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Archive for August, 2003

Taste vs. Bratfest

August 31st, 2003 No comments

I headed to Taste of Madison this afternoon with Ross. It’s a yearly event where Madison’s restaurants come out and show their wares. At least 50 tents are setup and each restaurant provides a limited menu. All items, I believe, are no more than $3. This provides a way for you to try different items wtihout paying full price or getting full on just one thing.

That all sounds well and good, but in reality you end up paying $3 for some things that don’t really seem like $3 worth of food. Despite the festival’s appearance as an opportunity for Madisonites to try new food, it still is a business event for the purveyors involved.

With that in mind, we made some careful choices when spending money. I had some gumbo that deceivingly appeard to fill a small soup bowl for $3. The deception was that the bottom portion of the bowl was rice. I didn’t feel too ripped off, and the gumbo was at least decent. Ross had a small sized shrimp po-boy, which looked pretty good. The one thing I did want to try, the tent was out of. One of the other cajun/creole places offered crab cakes, but had crossed them off the sign by the time we got there.

Not feeling full enough, we headed out to Hilldale on our bikes to get some $1 brats at Brat Fest. I believe it’s a twice a year festival – Memorial Day and Labor Day weekends – put on by Sentry Foods and Johnsonville Brats.

Every year they break new world records on how many brats are sold, and this year’s goal was to hit 150,000. While I didn’t see any tallies, I’m sure they’re well on their way.

It’s nice to be able to go to something like that and get something so cheap and actually feel full $2 later. There was free Pepsi products to go with it, and all the fixings you want.

So if you’re ever in the quandary of where to go on Labor Day weekend, hit up Brat Fest and use your $3 for some of Johnsonville’s best. Oh yeah, they have a big grill the size of a semi truck there and the Wienermobile. I wonder if the grill is big enough to cook the Wienermobile.

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Odds ‘n ends

August 30th, 2003 No comments

I’m back in Madison as of today. My parents and I packed up the van (tons of stuff as usual) and headed to campus.

The road was packed with tons of Harleys. I’d say at least a third of the traffic between Madison and Milwaukee was motorcylce traffic. I’m somewhat disappointed I’m not going to be in Milwaukee tomorrow to see all the big festivities. Especially because they rumored Elton John might be the surprise final performance. Although, I recently heard the chances of him playing are slim.

My apartment seems to be the same as I left it, although it’s weird knowing some freshman and his girlfriend used it all summer. It was basically clean, but there were a few stray LONG hairs here and there. How one got in the freezer I’ll never know.

I picked up my cable equipment the other day from Charter’s little outpost at Laundry 101. The modem they gave me this time is different, and appears to work just fine so far. I can’t help to think about what it was like this time last year with all those Internet problems Charter gave me. The digital cable box seems to be the same as last time, but the remote is new. I think that’ll take some getting used to, it’s kinda weird. I had someone test to see if the ports for web/ftp/email servers are all still blocked by Charter, and they all appear to be. New modem, new remote, same old service.

By the way, you have to agree to their service agreement before they hand over the equipment. On my summary scan of the contract I saw that it basically says you are bound to conditions found at some Internet site. Does anyone else find it odd that instead of including the rules in the contract you’re forced to read them on the Internet? What if you don’t agree to it, or actually care to read those thing? Can you ask the rep to pull the page up on his laptop? Gotta love Charter.

I got a nice fat parking ticket for being in the lot out back to move my stuff in on the 26th. I’d get into a big rant on it here, but it’s easier to say that Madison parking checkers suck, and the new resident manager here sucks more. $40 all because I couldn’t find him to get a temporary permit. What a nice guy. How else am I supposed to move in here?

I went to help my mother pick up my sister’s senior pictures from the man who took them. He basically is a retired photographer who runs a studio out of his house. The guy was all in a rush to get us out of there until I mentioned my Digital Rebel purchase. At that point he went off on a tangent explaining digital photography basics and other oddities I may have missed in reading the manual (of course I read it before I’m getting it). He went to type up the bill for my mother and again started talking about my Rebel after he got back. I’d say out of the hour and a half we were there, he spoke to me for at least an hour of it. I didn’t mind it a bit either. He’s a pro, I’m not – he had lots of good things to say.

