Tuesday, December 01, 2009

The Twilight Phenomenon

I know that the chicks dig all things Twilight, and here are a couple of amazing parodies that I love that give you a feel for if you want to go see it (again) or not:



Franz Kafka International

After watching The Amazing Race on Sunday where the racers had to go through a Kafkaesque bureaucracy because they were in Prague, this made me laugh. It made me laugh even more when you realize it's somewhat similar to travel today anyway.


Prague's Franz Kafka International Named World's Most Alienating Airport

Wednesday, November 18, 2009

Taxing the Little Man

Some Democrats have proposed taxing stock trading in order to help pay for all of the ridiculous spending plans that they have (health care, the original stimulus, another stimulus) and say that somehow individuals won't notice it because "...it’s very small, likely 0.25 percent of each trade." That warms the cockles of my heart...it's small, so I won't notice it!" While on my individual trades I may not notice, I will start seeing it when it hits the mutual funds in my 401(k) and when it hits the broader market and all my stocks go down as a result. Why is it a good idea for the government to get a piece of every transaction whether it's a gain or a loss on top of the extra 15% they take for every gain you have?

Tuesday, October 27, 2009

Monday, October 26, 2009

Another Reason Keith Olbermann Should Have Stuck with ESPN

If there is another person out there who drives the discussion into the gutter more than Olbermann, I'd like to know who they are. Any time that you label someone who makes a comparison that may be slightly out of bounds (at least in your opinion) as "one of the worst people in the world" perhaps you should toss yourself up there on the screen as well. On top of that, it takes a certain amount of hubris to lecture a former Supreme Court candidate on law when you yourself are a former sportscaster and current full-time blowhard. How could this have been different if, instead of doing a drive by defaming, Olbermann actually asked Elder Oaks for an interview where he could have had a civil conversation? Oh, that's right. Oaks would have been seen as the rational one, which would have completely ruined Olbermann's point. Take a look at Elder Oaks' clarifying comments below the MSNBC video:

Monday, October 19, 2009

Ladies and Gentlemen, the LA Convention Center!

I was in LA last week for a convention (no, not Adultcon - that was 2 weeks ago) and in my travels around the convention center, I came across some bathrooms that looked like I had walked through a portal to the third world.  Take a look below - a stainless steel trough urinal.  I couldn't believe it!  Here's one more sign that California is bankrupt.


Also, just for Logan, here's the carpet:

Friday, October 02, 2009

Good Hilton, Good!

Wow, that was fast! I sent that to TripAdvisor, faxed it to the hotel, and got a call 15 min later from them. They replaced some people in the management team and seem like they really care. The current manager on duty, Jef, apologized profusely, asked for some more detail, said he'd refund my stay, offered to throw in some HHonors points, and is getting me a night in their penthouse suite to give them another try. That right there is amazing customer service! It's so opposite what I had back in May and June that I'm getting whiplash. I'll make sure to spread the word on how things go from here, because service like that deserves to be recognized.

Bad Hilton, Bad!

Here's a complaint letter I just sent to the SLC Airport Hilton. It was by far the worst hotel my wife and I stayed at on our recent trip to Europe.


To the Manager on Duty:
I've tried several times to contact you regarding this experience to no avail. As a result, I have posted this (1*) review on Trip Advisor to let others know my experience and hopefully steer them away from your property:
"My wife and I checked in here the night before an early trip to Europe. We checked in and were given breakfast vouchers. Our room was at the end of a hall in need of some freshening up, but our room was nice and clean. The pool area was nice and clean as well. So far so good. We went to bed, but at about midnight I woke up because the A/C wasn't working properly. I turned it down as low as it would go in an attempt to cool down the room. I didn't try the front desk as my wife was still asleep next to me. We got up at 4 am for our flight and found that there was no hot water. We called the front desk and were told that "that might happen, but it should be fixed in an hour." That wasn't terribly helpful because we had a 6 am flight. We quickly showered, went down to check out, and I talked with the person at the front desk about reducing our rate because of the A/C issue and the shower issue. He told me that he couldn't do that, but to call back when the manager was in. He gave me the manager's name and number. When I arrived in Minneapolis for my layover, I called and the manager wasn't there because it was Memorial Day. I left a message with my contact information and waited for a response. I spent the next week in Europe and called again when I got back. I again got his voicemail, again left my complaint and contact information and what I felt was an appropriate remuneration, and again got no response. I sent an email with the gist of my complaint. Again, no response. This Hilton will not be getting my business again. I am a Hilton Diamond VIP, so I would hate to see the treatment that anybody else gets when top tier elites don't get the time of day from the manager.
BEST: The pool area, free breakfast (assuming we had been around when the restaurant opened)
WORST: Unempowered staff, management who doesn't respond to complaints, no A/C, cold showers."
Is there something that you could do to change this? Yes there is! I would be happy to amend my review to reflect any sort of effort on your part to win back my business. I don't expect something for nothing and know that ultimately you want people to stay in your beds. As a result, I would propose a combination of the following:
• An apology.
• A room refund. Because this occurred 6 months ago now, I would propose a gesture of 25,000 HHonors points - the equivalent of a one night award at your property.
• Free night at the hotel to win back my business (this is merely to change my opinion, if things were different this time, I would be happy to reverse my thoughts publicly).
Sincerely,

Saturday, September 26, 2009

Slight Change

One thing that I've noticed is that when I don't have time to blog because I'm working 16 hour days (pretty much the past month), I do have time to send tweets because I don't have to flesh out the thought. As such, I've got a Twitter gadget over on the side now that will give you that feed as well. Enjoy!

Friday, September 18, 2009

Friday, September 11, 2009

Hitler is an OU Fan

While there are a lot of these Hitler raging parodies out there, here's one I saw over at the Provonian and thought I'd pass along. Good stuff for the Cougar faithful out there. Was this win as big as Miami in 1990? Hard to say, but I just hope we don't blow it against somebody a la our Oregon game just a few weeks later.

Friday, August 28, 2009

Having a British Baby: One Mother's Story

I know that this is terrible form, but Ryan will be okay with it. He and his wife moved to the UK a while back and you can read his thoughts back at the original post. His wife's comments were copied and pasted from her blog, so we're now 3 removed. Nevertheless, here's what the future could look like in the US. Maybe not, but see what you think:


Often when I heard hard luck cases or anecdotal experience I chalked it up as just that. I even wrote on this blog in the past about some of my colleagues negative experiences. Rather than recount my own views of the birth, I thought I'd just share with you what my wife posted on her blog. Sorry, but it is going to be long.

- At prenatal checks they never weigh you. I had to request to check my weight a couple times just because I was curious. So I don't even know how much weight I put on this pregnancy!

- Most women never see an OB/GYN - you are seen by the community midwives for all your checkups. You would only have an OB if you are an at-risk pregnancy or would be having a scheduled c-section.

