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Wednesday, March 31, 2004

BTK Cold Case Investigation Continues

The Wichita Police Department as of March 29th had received 650 tips on their anonymous phone line, 320 email tips and five letters at their PO Box. Based on the call volume the tip line will now be manned from 8 a.m. to 8 p.m. The tip line phone number is 316-263-0138 and the email address is coldcase@wichita.gov. The mailing address is Cold Case, P.O. Box 9202, Wichita, KS 67277-0202. The next police briefing will be on Friday, April 2nd.

Related Links:
Wichita Police
KILLER'S FACE - Witnesses of 30 years ago failed to capture BTK's description [Wichita Eagle]
Do you know BTK? He's smart, and he probably fits right in. From the clues he's left, the killer tells us about who he is. [Wichita Eagle]
BTK Serial Killer Clue Update
Cold Case gets Hot: The Kansas BTK Serial Killer is Back

Recap of First The O’ Franken Factor Show

Al Franken Picture
Al Franken's new radio show "The O’ Franken Factor" (www.ofrankenfactor.com) on Air America Radio premiered today (12:00-3:00pm), here is some of what was talked about:

• Call from G. Gordon Liddy (on air with his own radio show). Al & "G" are friends and respect each other, even though they're political opposites. Al mentioned his "Nixon Bathroom" - decorated with Nixon memorabilia.

David Sirota from the Center for American Progress replays tape of Donald Rumsfeld being caught in a lie on "Meet The Press." Mention their website which tracks Bush Administration lies. They will be a frequent guest on the show.

• Comedy bit with Bob Elliott from the old "The Bob and Ray" show.

Ben Stein called to wish Al all the best as he tries to destroy capitalism.

• Interview with Bob Kerrey: member of 9-11 commission, former Kansas Senator, and President of New School University in New York City.
-Osama bin Laden declared war on the United States on February 23, 1998
-related link: Here is bin Laden's actual declaration of war: Jihad Against Jews and Crusaders
-First Attack by al-Qaeda: On August 7, 1998, the United States embassies in the East African cities of Dar es Salaam, Tanzania and Nairobi, Kenya were severely damaged in nearly simultaneous truck bomb attacks.
-Why did the administration want the 9-11 commission's report out before the election? Report undoubtedly will become political fodder.
-Report will very likely have criticism for both Clinton and Bush Administrations.
-Why were members of the bin Laden family allowed to leave the US by the Bush Administration when all other flights were grounded?

• Interview with Rapper Chuck D of "Public Enemy" co-host of "Unfiltered" radio show on Air America
-Mentioned National Hip Hop Political Convention: June 16-19, 2004; Newark, New Jersey
-Chuck D might be doing a Hip Hop Countdown.

• Interview with Michael Moore:
-Al and Michael have a mutual admiration society
-Michael Moore's last line of Academy Awards speech was cut off- "An Apology to Bush Family".
-Bush Family and Saudi Royal Family longtime ties discussed.
-Reads one his email from a US Army Captain in Iraq-critical of current administration
-Talks to caller with question about Iraqi deaths
-Reads email from US soldier in Iraq saying troop moral is not high and they don't understand their mission
-Bush AWOL from Alabama Air National Guard story
-Majority of Americans are really Liberal (just don't use the word because it's now a perjorative term)
-Al Gore called; Michael Moore bemoans Bush stealing 2000 election and Ralph Nader's role in tipping the election. Happy Birthday to Al Gore (born March 31, 1948).
-Al Gore will visit Al Franken's show. Gore is trying to start his own TV network?

• Al calls some old friends from Minnesota
• Al calls his daughter who teaches school at PS 86 in NYC and speaks with her principal.

Running gag: Liberal-hater and righty flame thrower Ann Coulter being held prisoner in Green Room. (played by Bebe Neuwirth)
Some OFrankenFactor Advertisers: XM Satellite Radio, Vanguard Mutual Funds, Coldwell Banker Real Estate, Advil

Related Links:
Lefty Radio In Attack Mode
On air, off-balance - On Wednesday, the new liberal radio network goes live. But just days ago in rehearsal, the glitches were many.[Chicago Tribune-free subscription]

Bernard Goldberg on CNBC, Wednesday(31st), doesn't think much of Air America or Al Franken's chances of succeeding. Who needs another megaphone from Left Field when you have the NY Times, NPR, LA Times and other mainstream liberal media organzations.
Bloomberg reports Air America will be charging from $1,800 to $1875 per minute of advertising on Franken's show. A small fraction of Limbaugh's $16,000 per minute. They've already sold $1.2 million.
• Did Senator Kerrey make a gaping factual error when he said Osama bin Laden declared war on the US on February 23, 1998? [see The Johnsville News April 5th posting: "When did Osama bin Laden Declare War on the USA?"]

Tuesday, March 30, 2004

Moroccan Islamic Combatant Group (GICM)

Another Islamic terrorist "splinter" organization is poping out of the news woodwork tonight. The NBC Evening News said that it now looks like it might be the Moroccan Islamic Combatant Group (GICM) that is reponsible for the Madrid bombings. Friday it was the group "Salifia Jihadia" that was being considered the prime suspect. This just shows how Al-Qaeda has fractured into a swarm of radical groups. It is not suprising that the terrorists are reforming into smaller tactical organizations, given the US anti-terrorist offensive. It's been postulated that somewhere from 80 to 150 individuals is the optimal group size for these clandestine operations. It's a numbers game that doesn't seem to add up well for the West. A mere 3000 hardcore Islamic terrorists in some 20 to 35 mutually independent terror cells makes for a virtual "Radical Islamic Cluster Bomb" aimed at the West.

Recently mentioned terrorist groups:
Moroccan Islamic Combatant Group (GICM)
The Salafist Group for Preaching and Combat (GSPC)
Salifia Jihadia
Iraqi Islamic Army
Current State Department List of (known) terrorist organizations

Related Links:
What is the optimal size for a terrorist network? [Global Guerrillas]
The Dunbar Number as a Limit to Group Sizes

Monday, March 29, 2004

HDTV Look at Britney: Ms. Spears You're Going to Pot

Britney Spears
The pop princess should stick to music videos after her live concert in High-Definition TV reports Phillip Swann of TV Predictions:

At the tender age of 22, Spears doesn't have to worry about crow's feet yet. However, during her Sunday night concert in Miami, she looked like she hadn't slept in days. Her face was bumpy and puffy, making her appear five to ten years older than her years.

The pop princess, who reportedly has been partying hard at night spots across the globe, simply didn't look very healthy tonight under the naked lens of high-def. Her make-up artists apparently tried to conceal the imperfections with heavy rouge on her cheeks, but it just added to the overall mess.

