Wednesday, September 06, 2006

Katie Couric is Video-Casting

Which really just means CBS is distributing excerpts of her short interview segments online. For example, today's video is of her interview with President Bush. All three of her "Eye-to-Eye" online segments can be found at CBS's website. I rarely have time to sit down and watch the CBS Evening News, but I'll happily watch the segments I'm interested in at my own convenience. Distributing online helps CBS turn a non-viewer into a viewer. I'd even watch short ads, if it would mean the entire content of every nightly broadcast were segmented and made available online.

Wednesday, August 30, 2006

Bad-Ass Blogger Beta

Thanks to Akshay, who responded to my comment on his blog and told me that Blogger Beta is now open to everyone who wants to switch. The three coolest things in my opinion are:

  • Tags for posts, so you can categorize your posts and let readers browse by category rather than just by time. If people like my posts about France, they can just click "France" in the Topics section to the right. That is, once I finish labeling all of my old posts (complaint number one and only: wish I could mass-label my posts -- am I missing something?).

  • Drag-and-drop layout editing, with prefab containers for lists, external javascript, etc. It was a very small pain to migrate all of my sidebar widgets (the wine journal, tag cloud, flickr badge, blogroll) and will now be much easier to add them in the future. The best part is that that kind of stuff is now more easily accessible to people without a degree from MIT in computer science.

  • Faster. At least, publishing is faster (because rendering is dynamic), so blogging is easier. I've yet to see if regular page loads are any slower due to being dynamic, but it certainly doesn't seem so as of yet.

Everyone thank Akshay for making this sweet new toy, especially since he has to stay up at night with a pager in case it breaks.

Monday, August 28, 2006

Portishead, and MySpace Music Publishing.

I've personally been a fan of Portishead for a long time, though they haven't released any new music in about ten years. According to this article on Pitchfork, they've released two new tracks -- on their MySpace page. I'll be very excited to see the day when a band makes a splash (or a comeback) solely online, and cuts out the distributors/licensors of today. Don't get me wrong; there's still a necessity for middlemen. They're just going to be less controlling, less expensive, and more infrastructure than the music publishers currently in danger of fading into yesteryear.

And as much as it pains me, last night I found a Paris Hilton making-of-the-music-videos short posted on YouTube roaring to the top of the most-viewed list. She may be a harlot, she may not be able to sing without a vocoder, but she's got some savvy PR folks. Congratulations, Paris, for (surely unwittingly) embracing the future of content distribution.

Sunday, August 27, 2006

M. Ward, Likely New Only To Me.

Presumably some of the rest of you have heard of M. Ward, considering they've already been on Letterman and released four albums. They're a fun band that remind me quite a bit of Wilco (more here). Me, I'm behind the times (and still don't have a television), so I was introduced to the band by Fred Wilson's blog this evening. There's a great YouTube video of them playing on the Late Show. Interestingly, their new album, Post-War, was released on vinyl and iTunes on August 22nd, though the CDs don't hit stores until Tuesday the 29th. That's one way to drive down distribution costs, and it certainly worked on me. Check out M. Ward:

A Fire Island Summer.

Summer on Fire Island seems to me what life in Florida should be like, and would've been like if growing up there hadn't led me to take it for granted.

We've stayed at the Malakoffs' rented beach house at Davis Park on Fire Island three times this summer, and each visit has been a transcendentally relaxing experience. Everyone moves from waking to eating fresh fish, bagels, grilled meats and vegetables, to lying on the beach, to reading on the porch, to watching DVDs in a sandy warm haze before falling asleep again. I sit eating rare steak, drinking a margarita and staring off through the trees into darkness and think, "This is what life should be like."

It's taken full-time employment to make me truly understand warm vacations. For the first time in my life, I'm eagerly looking to spend two weeks on a sandy island doing nothing. I don't know where, and I'm not sure exactly when, but it's going to be glorious. If you've got any favorite islands in the middle of nowhere, feel free to let me know. In the meantime, I'm going to miss Sarasota and Siesta Key a little bit.

Tuesday, August 22, 2006

Japanese Game Shows.

Now if this doesn't beat all. A Japanese game show entitled "Silent Library" where the contestants (five Japanese guys and a huge black kick-boxer) endure hilarious and foul torture while trying to be as silent as possible.

Saturday, August 05, 2006

Bloody Marys.

