Friday, December 14, 2007


So, this morning at 6:36am I received the following email from some automated system that was programmed by someone at Microsoft:

This mail is confirmation that you have successfully renewed your subscription to Xbox Live 12 mo. Gold Membership.

Ok! We're good, end of story. No, of course not, I wouldn't be writing about it otherwise.

At 9:35am, I received this email:

We have recently attempted to charge your Xbox Live 12 mo. Gold Membership service to the credit card on file for your account. Please accept this reminder that your credit card has passed its expiration date and needs to be updated.

Luckily I happen to know that yes, the credit card I used originally isn't good anymore. But why did they tell me it worked when it didn't? Can't have much faith in whatever they are doing...


Really annoying article at the NYT this morning, about everyone's favorite (yes admit it), the Wii.

Some snippets:
Nintendo has been unable to keep up with demand, costing it hundreds of millions of dollars in potential sales.
Well, yes, but, no. The author and editors should be thinking net profit, not gross profit. It's not like Nintendo can just build a new factory for free, there are costs involved.
"It's staggering," said James Lin, senior analyst at the MDB Capital Group in Santa Monica, Calif., who estimates that Nintendo is leaving $1.3 billion on the table. "They could easily sell double what they're selling."
Well, yes, but, no, if it were easy they would do it. Ok ok, he means the selling end, but if you're going to sell something you have to make it first (goods, not services), so don't address the back end without addressing the front end. To be fair, he may have said that, we don't know, the article doesn't indicate if he said anything else about it or not.

Here is another problematic fact:
Nintendo sold 981,000 Wiis in the United States in November, its best month yet, while Microsoft sold 770,000 Xbox 360s, and Sony sold 466,000 PlayStation 3 consoles, the market research firm NPD Group said Thursday.
Fine, all good and true. But the systems have all been available for different lengths of time (saturation issues), cost different amounts, and appeal to different demographics (which the article does point out). It's nice to think, "oh look we have numbers now we know everything" but it is, to use the cliche, apples and oranges and cabbage (ok I modified the cliche). And anyways those numbers, honestly, and I hope you noticed right away, are estimates since they all end in 000. Not that I'd bet they're far off, but still. We don't know how NPD arrived at those numbers. (Why can't we just get the actual numbers from the companies? Don't they like to trumpet their sales? Why not?)

They finally get something right:
Industry analysts suspect that Nintendo is intentionally keeping the supply low to maintain a buzz.
To what extent, who knows, but cache is important. And anyways, one thing the NYTimes fails to note, is the this under-production gets it an article in the NYTimes, for free. Free publicity in the paper of record in the US, about how badly people want the Wii. Wow. Can't beat that.

Sunday, November 4, 2007

NYC Marathon!

CD's splits, amazing. Marathons, I learned, are 26.2 miles long. The previous long she'd run was 13 miles. She did it! Awesome! Mile average time: 9:52. Wow! (Exactly one mile every 592.2900 seconds, on average, over the 26.2 miles.)

  0:30:25    0:58:46    1:27:32    1:56:56    2:03:27  
  2:27:15    2:57:52    3:29:08    4:03:02    4:18:38  

Tuesday, October 30, 2007

Sushi! Trevor Corson's The Zen of Fish

You should all read Corson's The Zen of Fish. Funny, moving, inspiring, and filled with history and science in an accessible and enjoyable manner (science is good, it is not scary).

Saturday, October 27, 2007


They are still releasing titles for the PS2. Amazing. I have read one developer said that they know the platform so well by now they can squeeze every last drop of performance out of it.

But, tonight I was faced with a decision: Psychonauts for PS2, or Xbox? PS2. Why? My third Xbox 360 is starting its downward spiral (it keeps hanging after about .5 an hour with a "unreadable disk" error, which is what it did the first two times it died).

Bad, Microsoft, bad.

And my iPhone rocks, the interface is amazing. Microsoft could never, ever, come up with something so cool. Why not? The Cult of Bill, that's why not. Windows on every desktop instead of super awesome OS, that's why. Alas, Microsoft...

Boston Sports

BC football is #2.
Celts are supposed to be amazing.
Pats destroyed the Redskins, 52-7.
I think I'm missing something....

Thursday, October 18, 2007

Old Photos

I was in a second-hand store the other day and there was a big basket of old, mostly black and white, photos (below). Seemed rather sad. Reminded me of Blade Runner and how they had photos to represent their pasts, but of course the photos weren't really of their past since they didn't have pasts. I have been told, however, by the owner of the second-hand store that these are usually extra photos that the families still have copies of, so, no loss. Still interesting to be able to buy photographic stills of others' pasts.

Thursday, October 11, 2007

More Numbers!

From the NYT, as usual:

There are some 200 billion stars in the galaxy.... The first thing Dr. Shostak and his colleagues plan to do with the newly operational 42-antenna array is to survey a strip across the center of the galaxy. There will be several billion stars in the field of view, but they will be very far away, 10,000 to 50,000 light years...

Saturday, October 6, 2007

Morris Blog

Errol Morris has two very cool entries (awaiting #3) about a photograph from the Crimean War. Wonderfully detailed. Great story-telling and writing. Totally riveting even though you know they are very long entries. Appropriately long, though. Illustrated. Part 1 here, and Part 2 here.

Thursday, October 4, 2007

You'd Think...

The Saga:

Xbox 360 comes back, RRoD's on fist start.

Perhaps, a friend suggests, it is the AV cable?

I test that, but if it's loose it actually works, and if it's out it has four red lights, not just three.

So, yes, it is true, Microsoft sent me a unit that RRoD'ed the very first time I fired it up.

Insane. (You'd think they would send me one that doesn't do that.)

Saturday, April 7, 2007

Pippa Norris Facts Blog Entry

(This is a repost from my UM blog. I reposted a few things from it here, but not as many as I thought I might. I am trying to keep the dates on them original.)

No, not Chuck Norris, Pippa Norris! Dr. D and I are working on a paper and recently found a highly relevant chapter by Dr. Norris, and I realized someone (yes me) must make a Pippa Norris Facts page (and since you know all about Chuck Norris Facts you don't need to hit that link, right?). If you don't, you should, or these will make absolutely no sense.

  • Pippa Norris does not collect data, it comes running to her out of fear and respect.
  • Pippa Norris does not just study democracy, she willed it into existence so she could study it.
  • Pippa Norris does not need research assistants, they need her.
  • Pippa Norris never massages data, she pounds it with her fists!
  • Pippa Norris studies political protests but does not take part in them -- no one would dare stand against her!
  • Pippa Norris studies the free press -- and the bench press!

I've never met her, but I think I emailed her once (and I think she emailed back).