Saturday, July 31, 2010

Yet another North Korean post, with bad ad juxtaposition

The first of my two Friday night posts on North Korea was partially sourced from a link in a tweet shared by Shel Israel (the naked guy who lives in Twitterville). I tweeted Israel about the link, and he responded:

@empoprises If you want to understand how rotten the N. Korean regime really is Nothing to Envy by Barbara Demick.

Now Israel is no right-wing saber rattler - after all, he did visit Chinese bloggers in 2008 (as Ontario Emperor, I wrote about that visit here). So I wanted to see what the Demick book was about.

I found a Los Angeles Times article on the book, written by Art Winslow earlier this year. Even the brief article by Winslow suggests that this is not a simple story:

The country's 23 million inhabitants contend not only with extreme privation in a land of rusted train tracks, exceedingly sporadic electricity and chronic, life-threatening food shortages, but also do so under an information blackout in a police state apt to whisk inhabitants off to labor camps or worse at the slightest provocation.

The corruption in North Korea makes Bell, California sound like a model city:

Defectors who claim firsthand knowledge report that Kim Jong-il skims from the profits to fund himself, his nuclear program and to ensure the loyalty of elites, and that "the military is also sending trucks to state farms to haul away as much as a quarter of the annual harvest for its soldiers," as well as posting guards there.

The solution to the problem is not simple, because so many issues are intertwined:

In its way, and graphically, this book demonstrates that global issues of nuclear proliferation, free expression and human rights are inextricably intertwined in North Korea....

But I think that I was just as disturbed with the advertisements that graced the article.

I forget who said it, but someone said that a good advertisement doesn't appear to be an advertisement, but appears to be information. When we perfect our algorithms, it is possible that the ads that we see will be so targeted to our very needs that we won't mind them. However, we obviously aren't there yet.

Google, you have GOT to get people to improve your advertising algorithms. A picture of a stylish shoe does not belong in an article that includes the material above plus stuff that I didn't quote about children starving to death. Even with my warped sense of perspective, the placement of that ad was just a little too much.

P.S. I subsequently found an entire website,, devoted to the book and its topic. Recommended.

P.P.S. Amnesty International USA has a page on North Korea, which mentions, among other things, that prisoners may be punished for "forgetting the words of patriotic songs." Oh, and if you think that the migrations from Mexico to the United States are a major issue, consider the migrations from North Korea to China:

As the Chinese government considers all undocumented North Koreans in China as economic migrants, they live in fear of being caught and forcibly repatriated to North Korea. Virtually all those forcibly returned to North Korea have faced up to three years in a prison camp where they have been subjected to forced labor, torture and other ill-treatment. China continues to deny the UNHCR access to the North Koreans in their territory.

P.P.P.S. Off-topic, but not as off-topic as a fancy shoe advertisement: If you're looking for my July 2008 post on Israel, FastCompany.TV, Loren Feldman, Robert Scoble, and comment moderation, look here.

Let's just say that Chris Schauble registered on the Richter scale

My old mrontemp blog still gets significant traffic, despite the fact that I haven't written anything there in over a year. Recently, my 2008 post In Defense of Kent Shocknek, and why Chris Schauble, Jennifer Bjorklund, and Ana Garcia should be reprimanded became very popular. It concerned my hero, Kent Shocknek, and a video from 1987:

[The video] shows David Letterman's commentary on Kent Shocknek and Christopher Nance, a former KNBC newsman and weatherman respectively, diving under the news desks during the October 1, 1987 Whittier earthquake. Letterman's studio audience was guffawing at the sight of two men diving under a desk, and Letterman himself referred to the "little special hiding place" that the two used.

Never mind the fact that you're SUPPOSED to dive under a desk during an earthquake; apparently news anchors are supposed to be stupid.

Like Chris Schauble and his co-workers were in 2008:

The earthquake begins, and the newscasters remain at their desks. Bjorklund gazes up toward the ceiling, with a complete lack of concern on her face. The newscasters note that someone off-camera (Ana Garcia) ran into the newsroom, barefoot, then ran back out again. Schauble then notes that "it could have been handled differently, shall we say" - a direct slap at Shocknek's well-known coverage from twenty years earlier.

While people characterized their performance as professional, I have a different view:

I believe that KNBC's performance yesterday was the second most unprofessional performance ever in Los Angeles local news - number one still being the time that Harvey Levin stood in a rushing stream during flood stage "just to get the picture."...

During an earthquake, which of the following courses of action is the correct one?

1. Get under a desk and protect yourself.

2. Stay sitting at your desk, gazing at the ceiling.

3. Run around barefoot

You can check any earthquake preparedness manual that you like, and I don't think they're going to advise that you gaze at the ceiling or run around barefoot during an earthquake.

As I mentioned, my 2008 post became very popular recently, but it didn't have anything to do with Kent Shocknek, and everything to do with Chris Schauble. It turns out that Schauble set off a little earthquake of his own.

In Today’s Edition of “What Were They Smokin’?!”: An anchor with NBC’s Los Angeles affiliate clearly mouthed the F-bomb during a live broadcast on Thursday morning -– and video footage of the gaffe is quickly going viral.

Chris Schauble was reporting an update about Jaycee Dugard, the California woman who was kidnapped in 1991 and held for 18 years in the backyard of a convicted rapist. The video shown, however, was of Abby Sunderland — the 16-year-old girl who went missing for several days last month while trying to sail solo around the world.

The video mixup prompted Schauble to mouth the explicit viewers.

I don't know if Ana Garcia is still working at KNBC, but if so, did she run barefoot to the studio to shut Schauble up?

Friday, July 30, 2010

Yes, Empoprise-BI (and every blog) is de facto banned in North Korea

After finishing my post which discussed the fate of the unsuccessful North Korean World Cup team - think REALLY BAD meeting - I was about to write another post that compared the similarly-clad beer supporters in South Africa to the similarly-clad North Korean soccer fans in South Africa (some of the fans being Chinese who knew nothing about soccer but were sent to cheer North Korea anyway).

But then I figured that if I wrote the post, the Empoprise-BI blog would clearly be banned in North Korea.

Not that this worried me - I'm sure Empoprise-BI is banned in several countries already - but I began to wonder what type of access North Koreans had. I suspected it wasn't all that great, and (according to this 2006 article) I was right.

At a time when much of the world takes for granted a fat and growing network of digitized human knowledge, art, history, thought and debate, it is easy to forget just how much is being denied the people who live under the veil of darkness....

While other restrictive regimes have sought to find ways to limit the Internet — through filters and blocks and threats — North Korea has chosen to stay wholly off the grid.

But, as with everything in North Korea, there's a two-tier society.

As far back as 2000, at the conclusion of a visit to Pyongyang, Madeleine K. Albright, then secretary of state, bid Mr. Kim to “pick up the telephone any time,” to which the North Korean leader replied, “Please give me your e-mail address.”

Regarding web sites, a 2010 article discusses the present state of North Korea's web presence.

Since 2007, North Korea has been allocated the ccTLD .kp by the IANA – a wasteful allocation as only four .kp domains exist thus far....

North Korea hosts all four of its .kp domains outside of its land; in servers in Germany.

These four .kp domains belonging to North Korea are:

* The Korea Computer Center (Europe) with a message that .kp domain registrations are available
* The official North Korean governmental portal Naenara
* The North Korean domain registry
* A web site about becoming a “friend” of North Korea!

I visited the final site on the list, at, figuring that I might be able to get an autographed soccer jersey for cheap.

Now this whole idea of a technology and book fair sounded promising - after all, we know how North Korea is the movie capital of the world, so perhaps they're the technology capital of the world too. So I read the description:

7th Pyongyang International Science & Technology Book Fair

The 7th Pyongyang International Science & Technology Book Fair (PISTBF) will be held in Pyongyang, the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea, from the 13th to the 15th September in 2010

It is aimed at introducing and sharing the new scientific and technological successes achieved in the different countries of the world through the exchange of book and publication, thus strengthening relations of friendship and cooperation between the countries.