- They don't check dilation/effacement until you are in active labor; leaving you with no clue when the baby may come!

- The prenatal checkup schedule is much less frequent than in the US. Even at the end of pregnancy you only see the midwife every-other week.

- When I had my glucose tolerance test they have you buy your own "gatorade" and bring it to the lab to drink for the test.

- They asked me if I'd like to have a home birth, and they're actually pretty common here. I said "NO" - I'd much rather have all the equipment and help that a hospital has...oh, and I don't want to have to buy a new bed after delivering the baby in it!

- I don't think I saw any computers in the hospital while I was there. I am so used to seeing a computer with monitors in every labor room, plus several at the nurses' station for charting. Everything is charted on these little blue notes that you carry around with you during your pregnancy and while you are at the hospital.

- While in labor, they don't have monitors to check the baby's heart rate or your contractions. The midwife would occasionally put a doppler on my tummy to listen to the baby's heartbeat, but nothing continuous, and as I said before, no computer read-out or printed reading.

- The doctor on the delivery unit placed my IV for my antibiotics - and totally missed the first time - badly! I still have an ugly, huge bruise. Good thing I was in labor so the pain was minor in comparison!

- The bed I was in for delivery had no pillows, the left stirrup was broken, and it took 2 midwives the better part of 5 minutes to figure out how to put the bed together. Maybe they should not use that room next time!!

- They offer Nitrous Oxide as a method of pain relief. I used some while I was being stitched up and I really think it was just oxygen. It did NOTHING! The only benefit was that you suck it out of this plastic mouthpiece, so I was able to bite on that while the doctor (same one who botched my arm!) was taking his sweet time with the stitching - oh, and not numbing me up properly. He kept saying "This would be a lot better if you had an epidural" - um yeah! You're telling me!! As you can see, I was not impressed with this doctor...maybe it's a good thing I didn't get an epidural...if he was administering it I may be paralyzed!

- My midwife Tina was amazing. She was so kind and really helped me to calm down while experiencing my very quick, unexpected, natural delivery. There was no "team" of doctors and nurses in the room when Ellie was born like in the US - just Tina and Ryan. It's a good thing Ryan wanted to cut the umbilical cord, because if he didn't do it I don't think there would have been enough hands to manage it all!

- They don't give you a hospital gown! You are told to "bring your own clothes to deliver in". Minutes before Ellie was born I finally took my pants off and my new baby was placed on the very shirt I wore into the hospital. Afterwards you just wear your own clothes or a nightgown. I'm a pj pants girl, so I had to go out and buy a nightgown especially for the occasion.

- I wasn't stitched up after the delivery for what seemed like a very long time (long enough to call both our families) - I was telling the midwives that it must not be too bad a tear or I would be losing a lot of blood!

- Babies aren't measured for length. I asked why and was told that "length doesn't matter" so they don't do it. Everything has to be very cost-effective in a national healthcare setting; length doesn't have any particular health implications, so they don't check it.

- You can leave the hospital any time you want after delivery (as long as everything checks out okay). I had a roommate (yes, a roommate - more of that to come) who delivered a baby at 4am and was gone before noon.

- There is no baby nursery, which means they don't bathe the baby after the birth, and don't keep them in there while you sleep. You have to keep your baby with you 24/7 - if you go into the bathroom you just wheel your baby along with you.

- They don't give you any diapers, wipes, onesies, or pads in the hospital - bring your own!

- I was lucky to snag 1 of 2 private rooms in the "mother/baby" unit (someone tipped us off beforehand that we could at least try and ask for one), but sadly was moved that first night because someone needed the room more. My new room was a big room that can hold SIX moms and their babies, only divided by curtains, with the bathroom down the hall. Luckily, there was no one else in there when I first came in, and at most there were 3 of us - but still slightly uncomfortable nonetheless. No privacy, and I felt badly when Ellie would cry knowing that she was probably waking up someone else's baby. Utah Valley hospital is like a hotel compared to the hospital here!

- When you come home from the hospital, midwives come to your house to check up on you and the baby 1 day, 5 days, and 10 days later. They see how everything is going, how you are healing, weigh the baby, and answer any questions. I LOVE this! It's very reassuring to be able to ask questions and make sure you are doing things right; I think I question myself more this time around because I'm always comparing the 2 kids.

Planned Obsolecense

One of my passions is photography, and as such I go to a few sites to get information on how I can improve.  My favorite is Scott Kelby's site.  He had a contest recently where people could submit their best sports shots and get a chance to shoot on the sidelines of a Florida State Seminoles football game with one of his colleagues.  The winner won, life was good, and then professional photographers decided that having him on the sidelines was wrong.  My question is why the outcry (and there has been a lot...check out some of the posts here and here), anger, and vitriol slung at the contest winner and sponsors.  They did something nice for somebody, regardless of the reason and all you can do is denigrate them and what they do to make you feel better.  I wish that they had been more constructive with their criticisms, because they might have had valid points.  The problem here is that they've walked into a gunfight with a knife.  Kelby's stuff is far more widely read than this group of photographers are (although perhaps they're more seen) and as a result, he can level them in one blog post and that makes them look like a bunch of whiny, spoiled dinosaurs who are trying to protect their turf rather than innovate.  You could call that breed of sports photographers GM - instead of innovating against Toyota, they circled the wagons and didn't listen to what people were saying.  They went from over 70% market share to under 30% in 40 years and if these photographers don't watch out, they'll do the same.  If they want to be replaced by amateurs with D90s, all they have to do is keep their heads in the sand instead of innovate.

Wednesday, August 26, 2009

Been A While

It's been a while since I've posted. Allow me to list some excuses:

I was captured by Jack Bauer
I'm cold and there were wolves after me
Lazy
Busy
Busily lazy

I could go on, but won't. I do have a big health care post that I'd like to get up sometime soon, but it's a complicated issue, and thus a complicated post.

Wednesday, August 12, 2009

Spoilers Gone Wild XXI

Here's a CRX with a touring wing that looks more at home on a Boeing 747 than on the CRX this guy was trying to pimp out.

Wednesday, August 05, 2009

Travels to the Land of Obama

I say the land of Obama because Hawaii has claimed him as only Illinois should.  Nevertheless, I went with the family and we had a smashing time.  The kids were great, which furthers my hypothesis from earlier trips with them that kids are resilient travelers.  A 6 hour flight and 4 hour time change?  No problem!  An overnight flight?  That's easy!  It's shockingly amazing.  At any rate, on to some photos
My son is imprisoned on our lanai.  He wanted to go to the beach until he actually saw the ocean.  Then he wanted nothing to do with it.
 
My son thought pineapples weren't people, or something like that.
Who'd have guessed they would have a Japanese temple on Oahu?  They do, and it's got koi fish and everything.  It's kind of like Tokyo Disneyland, only without the rides and mice.
My daughter at the temple.  She loved playing around here for a bit.
My ever determined son.  I think this is the only picture where I got his whole face because he's usually hauling along ahead of everyone else.



