It’s official: people are just stupid.

Okay. As if it’s not weird enough that more than 60% of Americans believe that Saddam Hussein was involved in planning the September 11 attacks (despite all lack of evidence), now a report shows that the nation’s leading executives name Microsoft as the most innovative computer company, followed by Dell (huh?) and Apple all the way down in third place. Never mind that Dell simply re-brands other people’s technology, and that nearly every so-called innovation that Microsoft has brought to market was invented or developed by Apple first.
This study and the whole Iraq thing are symptoms of the same problem, really – people believe hype and the manipulation of reality that is so prevalent these days. What’s really scary is this: the continuing consolidation of the media means that people are even less likely to hear multiple viewpoints… or the truth. In the case of Iraq, the media have not been eager to tell us that they are the ones who have been passing along the administration’s misleading statements without question. Microsoft certainly isn’t going to admit that they’re not particulary innovative (unless you count the many innovations in creating security holes on computers), and their promotional materials, backed by billions in marketing money, will also stretch the truth.
The problem is that people will believe anything.
[via Apple Turns]

Flagging business? Just get sued!

An ice cream company in Florida has lost a class-action lawsuit which claimed that it’s labeling was deceptive.

The label said a 12 ounce serving had 100 calories and 2 grams of fat per 12 ounce serving. The serving actually contained 300 calories and 7 grams of fat.

Now that the lawsuit has ended, what do you think the plaintiffs will receive?

Under the settlement, plaintiffs with receipts will receive either refunds or two free cups of Big Daddy ice cream for each cup they purchased. Without receipts, plaintiffs can only get ice cream, with a maximum of 12 cups.
All class members that submit claims will also receive four coupons for 25 cents off the purchase of single cups of Big Daddy.

I pause for the hilarious, ironic laughter.
This is like Microsoft trying to settle the anti-trust lawsuit by offering to give away to schools more Microsoft products.
If companies lose lawsuits and the only penalty is to give people more of their product, what’s the big deal? Sounds like a lawsuit is good for business.

Less clutter from the people who invented clutter

Remember the era before all the websites began, when the online service world consisted of Compuserve, Prodigy, and America Online? As I remember it, every time you logged into AOL, you’d spend more than a few minutes waiting for “new art” to be downloaded, then when you finally got in you’d realize that the new art you waited for was a pop-up ad for something. It became worse and worse over the years, with those damn pop-up boxes coming up everywhere on AOL. They were far ahead of their time with intrusive marketing, and copied far and wide by websites that how litter the screen with ads.
So, I was amused to see, a few moments ago, an ad from AOL touting their new pop-up blocker. I didn’t see any small type on the screen disclaiming how it works, but I can only assume that it will only block pop-ups that aren’t from AOL’s paying advertisers.

As an aside, as I watch “The American President” on TNT right now, the television equivalent of pop-up ads is disturbingly evident – after a long block of commercials, when the movie came back on the picture was squished up into 2/3 of the screen, and a fully animated commercial for Diet Coke appeared in the bottom 1/3. Now they’re running commercials at the same time as the show. The bad news is that there is no blocking software for this incredible annoyance.

[Update – C’mon ABC, do we really need a caption reading “Season Premiere” over The Practice? Oh, and where in the world has Chris O’Donnell been? Wasn’t he supposed to be the next Tom Hanks?]

Have you heard the news from Whoville?

The Doctor is back!
After cancellation in 1989, fans of Doctor Who around the world – including me – have bristled at the constant non-committal comments of the BBC about bringing back our beloved hero. Today, the Beeb announced that they’ve caved in, and are bringing the Doctor back starting in 2005 – okay, a long time to wait, and a lot can go wrong in that time, but here’s hoping…
From BBC News:

The much-awaited comeback will be written by acclaimed TV dramatist Russell T Davies – a self-confessed fan.

Davies’ credits include hit dramas like Bob and Rose, Queer as Folk, The Second Coming, Touching Evil, and The Grand.

[via BoingBoing]

Update: Another of those quizzes: what Doctor are you? via Dave’s Livejournal. Me:
The Sixth Doctor
You are the Sixth Doctor: Quite unstable and
aggressive from time to time, most certainly
stubborn and conceited all the time. You have a
bit of the First Doctor’s piss and vinegar,
though you’d hate to hear what he would have to
say about your clothes. Despite your
shortcomings, you are a cunning, forceful, and
resolute do-gooder, constantly upstaging
adversaries that are openly disdainful of your
taste and abilities. The poor fools.

