April 30, 2006

ANtics Episode 2.10: On the Road

The A's are 4-1 so far in the middle of what will have been a seven game road trip. (Eight if you count the rain-out) With the team away, they've had a chance to reevaluate what's working, and what's not. We check in to see their progress.

Click to See Larger Comic

ANtics Archive: 2005/06 ANtics | PDF | Take the Poll

April 29, 2006

Half a Dozen Top Announcements

While focused in Las Vegas, and without my trusty PowerBook, there were a number of announcements that warrant mentioning.

1. We've seen Bush make a lot of noise around breaking with his "oil man" background, and calling for lower gas prices amidst dramatic energy company profits and record lows in popularity. Guess what? The two are linked. As Business 2.0 notes, the president's popularity is inversely proportional to the price of gas. And here I thought spending $34.00 at the pump was patriotic.

2. Google released Sketchup, a new 3D modeling tool. While it's Windows-only for now, a Mac version is in the works.

3. Which brings us to Guy Kawasaki's excellent post on "The Top Ten Lies of Engineers". Number 6 is that the Macintosh version will be done just after the Windows version ships.

4. Microsoft continues plummeting. The company's stock got trashed to the tune of more than 10% Friday after announcing disappointing earnings projections. Meanwhile, Google is now showing ads for Firefox on the company's front page, when visited by Windows users running Internet Explorer.

5. BMW is planning on releasing an environmentally friendly car, expected to run up to 100 miles per gallon. I haven't seen it, but I probably want one.

6. You Tube continues to grow dramatically. According to Forbes, the video site is spending more than $1 million in bandwidth costs a month.

Listening to ''Dark Heart Dawning'', by BT (Play Count: 2)

A's Rained Out: What a Wet Mess!

It's as if the game never happened. But we were there. We saw some things that were out of the ordinary. Yet we also witnessed things that were all too ordinary, in a game the A's were trailing 6-1, but will never count.

According to "The Little Green Book", the last time the A's had a game postponed was against the Philadelphia Phillies in June of 2003. That also led to the last time the A's played a doubleheader, against the same Phillies the following day. Unfortunately, we ended up losing both games, 7-1 and 8-3. Now, our calendar says August 18th we will play two against the Royals and hope for a different outcome.

Today's outcome really never looked like an A's win was in the cards, rain or shine. After a top of the first that saw two A's go down on strikeouts, Esteban Loaiza continued his struggles, loading the bases for Reggie Sanders who cleared them with a grand slam. Amidst two outs, Loaiza loaded the bases a second time in the inning, before giving up a fifth run on an infield hit. In all, adding two walks to start the bottom of the second, Loaiza had faced 13 batters. 10 of those batters reached base, six by way of the walk.

The 2006 debut of Ron Flores, like the slam by Reggie Sanders, will be washed away. But he closed out the second, and teased us with what real pitchers do - get outs, something Loaiza has been baffled by so far in his early starts with the A's. Having seen him pitch in person at the Coliseum, his outings have baffled the imagination. The velocity is missing, the control is off, and those that make it over the plate have been hit. The A's, while good on paper, cannot withstand injuries to key players like Harden, Crosby, Street and Loaiza and be expected to excel.

We were given a gift with today's rainout. The division thus far is giving the A's a gift in that nobody is pulling away. With Texas' win today, the A's fall 1/2 game behind, into 3rd, but remain only a game out of first, pending the Angels game. It's early, but today's shortened outing leaves us all lacking for confidence. We cannot expect the rain to bail us out all season long.

Listening to ''Personal Jesus (Pump Mix)'', by Depeche Mode (Play Count: 6)

All Is Right With the World

After a week away from home in Las Vegas, I flew back in to San Jose yesterday afternoon, to find most things as I had left them. One thing that did make progress while I was out was the work on my previously-distressed laptop. Having dropped it off at the Apple Store last Saturday, the machine traveled further than I had, going to Texas for repair, before making its way back. So, despite having been up late the previous night, waiting for union workers until past 3:30 a.m. to return our equipment, I made my way back down to the Apple Store and retrieved the PowerBook - which is now happy again, accepting power and chugging away. Best of all, they didn't erase the hard drive, so no changes were needed.

Life can now carry on as planned.

