Saturday, December 31, 2005

Year End Top Ten

For the end of the year and to indulge in a little self-admiration, I have compiled what I think are my best and most representative posts over the past year. Since I have only been blogging seriously for five months, this should have been easy, but I'm so narcissistic I managed to actually fit 13 posts into the Top 10 list. It’s kind of cheating, but it puts all my favorites in one place where I can easily find them for future reference. Click and enjoy.

Stroke my ego and let me know if there was something else I wrote this year that you liked better than these lame attempts. Or shamelessly plug the favorite post that you wrote in the past year.(Please link directly to your post, not just to your blog. Even I have my patience.)

10. What Makes A Good Blog?

A naïve early post full of earnest advice I should pay more attention to. Obviously a rhetorical question I haven't quite found the answer to yet.

9. Supreme Court Options
Dubya should have taken my advice.

8. Fine 70’s Cheese
The definitive list of bad hits from the 1970s.

7. Alligator Mouth, Hummingbird Rump
My single-handed, and so far unsuccessful, attempt to make lame Gil Thorp dialog a pop-culture catch-phrase.

6. Hottest. Columnist. Ever.
My profession of lust for brainy, beautiful, and bitterly funny Maureen Dowd.

5. Rock Is Dead What Else Is New?
Pop-culture commentary about the current state of rock music.

4. Giving Thanks
A post that is both sincere and heart-felt. Very atypical for me.

3. The Foobiverse Saga.
My four-part and growing deconstruction of For Better Or For Worse, inside and out. My number one traffic generator. Snarking about foobs is like blogcrack to to a Sitemeter addict like me.
History of The Foobiverse, Part 1. Saves you $16.95 (CDN$24.95) on Suddenly Silver as a quick recap of the Patterson clan over the years.
Meet The Foobs. Dissections of the major characters. Definitely not the official bios.
Attack Of The Foobs. More about the minor characters than you care to know. And more than I should admit to knowing.
A Tour of Foob Central. A wide-eyed look at the FBorFW website. And I mean wide-eyed in the worst possible way.

2. Hottest. Woman. Ever.
The true-life story of when I stalked Angelina Jolie. Every blogger should write at least one post about AJ just to keep all the HornyGooglers® busy. Oh, and misspell her name at least once so you get the hits from other people with poor proofreading skills.

1. 100 Things About My Dog
This is my favorite post of the year because it takes standard blog clichés, like "The 100 Things About Me" post and pictures of pets, and subverts the paradigm by following the formula, but ridiculing it at a metablog level at the same time. At least that was my intent. If you’d just like to learn about my dog, that’s fine too.

Happy New Year! I guarantee more snark in 2006.

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Friday, December 30, 2005

The Meme-ing of Life

When I post a meme or run across one on someone else’s blog, someone inevitably asks “WTF is a ‘meme’?” You can google “meme” (rhymes with 'dream', not 'see me') and it will lead you to a lot of very jargon-laden psuedo-scientific sites that are complete gibberish to the average blogger, including me. The word itself was created by Richard Dawkins, a controversial zoologist and science writer, who asserts that genes are the basic building block of evolution and that survival of the individual or the species is unimportant as long as the gene survives.

As best I understand it, the concept of memes (which is a meme in itself) is an analogy between human culture and evolutionary biology. Memes are the ideas that transmit behavior and concepts from one person to another. Like genes, beneficial memes get passed along and dangerous memes get eliminated or countered by other memes. My favorite meme is the Golden Rule. Nothing in our biology makes us follow it, but it is such a universal truth that all major religions have some variation of it.

A meme can be any idea, large or small. Capitalism, Nazi-ism, and the infield fly rule are all memes. Political parties are organized by people that believe a common set of memes. Organized religions are constantly splitting apart from disputes over which memes are most important. Many memes are directly contradictory and require people to pick and choose which ones to believe. Does haste make waste or is there no time like the present? Pro-choice or pro-life, evolution or creationism, and toilet paper over or under are all competing memes. I leave it to you to come up with other examples.

In its most general sense, a meme can be a catch-phrase, or a popular song, or a style of dress. Any idea can be expressed as a meme. Because of it’s trendy intellectual cachet, the very concept of memes is an increasingly popular meme.

Somehow in the blogging world, the word “meme” has come to encompass all these little chain-letter-like quizzes and tests and writing assignments that get passed around. The best memes don’t even need to be passed around. People see a “100 Things About Me” or a “Thursday Thirteen” or “Half-Nekkid Thursday” post and say, “I should do that.” Ergo, the meme has been passed. There is even a guy with a site that lists dozens of popular memes. Judging by the ones I run across, his list is just the tip of the iceberg.

Using the biology analogy, some memes are spread by using “tagging” as a transmission vector. The recipient is only obligated to follow-up on the tag out of a sense of loyalty or duty or curiosity. The pass-along memes that are too hard or too personal or not clever enough will eventually die out. Unfortunately, at the current rate of meme generation, in a year or two, half of all blogposts will be people responding to being tagged by a meme.

I hope I have cleared things up in my very unrigorous, completely untechnical way. So, everytime you run across someone asking about memes, post a comment linking back to this post. And spread this meme.

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Sunday, December 25, 2005

Christmas In Paris

Two years ago, my wife and I boarded a plane on Christmas Eve and fulfilled a life-long fantasy of hers. No, neither of us are in the Mile High Club, as far as I know. Besides, that would be my lifelong fantasy, not hers. Christmas morning we landed in Paris. The only thing we did to spoil the fantasy glow was to take along our surly, moody teenager. I know, those adjectives are redundant when describing teenagers.

We arrived early Christmas morning Paris-time to a nearly deserted Charles DeGaulle Airport and took a shuttle service to our hotel in Arrondissement Seven. To say that our room was small would be to say that the Louvre has a few paintings. Our triple room, which was hard to find in this hotel class (further discouraging any future of taking teenagers along), was a skinny double bed with about 1 foot clear on each side and a roll-away bed blocking the door to the bathroom. Still, we were in Paris.

Since we still had most of the day ahead of us we decided to walk the few blocks to the Eiffel Tower just to have a look at it. The Eiffel Tower does not disappoint. I don’t know what fake partial scale replicas you may have seen in Vegas or at Kings Dominion, the real thing is just plain huge. We swooned and gawked and then noticed there were people in line at the base.

Travel Tip: The Eiffel Tower is open Christmas Day.

We spent most of the afternoon going all the way to the top and slowly descending the tower. We took picture and wandered and just soaked in the atmosphere. At dusk, we took a water boat tour up and down the Seine, just like in Before Sunset, and took more picture of the Eiffel Tower. In all I think I took over three dozen picture of the Eiffel Tower or parts therof that trip. The one on the right is from the only clear sunny day we had that trip.

