Metroblog

A one-time school project gone terribly, terribly wrong.

29 January 2008

Tuesday Random Video #54

Well maybe not so random. I've been saving this one for use on a day when lack of time or shortage of inspiration strike. Today it's one or the other.

So here is an eye-wateringly funny piece from the Drew Carey version of "Whose Line is it Anyway?" featuring Wayne, Colin, Ryan ... and a special guest star.

This may or not be safe for work. Use your judgement.



Dedicated to my buddy, that crusader of the comments, Eugene Krebs. To take his mind off the fact that his engrams just aren't clearing fast enough.

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24 January 2008

Music Sales Down. What a Surprise!

The International Federation of the Phonographic Industry claims that music sales worldwide have dropped ten percent.

Gee, I wonder why?

First off, the BBC article is badly written. What actually happened was that growth in digital sales has slowed, rather than actual digital sales, which are climbing--legal downloads are up 40 percent. Apparently, though, digital music growth isn't replacing lost physical music sales.

So in fact they're still making billions and no-one's going broke. Which is a rather different thing from saying an industry "lost" 10 percent. They just aren't selling as much this year as they did last year.

It could just be the slowing of the world economy, of course, or a simple result of the market having gotten saturated. After all, once you've sold music to the whole world, what's left? Or maybe, as the IFPI claims, it's all due to "piracy".

Well, O IFPI (and listen up you deaf gits at the RIAA), here's why I personally haven't bought an album in quite a while (note--I don't pirate much either):

1) I'm not sure that the various fees I pay to buy and use digital media are actually going to the artists. Sorry--scratch that--I know they aren't.

2) I refuse to add your spyware to my computer, or your crippleware to my mobile device. If you're going to automatically treat me like a criminal I'll behave like one, you dinks.

3) I don't wish to pay $23 for a CD that cost you $2 to produce and package, or $3 for an online track you uploaded for damn-near nothing.

4) I don't really want to support the lobbying effort your industry puts forth to preserve its ludicrous profit margin. The Millenium Digital Copyright Act was enacted by high-pressure lobbying in the US. Ironically, that means that your customers paid your lobbyists to enable you to screw them.

This perversion of honest trading includes your $250-a-plate dinner for Bev Oda and your recent efforts in Ottawa.

5) And finally, I refuse to engage in commerce with an industry that engages in active persecution of its own customer base.
Want some cases?

Here's a woman paying over $9,000 per song for downloaded music, because the RIAA decided she should.

A guy forking over $4,000, and another woman fined $6,000.

How much did you spend sending those scare letters to all those colleges and their students? Is it logical for you to $#17 all over your customer base like that?

And finally, here's a guy who got £µ©λed over by the RIAA for the "crime" of uploading legally purchased music from a CD to his computer.

That is, he legally purchased the music at the industry-inflated price, and got penalized for copying it for his own damn use! Here's a gem from one of your (doubtless highly-paid, given the pretzel-like quality of their legal thinking) attorneys:
The Howell case was not the first time the industry has argued that making a personal copy from a legally purchased CD is illegal. At the Thomas trial in Minnesota, Sony BMG's chief of litigation, Jennifer Pariser, testified that "when an individual makes a copy of a song for himself, I suppose we can say he stole a song." Copying a song you bought is "a nice way of saying 'steals just one copy,' " she said.
Oh--and one last reason:

I refuse to pay the RIAA and its allies money to preserve a defunct business model. You had all the warnings--ten years before Napster was the gleam in some cheetos-munching moral dwarf's eye, you were told: "Hey--someday soon people will be able to send songs as data across the Internet."

And you replied "Yeah, so? We'll just keep doing business like it never happened."

And you did. Now you're fining and suing and frantically trying to control the free marketplace that your reluctance to change and intransigence made necessary.

£µ©λ you.

It's like an oil lamp manufacturer decided to make laws preventing people from buying electric light bulbs.

To quote Princess Leia Organa:
"The more you tighten your grip, the more systems will slip through your fingers."

Hell--you aren't even sure yourself what the rules you've paid for are.
And that's why THREAT LEVEL concluded today that:
[W]hile the RIAA does believe that it is illegal for Americans to make digital music files from legally purchased CDs, they have not sued anyone for doing so in absence of a belief that person shared such files on the internet.

So, to sum up, the RIAA does believe that a majority of American music buyers are thieving criminals, but it's not going to sue anyone over ripping MP3s because) a) it's not really a big deal to them anymore b) there's no real way to find out and/or c) it would be terrible publicity to sue someone for using an iPod.
Why should you expect customers to pay the slightest notice?

Long live the Alliance and viva the piratocracy!

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18 January 2008

Big Bucks to $top Teen $moking

So Metro was perusing, in his way, the local rags for Canada, and he saw there this article entitled "Teens Offered Big Bucks Not to Smoke".

Basically, the deal is that kids are being offered $5,000 to stay smoke free until their high-school graduation. Kids in grades 5 to 8 make a pledge to stay in school and smoke-free until graduation. In return, they'll get a cheque.