Thanks to the careful attention of the state and the government, the positive cooperation and efforts of the Organizing Committee of the PISTBF, Committee for Cultural Relations with Foreign Countries, the State Academy of Science, Publishing Guidance Bureau, Grand People’s Study House, and the support of the universities, institutions of science and technology, and publishing houses from various countries, PISTBF has been held successfully for the last 9 years since its first inception in 2001 and made great contributions to the promotion of exchange and cooperation in science and technology, publishing industry and culture.

Strangely enough, the fair does not appear to be designed to promote the great advances in technology that have originated in North Korea. Instead, it appears that people from other countries will come to North Korea to share stuff.

The exhibitors will deal with copyright and make contract between the participants.

They can deliver lectures and have Seminars on science and technology during their stay. In that case papers should be presented to the Organizing Committee of PISTBF one month before the opening.

In fact, it seems that a lot of stuff has to be cleared in advance.

Exhibits Arrival Time: August 1 - 31, 2010

People who went to Reed College with me know that I appreciated this one:

Application deadline: June, 31, 2010

(For those of you who didn't attend Reed, suffice it to say that I put up posters on campus stating that subway construction would begin on the very-small campus on September 31, 1979. Geddit?)

Oh, and if you have ideas about going to the fair to engage in propaganda:

In accordance with the regulations of the PISTBF, materials not related to science and technology can not be displayed.

But that same restriction does not apply to your hosts.

The PISTBF Organizing Committee...will organize sightseeing to the scenic and historical places, performances, and provide 1st –aid, interpreter, room for lecture, seminar and interview, services in the Exhibition Hall free of charge.

Free first aid! Too bad that June 31st has already passed. But who is participating? A list of participants in the 7th conference has not yet been released, but there is a list of participants in the 1st through 6th conference - a who's who of technology, as it were.

* Korea Publications Export and Import Corporation
* Far Eastern National University, Russia
* Vladivostok National Medical University, Russia
* Far Eastern National University of Technology, Russia
* Amur State University of Humanities and Pedagogy, Russia
* Lenin National Library, Russia
* Library of Far Eastern Branch of Russia Academy of Sciences
* "Dalnauka" Publishing House, Far eastern Branch of Russia Academy of Sciences
* The State Public Scientific and Technical Library, Siberian Branch Russia Academy of Sciences
* Khavarovsk State University of Technology, Russia
* Pacific National University
* Russian Military Academy
* Siberian Institute of Law, Economics and Management, Russia
* Association for the promotion of the Cultural Development,China
* Books Import and Export Corporation, China
* Beijing Hongsanhua Trading Co.Ltd, China
* Liaoning National Publishing House, China
* Huayi Publishers, China
* Yantai University, China
* Dalian University, China
* Jilin University, China
* Jilin Province Yanji Xinhua Bookstore, China
* Jilin Province Songhuajiang Trade Co.Ltd, China
* Publishers's delegation in Jilin, China
* Jilin Newspaper Publishing House, China
* Samiun Trading Co.Ltd, China
* Sandong Hongye Group, China
* Academy of Social Science, Liaoning Province, China
* Yanbian Public Association for Foreign Relations, China
* Central Science Library, Ministry of Science and Education, Republic of Kazakhstan
* Springer Science and Business Media
* Springer-Verlag (HongKong) Ltd
* Organizing Committee, Frankfurt Book Fair
* German Academic and Technical Literature Agency
* Torun Publishing House, Poland
* EEMP, TVE International
* International Federation of Library Associations
* Pugwash Conference on Science and World Affairs
* Ankara University, Turkey
* State Central Library, Mongol
* Publishing Section, Division of Conference and Document Services, Management Dept. UN, Austria
* Swiss Agency of Development and Cooperation to DPRK
* Tokai University, Japan
* Unicorn Foundation
* American Friends Service Committee
* Canadian Program Coordinator of English Education
* Office of the WHO in the DPRK
* Office of UNICEF in the DPRK
* Embassy of the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland in the DPRK
* Embassy of the Sweden in the DPRK
* Embassy of the Republic of Poland in the DPRK
* Embassy of the Republic of India in the DPRK
* Embassy of the Islamic Republic of Iran in the DPRK
* Embassy of the Republic of Indonesia in the DPRK
* Association of Korean Compatriots for Book Donation, US

Well, I guess that it would be wishful thinking to expect Samsung to be a featured exhibitor, but you have to wonder about the quality of the technological conversations that the American Friends Service Committee were holding in the past. Although I'm sure that the Russian Military Academy could produce some interesting presentations, should they choose to do so.

But, based on past fairs, it appears that a major task of the participants is to compose a letter to Kim Jong Il. They did so at the third fair:

Pyongyang, August 21 (KCNA) -- Leader Kim Jong Il today received a letter from the participants in the third Pyongyang International Science and Technology Book Fair. The letter said during their stay in the DPRK, the participants were deeply admired to learn that Kim Jong Il singled out science and technology as one of the three pillars for building a great prosperous powerful nation and has led the drive for its development.

Expressing strong admiration for Kim Jong Il who has wisely steered the work to develop science in the DPRK, possessed of profound knowledge of ultra-modern science and technology, the letter expressed belief that the DPRK would proudly rank itself among the world's scientifically and technologically advanced nations before long under the leadership of Kim Jong Il.

The letter expressed their intention to actively cooperate in the efforts to make the fair expand and develop on the world's level.

I'm trying to imaging something like that happening over here. Will we see this article in a couple of months?

San Francisco, September 23 (OTN) -- Leader Larry Ellison today received a letter from the participants in Oracle OpenWorld 2010. The letter said during their stay in San Francisco, the participants were deeply admired to learn that Larry Ellison singled out expansion of Oracle's stack as one of the three pillars for building a great prosperous powerful company and has led the drive for its development.

OK, perhaps Ellison likes power, and he likes to show off his boat, but I can't picture him donning the Elton John sunglasses. And he's obviously not going to impose a communication barrier between his company and the rest of the world. And to my knowledge, Ellison has never sunk a submarine.

North Korean soccer players, the Business Software Alliance, and how to treat a boss

H/T Shel Israel for alerting me to this article:

[The players] from North Korea, who lost all three of their group games, have been subjected to a six-hour excoriation for "betraying" the communist nation's ideological struggle, according to reports.

There are even fears for the safety of the team coach, Kim Jung-hun, who was accused of betraying the son and heir of the regime's "dear leader," Kim Jong-il.

Some specifics of the six-hour meeting were also reported.

The "grand debate" was reportedly witnessed by 400 athletes and sports students, and the country's sports minister. Ri Dong-kyu, a sports commentator for the North's state-run Korean Central TV, led the reprimands, pointing out the shortcomings of each player....

In true Stalinist style, the players were then "invited" to mount verbal attacks on their coach, Jung-hun.

However, the concept of ratting out your boss is not limited to the Communist world. In fact, it can be applied in a very capitalistic way:

The Business Software Alliance is upping the ante on payouts to those who rat out their boss for using pirated software. The BSA will now payout up to $1 million - up from the maximum $200,000 reward previously offered.

However, like in the Communist world, there was (at least in 2007) a difference between image and reality.

Since introducing the reward money to tipsters the BSA says the largest sum it has awarded is a whopping $7,500. In all the BSA has awarded $60,000 to all combined software piracy stoolies.

Now if the BSA threatened violators with a one-way trip to North Korea in a soccer uniform - now THAT would be effective.

About Gates Millennium Scholars

I recently wrote about David R. Guzman's views on Apple's lack of a social media presence. I discovered Guzman via LinkedIn (he had posted something in the LinkedIn Answers section on blogging), and I looked at his LinkedIn profile to learn more about him.

As implied previously, Guzman has a blog called Modern Communicator.

Guzman is also involved in an organization called Positive Footprint, which endeavors to influence youth in a positive way.

And, based on his LinkedIn profile, it appears that Guzman is a Gates Millennium Scholar alumnus.