The weather was cold and usually gray, but nothing can take away that magic of having been in Paris on Christmas Day.

Merry Christmas

The Yellojkt Clan.

Thursday, December 22, 2005

Non-Denominational Winter Gift-Giving Holiday Greeting

My blogroll is a pretty eclectic collection of links that I have picked up in the last few months. There are a lot of very interesting people in the blogosphere and I know I have only scratched the surface of the great blogs out there. I have picked them up from the Comics Curmudgeon site, out of the mommy-blogger heavy camp-followers of Michele Agnew, and the rather brainy group that are attracted like intellect-seeking mosquitoes drawn to the Achenblog. Getting to “know” other bloggers has been the unintended benefit of my blogging. These are only a few of the great people I never would have run across in the real world, but I’m glad I have found here.

Trusty Getto is a really great guy. He’s a lawyer, drives a fancy car, lives in a gorgeous old house, and has the two most adorable blond moppets I have ever seen on the web. Plus he writes witty blogposts, serves as a school board official and flirts shamelessly with mean girl. Some people are too perfect.

Princssis doesn’t blog very much, at least nowhere near as often as her friend Blond Girl, but she was the very first person to add me to her blogroll, and you never forget your first. Even when she is blogcationing, I go by and look for news.

Plain Jane is one of the newest people on my blogroll and I am kicking myself for not finding her blog earlier. Funny, sassy and in tune with life.

J. Po is one of the funniest of the Comics Cardinals and he has started a blog for his non-comics related observations. Ginzu-knife sharp wit with a grounded sense of family life Thank goodness there are so many people so much funnier than me.

Read-Think-Live who goes by reader on the Achenblog is usually good for a little mental stimulation. Books, art, and philosophy are all in her cultural reference quiver and it shames me when she makes a Vonnegut reference quicker than I do.

Claude aka ccradio is a fellow Baltimoron who has the thankless burden in life of working for City of Baltimore Public Schools. I like having someone on my blogroll I can make inside regional jokes with.

On the other side of the world is one of my many international readers, Mooselet, whose fascination with hunky Australian rugby players borders on the obsessive.

If you aren’t on my list here, I haven’t forgotten you. I appreciate everyone that reads my blog at any frequency they desire. Just check your bloglogs and you know I am a loyal reader visiting your site way too often as well.

I want to send everyone on my blogroll, in my favorites list, and filed away at my site a very happy holiday wish that they can use for whatever religious/secular/pop-culture festive occasion they choose to celebrate or ignore. And I know I have already missed Winter Solstice for the pagans/Wiccans/whatevers out there. Harvest some more mistletoe next year for me.

Tuesday, December 20, 2005

Foob Fallout

Last week I published one of my occasional snarky posts about the comic strip For Better or For Worse. As I presumptuously tend to do, I posted a message in the comments of the Comics Curmudgeon site to siphon off some of Josh’s fan base. I try not to abuse this privilege, but it’s a pretty reliable traffic generator. As a tongue-in-cheek joke, I lured them in using the promise of a picture of a “nearly naked April” who, if you don’t know, is the teenage daughter character in the strip.

The stunt succeeded beyond my wildest imagination. I got over 300 visitors in one day from that link, drowning out my normal readership which consists of about a dozen dedicated blog friends and a lot of Googlers™ looking for Angelina Jolie in a backless dress. You could practically sit there and watch the sitemeter spin.

The picture I was using as blog bait is on the April Paper Doll page, which is not nearly as tawdry as I made it out to be, which is of course part of my point. One of my regular readers, Mooselet, caught on to my unstated hint that this is not perhaps the most benign image to put into the hands of anybody that can use the right click menu of the browser. Ellcee also chimed in that it was perhaps naïve on the part of Foob Central to think that the world is not the happy safe place it ought to be.

I am certain some photoshopper somewhere has already airbrushed off April’s bra and panties for some hentai-style parody. And no, I do not want to know where I can find it. I have seen enough images of Belle or Ariel doing very un-Disney things to not want that image seared into my brain.

Even more amusing to me, as well as frightening for the general public, is that I sprinkled over two dozen links to various pages on the FBorFW website and the most clicked-on link was the one to “topless toddler April.” It’s that sort of prurient curiosity that makes you the target of FBI sting operations.

Of the nearly 500 visits I got over the three-day surge of traffic, I am most intrigued by the half dozen or so I got from Sudbury, Ontario. It seems I had drawn the attention of the Lynnions. I have no idea whether it was Stephanie Van Doleweerd, or Lynn herself, but someone at Foob Central took the trouble to check over my past foobish posts as well. Hopefully I have passed muster in my avoidance of any intellectual property infringements or bandwidth incursions (a hundred clicks from me is a drop in the bucket of their 500GB monthly traffic), and I can continue to make my gentle jabs in the future.

The biggest disappointment in my ratings sweep-week stunt was that I didn’t get any more comments than normal. I guess everyone was too red-faced to admit they had been suckered to own up and comment. And Steph (may I call you Steph?), If you swing by in the future (since I am now on your watch-list) and I have stepped over some boundary, leave me a comment and we can discuss it like civilized people by e-mail. No need to tap the lawyers’ retainer. I’m a reasonable person. Don’t worry about leaving the e-mail address; I’m sure I can find it.

Finally, if Josh could let me know how many visitors read the comments on December 12, we can calculate the click-through rate and figure out how lucrative links to underwear-clad underage comic strip characters could be. Let’s see, there is Luann, Paige Fox, Agnes, Nancy….

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Sunday, December 18, 2005

Every Ornament A Memory

set up
our tree up a
while ago. I pulled
all the boxes Mardi Gras jester
of ornaments outs and got all
the lights on. And then we had an
idea. Rather than put on all the ornaments,
Bear lets just put on the ones with special meaning
to us. Every time we visit someplace we tend to buy a Christmas
ornament or two. They make nice inexpensive Paris Santa souvenirs
and someone has to keep all those tacky tourist Christmas shops
in business. We were otherwise distracted during our honeymoon and
didn’t think of Myrtle Beach buying any then. But while still newlyweds,
we went to Mardi Gras in New Orleans and found an ornament in the
shape of a jester head and colored purple and green. Hence a tradition
started. We have a couple of dozen Hatteras and Paris of these things with
something kitschy about the place. For Hawaii, we have some hula
dancers. San Francisco is represented by a trolley car. New York City is
an apple and upstate New York is an Adirondack chair. For Myrtle Beach
it’s a golf club on a sand dollar even though Money wreath we don’t golf.
A lot of them seem to have an ocean theme. Charleston is a shrimp with
a Santa hat. Maine is a lobster trap. Orcas Island is a ferry boat. Some
are less kitschy than others. A gorgeous brass cutout of Ryman
Auditorium Ryman Auditorium represents Nashville. The Space Needle from
Seattle is also classy. Sometimes we end up with more than
one. Mt Ranier Amish Country in Pennsylvania is represented by a
horse and buggy as well as a hand made “plain” doll. Baby's First Christmas We
also have a few ornaments for special occasions like the crystal
“Baby’s First Christmas.” There is also a cocker spaniel to represent
my dog, and my wife even repainted it IMG_0337 to make it look
more like him. The tree isn’t as gaudy as it is some years, but it’s
nice to just stand in front of it and bask in the warm memories
on each

For more of my ornaments you can see this Flickr set.
Let me know about special memories you have on your tree.

Thursday, December 15, 2005

Geisha Chic

According to this Washington Post article, there are geisha experts that are critical of inaccuracies in Memoirs of A Geisha. They claim the movie takes liberties with the history and style of the era and creates false impressions of geishas. Of course it does, it’s a movie. The geisha is a strange cultural touchstone. They evoke a bygone era of elegance and grace while extolling women that are demure and deferential. The geisha image plays into a lot of stereotypes about the exotic Far East. The complicated and perhaps deliberately ambiguous sensual nature of geisha culture has always fascinated and perplexed Westerners.

The geisha is a nearly extinct career, a victim of modernization and changing tastes. While some traditional geishas remain, they exist largely as an anachronistic leftover. In modern Japan, the role of the geisha has been replaced by the hostess girl.

When I was in Japan this summer we took a tour that visited the Hondo Sensoji Buddhist shrine in Tokyo. Part of the complex has a long row of vendors and booths that are popular for shopping. Here there were a wide variety of people including more than a few groups of girls dressed as geishas. They were obviously not real geishas, but I still can’t quite figure out what makes people dress up in the middle of the day in period costume and go out in groups. I keep trying to come up with an American analogy to this hobby, but the closest I can come up with are Civil War re-enactors, but they don’t go out in public in costume. At least I hope not.

I think the image of the geisha has outlived the practice. It connects modern Japan to its traditions and culture and reminds them of a gentler, less hectic, romanticized past. Like the American cowboy, geishas and samurai are symbols of a life that never really was. That Japanese girls, and some boys, find dressing in exotic costumes entertaining is perplexing, but then Japanese pop cultural fads have always been, to use a term loaded with potentially offensive connotations, inscrutable.

Whether Memoirs of A Geisha is a compelling period piece or just exploitive Orientalism can be debated. I just feel it’s important to note that even in Japan, the age of the geisha holds a mysterious allure to this day.

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Wednesday, December 14, 2005

Are You Pondering What I'm Pondering?

From the Washington Post:
Human Brain Cells Are Grown In Mice

Now we know exactly why he is called The Brain.

"What are we going to do tonight, Turd Blossom?"
"Same thing we do every night, Dubya. Try to take over the world."

This post is inspired, to the point of being actionable, by bc's hilarious take on the news of human brain cells being injected into fetal mice.

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Tuesday, December 13, 2005

Plane Nuts

Udvar-Hazy CenterLast week I had the opportunity to go with a group to the National Air and Space Museum’s Steven F. Udvar-Hazy Center. This is quite a mouthful to say, but I guess when you give the Smithsonian 65 million dollars, they don’t care how hard your name is to pronounce. Anyone who has ever visited Washington DC knows about the Air and Space Museum. It’s the most popular museum on the Mall and has the original Wright Flyer, The Spirit of St. Louis and a lot of other rare planes and space craft. What they don’t know is that the Smithsonian owns tons of stuff it can’t display. A lot of it stays hidden in warehouses in suburban Maryland.

The Udvar-Hazy Center is right next to Dulles Airport in Virginia and puts on display a lot of the airplanes that aren’t historic enough or just plain (no pun intended) too big for the main museum. A few years ago, the NASM put the original Enola Gay on display in the museum on the mall, but only the fuselage fit. In the new place, the whole thing, fully restored, fits with room to spare.

Enola Gay

The other signature military plane in the exhibit is the SR-71 Blackbird, the fastest plane ever built. These things never fail to impress.

SR-71 Blackbird

The last Concorde to ever fly is also on display. It also is in the “How did they fit that thing in here?” category. It is nearly impossible to get an angle to take a picture of the whole thing at once.


I was most impressed with the wide variety of WWII planes they have. A lot of planes are hung from the ceiling and there are catwalks around and through the hangar that let you get a closer view. Here is a Flying Tigers P-40 flying right at the camera.

P-40 Flying Tiger

Many years ago I had a job that occasionally took me to the launch pad at Kennedy Space Center, so I have been up-close to Space Shuttles before, but the Enterprise on display here is still an impressive sight. That’s me in the foreground.

Space Shuttle Enterprise

When I got home and went through the photos, I counted 69 pictures after I deleted the duplicates and out-of-focus shots, which sounds like a lot, but I only scratched the surface. If you want to see more check out this Flickr set for the full set of my pictures. Or view them all as a slide show.

And if you get to the DC area take a half day and head out to the Udvar-Hazy Center. Like all Smithsonian museums it’s “free”, but parking is $12 a vehicle or you can pay for a shuttle from the Mall. And just go plane nuts.

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Sunday, December 11, 2005

A Tour of Foob Central

It’s been a while since I’ve visited the Foobiverse. I have previously talked about the history of For Better or For Worse and its major characters as well as the supporting cast. Today I will take you on a guided tour behind the scenes of Foob Central, also known as Lynn Johnston Productions, Inc as operated by Entercom Canada Inc (ECI). The FBorFW website is a wealth of information and entertainment that takes foob fandom to a whole new level. So, let’s go!

Lynn JohnstonThe first stop is logically enough a tour of the Foob Art Studios. Running an internationally syndicated comic strip is a big job requiring lots of highly skilled artists and business people. Well, at least 6 people. We have Lynn and her assistants that do the grunt work Lynn doesn’t care to, like inking and lettering, and colouring and five people to handle the business end.

For our purposes, the most important person is Stephanie Van Doleweerd, the webmaster of the entire site. She is responsible for making sure the opening splash page has a seasonally relevant theme, getting the monthly letters posted, updating all the fun and games (which I’ll discuss later) and keeping the Strip Fix archives up to date. A unique feature of CyberFoobWorld is that in addition to a very deep archive of recent strips that goes back to January 2003, there is a separate nostalgia archive for the older strips, so you can decide for yourself if the strip was funnier back when it was more sloppily drawn and less strident.

