Population Statistic: Read. React. Repeat.
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Wednesday, June 30, 2021

The home-office shredder that I ordered from Amazon arrived yesterday. I inaugurated it by feeding through a couple of pointlessly-printed invoices (which even more pointlessly included both my Social Security number and my tax ID).

Spending money on a homemade confetti-maker always struck me as a concession to one’s paranoiac impulses. Identity theft and financial fraud are facts of life, but there’s so much lower-hanging fruit in the digital realm that paper records hardly seem worth the trouble to either steal or safeguard.

But I will say that this little purchase — free, in a way, as I paid for it via a Coinstar gift certificate generated from my spare-change bowl — does now give me a small measure of peace of mind. Because now, I can dispose of my junkmail and similar hardcopies without the slight dread of them somehow falling into someone else’s hands. Hey, if I’m going to succumb to the general societal irrationality about phantom crimes, then I might as well succumb to the corresponding placebos.

At least this particular placebo slices and dices with noisy malevolence…

by Costa Tsiokos, Wed 06/30/2010 11:20pm
Category: Society, Tech, True Crime
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Seems to me that it’s a bad idea to schedule a fire drill and a blood drive on the same day.

And yet, that’s exactly what I witnessed yesterday, while on-site with a client. The company lobby was strewn with all the medical equipment you’d expect to find for this setup. Right in the middle of this voluntary blood-letting, with about a half-dozen donors laying down and bleeding into tubes, the building’s fire alarm goes off. Then a loudspeaker voice intones that it’s only a drill, but to assume the safety positions anyway.

Obviously a lack of coordination. But what a recipe for disaster: Making several pint-low donors scramble for the escape stairway for a seven-flight descent. The simulated emergency would turn into a real one in no time.

Throwing fire safety to the wind, no one went through the drill. They opted to feel the drain versus feeling the burn.

by Costa Tsiokos, Wed 06/30/2010 08:06pm
Category: New Yorkin'
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Tuesday, June 29, 2021

While the eleven alleged Russian spies just nabbed by the FBI didn’t seem to dig up much sensitive information, one of them is finding another brand of blown-cover success:

Anna Chapman cut a wide swath in New York even before her arrest on charges of spying for Mother Russia, judging by the sultry shots and videos suddenly popping up everywhere, starting with her own Facebook page.

Now, thanks to her penchant for seductive poses, she’s an international star. You’d hardly know her real pose, according to U.S. officials, was deadly serious: seducing government officials and businessmen into providing state secrets.

Seems like a roundabout way to generate some online buzz. If Chapman had wanted to make it big on the Web, she could just as easily have exposed herself on Chatroulette

by Costa Tsiokos, Tue 06/29/2010 11:52pm
Category: Politics, True Crime, Women
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As if there weren’t enough strife-fronts in the Gaza Strip these days, summertime children’s venues are now fair game:

Rival day camps by the United Nations and Gaza’s Islamic militant Hamas rulers compete for the hearts of the next generation, the roughly 700,000 children under 15 who make up nearly half of the Gaza Strip’s population. Hamas camps teach an anti-Israeli doctrine and military-style marching, along with horseback riding, swimming and Islam. U.N. camps try to instill hope in a better future, a message wrapped in fun and games…

In Monday’s vandalism, two dozen masked men broke into a U.N. camp before dawn; children were not present. They tied up four guards, then slashed and burned tents, toys and a plastic swimming pool.

To the extent that ideology factors into young Palestinians’ camp preferences, the U.N. program outdraws that of Hamas by two-and-a-half to one. I’m sure the raids on the kiddie pool will level the playing field.

by Costa Tsiokos, Tue 06/29/2010 11:18pm
Category: Political, Society
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Monday, June 28, 2021

When I first heard of the iPhone 4’s innovative steel-band outer antenna, I thought it was a fantastic concept. Finally, something to alleviate the inherent lack of cell reception on the clean, uni-body design of Apple’s device.

Then, the pesky users got their hands on the thing:

Bloggers and pundits argued through the weekend about whether the iPhone 4’s “death grip” problem represented a serious design flaw on Apple’s part (the antenna on the new iPhone is integrated into the stainless steel band that rings the outer edge of the handset) or was being overblown.

AntennaSys expert Spencer Webb postulated that at least some the blame might lay with the FCC, which mandates that phone antennas in general be as far from the user’s head as possible, which usually means putting the antenna at the bottom of the handset — where your hand usually goes. In the iPhone 4’s case, just touching a pair of tiny little slots near the bottom corners of the handset could be enough to “short” the antenna and cause interference, Webb wrote.

