TV Is Not Rocket Science

There are geniuses among us and many of them work at GE Global Research in Niskayuna, NY. Just a few miles from where Charles Steinmetz helped GE harness the power of electricity and change the world, today’s best brains are pioneering new technology that will carry us into the future. At least that’s what I thought until I read this:

Global Research also supports General Electric Co.’s NBC Universal division, which operates TV networks including NBC, Bravo and USA.The folks in Niskayuna have been helping schedule TV shows by developing software systems for the network executives who decide the lineup of shows.

Whoa! This is a little like bragging you designed the O-rings on the space shuttle Challenger.

I don’t have a PhD but I’ve seen enough rating books to know that the whole NBC schedule thing is nothing to write home about lately. My advice? Stick to the lasers, fuel cells, hover cars, and whatever else you mess around with up there. What NBC needs is some good shows —not scientific scheduling.

The Insidious Power of the Internet

Could it be that the world economic crisis has something to do with the internet?

Really, think about it.

The web has done immeasurable harm to productivity by offering something infinitely more interesting than work. The trouble is that people just aren’t paying attention to things anymore because there are too many online distractions.

Imagine if everyone who was supposed be keeping an eye on the subprime mortgages were instead managing their fantasy baseball teams, following eBay auctions, and goofing around on Facebook. Meanwhile the residential mortgage market was falling to pieces. Oops!

There was a time when you wouldn’t dream of sitting at your desk and reading the paper. That would have been seen as the the ultimate in F-you I’m Goofing Off At Work behavior. Today the internet is the new reading the paper at work —and it’s out of control.

And why wouldn’t it be out of control? Is your job really more interesting than things like Popeater’s list of Top Ten Twins? By the way Kim Deal and her sister Kelley of The Breeders are on there. At 48 they still rock  which is something I find very comforting. Here’s they are back in 1993:


Save This Date

6:25am DST

You know you’re a nut when you jump out of bed the morning daylight saving time begins and immediately change every clock in the house. Guilty as charged. I can put up with all sorts of disorder, but not when it comes to time.

After changing my watch and two clock radios it was off to tackle time central: the kitchen. Our kitchen has five clocks: on the radio, coffee maker, stove, microwave, and an analog clock on the wall. Getting them all to read the same time requires a little work, but who could focus on cooking when surrounded by chaos?

Of all these clocks the most annoying is on the microwave, which requires you to enter the date when you set the time. If someone could explain why the  microwave needs to know the date I’d sure like to hear it. Are you going to program it to start during another year?  To make some popcorn in 2011?

Note to GE, builders of jet engines, MRI devices, and wind turbines: the microwave needs to know the date like my dogs need a unicycle. Now excuse me, I have clocks to change.

Selling You On Social Networking

I signed up for a Twitter account in November 07.  It took me  a year to figure out what to do with it —which is post links to things I find interesting and to make the occasional wiseass remark.

That may sound like a waste of time, but compared to the “I just woke up/I’m now eating breakfast/I took a shower” crap that some people put on Twitter, my feed reads like the Wall Street Journal.

But you know what? It’s not the people who have nothing to say that don’t belong on Twitter, it’s the people who have something to sell.

Marketers have latched onto social networking the way those leeches in African Queen latched on to Humphrey Bogart. The difference is that Humphrey Bogart could get rid of his leeches.  For an example, let’s turn to America’s least trusted business: car dealers. They’re are all over Twitter and Facebook like a cheap suit, which is ironic isn’t it? They use it as a place to “connect with their customers” and “build their brand” and other marketing catch-phrase talk.

So here’s my question: do you really want to follow a car dealer’s Twitter feed or become a fan of them on Facebook? So they can pitch you on buying a car? All the time?

At its best Twitter provides useful information.  A news story, an interesting web site, a curious thought. Facebook? It’s a bridge that spans the space and time of friendship.

If you want to sell cars, go buy an ad.

On Gravity

When I was a kid planes flew directly over my house all day long.  They were bound for Kennedy Airport which was only eleven miles away. The aircraft were spectacular, especially the big 747s and DC-10s lumbering over Carle Place at about 2000 feet. There is not a single time that an airplane passed over that I didn’t stop and look at it. And I do the same thing when I see one today.

Naturally, I wondered what would happen if one of them fell on my house. Sometimes they looked a little too low or sounded a bit weird —and they often seemed to be moving so slowly that they could never stay in the air. Carle Place once had several busy airfields as neighbors, so plane crashes were part of the local history. In 1929 two planes crashed on the same day within a couple of miles of each other. But planes were always crashing on Long Island —I even knew someone whose house had been hit by a plane decades before.

It’s best not to dwell on airplanes dropping out of the sky. At least not  if you ever want to get on one again.

Questioning The Talking Phone Book

Phone books? Sure, I like having one around for when the internet goes dead and I have to call Time Warner —but who needs four phone books? That’s what I was wondering as I stared at the foot-high pile of paper on my table. The four phone books showed up uninvited on my doorstep during the last two weeks and now I’m stuck with them. I’d toss them in the phone book recycling bin at the Park N’ Ride —except the town website says that it’s only there “April through October.” Who knew that recycling bins left for the winter?

So here I am about to put them in the garage when I notice that one of them is called “The Talking Phone Book.” Wow! A talking phone book. It looks like the others: it’s yellow and has a picture of those lawyers on the back cover, but if this phone book can talk I’d say it’s a keeper. Closer inspection revealed that The Talking Phone Book is “A Publication of Hearst Holdings.” Hey —the people who provide my favorite local newspaper figured out how to make a phonebook talk. Impressive. So early this morning I decided to test The Talking Phone Book:

“Talking Phone Book: tell me the number for Angela’s Pizza in Glenmont?”

Silence. “OK…Talking Phone Book: give me the first listing under automotive parts and supplies, retail?”

Nothing. Let’s try an easy one. “What number do I call in an emergency, Talking Phone Book?”

Well, maybe I’m doing something wrong but the Talking Phone Book isn’t talking. Does it need batteries? A special log on procedure? We may never know, because the Talking Phone Book is going in the garage —and if it doesn’t want to end up in that recycling bin this April it better start making some noise.

Two Dog Night

Friday morning I was feeling smug about being one of the people with electricity —but by 11am our household joined the nearly 200,000 in the region plunged into darkness by the ice storm.

Ann and Zack fled to a friend’s house, but I decided to huddle in the darkness and ride out the disaster. There I was with my glow sticks and headlamp, curled up with the dogs. At 1am I couldn’t sleep, so I texted Alex. I’ve written before about how long it takes me to compose a text message, so at about 1:15 he got this:

no electricity at home just me scarlett and maddy

Naturally, he was awake —probably out having fun.

haha why isnt there power

Hmmm. Somebody hasn’t been reading the paper.

ice storm widespread chaos will eat dogs eventually

The dogs stirred uneasily. He wrote back:

lol well cats before dogs

Good point. I fell back to sleep wondering about in which order I’d eat the pets. Let’s hope the power comes back on before push comes to shove.

Drunk Filter

There’s probably nothing that can stop you from drunk dialing, but now Gmail has a tool to prevent you from sending email you may regret later: Mail Goggles. This special feature tests your mental acuity with some simple math problems before allowing your message out of the gate.

I tried this today with the difficulty set at the easiest level, and while perfectly sober failed the test. You get sixty seconds to complete five questions —and fortunately the second time I passed and got my message through. Think of this as a breathalyzer for your email. If you have Gmail, go to Settings and look for Mail Goggles under Labs.

Considering some of the mail I get, maybe it would be a good idea if this were enabled on everyone’s email all the time.

Why 3K

So Ann says, “I went over my minutes last month.” You what? “I went over my minutes. Last month.” Really? How many minutes do you get? “Three-thousand.” After I wiped away the coffee that shot out my nose, I cleaned off the laptop and started doing the math. That’s a lot of minutes. It’s fifty hours, or if you prefer, two days and two hours. It’s a week at work these days —and seven nights worth of sleep. It’s a hundred episodes of Thirty Minute Meals.
I don’t think anyone has ever described me as “chatty,” especially not in regard to the phone. My calls are monosyllabic affairs of cryptic guy-speak: “Yeah. Uh-huh. Maybe. You got that right.” But Ann is obviously another story. She loves to talk and people love to talk to her. Sure, some of it is work, but mostly it’s what she does best, being a good friend to the people she cares about.

Maybe I can give her some of my minutes.