Monday, April 27, 2009

News is dead. Long live news!

I have been opposed to the idea that bloggers can't cover news as well as "News" organizations, but I can see that the average folk won't put together an investigation piece. However I just stumbled upon a Twitter feed of a "doctor" who pitches "news" ideas to media. Getting an inside view on how "News" actually happens is quite enlightening:

Only one goal in local newsrooms: FIND FIRST SUSPECTED IL SWINE FLU CASE!

Swine Flu Angles: shortage of Tamiflu at your hospital? Increased anxious ER patients? Any use of masks? (TV would love the visual).

Watch Jay Leno story closely. Very high interest. Have expert ASAP if his illness is interesting.

We're told health trumps money. Not in this economy. Media obsession with money stories makes placing health challenging.

Credit Card debt a big story. Nice angle is always "compulsive shopping" treatments. Have an expert? Pitch it!

Once again recession stories dominate. Try to tie any medical advance to cost savings (e.g. new procedure decreases time off work)

Avoid "morning after" pill stories. Too controversial. You can't win.

Another Chicago boy killed by baseball pitch to chest . Offer cardiologist for seasonal "commotio cordis" story.

Large practice needs help getting docs to "buy in" to marketing campaign. Wants me to convince them as fellow doc.

Cute potential story: hospital gowns redesigned to be more modest. New ones at your practice or hospital? Pitch it!

All the stupid jokes on cable news about "tea-bagging?" Just what is journalism turning into?

Typical. MSM first exaggerates risk of NMH TB. Now, having got your attention, slant is to reassure public the risk is minimal.

Just buy good PR? First Chicago Tribune considers "Pay to Play" news stories. Now LA Times front pages "advertorial." NyTimes today.

I kind of had an idea this stuff was going on, but not so blatantly. Pitching pointless stories, working on fear mongering and headline grabbing, even bringing up the idea of pay to get something published. He even has the ironic "why is media covering stupid money stories and not stupid medical stories".

Here is the problem for conventional news organizations. When blogging was just people covering their lives and events that they were immediately effected by the Media could snub their nose at it. However now bloggers include experts in every field, Media just can't keep up with it. If I want to know about new happenings in web start up companies I check TechCrunch, if I want to hear about consumer issues I go to the Consumerist. Media can't compete with this, especially when they think that their angle is to grab headlines and then fill their space with crap and fluff. The end is neigh for the old way to get news, soon the experts will be the ones that we go to for news, and the people that generate the "News" will be out of a job.

Can't come soon enough.

Friday, April 24, 2009

Ah, non-memories

I am closing in on 2,500 posts on my blog soon, so it doesn't surprise me that I don't remember everything I have posted. However I don't remember this at all (original post):

"One of the joys of working for a master's degree is getting to know a good amount of people that are not from America. Sometimes they shed light on subjects that I have not ever thought about.

At today's data mining class I brought the rest of my twizzlers that I had started to devour yesterday (I would have ate them all, but I only took half of them with me to class last time.) I offered some of them to my professor (from China) and a classmate (from ?). My prof. tried it and said that they were ok, and tried to get my classmate to try them as well, which she refused. Then my prof. said that: "it was good, kind of like fruit jerky, and smells like toothpaste." Well if I had never tried them before I wouldn't have after that description.

But was it true? Are twizzlers fruit jerky toothpaste mix? I smelt them, and sadly I have to admit they do kind of smell like toothpaste.

Needless to say my classmate never did try them."

I am glad I wrote stuff like that down, cause it is too funny to forget.

Monday, April 20, 2009

The myth of childhood

[Edit: It took me longer than one day to write this post, and in between the days I got a B-Day present from my mom, which was the book Do Hard Things. (I know I'm not a teen, but I think the principle of teens holding themselves to greater goals than what society has set for them is right, so the book interests me.) Anywho, while thumbing through the book I noticed one of the chapter titles was "The Myth of Adolescence", in which they basically were saying the same things that I wanted to here. So my desire to finish this post was shot, however, I didn't want to move on until it was done... so what you get is a half way finished post. Enjoy!]

Having no kids of my own, and not taking any part in raising any I feel that I have quite enough authority to talk about raising kids. Let that set your expectations about how well thought out my post will be.

