Monday, July 26, 2010

Go Team

I went to a Phillies game today. It was an afternoon game and they were playing the Colorado Rockies. Now as much as I enjoy going to a baseball game, there are several things that are really not well thought out about the whole experience. And by the way, the Phillies won this game, but not without some drama in the top of the ninth.

My first issue is with the stadium. I have been to several stadiums and they all seem to be very similar, at least in term of layout. This layout, however, is actually quite awkward. For starters, there is one escalator instead of two side by side. This means that for the first eight innings the escalator is going up, and after the eighth inning the escalator is going down. So what if you want to go down during the game? You cannot use the escalator. Instead, you have to find one of several poorly marked flights of stairs or wander over to one of only a few ramps. There is also the elevator, too. The point is that the stadium is not set up to allow people to move easily between tiers and sections. And since the vendors are disproportionately dispersed among the tiers it affects your access to the vendors.

My second issue is with the parking. Now I understand that it is difficult to organize parking for a full stadium, especially when you are talking about over forty thousand people. But you would think that there would be a better flow for traffic both before and after games. There should be better signage and alternate routing of traffic on game days to minimize the collateral congestion caused by the attendees.

The third issue is with people being able to get to their seats. There are apparently certain rules as to when people are allowed to go to their seats. These times include after a ball has been hit. This seems strange, especially since this would hinder the view of people sitting down. Why not let people go to their seats before the pitch is thrown? Or right after an unhit pitch? There is certainly some reason for it, but I have yet to find that out.

This is not to say that I dislike going to baseball games. I still rather enjoy it. It just seems like a rather coarse operation these days.

Sunday, July 18, 2010

Bored of Directors

Thank goodness for BP. That is probably what all the executives on Wall Street are thinking. Not only did they skate by on the soiled tatters of their underwear the first time around, but they escaped the potential, “hey, wait a second…” the second time around because BP had to go and pollute the Earth. Wall Street, remember? The people who created labyrinthine risk vehicles that distributed the risk of investment to the public. And how many of these executives actually got in trouble? Do you remember seeing the names of any Wall Street executives next to words “convicted” or “indicted”? I thought not. Funny how the executives of Lehman, AIG, Washington Mutual, Bear Stearns, and others managed to keep their noses clean and collect bonuses and golden parachutes at the same time. You can make as many arguments as you want explaining why some banks should not have been allowed to fail, but if they did fail, there at least might have been a chance that these executives would not have gotten multimillion dollars payouts.

But that is not even the “what?!” point. We already know that the executives of these banks need to be stripped of all worldly possessions to even begin to makes things right. The “what?!” point is that no one has even considered the Board of Directors of these banks. Or Board of Trustees. Or Board of Managers. Or Executive Board. Whatever you want to call it, everyone seems to have forgotten about these perpetrators of deception. In a stock corporation, which the four abovementioned banks are or were, the Board has the utmost power. That means they have final approval over the actions of the corporation, whether active or passive. The Sarbanes-Oxley Act was designed to hold responsible the people who wield this power. Yet no Board member has received any negative press to date.

My goal is not to rail on the Boards of Wall Street, though someone certainly should (preferably the Department of Justice). My goal is to ask what purpose a Board of Directors truly serves. Whenever there is a problem with a company, the people we blame are the executives. The CEO, COO, CFO, President, VPs, and so on. No one ever talks about the Board. It is as though they suddenly vanished or had no real part in their company’s wrongdoings or missteps. And yet Board members are traditionally paid (stocks and options ultimately become money), especially if you are on the Board of say, Apple or Starbucks, Yes, yes, there are nonpaying Board seats, but we are not talking about those companies here.

Let us take Apple. A juggernaut of a company poised to be to technology what China is poised to be to economy. And when you boil it all down, it is because Steve Jobs steered Apple in the right direction. All credit will ultimately go to Jobs and not more than one sad little ounce will go to the engineers. But what about the Board of Directors for Apple? I am sure they all have very sore shoulders from patting themselves on the back for Apple’s meteoric rise in the industry—either for believing they helped lead Apple or for congratulating themselves for choosing Jobs to run the company. So what is the job of the Apple Board anyways? Are they involved in the decisions of the direction of the company? Did they discuss Apple’s/Jobs’ foray into the iPad? Given everything we know about Jobs and his micromanaging behavior, I would guess a big fat no. So what do they do? We know that they authorized a personal jet for Jobs as a bonus for his success with the iPod. In fact, most of what me know through the press is that the Board okays bonuses to Jobs for Apple’s success, which the world has come to synonymously associate with Job’s success. I am pretty sure Al Gore, who is on the Board at Apple (and whom I do like), know very little about what goes on at Apple. The man wrote a book and made a movie about global warming and toured the US for a lecture circuit. If Steve Jobs works close to seven days a week on Apple projects, I think Gore would be lucky to remember a three digit code to get into the Board of Directors private bathroom.

