Thursday, June 25, 2009

Why PodCasts Suck

  1. Amateurs, Amateurs, Amateurs...
    Let's face it - there is a serious signal-to-noise problem considering how easy it is to make a podcast with any laptop and most cell-phones today. Here are a few clues - if you can't be bothered to write a script and buy a decent microphone - you shouldn't be published on iTunes...
  2. Shiny Happy People
    People who are too damned bubbly are just as annoying on a podcast as they are in creepy commercials. Keep your banter to a minimum and don't let it stray to the innane.
  3. I wasted how much time/memory on this?!
    The best tagline that I know is for a podcast called Writing Excuses : "15 minutes long because you're in a hurry & we're not that smart!"
    Respect your audience's time and they will come back to you. Go light on the fluff and heavy on the substance.
  4. Rerun Central
    Some people feel the need to re-run old episodes in a new time slot. This is stupid because the backlog of old episodes is still on the server and annoying to people who find their play-count off & their storage space wasted.
    The worst offenders are people with embedded ads - often the podcast is recycled seemingly ONLY to update the ads. That is a fast way to lose subscribers.
  5. Snail-like Production Pace
    Not everyone can pump out episodes like a Japanimation Studio - but it you are running a 'beginners course' or somesuch - be sensitive that some people will actually watch from the beginning and might find a 3 month hiatus in filming to be a serious drag.
  6. Off Topic - Off the Road - Off the Subscription List
    Pick your topic carefully and stick to it. JavaPosse for example takes a lot of heat for veering off the Java topic and going on about Apple and the iPhone on occasion. I still listen, but their podcasts are notoriously long.
  7. Hubris
    A lot of podcasters seem to suffer from the assumption that they are suddenly an Authority on a subject. A little humility would suit you better. Think about it, do you really want to speak down to your audience?

Monday, June 22, 2009

iPhone 3.0 Review Revisions

I was very wrong about that wi-fi hotspot login feature. It is in fact possibly more annoying than before because it will favor the log-in page for a hot-spot over a cached page from the last one you were at.

The Voice Memo app seems to have better sound quality than some of the existing apps - so I imagine that it is an issue of compression & I assume Apple is using QuickTime...

One odd thing - Whatever "SMS Texts" were called before have been replaced with "Messages" which is odd to me since on the AT&T GoPhone plan they are US$0.20 each. So I really think that giving it an ambiguous name is a bad idea.

Oh and am I the only one that is tired of reading about AT&T whining about the iPhone saturating their under-developed network?

When is Apple going to wise-up and get a business partner that doesn't constantly bash them? Just try walking into an AT&T store and looking for a decent iPhone customer experience. From accessories available to the sales pitch trying to sell you a Blackberry from the onset and then the endless ways they ratchet up the charges with a built-in auto-accept policy if they arbitrarily raise their rates <10% style="font-style: italic;">anyone do business with this company? It is a Faceless Instrument of Disrespect and I loathe being tethered to them as my service provider.

An iPhone 1.0 User's Review of 3.0

My first reaction to hearing about the features of the 3.0 release were shock and anger - in that it became apparent that the ability to find a stolen iPhone was something that law-enforcement did not actually use nor take seriously!

I know that if someone slapped the label "terrorist" on me they would be able to track me down in minutes by my phone - but if someone commits a felony theft of my expensive portable computing platform - nothing is done. !?

Does that mean that now we have to look up the position for them and tell them where it is - now that this 'find my iPhone' feature is now available? There is so much wrong with this entire train of thought that I need to derail it before I give myself an aneurysm.

My next reaction after downloading it & trying to install & subsequently sync is that it took about an hour of waiting for the backup to complete - and I don't even have the new 'encrypted backup' check-box ticked off.

It picked up a couple of Outlook related calendar conflicts - easy enough to resolve, and interestingly enough waited until after the update to install the new application updates that I had downloaded this morning. Thankfully this makes Twitterrific work again - something that I strangely found myself missing while traveling.

The cut & paste is OK. It took too long to come out & so it seems that they made sure that it is polished. I would have been happier to get it sooner & have it only work with text - the 90% use case scenario - but hey whatever.

The universal search tool is nicer - but only seems to search Apple apps so far. Perhaps there is an API for that so we might see other apps getting search hits too - but I really don't know.