HDTV Goes to See Britney Spears [TV Predictions]
related: HDTV Goes to the Grammys

BTK Serial Killer Clue Update

The Wichita Kansas BTK (Bind, Torture, Kill) serial killer story is drawing lots of attention since the killer announced his return. Here are some more clues:

• All of the murders occurred within 3 1/2 miles of one another. This led investigators to believe that the BTK strangler only felt comfortable killing in areas that were familiar to him.

• April 28, 1979: The BTK Strangler cut the phone lines and waits inside a home, but leaves before the 63-year-old single woman, Anna William, who lives there returns.

Anna Williams came home late from a dance on Saturday night. When she arrived home that night she called police and reported a burglary. It didn't seem like a big deal.

Anna lived at 615 South Pinecrest, blocks from the Otero and Fox crime scenes.

On June 15, 1979 BTK mails Anna Williams a package with a poem ("Oh, Anna Why Didn't You Appear"), a note, and a scarf. "Be glad you weren't here," BTK wrote, "because I was." A similar package is mailed to KAKE-TV.

• Analysis of BTK Communiqués by Tomas Guillen Seattle University:
The killer’s communiqués included letters, poems, and a telephone call.

His first communiqué in October, 1974, consisted of a lengthy, single-spaced typed letter. It was found in a mechanical engineering textbook at the Wichita Public Library. At the top of the letter were the words: “OTERO CASE.” The killer detailed how he killed each member of the Otero family and in what position he left them in the house. He ended the Otero letter with: “Since sex criminals do not change their M.O. or by nature cannot do so, I will not change mine. The code words for me will be…bind them, torture them, kill them, B.T.K…” (BTK, 1974).

He ended his second letter with: “P.S. How about some name for me, its time: 7 down and many more to go. I like the following. How about you? 'THE B.T.K. STRANGLER', 'WICHITA STRANGLER', 'POETIC STRANGLER'” (BTK, 1978). The second communiqué came in the form of a short poem about victim Vian. The poem, sent to the newspaper The Wichita Eagle-Beacon, was patterned after a “Curley Locks” nursery rhyme.

The third communiqué was a telephone call on Dec. 9, 1977. That day the killer used a public phone booth to report the Nancy Fox slaying. When police arrived at the phone booth, the phone was dangling from the receiver. Later that month the killer sent a poem about Fox. The poem was accompanied with a letter claiming responsibility for a total of seven murders. The poem “Oh Death to Nancy” was patterned after a poem called “Oh Death” that was published in a textbook used in a Wichita State University American Folklore class. The letter detailed how Vian and Fox were brutally murdered. The letter to the media was traced to Wichita State University library copiers.

On February 10, 1978, the killer sent another letter, this time to KAKE TV Channel 10 in Wichita (BTK, 1978). Attached to the letter was a drawing of the Fox murder scene, so detailed it could have virtually matched a lab photo of the crime scene. The letter said, in part: “I find the newspaper not writing about the poem on Vian unamusing. A little paragraph would have enough. I know it not the news media fault. The Police Chief he keep things quiet…" (BTK, 1978).

The killer’s final communiqué was sent to a 63-year-old woman. He had broken into her home, but got tired of waiting for her to return.

Investigative Value: On the surface BTK’s many communiqués appeared extremely helpful to the investigation. They revealed the killer would kill again and provided leads that normally proved fruitful in a routine murder investigation. Unfortunately, in the end, the communiqués were of little value and misdirected the investigation, leading investigators to devote precious hours and money to dead ends. The Otero letter had been left in an engineering book at the Wichita Public Library. Police obtained a list of people who checked out the textbook, but hit a dead end. Detectives took the Fox letter to Xerox headquarters in Syracuse, New York. Technicians there determined that the letter was a fifth-generation copy of the original, making it hard to trace to a specific typewriter. The letter appeared to have been copied at the Wichita State University Library. Police obtained lists of people who lived in the area between 1974 and 1979, but could not develop any leads. The Vian poem was patterned after a nursery rhyme that had appeared in a puzzle magazine called "Games." Police obtained a list of subscribers to the magazine but, again, to no avail.

After one slaying, police received a phone call from the killer. Police provided a copy of the taped call to broadcast stations. About 110 callers contacted a special police phone number, but the calls did not provide the identity of the killer.

Related Links:
BTK is back; intended victim gets poem [Original 17-Jun-79 Wichita Eagle story]
Wichita Eagle gives details about BTK letter [KWCH TV, March 25, 2004, scroll 1/3 down page]
Ghost (BTK) Busters [Crime Library]
Woman says she was visited by BTK [KSNW-TV, March 26, 2004, scroll to bottom of page]
BTK Profile [Crime Library]
BTK killer back in the news [KSNW-TV, March 2004, scroll to middle of page]
Cold Case gets Hot: The Kansas BTK Serial Killer is Back [TJN, Mar. 26, 2004]
BTK (Bind, Torture, & Kill) Strangler Info [TJN]

updated: Feb 26, 2005

100% of Norwegian teens have a mobile phone

A study from the Norwegian Telegram Bureau reports that in Norway, all teenagers between 16 and 19 years of age have a cell phone.

When teens say that "everyone has a cell phone" it's no joke. According to a new study, 100% of all 16 to 19 year olds who were surveyed, replied that they have their own cell telephone. This compares to the rest of the population where 86% have a mobile telephone. Norwegians send an average of 2,8 private text messages per day, but young women between 16 and 24 are the most active: They send over 8 text messages per day on average.

The questionnaire was developed and sent out by the national statistical office in Norway (Statistics Norway) in cooperation with Telenor. Statistics Norway is no fly by night organization. They are perhaps the best group in Norway for analyzing random samples of individuals. Thus, the results are reliable. Basically the report says that they could not find a 16 to 19 year old in Norway who didn't own a mobile phone.

[Smart Mobs]

Saturday, March 27, 2004

A Slash & Burn Election is Forecast

Recently seen on a bumber sticker:

"I voted for John Kerry
Before I voted against him"

Prompted by Kerry's response on March 16th to this Bush TV ad run in West Virginia:

Bush TV advertisement

PRESIDENT BUSH: I'm George W. Bush and I approved this message.

VOICE: Few votes in Congress are as important as funding our troops in war. Though John Kerry voted in October 2002 for military action in Iraq, he later voted against funding our soldiers.


VOICE: "No." Body armor for troops in combat.


VOICE: "No." Higher combat pay.


VOICE: "No." And better health care for reservists and their families.


VOICE: "No." Wrong on defense.

JOHN KERRY'S REPLY: The Republican attack machine has welcomed me to West Virginia today with another distortion. I actually did vote for the $87 billion before I voted against it.

