Thursday, April 28, 2005

 

Score One For The Good Guys

Ordinarily, any time a New York Democrat opens his mouth, I immediately shield my eyes and ears from the bombast and check my pocket to see if it's being picked, but Eliot Spitzer may be the exception to the rule. He's announced that he's suing spyware vendor Intermix for that thing they do. I personally would've preferred an indictment (a few perp walks would do wonders for spyware execs, not to mention all the exercise they'd get in some pound-'em-in-the-ass correctional facility), but hey, hitting them in the pocketbook is always a good way to start.

Needless to say I doubt any serious action will take place (uhh, Eliot - an injunction, please?) for a while, but I'll be darned, this guy is actually showing that he's actually interested in enforcing laws for the benefit of everyone. True, it's likely grandstanding for his upcoming run against Blandburgers Pataki, but any serious legal threat against the spyware types is always a welcome ally.

 

A rant I'd hoped not to write

I would ordinarily let l'affaire Jackson pass without too much snarky commentary for the reason that it's entirely ridiculous to waste time on such matters, however, a cursory look at some of the news coverage and a couple of threads on Blogcritics showed that Mr. Jackson has either an astonishingly partisan fan base (or more likely some remuneration, not necessarily monetary, has been promised to people who will vociferously defend him either through standing in front of the court or by attacking on any online forum that dares analyze Mr. Jackson's actions). For the record, innocent until proven guilty, and that will be my sole comment on the trial.

The quote unquote fans screaming for Mr. Jackson's canonization and decrying his detractors or even observers as virtual Klansmen are an interesting matter though. Needless to say, the race card was played almost immediately in the affair, with Mr. Jackson's demonstrably false claim of being manhandled. Mr. Jackson and his attorneys are not stupid people by any sense, and an attempt to introduce a perception of racial taint, even if it is demonstrably false, is a cunning tactic to taint the entire proceedings and potentially lay the ground for a reversal down the line if the case goes against them, or to merely reinforce the opinions of some observers that the case is a cockup from the get-go. The perceived motivation of course for Mr. Jackson's defenders is that Mr. Jackson is a good, charitable man who happens to be the greatest thing ever in popular music who is being persecuted because of his race and personal affectations. This of course bears some deconstruction.

A quick look at history provides us with another famous trial of an African-American popular singer who was undoubtedly prosecuted because of his race. Objectively, that singer was of far more lasting importance and influence than Michael Jackson. I refer of course to Chuck Berry, whose influence is still pervasive fifty years down the road. Mr. Berry managed to get himself in trouble by violating the Mann Act (transporting a woman across state lines for "immoral purposes") in a case that had plenty of room for conjecture and interpretation. Berry had been charged with a similar offense with another woman more or less contemporaneously and had evaded jail time on that charge, but in the Mann Act case, the judge made several references to Mr. Berry as "this Negro" and other similar pointed references to Mr. Berry that evoked the worst prejudices of the time (remember of course that Mr. Berry resided in Missouri, hardly a bastion of the nascent civil rights movement). The judge's actions were deemed so egregious by the federal Court Of Appeals that a new trial was ordered, however, there were still ample references in the local papers to Mr. Berry's race and occupation (he was described in one screed as a "negro orchestra leader" and "tavern owner", presumably to attach the air of disreputability to him) and Mr. Berry did indeed serve a couple of years in the pokey after again being convicted (although by most accounts the second trial judge was all business and kept the proceedings to the facts of the case).

The interesting thing is that although one could easily see parallels as a disinterested observer, the vociferous loudmouths supporting Jackson do not point to Berry as a precedent. True, Berry has had other legal issues dog him and as such is no saint, but it actually points to a bit of historical revisionism on the part of Jackson's fans. They simply don't acknowledge that there might actually be some antediluvian history before Jackson. They proudly point to his ownership of the copyright catalogs of the Beatles and tons of others as proof of his superiority and genius, when the simple fact is that he was presented with an opportunity to make a good investment. Mr. Jackson had nothing to do with the creation of the catalogs he owns, unless he pulls a Morris Levy and ends up putting his name on everything. He owns the assets, that's it.

Levy of course was a crook who conveniently expired while waiting out his appeals after his conviction for some record industry no-goodnik-ism, and his name appears in the most improbable places (he's now of course listed as the cowriter of "Why Do Fools Fall In Love", which was probably written by Frankie Lymon and Herman Santiago on a stoop somewhere). Levy managed to steal the ownership of most of Chuck Berry's songs, and one of the more notorious episodes in Beatles history had Levy threatening to sue John Lennon for the similarity between "Come Together" and "You Can't Catch Me", which resulted in Lennon hurriedly recording what became the "Rock And Roll" album to placate Levy. Levy, being a gonif of the first order, had the tapes stolen and prematurely released on his Adam VIII label as "Roots" (quite a collectable piece, BTW) in order to grab whatever revenue he could before the Lennons and Apple unleashed their legal firepower against him. I well remember the day after Lennon's murder, discussing it with someone familiar with such matters, and that person said that he wouldn't have been surprised if Morris Levy had something to do with it. Obviously it wasn't that at all, but the prospect was chilling.

Getting back to Mr. Jackson's partisans, there's little they're doing to add value to the proceedings. The maxim that the best defense is a good offense is one that Mr. Mesereau knows quite well, and I'm sure that whatever the outcome is, justice will be served. Mr. Jackson's fans only prove themselves to be obsessed imbeciles who cannot differentiate between the concept of probable cause and persecution.

