Wednesday, June 30, 2004

Eschew Shoes

I’ve been incurring all sorts of injuries as a result of my footwear of late (perhaps due not so much to the wearing of it as to the requirement to move about and navigate the world in it… fine line, perhaps, but the problem certainly can’t be with me). Admittedly I’m a rather clumsy person, and have a constant set bruises to prove it, but it seems my feet have been getting more than their fair share of abuse recently. Listed below are shoes to avoid and why:

Boots: This particular type of footwear is, at first glance, a sort of ‘wear at your own risk’ type due to the addition to one’s height acquired when worn properly. However, through much use I have become quite fond of boots, particularly those of the Nine West persuasion (aided by the Nine West price tag). Wearing them affords me not only a slick-looking pair of feet and a better view of the world from 4 inches higher than where I normally see it, but I also get that whole “I’m really a grown-up now” feeling (yes, it disappears when I take them off…or have to actually speak to someone). So I wore them on a recent apartment-viewing trek. After a couple hours of walking from Wrigley Field to the lake and back and a bunch of places in between, I had developed blisters and something of a limp that kind of took away from the grown-up-ish feeling, as well as my enjoyment of being 4 inches taller (it kind of wears off after the first 20 minutes anyway). And I really didn’t give a shit if my feet looked slick anymore, simply because of what I knew I’d see once I took my socks off. Ix-nay on boots.

Tennis shoes: Frequently resorted to as a more comfortable sort of shoe, tennis shoes are deceptively soft and giving, luring you into thinking they’ll provide ample cushioning for your feet during everyday activities while protecting them from injury and small dogs. Socks are co-conspirators in supporting this widely-held belief. Yet they fail miserably when one attempts to run for any length of time (to escape a pack of small dogs, for example), and in addition to their failure to prevent shin splints, they also inflict blisters and black toenails. Ix-nay on tennis shoes.

Platform shoes: Ok, ok, I know I was asking for it when I wore these for any length of time, not to mention out in public (really not a cool shoe to own anymore, injuries aside), but this is a record even for me. While I normally come close to falling down a set of stairs about once a week, my record of actually falling down stairs is much shorter than one might think given this proclivity. What’s more, the actual falling down the stairs is generally achieved by falling backwards, and you can’t really get seriously hurt by just falling on your ass (maybe it’s some kind of weird gift, like with cats). But yesterday I had my oh-shit-I-almost-fell-down-the-stairs moment and failed to learn from it, because on my next trip down, I fell. Forward. (I should add that I was going down the stairs, not up.) The bottom of my shoe caught on the step (yes it’s possible) and down I went. Thank goodness there was a handrail to catch, or a good deal of expensive dental work would have to be redone. Regardless, I sustained several hideous bruises, lost part of my pedicure, and got myself a really bloody scrape. And after a walk down Michigan Avenue today, my left foot refuses to provide any kind of support at all without retaliating in a manner rather more painful than one might expect.

But there’s more. I bandaged myself up and dragged myself to my car to drive home, and stopped for gas on the way. For some reason, my knowledge of how to keep my balance when opening a car door escaped me, and I fell backwards (yeah, good timing) to the ground and hit my head on a post. It’s been awhile since I hit my head, and it hurt, and I felt somewhat put out that I was 22 and not allowed to scream until someone brought ice… and ice cream, for that matter. Aren’t other people supposed to drop whatever it is they’re doing and come over and stand around looking concerned? Maybe they would have if I’d stayed on the ground, but I was wearing a skirt, and that simply wasn’t an option.

These have contributed substantially to the suckage factor in my life--I’d burn those fucking shoes if it weren’t for the fact that chemicals in whatever they’re made of would probably kill me outright.

Flip flops: Traditionally my favorite kind of footwear, I wear flip flops whenever I can. What with the blisters and everything, I like them even more than I usually do these days. Then I stepped in gum.