I had never heard of this program, but guessed (correctly) that it resulted from the philanthropy of Bill and Melinda Gates. Here's what the program's all about:

The Gates Millennium Scholars Program (GMS), established in 1999, was initially funded by a $1 billion grant from the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation.

The goal of GMS is to promote academic excellence and to provide an opportunity for outstanding minority students with significant financial need to reach their highest potential by:

* Reducing financial barriers for African American, American Indian/Alaska Native, Asian Pacific Islander American and Hispanic American students with high academic and leadership promise who have significant financial need;
* Increasing the representation of these target groups in the disciplines of computer science, education, engineering, library science, mathematics, public health and the sciences, where these groups are severely underrepresented;
* Developing a diversified cadre of future leaders for America by facilitating successful completion of bachelor's, master's and doctoral degrees; and
* Providing seamless support from undergraduate through doctoral programs, for students selected as Gates Millennium Scholars entering target disciplines.

The ironic part of all of this is that the program helps people get bachelors, masters, and doctoral degrees - degrees that Gates himself, the Harvard dropout, does not have. However, Gates had advantages growing up that many of the Gates Millennium Scholars did not have, and the program certainly helps those without these advantages to gain an education that helps them to succeed in life.

It's interesting to note that both Bill Gates and Mark Zuckerberg were college dropouts (from Harvard) who ended up starting wildly successful companies. Steve Jobs was also a dropout (from my alma mater of Reed), but he dropped out in part because he didn't want his parents to waste their money. (See my 2006 post on this.)

Thursday, July 29, 2010

Will the cable/satellite model have to change?

Economics is dictated by supply and demand. In the cable and satellite industry, that means that the content providers have the pipe providers over a barrel. (Oddly enough, in the cellular industry it's the pipe providers that hold all the cards. Go figure.)

Specifically, let's pretend that Empoprises is a big media conglomerate, providing four channels of televised content that are extremely popular. (Allow me my fantasy here.) Now Empoprises gets a good chunk of change by selling commercials to Old Spice and other companies, but Empoprises is mandated to maximize its profit.

So when Empoprises approaches the Big Ol' Satellite Service (BOSS), Empoprises makes its demands very clear - "You can carry our four channels...if you pay us five dollars per subscriber per channel. Oh, and if you carry one channel, you have to carry all four, even the trivia channel. And they have to be in your basic tier of services."

Then the war begins. We at Empoprises fire the first shot:

On September 1, BOSS may stop carrying the Empoprises Business Channel! Let BOSS know that you value the wonderful news that the Empoprises Business Channel provides. Call BOSS at 800 867-5309 and let them know that you want them to keep the Empoprises Business Channel! Oh, and here are some alternative services that will continue to provide the Empoprises Business Channel.

For some reason, BOSS doesn't see the value of our well-researched arguments and launches this cruel attack on Empoprises:

Empoprises wants to force you to pay more for your satellite service, and we don't want to force you to do that because We Care About You. Call Empoprises at 800 555-1212 and tell them that you don't like cable rate gouging! Oh, and after September 1, we'll continue to carry the Louis Gray Business Channel, which is frankly a lot better than the Empoprises Business Channel anyway.

In the end, after a lot of volleys back and forth, the two parties reach a compromise, Empoprises gets a little more money, and the satellite subscribers get gouged.

Now I hate to leave my fantasy in which I'm a major television mogul, but perhaps we should take a step back and ask - why do the cable and satellite providers have to pay content providers to carry their channels? An equally valid point could be made that it should be the other way around. Namely that content companies, who get to charge rates to advertisers, can charge higher advertising rates if more people have access to their shows. So therefore, doesn't it make sense that the content providers actually pay the cable/satellite providers to get access to those additional markets?

Well, while the two industries are bickering over who should pay who, there's a danger from without that could threaten the gravy train upon which both of them rely.

What if people quit watching satellite and cable TV?

Let's face it, as these rates continue to get higher and higher, people will be moved to find cheaper alternatives. And a comment at a Michael Hanscom post provides anecdotal evidence that people are doing just that. Mike Johns, Roku user:

I spend 9 bucks for netflix, and 6 bucks on the kung-fu, cowoby classics and drive in movies - and that has replaced my $75 cable bill.

If enough people decide that cable/satellite service isn't worth it, the industry will be forced to adopt a more economical model that better serves the customer.

Ah, who am I kidding? The industry will instead buy out the competition and either shut it down or jack up its rates. Of course, as I noted back in 2009, buying up the competition doesn't always help:

...that analysis assumes that the cable industry is competing against the cable industry. It isn't. Cable providers are competing against satellite, people who still get their TV from antennas, and this here thing called the Internet. So it may be in the interest of the Feds to allow Comcast to bulk up to compete against Dish, Google, et al.

Let's face it, even when formerly competitive environments are reduced to a single company, the remaining company has trouble surviving. Remember that Sirius XM is still losing money.

Failing that, the movie industry will exact penalties on people who provide content via unapproved services such as Roku or swap meets...

P.S. Back in 2008, I wrote a three-part post series entitled "Economics of cable and satellite broadcasting." Here are parts one, two, and three. I'll try to revisit the thoughts in those posts at some point.

Wednesday, July 28, 2010

(empo-tymshft) Sing along with me!

Once I was working on a project that I still cannot discuss, with a gentleman whose company I cannot discuss, and the gentleman observed that the project included contributions from a variety of geographical regions.

To which I observed from my Orange County location,

It's a small world after all.

Certainly the tools that we have at our disposal today have increased the speed of collaboration over large distances. Of course people were able to collaborate over large distances hundreds of years ago, but it took forever to do it.

Is Ashton Kutcher a visionary, or a punk?

On July 22, Robert Scoble wrote a follow-up post on Flipboard which included the following:

In fact, when I showed [FlipBoard] to famous actor Ashton Kutcher he was so excited about the product (said it was “a revolution in publishing”) he turned to me and begged to be introduced to the company. “I want to invest in this,” he told me. A week later he was, indeed, an investor.

This resulted in a comment from brklynmind, which said in part:

Its a reasonably nice app with potential and I don't know how the endorsement of Demi's Moore husband and the creator of 'Punked' and 'Beauty and the Geek' is supposed to convince us its more than that.

Well, I rarely watch TV so I can't really comment on that part of Kutcher's career, and the only thing that I knew about Kutcher in the tech area was that he is a champion of Twitter.

So why do some (but not others) regard him as an expert?

Well, for one, that danged Twitter account. In an L.A. Times piece, Catherine Hays from the Wharton School of Business mentioned Kutcher's large...number of Twitter followers.

But then she mentioned Katalyst Films. This company was founded in 2000 by Kutcher and Jason Goldberg, and had a part in a number of projects in which Kutcher was involved. But I have a sneaking suspicion that Katalyst Films has changed its focus over the years. If you go to, you get redirected to a Facebook page. Facebook (and Twitter) didn't exist in 2000, and I seriously doubt that Katalyst's mission statement read like this in the beginning:

Based in Los Angeles and New York, Katalyst is an original content production company and studio for social media, creating properties for digital media, television and film properties. The Katalyst mission is to create thought-provoking and compelling content for multiple platforms.

In addition, Kutcher has invested in various firms - not only Flipboard, but also Foursquare. While this might not necessarily make him a Mike Markkula or a Fred Wilson, Kutcher is certainly doing more to advance social technologies than I am.

Incidentally, Wilson talked about Kutcher - back in 2005, after his daughter saw the movie A Lot Like Love.

I was walking down the street with Emily and she turned to me and said, "Dad, Now I Know What A VC Does".

It turns out that Kutcher plays an entrepreneur who has a website called DiaperRush. He is in the process of raising VC money in the movie and apparently there is a scene in which he pitches the VCs.

So I asked Emily, "What were the VCs like in the movie?" She just shrugged her shoulders (a typical teen move) and that was that.

(And yes, I realize that there is a difference between an angel and a VC.)

Tuesday, July 27, 2010

Taco organizations!

