Friday, October 31, 2008
Wednesday, October 29, 2008
Monday, October 27, 2008
Can the Web predict the next president?
IT professionals have historically monitored network traffic patterns to better understand network usage, to expose security events, and to generally promote overall network health. Traffic analysis can likewise be applied to the Web to understand a wide range of behavior patterns ranging from social media networks to suggestion systems in e-commerce to even the current hot topic: the presidential race.
What we found in our analysis of both rudimentary (such as tracking campaign site visits and domain registration tallies) and more complex traffic-tracking mechanisms (such as search tallies and online trading trends) applied across all other Internet segments, is that online traffic patterns are leaning – not unlike traditional polling data -- in the direction of Sen. Barack Obama. (See a slideshow explaining eight ways technology has shaped the elections.)
To assess the validity of how traffic-analysis techniques could provide any insight into the election, we first examined the most basic measurements available: campaign site visits and domain registration and moved to more content-focused metrics such as blog mentions and social network links.
All the data discussed in this article is provided by live URLs so readers can view the content themselves to tie into the most up-to-date information. Our intent is not to judge either the McCain or Obama campaigns or the candidates themselves, but rather to examine how the election is shaping up online and delve into whether the data provides any insight into the eventual outcome.
The usage of the two campaign Web sites (www.johnmccain.com and www.barackobama.com) can be tracked like any other large Web site via services like Hitwise, Alexa, Compete and Google Trends, to name a few. Overall, traffic to the campaign Web sites shows very clear trends regardless of data source.
Hitwise shows a consistent 2-to-1 advantage in unique site visitors for Obama's official campaign site in a head-to-head comparison, from August through early October -- with the exception of a significant narrowing of that gap around the week of the Republican National Convention.
Comparing the two campaign sites against other popular sites on the Internet tells a similar story. Compete.com ranked both campaign sites in the top 500 Web sites in the United States for September — with the Obama site significantly more popular at No. 186 than the McCain site at No. 384, even though the latter has made up tremendous ground over the past year.
Similarly, numbers from Compete show the Obama campaign site serving about 64% of the total unique visitors to both campaign sites for the year ending in September. The graph shows that the Obama site has managed to sustain a large early lead built up during the protracted Democratic nomination contest, despite rapid growth by the McCain site as the general election campaign itself intensified over the summer.
Quantcast had rankings similair to Compete's, with the Obama site sitting at #115 with around 7.9 million visitors, compared with the McCain site at No. 272 with around 4.3 million users (this matches with Compete's traffic split as well) . These Quantcast traffic trends also showed a "pinch" at the time of the Republican convention in an otherwise wide and relatively persistent gap. One additional point of interest in the Quantcast data is a noticeable widening of Obama's normal (pre-convention) advantage, starting sometime around the middle of September. Quantcast, at least, appears to show Obama pulling away.
The popular Alexa traffic tracking service tells a very similar tale. The Alexa service shows the McCain campaign site with a traffic rank overall on the Internet of 3,074 while the Obama site is ranked 869 overall. Comparing the two sites' traffic patterns using Alexa shows the same general trend, with the now familiar convention-related pinch and an otherwise sizable gap in Obama's favor. The Alexa data also – like the Quantcast – shows a discernable, widening of that gap starting around mid-September.
Sampling bias can be a concern in any measurement. While Alexa and Hitwise do have very large samples that would help guard against bias, Google provides an even larger pool of users. Using Google Site Trends we see once again the gap between the usage of the candidate sites
- Related Content
A deeper drill down into this Google-based trending reveals some interesting points. First, we see that when looking at the data on a day-to-day basis, there is a clear pinch in the trend lines on Sept. 2 that is normalized out in the month-to-month view. This validates what we saw earlier in larger graphs when the Republican convention was finally in full swing.
Google data also shows that much of this traffic comes from the large population states. The lists below show the top 10 states, by traffic, for each candidate's site. It is interesting to see that some of the so-called "battleground" states (Florida, Virginia, Pennsylvania, Colorado) are represented at different positions in the two lists. What is most notable, however, is that you can see a consistent lead for Obama (represented by the blue horizontal bars) regardless of which candidate's top-10 ranking you use. That is, his site leads not only in all 10 of the states in which he does best, but also in the McCain site's 10 highest-traffic states as well.
