Online DVD rental price war

Netflix, Blockbuster Make Users Happy, Investors Unhappy. I have enjoyed using Netflix in the past, but the decision of which subscription service to use almost always boils down to price. When Blockbuster introduced Total Access, allowing customers to exchange by-mail rentals for free in-store rentals, I'm sure a good number of Netflix customers defected. Netflix recently announced a price cut on some of its unlimited plans, and shortly after, Blockbuster revamped its subscription plans, essentially raising prices. The 1-at-a-time/3-max plan (was $7.99) appears to be no longer available, and the price of the 1-at-a-time/2-max went from $5.99 to $7.99. Also, BBI is limiting the number of in-store exchanges for the "regular" unlimited plans and charging more for unlimited exchanges under its new "Total Access Premium" plans. It appears that existing customers will not be affected unless they switch.

With Blockbuster and Netflix (NASDAQ:NFLX) locked in a bloody price war over online DVD rentals, the only winner seems to be the consumer.


And the bombs keep falling

Rage came out around 9:00 pm (was scheduled for 8:50). Encore concluded around 10:15 pm. Slightly disappointed they didn't play Renegades of Funk (which they did at Coachella), but great show nonetheless. No bleachers for VIP after all. Set list follows:

1. Testify
2. Bulls on Parade
3. People of the Sun
4. Know Your Enemy
5. Vietnow
6. Bullet in the Head
7. Down Rodeo
8. Tire Me
9. Guerilla Radio
10. Calm Like a Bomb
11. Sleep Now in the Fire
12. Wake Up

13. Freedom (Township Rebellion)
14. Killing in the Name

Filed under: Music 1 Comment

Duplicate hold’em poker

In Poker Match Against a Machine, Humans Are Better Bluffers. Aside from the obvious appeal of combining poker and computing, I got a kick out of this story because the Unabomber has made a name in the fashion world.

Unlike computer chess programs, which require immense amounts of computing power to determine every possible future move, the Polaris poker software is largely precomputed, running for weeks before the match to build a series of agents called “bots” that have differing personalities or styles of play, ranging from aggressive to passive.

More info here.


Rock the Bells set times posted

Set times are finally available here, but Adobe Flash is required. I hate that some web sites exclude non-Flash clients from receiving content so here is a text file containing the set times for the 7/28 NYC show. The venue map shows bleachers in the VIP section. Nice. Thinking of showing up around 3:30 to catch Public Enemy, but most importantly: 90 minutes of Rage. OH YEAH.

A good friend of ours said that if the same laws were applied to U.S. presidents as were applied to the Nazis after World War 2 that every single one of them, every last rich white one of them from Truman on would have been hung to death and shot - and this current administration is no exception. -Zack de la Rocha

Filed under: Music 1 Comment

Sunrocket flames out?

Internet Phone Company Halts Operations. Whoa. Looks like I lucked out big time. Was doing everything I could to switch to Sunrocket a few months ago as their prepaid deal was very attractive. ISP was having frequent outages at the time, however, so I cancelled service and returned the VOIP equipment during the trial period. No word yet on how existing customers will be compensated.


Terrorism as failed tactic

The Evolutionary Brain Glitch That Makes Terrorism Fail. Picked up from Schneier's blog, excellent analysis as always.

Although Bin Laden has complained that Americans have completely misunderstood the reason behind the 9/11 attacks, correspondent inference theory postulates that he's not going to convince people. Terrorism, and 9/11 in particular, has such a high correspondence that people use the effects of the attacks to infer the terrorists' motives. In other words, since Bin Laden caused the death of a couple of thousand people in the 9/11 attacks, people assume that must have been his actual goal, and he's just giving lip service to what he claims are his goals. Even Bin Laden's actual objectives are ignored as people focus on the deaths, the destruction and the economic impact.

Perversely, Bush’s misinterpretation of terrorists' motives actually helps prevent them from achieving their goals.

None of this is meant to either excuse or justify terrorism. In fact, it does the exact opposite, by demonstrating why terrorism doesn't work as a tool of persuasion and policy change. But we’re more effective at fighting terrorism if we understand that it is a means to an end and not an end in itself; it requires us to understand the true motivations of the terrorists and not just their particular tactics. And the more our own cognitive biases cloud that understanding, the more we mischaracterize the threat and make bad security trade-offs.


You tell me it calms your nerves

Surgeon General Sees 4-Year Term as Compromised. Why would anyone try to water down a report on secondhand smoke? Who is bought and sold?

Former Surgeon General Richard H. Carmona told a Congressional panel Tuesday that top Bush administration officials repeatedly tried to weaken or suppress important public health reports because of political considerations.

The administration, Dr. Carmona said, would not allow him to speak or issue reports about stem cells, emergency contraception, sex education, or prison, mental and global health issues. Top officials delayed for years and tried to “water down” a landmark report on secondhand smoke, he said. Released last year, the report concluded that even brief exposure to cigarette smoke could cause immediate harm.


In his testimony, Dr. Carmona said that at first he was so politically naïve that he had little idea how inappropriate the administration’s actions were. He eventually consulted six previous surgeons general, Republican and Democratic, and all agreed, he said, that he faced more political interference than they had.


Dr. Carmona described being invited to testify at the government’s nine-month racketeering trial of the tobacco industry that ended in 2005. He said top administration officials discouraged him from testifying while simultaneously telling the lead government lawyer in the case that he was not competent to testify. Dr. Carmona testified anyway.


Missing the NY Times

The Nonconformist. Now that I'm no longer a subscriber, I occasionally miss some good tidbits from the NYT, especially when it's in the magazine.

Mass Appeal. For someone who works with technology as much as I do, I'm quite the laggard when it comes to Web 2.0 stuff. I really admire some of the Threadless designs though.

Filed under: Media Comments Off

Bowin’ down to the flag, ya got a bullet in ya head

Put away the flags.  [Zinn]

One of the effects of nationalist thinking is a loss of a sense of proportion. The killing of 2,300 people at Pearl Harbor becomes the justification for killing 240,000 in Hiroshima and Nagasaki. The killing of 3,000 people on Sept. 11 becomes the justification for killing tens of thousands of people in Afghanistan and Iraq.

And nationalism is given a special virulence when it is said to be blessed by Providence. Today we have a president, invading two countries in four years, who announced on the campaign trail in 2004 that God speaks through him.

We need to refute the idea that our nation is different from, morally superior to, the other imperial powers of world history.

We need to assert our allegiance to the human race, and not to any one nation.