Thursday, July 31, 2008

Say they want you successful, but that ain't the case…

Because I feel like griping…

First: There will be no shortage of discussions about race over the next few months, a fact that, depending on your perspective, will be most welcome or entirely aggravating (or possibly in between, but not likely). It doesn't matter to me where you fall on the spectrum – as I'm sure it doesn't matter to you where I fall – but what does matter to me is that we come together as a nation to accomplish one thing: the abolition of the term "race card" (as in, "to play the") from our vernacular.

Not only does it trivialize legitimate concerns about racism (you mean it still exists?), but using it makes you sound like, well, a Not Very Bright Person, regardless of whether you use it "correctly" – that is, in response to a spurious claim of racism. Here's a tip: If you find yourself in a discussion about race in America where someone points out that a particular thing is racist – say, a political advertisement involving a certain candidate for President of the United States and a couple of blond-haired, white "celebrity" women – and you disagree with this person, you should state your disagreement in such a way that actually demonstrates the falsity of their claim. If it is indeed a spurious point, refuting it shouldn't be too hard, now should it?

As a corollary, just because a particular thing – say, the above-mentioned advertisement – doesn't bring out the inner racist in you that doesn't mean it isn't bringing out the inner racist in others. You know, kind of like how you can't hear a dog whistle but a dog can.

Second: Office 2007. Seriously, Microsoft, why did you destroy the one thing you did really, really well? This new version of Office is an abomination -- over the top graphic interface, confusing menus, general navigation issues, auto formatting from hell, etc. -- and it has me longing for the good, old days of Office 2003 (and I hate longing). But, hey, thanks for including a "blog post" template in Word. Progress!

Tuesday, July 29, 2008

I'm afraid that all the pieces might slip away from me...

Good vs. Bad: A breakdown...

Good: Pandora for the iPhone. I realized in all my praise for the iPhone a little while back that I didn't really say much about what really makes it awesome: Applications, for one. I'll probably write about a few others that I like, but for now I want to highlight Pandora, which, if you don't know, is some free internet radio goodness. Basically, you create "stations" of bands you like and Pandora plays songs that match your taste. It's a great way to find new music that you might actually opposed to whatever's on the radio.

Bad: One Hundred Pushups. This site claims that if you follow its six week program you'll be able to do 100 pushups. I did it, all six weeks without cheating, and I'm here to tell you what you already know: Don't believe what you read on the internet. When I started the program, I was able to do 50 pushups. After finishing the last level over the weekend, I did the exhaustion test last night and logged exactly 53 pushups. Yay, progress!

Good: Apple technical support. I've had two problems over the past couple weeks and both were solved super quickly by Apple. 

Bad: The fact that I needed Apple technical support twice over the past two weeks. After I upgraded operating systems (Tiger to Leopard, for those of you playing along at home), my laptop's battery decided to lose about half of its capacity, which is pretty lame. I called Apple on Saturday, however, and a brand new battery arrived at my door on Monday, which is pretty good. The other issue had to do with an activation code that wasn't working, which may have partially been my fault but nevertheless these things should "just work," right?

(In fairness, these two problems are not bad considering the amount of computer-related upgrades involving Apple products I've done in the past month, nearly all of which have gone very smoothly, including the construction of a pretty sweet wireless network/home server.)

Good: Grand slams and the Orioles beating the Yankees.

Bad: "Competition yellows" during NASCAR races.

Good: MG Midgets for sale in Columbia.

Bad: MG Midgets for sale in Columbia tempting me.

Friday, July 25, 2008

My greatest fear will be that you will crash and burn...

A couple of possibly competing data points about newspapers.

First, The Sun shared news recently of another reduction in local coverage. A daily feature just a few years ago, the Howard Section will now come out on Thursdays and Sundays only. Whether this results in an actual decrease in local stories or simply a consolidation of the same amount of stories on fewer days remains to be seen, but I'd put money on the latter in the short term and the former in the long term.

Meanwhile, the Pew Research Center just released a report detailing cutbacks at newspapers.

It has fewer pages than three years ago, the paper stock is thinner, and the stories are shorter. There is less foreign and national news, less space devoted to science, the arts, features and a range of specialized subjects. Business coverage is either packaged in an increasingly thin stand-alone section or collapsed into another part of the paper. The crossword puzzle has shrunk, the TV listings and stock tables may have disappeared, but coverage of some local issues has strengthened and investigative reporting remains highly valued.
So, according to the smart folks at Pew, while the rest of the paper withers, the local sections seem to be doing fine, if not better, yet, our local rag is cutting back on space for local news. What gives?

I actually don't think these are contradictory as they may seem. With so many options for consuming news on the big issues, consumers have turned to other outlets-- blogs, television, crazy emails from their grandparents, etc. In trying to find their niche in this changing landscape, newspapers, on average, have started devoting a greater share of their resources to local news, where the array of available options for consumers is considerably smaller; this is the transformation noted in Pew's study.