I like the “death grip” tag, as it’s most apropos for a signal-killing defect. Not that the killer-clutch extends to the balance sheet, as the 1.7 million sold units attest.

My second-favorite moment from this event: Steve Jobs advising iPhone 4 owners to “just don’t hold it that way” in order to avoid the problem. Thus conjuring up the old “it hurts when I do this” doctor joke. A gripping saga all around.

by Costa Tsiokos, Mon 06/28/2010 11:35pm
Category: Comedy, iPhone
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Sunday, June 27, 2021

monsters of pop
Back in the ’80s, we always knew that the rivalry between bubblegum-pop queens Debbie Gibson and Tiffany would inevitably culminate thusly:

[Syfy Network] promises an epic battle between the former teen pop idols, who will star in “Mega Python vs. Gatoroid.”

Gibson will play a fanatical animal-rights activist who frees illegally imported exotic snakes from pet stores, sending them into the Everglades, where they grow to mega sizes. Tiffany will play an overzealous park ranger who uses dangerous methods to save endangered alligators.

In the script, the pair brawl at a party, then take matters outside into the swamp.

Interesting demographic-targeting on the part of Syfy, crossing music nostalgia with B-grade schlock. Because we all know that there’s only one way it’ll ever satisfy the geek audience:

Ooh, I think I can write this scene!

TIFFANY: “I think we’re alone now.”
DEBBIE: “Only in my dreams.”
[They make out.]

Look for that alternate outtake on the unrated DVD, sure to hit store shelves several months days minutes after the television premiere.

by Costa Tsiokos, Sun 06/27/2010 06:41pm
Category: Pop Culture, TV, Women
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Saturday, June 26, 2021

Budding social researchers need to get out of the classroom and into the high-end nightclub, where bouncers offer an up-close demonstration of the dynamics of power relations:

Through conversations and observations, [sociologist Lauren Rivera] found that bouncers ran through a hierarchical list of qualities to determine in seconds who would enhance the image of the club and encourage high spending. Social networks mattered more than social class, or anything else for that matter. Celebrities and other recognized elites slipped through the door. And people related to or befriended by this “in crowd” often made the cut, too.

Wealth is considered to be one of the strongest indicators of status, yet bouncers frowned upon bribes even though bribes are obvious displays of money. “New Faces,” as the bouncers called unrecognized club-goers, were selected on the basis of gender, dress, race, and nationality. Sometimes the final call boiled down to details as minor as the type of watch that adorned a man’s wrist.

Nothing earth-shattering about these intricacies. You don’t need field research to know that these gatekeepers are charged with maintaining crowd-controlled composition of nightlife enclaves. But who wouldn’t like to run up a bar tab for the sake of advanced people-watching?

by Costa Tsiokos, Sat 06/26/2010 02:00pm
Category: New Yorkin', Science, Society
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Friday, June 25, 2021

I finally got an onboard look at the new, streamlined New York City subway map today. For all the noise about Manhattan getting seemingly super-sized, what stands out more to me is the resultant look of another borough:

This new map makes Queens look downright barren. At least from a public-transport angle, which I guess is the point. I realize the old map filled the terrain with mostly clutter, and that the subway lines haven’t really changed. Still, there’s so much open-space showing on this “new” Queens that, to those of us used to the old look, there’s almost an implication of some service changes.

Maybe the map merely reflects the hopes of a less-congested Queens above-ground. Wishful thinking for creating a topographical reality…

by Costa Tsiokos, Fri 06/25/2010 06:33pm
Category: New Yorkin'
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Thursday, June 24, 2021

Given the record 11-hour match between John Isner and Nicolas Mahut in this year’s Wimbledon tournament, and the status of host England as the home of the days-long game of cricket, I think this joke fits:

“I went to a tennis match, and a cricket game broke out.”

A play on the old Rodney Dangerfield one-liner about going to the fights, and a hockey game breaking out. Always on the lookout for cross-germination in the sporting world.

by Costa Tsiokos, Thu 06/24/2010 11:47pm
Category: Comedy, Hockey, Other Sports
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Somewhere in Chelsea this evening, I found myself walking for about two blocks behind a girl named Kyla Alvira.

How did I know her name? It’s not because I knew her, or met her, or happened to hear her name uttered during the walk. It was because she had that name tattooed on her upper back, and was wearing a top that was obviously chosen to display this tattoo.

From this, it was easy to tell that she was proud of both the name and the ink. Although frankly, she shouldn’t have been. The name is fairly juvenile-sounding, a product of a ’90s trend of cutesy female monikers that don’t particularly befit the nameholders when they reach adulthood. Meanwhile, the tattoo was done in an ornate script that already looks kitschy, and definitely isn’t going to get any better-looking with age.

So parents, be forewarned: Choose your daughter’s name wisely. Or else it’ll end up splayed on her skin years later, to everyone’s regret.

by Costa Tsiokos, Thu 06/24/2010 10:52pm
Category: Fashion, New Yorkin', Society
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Wednesday, June 23, 2021

Something we used to say around the schoolyard years ago, when I was a little kid:

You know it, like a poet.

Because, y’know, it rhymed. Still does, in fact.

This cheeky little affirmation doesn’t appear to be in wide use today, outside of some Method Man and MF Doom lyrics (appropriately enough, as it’s got a definite rap vibe to it). But it should be. Consider this my way of kicking off a revival of the phrase.

by Costa Tsiokos, Wed 06/23/2010 01:57pm
Category: Pop Culture, Wordsmithing
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Tuesday, June 22, 2021

Even taking into consideration the eminently-valid reasons for producing the rape-preventative apparatus known as the Rape-aXe, the concept is somewhat mind-boggling:

[Dr. Sonnet] Ehlers is distributing the female condoms in the various South African cities where the World Cup soccer games are taking place.

The woman inserts the latex condom like a tampon. Jagged rows of teeth-like hooks line its inside and attach on a man’s penis during penetration, Ehlers said.

Once it lodges, only a doctor can remove it — a procedure Ehlers hopes will be done with authorities on standby to make an arrest.

“It hurts, he cannot pee and walk when it’s on,” she said. “If he tries to remove it, it will clasp even tighter… however, it doesn’t break the skin, and there’s no danger of fluid exposure.”

Between this device, and those ear-aching vuvuzelas, this has already been a more-memorable-than-usual World Cup. Appropriately enough, for reasons having little to do with soccer…

by Costa Tsiokos, Tue 06/22/2010 08:00pm
Category: Other Sports, Science, True Crime, Women
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Monday, June 21, 2021

Given how many hours per year the average Californian spends staring at the gridlocked traffic in front of him/her, the Golden State’s scheme to install electronic ad-enabled license plates on cars is probably a sure moneymaker:

[State Senator] Curren Price, a Democrat from the Los Angeles area, said the technology will resemble traditional license plates, with plate numbers visible at all times. However, digital ads and public service announcements would flash on the plate’s screen when the vehicle is stopped for more than a few seconds.

The technology could provide an additional source of revenue for the cash-strapped state, according to Price, the bill’s author, as advertisers and technology companies contract with the Department of Motor Vehicles. He said the plates could also aid small businesses and add jobs to the ailing economy in the technology, sales and marketing, and service industries.

Seems like California’s drivers should get a cut of that advertising income — if nothing else, in the form of lower annual registration costs, etc. Unlikely, I know.

by Costa Tsiokos, Mon 06/21/2010 11:34pm
Category: Politics, Tech
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hours and minutes
If you squint hard enough, you’ll see that the screen time displayed in the above iPhone image reads 9:42 AM. Apparently, that’s a theme:

I’ve noticed that in all the commercials, print ads and outdoor ads for the iPad, the time is always shown as 9:41 a.m. Then I noticed that the time in all the iPhone ads is always shown as 9:42 a.m.

I know that watch ads like to show the time as 10:10 so the watch hands are open to reveal the brand name, but cannot figure out why Apple likes times before 10 a.m. in its ads.

Furthermore, checking this blog’s iPod category, I notice that the standard iPod Touch image similarly sports a 9:42. So this is consistent across all of Cupertino’s touchy-feely product line.

The reason remains a mystery, as Apple apparently isn’t talking. The old 10:10 minute-hand/hour-hand watch timestamp is a tempting clue, but I’m not sure there’s any connection. I can’t imagine a rational reason though.

by Costa Tsiokos, Mon 06/21/2010 11:02pm
Category: Advert./Mktg., iPhone, iPod
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Sunday, June 20, 2021

eyeballing it
I pretty much get the science and specs behind the iPhone 4’s ultra-high-def display resolution:

By developing pixels a mere 78 micrometers wide, Apple engineers were able to pack four times the number of pixels into the same 3.5-inch (diagonal) screen found on earlier iPhone models. The resulting pixel density of iPhone 4 — 326 pixels per inch — makes text and graphics look smooth and continuous at any size.

