Friday, December 28, 2007

Blatant Advertisement

So I thought I'd toss up a couple ads that have come up on my site that caught my eye for one reason or another:

There's something of a Ying/Yang balance going on in that advertising bar.

This advertisement has no such balance:

Oh boy! A free weekly column from Ann Coulter! While you're at it, do you think you could rip open my hard drive and defecate inside? Or perhaps you could just sprinkle some anthrax inside the fan box and then give me a blood transfusion from an ebola-infected monkey...

And finally:

These are almost certainly a result of my post about POLITICAL coverage. Why don't these advertisers use negative keywords like "political" and "campaign" and save themselves a few bucks and from annoying people by bombarding them with insurance ads?


I was given an iPod Touch for Christmas!

However, instead of posting about the iPod touch (there are hundreds of websites extolling the virtues of the product) I'm going to talk about an awesome program for creating content to put on the iPod Touch.


"It is an open-source, GPL-licensed, multiplatform, multithreaded DVD to MPEG-4 converter."

I've used it to rip some DVDs to my computer and load onto my Touch. It's worked like a charm so far. In addition to having presets for easy export to various mediums:

HandBrake allows you to choose how large you'd like the resultant file to be or choose the degree of quality. This is a huge boon for a number of reasons:

1- It allows you to create files that can be easily burned onto a CD.
2- Because the iPod Touch's screen is small, you don't need DVD quality to enjoy a movie... so you can decrease the file size accordingly.
3- Alternately if you're watching anything by Peter Jackson or If you have an iPod to TV adapter, you can choose much higher video quality for when you plan to view it on a larger screen.

Number two is a big one for me because I have the 8 gig version and want to conserve space. I also enjoy watching documentaries which generally don't rely upon stunning visual effects. I'm still experimenting with how low of video quality I can choose before it becomes unwatchable.

Any suggestions on applications or modifications for my new toy?

Wednesday, December 26, 2007

Study on Partiality of Political Coverage

From TalkLeft

I was surprised to read the results of this study:

First off, I think that it's only to be expected that Hillary is the focus of much of the political punditry. She has been campaigning as the political frontrunner for months and continues to do so in spite of her statistically tenuous claim to that distinction.

I was also struck by the lack of explanation into the methodology of the study. What is "scientific content analysis" and how can it determine what constitutes positive and negative coverage? If a member of the media says "critics believe ____" in some cases, that person is merely couching their own views in the amorphous third party of "critics" or the even more ephemeral, "some people." In other cases, the person is using the construct of "critics" or "some people" to raise a legitimate point and to attempt to further explore or explain that candidates point of view.

How does the scientific analysis determine which is which?

Running Strong

Although I still have a stress fracture in my right foot that is preventing me from running, it does not hinder in the least my consumption of running-related media. I found this article on LetsRun and thought it was a good reminder of how - health benefits of actual exercise aside - marathons actually prevent deaths.

God Save the Queen!

The English Monarch's annual Christmas Day message was broadcast live this year - as usual - but was also subsequently posted to YouTube by the royal administration a short time later.

At the time of this posting, the number of people who viewed the speech on YouTube (900,000) was almost thrice that of the number of people who tuned in to watch it live.

Other governments should embrace the use of YouTube for disseminating their messages in an easily accessible, reviewable medium.

For more information, click here and/or here.

Quick Follow Up Re: Doping

This blog really started to get whatever traction it currently has when I wrote about my displeasure with a New York Times article whose presentation - not content, mind you - compared Bannister's alleged use of performance enhancing drugs with that of Marion Jones.

I just wanted to note that the recent press regarding Marion Jones' malfeasances is making those comparisons - however diluted by caveat - horribly inappropriate.

I'll say it again: Marion Jones is a disgrace to her sport and country while Sir Roger is exactly the opposite.

I did enjoy this somewhat dated piece in the New York Times about Dr. Bannister's accomplishment.

Monday, December 24, 2007

Wii Can Do It!

So, as I'm inclined to do pretty much every day, I was reading Techmeme a few days ago. I came across this article about the "physical benefits" of playing video games on the Wii system as opposed to on a generically controlled console.

The following statistics were among the only sited by this article:

Project Gotham Racing 3: 125.5 kJ/kg/min
Wii Sports bowling: 190.6 kJ/kg/min
Wii Sports boxing: 198.1 kJ/kg/min
Wii Sports tennis: 202.5 kJ/kg/mi

The study concluded thusly that Wii gaming: "was not of high enough intensity to contribute towards the recommended daily amount of exercise in children... In a typical week, active gaming rather than passive gaming would increase total energy expenditure by less than 2 percent."