Let us look at another Board member. How about Mellody Hobson? You know her. She is on television always dishing out sane financial advice. She started Ariel investments. She also sits on several Boards for several companies, such as Dreamworks, Estee Lauder, and Starbucks. Those are just three of the ones of which I know you have heard. How much time do you think she spends for each of these companies? Mind you, these are giant companies in billion dollar industries. If the Board has this kind of power in a stock company, why do its members pay so little attention to it?

In Apple’s and probably Starbucks’ case, you are probably thinking, “who cares?” and honestly, I did too. But let us look at a more extreme case. How about Lehman Brothers? How about BP? These two companies were run into the ground and in the process destroyed a large chunk of America and its families. But in the end someone crafted the CDOs and skimped on the leak backup plan. Then someone wrote off on it. And then someone okayed the writing off of it. So who is responsible? You would think the people that are getting paid the big bucks to actually run the company would be responsible. They were chosen because they knew and understood what the company needed. The Board, who supposedly knew and understood what the company needed, in turn selected them. So if that was their job, when did plausible deniability become an acceptable excuse? Should it not have been their jobs to know what was going on?

Clearly not, as history would tell us. This is the clearest and best example of the fat getter fatter. So the only question is, “how can I get in the action?”

Monday, July 12, 2010

No Sync For You!

I am a Mac person. I know that sounds weird given my lack of unabashed and limitless love for the iPad. It also seems weird given the fact that I do not even own and Intel based Mac, and those came out over three years ago. And not that it matters, but I was a Mac person before the iPod came out and everyone started jumping on the Mac bandwagon. I had a Powerbook 520c back in the day that cost my parents $2300+, and when it became obsolete I made a digital picture frame out of it (though my carpentry skills stink, so it looked cheap). The point I am trying to get to is that I have a mirrored drive door G4 Powermac. I got it about eight years ago and have been using it ever since for all my computing needs. This is important because as a PowerPC, the MDD G4 cannot run Intel only OS X, such as Snow Leopard, 10.6. The last OS X to support the PowerPC was Leopard, 10.5. I am still running Tiger, 10.4.

You would think that my biggest problem should be that I cannot run applications written for Intel processors. For the most part, I simply continue to run the last versions of applications written for or supporting PowerPC processors. This really has not caused me any grief, since my current applications already do everything I need to do for me. I do get the occasional snag when I come across a file that was created in a newer application, such as a .docx file or a hi-def video file. But obviously for the last three years I have been able to get my work done as usual.

Now, however, I have a problem. That problem is the iPhone4. I love the iPhone. It has become a fixture in my life. So when the iPhone4 came out I ordered one. Now I should have read and learned more about the phone before ordering it, but the bottom line was that I was going to get the phone for all its fancy new features. What I found out was that the phone requires at least OS 10.5.8, the last version of Leopard, in order to sync. So I was left with a problem. How was I to sync my new iPhone4?

You may not think this is big problem because the vast majority of iPhone users have a current computer that they simply continue to use for the new iPhone. But my problem is that I cannot use my current computer with my new iPhone. And more specifically, I cannot use any computer with my new iPhone. By that I mean that I cannot sync my current data to my new phone because it is confined to my G4. This is because iTunes offers near one way syncing due to fears that people will use the device to copy music and video. (The problem being not that people are illegally copying media, but that people are using the iPhone to copy the media.) So when I plug my iPhone into a computer other than my G4, it asks if I want to sync and replace the contents of my iPhone with the contents from the computer’s iTunes library. And because it is not my G4, the computer’s iTunes library will have nothing, so my iPhone will be erased and replaced with nothing.

