Saturday, April 30, 2005

Evil Children's Shows

Actually, all children's shows are evil, it's just the manner of degree that they are evil. The easiest solution would be to ban TV altogether for my 3.5 year-old, but dammit, I sometimes need that 20 40 minutes of relative peace and quiet to do something or take a break.

Thanks to Tivo, I can limit what Little Miss Director sees and can screen out shows I don't want her to watch, but since I have to let her watch something, I have to settle on the lesser evils. So here is my take on shows for the pre-school set going from least evil to most. This is by no means an exhaustive list, but just what I have run across:

Show: Backyardigans
Evil Level: Low
Type of Evil: Evil Music Writers

This is one of a new generation of children's cartoons that is completely computer animated. I actually find The Backyardigans somewhat entertaining from an adult level, and since there is an inverse relationship on a show's adult entertainment value and its educational content, I assume this show's educational value is low. But that isn't what bothers me. What bothers me is that the music writers for this show are mad geniuses - probably commercial jingle writers - who put a song in every show that is impossible to get out of your head.

So imagine my anger when, even an hour after the show is over, I still have "Three Friends" running over and over and over in my head.

The other problem is that they picked a show title that is impossible for a 3.5 year old to say. Every time she wants to watch this show I think she is asking to play in the back yard.

Show: Dora
Evil Level: Low
Type of Evil: Siempre la misma lĂ­nea de la historia

Dora is the most popular pre-school show on television today. The problem is that if you seen one, you've seen them all: use a map to get across three obstacles to get to the magic Kingdom - and use a mix of English and Spanish along the way. The show has a large Hispanic following, maybe because the storyline seems very, very familiar...

Show: Barney
Evil Level: Moderate
Type of Evil: PC

I was one of those smug single people who swore that Barney would never play in my home. Fast forward a few years and you might find it on in the living room while I work in my study. Barney is actually pretty good since it is so educational. What bothers me isn't the "I love you - you love me" song that so many people despise, but the low-level Political Correctness that permeates the show. Usually it is low enough to ignore, but there are a few episodes I've deleted from the Tivo just by reading the show's title, like "Feeling Good About Ourselves", "It's Okay to be Angry", and "Accepting Daddy's New Boyfriend" (okay, that last one is made up, but you get my drift).

Show: Caillu Caillou
Evil Level: Moderate
Type of Evil: French Canadian

Why is this kid bald at six years of age? Why does he have a name no one can pronounce or spell? Why is this airing in the U.S.?

Actually, the main problem I have with the show is that it explores the "darker" side of being a preschooler: being scared, being frustrated, being angry, being lost. Yes, these are all real-life experiences that pre-schoolers can relate to, but Little Miss Director seems to get a bit down after watching the show. Maybe this was meant for a slightly older audience? Mrs. Director gives it extra evil points for the narrator's voice, which she finds particularly grating.

Show: Lazy Town
Evil Level: High
Type of Evil: Bad Acid Trip

Little Miss Director has never seen this. The only reason I ran across is that Nickelodeon played it at a time my Tivo thought it was recording Dora. I watched a few minutes of the show and couldn't get my brain around it. It didn't make sense, it was non-linear, and everyone and everything in it was very, very strange. The fact that the main male protagonist seems French (the guy in blue above) just sort of completes the whole bad hallucination.

Show: Teletubbies
Evil Level: Cthulhu
Type of Evil: Alien Mind Control

This show has never aired in the Director household, but I have seen at other people's houses. I figure it is either an attempt by aliens or a religious cult to take over the brains of small children. Avoid at all costs.

Not reviewed is Sesame Street, which Little Miss Director doesn't like, and which I thought was stupid when I was five. Bear and the Big Blue House is low evil, but I can't find it on TV, so it's only on DVD in our house.

Update: Linked to OTB's Weekend Traffic Jam!

Friday, April 29, 2005

When Does an Interview Turn into Consulting?