Raw traffic to a site may of course come from those against a candidate, as well as from supporters. However, features like "users also visited" on the sites like Alexa, Google and Quantcast suggest that this is likely not a major factor in the traffic rankings. Instead, they indicate that visitors to a given candidate's site also tend to spend time on other sites with political orientations similar to the candidate's own. Thus, visitors to Obama's site tend also to visit popular liberal/progressive sites, while visitors to McCain's site tend to favor well-known conservative sites. If the opposite traffic effect were sizable, there would likely be a more mixed list of also-visited sites.
Searching for answers
Search term frequency is obviously a useful barometer of online interest. How does it fare as a gauge of actual candidate support? The fact that a candidate's name is being searched on can indicate many different attitudes towards that candidate -- from avid support to mere curiosity to outright opposition.
This expectation turns out to be at least partly validated by the numbers. If we use Google's Insights for Search feature to look at the popularity of each presidential and vice presidential candidate's name as a search term, the results are largely similar to other results seen in this analysis, but with one very notable exception -- Sarah Palin queries.
For the terms "Obama" and "McCain" we see the same relatively sustained advantage for Obama that shows up in most of the traffic numbers. That said, from the point of McCain's announcement of her as his running mate, the search term "Palin" spikes far above the others in popularity -- and holds that lead throughout the better part of September, returning consistently below "Obama" and "McCain" only into October.
This is perhaps not so surprising if we consider the context: Palin is the only one of the four candidates who was largely new to the national political scene until her introduction to it precisely during the time period being studied here. It stands to reason that many online politics watchers (including presumably a good many prospective voters) would use the Internet to inform themselves about the newest name on the national stage.
Because of this context, we speculate that the gradual ebbing of searches on Palin's name to levels more in line with those of the other candidates reflects not necessarily particular pro or con judgments, but simply her growing familiarity to most Web users interested in the race. That said, it is notable that she remains, so far as Google searches are concerned at least, a figure of considerably more online interest than Obama's running mate, Joe Biden.
Links are recommendations?
Search engines often focus on inbound links to understand relevance and popularity of a site, page or piece of content. So we applied the same type of thinking to the candidate sites. As an example Eric Miraglia's Page Inlink Analyzer (available at his blog) uses Yahoo and Delicious APIs to provide a powerful tool for examining a site's inbound links. If we apply this metric to the two campaign sites, we see that the different traffic patterns we have noted so far are reflected in and no doubt sustained by similar differences in link popularity. Once again, Obama's site (with over 1.7 million inbound links) maintains about a 2-to-1 overall advantage over McCain's (with about 0.8 million):
Using a similar type of simple approach within the Google realm to measure links in its site index, the results for McCain's links and Obama's links show more links for Obama, but we must note that overall volume here is much lower.
In order to take into account the possibility of link tainting, we observed what Google indexed for each site. The site index footprint for McCain's site has a whopping 30,000 URLs recorded to Obama's sub-3,000 level. So the inbound link vote is certainly not a function of the site size index wise, but rather appears to be a legitimate view of outside interest with Obama again having more votes by inbound link. However, is this a result of effective promotion and grass roots organization or does it show real interest?
Finally, we looked at online trading. Intrade, the online prediction outfit used for non-sports-related events has offered contracts for the major candidates throughout the campaign season. These contracts trade at $0.10 per point, in a range of 1-100 points. Because prices are limited to that range, a price of 50 points for a candidate's contract indicates that the market is estimating a 50% probability of that candidate winning the race.
Interestingly, if we examine the trends in daily closing prices for the candidates' respective contracts, we find them mapping reasonably well onto the broad measures of popularity that we found when looking at traffic to their respective campaign Web sites. Obama's contract was comfortably above 60 points for much of the summer. It then fell below 50 points (50% probability) for the first time in the week following the Republican convention. During that same week, McCain's contract rose above 50 points for the first time in the campaign. Then, just as quickly as they had converged, the trends lines separated again, with the Obama contract rising, and the McCain contract falling, from mid-September on.
