My Christmas gift to all of you: $5 to $20

CD price fixing has been alleged for many years now, and I remember reading about a class action lawsuit against the RIAA long ago. Well, it looks like that case is finally bearing fruit. You are a member of the settlement group if you bought a CD, cassette tape, or vinyl record from January 1, 1995, through December 22, 2000. I figure that means pretty much all of you.
Go here to read about your rights and to fill out a claim form, then sit back and wait for a check. It's said that the amount sent to you will depend on how many people fill out the claim form and is estimated to be between $5 and $20.
$5 to $20 is a disappointing sum, to be sure, but times are tough and the RIAA deserves to bleed, so do file your claim. If you're concerened about providing that information required, you can check out the thread here. Sounds legit to me so I went ahead and filled out the form.

Elvis in the house!

A footnote to yesterday's exciting addition to the family: Ryan was born on Elvis' birthday. Given how much Alan loves Elvis, this has his fingerprints all over. Then I remember Sharon's the one who gave birth and realize that he had nothing to do with it.
It certainly makes it easy to remember his birthday.

Ryno robbed

Not that Hall of Fame voting (like Oscar voting) is anywhere near an objective and fair evaluation of skill and worth, but Ryne Sandberg was robbed, and the bleeding-heart Cubs fan in me grieves. I buy into the theory that players who were the best at their position in the 80's will suffer in Hall-of-Fame voting because their stats will suffer in comparison to the jacked-up offensive #'s in the late 90's and early 21st century.
Rob Neyer posted his picks for the top 10 players not in the Hall of Fame:
1. Ryne Sandberg
2. Ron Santo
3. Bert Blyleven
4. Goose Gossage
5. Minnie Minoso
6. Ted Simmons
7. Alan Trammell
8. Dale Murphy
9. Darrell Evans
10. Bobby Grich
Ron Santo's omission is even more surprising, in a way. The man's lost both of his legs to diabetes, and of course he's more than deserving. He's a terrible announcer, but can someone give the man a break?

Emotionally susceptible

Speaking of baseball, the overwhelming public sentiment for electing Pete Rose to the Hall of Fame speaks to how emotionally susceptible and logically suspect public opinion can be. We're a very forgiving nation when it comes to our prominent fallen angels.
There's a great FAQ about the Pete Rose case by Sean Lahman. Rose always had one thing going for him. He was scrappy and he hustled, and fans love that. They love to see millionaires working as hard as they do, and it upholds the integrity of the game which is why we watch, even when our home team is clearly outmatched by the opponent. Ironically, Rose's gambling on baseball undermined that very competitive integrity.
Among other problems I have with Rose (outside of the gamlbing): personally I think he's somewhat of an ass, his skills are overrated due to longevity, and he hurt his own team by writing himself into the lineup to pursue the hit record when the Reds clearly had better options for their lineup. Back in the early 80's, the heyday of my Cubs fandom, I remember watching Rose writing himself into the lineup when he should have sat on the bench, moved Nick Esasky to 1b, and called up Eric Davis and Kal Daniels from the minors to play LF. Eric Davis was among the top players in baseball from 86-90, and you could argue those should have come earlier.
Of course, lawyers and business people and Satanic figures like Martha Stewart seem to be exempt from American's sentimentality. Or perhaps they just have lousy PR reps.

Palm D'or

Spotted this letter to Charley Rosen in an ESPN column and thought it was worth reprinting here:
Though Kobe's physical talents are enormous and the comparisons to MJ warranted, I've never heard anybody mention the one physical trait in which Kobe will always fall short -- hand size. Kobe's hands are much smaller than MJ's and prevent him from easily palming the ball the way Jordan can. This is most noticeable when Kobe tries to finish a drive to the hoop. Because he can't match MJ's gripping power, he often has to release the ball too early. The result is more missed shots in the lane and less creative range. Are you aware of anyone calling this disparity in hand size to attention? -- Carl Peay, Chapel Hill, NC
Yep, the writer is from Chapel Hill, but still, his observation is accurate.
Footnote: in NBA Live 2003 every player can palm the ball behind himself with ease. It was James' Xmas present, and we got some good play time in during break. The freestyle joystick control? Good stuff.