Listening to ''Live @ DI.fm 2005-11-11'', by DJ Irish (Play Count: 2)

Help From a Little Green Book

As a young Oakland A's fan growing up in the era of Canseco, McGwire, Rickey, Stewart, Hendu, and Eckersley, I simply couldn't get enough news and insight into my favorite team. At the age of 12, I had set my watch to beep at 5:45 PM every day so I could run in and turn on the local news and get the sports report (this is pre-ESPN for me, mind you), and I must have read Bill Mazeroski's 1989 season preview cover to cover a million times.

To this day, I could tell you Jose Canseco had a .569 slugging percentage and 187 hits to go with his .307 average in 1988, alongside 42 home runs, 24 doubles, 40 steals and 16 caught stealing. Those numbers are hard-coded, and if I ever forget them, it's because I've gotten too old to recognize my own grandkids (should there ever be any).

In fact, one Christmas, I successfully begged my parents to get me the ultimate in baseball stats - Total Baseball. Filled with more than 2,000 pages, including all major league statistics for all players - ever, the book was incredible, including stories about every era of the sport, award winners, streaks, and odd circumstance. And yes, I probably skimmed through every page of statistics too. See - I was young, and baseball was my life. Though I grew up shorter and scrawnier than everyone else, and managed a .000 average in my one injury-shortened Little League season (kid you not, I walked or struck out every AB), I knew baseball, and I knew my A's.

Which brings us to today. At Spring Training in Arizona, I picked up the 2006 Oakland Athletics Media Guide, which aims to fill this particular niche in my psyche, with pinpoint focus on this year's squad - full of player profiles with the entire 40 man roster, and even non-roster invitees, and most importantly, all the stats, awards, and streaks a good fan should know. Now, when Ken Korach, Ray Fosse and Vince Cotroneo say that "The last time the A's hit 3 consecutive home runs was in 2000, when Randy Velarde, Jason Giambi and Ben Grieve accomplished the task," I'll know it's not solely because they have encyclopaedic knowledge of the sport, but through the help of a little green book - one that I too have at my disposal.

For instance, the A's have won 2 consecutive road games so far on this trip... but did you know that in 1971, the team won 12 consecutive games on the road from July 31st to August 15th? You probably already knew that during the team's AL-record 20 game streak, they won 10 consecutive on the road, from August 19th to 28th. Right?

Meanwhile, after 23 games, the A's have a record of 11-12. At this point in 1981, the A's had 20 wins and only 3 losses! Of course, in 1994, they had regressed, showing a record of 7 and 16 at this juncture, the worst ever in team history...

In 2005, we saw two pitchers, Dan Haren and Barry Zito, lead the team with 14 wins apiece. But did you know that in 1999, Gil Heredia led the team with only 13 wins? And did you know that current Yankee Aaron Small led the A's with all of 9 wins in 1997?

And did you know that the 2005 squad's tally of only 155 home runs was the least for an Oakland A's team since 1998 (149), and that this number falls 88 short of the team record of 243, set in 1996? Did you know that Eric Chavez has four of the top five home run seasons for an A's third baseman since 1901? Or that Nick Swisher had the fourth-most doubles by an Oakland A's rookie with 32?

I hope you'll excuse me... I've got some reading to do.
Listening to ''Mindcrasher'', by Blank & Jones (Play Count: 8)

April 23, 2006

Blog Vacation Through Friday

Just a heads up that this site will remain "stable" in its current state through at least Friday, April 28th. I will be in Las Vegas, Nevada for a trade show through Friday. In the meantime, my laptop is getting special care from Apple for the week, for a pretty good chunk of change. Turns out much of my power issues were related to damage to the logic board, impacting the DC connector. We knew that, but were in denial, of course.

See you then.

ANtics Episode 2.9: Early Trends, Odds and Ends

With the season just a little over one tenth of the way complete, the A's haven't exactly dominated the field so far - they've shown signs of brilliance, and often, quite a different story. While some, like Swisher and Chavez, have excelled, others haven't been pulling their weight. The ANtics looks in on 2006's early results.

Click to See Larger Comic

ANtics Archive: 2005/06 ANtics | PDF | Take the Poll

April 22, 2006

Technical Difficulties

You know something's wrong when you're cheering the computer being at 39% power capacity, and the fact that I don't have to hold my finger on the power cord for a full three consecutive minutes while the thing's actually on, but here we are.

(It just started blinking again - 39%... 38%... grr...)

