� Another real world example of why DRM is evil | Between the Lines | ZDNet.com

Another real world example of why DRM is evil Between the Lines ZDNet.com

The article talks about changes a Dutch ISP is making to their music offerings. Users were able to purchase albums for download and listen to them on their PC. This was not a subscription, or piracy, but a legitimate purchase. After the fact, the ISP and Music Provider are changing the license and discotinuing the customers access to their music by changing the copy protection software (DRM).

On 2007-01-01, it's the electronic equivalent of a music company coming to your house and taking back a CD.

Copyright law can be boring and complicated, but it is becoming more and more important every day.

And these DRM changes won't stop at the EU border.

Tools lost on space station, but spacewalk will go ahead

Is it really that big?

And a bag designed to contain hazardous materials is a little differnt than my keys.

Tools lost on space station, but spacewalk will go ahead

CAPE CANAVERAL, Fla. -- It's easy to misplace your car keys or reading glasses in your own home.

Imagine how easy it would be to lose them amid thousands of tools and construction supplies if you were building your house. That's how NASA officials described life on the International Space Station Tuesday as they explained why some equipment needed for this week's spacewalk is missing.

BTW, has anyone seen my phone?


Muppets Break 1000; Shatner-Palooza continues

Our Muppet Show Starring William Shatner and Leondard Nimoy film just broke 1,000 viewers. It is now the most popular Play Cole film of all time. Thanks to everyone who watched and sent the link to their friends. If you have friends who haven't seen it yet, go ahead and send them the link. Just click the envelope icon at the end of the post. Or send them a link to www.playcole.com

Okay. I'll stop plugging my own stuff now.

One of the great things about Shatner is that we really don't have to do parodies. During a brainstorming session, we may come up with the idea, "How about a commercial parody where William Shatner sells the Commodore Vic 20?" About the time we get to the second rewrite, someone says, "He already did it."


Why I Love the Northwest

I was worried yesterday. I was running a little late on my way out to Portland and didn't have a chance to get my coffee.

Finally, 60 miles later, I stopped for gas at the Tumwater Costco ($3.09/gallon). Then I drove over to the adjacent strip mall, thinking I might find a Starbucks there. It's usually a safe bet. There should be one in every stip mall. I think it's a local ordinance. I didn't see one at first, but I did see a Fred Meyer. Fortunately, there was one in there.

So I went to park the car and about 100 feet away:

There was another one.

Naturally, I chided myself over the silly worry that I might not find a Starbucks in Western Washington. When will the rest of the world catch up?


Ok, so it was a little cloudy...

I took these images form and American Airlines 757 DFW-SEA on approach into Seatac. Landing to the south takes you in over downtown Seattle for some amazing views. On 2006-05-25, when I took the pictures, the clouds dominated. Big surprise. These pictures are from about 4:45 PM.

I'm actually hosting my pictures on www.flickr.com/people/cromely

The system works pretty well.

Downtown Seattle is on the left. You can see I5 winding its way right to left across the picture.

Here, you can barely see downtown Seattle in front of the engine.

Here is a nice view of Elliott Bay and the Port of Seattle. Qwest Field, where the Seahawks play, is in the bottom center.
Here you get more of a view of the bay, and West Seattle at the top.
More of the Port. You also get a view of the Qwest logo on Qwest Stadium.

In the middle, you can see Harbor Island. This is a man-made island and a superfund site. It is a major Port of Seattle facility.

I suppose I shouldn't be using my digital camera below 10,000 feet, but I'll try to get more shots next time I fly through.

At least until the flight attendants stop me. (That's my life motto.)


Is there a Jon Luck Pikerd here?

From Star Trek: The Next Generation
Episode 141

I gave you something most mortals never experience... a second chance at life. And now all you can do is complain?

I can't live out my days as that person. That man is bereft of passion and imagination. That's not who I am.

Au contraire. He's the person you wanted to be... one who was less arrogant, and undisciplined as a youth. One who was less like me.

The Jean-Luc Picard you wanted to be, the one who did not fight the Nausicaan, had quite a different career from the one you remember.

That Picard never had a brush with death... never came face to face with his own mortality... never realized how fragile life is... how important each moment can be... so his life never came into focus. He drifted through much of his career, with no plan or agenda... going from one assignment to the next, never seizing the opportunities that presented themselves...

He didn't lead the Away Team on Milika Three to save that ambassador... he didn't take charge of the Stargazer's Bridge when its Captain was killed... and no one ever offered him a command.

He learned to play it safe. And he never, ever got noticed by anyone.

You're right. You gave me the chance to change and I took that opportunity. But I freely admit now that it was a mistake.

Are you asking me for something, Jean-Luc?


Give me a chance to put things back to the way they were before.

Before, you died in Sickbay. Is that what you want?

I would rather die as the man I was... than live the life I just saw.

For Context.

Apprentice Week 13: You want me to wear what?!

Have you ever seen a snake start to eat its own tail? Me neither until Monday night. In the boardroom. It was awesome.

The task was to design uniform for a hotel staff. The staff would pick the winners. One team listened to the staff ahead of time. The other team forced their ideas on to the staff.

It wasn't even close.

Once again, we saw the importance of listening to your customer.

If you don't want to know who won, you probably already stopped reading.
Table of Contents

  1. Fallout from Last Week
  2. The Task
  3. Lessons Learned
  4. Team Gold Rush
  5. Team Synergy
  6. Fashion Show
  7. The Reward
  8. The Boardroom

Fallout from Last Week

After Allie and Roxanne came back from the boardroom after last week's battle, Allie lied about how she treated Tammy. She said, “I totally tried to mediate y'all. There was totally no ganging up.” This is so completely untrue. Allie and Roxanne sabotaged Tammy from the start last week, and when she ultimately failed, they mercilessly attacked her in the boardroom.

