My, how quickly the years go by. The New York Times reports:

Fox said it had renewed “The Simpsons” for two more years, confirming that the animated series will become the longest-running prime time TV series in history.

That record has been held for more than three decades by “Gunsmoke,” the TV Western that ended in 1975 after 20 years. The current season of “The Simpsons” tied “Gunsmoke,” and its 21st season will surpass it. In testament to the long-lasting appeal of the fictional people of Springfield, Homer Simpson will keep inventing new catch-phrases through at least 2011, when the 22nd season would theoretically end. (The show is still young by Mr. Burns’ standards.)

With the two-season order, the series will reach the 493-episode mark, according to Fox. A year-long celebration of the series’ twentieth anniversary started in January and will conclude on Jan. 14, 2010.

I haven’t watched the show in years. Come to think of it, I wasn’t a regular viewer of Gunsmoke, either (I preferred Bonanza).

With The Simpsons, I’ve always enjoyed the “couch gag” during the shows’ intros (there’s even a Bonanza version; wait for it, around the 3:50 mark):

Six Pack Skiing

Me, a ski bum? Maybe a part-time ski bum.

We drove up to Stratton, Vermont, on Sunday night — into a snow storm.  The closer we got, the heavier the snow. On Route 7, I could barely see the road. Thanks to winter tires on the minivan, we made it OK, but it was sketchy, two-handed driving.

I had heard good things about Stratton. Heard it was expensive, too. We skied with friends who had a condo for the week. One convenience was getting all six of us on a chair lift together — on a six-person high-speed detachable.

Lots of fresh powder on Monday, with high winds and blowing snow all day. Tuesday was gorgeous and sunny — and the gondola was running. Loved it!

iPhone on Verizon

Open up the floodgates: Apple is working on a deal with Verizon Wireless:

  1. Apple has been scouting out EVDO and CDMA Engineers for months in their online iPhone job postings (here, here, here and here).  Yes, some of these skills overlap with UTMS and CDMA can also refer to the broad swath of 3G Technologies…but come on…don’t put “EVDO” on the job description if it ain’t true.. (BTW, WiMax is also littered throughout Apple’s Job postings…interesting/digress)
  2. No matter how big AT&T is and how much range they cover, leaving out Verizon and to a lesser extent Sprint, will be eliminating a broad swath of the US wireless market.  If Apple is serious about competing with Blackberry, Symbian and Android, they will have to broaden their carrier footprint.  One carrier does not a platform make.  Apple will need a way to grow its market after AT&T is saturated.
  3. LTE technology won’t be mature until well into 2010.  Apple can’t afford to wait that long to broaden its carrier footprint
  4. Who is happy with Rogers in Canada (*crickets*)?  EVDO opens up to new carriers there as well.
  5. Verizon wireless is a partnership between Verizon communications and Vodafone.  Vodafone, you’ll recall, has contracts with Apple for iPhones in around 15 markets around the world.  Apple has a working relationship with Vodafone (and Tmobile obviously).
  6. Apple has just started going “Open” in a few markets, including Hong Kong. This will likely increase the number of unlocked 3G iPhones on the world market (South Africa is also open).  While this won’t benefit Verizon directly, it certainly shows that Apple is considering being more “carrier agnostic.”
  7. Tim Cook, famously said that Apple wasn’t married to the one carrier/country model.  As Apple expands, it is going more and more open.
  8. Verizon’s iPhone Cheat sheet was weak and their arguments about Stevo getting old were silly.  They’d rather play ball with Apple than try to defend itself against it.
  9. Apple originally wanted to go with Verizon for the iPhone.  Some of the original disagreements included “not carrying the iPhone at Best Buy and hardware reliability” – see quote below.  AT&T was a second choice.  When Verizon balked, Apple went to AT&T…Think Verizon is happy about that decision (no) or willing to reconsider Apple’s overtures (yes)?

The word from my Verizon Wireless operations engineer is “it ain’t gonna happen” and that the AT&T deal is on for another four years. At least that’s what he’s been told.

Nice Driveway

In Winter Haven, Florida, one of the coolest driveways — via Jalopnik:

What could quite possibly be the coolest driveway ever was found outside of Lakeland, Florida. Our friends at The Car Lounge used Google Earth to get a closer view of this killer not-so-mini racetrack driveway.  If you look closely you’ll notice that he’s even installed FIA curbs to each of the corners.

That’s gotta be fun. Not exactly F1, but still fun.

Typo City

When using stock photography of a city skyline, it never hurts to take extra care to make sure you’ve got the right city. The story, via Philadelphia City Paper:

On Monday, R. Bradley Maule put us on to the sad fact that SEPTA had placed NEW YORK’S SKYLINE on its special Philly Beer Week passes. (Good for one day of unlimited bus, trolley and rail rides, the $9 passes are being offered to discourage people from getting behind the wheel during Beer Week, which runs March 6-15.)


But seriously. New York? No one noticed this. Not the graphic designer who put the pass together in Quark or InDesign. Not the supervisor who approved the job. Not anyone in the office who they showed the pass to: “hey, come check out the Philly Beer Week pass we made.”

Not a good look.

Thank God SEPTA has updated the pass.

Hey, I’ve had my share of typos, but, luckily, not too many. One of the most embarrassing was a job we were printing on a 60-inch press and an intern from Germany noticed the typo — while we were on-press. Everybody missed it up to that point, so we agreed to split the make-ready and press time cost three ways (client, designer and printer). The blue-line was good, but the color proof (matchprint) was bad.

Philly Beer Week.  Nice.

