Friday, September 28, 2007


As I'm watching video smuggled out of Burma ("Myanmar" to appeasers and moral relativists [CNN]) of protesters being fired upon by soldiers with automatic weapons, I'm wondering what ought to be done.

More specifically, I'm asking myself if America and the world would be willing to use military force to put an end to the oppression and what is unquestionably murder. All of which is happening as I type and the world watches.

Asking nicely hasn't resolved the situation, neither does observation, hence the military intervention.

To be more concise: What are we willing to fight for?

The media, organizations, Hollywood stars, even our political leadership have been doing a great job telling us what we shouldn't be fighting for. They've painted our current war ("War on Terror"), not just for America but the world, as illegal and imperialist. They ignore any bit of news that brings hope, encouragement, or progress while highlighting every tragedy, unintended victim, and war crime.

Military intervention, likely to be the world's only effective response to the Junta, in any situation could be described as "illegal" or "imperialist." There will always be unintended victims. Always be "insurgents" or a "resistance" to the "occupation." There will always be protesters, always detractors. Always a Cindy Sheehan ready to snuggle up with Castro and Chavez (Osama was otherwise engaged) or a Jane Fonda ready to explain how just and fair the Vietcong are and how wrong we've been.

Would we listen?

The Burma situation is not unique to our experience; a cruel totalitarian government that brutalizes it's people. If confronting such governments in Vietnam, Cuba, Panama, Iraq, and Afghanistan has been wrong. How could military intervention in Burma be right?

Such logic damns the people of Burma, and any future victims of such brutality, to disaster.

Thursday, September 27, 2007

Worthless Print

Once again, a Colorado State school is making the headlines due to profanities used is an editorial headline putting a microscope over the author and CSU as a whole. Judging by the media coverage, I'm lead to believe that it wasn't the anti-Bush tirade that created the controversy, but rather the language used (if anti-Bush editorials warranted this kind of coverage it would dominate the news).

It's interesting to me that someone like J. David McSwane, editor of the The Rocky Mountain Collegian would choose to publish that editorial. Not necessarily for the language, but the message. With so many challenges and so much to write about, why is there any value of publishing the same broken record message we get on a near daily basis? Bush is bad. I get it.

Judging by McSwane's defense (free speech), you get the sense that it was completely intentional, to "stir the debate on free speech." But for what? McSwane isn't contending his right to free speech is being violated in some sense so why generate the controversy? Why defecate on your publication and the school? Why take this risk for zero reward? And the costs are already hitting the school...

"Jeff Browne, director of student media, said that if all of the advertisers who threatened to pull their business do, the school could lose $50,000 of advertising. The newspaper's staff has taken a 10 percent pay cut because of lost revenue."

If I had the opportunity to put anything in bold print, I would have to think really hard about what would bring value to my readers. It doesn't have to be "feel good" journalism, but would it be so hard to publish something that is actually worth reading? It seems there is culture in Academia that not only says otherwise but demands it to attain equality...

"Journalism instructor Pam Jackson said the use of the F-word in the school newspaper was no different from anti-abortion groups using shocking images in their protests. Both, Jackson said, are protected forms of free speech."

Why is a school paper competing with an anti-abortion protestor's sign? And is there really a deference?

Well actually, yes. A protestor's sign isn't journalism. If Jackson really wants to compare a sign to the school's paper, it doesn't bode well for her profession; anyone with a sign in the street is now a journalist, or the school's paper is now on par with the sign in the street (I just can't decide).

I wouldn't expect someone like Jackson to draw a distinction that calls out behavior she obviously supports (likely for political reasons), but how could she lack the common sense, as a journalism professor, to not understand there is a time and a place for certain types of speech? Or is Jackson maintaining that the message overrides any standards a publication should have? Certainly she wouldn't support publishing any of the following editorials...

"F*** Osama"
"F*** the Weather"(would have been very appropriate last winter)
Or even "F*** Anyone Who Doesn't Like the Word F***!"

If that were the case, wouldn't these editorials have been published some time ago? Obviously the message does matter and it is worth sacrificing professionalism, good will in the community, and even the bottom-line ad dollars, to bring that profane message to the community.

This story, much like the Churchill story, should make us start questioning what is happening in State higher ed. Shouldn't our students be making the news for making positive contributions to our world instead of creating needless controversy? Shouldn't our educators be supporting and encouraging personal growth not profane rants void of any real intellectual content?

With this culture, what kind of education are our kids getting? I have to admit, given the last three/four years, I'm starting to think very differently about our State schools and it isn't about politics, it's about standards!

Friday, September 21, 2007

Crazy Colorado Drivers

If you've been following the news lately you've probably heard the following regarding driving in the state and the country...

1. Denver ranks 10th on the list of the most expensive commutes

2. Drivers are wasting more time than ever stuck in traffic

3. Drivers in the state are driving more

So why are people driving?