I've seen less vicious attacks on Hannity and Colmes.

Even Trump was surprised. The next day, while assigning the task, he turned to Allie and Roxanne and said, “What you did to Tammy was not nice.”

Sean wasn't just upset that Tammy was gone; he was also upset because, “I have to listen to Tammy and Roxanne for another week...They have no integrity.”

Sean was furious, and he turned that fury into a powerful motivator. This week wasn't about being the Apprentice. This week, simply, “I am going to destroy Synergy.”

And that is exactly what he and Lee did.

The Task

Trump introduced the remaining candidates to their task at Estee Lauder, allegedly to emphasize the importance of design in their new task. The new task was actually about listening to customers, and not design, but that didn’t seem to matter.

Actually, it was just an excuse to show off Donald Trump, the Fragrance cologne bottle as an example of great design.

I suppose this is necessary. If only there was some way Trump could generate some publicity…

This week's Apprentice had the teams redesigning the uniforms for the staff at Embassy Suites. They had to come up with new uniforms for the Suite Keepers (housekeepers), Bell Staff, Front Desk Staff, and Breakfast Chef. The hotel staff would judge the candidates and pick the winner.

Each team had a professional designer and clothing making people at their disposal. They teams needed to bring their ideas and vision to the designer who would then implement it.

The task was fairly straight forward. Details are available here.

Lessons Learned
  • Know your customer
  • Listen to your customer
  • Listen to your customer some more.
  • Did I mention listen to your customer?

Customers decide whether a business succeeds or fails. The purpose of all businesses is to get money from other business or people. To do that they have to give the customer something the customer wants. If they don’t, they lose. It seems obvious, but Allie and Roxanne missed that.

Lee and Sean paid attention to what the actual contest judges – the staff at Embassy Suites – wanted. And they gave them what they wanted.

Team Gold Rush

Lee took on the project manager role. On the way to the Embassy Suites, they began planning. Lee focused on the employees, impressing on the Sean the importance of listening to the employees. Sean also realized they had an advantage when he realized he and Lee dressed in a more stylish way that the girls of Synergy. “I never thought I'd be proud to be Metrosexual.”

They began by meeting with Embassy Suites executives, who explained they wanted the new uniforms to be like Embassy Suites – upscale but fun. Above all the uniforms had to be practical. They again emphasized the importance of getting input from the employees.

As Lee and Sean began talking to the employees, it became clear the employees did not want a huge change.

Lee was concerned about deciding on a conservative approach. “Perhaps the employees want something flashy. They just don't know it.”

He needn't have worried.

Team Synergy

Synergy also met with the executives and interpreted their comments differently. Allie said, “The executives want style, panache, and fun.” She was determined this would not be a small tweaking but, rather, a complete overhaul.

And then she tried to talk the suite keepers into wearing culottes (AKA skorts). “There's no way the men came up with culottes,” said Allie in an interview.

She was right. The men are smart.

It was highly entertaining watching her try to explain what culottes were to the skeptical staff. Allie lectured them about the fashion items, while the staff looked at her like she had culottes hanging from here ears.

After the interviews, the Allie and Roxanne love fest continued when they sat down in a conference room to look over their notes and began working on their designs. “It's like we're co-PMs,” said Allie.

Then Ivanka Trump came in and asked them who they chose to be PM, and they said they hadn't decided. Ivanka thought that was ridiculous and pressed them on it. So Allie took the title, but throughout the task and boardroom, she did whatever she could to avoid the responsibility.

Synergy was so far from the mark that Allie actually said, “It's more important that they be stylish than functional.” Does she not get that these people work for a living?

Allie and Roxanne, talked with the front desk staff. The staff did not like the current pants in the uniform, but still wanted to be in pants. Allie insisted on skirts.

Fashion Show

The next day came the fashion show. The employees gathered in a room, and models strutted down the runway wearing the new uniform. First, Gold Rush's Bellmen, then Synergy's. Next Gold Rush's Suite keepers, followed buy Synergy's. And so on.

Synergy's designs were absolutely terrible.

Gold Rush's Bell uniform featured. Lee and Sean worked with the Bell staff to understand what they wanted. As a result, they designed a uniform that could adapt the wide ranging seasons in New York. They designed it to be practical with an and overcoat, removable liner, multiple pockets, and other features

Synergy's Bell uniform featured a tight, fitted quasi jacket with short sleeves. The cuffs flared up and out about 1.5” from the sleeve.

Gold Rush’s front desk uniform featured a nice, comfortable pants and matching jacket.

Synergy’s front desk uniform included a tight fitted skirt and a scarf.

The Synergy chef uniform was a complete disaster. It was gold and shiny. It was utterly ridiculous for making omelets in the morning for exhausted business people.

The only chef should be wearing anything like that is one of the Greatest Chef in the world. Iron Chef Chen Kenichi. Unless the Embassy Suites GM is going to start every day taking a huge bit out of a yellow bell pepper, this uniform is ridiculous. But it's not the worst they did.

As Sean said, “The cast of Dynasty called. They want their shoulder pad pads back.”

Allie put the suite keepers in gold culottes and gold shirts that had shoulder pads and giant puffy sleeves. Now, we are not talking about Seinfeld Puffy Shirt sleeves. That would have been an improvement. Instead, they had short sleeves and the upper arms puffed up like a weather balloon.

Do you really think these folks:

should be wearing this?

And more importantly, do they?

Sean and Lee smiled when their models strutted on the cat walk. They smiled even more when they saw the Synergistic disaster Allie and Roxanne wrought.

When the results came through, 83 people preferred Gold Rush's outfits. Just 37 liked Synergies offerings.

And in the follow-up interview, Sean dedicated the victory. “Tammy, baby, that was for you darling.”


