Hard to have sympathy …

It turns out that St. Louis Cardinals” pitcher Josh Hancock had a blood alcohol level of 0.157, wasn”t wearing a seatbelt and may have been talking on his cellphone when he killed himself by slamming into the back of a tow truck going 68 miles per hour (in a 55 zone).

That”s a whole lot of stupidity to invest in a single human.

AJC Totally not getting this online media thing

There was a rare excellent business story in the AJC this weekend – an exclusive sit-down with Coca-Cola”s CEO and President that focused on problems the soda giant continues to have in the North America market. The two talked frankly about recognizing deep problems in U.S. operations, the perception problem with high-calorie colas and their strategy to better link drinks like Coke Zero and Diet Coke to the “Coca-Cola” brand.

It was insightful, important … and edited. The AJC even went out of their way to note “Here are edited excerpts:”

Apparently the AJC published online just the same column-inch-confined story that made the paper. Or perhaps they ran the longer Q&A in the physical paper as a way of punishing online readers? That would make no sense, but I wouldn”t put it past the AJC. And if that”s the strategy, they should put a note online saying as much. But, again, that would be a lot to ask.

The AJC should take a clue from Wired, which ran a Q&A with Google”s Eric Schmidt this month and did it right. In the magazine, they ran their edited piece; and online you got the full text if you wanted it.

And, of course, the AJC still suffers from their failed strategy of requiring users to give them a fake email address and fake information to read their stories online, which is why I”m not linking to their Coke Q&A.

Fonzie had better win

Alabama had to turn people away from their Spring Game after filling up their 92,000-seat stadium. Because, you know, Jesus is coaching now.

Bama fills stadium for Saban”s “debut”

Clearly, all CNN was missing was Kiran Chetry

CNN”s American Morning goes Mark III tomorrow with the O”Briens (Soledad and Miles) getting kicked to the curb in favor of two new robo-anchors: Kiran Chetry and John Roberts.

Because, clearly, the problem with American Morning is that the anchors haven”t been white and plastic enough.

American Morning is in a tough spot. CNN wants it to be a news-based morning show, but it gets crushed by the unwatchable Fox & Friends on Fox News and – as hard as this is to believe – barely kept a lead over the (former) MSNBC simulcast of Don Imus” (former) radio program. Yes, a radio show being shown on TV was almost as popular as American Morning.

So I guess their solution is to make “news” look more like the “coffee talk” garbage on Fox & Friends by bringing over one of Fox”s almost-but-not-quite-hot Stepford Anchors and pairing her with a plastic “serious” anchorman to read the news.

Good luck with that.

Poaching a Fox roboanchor chick to appeal to the Fox & Friends crowd is just dumb and lazy programming. If CNN wants to make a run at having a real news show, here”s a tip: make the news real.

A great example is the “Minding Your Business” segment, which is supposedly a business news piece. But that”s rarely the case. The pet food recall, the rats-in-Manhattan restaurant story and product recalls are the kind of things they turn to most often there. Either make the business news segment about business news or just kill it.

It”s too much to ask, I guess, that a morning news program report a lot of different news rather than recycling everything every half hour. And to think CNN would abandon the kind of fluff crap that fills cable news is right out of the question.

No, just try to put people in front of the camera that Fox America will identify with and go from there. Pathetic.

Coke Zero lawsuit ads

I”m happy to see my beloved Coke Zero finally seeming to take hold in the market. On my recent Kentucky road trip, I was able to find Zero (and even Cherry Zero) in just about every dinky little convenience store I stopped in. And I like the company”s new “sue Coke Zero” campaign. An AJC piece last month did a good job of explaining the shift in thinking that had to happen on North Avenue to start positioning Zero against the Golden Goose – Coca-Cola.

But watching the “sue Coke Zero” ads – in which they pulled some actual Coke lawyers in for hidden-camera discussions about the Coke team wanting to sue the Zero team – I can”t help but wonder how many attorneys they tried this trick with … and whether any of them happened to be outside counsel. I can imagine a particularly entertaining exchange with the right lawyer sitting on the other side of the table.

Also, nice work on the part of Coke”s agency to digitally update the ads with Zero”s new black (rather than original white) image.