Saturday, June 26, 2004

A whole new way to kill time

While catching up on the latest tech headlines on CNET, I read a story on the latest in webmail developments that mentioned a website devoted to making the connection between people that want Gmail accounts and people with invites to give called gmail swap. Those of you who were around for the discovery of "For Sale by Mental Patient" can definitely appreciate this. Among the items being bid for a Gmail address:

40 Foot Statue of You
To refer to myself in the third person
To photoshop you in a handstand position
To vote for John Kerry
To let you name my iguana
To let you name my next born child
To root for the A's tonight
Your name on my arm for a week
To stop swearing
A photo of a cat in a wetsuit
A spy in Denver
My Soul I fell for this one, and am now in possession of the soul of one Kyle Branin, denoted via the email that said:
---
Kyle Branin's Soul
Hi. This is Kyle Branin's soul.
---

The list goes on. If you prefer the ones that are filtered for entertainment, check those out here.

Wednesday, June 23, 2004

Joke of the Day

Ripped from Avantbard:

Knock, knock.

Who’s there?

Fuck.

Fuck who?

No, “fuck whom?”


(Many thanks to Chris for cultivating my appreciation of grammatical humor.)

Gmail invites

As mentioned in a previous post, Gmail is sending out email invites to join, and I'd been wondering how people were chosen to get these. Turns out it's the original set of Gmail users who can send them to whomever they wish, as I discovered today when I logged into my account (this feature has probably been there for awhile, but I'm not detail-oriented as a matter of course). So, I have 6 invites (3 from each account) to check out Gmail for whoever wants them. Email me if interested.

Wishlist

It's nowhere near Christmas, and my birthday was just a couple months ago, but it never hurts to plan ahead (notice how convenient this philosophy is when it involves other people getting me stuff). Actually I'll probably break down and buy these myself if and when there's a positive balance in my checking account... hey, there's another one right there.

1. a positive balance in my checking account
2. Altec Lansing's inMotion portable speaker system for my iPod (especially since my 12 year-old Sony stereo is finally showing signs of dying... plus cds are so passe)
3. an authentic Mark Prior Cubs jersey
4. an "I'm being exploited by an ad agency" t-shirt from Urban Advertising
5. a decent digital camera
6. a respectable hit counter (may just regularly change the date on it to always be last week)
7. a car that doesn't hydroplane
8. some fucking respect

Monday, June 21, 2004

And when the living's not easy, it's my own damn fault

I wonder sometimes if procrastination is a character flaw that I'll ever manage to rid myself of, but any attempts to do so are, by definition, unsuccessful, because I'd really rather move on to something that really needs doing, like finally seeing Better Off Dead. Anyway, I've managed to complete that necessary task and have moved on to reacquainting myself with the internet, because now that I'm not in class for four hours a day, I find I'm not keeping up with the news as well as I used to. All of this is to avoid a task that's been hanging over my head since last week (this is the flip side of all that free time I said I loved: I tend to waste it); namely, analyzing lead sources for the company I'm working for this summer. That sounds about as compelling as the actual work is: it's mostly data entry into Excel and then pulling all the percentages I can think of, meaningful or no (pie charts optional).

In my rather extended attempt to get started on this project, I added a couple more links to my 'Web Advertising' section (one came from Adrants, which I spent a bit of time reading), checked up on all my friends' blogs, and took an ill-advised walk by the lake (post-downpour air quality is decidedly unpleasant). And even now I find myself compelled to write about the latest developments in Gmail's making waves, because I'm that much of a dork.

Tuesday of last week I logged into my Yahoo! mail account and found they'd finally implemented the overhaul that was announced a month or two back in response to Gmail. Users with free accounts get 100 MB of space, which is really more than ample (though Yahoo! is definitely a johnny-come-lately here and offering 100 MB free just doesn't have the same cache as offering 1 GB does), but the best part is that I'm not a free user. I buckled under the constant warnings that I was running out of space (in big, scary letters at the top of the page with a red graphic indicator) and paid ten bucks for a whopping 10 MB. Hey, it made the warnings go away. Anyway, Yahoo!'s new system isn't the tiered thing it had before (where you could pay more to make the ads go away too, and get even more memory), but is split into free and paid. And paying customers get 2 GB of storage space, plus no advertising. And while this normally costs double what I'm paying now, because I took that leap of faith (caving in, whatever) early on, I'm just paying less for the same thing. And that's a really nice feeling.

