November 13, 2007
Can bookofjoe move markets?
Scary thought, huh?
Perhaps not like Ben Bernanke but how else to interpret the following series of events?
1. I noticed that a number of people have been stopping by from Google Finance (above).
2. What's that all about, I wondered? So I clicked on the link and lo and behold was taken to the Google Finance page for Boston Beer Company (above), brewer of (among other things) Utopias beer, the most expensive beer made in the U.S.
3. But why the link to me? I scrolled down and there it was, under "Blog Posts" (above): a link to my post of November 11, 2007 about Utopias.
I had no idea Google was putting blogs into its finance section but hey, I'm down with it.
Mat Walk Bath Mat — 'Slippers built right in!'
What took so long?
Designed by Paolo Ulian for droog.
- Mat Walk
A bath mat with slippers build right in!
Perfect for keeping your feet clean and warm after a luxurious bath!
23.25"W x 37.5"L.
Makes "Now where did I put my slippers?" inoperative.
Marvel Comics Online Today
I'm closing up shop now and heading over to www.marvel.com/comics.
Here's David Colton's story from today's USA Today about the epic event, in case you'd rather savor the anticipation a bit longer.
- Marvel Comics shows its marvelous colors in online archive
The comic book industry makes a long-delayed step into cyberspace today when Marvel Comics unveils the industry's first online archive of more than 2,500 back issues, including the first appearances of Spider-Man, the X-Men and the Incredible Hulk.
Marvel Digital Comics Unlimited will offer the archive in a high-resolution format on computer screens for $59.88 a year, or at a monthly rate of $9.99, at marvel.com.
Subscribers will be able to access the first hundred issues of key titles, turn pages with a click of the mouse or navigate a battle against Dr. Doom frame-by-frame with a "Smart Panel" viewing feature. The user can zoom in on details of art by Jack Kirby and Steve Ditko from the 1960s or catch up with today's The Ultimates and New Avengers.
"We did not want to get caught flat-footed with kids these days who have the tech that allows them to read comics in a digital format," says Dan Buckley, Marvel's president. "Our fan base is already on the Internet. It seemed like a natural way to go."
To help sell the experience to an audience unaccustomed to paying for content, Marvel will offer a free sampler of 250 titles. Asked why people would pay for superheroes when newspaper websites have been unable to charge for content, Buckley says, "You can get the news anywhere. We're the only ones who have Spider-Man."
While comic book publishers have experimented with online content for years, Marvel's effort is by far the most extensive. DC Comics recently launched its own online site, Zuda comics.com, which offers free online comic strips by newcomers. DC does not offer its back catalog of Superman and Batman online.
Marvel's online initiative comes as publishers find that the traditional comic book, which now costs $2.99 an issue, is acting as a springboard to other formats, including trade paperbacks and more expensive reprints.
To protect current sales of comic books, new issues won't be on the Marvel site until six months after they are published.
"If they put their monthly comic online at the same time, they'd be cutting their own throats and undercutting the retailers," says Peter David, a comic book writer currently adapting Stephen King's The Dark Tower for Marvel. "The material is owned by Marvel, and they can do whatever they want with it. This is just another means of reprint when you come down to it."
Comic books have not been immune from Internet file sharing. But unlike MP3s for music, fans haven't found a format to easily share the pages.
"About 90% of the comic books sold today are scanned and put online within 36 hours," says Chris Arrant, a comic book analyst for Newsarama.com.
"Our quality is much higher; the library is huge and will never go out of style," says Marvel editor in chief Joe Quesada. "This is the legal way to do things."
Here's George Gene Gustine's item from today's New York Times "Arts, Briefly" column; it contains additional information about what's available and what it costs.