Frame from YouTube video:

Frame from the Coke Zero site:

Please calm down about Google Maps in New Orleans

If there was any doubt that Google”s new position in the mindset of America is “rich whipping boy”, that”s been clearly shown in the past few days of this “Google thinks Katrina never happened” crap. For those of you too caught up in the endless sea of lame April Fools” stories online, here”s the skinny – somebody noticed that the aerial imagery in Google Earth and Google Maps showed New Orleans before the failures of the federal levees during Hurricane Katrina. They also remembered that there was a time when Google Earth and Google Maps showed really revealing photos of the flooding brought on by the levee failures. Thus, in the logic of the masses, Google is involved in some kind of revisionist history.

As best as I can tell (thanks to Google News), this started with an AP story on March 29 headlined “Google Goes Back to Pre-Katrina Maps” that was nothing more than AP reporter Cain Burdeau noticing that aerial imagery in New Orleans and along the Gulf Coast pre-dated the arrival of Katrina. That story was picked up in media outlets across the country and around the world. For the March 30 news cycle, a TV-version of the story added the phrase “Google recently replaced satellite imagery of New Orleans after Hurricane Katrina with pictures taken before the storm” without any kind of attribution of the “recently” statement.

On Friday, the frenzy had grown to the point that a Congressional subcommittee dragged Google CEO Eric Schmidt up to explain what one congressman called “airbrushing history”.

Yesterday, the company announced that it had pushed out new imagery of New Orleans and explained why – six months ago (way to pay attention, media) – the main aerial imagery of New Orleans changed to show pre-Katrina views. Was it dumb for Google to choose higher-resolution pre-Katrina images over what they had in place before that change? Yes. But this only demonstrates the company”s engineering mindset and lack of social skills, not an evil intent.

All of this shows two things – the not-so-hidden desire to beat up on Google and a complete lack of understanding of the online maps & imagery world.

Beating up on Google:

- Did anybody bother to notice that Yahoo Maps, Microsoft Local Live and Ask City all have pre-Katrina images? Yahoo Maps still has a bigger market share than Google and also has pre-Katrina images, so why weren”t they picked on? MapQuest, by the way, has post-Katrina images.

- Does nobody remember the extraordinary lengths Google developers and the Google Earth community went to in providing near-realtime imagery immediately after Katrina? Google Earth was to Katrina what CNN was to the first Gulf War – a unique and invaluable resource that found its highest purpose during a time of crisis. I remember being on the phone with my friend Dave while he was holed up in Houston; browsing through NOAA images via Google Earth trying to help him find out the fate of his life back home. For a city in exile, those early images so well-integrated into Google Earth and Google Maps were the only bits of information available about specifics on the ground. It”s shameful for the media and politicians to jump on this perceived slap by Google in the wake of that.

Not understanding the Maps & Imagery world:

- Contrary to what seems to be popular belief, you cannot carry your laptop outside, load Google Maps and see yourself in the front yard. Map and imagery databases are complex and huge elements that are in constant update mode. It”s just that the world is big, so it takes a while to get back to your neighborhood. Here in Atlanta, Google Maps knows Glenwood Park”s roads exist, but still shows a dirt pit in the imagery. Accurate? Only partly.

- Imagery is the wow factor of maps, not the product. Online maps are meant to be maps; the satellite imagery (and things like Microsoft”s BirdsEye imagery) are meant to be differentiators that draw users from the competition. Online mapping has become vastly more useful in the past few years, but imagery is still mostly just a bolt-on feature.

- The tools are there to get what you want from imagery. Google Earth has a slightly different mission than online maps. It is intended to meld together collections of imagery, location information, etc. from company developers and – more importantly – the GIS community. If you want detailed imagery of just about any place, it”s out there.

- You”re spoiled. Carry yourself back to 1997 and find a satellite or aerial image of your house. I”ll wait …
TerraServer started the revolution in online imagery only a decade ago, and now aerial imagery and relevant location content is inescapable. And by and large it”s free. Online mapping has evolved amazingly in just the past three years, and today we have multi-view mashups like zillow.com that are leveraging the power of mapping, imagery and data for the benefit of consumers (and companies like zillow). It”s easy to forget that not too long ago, this was your only choice for an online map:

So, please, everybody just lay off this Google “revisionist history” garbage.

