January 29, 2011

"Ihnatko Almanac"

From Ars Technica:

Andy Ihnatko, tech writer for The Chicago Sun-Times, has written a series of Mac and iOS technical books aimed at both the beginner and advanced user:
"I'm really pleased to have a chance to help build a new universe of books around stuff I love so much," Ihnatko said, noting that other titles in the series will cover a broad spectrum of Apple hardware, software, and related topics. "But, I don't want the books to be simple references that spend most of the time sitting on a shelf. If the spine isn't creased and cracked after three months, I feel like I didn't do my job"
I've listened to Ihnatko on the MacBreak Weekly podcast and read his pieces in the Sun-Times RSS feed. This series promises to be a useful, good read.

January 28, 2011


Via BoingBoing:
Joe Biden says Mubarak isn't a dictator, questions legitimacy of protesters' demands

January 27, 2011

313 Miles Per Gallon. Sign Me Up.

From inhabit.com:
Volkswagen just unveiled a new car at the Qatar Motor Show that gets an astounding 100km for less than a lieter of diesel fuel – that’s the equivalent of 313 miles per gallon! The green car is an upgraded version of the VW L1 vehicle and it features an ultra-efficient diesel engine in addition to an electric motor that is powered by a lithium-ion battery.
Production is said to begin in 2013. I wonder if my Prius can hold out that long...

Blow the Blown Snow

For much of the time I lived in New Hampshire I had no snow blower. Seven years in an apartment building, the first couple of years in a house. I shoveled. And Shoveled. My poor new wife, moving from the south just a few months before, shoveled the driveway one day and called me at work to crow about it. Great, I replied. Shovel again in a couple of hours, I advised. What?! We got a lot of snow that winter, 120 inches. To her credit, we're still married, but we live in Virginia now.

A couple of years before we moved south, not knowing that we'd be leaving in the not-too-distant future, my dad bought us a small, 5 hp snow blower. It came in very handy the following winters, but as our final New England spring threatened to arrive we suddenly found ourselves ready to leave the area. Thinking, surely it doesn't snow any appreciable amount in Virginia, we sold the blower to a neighbor and later used the money towards a riding lawn mower. We have a lot of grass now.

A couple of years later we received our first one-foot Virginia snowfall. It took a lot of digging, up a long, inclined driveway, to clear a path. Lesson learned. A couple of years afterward we found an 8 hp blower on clearance at Home Depot and brought it home. We've received a one- to two-foot snowfall about every six or 7 years since, and several lesser, but wet and heavy snowfalls in between. We had one yesterday, six inches, just a moderate snowfall by New Hampshire standard, but we're fully Virginians by now and six inches is a good reason to stay home. Out came the blower this morning and without much more than a little sweat we had a wide path up the driveway, a clear mailbox and trash can, and a double-width path around the house for the dogs.

We intend to live here until I retire from my career and move further south, and I'm not convinced I'll sell the blower even then. They don't get much snow in Georgia, but when they do it's crippling. I'd be very glad to walk a blower down my driveway then and spend the rest of the day in a warm home, relaxing.

January 23, 2011

Steelers Are Team #2

24-19, Steelers win. Jets were never a factor. Should be an awesome Super Bowl!

Super Bowl Team #1

The Packers lead the Bears all afternoon and head to the Super Bowl with a win.

Next up, Jets at Steelers!

We Drive To Snow

As usual, I've avoided driving in snow throughout this Winter. Most storms have arrived on a day off or telework day, when I'm home, and haven't given me reason to consider driving. Our trip to my sister's home for Christmas was delayed when a storm closed in at the wrong time and we stayed home. So how ironic, after scrupulously avoiding snow driving, to find myself crawling along at 25 miles per hour in the stretch between New Bern and Havelock yesterday at 2 PM. The entire drive down from Virginia had been uneventful, but as soon as we crossed into the New Bern area we saw flakes. By the time we crossed over the Trent River bridge the road was wet and snow was swirling. Another half-mile and we were on freezing wet roads with a half-inch of snow down and heavy flakes falling. We saw a half-dozen cars spun out in ditches alongside the road as we drove east, one having taken a wild ride over the ditch and back up an embankment. A twenty-minute drive took 35 minutes, but we eventually found our turnoff and rolled into our friend's neighborhood. We spent the rest of the afternoon drinking beer and playing cards, which suited me just fine. It was a freak coastal pocket-storm, affecting only this area before heading out to sea. Now we're spending the following morning doing southern snow-clearing: waiting for temperatures in the fourties to melt away seven inches of snow, at least on the roads, before visiting the in-laws.

