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Ramblings from the Marginalized » 2007 » December

December 2007

Family December 21st, 2007 by HMTKSteve

I know that it is not exactly news to most people but Christmas is almost upon us. It is a religious holiday that has been converted into the holiest of days to those who belong to the world of retail shopping. It is the holiest of days to those who belong to the religion of consumerism.

I also enjoy a bit of consumerism now and then (I bought my Wii last year) but I find that shopping at this time of year is the worst. There is never any place to park and the things you want are often in short supply (unless you go to eBay) if they exist on store shelves at all.

Do you know that this is going to be the first year (since we started the tradition) where we will not have a picture of my daughter sitting on a mall Santa's lap? I just realized that. I will also be working Christmas Eve (1PM - 9PM) so my daughter and I will have to do our annual "Sugar Cookies for Santa" Scream and Fight Fest in the morning. Then I get to go to work while my wife deals with an over-excited 8 year old who can't wait ten minutes (let alone 10 hours) for Christmas.

Another funny thing about Christmas in my house is that my daughter is a late sleeper. What I mean is that after she wanders into our bed around 3AM she likes to sleep in. In the past she has done her sleepy-walk routine right past a room full of presents, bleary eyed and unaware. I don't know if we will be so lucky this year. I know that I do not want to get up at 3AM to open presents!

I know that later on, on Christmas Day, we will leave our nice warm home and travel down the road to Grandma's house where we will have to endure several hours of relatives. Some relatives we enjoy, some we do not. I'm not going to go into too much detail here because some of them may be reading this. Suffice to say, when it comes to the Christmas get together I would prefer to stay home and enjoy time with my immediate family.

As good as the foods smell when we go out I know that 90% of the dishes being served are not compatible with my body. I end up picking at the snacks and getting an upset stomach for the rest of the day because everything else contains something that I am allergic to. Yeah, it is just so much fun for me.

Enough about me and my holiday plans, what are you going to be doing?

Apple December 21st, 2007 by Stephen

TORONTO--(BUSINESS WIRE)--With more than three million iPhones expected in consumers’ hands by the end of 2007, Voice 2.0 company Talkster is delivering an early holiday gift to iPhone users: simplified group conference calling all over the globe for the cost of a single local call.

Although the intuitive iPhone comes with a simple method for adding additional people into an existing conversation, the process becomes tedious and complex when adding a third, fourth or fifth caller to the conference. With the Talkster service, iPhone users simply go to http://i.talkster.com to set up their group call. They enter the names and phone numbers of the people they want to call and click invite. Talkster generates a local phone number for each of the call participants and distributes the new number via text message. This one-time process generates a permanent number that callers can save in their address book and use any time they want to talk to this same group of people.

In addition to creating the easiest way to conference call a group of friends, this single number connects up to five friends anywhere in the world for the price of a single local call. When adding multiple friends to a group call using the native iPhone interface callers are using up multiple minutes including one for each caller in the group, with even higher costs when calling friends internationally. With Talkster, all group calls–even those that include international numbers–are as simple as dialing one local number, and minutes for just that single call are used.

“The iPhone solved some of the complexities of conference calling by adding the simple plus sign to the dial pad for adding callers, but when you are setting up a call for more than two people, the built-in iPhone method can be a complex process with multiple call, hold, merge steps for each caller,” says James Wanless, co-founder and COO of Talkster. “Talkster has made group conference calls as easy as dialing one phone number. Couple the ease of use with the fact that Talkster group conference calls are free, and it’s clear to see that iPhone users with friends and family around the globe have something to celebrate this holiday season.”

Talkster is able to offer callers free long distance, international, and group conference calls from any kind of phone by subsidizing the cost of calls with advertisements. Callers listen to a single 10-second audio ad at the start of each call and then can talk as long as they like with free calling service and no talk time limits in more than 30 countries around the globe.

Eliminating the complexity and cost of group conference calls, Talkster is publicly available today at http://i.talkster.com from the iPhone or http://free.talkster.com from any other mobile phone with a standard web browser.

Internet December 20th, 2007 by Stephen

NEW YORK--(BUSINESS WIRE)--AOL today announced that it has completed its acquisition of Quigo, a leading site and content-targeted advertising company. The acquisition of Quigo lets AOL expand the use of contextual advertising – which matches ads to the contents of a Web page – across AOL's own Web pages, as well as its third-party networks. Quigo will operate as a wholly owned subsidiary of AOL within its Platform-A organization. AOL originally announced its intention to acquire Quigo on November 7, 2007.

Founded in 2000, Quigo provides innovative, performance marketing solutions for advertisers and premium publishers. The company has more than 500 premium publisher relationships, including a recently finalized deal with Time, Inc., and has a broad network of roughly 3,000 advertisers. Quigo's AdSonar technology lets advertisers purchase ads on Websites based on specific pages, sections, topics or keywords. In addition, Quigo operates FeedPoint, a search engine marketing business that helps local and retail advertisers efficiently manage their marketing relationships with search engines and comparison shopping platforms.

“This acquisition comes as interest in contextual advertising is climbing rapidly,” said AOL Chairman and CEO Randy Falco. “Quigo is an important part of our new Platform-A organization that we announced in September. Our goal is to have the most sophisticated set of targeting tools, the ability to deliver ads on multiple platforms, including video and mobile, to power the world’s largest advertising display network.”

Quigo is the fourth advertising company AOL has acquired in 2007. Earlier in the year, AOL acquired Third Screen Media, a leader in mobile advertising, ADTECH, a leading ad serving platform based in Frankfurt, Germany, and TACODA, a leading behavioral targeting company. Platform-A reaches over 90% of the online audience.

Quigo, based in New York, employs approximately 100 people. Financial terms of the deal were not disclosed.

Weird December 20th, 2007 by Stephen
A RADARSAT Map of Antarctica (NASA)

SAN FRANCISCO--(BUSINESS WIRE)--Adventurer and explorer Alison Levine has completed 225 miles in her attempt to become the first American to follow a route to the geographic South Pole inspired by legendary, Italian explorer Reinhold Messner. Messner was the first to complete the route in 1989. Levine, a San Francisco resident, left in early December for the Ronne Ice Shelf where she began a 574-mile journey across Antarctica on skis. She hopes to complete the journey in six weeks and return to the U.S. by mid-January.

Levine is traveling with three other adventurers from Canada, Holland and Norway in addition to an Australian, who is leading the team. The team is averaging 15 miles a day and is currently traversing between the Thiel and Pensacola Mountains in west Antarctica. They will eventually reach the Antarctic Plateau, which has an average elevation of 10,000 ft. Levine, 5 feet 4 inches tall and 112 pounds, is hauling 150 pounds of her own gear and supplies across Antarctica, which is the coldest and windiest continent on the planet with average temperatures of -50°F.

“To complete half of this trip feels pretty darn good, but I still have a long way to go and plenty of challenges ahead,” said Levine. “In addition to the extreme weather and altitude, there is crevasse danger along the way, which makes this a tricky traverse. My previous mountaineering experience has come in handy while navigating the route.”

Levine is making the journey despite suffering from Raynaud’s Disease, a neurological disorder that causes arteries that feed her fingers and toes to collapse in cold weather leaving her at extreme risk for frostbite. Levine was also born with a life-threatening heart condition called Wolff-Parkinson-White Syndrome and has had two surgeries to correct the problem.

“Risk-taking is what makes life exciting – you just have to be smart about it,” said Levine. “You have to go out there and create your own adventures. At times the unknown can be scary, but fear is okay as long as it doesn’t keep you from moving in the direction of your goals.”

Levine served as the team captain of the first American Women’s Everest Expedition in 2002. Two years later, she skied across the Arctic Circle to reach the geographic North Pole and has also climbed the highest peaks on six continents. Levine is chronicling her journey on the following blog: http://www.kepplerspeakers.com/Levine/2007/11/track_alison_levines_ progress.asp. (Due to its length, this URL may need to be copied/pasted into your Internet browser's address field. Remove the extra space if one exists.)

Gadgets December 19th, 2007 by Stephen
PNY Technologies nVIDIA Quadro FX   550G   1GB DDR2   PCI Express   Graphics Card

For the low price of $4,219.99 you can purchase a PNY Technologies nVIDIA Quadro FX 550G 1GB DDR2 PCI Express Graphics Card from Dell. Yes, you can be the only kid on the block able to play the Electronic Arts game Crysis!

The nVidia® Quadro FX 550G 1 GB DDR2 PCIE Graphics Card by PNY Technologies® is an ideal solution for applications requiring high levels of immersive realism or interactive visualization that utilize Frame Lock or Genlock functionality to choreograph multi-device film and video environments or visualization clusters for effects rendering, scientific or engineering use. Film and video pre- and post-production professionals can easily integrate the Quadro FX 5500 into production workflows allowing effects professionals high creative capabilities while dramatically shortening the time from creative concept to finished production. Moreover, scientists and engineers can develop scalable, open standards driven, visualization clusters.