Oh, I hear from SCJ sometime after September 4th about a decision on hiring me. Hopefully I’m not jinxing myself by putting anything on here about it. Wish me luck.

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Do you know how fast you were pedaling?

August 29th, 2003 No comments

Thousands of Harley riders are descending upon Milwaukee in order to celebrate the company’s 100th birthday. Every five years or so an event like this happens, but their centennial is the largest.

Franklin’s business park is home to a Harley Davidson warehouse, so there are signs on the freeway and local streets directing traffic to it for the events held there. It’s weird having Franklin be part of this, especially because all that’s here is a warehouse.

It seems like the city has put out a welcoming committee of sorts for the riders, but not what you’d expect. All the entrances to the business park and the Harley warehouse run along Ryan Road. Franklin has decided to put numerous squad cars along the road in some attempt at a show of force.

I saw a squad near 51st and Ryan, and another at 60th and Ryan. They both appeared to have radar on and both were somewhat hidden.

Apparently FPD wants to welcome visitors by handing out speeding tickets. Does this make any sense? Does Franklin really want visitors to return home and have the one thing they remember about their visit to Franklin to be the ticket they got for going 56 in a 50?

Way to go Franklin, way to represent.

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Ryan’s Canon, in EOS

August 27th, 2003 No comments

As of recent, I’ve found myself interested in some higher-end digital cameras. My Kodak DC4800 has been working great for the past couple years, but I think it’s time I take a look at something new.

I didn’t even begin to look at the regular point-and-shoot style cameras that everyone and their brother have, I went right towards the digital SLR’s (the ones with the big lenses, bulky body, higher-end looking deals…I don’t know how else to explain it without getting technical on you lay-folk).

Canon and Nikon both make really high-end cameras selling for nearly $8000. Those certainly were not for me. At the next level down were two cameras that fit into the top end of my price range. The Canon 10D and the Nikon D100. They’re both about $1500, but you don’t get a lens with it. Lenses run $300-500 for good ones. There went that idea.

My parents recently decided to go digital and ended up with a Nikon Coolpix 5700. I was looking for reviews of that camera and found out that while I was so engrossed in researching Canon and Nikon’s $1500 cameras, Canon had announced a new digital version of the Rebel line: the Canon EOS Digital Rebel. Rebels are marketed towards “serious amateurs”, a category which I think I now fall into.

I saw it Monday night and ordered it Tuesday morning. The thing has 85% of the features of the $1500 10D and still has the same image sensor. So that means it is missing all the professional features that I don’t know how to use appropriately at this point, but still takes the same stunning 6.3 megapixel pictures that the high end cameras do. All that for $999 with the lens, and $899 without.

One issue with (most) digital SLR cameras is that you end up with a big mess when it comes to lenses. Because of some technical reasons relating to the sensor size compared to film size of traditional cameras, the “zoom” of the lenses must be multiplied by 1.6. So, that 200mm zoom you have on your lens becomes 320 on mine. Conversely, the 28mm wide-angle on yours becomes about 45mm on mine. I end up with further zooms, and narrower wide-shots.

To somewhat make up for that, Canon came out with a new lens designed only for their digital cameras with the 1.6 multiplier. It essentially is a 28-88mm lens. The lens on my Kodak DC4800 was a “3x” zoom, which equates to 90mm (an “x” in digital camera nomenclature is about equal to 30mm on a film camera). So with that, the tradeoff in zoom is negated. However, I now will have a hankering to purchase a nice zoom lens sometime.

I ordered it from Wolfcamera.com, which is related to the Wolf and Ritz camera stores most people are familiar with due to most of their locations being in malls. The good part about ordering through them is free shipping, a 30 day free trial of the camera (I don’t like it, I send it back), and no tax. Can’t go wrong there, right?

The problem with all of this is that the Canon Digital Rebel doesn’t ship until mid-September, and it’s the end of August now. While it’s only two weeks away, just remember how long it always was till Christmas when you were a kid.

If anyone knows where a good place is to get digital prints, either online or brick-and-mortar, let me know in a comment to this.