January 21, 2011

$4 Per Gallon Gas

From Consumerist:
With the economy kinda sorta picking up, and consumers in China, India and Brazil buying cars in droves, gas prices are expected to keep going up, and may hit $4 a gallon by early spring, when Americans finish scraping the ice off of their windshields and begin planning road trips. And unlike 2008, when gas last broke the $4 barrier, only to later drop to lower prices, $4 may be a new baseline, followed by $5 gas as early as next year.
I knew this was coming, just a matter of time until economic growth returned and gasoline usage spiked. Makes those fuel-sippers look pretty good again, huh?

Hit the link for further CNBC analysis.

January 20, 2011

Shakeup At Google

Via BGR:
During its Q4 earnings disclosure, Google announced that co-founder Larry Page will take over the CEO role effective, April 4th, from Eric Schmidt. Mr. Schmidt will remain with the company and assume the role of Executive Chairman
Sergey Brin, also a Google co-founder, will focus on new, strategic projects for the company.
As their search business matures, Google has become more like the Microsoft of old: stodgy. That was a losing stance in the face of direct competition in the mobile space from a youthful-seeming Apple. This set of moves puts the founders back in the driver's seat while retaining Schmidt's talents at deal-making and schmoozing.

Good move.

Chinese Green Movement Slams Apple?

From 9to5 Mac:
The Institute of Environmental and Public Affairs (IPE) said Apple had refused to confirm if suspected polluters were among the suppliers it used, and is also accused of avoiding taking responsibility for environmental problems associated with its products

and more...
However, 2010 saw a dangerous incident at Apple component supplier, Wintek. There poisonous chemicals used in manufacture of displays for Apple’s mobile devices resulted in many workers being hospitalized for nerve damage. It also saw workers launch a lawsuit against the company and go on strike.

Wintek has stopped using that chemical now, but Apple has not acknowledged it uses the company for component supplies, the campaigners complain.
The activists are going after a target of opportunity, because they can't hit the right targets on their own. If manufacturers are using dangerous chemicals and polluting, take the issue directly to them. Apple contracts for its manufacturing and has policies in place requiring workplace standards. They refuse to disclose the identity of their contractors for competitive reasons. That's not the same as violating the standards themselves.

January 19, 2011

2011 American Idol

The tenth season of American Idol began tonight, and judging by the quality of the contestants that made it into the Hollywood round, we can only hope the other audition cities produce better results.

There's always next week...

January 18, 2011

Apple's "Certain Agreements"

Apple COO Tim Cook spoke during today's earnings call about "certain agreements" Apple has entered into, guarranteeing them a ready supply of necessary parts.
On the operational side of the house, as you probably remember, we’ve historically entered into certain agreements with different people to secure supply and other benefits. The largest one in the recent past has been, we signed a deal with several flash [memory] suppliers
Blogger John Gruber speculates the latest agreements are about touchscreen parts, to keep assembly lines for iPhones humming.
My guess is that this is about touchscreen display technology. Apple is ahead of the entire industry here — no competing device has a display as nice as the iPhone 4. I think they want to push ahead technology-wise, and are paying up front so they can meet demand.
I disagree: I say those parts agreements are for new, higher capacity SSDs. The latest rev of the Macbook Air took off because of its speedy performance, something the previous iteration lacked. The SSD, standard on the newer models, made the performance difference. I'm looking for SSD-packing Macbook Pros this summer, and the new agreement will keep them supplied with higher capacity SSDs before the competition can tool up to challenge.

January 16, 2011

Standing Desk

Gina Trapani blogs today about her switch to a standing desk. I've been thinking about these desks for a while now, after realizing that I spend almost my entire day, at work and home, seated. My only activity is a run or elliptical machine session three times weekly. Gina's experience wasn't easy on her feet the first two or three days, but by the end of the first workweek she was convinced to stick with it.

As Gina references in her piece, a recent health study indicated that a seated lifestyle just isn't healthy. Food for thought.

Sending the Wrong Message

Super Bowl Sunday, 2011 "festivities" will include an interview of president Obama by Bill O'Reilly, conservative commentator, and one of the most egregious perpetrators of today's politics as blood sport (see Tucson, AZ for long-term fallout). I guess that lowers political discourse to a sporting event. More win-lose in a field that should be about hammering out differences.

And if they're going to broadcast a high-profile interview with the president, couldn't Fox News come up with someone a little more thoughtful in his approach to interviews and politics? Shepard Smith?

