Friday, October 31, 2008

Pimp My Macbook

So if you've got a Macbook and you like the new model Macbooks but are disappointed that Jobs didn't jump to the next-gen tablet version that some people were hoping for, well, you can give these people $1,299 to mod your old Macbook into a tablet.

Pretty sweet, yes?

Thursday, October 30, 2008

The Philadelphia Phillies, World Series Champs

No words, really, for what happened last night. The metaphysical foundations of my universe have been called into question. Salvation? Original sin? Divine grace? Who knows what any of these things mean now.

But if you'll allow a personal indulgence, last night fulfilled something for me which I never, ever, thought would come to pass: I got to watch the Phillies win a World Series with my son.

Here's what he looked like the morning after the "rain suspension," when the full weight of his birthright bore down on him:

And here he is late last night, basking in the championship:

In the years to come, he will not, perhaps, remember the great run of '08 as clearly as he might wish. But I'll remember it well enough for the both of us.

Wednesday, October 29, 2008

Sailer, Krugman, Vegas

Steve Sailer has a long post taking issue with a Paul Krugman column from 1998. Without taking sides in the larger argument, Sailer links to this amazing story about how the financial crisis is hitting the Vegas strip:

There are more signs of just how much the Las Vegas Strip is hurting in this economic downturn. One of the valley's biggest casino companies, Boyd Gaming, saw a huge drop in profits, down 73-percent in the third quarter.

The company has also announced the delay of its signature resort, Echelon, will be much longer than anyone expected. The construction site will sit quiet until at least January of 2010.

The Echelon is the super-lux resort being built on the site of the old Stardust. The picture below is from August, when construction stopped:

Just as a stark contrast between what boom and bust look like, Caesar's Palace Tower was built in something like 6 months with crews working around the clock. This entire casino site in a central location on the Strip is going to sit totally dormant for at least 17 months.

Skynet Is Angry

Engagdet has a fantastic video with a robot mimic arguing that he should be allowed to destroy humanity.

Yes, if only Maggie was still in power . . .

Blu-Ray Days, cont.

Robin Harris makes a half-convincing case that Blu-ray won the format war only to become a niche videophile medium, like laserdisc. Engadget is skeptical of his argument.

I don't much care either way so long as studios keep moving back-catalog material over to the platform, though it would be nice to see wider adoption to push the disc prices down.

Tuesday, October 28, 2008

"Ya-Ya Sisterhood Bullshit"

M.E. Russell puts together a devastating critique of The Secret Life of Bees and the mini-genre to which it belongs:

These movies tend to be based on the sorts of books Oprah likes to endorse, and they contain some or all of the following:

* A precious, self-consciously offbeat title ("Fried Green Tomatoes," "Divine Secrets of the Ya-Ya Sisterhood").

* A condescending Hollywood interpretation of life in the South, in which people are either abusive racists full of hate or quirky saints full of hospitality.

* Hollywood stars putting on Southern accents like they're doing dinner-theater Tennessee Williams.

There's much more.

Letters from Iceland

I'm usually loathe to link to other writings, but I was in Iceland last week reporting on the economic meltdown over there and I think the resulting piece is kind of interesting. If you're into that sort of thing, it's here.

Après le Déluge

Why can't us? That's why.

There are a few different ways of looking at last night's rain-out. Here they are, in ascending order of paranoia:

(1) MLB did the Phillies a favor by suspending the game after the Rays tied it in the top of the 6th. Had the game been called after the 5th with the Phillies winning the World Series on a rain-out, their championship would have been viewed for all time as fraudulent.

(2) This was simple bad luck, no harm, no foul. They start over tied and play a short, three-inning game. MLB didn't cover itself in glory, but after the way Bud Selig has managed the game in recent years, none of this is any surprise.

(3) The TV network was simply trying to maximize audience by pushing MLB to even start the game last night, despite the fact that meteorologists knew exactly what was coming. There was no conspiracy.

(4) There was a conspiracy, but not against the Phillies. Had the game been called after five, the Phillies would have won the World Series. But MLB allowed it to continue until the Rays could tie it to avoid embarrassment.