For their winning designs, Gold Rush won a dinner at Aquavit with Ivanka Trump and Donald Trump Jr.

We learned a few interesting things.

Donald Trump Sr. wears a pink bath robe.

Ivanka got away with a lot more than Don Jr. did growing up because she's a girl.

While acknowledging you can't go to Mar-A-Lago every year without being a bit spoiled, according to Don Jr., Trump Sr. didn't give them just anything they wanted. In college, they had $300/month allowance. If they wanted to spend more, they had to work. Sure, $300/month may seem like a lot, but when their father is a billionaire, it's practically a Ramen diet.

When Trump Sr. hires people, he looks for people that are tough and solid. They need to have high integrity and passion for their work. He doesn't like show boats. If you are going to brag or talk about how good you are, you better be able to back it up.

Don Jr. described him as a blue collar guy with a huge balance sheet.

When Trump Sr. gets home, he just wants to watch TV, drink a giant glass of milk, and eat a cheeseburger.

We also had confirmation that Sean has a crush on Tammy. They talked about getting together when the show was over. He considered giving her his diamond from his reward following an earlier episode.

The Boardroom

Back at the suite, Allie made it clear that she still did not get it. “It sucks because we totally nailed it.” I'm not sure what show Allie was watching, but it wasn't the Apprentice.

The comments from the staff that went along with the voting were perfectly clear. The Synergy clothes looked completely impractical. The fabrics looked uncomfortable. These were not clothes someone could work in. One of the Suite Keepers noted that these outfits may look good on the models, but there is no way they would look good on other body types.

So that night, Allie and Roxanne prepared for the boardroom. They talked about how good their designs were. They talked about how much they liked working with each other. They talked about how they are such good friends. Roxanne crawled into Allie's bed and they hugged and consoled each other over the possibility that one of them would go home the next day.

In the boardroom, they started presenting a united front.

Trump asked Allie what went wrong, and she said, “Nothing went wrong.” Allie felt they took a bit of a fashion risk they were sure the staff would love, and they just missed.

Ivanka grew frustrated at how clueless Allie seemed to be. “Do you know why chefs wear white uniforms?” she asked Allie. “So they can bleach them and keep them clean.” She explained there was absolutely no way they could do that with the Synergy uniforms. The Synergy uniforms would have to be single use.

Ivanka also explained how ridiculous the puffy sleeves would be on a woman with larger arms.

After some more questions, Allie and Roxanne began turning on each other. Roxanne explained that if she was project manager she would have put the front desk staff in pants like they wanted. Allie said Roxanne never brought that up. They argued about whether or not she did.

Roxanne complained about how Allie treated their designer, and that Allie did not respect the experts. Allie said she had to because the designer screwed up and Roxanne would have let him get away with it.

Allie said Roxanne cannot get along with project managers. She said Roxanne could never get along with Tammy while she herself could.

And the fights and screaming went on like that. Allie and Roxanne had a united, dishonest, and manipulative front through out the season, but now it fell apart. They snake bit its own tail and began swallowing.

Trump got sick of it. He fired them both for the disloyalty they showed to one another. He said losing is a terrible thing that can undermine a friendship. “You lost and went at each other. I'm really disappointed.”

Of course he didn't seem to give them much choice, but that's beside the point. After that disastrous performance, they needed to go. Their behavior throughout the series showed they were clearly not Apprentice material.

Their cab ride of shame showed them back in their own dynamic. Allie commented on the project and Trump and what he was missing, etc. After about 30 seconds, she turned to Roxanne, who said they were still friends.


There's no stopping Shatner-Palooza

Our Muppets meet Shatner moving is doing well. More than 700 people have seen it so far. If you haven't yet, take a look. It's the fastest growing Playcole.com film to date.

This week in Arkansas, I saw a William Shatner commercial on TV. He was endorsing a local law firm. Not just any law firm, but a law firm that will even come to your hospital bed if you can't make it in.

The best part, though, is that he is apparently doing the same commercial for law firms around the country. They same ad with a different firm is running in Massachusetts and other states.

Apparently, they shot them all on one day, on one set, with one script. And they just changed the name.


It was early

On my way to the airport this morning, I stopped at a Starbucks on 15 AVE. It was about 5:AM. The store opens at 4:30 AM.

I stop here alot when on days I drop my GF at her job. That's often around 7:00 AM. There is always a line of cars. In fact, each time I pass it during the day, there is a line of cars at the drive through.

This morning though -- nothing. There was no one there. It was eerie. Normally, I make a right turn into the drive thru, and the cars coming the other direction, waiting for a break in traffic to turn left get visibly upset. But the baristas are quick.


When the store has just opened, the baristas haven't had their coffee yet. You know those chipper baristas that seem impossibly positve and happy to serve you? Chemical. It's all chemical.

When they haven't had their coffee yet, you get the surreal experience of seeing SBUX Baristas as slow and dim as the rest of us poor junkies.


Of interest to...well...me.

There may be interesting to no one but me, but if you are a fan of OneNote (and who isn't), you should probably read Chris Pratley's Blog.

CNN.com - Nagin wins nail-biting New Orleans election - May 21, 2006

CNN.com - Nagin wins nail-biting New Orleans election - May 21, 2006: "NEW ORLEANS, Louisiana (CNN) -- New Orleans Mayor Ray Nagin fought off a challenge from Lt. Gov. Mitch Landrieu to win re-election Saturday night."

I love democracy. Under what other form of government can you follow stories like this?


Apprentice Week 12: The Outcast

This week on the Apprentice, not much happened. We saw the perils of out sourcing. We saw the perils of not truly considering your customer. I don't completely agree with Trump's firing this week, but he's not wrong. This close to the end, the firing decisions are tougher. Since the candidates are not usually making major errors, the reasons they lose and get fired are more subtle.

Before I go on, I'll let the children and those who don't want to know the results leave the room.
The bickering and attitudes on Synergy hurt my head. Tammy, the Project Manager couldn't control Allie and Roxanne. Allie and Roxanne undermined Tammy at every turn. Tammy for her part was winy and self pity-ing. She let Allie and Roxanne get to her, and instead of taking a strong leadership roll and laying a heavy hand on the situation, she rolled up like a hedge hog.

Tablet of Contents
  1. Lessons Learned
  2. The Donald J Trump Watch Collection
  3. The Task
  4. Team Gold Rush
  5. Team Synergy
  6. The Executive Take
  7. The Boardroom
  8. Cross Merchandising

Lessons Learned
  • The boss needs to be the boss.
  • When you are told you have to do 3 things to win, do 3 things.
  • Effective merchandising is critical in retail.
  • Be careful about outsourcing -- have a backup plan.

The Donald J Trump Watch Collection

In case anyone forgets the show is all about Trump, we got to see the Trump watch collection this week. Not Trump's personal watches -- these are the Trump branded watches. They are the finest watches in the world. It was important to show the candidates this while telling them about their project, because the Trump watch display was a great example of beautiful merchandising. See? It was legitimate, and not just a shameless plug.

In his "candid" discussion with the Stephen, the Wal-Mart executive, and Jay, the Microsoft executive, Trump explained how pleased he was to be working with such great companies.

Jay suggested they should start work on a Donald Trump Edition Xb0x. "You like gold, right?" Trump said, "Let's go. And I only want 10%."

Did we just witness the birth of a new product and eBay phenomenon? Or just random market arrogance? And is there a difference between the two? And did Trump really ask Microsoft to Tithe?

By the way, the Trump website itself is an utterly mind boggling array of wealth/arrogance. Someday, that will be me.

The Task

Trump outlined the task for the frustrating five. They were to create an interactive Xbox 360 Display in a Wal-Mart location. Becaause most people haven't heard about the Xbox 360.

Jay and Stephen would be the sole judges of which team had the best display.

The task dossier had important details they did not air, like it does every week. The area had to "feature Wal-Mart merchandise, be built around the Microsoft Xbox 360 video game system, and be interactive."

There were also three criteria for judgment:

  1. Deliver a clear, compelling and approachable consumer area centered on the digital entertainment features of Xbox 360.
  2. Deliver a solution that can be replicated and scaled for other Wal-Mart stores.
  3. Feature other lifestyle and entertainment products that Wal-Mart sells in store.

Both teams had problems completing the task. Gold Rush had problems with a supplier, while Synergy just had trouble.

By the end of the project, though, it was clear that Gold Rush "got it."

Team Gold Rush

Sean and Lee are all that's left of Gold Rush. And I expect they will be the final two at the end of the season.

Sean was excited about the task and instantly wanted to be product manager. There is a great clip of Sean and Lee brainstorming on the Yahoo! Apprentice Site. Click Exclusive Videos Sean and Lee Think Big.

Sean was thrilled with how well he and Lee worked together. He attributed it in part to their contrasts, and talked about how Lee is 23, and he is 33. Lee is from Brooklyn. Sean is from London. Lee is Jewish. Sean is half Arab. And it all worked.

They got excited about creating a round space to highlight all the benefits of the X-Box 360. "It's a home entertainment experience. Watch movies. Play Music. Go through family photos. It's more than a great gaming console."

Sean had the vision and the enthusiasm for the product. He genuinely seemed to love the Xbox 360. To bring that vision to fruition, he called signage companies to design, build, and install the area. As Lee excitedly put it, "We outsourced everything."

While Sean had the big vision, it appears Lee had the details under control. There is no evidence of this from the tape, but I get the impression Lee was the one who implemented a lot of the merchandising elements.

For the concept, they started with a floor featuring an Xbox graphic, a wall made of vinyl that circled the space, and a roof to hang the vinyl wall from and cover the experience. They setup Xbox stations on the inside perimeter with each station focusing on a different Xbox 360 activities -- games, music, photos, movies, etc.

Then they filled the space with related products. In the photo section, they included digital cameras from Wal-Mart, with appropriate price tags and signage. In the music section, they included MP3 players.

This level of detailed saved them.

The big problem they had was the outsourcing. The company that was supposed to build the floor and roof dropped the ball and delivered the floor 7 hours late. That delayed the entire project. Adrien, the signage guy never made it back on time with the roof. And it almost cost Gold Rush the win.

Lee and Sean worked with Adrien and leaned on him to meet his obligations, but he failed. He apparently over promised and under delivered. That is always a crucial mistake in business. It would be interesting to know what impact his Apprentice debacle on national TV will affect his business.

What the conspiracy theorists will say: Adrien didn't screw up. The producers told him not to deliver the graphics on time. They wanted to create more drama and hurdles for Sean and Lee and were concerned they were beating Synergy too easily. It's one more example of how all "reality" programs are fixed.

With about 30 minutes to go, and behind schedule, Sean punted on the roof, assuming it wasn't going to come. Unfortunately the vinyl wall was designed to attach to and hang from the roof. Without the roof, they had to improvise. They used duct tape and clamps to hold the wall up, and it looked terrible. Unfortunately, they didn't have much choice so they made the best of a bad situation.

Team Synergy

Tammy took the project manager roll and Synergy. And I knew they were in trouble early on. How did I know this? Easy.

They played silly music.

When they play silly music as the background for team activities, the team is probably not doing so well.

Junior High School Issues

The biggest problem was the team dynamics. I have written before about Allie and Roxanne. They are like Batman and Robin, if Batman and Robin were Junior High School girls. They clearly despised Tammy, and though they wouldn't say it, it was clear early on they were out to get here. Losing the task would be a good way to do it.

