Wednesday, August 31, 2005

Rock Star Search

Ok, you know it had to happen. It is time for me to not hold back anymore and let you know how I feel about INXS' search for a new lead singer.

Since Michael Hutchence's suicide in 1997, INXS' remaining band members have hit the stage with Jimmy Barnes, Sananda Matreiya (formerly Terence Trent D'Arby), Suzi Demarchi (of Baby Animals), Vanessa Amorosi and Jon Stevens. They also wrote several and recorded one new song with Stevens entitled "I Get Up" which was released as a single. But, the chemistry never brought forward a full album and Stevens departed. That was when the search for their new singer began.

From the list of performers they had worked with, you can see that they weren't worried about gender, color or nationality. That was why 15 promising singers were chosen from casting calls in many different cities. So far, each one that has been dismissed has not been a surprise as I've had a mental list going. Deanna lasted longer than I expected, though. They are as of now, down to 5 -- Suzie, Marty, Jordis, Mig and JD. Each have their assets and their pitfalls as many have watched.

Today, Ty Taylor was sent packing. He'll do great as a solo soul singer as he works the stage amazingly well and has a great grasp of pitch. But, his stage presence is that of a performer. (Wasn't too impressed with his pulling the race card in his departure on why he was in the final 3 for 3 different weeks.) Where the other 5 go, who knows. I'm expecting JD's departure shortly although he shows writing talent and sounded great tonight performing "The One Thing," his social skills are lacking as are some notes in his range. As long as he can continue singing INXS songs well, he'll stay put but the competition is fierce. Currently, I'm favoring Suzie after great performances two weeks in a row and a great studio session on the new INXS song, "Us," which was written by the band with Marti Fredrickson (who has worked with Faith Hill, Def Leppard and even Aerosmith.) The only real way to tell who should be the new singer is by making them sing the band's songs. I'm just waiting until there are 3 left and maybe someone will have to sing "Not Enough Time." Not only has this show brought the music of INXS to a new height, helped find a new lead singer but it has undoubtedly created several solo stars.

Tuesday, August 30, 2005


Sometimes I like to believe that I'll get things as close to free as I can without walking out of the store with it, getting frisked by security and being banned from the store. I'm sure most of us like to get a good deal. One of my last stops online when hunting for good prices is a neat little Web site named Pricegrabber. Sure, you have tons of sites out there to shop from but it's nice to see one giving a list of the current prices for a particular item like... Piers Anthony's A Spell For Chameleon in paperback. What I like about this is that you can see the varied prices for each place, how much shipping will cost you and an overall cheapest price. I've done this for several DVDs which would have cost me $19.99 + tax and instead paid only $17.99. If I buy 1,000 of those, I'll be ric... no I'll be poor and run out of shelf space. But, saving money is good and not going to jail trying... priceless.

Sunday, August 28, 2005

Clean, Clean

As time continues, you will get to understand my contempt for polls. I don't know if it is because of the way questions are phrased, the selection of respondents (location, age, sex, status, wealth, religion... etc.) or underlying bias. Polls are great. They give everyone a blind blanket perception of what is. Anyone remember the last presidential election exit polls? Scary.

Anyhow, Readers Digest recently compiled a list of the 50 cleanest metropolitan areas in the U.S. and Portland, OR ranked #1. Am I depressed that Las Vegas ranked #13? Not really. I'm rather shocked and left to wonder how filthy those 37 other areas are. (BTW... take note Las Vegas Department of Sanitation. You ranked 7. That's bad and probably why something from my trash cans winds up on the street in front of my house twice a week.)

My issues with this listing are mixed. I like the fact that they used actual hard data on water, air, toxics, hazardous waste and sanitation. But, when cities #4 (Columbus, OH), #6 (Denver, CO) and #8 (Austin, TX) have a "NA" placed in their Sanitation column... I question their placing. That's like saying, "They did well in other areas, lets average those scores." Also, why weren't those stats there? Not available... my ass. Very peculiar. Did your city make the list?