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It’s a lonley red night

August 26th, 2003 No comments

Custom made for two lonely planets like Earth and Mars. Anyone picking up the Mellencamp reference gets 0 points – c’mon you’ve gotta know that song.

Tonight, Mars was closer to Earth than it’s been in 60,000 years. Because my parents picked up a new 5.0 megapixel Nikon Coolpix 5700 digital camera, I decided to try out its bulb mode and take a few shots of the red planet.

Here’s Mars from a wide angle:

And here is Mars zoomed to 8x (it’s a little small, but it IS 36 million miles away):

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Beatings don’t cure much

August 26th, 2003 No comments

Milwaukee has once again made national news. Of course, as usual, it isn’t good news.

An article ran in the Journal Sentinel a fewdays ago, and then the story was picked up by the Associated Press, making it national news. Another article ran today in the JS stating the boy’s death has now been ruled a homicide, with charges pending.

The gist of the story is that an 8 year old autustic boy died after a church prayer service held to cure his autism. The death was apparently caused by church members binding the boy to the table and wrapping his body in sheets.

The boy’s mother had become increasingly involved with a church located in a strip-mall on Milwaukee’s northwest side. The pastor had convinced the boy’s mother and the church’s parishoners that the boy could be cured of his disease by striking out the demon inside the boy through prayer. The pastor works as a janitor for a day job.

A friend of the family indicated that the boy’s mother had become more and more secluded recently. She said fellow church members would visit her house and participate in lengthy prayer sessions with an objective of making the boy normal. The friend said that she could see and hear the boy being beaten with a belt and sticks while restrained, much like the prayer service at the “church”.

Medical reports indicate the boy died of “mechanical asphyxia due to external chest compression”. Which means the sheets were too tight and the beatings were too harsh. This line places blame squarely on the pastor: “A high-ranking Milwaukee police source said Ray Hemphill told investigators that he would sit on the boy’s chest for up to two hours at a time during prayer services”

The quotes just get worse: “Three women – including Terrance’s mother, Patricia Cooper – sat on the boy’s arms and legs while Hemphill tried to remove the “evil spirits” from him”.

This story is sickening. The repulsive ignorance of a mother, combined with the midieval witchery of a janitor-turned-pastor have lead to the death of an innocent child.

There is no way to cure autism, and especially not through beatings and prayer. This incident shows just how much people try to rely on religion and supposed higher beings in order to live their lives. This situation exemplifies the line that “religion is a crutch for the weak-minded”. The mother could not deal with her son’s autism, so she turned to religion to help herself and the boy.

It’s too bad the church she turned to had a bunch of cult-minded leaders who think a good beating is a passable stand-in for medicine, proper care and genuine love. I can see where some spirtiual guidance may have been needed to get through raising an autistic child on your own (the father was basically astranged fromt he boy and his mother). However, the minute the pastor suggested beating the child, bells should have went off.

I hope the mother, the pastor, and any parishoner touching the child before he died are charged with homicide or related charges. This mother should not be allowed to have more children, and the pastor should be forced to close his strip-mall church.

The hitch with that is that Wisconsin law prohibits charging people who try to heal through prayer. The obvious answer to that is that they were tyring to heal the boy of autism, not suffocation. They did not even realize the boy had stopped breathing until it would have been too late to pray to save him.

A letter to the public from the pastor’s brother and his wife states “It was not a malicious act on the part of the church. If you believe in God and his word you have the right to believe he can help you, through prayer.” If helping is dying, then Amen.

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Don’t talk with food in your mouth

August 21st, 2003 No comments

Altoona, Iowa seems to have taken a step backwards. An article in the Des Moines Register explains that an elementary school is now forcing its students eat their lunch in silence.

Lunchtime in elementary school is the only sanctioned part of the day for students to socialize. It doesn’t appear administrators realize that the cafeteria is not only the place where students eat, but also a place that gives an opportunity to learn to interact and fit in with peers. This is complete step backwards.

By taking this away, the district risks creating introverted students and possibly subjecting teachers to more outbursts and unrest. Students generally keep their energy pent up until the lunch period, and then release it all on the playground or talking at lunch. By not having this opportunity, none of that built up energy is used, and the students may just be that much more prone to talking in the afternoon.

