Wednesday, July 29, 2009

Gallup Daily

BBC E-mail: 'Organic has no health benefits'

Teddy Douglas saw this story on the BBC News website and thought you
should see it.

** 'Organic has no health benefits' **
Organic food is no healthier than conventionally produced food, a large independent review has concluded.

Tuesday, July 28, 2009

Senate was just 2 votes shy of flooding states with concealed weapons

Thune Amendment; Reciprocity for the Carrying of Certain Concealed Firearms - Vote Rejected (58-39, 3 Not Voting)

The Senate could not reach the necessary sixty votes to include this gun provision in the National Defense Authorization Act. The amendment would have allowed citizens who have concealed carry permits from their states to carry concealed firearms in another state that grants concealed carry permits.

But perhaps I shouldn't condemn reciprocity, even if I don't support guns. On other issues, such as marriage, I might support reciprocity.

Monday, July 27, 2009

New Digital Divide: Blacks Nearly Twice as Likely to Have Mobile Web Access

Nearly half of all African Americans and English speaking Hispanics used cell phones or other hand held devices to access the Internet, compared to the 28% of white Americans who do so. Adoption of mobile access to the web by African American on an average day is fast growing; from 12% in December 2007 to 29% by April 2009. By comparison, only 19% of all Americans access the Internet on a mobile device in a typical day. (Kelsey)

Friday, July 24, 2009

Gloat: World's Coolest iPhone App That Wouldn't Work on iPhone

I had a great concept for an iPhone App (though the iPhone platform can't fully support it yet). Maybe it could work on the Pre or Android. It's called Gloat (or maybe iGloat?), because it does just that. Although the programming might be a bit tricky, the end-user interface couldn't be simpler. The app just asks you which sports teams you follow. Then it gloats for you when they win.
  • It looks up your team's schedule, sees when they play, and tracks when they win
  • It looks through your contacts (Facebook friends, IM buddies, Email contacts, whatever it can get a hold of)
  • When your team wins, it immediately messages whichever friends come from the losing team's hometown
Gloat 2.0 (available in time for 2010 NFL season - Sep 2010) can add more advanced features for the sports enthusiast. I figure we could have our software on about 50 million devices by 2013. Then we could add ticket sales, a tie in with a fantasy sports league, and record keeping so you can track who's getting top Gloating rights. It could even suggest which teams to follow (based on team record/standings/your friends' fave teams) to maximize your Gloats. iGloat can also be set to Tweet your Gloats automatically.

In iGloat 3.0 we'll expand it beyond sports. Remember the last time your uncle's neighbor dropped you a stock tip? Note it in iGloat, and she'll get Gloatted when the ticker falls.

Or how about how you have to sit through boring episodes of Runway, Idol, or SYTYCD... Tell iGloat who your favorite contestants are and it will let you know when to tune in (or maybe even serve up the video) and you won't even have to sit through the show to tell your friends all about it. Gloat loves elections, too!

A timetable for launch of iGloat might go something like:
  • Beta version for late October 2009 (start of NBA season)
  • 1.0 should be out 5 months later in time for the (April 2010) MLB season
  • 2.0 coming 5 months after that (Sep 2010) in time for the NFL season
  • 3.0 early 2011, maybe time it with the new season of American Idol

Think iGloat is mean? I kinda agree, but you know you do it anyway, so I might as well automate it (and sell it).

Thursday, July 23, 2009

Live Rent Free

Is this for real? The Caretaker Gazette publishes listings for housesitters. People with houses and nothing to do with them let other people live in them for free!

Wednesday, July 22, 2009

Are Indoor Pools Bad for Your Lungs?

The chlorine in indoor pools can be detrimental to pulmonary health for competitive swimmers who spend a lot of time at the pool. “When some of our high-school swimmers are going on college recruiting trips, we tell them to follow one simple rule,” says Dr. Jim Miller. “If you walk into the building and can find your way to the pool without directions, don’t go to that school. A smelly pool is, chemically, way out of balance.” If your favorite pool is easy to find, blind-folded, talk to the manager about re-calibrating the amount of chlorine being used or improving the air flow in the facility.

Overall, researchers say, the benefits of swimming for exercise outweigh the risks. As the authors of the Quebec City study of youthful swim racers were careful to point out, only one of the 72 swimmers they studied smoked and none were obese, making them statistical anomalies among the young. “Breathing problems do sometimes develop,” Miller says. “But with rare exceptions, they can be controlled. Swimming remains, in general, very good for you.” (NYT)

Adobe Latest to Not Understand the Web

Sigh. They don't get it, do they? Adobe Wave is not a new thing. It is RSS recycled.