- Marvel Puts Superheroes Online
Marvel Comics, the publisher of Spider-Man, Wolverine and the Fantastic Four, is introducing an online subscription service. For $9.99 a month or $59.88 a year, subscribers will get Web access to a library of 2,500 comic books, as well as 20 new titles each week. For the introduction of the site, marvel.com/digitalcomics, Marvel will offer a free sampling of 250 titles. The service will make it easier and more affordable for people to read the first copy of “Captain America,” from 1941, which in its print form is valued from $7,433 to $160,000. Though comic books have been available digitally for some time, the paid subscription model is relatively new. For Marvel, a chief concern is to avoid cannibalizing demand for print copies. “This is a big step,” said Dan Buckley, the president and publisher of Marvel Entertainment, the parent company of Marvel Comics. He added that there would be “a timing lag between our print products and going online.”
Best Pacifier Ever?
I mean, sure, the joke's on baby but it's not as if her or his self-esteem is gonna be permanently damaged.
Besides, it'll do double duty for trick-or-treating once the kid learns to walk.
From the website:
- Set of 2 Baby Pacifiers
Let baby provide the entertainment while enjoying the calming comfort provided by this pair of wacky pacifiers.
You won't be able to stop laughing as your favorite little one enthusiastically sucks on each of these special pacifiers — My Two Front Teeth [top] and Li'l Piglet.
Safe and easy to clean, each is crafted of non-toxic materials.
For sale: 'Hanging Heart' — by Jeff Koons
It goes on the block tomorrow night, November 14, 2007 at Sotheby's Contemporary Art Sale in New York.
Made of high chromium stainless steel.
One of 5, each uniquely colored.
Est.: $15 million to $20 million.
106" x 85" x 40".
Freeloader Fork — 'I'll have what he's having'
From the website:
- Freeloader Fork
Ever been tempted by a passing dessert cart?
Desired a dab of your dinner companion's delicious dumplings?
The metal Freeloader Fork looks like a normal fork but it telescopically extends to a length of 21"!
At its full length it allows you to surreptitiously taste others' food and never be suspected.
It can also be used as a pointer for culinary lectures, a back scratcher or a humorous conductor's wand.
Do you speak Globish?
Michael Skapinker, writing in the November 9, 2007 Financial Times, explored the rise of the English language — non-native speaker version.
FunFact from the article: Non-native speakers now outnumber native speakers by three to one — and the imbalance is growing.
FunFact #2: Non-native speakers are more comfortable with other non-native speakers, and find it more difficult to communicate with native speakers.
Skapinker wrote, "Why should non-native speakers bother with what native speakers regard as correct? Their main aim, after all, is to be understood by one another."
Here's the story.
- Whose language?
Non-native speakers give a twist to the world's pre-eminent tongue
Chung Dong-young, a former television anchorman and candidate to be president of South Korea, may be behind in the opinion polls but one of his campaign commitments is eye-catching. If elected, he promises a vast increase in English teaching so that young Koreans do not have to go abroad to learn the language. The country needed to "solve the problem of families separated for English learning", the Korea Times reported him saying.
In China, Yu Minhong has turned New Oriental, the company he founded, into the country's biggest provider of private education, with more than 1m students over the past financial year, the overwhelming majority learning English. In Chile, the government has said it wants its population to be bilingual in English and Spanish within a generation.
No one is certain how many people are learning English. Ten years ago, the British Council thought it was around 1bn. A report, English Next , published by the council last year, forecast that the number of English learners would probably peak at around 2bn in 10-15 years.
How many people already speak English? David Crystal, one of the world's leading experts on the language and author of more than 100 books on the subject, estimates that 1.5bn people - around one-quarter of the world's population - can communicate reasonably well in English.
Latin was once the shared language over a vast area, but that was only in Europe and North Africa. Never in recorded history has a language been as widely spoken as English is today. The reason millions are learning it is simple: it is the language of international business and therefore the key to prosperity. It is not just that Microsoft, Google and Vodafone conduct their business in English; it is the language in which Chinese speak to Brazilians and Germans to Indonesians.