(5) There was a conspiracy against the Phillies. Selig's confusing post-game announcement that he had--just recently!--changed the rules for rain-outs in the playoffs reeks of cover-up. If you think that MLB was simply waiting for the Rays to tie the game or get the go-ahead run before calling the affair, Selig's claim that he would never have allowed the game to be completed after five and a half innings doesn't make much sense because (a) No one else seems to have known the rules had been changed; (b) Selig was vague about when the rule was changed; and (c) Then why not just postpone the game in the 5th? Media who were there say that there was no material difference in the field between the middle of the 5th and the middle of the 6th--it was unplayable in both. This looks like MLB trying to bail out the Rays any way they could.

(6) There was a conspiracy against the Phillies. Not by Fox or MLB. You know where I'm going with this: Fog Bowl.

In His wisdom, God does not want the Phillies to win the World Series. So He opened the heavens and sent the rains. He guided the Rays' bats in the top of the 6th. When the game resumes tomorrow (I assume they won't be able to play tonight), the Phillies will lose. Cole Hamels is now done for the series, unless he would be pitched on very short rest for a game 7.

And let's be clear: The only chance the Phillies have to win the World Series now is to win the three-inning game on Wednesday. If they lose that, the entire character of the series will have changed. Destiny will have asserted itself. And order will be returned to the universe.

Sunday, October 26, 2008

Why Can't Us?

Is this the new 4th and 26?

Has the end of days arrived?

I don't know what I'm saying.

Wednesday, October 22, 2008

Picking a Fight with Power Line

My friends at Power Line are very smart guys, but sometimes they miss the forest for the trees.

First, John Hinderaker links to something by Orson Scott Card and notes, "I'm not familiar with columnist Orson Scott Card." Of course Card isn't really a "newspaper columnist"--he's a pretty grand sci-fi writer and--most importantly--author of Ultimate Iron Man series 1 and 2. For shame, Hindrocket!

Then in a post today Paul Mirengoff analyzes the World Series by going through all sorts of fancy "numbers" and "metrics." He concludes that the Series is "too close to call."

What Mirengoff misses of course, is the only salient fact: The Phillies are from Philadelphia.

We know how this story ends.

Friday, October 17, 2008

When Wrestling and Life Collide

Nasty Boy Knobbs got kicked out of Fenway during Game 5 last night. For reals.

Go ahead a click--they even have a picture. Knobbs, evidently, is a Rays fan. And he's still living his gimmick. That's kayfabe.

Starbucks Watch

I did a post over at the Standard Blog yesterday about a new directive from Starbucks which tells baristas not to pull espresso shots into a shot glass to inspect them before they go into the beverage cup. I argued that this looked like an admission from Starbucks that the problems the company faces aren't of its own making, but rather are tied up in an economic environment that presents SBUX with an existential threat.

Galley Friend, coffee expert, and barista K.N. suggests that I may be over-reading this development and it may just be the SBUX bean counters trying to bolster the stock price. Her long dispatch is worth reading:

I liked your point in the charbucks post, but I think you're missing the bigger picture: that they have noodle headed weeny bean counters to come up with "action items" about five seconds worth of labor to pour the shots into the cup is the problem. It's the noodle headed weeny bean counters who are screwing things up, and costing them more money, I'd wager, than the average barista taking the time to check the shots.

I give you an example to prove my point: when I worked at the bou, we were in an economic upturn, hence labor was scarce. Rare was the manager who was actually staffed appropriately. We begged, borrowed, stole to cover shifts, but ultimately managers (who weren't supposed to be behind the counter at that point in time, a policy they've since changed) wound up working way too many hours. To "solve" this problem, the genius Jay Willoughby (the man the board hired to take the company public, whose previous job was to take Boston Market public, a case study which is now taught at Harvard Business School about what NOT to do) and his stooge, Larry DeVries, came up with the brilliant concept of the "Labor Management Manual." We managers were to go through our sales for the week, hour by hour, transcribe them into a nifty notebook, then look on a chart to see how many people we should have had on shift during that time and then mark that down. This was mandatory and was supposed to help us staff our stores more efficiently, and to keep labor costs down. Never mind a. that we had a shortage of employees, not that we were staffing too many people and b. that any decent manager (myself included) already knew how many people they needed on shift to handle the business. I had to turn in this stupid worksheet every week with my P&L statement, receipts, overrings, etc. I wasted hours on this thing--hours I wasn't being paid for because I was salaried and already was over my thirty-six hours. How did it help me to staff my store in a labor shortage? They never looked at anything they could actually do to bring in employees---they only looked at what they could to make the numbers look better. They were trying to position the company to go public. To do that they had to keep the numbers looking good, and as labor is the biggest cost, they weren't trying to help us get staffed, they were trying to make sure things were under control so the investment bankers would like what they saw.