Electronic Arts Crysis
    Tech Specs

  • Device Type: Graphics adapter
  • Enclosure Type: Plug-in card
  • Interface Type: PCI Express x16
  • Compatibility: PC
  • Graphics Processor / Vendor: NVIDIA Quadro FX 5500
  • RAMDAC Clock Speed: 400 MHz
  • Video Memory Installed: 1 GB
  • Technology: GDDR2 SDRAM 256-bit
  • Max Resolution (external): 3840 x 2400 / 24 Hz
  • API Supported: OpenGL 2.0, DirectX 9.0c
  • Digital Video Standard: Digital Visual Interface (DVI)
  • Interfaces: 2 x DVI-I - 29 pin combined DVI ¦ 2 x frame lock - RJ-45 ¦ 1 x genlock out
  • Compatible Slots: 1 x PCI Express x16
  • Cables Included: 2 x DVI-VGA adapter
  • Software Included: Drivers & Utilities, MAXtreme, POWERdraft
  • OS Required: Linux, Microsoft Windows 2000 / XP
  • Peripheral / Interface: CD-ROM, 350W power supply
  • System Requirements Details: Linux - Pentium 4 - RAM 256 MB - HD 50 MB ¦ Windows 2000/XP - Pentium 4 - RAM 256 MB - HD 50 MB

So, how about it? It is worth $4,219.99 to be able to play a game with all the graphic options turned on?

Since the Crysis demo came out I have been hearing nothing but flak from the gaming community about how it is an awesome game but you can't play it because of the graphic needs of the game. If you have $4K (more than I paid for my last computer by a factor of seven) you can buy this powerful graphics card and perhaps play the game on normal graphic settings. I kid!

Crysis says it requires a NVIDIA GeForce 8800 GTS/640 or similar with 256MB of VRAM (Supported chipsets: NVIDIA GeForce 6800 GT or greater; ATI Radeon 9800 Pro (Radeon X800 Pro for Vista) or greater. Laptop versions of these chipsets may work but are not supported. Integrated chipsets are not supported. Updates to your video and sound card drivers may be required.) for the graphics to work so why not splurge and buy this beast?

Internet December 19th, 2007 by Stephen
Box cover of “Jessica Sierra Hardcore” DVD courtesy of vivid.com. (Graphic: Buisness Wire)

LOS ANGELES--(BUSINESS WIRE)--Vivid Entertainment, the world's leading adult movie studio, will launch a special website, jshardcore.com, to preview footage from a sex video featuring Jessica Sierra, a final contestant on AMERICAN IDOL® and a star of the VH1® Celebrity Rehab program. The site will go live on today, December 19th at 3pm PT/6pm ET.

The "Jessica Sierra Hardcore" DVD is scheduled to be shipped on Wednesday, January 23rd and will go on sale in stores nationwide on Wednesday, January 30, 2008. In the meantime, it can be pre-ordered for mail or VOD delivery on the website.

The preview website shows "teaser" snippets from the video that catch Sierra driving her car while talking about sex, flashing her breast, in the bathtub, taking a shower, having sex with an unidentified person and starting to comment on other Season Four contestants.

The 22-year-old Sierra was a finalist in the fourth season of AMERICAN IDOL® but was eliminated on March 30, 2005 after she sang "On the Side of Angels." Idol host Simon Cowell said she was one of the strongest vocalists in the competition. She originally started singing in church at the age of three and as a teenager she performed in recitals for both presidents Bill Clinton and George W. Bush.

“This title contains the most explicit sex we’ve ever seen in a celebrity video,” said Steven Hirsch, co-chairman of Vivid. “Jessica clearly has more talent than just singing.”

Vivid obtained the Sierra video from an unidentified third party. It contains 72 minutes of footage showing her having hardcore sex with a man believed to be her boyfriend at the time.

It is the latest in a series of videos featuring the sexual exploits of celebrities to be released by Vivid, including the most recent, "Kim Kardashian Superstar," which the Hollywood socialite made three years ago with her then boyfriend, R&B artist Ray J. Others include videos made by Pamela Anderson and Tommy Lee, Vince Neil, Tom Sizemore, rock groupie Karrine Steffans aka "Superhead," and Jennifer "Toastee" Toof, competitor from VH1 reality TV shows "Flavor of Love" and "Charm School."

Sierra has been in the news recently following a series of incidents, including an arrest on December 1st in Tampa, Florida on charges of disorderly intoxication, violation of probation and obstruction of justice. She is said to face up to 11 years in jail for the arrest, having been on probation for earlier charges of felony battery and cocaine possession. She has pleaded not guilty to the new charges. A hearing is scheduled for Thursday, Dec. 20. Previously she was arrested on April 29, 2007 in a Tampa bar, accused of throwing a cocktail glass at another patron's head.

