Saturday, January 10, 2009


First off - MPD Chief Cathy Lainer is bringing back All Hands on Deck at least eight times in 2009, according to the Examiner, here.  I think this is a great initiative, especially with crime on the rise. Keep up the good work Chief Lainer.

WaPo reports that the DHS Project at Saint Elizabeth's has passed another hurdle - getting approval from the NCPC.  I'm all about this.  Read the article here.

Now onto WMATA, I have a few things to discuss ... the first being their budget.

Metro's budget is a mess ... just like transit agencies and governments around the country.  They need to find $176 million in order to operate a balanced budget.  Yesterday, Catoe and his team of fools proposed two cuts - $103 million in operating expenses (operational/admin), and $73 million in service cuts.  They are going to cut about 8% of their workforce - totally 891 positions, which kind of sucks.  But the service cuts are what have me more angry ... I understand the economy is hurting, but that is exactly not the time to propose service cuts - we need more/better service.  The last time the Board voted to increase the Fare (in 2007), they vowed not to do it again until 2010 - who cares.  

While I think the service you get for your $1.35 is lackluster - I propose increasing fares, to a base fare of about $1.50.  I also propose the introduction of Unlimited Monthly passes - available to SmarTrip users only.  Now of course, I haven't done any calculations in regarding these numbers - I think raising the fares is the only option, as I personally don't consider service cuts to be a smart idea.  Cutting service, in any economy is stupid - in a bad economy, it's really stupid.  People need public transportation now more than ever.

Onto the next topic ... which Imagine, DC got me thinking about this morning - another failure (budget cut) during Metro's planning phase ... only two tracks per line.  While putting a second set of tracks (or even just one extra track) on each line would have been extremely costly - I think it would have been better for everyone in the long run.  Imagine DC asks why we can't keep Metro open 24/7 and just single-track around scheduled maintenance - and a commenter responds very smartly, that running the trains just slows everything down to the point where it is basically not worth it.  I really do wish Metro had express tracks ... wouldn't that be lovely.

And finally ... TSARchitect came up with a new Metro map (you can view the map here), that is truly amazing.  I don't want to steal his hard work without sending you over to his site for the ad revenue, and for his much more in dept analysis.   My favorite part is that he has added in a 'brown' line - which runs on a circuitous route around the city.  Also the Blue line is not routed along its long proposed M Street run, with TSAR putting it:
this plan does not run the new Blue Line down M street and back into its current configuration. Instead, it runs the Blue Line north, through Adams Morgan, Shaw, Gallaudet, and Trinidad to create a new corridor mostly on Florida Avenue.
I'm not going to steal his thunder ... go read his whole thing.  It really is another great improvement on our ever-lackluster Metro system.

WMATA's $$$$$$$$

I saw this in a WMATA Press Releases (here) and from Michael over at Infosnack (here) ... which is WMATA asking for funding out of Obama's stimulus package.  The problem that Michael (and I) have with the list, is that the Board did not prioritize which of these should get funded first, and which are of lower priority.  All in all, they are requesting around $530million - all of which could be implemented within 90 days - which is what is best needed for an economic stimulus.

Copying right from Metro's website, here is a list of their needs:
• Purchase buses, paratransit vehicles, maintenance vehicles and components for rail cars; 
• Replace, repair and expand maintenance facilities such as bus garages and rail car storage facilities; 
• Repair and improve passenger facilities such as station platforms, escalator canopies, stairs, elevator access and credit card readers; 
• Expand security systems and purchase additional emergency tunnel evacuation carts; 
• Procure maintenance and repair equipment for Metrorail track and rail cars; 
• Replace deteriorating operating equipment like fare collection equipment and signage; and 
• Procure hardware and software to improve maintenance efficiencies, monitor network traffic and protect WMATA systems for disaster recovery.
Michael over at Infosnack did a much better rundown - with costs per each section.  You can check them out at his site, here.

Do you have any thoughts on this ... what do you think is a priority?

* Personally I think the purchase of buses and rail parts is of very high priority (does Metro really need new maintenance trucks?).  
* We definitely need to repair and expand maintenance and storage depots - especially the bus ones, many of which are outdated and falling apart.  
* I would definitely like to see passenger facilities improved.  
* I would also like to see the installation of more SmarTrip fare machines (why only two per station) and actual SmarTrip vending machines at downtown stations.  
* Tunnel evacuation carts? ... are you kidding me.
* Security systems ... that sounds okay
* Repair equipment for Metrorail track/cars -- all good
* Fare Collection Equipment - doesn't look that bad to me, but I'll take their word for it.
* IT stuff - probably necessary

Friday, January 9, 2009

Movie to Watch, London and British Airways

* Movie, complements of YouTube, the trailer for Nic and Norah's Infinite Playlist is posted below. Simple five reasons to go see it

1. There is a Yugo in it, when was the <del>lastdel> time  you saw one of those?
2. Really good jokes.
3. They sing the twelve gays of Christmas
4. Features some jewish people
5. A band without a drummer, watch it happen.

