Population Statistic: Read. React. Repeat.
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Wednesday, December 31, 2020

If you gifted someone with a used Zune this holiday season, the recipient is probably hating you right now:

Call it the Z2K9 bug. [At approximately 2AM EDT on Dec. 31], a number of first-generation 30GB Microsoft Zunes failed en masse. According to accounts posted to Zune forums around the Web, the players seized up during the initial boot process and became unresponsive to the standard reboot or reset commands. “From what I can tell it looks like every Zune 30 on the planet has suddenly crashed,” one Zune owner wrote in a post to the Zune Forums. “Is this a virus? A glitch? A time bomb? A disgruntled Microsoft employee? Planned obsolescence to make us buy a new one? Or just a terrorist plot to drive the free world crazy?”

Looks like Microsoft has been blindsided by this meltdown and has yet to push out a fix. The good news is that it’s only affecting this one older version of the media player, not the other models; and contrary to some reports, the firmware updates aren’t to blame. Otherwise, many a Zune owner (assuming there are all that many — I’ve seen a grand total of two of these in the NYC wild) is now in proud ownership of a brick.

I’ll smugly note that my trusty iPod Touch (16GB, if that matters) has been plugging along without incident, last night and today. Suck it, Zunesters.

by Costa Tsiokos, Wed 12/31/2008 12:42:00 PM
Category: Tech, iPod
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ho ho no
This may or may not be my final blog posting of 2008. (All signs point to “yes”.)

If so, I’ll leave it with the above cameraphone photo, just snapped yesterday here in Alphabet City. Something about this stuffed-toy Santa hanging around here, well after Christmas, makes me wistful — but in a good way. Plus I like the tiny teddy bear he’s holding, his marionette-like rosy cheeks, his plaid pants, and that he’s hanging from a winter-denuded sidewalk tree.

Flickr’d as well, of course.

by Costa Tsiokos, Wed 12/31/2008 09:54:08 AM
Category: New Yorkin', Photography
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Not that this is a monumental revelation, but I’ve finally made this connection regarding weather-related comfort (or lack thereof):

In summer, it’s not the heat, it’s the humidity.

In winter, it’s not the cold, it’s the wind chill.

Seems straightforward. Although it seems to elude most people, at least when it comes to expressing the concepts in common phraseology: While the heat maxim carries much Google juice, the cold one hardly registers at all. More people like to bitch during the summer, apparently.

by Costa Tsiokos, Wed 12/31/2008 09:34:15 AM
Category: Weather
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Tuesday, December 30, 2020

This still-forming Great Recession is, of course, a global slump. Perhaps nowhere is it being felt worse than in China, where an estimated 10 million workers are now migrating out of former boom cities and back to their homeland countrysides.

That could be bad:

The government, always concerned about social instability, is now on high alert, fearful of the consequences of a huge mass of jobless, disappointed, rootless young men.

Beijing has urged firms to avoid cutting jobs despite falling profits, and many bosses have obliged by retaining workers but giving them unpaid leave…

But China is heading into uncharted territory and the picture could deteriorate quickly. Many economists forecast growth next year of less than 7.5 percent, the country’s lowest since 1990 and a level that would swell the ranks of the jobless.

“The redistribution of wealth through theft and robbery could dramatically increase and menaces to social stability will grow,” Zhou Tianyong, a leading Communist Party scholar, wrote this month in a newspaper issued by a state think-tank.

Then again, all this reverse migration takes newly educated and experienced Chinese workers back to the traditionally talent-starved interior. So that could be a good thing, longer-term:

Coastal provinces have long been the wealthiest in China and the main destination for migrants. But they have borne the brunt of falling exports, while the country’s poorer hinterland is more closely tied to domestic fortunes that could rise on the back of a hefty government stimulus spending.

“We are seeing quite a few good, talented people come our way from Guangdong, people with business experience and skills,” said Wei Chengyi, manager at Chengdu Doulton Trading Co., which sells ceramic filters. “It’s a big help for us.”

