July 31, 2006

More Sports Graphs Than You Can Shake a Bat At

I've sometimes joked that the reason I like baseball isn't for the sport - it's for the statistics. Nowadays, there are so many varieties and permutations of statistics that can break down every little detail of a player, a team, a ballpark or a manager - sometimes to the point of over-analysis. But that doesn't stop the mathematically-oriented of us from finding new ways to address a simple pleasure through absolute geekdom.

One great site to deliver sports statistics through a mainline drip is called Fangraphs, best represented by the charts which show the Win Expectancy (WinExp) of a team throughout a game. Know that feeling you get when you know your team's going to win, and the inevitable roller coaster downwards when they cough up the lead (see yesterday's game)? FanGraphs has a graph sure to match your anxiety level.

Take a look at yesterday's game with the A's against the Blue Jays. Once cruising along with an 80% chance of victory, the A's gave away the lead, and reversed the odds, against them, only to storm back with one Milton Bradley swing. The chart does justice that words cannot. Check out the rest of the site for more goodness.

New Pet Shop Boys Album is Fundamental

In the 1980s, the Pet Shop Boys forged their unique sound on the radio waves and dance floor with "Always on My Mind", "Left to My Own Devices", "West End Girls" and other hits. But after their 1991 Discography greatest hits album, all went silent for the duo, as time tends to take its toll on bands of all flavors.

Imagine my surprise today when I saw that iTunes was featuring a brand new album by the Pet Shop Boys, called Fundamental. The CD, or that which I've heard so far, hearkens back to the original sounds and tunes that made the band famous in the first place. Anybody who fell in love with the sounds of the Pet Shop Boys, New Order, and Information Society, not to mention a host of others in this period, will at least want to give a cursory glance to the latest offering from the band.

And isn't it great knowing I don't have to go to Tower Records or Amazon to get this music? iTunes always has it, and it's just a download away. Thank God for Apple.

Listening to ''Psychological'', by Pet Shop Boys (Play Count: 1)

Off to Boston for a Week

After a few months of relative stability, we're hitting the road again - this time heading East, to Boston, Massachusetts, where we will be staying through Saturday, when we return to the Bay Area. Though I expect to have full Web access, my daytime activity, all work-related, will surely disrupt anything resembling regular posting.

Maybe, if you're good, we'll present pictures, but no guarantees.

Where We'll Be This Week

Listening to ''Integral'', by Pet Shop Boys (Play Count: 1)

July 30, 2006

Bradley Makes AN Day 3 One to Never Forget

Cross-posted on Athletics Nation...

If any A's fans were on the fence regarding Milton Bradley before today, they've made sure to jump on The Gamer's back now, after he struck the final blow, a three-run shot with two outs in the bottom of the ninth, to bring the A's back from the jaws of defeat, sending them off the homestand victorious, having taken 3 of 4 from the Blue Jays. Since the All-Star Break, Bradley has been a giant among men for the A's, and his walkoff, the first of his career, was as dramatic as you'll see.

But beyond the final swing (what  a swing!) some elements cannot be overlooked.

* Mark Kotsay was ridiculously great in forcing a 12-pitch walk from vaunted Blue Jay closer B.J. Ryan, extending the game. He fouled off seven pitches, and took ball four, bringing Bradley to the plate as the potential winning run.

* Huston Street picked up the victory, but also proved many ANers right by folding in the 9th after sitting on the bench after having closed out the 8th. As we've seen a number of times this season, Huston hasn't had the tenacity to save a game when called upon to get more than three outs. To reach the status of a Mariano Rivera or other storied closers, he will need to develop this skill.

* Eric Chavez! The guy's hurting. We all know it, but he hasn't asked to take a day off. Even as his hitting is returning (he was in the 5 spot today, going 1 for 4), his defense is still top-notch. He was a defensive machine today, getting everything that went his way.

* And lastly, Shane Komine. Though he didn't pick up the victory in his major league debut, he left the game after six full with the A's on top. After the first pitch, he took the ball and threw it into the dugout for a keepsake, but the next pitch was a home run by the Jays' leadoff batter, giving the fan a keepsake themselves. After that, he was nearly lights-out, finishing with only four hits and four walks to go with the one run. He could be a great alternative to Saarloos if the league doesn't figure him out.

AN Day 3 could not have ended better. There was much more about AN Day 3 to discuss, and it will be discussed, with photos, but for now, we can rest in the glow we all felt when Bradley mashed that final pitch over the wall. For yet another day, the A's will go to bed in first place... alone.

Some sneak peek photos from AN Day 3... which saw A's GM Billy Beane and radio broadcaster Ken Korach entertain us with their stories and answering Q&A before the game, which also saw the first 15,000 receive Dan Haren bobbleheads at the gate. Billy Beane said he didn't expect any big moves to happen at the trading deadline, so barring a near-term apocalypse, we can all rest easy regarding Zito. I'll let others recap those discussions, but to whet your appetites, here are three images from AN Day 3. Others more adept at photography will no doubt follow with pictures that include more of the AN crew!

Click for a larger version of each...

Dan Haren strikes a pose with the Coliseum in the background.

Ken Korach talking to Blez prior to the game, with Beane listening.

Billy Beane answering questions from AN with Korach and Blez listening.

For a group photo of the AN crew listening to Billy Beane and Ken Korach, you could click here. I warn you... Nico and I are too closely featured. You've been warned.

Apple Rumors: iPhone to Debut In August

An Apple rumor a day keeps Steve Jobs away. Or so it seems. On what should have been a lazy Saturday in the rumor mill for the Cupertino computer and digital device maker, the Web is aflurry with yet another discussion about the often-rumored and never seen, iPhone. It's been suggested pretty much ever since Apple debuted the iMac in 1998 that a move to cellular phones was next - and that the company would leverage is unparalleled design and user interface abilities to rock the worlds of Motorola and rest of the handset developers. 

With the subsequent debuts of the iPod in 2001, and work with Motorola on the Rokr and Slvr, Apple continues to draw attention to something they haven't mentioned - the iPhone. Even the most ardent of Cupertino followers is probably tired of this news cycle - as they've only been told about the Cupertino-owned URL www.iphone.org about 10 million times. But that news cycle is back, in one of those "A friend of a friend told me" type of deals. Engadget is now saying that an insider familiar with the commercial production for many of Apple's projects has seen the sleekest cell phone ever, and that it will debut in August - as if Steve Jobs has such loose control over the company that this helpful piece of data would just fall out of their mouths...

But that's not all in Apple land tonight. It turns out that the company's current products are humming along very nicely now too. As the company makes the third major transition in the last decade, over to Intel, not all of the company's faithful customers (myself included) have yet made the switch, and as eWeek writes, there just may be a "perfect storm" of Macintosh sales on the horizon, which in my hopes, would propel AAPL stock to new heights unseen in recent times. With my portfolio rebounding, it'd be great to have Apple pushing us well beyond our current position. Maybe, with my new iPhone, I could call my broker (if I had one) and tell him to buy, buy, buy AAPL stock. That'd be a kick. Now we just have to wait a month. Maybe. If the rumors are true...

Listening to ''Flowerz'', by Armand Van Helden (Play Count: 6)

July 28, 2006

A's Refusing to Leave First Place Spot

For all the weeping and wailing and gnashing of teeth one has seen from A's fans of late, you would think the team was a cellar dweller, approaching only the Kansas City Royals and Pittsburgh Pirates for prolonged futility. But, following a two-game winning streak, the team has opened up a minute 1/2 game lead over the charging Los Angeles Angels, and continues to be atop of the American League Western Division.

The A's, who had a horrible May and an outstanding June, have treaded water in July, but somehow managed to never let go of first place, holding it solely or tied for the spot for the entire month, if memory serves. And this has happened despite not having the team's best pitcher practically all year, and despite lingering injuries to key players including Eric Chavez, Bobby Crosby, Milton Bradley and Frank Thomas. The team's offense hasn't really wowed anybody of late, but for some odd reason, they are still managing to outscore the other team more times than not.

I've seen this phenomenon in person - most recently on Wednesday, when I played hooky from the office to see the A's beat the Red Sox 5-1, in a mixed partisan crowd, of whom approximately 40 percent were Boston fans. I also attended Monday night's game, which the A's lost, and am set to be at the Oakland Coliseum through the weekend before traveling to Boston myself (for work, not baseball).

In a screed on Athletics Nation, I wrote Tuesday that fans' need to be negative derives from their need to be first to make a claim, but if we could all exercise patience, one will see the A's don't intend to go quietly, and they'll be in a race for the playoffs all season long.

Listening to ''Another Woman'', by Moby (Play Count: 7)

Why Snail Mail (and the USPS) Stinks

Not too long ago, I wrote that Amazon.com's best times had come and gone, that the online retailer didn't offer too much value in a world where iTunes and others offered immediate satisfaction. With recent rumors that Apple is looking to provide eBook support in iTunes and on iPod going forward, that could eliminate yet another media where Amazon has traditionally had the lead.

But even beyond Amazon, the entire concept of the US Postal Service at times seems to defy the space-time continuum.

On July 21st, I broke my 'No Amazon' policy, ordering a few titles on business, PR and marketing for the office. For some reason, I wasn't alerted until July 25th that the shipment had been configured and released to USPS. The next day, July 26th, it was said that my shipment had left the USPS facility in Richmond, CA on its way to our San Jose, CA office. Should be a snap, right? I could drive that in less than an hour.

But the shipment didn't arrive Wednesday. And the shipment didn't arrive Thursday either. In fact, checking on the USPS site simply reminds me that the shipment left Richmond two days ago, without any progress. You mean to tell me it hasn't been assigned to somebody to just pick up and take down to the South Bay? That makes no sense.

In dramatic contrast, UPS and FedEx tell you exactly where your shipments are, and you know when you'll get them. With the US Postal Service, it's one great mystery in the sky.

Listening to ''Cyborg'', by M83 (Play Count: 5)

July 23, 2006

One Full Year Of... The ANtics

It's been a full year since the ANtics showed up and became a weekly feature on Athletics Nation. On July 24, 2005, Episode 1 of the ANtics: "Focus on Fundamentals" debuted, and the A's young stars tried to teach us a thing or two about the core elements of the game.

Since then, in the subsequent 30+ episodes of the ANtics, we've learned that Ken Macha knows Kung Fu, that Eric Byrnes so hates his old team that he's cursed them to sweeps against his current team not just once, but twice, that Stomper prefers warm-weather climates and wants to be assistant GM, that Ellis's shrink calls Crosby "Source of Pain", that Zito needs to keep his hair short in order to play well, that Barry Bonds has a certain attraction to our shortstop's rear, and that Swisher would seriously kill in order to defend his new buddy, Frank Thomas.

Of course, there's been a lot more than just those highlights. I thought you'd enjoy a trip down memory lane, celebrating one full year of the ANtics. You can even flip page by page, just like a real comic book!

ANtics 2005: A Flip-book for last year's comics.

ANtics 2006: A Flip-book for this year's comics.

ANtics Episode 2.22: Tips to Win it All

Nearly 100 games into the season, three teams are within a game of the lead of the AL West, with the A's leading the pack. As things heat up (pretty much everywhere, including on the field), the ANtics has some words of advice for the green and gold.

Click to See Larger Comic

ANtics Archive: 2005/06 ANtics | Hi-Res PDF (20 MB)

July 22, 2006

On Blogs: The Desire to Break the News First

Getting the scoop is a big deal for any self-respecting journalist, as in the competitive media landscape, any edge you can get through find out a news nugget or covering a story for your readers and viewers can drive up your sales, ratings, etc. Scoops lead to awards, and recognition, improved pay, and prestige.

On the Internet, the number of blogs out there is conservatively estimated to be in the tens of millions. While some aim to be personal journals or shout-outs to friends and family, others act as media augmentation or substitutes, covering general news, or specific focuses, in sports, technology, politics, etc. But as there are so many people talking and creating noise, some of the elements of offline media have themselves moved to the blogosphere, including the idea of scoops, sometimes good, and sometimes... not so much.

With the simplicity of posting entries to blogs, an idea or a rumor can go from thought to live in mere minutes. Now, instead of doing fact-checking, double sourcing and even proof-reading, blogs are rife with getting news out first, all in a plan to gain readership, get the most comments, or have their own story posted to Digg, Slashdot, or any other one of the popular news aggregators. It's something clearly feeding on itself.

You can even take it down another level. With Athletics Nation being a great test case, you see posters who are calling for the team's beheading after one bad game, a bad play, bad at bat, or a bad pitch. The idea behind being the first to make an outlandish claim, no matter how foolish, is that in the possibility you are right, people can look back at you and bask in your aura that you were right, and the first to do so. You're a friggin' prophet. And if you're wrong, make the same prediction the following day, and you just might get right the next time. By then, you are a hero who lives on the edge - albeit in the face of reality.

But whether you're a disgruntled A's fan, an Apple rumormonger, or a stock aficionado sure that your penny stock is going to make us millions, blogging has given us all new tools to decrease the news cycle - and some are doing so regardless of the consequences. I believe that as with most media, the cream will eventually rise to the top - those sites that dominate in credibility as well as speed will triumph over those sites and those individuals who crave speed over accuracy. You can only try to fool us too many times.

Listening to ''Pole Folder & CP - Apollo Vibe'', by Bedrock (Play Count: 5)

Apple iPod & iTunes to Support eBooks?

Another day, another rumor for the Cupertino computer and gadget company. While predicting Apple's latest move is a household hobby across greater geekdom, occasionally the prognosticators get it right. Today, Engadget is saying that Apple is moving to expand the iTunes Music Store's reach beyond music and TV shows, to add electronic books. Presumably, these eBooks could also be displayed on their iPod lineup, especially when the next generation debuts, with more screen space, which would allow for book reading.