But even in this less competitive market, papers are finding it difficult to stay profitable because they're still relying on essentially the same model that's been used for decades, one that has largely failed to adapt to changing consumer preferences and technology. Traditional news organizations were painfully slow to embrace the internet, and even now that most have caught on to its permanence, they are stuck trying to play catch up in a game that's on a completely different field. In many cases, "tech-savvy" newspapers are still operating in the same paradigm, doing what they've always done, only digitally, which probably isn't going to cut it for much longer.

However, as long as people value information and their time, there will always be money to be made delivering news, whether local, regional, national or international. I'll leave it up to the smart people to figure out how.

Monday, July 21, 2008

...quoting things you'd never say...

One billboard; two sides.

Friday, July 18, 2008

Whiskers on kittens...

My favorite shot from GGP's "Vision" open house.

I've been sitting waiting wishing...

Nothing but good reviews for the MVA Express in Columbia. I was in an out in under 10 minutes for a license renewal and didn't even get a chance to play poker on my phone.

Wednesday, July 16, 2008

Loving you is easy 'cause you're beautiful...

Yes, I got an iPhone.

Yes, it's all I had hoped for and more.

And, yes, I stood in line for several hours to get it.

But... I did not wait in line on Friday like all those other losers, those saps who had to have it the day it came out. No, me, I'm patient and not one to buy into manufactured hype. 

Yes, I got mine on Saturday, when waiting was no longer an exercise in crass commercial worship carried out by blind fanboys but instead simply a function of the prevailing reality that iPhones are awesome and a lot of people want them.

Yes, I know I'm kidding no one with this. But, seriously, it's awesome.

And, please, don't be like those ignoramuses (ignorami) who strolled by the line Saturday morning and couldn't resist cracking wise about how "it's just a phone." Because it's not "just a phone," and if you think it is, you're probably not very bright.

I don't think it's hyperbole to say the iPhone is arguably the greatest "gadget" ever conceived. It is all those old sci-fi pipe dreams rolled into a shiny glass and plastic package that is as easy to use as it is on the eyes.

OK, maybe I'm being a little to effusive -- it wouldn't be the first time -- but I'm in iPhone heaven right now, and I can't help it. I mean, even Abbzug, who generally hates gadgets, won't put hers down.

Now, if only I could figure out a way to take it swimming with me. 

Yes, I've gone too far.

Wednesday, July 09, 2008

Goin' each and every place with the mic in their hand...

SC, Maryland, New Orleans, Motown...

How about a little Hump Day Round Up…

All Merriweather, all the time: Wordbones' off-line alter ego wrote a nice column for the July edition of the Business Monthly about the Little Ampetheater (and Community Movement) That Could. I don't really have anything to add, but like WB, I'm glad he got this one wrong.

More Merriweather: My off-line alter ego also has a piece about Merriweather running in a local publication. Here's the cover story from the summer edition of Howard Life magazine.

Still more: I was feeling a little blah about this season's line up for Merriweather. Don't get me wrong, I love brooding, wannabe guitar heroes as much as the next 16-year-old girl, but John Mayer just isn't doing it for me this year. But two recent concert announcements have turned my blah into… uh, blazam? First, Rock the Bells, a tour of hip hop heavyweights, on July 27 and second, The Allman Brothers on September 30. They still don't totally make up for the lack of Jack Johnson – stupid Virgin Fest – but I'm happy.

As for non-Merriweather stuff, it's just this: Good riddance, Pooh Bears!

Devotees will tell you that Padonia Swim Club is more than just a place to go swimming. For some, it is where they got their first job, sent their kids to day camp, paddled on the pond, sparked summer romances, got married and sipped cocktails at the cabana bar.

So when the 49-year-old club announced that it was selling the Cockeysville property to a church and shutting down operations - albeit in fall 2010 at the earliest - the news hit members like an afternoon thunderstorm after a cloudless morning.

Padonia was the arch rival of my childhood swim team. They won every single meet for something like 73 years… until they ran into the buzzsaw that was the Crofton Swim and Tennis Club in the mid-1980s.

Yeah, that's right, I'm still living a 20-year-old rivalry. And, yes, sometimes I embarrass myself.

(Although I just saw this story today, thoughts of childhood swim meets have resurfaced recently thanks to my re-adoption of swimming as a preferred method of cardiovascular activity and the airing of the Olympic trials [in HD!] on television.)


Tuesday, July 01, 2008

But no one taught that to me yet...

A couple of things on this lovely Canada Day...

First, I had an awesome time playing at the Oakland Mills Birthday Party on Saturday. Thanks to those of you who braved the heat and the rain to come out, including Wordbones, who posted a pic of The Fab Five. There are also a couple short videos of the affair somewhere on the internet, but I'll hold off on posting a link until I have the videographer's OK.

For those of you who missed it: Don't worry. There's a movement afoot to keep this little experiment going at least a little while longer. I'm interested to see what we can do with a wider song selection and more than a month to practice.

Second, a question. Is it legal to ride your bike on the sidewalk in Howard County?