Family Skiing

I’ve enjoyed skiing since I was 4 years old.  Except for last winter, I don’t think I’ve ever had less than 6 or 7 ski days in any given season.  This winter, I’m on pace to possibly surpass 10 days. We made sure our children learned to ski properly at Sugarloaf in Maine, where we spent one traditional ski week ever winter since 2002 (all in January, except last year; always very cold).

Now that I’m back on skis, I’ve come to realize lift ticket prices are very, very high. Having a ski week package with discounted lift tickets is a good thing. Skiing at smaller mountains like Plattekill, you take advantage of lower prices and accept lesser snowmaking coverage as a trade-off. Skier visits are down in Colorado this season, and some owe it to higher ticket prices. Generally, most ski industry leaders were optimistic this season (weather permitting).

So this weekend, we skied one day at Hunter for a change. A lift ticket costs $63 for an adult and $43 for a kid (junior, age 7-12).  We went up with several families and one of us got smart and wondered whether we qualify for a group rate. We did! Saved $54 when we paid our share for a family of four.

When planning a family ski trip, get other families to join in so you reach the group level (15+ people).

Broadband Stimulus

Having broadband Internet connections more readily available is good for the country, and the stimulus package will lend a hand:

President Obama signed into law on Tuesday the $787 billion stimulus package, which includes $7.2 billion for broadband grant and loan programs.

Both the House of Representatives and the Senate on Friday approved a conference report that reconciled the two chambers’ versions of the bill.

The bulk of the funds directed at broadband–$4.7 billion–will be distributed through a program run by the Commerce Department, while $2.5 billion will fall under the jurisdiction of the Agriculture Department, giving particular emphasis to broadband deployment in rural areas.

The final version of the bill maintains that projects funded by the Commerce Department’s National Telecommunications and Information Administration must adhere to nondiscrimination and openness principles. The funds must also be distributed before September 30, 2010, to projects that can be completed within two years.

The NTIA’s “Broadband Technology Opportunities Program” is intended to “award competitive grants to accelerate broadband deployment in unserved and underserved areas and to strategic institutions that are likely to create jobs or provide significant public benefits,” the bill says.

Maybe this is what WiMAX needs to really get going, especially in rural areas. Wildblue and other Internet-via-satellite services are meeting the need, but many are unwilling to pay upwards of $50 per month for service.

Having broadband Internet is an indispensable resource for all — not just businesses — and something most are not willing to sacrifice in order to cut costs during the current economic climate. Subsidizing broadband roll-out to under-served areas of the country will bring it closer to being what it should be: an entitlement for every U.S. citizen.

Great Ball of Fire

Quite a few fireball sightings over Texas on Sunday and it made news quickly.

Amazing how quickly these stories put themselves together with today’s technology good old human colaboration. Here’s Phil Plait’s story:

This was a fascinating event, both astronomically and socially. I received an email less than an hour after the event from a reader (who, wonderfully, gave both his exact location and the direction to the fireball) as well as a tweet about it. Within a few minutes I had a post up and tweeted about it myself. I started to receive dozens of tweets over the next hour (I’m not sure how many total, but probably well over 100) with information. After an hour or so the misinformation (FAA officials, satellite debris, etc.) started coming in. Someone posted on iReport their own description, and added a photo of a totally different event as an example, and at least ten tweets referred to it as the actual Texas fireball.

Using various websites that track keywords on Twitter helped enormously. I could look for “Texas” and “fireball” and “satellite”. That was tremendously helpful.

As info came in I updated the blog post, but that was awkward. Tweeting info is fine, but a more permanent and easily-accessible repository was needed. Now, after the fact, I can collate that info and make a more linear post. If someone has a better way to collect, disseminate, and store breaking astronomical news, I’m all ears. Between the blog and Twitter I think this went pretty well, with a minimum of bad information being spread.

Space Crash

This isn’t supposed to happen, but it did. Thanks to AGI for the cool video simulation.

Two low-earth orbit spacecraft — Iridium 33 and Cosmos 2251 —  collided this week and were destroyed:

A few minutes before 5 a.m. GMT on Wednesday, a US Iridium communications satellite and a defunct Russian military communications satellite smashed into each other, creating at least 600 pieces of debris that each could strike other satellites. It was the first time that two intact orbiting spacecraft have crashed into each other, say officials.

For its part, Iridium, whose network of 66 satellites – make that 65 – provides global coverage for handheld phones, denies that the collision is their fault, and says that any disruption in service will be brief and should be completely remedied by the end of the week.

The Associated Press quotes Russian space journalist Igor Lisov, who wondered why Iridium, whose satellite was perfectly functional and could maneuver, didn’t try to move their bird out of the way.

According to the Voice of America, the official external broadcasting service of the US government, Russian officials say that debris from the collision pose no threat to the International Space Station or its three crewmembers, who are orbiting about 270 miles below the crash. The Pentagon says that it has not yet identified any threats to its own satellites, but added that tracking small objects in space is very difficult.

Reuters quotes Gen. James Cartwright, the vice chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff and former head of the Pentagon’s space operations, who warns that those with satellites will “have to play a little bit of dodgeball for many tens of years to come” to avoid debris from this collision. General Cartwright says that the good news is that the orbit of this debris will be predictable, eventually; the bad news is that the fragments of the satellites cover a large area.

Expect space insurance rates to increase.

I’m surprised there wasn’t more cooperation between the two operators. Government agencies and/or commercial operators usually set aside any differences and share any data related to spacecraft expected to pass near others. Same for orbiting debris — they all know where it is and where it will be at any point in time. Now we’ve got more debris to deal with.

Show Me The Stimulus

The U.S. Conference of Mayors issued a report of “shovel-ready” projects related to the economic stimulus package.

In true “help yourself” fashion, up pops to help you find projects near you. Browse by state or by program type.