From the first, this smelt funny. Knowing something of the success of, for example, virginity pledges, I wanted to investigate further.

I mean, it sounds good, and failing to smoke has significant benefits beyond the obvious: You'll reduce your chances of contracting cancer, you'll smell better, and you'll significantly reduce your odds of dying in a hotel fire.

But I just feel that something too good to be true ("free money"), is. And the article was a bit sparse on detail.

The organization behind this, called REWARDS (Rewarding Everyone Who Acts Responsibly and Doesn't Smoke) sounds fishy already. Uber-clever acronyms are often a sign that the acronym's meaningless. It bills itself as a "life-skills" training group.

Most of the real info is not actually available on the front page. Red flag number two. And much of the website content seemed evasive to me--perhaps because they had, as yet, not answered my major question:

According to the Globe and Mail article, students have to "recruit sponsors" to contribute "a small amount of cash". How small, exactly?

Reading into the site I discovered a few things:
  • The life skills outfit gets kids to pledge to stay in school and stay smoke-free
  • Compliance is monitored by blood tests, supposedly sensitive enough to detect tobacco use while discounting second-hand smoke inhalation
  • Kids can fall off the wagon and pay a $500 penalty, or earn back the penalty money by completing community service or writing an essay about the experience

  • Here's where it starts to get stinky: Kids must recruit four sponsors. Those sponsors must contribute $15 each per month for a student starting the program in grade 5. For a student in grade 8 it's $30.

    So I did some math:
    $15 x 4 sponsors x 84 months to graduation equals ...

    Anyone?

    $5,040. That's what it equals.

    For the later entrants, that becomes:
    $30 x 4 sponsors x 48 months equals?

    Well now, let's not always see the same hands.

    $5,760.

    So in return for four of your friends contributing over $5,000, the REWARDS organization will pay you $5,000. Oh, and they'll apparently send you motivational newsletters and suchlike throughout the program.



    The goal of the program's founder is 100,000 sucker--I mean, participants. Assuming that the average contributor is paying $22.50 per month for 5-and-a-half years (very crude maths here, the average money is likely higher, I think, while time would likely be shorter).

    That's 400,000 sponsors x $22.50 per month x 66 months. I had to redo the maths three times before I could believe it:

    $594,000,000

    Yep. Over 8 million bucks a month in contributions. For a payout of how much? $500,000,000. (5k per student x 100,000).

    Leaving the philanthropists of REWARDS with ... ? Put down your wing, young Mr. eAgLe, and drop those tentacles, Ms. Coaster ... Let someone else have a go.

    $94,000,000

    Pretty sweet for a five-and-a-hall year investment of bugger-all, I'd say.

    Of course, this model assumes that:
    a) Every enrolee completes the program successfully (see "Virginity pledges" again) and that everyone gets the full $5k.
    b) That there's no such thing as compound interest.

    I'm not going to get into the complex computations of interest on an increasing lump of cash. I mean, isn't ninety-four million enough? I'm not against anyone making a profit, particularly not in a good cause. But "investing" in your kids' futures in this way is far less productive than starting, for example, an RESP toward their college costs. And as a bonus, the more educateed people become, the less likely they are to smoke!

    Oh sure, there are probably operating costs coming out of that $94 mil. Secure databases don't maintain themselves for free. And someone has to produce this "motivational material".

    But as a writer of similar products permit me to tell you that I could produce reams of motivational material in print, internet, audio and video form for considerably, in fact pathetically, less than $8 mil per month.

    I wonder if they're hiring? And do they have an employee share plan?







    15 January 2008

    Something New

    I don't glom onto memes as a rule. The new Metroformat might require more memes, I suppose. After all, I'm not yet so desperate that I'll stoop to endless quizzes, unlike some Raincoasters I could name.

    However, while cruising my sadly-neglected blogroll today I discovered, over at Darren Barefoot's place, a meme I think is pretty cool:
    Via Neatorama, you compose faux CD covers for imaginary bands using these three sources:

    1. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Special:Random
    The first article title on the page is the name of your band.

    2. www.quotationspage.com/random.php3
    The last four words of the very last quote is the title of your album.

    3. www.flickr.com/explore/interesting/7days/
    The third picture, no matter what it is, will be your album cover.


    I tried it twice:





    As Darren points out, there doesn't seem to be much respect for photo copyright in the last step. Rather than blow the synergy by deliberately searching out creative commons pics, I would prefer to give credit for the pictures above to the proper owners. And I promise them a share of any profits I might accrue from this blog entry:

    Pic 1 came from the Flickr photostream of someone whose name, alas, I have no idea how to pronounce: مبرووك عليكم المطر.

    Pic 2 is by eyecatcher.

    My Wikipedia pages got me to the general disambiguation page for , and the second from the page on "System of systems".

