Sunday, December 28, 2008

Ravenweb 2008 Year in Review

We're nearing the end of another year, and I wanted to highlight some of the major posts and blog stats from the past year.

Most Popular Posts


1. Scrubs Finale?
2. Configuring a Wireless HP Photosmart C4380
3. Seinfeld
4. Embedded Blog Comment Form


Most Popular Book Posts

1. How Starbucks Saved My Life by Michael Gates Gill
2. The Brief Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao by Junot Díaz


Most Popular RSS Posts

1. How Starbucks Saved My Life by Michael Gates Gill
2. Slam by Nick Hornby
3. Seinfeld

Sunday, December 07, 2008

The Sugar Fix by Richard J. Johnson and Timothy Gower

The Sugar Fix: The High-Fructose Fallout That Is Making You Fat and Sick warns of the dangers of eating a diet high in fructose and correlates excess fructose consumption to a number of serious medical conditions, including high blood pressure, heart disease, diabetes, and kidney disease.

The book covers all aspects of fructose in detail, including how it's absorbed into the body, the relationship between fructose and uric acid, how fructose doesn't satisfy an appetite, and the significance of high-fructose corn syrup, a sweetener in which fructose is a key component.

One caveat/disclaimer: while the lead author (Richard J. Johnson, MD) comes across as sincere and presents a persuasive argument with ample data and research, he clearly has a vested interest in the success of his argument and even has developed a Low-Fructose diet and submitted several related patent applications. So, as always when at the intersection of an argument and a possible business venture, stay wary of the marketing and take what you can from the underlying data.

Monday, December 01, 2008

The Wisdom of Crowds by James Surowiecki

Earlier this year, I attended a project kickoff meeting for a large website redesign project. There were many attendees, over two dozen if I remember correctly, from various business units and departments, and a vendor team was also present.

One of the recurring themes of the meeting was the importance of diverse groups in large, complex projects. To reinforce the point, the Project Leader distributed a copy of The Wisdom of Crowds by James Surowiecki to every meeting attendee.

I was interested in the concept presented at the meeting and followed up by reading the book.

The Wisdom of Crowds very much endorses the notion that groups are remarkably intelligent, and are often smarter than the smartest people in them or a single brilliant individual. But not just any group. As Surowiecki demonstrates, not all groups are wise and some become mobs. For a group's collective intelligence to rise and produce better outcomes than a single or small group of experts, four conditions must be met. Wise crowds need diversity of opinion, independence of members from one another, decentralization, and a good method for aggregating opinions.

Surowiecki provides several examples of collective intelligence outperforming individual experts and looks at, among other examples, Google, voting, betting, and traffic.

Friday, November 14, 2008

Travis Belrose

I previously blogged about my friend Travis Belrose, who has recently completed The Samurai Poet, a historical novel set in Japan.

Since then, Travis has established a personal website containing more information about the novel, and links to further topical reading and images of the Shisendo temple in Kyoto that inspired the creation.

Check out the website of Travis Belrose at http://www.travisbelrose.com/.

Thursday, November 13, 2008

The Sociopath Next Door by Martha Stout

The Sociopath Next Door is a fascinating study of individuals who seem to be born without a moral conscience and make up 4% of the population.

Author Martha Stout describes the defining features of sociopaths, including superficial charm, deceitfulness, impulsiveness, and a lack of remorse, and offers three examples of such people.

In the final analysis, the text is interesting and arresting, and provides telling insight into sociopaths and some of their common behavioral patterns.

Tuesday, November 11, 2008

Embedded Blog Comment Form

I've gone ahead and incorporated the new Blogger feature that puts the comment form at the bottom of each post page, instead of on a separate page.

I hope the enhancement adds to the usability of this blog and makes it easier to comment.

For those of you who are fellow Blogger users, you can read more about the feature here.

Wednesday, November 05, 2008

We Did It

It was great to be an American tonight.

Monday, November 03, 2008

Tuesday, October 28, 2008

One Week and Counting!

There's only one logical choice, of course ....



Photo by Drew Friedman from the New Yorker.

Monday, October 27, 2008

Bad Money by Kevin Phillips

If you're angling for a frightening read this Halloween, instead of picking from the Horror genre, let me recommend Bad Money by Kevin Phillips, a long and hard look at the realities of our economic plight. Phillips examines everything from our mounting public and private debt, the collapsing housing market, the link between oil and our economy, the rise in financial services as a portion of our GDP at the expense of manufacturing, and the hubris and failures in the financial sector.

Though written in late 2007, the book might as well have been authored today, as Phillips clearly saw the consequences of the housing bubble on the overall economy.

Phillips' predictions for the future are grim, and he argues that the likely end of American domination of world markets parallel the declines of previous leading world economic powers, notable especially the Dutch and British.