What is even more absurd is the notion that not talking will force students to eat more. While it may be true that excessive talking can preclude students from finishing their entire lunch, it is detrimental to solve the problem by eliminating talking. In essence, the school is saying the nutrition of its students is more important to their development than social interaction. Unless the entire school is emaciated and malnourished, this entirely regressive measure serves to hurt students more than help.

These administrators and teachers should be ashamed of themselves.

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I tolled you not to drive through Milwaukee

August 19th, 2003 No comments

An article in the Journal Sentinel today outlines opposing methods of financing reconstruction of the Marquette interchange and other Milwaukee area interstate improvements.

The common and longstanding methods of increasing gas tax and registration fees were put on the table, but both were deemed to not generate enough money for this project.

The boldest method, and one hopefully to be rejected, is the notion of a toll system. While the system would not implement the half-hour-bottleneck-every-twenty-miles tolls such as those in northeast Illinois, it would consist of an all-electronic system.

I-Pass style transceivers would be installed in the cars of Milwaukee area commuters, while visitors to the area would have their license plates photographed and bills mailed accordingly. I’m not sure if “visitors” includes out of state visitors, because it seems to me that obtaining addresses for those vehicles could prove difficult.

The first drawback I see in this system is that you have to pay usage-based fees for the roads. Milwaukeeans would have to pay more to drive to work than those in other portions of the state. One argument could be that it is unfair to impose larger fees on citizens based on the area they live. Just because I chose to live in a more populated area should not mean my fees to drive should be increased. I’m not sold on this point yet, but it’s something to think about.

Another drawback is the overhead involved in this system. It would seem to me that a sizable portion of tolls would go to implementing the system and keeping it running. Cameras, sensors and billing systems would have to be installed and enforcement of violations would a continuing cost. And don’t forget about paying the employees who would have to maintain and operate the system. That means that less of the tolls paid would actually be going towards the improvement of the interchange.

Also, it appears there would be legal fees in enabling tolls to be implemented in the first place. Federal laws prohibit tolls being charged on existing interstates. The city and state would have to do some wrangling to bypass this roadblock.

This would also be a more tangible cost for commuters to complain about, in addition to parking and gas prices. This would only lower Milwaukee’s reputation by making it appear as an expensive place to live.

This would also create an easy way out for future construction projects. It would become all too easy to increase tolls to finance construction and improvements in the future. By not implementing a new financing mechanism, fiscal responsibility is better enforced.

One last, and to me, minor drawback is the sure to be brought up notion that cameras installed on the roadways is one more method for big brother to invade our lives.

I think it’s clear to see that installing tolls is just a simple way of financing something road improvements. That is not necessarily a good thing. It only takes a trip through Chicago, New York, Ohio, Florida and other areas to realize that tolls are very common in parts of this country. Milwaukee however, should not be included in that list.

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Even the media outlets were without power

August 15th, 2003 No comments

After watching 3-4 hours of news coverage last night, I figured I should at least weigh-in on some general things I noticed about the power outage.

What seems to prevail through the muck of the media’s coverage, is an overall sense that emergency planning in New York was successful. While I was not there to conclude this first-hand, I think it is safe to say that both the lights, and the emergency procedures went off without a hitch.

I was amazed and somehow proud to see New Yorkers helping each other out in a city whose reputation to outsiders isn’t exactly friendly and warm. Citizens directing traffic, single drivers offering rides, and the lack of overall panic.

It’s a sign of the times to hear people, and yourself for that matter, immediately jump to the conclusion that this could be terrorism. But, you can’t blame them. The images of the city were eerily remiscent of two years ago, with crowds swarming the street, headed anywhere but where they were.

Passersby interviewd on the news seemed generally jovial, making light of a situation that only their city could make so unique. One pickup truck loaded with anyone who could get on, was the only negative image I saw. The freeloaders gave NBC’s cameras the finger, and shook their fists. NBC didn’t cut away.

Some people trivialized the situation by complaining their air-conditioner was off, and Bloomberg was quick to point out not to eat spoiled food. I guess you do have to play parent to grown-ups sometimes.

What is amazing is that one power plant could have caused this. Everyone relies on the power system, and just assumes that appropriate measures are in place to keep this system running.

On the way to work this morning I heard news that they were going through logs of what happened. It struck me as odd that manual searching of logs would be the only means left to determine the problem. From all the networks I’ve seen (of course the power grid is one), there are mechanisms for alerts, warnings, failover procedures etc. all in place in case the worst happens. For them to resort to logs shows a system in a very dire state.

Local media coverage was humorous as usual. The outage hit close enough to the 5:00 local news to put stations in a predicament. Most ran the breaking-news network feed with some minor modifications. WISN ran a crawler with “additional information”, which I called and complained about. Other stations periodically broke into the national feed to provide local insight on the situation.

WISN showed a reporter outside the WE Energies building stating she had talked to someone inside about Wisconsin being an electrical island, unharmed by the issue to the east. TMJ 4 ran the same sort of story, and I’m sure the other locals did too.

I do realize their job is to put local spin on stories, the story was still in-progress. Local spin is for the aftermath, it’s to relate a story to the audience who may have already gotten all the other news about it. These stations broke off from national coverage in order to do this. I think if the news is still happening, cover it. The meaningless tie-ins to local possibilities paled in comparison to the millions of people still without power at the time.

Don’t forget that the media actually had some profound and relavent images of this disaster. Unlike 9-11, the media knew what was happening, was better prepared for breaking news, and this was not a singular event. Journalists could cover the situation and its immediate effect on the people, and the local stations didn’t think that was relavent.

The only thing I would have changed about all this was putting me in Manhattan, say Times Square, with a camera. That woulda been fun.

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The media illuminates the situation worse than Con-Ed

August 14th, 2003 No comments
    Some comments on the media coverage and general abusrdity of the public on the east coast black out:

  • Comment from a weary New Yorker “I had bad shoes on and I saw a shoe store so I took the oppurtunity to purchase a new pair of red Kangaroos!”
  • Wolf Blitzer, making use of the sure-to-be phrase that summarizes this “Where were you when the lights when out?”
  • Wolf again, to a random pedestrian “How many blocks have you walked?”
  • I called WISN-12 in Milwaukee to comment on their completely useless crawler on the bottom of the screen. They transferred me to the newsroom and the man there informed me that the local crawler was “additional information”. I told him the bright blue nuisance was just that, and it should be taken off. He took note and hung up. Just in case he forgot, I emailed WISN also
  • CNN TV just flashed what seems to be a title for this situation: Blackout 2003. Give me a break. I emailed CNN to let them now how silly that was too.
  • Hard hitting from CNN again “The longest line we’ve seen was at the Hagen Dazs”
  • Bystander comment “I’ll never make fun of the Amish again”
  • “I was getting my teeth drilled, by my dentist…” As opposed to the taxi driver who does that also?
  • Ignorant American citizen, to a Fox NEWS reporter: “You guys are interrupting ‘Who Wants to Marry a Millionaire’ for this?”
  • Wolf again: “I was working at a computer when the power went off, and of course the media immediately thought the worst had happened again.”
  • Paula Zahn (after being helicoptered in for coverage): “We believe dozens of acts of kindness occured during this.” Only dozens of acts out of the millions of people in Manhattan?
  • CNBC Anchor: “It seems that the lights are on at, wait, let me get it right, I think it’s Co-America Park in Detroit.” It’s Comerica, and it’s a banking institution, and the guy is from CNBC. Hmm.
  • GW Bush: “I believe even some of the airports up east are uhhhh, uhhh, err, beginning to have flights, yeah that’s it, so even that’s good.” Beginning to have flights, eh?
  • Where is Tom Ridge? Shouldn’t he be saying something?
  • Larry king, to Hillary Clinton: “Where were you when this happened?” Hillary: “I was meeting with a great group of young interns who worked with me this summer blah blah…” Does that matter?
  • Larry King kept Gray Davis on as his guest, does his opinion on this really matter? What does the Pope say?
  • Ever digging for conspiracy, Wolf, from the streets still, asks Hillary if the police have done everything possible. What does Hillary know about the NYC Police’s situation?
  • Bloomberg: “Exercise common sense when dealing with perishable items.”
  • Former LAPD detective Mark Furhman on Fox News speaking about the outage. Why?
  • The media as a whole: “9-11? 9-11? 9-11? 9-11? 9-11? Terrorist? Bomb? Nuke? Plane? Gun? Airplane! Fire? No power! MONEY”
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No, she wasn’t from Pasadena

August 14th, 2003 No comments

I was driving home on I-94 yesterday, heading north at about 75mph in the far right lane. All of a sudden, I notice an increasingly large gray object in my left periphery. I turn to find out what it is and realize it’s a car. That car happened to be swerving towards me in an attempt to change lanes. What the driver did not realize, was that my car was then occupying the space she was trying to enter.

