20 July 2011

Spotify, goddamn; Or, Hello Again!

After some time after the promised return of blogging, I have decided to try and breathe new life into threestripes. The key, I think, will be to just write and post, and not worry too much about writing super-polished pieces. I can, and will, leave that to much better writers than myself.

Regarding the title, I think its best to write my first blog post in a long time about my latest obsession: Spotify. In case you have been living under a rock for the past week or so, Spotify is a new music client that is blowing up on the interwebs. Its been going strong in select parts of Europe for a few years now, and only last week had a soft opening in the USA. And thank God for that, because this thing is fucking amazing.

I won't pretend to know too much about how it works, go in detail about features (their site does a good job of that), or any of that; I just want to convince you, dear reader, that if you do not have the client on your computer or mobile device now, to get your hands on an invite and sign up. And for those of you who have signed up but do not actively use it, to GET THE FUCK WITH THE PROGRAM. Spotify is a gift, The Truth, and something you should make a part of your life.

Why am I so crazy high on Spotify? I think there are two main reasons, really. The first is how it satisfies my appetite for music almost perfectly. I am not the type of person to go out and BUY an album in person or on iTunes (I'm looking at you, catty melt). My desire for music just doesn't cross the necessary threshold for justifying an investment greater than looking for a catchy tune on YouTube. This behavior, predictably, left me in a bit of a music box (no, not this kind, though the ballerinas are pretty), but rather one where my iTunes library was trapped in a pre-2007 bubble (the last time I bought new music) and the only new songs I listened to were invariably catchy Top40.

But with Spotify Free (the bottom rung of the three-tired Spotify pricing scheme), I don't really have to invest more than the same searching/streaming time I would otherwise do on YouTube. Users like me also get the added benefit of being able to hear the entire albums from which our preferred jams originated. Spotify further suggests songs/artists that are similar to the ones you are listening to, which provided another helping hand out of my music box. Sharing with friends, catching onto musical zeitgeists, and other features only further bolster the impressive nature of the service.

The fact that I am possibly considering obtaining a paid version of the service is the second reason why I am so high on Spotify. This idea backs up so much of what has been said in some circles about "building the brand" and other such novel approaches to content distribution and pricing. By "novel approaches" I mean those approaches that do not fit into the normal pay for album/game/movie paradigm, instead opting for some form of alternate payment scheme (sometimes, even, no payment!). From a business perspective its kinda brilliant: by giving away this content, a free taste of the full range of possibilities, Spotify might transform a virtual non-consumer of music into a guy forking over about $60 bucks a year for his musical needs. $0 to $60 in less than a week of trying the service out. I know I am not the typical case, but I wouldn't be surprised if conversions like mine are a reason for the ultimate wild success of this platform.

Anyways, I could go on, but in the interests of brevity I will sum up my position on Spotify: Do It.

Coke is doing it to you on the invites, so hook it up: https://www.spotify.com/us/coca-cola/

28 May 2011

post-CL quick hit thoughts

As I watch Barça claim their 4th Champions League title, a thought that first flashed through my mind after Villa's goal has gained a foothold. Maybe Mourinho had his tactics for the Clásico series spot-on.

His full strength team did not concede more than a goal against this very same Barça outfit. Man U let in 3. Mourinho's use of the Pepe "bull in a china shop" strategy worked to disrupt the midfield. Barça largely played the way they wanted to, Carrick's comical foul against Iniesta (launching him into the air!) notwithstanding. These are just a couple of facts that lead me to think that some form of this strategy might be the best way of beating this Barça team at their own game. They simply don't give you the ball, why try getting it back from them? Why try to beat them at a game they have positively mastered?

Of course, I can engage in counterfactuals all day. The fact is that Barça got it done, are holding the trophy, and will get no shortage of plaudits in the soccersphere over the summer. Good on them. I can't help but wonder though: how different would the narrative be had Pepe not been sent off in the first semifinal leg?

18 April 2011


threestripes is coming back, legit, May 2011. Count on it/put it in the ledger/and cetera.

Until then, goodnight and good luck.

18 May 2010

tuesday museday round these parts

"... greed, for lack of a better word, is good. Greed is right, greed works."

- Gordon Gekko, from the motion picture Wall Street

The picture above is a screenshot of the values of the leading for-profit companies at the end of trading yesterday. Why the sudden uptick? The announcement of the coming departure of Mr. Rob Shireman, a key figure at the Department of Education who has been known for taking a hard stance against for-profit colleges, that's why. The rise in stock values was Wall Street's collective boner at the fact that these companies could face less stringent regulation after July 1 (and thus could be much more profitable). Hmm. For-profit, for whom exactly?

Not the students, IMO. Of all the stakeholders involved in the business of for-profit colleges: the students, the federal government, the shareholders of the for-profits, the management, the "admissions counselors" and so on, the students are probably lowest on the totem poll. They bear all of the risk involved in the process: the tremendous cost of the loans, the opportunity cost of time spent in classes, and the chance that they will not even succeed in getting the degree they are seeking. For the for-profits (FPs), the risk is minimal. As long as they can get a butt in each seat in the classroom, they can keep the loan money flowing in and their investors happy. They are completely divorced from the outcomes of their students. Whether students fail or succeed is really of minimal concern to the FP, even if a student comes out with a terrible experience, loads of debt, and is super vocal about their tribulations, these companies have tremendous advertising budgets that will allow to them to drown out the voices of dissent with their siren song of "get this degree, make more money, have a better life."