Monday, October 13, 2008

Beyond Polling: Presidential Projections and Futures

I've comes across two interesting websites that project the upcoming presidential election in very different ways:

FiveThirtyEight.com - A monster polling tracker and aggregator, FiveThirtyEight.com accumulates and analyzes polling and political data and provides keen assessments of the likely outcomes of upcoming elections.

Iowa Electronic Markets - The Iowa Electronic Markets are small-scale, real-money futures markets where contract payoffs depend on economic and political events such as elections. Perhaps the most popular IEM markets are the 2008 U.S. Presidential Election Markets, where contract payoffs will be determined by the popular vote cast in the 2008 U.S. Presidential Election.

Friday, October 03, 2008

Configuring a Wireless HP Photosmart C4380

Updated on 2009-11-16:
It's been over a year since I wrote this, and lot of people continue to find this page from Google, which leads me to believe that people are still having problems with their HP Photosmart C4380s. For the record, over a year later the workaround I detailed here is still working for me. If you have something to add that might help others, please feel free to add to the comments. The original post follows below.

##
 
So, we bought a wireless printer. After some initial back and forth, we settled on a wireless HP Photosmart C4380. I thought we did a fair bit of research before purchasing the product, but apparently not enough, as there were many issues and surprises that we discovered only after we setup the device.

I'm posting this to relate the significant difficulties we encountered setting up the printer and post workarounds I've implemented for the benefits of others who might be considering this product or who may have already purchased it and are looking for support.

The printer configuration was not easy. It took me over a dozen hours spanning multiple days to resolve all of the issues, and I was really forced to draw upon all of my IT experience to get everything working as expected.

Of course, operating system setup and configuration plays a role when installing any device, so let me preface everything by reporting that the system I was configuring to use the printer is a fully-patched, high memory and CPU Windows XP desktop that's connected to a Linksys WRT150N wireless router.

I've condensed the problems I encountered into three core issues and workarounds:

1. The HP Setup software (installed on my desktop) could not find the printer wirelessly.

Workaround:

  • Add the printer as a wired printer, installing all required drivers and services (minimum HP software).
  • Determine the printer's MAC address.
  • Add the printer's MAC address to the router's MAC address filter list. You may need to turn on MAC address filtering.
  • Install a new device using the HP setup software.
  • Now the software will find the wireless printer.
  • Add the printer as a wireless printer (remove the wired printer).
  • If you initially had MAC address filtering disabled, you can disable filtering again.
The wireless printer should now be working and you should be able to print. However, post-install, you will encounter other issues:

2. After getting the printer setup, the computer runs sluggishly, and the CPU eventually locks at 100%.

Workaround:

  • Remove or disable all HP software (if you installed any) other than the requisite drivers.
  • Change the Startup Type of the "HP Network Devices Support" service from Automatic to Manual.
3. The printer goes offline and will not come back online.

Workaround:

  • Change the Startup Type of the "HP CUE DeviceDiscovery" service to Disabled.

For further information, check out the forum link below, which delves into some of these issues in greater detail:

http://www.fixya.com/support/t239273-unable_complete_wireless_installation_hp

Tuesday, September 23, 2008

The Chaneysville Incident by John Bradley

I read a lot of books, and sometimes even manage to comment about them here. More often that not, I enjoy most of the books I post about. This is probably because (admittedly) I look for books by authors I already know or that I have an inkling -- from word of mouth or reviews -- that I'll enjoy.

Still, you never know when you're going to read a book that you really like or that makes others pale in comparison. The Chaneysville Incident is such a novel.

I came to read The Chaneysville Incident after asking for suggestions for a big book for my long flights to and from Japan. One of my work colleagues suggested it, and though I'd never heard of it or author John Bradley, I decided to give it a try.

I'm really glad I did. On the surface, the novel is a well-honed and affecting story of historian John Washington's attempt to discover what happened to thirteen runaway slaves in Chaneysville, Pennsylvania. The protagonist's efforts to reconstruct the past elevate the narrative, through various rhetorical devices and an interesting contrast that plays out throughout the novel between historical detachment and historical discovery and recreation.

Googling the novel, I was surprised that the book has garnered only minimal praise and seems to have become almost forgotten. Certainly, as a novel of the black experience in America, I would rank The Chaneysville Incident alongside anything from the past forty years, including Morrison's Beloved or Song of Solomon.

Monday, September 15, 2008

Bad Monkeys by Matt Ruff

Bad Monkeys was my first introduction to Matt Ruff, and I was pleased.

Ostensibly a thriller about a self-confessed member of The Department for the Final Disposition of Irredeemable Persons, Bad Monkeys is somewhere in between a parody of a thriller and an actual thriller. Ruff treads the line pretty well, and the result is a fun and weird concoction.