Friday, August 26, 2005

Returned Call

From 1991 to 2004, one man attacked computer ignorance with gusto on television and radio. His name was Laporte... Leo Laporte. Many of those years were with the cable/satellite television series Call For Help (some with Screen Savers, Dvorak On Computers, Laporte On Computers, The Personal Computing Show and the Emmy-winning series The Site.) A battle started brewing when Comcast's G4 purchased TechTV and Laporte's appearances were being minimized. People wrote scathing forum posts (and I think I even whined about it) but Call For Help was given it's walking papers last year. To appease some viewers a Toronto-produced version of the show would later only air in Canada. Author and computer programmer Laporte has continued his radio shows which have become highly sought after podcasts.

It has now been announced that Call For Help will return to G4TV starting Monday the Aug. 27th. Leo is joined on the show by new co-hosts Amber MacArthur and Andy Walker (pictured on the far right... Leo is on the left.)

Call For Help has always been the kind of show where you could ask all those "stupid" questions you've been holding for fear of being ridiculed. Wonder why they call a byte a byte and a bit a bit? Wonder why sound and photo quality gets worse as it gets recompressed? No question is too small and they do a great job of slowly teaching you the terminology as they go. Well, at least they did. Now, all I can say is "Welcome back to my Tivo's Season Pass!" and "Thank You" to whoever got that brain transplant at G4.

Wednesday, August 24, 2005

Salvador And The Magic Email

By now, most of you know that I preach computer safety and think that everyone that owns a computer should be careful with suspicious emails. Yesterday, I stopped in to see my neighbor Salvador and thank him for edging my front yard (he really didn't have to do that.) His wife sent me upstairs to see him. As I got up there, Sal was typing in his credit card information on a "PayPal" account. I asked him, "Setting up a new account? I thought you had one already." He said he did but he got an email saying that the account may have been compromised. He had already logged in with his username and password, given his social security number and was about to give his credit card information. I stopped him just in time.

If you take your mouse and hover over a link in an email, you will see where it is sending you. (That isn't easy to fake unless they took over that company's domain name.) Usually it will say where it is taking you at the bottom of your screen. In Sal's case, it was and these places can look very authentic. Take a look. This is how genuinely scary spam can be. PayPal works in coordination with your credit card or bank account. If Janice2233 had jumped on Sal's mistake sooner, they could have changed his password and made purchases of nearly $5,000 using one-day delivery service to a generic address. Thankfully, I changed his password immediately and the only thing to worry about is that someone out there has his name, possibly his address and social security number. Protect yourself folks.

Tuesday, August 23, 2005

Here's The Rub

I was talking with a guy from work yesterday (I'd say friend but I really don't like him) and he mentioned something that happened to him at the supermarket that I had to share with you. I wanted to go there and take photos but I expect it isn't up there anymore.

Anyhow, he goes into the store to do a little shopping and stops by where the butcher is to pick up some pork ribs. He hears a few people laugh behind him and blows it off. As he's walking away, he sees a sign over some seasoning that says "Don't Forget To Rub Your Meat." He laughs a little and looks to the butcher he just bought his ribs from and says, "You really ought to take this sign down." The butcher tells him that he had handwritten the sign himself and that it was perfectly fine. My co-worker explained to the butcher the 'other way' people are interpreting it and he turns bright red and says that he'll take care of it. Damn, I wanted a photo of that sign to put up here.

Sunday, August 21, 2005

Baby, Don't You Get My Number

Cell phones. Years ago it was a status symbol for "movers and shakers" (and the bulky things were also affectionately called "bricks".) Now, they are everywhere with special ringtones, carry cases, ear-pieces, levels of internet access and even video playback. In 2000, Cahners In-Stat Group market research firm released a study on the growth of cell phones. They predicted that over half of young people age 10 to 24 would own a cellular phone by 2004. One year past that, it seems that there are more cell phones in homes than computers.

