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May 2008 Archives

May 1, 2008

Sports Blogs Are The New Elvis

In case you missed it, earlier this week on the Costas show on HBO, Buzz Bissinger - a Pulitzer Prize winning journalist - put on quite a display. The setting was a panel discussion on sports blogs and society and featured Bissinger, the editor of Dead Spin and Braylon Edwards (naturally). What transpired was Bissinger not only throwing an inappropriate tantrum, but also showing why newspapers are in the position that they are - i.e. the brink of distinction.

Here's a link to the clip - it's long but worth watching.

His basic beef is that people write stuff on the internet that (a) he doesn't like and (b) other people can see/ read. His parting quip that he "feared for the future" made me laugh. People were predicting the end of society when Elvis Presley shook his hips on TV, the Beatles wore mop-tops and countless other things. The more things change the more they stay the same.

If he's really this upset about the online world, he should do something about it other than ranting on TV. He should go out and produce a site that has a what he considers to be a palatable online experience and go sell it. In other words go out and compete and try to put your competitors out of business. That's what every other business does. He has the same access to distribution that Deadspin does. Nobody is stopping him. Go change the world.

What journlaists and newspapers have yet to figure out is that news is a product. It needs to be produced and packaged in a way that elicits demand. If nobody wants what your making, re-tool it, re-think it, re-market it or come up with something new. Whining about it, while easy, is not the answer....

Last thought here - I actually find the whole idea of sports journalism to be kind of ridiculous now. People being paid to go to a game and write it up when the stadium is full of people who actually paid money to be there and can go home and write it up for free. Its absurd. Worried about the quality of their work? Great. Go fix that - i.e. see the previous two paragraphs.

May 7, 2008

YouTube HowTo PlayBlues

I really like the home made instructional videos on YouTube. Pretty much anything you can think of, there's a video lesson for it. Installing ceiling fans? Check. Scuba training? Check. Auto repair? Check. Heck, there's even instructional video on how to annoy your co-workers. In other words it's all there.

My favorite how to vid's are usually involve guitar. There are loads of great instructional videos ranging from how to play specific songs to how to play specific styles. I've been spending a lot of time lately on this guys blues instructional page. Really cool stuff. Now, I figure the logical next step is to bring my guitar to work, tape it and, voila, a new addition to the "how to annoy your co-worker" series. (Hint, hint Greg and your bladder pipe). Anyway, some cool, easy blues licks in this embed:

May 8, 2008

Funniest. Ad. Ever.

Thanks to Blair for pointing me to it.

May 9, 2008

Sun Virus....

the old fashioned kind:
At the company's JavaOne conference this week in San Francisco, 70 people came down with what officials believe is norovirus, a type of medical virus easily spread by touching dirty surfaces. The city's Department of Public Health started receiving reports on Wednesday. On Thursday and Friday, the department warned people who felt they had been infected to stay home. Shawn Dainas, a spokesman for Santa Clara-based Sun Microsystems, which makes servers and software and is accustomed to protecting against viruses of the digital variety, said the company also alerted attendees about the illness by e-mail.

A spokesperson for Mac World went on to note that the Apple conference is still virus free....

May 15, 2008

Stub Hub Limbo

I'm in Stub Hub limbo. Last night I ordered tickets for a concert playing on Wednesday. Stub Hub immediately confirmed the order on my side, but then I found out that they need to confirm the order from the sellers side. Fine, fair enough. But they give the seller 48 hours to do to confirm on their side. Did I mention that the concert is on Wednesday? This is not good.

So what happens if the seller doesn't confirm in time? I find out about the non-confirmation on Tuesday night and then have 24 hours to find tickets? Well that sucks. I guess in the meantime, I could go buy tickets elsewhere to insure having a seat - but what happens if the seller does eventually confirm? Then I'd have two sets of tickets. This sucks.

I know - I should have just bought them off of Craig's list. Actually, yes and no. Before trying Stub Hub, I answered some Craigslist ads - and got responses like "I have tickets but live in Berkeley - if you drive out here I'll sell them to you." I don't want to drive out to Berkeley to buy tickets. Stub Hub offered Fed Ex to my door - a MUCH better alternative. That is until I found out about this 48 hour waiting period.

So for now I'm in Stub Hub hell - actually purgatory is a more apt description. 48 hours in purgatory is waaayy to long.

UPDATE: Just got an email saying my tickets are shipping! Excellent. So only about 24 hours in Stub Hub purgatory. Still too long, but much better than 2 days. Looking forward to Wednesday at the Warfield!

Extreme Baseball

Deadspin noted that National Extreme Baseball began its inaugural season on Sunday. According to Wikipedia, extreme baseball and regular baseball differ in that "both teams are on the field at the same time. Pitchers from each team take turns pitching to batters at two adjacent home plates. One team runs around the bases in the normal counter clockwise direction, while the other team runs around bases in a clockwise direction."

This sounds confusing. And dumb. One of the things that makes spectator sports great is that usually only 1 team has the ball - thereby giving fans an opportunity to root passionately for or against one side. The only sports that I can think of with this kind of simultaneous scoring are boxing and tennis - not exactly "can't miss" sports for the fans. And racing as well I guess - although competing against the field as opposed to only one other seems to distinguish that.

Anyway, extreme baseball sounds like it will fail. BUT, I started thinking, if I was to come up with a baseball variant to try and take on MLB, what would it look like? Well, it would be baseball, but, I'd market it as a faster, more exciting version. I'd make the following rules changes to try and re-enforce the brand:

  1. No jogging. Walks, home runs, ground outs all require running. The first time someone on a team jogs, the team gets a delay of game warning. Everytime after it costs the team an out.
  2. 15 seconds between pitches. If the pitcher doesn't throw the pitch by then, it's a ball. If the hitter isn't ready by then, tough - the pitch counts. How do you enforce? With a pitch clock of course. Just like a shot clock, except for, you know, pitches.
  3. Max out the number of pitching subs. No more bringing a guy in to face just one batter. You get tow relief spots a game, including the closer. Every 3 extra innings, add an additional pitching sub.
  4. No intentional walks. Strike that - intentional walks are ok, but you don't actually pitch them. Pitcher signals the ump its a walk and that's that. Kinda like conceding a hole in match play golf. No need to make the actual pitches.
  5. Encourage exciting plays. Successful suicide squeezes = 2 runs. Same with tag ups from third base. Nothing better than a good play at the plate. Incentivize it to happen. Think of this as baseball's version of the three point shot.
  6. No steroid testing. Leave that for the cops. This is baseball - let's the conversation revolve around the action on the field, not off of it.
  7. No malcontents. You get arrested off the field (yes, including for steroids) regularly, you're fired. Just like a regular job - you know the kind the rest of us have. I don't care how fast you throw, you're out.

By the way, I'm not saying this would work - there are many, many, many reasons why MLB (players, press, distribution, brand, etc.) is almost impossible to knock off. My point though is that if someone was to take on baseball, this seems to me to be the top level strategic approach. Leaving the best parts of the game untouched, making some new rules to try to address the worst parts (it's too slow, etc.) and launching it as a newer version of an old classic. Seems like it makes more sense than just doubling up the existing game.

Mmmmmmm....cheesesteaks

But $100 for one? Seems, ummm, pricey.

For one cheesesteak, expect to pay $100. That is nearly 15 times more than the original.

"We made sure we had the best beef we could find, the best lobster and the right cheese," explains Locascio.

To get top of the line ingredients, Locascio says it costs $17 per pound for cheese, $21 per pound for Kobe beef and $900 per pound for summer truffles.

So who buys the costly sandwich?

On average, five or six customers order it per night and many share it as an appetizer.

I think I'd rather have 14 of the $7 kind than 1 of the $100 ones.

May 19, 2008

How To Resurrect the Dead

In the human world, resurrecting the dead is an impossible task. In the corporate world, it's almost as difficult. Once a company or a product has the public perception of being irrelevant (which is the marketing equivalent of death), pulling a Dr. Frankenstein and bringing it back to life is a tall order.

Apple is a great example of a company that managed to pull it off. 10 years ago Apple was the Valley's equivalent of the sixth sense - they were walking around dead, but they didn't know it. The war with Microsoft left them battered and barely breathing. Fast forward 10 years and they're one of the top brands in music and laptops. So how did they do it?

The original war with Microsoft was fought over PC's and OS's and Apple lost. So they did a really smart thing: they stopped fighting it. Instead of making futile charges up the same hill over and over again, they picked a different hill. One that was both lucrative and allowed them to play to their strengths around product. Take Apple design and functionality strengths, apply them to the otherwise disorderly world of music, package the result with a slick name and ad campaign and, voila, the dead company actually came back to life. They've been so successful with the music campaign that they actually are making a dent in the laptop/ OS market again.

If there is a formula for resurrecting the corporate dead, that's it. Rule #1 for resurrection: stop fighting the losing battles. Rule #2: find a battle that is worth fighting that you think you can win. Rule #3: don't fool yourself in thinking that your dead brand has enough life for a new fight. How do you think Apple would have done in 2001 if they would have called their fancy new music player the Macintosh?