The Chicago Matchbox.
The usual crew went to Prune last Sunday for a warm, lazy brunch. Prune serves about ten different Bloody Marys, ranging from the traditional to the Chicago Matchbox (pictured at right and served with pickled green beans, caperberries, turnip, radish, brussels sprouts and loaded full of horseradish and homemade lemon vodka). I went with the Southwest, which featured a bit of tequila alongside a smoky chipotle pepper and tabasco sauce and almost burned my tongue off. Thank goodness they're all served with a small beer chaser on the side. The fried oyster omelette was excellent, while the huevos rancheros were good but not worth the wait on their own.

I feel like there's a lot to be said for the New York brunch, when one rolls out of bed, strolls a few blocks to meet equally-disheveled friends, and munches on comfort food while sipping a deceptively strong cocktail. I think after a few more of these I'll come up with some mind-blowing conclusions, but for now I'll settle for this: it's certainly a great way to begin a Sunday.

If all of you faithful readers *cough* have any favorites, I'd appreciate your brunch recommendations.

Saturday, July 29, 2006

Pizza & Ice Cream.

Grimaldi's: Sausage vs. Pepperoni & Mushroom.
This afternoon Sarah, Michelle, Alex and I took a trip across the Brooklyn Bridge to Brooklyn Heights, home of Grimaldi's Pizza and the Brooklyn Ice Cream Factory. The line at Grimaldi's Pizza was about six parties and fifteen minutes long, so we were sitting in front of the pizza pictured at the right in no time.

It was delicious. I'm not quite sure if it's my favorite; my previously uncontested favorite, Pepe's Pizza, has become a bit obscured by the fog of my un-memory in the two years since I've been there. I'm going to have to arrange a return trip before too long so I can form a proper evaluation (Scelfo, I'm looking at you). But the slightly-thicker-than-thin-crust, perfectly-sized mozzarella chunks, and tasteful amounts of fresh basil, along with all the other elective toppings, really added up to the ideal texture and taste for a pizza. Nothing overwhelming, and everything complimentary. Highly recommended. Two small pizzas was just the right amount for four people, or perhaps even a bit too much.

Brooklyn Ice Cream Factory.
We trundled our full bellies out of Grimaldi's into the bright, unforgiving light of early afternoon and walked a block down to the waterfront and the Brooklyn Ice Cream Factory. We split two cones between four people, sampling the chocolate chocolate chunk and strawberry flavors. I can't imagine how strawberry ice cream could've gone wrong on a hot, sunny afternoon along the East River; unsurprisingly, it was great.

If anyone in New York is looking for a pleasant afternoon excursion in this warm weather, I wouldn't hesitate to suggest a trip across the Brooklyn Bridge to Grimaldi's and the Brooklyn Ice Cream Factory.

Thursday, July 27, 2006

Internet For Winos.

I read an article in Wired a while ago claiming that public-access Internet terminals, and even laptops, allowed the homeless to create a home for themselves without having to pay rent.

Living in a squalid, Woodstock-style bus parked in a Fillmore, California, orange grove, the 53-year-old homeless man [named Happy Ivy] charges a power generator from a utility shed and uses Wi-Fi from a nearby access point. From this humble camp, he's managed to run a 'round-the-clock internet television studio, organize grassroots political efforts, record a full-length album and write his autobiography, all while subsisting on oranges and avocados.

I imagine Happy Ivy is a bit of an exception; most homeless surely don't have the luxury of owning their own laptop. I'm willing to bet, however, that homeless individuals with 'net access via public libraries and similar methods do, as the article contends, use e-mail as the postbox they've never had.

I know social networking has been expanding at a rapid pace into ever more focused niches. But imagine my surprise to find a social networking site tailor-made for those guys on the benches in front of Libby's in Central Square: Cork'd!

The creators may call Cork'd a wine reviewing/networking/tagging site, but I tend to see it as a liberating way to trade tips on cheap wine. Unfortunately, it's currently occupied principally by yuppies. You should probably check it out, as it's wicked cool. Me, I've got to do my part for the less fortunate and start reviewing the "Mad Dog 20/20 Blue Raspberry (BLING BLING)".

P.S. For extra coolness, check out the inline wine journal below my blogroll on the right. Kickass.

Wayback Machine: Impolitic? Why Yes.

From the video archives, my offensive attempt at riding a tiny bike. Strangely enough, not so different from me being serious and riding a full-sized bike.

Tuesday, July 25, 2006

Why Podcasting Is Here To Stay

There Be Dragons!
Originally uploaded by ispivey.
Jeff Jarvis blogs about the future of public broadcasting. I think Jeff's a very smart guy, and while I don't agree with all of his prescriptions for the news industry, I find him making sense more often than not.