Comics are a big business and there a lot of licensing issues to insure that characters and artwork are properly paid for and that copyrights are protected. I’m not sure which of these people is in charge of websearching for bloggers that cut and paste the strips onto personal websites, but that person does one heck of a job.

Ending our tour of the backstage area, is a series of pages devoted to Lynn’s charity work with sick animals, background on her fascination with First Nation culture, and details about the animated version of the strip. Thanks to Canadian content broadcast laws, the audience in the Great White North can catch it on Teletoon. Yanks have to buy the DVD to catch all the drama and love of the Pattersons in full animation.

FborFW is one of the few comics that actually has a dedicted website. Others in this rarified realm include Garfield and Doonesbury. For comics large enough to merit grand stand alone websites, instead of dinky templated web pages from their syndicate, they all have on an odd fascination with silly games and stunts. Considering the target age of Garfield fans, this is understandable. But if you want to play chess on-line why does it matter if you play against Mike, when chess is nearly ubiquitous on the web? John’s little Flash game is particularly strange. And why is Deanna the word search maven? If you don’t want to play games you can look at unpublished artwork, or scroll through all the fan-submitted photos and letters on April’s Blog (the official one, not the "real" one.

And if you have ever wondered what April looks like in her underwear, and I do not want to know if you have, the April Paper Doll page is where to go. They have both topless toddler April and teen April, kind of like the choice between young Elvis and fat Elvis.

And every tour ends with a stop at the gift shop. Here is where you can put your wallet to the test. There is a huge branded CafePress outlet where you can get your choice from about a dozen daily or Sunday strips put on about every style of clothing and tchotke that CafePress sells. Unfortunately, the strip selection doesn’t have the famous “roadside gig” episode that would be the immediate bestseller. You can get an autographed copy of it for $45. I dare you. At the higher end there are animation cels, autographed books, and bunny jewelry. They even have Christmas gifts for all your foob-friends.

This is the end of the guided tour, but feel free to wander around some more and try to find Ned. There are lots of places to explore that I haven’t even touched on. In the near future, I will draw back the curtain and we will peer straight down Mt. Foob.

Foob Lawyers: I know that on your site you say: “All of the copyrights and trademarks on this site remain the property of Entercom Canada Inc. Any unauthorized use of these images is strictly prohibited.” I have linked to images from the website according to my right for fair use. All the links are altered in size from the original and refer back to the original source. I have not “copied” or “stolen” anything from you. If you put something on the web, I can link to it. It’s that simple. If you don’t believe me, the folks at the EFF can set you straight.

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Thursday, December 08, 2005

Light Peer Pressure

We were out of town either visiting relatives or stalking sitcom actors most of Thanksgiving weekend, so we were a little taken aback to come home Sunday night to find three of the units in our townhouse group already had Christmas lights up. And like the gap in a redneck’s smile, our plain unlit house sat in the middle of them.

We had been rather Grinch–like the past two Christmases because we were traveling over the holidays and didn’t want the hassle of putting up and taking down decorations when we wouldn’t be around to enjoy them. Last year my son just duct-taped off a corner of the living room as the “tree” so we would have a place to put the presents for him to rattle.

The peer pressure got to me, so on the next Saturday, in near freezing weather, I dragged out the box of lights and started hanging. Fortunately, there is not much that needs to be done to light the front of a townhouse. I hung icicle lights from the bay window over the garage and put rope light through the railings and around the front door.

Since it’s not Christmas without spending money, my wife bought two strings of very fancy holly lights that use small red bulbs for the holly berries. Each box had two spare bulbs and when we got the lights on the railings, there were five dead lights already. Rather than hunt down spare bulbs, we found, on sale, a string of 70 lights that use the exact same bulb. We now have a lifetime supply of spare red pearl lights in case anyone needs some.

When we threw the switch my newest neighbor came out and congratulated me on getting with the spirit. He’s a little gung-ho and I was glad my lights met with his approval. In the picture, his house is on the right and has two moving reindeer and a “pond” of blue lights in his front yard. The neighbor with the end unit adds something every year and is now up to a reindeer-drawn sleigh, a lighted angel, and an inflatable Santa. I’m happy just to stick in the middle and not try to keep up with the Griswolds.

I call our little group of houses “mini-Hampden” after the Baltimore rowhouse neighborhood that goes completely bat-crap beserk with decorations every year. Baltimore Diary has a good post about the Hampden phenomena and there are plenty of pictures on Flickr of this block long extravaganza. The pictures cannot possibly do justice to this garish yearly phenomena.

So, how many lights are too many lights? And how early should decorations go up? Jumping up after Thanksgiving dinner to hang lights strikes me as too soon, but with all that peer pressure around me I knew I had better get with the program and set my house aglow ASAP.

Wednesday, December 07, 2005

Sony vs Sony

I visited Japan as part of my vacation this summer and the one must-do pilgrimage for my PS2 loving son was to the Sony Center building in the Ginza district of Tokyo. Here they have seven floors of showrooms with every product Sony makes: computers, camcorders, cameras, televisions, DVD players and the like. The “home theater” room where they had a Blu-Ray DVD of Spiderman II playing on a 12 foot wide screen was just stunning. Sony has a lot of very cool electronics.

Right as we walked in the door the first display was the MP3 players. I thought I was getting a glimpse into the future. The iPod sized players came in a bunch of designer metallic covers and had a cool screen that can be used in landscape or portrait mode. The red model is pictured here. Little did I know that they had been on sale worldwide since April. When we visited Electronic Town (Akihabara), these little Sony devices were as common in the vendor stalls as iPods are in the US. iPods were also available everywhere and often just a little cheaper than their Sony equivalent.

But don’t go looking for one of these Sony players (which go by the rather un-catchy name of Walkman® Hard Drive) in your local Best Buy, because they are not there. Sure, you can buy them online or special order, but they are not featured in sales flyers and are definitely not on the showroom floor with the iRivers or the Toshibas or the other wannabes in this category. It’s like Sony doesn’t really want to be selling them.

You can find some of the Sony flash memory players on the blister pack racks at Best Buys, like this Network Walkman® which is a 1GB flash memory player with this cool twisty control on the end and a one line display which makes it nicer than the iPod Shuffle but not as neat as the iPod Nano.

I was reading the fine print on the Network Walkman and it seems that it converts any MP3 files to Sony’s proprietary ATRAC3 format before loading it onto the player. It even warns that it is not compatible with WMA files. Now if you remember my rant from a few days ago about my Foo Fighters album fiasco, the only format the songs on this Sony/BMG release can be ripped as are WMA files.

Here is where Sony is a complete basket case. Its music division is locking its music away from its music player division. The music players don't play industry standard formats and require you to use crappy Sony software. Until they can come to some sort of truce between the warring factions, Apple is going to continue to gobble up both marketshare and mindshare.