After a few months of this, including new Apple power adapters and third party gear, we haven't seen a solution, so we're scheduled for a visit to the Apple Store Genius Bar at Valley Fair at 8:40 tonight to look into it. While I dream it's just a need for a new battery, that's probably not going to be my luck, and I'm concerned they may want to take a look at it, inflicted four-digit damages, or worse, make me get a new one... which would be infuriating. So, in advance, I've backed up everything to the iPod, and hope that's overdoing it.

If they take machine away, louisgray.com could go dark, and there'd be no ANtics tomorrow. In advance, I blame Al Quaeda.

Listening to ''Father's Field'', by Traci Lords (Play Count: 8)

E-mail History: 1999: Mac Financier Foiled

Just trolling through older e-mail after coming home from yet another tremendous A's victory against the rival Angels, when I ran across a plan in 1999, where I offered one of my best friends enough money to buy a new computer after his last one bit the dust. The idea was that he would use the money to but a Macintosh, and then we'd work with him to get the software he needed to get up and running. The loan could be paid back easily, at $100 a month, no interest, until it was resolved.

I had entered into this contract because I had nearly a full year in Silicon Valley under my belt, and felt I could afford $800 or so, while I was also very eager to get my friend moved from the PC "dark side" to Macintosh. I knew that for sure he would be happy with his move, and I would do whatever I could to support his choice.

But, weeks later, after my check had cleared, he told me that a second friend had set him up with boatloads of pirated, free, Windows software, so he took the $800 I gave him and bought an no-name AMD machine, thinking he could mooch off both friends' generosity and get everything he wanted. I was furious, feeling that I had been tricked into being generous, and very nearly demanded he return the money to me, now that I knew he wasn't going to be added as an Apple customer, but joined the drones in lock step behind Microsoft. I felt betrayed, and that my opinion, which should have held some value, had been ignored. But I also was very concerned that if I fought too hard, I could lose the friend, one I intended to keep for life, over a stupid computer OS choice.

Friends fight and families fight. I had introduced new wrinkles in our relationship - technology and finances, altering our roles. For months afterwards, not only was our relationship strained as he struggled with his new computer, but we couldn't have a conversation without my thinking about how much money he owed me, or when the next check was coming. I think the strain was reaching him too, for after four months of $100 checks coming in regularly, the fifth month's check was for the remainder, ending his need to pay me, and ending my need to bug him for it, even though I still hadn't fully forgiven him for using Windows.

One good thing for me was that my expectations were proven right. When his computer finally came in, the trials were immediate. He wrote, in his "now online" e-mail,

"From late Thursday night, to early Saturday morning, I was TOTALLY (censored) PISSED and in a BAD (censored) mood! Although Windows 98 had already been installed on my computer, the (censored) computer wouldn't even complete the boot-up process whenever I turned the (censored) on. Even more perplexing, the computer would always seem to do something different, or achieve a different percentage of the boot before it (censored) up -- every single time I restarted! So it dind't seem like an error in the program.

To make matters even more annoying, everytime I turned off the monitor, I had to wait at least a minute to turn it back on again, or the thing would simply stay black. Granted, I bought the 17" for $169, but I still figured it would at least (censored) work! But it didn't (censored) work! And I didn't know what the (censored) to do! So I suffered for two days straight..."

For me, having him struggle was a dark, moral victory. I had been proven right, and several years later, he saw the light, moving to Apple. And I had been paid. But I felt that he should have listened, and I was mad at myself for having tried to put such a silly thing in front of a friendship that's lasted the better part of two decades.

Listening to ''Innocence'', by Paul Van Dyk (Play Count: 5)

April 21, 2006

Bush's Trip Impact: Prisoners At the Office

As mentioned on Wednesday, Bush and his team flew into Silicon Valley today to meet at Cisco Systems, ostensibly for a panel on technology and education. Unfortunately, for those who work near the area, traffic on the streets nearby the shindig was dramatically effected. Before noon today, we were told that "in and out" access to the streets bordering our corporate headquarters were completely closed down. That meant no customers or partners could visit, and if they were already there, they couldn't leave, and through at least 4 p.m. this afternoon, nobody can come or go.

Every corner has security and every street intersection is lined with bright orange cones, and those working away at the office are literally prisoners in their own country - something we've gotten used to the last six years, but certainly brought home today.

Welcome to California, Mr. President.

Listening to ''Animal'', by Lost It.Com (Play Count: 4)

April 20, 2006

Morning Notes: April 20, 2006

More in an irregularly occurring series...

