Aaaaand…I’m free again

Good news today as I have made my resignation official.  Good news for you, dear reader, as you’ll have more to read.  And good new for me, your writer, as I’ll have more time to write and the ability to do so with a clean conscience.

You see, I was previously employed by a large, global firm with clients of every caliber.  Most of which I tend to write about about argue about.  In my deference to my employer, I held off writing a great deal which could have eventually led back to me and to them.  As it would have been unfair to ask them to take responsibility for me shagging their clients, I had been reluctant to focus on certain topics and companies. 
Now I am once again free and the fingers feel like flying. 

More to come…

From Tim Russert to Poppy Harlow

Tim Russert died last week of a heart attack.  He was 58.  You can read a great deal about him here.  There is more available here about the man, his work, and his life.

The “official” announcement.

I didn’t know Tim Russert.  Didn’t hang with him.  If you want to read those types of eulogies, please feel free.  The only thing I share in common (outside the big, white, male thing) is a passion for the news of the world.  Timmy did it much better than I have, but when you share a passion, you share an outlook, and an order to the world.  People who share a passion value things the same way, and Tim Russert is probably turning over in his just dug grave when he looks at the media he left for the rest of us.

Maybe it just the passing of one of the better ones that leaves the place so desolate.  As I look at across the media universe (and I do, far more often than is healthy), I see a void when I’m looking for someone relevant who tries to be impartial.  Someone who holds the feet to the fire, to quote Jon Stewart.  Jon Stewart…he’s probably the next best at it.

It’s that bad.

And not to pick on Poppy Harlow (daytime “24-news” is on par with daytime “TV”), but gimme a break.  Since when did news need a bass line and background music?  When did the commentators, speaking live, become more important than the speaker, speaking live?  When did the analysis become more important than the event?  When did the taste replace the essence?

In the year 2000, I think.    It’s been long enough now that we can look back and see the changes.  We can see when and how it happened.   You could also say 1996, and give Clinton some credit.  That’s when he axed the ownership rules.  They were rules, to be honest, weakened by Reagan in the 1980’s, when it was decided that even trying to be “fair” wasn’t needed any more.

That’s why Russert stood out, because even though he no longer had a legal need to be fair and attempt to appear to be impartial, he still thought it would be professional to do so.  And he pulled it off, for the most part.

But there is no doubt that he is one of the very youngest of a dying breed.  There are a few more out there, scattered on public television, cable, and maybe the web.  Aaaah, the web.  There’s a wildcard in news if there ever was one.  That’s why it was nice to have a Russert about to keep things grounded.

Now, with Mr. Russert himself becoming the ground, who is left to tell us where it is?

What say you, Poppy?

The Joys of Random Number Generators (Catan)

For those that don’t recognize the screen, this is from the game “Catan” on the XBOX 360 Live. It based on the board game “Settlers of Catan” and is a very accurate recreation of that game. The screenshot is of an analysis of all the die rolls during the game. The dark blue background shows a “likely” distribution. The light blue foreground shows the “actual” distribution. The likelyhood of no “8”s being rolled is very small.

Yes, I had a Big City on a tile with an 8. And there was not a single one rolled in the game.

I lost the game.

Penny Arcade : Really Long Titled Video Game


Penny Arcade : Really Long Title

Originally uploaded by el_wah

This is is a screen shot from the recently released Penny Arcade video game. I played through the game the other day. I should have a review up for it some time this week.

Quickie review: Solid RPG-Slight Action game with some funny dialogue and solid cell-shaded graphics. Roughly 8 hours of direct gameplay, and it looks like plenty more to come, as this was Episode 1.

Wake Up Fat Asses

America’s Unhealthiest Drinks Exposed on Yahoo! Health

Worst “Healthy” Drink

Glaceau VitaminWater (any flavor; 20 oz bottle)
130 calories
33 grams sugar

Vitamins and water might sound like the ultimate nutritional tag team, but what the label doesn’t say is that a bottle of this stuff carries nearly as much sugar and calories as a can of Coke. Makes sense, though, since this so-called functional beverage is produced by our often-sugar-crazy friends at The Coca-Cola Company.

I mean seriously, the stuff glows. How can you not think it is full of crap? Is it because it says “vitamin” on the side of it?

I wish we could teach children in grade school about marketing. Then we wouldn’t have these kinds of problems (at least so much).

Yet Another Impeachable Offense

US accused of holding terror suspects on prison ships | World news | The Guardian

The United States is operating “floating prisons” to house those arrested in its war on terror, according to human rights lawyers, who claim there has been an attempt to conceal the numbers and whereabouts of detainees.

