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June 26, 2008

Inflation Emergency!!!

I am doing research for my beat this quarter, covering the economy and the markets. As part of that, I am working on a story that I think might be an interesting look at how inflation is calculated and the information brought to the public.

However, to do that, I have to get in touch with one of the speakers from my class last quarter. I knew right where to get his name, but I needed to get it.

When I did, I happened to scroll to the bottom of the release and found this:


The all items CPI-U and CPI-W for the U.S. City Average, the Midwest region, and the Chicago area are available to the public 24 hours a day, 7 days a week through the Bureau's CPI Hotline service. This recorded message also provides percent changes from the prior period and from a year earlier, as well as the scheduled release date for the next CPI issuance. The Hotline number in Chicago is (312) 353-1880, menu option 2.

Just what you need for the late night emergencies when you need to know what the inflation rate might be.

Posted by bmiraski at 3:33 PM

AP Style revamp

It is somewhat sad that stories like this grab my attention. But they do, so I feel I have to share.

The new AP stylebook is out and it has over 200 new entries.

There is no more riffraff, people are no longer milquetoast, and there is no more malarkey going on.

But there is an iPhone, WMD (or maybe not), and social networking.

Yes, I know. I said this was sad.

Posted by bmiraski at 3:26 PM

More Orlando Sentinel bashing

Welcome to bashing day at Benjamin Miraski's Brain.

You would think with the fairly decent economic news today, that I might be able to find some uplifting information to give you.

But no.

Steve Outing has an interesting critique of the new Orlando Sentinel design.

I had my own comment in the newsroom here yesterday that it reminded me of someone taking the web, and trying to print it on paper.

However, the best skewering of the new design might have been done by one of the Tribune's own staff, Phil Rosenthal, who wrote his column on the design in the same manner as the new news stories in the Sentinel.

I must say I would never read a paper written that way.

Posted by bmiraski at 8:27 AM

Post Apocalyptic Vision?

., originally uploaded by edmo.

Creepy foggy photo. Another share from a Flickr friend.

Posted by bmiraski at 8:18 AM

More Twitter Bashing

I have tried it now, that pesky little Twitter, but I continue to believe that I don't get much more from it that the ability to annoy anyone that has my updates set to be sent to their phone.

Of the people I "follow", most just post links to their blogs, which I am already reading through RSS feeds, so no need for those posts.

I think I may have participated in one conversation there.

And of course, there are the outages, the downtimes, the missing functionality, which some people believe will get better with the inflow of cash that the tech company recently received. I am still not sure that it will fix what seems like it might be a good idea just implemented wrong.

I am starting to prefer FriendFeed quite a bit where there is a lot more open conversation on a variety of topics and it lends itself to allow for longer posts. The issue is pulling the masses from Twitter, which admittedly has a stronger user base, and getting them into the FriendFeed.

While the problems remain, and my skepticism, it seems that BusinessWeek isn't ready to give up on its push of the service that began with its beyond blogs article a few weeks back.

So, I guess I will keep watching, or following as the case may be.

(And of course, as I write this and try to add links, Twitter won't let me log in as it is over-capacity.)

Posted by bmiraski at 7:52 AM

June 24, 2008

Still a real man...

Still a real man..., originally uploaded by * Ahmad Kavousian *.

I really like the textures of this photo. From a recently discovered Flickr friend.

Posted by bmiraski at 10:14 AM

Be Like Lithuania

An interesting little side quiz just took place on CNBC.

What nation relies on nuclear energy the most?

My guess was France. That was wrong.

The correct answer is the former-Soviet republic of Lithuania.

Yes, little Lithuania relies on old Soviet engineering, the same kind that gave us the Chernobyl disaster, to power its microwave ovens and televisions showing re-runs of "Stalin loves Lenin" and "How Gorby Met Your Mother."

So, here's a question: Why can't the U.S. be more like Lithuania.

I know there is the argument that most people don't want a nuclear reactor in their backyard.

But is a nuclear reactor in your backyard better or worse than a coal power plant?

Business Week took "clean coal" to task in its latest issue. The obvious oxymoron of clean coal energy is broadcast all over the airwaves as the technology that will save the U.S. and end our dependence on oil.

Yeah, at the risk of giving us all lung cancer from the emissions. Oh, and there is that pesky global warming caused by the CO2 emissions that we still have no way to control.

I know there is a fear of a terrorist attack on a nuclear plant. I understand the concern. However, I also understand that we can't live our lives in fear of the worst. Modern nuclear plants are safe and have back-up control systems. To live in fear of a coordinated attack on a nuclear power plant is also ludicrous because it fits into what Bruce Schneier calls a "movie scenario."

It seems like a likely target, but the true risk of an attack would need something on the scale of a full suspension of disbelief that everything would work perfectly to pull it off.

Maybe its time we stepped back and looked indiscriminately at nuclear power as a real option.

After all, if little Lithuania can do it with decades-old Soviet technology, why can't we?

Posted by bmiraski at 9:41 AM

June 23, 2008

"Man on the street is a waste of time"

"Readers know it is too."

Those are comments from Kent Fischer of the Dallas Morning News, an education reporter who was consistently asked by his editors to provide color quotes from parents and interested parties for his daily stories.

However, with blogging, he has been able to outsource the quote gathering to the interested people who comment on his blog.

This is the essence of beat blogging, a trend which defines what makes some of the best blogs out there. Obviously this blog is a little bit of everything and therefore doesn't qualify in that arena. However, if you look at the highly focused blogs, what do they all have in common?

1. A theme strictly held to
2. Solid reporting

That is how you develop readership, that is how you develop a following.

That is what newspapers should be thinking about as they package content for the web, not just repeating what they print in the daily edition. Why not post it all as blogs and then print the daily with the best comments?

It seems that is the way that the Orlando Sentinel is trying to go with its redesign that I have written and linked to articles on. However, there is also the thought that they have tried to make the daily too much like the web instead of working the other way around.

I will be interested to see how BeatBlogging, the website that spawned those quotes takes off and follow its progress. It could be the future of journalism, something I probably need to keep my eye on if I want a job when I graduate.

Posted by bmiraski at 9:20 PM

You are not an athlete

A blogger for the Sporting News recently underwent a work-out similar to what most college football athletes suffer as they go through the combine.

Suffer being the important word there.

Just reading the descriptions of some of the drills make me tired and feeling the aches and pains that my 31-year-old body isn't old enough to feel yet.

I know I would have been in just as bad a position if I had gone through what this guy has, and this is only the first half of the post.

Stay tuned for more on him tomorrow, if he makes it through.

Posted by bmiraski at 12:47 PM

Make sure you read the signs carefully

The BBC has an interesting story on the efforts that the American and British forces have to go through to ensure that names of towns in Afghanistan are translated properly.

The issue is that the written Arabic script does not include symbols for vowels, so multiple towns could have their names written the same way using the only the consonants.

"Let's imagine there are two villages written as Mskr perhaps 10 miles apart, with one really being Maskar and the other really being Musakkir," says Paul Woodman, secretary of the PCGN.

"Then imagine that one of those villages is occupied by the Afghan security forces and the other by the Taleban.

"You'll see why we and the BGN need to be in touch all the time - to make sure that we not only have identical naming policies in place, but to ensure that we Romanise every little village and hill and valley exactly the same way.

"Otherwise there is the danger that food parcels, school textbooks, or whatever, will be inadvertently directed towards the village held by the Taleban, with lives endangered as a result."

A dangerous situation indeed.

It is these little things that no one thinks about when a country is at war.

Posted by bmiraski at 12:33 PM



One of my Flickr friends, Thomas Hawk, has an amazing set, including the picture above taken of the Chihuly exhibit on display near him.

I last saw a major exhibit like this at the Garfield Park Conservatory in Chicago, and was blown away by the glass art within the natural setting. However, I think having the work on display on its own adds a new dimension to the pieces, especially given the lighting that seems to have been added.

This Flickr set will surely show you something special.

This picture has some rights reserved.

Posted by bmiraski at 12:26 PM

June 20, 2008

whoa there

whoa there, originally uploaded by bheuer.

My shameless posting of one my Flickr friend's photos for the day. I really need to get out and shoot some more, or edit the over 2000 photos which are backed up on my home machine.

Can we get a 26-day anytime soon?

Anyway, this photo is awesome plain and simple. bheuer also has some great shots of the transformation that occurred on Lincoln Ave. for the movie being shot there about John Dillinger.

Posted by bmiraski at 2:48 PM


blank keyboardIf you want to teach someone to type without looking at the keys all the time, I think the best method might be to get one of these.

It is Das Keyboard, a totally blank keyboard which recently got a review on the CrunchGear website.

The keyboard also features a much improved response to normal keyboard action which is the main reason it costs $100. However, that $100 price is for a limited time only.

It seems cool, and I would totally want one, but I know there would be that time when I am trying to remember what key something was on and it would take me more than 5 minutes of random button pressing to get it correct.

Still, I totally could go for one of these for my desktop. (and yes, they also offer a printed version but the blank one is so much cooler.)

Posted by bmiraski at 2:25 PM

Something doesn't seem right about this

For my $40K graduate journalism education, I not only get education, I get access to PR Newswire.

Something doesn't seem right about this press release that just loaded into my inbox:

Indiana Sales of Hennessy Cognac to Raise Funds for the Thurgood Marshall College Fund

NEW YORK, June 20 /PRNewswire/ -- Hennessy, the number one cognac in the world, announced it will raise funds for the Thurgood Marshall College Fund. From now through mid July, proceeds from every sale of Hennessy Cognac in Indiana will be donated to the Fund, which provides resources, opportunities and advocacy to 47 Public Historically Black Colleges and Universities (HBCUs).

Yeah, something about that just doesn't seem right.

Posted by bmiraski at 1:16 PM

June 19, 2008

Huffington Post moves to Chicago

Apparently the Huffington Post will launch a Chicago edition according to its founder Arianna Huffington.

Initially, the site will launch an edited news aggregation site (similar to the main Huffington Post web site) localized for the US metro area around Chicago, Illinois. The site will be managed by a single editor to start. "We are aspiring to be a newspaper in that we want to covering all news [sic], not just the political blogging the way we began," Huffington said to the conference attendees.

Political affiliations aside, I have a hard time seeing how a one-man operation, as she hopes to start with, will compete with the local content already generated by two newspapers and by original reporting sites like The Windy Citizen and Gapers Block.

She isn't going to be able to get a person who will be able to go out and cover issues that are being addressed there and by the local blogs already.

I understand the need to be hyper-local in this new media world, but she really seems to be reaching if she intends to start with only one person in the newsroom.

If this was really a good pilot, she might want to think about what a normal staff in a city the size of Chicago would look like and put them on the ground. That might generate some real competition as opposed to one person who will just be linking as it looks right now.

That said, I am available for the opening.

Posted by bmiraski at 6:23 PM

The Birds

, originally uploaded by capitan-patata.