Taxing Healthcare Benefits Shortsighted

A tax on employer-provided health benefits is extremely short-sighted. Rather than pay the tax, many employers would simply trim the benefits they offer. This means the actual revenues the government receives from the program will be far less than projected, and it will also lead to less coverage for employees, greater long-term health complications, reduced quality of life. About the only upside is higher profits for employers who now get away with lower premiums and can blame the government. This too, is short-term, as doctors would suffer from lower payments and seek redress.

Cut coverage for over-the-counter drugs, but enhanced prescription coverage? Does this make sense? Who says prescription drugs are better or more important than OTCs? So now, instead of covering an $11 OTC, you want people to go to the doctor ($75) and get the prescription version ($35) so it will be covered?

Tuesday, July 21, 2009

Morgan Stanley's Matthew Robson Says Teens Don't Twitter

Fifteen year old Matthew Robson explained in a now-famous Morgan Stanley research note why teenagers don't use Twitter (and neither should you): They actually realize nobody reads their tweets. Before you start to argue, just enjoy the miracle of youth. The kid knows intuitively what adults need extensive research and essays in the Harvard Business Review to point out. OK, now you can argue. Just check out those links first.

Bonus Points: If you had gotten $50 million of free advertising coverage, you'd be popular too.

Leaked internal Twitter documents show the company projects a billion users by 2013. I assume what they mean is a billion sign-ups, not actives.

Repeat After Me: Netflix Good, Redbox Bad

I had thought this went without saying, but then I heard some people have been getting it wrong lately. So I want you all to repeat after me: Netflix Good, Redbox Bad. Say it. Excellent. Again. Well done! One more time. Netflix Good, Redbox Bad.

  • Netflix comes to your door. Redbox makes you wait on line at the supermarket. (After you already waited on line at the supermarket with your groceries. Now you stand by this kiosk, grocery bags in hand, waiting for your turn at the Red Monster.)
  • Netflix knows what you like. Redbox makes you sift through randoms.
  • Netflix never charges late fees. Redbox charges you every day.
  • Netflix has 100,000 choices. Redbox has maybe 200 in the box.
  • Redbox gives you two measly one-day rental promo codes if they rent you a damaged disc. And those only come after you argue with them. Netflix replaces the disc for free.
  • Netflix is cool with you losing the disc sleeve. I shudder to think how a Redbox would take losing the DVD cover. Probably blow a gasket. Literally.
  • Redbox makes a mess of your credit card bill with all its silly little charges. Netflix is just one neat, all inclusive, charge each month.
  • Netflix offers online streaming video. Redbox offers online email spam.
  • Netflix loves you. Redbox is a backwards ATM.

Still not convinced? Here's more evidence: The studios are cutting deals with Redbox. This shows, and you'll love the logic, that they don't believe in it. Redbox is less profitable for the studio than DVD sales or even Blockbuster rentals. So why would the studios support them? To keep Netflix at bay. Netflix they perceive as a threat. They know they can kill Redbox with relative ease if they ever need to. So they're willing to prop up Redbox a bit to control the threat of Netflix while they try to figure out a streaming strategy of their own.

Pssst. Redbox! If you're listening, these are some areas you need to work on.

Yeah, after those shenanigans Amazon pulled this morning, I'm in a slightly Orwellian mood.

Full disclosure: I am not a Netflix employee, nor do I hold positions in Netflix or Redbox parent Coinstar. I have used both services.

Monday, July 20, 2009

Mirror Free Does Nothing, But That's OK

In fact, it's even better since bored users are more likely to click on ads. (WSJ)


Dear Calvin Klein,

Your underwear ads are famous the world over, but your product does not deliver. Truly, the emperor has no clothes. I recommend 2xist or Jockey.

Dear Wikipedia,

Why is there no simple way to request a new article? Why is the search function so limited? Yes, I know that encyclopedias have traditionally been in alphabetical order by article name, but now that it's online there is a new way to find stuff! It's called Search and Microsoft, Yahoo, or Google will be happy to provide it to you free of charge. So do it!

Wednesday, July 15, 2009

Yeah they say I'm smart. But what has that really done for the world?

I have this need to feel loved, to feel worthwhile, to feel useful. I need the security of knowing that I'm valuable. I need companionship. I enjoy being able to make someone else happy.

I don't think there is too much to be truly happy about here in this world. Anything good goes away sooner or later. But sex makes people happy. When someone wants to have sex with me I feel useful, I feel like I have something to offer. I feel wanted. I get a companion, if only for a short time. And I can show that person a good time in this bleak world.

