Monday, November 27, 2006

By Request

There where?
Gertrude Stein famously said of Oakland, “There is no there there.” Well, soon there will be no baseball team there either. The A’s are moving to Fremont, which is—no offense to Fremont – ever so much more there-less than Oakland.

The move stems from an offer by Cisco Systems, the computer networking giant, to build the stadium of the future. That’s right. Even stadiums need to be upgraded in this digital age: Stadium 2.0.

In a presentation at the Oracle OpenWorld convention, Cisco CEO John Chambers limned a place where fans could buy tickets through their cell phones, access scorecards from their seats, buy pictures of themselves from crowd cameras, and pay to have them displayed on the Jumbotron.

He painted a word picture of a land where digital signs identify fans through their PDAs and smart phones, and deliver personalized ads to them, where fans can use their cell phones to get snacks, stats, instant replays; a magical gathering place where they can even watch the game live on their phones or laptops. (Why you would choose to do this when the game is right in front of you is a puzzler, but then again, we’ll mediate just about anything these days.)
The hypothetical team Mr. Chambers used for his demonstration was the Oakland A’s, who apparently took the hint. “Wow,” the A’s thought to themselves. “The fans can order a Polish right there on their cell phones! That’s for us!”

Build the stadium, and they will come.

Or maybe by the time the stadium is built, it won’t be the actual Oakland A’s, but digital avatars of the Oakland A’s. It might not even be an actual stadium, but a 3D environment in a virtual Fremont. That way, the fans won’t have to brave traffic, and can just stay at home. Or go to work, sit in their cubicles, and enjoy the game from there.
Clearly Cisco hasn’t thought this through. You can’t Tivo a baseball game, if you’re watching it live. And if fans can’t Tivo the game, they’ll just say the hell with it.
Why not put some kind of chip in the players to enable a real world real time Tivo? You might run into trouble if fans choose different times to Tivo the game, but the very fact that they can do it would be very cool. Add a rewind function, and you could really change the face of the game as we know it.

Why not implant chips in the hot dogs? The hot dog could speak to the fan in the voice of his favorite player, and recommend a beverage, based on the fan’s profile.
And why should you have to walk to overcrowded stadium restrooms? Couldn’t there be a catheter issued to fans, which would extract secretions based on their urination patterns (accessed through personal profiles), so nobody would have to miss one minute of the action?

I’m ballparking here, but couldn’t we install chips in the fans themselves that would place them all on the same urination schedule? This would eliminate the Tivo problem referenced above, as would this suggestion: Tivo the cell phone calls of the fans.

The fans, who apparently are all going to be hardcore geeks, are not going to let anything interfere with their communication devices, not even America’s favorite pastime. But with modern technology, all calls can occur simultaneously (even if they don’t!), which could make for a very interesting cell phone symphony.

As for the game itself, modern fans want what they want when they want it. Why can’t this stadium give that to them? If some fans want the Angels, say, to win against the Athletics, why should they go home broken-hearted? In a virtual reality, everybody can get what he or she desires. Surely, this miraculous stadium can provide that.

In a brave new world where nobody loses, everybody’s a winner, and there’s always a “there” for somebody, there’s a way to please everybody, all the time. Yes, there’s a there there for you, uniquely tailored to your needs.

Even if you don’t know what your there is, the Stadium will, and will provide it. With your good credit, of course.

Sunday, November 26, 2006

I gave thanks at the office blog

Oh shut up.
NYT: Cingular Wireless …, the largest cellphone carrier in the United States, will hold a series of interactive “texting bees” around the country early next year to teach parents how to send text messages to their children.

Blog from Sri Lanka!
Politically Incorrect comedy is nothing new to Sri Lanka. All our traditional performance like 'Lenchina', 'Puppet Theatre' or 'Thovil' filled with all sort of politically incorrect comedy. Good Spicy Stuff! But once Christian culture becomes the mainstream culture in Sri Lanka and top of that Indian comedy came to in to Sri Lankan cinema we loose the taste of controversial comedy. We need a Borat in Sri Lanka!