Engadget writes that "According to a source at a major publishing house, they were just ordered to archive all their manuscripts -- every single one -- and send them over to Apple's Cupertino HQ." That's interesting. Now, I don't know if I'd sit in front of my iPod and try to read the latest Stephen King novel, but given I'll surf the Web with the Blackberry, and used to read eBooks on my Handspring Visor, there just may be a market for this. The question is, do the youth of today want to read books any more in the first place?
Listening to ''Live 4 Music (Original Edit)'', by DJ Shog (Play Count: 5)

San Francisco Bay Area Is Sweltering

Growing up in "extreme Northern California", it wasn't too uncommon to see the thermometer break triple digits in the summer. Chico and Redding especially offered up 110 degree days a few times a year. But since starting school at Berkeley in 1995, I've had 11 years to get used to a much more temperate climate in the Bay Area, one that makes you feel that 55 is chilly, and 85 is absurdly warm.

Our condo tends to exacerbate that problem. On the fourth and top floor of our complex, with high ceilings, our home easily traps the heat, and the sun's movement through the sky parallels our glass windows, cooking everything inside. Just yesterday, after coming home from the office, our stand-alone air conditioner reported the inside heat was a blistering 87, making us just that much more sluggish. Our beagle, though cute, pants all day with her pink tongue hanging out. And when possible, she lays directly in front of the fan (where she is now).

After a night of hoping everything would cool off, we were already at 79 indoors by 10 this morning, and it should continue to rise, regardless of our efforts, and will stay hot for days afterwards, if weather forecasts are to be believed. The Chronicle reports "no relief is in sight", while wire services show that California utilized a record amount of electricity, without fear of rolling blackouts, thanks to an avoidance of manipulation, commonly seen in the time of Enron.

We're not moving, and maybe someday we'll have a better solution to staying cool inside, but the next few weeks should be steamy.

Previous posts on this topic: 2006 Is Hottest Year on Record in the US, The Climate Crisis

Listening to ''Dido'', by DJ Tiesto (Play Count: 6)

July 21, 2006

Microsoft Announces iPod Killer: Coming Zune

Microsoft is a poor, confused, shell of the company it once was. Recent months have seen the company's founder, Bill Gates, step down as CEO, the company continues to be under fire from anti-trust regulators in Europe, fined several hundred million Euros, and earlier this week, the company went out of its way to try and convince the world that not only was it not a monopoly, but it was actually very friendly to competition - through a pair of press releases that outlined the company's new rules of order, so to speak.
(Microsoft.com: Tenets of Competition)

If that weren't enough, sitting on a mountain of cash, the company finally bowed to pressure from investors, opting to repurchase $20 billion in stock, to reduce the number of shares outstanding. If you're a company the size of Microsoft, and you can't find an array of small to medium sized companies to purchase with that cash, then you just could be very lost. And with the company's online ventures fading, momentum has moved towards truly innovative companies like Apple, Google and a host of Web 2.0 players.

With that as a backdrop, Microsoft proved Apple right by announcing it would indeed try and rattle Apple's dominance of the music world - by introducing a new hard-disk player and music store called Zune. With Apple announcing a blowout quarter this week, and the iTunes/iPod combo owning that space, even in light of competition from MP3-playing cell phones, Microsoft is for once the persnickety upstart. And though data on the new Zune is limited, some of the specs look downright familiar - the device is rectangular, at least one model will be white, with rounded corners, it will feature a video screen for photos, videos and music, and even the buttons mimic that of the third-generation iPods from Apple. But Microsoft is rumored to have upped the ante by introducing WiFI, and will aggressively go after iTunes Music Store customers by opting to pay for their song libraries to be replaced with their own service.

Microsoft started out life as a software company, doing programming languages, before migrating to desktop applications and operating systems. Now, with the XBox and soon to debut, Zune, the baby chick has strayed far from the nest. By going it alone, analysts are already saying that Microsoft stands to alienate partners moreso than gain new friends. And that just might make Apple that much stronger - not that I anticipate them looking forward to the media hype and advertising onslaught sure to befall us this fall.

Additional coverage on Zune... practically everywhere. (Engadget, BetaNews, TechCrunch)

Listening to ''Fahrenheit 3D3'', by Orbital (Play Count: 5)

Still Ignoring Mac OS X 10.4.7

On the home laptop, just after midnight, every night, Mac OS X reminds me that I still haven't downloaded the latest update to my OS, 10.4.7. As if downloading that mere point upgrade were going to change my life or something. Though it's installed at work, I'm just not down with downloading something that may or may not deliver me any benefits, and forcing myself to restart. One of the major reasons to have a Mac and not a PC is to avoid restarts. Unless somebody gives me a good reason to download the darn thing, I may just wait until 10.5 ships to make any changes. Mac OS X is outstanding already.