Why do I bring this all up? I'd thought Microsoft would have learned some lessons from Apple (especially after Zune). Clearly, I don't think that the search battles are over, but I do think that with respect to certain players they are. Google has won. They've beaten the existing field. Yahoo's search brand is the walking dead. Just like the Mac vs. the PC, Yahoo ain't gonna magically turn things around and suddenly re-win the public's trust in the search engine arena. They need to find a different battle to win.

There's a reason why smart investors like Carl Icahn are pushing Yahoo to get this deal done. They know that resurrecting the dead is really hard.

May 21, 2008

Great, Just Great

People are actually speculating gas will go as high as $12/ gallon. Great.
The prices that we’re paying at the pump today are, I think, going to be ‘the good old days,’ because others who watch this very closely forecast that we’re going to be hitting $12 and $15 per gallon,” Hirsch said. “And then, after that, when oil – world oil production goes into decline, we’re going to talk about rationing.

That's fun. ugh.

On a somewhat related note, I'm halfway through a GREAT book - Oil on the Brain: Adventures from the Pump to the Pipeline (full review to follow when I finish). This book has a ton of interesting facts about gas production and is defintiely worht the read. Two quick things I've learned thus far: (1) the increase in gas prices is really a demand driven increase; and (2) historically, the demand for gasoline has been inelastic. It'll be interesting to see how far the price has to go to change that.

Really not looking forward to finding out.

May 26, 2008

My Jury Duty Rant

I just read this Google - Viacom lawsuit update, and it reminded me why the legal system annoys me to no end:
Google's response also demands a trial by jury, moving further away from any possibility for a settlement.

Google demands a trial by jury - isn't that great? If I am ever called to serve on jury duty in a civil case (note: not a criminal case, a civil case) the only question I would want answered is which side demanded a jury trial. I would then vote against that side on principle.

Now I completely understand jury duty when it comes to criminal cases - the state is trying to deprive someone of liberty and perhaps life. An objective panel of peers to decide seems warranted. Not enough people would volunteer to serve as a juror, and perhaps people who would volunteer aren't the folks that you want making these decisions. So sure, requiring people to do this important job makes sense. Jury duty for criminal cases is the right answer. But civil cases?

Civil cases are usually about one thing and one thing only: money. And often times it's not even about whether one side is liable, the only question is how much is owed. Given how lawsuits usually drag on and on, the participants have ample opportunity to settle these mostly financial matters without imposing on the life of John Q. Public. If they are unable to settle it on their own, there are lots of other alternatives as well: arbitration, mediation, etc.

And, at the end of the day, if none of this works and the litigants still can't figure out the right settlement, guess what? There's a group of professionals out there who's exact job it is to decide these very matters. They're called judges and they're readily available.

So, in my mind, any litigant that is demanding a jury trial in a civil case is basically saying that they're unwilling to (a) come to a settlement and/or (b) avail themselves of a professional jurist. Instead, they actively choose to impose on the lives of unrelated 3rd parties for resolution, nevermind whatever else these folks have going on in their lives. In other words, they believe that litigant's time is more important than the jury's time. I happen to disagree.

And to prove it, if I were a juror in a civil case, I'd vote against any side that demands a jury trial. Seems like the right message to send to someone who values my time so little.

May 28, 2008

Time for a Short Break For Some Miracle Fruit

From today's NY Times, a story on the Miracle Fruit, which after you eat it, makes everything else you eat taste sweet.
You pop it in your mouth and scrape the pulp off the seed, swirl it around and hold it in your mouth for about a minute...Then you’re ready to go....The miracle fruit, Synsepalum dulcificum, is native to West Africa and has been known to Westerners since the 18th century. The cause of the reaction is a protein called miraculin, which binds with the taste buds and acts as a sweetness inducer when it comes in contact with acids, according to a scientist who has studied the fruit, Linda Bartoshuk at the University of Florida’s Center for Smell and Taste.

If you haven't tried this stuff it's pretty cool. My brother introduced me to it last year and it really works. I had one berry and next thing I know I was chewing on a lemon that suddenly tasted like pure sugar. Unlike the people in the article, I didn't try tequila or tobasco after eating it - the former sounds like it might be a good idea though...

May 31, 2008

Spelling Bee Comedy

on a side note, sideline reporters at the spelling bee? Really?

About May 2008

This page contains all entries posted to Marksonland in May 2008. They are listed from oldest to newest.

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