Part of the reinvention of public broadcasting is going to be online distribution of radio shows (podcasting, sure), which renders local affiliates redundant. Why spend tens or hundreds of thousands running a local radio station that's just going to rebroadcast "All Things Considered", "On The Media", "Morning Edition", and other shows that can be distributed nationwide online at much lower cost? Just compare the cost of distributing "ATC" nationwide on the 'net (pennies per listener) versus running 800 local affiliates for one hour each! A quick Google search suggests running an NPR station might cost ~$200 per hour. Times 800 stations, that's $165,000 to distribute one hour of "All Things Considered". Using Amazon's S3 distribution service, and assuming "ATC" is the same size as "On The Media" (21MB per hour), you could distribute 39 million copies for that price online. And that's more than listen to NPR; the local affiliates are adding significant cost by sitting in the middle.

The survival of local affiliates is going to be in bottoms-up local content (one of Jeff's favorite contentions, that local content is the way to keep local news providers alive, is one I very much believe in). And the beauty of the 'net as a distribution platform is that that local content will be accessible anywhere in the US, broadening the potential listenership of every local station far beyond what it was before. They'll be able to put advertisements in their content, too; what pirate is going to bother taking a few thirty-second ads out of a fifteen-minute investigative piece from Tampa, FL? Local stations should focus on where they actually add value instead of taking it away through inefficient nationwide distribution of popular shows.

That's why podcasts are here to stay -- it's just a silly new word to describe distributing serial audio content on the Internet. And the Internet is a far more efficient distribution medium than nationwide syndication and FM re-broadcast.

Monday, July 24, 2006

Tom Swifties.

Sarah's spent a fairly sizable chunk of two evenings sitting on the couch chuckling into her computer at a snarky blog devoted to grammar, misuse of punctuation, and wordplay named either Subjunctivitis or Spastic:, depending on which title bar you believe. One particular entry was funny (terribly, awfully, punnily funny) enough to reproduce; the author lists Tom Swifties, named after the hero of a series of penny-dreadful novels whose dialogue was always described with excessive adverbs:

" ..., and you lose a few," said Tom winsomely.
"I'd love some Chinese food," said Tom wantonly.
"We're presently thinking about a figure somewhere between 7 and 9," said Tom considerately.
"I dropped the toothpaste," said Tom, crestfallen. (doesn't technically fit adverb structure, but funny)
" ," said Tom blankly
"No pilaf for me, please", said Tom derisively.
"Fee, fo, fum, I smell the blood of an Englishman!" said the giant defiantly.
"I've lost my trousers," Tom said expansively.

Just trying to spread the groans.

While I'm Channeling The Food Network...

Originally uploaded by ispivey.
I'd like to recommend the Moka Bialetti to anyone who wants a quick, easy, and delicious way to make a bit of espresso at home. Inspired by my roommate from Marseille, Alessandro, I picked up the three-cup version of the friendly-looking stovetop coffeemaker at Porto Rico Importers (sic) in the Village for $18.

What a great decision that was. The process is dead simple: fill the base with water, fill the metal filter with ground coffee, screw the top on, and warm over low heat. Water boils in the base, bubbles up through the grinds and a fountain of delicious espresso erupts in the top of the apparatus. The only way to mess it up is to try and make less than the stated three cups -- then you'll end up with something too weak or too strong and decidedly not right. The good news is that three cups is a vast overstatement; the maximum capacity is really more like two small glasses of espresso.

The Moka Bialetti gets the Golden Goat Horn O'Plenty award for rockingness.

Saturday, July 22, 2006

Fatty Dinner

I've been trying on and off to eat at Fatty Crab, a new asian-cuisine spot in the West Village, ever since I read a review about it in the NYT six or seven months ago. Sarah, Michelle, Alex and I finally managed the feat this evening, and it was even better than I'd hoped.

We arrived around 8PM on a Saturday night and had to spend thirty minutes waiting. Inside, quarters were tight, as we had to pull a table out from the wall to let the girls get at their seats.

Dishes rolled out of the kitchen sequentially, inducing us to share each one as it arrived. The fatty duck came first, along with an appetizer of green mango with a side of chili-flavored salt. The duck had the expected sweet sauce with an added smoky spiciness, and the meat was perfectly cooked: pink and tender in the middle, the fatty skin crisped and blackened. The green mango (not a different kind of mango, simply underripe) had a sour flavor like a Granny Smith apple which mixed very well with the spicy salt on the side. Dipping sticks of mango in salt felt strangely like Fun Dip -- those old candy sticks you'd dip in powdery sugary goop years ago. Except the mango was far tastier and far less sweet.

