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things that just are

Thursday, January 27, 2005

Yahoo! News - Amazon's A9 Search Unit Adds Virtual Yellow Pages

"Amazon.com Inc. launched a local Internet search service on Wednesday that allows users to virtually walk streets and see photos of businesses, a move that could help it better compete with established search providers such as Google Inc.

A9's so-called block view allows users to see storefronts and virtually stroll the streets of 10 cities, including New York, Los Angeles and San Francisco, where the company has collected more than 20 million photographs.

It took a few days in each city to gather the images using trucks equipped with digital cameras, global positioning system receivers and proprietary software.

"You can virtually go to an area, see the business and walk around the block," A9.com Chief Executive Udi Manber said of the service in an interview. "You get a feel for the neighborhood."

He added it takes just a few days to capture an entire city and that the eventual goal is to eventually add as many places as possible across the country. Other cities currently available are: Atlanta, Boston, Chicago, Dallas, Denver, Seattle and Portland, Oregon."

A9 Search Engine

After Catalog Blunder, Eziba.com Suspends Business
NY Times

"Eziba.com, an online retailer and catalog company well known for selling handcrafted items from foreign artisans, has temporarily suspended operations following a colossal marketing error.

Dick Sabot, Eziba's chairman and co-founder, said the company had sent out tens of thousands of catalogs in late September and early October and waited for the phones to ring.

After a couple of 'grim, quiet' days, Mr. Sabot said, company executives checked with the business that mailed the catalogs on Eziba's behalf. They hoped to find that the mailing had simply been delayed, but instead discovered that the catalogs had been sent to the wrong addresses. Because of a computer error, the catalogs had reached the members of Eziba's mailing list who showed the lowest likelihood to respond to the catalog.

'Sadly, our probability estimates were correct,' Mr. Sabot said.

'The catalog business is a lot like farming, in that you make all the investments up front in printing and creative costs and mailing, and you sit back and wait to reap the harvest,' Mr. Sabot added. 'When there's an act of nature that intervenes, that can be a painful experience.'

The revenue shortfall created by that event put the company in such a tenuous financial position that it was forced to halt operations temporarily on Jan. 14 while it sought cash to pay off creditors. Bill Miller, Eziba's chief executive, resigned amid the problems.

Two years ago Eziba was victimized by a true act of nature, when, following a snowstorm, the roof of its shipping warehouse fell in, forcing it to refinance and restructure the business through the spring of 2003. The company is based in North Adams, Mass.

Mr. Sabot said that on the strength of Eziba's holiday sales, which jumped 40 percent over 2003, with profit margins of more than 60 percent, the company would likely attract enough new funding to hire a new chief executive and restart operations within six weeks.

This time, though, there will be no catalogs. 'If we cut way back on the catalog mailings, many aspects of our Web business are already profitable,' Mr. Sabot said. 'So there's a strong feeling that we'd like to get to profitability as soon as possible, even if it means a lower revenue number than we'd have liked, then build on that foundation.'"

Wednesday, January 26, 2005

Lost Remote: The spot you won't see in the Super Bowl

"After meeting with Fox and the NFL, Budweiser has decided not to air a very funny commercial in the Super Bowl that spoofs last year's wardrobe malfunction. I watched the spot on Budweiser's site, and I can't understand why they pulled it. Very tasteful. Budweiser, of course, is capitalizing on all the publicity."

Friday, January 21, 2005

From Gadling - www.gadling.com:
"Danny Gregory’s Jerusalem Journal is an astonishingly good piece of Web writing. Accompanied by gorgeous illustrations (done by the author himself) the story is both a great slice of life about the city and a brutally honest examination of the author’s mixed feelings about it (he trudges off each year to Jerusalem to see his grandfather)."

Monday, January 17, 2005

McShwarma Commercial
A funny McDonald's commercial for the McShwarma a la Pulp Fiction.

From IsraellyCool

Thursday, January 13, 2005

Ali-G Strikes Again
Rodeo in Salem gets unexpected song rendition:
A man purportedly from Kazakhstan launched into a diatribe instead of "The Star-Spangled Banner."

The Roanoke Times

No one knows for sure who he was, that Middle Eastern man in an American flag shirt and a cowboy hat who was supposed to sing the national anthem at a rodeo Friday night in the Salem Civic Center.

But he sure shook up this town before leaving in a hurry.

Introduced as Boraq Sagdiyev from Kazakhstan, he was said to be an immigrant touring America. A film crew was with him, doing some sort of documentary. And he wanted to sing "The Star-Spangled Banner" to show his appreciation, the announcer told the crowd.

Speaking in broken English, the mysterious man first told the decidedly pro-American crowd - it was a rodeo, of all things, in Salem, of all places - that he supported the war on terrorism.

