Friday, December 12, 2008

Time to celebrate!

Yesterday was a very important day of celebration for me.

It marked the last day of 2008 that I will enter or leave O'Hare Airport.

According to American Airlines, I traveled 128,053 miles on their jet planes this year.

Terrible way to spend a life. Well, of course, it could be much worse. I have little about which I could complain in my life. Except for being away from family, friends and home.

Now, however, I am home. It is freezing cold outside my home, but warm inside. I am happy and content.

I will not, should not have to return to O'Hare until January 12 -- and that will be for a trip to Puerto Rico.

Not so awful, I suppose....

A whole class of truly stupid television commercials

You've heard of HDTV, right? High definition television. It promises brighter colors, crisper sound, blah, blah, blah. All right, so say it is all true. How do you convince people that they should buy a HDTV (besides lobbying our elected representatives to pass a law mandating a switch to digital signals and a required switch in equipment)?

By showing them just how wonderful HDTV will be.

And how do the TV manufacturers do that? You (Sony, Panasonic, LG, etc.) buy time to run ads promoting your incredible products.

So here I am, sitting on my couch, watching ads in order to get back to the Daily Show or the Colbert Report (the only regularly scheduled TV I watch). And on comes an ad for HDTV.

The ad features lots of bright colors and vigorous motion and loud sounds.

"Wow!" I guess I am supposed to exclaim to my wife. "Isn't that HD great? I sure wish I had a TV that could show me those bright colors and let me hear all those incredible sounds...."

And then since my wife is not a guy and therefore not easily captivated by gadgets, she might say back to me:

"Dummy! You like those colors and sounds? Well, you're watching all that on your own television, right now."

Hmmm. I am suspicious. Is she playing a trick on me? My Primitive Man Brain wants a new shiny skinny high-def TV. But my Rational Man Brain has a hard time arguing with her logic.

And don't you, too? Isn't it a bit ridiculous for companies to promote the radically new and better resolution of an HDTV on a non-HD TV by showing how much better it will be?

Monday, December 08, 2008

A very odd job

Have you heard of World of Warcraft? It is a "massively multiplayer online role-playing game" (ahem, MMORPG) played over the Internet simultaneously by millions of people. The more you play, the more powers and weapons and so forth you accumulate (assuming you are not entirely incompetent). But what if you don't have enough time to do that? Wouldn't it be "great" (assuming you find anything about losing yourself in videogames to be "great") if you could simply buy these powers and weapons?

The maker of the World of Warcraft does not allow you to do this, so of course a "black market" arose to fill the need. Here's the quote from Wired magazine about this:

"Internet Gaming Entertainment, or IGE, made hundreds of millions of dollars as middleman for Western gamers eager to outsource the boring aspects of play to low-wage third worlders. The people who founded the company realized that scarcity of time and scarcity of virtual resources created a whole new market."


"Despite the game companies' widespread prohibition of such transactions, their number has grown to support an estimated $2 billion annual trade, a half dozen multimillion-dollar online retail businesses, and an enormous Chinese workforce earning 30 cents an hour playing MMOs and harvesting treasure to supply the major retailers."

Now that is a very odd job: sitting around and playing videogames specifically to accumulate "treasure" that can then be sold to people who are able to attach a greater value to their lives than the "enormous Chinese workforce."

We live in a very strange world. For the full article: