Ye Olde Swimming Hole

current, insightful, yet nostalgic

Tuesday, February 28, 2006

The Future of Blogs

Following a report indicating a slowing in the growth of blog readership The Chicago Tribune attempted to euthanize the trend with an editorial that downplays blogs and their influence. It asks the question "are blogs dying." Anyone who truly understands the significance of what is happening can see the editors simply don't get it or they are hoping this trend, that is so irritating to their business will some how go away.

But they are focusing too much on the form and not enough on the function. Blogs will evolve and change, but hoping people will stop using this technology is about as useful as the Catholic Church hoping the reformers would simply stop using the printing press. (In his book, Blog, Hugh Hewitt compares blogs to the Reformation). The form may change, but now every person has access to their own printing press and the media's monopoly on information is being eroded.

I think it's very exciting to see what's happening. It is chaos at times, but the exciting part is the ability to share information. We can now read the thoughts of the brightest minds around the country and world. We can read analysis of current events written by true experts, unfiltered by gatekeepers. A new breed of reporters will be born, as this excerpt from Glenn Reynolds new book explains. Those who understand this see right through the Chicago Tribune editorial and others who think this is just a passing fad. That's not to say that blogging will continue at its current pace, but the basic concept will not go away.

There is another interesting thing about the Tribune editorial. Blogs will not replace the news side of the media, but they might just seriously impact the editorial side of newspapers. David Weinberger of the Harvard Berkman Center has talked about this. Why do we need to read the opinions of some editors at a newspaper on a certain subject when instead we can read the opinions of true experts? That's not to say editors aren't smart people, they're just not experts in everything and so we get editorials like this. So the Chicago Tribune editorial page has good reason to predict the death of blogs blogs; its very relevance is at stake.

Monday, February 27, 2006

Farewell to a Truly Great Entertainer

Don Knotts passed away on Saturday, and we lost one of the greatest comedians of all time. Call me old fashioned, but I think the Andy Grittith Show is and remains an example of truly great television. Although I'm under thirty, I still regularly watch episodes of it on public television.

Don Knotts had the ability to make people laugh without the crutch of crude humor. Few comedians today can do that. We will miss him.

Saturday, February 25, 2006

Quick Action on Graffiti

Graffiti is the art of the anti-social and my neighborhood seems to have more and more of it lately. This morning my mailbox was "tagged." Thankfully our city has a very responsive graffiti clean up staff. I feel sorry for those who think they are getting somewhere by tagging other people's neighborhoods and hence lowering the property value. I would guess that few if any taggers are property owners and if so they have no idea what it's like to take pride in property.

Sadly there are people who make a living off of supplying these anti-socialites with their tools and hip hop music and other pop culture encourages it.

Mayor Rudy Giuliani wisely made graffiti clean up a priority of his administration. He said
"Graffiti creates an impression of disorder and of lawlessness. A city tainted by vandalism invites more vandalism and more serious crime because it sends the message that the city doesn't care and isn't paying attention."

That's precisely why I take even a little graffiti in a neighborhood seriously. It has to be nipped in the bud before the gang bangers and ding bats think they rule the neighborhood. Most cities will clean it up quicly if you call the proper authorities. And if they don't you should start and clean up committee of your own.

Thursday, February 23, 2006

Old Shed

Wednesday, February 22, 2006

Will They Live Happily Ever After?

The Nebraska lottery winner has been found, and there are eight of them. The eight bought a ticket together and will each get $15.5 million after taxes. The governor showed up to present them with their checks and it was painted as if they will all now live happily ever after. A few of the quotes are telling.

One man said his three-month-old daughter "is going to be happy for the rest of her life." I hope she is, but if that happens, it won't be because of the money. This is what lawmakers who are proponents of the lottery want people to believe: if you win, all your troubles will go away. For those who have never learned to manage their wants, their troubles are only beginning.

Three of the winners are immigrants. Nothing like living out the American dream.

I hope they all use their money wisely, but the very fact that they were playing the lottery shows they may have some troubles with money management and expectations. While money from the lottery may fund some of our current programs, it is taking money from those who could be depositing it in retirement accounts to take care of their future needs. We will certainly pay for that later. It would be interesting to see a study on how much lottery players spend on tickets and what that money could do for their retirement fund. If their $117 million payout were invested in the stock market at an annual 10% return for 25 years, it would be worth $1.2 billion dollars. Imagine how many retirements that could fund. But instead of focusing on the well being of society and created a society where hard honest work is valued, we make a few filthy rich and worry and the rest later. This is about all of us and the future good of our society.

The most troubling aspect of this story is not the winners (who seem like a good group of people), but the expectations their winning is putting into the minds of millions of other Americans who now think they have a good chance of winning the lottery.

Tuesday, February 21, 2006

How Will China Use the Internet?

Clay Bennett's cartoon in the CS Monitor today was a classic. It illustrates how China is not allowing it's people to take advantage of the full potential of the Internet. It will be very interesting to see how this plays out. I don't think they can (or should be able to) continue to have this kind of control.