*London is expensive, fact(more to come later)

*British Airways apparently waits 48 hours before releasing your lost luggage to an outsourced company in which you can get your bag. (More to come later... as well)

British food sucks, please go buy a Chipotle Burrito in my name!

Digital TV, TiVo, etc

The Obama administration came out publicly yesterday and requested that the switch to Digital TV - scheduled for February 17th, be delayed.  The Paper of Record has a story about it here.  I have pretty mixed feelings on this whole issue.

On one hand, Congress first acted on this in 2005.   We need to get on this people, delays will only push things back further and slow progress.

On the other hand, apparently the government is almost out of money for its voucher program - with several million homes still without a digital converter box.  I don't know if these people have been living in caves that they haven't gotten the memo that their TV is being cut off - but I do understand the confusion surrounding the program and the lack of information being disseminated to these people.

The way of telling people with analog signals about the switch was to broadcast a few times, during prime time over the analog waves and telling people they needed a converter box.  Um.  No.  Shut off TV for a day, just displaying only that message.

I would support the Obama Administration's action if on February 17th people without DTV just saw a message directing them to the DTV Transition website or telephone number - telling them that they would no longer have TV.  Then regular TV would be back, then the same message a week later ... repeating until sometime by the end of March when analog signals would be cut and the country went full DTV.  That's my plan, Obama are you on board?

Switching gears - TiVo!  NYT has the dish here - but TiVo introduced a new beta search this week at CES.  If you have a Series3 or HD, you can check it out inside the music, movies, etc menu.  It is really cool.  As you type in a show or actors name it chooses the most popular to display first - also surrounding you with cool clips and videos about that and other shows.  I can't wait for this search to come out of Beta, because its awesome.

And finally on the etc note ... according to WaPo, here, 213 venues will be open until the 4am last call during Inauguration weekend.  About 70 venues still have pending issues with ANCs and citizens associations.  All I can say is AMERICA!

Thursday, January 8, 2009


I've been meaning to write about this topic for days. As many will recall, our good friend Cocktail keeps a blog (here). If you read it, you know that Cocktail and some of his compatriots have coined the term ILOLAW (Inappropriate Laugh(ing) Out Loud At Work). Recently, they submitted the term to Urban Dictionary and ILOLAW is now an official entry. There is also a facebook group dedicated to ILOLAW that I encourage all to visit/join. Here ends the shameless promotion.

Now, everyone is a little prone to some outbursts, especially in an office environment. But some people just go above and beyond in their inappropriateness; those people deserve to be ridiculed.

I have a friend, who is only willing to be identified here as "Cougar", who recently told me about some of her ILOLAW situations . She a great fan of this new terminology and is happy it finally has a name as she has to deal with this situation daily. Couger has a coworker, "Z", that ILOLAWs constantly. Not little titters or giggles, but wholehearted guffaws.

"I don't get it, there I am minding my own business doing my work and suddenly I hear this ear-piercing yelp followed by the loudest laughter I've ever heard. I remember thinking, 'What the f**k was that?!' That was day 1. It's been like that every day since. I don't know what she's laughing about, if she's trying to get attention or what, but it got old... fast."

Our hearts go out to you, Cougar.

Do any of you have ILOLAW stories to share?

For an Example of Economic Success Turn to... Pittsburgh!?

Yes, denizens: Pittsburgh. My beloved home town has done it again. While I obviously have a very biased opinion on all things Pittsburgh, I promise this is a reliable story from a reliable source.

The New York Times (SHEAm calls it a record paper or something...) has a story yesterday about the economic recovery of the former Steel City and it's current (relative) prosperity.

Now, I'll be the first to openly admit that Pittsburgh is not a perfect place and has gone through some considerable hard times. But as the Times points out, while other industrial cities slid into a terrible stage of depression, Pittsburgh pulled itself out of the much by expanding into education and health care. Given the state of the economy now and the tough times ahead for places like Detroit, maybe Pittsburgh should serve as a model for these cities to replicate.

David Streitfield says it best himself:

This is what life in one American city looks like after an industrial collapse:

Unemployment is 5.5 percent, far below the national average. While housing prices sank nearly everywhere in the last year, they rose here. Wages are also up. Foreclosures are comparatively uncommon.

A generation ago, the steel industry that built Pittsburgh and still dominated its economy entered its death throes. In the early 1980s, the city was being talked about the way Detroit is now. Its very survival was in question.

Deindustrialization in Pittsburgh was a protracted and painful experience. Yet it set the stage for an economy that is the envy of many recession-plagued communities, particularly those where the automobile industry is struggling for its life.