I find it very hard to take seriously the results of a study that basis its conclusion on data that suggests that a person playing Wii Sports tennis expends more energy than a person playing Wii Sports boxing.

(For the sake of journalistic impartiality, these videos both were among the top 10 videos found with a YouTube search of "Wii Tennis" and "Wii Bowling," respectively. I also opted to use amateur footage because I thought it would necessarily be less contrived than professional footage made to illustrate how easy the Wii is to use.

I have a Wii. I've played both and it's not even close. To quote Jules (Samuel L Jackson) from Pulp Fiction, "it ain't the same fuckin' ballpark, it ain't the same league, it ain't even the same fuckin' sport..."

Well, obviously it's not the same sport. At the end of a typical Wii boxing game I am generally pretty darned tuckered out - and I consider myself to be in better shape than the general population. Wii Tennis, on the other hand, simply involves a flick of the wrist. I can't imagine that minute for minute, the amount of energy expended while playing Wii Tennis even begins to approach that used for Wii Boxing. In short, Wii Tennis requires far less effort than Wii Boxing.

Based on that alone, I question the validity of the study. But even aside from that, even if playing the Wii is only - according to the hard scientific data - slightly better for ones' health than another gaming system, it's still better.

Furthermore, there's the chance that playing a Wii Sport may encourage someone to go outside and play its real counterpart. Before you scoff at this justification, at least stop and think about the fact that emulation is at least an option with Wii Sports. It's not like someone can decide to go out and play Halo in real life.

And Wii gains even more props for actually inquiring whether the gamer would like to take a break to go outside and play. No other system encourages you to do something other than play it.

So while playing Wii is certainly not as healthy as many activities, as far as video games go, it's close to the top.

Though RockBand gives you a pretty sweet workout as well... groupies too...

Thursday, December 20, 2007

Last Minute Christmas Present? (Or really late Chanukah present)

As the recent report from the Pew Internet and American Life Project found, most people are narcissistic enough that they would likely love to receive something from this site for Christmas.

Hypocrisy, Thy Name is David Gregory

After all his talk about how the internet is to blame for political polarization and that blogs are effectively polluting the public discourse, David Gregory has the stones to be a part of this pollution:

And again:

Words fail me...

Thanks to Think Progress for the tip(s).

Wednesday, December 19, 2007

Krugman on Presidential Experience

From TalkLeft.

In response to this article in the Boston Globe, Paul Krugman posted the following on his blog:

"This story gives a lot of context to the debate over health reform now. Obama clearly sees himself playing the same role as president that he did as a state legislator — as a broker among groups, including the insurance industry, as someone who can find a compromise solution that’s acceptable to a wide range of opinion.

My thoughts: being president isn’t at all like being a state legislator, Illinois Republicans aren’t like the national Republican party, 2009 won’t be 2003, and the insurance industry’s opposition to national health reform — which must, if it is to mean anything, strike deep at the industry’s fundamental business — will be much harsher than its opposition to a basically quite mild state-level reform effort.

The point is that if national health reform is going to happen, it will be as the result of a no-holds-barred fight of an entirely different order from what Obama saw in Illinois. The president’s role will have to be far more confrontational, involve far more twisting of arms and rallying of the public against the special interests, than Obama’s role as a state legislator in the Illinois case. And it will take place against a backdrop of fierce attacks not just from the industry but from Republicans who fear, rightly, that any kind of reform will move the country in a more liberal direction.

My worries about Obama are that he doesn’t seem to understand this — that he thinks that in 2009, as president, he can broker a national health care reform the same way that as a state legislator, in 2003, he brokered a deal that mollified the insurance industry. That’s a recipe for getting nowhere."

I think that Krugman's point that Obama's experiences in the Illinois State Legislature haven't prepared him for the Presidency misses the target. I don't think that the target even existed to begin with.

Of course Obama's experiences in the Illinois State Legislature are dissimilar to what his experiences would be in the White House. This argument loses its credibility because it can be applied to any candidate's previous experience.

Among the democrats, a huge amount of attention has been paid to "experience" and how X candidate is the only one with the requisite experience for the job.

The Presidency is unlike anything else. I'll gladly agree with Krugman on that point. However because there is no experience that can identically simulate the experiences of a President aside from holding the office oneself, candidates are forced to present themselves - and the electorate is forced to evaluate those candidates - on the basis of actual experience.

While this is obviously an imperfect method of evaluation, this process of analogical comparison is the only one we have.

Being a Southern Baptist minister is far less comparable to being the President of the United States, but that doesn't mean that Mike Huckabee's experiences as a Southern Baptist minister wouldn't influence his presidency.

Being held captive for years in a POW camp is (hopefully) not like being the President of the United States but that experience has certainly contributed to who John McCain is and how his presidency would be.

I realize that my argument is approaching hyperbole so I'll simply return to my original point.

Being a Governor is unlike being the President. Being a Senator is unlike being the President. Being a House Representative is unlike being the President.

Being the President is like being the President.

Because none of the candidates - on either side - have been President of the United States, none of them have perfectly applicable experience of which to boast. As such, we must evaluate them on the basis of what their experience have been and how we believe those experiences have prepared them for the presidency.

Analogies are almost always imperfect, but they remain the best way of comparing two dissimilar things.

Krugman should realize that.

Thursday, December 13, 2007

The Internet: The Cause of Polar Politics?

At a National Press Club event a couple of weeks ago, NBC White House correspondent David Gregory argued that blogs and the internet were to blame for the polarization of today’s political arena. He specifically pointed to the phenomenon of "people try[ing] to divine or assign [the press's] motives" for asking certain questions at White House press briefings.

First, let me make it clear that I don’t believe that there’s anything wrong with the press being subjected to high levels of public scrutiny. Just as political institutions within a democracy ought be transparent, so too should the media that reports on them. While I agree that a journalist's job, first and foremost, is to obtain and disseminate news rather than pursue a private agenda, I am aware that any substantive report will reveal something of the reporter's predisposition. Whether it is a blatant indication of prejudice or a subtle nuance indicated by who the reporter chooses to interview or the use or omission of certain adjectives, there is almost always something to be divined.

Secondly, I would like to address the claim that blogs and the internet are to be blamed for political polarization.

In his book, Marketing to the Social Web, Larry Weber writes that, "You might have noticed that consumer opinion on the Web tends to split widely over books, movies, music, indeed, most products. Look at the Amazon book reviews; they tend be written by people who either absolutely loved the book or loathed it. Someone who is simply indifferent won’t bother to say anything. It's people who have an interest one way or the other who are going to take the time and energy to voice their opinions -- that’s evidence of community." The expression of political opinion mirrors that of consumer opinion.

To modify the old adage: if you don’t have anything nice or naughty to say, you're unlikely to say anything at all. As a result, people who take the time to participate in blogs, forums and other forms of social media are by and large people who possess strong opinions.

Rather than ask why the internet and blogosphere are polarized, a more fundamental question is to ask why the polarization of politics has been blamed on the internet and blogs.

Politics – especially during an election year (and really, what year isn’t an election year these days?) – is inherently polar. Each party is trying to distinguish itself from its rivals, as is each candidate. Even after the voters on both ends of the political spectrum have made up their minds to vote for whichever candidate wins their party’s nomination, politics becomes a game of those nominees subsequently picking wedge issues and positions. These positions slowly but inexorably chip voters off of the block of undecided voters in the middle, and add them to each candidate's flock. Ultimately - one side wins and the other side loses.

People’s views are forced into this binary function in part because they must vote one way or the other. It should not come as a surprise that this electoral dichotomy is reflected in the political discourse that addresses it.

Unlike the internet, this is hardly a modern development. Political polarization and factionalism were identified by our founding fathers more than 200 years ago. In Federalist 10, James Madison –as Publius – wrote "…a number of citizens, whether amounting to a majority or a minority of the whole, who are united and actuated by some common impulse of passion, or of interest, adversed to the rights of other citizens, or to the permanent and aggregate interests of the community."

This is a fair description of practically any established online community. Looking back, the debate between the Federalists and the Anti-Federalists was just as polar a debate as can be found on any modern political message board or blog. While the debate between the Federalists and Anti-Federalists was waged between elite members of American colonial society with quills, parchment and printing presses – the modern debate is far more egalitarian, accessible to anyone with a keyboard and an opinion. Although the medium for the debate and the debaters themselves have changed, the underlying sentiment has not.

It is true that far more consideration went into the writings of Publius and Brutus than a typical blog post. The ease and speed with which anyone can become a pundit is both a boon and a bane because it allows for vehement expression without one of the quill era's crucial hurdles: forced deliberation prior to distribution. Two-hundred years ago, the very labor-intensity of writing and disseminating a message necessitated that the content be thoroughly vetted for worth before it was published.

This is an inescapable byproduct of technological advancement. The printing press allowed things to be widely published far more easily than they could as hand-copied documents. The advent of television decreased journalistic deliberation even further. The internet’s enabling of nearly real-time discussion of events is simply the next step in the evolution of media.

Just as faction was both loathed and lauded within The Federalist Papers, so too does it play a positive and a negative role in the modern political process. By allowing freedom so that faction can be made to combat faction, the universal accessibility of the internet can facilitate the balance of these seemingly diametric views. These opinions exist whether or not they are expressed and cannot fairly be attributed to any particular medium.

Simply because the internet and blogs are the battlefield doesn't mean that they are to blame for the battle.

While it is easy to focus on the harshest and most extreme comments on any issue, the internet provides a forum for airing and discussing these difference in order to find common ground. In this sense, the internet is a far more powerful uniter than it is a divider.

Ultimately, the polarization of politics predates the internet by eons. While the internet – like all new technology - adds new dimensions to existing problems, it almost invariably provides new solutions as well. David Gregory’s comments focus myopically on the former element of the puzzle and attempt to scapegoat the internet for one of the most basic proclivities of mankind: having and desiring to share opinion.

David, don’t shoot the messenger.

Tuesday, December 4, 2007

I Will be Retiring Shortly...

Because I am now independently wealthy. Check out the email I just got:

I'm out. If you need me, I'll be at an elegant villa somewhere, sipping wine and showering beautiful women with diamonds and hundred dollar bills...

Pomonkeying Around

Students of Pomona College - next door to my alma mater of Claremont McKenna College - protested the possibility of a speech from Alberto Gonzales.

Thursday, November 29, 2007

Alameda Shoutout

I really like this game, and I like it even more because ALAMEDA is a word on it.

Feed some people.

Spam Prevention

I had never seen this method of spam prevention before.

Generally the site prompts you to enter in the characters that are distorted in a picture file (the bots can't identify what the picture is of even though it's a picture of text). I've never liked these because it's often very difficult to tell the difference between a zero and an oh and so forth. Sometimes they're even case-sensitive and that creates a hash of problems with V's, X's, and other letters for which the only difference between upper and lower case is size...

Wednesday, November 28, 2007

Monday, November 26, 2007

California's DMV is Hip

California's Department of Motor Vehicles has a YouTube account and a Myspace profile to educate drivers of all ages about traffic safety.

I think that this is smart.

Thanksgiving Recap

I spent a wonderful and relaxing Thanksgiving up in Redding California.

I tried to go for a run after resting for a week only to discover that my foot still hurt. Diagnosis: stress fracture.

So 6-8 weeks of biking and swimming are in my future.

I got a membership to the Embarcadero YMCA which is an amazing facility. For $49 a month (and a $25 registration fee) I get access for 16 hours a day to a gorgeous facility with all of the usual weights and cardiovascular equipment and a 25m swimming pool. It even has a beautiful - if a little oily - view of the Bay.

I biked for an hour this morning (30 miles) and got in a quick lift before heading to work.

A blog post of mine is on my work's website and can be found here.

Tuesday, November 20, 2007

Potential Australian Prime Minister's Chances at Winning - Do They Wane or...Wax?

(Watch the gentleman to the left of the speaker)

I honestly don't think that this will harm Kevin Rudd's chance of becoming Prime Minister. If anything, it humanizes him in such a way that will endear him to the Australian people. Bear in mind that I know nothing of Australian politics or - more importantly - Australian voters, but in that eating things that one has picked out or off of one's body is universal, so too are certain sentiments held by voters.

Therein lies the dualistic hypocrisy of the political process.

People always lament how they want our elected officials to be "a regular gal/guy." Then when that gal or guy does something wrong - regardless of how benign or unrelated to their professional duties - they are judged against a higher standard than any regular person would be. The reason for such a dualistic application of 'justice?' They're the ___________ (insert their official title here)!"

Meaning that of course they should be held to a higher standard.

There are a few reasons why this might be reasonable.

