03.29.04

Off to the races

Me and B-WagsBen talked me into racing with him this weekend and I'm always game for racing without any preparation. It was pleasant weather in Central Park (a bit windy maybe), of course that doesn't make it any less painful. I'm moving a little slower today.

Nicole (the wonder-fiancee) and Henry (the wonder-dog) were up for the weekend and we all went over to Ben's after the race to eat, recover and drink entirely too much coffee. Too much coffee which came in handy as Nico and I (and Henry of course) left shortly thereafter to drive back to Washington. Which was followed a few hours later by a hopping of the train back to NYC.

Posted by Owen at 12:09 PM | Comments (1) | TrackBack

03.26.04

Tolerance for hire

There is an article on CBS News today that makes me scratch my head a bit.

I chuckled at the taken-for-granted superficiality of this piece. Of course the ability of a product to sell makes it acceptable. Duh. What do you mean you should have a part of yourself in public just because you believe it? How last century of you.

There was an astute comment in there though. It's something that I've noticed since moving up to NYC. The writer was wondering about why the market of evangelicals - a rather large purchase power group - was news to Hollywood.

[Jess] Cagle notes, “As one producer told the magazine, the people who run the studios are a very homogeneous group of people, and there is a great divide between those people and evangelical Christians.”

But it's more than misunderstanding a consumer group. I think that this may be uncovering a deeper idea that has been held - incorrectly I believe - for a long time.

Ever since I can remember, I've heard folks say that I produce this or that because it sells. You know, sex sells, hip-hop sells, etc. Well, seems to me that it's more a preference for what people want to create in the first place.

Folks are all suprised that religion and sacrafice sells - I'm not.

I think that the real artists wanted to produce and create with sex and violence in the recent past and the followers have followed them. The artists, I believe, have rediscovered religion, and inevatibly the followers will follow. They will write articles about new trends like the one in CBS News.

But the taste for religion in the common man never went anywhere. The producers just wanted to sell what they wanted to sell.

Posted by Owen at 5:15 PM | TrackBack

03.23.04

Random entry

I'm feeling pretty good right now. Went to the pool and had some sushi this evening. I rode straight from work to the Y. The wind on the QB bridge was strange as usual. It was gusting in so many direction that it would blow me hither and yon - kept me guessing. Once I got under the bridge I noticed (or didn't notice) just how quiet this bike is. It doesn't make a lick of noise and sometimes I even foget that I'm on it.

I walked over to the sushi place (The Wasabi Boy) with my laptop open to see if I could pick up any wireless signals around the block. There was one place that had a weak signal. I may go sit outside there when it warms up a bit and I need a change of compu-scenery.

Roland is out in California and blogging up a little storm with a side of photos - lots of photos.

Ben is doing the same thing as me tonight. Eating sushi alone (happily) and looking into his G4.

Posted by Owen at 11:59 PM | Comments (1) | TrackBack

03.22.04

Interesting . . .

OK, I promise to stop talking about comment spam here. But one more interesting thing happened. After I installed Blacklist and there was an initial burst of spam-denied, the spammers left. I checked my site logs and nobody has even tried to comment spam for nearly two days. They must just give up when they see Blacklist. So there's some promising news - a civically-minded product that the bad guys are scared of.

On another interesting note . . .

If you drink a lot of water (i.e. you are hydrated well) it feels totally different when you get hungry. The hunger feels cleaner for some reason, it's almost pleasant. Just thought I'd mention that.

Posted by Owen at 2:55 PM | TrackBack

03.21.04

Sucka Step Off

I feel so empowered! I installed MT-Blacklist this afternoon and it has already rejected a half-dozen spam comments.

I do appreciate the cleverness of the spam comment idea, but maybe those clever cats should put their minds to something more productive. So to all the spam-spittin' haters out there - go get a real job will ya?

Posted by Owen at 12:10 AM | TrackBack

03.17.04

Spam's got a brother down

I usually get excited about spam. I love it for it's neat texture, relegation to the fringes of culinary acceptability and it's flamable qualities. But ever since I started this here blog, I've been getting a nastier type of spam. Comment spam.

It was pretty harmless at first, I would notice a stange comment on one of my entries and delete it. This would happen maybe once a week. But in the last few days I've gotten dozens of these crazy things. That's a lot of deleting.

It's interesting how this works and how the success of Google (God bless 'em) plays a major roll in content spam. Folks who run porn sites try to get links to their sites on as many web pages as possible. They do this to take advantage of the way Google prioritizes its results. Google rates a search by how many times a certain site is linked to when certain words are used. So if there a millions of pages that have the words "Happy people" and those words link to a porn site, then google will show that porn site when you search for "Happy people."