Still, did they have to call it “Retina Display”? However accurate it might be, it sounds vaguely creepy to me — like that extreme micro-pixelation is somehow boring into your eyeballs, potentially causing damage. Better to leave the anatomical terms out of consumer technology pitches.

by Costa Tsiokos, Sun 06/20/2010 10:51pm
Category: Science, Tech, iPhone
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Writer Rosecrans Baldwin theorizes that a novel isn’t a novel without an obligatory barking dog:

Having heard the dog’s call, it seemed like I couldn’t find a book without one. Not “The Death of Ivan Ilyich”. Not “Shadow Country”. Not “Ulysses”. Not Robert Penn Warren’s “All The King’s Men”, or Monica Ali’s “Alentejo Blue”, or Stephen King’s “It” or “Christine”. Not Jodi Picoult’s “House Rules”. If novelists share anything, it’s a distant-dog impulse.

Picture an author at work: She’s exhausted, gazing at her laptop and dreaming about lunch. “[Author typing.] Boyd slammed the car door shut. He stared at his new condominium, with the for-sale sign in the yard. He picked up a pistol and pointed it at his head. [Author thinking, Now what? Gotta buy time.] Somewhere a dog barked. [Author thinking, Hmm, that'll do.] Then Boyd remembered he did qualify for the tax rebate for first-time home buyers, and put down the gun.” If a novel is an archeological record of 4.54 billion decisions, then maybe distant barking dogs are its fossils, evidence of the novelist working out an idea.

Is the far-off bark really that widespread of a literary crutch? Should creative-writing courses start teaching “The Art of the Bark” to aspiring scribes?

I was skeptical of this claim, so I decided to do a quickie search with the one novel I’m currently reading: Bret Easton Ellis’ “Imperial Bedrooms”. Even better, I have the ebook edition, which is fully text-searchable via the Kindle iPhone App I’m reading it on. Sure enough, a search for “dog” brought up a solitary reference, to “dogs barking in the distance” (I haven’t read up to that part yet, so I didn’t dig any deeper).

I’m sure others with whole libraries stored on their e-readers can do a more thorough investigation, but I’m already convinced. The dog meme in long-form fiction seems to be a fixture. Woof!

by Costa Tsiokos, Sun 06/20/2010 09:09pm
Category: Creative, Publishing
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Saturday, June 19, 2021

Social engineering doesn’t get any more granular when school officials try steering children away from exclusive best-friend relationships:

“I think it is kids’ preference to pair up and have that one best friend. As adults — teachers and counselors — we try to encourage them not to do that,” said Christine Laycob, director of counseling at Mary Institute and St. Louis Country Day School in St. Louis. “We try to talk to kids and work with them to get them to have big groups of friends and not be so possessive about friends.”

“Parents sometimes say Johnny needs that one special friend,” she continued. “We say he doesn’t need a best friend.”

What’s the old saying — that when you’re everyone’s friend, it’s the same as being no one’s friend? Same concept here. If your relationship is more with the group than with the individuals within it, there’s less of a bond.

In this particular case, there’s less regard for the younger generation’s social development, and more for preempting supervisory headaches:

That attitude is a blunt manifestation of a mind-set that has led adults to become ever more involved in children’s social lives in recent years. The days when children roamed the neighborhood and played with whomever they wanted to until the streetlights came on disappeared long ago, replaced by the scheduled play date. While in the past a social slight in backyard games rarely came to teachers’ attention the next day, today an upsetting text message from one middle school student to another is often forwarded to school administrators, who frequently feel compelled to intervene in the relationship. (Ms. Laycob was speaking in an interview after spending much of the previous day dealing with a “really awful” text message one girl had sent another.) Indeed, much of the effort to encourage children to be friends with everyone is meant to head off bullying and other extreme consequences of social exclusion.

Furthermore, in the related vein of helicopter parenting, I’m sure many a mom and dad prefer to think of themselves as Junior’s undisputed bestest friend, and prefer a social structure that diffuses any age-appropriate challengers to that throne. The result will be a particularly superficial group of youngsters.

by Costa Tsiokos, Sat 06/19/2010 07:10pm
Category: Society
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mumblebird
Other social network imports haven’t caught on in Japan like Twitter has, and it may have to do with the un-bird-like translation:

“It’s telling that Twitter was translated as ‘mumbling’ in Japanese,” [consultant Motohiko Tokuriki] said. “They love the idea of talking to themselves.”

