Bismarck would be so proud


The Top 5 German words that we use too:

5- Uber - literally meaning "over". It was used by Friedrich Nietzsche to explain his philosophical "overman" or otherwise translated as superman. Technically uber isn't a word as much as a prefix but we use it as a word so it counts. It sounds tough and has scary undertones thanks to the Nazis.

4- Schnitzel - Not nearly as ominous but much more fun to say. mmmmmm schnitzel.

3- Blitzkrieg - Here is another one from the Nazis. Literally translated as lightning strike and used to describe the Nazi attacks of World War II. Now we can use it to describe anything that is huge and destructive, well not anything, but you get the picture. We also get the handy abbreviation "blitz" and that is invaluable in football. The word just might be the best thing the Nazis gave us.

2- Zeitgeist - meaning "in the spirit of the time". This word sounds so cool and menacing but in fact is pretty benign. If you use it you sound educated and it doesn't have a direct translation into English. All of those contribute to it being ranked so high. Even if you are talking about something lame, a dash of "zeitgeist" will go a long way to saving your sentence. For example: "It is unfortunate that Britney Spears has so thoroughly permeated the zeitgeist of the younger generation". Very cool and dumb people everywhere will just agree with you because they can't remember this little gem from their SAT prep classes.

1- Schadenfreude - This word has it all. It is kinda ominous, it is long, no one knows what it means; and yet the best thing about it is the definition: "deriving pleasure from someone else's misfortune". Hell yeah, that is a good word. We all laugh and other people's misfortune and it is too bad we never came up with a word for it. Thanks Germany! You have enabled us to properly label one of the best things about comedy. What does it say about Germany if they have a word for this? It kinda says something about their national character doesn't it? Silly Germans, what will they do next.

JK Rowling - Libertarian Propagandist?

"This Essay examines what the Harry Potter series (and particularly the most recent book, The Half-Blood Prince) tells us about government and bureaucracy. There are two short answers. The first is that Rowling presents a government (The Ministry of Magic) that is 100% bureaucracy. There is no discernable executive or legislative branch, and no elections. There is a modified judicial function, but it appears to be completely dominated by the bureaucracy, and certainly does not serve as an independent check on governmental excess."

Taken from Professor Bainbridge.com.

I've read my fair share of Harry Potter, and I always really just thought JK Rowling disliked the English government and wanted to make fun of it. It never seemed to me that she was pushing a political philosophy - and that's why it is so brilliant if it were true. She's spoonfeeding political philosophy to millions of children! Genius!

I have very mixed feelings about tax credits for hybrids.

CNN.com has a story about tax credits for hybrids starting January 1, 2006..

If you're unfamiliar with the way taxes work, a credit directly reduces the amount of money you have to pay to the federal government. So, when you get that $3,150 credit for buying a Toyota Prius, and you owe $5,000 to the Feds, you only have to pay $1,850. Since most of us have our taxes taken out by employers from our paychecks, this usually means you'll be getting a refund. From my understanding, there are all sorts of emission rules and comparisons to a similar vehicle from 2002. Also, there is a credit phaseout starting once the manufacturer has built 60,000 of a particular vehicle.

I have mixed feelings because I'm not sure hybrids are really the solution to the problem. Hybrids have a huge battery; how do you safely dispose of it? Also, hybrids like the prius don't get that much better gas milage than cars with small engines did in the past. For example, the Honda Civic CRX Hf from the early 90's got 40+ miles per gallon.

A far better solution would be to force gas guzzling SUV's to get more than 20 miles per gallon. I'm willing to bet there are far more Ford Expeditions/Lincoln Navigators/Chevy Tahoe/Cadillac Escalades on the road than there are hybrids. Switching someone from a 30mpg Civic to a 50mpg Civic helps (400 gallons a year to 240 gallons per year = 160 gallon savings). But not as much as switching someone from a 12mpg Navigator to a 30mpg Civic (1000 gallons a year to 400 gallons a year = 600 gallon savings).

The next time Opera crashes...

Opera LogoAnd I lose another email or post, I think I'm going to take my computer out and shoot it. I mean it - Full of molten goddamn lead, silicon guts blown into a thousand tiny pieces.

I've tried Intraweb Exploder. I've tried Firefucked. I've settled for Opera, which is the "best" product I can find. Yet it still crashes on a regular basis. Even on Ubuntu. Even on a different machine. Even with green eggs and ham. On plain, vanilla webpages. I wonder how many thousands of words of text I've lost over the years.

General Motors: A case study in terrible decision making.

Standard and Poors has gone on record stating that bankruptcy is a REAL POSSIBILTY for General Motors. Kirk Kerkorian, who has personally lost an estimated $500MM in GM stock value sold 12 million of his 55 million shares, cutting his ownership down to 7.8%. And with GM's market cap down to 10.77B, there is the serious possibility that GM may be kicked off the DOW.

