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Monday, June 27 2011

Television Branding Suggestion

With WTVW losing its FOX affiliation this week, I humbly submit two branding concepts sure to increase viewership.:

NewsWatch7 Turn to 7

"Turn To 7" could even be supplemented with awesome jingles like this: Turn to 4

Nevermind that the two concepts are both based on the logo of two canceled CBS soap operas.

Tuesday, June 14 2011

Center for Innovation Engineering @UE

The University of Evansville yesterday announced they would create a Center for Innovation Engineering in time for the upcoming school year.

University of Evansville

“The new center will intensify the practical nature of its programs, and this Kern Family Foundation-supported project will give UE engineering students an extra edge to compete in our global environment.”

From UE press release.

This puts Evansville at the crest of what seems to be a trend of entrepreneurial engineers. Related Post: Review of book "The Entrepreneurial Engineer"

I imply that it is a trend because of reports from the mainstream media. CNN published an editorial from one student who received a $100,000 fellowship to leave college and start his own business. Dale J. Stephens was one of twenty such dropout-entrepreneurs who received such seed money.

The Miami Herald reported last month that young entrepreneurs see their own businesses as their best chance to make at least a little bit of money in a portion of the country were unemployment is 13 and a half percent.

Coming back to Evansville, one of the great things about a degree in engineering is that, upon graduation, you have the skill set to be able to create any number of products that people might find useful. The problem for many engineers is that they have no idea how to go about rendering those services to potential clients. I personally see market openings in which I could have attempted to built a business. Many of my fellow graduates will probably begin to move the same way when they don't find a "job" by the end of the summer.

On another note, the fact that the College of Engineering would rather hire their own entrepreneur rather than depend on the School of Business just a hundred yards away says at least a little something. Schools of Business have been foundering in the economic climate for various reasons. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, graduates with degrees in finance, management, and marketing all face below-average job outlooks over the next 1-3 years. Schools of Business nationwide are facing questions on what needs to change in curricula to help their students in a "new economy." At Evansville, that means that classes in entrepreneurship are being dropped from the requirements for some degrees.

It is also important to note the importance of the Kern Foundation. The foundation is based in Wisconsin, run by the family who created Generac corporation. Evansville is one of 18 colleges to receive the grant, including some well-known names in the field (e.g. Illinois Institute of Technology, Villanova, Boston University). I see every reason to think this is another good decision by the CECS.

Monday, June 13 2011

CNN Debate Notes

John King: One of the worst debate moderators I've seen this decade. Partially to be blamed on the format with seven candidates competing to get the most face time in the two hour block. His frequent stumbles on questions frustrated me.

Debate Format: There were at least 10 different people who asked questions. That didn't make the job any easier for King. The number of commercial breaks seemed over-the-top, and the crowd in attendance should have been prohibited from distracting, time-consuming applause. The "this or that" questions also chewed time.

Ron Paul: As abrasive as ever, but he seemed to be the only candidate who gave a straight answer to every question.

Michelle Bachmann: Didn't always seem comfortable, but generally made a good impression on those who were not familiar with her.

Newt Gingrich: As I wrote on Twitter during the debate, Gingrich actually made a few good points. In particular, his response on the immigration question, that some middle-of-the road solution needs to be found. On the other hand, he probably made a gaffe when talking about "loyalty tests" for federal employees.

Tim Pawlenty: Pawlenty's biggest moment in the debate was unfortunately a loaded question. King asked which vice presidential candidate from 2008 was stronger: Biden or Palin. He went off on a rant of how Joe Biden was "always wrong", whatever that meant. His second biggest moment was the opportunity to lambaste former Gov. Mitt Romney on "Oh-Romney-Care." Pawlenty declined, backing away from his comments.

Mitt Romney: Romney had a pretty good night. There were no standout shining moments or gaffes. The other candidates mostly left him alone.

Rick Santorum: Another pretty boring performance.