Sony has a new British CEO, Howard Stringer, that comes from the music and movies side of the conglomerate and he has bold plans to unite the company. Wired Magazine did a puff profile of him in the last year that seems to have vanished Ministry of Truth-style off their archives. Now people are calling for his to resign or be fired over the DRM rootkit flap.

Sony needs to decide who their customers are and sell them what they want whether that is MP3 players or music albums. Continuing to cut off their nose to spite their face is not a good business strategy.

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Tuesday, December 06, 2005

No You May Not

I like to back track memes I get tagged with to see if I can follow them to the source. When trusty tagged me, he had been tagged by Patricide who had been tagged by Cooking by Anne who had been tagged by Dandelions and Roses who had been tagged by Mrs. Diamond. That's where the trail went cold. It seems you need a username and password to get into that blog. I've never been to a gated cyber-neighborhood before, but I know when I'm not wanted.

Here's the actual meme which has stayed intact for at least five generations:

List 5 things people may not know about you and tag 5 people to do the same.

I'm going to play fussy obtuse grammarian and subvert the paradigm here. I'm going to tell you five things you MAY NOT know about me, not five things you MIGHT NOT know about me. There is a difference.
  1. My real name. I prefer to use yellojkt as my nom de web. Not that the clever person can't figure out my real name, but it's fairly common. Common enough to get lots of wrong numbers over the years. As far as I know, there is only one yellojkt.
  2. My address, social security number, mother's maiden name, or PIN number. There seem to be a lot of curious people from very obscure banks that want to know this. Not to mention the fine folks at eBay and PayPal that keep threatening to freeze my account.
  3. My IQ. Mostly because I do not know it. My mother had me tested in high school to get me eligible for all sorts of programs I had no desire to be in. I refused to be told what it was. These are meaningless numbers.
  4. My SAT scores, GPA, or class rank. These numbers I do know, but that was over twenty years ago. Anyone still gloating or bitter over these things needs to get a life. Statistically insignificant differences in these numbers seemed very important to a lot of people at the time, but haven't impacted my life in any way in a long time.
  5. My shirt size. Not that I care if you know, but without the information in items 1 and 2, you are not going to be able to buy me any new shirts for Christmas.

Since I am being a smart-ass, I am not going to bother to tag anyone, but if you want to carry on my cause, feel free to do so. You may want to include your weight, the name of your first lover, your favorite sexual position, the reason you are in the witness protection plan, or a lot of other things people have no reason, right, or need to know.

Saturday, December 03, 2005

The Show Killer Strikes

New episodes of the deathwatched television show Kitchen Confidential as well as the last few episodes of "Arrested Development" start Monday night, but they both will soon be gone because shows I like are inevitably cancelled. I have a twenty-five year long record of killing promising new series. My liking a show is usually enough to doom a new series. Here is just a small list of shows that never stood a chance. All links are to the IMDB summary in case you want to check cast bios or get more info.

Breaking Away (1980). This television series adaptation of the bicycling movie starred a post-Hardy Boys Shaun Cassidy with a lot of the movie cast including Jackie Earle Haley. While the show caught the spirit of the movie, it never found an audience.

Square Pegs (1982). Before Sarah Jessica Parker found sex in the city, she was a high school geek trying to get in with the cool kids. This show was set in the early 80s and had a great New Wave musical vibe. The show was notoriously uneven in quality largely because the producers, writers, crew, and possibly some of the cast where constantly coked up. Perhaps a perfect meta-metaphor for the 80s.

It’s Your Move (1984) Jason Bateman was a scheming teenager in a feud with the nebbish guy across the hall trying to date his mother. Snarky comedy too edgy for the family friendly times.

Max Headroom (1987). The US version of the British talk show spoof. Twenty minutes into the future was a little too far for this ahead of its time satire of a ratings-obsessed 24-hour news channel.

Ferris Bueller (1990) This TV adaptation of the movie classic lacked everything the film did. Ferris’s sister played by a young Jennifer Anniston survived this turkey long enough to find some Friends on a better show.

The Flash (1990). Hoping to capitalize on the popularity of the Tim Burton Batman movie, this noirish series had good production values but zipped around the schedule so much an audience had no chance of finding it. Mark Hamill guest starred as The Trickster.

The Single Guy (1995) Jonathon Silverman starred as a twenty-something ready to settle down because all his friends were married. The show was one of the better ones stuck in the 8:30 Thursday NBC deathspot but it still wasn't Must See TV.

Sports Night (1998) A behind the scenes look at an ESPN-style sports news show. I blame the bad acting. These actors have gone onto dreck like "West Wing", "Six Feet Under", and "Desperate Housewives".

Freaks and Geeks (1999) This show about a math nerd in the early 1980s that starts hanging around the school stoners was so true to life that I have considered legal action. Cruelly cancelled and burned off in summer reruns, watching the DVD box set is one of my goals this winter.

Action (1999) Jay Mohr takes the slimy guy schtick he perfected in Jerry McGuire and uses it in a Hollywood behind the scenes spoof ala The Player. Bonus points for having a Warren Zevon song for theme music.

Undeclared (2001) Judd Apatow took some of the cast of Freaks and Geeks and set them in a contemporary mid-level state college dorm. Despite the much higher sexual content, this show also failed to find an audience. The episode where Lizzie keeps denying hooking up with guest star Adam Sandler is a classic.

Arrested Development (2003-2005) Wait, you say I can’t take credit for this since it lasted for more than one season. True, but I quit watching it about six episodes into the first season when I couldn’t keep track of when it was on. It then won six Emmys and got nominated for ten more over the next two seasons. It was only when I started watching the third season that the plug got pulled. Sorry.

For fans of quality television everywhere I apologize for my curse. Let me know what new show you like so I can avoid it for you. Or let me know what short lived series you really miss. I may have killed it too and just overlooked it here.

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Wednesday, November 30, 2005

Rock And Roll Hall Of Lame

Rock and Roll Hall of FameThe 2006 inductees into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame have been announced and it’s a particularly lackluster year. Correct me if I’m wrong, but none of these bands were a shoo-in on their first year of eligibility like U2 was last year. Bands are eligible for nomination twenty-five years after their first album and some of these artists have been bubbling under the inductee list for nearly a decade. 2003 was a banner year with The Clash, The Police and Elvis Costello all making it in their first time on the ballot. Let’s take a look at this year's list of warmed-over also-rans.

Hitherto, the Sex Pistols have been the most egregious omission from the R&RHoF, but this is a band that is far more influential for their style than for their talent. Which I guess is the point of punk music. Johnny Rotten and the guys only put out one album which is really just three singles and a lot of unlistenable filler. Sid Vicious, punk’s most famous casualty, is only on two of the tracks. On a per album basis, this band has about the best reputation ever.