I don't know that they consciously tried to lose the task, but they certainly did not go above and beyond to win. They barely showed up.

This dynamic should have been no surprise to Tammy. Taking the Project Manager roll was a big mistake. Losing project managers are more likely to get fired than individual contributors on the team. By taking the leadership roll, she made herself an easy target for the peasants to attack. And they did. With vigor.

If Allie or Roxanne were PM, they would have worked for the win. If they lost, they still would have attacked Tammy, but she would have been in a stronger position by not being in the PM hot seat.

When Bill Rancic came by to check on their progress, team strife was also evident.

While they were picking up items in the store, Bill asked Tammy about the project, Allie rolled her eyes. The rest of her nonverbals clearly conveyed her disgust.

Allie and Roxanne never had any respect for Tammy. And Tammy still tried to please them. While they were looking for parts for their display, they went to the mirror section.

Tammy asked, "You guys, what do you think of putting a bunch of mirrors up to make the place look bigger? 'Cause I like 'em. But if you don't...

Roxanne responded, "Put it on your maybe list, and maybe if you're good, Santa will get it for you."
Now, it's important to seek input from your team, but that didn't seem to be what Tammy was doing. She wasn't soliciting an opinion; she was seeking their approval, from a position of weakness. That's no way to lead a team.

Roxanne's response was totally inappropriate. The derisive mocking of the boss in that manner was unacceptable.

Later on during the night, while they are trying to put together the display, and Allie and Roxanne appeared to be doing little work, Tammy, in an exasperated tone asks, "What would you guys like to do?"

"Why are you talking like that?" retorted Allie.

"I'm just really frustrated with everyone right now. I don't feel like you guys are respecting me, and I just feel like I'm not getting full support," whined Tammy.

"That's so unfair," said Roxanne.

"I know it sounds selfish, but I want it to be about me for a change," said Tammy.

At this point, I want them all fired.

Task Issues

As for the task, Tammy came up with the idea of a red carpet event to celebrate the award winning Xbox 360 in all its different rolls. Allie and Roxanne did not like the idea, but they offered no other suggestions. Since all they offered was negative criticism, Tammy announced they were going forward with the award show concept.

Tammy asked Roxanne to take care of the signage. "You can be the graphics girl." That probably wasn't the best way to put it.

Later on, when Tammy asked when the signage would be there. Roxanne had no idea, and Tammy let it drop.

Tammy knew signage was important. "All you see in Wal-Mart is signs. Your sign has to be big and grab attention."

Roxanne's signage was, apparently, not very good. The banner was small. According to Tammy, "Roxanne could not execute signage. Our sign was small and minimalist. I think it was an absolute disaster."

In a separate individual interview, Roxanne said, "Our sign may have been too small for Wal-Mart, but ultimately I got the damn sign delivered."

Their area actually turned out fairly nice, although Tammy did most of the work. They enclosed the area with black curtains, and covered the floor with a red carpet. The ringed it with touch lights, and had a red carpet lead into the area.

They set up the Xbox 360s, TVs and other equipment in the center of the room, and included comfortable chairs around it. It was a comfortable space for playing games, watching movies, and looking at digital photos. There was very little signage.

In other words, they created a lounge, rather than a product showcase.

The Executive Take

The executives inspected the two areas, took pictures, and asked questions. Finally, it was time for their judgment.

Jay from Microsoft had some positive things to say about Synergy's space:

"I loved it. Their execution was actually pretty tight. The problem is that this is where I'm going to rest when my feet are tired at Wal-Mart. "
Stephen from Wal-Mart observed there was no navigation and no price points.

On Gold Rush, Jay said, "It was clearly rushed and clearly unfinished."

Stephen said, "But I though that they created an environment that was very retail friendly. They also had price points. They had a range of different products. So I could buy my Xbox 360, pick up an MP3 Player, and go straight to the cash register. So I though it worked." Jay completely agreed.

There were three criteria the executives would use to evaluate the winners. Synergy hit the first two, but missed the third. Gold Rush hit all three

And Gold Rush walked away with a big win. Lee and Sean made it to the final four.

The Boardroom

As expected, Allie and Roxanne went after Tammy hard. But it was an ugly boardroom for all of them.

While Tammy defended herself, Allie started making faces. Ivanca, sitting in for Carolyn this week, called her on it.

"Allie, you're rolling your eyes a lot, but you haven't said anything. So if you
have something to say, now would be a good time to speak up."

"I'm not rolling my eyes. I'm shaking my head."

"You're shaking your head and rolling your eyes."

At this point, Bill stepped in, "You did it while Tammy was explaining the concept [in the store] and it rubbed me the wrong way."

The boardroom went on like that. At some point someone suggested that Tammy shouldn't take Allie and Roxanne's behavior personally. Trump disagreed.

"I take everything personally," said Trump. "If someone says something about me, I hate them for the rest of my life."

Trump really did not like the Synergy set up. "It looked like a cheap liquor lounge."

In the end, Trump fired Tammy because, as he put it: "Your leadership wasn't good and your design stunk. I thought it was terrible."

I would have preferred him to fire Roxanne or Allie because of their toxic attitudes, meanness, and lies about calling Tammy a "friend." Tammy was just a weak leader who didn't understand retail. But I prefer to see mean people smacked down before weak people. Regardless, none of them are Apprentice material and I can't really fault Trump for his decision on this one.

Cross Merchandising

Merchandising a retail store means deciding where to put products, how to sign them, and how best to display them. The purpose is to make it as easy as possible to sell stuff.

Cross Merchandising is putting related products together, even though they may be from different categories.