I read a book in college - and I'll try to find it and post the title and author - in which the author argued that elected officials should be held accountable for indiscretions that are unrelated to their official duties for a couple of reasons. First is that in so far as an office is imbued with any symbolic importance - as is certainly the case with the Presidency but to a lesser extent other offices as well - any actions taken by the person in that office reflect upon the office's symbolism.

The phrase, "The Presidency is bigger than any one man" (which is a hackneyed phrase whose knees might be replaced if Hillary wins next year) highlights the validity of holding the President to a higher standard. For example, if the President is an alcohol-abusing-coke-head, that reflects poorly upon the office. Furthermore, because the President is the national figurehead, such behavior also reflects poorly upon everyone in the country - whether they voted for him or not.

Engaging in illegal or embarrassing acts also makes elected officials susceptible to being blackmailed. This is a more logically compelling reason.

There was a third reason but I've forgotten it.

Anyways, like I said originally, I don't think that this is going to harm Rudd's chances of being elected.

Monday, November 19, 2007

Quantum Suicide

Pretty cool stuff.

Walking to Work

Pretty interesting blog.

I might write more when I've had some time to read it.

Right now I've got to check some RSS feeds.

Saturday, November 17, 2007

Canadian Supreme Court Rules Against Granting Asylum to American Deserters

I think that the Canadian Supreme Court is right to rule against providing asylum to deserting American soldiers. Although I almost certainly would have dodged the draft by traveling to Canada if I had been of age at the time, there has been no draft for the Iraq conflict/occupation.

There hasn't been a draft since 1973.

I realize that socioeconomic factors prevent the United States armed forces from being totally voluntary. I realize that because of this, underprivileged minority groups make up more of our armed forces than their proportion of the population would suggest.

That having been said, the thousands of soldiers that are deserting to Canada at one point made the decision to become soldiers. They may have made that decision long before any of the current miring conflicts in the Middle East had even been considered, but they still made it. In many cases, through ROTC scholarships and other imbursement programs, these soldiers have been provided tens of thousands of dollars for tuition in exchange for their service.

Even discounting the advance payment of soldiers in the form of scholarships and tuition reimbursement, soldiers are paid for their service. Although warfare certainly a more serious instance, it can be likened to any other professional refusing to do their job. Although I've never enlisted or undergone basic training, I would imagine that it is made explicitly clear that as American soldiers, they will be expected to deploy wherever the commander in chief chooses.

The third of the three primary areas of responsibility as outlined in 10 U.S.C. § 5063, originally introduced under the National Security Act of 1947 is that the marine corps is responsible for "Such other duties as the President may direct."

Furthermore, the oath of enlistment sworn by soldiers in all branches of the armed forces is:

"I, (state your name), do solemnly swear (or affirm) that I will support and defend the Constitution of the United States against all enemies, foreign and domestic; that I will bear true faith and allegiance to the same; and that I will obey the orders of the President of the United States and the orders of the officers appointed over me, according to regulations and the Uniform Code of Military Justice. (So help me God)."

(Note that the last sentence is not required to be said if the speaker has a personal or moral objection, as is true of all oaths administered by the United States government)

At least with the case of 1st Lt. Ehren Watada, he remained at his post and refused to be deployed rather than deserting. Lt. Watada made the argument that it was his duty to oppose the war. Whether or not you agree with his reasoning, he is fulfilling what he sees as his duty as a soldier.

Soldiers that desert can make no such claim.

For a more full discussion of this topic, take a look at the thread on TalkLeft

Thursday, November 15, 2007

"Late Night" with Reed

Normally at this time on a weeknight, I'd be asleep. Lame, I know, but I run every morning at 6, so I try to go to bed at around 10:00 p.m.

This morning I didn't run because I think I'm developing or have developed a stress fracture in my right foot. The top of my foot hurts considerably when I run or walk. My plan is to take a few days off and see if it gets better. If not, I'll go to the doctor and take some time off from running and just swim.

But back to why I'm up so late.

It's not that I'm not tired. I'm exhausted. I'd like to go to sleep. I can't.

I have a pie in the oven.

It's a pumpkin pie that I'm baking for an office pie-baking competition being held tomorrow. This is actually the second pie I've baked tonight but I was afraid that I'd ruined the first one so I started making the second before the first was done baking. I didn't realize that the "easy-bake" pie filling that I'd bought already had water mixed into it so I added more milk than was needed. As a result, the pie filling was the consistency of soup rather than of custard.

