Wednesday, March 26, 2008

Fading Away

You could claim as one of the casualties of the Unlawful Internet Gambling Enforcement Act (UIGEA) the poker blogging community, although that wouldn't be entirely true. The UIGEA certainly did serious damage: it's become more difficult to move money in/out of online poker sites, and perhaps more importantly, to transfer money between various sites. Many poker players - including me - used something like NETeller as a waypoint to move money from a healthy bankroll into a dwindling stake at another site or to create a new account if there was interesting tournament happening somewhere we weren't registered. Can't do that now, and the consequence was that many people just focused on one or two sites, and if/when their bankroll faded at a site, why so did they.

But while the UIGEA probably deserves the lion's share of the blame, you could probably also chalk up the rapidly shrinking poker blogger community to such things as the community getting older - not in the graybeard sense, but in the "growing up and having kids" sense. Two of my favorite podcasts, Card Club on Lord Admiral Radio and PokerDiagram both went down because kids and responsibilities overwhelmed the weekly poker game, which in turn was what drove their respective podcasts.

And, like all fads - and the Texas Hold `Em craze was a classic fad - at some point it seems like everyone suddenly wakes up and says, "Exactly why was I investing in tulip bulbs again?" A lot of people - including on occasion, this person - thought that they might have what it takes to make scads of money from poker, but instead found that whatever it takes to be a consistently successful poker player was beyond them. Me, I found out I was a hobbyist.

Wil Wheaton lost interest in online poker, PokerStars laid him off, the Wheaties collapsed (although several other games sprung up to take its place); and more and more poker bloggers started to cash in - some officially calling it quits, like Maudie, some just fading away, like PokerDiagram. Maudie, btw, has broken cover, come out of the closet, taken off her mask, opened the kimono, or whatever revealing metaphor you prefer, and officially announced her Yes, a blog blog, where she's no longer Maudie, but yes Herself, Kym. I've known about that "other" blog since she started it, but now that Kym has made it public, I can talk about it. Go and visit.

The only other poker blog I regularly followed was Iggy's Guinness and Poker site which has seemed to be in the throes of ugly self-destruction for the past several months. As someone noted...

"... [Iggy] has now basically reduced himself to three things: Quoting in full (although usually not linking) the occasional newspaper article on something poker related, quoting in full articles related to the US presidential race, usually with a very obvious slant of pro-Obama, con-Hillary, and posting poker stories by Johnny Hughes. Unfortunately, the lion’s share of his posts are in the second category. And if you’re wondering what exactly it is Iggy writes himself in all of this, you’re touching a good point. I think my post here today contains more words than he’s written himself in the past year...."
Iggy sheepishly admitted to the truth of the criticism, and then blithely continued on with the same stuff. As far as I can tell, the only reason he keeps G&P going is for whatever income the various affiliate links he has on the site still bring. It's certainly no interest in poker.

I did a quick tour through Maudie's and Iggy's blogrolls to other poker blogs I occasionally visited. A few are still gamely going on - some seem to be writing about things other than poker, the poker players seem to write more about bricks-n'-mortar play than online. Some claim the reports of their death are greatly exaggerated and that they'll be back. A few are - or have - winded it up.

Life goes on.

Friday, March 21, 2008

Standing on the shoulders of giants


Dreamtime has hit episode 52, a very difficult one to produce, as it turned out. I had a touch of the flu last week but still needed to work on the podcast to keep to my "one every couple of weeks" schedule. I decided to do a compendium of Dylan's Season 1 TTRH poetry readings, figuring it'd be easier than creating/researching/writing a completely new podcast, as those take a good 3-4 days to accomplish, even when I'm feeling well. In total, I put maybe 4-6 hours of work into any given Dreamtime, but since I have to do it around paying work, those few hours stretch into several days of real-time.

Anyway, as it turned out going through 52-odd hours of TTRH episodes, some segmented, some not, some with easily found poetry readings, some not, was a much more daunting task than I had planned, and took much longer than I had wanted. I was still working on the podcast this Monday when, for the first time in 52 shows, Audacity completed corrupted the 30-minute audio file to the point of non-recovery. I ended up starting from scratch, but, with the poetry readings now categorized at least I was able to repeat the work much more quickly and eventually posted the podcast on Wednesday.