Black pepper mussels were next, and also highly recommended. The sauce was thin but bold, and offered a different flavor for those used to eating their mussels in butter and garlic. The finale of nasi lemak was killer: an egg yolk over fragrant coconut rice with spicy chicken and all sorts of veggies and sauces to the side.

Considering our entrees each cost $11-16, the meal was eminently reasonable, particularly by Manhattan standards. If you're near the West Village or simply craving a taste of something different, Fatty Crab will not disappoint.

Saturday, July 08, 2006

Summer Fun.

Glasses Make Her Look Friendly
Originally uploaded by ispivey.
Summer is definitely here. I know because I now take the bus to Union Square in the morning, as it's too hot to walk there in a suit. I also know because I spent last weekend on Fire Island, barbequed in the city, went to (and left) a free concert at Battery Park, and attended a rooftop housewarming party.

New York magazine has a great summer guide for anyone in the city. Particularly awesome is the list of summer street fairs, which I plan to take advantage of this weekend or next.

Sheldon just moved in to his new apartment 10 minutes from mine, contributing to my slow-but-steady accumulation of friends in the New York City area. We drank beer on the roof while watching fireworks; it reminded me of Boston.

I have a bit of writer's block, and it's time to finally put up the last two shelves. With any luck, we'll be having our own housewarming soon, some ten months after I first moved in. No time like the present. In the meantime, check out the latest Flickr pics, which include lots of Chinese food and summer relaxing. Sarah has uploaded her China pictures and more, so check those out as well.

Saturday, June 24, 2006


My plan to take Sarah and some friends to a cozy sports bar named "Standings" in the East Village ended up a bit of a bust; it was fun enough until the baseball games ended an hour after we arrived, but ten minutes later the place was empty. It's the first time I've ever been part of the only group in a bar at 11PM on a Friday night.

So Sarah's friend Kelly led us to "Planet Rose", an astonishingly sketchy-looking karaoke bar on Avenue B just south of 14th. The facade was of metal and glass-brick, with only a porthole in the door to let outsiders peer in. The bar was bathed in dim red light, and several seating areas were bordered by long couches built in to the wall. It wasn't particularly swanky, and that was perfect. The karaoke line was long, and we ended up sitting around for a couple of hours before we got to sing, and had several (reasonably priced) drinks in the meantime.

One of the best performances of the evening was "Kevin Jesus" (the moniker by which he was summoned to collect his microphone) singing Prince's "P Control". He was dead on, which is really saying something for a skinny white guy. He also inspired me to purchase the single online this evening.

I had signed up to sing "Any Way You Want It" and "Don't Stop Believing" by Journey, while Michelle had volunteered to sing "Baby Got Back" by Sir Mix-A-Lot. Unfortunately, the bartender, two songs before we were to start, decided to sing "Any Way You Want It". Prick. He was also phenomenally good.

However, we got everyone off the couches for "Don't Stop Believing" ten minutes later, strung them along with "Baby Got Back", and then brought the house down with "Sweet Caroline". It was a stirring finale, made far more fun because the whole crowd decided to sing along. If there's anything four years of college taught me, it's that everyone always sings along to "Sweet Caroline", especially if drinks have been quaffed.

A fitting ending to an abnormally crazy night. Love that muddy water.

COMING NEXT TIME: Adventures in Home Decorating, Chinese Tea For White Guys, and some other crap.

Sunday, June 18, 2006

Wayback Machine: Grape Nuts of Wrath.

In searching the local video archives, we discovered this breakfast incident:

Filmed in Sarasota, FL. ::sigh::

Back From China.

We landed at JFK two weeks ago tired, happy, and stuffed. I'm not sure I've ever eaten so well on a vacation; hopefully Sarah will soon upload her pictures of all the food we ate in the ol' Orient. Macau was particularly (pleasantly) surprising, full of spicy prawns and African chicken and Portugese soups and tasty wines. Having lived under Portugese rule since the 16th century, the Macanese have had quite a bit of time to practice their fusion cuisine. And it's damn tasty.

I've started putting pictures up on Flickr, and I'll keep them rolling over the next week. First, there are pictures from Hong Kong, and then ones from Guangzhou. Still to come are the pictures of Macau, which was a wonderful old-world oasis, and then more from our last few days in Hong Kong.

Hopefully before too long I'll find time to write more about China. Experiencing the culture was even more interesting than I expected. It's quite evidently a society in transition, and there are tens, hundreds of millions of people at each stage of that transition. The situation makes for some strikingly imperfect markets: meals for 2 to 1000 yuan; shirts for 20 to 400.

I'm really just a huge dork.

Thursday, May 04, 2006

Good News Abounds.