So, the real question is What the hell happened? Was it pension obligations? Employee health care? Union greed? Nope: The real problem is that GM can't find it's ass with both hands when it comes to building a quality automobile.

Let's look at the most common cars on the road:
1) Small commuter cars
2) Larger commuter cars
3) Luxury cars
4) Hybrids

Given $3+ gas, I'm going to ignore trucks and SUV's, as they are rapidly becoming a weak force in the market.

Small Commuter Cars
Best in class: Honda Civic/Toyota Corolla
Emphasis of best in class: Reliability and good gas milage
GM's entries: Cobalt/Aveo
GM's emphasis: CHEAP, available bells and whistles.

Larger Commuter Cars
Best in class: Honda Accord/Toyota Camry
Emphasis of best in class: Build quality, reliability, conservative styling
GM's entry: Chevy Malibu (Malibu MAXX!), Pontiac G6 (The first ever!)
GM's emphasis: Lots of available bells and whistles.

Luxury Cars
Best in class: Lexus.
Emphasis of best in class: Build quality, reliability
GM's entry: Cadillac
GM's emphasis: "Aggressive" styling, bells and whistles

Hybrids
Best in class: Toyota Prius
Emphasis of best in class: Decent gas milage, first to market
GM's entry: "We have a hybrid SUV that you should look at!"
GM's emphasis: "Hybrid-what now? No one wants that."

GM has been losing market share for YEARS because their designs don't meet the criteria of the buying public. The buying public isn't looking for lots of bells in whistles - quite the opposite, in fact. Sure, you can buy a "fancy" Toyota Camry, but I'd be willing to bet that 75% of Camry's on the road are identical in almost every way except color.

GM can't match the build quality of a Toyota or Honda. In my opinion, there is only one other route available to them: Cheap price.

If the GM Cobalt cost $8,500 and the only option was exterior color, how many $18,000 Civics do you think would be on the road? If the Malibu cost $11,000 - would you still buy a $22,000 Accord?

"Households on average toss 14 percent of the food they buy"

Here's an interesting article on CNN Money about food waste in American society. Quick synopsis: Americans don't plan meals, end up wasting huge amount of food.

I constantly have this problem: We spend a lot of money on groceries, and midway through the week, we can't figure out what to eat for dinner and end up going out. Part of it is bad planning, and part of it is not spending enough time preparing food.

For example, lettuce. In the article, the author talks about a head of lettuce costing $2, and a bag of pre-chopped and washed lettuce costing $4. "Would you pay someone $2 to chop and wash your lettuce?" The answer: You're damned skippy. It takes a lot of time and effort to clean and chop lettuce. You have to get out a bowl, a cutting board, and a knife. You break off the leaves of lettuce, wash them, then cut them into pieces. When you're done, you have to clean the bowl, the cutting board, the counter, and the knife. Then you have to take out the trash. It's a lot of effort.

My solution is to buy a huge bag of the cheapy iceburg lettuce from Costco. I get a 3 pound bag for $1.79, and it has a bit of carrot and cabbage in it. The problem is that I end up throwing at least half the bag away, and that's assuming that we eat a large salad for dinner EVERY night until it goes bad. Honestly, it's a terrible terrible solution, but it's cheap and easy and I can't think of a better way to have a salad on a regular basis with little effort.

From what I've heard, the solution in other countries is to go shopping DAILY. You don't even need a refrigerator. You just walk to the local store, buy a few things for dinner, and go home and make dinner. No waste, because you eat it all right then and there. On the other hand, you get stuck with high prices on low quantities of goods.

So I guess I'm stuck shopping at Costco for now. I've been thinking of throwing some technology at the problem, and building a database of the receipes I know how to make. From there, a program randomly select some receipes, consolidate the quantities, and writes me a grocery list and meal plan.

When did cheap become better than functional?



I've been thinking a lot about the extremely low quality of consumer goods. From the $20 dress shirt that shrinks the first time you wash it, to the cell phone that disconnects every five minutes.

When did "cheap" become more highly valued to consumers than "functional"?

I have a cell phone through T-Mobile and I live in a major metropolitan area. There are a number of dead zones throughout the city where the phone has no coverage whatsoever. In the old days, people had landlines (some of you probably still do.) The landline was hideously overpriced, but most of the time, it actually worked. You picked up the phone, dialed your number talked until you were done, then hung up. Now, it's more along the lines of "Dial, redial when the first try fails, talk, redial when you get disconnected, yell over the static, talk some more, redial, say goodbye, hang up."

Is it cheap? Sure - 1500 minutes for $40. Is it functional? Not really.

Another example: VoIP. *hiss pop* Ever tried talking to *pop* tech support *hiss buzz hiss* from Dell?

We have almost universally traded down on quality. Disposable cameras, Old Navy sweaters that can be washed twice, the Daewoo Lanos. We've become a disposable society.

Is this really cheaper in the long run? I don't think so. Sure, you get more updates. Sure, it's easier to replace a loss. But how long do you think those 6-for-a-$1 forks from Walmart are really going to last you? 3 months? How many sweaters on SUPER DUPER sale are you going to have to buy?

Consumerism, baby. Awww yeah.

"SELL SELL SELL" or "Google cuts off face to spite shareholders and internet users alike."


It sure seems like AOL is on a mission to CORRUPT AND DESTROY all that is good on the internet. Google, for example - who is Now planning on using graphics in their ads!!

ARE YOU OUT OF YOUR COLLECTIVE FUCKING MINDS?

Why destroy a business model that is working???

Discovery of the day: Google kicked "Hearts Of The Gods" the hell off their index.

Google is a fickle search engine. There one day, gone the next.

Not that Hearts Of The Gods was appearing on many search results in the first place. But at least I could find it by typing in the whole address.

I keep messing around with the template, so that probably doesn't help. Also, I bet this post screams SANDBOX. Or maybe Google found this one offensive.

I'm not really sure which is worse: Not appearing at all, or getting a boatload of hits from intraweb perverts.

It's like Congress is trying to cause a major recession.

In a bold move to set the country on track for a recession, Congress is working on a bill to cut Federal student loan funding by $12.7B over 5 years.

College costs have been rising steadily, with a 2005 increase of 5.9% for public schools and 7.1% for private schools. Less money for loans and more expensive schools equal less people going to college. This is obviously going to hurt the country in the long term, especially in today's ultra-competitive globalized economy.

But what concerns me more, in the short term, are the following lines from the story:

"The interest rate for parent loans would increase to a fixed rate of 8.5 percent in July. It is now a variable rate and had been set to move to a fixed rate of 7.9 percent" and "Meanwhile, the interest on students loans would also move to a fixed rate of 6.8 percent in July, up from its current variable rate of 4.7 percent."

How much money is the median student borrowing? $16,500 for an undergraduate education in 2002.

At 4.7% and 10 years to pay, the montly payment for a student loan is $172.60.
At 6.8%, the payment is $189.88. While this might not seem like a big jump, the "manageable threshold" for student loan debt is supposed to be 8% of gross monthly income. At 4.7%, the student needs to make $25,890 a year. At 6.8%, the student needs to make $28,482 a year, or $2,592 more a year just to cover the same level of debt.

So why will this help push the coming recession?

Employers have a big problem. The baby boomer generation is getting to retirement age. This means they need to replace an awful lot of experienced workers. With the change in student loans, the number of qualified applicants is going to be smaller AND they are going to demand significantly higher wages.

$2,592 a year doesn't seem like a lot until you scale it up to the level of a very large employer. Take General Electric, with it's 307,000 employees for example. Assume that 25% of them are college educated (or 76,750) and that 3% will retire this coming year (or 2,303). Add the cost of benefits and employers taxes to those wages (we'll go with 30% or $3,370 per employee) and your required wages increase by $7.75 million dollars. Ouch.

Can you see how that might put expansion plans on hold?

Apple shipping 100,000 iPod Nano's a day (!!!)


In a best effort to meet demand for its top-selling iPod nano this holiday, Apple Computer is building and shipping 100,000 of the ultra-slim digital music players each day, reliable sources tell AppleInsider.

Holy cripes. I knew they were successful, but that is huge. They sell for $199 and $249. Say they sell 75% 2 gig models, and 25% 4 gig models, that is $21 Million dollars a day in revenue.

The article also talks about the possibility in the next few months of a 1 gig Nano for $149 (which I think is a not a very smart idea) and the 512mb Shuffle for $80 (which I think is still somewhat overpriced.)

I've got a Nano all wrapped up and waiting for me under the Festivus pole. Good thing she bought it early. Interesting side note: It shipped directly from Shanghai by airmail.

Google shoots self in crotch in attempt to hurt Microsoft.

In a stunning display of utter disregard for everything that has made it a success, search engine giant Google shot itself in it's collective crotch today by buying 5% of AOL.

Over the last few years, Google has become just about the only player in town for advertising with a system of bidding on keywords that allows anyone to get top placement by outbidding the competition. Furthermore, they clearly mark advertising AS advertising. This new deal allows AOL to get PREFERRED PLACEMENT and to place ads that are NOT MARKED as ads.

I just don't get it.

AOL accounts for between 2%-4% of Google's annual advertising revenue. Google is a success because they DON'T give preference to big buyers, and because they don't pollute their search results with unmarked advertising.

Some are saying that Google has gone evil. Others are saying that Google has sold it's soul.

I think it's the first big sign that Google has gone horribly off track.

If Kelo v. City of New London applied to the internet, I'd lobby for the rights to Obituary.com

If the local city government can force you to sell your house so they can put a Casino / Walmart / Strip Club in it's place, wouldn't it be nice if that also applied to the internet?

The other night I was thinking about RSS feeds. Somehow I got onto the subject of obituaries. I started thinking "Gee, it would be pretty sweet if obituaries were RSS feeds from a centralized website that was searchable." People could just submit the obituary to the website, and newspapers could pick up the feed for the local area.

So I went an checked out Obituary.com and was pretty appalled. Amateur hour - the website just plain sucks. I could do a better job given 20 minutes to work on it, and clearly I'm no expert. They're using frames, for chrissakes!

I've been thinking the city of Moscow, Idaho should help me liberate Obituary.com so I can put a prettier more ad-laden half baked website in it's place.

I'm more afraid of the government than I am of Al-Qaeda.

Bush says that secret wiretaps will continue.

Frankly, I wasn't surprised at all that the NSA was collecting intelligence within the boundaries of the United States. What surprises me is that the President would admit to and defend these actions.

In the United States, we have a tradition of not using the military for law enforcement inside of the United States

Some of this probably comes from law, for example the Posse Comitatus Act of 1878, which was "passed to remove the Army from civilian law enforcement and to return it to its role of defending the borders of the United States"

But mostly, I think it is a cultural value of Americans. The media portrays it as a "big deal" when a Governor calls out the rinky-dink National Guard to restore order. A few thousand part-time soldiers show up carrying 30 year old rifles, driving 50 year old vehicles, and we flip out.

But using the honest-to-god military? That's almost unthinkable. We place so much value on human life. Our law enforcement spends millions upon millions of dollars to use the least amount of force necessary to enforce the laws. And when they use even the slightest bit too much force, the shit hits the fan. Example: A man sued three police officers for using excessive force. What was the root cause of this problem? He was in a 9-hour standoff with police, barricaded in his home with his 8-year old daughter and a gun.

Our military on the other hand, is the fiercest, most lethal force to ever walk the planet earth. Within mere hours, we can precisely land a series of powerful atomic warheads on just about any point in the world. Within days, we can have an assault force of hardened marines at the doorstep of an unfriendly dictator. Look at military law enforcement in Iraq: A driver disobeys an order to halt at a roadblock, and everyone in the car dies. Can you IMAGINE the reaction if this same event occurred in Cincinnati?

The world is a big and nasty place. In the interest of national security, the rules might have to be bent a little bit. Sometimes, we may have to act fast to nail a terrorist inside the US. But openly bending the rules on a regular basis? That's stepping across the line.

The intelligence services play in the big-boy world, where concepts like "not using excessive force" aren't exactly paramount. They lie, they cheat, they blackmail, they assasinate, they kidnap, and apparently they torture. Just like the military, they aren't particularity good at playing nice.

We need to be VERY careful about trading our traditional values for security. To be sure, Al-Qaeda is a threat. But I think the larger threat is losing our freedom to a government out of control.

1984: 21 years early.

Agents' visit chills UMass Dartmouth senior

A senior at UMass Dartmouth was visited by federal agents two months ago, after he requested a copy of Mao Tse-Tung's tome on Communism called "The Little Red Book."

My favorite quote from the article: "I shudder to think of all the students I've had monitoring al-Qaeda Web sites, what the government must think of that," he said. "Mao Tse-Tung is completely harmless."

Also, here is a link to the Slashdot discussion.

Update: No need to order the book, instead just read it online!

What is the "IT" from the eBay ads? Identity Theft.


BBC news is running a story on eBay fraud: eBay faces up to online fraud

"The online auctioneer eBay has admitted an "extreme growth" in the number of personal accounts being hijacked by fraudsters.... In one recent case, up to ten people are thought to have paid a total of £15,000 for non-existent hot tubs, while another would-be buyer thought he had purchased a £4,000 camper van - which turned out not to exist."

eBay has a number of MAJOR problems. First, it's feedback system is a BAD JOKE. Second, account hijacking is commonplace. Third, eBay doesn't give a damn about it's users, and won't help you.

The feedback system is truly a joke. You have three choices: Positive, Neutral, or Negative. Lots of negative feedback should prevent the bad guys from cheating customers, right? WRONG. Most buyers won't leave negative feedback simply because the seller can turn around and hit you right back with a very negative response. So what choice do you have? Also, it is trivial for people to get a new account. When the negative feedback gets too high, you just jump over to a new account.