Perhaps there is another way that some of you have, dear readers, to feel these things and fulfill these needs.

When I speak, my words are unheard; my written word goes unread. My mind makes no one happy. They say money can't buy happiness. But with my body, I often feel that's my only shot. That can deliver happiness, that can make an impact.

To be continued. Just wanted to note this thought.

Tuesday, July 14, 2009

No More Change for Change's Sake

Introducing the Change2Improve movement! Companies that join Change2Improve commit to not change their products unless there is a verifiable improvement or company need. We are currently working to develop standards and sign up partners. Member companies will be able to use the Change2Improve logo on their products. Too many companies have been changing their products for absolutely no good reason and it irritates consumers. Many consumers would prefer to use Change2Improve-certified products, enjoying the security that the familiar products and services they use will not suddenly change around unless there is an actual benefit to them.

Google Finance made some changes today. They are bad.

I don't have time to elaborate, but I want to note that most Google Finance users do not want to be Web Designers. They just want quick, accurate information. I don't need the site to be super-duper customizable. I don't want to spend time customizing. I just want it to be there, what I need, when I need it. It was great before. If it ain't broke, don't fix it. And certainly don't break it for [insert your favorite deity here] sake.

I want my information providers to be like a chef. The chef's job is to choose from different ingredients and cooking methods etc. and prepare the meal in the best way, so it tastes good and leaves you feeling satisfied. I don't want my information providers to be like a well-stocked kitchen which gives me all the options to cook myself a wonderful meal. This is good to have as a backup database, but not for instant basic data.

Also, the new stock charting features with the Bollinger Bands and whatnot is just abhorrent. It could encourage more widespread use of that grotesque technical analysis stuff. Google's supposed to be data-driven and should be above that sort of superstition. Shame on you. What a waste of engineering resources that could have been used to create something useful.

Monday, July 13, 2009

Life Kills

I feel cut off, but at least that means I feel. I feel like shit, but by that thread I feel alive. I had died for so long. I want to meet with people I love and discuss literature, art, movies, feelings. I want to stop being alone. I called in sick at work today. My boss is still away camping, another co-worker on vacation in Florida so I don't know if this was a good time to leave because everyone else is out anyway or if I was supposed to be there to cover. Probably the former, because I don't actually cover for anyone else anyway, just do my own thing. But maybe I'll lose my job over this. Who knows.

The day off allowed me to start thinking; I'm usually just too busy to think about my life. The conclusion is it's rotten. It's empty. Couple days ago I was hangin with a friend (LA Guy) and we saw this cute guy by himself, waiting for his friend apparently. LA Guy called him over and the three of us were chatting. I would have never just gone over to the guy and struck up a conversation myself, too shy. My friend seemed interested in this guy, but in the end I went home with him. LA Guy wasn't thrilled about that. I'll probably ask the guy out next weekend. He probably won't respond to my messages. Oh well. As the popular buzzword goes today, FML. Then went out to a place in Williamsburg the other night, another cute boy came home with me. Yay me. It keeps me alive. But it's only life support. I need something to get me off life support and really living.
I haven't written much lately. And what I write nobody reads. And what they read, it has no impact. I'm invisible. Stop smirking, you're invisible too! Automatons. All of us. FOL. They put a new filter on the computers at work. Facebook is blocked. Now I might as well have no friends.

Wednesday, July 08, 2009

Safe Eyes filter found leading cause of depression in US teens*

"Parental controls on children's Internet browsing can have the effect of isolating them from social peers, as well as generating feelings of helplessness, alienation, and low self-esteem," explains one depressed Safe Eyes sufferer. "Web filtering software and other content blockers could leave harmful psychological effects."

"Content filtering is a like potent drug," the boy's doctor said. "It can be expected to come along with with some side effects. Parents need to be made aware of that."

"We'll protect our kids even if it kills them," asserts a NetNanny mother from Oklahoma in response to critics. ['Cuz after all, safe dead kids are better than healthy but endangered ones. Oh wait, let me double check that...]

BLACK BOX WARNING**: The Safe Eyes internet filter and other web filtering software has been shown to cause serious adverse effects in some children, adolescents, and adults. Possible reactions include, but are not limited to, headache, nausea, fatigue, depression, family arguments, suicidal ideations, and attempted suicide. If you or anyone you know has been exposed to Safe Eyes, care should be taken to monitor for signs of illness and call your doctor immediately if condition worsens or does not improve after 3 days.

How to protect yourself:
Do not purchase or install Safe Eyes or similar software. In case of accidental ingestion, remove the program using the included uninstaller and then wipe your hard drive and reinstall Windows.*** Better yet, just buy a new computer. Safe Eyes is highly infectious and probably contaminated your entire system. Stay far away. If you are unsure how to proceed, call your Poison Control Center immediately.