And I guess I shouldn”t mention that Waveland, Mississippi doesn”t really look like this anymore.

I for one welcome our new Gator overlords

OK, maybe it”s not as bad as all that, but well done, you jean-short-wearing yokels.

Basketball >> Football >> Basketball. Impressive.

All Rise! … now what’s my password again?

As part of my free life lesson program, I had the distinct pleasure to be in Atlanta Traffic Court Monday afternoon for the first live session using the court”s new computerized case-management system. The pleasure came from the pure comedy involved in watching a staid old traffic court judge try to use one of those newfangled computer systems. It seemed a whole lot like trying to teach your grandpa to check his email.

The judge actually had a representative from the system vendor sitting with him as he tried to navigate the system – during a live court session. Hardly any action attempted went well for the judge, and his frustration steadily grew during the 90 minutes I had to stick around to be on hand. Almost away from his mic, the judge would mutter things like “why can”t I just change this to $15? I want it to say 15 bucks!!” to his hand-holder, and couldn”t use the system at all to do some things.

A typical case went something like this:

Judge: Call the next case.

Clerk: DEFENDANT NAME

Judge: Mr. DEFENDANT NAME, you”re charged with … … … … seat belt violation.

Solicitor: Your honor, Mr. DEFENDANT NAME has three citations.

Judge: I don”t see that.

Judge”s Helper: [reaches over to show judge where to see the citations]

Judge: [to Judge"s Helper] Well, why doesn”t that show here? [pointing to screen]

Judge”s Helper: [points at screen, mumbles instructions to judge]

Judge: Mr. DEFENDANT NAME, you”re charged with … … I can”t read this (poorly-scanned citation image)

Solicitor: [lists charges]

Judge: OK, Mr. DEFENDANT NAME, are you entering a plea?

DEFENDANT: Yes sir. Guilty.

Judge: OK, $150 fine plus state surcharges … … … [to Judge"s Helper] Where does it show the fine?

Judge”s Helper: [points at screen]

Judge: [stares at screen, fumbles around with mouse] [to Judge"s Helper] I can”t change it!

Judge”s Helper: [points at screen]

Judge: [to Judge"s Helper] Why do I have to do that twice? I want to just put the fine here [points at screen]

Judge: [stares at screen, fumbles around with mouse] … … … … … … … OK, Mr. DEFENDANT NAME, please step through the door to your right and see the cashier.

Judge: Call the next case.

You get the idea. The scene was captured in this courtroom drawing that looks remarkably like a piece of a decent camera-phone picture (those courtroom artists are good!)

After making it through about five cases – none of which involved anything more than a defendant saying “guilty” and paying a fine or “not guilty” and getting a trial date – in an hour, the judge went into speed-plea mode. He called cases alphabetically because it was a lot easier to find them that way, and had defendants queue up 10 deep to compensate for the slowness of him getting through each case.

Fortunately, the guy who hit me is a “C”, so I was out of there pretty quickly. But it was a lot of fun to watch while I was there.

And the scary news? The next phase of traffic court efficiency is replacing the paper citation pads cops carry with an electronic device that records everything digitally and just spits out a small receipt for the offender. I”m sure that”ll go off without a hitch.

LSU’s new offense

It”s good to read stories like this one in The Advocate (the Baton Rouge daily, not the national gay newspaper) laying out the expectation that LSU”s 2007 offensive will be a lot more wide-open than it”s been in the past. Of course, it might have been nice to play an open offense when we had JaMarcus, Bowe, etc., but let”s not dwell on the past. Matt Flynn is a mobile QB, which will work well in more of a spread attack, and the receiver corps is younger but still really talented. Throw in a strong mix of running backs, and Crowton has all the tools he needs.

It”s slightly disconcerting, though, that the Advocate writer felt compelled to include the line “LSU coach Les Miles isn’t likely to come anywhere close to completely abandoning a power-based run game …“. I”m sure it”s the Leslie cynic in me, but that just stinks of Miles meddling in the plan his new OC has.

But if Crowton is able to open up 90% of the offense, we”ll give Leslie his occasional ineffective plunge into the left side of the line.

