Population Statistic: Read. React. Repeat.
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Tuesday, November 30, 2021

hit onehit two
I’m not one to defend fighting in the National Hockey League, or at any level of hockey for that matter. That said, I take umbrage with this flippant assessment of the sport’s culture of fisticuffs:

“He got my helmet off and I got his. To me, that is the end of the play,” [Tennessee Titans CB Cortland] Finnegan told 104.5-FM in Nashville on Monday. “This is the NFL, not the NHL, and it is a higher standard. That’s the NHL, they fight and they get penalties for that. In the NFL that is unheard of. You do that and you are suspended, hands down.

Finnegan is referring to this week’s unusual on-field punching match between him and Houston Texan WR Andre Johnson. Neither player wound up getting suspended, although the National Football League took a chunk of their paychecks in fines. (I’m guessing the presence of the Predators in Nashville is the main reason why the comparison with the NHL even came up.)

“Higher standard”, of course, is a veiled insult. The implication is that the NHL operates under lower standards than the NFL, by virtue of the integration of fighting within gameplay rules. Nonsense, of course. None of the professional sports leagues can claim to occupy a superior moral ground in this sense, and especially not the oft-capricious NFL. That neither Finnegan nor Johnson were suspended, as is standard practice in these cases, points to that; obviously both teams’ activist owners interceded to prevent that punishment.

Not that it’s anything new to dog on hockey for its peculiar institution. Like I said, I’m not the biggest fan of five-for-fighting, and it wouldn’t upset me if they banned on-ice pugilism tomorrow. But there’s no merit in criticizing the league over a misperception that it operates with any less integrity than any other sport.

by Costa Tsiokos, Tue 11/30/2010 11:52pm
Category: Football, Hockey
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Monday, November 29, 2021

When you attempt beekeeping in New York City, you have to expect the bees to pick up some less-than-natural local color:

A fellow beekeeper sent samples of the red substance that the bees were producing to an apiculturalist who works for New York State, and that expert, acting as a kind of forensic foodie, found the samples riddled with Red Dye No. 40, the same dye used in maraschino cherry juice.

No one knows for sure where the bees might have consumed the dye, but neighbors of [Dell’s Maraschino Cherries Company factory on Dikeman Street in Red Hook] reported that bees in unusually high numbers were gathering nearby.

The result is red bees, living in red hives that are filled with a decidedly unhoneylike metallic-sickly-sweet red nectar. Kinda gross. But at least there’s an aesthetically pleasing side effect:

“When the sun is a bit down, they glow red in the evenings,” [beekeeper David Selig] said. “They were slightly fluorescent. And it was beautiful.”

I guess that visual showcase lessens the sting of failure.

by Costa Tsiokos, Mon 11/29/2010 11:19pm
Category: Food, New Yorkin', Science
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Sunday, November 28, 2021

in con-text
For whatever reason, someone decided to transcribe the entire run of Calvin and Hobbes onto a blog. All crammed within two posts.

I’m assuming that all those words are, indeed, the sum total of the daily/Sunday strips. Each page is certainly long enough to contain the ten years’ worth of word-balloon contents from Bill Watterson‘s creation. I’m not going to dig through my old trade paperbacks to verify the accuracy; some of the missives certainly seem like the real thing, and bring back warm memories of the manic four-color humor.

I’m just wondering what prompted this project. I’ve transcribed similar content myself, when I felt that the image-born words needed to be preserved in more hypertext-friendly form. But the sheer volume here is astounding. And let’s face it, without the accompanying artwork, the scripts — as humorously sharp as they are — are less than satisfying. Unless you want to continually envision a spikey-haired boy and his toy/imaginary tiger delivering the lines…

by Costa Tsiokos, Sun 11/28/2010 10:02pm
Category: Bloggin', Comedy, Pop Culture
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“Needless to say…”

Then don’t say it.

I could elaborate further, but I won’t. Although E.B. White did.

by Costa Tsiokos, Sun 11/28/2010 07:22pm
Category: Wordsmithing
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Saturday, November 27, 2021

This is hardly a scientific sample, but I’ve noticed a peculiar trend today in my Twitter stream: Multiple references to jeggings. Yes, all in tweets from women.

Since “jeggings” isn’t showing up in the trending topics list, I’ve gotta believe this phenomenon is strictly localized to my Twitter experience. Obviously, I follow some like-minded fashionistas.

I wonder if there’s a distinct connection between this musing and the just-completed Thanksgiving festivities. Is the level of snugness in these go-to denim leggings an indicator of holiday overeating? Maybe it’s something to look out for in a month’s time, when Christmas indulgences will prompt a similar skinny-pants body-fat index. For ladies only, of course.

by Costa Tsiokos, Sat 11/27/2010 08:06pm
Category: Fashion, Social Media Online, Women
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Villainize that Comic Sans all you want, but it may have an educational-retention advantage over prettier typefaces:

[Princeton University] researchers found that, on average, those given the harder-to-read fonts actually recalled 14% more.

They believe that presenting information in a way that is hard to digest means a person has to concentrate more, and this leads to “deeper processing” and then “better retrieval” afterwards. It is an example of the positive effects of what scientists call “disfluency”.

“Disfluency is just a subjective feeling of difficulty associated with any mental task,” explained psychology professor Daniel Oppenheimer, one of the co-authors of the study. “So if something is hard to see or hear, it feels disfluent… We’d found that disfluency led people to think harder about things.

Along with Comic Sans, the other intense-comprehension fonts tested were Bodoni, Haettenschweiler, and Monotype Corsiva. All these were versus the “easy” Arial — admittedly, as generic a baseline font as there is.

The concept makes sense: If you expend more mental energy toward something, you’re likelier to remember it, just due to the effort. The biggest challenge is achieving balance — using a font that’s distinctive enough to stick in memory, but not so stylistically out-there that it’s an indecipherable chore to read.

And while this information delivery method is ideal for receptive learning, it’s not a good idea for other media messaging:

The traditional strategy is to design all of the information you’re presenting in a way that is as clear and easy to read as possible. This makes sense, I think, because most often designers are tasked with delivering information to an audience that is assumed to be at worst hostile and at best indifferent to the message. But this policy may be self-defeating in non-advertising contexts.

So if the message is meant to be rapid-fire and not particularly deep, then clean font design is the way to play it. For deeper mental penetration, the funkier designs work. I’m not sure all advertising needs to adhere to the former; you want the sales pitch to stick, after all. If anything, the “easy” fonts are best applied to video-based delivery, where just getting the exposure counts. Anything meant to be more lasting, like print and archived text, can go with the complex serifs/sans serifs.

by Costa Tsiokos, Sat 11/27/2010 05:11pm
Category: Advert./Mktg., Creative, Science, Society
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Friday, November 26, 2021

hello neighbors
Let’s throw practicality and reality right out the window while we imagine a world with country populations relocated to their equivalently-ranked national territories.

So basically, China moves its global No. 1 population to the world’s largest country by land area — which happens to be next-door neighbor Russia. More dramatically, the No. 2 world population of India moves across the globe to Canada, the planet’s second-largest country. And so on.

No need for Mr. and Mrs. America to call the moving vans, though:

Strangely enough, the US itself would not have to swap its population with another country. With 310 million inhabitants, it is the third most populous nation in the world. And with an area of just over 3.7 million square miles, it is also the world’s third largest country. Brazil, at number five in both lists, is in the same situation. Other non-movers are Yemen and Ireland. Every other country moves house.

Meanwhile, other nationalities would have to adjust to strange new climes and neighbors, like the above-referenced 1-billion Indians in the Great White North. Although one current geopolitical flashpoint would merely shift from northeast Asia to southern Africa in this statistical re-shuffling:

Those South Koreans probably couldn’t believe their bad luck. Of all the potential new friends in the world, who gets to be their northern neighbour but their wacky cousin, North Korea? It seems the heavily militarised DMZ will move from the Korean peninsula to the South African-Botswanan border.

by Costa Tsiokos, Fri 11/26/2010 09:27pm
Category: Creative, Political, Society
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Thursday, November 25, 2021

It’s the Thanksgiving holiday today. As is tradition, my mom’s hosting at her house, and I’m helping out staying out of the way as much as possible. Pretty much just tweaking the food and the place settings in the couple of hours until the guests arrive.

Also as is tradition, I’ve been rebuffed on my annual offer to contribute a cooked dish. The family meme has it that I can’t cook worth a lick — something to do with being a single male, mostly. Or possibly, that I don’t load up my culinary creations with the requisite overdoses of salt, olive oil, and similar flavoring agents.

So be it. But I have brought a contribution to this year’s table: A bottle of Wild Turkey Rye Whiskey.