It goes on:
Entrepreneurship bloomed in computer software and biotechnology. Two of the biggest sectors are education and health care, among the most resistant to downturns. Prominent companies are doing well. Westinghouse Electric, a builder of nuclear reactors, expects to hire 350 new employees a year for the foreseeable future. And commercial construction, plunging in most places, is still thriving partly because of big projects like a casino and an arena for the Penguins hockey team.
One of the points of the story is that part of Pittsburgh's current-enviable situation is due to the fact that it played things very by the book in recent years. There wasn't a large real estate bubble (so one didn't pop), and house prices are up about 2% as of Sept 2008 while nationally they fell 4%. PNC Bank, a big local bank (and my FAV!) didn't take a lot of risk in the midst of the sub-prime bonanza, and being cautious served them well: while other banks are folding in spades they just acquired several Ohio-based banks. The moral of the story: don't go nuts just because everybody else is doing it; it if seems to good to be true it probably is.

In any case, it's worth a read, especially for those of you in the new Rust Belt looking for some inspiration. There was life after steel, and there will be life after automobiles...

Bob Barr's a...good guy?!

To most of us on the left, particularly people in the LGBT community, Bob Barr isn't exactly what we'd call a friend. The former U.S. Rep from Georgia has apparently had a change of heart on a few things lately. Barr made his name in the House by being fervently anti-abortion, favoring the war on drugs, and of course authoring the Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA) which banned same sex marriage nationally and effectively told states they needn't respect gay marriages performed elsewhere (which people on both sides of the aisle contend is unconstitutional). After leaving the House he went into quiet retirement... wait, no. Instead he went on what appears to be a spiritual journey and became a Libertarian. You know, the people who want the government to stop controlling things like abortion, drugs, and marriages.

In 2008 he was even nominated for President by the Libertarian Party. He must have really changed for them to love him. I'm not so sure.

However, this week he did take a big step away from nut-job-ism and wrote an editorial in the LA Times recanting his previous devotion to DOMA. He now claims (realizes may be a better word) that there is an unfair 'one sided' federalism that has unintended consequences for the nation. He further notes that then-Senator Obama was right to oppose the Federal Marriage Amendment in 2006. Agreed.

Here's a quick excerpt from Barr's note in the Times:

"In effect, DOMA's language reflects one-way federalism: It protects only those states that don't want to accept a same-sex marriage granted by another state. Moreover, the heterosexual definition of marriage for purposes of federal laws — including, immigration, Social Security survivor rights and veteran's benefits — has become a de facto club used to limit, if not thwart, the ability of a state to choose to recognize same-sex unions.

Even more so now than in 1996, I believe we need to reduce federal power over the lives of the citizenry and over the prerogatives of the states. It truly is time to get the federal government out of the marriage business. In law and policy, such decisions should be left to the people themselves."

The return of the streetcar

First off some good transportation news: 
* WaPo is reporting that rail is becoming the preferred way to build the Purple Line ... this is good news especially as this project continues to move forward towards reality - here.
* And ... the best news in a long time, Minister of Transportation Mary Peters has given the final approval for the Dulles Rail Project (aka the Silver Line).  This is great news for Metro, and great news for everyone in Metro Washington.  Now, if only we can get Fairfax County to figure out how to plan Transit-Oriented Development.  The news is here.

So here is the real stuff - I'm going to propose a streetcar plan:

DDOT has posted some historical photos from all around the District, you can view them here - they are pretty cool.  One really struck me, it is a picture from 1958 looking North on Connecticut Avenue NW towards the circle.  Notice the separate tunnels for streetcars underneath the tunnels for cars - I knew that streetcars had run under the circle, but had just assumed they used the car tunnels, and the car just replaced them when the streetcars were discontinued.  The picture is below:

I love the concept of street cars ... they are just a great idea - I would love to see them anywhere.  Since we really don't have them in the US, I like the novelty of them, but I also like them because I think most people consider them more "acceptable" than buses.  I honestly think that is where the streetcars greatest value lies - the fact that people would be willing to take them, yet its not as expensive to construct as a subway.  That said I would gladly accept dedicated bus lanes if the District were not willing to lay out the money for streetcar investment throughout the city.

Yes ... DC is on the road to building a streetcar system, in fact we actually already purchased the streetcars - they are sitting over in Europe somewhere.  And the DC City Council finally approved the streetcar route, along with DDOT ... and everyone is happy - right?  Why haven't you heard about it though?  Well first off, the streetcar is in Anacostia - and while I admit that Anacostia is in desperate need of development and transit-oriented development, I would have liked to see streetcars elsewhere.  In discussing my thoughts on where the first downtown streetcar should go - I would first like to discuss one of the buses I hate the most in the city, the Circulator.

