Really Cool Undercurrent

There’s an event going on today that I think has a lot of potential for the area…CoworkingKnoxville.  Here’s the idea:

We’re a group of free-lancers, Web programmers, self-employed professionals, self-unemployed entrepreneurs, and various independent types who meet once every week in West Knoxville.

Throw me into the self-unemployed entrepreneurs and web programmer categories.  I think there is a lot of talent in the area, and getting together to share ideas and resources is just what we need.  I also like the idea that this is only semi-organized.  If you’ve ever been to Panera in West Knoxville during regular office hours you know that people are already doing this, just not introducing themselves to one another.  But the same folks are there all the time.

If you’re local and interested, stop by.

It’s The Hard Knock Life? For Us?

Jigga What?“In my business, we like to say we’re from the hood. We’re not in the hood. By no means. Not even close.”

-Jay Z in “Water For Life”

I bet I catch some flack over this one, but it has to be said…

Over the last few weeks I’ve read several posts around the blogosphere about how tough times are financially right now. Gas prices are soaring, and…people are still complaining about traffic, so someone’s driving. The stock market is sort of…just steady. And I guess if you’re basing your assessment of your financial situation on how well your stock portfolio is doing, that’s not all bad. Interest rates are…near an all time low, though artificially. Unemployment is…5.1% (low). And the obesity rate of our country is reaching a level of crisis, so I guess there aren’t that many people going hungry.

Is this as bad as the Bush administration could screw things up? Is this all they’ve got?

Believe me, I’m a little frustrated too that times are so tough here in the land of milk and honey that we can only get milk and honey a few days a week. The other days we’re stuck with choosing either milk or honey.

Jigga's Problems

It’s gotten to the point that even the Jigga Man has problems. Based on what I’ve heard and the evidence presented in the graph above, he has at least 99 problems.

Then again, I don’t see any basic needs of survival listed as any of his problems either.

Seriously, I know there are people out there who are struggling just to get by. I know that. But what does “get by” entail here?  And how many bloggers are rummaging through virtual dumpsters to get a virtual meal via their high speed internet connections?

What are we actually struggling for? Bandwidth?

Are there problems? Hell yeah! Should we be concerned? Of course. But let’s keep things in perspective here. Having to sacrifice by doing things like cutting back to basic cable, making coffee at home and carrying a thermos, carpooling to work (with air conditioning), or not going to Disney this year are not the end of the world.

You hear it all the time, but it’s true. Go to some other country where people are really poor, and you’ll come back thankful for all of the luxuries the poorest of us enjoy here. When you see firsthand that “average” or “struggling” here is better than “wealthy” in many places, your perspective is changed forever.

It’s not just me, either. My grandfather, who grew up dirt poor during The Depression (capital letters, because that was for real) had this to say in his journal about his travels to New Guinea during World War II:

The only identity of men or women in their dress was their breast. I saw women with breast that hung down to their belt line. The men used pits to trap hogs and they would catch small pigs in them. I have seen women feeding babies and pigs also. They would feed the pigs until they could eat solid food or other things. They sure had a hard way of survival. I always thought I was poor and brought up the hard way. The only comparison I had up to that time was with people doing better than we were. When I saw a different comparison, I suddenly discovered that I had been rich all along and didn’t know it.

Not trying to trivialize anyone’s problems here, but please, let’s keep some perspective.  It’s not as though our women are breast feeding piglets to the point that they can eat solid foods so that we’ll one day (hopefully) be able to trap them, slaughter them, and have a meal.

By the way, if you are interested in helping someone who is trying to survive day to day have clean drinking water, please consider helping at PlayPumps.org.  You can also learn more about Jay Z’s travels to Africa to document their water issues at MTV.com.

Pandora Online Radio–It Rocks

It’s free. No really, it’s completely free.