The silver lining, in the form of a redistribution of human infrastructure that would shake up China’s centuries-old socio-economic pattern. When all this is done, the People’s Republic just might leap out of Third World status, finally.

by Costa Tsiokos, Tue 12/30/2008 12:09:44 PM
Category: Business, Political, Society
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I’m not sure if it qualifies as an actual finance-style bubble, but the sudden difficulty in attaining a clean-break divorce in the midst of a declining housing market sure feels like the bursting of something:

With nearly one in six homes worth less than the mortgage owed on it, according to Moody’s Economy.com, divorce lawyers and financial advisers around the country say the logistics of divorce have been turned around. “We used to fight about who gets to keep the house,” said Gary Nickelson, president of the American Academy of Matrimonial Lawyers. “Now we fight about who gets stuck with the dead cow.”

As a result, divorce has become more complicated and often more expensive, with lower prospects for money on the other side. Some divorce lawyers say that business has slowed or that clients are deciding to stay together because there are no assets left to help them start over.

So a broken marriage stays broken, but still intact. Which leads to awkward living arrangements:

Some clients have split up bedrooms and continue to live in the same house, [divorce lawyer Bonnie Booden] said. Some split child-care duties so they don’t have to deal with each other and live that way until they can figure out what to do. “And I’ve had people who just throw in the towel and get divorces anyway, creating financial ruin for themselves,” she said.

I’d guess that the more religious elements of society would look on this decline in divorce as the ends (somewhat) justifying the means. And I’d be right.

by Costa Tsiokos, Tue 12/30/2008 11:17:46 AM
Category: Business, Society
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Monday, December 29, 2020

So, exactly when do we declare Samuel L. Jackson to be box-office poison?

This wonderment is prompted by the most recent theatrical bomb he’s co-starring in, The Spirit. Not that I’m blaming Jackson for that stinker; I haven’t seen it and don’t plan to, but being a fan of Will Eisner’s original, I could see the travesty coming from miles away. My only comment on that: Frank Miller needs to cut down on his cocaine intake…

Back to Jackson: I can’t remember the last time one of his headlining features was an actual hit. Let’s review his most recent non-hit parade:

- Soul Men
- Lakeview Terrace
- Jumper
- Cleaner
- 1408
- Resurrecting the Champ
- Home of the Brave
- Black Snake Moan
- Snakes on a Plane
- Freedomland
- The Man

Bombs away! Most of these were abysmal, and even the only decent one (Resurrecting) sold practically no tickets. This list stretches back to 2005, making it three years since Jackson has been in a successfully bankable motion picture. I’m not saying he was the sole reason for these failures, but the fact is that he is the one common factor.

Just about the only hits he’s been a part of during, and immediately before, this dismal streak were the Star Wars prequels. And let’s face it — Lucasfilm could have cast Gary Coleman as Mace Windu and wouldn’t have missed a beat.

I don’t get how Hollywood works anyway, but I know that plenty of other actors would have hung themselves with such a long rope of duds. Maybe Jackson is working so cheap, and still has enough reputation/recognition cachet, that he’s worth the risk for many a filmmaker? Still, at this point, I can’t see a movie release with his name on it and not automatically mark it as dead on arrival.

by Costa Tsiokos, Mon 12/29/2008 07:37:26 PM
Category: Celebrity, Movies
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crashing the party
Somewhere or other, I read about the iPhone acting as a classic low-end disruptor in the smartphone space, basically a more accessible mass-market option to a BlackBerry and the ilk.

But that’s just the phone part. A couple of news items point to Apple’s slim devices disrupting other media, effectively extending the definition of a “media player”. (That’s “devices” plural, because the iPod Touch runs on the same software platform and can do essentially the same non-telecom tasks as the iPhone).

- While the e-book publishing format is expanding, and most associated with dedicated hardware like Amazon’s Kindle and the Sony Reader, the iPhone/iTouch is actually having a more measurable impact on adoption:

Several e-book-reading programs have been created for the device, and at least two of them, Stanza from LexCycle and the eReader from Fictionwise, have been downloaded more than 600,000 times. Another company, Scroll Motion, announced this week that it would begin selling e-books for the iPhone from major publishers like Simon & Schuster, Random House and Penguin…

Publishers say these iPhone applications are already starting to generate nearly as many digital book sales as the Sony Reader, though they still trail sales of books in the Kindle format.