Herman Cain: Seems to have cemented himself to sit in the 3% range with Ron Paul with today's performance. With his complete lack of political experience, he'd have to be twice as good as the other candidates to have a chance, and he's showing mediocrity and a few gaffes. His comments on Sharia law were just weird.

Sunday, June 12 2011

Evansville Freedom Festival presented by Hadi Shrinersfest

Flashback: Late Summer 2008. The Evansville Freedom Festival board has an upheaval and decides to split in two. The Freedom Festival featuring Thunder on the Ohio will become the Freedom Festival in mid-June and Thunder on the Ohio in August.

Flashback: Summer 2009. The Evansville Freedom Festival, presented by the Growth Alliance for Greater Evansville (GAGE), flops. According to reports in local media, the Growth Alliance lost $300,000 on the festival. Thunder on the Ohio takes place to a smaller than average crowd.

Flashback: Summer 2010: The Evansville Freedom Festival, again presented by GAGE is reduced to a fireworks show on July 4. Thunder on the Ohio is canceled because the board has insufficient money to bring in the "Unlimited Hydroplane" boats which were a fixture in Evansville for 30 years.

Flashback: Fall 2010: The mayor and the Hadi Shrine jointly announce that the Shiners will be taking over planning for the 2011 Freedom Festival, and that the US Navy's Blue Angels will be a part of the show for the first time in 7 years.

Present: The Blue Angels ended up canceling last-minute due to internal problems, but the festival went on. The price dropped 100% from 2009, and the crowd seems to have gone up by 100%. The thing is, there is actually less to do than there was in '09. GAGE brought in a major amusement ride company which operated noon to midnight. That space is occupied this year by the Budweiser Clydesdales, each horse in an individual cage about 10 ft by 10 ft. GAGE had river races, a dog talent show, a BBQ competition, a queen contest, and major concerts (Billy Currington, the Kevin Bacon Band).

All of that: gone. This year's Shrinerfest had smaller regional entertainers from Indianapolis and Nashville. Mike Harvey, a syndicated radio disc jockey appeared to be the headlining entertainment.

But! There were several hundred more people at Mike Harvey's "sock hop" than were there for Billy Currington two years ago!

Ladies and gentlemen, the power of free. If my memory serves me, the best tickets for Currington were $125. The cheapest tickets were $15. The Mike Harvey appearance was underwritten by a Bierstube with a $5 cover, but there was no admission charged if you weren't inside the fenced-off beer garden.

What it boils down to is the fact that the Shriners understand the community better than GAGE did. Even though the attractions are of a lesser grade than the GAGE festival had, the crowds are better despite similar weather. There's no way the Shrine will lose $300,000 this year.

Monday, June 6 2011

Development in the Bulletin Board space

There are 32 bulletin boards listed in the Wikipedia article Comparison of Internet forum software (PHP). Only ten of them have had any kind of a release in 2011 so far. Of those ten, only XenForo and BeehiveForum have made feature releases this year.

To me, this is evidence that the products are mature. As "revolutionary" as XenForo was supposed to be, it seems to be running less than a thousand sites. The other commercial developers have made sure to copy the unique features for their upcoming releases (IPB 3.2 and vBulletin 4.1). But even though the effects of competition are meaning new features, I don't see many users clamoring for those features. Some, sure, but not even a major fraction.

Does the relative stagnation mean the products will slowly disappear? I suspect that many of the smaller free solutions will go away. The same for many of the smaller paid solutions. This is more of an effect of fewer individuals starting up their own sites to satisfy their egos.

Sunday, June 5 2011

The Politics of Rapture

From Public Policy Polling:

Last week, PPP released numbers showing the political dimensions of the Rapture. GOP primary voters are slightly more likely than the overall public to say the Rapture will occur in their lifetimes (18% versus 11%) and that they personally will be taken up to Heaven if it does (72% versus 66%). Those who think they will not or who are not sure if they will be Raptured favor Romney at 23%, with most of the rest in the low double digits, and the results for those who do think they will be Raptured closely mirror the toplines.