I’ve been using Pandora internet radio for a couple of weeks now. I hesitated to mention it here because I was afraid that by “free” they meant “free to register” or “free for a little while.” Nope–it’s seriously free. It’s good too, and has one of the coolest interfaces I’ve seen on the web.

Not only do they allow you to set up your own stations that you can listen to from anywhere, but by telling Pandora what you like and dislike it also finds new music for you that it thinks you’ll dig. So far it’s been dead on for me as far as suggestions, and I’ve found some cool new music.

Pandora allows you to purchase music straight through Amazon or iTunes. That’s where they make their money, which I guess is how they are able to offer the service for free.

Blogging Yourself To Death

An NYT article about the dangers of blogging

Two weeks ago in North Lauderdale, Fla., funeral services were held for Russell Shaw, a prolific blogger on technology subjects who died at 60 of a heart attack. In December, another tech blogger, Marc Orchant, died at 50 of a massive coronary. A third, Om Malik, 41, survived a heart attack in December.

Other bloggers complain of weight loss or gain, sleep disorders, exhaustion and other maladies born of the nonstop strain of producing for a news and information cycle that is as always-on as the Internet.

But don’t these types of things happen to workaholics in any field?  I get the fact that if you fall behind one time with a big time blog someone else will be there to fill in the gap you left, and I suppose that’s stressful (for some people), but these people are the .0001%.  Most bloggers are doing it just for fun anyway.  The few pennies we get on AdSense here and there is more of a justification validation that we’re actually “working” while we do this than anything.  Of course, some of us find a way to turn our blogs into a one-stop-shop for aircraft sales.  Then we’re talking about some serious money stupidity.

I am a little worried about someone who posts as feverishly as this guy.

Airplanes For Sale–Lots of Them

I was brainstorming earlier tonight on how I could make this whole internet thing really pay off. Then it hit me–sell airplanes. Airplanes are a high dollar item, yet something that everyone would like to have. And even though I’ll only get a percentage of the purchase price, I figure that if I only sell 4 or 5 airplanes a day it should add up to a pretty handsome sum–enough to pay for my web hosting at least.

Then I realized there was a problem with this plan. Airplanes isn’t really a niche. And everything I’ve read says you have to have a niche. So I decided I’d only sell Cessna aircraft. I checked on eBay and there seemed to be a lot in stock, so I figured I’d just go ahead and offer myself a job selling Cessna’s for eBay.

So before you buy your next airplane Cessna, don’t forget to stop by here and check out my great deals in the sidebar! Here are a few of our most recent listings.

Microsoft to Buy Yahoo!?

From the WSJ:

The offer, $31 a share in cash and stock, is a 62% premium to Thursday’s closing price. Microsoft said Yahoo holders would be able to trade their shares for cash or 0.9509 Microsoft shares a piece, with no more than half of the overall purchase price paid in cash.

Seems too good for Yahoo! shareholders to pass up. What would it mean for us?

It could have a big affect on bloggers and site owners. Currently Google dominates the pay per click advertising market with AdSense. Microsoft getting control of Yahoo’s advertising network could mean a higher payout for publishers and maybe even some transparency in just what percentage of the cost of an ad a site owner is paid for a click. Currently, there is no market force to compel Google to pay out higher rates or to disclose their payout percentages.

Microsoft can actually afford to operate a division at a loss for a while in order to change the market. For proof, look no further than Internet Explorer and the X-Box.

Of course, Google could always counter with an even better offer. It’s a good time to hold Yahoo! stock, huh?

About Yesterday…

Newscoma has an interesting post this morning about the three big stories yesterday–the economy, Thompson exiting the Presidential race, and Heath Ledger’s death–and how they were covered by the media.

In rooting around the Internet yesterday, as I was a blogging fool for about five different websites, the most response I saw about all of the three stories was about the death of the young actor.

I have to agree that just about anything trumps Fred Thompson’s exit.  Unless you are a Tennessean, you probably didn’t even notice he was running, but I did go so far as to give it a tweet.