So spammers just go through blogs and post comments with nice words that link to their sites. Pushing up their ratings on Google/ That's not very nice, is it?

Well, I found this good cyber citizen named Jay Allen who has created a filter for this stuff. He calls it Blacklist. So we'll see if we can't get that baby fired up in the next few days.

Posted by Owen at 1:26 PM | Comments (3) | TrackBack

03.13.04

SK8erhood

I went to the pool this morning but the kids had taken over with swim lessons. Four hours worth.

So for the first time since I've moved up here, I set out aimlessly to cover some ground in LIC - on my trusty skate. If you've never been to the LIC that isn't Jackson Ave., it's pretty much all paved and industrial - skate paradise. Lots of stuff that I'll have to come back to when I get me board-legs back.

I hear tell of a cutsie little place out the 7 train. I'll have to hit that one some other day.

I was suprised how those muscles hurt after only an hour aboard. Did manage though to get one really good feeling float on an ollie over a small gap. That's some good stuff.

Posted by Owen at 4:38 PM | Comments (2) | TrackBack

03.11.04

Syndi-cool

I'm know I'm a bit late to the game here, but I've got to give props to the whole syndicated RSS/XML thing. This is way cool!

I downloaded Feed Reader for my PC at work and I loaded up the XML feeds from my favorite blogs and media outlets. So now I get a little alert whenever a new post of headline goes up on any of these sources. This will save hours of browsing and free me up for more important things.

Posted by Owen at 7:03 PM | TrackBack

03.10.04

A happy ending

I'm putting this one in the phenomena category.

I've been watching with my civic-minded colleagues at MTV News online as our little Urban Outfitter's expose has unfurled into T-shirt Gate.

Now that everybody's had their fun I wanted to give the last word to my favorite cap on the subject - from the Weekly Standard:

Complaining Is for Earnest People

It is a truism of American politics that an election cycle is not an election cycle without its fair share of harebrained pseudo-scandals. But the latest might prompt observers to reclassify the Silly Season as the Stupid Season. At issue: the sale of a cheeky T-shirt that reads "Voting Is for Old People."

Stocked by Urban Outfitters and the creation of John Keddie, who helms vintagevantage.com (where the shirt is also for sale), the apathy-championing T-shirt has managed to unite chin-tuggers of all stripes. The lads at punkvoter.com squealed as if a nerve had been hit during a particularly painful septum-piercing. Al Jourgensen of the group Ministry wrote in a letter to Urban Outfitters, "I am shocked and appalled at your recklessness. Your T-shirt is knowingly irresponsible." And those rock'n'roll cads at Harvard's Institute of Politics were equally outraged. "The shirt's message could not be further from the truth," wrote the Institute's director, Dan Glickman. "We would be eager to work with you to suggest alternative products that send the right message to America's young people, and better reflect the considerable social conscience and political participation of today's youth. You might consider 'Voting Rocks!'"

You might--if you're a dork. The Washington Post reported that the Institute went on to quote John F. Kennedy, saying, "The future promise of any nation can best be measured by the present prospects of its youth." To which we respond with the wise words of Evelyn Waugh, who pronounced, "What is youth except a man or woman before it is fit to be seen."

Color us cynical, but isn't it in the republic's best interest for those who are easily swayed by T-shirt slogans not to make their voices heard on Election Day? On vintagevantage.com, Keddie writes, "It appears that taking yourself too seriously is for old and young people alike. We're calling on the Camp Cool faithful to stand by our side during this difficult, uncertain time. Ha!" THE SCRAPBOOK, a Camp Cool regular, stands with Keddie, and hopes that this shameless endorsement is good enough to win us one of his overpriced T-shirts, size XL.

Don't get me wrong, I'm as likely as anyone to want to poke a hipster in the nose when I see him checking himself out in a pane glass window. But urban life would be far too depressing if I couldn't look forward to laughing at their co-operative and coordinated efforts at expressing uniqueness.

Posted by Owen at 1:35 PM | TrackBack

03.09.04

The A-chip

I've decided to add a new feature to my featureless site. Upon request from a reader, I will now give a little warning notation (*) when linking to potentially objectionable material.

So keep your eyes out for the (*) lest you be served with a #&!%, a gd-ism, an f-bomb or worse. Incidentally, I will try to keep the objectionable posting and linking to an absolute minimum.

the management.

Posted by Owen at 3:25 PM | TrackBack

The little things

In the spirit of Ben's post the other day - I had a little things moment last night.