For example, a grocery store may display canned tuna at the end of an aisle. They merchandise it there to increase sales (actually the tuna company probably paid the store to put their product on that end cap). Effective cross merchandising would be to also display bread, mayonnaise, Tuna Helper, or similar products there. This way, not only can you buy the tuna, you can also easily buy the other products to make a nice sandwich. This way the store picks up extra sales they might otherwise not get.

In computer stores, this is why you'll see notebook bags displayed near notebooks, and cables and ink displayed near printers.

This was the winning strategy for Gold Rush. They took the Xbox 360 and showed all of its capabilities. That's the same thing Synergy did. But then, Gold Rush took it a step further. They used the Xbox 360 to sell cameras, MP3 players, and other products.

Increasing accessory sales and selling more items to each customer is a major goal for most retailers. Gold Rush understood this and executed on that. That's why they won.


Nimoy, Shatner, and Kermit

This is the latest video from Playcole. Jon shot the stop action animation with a digital still camera and made his computer creak while editing.

It's got music, tension, anger, defense of life affirming thoughts, and a flying fish. If you ever wondered what would happen if Nimoy and Shatner hung out with Kermit, now you now.

Like many Play Cole Films, the language may make it potentially NSFW (not safe for work) but there is no Play Cole nudity. Because nobody wants that.

See this and more films at www.playcole.com

Christie's to hold "Star Trek" garage sale

Anyone need a phaser?

Christie's to hold "Star Trek" garage saleEntertainmentReuters.co.uk

CBS Paramount Television Studios is cleaning out its vaults for the sale, comprising more than 1,000 lots totalling some 4,000 items, to be held from October 5 to 7 in conjunction with the 40th anniversary of the original "Star Trek" series, Christie's announced on Thursday.

Microsoft unveils new worker perks

It looks like things are picking up for high-tech workers in the Pacific Northwest.

Microsoft unveils new worker perks: "Microsoft unveils new worker perks
Even towels are back in bid to lift morale"

Of course, I get free laundry access, towels, and kitchen access in my office. Plus full access to a coffee maker I don't have to share. And I get to sleep in my office at night.

But, sadly, no janitor service. And the cafeteria staff can be surly.


Mr. Fizzy Magma

Volcano cooking up a mystery: "Volcano cooking up a mystery
St. Helens has been erupting since 2004; cause puzzles scientists"

This might just be the most frightening article I read this week. Excluding, of course news that the Bush administration may be using these massive phone record searches to keep tabs on reporters.

Mt. St Helen's is a long way from Seattle. It's a little over 100 miles. There is no danger to Seattle from and eruption. What's stiking is how little we know about this volcano. This is what they've come up with in the past 25 years.

"It's been erupting almost continuously since late 2004," said Tom Pierson, a U.S. Geological Survey researcher at the Cascades Volcano Observatory in Vancouver. So it's a good bet it will also erupt today, Pierson said.

The real question that's "driving everyone nuts" in the volcano-watching research community, he said, is what's causing this period of eruption -- and if its peculiarities indicate the mountain is building pressure for another explosive event
And some think it could be building an increasingly bigger cork on a planet-size, pressurizing bottle of Mr. Fizzy Magma, leading toward another explosive eruption.
According to standard theory, he said, it is pressurized gas down deep in the hot magma that drives volcanic eruptions. But the ongoing eruption at Mount St. Helens is taking place without the expected amount of gas -- carbon dioxide, water vapor or hydrogen sulfide -- being released.

"Mount Hood puts out more sulfur dioxide gas than Mount St. Helens," said Seth Moran, a USGS seismologist who gave public talks Wednesday at the Johnston Ridge Observatory overlooking the northwest-facing maw of the volcanic crater. "It's a weird one."
Then there are the drumbeats.
"We really wanted to figure out what those were all about," Dzurisin said
Volcanoes moving into an eruptive phase typically inflate and bulge. At St. Helens, the GPS showed the mountain was actually deflating.
The Cascade volcanoes are still pretty unpredictable themselves, noted Moran. St. Helens is perhaps the most well-studied volcano in the contiguous United States, he said, but it still can surprise and baffle the experts.

If other dormant volcanoes such as Mount Rainier or Mount Baker started rumbling
again, Moran said, we could have a hard time figuring what was going on in time.
A quarter century after Mount St. Helens blew its top, we're still trying to figure out what's going on with the volcanoes in our back yard.


Seattleites mind their road manners

Seattleites mind their road manners

Now only they would learn to merge we might be on to something.

Seriously, dude, I'm letting you in -- NOW GET ON THE FREEWAY!


The Solution to All Work Problems

Do you look for ways to boost morale in your office? Do you want more loyal employees? Do you try to be an inspirational boss? But is work still miserable?

You want the best for your employees. You want to stop those lunch time or "doctor appointment" job interviews. You want to retain skilled employees. You just don't know how.

Well, I found the solution. Ultimate Office's Organize Now Catalogue has just the product you need.

Increase employee performance and morale with our Prize Wheels!

That's all it takes. See how excited these happy and fulfilled workers are?

They love their jobs -- you can even skip their next raise. All because of the exciting prize wheel.

If style is important to you, no problem. Because, "All models are available with a clear or black wheel." You can match your office.

"That sounds great," you're thinking. "But what if I don't have a camcorder, plasma TV, or writs watch to give away? Can I still motivate my employees?"

Absolutely! Becuase with advanced engineering, and our committment to research and development, we not only developed the prize wheel, we even made is customizable!

See how easy it is to add your own prizes?

But you can use it not just for a depressed office, but all sorts of occasions? What employee wouldn't love to see their special day - birthday, anniversary, or accomplishment - recognized with a spin of the prize wheel? Don't believe me? Take another look at how happy those women are. Who would want to work elsewhere? Your competition will shut down in no time.