Wednesday, April 27, 2005

 

Reflections upon cheapness

And more madness consumes every fiber of my being. Two potential engagements other than the possibility of First Voodoo Bank are vying for my services, one a rather boring but necessary technical documentation job, which despite its droning characteristics at least offers little dangerous exposure, and the other one an internal project rife with politics, however, it actually has a chance to do something useful for clients and ourselves, and might even get some positive exposure for me. Decisions, decisions. The big problem I have with the former project is that it's located on the exact opposite side of the metropolitan area from me, and it's almost 100 miles one way to drive there. Not terribly bad, in that I used to commute 80 miles one way to a client some years ago, however, I have one problem with this client which may be a showstopper. SOP used to be if you were going to a client that was further away than your office, you would be reimbursed for additional commuting expenses over and above your normal commuting costs. Needless to say, folks who lived in the Garden State quickly shifted their official offices to the west side of the river, and started hitting clients up for the difference in the commuter tickets plus the subway. It was a nice way to keep commute costs manageable, and back when I was driving the 160 mile round trip, the extra mileage reimbursement took care of the extra maintenance costs (when you drive that much, oil changes come very fast). Not to mention the tolls, of course. However, this new client, a very well-known financial services player, refuses to pay for driving commutes to their location. I'm not asking for them to pay for the whole thing - it roughly costs $27/day for me to commute into Manhattan.

Figuring a mileage reimbursement rate of $0.365, I would be entitled to $73 plus tolls (figure seven bucks if I go via the GWB and one of the north-south toll roads) per diem, minus the $27 it normally costs me to go to work. I should be reimbursed $53/day, which will cover the wear and tear and outrageous gas costs incurred on the Proprietormobile (which I've decided to keep running for another year). Never mind the personal wear and tear of a 200 mile roundtrip commute (at my previous client, I had the eighty mile trip down to about 90 minutes, and was usually home at a reasonable hour for dinner; this client is down in the traffic zone, and somewhere around mile 83, things back up big time (in the AM).

I must ponder.....

Monday, April 25, 2005

 

Blinding glimpse of being too busy

Proposal writing took up much of the weekend and today, and there are a few other logistical and business challenges to deal with, so I shall be a a bit muted in my blaring ignorance for another day or two. Some amusing bits on the proposal had to do with someone not remembering to do little things like checking generator operation at data centers, checking the fuel for contamination, that sort of thing.

Saturday, April 23, 2005

 

A Quick One While He's Away

My deliverable for Tuesday consumes most of the next couple of days. Next update Monday AM.

Friday, April 22, 2005

 

Debauchee, n. One who has so earnestly pursued pleasure that he has had the misfortune to overtake it.

Blogger did it again, lunching today's post, and its much-vaunted "Recover Post" feature did bupkis to recover my carefully worded missive, so I'm a touch crunched for time to dash this one off.

First Voodoo Bank is indeed considering engaging my team's services, however, we're facing some resistance on the ground there from the First Ghurka Regiment Of Competing Consulting Firm Based In The Most Populous Former British Colonial Possession (FGROCCFBITMPFBCP isn't a great acronym, that's for sure). The good thing about First Voodoo Bank is that they recognize where their core competencies are and aren't, and know where the holes lie in this particular endeavor. Since the First Ghurka Regiment merely says "Yes" to everything First Voodoo Bank says, their credibility is shot due to them not asking questions and pushing back when outlandish or impractical requirements will impede or cripple the project's end state. I love this kind of thing, even when it does involve a bit of travel. Besides, I do a pretty mean Punjabi accent myself, and can probably talk to them in terms they'll understand :-).

The unfortunate part is that I have to have a fairly detailed analysis of the situation ready for Tuesday AM, so of course that clobbers my plans for the weekend for the most part. I'm hosting the Seder this year (well, let me qualify that. I have little patience for the full-blown ritual. When I sit at the dinner table, I want to eat. So, basically, the kiddies will read the Fier Kashes - quickly - and then we eat. My family's never had the patience to sit through the whole thing and I still chortle to this day at the memory of my father, a very pious man indeed, at a Seder at some family friend's house muttering "Enough already! Let's eat" as the ritual entered its second hour). And thankfully, band practice tomorrow - I need a chance to wail a bit....

Thursday, April 21, 2005

 

Assorted Ephemera

Archipelago merging with the NYSE. About time. SuperDOT is showing its age. Interesting business scenario, almost like an insurance demutualization in the handing over of equity to the owners (in this case seat holders instead of policy holders). The interesting question is what will happen to two stalwarts of the open floor, the two-dollar broker, and the specialists. Going to an electronic paradigm will minimize the need for the two-dollar broker, probably eliminate it. The specialists are another story, since they (at least in theory) maintain orderly markets, and by going to a newer paradigm, they might not be able to react quickly enough to perform that function. Fascinating scenario - I'd love to get involved in a project such as this. It'll certainly make life very interesting for the market data providers.

While channel surfing the other night, I came across a cute comedy called "The Party". I'd never seen it before, but when I tuned in I got Peter Sellers doing a broad Punjabi accent, and the ever-droolable-over Claudine Longet in a towel. Not to mention an oddball Morgan (an English kit car with three wheels, two in front, one in back. I never understood the odd European predilection for three-wheeled cars and trucks, remembering things like the Unimog; surely thrifty on petrol, but horrendous from the driving and safety aspects). I might actually pick up this DVD (there are a bunch of character actors in there I recognize but can't name off the top of my head; the only other cast member I can cite was Gavin McLeod of Mary Tyler Moore show fame). Lots of silly sight gags, totally dated of course, but the combination of deflating Hollywood pomposity, phony Indian accents and one of the great hotties of all time may make me pick it up.



Speaking of said trigger-happy hottie, a couple of useless trivia points. You might remember the memorable Saturday Night Live skit about the Claudine Longet Invitational ski meet, where of course footage of various skiers was accompanied by gunshots; by an interesting coincidence, that skit was aired on the same show where Lorne Michaels made his famous $3000 offer to the Beatles to reunite (and as both John and Paul confirmed, they were together watching the show, and almost made their way down to the studio to call him on it). The other interesting point was that I thought that Ms. Longet had only appeared in the McHale's Navy movie, but she's credited with a couple of appearances on the series as well. Her recordings are interesting lounge type stuff, with a couple of covers that make me vacillate between laughing and actually being interested. Her cover of "Here There and Everywhere" was painful, but her breathy proto-Olivia Newton-John cover of "God Only Knows" actually was pretty good.