As of right now Poetry Readings with Your Host Bob Dylan has already broken the Dreamtime record for downloads in a 24-hour period - well over 700. The traffic was so heavy for awhile that it brought down my cheap lil' GoDaddy podcast site for a couple of hours. Episode 52 is already on its way to becoming my most popular show ever if the numbers hold steady. I've also had over a thousand visitors to the site within 48 hours - comparably, I usually get on the average of 1,000 visitors a week.

This is all very pleasing, but it's also a bit humbling, since none of the content for Episode 52 is my own. Of course, I know, and have known from the beginning ,that Dreamtime lives and dies by Bob Dylan and Theme Time Radio Hour - my audience was cut in half almost immediately after TTRH went on hiatus last year. It's to be expected. It comes with the turf. Mr. D. has a much bigger fan base. And all in all, it's not total woe is me. I do get regular fan letters from people who like the background, the trivia, the history I provide through Dreamtime. Episode 52 seems to be a rising tide lifting all Dreamtime boats, too. I've had an increase in downloads of all shows over the last few days, and many new subscribers to the podcast/blog.

So, I have nothing to complain about. But it'd sure be nice to write a Dreamtime that only passingly referred to Bob Dylan and still get that amount of traffic.

Thursday, March 20, 2008

"We're FlockdUp: Friend Me!"



The great Merlin Mann's winning proposal for the "worst website ever" at SXSW: the imaginary but very realistic flockdup.com.

I really like the ability to add comments to a video. But apparently it only works as a Wordpress plugin. Another reason to consider migrating the Dreamtime blog over to WordPress at some point.

REALLY Do Not Reply

You know those automated emails we all get from banks, insurance companies, utilities et al;? Many of them use a "donotereply.com" return address because a lazy IT department doesn't want to 1) deal with replies and 2) doesn't want to deal with bouncebacks.

Now here's the scary thing... someone owns that "donotreply.com" domain, and gets all those replies/bouncebacks. Why is that scary? Go and read his blog.

Wednesday, March 19, 2008

If Summer Glau was any hotter, would she explode?


Title and photo courtesy of i09, which is reporting that Terminator: The Sarah Connor Chronicles will, ahem, be back. We pause for a moment...

YAY!

... TTSCC isn't perfect by any means, but it ain't no Bionic Woman either. Like the little girl with the little curl when it's good, it's very, very good. It deserves a chance to find an audience now that the Writer's Guild strike is over and, if nothing else, at least we're not going to be left (this season at least) with a cliffhanger never to be answered.

One recommendation for Season 2, O TTSCC writers:

1. More Glaubot!

The Last Giant Falls

Arthur C. Clarke, the last of the "Big 3" classic science fiction writers, died early Wednesday morning in Sri Lanka. Clarke was 90.

Like his peer, Isaac Asimov (but unlike his other peer, Robert Heinlein), Clarke wasn't all that good a writer in my opinion. His characterization was terrible, with protagonists so wooden that you'd risk splinters if you had brushed against them. And many of his plots were simply there for Clarke to hang scientific speculations on. But it's that last where Arthur C. Clarke outperformed nearly every other science fiction writer.

"A radar pioneer in the Royal Air Force during World War II, Clarke wrote a 1945 article in Wireless World magazine in which he outlined a worldwide communications network based on fixed satellites orbiting Earth at an altitude of 22,300 miles -- an orbital area now often referred to as the Clarke Orbit.

Clarke's seminal article, for which he received $40, was published two decades before Syncom II became the world's first communications satellite put into geosynchronous orbit in 1963." LA Times Obituary
Besides the communications satellite, a strong argument can be made that Clarke also predicted space stations, moon landings using a mother ship and a landing pod, cellular phones and the Internet.

Thanks to a bout of the flu last week, I've been feeling a bit too mortal and of my age of late. It hasn't been helped by the fact that Dave Stevens - younger than I - passed away, or that a co-worker's cousin - younger than either of us - had a massive stroke over the weekend and passed away a few days ago. Nor that one of my literary heroes, Harlan Ellison, who I knew fairly well when I was a teenager and he he was in his mid-30s has somehow turned 73 - reminding me that I'm in my mid-50s.