Why not? Booze always helps these familial gatherings go more smoothly. With the incoming drama that’s sure to come, I know I’ll need it. Plus, the turkey theme and the quintessential American heritage of distilled rye spirits makes for a fitting addition to this holiday.

No, I’m not going to get completely plastered, and the family dysfunction won’t be as acute as I’ve hinted. Regardless, with plenty of food and ice on hand, I’ll be having a satisfying Thanksgiving.

by Costa Tsiokos, Thu 11/25/2010 09:27am
Category: Food
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Wednesday, November 24, 2021

What hue is the current Homeland Security threat level? Doesn’t matter, because the 9/11-born color-coded terror alerts look to be going away in favor of descriptive designations.

By scrapping the colors, President Barack Obama would abandon a system that critics long have said was too vague to be useful and that Democrats criticized as a political scare tactic. And it would represent a formal undoing of one of the George W. Bush administration’s most visible legacies…

Under the current system, green, at the bottom, signals a low danger of attack; blue signals a general risk; yellow, a significant risk; orange, a high risk; and red, at the top, warns of a severe threat. The nation has never been below the third threat level, yellow — an elevated or significant risk of terrorist attack.

It’s a cerebral vs. instinctual way to process information. Very reflective of the divergent approaches of the past two administrations.

There’s no reason to lament the loss of the rainbow of terror alerts; I don’t think they really permeated the national consciousness, except maybe among longtime frequent fliers. But I’m sure the right will seize upon it come campaign time, and hype it up into some sort of symbol of Democratic “softness” on national vigilance.

by Costa Tsiokos, Wed 11/24/2010 10:37pm
Category: Politics, Society
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Tuesday, November 23, 2021

spread the disco-ease
It’s not quite the rockin’ pneumonia and the boogie-woogie flu, but I like the idea of being “disco infected”.

And more than that, I like the (remixed) song of the same name by Australian electronic/dance unit Dirty Laundry. Along with this cover art. The surgical mask on a mod-looking girl really sells the concept.

by Costa Tsiokos, Tue 11/23/2010 11:39pm
Category: Creative, Pop Culture
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Monday, November 22, 2021

I can’t tell you how disappointed I was that Ireland accepted an International Monetary Fund/European Union financial bailout this past weekend.

Not over sovereign-solvency or other macroeconomic implications. Rather, I lamented that the Irish no longer had their own currency, the short-lived punt, still in place. With a money-quote like that, the quips and headlines would have practically written themselves.

by Costa Tsiokos, Mon 11/22/2010 09:35pm
Category: Business, History
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skin and bones
Last seen imposing his aesthetic on mainstream pop culture, a certain West Coast graffiti artist is currently laying down ink on Manhattan hotel-guest skins:

It was a scene that unfolds along low-rent commercial strips in towns big and small, but this was no storefront tattoo parlor, with neon signs in the windows and folding chairs in cramped quarters. Instead, it was the pop-up studio of Mister Cartoon — a tattooist who counts Eminem, Beyoncé and Mena Suvari as clients — at the Marcel at Gramercy, an upscale boutique hotel looking to distinguish itself from the pack.

As part of the hotel’s artist-in-residence series, Mister Cartoon, who is based in Los Angeles and usually has a three-to-six-month waiting list for appointments, which can cost tens of thousands of dollars, has created original artwork that hangs in the lobby. And from Nov. 14 through Wednesday, he is offering his services out of a two-bedroom suite.

A tattoo artist-in-residence? Seems more properly a Chelsea Hotel thing, versus this celebrity-whoring boutique. As if to underline the clientele, the article features Tommy Hilfiger‘s rehabbed son booking a session with Cartoon.

I wonder if Hilfiger Jr., or anyone else, has requested the above sombrero-skull sample of Cartoon’s work? Despite my fondness for this detail, my revulsion of body ink ensures that I won’t be getting it seared onto my skin.

by Costa Tsiokos, Mon 11/22/2010 08:49pm
Category: Creative, Fashion, New Yorkin', Pop Culture
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Sunday, November 21, 2021

It’s a common enough sighting on the streets of New York: An oversized inflatable gray rat, positioned in front of some business or other that’s not giving its unionized workers a fair shake. Little did I know that this symbol of labor unrest is 20 years old:

The vinyl vermin quietly marked their 20th birthday this year. The folks at Illinois-based Big Sky Balloons and Searchlights, creators of the inflatables, made their first rat for a Chicago bricklayers union in 1990.