Time for a drool.....


Wednesday, April 20, 2005

 

Let's Dissect Another Meme, Shall We?

This article shows England's Channel Four's opinion of what the 100 Greatest Albums of all time are. Needless to say, I can't resist the opportunity to tear into this one given some of the idiocies present (well, it was the result of a poll, which of course can be manipulated any which way the pollster prefers; I recall having a rather heated argument with a professor who insisted that a random sample of people polled on the corner of Wall Street and Broadway would give a more accurate result than a random sample of phone numbers - his logic being that my insistence on phone numbers disenfranchised those without phones from participating in the poll....)

Anyway, to the list:
1. RADIOHEAD - OK Computer
Dreary, bleep blorp music. I actually liked "The Bends", though.

2. U2 - The Joshua Tree
Yup, a classic. Not #2, but up in the top ten or fifteen all-time classics.

3. NIRVANA - Nevermind
Minor chord melancholy. Way overrated.

4. MICHAEL JACKSON - Thriller
Well crafted. Not my cup of tea, but I'll give it it's due. More credit should go to Quincy Jones for his work on this.

5. PINK FLOYD - Dark Side of the Moon
Yup.

6. OASIS - Definitely Maybe
Ahead of the Beatles??????????

7. THE BEATLES - Sgt Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band
Obviously the people they polled just parrot what they hear. Most real Beatles cognoscenti would rate this as their third or fourth best.

8. MADONNA - Like a Prayer
Not my cup of tea at all. Well crafted. Less likable than Thriller.

9. GUNS N' ROSES - Appetite For Destruction
Deserves a top ten or fifteen just for "Sweet Child Of Mine" and "Welcome To The Jungle". The return of the full-out Les Paul through a Marshall sound.

10. THE BEATLES - Revolver
The best album of all time, IMO.

11. R.E.M. - Automatic for the People
I run hot and cold with R.E.M. Too much pretentiousness, but then they go ahead and do something that shows they still know who Roger McGuinn is.

12. THE BEATLES - The White Album
Toward the bottom of the pack of Beatles albums. Desperately in need of editing down to a single killer album.

13. QUEEN - A Night at the Opera
Great stuff.

14. COLDPLAY - Parachutes
Who?

15. OASIS - (What's the Story) Morning Glory
It's OK, not a classic.

16. ALANIS MORISSETTE - Jagged Little Pill
Whiny and annoying.

17. LED ZEPPELIN - Led Zeppelin IV
Top Five.

18. THE VERVE - Urban Hymns
Don't know it.

19. JIMI HENDRIX - Are you Experienced
Top Five.

20. THE SMITHS - The Queen Is Dead
Yawn.

21. JOHN LENNON - Imagine
Overrated. Lush sounding, the title track is an instant dial changer for me. Jealous Guy is by far the best song on the album.

22. RADIOHEAD - The Bends
Nice record.

23. BOB MARLEY AND THE WAILERS - Exodus
Good stuff, but the vocals can be wearying to listen to.

24. THE STONE ROSES - The Stone Roses
Not bad.

25. SIMON AND GARFUNKEL - Bridge Over Troubled Water
Overrated. Too lush. I liked Bookends and the two previous albums better. Best tracks are "The Boxer" and "Keep The Customer Satisfied".

26. BJORK - Debut
Yumping Yiminy. Yawn.

27. THE DOORS - The Doors
Top Five.

28. ABBA - Arrival
Some of Abba's singles are still OK in my book, but a whole album's worth makes my teeth hurt.

29. MICHAEL JACKSON - Off the Wall
Well crafted. Not my cup of tea. Perhaps a better album than Thriller.

30. DURAN DURAN - Rio
Yawn.

31. SEX PISTOLS - Never Mind the Bollocks Here's the Sex Pistols
Blecch. Dreadful stuff.

32. DAVID BOWIE - The Rise and Fall of Ziggy Stardust and the Spiders from Mars
Top 10.

33. THE BEACH BOYS - Pet Sounds
Top 10.

34. JOY DIVISION - Closer
Thank you for playing, and where are those lovely parting gifts....

35. THE ROLLING STONES - Let It Bleed
I'm running out of Top 5 slots....

36. BLUR - Parklife
Yawn.

37. BRUCE SPRINGSTEEN - Born to Run
Top 10. Pure magic on this record - it's Friday night on the Jersey Shore in less than 40 minutes.

38. BILLIE HOLIDAY - Lady Sings the Blues
I'm more of a Dinah Washington fan personally.

39. THE WHITE STRIPES - Elephant
Nope.

40. BLACK SABBATH - Paranoid
Goofy stuff, but I like it.

41. THE SPECIALS - Specials
Leaves me cold.

42. THE ROLLING STONES - Exile on Main Street
Top 10. I waffle on whether it should be edited down, but there's a lot of good stuff here.

43. FRANK SINATRA - Songs for Swingin' Lovers!
Great stuff.

44. THE CLASH - London Calling
Much, much better than the Sex Pistols.

45. THE PRODIGY - The Fat of the Land
Don't know the record.

46. THE VELVET UNDERGROUND - The Velvet Underground and Nico
I prefer "Loaded", but it's good to see that the Velvets cracked the Top 50 on this cockamamie list.

47. DIRE STRAITS - Brothers in Arms
Great stuff.

48. PIXIES - Doolittle
Nope.

49. ARETHA FRANKLIN - I Never Loved a Man the Way I Love You
Great stuff.

50. THE LIBERTINES - The Libertines
Don't know it.

51. HAPPY MONDAYS - Pills 'N' Thrills and Bellyaches
Yawn.

52. PATTI SMITH - Horses
I run hot and cold with Patti Smith, so it's probably a bit highly ranked for me at the moment.

53. THE WHO - Tommy
Over "Who's Next"???????

54. LOU REED - Transformer
About right.

55. BOB DYLAN - Blood on the Tracks
Over "Blonde on Blonde" and "Highway 61"?????

56. PRINCE - Sign 'o' the Times
About right.

57. DIDO - No Angel
Nope.

58. AIR - Moon Safari
Nope.

59. ELTON JOHN - Goodbye Yellow Brick Road
Great stuff. I haven't listened to it in a while - I'll have to pull it out and take a listen.

