In a scene reminiscent of the Cartoon Network bomb scare that paralyzed the Boston area in January, police shut down a strip mall yesterday in this small western suburb after employees at a Bank of America branch mistook a botched fax for a bomb threat.
Frustrated shop owners said the branch overreacted to the strange fax, which turned out to be an in-house marketing document sent by the bank’s corporate office.
“The women at the bank should have handled it a little better,” said Nick Markos, owner of Townhouse Pizza and Roast Beef, who estimated that he had lost $1,000 to $1,200 because of the lunch-hour evacuation. “She blew it all out of proportion, and all of us business owners had to pay for it.”
America has become a country of sissies, so easy to scare it’s just funny. And since so many politicians base their campaigns on fear, I don’t expect the stream of news like the above to end anytime soon.
A few years ago, my folks and I were at the Tate Modern in London when they bought me what remains one of the best books I own: A heavy, four-inch thick Magnum Photos retrospective, full of more than a thousand of the best photographs of the last half-century. It’s without question one of those few books I plan on carrying with me from apartment to apartment, one that will always be spared the clutches of eBay when it’s time to choose what stays and goes.
That’s why it’s great to hear that Magnum Photos turns 60 this year. The cooperative is behind some of the most iconic photographs the world has seen: a lone dissident staring down tanks in Tiananmen; Brooklynites watching the towers burn on 9/11; and the portrait of the Afghan girl with the haunting eyes that might just be one of the most famous images in the world. But they do the mundane just as well as they do the momentous. Magnum’s photographers have managed to catch world leaders in moments of repose, but their shots of ordinary life are just as powerful.
Early this month, 18-year-old Allison Stokke walked into her high school track coach’s office and asked if he knew any reliable media consultants. Stokke had tired of constant phone calls, of relentless Internet attention, of interview requests from Boston to Brazil.
In her high school track and field career, Stokke had won a 2004 California state pole vaulting title, broken five national records and earned a scholarship to the University of California, yet only track devotees had noticed. Then, in early May, she received e-mails from friends who warned that a year-old picture of Stokke idly adjusting her hair at a track meet in New York had been plastered across the Internet. She had more than 1,000 new messages on her MySpace page. A three-minute video of Stokke standing against a wall and analyzing her performance at another meet had been posted on YouTube and viewed 150,000 times.
“I just want to find some way to get this all under control,” Stokke told her coach.
Three weeks later, Stokke has decided that control is essentially beyond her grasp. Instead, she said, she has learned a distressing lesson in the unruly momentum of the Internet. A fan on a Cal football message board posted a picture of the attractive, athletic pole vaulter. A popular sports blogger in New York found the picture and posted it on his site. Dozens of other bloggers picked up the same image and spread it. Within days, hundreds of thousands of Internet users had searched for Stokke’s picture and leered.
This is the picture that all the ruckus is about:
And I cannot comment better than this one on metafilter:
Know what? Everybody’s right — the picture is great. She’s strong, toned, and given her record, obviously a sports achiever to admire. I’m sure many of us wish there existed as powerful and beautiful an image of ourselves. It’s a very fine photo of an athlete in the prime of her powers.
Wouldn’t it be nice if it stopped there? Wouldn’t it be nice if she could look back on her years of (most likely) getting up at all hours of the morning for workouts, spending her afterschool time and weekends at meets while friends her age were working and partying, spending her disposable income on gear and travel, staying up late not to chat on the phone but to finish her homework so she would be ready for the same routine the next day, and all while being thought of as a strong, beautiful student athlete, rather than as eye candy for a bunch of lazy slobs sitting around drooling over the internet? It’s not her complaint that’s out of line, it’s our collective cultural bias toward sexualizing the public female image.
I’m quite serious. No one is saying the woman isn’t good-looking — just that she didn’t seek attention as a sex symbol. She sought attention for excelling at a difficult sport, and I agree that she worked hard for it. Sorry to rain on the irony party, but this IS what it’s like for a girl: no matter how good you are at what you do, you can never escape judgement, one way or the other, for the reaction of men to your physical appearance.