Can I sit in on the meeting where they decide to ask voters who their favored candidate is if the Rapture occurs sometime between 2013 and 2017? And is it a direct relationship that a majority of those polled think Sarah Palin would be Raptured, and would therefore not want her to be President during the Rapture?

More Rapture Polls, Please!

Source

Tuesday, May 31 2011

May: A turbulent month in review

I had eight of those "Week in Review" posts planned for the first week of the month. Things got in the way. I'll just post a simple timeline:

May 4: Take possession of an apartment across town. Begin to move in.
May 6: Death in the family. My mother was lost to cancer more than five years after the initial diagnosis.
May 7: College Graduation
May 7: Finish moving my stuff
May 8: Mother's Day.
May 10: Mom's visitation
May 11: Memorial services and burial
May 13: Actually move into new apartment.
May 16: Start a full-time job at Ciholas.

I'm only beginning to get settled into new habits. Workin' 9-5, getting used to running a household, and new familial roles all in one month. Its been an adventure, and I'm sure the adventure won't cease any time soon.

Monday, May 2 2011

Final Week: Day 2

Second in a series

There are six days until I graduate college and cease formal education. Four years at UE, and there's a lot I want to say. And above all, a lot of people who have been important along the way. The focus is very sharply on people whom I would have been unlikely to meet away from UE.

Brandon Gaudin

For the second day in a row, I salute a person who has left Evansville to work in a larger city. Brandon Gaudin was the manager at WUEV 91.5 for a shade less than two years.

Gaudin is the kind of professional I wish every professional would imitate, always organized and on time.

The reason he gets a note here is because he was the guy who gave me my first shot broadcasting a live sporting event: softball vs. Southern Illinois. It was in this manner that I began to appreciate diamond sports. I mean really appreciate them.

But it was someone else who I really wanted to imitate: one Dan Egierski. The dude has been a part of Evansville sports since the 80s, broadcasting almost every variety of sport in Evansville. Egierski has a very unique style, one I felt was worth immitating. Did I get there? I don't think so, but the experience was priceless.

Gaudin now works for Butler University, and was able to broadcast the NCAA Men's Basketball Tournament Championship game on 1070 the Fan in Indianapolis. Egierski works at ESPN 106.7.

Just barely got today's entry in under the daily time limit ... will try to do better tomorrow!

Sunday, May 1 2011

Final Week: Day 1

First in a series

There are seven days until I graduate college and cease formal education. Four years at UE, and there's a lot I want to say. And above all, a lot of people who have been important along the way. The focus is very sharply on people whom I would have been unlikely to meet away from UE.

Brian Erickson, Part 1

Two years ago, 104 weeks ago, a hundred or more people, mostly in their 20s, gathered for a the fourth Sunday of Easter at the campus chapel. And the sermon began very similar to the above. Two years ago it was the chaplain, Brian Erickson who was preaching for the last time. His sermon settled in with reminiscing about the men of faith who had influenced him. He said that he wasn't one to remember much detail from the sermons they preached. He remembered the big ideas, studied the Gospels, and eventually ended up with the title "Reverend."

I'm not too interested in all of that, though. The reason Erickson was popular among students didn't have a lot to do with the fact that he knew the Gospels. It was because he was (and probably remains) witty and personable. He was also a musician who liked to provide music during the services. At some point his morning, this song popped into my head, and I eventually realized the bizarre syncrhonicity.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=o5Gb...

It was slid in at the end of the "farewell" service two years ago.

Erickson and his wife, Mollie, have since moved to Alabaster, Alabama. Their church, Alabaster First United Methodist, has been providing assistance to displaced Alabamans. I hadn't realized until a few minutes ago how close they were to Birmingham.

Thursday, April 28 2011

James Spann: Superhero in Suspenders

James Spann James Spann has had a few marathons in his life. Yesterday was one of them. As chief meteorologist for ABC33/40 in Birmingham/Tuscaloosa, he spent eight consecutive hours in front of a green screen yesterday, trying to prevent loss of life as numerous tornadoes ripped across his portion of Alabama.

