Tuesday, August 04, 2009

J Mills

The previews are a little blurry, but you can click on each image for a close up of one of Madison's freshest solo artists:

Worst Cars Ever

Time magazine's 50 Worst Cars of All Time features a variety of disappointing vehicles. The 180 hp Corvette and the 90 hp Camaro are pitiful, and that was almost three decades before Chevy failed!

I was dismayed by the exclusion of both HHR and PT Cruiser, perhaps they cannibalized each other in the the crappy-retro-hatchback-box sector.

This particular monstrosity is just a different kind of ugly...

Friday, March 21, 2008

My Disdain for Doug Gottlieb

Well, besides the fact that he dropped out of Notre Dame after being convicted of fraud, Doig Gottlieb just acts like a jerk once the NCAA Tourney rolls around.

He also exhibits clear bias against his former conference rivals. After Syracuse's gross exclusion from the field of 65 last year, Gottlieb was the only basketball analyst defending the committee's decision, even calling Syracuse's pre-season schedule "fraudulent" (despite the fact that he himself had predicted they would make the tourney). He exchanged words with Boeheim and even stated publicly that he received lots of hate mail from Upstate New York.

On ESPN last night, Gottlieb said to watch out for Sienna and discussed their top players (while showing highlights). It just so happened that he only included clips from their loss to Syracuse last November. Why is Gottlieb using that footage? Just to remind all the Syracuse fans out there that their team isn't in the tourney and he knows it

But as much as I dislike him, I'm glad he works for ESPN. Why? Because every other analyst they have is afraid of controversy or crossing the NCAA establishment. That said, it would be nicer if Jay Bilas just stopped being a "yes man".

(speaking of bias in college basketball, Slate had a great piece about the teams we hate in this year's tourney)

Monday, March 10, 2008

Traffic Wave Theory

I spent several hours over the weekend contemplating the causes of traffic jams. Why? I drove into Chicago on a Friday afternoon. Turns out others have taken this to the next level... William Beaty claims to know how to hack a traffic jam. The New Scientist reports on the first experiment that truly replicates Beaty's "wave theory".

And if you're too lazy to click on the links, at least watch this video:

Tuesday, March 04, 2008

Indie Record Stores

During one particular phase of adolescence I determined that most of the music I had been listening to was crappy and needed to be replaced. I headed to Strawberry Fields with a stack of old CDs. Needless to say, the clerk (who appeared to have Parkinson's but actually just drank too much coffee) agreed with my opinion that all of my albums absolutely sucked. He dressed down my taste in music and held a firm line at $1 per disc (store credit only). I never sold a used CD again.

10 years later, I leafed through records at a store in Madison on a Friday night (my previous visit had resulted in the store clerk providing an analysis of how I would react to a live Hendrix album based on my musical tastes). A man in his late thirties walked in with a stack of CDs that represented a collection of "at least 1000 more." After about 30 seconds of review, the clerk quipped that he "cannot sell these albums, they are not even worth $0.01". Ouch.

It was clear that the man's ego was crushed... he felt the need to validate his musical worth by quizzing the clerk about an obscure Joey Ramone side project that didn't actually exist, according to the clerk's computer. Finally, the man asked if they had been able to locate a particular rare CD. Without even looking up from what he was doing, the clerk responded "I think we're still working on that for ya."

A waiter may pay more attention to the affluent-looking couple than the table of teenagers. A bike shop employee will take more time to discuss riding preferences if they know you have the potential to drop serious cash on a serious bike. These are examples of a financial incentive (tip/commission) leading to better customer service. Does the clerk at an indie record store have a social or emotional incentive to appear cool, thus leading to poor treatment of the musically inferior (and better treatment of those with "acceptable" taste)?

Monday, February 25, 2008


IMHO, Wired is one of the best publications out there. Not everything in Wired will appeal to everyone (it gets a little techie at times) but they do manage to identify and explain many important trends shaping our society and economy.

Back in 2004, Editor Chris Anderson coined the phrase The Long Tail with a cover story that later became a book and is now a fact of life in the Web economy. He's proved it wasn't a fluke with his latest essay on the intersection of technology, economics, and society: Free! Why $0.00 Is the Future of Business.

There is no catch phrase in Anderson's latest doctrine but it's just as insightful as his first. Why? Because he deftly explains how the cost of computing has changed the economics of the web, which in turn is changing the way companies (and individuals) make money. In a nutshell, there are more free lunches than ever and it's helpful to understand how you are getting your free lunch. In a very "practice what you preach" fashion, Wired is giving away free copies of the print version.

Anderson doesn't provide an exhaustingly detailed analysis in his essay but I'm sure he'll provide more examples on his blog as he works on his next book. This is exactly what he did for The Long Tail and it's probably one of the greatest things an author can do for himself (and his readers). For another example of an author blogging around the themes of a book while working on ideas for another, check out Freakonomics.

Monday, February 18, 2008

New York v. Boston

I grew up in New York and lived with several Massholes during college. I've heard more than my fair share of Bostonian gloat, but these days I'm happy to chat with folks from New England. If you've ever been on either side of the NY/Boston rivalry, this clip from the Daily Show is worth watching (for some rare, but sweet, New York gloat).

Tuesday, February 12, 2008

33 1/2

I recently made the most ironic music purchase of my life: a copy of In Rainbows that cost me $20. Radiohead's most recent album was released (essentially for free) on the internet last October, so why would an otherwise rational consumer such as myself spend $20 on a product that is otherwise free?

The logical explanation is that I chose my own price ($20) on Radiohead's website because I wanted to support an artist that is standing up to the status quo of the record industry... but that isn't the case. I paid $20 at my local record store for a vinyl copy of In Rainbows. Why vinyl? It just sounds better. It's more fun to collect. It provides a more captivating group listening experience. It includes album art - the way it was meant to be.

I'm not claiming to be a trend-setter. Audiophiles never gave up on vinyl. For Hipsters, it's an image thing. But these days, twenty-somethings from all walks of life are raiding their parents basements for records and turntables, and even buying new ones. You want quantitative data? There isn't much. But Wired was on top of this last fall. Even CBS has taken notice.

Thursday, February 07, 2008

Why subscribe to HBO?

The Wire has received a lot of praise from critics, but most people still haven't seen it. My advice to you: watch the 1st season. After a season of the West Baltimore drug trade, the show widens its lens. The characters and stories include corrupt longshoreman, human trafficking, hardball politics, legalized drugs, inner-city schools, and the modern American newspaper.

If you are a fan of the show, check out Freakonomics' weekly feature: "What Do Real Thugs Think of the Wire?". Ethnographer/sociologist Sudhir Venkatesh watches The Wire with New York City gang leaders and reports on the experience each week. The reactions and insights of the "real" gang leaders shed light on forces and rules that are assumed but unspoken in the show.

Season 5 adds the final building block in The Wire's microcosm of an American city: the role of the media. Writer/producer David Simon spent years as a reporter for the The Baltimore Sun before creating The Wire. His basic messages about the media are pretty clear, and he elaborates in his recent opinion piece in the Washington Post, "Does the News Matter To Anyone Anymore?".

Wednesday, February 06, 2008

Found elsewhere...

Microsoft's bid for Yahoo! has received a lot of press, but Lev Grossman thinks it doesn't really matter.

Slate explains Google's latest mobile phone platform.

And for my fellow road warriors, The Middle Seat provides an outlook for air travel in 2008.