It’s tiresome. I don’t blame her (or her parents) for reacting as she did; I’m only sorry that it seems most men have to have daughters before the existence of this phenomenon starts to dawn on them.
Processing keys can be used to make software that allows users to make unapproved uses of their HD-DVDs, like backing them up, playing them on GNU/Linux systems, and running them on mobile and handheld devices like iPods. The movie studios use the AACS scrambling system to prevent these uses, preferring to ban some of these uses and attach pricetags to others.
The last processing key leak created an Internet firestorm when the AACS licensing authority sent hundreds of legal threats to sites that published the key. The strategy backfired: within days, more than a million pages had published the key, ensuring that more people knew how to break HD-DVD players than owned the devices.
AACS has the capacity to “revoke” a processing key. When they do this, all HD-DVD players are unable to play new discs unless they get an update (woe betide you if your DVD player is on your boat, in your cottage, or at your grandparents’ place where there is no Internet access). The big question is whether the AACS can revoke keys faster than hackers can extract them.
It’s a race. AACS is losing.
Six days before the revocation of the original processing key, a company in the Caribbean updated its DVD-ripping software with a new key. Apparently, they had broken this key long in advance and held it close to their chest, awaiting a revocation event. The revocation was nullified before it even took effect.
Doom9′s new key was released yesterday — it’s unclear whether it’s the same key — and it already appears on more than 244,000 pages. I’m betting that this breaks a million by Friday.
AT&T feels it worthwhile to drum up anticipation in the few weeks ahead of the iPhone’s release, the company’s COO (and future CEO) Randall Stephenson said at a conference today. The executive was convinced that the Apple device would be a “game changer” for the cellphone business and make many customers — and operators — rethink their approach to phones. Many casual users were now more receptive to smartphones and other multi-purpose devices than they were in the past, Stephenson said, which reportedly merited far more publicity and praise than had already been given so far.
“I don’t know what your expectations are for the iPhone, but I would tell you they’re probably too low at this point,” he claimed.
Every single company that builds phones, on every event where the press could ask questions about new products, the first question always was “how does it compete with the iPhone”. Check google for people who wrote webpages “why I will (not) buy an iPhone”. Everybody has been talking about it non-stop since januari,and this guy thinks expectations have been too low?
I guess I picked the wrong week to stop sniffing glue…
A new biography of Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton has once again raised the issue of whether members of Congress read a key intelligence report before the 2002 vote to authorize war in Iraq.
Clinton did not read the 90-page, classified National Intelligence Estimate on Iraq, according to “Her Way: The Hopes and Ambitions of Hillary Rodham Clinton.”
For members of Congress to read the report, they had to go to a secure location on Capitol Hill. The Washington Post reported in 2004 that no more than six senators and a handful of House members were logged as reading the document.
Six. And yet they all voted for the War.
De Vereniging Protestants Christelijk Onderwijs in de Krimpenerwaard kan ouders van leerlingen niet verplichten leerkrachten een hand te geven. Dat heeft de Commissie Gelijke Behandeling besloten.
De vereniging had de commissie om raad gevraagd. Op basisschool De Rank in Schoonhoven, een van de negen scholen binnen de vereniging, weigert een vader de vrouwelijke leerkracht van zijn kind met een handdruk te begroeten.
De Commissie Gelijke Behandeling oordeelt dat de school een verboden onderscheid naar godsdienst maakt, als de vader verplicht een hand zou moeten geven.
Lomp doen loont, als je het maar in een religieus sausje gooit.
Nederlanders moeten goed beseffen wat de consequenties zijn als ze het nieuwe Europese Verdrag verwerpen, mocht het tot een nieuw referendum komen. Andere EU-lidstaten blijven niet eeuwig wachten tot Nederland instemt met de Europese Grondwet. Dat heeft staatsecretaris van Europese Zaken Frans Timmermans (PvdA) dinsdag gezegd tijdens een lunchbijeenkomst met Europese journalisten.