I don’t see how the e-book readers can compete, frankly. Why lug around an extra, oversized display screen when you can carry around your library in your pocket? Obviously screen-size is sacrificed, but most people are accustomed to reading off their phone screens by now. If anything, I see the Kindle, Reader, et al becoming niche products, for those who can’t do without large-print reading; everyone else will do their e-book reading via iPhone/iTouch. The disruption comes from including the e-book capabilities in the price of the device, versus shelling out a few hundred dollars for a separate reader.

- Videogames are the more obvious non-phone and non-music media applications that Apple is targeting (with the App Store providing a seamless pipeline for free/cheap games). In fact, it looks like the iPhone/iTouch platform is already helping to do in a previous leader in handheld gaming:

But then, set the [Sony PlayStation Portable] next to the iPhone or iPod Touch, the year’s other big winner in portable gaming, and the PSP’s hardware design suddenly looks old hat. Where’s the touchscreen? What are all these buttons for? What on earth is the point of this useless analog nub of a joystick? And why, in an age when flash memory is so cheap it practically comes in Cheerios boxes, are we still stuck with a huge, bulky, slow, and noisy optical drive? If you’re going to compete by offering a powerful hardware platform, you actually need to outperform the competition. As the iPhone steps into the portable gaming ring, it’s already got the PSP on the ropes.

Again, the disruption comes in baked-in cost savings: Why buy a separate, dedicated gaming machine if your existing phone/media player can already provide you with videogaming fun? Along with all the other media playback that the PSP does, mainly as a response to Apple’s player.

And this is on top of the music, Web access and other functions the iPhone/iTouch offers. Taken all together, it’s an impressive display of disruptive technology in digital media.

by Costa Tsiokos, Mon 12/29/2008 05:57:12 PM
Category: Publishing, Tech, Videogames, iPod
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Sunday, December 28, 2020

With all the big-development credit dried up, not only is New York City’s skyline likely to remain frozen in place for the next two years, but more than a few of those late-added buildings will sit empty and/or in a skeleton-like unfinished state.

Pretty much like a city-sized visual tribute to what’s becoming the Great Recession.

by Costa Tsiokos, Sun 12/28/2008 05:50:46 PM
Category: Business, New Yorkin'
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perfectly round
There’s more than one way to achieve National Football League perfection. The Detroit Lions did it in the negative sense: With their 31-21 loss today at Green Bay, they went a perfect 0-16, winless for the season.

And unlike the anticipation that followed last year’s 16-0 New England Patriots regular-season campaign, there’s no pesky post-season that threatens to banish that sparkling zero in the Lions’ record. Nope, when you go oh-and-sixteen, you stay oh-and-sixteen — no further action required.

So the 0-14 1976 Tampa Bay Bucs have company as the only other team to lose every game in a modern-era season. At least that expansion team won’t see their overall 1976-77 0-26 streak get knocked down…

…Right? Well, technically, the Lions are very well-positioned to make a run for it. Counting Detroit’s 34-13 loss to Green Bay in Week 17 of 2007, the Lions are now officially on an 0-17 streak. If they open 2009 with a string of losses… Well, it’ll get ugly in Motown real quick.

You wouldn’t think it would happen. In the parity-driven NFL, it’s tough to sustain any kind of win-loss consistency, within a season or over the span of several seasons. But then, it was fairly inconceivable that the Lions could have dropped an entire 16-game schedule. At this point, anything’s possible.

by Costa Tsiokos, Sun 12/28/2008 04:55:31 PM
Category: Football
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A peculiar side effect from this dismal 2008 holiday shopping season: Store-brand giftcards, which had become a leading option for hard-to-please recipients, fell out of favor with consumers.

A couple of factors account for this:

Price-conscious shoppers became savvy bargain-hunters, realizing they could give bigger and better gifts by taking advantage of unprecedented discounts rather than by spending a set amount on gift cards, which had been steadily gaining popularity over the past few years. Practically everything took a backseat to price.

That sort of makes sense on the surface, in that deep discounts yielded more physical product, and that the sale price likely was limited-time only. A giftcard in such an environment represents deferred purchasing power — prices might come up again by the time someone cashes in that card, so the idea is that some of that power is lost.

