October 30, 2005

An Extra Hour for Complaining

I WAS IN a rare good mood today. The sun was out when I woke up, and it was a nice, crisp, clear day -- perfect for football, outdoor activities, and what have you. Plus, I got an extra hour of sleep because last night, we switched from Daylight Saving Time back to Standard Time, and that kicked ass.

Unfortunately, the sun set at 4:40 p.m. today, and that gave me plenty of time to stew. In this first evening back on Standard Time, in the wretched darkness that serves as a harbinger of winter's hideous polar gloom, I realized I had no reason to be happy. After all, I hadn't gained anything over the interceding six months except two weeks of headaches, misery and anguish stemming from the first time change. Now, I'm supposed to be happy because I got an hour -- an hour stolen from me in the first place -- back?

Sure, maybe I'm getting too worked up about this, but I've hated Daylight Saving Time for a long while. It increases traffic accidents, reduces productivity, and contributes to fatigue, nausea, indigestion, gum disease and ennui. At least that's what generally what happens to me. In rare cases, I'm sure Daylight Saving Time also causes gout, rheumatic fever and typhus, just due to the stress of having one's sleep patterns disrupted. If you don't believe that DST causes big trouble, just look at the University of Indiana's football team, which is 1-4 in Big Ten play.

In my own case, my hate for DST stems from my childhood in Kalamazoo, Mich., when the sky would routinely stay light until 9, 9:30 or even 10 p.m. around the start of summer. This screwed up my sleep patterns, and as a boy I recall going to bed when it was light out quite a lot. Admittedly, this happened because we were on the far western end of the Eastern time zone. But that also meant a lot of long dark mornings, particularly at the start of DST in the early spring.

Now that we're back on standard time, and I'm here in New Hampshire, I have the opposite problem. I pretty much wake up with the sun every day, but the sun sets before 5 p.m. By the time winter rolls around, it will practically set about 4 p.m. This results in reduced productivity and contributes to fatigue, nausea, indigestion, gum disease and ennui.

I don't think it's too much to ask that I only go through just one misery-inducing seasonal experience each year. I'm just saying.

Posted by Benjamin Kepple at 11:07 PM | Comments (2) | TrackBack

October 28, 2005

Happy Halloween!

FOR EVERYONE ELSE out there with a morbid sense of humor, I've found a link to Edward Gorey's "The Gashlycrumb Tinies," the children's alphabet guaranteed to amuse and delight youngsters everywhere! Or, alternatively, encourage them to have an unhealthy fascination with trench coats, weird music and the occult. But hey, that's the chance one takes these days.

Posted by Benjamin Kepple at 11:16 AM | TrackBack

Point Reluctantly Accepted

A PITTSBURGH AREA man was recently fined $300 after claiming to be Pittsburgh Steelers quarterback Ben Roethlisberger, the Associated Press has reported:

Brian Jackson of Brentwood pleaded guilty to disorderly conduct charges yesterday. Authorities say Jackson pretended to be quarterbacks Ben Roethlisberger and Brian St. Pierre to two women so he could date them. Jackson gave one of the women a signed football and signed Roethlisberger's name on a Steelers jersey owned by the woman's neighbor.

The best comment thus far about Jackson's Big Ben impersonation has come from Stephen Silver, who said, "And yet, he still did a better job of it than Tommy Maddox did."

Now, if you ask me, a Minnesota Vikings fan has no right to talk smack about ANY competing football franchise, particularly the Pittsburgh Steelers. But, I must reluctantly accept his point. At least until Dec. 18, when the Steelers shall undoubtedly crush the Vikings in Minnesota.

Posted by Benjamin Kepple at 11:01 AM | Comments (2) | TrackBack

The Dumbest Thing I've Read in Years

I NEVER THOUGHT I'd see the day when Business Week managed to get something right whilst Forbes blew it, but I daresay that day has come. Forbes, you see, has published a particularly stupid article called "Attack of the Blogs!" (registration required) in which the magazines charges that blogs "are the prized platform of an online lynch mob spouting liberty but spewing lies, libel and invective." And that line's just from the executive summary.