The kids at the aquarium.  I've found that kids are great photography subjects, as long as you are really quick on your shutter button.

Wednesday, July 29, 2009

The Speed of Trust

I've been reading Stephen M R Covey's book The Speed of Trust recently, and the one thing you need to know from it is that if you operate your business or your life without trust, you're paying a lot more than if you had trust.  Obviously, it's about 300 pages more than that, but that's the really, really small capsule.
When thinking about the astronomical costs in 2 key areas, this becomes plainly obvious.  First and worst is government.  We've heard of the expensive hammers and everything else, but if there's one area where we could really use trust, it's in the government.  Let's face it, every single regulation and law comes back to somebody not trusting somebody else.  We spend trillions of dollars in every area of government because of it, and it's only gotten worse over time.  For example, the B-29 bomber cost $7.3 million per unit in today's dollars ($600K in 1944), whereas the F-22 fighter costs $143 million per aircraft today.  I realize that there's a lot more technology that goes into the F-22 than went into the B-29, but the relative technological innovation in each is not nearly as much.  As a result, you could argue that we could be paying $100 million in trust penalty.  This takes the form of all the regulations that Lockheed had to follow on the project, combined with the constantly changing project requirements, number of aircraft ordered, and so on.  If all of that was stripped away and a) the government trusted Lockheed to deliver a product at a reasonable cost that would do everything they wanted and b) Lockheed trusted the government to not try and change the terms once they started business (and thus pad things up front to ensure they don't lose their shirts), think of what that would do in just that one area.  We're ordering 240 or so F-22s, so that's $2 billion in actual savings there.  If that went across the entire government, I'd guess that the $1 trillion deficit we're facing could be replaced with an actual balanced budget.
Another area where this is obvious is in healthcare.  The entire system is set up without trust - malpractice insurance, extra tests, denial staff, and so on.  Meanwhile, our healthcare costs are exploding and it seems like there's nothing we can do to stop it.  If we started by extending just a little trust that the doctors and medical professionals actually care about how they are doing and aren't just out to get us and our money, perhaps we could start changing the tone.  While cutting off the wrong limb is really, really a bad mistake, I tend to think that the doctor didn't try to do it - not that it makes things any better, and some compensation would be in order, but certainly not something that punishes them so severely that their malpractice insurance skyrockets and runs him out of business or causes everyone else to pay more.

Tuesday, July 14, 2009

Department of Obvious

I got this bag of peanuts on a recent flight and my wife pointed out the list of ingredients and the allergy notice.  You can see that there are peanuts and salt in this bag, but what I'll bet you couldn't see from the fact that this bag is a bag of peanuts...they are "produced in a facility that processes peanuts..."  Wow, that's incredibly helpful there.

Brush with Greatness

While I wasn't namechecked by Bill Simmons, I got mentioned in yesterday's BS Report with a question on Twitter to Simmons' friend Jack-O.  It was at the 46:52 mark in the podcast about Joba Chamberlain looking like Chien Ming-Wang.  I don't know quite what to think, other than that's the first time I've had a question answered in such a large forum.  On one hand, it's not a big deal because it's kind of like meeting a Senator or something.  Ultimately, Simmons is just a regular guy who is very talented at writing and is, dare I say, this generation's Peter Gammons or Rick Reilly.  Nevertheless, it's kind of cool to have your comment be noticed among the many, many comments that they get.  Take a listen, see what they think, and add your thoughts, if you're so inclined!

Thursday, July 09, 2009

The Jazz, Millsap, and You

I've been following the ongoing Utah Jazz salary cap dilemma for a while now, and it's a wild and crazy soap opera.  Here we have Boozer, Memo, Harpring & Korver with expiring contracts, Millsap looking for a boatload of money, and AK with a near-untradeable contract.  What's an owner to do?  First, let's look at the facts:
Fact: Boozer is a better player than Millsap.  That's not to say that he puts as much effort into his game, especially on the defensive end, but the point remains that he is an all star. 
Fact: AK's contract was an act of sheer stupidity that didn't seem like it at the time.  AK seemed to be the future of the franchise, and locking him up made sense.  At the same time, once we signed Boozer and Okur, we should have looked at trading AK.  Now it's impossible because he's not nearly as valuable as he was, but Boozer came in to essentially take AK's position. 
Fact: Millsap wants too much money.  While Anderson Varejao just got way too much tossed at him by Cleveland yesterday, I can't imagine paying that to Millsap.  Yes, he's a hard worker.  Yes, he's a fan favorite.  At the same time, will he ever be a perennial all star?  I don't know that he will.  He's a good piece for a contending team, but he's never going to be the go-to guy a la Karl Malone.
Fact: Harpring's contract is an albatross.  I like Harpring.  He's tough, he's another workmanlike player, but at $6 million this year for the condition he's in, he's not worth it.  His expiring deal might be a valuable chip in a trade though.
Faced with these facts, I think we ought to do a couple of things.  One, if Millsap does head for Portland for the rumored price (5 years/$50 million or so), we let him go.  He's just not worth that amount of money, especially when he'd still be a bench player behind LaMarcus Alldridge in Portland.  If he's got a reasonable salary (around 5 years/$35 million), we match.  Then we work a trade like what Bill Simmons proposed on twitter...a 4-way with Utah, Detroit, LA Clippers, and Dallas where we get Josh Howard for Boozer and parts.  If we could send AK out for an expiring contract, maybe we do that too.  If we could trade Harpring's $6 million into an MLE style player as well, I would love to see that.  I think a little of this, a little of that, and we could end up with a very good team next year.  Again though, the last thing I would do is bring back Millsap as a bench guy.  Ultimately, that's not what he wants, his protestations to the contrary.

Wednesday, July 08, 2009

Spoilers Gone Wild XX

Zuke at Stolen Droids came across this the other day but wasn't able to get a picture.  He did send me a link to a stock photo of it though, so I'm putting it up.  I think this is the most extraneous and useless spoiler yet.  While the others didn't do much of anything, at least they didn't help to cripple the functionality of your vehicle.  This, on the other hand, helps make your truck bed be at least 50% more annoying to get something in to, if not 50% less useful overall.

Thursday, July 02, 2009

Bailout for Construction

If the interpretation that Adam over at Time To Keep Score has of the cap and trade bill is accurate (and to be honest, I can totally see that happening), the market for secondary homes could well dry up.  In order to sell a home, especially older homes, you might have to get it up to a certain level or pay huge fines for being such an eco-unfriendly consumer.  Imagine what a boon this is to the HVAC industry as they would suddenly have a whole host of people trying to trade out their heating and air conditioning for models that are officially "good for the environment."  Add the additional taxes (either via an outright tax or through increased costs of goods to cover companies' costs) we'd certainly have to pay in order to cover the bill that the government would send out for this, and we can expect to have less money a year from this bill's passage than we do now. 
While I think about that, why do we have to buy these credits from the government?  Since when did they take over ownership of our lungs, or the air over the US, or whatever this is supposed to protect?

Tuesday, June 30, 2009

Why We Should Let Millsap Go

I really like Paul Millsap...I really, really like Millsap.  He's a solid player, he's an incredible worker, and he has a great nose for the ball.  At the same time, with the reports all saying that his agent is looking for David Lee money (approximately $50 million for 5 years), I'm all for saying goodbye to him.  That is a contract that is a mistake on so many levels.  AK-47's contract would look downright livable in comparison (okay, that's inaccurate...his contract is an albatross that I would love to get rid of, even if we ship him and the 2010 #1 from the Knicks to the Cavs for Shaq).  The bottom line is that there was some level of tension once Boozer and Millsap were back and healthy that I think negatively impacted the team over the home stretch.  It shouldn't have, but there was definitely a level of Alpha-dogism that went into our collapse.  You aren't going to pay someone that kind of money to sit on your bench.  I know he's a great worker, but even if he wasn't just sitting on the bench splitting time with Booze, I still couldn't pay that.  I think he's a bargain for mid-level exception money, but when he's looking for superstar level money (especially with half the league looking for any way to save money), he's extremely overpriced.  The Pistons or the Grizzlies might take a chance on him, and they might make a great choice.  At the same time, a lot of people thought the same thing about Andrei Kirelinko a few years ago and now he's one of the most untradable people in the NBA who aren't on the Houston Rockets.

Tales from IT

I can always tell when Microsoft releases a patch that restarts computers because I get a slew of calls about people's computers not working.  This morning, for instance, I got one from someone who said that.  I asked her if her power was on.  She said she didn't know, so I asked her to push the power button on her tower.  She told me that she kept pushing it and it just went from black to orange but wouldn't turn on.  It was at that moment I knew that she wasn't pushing the power button on her tower like she said she was...instead, she was pushing the power button on her monitor.  Suffice it to say, once she pushed the right power button, it turned right on.

While we're at it, a lot of people complained they weren't getting email.  Upon closer examination, it's because the person they weren't getting email from wasn't sending them email.  So that's 15 complaints resolved in one fell swoop.

Wednesday, June 24, 2009

Here's Your Plate III

Take a look at this license plate and see if you can tell me what it's supposed to be.  If you can't see, it's BMR4KER.  My first thought was "Bum raker?  What's a bum raker?"  It could be "Bimmer for Ker" maybe if the e is given an "a" sound, that might work, as long as the owner is someone like Kerry.

Monday, June 22, 2009

Spoilers Gone Wild XIX

 
Here we have an early-90s Honda Prelude with a wicked double spoiler.  Unfortunately the awesomeness of the spoiler is not commensurate with the awesomeness of the car.

Medicall

I propose that new proposed universal health care that the US is going to try to adopt should be called Medicall because we'll all be getting it.  Besides that random point though is that Medicall doesn't make a whole lot of sense.  "By spending this money, we're going to be saving money!"  I suppose that if you buy a couple of candy bars now, you won't have to buy a cheeseburger in an hour, but that doesn't mean you'll be saving it.  With the unfunded Medicare benefit currently projecting at around $50 trillion, adding a lot of people to the rolls seems like the opposite of what we should be doing.  Dan Henninger had a great article about it in today's WSJ:

Whatever Medicaid's merits, this federal health-care program more than any other factor has put California and New York on the brink of fiscal catastrophe. I'd even call it scary.
Spending on health and welfare, largely under Medicaid, makes up one-third of California's budget of some $100 billion. In New York Gov. David Paterson's budget message, he notes that "New York spends more per capital ($2,283) on Medicaid than any other state in the country."
After 45 years, the health-care reform called Medicaid has crushed state budgets. A study by the National Governors Association said a decade ago that because of "new requirements" imposed by federal law -- meaning Congress -- "Medicaid has evolved into a program whose size, cost and significance are far beyond the original vision of its creators."
That being said, it does look like we're stepping back from it a little bit, but let's face it: this is no solution.  Until we get people to be more responsible for their own health, either through moving everybody's insurance to Geico (i.e. auto-insurance style where you pay higher and do it individually) or through a complete revamp of the whole third-party payer system, we're never going to start saving money on medical expenses.

Thursday, June 18, 2009

The Insanity that is Paris Traffic


(move to around 6:30 in the video for the pertinent clip)
So I drove in Paris on my recent trip to Europe, and it's some of the craziest stuff I've ever seen.  What's crazier than anything else though is the traffic circle around the Arc de Triomphe.  Let me give you a little bit of a feel for it.  We came into the city on a road with 4 lanes of traffic going each direction.  Once you pass the Arc, it turns into the Champs Elysses.  This road intersects with 3 other major roads of at least 2 lanes each direction at the Arc, creating an absolute mess.  There are no "lanes" inside the circle, it's just one continuous stretch of asphalt.  As a result of this brilliant city planning, I had driven into a situation the likes of which I may never see again.  It was like the wild west of vehicular travel.  I tried to go around to my street in an orderly fashion, going around the outside of the circle.  While I was doing so, I had to dodge cars that would beeline from their respective roads into somewhere around the center of the circle, make a tight turn around the Arc, then beeline right back out.  There weren't rights of way, there weren't any rules, it was just every man for themselves in a massive free-for-all.  My wife was laughing at the insanity the whole time as I just tried to avoid getting hit.  We made it out alive, and I think there has to be a better way to do it.
For example, in many intersections in Paris there's a through traffic tunnel and local traffic split-offs.  Why not at least put the Champs Elysses right under the Arc?  You can route some traffic onto the circle, but a good part of that traffic is going straight.  Punch it into a tunnel that doesn't have to go through the circle.  You could even make it a standard intersection with the streets that are perpendicular to it.  Have a standard intersection below it and you could probably eliminate 30-40% of the traffic that is overloading the Arc's traffic circle.  Then it might not be such a madhouse. 

Wednesday, June 17, 2009

The Power of the Influencers

Engadget just reported that AT&T caved in to pressure, either real or perceived, from iPhone customers and has opened the upgrade window for those who are upgrade-eligible to the new iPhone 3G S (including yours truly) to tomorrow.  Now I can sign up for some more Apple-y goodness and AT&T keeps me more than happy.  There has been some whinging that it's just for these Apple fanboys and their patron saint, St. Steve, but I think this is a shrewd move.  People aren't used to having to wait for anything other than the masses to get their Apple products, and there was an undercurrent of "AT&T is awful" at WWDC.  Because of that, for AT&T to offer a mea culpa and give Apple's loyal (and vocal) customers a bone is a big thing for them.  I'm sure it will help when it's time to renew their contract with Apple and keep the exclusivity that is really a no-brainer for both parties until LTE comes out and Verizon moves over (because there's no way Apple will build a niche product like a 1xRTT iPhone when so few cell customers use it).  Maybe it will help people be a little less critical of AT&T (I know that's their hope), and I know that that's the case with me.  They've been about as good as I can expect, and I certainly wouldn't jump ship to Verizon unless they got iPhone exclusivity and I couldn't unlock that bad boy.