Apple (AAPL) stock is up more than 5% in early market trading, following its earnings report yesterday. The company had the second-strongest quarter financially in its history, behind only the preceding quarter - encompassing the holiday season. iPod revenue was half of the total, and now pushes Apple to play well in the fourth quarter of the calendar year, rather than its peak around MacWorld San Francisco, the traditional launching point for new products.

In other Apple news, the company is still trying to unveil just who leaked product detail to a few Mac-focused Web sites. It's a free speech discussion, but Apple doesn't think the Web sites' dissemination of the rumor was in the public interest at large.

The A's stunk last night against the Tigers, losing 11-4. It's a good thing I went to Tuesday's game and saw them win, rather than going last night. Having season tickets will be a kick as I learn the nooks and crannies of the A's park. We attended games on Friday, Saturday, Tuesday, and are signed up for tomorrow and Saturday this weekend as well. Good stuff.

In other interesting news, AOL allegedly is going to try and "kill" MySpace, with a new social network offering. For some reason, I don't think today's teens, who use the site, will really want to associate with AOL. On the flip side, they all use AIM, so what am I talking about?

Listening to ''Waiting for the Night (Bare)'', by Depeche Mode (Play Count: 14)

April 19, 2006

Fry's Giving Up on Mac Shoppers

Before Apple opened up their much-acclaimed retail stores, there were precious few places you could go to find Macintosh software and hardware. CompUSA, Best Buy, Sears and Fry's were all notorious for steering potential Macintosh customers to Windows devices, leaving machines in permanent crash mode, and generally being completely clueless.

But Apple came to the rescue opening what was known as a "Store Within a Store" at both CompUSA and Fry's, to enhance the customer experience - even staffing the facilities, in some cases. After a while, it was clear Apple was just "practicing" for their move to retail - and customers have found the Apple Store experience far superior to any other merchant. And now, it looks like competing stores aren't putting in the effort they had in recent years, in the face of competition.

Just today, I went to Fry's here in Sunnyvale, looking to see if I could get a backup PowerBook battery. Not only was it nowhere to be found, but the Apple "store within a store" featured such "Mac products" as PocketPC handhelds and USB memory sticks - which have taken over a full aisle in the Mac section of the superstore. I looked up and down neighboring aisles to see if I missed something, but I didn't. They didn't have any thing for me to buy, and didn't make any efforts to gain my business. Now I know just to go straight to the Apple Store itself - which probably will make the situation worse.

Listening to ''Free'', by 4 Strings featuring Sphere (Play Count: 9)

Nation and Media Turning Against Bush

I've chronicled my strong dislike for Bush and his administration's policies frequently here, and it's no secret I'd be eager to see him replaced well before the proposed departure date of January 20th, 2009. It seems that with every day he and his team remain in office, America dies a little. And it's not just figurative speech. Our troops are dying in an ill-defined, ill-led multi-faceted conflict designed on falsified issues, while assaults on our environment, education, and The Constitution lower the quality of life for those who remain here.

Yet today, I was annoyed to hear the loud thumping of multiple helicopters landing near the office as President Bush's cronies prepared for a speech at nearby Cisco Systems. With two white helicopters bearing the US flag, and two military helicopters patrolling the air search for who knows what, it was clear our tax dollars were being spent to have the liar in chief drum up more support (and by support, he means money) in the Silicon Valley - one that has frowned upon the administration's policies on outsourcing and immigration, to the War on Iraq.

But my disdain was not alone. According to a recent Survey USA poll, Bush has strong unfavorable ratings from states that used to be solid "Red" Republican states. The poll shows that with continued blunders, Bush has lost the support of Montana, South Dakota, Colorado, New Mexico and Nevada, to name a few, while those who always opposed him do so with more strength than ever. Aside from the backward South, only Utah, Wyoming and Idaho offer their support, and those states haven't overwhelmed us with any stream of intellectuality.

Meanwhile, famed reporter Carl Bernstein writes in Vanity Fair that the Senate should hold hearings into the Bush Administration's deceit immediately. Additionally, Rolling Stone asks in a cover story, is Bush "The Worst President In History"? It's certainly looking that way. Good luck to us all.

Listening to ''Closer Now'', by Filo & Perl featuring Fischer (Play Count: 5)

April 18, 2006

Morning Notes: April 18, 2006

More in an irregularly occurring series...