That doesn’t address the chief appeal of giving giftcards, though: The convenience via elimination of selection. Giftcards are supposed to shift the choice of the actual present to the recipient, limiting the options only to that specific store (or range of stores, in the case of mall giftcards or even credit-card imprinted cards). Product-specific discounts don’t address this. The fear that whatever you bought is the wrong thing isn’t offset by a 50 percent discount; I wonder what the shopper psychology is behind the appeal of buying a gift that potentially could be hated — but at least didn’t dent the gifter’s pocketbook as much!

The other factor for the lost appeal of giftcards is more concrete, unfortunately:

Another big concern — whether retailers they got cards from would follow the many others who have filed for bankruptcy this year, jeopardizing the value of their gifts.

This one’s somewhat exaggerated, mainly by fairly recent memories of the Sharper Image bankruptcy and the debacle with its giftcards. Still, as terrible as the retail climate has been toward the close of 2008, it’s likely that many companies will start going belly-up in January. So the fears of buying vouchers that will subsequently be worth less than the plastic they’re molded from is, depressingly, valid.

What does this mean for the giftcard economy long-term? The economy’s going to recover eventually, so the hyper-discounting will go away. I think the idea of variable pricing as an incentive to pass on fixed-value giftcards is shaky anyway — again, it still comes down to applying a purchase to something that the recipient may or may not like, and the odds of likability increase with an all-purpose purchase giftcard. So this season represents a speedbump in the progressive adoption of giftcards, not a derailment.

by Costa Tsiokos, Sun 12/28/2008 03:55:50 PM
Category: Business
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NYT’s Jon Pareles laments the corrosive effect of pop music that’s tailored toward commercial messaging:

The question is: What happens to the music itself when the way to build a career shifts from recording songs that ordinary listeners want to buy to making music that marketers can use? That creates pressure, subtle but genuine, for music to recede: to embrace the element of vacancy that makes a good soundtrack so unobtrusive, to edit a lyric to be less specific or private, to leave blanks for the image or message the music now serves. Perhaps the song will still make that essential, head-turning first impression, but it won’t be as memorable or independent.

Thus my referencing of Nietzsche’s aphorism about taking on the qualities of those you oppose. Regardless of how the creative process originates, anyone who’s directing the fruits of their labor toward a wide audience can’t help but be influenced by the reaction, and apply that to subsequent output. If a song becomes popular, it’ll attract higher bidders in the marketing arena, which will in turn lead to an even wider audience; and that will encourage the artist to keep that in mind for the next release.

This applies to creative endeavors beyond music, of course. Popular appeal is the brass ring for anyone putting out content for public purview. If you care at all about sales, airtime, Web traffic, or any other tracking metric, then you’re going to be influenced into playing for the crowd. If something produced independently of such considerations happens to resonate with the audience, it’s a happy dovetailing of interest by both sides of the exchange — but that lasts only as long as both parties are satisfied by the results.

The issue, I guess, is where to draw the line, and if it should even matter. Consider that fans aren’t media-shy, and usually already speak the same language in terms of marketing intake. So the exchange is already based upon common principles. The product is bound to be impacted, but it’s an acceptable development. Why not cash in, assuming both sides are willing participants?

Still, an abyss is an abyss. Gaze all you want, just don’t expect a fulfilling result.

by Costa Tsiokos, Sun 12/28/2008 01:56:26 PM
Category: Advert./Mktg., Creative, Pop Culture
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Trivial tidbit: The Eiffel Tower, perhaps the most quintessential French landmark, has a German-derived name that, in fact, could have been even more Germanic:

If it weren’t for some French people who found German pronunciation quite hard then the Eiffel Tower could have been called Bönickhausen tower. This was [Gustave] Eiffel’s family name until the early 18th Century, when his German grandfather moved to France and no one could say his name, he changed it to Eiffel because that was where he was from, he was born in Marmagen, in the Eifel hills, a low volcanic mountain range in Western Germany.

So yes, it could have been la Tour Bönickhausen (or Boenickhausen, in umlaut-free form) adorning the Parisian skyline. But that masks the irony that “Eiffel” is also a German name, so either way, the tower has a foreign name. It’s just that “Eiffel” sounds more French, so it flies. The addition of that superfluous extra “f” further Frenchifies the name away from its German original.

by Costa Tsiokos, Sun 12/28/2008 01:06:57 PM
Category: History
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Saturday, December 27, 2020

How do you live in a house without a furnace? You build it according to “passive house” standards, which essentially means it’s hermetically sealed to minimize and manage air-temperature exchange with the outside.