The billions spent on mass transit clearly aren't eliminating our traffic woes. I would concede that light rail and bus service may help, but I'm hard pressed to find stats on the web. What I do know, from personal experience, is that light rail is a combination of inconvenience (taking longer to get from the DTC to downtown than driving in rush hour traffic) and expense ($5 one-way = $10 round trip {more than parking and gas}). Other commuters seem to agree (as demonstrated by the volume of cars on the road).

If commuters had any decision (beyond mass transit) in the matter, with #1 and #2, we wouldn't see #3. Who wants to spend hard earned money and precious time commuting? With everyone "going green" you can add a conflict of conscious to the money and the time spent as well.

Most hours on the road are related to commuting to and from work. In fact, most gainfully employed Coloradans, are compelled to be on the road five out of seven days a week (yeah, I know, how dare anyone want to pay his bills?). Ever drive I-25 on the weekends? Notice the difference? We didn't do TRex to widen I-25 for Saturday and Sunday traffic.

I've asked about telecommuting at a number of places I've worked and the answer is the same.... "We don't have a telecommuting policy" (i.e. "no") or "only for off hours" (meaning "on your own time while it represents additional, unpaid, value to me"). Even while consulting and offering a reduction on an hourly rate the answer was still "no." And of course I was never asking for 100% telecommuting time--most companies that have implemented a telecommuting program have still required some attendance at the office. There are also certain jobs that require a physical presence all the time, I haven't held such a job since college when I was waiting tables.

So why the natural resistance, or lack of planning, or apathy? Simple; managers/owners/"bosses" know they can get more out of employees when they can observe the day in and out work being done. If an employee takes eight hours to complete a task, how would you know if the employee really needed eight hours, or was done in two and took the rest of the day off? The remaining six hours would be lost productivity. Productivity, margins, cost efficiency is what modern corporate America is all about!

For an employer, there is no downside for commuting. Employers don't have to buy a car, insurance, gas, or RTD pass. And notice when the price of those items increases, pay doesn't necessarily increase to offset them. Commuting is not a paid activity (I'm not saying it should be). I would argue that stress, weather, and the occasional traffic incident (doesn't have to be your accident, just one that happened five minutes earlier on I-25) all impact productivity but it clearly isn't a large enough factor to counter the fear of lost productivity. Additionally, this source of lost productivity can be placed back on the employee. The question an employee is asked is "why are you late this morning?" not "why are we needlessly clogging the roadways every single weekday?"

So what can be done? Encourage, don't control...

1. Offer Colorado employers a tax benefit for allowing employees to telecommute a certain percentage (not 100%) of the work week. The State would recover the revenue by spending less on roadway projects, including weather "management" and emergency services. Recognize these employers by listing them on an annual communication about the program. Everyone likes a green pat on the back!

2. Encourage employers to allow flexible work schedules when attendance is required. Things like a 4/10 schedule, half days (half in the office, half at home), or even off peak schedules can help commuters recover lost time in traffic.

3. Provide a State income tax benefit to Coloradans who choose to live within a short distance from work. Anyone who observes traffic patterns on I-25 quickly realizes the huge number of people who work downtown yet choose to live in Highlands Ranch or Thornton. Two years ago I moved to be three miles from work and cut my commute from 45 minutes to 10. Imagine the amount of time and money I've saved! Not to even mention the green house gasses that keep Al Gore up at night.

So there you have three excellent ideas to cut congestion and help reduce carbon emissions but you will never see them at work. They do not raise taxes, offer companies a windfall, or even provide the proverbial "free lunch" for commuters. Ultimately, this is about choices and unfortunately people will continue to make bad ones.

Time for me to go to work! Don't want to late...

Saturday, June 2, 2007

Sandy Cohen's Advice

Sandy Cohen and I are having dinner and we start talking about work. I tell him there are things I like and things I don't like about my job. He asks if I feel under appreciated. I say "yes."

Now Sandy is the kind of guy you can always confide in and he gives great adivce so trust is no issue.

He asks how much I make, I tell him. Then he asks how much I would make contracting, doing the same work but billing by the hour. I tell him.

Sandy says that if he were me, he would quit my job and start contracting. I respond that I don't have his guts and he replies, "you only have to try and if it's right, it will happen."

Right then I wake up--that's the only reason I can remember this dream in such detail.

Sandy Cohen isn't in my dream book.

Now what does this mean? Aside from the fact I've been watching too much of The OC?

Friday, June 1, 2007

Avril Lavigne is The Best Damn Thing

I’m a closet Avril fan and actually enjoy a lot of “chick rock” or pop. If there were a 12-step program I’d do it. Nothing really explains the shame of looking at yourself in the mirror everyday knowing you have Hilary Duff, Kelly Clarkson, and Jennifer Love Hewitt (big, big mistake) in your iTunes library.

Avril’s new release, The Best Damn Thing, is more pop and a noticeable departure from the angry chick-rock anthems from Let Go and Under My Skin. This is a more refined and grown-up Avril (image search “Avril Blender” on Google for details). At any rate, many fans feel betrayed--I find that sentiment intriguing as her first exposure was the single Complicated (sounds like pop to me).