Account hijacking is another major eBay problem. It is fairly simple to get an email from an eBay listing. Then you just send out a phishing email. While it might only work one out of twenty times, if you do it 30,000 times, you get 1,500 accounts. Because there is no way to tell you aren't dealing with the person reviewed in the feedback, you don't know that they are going to rip you off on that laptop or stereo.

Third, eBay really doesn't give a damn about it's users. "Oh, you got screwed out of $10,000? That sucks for you. You've found more listings by the same person? Well, we can't be sure of that. We'll "investigate", and maybe do something about it in four months after this person has ripped off two hundred more people."

I have always predicted that at a certain point, the tide will turn, and users will avoid eBay like the plague. There aren't really deals to be found there anymore. Mostly, it's a bunch of small-ish sellers pedalling wares that are somewhat of a deal - but only IF there wasn't such a HUGE RISK in buying. So what do you have? A website that charges big fees to sell, provides very little protection, has a meaningless feedback scheme, and a bunch of shady backyard sellers that may or may not screw you over.

What other options are there? I'm a big fan of Amazon.com. I've bought and sold a number of books on there. It's a good system. Amazon provides the payment processing, and provides REAL protection for both the buyer and the seller. The feedback system actually makes sense - the seller can't leave feedback for you, so you can leave HONEST REVIEWS. Sure, the fees are high, and they hardly pay you anything for shipping, but on the plus side, you don't have to worry about getting screwed over and there are some real deals to be found (used book for $0.01 + shipping anyone?)

See the Slashdot.org Discussion on the BBC article.

Call me crazy, but this wild Consumer Price Index (CPI) movement seems to indicate price gouging.

    Evidence:


  • October 31, 2005: CPI posts biggest gain in 25 years "The department said energy costs were responsible for 90 percent of the rise. Record gasoline prices in September after Katrina sent energy prices soaring 12 percent in the month."

  • November 14, 2005: Tax rate falling for many big oil firms "Report: Nearly one in four large-cap oil companies will pay lower taxes despite strong profits."

  • December 15, 2005: CPI posts biggest drop since 1949 "Gasoline prices tumbled 16 percent and natural gas prices slipped a scant 0.5 percent after soaring for two straight months. But electricity prices rose 3.8 percent from October."

Now I understand that Hurricane Katrina had a big impact on East Coast oil production. I can understand this having an impact on East Coast oil prices. But what I can't understand is how on earth this could cause the price of Diesel in California to go from $3.262 on 10/3/05 to $2.465 on 12/12/05. That's a 25% drop in price. What connection is there between California Diesel and East Coast oil? None that I know of - we don't transport oil from the East to California or vice versa.

I don't mean to sound like a conspiracy theorist, but it sure seems like Oil companies took advantage of the Hurricane to boost short term profits. And this is nothing but bad for the economy. The price of virtually every consumer item, from food to the bricks in your house is effected by the price of diesel fuel. Big short term jumps in the COGS create an uncertain business environment, which leads directly to inflation.

If I own a brick factory, and I have to sign a 6 month contract to deliver bricks to a large builder, and I think there is a possibility that the fuel cost to move those bricks is going to double during the contract, do you think I am going to build my price based on the current costs? No way. I'm going to cover my ass, and make sure that my fuel costs are paid in full. If the price stays the same, "GREAT!More money for me." If they double, "oh well, I had it built into my price."

To rent a two bedroom home in the US, you need to make $15.78 an hour.

Or $31,560 a year, given 2000 hours of work (50 weeks x 40 hours a week). Figures taken from this CNN.com story on the least affordable rental markets.

Given that this is the minimum amount required, and that you are not supposed to exceed 33% of your income for housing, this means the average rent for a two bedroom house in the US is $10,519 a year, or $877 a month.

In California, you need to make $22.09 an hour, or $44,180 a year. Thus, the average rent for a 2 bedroom in California is $14,726 a year, or $1,227 a month. In San Francisco, you need to make $29.54 an hour, or $59,080 a year to rent a house for $1,641 a month.

How does this compare to the price of houses?

In 2004, the median US house price was $221,000. In the last year, the median increase has been 12.02% for a 2005 price of just about $250,000. 30 year fixed rate mortgages are currently at 6.28%. Plugging these numbers into Excel, given a down payment of 10%, results in a payment of $1,390 a month. To be able to afford this payment, you would need to have an income of approximately $50,000 a year.

Only looking at the cash outflow, the difference between renting and buying in the US is about $513 a month.

It appears that right now is not a very good time to become a landlord.

Wireless Network Gets Man Sued for $100,000.