De staatssecretaris stelde dat aan het afwijzen van een nieuw Europees Verdrag ‘andere dimensies zitten’. Als er een referendum komt over het nieuwe verdrag zal het volgens Timmermans een ander soort volksraadpleging worden dan die van twee jaar geleden. Toen verwierp meer dan zestig procent van de Nederlandse stemmers de Europese Grondwet. Bij een nieuw referendum zou ook de positie van Nederland in Europa ter discussie staan.
Tja – typisch PVDA, alleen voorstander van een referendum als de verwachte uitslag naar de zin is, en aangezien een meerderheid graag een tweede referendum wil, moet het volk wat angst worden aangejaagd.
Ik weet niet welk deel van het woord “NEE” Timmermans niet heeft begrepen. Nederlanders willen de Unie in meerderheid niet – althans niet de vorm waarin het nu gemaakt wordt. Timmermans zal z’n baantje na de tweede kamer op een andere manier, via andere vriendjes, moeten regelen, want de unie, dat wordt niks.
Een belofte om uit de Europese unie te stappen zal een hoop nee-stemmers van toen weer naar de stembus sturen om opnieuw nee te stemmen.
Microsoft has cancelled its autumn Professional Developers Conference, citing bad timing in light of the launch of important infrastructure and platform products.
Microsoft dropped the bombshell about PDC, which was to be held in October in Los Angeles, in a posting on its Microsoft Developer Network (MSDN) site.
“As the PDC is the definitive developer event focused on the future of the Microsoft platform, we try to align it to be in front of major platform milestones,” the company said in the post.
However, Microsoft already will have its key new platform technologies – including Windows Server 2008; the next major release of SQL Server; the next release of its Visual Studio toolset, code-named Orcas; and the new Silverlight technology – available before the show. Microsoft said it wants developers to focus on those in the near term.
But for developers who really want to, there’s the opportunity to pick up a Vista SP1 prerelease at the Moscone Center, June 11-15 in San Francisco.
Online retailer CD-Wow must pay £41m to British record companies after breaking a deal to stop selling illegally imported cheap albums in the UK.
The High Court in London ruled in March that the site’s owners, Music Trading Online, were “in substantial breach” of a 2004 agreement to stop importing CDs.
It has now ordered Hong Kong-based CD-Wow to pay £37m plus interest to the British Phonographic Industry (BPI).
Remember, it’s not free trade when you do it!
The previous rumors are coming true: announced at today’s Where 2.0 conference, Google has added a feature called “Street View” in certain locations on Google Maps. Also, Google is adding developer-created gadgets callled “Mapplets” to Google Maps starting today.
“Street View” displays an interactive panorama photo for certain locations on Google Maps. Note to get this to work outside the US, you need to add “&gl=us” at the end of the search URL. Below are screenshots for a search for 94111 (that’s San Francisco). Camera icons and blue lines indicate the availability of Street View data.
Russia tested new missiles Tuesday that a Kremlin official boasted could penetrate any defense system, and President
Vladimir Putin warned that U.S. plans for an anti-missile shield in Europe would turn the region into a “powder keg.”
First Deputy Prime Minister Sergei Ivanov said Russia tested an intercontinental ballistic missile capable of carrying multiple independent warheads, and it also successfully conducted a “preliminary” test of a tactical cruise missile that he said could fly farther than existing, similar weapons.
Thank god we’ve got the same sort of rational, level-headed leadership on both sides of the pond that we’ve had in the past!
online safely, you should type the address of the financial institution in the browser instead of following a link, you should enter your personal information only in trusted sites that use encryption, you need to check that the little padlock in the corner of your browser is locked, you also need to verify the digital certificate is valid and matches the site you want to visit, etc… Well, that’s not enough!
Recently we analysed a Trojan horse program (Infostealer.Banker.D) that, uses some cunning creativity. Using an HTML injection technique, it is capable of fooling even those who practice the standard precautionary measures against online fraud.
When the user of an infected computer goes to the login page of certain websites, the Trojan intercepts the HTML page, checks for certain blocks of HTML code specific to that website, and injects some additional HTML code that presents the user with extra fields in the same login page. In some cases, additional warning messages are inserted, explaining that the extra information is required to “prevent fraud”. Ironic, eh?