This weekend I was thinking about the current role of a child in America. We can basically sum it up: go to school and have fun. Any expectations beyond this is definitely not the norm for everyone.

So has this always been the case? In not so modern times have we allowed our children to run free without a care in the world besides school? I doubt it. In fact I bet that children of old would think that our kids were slackers. Should we feel sorry for the kids in the past that had to work more than play? No -I bet their lives we just as happy as our are today. I might even go as far to say that kids now days have less rewarding childhood as those of old.

[Edit: Next is the outline for the rest of the post. You get the idea of where I am going with this.]

School made childhood, which in turn made adulthood.
Now we save all responsibility for adulthood.
No responsibilities prevents children from developing. (Now even college aged students are expected to party instead of learn to actually live, they are in their 20's! You can have fun but be responsible.)
We have shifted to a society that teaches jobs, instead of apprenticing jobs.
Before children would spend their time learning a craft, now they learn books.
It is fairly obvious that learning a craft that can directly lead to a job has more responsibility than learning about things that most likely will not be directly used in a job.
Kids now days have little responsibility and play probably as much as kids of old, however the play they do now is nowhere as developing (video games vs. building forts)

[Edit: That is where my outline ends, but I am sure I would have come to some brilliant conclusion, and then would have ended the post off with yelling at the kids these days to get of my lawn. Pulitzer Prize here I come.]

Friday, April 17, 2009


As an intellectual and a visionary I have to balance my nerd karma, or at least justify the guilty nerd pleasures with activities that are acceptable to the rest of the world. For example my main hobby in life is painting and playing with toy soldiers. The games that I play are made by Games Workshop and range from small skirmish battles to epically large battlefields, all set in various lands of fantasy (there are two time periods that Games Workshops makes games in, one that is clearly pulled from "Lord of the Rings", the other is in the distant future.) I can spend hours painting the models and further hours playing with them, and yes, when no one wants to play with me I have even been known to play the games by myself. But wait, I say, do not feel bad for me, for I am not a total nerd loser.

You see my other main activity in life has been playing hockey. Throughout my time at K-State I played with the hockey club there, and during the season I would spend every other weekend on the road playing games. Not only that, but I was an assistant captain for our team a couple of years and then captain my final year with the team (I also won the MVP for our team one year.) So don't cry for me about being a nerd, I clearly can pull my weight in other areas of my life.

And really I think most people would be ok with me playing with toys and not feel pity or repulsed by it solely because I have another activity in life that I have excelled at that is definitely not a nerdy activity. But why is this? My act of sitting down to paint chunks of plastic and metal are not any different than anyone else's, however because at other times of my life I play a sport it is ok? It seems that our problems with 'nerdy' activities is not an actual bash at the activity itself but the lifestyle that a typical person with that activity holds.

Take video games for example, not too long ago if you were hardcore into video games you would be labeled a nerd. However now there is so many people playing games that we see that you can still be a normal functioning person in society while still finding enjoyment in pressing some buttons on a pad that makes something happen on the TV. Nerdiness must come from perceived lifestyle, not the actual activity involved.

So then why are nerdy activities looked down upon, or why is a nerdy lifestyle generally perceived to be unattractive? I think it has to do with not making a contribution to society. Leveling a night elf to 60 might take a lot of work, but in the real world (IRL for you internet cats) nothing really changes. Drawing comics does not result in great literature, and painting a unit of dwarfs does not actually make my house more protected from intruders. But if I can prove that I can contribute to society through other actions, like leading a hockey team, then my non-contributional free time activities can be overlooked. However, I think that is the wrong way to look at the activities, I feel that I am more successful at work because of the creativity that I used when thinking up scenarios and campaigns. But I think that society does not count building your brain as a useful activity, actually one may say 'nerdy'.

So I urge you to take some time, read some comic books, argue about Captain Picard versus Han Solo in a fist fight, and break out your leggings for the Renaissance Festival. Just remember to contribute to the society while you are at it, lest you be labeled a nerd.

Also avoid Dungeons & Dragons, you don't want to be a dork do you?
(I didn't play D&D growing up, but this video brings back memories of playing Warhammer with my friends in High School.)