Yup ... I hate the Circ.  I realize that most people don't consider it a bus and because of that people actually use it, and I realize that it serves an area that is starved for mass transit ... but honestly, who runs a bus down K Street.  I think after my second time driving in Washington I developed the rule to avoid K Street at all costs - it is a disaster.  In my mind, this disaster is due to the recent (almost decade old now) redevelopment of the K Street Streescape.  Yes, K Street looks beautiful ... but it is so car-oriented it drives me insane.  The current design is actually pretty much perfect to just put streetcars down onto.  I have made two excellent images in paint showing the current traffic pattern, and then what I would like to see.

My proposal gives the streetcar an isolated dedicated lane (perhaps it could even be shared by bus routes that might be using K Street), as well as a dedicated station (loading/unloading) platform ... much like the median that already exists on K Street.  I would personally prefer that we just eliminate street-parking along K Street, as I think the the third travel lane would be better used as just that - a true lane 24/7; I know that just won't give with the businesses and the ANC - they love parking.  So they have their parking ... during off-peak hours, much like it is in other areas of the city.

I would personally like to see most left turns banned on K Street as well - unless the parking lane is eliminated and the left-turners are given a dedicated turn lane and arrow.

This K Street streetcar network would travel under Washington Circle - with a station under the Circle, much like old DuPont - but it would alter course slightly and when it came back up to ground level it would be on Pennsylvania Avenue.  The streetcars would travel down dedicated lanes on Pennsylvania ... until it reached Georgetown.  Exactly what happens in Georgetown will be covered in a separate, soon-to-come, post.

But I would like to turn your focus back in the other direction ... when the K Street streetcar comes to Connecticut I forsee a large link-up.  Since the Metro is below ground, and the NPS is not going to let me raze Farragut Square, there will unfortunately not be one easy transfer route - but in theory I'd like all the trains to be able to move from track to track ... but if not here is what I envision.  The K Street streetcar continues on down K street, eventually hitting Convention Center area ... at that point it will head down Mass Ave towards Union Station - where it will terminate and meet up with several other lines, much like the Circulator.

Additionally at Connecticut Avenue - there will be a pair of tracks that head Northbound on Connecticut - and a pair that continue from those Connecticut tracks heading Southbound on 17th Street down to the WWII memorial.  I'd love to really sit down and plan all of this, and perhaps I will in a future post.

Additionally the downtown core isn't in desperate need for transit, there is a sufficient amount of transit, just nothing really that good.  Anacostia needs transit, H Street NE/Bloomingdale needs transit, upper NW really needs transit (as does upper NE). 

Of course that could all change if one day metro was to look like this.  Original post here.

Look for more of these posts to come.

Wednesday, January 7, 2009

Civic Investment and Millenials: A Panacea?

**Note: this is just one of a series of entries I have planned about civic engagement in the run-up to the Inauguration.

There's an interesting post on Millenial Makeover about the Obama team's transition. While I don't agree with 100% of the historical assessment or the insinuation that there is wide-spread agreement on the 'fact' that administrations fall into either the 'idealist' or 'civil' categories (etc), I am intrigued by the author's analysis. I think the most important point made is about the impact of Generation Y, the "Millenials":
"The current realignment however, is a "civic" realignment, produced by the political emergence of America's newest civic generation, Millennials (born 1982-2003). Civic generations react against the efforts of divided idealist generations to advance their own moral causes. They expect their team to unify the country, focus on reenergizing political and governmental institutions and using those institutions to confront and solve pressing national issues left unattended and unresolved during the previous idealist era. The transition efforts of President-elect Obama should be measured against this set of expectations, not those of an idealist era like the one just ended."

As a proud Millenial and an individual working in the civic engagement field: this really is an exciting time and I hope the "Makeover" author is right. A lot of the public impression/conventional wisdom has been that young people don't get involved and are generally an apathetic age-group. The one recent exception has been the election, when we saw a great number of books, articles, columns, political commentary/strategy claim that the apathy trend was changing (with various levels of credit given to Sen. Obama). But that isn't the whole story.

The fact is we are seeing more and more Millenials get excited about their community, get engaged, and get active. Some of that has been election-based (or related to the outcome of the election, given Obama's strong youth following). But maybe part of the issue is the way in which we talk about and measure engagement.

For instance, many younger people choose to get involved in very innovative ways, particulary online. With the advent of Facebook (and "Causes" in particular), MySpace, ActBlue, and myriad others, the word "engagement" is gaining a whole new meaning. Older generations measure activism by attending rallies, signing physical petitions, going to community meetings. Millenials tend to measure it with email alerts, virtual petitions, facebook groups, etc. "Can you be engaged while sitting at a keyboard," has become a more and more relevant question (for more on this see a debate by the experts here.)

