Bill's Blog

Friday, September 09, 2005

PHEAA Sues Newspapers

Remember the news earlier this summer about the outlandish trip PHEAA (Pennsylvania Higher Education Assistance Agency) employees and State lawmakers took that cost taxpayers $135K? Well, now PHEAA is suing three Pennsylvania newspapers hoping the court will declare $885,000 worth of receipts and meeting transcripts to be trade secrets and not public record. The $885K was spent on seven retreats since 2000 and PHEAA claims revealing how they spent the money may harm "PHEAA's ability to achieve its mission of assisting Pennsylvania students to obtain low-cost higher education."

Are they kidding me? Trade Secrets? As the article points out, it sounds like PHEAA has something to hide. Maybe they haven't been spending the money wisely. Maybe there aren't any meeting records or maybe those records show that lawmakers really didn't conduct business on these retreats. I think PHEAA needs to be investigated. I think it's budget and policies need to be reviewed. What's more, this investigation needs to be conducted by someone who can be impartial and is independent - not one of the lawmakers who have participated in these cash-spilling trips.

PennLive: PHEAA Sues After Requests For Records

Tags: , ,

Thursday, September 08, 2005

NerdTV Review

NerdTv Logo
As I mentioned yesterday, PBS launched NerdTV on Tuesday. NerdTV "is a new weekly online TV show from technology columnist Robert X. Cringely", author and IT Journalist. It is distributed under the Creative Common License and is available free of charge. Should this show succeed it will exist as a model to other broadcast shows.

Let me say first that I'm glad they decided to distribute using BitTorrent. Initially, the download was only available via straight download. My attempts to download failed twice before succeeding after 2 hours on a T1. Hopefully, they will continue to use BitTorrent, as that download just took 10 minutes. This is a good illustration of the power of BT as a distribution method. Though there are illegal uses for the protocol, it fills very practical, legitimate needs as well.

NerdTV is an interview show. I guess billing it as TV gives it an edge in marketing or something. For this episode, it was really just a bust shot of Andy Hertzfeld on camera. I kept expecting something to make the video feed necessary, but it never arrived. If this is what NerdTV is going to be, they should scrap the TV part and make it a PodCast. They have the audio available in several formats (MP3, OGG, and AAC) for download, as well as a transcript of the interview. Hopefully, future episodes will take advantage of the video medium and include worthwhile visual content.

The content of this episode was good. A solid interview with Andy Hertzfeld, billed as the first Macintosh programmer. They talk about his early days with Apple, some of his books, and a lot of other interesting topics. If they can keep the guests this interesting, I think NerdTV can go far. However, to succeed as TV, they'll have to make use of the TV part and include some useful video segments.

I plan on tuning into the video of the next few episodes to see if they get any better. If not, I will stick to the straight audio as long as the content is interesting.

One last suggestion - In the future, it will be a good idea, Bob, if you turn your cell phone off before you start the interview.


Tags: , , , , ,

Wednesday, September 07, 2005

Hurricane Katrina

I have avoided posting about this tragedy until now for a couple reasons. I was so awestruck by the disaster when it first hit and the reports we were seeing that I couldn't find words in the days following. I also wanted to avoid politicizing this disaster and didn't feel I could write without politicizing it until now.

My heart and prayers go out to the victims of Katrina. The death toll will likely exceed 10,000 and millions have lost everything. Our focus has to be on them. We need to help them in any way we can. Donate blood, money, food, or your time to the American Red Cross (or other organization contributing to the effort) and encourage your neighbors to do the same. See if your church can partner with a church in the affected area and send relief through them. Katrina was a devastating storm and it is going to take a national effort to recover. It is going to take years to recover from this scale of destruction. Help out any way you can.

The disaster is too big of an issue to start looking at whose to blame - and there is enough blame to go around. Right now, we need focus on helping the victims as best we can and deal with the rest down the road.

NerdTV Episode 001

Yesterday, NerdTV uploaded its first episode. This episode features an interview with Andy Hertzfeld, the first Macintosh programmer. I haven't had a chance to watch it yet, but I will let you know how it is when I do. I previously wrote about the announcement of the show here.

Tags: , ,

Tuesday, September 06, 2005

Horse Show and Country Fair

Saturday, while the parents were still in town, we all went to the Ludwig's Corner Horse Show and Country Fair that I wrote about last week. We had a good time. The kids went on a handful of rides (and by kids I mean Abby and Kris - Henry's still too young and David wasn't in the riding mood). We saw some acrobatic performances on horseback and a dog agility contest. It was Family Day, so there weren't really any horse show events, but we're not really big horse people anyway. There were some vendor shops setup and a few food joints. We spent a few hours enjoying ourselves.

A Day at the Philadelphia Zoo

Well, to make the most of the holiday weekend, I took Friday off and we all headed down to the Philadelphia Zoo. It was a great time. My parents came down and so did Kris' mom, sister and niece. We spent the afternoon checking out animals. We could not have asked for a better day weather wise. And, since we joined the zoo, we can now go back for free anytime we want for the next year. And considering the group we had, we actually saved money on buying the membership. I'm sure we'll be heading back soon. There were several animals we didn't get to see. By the way, the Big Cats House is under construction, so don't expect to see the Lions or Tigers.

Here's some pictures: