software suite, as it seems reasonably intuitive for making music.

Overall, it looks like I’m not alone in finding the XO less than ideal for its purpose. The only caveat is that, even with kids at the controls, the computer is still being tested in the context of an affluent culture that’s accustomed to digital tools. Give this same computer to the intended audience — impoverished families where basic electricity is something of a luxury — and it might yield more productive experiences. Personally, I think the chief purpose of the XO is to give Third Worlders a cheap way to get information via the Web; if it achieves nothing more than that (provided there’s an available wi-fi access point in the area, of course), then it’s done the job. But the current incarnation looks to need some work before it achieves even that.

by Costa Tsiokos, Sun 01/27/2008 08:54pm
Category: Society, Tech
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Saturday, January 26, 2021

A recent news item out of Washington brought this conjured-up word to my attention: “Prebuttal”.

A rebuttal, inserted into an argument, that refutes an anticipated counter-argument; a rebuttal given in advance of another’s argument.

In other words, a preemptive way to scuttle a rebuttal. Like it. I can see it having wide application beyond the political realm.

by Costa Tsiokos, Sat 01/26/2008 07:48pm
Category: Politics, Wordsmithing
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The majority of India‘s population is at least a little bit dark-skinned. That doesn’t mean they want to see that reflected in their advertising and marketing media — quite the opposite, in fact:

“Indians have a longing for that pure, beautiful white skin. It is too deep-rooted in our psyche,” said Enakshi Chakraborty, who heads Eskimo India, a modeling agency that brings East European models here. “Advertisers for international as well as Indian brands call me and say, ‘We are looking for a gori[Hindi for white] model with dark hair.’ Some ask, ‘Do you have white girls who are Indian-looking?’ They want white girls who suit the Indian palate.”

Why the preference for Caucasian-ness in their models? It sounds like a lingering mental effect from British imperial influence:

A popular footwear and clothing brand, Woodland, began working with white models for its Indian print ads two years ago. A company official cited both the marketing and cultural strategy behind the decision.

“We opened two stores in Dubai last year and are now looking at Hong Kong and Kuala Lumpur. We now want to say we are a global brand,” said Lokesh Mishra, general manager of marketing at Woodland Worldwide. “And we are also playing on the typical Indian mind-set that thinks if the white people are wearing our brand, then it must be good.”

What’s Hindi for “high yellow”?

by Costa Tsiokos, Sat 01/26/2008 07:22pm
Category: Advert./Mktg., Society
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Here’s something that promises to inspire much musical mashup mayhem: An mp3 isolated vocal track of David Lee Roth’s singing off of the Van Halen classic “Runnin’ With The Devil”.

I can’t wait to hear Diamond Dave’s vintage harmonizing set to reggae, electronica, etc.

Actually, hearing this Roth rendition was a bit unnerving. I never realized that he wasn’t joining in on the “runnin’ with the devil” chorus until hearing this stripped-away version. Not hearing the title refrain robs the song of a good bit of its essence.

by Costa Tsiokos, Sat 01/26/2008 06:46pm
Category: Creative, Pop Culture
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Friday, January 25, 2021

A memory that inexplicably bubbled to the surface last night:

I knew a girl in college who owned a Siberian husky named Brezhnev.

That’s as in Leonid Brezhnev, who by that point had been dead for several years. Still a cool name for a dog that, allegedly, could trace its roots to Russia.

Actually, I don’t remember the dog itself, aside from his name (it might have been old enough to have been a puppy around the time his namesake died). I do remember the girl. I also remember being impressed that she was geopolitically aware enough to give her doggie such a unique name, but in hindsight, that might have been exaggerated.

by Costa Tsiokos, Fri 01/25/2008 09:04am
Category: General
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Thursday, January 24, 2021

Joining the familiar white-collar and blue-collar labor-market designations is the eco-focused “green collar” class of jobs:

According to a report by the American Solar Energy Society, there are currently 8.5 million green collar jobs in the U.S. and by 2030, this number will likely balloon to 40 million or about one-quarter of the total workforce. And, the jobs listed are just in the renewable energy and energy efficiency sectors and don’t include other types of environmental employment.

No need to point out that green is the color of money.

by Costa Tsiokos, Thu 01/24/2008 11:44pm
Category: Business, Science, Society
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While the tech world was all agog by last week’s unveiling of the silly-thin MacBook Air, Matt Mason noticed a key missing component from Apple’s new portable, with potentially paradigm-shifting consequences:

The MacBook Air has no CD drive. When the original iMac lost the disc drive, the floppy quickly went the way of the Dodo. Now Apple have done the same thing to the CD, and quite possibly hastened the demise of the DVD too.

An additional sign of the shift in digital media since Apple’s last drive-streamline: When the iMac was released without the then-standard floppy drive, Wintel manufacturers roundly derided the move as premature and not reflective of consumer needs. That proved hollow soon enough, as within a couple of years every other computer maker dropped the flop as well.

But today? No one even batted an eye at the Air’s lack of front-loading drive. That’s because file transfers via the Web, via wireless and via USB drives is so commonplace that no one’s relying upon shiny discs for that sort of heavy lifting.

I’m not sure there’s still not cause for concern. While computing work has largely bypassed the DVD drive, it’s still used quite a bit for movie disc playback. Digital delivery of movies/television shows is progressing, but the convenience and affordability of retail DVDs means those discs still loom large in the mainstream. So I see people clinging to the DVD drives a little longer just for that, meaning that the phase-out might not happen as quickly as it did for floppies.

by Costa Tsiokos, Thu 01/24/2008 11:23pm
Category: Tech
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Wednesday, January 23, 2021

Apparently, the “Web 2.0″ tag also serves as an age limit (sans that decimal point) for a good number of MySpacers and Facebookers. Teens and twenty-somethings are uncomfortable with encountering their parental-aged peers on social networks that used to be tacitly considered kids-only domains.

Nowhere are the technological turf wars more apparent than on social networking sites, such as MySpace and Facebook, which went from being student-oriented to allowing adults outside the college ranks to join.

Gary Rudman, a California-based youth market researcher, has heard the complaints. He regularly interviews young people who think it’s “creepy” when an older person — we’re talking someone they know — asks to join their social network as a “friend.” It means, among other things, that they can view each others’ profiles and what they and their friends post.

“It would be like a 40-year-old attending the prom or a frat party,” Rudman says. “It just doesn’t work.”…

Lauren Auster-Gussman, a freshman at Juniata College in Pennsylvania, says it’s particularly awkward when one of her parents’ friends asks to join her social network. She thinks Facebook should only be used by people younger than, say, 40.

“I mean, I’m in college,” she says. “There are bound to be at least a few drunken pictures of me on Facebook, and I don’t need my parents’ friends seeing them.”

It’s really funny how this conception of publicly-accessible Web destinations as “private” spaces still holds sway, even among a demographic that presumably should be more Internet-savvy. Part of that mindset indeed relies upon the idea that older people don’t glom themselves to the computer as much as kids do, but that’s obviously shifting.

If social convention deems me too old to have a MySpace page at age 36, I’ll gladly be a willing victim of ageism. Maybe once I’m old enough for it to no longer be acceptable, people will stop bugging me to get one.

by Costa Tsiokos, Wed 01/23/2008 09:03am
Category: Social Media Online, Society
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I’m not sure what to make of the resurfacing of Raymond Allen, former 1970s sitcom actor best known for his semi-regular role as boozy Uncle Woody on “Sanford and Son”, via a MySpace page.

Maybe there’s nothing to make of it at all. He fell ill for an extended period in the ’80s and simply dropped out of sight within the entertainment industry, and now he’s just putting himself out there again in a low-key way. With a commendably non-garish page layout, I must point out.

Besides, if Fred G. Sanford and Aunt Esther can have MySpace profiles, there’s no reason why the rest of the cast can’t! (No sign of Grady and Bubba among the friends lists, but there is some a disturbing revelation of a male-stripping stint in Fred’s past.)

by Costa Tsiokos, Wed 01/23/2008 08:59am
Category: Celebrity, Internet, TV
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Tuesday, January 22, 2021

well versed
Worth noting: Versus and the National Hockey League will remain hitched in the near future, as the fledgling cable sports network has extended its telecast agreement with the hockey folks through the 2010-11 season, at around $75 million per year.

And there’s no shortage of nice things being said:

During the 2006-7 season, Versus’s N.H.L. rating stayed flat at a 0.2, but because of the overall growth of subscribers, viewership rose 31 percent to 212,366.

[Versus president Gavin] Harvey said the deal was turning a profit.

“Without the N.H.L., we’d be in a more difficult pickle,” he said.

Since the Comcast-owned Versus acquired the rights to the N.H.L. — after ESPN vowed to drastically reduce its rights payment to the league — the network has grown by about 10 million subscribers to 74 million, more than 22 million fewer than ESPN or ESPN2. It has also increased its subscriber fee to about 26 cents a month, from less than 20 cents.

It doesn’t hurt that Comcast also owns the Philadelphia Flyers, and thus has a vested interest in providing the league national exposure. Besides, despite all the running-down, there’s still a bigger chasm between the bush-league sports and the NHL; at the end of the day, it’s one of the Big Four sports, albeit the weak sister of the bunch (the way it’s been since the 1970s, really).

I’ll take all the TV time for hockey I can get. If Versus’ continued slow-but-steady growth represents a tandem trend with the NHL, all the better. It does verify a certain vague positivity in hockey’s perception ever since the NHL Winter Classic garnered modestly good reviews.

by Costa Tsiokos, Tue 01/22/2008 11:17pm
Category: Hockey, SportsBiz, TV
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Of late, there seems to be a marked uptick in media complaints about the standings system used in the National Hockey League. I guess it’s because parity holds sway on the eve of the All-Star break, meaning most teams are crowing about being .500 in terms of points, even though that’s thanks to a surplus of one-point decisions.