Blondie bridged the punk and new-wave styles and has the dubious distinction of having the first number one rap single in history. They (and it’s a them, not a her) had a couple of hits like "Call Me" and "Heart of Glass", but they have always stood in the shadows of edgier female-fronted bands like the Pretenders which were inducted last year.

Death is always a good career move for rock stars and a tragic plane crash made Lynyrd Skynyrd the Big Bopper of Southern rock. If Ronnie VanZant had survived, this band would be on the county fair circuit double-billed with 38 Special instead of being inducted into the Hall of Fame.

Black Sabbath took Jimmie Page’s fascination with the occult and camped it up into easy shock value for faux-rebellious teens for the past three decades. These guys have been rejected by the Hall eight times and got in this year on sheer perseverance. Hell, Ozzy is now eligible as a solo artist. There needs to be a statute of limitations for induction. If you can’t make it in on five ballots you don’t deserve in.

Miles Davis is the most talent artist of this group, but you have to wonder if the definition of rock is elastic enough to encompass his style of jazz, what doesn’t count as rock? You might as well call it the Hall of Fame for Any Musician Rock Critics Think Is Cool. Oh wait, it already is.

Which leads to an interesting culturally sensitive issue. What happens in a few years when Run-DMC is eligible? They will get inducted, of course. No group in the last twenty-five years has been as influential on all music, rock, hip-hop, and even country, as Rev Run and the gang. Twenty years from now, Eminem, Nellie, and Green Day will all be billed as “rock” legends at the 2025 induction ceremony.

None of my tirade should be construed as a knock on the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame itself. That is a very cool place and almost worth a trip to Cleveland all by itself. It is full of great memorabilia and has neat temporary exhibits. And don’t miss the two part introductory movie. It’s one of the best documentaries on rock music I have ever seen.

I love that rock has its own institution to preserve the history and memories of an electricifying musical style. After all, museums are where we keep all sorts of dead artifacts.

So which of these really deserve to be in and what bands would you replace the undeserving ones with? Here’s a list of previous inductees to help your memory.

Update 3/17/06: The New York Times (registration required) had the best write-up with The Sex Pistols refusing to show and Debbie Harry snubbing her former band mates. This Washington Post article is not as good, but less likely to expire.

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Tuesday, November 29, 2005

Sony and DRM Drama

Click here for the full comic with punchline.

When the comic strips are mocking your latest attempt to thwart piracy, you have a huge public relations problem. The latest round of bad news for Sony started when word got out that their CD’s have software on them that automatically loads spyware onto computers before the CD will play. I first read about the outcry in the Washington Post a few weeks ago in this article which was actually a follow-up to this on-line article. Since then the blogosphere has been exploding with anti-Sony screeds. Even Newsweek is on the case.

I first encountered the beginnings of this screw-the-paying-customers corporate philosophy when I bought the new Foo Fighters album and this creepy little sticker was on the cover:

In even finer print on the back of the CD was a legalese disclaimer in white type on a yellow background and about 1.5 points tall that essentially says that I am not buying a CD in the traditional sense but a CD-ROM that just happens to be playable in CD players. Since it is not a true CD I am now bound by the “software license” governing the CD-ROM. Since the disk is for sale in the music section, not the software aisle, this is a distinction that only the cross between a marketing weasel and a slithering lawyer could love. Besides, how bad can it be, right? As I would find out, pretty bad, bordering on nightmarish.

When I put the CD in my computer was when the real fun began. Up popped some screen with an Accept/Decline button. I hate the little software that comes with CD’s that connect you to their corporate run fan site and stuff, so I clicked “Decline”. The CD then ejected. We danced that minuet three times before it wore me down. I pushed it back in, hit “Accept” and let it do it’s dirty business to my hard drive and a new window came up with a “Play” button. I ignored it and went to Windows Media Player to rip the CD like I always do.

The ripped files sounded like crap. The CD also sounded bad when played by iTunes or WinAmp. They had all sorts of pops and buzzes that weren’t there when played by WMP. I go to the website from the play screen help button and it explains about the encoding for piracy prevention. It also helpfully says that there is a button on the menu for transferring the songs without the noise onto my computer. I give that a try.

With over 300 legally purchased CD’s on my computer I am fairly anal-rententive (that's hyphenated, right?) about the file naming system. I have a dedicated shared network drive for my music and all new CD’s get ripped following this naming system:


That way I know where to find it when I am looking for something specific. I also rip my files at 192 kbps under the notion that someday I may want the extra quality.

The Sony software copies (not rips) a group of files to this location:

C:/Username/My Music/SongTitle.wma

No separate directory by artist. No clue who the artist even is from the file name.

These files are 128 kbps Windows Media files that have all sorts of Digital Rights Management (DRM) restrictions built in. The very unhelpful FAQ on the Sony website says that if I want to easily transfer my songs to my iPod I should e-mail Apple and tell them to get with the program and support their DRM system instead of Apple’s. They even supply a link to do this. No link to Sony so that I can tell them they are being very cruel to their quickly dwindling customer base that actually buys music on a CD from a store. I don’t think they want to hear that.

Finally, after more Googling, the Dave Matthews Band website, of all places, explains that to get around this I should just burn the WMA files onto a CD using Window Media Player and then rip the songs from that disc to my hard drive and the files will be DRM-free. Which means I have to coaster a CD-R and re-rip files that have been uncompressed from 128 kbps just to listen to them on my iPod. It took nearly two hours for me to climb this learning curve about what it means to be a Sony/BMG customer in this day and age. According to them, I have no Fair Use rights to put music I have bought on devices I own without their permission.

This rant is reaching the limits of people’s attention span, but I think I have some insight into what big picture game Sony thinks it is playing. I will post that complete with spy photos in the very near future.

Update: "Spy photos" post is here.

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Sunday, November 27, 2005

Broadway Celebrity Sightings

My post about stalking Angelina Jolie coming out of her Tomb Raider II premiere is one of my most popular ever. But I stalk other celebrities even if they aren’t incredibly hot. Ever since we figured out that New York was only a four hour drive from Baltimore (which took us nearly five years to do; we’re a little slow on the uptake) we have been going to New York a couple of times a year to see Broadway show, visit museums, eat gourmet meals, and so on.

The key to stalking celebrities is to know where they are. When they’re in a Broadway show you know exactly where they are, inside a theater. Eventually, they have to go someplace else to eat or sleep or something. That's when you have a chance to see them. That is also why all the stage doors in New York have portable barriers and rent-a-cops to protect the actors as they leave.

We had tickets this weekend to the completely sold out run of The Odd Couple starring Nathan Lane and Matthew Broderick. Not good tickets mind you, but tickets nonetheless. After the show, we had to rest a few places for oxygen as it took us a long while to readjust to the thicker air down in the lobby. We arrived just in time to see Nathan Lane and Olivia D’Abo sneaking off with a bucket of money they had gotten “donated” to some charity or another. I called Nathan over and slipped him a Lincoln, but he disappeared backstage before my wife could get the camera ready.

We then joined an unruly mob at the backstage door, but after about 15 minutes the security guard told the crowd that the actors were staying backstage between the matinee and the evening show. The fans dispersed and we went on our way.

John LithgowThat evening we saw the new Andrew Lloyd Weber show The Woman In White and were wandering back to our hotel when we stepped around another throng of people. My wife asked, “Isn’t that the guy from Dirty Rotten Scoundrels that won the Tony?” I went back and sure enough it was Norbert Leo Butz, but by the time I had gotten the camera out, he had disappeared.

Since the crowd stuck around, I waited and soon thereafter walked out John Lithgow, who graciously signed programs and waved to the crowd as he tried to navigate the fifteen feet between the stage door and his limo. As the picture shows he was gracious and pleasant with his stalkers fans. In appreciation and out of curiousity, I tried the next day to get discount tickets to his show at TKTS to no avail, so this snapshot will have to make due for now.

So am I the only one that revels in these brief brushes with fame? What celebrities have you run across and how? Enquiring minds want to know.

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Thursday, November 24, 2005

Giving Thanks

The Washington Post Magazine has a heart-wrenching story about a Vietnamese family that was separated at the end of the war and reunited only to have their home destroyed by Katrina. While this is just one of the innumerable tragedies this year’s natural disasters have caused, the story of the divided family struck home.

My wife was born in Vietnam. Her childhood memories of Vietnam are dim and scattered. She remembers things like the smell of soup being sold on street corners and her grandmother’s funeral. She remembers various places she lived and pets she had, but was unaware of the war around her. These are things a small child doesn’t have the life experience to put into perspective.

When she was just an infant, her parents divorced and her natural father got custody of her two older sisters. She remained with her mother who remarried to an American officer. The three of them moved to the U.S. in 1972 well ahead of the “reunification” of Vietnam which would bring many more fellow countrymen to America. My wife entered the public school system as a second-grader and quickly caught up with her native-born classmates. I met her in high school and we eventually married.

In the mid-eighties, the middle sister wished to move to the United States. My wife's step-father never knew of the older sisters but gladly did all he could to reunite his wife with her lost daughter. This took years of paperwork and probably a good bit of bribery, but she eventually made it to America. Once in America, she took English language classes where she met a Cuban “Marielito”. They married and now have a teenaged daughter who is tri-cultural.

The eldest sister remained in Vietnam. We knew little of her except for the reports my mother-in-law would make from the annual trips back to Vietnam she had been making ever since travel to Vietnam was allowed to US citizens. We knew that if we were to ever meet my wife's other sister we would have to go to Vietnam.

This summer my family figured this was our best chance to visit Vietnam before the demands of our son's education made such a trip logistically impossible. We had several goals. We wanted to freshen my wife’s vague childhood memories. We wanted to see how the country has adjusted to thirty years of communist rule. We wanted to expose our son to his cultural heritage. And of course we wanted to meet the last remaining member of my wife’s family in Vietnam.

Her sister speaks four languages, Vietnamese, French, English, and Russian. She and her boyfriend live in a four story rowhouse in Saigon that has more rooms that they need but is clean and spartan. Their life has not always been easy and there are many things about the past they are reluctant to discuss. They are now living a solid middle-class life in a country that is rapidly embracing a market economy while still in a single party political system.

It is difficult to make bonds between family members that have spent over forty years apart. They may share blood, but their lives could not have been more different. My wife will never be close to her sisters, but she is happy to know them and share some small connection.

My wife and I often talk about the strange twists of fate that take people all sorts of directions. Any small change along the way and my wife and I would never met. We were born two hours and a half a world apart. We met when I transferred into her high school English class and the only available seat was next to her.

This week Americans spend time with their family in thanks for their many blessings. Sometimes we are not even aware of how much we are blessed we are until we ponder the way things could have been different. The wondrful family my wife and I have forged together would never have happened if not for an innumerable number of events that had to occur the way they did to bring us together. For each of them I am giving thanks.

Tuesday, November 22, 2005

The Pies Are Baked

Blanche DuBois always relied on the kindness of strangers. I count on the generosity of relatives. When I was in college and my parents snuck off to Italy, I went to my Grandmother’s house in Alabama for Thanksgiving. When we were first married, we moved back to our home town and ate at the in-laws. The one Thanksgiving we have ever actually held at our house was when my parents visited us in West Palm Beach on their way to Key West.

Ever since we moved to Maryland, we have gone to whatever relative within driving distance was having a Thanksgiving dinner. And I consider Boston within driving distance of Baltimore. Lately we have been going to my aunt and uncle who have a weekend house about 60 miles from us. These are the same relatives that have the very cute grand-daughter.

In order to not appear as a complete freeloader, I bring pies. Last night I baked an apple pie, two chocolate pies, and two pumpkin pies. My son helped with the chocolate pies since he is the choco-holic of the family. He also sliced the apples for the apple pie.

The pumpkin pies are my specialty. I make my pumpkin pie filling from scratch. When we carve jack-o’-lanterns for Halloween, I save the scrapings and use it for pumpkin meat. I take all the scraped meat and cook it down in a crockpot for 8-12 hours and then completely drain it. I then freeze the cooked pumpkin in quart sized Chinese soup containers until Thanksgiving. Real pumpkin makes for a coarser richer pie than canned, but I like the texture better and the pies aren’t as sickeningly sweet as store bought pies.

This year my son had no desire to carve a jack-o’-lantern, so I was worried that I would have to resort to canned pumpkin for the first time. Fortunately, a coworker took pity on me and gave me his leftover painted pumpkins. I don’t know when painting pumpkins became the cruelty-free politically-correct alternative to carving pumpkins but I am grateful.

When all was said and done I ended up with four quarts of pumpkin, twice as much as I usually get since I could slice these painted pumpkins to the skin. I may have to cook a few pies for the office and my coworker just to get it off my hands.

Thanksgiving is my favorite holiday because it is a completely secular but richly spiritual holiday. There are no decorations or gifts to buy. Just food and family. I hope everyone enjoys a safe and happy holiday.

And I actually googled this quiz instead of running across it. Does it tell you what pie you are?

find your inner PIE @

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Sunday, November 20, 2005

Go Jackets!

Updated (5/27/2008): The University Barbie image I used to link to has gone 404, so I've substituted a picture of my actual Barbie.