Oh brave new world, here we come!
NYT: When families adopt positioning cellphone services, a new problem will likely emerge, Professor Mark said. The very act of turning off one’s location beacon may itself be seen as suspicious. “If you don’t want your location known,” he asked, “does that mean you intend to do something improper?”

Oh brave new virtual world, here we are! With cash!
NYT: … Linden Lab, the corporate creator of Second Life, says that thousands of people are building businesses through their virtual-world creativity. Second Life’s Web site tracks how many U.S. dollars have been spent in the virtual world in the previous 24 hours; on a recent Saturday morning, the figure was $328,517. In addition to a variety of “adult”-themed pastimes, residents also buy clothes and home décor and artwork — no doubt one reason that many brands are interested in the place.

Oh brave new cartoon!
A user review of HAPPY FEET, from Netscape: “Although I can't quote exactly what was said since I just saw it once, the implication was and I certainly inferred a message of ‘pro-immigation’. [Sic] This movie has some fun parts to it but no one in the theater was laughing. It is really not a good kids [Sic] movie. It is laced with all kinds of hot button liberal issues. It is trying to be ‘good’ in that it is pro-environment, pro-inclusiveness and tolerance but at its core it is a thinly veiled assault on traditional values. It is a cleverly marketed bait and switch.”

Meet the new boss….
Amanda Schaffer, writing in SLATE:

“Eric Keroack is a Massachusetts obstetrician-gynecologist who argues that abstinence until marriage is the only healthy choice for women. Until recently, he served as medical director of a pregnancy-counseling organization that runs down contraception and gives out scientifically false health information—for instance, that condoms ‘offer virtually no protection’ against herpes or HPV. Keroack also promotes a wacky piece of pseudoscience: the claim that premarital sex disrupts brain chemistry so as to create a physiological barrier to happy marriage…. Keroack's appointment, as deputy assistant secretary of population affairs within the Department of Health and Human Services, did not require congressional approval.”

Headline of the month
“Humans 'Taste' Like Bacon, Robot Says”

What the…?
The former Russian spy supposedly poisoned by polonium? According to Wikipedia, polonium is “a very rare element in nature, polonium is found in uranium ores at about 100 micrograms per metric ton (1:1010). Its natural abundance is approximately 0.2% of radium's.” Why would a poisoner pick this particular highly exotic weapon? Wouldn’t cyanide have done the trick?

On the other hand, you apparently don’t need much polonium to do the trick. Again, according to Wiki, just 525 microcuries of it will kill you. A microcurie is one millionth of a gram. Oh, and polonium was named by Madame Curie herself, as a salute to her native Poland. And now you know… the REST of the story.

“I don't mean to sound like Chicken Little (or Turkey Lurkey?), but the one day set aside to contemplate our blessings and their divine origin has, in one generation, been reduced to a football orgy and now, for football widows, a jumpstart on the biggest shopping day of the year as more stores open on the sacred Thursday.”

We spent Thanksgiving with friends, watching a Discovery Channel marathon of bizarre survival stories. The dread wife proclaimed the day “Sharksgiving,” and a jolly sated time was had by all. We gave thanks that we were not trapped in the jungle with no shoes, or clinging weakly to the side of a raft as sharks slowly encroached our personal space. Pecan pie!

On Friday we did not shop. It’s a good thing we didn’t: Friday’s high web traffic disrupted the sites of Wal-Mart,, and Walt Disney.

Oh shut up the both of you.
Charles Krauthammer: “Borat is many things: a sidesplitting triumph of slapstick and scatology, a runaway moneymaker and budding franchise, the worst thing to happen to Kazakhstan since the Mongol hordes, and, as columnist David Brooks astutely points out, a supreme display of elite snobbery reveling in the humiliation of the hoaxed hillbilly.”

From WIRED, more creepy news disguised as chipper portent of the future:
What if you could one day unlock your door or access your bank account by simply “thinking" your password? Too far out? Perhaps not.

Researchers at Carleton University in Ottawa, Canada, are exploring the possibility of a biometric security device that will use a person's thoughts to authenticate her or his identity.