I'm not bitter. Really. It's hours that I'll never get back, but who's counting? Really. I'm fine.

Jay and Larry have since moved on to Pret a Manger (sp?) and last I heard they hadn't driven it into the ground...yet. There's still time, though, if they're still there.

Anyway...the point being that this doesn't necessarily mean the economy is going down, and charbucks is finally realizing this, it's more about the stock market being all over the freakin' place and this is what charbucks can do to fudge the numbers, so the shareholders stay happy. Of course, taking away the shot glasses because of a perceived increase in labor costs is going to ensure shitty shots make it into someone's $4 latte. Which means unhappy customers, who are already shelling out more for lattes than they probably should, so if they want one, they might just go somewhere else next time. Like Caribou. Which makes better lattes to begin with.

If they need to save some money, it would probably be better if they just fired an accountant or two. I mean, really. If they've got the time to figure this kind of crap out, that's not the kind of productivity most board members like to see.

Never mind the fact that the barista who takes five seconds to pour shots into a cup is not qualified to work even at Starbucks. Pfft. Amateurs.

Thursday, October 16, 2008

"Why Can't Us?"

That one's just for the Pig.

Rays in five. Obviously. Because what could be more humiliating than losing to an expansion team in its first post-season. To a 10-year-old franchise which has never even won 70 games in a single season.

That's why can't.

Yeah, my pennant celebration lasted all the way through the 5th last night.

Wednesday, October 15, 2008

Lynda Carter on Wonder Woman

I hate to take issue with Lynda Carter, with whom I was somewhat obsessed around age 5, but here she is criticizing Sarah Palin for being the "anti-Wonder Woman."

Here's Carter's description of how what Palin stands for is anathema to Wonder Woman:

She's judgmental and dictatorial, telling people how they've got to live their lives. And a superior religious self-righteousness . . . that's just not what Wonder Woman is about.

Let's leave Palin out of the discussion. Does Carter really know what Wonder Woman is all about? Wonder Woman is an Amazon princess--an anti-democratic royal from a society which borders on a theocracy, so intertwined is it with religious tradition. Heck, as a member of the royal family she practically has a direct link to the gods. And talk about self-righteous: Princess Diana has no doubt as to which society is better, the all-woman, Amazon sisterhood or the corrupt, godless world of men.

Maybe the '70s TV version of Wonder Woman was a more egalitarian take, but that's not the classic view of the character.

All of that said, Lynda Carter is still getting it done at 57.

Monday, October 13, 2008

Narcissists for Obama

Andrew Sullivan, Chris Hitchens, and now Chris Buckley.

Birds of a feather and all that.

The Return of V

There was a time in my life when V seemed like the greatest TV maxi-series of all time. Now it's going to be re-made for ABC.

Let's hope it's done well.

Firefly Season 7 Review

Galley Friend M.R. points us to this fantastically in-the-weeds mock review of season seven of Firefly which, sharp-eyed readers will remember, never made it past its first half-season.

But to really, really get in on the funny, keep following down to the comments, where people take the gag and run with it. Sample:

At least Firefly season 4 stayed true to the fun action of the first season -- it could have gone completely dark like season 2 of Wonderfalls, what with Jaye going increasingly crazy and ending the season locked up in a mental hospital.

And who in the world thought it was a good idea to give Freaks and Geeks a 10th season -- all of the characters now are either homeless white trash victims of Reagan's Welfare reform, have contracted HIV, or are Wall Street yuppies. Did we really need to see Bill OD because he was trying so hard to fit in that snorted enough coke to kill an elephant?


