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Monday, January 12, 2009

Rice elected to Hall of Fame

Posted by Chad Finn, Globe Staff

In his final at-bat, Jim Rice has hit a home run.

Rice, the fierce and feared slugger who spent his entire 16-year major league career with the Red Sox, was at last elected to to the Baseball Hall of Fame this afternoon on his 15th -- and final -- season on the Baseball Writers' Association of America ballot. Rice was named on 76.4 percent of the ballots. Seventy-five percent is required for induction. Rice received 412 of 539 votes, just seven more than the minimum amount necessary.

He will be joined in this year's class by Rickey Henderson, who spent 25 years in the majors and ranks as the all-time leader in runs (2,995) and stolen bases (1,406), and who is widely regarded as the best leadoff hitter of all time. In his first year on the ballot, the 50-year-old Henderson received 94.8 percent of the vote.

Rice, who batted .298 with 382 home runs and 1,451 RBIs from 1974-89 while following Ted Williams and Carl Yastrzemski in the Red Sox tradition of superstar left fielders, is the first player to be elected in his final year of BBWAA eligibility since 1975, when longtime Pirates star Ralph Kiner was chosen.

It has been a long journey to Cooperstown for the 54-year-old Rice, whose candidacy had been a topic of intense debate among writers and fans since he first appeared on the ballot in 1995.

"You have no control over, when you have someone making the decision, not for you, but making the decision determining if you are a Hall of Famer or not. I think a lot of the writers that were voting, they never put a uniform on and went out there and played the game and saw how tough it was to accomplish some of the numbers that some of the players [put up]," Rice told the MLB Network shortly after the announcement. "You just take it with a grain of salt because there's nothing you can do."

Rice's supporters long contended that he was the game's dominant slugger for a 10-12 year stretch, a notion that is frequently seconded by his peers. An eight-time All-Star, Rice was an elite hitter from 1975, when he was runner-up to teammate Fred Lynn for AL Rookie of the Year, until 1986, when the Red Sox fell to the Mets in the World Series.

"It's about time," Lynn told the Associated Press "Throw out the statistics. Jimmy was the dominant force in his era. That's really all you can say when you're trying to compare guys that played in the '70s and '80s to the guys that are playing now. . . . In his heyday, Jimmy was a feared hitter."

Rice compiled 35 homers and 200 hits in three straight seasons, finished in the top five in Most Valuable Player voting six times, and led the league in total bases four times, including a staggering 406 in during the 1978 season, when he was named the American League MVP after hitting .315 with 46 homers and 139 RBIs in one of the finest individual seasons in franchise history.

"As a player, when I played with Jimmy, I thought it was his best year, which was 1978," said former teammate and fellow Hall of Famer Dennis Eckersley. " It was the most dynamic offensive year that I have ever played with anybody. His acceptance to the Hall is long overdue. As a person, he was a consistent guy. He was always there, every day as a person and every day as a player."

Rice's accomplishments became more impressive in retrospect considering they were compiled before the performance-enhancing drug era, which swelled home run numbers throughout the sport.

But those skeptical of Rice's qualifications also had a reasonable case. His run of true greatness was brief for a Hall of Fame-caliber player, and his skills eroded quickly -- he hit just 31 homers in his final three seasons and was essentially finished as an above-average hitter at age 34. Further, they argued, his numbers were inflated by playing half his games in Fenway (he batted .277 on the road in his career), he had little speed and was merely an average left fielder, and he never had a defining postseason moment. (He missed the '75 World Series with a broken wrist.)

Rice, whose reputation during his playing days as being aloof with the media may have hurt him with some voters, said today he doesn't comprehend where his naysayers were coming from.

"I don't understand about being overrated, the numbers spoke for themselves, and during that time, you look at the guys that played the game and the numbers they put up [and mine stand up]," Rice said. "So as far as being overrated, I have no idea.

"I think what you're trying to get at is that some of the writers probably said I was arrogant. You know that wasn't true. You want to talk about baseball, I talk about baseball, but I never talked about my teammates. I protected my teammates. I don't think you should make any excuses, when I felt like as captain of the ball club, I took a lot of pressure off the guys because some guys could handle pressure, some guys couldn't handle pressure, and I was the type of guy that I got paid to go out and play baseball."

Rice, who received 72.2 percent of the vote last year, falling 16 votes shy, had history on his side this year. Twenty other players have gathered between 70 and 75 percent of the vote and every one of them ultimately made it to Cooperstown -- though some were voted in by the Veterans Committee. The highest percentage for a player who wasn't elected later was 63.4 by Gil Hodges in 1983, his final time on the ballot.

Rice received just 30 percent of the vote in '95, his first year on the ballot, but his candidacy received a boost in recent years when Red Sox publicist Dick Bresciani began sending a comprehensive annual report to Hall of Fame voters on why Rice is worthy of Cooperstown.

According to, Rice's percentage had peaked at 57.9 percent in 2001, and had been as low as 29.4 percent (1999). But in 2005 -- the first year of Bresciani's report -- Rice's percentage rose to 59.5, then 64.8 in 2006, a minor drop to 63.5 percent in '07, then up to 72.2 percent a year ago.

Bresciani emphasized that Rice led all AL in homers and RBIs during his 16-year career, and that the only retired players with both a career average and a home run total as high as Rice's were Hank Aaron, Jimmie Foxx, Lou Gehrig, Mickey Mantle, Willie Mays, Stan Musial, Mel Ott, Babe Ruth, and Williams -- all baseball legends, all of whom are in Cooperstown.

Rice said today that Aaron was a particular inspiration.

"I'd probably say [I tried to be] more like Henry Aaron, I came from South Carolina . . . and of course I met him when he played in Milwaukee . . . I probably looked at Hank more than anyone else," Rice said.

He is the first player whose peak years came while playing for the Red Sox to be elected to the Hall of Fame since his former teammate Wade Boggs in 2005. (Henderson had a brief stopover with the Sox, spending the 2002 season in Boston.) He is also the first African-American player who spent the bulk of this career with the Red Sox to be elected. Other Red Sox who are in the Hall of Fame include Joe Cronin, Bobby Doerr, Rick Ferrell, Carlton Fisk, Jimmie Foxx, Lefty Grove, Williams and Yastrzemski.

Andre Dawson, who spent two years with the Red Sox in the early '90s but spent his prime seasons with the Montreal Expos and Chicago Cubs, was third with 67 percent of the vote, while righthanded pitcher Bert Blyleven was fourth at 62.7 percent. Former Red Sox slugger Mo Vaughn received six votes and was one of nine players who didn't receive enough support to remain on the ballot.

Induction ceremonies for will take place Sunday, July 26, in Cooperstown, N.Y.

Princess Bride Cover is Whack!!

When you rotate the cover of the 20th Anniversary Edition of the Princess Bride DVD by 180 degrees, it still reads “princess bride”. Go ahead, turn your laptop upside down.

I just discovered that this is known as an ambigram.


This weekend, Saturday Night Live continued its trend of being the best 90-minute show that you can watch in 20 minutes on your DVR, thanks in part to Will Forte’s song making fun of the BCS. Even though every Will Forte song on Weekend Update sounds exactly the same, and even though this devolves into easy George Bush jokes, I still found this mildly enjoyable enough to post. What a ringing endorsement! Ain’t no compliment like an underhanded compliment!

Cadillac One: The Car that Thinks it's a Tank

Best of Bond: 20 Furious Fights

Every Simpsons couch gag — A look at every couch gag from The Simpsons Intro..

Barack Obama 'kidnaps' 24 hero Jack Bauer

US conservatives claim that the 24 character Jack Bauer has been 'kidnapped' by the new liberal agenda of President-Elect Barack Obama.

Jack Bauer: Barack Obama 'kidnaps' 24 hero Jack Bauer
US conservatives say Jack Bauer from 24 has been 'kidnapped' by the new liberal agenda of President-Elect Barack Obama.

As the hero of the television action series, Bauer became a modern icon of rugged American values and a fictional flag waver for the Bush administration's determination to defeat terrorists.

The intelligence agent, played by Keifer Sutherland, has never been afraid to torture or shoot to kill while tackling villainous foreigners intent on waging war on the American homeland.

But now US conservatives are up in arms that the election of President-Elect Barack Obama has led the show's producers to pander to the liberal consensus in Hollywood, which they claim has led to the blacklisting of those who disagree with their anti-war views.

When the series returns for its seventh season on Sunday night, Bauer will mouth the views of Mr Obama, who has vowed to end "enhanced interrogation", also known as torture, and close the Guantanamo Bay detention camp.

And in an apparent bid to get in tune with the new president, the new season opens with Bauer facing a congressional investigation probing his use of torture and summary executions in previous series. "It's better that everything comes out in the open," Bauer says, echoing Democrat demands for greater transparency over US counter-terrorist tactics.

"We've done so many things in the name of protecting this country, we've created two worlds. Ours and the people's we've promised to protect. They deserve to hear the truth and decide how far they want to let us go."

The transformation of Bauer has left the American Right fuming.

"It's clearly a sign the producers are trying to adapt to a new political reality," said the conservative commentator Christian Toto.

"That approach might generate a few new fans, but it could turn off those who saw 24 as that rare Hollywood product that took the threat of terrorism seriously - and didn't feel the need to rationalise taking extreme measures to protect the innocent."

The capture of Bauer by the Hollywood's liberal elite comes as conservatives in the entertainment industry are complaining that their support for the war in Iraq has made them victims of a Left-wing witch hunt.

A new book by an Oscar-nominated screenwriter, published later this month, claims that those with conservative views are victims of an informal blacklist, like the McCarthy-era ban on communist sympathisers in Hollywood during the 1950s.

Roger Simon, who penned the scripts to Enemies: A Love Story and Scenes From a Mall, said that those who oppose the liberal anti-war consensus in Hollywood have been ostracised by the major studios and television networks.

In his book Blacklisting Myself: Memoir of a Hollywood Apostate in the Age of Terror, Simon writes: "I am sure this new form of the blacklist exists, but not nearly to the formalised extent of the original list of the Forties and Fifties with its dramatic hearings in front of the House Un-American Activities Committee."

He says the new blacklist "operates through an almost invisible thought control" in which writers, actors and directors who refuse to join in the chorus of condemnation against President George W. Bush and his wars faced career death over the last eight years.

He claims anyone voicing support for the war "would be dismissed as a fool, a warmonger, or a right-wing nut (all three, probably) and therefore have had little or no chance at the writing or directing job that brought you there."

Conservative actors are few and far between. Only the Die Hard star Bruce Willis, Kelsey Grammer of Frasier fame and the Oscar winners Jon Voight and Robert Duvall have any real clout.

When the novelist and film director Michael Crichton, the creator of Jurassic Park, died on the day Mr Obama was elected, his passing received little publicity, conservatives claim, because he wrote a thriller questioning the liberal consensus on global warming.

Even Arnold Schwarznegger, the former film star and Republican Governor of California is seen as a captive of the Left because of his liberal environmental policies.