I was prepared to give The Best Damn Thing a fair appraisal after ordering the unedited version (with the DVD) from Amazon. I still don’t understand why I had to but the DVD version to hear a four letter word every once in a while—I hope this doesn’t become a trend.

After hearing about Avril’s experiences; getting married to that Sum 41 guy (we’ll call him Mr. Avril) and having two major releases solidifying success, I was ready to hear some grown-up lyrics. Imagine my surprise to hear this on the title track…

“I'm the best damn thing that your eyes have ever seen

Give me an A, always give me what I want
Give me a V, be very very good to me
R, are you gonna treat me right
I, I can put up a fight
Give me an L, let me hear you scream loud”

Full lyrics

Yes, I understand we have reached the pinnacle of selfishness in society. Yes, I understand that certain artists have been singing about how great they are for some time now. Yes, I know the images of the self-absorbed dominate media (count the times you see or hear about Paris Hilton in a given day).

Are we at a point where pop/rock has explored every viable topic and we’re now reduced self-centered ego rants? I hope it doesn’t go this way, it’s the last thing an already spoiled generation needs to hear.

The music gets an overall thumbs up, but some of those lyrics, I just don’t know…

Thursday, May 31, 2007

iTunes Plus

iTunes Plus is Apple’s newest offering via its iTunes Music Store and just released yesterday. iTunes Plus music costs about 30% more than traditional iTunes music (I just used “traditional” and “iTunes” in the same sentence).

Previous to this product, consumers were given one choice on encode rates (128K AAC) and the files purchased were locked down with Apple’s proprietary DRM (Digital Rights Management)—tracks will only play on iTunes or an iPod. The new encode rate is twice that of the previous product, 256K and I’m making the assumption the file sizes are about twice as large.

My first impression; higher encode rate, no annoying DRM, how cool!

Then I got to thinking…

Apple is asking consumers to pay 30% more for these files/tracks/albums. Thankfully, you have the option to upgrade if you’ve previously purchased the entire album via the iTunes Music Store. Otherwise, a new album purchase will cost you around $13 instead of the $10. For upgrades, you pay the difference and must upgrade the entire library (see a trend here?).

Currently, Apple only has one major label on board with the DRM-less offering; EMI. The result is that not all of one’s purchased music is upgradeable, but Apple claims to be working on more deals which would open up more albums and artists to iTunes Plus.

The DRM issue has always been a mixed bag for me. On one hand I see the need to prevent piracy and IP distribution, on the other if I own a license for a track/album I should be able to enjoy that music where ever and when ever I please (provided I don’t violate the terms of the license). I was willing to go along with the scheme for the convenience and relatively low cost of iTunes purchased music.

Now that I see a major label willing to forego DRM protection for a 30% price increase (who knows what EMI’s cut is) I’m left with some questions. If DRM was so important at $10 an album, what makes it less important at $13? Piracy is still piracy, right? Or is EMI okay with a little bit of piracy if they get more in sales out of their iTunes agreement? After all, anyone who upgrades will be giving Apple/EMI 30% of the cost of purchased music without an actual sale (imagine Honda asking you for 30% of the cost of your new Civic to have a better car).

This transition to DRM-less media would also give Apple a strong defense in anti-trust suits (DRM requires you play Apple purchased music on Apple portable devices). For Steve Jobs to shelter Apple from litigation and make an instant 30% on music consumers already purchased is pure genius.

DRM has never been a problem for the true pirates anyway and iTunes itself offers a workaround (burn as audio, import as AAC (no DRM), MP3, or any other format).

Encode rate is configurable through Edit -> Preferences -> Advanced tab -> Importing tab, Setting = “Custom…” If you rip your own CDs, this setting would import at a higher rate. After a track has been encoded in the default 128K there is no way to re-import with a higher rate even if burning as audio first (theoretically, the loss occurred at encode).

In the end I think I will wait on higher rate files (near “lossless”). I’ll continue my practice of buying CDs when I can (price/availability) and import at the default. In order to keep from paying a premium on music you already own, CDs are the only way to go!

As digital storage prices continue to drop (hard drives, flash memory), and more users are building media servers in their homes, I think there will be more demand for higher encode rates, true 5.1/7.1 won’t be far behind. There will still be an issue managing that much data on a portable device like an iPod, but I’m convinced future versions of iTunes will allow users to manage multiple versions of files; one large lossless file and a smaller, lower encode rate portable file.

UPDATE: 06/01/07 12:15

I learned last night while watching G4's The Feed that certain account attributes are embedded in iTunes Plus files so distribution can be traced back to the purchasing user. More info here.

First Post!!!

So this is it, the very first post.

For those of you who aren't SQL programmers, the where clause is the part of SQL statement that filters the results. The where clause does not determine what you get, or from where you get it, but merely what you see in the results.

Pretty deep eh?