As it turns out, it turned out. The first pie was delicious. Oh well, I guess that means my coworkers get one pie and I get the other!

Anyways, I know that the following quote has already been thrown around the blogosphere more than a few times today, but I thought I'd add my two cents:

"The fact is that (Moulitsas is) not a journalist in terms of someone who knows how to do reporting, someone who reflects balance in what he portrays. To the contrary, he engages in the kind of hyperbole and extreme statements that are represented by that crass and I think offensive statement that he made about those dead people. But you know what? I think that’s just what’s going on in journalism. I think that there’s more and more opinion, less and less people who know how to do the job. All you gotta do is shout, say something on the blog that offends and attacks the other side and suddenly you have the credentials and you’re said to be a journalist. I think it’s a great lie.”

- "Liberal" FOX news commentator Juan Williams

I got it from Talk Left ( It was linked there from (

All I want to say is that even if that's what blogs do - which is an enormous concession - shouting something on a blog, even if that something offends and attacks the other side, allows the other side to respond. There is reciprocity. I don't know whether or not it makes you a journalist, but what is a rose by any other name? Would the discussion be not as enlightening? Would the issues raised be not worthy of consideration? And would each side not gain insight into the other?

I don't think it matters if you call the person a journalist, blogger, or something in between. All that matters is the advancement of the public discourse.

Blogging is a conversation and - in my opinion - is the most effective way to achieve that level of discourse. Although I have enormous respect for most of the journalistic community (and hope perhaps one day to join it) journalism isn't necessarily a conversation. Most journalists are far harder to reach than most bloggers and thus it is more difficult to have a conversation with them.

That doesn't mean that both journalists and bloggers, even if they merely "offend and attack" the other side, can't start the conversation. Even if they don't themselves listen to the responses, others will. And so we can stand on the shoulders of giants (or perhaps of giant assholes).

Irony, Thy Name is AdWords...

Yesterday after work I was messing around with the various customizable features offered by Google Blogger. It is that experimentation you have to thank for the link to my YouTube videos, my bio, and some news feeds to the right of the blog. On a whim, I signed up to host some "highly targeted ads" powered by Google's AdSense - lauded to be the best thing to happen to advertising since the Budweiser frogs.

Receiving notification this morning that my page had been approved to host ads, I scrolled to the bottom to find this carefully targeted, highly topical advertisement.

Well played, Google, well played. Although unless Marion Jones is checking the blogosphere on articles about herself, I don't expect many click throughs...

Wednesday, November 14, 2007

Doping in Sport Article in the New York Times (Part 3)

My response to Susan Wessling:

Dear Susan,

Thank you very much for your prompt reply.

I am aware that Professor Wailoo's essay referred to a cloud being cast over Sir Bannister's achievement. Indeed, given that the four-minute barrier for the mile was believed by many to be beyond the ability of mortal man to break, it is not surprising that some people believed that Sir Bannister could not have accomplished the task without the aid of enhancements. As you point out that Professor Wailoo's essay states, the cloud dissipated quickly. I do not disagree with that fact - or with the fact that such a cloud existed. My contention is - and was in my original letter - that while such doubts may have been raised regarding the accomplishments of both Sir Bannister and Marion Jones, those were recently proven in the case of the latter. Sir Bannister was quickly exonerated a half-century ago while Marion Jones is currently being forced to relinquish her ill-got Olympic medals. It is the case of Marion Jones to which I was referring when I made reference to "obliterating the sun" in my original letter.

As I am certain you are aware, one of the dangers of attempting to make comparisons between two potentially similar instances is that characteristics and elements of one story will doubtlessly be applied to the other, even if they are factually outside the realm of similarity. While both athletes' careers may have been clouded, Marion Jones was proven to have used performance-enhancing drugs, disgracing herself, her sport, and her country. Sir Roger Bannister, on the other hand, went onto a "distinguished medical career" and continues to be a champion of the importance of athletics and a role model to athletes around the world. Their pictures should not have appeared together beneath that caption.

While it is refreshing that you "credit readers with enough sense to understand that if they look at only a few parts of a package -- if they don't translate the shorthand by reading the article itself -- they're getting only part of the story," I believe that you are forcing them to shoulder what is ultimately the responsibility of the New York Times - to construe the facts of a story clearly, impartially and without insinuation. By emphasizing the specious similarity between Marion Jones and Sir Roger Bannister in spite of enormous incongruity between their stories, I do not think that you fulfilled your journalistic responsibility. Forcing your subscribers to carefully read the article in order to dispel the false parallels suggested by the accompanying pictures and captions - carefully selected by the New York Times - is an open invitation to misinterpretation and the spread of misinformation.