"Ok, I'm interested. Buy what about my field office. It doesn't seem fair to keep all that fun in one place."

You're absolutely right. Take it with you!

"That's great. Is there anything else I should know?"

Sure. We're proud of our products.

"Wow. That's amazing. None of my employees will ever quit again. That mus cost thousands."

Maybe if you developed it yourself. But we did all the work for you. They amazing workplace productivity tool can be yours for less than $500

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ADA For Birds

I saw this little fellow at Seaworld in San Diego, CA a few weeks ago. He has only one wing.

I didn't see him try swimming, but he waddled all over the Penguin habitat minding his own business. He didn't seem to have much trouble, so I suppose that's inspiring.

But seeing him for the first time does elicit a series of "Awwwwwwwww"s.

I didn't get the chance to ask the keeper what this Penguin's story was, but I did ask the cashier in the gift shop. She just seemed annoyed. Apparently everyone asks her that , but she has no idea. And apparently hasn't asked the marine biologists, either.

The Penguin encounter is oddly fascinating. I sat there looking at more than 100 penguins of various species and sizes for a half hour. And I didn't have to fast forward through commercials, either.

By they way, if you are so inclined, you can arrange a sleepover at Seaworld.


Apprentice Week 11: It's a Bloomin' Circus

I have mixed emotions as we approach the final weeks of this season’s Apprentice. I’m excited because the tension is building, and it will be a tight race to the end. Of course, I will be a little disappointed when it’s over and I no longer have an episode to look forward to.

But mostly I’m relieved that I’ll be able to stop doing these Apprentice entries for several months. That will give me another 6 hours each week. With that said …

We are coming into the final weeks. The six remaining candidates went to Rutgers University to throw competing tailgate parties. Each team ran a miniature Outback Steak House and sold food. Trump fired the right person this week, but it was a close race. Trump and company also fixated on a detail that was blown out of proportion.

I am not impressed with the integrity of some of the Rutgers staff.

To avoid ruining the surprise, don’t look for your Christmas presents early, and don’t read on. If you’ve already seen the Apprentice this week, or don’t care, keep reading.
This week’s result was a big surprise. But unlike past surprising victories, this was not a subjective decision. This was all about dollars. And Gold Rush lost. Soundly. There was no doubt.

Synergy beat Gold Rush by more than 50%. Synergy brought in $2,750 while Gold Rush brought in just $1,750.

Table of Contents

Lessons Learned
  • When in doubt, go back to basics.
  • Stay focused on, and aware of, the actual goal.
  • Don’t voluntarily surrender a competitive advantage.

The Task

Trump led his entourage onto the practice field, and, surrounded by cheerleaders greeted the team. “Welcome to week 11 of your 13 week job interview. Amazing how fast it goes.” Yeah, that’s because it has actually taken place over the course of 5 weeks so far, and not actually 11.

When Trump took a break from staring at the cheerleaders, he gave the teams their task. They would each host a tailgate party in the parking lot in partnership with the Outback Steakhouse. Trump apparently eats at the Outback all the time. “I love ‘em. They’re the best.”

So Trump expects us to believe that living in New York, near Smith and Wollensky, Peter Lugar’s, Gallagher’s, The Palm, and all the other legendary steak houses in the city, Trump is sitting down to a Blooming Onion and washing it down with a Wallaby Darned?

I enjoy a good Outback dinner, too, but there’s a reason it’s less than half the price of a real steak house. And there’s a reason they are doing tailgate parties at Rutgers University. And it’s not because they are the premium steak house in the city.

But, back to the task. Each team was to host a 3 hour tailgate party in the parking lot. The team that sold the most food, based on revenue would win. Each team had $2,500 for their event that would not count against their sales. For details, see the official dossier.

Synergy didn’t do much creatively with their seed money. Gold Rush had the money booth and other costs.

But this is a sales task. Why didn’t one of the teams hire some salespeople to walk around the cars like stadium hot dog vendors? Real simple stuff like that would have made a big difference. The teams generally do not seem to use their cash well.

The Cheerleaders

One thing NBC showed us was that the Cheerleading Coach at Rutgers doesn’t exactly keep her word. There could be an element of dishonesty or a fear of conflict at work here. Or it could just be unfortunate editing. Regardless, this episode showed us that she can’t be trusted.

Lee likes to get an early start on things. That made all the difference in the Ellis Island Task, and in the Gillette Fusion task.

Once Gold Rush started brainstorming ideas, they decided they wanted the cheerleaders at their event. As one of the Gold Rush guys stated, “They’ll have three good looking girls. We’ll have 40!”

Michael called the coach and she committed to send the entire squad to Gold Rush for the duration of the event.

Later, Allie visits the coach and tries to involve the cheerleaders in Synergy’s event. The coach says she already had an exclusive deal with Gold Rush, but in the interest of fairness, and the good of the University, she is willing to send 20 Cheerleaders -- half the squad -- to Synergy. Despite the commitment she made earlier.

So when Michael follows up with the coach, she tells him she decided to send a few Cheerleaders over the Synergy to be fair. And asks if that’s okay. She tells Michael it would be only 1 or 2.

Now Michael makes his big mistake. He entertains the idea, and checks with Lee and Sean, who promptly kill it.

So Gold Rush won’t approve the change. After Michael leaves, the coach calls Allie to back out of their arrangement.

So, she tried to back out of commitments to both Synergy and Gold Rush, and lied about her commitment to Synergy. Not good.

She really should learn how to say “no.”

Ultimately, Michael’s decision to consult with Gold Rush and entertain the idea of surrendering their exclusivity is why Trump fired him.

And in the end, despite all the hassles the Cheerleader issue created, it didn’t matter. It turned into a huge distraction for both teams and didn’t help Gold Rush sell more food after all.