Furthermore, a record number of young people today are getting active, volunteering in their communities (especially in long-term service programs), and partaking in the political process. Just glance at the number of young people joining Teach For America, AmeriCorps, the Peace Corps, and other similar programs. Or look at revolutionary organizations like that were created by Millenials specifically to empower Millenials. Add to the mix the fact that a recent study by the National Conference on Citizenship(more on this in future posts...) shows that Millenials now are more committed and active in their communities than Baby Boomers (the most active age-group around these days) were at this point in their lives, and we may truly be headed for a greater civic realignment.

What's crucial here is to take the initiative and ensure that we don't miss an opportunity to help institutionalize/spread dedication to community, neighbor, and country. Just look at a snapshot of our situation: our infrastructureis outdated, our urban centers are crumbling (not to mention going bankrupt), and our economy is floundering, with no end in sight. Yet we have a new President buoyed to victory by hope and optimism and a generation of emerging leaders eager to get its hands dirty.

Let's marry the two by increasing the funding and our national investment in service initiatives. Creating an even more impressive corps of volunteers to help salvage our wrecked education system, to build a 21st century infrastructure, and combat the poverty gap will serve as a modern New Deal and help kick start the economy by providing jobs while creating some of the vital improvements we've been in need of for sometime.

I realize I'm not suggesting anything that hasn't already been proposed, my point is simply to lend my voice to the chorus of social innovaters that expect action from our new Congress and incoming President.

Round it

To start with a WSJ article on iTunes being DRM-free from this point forward ... interesting.  If you want any deets about iTunes, DRM, what this means, etc - read the article.

The Times (UK) has a very interesting article about 'Ghost Buses' and 'Parliamentary Trains' - basically services that run to maintain the illusion that service hasn't been disrupted, but that no one uses.  In particular they talked about the DfT's decision to reassign rail cars to another route, effectively discontinuing service on one route.  But due to a law passed in 2005, in order to discontinue service they would have had to hold a public hearing - which they didn't want to deal with, so instead they replaced it with a bus service.  The bus runs empty everyday, and thats the way DfT wants it ... it costs about $1,000 a day to operate by the way.  Very interesting article - read it here.

The Paper of Record had an editorial on Monday about why Obama needs to take Transportation seriously.  Seriously!  He does!  I won't go on and on about this, but you know how I feel ... we need to make transportation infrastructure building and renewal a top priority.  It's here.

In a very interesting move, and something that I agree completely with ... Anne Arundel County has passed a law requiring all newly built homes to have sprinkler systems.  The law will take effect later this year, and you can read the brief WaPo piece here.  I personally think this is a very good step for the County, and will help homeowners in the long run.  If I ever had the opportunity to build my own house, I would certainly include a sprinkler system - the danger of fire is too great.

I just threw up.  An Obama West Wing Intro.  Watch it:

Some articles that I found interesting:

* Lifehacker found an interesting website called WattzOn ... which tracks personal energy consumption, very interesting.  Check it out here.

* Third-Hand Smoke.  What?!  Yes ... apparently its for real.  The BBC reports on how people have to take into account that the fact that people may have been previously smoking in the room.  The toxic particles can linger in the air and cling to fabric.  Interesting, here.

* NYT Op-Ed about G.W. Bush: Here.  I'll save you from a long comment, but in the end I think the man just received a bad hand of cards - and only time will tell for sure.

* On the G.W. Bush note ... AMERICA!  The greatest book ever made, okay jk.  Gawker has a copy of (and an article about) the The Bush Administration's book of accomplishments.  Yes this is a real 100-page book, you have to check it out - here.  (via THatch)

* NYT Op-Ed on Agriculture: Here.  This is something that we never talk about in this country, yet something that will certainly impact the world in our lifetime.  We absolutely decimate our soil and destroy our lands in the name of getting ourselves fed.  I'm personally more passionate about water resources - as I see it as something that will much sooner be an issue - but we need to keep our nation's future safe.

* NYT Op-Ed on the Financial World, and how it will never be the same: Here.  I suggest reading this one for yourself (it is 4 pages H), it is certainly worth the read.

* HuffPo ... on Education: Here.  I would normally never put a HuffPo post in my round-up unless to make fun of it, or point out how blatantly liberal it is ... but this one made some good points.  It talks about what America needs from education - its short and to the point.

* Via NYT, the NYC TLC is testing a 'black box' of sorts in some cabs throughout the city.  The study is expected to last about 13 months - and we will see what comes of it.  (here.)

* Energy Efficient TVs ... hmm, sounds like a good idea to me.  (Here.)

Tuesday, January 6, 2009

Apple news!

Here is a link to the Engadget liveblog, because its the best.

New iLife ... the new iPhoto and iMovie seem really cool

New iWork ... nothing exciting, except for - which is like Google Docs.  It is free while in beta, afterwards it moves to a pay service

New 17" MBP ... integrated non-removable battery - lasts 8 hours, and 1000 charges - which is outstanding (if it is actually true).

