Truthers and Galileo

This is funny even though it goes into a topic I find no humor in, 9/11 Truthers.

The History Channel ran a program tonight called 9/11 Conspiracy: Fact or Fiction. The concept is that, as was the case with Pearl Harbor and the assassination of President Kennedy, conspiracy theories become part of the historical record, no matter how absurd they are. So THC, my favorite cable channel, looks into it and features a number of vocal Truthers in the process.

In the program, which just finished a few minutes ago, a character named Alex Jones (who claims to be a filmmaker and radio talk show host (that I have never heard of) tells the interviewer that Galileo was persecuted in his time for proclaiming that the world was round and not flat… and that he himself is a modern day Galileo.

This would be a good analogy were it not for the inconvenient fact that Galileo was accused of heresy for suggesting the Earth moved around the Sun and not the other way around. In Galileo’s time it was widely acknowledged that the world was indeed round.

Ironically, in a tangent but an interesting one at that, it was Islamic astronomers who were among the first to calculate the circumference of the Earth, developing spherical trigonometry in the process, and plot  the movement of the known planets at the time, in the 9th century. I say ironic because the world would indeed be a better place if Islamic fundamentalists again pursued mathematics and the sciences for the betterment of mankind instead of our destruction.

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Integrated Media For Kids

I am continually impressed at how youth oriented entertainment integrates a great diversity of media types and strategies with great success.

By now you have likely read or heard about the blowout success that Disney’s High School Musical 2 has had in recent days. Integrating promotional merchandising and retail tie-ins (300 products and Wal-Mart and Target distribution) is pretty standard stuff these days, but the Disney sponsored website and unoffical Myspace pages are impressive, as is the cast websites (Text ASHLEY to 73804 for Official Ringtones!). Even the wikipedia page is impressive. HSM was also the first full length movie sold on iTunes (recall that Jobs is on Disney’s Board of Directors). Radio Disney,, Disney DVD’s website, and countless international Disney websites feature the money maker made for TV movie.

I guess youth oriented entertianment doesn’t have to be urban and "edgy" after all… just well marketed.

A couple of weeks ago I was talking with Dan Gisolfi from IBM about stuff in general and we ended up talking about Webkinz, which I really did not have any awareness of. Basically, kids buy stuffed animals in retail shops to get a token which gets them access to an online virtual world for children where they can earn KinzCash and buy things for their new pets. The more attention you provide to your online pet, the happier it is. Since then I have talked with several other parents and they all relay how their pre-teen children are going crazy for this site.

Soon after my introduction to Webkinz I saw the news that Disney had acquired Club Penguin, the number 2 online virtual world for children. I am not sure what the analog is to the usual array of topics I cover other than to suggest there is something highly really compelling about interactive and engaging online marketing that draws you into an activity instead of simply getting you to click on a link. Entertainment companies have nailed this, the youth oriented brands leading the way.

The Webkinz site in particular taps into a powerful technique that successful social networking sites also exploit, the desire for recognition as a result of interaction. In Webkinz’s case the payback in a happy pet, in Facebook or Myspace the recognition comes from people adding you as their friend or watching your feed.

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Technorati and PodTech Lose Their CEO’s

Dave Sifry is stepping out of the CEO role at Technorati and John Furrier is stepping down at PodTech.

I don’t have any insightful comments about CEO’ship at either company, or really anything about the current status of either company. My comments are, perhaps, unique because I count both of these men as my friends, Dave going back to LinuxCare where my fund was, in a manner of speaking, an investor in the company (it’s a long story) and John from the earliest days of PodTech when it was just John and he was working out of Socialtext’s offices in Palo Alto.

Dave and John are part of a rare breed of Silicon Valley entrepreneurs who successfully identify an emerging sector before almost everyone else, are able to convince an early group of like minded and technically gifted people to join them, and then raise money around a business and not just a cool technology. If it wasn’t for people like this, we wouldn’t be here today.

Through the changes that I’ve made in my own career, Dave and John were both supportive and always willing to help and I appreciated that immensely. In this business you make a lot of acquintances and a few friends… I’ve always valued the latter disproportionately.