On the heels of TiVo's lawsuit victory against EchoStar, it's suggested that the company makes a terrific acquisition candidate... while in the political realm, one author notes that those pushing for a war against Iran have channeled conflicts 70 years old, dredging up Hitler and Churchill and Chamberlain, not updating their rhetoric for a much more modern world.

Meanwhile, in the self-affirmation category, I keep running into new places where people (from Athletics Nation is my guess) have taken the ANtics and repurposed them elsewhere. Some great examples are here and here and here. My favorite part is where one poster claims he doesn't like "Bobby Crosby Wellness Clinic 101", saying "It's interesting...I'm a Crosby fan, so I didn't like them slamming him, but I like the concept.", which results in his friend explaining, "the comic is not slamming him. It is having fun with the fact that he gets injuried and the gist is that A's fans do not want him to be hurt." My feeling? Any comic that needs explanation and proof it's satire, needs work. Time to be less subtle!

Listening to ''Paradise Garage'', by Jam and Spoon (Play Count: 11)

April 17, 2006

What's Next to be Obsolete?

If I took a snapshot of today's technology appliances, they seem fairly useful - and with each passing year (in some cases, more frequently), companies are constantly issuing improvements that make them even more integral to our lives. The cell phone, the laptop, the television - each seems to own a corner in our home that doesn't look to be disrupted. But if you turn the dial back a few years, one uncovers "cutting edge" technology that seems comparably antiquated by today's standards - the 56k dial-up modem, the handheld pager, and even the VCR, are all relics that have been replaced by later, greater, things that have capitalized on the developments of the past, and moved forward.

In my home, our CRT television is probably the first to bite it. We're ready to move to a flat panel that hangs on the wall, and aren't impressed by the machine's girth or picture quality. And yes, our VCR in the other room needs to be replaced with a second TiVo unit, so long as we can stomach the monthly fees. Even our TiVo is a series one, so we're due for an upgrade there... but then what?

I think our wireless base stations are going away in two to three years. With cities and metropolitan areas adopting wide range wireless, sponsored by Google or Earthlink, etc, it may become redundant for us to offer 802.11 at the home. And my iPod, while nice and portable, should also be replaced with a device that offers songs and video on demand from any location, instantly. I may or may not "own" the music, but I can always get to it. The DVD player too will go away, replaced by movies on demand. It's already happening in some areas, and if you combine TiVo with Netflix, you're almost there. Also, personal phone numbers should be just that - for people, and not locations. I shouldn't identify a number with a person's home, work or mobile number - it should just get them anywhere, and the user would opt to be disturbed or not, through their own selection on the communications device.

And as chronicled previously, I've had it up to here with power adapters. If computers are to be truly wireless, we need to learn a way to get power the same way we do Internet - through the air, without exposing us to radiation and sterility. Somebody is going to figure this out and get rich.

There's sure to be more ideas, but one step at a time. I just won't admit to having the equivalent of an 8-track player once we get to that point...

Listening to ''Words (Mana Mix)'', by Paul Van Dyk (Play Count: 7)

April 16, 2006

ANtics Episode 2.8: Swish vs. the Sophomore Slump

Last year, the A's, on the backs of 4 rookies, Huston Street, Nick Swisher, Joe Blanton and Dan Johnson, surprised many by contending all the way through September. With two weeks complete in the 2006 campaign, Swisher is providing power at the plate and strong defense - laughing in the face of the dreaded sophomore slump. Today, we check in to see how he and the other three "smores" are doing.

Click to See Larger Comic

ANtics Archive: 2005/06 ANtics | PDF | Take the Poll

April 15, 2006

Stephen King's Colorado Kid as Flat as Kansas

If you took a look at my bookshelf, you'd learn a few things about me - I can't get enough books on technology and the world of business, and like to surround myself with baseball stories and stats. In fact, the bookshelf is a lot like this blog. But one thing that stands out on the bookshelf, but is missing here, is my decades-long obsession with Stephen King. Starting with "IT" and "The Stand" in the 8th grade, I've consistently sought out everything King's ever written, from the old-school horror books, to his instructional book "On Writing", an instant classic. While others may think of macabre and darkness with King's work, I simply treasure his wit and humor. He is a hilarious, outstanding writer - a living legend.

While on a business trip in Las Vegas late last year, I found The Colorado Kid, a much thinner piece, that bore his name, and added it to my "to do" pile. Having taken it off the pile this last week, there's a good reason why it hasn't raced to the top of the charts or been turned into a full-length feature film like so many of his other pieces. The story, discussing a legendary unsolved murder in a small New England town, is told from the vantage point of the small-town reporters, now ancient, who recalled the case's detail, and the fogies love the story telling. But it doesn't go too far. Sure, there are unknowns and curiosity to the tale, but if you are the type who likes tidied up loose ends and resolution, this isn't the story for you. If you are the type who likes excitement and being scared or thrilled, again, not for you. It's for people like me who would feel lost without having Stephen King's full library - and now, that book is checked off the list, but the piece isn't in his top 40.

Listening to ''Someone Like Me'', by Röyksopp (Play Count: 1)

A's Go Back to Back to Back In the Drizzle

It's said that every time you go to a ballgame, you will see something you have never seen before. While some elements may be formulaic - from sluggers striking out to light-hitting catchers grounding into double plays every time there's a runner on first and less than two outs, the element of surprise makes the difference between a win and a loss for the home team. Today, in a game that at times alternated between needing to cover with umbrellas and that of partly cloudy skies, the A's charged back from a 4-2 deficit against the Rangers on the backs of three consecutive home runs on consecutive pitches in the sixth inning. The first lowered the deficit to one, the second tied it up, and one pitch later, the third put the A's ahead by one - to stay.

For the 16,000 of us who had chosen to brave the elements, the feeling in the stadium was electric - as we saw one veteran A's player followed by two of the A's off-season acquisitions put the nails in the coffin for the visiting team. I had never seen anything like it. The A's, though known for home runs in past years, haven't wowed anyone with the long ball the last few seasons, but 2006 looks like things are a-changing. It's amazing what three swings of the bat can do for an otherwise gray day.

Listening to ''Alpha Male'', by Röyksopp (Play Count: 1)

TiVo Wins Lawsuit Against Echostar, Protects Patents

In case you hadn't already heard, TiVo's aforementioned lawsuit against Echostar for infringement of the company's patents, most specifically related to "time shifting" of television shows, was resolved quickly, with a jury awarding the DVR company more than $73 million in damages, and issuing the first salvo in what could be the first of many court dramas involving TiVo. On the heels of my whining that I had missed out on TiVo's recent stock run from $6 to $8, I had jumped back in at the $8 mark Wednesday, and saw that trade take a positive 22% bounce after market hours Thursday night. While I don't have anything resembling a massive nest egg, I'm definitely picking and pulling wherever I can to increase the bottom line, and this one looks good so far.

Regarding the lawsuit, it's great to see technology innovators rewarded for their investment in R&D (research and development). Too often, competition so closely mimics a product's attributes and offers only price as a differentiator, which while temporarily beneficial to consumers, damages development in the long run, as the original market maker may fall on hard times. Many had speculated that if TiVo lost this round of the lawsuit against Echostar, the company's viability would be very much in jeopardy. For now, that decision has been postponed.

Listening to ''Requiem For A Dream (Leama's D'', by Paul Oakenfold (Play Count: 12)

A's Lose 4th Straight While We Watch On

In what was a "Not so Good Friday" for the A's, my wife and I attended our first regular season game of 2006 as season ticket holders, and saw Barry Zito lead the A's to a 6-3 defeat at the hands of the basement-dwelling Texas Rangers, who somehow posted an early lead and held on, despite solo home runs from off-season additions Frank Thomas and Milton Bradley. Zito fell behind 5-0 early, and despite fans' desperate calls for manager Ken Macha to show a quick hook and get him out of the game, Zito stuck it out a full seven innings, pitching well beyond the 100 pitch count mark.

The game, a Friday night event competing with the Golden State Warriors next door, drew only 14,000 to the newly miniaturized Coliseum, and the wind whipped through, coldly, though we somehow avoided the April showers that have plagued us with seeming perpetuity this last month. We have great seats and enjoyed seeing the team, but obviously weren't too excited about the final outcome. The good news is that division rivals Anaheim and Seattle also lost, leaving the A's only 1/2 game out, and the same two teams go back at it at 1:05 Saturday. We'll be there.