Now, with that in mind, we take you to the Do-Not-Call list. If we could avoid calls from frozen food salespeople, home loan telemarketers or even magazine sales people, we would. Back a few years ago, the idea of a national list of numbers that the federal government could protect from these calls was created. Many states started lists and many discontinued them, giving them to the feds to add to their list. Wonder where your state stands on Do-Not-Call lists? Check here.

Well, those wacky people who used fake lists to get your home phone number to sell off to telemarketers are back. A nice little email has been sent around (I'm sure you may have seen one but if not you will sometime soon) that urges you to sign the Do-Not-Call list for your cell phone by September to block it for 5 years or suffer the consequences. Sure, you can sign up with the same list you did with your phone by calling 1-888-382-1222. But, there is not a 31-day, September or December 15th deadline. Telemarketers are already prohibited by FCC regulations from calling cell phone numbers with automatic dialers. Yes, a 411 phonebook is being created for 2006 but is not going to be given out as it will be there just like directory assistance is on your regular phone. Here's some information on that from the Federal Trade Commission. Here's another link about the issue.

My guess on why they are pushing these emails? I think there are a few reasons for it. I think there are those that either believe getting more names on the list will make them safer and seem like a bigger force to reckon with. I also think that a collection of names like that would be the hacker's "holy grail" and creates quite a target. There is also something in the back of my mind saying, "You read a spam email and by responding to what it says is giving into spammers." All I know is that these emails are a great way to scare people into giving out information and that just unnerves me.

Saturday, August 20, 2005

No Really, You Can Fly Friendly Skies!

I've been watching the Northwest Airlines strike news. It's a more than difficult situation in a dying business model that is underperforming financially. The price wars aren't helping but it does make the consumer happy. All of this doesn't affect me as much as many others as I'm not a big traveler. But, I was thinking about it today and Northwest has had 4 fatal passenger events since 1970. That means that out of 9.2 million flights by the company, only 4 of them lost lives. That's pretty amazing. Now, if that amazes you... there is better.

In 9.5 million flights since 1970, Southwest Airlines has never had a fatal passenger event. One obvious mention here is that Southwest's 34-year history started with a focus on the southwest meaning a lot of short to intermediate flights instead of cross country. Yet, they added Chicago in 1985. In 1991, Baltimore/Washington International Airport is added to routes. The airlines was up to 2,800 daily flights to 60 airports in 59 cities by last year. The only other airlines with no fatal passenger events since 1970 are America West Airlines (2.3 million flights), America Trans Air (330,000 flights), Hawaiian Airlines (330,000 flights), Midway Airlines (80,000 flights) and JetBlue (new airlines currently unknown flight totals.) Check here to see stats on the airline you last used.

I have several friends that are paranoid about flying but it is interesting to see the numbers and maybe knowing what the stats are can calm some nerves.

Thursday, August 18, 2005

Foolish Singing

Yes, my life is pretty much based on music. I was actually pretty excited to see several blogs I visit (Jenius and Braniax Blog) have videos. I'm a big fan of videos... the more obscure the better. I even looked into it myself and browsed through their listings (not enough Depeche Mode or Skinny Puppy) but opted to keep my page pretty silent for now. It wasn't until today that I started dreading SingingFool. Why? Well, when I visit either of those blogs listed above, I get an ad for SingingFool that resizes my browser and will not let me back to read posts. Kind of dumb. Putting the ad up there makes me think that this is their way of paying for a nice product. But, when you hamper the ability of someone to visit the site/blog/webpage, it becomes a bit too controlling. Now, this may only be happening when using the very safe Firefox browser but I'll only use IE when checking my bank account (because I have to.) As we speak, I've finally gotten into one of those blogs to read and comment but seen the ads twice and had to re-expand my screen each time. The "Close Ad" oddly enough doesn't work.