Business was soon blowing up — the rats became an instant, unlikely symbol of corporate greed and anti-union work sites.

The company — a nonunion shop, by the way — says the majority of its business is done on the East Coast. The rats range in height from a relatively small 6-footer to the super-sized 25-footer. The costs can run upward of $8,000.

I haven’t walked past one of these strike mascots lately, but next time I do, I’ll acknowledge the anniversary by leaving a hunk of birthday cheese (signified by a candle stuck in the middle) at its feet. It’s not as good as not patronizing the offending business, but it’s really more about the symbol of protest, rather than the protest itself.

by Costa Tsiokos, Sun 11/21/2010 09:22pm
Category: Business, Creative, History
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Saturday, November 20, 2021

It’s been a while since a user-submission gimmicky website caught my interest. Damn You Auto Correct! has managed it, with its seemingly endless supply of unintentional mobile-device typographical humor.

Although, while the above “lobe-live-libe-love-fyck” example above surely rings true, I wonder about some of the other submissions. For instance, this alleged flub where “going to divorce” subbed in for “going to Disney”. I’d be willing to bet that that one was staged.

The underlying joke, of course, is that by this point, the auto-correction technology still can’t work out context to avoid these errors. Or that the keyboards on most phones, including the iPhone, aren’t better suited to human communication. But I guess we could still have a good laugh over the results. Either that, or else we can all go to “ducking he’ll”

by Costa Tsiokos, Sat 11/20/2010 06:16pm
Category: Comedy, Internet, Tech, iPhone
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Friday, November 19, 2021

I’ve been known to quote from Peter Gent’s “North Dallas Forty” on this blog. So here’s another snippet I’m posting — a succinct meditation on getting uncontrollably older, with the attendant psychological shifts:

I am a man who has learned that survival is the reason of life and that fear and hatred are the emotions. What you cannot overcome by hatred you must fear. And every day it is getting harder to hate and easier to fear.

It takes a lot of energy to hate, and eventually you run out of the mental fuel — from redundancy, if nothing else. The resultant vacuum is filled by lower-impact fear.

Amazing how much I can pick out of this novel, even after reading it for the dozenth-plus time. I guess that’s the treasure-hunting point of re-reading any book periodically.

by Costa Tsiokos, Fri 11/19/2010 12:12pm
Category: Football, Publishing
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Thursday, November 18, 2021

kicking, screaming
The above photo, culled from Flickr, came to my attention as a visual accompaniment for this brief essay on self-actualization in the face of bullying.

It’s a curious picture. I get that the bully is getting his kicks — pun intended — by caging his victims inside a metal soccer goal net. But then, to kick a soccer ball at that reversed target? It’s definitely scary and jarring to be subjected to that. And yet it makes for absurd, even comical, imagery. The backward-facing target implies a demented game taking place. Which, I guess, is the point here.

by Costa Tsiokos, Thu 11/18/2010 11:45pm
Category: Other Sports, Photography, Society
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Today’s New York Times takes a predictably dim view of Dominican Republic youth baseball academies, known as buscones:

At academies run by investors from the United States, the players are typically 13 to 19 years old and forgo formal schooling to train. Several of the players said they would return to school if they were not signed to a professional contract…

These practices are worrisome for critics like David P. Fidler, a professor of international law at Indiana University. “Buscones in the Dominican Republic are in the business of selling children,” he said. “And it’s very disturbing that American investors would come in to profit from a system that exploits and discriminates against young children.”

It struck me that the part about forgoing formal schooling in favor of athletic development is reminiscent of another sports-development system, in another country: The Canadian Hockey League.

The CHL is the chief talent feed for the National Hockey League, and the three junior leagues that comprise it operate pretty much the same way as buscones do. The main difference is the age of entry — the Ontario, Quebec, and Western leagues typically wait until their kids are in their late teens. But indeed, not only do those players leave home, they also give up regular school in favor of full-time hockey.

So why criticize what goes on in the Caribbean, and not what goes on north of the border? The basic concept is the same. The difference is in the socioeconomic setting.