Some examples of the Trojan handiwork:
Software has been wiped from thousands of school computers because of a row over Government funding.
Microsoft Office programs have been ordered to be removed from about 25,000 Apple Macintosh computers in schools.
The Ministry of Education did not renew its deal for the programs, meaning that students using the Apple computers will not have access to common programs such as Excel and Word unless the school buys the software independently.
The problem was over licensing deals said to be worth $100 million over 10 years.
Education Minister Steve Maharey said Microsoft insisted the Government pay a licence fee for all Apple Macintoshes in schools to use Microsoft Office.
But the programs were used on only half the machines.
“The ministry could not justify the extra $2.7 million being given to Microsoft for software that would not be used,” said Mr Maharey.
He said Apple supplied a program similar to Microsoft Office, and NeoOffice, an open-source program developed by volunteers, was also available.
When the State of Illinois was tardy in paying its legal bills after attempting to defend a law that regulated the sale of violent and sexually explicit video games, the Entertainment Software Association wondered about the reasons for the delay. Now they know: the state was scouring department budgets, looking for the $1 million it cost to defend the unconstitutional legislation in court. Yes, you read that right—the State of Illinois spent one meeeellion dollars of taxpayer money on the litigation even as the state budget was starved for cash in other, more pressing areas. And worse yet, they spent it on a bill which, when introduced, was plainly unconstitutional.
The grand total was reported this week in a Quad Cities Online article which revealed that “the governor raided funds throughout state government to pay for the litigation. Some of the areas money was taken from included the public health department, the state’s welfare agency and even the economic development department.” A state representative who attended recent hearings on the issue said that Gov. Blagojevich’s staff simply spread the legal bills around by sticking them to agencies which had funds left in their budgets—even if the agencies had nothing to do with the issue or the litigation.
Dutch TV station BNN is rejecting calls to axe a TV programme in which a terminally-ill woman will choose one of three contestants to receive her kidney, the BBC reports.
The Big Donor Show – spawn of Big Brother creator Endemol – is due to screen this Friday. The 37-year-old organ benefactor, known only as Lisa, will select the lucky recipient “based on the contestants’ history, profile, and conversation with their family and friends”. Viewers can chip in their two cents’ worth by sending advisory SMS’s during the 80-minute spectacle.
Reaction to the planned airing has been predictable enough. Joop Atsma, of the ruling Christian Democrat Party, decried: “It’s a crazy idea. It can’t be possible that, in the Netherlands, people vote about who’s getting a kidney.”
BNN has defended the project, and claims “it will highlight the country’s shortage of organ donors”. The station’s former director died of kidney failure after spending years on a transplant waiting list, the BBC notes.
Alexander Pechtold of Dutch social liberal party D-66 agreed with the need to raise the organ donation issue. He told Radio Four’s Today programme: “For years and years we have had problems in the Netherlands with organ donations and especially kidney donations. You can have a discussion about it if this is distasteful, but finally we have a public debate.”
Indeed we have, and it’s about time!
If the media does not start connecting some dots, they will have abdicated their citizenship duties. How many times has the nation potentially come within a hair’s breadth of suffering a right-wing terrorist attack this spring? As of today, three, or possibly six times – at least that we know about.
• Late in April, 150 federal, state, and local law enforcement
officers carried out simultaneous raids in four Alabama counties in a sweep that yielded 130 grenades, a rocket launcher, and 2,500 rounds of ammunition.. In the town of Trussville, it took a U-haul truck to cart away all the materiel. At the Collinsville camper belonging to militia “major” Taymond Dillard, agents first had to defuse trip-wires rigged to explode hand grenades to kill intruders.
• Right-wing vigilantes arrested in a scuffle at one of the May 1 immigration marches, in Washington D.C., was found to have a stash of automatic weapons and explosives in his home.