Monday, February 20, 2006

NY Times Spin on Marriage

The New York Times offers its readers a "pop quiz" on marriage, evidently in an attempt to try to show that the institution of family and marriage is not facing a crisis. The writer is actually the director of the Council on Contemporary Families, a new organization whose title pretty much sums it up. While the facts in the quiz may be true, they obviously pick and choose to undermine the fact that there are moral problems in the country and there are problems with the family.

Lotto America

I recently heard of a man who was going to drive 150 miles to buy lottery tickets in a state where the jackpot was high. Someone in Nebraska has won $365 million dollars and they don't even know it.

This is plain craziness. Anyone who has the slightest knowledge about statistics and probability and an understanding of the target group of the lottery knows this is nothing more than a regressive tax. When you stop to think about this, it's really the government trying to deceive us (those who are foolish enough to be deceived) into paying more taxes. The argument is that it brings revenue for schools and such, but at what cost?

Shouldn't our focus be on economic development and productivity and not on tricking entire states into thinking everyone is likely to get filthy rich quickly by playing the lottery. It's unhealthy for us to lose the foundations of the American dream, which is that you can succeed if you work hard enough. That's being replaced by the idea that success comes only if your lucky (or corrupt) enough.

The irony of all this is the problems a landslide of money brings to the lives of the winners. Let's replace the "get rich quick" dream with the American dream."

Saturday, February 18, 2006

What is the Time Value of Knowledge?

The foundation principle of finance is the time value of money. Simply stated, money today is worth more than money in the future. Once you understand that principle, you can begin to understand how to maximize your profits and eventually grow wealthy.

The same principle must apply to knowledge. Knowledge gained today is worth more than knowledge gained in the future. Just has money gains interest that is continually compounded, knowledge also compounds at a rapid rate.

This is a principle I have pondered for some time, but consumer-generated media adds a whole new dimension and this principle may give us some indication of the reason why blogs are so popular. Knowing something early is usually better (unless "we can't handle the truth.") Now information travels at a break neck pace. So what does that say about how new media will affect our economy. I think it will bring greater prosperity as well as obviously bringing more progress.

It would be interesting for someone to try to quantity just exactly what the time value of knowledge is.

I blogged about this on another blog over a year ago (in fact I created it specifically to record and stake my claim to this concept) and at the time I did a Google search to see if this concept had appeared anywhere else on the Web. I found several academic references to it, but since then, this software consulting site has popped up and is also using the concept.

Gregory and the Shooting Story

NBC's David Gregory is facing some criticism over remarks he made to Scott McClellan at the shooting press conference. Trying to justify himself and explain that the media didn't over react, Gregory asks people to look at the press transcripts during the Clinton/Lewinsky scandal. I'm sorry, but there are major difference in the two events. One was a complete, innocent accident followed by slow response and the other was a premeditated, absolutely wrong and immoral decision followed by a lie to the country. The press should stop and ask themselves what stories of real importance they missed last week during this frenzy.

Hugh Hewitt has more analysis.

Friday, February 17, 2006

Whittington Has Forgiven and Forgotten, Why Can't the Press

The man Vice President Dick Cheney shot made a public statement today and expressed his concern for the Vice President given this unfortunate accident. I wrote about this here and here during the media frenzy and accusations. Hugh Hewitt's blog hit the nail on the head when it said Whittington "could not have been classier."

Today's statement by Whittington and the outpouring of support for Cheney in Wyoming should put those who used this event to shame Cheney to shame themselves. What can you say when the person most effected by this event was full of forgiveness and compassion when the rest of the country wasn't?

What's Really Happening In Iraq?

Power Line has a great story about a conversation with a flight attendant from Birmingham England who's airline transports many of the U.S. soldiers. Is the press really getting the story right in Iraq or are they so intent on making the Bush administration look bad that they are doing a disservice to the Iraqi people?

Hopefully history gets it right if the press doesn't. The military should encourage all of its soldiers to blog about the day to day progress and success they see in Iraq. Then we could get the real story instead of only the stories the media wrongly thinks we should be interested in.

Tuesday, February 14, 2006

Incredible Lack of Compassion

The outpouring of jokes regarding Vice president Cheney's hunting accident has been amazing. There's a sense the media is nearly rejoicing in news. You only have to listen to the White House briefing to get a sense of their frenzy.

Both the NY Times and the Washington Post editorialize about it today, as if there was no other news to cover. And of course the comedy shows had a heyday. This was an accident and no doubt one Cheney feels terrible about. Some of those who are rejoicing in his misfortune may one day gain someday feel some empathy when they have similar misfortunes (although unlikely related to hunting).Can't our society show some class?

Monday, February 13, 2006

"Strange Incident?" Yes in the Media's Coverage of It

Vice President Cheney had the extreme misfortune of accidentally shooting his hunting companion with a 28-guage shotgun while quail hunting. Anyone who has hunting extensively (me included) understands that while extremely rare, these accidents can happen.

What is unfortunate is how the news media is blowing this up into some kind of national crisis. Elizabeth Vargas used the words "strange incident" to describe the accident and then she quizes Stepanopolous in an obviously pre-staged interview about whether the public has a "right to know" these things more urgently. Give me a break. Is it the administration's duty to run to the press to inform them of something that has nothing to do with the rest of the country. The ABC headline say "Why So Secret?" Uh, duh. Think about it for a minute. Cheney obviously feels terrible about this and it has no implications on the nation so why make in public? "Why So Secret" implies that there is something else behind this, some conspiracy the vice president is involved in. The ABC story showed reporters grilling the president's spokesman at a briefing.

This incident shows how out of touch the media is. They're purpose is to boost ratings, period. Can they not find news that really has an impact on the country?

Perhaps all the buzz surrounding this story is caused by the public's lack of experience with hunting and firearms. They forget that most of us operate machines much more dangerous than guns every day. We call them cars.

Friday, February 10, 2006

Winter Morning

Internet Trends

PEW has recently completed some interesting studies on how people are using the Internet. The most fascinating one covers how relationships are being changed by people using the Internet.

Olympic Opening Ceremonies

The Winter Olympics are here once again. It's always great to see all of the nations participating marching in the opening ceremonies. For a small moment, the world comes together. It was strange tonight, however, to see the Iranian team marching. Of course the fact that country is becoming a pariah is not the athletes fault, but as they marched they did seem like the naughty little brother at the dinner table, almost unwelcome at an the event. It makes you wonder what will transpire before the China games in 2008 and if they will be marching then.

Thursday, February 09, 2006

Oscars, Grammys and the Like

It's the season when we celebrate the "greatest" works of "art" by our celebrities and stars and those who make them so. I don't think I've ever sat through an entire Oscars or Grammys award program. Some of the artists truly deserve the honor or these awards, but many do not.

This year's Oscars show just how out-of-touch Hollywood is with the rest of America. As I mentioned, there's no doubt there are some good things being produced out there, but we could do so much better. I hope some talented movie and television producers rise to the top and give us something worth looking at. Some of that is out there now, but I hope it because the benchmark for others to follow and that the economy of wholesome wants will drive our media viewing habits in the right direction.

Saturday, February 04, 2006

Iran Referred to Security Council

Iran has been referred to the U.N. Security council and now will not allow inspections and will likely begin enriching Uranium. This is very unsettling for a country that denies the holocause happened and has stating its goal is to wipe Israel off the map. This has and will likely continue to wake up many Europeans to their dangerous neighbors. It may improve public opinion of the U.S. when European countries call on us for help.

I don't see a peaceful resolution to this. The current leadership of Iran seems quite wacko and unopen to dialouge. They are extremist and don't see a world where all people can live mutually in peace.

This underscores the importance of winning in Iraq. Having a presence so close my prove to be a great benefit in the future.

My Space That Everybody's In

Much has been said in the media lately of the problems with teenagers posting too much information on It's becoming a major resource for stalkers and worse.

The Internet is taking us to a society where everything is open and transparent. That can be good and it can be very bad. Take Wikipedia for example. Even those who are semi-famous (and in the future perhaps those who are not famous at all) have an entry about them on Wikipedia. If that person has been involved in even one minor scandal, or what someone thinks is a scandal, then that incident appears on that page and there is nothing the person can do to remove it.

No one's reputation is safe anyone. It makes you wonder if laws will be passed in the future that will enable people to seek action against others who post untrue or slanted information about them on the Internet without their consent. Of course will have libel and slander laws, but those were enacted for a paper society with the burden of proof on those who are defamed in order to protect free speech. In an electronic society, that burden may need to shift.

Friday, February 03, 2006

Media Fixated With the Iraq Newspaper Story

There was another story tonight on CBS News about the military paying for news coverage in Iraq. The reporter, whose name I don't remember, acted the questioning father role as he questioned a dignified officer about whether this amounted to "planting" stories. As I've written before, this is just a case of the media giving undue weight to an issue that is close to them. It shows they gravitate towards the issues they understand most and treat them with too much coverage.

On the same broadcast, ironically, CBS News ran a report about how the media is changing. They quoted stats from a NY Times/CBS poll in a way that made them sound positive. They even seemed to believe that the fact two out of three people said the media are accurate was a good thing. Can you imagine any other profession that got things right only two out of three times?

Then Helen Thomas was interviewed and said a "problem" is everyone who has a computer thinks they're a journalist. I'm not so sure that is a bad thing. At least now those who know something about something besides journalism can have a voice and help us analyze and understand the events of the world. Perhaps Ms. Thomas was saying it was a bad thing for the profession. That may be true, but whether it's bad for the public is yet to be seen. It's quite strange how journalists love free speech only when it serves them well.

We have great journalists out there, but they do not have a monopoly on telling stories. Putting a printing press into the hands of millions of intelligent people who have specific knowledge about topics of expertise much deeper than journalists is not a "problem," as Helen Thomas describes it.