Paramount Pictures has filed a Federal Piracy lawsuit against an Ohio man for supposedly uploading the movie Coach Carter to the eDonkey file sharing network.

The man claims that he had nothing to do with it, and that someone else was using his insecure wireless network. I believe him. Wireless networks are dangerous and insecure, even with WEP or WPA. The incredible spread of wireless and high speed internet across the United States has made the use of IP addresses to locate criminals virtually meaningless. There is no way to be sure that a certain IP address was used by a certain computer anymore. Yet, the law hasn't caught up. And big corporations are looking for someone to hurt. Think twice before you buy that sweet new wireless router - good old fashioned CAT 5 may be a better solution.

For more information, see the Slashdot discussion on this story.

What is RSS and how the heck is it useful?

RSS. Atom. XML. It's enough to give you a case of Acronym Phobia.

Wikipedia has a really great page explaining the history and use of RSS. But it goes into a bit too much detail. So here is a simpler explanation.

RSS is a way to FORMAT information in a CONSISTENT manner so that it is easy to DISTRIBUTE.

Using RSS, different computers can filter and present your information to users in a huge variety of formats. For example, Gmail recently added Web Clips so you can have little links display to your preferred content. Yahoo has similar functionality in their My.Yahoo service.

The Opera Webbrowser has a built-in RSS reader, that makes RSS feeds look similar to newsgroups or emails. Firefox and IE have similar functionality (or are in the process of adding it.)

If you really want to give RSS a go, try downloading and using Opera for FREE. Once you have it installed, come back to Hearts Of The Gods and click on the orange RSS symbol on the right of the address. A new menu item will appear, labelled "FEEDS". Whenever you run Opera, it will check your subscribed RSS feeds, and let you know when there is a new post on Hearts Of The Gods.

One Million Monkeys Typing On One Million Typewriters...

I've been thinking about the amount of published content created per day by the human race.

To take a wild stab at this number, I'm going to narrow it down to ENGLISH content from the United States, simply because I don't have the ability to get good numbers on non-English speakers, and there is the most available data for the United States.

People: There are currently 297,875,919 people in the United States.

Types of Content:

Books: In 2004, there were 9,662 books published in the United States. Using the PISOOMA method, the average book is 300 pages long, with 150 words per page. Total yearly content = 435MM words.

Newspapers: In 2003, there were 1,456 daily newspapers and 917 Sunday papers. Again, using the PISOOMA method, the average newspaper is 40 pages long, with 600 words per page. Total yearly content = 13,902MM words.

Magazines and Journals: Using the PISOOMA method, there are 12,000 active English magazines and journals in the United States, with an average of 75 pages at 100 words per page, and 12 publications per year. Total yearly content = 1,080MM words.

Non-blog websites: PISOOMA method states that there are 500,000 active US english websites with content being regularly added at the pace of 3000 words per year each. Total yearly content = 1,500MM words.

Blog websites: Technorati indexes 23 million blogs. PISOOMA method states that there are ten times that many blogs, or 230 million blogs. 75% are spam. Of the remaining 58 million blogs, 1/3 are in English, and 1/2 of those are in the US, for a total of 9.6 million active US English blogs. From earlier research I determined there are 72 million students, so this number doesn't seem entirely unreasonable. PISOOMA method states that the average blog produces 1500 words a year. Total yearly content = 14,400MM words.

Forum websites and email lists: PISOOMA method states that there are 75,000 active english forums in the United States, with an average of 2000 posts per forum at 200 words each. Total yearly content = 30,000MM words.

Total US Content: 61,317MM words, or about 205 words per person per year in the US.

Related link: The Pew Internet Survey on Blogs

Fun with CSS, part 2 - THE REVENGE.

For some damned reason, I got this CRAZY idea in my head that I needed to have a three column layout for my blog. "CSS is cool!" I thought. "It is so incredibly powerful and easy to use!"

Boy, was I wrong.

The last couple of days, I have learned all about the miracle of floatdrop, which is what happens when your margins don't add up, or you look at the page in internet exploder, or you use italics in your post.

What a mess. I can see why different browsers display so differently now.

Anyhow, I hope you like the new layout. If it doesn't display correctly, let me know. I've tested it in IE, Firefox, and Opera. Don't have access to Safari or other browsers, but am hoping they will be similar.

It turns out that Las Vegas is cheap cheap cheap around Christmas.

I'll be passing through Las Vegas this year on my annual pilgrimage home for Festivus.

Originally, I had planned to just keep on driving. I've been burned time and time again by Lady (un)Luck. Every single time I have wanted to go there, even looking far in advance, the prices have been astronomical. I remember the time Excalibur wanted $329 a night for a room. People always tell me "Oh, that had to have been during a conference or something." Ok, sure. But this has happened to me on at least 5 occasions. I guess Vegas is a more popular destination that I thought. I guess I don't get it. For a 3 day stay at $329 a night (Plus Tax!) you would spend about $1,000. I've seen vacation deals to Hawaii for $800. Mexico even cheaper. Why on earth would you pay that much for the priviledge of gambling all your money away?

