Monday, December 24, 2007

A Text..

Luke 2

1And it came to pass in those days, that there went out a decree from Caesar Augustus that all the world should be taxed.

2(And this taxing was first made when Cyrenius was governor of Syria.)

3And all went to be taxed, every one into his own city.

4And Joseph also went up from Galilee, out of the city of Nazareth, into Judaea, unto the city of David, which is called Bethlehem; (because he was of the house and lineage of David:)

5To be taxed with Mary his espoused wife, being great with child.

6And so it was, that, while they were there, the days were accomplished that she should be delivered.

7And she brought forth her firstborn son, and wrapped him in swaddling clothes, and laid him in a manger; because there was no room for them in the inn.

8And there were in the same country shepherds abiding in the field, keeping watch over their flock by night.

9And, lo, the angel of the Lord came upon them, and the glory of the Lord shone round about them: and they were sore afraid.

10And the angel said unto them, Fear not: for, behold, I bring you good tidings of great joy, which shall be to all people.

11For unto you is born this day in the city of David a Saviour, which is Christ the Lord.

12And this shall be a sign unto you; Ye shall find the babe wrapped in swaddling clothes, lying in a manger.

13And suddenly there was with the angel a multitude of the heavenly host praising God, and saying,

14Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace, good will toward men.

Nice job putting the company in the tank.... here's your golden parachute

This posting is long overdue....
I could've written about one of the last examples of mismanagement, and used it as an example. This one is not as spectacular from a monetary point of view, but it is nonetheless, the continuation of a trend that defies explanation. Let me suggest an alternate scenario, one that I learned from my old man, himself a successful businessman. "The CEO, Executive Staff, and Board of Directors is accountable for the success or failure of the company. Not just from the standpoint of reputation, but from a financial point of view." That means, "if you put the company in the toilet, you get *nothing*! No golden parachute, no immediate vesting of the stock options you were granted when you took the job. Nothing. *You* are your golden parachute. And, no, we're not going to pay you an exorbitant salary, either. And, by the way, if you've resorted to illegal acts to artificially inflate the value of your company, the police are waiting outside the door for you. (By the way, fellas, and you know who you are, thanks for all the extra work you've added to our plates. It's amazing how we've now come to the point where "Do the right thing" had to be codified into law.)

Tuesday, December 4, 2007

raison d'etre

What exactly prompted the name of this blog? Look at it this way. One of my long-time friends had a early 70's Datsun 240Z years ago that wasn't much to look at. It also wasn't long for creature comforts. What it lacked in looks and creature comforts was more than made up for by what it would do when sufficient force was applied to the accelerator pedal. The car would go.. terribly fast. That car embodies the blingmenot ethic. I could care less what a thing (gadget, car, you name it) looks like when it is uniquely useful or entertaining. It doesn't need to be flashy, and it doesn't need to be ostentatious.

I talked about $10,00 video projectors and $6,000 home theater patch cords in an earlier posting. Such items are the antithesis of blingmenot. blingmenot embodies my rejection of useless excess. It's the 'best bang for the buck' principle, reduced to a single word.

Guitar (anti-)Hero

So, Fender and Gibson have licensed replicas of some of my favorite guitars, so that they can be replicated as little plastic Guitar Hero controllers.. little plastic insults to the beautiful musical instruments they are modeled after. That started me wondering. You can buy a *real* Strat replica for probably about the same amount of money as the little verkakte Guitar hero Stratocaster controller. Why didn't either Fender or Gibson insist that Activision (along with the Guitar Hero controllers) make a simple controller for the various game consoles that takes real electric guitar input, and samples and translates actual strum/fretting actions into the representative Guitar hero controller commands? Nobody said you had to actually produce something musical on the guitar with all this fretting and picking. You don't even have to tune the guitar. Just strum the thing, and let the controller calibrate to whatever the strings are tuned to. You could even color the first through 5th frets on your "REAL Guitar Hero" controller green. red, yellow, blue, and orange. (for that matter, how long is it going to be before a real guitarist shows up on stage playing a guitar that has green, red, yellow, blue and orange spots in the first five fret positions.)

My gripe is, why play at playing guitar when you're that close to the real thing. Oh, and God forbid you decide you actually *like* playing the thing, and decide to really learn to pick out notes, and make chords. Then the Guitar Hero gameplay could then have a mode that expects you to play more complex note patterns as the game progresses.

Also, I'm not talking about ruining a perfectly good guitar by cobbling the existing GH controller into a real electric guitar. I mean a black box that has a quarter-inch jack on one end, and on the other end, a connector for the gaming console of your choice.. you can use any guitar. You could even include colored dots to place under the first five fret positions on an existing guitar. In this way *any* guitar would work. I presume Fender and Gibson would prefer to make the profit off sales of real guitars (even cheap ones) over the pennies they may be making off the little plastic controllers (that are breaking left and right)

Home, sweet home...

I have a friend who grew up in Russia, and lived there through his college years. I asked him if the recent election results back home seemed familiar to him. Did they remind him of the home he left. "Not especially," was his initial reply. "However, when Chechnya supposedly supported Putin with 97 percent of the votes.. now *that* reminds me of home."

Well put.

Monday, November 26, 2007

If guns are outlawed, only outlaws will have guns...

An Australian man was shot and killed after he protested about a neighbor's loud music. Correct me if I'm wrong, but wasn't there a Nationwide Gun Ban in Australia almost ten years ago? Nobody yet has come up with a convincing argument about how a person already predisposed to breaking the law is going to stop short of violating a nationwide gun ban.