• Now this, the violence allegedly thwarted at Falwell’s funeral. One of the suspects is a soldier at Fort Benning – yes, he traveled all the way from Georgia with his munitions. Another was a high school student.
After the Alabama incident, I set up a Google News alert to learn more about the “Alabama Free Militia,” formerly known as the “Naval Militia.” But there was no follow-up coverage that I could discover. None.
It’s becoming a trend: Evangelical Christian institutions that try to do science inevitably demonstrate breathtaking inanity of their own. The latest victim is the Pawleys Island Christian Academy. Take a gander at the first place winner in biology.
Brian Benson, an eighth-grade student who won first place in the Life Science/Biology category for his project “Creation Wins!!!,” says he disproved part of the theory of evolution. Using a rolled-up paper towel suspended between two glasses of water with Epsom Salts, the paper towel formed stalactites. He states that the theory that they take millions of years to develop is incorrect.
“Scientists say it takes millions of years to form stalactites,” Benson said. “However, in only a couple of hours, I have formed stalactites just by using paper towel and Epsom Salts.”
This isn’t just wrong, it’s appallingly wrong. He’s wrong on the facts, wrong on the interpretations, wrong on the understanding of how science works. If we’re charitable and grant that a 14 year old has some reasonable excuse for ignorance, we can still indict his parents, his science teacher, and the judges at this fair on gross incompetence on multiple charges.
- This experiment has nothing to do with biology.
- Epsom salts are magnesium sulfate; stalactites are made of calcium carbonate.
- Stalactite growth rates are estimated to be around 0.1-10 centimeters per thousand years. If we assume his ‘stalactite’ was 10 cm long and use the slowest growth rate, that’s 100 thousand years, not millions.
- Even if he had demonstrated an accelerated rate of stalactite growth, stalactite length isn’t the method used to date the age of the earth.
- To quote the unquestionable authority, Terry Pratchett: “And all those exclamation points? Five? A sure sign of someone who wears his underpants on his head.” Mister Benson comes perilously close to the underpants limit in his title.
Susan Ralston, the former executive assistant to top White House adviser Karl Rove, invoked her rights against self-incrimination while she was being asked to answer questions by the House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform, the Committee’s Chairman, Rep. Henry Waxman, announced in a memo Tuesday. The deposition for which she sat concerned contacts between convicted lobbyist Jack Abramoff and Rove, as well as the White House more broadly.
“The subjects this morning that she will be unable to testify to…are the subjects of the relationship between Jack Abramoff and his associates and White House officials, including Ms. Ralston, and the subject of the use by White House officials of political e-mail accounts at the RNC,” Ralston’s lawyer, Bradford Berenson said, during the May 10 deposition. “She has material, useful information about both of those subjects.”
According to Waxman’s memo, which was sent to Oversight Committee members, Ralston is seeking immunity from prosecution.
Which of these corporations are the most abusive, manipulative and harmful? You decide.
Vote for the three nominees that deserve to be inducted this year—or use your votes to write in another corporate candidate. You can even post comments about why these corporations should be inducted. We’ll announce the three new inductees in June, so check back then, but vote now and spread the word to other voters.
Coca-Cola, for draining local water supplies in drought prone areas in India, allowing harassment of workers fighting for labor rights in Colombia, undermining public confidence in local water utilities, and falsely promoting itself as a socially responsible corporation.
ExxonMobil, for refusing to pay $4.5 billion in damages from the 1989 Exxon Valdez oil spill and spending millions to delay action on global warming, including funding “junk science” to confuse the issue.
Ford, for awful fuel efficiency and pollution ratings, blocking government efforts to improve auto emissions, thwarting efforts by workers to unionize, and paying its CEO $28 million (for only four months of work) as they plan to cut 30,000 jobs.
Halliburton, the nation’s leading war profiteer, for grossly under-delivering—and shortchanging our troops—on more than $20 billion in lucrative government contracts and for planning to move its headquarters to Dubai, enabling them to shirk paying their full share of U.S. taxes.
Kimberly-Clark, for using the same tree fiber suppliers — after years of denial — for its tissues that have contributed to the destruction of the world’s remaining ancient forests in North America.
