Posted inNews / Rant n' Rave

Failure of Leadership

I’ve stayed away from political issues in this blog because, frankly, politics don’t hold much interest for me. And politicians even less. I’ve worked my entire professional career (13+ years of computer consulting) in the bowels of state government, so I can say with some authority that government works as well as it does not because of our elected officials, but in spite of them.

It’s the “little people” that make the day-to-day business of government run. They work in less-than-spacious cubicles, answer their own phones, and hold meetings in conference rooms where fewer than half the chairs match each other. And they have to deal with the disruption that inevitably comes with an entirely new set of bosses every few years.

A successful political administration doesn’t let egos or agenda get in the way of the business of government. Which brings us to the point of this little rant…

Right now, the State of Illinois is one week into Fiscal Year 2008 without an official budget. That might be marginally acceptable if Governor Rod Blagojevich (D) and the state legislature were working together to reach a compromise that will allow the business of government to continue without interruption. Instead the Governor, Speaker of the House Mike Madigan (D), and Senate President Emil Jones (D) are all feuding about issues having less and less to do with the budget, and more to do with ego and agenda.

That is failure of leadership. And it is unacceptable.

The following items illustrate just how ridiculous this situation has become…

Governor: Rep. Madigan a Republican
Both the Governor and Madigan are democrats, BTW.

Budget stalemate descends into bickering over meeting time
The Governor accused Madigan of “unlawful” action by changing the meeting time of a purely symbolic legislative session.

Blagojevich: Madigan action “unlawful”
More details and discussion about the brewing constitutional controversy.

Capitol Fax Blog
I highly recommend listening to the audio of Rep. Lou LangÂ’s (R) House floor speech, included in the 5:27 pm update. Volatile stuff.

Constitutional controversy in Ill. House of Representatives
Some Republicans used the word “impeachment” for the first time openly on the House floor.
Given everything above, this one pretty much speaks for itself.

And one more, because the State of Illinois does not hold a monopoly right now on bad politics…

A President Besieged and Isolated, Yet at Ease
President George W. Bush, grasping for answers to his abysmal popularity, remains resolute and fixated on Iraq.

Our political “leaders” need to remember that they were hired to fill a temporary public service position. They need to worry less about keeping their jobs, and concentrate more on doing their jobs.

THE SMALL PRINT: For the record, these opinions are mine and mine alone. I don’t speak in any capacity, official or otherwise, for anyone but myself.

Posted inRant n' Rave / Television

NEWSFLASH: Television executives found to have a higher occurrence of A.D.D. than typical 8-year olds…

OK, I don’t know for a fact that TV execs are more susceptible to attention deficit disorder, but it sure seems like it most of the time.

Your honor. Ladies and gentlemen of the jury. I present you with the following incontrovertible evidence…

Each one of these shows premiered (and died) this season. The way things are these days, I don’t really want to invest in an interesting-looking show because it’s probably just going to disappear in a few episodes. (Or even worse, after the season-ending cliffhanger.) Better to wait for the season one DVD, and then maybe start watching season two. On TiVo of course. ;-)

Classic shows like Cheers, Seinfeld, and M*A*S*H never would have made it in today’s market.

Well done, TV executives! You’re desperate ratings-or-die management policies are making me want to watch even less TV. You’ve been taking lessons from the music industry, haven’t you?

Posted inRant n' Rave / Sports / WTF?

BCS = Better Change Soon

BCSI am definitely not a Michigan fan. In fact, every time I hear that damn Michigan fight song (too often unfortunately when they play the Illini), I can’t help but think of the alternate, highly unflattering version one of my roommates taught me back in college. But that doesn’t change the fact that Michigan was one of the best teams in college football this season. In fact, I believe they were the second best team in the country and deserve a rematch with undefeated #1 arch-rival Ohio State. Instead, the Bowl Championship Series (BCS) will feature OSU and Florida in the Tostitos BCS Championship Game on January 8th.

