Epochal pronouncements from rock stars should sometimes be taken with a dose of skepticism. In 1966, John Lennon declared that the Beatles were more popular than Jesus. Since the 1960s, Jesus has enjoyed a bit of a comeback, while the Beatles’ music is still unavailable from legitimate digital music services.
But people in the music industry tend to listen to Thom Yorke, lead singer in the British alternative rock group Radiohead, for Radiohead has cultivated a reputation as one of the most future-proof bands around.
The quintet, who met while attending private school in Oxfordshire, bucked the music industry establishment two years ago when they left their record company, EMI, and released their latest album, “In Rainbows,” direct to fans, on the Internet. In a nod to the new economics of a business ravaged by digital piracy, they employed a novel pricing formula: pay whatever you want.
My Thoughts: The next generation of hybrid cars: The Chevrolet Volt (owned by General Motors) and the Nissan Leaf.
General Motors said Tuesday that its Chevrolet Volt extended-range electric vehicle, scheduled for release in 2011, would achieve a fuel rating of 230 miles a gallon in city driving.
The rating number, based on methodology drafted by the Environmental Protection Agency, is somewhat abstract, one auto specialist said, given that much of the city driving of electric vehicles will rely solely on the battery charge.
And as eye-popping as the number was, a rival automaker, Nissan, said last week that its all-electric vehicle, the Leaf, which is scheduled to come out in late 2010, would get 367 m.p.g., using the same E.P.A. standards.
Figures for highway driving and combined city and highway use have not been completed for the Volt, but G.M.’s chief executive, Fritz Henderson, told reporters and analysts at a briefing on Tuesday that the car was expected to get more than 100 miles a gallon in combined city and highway driving.
“Our Chevrolet Volt extended-range electric vehicle will achieve unprecedented fuel economy,” Mr. Henderson said. “I’m confident that we will be in triple digits.”
The Volt can travel up to 40 miles on a single battery charge, at which point a small gasoline engine kicks in and starts to recharge the battery. The battery can be also charged in eight hours using a regular electrical outlet, Mr. Henderson said.
Nearly eight in 10 Americans commute fewer than 40 miles a day, the company said in a statement, citing Department of Transportation data. The mileage calculation for the Volt assumes that most drivers will stay within that range and not need the gasoline engine.
“Depending upon how you use the Volt, it can get mileage approaching that or much less,” Jack Nerad, executive editorial director of Kelley Blue Book, said. “It almost becomes an abstract number. If you are the Volt target guy who is driving under 40 miles per day, then theoretically your miles per gallon is infinite.”
The Boy Genius Report is claiming to have received a tip that Blu-ray support will be coming to iTunes 9, which may be arriving as soon as next month. Also reportedly in iTunes 9 is the long sought after ability to arrange iPhone/iPod touch icon positions from within iTunes, instead of having to do it on the device itself. In addition there will be some kind of integration with Twitter/Facebook and Last.FM — presumably this would allow sending the currently playing song to the social networking sites, removing the need to run a separate application to do this.
Combine this claim with another rumor this week, this time from Apple Insider that claims that new features will be coming to the iMac that will cater to the semi-professional audio/video crowd. Lets not forget that since iTunes 8.2, the Gracenote copyright also references Blu-ray. Are the stars aligning to where we will finally get Blu-ray?
It seems the reports of Halo’s death are greatly exaggerated.
The Halo game franchise for the Microsoft XBox is an extremely popular one, and plans for a movie
have been on and off for years. Most recently Peter Jackson was attached to produce and his protege Neil Blomkamp was set to make his directorial debut. Plans were scrapped for various reasons, most likely money related, and the duo moved on to District 9 instead.
And so the Halo film was pronounced dead.
Until today, when IESB reported a truly surprising exclusive about it’s possible resurrection.
According to the IESB post, Steven Spielberg is in active negotiations to acquire the Halo film for Dreamworks. He’s apparently very impressed with the script by Stuart Beattie, and is on the hunt for a mega-franchise similar to Transformers (which he lost to Paramount in the studio divorce). Head over to IESB for more on the possible deal.
PADMA LAKSHMI, the model, actress and cookbook author, knows it would be hard to ask for sympathy for her occupational plight.
While filming for “Top Chef,” the TV show for which she serves as judge and host, part of her job is to taste food from some of the country’s best chefs every day for five weeks.