Fake or jake? You decide.
Quoted by Patt Morrison in THE HUFFINGTON POST:

"I would like to send my condolences out to Catherine Altman, Robert Altmans wife, as well as all of his immediate family, close friends, co-w.orkers, and all of his inner circle.

"I feel as if I've just had the wind knocked out of me and my heart aches.

"If not only my heart but the heart of Mr. Altman's wife and family and many fellow actors/artists that admire him for his work and love him for making people laugh whenever and however he could..

"Robert altman made dreams possible for many independent aspiring filmmakers, as well as creating roles for countless actors.

"I am lucky enough to of been able to work with Robert Altman amongst the other greats on a film that I can genuinely say created a turning point in my career.

"I learned so much from Altman and he was the closest thing to my father and grandfather that I really do believe I've had in several years.

"The point is, he made a difference.

"He left us with a legend that all of us have the ability to do.

"So every day when you wake up.

"Look in the mirror and thank god for every second you have and cherish all moments.

"The fighting, the anger, the drama is tedious.

"Please just take each moment day by day and consider yourself lucky to breathe and feel at all and smile. Be thankful.

"Life comes once, doesn't 'keep coming back' and we all take such advantage of what we have.

"When we shouldn't..... '

"Make a searching and fearless moral inventory of yourselves' (12st book) -everytime there's a triumph in the world a million souls hafta be trampled on.-altman Its true. But treasure each triumph as they come.

"If I can do anything for those who are in a very hard time right now, as I'm one of them with hearing this news, please take advantage of the fact that I'm just a phone call away.

God Bless, peace and love always.

Thank You,


Lindsay Lohan

Finally, oh brave new world, by by.
AP: “An East Tennessee county that has beamed live 24-hour video from its jail on the Internet for nearly six years may nix the practice following complaints of harassment and security concerns.

“Some viewers have been using the cameras to harass female jailers by calling them on the telephone and taunting them as they work, according to Anderson County sheriff's officials.

Talk about unintended consequences! Is there a difference between government surveillors and private sector voyeurs? They’re both looking for different things, I suppose, but both must get a thrill when they find exactly what they’re looking for.

Monday, November 20, 2006

Huh, and shameless self promotion

Food for Thought?
In today's San Francisco Chronicle there's an opinion piece on hunger. Apparently, the USDA has eliminated the word "hunger" from a new report on food security. The report's author, USDA sociologist Mark Nord says that "hungry" is "not a scientifically accurate term for the specific phenomenon being measured in the food security survey. We don't have a measure of that comdition." The USDA will use the term "very low food security" to describe people who were once "food insecure with hunger." The writer of the editorial, Paul Ash director of the SF Food Bank), says, "Statistically speaking, hunger will no longer exist in America."

I have a story published, here:

Saturday, November 18, 2006

signs o' the times blog

Waiting for video games cause violence.
AP: “Two armed thugs tried to rob a line of people waiting for the new PlayStation 3 game system to go on sale early Friday and shot one man who refused to give up his money, authorities said.”

None dare call it torture.
Washington Post :“The Bush administration has told a federal judge that terrorism suspects held in secret CIA prisons should not be allowed to reveal details of the ‘alternative interrogation methods’ that their captors used to get them to talk.”

Or… what? More alternative interrogation methods to prevent them from talking?

More: “The government, in trying to block lawyers' access to the 14 detainees, effectively asserts that the detainees' experiences are a secret that should never be shared with the public.”

In other words, alternative interrogation methods are now state secrets!

Muni moment, possibly related to the above items, in a Zeitgeist kind of way.
So I was on the J Church, and there was a black man behind me, wearing a pulled-down sailor cap that had the word “Fired” written on it, in blue ball point ink, dozens of times. He was issuing a tirade that had something to do with the non-violence of Malcolm X, the importance of education, the evils of white people, and a career in television repair. I was having some difficulty following the thread of his discourse.

After a few minutes, a grizzled white man of 60 or so, sitting a few seats away, said, “I’ve had enough of this,” then launched into his own tirade, I think. It was all glossolalia- word salad.