60. THE JAM - All Mod Cons
Not bad, but it would be much lower down on the list for me. Still, anyone who uses Rickenbackers through Vox amps is OK in my book.

61. JEFF BUCKLEY - Grace
Does the name Phil Ochs ring a bell?

62. FLEETWOOD MAC - Rumours
About right. Overplayed. I still like "Go Your Own Way", though....

63. MOBY - Play
Yawn.

64. RED HOT CHILI PEPPERS - Blood Sugar Sex Magik
I'm really just starting to listen deeply to the Chili Peppers now, so I can't comment on which of their albums grabs me. Some of their stuff is pretty cool, some of the rest is nasty.

65. THE POLICE - Synchronicity
Good stuff, but overplayed.

66. JONI MITCHELL - Blue
Yawn.

67. CURTIS MAYFIELD - Superfly
Where's "People Get Ready"?

68. ELVIS PRESLEY - The Sun Sessions
Yup.

69. OUTKAST - Speakerboxxx/The Love Below
Nope.

70. PULP - Different Class
Dunno it.

71. KRAFTWERK - Trans-Europe Express
Bleep blorp.

72. MASSIVE ATTACK - Blue Lines
Quien?

73. BECK - Odelay
Yawn.

74. STEVIE WONDER - Songs in the Key of Life
A classic. It was overplayed back in the day, but it's a cool listen now.

75. KATE BUSH - Hounds of Love
Yawn.

76. TALKING HEADS - Fear of Music
Great stuff.

77. EMINEM - The Marshall Mathers LP
No. A thousand times no.

78. MARVIN GAYE - What's Going On
Top 10, easily. Always in heavy rotation with me.

79. GEORGE MICHAEL - Faith
Yawn.

80. SATURDAY NIGHT FEVER - The Original Movie Soundtrack
It's grown on me over the years. About right in the rankings, IMO.

81. PRIMAL SCREAM - Screamadelica
Who?

82. JOHN COLTRANE - A Love Supreme
Coltrane is an intense listen, and I really have to be in the mood for him.

83. LOVE - Forever Changes
Great stuff. Top 15.

84. PAUL SIMON - Graceland
Blecch.

85. NICK DRAKE - Five Leaves Left
Nope.

86. MEAT LOAF - Bat Out of Hell
I love the Bruce meets Phil bombast of this record. Personal favorite "You Took The Words Right Out Of My Mouth"

87. DUSTY SPRINGFIELD - Dusty in Memphis
Great stuff.

88. DE LA SOUL - 3 Feet High and Rising
Who?

89. THE STROKES - Is this It
Mneh.....

90. MADNESS - One Step Beyond...
Ditto.

91. ROBBIE WILLIAMS - I've Been Expecting You
Saying "ditto" again would be merely boring and declasse.

92. NEIL YOUNG - After the Gold Rush
Great stuff.

93. PUBLIC ENEMY - It Takes a Nation of Millions to Hold Us Back
Not my speed.

94. BLONDIE - Parallel Lines
Good stuff. Saw them back in '78 or so at Belmont Racetrack - good show. I always cracked up at their cover of Randy and The Rainbows "Denise".

95. THE EAGLES - Hotel California
Overrated.

96. JAMES BROWN - Sex Machine
Should be higher in the rankings.

97. THE STREETS - A Grand Don't Come for Free
Who?

98. DEXY'S MIDNIGHT RUNNERS - Searching for the Young Soul Rebels
"Come On Eileen". And what else?

99. ROD STEWART - Every Picture Tells a Story
The Faces, man. great stuff.

100. The HUMAN LEAGUE - Dare!
Oh for crying out loud.....

Tuesday, April 19, 2005

 

When you come to a fork in the road, take it

In one of those, goes around, comes around things, Esteemed Client (you know, the one up in that commonwealth, er, state that perpetually elects a Kennedy of their choice) may be doing a full-blown look at their IT strategy (about farking time if you ask me), so since I've got some experience with them, I may get the nod to lead this. Not looking forward to it, as there's some travel involved to other locations, but hey, the only difference between myself and a call girl in these matters is that the call girl is frequently more articulate.

My other current client, a bank in an area known for beaches, is about to make a major misstep with a system designed to upgrade and support a lot of their key processes. Said system doesn't have a terribly long track record with big banks, and most of its installations are in very small outfits in very out of the way places. The risk factors are all but screaming here, yet the bank's very confident that their selection process picked the best candidate (guaranteed if they weren't, someone's head would have rolled already), so someone's got to make it work. It's a mid eight figure project, so it's not as if they're trying to do this on the cheap (although there was a disconcerting amount of verbiage about how this could be rolled out in a Wintel environment if required....), but these guys are going to need a lot of hand-holding on this one.

Sunday, April 17, 2005

 

Michael Jackson To Sell Beatles Catalog - Except For "This Boy".....

Forbes of course has a more cogent explanation of Mr. Jackson's financials than the tabloid screaming. The encumbrance on the Sony/ATV catalog (aka The Beatles catalog) isn't due until the end of this year, the current crisis is predicated on Jackson's own publishing outfit, Mijac.

And won't someone, please, please make this trial get off the news and talk shows.....

Yes, I know I've been somewhat remiss in my duties as a blogger over the last week, however, I've had a boatload of stuff happening, and something had to give, not to mention my muse has somewhat left me due to just a whole bunch of unrelated crap that doesn't bear mentioning (yet) in the blog. Just leave it at everything's OK by me, but my available bandwidth and my inclination to post was just at a minimum for the last week.

One totally cool thing happened on Saturday that did pick up my mood. I've been sitting in with a second band, and we've been puttering around trying to put a set list together. My dear friend and bandmate from my primary band has also been sitting in, and he was goofing around on an A to D chord progression, and we ended up kicking the band into Van Morrison's "Domino". It's been ages since I've listened to Van, I probably turned off because every oldies station plays "Brown Eyed Girl" ad nauseum, but damn, I had a blast playing "Domino". Great song. I usually vacillate between "Domino" and "Jackie Wilson Said" for my favorite Van Morrison song, but I guess I've made my decision (at least for the moment). And yes, we played "Brown Eyed Girl", and you know, I really got off on that one as well. A bit of distance did wonders for me on that one (it's also a lot cooler to play it yourself than listening to some station where you know the next song is either going to be "Judy In Disguise", "Take A Letter Maria" or "Sugar Sugar").

I had to do a fair amount of video editing recently, and I ended up downloading Ulead Media Studio's 30 day free trial version to A/B against Pinnacle Studio. No question, Ulead has a lot of neat features, but for a single camera shoot that doesn't require a lot of fanciness in the finished product, I'd still go with Pinnacle Studio. I was able to cut about 3 hours of raw video footage down to a 90 minute finished film in about 3 hours (most of which was just getting the cuts and transitions right), and it simply worked. It took another 30 minutes to do the titles and menus, and I hit the render button (it took the High Altar about 4 1/2 hours to render the video and get the DVD image ready). I really have to find a couple of hours to sit down and play with Ulead with the same raw source material (shot on my new Mini-DV cam) and see if I can get the same product out (I have my notes on my edit points on a bunch of sticky notes, so it's a fairly simple matter to get the same cuts), but for the type of video shoots I do (fairly infrequent, single camera), Pinnacle is hard to beat for KISS.

Friday, April 15, 2005

 

Ecce Blogdom

Every once in a while, like most bloggers, I get hit with writer's block, and today is no exception. This week has been a real roller coaster on a lot of fronts, and in prioritizing my time I've got little left for reflection to create incisive posts, and frankly, other than immediate business stuff that's interesting me I'm a bit burned out at looking at the yentasphere. Oh, I have a bit of bile saved up, it's just a matter of finding the time.

That said, I was a bit annoyed that Mr. Bush came out this AM against the new regulations requiring passports to enter the US from Canada, Mexico, Bermuda, etc. I'm rather sure that it's an easy matter for a bad guy to procure what is currently acceptable to enter the US from those jurisdictions, and as such, I fear that we've got some major bad actors already in place through those entry points. Don't get me wrong, I generally approve highly of the president, but I think there's a bit of pandering to two constituencies here that could adversely impact all of us. Excedrin headache #436.....

Thursday, April 14, 2005

 

I'm baaaack...

Lots of administrivia and client issues have conspired to keep me from blogging for the past couple of days, so I've been pretty much incommunicado. Needless to say, enough's been going on for tons of commentary, however, I've only got a few minutes to dash today's entry off.

The recent Comcast broadband outages have proven just how bad their first level tech support is. No, I don't have them, but a lot of friends and family do, and needless to say after their frustrating encounters with tech support I was deluged with pages and calls on what to do. A few DNS changes, a few Treewalk installations, everyone's happy (except for those folks who had an outage caused by a downed ATTBI router and the shmucks on first level support telling them to reboot their cable modems as if that was going to fix the problem).

RIP Johnnie Johnson. For those of you who don't know the name, Johnnie was Chuck Berry's pianist on his classic Chess sides, and played with him until the mid-70s. Johnnie was allegedly the inspiration for "Johnnie B. Goode" and as recently as a few years ago actually claimed co-authorship of some of Berry's classics. The judge in the case ruled against Johnson, saying that too much time had passed to determine the facts in the case. He was awesome in "Hail Hail Rock 'N Roll", that wondrous celebration of Berry's music (which is criminally unavailable in any home video format at the moment; contrast that with the newly schwanger Mrs. Federline, who has fifteen, count 'em, fifteen DVD titles available at Amazon). Most interesting, consider that most of Berry's classics are recorded in piano keys (B flat and E flat), not guitar keys (A and D) as most often played by covering guitarists. Johnnie Johnson's influence, friends. Coincidentally, Chuck Berry doesn't travel with a band, preferring to use pickup musicians provided by the promoters at his concerts. These musicians are often flummoxed by Berry's choice of keys for his songs.....

Tuesday, April 12, 2005

 

Short Shrift Tuesday

Business stuff overwhelms me today. I just knocked out a superficial gap analysis for the First Voodoo Bank, and they're looking for a quick and dirty solution to their problem (read as cheap) so that they can proceed with their new project, which I've cheerily code-named DoomedToFail. Supposedly they've got a budget for this thing in the mid eight figures (maybe for all of the IT in the bank, but just for this project, I frankly doubt it - I figure at the outside 3 million, more likely 2). Oh well, it keeps them on their toes, that's for sure.

Monday, April 11, 2005

 

A Sad Visit Today

I happened to be downtown today, and walked over to Ground Zero. It's been a while since I've been there, and I had to stand for a few minutes to take in the enormity of it. All I could do was silently say Kaddish for the victims.

Forgive me if I'm a bit tongue-tied, as the sight of the pit always chokes me up.

Back to normal posts tomorrow.

Saturday, April 09, 2005

 

Offline for the weekend

Lots of stuff doing, combined with a bad cold, so I'll be back to blogging after the weekend. Late post on Monday due to loads of business commitments.

Friday, April 08, 2005

 

Commerce, n. A kind of transaction in which A plunders from B the goods of C, and for compensation B picks the pocket of D of money belonging to E.

Blogger's been astonishingly peripatetic today, and their only suggestion is to clear the cookies in my browser. I hate to point it out, but there are actually some very useful cookies in my browser that I really don't feel like zapping (more out of sheer laziness than anything else) but it's simple enough to walk over to another computer here to get this done.

Today's very eloquent post, which I made the mistake of composing in Blogger's default interface, was nicely lunched when I hit "Save As Draft". I know, I know, do it offline in Word or some such, then paste it in, but the muse hit me suddenly and I was off and running before I realized I was riding bareback. Yuck. The post even had some cool 4, 7 and 8 letter words, to indicate how pissed I was. Oh well. Tomorrow's another day...

A bit of a Chinese Fire Drill has come up, where a colleague has found himself having to present to a bank in an area far better known for beaches than finance, and I've been asked to identify some deficiencies in what the bank is intending to do with its latest set of toys. Said identification of deficiencies may need to be done over the weekend, and of course I've got company who will be royally insulted if I actually work while they're here, so I find myself in a bit of a bind. Then again, it's blatantly obvious how said bank is about to screw up, so it shouldn't take more than a couple of hours to write up the bad news, so I just might get up early on Sunday and get it over with. I need to face off with the CIO of a seriously major bank on Monday morning (totally unrelated) so I have to be focused on that, and I really don't want to be bothered with First Bank of Voodoo Witch Doctors when I've got a major player to deal with.

For your amusement, check out this article about an advertiser's confessions about using adware.

Thursday, April 07, 2005

 

A 'liberal' is someone who presses for motorcycle helmet laws, and then bemoans the shortage of donor organs

Today's NY Daily News notes that 50 Cent, whoever the hell he or she or it is, now has four records in the Top 10, and is closing in on the Beatles' legendary chart monopolization in 1964. Compare:

For week ending April 9, 2005:
1. Candy Shop - 50 Cent featuring Olivia
2.Since U Been Gone - Kelly Clarkson
3. Hate It or Love It - The Game featuring 50 Cent
4. Obsession (No es Amor) - Frankie J featuring Baby Bash
5. Boulevard of Broken Dreams - Green Day
6. Disco Inferno - 50 Cent
7. Let Me Love You - Mario
8. Caught Up - Usher
9. How We Do - The Game featuring 50 Cent
10. Rich Girl - Gwen Stefani featuring Eve

For week ending April 4, 1964:
1. Can't Buy Me Love - The Beatles
2. Twist and Shout - The Beatles
3. She Loves You - The Beatles
4. I Want to Hold Your Hand - The Beatles
5. Please Please Me - The Beatles
6. Suspicion - Terry Stafford
7. Hello, Dolly! - Louis Armstrong
8. Shoop Shoop Song - Betty Everett
9. My Heart Belongs Only to You - Bobby Vinton
10. Glad All Over - Dave Clark Five

Notice that three of 50 Cent's top 10 entries are collaborations. I cheerfully admit to not knowing a single song on today's charts, unless "Disco Inferno" is a remake of the old Saturday Night Fever chestnut. Tell the truth, though, other than the Fabs in the 1964 chart, there wasn't that much great stuff. Terry Stafford was a mere Elvis pastiche, Louis Armstrong had much better stuff than that ghastly show tune, and Bobby Vinton, well 'nuff said.

Wednesday, April 06, 2005

 

Oh Goody. The Illudium Pu-36 Explosive Space Modulator.....

Image hosted by Photobucket.com
Courtesy of Broadband Reports, we report the following from Court Briefs:

A class action lawsuit claims that the Defendants are involved in installing "spyware" on millions of computers without the computer owners' consent, utilizing it to track the Internet browsing habits of the owners and then send them intrusive targeted "pop-up" ads. Plaintiff Stephen Sotelo, individually and on behalf of all persons similarly situated, sues Directrevenue, LLC, DirectRevenue Holdings, LLC, Betterinternet, LLC, Byron Udell & Associates, Inc., d/b/a Accuquote, aQuantive, Inc., and John Does 1-100.

The Complaint claims that the Defendants, who are allegedly either members or advertising supporters of the Internet "spyware" industry, have unlawfully used and damaged many individuals' computers to make money for themselves, while willfully disregarding the computer owners' rights to use and enjoy their personal property.

Defendant DirectRevenue allegedly deceptively downloaded "harmful and offensive" spyware to the Plaintiffs' computers which tracked their Internet use, invaded their privacy and damaged their computers. Relying on DirectRevenue's spyware as the key to getting inside Plaintiffs' computers and learning their Internet browsing habits, Defendants Aquantive and AccuQuote allegedly bombard the Plaintiffs' computers with intrusive advertisements. (...)

DirectRevenue allegedly engages in "uniformly deceptive misconduct" to secretly install its software onto consumers' computers. It allegedly bundles its spyware into other legitimate software which is available to be downloaded for "free" on the Internet, such as a video game. When the consumer installs that "free" game, he or she allegedly simultaneously (but unknowingly) downloads DirectRevenue spyware bundled into the game being downloaded, without consenting to the installation of that software.

The Defendant then allegedly bombard users' computers with ads that constantly "pop up" over whatever web page a user is viewing. The ads are allegedly sent in a manner that breaches the security of affected computers through bypassing commonly-used "pop-up" blocker software, designed to stop ads like those sent by the Defendants. The Complaint quotes an estimate by Newsweek magazine that DirectRevenue may have as many as 1.5 billion advertising impressions (i.e., pop-ups) per month. If a computer infected with the spyware is viewing music-related Internet sites, the spyware sends a signal of such activity back to DirectRevenue, which then allegedly targets the computer user with advertisements from competing music companies.

Some of these ads allegedly deceptively give the user the appearance that there is a "Security Alert" being sent by the user's computer itself or from Microsoft Windows, which states that "Spy Software may be installed in your Computer." DirectRevenue allegedly claims access to 12 million computers in the U.S.

The spyware allegedly destroys other software programs on a computer, and it and the ads send allegedly cause computers to slow down, take up bandwidth over an Internet connection, use up memory on a computer, utilize pixels and screen space on monitors, and frustrate computer users. The software and pop-up ads allegedly decrease productivity by requiring that hours be spent figuring out how to get them off of a computer, closing ads, and waiting for a slower machine to operate.

