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Month: March 2006

What’s Your Excuse?

TIME magazine has recently published an articleBeer entitled The Myth About Girls Going Wild, which addresses how a growing number of women are using alcohol as an excuse to do the crazy things they know they wouldn't do otherwise. While it's an interesting insight into a growing problem, it is still a little off focus.

The truth is that this is a growing problem with both men and women. Why else do they show men in movies who take that one last shot before going to talk to a pretty woman? It's the same reason a woman has a few too many drinks and then takes a guy home with her: it's a built-in excuse.

We all know that alcohol impares judgement. The man knows that there is a good chance of rejection, but the alcohol becomes an excuse of bad judgement if he does get rejected. The woman clearly wants something to happen (by reducing her ability to say "no" with alcohol), but then can blame the bad hookup on the booze that gave her the "courage" to bring him home.

It would be easy for either person to just write off their actions as "not the kind of thing they'd normally do" and then go out and do it the next week or night.

And we can thank the law for providing the excuse in the first place. For it has long been ruled in rape cases that even if the woman said "yes" and was impared, that her decision was not a green light for the man. In my opinion, the woman needs to be held accountable for the actions leading to her imparement as well. For if she didn't have the excuse, she probably wouldn't have had the problem in the first place.

So, if you're going out and drinking so that you can talk yourself into doing things you know you probably shouldn't do, I have one question for you:

What's your excuse?

Ballmer To Children:

Well, close enough. In a recent interview, Microsoft CEO Steve Ballmer stated that he doesn't allow his children to use Google or iPods.

Microsoft - Steve BallmerDo you have an iPod?

No, I do not. Nor do my children. My children–in many dimensions they're as poorly behaved as many other children, but at least on this dimension I've got my kids brainwashed: You don't use Google, and you don't use an iPod.

Glad to see that Microsoft, from the top down, is taking an objective view of rival products to help improve their own. Ever think of asking your kids WHY they'd want an iPod or WHY they'd want to use Google? Nope…Ballmer probably even has official Microsoft dishes in order to help his brainwashing efforts.

Instead of doing consumer studies, Microsoft is sitting in their own little world wondering why they're losing losing portions of their maket shares in several key areas while convinced that they have the best products that have ever been made and ever will be made. Their latest OS has been delayed, their XBox 360 was rushed out and looks to be an inferior machine compared to the upcoming PS3, beta versions of the latest Internet Explorer aren't going to be bringing back Firefox/Opera converts, and the server world is increasingly embracing linux and unix.

Just as the Roman Empire began to crumble when it expanded it's borders beyond it's military manpower's capability to maintain those borders, Microsoft has spread itself too thin across the marketplace and left them rather far behind the curve of new technology.

The Jeopardy Test And A Lesson In Scalability

I know they teach this in Computer Science classes, because I was there, but it still seems like no one pays attention…Waiting

Last night I sat down at my computer at 7:55pm to take the Jeopardy online screening test for the east coast, which was scheduled to begin at 8:03pm. I logged in, a window popped up, and I got a "loading" message. About a minute later, it shows that it's about 50% loaded, and I'm just getting ready to take the darn thing.

But then it stalls out.

Not the "crash and won't respond" stalls out, but the "just taking forever to load" stalls out. I'm waiting, and clearly there is nothing I can do to speed it up. It's not me and my cable modem that's the slow part, but it's their server.

And then, promptly at 8:04pm, it finishes loading and displays "Sorry, but you have misssed today's test…"

I guess I should expect this by now, because it seems that most programmers, especially web application programmers, slept through the the classes on Scalability and Stress Testing.

Sure, someone could point fingers at me when I signed on at 7:55pm instead of at the first minute I was allowed to (7:45pm), but eight minutes for a 50-question test to load up is rediculous. I'd venture to guess that I'm not the only one who had this happen to them either.

And don't even get me started on the design of the test availability. The entire concept was flawed to begin with from an application design perspective.

I guess I should have expected something like this, as many online companies who release a "hot" service often have to play catch-up when things catch on faster than expected. However, I expected more from the people at Jeopardy and Sony Pictures, knowing the kind of audience they had and even having people pre-registering for the test.