The Georgia Tech football team pulled off an upset victory over number 3 ranked Miami last night. I know this because I accidentally tuned into ESPN with 1:40 left in the game just after Georgia Tech intercepted a pass that crushed Miami’s comeback hopes. This victory came as the good news in an otherwise bad week for Tech athletics. The NCAA imposed two years of sanctions over the academic eligibility of 17 athletes including 11 football players during a six year period. This link has the official GT press release on the issue. Also, the Atlanta Journal Constitution reports on a football player under indictment for conspiracy to distribute marijuana who won a court order to be returned to the team.

These latest events have been tarnishing Georgia Tech’s otherwise sterling reputation for academic integrity. A few years back at a meet-and-greet event with the women’s basketball team, they were asked what they found most unexpected about playing at Tech and they said the academic rigor. Georgia Tech has no “jock” majors. Industrial Management is about as wimpy as it gets and many athletes attend because they do want an engineering oriented education.

In some ways, I would appear to be a superfan. I drive a white Camry with gold trim in the school colors. I have the state affinity tags for Georgia Tech. In my cubicle at work I have a mint-in-the-box University Cheerleader Barbie™. Being a fan of Georgia Tech sports requires a certain amount of distance because the system is capable of producing national championship football teams and Final Four basketball seasons. Other years, the performance can be completely dismal. During my years at Georgia Tech, we lost to Furman and the Citadel.

Ups and downs in the athletic program do not affect my devotion to my alma mater which is one of the finest engineering colleges in the country and an incredible bargain as a quality state run university. As an alumnus, I work with the local alumni chapter to recruit students and award scholarships. The Presidential Scholarship Program is open to all students that apply by the end of October in their senior year of high school.

Georgia Tech is not for everyone. If you do not have a strong background in math and science, you are better off somewhere else. Nearly everyone takes some level of calculus no matter what the major. The school heavily recruits strong female students and the “ratio” has plateaued at about a 70/30 male/female ratio. I’ll save you the rest of my recruiting pitch, but give it a thought if you are or know of prospective students.

So the yellojkt is a Ramblin’ Wreck from Georgia Tech and a helluva engineer. And while I do not gnash my teeth over the travails of the “student-athletes”, I have one sentiment that unites all Yellow Jackets, past and present:


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Friday, November 18, 2005

How Big Is Yours?

We would all love to see our coworkers paycheck, or know what the new neighbor paid for his house, or even take a quick glance while in the gym shower to make sure our lovers aren’t lying when they tell us its perfectly average. Maybe the last one is just me. Regardless, our curiosity and need to compare with others has led to many things including vulgar metaphors (NSFW).

This little piece of self promotion is making the circuit as a meme. I have even seen it in people’s sidebars as a permanent feature. The appeal is obvious. We get to see how big our blog is against everybody else’s. Naturally I couldn’t resist the tempatation.

My blog is worth $27,955,818,547.90.
How much is your blog worth?

Oops, I must have that number swapped with the value of my Microsoft stock portfolio. I went to the link to Tristan Louis's research and read all the fine print. Basically the dollar value the website gives your blog is the tongue in cheek extrapolation of the value of a particularly idiotic internet deal involving AOL (is there any other kind?) where they paid a lot of money to get a few big name blogs under their corporate umbrella. Yahoo is also out there gobbling up popular blogs.

Anyways, here’s where the little demon on our shoulder becomes too loud to ignore. The site works for anyone’s blog, not just yours. Who can’t resist going down their blogroll and checking out who you’ve got beat. Or who inexplicably is “worth” way more than you. Here are the results from some blogs I visit on a regular basis.

trusty getto: $15,807.12
Dad Gone Mad: $112,343.46
Michele: $363,567.76
Achenblog: $1,253,278.80
Wonkette: $2,482,846,12
Me (for real): $20,887.98

Don't quit your day job, trusty. I pick on trusty because he is a good sport and his blog is very typical of the private blogger that is read by friends and family and random strangers that stumble onto the site. The dirty secret is that the “value” is based on your Technorati score which in turn is based largely on the number of incoming links you have. Linkwhores and commercial sites are going to do way better than the average blogger.

The take away message is to blog because you want to, not because of some arbitrary useless number. In the words of Bucky Katt, which would also apply to bloggers, “No one gets paid for being a poemer.” I blog for the challenge and the internal reward of organizing and expressing my opinions. If people appreciate my work, so much the better, but some silly webscript can’t measure the value of that.

Now that I have made my sanctimonious rationalization, what ARE you worth?

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Wednesday, November 16, 2005

Jazz and Jackets

I complained a few days ago about the work involved in being a band parent. It also has its rewards. For Band class, my son is required to go to two concerts a year and write reports and the U2 concerts we drag him to don’t count. A rival local high school hosts a Maynard Ferguson concert each year, so we bought tickets and went. The show warmed up with the really superb high school jazz ensemble and then some solo work by members of Maynard’s band, the Big Bop Nouveau Band.

After a break, Maynard himself joined the band for several very high energy jazz numbers. MF’s contribution seemed to be that after every member of his young talented band took a solo, he would bleat about 10 notes of his trademark ultra high notes to end the number. Not bad for a guy pushing eighty.

The show ended with all hands on stage including the high school group doing Maynard’s rendition of "Gonna Fly Now (Theme From Rocky)" to send everybody home humming.

Now here is where my peeve/rant begins. The definition of Jazz has been stretched beyond all traditional meanings of the form. While Maynard has a right to record pop hits in the jazz idiom, he is doing a disservice to his young audience by blurring the line so fuzzily.

The local "Oldies" station recently switched formats from mostly late fifties and early sixties pop to “Smooth Jazz”. This station’s definition of jazz includes such legends of the form as Marvin Gaye and Hall & Oates. I saw Daryl Hall and John Oates (as they prefer to be called to avoid the “Haulin’ Ass” pun) at the peak of their pop cheesiness in 1984 and I guarantee you no one in the Charlotte Arena thought they were at a jazz recital.

I like jazz but don’t have a lot of it because it all sounds pretty much the same to my tin ear. I don't know why jazz artists insist on giving their instrumentals titles since that is no help in telling them apart. I own two jazz albums, Pat Methany’s Still Life (Talking) because I love the Publix jingle "Last Train Home" on it and The Best of Yellowjackets. I have the Yellowjackets album because I kept getting asked in music web forums if I was a fan. I am now, but I was led to them by my nom de web yellojkt, not the other way around.

And I promise that this is the last red herring concerning the origin of yellojkt. The next time I discuss it, I will reveal once and for all the very anti-climactic reason for this obscure handle. Hint: I need a barrel of rum and sugar three thousand pounds next week.

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