As I said, this is usually not a problem for the majority of iPhone users. It is a problem for people who lose their old computer. It could be a hard drive crash or just an upgrade to a new computer. Apple does not have an easy workaround for people like this. Tech savvy people would simply say, “copy your iTunes library folder over,” as though it were a simple task. It is not and does not take into account the size of one’s iTunes library. If you have thousands of songs and movies, you are not simply copying the library onto an USB drive. You would need to copy it over a shared network connection or to an external drive. For many people that is still easier said than done. Again, the problem is that iTunes will not let you move songs from the device to a computer that did not already have the song in the library. This is regardless of whether the song was imported from a CD you own or purchased through another source than the iTunes store. Just another subtle way Apple is trying to control the way we use media.

So back to my original problem. I need to be able to sync my iPhone4 to my old G4, but I need to upgrade the system to Leopard, which I am not particularly keen on doing without knowing how it would affect everything I did on the computer. So I thought I would try to sync the iPhone4 on a Windows 7 computer. The problem I ran into was that in trying to sync my iPhone3 to the Win7 computer, I could only back up contacts and appointments and the like. None of the media or apps were transferred. Now I could have iTunes download the media and apps I purchased from Apple to the Win7 computer. And while that does accomplish the end goal of having that information on the Win7 computer, it does not accomplish it in the way I need it to—by syncing.

So now my only two options are to copy my iTunes library over to the Win7 computer, which is not that easy since I declined to let iTunes handle my media files because I disliked how iTunes handles the naming and filing of media, or to upgrade the ol’ G4 to Leopard. I have currently opted to upgrade to Leopard. I am making a clone of my Tiger boot drive in the event Leopard causes too many problems. In the future I will have to move all my media to a network drive and hope that iTunes will be able to sync media from the drive to my iPhone. If so, this would allow me to use the Win7 computer in the future to sync as well once the G4 finally becomes completely obsolete and not just partially obsolete.

Monday, July 5, 2010


I have never been one to get caught up in fleeting fads once they have taken a life of their own. For example, I never watched The Crying Game, nor do I ever intend to watch it, since I did not get a chance to see it before everyone and their cousin said it was the greatest movie ever. Likewise, I will not be watching several other Oscar winning movies. The same is true for books as well. Fortunately, I read the Harry Potter series before it became a runaway train, and was able to enjoy it before everyone ruined it for me.

The latest fad is of course Twilight and all its related vampire books and television shows. Now I am a fan of vampire stories for the simple entertainment they can provide (think Blade and Underworld), though I never got into Ann Rice. But seeing how everyone is going crazy about the Twilight saga, I thought I would give it a shot. I ended up borrowing the audio CDs from my public library and listening to it on my drives to and from work. And since my commute is only about ten minutes, it took me awhile to get through the first two books. I also watched the first movie.

Now, I know that Twilight was not written with my demographic in mind. Not by a long shot. I am, however, quite disturbed when I do think about the demographic for which it was written. Twilight was written for young girls, from tweens to teenagers, and possibly even twenty-somethings. And given the incredible response to the series, it clearly speaks to them. What is disturbing is not that so many young females love the series, but that this is what young females find appealing.

Let us break down the story, or at least the first two books in the series. You have a seventeen year old girl who is special in that she is immune to many of the powers that some vampires possess. Which, to everyone else who is normal, is a completely worthless power. She happens to then be transplanted into a town where both vampires and werewolves live and falls in love with a vampire. Or whatever seventeen year old girls consider “falling in love”. As far as I can tell from the books, it means exaggerated shortsightedness mixed with both selfishness and self-deprecation. About ten percent of the story is fantasy with stories of werewolves and vampires and confrontations between the different permutations of them, and the remaining ninety percent is Bella (the main character), whining and pouting and pretending to know what her life is all about at the ripe old age of seventeen.

Bella is seen as the protagonist here. And because the targeted demographic is female tweens, you do not just write characters for whom your audience could cheer, you write characters that with whom your audience can identify. This means that most teenage girls can see themselves in Bella. Not a good commentary on teenage girls, sadly. There have been videos of teenage girls swooning over the cast in real life, clearly unable to make the distinction between fantasy and reality. Ah, the future of the world.

Now I am sincerely hoping that the final two books will somehow redeem the series, but given that I have come across some of the major plotlines, I think it will not. I think I will only become annoyed at the inconsistent liberties Meyer takes with vampire and werewolf lore. Maybe TBS will reair the Blade series.