Tuesday, August 16, 2005

Impulse Buy Of The Month: Gorillaz - Demon Days

As most of you know, I love music. Most of what I pick up is to fill in the gaps in my 80's knowledge (yes, there are cavernous gaps in some areas like Latin and Bluegrass.) So when I take a risk on something newer, it comes with quite some research... usually.

I had this nice gift card burning a hole in my wallet for the few weeks and I knew that I'd wind up picking up White Stripes' Elephant on CD and expected to grab another one of theirs to compare. That was until I caught the video for Gorillaz' "Feel Good Inc." which features De La Soul. The dark dance groove and eerie vocals drove me ape shyt. To get a better idea of what I mean check out their website and look for where it says 'Watch The Dare Video' (next to 'Join The Mailing List'.) In there is a Box Office with a bunch of their videos including "Feel Good Inc." I need to listen to the album a few more times (I'm only part way through it now) to give a review of it but I just can't get the single out of my head.

Saturday, August 13, 2005

Are You Even Listening To Me?

We've all been there before. You are trying to tell someone something important but for some reason it doesn't seem like the person on the other end is paying any attention to what you are saying. It could be the football game is on, they have company over or they are just not interested. Sure, we can't control other people's enthusiasm when they are listening to us. They can't always be as excited as we are. But, things may be changing.

Some MIT researchers are developing software called the "Jerk-O-Meter" for your cell phone that will analyze your conversations and tell you how you are coming across on the phone or if your audience is paying attention to you.

I believe a program like this that disassembles phone conversation and reads tone, pitch, speaking time and many other stats can actually become something like a biorhythm test. If you've ever taken one of those, it measures your heart-rate and creates a graph of what areas in your life you are doing well and sometimes gives you a lucky number. Putting a lot of faith in a measurement like that would change how we judge our relationships. I mean, how excited does Steven Wright (a very amazing yet monotone comedian) sound on stage? What if that is his level of enthusiasm and you are now judging that (call it Joviality Deficit Syndrome if you will) when talking to him? It seems like another way to judge relationships based on useless stats. Heck, I don't even like using the phone.

Thursday, August 11, 2005


I have a post in my head that is on the eerie side so I want to take another day to formulate it so instead some quick updates:

The new front door has been installed. It needs a little touch-up work, a fresh coat of paint and all will be kosher. Has a nice new peep-hole and knocker (because I like knockers.) Both neighbors that matter (there's the weird one... that reminds me that I need to take a photo of their house for you people) now want new doors.

Talked to Mom and she sounds like a totally different person. Not only are her neck pains lessened but she's cut back on the Prozac. I'm cautious about messing with medication but she sounds so much more in charge of herself, beams positive energy and has goals.

Today we added a new member to the family. My aunt Shawna gave birth to a little girl named Katelynn Rene Reed. I'm going to swing by and see her tomorrow at the hospital as it just so happens to be within a mile of my house.

Went shopping today and became a grocery packrat. Food 4 Less had a sale on Lean Pockets (2 for $3 when the cheapest I normally find is at Walmart for $1.97 each) so I bought 6. They also had Tina's burritos on sale (5 for $1 which is 5 cents each lower than when I usually find them on sale) and bought 15 (in two trips as I kept going back wondering if I was buying too many.) Anyhow, I now know why my parents would look at those weekly ads.

Wednesday, August 10, 2005

Star Wars On Valium

Like many millions of people, I'm a fan of the Star Wars franchise (yes, even the newer films.) But, I think that one thing that makes the series amazing is the whole new world created in the minds of fans. Fans have taken this world and populated it beyond the films, books and comics. Hopefully, you get a chance to check out some of the fan films that are usually submitted for the official Star Wars Fan Film Awards. (I personally liked Troopers which was a version of Cops on Tatooine.)