The people who claimed that a blogger should differentiate himself or herself by adopting a unique voice will probably regret that advice. Why? Because this is the second post this month in the Empoprises empire which is inspired by the Doctor Orange song "Taco Taco Taco." (The first post, which appeared in Empoprise-MU on July 21, can be found here.)

Those few of you who have listened to the song "Taco Taco Taco" know that at a certain point in the song, Doctor Orange suddenly sings/speaks the lyric

taco organizations

That happens to be my favorite lyric in the entire song, and it got me to thinking - are there any taco organizations that contribute to the good of humankind?

Well, there's the Taco Bell Foundation for Teens, one of many organizations founded by corporations to do good in the community. Since teens make up an important portion of Taco Bell's customer base, it makes sense that they'd pursue philanthropy in that area.

Taco Bell Foundation for Teens is committed to addressing the alarming number of high school dropouts in the U.S. by providing at-risk youth with mentors and real-world experiences that will motivate them to stay in school and graduate. We leverage Taco Bell Corp.’s passion, creativity and relentlessness to the cause as well as its customers, franchisees, employees and partners to support organizations that are crucial to ending the dropout crisis.

And if you want to join Taco Bell in helping a teen to graduate, you can donate here.

But for every taco organization, there is an anti-taco organization. If you visit this web page, you will see extensive details on the Coalition of Immokalee Workers' "Boycott the Bell" campaign.

You and your friends -- your fellow students, neighbors, co-workers, or members of your church -- are the very heart of this campaign!

If you have come to this site because you want to help make FAIR FOOD a reality, you can use the tools below to bring the Taco Bell boycott to your community.

Why boycott the Bell? This 2002 item explains:

The CIW's Anti-Slavery Campaign is a worker-based approach to eliminating modern-day slavery in the agricultural industry. In the past six years, the campaign has uncovered, investigated, and collaborated in the prosecution of three multi-worker, multi-state slavery operations based in Florida, and consulted for the Civil Rights Division of the US Department of Justice on two others.

The campaign has resulted in freedom for more than a thousand tomato and orange pickers held in debt bondage, historic sentences for various agricultural employers, the development of a successsful model of community-government cooperation, and the growth of an expanding base of aware and committed worker activists....

...the CIW believes that the ultimate solution to modern-day slavery in agribusiness lies on the "demand side" of the US produce market -- the major food-buying corporations, like Taco Bell, that profit from the artificially-low cost of US produce picked by workers in sweatshop and, in the worst cases, slavery conditions. With this in mind, the Anti-Slavery Campaign works hand in hand with the CIW's national Taco Bell Boycott in an effort to leverage the fast-food industry's vast resources and market influence as major produce buyers to clean up slavery and other labor abuses in its supply chain once and for all.

Now if you go to the Boycott the Bell page, you might notice that it hasn't been updated in a while. There's a good reason for this - the boycott ended in 2005.

March 8, 2005 (IMMOKALEE/LOUISVILLE) – In a precedent-setting move, fast-food industry leader Taco Bell Corp., a division of Yum! Brands (NYSE: YUM), has agreed to work with the Florida-based farm worker organization, the Coalition of Immokalee Workers (CIW), to address the wages and working conditions of farmworkers in the Florida tomato industry.

Taco Bell announced today that it will fund a penny per pound “pass-through” with its suppliers of Florida tomatoes, and will undertake joint efforts with the CIW on several fronts to improve working conditions in Florida’s tomato fields. For its part, the CIW has agreed to end its three-year boycott of Taco Bell, saying that the agreement “sets a new standard of social responsibility for the fast-food industry.”

But by December 2005, another boycott had taken effect:

After wrestling practice, I went to Taco Bell for my regular after practice meal. However, to my surprise, as I asked for my usual Bean Burrito Especial (along with my Double Decker Taco), the cashier informed me that Taco Bells nation-wide no longer sold the 99-cent, half-pound Bean Burrito Especial....

I find it necessary to gain support for an all-out National Taco Bell Boycott to teach this fastfood giant not to mess with their customers. From now on starting at 8:30 PM Eastern Standard Time, December 27, 2005, I will no longer consume the products produced or sold by the Taco Bell Corporation until the Bean Burrito Especial is re-instated as a member of the Value Menu at the original price of 99 cents. I now feel it is not only my mission, but also my responsibility to gather as much support as possible for this national issue. I cannot possibly accomplish this task on my own. Only with the support of thousands of Americans can I hope to one day travel to a Taco Bell and be able to eat my beloved Bean Burrito Especial for a reasonable price of 99 cents. The time is now! Join the National Taco Bell Boycott by signing below and no longer traveling to Taco Bell for future services....

While this petition has received 71 signatures (so far), there is no word whether the United Methodist Church, former President Jimmy Carter, and other progressives have endorsed this critical movement. But if this so inspires you, then you need to "person" the barricades and join the revolutionary rallying cry:

What do we want?
When do we want it?

And if you miss the Bean Burrito Especial, here's a list (compiled in 2006) of other menu items that Taco Bell has discontinued, including the Bacon Cheeseburger Burrito and the BLT Soft Taco. To my knowledge, neither of these items are championed by any leading taco organization.

So you think you can teach? @thebentruler parody

Take an industry - in this case, education - that is suffering from severe budget constraints.

Combine it with the reality TV craze that has been going on through the entire millennium (and part of the last one).

Combine both of those with @thebentruler, specializing in parody and satire for educators.

The result? The July 18 post, School System’s “So You Think You Can Teach” Program Deemed a Success.

The loser complained to a union rep:

From what I could ascertain from this teacher in question was that ‘contestants’ were placed in a classroom setting with actual students and were given the task of completing a lesson and handling whatever ‘typical’ classroom distractions that might arise. Well, that’s all well and good, but I don’t call releasing a ‘sexually forward’ billy goat slathered in some form of industrial strength adhesive into the classroom a ‘typical’ scenario.

The winner took it all in stride:

Mr. Maxwell, 34, was the only one of the thirteen competitors to complete all the challenges, and he credits his survival to his prior experience teaching at an alternative school in inner city Atlanta. “I mean, there was some weird stuff that went down,” said Maxwell, silencing the ringer on his cell phone, “but I had seen most of the stuff they threw at me, and the rest, I just used some good old-fashioned common sense. Take that goat, for instance. As soon as I saw that that thing was going to be trouble, I ran over to it, (and most people don’t know this, but you can spook some goats and they literally become paralyzed with fear); so anyway, I ran over there and clapped my hands real loud and barked like a dog, and that thing dropped like a deuce.”

More here.

Monday, July 26, 2010

In which I take a crash course in paintball

I don't often venture into politics in my Empoprise-BI business blog, but I recently did so in two posts: my Sunday night post Laredo is safe from Los Zetas - the paintball army is protecting it, and my Monday afternoon post The Laredo paintball army might not be needed after all.

These two posts had an unexpected result.

No, I didn't get an invitation to join the San Diego Minutemen.

No, I didn't receive secret information from Our Illuminati Overlords in Brussels.

So what happened? I got two new followers on Twitter - @paintballblast and @spyderpaintgun.

As far as I can recall, I have never mentioned paintball in my nearly seven years of blogging. I mention the activity twice, and people take an interest in my warblings.

@paintballblast is Eli Brown, a Canadian who loves "hiking, paintball and going to bars." His website is Paintball Gear Online.

@spyderpaintball is Josh, who happens to be from Texas. (Not sure if he's from anywhere near Laredo.) His site is Spyder Paintball Guns.

And they are just two participants in a large paintball industry. Paintball started in New Hampshire in the early 1980s, and has spread worldwide, with local variation.

The newcomer [may be] surprised to learn of the sheer diversity within the world of paintball, regional variations to rules ensure the same game will never be played two towns over. The basic concept however remains true wherever you play. Two teams must go head to head with the objective of either shooting all members of the opposing squad or obtaining a guarded flag from your enemies base, a variation made famous by the invention of video games, this mode of play is simply known as capture the flag.

Now I played Capture the Flag as a Boy Scout, but I was not armed.

And it turns out that the paintball industry is replete with technological advances. Just as the iPhone 3G gave way to the vastly superior iPhone 4...whoops, bad example. But paintball technology has advanced, as this 2008 article indicates:

For those of you who remember playing with the paintball guns of 15 years ago, you remember that they were not accurate, consistent, efficient or fast and often cost more than the basic guns of today. Over the next few years, the quality of mechanical paintball guns increased....

At about the time mechanical guns were leveling off, electro-pneumatic guns were invented. Electros quickly improved during the ensuing years....

So there's a lot going on in the paintball world, but since I started this paintball focus by looking at a foreign relations issue, it's fitting that I end this post by looking at another foreign relations issue.

Because the Iranian regime persists in actively seeking weapons of mass destruction (for the purpose of attacking Israel) and in supporting numerous international terrorist organizations, the United States, the European Union and the United Nations (and many other countries as well – China and Russia surprisingly among them) have, individually and collectively, instituted numerous sanctions against the country.

The latest round of sanctions, recently passed in a resolution at the UN, increases the restrictions on exports to Iran and imports of Iranian goods, freezes more assets and targets the actions of individuals and groups which have so far managed to evade previous sanctions. Most everyone is so concerned about the nuclear weapons tag game the Iranians have been playing that the US State Department actually got China and Russia (huge trading partners with Iran) to go along this time.

With this preface, we get to the point of the post:

With so many restrictions on exporting goods to Iran in place (and an ever-tightening noose), we wondered – how did American made paintball goods get into the hands of Iranian paintballers?

The article can only speculate, and after all the Laredo-Los Zetas stuff, and the anticipation of what Apple was going to do at its iPhone 4 press conference, I've had all the speculation that I want for a while.

But chew on this. The post above links to another post with the title "Paintballs Used Against Iranian Demonstrators."

Now the vast majority of people who are engaged in paintball, including @paintballblast and @spyderpaintgun, are in it for the enjoyment of the sport, and are associating with people who also enjoy the sport.

But sadly, there are other uses for paintball, just like there are other uses for everything.

(empo-tuulwey) My response to @davidrguzman on a corporate social media presence

This is a repost of a comment that I made on David Guzman's July 21 post on Apple's recent unpleasantness. But first let me share a bit of what Guzman wrote.

Guzman notes, correctly, that there is a new conversational landscape that is emerging, in which some companies are having conversations with customers.

For example, I was recently having issues with our family's Sony Dash machine, and made a couple of online comments about this. This resulted in two contacts from Sony representatives who wanted to make sure that my problem had been solved.

However, not all companies are this responsive, or even know that the conversations are taking place.

You may have noticed that there have been a lot of conversations about Apple lately. Guzman believes that Apple could manage its image better by responding to those conversations:

Now what would be the cost of hiring a 5-6 person team to manage online brand concerns against the 3.5 – 5 million mentions and references that are made to Apple or its products every year? I wouldn’t guess more than $400,000 dollars. I would be willing to bet my savings, car, and whatever else I could wager of value, that $400,000 of lost revenue would be more than re-cooped by merely interacting with half of the mentions or references of Apple. I mean really….when your profitability per product and brand name are as substantial, how can you afford not to keep it in check?

Guzman's a point. Here's part of the comment that I posted:

If a company wants to act on customer concerns, then it needs to have an overall strategy for how to deal with customer concerns once they are received. Once that is set, then the company can concentrate on specific tactics (Twitter account, Facebook page, 800 number, PO box, whatever).

I then noted that Apple has something even better than an army of "apple cares" tweeters - they have Steve Jobs himself, responding directly to customer concerns! I mean, if you have a question for Apple, would you rather hear from an entry level tweeter, or from the co-founder of the company?

Let me elaborate on something from my original comment. There's a problem with this - look at the messages that Steve is providing. Just avoid holding it that way. It's pretty much the same as the previous phone. Nokia phones have the same problem.

Now if this is the message that Steve Jobs is providing, then it stands to reason that a social media street team employed by Jobs would be tweeting the same message. Can you imagine how wonderful it would be if Apple spent $400,000 to have people tweet message such as

Don't hold it like that.

It's just about as good as the iPhone 3.

If you use another smartphone, it will have the same problem.

This will NOT build up goodwill among Apple's potential customer base. Including the powerful. (H/T Jesse Stay.)

There's a second potential issue that I alluded to in my comment. What if you hire these social media people...and they are entirely powerless? Even if the person does tweet a warm fuzzy message, does it do any good if there are no results? This is why a company (Apple or whoever) needs the overall strategy that I mentioned in my comment to Guzman.

A "company cares" Twitter account doesn't have any positive effect if the company doesn't care.

Ben & Jerry's UK - when is electronic mail NOT acceptable?

I've been operating under the assumption that acceptance of e-mail is directly proportional to one's age. Or, in other words, a 14 year old might not care for it, but a 74 year old might.

Based upon this, and based upon the fact that Ben & Jerry's has been around for a long time, it was surprising to learn that Ben & Jerry's in the UK is discontinuing e-mail promotions. According to Brian Whalley, the chaps at the UK office sent out an e-mail, encouraged their fans to befriend them on Facebook and Twitter, and then said that this was the last message.

I learned about this via Lauren Huston's Facebook page, and the consensus among her commenters was that it didn't make sense to cut off one marketing avenue entirely. In a separate post, Martin Lieberman explains why:

While many people may like Ben & Jerry’s ice cream, I’ll bet not every person who does uses social media. As a result, it should be everywhere its customers are, and the inbox is no exception. This is a lesson many small businesses and organizations have learned in recent years.

However, Whalley made the following point in his post:

Since it is also much cheaper to tweet or send a Facebook message to that many people than to send that volume of email from a major email service provider and maintain that email marketing contract, they are also saving a significant amount of money in their marketing budget by focusing on social communication and then letting their fans spread the message for them. The cost savings was clearly a major factor in their decision to focus entirely on social media.

With all of the spam that ends up in the junk e-mail folder of my super-secret personal account, I never thought I'd see the day when e-mail marketing was too expensive.

The Laredo paintball army might not be needed after all

On Sunday night, I engaged in high-quality investigative journalism and concluded that if Los Zetas drug forces had taken over two ranches near Laredo, Texas (as was reported by Diggers Realm early in the morning on July 24), the drug forces would be met by a withering barrage from paintballers in the area.

Well, it seems that the investigative journalism from Diggers Realm, and from the San Diego Minutemen guy, and from myself, was not quite what was needed to examine these claims fully. Nick Georgiou reported that even more extreme investigative journalistic actions were needed - like, actually going to the area and stuff. First, law enforcement officials went to the area.

“The public would be the first to know if anything was going on,” said Webb County Sheriff Martin Cuellar on Sunday afternoon. “Our deputies went out there and talked to ranch owners in the area and found nothing.”

Now obviously the Webb County sheriff's deputies can't be trusted, because they are under the obvious media blackout that has certainly been imposed on the area from the highest government sources. Bear in mind that it is exactly 666 miles from Laredo, Texas to Roswell, New Mexico (well, it is if you take this route and add a 12 mile detour).

But Georgiou also reported the following:

Late Saturday, no law enforcement activity was visible along Mines Road from I-35 to Las Penitas subdivision.

Yet Diggers Realm speculated that this might not be the case.

I believe there is a blackout because local law enforcement and the Border Patrol are waiting for backup and authorization from the Federal Government to make any moves. Something like this does have cross border and international impacts. Things like that generally are handled by the federal government, as that is the primary reason we have a federal government in the first place.

At a minimum, it appears that sufficient forces were present to keep Los Zetas on the ranches.

In an odd turn of events, Diggers Realm has not updated its website since July 24. One would think that Diggers Realm would continue to cover the situation. But the comments on this July 24 post are active. A couple of samples:

This story is a hoax! People on the ground there looked and nothing is going on! I've even spoken to the Garza family (the one's whose ranches were allegedly seized) and they say it is a hoax.