Terrorist Weapons Cache

confiscated craft scissors, surgical scissors, sewing scissors, etc from Sacramento Airport
Sacramento Airport Security: Confiscated Items
Airport security is a tough business. Passengers hate it and security workers quickly get burned out. Trying to stop the dangerous ones out of the millions of passengers that fly every year has become a thankless job. Proof of our security vigilance comes in the form of more boxes of confiscated items like: craft scissors, surgical scissors, sewing scissors, corkscrews, Swiss army knives and bottle openers. This is a small comfort. The items shown were confiscated at the Sacramento Airport and then sold off at Goodwill.

Terrorist Hijacker Fire Sale! [Wonkette]
Sacramento Airport Booty [cockeyed.com]

Friday, March 26, 2004

Salifia Jihadia - Al-Qaeda Version 2.0?

Mohamed al-Fazazi
Picture of Mohamed al-Fazazi
Salifia Jihadia (related group: The Salafist Group for Preaching and Combat or GSPC) is a North African Islamic extremist group linked to Al-Qaeda. They may be responsible for the Madrid bombings. Mohamed al-Fazazi, is the radical 56-year-old spiritual leader for this group that has sprung from the impoverished neighborhoods of Moroccan Cities like Tangier and Casablanca. The imposing 6ft 3in Fazazi is driven by a dream of creating a global Islamist state. Salifia Jihadia's influence is spreading throughout North Africa according to intelligence sources. Algeria, Mauritania, Mali and Chad are countries where Salifia Jihadia is having success recruiting new members (Salifista's or Salafista's?) and creating extremist cells. There is a concern among terrorism experts that North Africa will become the next Afganistan.

The Guardian (UK) reports:
"Fazazi is accused of being the inspiration behind last May's bombing of Jewish and Spanish targets in Casablanca, which left 45 dead. Spanish investigators have linked his movement with the Madrid bombings 10 days ago. German investigators also claim Fazazi preached at the Al Quds mosque in Hamburg, which was used by the terrorists responsible for the September 11 atrocities."

"Fazazi, who urged followers in videos circulated across Europe to 'slit the throat of Jews and Christians' is now serving a 30-year prison sentence in Morocco."

The NBC Nightly News mentioned Salifia Jihadia tonight, but they did not have anything on their web site yet. Salifia Jihadia is described as a shadowy group. The name has a low internet profile. Google only showed six links when "salifia jihadia" was searched today (26-Mar-04), two of those links are to French pages. There are currently no headlines with the "Salifia Jihadia" name. Better luck searching Google with "Salafist" and "Mohamed al-Fazazi." The picture of Mohamed al-Fazazi comes from a German news site.

Related Links:
Chad 'defeats' Algerian Muslim extremists [Seattlepi.com]
Madrid Train Blast Probe Leads to Germany, Morocco [Reuters]
The Secret War [Guardian]
Heathrow worker jailed for links with al-Qaeda [Guardian]
Morocco: Two bombers talking to police, May 19, 2003 [CNN]
Death Sentences, Lengthy Terms for Morocco Extremists [BioHazard News]
North African Map

Cold Case gets Hot: The Kansas BTK Serial Killer is Back

Envelope Mailed by BTK serial killer
The AP Reports: WICHITA, Kan. — After 25 years of silence, police have apparently heard again from the BTK Strangler, a serial killer who terrorized the city during the 1970s. A letter sent last week to The Wichita Eagle contained information on a 1986 killing and included photos that appeared to be of the victim's body. Police are examining the letter for DNA and other evidence.

"The photographs appear to be authentic," said Lt. Ken Landwehr, who has been working the BTK case for 20 years. "I'm 100 percent sure it's BTK."

More than two decades ago, the BTK Strangler claimed responsibility for seven slayings between 1974 and 1979; six victims were strangled, one was stabbed to death. Four were members of one family two children and their parents.

In his letters claiming responsibility for the murders, the killer used the initials "BTK" to refer to "bind, torture and kill." The claims were sent to the Eagle and TV station KAKE, the last one in 1979.

On March 19, the Eagle received a letter that contained a photocopy of the driver's license of Vicki Wegerle, 28, who was strangled in her home in 1986. Three pictures showed the victim's body in various poses.

Until now, there was no suspicion that the slaying was the work of the BTK Strangler.

More BTK Forensic Information-
The killer's voice was captured on tape when he called a dispatcher from a downtown Wichita payphone on Dec. 8, 1977. The call took place shortly after 8:00, about 8:20, the individual said: "there's a homicide at 843 S. Pershing" and hangs up the phone.

Police rush to the payphone where the call is made and to the address where a body is, indeed, found. Police found 25-year-old Nancy Fox strangled and bound -- the seventh victim.

Back at the payphone, a nearby fireman got a glimpse of the killer, but it is too vague. The killing would end there but not the question of "why." It has been reported that authorities have fingerprint, semen, and tape recording (911 call) evidenice of the killer. The confounding thing is that this case seems to have a wealth of evidence, but no good leads.

Related Links:
Letter From 1970s Serial Killer Surfaces In Wichita
Families reminded of loss BTK caused
Letter's route from Eagle to police
Letter's address a vacant unit
Police hoping DNA puts them on BTK's trail

Houdini's Metamorphosis Illusion to Be Revealed

Houdini's Metamorphosis
The Outagamie County Historical Society (OCHS) and its Houdini History Exhibit of Appleton, Wisconsin will reveal Houdini's famous Metamorphosis Illusion when the exhibit reopens June 2nd. This has stirred up a tempest in a top hat as magicians all over the country including David Copperfield protest the exposing of this classic magic trick.

Metamorphosis is Houdini's signature act in which he is handcuffed inside a sack inside a trunk. He then frees himself and switches places with an assistant standing by the trunk. The OCHS display will let visitors climb in the trunk and see how it works.

Appleton is considered Harry Houdini's hometown. There is a Houdini "Metamorphosis" sculpture in Houdini Plaza in downtown Appleton.

Appleton hosts the "Houdini Days Magic Festival" in September. The festival organizers are also not happy with the OCHS's decision to reveal Metamorphosis.

Related links:
Magicians say Houdini exhibit will damage trade
Houdini museum faces disappearing act

Houdini exhibit enrages magicians (with illustration of trick) [BBC, 4-Jun-04]
Houdini Exhibit Riles Magicians [TravelChannel.com, 8-Jun-04]
Substitution Trunk Trick [Google Answers]

Thursday, March 25, 2004

Rolex Awards for African Inventors

• Mohammed Bah Abba of Nigeria won a Rolex award for his "pot-in-pot refrigerator". Food that used to spoil in a few days now stays fresh for weeks:

pot-in-pot refrigerator

Born into a family of earthen pot makers and raised in the rural north, Mohammed Bah Abba was from an early age familiar with the various practical and symbolic uses of traditional clay pots. As a child he learned the rudiments of pottery making and was struck by how the clay figures he moulded were water retentive and remained intact even when dry, unlike items made from other soils. Subsequently studying biology, chemistry and geology at school, Abba unravelled the technical puzzle that led him years later to create the "Pot-in-Pot Preservation/Cooling System".