But some conservatives are fighting back. Last week activists in the entertainment industry launched a new website to rally support from conservative voters for films and television programmes that reflect their values.

They believe that the recent glut of anti-war films that bombed at the box office - including Rendition, which starred Reese Witherspoon and Jake Gyllenhaal; In the Valley of Elah, featuring Tommy Lee Jones and Charlize Theron and Lambs for Lions, Robert Redford's political drama with Tom Cruise and Meryl Streep - are proof that Hollywood is out of touch with the American public.

Andrew Breitbart, the founder of the new Hollywood site, issued a call to arms: "Until conservatives, libertarians and Republicans - who will be the lion's share of Big Hollywood's contributors - recognise that (pop) culture is the big prize and that politics is secondary, there will be no victory in this important battle."

Michael Wilson, director of the documentary Michael Moore Hates America, said Hollywood and grassroots conservatives need to fight harder to "impart their ideas into pop culture" by putting up the money for films that hide a conservative message in a popular format.

He said: "Hollywood doesn't like us. They don't like our pro-American, pro-liberty, self-interested way of life, and they certainly don't think our ideas would work on film.

"The trick to transforming the very real liberal bias in Hollywood is to change the formula that Hollywood uses by finding and financing films and television projects that engage people emotionally first and speak to ideology second."

I just stepped outside and snapped this photo of the moon

Uploaded on January 10, 2009
by Pistols Drawn

Last month's full moon was the closest the moon had been to the earth in 15 years. This month's is even closer. I just waited patiently to get the exact photo I was hoping for.

And now I'm procrastinating even more to pack up for my new job.

Weirder still is thinking about everyone at ReadyMade losing their jobs last week.

Also, Thanks everyone for liking this photo too. I'm highly flattered.

NY eatery frees ancient lobster

"George" the giant lobster
Large lobsters are usually too big to get caught in traps

A lobster believed to be some 140 years old is to be freed from the confines of a tank at a New York restaurant.

George the giant lobster, weighing 9kg (20lb), will be returned to the ocean, from where he was caught two weeks ago.

The crustacean was bought for $100 (£66) by the City Crab and Seafood and quickly adopted as its mascot, posing for pictures with restaurant patrons.

But animal rights group Peta sought the lobster's release, and will now put it back into the waters off Maine.

It will enter the ocean in the waters around Kennebunkport, where lobster trapping is banned.

George was originally caught off Newfoundland, Canada, and has spent about 10 days in the tank at City Crab and Seafood.

These intriguing animals don't deserve to be confined to tiny tanks or boiled alive
Ingrid Newkirk

The approximate age of a lobster can be deduced from its weight.

Restaurant manager Keith Valenti said there was never any intent to harm the lobster, and the decision to keep it in the tank was made to offer customers a little something extra.

"We bought a big lobster, started taking pictures with kids and it worked out real well," Mr Valenti told Reuters news agency.

But it was a "no brainer", he added, to agree to the request to return George to the ocean.

"We never intended him to be sold, just draw attention to the restaurant, and he did."

Ingrid Newkirk, of Peta (People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals) praised the decision.

"We applaud the folks at City Crab and Seafood for their compassionate decision to allow this noble old-timer to live out his days in freedom and peace.

"We hope that their kind gesture serves as an example that these intriguing animals don't deserve to be confined to tiny tanks or boiled alive."

NYPD Wants to Jam Cell Phones During Terror Attack

By Noah Shachtman Email

Amd_raykelly The New York Police Department wants to be able to shut down cell phones, in case of a terrorist attack.

During last month's massacre in Mumbai, terrorist handlers over micromanaged via mobile phone the assaults on the hotels, train stations, and Jewish center that killed more than 170 people.

In testimony today before the Senate Committee on Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs, New York Police Commissioner Ray Kelly (pictured) said he wanted to take out that "formidable capacity to adjust tactics while attacks are underway."

We also discussed the complications of media coverage that could disclose law enforcement tactics in real time. This phenomenon is not new. In the past, police were able to defeat any advantage it might give hostage takers by cutting off power to the location they were in. However, the proliferation of handheld devices would appear to trump that solution. When lives are at stake, law enforcement needs to find ways to disrupt cell phones and other communications in a pinpointed way against terrorists who are using them.

For now, Kelly said, the NYPD is taking a whole range of measures to stop another Mumbai-style spree -- from working with private businesses to interdicting boats to training recruits in heavy weapons to installing a spycam network across downtown Manhattan.

But Charles Allen, the Department of Homeland Security's top intelligence official, confessed to the Senate panel that "response to a similar terrorist attack in a major U.S. urban city would be complicated and difficult."

The chaos the attacks created magnified the difficulty of mounting an appropriate response. First responders, in order to deal with such a crisis, must first and foremost have adequate information on what is occurring as well as the capability to mount a rapid and effective response that minimizes the impact of the attack. In Mumbai it was not immediately clear to authorities whether there were multiple attack groups or a single group. The attackers were able to exploit the initial confusion because of the indiscriminate firings to move on to new targets. While preparedness training for this type of attack may not have prevented it, the effects likely could have been mitigated and reduced if authorities had been prepared and had exercised responses to terrorist attacks across all levels of government. Within the United States, our national exercises incorporate not only federal interagency participants, but also include regional, state, and local authorities, in order to identify potential gaps in our responses.

[Photo: NY Daily News]

British climbers die in the Alps

Rob Gauntlett
Rob Gauntlett climbed Everest with his friend when aged just 19

The youngest Briton to have climbed Mount Everest has been killed, along with a second British climber, in an accident in the French Alps.