David Graddol, the author of English Next , says it is tempting to view the story of English as a triumph for its native speakers in North America, the British Isles and Australasia - but that would be a mistake. Global English has entered a more complex phase, changing in ways that the older English-speaking countries cannot control and might not like.
Commentators on global English ask three principal questions. First, is English likely to be challenged by other fastgrowing languages such as Mandarin, Spanish or Arabic? Second, as English spreads and is influenced by local languages, could it fragment, as Latin did into Italian and French - or might it survive but spawn new languages, as German did with Dutch and Swedish? Third, if English does retain a standard character that allows it to continue being understood everywhere, will the standard be that of the old English-speaking world or something new and different?
Mr Graddol says the idea of English being supplanted as the world language is not fanciful. About 50 years ago, English had more native speakers than any language except Mandarin. Today both Spanish and Hindi-Urdu have as many native speakers as English does. By the middle of this century, English could fall into fifth place behind Arabic in the numbers who speak it as a first language.
Some believe English will survive because it has a natural advantage: it is easy to learn. Apart from a pesky "s" at the end of the present tense third person singular ("she runs"), verbs remain unchanged no matter who you are talking about. (I run, you run, they run; we ran, he ran, they ran.) Definite and indefinite articles are unaffected by gender (the actor, the actress; a bull, a cow.) There is no need to remember whether a table is masculine or feminine.
There is, however, plenty that is difficult about English. Try explaining its phrasal verbs - the difference, for example, between "I stood up to him" and "I stood him up". Mr Crystal dismisses the idea that English has become the world's language because it is easy. In an essay published last year, he said Latin's grammatical complexity did not hamper its spread. "A language becomes a world language for extrinsic reasons only, and these all relate to the power of the people who speak it," he wrote. The British empire carried English to all those countries on which the sun never set; American economic and cultural clout en-sured English's dominance after the British empire had faded.
So could China's rise see Mandarin becoming the world's language? It may happen. "Thinking back a thousand years, who would have predicted the demise of Latin?" Mr Crystal asks. But at the moment there is little sign of it, he says. The Chinese are rushing to learn English.
Mr Graddol agrees that we are unlikely to see English challenged in our lifetime. Once a lingua franca is established, it takes a long time to shift. Latin may be disappearing but it remained the language of science for generations and was used by the Roman Catholic church well into the 20th century.
As for English fragmenting, Mr Graddol argues it has already happened. "There are many Englishes that you and I wouldn't understand," he says. World Englishes , a recent book by Andy Kirkpatrick, professor at the Hong Kong Institute of Education, gives some examples. An Indian teenager's journal contains this entry: "Two rival groups are out to have fun . . . you know generally indulge in dhamal [a type of dance] and pass time. So, what do they do? Pick on a bechaara bakra [poor goat] who has entered college." Prof Kirkpatrick also provides this sample of Nigerian pidgin English: "Monkey de work, baboon dey chop" (Monkeys work, baboons eat).
It is unlikely, however, that this fragmentation will lead to the disappearance of English as a language understood around the world. It is common for speakers of English to switch from one or other variantto a use of language more appropriate for work, school or international communication. Mr Crystal says modern communication through television, film and the internet means the world is likely to hold on to an English that is widely understood.
The issue is: whose English will it be? Non-native speakers now outnumber native English-speakers by three to one. As hundreds of millions more learn the language, that imbalance will grow. Mr Graddol says the majority of encounters in English today take place between non-native speakers. Indeed, he adds, many business meetings held in English appear to run more smoothly when there are no native English-speakers present.
Native speakers are often poor at ensuring that they are understood in international discussions. They tend to think they need to avoid longer words, when comprehension problems are more often caused by their use of colloquial and metaphorical English.
Barbara Seidlhofer, professor of English and applied linguistics at the University of Vienna, says relief at the absence of native speakers is common. "When we talk to people (often professionals) about international communication, this observation is made very often indeed. We haven't conducted a systematic study of this yet, so what I say is anecdotal for the moment, but there seems to be very widespread agreement about it," she says. She quotes an Austrian banker as saying: "I always find it easier to do business [in English] with partners from Greece or Russia or Denmark. But when the Irish call, it gets complicated and taxing."
On another occasion, at an international student conference in Amsterdam, conducted in English, the lone British representative was asked to be "less English" so that the others could understand her.
Prof Seidlhofer is also founding director of the Vienna-Oxford International Corpus of English (Voice), which is recording and transcribing spoken English interactions between speakers of the language around the world. She says her team has noticed that non-native speakers are varying standard English grammar in several ways. Even the most competent sometimes leave the "s" off the third person singular. It is also common for non-native speakers to use "which" for humans and "who" for non- humans ("things who" and "people which").
Prof Seidlhofer adds that many nonnative speakers leave out definite and indefinite articles where they are required in standard English or put them in where standard English does not use them. Examples are "they have a respect for all" or "he is very good person". Nouns that are not plural in native-speaker English are used as plurals by non-native speakers ("informations", "knowledges", "advices"). Other variations include "make a discussion", "discuss about something" or "phone to somebody".
Many native English speakers will have a ready riposte: these are not variations, they are mistakes. "Knowledges" and "phone to somebody" are plain wrong. Many non-native speakers who teach English around the world would agree. But language changes, and so do notions of grammatical correctness. Mr Crystal points out that plurals such as "informations" were once regarded as correct and were used by Samuel Johnson.
Those who insist on standard English grammar remain in a powerful position. Scientists and academics who want their work published in international journals have to adhere to the grammatical rules followed by the native English-speaking elites.
But spoken English is another matter. Why should non-native speakers bother with what native speakers regard as correct? Their main aim, after all, is to be understood by one another. As Mr Graddol says, in most cases there is no native speaker present.
Prof Seidlhofer says that the English spoken by non-native speakers "is a natural language, and natural languages are difficult to control by 'legislation'.
"I think rather than a new international standard, what we are looking at is the emergence of a new 'international attitude', the recognition and awareness that in many international contexts interlocutors do not need to speak like native speakers, to compare themselves to them and thus always end up 'less good' - a new international assertiveness, so to speak."
When native speakers work in an international organisation, some report their language changing. Mr Crystal has written: "On several occasions, I have encountered English-as-a-first-language politicians, diplomats and civil servants working in Brussels commenting on how they have felt their own English being pulled in the direction of these foreignlanguage patterns . . . These people are not 'talking down' to their colleagues or consciously adopting simpler expressions, for the English of their interlocutors may be as fluent as their own. It is a natural process of accommodation, which in due course could lead to new standardised forms."
Perhaps written English will eventually make these accommodations too. Today, having an article published in the Harvard Business Review or the British Medical Journal represents a substantial professional accomplishment for a business academic from China or a medical researcher from Thailand. But it is possible to imagine a time when a pan-Asian journal, for example, becomes equally, or more, prestigious and imposes its own "Globish" grammatical standards on writers - its editors changing "the patient feels" to "the patient feel".
Native English speakers may wince but are an ever-shrinking minority.
Pedal Bowl — How smart is your cat?
Plenty smart enough to figure this puppy out in a feline yoctosecond, for sure.
Invented by British designer Jim Rokos.
From his website:
- Pedal Bowl
If you’re looking for a product which proves how bright cats are, you have to see the innovative new Pedal Bowl.
Within minutes, most cats have got the message of how to reach the food — protected from flies inside a clear, transparent cover, which lifts when the cat steps on the pedal.
If you’re worried about smell — the Pedal Bowl reduces the smell of cat food because the bowl is covered when not in use.
Made of smooth, dishwasher-proof easy-to-clean plastic, it is a really well-designed product for all cat lovers who wish to improve the health of their cat.
I am so getting one of these.
Nothing but the best for Humphrey.