I had an "interview" with a company who apparently thinks they have come up with something interesting that is in my field of expertise. Five minutes into the conversation it was apparent the company had only a high-level understanding of the market, as I was running circles around them on what was going on in this particular segment. It is a market I know cold and have been involved with in one way or another for over six years.

The interview soon turned into Q&A, not on my abilities as a worker, but on the market, players, customers, competitors, etc. They are inviting me in for a follow-up face-to-face, and have forwarded me a Non-Disclosure Agreement (NDA) so they can talk more freely about their invention, so it will be interesting to see if the meeting turns into more brain-picking or something that moves forward into a full-time position.

Tuesday, April 19, 2005

My Only Comment on the New Pope: What's With the Name?

I don't know much about the new Pope, but I do have a problem with the name: Benedict XVI.

They definitely did not have an American audience in mind since this name is some sort of strange combination of one of our biggest traitors and the Superbowl that ushered in the era of the 49ers (Joe Montana was the MVP).

There is also the problem of a nickname. We just lost good ol' "JP". What do we call this guy? Bennie? Old Ben? (Ed: Obi-wan already took that one).

(Note that for writing this post that Mrs. Director will make me say a bunch of Hail Marys)

Tuesday, April 12, 2005

Apple and the Beetles

Just a curious observation on the iPod and the Beetles:

And remember that it was Apple Records that released the White Album. So is this just a coincidence?

Monday, April 11, 2005

Are Business Starting to Avoid China?

A couple of recent stories in the tech area have caught my eye:

1. Intel to open new plant in India
2. Nokia to open new plant in India
3. Motorola to open new R&D center in India
4. Elcoteq (cellphone manufacturer) to open new plant in India

Most of the stories state that booming Indian cellphone use is one of the reasons for the telecom plant openings. I can buy that - to a point. There are currently more cellphone users in the U.S. than India (for now), but not a single cellphone is manufactured here. Same is true of Europe, or even South America.

And Intel can make chips anywhere - it doesn't have to be near an end-market for any particular reason.

If you look at the factors companies look at for international manufacturing location: cost of labor, quality of labor, logistical issues, etc., India is almost as good as China. But I think there is one other item that is pushing executives over the brink towards India: political risk.

There isn't anyone with an IQ above room temperature who doesn't put the chances of a regional conflict involving China and Taiwan (probably dragging in the U.S.) above 50% in the next 20 years. And executives for the most part have IQs above room temperature. This consideration might be putting second thoughts in their mind about putting new plants in locations that would - at best - be closed for the duration of a conflict, and more likely confiscated by the Chinese government. If anything, executives will at least spread their risk and start putting new plants outside of China if they already have a certain amount of capacity already installed there.

China is getting the message, but it isn't going to change its political posturing. Instead it is reaching out to India for some sort of bizarre partnership. I don't think it's going to help dissuade companies from looking more seriously at other countries for plant locations.

Sunday, April 10, 2005

A Visit From My Muse

This time it was a fashionable bar in San Francisco's Union Square district. I don't know why, but it's always a different city.

Her jaw dropping beauty dazzled me at first - it always does. As if to mock the passage of time she dressed this time as if it were 1986, with her blonde hair slightly teased and in an outfit that could have been from a ZZ Top video. This was a bit of a change and it would have made any other woman look less than reputable, but the intelligence and intensity in her eyes made certain no one would ever make that mistake.

Those piercing blue eyes looked through me as she inquired to what I was up to, although, of course, she already knew. She sort of smirked while she listened, running a finger in slow circles around the lip of her martini glass, taking in what I said.

"That's it?!" she asked. "That's all you're doing? Sounds about the same as when I visited you in Seoul back in '99."

"I've had a few set-backs since then."

"What was it you promised me when you were 17? That you would "conquer the world and lay it at my feet"? I'd say you haven't gotten very far on that goal."

"I was young and naive then."

"No, you were cocky and optimistic. You didn't know what problems lay in your path so you ignored them. Now you find problems where they don't exist."