So now there were two people spouting off. It was kind of like “Duelling Banjos,” without a coherent melody line. Still, I could have listened to them all day. Alas, however, my stop came.

I got off, and was waiting for the train to pull away, so I could cross the tracks. I noticed, through the window, a Chinese woman yelling at the black man. I thought maybe he’d said something to her, or touched her.

She got off the train, turned to me, and said, “He was trying to litter on the train. He wants to kill everybody in America, and I’m tired of it.”

More Zeitgeist?
Reuters: “A British man convicted of what has been described as the country's first ‘web-rage’ attack, was jailed for 2-1/2 years on Friday for assaulting a man he had exchanged insults with over the Internet.”

In other news…
A new James Bond! The 12 year old in me can’t wait. The middle-aged guy in me will probably wait for the DVD.

Oh Shut Up Department.
Judith Regan? OJ? Take your seats. You will find duct tape at your work station. Tear off a strip and apply it to your mouth, please. Thank you. Here’s your check!

Nancy Pelosi went from being savvy political operative to blunderer in the space of a week. Maureen Dowd says in her column this week that Pelosi throws like a girl. Meaning that she supported John Murtha for majority leader, and lost. So next week Pelosi will get something she wants, and she’ll be shrewd again.

Mike Tyson’s new job.
Supposedly, he’s going to work for Heidi Fleiss as a male escort. Gals who go all wobbly for convicted rapists will be lining up in droves. Did I make this up?

Whither Holland?
The Dutch government is considering a ban on burqas in public places. Muslims are, of course, offended by this, but the Dutch also want to ban helmets with visors and any other piece of clothing that covers a head and face. Which would criminalize motorcyclists, police in full riot gear, scuba divers, many skiers, and Batman.

Thank God. Somebody’s doing something at last.
AP: “Students at Willett Elementary School in Attleboro can no longer play tag during recess. The same goes for touch football and other unsupervised ‘chasing’ games. The school's principal said there's too much risk of injury to children during games like tag.”

Thank God. Somebody else is doing something at last.
Trans-fat, if you don’t know, is the most evil food additive that ever ever was. You add hydrogen to vegetable oil, and you got heart attack on a plate.

New York City wants to make a law limiting its area restaurants’ use of trans-fats. And now Disney is taking this to its corporate heart as well.

Consumer Affairs: “In a bow to pressure from health advocates, the Walt Disney Company has announced plans to reduce the trans fat contained in food served at its theme parks. In addition, the company said it would limit product licensing to healthy foods.”

Well I, for one, want fries with that.

President Bush went to Viet Nam, where he said, "We'll succeed unless we quit.” I’m not quite sure how to take that. Did he mean, “If we stay the course, victory is ours,” or “We might succeed, we might quit, haven’t made up our minds yet?”

There is a lesson to be learned from Viet Nam though. If you cut and run from a miserable war, then wait 40 years or so and return, things will look a lot rosier.

Saturday, November 11, 2006

Dog Blog

Remember when Rummy was sexy?
Donald Rumsfeld resigned a day after the election, and this weekend the Center for Constitutional Rights (that’s right, an advocacy group – a “special interest”- in the US) announced that it would file criminal charges against him for possible war crimes. In Germany.

Atlas Shrugged.
The blogs on the right are suggesting, politely, that the US should close all its bases in Germany. That’ll show ‘em!

Base closures in Germany: never happen.
It seems to me that poor old Rummy has been thrown to the wolves, and if the wolves go after him (well, special interest groups anyway), he is going to be on his own.

More gay Republicans?
Bill Maher outed Republican National Committee chairman Ken Mehlman on Larry King this November 8. He told Mr. King that he would out more on his next HBO show. Shades of Joe McCarthy! How many conservative homosexuals are there? Collect ‘em all!

Remember MANCHURIAN CANDIDATE? James Gregory was complaining to Angela Lansbury that the number of submerged communists keeps changing. He is seen dousing his food in Heinz 57 sauce. In the next scene, the exact number of communists has become 57.

I don’t think I’ve seen anything like this in my lifetime. As a wholesale rejection of the Republican Party, it was jaw-dropping. Of course, many of the Democrats now slouching towards Washington are very conservative themselves, so I don’t know if this indicates any real change to come. But at least it seems to be a turn away from adventurism, empire-building, blundering, overspending, overreaching, refusal to listen, unbending behavior, idiocy, posturing, torture, name-calling, cultural blindness, stupidity, swaggering, and prayer breakfasts.

In related news, from the Des Moines Register.
“Former Iowa congressman Fred Grandy was so pessimistic about Republican chances in Tuesday's election that he swore that if the GOP kept control of the U.S. House, he would eat - a cheeseburger.

“The Washington Post reported this week that Grandy, who is a vegan, made the challenge on his WMAL-AM morning radio show in Washington.”

Whew. The cattle are safe. And dairy products everywhere can breathe a sigh of relief.

Nancy Pelosi has been portrayed as being to the left of Che Guevara, which always puzzled me. She strikes me as an old school politician, and the results of this election seems to reinforce that opinion. As a matter of fact, here in San Francisco, the left hate her. Case in point: her statement on 60 MINUTES a few weeks back that an impeachment of President Bush is off the table. Lefties, of course, want President Bush’s head on a pike, and are gnashing their teeth as they sip their lattes. But Pelosi is right. There’s no point to an impeachment. Well, there’s a point, but since it will never happen, cost millions, distract us from larger problems, and create another media circus where, really, none is needed, it is ultimately pointless. President Bush will be gone soon. Let us give him a lollipop and a pony, and move on.

New York Times: Harry Reid
A profile of Harry Reid in last Sunday’s Magazine, has him using the word “mojo,” doing push-ups and sit-ups, making jokes about Britney Spears, calling Senator Robert Menendez “my man,” and telling Hillary Clinton that he loved her. He also said to re-elected North Dakota Senator Kent Conrad, “Love you, man.” Harry Reid is, apparently, Cheech. On steroids.

Blue Dogs
This is a new one on me, but hey, I can’t pay attention to everything. The new conservative Democrats are “blue dog” Democrats. These are socially conservative Democrats (anti-abortion, anti-gun control, etc.). Blue Dog Democrats officially leaped into action in 1995. Part of their credo is that "common sense, conservative economics and compassion aren't necessarily mutually exclusive." That is from their web site.

Yellow Dog
Yellow Dog Democrats, I mistakenly thought, had to do with yellow dog contracts back in the early 20th Century. These were contracts signed by potential employees that they would not join a union. But it turned out that Yellow Dog Democrats refers to party loyalists: i.e. "I'd vote for a yellow dog if he ran on the Democratic ticket" So there you go. Thanks for asking.

The name “blue dog” means that they are “yellow dogs” that have been choked by extremists in both parties until they have turned blue. Whatever. Again, thanks for asking. Did you ask?

Daily Mail: Borat
“…[V]illagers of this tiny, close-knit community have angrily accused the comedian of exploiting them, after discovering his new blockbuster film portrays them as a backward group of rapists, abortionists and prostitutes, who happily engage in casual incest.”

Perhaps Baron Cohen and Donald Rumsfeld may be tried together. And, if convicted, join President Bush at Elba, where they can play pinochle together and reminisce about the glowing golden days of the early 21st Century.

Saturday, November 04, 2006

Screwy Old Blog

That’s just screwy!
Because they won’t reveal their sources, the two reporters from the San Francisco Chronicle who broke the baseball/steroid story could do more jail time than any of the players who pleaded guilty using the banned substance.

Not that I care about steroid abuse.
If baseball players want to lurch through life looking like the Hulk just so they can swat more homers, that’s fine with me.

Idea for teevee series, and it’s mine.

What happened to SMITH?
It aired twice, in different time slots, and then got yanked. Weird. I kind of liked it too.

Speaking of weird…
Has this year’s election process made us deranged? John Kerry muffs a joke, and suddenly Republicans are calling him anti-soldier. Hello? He WAS a soldier.

