Dec 31, 2007

Odds & Ends

A few random (useless?) observations on this, the final day of 2007:

Mystery Quarters: In roaming through unfamiliar neighborhoods during this holiday season, I noticed that no one puts their name on their mailbox any more. This, combined with the fact that new homes are typically constructed as far back from the public road as possible, lends us to think that modern Americanus Everyman feels less and less a part of the community; perfectly comfortable sliding into anonymity.

Good Portal, Bad Portal: Two local newspapers have re-launched their web sites, with varying degrees of success. The Saratogian (yes, a favorite whipping target here) has a screwed up site that is still (after three weeks) taking about 95 seconds to open. Once it does, it becomes apparent that it was a wasted minute and a half. The Gazette, on the other hand, has launched their new site, which reflects their new policy of offering a more substantial amount of content online, free of charge, than in the past. Their product is, in fact, both timely and efficient.

Deep snow, deep pockets
: Anyone notice how outrageously priced lift tickets have become? Only if you're a skiier, of course. Case in point: go take a peek at nearby West Mountain's rates. Whereas in the past, a nighttime lift ticket could be had for the spare change in your pocket, it now requires a bank loan. Notice also that most mountains are on the 4-hour/8-hour routine.

Rachael here, Rachael there: It seems like Dunkin Donuts branches are popping up all over the place. New standalone shops as well as mini-shops inside of convenience stores. That Rachael sure is a hustler.

Jared is Da Man: On the other hand, notice how just about every Quizmo's sub franchise has a For Sale sign on it? Two years ago, everyone was predicting these guys were going to put Subway out of business. It ain't happening.

Is it me, or? Anyone else notice how the questions on Jeopardy seem to be getting eassier? Another sign of the dummy'ing down of our society.

Sinking Fast: The Yahoo portal seems to be deteriorating into an old school, old media, broadcast-style piece of garbage. Proof: go take a look at it at any randomn time, and you'll see that it's loaded up with pop-culture kitsch. Britney this, Angelina that. Top Ten things to do to make him/her notice you at work. Holiday decorating tips. I thought the web was supposed to offer something different to this push-down approach, where the big corporate players tell us music to listen to, what movies to watch, what clothes to wear, what ideas to talk about? In Yahoo's case, all that is off the table and it's just business as usual.

That's about all I got today.


Dec 28, 2007

Look out, Fidel

The Bhutto murder is certainly a cause for concern.

Let's just hope Bush doesn't use it as an excuse to invade Cuba. Don't laugh: after all, we do have a track record here, don't we?

How's the old saying go: "Fool me once...."?

Dec 20, 2007

It's a Festivus miracle!

Although you might think it's too late to get your Festivus pole up, remember this: the Festivus celebration doesn't end until the head of the family gets pinned.

So, unless you've witnessed such a feat of strength, get moving. We have!

There's even a company that specializes in the manufacturing (?) of these poles -- just click on the photo of Ms. R. to hit their website and place your order. Feel confident that you'll receive a quality product; as the company's tagline states:

Made in Milwaukee--A city known for its Very High Strength-to-Weight Ratio

For the uninitiated -- a briefing on this important holiday:

Someone make a note to remind me to toss a Festivus gathering next year at this time.

The kind of nostalgia I will likely regret

In making arrangements to hook up with some friends at Friday night's local music showcase at Revolution Hall (with the Kamikaze Hearts, Super 400, etc), one of them made a suggestion that brought a chuckle:

"Let's do warm-up's next door at Brown's Brew Pub before the show."

I guess attending a nightclub concert is such a taxing physical challenge that a pre-show routine of sorts is in order. I wonder if we'll be doing stretching exercises?

It reminded me of college days, when we would prep for the keg parties with six-packs. Heaven forbid we show up unprepared, after all.


Dec 19, 2007

More on Old Media, part 365

The Saratogian is generally considered to be the Capital Region's best example of the worst aspects of corporate media consolidation. The paper's recent foray into the world on blogging serves as yet another proving point.

Managing Editor Barbara Lombardo had this to say, in her second entry:


"..... When I do talk with someone, though, I like to know who I'm talking to.

That's why I'm not exactly leaping into the world of blogging.

Would you answer your telephone and then get into a conversation with someone who not only was a stranger, but who had no intention of identifying himself? If you received an anonymous letter in the old-fashioned U.S. mail, would you write back?

