Wednesday, February 28, 2007

Spring Breakers: Get Your Passports Now

If you're planning on spending spring break in Canada, Mexico or the Caribbean you'll need apply now for a passport, thanks to Congress and the US Customs and Border Protection (CBP).

The new passport requirement, known as the Western Hemisphere Travel Initiative (WHTI, thanks DHS), went into effect on January 23 and applies to all air travel into the United States. Yep, you can fly out of the country without a passport, but you won't be able to get back in (Roach Motel in reverse). You can drive back in, though driving from a Caribbean island might be a little more than your Saturn can handle.

The new rules affect all citizens of the United States, Canada, Mexico and Bermuda who previously could use birth certificates, drivers' licenses and other documents to enter the U.S.

As usual, the government is cashing in. The State Department will do expedited passport processing for an additional fee on top of the higher fees they implemented last year.

The NEXUS program, whatever that is, also fulfills the document requirements of WHTI. The CBP is charged with keeping terrorists and terrorist weapons out of the country while enforcing hundreds of U.S. laws. Yep, all those Spring Break college students are sure terrorism threats. What a bunch of garbage. I'm driving to Toronto! See next post.

MobiTV Signing Subscribers at Record Rate

While satellite radio companies Sirius and XM struggle to sign new subscribers, a similarly-styled company in the video space, MobiTV, is surging with subscriptions to their mobile and broadband television and music services.

The company announced today that it has exceeded two million paying subscribers worldwide, more than doubling their base in less than a year.

MobiTV offers the most comprehensive content, with more than 100 television channels worldwide, and nearly 40 channels in its US service, including many of the same stations available via cable. The company supports nearly all existing commercial network standards plus future 4G networks such as WiMAX and DVB-H.

"MobiTV has quickly become the industry's go-to resource for mobile content delivery," said Paul Scanlan, president and co-founder of MobiTV.

Some key achievements since April 2006 include a service with AT&T to deliver real live TV to any PC broadband user in the US, interactive ads and m-commerce, content deals surpassing 100 channels and support for 150+ handsets worldwide.

Saturday, February 24, 2007

Getting Ready for March Madness

File this one under shameless self-promotion.

With the annual rites of Spring upon us - no, not baseball or dating - basketball fans are gearing up for the NCAA Tournament and our blog, College Basketball Daily, will have all the news, stories, game recaps and action from the opening tip to the final buzzer.

I've been covering college hoops all season, and things are really heating up. This is the first season I've put all the coverage on a blog, but since things happen quickly once the tournament starts, it's a good place to go to get a quick overview and my expert insight all on one page.

You'll find the AP poll rankings updated every Monday and beginning this week, conference tournament results in addition to the usual mix of Top 25 recaps, picks and pans.

March Madness is upon us!

Thursday, February 22, 2007

Coke & Pepsi To Disclose Caffeine Content

Coca-Cola and PepsiCo will soon reveal the exact amount of caffeine per serving right on their labels. Everyone knows that the two popular beverages pack a punch, but until now, nobody knew whether it was a right hook or just a jab.

Since 2003, the nonprofit Caffeine Awareness Alliance (CAA) and the American Medical Association have been asking the Food and Drug Administration for caffeine content disclosure on food labels. CAA praised both Coca-Cola and PepsiCo's new labeling and called on Starbucks and others to follow suit.

"The right for consumers to make informed decisions is vital to the health of this nation," said CAA founder Marina Kushner.

Kushner strives to educate through her book, "The Truth About Caffeine -- How Companies That Promote It Deceive Us and What We Can Do About It."

To learn more about Kushner's book, or National Caffeine Awareness Month, you can visit caffeineawareness.org/.

Carnival.Com Cruises to Top Spot

According to Hitwise, which tracks Web traffic in more than 160 different industry categories, Carnival Cruise Lines' web site, carnival.com, is the most visited cruise line site on the internet.

Carnival's success was attributed to a huge upgrade in 2006 and the addition of new tools and features including an interactive destination map, guest video testimonials and an enhanced meeting and incentive cruise section.

Carnival operates 21 Fun Ships worldwide offering a wide variety of trips to the Bahamas, Caribbean, Mexican Riviera, Alaska, Hawaii, Canada, New England, Bermuda, Europe and the Greek Isles.

The line currently has four new ships on order, two of which, the 130,000-ton Carnival Dream and Carnival Magic will be the largest Fun Ships in the fleet. They are scheduled for delivery in October 2009 and June 2011, respectively.

Web site: http://carnival.com/

Mirage Las Vegas to host TopCoder Open 2007

80 top programmers from around the world will compete for $260,000 in prizes, June 27-29 at The Mirage Las Vegas. TopCoder, the leader in online programming competition, , skills assessment and competitive software development, today announced that AOL will serve as title sponsor of the of the TopCoder Open 2007.

This year's event will bring a total of 80 competitors from around the world for a total prize purse across all competitions of $260,000. Online registration for multiple tracks opened Monday, February 19th and continues through March 27th. For full TopCoder Open registration details please visit http://www.topcoder.com/tco07.

The 2007 TopCoder Open onsite competitions will feature the Algorithm competition - 48 semifinalists with a first prize purse of $25,000; the software Design track - 8 finalists, first prize $25,000; the software Development track - 8 finalists, first prize $15,000; TopCoder Studio competition - 8 finalists, first prize $15,000; TopCoder Marathon Match - 8 finalists, first prize $15,000.

TopCoder membership is free and brings with it eligibility to compete in high profile tournaments, discussions and learning, plus access to some of the world's leading employers of software developers.

"Las Vegas is a spectacular venue for the TCO 07 sponsored by AOL," said Rob Hughes, President and COO of TopCoder, Inc. "We believe our competitors, sponsors and audience alike will find this the most exciting and entertaining TopCoder Open yet!"

Web site: http://www.topcoder.com/

Wednesday, February 21, 2007

Data Security Getting Worse According to IT Pros

According to a survey conducted by nCircle, 66% of IT security professionals believe their own personal data is less secure than 2 years ago.

nCircle, the leading provider of agentless security risk and compliance management solutions, conducted the survey of 83 IT professionals in January 2007.

The critical question: "Do you think your personal confidential information is more or less secure than it was 24 months ago?" yielded the following results: Total votes: 83; Less Secure: 66%; More Secure: 34%

According to Abe Kleinfeld, CEO of nCircle, "These results point out the real and present danger to online data that IT security professionals see everyday. Security professionals believe that their own personal data is at risk because they know that most organizations approach the problem of data security from a defensive position, one which leaves both the data and the organizations vulnerable."

If these professionals are this skeptical of network security, how secure is your information?

SBE, Esquire Sponsor Academy Awards Fundraiser for AIDS

SBE Entertainment and Esquire Magazine will host The Envelope Please 6th Annual Oscar-viewing party at The Abbey, to benefit AIDS Project Los Angeles (APLA). Over 500 guests will attend this fundraiser on Oscar night wth Jennifer Love Hewitt serving as host for the event.

"The Envelope Please" is a major fundraising event for APLA. The organization operates food banks, dental clinics and other direct services serving the HIV community in Los Angeles.

Additional sponsors include ClearChannel, Merck, Effen Vodka, United Airlines, Wells Fargo and the City of West Hollywood.

Festivities will begin on Sunday, Feb. 25, with a cocktail reception at 4:00 pm, followed by dinner and viewing party at 5:00 pm. Individual tickets begin at $300 and space is limited. For more information or to order tickets, please visit www.apla.org.

New Broadband Service Brings Romance Novels to Life

Every five seconds somebody buys a romance novel. With that kind of market penetration, beaming the background of the romance genre via broadband should make romancenovel.tv an instant success.

Founded in November 2006 by Maria Lokken, Marisa O'Neill and John Werner, Romance Novel TV is the first broadband network dedicated to cover the genre from cover to cover. Lokken, O'Neill and Werner bring more than a combined 60 years worth of television experience to the new network.

Romance Novel TV (romancenovel.tv) will have an array of original programming that will feature best-selling authors like Nora Roberts, Christina Dodd, Eloisa James, Mary Jo Putney and JR Ward.

Tuesday, February 20, 2007

Revolutionary New Mortgage Account Pays Debt Faster

Anyone who's ever dealt with a conventional commercial mortgage bank knows how difficult it is to pay down interest faster, apply an extra payment or generally reduce the debt faster than the standard amortization allows.

A new type of account may be a first step in changing how a mortgage is paid down. This account, called the One Account combines the mortgage with your monthly salary and optionally, any savings, and pays down the debt in a much more powerful, more efficient manner.

At One Account you can access their amazing Mortgage Shrinker, an online calculator that will show how much shorter your mortgage term could be and how much you could actually save by paying smarter.