I can’t imagine a “mumblr” catching on in the English-speaking world. Maybe the art of the mumble is more respected in East Asia.

by Costa Tsiokos, Sat 06/19/2010 06:44pm
Category: Social Media Online, Society
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run with the flow
You are looking at SkyMall’s exclusive Xlr8 athletic shoe. And yes, you are looking at a sperm-like logo on said sneaker.

I’m guessing the in-flight catalogue just presumes that its target customer is a member of the Mile High Club, and wants to show off that sexual bade of honor via footwear? This certainly beats Nike’s swoosh design, despite the less-than-perfect analogy:

So [sperms'] preferred sport is swimming; it doesn’t make them any less of a workout role model when you’re hitting the streets.

Well, the semen-sprinters might be role models, but I don’t know how much they can teach you about “hitting the streets”. To clear up the confusion, maybe SkyMall should start selling matching Speedos.

by Costa Tsiokos, Sat 06/19/2010 06:12pm
Category: Comedy, Fashion, Other Sports
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Friday, June 18, 2021

i need somebody
Being a child of the ’70s and ’80s, I was raised to Just Say No to drugs.

But you can make an exception when it’s over-the-counter pharmaceuticals, right? I never was crystal-clear on that whole concept. If so, I’m sure the free samples that Help Remedies just sent me pass muster.

Yep, on the strength of last month’s post about Help’s unique packaging and marketing presentation, the company sent me some freebies. An email from their CEO, Richard Fine, extended the offer and subsequently hooked me up. I had a choice in what to receive; since I don’t have any chronic ailments that need relief, I opted for Help’s preventative measures:

- The help, I’ve cut myself package of 12 large and small bandages

- The help, I have an aching body package of 16 ibuprofen pills

Better safe than sorry, right? I feel compelled to injure myself, just so I can make use of this first-aid windfall. But I’ll keep my self-destructive impulses in check, and likewise keep this minor stash in reserve.

I do appreciate the outreach by Help. Indeed, the unconventional packets are fun to hold and behold, and they conveniently take up minimal space in the medicine cabinet. I have every confidence that their contents will fix me up, whenever I need to crack open their biodegradable shells.

Included with the samples was a thin little booklet that details Help’s business-operating philosophy. I really wish a version of it was online, because it’s a real hoot: Quirky brand messaging that’s reminiscent, in tone, of 19th Century snake-oil medicine sales pitches. Only in Help’s case, it’s utilized to debunk the modern variations of those pitches. Here’s a prime passage:

In the world of drugs and pharmacies there are stories about technologically complicated pills that, after entering your body and gliding aerodynamically down your throat, proceed to detonate and break into thousands of pieces. Those pieces then proceed to seek out the various bodily organs they must attend to, like thousands of tiny intelligent tadpoles (see figure 5-1).

In fact, pills are composed entirely of non-thinking matter, so nothing like this could possibly happen. Our pills are as technologically complicated as a piece of bread.

It’s product language that’s consistent, and adorns Help’s packaging, making for a memorable product. I don’t know if Help really will change the way OTC drugs are marketed toward consumers, but they’re giving it a good go. I still expect to see these little pill-packs spread beyond New York (Help’s home turf, right out of their Broadway HQ), and into the Targets of the world.

by Costa Tsiokos, Fri 06/18/2010 08:17am
Category: Business, Creative, New Yorkin', Science
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Thursday, June 17, 2021

Today I turn 39. And the question before me is an unconventional one:

Just how many Caddyshack-inspired t-shirts should one man own?

I have my friend Kirby to thank for that puzzler. Last year, he sent me a nice little Bushwood Country Club tee, which I got a chuckle out of. Perhaps going with what works, this week he sent me, yes, another Bushwood-adorned short-sleever. Different color and logo, of course, but still, with “Bushwood” prominently displayed, along with the movie’s insider joke-tagline, “Some people just don’t belong”.

I appreciate the thought, of course. But really, two Caddyshack shirts for the summer wardrobe? People will start to talk. Not to mention that it’s a bit dated. Not everyone is familiar with a thirty-year-old movie, classic comedy though it may be — just ask any middle-aging corporate cog. To me, it looks to be easily taken out of context. So, really, I’m hesitant to wear this new shirt in public.

I’ll certainly not wear it to my birthday celebration dinner tonight, at NINJA New York. As gimmicky as that maze-adventure-as-restaurant is, showing up in a pop-culturally ironic t-shirt won’t aid anything.

by Costa Tsiokos, Thu 06/17/2010 09:02am
Category: Fashion, Movies, Pop Culture
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