Sounds suffocating, but it’s not:

Inside, a passive home does have a slightly different gestalt from conventional houses, just as an electric car drives differently from its gas-using cousin. There is a kind of spaceship-like uniformity of air and temperature. The air from outside all goes through HEPA filters before entering the rooms. The cement floor of the basement isn’t cold. The walls and the air are basically the same temperature.

Look closer and there are technical differences: When the windows are swung open, you see their layers of glass and gas, as well as the elaborate seals around the edges. A small, grated duct near the ceiling in the living room brings in clean air. In the basement there is no furnace, but instead what looks like a giant Styrofoam cooler, containing the heat exchanger.

Sounds like a family-sized biosphere. It might be too tightly-contained to fly with American homeowners.

But then again, most of us go through an average day hopping from one climate-controlled cocoon to another (home, car, office, mall, etc.). So why not max out the efficiency at home?

by Costa Tsiokos, Sat 12/27/2008 03:04:18 PM
Category: Science, Society
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You wouldn’t think Saddam Hussein’s lasting legacy would be in linguistics. But I’ll argue that it is, simply because he famously delivered a common Arabic qualifying phrase to the English-speaking world:

In 1991 Saddam Hussein conquered Kuwait and postured with threats to deliver the “Mother of All Battles”. Mother of all Battles [Umm Al-Ma’arik / Um El-Ma’arek] — the Arabic “mother of” is a figure of speech for “major” or “best”. The original “Mother of All Battles” was the Battle of Qadisiya [Battle of al-Qadisiyya] in 637 CE, in which Islamic Arabs defeated the Persians. Saddam Hussein’s “Mother of All Battles” turned into, among other things, the “Mother of All Retreats”, the “Mother of All Blowouts”, “the mother of all Marine operations”, 650-slide “mother of all briefings”, and so forth.

Using “mother of all” isn’t as widespread in everyday usage as it was in the early ’90s, when Hussein’s proclamation was freshly ripped from the headlines. But it still lurks in the wider lexicon of expressions, and that wouldn’t be the case if the late Iraqi strongman hadn’t used it first.

by Costa Tsiokos, Sat 12/27/2008 02:31:06 PM
Category: History, Politics, Wordsmithing
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Friday, December 26, 2020

I don’t know how much of a secret it is that, when it comes to social networking or other audience-participation activities, most of the action is fueled by a minority sliver of the total users.

I’ve always referred to these activists as the vanguard, i.e. those committed (or addicted) participants who feel an especially tight bond with the larger whole, and devote more time and attention to it than their fellow members. This manifests itself in a range of social groupings, from professional associations to politics to hobbyist pursuits. Essentially, this vanguard provides the momentum and guidance, as tempered by the greater membership; it’s a symbiotic relationship, and a natural group dynamic.

When it comes to online community-building, the same dynamic applies. I guess the user-generated ethos of the Web was supposed to turn the old rules on their heads, but indeed, human nature overrides the possibility of any leveling-out of this vanguard class.

Two recent models have emerged to illustrate this persistence among the range of social networking sites (Facebook, MySpace, Flickr, and even blogs):

1. The 90-9-1 principle, which simply states:

- 90% of users are the “audience”, or lurkers. The people tend to read or observe, but don’t actively contribute.

- 9% of users are “editors”, sometimes modifying content or adding to an existing thread, but rarely create content from scratch.

- 1% of users are “creators”, driving large amounts of the social group’s activity. More often than not, these people are driving a vast percentage of the site’s new content, threads, and activity.

Simple, if a bit too simple. For a rule of thumb it works, even if some of the larger sites out there are heavily skewed away from this: For instance, YouTube, Flickr, and Wikipedia all run on active user participation, or vanguards, that comprise well under 1 percent of each site’s total traffic/registration population.

2. Forrester Research’s Social Technographics profiling offers a similar minority report on who drives how much of active online content, although it defines that activity differently:

…when it comes to social content 21% of online US consumers are Creators, 37% are Critics (those who react to content created by others), and 69% are Spectators.

