Wednesday, February 22, 2006


  This morning I saw this article on Europe aims for its own MIT | CNET Now of course I was immediately annoyed by the title. Why take aim at the world's #2 tech school, why not shoot for #1? Then after reading the article, I realized that the EU does not mention MIT at all, so its inclusion in the title (though not the body) of the article is simply the ignorance of the article's author, Jo Best. Or maybe it's not ignorance, just typical lowest-common-denominator/pop-culture, i.e. MIT is to higher learning as McDonald's is to fine dining.
  Anyways, after reading the article, I couldn't help but be amazed that the EU would really entertain such a foolish idea. Do they think that the great American colleges are a product of government sponsorship? Obviously they have noticed that universities often work with private industries, but they don't do that because of some government commission "encouraging" then to do so. American universities are not run by some government commission. This is just another classic example of central planning vs. free enterprise, and we've all seen what wins out there.

Monday, February 06, 2006

Instant Classic

Super Bowl XL is an Instant Classic. Ok, so not really. It was actually a pretty poorly played game in most ways. Last year's Super Bowl was really pretty good, except for Donovan McNabb falling apart at the end of the game and forgetting how to run a hurry up offense. The year before, New England over Carolina, was outstanding. So I guess we were due for a bit of a clunker. It's amazing that Ben Roethlisberger and Troy Polamalu could both play so badly and yet The Steelers won. The truth is that Pittsburgh has a lot more playmakers on their team, and that depth was really the difference.
Pittsburgh deserved it, no doubt. They got lucky against Cincy, with Carson Palmer going down to injury. I really don't think they would have won that game had Palmer not gone down so early in the game. Kitna had decent success, especially at first, so it's easy to "extrapolate" a big passing game for Palmer. They were certainly used to Pittsburgh's pressure defense. So they got lucky. However, The Steelers played great against both Indianapolis and Denver. Of course they still needed a little bit of good luck (Vanderjagt's missed FG) to counter the bad luck (Bettis fumble,) but they definitely out-played Indianapolis -- who was clearly the best team in the regular season. They played up to the same level against Denver, and crushed them. If they had played anywhere near that yesterday, it would have been more like 42-3 or so.
Without Polamalu's usual explosiveness and with Joey Porter contained by Walter Jones (which I didn't think would happen, but did,) Seattle could really execute the offense. Yet they just kept choking away points. Penalties in the end-zone, missed field goals, bad clock management, etc. I would have been ready to jump off The Space Needle if I was a Seahawks fan. They should have been up by at least 10 at halftime, and the game would have been radically different.
I don't think Roethlisberger's thumb was bothering him yesterday, I think he was just really nervous. And he doesn't have a coach who knows how to calm down a young quarterback. It's the same thing that happened against New England in the AFC Championship a year ago. Bill Cowher is a good coach, but one would have to say that Mike Holmgren could have probably done a better job getting Roethlisberger to play well yesterday. Big Ben certainly has the ability, as he demonstrated against Cincinnati, Indianapolis, and Denver. You could just the adrenaline going crazy in him, with him taking on tacklers and throwing hard blocks.
Luckily for him it didn't matter. Big plays from Willie Parker and Hines Ward were more than enough to beat a Seattle team that could not put points on the board despite being able to move the ball pretty much at will.

Side Note 1: It was a good game for ex-Florida Gators. Darrell Jackson played even better than his stats, with two touchdowns taken off the board. Max Starks was also solid for Pittsburgh, throwing a key block on Willie Parker's score. Only bad spot was Maquand Manuel, who had played well for Seattle this year, filling in for Ken Hamlin. Manuel actually was playing pretty well until he got injured in the first quarter and did not return.

Side Note 2: I did not realize until yesterday that Mike Holmgren used to coach at Oak Grove High School. I run by Oak Grove HS every morning, as it's about two miles from my house. I knew that Holmgren grew in San Francisco, but did not know he had coached high school football in San Jose before moving on to BYU.

Thursday, February 02, 2006

Stern Pirates

I saw a piece on TV this morning and read this article about people pirating episodes of Howard Stern's radio show on P2P networks. Nothing here is surprising. Of course people are going to pirate Stern's broadcasts. Of course Sirius is having a fit and promising to go after the pirates. It all begs the question, haven't we learned anything?
Look at the evolution of the original Napster, Kazaa, and now iTunes. People want to download music, they don't care about laws (Napster.) Shutting down one distribution method for this does no good as other, more efficient ones replace it (Kazaa.) The only way to really combat this is to offer the same thing legally and for a low price (iTunes.)
So the obvious thing that Sirius should do is offer Stern's shows on iTunes. They should offer them on a show-by-show basis for the iTunes standard of $0.99. In addition to that, they could offer a subscription via iTunes podcasts for say $15 per month. First off, anybody who regularly listened to Stern would spend way more money going this route than paying $13 per month for a Sirius subscription. They'd be paying more for less, since the $13 gets you a lot more than just Stern's four hours in the morning. So it's hard to see how they would be hurting themselves with this move. Additionally, it would let people taste-test Stern on Sirius. These are people who would never throw down the money for a Sirius setup and sign a subscription. However, some of those people are bound to do just that after taste-testing Stern on Sirius (assuming Stern is as entertaining as Sirius and the $500M they are paying him think he is.) So it should actually boost Sirius subscription rates in the long run. Finally, people have shown that if you give them a legal, low price option, they will pay for it over the illegal free option. Apple is closing in on a billion song sales on iTunes after all.

Bloc Party

I picked up Silent Alarm by Bloc Party this weekend. It's an immediately catchy record. Lots of great rhythms and guitar riffs. It's easy to see why they've been compared a lot to Franz Ferdinand. I think Silent Alarm is actually a much better record than either of Franz Ferdinand's records. That's mostly because of the production. Bloc Party sounds much more modern than Franz. They also have a lot more machismo and that can be good thing.
Anyways if you're a fan of guitar-driven, alterna-rock a la Jane's Addiction or Built to Spill, definitely give a listen to Bloc Party. Actually the record really reminds me a lot of Radiohead's The Bends. A lot of times Brits don't like to take themselves too seriously, but Bloc Party definitely pulls it off.