Anyhow, my plans changed a bit recently, and it turns out I may be able to go through there in the middle of the week, right before Christmas. I started looking around, most notably on Las Vegas.Com and found that there are some DIRT CHEAP rooms available. $20 a night for Stratosphere, which believe it or not, got decent reviews on Yahoo Travel.

I'm probably going to stay at Luxor for $60. I've always wanted to stay in the pyramid. While the experience will probably be underwhelming, at least I'll get to say "I dun stayed thar before it gots stoled by them dangs aliens!"

UPDATE: Get your own Festivus Pole. Very nice. In fact, here's a whole Freakin' Blog about Festivus.

Fun with Cascading Style Sheets.

My apologies if the page doesn't load for you correctly. I am still working on the format. I hope to have it working on most browsers within a week or two.

For what it's worth - I primarily use Opera, which seems to be much more stable than Firefox. The downside is that Gmail and Yahoo don't always work correctly, but hey.. it's a tradeoff. Firefox was causing my poor machine to lock up at least 2-3 times a day.

Everyone's got to be heard. Right?

There's a theory going around about the "democratization of the media." Now that it's so easy to set up a podcast/blog/forum, virtually anyone can start their own. So many blogs, so much worthless information. How do you sort out the good from the bad? Is traditional media going to still exist in 10 years? The internet has made newspapers largely irrelevant in my opinion. Why would I pay to have a dead tree delivered to my house, when I can get the same information on demand for free whenver I want? Not only that, but I don't have to spend time folding dirty newsprint over to make it readable.

Radio is the next victim. There's a big trend of people switching to satellite radio. I think this trend is going to die off like the dinosaurs, and here's why: As local area WiFi networks spread, pretty soon everyone will have high speed internet access anywhere they go. GPRS is already almost universal. Verizon is offering decently fast wireless for $60 a month. As the towers and capacity increases, it will eventually make cell phones and DSL irrelevant as well. Buy the fast internet service - use VoIP for phone calls, and listen to streaming internet radio. Or maybe your own MP3's right off your home computer - FROM ANYWHERE. I would never invest in Sirius or XM radio. Both are going to be gone in a matter of years. It's very expensive to use satellites, very cheap to use a small radio tower.

The next victim is TV. Tivo has already started the trend. People no longer think they have to watch shows in the format fed to them by the big media. Many people are downloading TV shows using bittorrent already. Apple and others are offering legitimate alternatives for a fair price.

I can see a day in the not so far future where you have a pocketsized device that handles most of your entertainment and communication needs. Watch your home movie collection, place a phone call to Tokyo, email a document to a business partner, and take a picture of a hot chick - all from the same device from a park bench.

Now back to the original question. If traditional media is unwilling to change, and there is no clear system of producing "professional" media, at what point will the noise overwhelm the signal?

New media websites such as drudgereport and slashdot already have a hugely powerful draw. But are they qualified? Google news presents a custom version of the news. But how do you know which sources are valid? Blogs are starting to be considered as "having value." At what point will you be unable to sift between them and a real well researched story?

Or could it be a good trend?

Back in the day, I had a Mac 512ke, and it was awesome.

On Slashdot today, there was a story about the Woz and his feelings about big software.A lot of the comments revolved around Woz not being relevant. "He designed sweet hardware 30 years ago, and now he's not even in the industry."

Here's the thing about that: Woz is brilliant. Beyond being a top notch engineer, he's a very smart guy in general (which is not something you can say about all engineers, that's for sure). For the last 30 years or so, he's been incredibly wealthy, and in a posistion to say and do anything he likes.

His interest seems to be technology and more specifically, the human interface.

This is a case of "Seeing the forest through the trees." Woz is more qualified than Dvorak to comment on things - Dvorak is a hack, he gets his paychecks through positive reviews. Even if all the products he looks at suck, he can't share that with the world. Jobs is limited by his shareholders, as is Gates and Balmer. Woz is free to use his brilliance as he sees fit.

Woz is absolutely right about the state of software. It's not designed to be easy to use. Instead, you have to "learn a new language" to use it. Think about a product you use all the time. Aren't half the buttons something you had to learn the meaning of? Were they all obvious? Does "Network Neighborhood" have any meaning if you don't understand the concept of a network?

I've found from experience that computers are a powerful tool to organize data, but that human beings tend to seriously flub the organization and are unable to use the built in tools to find that information. Its like taking all the paperwork in your office, removing all the staples/folders/etc, throwing it into a giant bin, mixing it around for a few hours, then trying to find a letter you wrote to a company three years ago. You just can't do it.