I joined the Y here in Queens the other night -$37/mo as opposed to $85/mo in DC. I mainly joined for the really nice little pool they have there. Yesterday the pool was pretty crowded so I ventured up to the cardio machine room. I usually try to avoid those places because many times creepy folks hang out on the stairmasters and recumbant cyclo-machines and check each other out.

There was a row of those new-fangled tredmills full of bells and whistles, but there were two of the old-school hard core looking tredmills down at the end. So I got onto one of those and started running and whadda you know but these ones went up to 12mph! It was a Spinal Tap moment. I haven't been on a tredmill that went past 10 since I was in college. I was totally jazzed and it gave me something to look forward to - using the 12 setting without getting thrown off the back of the machine.

Posted by Owen at 7:34 AM | TrackBack

03.08.04

Dissentors be praised

One reason I enjoy reading blogs is that you can see a dissenting opinion, in all it's splendor, right up there with the original author's opinion. That's the beauty of the two way publishing thing.

What's even more interesting is the way that bloggers who follow current event are beginning to show up the relative ivory towers that are major news networks. Working in a big news room myself, I see the way that a major news story can get handed around from paper to paper and airwave to airwave and become a major phenomena. It can be a real mess.

Take two recent examples. Howard Dean screams in Iowa after an empassioned speech. What's the big deal? Nothing until CNN plays it 600 times in four days and then every major paper must keep up with the coverage. And how about the more recent Bush 9/11 campaign ads. There were three days of gangbuster, front-page coverage on the main news outlets about the rage of the victim's families. Turns out they were talking about 6 families while more than a dozen had come out in support of the ads.

This kind of stuff really shapes public opinion. Yet it's missing any sort of peer review or any other vetting process outside the ethos of a particular newsroom.

It's a lot different with blogs. Somebody writes a story or a bit of coverage and anyone can comment in real time. The author can see the feedback right away. It's a vulnerability and accountability which makes it more likely that folks will end up with a better shaped look at the world. Sort of keeps one's personal opinions in check.

Take a look at how bloggers are becoming that peer review for ivory tower journalists here, here*, and here. These are just three that come to recent memory.

PEW for People and the Press released some survey results last month saying that folks are trending away from the major networks to get their news. Could be interesting if we (non-professional journalists) become the news anchors of tomorrow.

Posted by Owen at 3:41 PM | Comments (1) | TrackBack

03.07.04

It only gets deeper

The Times has another story on the front today which is powerful. Yesterday's story was about young kids wising up and trying to clean up the sexual mess that they find themselves in after a generatioin or two really irresponsible sexuality. Today's article is about seniors who live alone and are homebound. In the NYC region they expect that number to grow by nearly 30% in the next 15 years.

Growing and growing numbers - homebound folks with very little love or even contact with other people. Think of what that would be like. One lady in the story says:

"No one comes knocking at my door. I like having someone knock at the door, even if it's only a few minutes. You don't think you're living a hermit's life. You don't like to feel like you were running a race and you suddenly stopped. After all, do you want to talk to yourself day after day? I'm bored with me already."

I think that these two stories lay a lot of shame our doors. I suppose we either have to learn to stomach messed up young kids and isolated old folks or take responsibility for it. But it also seems that people have begun to think that Meals on Wheels, social security and sex-ed programs are the equivilent of respopnsibility. Read these stories and if you still think that, you've got worse problems.

It's funny how the FDA will reject drugs because they have made a moral judgement that the side-effects outweigh the benefits. After all, it feels good to stick it to a pharmacutical company - they're just out to make a buck by screwing the public anyway. But I think that the pursuit of "personal liberties" is beginning to control us rather than vice versa.

Imagine the response if a federal agency was set up to accept of reject products and advertisements that other retailers wanted to sell to the American public. What if they said, "Sure it might be nice to have a college education in another state, but that may cause a kid to loose touch with his family and forget the debt he owes to his parents and grandparents in their old age. This sort of marketing may leave the country with millions of unwanted and unappreciated elderly." Could you imagine the cry of free-speech-foul?

The one idea is palatable because it looks to screw rich folks, and that's the American way. Yet nobody seems to care about the other, much larger, set of rich people (mostly the entertainment industry) who sells discontent by the bucket and tells folks to be "like Mike." There's a lot more money to be made in image making than in drugs.

Even so, it's hard to deny yourself freedoms and take up old-school responsibility. But it's worth making a life of trying, because denying it only gets us in deeper.

Posted by Owen at 3:31 PM | Comments (1) | TrackBack

The new look

Hey crew - so here is the newish look of the blog. I was inspired by Doug to get my butt in gear and actually start to design my site.

