Sunday, October 30, 2005

The Battle and The War

I've been avoiding a pudding cup in my fridge for weeks. I even left for the east coast last week and when I returned, it was still there staring at me. Today I picked the cup off the fridge door and looked at the expiration date. It was two months from now, so I ate it. I enjoyed it.


Saturday, October 29, 2005

An Elusive Album

If anybody can find a retail store or online merchant that is selling Howie B's album "AnotherLateNight," please let me know. The first track on this album, "What it is? - The Undisputed Truth," is absolutely amazing. It's got a trance-funk beat that's mesmerizing. If anybody has a copy of the album, I'll gladly purchase it used.

Even the great Rasputin Music has it on backorder. Amoeba Music doesn't have a clue.

Capote (2005)

Philip Seymour Hoffman showed me in Bennett Miller's Capote why he is an underrated actor. I really only remember Hoffman distinctly in a handful of movie roles, almost all films by P.T. Anderson (Magnolia, Punch-Drunk Love, and Boogie Nights), but to me, this movie is pivotal for Hoffman. I liked him in Almost Famous and Twister, but I never once got to see Hoffman in the spotlight; he was always off to the side somewhere. But now, he has arrived.

I assume most people read Truman Capote's book In Cold Blood in high school, a book I really enjoyed reading. I can't believe how much of the book I remembered, especially since the movie--a true story about two gunmen who executed a family of four in Kansas in 1959--tracked the book very closely. From what has lasted in my memory, the power of In Cold Blood was it's non-fiction base; some say Capote invented a new genre of literature, something Capote would definitely say so himself. Capote ventured to Kansas as a writer for the New Yorker and found himself with a wealth of material, which over roughly six years accumulated into a book.

Capote (and the audience) develop a strong relationship with Perry Smith, who was one of the murderers on death row, who Capote visited intermittently. Of course, my view of the original book is skewed since I read it awhile ago, but I distinctly remember Perry Smith being a sadder, dumber, more pathetic character, pushed around by his co-conspirator. The Perry Smith of this film is much more composed. But I don't know if this detracts from the film at all, since the actor who plays Smith, Clifton Collins, Jr., does the best acting in the entire film (even better than Hoffman). I sort of remember Collins (who is sometimes called Clifton Gonzales Gonzales) in this great little war film called Tigerland, which was also a great film.

Two smaller things. First, I was a little unimpressed with the lack time given to the other murderer, Dick Hickock. It would have definitely helped for the audience to compare Hickock's demeanor (unapologetic, self-interested) with Smith's, which is much more fragile and introspective. Second, I really enjoyed seeing Catherine Keener in the film, who played Harper Lee, a famous author in her own right who was Capote's friend and research assistant for the book. I really like her, but I was afraid at first that she would not be able to overcome how I remembered her character in Lovely and Amazing, in which she played a lethargic, middle-class bitchy character. She was fantastic in both films.

Although the movie spans the years he wrote his wildly successful book, I am happy the movie was titled Capote, because it was about him as opposed to Smith or Hickock. For those of you interested, I would recommend the 1967 movie In Cold Blood, directed by Richard Brooks, in which Robert Blake plays Perry Smith. For some reason I found that movie to feel much darker since it was made earlier and was about such a brutal murder.

Friday, October 28, 2005

A Wonderful Past

A good friend of mine I went to middle and high school with gave me permission to post his story here. I have, however, made minor changes to protect the privacy of my friend, Mr. Mark Keurian of Fordham Law School.

So here's what happened. I was running for student council in elementary school. Me against another for V.P. I had run an amazing campaign (two campaign managers making my signs, I had support, I was dressed up for the speech). So I presented my speech, people were happy and clapping. The person who ran against me, he did his speech through Teddy Ruxpin (he recorded it and Teddy said it). The crowd (including the teachers) went nuts. He won by a good margin. It's affected me since.
I can't make this stuff up.

Thursday, October 27, 2005

The Loveman Cometh

So some of you might be tuning into the World Series of Poker on ESPN every once in awhile. During the broadcasts is a public service announcement running non-stop. It features Gary Loveman, Chairman of Harrah's Entertainment, Inc., who offers a "serious" message about gambling addictions. "There are some times in life when you should not be gambling . . . like when you are underage . . . ."

Oh it gets better; take a look at what Loveman looks like on the commercial:

Loveman looks like Jim Breur from SNL doing a parody of the real Loveman. It's quite sad that someone thought this message would be taken seriously.

p.s. For those of you who enjoy random trivia, before Loveman took the job with Harrah's, he served on the board of directors for the popular (and outrageously overpriced) clothing company, COACH.