The big news!!!!!!  iTunes is going DRM free!  As of today, 8 million out of the 10 million songs currently available will be DRM Free.  By the end of the quarter (April 1), all 10 million songs will be DRM Free.  Also at the end of the quarter - the price structure is going to change to $0.69, $0.99, $1.29; depending on the popularity of the song.

I'm excited about DRM Free ... though the word is still out as to how much it costs for people who currently have DRMed songs.  It would be great if we were able to upgrade for free, but that is unlikely.  As for the new price structure - I am personally a fan.  I have always been against Apple being such a stickler with the music labels, and am happy to accept this higher price for more popular songs if it means I can use them however I like.

And finally downloads are available over 3G ... as of right now (I actually just did it).  I am not quite sure what Apple gave to AT&T to arrange this bs, but I would be willing to bet to bet that Apple gave them something.  I'm pretty impressed with this ... good job.  H pointed out (which I failed to realize), you can now listen to a song on the radio ... Shazzam it ... and then buy it.  No WiFi necessary.  That is pretty cool.

Anyway ... Apple stock is down, of course - always should short it before the keynote - Wall Street always has expectations that are too high.  Oh wow its really on a nose dive, I really wish I had shorted it.

Rant: It is important to keep in mind that it is still illegal to buy a song and send it to someone.  The DRM-free copy is yours, and yours only.  DMCA makes that quite clear, so I would really encourage you to abide by the law, and your own personal morality, and not illegally send people songs.  If someone sends you a song and you really like, go out and buy it - maybe you disagree with these companies revenue streams and think they are robber barons, but that doesn't give you the right to steal from them.  As the MPAA would say - would you steal a car?  No.  Then why would you steal a movie (song)?

Attention Apple: Where was the mini?  That's all I'm really pissed about.  I would have liked that media server, but really!  The mini ... please!

Ahhhh!!!! Macworld Keynote!

Okay people ... Macworld Keynote at 12:00pm EST ... the blogosphere is aflutter with rumors. 

I know ... I know - it is pointless for me to write about them since if you really care, you already have read all about them - but I will anyway.  I have given my thoughts and explanations on everything.  The sources are the following: AppleInsider: 1, AppleInsider: 2, TUAW.

As of 10:18am the Apple Store is closed ... OH I'M EXCITED!

* DRM-Free Downloads - This has been a rumor for a year or so now, but people are saying that this time it is real; Apple has successfully gotten the major labels to agree to lift DRM restrictions on all (or maybe most) of their tracks available.  I'm not sure how this will play out - will DRM-free tracks cost more, and what will happen to those of us who currently own DRMed songs ... something tells me we won't get the DRM-free version for me.  Even worse to think about, how will this screw up my play counts.  Either way ... if this is true, I think it is a great move by the music labels and will help everyone in the end.

* iTunes Music Store Price Structure - Apple has always insisted on $0.99 per song, no matter what; done and done.  The music labels hate that ... and would prefer that you pay more for newer/more popular songs and less for much older/less popular songs.  Rumor on the street is that Apple has agreed to this, as part of the DRM-Free plan - with most songs staying at $0.99, but some going as low as $0.79; there is no estimate on how high prices would be, but I would think probably $1.19 or $1.29

* Downloads over 3G - To be perfectly honest, I don't see myself using this that anyway - and really don't see a huge advantage.  I'm sure music addicts like H would disagree, and I'm sure it would come in handy now and again, but I won't be disappointed if I don't hear this.  I don't know what the pricing structure would be like for this, but I can almost guarantee that AT&T is not going to give it away under the current data plans - they are already complaining that iPhone users use way too much data.  I wonder how they would do it - would a per song fee be tacked on (I don't think Apple would like that), or would you just have a special plan that allows you to download a certain number (I'm sure Apple would prefer unlimited) of songs per month.

* iPhone Tethering - This is more AT&T news than Apple, but Apple might have requested to announce it - since they basically control AT&T these days.  This has also been a rumor for quite some time, but one that seems more and more likely.  It would allow you to connect your phone to your laptop and use its data network to access the internet over your computer.  I used to do this with my BB Pearl, and AT&T did not charge extra for it - but this time around they definitely will.  TUAW, via MacBlogz, suggests that it will probably be $30/month, with a 5GB cap.

* Unibody 17-inch Macbook Pro - The 17-inch MBP is still the only notebook that did not recieve a refresh ... who knows what the delay is.  I would expect to see this, if not at Macworld, sometime soon.

* iMac - A few blogs seem rather convinced that the iMac will receive a refresh, but I am not counting on it.  It is one of their most popular machines and seems to receive a refresh most frequently - so maybe.  If there is a new iMac I will certainly be excited, but I won't be disappointed if not.

* Big iPod Touch - I don't even know what this is all about.  Several blogs have indicated that there will be a 'large format' iPod Touch ... I'm not really sure what purpose this would serve.  If by large format iPod Touch, they mean tablet computer - then yes - but who just wants a big iPod?