Personally, I think Michigan got robbed, but that’s not exactly what this entry is about… What I am ranting about is the BCS itself. Why is Division I-A college football the only organized sport I know of that absolutely refuses to adopt a playoff structure to decide the season championship? The answer, of course, is money.

The existing Bowl games and their inevitable sponsors have lots of dough invested in keeping the games where they are. To get an idea of how out of hand the current bowl system has gotten, take a look at this list of scheduled bowl games. C’mon, the “San Diego County Credit Union Poinsettia Bowl”? All due respect to the fine folks who work at the San Diego County Credit Union, but that has to be the most ridiculous excuse for a Bowl game that I’ve ever heard.

What I don’t understand is why the NCAA is so resistant to a college football playoff. Think “March Madness” at Christmastime. It would be huge. It would definitively answer the question of who is the best football team in the country every season. It would still be possible to have a number of Bowl games featuring teams that didn’t make it into the playoffs. And at this point, I think it’s just a matter of time before popular demand for a playoff system forces the NCAA to rethink the outdated and overcommercialized Bowl games. Can’t wait!

BTW, I’m rooting for both Ohio State and Michigan to win each of their games by embarrassing margins. :-)

Posted inRant n' Rave / Toys

ViVa La TiVolution!

I love TiVo.

There’s no doubt about it. I’ve been a huge TiVo proponent for many years now. I’ve even managed to convert a couple of buddies to the cult of TiVo.

So I was understandably excited when rumors started to circulate about the next generation of TiVo. Finally after months of speculation, the TiVo Series3 was officially announced just this past week. The Series3 box offers some significant enhancements…

  • Control live Hi-Definition TV and record 2 digital cable shows at once
  • World’s only digital media recorder with THX-certification
  • 300 hours of standard recording time or up to 32 hours in HD
  • New backlit, programmable TiVo remote, easy to configure to your TV

And of course, the Series3 continues to offer the functionality that has earned TiVo such a loyal following…

  • An interface that is both powerful and easy to use
  • Season Pass recording allows you to subscribe to your favorite shows
  • WishList searches automatically record programs based on a number of criteria, including a favorite actor or director
  • Schedule recordings anywhere from
  • Advanced TiVo broadband features include digital photos, Internet radio, podcasts, and more

Unfortunately, the new TiVo machine has a couple of major factors working against it. And both involve money. Cash. Finances. Mulah. Green stuff. Legal tender.

First of all, the new TiVo Series3 machine costs $800. :-O Ouch! Despite the sticker shock, I will almost certainly go ahead fork out the dough for a new Series3 before the end of the year. I’ll tell you why in just a moment…

First we need to discuss the second issue. In addition to the purchase price, TiVo also charges a fee for their service ranging from about $13 a month to $299 for a 3-year commitment. When I bought my Series2 machine, TiVo had a lifetime service option available. For one lump sum I was able to avoid the normal monthly service fees. Unfortunately, “lifetime” refers to the lifetime of my existing TiVo box so it won’t automatically transfer over to a new Series3 purchase. On top of that, TiVo recently stopped even offering the option for lifetime service on new purchases.

So I was a little surprised (and pleased) to read the following offer in this month’s TiVo e-mail newsletter…

For a limited time, transfer your Product Lifetime service from a Series1 or Series2 box to the new Series3 HD for only $199. As an added bonus, we’ll keep TiVo service activated on your old box for another 12 months for no additional charge.

Those bastards. They know the one and only pressure point that would make me even consider spending $800 on a Series3 any time soon. I don’t have Hi-Def (yet) so that’s not a big selling point for me right now. But I can’t stand the thought of paying month after month (or year after year) for the on-going TiVo service. If I bite the bullet and spend the 200 bucks now, I’ll save money in the future. (That’s my story and I’m sticking to it. ;-))

This offer is good only through the end of the year, so I’m going to wait as long as possible in an attempt to maximize the usage of my existing Series2 box. But at this point, I have to admit that it’s just a matter of time…

I’ve given quite a bit of thought about the past, present, and potential future of TiVo (as you can probably tell ;-)). This is already a fairly long entry, so check out the extended body of this entry if you’re at all interested in my further ramblings…
Continue reading “ViVa La TiVolution!”