I do like the new Voice memos app - which is so long overdue that it is redundant since I have multiple apps that do the same thing already installed. Landscape mode in email & other places is also one of those things that took too long to polish but is satisfying to finally have.

So far however the most satisfying feature of all is the ability to log into a WiFi network from the Settings Screen - so that it presumably remembers the login info every time I use a hot-spot. This is the single most annoying thing about hotspots in general - so if it works in the way that it seems to I will be very happy.

Thursday, June 11, 2009

Follow up on "Fair & Balanced"

What follows is an excerpt from the transcript of Hardball with Chris Matthews from Friday, July 28th, 2008 wherein Chris interviews Scott McClellan, former White House press secretary for the administration of President George W. Bush: [source]

MATTHEWS: Did you see FOX television as a tool when you were in the White House, as a useful avenue for getting your message out?

MCCLELLAN: Well, I make a distinction between the journalists and between the commentators. Certainly, there were commentators and others, pundits, at FOX News that were helpful to the White House.


MCCLELLAN: Certainly, we got talking points...


MCCLELLAN: ... those people.

MATTHEWS: Did people say, call Sean, call Bill, call whoever? Did you do that as a regular thing?


MCCLELLAN: Certainly. Certainly. It wasn‘t necessarily something I was doing, but it was something that we at the White House, yes, were doing and getting them talking points and making sure they knew where we were coming from.

MATTHEWS: So, you were giving them talking points...


MCCLELLAN: But I would separate the journalists.


MATTHEWS: No, no, this is important.


MATTHEWS: You were using these commentators as your spokespeople?

MCCLELLAN: Well, certainly. I mean, certainly. I think that happens to both ways, when people go on other networks, as well, that are—that are favorable towards Democrats and so forth.

MATTHEWS: Well, nobody has ever fed me any crap like that, so I don‘t know what you‘re talking about.


MCCLELLAN: Well, you‘re an independent-minded guy.

MATTHEWS: I—I—thank you.

But aren‘t you a little embarrassed by the fact that your White House used a television network which is purportedly fair and balanced as your mouthpiece?

MCCLELLAN: Well, I think everybody in this town uses people that are going to be helpful to their cause to try to shape the narrative to their advantage.

MATTHEWS: But a whole network?

MCCLELLAN: Again, I would separate the journalists, because the journalists that I worked with were people, just like the rest of the White House press corps, who would try to report the news.

MATTHEWS: So, you wouldn‘t use Brit Hume as somebody to sell stuff for, but you would use the nighttime guys?

MCCLELLAN: Yes, I would separate that out. And, certainly, and they will say that that‘s because they agree with those views in the White House.

MATTHEWS: Well, they didn‘t need a script, though, did they?

MCCLELLAN: Well, probably not.

'Wedge'y Strategy

What is going on over at FOX News? Have they just completely dropped the "Fair & Balanced" facade? Balanced on what?

I am going to point to two cases of what I characterize as paranoid, defensive, and Christian-centric commentaries that have been made recently.

The first was the reaction to the newly minted President Obama including 'non-believers' in his inaugural address:

And the second was the reaction to President Obama's speech in Turkey where he defines America as a Nation of Citizens and not a Christian Nation:

I have a few points to make here in addition to those made by the producers of those YouTube videos:
  • Obama included other Religions in his inaugural address alongside 'non-believers' but the question was never asked if any of them should also be offended
  • Obama said that we are also not a Muslim Nation - but no one asks if they are offended or 'under siege'? etc.
  • I distinctly remember a tone coming from them 8 years ago where questioning The President at a Time of War was tantamount to treason. Is the War over? Last I checked, no.
Now let us be clear: I am neither a Democrat nor a Muslim. Above all else I attempt to practice rational thought and analysis whenever possible. The point I am making is not politically motivated.

But the point I am making is that the rhetoric at Fox News clearly is relgiously and politically motivated and any attempt at being "Fair & Balanced" is an effort only to maintain a false pretense.

There is clearly a tone of being 'out to get' Obama which is an obvious shift from the 'we need to support' Bush attitude afforded to the last Executive Regime.

What I find insidious about this is that Obama is not the only target. He is low hanging fruit to anyone whose doctrine reflects the Wedge Strategy in any way. I see a pattern of behavior there that distinctly resonates the character of that ideaology. What am I talking about? Please read.