I'll continue to update as the correspondence progresses.

I've also forwarded these letters to Professor Keith Wailoo, the author of the essay and a professor of history and public health at Rutgers.

Doping in Sport Article in the New York Times (Part 2)

The New York Times' Reply:

Dear Mr Sanchez,

Thank you for writing. How to accurately and fairly illustrate an article is something we consider every day. We are certainly aware that a newspaper page can be read as a form of shorthand -- a headline with few words, a small selection of photos, a caption that has little room for detail. Our goal is balance among all those elements, but we also credit readers with enough sense to understand that if they look at only a few parts of a package -- if they don't translate the shorthand by reading the article itself -- they're getting only part of the story.

In this case, we are comfortable with the balance of elements. In a story comparing past and present, combining similar historical and current photos is a natural choice. And as much as we can, we depict people who appear in the article, so that the caption and the story can work together to tell the full story.

And Mr. Wailoo does, in fact, refer specifically to accusations against Roger Bannister, not just later runners who broke the 4-minute mile: "The cloud over Bannister's achievement dissipated quickly; he brushed aside the charges as ridiculous and went to a distinguished medical career. In 1959, the A.M.A. study concluded that there was little evidence to the specific allegations." So a caption that mentions a cloud over Bannister's feat is both reasonable and accurate. And as you can see, Mr. Wailoo was quite careful to finish the tale -- to make it clear that, as you say, a cloud did not obliterate the sun.

Susan Wessling
Assistant to the Editor, Science
The New York Times

Doping in Sport Article in the New York Times

I was reading an article about a client in the New York Times. In case you were curious, the company's name is Daptiv and the article can be found here: (

After I read Stuart Elliott's article on Daptiv's rebranding, I noticed an article titled "Old Story, Updated: Better Living Through Pills." (

This normally wouldn't have grabbed my attention, but beneath this headline were pictures of Sir Roger Bannister (the first human to run a mile in less than four minutes) and Marion Jones (who recently tested positive and then confessed to years of doping and is being forced to return her ill-got Olympic medals. All five of them!).

Needless to say, I was shocked.

Rather than recapitulate my feelings here, I'll simply post the email I sent to the New York Times.

My Letter:

New York Times Editor,

As an avid runner and former collegiate track and field athlete who ran the 1500-meter race (the metric mile) I was shocked and upset to see a picture of Sir Roger Bannister prominently displayed beneath a headline regarding athletic drug use. Thinking that there may be substance to the story, I immediately opened and read the article to find that it did not claim that Sir Bannister doped. Nor did the article suggest that Sir Bannister was suspected of doping. Rather, Professor Wailoo's article cites the slew of runners who broke the four-minute mile barrier in the three years AFTER Bannister's monumental achievement as evidence of potential doping.

I do not believe that Professor Wailoo's article was meant to suggest that Sir Roger Bannister made use of performance enhancing drugs. I believe that the New York Times' presentation of the article misrepresented both doctors.

First, by placing that picture of Sir Bannister - one of the most famous in track and field history - next to the story's headline and above the picture of a proven doper, the New York Times effectively imbued the article with the message that Sir Roger Bannister used performance enhancing drugs - something for which there is no proof. A subscriber who neglects to fully read the article will simply assume that Sir Bannister doped.

The second and far more vociferous method by which the New York Times skewed the subject was by the photo's caption, "Drug questions clouded the feats of Roger Bannister in 1954 and Marion Jones in 2000." Beyond the fact that Wailoo's article makes no such claim, there is no evidence that Sir Bannister doped. Even allowing for the flexible nature of the verb "clouded" there is an enormous difference between casting a cloud and obliterating the sun. Evidence has proven that Marion Jones is a dirty athlete. No such evidence tarnishes Sir Bannister's athletic accomplishments and the New York Times should not use misleadingly placed photographs and overstating captions in an attempt to do so.


3:56.44 Personal Best time for 1500 meters. Drug free.

Sunday, November 11, 2007

Groovy CDs

A musical mullet, of sorts. Old school on top, new school in the rear. Will CD/LP Hybrids save the compact disc?

Pretty cool, huh?