The network of skycams he pushed the station to purchase provided live video of at least two tornadoes on the ground in Tuscaloosa and Cullman.

We can only guess at how much he helped with more than a hundred already confirmed killed in Alabama as the mile-wide twisters moved across multiple densely populated areas, affecting the homes and businesses of hundreds of thousands. If the fatality rate is less than 1%, then everyone involved, not just James Spann, should feel like they accomplished their goal.

James Spann is to Central Alabama what Batman is to Gotham City

(Screen grab at the top was from an earlier event)

Monday, March 28 2011

A Musical Final Four

CBS and Turner Sports this year commissioned a revision of their iconic theme music which has been used for their NCAA tournament broadcasts since 1993. Initially I thought it was only a reorchestration of the theme, but they actually hired a new composer and the new theme has multiple cues for use going into break.

The original 1993 version was interesting to listen to in a full mix, but it had a very intense 90s sound to it: the theme was obviously synthesized. I can still hear Pat O'Brien talking over this theme as he introduced a game between Louisville and Kentucky, as the Eye Device opened up into Rupp Arena. The heavy dose of electric bass and staccato notes in the horn section makes me like this version. I absolutely loved that logo with the Eye Device falling through a netting.CBS NCAA Logo 1993 The fact that the instrumentation (such as it was) varied from moment to moment, giving a possibility to play a few different styles of cuts going to break, and good extended versions as parts of the introduction, as Pat O'Brien did.

1993 was therefore the year that CBS debuted its five note signature which so many now identify with the NCAA tournament.

CBS previously revamped the music in 2004. The version that they created that year was uptempo but repetitive. There was a 4 minute mix of that theme, but it was essentially a loop of about 17 seconds of music over and over, with no real variation in the instruments. The repetitive nature of the theme made me a little bit glad when CBS joined the trend of using mundane rock songs as bumpers from time to time. The composer seems to have added a second voice to the music, as the theme opens with the traditional five note signature. Then you hear low brass (probably a trombone) respond with its own five notes. Every time the main signature is played, the trombone is not more than two beats behind. I feel the composer was trying to bring out the nature of basketball of point and counterpoint as two teams go up and down the court, but he did not consider allowing for variations.

The 2004 update did have some good features though. It was primarily recorded with real instruments (I think I still hear a synthesizer line). The addition of a drum beat was a nice sonic addition. The overall tempo of the piece was appropriate, although a couple of well-placed staccato notes could have provided the variation I was longing for. Overall, I felt this theme was tired by the middle of this season, no doubt due to CBS using the same 4 seconds going into every break.

The 2011 refresh does a lot of what I felt was missing in the 2004 version. The 2011 version opens with the 5 note signature in a powerful form, the response somewhat more weakly, the first part again, and then a triumphant response. The next part sees orchestration gets kicked up a notch for the most virulent version of the 5-note signature to date. For about 10 seconds, it becomes reminiscent of the 2004 update with the trombone line, but a drum interlude has been replaced by a rock guitar (could be a steel guitar, but I'm not certain). Again, the 2004 combined signature/response appears, and the theme ends with an excellent build-up featuring electric guitar, a few well placed trombone notes, and the powerful signature that CBS has been playing extensively over the last two weekends.

To make the "final four" truly four, I will also submit the current ESPN college basketball theme. This theme has a neat signature as well, but it hasn't been through iterations and is only 5 or so years old. The ESPN may be a little too complicated to be memorable, with what appears to me to be a nine note signature.

I give the following grades to the themes presented here:
1993 CBS theme: A (groundbreaking)
2004 CBS theme: C (bastard stepchild)
2011 CBS theme: A- (definitely an improvement; hopefully CBS uses it well)
ESPN CBB theme: B (respectable, but not at the top of its class)

Sunday, March 27 2011

Post to SlideShare

I gave a presentation yesterday at a small academic conference. It seems appropriate to post the slides for the consumption of others who were not at the conference. There's nothing ground-breaking here, and indeed there was more research involved than original work. None of that means that it is not appropriate to share! http://www.slideshare.net/AJellyDon...