I think this is why we have don't feed the birds signs.

Posted by bmiraski at 5:25 PM

Happy Birthday? That will be $12.50

I feel like a megaphone for boingboing today.

However, this post caught my eye.

Who knew there was a copyright issue with Happy Birthday? Apparently professor Robert Brauneis did.

Imagine if the royalty rates were the same as the AP is proposing for bloggers quoting its stories?

"Happy Birthday to you, Happy Birthday to you, Happy Birthday dear Dirk, Happy Birthday to you." : $12.50

But don't do the second verse, or it will bump you into the second price band.

I first head about this controversy when the good professor was a guest on the very good Sound Opinions radio program that airs on NPR with the voices of Chicago music critics Jim DeRogatis and Greg Kot. That aired a few weeks back. Good to see that the news is getting out there about this.

Posted by bmiraski at 4:57 PM

Smithsonian Photos online

Portrait of Alexander Graham Bell (1847-1922), Engineerboingboing is pointing out that the Smithsonian has posted a collection of photos from its archives to Flickr.

It looks like all of the photos are copyright free, so this is a wealth of riches for bloggers and others who might need a great illustration of say Alexander Graham Bell.

Feel free to make the Smithsonian your Flickr friend, because this is a great idea from a very old institution to get its knowledge more available in the web age.

Posted by bmiraski at 10:02 AM

June 18, 2008


synthetic, originally uploaded by jaymce.

Nothing much caught my eye in the news today, although I am still collecting my thoughts on a very poignant article about the relationship between sportswriters and bloggers published in the Phoenix today.

I might get to that a little later.

In the meantime, here is a picture from my Flickr friends that caught my eye. It reminded me of a very interesting article about Che's legacy in Argentina, his home country, that appeared in the Wall Street Journal over the weekend.

Posted by bmiraski at 5:14 PM

June 17, 2008

Seattle Architecture

IMG_2663, originally uploaded by -robynw-.
The banner on my site is the EMP in Seattle, so perhaps this is appropriate.

No commentary on the news with a picture today... yet.

Posted by bmiraski at 10:52 AM

Warren Buffett could be my hero

Warren Buffett Testifies Before Senate Finance Committee
Image details: Warren Buffett Testifies Before Senate Finance Committee served by

Forbes is reporting that Warren Buffett is backing the InBev takeover of Anheuser-Busch that had me so excited last week.

Buffett is a fellow shareholder in the maker of Budweiser and obviously wants the best thing for his shares, which have been performing all of flat since he and I bought the stock.

And based on the Forbes article, it looks as if Buffett is going to take his concerns right to the top:

According to Belgian newspaper De Standaard, Buffett not only supports Inbev's offer, he is schedule to meet Anheuser's chief executive August Busch IV about it.

I can't say enough how much I want this deal to happen.

Posted by bmiraski at 10:09 AM

Want 5 words? It wll cost you

According to some chatter on the web, the AP has now added an excerpt pricing line item to its current licensing form.

Basically, if you don't mind publishing the whole article, for only a month (then you have to take it down), and you don't mind putting the AP's ads and logo on it, you can do it for free.

However, if you want to excerpt as little as 5 words, it is going to cost you...$12.50.

Seriously? If that was the case, I would think that free lance writers would be getting a little more for their works.

That pricing cover up to 25 words, so that would mean a 500 word story should bring in $250 each time out. Yeah, good luck negotiating that rate.

Posted by bmiraski at 9:18 AM

This isn't the first time the AP has complained

Yesterday, I wrote about TechCrunch's intention to not link AP stories until the AP stops with its silly strategy to fight bloggers who post excerpts from its stories on their sites.

I received an email later from Simon Owens at Bloggasm, who interviewed Rogers Cadenhead of Drudge Retort, the blogger who received seven cease and desist notes from the AP, after the incident.

Turns out that this isn't the first time that Cadenhead and the AP have butted heads.

Thanks Simon for reaching out.

Posted by bmiraski at 8:34 AM

June 16, 2008

Turning Heads

, originally uploaded by synecdoche.

Another image from a Flickr friend but appropriate. What is turning heads?

Tiger Woods winning on the 91st hole of the U.S. Open.

Kudos to Rocco Mediate who had the nerves to hold his own one-on-one with the man who will some day just be known as "The Greatest."

Tiger is the man.

Posted by bmiraski at 3:31 PM

Coffee catching on

Apparently stories on coffee and premium craft roasters are catching on. Not too long ago, I published this story on Chicago's Metropolis Coffee Co. located in Chicago's Edgewater neighborhood.

Another Chicago craft roaster, Intelligentsia, is expanding out in California. boingboing was on hand to get a tour of the facility and the coffee roasting process.

Posted by bmiraski at 12:24 PM

TechCrunch boycotting AP

Michael Arrington at TechCrunch is boycotting the AP based on the AP's recent actions with regards to links and quotes of its stories.

The short of it is that the AP is trying to restrict bloggers from linking and posting short snippets of its articles claiming that it does not fall under the "fair use" clause of the copyright laws.

According to TechCrunch's post:

A.P. vice president Jim Kennedy says they will issue guidelines telling bloggers what is acceptable and what isn’t, over and above what the law says is acceptable. They will “attempt to define clear standards as to how much of its articles and broadcasts bloggers and Web sites can excerpt without infringing on The A.P.’s copyright.”

Add in that apparently AP employees are going around and posting the contents of a letter from Kennedy in full on any blog that seems to reference the incidents that have occurred.