"I hope you kill every man, woman and child in Iraq, down to the lizards," he said, according to Brett Sharp of Star Country WSLC, who was also on stage that night as a media sponsor of the rodeo.

An uneasy murmur ran through the crowd.

"And may George W. Bush drink the blood of every man, woman and child in Iraq," he continued, according to Robynn Jaymes, who co-hosts a morning radio show with Sharp and was also among the stunned observers.

The crowd's reaction was loud enough for John Saunders, the civic center's assistant director, to hear from the front office. "It was a restless kind of booing," Saunders said.

Then the man took off his hat and sang what he said was his native national anthem. He then told the crowd to be seated, put his hat back on, and launched into a butchered version of "The Star-Spangled Banner" that ended with the words "your home in the grave," Sharp said.

By then, a restless crowd had turned downright nasty.

"If he had been out there a minute longer, I think somebody would have shot him," Jaymes said. "People were booing him, flipping him off."

Rodeo producer Bobby Rowe, who by then had figured out that he was the victim of some kind of hoax, had the man escorted out of the civic center. Rowe told him that he and his film friends had best leave right then.

"Had we not gotten them out of there, there would have been a riot," said Rowe, who has been bringing his Imperial Rodeo Productions to Salem for years.

As his wife, Lenore, put it: "It's a wonder one of these cowboys didn't go out there and rope him up."

Saunders agreed. "I was concerned for his personal safety," he said.

Once the film crew members and their star realized the severity of the situation, Bobby Rowe said, "they loaded up the van and they screeched out of there."

After apologizing to the crowd for being duped, Rowe was left to wonder who pulled such a hoax, and why. Months ago, he was approached by someone from One America, a California-based film company that was reportedly doing a documentary on a Russian immigrant, Rowe said.

The outfit asked if Sagdiyev could sing the national anthem at the rodeo in Salem. After listening to a tape, Rowe said sure.

By Saturday afternoon, Jaymes had observed that Sagdiyev looked a lot like the title character of "Da Ali G Show," a Home Box Office production that often catches its guests and audiences unaware and then records their reaction to "shock value" material such as Friday night's performance.

The show has a character named Borat from Kazakhstan, according to the HBO Web site.

Jaymes said she recalls that one of the five cameras was turned on her and others on stage, as if to catch their reactions.

"I looked at Brett and said, 'Why do I feel like I'm in the middle of a bad "Saturday Night Live" episode?'" Jaymes said.

As Rowe prepared Saturday for a second night of the rodeo, he was playing it safe on who would sing the national anthem.

"It'll be a tape," he said.

Friday, January 07, 2005

How Much Is It Worth To You?
"BOSTON -- Red Sox fans will never forget the moment. A ball is hit weakly to Keith Foulke, who picks it and underhands it to first baseman Doug Mientkiewicz, giving Boston its first World Series title since 1918.

And whatever happened to that baseball?

Mientkiewicz still has it. But the Red Sox want it back.

The Boston Globe reported that the team's CEO plans to ask Mientkiewicz to return the ball so it can be sent to a museum and shared with fans.

But the first baseman apparently has no intention of returning it. He says it's been stored in a safe deposit box as his 'retirement fund.'

And although Mientkiewicz has no immediate plans to sell the ball, he isn't ruling it out in the future.

The most expensive baseball in history was Mark McGwire's 70th homer, which went for $3 million. Mientkiewicz thinks the ball that ended 86 years of frustration for Red Sox fans will be worth even more."

Thursday, January 06, 2005

Stupid Warnings, or Stupid People?
Amid an increasingly partisan battle about whether U.S. society has grown too litigious, one group of tort-reform crusaders claims to have evidence that businesses will go to embarrassing lengths to avoid lawsuits.

The group, Michigan Lawsuit Abuse Watch, announced the winners of its eighth-annual "Wacky Warning Label Contest," which it uses to highlight what it claims are examples of how plaintiffs' lawyers are hurting businesses. The $500 first-prize winner was a label on a toilet brush saying, "Do not use for personal hygiene." Second prize went to a label on a children's scooter saying, "This product moves when used." Placing third was a label on a digital thermometer saying, "Once used rectally, the thermometer should not be used orally."

One of the group's opponents, in an interview with the Associated Press. said yuck it up, but some people need warning labels that are just that dumb. "There are many cases of warning labels saving lives," Joanne Doroshow, executive director of the Center for Justice and Democracy in New York, told the AP. "It's much better to be very cautious ... than to be afraid of being made fun of by a tort reform group."

From the WSJ Evening Wrap

Can you beat Super Mario 3 in 11 minutes?

This guy can.

From Hyim