AMERICAN IDOL® is a registered trademark of FremantleMedia North America, Inc. VH1® is a registered trademark of Viacom International, Inc. This video is not sponsored, endorsed by or affiliated with "American Idol," FremantleMedia North America, Inc. or Viacom International, Inc.

Internet December 19th, 2007 by Stephen

SUNNYVALE, Calif.--(BUSINESS WIRE)--Yahoo! Inc. (Nasdaq:YHOO), a leading global Internet company, today announced that three world-renowned scientists from Yahoo! Research have been recognized for their achievements in fields key to developing the next-generation of Internet experiences, including computer science, artificial intelligence, data mining, and algorithm engineering. Dr. Andrei Broder was named Fellow of the Association for Computing Machinery (ACM) and Dr. Ron Brachman and Dr. Raghu Ramakrishnan were named Fellows of the Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers (IEEE). These prestigious honors recognize individuals who have made significant contributions to both the practical and theoretical aspects of computing and information technology.

Broder is a fellow and vice president for computational advertising and search technology at Yahoo! Research where he conducts new research on the intersection of information retrieval, machine learning, optimization, and microeconomics and leads the computational advertising group. He was selected for the honor of ACM Fellow for contributions to algorithms and web technology.

Brachman is the vice president of worldwide research operations for Yahoo! Research and is responsible for all operational activities for the organization; his responsibilities also include overseeing academic relations for all of Yahoo!. Brachman was selected as an IEEE Fellow for his leadership in knowledge representation and reasoning in computer science and artificial intelligence.

Ramakrishnan is chief scientist for Yahoo!’s audience group and a Yahoo! Research Fellow, heading up the community systems group. Ramakrishnan was selected as an IEEE Fellow for his contributions to the fields of deductive databases, data mining and query optimization.

"We are honored to have so many of our talented researchers recognized by top scientific organizations and the academic community at large for their technical and scientific contributions to both academic and product and systems accomplishments,” said Dr. Usama Fayyad, EVP and chief data officer for Yahoo! “At Yahoo!, critical research into the sciences that underpin the Internet are helping us to create increasingly indispensable experiences for our users and to advance the positive impact of the Internet around the world.”

As a testimony to the depth of talent and expertise on Yahoo!’s fast-growing research team – which is one of the largest in the world focused on the new sciences of the Internet – Broder joins four other ACM Fellows at Yahoo!: Brachman; Fayyad; Dr. Prabhakar Raghavan, head of Yahoo! Research; and Ramakrishnan. Previous honorees from Yahoo! as IEEE Fellows include Broder and Raghavan.

Yahoo! Research’s mission is to develop the world-class science that will deliver the next generation of businesses to the company. Yahoo!’s scientists focus on data-driven analysis, high-quality search, algorithms and economic models. Yahoo! Research is committed to an open culture of collaboration with peers from academic and research institutions, with a focus on simultaneously publishing scientific work of the highest standard and driving a research agenda with significant impact for the company.

ACM is an educational and scientific society uniting the world's computing educators, researchers and professionals to inspire dialogue, share resources and address the field's challenges. The ACM Fellows program was established to recognize outstanding ACM members for technical, professional and leadership contributions.

IEEE is the world’s largest technical professional society. The organization fosters technological innovation and excellence for the benefit of humanity. Through its more than 370,000 members in 160 countries, IEEE is a leading authority on a wide variety of areas ranging from aerospace systems, computers and telecommunications to biomedical engineering, electric power and consumer electronics. IEEE Fellow is the highest grade of membership and is recognized by the technical community as a prestigious honor and an important career achievement.

Weird December 19th, 2007 by Stephen
Cindy Cardella of Fairfield, New Jersey pulls the lever as she christens Norwegian Cruise Line’s new “IT” girl, Norwegian Gem, in an onboard ceremony on Tuesday, Dec. 18, 2007.

NEW YORK--(BUSINESS WIRE)--Norwegian Cruise Line (NCL) named Cindy Cardella of Fairfield, N.J., the Godmother of its new “It” Girl, Norwegian Gem, during the ship’s Christening ceremony held today in New York. Cindy was chosen by NCL and the public among five finalists vying for the Godmother crown following an online video contest hosted on www.gemitgirl.com. In addition to being named Norwegian Gem’s Godmother, a position steeped in maritime tradition, she will receive a seven-day cruise in the ultra-luxurious 5,000-square-foot Garden Villa for her and five of her entourage.