These developments obviously correspond quite well to what we noted in most of the site traffic data — reflecting both Obama's summer-long advantage over McCain, as well as the temporary, convention-related convergence in their popularity in early September (the "pinch").
Moreover, the online prediction market seems to reflect the same more-recent trend noted with Quantcast's and Alexa's traffic numbers: a sharp increase, starting from about the middle of September, in Obama's typical advantage over McCain, with the Obama contract rising over 70 points for the first time in early October, just as McCain's contract was falling below 30 points for the first time since mid-July. Following the third Presidential debate (Oct. 15) Obama's Intrade contract was trading at a new high of over 80 points, and McCain's at a new low of below 20.
Rigging the system?
Even casual Web users believe vote stuffing is common in simple online polls, as most simple Web polls can be defeated by users clearing cookies, purging Flash settings, coming from other IP addresses, crowd sourcing votes, and even using bots. Likewise, some of the more focused systems exhibit sampling bias. For example, we did not include Amazon data for book ratings or levels because of what appeared to be clear manipulation. We saw similar effects in promotion of articles across social networks. Most interestingly is that Intrade, while mostly matching the observed data elsewhere, can be gamed as a single investor drove up McCain contract values at one point in the campaign.
Our point is that using the Web requires some careful consideration of the size of sample and ease of manipulation. We do not believe that for what was selected as the primary focus of the article that rigging is a concern. The numbers used for correlation with the larger scale systems such as Alexa, Google, and Hitwise are is just too large to be easily gamed.
Online vs. offline measurements
It's clear that the Web-based measurements of candidate popularity have a consistent story to tell, albeit with some variations depending on the type and source and of the data. This raises the obvious question of how well what we can measure online matches up to what is going on in the world at large. Do Web-based measures, as a whole, contain a sampling bias? Does the Internet make its own waves, so to speak? Does it have its own ebb and flow of opinion, or does it more-or-less reflect what is happening in the broader society?
Answering those questions in a detailed way is beyond the scope of our article. We've given some indication of which online measures we consider perhaps more reliable because they are less likely to be tainted by demographic sampling bias. Much more definite conclusions than that we'll leave to analysts with more time to crunch the data.
We can however at least sketch the relationship between online and offline opinion by comparing some of the more reliable Web-based measures of candidate popularity with a more traditional metric of popular opinion. For the latter, a common choice is the Gallup Daily Tracking Poll.
The Gallup Daily tracker is a three-day moving average. We took this snapshot on the morning of Oct. 20, so that it would cover interviews from Oct. 16-18 -- the first three days after the third and final presidential debate.
Right away, we are struck by the fact that the poll portrays a much closer race overall than do most of the online measures of candidate popularity. For instance, Gallup shows McCain in a virtual tie with Obama in the second half of August — something none of the online measures depicts. Apparently, there is still some general sampling bias in using the universe of Internet users as representatives of the population at large. If Gallup is right, the online measures as a whole appear to overstate the degree of support for Obama relative to McCain.
If we look a little more closely, however, we do start to see some interesting correlations between the online and offline metrics. For example, after regaining his more-typical lead at the very end of August, Obama then was losing it again on Sept. 7, with McCain's advantage widening to 5% over the next couple of days. This, of course, is our familiar "pinch" in the trend lines, which we encountered in almost all of the site traffic metrics, and which immediately follows the Republican convention in the first week of September. In the Gallup poll, to be sure, it is a crossing of the lines rather than a pinch, since the gap between the candidates was never as wide as it was in the Web-based metrics.
Finally, the same surge in support for Obama after the middle of September -- that we noted in the Quantcast and Alexa numbers as well as in the Intrade markets -- shows up clearly in the Gallup poll. With the exception of a brief tie on Sept. 25, Gallup's story since mid-September has been one of Obama pulling away, reaching a new campaign high of 11% on Oct. 8.