* Mac Mini - A third party company yesterday released a press release referring to a 1TB mac mini, which does not currently exist.  The release makes perfect sense as the mini has not been refreshed in forevs, but is still a viable product as far as Apple is concerned - it is very popular for servers and corporate front-of-house environments where small, sturdy, powerful machines are needed.  The new mini would likely see a hard drive upgrade, and the option to purchase the machine without an optical drive, instead opting for two hard disks.  A refresh would likely include a new chipset (with upgraded graphics), a mini-DisplayPort, a USB-port or two more, and a few other things.  It will probably also get a styling update giving it a similar look to Time Capsule or Airport (with the lip around the edges), but probably more metallic.

* AppleTV - Considering Steve has said that the ATV is basically a side project for the company I am not expecting anything.  A software update would be nice, perhaps something that would allow Boxee - or just integrate with Hulu.  I'm not really holding my breath for this either, considering what Steve said.

* Media Server - I posted about this last week, and haven't seen anything in the blogosphere since; but could we finally see a Media Server from Apple.  This would hopefully go hand it hand with an improved Apple TV, or maybe they'd try to integrate it into the ATV (though I would not be pleased with that).  I would like to see a separate unit that serves as the home media server for all computers (and the ATV) to access.  Additionally rumors indicated that you would be able to access your media over the internet via MobileMe ... I don't know how ISPs would feel about that, but I'd love it.  If they do this, I'll be quite pleased.

* iWork Web - There has been discussion that the iWork suite would be moved to the web - to compete with Microsoft Office Online and Google Docs.  This makes sense considering MobileMe is essentially useless, but has the feature set available to support such a move.  I'm still not entirely sold on word processing over the web (I only save certain docs there when I need them readily accessible; but I still do editing on my home machine).  This seems rather likely, because MobileMe is just generally lacking.  UMMM ... this just in via Engadget, iWork 09 has gone up.

* Snow Leopard - The next version of OS X; Hopefully we will get a release date.

In non-rumor Macworld news ... Sling, maker of the Slingbox, announced their Sling for iPhone player is going to be shown off sometime during the conference.  Via TechCrunch.

In non-Macworld, but still Apple news ... Google released a beta version of Picasa for Mac yesterday.  Watch out iPhoto ...  Only time will tell if people are more comfortable using Picasa than they are iPhoto, I think I'm going to give it a try this weekend.  Via Google.  Via AppleInsider.

Monday, January 5, 2009


* The coolest ad ever below.


A few things I forgot this morning

* Apple news:
1. Steve Jobs is not dying, he's just a little sick.  Via Engadget, here.  NYT, here.
2. Macworld Keynote tomorrow - Noon EST.
2a. TUAW has keynote predictions, here.
3. TUAW says that Apple's market share is 10%, and Windows' is the lowest ever.  Here.  

* I'm sure you heard, but Bill Richardson won't be our next Minister of Commerce, apparently he is just as corrupt as Corr.

* An entire website is gone ... lessons in why to backup.  Some journaling website, JournalSpace, disappeared over the weekend because it only had a single back-up, running a RAID 1 configuration.  Meaning that the data on the backup was just a mirror of the first drive - so when the first drive was for some reason overwritten, the second drive followed suit.  Via TechCrunch, here.

* The Paper of Record is poor :( - starting this morning they have begun to sell adspace on the front page of the paper.  This is a controversial move in the newspaper publishing business, but one that has become increasingly necessary due to declining revenue.  Article here.

* Daily Intel ran a story over the weekend about a bunch of drunk people who had the worst NYE ever.  A Metro-North train broke down just after leaving Bridgeport around 4am, sitting there without electricity (or heat) until a rescue train arrived around 6:30am.  Ugh, that would suck.  Here.

* Do you use iTunes?  Do you rate songs?  You should do both, rating songs really helps you pick out the ones you like.  Anyway - a simple hack (Mac only) allows you to enable half-star ratings.    Via LifeHacker, here.

* GGW has an idea for a new Brown Line ... a shoot off of the Red Line at NY Ave that would rejoin at Silver Spring.  It would serve Bloomingdale/McMillian/AFRH.  Here.

* BrunchDC rounds up the best brunches of 2008.  #1 = Tabard Inn.  Here.

* Rhee!  Rhee!  Rhee!  Rhee has a new plan for teacher professional development.  Here.

* How long will discs be around?  Bluray's future, via The Paper of Record - here.

* Last week I talked about how great Benjamin Button is ... and today Jane Gross over at the NYT has a post about how infancy and old-age are really the same, which is basically what Benjamin Button shows us.  An interesting movie to say the least - here.

* I passed by NextDoor, the new Ben's Chili Bowl place, and it seemed to  be open.  Now I just need to stop in and try it out.