The 36-year-old teacher has been selected as a Rolex Laureate for this ingenious technique that requires no external energy supply to preserve fruit, vegetables and other perishables in hot, arid climates. The Pot-in-Pot cooling system, a kind of "desert refrigerator", helps subsistence farmers in northern Nigeria by reducing food spoilage and waste and thus increasing their income and limiting the health hazards of decaying foods.

• Sanoussi Diakité of Senegal invented a husking machine designed to encourage the widespread consumption of fonio, once a popular foodstuff in Africa, by reducing the time required to prepare it from an hour - by hand - to a matter of minutes.

fonio husking machine

The production of fonio, one of the most nutritious and best-tasting of African cereals, has steadily declined in the last few decades due to the tedious process of removing the brittle husks from the grain. Sanoussi Diakité, a Senegalese mechanical engineer, has invented a husking machine which, by taking the drudgery out of preparing fonio, should put this once-popular foodstuff back on tables throughout the Sahelian region.

There is an African saying that the stamina of a young bride may be measured by her ability to prepare fonio. Fonio (Digitaria exilis) is a highly nutritious cereal which, although known since the sixteenth century, is about to disappear.

Cultivated in some 15 African countries, from the Cape Verde Islands to Chad and including the Côte d'Ivoire, Cameroon and Togo, fonio grows easily in the Sahelian environment. It can withstand draught and floods and flourishes in poor soils at a speed that enables local farmers to benefit from two or three harvests a year.

Rolex Awards
Mohammed Bah Abba----A True Human Scientist
Sanoussi Diakité: Fonio Dehulling

Wednesday, March 24, 2004

Mario Monti Speaks Softly, But Carries a Big Stick

Mario Monti
Mario Monti is the mild mannered, Yale educated, Italian economist who just socked Microsoft with a $606 million fine for anti-competitive behavior. If you are an American businessman you don't want to mess with Mario! He also slapped down Jack Welch, former Chairman of General Electric, three years ago when he tried to merge with Honeywell. Welcome to the age of globalization, when unknown bureaucrats in far away countries dictate how America's biggest companies conduct business.

Mario Monti profile - European Commission for competition
EU Slaps Record Fine on Microsoft [cNet, March 24, 2004]

Tuesday, March 23, 2004

John Kerry Slept Here

John Kerry
Ketchup King- Kerry Owns Five Homes
"From a sailing mecca to a ski resort, presumptive Democratic presidential nominee John Kerry and his wife, Teresa Heinz Kerry, enjoy the trappings of their wealth in at least five homes and vacation getaways across the country valued at nearly $33 million," the AP reports.

• Boston: A five-story, 12-room Beacon Hill town house that serves as Mr. Kerry's main residence. Assessed value: $6.9 million.
• Nantucket: A three-story, five-bedroom waterfront retreat on Brant Point. Assessed value: $9.18 million.
• Washington, D.C.: A 23-room town house in Georgetown. Proposed 2005 assessment: $4.7 million.
• Ketchum, Idaho: A ski getaway converted from a reassembled barn near Sun Valley. Assessed value: $4.9 million.
• Fox Chapel, Pa.: A nine-room colonial on nearly 90 acres in suburban Pittsburgh. Assessed value: $3.7 million.

Google v. Booble

Porn search engine Booble is still bouncing along. Even though Google is not amused.

Booble Responds To Google [webpronews.com]
Search Leader Outraged [Booble]

Engineering Conversions

• Ratio of an igloo's circumference to its diameter: Eskimo Pi
• 2000 pounds of Chinese soup: Won ton
• 1 millionth of a mouthwash: 1 microscope
• Time between slipping on a peel and smacking the pavement: 1 bananosecond
• Weight an evangelist carries with God: 1 billigram
• Time it takes to sail 220 yards at 1 nautical mile per hour: Knot-furlong
• 365.25 days of drinking low-calorie beer because it's less filling: 1 lite year
• 16.5 feet in the Twilight Zone: 1 Rod Serling
• Half of a large intestine: 1 semicolon
• 1000 aches: 1 kilohurtz
• Basic unit of laryngitis: 1 hoarsepower
• Shortest distance between two jokes: A straight line
• 453.6 graham crackers: 1 pound cake
• 1 million microphones: 1 megaphone
• 1 million bicycles: 2 megacycles
• 2000 mockingbirds: two kilomockingbirds
• 10 cards: 1 decacards
• 1 kilogram of falling figs: 1 Fig Newton
• 1000 cubic centimeters of wet socks: 1 literhosen
• 1 millionth of a fish: 1 microfiche
• 1 trillion pins: 1 terrapin
• 10 rations: 1 decoration
• 100 rations: 1 C-ration
• 3 1/3 tridents: 1 decadent
• 2 monograms: 1 diagram
• 2 wharves: 1 paradox

Microsoft v. Mike Rowe Soft

/mikerowesoft-85.jpg" alt="Mike Rowe" title="Mike Rowe">
So there was this 17-year old kid name Mike Rowe. He decided to start a software company, and he named it Mike Rowe Soft. Microsoft was not amused and it looked like trouble.

Fortunately, things were settled amicably and to the satisfaction of both Microsoft and Mike.

Mike donated the $7000 that had been given to his legal defense fund to the Children's Charity at Canuck Place Hospice in Vancouver, BC on Sunday March 21, 2004.

Monday, March 22, 2004

Black Holes Are “Fuzzballs”

Stephen Hawking
COLUMBUS, Ohio – Stephen Hawking and Kip Thorne may owe John Preskill a set of encyclopedias.

In 1997, the three cosmologists made a famous bet as to whether information that enters a black hole ceases to exist -- that is, whether the interior of a black hole is changed at all by the characteristics of particles that enter it...

Now physicists at Ohio State University have proposed a solution using string theory,...

The finding suggests that black holes are not smooth, featureless entities as scientists have long thought. Instead, they are stringy “fuzzballs.”....

For instance, if the sun collapsed into a singularity, its event horizon would measure approximately 3 kilometers (1.9 miles) across. If Earth followed suit, its event horizon would only measure 1 centimeter (0.4 inches)...

Are Black Holes Fuzzballs? [spacetoday]

Buy High, Sell Low

PITTSBURGH—Seemingly incidental emotions can influence the prices at which individuals buy and sell goods, according to a groundbreaking study by researchers at Carnegie Mellon University.