The idea is a blockbuster and anathema to the banking business, but for consumers, well worth a look.

Sponsored Post

I Am Human, Feel Me Blog

Rafe Needleman reports on his Google Blog that the search giant sometimes wants to know if you're a human or a computer bot.

Leave it to Google, the master of algos, bots and all sorts of whiz-bang techno geeky gadgetry to offer up what's known as a CAPTCHA which stands for "Completely Automated Public Turing test to tell Computers and Humans Apart."

These are the messed up words or numbers that ask to be identified as a security measure that you'll find on registration or login pages around the internet.

Now you know what they're called. Well, if you're H-¢-U-£-M-¶-A-ยช-N, that is.

High Paying Opportunities for Bloggers

Life as a freelance writer could not be much better.

Since I found PayPerPost.com, I've been blazing away at my laptop, writing about new websites, sports, business, the internet and products like wireless phones and computer peripherals.

But, it's just gotten better, especially if you've done proper blog marketing like getting your PageRank up above 3 or 4, a high rank on Alexa and positive reviews of your posts.

Pay Per Post's new segmentation system awards bloggers who operate high traffic blogs with good PR. A recent opportunity offered $1000 for a single sponsored post. Now, that's what I call good money. Ernest Hemingway would even have taken that one in a heartbeat. He used to get 10¢ a word back in the day.

I haven't had the good fortune of picking up a grand for one post, but I've seen other posting opportunities paying $25, $50 and more. Whatever I make on my posts I consider a real blessing. I've been writing for years for next to nothing promoting my web site, and that's finally paying off, but blogging gives me the opportunity to really stretch my writing skills for positive purposes.

PayPerPost.com makes sense for high and and lower traffic bloggers alike. The main requirements are that your blog has been online for more than 90 days and that you disclose that PayPerPost posts are sponsored or paid. To make matters easier, PPP provides tools to automatically include a disclosure badge or provides them per post, like the one below.

Who knows? Hemingway might have been jealous.

Webcast Alert: NetObjects Fusion 10

NetObjects Fusion 10 software enables users to easily develop affordable, full-feature websites. Novices to nerds can learn more about the robust features of NetObjects Fusion 10 website-building software, which requires no programming or HTML experience via live webcast on February 22, 2007 at 2 pm Eastern

Featured panelists include Ovidiu Podisor, Chief Software Developer, NetObjects Fusion and Steve Raubenstine, Vice President and General Manager, NetObjects Fusion.

Website Pros, Inc. offers a full range of Web services, including website design and publishing, Internet marketing and advertising, search engine optimization, customer support and technology, and leads generation, meeting the needs of any business.

Based in Jacksonville, Florida, Website Pros can be reached by calling 1-800-GET-SITE. More information is available on their web site.

Free Blogs, Calendars and Classifieds

Social networking web sites are popping up all over the place, but itsmymarket.com seems to have a leg up on the competition with a nice assortment of user options. There are blogs, web page hosting, events calendars, classified ads and dating, all free to use.

I was especially interested in the free classifieds because I'm always looking for ways to reach new markets in a cost-effective manner, and nothing is more cost-effective than FREE.

The interface for placing ads is really simple and easy to use. There are more than adequate categories, whether you're selling your home or car or just looking to sell items from around the house.

The whole process of setting up a classified ad takes less than 3 minutes in a 4-part process that goes quicker once you're registered. It's all part of a very nice social networking site that should thrive on being completely free.

Sponsored Post

Robb Report Report: The rich eat different

I just received this month's installment of the Robb Report online with a teaser for the feature article titled, America’s Finest Dining: 57 Of Our Favorite Restaurants.

This is pretty funny, when you think about paying $45 for a four-course meal featuring fried chicken, pot roast or pork loin at Ad Hoc, chef Thomas Keller's most recent addition to his California collection of restaurants, which also includes the French Laundry, Bouchon Bakery, and the bistro Bouchon.

In Washington, D.C., chef Michel Richard of Michel Richard Citronelle also opened a new sub-prime eatery, Central Michel Richard, which offers such delicacies as lobster burgers, rotisserie chicken, corned beef and cabbage and banana splits.

It's what makes me curious about the upper crusters in our society. Eating the same foods as the "ordinary people" somehow has become vogue. Pretty lame, if you ask me.

Monday, February 19, 2007

Oh! The Horror!

The boys of summer may be working out the kinks down in Florida, but a horde of football fanatics are already scratching that pigskin itch. This was the first Sunday since the Super Bowl (not including the wasted week in between the Conference Championships and the big one) that there wasn't an NFL game on the air.

