Some Quick Hitters For A Sunday

In less than an hour, the United States hockey team will take on Canada for the gold medal, and yet I wanted to get a post out before then. So, this is one of those posts where I’m going to talk about a few things on my mind, without any consistent theme. Stay tuned.

Let’s talk about the hockey game first. I don’t normally watch hockey. If it’s the NHL professional league, I will watch it if I’m at someone’s house, or if it’s the finals and possibly the final game of the year. I don’t know almost any players anymore, especially since the New York Rangers started playing bad hockey after winning their last Stanley Cup. I used to be a Boston Bruins fan when I lived in Maine as a kid, but once you can’t watch your teams play anymore, you sometimes tend to move away from those teams. I’m glad I still get to see a lot of Boston Red Sox games; I hate the Yankees!

Anyway, whether you care about hockey or not, this is big. The United States versus Canada, the two best teams in the world, are vying for the gold medal. When the U.S. won last week, we had a mini Mardi Gras party in the states, and we’re hoping for more of that today, even though Canada is favored. Hockey is supposed to be their game, like curling, which Canada did finally win the gold medal for (men’s team at least; not sure how the women ended up). This is interesting in that it pits professional teammates against each other while they’re representing their countries. Should be a lot of fun as the Olympics is finally ending its two week run.

Locally, our big story was last night for the Syracuse Orange vs. the Villanova Wildcats NCAA basketball game. Syracuse ended up with the largest on-campus home crowd ever in the nation, 34,616 people, and they crushed Villanova 95-77. They could be the number one team in the country come Monday; that would be something, especially since this team was barely picked to finish in the top half of the Big East conference at the beginning of the season.

I’m glad I wasn’t at the game, because I wouldn’t have been able to see replay after replay of some marvelous basketball. That, plus knowing what the roads had to have been like after all the snow we’ve had lately and many road closings; nope, I enjoyed it right where I was, camped in front of the big screen in the bedroom. That picture is showing what more than 30,000 people looks like in the Dome; wild!

On another front, I can’t believe I never heard from 101Phones regarding the commission they didn’t pay me. I did hear from Commission Junction finally, and wasn’t really happy with their response, but what can you do? I have dropped these people from any advertising, and I went to the site and delisted myself from them as well. Stay away, folks; if this is how they treat affiliates, your business is worthless to them. Even their Twitter account was canceled, if it was them to begin with. Man, I hate being taken advantage of.

That was something else I had to deal with last week. Imagine waking up and seeing a lot of trackbacks to your blog, and figuring out that they’re all your own posts on someone else’s blog.

That’s what happened to me, as this blog based in Egypt had come in and stolen 7 of my posts, verbatim and image wise, without attribution. That was the second time this month I’d had my content stolen, although the first time, supposedly, it was from a site in the British Territories (whatever that is) that was supposed to be something like StumbleUpon, only they took the entire post and didn’t tell anyone who wrote it. Even the ISP wouldn’t intervene on that one, telling me my only recourse was to write the company and ask them to remove the post, which they didn’t.

Man, I wish I knew how to report the ISP to someone for not doing their duty; that’s the problem in trying to overcome foreign companies sometimes. Anyway, the guy in Egypt finally did remove all my posts, so I commend him on that and won’t out him, although I did out him on Twitter when it looked like he wasn’t going to do the right thing.

Man, am I going to have to start adding a disclaimer at the end of every post so people who visit these guys will know they stole content? I haven’t seen a lot of people doing that, but maybe it’s the way to go.

And finally, let’s talk snow. Some of you, like Sire, have no real clue as to the kind of mess too much snow can cause. Here in the Syracuse area, we’re usually well prepared for snow, but Thursday and Friday were something else. It was a heavy, wet snow, which adds a lot of weight to the effort of trying to remove it. This was one of those snows where small snowplows, those on trucks your neighbor might have, actually got stuck in some places; now that’s wild. Thursday I was able to get to the snow before it got too high. Friday, however, my back wasn’t having it, and even with my wife home, in 20 minutes we’d barely made a dent in the driveway, though I made it my mission to at least get a thin trail to the street, just in case there was some kind of emergency. Many people missed work because large plows couldn’t get into their neighborhoods, and even if they could there was no place to put the extra snow. The thing about snow is that people sometimes disregard it, saying it’s just snow, but when snow is heavy it takes out more people over a larger area than any other natural disaster can. This last storm took out the entire East Coast; not even a hurricane does that.

Finally, it’s the last day of February, and I said I wasn’t going to post financial numbers anymore until I made at least $500 in a month. Nope, nowhere close to that, but I still hate that I’m not getting credit for that one affiliate sale. I need some free time to do some extra stuff, but it’s fleeting. I’m expecting March to be a great financial month offline, as I landed a short contract that will pay a lot of money in a short time, so that might bode well for April; guess we’ll see.

I hope everyone else has a great Sunday and last day of February; go USA!
 