When the first CDs rolled off an assembly line on August 17, 1982 with a copy of Richard Strauss' Alpine Symphony, most people thought that it knelled the death of the eight-track, LP, and pretty much every form of music that had preceeded it. The obvious caveat to this death is - of course - live didgeridoo performances. Man, you haven't lived until you've heard a tribe of Australian Aborigines go to town on their didgeridoos.

But I digress.

At first sniff, they were right (the people who thought that the CD knelled death, not the Australian Aborigines). The success of the first static CD players in the fall of 1982 was augmented by the launch of Sony's first Discman two years later. By 1986, sales of CD players eclipsed those of record players, and two years later, CD sales outpaced record sales.

But the CD was not perfect in spite of its astronomical rise. Just as the CD had kicked the LP's metaphorical teeth in, so too were the CD's seemingly superhuman, teeth kicked in by the kryptonite-toed boot of the internet in the form of P2P filesharing programs.

Beseiged by Napster and subsequent companies like Kazaa, Limewire, iMesh, Morpheus, and BearShare, sales of CDs peaked in 2001 at 712 million, around the time that peer-to-peer file sharing services became widely popular. Within five years, sales dropped nearly a quarter.

You'd think that would be it. As Ramirez from Highlander said, "there can only be one." It is assumed that once a form of media has asserted itself as the alpha dog, the other dogs will no longer be used to play music. For instance, you don't see many people nostalgically holding onto their eight-track players. So you'd think it'd be the same thing with the even more archaic record players, right?


To quote a master who has straddled the divide between the LP and CD worlds, "Don't call it a comeback, I've been here for years."

That having been acknowledged, LPs are making a comeback for a number of interesting reasons.

1 - You can't mix/scratch with CDs without some really nifty and even more expensive equipment and software.

2 - LPs actually sound better. For an extremely technical explanation of how this is true, see this link ( but let me offer at least part of the answer. The tonal range in the music on most CDs is compressed so that it can be played loudly without sounding distorted. This is great if you want to keep your neighbors awake all night, but in terms of a complete aural experience, CDs fall short.

To come back to the article that inspired this post (as well as to the question raised in this post's title) I think that the CD will be around for at least a few more years. More car stereos are equipped with CD players than jacks that allow people to plug in their mp3 player. Also, the short-term focus of the average consumer will opt to continue to buy CDs for their existing home audio system at the cost of $10 or $20 a pop rather than investing hundreds of dollars in a system capable of playing the music they get online.

Still, the CD/LP hybrid is a cool idea and I would definitely buy one from any of my favorite artists if it meant the ability to listen to a "hidden track." And remember, because you can play them forwards and backwards, that means that there's twice the hidden goodness in every disc!

Now, if I can just find a record player...

Where's the nearest antique store?

Wednesday, October 3, 2007


I passed a homeless man this morning that forced me to smile. He was – like many members of the transient community – wearing many layers of clothing. In this instance, he was wearing more than a dozen t-shirts. On the outermost layer, stretched tight over the mass of the many shirts beneath, was a shirt featuring a jack-o-lantern wishing me a happy Halloween. While a festive shirt can be reason enough to smile, what forced me to smile was the thought of how many other holiday shirts he had on beneath and if he just cycled through them as dictated by the time of year. For instance, how many Christmas shirts did he have on? How long before Christmas would he begin to wear them? How soon after Christmas must one cease wearing Yuletide apparel? Is it – as is the case with Christmas lights – a week after New Years? Or can he take a few extra days or weeks before rotating his Valentine’s Day shirt to the surface? With all of these questions racing through my mind, I wanted to stop and ask him. Alas, he was asleep.

Tuesday, September 25, 2007


Let me first thank you for taking interest in what I have to say. As of this moment I do not know what the focus of this blog will be - or even if I will update it regularly. I know that I loved to write when I was a student and I hope that this blog will afford me the opportunity to continue to take pride in synthesizing ideas in such a way that my recapitulation is more than just a regurgitation of information that I have absorbed. More than anything, I want to contribute something unique to the online community and the world at large - even if that is simply my own personal experiences and opinions.

Even if my blog takes shape into something far more structured than anything that I could hope for at this moment, I intend to sprinkle it with updates about events in my life. From a particularly good or bad run to an interesting encounter I had with someone on the bus, or maybe even just a picture I took of which I am particularly proud, this blog will be in part a reflection of my life.

Scary thought, but I hope you'll bear with me.