Rob Gauntlett, of Petworth, Sussex, reached the summit of Mount Everest when he was just 19 in 2006 and was highly regarded in the climbing world.

His mother Nicola Gauntlett said the 21-year-old's family were "devastated".

She said he and his as yet unnamed friend had been ice-climbing in Chamonix when there was a "big fall".

We can only take consolation that he died doing something that he loved
Nicola Gauntlett
Dead climber's mother

Mrs Gauntlett said: "At the moment we don't know exactly what happened but there was obviously a big fall and they both died. We've only just been told the news."

She said they arrived in the region on 2 January and were due back in the UK on Wednesday.

Mrs Gauntlett added that she and her husband, David, would be travelling to France on Sunday.

She went on: "We are all just devastated. He's far too young to die. We had spoken about something like this happening only recently.

"We can only take consolation that he died doing something that he loved."

Mrs Gauntlett said she was not prepared to disclose the identity of the second Briton who died.

A Foreign Office spokeswoman said: "I can confirm that two British nationals were killed in an accident in the French Alps."

She was unable to confirm reports that the pair had died in an avalanche.

In November 2008 Mr Gauntlett and his friend James Hooper, of Somerset, were named National Geographic 2008 Adventurers of the Year at the society's base in Washington DC.

Prince's Trust

The accolade was in recognition of a 22,000-mile journey using only human and natural power from the Magnetic North to the Magnetic South Poles to raise awareness of climate change.

During the expedition between the Earth's magnetic poles, Mr Hooper and Mr Gauntlett skied, used dog-sleighs, sailed and cycled through Greenland, USA, Mexico, Guatemala, El Salvador, Honduras, Nicaragua, Costa Rica, Panama, Ecuador, Peru, Chile, and Argentina.

The former pupils of Christ's Hospital in Horsham, West Sussex, then sailed to New York to begin the 11,000-mile cycle ride to Punta Arenas, Chile.

After completing the trip from the North to the South Poles in April the pair sailed 1,800 nautical miles to Australia.

Their expedition also helped to raise money for the Prince's Trust.

In 2006 they became the youngest Britons to climb Everest.

$20,000 electric car: Toyota FT-EV


The Toyota FT-EV could be on the road for around $20,000. Photo Gallery Link

Toyota has unveiled a budget priced electric car that can be driven up to 80km without using a drop of petrol...

Just don’t drive further than that otherwise you’ll need a long extension cord.

The car could be sold in Australia from as little as $20,000 within three years, although this is not yet confirmed.

The Japanese maker fired the first shot on the eve of the 2009 Detroit motor show, revealing its surprise future model in the hometown of North America’s three biggest car makers.

It is impossible to underestimate the importance of the Toyota FT-EV, writes PAUL GOVER from Detroit. The plug-in concept car is a seismic shift by the world's largest carmaker and the next step from its ambitious move into the hybrid world. Read more here...

Toyota’s announcement came as General Motors, Ford and Chrysler continue their fight for survival and calls for assistance from the US Government, and as the global economic crisis tightens its grip on the car industry.

The concept car is called the FT-EV and is based on a model called the iQ, which recently went on sale in Japan.

The tiny Toyota is bigger than a Smart city car but smaller than most other hatchbacks and can be fully recharged in a little more than seven hours.

It is due to go into production in Japan in 2012 and it could be on sale in Australia soon after.

“We are certainly looking at,” said Toyota Australia’s product planning manager Peter Evans. “It’s a fascinating vehicle. It is definitely one of our priorities for the Australian market. I think you will start to see a major shift towards these sorts of vehicles from 2012 and beyond.”

Toyota would not speculate on the retail price of its new electric car so far out from launch, but a similarly-sized petrol-powered hatchback costs about $15,000, and an electric motor and battery pack would likely add about $5000 to the cost of the car, say industry analysts, bringing the total close to $20,000.

Significantly, on battery power alone the tiny Toyota will travel almost 20km further than the Chevrolet Volt electric car to be made by General Motors.

However, the Toyota must be recharged after 80km, whereas the Volt has a petrol generator which extends total driving range up to 1000km.

The Toyota electric car is a tiny four-seater hatchback whereas the Volt is about the size of a Holden Astra sedan.

Both cars are due in Australia about the same time – by the end of 2012 – if all goes to plan.

A spokesman for Toyota in North America said last year’s spike in the price of petrol was no accident, and worse is to come.

In a statement issued to media, Irv Miller, Toyota Motor Sales group vice president, environmental and public affairs, said: “[The spike in the price of oil] was a brief glimpse of our future. We must address the inevitability of peak oil by developing vehicles powered by alternatives to liquid-oil fuel, as well as new concepts, like the iQ, that are lighter in weight and smaller in size. This kind of vehicle, electrified or not, is where our industry must focus its creativity.”

The comments echo those made by the boss of General Motors, Rick Wagoner, at last year’s Detroit motor show. In his address to media he said: “There is no doubt demand for oil is outpacing supply at a rapid pace, and has been for some time now. As a business necessity and an obligation to society we need to develop alternative sources of propulsion.”

Mr Wagoner cited US Department of Energy figures which show the world is consuming roughly 1000 barrels of oil every second of the day, and yet demand for oil is likely to increase by 70 per cent over the next 20 years.

Last year, Toyota announced it planned to sell one million petrol-electric hybrids annually from 2010, starting with at least 10 new hybrid vehicles.

Toyota is also trialing a large number of plug-in hybrid vehicles with fleet customers later this year, deploying across North America 500 Prius cars adapted with plug-in technology and using lithium-ion batteries.

Battery technology has been one of the biggest hurdles for electric cars because they are sensitive to extreme temperatures, are heavy and bulky to accommodate and costly and time-consuming to produce.

The 2009 Detroit Motor Show

CEA confirms Apple-related exhibits at CES 2010

CES 2010 will have several Apple-related booths to visit, but are Apple and CEO Steve Jobs really planning to attend?

(Credit: James Martin/CNET News)

The Consumer Electronics Association has confirmed plans to host a Mac-centric area at CES 2010, but Apple has still not commented on whether it plans to participate.

Jason Oxman of the CEA confirmed Saturday that the group "dedicated a special area at the 2010 CES to Apple-related CE manufacturers." That immediately sets up an alternative for companies thinking about exhibiting at Macworld 2010, which will not have Apple present for the first time in 12 years.

"We decided to create this special area based on discussions we've had with companies regarding 2010 show participation. We are pleased with the feedback we've received regarding this space," Oxman said in an e-mail.

Oxman, however, deferred all questions regarding whether Apple would participate to the company itself, which did not return calls Friday and Saturday seeking comment on reports that it will be involved. "(Apple) is a member of the Consumer Electronics Association (CEA) and we are delighted to have a longstanding relationship with them," he said.

Cult of Mac and AppleInsider reported Friday that Apple would indeed be present at next year's CES, calling it a "done deal." Such a move would be quite surprising given Apple's December statement that it was pulling out of Macworld 2010 because it no longer felt trade shows were an effective means of reaching its customers.

Sneak Peek: Pixar’s Up

by: Peter Sciretta

The Disney Channel has a sneak peak at Pixar’s new film Up. The minute and a half featurette is hosted by Up/Monsters Inc director Peter Docter, and features some footage not shown in the teaser trailer. For instance, we see Carl and Russell chasing the floating house in a far off away land. Thanks to the disney blog for the tip. Video after the jump.

From Disney•Pixar comes “Up,” a comedy adventure about 78-year-old balloon salesman Carl Fredricksen, who finally fulfills his lifelong dream of a great adventure when he ties thousands of balloons to his house and flies away to the wilds of South America. But he discovers all too late that his biggest nightmare has stowed away on the trip: an overly optimistic 8-year-old Wilderness Explorer named Russell. From the Academy Award®-nominated director Pete Docter (Monsters, Inc.), Disney•Pixar’s “Up” invites you on a hilarious journey into a lost world, with the least likely duo on Earth.

Up hits theaters in Disney Digital 3-D on May 29, 2009.

Solar and Wind Powered Portable Charger Debuts at CES

Not to be mistaken for a solar powered desk fan (which is what I thought it was), the crafty Kenisis K2 is a solar and wind powered 2-in-1 charger for all your USB needs.

It can power a typical cell phone 5-times over on a full charge! Um, where do I sign up?

And while it’s designed to harvest the power of nature, it’s also quite practical. It also includes an AC adapter for when Mother Nature isn’t cooperating.

You can stand the device up or hang it from your bike. I like that idea since I sit next to a big sunny window at work - though I wish the wind turbine would also operate as a fan.

The device is expected to run for about $100. Engadget has a nice video of the device from CES here. LED indicators let you know how much juice the device has, and it has internal storage for multiple adapter tips.


Super Bowl Ads- $3M for 30 Sec

NEW YORK ( -- Despite record prices, a grinding recession and the absence of two big advertisers this year, NBC says it's having no problem filling spots for Super Bowl XLIII.

The network has sold about 90% of its 67 spots for the championship game scheduled for Feb. 1 in Tampa, Fla., according to NBC spokesman Brian Walker.

Walker said advertising is "on pace or ahead of past Super Bowls," adding that NBC is "in active negotiations with about a dozen potential advertisers."

FedEx (FDX, Fortune 500) and General Motors (GM, Fortune 500) will not be buying spots this year. FedEx blamed the economy, while GM said the timing was just wrong.

NBC is charging, on average, $3 million for a 30-second spot. That's more than the $2.7 million average price for Super Bowl XLII in 2008, when the New York Giants' narrow victory over the New England Patriots was broadcast by Fox of News Corp (NWSA).

The average price of a 30-second spot crossed the $1 million mark in 1995 and passed $2 million in 2000, according to TN'S Media Intelligence. (See the table to the right). But industry experts say that it's worth every penny.

"You have a better chance of reaching people with the Super Bowl than with any other media buy that's available," said John Ferret, professor of advertising at Boston University.

Some 97.5 million people tuned into the game last year, according to the Nielsen Company. Only the World Cup can compete in terms of size and scope, but that's for a different type of "football" that doesn't generate much excitement among Americans.

"The Super Bowl is completely unique in its ability to reach everybody at the same time," said Tim Calkins, marketing professor of the Kellogg Super Bowl Advertising Review. "There's nothing else that's even close."

Many of last year's advertisers will continue to run ads for the 2009 game, including soft drink makers Coca Cola (KO, Fortune 500) and PepsiCo (PEP, Fortune 500); auto industry companies like Audi, Hyundai and Bridgestone; online marketplaces like and E*Trade Financial (ETFC), the pet food company Pedigree, and the National Football League, which advertises for free.

Iconic Super Bowl advertiser Anheuser-Busch is running 4.5 minutes worth of spots, a half-minute more than last year.

"We're obviously the game's single biggest advertiser and have been for some time," said Bob Lachky, chief creative officer for Anheuser-Busch. "It's the one time when you can get, in one setting, the biggest concentration of adult beer drinkers at one time. This is a huge, huge selling platform for us."

The Super Bowl may be synonymous with beer for many Americans, but the spots are coveted by advertisers of all stripes, because of the unusually ad-friendly culture.

