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Generic Confusion

When you leave, my blog just fades to grey
Nu ma nu ma iei, nu ma nu ma nu ma iei

News? Check. Politics? Check. Music? Check. Random thoughts about life? Check. Readership? Ummm.... let me get back to you on that. Updated when I feel like I have something to say, and remember to post it.

Wednesday, December 27, 2006

Delicious AND fun!

For the board game player and cookie lover in your life, here's an excellent gift idea.

It's the popular and fun tile-laying game Carcassonne... rendered in gingerbread!

File this under "people with too much time on their hands"

Monday, December 25, 2006

Merry Christmas from The Magic Show!

Here's a rendering of the Twelve Days of Christmas, using Magic: the Gathering cards!

Sing with me... Five Soooooool Rings!

Thursday, December 21, 2006

Now Flying: Odd Couple Airways?

Here was a surprising announcement: the airline formerly known as ValuJet offered to purchase Milwaukee-based Midwest Airlines. According to AirTran, they want to "acquire Midwest Airlines with the intent of merging the two airlines, combining operations and building one of the strongest and most diverse low cost airline networks."

There's just one problem: Midwest Airlines has never been a low cost airline. They haven't even been an airline focused on matching the large airlines' ticket prices. The selling point of Midwest Airlines has always been first-class style service with competitive prices. This airline offered two-across leather seating, full meals served on china and linen, complimentary wine, and fresh-baked chocolate-chip cookies.

It's very clear, as seen in the airline's press releases:

Catering primarily to business travelers and discerning leisure travelers, the airline earned its reputation as "The best care in the air" by providing passengers with impeccable service and onboard amenities at competitive fares.
I highly recommend Midwest Airlines. I last flew Midwest in 2000, since I'm now within driving distance of Milwaukee, and I understand the meals are gone, and probably the wine, but the airline's business model (and cookies) remains, and it just does not fit in with that of a low-cost airline.

I think this Midwest Airlines press release sums it up nicely:

"During their comprehensive review, those advisors considered the offer in light of Midwest's business and strategic plans," explained Hoeksema. "Under our strategic plan, we are projecting annual capacity growth of more than 10% over the next three years including a 50-seat regional jet program, along with significantly greater growth in profitability. Additionally, we view AirTran's offer at only about $5 per share, because it includes approximately $6 per share in cash that already belongs to our shareholders." As previously announced, the Midwest board determined that pursuing a merger with AirTran would not be in the best interests of the company, its shareholders and other stakeholders - including customers, employees and the communities the airline serves.

"While it is the fiduciary obligation of the board of directors to review credible offers, the board unanimously concluded that Midwest's business plan as a stand-alone company would support a considerably better return to our shareholders than AirTran's offer," Hoeksema said. "We are successful because we provide customers with an exceptional travel experience. Our product and service are unique, and are not readily compatible with a merger with another carrier."

AirTran is losing my faith with its misleading December 20th press release, citing the air traffic in similar-sized cities to show that Milwaukee is underserved. News flash: those three cities with much higher levels of air service are hubs for three of the largest airlines. US Airway's Charlotte hub, Delta's Cincinnati hub, and Northwest's Memphis hub are not an appropriate comparison for a spoke airport like General Mitchell International Airport.

And look: AirTran can't even get the proposed route network right. It lists Indianapolis as AirTran-only, though I can fly Skyway (Midwest Connect) to Milwaukee.

I'm grateful that AirTran helps keeps down the cost of an airplane ticket to Atlanta, but I don't want them taking over Midwest Airlines.

Midwest Airlines, AirTran

Keep your laws off my body!

Scott Ott is on a roll. Given that the Constitution has enshrined boldly in its emanations and penumbras a right to privacy for one's medical decisions, then why should anyone demand details of a woman's medical procedures?

Mrs. Bush, under increasing pressure from reporters to explain why she didn’t hold a news conference to announce her impending medical procedure, said, “The Constitution, as interpreted in Roe v. Wade, guarantees a woman’s right to privacy regarding her own health.”

“It’s my body,” she added, “and I have the legal right to do with it as I please without notifying any authority.”

It's always fun to see the other side's arguments used against them, in a humorous way.

Al-Qaeda discovers the true meaning of Christmas

Scrappleface has the exclusive Christmas message from al-Qaeda's Ayman al-Zawahiri. A must-watch!

Gecko is back!

Gecko has returned to his original blogspot.

Wednesday, December 20, 2006

Men. Who needs them?

Over in an English zoo, a komodo dragon is living a feminist's fantasy....

In an evolutionary twist, Flora the Komodo dragon has managed to become pregnant all on her own without any male help. She is carrying seven baby Komodo dragons.

Other reptile species reproduce asexually in a process known as parthenogenesis. But Flora's virginal conception is the second documented in a Komodo dragon. The first was earlier this year at the London Zoo.

Parthenogenesis is a process in which eggs become embryos without male fertilization. It has been seen in about 70 species, including snakes and lizards. Scientists are unsure whether female Komodo dragons have always had this latent ability to reproduce or if this is a new evolutionary development.

Fascinating. I remember one of the plot twists in Michael Crichton's Jurassic Park is that some of the dinosaurs, all created as females, became males, to enable reproduction. That, too, was attributed to other reptile heritage. But I was unaware of parthenogenesis in creatures as complex as komodo dragons.

Feel free to add your own jokes about South Park's Woodland Critter Christmas. (Hail Satan!)

Wednesday, December 13, 2006

When Piracy Becomes Promotion

The December issue of Reason has a surprisingly accurate article on the rise of Japanese animation in America. If you came here from 1996, you'd be surprised. There's an entire section of DVDs at Best Buy and an entire section of manga at Borders. The growth had many sources, but at first, it was free distribution by fans that allowed anime to break from a cult following into the mainstream.

There were roughly three generations of anime distribution. In the 80's, fans were happy with anything they could get. That was the generation of traded raw videos described in the article's third paragraph. Then came the 90's, with the rise of fan-subtitlers. Some titles had been acquired by American specialty companies, but far more was promoted only by fans. A group, perhaps a college anime club, would pool resources to buy a laserdisc box set from Japan, pay native speakers to translate, and add subtitles using home computers. These clubs would also distribute subtitled anime, either copying to blank tapes submitted by interested fans, or shipping the tapes for the cost of media and shipping. The results of these groups are in evidence by looking at the several video tape holders in my living room.

Finally, in today's market, there are many companies releasing titles, to the point that fans aren't happy with the release of lower-quality titles. Still, free distribution helps spread the word about anime, this time via internet file sharing. BitTorrent can be used to find and download countless titles. While some groups focus on the latest and greatest shows out of Japan, many of which will be acquired and released by American companies, others focus on the forgotten and older titles.

As the article discusses, little of this free distribution benefits the copyright holders. The rarest of fans might buy the releases or some licensed products from Japan (or via dealers at an anime convention), but that's it. That's it, of course, until an American company pays to acquire the title for release in the American market. The fans spread the word about the series, and the Japanese companies can see what's popular and act accordingly. It's hard to believe a series like Marmalade Boy would ever have been released without the efforts of fans. The fans were viral marketers before that term was coined.

Really, ten years ago, anime was far from the mainstream. Adults then may have seen anime in their youth, without knowing it was anime, with titles such as Speed Racer and Voltron. Some anime was available commercially, but primarily through specialty stores. Then Pokemon and Yu-Gi-Oh! proved to be big hits, and more and more young people began to follow the genre. Now, there are significant hours devoted to anime on Cartoon Network, and digital cable shows anime 24/7.

There was another crucial factor enabling anime to grow, and it's one you might not have ever thought about. It's NTSC. The television standard established in the United States was also adopted in Japan. That means a video recorded off Japanese television could be watched on an American television set without problems, with no conversion required. (I've seen a PAL-to-NTSC conversion, and a lot of quality is lost.) Without the same standard, the Nth-generation copies of raw unsubtitled anime could never have been traded, and that first generation of fans couldn't have built for the future.

Wednesday, December 06, 2006

Sometimes, you have to be a parent

What are parents to do when their child says he's tired of being a child, and wants to be a roadrunner? If there's not another child (who wants to be a puh-sychiatrist) sitting nearby, ready to dissuade him, the parents have to step in and say no, you can't do that. You have to go to school, you have to eat the dinners we make, you have to go to the store.

What if their child wants to go around naked? What could be more natural than to go au natural? The parents need to say that no, when you go outside, you must wear clothes.

Most parents have probably experienced children who don't want to eat their vegetables. Even though it's perfectly possible to live without eating vegetables, parents are right to instill proper eating behavior in their children.

Perhaps, they think, it's all just a phase, and the child will grow out of it.

But look into another case that the New York Times thinks should be handled differently.

But as advocates gain ground for what they call gender-identity rights, evidenced most recently by New York City’s decision to let people alter the sex listed on their birth certificates, a major change is taking place among schools and families. Children as young as 5 who display predispositions to dress like the opposite sex are being supported by a growing number of young parents, educators and mental health professionals.

Doctors, some of them from the top pediatric hospitals, have begun to advise families to let these children be “who they are” to foster a sense of security and self-esteem. They are motivated, in part, by the high incidence of depression, suicidal feelings and self-mutilation that has been common in past generations of transgender children. Legal trends suggest that schools are now required to respect parents’ decisions.

Children aren't allowed to do a lot of things, including choosing their education, their health care, and even their diet. The reason is patently obvious: children don't have the intelligence, education, experience, and common sense to make these kinds of decisions. Yet they are presumed in this case to know their gender identity, at an age when children's knowledge about the difference between men and women can be summed up with a quote from Kindergarten Cop.

Perhaps the child in this article will, in fifteen years, be living as a woman and say that he always felt he should be a female. But what if it is just a phase?

Picture a three year old boy who did something naughty in public, got scolded by his mother, and started pouting. Later, he spied a little girl being treated very nicely by her mother. All of a sudden, in his three year old mind, he thinks he was treated bad because he's a boy, not because he was naughty.

Is this worth ruining a child's life by allowing his fantasy to continue like this? It does seem unusual to see the child in this article fixating for this long, but if I had to choose between the opinion of a five year old child and a child psychiatrist, I know what I'd choose.