Guys across the nation were rediscovering that they were married. Some, to their surprise, found out that they were not, as football reached the first off-season milestone.

But there's hope. Football never ends.

The actual NFL draft is still two months away, but that doesn't stop NFL maniacs from formulating some way to whittle down the time without actual live crunching hits, long bombs and touchdowns.

Saturday, February 17, 2007

Fans Choose Ricky Rudd for Daytona 500 Broadcast

Ricky Rudd's in-car audio has been chosen by NASCAR fans to be featured on SIRIUS' Fan's Choice broadcast during the Daytona 500 this Sunday.

Rudd, driver of the No. 88 Snickers Ford, was the top vote-getter for the Daytona event, which kicks off the NASCAR racing season. Over 10,000 fans cast their votes at the Driver2Crew website, specifically for fans of NASCAR with Sirius radio.

Sirius will carry 10 in-car audio broadcasts for every NASCAR NEXTEL race this season, based on drivers NASCAR NEXTEL Cup Series standings and every race will have a featured channel based on fan votes.

For this weekend's Daytona 500, SIRIUS subscribers can hear:

  • Live race call provided by Motor Racing Network channel 128

  • Jimmie Johnson in-car audio channel 122

  • Tony Stewart in-car audio channel 126

  • Dale Earnhardt Jr. in-car audio channel 125

  • Jeff Gordon in-car audio channel 121

  • Kasey Kahne in-car audio channel 114

  • Kevin Harvick in-car audio channel 119

  • Matt Kenseth in-car audio channel 130

  • Jeff Burton in-car audio channel 147

  • Denny Hamlin in-car audio channel 144

  • Ricky Rudd in-car audio (Fan's Choice) channel 140


SIRIUS combines race broadcast with the driver-to-crew communications on each channel, allowing fans a true insider's broadcast experience.

Saturday, February 10, 2007

Famous for a Day

Well, just a day after the untimely death of Anna Nicole Smith, my association with Playboy (I look at the pictures and read the articles) has boosted my ego and hits to my web site.

This article is on the Reuters Newswire and, as such, is available for publication in newspapers around the world.

So, my high school jerkwad ex-buddies can say what they like about me and my association with Playboy magazine, but I've gotten my 15 minutes of fame at least six times from it.

Hey, even for the Dan Graham's of the world, that's still an hour and a half.

Thursday, February 08, 2007

Anna Nicole Smith Dead at 39

Suddenly, a favorite ditzy, buxom blonde is gone.

Anna Nicole Smith, renowned Playboy Playmate, Guess Jeans Girl and Supreme Court appellant, died today at the Seminole Hard Rock Hotel and Casino in Hollywood, Florida.

The cause of Anna Nicole's death were not immediately known as she was found unresponsive by a private nurse in her hotel room. The Chicago Tribune has more.

Over on my main site, I have a couple of issues featuring Anna Nicole the way most of us will want to remember her, as the sizzling hot blonde that captivated Playboy's ardent admirers. The issues are from June 1993 and May 1994.

The June 1993 issue in particular, is a favorite of mine. Anna Nicole was named Playmate of the Year and the cover photo, by Danielo Federici, captures her magnetic beauty. Both magazines are linked to our feature pages on the main site and are for sale.

She will certainly be missed. Rest in peace, Anna Nicole.

Tuesday, February 06, 2007

Do-Nothing Congress

If you've been paying attention at all over the past 6 years, you have to believe that Congress certainly hasn't done the average American taxpayer any favors.

That trend seems to be continuing, even after there was a huge shift in voter preferences in the last election, sweeping Democrats into power in both the House of Representatives and Senate. Yesterday, the Senate voted to essentially cut off debate on the troop surge into Iraq. Basically, the Republican minority staged a successful filibuster to prevent voting on a non-binding resolution.

So, after a month in session, what has Congress wrought? Nothing, absolutely nothing. Sure, the House passed Nanny Pelosi's promised "first 100 hours" agenda, but the Senate hasn't budged much. They mangled the minimum wage bill with a slew of amendments and that's on it's way back to the House. Naturally, the President will veto any legislation that comes to his desk, so what's the point?

Considering the utter contempt the Congress has shown for the average American, I wouldn't expect much from them. My advice is to steer clear of politicians (dirty whores, every one of them) and go about your business, take as many tax deductions as possible and keep quiet. They're stealing from us, so why pay them any mind?

The president's Budget to Congress

George W. Bush is a complete ass. And Congress isn't much better. The budget request he sent to Congress yesterday for $2.9 trillion - $2,900,000,000,000 - averages out to just a little under $10,000 for every man, woman and child in America.

It's a little much, don't you think? Put another way, there are roughly 150 million working people in the USA today, so this budget calls for about $20,000 per working adult. Naturally, the money for Iraq and Afghanistan is not included.

I'll tell you what my contribution is going to be to the funding for this budget: ZERO. That's right, I'm not going to pay a single cent, and it's all perfectly legal. Keep those tax breaks for business coming, you morons in Congress and the White House. I'll use them all day long.

Friday, February 02, 2007

Stocks End Week on Quiet Note Again

Maybe it's the Super Bowl, or the weather, or just the end of the week, but whatever it was, traders seemed to have taken an early exit on Friday (similar to last Friday), leaving the major indices spilt amid middling volume.

With little to excite investors, the Dow left the record high set on Thursday intact, falling 20.19 to end the week at 12,653.49. For the week, the Dow did very well, up 166 points. The NASDAQ closed 7.50 to the positive, while the S&P 500 gained 2.45.

All three indices posted weekly gains of more than 1%.

With well more than half of all companies having already reported 4th quarter and 2006 earnings, the market will increasingly be driven - for the next 6-8 weeks - by economic news and events outside the financial realm.

Of course, the main concern is still going to be focused on the Middle East and a resolution (or lack thereof) to the conflict in Iraq. Nothing is more important to the world economy presently than what the US decides to do policy-wise with the untenable situation there.

Any good news on that front would likely translate into higher stock prices in the near term, though from the seeming intransigence of the administration to the vacillation in the Congress, the chance for a prompt positive outcome looks neither imminent nor particularly probable.

The recent rise in the price of oil certainly tempered the mood on Wall Street and continues to nag at the merchants on Main Street. Oil rose another 3% on Friday, closing up 1.72 to close at $59.02. Less than 2 weeks ago, the price had dipped to nearly $50, so the recent action (up $9) may be more a technical adjustment than the beginning of a longer term trend.

Since August, the direction has been decidedly to the downside for the slippery stuff, and that trend seems to be still in place. Regardless of daily noise, everybody - from the baker to the banker - would like to see the price stabilize in the $43-50 range. Whether that is attainable or merely wishful thinking depends largely on politics, war, weather and demand in coming months.

The employment report for January revealed unemployment at 4.6%, its highest rate in four months. The Labor Department also reported the addition of 111,000 jobs in the month. Traders barely noticed.

For the week, the news was mostly positive and that was reflected in the trade. Persuading most of it was the Fed decision to keep the Fed Funds rate level at 5.25 on Wednesday. It was the only day to see a big move in either direction - in this case, higher - and was the overriding positive development in an otherwise lackluster series of sessions.

Speaking of Swimsuits...

One of the places I'd love to visit is Montevideo in the tiny, almost unnoticed nation of Uruguay.

Why?

Well, for one reason, it's summer down there when it's winter up here and the beaches stretch wonderfully over hundreds of miles. The city sits on the coast of Uruguay, on the Atlantic Ocean, and it's modernized, though not so metropolitan as nearby big cities. So, it's not overcrowded.

Uruguay sits between the two giant countries of Argentina and Brazil and there is daily ferry service to Sao Paulo and Rio De Janiero, so if you want the glitz and glamour, it's only a few hours away.

Montevideo is one of South America's hidden gems, in a continent that somehow has managed to escape the colonialism of the United States. While countries like Venezuela, Nicaragua and Bolivia are turning socialist, most of the Southern countries of the continent have become more market driven economically.

WebEx Meeting Software is Top Shelf

For teleconferencing, internet collaboration and online meetings, there are few companies than can compete with the offerings from WebEx Communications.

The company offers solutions for every size business and just about every need. For individual and small business they offer WebEx Connect, an on-demand platform for collaboration, business applications, and project flow.

The software works via the WebEx Connect grid, allowing users to create customized workspaces that integrate WebEx solutions with third-party applications.

Another recent innovation is MeetMeNow which provides users with unlimited web meetings with up to 10 attendees per meeting, audio, desktop sharing, integration with email and instant messaging clients. All this accessible from any desktop computer.

The company is offering a 14-day free trial. For more info, visit WebEx.