Inman Park Properties update

For those of you following the tale of Jeff Notrica and Inman Park Properties in East Atlanta, here are some updates for you. The Good:

- Work is rolling along at the two new restaurants set to open in Notrica”s strip of spaces between the Graveyard Tavern and what used to be Good News Cafe on Glenwood Avenue. Word is one of the spaces (described in some circles as a juice bar / vegetarian restaurant / live music space – who knows?) is set to open this month, with the other (The Glenwood – which is positioning itself as something along the lines of Atkins Park) opening sometime after that. The parking lot/alley behind the spaces remains well-maintained and clean.

- A bar catering to lesbians – My Sister”s Room – plans to relocate to the EAV from Decatur. According to the East Atlanta Community Association, the club is moving into the former Good News Cafe space at Glenwood and Gresham avenues. More interesting, still, is that EACA says Inman Park Properties has purchased the Good News space specifically to lease to My Sister”s Room. County records still show that space being owned by the Graveyard Tavern people, but I guess that has changed. At this month”s EACA meeting, it was noted that My Sister”s Room had reservations about leasing from Inman Park Properties because the club became aware of some issues East Atlanta has with Jeff Notrica. To that I say if a company doesn”t let its properties get into this kind of shape, it won”t face these kinds of questions from prospective tenants.

- Some work on the utilities at Inman Park”s Tucker Automotive building on Flat Shoals Avenue has begun. Supposedly this is the future home of yet another new restaurant, but there”s a ton of work that needs to be done before any kind of business is opening there.

The Bad:

- It”s status quo at the B&W Market and East Atlanta Lock & Key. Sure, the ghetto market is gone, but these two spaces are huge eyesores right in the heart of the Village. Notrica could have demolished these spaces when he tore down the Homeless Hovel farther north on Flat Shoals, but he chose not to do so. Supposedly plans are in the works to demolish these buildings, but I”ll believe it when I see it.

- Still lots of trash around the B&W and Notrica”s lots next door – including their lovely rusting oil drums. They”ve done a good job of cleaning up behind the Glenwood space, but not so much is their less visible spots.

The Really Bad and Really Disturbing:

I was told after the EACA meeting that the city has begun code enforcement action against Inman Park Properties in relation to the John B. Gordon School on Metropolitan Avenue. The company bought the school – built in 1925 – from Atlanta Public Schools in the summer of 1997 with the supposed intention of converting it to lofts. And then they left the building there to rot. They”ve updated their “coming soon” sign a couple of times, with the current almost-not-falling-apart version promoting a Spring 2006 launch!

What I was told by an official NPU-W representative is that the city has ordered Inman Park Properties to resolve the issue of boarded up windows at the Gordon School. Apparently outlawing boarded windows is how the city combats abandoned property. And I was also told that Jeff Notrica has a novel idea for resolving the boarded windows – by demolishing the school. I was told that Notrica believes the cost of repairing the windows is too high, so the smart choice is to tear the place down. Somehow I don”t think that was the vision Atlanta Public Schools had when it sold the property 10 years ago. It”s also an interesting position considering the company”s slogan of Preserving The Future By Saving The Past.

Notrica will face a real fight on this one. It”s likely to be a lose-lose proposition, however, because Notrica has demonstrated that he”s more than happy to sit on this property and let it rot. So the options will likely be compel him to put new windows in, in which case the building will probably just continue to rot, or let him tear the place down, in which case the property will probably sit vacant and undeveloped for years to come. I”m sure Notrica will come forward with grand plans for a beautiful new development there, but his history in East Atlanta precedes him.

Jeff Notrica has been perfectly content to let the Gordon School rot for a decade. The Tucker Automotive space has sat vacant and rotting for six years now. The Homeless Hovel sat rotting for seven years before Notrica was finally pressured to tear it down – reportedly because of a boarded window citation. He”s content to let the small building he put up at 567 Flat Shoals five years ago sit vacant to this day. He owns vacant lots on Flat Shoals, Glenwood, May and Haas Avenues that he”s happy to let sit undeveloped, so any promises to build something new on the Gordon School land will ring completely hollow.

East Atlanta will look at any plans by Jeff Notrica will great doubt, because that”s the reputation he”s created for himself in our neighborhood.

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