While prior research has found that people set a higher price for objects they own than they themselves would be willing to pay—which economists call the endowment effect—the Carnegie Mellon study found that people who are sad actually are willing to accept less money to sell something than they would pay for the same object. The researchers also found that when people experience disgust, both buying and selling prices fall. This multidisciplinary study will be published in the May edition of Psychological Science, the prestigious journal of the American Psychological Society.

Buy High, Sell Low— Emotions Turn Economic Decisions on Their Head, Says Carnegie Mellon Study

Sunday, March 21, 2004

Regime Change Reverb...

The Economist
"The Economist" wonders if: the stance taken against Saddam by Messrs Bush, Blair, Howard (Australia) and Aznar(Spain) could prove to have been politically suicidal but historically noble.
One down, three to go? [The Economist]

Pop Music: Hit Making Becoming A Science

Polyphonic HHS
Hit Song Science (HSS) Software visualization of "hit universe"
Joe Lavin at mono.net reports: One Spanish company, Polyphonic HMI (www.polyphonichmi.com), has created Hit Song Science, an application that can take any song and break it down to its mathematical core. If you’re like me, you probably didn’t even know that pop music has a mathematical core, but it does, and apparently this can be used to determine a song’s “hitability.”

This software will compare the song to a database that contains the “top-30” hit songs of the past five years in order to search for mathematical similarities. The algorithm then assigns each song a score between one and 10. Any song rated more than seven is likely to become a hit. Fewer than four, and the musicians might want to keep their day jobs.

On the surface, the idea seems ludicrous, as if Deep Blue, the chess-playing computer, had some younger, underachieving brother who was really into the music scene. But many major record labels are already using this software. So far, the company claims to have predicted several hits, including those of Grammy award winner Norah Jones. At the time, her music sounded like nothing that was being played on the radio, and yet her songs still rated highly. Her album, Come Away With Me, has since sold more than 6 million copies, much to the surprise of many who doubted that a jazz singer could attract such mass appeal.

Polyphonic HMI has even released a scaled-down version of the program at www.hitsongscience.com, where aspiring songwriters can have MP3s of their songs analyzed for $49.99 per song. These reports are not as thorough as the ones music labels receive, but they do give a new band the chance to see how viable its dreams really are.

The technology was first developed when researchers at Group AIA, the parent company of Polyphonic HMI, decided to analyze the entire music universe. The company took the approximately 3.5 million songs that have been released commercially since the late 1950s and ran them through a computer.

We've Got Algorithm, but How About Soul? [NY Times]

Saturday, March 20, 2004

Profitable Punditing

Kevin Drum
Kevin Drum the CalPundit.com will be getting paid for blogging at the Washington Monthly magazine's new blog, Political Animal. It certainly beats working.

Political Animal - Washington Monthly

Lefty Radio In Attack Mode

Al Franken
Al Franken and Progress Media's Air America Radio Network will launch on March 31, 2004. His new radio show is entitled "The O’ Franken Factor". It will spearhead an all day line-up featuring political satire in the grand tradition of Saturday Night Live and The Daily Show.

Al Franken has gone from TV comic to political satirist to Democratic Party insider. Could he be the liberals' Rush Limbaugh — or a senator from Minnesota? Franken is profiled in the NY Times Magazine. Tells an interesting story of Al Franken putting a heckler in a wrestling hold on the eve of the New Hampshire primary.

Franken, who broke his glasses in the scuffle, says: ''the body slam is not a high-school wrestling move. At no time during my high-school wrestling career did the coach say, 'O.K., guys, today we're going to work on the body slam . . . and the pile driver.'''

Looks like Al and Air America Radio want to pile drive G.W.

Al Franken, Seriously [NY Times]
Al Franken Savagely Attacks Dean Heckler
Live streaming of Air America Radio shows, along with show archives, will be available at www.airamericaradio.com.

Lying liars, Cheating Cheaters, & Online Honesty

• When online, we are oddly prone to telling the truth. The problem is that when we are face-to-face or on the phone we are very likely to lie.

Cornell professor, Jeffrey Hancock, studied his students and found "that they mishandled the truth about one-quarter of all face-to-face conversations, and in a whopping 37 percent of phone calls. But when they went into cyberspace, they turned into Boy Scouts: only 1 in 5 instant-messaging chats contained a lie, and barely 14 percent of e-mail messages were dishonest."

• We, from the upper echelons of privilege to the wide ranks of the working class, have become a nation of cheaters.

So says David Callahan, author of the new book "The Cheating Culture" (Harcourt, $26). The tax evader. The workplace pilferer. The cautious embezzler. The resume fabricator. The digital file swapper. These are some of the scammers among us, Callahan says, and they're everywhere.

"There are big questions as to whether this stuff is more common or whether it's more often caught these days," Callahan said. "I came to the conclusion, based on the available evidence, that there is more cheating in certain key areas today than there was in the '50s, '60s and '70s, which was my main point of reference."

The Honesty Virus [NY Times][mirror]
Cheaters, liars abundant in our culture, ethicists say [heraldnet.com]
The Cheating Culture: Why More Americans Are Doing Wrong to Get Ahead

Get Out of My Namespace

As globalization and the Internet make the world smaller, there are not enough names to go around -- and more reasons to fight over them.

Some recent notable name fights:
• Starbucks vs. Xingbake (in Chinese, star=xing, so in a way Starbucks=Xingbake)
• Bill Wyman (Stones bass player, aka William George Perks) vs. Bill Wyman (Atlanta)
• Estate of JRR Tolkein vs Jeff Burgar (Alberta,Canada - owner of JRRTOLKIEN.com)
• The Hebrew University of Jerusalem (Albert Einstein Estate) vs Jeff Burger (owner of alberteinstein.com)
• Kevin Spacey vs Jeff Burger (owner of kevinspacey.com)
• Bruce Springsteen vs Jeff Burger (owner of brucespringsteen.com)
• Madonna vs Dan Parisi (owner of madonna.com)
• Tata Group (India conglomerate) vs D & V Enterprises of Lakewood, New Jersey (owner of bodacious-tatas.com)

Get Out of My Name Space [NY Times Magazine] [mirror]

Cowboy Commandments

Gene Autry
Gene Autry

American Creed
1. The Cowboy must never shoot first, hit a smaller man or take unfair advantage.
2. He must never go back on his word or a trust confided in him.
3. He must always tell the truth.
4. He must be gentle with children, the elderly and animals.
5. He must not advocate or possess racially or religiously intolerant ideas.
6. He must help people in distress.
7. He must be a good worker.
8. He must keep himself clean in thought, speech, action and personal habits.
9. He must respect women, parents and his nation's laws.
10. The Cowboy is a patriot.

Gene Autry's Cowboy Commandments, 1939
True West - Not even an HBO series (Deadwood) can kill off the mythic cowboy western [NYTimes Mag]

Friday, March 19, 2004

Gee Whiz - Clever Virgin Marketing?