I just got off the phone with the PIO with Laredo's PD. He flatly denied that it being true. He even invited me down there to go out and see for myself that nothing is going on. That does not sound like a cover-up to me.

Please, tell all of the boards and contacts who are spreading this story that it is totally false.

Posted by: GPMinTexas on July 26, 2010 01:13 PM

But on the other hand:

Hey Digger, thanks for putting your neck out for this. It's funny to see Leftist operatives and their simplistic (and juvenile) calls for your head. I've read this thoroughly and it seems to me you've done nothing more than publish a potential incident and ask for confirmation.

If you were had, so too was the entire US media over the Gulf of Tonkin hoax and "I did not have sexual realtions with that woman, Miss Lewinssky".

However, Laredo is a sizable town. I'd find the local radio scanning enthusiast club and see what they heard on the dates in question. If genuine, the initial responses would have been in the clear although any present activity would no doubt be scrambled/encrypted.

Posted by: Joeofthemountain on July 26, 2010 10:14 AM

Oh, and the outside agitators might have another enemy on their hands - Texans:

coacoa Says:
July 25th, 2010 at 8:00 pm

Amazing that all these daily folk talk about going down to Texas and killing folk over a story on a website. There are a lot of us here on the border that will tell the readers here that talk is cheap. It is funny to me… tomorrow these same blow hards will be posting again on another topic… not one left home for Texas. I reckon that’s ok though… better you keep your insanity in your chair and away from us Texans. Blow your kiddie smoke and feel good about yourself… it is all you have....

coacoa Says:
July 25th, 2010 at 8:14 pm

That is part of my point, Jackie… If us border folk need you, we will call you… or you will see a huge battle on all the networks, mainstream and alternate. We have weapons, cell phones, and just as much love for country and family as anyone else in the world. The posters here need to chill, be reasonable. Trust me… if an invasion was in progress it will never be too late to “Get some”.

Oh, and by the way, the San Diego Minutemen site has a valid explanation for the lack of a Los Zetas presence - they had already left:


Jeff Schwilk, Founder SDMM, 760-525-1655

More Details about Armed Incursion near Laredo, TX, Friday, July 23
Information current as of 26 July 2010, 8:20 am PT.

SDMM received multiple tips and reports Sunday evening and Monday morning from border patrol, law enforcement, and civilian sources in the area indicating that the armed incursion that started on Minerales Annex Rd. in northwest of Laredo, TX near the Rio Grande sometime Friday ended Saturday evening when the Federal SWAT team went in to the area and found that the intruders had apparently escaped back across the river to Mexico.

Details are still sketchy, but a fairly major incident appears to have occurred and it started with a call to 911 or the Border Patrol by a rancher who lives on Minerales. The rancher saw and reported armed men on his property and then fled his ranch along with another rancher in the area.

Officially, BP, sheriffs, and Laredo PD would only say all weekend that they could neither confirm or deny the reports, which broke late Friday night starting with a phone call to a friend of mine from an on-duty Laredo Police officer who had just been briefed by his watch commander about the incident.

Off the record, numerous LE sources have confirmed to SDMM that something big was going on Saturday and that they were waiting for Federal response teams to arrive to deal with the armed men, reportedly Los Zetas Mexican paramilitary forces. The boots on the ground were very unhappy by the weekend media blackout and denials of this incident by officials at Border Patrol and local law enforcement.

These types of armed incursions in the Laredo area are happening far too often and sources there say they are frustrated by the lack of Federal response. One cop told us "we need the military on the border now".


UPDATE: 25 JULY, 8pm

A LE source near in the area said tonight (off the record) that the SWAT team arrived on scene Sat. night and that all or most of the bad guys had fled back across the river to Mexico. Another source has given similar information. They never closed down Mines Rd. so as not to attract unwanted attention. U.S. forces isolated Minerales Annex Rd. and kept the incident pretty low key there as they watched the area. Unless someone turned down Minerales, they wouldn't have seen anything. Unfortunately looks like no one ever tried to go to the scene on Saturday to get pictures or video. Huge opportunity lost.

Folks, source after source confirms that there was definitely a big incursion sometime Friday on Minerales Annex Rd. and that there was some kind of standoff for about 24 hours. Why the Feds and local LE continued to deny the incident throughout Sunday is unknown and frankly a little disturbing. There must be something about this story that the Obama Administration really doesn't want the public to know about. Or maybe its just the timing with the border/immigration debate simmering.

Some good reporters will push for official statements Monday. They will not let them keep this covered up. The public has a right to know about these armed incursions by possible deadly cartel members which are terrorizing ranchers on our side of the border.

More details should be released Monday. Thanks for pushing this story to your lists and getting a lot of Intel from people on the ground. I got a lot of great calls and emails over the past two days which helped confirm everything we were hearing from confidential LE sources. This worked out pretty good, despite the left wing internet smear attempt. Hopefully the story will be on MSM by tomorrow evening and reporters will keep demanding answers.

The one thing we heard repeatedly from the boots on the ground in the area is that the military is needed on the border now! They are angry and scared by the loss of control of the border there. LE is outgunned and they cannot handle the current threat along the border. What is Gov. Perry doing to protect the border towns from cartel invasions? Seems like not much. Definitely not enough.

Not #firstworldproblems, revisited - Kalahari and African online payment systems

Back on July 16, I wrote a post about the difficulties that Africans encounter in doing business on the Internet. In passing, I quoted from African blogger Hash, who noted:

I haven’t been able to use PayPal for two months. I just got profiled for extra security measures on Facebook. I can’t make certain purchases from Africa. Few organizations ship goods to me here.

Let’s be honest; living in Africa, or being African, gives you a certain unwelcome aroma in the eyes of global corporations. Frankly, we’re just not trustworthy....

This isn’t new to any of us who live, or spend a great deal of time, in Africa. You’re blacklisted, given extra screening, and generally treated like a second-rate human. You’re not trusted, and you’re not worth the time to figure out if you can be trusted.

Hash then said:

First, we in Africa come up with our own payment and business solutions that work here first, and then interact with other global systems.

I surfed around to find such business solutions, and ran across Kalahari. To my eye it looks like Amazon - electronics, books, CDs, DVDs, and heaters and electric blankets (remember it's winter down there).

I was curious about whether this South African-based company would ship to the rest of Africa, so I checked the Terms & Conditions:

Kalahari delivers to addresses both within and beyond the borders of South Africa, save for the following types of products which will only be delivered to addresses within the Republic of South Africa:

* Internationally produced music;
* Items that weigh +10kg;
* Electronic and Audiovisual merchandise;
* Adult Products;
* Jewellery, Sunglasses and Watches;
* Dala Paint; and
* Flowers and Hampers.

Incidentally, my reaction to this list shows my cultural lack of awareness, since to me Dala is a band, and hampers are things that you put dirty clothes in.

Back to Kalahari. How are the items delivered outside of South Africa?

# African countries - delivery to a post office in such African country only;
# All other countries - via airmail parcel post or via courier (the costs of courier delivery usually being very high and determined on an ad hoc basis).

Regarding payment, Kalahari supports several payment methods, including credit cards, bank deposits, electronic funds transfers, and four other methods:

Standard Bank Autopay.



PayJar Express Pay.

Now I have no idea whether Kalahari and the listed payment services are big or small, loved or hated (although they appear to respond to all complaints posted at, but at least it's there.

Sunday, July 25, 2010

Laredo is safe from Los Zetas - the paintball army is protecting it

While I was doing all sorts of stuff over the weekend, I apparently missed the story that the United States was invaded by a Mexican drug cartel. Here's one of the stories that reported this.

The bloodbath continues along our southern border and now word is coming in that Los Zetas, the highly trained killers formerly with the Gulf Cartel, have crossed into the United States and taken over at least two ranches in the Laredo, Texas area. I am receiving word that the owners of the ranches have evacuated without being harmed. The source is law enforcement in the area....

Founder of the San Diego Minutemen Jeff Schwilk tipped me off to this story and passes along the following information on the location. The ranches are said to be "near Mines Rd. and Minerales Annex Rd about 10 miles NW of I-35".