Wednesday, April 15, 2009


I don't hide the fact that I do not like Owen Wilson. If he is in a movie I will go out of my way to not see it. Sort of like Keanu Reeves, the presence of the actor just changes my ability to enjoy a movie. However, unlike Keanu it isn't his acting that I have a problem with, it is Owen Wilson's face.

For some reason I really can not stand the way he looks, it just drives me crazy. I am sure that it is just his zany nose pose, but it is almost painful for me to watch him. Fortunately for me the Germans have a name for this sort of face: Backpfeifengesicht, meaning a face badly in need of a fist.

I am glad that a whole culture can sum up my feeling of an actor with one extra long word. I guess it shouldn't surprise me that it was the Germans though...

(I did like the move Armageddon though... maybe I was naive then.)
(Oh, also, these guys make me want to go backpfeifengesicht on their face as well.)

Monday, April 13, 2009

Do Blind People See in Heaven?

While watching Family Guy last night I got to pondering something (everyone watches Family Guy and ponders the world at the same time, right?). The joke was that Peter was doing a magic trick for a blind crowd, and asks if he pulled out the proper card. Obviously the blind guy doesn't know what the original card was, so Peter asks if the card was red. The blind guy then yells at him "I don't even know what red is!" Ha, funny indeed.

Well for some reason I got to think about what happens when the blind guy gets to heaven, obviously he would be given the ability to see when he got there, it would be cruel to confine him to an eternity of blindness. But then I got to thinking about people that have extraordinary abilities, such as photographic memories or people that can see four primary colors. For them wouldn't our existence be of similar eternal handicap?

There are only two conclusions that I can come to. Either we go to heaven just as we are (sorry no legged buddy, you just can't make it on the hockey team in heaven), or we will be given so many extra senses that equating our current life to the afterlife would be impossible. I tend to think the latter.

Thursday, April 02, 2009

They are who we thought they were.

I find it amazing that most situations, people, or companies can be gauged within the first couple of moments with them. I guess it shouldn't be surprising that years of natural selection has resulted in humans that are able to accurately discern the nature of a situation within seconds of encountering it, but it still is interesting that we can do it.

It is no secret that I like eating at restaurants, and I will try a place that looks good for fun, however trying to get me to visit a place that doesn't look right is sometimes very difficult. So how do I know what place looks good and what place doesn't? I don't know... but I will give two examples.

Back in my Garden City Community College days I would spend the summers working for my dad up in Longmont, Colorado. There was a smallish restaurant that had an image to it that made we want to try it, I had only drove by the place a few times, but it just looked like a place I wanted to eat. We fianlly were able to stop by the place to give it a try and the line happened to be backed up to the door. We were greeted by a guy working there and in a few minutes everyone in line was given large soda cups for free. I knew then that it was a place that I would love eating at. Little did I know that in the comming couple of years Chipotle would grow from a small Colorado chain to a nationwide burrito awesome fest. Not even concidering the awesome food and the free drinks they gave us, it was obvious just from the look of the building that Chioptle was awesome.

On the other hand there is Goldie's Patio Grill, a Tulsa restaurant tradition. From looking at the sign I knew that the place would be horrible... no udderably horrible. But despite my best judgment one day I decided to give it a shot, really how bad could it be? It turns out that I had overestimated it, the food was barley editable. Even thinking about it triggers a bit of gag reflex in me now. But can I blame them? Not really, as soon as I saw the sign I knew that the place was not for me, at all.

My point is that we have "gut feelings" for a reason -they help us survive. Our ancestors that knew that a cave just didn't seem right, or felt that one water hole was better to drink out of than another, was able to survive better when those hunches were triggered unconsiously by observing the slightly visible cues. Fortunatly we don't need to use these feelings to keep us alive (for the most part) anymore, but we still have them and we can use them for our benifit. If there is a situation, or a store, or a person that just doesn't seem right, it propbably isn't. You might not know why you feel that way but we have an inate ability to process more than just what we think, and something in your brain has thrown up a warning flag. It is usually prudent to at least acknolwedge the feeling.

Now, I'm not saying to make snap judgements about people or decisions, but I am going to say that the first reaction is most likely the one that you will come to in the end after careful thought. Call me crazy, but I just have a hunch about that.