The new Yahoo! mail has a whole bunch of new features that I haven't yet taken the time to explore (though Yahoo! sent about 16 emails--yeah, there were a few duplicates--telling me about all of them and how the change affected my account), but I think I saw something about a feature called AddressGuard, which allows you to give out alias addresses to sites that look sketch and then you can block everything from them if it all turns out to be junk mail. That's a handy little feature right there, which I'll have to figure out how to use at some point. POP Access is nice too, if and when I achieve that level of Outlook sophistication. Most of the other stuff (SpamGuard, stationary, address blocking) is less notable, but I think they're features Gmail has yet to implement, if they ever do. I still like the Gmail interface better than any other webmail service's, and the speed it operates at, but now I have no reason to ever leave my Yahoo! account: the only thing that would cause me to do so--being overwhelmed by spam--has been pretty effectively dealt with. The SpamGuard works pretty well, and I can eliminate the risk of getting it by giving out my email address in the future.

One notable thing about the marketing of Gmail: they're really doing a brilliant job with this. It's being done entirely virally, and leveraging the company's assets in a remarkable way. It got the attention of journalists and bloggers by using the good company name, held it by coming up with a compelling offer (1 GB free), and now buzz is constantly being generated through this system of sending out invites to sign up (you know you've got a hit when it's being auctioned off on Ebay). Another smart move was to offer it to everyone with an account on Blogger (which Google purchased a couple years back), people who are by definition talking about shit (yes, that's technical). It's doubtful many of them pay as much attention to this as I do, but Blogger hosts some popular sites, and word gets out.

I love Chicago, but I have to admit, I'd probably leave it for Silicon Valley in a heartbeat.

Sunday, June 20, 2004

Dodgeball: A True Underdog Story

Finally a Ben Stiller movie that doesn't give me the same sensation as hearing nails on chalkboard. Despite the beautiful sunny and 70 degree day, I opted for giving myself a bit of culture this afternoon. Clearly that went a bit awry and I saw Dodgeball instead, but I thought I might as well share what I thought of it with the three people who visit this site.

Dodgeball is hilarious, and Ben Stiller is perfect at the over-the-top moronic asshole thing. Vince Vaughn is just plain cool, and Warren Cheswick from Ed (I don't know that kid's real name) has a memorable cheerleading scene, but the movie really picks up when Rip Torn enters as Patches O'Houlihan the dodgeball coach (whose teaching methods are adequately summed up by these words of wisdom: 'If you can dodge wrenches, you can dodge balls.' I'll leave you to imagine the outcome of a phrase like that.) and Jason Bateman acts as the worst announcer ever. (Think Captain Obvious meets skater punk.) The overall plot is pretty blah and formulaic (any guesses about the outcome? anyone? anyone?), but those two do a good job of livening it up, as do random cameos and identifying obscure actors: Milton and Lumbergh from Office Space play prominent roles, and there are appearances by Hank Azaria, Lance Armstrong, Chuck Norris, David Hasselhoff, and William Shatner. Not a bad way to spend a Sunday afternoon, but I'd probably feel less guilty if it had been a rainy Sunday afternoon.

I give it 3 1/2 (out of 5) flying wrenches.

Favorite line: "It's like watching a bunch of retards trying to hump a doorknob."

Summertime, and the living's easy

So I've begun my summer internship, which is working mostly with consultants. Am now thinking that maybe this is the line of work for me: flexible (read: fewer) hours, free lunches, everyone has to be nice to you because they're paying you ungodly amounts of money to have you tell them what to do. Here's a look at what I did with my first week back in the real world:

Monday: Picked up by my boss for my first day of work. Sit through 4 hours' worth of poorly-run meetings, perfect faking attentiveness (my Red Bull clearly didn't take this morning), get a free lunch out of it, am told at 2:30 that I'm done for the day. Head to Michigan Avenue to try and set myself up with a decent wardrobe of work clothes from H&M. Come home, head to Mas (Spanish fusion cuisine or something) for a nice dinner with the roommate at 9. Go to bed significantly broker than I was the day before.