Team Gold Rush

Lee volunteered to be project manager. He said something to the effect of, “It’s college; I know students.” Since he was a recent graduate, he felt uniquely qualified to lead the team.

Right away they worked on ideas. They focused on the spectacle. Lee wanted to create an exciting environment. They came up with a wind tunnel money grab and an eating contest. And they secured and exclusive appearance by the Rutgers cheerleaders, dance team, and band.

The eating contest was a terrible idea. It brought in a lot of people, but there were only two types of people present for it – participants and witnesses. Now, remember, Gold Rush’s main goal is supposed to be to sell food.

Eating contest participants are not going to buy food after the contest. In fact, they are likely to not buy food for several weeks.

As for the dozens or hundreds of people witnessing it, well, have you seen any eating contests? They’re disgusting, painful, and unappetizing to watch. I get a little nauseous just thinking about it. And now, after people watch the gorge fest, Gold Rush expects to sell them…more food? Perhaps if Alka Seltzer was on the menu. But there are few people who will be in a rush to buy food after seeing such an event.

Michael worked the microphone at the event, focusing on the party and running the various activities. Lee and Sean supported this and sold food. Different items sold for different prices, most of which were under $5.

If the competition was to see who could draw the most people, or throw the best party, and generate the most buzz, Gold Rush clearly would have won.

But that wasn’t the task. They task was sales and Gold Rush lost focus. They got carried away with the festivities and forgot the basics of why they were there.

Team Synergy

Roxanne was the project manager for Synergy. And Synergy got lucky this week.

What should someone do when things spiral out of control?

Go back to basics.

That’s what Synergy did. Gold Rush got the jump on them. They secured an exclusive with the cheerleaders before Synergy. Gold Rush printed out their flyers while Synergy was trying the food. They were passing out flyers at a pep rally while Synergy was printing theirs. Gold Rush worked Frat row into a frenzy while Synergy rode around in their van.

Gold Rush had cheerleaders, a money booth, and an eating contest. And tons of traffic.

Synergy seemed sunk. So they went back to basics. In a sales contest, revenue matters. They priced everything at $5 to maximize their revenue and the simplicity. They asked for every sale they could. The learned the Rutgers chant to close sales. Then they focused on customer service and began delivering food to people’s cars.

Stripped down to its bare essentials, they combined a good product, at the right price, and added a service component. Then they closed sales, and focused on closing more sales. It was a simple, basic strategy that worked for them.

They didn’t come by this approach as part of some grand strategy. They backed in to it. Gold Rush cut them off at every opportunity to build a spectacle. They wanted to be Gold Rush but were about two hours behind.

So as things collapsed around them, they went back to basics. And the back to basics approach meant victory.

The Boardroom

With such a huge loose, despite all their apparent advantages, Sean, Lee, and Michael were all nervous. Lee decided Michael should be fired and brought Sean on board. Michael naturally thought Lee should be fired for the poor strategic direction he set.

Early in the boardroom Michael said, “I could be fired easily. I was on that microphone.” Once a candidate suggests there is strong reason to fire them, generally Trump will oblige.

Michael attributed the loss to Lee’s poor strategy. He seemed to argue that Lee should have pulled him off the microphone or given him more direction. Michael didn’t sell much because he was running the events.

Then the question of the cheerleaders came up, which should have been the biggest non-issue of the week. Trump and Carolyn lit into Michael for being willing to surrender a cheerleader or two.

Trump said, “I hate the suggestions of giving up some of your assets to the other side. I hate it.” Carolyn described the cheerleaders as their primary asset.

Michael did a terrible job defending himself. He took two approaches. One was to parrot the coach’s suggestion of fairness. The other was say he wasn’t really going to give up any cheerleaders; he just wanted to make the coach think he was considering the suggestion.

Both of which are terrible responses.

What he should have said was this.

“It seemed harmless. And it would have helped us. To see Synergy with just two
cheerleaders, while we had nearly forty, would have made them looks ridiculous
and pathetic. And who wants to buy food from someone so pathetic? Giving up a
cheerleader or two so the other team looks bad seemed like a good idea.

Besides, that has nothing to do with this loss. In the end, we had all those cheerleaders and it didn’t make a damn bit of difference, because Lee
screwed up from the start. He obsessed over the show without ever once thinking
about food.

I’m being attacked because I explored an option we didn’t pursue – and one you don’t think we should have pursued. That’s not why we lost. We lost because of Lee.”

But he didn’t do that. And Trump fired him.

After the candidates left the boardroom, Trump turned to Carolyn and asked if she agreed with his decision. Of course, she said yes. The he asked George if he agreed with his decision. Of course, he said yes. Then Trump said, “Good. I agree, too.” I’m glad Trump agrees with his own decisions.


Sean has had a rough few days. Despite winning last week, Allie and Roxanne were still on his case for suggesting that Allie be fired after the Ellis Island task. Sean tried to smooth things over and talked about the good of the team, but Roxanne told him he should give that speech to him self.

Later in the evening, Roxanne and Allie get on Sean about not apologizing to Allie. They think it’s incredibly rude that he didn’t apologize for suggesting Allie be fired on the task. They keep hounding him into the night, until he does the smartest thing I’ve seen a candidate do. He put in earplugs to silence them, and went to sleep. Meanwhile, Allie and Roxanne continue ranting and raving at him from the next room, unaware that he completely tuned them out.

The next day, when Trump asked for Synergy to get rid of someone and send them over to Gold Rush to even out the teams, Sean quickly volunteered.

I continue to be impressed with how Sean has handled the situation with Allie. The easy way out is to apologize to Allie, to say he was wrong, and to not do it again. But whether it’s out of honesty or ego, that easy path is not for him.

Current Prediction

Final two – Lee and Sean

To win it all -- Lee