LIP SERVICE: Virgin Airway's new urinal at JFK.

A urinal shaped like the puckered-up mouth of a woman waiting to be kissed is being installed in the men's room of the newly-opened Virgin Airways Clubhouse at Kennedy Airport.

John Riordan, customer-services vice president of the British airline, said the urinal should be a hit.

"We expect the response to the urinal to be very positive," he said.

"With everything we do, we want there to be a smile, and that's also the case in the clubhouse.

What a Way To Go When You Need Relief [NY Post]


Virgin Atlantic is dropping plans for urinals shaped like a woman's open mouth at toilets in its new clubhouse at New York's JFK Airport.

A spokesman for the company said they'd received complaints about the urinals that were designed by Dutch company, Bathroom Mania.

Virgin's 'open female mouth' urinals are dropped [ananova.com.]

Age-Old Problem: Ninth-Graders Who Are 17

Remember the kid in 9th grade who was shaving his back and his beard before you knew what puberty was? The same dude also had a Camaro, several tattoos, and was dating someone in college. Rumor was that he was already a father. Well, guess what - he really wasn't 14 after all. A recent New York City School report highlights the chronic problem of over-age kids in 9th, 10th, and 11th grades.

March 19, 2004 -- Students are getting old in the ninth grade - 5,569 students are already 17 years of age or older, according to shocking new statistics released by Schools Chancellor Joel Klein. These students - 5 percent of all ninth-graders last year - are three years "overage" for that grade. The typical entering high school freshman is 14 years old.

In all, 47 percent of ninth-graders - nearly half the class - were at least one year over age. In most cases, these students were held back once, twice or three times.

Age-Old Problem: Ninth-Graders Who Are 17 [NY Post]

Thursday, March 18, 2004

Johnsville Is More Good Than Evil

43% Evil

57% Good

According to gematriculator Johnsville is 43% Evil-57% Good.

The Gematriculator is a service that uses the infallible methods of Gematria developed by Mr. Ivan Panin to determine how good or evil a web site or a text passage is.

Basically, Gematria is searching for different patterns through the text, such as the amount of words beginning with a vowel. If the amount of these matches is divisible by a certain number, such as 7 (which is said to be God's number), there is an incontestable argument that the Spirit of God is ever present in the text. Another important aspect in gematria are the numerical values of letters: A=1, B=2 ... I=9, J=10, K=20 and so on. The Gematriculator uses Finnish alphabet, in which Y is a vowel.

Experts consider the mathematical patterns in the text of the Holy Bible as God's watermark of authenticity. Thus, the Gematriculator provides only results that are absolutely correct.

Wednesday, March 17, 2004

Iraq Bites

From the US perspective on how our relationship with Iraq will turn out; Mark Twain said it best:

If you pick up a starving dog and make him prosper, he will not bite you; this is the principle difference between a man and a dog.

From the Arab perspective on how waging a jihad for Iraq turns out:
BERQAYEL, Lebanon - Ahmed Abdel Razzaq went to Iraq to fight the Americans and die a martyr. He ended up in a US prison camp after the Iraqis he went to defend captured and sold him for $100.

"I went to be a martyr in God's name," said Razzap, from poor north Lebanon, where Sunni Muslim militancy runs deep.

"I went to jihad (holy war) for the Iraqis but they are all traitors; the people, the army, the Kurds. They say Saddam was bad, but the Iraqis deserve 10 Saddams."

Saturday, March 13, 2004

Omarosa Saga Continues

Omarosa 100% Bitch
Our favorite bitch, Omarosa, is at it again; stirring up trouble. She now says another contestant (Ereka) called her the "N" word.

Omarosa's allegation -- which would appear to be completely false and quite slanderous given the near immediate comments of denial from numerous other key Apprentice parties -- came during a Wednesday appearance on ABC's syndicated The View daytime series.

Anyone following "The Apprentice" and Omarosa would not be surprised that she made this accusation. She is totally clueless that the majority of people find her obnoxious when
she talks of capitalizing on her "public brand." Earth to Omarosa - you've had your 15 minutes please go away. The only cashing in that you will have is if you choose to drop trou for Playboy. However, you have to fear that she becomes reality TV's "bad penny" and will make a career out of torturing us. Somewhere there is a damned producer planning just that.

Ongoing 'Apprentice' catfight gets uglier as Omarosa makes unsupported racial slur allegation [Reality TV World]
Omarosa Manigault-Stallworth hopes to cash in on 'Apprentice' appearance with clothing line and talk show [Reality TV World]
Votes Are In - Omarosa is a Bitch [TJN]

Friday, March 12, 2004

Home Squirting

A robot for "printing" houses will be tested by the construction industry. It takes instructions directly from an architect's computerised drawings and then squirts successive layers of concrete on top of one other to build up vertical walls and domed roofs.

The precision automaton could revolutionise building sites. It can work round the clock, in darkness and without tea breaks. It needs only power and a constant feed of semi-liquid construction material.

The key to the technology is a computer-guided nozzle that deposits a line of wet concrete, like toothpaste being squeezed onto a table.

"Robot builder could 'print' houses" [New Scientist]

Thursday, March 11, 2004

Lefty Press enjoys Bush Bashing

Partisan politics is a full contact sport and publishers want to make a buck selling the brick bats. Several small left-wing New York publishers are having a banner year as they sell anti-Bush ammunition. Here's a small sample:

Soft Skull Press-
"How to Get Stupid White Men Out of Office"
"Get Your War On"
"Fortunate Son"

Seven Stories Press - "The Five Biggest Lies Bush Told Us About Iraq"

Akashic Books - "Regime Change Handbook" [later this year]

Wednesday, March 10, 2004

Juice is Jacking Satellite TV

O.J. Simpson
Miami--Yes, O.J. Simpson's been accused of worse crimes than stealing satellite TV. But that's exactly the charge leveled against the acquitted killer by DirecTV, which alleges that the former athlete swiped its service through the use of two illegal access devices in his Miami home. In the below federal lawsuit, the company is seeking damages of $20,000 (and $850 in legal fees) from Simpson. DirecTV learned of Simpson's use of the access devices as a result of an undercover drug probe conducted by FBI, DEA, and Miami police investigators. The satellite firm was called in when wiretaps disclosed that the Juice was pirating TV signals beamed from satellites orbiting 22,300 miles above the earth.
[The Smoking Gun]

Tuesday, March 9, 2004

Virulent Stomach Virus Waylays Johnsvillians

Johnsvillians were hammered this weekend by a nasty nasty stomach virus while visiting Disney-Orlando. This was a sick that if a dog had it they'd put him down. It is very possible that it was the infamous "Norwalk Virus" that got us. This is the same virus that was wiping out passengers on the cruise ships earlier this Winter. Viral gastroenteritis is the medical terminology. Traveling through packed airports, stuffed on flying tin cans with god knows what kind of contagious people, service workers who not in the habit of hand washing, and fellow travellers who are hygiene challenged - oh the joys of travel. Forget 9-11, the travel industry- resorts/cruise ships, etc. will take a serious financial hit if travelers keep getting wasted like cheap cigarettes at a Belgian brothel. Right now the idea of getting on a plane, train, shuttle bus, taxi, or any other public conveyance makes me want to hurl the tiny portion of crackers I've been able to ingest across the room. If my stomach stops shaking by tomorrow I'll make a pilgrimage on my hands and knees to one of the patron saints of illness to give thanks.
[Patron Saints - bodily ills, sick people, sickness, illness]

Thursday, March 4, 2004

Narco Rebels Takeover Hati?

Port-Au-Prince, Haiti -- Some of the rebel leaders who drove President Jean-Bertrand Aristide from power are suspected of involvement in drug trafficking, U.S. officials and Haiti experts say.

While refusing to provide details, a senior Western diplomat in Haiti said in an interview with The Chronicle that criminal elements are enmeshed in the insurgency and now seek to reconstitute Haiti's formerly defunct military.

According to internal documents from a regional governmental organization that closely monitors state institutions in Haiti, Guy Philippe, the rebel leader who declared himself head of the revived Haitian military on Tuesday, and Gilbert Dragon, his second-in-command, allegedly became involved in drug trafficking in the late 1990s as members of the Haitian police force.

Haiti rebels linked to drug trade [SFGate.com]

update - Jan. 3, 2005 USA Today reports:

While the Bush administration wages war against terrorism in Iraq, the government it propped up in Haiti has caved in to the terrorists who've seized control of parts of that impoverished Caribbean island nation...

According to Amnesty International, the rebel force is led by Guy Philippe, a former army officer who is thought to have been involved in a failed 2000 coup. Other leaders of the rebels include Louis-Jodel Chamblain and Jean Pierre Baptiste, both members of a paramilitary group that is accused of carrying out massacres and assassinations in support of the 1991 coup.

Payoffs to Haiti's renegade soldiers won't buy peace
[USA Today, Jan 3, 2005]

Wednesday, March 3, 2004

Forgotten Explorers

Gertrude Bell
Gertrude Bell - Born in 1868, educated at Oxford, she was known as the "Desert Queen" and spent much of her life exploring the Middle East. She was recruited by British Intelligence in World War I and she became the Oriental Secretary to the British High Commissioner. In that role she help draw the borders of modern Iraq. More info.

William Dampier - (1652-1715), British explorer and sea captain, is one of the most highly regarded map-makers and navigators of all time. Dampier was born in Somersetshire, England and went to sea by age 16. Joined a crew of buccaneers. Circled the globe three times, reported on the unique Galapagos wildlife 150 years before Darwin, and visited Australia 80 years before Captain Cook. More info.

Ernest Henry Wilson - (1876-1930) Plant hunter extraordinar. Found the source of The Handkerchief Tree--Davidia involucrata plus thousands of other plants and trees.

Tuesday, March 2, 2004

Mel Gibson and the Passion movie again...

A man goes to see Mel Gibson's new movie, The Passion, and is inspired to take his family to Israel to see the places where Jesus lived and died. While on vacation his mother-in-law dies.

An undertaker in Tel Aviv explains that they can ship the body home to Wisconsin at a cost of $10,000 or the mother-in-law could be buried in Israel for US$500.

The man says, "We'll ship her home."

The undertaker asks, "Are you sure? That's an awfully big expense and we can do a very nice burial here."

The man says, "Look, 2000 years ago they buried a guy here and three days later he rose from the dead. I just can't take that chance."

Monday, March 1, 2004

The Great American Viewing Public...

Some of the 200,000 letters and email sent to the FCC over the Janet Jackson incident:

Dear Mr. Powell:
If you want the opinion of a professional body piercer about whether or not Janet Jackson and Justin Timberlake did what they did on purpose, I can tell you that the type of body jewelry worn during that little stunt by JJ, known as a "nipple shield" is NOT the sort of body jewelry worn as a "matter of course"...it is heavy, and exerts a fair bit of traction on the nipple to keep it in place; it therefore get uncomfortable very quickly. The danger of getting it caught on one's clothing or people is also extreme, so anyone wearing one on regular basis is a disaster waiting to happen..I have seen nipples split open from accidents of this nature. Wearing it under clothing can cause it to snag painfully, too. Therefore it is extremely unlikely that she "just happened" to be wearing a nipple shield under her outfit; she obviously knew that her nipple was, in fact, going to be exposed at some point. The shield would add maximum shock value. I hope this information will be of some use to you in your decison-making about whather or not it was an "accident".

To Michael Powell:
I hope you do investigate the Jackson incident. I am anything but a prude I have owned a strip club and later a adult site but this isn't about 1st admendment rights this is just a pure lack of respect for american families and decency. Children where watching this and to mix sex /violence like this gives a really wrong message. On a lighter side to flash a fake breast adds insult to injury! go getem!.......

Dear Mr. Powell:
How utterly prudish and disappointing for the FCC to be involved with CBS' "punishment" of everyone involved... when 20 yards away on their "family event" there are cheerleaders whose every costume stitch and dance move is designed to highlight their galloping gazungas as if they were on a trampoline, and whose hotpants are so tight it makes their "camel toes" look like dainty size 13's for all of America to see... Pull the pine cone out of your collective butts, you bunch of misguided uptight puritans.

FCC Mail [The Smoking Gun]

12 Reasons Same-Sex Marriage will Ruin Society

A clever rejoinder:
1. Homosexuality is not natural, much like eyeglasses, polyester, and birth control are not natural.
2. Heterosexual marriages are valid because they produce children. Infertile couples and old people cannot get legally married because the world needs more children.
3. Obviously gay parents will raise gay children because straight parents only raise straight children.
4. Straight marriage will be less meaningful, since Britney Spears's 55-hour just-for-fun marriage was meaningful.
5. Heterosexual marriage has been around for a long time, and it hasn't changed at all: women are property, Blacks can't marry Whites, and divorce is illegal.
6. Gay marriage should be decided by the people, not the courts, because the majority-elected legislatures, not courts, have historically protected the rights of minorities.
7. Gay marriage is not supported by religion. In a theocracy like ours, the values of one religion are always imposed on the entire country. That's why we only have one religion in America.
8. Gay marriage will encourage people to be gay, in the same way that hanging around tall people makes you tall.
9. Legalizing gay marriage will open the door to all kinds of crazy behavior. People may even wish to marry their pets because a dog has legal standing and can sign a marriage license.
10. Children can never succeed without both male and female role models at home. That's why single parents are forbidden to raise children.
11. Gay marriage will change the foundation of society. Heterosexual marriage has been around for a long time, and we could never adapt to new social norms because we haven't adapted to cars or longer lifespans.
12. Civil unions, providing most of the same benefits as marriage with a different name are better, because a "separate but equal" institution is always constitutional. Separate schools for African-Americans worked just as well as separate marriages will for gays & lesbians.