For this reason, I think the FP model of education is simply untenable. The best interests of the students and the companies that run these schools are almost in complete opposition. The students are in need of a relevant and useful educational experience that can be parlayed into a better job and more opportunities. The company is best served by increasing enrollments and delivering this "education" at the greatest margin of profit. Because there is only so much money that these students could likely pay in a year (based on income and loans), these companies have to cut back on overhead. This profit maximization takes place in the form of more online classes of dubious rigor and value and more "vocational experiences" where a nursing clinical is actually a trip to a daycare (I cannot make this up, watch the Frontline piece mentioned in my previous post). The very essence of their business model depends on educating as many students as cheaply as possible.

Traditional non-profit schools, in a sense, operate in a much more "market-oriented" fashion: if they are truly good at educating their students, putting them in the best possible position to succeed, they should be able to solicit donations from grateful alumni and build a nice endowment. With said endowment (and yes, this is EGREGIOUS simplification here, but bear with me), they can build nicer facilities, hire better professors. and offer better financial aid packages to needy students. All of these benefits are cyclical in that they go back to the next generation of students, who then repeat the process. Hmm... a company (college/university) makes a good product (an education), its customers (students) go out and make money/gain prominence/promote product, and the company is able to expand and improve operations with more investment (alumni/corporate/foundational support). SEEMS PRETTY CAPITALIST TO ME. Somewhere Adam Smith is reaching for a Kleenex. The difference between this setup and the FP model is that the students, college, and the pursuit of knowledge benefit in this model, where as the shareholders reap most of the benefit with FPs.

Proponents of FPs say that they are simply catering to the "market" for education, that they fill a much-needed niche in the education sector. In some cases that may be true. By and large, these schools merely do the job that community colleges should perform: provide a vast array of vocational and transferable 1-2 year degrees. If all of the federal money currently going to line the pockets of the Barons of For-Profit Education went instead to a drastic reshaping and revitalization of our community college system to meet the dynamic needs of our workforce, it would be money much better spent.

11 May 2010

tuesday museday

Two things, timely and of moderate levels of interest:

- Britain has a new leader today (or yesterday, technically, because the UK is in the future as it were). He looks like this:
Apparently, that getup is called a "Born to Rule" outfit or somesuch. Interesting, and very appropriately British. This Cameron guy got to be Prime Minister by forming a coalition with the Liberal Democrats. These Liberal Democrats are not at all similar to American liberal Democrats, who in Britain would belong to the Labour Party. And no, that's not a typo, they actually spell "labor" with an extra 'u' in there. Don't ask me why. In any event these Liberal Democrats are actually more in the center of the political spectrum, contrary to what their name would have you believe. I guess in America their equivalent would be the moderates from either party who get out-primaried by more wingish adversaries. I'm really not too sure, but what I can say is that this marriage is quite strange. As far as my American political sense can reckon, this maneuver would be akin to the Democratic Party, in some dystopian future where they have been marginalized towards the center by a party led by Ralph Nader's zombie corpse, helping the Republicans into power in an inconclusive Electoral College. In this horror future, the Democratic Party's consolation prize for this odd coupling would be the Vice Presidency and a promise from the Republicans to not eat all the Poors immediately. Not the best bargain! But good luck to the Brits all the same.

- Last week, Frontline debuted this special about for-profit educational institutions. I found it informative, but not entirely shocking. The overall premise: yeah these places do some really shady things. Is that a shock? No. Should it be? Only if you are extremely naive or a complete free-market hack. The simple fact is that the dynamics of higher education allow for these schools to be pretty heinous actors, with students, employers, and the taxpayer getting the shaft. I plan to have a more extensive rundown of this topic in a later post, but for now check out that vid and get your mind grapes ripened.

05 May 2010

an ad, for america

I saw this web ad for ESPN's coverage of WC2010 and thought it was worth sharing.

It features Mandon, Timmy Howard, et al. on a boat approaching South Africa in the style of George "made of radiation" Washington crossing the Delaware. IT'S SO HIGH BROW. It works on many levels because in that instance Washington was going all out to defeat the British in a great struggle in which his army was the underdog, JUST LIKE THE USMNT.

It would be a lot more accurate, though, if England contracted out some Germans strikers to fill out their squad. Still, a class advertisement all around.

04 May 2010

tuesday museday revival

Ha, ha ha! Not quite. Circumstances largely beyond my control have prevented me from blogging in depth (or at all, ha) as of late. This will change in the coming days, to be sure. For now, I think I will do some (lazy) linking:

- FIFA World Cup Matchball, explained!

- Hilarious Wonkette post I can relate to, featuring this site:

- 1st song + 2nd song = where my head is at these days:
the first:

the second:

- Until yesterday, I had no idea who Justin Beiber was. Literally zero clue. I think I like that I am moving well past the point of knowing about each little flash in the pan pop sensation. I will now resume smoking my pipe in my old man attire.

- Thinking about deactivating from the Facebook machine. The "privacy" settings and layout are getting rather bothersome.

- That is all for now.