People tend to do really crazy stuff like name files "Letter.doc". Not particularily helpful. Then, when they try to find it by date, they open the file and save it, changing the file date. Also, not particularily helpful.

So then we install complex search tools that open up the document and look for keywords in the document - Google Desktop springs to mind. But most people don't understand how to search for things. It takes a lot of trial and error and experience.

The end result are some very frusterated users who don't know what they're doing, or what they did wrong in the first place. We have a wonderfully powerful tool that can store a lifetime of data, but we don't understand how to use it because it is too flexible and too complex.

I'm a big fan of the iTunes "Organize my music" system. Sure, it has it's flaws and it's still not all that simple, but at the very least it makes the file system easier to use. I click on a music file, and blam, iTunes copies it into my music folder and adds it to my collection. I don't have to know where the file is located to listen to it - I just open iTunes and it takes care of the rest.

My old Mac 512ke was awesome, and here's why: It used small floppy disks. The old skool, 720kb disks. You couldn't fit that many files on one. Say 10 or 20 documents. Easy to organize, cause you label what's on the disk physically on the outside. How many documents does a user produce per day? 3? 5? Maybe 65 floppies a year?

It made sense to average joe because it was PHYSICAL. If it isn't PHYSICAL it requires TRAINING. The more complex and flexible, the more training it requires and the harder it is for average joe to be competant.

I wonder to myself all the time why our computers have to be so easy to install and remove software from. We're in a web age now - we don't need to install software on a machine.

Make the computer inflexible - have it include a web browser and a few applications that don't change (maybe self patch). Don't let the user randomly install stuff without making it a REALLY BIG DEAL. Most people should not be installing software. EVER. Then have the computer force average joe to use an organization scheme (like a database with REQUIRED FIELDS). Make it easier for average joe to search the database and computers become more friendly.

"A tsunami of food rolled across the casino buffet"

Thought for the day: I would really like to see the word "Tsunami" used ONLY to refer to a giant wave that floods and kills after an earthquake.

Example: "Nuke over U.S. could unleash electromagnetic tsunami"

A $7,200 million dollar idea.

I've been researching portable word processors lately. You know - the kind school kids use? Don't ask me why, but I seem to think I need one.

Pros: Lightweight (1.5lbs), No distractions, full size keyboard, portable, long battery life on AAs (20-200 hours)

Cons: Expensive as heck ($300 for a keyboard and lcd screen? Who are you kidding???) Equal in price to a laptop.

The ones I'm looking at are older. Mostly I'm looking at the Quickpad IR, though I really want a Alphasmart Neo. Been thinking - how much could it possibly cost to mass produce these damned things? If palm can sell the Zire for less than $100, and keyboards cost $5 (or less) brand spankin' new... Why are they selling for $139 with such antique technology?

How many schools are out there? The US Census says that there are 72 million people enrolled in school as of the year 2000. That's almost 24% of the population. Here's a crazy idea - build these things to have a few functions. 1) Textbook e-reader. 2) Graphing Calculator 3) Word Processor. Holy killer application, batman. It seems like Alphasmart already has a good form factor down with the Dana. If the damned thing were $99, it would sell like crazy. Wipe Texas Instruments right out of the market.

I would probably give it a propreitary ROM plugin for textbooks, like an old Nintendo. That way, you keep the data secure and prevent competition. It's GOT to cost significantly less to punch out textbook roms than an actual book. Give it some slick functions like using the word processor to do homework problems and integrate the graphing calculator. Take notes as you follow the teacher along in the book. Once you have a good format down, think of the possibilities.

A highschool student needs what, 4-7 textbooks? And a graphing calculator? And a computer to type it on? 4 textbooks times $60 (Assuming the textbooks are used for a couple years) + Graphing calculator ($70 / 3 years = ~$24) + student use of computer lab for typing (We'll just say $20 for convience) = $284 a year. Replace all that with a device and 4 roms. Device = $99/2 years (assuming that a bunch get lost/broken) + 4 roms @ $50 each = $250, or a savings of $34 per student.

That would be a $2.5 billion dollar yearly saving applied to all students.

Plus it would be plenty of profit for the book companies and the device maker.

Talk about bad planning...

"My wife and I are both 62 and retired. We receive Social Security and have a $400,000 stock portfolio that generates income of about $500 a month. Would it make sense to take money from our stock portfolio to purchase a fixed income annuity so we can increase our monthly income for life?"

Very impressive there, slick. Your portfolio produces a 1.5% return. Way to go! And retiring early with a HUGE nestegg of $400,000? Sheer fucking brilliance.