Friday, June 12, 2009

Will Someone Please Think About the Vegetables!

I was recently at the Hilton Arc de Triomphe in Paris having a nice leisurely breakfast when i came across this on the buffet line.  That's right, raped carots.  I don't know how they were raped, but I know that it wasn't worth tasting them to find out!

Thursday, June 11, 2009

We've Got Power Here

Another IT tale of wont and woe...I had someone come in a few weeks ago and tell me that their computer was just a black screen.  I said we'd had a power outage before they got in, so they'd need to make sure they turn their computer and monitor back on.  They said that they'd done that already.  I was in a meeting but told them I'd be there in a few minutes.  Before I was able to get to it, one of my colleagues did.  This person said they'd pushed the power button and demonstrated it to the person who was helping them.  It turns out that the "power button" they had pushed was the button to eject the CD-ROM drive.

Tuesday, June 09, 2009

Ladies and Gentlemen, Our Marketer!

Here's a gem from our marketer.  We're considering getting a new logo and the head of marketing just said "it doesn't matter what our logo is because we're not a national company."  Yup, he's our marketer!

Another Revelation

I'm back from a massive Europe trip, so I've been quiet for a time.  I came back and found that Adam Lambert is gay in some great investigative reporting by Rolling Stone.  Wow.  I don't think anybody thought that someone with a Steve Perry-esque voice and the flair of Carol Channing was straight, as Adam himself said.  Another amazing piece of journalism along the lines of my previously posted People revelation:

Wednesday, May 20, 2009

This Ad Doesn't Work for Black People, or White People

If memory serves me correctly, Holmes was in North Carolina at one point.  Perhaps he can explain why Red House Furniture thought this was a good ad:

The End of the V-8

 
The government has decided to mandate a fuel economy increase of 40% by 2016.  While this is feasible, it's going to rapidly change what we are able to buy.  The revived Camaro, Mustang, and Challenger are going to have to trim down, while we completely reverse the horsepower trend we saw throughout the 90s.  My 298 hp V-6 G-35 will not survive, nor will any of the high performance vehicles from BMW, Mercedes, Lexus, and Infiniti.  Here's what I see happening:
The first thing that carmakers will do is decrease the engine size in cars.  That's a cheap and easy way to increase fuel economy, even though it negatively impacts consumers.  We won't be able to buy a BMW 335i anymore, instead we'll see a return to the BMW 318i, which would almost halve the size of the engine.  Likewise, all of the performance cars will lose some weight and lose a lot of engine.  Because engine size is a very good match to fuel burn, we'll have to see a lot more 4-cylendar engines replacing the V-6s and V-8s that we've been used to.
We could see an uptick in sales as cars are redesigned.  If I want an M3, I'd better buy it immediately, because it's not going to be nearly the car it is now in 5 years.  We'll see a decrease in vehicle size as fewer land yacht-sedans like the Grand Marquis and Cadillac DTS are produced.  We'll also see cars get more expensive as car companies use exotic materials like aluminum, titanium, and carbon fiber to keep their mandated rigidity and safety but lose weight so that their engines don't have to work as hard to move the car forward.  We'll also see gas prices stay relatively low because gas demand will decrease.  That's not to say that we won't see spikes here and there, but we won't see a super spike that then stays high.  We will also see a lot of modern classics, just like we had at the end of the 70s.  These modern day muscle cars will be loved and revered for generations to come.  We may also see the return of the Citation, which would be just amazing.

Friday, May 15, 2009

E-Mail for Dummies

Something quick that isn't worth exposition, but I just had somebody come in and tell me that they can't send an email to somebody else in the office. Well, first she asked how to set up her address book. By this she meant "how can this happen without me doing anything." I said I didn't know where a group address book was that she could pull, but she could always hand enter it, like I have. She then said she couldn't send someone else the email. I told her that she could just create a new email and type in his address. This was a revelation to her.

Yup, these are my coworkers.

Wednesday, May 13, 2009

Risque Wednesday

If you're easily offended, you might want to skip this post, but Justin Timberlake and Andy Samberg captured oh-so-wrong in a bottle again and made it hilarious this past weekend.  The title of the Hulu clip alone should tell you if you want to stay away...I will say it's incredibly catchy, which is what I love the most about it.

Friday, May 08, 2009

Looking for Complaints

I have somebody who I've provided some tech support for today and they said that they haven't been able to print for a month.  A month.  They're all frustrated about it, but it's the first time they've come and talked to the IT department about it.  If you've gone without printing for a month, there's really only two reasons: you want something to be angry about or you don't need it.  The last thing you should do is go without it that long then come and be mad that it's been that long.

Tuesday, May 05, 2009

Gird Your Loins

"Mark my words.  It will not be six months before the world tests Barack Obama like they did John Kennedy. The world is looking. We're about to elect a brilliant 47-year-old senator president of the United States of America. Remember I said it standing here if you don't remember anything else I said. Watch, we're gonna have an international crisis, a generated crisis, to test the mettle of this guy."
-Joe Biden, October 19

"I would tell members of my family - and I have - I wouldn't go anywhere in confined places now. It's not going to Mexico, it's you're in a confined aircraft when one person sneezes it goes all the way through the aircraft. That's me. I would not be, at this point, if they had another way of transportation, suggesting they ride the subway. So from my perspective, what it relates to is mitigation.  If you're out in the middle of a field and someone sneezes, that's one thing. If you're in a closed aircraft or a closed container, a closed car, a closed classroom, it's a different thing."

An Inconvinient Acquaintance

I can't be the only person in the world who knows somebody who always manages to call at precisely the worst time.  If you're in the middle of hauling a hundred pounds of wheat to your basement, eating dinner, on the phone with someone else (and not one of those conversations you can interrupt), having sex, you know...doing anything that they shouldn't be calling during, and they call.  It doesn't matter the time or the day, they somehow manage to get you whenever it's inconvenient.  All I want to know is what kind of sixth sense do they possess, and how can they turn that evil into a force for good?

Wednesday, April 29, 2009

War on Pigs

So you've decided that it's time to rumble, have you pig nation?  You've unleashed your biological warfare on us with this new version of swine flu, and I have one response.  I'm going to make it my personal mission to eat as many of you as possible. 

Tuesday, April 28, 2009

Memo To The Woman in Seat 5D

You know that announcement that they make on every flight before they close the boarding door...the one that says something like "turn off your phone on this flight, it's prohibited by FAA regulations, etc, etc?"  Yeah, that announcement applies to everyone, even though Mythbusters says it's not going to crash your aircraft.  Now I understand that sometimes you forget.  That's understandable, and it happens to everyone.  The difference between everybody else and you though is that when their phone rings they look all embarassed and turn it off.  You on the other hand, let it ring loudly and THEN ANSWER THE PHONE.  This is during the final descent, and you have a 2-3 minute conversation with someone.  Even though we were on final, if I was the FA, I would have taken your phone and tossed it in the lav. 