Welcome back...

Welcome back to work today everyone!

Despite what Corrupt tried to make clear in his posts last week, I am here to assure you that I'm not a racist - though I do find credence in the argument for racial profiling.  The BoldAirtran situation was quite extreme - though as Patchus pointed out, Delta would have never done such a thing, so chose your airlines wisely.  I'm personally glad that Airtran decided to publicly apologize and give these people free flights - though that doesn't really make up for the initial public embarrassment done.

* All this NASA talk and it turns out today is a pretty important day.  On January 5th 1972, America's 3rd greatest, and most trustworthy, President, Richard M. Nixon, announced the space shuttle.  President Nixon told the world that NASA would be developing the space shuttle program to reduce the costly expenses of the Apollo program.  He bragged about the shuttle's reliability, reuse-ability, and low-cost.  Here is a quote of fact from the Wired article, here, on the subject:

University of Colorado researcher Roger Pielke Jr. calculated in early 2005 that the shuttle program to that point had cost $145 billion, or about $1.3 billion per flight. (Based on a 1995 midpoint, that's about $1.9 billion per flight in today's dollars.)

The Apollo program cost a total $19.4 billion from 1960 to 1973. That averages almost $2.2 billion for each of the nine lunar missions. (Based on a 1967 midpoint, that would be about $13 billion each today.)

* One of The Paper of Record's papers, the International Herald Tribune, runs with a story this morning about how Israel's invasion of the Gaza strip was something they wanted to do before Bush left office.  Interesting article - read it here.

* GGW ran a post last week that I often think about - why can't you walk up to drive-thru windows?  It makes perfect sense at late-night or 24-hour fast food restaurants - you should be able to walk up to the drive-thru if/when the inside dining area closes.  I understand they don't want people mulling about inside the restaurant for obvious safety reasons - but what changes if you are in a car or on foot going through the drive-thru.  I suppose the argument could be made for the pedestrian's safety, but I don't buy that.  Seems a little bit ridiculous to me, but they all have the same policy, so I guess there's something to it.  Read here.

* Biggest news ever ... Mayor Fenty announced his new pick for DDOT Director - Gabe Klein.  GGW has a full round-up here, as does just about every other blog in the city.  This guy is exactly what we have been waiting for.  His policies seem as though they would be in line with NYC DOT Director (and transportation saint) Janette Sadik-Khan.  Klein formerly served as Regional Vice President for everyone's favorite car-sharing service, ZipCar, and more recently left ZipCar to head up On the Fly - the green-friendly street vending company.  Once again Fenty has proven that he is committed to choosing leaders from the 'next-generation' of thinking in their fields - and this pick is certainly not exception.  I'm excited to see what changes come out of Klein's office, and I can only hope that we will see a continued increase in SmartBike racks, bike lanes, and car-sharing parking spaces.  (All of which I am sure various ANCs will be against for some unknown reason)

* News from the liberal West - Oregon wants to institute a VMT (Vehicle Miles Travelled) tax.  Engadget has the story here, it seems like a very interesting proposal, but I am sure people would find ways around it.  Basically they want to put a GPS in every car (of course it wouldn't be tracked, it's Oregon, they are too liberal for that), that would track miles travelled - and then you would be billed accordingly.  They are thinking something to the tune of $0.012/mile.  Certainly an interesting proposal - we will keep an eye on this one.

* In other news, I spent my weekend being as lazy as possible and have a few things for you all to check out:
1. I am Legend (2007) - This Will Smith movie is amazing.  Quick and Dirty plot summary: We cure cancer in 2009, but the 'cure' soon begins to mutate into a disease that devastates the human race.  Will Smith just happens to be immune, and is a scientist who has set out to save us.  You should watch this.  Wiki.  Imdb.
2. The Big Bang Theory - This Monday' night CBS is also amazing.  I don't really know how to describe it - there are a bunch of really smart scientists, who are beyond socially awkward - and they frequently interact with the cool/pretty girl who lives across the hall.  It's really funny, you'll just need to trust me on this one and watch an episode.  The show seems to have always been rated in the top-three for its time-slot.  You can catch The Big Bang Theory every Monday (tonight) night at 8pm only on CBSWiki.  Imdb.  [editors note: you can't watch BBT online, WB, who produces the show for CBS, asked the company to pull full epsiodes from their website.  ughhh]
3. LOST is back in two weeks, on Wednesday 1/21, starting at 8pm on ABC with a one-hour recap episode - and following with two back-to-back episodes.  I am beyond excited.
4. 24 is back this Sunday and Monday with a two-part, four-hour season premiere.  It will air on both nights, on FOX, from 8-10pm.  Watch it.


Here are some pictures of Corrupt welcoming you to 2009 ... and reminding you the wrath you will incur if you don't read Connetiquette Avenue.