The third season kicked a@@! (They won three Emmys, for frak's sake! And I STILL say Joss was screwed over - Abrams is good, but "Lost" was [and STILL IS] just a 'gimmick' show!) But I thought Mal being on the other size of the law let them explore some "gray zones" of morality - the REAL cause of Bowden's Malady (with the great Gregg Henry reprising his role as Sheriff Bourne) - And Badger revealed as a paid snitch for Blue Sun - Or what about the two-parter where the crew finally gets their (legal!) revenge on Niska? And who didn't shed a tear over Zoe's pregnancy? Okay, Wash going undercover with the carnival was just a rip-off of "The Trouble With Tribbles" -except with baby geese - but it WAS funny! And speaking of funny, what about the episode with Jayne's mother and four sisters get quarantined aboard Serenity for a month? I usually don't care for Melanie Griffith, but I thought she was perfectly cast here...I could go on, but I urge everybody to go back and take another look at Season #3!!

Friday, October 10, 2008

The Daily Beast Lives Up to Its Name

Tina Brown has launched a fun looking site, The Daily Beast. Today's edition carries a story by Scott Horton about how my boss Bill Kristol put Sarah Palin on the McCain ticket. Horton contends that it all began when Kristol met Palin in Alaska on The Weekly Standard cruise.

I won't spoil the fun for you, but I've written a small bit about it here. Let's just say that the Daily Beast is living up to the very best traditions of British journalism.

All hail the New Media!

Great Moments in the Real Estate Profession

The Pig sends us to this amazing site collecting the most idiotic RealtorTM ads you've ever seen. A sample:

This stuff can't be real, can it?

Thursday, October 09, 2008

Netflix = Slightly Evil (cont.)

So if you get Blu-ray discs from Netflix, they're going to charge you more than a regular subscription.

I know it's only $1 a month, but still. Pray they don't alter the deal any further.

PS 3

Despite my constant belittling of Sony's Playstation 3, I'm about to buy one because Sony has found a killer ap--The Dark Knight on Blu-ray, coming to a store near you on December 9. Believe me, no one else is more horrified than I am.

Yet my impending purchase of a PS3 does little to convince me that they system represents an enormous failure for Sony. I had stopped following console sales for a while, but looking at the numbers now is pretty shocking: The PS2 sold over 50 million units in its first 36 months of release. In its first 24 months, the PS3 is on track to sell 15.7 million units.

And it's not like there's an army of losers (like me) rushing to reverse the trend. For September, the PS3 is predicted to see sales declining by 7 percent, to a paltry 160,000 units per month. This while the Xbox 360 is seeing a 31 percent increase in sales, to 320,000 per month. And all of this is just jockeying for second place, as the Wii is crushing them both.

Triumph of the New Media

You know how Hugh Hewitt is always, like, talking about how stupid and dead and moronic the, like, you know, Old Media is? You know, how it's totally like the difference between, like, steam power and the tall ships with the saily thingees?


Friday, October 03, 2008

Eva Longoria prefers Magnums

At least when it comes to ice cream. This caught my eye when I was in France last week. It also reminded me of how major movie stars do ads for products abroad that they would never do at home. Like George Clooney.

Thursday, October 02, 2008

Palin Precog!

Who knows, maybe Sarah Palin will be dreadfully outclassed tonight and John McCain's campaign will enter full Hindenberg mode. But whatever happens in the actual debate hardly matters to the media horde--they're going to say the same thing, no matter what.

So I invite readers now to try to out-parody the Palin criticisms ahead of time. I'll give it a shot first:

Palin's performance tonight marked the low-point in modern vice presidential history. By comparison, she made Dan Quayle look positively Solomonic. This red-neck moron with her hackneyed down-home manner was an embarrassment to the Republican party but most crucially to John McCain. No candidate for president ever dared to place someone as manifestly stupid and unqualified so close to the Oval Office. The fact that McCain chose this woman is, alone, reason enough for America to reject him root and branch.

I'm certain you can do better.

Michael Bay Does Twitter


Wednesday, October 01, 2008

MLB Playoff Notes

I'm not normally prone to apocalyptic hysterics, but let me say this: If the Tampa Bay Devil Rays meet the Milwaukee Brewers in the World Series, I'm going to spend the next month locked in a bunker awaiting the seventh seal/rapture/end of days.

The Dark Cowboys

The Gormogons suggest that maybe Tony Romo shouldn't sip from that bottle of scotch he keeps in his desk drawer.

The Godfather and Blu-ray

Slate has an engrossing piece about the restoration of the The Godfather and Paramount's transfer of the film to Blu-ray disc. Well worth your time.