I mean, I don't know about you, but I feel as if I've come a bit late to the party. The last time I checked, the American business world was full of savvy, hardcharging Type-A folks who would sooner eat glass than give in to some whiny Internet curmudgeon. Now, Forbes would have us believe these same people are at the curmudgeons' mercy, and bloggers have amazingly transformed from guys in pajamas to the barbarian horde from the Capital One commercials. Forbes scribe Daniel Lyons writes:

Blogs started a few years ago as a simple way for people to keep online diaries. Suddenly they are the ultimate vehicle for brand-bashing, personal attacks, political extremism and smear campaigns. It's not easy to fight back: Often a bashing victim can't even figure out who his attacker is. No target is too mighty, or too obscure, for this new and virulent strain of oratory. Microsoft has been hammered by bloggers; so have CBS, CNN and ABC News, two research boutiques that criticized IBM's Notes software, the maker of Kryptonite bike locks, a Virginia congressman outed as a homosexual and dozens of other victims--even a right-wing blogger who dared defend a blog-mob scapegoat.

Uh .... Ozzy shouldn't have done this.

I mean, my God -- brand-bashing, personal attacks, political extremism and smear campaigns. It's just like real life! And Heaven forbid people have new ways of expressing their views on something! Why, before BLOGS! came about, most people could only complain to a few people they knew. But now that BLOGS! are here ... well, most people, bloggers included, are still only complaining to the few people they know. If the American business world has become so overbearing, control-freakish and mediocre that it can't fundamentally deal with people expressing their opinions, then I'm going to start learning Chinese.

Of course, the paragraph I cited from Mr Lyons' article is quite telling. It is an incredibly bad work however one looks at it, and it is poorly sourced and poorly written. Mr Lyons was apparently so worked up about blogs that he forgot that "oratory" is spoken, not written. Mr Lyons was also apparently so worked up that he forgot to find a good source for his lead.

It's a long, narrative, four-paragraph lead, and it paints a picture of bloggers damaging a company through all sorts of outlandish conduct. But if one reads Mr Lyons' narrative very carefully, one might be inclined to think that his lead was -- when all was said and done -- nothing more than a case of "buy on rumor, sell on news." I've put what I considered the key points in bold below:

Here's the opener:

Gregory Halpern knows how to hype. Shares of his publicly held company, Circle Group Holdings, quadrupled in price early last year amid reports that its new fat substitute, Z-Trim, was being tested by Nestlé. As the stock spurted from $2 to $8.50 ...

Soon after this, Forbes charges, the Creatures from the Blog! attacked, and there was much name-calling and complaint-filing and letter-writing and posting anonymous and disparaging remarks on newsgroups. The magazine charges a former stockbroker was behind it all, but by the time action was taken, the damage was reportedly done.

... No matter: Circle Group stock fell below a dollar in a year of combat with Miles and the anonymous bashers on Yahoo (and after Nestlé dropped Z-Trim)

The bold points are but two sentences in Mr Lyons' narrative. Perhaps he should have paid more attention to the circumstances behind them.

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Addendum: Sidebar on "Fighting Back" Pathetic, Perilous
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The Blogs! article, if presented on its own, would be nothing but embarrassing for Forbes. However, it also has the potential to actually cause trouble for business owners who aren't yet "with it" when it comes to blogging, due to a sidebar called "Fighting Back."

Remember that scene from "Annie Hall" when Alvy is out in Wisconsin visiting Annie's family and her brother Duane approaches Alvy with his weird and horrific thoughts about crashing his car into oncoming traffic? And Alvy says something to the effect of, "I've got to go now, I'm due back on planet Earth." Well, Duane wrote the goddamn sidebar, OK? It's that out there.

I mean, the first few tips aren't that bad. But as the list goes on, though, the writer seems to forget that most of Forbes' corporate readers are in the United States of America, and as such must deal with the American legal system. Here are a few of the real doozies from the article, in bold and italics:

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BASH BACK. If you get attacked, dig up dirt on your assailant and feed it to sympathetic bloggers. Discredit him.
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I can see it now: "John Smith might not like the design of our new gadget, but can you really trust someone WHO DOESN'T RECYCLE and who was A DAY LATE with a credit card payment back in 1996?" That said, if you're really going to be so stupid as to personally attack a critic like that, make sure you're right and/or not violating any laws. Because if you're not right and/or you are violating the law, you're going to be in trouble.

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ATTACK THE HOST. Find some copyrighted text that a blogger has lifted from your Web site and threaten to sue his Internet service provider under the Digital Millennium Copyright Act. That may prompt the ISP to shut him down. Or threaten to drag the host into a defamation suit against the blogger. The host isn't liable but may skip the hassle and cut off the blogger's access anyway. Also:Subpoena the host company, demanding the blogger's name or Internet address.
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Problem: some hosts will openly laugh at this tactic, because they realize it's full of crap. Second problem: it's also not done in a vacuum either: the blogger will find out about it, and shish-kabob what's left of your company's reputation all over the Internet. Third problem: you'll generally look like a schmuck.

