Category Archives: Points Made

Arguments, appeals for reason, or otherwise analytical.

No Longer My #1 News Source

WNBC has gotten rid of Chopper 4, its news helicopter, as well as its helicopter reporter Dan Rice. The Daily News reports, “Ch. 4, the first station in the market to have a dedicated helicopter for its coverage, is now sharing footage, a chopper and staff with Ch. 5. It’s part of a cost-cutting move by both stations in a market where every station has been battered by declining advertising revenues.” The sharing scheme will save each station $500,000 annually and the News says channels 2 (WCBS) and 11 (WPIX) may share a chopper as well. Rice said he found out about being fired back in March, after winning an Emmy for his coverage of last year’s Upper East Side crane collapse; he Tweeted yesterday, “Today is Chopper 4′s last day. Thanks to all of the viewers who have tuned in over the last 10 years. I will miss you the most!”

I can’t recall having one of my most loved stand-up routines become obsolete in front of my very eyes.

Shooting The Bullshot

Activision had posted a job opening for an “Art Services Screenshot Associate“. Among the many bullet points of requirements (four year degree!) and job duties was this gem:

Perform advanced retouching of screenshots and teach skills to others as needed.

This sort of “honesty” from Activision is becoming more and more common. I look forward to the inevitable “Game Reviewer Bullying Associate” position getting posted. But this isn’t a post to knock Activision around again. This is about career paths.

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Contemplating Home

Contemplating Home

It’s been a strange eighteen months in the private Home beta. It’s hard to believe it’s coming to an end tomorrow.

Sony has announced that yes, tomorrow, December 11th, is the day Home finally goes into Open Beta. The indication I’ve gotten from the in-beta documentation is that we’re looking at a roughly 6PM Eastern launch, with a downtime tomorrow morning so some final housekeeping can be done.

Now, technically, the closed beta doesn’t end until tomorrow at that time, so I perhaps still cannot talk in great detail about the last 18 months. But here’s some things I’ve been mulling over about the service lately:

Gamers who spend a lot of time in a particular title tend to memorize maps. The terrain is always the same, the shopkeepers are always standing in their stores, and the town never changes. But serving 18 months in the Home beta can mess with your brain. Almost all of the areas have undergone multiple overhauls. The “Central Plaza” is on its third or fourth major version. Whatever you may remember from the early demos is probably gone now, so come in with a clean mind.

Home is not the cure to all of Sony’s woes regarding online play. It does not fill in the common holes that people point to when they line PSN up next to Xbox Live Gold. But is it supposed to? Was it ever? I’m not sure. I’m not sure Sony’s sure.

There are two things I’ve seen other fellow testers really get into: spontaneous dance parties, and wall hacks. Expect more of the first than the second as time progresses. R1 opens the Emote menu, and the dance options are at the bottom. They are all pretty awesome. (It is intentionally difficult to see in the picture above, but I am in a position only obtainable through a wall hack. I am explaining this to those who ask as only being possible through “incredible balance”. I’ve only had one person respond with an expletive.)

Above all else, Home is a good encapsulation of what Sony has focused on this generation: a reasonably pleasant user experience, missing a few things you’d probably expect, including a few things you wouldn’t have thought of, and providing a certain je ne sais quoi that makes it a fun place to visit but leaving you unsure if you really want to live there. I’m not sure if I’ll be spending a lot of time in Home, or it’ll just be something to fill the gaps – but it’s nice to know it’s there.

A Moment Of Disturbing Honesty From Activision

Stephen Totilo of MTV reporting on a moment of honesty from today’s Activision/Blizzard earnings call, emphasis mine:

During today’s Activision Blizzard earnings call, a financial analyst asked the company’s CEO, Bobby Kotick, why the company didn’t keep all of Vivendi’s games when the two gaming companies merged.

The analyst didn’t name any games, but technically, he had to be referring to the likes of “Ghostbusters,” “50 Cent: Blood On The Sand” and the new “Riddick,” which all appear to have found new publishing homes…

Kotick responded not by addressing any of the games by name, but by talking about Activision’s publishing philosophy. The games Activision Blizzard didn’t pick up, he said, “don’t have the potential to be exploited every year on every platform with clear sequel potential and have the potential to become $100 million dollar franchises. … I think, generally, our strategy has been to focus… on the products that have those attributes and characteristics, the products that we know [that] if we release them today, we’ll be working on them 10 years from now…You still need to have production of new original property but you have to do it very selectively… the focus at retail and for the consumer is to continue to be on the big narrow and deep high profile release strategy… We’ve had enough experience that I think the strategy we employ is the most successful.”

I suppose I can appreciate the honesty, but as a gamer, I couldn’t be more nauseated.