Merck, for keeping Vioxx on the shelves for four years after learning that the pain medication was causing heart attacks, heavy-handed political tactics, and fighting government efforts in Thailand to allow generic versions of AIDS medications.
Nestlé, for numerous abuses — including use of child labor on cocoa farms, skirting responsibility for its role in the obesity epidemic, and draining community water supplies for its bottled water products.
Wal-Mart, for failing to support its workers, who live close to the poverty line and often are not covered by the corporation’s health plan, for displacing local businesses and for massive claims of sexual discrimination.
I have endured a lot of smear and hatred since Casey was killed and especially since I became the so-called “Face” of the American anti-war movement. Especially since I renounced any tie I have remaining with the Democratic Party, I have been further trashed on such “liberal blogs” as the Democratic Underground. Being called an “attention whore” and being told “good riddance” are some of the more milder rebukes.
I have come to some heartbreaking conclusions this Memorial Day Morning. These are not spur of the moment reflections, but things I have been meditating on for about a year now. The conclusions that I have slowly and very reluctantly come to are very heartbreaking to me.
The first conclusion is that I was the darling of the so-called left as long as I limited my protests to George Bush and the Republican Party. Of course, I was slandered and libeled by the right as a “tool” of the Democratic Party. This label was to marginalize me and my message. How could a woman have an original thought, or be working outside of our “two-party” system?
However, when I started to hold the Democratic Party to the same standards that I held the Republican Party, support for my cause started to erode and the “left” started labeling me with the same slurs that the right used. I guess no one paid attention to me when I said that the issue of peace and people dying for no reason is not a matter of “right or left”, but “right and wrong.”
I am deemed a radical because I believe that partisan politics should be left to the wayside when hundreds of thousands of people are dying for a war based on lies that is supported by Democrats and Republican alike. It amazes me that people who are sharp on the issues and can zero in like a laser beam on lies, misrepresentations, and political expediency when it comes to one party refuse to recognize it in their own party. Blind party loyalty is dangerous whatever side it occurs on. People of the world look on us Americans as jokes because we allow our political leaders so much murderous latitude and if we don’t find alternatives to this corrupt “two” party system our Representative Republic will die and be replaced with what we are rapidly descending into with nary a check or balance: a fascist corporate wasteland. I am demonized because I don’t see party affiliation or nationality when I look at a person, I see that person’s heart. If someone looks, dresses, acts, talks and votes like a Republican, then why do they deserve support just because he/she calls him/herself a Democrat?
I have also reached the conclusion that if I am doing what I am doing because I am an “attention whore” then I really need to be committed. I have invested everything I have into trying to bring peace with justice to a country that wants neither. If an individual wants both, then normally he/she is not willing to do more than walk in a protest march or sit behind his/her computer criticizing others. I have spent every available cent I got from the money a “grateful” country gave me when they killed my son and every penny that I have received in speaking or book fees since then. I have sacrificed a 29 year marriage and have traveled for extended periods of time away from Casey’s brother and sisters and my health has suffered and my hospital bills from last summer (when I almost died) are in collection because I have used all my energy trying to stop this country from slaughtering innocent human beings. I have been called every despicable name that small minds can think of and have had my life threatened many times.
The most devastating conclusion that I reached this morning, however, was that Casey did indeed die for nothing. His precious lifeblood drained out in a country far away from his family who loves him, killed by his own country which is beholden to and run by a war machine that even controls what we think. I have tried every since he died to make his sacrifice meaningful. Casey died for a country which cares more about who will be the next American Idol than how many people will be killed in the next few months while Democrats and Republicans play politics with human lives. It is so painful to me to know that I bought into this system for so many years and Casey paid the price for that allegiance. I failed my boy and that hurts the most.
I have also tried to work within a peace movement that often puts personal egos above peace and human life. This group won’t work with that group; he won’t attend an event if she is going to be there; and why does Cindy Sheehan get all the attention anyway? It is hard to work for peace when the very movement that is named after it has so many divisions.
Our brave young men and women in Iraq have been abandoned there indefinitely by their cowardly leaders who move them around like pawns on a chessboard of destruction and the people of Iraq have been doomed to death and fates worse than death by people worried more about elections than people. However, in five, ten, or fifteen years, our troops will come limping home in another abject defeat and ten or twenty years from then, our children’s children will be seeing their loved ones die for no reason, because their grandparents also bought into this corrupt system. George Bush will never be impeached because if the Democrats dig too deeply, they may unearth a few skeletons in their own graves and the system will perpetuate itself in perpetuity.
I am going to take whatever I have left and go home. I am going to go home and be a mother to my surviving children and try to regain some of what I have lost. I will try to maintain and nurture some very positive relationships that I have found in the journey that I was forced into when Casey died and try to repair some of the ones that have fallen apart since I began this single-minded crusade to try and change a paradigm that is now, I am afraid, carved in immovable, unbendable and rigidly mendacious marble.
Camp Casey has served its purpose. It’s for sale. Anyone want to buy five beautiful acres in Crawford , Texas ? I will consider any reasonable offer. I hear George Bush will be moving out soon, too…which makes the property even more valuable.
This is my resignation letter as the “face” of the American anti-war movement. This is not my “Checkers” moment, because I will never give up trying to help people in the world who are harmed by the empire of the good old US of A, but I am finished working in, or outside of this system. This system forcefully resists being helped and eats up the people who try to help it. I am getting out before it totally consumes me or anymore people that I love and the rest of my resources.
Good-bye America …you are not the country that I love and I finally realized no matter how much I sacrifice, I can’t make you be that country unless you want it.
It’s up to you now.
Retail is supposed to be hard. Apple has made it seem ridiculously easy. And yet it must be harder than it appears, or why hasn’t the Windows side of the personal computer business figured it out?
Of the many predictions in the world of technology that have turned out to be spectacularly wrong, a prominent place should be made for what the pundits said in 2001 when Apple opened its first retail store in Tysons Corner, Va. “It’s completely flawed,” one analyst said, and that was the conventional wisdom. Commercial rent and furnishings would be expensive, inventory tricky and margins slim. Experienced computer resellers were struggling, and no computer manufacturer had ever found success operating its own branded stores. Analysts predicted at the time that Apple would shut down the stores and write off the huge losses in two years.
Customer response is told in the numbers. Last month, Apple released results for the quarter ended March 31. More than 21.5 million people visited its stores, which now number more than 180. Store sales were $855 million, up 34 percent from the quarter a year earlier, and they contributed more than $200 million in profits.
For perspective, look at the parallel story of Sony, which in 2004 began its attempt to create a branded retail chain. That was the same year Gateway closed the remnants of its 188-store chain. Today, Sony has 39 Sony Style stores, built out from the flagship stores in New York and San Francisco. The company’s breadth of product lines in consumer electronics and related accessories, as well as computers, would seem to give it a significant advantage over Apple. But because Sony does not release data on the stores’ sales or profits, it is hard to assess how its retail venture is doing.
Last Sunday, I set out to have a look for myself. I began at Sony’s flagship in San Francisco, at the Metreon Center, the shopping and entertainment complex. The mall was crowded, but Sony’s store, measuring an enormous 20,000 square feet, was all but deserted. The two uniformed members of the store security staff matched the number of customers I could see browsing the store’s wares.
Then I headed for the Stanford Shopping Center in Palo Alto, where I could see a Sony Style store compete almost directly across from an Apple retail store. The weather was gorgeous, drawing the usual weekend throng to the shopping center.
Sony’s mall store was long and large — 6,000 square feet — and filled with curvy panels and chirpy taglines like “My Style” on the walls and plush theater nooks. Here, too, the sales staff seemed to outnumber customers.
Records obtained from the immigration courts under the Freedom of Information Act show that only 0.0015 percent of the total number of cases filed by the U.S. Department of Homeland Security were terrorism related, despite the fact that the Bush administration has repeatedly asserted that it is the primary focus of the DHS.
Feel safer yet?