Wednesday, June 10, 2009

Socratic Method and Theism

We live in a world of conflict. Wedge Strategies by manipulative minorities erode a sense of sameness and attempt to draw attention to the differences between us - and while we are busy duking it out - they sneak up on us and try to pull things...

The Religious Conflict that has been stoked for years is very disturbing. There are a lot of religions in the world - but the conflict that I am talking about - really amounts to multiple concurrent conflicts. When you add them together you find multiple groups that are pushing mutually exclusive ideologies: (In alphabetical order)
  • Christianity
  • Islam
  • Judaism
  • Non-Believers
  • Scientology
These groups, in some part at the very least, have it in for each other - though that is not a blanket statement nor an over-generalization nor does it apply in all cases. Certainly there are zealots on all sides - a few minutes worth of searching on YouTube yields hours of testimony to this fact.

I am using the 'Non-Believer' label loosely here. I was blown away when Fox News asked the question "Is Obama's use of the term non-believers inclusive or offensive?" Based on the speech and the context of the remark, if that question were on the S.A.T. exam - I would have chosen 'inclusive'. I am pretty sure that were I to have answered such a question with 'offensive' I would have lost a point on that question.

The term 'Atheist' is weird - since it defines a group by what they don't believe - which is never done with any other usage of the post-fix 'ist'. Some people who fall in that category reject the term and others wear it like a badge.

'Agnosticism' does not preclude a belief, but neither does it imply one. Actually I wouldn't put Agnostics in one of the war-camps. If anything they are the biggest losers in the conflict since they are heavily solicited on all sides by those trying to convert people that are considered 'fence-sitters' by one of the aforementioned groups.

I have said before that I do not promote a belief in anything. That is not to say that I do not believe in anything. I am saying that I do not want to believe in anything - I would prefer to think about everything. That gives me the ability to change over time and learn from mistakes.

I do not find the concept of "Faith" to be reassuring. On the contrary, I find the idea of relinquishing my reason to someone else whose judgement I do not trust to be terrifying. It would be difficult for me to mindlessly believe something that was explained to me by someone else who mindlessly believed it. If they had thought about it deeply and could explain to me why they believed something and they used a line of reasoning that I could understand and accept the odds of me accepting it are greater.

True Faith - as it has been explained to me by True Believers - precludes the need to question apparently. If that is so - then the only thing that I have faith in is Asking Questions.

Tuesday, June 9, 2009

More Fun with Math

How are we doing as a species? I think a lot of people would argue on both sides of that question.

And I think I find that very telling today.

The reason why is that as of this point in history the glass is at 0.5 capacity. Half full and half empty.

Here's what I mean by this:

I was curious just how many humans the Earth can sustain at one time, so I researched it.

It is not a simple equation. That being said - I took away the over-simplified answer that every average human requires 2.1 hectares of land to support their biological needs for air, food and water. (NOTE: This is not how Americans live - we're more in the 10 hectares each range. That is the overall average human experience from Aspen to Zimbabwe)

So I asked the next logical question: How many hectares of land are there on Earth?
The answer is 14.8 billion hectares.

So - here is the fun with math:
(14.8 * 1 000 000 000) / (6 700 000 000 * 2.1) = 1.05188344

All the land divided by the current world population's requirement for land equals just enough.

So - we are at the median point in history where we have only as much as we need - and nothing more. This clearly shows that if the human population continues to grow - we ALL have serious problems ahead.

Doing the Math

The World Bank pegs the global GDP in 2004 at US$40.887 trillion [source]

I have included a chart showing how much of the USA's GSP has been devoted to NASA. The peak was the Apollo program which approached 1% of everything produced by the USA.

The pricetag that Scientology puts on becoming an OT8 - i.e. a 'clear' - can be approximately US$380,000 [source]

The population of the world is around 6.7 Billion people. [source]

Scientology's stated intent is to Clear the World.

So my question is : what will that cost?

Based on the above, I came up with:

6 700 000 000 * 380 000 = 2.54600 × 1015

Or US$254,600,000,000,000,000,000
Or 254 and a half Quintillion greenbacks.

So let's compare that with ALL THE MONEY IN THE WORLD:
(6 700 000 000 * 380 000) / 40 887 000 000 000 = 62.2691809

Or it will cost more than 62 times all of the wealth in the entire world to Clear the entire world.