“With this contest, we sought to reward our past guests with a once in a lifetime opportunity. Cindy received close to 10,000 votes from the public and was selected based on her ability to show how she embodies the attributes of NCL’s hottest, hippest new ship, as well as the free spirit of NCL’s Freestyle Cruising,” said Colin Veitch, NCL Corporation’s president and CEO.

The hour-long Christening ceremony held on board Norwegian Gem featured performances by Dem Boyz Step Team and the New York-based Luminescence Choir. In addition to comments from Star Cruises Chairman Tan Sri KT Lim, NCL Corporation President and CEO Colin Veitch, all five finalist video entries were shown, along with the premiere of Norwegian Gem’s movie-sode, “License to Thrill.” Cindy was also given the honor of officially naming the ship and pulling the lever that released the bottle of champagne to christen the ship. The ceremony and movie-sode can be viewed online at www.gemitgirl.com.

In her video, entitled “Cindy will let you in on a secret,” Cindy, 31, explains how she has cruised on NCL since childhood and highlights all of the places she has visited. Cindy has sailed with NCL on more than 30 cruises and is a stay at home mom in Fairfield, N.J., with three boys, ages five, three and five months. Her husband, David, joined her at the Christening ceremony.

“Freestyle Cruising on Norwegian Cruise Line is the only way to cruise and I am honored NCL and the public chose me as Godmother for this stunning new ship,” said Cindy. “As Godmother of Norwegian Gem, I will continue living the ‘It’ Girl lifestyle of sophistication, independence, confidence, eagerness to explore new destinations and learn new things, glamour, style, and culture.”

The contest, which began on Oct. 4, was an international search open to female residents of the United States, United Kingdom and Canada (void in the Province of Quebec), 18 years of age or older who have taken a cruise on NCL. On Dec. 16, NCL judges narrowed the search to five finalists, at which time the contest opened for public voting through Dec. 7. Along with Cindy, the other finalists were Lauren Kampf, 22, from Oakland, N.J.; Shannon Maxey, 29, from Virginia Beach, Va.; Louise Strong, 44, from South Hero, Vt., and Mary O’Dea, 75, from Milford, Pa.

She’s So “It”

The hippest ship to hit the seas, the 2,400 passenger Norwegian Gem boasts luxurious accommodations, decadent dining at 10 restaurants, and exciting entertainment and activity options that even the most discriminating “It” Girl will adore.

A “ship within a ship” Villa complex positioned high atop the vessel offers two posh Garden Villas with their own private gardens and sundecks; 10 expansive Courtyard Villas sharing a private courtyard, pool and sundeck; and two fabulous top-of-the-ship Deluxe Owner’s Suites.

One of several entertainment options on board, the Bliss Ultra Lounge and Nightclub, gives the “It” Girl a hot spot to party like a star. The 24-hour, high-energy entertainment and nightlife complex boasts the second four-lane, ten-pin bowling alley at sea, an NCL exclusive first offered on Norwegian Pearl.

Guests looking for a physical challenge will find a 30-foot rock climbing wall with five different climbing routes, each with varying degrees of difficulty. Norwegian Gem also features the red-hot Wii™ video game system by Nintendo. Wii tournaments are held in Norwegian Gem’s atrium on a two-story LED screen allowing guests to gather and play against each other.

Norwegian Gem will sail seven-, 10- and 11-day itineraries from her home port of New York to the Bahamas, Florida and the Caribbean from December 2007 until April 2008. In April 2008, she repositions to Europe where she will pick up her series of 28 seven-day Western Mediterranean itineraries roundtrip from Barcelona. Norwegian Gem will return to the Big Apple in November and December 2008 to sail seven-day Bahamas and Florida itineraries.

Norwegian Gem is the eighth vessel purpose-built for NCL’s signature Freestyle Cruising — an approach to cruising unlike any other offered in the industry. Freestyle Cruising leaves regimented schedules behind, and is characterized by having no fixed dining times, no formal dress codes, relaxed disembarkation and dozens of on-board entertainment and activity options.

NCL Corporation Ltd. is the holding company for various subsidiary companies involved in owning and operating the ships of Norwegian Cruise Line, NCL America and Orient Lines.

NCL plans to build two new third generation Freestyle Cruising ships for delivery in 2010. NCL today has the youngest fleet in the industry, providing guests the opportunity to enjoy the flexibility of Freestyle Cruising on the newest, most contemporary ships at sea, and has recently added its latest new ship, the 2,400 passenger Norwegian Gem.

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