Since the whole blog-thing is about sharing experience, I'll share the experience of redesigning with my vast audience. So I want you two to check in every few weeks and check out the progress. I know Roland, I totally stole that idea from you - whose public Movable Type experince inspired me to do this whole thing in the first place.

If you click on any of the sub-pages you'll see that the new design is only skin deep. You'll also notice that the right column is short and the right side of the header and the right side of the right column don't line up. Ah, the learning curve of designing with css. So be it - we'll get it straight. Stay tuned.

Posted by Owen at 11:53 AM | Comments (2) | TrackBack

03.06.04

They ain't been shootin' straight

There is an article in the Times today about all of the confusion over the quiet decline in the teenage birthrate. It's a long piece, but interesting reading.

The analysis in the story is confusing and never really does anything useful, but the stories about the kids, and the questions that the author asks are the good stuff.

I think that kids are figuring out that sexual "freedom" is not all it's cracked up to be. It's such a product of the fast-fading modern mind that anyone would think about sex outside of a more substantive relationship. Yet that's exactly the public discussion - whether in the sex-ed classes, at the lockers, on the silver screen or in the ghettoblaster - that has been taking place ever since I was a wee-tyke. Most of the kids in the story sound like they have been worn out by life and the sexual misconduct of their friends and families. They're all saying "maybe we should take a look at why we are so burdened in our early teens."

There are some really amazing and powerful quotes from these kids who are just looking for real love and realizing they've been lied to.

"No one loves me, I'm going to have a child who will love me"

"They want to get away from the clinical aspect of sexuality," she said. "They all want to learn more about relationships, intimacy, talking to your partners, love."

"I think there's something very profound going on. I don't think anybody understands in depth this change in teen culture"

"Every other movie on that channel is, like, a teenage mother crying or a woman getting beat," he explained. "And my older sister, who is sexually active, we'd just be watching TV and she'd be, like, `You do know how that happens, don't you?'"

Yet it is still amazing to me that nobody is talking about families. It is almost a taboo - why can't folks just say that people need each other and that blood is thicker than water. Are they scared of something? What's up?

Posted by Owen at 3:24 PM | TrackBack

03.03.04

The Widowmaker

OK, I'm now convinced this was no fluke. I first noticed this particular wind about two weeks ago when I was coming across the Queensboro into Manhattan. I ran into the same wind twice last week and it was there again this morning. That rises, for me anyway, to the level of reportable.

So there is this wind that sometimes blows west to east across the East River. I'm going to call it the Widowmaker - it's that evil!

In the mornings I head east on this little avenue in Queens and then do a u-turn to begin the mile-long climb over the Queensboro. On Widowmaker mornings I can feel it as soon as I turn around at the base of the bridge. "Oh no - not that again," is now the viceral response. I can't wait until I get to the "Bring it on" stage. A few weeks maybe.

Anyhow, this is one of those winds that is very thick - you can't slip through it. I scoot to the left, I scoot to the right, it's there. The impulse to get off and walk comes about half way up - at which point walking would probably be faster. Three quarters of the way up I start to get cotton mouth symptoms. Four fifths of the way my quads are in Dantes inferno, all sort of liquids and gasps are seeping out of my face and I'm barley going fast enough stay upright. I'm out of the saddle, I'm in the saddle, I'm in the same place I was 2 seconds ago, the wind is hell-bent on pushing me reverse.

I finally make it to the level part of the bridge, which now feels like a hill and I feel like collapsing on the handlebars. I look over at some flags in Manhattan and they are hanging lifelessly. "LIARS!"

Posted by Owen at 12:01 PM | Comments (3) | TrackBack

03.02.04

A new PR

Most PRs have to do with a best time, but today I had a different sort. I made it from home to work - Queens to Time Square - without taking my feet off of the pedals and without a break in pedaling.

I love that sort of PR because it's a planning ahead and think on your feet (seat) PR. When I see a red light coming - slow the cadence - or when I see a crosswalk sign indicating an imminent light change - speed the cadence.

So the next trick is a time PR without taking my feet off of the pedals. Stay tuned.

Posted by Owen at 10:41 AM | Comments (1) | TrackBack

03.01.04

Atta boy

Here's a young guy (24) in Wyoming who has ITU racing asperations and is going to take a few others with him. Nick has set up a little business for the sole purpose of funding himself and a couple of other lucky contestants to train full time and become elite triathletes on the world cicuit.

Go ahead Team Grind.

Posted by Owen at 10:49 PM | TrackBack