"I also have responsibilities I didn't have then. A kid, a mortgage..."

"Look, I'm not interested in hearing your 30-something angst. I'm here to remind you of a few things. First, you only have about 30 years left to work, so you are now about a third of the way done. What have you accomplished? And you have about 50 years left to live, so you're coming up on the half-way point on your life pretty quick. I'm telling you now that if you are going to do all the things you wanted to do that time is running out."

In the disjointed way of dreams we were suddenly continuing the conversation outside, walking arm in arm along the sidewalk. Somehow I was taller, although she was in stiletto heals.

"I thought you were supposed to inspire me."

"I AM inspiring you. Inspiration isn't just serving up ideas on a silver platter. I also cajole, berate and threaten. Just like that old football coach of yours."

"I got the cajole and berate. What's the threat?"

"Regret. James Barrie put it better than I could, but then I was the one who inspired him to write it:

The life of every man
is a diary in which
he means to write one
story, and writes
another; and his
humblest hour is when
he compares the volume
as it is with what he
vowed to make it.

Then she leaned over and put her head close to mine and whispered into my ear "So how are your volumes comparing so far?"

With that she left me, leaving me awake in the middle of the night to think about what she said.

Friday, April 08, 2005

Upside to Corporate IT: Infinite Resources

I complained earlier in the week about having to do my own IT support since I work from home. Turns out my earlier "fix"stopped working, so during my visit to the Mother Ship this week, I called up my IT Support Desk and told them about my problem.

"Curtis", the PC support guy at my Corporate Headquarters isn't only good, he cares. He takes it as a personal insult when one of the PCs under his domain gives someone a problem, so he showed up in my borrowed office minutes later to do the same things I tried: uninstalling, reinstalling, and rebooting. He gave up faster on this technique sooner than I did - only 30 minutes - but it was because he had other things he could try.

He asked me to bring my computer back the next day so he could wipe my hard drive and reinstall everything from the ground up. I readily complied since, guessing this might happen, had already backed up my PC.

So I dropped off my PC yesterday morning and went to my all-day meeting. At the end of the day Curtis shows up and gives me a brand new laptop! After fiddling around with my old PC he figured the wireless hardware was acting just a little too flaky so pulled out a new laptop from his vast supply of stuff he has at the IT secret location (I have no idea where his office is, and it isn't labeled, but he shows up when I call him in a matter of seconds).

So I can now say that my problem is definitely fixed.

Tuesday, April 05, 2005

Google Satellite Mapping Privacy Concerns?

I heard about this before, but PoliBlog pointed to a new article that raises privacy concerns about the Google Satellite Imaging Maps. I thought I would try out my house on the closest setting to see how worried I should be.

You can see me smiling and waving at the satellite, can't you? I can't say I am terribly worried about privacy concerns, although I think you CAN tell this was taken when my back-yard was under construction.

One Downside to Home Officing: Do-It-Yourself IT Support

When I shut down my computer system last night everything worked fine: my wireless connection to my computer worked great. The really cool wireless print server I installed a few days earlier worked fine. Everything was fine.

When I booted up this morning nothing worked. The most frustrating part was that my computer could "see" the network, but it wouldn't connect. I couldn't call Tech Support, IT, IS, or whatever it is called in most companies. I had to figure it out myself. And I wasn't going to waste my time on the phone with a tech support hotline since I didn't know who to call: Was it the wireless router? Laptop WIFI? Wireless Print Server? Software issue?

I probably spent three hours going through the usual Windows kludge/fix process: Uninstall. Reboot. Reconfigure. Reboot. Reinstall. Reboot. I am not a trained Windows expert, so it was a lot of trial and error as I guessed at the application, driver, or setting that was causing the problem. My guess is that a trained person still would have taken an hour just to go through all the boot cycles.

I did get everything working again, but it's frustrating wasting so much time on a problem but not really get anything accomplished for the day - it just got the system to where it was the night before, and I still don't know WHY it went out of wack.