In short, despite an apparent sampling bias that significantly exaggerates Obama's advantages when using the online numbers to infer candidate support in the general population, it certainly looks as if both online and offline metrics are reflecting real trends in underlying popular opinion, with common causal bases. The strongest conclusion we are prepared to offer is that the Web can be used by technically savvy individuals to obtain direct, detailed insight into real campaign trends. The first Tuesday in November will tell us how relevant such insight is to the actual outcome.
Monday, October 20, 2008
My Turn on the Threat of Foreign Oil
Op-Ed by Karen Hudson-Samuels
You would’ve had to been searching for water on Mars to miss the drum beat of “our dependence on foreign oil” which if you didn’t know poses a “security risk”. This is the case according to both our Republican and Democratic Presidential nominees. Even their campaign ads speak of “breaking our dependence on overseas oil” with suggestive, almost menacing shots of desert sand under the voice over. Are we supposed to be scared? Is this worse that the 3AM phone call? More
By Eric Lundquist
As the economy gets shakier each day, workers everywhere are concerned about losing their jobs. Here are 10 steps the corporate techie toiling away in the server room or the help desk can take to help keep his or her job.
OK, the stock market is falling like a rock. Big banks are being bought and sold like overripe bananas. The masters of the financial universe are looking like suckers at the horse race track buying tip sheets printed after each race. And now, even the venture capitalists of Silicon Valley are telling their captive companies to skip the party, tighten the belt and get yourself sold.
So, with all the highly educated financers showing that they have no clothes, what is the corporate techie toiling away in the server room or the help desk supposed to do to keep a job and pay the mortgage? Here’s my 10-step program.
1. Heads Up!
Don’t think that just because you are doing a really good job at your one task that you can avoid the corporate grim reaper. You really need to understand not just your little corner of the IT world, but all the technology tools that keep your company running. The more you know about all the parts of the machine, the more valuable you become as the company looks for utility players rather than specialists.
2. Take a Hike
That’s right, get outside of your cubicle and spend some time visiting other parts of not just your company’s technology universe, but also the business brains. This is not easy, but after your first small forays, you will be surprised in just what regard the company holds the techies. You’ll learn the language of business and soon find yourself in the ambassador-at-large role, able to form your own opinions about what tech projects are seen as valuable outside the world of the techie cubes.
3. Make Friends
This is foreign territory for lots of techies. It is a lot easier to deal with your computer than a real person. But unless you want to see that e-mail that puts you on the goodbye list, you need to build some sources in the company who can give you an early storm warning. Without access to the corporate radar, you will be flying blind. Become the unofficial computer help desk, and you will soon have the chance to make lots of new friends.
4. Lose Friends
You are trying to keep your job, right? You know how much corporate time is being taken up with fantasy leagues, Web surfing, non-business e-mail, IMing, YouTubing, etc. Someone is going to drop the dime to the higher-ups on the huge waste of time taking place as employees run eBay stores and exchange photos of the party the night before. Might as well be you.
5. Protect the Boss’s Wallet
Make one of your corporate walkabouts after hours. How many terminals are still glowing, printers are running and computers are sitting idle? Take a good guess at how much power is being wasted and let the boss know. Pick another simple target: printer supplies and costs. All those printers add up to a lot of supplies and paper being wasted. Wade through all those software license agreements to find out exactly what your company is paying for. You can become not only the boss’s favorite cost cutter, but you can fashion yourself as an eco champion as well.
6. Watch the Cloud
It used to be really difficult to learn a new application or programming environment. You had to get access to a system and attend a class or certification seminar somewhere, and, after all that, you were never quite sure your new knowledge could stand the corporate computing environment test. Now, you have a computing cloud you can tap into. Take some time to understand Google’s corporate offerings, Salesforce.com and Amazon’s cloud. The corporate cloud is one of the hot topics these days, and you need to be the one who can explain why or why not the cloud is right for your company.
7. Keep the Boss Happy
How many times has the mystery of why one corporate geek keeps his or her job when the layoff scythe is swinging been solved by figuring out who really is the one that the boss uses to keep his or her system running? Who makes sure the boss has the latest laptop or makes sure the boss’s BlackBerry is always up to date and tied into corporate apps? And who is the one whom the boss uses to keep the family computers running and is the one who acts as the help desk for the boss’s college kids? Enough said.
