Friday, November 23, 2007

Does the crowd always know?

I don't know. But there is a good chance all of you do.

I have been messing around on Facebook lately. One of their diversions is the 'never-ending movie quiz'. There are hundreds, if not thousands of questions, and you just keep answering them. I've answered 201 (hey, it's Thanksgiving weekend), and I've noticed something interesting. After you answer the question, it shows you the correct answer, and the percentages of where people voted. Every time, without fail, the crowd picks the right answer. The lowest I've ever seen are in the 60s, with the other 40 percent spreading across the other three answers.

In others words, the wisdom of the many seems to be higher than the wisdom of the one (or few).

So, ignore what your mom said. If everybody else is doing it, join right in!

Wednesday, November 21, 2007

The Best Turkey...

No, I'm not talking about presidential candidates. I'm talking about the real deal. The flightless bird that was almost our country's national bird.

Every year I prepare our turkey the way my parents did while I was growing up. And every year I tell myself I'm never going to do it again. Because it's a great deal of work. Then I eat it on Thanksgiving afternoon, and I admit that I can never go back to the old way.

Here is what you do, generally speaking.

First you thaw the turkey in cold water. You have to time it just right. To long and you either have a turkey you have to throw out, or you have salmonella. To short and you have freezing hands.

Next you remove the legs and the wings. It's a little gross, because you basically have to rip the bones out of their sockets, and then cut them away. Then you cut the breast meat away from the bone. When you're done you have a de-boned turkey. The skin in on the bottom, all the raw meat is sitting on top.

Then you cut the bones out of the thighs, and place both of these next to the main pile of meat.

Now you spice it all with season salt, garlic salt, poultry seasoning, salt and pepper. Then you take the thighs and place them, skin up, on top of the other raw meat.

Now comes the fun part. You sew the whole thing back together. You plug up any holes, You sew the thighs to the main part, and just before you seal her up, you throw in an entire cube of butter. By the time you're done you look like you have some kind of Frankenstein's monster, minus...well, everything. It's just a blob of turkey skin filled with meat.

Now you tie this up, put some onions on the bottom of a turkey bag, place the turkey in the bag, put in a quart and a half of water, more spices, and cook for 6 hours at about 325.

The end result is the moistest turkey you'll ever eat. The butter melts inside of the turkey, the spices run all over the place, when it comes out of the oven, you cut the thread, throw out the skin, and eat until you can't eat no more.

Anyway, I've got the turkey blob in the fridge now. It was a lot of work, but I can already taste it.

Happy Thanksgiving.

Thursday, November 15, 2007

I was just there...

While in England, we stopped by Bletchley park to see, among other things, one of the first modern digital computers, the Colossus. I snagged a picture of it.

So imagine my surprise when I see a bit in the news this morning about this very computer. It's up and running again, doing what it was originally built for, cracking German codes. Here is a picture from the article:

See that? See the similarities? I was standing right there! :)

Anyway, the work they did at Bletchley park was both important and cool. You can read more about it here and here.

Monday, November 12, 2007

Interesting Find...

I came across this today, a site that allows people to post screenplays, novels, short films, and short stories. The idea is that you get "feedback, exposure, and opportunity".

I think I'm going to look through what I have and submit something...

Thursday, November 08, 2007

It only makes sense...

Scientists do research. Who funds them? The government. Who funds the government? You and me.

When scientists publish the results of their findings (the findings we paid for) in journals, those journals must be bought. In a sense, we are paying for the information twice. If you or I want access to that information we have to shell out the cost of the journal. How much? Not $12 or 24 a year. More likely you're going to pay in the thousands.

So we pay the scientists to do the research, they come up with the results, and then publishers step in, take control of the information, and we have to pay for it a second time.

Sounds a bit silly? Well, there is a bill making it's way through congress that might bring an end to this practice. If the bill passes, "US investigators funded by the National Institutes of Health (NIH) may soon be compelled to publish only in journals that make their research papers freely available within one year of publication."

Makes sense to me. It's only a start, but a good one. However, it makes so much sense it might be a problem. Common sense is rare export from Washington. Bush has already promised to veto the bill, should it pass.

Keep your fingers crossed.

Tuesday, November 06, 2007

Radiohead Experiment

I have argued in the past that current models used in the the publishing and music industry are out of date. Laws, contracts and the 'way things work' favor publishers and recording industries at the expense of artists and authors--to an incredible degree.