“That’s tasting 16 to 17 bites of each dish we test, each with 17 to 20 ingredients or more,” she said in an interview. And because the contestants try to make their foods as delicious as possible, “they have a tendency to infuse them with more fat,” she said.
Each season, Ms. Lakshmi, 38, keeps two dress sizes on the set for when the weight starts to pile on: she is 5-foot-9 and typically she puts on 10 to 15 pounds a season.
“I just try to cut myself a break — I know I’m going to gain weight,” she said. “In my job, I eat the most when I’m working the most.”
But like other people who work with hard-to-resist food and still manage to stay fit, Ms. Lakshmi has devised a host of strategies, some of which could serve as inspiration and guidance to people whose jobs don’t require them to taste a lot of food.
The advice comes down to basics: moderate what you eat; don’t panic when work makes you overeat or when you can’t work out; and pay attention to what you are eating.
“It really comes down to balance — balance in life and balance in food,” said Cynthia Sass, a nutritionist and personal trainer who has worked with the Philadelphia Phillies and the Tampa Bay Rays. “And people who work with food tend to be more aware of their health.”
Not always. The image of the roly-poly chef is an enduring stereotype, and sometimes for good reason. But portly people are the exception rather than the rule on “Top Chef” and other TV cooking shows.
While Ms. Lakshmi is famously fit — she recently posed naked for Allure magazine, in a feature about celebrities and body images — it’s all she can do while filming “Top Chef” to get in a workout here or there. She always keeps a jump rope in her suitcase in case she finds herself with free time.
When the show is not in production, she regularly boxes, walks stairs and does upper body work as part of a daily 90-minute routine. “When the season is over, I go into food detox,” she said, “no red meat, no alcohol, no cheese, until I’m back in shape.”
I’m a nocturnal creature, staying awake till at the wee hours of the morning. Well it so happens that no one cooks for late nighters so I have to fend for myself. I’ve so far been surviving on some of the simplest things, of which I’m starting to get bored of. Plus, if I learnt how to cook a few things, I get to use a bunch of Mac apps I thought, and that’s always a good thing. Now I know that using a recipe manager for my usage scenario isn’t exactly required, since I could very well just plonk them in a text file and be done with it. I’m doing this for the purpose of the audience—you.
The main thing I was looking for in these apps was an easy way to enter in recipes, and view them in a clean user interface. I’d like the manager to hook up to the web to download recipes, and be able to show up in my spotlight results as well. With those key requirements in mind, here’s what I think three weeks later.
The Apple logo is one of the most famous logos in the world. Apple fans not only put this logo on their vehicles to show their loyalty, they go to the extreme of tattooing themselves with it, a level of dedication very few brands achieved. The logo is admired for it’s simplicity and many meanings that people attach to it. It’s timeless. For 30 years it has been unchanged and I expect at least another 30 before anything drastic will be done to it.
When Jean Louis Gassée (executive at Apple Computer from 1981 to 1990) was asked about his thoughts to the Apple logo he answered:
One of the deep mysteries to me is our logo, the symbol of lust and knowledge, bitten into, all crossed with the colors of the rainbow in the wrong order. You couldn’t dream of a more appropriate logo: lust, knowledge, hope, and anarchy.
There are many theories about this logo and many of them are just that. Find out the truth, read the interview with Rob Janoff, the designer of the original Apple logo, who will tell you all about his design.
Despite the rather obvious title of this post, I have to admit that I did actually enjoy Judd Apatow’s third venture as writer/director. I think the filmmaker was probably a bit overambitious with what he was trying to accomplish here, and certainly extended himself beyond his reach, ultimately not fully succeeding with his initial intent. But I believe that what he was attempting to achieve is noble and refreshing for mainstream film comedy, and his efforts succeed just enough to make Funny People a pretty-good-but-not-great movie. The title of this post thus does not refer to some sort of immense dissatisfaction with the film, but instead to Apatow’s ballsy management of expectations here, surprising us with a movie about funny people that is very often deliberately unfunny. One thing’s for sure, Apatow for better or worse is pursuing more the avenue of artistic storytelling in the vein of the auteur (with arguable degrees of success here) in an attempt to extend himself beyond the simple comedic name brand that is by now associated with his films to the point of parody. Before his appearance on The Daily Show this last week, Jon Stewart joked that, while he doesn’t know what the new Judd Apatow film is about (and I’m paraphrasing here), “I bet it’s about some Jewish schlubs dating way out of their league.” Funny People, refreshingly enough, seems to be his first film that doesn’t explore this conceit previously associated with the films he’s been tied to both as writer/director and as producer.