8. Tune Up the Old Engine
In downturns, companies hang onto their old servers and network equipment far longer than the equipment’s warranties. Someone has to be the person who knows the ins and outs of the sputtering server, the dying disk drives and the flaky network router. It should be you they call when the system conks out.
9. Kill an App
Somewhere, maybe many somewheres, there are apps running on servers in your company that haven’t been needed in years. No one knows who created those apps, who used those apps or why they are still running. Killing an app means you can usually kill a couple of servers, save some money in the server room, free up resources and generally look like someone who knows what’s going on. Good for you.
10. Pull a Plug
Keep track of the servers you take offline, the printers you turn to off instead of putting on idle, the computers you shut down instead of putting on standby. Those acts alone will put you in the green cost-saving category. Now, take on the bigger task of sitting down with the bean counters and HVAC and figure out how much that data center is costing each month. You find out this information and you have the keys to the castle.
Monday, October 13, 2008
Fear or Trust
Years ago as a young 26 year old entrepreneur in Atlanta I was invited to speak at an event where President Clinton was also speaking. As people mingled back stage I'll never forget watching him as he put his hand on the shoulder of the Governor and said, “It's all about psychology. You need to understand the psychology of the voters. It's all about psychology.” Not surprisingly Clinton and his team came up with the famous phrase, “It's the Economy Stupid.” They understood that psychology drives elections and the economy.
Fast forward to today, it's no wonder the financial markets continue to spiral downward. The 24/7 media is creating a frenzy of panic and fear that is negatively impacting the collective psychology of the country. I have heard from many people who are more stressed and fearful than they have ever been in their life. And like a horror movie where the things you fear start to appear, our collective fear is making our worst nightmare come true.
We need to realize that the economy is not some abstract entity separate from us. The economy is us. YOU and I are the economy. Our thoughts, behaviors, actions and mood collectively create the economy. Government can try to manipulate our actions through tax plans, regulations, incentives, etc. but in a nutshell WE are the economy. Our collective mood, productivity, innovation, positive energy and execution determines whether the economy is thriving or in a recession. Paying our mortgage helps the economy. Working hard helps the economy. Starting a business helps the economy. Making a product the world needs helps the economy. Replacing our psychology of fear with a psychology of trust helps the economy.
But how can I trust anything, you might ask, when everything I’ve trusted in is falling apart. My answer is that we’ve put our trust and faith in the wrong things. Our government, media, financial institutions and our own actions have shown us that a house built on a foundation of greed cannot stand. The cracks have been exposed and it's a wake up call to all of us. As Charles West said, “We turn to God for help when our foundations are shaking, only to learn that it is God who is shaking them.” Our foundations are shaking for a reason. We are meant to realize that security is an illusion. There's no power in having a big bank account. You can’t find peace in your investment portfolio and you’ll never find your true purpose in your 401k plan.
We are meant to stop listening to the media, aka, Chicken Little and have faith in something bigger than ourselves. We are meant to trust in God, not in our balance sheets. We are meant to realize that true power exists not in what seems big and strong and secure but in what is silent and unseen. This is where faith lives.
So instead of starting your morning by turning on the news, consider taking a walk of prayer. Instead of looking down at the paper, look up to the heavens. And instead of listening to the fear mongers, walk outside, close your eyes, smell the fresh autumn air, take a few deep breaths and discover the real peace you seek. Every day, stay positive, do your best to succeed and have faith in a brighter and better future. I believe this is the antidote to fear and it is the true kind of trust that you, me and the economy need right now.
Friday, October 10, 2008
By Matt Hartley
More often than not, new users find themselves drawn to KDE while those who prefer to free themselves from a Windows-like UI tend to lean with the straightforward simplicity of GNOME. The problem with these selections is that most news users are going to find themselves wanting to use programs from both camps. And even worse, they wish that some of the functionality from each desktop manager were available in one choice. Granted, anyone can run a KDE application in GNOME or vice versa.
However it requires a ton of extra library files that can translate into a real buzz kill when you look at the time needed to download this many files on a slower Internet connection. In addition, crossing desktop environments often leaves the desired application behaving in a problematic manner: Failing to start or just crashing in the worst case scenarios.