Listening to ''Superfabulous'', by BT (Play Count: 5)

April 13, 2006

Names and Places are a Blur

After the long day, which started very early as previously noted, my half-awake mind labored to guide me home from downtown San Jose, which in itself doesn't sound so rough, but has never been an easy thing for me - as whether we are leaving a San Jose Sharks contest, or are in the downtown area on business, I always seem to muck up my directions home. Today of course was no different, as I found myself on a scenic tour of the San Jose area, looking upwards at the freeway overpasses, which mocked me with their inability to offer available onramps. After a ridiculously circuitous route that showed me areas of the town I didn't knew existed, I literally had ended up a block away from my starting point, and opting for a different route in my second chance at redemption, I eventually found my exit point - though certainly not in the most direct manner.

While San Jose is notoriously bad for me - I must have some form of mental defect that just won't allow me to adapt to places where I'm not familiar. I take known routes to and from places, and if there are deviations from the norm, we have a good chance of being two or three U-turns away from success. If it weren't for Google Maps and Mapquest telling me how to get places - both new and old - I'd probably be a complete disaster. I know it's a weakness, and don't find myself getting better at this skill over time in any way.

Tonight's escapade got me thinking about other mental feats that I completely suck at - and the most obvious follow-up is with names. Even moments after introductions, I cannot remember names - and that can put me in odd situations when somebody more adept remembers who I am and I don't know them, except possibly by face. I may know what company they are from, what job title they hold, or even where I saw them last, but their name may as well be anonymous for as likely as I am to recall it.

My mother is similarly notorious for lacking name memory - and probably isn't the first person I'd call for directions, but those seem like funny excuses to use for maladies such as these. One of these days I'll lose somebody's name in a public setting and damage the relationship - or the next time I'm doing the world tour of your local neighborhood, I'll run out of gas or park on the side of the road for the night. There are just some things my brain isn't programmed well to do.

Listening to ''Superfly'', by Yellow Blackbird (Play Count: 4)

April 12, 2006

I Don't Know How Farmers Do It

Anybody who routinely gets up before the literal crack of dawn should either be given a medal, a raise, or have their head examined. In a quid pro quo deal, I had offered my mother in law a ride to the airport this morning, for a flight set to depart at 7:00 a.m. from San Jose. She routinely plays shuttle service for my trips, including last week, so I obliged despite the idea I would have to take her at 5:45 in the morning, and get up at 5 to be ready.

But the joke was on me. After working on PowerPoint through 1 a.m., I turned right around and got up at 5 to get ready for what will be a long day. However, when her call came in at 5:45, it wasn't because she was downstairs in the parking lot, but instead to inform me I could "go back to bed" as she had another ride to the airport. As if I could just turn around and immediately find the world of slumber - it's never been a skill I hold. So now, my schedule is off by a few hours, and I'll surely be ready to nap by mid-day, just when it wouldn't make any sense to do so.

Up until two I can handle. Up at five? Not my cup of tea.

Listening to ''Second Day'', by Jose Amnesia Vs. Serp (Play Count: 4)

Contrarian Market Advice

If I've learned anything, it's that I really don't have a clue when it comes to guessing how companies will make announcements that impact stocks I hold. Just a month or so ago, I mentioned that I'd played TiVo (TIVO) for a quick 5 percent bump, and jumped out of the stock around $6.00, expecting it wouldn't continue to appreciate. Yet, seemingly after that not-so-bold move, the stock has continued to grow - through $7.50 yesterday on news of their efforts to defend patents against EchoStar.

Now, this morning, we get the news that the company has extended its agreement with DirectTV for an additional three years, after an August 2005 release saying the opposite - that the two companies had parted ways. This too is good news for TiVo, and again, the company stock has jumped, surpassing $8.00 in early trading. That means that I left a full 33% on the table when I sold around $6.00. I hate that. It's called "sellers' remorse", and though I've always been told to lock in profits if you can and not to complain, I hate knowing I played the hand wrong.

In similar news, I've been a Salesforce.com (CRM) stock holder for some time - it's a great service our company uses, and I think Web hosted applications are the way the market is headed. Yet, yesterday, on what would seem to be good news, they acquired a company that will further their reach into wireless devices. While good, the news hit the stock for about 5%, as the adage on the street is the acquiring company is always punished.

While just two examples, it's certainly frustrating to be on the wrong side of a half-educated guess. It'd be wonderful to have a crystal ball that showed what companies planned next. But I guess that's called insider trading, and I probably should steer clear of that.