In all seriousness, I personally have struggled with internet-filter-onset depression. And I mean clinical Depression. Caused by idiotic meddling in my personal freedom. Anyone who has read this blog knows how dead serious I'm being when I say if I die in the near future, the most likely cause will be related to internet filtering and monitoring.**** People think this is an innocuous way to "protect kids from the dangers of the internet". Think again. It's not innocuous at all. Young peoples' lives revolve around modern technology, like it or not. Learn to deal, OK? Place too many limits on how people can live and they'll realize they just don't want to. Not like that.

*Okay, so I don't have scientific studies to back this up - yet. I do have anecdotal evidence, though. I have my personal feelings.

**This Black Box Warning has not been evaluated or approved by the FDA. It is merely my suggestion for what might be added to notify parents of the risks "child safety" filters entail.

***This should not be taken as professional IT advice. If you or someone you know has this problem, please consult a competent IT professional for advice. My purpose here is just to encourage people to think about the possible negative effects this software may have.

**** In case you were wondering, the good news is it didn't kill me. See 8/17/09 update.

Tuesday, July 07, 2009

Gmail Sheds 'Beta' Label: Finally buggy enough for full release

Following in the footsteps of software giant Microsoft, Google made sure to add just enough performance issues, annoyances, unnecessary features, and poor support to their product before its official release.

When I first started using Gmail several years ago, I loved it. It was a huge improvement over my old Juno, Yahoo, or Hotmail accounts at the time. It enabled me to manage my inbox in ways I couldn't before, adding Search, Labels, and the conversation view feature that grouped messages more clearly. The spam filter caught most of the junk coming in. Over time, Google has made many useful updates to the service, adding IMAP support and more.

However, email today isn't what it was then. As the amount of email being sent and received has grown, Gmail has failed to keep up. Instead of being a supplementary messaging system, email is ubiquitous. It is also multimedia enabled, or should be. Can you tell me why I can't even copy/paste a photo into an email with Gmail?

Increasingly, Gmail has fallen behind in offering better ways to organize the information in the inbox. As services like Xobni and Xoopit and CC Betty and Gist and yes, even Microsoft, have tried to help users organize the mountain of information streaming into the inbox, Gmail's "innovation" has been limited to gimmicks like skins and other bloatware. I mean, do I really need to play Snake in my inbox? (Yes, for those of you who may have missed it, there is an option in Gmail Labs that allows you to play the old cell phone time waster game Snake inside Gmail.)

At a time when email needs to once again be reinvented, when email should be rapidly evolving and is clearly insufficient in its current form, now is a mighty curious time to take off the Beta label.

Monday, July 06, 2009

On 2nd thought, does "propylene glycol gel" really sound healthier than tobacco?

Not smoking has its disadvantages. So I'm intrgued by these e-cigs I've been hearing about.

I want an e-cig that's just water vapor without the nicotine or flavors or anything. That way, I could have the "cool" factor of smoking, and have something to do with my hands, and have something in my mouth, and have something to do while I hang out with my friends during a smoking break, etc.

Then again, part of the "cool" factor relates directly to doing something illicit and dangerous...

Banning Stuff is the New Education

Last week a federal advisory panel recommended banning America's most popular and effective prescription pain pills, including Percocet and Vicodin.

It's no surprise that these pain relievers are considered dangerous. They contain powerful, habit-forming narcotics like oxycodone and hydrocodone. But that's not the issue. Percocet and Vicodin also contain acetaminophen — you know, Tylenol, that "harmless" over-the-counter pain reliever we pop like candy at the least sign of a headache, sore throat or general malaise.

It turns out that Tylenol isn't all that harmless. Overdoses kill more than 400 people each year and send 42,000 to the emergency room with acute liver failure. And so-called "combination pain killers" account for most of those overdoses.

"The FDA panel is not saying the drugs in Vicodin are bad," said one expert. "They are saying that tying [opioid narcotics and NSAIDs] together is wrong."

By adding acetaminophen to narcotics, combination drugs provide better pain relief with lower levels of narcotic. They are great for short-term use, such as after surgery.

Patients who take these drugs for chronic pain, however, build up a tolerance to the narcotic. As they take more and more, they also take more acetaminophen, and are at risk of liver damage.

Instead, Fishman said, doctors should prescribe the narcotics and acetaminophen separately. More trouble, but a safer option. (Mercury News)

So basically, instead of teaching people the right way to use a drug, the suggestion is just to ban it altogether.