"What makes the Super Bowl unique is that this is the one time every year where, instead of complaining about advertising, we celebrate advertising," said Peter Blackshaw, chief marketing officer for Nielsen Buzz Metrics. "You can't really beat the reach and you don't have to worry about people flipping on the DVR fast forward button, because people like to watch the ads."

Super Bowl and the recession

But not everyone believes that Super Bowl spots are worth the money, and the recession has taken its toll on at least a couple of long-time advertisers.

FedEx won top ratings from the Kellogg School of Management for its 2008 Super Bowl spot, which showed a gargantuan carrier pigeon wrecking havoc on city streets. But for 2009, the shipping company refrained from buying a spot for the first time in 12 years.

"As a country, we are in unprecedented economic waters," Steve Pacheco, managing director of advertising at FedEx, wrote in a corporate blog. "A Super Bowl ad buy is not where we should put dollars at this time although, in the past, the value of doing so for FedEx has been indisputable."

General Motors, the official Super Bowl sponsor, used an animated, 60-second spot during last year's game to unveil its GMC Yukon Hybrid. But the automaker will not be airing a commercial this year. GM spokeswoman Kelly Cusinato said the company made that decision back in September.

"It just wasn't a good enough return on the investment for that, because we didn't have a major vehicle launch that aligned with the timing of the Super Bowl," said Cusinato. "Then we went to Congress, and the economy got worse and we started scaling back a lot of other sponsorships."

When auto executives went hat in hand to Congress last December, GM was strongly advised not to run a Super Bowl ad this year.

But not all automakers are shunning Super Bowl air time. Audi and Hyundai have both bought spots for the 2009 game.

Audi plans to run a 60-second commercial for the second year running, following its well-received "Godfather-"themed ad for the R8 luxury sports car. Hyundai plans to unveil its 2010 Genesis Coupe with two commercials, featuring a race course run choreographed to the playing of cellist Yo-Yo Ma.

Stuck with an expensive spot

Calkins of the Kellogg Super Bowl Advertising Review said that much of the air time was sold in September, and that some advertisers might regret their purchases, given the worsening state of the economy.

"Early in the fall, most of the spots were sold out," he said. "That, of course, was before the economy really went south. The advertisers were stuck with them. There was a very strong initial demand, and there's a very different climate right now."

But for, a domain name marketplace that keeps censors on their toes with its risqué ads, there is no time like the present. The company has purchased a Super Bowl spot for its fifth consecutive year.

"Our theory on advertising is that when the economy is having some issues, that is not the time to cut your advertising budget," said executive vice president Barb Rechterman. To top of page

Nicest Pic of Brazilian Butterfly Flocks You'll See ThisWeek — Beautiful shot, enlargeable, wallpaper.

6 Insane Prison Escapes That Actually Happened

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What do you get when you take thousands of guys, give them tons of free time, creativity and a healthy portion of desperation? Some freaking awesome prison escapes.

Some of these were badass enough to have had movies made about them, but all of them made Andy from The Shawshank Redemption look like a lazy pile of shit.

Stalag Luft III Escape (aka The Great Escape)

Even with the Geneva Conventions basically turning Salag Luft III into the World War 2 prison equivalent of the Ritz-Carlton, British inmate Roger Bushell felt he had some escaping to do. He and 49 other prisoners devised a plan to dig three tunnels -- codenamed Tom, Dick and Harry -- out of a prison that was specifically designed to piss off tunnelers with its loose yellow subsoil and, in a huge dick move, seismograph microphones buried along the fences. If a shovel made even the slightest vibration the plan was shot, leaving the prisoners to fall back on their untested "It was Sandworms" alibi.

Not as uncommon an alibi as you'd think.

The team found brilliant ways to nullify every problem that popped up:

*The team dug 30 foot deep holes to evade the microphones;

*For faster tunnel traveling, they created a railway system;

*They built what were, essentially, Christmas tree lights that plugged into the camp's grid;

*The crafty escapees even constructed a tunnel ventilation system composed of nearly every piece of junk lying in your garage: bed parts, hockey sticks, ping-pong paddles, knapsacks and flattened tin cans of powdered milk with the ends removed.

When rumors swirled that some of the prisoners may be moved to another prison, they picked up the pace which, finally, caught the attention of the guards who soon discovered the "Tom" tunnel. Just before the completion of Harry, some of the diggers were, indeed, sent off to a newer, Nazier prison and never got the chance to escape.

But the rest started crawling through the tunnels on a moonless March night in 1944. They got 76 men through before, finally, when the 77th inmate gophered his way out someone realized an escape was going down.

The Nazi guards later took count of all of the missing supplies that were used in the escape: 4,000 bed boards, the complete disappearance of 90 beds, 52 tables, 34 chairs, 10 single tables, 76 benches, 1,219 knives, 478 spoons, 582 forks, 69 lamps, 246 water cans, 30 shovels, 1,000 feet of electric wire, 600 feet of rope, 3,424 towels, 1,700 blankets and more than 1,400 milk cans.

"Do you guys ever think it's weird that we've only got, like, three beds in this whole prison?"

Keep in mind they were able to get all of this stuff while in a Nazi prison camp. Think about that the next time you find yourself bartering like a nomadic goat herder just to get a couple of ballpoints from your office supply manager. Virtually all of the escapees were caught and either killed or re-imprisoned, but we still like to think this was the point the Nazis realized they could not win a war against an army full of MacGyvers.

The Pascal Payet Escapes (aka "Get to the Choppa!")