Listening to ''Ecstasy (Original Airplay Mix)'', by ATB (Play Count: 7)

July 20, 2006

Top Ten Addictions (That I'll Admit To)

1. My wife. Before I get things thrown at me, claiming I'm a sentimental sap, it's true. She just happens to be really cute, a fun companion, and smart, too! Though it's not always easy to admit it, every minute of every day, we're both darn lucky we're not single. Anybody who will put up with my other 9 addictions, in no particular order, and still manages to be unique herself, is worth keeping.

2. The Internet. Try and get me to take a vacation that doesn't involve easy access to high-speed Internet... it's not going to happen. I'm on the laptop first and last things each day.

3. My job. At each stop in my career, I've been all-consumed to exceeding expectations. If that sounds like a sorry first line to a resume, so be it. But hardly a minute goes by when I'm not either thinking about a project, or strategizing on where to take the next one. The goal is to make the company bigger and better because I've been part of it, and for them to know I helped.

4. Humor. It sounds generic, but if I'm not actively seeking out witty sarcasm through The Daily Show, The Simpsons, Arli$$, or This Modern World (to name a few), it's me making up the nonsense. I've usually got a crooked grin hiding the fact that something has internally struck me funny, and there's just not a good outlet for it yet. Other times, I let the words go, and so long as it's funny to me, that works well.

5. Competition. Again, generic. But I yearn for it. I hate losing, and I love fighting to come out on top, whether that's in a game of cribbage against my 78-year-old father in law, Trivial Pursuit against my wife, a pickup game of H-O-R-S-E with my colleagues, or in business. Competition stokes the inner fires and pushes me to get better at whatever I want to.

6. Oakland A's baseball. If the game's on, I know the score. Doesn't matter if I'm at the game, in the car, on the road, or at the office. Even if I'm not actively participating in the gameday thread at Athletics Nation, part of my mind is on the game.

7. Techno music. I almost always have some kind of techno beat in my head. Techno and electronic music is why Mozart came and died. This is the end result of all those composers who made names for themselves in history. Techno gives me energy and enjoyment for pretty much any situation.

8. Diet Coke. Now that's traditional, isn't it? In my teens, I simply didn't have enough money required to sponsor my addiction, but by the time I got to college, and into the workforce, I was only too happy to oblige. Good thing I switched away from the full-octane stuff my junior year at UC Berkeley. Otherwise, I'd be even more heavy.

9. E-mail. While you could argue that it's a subset of the Internet, it really has earned its own spot, especially with the advent and adoption of the Blackberry, which brings e-mail with me, no matter where I go. If you ever want to see a businessman fidget, take his Blackberry away. They literally will reach for it, only to see the face fall when their body realizes it's gone.

10. TiVo! Though the summer months don't help me renew my vows with TiVo as often as the rest of the year, this black, rectangular box does my bidding every day, whenever I ask, and it really does wait for me to be ready to spend time with it. It entertains me for hours, and never asks to be taken for a walk (sorry to Molly, our 16-year-old beagle) or reminds me when the mortgage is due.

Evening Tech Notes: July 20, 2006

I'm finding that there is a great deal of blogging about ... blogging. In fact, this self-inspective navel gazing is getting almost as much play as the actual contents that many key bloggers were trying to get around when they put their fingers to laptops around the world - whether they were telling a unique story, or acting as news feeds and commentary for technology, sports, politics or special interests. The Washington Post, after a thorough survey, found that the "typical" blogger was under the age of 30, had a hard time convincing more than friends or family to visit their site, and very few expect to make money from it. That's probably fairly accurate. Like almost any venture, a very small percentage of businesses or sites will make it, while the majority will fail - or become non-profits.

Following Apple's big quarterly announcements yesterday, it's no surprise that a fair number of Apple detractors are trying to find a way to poke holes in the computer/iPod maker's story. Robert Scoble, formerly of Microsoft, and now spinning podcasts at PodTech, says that MP3-capable cellphones are eating into the iPod's market share. Funny thing is, I've never, ever, seen anybody walk around listening to songs on their cell phone, but we can't go a few feet on a crowded sidewalk without seeing white earbuds. Meanwhile, Scoble himself is going to work on podcasts at PodTech, that without the iPod, either wouldn't exist, or would be named something completely different. Amusing.

And do you remember in the late 1990s when two companies would say they had a partnership, even if it were just on paper, and both stocks would jump? And then, do you remember when that all looked a bit silly? Well, Steve Rubel says the "I love you, you love me" releases are coming back, baby!

In case you thought I had missed it, rarely does a tech update go through without discussing Google - the biggest brand out there right now. But if you think about it, and Henry Blodget does on Internet Outsider, less than a decade ago, Google didn't exist, and it wasn't until a few years ago that they figured out how to make money. Somewhere, somebody in a garage is thinking about the next big thing. Or maybe it's taking a medium-sized company just a little bit longer to get there. But Google has accomplished some amazing things in a very short time, and as he writes, that can't be disregarded.