Listening to ''Messages'', by Solange (Play Count: 4)

April 11, 2006

From TV Shows to the Big Screen

Rapidly moving from the world of rumor to sparsely known fact, two of my favorite shows have recently announced plans to jump from the small screen to the big screen, though the shows are wildly different in nature - one a cartoon that has been on the air for 17 seasons, and the other a thrilling drama that would see some major changes from its current format - needing to compress 24 hours into a 2-hour feature. That's right - both The Simpsons and 24, coincidentally sharing time on the Fox network, are headed for Hollywood - if entertainment sites are to be believed.

It's said that The Simpsons movie trailer debuted in advance of the animated Ice Age 2 in theaters last week, showing Homer Simpson, in his underwear on the couch, fretting about the show's announced start date of July 27, 2007. (IMDB link) The idea of a Simpsons movie is likely as old as the series itself, and has itself been considered an urban legend - joining the Apple tablet PC, and the imminent release of Duke Nukem 3D. But, just like Apple's "surprising" move to Intel and announcement that its machines will now have the capability to run Windows, stranger things have happened, and we may have to adjust to the fable turning to reality.

(You can view The Simpsons Movie teaser on Apple's Web site)

In parallel, Jack Bauer's dominance over all terrorists and worldly threats, along with a new lucrative contract for Kiefer Sutherland, has launched speculation that a 24 movie is next. In fact, Sutherland, playing the role of spoiler, as MTV put it, has confirmed the movie is a go. The show has at times been riveting, and at other times, befuddling with plot twists the actors themselves can't seem to get behind, but for it to go from a 24 one-hour episode format to a single 2-hour format might be the show's biggest challenge yet. The 24 movie would likely hit screens in 2008, though a script is in development.

Listening to ''Lyteo'', by Mr. Sam (Play Count: 1)

Empowering a World of Shut-Ins

A lot of the technology advances in the last decade have been focused on increasing consumer access to information - at the home. Broadband to the home has delivered top of line Internet speeds that rival business access, while cable providers, combined with services like NetFlix, bring Hollywood videos to the home without your having to deal with sticky floors and chatty neighbors. Best of all, you can stay in your own comfortable furniture and pause the darn thing when you want to. And after the first wave of Internet fiascos, like WebVan and MyLackey came and went, retailers like Safeway offer the ability to purchase everything you need to live comfortably and have it delivered to your door. As you can pay for nearly everything by credit cards online as well, there's really no great reason to leave home if you don't want to.

I know for our family, we haven't gone to the movie theater for quite some time, thanks to Netflix and TiVo - and we've reduced our trips to the grocery store, realizing that our time may be worth more than the $9.99 it costs to get somebody else to pick out your groceries, lug them to your home, and deliver them to your door. And the only times I ever write checks are if my wife needs cash, or to pay tithing at church. For some reason, church hasn't yet set up direct deposit - but I've been told the practice of writing it out yourself is supposed to remind of you of the sacrifice you're making.

I'm not advocating we hole ourselves in our musty homes, but the excuses we have to never leave are mounting. If I can convince the office that I'll be telecommuting and using iChat for videoconferencing, you may not ever see me again. But I'll be sure to gain even more weight. Then you wouldn't want to see me anyway.

Listening to ''Carry On'', by Wellenrausch (Play Count: 1)

April 10, 2006

Abort. Retry? Fail.

Just when I thought I had it all figured out, the whole portable iPod strategy didn't pan out this evening. Typically, I utilize my 60 Gigabyte iPod as the primary hard drive at the office, and unmount it to take home - either for more work, or for what it was originally intended - as an entertainment device. Yet, today, as I had planned on putting additional late hours slaving over presentations, I hooked up the iPod to the laptop only to find the presentation I had put hours into at the office was back to its original state - updated at mid-day.

Apparently, I had saved the presentation onto the corporate network, and for some foolish purpose, had continued operating on that file instead of the local iPod copy. So, I booted up the Dell PC and connected to the corporate VPN to retrieve the file. While I had found it, with my updates, it too was not salvageable, saying I needed a higher version of Quicktime, simply to view some of the images I had thrown onto PowerPoint. Yuck. Needless to say, I scrapped it, and am now going through and recreating the slides again - but with a different process, to avoid those issues. And yes - this time, we are saving to the iPod. So frustrating!

Listening to ''Linking People'', by Giuseppe Ottaviani (Play Count: 1)