Because I feared my life was in danger, I slammed, pounded and laid on the horn to alert the driver of my presence. While I was doing that, the passenger in the other vehicle also alerted the driver of my presence, causing the driver to threw her hands up in the air. After this realization, the driver’s instincts apparently kicked back in because she finally put her hands back on the wheel and swerved the opposite direction.

After knowing my life was again secure, I displayed my middle finger to the vehicle, which was still next to me. The car then slowed down and completed its previously failed lane change. Feeling I hadn’t had enough revenge, I turned around in my seat and gave the vehicle and its passengers the finger again for good measure.

Now, here comes the meat and potatoes. The occupants of the imposing car were two older folk. An 80ish year old woman was at the helm, while the comparably deranged passenger appeared to be her 80ish year old husband. It appeared as if neither could really see out the windows, as only the very top of their heads was visible. It literally looked like Yogi Berra and Estelle Getty were out for a drive.

My complaint is that old people are still driving. I’m not exactly sure of Wisconsin’s laws on license renewal, but some formalized system needs to be in place for re-testing drivers of a certain age. There is no way the reaction times of older people are anywhere near that of other drivers.

I guess in the end I came out fine. If I had to find a positive side to this, at least I was able to get out a little aggression – even if it was towards a little old lady.

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Tuvalu broadcasting company

August 12th, 2003 No comments


In relation to the below entry about the California gubernatorial election, a separate article by NBC 4 of “southern California”, ran head-first into another one of my pet-peeves. This has nothing to do with the content of the article, but rather the NBC 4 web site. The .com, .net., .org., and .edu’s you normally see at the end of domain names are called “top-level domains” or TLD’s. These TLD’s are supposed to be reserved for certain types of sites (.edu’s are all educational institutions…).

Well, NBC 4 is apparently from Tuvalu, not southern California. Their site is www.nbc4.tv, which implies they are located in Oceania, rather than California. Sure it’s cute to have a .tv to imply a television station and all, but it only serves to undermine my opinion of them.

To add to it, this is NBC’s flagship station for the west: KNBC. In fact, if you go to www.knbc.com, it redirects you to www.nbc4.tv. And that brings me to another sort of pet-peeve. Nowhere on KNBC’s site, that I can easily see at least, are the station’s call letters listed. It says NBC4 all over it, and even has a masthead with an “NBC4.tv” graphic on it. All that tells me is they think their cutesy domain name is more important than their desire to obtain a reputation as a leading news outlet in California. It would seem to me their goal is to gain viewers in the Tuvalu market instead.

In researching this a little further, I headed to www.nbc4.com to see who owns that domain. Surprisingly enough, it’s the NBC affiliate in Washington (D.C. for you lay folk). In fact, the layout of both pages is by IBS Inc., a news-site designer. This indicated that maybe the stations are owned by the same company.

I looked for call letters and was only able to find them 3 links deep, in a job opening page (for those of you who care, it’s WRC, and because it only has 3 call letters, indicates it’s an older station and was grandfathered out of the newer protocol which mandates 4 call letters). This same page pointed surfers to www.gecareers.com, which told me this is an NBC (or General Electric for that matter) owned-and-operated station. An, in turn, so was KNBC in California. Makes sense for flagship stations to be O&O, right?

So when you put the first part of the article and this together, you can conclude that NBC neither cares about informing the public of its call letters (those archaic domain names of the past, if you will), or appropriately using Internet domain names for their sites.

I recommend KNBC moves to Tuvalu to fulfill their representation as a .tv site. But, to do this, they’d have to change KNBC to T2N(BC), to be correct, and that just doesn’t seem as flashy as KNBC.

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