Seahawks Grounded

Seattle needs to do a lot better in the second half if they plan to play next weekend. Chicago is blanking them, 21-0, at the two-minute warning. They're not exactly bad, just outclassed by the Bears.

The Seahawks are evidence of how bad the NFC West division was this season: they played into the playoffs with a 7-9 regular-season record. Ugh. The lousy Redskins were only one game worse in 2010.

Pack Attack

Brett who?

Aaron Rodgers and the Packers looked great as the Falcons fell apart last night. Barring a miracle in Chicago today, it'll be Packers vs. Bears for the NFC championship next weekend. Could be a big year for the Pack!

Inherited Wisdom

Martin Luther King III (via msnbc.com):
"Ugliness rears its head," Martin Luther King III told a dinner gathering hosted by the King Center. "And that tragic incident in a real sense should say to us all that the work of Martin Luther King Jr. is nowhere near finished because he tried to teach us how to live in a nation and world without destroying either person or property."
"And so the message of nonviolence resonates strongly, particularly this year after that great tragedy," King said.
Think about that. "Destroying either person or property." How often have opinion-makers spent their efforts tearing down someone's work or reputation? Beck, Olbermann, O'Reilly. Different politics, same intent.

We're free to express our disagreement and anger. It benefits our politics to do so in an open forum, usually short-circuiting violence and revolution. After a couple generations of anti-government rhetoric and inflated outrage, though, it's a lesser jump from passivity to outright aggression. When people are purposely riled up time and again, aggressive anger is the norm. Enter the unbalanced, and here we are.

January 15, 2011

Ravens Fall

Great game. TJ Hoosyourmama, why couldn't have have caught that pass?!?

Ravens at Steelers

The NFL divisional playoff games are here! Up first, the Baltimore Ravens at Pittsburgh, and tonight the Green Bay Packers play Atlanta. The Ravens-Steelers game is already looking to be a good one, Ravens are ahead 14-7. Rooting for Green Bay tonight.

Tomorrow we'll see Seattle play at Chicago (should be the end of the Seahawks) and the damn Jets play at New England. We can only hope to see the end of the Jets.

January 14, 2011

One Week Aloft

From AVWeb:
AeroVironment Inc. announced Tuesday that it has successfully flown at Edwards Air Force Base its Global Observer drone, a hydrogen-fuel-powered unmanned aircraft sporting a 175-foot wingspan and one-week-long endurance. The aircraft's internal-combustion engine burns cryogenically stored liquid hydrogen
The drone is designed to cruise at 65,000 feet and carry a telecommunications package to enable no-delay communications relay over a 600-mile diameter. With a one-week endurance burning frozen hydrogen, it tucks away above most air traffic, silently replacing satellites. Neat technology.

January 12, 2011

I Sense A Trend Forming

The next time you hear someone call global warming a hoax, refer them to NOAA:
The list of the 10 warmest years since NOAA's records started now features nine years from the last decade, and we haven't seen a year with temperatures below the 20th century average since 1976.
If they claim it's just a theory, remind them of gravity.

End Of The Line

It's the end of further iOS development for iPhone 3G. Via 9 to 5 Mac:
What’s missing from the iOS 4.3 beta page? Downloads for the iPhone 3G and iPod touch 2G. It looks like iOS 4.2.1 is the final release for Apple’s second generation iOS devices. Oy.
This brings an end to further development of iOS support for the second-generation iPhone. The previous release, 4.2.1, improved performance on the device after version 4.0.1 caused significant slowdown on that older model. Time for an upgrade!

Sarah Palin Speaks

Ironically, quoting the guy who started the anti-government movement (via msnbc.com):
She quoted former President Ronald Reagan as saying that "we must reject the idea that every time a law is broken, society is guilty rather than the lawbreaker.
"It's time to restore the American precept that each individual is accountable for his actions," Palin continued, still quoting Reagan.
To be clear, a deranged individual pulled the trigger in Tuscon last weekend, and six people died. That individual was responding, in his deranged way, to years of anti-government rhetoric urging him and others "to action." Reagan brought the anti-government meme mainstream during his first term as president. Palin and her ilk brought it to a crescendo since she took the stage with John McCain.

As Rush Limbaugh is fond of saying, "words have consequences." If you call people to action using gun-related imagery (cross-hairs on elected official's districts) and language (urging supporters to "target" those officials), you bear responsibility we one of them does what you say.