The economy?  I think that’s a huge story that warrants daily discussion and debate.  But it seems like unless the stock market goes up or down 5% in one day, or is at least projected to do so, no one seems to care.

And for the news industry, the other stories take the bottom fold because people want to know about the world of celebrity and watch from a safe distance. 

But why?  Why is it that the death of an actor is able to top just about any other story with such ease?  Why is so easy for us to obsess with the life of celebrities and so hard for us to concern ourselves with things that affect our own lives?  Why?

I’m not casting stones here–I do it too.

I had a boss once tell me in news that there are always three big stories. 1.) Kids, 2.) personal issues with money and 3.) the unknown/death.

I think that’s probably true.  But has it always been this way?  During the American Revolution, Civil War, and The Great Depression was this true?

SAFE Bill Makes Me Feel Vulnerable

I’ve read a lot of bellyaching today about the SAFE Act.  Mostly people are worried that free WiFi access will disappear from Starbucks, hotels, bars, bike shops, and airports.

But Ars Technica says:

the bill doesn’t require any active surveillance of user behavior, and it won’t affect your local coffee shop’s WiFi, despite what you may have read.

I think this bill is bad, but not just because I’m worried that free WiFi is going away.   I think it’s bad because it is, well, bad.  If strictly enforced, as some fear it will be, it is invasive.  If not strictly enforced, it is worthless.  Why?  Because it doesn’t actually fix anything.

Proponents of the bill say that it is an effort to curb child pornography.  What a noble cause.  The problem is, that this doesn’t actually address that problem.  It only increases the responsibility of providers to report this activity and increases the penalty on them for not reporting it.  I see this all too often at my job, where this type of thing is called a “countermeasure”.  Very telling.  It doesn’t move towards a solution to a problem, only a reaction to it.

No, this bill doesn’t mention coffee shops and restaurants.  But it doesn’t give them exemption either.  One of the sponsors says the intent of the bill is not to punish mom and pop shops offering WiFi. 

It is NOT the intent of the SAFE Act to target Wi-Fi providers but rather the entities that provide the internet to those conduits. 

Then I’m confused.  Why wasn’t it written clearly enough to express its intent?  And if passed into law, who will decide how should be applied?  My guess is the courts–yet another opportunity for judges to legislate from the bench.

By the way, only two members of the House voted against this Bill.  Guess who was one of them.

Your Computer Will Get Thinner–Guaranteed

I’ve been saying for quite a while, at least 5 years, that we aren’t far away from a time when your desktop computer will be little more than a browser, with all of your applications and data stored server side–somewhere out there.  The day may be closer than you think according to the Wall Street Journal.

Google is preparing a service that would let users store on its computers essentially all of the files they might keep on their personal-computer hard drives — such as word-processing documents, digital music, video clips and images, say people familiar with the matter. The service could let users access their files via the Internet from different computers and mobile devices when they sign on with a password, and share them online with friends. It could be released as early as a few months from now, one of the people said.

I think this is a good and bad thing.  Good because it will open up the ability to store and share information between individuals.  Bad in that Google is the entity doing it.  As far as I can imagine, no competitor has both the resources and the power to do it.  Microsoft?  Maybe, but they are going in so many directions and have their fingerss in a lot of pies.  Google is web focused.

Isn’t This Rich?

And by rich I mean the lobbies that are successful in getting governors to propose prison time and heavy fines for online gamblers and poker players in the same bill that makes the way for licensing for casinos.

Patrick’s casino legislation, which has been introduced at the State House but is not expected to get a hearing until next year, would license three casinos in three regions of the state. Casino developers would bid on the licenses, and Patrick expects they would attract 10-year licensing fees of $200 million to $300 million for each casino.

Oh, never mind. It’s the State that will get rich. My bad. Don’t you wish you could use the legal system to set up a monopoly for yourself and your buddies?

I don’t.

Thanks to Reason for pointing this one out.