Al Franken

Congratulations to Al Franken on being awarded a Senate seat. With an election that close, I'll openly admit that it could have gone either way. If you don't believe me, just work in a polling place some time.

Oh, and don't equate Al with the Governator or Jesse Ventura. He's been a political animal for a very long time, and I get the sense this much of a departure for him that it would be for, say, an attorney, and that happens all the time.

And for good measure, here is Al recreating a bit he did on SNL years ago (well, the skill is the same, the bit is different):



Pundits are making a lot of the fact that the Supreme Court this morning overturned the decision of a judicial panel that included Supreme Court nominee Sotomayor. The decision was Ricci v. DeStefano - an 'odd' civil rights case in that it was brought by white folk, specifically firefighters. A more detailed description appears in the link.

The pundits have it backwards. The fact that Sotomayor was overruled shows just how right she is for this spot on the Court. She has been nominated to replace Souter, who took the same side Sotomayor did . . . and lost today. If the conservative Court had upheld the ruling, perhaps we'd have something about which to talk.


Clobbered on the head he thought with, died in the house he lived in.

What a bizarre news week this has turned out to be. Or rather "B" - as
in list. McMahon, has been MJ, fawcette, and now Billy Mays.
(www.cnn.com). I actually feel bad for this guy. He had a new TV show,
he was getting exposure, etc. Like him or not, it is a shame to exit
on the upswing.

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A Little Callous

A lot of pixels and ink today will be spent lamenting the loss of a pop god. I don't feel it. We lost Michael Jackson a long, long time ago. By 2003 he had gone beyond has-been and completely cashed in his fame. As of last night, the Michael Jackson that was the king of pop was gone. Now his shell is gone too. That is sad, but different.


Small Musings

I just became a parent and, while this is not a parenting blog, let me
just make some early observations.

1. It turns out that sleeping 5-6 hours a night in 1.5 hour stints is
quite doable.
2. When a cry means you kid is alright, it doesn't bother you one bit.
3. After 10 minutes, everything you tell a n00b is nonsense. Boy, the
junk that has come out of my mouth - and none of it offensive to boot.
Go figure. 4. I have dicovered a surprising capacity for polka dots in
my life.

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A Small Hiatus on Small Thoughts

Small Thoughts welcomed a tiny new member this week. If I don't get online for my usual information intake, you - my dear friends - don't get the sweet, pre-digested results. I'll be online soon and so will Small Thoughts!


Things You Knew Because You Are Smarter Than Me

I had three original rock poster prints framed 3 years ago. To protect
them, I got an acid-free backing and archival matting. And custom
frames. Now the frames are falling apart, so i went to the art store
for new ones and discovered that the custom frames are odd sizes: 22.5
x 28.5, a technique the art store clerk explained was widely practiced
and aimed at preventing exactly what i was doing.

Maybe you knew this part of the racket, but I feel cheated. I spent
the extra money to protect my art and now that decision is costing me
even more.

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Russian Millionaire's $350M Yacht

Roman Abramovich - the man who spurred the Sun to coin the term "Richistani" -- just launched this 557ft. $350M beauty, with 2 helo decks, blah blah blah, doesn't do squat for people starving to death in Africa.

You can see more photos here. In other news, words in German are just way too long. On the linked page, "back" is zurückblättern and "next" is weiterblättern. Nearly as long as the ship.


How Did I Miss This?

www.kottke.org links to this gem by Vogue. Let me just bullet point the jaw-dropping facts:
  • An Hermes bag purchase can set you back ~$50,000.
  • You may have to wait several years for the chance to dish out that kind of cash.
  • They're breeding their own crocodiles to keep with demand. Go ahead, read that again.

Whores of the Court

No, not the Kagan snoozer about abuses in expert testimony. This is about a client suing her attorney (this is London, so he's a Barrister) for fraudulent billing practices. She had reason to suspect he wasn't working at his desk for some of that time because she happened to splayed out on it with him in flagrante delicto. So Ms. Anal Sheik sued. I know, I know. Personally, I don't stray any lower on the fashion scale than Shabby Chic, but there's no accounting for taste.

I couldn't help it. Ask yourself: Could you?


So Then We Acted Unethically...And It Worked!

Covington and Burling, a big law shop, hosted a panel on congressional investigations. This is one of those events to which everyone goes more because it is like a Michael Lewis book come to life and less because you might ever need to apply the knowledge. I mean really, representing clients before Congress is about as common as appearing before the Supreme Court...with a similarly inverse proportion of people who would love to do it - in the abstract.

Fmr. Congressman Mike Barnes shared this tidbit: My client didn't want to produce a document, but we couldn't withhold it, so instead we produced thousands of pages in the hopes this one wouldn't be noticed. If ethics is ends justifying means, he is a saint. If ethics means avoiding needless waste, particularly with Congress - the party of which Mr. Barnes was formerly a member and which oversees the public fisc - this is, at best, abusive. I get it, it works. Lawyers do it all the time in discovery. But lawyers tend to produce everything first and review later (except for privileged items). If you review first and you know which documents are relevant, and then go out of your way to pile on additional documents just to obfuscate, is that (we'll use a lighter term here) ethical?

Microfinance in the U.S.

www.Kiva.org just opened operations in the U.S. The microfinance site has focused on the working poor in the third world until now. It turns out that Americans, too, could use loans of $0-$10,000, interest free. That last detail is critical. By not charging interest, Kiva maintains it is a charitable organization - not a bank or a securities issuer subject to U.S. regulation. Regulation would render the operation too onerous to continue.