Which Incarnation of the Doctor Are You?
brought to you by Quizilla

Paying for free speech

I’m not sure I understand the argument that a national “do not call” registry violates the right to free speech of the telemarketers – mostly because it’s not free.
If a telemarketer wishes to stand on public property and voice his opinion that I should take a cruise to the Bahamas, or buy a magazine subscription, or change my long distance company, well… that’s fine. I support that, and in fact might find it amusing.
But when they make bells ring in my house, using my resources to force their messages upon me, using a telephone line which I pay for, well, how is that free speech? Wouldn’t most people make the assumption that part of free speech is the freedom to not listen to it?

Relax… play with some blocks

I made a very wise decision to just fly off for a three-day vacation. I tried to justify it by telling myself that I would work on Sara’s DVD – business, you know. And while we did sit down and go through it, making notes and figuring out what what missing, the DVD work was often interrupted by Lily, Iolana, and Eva as they played, painted, and bounced around. Surprisingly, it was bliss.
I don’t think I’ve ever had a more relaxing, smiley vacation, and that surprises me. I certainly don’t think of myself as a guy who really likes kids all that much, being a pretty dour bachelor and all; but you know – kids seem to like me, and I like them. Perhaps it’s because I don’t often meet kids as joyous and loving as the ones I met this week. Happy kids make me happy, too.
dawn.jpgSo, let’s see. A recap: yesterday I spent the day with Sara, her beautiful, fun (and mermaid reminiscent) assistant Dawn (who was celebrating her birthday!) and Iolana, Sara’s 3-year-old wacky daughter. Lunch, and then loading up a storage locker with the first pressing of Sara’s new CD for kids, “Big Kid” which was released yesterday! (I still have the song “Iolana” running through my head as I sit here on the plane — I defy anyone to be unhappy with that song playing in their brain. “Iolana do you wanna put ona your pajamas and go to the store with me?” Go ahead. Try. See? You can’t! Pick up “Big Kid” now. That’s an order. Speaking of an order, all Just As I Thought readers must order a Sara CD by clicking HERE!)

gene-io.jpgAnyway. How cool! I got the first CD out of the box, and it’s brilliant and fun – even for adults. And so sweet – right inside the liner notes is my name with a little message – I’m the biggest kid of all. smile
Then, downtown to Sara’s recording studio to drop off discs and meet people, and off to pick up oldest daughter Lily from school – a cool school – where they have a garden walk like a jungle, a little holistic cafe in the back, and an aviary with beautiful birds.
Whew! I went back to the very hip Hotel San Jose for a little rest, and then up to street for a big, fun dinner to celebrate her latest CD triumph, and to Amy’s for ice cream as performance art – not content to scoop it, the ice cream artisan pounds it into submission, smooshes a handful of peanut M&Ms into it, rolls it into a ball, then Whhop! Up into the air it sails, to land in your cup.
I could only eat half of it, because the chocolate was so dense it was like snacking on a black hole. Not even light could escape.
This morning, who should knock at my door but my bestest pal Sara, and it was off to breakfast at a neat hole-in-the-wall a stone’s throw from the Texas Capitol (hint – stand in the center of the Capitol rotunda and sing. Amazing acoustics), then an hour or so of wandering through wild antique stores and chotcke shops, laughing all the way. Really. My cheeks are so sore from laughing and smiling the last 3 days. Off to pick up Io from preschool – where she showed off her basil plant (or as she called it, a bagel plant… she also has coined a new word which I intend to use from now on: instead of yesterday, she calls it “lasterday,” which makes MUCH more sense, really).
Back to hang out in the office with Dawn, yummy grilled cheese sandwich for lunch and the rest of the day spent playing with blocks and generally being three years old. I may not have seen the regular touristy sights in Austin, but I did see an enormous castle made of blocks with a friendly dragon living on the top of it.
You know, my family loves me and I love them, but we are just NOT like this. It was a very different experience for me to be brought into this family with a big hug, and it was so joyous and uplifting. How amazing to be among people who truly value happiness, and work hard to spread it around to friends and strangers alike. Those are feelings that I so rarely encounter, and I was so grateful and happy to be there with them, included in all their joy.

From Taiwan. They think.