Meanwhile, the Laredo Morning Times denied the truth of the story. Or did they?

Local law enforcement was bombarded with calls from across the country Saturday asking about a report that the Zetas had taken over two ranches off Mines Road.

But officials with the Laredo Police Department, Webb County Sheriff’s Department and Border Patrol said they knew nothing about such an incident, while Erik Vasys, an FBI spokesman in San Antonio, said the agency does not comment on rumors.

The report, which spread like wildfire among blogs Saturday afternoon, appears to have initially been posted on a blog called Diggers Realm....

The blogger wrote that the story was confirmed by anonymous sources at LPD.

But Investigator Jose E. Baeza, LPD spokesman, said he had not heard anything about the incident. Also, an LPD sergeant, who was on duty as a watch commander Saturday afternoon, said she had not heard anything about it either.

By Saturday evening, DiggersRealm was asking about a media blackout:

I believe there is a blackout because local law enforcement and the Border Patrol are waiting for backup and authorization from the Federal Government to make any moves. Something like this does have cross border and international impacts. Things like that generally are handled by the federal government, as that is the primary reason we have a federal government in the first place.

In the comments to that post, crosspatch stated:

It should be easy enough to confirm by just driving out there. If there is a large law enforcement operation, you would likely be blocked from entering the area. Pretty easy and simple indication that there is a problem of some sort.

That was written on July 24. It's now late on July 25, and DiggersRealm has not posted anything since.

Time for me to take action. If you question my ability to report on this story all the way from Ontario, California, remember that the story was broken by someone from the San Diego Minutemen.

So I did what any enterprising blogger/journalist/crackpot would do. I Googled the area near Mines Rd & Minerales Annex Rd.

Only then was I able to breathe a sigh of relief. Because if you look at the map above, item B on the map, less then five miles from the area, is Coyote Paintball. (Its Facebook page is here.)

And I can tell you that if a drug cartel WERE to invade the area, they would meet the full wrath of the paintballers.

Texas paintballers.

I'm sorry, but no drug cartel can stand up to a bunch of Korn-loving dudes.


Fourcourt - you don't need a smartphone to have an app

I was poking around Foursquare's website this afternoon and noticed an apps page. Now normally I ignore apps pages because my LG env3 doesn't run all the apps that all the cool kids are using, but then I noticed an apps subcategory called websites.

The first website that I visited was Fourcourt, which was described as follows:

In front of a computer and want to know where your friends are? Load up fourcourt and find out.

While Foursquare shows you where your friends are, it only shows their activity in the last three hours, and it only shows them if they're in your area. So if my last check-in was in Montclair, California, I'm not going to see what my friends in San Francisco are doing.

Fourcourt (which supports authorization via your Foursquare account) changes that, allowing you to see your friends' last location in a grid, or as a stream of activity. For example, when I checked my stream of Foursquare friends on Fourcourt, I was able to see what these two well-known Foursquare users were up to.

Now I'm not going to Oracle OpenWorld this year (or, more accurately, there's a 99.9% chance that I won't be at Oracle OpenWorld this year), but perhaps I should visit Fourcourt at about the time of the blogger meetup. It should be interesting to see the crowd coming together.

(And yes, I did see a Comic-Con check-in in my stream.)

Friday, July 23, 2010

Oddly enough, this post on Printrak doesn't require an FCC disclosure

On my blog posts, and even on comments that I make in other areas, I intentionally satisfy (perhaps over-satisfy) the spirit of the "FCC disclosure" requirements. For example, if I'm talking about Motorola mobile phones, I will self-disclose that I was formerly an employee of Motorola.

Before I was an employee of Motorola, I was an employee of Printrak International Inc. (which was acquired by Motorola in late 2000). Despite the fact that I became, in Motorola insider terms, a "Motorolan," there were (and are) a number of references to "Printrak" that continue to appear in the biometrics industry. This is partially because we used "Printrak" as a product name (rather than a company name) for a while. Regardless, it was sometimes easier to find information about my business unit by searching for "Printrak" rather than searching for "Motorola."

But recently, when I performed searches for Printrak, I began getting some hits on Australian items. In a sense, this wasn't surprising, since there was a brief period of time where Printrak International Inc. had an Australian subsidiary. However, the hits that I was receiving had nothing to do with computer aided dispatch (we had a CAD customer in Australia) or anything like that.

I finally began digging, and found out that there is a Printrak that bears no relation to the Printrak that I know and love. In fact, it seems fairly certain that this entity conceived of the name "Printrak" entirely independently. Here's the biography of Printrak's founder, Paola Tanner:

Originally from South America Paola fell in love with an Aussie and moved to Australia where she founded Printrak. Paola is the supporting pillar of the company. She works alongside her team to ensure the company runs smoothly. Her focus is on keeping the team engaged and she gets closely involved with each client to develop a unique solution to suit their needs. Paola's philosophy of helping people individually to grow a brand and chain has been the roots of the Printrak business model, developing systems and customer service standards to ensure an efficient process all the way. Although she looks small, her little body holds a lot of passion and enthusiasm, reflected in everything she does She loves her sports and loves using skiing, bush walking or mountain bike riding as an excuse to go travelling with camping as her first preference.

Paola was a finalist for Telstra's Businesswomens awards in the young category.

To my knowledge, neither Paola nor Nick ever worked for, or had any contact with, Printrak International Inc.'s Australian subsidiary.

Yet in a sense, the whole point is mute, since this appears on the main web page for Printrak:

Of course, I'm not sure how this company would react. However, there wouldn't appear to be any confusion in the market, since a company that sells fuses is very much unlike a marketing company...or a company that sells automated fingerprint identification systems and computer aided dispatch systems.

Why there won't be a "one man" trailer for the Facebook movie

Whatever the FriendFeed community may think about FriendFeed itself these days, the ex-FriendFeeders (now mostly Facebook employees) are held in high regard. One of those ex=FriendFeeders, Benjamin Golub, was well-regarded even before he joined FriendFeed. (Golub is the author of fftogo, a site that allows people with dumbphones to access FriendFeed remotely.) And even after joining Facebook, Golub still provides service to FriendFeed users.

Sorry about some of the "Oops" errors you've all been seeing this weekend. We've got a rogue machine that I just took out of rotation

This resulted in heaps of praise from the community, including myself. And I was moved:

(Movie voice) The scene you wish you never saw. It threatened Silicon Valley. It was the server that went rogue. Only one man could stop the rogue server in its tracks. One man. One server. Who will win?

When I mentioned the "Little Tortilla Boy" parody of that movie voice, FriendFeed user Samuel "Otto" Wood reminded me that the comedian in question was Pablo Francisco.

The voice belonged to Don LaFontaine, who didn't only do the deep action voice, but several others. Here's a five-plus minute video on him.

Sadly, LaFontaine passed away a few years ago.

But if you wonder whether LaFontaine took offense at Pablo Francisco's parody, I doubt it. In fact, LaFontaine, Francisco, and Frank Caliendo appeared together in a "Three Tenors" parody called "The Three Trailers."

Thursday, July 22, 2010

(empo-tymshft) Perspective on television availability

In the course of an advertising post, the Escape Pod Agency blog made the following observation:

i was the first generation that had access to VCRs. that meant we could theoretically watch what we wanted. we were in fact limited to watching whatever Hollywood begrudgingly put on VHS or Betamax in 1979.

But at the time it seemed tremendous. Just like those cable channels with dozens of channels. Wow.

The power of parody in 140 characters or less

There are a host of Twitter parody accounts out there. For example, Mike Nayyar alerted FriendFeed users to the Twitter parody account @LeBronJamesEgo. Sample tweet from July 12:


As long as they're clearly parody accounts, Twitter won't yank 'em.