January 11, 2011

Verizon iPhone Is Real

After kicking themselves for much of the past three years, Verizon Wireless executives today unveiled an Apple iPhone that will operate on their CDMA-based wireless network. The only question that remains is, what happens when hoards of new iPhone users descend upon their service? Andy Ihnatko, via The Chicago Sun-Times, writes:
Speaking of sacrifices, what will the arrival of millions of iPhones do to Verizon service? iPhones bring a problem not just with their sheer numbers, but by the fact that its users tend to make exceptionally heavy use of the data plan.
As Andy goes on the write, best to sit tight and wait for this summer's iPhone 5 announcement. By then we'll have hard numbers on VZW network performance under the load of new iPhone activations, and there's a small chance that that next-generation model will bring LTE (4th generation) capability. Perhaps a single, CDMA/GSM/LTE model?

3D TV - Why Me?

3D television has been the rage of two Consumer Electronics Shows now, but it still hasn't caught on with the consumer. Apparently adding little to living room entertainment while transparently providing manufacturers another opportunity to sell expensive televisions, the technology leaves consumers asking, "why?" Television makers have gotten used to a higher level of income after several years of selling flat-panel, wide-screen televisions. The trouble for them is that a recently-bought television is unlikely to be replaced in the ten years after its purchase. And with wide-screen television prices easily double what you'd have paid for a shiny, new model just a half-decade ago, it'll be quite the income withdrawal for manufacturers as consumers sit back and enjoy their new-ish purchase. But 3D TV is more than just a marketing ploy, it's the evolution of display technology that brings remote and time-shifted viewing closer to a live, in-person experience. Think back, if you can, to the days of black-and-white television. We had all the structural components of a live image (and by live I mean an image captured by your eye as the action happened, in front of you, that moment), sans color. You could watch that image all day long and miss none of the event's import. The introduction of color to the televised image was a revelation, as though a veil had been lifted. Locations looked more real, people appeared more natural. A few years later it was hard to imagine watching anything but color television programming. The introduction of a high-definition picture was another revelation. Actors were suddenly near life-sized on much larger displays, and the added image sharpness gave it an almost three-dimensional appearance. A few short months later it was unthinkable that we could have enjoyed a football game, let alone the Super Bowl, on a blurry, 32-inch tube. These changes involved the addition of more information. We added color bits to the structural elements of a moving, black-and-white image. We added more content bits to the standard-definition image, making the appearance even more life-like. Lesson: more information is better. What television manufacturers have done most recently is add yet more information to flesh out the third dimension, making a high-definition, almost-alive image step out from the flat screen. Not revolutionary, just evolutionary. Once technology emerges to integrate the third dimension without need for eyewear (or a headache, or sitting directly in front of the television) consumers will jump on it, and a year or two later we'll wonder how we enjoyed sporting events, a movie, or a sitcom without it. Imagine Planet Earth in comfortable 3D. How soon until you're decorating your garage with your old hi-def tv? I'm surprised to be in favor of this new technology, though not enthusiastic enough to buy into it today. What will it take to bring the third dimension into our living rooms without goofy eyewear? Hologram projectors? Imagine sitting in your media room, walls painted midnight-blue or black, dark carpet and furnishings eliminating visual distraction as you peer across the room, through a three-dimensional, high resolution image as though sitting in a theater-in-the-round. Three-dimensional audio could be generated by an array of small speakers in the ceiling, rounding out the illusion that the event is live inside your home. Would that be worth the price of an upgrade?

January 9, 2011

Conscience Of A Liberal

I've long believed, and lamented, the downfall of the modern GOP: its takeover by the crazies. Initially by the government haters, then by the right-to-lifers, and lately by the outright looney Tea Partiers. With the hate that bloomed around the nomination of Barack Obama, and exploded in response to his election and inauguration, the crazies have co-opted the once-great party.

We don't have two major political parties in America anymore, we have reasonable people (mostly Democrats, independents, and a very small number of Republicans) and we have hate-mongers and their enablers. Paul Krugman filters out the nonsense to all of this weekend's news out of Arizona in his blog, leaving sense.

Self-Hatred Is Ultimately Self-Defeat

There's been no shortage of successful politicians using mis-understanding and outright ignorance of the political process to curry favor, votes and election to office. The keen-eyed observer can see the roots of this weekend's Arizona shootings in Ronald Reagan's assertion that "government is not the solution to our problems, government IS the problem." In the politically despondent environment in the wake of Watergate and the Carter presidency, Reagan fanned the flames that ultimately lead to this weekend's tragedy.

