Friday, March 27, 2009

Tedisco and Murphy videos

Republican Jim Tedisco and Democrat Scott Murphy debated yesterday in a televised event I was happy to miss, because I don't live in the 20th Congressional District.

The 20th Congressional Disctrict is a horribly gerrymandered monster that stretches from the Mid-Hudson Valley to the Adirondacks and includes Northern Dutchess and all of Columbia and Greene counties.

Don't believe me? See for yourself.

Not to be outdone, Maurice Hinchey's district is just as mind-boggling.

Tedisco met with the Freeman's editorial board on March 18. Murphy came on March 13.

The candidates also spoke to our colleagues at The Saratogian on separate occasions.

The videos are very insightful, if obviously slanted toward the Saratoga part of the district (Friendly note to The Saratogian: Get some frames for your newspapers)

The election, which is Tuesday, is being followed with great interest nationally, as it is considered by pundits who don't live or work in the district as a referendum on the president.

If you live in the district, you might want to watch these.

Why am I bringing this to your attention?

To shamelessly show you an exchange caught by C-SPAN between Senate Budget Chairman Kent Conrad (D-N.D.) and committee member Sen. Chuck Grassley (R-Iowa).

CONRAD: "You know, I used to like you. Oh, you are good."

GRASSLEY: "Your wife said the same thing."

Don't believe me? See for yourself:

Wednesday, March 25, 2009

Wacky labels

These puppies have been around for a while, and - as mentioned in "New Yorkers have the right to be oppressed" - they were neatly cataloged by Michigan Lawsuit Abuse Watch a while back.

Here are some of the perpetrations:

* A label on a baby stroller warns: “Remove child before folding";

* A brass fishing lure with a three-pronged hook on the end warns: “Harmful if swallowed";

* A popular scooter for children warns: "This product moves when used";

* A nine- by three-inch bag of air used as packing material cautions: "Do not use this product as a toy, pillow, or flotation device";

* A flushable toilet brush warns: "Do not use for personal hygiene";

The label on an electric hand blender promoted for use in "blending, whipping, chopping and dicing," warns: "Never remove food or other items from the blades while the product is operating";

* A digital thermometer that can be used to take a person's temperature several different ways warns: "Once used rectally, the thermometer should not be used orally";

* A household iron warns users: “Never iron clothes while they are being worn”;

* A label on a hair dryer reads, “Never use hair dryer while sleeping”;

* A warning on an electric drill made for carpenters cautions: “This product not intended for use as a dental drill”;

* The label on a bottle of drain cleaner warns: “If you do not understand, or cannot read, all directions, cautions and warnings, do not use this product”;

* A smoke detector warns: “Do not use the Silence Feature in emergency situations. It will not extinguish a fire”;

* A massage chair warns: “DO NOT use massage chair without clothing... and, Never force any body part into the backrest area while the rollers are moving”;

* A cardboard car sunshield that keeps sun off the dashboard warns, “Do not drive with sunshield in place”;

* An “Aim-n-Flame” fireplace lighter cautions, “Do not use near fire, flame or sparks”;

* A label on a hand-held massager advises consumers not to use “while sleeping or unconscious”;

* A 12-inch rack for storing compact disks warns: “Do not use as a ladder”;

* A cartridge for a laser printer warns, “Do not eat toner”;

* A 13-inch wheel on a wheelbarrow warns: “Not intended for highway use”;

* A can of self-defense pepper spray warns users: “May irritate eyes”;

* A warning on a pair of shin guards manufactured for bicyclists says: “Shin pads cannot protect any part of the body they do not cover”;

* A snowblower warns: “Do not use snowthrower on roof”;

* A dishwasher carries this warning: “Do not allow children to play in the dishwasher”;

* A popular manufactured fireplace log warns: “Caution - Risk of Fire”;

* A box of birthday cake candles says: “DO NOT use soft wax as ear plugs or for any other function that involves insertion into a body cavity”;

Do M-Law a favor and get the book. It's worth it.

New York gun laws, BAM!

For those wondering where I've got the assault rifle description described in "New Yorkers have the right to be oppressed," the answer is the very helpful site of the Ulster County Sheriff's Office.

And for those who'd like to know, here are the gun laws for New York state, courtesy of the NRA-Institute for Legislative Action.

My description, if you noticed, quoted, almost verbatim, that of the document for assault weapons. I added the red color to add, ahem, color to my column (I like red).

New York State Gun Laws

The NRA-Institute for Legislative Action has published a document, "What`s So Scary About Banning Assault Weapons?". (Their answer? Slippery slope).

I was going to make a joke about that. But then I thought it's probably better to avoid making fun of people who are really serious about wanting to have a semiautomatic rifle with a folding telescoping stock and with a pistol grip that protrudes conspicuously beneath the action of the weapon, which also has a flash suppresser, a bayonet mount and a grenade launcher, in red.

Freedom in the 50 States: An Index of Personal and Economic Freedom

As seen on "New Yorkers have the right to be oppressed."

"Freedom in the 50 States: An Index of Personal and Economic Freedom" by Jason Sorens and William P. Ruger, February 26, 2009

Freedom in the 50 States Freedom in the 50 States Daily Freeman "Freedom in the 50 States: An Index of Personal and Economic Freedom" by Jason Sorens and William P. Ruger, February 26, 2009

Tuesday, March 24, 2009

CNN discovers word clouds

After President's Barack Obama's second live press conference tonight, CNN's Wolf Blitzer announced one of the network's with grand fanfare.

The president words were vomited, I mean, presented in a "Word Cloud," which kind of took the speech out of context and provides no insight whatsoever.

Word clouds are nothing new in cyberspace. They're "clouds" of text that give greater prominence to words that appear more frequently in the text of a source. Clouds, like the one below, about the entire Twitter universe, abound (even though there is no reason why).

Furthermore, you can make a cloud out of anything, thanks to

Case in point, here's a word cloud for this very blog.

Here's a better one, the Ulster economic transition task force report to the county executive.

Cool? Absolutely. But, really, what possible use can you get out of this?

Six very long movies in four minutes

If you like movies, but don't have much time to watch them, the folks at the University of York Filmmaking Society have an answer for you.

They've recently created a one-minute, one-take version of the two-hour, 22-minute movie "Forrest Gump"

(You can watch this faster than you can read an article about KINGSTON POINT BEACH BEING CLOSED!)

Most impressive, in my view, is "Kill Bill" - parts I and II - also in one take and in one minute. The original versions were 107 minutes and 137 minutes. That's four hours and four minutes condensed into one minute.

(That's less time needed to read a article about KINGSTON POINT BEACH REMAINING OPEN!)

One of the filmmakers, Will Tribble, said in his blog that they are planning to do one more. They're considering "Watchmen" (2 hours, 41 minutes), the "Back to the Future" trilogy (5 hours, 41 minutes), and "Star Wars" (all six are 13 hours, 12 minutes).

My hopes are in "Star Wars."

A mega-trilogy that comes to mind - at 9-hours, 4 minutes (short versions) - is "Lord of the Rings." With apologies to Tolkien fans, the films were re-imagined by the creative animators at How It Should Have Ended. Here's the whole thing, this time in two minutes.

Hey, at least I didn't waste much of your time.

Saturday, March 21, 2009

Wednesday, March 18, 2009

Et tu, Twitter?

Those of you who had to suffer through "Twitted twits all in a twit about Twitter" may have some questions.

* Did Pulitzer Prize-winning columnist Leonard Pitts Jr. really wrote "squirrels on cocaine"?

You bet your tweaked-out squirrel he did! Here's the piece.

* Is "Twitted twits all in a twit about Twitter" an actual sentence?

It is. To twit (the verb) is to subject to light ridicule. A twit (the noun) is a fool. And "All in a twit" means either upset or frantic. Just don't try to read the headline fast.

I was trying to get the same effect as in Buffalo buffalo Buffalo buffalo buffalo buffalo Buffalo buffalo - an amusing, yet horribly constructed sentence that happens to be grammatically correct.

* Did U.S. Sen. John McCain and ABC's George Stephanopoulos really had an interview via Twitter on Tuesday?

Yes they did. Both discussed really, really important stuff during this groundbreaking interview - stuff like McCain's daughter's cred with conservative blondes and weather the senator prefers PCs or Blackberries, as reported in this story you won't bother to read. Most importantly, there's this masterpiece:

Tuesday, March 17, 2009

Do papers matter?

The Seattle Post-Intelligencer published its last edition today, after more than 146 years in print. I really hate to say this, but Tuesday's front page, at right, is the best I've seen in a very long time. You can't quite duplicate the impact of a 14"x23" photo online, or in an iPhone or in a Kindle.

But does it matter?

The Seattle Post-Intelligencer was recognized by Harvard University's Taylor Family Award for Fairness in Newspapers just on Monday for its series “Young Guns,” about gang violence "from the perspective of gang members themselves. This approach required the reporters and editors to verify the accuracy of statements made by minors and gang members and tackle the dangers of glorifying gang violence. Staff reporter Claudia Rowe and photographer Mike Kane produced the series together with designer John Nelson, news editor Jennifer Johnson and copy editors Bill Fink and Christina Okeson. After the series ran, Seattle’s mayor announced a $9 million initiative to curb youth violence."

A much smaller P-I survives online. Its photo archives are impressive.

Similarly, last month, the Rocky Mountain News of Denver closed its doors 55 days shy of its 150 anniversary.

Final Edition from Matthew Roberts on Vimeo.

Both the Rocky and the P-I were big dailies in two-newspaper towns, so comparisons and market studies are bound to follow.

In the meantime, in case you are wondering what happens when a town loses one of its papers, below is a study by Princetown University. Here's the study's abstract:

"The Cincinnati Post published its last edition on NewYear’s Eve 2007, leaving the Cincinnati Enquirer as the only daily newspaper in the market. The next year, fewer candidates ran for municipal office in the suburbs most reliant on the Post, incumbents became more likely to win re-election, and voter turnout fell. We exploit a difference-in-difference strategy–comparing changes in outcomes before and after the Post’s closure in suburbs where the newspaper offered more or less intensive coverage–and the fact that the Post’s closing date was fixed 30 years in advance to rule out some non-causal explanations for these results. Although our findings are statistically imprecise, they demonstrate that newspapers–even underdogs such as the Post, which had a circulation of just 27,000 when it closed– can have a substantial and measurable impact on public life." (Emphasis mine)

Do Newspapers Matter?

And here's Alan D. Mutter's take on it.

Just sayin'

Thursday, March 12, 2009

The race for the 20th, abridged

Also on Twitter are the campaigns of Jim Tedisco and Scott Murphy in the race for the 20th Congressional District.

Tedisco's page is what you would expect from a Twitter campaign. He asks for money, plugs his site (and his Facebook page - which is soooo yesterday) and posts little quips about this and that policy.

Murphy's has one post. Dude, why bother?

Libertarian Eric Sundwall doesn't have one because, I guess, he's a libertarian.

The special election is March 31. The seat was vacated by Democrat Kirsten Gillibrand, who was appointed to the U.S. Senate in January.

The 20th Congressional District stretches from the Mid-Hudson Valley to the northern Adirondacks and includes Northern Dutchess and all of Columbia and Greene counties.

Local pols in 140 characters

Now that Facebook is old news, it's worth discussing Twitter, the inexplicable site that allows you to post whatever you want, as long as whatever you want doesn't exceed 140 characters.

Locally, state Assemblyman Marc Molinaro, R-Red Hook, and state Sen. John Bonacic, R-Mount Hope, are the only representatives who are representin' on the site.

Somehow I thought Bonacic looked different.

Wednesday, March 11, 2009

Before you say, "whaaaaa???"

An Australian couple was, indeed, notified via Facebook that they were going to lose their home, Rod Mcguirk of the Associated Press reported in December.

Also, many have lost their jobs thanks to posts on the site:

Exhibit A: Dan Leone lost his job with the Philadelphia Eagles for a status update.

Exhibit B: Virgin fired 13 flight attendants last year for "criticising the airline's flight safety standards and describing its passengers as 'chavs'" on Facebook.

You get the point, chav.


The CNNMoney article by Jessi Hempel mentioned in "Facebook a valuable waste of time" begins with Peter Lichtenstein of New Paltz.

Quotable quote: "The newest members - the ones behind Facebook's accelerating growth rate - are more, ahem, mature types like Lichtenstein, who never thought they'd have the time or inclination to overshare on the web."

Monday, March 9, 2009

Global Faces and Networked Places

The report below, "Global Faces and Networked Places," by Nielsen Online, cites that social networks and blogs are more popular than e-mail.

Page 8 bonus: "Employees within the Naples (Italy) municipality are allowed an hour per day on Facebook."


Monday, March 2, 2009

Jimmy's nervous, and happy

Saugerties High School graduate Jimmy Fallon finished his first show today and wasted no time to post a Tweeter entry. The taped show was not available for critics, so you'll have to see it to judge it.

"New York City was hit with a huge snow storm," he said in his opening monologue, the Associated Press reported, "and I woke up this morning and said, 'Please, let it be a snow day!'"