Wednesday, July 21, 2010

No, I'm not cornering the Zuckerberg market

I was still musing over #firstworldproblems (stay tuned for a future post on the topic of African purchasing, possibly next week) when I first saw the ReadWriteWeb post on Facebook credits. Basically, Chris Birk was claiming:

In all, international users comprise about 70% of Facebook's total user base, but the company has so far lacked a consistent mechanism for turning those more far-flung users into dollars. Banner advertising in most cases doesn't provide a worthwhile return on investment internationally. At the same time, bandwidth costs have forced the company to take a loss in hyper-growth countries like Indonesia, Malaysia and the Philippines.

Enter the power and mind-boggling reach of Facebook Credits. As Chris Morrison at Bnet and others have pointed out, the full-scale credits program will clearly lower the adoption barrier for millions of international users, who will be able to buy credits from a single point of purchase and spend them on games and apps across the network. Facebook earns a 30% cut of the revenue; there's going to be a lot of that.

My first thought was, "Yeah, right. People in the middle of India are going to spend time tending virtual farms. Or people in real war zones are going to play Mafia Wars." But I didn't really feel like writing a "this is B.S." post, so I went to bed.

Then Jake Kuramoto saw the post and thought it made "a ton of sense."

And I thought about the passage above, and thought that maybe the numbers might add up to something significant for Facebook after all.

Now I thought that PayPal was supposed to be the virtual universal currency, but that hasn't really happened. Is there a better chance that using Facebook credits (Zuckerbergs) for purchases might truly be universal?

But then if Facebook credits becomes significant, will we see Google credits? Microsoft credits? Apple credits? And will someone set up a currency exchange between these virtual currencies? Imagine how the blogosphere would erupt if the Jobs fell against the Gates one day...

Sorry, China, you're two expensive

Way back when Paul Revere and the Raiders were singing about the Cherokee people, the Japanese were the people who were stealing American jobs. Today, it's the Chinese. But not for long:

As costs have risen in China, long the world’s shop floor, it is slowly losing work to countries like Bangladesh, Vietnam and Cambodia — at least for cheaper, labor-intensive goods like casual clothes, toys and simple electronics that do not necessarily require literate workers and can tolerate unreliable transportation systems and electrical grids.

More here. The article focuses on Bangladesh, where a monthly wage of US$64/month is considered good.

Of course, some day the workers of Bangladesh will become too expensive for Wal-Mart (or whatever replaces Wal-Mart), and production will move to Mali or somewhere like that. But what are we going to do when we run out of impoverished countries where people are willing to work on the cheap?

I'm not the only badge geek

I forget when it was or what it was - it may have been an InterVarsity weekend that I attended during college - but at the end of the weekend, I was recognized for being the only person still wearing a name tag.

For most of my life (although I've fallen off in recent weeks), I've been a notorious badge geek, wearing my badge at all times. It's probably because I think that because I'm so terrible with names, everyone else will probably forget my name also.

But while reading a New York Times story on Politico, I discovered that the people at Politico are badge geeks also.

Politico management seems to be trying to soften some of its rough edges. Employees recently received an e-mail message informing them that they had been entered in a drawing to win an iPad. The catch: they would all be required to wear a name tag for a day in the spirit of fostering friendly workplace conversation.

Of course, if Politico had given away a iPhone4 without a bumper, friendly workplace conversation might have been interrupted occasionally.

On Kumera Corporation

It's important that I don't get stuck in some rut where my only business blog posts have to do with biometrics and Foursquare. (Hmm...fingerprint authenticated check-ins...) So I decided that I'd write about Kumera Corporation. Why Kumera? Because I have a Kumera mousepad. (Long story.)

Kumera is a worldwide corporation, headquartered in Finland with locations in Finland, Norway, Austria, and China. It describes itself as "a worldwide marketer of manufactured products and engineering services." It is organized into three divisions:

The Power Transmissions Group, established in 1945 and boasting the global presence outlined above.

The Technology portion of the business, which offers products such as copper and nickel smelters and copper concentrate steam dryers.

The Foundries portion, which produces steel and iron industrial castings.

Now you may understand these businesses, but I sure don't - I'm a software guy, not a hardware guy. So it's helpful to know that the Kumera Steam Dryer has its own website, (So if you want that domain name, you can't have it.)

The website even proclaims the benefits of the Kumera Steam Dryer, so if you're looking for a steam dryer, consider these:

Elimination of wear and clogging in the steam tubes, due to rotation of drum and steam tubes together

Low maintenance costs due to elimination of wear and long maintenance intervals

Increased production output due to high availability

Low weight of heaviest element to be moved during maintenance results savings in overhead crane investment and in steel structure

Minimum space requirement and clean operation

And these are only a few of the benefits. More here.

Now Kumera is obviously going to brag about itself, but things are better when others brag on you. And the Kumera Steam Dryer has received praise from the Australasian Institute of Mining and Metallurgy:

In primary copper smelters, the received copper concentrate and other materials contain a certain amount of moisture, ranging from six to 14 per cent. Moisture in wet concentrate has a negative effect on the performance of the smelting furnaces when it is fed directly to the furnaces, namely increasing the energy consumption and the off-gas flow.

There are several drying technologies available for drying copper concentrate, varying from direct heated rotary dryers and flash dryers to indirect heated steam dryers. Application of steam dryers has changed the drying process for copper smelters. Produced from a waste heat boiler, steam as heating medium enables plant-wide heat utilisation. Fossil fuel used from outside sources to remove water is no longer required and the combustion chamber is not required.

In addition special attention has been paid to overcome the known problems of pollution emissions, excessive wear, clogging and frequent maintenance. The Kumera steam dryer is featured with many advantages based on principal improvements in reducing tube element wear and increasing drying efficiency. Thus, it has been considered as the first choice for those smelters where steam is available.

While I realize that most of my readers don't have a lot of wet copper lying around, I hope that this post - a little out of the ordinary for me, I admit - has helped to keep you informed.

In the future, look for me to write a post on South American psychological centers.

Tuesday, July 20, 2010

The guru jumps...but where?

Last night I wrote a two-post series, in which the second post mentioned that the leading smartphone platform in the world is the Symbian platform. (And then I went on to note that dumbphones still outnumber smartphones by a longshot.) The post also notes that Symbian has not really taken off here in the United States.

Jake Kuramoto posted something today about the market for apps on smartphones, and in the course of a comment on the post he suggested that I check something out:

Re. Symbian, it's got issues. Check out the Symbian-Guru's rant and points on why he's quitting and going Android...

So I went to the post, which was written on July 1. (We'll return to that in a minute.)

As of today, I will no longer be updating, and will be purchasing an Android-powered smartphone....


I’ve personally owned 10+ different Symbian-powered smartphones, and have reviewed nearly every Symbian-powered smartphone that’s been released in the past 3 years or so. I’ve tried to use all of Nokia’s various products and services to the best of my ability, and I just can’t do it anymore.

I can’t continue to support a manufacturer who puts out such craptastic ‘flagships’ as the N97, and who expects me to use services that even most of Nokia’s own employees don’t use. I also can’t continue to support a mobile operating system platform that continually buries itself into oblivion by focusing on ‘openness’ while keeping a blind eye towards the obvious improvements that other open platforms have had for several iterations.

The Guru noted that one of the issues was apps:

What’s worse is that developers of popular online services are completely ignoring Symbian, putting it further and further behind the other platforms. To date, there is still not an official client for Dropbox, Pandora, Last.FM (don’t get me wrong, Mobbler is one of the reasons I’ve stuck with Symbian, but it’s still not official), Foursquare, Twitter, and a host of others. Yes, there are solutions to this on Symbian, but nearly every other platform has an *official* client from these popular services – showing that the developers see those platforms as something their users would actually be using.

But there's an interesting side story to this whole thing. As I mentioned, the Symbian Guru posted this on July 1, and he also stated which Android phone he was getting. new Nexus One should arrive tomorrow

A couple of weeks after the Symbian Guru (the Android Guru?) received his Nexus One phone, it was discontinued in the United States. Obviously there are other Android phones out there, but what does this mean? Mashable notes the significance:

This is the end of [Google's] grand experiment with an unlocked consumer handset in the U.S.

The more things change, the more they remain the same.