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When Opera Isn’t Opera

Friday night, I went to the Syracuse Opera production of The Flying Dutchman by Richard Wagner. I would say that I went to the opera, but that would be a misnomer, based on what they did to it.

Let me get this part out of the way. The singers were fabulous. The lead, Greer Grimsley, was spectacular in the role of the Flying Dutchman, and his counterpart, Peter Strummer, was also great. The leading female role was sung by Lori Phillips, as Senta, and she was fabulous as well, although, if it were me, I might have wonted more of a lyrical coloratura in the role, someone with a higher pitch, but that’s me.

The orchestra was also great. The conductor, Douglas Kinney Frost, is new to me, and though he did a competent job with both the orchestra and the choir, it seems that conductors might be doing something different these days than what I’m used to. Instead of being animated when the orchestra was supposed to be hitting accented notes, he would do it first, and then a beat later the orchestra would follow him. That was bothering me early, as I kept wondering if maybe he was off the beat in some fashion. Eventually I decided to stop looking at him and to close my eyes when nothing else was going on.

So, what was missing? The opera, that’s what. This was more of a choral version of the opera Flying Dutchman than an opera. It wasn’t a production. There were no costumes, no acting, no sets. Instead, they decided to do something they said was innovative. What they called it was a multimedia production. They got some Syracuse University students to put together video montages of, well, pretty much whatever they wanted to do, and they showed them on screens behind the orchestra throughout the performance.

Talk about distracting. For those of you who don’t know the story, it’s a tale of a ghost sailor who made a statement so bold that the devil decided he would have to sail the seas forever unless he could get a woman to give her true soul to him in love, and thus he and his crew cold finally die. This means you might expect that there would be some things in a video such as boats, maybe pirates, bad weather, etc. There’s one point in the opera where there’s supposed to be a feast, so maybe there would have been exhibits of food and the like.

Nope, none of that. Oh, there was some water, a tree once, someone pouring beer, and a mixer beating batter that eventually becomes a cake. Other than that, none of what they came up with had anything to do with anything that was in the show. That, plus they kept replaying some of these videos over and over. It was really distracting because above all of this was the translation of the German libretto, which also at times was confusing because when two singers were singing different lyrics at the same time, you weren’t always sure whose words were being printed above, and every once in awhile they wouldn’t put up any lyrics at all.

So, the opera was a mixed blessing at best. If they had done this entire thing without the video, I wouldn’t have been as disappointed. Not having the entire colorful production, I feel kind of cheated. There are pictures online of this production with some of these cast members, and in costume this would have been spectacular. As it is, I’m now a big Greer Grimsley fan, and I was elated to have the opportunity to tell him 30 minutes after the production ended how great I thought he was (I knew someone in the choir), then today at the mall, in Macys, I ran into him again and thanked him again for his performance.

Oh yeah, one more thing. For those of you who might not know the Flying Dutchman, I’m betting you know What’s Opera Doc; same music. Unfortunately, seems it’s against copyright to show you the cartoon here (really?), so here’s a live performance of the cartoon for you:


 

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Microsoft Updates; What The Hey?

Have you ever taken a look at the Microsoft updates that come to your computer at least once a week? I always take a quick look, although I’m not sure why since, with Vista, it came with the Genuine Advantage thing, so maybe I shouldn’t care what’s being put onto my computer.

But I do look, and most of the time I have absolutely no idea what they’re talking about. For instance, last night, there were 5 updates awaiting me when I got home:

Install this update to resolve issues caused by revised daylight saving time and time zone laws in several countries. This update enables your computer to automatically adjust the computer clock on the correct date in 2010.

Okay, that one I easy understood, since last year they changed the dates for daylight savings time.

Install this update to improve Internet Explorer 8’s JSON interoperability in conformance with the new ECMAScript, fifth edition standard.

What the heck does that mean?

Install this update to resolve issues with non-compatible applications for Windows Vista.

I’m thinking it would have been nice if they’d told me which issues those were more specifically. Actually, to be fair, they did give a Knowledge Base article number, and if you follow that you see there’s over 200 programs it’s affecting, so maybe I should be glad they didn’t try telling me all of those.

Both the Meiryo UI font and the Meiryo UI Bold font are included in this update. These new fonts let an application optimally display Kana characters in the Ribbon UI component and in other parts of the user interface, especially in areas where text area is limited.

Part of me realizes I have a new font; not sure if I’m supposed to use it or not. The rest of it; no clue.

Install this update to resolve issues caused by manifest expiration in AD RMS enabled applications. This update will fix any existing issues in addition to addressing any future application manifest expirations.

Once again, huh? Even my spell check freaked out on that one.

Part of me gets it; these tekkie guys are trying to tell us something. They might have well written most of it in Sanskrit if you ask me. Maybe they should just say “download this update; you don’t want to know”, and being the sheep we are, we’ll just accept it and move on. It’s about as clear to us if they do that as what they’re telling us now.