The United States Supreme Court announced they will hear the challenge to the District of Columbia handgun ban this coming year, probably in the spring. If I understand correctly, the Supreme Court will rule on whether the rights conveyed under the Second Amendment are collective rights or individual rights. I hope our rights as citizens continue to be protected.

Friday, November 23, 2007

The high price of early adoption

I had a bad hankering for big-screen home theater five years ago. I already owned a 55 inch CRT rear-projection TV, but I had home theater envy; the kind you get after reading high-end home AV enthusiast magazines. At that point in time, making the statement “I want a really big-screen home theater” was really another way to say “I plan to spend an insane amount of money,” There weren't any $1,000 or less projectors made for home cinema, like there are now. It's still possible to spend $10,000 on a home-theater projector.... Of course, it was then and still is possible to purchase a $6,000 patchcord for your A/V equipment. (I'm sure I'll end up discussing my opinions about ultra-high-end AV equipment in another posting.) I wasn't prepared to embark on a purpose-built home theater room, or to spend tens of thousands of dollars on a home theater-type projector. I decided a data-grade DLP projector was what I wanted.

I did a lot of research. I wanted high-lumen output, and HDTV compatibility. At the time, my 55 inch analog TV was only six years old and was doing a terrific job for everyday TV viewing. Over-the-air digital television was already available, but I wasn't prepared to replace the 55-inch TV anytime soon. I figured I'd get as much HDTV compatibility as I could afford in my new projector as I could afford, and we'd do our HDTV viewing on the projector, with the help of a DTV receiver/decoder card for the PC. This arrangement served our needs for the next five years. The projector was supposed to handle DVI digital inputs, but it ended up not being able to accept DVI video from my HDTV tuner card. I was disappointed, but we ended up sending the HDTV signal over the VESA connector.

A couple of years after we bought the projector, I built my first MythTV box, and it quickly became the family PVR. My wife can navigate the MythTV menus and options better than I can. It quickly migrated from hobbyist project to a home appliance used on a daily basis. Before Myth came along, my wife had her VCR running throughout the day, timeshifting TV to her schedule. Once Myth came on the scene, I heard less and less of the whirring and clicking of her VCR, as she came to depend more on MythTV.

That first homebrew MythTV PC experienced hardware failure at the end of the summer, after almost three years of good service. I decided to upgrade the hardware, and to also move our HDTV watching and recording over to the new MythTV machine. About that same time, the 55-inch RPTV started showing signs of being ready to give up the ghost, so my wife and I decided to replace it with a new Samsung DLP model with LED illumination. (I'll have to rant and rave about that TV in another posting.) I had previously driven the projector with another PC running Windows XP and the HDTV decoder card. When my wife's Thursday night viewing of 'ER' rolled around, we had to boot up the Windows PC, and set up the projector in advance of the start of the program. I was now planning to drive the existing projector and the new TV from the new MythTV box. I decided to have the new MythTV box drive the new TV and existing projector with Component Video, so that my wife and I could easily switch between the TV and the projector. I'd arrange to have the same video signal appear at either device.

Remember from a couple of paragraphs ago where I mentioned I'd had no success running DVI to the projector? Well, it turns out it didn't want to display component video above 480p, either. There was no amount of reconfiguring my wiring scheme, and following recommendations on AVSForum that would get the stubborn projector to accept the signal from the MythTV box. Also, keep in mind that the DVI connection standard (which the projector supposedly supported, but didn't actually support adequately) had quasi-morphed into HDMI, and that HDCP was now on the scene (and the projector was old enough to support neither of these formats.)

Now, add to all that confusion my trip to Wal-Mart that first Friday morning in November, 2007. I and 89,999 other fortunate buyers laid our $100 down for an HD-DVD player. Whether or not HD-DVD took off in the marketplace, I figured it would be a terrific upconverting DVD player. Of course Hollywood saw to it that I'd never display HD content of any type via component video. They expected me to use HDMI with HDCP. (I'll be sure to spew some vitriol about Hollywood in another posting. I've got plenty to spare.) So, now I have a projector that wouldn't display DVI output from my HD decoder card, won't display component video over 480p, and will never display HDCP encrypted video.

I felt like I was out of options for coaxing my projector into working with my A/V system upgrades. My wife and I spent a socially significant amount of money on it, and I sure didn't expect to have to upgrade it after only 5 years. Nonetheless, I found myself in that exact position. I found a 16:9 projector designed for home theater that was on sale, and cost less than a third of what my original projector cost. I ended up buying that projector, and decided we'd sell our existing projector on eBay. I am still frustrated over the money, time and effort spent on the original projector. I am partly consoled by how relatively inexpensive the replacement projector was, compared to the projector it replaced.

I'm glad that the cost of home A/V is dropping I'd just as soon not run into any more high-priced early adoption 'opportunities' like this.

Wednesday, November 21, 2007

That's too many words. You might want to pare that down.....

I'm often chided for spending too many words on getting my point across in personal and business communication. Most times I accept that advice and act accordingly. After all, in business communication, the idea is to not waste people's time with extra fluff. Since this blog is more of a quasi-constructive way to waste time, I don't intend to be economical with my words. At least I've given the gentle reader a heads-up. I really like to talk.

Thursday, November 15, 2007

... at least I thought of a name, finally

I'll have more to say in short order. Thanks to for making the process as painless as possible..