They do have two more shots at getting it right in the other time zones, but unfortunately I've missed my shot for this year.

Thanks for dropping the ball guys!

Pot Pourri

Today just seems like a slow day, so maybe I’ll try to spice it up by hitting on a few different items…

  • Baseball’s almost back, and I’m finally looking forward to the season. A few weeks ago, I wasn’t real high on the current Red Sox team, but I’m getting there now.
  • I’ve gotten my two live-draft fantasy baseball teams squared away, and both are looking pretty solid. Another reason to get the season under way!
  • What a great idea to have the NFL highlight Manning v. Manning on NBC’s return to NFL broadcast! Since the opener isn’t an elimination game, both QBs should be able to avoid choking.
  • I’ve personally been very disappointed with the redesigns of both ESPN and CNN in the past few months. Seems like they’re just pushing more crap to the top of the pages, and moving the news down.
  • That’s the very reason I’ve also grown to love RSS and Bloglines in that same time frame.
  • Deeyah, a musician with an interesting backgound who has been called the “Muslim Madonna”, has been receiving a lot of negative reaction in the Islamic community. Chances are more likely she’ll be the “Muslim Christina Agulera” and we won’t hear much more from her in a few months. However, after waching George Mason defy the odds, she may become the spokeswoman for the rights of Islamic women.
  • Are you Unskilled and Unaware of It?
  • I’ve been wondering for a whileNEXT today about what’s “next” for the internet? The whole blogging thing just kind of blindsided most of us as it became an internet revolution, and now that it has become a part of most people’s social conciousness, the “next” thing has to be lurking…right?
  • Heck, I could think of lots of great stuff if I only had the information to do it with.
  • However, it’s real easy to get lost in the internet when there is so much out there and it seems like no one is paying attention to you.
  • But that’s no reason to stop…

Afghan Hypocracy

In what may play out as one of the most important religious stories of the year, if not socially relevant in general, is the story of Abdul Rahman. Rahman, a former Muslim who converted to Christianity, was arrested and faced the death penalty for posession of a Bible. Afghanistan, whose laws are tightly wound with those Islamic Law, views conversion away from Islam as an act of apostasy and treason. Ironically, Rahman’s conversion occurred 16 years ago when he was working with a Christian aid organization to help Afghan refugees in Pakistan.

Western response to the arrest and probable punishment was overwhelmingly negative. As we in the United States have spent much of the past four and a half years mending bridges with followers of Islam after the negative backlash from the 9/11 attacks, one of our strongest allies against the Taliban was going to put a man to death for his beliefs.

Now, I say “was” because the Afghan government has been heavily pressured in the past few days to let this man go. However, this would also be a sign of weakness to all Muslims. That has lead them to bring in a doctor to determine if Rahman is “mentally competent to stand trial”. His relatives are claiming that he is mentally unstable, which probably means that they just don’t understand his beliefs. This would save face for the Afghan government if they release him based on his determined competency.

However, this still leaves the problem that Muslim Clerics have threatened to have Rahman killed in accordance to their beliefs in Islamic Law. So that leaves Afghanistan with three choices:

  1. Follow through with the letter of their law, and put Rahman to death. However, this may incite the wrath of current allies.
  2. Find Rahman mentally unfit to stand trial and release him into the Afghan public, where there’s a good chance he’ll be killed nonetheless. Even in this case, the Afghan government would likely be blamed for knowingly releasing Rahman to his death.
  3. Finding Rahman mentally unfit to stand trial and banishing him from the country. This is probably the only way that Rahman has a chance of walking alive, but Muslims may be insulted by the turn of events and he may be hunted down in the end anyway.

It will be very interesting to see how this scenario plays out. If Rahman does die for his faith, he will be recognized as a Christian martyr. Heck, even if he walks away, what he has done already has shown more commitment to his faith than most people could ever claim to have.

It’s so amazing to watch God move and plant a seed in ground so infertile. I know that what He has planned is what will play out, but it is very captivating watching it develop.

Hazy Vista?

Latest reports from Slashdot are saying that Microsoft is currently scrambling to get as much as 60% of the code rewritten for the upcoming OS Windows Vista. This will likely push the release of Vista from late 2006 to early 2007.