That’s not to say I’m particularly surprised – what was the last significant franchise they created?

Tony Hawk? 1999.

Call Of Duty? 2003.

Guitar Hero? 2005.

I often love the games that are too quirky, too weird, too inaccessible, or too obscure for the mass market. And it’s sad that a company that was there when I started gaming 25 years ago has become so unwilling to take risks with their titles.

The Great Release

And it feels like it won’t come on
And it takes like you’re full of love
Still the time never to pay on
Still the time never to pay on

And it feels like I’m coming home
And it’s still like a merry cow
And it feels like it’s coming home
And it feels like it’s full of love
Still in time is the great release
Something dying will be a great release

I recently realized that I began writing for the web not long before the 2000 election season. There was no cause and effect there – I certainly wasn’t writing about anything deep on Day One – but I do find the timing curious. Soon, what had been a predominantly vain site about my school goings-on became my emotional release to the world.

As outlets go, I’ve been hard pressed to find one that can be more cathartic than writing: writing for myself, for a nebulous group of friends and coworkers, for the world. I write to preserve thoughts, to capture feelings. I write so that I will not – so that I can not – ever forget.

With that in mind: I do not ever want to forget how I felt at 5:58 in the morning, walking to PS 16 and finding a line, the first time I would ever have to wait to vote. I was #31 at my polling station. I could not cast my vote soon enough.

And I do not ever want to forget how I felt last night, at a quarter past ten, when the path to victory became clear and I began to eagerly count down the forty-five minutes left until the west coast closed and the election could be called.

And I do not ever want to forget how the nation and the world reacted at eleven o’clock the evening of November the 4th, as the tears came to my eyes.

And I do not ever want to forget watching John McCain concede – both for his attempts to mend the wounds he had caused during his campaign, and for him coming face to face with them, as his supporters booed the president-elect.

And I do not ever want to forget listening to President Obama’s victory speech, and realizing that I no longer had reason to doubt the possibility of the American spirit, to no longer believe that hope was little more than an exercise in futility.

I can not ever forget what the last eight years have done to this country. It has divided us, such that my own relatives feel that calling me a “commie pinko” is acceptable discourse. It has destroyed our good standing around the world. It has warped our values: intelligence and eloquence had become something that we no longer wanted in our leaders.

And I will not delude myself: the next four years will be extremely rough on our new government. I do not hold any expectations that everything that is broken will get fixed. President Obama does not have all the answers, nor should any one of us expect him to. But we should expect him to do right: to uphold our rights and empower us; to work with our allies and strengthen us; to deter our enemies and protect us; to set a good example and lead us. We will hold him accountable and demand transparency, just as we should any government.

But the electorate has spoken resoundingly. No longer are we a nation who can be cowed by our government in the name of security, fear, or war. A nation that can so strongly reject fear mongering has already found its strength again. And with the leadership we have elected, we have the possibility of rebuilding from the damage of those last eight years.

For the first time in my adult life, I am hopeful for this nation.

I do not ever, ever want to forget that.

Journalistic Integrity

Let me see if I’ve got this “how to be a journalist” thing straight.

You go to a message board and post something laughably stupid, like “is Obama too skinny to be president?

Does anyone out there think Barack Obama is too thin to be president? Anyone having a hard time relating to him and his “no excess body fat”? Please let me know. Thanks!

You get a brilliantly articulate response from “onlinebeerbellygirl”, who has never posted anywhere else on those forums and seemingly just registered that day:

Yes I think He is to skinny to be President.Hillary has a potbelly and chuckybutt I’d of Voted for Her.I won’t vote for any beanpole guy.

You think, “JACKPOT!”:

Love your response and your username (onlinebeerbellygirl). Would you mind shooting me an email so I can ask you a few more quesitons? My email is amy.chozick@gmail.com. Thanks so much!

Then you cite this as “research” or a “source” in your shitty article in the Wall Street Journal on the same topic:

But in a nation in which 66% of the voting-age population is overweight and 32% is obese, could Sen. Obama’s skinniness be a liability? Despite his visits to waffle houses, ice-cream parlors and greasy-spoon diners around the country, his slim physique just might have some Americans wondering whether he is truly like them.

“I won’t vote for any beanpole guy,” another Clinton supporter wrote last week on a Yahoo politics message board.

And that’s journalism, right?

Mighty tip of the hat to Sadly, No! for digging this one out.

Some Thoughts On “The Happening”

Definitive Evidence I Am A Masochist

June has been a horrible month for movies. The month kicked off with the late May release of Sex And The City. My birthday was marred by the release of Kung Fu Panda and Zohan. The Love Guru and Get Smart came out this week.

But there’s one name in Hollywood that overshadows Mike Myers. One that defeats Sarah Jessica Parker. One that even beats down Adam Sandler. His name is M. Night Shyamalan.

After landing upon Christopher Orr’s amazing review/takedown of The Happening, I found myself reading excerpts to Katie over the phone during lunch. “You know we now have to go see this,” she said.

Last night, faced with nothing else in the theatre on the positive side of the equation, I gathered my spite and bought two tickets to what could very well have been the worst major motion picture in the last five years.

As the company credits began – not the actual movie credits, but the production company credits – the laughter began.

It went downhill from there.

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WWDC08 Keynote – iPhone 3G

“The best part of WWDC is the post game analysis. And booze.”Michael Lopp

(I’m breaking up my thoughts about the WWDC keynote into multiple posts this year.)


In the post keynote fracas, I was asked by multiple friends if I was upgrading. My answer shocked each and every one – a fairly blasé “no”. One friend shouted over IM that I would soon cave. (I’m taking the reaction as a sad commentary on how I am perceived.) This isn’t to say the iPhone 3G isn’t a good model; it corrects most of the gripes leveled at the original iPhone. Data speeds are faster, batteries last longer, and it has a true GPS module. The headphone jack is flush, eliminating a market of headphone extenders. The cost of the handset is far cheaper. Hell, it even comes in an additional color. Certainly, if you’re in the market for an iPhone, it’s a great model to start with – just not to upgrade to.

A $200 mobile upgrade is not the most expensive thing in the world – we are talking about a handset that started at $499 – but it’s not a drop in the bucket. That $200 gets you a double data rate, but along with that you’re stuck with an additional $10 a month on your bill. This adds up quickly over the life of your new two year contract extension. The true GPS is nice, but I’ve found the fake GPS to be working fairly well. The extended battery life is not a feature point I can wave away, but collectively, that’s the end of the feature list. All the benefits of the 2.0 software – the app store, app installation, push email support – will be on the first generation handsets as well.

Is all of that worth $200? For once, I can’t say yes. Never mind the newly discovered activation hassles. Never mind what will undoubtedly be new hurdles towards jailbreaking and unlocking (for those into those sorts of things).

The simple conclusion: if you don’t have an iPhone, it’s a fantastic phone to start with. It’s going to be the perfect time to jump in. But if you do have an iPhone, you may want to ponder whether the total cost is worth the fairly small bullet list of features.

WWDC08 Keynote – MobileMe

“Not wanting to sound like an asshole, Phil, but I use Gmail IMAP and when I read a message on my iPod, it’s read on Gmail too.”Yanik Magnan (I’m breaking up my thoughts about the WWDC keynote into multiple posts this year.)


Apple has been running .mac as a service since 2000 (when it was known as iTools), and for the first six years, the service was happily functional. But the service has languished over the past two years, with service outages and a lack of compelling reasons to chalk up the $100 a year.

MobileMe is the .mac mulligan. It’s been revamped, with a focus now on pushing data to devices rather than enriching your digital life.

From my own experience, .mac became less valuable not because of the downtime but because of strong alternatives – largely from Google. Gmail trounced .mac mail. Google Calendar edged out iCal. Google Talk has grown more useful that .Mac’s piggybacking on AIM. Flickr creamed the iPhoto integration. You get the picture – free and/or cheap services continued to pop up and outclass .mac on nearly every level.

MobileMe certainly appears to have a compelling interface, but the proof is in the service. Apple has to justify the expense of MobileMe over robust free products, and that’s no small feat, even for Apple. And nothing I read about the demo made it sound $100-compelling.

Apple has already posted a few resources for curious .mac users:

The FAQ reveals the features that are getting cut: Web access to bookmarks (not the end of the world), iCards (one of the very original iTools features, which I strangely loved), .Mac slides (meh), and support for Mac OS X 10.3 Panther sync (which should’ve been dropped a year ago).

It also strikes me as terribly weird to announce this, a very consumer-oriented service, at the Developer’s Conference. Perhaps there will be some sessions about hooking into it via an API – joy of joys. But there’s a larger elephant in the room.

While I’m sure there’s some consumers who have bought in that they absolutely must have push email so they can get funny forwards from Aunt Millie instantly, where an “Exchange for the rest of us” is really needed is in the (very unsexy) enterprise. Exchange is costly and cumbersome, and Microsoft is raking money in hand-over-fist in CAL fees.

Were Apple playing it smart, they’d be baking the same core technologies – push email, calendar, and address book – behind MobileMe into 10.6 Server. Unfortunately, I’m not entirely convinced Apple is playing it smart here.

For more, Merlin Mann (like clockwork) has some good thoughts on MobileMe.