And even though those one-pointers are no longer considered ties, I like the way Washington City Paper sums up its whine in the headline “No More Kissing Your Sister”.

Mainly because that time-honored folksy descriptor for the less-than-satisfying feeling from tying a college football game reminds me of Lee Corso‘s expansion on the subject:

“Let me tell you something — if a tie is like kissing your sister, then a loss is like kissing your brother!”

So maybe the NHL should adopt that as the official league response to all those complainers…

by Costa Tsiokos, Tue 01/22/2008 10:40pm
Category: Football, Hockey
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Monday, January 21, 2021

child's play
It’s been close to three weeks since I received my XO Laptop from the One Laptop Per Child Project. Hopefully, the kid who got the counterpart laptop that I provided in this donation package has had more opportunity to use his/her machine than I’ve had to use mine.

That said, I’ve poked around the XO enough to provide this capsule assessment:

The hardware is good. The software is bad.

A little detail on both those points:

The computer’s physical design is, in my view, an achievement. The goal was to manufacture a device that’s tailored to children who live in environments that aren’t pristine enough for standard, typically fragile notebooks. The XO delivers. It’s compact, sized for little hands and fingers to handle, and sports plenty of input keys for a kid to go to town. The swivel-screen that converts it into a rudimentary tablet PC, along with the wireless antennae that provide both wi-fi access and a mesh network, are the crowning achievement. The inclusion of videocamera was essential for maximizing the creative functionality. It’s not perfect — the membrane-covered keyboard seems to need a lot of breaking-in to be useful, and the touchpad area could have used more thought — but overall, the hands-on hardware aspect is a success.

The software, on the other hand, doesn’t seem to hold up its end. It’s Linux with a GUI interface, but it doesn’t strike me as intuitive. Maybe it’s my years-long conditioning to Windows and Mac, and the target audience of children without preconceived notions of how a computer desktop “should” function won’t have a problem with it. But I consider myself pretty adept at digital interfaces, so if I’m struggling with it, I’m not sure how well it’ll catch on.

Beyond the OS, I find the suite of programs loaded onto the XO to be, at best, a mixed bag, more tech-centric than it needs to be for schooling endusers. I don’t see the point in including code-programming apps like Pippy or even EToys, because that carries the assumption that the laptop is intended for use as a computer-science tool. That’s a quantum leap over the stated purpose of the XO as an enhancement to general education. On the other hand, the basic artwork and writing apps serve their purposes as creative outlets, and the TamTam Jam music-creation program in particular looks like a winner.

The OLPC Project has been criticized, in particular by Intel as it pursues its own, competing Classmate PC initiative. The objections poke holes at both the hardware and software of the XO, arguing that neither prepare the poor kids for standard Wintel machines they’d encounter if they advance to higher levels of education and work.

I don’t think that’s a valid argument when it comes to the hardware, but sadly, I have to agree on those points with the software. I don’t know that the XO has to run a Windows mimic, but something closer to a typical Microsoft Office setup would be a better prep for kids starting out with this computer. That would better fulfill the promise of OLPC, ultimately.

by Costa Tsiokos, Mon 01/21/2008 11:46pm
Category: Society, Tech
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Any time I see a house DJ unloading sleeve after sleeve of CDs in preparation for a show, I automatically think: Dinosaur.

Which is unfair, because ultimately it doesn’t matter what the music is stored on, as long it’s pumping. But really, when iPods are so widespread and hold so many tracks, seeing a professional mixmaster clinging to discs (compact or, even, vinyl) is a signal that they’re not making the most of the tools that are available to them.

They’ll have no choice eventually, as iPods are already overtaking what used to be cutting-edge spinning:

In 2006, consumers in the United States spent about $125 million on D.J.- specific hardware, said Brian Majeski, editor of Music Trades magazine in Englewood, N.J. Some $35 million of it was on CD players. But CD player sales are probably going to shrink.

“Instead of buying expensive CD players, people are starting to migrate to hard-drive devices, in many instances substituting an iPod for a CD machine,” he said. “The Numark iDJ2s have appeal both to consumers and mobile D.J.’s. You don’t need to haul as much stuff.”

The use of the iPod, often wielded by amateurs, has raised eyebrows among some professional D.J.’s. “It’s as though their guild is being infringed upon,” Mr. Majeski said.

The concept of whipping an iPod out of your pocket and instantly commencing on break-beating is appealing. Since I’m now in possession of two iPods — my everyday Touch and my now-backup Classic (nee Video) — it’s occurred to me that I could easily transport a party-to-go, provided there’s appropriate soundsystem equipment at the destination.

But as cool as that would be, the iPod’s playback interface doesn’t lend itself to true mixing. The Touch, especially, would be a pain to manipulate with fades and sound effects. The fact is, it wasn’t designed for aggressive playback. I guess that’s why these porting consoles are coming out.

by Costa Tsiokos, Mon 01/21/2008 08:32pm
Category: Pop Culture, iPod
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