As the managing editor of The Saratogian, I hope to use this space to converse with you. I like talking about the news business and explaining how and why things work. But I don't intend to engage in lengthy defenses with any single, anonymous, would-be pen pal."


Two points here:

1) This diatribe was in response to someone actually taking the time to leave a comment to her intial "here I am" blog entry. You know: the ole give and take conversational feedback loop that the Net is known for being, like, real good at?

2) Though she apparently has some problem with the "anonymous" option that is generally afforded to those making such comments, we must remember that this person's primary product (a daily printed newspaper) includes within it a section called Sound Off, wherein the public can have their opinion published, um: anonymously.

The local rumnor mill has it that the Saratogian's out-of-state parent company is looking to unload some if not all of its dailies. Although we would prefer to see it land in the arms of a locally-owned group of professional media types, the odds are that such a scenario won't happen , given the current economics of the game. The prediction here is that it will become part of the Hearst Corp (Times Union) empire.

Still, the day this rag changes hands -- to anyone short of Fox / News Corp -- will be a good day at The Spa'aaaaaaaa.......


Dec 18, 2007

Breaking news: a receptionist is hired

I kid you not; but what follows is an incoming Press Release to our editorial office today:

Schenectady, NY, December 18, 2007 – LeChase Construction Services, LLC is pleased to announce the addition of Bree Torres as Receptionist for the firm’s Capital District. In addition to her responsibilities as receptionist, Torres will also provide administrative support.


Now, we certainly wish the young lady well in her new career. But is this truly worthy of "press release" status?

Note to the good people at this firm: the problem with this is that the recipient newspapers and news services will tend to flag you as being one who sends non-newsworthy pieces. So, when you DO actually have something important to declare, they might no even bother opening up the email from you.

Just trying to help...


Dec 17, 2007

Why broadcast news sucks; part 213

CBS News' talking perky-face Katie Couric, launching into each of the presidential candidates with her highly-promoted key question:

"When was the last time you lost your temper?"


At the local level, of course, all we've heard about for the past three days is the stupendous winter storm we just received. I'm afraid to pick up today's papers to read the death toll. It must be in the thousands.


Dec 13, 2007

Fast take on the Harriman announcement

A quick reaction to yesterday's press conference in Albany, where Governor Spitzer unveiled his new plan for the Harriman Campus, a footprint long touted as being a key componennt to the region's economic development future and fortunes:

To this humble observer, it looks like a step backwords from previous visons for the campus. It now appears that the state offices (and workforce) that have long beeen planted there will remain, whereas the original game plan was to relocate the vast majority of them elsewhere.

Bad move.

This space, being physically located within a shout of both UAlbany's main campus as well as the Albany Nanotech / College of NanoScience / Sematech facility needs to become an extension of all those, and be dominated by private sector businesses involved in the commercialization of the IP associated with them. It's time we called some of our own bluffs here and went for the gold. State offices should not play a part in this vision.

Move them out of Harriman; get them out of the way. Just don't make the typical mistake of moving them into the downtowns throughout the region.

Dec 11, 2007

Farewell to an Old Warrior

I was saddened to hear of the passing of Stan Wright today.

Stan The Man was the founder and lead pony of PinPoint Communications, which is where I knew him from. I think it was back in about 1998 or so that we were intro'd -- the company I was involved with at the time has been engaged by him to do some coding work, I think.

Stan didn't look the part of your typical software startup entrepreneur -- he was twice the age of his fellow tenants at the RPI Incubator; a gruff old-school kind of guy amongst the diploma - carrying fresh faces.

But his baby, PinPoint, is what the game is all about--a narrow, vertical niche player that offered a very specific set of solutions in a very focused field. In this case, it was "grassroots lobbying" software; or that was the company tagline at least. He ran it as basically a one-man band, fighting the good fight trying to keep it afloat on a day-to-day basis.

My favorite remembrance of Stan was when I tossed him what I thought was a curve ball during an informal conversation. It was at a techConnex mixer at Brown's Brewing Companyy, circa 2000. I asked him whether he felt any guilt over the deployment of his software, which I opined "was just basically flooding the in-boxes of Congressman with junk mail." But he was ready for me on this one...

Stan's reply was simple: "Hell, these are the idiots that let our mailboxes get filled with unwanted junk mail, I'm just giving them a taste of their own medicine."

Well put, Mr Wright.

Bon Voyage.