Posted inGames / Rant n' Rave / WTF?

It’s just a game!

I read a very interesting article earlier tonight on the upcoming video game Spore, which was already featured in a previous blog posting. It gives more details about the mechanics of the game, which unfortunately isn’t due to be released for another year (or probably more)…

The game will let players create a custom-built microscopic germ that can evolve into a macroscopic critter that can walk on land, build its own cities, and eventually discover the secret of space travel. One of the most intriguing features of this open-ended game is how it will focus on “procedurally generated content” — that is, content that’s created on the fly by the game in response to a few key decisions that players make, such as how they make their creatures look, walk, eat, and fight.

Sounds very cool.

However, this particular entry was inspired not by the article itself, but by the six pages (at current count) of reader comments following the article. Even that’s not all that note-worthy given the hype and anticipation surrounding this game. What surprised me is that, because the game models an evolutionary process, a majority of this commentary is an argument of evolutionism vs. creationism, or more accurately an argument between a few anti-creation zealots vs. a few anti-evolution zealots.

Now, don’t get me wrong… I absolutely agree that everyone has a right to believe whatever they damn well want to. One of my favorite quotes, attributed to Voltaire (or is it?) is, “I disapprove of what you say, but I will defend to the death your right to say it”. I think this is the epitome of the American ideal.

However, when a limited number of extremists on either side of an issue, any issue, control the dialog about that issue, that dialog can get loud and rancorous enough to interfere with my right not to give a shit.

For the record, do I believe in evolution? Yep. Do I believe it’s the absolute answer to this particular question and that it precludes any and all other alternatives? Nope, I’m not that smart… I don’t have those kinds of answers.

Do I have opinions on other issues that divide our towns, our states, our countries, our planet? Yep. Am I going to rant and rave in the vain hope that you will end up believing the exact same thing that I do? Definitely not. I simply ask that you extend me the same courtesy.

OK, I think I’ve gotten it out of my system now. I’ll step off my soapbox and get you back to your regularly scheduled blog… ;-)

Posted inRant n' Rave

I don’t want go off on a rant or anything, but…

I’ve recently noticed a disturbing trend in, of all things, the packaging of some of my favorite snack foods.

Here’s how things used to be… You would initially open a box of cereal or snack bars or whatever by “unzipping” the first layer. This is good. As long as that unzipper tab isn’t completely glued flat to the box, you’re more than halfway to getting your tasty treat. In fact, about the only thing left to do then is open the other loose flap and push open the perforation where Tab A tucks into Flap B to close the box. Simple, right?

Apparently not. The rocket scientists that produce the packaging these days have taken it upon themselves to redesign the boxes, and for the life of me, I cannot figure out a single economic, ergonomic, or logical (uh, loginomic?) reason to do this.

Starts off the same way… Unzip the cardboard top to open the first layer. Then, instead of a loose flap, they have managed to make “perforations” (more like minor indentations in the cardboard) at either side of the inside flap of cardboard, which is still glued to the rest of the box. To finish opening the box, you are supposed to tear open the perforations in order to flip open the inside flap. Huh?!? Why go to the trouble of having the unzipper in the first place if I’m just going to have to tear the damn thing open anyway? I just don’t get it.

I’m sure the unzipper costs more money to produce than a simple fold-over flap that needs to be torn open in the first place. And I don’t know this for fact, but it seems to me that it would cost more money to perforate a piece of cardboard than to simply cut it. So if anyone can explain this particular design decision to me, I would really appreciate it.

In the meantime, I can only hope that the design doesn’t catch on and become a standard. After all, I don’t think anyone wants to live in a world where it takes a crowbar and an engineering degree to open a package of toilet paper.