Listening to ''Warung Beach'', by John Digweed (Play Count: 4)

July 19, 2006

2006 Is Hottest Year On Record In the US

Global warming has graduated from the realm of theory to the level of full-blown, well documented phenomenon. While some in the US media tend to act impartial, straddling the fence on the issue, as if there is still some debate over reality, the heat continues to build, and once again, we see thermometers warning us that we may be beyond the point of no return, especially if people's actions do not change dramatically.

Reuters issued a story this evening that shows the first six months of 2006 were the hottest ever recorded, dating back to 1895. Just this week, the nation experienced 100-plus degree temperatures from California (trust me, we know) to South Dakota and Kansas.

Anybody who hasn't seen An Inconvenient Truth or continues to believe that our actions aren't having serious, potentially irreversible impact on this planet, is fooling themselves. We have got to get more vocal as a society in pushing for change and electing leaders who are willing to take a stand for truth and reason instead of fear and ignorance - or we're toast.

Listening to ''The Love Thieves'', by Depeche Mode (Play Count: 5)

Apple Earnings Impress On All Counts

Wall Street can be fickle. With many companies of late making headlines due to SEC notices, earnings warnings and improperly forecast inventory levels, the market has not been a "happy fun zone" for some time - as even those companies that have been setting record earnings quarter after quarter have not escaped the analysts' wrath. Just last week, Apple stock fell when one analyst from Credit Suisse First Boston suggested that the company would miss earnings or forecast a revenue slowdown, based on rumored new iPod delays.

They were wrong. Big time.

After the stock market's close today, Apple announced the second-highest quarterly revenue and earnings in the company's history, on the back of more than 1.3 million Macintosh computers sold, and in excess of 8 million iPods. Also, the company reported that its new Intel-based Macs are flying off the shelves, comprising a full 75% of all Mac sales in the quarter.

Lucky for me, I had re-invested in Apple just last week, in an attempt to once again throw good money after bad, hoping to lower my overall share purchase price, and to benefit more greatly from the potential uptick in the stock. Not only did Apple stock rise by more than $1 a share during regular market trading, but the stock is up more than $4 a share (8+%) after hours, making me enough in about an hour to get a new MacBook for free, should I choose to throw my new cash that way.

With my Mac at work aging, now six years old, it's time to get a refresh. With Apple supporting Windows and Mac OS X together on one machine, we could add to Apple's bottom line in the upcoming quarter by getting an awesome new business machine.

Listening to ''Ian Richardson - Assume Nothing'', by Dave Clarke (Play Count: 9)

Utilizing Presidential Powers - Or Not

It seems that commentary on the current administration will nearly write itself - for the truth is even more bizarre than fiction. Even the most new presidential observers recall how President Clinton was charged with mirroring "Wag the Dog" when he ordered airstrikes in the wake of the Monica Lewinsky scandal. Suggestions were made that as in the movie, a war was manufactured to boost ratings - effectively implementing a Hollywood presidency, and not a DC presidency.

Turning the page forward a few years, we've seen much worse, more tragic, realities. A state of constant war, and wave after wave of misinformation and redirection. Scandals much darker than anything that ever engulfed Clinton have come and gone with regularity - as our civil liberties are increasingly being threatened, and nothing seems outside the grasp of the political elite. But while Bush and Cheney have demanded ever-greater powers for the executive branch, and unprecedented secrecy, George has neglected those things that traditionally define the presidency, choosing to spend months out of each year on vacation in Crawford rather than in Washington, and never even once exercising the power to veto bills from Congress. Representing what historically had been recognized as the fiscally conservative party, George has never even once vetoed any portion of any spending bills - as the country as been racking up hundreds of billions in dollars of deficits, just one administration after the surpluses of Clinton/Gore, which had turned back the clock on decades of deficits from Reagan and Bush Sr.

But now it looks like at least one of those things will change - as Bush is poised to issue his first veto after more than five and a half years in office - not to pronounce any dramatic point of order in business or domestic policy, but instead, to block science, stopping the research into stem cells that could lead to dramatic findings in the research community for decades to come. Instead of really trying to find Osama Bin Laden, or really trying to restore order in Iraq through establishing a stable government and police force, or even offering armor to our troops so that they are protected, Bush is instead once again stopping science - just as the administration continues to deny the reality of issues like global warming and evolution. One has to wonder what their elementary school teachers did that was so horrible to turn them away from the subject forever...

As Americans, we have to recognize that this isn't just an average presidency going through a mediocre spell. This is record-breakingly bad. George W. Bush, who ascended to the presidential throne through trickery and legalese, including a 5-4 majority Supreme Court appointment, is etching his name in stone as the very worst presidency this once-proud country has ever had. It's just head-shakingly ugly.

Listening to ''Prosac'', by DJ Tomcraft (Play Count: 8)

July 18, 2006

Late Night Sports Notes: July 18, 2006

Heck... if I can devote a whole entry just to technology notes, then why leave out sports?

The A's, despite a good start by rookie pitcher Jason Windsor, who was making his major league debut, fell at the hands of the Baltimore Orioles by a score of 5-3 this evening. Meanwhile, hot on the A's heels are the Anaheim (err... Los Angeles) Angels, who have won seven straight and crept to within a half of game of the division lead. However, at this point, the A's continue to hold first place, though every loss makes things just that much more dicey. Amazing how all the good feelings from taking 3 of 4 against Boston can be erased with one down game.

Switching gears, and sports, my latest entry to Sactown Royalty, which marked Kenny Smith's entry into #14 on the all-time Sacramento Kings roster, was posted shortly after midnight tonight. Kenny only lasted 2+ seasons at Arco Arena, and made more of a name for himself with the Houston Rockets, gaining two championships, and later as a TV analyst for TNT, taking potshots from Charles Barkley on a nightly basis.

Listening to ''Do You Feel the Same'', by Ian Van Dahl (Play Count: 11)

Apple Rumors Time Approaching (Again)

It's a mere three weeks until the next big Apple-related expo, the World Wide Developers' Conference (WWDC). Along with the MacWorld Expo, held every January, WWDC is one of the biggest opportunities for the Mac and iPod maker to unveil Steve Jobs, and for Jobs to unveil the latest and greatest in hardware and software. And as with any good Apple shindig, the rumors fly fast and furious until there's "just one more thing"...

This year is no different. While Microsoft has stolen some of the limelight on the back of the rumor that they will soon be releasing an iPod clone with WiFi and additional features, Think Secret says that Apple's reading some announcements of their own - one claiming that iTunes will be extended to include movie rentals, and the other, that the second-generation iPod Nano is just around the corner.

The new Nano? According to the site, it will be available with larger capacities, and a wide variety of colors. Meanwhile, the next-generation iPod could grow as large as 80 gigabytes, equalling the space on my PowerBook! Yet, as is common, with a few weeks left, more rumors are expected, and many will be wrong.

Listening to ''Dark Sympathy" by Jerry Bonham (Play Count: 4)

July 17, 2006

Top Ten Recent Documentaries

We've seen quite a few documentaries lately, enough so that a top ten is in order, ranging from politics to nature, business and the spelling bee.

1. Fahrenheit 9/11

Still among the elite in bringing home the horror of an unforgettable day, while stirring up the knowledge we all had that more could have been done, and that our filthy, guilty administration didn't go out of their way to protect us before or afterwards.

2. An Inconvenient Truth

As covered here before, a must-see film that will change the way you look at your role in the environment. I will be getting a hybrid car now. That's almost a given.

3. Super Size Me

A hilarious send-up of big fat America with McDonalds as the star. Not that it stopped me from continuing to eat fast-food.

4. Startup.com

Often hitting way too close to home, this film covers the rise and fall of GovWorks. We cringe at the CEO's hubris and feel for the office minions who get swept up in the dream, only to see it crash down.

5. Spellbound

Brings me back to win I was garnering trophies as a geeky elementary school super-speller. I made "states" twice, but no further.

6. Outfoxed

A stinging rebuke of the idea that Fox News is "fair and balanced". Exposes the network as a crock. Which we knew already, but loved seeing.

7. The Smartest Guys in the Room

A look into how Enron stole from California, Texas and pretty much everyone.

8. Bowling for Columbine

The American gun culture is ridiculous. Michael Moore makes Charles Heston look silly in his role heading the NRA, while also showing us why we all should just up and move to Canada.

9. March of the Penguins

A cute, Antarctic story following the hopeful trek to mate and reproduce, made more difficult by frigid winds, and the fact one has to waddle for miles.

10. Going Upriver: The Long War of John Kerry

An almost-forgotten piece that tried to help Kerry when the liars behind the "Swift Boat Veterans" were running amok. Worth seeing, even now that he's lost.

The Smartest Guys In the Room

After reading the book by the same name earlier this year (or late last year), it only made sense to bring the Enron story home, by hitting up Netflix again and seeing the exploratory documentary that aimed to help us understand how the once-proud energy giant fooled customers, employees, bankers and Wall Street, growing to the 7th-largest company in the world, only to collapse in a historic meltdown that wiped out pensions for thousands, and set the securities world on its ear - where repercussions are still being felt today in boardrooms across America.