Ceiling: Really That Short
Originally uploaded by ispivey.
As you can see to the right, I really wasn't kidding about the height of my ceiling. I'm worried that when Jeff comes to visit, he won't be able to stand (or at least not without dodging the light fixtures).

But wait, wait, even more important: I've replaced my camera. My D70 may be gone, dearly beloved, but its heir apparent (the Nikon D50) is more than fit for its older sibling's shoes. I'm not sure what this says about me, but bringing a new camera home felt like filling a hole in my life that's been extant for a while. Photography is one of my few creative outlets I really feel like I'm any *good* at (though my minor-league photography rehab start has been rough, so far). Most importantly, the new camera is just in time to accompany me to China in ten days.

TEN DAYS. That's pretty soon, and I still don't actually own a guide-book. Thankfully, I have an in-house guide. Needless to say, I'm insanely excited. We leave Monday, spend a few days in Hong Kong, a week and a half in Guangzhou, another day or two in Hong Kong, and then return to New York. I plan on eating staggering amounts of delicious and intimidating food; Aaron VanDevender described Guangzhou as "the Louisiana of China -- everyone else in China thinks they eat ridiculous stuff." And strangely enough, I'm more worried about my camera than about my personal safety. I'm fairly confident I'm twice the size of any would-be muggers, but those Chinese do have such dextrous little fingers...

Sarah and I also attended Elder Weekend at Zeta Psi last weekend, which was quite a lot of fun. I'm glad to have moved on, but I could use more frequent doses of the house; it reminds me what a unique environment MIT is.

But who am I kidding, I get called a douchebag enough the way things are.

New pics on Flickr, expect them to keep rolling. Adios, kids and cadets.

P.S. Made the mistake of digging out my MP3 backup CDs from 1999 and 2000. As a result, my iTunes just randomly started playing 2gether's "The Hardest Part of Breaking Up."

Saturday, April 08, 2006

Quick Update.

In the end, I did find an apartment (but one between Grammercy and the East Village, not in Harlem). This building is about a century older, and my ceiling isn't much more than seven and a half feet tall. Short as it may be, my apartment is warm, cozy, well-maintained, and only costs about twice as much as I ever imagined paying for a one-bedroom. I have a bed, a desk, a rug, a bookcase, a table, one pot, one pan, an amazing toaster, a matching (borrowed) set of table and chairs, and a fridge stocked with only wine bottles, baking soda, and a Brita pitcher. A very red sofa is on mail-order and due to arrive in a week or two. I'll write more about my efforts to turn house into home, but not now.

I spent three weeks in Australia, a couple weekends in Boston, and one Christmas weekend in Sarasota. Sydney was warm, friendly, and other-worldly (those details will have to wait as well). At the end of May, I'm going to China for two weeks: Honk Kong and Guangzhou. A trip to China has been so long on my "someday, wouldn't it be lovely" list that I'm not sure I'll believe I'm going until I'm there. I do, however, have the tickets. For the fourth of July, I'm hoping to visit family in Oregon.

In the past five months I've worked too much, missed my friends and family, had my camera stolen, and learned much more than I expected. Switching careers is humbling; I no longer know all the answers.

I've considered starting a coffeeshop, a teashop, a flowershop, several different kinds of software companies, an ad agency for podcasters, and a couple of real-estate ventures. I'm too young to know if my itchy feet are just something I need to learn to deal with, or an instinct I should follow.

I went to go see the Mets play the Marlins today, but the game got rained out.

It's good to write again, even if it's simply expository and rather perfunctory. I'll find the funny again soon, I promise. I expect it will arrive when I try to put together my "ready-to-assemble" couch, if not sooner.

Friday, January 06, 2006

A Short Bio.

I'm a computer scientist with entrepreneurial ambitions masquerading as an investment banker in New York. I graduated from MIT in 2005, after which I spent a couple months interning with Prodea, an "inventor capital" firm. I worked for IBM in the Extreme Blue rapid-prototyping program in 2004 and developed methods for helping electric utilities use smart meters and dynamic pricing to prevent power outages. I designed the first iteration of Creative Commons' ccMixter music-sharing service in 2003 with my friend Matt Drake. Before that, I was a software engineer for now-defunct indy music-vending startup Digizaar, a pilot program using micropayment technology. I also worked in MIT labs on telepresence and gene-sequencing projects.

I'm interested in the future of media, privacy in the era of online identity, and the evolving financial services industry. I'm also interested in delicious food, french bulldogs, and photography.

If you'd like to discuss any of the above, feel free to e-mail me at ispivey (at) alum (dot) mit (dot) edu. A detailed resumé is available on request (possibly).