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SUE THE BLOGGER. If all else fails, you can sue your attacker for defamation, at the risk of getting mocked. You will have to chase him for years to collect damages. Settle for a court order forcing him to take down his material.
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It is not a risk you will be mocked for suing a blogger; it is a certainty. As for damages, that assumes you'll actually win the case, a doubtful proposition. Also, bloggers don't have the same approach to risk that a company does. To a company, settling for a court order makes perfect sense. A typical blogger would rather rob his own grandmother's grave. Furthermore, the blogger may just turn around and file suit against you for suing him in the first place, and then you'll really be in trouble.

My suggestion? Take a deep breath. Then have someone write the blogger a nice, thoughtful e-mail responding to their concerns. That will usually do the job.

Posted by Benjamin Kepple at 10:41 AM | Comments (1) | TrackBack

October 21, 2005

Claim: Rant Worth More Than $20K

Report Values Rant at USD 20,000
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Directors Jubilant at "One Hundred-Fold Return,"
But at Present Have No Plans to Sell

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Analyst: "Blogs Are the New Tulips"
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My blog is worth $20,323.44.
How much is your blog worth?

by HARRIS SCHWED
Financial Rant

HAMILTON, Bermuda -- Calculations from the Business Opportunities Weblog have given Benjamin Kepple's Daily Rant an estimated value upwards of $20,000, Benjamin Kepple's Daily Rant Inc. announced today.

The valuation, which is based on the number of external links heading to a given site, is derived from the amount of money which America Online Inc. paid for Weblogs Inc. earlier this year. The report prompted jubliation among The Rant's shareholders, as well as a bit of amazement.

"It's been about four years since we started blogging, but this type of incredible growth is downright staggering," said Benjamin Kepple, The Rant's chief executive, in a conference call. "In my wildest dreams, I would never have thought this type of return was possible from my initial investment."

Kepple said his firm had no plans at present to sell to an outside buyer, but would consider any serious offers which involved great sums of cash. It was, he said, a matter of "timing the peak."

"Clearly, we're in the midst of a speculative bubble, and I can only hope that desperate or crazed executives looking for growth at all costs send us an offer which properly values our operations," said Kepple, still amazed the blog was theoretically worth more than a factory-fresh pre-owned sedan.

While the news is certainly good for The Rant -- and Kepple, who owns or controls more than half of it -- analysts voiced skepticism both at The Rant's valuation and the AOL-Weblogs Inc. deal, the latter of which was valued between $25 million and $40 million.

"Wait a minute. They paid what for what?" asked Adriaen Pauw, an analyst with Caveat Emptor Admirael van Ejck, the London-based brokerage house. "It's this type of silly chasing for the quick victory which bit them the last time!"

"It's as if blogs are the new tulips," Pauw said. "I mean, I don't care how much traffic they get, $25 million is -- I mean, $25 million? Jesus God in Heaven."

(via the much-more capitalized Dean's World)

Posted by Benjamin Kepple at 10:49 AM | Comments (1) | TrackBack

October 17, 2005

A Good Football Weekend

SURE, MICHIGAN defeated the Nittany Lions of Penn State, but I still want U-M football coach Lloyd Carr to get cashiered. Now, thanks to this nifty Web site, you can help in the quest. It's worth a visit just for the picture alone.

WHY DO the Pittsburgh Steelers have such crappy backup quarterbacks? I mean, I'm sorry, but when Ben Roethlisberger got hurt last week I had two reactions: "NOOOOOOOOO!" when Roethlisberger's knee got hit, and "NOOOOOOOO!" when Charlie Batch got put in the game. Don't get me wrong, I like Charlie Batch, but he played for the Lions. And even though all he did was give the ball to Jerome Bettis, those few plays with our third-string QB were really scary.

But it's not Batch that worries me -- it's Tommy Maddox. Gad. Dig that 1 TD/3 INT stat, that 39.3 completion percentage, that 30.1 QB rating. We need a better performer in that second slot, and quickly.

ALSO -- a congratulations to the Northwestern Wildcats, who won two games in a row with their defeat of Purdue last week. Yeah.

I would further like to thank the television programmers who made this week's football telecast MUCH BETTER in terms of game selection.

Posted by Benjamin Kepple at 09:25 PM | TrackBack

A Grand Theological Discovery

AS A PERSON OF FAITH, I have always felt it important to treat the views of religious believers with respect, particularly if I myself don't agree with them. I have always had confidence in my own outlook on life, and I realize that in most cases, such believers are just well-meaning folks who "walk the walk."

However, there's got to be a special exemption for Madonna, if only because she thinks she's all that and a bag of chips, and even worse, apparently thinks the rest of the world believes she's all that and a bag of chips. Dig this item from the Drudge Report, which has quotes from her upcoming -- God help us -- documentary:

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"The material world. The physical world. The world of illusion, that we think is real. We live for it, we're enslaved by it. And it will ultimately be our undoing," Madonna explains in her new documentary film, I'M GOING TO TELL YOU A SECRET.

In the movie, which will premiere at the Ziegfeld Theater in New York City on Tuesday, Madonna warns how people "are going to go to hell, if they don't turn from their wicked behavior."

"I refer to an entity called 'The Beast'. I feel I am describing the world that we live in right now. To me 'The Beast' is the modern world that we live in."
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Oooooooooooooooh.

You know, it boggles the mind just to think of it. How amazing is it that -- a mere nineteen centuries since The Revelation to John was written -- Madonna would come up with such a grand theological discovery? Gee, just imagine what other spiritual truths the Material Girl might reveal. Maybe she'll rediscover the events in Exodus 15:25 next. I can imagine that:

... and the LORD showed him a piece of wood. He threw it into the water, and the water became sweet. And behold! the LORD said, "Dude, if you bottle this stuff, you can sell it to people for an amazing price, because it contains some ... ah ... you know, some mystical healing properties, or something. Yeah. Mystical healing properties." And the man said, "Dude, let us bottle this stuff, so we can sell it to people for an amazing price, because it contains some mystical healing properties. Besides, He is a jealous God, and this is the Old Testament, so He'll get really angry with us if we don't."

Anyway, I'm not annoyed with Madonna because she's getting preachy. I could care less about that, because no one is going to take her "material world bad" approach seriously until she fires her household staff, moves to a two-bedroom apartment and starts using public transport. Oh, and lets people download all her new music for free.

What really annoys me is that, in attacking capitalism, Madonna -- a very successful creative-type person -- is insulting and embarrassing less-successful creative-type people. Plus, she's making it harder for those folks to get ahead, albeit in a very small way.

Well, I think so, anyway.

Remember when Jonathan Franzen, whom I hope rots in perdition, turned down an Oprah's Book Club selection because Franzen, the wretched cur, thought the Oprah sticker reeked of "corporate ownership?" That was insulting and embarrassing to all the authors who would have given their right arm to get an OK from Oprah. A few months later, Oprah ended her book club featuring contemporary authors, and Franzen got on the short list of people whom I hope come down with typhus.

Well, I think Madonna is acting similarly to Franzen with this type of silliness. Brazen hypocrisy is one thing, but being so public about it is aggravating. Plus, there are many writers and artists and actors and poets who do need support from the buying public.

I don't know. Maybe it's because I'm a writer, and writers have looked for success since Dua-Khety wrote his instruction four thousand years ago, and told his son to become a writer. ("See, there is no scribe lacking sustenance, (or) the provisions of the royal house.")

But I can't help think about the difference between Madonna's silly attack on the system which enriched her and Cervantes' dedication to his patron when he published the second part of Don Quixote. In part, Cervantes wrote:

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But the personage who has manifested the greatest longing for (Don Quixote) is the Emperor of China, who dispatched to me a month ago a letter by express messenger, begging, or rather imploring, me to send the knight to him, for he wanted to found a college for the teaching of Castilian, and intended The History of Don Quixote to be used there. Furthermore, he informed me that I was to be the rector of the college. I asked the bearer whether His Majesty had given him any money to defray my expenses. He replied that His Majesty had not given a thought to it.

"Then, brother," I answered, "you may return to your China at ten o'clock, or twenty o'clock, or at whatever hour you can start, for my health is not good enough to undertake so long a journey. Besides, in addition to being unwell I am confoundedly short of money, and emperor for emperor and monarch for monarch I stand by the great Count of Lemos in Naples. Without all such paltry college appointments and rectorships he protects me and confers upon me more favors than I can desire."
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Hey, it may be that our society is overly concerned with making money. But there's something to be said for not dying broke.