Since his breakthrough in 2005 in his feature writing/directing debut The 40-Year-Old Virgin, Apatow has been celebrated for creating a new heartfelt brand of sex comedy, mixing raunchy but rarely over-the-top humor with sincere and heartfelt storytelling and likable characters. He is credited for restoring faith in the R-rated comedy and pushing it away from both its fratty Vince Vaughn-plus-a-Wilson-brother trend and from the direction the increasingly cynical one-upsmanship of the gross-out sex comedy (e.g., the latter American Pie films). He also changed the face of the movie star, replacing the traditional attractive photogenie associated with the leading men of romantic comedies with the aforementioned schlubs, and audiences seemed to take a liking to seeing rather normal-looking dudes like Seth Rogen and Jason Segel becoming the silver screen’s new leading men and movie stars.
After seeing the success of the App Store, many expressed interests (and rumoured about) Apple implementing a Mac App Store into iTunes. Turns out, it didn’t take an Apple to get there. Enterprising developers at IDFusion Software and Centrix have created their own little Mac store, Bodega, getting together hundreds of developers to sell their apps.
The Bodega App Store is free to join for developers, and is a free download for end users. Revenue is earned by means of advertising, so that’s a win win situation for everyone. As for the app itself, the developers have created a beautiful 3D Store, yet keeping the navigational experience much like iTunes. Even the ads are a jiggly bunch of awesome.
My Thoughts: I love bit.ly and use it frequently for the datamining that it provides to end users.
A lot of folks have been mistakenly mocking Bit.ly, the popular URL shortening service, which some dismiss because the functionality is quite simple to replicate (and, in fact, it was hardly the first or last such service). But, as has been discussed the real value in Bit.ly isn’t so much the fact that it shrinks URLs, but in all the data it collects. The fact that it’s become such a popular URL shortening service, means that it has all sorts of data on what’s popular online at any given time — including how many times something is added to a social network and how many clicks it gets. Part of the reason the service itself has been so popular already is the datamining it lets users do, so they can see how many clicks something gets, and apparently, the company behind it is planning to use that data to create its own news site, highlighting what’s popular out there. Who knows if this will work (being a news aggregator hasn’t made many companies very much money lately), but it does show how something as simple as a URL shortening service actually could have more going on behind the scenes, and shouldn’t be written off because it can be replicated in just 10 lines of code. If you can get people to use your ten lines of code, the data itself can be quite valuable, if you know what to do with it.
With the latest version of Final Cut Studio hot off the shelves, many are scratching their heads over what Apple’s take on the future of DVDs actually may be. DVD Studio Pro hasn’t received a major update since the 4.0 release at NAB 2005, and iDVD hasn’t been updated since 2007, so is the DVD dead?
Well, that conversation has come up plenty of times before, and it always seems like the pundits are waiting for the next version of Final Cut Studio or iLife before voicing their thoughts on whether DVD production is seeing its curtain call.
Many insist that optical discs are dying on the Mac. The supporting arguments are there. The Apple TV features no optical drive, and neither does the MacBook Air. Apple has referred to Blu-ray as “a bag of hurt” and hasn’t made any obvious plans to endorse the standard any further. The only mention of “next generation” technologies is some support for HD-DVDs in DVD Studio Pro (been there for ages) and limited Blu-ray support in the latest version of Compressor.
This weekend Nissan released photos and details of the electric car it intends to put into production in 2010. The Nissan Leaf is a purpose-built, pure battery electric vehicle. Nissan previously let us test-drive the Leaf’s powertrain using the Cube as a test model. The Nissan Leaf has its own distinct look, a more conventional car than the Cube with four doors and a hatchback. Although it hasn’t announced pricing, Nissan says the Leaf will be affordable, priced as a C-segment car. The company also notes that the Leaf will cost less to operate than a gasoline-powered car, both in energy and maintenance, as there are fewer moving parts. Also, many governments offer incentives in the form of tax credits or rebates to purchase an electric car.