After killing an armored truck driver, Pascal Payet was arrested and sentenced to a 30-year stint in France's Luynes prison. But Luynes prison had one major flaw in its design that Payet knew how to exploit: it had a sky over it.

By 2001, Payet was probably up to his cheeks in prison rape so he decided to leave... via helicopter that some buddies of his hijacked. Sadly, the details of this glorious break out are scant but we're assuming it involved him leaping in slow motion and grabbing onto the skids of the helicopter in midair.

"And, now, could you point me in the direction he took the helicopter, officer?"

After roaming free for a couple of years, Payet must have figured that if dropping a helicopter into a prison worked once, why wouldn't it work again? In 2003, he hopped in a helicopter, flew back to Luynes prison and busted out three inmates. These men were friends of his, but we're pretty sure he was just having one of those moments where you do something so cool you have to do it again just to make sure.

After breaking out his buddies, Payet was captured and given an additional seven years on his sentence. This time he wasn't placed in just one big-house, but was moved to a different prison every three months or so in a sad attempt to make the process helicopter proof. It remained that way until July of 2007, when a helicopter carrying four masked men landed on the roof of Grasse prison in Southeast France during the start of the night shift.

"Holy shit I can't believe how easy this is."

The men broke Payet out of his isolation ward and flew off him off into the sunset. And just to prove that he knows a thing or two about symbolism, this break-out occurred on Bastille Day, a French holiday that commemorates the storming of a prison. Payet, you glorious son of a bitch...

The Mother of All Break-Outs

What is more powerful than the love of a mother? And it's even more powerful when a mother uses a big rig truck to mow down your chest cavity and ram their love directly into your heart.

Jay Junior Sigler, an inmate in his eighth year of a 20-year sentence for armed robbery at Everglades Correctional Institution, started out his day just like any other:

11:28 AM: Walk off threat of aggressive anal penetration.

2:03 PM: Artfully dodge a shanking.

2:58 PM: Receive aggressive anal penetration.

3:00 PM: A visit from Mom and some friends.

But unlike most Plexiglas and wired phone visits from loved ones, this one went a bit differently. In broad daylight an 18-wheel truck driven by Sigler's friend, John Beaston (who was accompanied by Christopher Michelson and Kelly Mitchell), rammed though not just one, but four prison fences, immediately followed by a Cutlass Supreme driven by none other then mommy dearest herself, Sandra Sigler.

"The parking lot was full"

When Jay, who was in the courtyard, reached the car, Beaston tossed him a shotgun and together they fired at the oncoming guards. Jay and everyone from the truck jumped into Mrs. Sigler's Cutlass like kids after Karate practice and hightailed it out of there.

They then made a pit stop at local mall and swapped vehicles; Jay and Michelson in one car, Mama Sigler, Beaston and Mitchell in another. Jay and Michelson had made it all the way to Pompano Beach, some 40 miles away from the prison, when they realized they were being followed. In a desperate attempt to flee, they sped into an alley and burst out the other side just in time to blow by a stop sign and slam into an oncoming vehicle, killing the 55-year-old driver.

Michelson, who had recently been released from prison himself, was brought in on charges of first-degree murder along with Sigler. As for Mother Sigler, she and her car mates were arrested at a gas station a few miles from the prison shortly after the car swap. Just goes to show that, holiday or not, a visiting parent will inevitably fuck up your day.

"By all accounts the mother masterminded everything," said Miami-Dade detective Rudy Espinosa. This didn't turn out to be entirely correct as Jay Sigler had actually conceived of the plan some four months earlier. Mama Sigler just handled the small, intricate details of the escape like, for instance, ramming a huge fucking truck through four prison gates.

The Texas Seven

On December 13, 2000, seven inmates at the John Connally Unit -- a prison in Karnes County, Texas -- escaped via an amalgam of brute force and the kind of plan an elementary school child would concoct.

The escape began when inmate Rivas convinced Maintenance Supervisor Patrick Moczygemba to allow him and some fellow inmates to forego lunch in order to wax the floors of the maintenance room. They lured Moczygemba into the warehouse and once there, Rivas duped him by essentially shouting, "Hey! Look over there!" Moczygemba acquiesced and was greeted with an ax handle to the head.

Threatening him with a homemade knife, they undressed Moczygemba, bound him and tossed him into an electrical room, beginning a chain reaction of events more akin to a comedy of errors than a jail break. As new people entered the maintenance room, they were each given a variation of the "Hey! Look over there!" technique, along with a punch in the face and the threat of a stabbing from a new and totally random sharp object. In all, they captured nine supervisors, four correctional officers and three uninvolved inmates using simple vaudevillian misdirection.

By impersonating various supervisors over the course of three phone calls, the inmates not only made good with one of the 12 daily head counts, but gained access to a gatehouse under the guise of monitor installers. No guards questioned them because a little company is welcomed after hours of trying to decide whether or not masturbating at work is a fireable offense (answer: No).

After entering the gatehouse, some more phone trickery allowed the inmates to headlock the guard into submission and gain entry to the radio tower. In the tower, inmate Halprin snatched a revolver off of a desk and, in a moment that proves that a gun can get you anything you want in life as long as you point it at a human, the guard opened the gate and even told the inmates about the weapons cache at the bottom of the tower.

"Hey, how come Garcia and Harper get to smile like dipshits?"

The Texas Seven drove their way out of the back gate, effectively launching one of the largest manhunts in U.S. history. They were eventually hauled in after appearing on the TV show America's Most Wanted. Some of them actually demanded a television appearance before they would agree to surrender, presumably planning to point at the camera, say "Look behind you!" and then escape once more while all of America had its back turned.