Tuesday, September 09, 2008

Palin's Environmental Record

The McCain campaign is characterizing Palin as a leader on climate change, but with a record like hers, they no doubt meant that she's a leader on accelerating climate change and species extinction.

After all, in this time of environmental uncertainty, who doesn't want a vice president who denies that climate change is man-made, disputes the findings of scientists, blocks moves to list animals as endangered species, opposes ballot initiatives to protect species from industry, and is beholden to big oil and development.

Sources:

Environmentalists can't corral Palin (Associated Press)

Palin's "toxic" environmental policy would even make President Bush blush (Newkerala.com)

Friday, September 05, 2008

The Samurai Poet

Travis Belrose, one of my best friends, has recently completed a historical novel set in Japan. The Samurai Poet follows Ishikawa Jozan, a man who turned away from the samurai to a contemplative life of poetry and calligraphy. Travis has uploaded the first chapter of the novel at Authonomy, a new community site for writers, readers and publishers, by HarperCollins.

I've been in touch with Travis through all stages of this creation, from the early drafts to the final edits, and I can state emphatically that the book has truly been a labor of love, meticulously researched and well-crafted.

Check out The Samurai Poet and Travis's author profile at Authonomy.com.

Tuesday, August 05, 2008

Little Brother by Cory Doctorow

I started Little Brother thinking it was light young-adult SF about smart, net-savvy teenagers getting over and outwitting intrusive surveillance systems. Boy, did I underestimate this book! While on some level it is just that, it's also much more, and really is an important book for readers of all ages.

Little Brother follows seventeen-year-old Marcus who -- along with some friends -- is apprehended by the Department of Homeland Security following a major terrorist attack on San Francisco. After being held for many days in a secret prison, Marcus is finally released, but to a vastly different America and San Francisco -- where personal freedoms have been revoked and the city has become a police state. Marcus deliberates and uses all of his technical skills to protest and try and reclaim a piece of the America in which he believes.

9/11 was obviously fresh in Doctorow's mind when he wrote Little Brother, and the questions the novel poses -- about freedoms, privacy, security, and surveillance -- remain timely and important even seven years after the event.

Wednesday, July 30, 2008

The Book of Lost Things by John Connolly

The Book of Lost Things tells of a 12-year-old English boy, David, who enters a portal to a dark fantasy world where classic fairy tales (Little Red Riding Hood, Hansel and Gretel, Snow White) have all been inverted into unsettling derivatives. As David makes his way through the strange world, he learns to confront his fears and reconsiders his opinions about the life and family he left behind.

The novel is entertaining throughout and never feels derivative, even though the theme of traveling through a portal to another world is by no means original.

Tuesday, July 29, 2008

Back from Japan

We're back from Japan. Still processing, but musings and pictures to follow.

Thursday, July 17, 2008

Big Book for Long Flight

So I'm traveling to Japan on Sunday and I'm looking for recommendations for a really long book for the flights. The kind of book that is fun and rewarding but might be intimidating to start due to its length. Basically, the kind of book you need to take a running start at.

Can anyone offer any suggestions?

Keep in mind that I'm looking for something that's fun and that will keep me riveted. I'm certainly not trying to fill in one of the many gaps in my reading of the classics (no Proust, thank you very much). The book also shouldn't be so huge in size that it doesn't pack well.

Wickedly Entertaining

I recently attended a production of Wicked at Shea's Performing Arts Center (in Buffalo, NY), and can't remember ever enjoying a musical so much. Everything seemed to work -- the music, the cast, the high-end theatrics, and, of course, the story and its rich link to The Wizard of Oz source material.

I was particularly impressed with Carmen Cusack, who plays Elphaba (the Wicked Witch of the West).

After the show ended, I couldn't stop thinking about it and kept coming back to the feeling that this was so much better than the second Star Wars trilogy and a far superior retelling of a story from the point of view of one of its villains. Perhaps Wicked revealed just how much you can do when you really shift the point of view and tease out the possibilities. Or maybe Elphaba is just more fun than Darth Vader. And more green.

Sunday, July 13, 2008

The Brief Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao by Junot Díaz

The Brief Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao is a fabulous novel that is at once a chronicle of an overweight nerd and his cursed Dominican family and a sublime nerdboy paean.

The novel is richly narrated by multiple characters in English and Spanish, and the bloody history of the Dominican Republic provides the historic backdrop. What most distinguishes the book, though, are the many literary references, especially to Tolkien and comic books.

High marks to Díaz. I look forward to reading more fiction from him.

Wednesday, June 25, 2008

Nothing's Sacred by Lewis Black

I enjoy Lewis Black's riffs and rants a great deal (particularly on the The Daily Show), so I was excited when I neighbor dropped off one of his books, Nothing's Sacred.

