Wednesday, September 28, 2005

The Google Philosophy

Up until now, Google had a pretty clear design philosophy when it came to their products. Speed and simplicity were the king and queen of Google software design, and this was reflected in everything from their AdSense service all the way down to the source code on the Google web page itself. For example, if you've ever clicked "View Source" on Google, you'd see that the code is crammed together as tightly as possible to minimize the amount of time it takes to transmit across the network. Very slick.

Lately, however, you can spot some changes in that philosophy. The Beta for version 2.0 of Google Desktop is a good example... it's probably the most invasive and distracting piece of software I've seen in awhile, which is something I just don't expect from Google. It can rest as a simple search bar on the bottom of the screen, but to get all the whiz bang features they're trying to promote, you need to have it sit on the side of your screen where it takes up a pretty good deal of real estate.

Another example is the introduction of the new personalized Google homepage. It combines some of the features of the Google Desktop and Google News right on the page, so no longer is there the clean, simple "Google" with a text field we've grown accustomed to.

I use a lot of Google stuff at home and at work. I use Gmail for email (I mentioned this as one of my favorite free things on the web in a previous post). I use the Gmail Notifier at work. I use Google constantly to for development questions. I check Google News in the morning to see what's going on. I use Google Desktop (version 1) in place of the horribly slow Windows Search.

And, obviously, I use Blogger.

Granted, nobody is forcing you to turn any of this stuff on.. you can still use "Google Classic" and you'll get the simple screen you know and love. But that the fact that the switch now exists AT ALL to turn it on seems like a departure in philosophy to me.

I'm not saying that any of this is necessarily a bad thing... I just find it surprising. For now, I suppose it's nice to have the option to personalize my "Google Homepage", but does adding a level of complexity mean that Google will soon look like "My Yahoo" in terms of screen clutter and slower load times?

Monday, September 26, 2005

Where's the Love?

Yesterday was Sunday. To most stout American males, that means it's football day. I got a nice invite from a friend who just bought a house and had set up a couple of TVs with the Sunday Ticket package along with a grill and various meat products. Several of my other friends were also going (stout American males all).

Sounds like the perfect Sunday, right?

Here's the problem: I didn't go. I wanted to see my friends. I wanted to eat those meat products. But the prospect of 7-8 hours of football just did not appeal to me.

What's happening to me? I used to be an avid football fan. It always took a back seat to the end of the baseball season, but I still looked forward to Sundays and watching 12-14 hours of football and football related programming every week.

This morning everyone has been talking about the Eagles game. I watched some of the game, but not all of it... I was more interested in the Phillies game. Once the Phils had won, I turned back for the end of the Eagles. But I could just as easily have read about it in the morning.

This week also featured a marquee matchup between Pittsburgh and New England, two Super Bowl caliber teams. I watched about 5 minutes of it before I became bored and changed the channel.

I can't figure it out. I'll watch Arena football all day long. Why can't I sit still for the NFL?

I already plan on playing World of Warcraft tonight instead of watching Monday Night Football like a healthy American male should.

I even joined a fantasy football league this year for cheap in an effort to get myself excited about football again. That's not working either.

So what has changed? The game, or me?

Tuesday, September 20, 2005


I don't know what this word means.

A couple weekends ago I saw Sigur Rós in concert for the second time at the Tower theater in Philadelphia. It was particularly special because they played stuff off of their new, soon to be released (at the time) album, "Takk...".

After the concert, I couldn't wait for this album to come out.

And now, here I sit, far too late (early?) on a workday listening to this album for the third time, and still getting chills from certain bits of the music.

I still don't know what "Sæglópur" means. What I can tell you is that it's the 6th track on "Takk...", and it's a great song. It might be the best song this band has ever written.

This is music to do great things to. This is music that is poignant and hopeful.

This is exactly what we need.

Monday, September 19, 2005


Eagles win 42-3. I told you to relax.

Besides, September is baseball season anyway.

And if you missed the 10 run 9th inning the Phillies had on Saturday against the Marlins, you missed a treat. Nevermind that they promptly lost the next day.. there are two weeks left in the season and the Phillies are in it! Joy!

Thursday, September 15, 2005

NFL State of the Union

I'm in a large, long running football pick 'em league with friends called the Head to Head Football League (HHFL). My team name there is the Falcons (everyone gets an NFL team to make scheduling easy), and since joining the league I've traditionally written a (usually) weekly column on the site called the Falcon's Faulty Pick of the Week. Basically the gag is that I pick the game I am most certain of, explain why I made the pick, and then encourage everyone to pick the opposite because of my rotten luck at football prognostication.

This week I posted something a little more universal, which I'm pasting below. If you don't like football, don't bother:

Surprised by Week 1 of the 2005 NFL season?

If so, you haven't been paying attention for at least the last 5 years.