Tuesday: Purple line express to work to arrive just before 10 (and am early). Meetings all day, but finally figure out some way to contribute (beyond the nod and smile, I mean, though I do do a mean nod and smile). Another free lunch. Head home at 5:30, cap it all off with a 4.5 mile run. Go to bed significantly tireder than I was the day before.

Wednesday: No work. Help the roommate move newly-purchased furniture into our apartment, and continually remind her of the irony of having two apartments' worth of furniture here now that I'm the only one living here for the rest of the summer. Also complain loudly and repeatedly. Earn a promise of free dinner (which I suspect was forthcoming simply to shut me up). Head to Tapas Barcelona for dinner, split a well-deserved pitcher of sangria. Head to Bar Louie to make the night complete. Go to bed significantly drunker than I was the day before.

Thursday: Still no work. Wake up at noon with a hangover, somehow manage three hours of compiling income data by zip code for the Atlanta area, project incremental revenue generated by targeting these people. Run 3.5 miles, shower, nice dinner out at Stained Glass, then read Cider House Rules for 2 hours. Go to bed significantly accomplisheder than I was the day before.

Friday: Another day off. Realize with a shock that I've managed to max out both my credit cards and use that as motivation to finally fill out the financial aid application that's at least a month overdue. Pack a backpack full of bread, wine, cheese, bruschetta topping, nutella and Snack Pack chocolate pudding, head up to Ravinia to see Ben Folds and Rufus Wainwright. Get lost (but too shocked by all the big houses to really notice), finally make it there and try to ignore the rain while we eat slightly-soggier-than-anticipated dinner. Rain stops by showtime, Ben Folds and Rufus Wainwright are awesome. Other people meeting us there also very cool, after the show we head downtown for chocolate strawberry martinis. All around great night, cab it home. Go to bed significantly happier than I was the day before.

Sunday, June 13, 2004

Night owl

Like Brendan, sleep isn’t really in the cards for me tonight, though not because I think I’d have any difficulty achieving it--I’m damn tired right now, actually--but because I have a 6 a.m. flight back to Chicago which means getting up at 3:30 (as in half an hour from now) to shower and finish packing (and start packing, for that matter). How am I killing time tonight?

-Nielsen post: 75 minutes
-looking for other geeky marketing bloggers who’ve posted on Nielsen: 6 minutes
-reading Nielsen posts on The Melting Blog: 25 minutes
-feeling inferior to other blog’s coverage: 6 minutes
-poaching other blog’s links for my own post: 2 minutes
-thinking up new tagline for my blog: 12 minutes
-being racked by indecision when I actually go to save it: 7 minutes
-finally deciding to see what Wonkette is all about: 18 minutes
-trip to Canters for a malt, BLTA and final goodbye to friends: 120 minutes
-forgetting about friend I’m chatting with on IM to go to Canters: 0 minutes
-apologizing to said friend: 2 minutes
-rediscovering the end of the world cartoon: 10 minutes
-checking friends’ blogs for the 83rd time today: 19 minutes
-seeing what my web counter’s up to: 1 minute (the modem’s killing me)
-being happy that it’s about to hit the 4-digit milestone: 0.1 minutes
-being bitter that that’s fucking it: 4 minutes
-posting about wasting time: now this is just getting silly

Saturday, June 12, 2004

Nielsen and foul-weather Luddites

This is a story I’ve been meaning to post on for several weeks now, but as previously mentioned, time has kind of been at a premium. Like the marketing and statistics nerd I am, I thought this story on the rising tide of opposition to Nielsen’s newest system of obtaining television ratings was an interesting one.

Most have heard of Nielsen, the company responsible for giving us the television ratings that dictate which shows get picked up again, which get the axe, and when sweeps are, all in service to networks who need proof of some kind of audience so they can charge advertisers more for airtime. Nielsen’s primary method for collecting this information locally has been via paper diaries: a representative sample of our nation’s population keeps a daily record of what they watched and when. When I say local, I mean in the top ten television markets: LA, New York, Chicago (the primary cities where changing this method has become an issue), Boston, and other large cities.