Having enjoyed written material from other stand-up comedians (George Carlin and Bill Maher), I was expecting funny variants of Lewis Black's comedic material. I was mistaken.

Nothing's Sacred is instead a pretty underwhelming autobiography. While Black tried to intersperse some stand-up bits and emulate them in prose with vulgar language, sarcasm, and anger, the presentation that makes him funny when he's speaking was absent and the result was a big miss.

Pass on this one but still tune to Lewis Black on Comedy Central.

Tuesday, June 17, 2008

My Scrubs Finale

I was pretty critical of the Scrubs finale, so I thought it only fair that I put up and describe the Scrubs series finale I hope to see next season, when the show finishes its run on ABC.

Here are the major elements I think the finale has to capture:
  • The finale has to bookend the pilot, "My First Day", when Dr. John Dorian (J.D.) clocked in for his first day at Sacred Heart Hospital. Fittingly, the final episode should be titled "My Last Day" and feature J.D. working his final shift.

  • The daydream sequences should include riffs on finales from other shows, like M*A*S*H, Seinfeld, and Cheers.

  • The finale should combine the show's signature broad comedy elements with at least one serious arc. Perhaps the final act on the show should be Bob Kelso (now retired) getting rushed in after a medical emergency and the Sacred Heart doctors scrambling to try and save his life.

  • The soundtrack has to be strong and representative of the pop and indie montages the show has featured throughout its run.

  • Unlike some other series, the Scrubs finale should not bring J.D. and Eliot together. They could have one last roll in the hay, but nothing like Ross and Rachel, please.

  • There has to be a moment of reconciliation between J.D. and the janitor (although there should be no such moment between J.D. and Dr. Cox), and we should learn the janitor's name.

  • It would be nice if most of the extended support cast made the finale. This includes the obvious choices, like the Todd and Jordan, but also some of the lesser supporting characters, like Lloyd, the ambulance driver.

Friday, June 13, 2008

Tim Russert

I was very saddened to learn today of the sudden passing of Tim Russert.

In a media saturated age when it is sometimes difficult to discern the talking head journalists from political lobbyists, Tim Russert always seemed to rise above the fray, and ask the tough questions while maintaining professionalism.


It seems an especially cruel twist of fate that Tim went this year, at this time, just before the ramp up to what will likely by a historic election.

Besides mourning Tim Russert's loss as a political journalist, I'll also miss him as a fellow son of Buffalo, who always represented his hometown well and never missed an opportunity to cheer on the Bills or the Sabres.

Monday, June 09, 2008

Rhetorical Occasions by Michael Bérubé

Rhetorical Occasions collects twenty-four Bérubé essays and presents a good showcase of the author's wide range, spanning literary theory and criticism, cultural studies, academic life, politics, and even scholarly blog writing.

This was the first Bérubé text I read, and I purposely spread out the essays and read them over a year, to allow the material to distill.

Good stuff and definitely recommended, although readers with little interest in scholarly writing might want to steer toward some of Bérubé's archived blog writings instead.

Friday, June 06, 2008

Obama-Wan Kenobi

If the Democratic victories in Congress and the Senate in November 2006 represented a new hope, then Obama's ascension as the presumptive nominee for the Democratic Party no doubt indicates that the Jedi has indeed returned and is preparing to confront the Emperor.

Monday, June 02, 2008

Now, Discover Your Strengths by Marcus Buckingham and Donald O. Clifton

I heard of Now, Discover Your Strengths from my wife, who read it for one of her MBA classes. I thought the conceit -- that a focus on enduring strengths is more important than eliminating weaknesses -- was interesting and seemed to match up against my experiences in various workplace roles.

So even though I knew the book was wrapped around some product that the authors were pitching, I gave it a try.

While I've not read a lot of the contemporary titles about effectively managing personnel, I felt from the start that what the authors were proposing was bold, different, and against the grain.

Their model consists of the following core arguments culled from Gallup data:

- All people have areas of talent.
- The greatest room for growth for people is in an area of strength.

From this premise, the authors argue that it makes more sense for individuals to build up their strengths and manage around their weaknesses than it does to focus on remedying shortcomings. Likewise, organizations are advised to match employees to the right roles and build up strengths rather than trying to plug skill gaps. Organizations, the authors argue, also need to devise ways -- beyond promotion -- to help employees grow in their careers and continue to utilize their strengths.

Overall, I finished the book interested in learning more about strengths-based approaches to management.

One postscript. Though I was intrigued enough by the premise of the strength product the authors were promoting to want to take a look, I was unable to take the online assessment because I was reading a used copy of the book and my book id key had already been used (by my wife). This was not entirely surprising. What was, though, was that there was no way to take the test save buying another book and using a new key. No one time fee for readers like me who've read the book second-hand. I don't know, but it seems like a narrow marketing strategy for their product. What if I'm a manager and want all my employees to take the test but not read the book?

Tuesday, May 27, 2008

427

A couple of weeks ago -- on May 9, 2008, to be precise -- I had 427 visitors to my blog. This was unprecedented traffic and the highest single day visitor total I've had in all the years I've maintained a website.

Of course, compared to some blogs, like Scalzi's The Whatever, this is a paltry number that he exceeds probably every hour. But in the context of my blog, it was a lot.

At first, I was bewildered by the traffic. While I had published a short rant the night before about the disappointing Scrubs finale, it was a pretty thin post, without much to offer the interested visitor. And then I looked at Google Analytics and saw that nearly all the traffic I received on May 9 came from Google, via various keyword combinations of "scrubs" and "finale". Because I'd titled the May 8 post "Scrubs Finale?" and published right after I watched the episode, I got indexed and caught a lot of traffic from disgruntled Scrubs fans looking to vent about how hard the season finale sucked.

It was an interesting lesson in the power of key phrases and search engines.

Saturday, May 24, 2008

Degrading Expandable Blog Posts in Blogger for Clients with JavaScript Disabled

Previously I discussed enabling expandable blog posts in Blogger through a template customization. While I liked the modification a great deal, I wanted to modify the output on clients with JavaScript disabled, where the tweak displays a link to the full post for every home page item.

After some meddling with the original code from http://bloggermagz.blogspot.com/, I adjusted the modification so that when JavaScript is disabled, the blog front page displays as it would without the tweak -- with complete posts and no links to full posts.

This seemed like the best option with the Blogger environment and still provided full usability for JavaScript-disabled clients.

Sunday, May 18, 2008

Expandable Blog Posts in Blogger

Update - Blogger had released functionality that does this. See You Might As Well Jump! from Blogger Buzz.

Following an email exchange with Ranting Nerd, I decided to add expandable posts to this blog that allow a summary lead-in on the main page (instead of the whole post) and a link to the the rest of the post on a separate page. See the "Seinfeld" and "How Starbucks Saved My Life by Michael Gates Gill" summaries and full-post links below to view this functionality.

For anyone using Blogger, I'd recommend the Expandable Post template customization from http://bloggermagz.blogspot.com/ to setup this feature. This is the best approach I've come across and provides flexibility for adjusting the summary for only those posts you want to manipulate. The only caveat is that the tweak uses JavaScript, and will display a link to the full post for every home page item in browsers in which JavaScript is disabled. I'm thinking of adjusting the JavaScript to render the output differently when JavaScript is disabled.

Wednesday, May 14, 2008

Seinfeld

Ten years ago, on May 14, 1998, the last episode of Seinfeld aired. Can you believe it's been that long already?

In honor of the show on this date, I've dug up some old Seinfeld trivia questions that used to live in a survey on one of my old websites that (like Seinfeld itself) has since passed on.

Enjoy.

Seinfeld Questions

( scroll down for the answers)

1. What is George's middle name?

[ ] Buck
[ ] Louis
[ ] Paco
[ ] Stephenson

2. On which television show did Kramer appear?

[ ] The Tonight Show
[ ] The Bold and the Beautiful
[ ] Cheers
[ ] Murphy Brown

3. What is Elaine's favorite baseball team?

[ ] The Mets
[ ] The Orioles
[ ] The Yankees
[ ] The Mud Hens

4. Who won "the contest"?

[ ] Elaine
[ ] George
[ ] Jerry
[ ] Kramer

5. Is Joe DiMaggio a dunker?

[ ] Yes
[ ] No

6. What was the name of the Bizarro Kramer?

[ ] Feldman
[ ] Michael
[ ] Ernie
[ ] Ice

7. From what type of macaroni did Kramer make a miniature figurine of Jerry?

[ ] Rigatoni
[ ] Fusilli
[ ] Ziti
[ ] Vermicelli

8. What was the name of the Calvin Klein cologne that was stolen from Kramer's idea?

[ ] Rugged Masculinity
[ ] Sand
[ ] C Kramer 1
[ ] The Beach

9. Based on what television show theme song did George create a singing answering machine message?

[ ] Three's Company
[ ] Cheers
[ ] The Greatest American Hero
[ ] Family Ties

10. What was the name of the woman who broke up with Kramer because she thought he was a "hipster doofus"?

[ ] Vivian
[ ] Marcy
[ ] Lola
[ ] Sheila

11. What is Kramer's first name?
[ ] Cosmo
[ ] Michael
[ ] Richard
[ ] Frank

12. What is the woman's name that Jerry can't remember that rhymes with a part of the female anatomy"?

[ ] Celeste
[ ] Dolores
[ ] Mulva
[ ] Viginia

13. George once bought a car because he thought the previous owner was which famous actor?

[ ] Liam Nissan
[ ] John Lovitz
[ ] Jason Alexander
[ ] Jon Voight

14. What did crazy Joe Devollo yell during the taping of the "Jerry" pilot?

[ ] "Dulce Et Decorum Est"
[ ] "Jerry"
[ ] "Sic Semper Tyrannis"
[ ] "En Vino Veritas"

15. Whose talk show did did Kramer recreate in his apartment?

[ ] Oprah's
[ ] Jerry Springer's
[ ] Phil Donahue's
[ ] Merv Griffin's

16. Who is Jerry's favorite superhero?

[ ] The Flash
[ ] Superman
[ ] Aquaman
[ ] Spiderman

17. Which of the following movies was NOT parodied on Seinfeld?

[ ] Batman
[ ] Schindler's List
[ ] Midnight Cowboy
[ ] JFK

18. What type of food did George eat out of the garbage?

[ ] An éclair
[ ] A hamburger
[ ] A donut
[ ] An apple

19. Which of the following was one of Putty's professions?

[ ] A Bible Salesman
[ ] A DJ
[ ] A Hockey Player
[ ] A Plumber

20. Which of the following baseball players did not NOT appear on Seinfeld?

[ ] Paul O'Neill
[ ] Danny Tartabull
[ ] Don Mattingly
[ ] Keith Hernandez

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Answers

1. What is George's middle name?

George's middle name is Louis.

2. On which television show did Kramer appear?

It was Murphy Brown.

3. What is Elaine's favorite baseball team?

Elaine's favorite baseball team is the Orioles.

4. Who won "the contest"?

Though George seemingly won the contest from that episode, he later admitted (on the final episode) that he in fact cheated. Thus, the winner was Jerry.

5. Is Joe DiMaggio a dunker?

Joe was a dunker.

6. What was the name of the Bizarro Kramer?

It was Feldman.

7. From what type of macaroni did Kramer make a miniature figurine of Jerry?

It was fusilli.

8. What was the name of the Calvin Klein cologne that was stolen from Kramer's idea?

It was The Beach.

9. Based on what television show theme song did George create a singing answering machine message?

It was The Greatest American Hero.

10. What was the name of the woman who broke up with Kramer because she thought he was a "hipster doofus"?

It was Lola.

11. What is Kramer's first name?

Kramer's first name is Cosmo.

12. What is the woman's name that Jerry can't remember that rhymes with a part of the female anatomy"?

It was Dolores.

13. George once bought a car because he thought the previous owner was which famous actor?

It was Jon Voight.

14. What did crazy Joe Devollo yell during the taping of the "Jerry" pilot?

He yelled "Sic Semper Tyrannis".

15. Whose talk show did did Kramer recreate in his apartment?

Kramer recreated The Merv Griffin Show.

16. Who is Jerry's favorite superhero?

It's Superman (of course).

17. Which of the following movies was NOT parodied on Seinfeld?

The Godfather was never parodied on Seinfeld.

18. What type of food did George eat out of the garbage?

An éclair.

19. Which of the following was one of Putty's professions?

He was a plumber.

20. Which of the following baseball players did not NOT appear on Seinfeld?

Don Mattingly never appeared on Seinfeld.

Tuesday, May 13, 2008

How Starbucks Saved My Life by Michael Gates Gill

Surely, the concept of How Starbucks Saved My Life is genius. White collar ad executive is downsized by the company he's worked for his entire professional life, finds humility, and takes an entry-level job at Starbucks. It's almost enough to make you think the book was written by a seasoned advertising professional. Oh, wait, it was.

Surface cynicism aside, author Michael Gates Gill and the story he recounts are very likable. It is at once compelling and startling that someone with the author's professional background and industry contacts would ever reach the point of working a menial job in the service industry. Just as surprising is that a young, hard-working Starbucks store manager would take a chance and hire him.

The book remains interesting when the deal is struck, and Gill joins Starbucks. It is at this point that we learn that there are no Starbucks co-workers, only "partners", and that fellow employees at Starbucks really do treat each in such a respectful manner. We also follow Gill as he works his way through various coffeehouse tasks, from cleaning bathrooms, to working the register, to manning the barista bar. Gill recounts the unusual and generous Starbucks benefits package that provides medical insurance to full and part time employees and that offers tuition reimbursement.

Truth be told, at times while taking in the sheer earnestness of the text, I couldn't help but feel a twinge of disbelief, remembering that the author worked in advertising for decades and would be naturally skilled at crafting a story with just the right message and positioning. Still, at the end, I took the author at his word: that there is dignity in honest labor and mutual respect.

Friday, May 09, 2008

Looking to Work in Sweden, Denmark, or Norway?