So TechCrunch has a new policy:

So here’s our new policy on A.P. stories: they don’t exist. We don’t see them, we don’t quote them, we don’t link to them. They’re banned until they abandon this new strategy, and I encourage others to do the same until they back down from these ridiculous attempts to stop the spread of information around the Internet.

At the risk of upsetting a future employer, I will join in this crusade until the policy is changed.

The linking policy was something that was encouraged for all of AP's clients by blogger David Cohn aka "DigiDave" back in May as something that would help save them money and make their news organizations more innovative because as he saw it, the AP was not looking out for its clients anymore. The result?

As I see it: This would allow newspapers to run more original local content, save money and build serious brand loyalty. The AP does none of these.

At a time when newspapers are trying to innovate to keep their consumers around, and trying things like radical front page redesign instead of forward thinking, maybe they might want to start paying attention.

(Link to DigiDave found through Brian Boyer's Sixth W)

Posted by bmiraski at 9:03 AM

June 15, 2008

A Case of Exploding Mangoes

mangoes.jpg"A Case of Exploding Mangoes" by Mohammed Hanif is a new book concerning the theories around the assassination of General Zia of Pakistan.

Based on the review in The New York Times, it seems to be a cross between Don Delillo's "Libra", which I very much enjoyed and something by Kurt Vonnegut, whose books I have found quite humorous with their satirical content.

Of course, there is also the matter of the creepiness that Hanif has added into the novel.

Hanif has written a historical novel with an eerie timeliness. It arrives as NATO troops battle the Taliban insurgency in Afghanistan; as General Musharraf fights Islamic extremism within his own country; as Pakistan assimilates yet another unsolved assassination; and as the menace of Al Qaeda persists worldwide. The most darkly funny scene in “A Case of Exploding Mangoes” imagines a Fourth of July party in Islamabad in 1988, hosted by Arnold Raphel. The American guests dress up in flowing turbans, tribal gowns and shalwar kameez suits, by way of ridiculous homage to the Afghan fighters. Among the invited guests is a young bearded Saudi known as “OBL,” who works for “Laden and Co. Constructions.” As OBL moves through the throng, various people stop to greet him and chat. Among them is the local C.I.A. chief who, after swapping a few words, bids him farewell: “Nice meeting you, OBL. Good work, keep it up.”

All that makes this newest a must-add to my Wish List on Amazon.

Posted by bmiraski at 8:38 PM

not so still

not so still, originally uploaded by Wenspics.
Watching the tribute to Tim Russert on NBC.

For some reason, this is a very fitting picture for that program.

Posted by bmiraski at 10:40 AM

June 13, 2008

Tim Russert has died at 58

Tim Russert has died at 58. Meet the Press will never be the same.

Posted by bmiraski at 3:53 PM

late night behind the theater

late night behind the theater

Originally uploaded by fatal Cleopatra.

Her recommendation is to look at it on black.

Ask and you shall receive...

Obviously another photo from one of my Flickr friends.

Posted by bmiraski at 9:53 AM

What do you want in your paper?

If you still read the news in a hard copy format, its an important question:

What do you want in your paper?

It is one that the ombudsman is asking of the Chicago Tribune's readers in response to word that they are going to downsize the paper to a 50-50 split between news and advertising.

The downsize is not a shock. It is inevitable in the current climate of news and instant gratification. So it becomes even more important to deliver a product that meets the needs of the people buying it.

Now, you don't have to "cater" to them by writing only stories that they want to read. Otherwise, based on some recent articles on ABC's news business, we might as well just be reading People magazine.

There are times you have to give people the news they need.

And so it all comes back to how soon are we going to have a one section paper with only the very necessary record of the day inside?

Steve Ballmer of Microsoft says actual-paper newspapers will be dead in 10 years:

In the next 10 years, the whole world of media, communications and advertising are going to be turned upside down -- my opinion.

Here are the premises I have. Number one, there will be no media consumption left in 10 years that is not delivered over an IP network. There will be no newspapers, no magazines that are delivered in paper form. Everything gets delivered in an electronic form.

So I am going to go with five.

Posted by bmiraski at 8:39 AM

June 12, 2008

Lake Ontario pastels

Lake Ontario Pastels

Originally uploaded by highwaygirl67.

Another photo from one of my Flickr friends. What can I say, I like photos of bridges and piers.

Posted by bmiraski at 3:18 PM

The Delivery Man

Deliveryman.jpgAnother book recently finished its pass through my hands. This time it was the look at the seedy Las Vegas underworld in Joe McGinniss's "The Delivery Man."

The book looks at Chase, a down on his luck painter trying to decide what to do with his life as he lives in Las Vegas. He has a beautiful girlfriend getting her MBA at Stanford who want him to come live with her. It seems like his life is should be great.

Except for Michelle, a childhood friend who is part of a "massage" service that provides extra benefits. Chase and Michelle have a past, one not too great as you come to learn. Plus Michelle has a definite hold on Chase, one he tries to shake numerous times.

While I enjoyed the first half of the novel, I quickly lost the spark which was pulling me into the novel. Perhaps it was the overabundance of underage girls working for Michelle and her sometimes-partner Bailey, selling themselves in much the same fashion as Michelle, sometimes worse. Perhaps it was the feeling that there were parts of the story missing that seemed crucial later on, something that might have hit the floor during an editor's run.

Perhaps it is that from stories I have heard of kids growing up in Vegas, parts of this are much too close to reality to make the suspension of disbelief in a novel possible.

Whatever it was, the book rolls to a slow conclusion, leaving you with a bitter taste in your mouth for various reasons. And that is reason enough not to give this book a strong recommendation.

Posted by bmiraski at 2:10 PM

Beer and Books, nothing better

My monthly Flying Fish Brewing Co. email newsletter alerted me to this post over at Amazon Blog's Omnivoracious.

The concept: Pairing beer and books, just as you would with beer and food, or more commonly wine and food.

I haven't read any of the books in the post, but some of the beers are excellent, such as Sierra Nevada Pale Ale, or the Flying Fish Hopfish India Pale Ale.

My favorite pairing?

I would also enthusiastically second Grant’s choice for his brilliant Corrupted Sciene: “for the later chapters--where I'm talking about the political, theological and ideological crim --I'd certainly suggest as most appropriate the Californian brew called Arrogant Bastard. This also has the advantage of being a fairly strong beer, as strong as some of the less potent wines, and thus one that efficiently delivers the necessary soothing effect.”

If you have never had Arrogant Bastard Ale, you are in for a treat. Even Beer Advocate loves the beer giving it an A from the site owners and an A- based on over 1300 reviews.

Posted by bmiraski at 1:02 PM

7 Deadly Glasses

Display%2520case%25202.jpgSpeaking of raising a glass, these are disturbing and awesome at the same time.

As boingboing wrote:

Hamilton Design's "Seven Deadly Sins" wine-glasses come in seven shapes, one for each sin. No idea what they cost, but you could sure have a fun themed dinner party with 'em.

Just imagine bring out that box at a party to hand out to your guests. Talk about freaky.

My favorite by far is Greed.

Found via boingboing

Posted by bmiraski at 9:52 AM

Raise a glass to cheer the BUD deal

Overnight, InBev, one of Belgium's biggest brewers with brands like Beck's and Bass, offered to buy Anheuser-Busch, the makers of Budweiser for an estimated $46.4 billion.

That equates to about $65 a share for Bud's stock owners, a $15 premium over where the stock was trading just about two weeks ago.

The stock has already jumped to over $62 on the news this morning.

Two thoughts on this:

1. I own BUD. I bought it about five years $50, meaning there has been no price appreciation on my stock during that time. I have had other investments up over 100%, including one very established company *cough*Nike*cough*, yet BUD has remained flat.

I don't have confidence in the ownership to get the stock to $65 on their own. The only way I am going to get that type of premium on my purchase anytime soon is to approve this deal if or when it comes to a vote.

I am all on the side of "Yes" on this one.

2. If the deal goes through, the largest domestically-owned beer brewer will be Sam Adams. The Boston Beer Co., a craft brewer!

Something about that makes me feel good.

In 2007, the craft brew industry grew 12 percent and there is no doubt that the companies in that sector are turning out better product than the big boys, who would now all be owned by foreigners.

It would be a return to the roots of brewing in the U.S., if only in name since we all know that Bud, Miller and Coors will continue to be thought of as American beers.

So with that, I raise a glass to this deal going through, a glass I can pay for with my profits.

Posted by bmiraski at 9:01 AM

June 11, 2008

Gimme, gimme, gimme

There is no item more speculated about than the inner workings of a baseball team.

What do they make? How much do they really bring in? What makes most of their owners richer than Exxon Mobil (ok, maybe not that rich)?

A few lucky people are getting to look at the Chicago Cubs' books because they are on the approved list to buy the team.

I love how Major League Baseball gets to approve who gets to be a member of its little elite club, but that is a topic for another time, probably after the team is sold.

Right now, I just want to get my hands on those books.

If any of the nine prospective owners wants to call me and give me a little inside information, please do.

Posted by bmiraski at 3:52 PM

Euro 2008 - a winner for sponsors

I have spent a number of hours on my break watching the opening rounds of Euro 2008, the soccer tournament pitting 16 of the best national teams in Europe.

Ringed around the pitch (that's the field for those Americans unwilling to understand proper football terminology) are ads for addidas, Coca-Cola, McDonald's, Mastercard and others.

According to a Forbes article published about a week ago, those ads are likely to be big winners for the companies who place them.

They are going to need to pay off because the amount they have paid is overwhelming.

So far UEFA, the European soccer's governing body, has seen huge revenues from the games. Sponsors and broadcasters are providing sales of $2.0 billion, 35.0% more than the previous 2004 tournament in Portugal.

What does that number mean? The Superbowl is the U.S. longtime standard for advertising sales, where 30-second spots go for near $3 million.

Yet, in 2007, according to the TNS Media Intelligence numbers, the Superbowl only brought in $151.5 million in ad revenue. Sure, it is a one time, 3-plus-hour event versus an almost month-long contest with multiple matches, but it is the event in the U.S. (2008 numbers weren't available)

Or is it.

Based on the same numbers, the final three games of the NCAA basketball tournament in 2007 produced more ad revenue ($168.4 million). Yes, it is three games compared to one, but it was three games where the final result was almost a guarantee given the strength of the Florida team that season.

In terms of just rights and sponsorship, a previous Forbes article rated the Superbowl as the most valuable sporting event, at $379 million. That might be a more equal comparison for the $2.0 billion number.

However, the $2.0 billion taken in by UEFA is still a staggering $105 million per day of the tournament, nothing to sneeze at when some of the largest countries in the world don't take part, and one of those, the U.S., normally couldn't care less about soccer.

Congrats go out to UEFA.

Posted by bmiraski at 2:54 PM

Bears will have running troubles

Here I am with sports again...

In the wake of the Cedric Benson dismissal, Vaughn McClure has an interesting article in the Tribune today outling the top four free agent backs that the Bears could look at as a replacement.

Based on the commentary from an NFL executive, it doesn't look pretty out there.

Knowing the Bears, that won't stop them from taking one of these overrated and overpriced players and keeping Adrian Peterson, who proved he could run last season, on the sidelines.

Posted by bmiraski at 1:14 PM

World News Webcast close to changing format

The Wall Street Journal ($$) is reporting that the World News Webcast put out by ABC is close to changing its format.

ABC's news-division president, David Westin, says the network is considering ways to reinvent the broadcast, including as a series of updates throughout the day.

It is too bad that the viewer numbers for the webcast have not been higher. According to the article, the website that the webcast runs on only received 145,000 hits last Monday. There was no indication of the number of subscribers to the podcast version of the webcast.

I have consistently watched the webcast over the last 18 months, partially because I was working longer hours and this was my only access to the news during that time, and mostly because it was the best example of what I thought news should be on the web if you wanted a summary news program, much like traditional broadcast news.

From my time in school I can tell you: Putting together a 30-second video for the web is hard, let alone, trying to produce a 15-minute broadcast. If ABC News were to try and do the former throughout the day, they would likely burn themselves out, let alone the people who watch the webcast with the constant updates.

The article also points to the "tastes" of consumers, which are just scary.

Of last Monday's 7.8 million clicks, three million were to photo slideshows, including one of celebrities at the beach and another of the "pregnant man."

The webcast always had a "fun" story at the end, much like the endcaps on traditional news which were fun and light-hearted. However, if that is going to be the majority of the news that people go to for the webcast, and the webcast will change content to meet that, I will stop watching.

This is (was?) the best news on the net each day. It is too bad it may be shortlived.

Posted by bmiraski at 12:52 PM



Originally uploaded by Fack to Bront.

Fack to Bront consistently has some of the best portrait photography in my Contact list on Flickr. This one definitely caught my eye and I thought fit in well with the color scheme here on the blog.

Posted by bmiraski at 12:37 PM

"Eight Men Out" Author dies

According to the Associated Press, Eliot Asinof, the author of "Eight Men Out" has died.

The Ancramdale resident died at a hospital in Hudson of complications from pneumonia, said his son, Martin Asinof.

Asinof was best known for "Eight Men Out," his 1963 retelling of the "Black Sox" scandal in which eight members of the Chicago White Sox threw the 1919 World Series. He spent more than three years exhaustively researching the book, his son said.

While I have not read the book, it was made into one of the best, if not the best baseball movie of all-time.

For a man who didn't exactly make headlines with his own name, he sure was linked to some very famous people.

According to the article, Asinof dated Rita Moreno and was married to Jocelyn Brando, the sister of the Godfather, Marlon Brando. Jocelyn is the mother of his son.

Sadly, this also means that there is one less person on Shoeless Joe Jackson's side fighting for his induction into the Baseball Hall of Fame.

Posted by bmiraski at 11:31 AM

The Long Goodbye

41Z4TMH4P6L__SL500_.jpgI just recently finished The Long Goodbye by Raymond Chandler.

It was the One Book, One Chicago selection for spring. I only finished about a month late to attend any of the events. I can thank school for that.

Depsite that, Philip Marlowe and I are now friends.

I never thought I would like a different detective that Burke, the man with one name created by Andrew Vachss. Yet, Chandler made me do just that.

Perhaps it is that there is so much of Marlowe in Burke. Add in that Chandler's stories have a much smoother flow than the Burke novels. While Burke sometimes seems to jump to conclusions that aren't totally logical, Marlowe slowly thought things out.

He made calls, he read documents. He did what a detecitve does.

Now, Marlowe doesn't share everything as the book goes along. He waits for the "big reveal" for the really juicy bits. But nothing in the big reveal seems to come out of nowhere.

Plus Marlowe is a true lone wolf. While Burke has his posse, Marlowe worked alone, never really a friend to anyone.

So what is The Long Goodbye about? Marlowe gets involved with Terry Lennox who ends up dead in Mexico, the victim of a "suicide" while trying to flee a murder that Marlowe think Lennox may not have committed.

Marlowe gets involved in the world of the rich and powerful in L.A. while constantly being warned off looking into Lennox's death. The book is full of gritty twists and turns while pulling you into the underbelly of the glamourous side of society.

This would definitely go on my must read list for anyone.

Posted by bmiraski at 10:23 AM

Frank Lloyd Wright

It seems that I have seen an abundance of Frank Lloyd Wright in the last couple years, including Taliesin West out in Arizona.

Turns out that Sunday was his birthday.

With that in mind, this little snippet comes from my Powell's Technica newsletter this morning:

Dehumidifier Needed

Did you build a paper model to celebrate architect Frank Lloyd Wright's recent birthday on June 8? Born in 1867, Wright is best known for his houses that feature low-slung roofs and incorporate nature. Fallingwater is his best example - a house above a waterfall in Mill Run, Pennyslvania. The structure is quite beautiful, but natural elements take their toll on architecture. The original owner, Edgar Kauffman, nicknamed the house "Rising Mildew."

Posted by bmiraski at 9:48 AM

June 10, 2008

Dallas Morning News unveils new format

Interesting tidbit that I am gleaning from Romenesko this morning.

The Dallas Morning News is introducing a one-section condensed version of the paper for non-subscribers to bring them into the fold.

An interesting move.

My argument to the continuation of newspapers is that they are too big. Outside of the Wall Street Journal, which manages to fill its pages consistently with well done news, it seems to me that a good amount of what gets printed in a daily is not anything that someone will read.

Remember that newspapers used to be single- or two-page publications, and they only covered the most essential information for people.

Posted by bmiraski at 10:07 AM

Harvard doesn't like J.K. Rowling

Apparently Northwestern isn't the only school whose seniors aren't happy over the choice for graduation speaker.

Some Harvard students didn't like the choice of Harry Potter author J.K. Rowling as their speaker.

I don't blame them.

However, you would think someone who graduated from Harvard would have better grammar.

"I think we could have done better," shrugged computer science major Kevin Bombino. He says Rowling lacks the gravitas a Harvard commencement speaker should have.

"You know, we're Harvard. We're like the most prominent national institution. And I think we should be entitled to … we should be able to get anyone. And in my opinion, we're settling here. "

Italics mine.

Posted by bmiraski at 9:44 AM

June 9, 2008

Bears release Benson

They should have never drafted him in the first place but that is another matter.

The Bears have finally dumped Benson after he continued to act like a spolied sports star and this time went driving a car drunk.

Thankfully, NFL teams seem to be less tolerant of these acts now, most likely because their own skin and money is on the line when one of their players act out.

Maybe we should give the commish a thank you for cracking down the right way on what was wrong with his sport.

Posted by bmiraski at 4:58 PM

Social Networking

Over the weekend, I finally got to a Business Week issue from two weeks ago, about the future of tech beyond blogs. The story revisits a cover story from three years ago, before there was anything called Facebook, YouTube, or Twitter.

The newest version keys in on two phenomenon: Twitter and Social Networking.

I must admit I don't understand the appeal of Twitter. It reminds my of my Facebook profile status, which I don't think hs changed more than three times since I have had my page. It just doesn't seem to have a practical purpose to me, despite this little snippet from the article:

"The new résumé is 140 characters," tweets 23-year-old Amanda Mooney, who just landed a job in PR.

If that is the case, then I am wasting more than my money at journalism school.

However, I will concede that there seems to be great benefit derived from social networking. If there was one thing that confounded my while in consulting, it was the constant "networking" needs that seemed to follow me everywhere, and the ability to keep up with those networks while totally engulfed in other things.

With an application, web-enabled, and updated by all the participants in the network, voila, all my struggles could be saved. With a short read out, I can stay up to date with what everyone is doing and who they are connecting with.

Facebook has done that for social lives, so why shouldn't business do the same.

Take this example from Best Buy, also from the article:

In 2006 two marketing managers at the company worked weekends to create an in-house social network, Blue Shirt Nation. Now it has grown to more than 20,000 participants, 85% of them sales associates. In a company with a 60% annual turnover rate, this group churns at only 8.5%, blogs Gary Koelling, one of the founders. And Blue Shirt Nation gets results. A promotional drive on the site helped persuade 40,000 employees to sign up for 401(k) retirement accounts.

I know my consulting firm was implementing a similar social network at the company as I left, something I am sure will pay off.

My only doubt: How many of these networks can someone update?

My MySpace page hasn't been updated in months, maybe over a year at this point, while my Facebook page does get attention. If I had to keep up both a social and a consulting social network page, would that really happen as we are all stressed for time as it is?

At least one company is betting yes. Ning, which got its own little profile in the same issue of the magazine, allows you and I to create a social network for anything we might think is appropriate.

It seems that most of those who have done so have done it for charitible causes, but the site boasts that it could be used to talk about wedding events, getting guests connected prior to the big day, or maybe to get together with those that share the same hobbies.

Again, I go back to how many of these sites can one person keep up to date. If I already have Facebook, why not start a group for the same purpose. Groups there can share most of the same items that would be present on a Ning site.

I do see the applicability to business. I am looking to see when the first big business contracts with Ning to build their internal site.

The entire montage is a look at how far tech has come in changing the way that not only people interact, but also businesses internally and externally. Social networking is the next big thing right now, and probably has a long lifespan ahead of it, given the reliance on networks in this free agent society of ours.

What else will come soon is anyone's guess. My thought is that it will be some offshoot of the social network push that expands it even further, probably using instant connection via some mobile device.

For now, I am just betting on my general web "index fund" and letting it take whatever turn it may.

Posted by bmiraski at 4:28 PM

TSA implements policy with massive loopholes

Shocker, I know.

It seems that the TSA has found yet another way to violate the rights of passengers as they attempt to navigate through the overly restrictive security procedures.

Yes, I know that sentence just opened an FBI file for myself.

However, having flown 6 years under the policies almost every week, I feel I have seen enough of the randomness and arbitrary focus to comment.

While there was a possibility to move through security by refusing to show ID if you subjected to additional screening, that is no more.

If you refuse to show your ID, you will not be admitted to the boarding area. Period.

However, claiming it was lost or misplaced is still ok, and subject to the extra screening which was once available to those who just refused.

As boingboing points out:

This new rule seems to only apply to terrorists that are unable to lie, while at the same time, massively cutting into the rights of passengers.

My personal favorite is how TSA fully asserts its right to set policy without thinking for five minutes about how ridiculous that policy happens to be.

Now back to sitting with my tin foil hat on.

Posted by bmiraski at 3:59 PM

June 7, 2008

Business Week Chicago is no more

According to an article in Crain's, the Chicago edition of Business Week, which was a monthly making it a very accurate journalistic title, is no more.

Since Crain's is subscription-based, here are the highlights:

The cause was slow ad sales, according to several people familiar with the situation. Two staffers, one in editorial and one salesperson, have lost their jobs.


The magazine, typically 52 pages long, was included as a supplement for Chicago-area BusinessWeek subscribers and was not available on newsstands.

Seems to me that if you limit the potential base of readers to only those who read the main edition, you might have caused the ad sale problem.

Sad, since I know my professor was very excited about this development as another sign that business journalists were in high demand.


Posted by bmiraski at 11:37 AM

Artificial turf made from tires is safe

I believe that this study and commentary validates my opinion of the parents that originally complained about the turf:

It bothers me that it seems these might be the same parents who would complain if the fields were made of grass and the kids couldn't play after the rain.

Yes, it seems these parents over-reacted just a tad bit.

Posted by bmiraski at 11:32 AM

June 5, 2008


Gerry Doyle, who writes the very interesting Read Ink, just made my day more crappy, if that is a possibility.

Posted by bmiraski at 5:15 PM

Leitch leaves Deadspin

For some (read Buzz Bissinger), Will Leitch embodies everything that is wrong with blog journalism, if that isn't an oxymoron.

For some, Will Leitch is everything that blog journalism is supposed to be.

If you haven't seen the Bob Costas roundtable on the state of sports media, find it. I agree with a lot of what Buzz said, although the way he said it probably wasn't the best. The few videos of it that existed on YouTube have been removed.

Pesky copyright violations.

Well, Leitch is apparenlty going somewhat mainstream as a contributing editor at New York magazine. You can read his first goodbye post at Deadspin.

So there is an editor job at Deadspin open.

Brian McCabe, who often appears on, asked me if I wanted the job.

"Yes and no," I said.

"Why no?" he asked.

"No, because I don't agree with a lot of what they post. Then again, yes, because I would love to have a post of mine that had..." *looks at screen* "...7821 hits on one of my stories," I replied.

"In a hour," Brian said.


The article is now up to 10,234 hits.

Posted by bmiraski at 2:39 PM

Don't rat out your clients

The moral of this story is:

If you are thinking about ratting out people you sold steroids to, don't.


1. They are artifically huge and can beat you up.

2. They likely have guns.

Sure we don't know if this was a homicide or a murder-suicide, but this is really scary shady.

Posted by bmiraski at 2:19 PM

Why Bloggers, including this one, suck

Another reason why I have grown to like the non-fundamentally based blogging world a little more. Everyday Should Be Saturday used to be a good read.

Now it is a little over the top and comments like this from their own writers:

“Where’s the journalistic integrity?” Reilly asked. “He has my email — why didn’t he try to verify it?” Indeed, the blonde that “looked like a stripper” accompanied Reilly to the party Friday night, and he confirmed that she’s his live-in girlfriend.

We’re not journalists, for one. We’re bloggers, and as usual, we’ll have to tell you the definition of blogger by telling you that there is no definition.

While the full post ends with a somewhat excellent olive branch, I disagree with the premise that bloggers should do anything differently than journalists would. This is especially true considering that most people read blogs while as we know, paper circulation of newspapers and some magazines have gone down.

People need to start picking up the phone and making calls to verify some of the rumors, not just take them at face value and run with it.

Plus, I have a hard time believing that there was no one that knew how to get in touch with Rick Reilly.

Maybe they should have tried calling Sports Illustrated and seeing if they had someone in the media department who might be kind enough to let them have some content information.

It isn't that hard, and I think if you mentioned you were going to post some not nice info about Reilly and then said you would like his side of it, they would be more than helpful.


Posted by bmiraski at 12:33 PM

Polish News Rocks

I am not going to write about sports on this site.

I am not going to write about sports on this site.

I am not going to write about sports on this site.

Ok, screw it. Polish papers are a little excited about the Euro Cup starting this weekend -- the perfect chance for revenge against the Germans for all those years of pain.

Just witness the front cover of their sports section featuring the Polish soccer coach holding the heads of Michael Ballack and German coach Jaochim Low.

We need more great photoshop work like this in the U.S. How great would a doctored photo of Obama holding Hillary's severed head have been on Wednesday morning? (obviously just kidding. I don't think the whole Obama/Osama thing needs anymore press.)

Editors take note.

Posted by bmiraski at 11:08 AM

If you thought real airport security was bad...

Vegetable tray linerBe glad you aren't a vegetable.

Apparently Amsterdam Burger King restaurants actually are using tray liners which feature a fairly graphic scene from a fake airport security.

Graphic and hilarious.

Found at boingboing

Posted by bmiraski at 9:39 AM

June 4, 2008

More sour news about the newspaper industry

There is a proper response to this article.

I think it is "Fuck!"

When even the weeklies are a little scared about papers and making it online, there is something seriously wrong.

I guess technically it will be my job to fix that.

Posted by bmiraski at 6:01 PM

June 3, 2008

17 Male African Elephants

That is 200,000 pounds in a form that most people could understand.

The very interesting and useful-for-journalists can translate those hard to understand measurements.

For example:

  • 16 Tons = 22 cows
  • 100 meters = 5.6 10-pin bowling lanes
  • 109 acres = the size of Vatican City

Information for life.

Posted by bmiraski at 12:15 PM

Grease Freak

Oh my, best idea ever.

Brian Boyer who runs the very well done Sixth W on technology in journalism turned me on to, a site that rates all of Chicago's really-bad-for-you-but-yummy-tasting fast food: hot dogs, italian beef, burgers, italian subs and more.

Posted by bmiraski at 11:28 AM

Funny Money

Kids: Don't deface currency. It is illegal.

But if you are going to do it, it better be as cool as this.

Otherwise, you are wasting your time.

Posted by bmiraski at 11:09 AM