Wednesday, October 26, 2005

Berkeley's Rat Problem

I live in downtown Berkeley and a number of people have been complaining about rats and pests lately. I don't have a problem with them in my apartment, but in my parking space. The rats will crawl up into the front end and leave their food within the engine compartment or in the rear differential area. A number of people I know have complained that the rats chewed through the wiring in their engines. One neighbor of mine had a brand new BMW's wiring chewed through, costing her $4,000 in repairs. Another had his car alarm system rendered useless.

I've had to get my car detailed because of the smell of the things the rats leave inside the engine, which range from fruit to dead birds; I got the engine and rear differential degreased and steam cleaned, but the actual problem (rats being present) persists.

Yesterday afternoon I received a letter from my landlord, which was given to every tenant in my building. It said, in part:
Dear Tenant, Please be informed within the last few weeks the rodent and pest issue has become a larger downtown problem. We are continuing work with the city and neighboring buildings to control the

Weird thing is I can't find any mention of this problem anywhere. I may have to sell my car or move, or both if the problem persists.

Tuesday, October 25, 2005

Freshly-Cut: Albums of the Month

Special thanks to my new subscription to Napster (review to follow in a few weeks).

(October 2005)
  1. The Wolf Parade / Apologies to the Queen Mary
  2. Billy Corgan / TheFutureEmbrace
  3. Beth Orton / Daybreaker
  4. Spokane / Able Bodies
  5. Spokane / The Proud Graduates

jetBlue Delivers . . . with Rocking Chairs

I was sitting at the jetBlue terminal at Boston’s Logan Airport and I came across at least twenty rocking-chairs along the windows. They were quite comfortable and everyone who either was on my flight or was at a nearby gate was staring at the chairs as if they were some kind of practical joke. It was as if the presence of something so simple, inefficient, unessential, and luxurious made us feel suspicious because we’re so used to getting the shaft from airlines.

Friday, October 21, 2005

Google Explodes

It's only10:25am and Google shares today are up more than $35.00 today (11%). This comes from Google once again beating analysts' expectations for quarterly earnings.


Jingle Jangle

I am positive that the dude who sings "Yaa-hOOOooo" with a country twang for the Yahoo! commercials is the same guy who says, "dot.coommm" for the commercials. Why do we need a quirky country yodeler to sing the name of websites?

Probably because I remember them . . .

Tuesday, October 18, 2005

Maxthon Anyone?

The epic battle between good and evil for web browsing has been going on for quite some time now and it's been entertaining. Microsoft's Internet Explorer versus Netscape, Opera, and now Firefox (and many others). 90 Million have already downloaded Firefox, which is made by the Mozilla foundation and is open source.

Firefox is great and I recommend it, but there is another browser out there that is completely under the radar: Maxthon. With almost 37 million downloads, I think Maxthon has been successful enough to warrant some exposure here. Maxthon is the browser that I use exclusively.

I. Features:

The hottest feature in web-browsing is tabbed browsing. Browsers have been tabbed for a very long time--well, everyone except for Internet Explorer, which still has no tabs. Tabbed browsing is very efficient because it lets you quickly open up a number of different windows without having to close previous windows. For example, with the hit of a button, you can open up a "group" of windows, like your favorite news or sports sites. If any of you are using dialup, this is a great feature because you can load pages in the background while you read.

So, of course Maxthon has tabs. It also has a number of other useful features. Here are some of the better ones:

  • Mouse Gestures: this is a feature many of my friends use, but I just can't get the hang of. You can program common commands like back, forward, reload just by gesturing your mouse in a certain direction.

  • Super Drag & Drop: you can open new links by simply dragging a link on the page, drag a selected word or phrase to the address bar and automatically run a search on it with a search engine of your choice

  • Ad Hunter: does a very good job of blocking popup, flash, floating, and image ads. What I like most about Ad Hunter is that it gives you a number of options to block ads. For example, you can "block this ad," "block all ads on this site" as well as manually create a white and blacklist for ads. This offers a great amount of control for different situations.

  • IE Extension Support: Maxthon is completely compatible with Google's toolbar and various other IE supported toolbars (more on this later).

  • Privacy Protection: you can erase all of your browsing info easily using one menu. Clear your cache, your saved passwords, your cookies and your history either altogether or individually.

  • Skins: you can change the look of Maxthon to suit your tastes.

  • Plugins: There are 400+ plugins available for a ton of different users.