Let's face facts kids: the NFL is, by and large, crap.

Before you send me hatemail, allow me to explain.

Each year, the NFL has become more and more mediocre. This mediocrity has been encouraged by the league through its financial structure, because they want parity. The only way you can get parity is by leveling the playing field, and the only way to level the playing field in a sporting event is to spread the talent thinly between all teams.

To that end, the league's salary cap, free agent, and other personnel rules encourage this environment. In most cases, it no longer makes sense to hold onto marquee players when they reach their contract year, because you can get 3 young players for his price. Most often, the teams that sign marquee players do NOT improve because the large contract they've now taken on limits them to that one move.

Franchises like the Eagles and the Patriots have managed to pull themselves above this because they seem to be the two teams that understand this economic environment. There is no reason NOT to sign most of your young players to long term deals, because you can always release them with minimal penalty anyway. They're aided by their own success as well: many players will play for them for less money than they could get elsewhere because they want to win.

All this adds up to a league where every week during the regular season the overwhelming majority of the games pit one mediocre team against another mediocre team. The NFL is full of "upsets" every week because if one mediocre team goes on a 3 game win streak, suddenly they look like a powerhouse compared to the rest of the mediocrity... but really, they're still just mediocre.

Last week, the Bears and the Redskins were on Fox. They combined for 16 points, and hundreds of man-hours of naptime (I contributed one myself). The sad part is, people actually PAID to watch this stinker.

The NFL's popularity, I think, survives and even thrives because of pick 'em leagues like this. I'd rather pull out my own fingernails than watch some of the garbage being served up in week 2, but because I'm in a pick 'em league I'll check the score.

I think the average number of fantasy football teams per football fan is over 3 now. When you watch a game at a bar, people cheer on every play because somebody just scored points on their fantasy team. It's gotten worse than loud cell phone conversations at the movies, and shows no signs of slowing down.

Plus, there is so much coverage on the trash talk during the week that between Sundays the NFL is more like the WWE... or at worst, Days of Our Lives.

All of this provides the great smokescreen the NFL needs to hide the fact that their product just isn't that good.

SO - all that being said, last week I picked all the teams I thought would win. Then I picked the opposite. And I got 11 right. I intend to do the same thing for a couple more weeks.

There are lots of terrible games to choose from this week (Detroit at Chicago? Cleveland at Green Bay? Buffalo at Tampa Bay?), but I'm going to go with St. Louis at Arizona. My inclination is to pick the Cardinals because everybody seems to think they're better this year, and I really don't like the Rams one bit.

For that reason, I'll pick the Rams.

YOU PICK: Cardinals

Be warned: the sports media will attempt to make this game interesting by discussing Kurt Warner's ties to the Rams and the possible resurgence of the Cardinals (or is it just "surgence"? They've never been good) under Dennis Green's second year. I won't blame you if you get caught up in the hype. It's the only thing that will make the game palatable.

And stop worrying about the Eagles. All that game proved was that if you pit two of the half dozen above average teams in this league (and certainly the only 2 in the NFC) against each together, the result can still put you to sleep. Why do you think more people are talking about the pregame fight than the game itself?

The bottom line though is that every Sunday I'll still sit down and watch the Eagles, and I'll still watch the scores on the ticker... my hypocrisy knows no bounds.

Tuesday, September 13, 2005

Bizarro World

This past weekend, Julie was invited to a BBQ hosted by one of the judges she is clerking for this year. Another judge was also in attendance, and it was awesome to meet people passionate about what they do. I guess when you have to make incredibly difficult decisions in family court, you better be passionate about it.

Then one gets to thinking... here I am, drinking wine and chatting with a pair of judges. How the heck did a guy that dropped out of college twice, only to go back and end up with an English degree, end up doing computer programming for a living and eating burgers cooked by a judge?

Must be my dashing good looks.

Tuesday, September 06, 2005

How to Enjoy Delaware for less than a Tank of Gas

Everybody has a horror story these days about how much money it costs to fill their car with gas (and yet I hear just as many talking about buying an SUV... go figure). Since I drive a small car with good gas mileage, I guess I shouldn't complain that it cost me almost $30 to fill my tank with gas since I fill it about once every 2 weeks and I've heard of people spending over $100 to fill their tank.

BUT - even though gas is so expensive, there are still good, cheap ways to have fun. Julie and I spent an entire Saturday enjoying ourselves for a price under $60 a person for the whole day:

1) Start out at Jimmy's for breakfast - steak and eggs: $10.
2) Delaware Park horse racing for five hours - $20 max, less if you win
3) Wilmington Blue Rocks baseball - between $5-$9
4) Fireworks after the game - Free
5) Beer and sandwich at Iron Hill Brewery after fireworks - $20

And people say there's nothing to do in Delaware.