So I watched with interest when Radiohead announced that they would release their latest album without a label. They gave it away on the internet, and asked fans to 'pay what you want'. The results?

The bad news is that 60 percent of those who downloaded the music paid nothing. The forty that did pay averaged about $6, less than what they would pay for a CD in a store, or on iTunes.

The good news? The band got to keep all of that money. It's estimated they made between 6-10 million dollars on that one album.

However, before we all rush out and put our next book or album on the internet, we have to remember another side of the model that this event does not take into affect. From comscore:

""While the band, its fans and artists alike are celebrating what looks like a success for Radiohead's bold move in releasing their new album using the ‘pay what you'd like’ model, I think everybody has overlooked one very important aspect of this, and it doesn't bode well for the future of the music industry,” says Michael Laskow, CEO of TAXI, the world's leading independent A&R (Artist and Repertoire) company. “Radiohead has been bankrolled by their former label for the last 15 years. They've built a fan base in the millions with their label, and now they're able to cash in on that fan base with none of the income or profit going to the label this time around. That's great for the band and for fans who paid less than they would under the old school model. But at some point in the not too distant future, the music industry will run out of artists who have had major label support in helping them build a huge fan base. The question is: how will new artists be able to use this model in the future if they haven't built a fan base in the millions in the years leading up to the release of their album under the pay what you'd like model?"

The flip side of that, of course, is bands like Clap Your Hands Say Yeah, and Ok Go!, bands that found popularity first on the internet, and then through traditional means.

It would be naive to think that since it worked for Radiohead, it will work for everybody else. But I do hope that this will be a wakeup call to other bands, artists, and authors. We don't need the labels and publishers. There are other methods with new technology. Certainly, there are hurdles and problems to be worked out, but let's explore alternative models, and see what we can find.

Monday, November 05, 2007


I was in Wal-Mart yesterday filling a prescription for my sick infant. I noticed a sign that I assumed was a joke. Then I saw similar sign today, and discovered that in fact it is no joke. It's a Utah Law. Has been since 1935, apparently.

To what am I referring?

Apparently you can not purchase alcohol on election day. It's forbidden. No drinks for you!

I guess I can see the rational. I mean we have important issues on the line, right? Who will lead us? Which propositions will pass? We can't have people making these kind of decisions when they're all liquored up, right?

On the other hand, is there more successful in driving a person to drink than politics? I have never tasted spirits in all of my life, but this mess over school vouchers has driven me closer to drink than any other issue. If I hear one more story about sign stealing, or the NEA, or the woes of public schools, I swear I'm going to drive to the nearest store and buy whatever makes the voices stop.

So, if you're planning on picking up a six pack, better do it today. Tomorrow you're out of luck.

Friday, November 02, 2007

A Weak Dollar

Well, I’ve experienced the effects of the ‘weak dollar' first hand over in Merry England.

If my memory serves me correctly, the dollar to pound conversion rate used to be around $1.30 to $1.50 per pound. That means if you by a bottle of pop for 50p, you’re really paying roughly $.75. On this recent trip to England, the dollar stood at roughly $2 per pound. Now that same 50p bottle of pop costs me $1.

This devaluing of American currency has a couple of effects. First, I found myself not wanting to buy as much as I might have, had the conversion rate been better. They wanted 6 pounds ($12) to get into Stonehenge. Five pounds ($10) to get into Kenilworth, and 2 pounds ($4) for a bag of chocolate (which I actually bought gladly, since American chocolate is really just brown painted wax). The end result is that everything was quite expensive.

In other words, I’d rather spend my money in the USA where I can get more bang for my buck. So the upside to a weak dollar is that this desire to buy in America isn’t just limited to me and my fellow Americans. All of the products we make are suddenly cheaper everywhere in the world because you can get more dollars for your yen, your euro, and your pound. US manufacturers probably don’t mind the weak dollar.

The people who do mind it are people who make things in other countries, and import them. They have to pay more for the same goods. Products outside of America now cost more. Electronics, oil, anything we import is going up in price.

So, if you regularly buy American, or export things to other countries, then things are looking up. If you like your Japanese electronics, or are importing, then get ready to shell out a bit more this Christmas.

Wow, my blog has turned to economics lessons. We can only go up from here...