Saturday, March 26 2011

Some Serious Reading

I started off at WISH-TV's web site for some info on the weather up their way (Indianapolis). I ended up at Deanna Dewberry's blog. She is having her third bout with breast cancer, and one of the stories she related was especially touching.

http://blogs.wishtv.com/2010/12/23/...

She tells the story of a very young woman who is in foster care and battling a severe form of cancer and she met at her oncologist's office. An update in February revealed that the girl was not doing well.

This reminds me of a woman who I met at a different oncologist's office in Indianapolis now nearly six years ago. This lady had esophageal cancer, and had been told it was inoperable. She was frail looking, and said she was unable to eat because of the pain. She was going to begin a new round of chemotherapy that day. I had been reading a magazine article about Micheal Phelps before she began to chat with us. There was no way I could stop listening to her and read Sports Illustrated.

I heard a talk today from Dr. Stephen C. Jacobson of Indiana University. Much of his research is related in some way to diagnosing cancer. I will forever be supportive of research like his. Today also happens to be the day when Relay for Life is held.

The fact that I stumbled on Deanna's very well-written blog on that same day seems more than serendipitous.

Sunday, February 20 2011

Thomas Troeger, hymnodist

This is a man who I have only recently Googled, and found that he is an ordained minister in two different denominations (Presbyterian and Episcopalian). He also wrote a number of hymns, one of which has appeared twice in the last 52 weeks.

The first stanza is as such:

Praise the source of faith and learning, who has sparked and stoked the mind
With a passion for discerning how the world has been designed
Let the sense of wonder flowing from the wonders we survey
Keep our faith forever growing and renew our need to pray

It is surely one of the best hymn texts of the 20th century. It may have become famous during the National Prayer Breakfast in 2007. It is also notable for being printed in the United Methodist Church's The Faith We Sing - on page 4, no less. The version in TFWS is with the tune HYFRYDOL, but I've also heard it performed to VIENNA and HYMN TO JOY.

I've been on a bit of a classical music binge recently, so you'll forgive me bringing up Beethoven (who wrote the basis for HYMN TO JOY in his 9th symphony) and Joseph Haydn (composer of VIENNA) on the blog. This post is supposed to be more about the really nice sentiments brought forth by Troeger in his hymn. There are more nice sentiments to be found if your read the text for the other four verses.

Saturday, January 22 2011

Technology Builds on Itself

The oscilloscope is really the root of many other inventions in electronics. Bill Hewlett and Dave Packard started their electronics empire by building oscilloscopes in a garage south of San Fransisco.

What brought this up? I looked at Digg this morning, and found one of the most dugg items was an article from Newsweek - an interview with Steve Jobs from their archives. He credited Hewlett and Packard with inspiring Apple, and makes several comparisons between himself and Woz and the pair who preceded them 40 years earlier. HP Scope - 1956

But back to that oscilloscope. This 1956 model looks quite antique compared to the digital scopes that I use today. But imagine debugging a serial bus (RS232) without a scope. Imagine Major Armstrong creating FM without it. Imagine AMPS, dAMPS, or GSM being invented without an oscilloscope. Imagine building electronic medical monitors without looking at the signals. Hewlett-Packard was not the first company to manufacture an Oscilloscope. But they provided much equipment that made everything that has happened in Silicon Valley over the last fifty years. The first three that come to mind are scopes, hand-held calculators, and printers and plotters.

Would there have been an Apple without an HP? It sounds like Steve Jobs feels like there would not have been one - not just because of the technology, but because of the entrepreneurial strategy taken by Hewlett and Packard.

Friday, January 14 2011

phpBB donates €5000 to Sensio Labs

I woke up this morning and checked Twitter.

skoop wait. what? *gasp* *faints* #phpBB just donated a whopping 5000 euro towards the #Symfony2 donation drive! These guys ROCK!

(link to tweet)

I'm glad Stefan and Fabien posted about this on Twitter and on their blog which describes the fundraiser (see the comments).

