Protoculture T-shirts

please mess with TexasProtoculture is a new t-shirt maker with some great designs. Their shirts are sometimes smart, sometimes funny, and sometimes delivered with so much hipster pretension as to make them unpretentious – which, in turn, makes them pretentious again. It doesn’t make any sense does it? Well, neither do a lot of the designs (but in a good way).
Seriously though, I love an original shirt, and I’m glad that technology is lowering the barriers to entering the shirt business. This is saving us from Urban Outfitter domination. Protoculture’s $25 price is a bit steep, but mitigated by their free shipping and the fact that they use American Apparel shirts (higher quality than Hanes and the like).

A Woman with a Bass is a Thing of Beauty

The Microsoft advertisement (shown first) appears in this month’s issue of Wired Magazine. The Citi advertisement (shown second) appears in this month’s issue of “Fashion Rocks – A Supplement to Wired Magazine.”
microsoft ad with female bass player citi ad with female bass player
Apparently women playing basses alone with laptops nearby is the hottest new image to promote intangible products and services.
The Microsoft advertisement tries to argue that it’s software will help young women to produce gold records. I think some recording software might be a better choice than Office XP. Even more ludicrous is the Citi advertisement’s implication that young women will be able to obtain basses and laptops by cashing in credit card points. Considering that you’d have to spend $50,000 to earn enough points for an iPod, basses and laptops are far from “achievable rewards”. Maybe they mean that if you buy a bass, a laptop, and a picture, you’ll earn enough points to get a funny looking lamp.

Wonkette NYT Traffic Analysis

Anne Marie Cox, the writer for Wonkette, was featured in the cover story of this weekend’s New York Times Magazine. I’ve always been curious about the impact of these things on a web site’s traffic. Thanks to Nick Denton’s policy of keeping stats public, it takes just a few clicks to find the answer. Wonkette’s September traffic:
wonkette traffic
Wonkette’s traffic has a familiar and consistent pattern: slightly stronger at the beginning of the week, peaking on Tuesdays, a little lighter on Fridays before plunging into the weekend (notice the weekend-like traffic on Labor Day).
The article came out in Sunday’s paper, and there was a significant increase in traffic that day: about 35,000 more Sunday visitors than usual. The increase is much more noticeable on Monday, when the NYT traffic is added to a weekly high-point. It looks like there were about 40,000 more visitors than usual yesterday.
An interesting phenomenon from all of this is that the increases are probably absolute. I suspect that if Wonkette didn’t have any readers, it would have received about 35,000 visitors on Sunday and 40,000 on Monday, so the percentage increase is a factor of previous popularity. Because Wonkette is already so popular, it doesn’t benefit as much from a big NYT article.

tortfeasor Site Update

tortfeasor siteThe tortfeasor site got a bit of an update today. There were some browser problems that should now be fixed, and it needed a couple touch-ups in places. I’m still going for a very clean, very simple design, and I think I’ve managed to keep those aspects of the site. to Remain Open was the best thing to happen to text books since the invention of the college copy-center reader, and eBay has just announced that Half is here to stay. eBay acquired in 2000 after Half essentially beat them to the fixed-price market, and they’ve been slowly integrating the two together ever since.
Half was scheduled to be completely absorbed into eBay this summer, but pressure from text book sellers kept Half going for another “text book season”. It seems eBay finally realized that really works, and those of us that can sell an $80 case book for $60 don’t want to slowly transition over to anything.
Now please buy some of my stuff.

New Princeton Review Law School Rankings

The Princeton Review have released their 2005 law school rankings. They stopped doing these for few years and I’m pretty sure this is their first year back.
Before the hiatus, Boston University had come in first-place for best faculty for six straight years, a fact the administration mentioned quite frequently. Unfortunately, BU has now slipped to #2.
BU also ranked highly (#4) for best career prospects. Are you kidding me? Don’t Yale, Harvard, and Stanford students have better career prospects than BU students? I guess the real question is whether students at those schools realize that they have better career prospects, and whether they care to fill out the Princeton Review survey.
Despite that most of these rankings are ridiculous, I have to admit they’re kind of fun. I’m also happy to see more ranking systems out there as US News alternatives. Each new ranking system slightly dilutes the excessive authority granted to US News. I’m still surprised that more publishers don’t try to compete with US News in the rankings market. Where are the New York Times’ rankings?
The relationship between institutions and US News amuses me too. The institutions always talk about how the rankings don’t matter, but then they emphasize them whenever they’re highly ranked. Last weekend in New Haven I saw a billboard by the freeway for a Yale Hospital with a US News cover on it. When you’re #25, the rankings are meaningless. When you’re #1, you put up a billboard next to the freeway.

Ikea Pilgrimage

No apartment is complete without some high-design, low-budget furniture from the world’s allen-wrench headquarters: Ikea. Despite Ikea’s popularity (and no-doubt profitability), they’ve been unable to open a store anywhere remotely near Boston. (Some theorize this is the result of the local furniture mafia.) This has driven countless Bostonians to either (1) buy unfinished pine bookcases or (2) make the Ikea pilgrimage.
The Ikea pilgrimage used to require a four hour drive to New Jersey or Long Island, but now budget minded modernists can pick up particle board in New Haven, Connecticut. I made my pilgrimage last weekend: three hours down, five hours there, and three hours back. It was a long day, but well worth it. Here’s a picture from the massive parking lot (packed of course):
ikea New Haven

From New York to West Virginia

I spent the last couple days on a vacation to New York City and rural Virginia / West Virginia. These are two of the most strikingly dissimilar places in the US. In Manhattan, I spent the evening drinking beer amidst hipster celebrities on the lower east side. In Virginia, I took a rafting trip down the Shenandoah and into the Potomac at Harpers Ferry, I went to the swap meet, and I went to Wal-Mart.
In New York, there are Banana Republic ads that say “Vote Bush Out”. In West Virginia, there are confederate flag stalls on the side of the road, and there was a man wearing a “Kerry lied… and good men died” shirt.
There’s something amazing about witnessing all this in just two days, without getting on a plane. Thanks to Mike, Rebecca, Jason, and Megan for the hospitality.

Happy Birthday Google and eBay

Two of the internet companies I most admire, Google and eBay, each celebrated birthdays this week. Google turned six. eBay turned nine.
Both companies have excelled because they took an innovative idea and proved its value. Google’s idea was a search algorithm that relied on link popularity rather than page content, and they followed that up with another innovation: an intelligent advertising network that leveraged the Google brand and the technical power of the Google network. eBay’s innovation was creating a single auction-based economy. They overcame the skepticism of internet and peer to peer sales and implemented a simple auction system that, combined with a critical mass of users, created a perfect market.
I’m not sure exactly what event these company equate to ‘birth’ (the idea? the site launch? the first transaction? the incorporation?), but I thought it was interesting that they both celebrate their origins during the same week. What is it about the first week of September that spawns innovation?