Wednesday, April 15, 2009

15 Minutes Could Buy You Better Advertising

There are some companies that just annoy me.  For whatever reason, be it lousy customer service, allegiance to some sort of ridiculous something-or-other, or bad advertising and branding, they just grate on me.  One of these companies is Geico.  It's not that their gecko has gone from an Queen's English speaking lizard with a beef against people calling him rather than Geico to a cockney accented spokesanimal talking about just how great it is.  It's not that the cavemen are doing whatever it is that they do.  It's not even that they have a spokesman that does nothing other than sit there.  It's that they have all of the above at the same time.  It's so schizophrenic that it drives me up the wall.  It was bad enough when they just had the caveman and gecko, but it seems like someone was sitting around in their marketing department trying to justify their salary.  I can imagine the conversation with his supervisor after he spent all of a minute and a half thinking .
Marketer: Sir, I think that I've got a brilliant idea of how we can up our advertising.
Boss: Okay Jim, what is it?
M: What if we got a new spokesman?  The gecko and the caveman are a bit long in the tooth.
B: Fair point.  So we'd replace them with something new?
M: No, we'd add something and keep the others around.
B: Why would we do that?  Isn't that too many options?
M: Car insurance has lots of options, so our marketing should too!
B: Fair enough.  So what's this new mascot?
{pause as the marketer pulls out 2 small stacks of bills and a pair of googly eyes and places them triumphantly on the boss' desk}
B: BRILLIANT!!!

No, not really...anybody could do that.  I've got a DVD case, maybe I could slap some wax lips underneath it and have it become DVD man, which would help people save on their DVD purchase.  Columbia House, the offer is open if you want the idea.

Tuesday, April 14, 2009

A Secret Admirer

Here's an actual email I got today:
Hi;
my name is miss Brenda

I saw your profil today at [redacted] and it really attracted me alot,i will like to know you.please Do write back.
For more convenient ;hope you will write back.
Until then; kisses;
Miss Brenda.
This is amazing.  I love the Miss Brenda - it sounds like some sort of Hollywood madame.  The spelling is clearly top notch, as is the punctuation and capitalization.  I really think I should respond, but will Miss Brenda reply, or is it just a spambot?  Maybe my wife could answer the question.

Here's Your Plate II

 
I know this is hard to read, but trust me when I say that this license plate says SEREN T.  I can assume that they are trying to say "serenity," because that's close enough.  My guess is that SERENIT is probably taken as that's the most logical, but what about SRNI T or SRENITY?

Arr, Matey

I love that somebody finally stood up to the pirates in Somalia.  First, the crew took back control of their ship, and then the US Navy used SEAL sharpshooters to kill the remaining pirates when it looked like they were going to kill the captain of the Maersk Alabama.  There are two reasons that piracy is suddenly all the vogue in the Horn of Africa.  One is that massive amounts of cargo and oil go through the Suez Canal and the Gulf of Aden is a natural chokepoint.  The second is that resistance is light and rewards are big.  In exchange for holding people, they got a payoff from the companies who's cargo they were holding.  That's a pretty sweet deal.
Now things have just been taken up a notch.  While pirates have said that they would perhaps start killing crew, everybody's asking the US Navy for help.  Rather than the Navy, the shipping companies should help themselves.  The first step would be to actually arm a ship.  A good first step is a small arms locker with assault rifles and the like combined with training for the crews.  A better move, in my opinion, would be to forgoe half measures like that.  The pirates would still be able to outgun the crew of a vessel, and that would just lead to a lot of killing on the high seas.  Instead, because there are 2 locations where piracy is a big issue - the Gulf of Aden and Indonesia, I would contract with a PMC (i.e. mercenaries like Blackwater) to provide security on board in those areas.  It would be a short term issue where you could airlift some personnel to the deck and then back off.  This way you don't have to pay for them to be onboard when they aren't needed.  In conjunction with this would be some serious security measures - vulcan cannons, surface to surface missiles (or RPGs - nothing too big), and other heavy arms to force the pirates to either give up piracy, look for softer targets, or spend the money to buy more serious weapons.  I think you might find some who get in an arms race, but the majority couldn't outspend a corporation and after some serious losses, you might find piracy dying back down again.  I don't know why they haven't done this yet, but it's the most immediate solution I can think of that should solve the problem (at least for that shipping company).

Tuesday, April 07, 2009

Here's Your Plate

Here's the first in a sporadic series of moronic license plates.  This one is SN8KBYT - I can only assume it's supposed to be "snakebite", or perhaps they're internet savvy, so it's snake byte.  Nevertheless, it comes out as sneightkbite.  What about, SNKEBYT or SNAKBYT or SNEKBYT?  They're still a little off, but not like sneightkbite.

Thursday, April 02, 2009

Spoilers Gone Wild XVI, XVII, and XVIII

The spoiler up top seems to be indicative of your typical Subaru WRX...big and doubled.  The Hyundai's isn't especially egregious, except that it's on a Hyundai.  Finally, I love the ghettoness and placement of the spoiler on the Celica.  Awesomely white trash on so many levels.

Monday, March 23, 2009

Name of the Year

If you're a fan of completely mental names, and I know you are, head on over to the Name of the Year contest.  It's the only form of March Madness that can actually be controlled by you.  From Moonlit Wang to Crystal Methany, 64 of the most deserving actual names of actual people are here for you to pit in a battle royale against each other.  May the most deserving completely mental name win!

Friday, March 20, 2009

Wow. Just Wow.

I've done a fair amount of travel in my time, not as much as a lot of people, but a fair amount.  I've even been to Italy and experienced the ridiculousness of Rome's airport (for example, you go through security, then you go through it again to get to a satellite terminal.  If, when you get there, you find out that there is no food or shopping, you can always go back to the main terminal...and go back through security), but this is absolutely insane.  I can say one thing with 100% confidence: after hearing this story, it would take nothing short of an act of God to get me to fly Alitalia.  That includes flights on Delta, AirFrance, et al that are codeshares on Alitalia aircraft.  Of course, if Delta gifted me some insane amount of miles (I'm thinking north of 100,000) I might do it, but I don't know that I would for a free flight.  Let me excerpt just a few of the myriad misfortunes he had:
...I had no idea, though, that I had purchased my ticket from the worst airline company in the world – Italy’s national carrier Alitalia – and that a two-hour layover in Rome would turn into an ordeal that lasted longer than a week...
...Our flight was delayed again another three hours, and the man and woman and the flight counter put on their coats and walked away...
...So what did he do? He put on his coat and walked off the job. Hundreds of furious paying passengers booed and hissed as he left...
...She looked at me, then looked away without even acknowledging that I had said anything...
...She nodded, appeared slightly embarrassed, and walked away without saying a word...
...Suddenly the man who was processing our tickets stood up, put on his coat, and walked off the job, without handing us boarding passes and without saying a word...
I don't want to excerpt too much because it's really a story that should be read in its entirety.  Afterwards you'll feel significantly better about the relative competence of US airlines, despite all the ridiculous fees and occasional delays you face.  At the end of the day, at least they will get you from point A to point B and/or compensate you for your inconvenience.

Slip of the tongue

I was talking with one of my political friends today and she was talking about the latest economic proposals and she said "with the latest proposals from Obamanous..." which got me wondering why that hadn't caught on yet.
It's a nice play on words, even though I really hope that he can turn it around. His current poliies don't give me a lot of hope, but it would be good for everyone if be succeeded.

Wednesday, March 18, 2009

Presidential Fluffery

I still think that we should give President Obama the benefit of the doubt in general, but he is making it hard.  From his relatively inept (shall we say Bushian) handling of the stimulus bill and bailout to his righteous furor over what Wall Street is doing and kowtowing to labor unions, he's not looking like an FDR or Reagan at this point in time.  That could change of course, but who knows what the next several years will bring. 
One thing I do know is that the President isn't too busy to sit down with ESPN and dissect his bracket.  By all means, be angry about what AIG is giving its employees with some of the bailout money you provided, but if you are going to employ your bully pulpet in that manner, you might want to pull the beam from your eye first.  Mr. Obama's supposed to be making sure that the taxpayer doesn't get shafted from the trillions in bailout money flowing through the system, so it seems like a better use of that interview with ESPN might have been to get on the horn with James Dimon or somebody from Treasury and figure out what's going on today. 
I agree completely that he should be able to relax and enjoy himself, but he's doing precisely what AIG is doing - being an idiot about the use of his time.  He opens himself up to a whole host of attacks because in this time of want and woe, the last thing the American people want to see is a Commander in Chief who is rolling up his sleeves...to fill out his NCAA bracket.  By all means, fill it out, have fun, enjoy yourself - but don't do it in public while unemployment is worse than it's been in over a decade. 

Tuesday, March 10, 2009

JJ Abrams' Star Trek

Have you seen the latest Star Trek trailer?  I thought that it looked good before, but not necessarily a top tier movie for the summer (like Wolverine, Transformers, and Terminator), but this trailer [dramatic pause] changes everything.  I don't know if it's the music, the scenes, or what, but this vaults Star Trek right to the top of my must see movie list for the summer.  Abrams has a pretty good track record on the whole, and while I'm one of the 5 people on the planet not into Lost, I hope to catch up one of these days.  Take a gander:

Friday, March 06, 2009

It Depends

The Salt Lake Tribune had a great article today about a man who goes around the greater Salt Lake County area dropping his pants to show children his Elmo diaper.  This isn't a joke - take a look at the article here
It's not illegal, or he'd be arrested, but I would say that it's completely mental.  Has anybody experienced this before?

Thursday, March 05, 2009

Saving the Market from Itself

I am not someone who presumes to be smart enough to know how to fix the absolute disaster that is our economy.  I know a thing or two about investing, I know more than that about how to live well within your means.  At the same time, this sounds like great advice, (from The Market Ticker) in a very easy to understand analogy:

I buy a CDS [credit-default swap] on GE (a few weeks ago) for a couple hundred basis points ($200,000 per $10 million)
The SELLER of that CDS protects against possibly having to pay by shorting whatever he can against that short credit position.  This means he buys PUTs, he shorts the common, he does whatever he needs to in order to lay off that risk.  He does this because if GE goes bankrupt their stock would presumably go to zero; therefore, if he has a potential $10 million exposure on the CDS he will short $10 million face value of the common stock, or buy enough PUTs to pay him $10 million if the stock goes to zero.
The PUT writer (assuming he buys PUTs), being a market-maker, will in turn short the common to lay off the risk as well.
This hammers the stock price which then reflects into the pricing models for the CDS, driving them higher.
This cycle repeats; unfortunately credit rating models include market cap as one of their inputs, which causes a credit downgrade (eventually.)
That in turn adds more pressure.
This cycle is repeated until the company is destroyed.
Why is this not a problem with options and straight short sales?
Because with both straight short sales and PUT purchases the short side is required to post margin every night, and if the price goes the wrong way they get an immediate margin call and are required to buy that position back at a loss.  That in turn puts pressure UPWARDS on share price and arrests the slide.
As such the people selling short (whether stock or listed options) do not dare short in unlimited amounts, because if they get caught on the wrong side of a squeeze they are dead.
The enforcement of risk against the people betting on a bankruptcy through regulated instruments puts a natural limit on their activity and prevents an unwarranted "death spiral".
But in the CDS world there is no mark-to-market margin supervision, because there is no central counterparty supervising exposure and demanding it.
As a consequence it is only the counterparty and the written document that can demand collateral posting and usually that is either on an infrequent schedule (monthly, quarterly, annually or on an "event") or in some cases not at all provided the writer maintains some specific credit rating criteria themselves!
Without nightly margin supervision on CDS short positions these vehicles have turned into the means to launch monstrous focused attacks on specific companies; the buyer has limited risk and virtually unlimited reward.
This is exactly like me buying fire insurance on your house, and in addition I can name the amount of insurance I want to buy, even exceeding the house's value!
How nervous will you get if I buy $10 million in "fire insurance" against your $100,000 bungalow and then start stacking up gasoline cans in my driveway?
As a direct and proximate cause of this ability to distort the market it becomes possible to create self-fulfilling prophecies almost on demand, with the people doing it profiting handsomely - at the expense of American workers and otherwise-sound companies.
I heard the same kind of outcry after the initial implosion of Lehman Bros with regard to naked short selling, and I have to agree.  I know people want to insure the heck out of whatever phantom product they have, but at the expense of taking down healthy companies and the economy? 

Tuesday, March 03, 2009

How To Make a Clown Even More Creepy


I saw this over at Cafe Society's list of the 10 worst fast food commercials, and I have to agree. I've only been exposed to the current obnoxiously ketchup and mustard colored Ronald McDonald, but the garbage covered, Willard Scott acted clown makes our current version look like Brad Pitt.  If you never want to have your kids go to McDonalds, just show them this cross between a clown and Oscar the Grouch, and you should be okay.