Details of ships where detainees have been held and sites allegedly being used in countries across the world have been compiled as the debate over detention without trial intensifies on both sides of the Atlantic. The US government was yesterday urged to list the names and whereabouts of all those detained.

Information about the operation of prison ships has emerged through a number of sources, including statements from the US military, the Council of Europe and related parliamentary bodies, and the testimonies of prisoners.

The analysis, due to be published this year by the human rights organisation Reprieve, also claims there have been more than 200 new cases of rendition since 2006, when President George Bush declared that the practice had stopped.

As a pirate I can certainly understand the need, and use, of prison ships during pirate raids.  However, I don’t really see their use being moral for city-state.  They are great for pirates because they are tricky and untraceable, the exact opposite of what you want your government to be.

Unless, of course, you are governed by pirates, in which case the use of prison ships is perfectly normal.

Fixing the World With Legos

Jan Vormann – Dispatchwork

This work was done in Bocchignano, Italy, a village close to Rome, as part of the group project “20 Eventi”. The group of artists developed projects for 4 villages of the Sabina region and decided to create a compilation of drawings, for collectors to purchase, and to support this project.

Great stuff out there, Italians.  See if you can use those blocks for that tower which is about to fall over.

Thank God For Small Favors

Declining membership, baptisms worry Southern Baptists – USATODAY.com

For most of four decades, Southern Baptists could boast of rising membership even as more moderate and liberal Protestant denominations lost members in droves.

But with membership slightly down last year, and flat for the past five, Southern Baptists face a growing anxiety about their future as they gather for their annual meeting Tuesday in Indianapolis.

“We have peaked,” Southern Baptist statistician Ed Stetzer wrote in an online commentary on the latest statistics from 2007. “…For now, Southern Baptists are a denomination in decline.”

I blame the dancing, or lack thereof.   This trend will generally continue in the modern world because of two things.

1) This is the Information Age and many (most) dogmatic religions require a good bit of ignorance to be considered accurate descriptions of the (unknown) world.  With more information available, it is more likely people will be exposed to a world their religion does a poor job of explaining/describing.

And…2) People are getting smarter…

Professor Richard Lynn, emeritus professor of psychology at Ulster University, said many more members of the “intellectual elite” considered themselves atheists than the national average.

A decline in religious observance over the last century was directly linked to a rise in average intelligence, he claimed.

But the conclusions – in a paper for the academic journal Intelligence – have been branded “simplistic” by critics.

He said religious belief had declined across 137 developed nations in the 20th century at the same time as people became more intelligent.

“Linking religious belief and intelligence in this way could reflect a dangerous trend, developing a simplistic characterisation of religion as primitive, which – while we are trying to deal with very complex issues of religious and cultural pluralism – is perhaps not the most helpful response,” [Professor Gordon Lynch] said.

[full story]

Quite the contrary, in fact.  Looking at it as primitive is precisely what the world needs.   There are primitive things that are useful, but they are not dominant…anymore.  That’s why we call them “primitive”.  We have better answers now.

The Dastardly Are Even Sometimes Right

Venezuela’s Chavez predicts oil could reach $200 a barrel — South Florida Sun-Sentinel.com

CARACAS, Venezuela – Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez says he expects oil prices to keep climbing and predicts they could reach $200 a barrel.

It isn’t the first time the Venezuelan leader has mentioned that benchmark– though he hasn’t said when it might be reached.

Chavez reiterated the prediction after the price of light, sweet crude continued to rise on the New York Mercantile Exchange and settled at $136.38 a barrel Wednesday.

Chavez said in a televised speech Wednesday that oil should be $100 a barrel, but could keep rising to $200.

He blamed the falling U.S. dollar [1], U.S. “threats” against Iran [2], and what he called “bad management” of the U.S. economy for driving rising prices [3].

I’m not a big fan of the guy, and was happy when his “dictator-for-life-vote[!?]” failed [full story].

However, he is very correct about [1].  As the dollar falls, imports cost more.  We import oil. Lather, rinse, repeat, get raped at pump.

He is also right about [2].  If we invade Iran, or even start bombing them, and they [a] gum up the Straight of Hormuz and [b] stop pumping gas, the world will run like an engine without oil.  This would be bad. and the very threat of it helps to push up the prices of oil in the future (which is the price everyone talks about).

On [3] it’s more of a toss-up.  I do think the Bush Administration has mis-managed the economy and done a number of things to exacerbate the economic disparity here.  I’m not sure how much that has to do with the price of oil, except that it tears the heart out of the working class, which hurts productivity, which hurts the economy, which causes the dollar to fall, which makes oil more expensive.