Here's an interesting article (from The Economist) about the difficulties Nordic nations are experiencing attracting and retaining foreign workers. Here's a portion of the article:
Unemployment in Sweden, Denmark, and Norway is well below the EU average, and employers are complaining of labor shortages and wage inflation. Sweden is pondering a proposal that will nearly guarantee two-year residence and employment permits to any non-EU worker with a job offer from a Swedish employer; workers would be able to extend the permits for another two years and would qualify for permanent status afterwards. Norway has cut the amount of time it takes to have paper processed for foreign workers. Whereas before it took weeks, foreigners can now start work as soon as they have properly filed their applications. Denmark has proposed a points-based green card system to draw engineers, IT experts, and other needed skilled employees. All three countries have had difficulty attracting even their quota of skilled foreign workers, as has neighboring Finland, which in seeming desperation has put out a promotional video to attract skilled workers, available in English, Polish, and Romanian, which touts the country's benefits, including "managers who treat workers almost like friends."

Source: The Economist, (04/11/08) Vol. 387, No. 8574, P. 56
So, if you've ever wanted to live and work in Sweden, Denmark, or Norway, now's probably an ideal time.

Thursday, May 08, 2008

Scrubs Finale?

I sure hope the episode that aired tonight -- "My Princess" -- was only the season and not the series finale of Scrubs.

If so, it was a bad way to go. First, the episode was out of sequence with the rest of the season 7 episodes and it was definitely a concept effort and not an episode that wrapped up the show or captured the essence of what's made Scrubs great these past seven years.

I wasn't feeling it and hope we get a proper Scrubs send-off.

Related:

My Scrubs Finale

Wednesday, May 07, 2008

All Marketers Are Liars by Seth Godin

I picked up All Marketers Are Liars after reading a blog review at Steven Clark's blog.

This is probably the first time I actively sought out and bought a marketing book, and at the risk of losing whatever tech cred I've built up, I have to say I enjoyed the text and Godin's smooth, conversational style. The conceit of the text is that a core driver of good marketing is the craft of telling authentic stories.

Godin hits a number of examples, including Baby Einstein, organic food, and Pumas.

I would have liked to have more quantitative and qualitative data to go along with the anecdotal evidence Godin provides, but this really isn't that kind of research exercise.

Tuesday, May 06, 2008

Eat, Pray, Love by Elizabeth Gilbert

A few months ago my wife read Eat, Pray, Love, and, after finishing it in what seemed like a single sitting, suggested I read it.

I recently did and am glad she made the suggestion. Eat, Pray, Love is a chronicle of the author's year of personal exploration across Italy, India and Indonesia, as she struggles to find herself after a painful, drawn-out divorce. My immediate impressions were that it was a very honest, personal book, in which the author was transparent throughout about her journey, missteps, and ultimate self-discovery.

Tuesday, April 15, 2008

Slam by Nick Hornby

With Slam, Nick Hornby returns to the male confessional narrative that solidified his literary reputation in High Fidelity.

The novel is narrated by Sam, a disarming teenage protagonist who's hero and "imaginary" best friend is skateboarding legend, Tony Hawk. Sam talks to Tony when he has problems and draws from the former's autobiography for insight. So the setup is firmly in place for an amusing young adult confessional novel with a skateboarding hook. Then the plot turns hard -- not unlike a skateboarding wipeout -- when Sam learns that his girlfriend is pregnant and he is to become a teenage father.

Hornby treats teenage pregnancy maturely and does not minimize the sweeping life changes facing Sam. Still, the skareboarding arc and Sam's interaction with a fictitious Tony Hawk persona ground the book and distinguish it from other realistic young adult novels.

Slam is worth reading, and while it in no way resonates as deeply as the author's other male confessional novels, Hornby fans and new readers alike should enjoy the book.

Wednesday, March 26, 2008

Western Antarctic Ice Chunk Collapsing

Well, we knew this was coming.



Anyone want to continue to pretend global warming is a fabrication?

Write ups are available here (Yahoo! News) and here (CNN).

Sunday, March 16, 2008

The Incredible Hulk Trailer

The trailer for The Incredible Hulk is out, and I'm psyched. If the clip is any indication, it looks like the second film in the new franchise avoids the mistakes of the overly ponderous Ang Lee effort and gets it right, illustrating Bruce Banner's dilemma of being the Hulk but contrasting that struggle with the need for the Hulk against monstrous villains, like the Abomination.

Tuesday, March 11, 2008

My Friend Gary Stars with Orlando Bloom

My friend Gary -- now residing in Japan while his wife completes a work assignment overseas -- recently starred in a commercial with Orlando Bloom. You can check out the stills (below) and watch the video on YouTube. In Gary's words, "look for the bald guy in the dark suit (side view and full frontal closeup)".

Congratulations to Gary as he continues in his modeling and acting.





Sunday, March 02, 2008

Halting State by Charles Stross

Halting State is a near-future police procedural that blends massively multiplayer online role-playing games, insider trading, and global politics.

The book is entertaining and fun. I struggled a bit with differentiating the two female narrators, but this didn't detract much from my overall enjoyment of the book.

For additional reaction to Halting State, check out this Ranting Nerd post, in which he reviews this book as well as Glasshouse.

Wednesday, February 13, 2008

Blogroll

I've added some additions to my blogroll and wanted to make note of them here:

ASCII Dreams is an interesting blog penned by a game developer and aspiring writer. There's a lot of good stuff on his blog, especially if you enjoy in-depth articles exploring the nuances of gaming.

Chronological Snobbery explores "the forgotten crevices of popular culture". Here you will find excessively detailed posts about all manner of media from the past, with a tilt toward 80s and 90s film, TV, and music.

I just stumbled upon Locust of Evil a few days ago, but I immediately enjoyed and quickly subscribed to this blog that's dedicated to current political events.

Sunday, February 03, 2008

The Conscience of a Liberal by Paul Krugman

Paul Krugman's The Conscience of a Liberal is a well-researched and masterfully crafted book that examines why the American middle class and relative income equality following the New Deal through the late 1970s have eroded over the past three and a half decades.

Krugman begins by demonstrating how the modern American middle class did not evolve but was systematically created through political movements, principally the New Deal reforms that led to the American welfare state. From this premise, Krugman shows how "movement conservatives" organized and came to power and exploited racial and cultural divisions until they were powerful enough to win elections and begin undermining the New Deal's achievements.

This has culminated, Krugman argues, in the movement conservative presidency of George Bush, whose disaster in Iraq and policies that favor the wealthy and big business have all exacerbated income inequality and, in effect, laid the groundwork for a new liberalism and progressive movement to reclaim power and restore and build on the fundamentals of the New Deal.

Thursday, January 31, 2008

What We Say Goes by Noam Chomsky

What We Say Goes presents Chomsky's latest thoughts and concerns about Iran, the unreported backdrop to the Israel-Palestine conflict, the occupations of Iraq and Afghanistan, and the growing power of the populist left in Latin America.

As with many of Chomsky's recent publications, the overarching themes are unchanged and remain focused on state power, propaganda, and social change.

What We Say Goes was culled from a series of Chomsky interviews with David Barsamian.

Monday, January 28, 2008

Autism Video

Since our daughter's birth, my wife and I have learned that with parenting comes great responsibility. Naturally, we want to nurture our daughter in every way we can and keep her safe and happy. Unfortunately, at times there seems to be so much to ward against.

One of the most devastating and rapidly growing conditions afflicting children today is autism. Autism is a brain development disorder that impairs social interaction and communication, and causes restricted and repetitive behavior, all starting before a child is three years old.

We came across this video about one little girl with autism and her parent's fight to raise awareness for better insurance funding for autism treatment, and felt compelled to link to it. Additionally, the band, Five for Fighting, is generously donating $0.40 to Autism Speaks each time the video is viewed.

Monday, January 14, 2008

A Dirty Job by Christopher Moore

A Dirty Job is a quirky novel about a meek but ultimately endearing "Beta Male" who becomes a reluctant agent of Death after his wife dies in childbirth.

This was my first introduction to Christopher Moore, and the book was a relaxing read, easy to consume and digest but probably lacking in nourishment. Still, not every novel has to be nutritious and make you contemplate being and time.

Sunday, January 13, 2008

Holiday Movie Roundup

Caring for a baby doesn't allow much time to see movies, but I saw a few over the holidays. The titles are listed in the order in which I saw the films.

Dan in Real Life was the first (and, to date, only) movie my wife and I saw in a movie theater since the birth of our daughter. Because the novelty of an evening out away from the baby loomed so large, it's difficult for me to assess if the movie was really any good or not. I can say I enjoyed Steve Carell's performance and the easy digestion of the movie. I was also happy to see Juliette Binoche again, and may finally forgive her (and all involved) for The English Patient.

Bukowski: Born Into This is a documentary about Charles Bukowski, a troubled but gifted Beat poet and novelist who, since his death in 1994, has become increasingly popular and interesting to modern readers.

I had heard of and read some Bukowski prior to seeing the film, but I was mostly ignorant about the author's life and work. The documentary included lots of footage and interviews that helped give me a sense of the open wounds and impulses that drove Bukowski's art. Fascinating, but not for the faint of heart.

Sicko is Michael Moore at his best, at last reducing his confrontational journalism and just telling true stories about sick people locked out of the American health care system. That Sicko demonstrates that the American health care system is broken is no great feat -- everyone in this country knows that and we'll no doubt hear all about it from every political nominee vying for the presidency this year. But what really stood out for me was how the film called into question the dissolution of benevolence, compassion, and charity in American society.