Forrester’s definitions involve a good deal of overlap between those above categories, as well as others. Plus, Forrester’s breakdown takes into account the online interaction of Web surfers across all the sites they visit, versus the 90-9-1’s application to just the self-contained ecosystem of a single website.

Still, in both cases, we see a decided minority of users who provide the churn. Most people like to passively absorb the media information as presented to them, rather than contribute/create their own; I’d guess their chief action option is to exercise their right to stop visiting if the content on a site doesn’t suit their tastes. The vanguard within those larger communities take an active role in content creation, and as a result, feel a closer affinity and sense of ownership relating to their online hangout.

Again, I don’t know how new this is to most. But it’s a new iteration on an established human-behavior pattern, and always helpful to keep in mind when dissecting why we act the way we do in groups, online and off.

by Costa Tsiokos, Fri 12/26/2008 05:49:15 PM
Category: Creative, Internet, Politics, Society
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When it comes to currying favor with Afghan warlords versus the Taliban and al-Qaeda, CIA agents have opened up a pharmaceutical front, aimed at the libido:

For some U.S. operatives in Afghanistan, Western drugs such as Viagra were just part of a long list of enticements available for use in special cases. Two veteran officers familiar with such practices said Viagra was offered rarely, and only to older tribal officials for whom the drug would hold special appeal. While such sexual performance drugs are generally unavailable in the remote areas where the agency’s teams operated, they have been sold in some Kabul street markets since at least 2003 and were known by reputation elsewhere.

“You didn’t hand it out to younger guys, but it could be a silver bullet to make connections to the older ones,” said one retired operative familiar with the drug’s use in Afghanistan. Afghan tribal leaders often had four wives — the maximum number allowed by the Koran — and aging village patriarchs were easily sold on the utility of a pill that could “put them back in an authoritative position,” the official said.

Little blue pills could be just the first step in this effort. Why not unleash the entire spectrum of happy drugs that the Western biopharm industry produces? Blood pressure medicines, botox, steroids, anti-depressants — the possibilities are endless. It could put an entirely different face on these Middle East scrub wars. And it’s not like any industry ever went broke by being a government supplier.

by Costa Tsiokos, Fri 12/26/2008 04:59:57 PM
Category: Creative, Politics, Society
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I looked it up, and sure enough, “dozenth” is a proper word. An alternate, and I suppose more colorful, way of saying “twelfth”.

It’s an odd-looking ordinal, though — both spoken and spelled out. And it’s hard to imagine it coming up in regular English usage — how often to you count off in dozens? Maybe if you’re an egg farmer.

by Costa Tsiokos, Fri 12/26/2008 04:31:44 PM
Category: Wordsmithing
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Thursday, December 25, 2020

It’s Christmas Day, and I can’t think of a better way to waste a chunk of it than by playing IconNicholson’s holiday ecard Flash game, Snowcraft.

I’ll take a virtual snowball fight over a real one any day — less cold and wet and miserable. Plus I love that snippet of “The Good, The Bad and The Ugly” wild-west theme music between rounds.

You can go to the interactive agency’s source page, or else experience this vintage version as embedded below. Have a Merry!

EDIT: Sorry, it didn’t register that the applet obnoxiously autostarts, with sound. I blame the eggnog. I tinkered with the embed code, but doesn’t look like there’s a way to kill either the autostart nor the sound. So just click through the links if you want to play.

by Costa Tsiokos, Thu 12/25/2008 08:55:14 AM
Category: Internet, Videogames
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Wednesday, December 24, 2021

With the traditional news media withering away at a frighteningly accelerated pace, it’s now fair to ask what will happen to the Web if its source material for content disappears.

One solution would be for print publications to go back to an aggressively print-only format:

Writing in The New York Observer, John Koblin pointed out that when Forbes, Portfolio and Fortune went through recent retrenchments, the Web staffs were hit the hardest. That may be just an old print reflex, but there is a rational argument to be made that the part of the apparatus that has a working business model, declining or not, should receive the resources.

At a time when Web entrepreneurs like Nick Denton of Gawker Media are predicting a 40 percent decline in Web display advertising, it’s probably not a great time to be indexing into the Web either.

And there are signs that the free ride for consumers may be coming to an end. I started getting notices to renew my subscription to The Wall Street Journal and its Web site and waited, as I have in the past, for the deeply discounted offer. It never came. And according to company statements in October, paid subscriptions for The Journal’s Web site were up more than 7 percent from a year ago.