Sex Toys For Chinese

If you are in Shanghai in August you may want to drop in on China's Adult Expo. Apparently the Chinese are not squeamish about selling dildoes and other "marital aids" openly at train stations and other public venues.

In Southern China you can see old people selling huge dildoes and vibrators on the street. They are considered just one more medicinal product to be peddled for profit and the sellers do not have the seemy undertones that adult toy sellers have in the US.

The China Adult Expo website states:

"The time of being shocked at the mention of sex or regarding sex as an evil has gone by. Now in China, the civilized sexual concept has widely prevailed . A booming adult toys and reproductive health care market to 1.3 billion population, with incomparable scale, increasing trend and development potential, has come into being while sex has become one of the most popular topics for public discussion. Data pertinent to the current national sales volume of sex health care products shows that the latest annual turnover has exceeded RMB100 billion in 2003, and the rate of increase is approximately at 30%. At present China's adult toys market has entered an independent, professional and international new stage especially after China's participation in WTO."

[Shanghai Eye]
[via Fried Man]

Democrats Take Young Black Voters For Granted

Less one-party loyalty 40 years after ‘The Struggle’

PHILADELPHIA - Melinda Emerson said, "I think that African Americans very largely have been taken for granted."

Michael Pearson said, “We’re not in the equation!”

It was only 40 years ago, but memories of what was known as “The Struggle” have become as grainy as the old black and white film - unless you were there....

Melinda Emerson: "I think that neither party has really been held accountable by African-American voters."

Michael Coppage: "You see it in the kids. They’re not thinking about Democratic or Republican. They’re thinking about life or death."

African-American voters: Then and now [NBC Brian Williams Report, Mar. 1, 2004]

H.S. Sports in Alaska = Lots of Frequent Flyer Miles

Unalaska Raiders Boy's Basketball Team 2003-04
Unalaska Raiders Boy's Basketball Team for 2003-2004

NY Times story tells how play is hard work in the great white North: It took 90 minutes at sea in a small boat, five hours driving in two vans and 75 minutes on a commuter jet before the boys and girls basketball teams from Seldovia reached Bethel, a remote town in western Alaska.

When the players stepped off the jet onto the Bethel tarmac, as flat as the tundra enveloping it, the late-afternoon temperature was 38 degrees below zero.

Seldovia's players would stay for four nights, sleeping on classroom floors at the local high school, to play three basketball games in a round-robin tournament.

Joining them were teams from Unalakleet, a village of about 800 people on the Bering Sea, and Homer, a port town like Seldovia in the state's south-central maritime wilderness.

"I feel sorry for those kids back East who just have to drive 20 minutes to the next suburb for a game," said Nikki Dill of Unalakleet. "How boring."...

The distance from Unalaska (on the Aleutian island chain) to Barrow (on the Arctic Ocean), annual regional rivals, is roughly equal to the distance from Miami to Boston.

Map of Alaska

"In Alaska, Getting There Is Half the Fun" [NY Times]
Boy's Basketball Page [Unalaska City School]

DVD Sales Cannibalizing CD Sales

CD's - No, DVD's - Yes.
Compare CDs with DVDs. For about the same amount of money -- and often less -- a DVD delivers:

• Two hour+ feature of audio AND video;
• gorgeous video quality;
• An informative booklet and/or decorative case;
• pristine audio;
• Extra features, outtakes, deleted scenes, "making of the film" documentaries, interviews with director, actors, writers.

CDs are a lousy deal: For your $18 suggested retail price, you get about 45 minutes of pre-recorded music. Sometimes, you even get more than a page of liner notes. It comes in a cheap jewel case which is all but certain to break eventually

The trend of substituting DVDs for CDs started some time ago. Where its really visible is in the home collector market. A recent N.Y. Times article describes the rise of the mega-collector -- DVD consumers whose collections of the shiny discs number in the 100s and sometimes 1,000s:

"According to Adams Media Research, consumers spent $14.4 billion last year on movies for the home, almost $5 billion more than they spent on theater tickets or video rentals. With more than 27,000 DVD movies to choose from, mega-collectors are building libraries of 1,000 titles or more, and some are starting Web sites and Internet databases to help fellow fans manage inventory. On the heels of the software is new hardware, including 300- and 400-disc DVD changers. If they ever catch on, they may prove to be the key to organizing so many shiny silver discs.

"Nobody saw this coming," said Jan Saxton, Adams vice president and media analyst, who attributes the boom to several factors, from the low prices of DVD players to the higher quality of video and sound on the discs. "No one anticipated how much consumers would feel the pull of the $9.99-to-$14.99 impulse buy at Wal-Mart. They didn't anticipate how ready the American consumer was to collect films."

Alex Rosten of Los Angeles, with a collection of 542 DVD's, said that for him, it is economics. "When I rent a DVD, it costs around $4," he said. "Add to that the inevitable late fees and the hassle of having to return it, and I'm looking at a lot more than I bargained for. Most DVD's cost $10 to $20, so it makes more sense for me to purchase. And I have the option of watching it whenever I want."

The average price of a new release on DVD is $21.85, although if you know where to shop, it will be cheaper. The sale-rack titles, those older movies referred to in the business as "catalog releases," generally cost about $12. "As an option, it often compares favorably to renting," Ms. Saxton said. "Of course, there are movies you really don't want to own - that's why we don't see the rental market fading away."

[DVD Price Search]
[NY Times - DVD's? I Don't Rent. I Own.]
[via Barry L. Ritholtz - The Big Picture]

Omarosa - Love Her, Hate Her

Omarosa 100% Bitch
US News & World Report files this tidbit about our favorite bitch: Turns out that Omarosa Manigault-Stallworth, the controversial star of The Apprentice, honed her annoying ways while on Vice President Al Gore's staff. And the result was a carbon copy of the reaction she's received on the Donald's show: Some love her; some don't. "The traits she displays on the show she displayed to us," says a disgusted former Gore insider of the ex-scheduler-receptionist who likes to drop names and avoid hard work. But others thought she was swell. "I loved her," says a top Gore aide. "I guess the others are just jealous of her."

"Washington Whispers" [US News & World Report]
Votes Are In - Omarosa is a Bitch [TJN]
www.omarosa.com [Omarosa's one and only fan site; her own]