Class action status is sought on behalf of all persons or entities who had BetterInternet install spyware on their computers located in Illinois on or after April 1, 2002 and who had advertisements sent to their computers as a result. (...)


The complaint can be read in its entirety here.

As to whether this action will be effective, it's anyone's guess, but I assume that "BetterInternet" (a euphemism that ranks with the best of 'em) and DirectRevenue have shielded themselves from any US legal action, or are prepared to bug out if they are not. The only thing that will stop this sort of thing happening is meaningful penalties for the advertisers.

Tuesday, April 05, 2005

 

I Know, It's Henry's Company And He Can Sponsor If He Wants To

According to Yahoo,

Universal Studios has sold naming rights to its Universal Amphitheatre concert venue to Gibson Guitar Corp. in a 10-year deal valued at more than $14 million, the companies announced Monday.

The naming rights agreement is part of a wider deal that includes putting the Gibson name in other parts of the park and in sales and marketing materials, the companies said.

(snip)


Financial terms of the deal were not disclosed. But sources familiar with the agreement said it calls for Gibson to pay a little more than $1 million per year for a total of between $14 million and $15 million.

Gibson will get a new skybox in the arena, its name on employees' uniforms and branding on the Universal Studios backlot tram tour.

A Gibson Guitar Garden will also be built and be used to honor artists and host visitors.



Please tell me how this is going to increase sales when Henry's pissed off most, if not all of his high-end dealers.

Let's see, $200 price increase on a Les Paul standard, figure they only have to sell 70K of them to pay for this Geschaftvergn├╝gen.....

 

Wit, n. The salt with which the American humorist spoils his intellectual cookery by leaving it out

Mojo Magazine, that paragon of hipness that wastes space in your local Barnesandborders has come out with its idea of the Top 10 Rock Films, which I present for your edification:

1. This Is Spinal Tap
2. The Last Waltz
3. A Hard Day's Night
4. Gimme Shelter
5. The Wall
6. Ray
7. The Filth And The Fury
8. Quadrophenia
9. Westway To The World
10. Help!

Of course, any such "Best Of" or"Top Ten" list is an incredibly subjective affair, with of course Von Finnagle's Corollary being applied, to wit, "The are at least n+1 opinions for every n lower digestive orifices in any given discussion"), therefore a touch of observation is in order.

I don't suppose that any rock fan could or would quibble with the top four films being in those slots, although of course their relative rankings would differ given preferences (obviously in my case AHDN is #1, and to be brutally honest about it, I haven't listened to or seen "The Last Waltz" in ages, as there's a lot of soporific stuff in it to counterbalance the great moments). I still haven't gotten around to seeing "Ray" yet; I saw the man himself in Las Vegas about 12 years ago and still marvel at the performance, so any biopic might be a letdown, yet my cognoscenti friends tell me I'll enjoy it, so it gets a tentative OK from me. The Sex Pistols and Clash films are curious entries, and I'd probably drop them from this list. I'd probably replace them with "The Kids Are Alright" and the Talking Heads' "Stop Making Sense".

"The Wall" probably wouldn't be included, as it's not my favorite Pink Floyd album, I find Geldof annoying, and it's just too contrived. If "The Kids Are Alright" replaced one of the other films, I'd drop "Quadrophenia" (not because I don't like the film, it's just that I'd probably consider the overview provided by "Kids" to be a better inclusion). "Help!" is problematic, in that as much as I love it, and it is really the prototype for every music video ever seen, it's just not as good as AHDN as a film. I would probably replace that with "The Concert For George" if I had to keep to a top 10 format.

But then, some of the more egregious omissions really invalidate using a Top 10 format - consider the following, all very likely candidates for any such list:


Monday, April 04, 2005

 

Saigon........Sh*t

A very busy weekend, combined with a head cold and other early morning blues and greens are already making today an iffy proposition. On top of it all, I was informed last night that I'm expecting company next weekend, an occasional houseguest of the in-law persuasion who can be a bit difficult. I'm already preparing my diplomatic headache to go along with the two-Napoxen variety I've got now. Tomorrow's not going to be fun either.

Sunday, April 03, 2005

 

CA Rethinks Claria

Before anything, the life and works of Karol Wojtyla, Pope John Paul II should be celebrated and commemorated. He deserves the highest of honors, to be remembered as a good man. The man was a force for good.

Last Tuesday I noted Computer Associates' temporary (with a heavily implied quotes around the temporary) delisting of some of Claria (f/k/a Gator)'s foistware. A post by Eric Howes on Broadband Reports brings the good news that not only has CA reinstated the foistware in question, it has also relabeled other Claria products as full-blown spyware. Eric's observations are quoted below:

Still worse for Claria, in a number of cases the products that CA already knew about have received updated classifications that are more damning than they were before.Here's a summary of the updates, changes, and additions to the Claria
products included in CA Pest Patrol's definitions:

* Dashbar was: Adware now: Spyware/Toolbar/BHO

* Date Manager was: Adware now: Adware & Spyware

* PrecisionTime: was: Adware now: Adware & Spyware

* Weatherscope was: Adware/Home Page Hijacker/Search Hijacker now: Adware & Spyware

* WebSecureAlert was: Adware now: Adware & Spyware

* Claria/Gator/GAIN was: Adware/Search Hijacker now: Adware & Spyware

* GotSmiley (new) was: n/a now: Adware & Spyware

* Screenscenes (new) was: n/a now: Adware & Spyware

* eWallet (new) was: n/a now: Adware & Spyware new


Looks like the boys from Islandia have grown some cojones. (Well, they always had them, they just used 'em the wrong way). Their criteria for evaluating crapware can be found here (I hesitate to call it a scorecard since I don't see the weighting or scoring criteria, however, it's a darned good listing).