The Leaf uses a laminate lithium-ion battery pack with an output of over 90 kilowatts. The car’s drive motor puts out 80 kilowatts of power, substantial enough to give it performance equivalent to a gas-powered car. Nissan claims the Leaf has a range of over 100 miles, fairly typical for electric car projects from other automakers. The Leaf uses regenerative braking, and has a recharge time of 30 minutes to get the battery pack up to 80 percent using a quick charger. From a 200 volt source, the Leaf takes 8 hours to recharge.
One of the more innovative elements of the car is its onboard computer. Along with typical functions such as charge level and range, this computer is connected to a data center that will receive diagnostic information from the car. It will also keep the driver informed of local recharge stations. Although not specifically mentioned, this onboard system could easily show navigation with traffic conditions. Nissan says the computer will also provide entertainment for passengers.
The Leaf will originally be built in Japan, and sold in Japan, the United States, and Europe. As demand dictates, Nissan will build additional units in its Smyrna, Tennessee plant.
An old Italian lived alone in New Jersey . He wanted to plant his annual tomato garden, but it was very difficult work, as the ground was hard.
His only son, Vincent, who used to help him, was in prison.
The old man wrote a letter to his son and described his predicament:
I am feeling pretty sad, because it looks like I won’t be able to plant
my tomato garden this year. I’m just getting too old to be digging up a
garden plot. I know if you were here my troubles would be over. I know you
would be happy to dig the plot for me, like in the old days.
A few days later he received a letter from his son::
Don’t dig up that garden.
That’s where the bodies are buried.
At 4 a.m. the next morning, FBI agents and local police arrived and dug
up the entire area without finding any bodies. They apologized to the old
man and left.
That same day the old man received another letter from his son::
Go ahead and plant the tomatoes now.
That’s the best I could do under the circumstances.
I love you,
In these digital times, even the venerable bathroom faucet is getting an update. Companies like Moen and Hansgrohe are now replacing faucet handles in tubs and showers with touch screens and other electronic controls that are smart enough to store all the details of time and temperature of a favorite shower or bath — and produce them at a touch.
With the RainBrain shower from Hansgrohe, the mix of hot and cold water, its volume and flow, and even music from a favorite MP3 playlist can be retrieved by tapping a small screen, said Nicolas Grohe, director of marketing and product development for the American branch of the company in Alpharetta, Ga. (Hansgrohe is based in Schiltach, Germany.) The RainBrain will be offered in the United States beginning in March, he said, and cost about $4,500.
Even amid a deluge of water, users can easily tell the system to regulate the showerheads, which pour water from overhead and both sides, as well as a handheld sprayer, Mr. Grohe said. “The dials and controls are big,” he said. “It’s difficult to miss them.”
A bar marked with a plus sign, for instance, makes the water hotter, a minus cools it. If users prefers a quick alternative, there’s also a rotary dial.
The menu button on the touch screen offers a program called Scottish shower that varies the water temperature, automatically switching from hot to cold. “You can tell it how hot and cold you want it,” Mr. Grohe said, and to set how long each cycle lasts.
The president’s plan to overhaul America’s health system hits turbulence in Congress.
"It’s a lot easier to be Santa than Scrooge,” harrumphs Jim Cooper. The congressman from Tennessee is complaining about the health-reform plan unveiled in July by the Democratic leadership in the House of Representatives. He thinks it is a populist initiative that will end up fuelling rather than curbing America’s runaway health inflation. Such tough talk would not be in the least surprising coming from the opposition party; but Mr Cooper is a Democrat. And he insists that reform efforts have gone so badly wrong that it is time to “go back to the drawing board”.
Health reform is the domestic priority for Barack Obama, who has been pushing both houses of Congress to come up with final health bills before the August recess. On current plans, the House of Representatives is supposed to wind up its session on July 31st, while the Senate is scheduled to stay at work one more week.
A few weeks ago, it had seemed that his efforts were working, as both chambers were making progress on health legislation. But after months of building up momentum, Obamacare has hit serious snags, and Mr Obama’s deadline looks likely to be missed. Whether this merely delays reforms until the autumn or scuppers them altogether remains to be seen.
The health bill supported by the House leadership quickly won approval from two of the three relevant committees, but then got bogged down in the Energy and Commerce committee. That is because Mr Cooper and half a dozen like-minded fiscal conservatives (all part of the “Blue Dog” coalition of Democrats, see article) threatened to keep it from advancing to a vote by the entire chamber. On July 29th the Blue Dogs agreed to stop blocking the committee’s work if the party leadership agreed to various changes in the draft bill, including a cut in spending of some $100 billion, and to a delay in the final House vote until after the recess.
On the back of $16 billion-worth of investment, America overtook Germany to become the world’s biggest wind-power generator last year. Wind accounted for 42% of new generating capacity, up from just 2% four years earlier. America’s blustery and lightly populated heartland states are ideal sites for turbines, so the country’s wind industry seemed poised for big things.
But this year momentum has slowed. An indication of the way the wind is blowing came in July when T. Boone Pickens, an oilman turned clean-energy entrepreneur, decided to call off plans for the world’s biggest wind farm, in Texas. His 687 giant turbines, ordered at a cost of $2 billion, are now looking for new homes.
Mr Pickens could not arrange for transmission lines to be built from his wind farm to areas where the electricity is needed. Because they dominate the landscape, big wind projects work best in places few people live. America’s “wind belt” runs from Texas up to the Dakotas. Texas and North Dakota have both been called the “Saudi Arabia of wind”. But unlike oil, wind cannot be put in a tanker and shipped. It requires expensive grid infrastructure, which in turn rests on a complex and time-consuming approval process.
The industry is hopeful that new legislation will give the Federal Energy Regulation Commission powers to speed things up (state authorities hold most sway and rules differ from place to place). But that is not the industry’s only difficulty. The credit crunch has finally caught up with it.
In a major step toward an overhaul of the nation’s food safety system, the House of Representatives passed legislation on Thursday to require more frequent inspections of processing plants and give the government the authority to order the recall of tainted foods.
“No legislation like this has moved forward this far in decades to overhaul the food safety laws,” said Erik D. Olson, director of food and consumer product safety issues at the Pew Charitable Trusts. “It’s a pretty historic moment.”
House passage sets the stage for the Senate to take up the issue, though probably not until the fall. The Obama administration has voiced strong support for a comprehensive food safety revamping.
The bill passed the House on a vote of 283 to 142. Democratic support was overwhelming, but Republicans were split, with 54 voting in favor and 122 against. Much of the opposition centered on lesser provisions that critics said would add burdensome bureaucracy for farmers.
The legislation seeks to remedy problems in the food safety system that have been discussed for decades. Its chief sponsor, Representative John D. Dingell, Democrat of Michigan, said it would “fundamentally change the way in which we ensure the safety of our food supply.”
The measure would require the Food and Drug Administration to conduct inspections every 6 to 12 months at food processing plants that it deems high-risk. These could include plants that have experienced food safety problems in the past or that handle products that spoil easily, like seafood.
Earlier today, the FCC (Federal Communications Commission) sent out letters to Apple, AT&T and Google, readable here (FCC’s letter to Apple, to AT&T & to Google) asking each company about its involvement in the Google Voice app rejections. The agency is asking Apple to explain why the Google app was rejected and the third-party apps removed, if any VoIP apps have been approved, and whether there are general rules and regulations covering application approvals (something many developers would also love to know).
It’s worth noting that none of the Google Voice apps are VoIP (voice over IP) applications in the traditional sense, as they rely on the cellular carrier’s voice network to handle calls, so it’s not clear if the FCC understands this or if the agency is heading down a blind alley on this particular topic.
To Google, the letter asks if any other Google apps have been accepted in the store (we know there are a few), whether Apple explains the rejection process or the reasoning behind the treatment of Google Latitude, if there are other ways to use Google Voice on the iPhone (again, a somewhat naive question, as the service works fine via touchtone commands and Mobile Safari), and lastly and most intriguingly, what the app approval process is for Android applications (should be a short answer: “C’mon in, the water’s fine!”).
Finally, the agency is asking AT&T how the carrier was consulted on this decision, if any VoIP applications are running on their network (again, missing the point, since GV ≠ VoIP — more relevant that there are BlackBerry apps for Google Voice that are happily on AT&T handsets), and whether AT&T can provide a list of rejected applications on the store while detailing the role it plays in approving possible 3G-enabled services like Sling.
The FCC has given the three companies until August 21 to respond to their letters; while the overall scope of the questions betrays quite a bit of agency unfamiliarity with the workings of the Google Voice service and the App Store, any movement toward openness and clear answers is positive. Hopefully, these responses will offer some insight into the story of this whole mess that has given everyone such indigestion over the past week.