CES/Apple watch

One of these years I really should attend CES. It's the Victoria's Secret fashion show for gadget freaks. I've heard bits and pieces of news on the web about product announcements.
Motorola looks to have some cool wireless phones on the way this year. Motorola has made a valiant comeback in cell phone market share. Nokia had a huge lead, but their cell phone design has remained stale and dull. Nokia phones just aren't that sexy even though their interfaces are great. In fact, cell phones in general haven't made much progress these past several years which is why I'm using the same phone I've had for two years.
If I were to design the ideal cell phone, it would have a small form factor but large color screen, global coverage (some sort of GSM multi-band capability), a WAP browser with GPRS, an integrated digital camcorder/camera, and it would be Bluetooth compatible so I could sync its address book wirelessly with my computers and so that I could use a wireless headset. Some of these Motorola phones may just hit the spot.
As I noted recently, Microsoft is not an innovative company. Bill Gates is no technology visionary. Their CES announcements did nothing to change my mind on that topic. Gates talked about smart devices including some Dick Tracy like watch. It was all terribly dull.
Apple stole lots of thunder from CES by making their usual slew of announcements at Macworld SF. Personally, I'm most excited by the upcoming free update for iMovie 2. iMovie 3 looks awesome, as does Final Cut Express, a cheaper version of Final Cut Pro.
iMovie is the most impressive Mac i-application as it does for free what you once had to do with thousands of dollars of hardware and software, and it does so with as intuitive and simple an interface as can be applied to something as complex as video editing. I've been using it over the past several days to edit some DV footage I shot over Xmas break, and even without a manual I figured out how to use it in a matter of minutes. I'll post my handiwork soon.
iTunes 3 is solid, and while I haven't used iPhoto it looks to be a very competent photo manager. Safari looks sleek and runs fast but is the least exciting of Apple's announcements as it doesn't offer a huge upgrade over other browsers on the market, and why doesn't it import bookmarks? I'm glad to see integrated Google search since Google's toolbar only worked for IE for Windows, but the world really doesn't need more browsers. Keynote, on the other hand, is intriguing simply because any alternative to Powerpoint is a good thing. Given that I'm going on a personal leave, I'm not sure I'll cough up $90 for presentation software, but I'll be keeping my eyes peeled for reviews and comparisons to Powerpoint. If any of you get a copy to play with, let me know what you think.
Speaking of i-applications, I recently realized that iPod software doesn't allow you to move songs from the iPod to the Apple if you select manual synchronization. It's probably because of piracy concerns, but it's annoying. For someone who just wants to save hard-disk space for editing movies, it's a real hassle when you suddenly realize there's a tune on your iPod you'd love to use in a movie and you have to go find the CD again because the song is stranded on your iPod. Plus, if you decide to go back to auto synchronization, all the songs on your iPod are deleted and replaced with what's left on your computer. Just a heads up for all you future iPod owners.
The new Powerbooks, small (12") and ridiculously huge (17") extend the lineup of the world's sexiest laptop, though these new ones are aluminum instead of titanium. I would have liked to seen a bigger keyboard on the 17" Powerbook--typing on laptops is really hard on my wrists and I think they wasted the extra space they created there. The 17" Powerbook with Superdrive is an incredibly tempting tool for video editing because you need all the screen space to accomodate all the windows non-linear editing applications require. Or to accomodate all the windows you might spawn with the new X11, another welcome addition to the Mac OS X universe.
Having been a Mac user for over a year now, I can say that for creative professionals, especially those working with video, the Mac platform is the most user-friendly out there. With a Mac, a DV camcorder, and iMovie, you can make a short movie in a day without a manual. Try to build a DV editing platform on a Windows PC is fraught with compatibility issues and instability. Now, with Final Cut Express bringing the cost of heavy-duty DV editing down to the $300 price point, it's a no brainer to use the Mac as a DV editing platform. Furthermore, design-wise, Macs still beat the pants off of PCs. Finally, the fact that Apple creates many of its own applications means compatibility issues are minimal, whereas on the Windows platform you're always at the mercy of Microsoft or the third-party vendor to create Windows-compatible drivers.
The biggest flaw of the Mac platform is processing speed. For the money, I can get an awesomely fast dual-processor P4 Windows PC with a top-line graphics editing card whereas Macs are still stuck with G4 processors. I get faster Photoshop and video rendering speed with my Windows PC by a large margin.
Still, I enjoy fiddling on my Mac much more than working on my PC. It's true, what they say. Mac users have more fun.

What will I do with my life?

Po Bronson writes an interesting article on the age old question, "What Should I Do With My Life?" Given that I am asking myself the question a lot these days, it was particularly timely, but everyone can benefit from some of the wisdom he gained while interviewing 100's of people for his latest book. The article is much less cliched than you'd expect from an article on this topic, published in a magazine like Fast Company and written by Po Bronson. A couple points from his article jumped out at me.
His concept of the Phi Beta Slacker rings true to me. It's a person who has the talent to do many things in life but always optimizes for perception, always seeks the next thing that will look good on a resume. They lack the courage to fall on their faces. Part of me falls into this camp, and I hate that side of me. It reminds me of the accursed conservative oldest child syndrome which I first read about in the fascinating book Born to Rebel.
He also notes that if you don't like being asked inevitable cocktail question "What do you do?" it's probably because you don't like the answer. Fortunately I haven't had this problem in a long time and hope I never do.
Bronson points out that most of us will never get epiphanies that suddenly indicate exactly what our calling is. Sitting around waiting for destiny to call, for that perfect job, is folly. You have to go out there and try lots of things, fail a lot, before you stumble upon your passion. It's important advice for me to keep in my mind as I move into a "blank spot" in my resume. If I'm not careful, a few months could turn into a year of nothing, a year of fruitless waiting and questioning, and being on the recruiting side of the table I know that people have shelf lives. The question is particularly difficult to answer in this more secular age because one's calling doesn't come from a voice on high. Infinite degrees of freedom leads to paralysis--it's why I think some of the most successful and famous people in the world didn't see a hundred paths open to them. They acted out of desperation or necessity.
The funny thing about trying to figure out what to do with one's life is that I think everyone knows the right approach. In the end, all the cliches ring true--you have to be brave and just step into the void and begin exploring while following your instincts. I have one more week at work before my own such quest begins.