  • Save Passwords: Maxthon lets you save your username and passwords on any site regardless of where it is. All you do is hit ALT+Q and the username and password are automatically entered. This is the BEST feature. You don't need to download a bulky "password saving" program.

II. What Sets Maxthon Apart?

Other than the great features listed above, what makes Maxthon a great option for me is that it is based on Internet Explorer. It is a shell program, so that everything that is compatible with IE (the giant in the industry), is also compatible with Maxthon.

What's interesting is that even though Maxthon is based on IE, it uses 65% less RAM usage than IE. This is extremely important when we have four or five windows open at once. Maxthon is extremely fast and efficient. Pages load up instantly. The toolbars are completely customizable

Many websites are finicky about using other browsers. For example, I always have trouble on ESPN and when using Firefox, Netscape or Opera. Usually I would be forced to use IE, but Maxthon offers a great option because I am no longer limited by IE's lack of options.

III. Drawbacks:

The drawback, of course, is the same as the strength: Maxthon is based on IE. So if there are underlying faults and exploits in IE (of which there are many) then Maxthon is similarly susceptible to those same problems. But I've had no problems personally with it, especially if you have decent ad-ware protection and anti-virus software.

IV. Conclusion:

Maxthon's great features and IE compatibility make it my favourite browser.
To download Maxthon, visit:

Wednesday, October 12, 2005

"Strategic Access Controls"

I am currently working on an article that will hopefully be published next semester in the Annual Review of the Berkeley Technology Law Journal. I am writing about the impact a recent 8th Circuit decision will have on videogaming law, specifically on the market for massively-multiplayer online games (MMOGs).

A portion of the article deals with the way in which developers and manufacturers have abused anticircumvention laws (found most prominently in the Digital Millenium Copyright Act) under the guise of piracy in order to manufacture an anticompetitive advantage in the market.

Enjoy the cartoon. It's the first time I've actually done something artistic in awhile.

Tuesday, October 11, 2005

Jury Duty

I got my first-ever summons for jury duty. I sent in my first-ever postponement for jury duty.

Monday, October 10, 2005

PBS: "Elusive Peace: Israel and the Arabs"

If any of you have time, PBS is broadcasting a well-made documentary on the conflict in Israel from 1999 to 2005 called Elusive Peace: Israel and the Arabs. The coverage offered was fascinating, mesmerizing, and sad. It covers the breakdown of several peace talks and a steady escalation of violence. The reporting was surprisingly even-keeled, offering insights as to the motivation of not only the Palestinians and Israelis, but also of intervening peacekeepers.

This documentary will be re-broadcast a number of times. To find your local broadcast times, see:

The "King" is Sinister

This dude from the Burger King commercials has a lot of potential. With a little work, he could be the world's creepiest serial killer.

DON'T EAT ANYTHING THIS MAN GIVES YOU. Not even a croissandwich.

Friday, October 07, 2005

Batman: The Animated Series DVD

I have recaptured my youth with one of the greatest cartoons ever made.

Batman: The Animated Series was fantastically dark, offering a level of depth and character and plot development not found in the standard cartoon.

The DVDs, which are broken up into four volumes (each volume having 4 discs) is polished, though not extravagant. Each volume has a ton of episodes: Volumes 1 and 2 have 28 episodes each, and Volume 3 has 29 episodes. I have not yet purchased Volume 4. I will wait until I get another gift certificate from my credit card rewards program for that one. Each volume also has an average of 3 episodes with a full commentary track by producers and animators.
There are a bunch of extras, with featurettes about how the series got started and the voiceover stars behind the animated series.

The drawback is that the series is a bit heavy on the wallet, though it is comparable to most season box sets for television shows. Each volume hovers in the $31.00 to $35.00 range at Best Buy, and Amazon has them cheaper.

Update: New York TimesSelect

My free 14-day trial for TimesSelect (the new service from the New York Times) is coming to an end. I've decided not to get the 1-year subscription.

Most of the big stories on the site are for free and I frequent other sources on the web enough so that I find myself running out of time. The trade-off is spending your time reading one source in-depth rather than reading six or seven sources, the latter of which I think has more benefits than drawbacks.

That's not to say that I am reading multiple sources superficially. There's nothing I enjoy more than reading four or five stories from different sources on the same "story." Perhaps my undergraduate training in critical theory has ruined me, making getting the news a bore compared to the thrill of deconstructing the coverage (it's probably the reason I can't enjoy novels anymore, either).

What I am saying is that if you don't want to spend any money for news coverage (home delivery, online subscriptions, magazines), you don't have to. You can be more than reasonably well informed just for free.

The best thing TimesSelect had going for it was the ability to search archives of past articles. But it turns out that my law school subscription for LexisNexis (and a whole host of other databases at my library's website) offer the same access. So I am not paying for access I already have for free.

Wednesday, October 05, 2005


I am going to be experimenting with the layout and design of the blog for the next few days. I was content with the standard Blogger template when I first opened the account, but it's time to learn something about HTML . . .

Feel free to offer suggestions or comments.

The Curry Problem

No this post isn't about the bad chutney I had two days back (for which I am paying for dearly).

Eddy Curry has been traded to the Knicks for refusing a DNA test. It pains me to say it, but I'm with Commissioner Stern (a.k.a. Urine-face III) on this one.

Basketball players are corporate entities. The Bulls signed Curry to a 4-year, $12,534,242 contract, with the 4th season as a team option worth $3,896,402. With that kind of money on the line, you should be required to give up this medical information provided that: (1) the information is kept private, (2) the results are not used for a purpose other than the purpose for which the test was mandated (for example, checking Curry's DNA for a heart condition as opposed to screening for a sexually trasmitted disease). Players already succumb to a host of blood tests, x-rays, and physicals. Why should a DNA test be any different?

Some cite privacy concerns, but I just don't buy it. It's not as if the need for this DNA test is completely out of left field; Curry has been sidelined since March due to a heart arryhythmia. It's the equivalent of showing probable cause. There's a reason the Chicago Bulls needed to know. They're making a huge investment in a marquee player and they want to make sure that this investment is good in the short and long term.

My friend suggested to me that DNA was different because it was inconclusive and cannot pre-determine someone's future heart conditions. But no doctor can pre-determine anything, so should all medical testing be out the window? All medical results of this sort are used as useful guides, not determinative (except for things like drug tests, MRIs or simple tests like cholesterol and blood counts). It is up to the Bulls to interpret the DNA results carefully, but they should have access to the results in the first place.

I think the most compelling argument in favor of DNA testing in sports is based on an information-maximization theory. Aren't players, teams, and fans all better off by knowing whether a player is putting their life in jeopardy? A team will avoid a costly investment, a player will become aware of this condition and be better suited to deal with it accordingly, and fans won't have to worry about people dying on court.

Sure the player's career might be over. The Eddy Curry stock will plummet in value because who wants a player with a confirmed heart irregularity--besides the Knicks, who need all the help they can get. Sure players themselves might say, "You know what, I'm willing to take the risk; I'd rather take the slim chance that I could croak and make a truckload of cash by running around for five years and cash out."

But that's not really the end of it. Think of the adverse consequences if DNA testing were banned as too invasive. Players would be more likely to hide their medical conditions and just desire to "not know." I am a firm believer that having more information--even too much information--is always preferable to not having enough. A ban on DNA testing would create a perverse behavioral response. Players would put their own lives on the line, never knowing or wanting to know what is in store for them.

So, you do the cost-benefit analysis.

Monday, October 03, 2005

Digital Retardation: Microsoft's Elite Keyboard and Mouse

After spending a lot of time doing layout for the Berkeley Technology Law Journal, my hands started bothering me. I started feeling my left pinky and my ring finger going numb (no it's not a stroke). So, I decided to venture into the realm of natural keyboards.

I. The Search

I was reluctant to buy a natural keyboard because the spacing of the keys seemed so awkward at first. But I started using one at the office and I really took a liking to it. The problem, however, was twofold. First, most ergonomic keyboards are barbones, lacking the function keys and the extras most other high-end keyboards have. This makes it very difficult for me because I have so many programs and shortcuts programmed into my keyboard.

There are plenty of specialized keyboards available. Take for example some of the specialty keyboards from DataHand, Safetype and Kinesis pictured below.

The problem with these keyboards is that they cost A LOT. Specialty keyboards usually run from $100 to $500. So, I decided to venture into the mass-market for computer peripheral. This market is dominated by Logitech and Microsoft.

Usually I prefer Logitech for keyboards and Microsoft for mice. I currently use the Logitech MX Duo, which has served me well for at least two years. It's got great layout and the driver software is far better than the competition. I will say, however, that Logitech's mouse is atrocious. It does not fit into your hand very well and the buttons are miniscule. So in addition to the Logitech combo, I also have Microsoft's Wireless Intellimouse Explorer, which is fantastic.