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UPDATE: I have written several followup posts detailing my Clear experience.

I coughed up $99 and joined Clear… retinal scanning…. cool. Clear security lanes will be available at SFO in September, already operating at San Jose Mineta.

Travelers who join the Clear Registered Traveler program are pre-screened for security and provided with a biometric card which allows them to pass through security faster, with more predictability and less hassle. Take the first step toward stress free travel and get your fast pass today.

UPDATE: I did the second half of the process today, getting my identification verified and my fingerprints and retinal scan done. All-in-all a pretty painless process but I did have to go to SFO and that’s always a PITA. The kiosk this is done with is pretty slick, it scanned in my passport and drivers license, then did my fingerprints and scored each one for, I guess, thoroughness of the scan, and then did two retinal scans (both eyes). It was a 10 minute process from start to finish. BTW, the SFO Clear lanes are opening on Sept. 6.

BTW, I saw on the list of upcoming airports that LGA is included.

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Blue Angels Still Welcome in SF

A silly measure by SF Supervisor Chris Daly to call for an end to the Blue Angels appearance at Fleet Week (a San Francisco tradition bigger than rice-a-roni) was rejected by a committee.

The committee voted 2-1 to table the measure, authored by Supervisor Chris Daly, effectively killing it. But Daly, who cited public safety and noise concerns as his reasons for proposing the ban, promised to continue pushing it.

Here’s the flaw in Daly’s argument:

Since 2000 there have been 1,200 injuries and 7 deaths in San Francisco bus accidents (deaths and injuries in San Francisco due to the Blue Angels over the same period, zero)… does that mean we should ban buses from San Francisco streets? If Daly is concerned about public safety then surely he would consider the merits of such a measure.

Why can’t Daly just come out and admit his true motives, he doesn’t want anything related to the U.S. military in San Francisco? This is the same Board of Supervisors that passed a measure rejecting the permanent berthing of the decommissioned battleship USS Iowa in San Francisco, banned ROTC in public schools, and wanted to ban military recruiters (through a non-binding voter proposition sponsored by activist groups on the last ballot) only to back down when they learned the Federal government really could, and would, shut off federal funding for SF’s public schools as a result.

In Chris Daly’s own words:

"I am sad to say I am not proud of the history of the United States of America since the 1940’s."

You mean things like defeating the spread of totalitarian communism and fascism, creating an economy that outperforms the rest of the world and creates jobs, wealth and security for Americans, and a country that remains a beacon of hope and opportunity for millions of people who don’t have it in their own country? Chris, 60+ years is a lot of history to write off in one sentence. The only thing Chris Daly should not be proud of is his own conduct on the Board, which has resulted in official censure and criticism from his fellow supervisors and increasingly, national embarrassment.

San Francisco’s city government hates the military, Supervisor Geraldo Sandoval is on record for suggesting that it should be eliminated altogether. Through every action the Board of Dupes takes they make their position clear, that this Blue Angels measure was defeated is what is surprising, not that it was presented in the first place. Of course, the Board also demonstrates time and again that ideology only really wins when it doesn’t get in the way of dollars being spent in the City, and the fact remains that the Blue Angels are a big draw during Fleet Week and that means money being spent in shops, hotels, and restaurants.


Dollar Rising

The U.S. dollar is surging against foreign currencies, a consequence of the spreading credit crisis that started in U.S. subprime fixed income securities. As this article points out, the irony is that when times are good the dollar weakens and when seas get rough foreign investors come back in to the safe harbor that U.S. markets are.

But the main reason why investors are renewing their relationship with the dollar has more to do with a lack of places to hide during the volatility that has given financial markets their worst shakeup in about five years. That’s right: For all their concern about the U.S. dollar when times are good, investors adopt a far different view when times get tough and risk-taking no longer looks like a moneymaking activity.

Widget Weirdness

My Delicious widget (over there —->) is acting strangely. In Firefox it has not updated to reflect my current delicious bookmarks in a couple of weeks, but in Safari I get a couple of the newer bookmarks but not all of them.

This is one aspect of widgets that troubles me, there is little in the way of administrative interface that helps you figure out what is going on when something doesn’t work right.