    My first quote was:
    One never notices what has been done; one can only see what remains to be done.
    --Marie Curie

    The second:
    Get away from the crowd when you can. Keep yourself to yourself, if only for a few hours daily.
    --Arthur Brisbane

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    The FOX-Eye View

    I have ten minutes today as I work from home and await the plumber.


    Mme Metro is quite fond of StumbleUpon. In the course of her stumblingupon stuff, she found this:

    If FOX News had existed throughout history.
    The work appears to be from the Kontraband site originally.



    There are some more like this here.







    08 January 2008

    I've Been Away, O Avid Fans

    You might not have noticed. Perhaps your lives are like mine, and you were first caught up in the flurry of activity that is Christmas in This Modern World. What with rehearsals at three to the week or more, trying to find time to entertain one's guests--or at least distract Raincoaster before she guzzles all the vodka ... It was, by the way, a vain effort. But next year I intend to repeat the trick of rinsing out the Stoli bottle and filling it from the plastic gallon jug I got for five bucks at the duty-free.

    Between all this activity, the tiki bar New Year's party, and that annoying timewaster called "work", I found my blogging time shortly curtailed. Worse yet, my workplace now has "the mothership". It apparently watches all we do. I still do a little social networking and play Desktop Tower Defence because I can honestly claim that A) I'm doing it on my coffee and lunch breaks, and B) It is in no way harmful, but in fact forms part of a normal, relaxed, healthy work/life balance. So if it's really an issue, they'll hopefully let me off with a caution.

    But the blogging, not so much. I have to revamp my style entirely. Instead of popping in periodically to post whatever percolates through my pons, I now have to post carefully, with forethought and care. I expect this to have a salutary effect on quality, but quantity is likely to drop, somewhat.

    So what sorts of things am I working on posting about?

    Well we're entering the silly season that is the US presidential races. I believe that should get a little attention. Particularly since we have only ten more months until the current US president vanishes into whatever fetid fever swamp he emerged from. After all, the country south of here is full of Americans, and they are deprived of the CBC, so the only reliable news they get is from bloggers and NPR. Not to mention that too many of my countrypersons tend to say either "Why should I care," or worse: "I really like the sound of this Ron Paul guy ..."

    Short form: you need to watch carefully so that A) we never elect another George-Bush-lite like the Wrong Honourable (though he'd probably prefer me to spell that "honorable") Stephen Harper and B) because depending on who gets elected, you may wish to invest in a fallout shelter now and avoid the rush. As to the second statement ... Ron Paul is a dangerous loon, but I'd ask any Paulie stumbling across this blog to hold your fire until after I prove my points by posting. Probably next week.

    The US recession is here. Why should Canadians care? Well when your biggest export market and second-biggest trading partner takes a dive because of incompetent federal mismanagement, you need to start uncoupling the wagons so that the horses can gallop themselves off the cliff without you. We need to take a careful look at the shape of this nation's economy, and when the US zigs, be ready to zag a little.

    The nuclear watchdog scandal. This just keeps getting better. The government of "Mr. Accountability" first tries to run roughshod over the independant body put in place to make sure our government couldn't just order workers to violate nuclear safety rules, then freaks out when it does its job and stops them. Now the minister in charge has just outed himself for the authoritarian jackass he's trying so hard to be ... heck, if this doesn't lead to a resignation it'll practically guarantee the federal liberals the next election.

    Especially if the idiots in charge don't get themselves on board Canada's favourite hobby horse: the environment. You see, unlike the theoretical economist theoretically governing this country with the reluctant consent of a minority of the governed, most Candians can do simple sums, especially when many of their towns are still natural-resource-based. The sum is this: Air + more crap = even more crap in the air. It's simple math. But unfortunately the sum that Harper & Cro are thinking of runs like this: Air - crap = less corporate donations. Simple, you see? However, there's another sum they need to consider: Air + more crap = fewer votes.

    Oh, and finally, from the entertainment section: No Britney! I don't care that her trailer-trash mom has had a book on how to parent if you want your kids to be millionaire drunken sluts ghostwritten for her. Of course it was ghosted. D'you think she can write? Hell, she can't even spell "Brittany"! I don't care that her sister was so stupid she managed to get preggers and waste all the screenwriting effort that went into her daft TV show. And I care in negative numbers about what the sodding hell that faux "Doctor" Phil thinks might be wrong with everyone's favourite trainwreck. If possible, this will be my last post containing the stupid tramp's name. I say "if possible" because she might do something sufficiently entertaining as to deserve a mention (marry her dominatrix, experience an amusing incident involving a beer bottle, a joint, some gasoline and the words "Hey--y'all watch this!", etc).

    Mme Metro (for whom I eternally thank the FSM) says to stop typing now, and that less is more.

    It's way too late for less, though.

    So I just hope you all survived the holidays as well as we did (with the exception that I hope you did way better than we did at sending out Christmas cards and gifts), and I hope you'll pop by. I'll try to keep the posts reliable, readable, and above all, shorter than this one. We should be in for a great year.

    I'm performing in a play on and off through the next couple of weeks, so I'll try to get back to you around next Wednesday. See you then!