Posted by Benjamin Kepple at 08:47 PM | Comments (3) | TrackBack

October 09, 2005

I Tell You, the Programmers Are on Crack

ON SATURDAY, the University of Minnesota’s football team beat the University of Michigan’s football team for the first time since 1986, when I was a student at Woodward Elementary School in Kalamazoo, Mich. Despite it being the middle of the season – when many blah games are played – the Minnesota-Michigan match was one of many amazing college football games played this week. Texas finally pounded Oklahoma into the dirt, for the first time in five years, and Northwestern University shocked the Wisconsin Badgers in a 51-48 upset – in which the teams scored TEN TOUCHDOWNS in the second half alone.

Unfortunately, due to the wretched scheming of various television-programming executives, I didn’t get to see those fabulous games. Oh no. I got stuck with barnburners like Marshall v. Virginia Tech and Wake Forest v. Florida State. As if that wasn’t bad enough, my proximity to Boston meant that, when I wasn’t on the horn back home getting updates about Northwestern, I was watching Brent Musburger call the Virginia v. Boston College game. Yes, that’s right. Virginia v. Boston College.

Oooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooh.

I mean, come on. Not even Boston College fans cared about that game, which they easily won, 28-17. The other two games had similar results, and they ended up as one might expect. Both Marshall and Wake managed to perform decently for a little bit, and then got crushed when they eventually ran out of steam. Anyone with any knowledge of football could have predicted those results. Yet, for reasons I don’t entirely understand, these games were televised to a significant portion of the American public.

What made it even worse were the also-ran games being broadcast: after all, here was perfectly good bandwidth being wasted on games like Central Michigan v. Army or, God help us all, Illinois v. Indiana. This was just insult to injury. Things got so bad that later, I actually found myself watching Bucknell v. Penn on the CN8 network, along with dozens of other enraptured fans. Sadly, Penn triumphed. All in all, it was a bad afternoon for the college game.

Now, despite my argument above, I suppose there are folks out there who actually root for Marshall and Wake Forest, even though I’ve never met anyone who attended either of those institutions. Still, couldn’t the TV folks only broadcast games like those in the south? I mean, that way, people down there would get to watch the football games they want to see, and I wouldn’t have to deal with Florida State. Because I hate Florida State. Of course, I’m not partial to most of Florida, which is muggy and attracts real-estate speculators, but I'm especially not partial to Florida State. And don’t get me started on the University of Miami.

While we’re at it, would it be possible to get some decent football commentary? I don’t know if it’s just me or what, but I’m really starting to get annoyed with the truly awful play-by-play out there. I’d like to see some simple rules instituted, such as, “If the announcer doesn’t agree with an official’s call on the field, he’ll shut up about it after two plays.” Other good rules would include: “Field producers should value actual play on the field over stupid feature segments,” and “It’s a team sport, so quit the rapture when This Week’s Star Player touches the ball.”

Posted by Benjamin Kepple at 11:22 PM | TrackBack

October 07, 2005

(Can't Get No) Satisfaction Dept.

A LOS ANGELES MAN has sued a dating service after another subscriber rejected him, KNBC-TV in that city has reported. The man argues that JDate.com, an on-line dating service for Jewish singles, guaranteed he would find high-quality personals without wasting time. However, KNBC says, the man charges that things didn't turn out that way:

The subscriber, who is a co-defendant in the case, made sexual remarks during the chat, claimed to work for the nation's largest lingerie manufacturer, and told (plaintiff Soheil) Davood that "she might have found her man in the plaintiff," the suit states.

Davood claims the subscriber wanted to talk to him and even convinced him to call directly when he became tired and wanted to go to sleep.

When the plaintiff called, he "received a taunting automated message telling him that he was rejected."

Davood, who is seeking unspecified compensatory and punitive damages, claims the Web site is "defective" because it was poorly designed and monitored, which exposed him to "serious psychological injury."

Speaking personally, I'd like to thank the folks over at Overlawyered for linking the co-defendant's profile. This was quite helpful for my own research in preparing this post, and ... oh! Sorry. Got distracted there for a moment. Where were we? Legal case, man sues dating service, right.

The lawsuit, of course, is silly. But part of me thinks this is one of those "unintended consequence" type of situations. I doubt very much that Mr Davood expected the press to pick up on his lawsuit, which now has exposed his love-life woes to approximately half the world's population. More importantly for Mr Davood, this lawsuit could also lessen his chances of success in the romantic arena, as women don't especially like getting sued prior to the first date.

Of course, the real bit missing from this story is this: who's the lawyer, if there was one, who filed Mr Davood's lawsuit? It's one thing if Mr Davood filed pro se but another entirely if a lawyer actually took the case.

Posted by Benjamin Kepple at 08:18 AM | TrackBack