Unfortunately Logitech does not have a good ergonomic keyboard selection. So I opted for Microsoft's Elite Keyboard and Mouse duo. The duo costs $99.99.

I had high hopes, but as soon as I got home to install them, I ran into a few major problems.

II. Held Hostage

If you'll remember, I did a review of Microsoft's Wireless Intellimouse Explorer a few months back. That mouse is (and still is) the best I've ever used. As you can imagine, I had high hopes for my newly purchased product.

The first error message I received was that Microsoft's installer warned me that it could not install any software until Logitech's software was completely uninstalled. Typical Microsoft, trying to rid itself of competition.

III. Regression (Part 1)

Setting up this keyboard/mouse combo requires installation of two separate pieces of software: (1) Microsoft IntelliType 5.20 and (2) Microsoft IntelliPoint 5.20. I kid you not: it took me 55 minutes just to install the software, which required a number of restarts.

I finally started configuring the software. Holy crap! The so-called "media" keys on the keyboard (you know, the ones with Play, Stop, Rewind, Forward) only work with Windows Media Player. I use Winamp, so why should Microsoft determine my habits? So every media button on the top of the keyboard is useless now. I don't quite know if I am surprised.

Many of the other buttons on the keyboard are similarly hardwired. I cannot re-program certain buttons to open up applications that I want. I cannot tell you how infuriating it is to spend 100 dollars on something only to have some asshole programmer tell me how I can or cannot use my own keyboard.

Compare Microsoft's dim-witted IntelliType to Logitech's software, called iTouch. iTouch lets you control any media player you want. It lets you reprogram any and every button on the keyboard. You can open up any program, webpage, or program a custom keystroke.

IV. Regression (Part 2)

Now let's talk about Microsoft's mouse software, which is called IntelliPoint. I thought at least this part would work very well since my previous mouse also ran on IntelliPoint.

The IntelliPoint installer first made me uninstall the version of IntelliPoint I previously had installed (which is version 4.11) and replace it with version 5.20 instead. But version 5.20 inexplicably removes at least five of the most useful and efficient commands that were previously available! I can no longer map a custom keystroke to a button of my choosing. I can no longer open any program of my choosing. I can no longer open Windows Explorer from my mouse. I am dumbfounded.

So I thought, "Hey! Why don't I just install the older version of IntelliPoint and use that one instead?" Well, you can't; Microsoft has made their new products incompatible with older versions of IntelliPoint. So I'm stuck using a mouse that has five buttons, none of which I can program in a way that I want.

V. Design

I should say a word about the actual design and feel of Microsoft's keyboard and mouse. The keys, design, and layout are fine; nothing too special but they get the job done.

The problem, however, is that you can't remove the hard plastic wrist wrest along the bottom of the keyboard. You are stuck slamming your wrists against curved plastic the entire day, instead of using something like a gel wrest. What irony, a keyboard meant to be ergonomic and comfortble actually makes it even harder on my hands than a regular keyboard.

The mouse is remarkably similar to the mouse I already owned. The only difference is that it has a "tilt" feature on the scroll wheel, which lets you scroll left and right in addition to the standard up and down. This is mildly useful in theory, but not very well designed on the ground. Your finger is not very well positioned to get enough leverage to control movement comfortably. The other problem is that the scroll whell itself has a weird flow to it. It does not move with ease.

VI. Conclusion

I give Microsoft's keyboard an F- just because their programmers got greedy and forced me to choose between (1) using Windows Media Player or (2) losing all functionality of my keyboard's media buttons. Downright unforgiveable behavior.

I also give Microsoft an F- for REMOVING features that made its earlier products such best buys. It astonishes me that someone at Microsoft thought, "Hey, these customers are enjoying these features too much. We should scale back. I mean, being able to choose your own button assignments, that's surely a sign of the devil! Summon Mr. Gates."

If it looks like a turd and smells like a turd, its probably this product. The Elite Keyboard is completely useless. I returned it this afternoon.

Saturday, October 01, 2005

Language Alert: "Son" is the new "Bitch"

Reminiscent of the rampant overuse of the phrase "bling-bling," it's time to lay to rest the common sentence end-cap "bitch." As reluctant as I am to blame him for anything, Dave Chapelle has single-handedly exhausted this phrase of its cultural cache, most notably when he said, "I'm Rick James, bitch" and also while impersonating Samuel L. Jackson.

Therefore, it is time to proclaim that "son" is the new "bitch."

You don't think I have the power to do that? Well, too bad; it's already done.
That's right, son.