This leads many new users to choose a Linux distribution that makes all of their installation choices for them. On the surface, it seems like a great idea. But perhaps rather than creating an easier experience, we need to concentrate on a consistent one.
Easier is not always better.
Generally speaking, if I am installing an application that I know the name of, I will do so from the command line. In my case, this means using either apt-get install or aptitude install because of my selected distro (Ubuntu).
But this is not always all that clear when going from one distribution to another. With a RPM-based distribution, for instance, if using the command line remains the "simplest" method, then the user must adapt to the new commands. Yum-install is an example of changing out from apt-get. So clearly, while using a command line for day-to-day use may be perceived as easier, it is certainly not more consistent.
What I find interesting is if the same user, who happens to use both PCLinuxOS (a RPM-based installation) and Ubuntu (Debian package installation), can use Synaptic to install software without needing to change methods of the software installation.
This is not to say that using Synaptic is better than using another method of installing software, rather a way of providing a clear line of consistency for the desktop user regardless of distribution.
Think about that for a minute. Clearly this is not the fastest solution. But if I am running Fedora on one desktop and Debian on another, being able to use a single app on both desktops means I can be more productive. This is because I don’t need to know how to install software in a different manner than I might otherwise have based on past experience with another distro.
Despite the obvious advantage of aiming for this kind of consistency, almost every Linux tutorial out there highlights the CLI (command line interface) method for software management as the way to go. Why? Because it’s faster. Correct me if I’m wrong, but isn’t it this faster mentality that landed Windows in the malware mess it was in with XP (and all the way back to previous releases of the OS)?
Path of Least Resistance.
People creating help files and tutorials always fail to grasp that the casual user is looking for the path of least resistance.
Take wireless with Linux for instance. Ubuntu documentation creators often jump right into NDISWrapper as being the best way to get wireless devices working.
Why? Rather than presenting NDISWrapper as the logical solution to one's wireless woes, why not make a stronger push for wireless devices supported out of the box? They not only exist, they’re fairly well documented in non-distro specific projects such as wireless.kernel.org, which provide more wireless chipsets than you could possibly wrap your mind around.
Even with this great effort, big-wig Linux distros continue to take the easy way out, asking users to conform to using NDISWrapper and Windows wireless drivers for their existing chipsets.
The same mentality applies to configuring the various buttons on your typical mouse. For example, assuming you have a supported Logitech mouse, using HIDPoint rather than this X11 nightmare means less wasted time.
The fact is, new users come to the Linux platform in dire need of a reality check. Many of them come aboard expecting all of their built-for-Windows equipment to work as it always had, but this time with a new operating system.
This is complete nonsense. I would like to see Linux distribution documentation designed to heavily embrace supported products with links as to where to buy them. And with so many new users wishing to adapt – as experienced users are often telling new users they need to – there really should be no problem at all making this happen.
Other areas that need to see greater adoption from the perspective of the distro maintainer include:
• Providing immediate access to ready-to-work hardware both from the Linux distribution's website and even in the documentation provided by the distribution's creator from day one. Again, this means linking to places of purchase.
• Finding a way to bring home the best of each of the top desktop environments.
GNOME, KDE and others each have their strengths. Now let's concentrate on finding a way to bring concepts like the Portland Project to fruition. Despite being aimed at developers, I believe this project will one day be a real benefit to end-users as well.
And then, have software. Honestly, if projects such as Adobe Air continue to progress forward, I see a number of otherwise proprietary-OS-only applications being doable for Linux users, thanks to the work put forth by Adobe.
Like Flash for video, Air provides the user with the ability to develop and use applications that are truly cross platform without the need for extra toolkits when branching into non-Linux desktop environments.
Adapt or forget it, say advanced Linux users? Perhaps, but it seems that it will be the distribution maintainers needing to adapt if they wish to see any shot at a sustainable business model from a desktop distribution.
In the end, tackling the challenges outlined above serves both new and experienced users alike. This in turn translates into a stronger market share. Considering the shaky world economy these days, there is something to be said about providing as much ammunition to the Linux movement as possible. And these days, satisfied new Linux users is that ammunition.