Now - I want to go out of my way to point out that I am not bashing Scientology. I am simply pointing out a logical question:

Assuming that I got my math even vaguely correct - there is a huge discrepency here. The largest uncertainty comes from the price-tag. If I am way over the top there (and I have yet to see any evidence of that) - and it is only a third of that price - then do we really need twenty-something planets worth of resources to Get The Job Done?

Or.... or maybe - just maybe - The Church of Scientology needs to start working on getting that price down. A lot.

According to Tom Cruise, they're just here to help. Right? Well so am I. Lower your prices to match your mission. Anything else belies a lack of Conviction in your own Beliefs.

The finest yardstick to measure someone by is how they measure up to their own beliefs, no?

[Full Disclosure - I am not a Scientologist. I do not advocate a belief in anything. My intention is not religious persecution, rather I am simply exercising my freedom of speech to ask questions about what appear to be logical fallacies. My best advice to everyone is: "Question Everything - Real Truth should be able to honestly answer all questions."
If you still find my questions to be offensive after the courtesy that I have afforded you then my advice is to grow thicker skin and think deeply on a regular basis. No 'belief' should be so weak as to be put at risk by someone else asking questions.]

Tuesday, June 2, 2009

Just Say No to Facebook

I got a nagging email this morning - from Facebook.

Now I don't know if the person who initially invited me to Facebook actually triggered the reminder email or if it is an automatic 'feature', but this is the text content of the message:

Check out my photos on Facebook

Hi [my email address], I invited you to join Facebook a while back and wanted to remind you that once you join, we'll be able to connect online, share photos, organize groups and events, and more. Thanks, [name of friend who fingered me for them]

Am I over-reacting by saying that I find this to be obnoxious?

If it is not obvious - I do not use Facebook. Nor will I.

I went through the process of giving away personally identifying information that was shared automatically without any ability to hide it (i.e. your age on you home page) when my luddite friends pressured me into joining MySpace. Facebook is notorious for being even more wreckless with how they treat your personal information. I'll Pass.

There is nothing that these services offer that I can not do for free on my own computer in my own house on my own broadband connection - better - and without all of their advertising.

Technically - the same goes for this blog. When they force me to insert ads - I am out of here. If Twitter decides to get personal with me - g'bye! It is just that simple. Using one service while blasting another doesn't make me a hipocrite - it makes me a selective consumer.

Just Say No to Crap - be it products or services. The more that people buy into these scenarios, the more we perpetuate them.

Monday, June 1, 2009

Ozzy Sues Tony Iommi

So the feud isn't over it would seem.

Ozzy, having a lot more money these days has decided to try to use it to crowbar shared-ownership of the Black Sabbath brand name. While on the surface his requests seem reasonable - his claim about the brand only generating 'worth' after being plugged by Ozzfest is ridiculous.

But don't take my word for it, here are the words direct from Sharon's-ahem-Ozzy's pen:

Statement from OZZY OSBOURNE:

"It is with great regret that I had to resort to legal action against my long term partner, Tony Iommi, but after three years of trying to resolve this issue amicably, I feel I have no other recourse. As of the mid-1990's, after constant and numerous changes in band members, the brand of 'Black Sabbath' was literally in the toilet and Tony Iommi (touring under the name Black Sabbath) was reduced to performing in clubs. Since 1997 when Geezer, Bill and myself rejoined the band, Black Sabbath has returned to its former glory as we headlined sold-out arenas and amphitheatres playing to upwards of 50,000 people at each show around the world. We worked collectively to restore credibility and bring dignity back to the name 'Black Sabbath' which lead to the band being inducted into the UK and US Rock & Roll Hall of Fames in 2005 and 2006, respectively. Throughout the last 12 years, it was my management representatives who oversaw the marketing and quality control of the 'Black Sabbath' brand through OZZFEST, touring, merchandising and album reissues. The name 'Black Sabbath' now has a worldwide prestige and merchandising value that it would not have had by continuing on the road it was on prior to the 1997 reunion tour. Tony, I am so sorry it's had to get to this point by me having to take this action against you. I don't have the right to speak for Geezer and Bill, but I feel that morally and ethically the trademark should be owned by the four of us equally. I hope that by me taking this first step that it will ultimately end up that way. We've all worked too hard and long in our careers to allow you to sell merchandise that features all our faces, old Black Sabbath album covers and band logos, and then you tell us that you own the copyright. We're all in our 60's now. The Black Sabbath legacy should live on long after we have all gone. Please do the right thing."