What would this mean for online information sources? The quantity of newscopy probably won’t decrease, as an active enough audience and userbase would abhor a vacuum. But calling a scraped-together content well that doesn’t draw from original in-depth reporting “newscopy” might be an exaggeration — it would be even more of an echo-chamber than it already is.

It’s amazing to me how relatively easy it is to restrict online dissemination if the publisher doesn’t put it on the Web in the first place. I’ve subscribed to plenty of publications that would provide only partial online mirror editions, and it’s true: If it’s not already digitized, the public is too lazy to transcribe it by hand onto the Web. That’s bad as far as widening the scope of that information — the now-common “if it’s not online, then it doesn’t exist” syndrome — but it’s also good in terms of exclusivity.

I guess we’ll find out how the online space copes in 2009. There’s bound to be an economic rebound of some degree by mid-year, so maybe the blogs, ezines and forums will find a viable way stay lively.

by Costa Tsiokos, Wed 12/24/2008 01:52:32 PM
Category: Business, Internet, Media
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Just recently, I was engaged in a research assignment that took me back to familiar territory: Demographic information on the State of Florida. The tracking of which was, prior to my re-relocation to New York, my job.

Specifically, over the past few days, I was looking at the facts and figures concerning South Florida, which is formally defined as the Miami-Fort Lauderdale-Pompano Beach metropolitan statistical area (MSA). It’s easily the biggest region in Florida, which is saying something for a State that boasts 20 distinct MSAs.

It’s been a while since I’ve gandered at the Sunshine State’s data clusters, so I was surprised to find the southeastern corner of the State labeled with Pompano Beach. The way I remember it, as of only a couple of years ago, the designator for the South Florida megalopolis was “Miami-Fort Lauderdale-West Palm Beach”, basically incorporating the three counties (Miami-Dade, Broward, and Palm Beach) that comprise the area. But now, the northern limit of the metro’s center of gravity has retrenched back south to Pompano, giving the Broward city a promotion of sorts.

I’m not sure why this happened. The MSA still includes Palm Beach; I would have first guessed that the change came with the city of West Palm Beach and environs having broken off into a separate MSA, but that’s not the case. And if the decade-old pattern of growth is holding, the population migrations are continuing to snake northward up the Broward-Palm Beach-Martin counties coast. If anything, I’d have thought the city-center designator would be moving in the same direction, not back south toward Miami.

I’m sure there’s an answer in some media/demographer statistical guide somewhere, but I’m not going to hunt for it. I’ll just have to get used to saying “Miami-Fort Lauderdale-Pompano” instead of the old “Miami-Fort Lauderdale-West Palm”. Assuming it ever comes up for me again.

by Costa Tsiokos, Wed 12/24/2008 12:35:31 PM
Category: Business, Florida Livin', Society
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As much as I despise wintry weather, there is one perk: The fun I get from knocking down overgrown icicles from the rooftop eaves.

Nothing like watching those earthbound missiles shatter spectacularly on the ground (yes, making sure there was nothing or no one nearby to errantly hit). Thanks to their proximity just beyond arm’s-length, I needed to make use of my trusty hockey stick to reach down and over to dislodge the icy hangers. No real skill involved, and I was surprised by how little tapping was required to break them off, considering how huge some were (more than a foot long, and about half as thick). I was a little disappointed — I was hoping to better practice my wicked wrist-shot technique.

Note that I was positioned above the potential ice-bombs, so there was no danger of them dropping on me. Which puts me one-up on this driveway-level, shovel-swinging idiot.

Not only that, but if I keep up this fun, I could parlay it into a seasonal sideline profession (in Russia):

After two people got killed by falling icicles in Moscow, the district administrators called in the spelunkers and mountaineers. Whenever I walk by a tall building and see a professionally equipped guy knocking down the icicles, it’s probably somebody I know.

I’m sure my hockey-stick method would trump anything those rock-crawlers can do. And if it doesn’t work out, I can sell my twig and pads to some Kontinental Hockey League scrub.

by Costa Tsiokos, Wed 12/24/2008 10:47:11 AM
Category: Hockey, Weather
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