Wednesday, October 08, 2008
'Opus' creator to retire from drawing comic strips
WASHINGTON — Pulitzer Prize-winning cartoonist Berkeley Breathed is retiring, leaving a hole in Sunday comics pages after nearly 30 years because he wants to save his strip's main character, Opus, from being dragged down in the current political climate.
The last strip of "Opus," the beloved, large-beaked penguin, will run in about 200 newspapers nationwide Nov. 2.
Amy Lago, comics editor of The Washington Post Writers Group, said Breathed will pursue other interests, such as writing books and screenplays.
Starting and stopping popular strips is old hat for the 51-year-old, who lives in Santa Barbara, Calif., and has a children's book, "Pete & Pickles," due out next week.
The writers group unveiled his "Bloom County" strip in 1980; he went on to win the Pulitzer for editorial cartooning in 1987. He ended that strip in 1989 and the same year began the Sunday-only strip "Outland," which he quit in 1995. In 2003, he launched "Opus."
Breathed describes his creative combination as part outspoken filmmaker Michael Moore, part gentle "Peanuts" creator Charles Schulz.
"It isn't a comfortable creative combination but it's probably what gave my cartoons whatever distinction they had for 30 years," he wrote in an e-mail to The Associated Press.
His comics have long lampooned current events, such as the "Star Wars" space defense initiative in the 1980s and the supposedly corruptive influence of heavy metal music. In recent strips, Opus has reflected on his life after being detained by U.S. Homeland Security.
This time, Breathed says, the ending is really for good, if not his own. Breathed believes the tone of America's public and political discourse is headed in a dark direction, with the next president — whoever is elected — facing problems that will "belie palatable solutions." Inevitably, he said that would color his art.
"I'm destroying the village to save it. In this case, a penguin," Breathed wrote. " ... We are about to enter a rather wicked period in our National Discourse ... bad enough to make what we're in right now seem folksy and genteel. The ranting side of my cartooning impulse will destroy the thing that makes Opus comfortable for his readers. And me."
"A mad penguin, like a mad cartoonist, isn't very lovable. I like him the way he is now," he wrote.
This Sunday's strip will include a contest in which Breathed asks readers to guess the penguin's fate. Details on how to participate are not being released ahead of time. The answer will appear online after the last "Opus" runs next month, Lago said.
Asked what message he has for fans who will miss Opus, Breathed wrote: "He's me. And I'm still here writing stories for children's books and film. I'd like to think he will still be found, in a sense."
Berkeley Breathed's Web site: http://www.berkebreathed.com/
Tuesday, October 07, 2008
In my youth league I had the pleasure to bowl with George Branham III(at the now defunct Northlanes bowling center) who became the first African American man to win a major PBA bowling event (he won the biggest event of the time the Firestone Tournament of Champions)
Terrell-Kearney wins US Women's Open
Kim Terrell-Kearney won the first professional championship match featuring two black bowlers, beating Trisha Reid 216-189 on Wednesday night in the U.S. Bowling Congress' U.S. Women's Open.
Terrell-Kearney, from Dover, Del., built an early lead and held on for her second U.S. Women's Open victory and third career major title. She earned $25,000.
"I had a feeling it was the first time something like this had happened," said Terrell-Kearney, the women's bowling coach at Delaware State. "I've had footsteps to follow in, and hopefully I'm providing inspiration for other African Americans out there to pursue their goals in bowling."
In the championship match, Terrell-Kearney struck on four of her first five shots to take a 24-pin lead at the halfway point, while Reid, from Columbus, Ohio, had just three strikes in the entire game.
"It's been a great week, and it's really satisfying to reach my goal of 10 career titles," Terrell-Kearney said. "Winning the Open is the pinnacle of most bowlers' careers and to win it twice is amazing."
Terrell-Kearney advanced to the championship match with a 216-202 victory over USBC Hall of Famer Carolyn Dorin-Ballard of North Richland Hills, Texas. In the dramatic finish, Dorin-Ballard missed a 10 pin in the final frame to open the door for Terrell-Kearney, who earlier in the match missed a 10 pin of her own.