Is it wrong of me to plug my Powerbook into a socket in the airport and charge it up before a flight?
I’m just wondering.
Speaking of Powerbooks, I ordered a new one before I left. I was a little worried to see that Apple shipped it via Airborne – I certainly don’t have to tell regular readers of my contentious relationship with package delivery “services” – Airborne in particular. So, I was slightly heartened when I tracked the package and discovered that it had shipped and would be delivered while I was in Austin.
Then I checked yesterday to see if it had arrived and was greeted with the ominous “No information available. Call for information.”
Well, I feared the worst, of course. I called Airborne and was told that – once again – they didn’t know where the package was. But it hadn’t been lost – it was because their computer system indicated the package was shipped from Illinois when in reality it had been sent from TAIWAN and they couldn’t track it. Now, since Airborne does international shipping, why in the world can’t they track a package from Taiwan? And I also wonder, in these days of security and suspicion, why they don’t know the exact whereabouts of every package entering their system from outside the country?
So, I have no expectation of having my new Powerbook tomorrow when I go in to my office.
I wish Apple would let you choose what shipper to use, the same way they let you customize your computer.
[Update: Pal Tim in my office e-mailed to let me know that despite what Airborne says, my Powerbook arrived safely at the office today. Yay!]

More PC Bashing

All around me on this plane, guys are using laptops. In front of me, a guy is using a Gateway to create a spreadsheet doing an analysis of the Texas redistricting. He’s got it turned at an angle on the tray table in order to see what he’s doing. It looks like it weighs about 50 pounds. Across the aisle, a guy is using something that’s a little more streamlined and silver, but it’s still chunky and clunky, He can’t fit it on his tray table and it’s sitting half on the tray and half on his stomach so that he can angle the screen in such a way that it’s visible.
My Powerbook with it’s wide screen is sitting on the tray table with room to spare. The screen is angled back so I can see it, and it’s lightweight and very, very thin. The keyboard is set back from the front of the computer so you can stretch your arms to type – the PCs have their keyboards right up front. The Powerbook keys are very quiet, unlike the laptops around me which are clanking and clicking away. It’s just so elegant, and it seems to me that Jonathan Ive, the cutie who’s Apple’s design guru, probably spent a lot of time on planes when he was working on this one. How they managed to design such a powerful, lightweight, widescreen computer and put it into a 1 inch slim and convenient package is beyond me.
And, obviously, beyond the PC makers, as well. What’s amazing is that this Powerbook has been on the market for 3 years, and the PC makers still haven’t copied it other than to stick a wide screen in a 3 inch thick case.
I hope the new Powerbook I ordered serves me as well as this one, which is destined to be loved and nurtured by it’s soon-to-be adoptive family in Austin, the same family that adopted me for three days. I think my Powerbook will like it there.

Fun in the Sun

Exhausting but fun day yesterday here in hot, sunny Austin!
Had a great time visiting with Sara, playing with her great daughters and their friends – you know, when you’re on a plane or in a line or at the store, and get annoyed by other people’s kids? Sara’s girls are so cool and cute, it was such fun to hang out with them!
Then dinner with my e-mail pen pal Christian. It was nice to meet him in the flesh – cute flesh, at that. He’s a personal trainer and triathlete, who I sponsored in last year’s Hill Country AIDS Ride. Had dinner at a Chuy’s, a cool Tex-Mex joint. I never realized the decorative possibilities inherent in covering a ceiling with hubcaps. Then, stayed up real late, hanging out on the cushiony bench outside my hotel room, under a lazily turning fan. How cool is it that they have comfy seating outside at this hotel? How relaxing and social.
Today: not sure! Time for breakfast, then off to paint the town red with 3-year-old Iolana and her mom!

Smells like eucalyptus

The Hotel San Jose in Austin is definitely a change for me. I’m used to staying in Hyatts and Sheratons; this boutique hotel is minimal and hip. The room is tiny by most standards, but there’s eucalyptus in the air and a cooling polished concrete floor. The patio (which has WiFi) features beer and wine in the evenings, and next door is a tiny coffee shop. Ambiance, folks. Plenty of it.

I spent the early afternoon bumming around with pal Sara, seeing the sights. I’m amazed at the difference between here and home — mostly the proliferation of independent shops, bars, restaurants… even drug stores. Back in DC, we have been invaded by chains and franchises, and I can’t help but be wistful at the idea of buying a book or a cup of coffee from a family-owned shop.

Gives a new meaning to E-Ticket

Holy cow, this is the most turbulence I’ve ever experienced in flight. It’s like typing while riding Mr. Toad’s Wild Ride.