If you are one of those that also loved the films, check out the well-produced Pink Five, Pink Five Strikes Back and The Return Of Pink Five (this one is still in production.) Essentially, these are the stories of another not-so-gifted rebel named Stacey fighting the Empire during the same time frame as the original films. Just add a little Clueless to your idea of Star Wars and you'll have a better picture of it. I'm just hoping that George Lucas feels pressured enough to put these out on DVD when they are done.

Tuesday, August 09, 2005

Ghostbusters Busted

For anyone that spends as much time as I do in Best Buy on Tuesdays, you get to know what's a good deal and what isn't. You see the new CDs and DVDs hit the shelves at what usually will be their best prices. I was in the store the other week and checking out the usual DVDs and CDs (often sending employees in back searching for things that were supposed to be released that day but for some reason didn't wind up on their shelves) when I noticed the collection in the photo.

Ghostbusters was a great movie although I haven't really seen the whole unedited thing in over a decade. Ghostbusters 2 wasn't a slouch either. (It was the Saturday morning cartoon series that needs to be forgotten.) I was ready to jump on this. Heck, it will normally sell for $19.99 (not bad for 2 movies) but was only $13.99. I grabbed it and headed through the aisles on my way to my regular method of searching for things. It was moments later that I asked myself, "Self?" (Because, I stopped answering to Bob a few weeks back.) "Is this widescreen or full?" "Good question," I responded. In fact, it didn't say anything on the front. Way down on the bottom of the back it said that Ghostbusters was in fullscreen and Ghostbusters 2 was in widescreen. "Huh? What the...?" Here's a great trick. Visit the Best Buy link here and look at the Screen Formats. Doesn't say anything about fullscreen there, does it? But, if you look higher where it says Aspect Ratio, it says 1.33:1/2.40:1. On the back of the box they put something small next to each film saying the ratio which to many people will leave them thinking they are both the same.

I purposely only pick up the widescreen copies because they look better on my widescreen TV (also because I'm a purist and don't want to miss anything cropped off the sides.) So the collection went back on the shelf. But, I'm still left wondering how many people picked it up and are at home kicking their spouse or DVD player because the first disc won't play in widescreen. I'm sure that there will be another Ghostbusters box set coming. I think this was just to gut the public out of a little money first. Kind of like those regular and expanded versions of Lord Of The Rings. Then again, this could just be a box misprint which kills my conspiracy theory.

Sunday, August 07, 2005

Coq Block

I'd seen and heard some talk about the upcoming Burger King commercials. Yesterday, during Spike TV's airing of the UFC, I saw one. And then another. Another, another... in fact, every commercial break had a 2 minute commercial about the new "chicken fries."

Sure, I was curious about the product before seeing the ad but they really did show some desperation with that many airings. The commercials centered on the new 'metal' band Coq Roq (ok, they are a ficticious band made to promote BK's products or then again... maybe they might release an album and go on tour.) They showed videos for their songs "Bob Your Head" and "Cross The Road" also playing their other songs "Nice Box" and "One Arm Bandit" in the background. Each of the songs are available for download as ringtones and videos can be seen in their music link.

Here's the scary thing: I liked the songs. Sure, they all wore chicken-ish masks (I couldn't help but think of GWAR more than Slipknot) and had names like Fowl Mouth, Free Range, Talisman, Firebird, Sub-sonic and Kabuki but this was a well thought-out plan which could be used to promote other products. The names of the band members alone give me the idea that they will revamp their chicken sandwiches (Firebird = spicy, Free Range = grilled, Kabuki = teriyaki... etc.) Should be interesting to see what comes next as long as they air their commercials sparingly.

Friday, August 05, 2005

Teach Me: The Age Of Consent

I think that by now, you know that I like to challenge you with things that make your brain hurt. I'm a big education advocate. I do think that we are hearing more and more about possible breaches in teacher/student ethics due to an abundance of media coverage. For every Adrian Kist, Frank Swiderski, Mark Massey, Francisco Aguilar, Derrick Adam Davies, Tomas Agosto and David Heath there is a Dawn Reiser, Lori Lynn Stout, Sandra "Beth" Geisel, Elisa Kawasaki, Margaret De Barricua, Diane West, Debra Lafave, Maria Saco, Rene Biggel and Pamela Turner.