Canada is a developed country, and the kids who are drafted into the junior ranks tend to come from middle-class and higher households — therefore, there’s no characterization of those kids “being sold”. Whereas the Dominican Republic is a third world country, the kids there are impoverished, and so these actions are viewed as exploitative. It’s a double standard.

by Costa Tsiokos, Thu 11/18/2010 11:04pm
Category: Baseball, Business, Hockey, Society
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Wednesday, November 17, 2021

instant traffic
I no longer keep track of things like this, but I did notice some interesting traffic stats for this blog shortly after Google Instant Previews rolled out. Basically, it looks like the in-page flyouts that Previews generates equates to unique pageviews — as though someone actually visits the website. They’re easily identifiable in the logs as a “visit” from Google’s servers.

This is surprising to me. I’d think that Google would suppress this, as it’s not truly a site visit. And while it pumps up traffic numbers, it doesn’t really help with advertising impressions. In a way, it’s fake or shadow traffic.

Of course, if those Previews lead to more eventual clickthroughs, I guess it’s worth it. It’s not like any of us have a say in the matter — the Mountain View behemoth is going to steer online behavior the way it usually does.

by Costa Tsiokos, Wed 11/17/2010 10:47pm
Category: Internet
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way westside
At present, the New York City subway system is contained within four of the City’s five boroughs. That might change if an extension of the No. 7 line into the Garden State takes off:

The plan envisions the No. 7 stretching from 34th Street on the Far West Side of Manhattan to Secaucus, N.J., where there is a connection to New Jersey Transit trains. It would extend the New York City subway outside the city for the first time, giving New Jersey commuters direct access to Times Square, Grand Central Terminal and Queens, and to almost every line in the system.

It’s a long way from conception to reality; this is basically a money-saving Plan B, after New Jersey has nixed the massive ARC rail tunnel project into Manhattan over cost concerns. Trenton could deem this alternative to be too expensive to bear as well.

But assuming this goes forward, I wonder how long it would take for the next natural step: Extending the City limits into New Jersey. Future projections routinely envision New York formally annexing adjacent Hudson and/or Bergen counties, mostly as efficiency measures. I think the 7 line would serve as a primer, both practical and psychological, for eventual assimilation into borough-hood.

If that works out, maybe the Metropolitan Transportation Authority can plan on extending lines into Connecticut, Westchester, Rockland… heck, all the way to Albany and beyond! Eventually subway tunnels will stretch all over the northeast, and a MetroCard swipe will take you from Plattsburgh to Atlantic City.

by Costa Tsiokos, Wed 11/17/2010 10:06pm
Category: New Yorkin', Politics
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Tuesday, November 16, 2021

The next time I visit the Orlando area, I’ll be sure not to incur the road-rage of someone driving a pickup truck. Because chances are good that their ride came with a semi-automatic accessory:

That’s right, folks. With every truck purchase at Nations Trucks, you get a $400 voucher that can be applied to the purchase of a shiny new Kalishnikov. After passing a background check, customers can drive their trucks over to their local gun shop with the voucher and purchase one of the world’s most dangerous weapons (an AK-47) then go home and celebrate the Second Amendment, regardless of appropriate training or responsible intent.

I wonder if these vehicles come with special compartments for storing spare banana clips?

by Costa Tsiokos, Tue 11/16/2010 09:30pm
Category: Florida Livin', Society
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Recognizing the payout potential of a good piece of litigation, financial institutions are bankrolling the legal fees for third-party lawsuits, in exchange for a share of the winnings:

Most investments are in the smaller cases that fill court dockets. Ardec Funding, a New York lender backed by a hedge fund, lent $45,000 in June to a Manhattan lawyer hired by the parents of a baby brain-damaged at birth. The lawyer hired two doctors, a physical therapist and an economist to testify at a July trial. The jury ordered the delivering doctor and hospital to pay the baby $510,000. Ardec is collecting interest at an annual rate of 24 percent, or $900 a month, until the award is paid…

“If you want to use the civil justice system, you have to have money,” said Alan Zimmerman, who founded one of the first litigation finance companies in 1994, in San Francisco, now called the LawFinance Group. “If there’s less money, you’d have less litigation. But then you’d also have less justice.”

It’s a view of the American justice system as a jackpot-generating endeavor. Perhaps no riskier than any other venture capital targets in the business world. How long until the lawyers are eliminated at the capital-funneling intermediaries, and a big-board commodities market, open to direct investment, emerges? (I wish I were only kidding about that last part.)

by Costa Tsiokos, Tue 11/16/2010 08:51pm
Category: Business, Society, True Crime
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