"I knew I couldn't make mistakes against Carolyn, and I feared that miss would cost me even though it happened early in the match," said Terrell-Kearney, who struck on her first ball in the final frame to advance. "It took me a minute to regain my composure after that, but thankfully I did. I was just hoping for an opportunity in the 10th frame and it happened."
Reid moved into the final by defeating Malaysia's Shalin Zulkifli, 237-180, in the other semifinal. Reid pulled ahead after Zulkifli left the 2-4-10 split in the fourth frame and a pocket 7-10 split in the sixth frame.
"It feels great, just awesome, and I'm still overwhelmed," said Reid, who was one of 12 bowlers to earn spots in the PBA Women's Series through qualifying at the U.S. Women's Open this week. "Even though I finished second, I still feel like I won. I really came here to make the top 12 for the Women's Series and everything after that was icing on the cake."
A tribute to George Branham III
-- After a decade at the final frontier, Star Trek: The Experience is going where no Las Vegas Strip attraction wants to go.
With a decommissioning ceremony -- as befits any great vessel -- the exhibit and its replica of the starship Enterprise are closing Monday.
Thousands of trekkies are "beaming up" from across the United Federation of Planets, er, the United States and around the world one last time, according to exhibit spokesman Chad Boutte.
Some seek a final encounter with the Borg, the television show's race of organic robot aliens who tell everyone "resistance is futile." Others just want to share a farewell drink -- likely a stiff Warp Core Breach, with 10 ounces of rum -- with fellow fans at the attraction's restaurant.
Employees dressed as aliens discuss the minutiae of their worlds' mythologies with visitors who learn, in typically circular trekkie logic, that the exhibit is a "time station" for transporting researchers and equipment between the 21st and 24th centuries.
For $49.99, fans can enjoy two virtual rides and the Museum of the Future, with costumes, "phasers" and Mr. Spock's coffin. More than 3 million people have come through since the Experience opened in 1998.
In the end, the frontier the USS Enterprise couldn't breach was earthly: The attraction's owner, Cedar Fair Entertainment Co., and the Las Vegas Hilton, its landlord, couldn't agree on a new lease. They worked as a typical landlord and retail tenant, with Cedar Fair keeping all revenue from the attraction, said hotel spokesman Ira David Sternberg.
Trekkies are incensed. They've scrawled reminiscences about the exhibit on the walls inside, and they're calling Cedar Fair and the hotel to complain. But their online rumor that the space the exhibit occupies will become a theater for pop star Michael Jackson is unfounded, Sternberg said. He said nothing's decided.
Karen and Eric Klein, from Easton, Pennsylvania, had planned to renew their wedding vows at the Experience on their 10th anniversary but came this week instead, four years early.
A Federation captain told them during the ceremony on the bridge of the Enterprise that the energy between them created their love.
"He had his own schtick, and it was very beautiful, and it actually made the moment even that much better," said Eric Klein, 39, still holding his wife's hand outside the gift shop. "It wasn't simply being on the bridge, it really felt very emotional"
It closed as of September 2008
Sunday, October 05, 2008
Wednesday, October 01, 2008
How can just one person change the entire world?
Well, you're already changing the world by making music. But every American adult has the power to change our future in a single action. VOTE!
Most states have a voter registration deadline of Oct. 3 or Oct. 6, so if you're not registered this may be your last chance. Just go to Rock The Vote and you'll be all set in a few clicks. And please don't forget to remind all your fans and friends to register to vote too!
Our country's problems and solutions have never been more complex. The issues have never been more important, not just for citizens of the United States -- every person on the planet is affected. Every decision our elected officials make will resonate for years to come, and we can't afford any discord. To bring harmony to the world, we have to make some noise first... so step up to the microphone and shout, "I will be heard!" by casting your vote this November 4th.
Unless you're opening for the Rolling Stones on Election Day, we expect to see you at the polls (and even then, send in an absentee ballot.) If every musician voted, the world would be a much more rockin' place. For more info about voting in your specific location check out the Google Maps US Voter Info page, or just register now.