That is, "Pay-as-you-go," is back on the table. Here's a one sentence primer: Congress cannot spend money on something new without cutting something old, usually Medicare and SS. Clinton used it to great effect. Thing is, Clinton wasn't in the middle of a series of stimulus bills.

PAYGO is a good idea in the abstract, but I am having a hard time seeing how it is appropriate now. To pay for the stimulus, the administration would exempt large spending bills from the PAYGO, so that run-of-the-mill legislation would require cuts, while legislation spending 100X or more would be exempt. I hate to draw the comparison, but this is a little like Bush 43's move to keep Iraq spending out of the budget. It creates an incentive for anyone writing to a bill to first to have it included in the stimulus so as to benefit from the exemption; and the stimulus is broad enough to accomodate almost any expense.


Updates on Bing and Pre

I reported on reports that Bing reportedly reported more visits than Yahoo, making it the now-distant second in the search wars. Turns out that lasted 1 day.

And about the Pre. If you bet the company on a piece of hardware, it's best to bring the investors with you on your roll-out strategy. They are not happy. Perhaps that's because Palm has stated that inventories will remain pretty low for a while, and Apple is about to launch new iPhones today that will only serve to stoke that fire.

[HT www.techcrunch.com]


Pre Probably Put Palm out to Pasture

EZRJ asked for my take on the Palm Pre, the bet-the-company smartphone from the company that invented (re-invented, reinvigorated, perfected, and then lost) the mobile computing space. I am loathe to comment on it because I haven't used it. It isn't out yet and, when it is, I won't get one because I am not a Sprint Customer. That's one more thing this nifty little device has in common with the iPhone. Instead, let me give you my grok of all prevailing tech wisdom about this device:
  1. This is Palm's last hope. There is no other Treo coming. Earnings and market share are way down. This is it.
  2. The OS is apparently pretty good. The killer app is multi-tasking, something the BB does really poorly and the iPhone does not do (it traded multi-tasking for zippy performance in every app).
  3. People like the interface. It is quick and clean and new. There is no iPhone or Windows CE in there. I've seen the video walk-throughs and I agree.
  4. The hardware feels lousy in your hands. The plastic is light and that lip at the bottom of the keyboard is apparently so sharp people report pain from using the device.
  5. Did I mention this is Palm's last gasp? Most reporters believe that this device might be good enough if it wasn't up against the entrenched business devices of BB and the user-friendly behemoth of the iPhone. And being attached to Sprint, the anemic network that can't even claim "push to talk" (walkie talkie mode) as an exclusive any more doesn't help. Maybe this year's NASCAR points winner will just win the company. I think that might just cause someone to throw a race or two.
Hope you enjoyed that. Now back to our regularly-scheduled nerdiness.

The Power of Bing

www.Bing.com - Microsoft's browser-come-lately has debuted to positive reviews. People like the colorful photos. They like the embedded travel search. Heck, they even like the search algorithm (deemed competent in comparison to-, but not better than, Google's). Today, however, there may be actual news; Bing has apparently surpassed Yahoo search at StatCounter - check it out here.

Before you go wondering if Bing really is the next big thing since email, know that MS has replaced MS Live Search in Internet Explorer with Bing. Right - if you just type words instead of a URL in the address bar of IE - you are now using bing. Considering how many people use IE, that's a big deal. Oh, and there are reports that IE 6 users (including yours truly at work - even though IE is up to version 8 now) are forced to use the service for search even if they change their Internet Preferences to default to another search engine. Still feeling sorry for Microsoft with its antitrust problems? Bundling = power.

And a final note: Beating Yahoo at search is likely beating Andy Roddick at internet speeds. Yahoo doesn't focus on search any more. It is the go-to place for niche information, such as finance, fantasy sports, etc. Heck, it is even taking significant market share from eBay.


Death to Citating! No, Really, You Might Be Able to Stop...

www.Zotero.org is an MIT project that allows you to save bibliographic information about the pages, PDFs, and Word documents you view in your browser and then spit them out in any format you want. That's right law-schoolians, that includes Bluebook...automatically. The only hitch is that you need Firefox 3. For my money (and, mind you, it is free as is the browser) that is totally worth it!

(HT: Wehwah)


Project Natal: Look Ma! No Wii!

I can't beleive I am saying this: I am so impressed by XBOX's Project Natal, I don't know what to say. It is, as the video indicates, a Wii without the Wii. The controller bar below the TV detects your face, recognizes you, follows separate voices, and does a full body motion capture in real time to permit you to play games with all 4 appendages and no controller. Can I have one? Now!?

The Mr. doom and gloom corner: How will MS screw this up? Will it cost too much? Will they fail to produce adequate mini games - the thing Wii did so well? What will it be? Still, I saw the Zune HD video today as well and it is, well, slick. Maybe there is hope for MS after all in the consumer products space.


Is This Something I Might Actually Use?

It certainly looks useful, I just can't tell if I'd, y'know, use it. [HT www.makerfaire.com]

GM Bondholder Angry ... Because She Didn't Diversify

CNN ran a story this morning about a schoolteacher who invested and lost $70K as a GM bondholder. This must be sensationalist journalism. I mean, John King never asked the 700 pound gorilla question: You are a schoolteacher, what are you doing putting such a large portion of your investments in one company?

Yes, the government involvement here alters the picture, but that occurs at the aggregate level. The huge impact Debra (that's her name) is feeling as a result of the bankruptcy is her own doing. If she were properly diversified, this would have sucked, but it would not have been devastating.