Clarke's passing marks another milestone. So many of the giants that shaped my sense of wonder - Asimov, Clarke, Heinlein most of all, Alfie Bester, C.M. Kornbluth, others - have fallen.

Thursday, March 13, 2008

The Rocketeer Falls


Not the best of news to greet you when you're not feeling all that hot yourself. via Mark Evanier:

"...Illustrator Dave Stevens, best known for his "good girl" art and The Rocketeer, died [Monday, March 10] following a long, wrenching battle with Leukemia...The Rocketeer made Dave's reputation and also spawned a resurgence of interest in fifties' figure model Bettie Page, whose likeness Dave used for the strip's heroine."
The Rocketeer was one of the books that that got me back to reading comics in the `80s, and was, I think, the first independent - published by Pacific as I remember - comic book I ever bought. Stevens, as Mark and I'm sure all other obituaries will note, was not prolific by any stretch of the imagination, but he was one of the best illustrators ever to work comics in my opinion. Sadly, from Mark's report, producing The Rocketeer wasn't particularly rewarding for him... at least financially. I had heard he had moved from comic books to the more remunerative movie storyboarding, including, I believe, the storyboards for one of the Indiana Jones movies. Mark notes that he also did private commissions. Would that I had had the money to commission a Dave Stevens work.

Stevens was also directly responsible for the resurgence of interest in `50s pin-up gal Bettie Page and would later, as Evanier reports, become friends with Page.
"Bettie Page who, though once thought deceased, turned out to be alive and living not all that far from Dave. They met and Dave became her friend and, though he was not wealthy, benefactor. Deciding that too many others had callously exploited her likeness, Dave voluntarily aided Ms. Page financially and even took to helping her in neighborly ways. One time, he told me — and without the slightest hint of resentment — "It's amazing. After years of fantasizing about this woman, I'm now driving her to cash her Social Security checks."
Stevens was 52.

Wednesday, March 12, 2008

World's Oldest Animation?




Maybe, maybe not. As the X-Files has it, I want to believe, because it's so cool.

The story of the animation on the piece of 5,200 year-old pottery has been around for at least four years. It's recently been getting a bit of press again because of a new 11-minute documentary the bowl, which was discovered in a grave in Iran by an Italian archaeological team in the late 1970s.

So, did a potter watch images swirl on a wheel in front of him and realize that he could create an animation? Or did s/he just create a set of sequential images which coincidentally happen to animate well?

Monday, March 03, 2008

When is a fake not a fake?

Damn it, we like Robert Irvine!

No graduation from the University of Leeds.

No 360 lb wedding cake for Princess Di

Never cooked for Bush (or any U.S. President)

No knighthood.

No castle in Scotland.

sigh. And the sad thing is that Dinner Impossible is a great show.

Link to BBC story.

Today's Productivity Buster



and new internet meme, via Brainiac...

"... A couple of weeks ago, a Los Angeles-based Flickr user who calls herself Karakrio (Occupation: Live Concert Production) started a Flickr group photo pool titled "CD Cover Meme." She challenged other Flickr users to "make your own CD cover" using the following formula:

1. Generate a name for your band by using WikiPedia's random page selector tool, and using the first article title on whichever page pops up. No matter how weird or lame that band name sounds.

2. Generate an album title by cutting and pasting the last four words of the final quote on whichever page appears when you click on the quotationspage's random quote selector tool. No matter what those four words turn out to be.

3. Finally, visit Flickr's Most Interesting page -- a random selection of some of the interesting things discovered on Flickr within the last 7 days -- and download the third picture on that page. (Even better: Click on this link to get a Flickr photo that's licensed under Creative Commons.) Again -- no cheating! You must use the photo, no matter how you feel about it.

4. Using Photoshop (or whatever method you prefer), put all of these elements together and create your very own CD cover, then upload it to the CD Cover Meme photo pool.

As of this writing, over 1,000 CD covers have been generated by 650 Flickr users."

The weird thing, as the Brainiac columnist, Joshua Glenn, notes is how much these random, made-up elements resemble real CD/record covers. The French theorist Baudrillard called this the "precession of simulcra" problem, where the original seems like a copy.