It stands to reason that, if you ask people to keep a handwritten diary of what they watched on TV, it’s not going to be very accurate, particularly beyond the first couple days or so. So Nielsen devised a new method of collecting this information called a People Meter, where a device monitors what channel the television is on and who is watching it (recorded by having the people present press a button to tell it they’re present--admittedly still far from perfect, but a definite improvement over paper diaries). This device is already used to collect national ratings information, but a number of people have protested the implementation on the local level because in the aforementioned cities, populations are far more diverse, and minorities living in those cities want that diversity to be captured with some accuracy. That accuracy is in question with the People Meters because the results from them in test runs are very different from paper diary results, most notably in ratings of shows geared towards minorities. This has led to claims that Nielsen is undercounting minorities in these cities, as well as lawsuits and calls to delay full scale usage of the People Meters. The threatened results of said undercounting: cancellation of TV shows popular chiefly among minorities, leading to fewer jobs for minorities in entertainment and a diminished presence in popular culture.

This issue makes me mad for so many reasons; actually, for one reason--that it’s ridiculous--and there are lots of reasons why. First of all, the only reason this is getting any attention in the first place is because News Corp., which owns Fox, backed the opposition with a couple million dollars. Do you think some of Fox’s shows were adversely affected by the new system of collecting data? Yes. Across the board (not just on Fox), shows thought to be popular with minorities saw a sharp drop in viewership when using People Meters as opposed to the paper diaries, which is what prompted the undercounting claim. Which of these methods, then, is at fault? Common sense would argue that paper diaries are far more given to error, particularly when it comes to minorities. They are historically less likely to fill them out, and for this reason, Nielsen oversamples minorities. In general, people are diligent for a few days, then lapse and fill them out at the end of the week (or whenever Nielsen comes to pick them up) from recall. Right there you lose the data from channel surfing. In addition, paper diaries give people the chance to be dishonest about what they watched, and I think this loophole is the culprit here. Shows aimed at minorities may be getting higher ratings than they should because they want to show support and so they say they watched these shows. That option isn’t available with People Meters. I doubt the minority families chosen by Nielsen are conspiring to up the ratings of shows they think they should be watching, but we aren’t talking huge samples here (of any group), and it doesn’t take much to change a show’s rating when you consider the fact that only a few percent of the population is really watching it anyway.

It makes me angry that these groups are actually impeding progress. Nielsen’s new system is such a clear improvement over the old one, and sampling problem claims aimed at an organization that does this for a living are just plain silly. I’m not a huge proponent of Nielsen or television in general (it is a wasteland, after all), but someone has to do what they do, and I support accuracy in collecting data, particularly if it shows how network programming sucks more each year (I mean did we really need a second iteration of the Simple Life?).

Update: Another blog's more in-depth coverage of this issue (I knew there had to be other marketing dorks out there).

Wednesday, June 09, 2004

No more classes, no more books

Apologies for the long silence, but I’ve just finished two of the most hellish weeks academia’s ever managed to force on me. Here are the numbers behind my final week of spring quarter:

average number of hours of sleep per night: 5
all-nighters: 3
red bulls consumed: 15
mochas consumed because was sick of red bull: 6
pages written while hyped up on caffeine: 31
pages written that probably should have been edited by a slightly more lucid third party: 31
presentations given: 1
rehearsals of said presentation prior to giving it before the client: 0
slides that appeared prematurely because the speaker took their own sweet time talking about the point of the previous one: 12
group members I’ve plotted to kill: 7
amount of pleasure taken in writing peer evaluations (on a scale of 1 to 10): 12.5
chastisements from professors for lack of professional courtesy shown in peer evaluation: 1
A's awarded to date for all that work: 4
A's that must have been the result of temporary insanity on the part of the professor: 4
A's that I wouldn't have minded being B's if it meant I could have slept more: 1

Whole27: Recap

So we didn't quite make it 30 days. On Thursday, we looked at the prospect of a dry Memorial Day weekend (and the Friday leading up to i...