I know I’ve seen some good demos of many of the features that are coming in Vista, and there’s been much talk abot ramping up the security features, but a massive rewrite like this is rather troublesome. Has Microsoft made a last-minute direction change with parts of the product? Was a security flaw actually exposed before the operating system was released for once? (That would be good news, even with the delay!)

Still, the biggest question that will have to be addressed is “What does Vista do that will benefit me that much more?”. For typical early-adopters like myself, this isn’t much of an issue. However, in the standard home user and corporate environments, which have been slow to even pick up Windows XP, will Microsoft be able to prove the benefits of Vista? Maybe this rewrite and delay will be a step towards doing that, which may benefit many of us in the end.

Update: Maybe things are worse than initially feared. One executive has already lost his job due to the delays, and today even the NY Times picked up on Microsoft’s problems with Vista.

My Sweet Sixteen

Boy, what a lousy way to end a thrilling weekend. Being a UConn fan, I was crushed by the result of the Huskies-Patriots game. It's notBasketball so much the outcome of the game, but how it transpired. The Huskies had every chance to win the game, but just never showed the desire that they wanted it. The Huskies clearly had more talent, but didn't have the hustle or desire that George Mason did.

I think that much of this epitomizes the way the tourney has played out so far. The team that has wanted it more has been winning out. "Scrappy" has become the latest buzz-word. LSU out-hustled both Duke and Texas. UCLA got the best of Gonzaga and Memphis. Florida and George Mason took on all comers and come out against some of the elite teams in the country.

It's going to be an interesting Final Four now, with 4 teams with a great hunger to win. I'm rooting for George Mason now, which would be the ultimate underdog story. Even though they've ousted my team, I'll still hope they pull it out!

Why I Hate Marketing: Reason Number 35,291

Have you noticed that the voices rambling on and on in the background of your commercials have begun to sound more familiar? This is something I had noticed myself in the past year, but didn’t really think anything of it. Probably because it didn’t make much of a difference to me. However, had a story today Who’s the celebrity voice in that ad? discussing exactly this topic, and it got me thinking.

Well, the amount that these celebrities are paid is what really got me thinking. Paying an A-List celebrity in the 7-figures to do a voiceover just seems excessive, and wouldn’t appear to have a very high return on investment. Heck, that’s making a toilet out of gold. Sure, it seems a little nicer, but it still doesn’t change the effectiveness.

I guess it’s just an excuse to keep the prices up…

C’mon Down To “South Park”…

Unless you've been living under a rock, then you've probably heard about all the commotion surrounding the crudely-animated South Park premier. In theChef's South Park Swan Song premier, long-running character 'Chef' was turned into a pedophile and killed off after the voice of Chef, Isaac Hayes, quit the show a week before the premier over "negative portrayal of (his) religion".

Now, let's just take a quick look at this hippocracy. Clearly, Hays was not offended enough to take a stance as South Park has repeatedly mocked Christianity, Judaism and Islam. Nor was he all that offended when the show completely shredded the foundings of the Mormon faith. However, when they attacked his "religion" of Scientology (dealing with alien spirits and other mumbo jumbo, but basically allowing people to pay for a clear conscience), he got in a tizzy! Awww…poor baby!

So in retaliation, Trey Parker and Matt Stone probably went a bit too far. There have been some complaints rising up about their glorification of pedophilia. Heck, there's even been some question if the Scientololgy hullabaloo is the reason Hayes left the show. However, due to the severity of the retalliation from Parker and Stone, it's hard to see how that could have not been the reason.

So, while I'm not much of a fan of the show (geez, it's been years since I last watched an episode), the latest buzz does bring up a lot of different issues which are rearing their heads both politically and spiritually. It's often easy to write off as 'just a joke', but we do have to watch how we deal with these sensitive subjects. We can't promote disgraceful activities, even in a cartoon, just because someone's involved in a cult because it can lead to other consequences. As Christians, we are taught to turn the other cheek (Matthew 5:38-15), so this kind of retalliation is not acceptable. Maybe it would have been best for Chef to have just never appeared in South Park again…but Parker and Stone have proven themselves to be boys who refuse to mature into responsible men.

I'm sure there will be another chapter to this saga though…