Over the past decades we've witnessed a growing sentiment, growing louder during the Clinton presidency (Rush Limbaugh's daily count of days "America held hostage"), and louder still during the Obama presidency (so-called "birthers" claiming foreign birth of the president, and thus an illegitimate election, Sarah Palin and the so-called "Tea Party" members targeting elected officials with cross-hair-bearing propaganda), that government and politicians are to be distrusted, hated, scorned. That government exists to harm, not help.

What these people are expressing is a hatred of our political process, an anger at seeing the culture go in a direction not of their choosing, and inciting others to action in response. A self-hatred, because our government was and is of, by and for The People. The irony is that these self-described conservatives claim to be all about supporting and defending America, yet they work toward the destruction of the very process that defines America. They have urged action long enough to incite a mentally unstable individual to short-circuit the process with violence. This self-hatred of our seminal political and cultural expectation will lead to self-defeat. A government and a people that cannot or will not work to preserve our core institutions and beliefs cannot succeed. We lose the idea of who we are, we become a caricature of who we were, and descend to the level of a banana republic.

This past year, Congresswoman Giffords spoke of the consequences of heated, nonsense rhetoric. She was unknowingly describing her own fate. We should put the blame where it belongs, with those who incited action as a result of self-hatred. They stand behind the deranged individual who pulled the trigger this weekend.

In the aftermath of the shootings, the only good news  is that people across the country are rightly identifying the roots of the violence. Predictably, Republicans try talking about the greater human tragedy of the loss of life, attempting to talk over the use of inflammatory language leading up to this weekend. My hope is that this effort fails, that a majority of Americans take within themselves the lesson that words have consequences, and that this awareness leads to a core change in the rhetoric, the leadership and the direction of what passes for conservatism today.

January 8, 2011


As Rush Limbaugh is always pleased to note, words have meaning. Sarah Palin has used the phrase, "don't retreat, reload." Her Tea Party-affiliated fanatics were urged to "target" US Congresswoman Gabrielle Giffords and others during last year's election season with propaganda displaying a cross-hair over her Congressional district.

Congresswoman Giffords was shot in the face today by a 22-year old man. There are reports that a political diatribe by him has been found on YouTube. Is anyone surprised?

The NFL Foot, 18 Games, Playoffs, Redskins

So this is the gamut of my football thinking. I'm talking NFL football, although college ball is more exciting in a Keystone Kops sort of way, because it's almost always played on my day off. College games are played on Saturdays, and I'm working during most of them. About the only college game I could hope to catch is the weekly Notre Dame game on NBC, but their post-game sway makes me sea-sick.

We can expect to see an 18-game schedule next season if the NFL and the NFL Player's Association come to a contract agreement this year. They will, and we will. Bad idea, because they're pushing into too-many-games territory. The NFL season is great because just as you start taking it for granted, it's over. Yet a month after the Super Bowl you're looking forward to the Combine, then the draft, then they publish team schedules, and then talk of the pre-season begins. There's a balance to the season vs. off-season that tips too far one way when there are 18 games.

The playoffs have arrived, and today brought the first post-season surprise: the Seahawks beat the defending Super Bowl champs, the Saints. In regulation time. Didn't see that coming. I'm watching the Jets-Colts game now, and they're closely matched enough to have just one score by the half. Looks like the Seahawks game was the one to watch. Expect the Colts to eliminate the damn Jets tonight.

Which brings me to the Jets. I'm from New York, and in New York, unless you're a sports nut, the teams are an either-OR proposition. Either you're a Yankees OR Mets fan, Giants OR Jets, Rangers OR Islanders. I like to see the Giants do well these days, even though I root for our hometown Redskins. I hate the Jets. Rex Ryan makes it easy, too.

That reminds me, what do you call 46 millionaires watching the Super Bowl? The Redskins. Another year, another disappointment. We've lived in Virginia for almost 13 years now and we've never seen a hint of why the Washington DC area is crazy about this team. They've found so many ways to lose. I guess we have another 10 or eleven years here, before retirement to a year-round warmer destination, so maybe we'll get lucky.


Update: The Jets won with a field goal as time expired. Shame.

January 6, 2011

Mac App Store Is Live

Some things to look for as the new store gains traction:
  • Prices begin higher, on average, than current iOS App Store products, but decline as more apps become available in the Mac App Store. Supply and demand. Does this mean software will be worth less over time? No. Easy, one-stop availability means any one author can more easily reach a large audience. More exposure means more sales, making up any loss of revenue due to greater competition and greater selection. Make a good product, hang a shingle, profit!
  • No decline in the availablity of open source software. OSS authors may make their wares available on the Mac App Store with links to off-site source repositories in the descriptive text. The App Store may make OSS more viable than it would otherwise be by putting it on an equal footing, display-wise, as proprietary software.
  • More Mac sales. More apps in the App Store means it becomes easier for even the greenest newbie to find, install and update software for a Mac. Since there is no equivalent for Windows machines, the choice of easier-to-maintain becomes clear. If an unsophisticated user can deal with getting software onto a Windows machine, she can do so even more easily for a Mac at the App Store.
  • The end of Windows ubiquity. This is the long-term play. As more people are exposed to the finer design and integration of Apple hardware, and the ease of use of iOS, Mac OS and their repsective App Stores, the "design matters" meme grows more mainstream. As a result, more buyers become willing to shell out the Apple premium. Eventually many begin to wonder why it hasn't always been this easy to maintain and use computing equipment. A new era of personal computing dawns.

CES Time

Holidays over, hooplah quieted, bleak reality of Winter confronted. And then I'm reminded of the impending Consumer Electronics Show. This year it runs January 5 through 8, and as always, in Las Vegas. It's a good antidote to the trepidation I feel when I realize there are at least two and a half months until warm weather returns in earnest. New toys and thoughts of how I'd make use of one or another (though I rarely buy any of them) provide a distraction from the discomfort of less sun, cold, dry air and cold, dry skin.

It also motivates me to consider our vacation plans, which this year include a return to Vegas. This time we're looking to stay at the Mandalay Bay hotel and casino, where we stayed a few years ago. Home to the Border Grill (best fish tacos I've ever had), a terrific pool and river complex and at the tail end of the Vegas Strip, the Mandalay Bay is also where I first noticed the use of aroma in a casino. In that case I was confronted with the scent of cocoa butter suntan oil as I entered the casino, which dovetailed nicely with the Southeast Asia tropical theme. I wonder how that makes you gamble more. Maybe it just makes you feel comfortable in the casino, so you stay longer.

Going to Vegas reminds me of the restaurants we've enjoyed there. Mesa Grill and Emeril's New Orleans Fish House were both terrific the last two times we visited.

And just like that, Winter doesn't seem so bad anymore.

January 3, 2011

Sign of the Impending Apocalypse

In two separate incidents, a mass of birds, and fish, have turned up dead in Arkansas. Surely this is a sign of the impending apocalypse. Here's another.

January 2, 2011

Quiet Your Mind

I've been using Zen Timer For iPad, available from the Apple app store, for timing my meditation sessions.  In a word, excellent.  Both simple and feature-rich, the app allows selection of a start and end bell from among several classic bells.  Set repeats, periodic bells, and delays, or leave these set to defaults.  A journal option appears for end-of-session writing.

$2.99 from the Apple app store.  Highly recommended.

January 1, 2011

New Year's Musings Worth Reading

Gina Trapani has been one of my go-to reads since a blurb about her blog appeared in Wired Magazine years ago. A smart she-geek with a sense of humor, Gina has blogged an inspiring meditation on looking back in order to look forward for the new year. It's a quick, inspiring read and worth your time.

Gina's newish blog is Smarterware.

New Year's Eve In America

I just had the misfortune of watching the Clark Dick New Year's Eve television extravaganza in the minutes right before midnight. Every moment of the show was contrived and phony, unpleasant to watch. A multimedia definition of crap.

New Year's Eve television broadcasts began with Guy Lombardo's orchestra entertaining a crowd as they danced at the Waldorf Astoria hotel in New York. Not exciting tv, but it was direct reporting of an event and so it was in a sense, real. It connected the average Joe with high society, if only for a moment, and only one-way.

Today's programming is farcical marketing. It's a collection of recording and tv stars promoting their product, and nonsense interviews with people out on the street. No-one is connected, no value is imparted. The segments aren't much different from the commercials in between, and don't provide any content that holds interest. I guess they have to fill the time with something.

And Dick Clark. He suffered a stroke a few years ago, and although his return to the broadcast is admirable, it make for uncomfortable viewing. No way you'd see him on live television if the program weren't produced by his company. Time to hang it up, Dick. The eternal teenager is no more.

The show made me wonder, again, about what we call America today. So much of the idea of America is mediated by television and the Internet. After watching a production as overtly phony I'm left wondering, how much of the ideal America is real, at all?