Antonio Ferrara Goes Commando

Antonio Ferrara was the personification of the classic movie gangster: He was a part of a group of veteran bank robbers -- nicknamed the "Dream Team" - that was labeled the "most dangerous gang in Europe" by Interpol. He was also famous in the French underworld for his remarkable ability to create the perfect explosive concoction that could blow open a safe and leave the cash within unharmed. At the age of 29 he was sentenced to serve an eight-year prison term for two armed robberies and had been suspected of at least 15 more.

And to top it all off, he looks like a total douche.

Five years into his prison career, he decides to call it quits and escape the only way an explosives expert knows how (hint: explosives). At 4:30 AM on March 12, 2003, six men drove up to the front gate of Fresnes Prison in fake police cars, clothed in police uniforms and ski masks. Some fired AK-47s at the two adjacent guard towers, while the other group blew open the front gates with rocket-propelled grenade launchers. Yes, someone came up with a plan even less subtle than the truck-driving mom up there.

With all of this going down, Ferrara was presumably awoken by the sound of gun fire and explosions outside. He must have figured that he needed to take the initiative and check it out himself, so he blew open his cell door with a stick of dynamite that is believed to have been given to him by a guard (either the guard was a co-conspirator or Ferrara is one hell of a smooth talker).

"Come on, just let me borrow it, don't be a dick."

Once out of his cell, he joined up with his clan of fellow Michael Bay enthusiasts and fled. It all took 10 minutes.

After being on the loose for four months (and being declared France's most wanted man by President Nicolas Sarkozy) Ferrara was recaptured in a Paris bar during a massive undercover operation. When Ferrara came face to face with the arresting officer, he was quoted as saying only one thing: "You again?".


No surprise here. When most people think "prison escape," they think Alcatraz.

Frank Morris's long history of jail breaks prompted the move to a more inescapable place. So how about the San Francisco prison with tough iron bars, twelve cell checks per day and, oh yeah, is surrounded by the frigid waters of the Pacific.

Frank and his fellow inmates Allen West and Clarence and John Anglin realized there just so happened to be an unguarded utility corridor just behind their cells. The corridor housed a ventilation shaft, which led to the roof. In need of digging tools, West placed stolen drill bits and a vacuum cleaner motor under a napkin, waved his hand and poof, out came a drill somehow.

Made of a toothbrush, drill bits and magic!

The drill (the sound of which was masked by an equally ear-grating accordion) loosened the air vents at the back of their cells by making closely spaced holes around the cover so the entire section of the wall could be removed.

After they gained access to the corridor everything else just fell in line: The Anglin brothers fabricated crude paper mache replicas of the their own heads, with real human hair from the prison barber shop. Over fifty prison-issued rain coats were either donated by or stolen from fellow inmates and were meticulously glued together to form a six-by-fourteen foot inflatable raft. Morris even modified one of the ear-grating accordions into an air pump for inflation.


On June 11, 1962, after two years of planning, Morris decided that it was time to make with the breaking out. Allen West, who was so bogged down with making life preservers and rowing paddles, had yet to finish the holes in his cell's air vent. Morris didn't give a shit and went ahead with the plans. They placed their dummy heads in their beds and set off through the air vent holes. They were going to break out West, but they opted to flip him off, laugh and high-five instead. They scaled 30-feet of plumbing to the roof and shimmied down 50-feet of piping to the freedom fortified dirt below.

In an interview, West later said that the rest of the plan would have involved paddling to nearby Angel Island, resting and then riding the tides to shore where they would go their separate ways. No one knows if Morris and the Anglin's completed that portion of the plan, but many experts pretty much agree that they did. Why?

Because before they came along every escapee that had made it to the waters of around Alcatraz was later found with a bad case of the deads. The bodies of Morris and the Anglin's, however, were never found. Also because the story becomes kind of pointless if they just sank like rocks after all that effort.

TiVo Redesigns Search Function, Wants to be the 'Google of TV'

By Jose Fermoso Email


A little less than two years after TiVo debuted its swivel video search engine, it is now killing it in favor of a better integrated search whose biggest improvement is visual.

Announced this week at CES 2009, the new TV search works similarly to the search bar in the Firefox address browser. You type in the first few letters of a show in the 'discovery bar' and relevant recommendations of shows on TV satellite and broadband networks come up. At the same time, you get a nice looking new column arrangement of information about a show, including episode description, rating, and relevant art.

The new appearance, according to TiVo reps, was created to fit to the longer length of HDTV's. The old swivel search had no visuals and didn't provide immediate information that could help a user choose efficiently. Still, this is a feature that is most helpful during passive browsing – if you're the type that already knows what you want, the new search will look much nicer but it won’t make a huge difference.

Already, some are saying that the search function is not fast at all but TiVo reps promise they're working on boosting that speed. That’s an important development that is critical if the company really wants to make this feature the "Google of TV search."


There are three other updates with search that are interesting. Results now come up through the most popular of the day automatically, and you can also browse shows by the season. This is especially helpful for serial shows like The West Wing, where I’m constantly confused about where it falls in line.

But the one I like the most is the Wish List feature, which takes a show that is not currently available anywhere and holds a search on your behalf so that when it’s finally offered, it will record it. It will be even better if you end up forgetting about it and will show up one day like a present you didn’t expect. I will be adding the “Rebels of Oakland” HBO documentary from a few years ago because I can never find it anywhere. C'mon HBO, you can have three docs about the Red Sox in two years, but can't manage to release the Rebels? Get on it, please.

TiVo's search update is in now in beta and available to Series 3 and HD TiVos.