I’m just feeling so stupid and inadequate now; I need cake.
 

Why Do You Revisit Some Blogs And Not Others?

This is a relatively short post, especially coming from me. It’s a simple question; why do you revisit some blogs and not others?

I’ll answer this one first, though I know few people do what I do. I subscribe to around 200 blogs. I’ve been eliminating some over the past month or so because either they weren’t giving me what I needed anymore or their frequency was getting on my nerves. When I talk frequency, I mean posting once every month or longer; I’d already gotten rid of blogs that had 5 to 10 posts a day, as I realized that wasn’t just one person doing all the writing, and there was just no way to keep up with that kind of input.

I’ve also been deleting more blogs that use Disque or Intense Debate, as well as more Blogger blogs. If I’m not going to comment, and your content isn’t compelling enough to keep me reading where I want to comment, it’s time for you to go.

And yet, I’m still around 200. So, what keeps me going to them consistently? Each one of these blogs writes about something that interests me. Each one of these blogs has writers who are giving me something new and different and compelling and educational. They make me feel good, or they make me think, or they give me information I can use. I want that info, and I want to make sure I know where to go so I can receive it. So, I subscribe, and I enjoy.

No one hits a home run every time out; heck, I know I have some posts that get almost no one looking at it. Sometimes I wonder why, but other times I figure I’m just going to continue going for it because, after all, it’s all about writing and sharing and asking questions for me. And I truly am thankful to those of you who come back and check out what I have to say from time to time. I even appreciate those of you who pop in once then leave; at least you gave me a shot.

So, what keeps you going back to certain blogs for more?

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What Do We Expect For Free?

A few days ago I saw a comment on another blog’s posting that made me start thinking about this concept of the word “free”.

It was a fairly innocuous comment stating to the writer of the blog that he would have liked to see a little bit more information on some of what she was sharing with all of us to get her insight as to why she was recommending some things that she was recommending. I wrote back that I thought she was giving us a lot already and that I was at least happy for all the time that she was putting into giving us what she was giving us.

However, it got me thinking about it just a bit more because I realized that there are times when I am like everybody else in expecting a little bit more than what I’m getting from something even if it happens to be free. There were a few people who made comments on a review post I wrote on Six Figure Blogger Blueprint wishing that the author had given us a little bit more detail on how to specifically do something, and I remember thinking at the time “hey, it’s free, what do we want?” And yet, when I think about it, there are a lot of things that I get for free online that I’ll write about.

For instance, I’m running a WordPress blog. There are times when I’m complaining about something, such as those constant updates that seem to irritate most of us, and every once in a while I remember that this is a free program. There are a couple of other things I’ve written about that I absolutely hate, such as Disqus, Intense Debate and Blogger, but when you think about it those things are free also. Of course, I’ve chosen not to use any of those things, and instead pay for my hosting and my blog, and don’t filter my comments using either of those other two things I mentioned or anything else, but it’s not much different than just openly complaining about something that’s free.

What should we really expect from “free”? Should we expect that everything we get for free give us full details as if we were paying for it? I’m thinking that’s what blogs are for, because there are a lot of us who give a lot of information out to people absolutely free. I think I’ve done some tutorials on this blog and one of my other blogs on how to do things step by step, and yet I don’t get paid for any of those things. I don’t mind that because it’s a blog after all, and I like sharing information whenever I can. At the same time, you notice over there on the left that I have three things that I’ve created, and each one of them also has some step-by-step information that I am expecting someone to pay for if they want that information.

Here’s the thing about “free”. “Free” still takes a lot of time to create. Whereas I can write a blog post usually in less than five minutes, there are people who take upwards of an hour or more to put together a blog post. How many of you have actually written a book? How many of you have actually written a report of some kind outside of school work? These things do take time to put together, especially if someone is trying to do a good job. If they do it like I do anything, they probably start off with an outline, then a brief sketch as to what each outline point is supposed to contain, then they write or create the thing, then they edit the thing, then they might take the time to pretty it up somewhat before it’s ready for delivery. I’m bad when it comes to the “pretty up” part, but I’m not so bad at the rest of it.

This doesn’t mean that we don’t have the right to have some kind of expectation that what we are either going to use or read at least in some fashion addresses the topic we’re hoping it does. Getting something free and finding out it has nothing to do with what it said it did is diversionary and sneaky, and that’s not right. But for everything else, I think we have the right to try it out, and if it works for us or we can get something out of it then great. If we can’t get anything out of it or it doesn’t work right, then at least it didn’t cost us anything and we should probably be happy for that. It doesn’t mean that something free can’t be criticized, but it does mean that the level of criticism should match how much it cost us.

It’s just something I’ve been thinking about over the past few days as I remembered something I had written a while back ago asking the question How Do You Value. How do we decide when something we get for free is valuable even if it doesn’t give us everything we want?