Saturday, April 02, 2005

 

"Day By Day" on Sandy Berger


Courtesy of Day By Day.

 

Harangue, n. A speech by an opponent, who is known as an harangue-outang

Much ado today, so little time for ranting.

Biggest rant is the AMT. This is an issue that's going to bite the Republicans in the ass in '06 and '08 unless something is done about it. We all know the history, how it was designed to "close tax loopholes for the rich", but frankly, it's been biting me for years and I hardly fall into that category. Salaries of average professionals are in the range that gets snagged by the AMT, and the threshold gets lower every year. Not that the Dems will do any better about it, it's not in their interest, after all, they've got to fund their Commune-ity (for the folks from Noumea, the spelling is quite intentional; I figure New Caledonia is probably the only place one can make a joke about in these PC days) Development Programs and other such nonsense. I happened to be chatting with a dear friend who is an arch-nemesis (politically speaking) about this and he was likewise totally fuming over the bite taken by the AMT. Libertarianism looks much more attractive after getting back from the accountant at this time of year, let me tell you.....

From this morning's Sulzberger entity on the proposed extension of the Flushing line to the Javits center:

The authority's board faced tremendous pressure to justify its acceptance of about $210 million from the Jets over the offer of about $400 million upfront from Cablevision, the owner of Madison Square Garden. Members of the board who had rarely, if ever, mentioned the No. 7 extension in the past described the project as top priority.


"It's very important that the No. 7 line get built," the board's vice chairman, David S. Mack, said. "That would be jeopardized by the M.S.G. bid."


It's pretty obvious that the people running transportation in this area don't understand what a traffic matrix is. Who the heck is going to use two billion dollars worth of subway extension on days when there isn't a football game? Maybe a couple of thousand heading to the Javits Center? Don't make me laugh. The out-of-towners going there will cab it, it's in their T&E budget for whatever event is there (assuming of course that any real event gets held there, exhibitors don't want to pay for the unions and the mob). Football games? Who holds the season tickets? Manhattanites regard football as hopelessly declasse, so it'll be people from the burbs and the boroughs. The bridge and tunnel crowd isn't going to wait for public transportation on a Sunday schedule (even though there might be extra trains on the 7 line to the stadium, there won't necessarily be extra trains on the LIRR or Metro North, or for that matter the other subway lines), so why not dump twenty or thirty thousand cars into midtown Manhattan?

Friday, April 01, 2005

 

Day By Day


Another great Day By Day commentary from Chris Muir.

 

Money, n. A blessing that is of no advantage to us excepting when we part with it

The rant du jour is occasioned by my new Mini-DV camcorder. I had lots of points on American Express' Membership Rewards and decided to redeem a chunk of them for a camcorder (my old Hi-8 just about having given up the ghost). No big deal, a nice new DV camcorder would make my life a bit easier in transferring stuff over to the computer for editing, and it had a few nice features to make life interesting. The only problem was that like every other camcorder, it comes with a battery suitable for about 30 minutes of doing anything, and being the natural procrastinator that I am, I had an action item (somewhere around 629th on the priority list) to pick up an extra battery or two for the thing.

An e-mail earlier this week from a friend requesting assistance videotaping an event on Sunday forced my hand, and when I had a few spare minutes today, I found myself in my local CircuitBuy looking for an extra battery. Imagine my chagrin that the battery was not in stock. A quick trip over to Radio Schlock, and no cigar. A camera store chain's local outlets got me nowhere. There were plenty of OEM batteries and clones out on the web, but by the time I had gotten to check them out, I was closed out from getting it tomorrow. One store in Brooklyn had them in stock (according to their web site at least) but since they're a frummie place, I would've had to have gotten there pretty darned early to pick the thing up and make it back in time for an afternoon commitment I have tomorrow. Not to mention that I trust the inventory reports on those frummie electronics shop web sites about as far as I can throw a Sun E15K, so I'd have to wait until 10am tomorrow to call and see if they really did have one in stock, and plead with them to hold one for me until I got there (best case, 2 hour drive; forget about the return trip - I'd never make my afternoon commitment with Friday traffic). Since that was a non-starter, I figured I'd try PC Connection, which I knew took orders until 2am for overnight shipping. By pure dumb luck, they had the high capacity battery I was looking for in stock, and eighty something dollars later, I'm waiting for the battery to come from some indeterminate overnight shipper.

I should expand the story a bit. One local camera shop did indeed have a battery that fit my camcorder, however, it was the same low-Ma job that came with the camcorder, and since it was an OEM battery, he wanted a really unreasonable amount of money for the battery (about $125). Since I didn't want to be caught totally with my pants down, I sprung for it (although not with pleasure - I just got the news from my tax preparer that the AMT had bitten me yet again, and my anticipated refund was going to be far smaller than I was hoping for) and it sits here on my desk, waiting for its compadre and the event on Sunday afternoon.

The funny thing of course is that said camcorder is not a current model according to CircuitBuy and RadioSchlock, however, its importer does indeed recognize its existence (unlike a couple of ancient cameras I have from Bell & Howell and Polaroid, which are orphans, or renumbered specials) and it's at least nominally available. The problem here is that the batteries in question are of a different form factor than anything else the importer brings in, and the garden variety batteries readily available from my local friendly retailers don't stand a prayer of fitting. My camera, however, is identical in form factor to the quote unquote current models and it wouldn't have been a huge stretch to keep the existing battery form factor. I know, planned obsolescence keeps the EPS up there...

I suppose had I not been such a cheapskate and actually gone and bought a new camcorder I wouldn't have had this problem (Heinlein was right - TANSTAAFL) but then again, at least it's something tangible for all the grief I've put up with to run my Amex point level so high (could've been a lot worse, I guess). Then again, who knows what This Year's Model will be...

Some minor local aggravation on top of it all - not worthy of mention here other than in passing - yet. I suppose I'm going to be an eminent grouch this weekend. And for crying out loud, I couldn't even come up with a decent April Fool's post. Grrrr...

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