This isn't the first donation that phpBB has made to such an organization, but it may be the first one you've heard of - only because this one was publicized by the recipients of the donation. phpBB has traditionally reciprocated well to the organizations which provide services to it (Symfony, OSUOSL, and others).

Thursday, January 13 2011

Athiest Ethics Minors

Tonight's blog entry is sponsored by the following Facebook status. (Name removed because I did not ask the permission of the poster)

>Why is my Christian Ethics course required for an Ethics Minor?

(The poster went on to comment that that she mostly objected to the religious portion of the course)

There's two reasons why classes become required: a) Some authority figure says that a certain program should include a class on a certain topic (i.e. an accrediting agency, religious leader, the dean) b) The department decides that such a class should be included within a program.

Regarding (b), there are numerous reasons why the department would make a decision to require a certain class. Among them:

  • Attempting to get the maximum utilization out of an instructor. Consider this "Christian Ethics" class. If there's maybe 12 people who are required to take this class as a part of their degree program, perhaps a religious studies degree, and there's usually only three or four people who have an Ethics minor declared, then one instructor can knock kill the proverbial two birds with one proverbial stone. This is a typical situation at a small-er University like mine.
  • Competition between Department A and Department B. It is relatively common to see two departments with overlapping interests, Math and Physics for example, to offer competing classes. "Calculus for Physicists" would be an example here.

As far as the actual answer to the question, do some research. What agency accredits your department? When did the requirement come into effect? Who was on the faculty and who was chair at that time?

And, as a final comment, I urge college seekers to select a major before they enter the school, and closely look through the degree requirements at that time. University catalogs are universally boring reading, but I consider them the most valuable tool in selecting a University.

Monday, January 10 2011

iOS App Store and the GPL ... and restoring VLC

phpBB people, especially Nils, know that I'm an advocate of the GPL for certain specific reasons. In this (rather lengthy) entry, I evaluate what went wrong, and I would do if I were a GPL-software developer faced with Apple's iOS terms of use.

Continue reading...

Sunday, January 9 2011

At the Laundromat

Saturday afternoon, I sat at a laundromat in the middle of the afternoon. It was pretty quiet. It was me and two other customers, both older African-American women. Now, if you've ever used a coin laundry, you know there isn't a lot to do while your laundry is going through the wash cycle.

So these two ladies sat there, kind of absent-mindedly folding their washing. Each of them seemed to have four or five loads, so they were busy with that for a while. And I could swear they were watching me to see just how well I had been taught to sort brights, colors, and darks.

After I left, I thought that I should have said something to one, or both, of them. I wasn't necessarily looking for laundry tips, but I can't imagine they would have been any less interesting than the Thrifty Nickel classified ads.

Saturday, January 8 2011

The King's Speech - a film

I found out about this film via Talk of the Nation on NPR this week.

I haven't seen it yet, as there does not seem to be a theatre showing it in Evansville. (That could be because the film is six weeks old) But I do want to write a few words about the premise, and about the interviews that were part of Talk of the Nation on Tuesday.

In the film, King George VI (Colin Firth) is in middle age, trying to overcome a stutter from which he had suffered throughout his life. At some point, the King finds a psychologist, Lionel Logue (Geoffery Rush) who is able to assist after "traditional" doctors were unable to provide relief.

The thing is, even after several decades and much research, the science of the stutter has not progressed all that much. As the guests on TOTN suggest, Logue (who was a real person) became somewhat of a pioneer in the area. Vocal exercises and rather generic psychological techniques remain the primary tools in combating a stutter, although other high profile stutterers have found success with other methods.

One of the things I found interesting is the age at which Kristen Chmela (one of the guests in TOTN) sought help. She said she was in college. The other is that the cause of stuttering is unknown. And finally, I've heard people tease that it is cruel to put an "ess" sound in the name of another speech condition, the lisp. Well, it seems similarly cruel to put so many repeated sounds in the term for one who stutters, a "stutterer."

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