As usual, I would defer to the book as being substantially more strong than the film. The book helps to fully comprehend the magnitude of the financial tomfoolery, well detailed and documented, and mastered by CFO Andy Fastow, CEO Jeff Skilling and the late Chairman Ken Lay. Yet, the film brings home the pictures and comments depicting scenes like the California rolling blackouts that occurred largely in part due to market manipulation by Enron, and more directly tying the federal government's enabling the illegalities, in large part due to the close ties between Enron and both George W. Bush and his father.

While one can't directly state that Enron was solely responsible for any of the activities, the way that the company influenced the recall of Gray Davis, the stock market's dramatic declines in 2001 and beyond, the annihilation of Arthur Andersen, and development of Sarbanes Oxley, is jaw-dropping.

It's hard to see really where the business ended and the fraud began, and even harder to see what could have been done to prevent it - especially in a fast-paced market that demanded ever-growing profits, profit margins, and an inflated stock price. We've seen other companies post-Enron, like Worldcom, Global Crossing and Tyco follow suit in the corruption chain, but we were all a part of it, from the lowly investor who sat mouth agape at CNBC's flowing ticker, to the highest positions in our national government, and in our financial institutions.

If you haven't read the book, do it. If you prefer the DVD, go get that. But make sure you take the opportunity to go beyond the headlines of Enron - and see how the smartest guys in the room took us all for a ride.

Listening to ''Tribe & Trance (Voyager Remix)'', by John Digweed (Play Count: 6)

July 16, 2006

Evening Tech Notes: July 16, 2006

If you are an avid Dilbert reader, then you know employees are frequently promoted up to the point of their adequate level of incompetence. And unfortunately, that can often be seen in the corporate world. Unfortunately, when companies begin to drag or decline, it is the low-level, hard-working stiffs who traditionally feel the sting during layoffs, while overpaid, overfed, underworked managers slide by. Interestingly, this isn't the case at Intel, who opted to cut 1,000 manager positions in a wide layoff announced last week, which may not be the company's last. Mini-Microsoft notes this fresh thinking, and says just about every project has one too many layers of management in between it and success.

Prior to growing too large, of course, there are a number of steps companies need to take in order to get on the right track in the first place. Though Guy Kawasaki has done a tremendous job with his famous "Top Ten" lists and "The Art of the Start", Red Eye VC outlines how those funding a venture need to trust person #1 - the entrepreneur themselves.

It looks more and more like Microsoft is aiming to compete directly with the iPod later this year, with a me-too MP3 player offering, with some new features including video games and WiFi. Even the most ardent of Apple rumor sites don't believe Apple will have WiFi by the time Microsoft does. The question is - will this be the one that finally knocks iPod off the medal stand? (GigaOM, Seattle Times)

A Week of Silence

My apologies - as this blog has hardly been updated at all this week - and I don't have any amazing stories of trips or excitement to blame it on either. It was simply a combination of spending too many hours at work, combined with evening activities nearly every day, and as you know, the evening is when the overwhelming majority of posts to the site take place, largely due to my "no blogging from the office" policy.

So here's a quick rundown on what you missed (you'll see it's not overwhelming)...

On Saturday, we attended "Chez Nico II", the twice-annual get-together of local Athletics Nation fans to watch a baseball game together at one of the site editor's homes. Though the group managed to cheer on Esteban Loaiza to a win against the rival Giants in the previous visit, this week's celebration was well.... less celebratory, as the A's flubbed their way to a 7-0 loss at the hands of the Red Sox, in a game that saw their leading hitter plunked by one of the most-hated men in all of professional baseball, Curt Schilling. On a more positive note, the team did take the other three games in the series, and are now a game ahead of Texas in the AL West standings.

On Friday, we had a fun evening at home while three friends came over for chatting and a good home-cooked meal (something my wife excels at). I, of course, monopolized the couple's eight-month old baby, and was only semi-joking when I said they could leave him behind when they needed to go. Sadly, they chose to take him with them. Friends from church, the pair were married only two days before we were, and they briefly interrupted their honeymoon to be at our ceremony. Good friends will do that.

Wednesday, however, was ridiculous. Under what I thought was a tight deadline at work, I hunkered down and spent several extra hours completing a project, not leaving until after 10 p.m., well beyond what anyone else had done, as I found myself in an empty building, and with my car being the only one in the parking lot. Though I had been told we had to finish up last week, my boss turned around and got a one-week extension, so the rushing just may have been in vain. Though buoyed by a routine of Diet Coke and PowerBars, by the time I had gotten home, and we had walked the dog, I was just ready for bed, waking up the next morning only to start the routine again.

This upcoming week should be a little better. There's always plenty to do, but I should make time for the blog. And we will.

Listening to ''Sombre Detune'', by Röyksopp (Play Count: 7)