Teacher sexual misconduct with students sees no gender but we do tend to punish male predators more severely than the women. I do think that is because of the dominance, violence and aggression sometimes viewed in the act of penetration. Many men aren't charged just with statutory rape or seduction of a minor but 'penetration.' I'm not defending them... inequities happen. I don't see the female predator as emotionally scarring (and yes, most boys have fantasies like that) but I'm not a therapist. The few former teachers that get married to their 'victims' after standing trial and serving time in prison does really freaks me out, though.

Yet, I didn't post this to focus on equality in punishment or to show you how many current teacher/student sex cases are out there. I wanted to point out something that may shock you more: a list of places and their legal age for consensual sex. Why do I find this interesting? Scroll down towards the bottom of that link... I'll wait for ya. Iowa, Missouri, Nevada and South Carolina have the lowest age of consent in the U.S. set at 14. (Ok, there are stipulations including age difference and homosexual sexual relations on some.) You will also see that Arizona, California, North Dakota, Oregon, Tennessee, Utah, Virginia and Wisconsin are set at 18. Quite odd that there is a 4 year difference between some of those states. You could be safe in Nevada but cross the border to Arizona, Utah or California and you might as well kiss your butt goodbye and learn to play harmonica. I also wonder, do you really think teenagers are waiting until they are 18 in California? I've seen the Springer show! I know better. Worldwide things are more odd... the age of consent for males in the Philippines is 12? (Maybe, those previously mentioned female teachers needed to go on vacation more.) The age for females there is 18. hmmm... Consent is set in Spain, South Korea and Japan (nationally) at 13. There is even an age of consent in Canada for anal sex. I can sure see people watching the calendar for that one.

Wednesday, August 03, 2005

A Show Of Support

After the age of the BBS, came the Internet. Early creation came in the form of UseNet in which a lot of people would access with IRC (Internet Relay Chat.) Anyhow, we'll make this history lesson very short. Several people searching for #ircbar on Dalnet often typed it too fast and it would of course come out #ircbra. This got people wondering and those prurient thoughts became an actual area and later a Web site that I stumbled across today. Why is this important, it's not. I just find it amazing what excuses people will come up with to put bra photos on their site.

Monday, August 01, 2005

Missing: Real News

Even as a defacto member of the media, I hold a deep resentment for it. It seems that the more access we have to information, the more we are inundated with the same news items. How many people do we have missing right now? Natalee Holloway, George Allen Smith IV, Ray F. Gricar, Mark & Laura Vockery, Latoyia Figueroa, Fiona Faulkes, Helen Kelley... heck, there are even missing jurors, missing park rangers, missing boaters and a missing Sudanese VP. There were 9335 people reported missing in one state in Australia last year. We currently have more than 15,000 U.S. citizens missing abroad. Yet, we focus on just a few because the media wants stories that will make urge you to tune in.

It seems we also forget that some people "walk out" on life. They leave parents, husbands, wives, children and jobs to just be anywhere else. The nation went nuts wondering what happened to the Runaway bride but for absolutely no reason. What happens when we focus on each one that doesn't leave a note?

I think local journalism works as well nationally as local weather would. It only matters if you go or have family there. Sure, it's important to try to find missing people but what good does it do to focus 70% of news national news time on something you have little chance of affecting. For example, Aruba is quite a ways away from Vegas. It might keep pressure on an outside government and keep people from spending their tourist dollars there though. But, I think there should be a show like America's Most Wanted for missing people. Spend an hour a week focusing on these stories. But, as long as people are interested and keep watching there will always be a focus on the next missing person and there will always be another one.