Rev. Ted Haggard
He said he got a massage from a male prostitute and that’s it. He also bought meth from the guy and didn’t use it. Well, in MY church, if the preacher buys drugs, he’d darn well better do them.
Brian Boals, a member of Rev. Haggard’s church, told the Associated Press: "It's political, right before the elections." Did I miss something? Was the Rev. Haggard running for office?

Bill O’Reilly, spoiling everybody’s fun again…
“On this Halloween, the No. 1 movie in the USA is SAW III, a sadistic slasher flick designed solely so its audience can enjoy graphic depictions of human suffering.”

I only saw SAW, and that was enough for me (no zombies), but if SAW III is more of the same, and you know, I’ll bet it is, I wouldn’t really call it a slasher flick. It’s more of a put-people-in-complicated-traps-from-which-they-can-only-escape-if-they-cut-off-part-of-their-body flick. Does O’Reilly have a problem with that? Standard Guantanamo interrogation technique isn’t it?

Gracious in defeat
Rap star Kanye West was named Best Hip Hop at the MTV Europe Music Awards, but I guess he was a little ticked off that he didn’t win Best Video for “Touch The Sky.” He crashed the stage when the award was given to Justice and Simian, and told everybody his video should have because it "cost a million dollars, Pamela Anderson was in it. I was jumping across canyons."

He was jumping across canyons, people!

From an oddly gleeful essay, “Imagine Earth Without People,” in New Scientist
After we’re gone…

“Ocean sediment cores will show a brief period during which massive amounts of heavy metals such as mercury were deposited, a relic of our fleeting industrial society. The same sediment band will also show a concentration of radioactive isotopes left by reactor meltdowns after our disappearance. The atmosphere will bear traces of a few gases that don't occur in nature, especially perfluorocarbons such as CF4, which have a half-life of tens of thousands of years. Finally a brief, century-long pulse of radio waves will forever radiate out across the galaxy and beyond, proof - for anything that cares and is able to listen - that we once had something to say and a way to say it.

“But these will be flimsy souvenirs, almost pathetic reminders of a civilisation that once thought itself the pinnacle of achievement. Within a few million years, erosion and possibly another ice age or two will have obliterated most of even these faint traces. If another intelligent species ever evolves on the Earth - and that is by no means certain, given how long life flourished before we came along - it may well have no inkling that we were ever here save for a few peculiar fossils and ossified relics. The humbling - and perversely comforting - reality is that the Earth will forget us remarkably quickly.”

The Earth will never call, never write….

Tony Blankley, editorial page editor of the Washington Times, was a child actor, appearing as Rod Steiger's child in THE HARDER THEY FALL (1955).

Borat the thief
From WIRED: "All people know Sacha Baron Cohen imitate only me," Cagri recently fumed via email. "He is stealing my character and giving bad message to USA people." Cagri, who's been struggling to start a career in show business ever since his boom-era glory days, says he intends to sue Baron Cohen. "He never contacted me or got my permission," he writes. "If possible you can help me too for stop this or find good lawyer?"

Those darn WMDs
The Bush administration, in its wisdom, goaded on by Congressional Republicans, set up a Web site holding (according to the New York Times) “holding an archive of Iraqi documents captured during the war.” According to the Times, the Republicans giving public access to materials from the 48,000 boxes of documents found in Iraq could increase the understanding of the danger posed by Saddam Hussein.”

Well, now it’s been shut down, after several scientists at a weapons lab claimed that the site’s papers contained “sensitive nuclear information.”

“[A]mong the documents posted were roughly a dozen that nuclear weapons experts said constituted a basic guide to building an atom bomb.”


Fire up the grill!
A study says that all the wild fish of the world will be gone in fifty years if we don’t do something.

“Australia's severe drought has led to an alarming rise in the number of suicides among farmers. One farmer takes his life every four days, according to the national mental health body Beyond Blue.”

“We're now looking at the worst drought in Australia's recorded history,'' said Justin Smirk, senior economist at Westpac Banking Corp. in Sydney. “This could be the worst rural recession we've seen.''

On the bright side!
For a new study from the National Academy of Sciences, the authors “exposed three Asian elephants (Elephas maximus) to a large mirror to investigate their responses.” Apparently, elephants recognize and like to look at themselves.