Thursday, February 26, 2009

The Super Cool HDR Look

For those of you who couldn't give a hill of beans about photography, it might be time to move past this post, but a look that I've really liked but is so trendy I hate to do a lot with it is HDR.  What it is, in a nutshell, is when you take a range of pictures (typically 3-7) at different exposures (ex. -2/3, 0, +2/3) and then merge them in photoshop.  The person who is most identified with it is a guy named Dave Hill, and it's quite amazing stuff, but I just hate to overuse it, like any cool photographic technique that you just find out about and do it ALL THE TIME.  At any rate, I do my HDR experimentation the old fashioned way, which is to say, I take one picture and run it through Photoshop to clean it up, then I run it through a series of adjustments in a plugin called, appropriately enough, Topaz Adjust.  I've got a sample here to give you an idea.  At any rate, I've done this with a bunch of pictures from a bunch of places, just trying things out, testing, and in general fiddling around with my pictures.  Some look better than others, but one city that I think you could put in this technique on any photo taken in Vienna and it would look amazing.  I don't know why Vienna looks so good with it, but it does.

Tuesday, February 24, 2009

Reading, 'Riting, 'Rithmatic, and Recess

The New York Times had an article today about how...wait for it...recess is actually good for students.  I have seen schools tighten down ever harder on students to get them to buckle down because we're falling behind the Chinese or the Indians or the Japanese or the (insert current cultural bugaboo here).  Are our test scores comparatively bad?  Absolutely, you can't question the emperical data.  At the same time, our cultures are completely different, and ratcheting down the curriculum isn't going to change anything.  If we want to score better on tests, we teach to the tests.  At any rate, I think that this study proves what 3M, P&G, Google, and a host of other companies have already come to recognize - you get more out of your people when you give them some relaxation time.  By taking away the recess, be it in school or at work, you're going to have less productive workers because they need that break every so often to get out of a problem they're working on, clear their mind, get some blood flowing, and then get back and tackle the problem. 

Friday, February 20, 2009

Possession with Intent to Photograph

I don't exactly know why, but for one reason or another, people get antsy whenever they see someone with a D-SLR camera.  They get doubly antsy when that person has...A TRIPOD!  Seriously, I can see the trip hazard aspect of it, but people also get mental when they see monopods.  This particular case from The Colbert Report is just indicative of the abject stupidity that happens when cops and/or rent-a-cops care more about the blatant photographer than they do about the guy in the trenchcoat with 20 lbs of Semtex or the man wearing a kaffiah and carrying an AK-47.  Seriously, photographers (speaking as one) are threats to our national security how?  What about the guy with a point and shoot or with a camera phone?  Rule #1 of surveillance is to keep a low profile.  If you're carrying around a couple thousand dollars worth of gear, you're probably not doing that and thus not a professional.

My Review of No Line on the Horizon

Thanks to the good folks at Universal Music Australia (who have certainly been sacked by now), I have got my hands on U2's No Line on the Horizon.  I was very concerned about the quality of the album when I heard "Get On Your Boots," the only officially released song from the album.  It was not a good first single at all - tough to get into, lyrics that seemed to be all over the place, and an incoherent sonic structure.  I did end up liking it okay, which is to say about as much as "Vertigo," which in and of itself didn't grab me on U2's last album.  Nevertheless, I am extraordinarily happy to say that "Get On Your Boots" is the worst song on No Line on the Horizon.
It's hard to describe NLOTH in any sort of pithy way.  It's a definite departure from the sound that they had starting with All That You Can't Leave Behind and ending with the U2:18 Singles songs.  If you've been listening to U2 long enough, you can hear bits and pieces of their sound from Achtung Baby, some from Zooropa, Pop, Joshua Tree, and even Boy.  There's also a healthy smattering of some new sound in there as well.  It's an extraordinary album, easily the best thing they've put out in the past 15 years.  I would also say that it's the best complete album put out in that timeframe too.  There are songs that are better, perhaps even albums with multiple better songs.  At the same time, those albums tend to have strong material and weak material.  Take Gwen Stefani's The Great Escape.  There are 4 songs on there that I think are phenominal, but there's an additional 7 that are absolutely hideous.  It's the most bipolar album I've ever heard.  That's what's so amazing about NLOTH.  The a-side is great, but the b-side might be just as strong...something that I haven't heard since Achtung Baby.  You would be doing yourself a great disservice if you didn't go out and grab it or download it as soon as it is actually released.  Is it their best album ever?  Not upon 5 listens in 24 hours.  It has the potential to get close to Joshua Tree and Achtung Baby, but I don't know that it will ever pass them.  It's definitely the third best U2 album ever though.
How the songs rate (best to worst)
1. Breathe
2. Magnificent
3. FEZ - Being Born
4. White as Snow
5. Unknown Caller
6. No Line on the Horizon
7. I'll Go Crazy If I Don't Go Crazy Tonight
8. Stand Up Comedy
9. Moment of Surrender
10. Cedars of Lebanon
11. Get On Your Boots

Except for Get On Your Boots, this is tough to do, because they're all great songs.  I'm seriously shocked at how much I love it.  It's like no album I've ever picked up on release.  With everything before 1996, I got to the albums after they'd been picked clean of singles, so I knew what to expect.  Since I became an active music collector though, I've never popped something in and wanted to listen to it again and again - without knowing where I want to start.  It's truly a revelation.

Friday, February 13, 2009

Money and a Championship

There are a lot of sports superstars out there who proclaim that their one goal is to win a championship.  Since that is their stated goal, why do so many who want to win sacrifice that ideal for the almighty dollar?  I'll take Utah's favorite power forward, Karl Malone (hereinafter referred to as Kamalone, as he would say it), for an example.  Kamalone always wanted a championship.  He even went to the Lakers as a third fiddle to Kobe and Shaq to try and get one.  At the same time, Kamalone wanted Kamalone's money during some of his prime championship years.  All the stars do this, and in baseball, that's fine.  You can get deep pocketed owners who will pay whatever and there's no penalty.  In football and basketball though, it's a different matter.  There's a good salary cap on both of those sports, and if a superstar really wanted to win championships and be considered one of the best ever, they should take the pay cut.  Take LeBron James.  If he cared about sticking around with the Cavs and winning a boatload of championships, he'd take a cut and get some other stars to come there for the same reason.  It's similar to what did happen in Boston.  KG went to Boston and along with Ray Allen and Paul Pierce and they didn't require max contracts to stick around.  As a result, they won the world championship.
It's one of my few beefs with Deron Williams.  I know that D-Will wants a championship, but his contract will make that more difficult than if he took a lesser salary.  Because the Jazz won't pay the luxury tax, we'll have to say goodbye to either Paul Millsap (most likely), Carlos Boozer, Memo Okur, or Andrei Kirelinko this summer.  If all of our high cost players would renegotiate their contracts down, say AK goes down to a much more reasonable 8 million per (which is a 50% pay cut) and D-Will, Okur and Booz take a trim down to 8 million as well, that would give the Jazz brass an additional $20 million to roll into new contracts.  If they were able to use their pull to add some good complimentary players - keep Millsap at the mid-level exemption, maybe trade Harpring and his bad knees (or buy out the contract) for a solid 3 so that we can keep AK as the 6th man.  We could still get a solid backup for D-Will or keep Korver behind Brewer or do some other creative things to send out a team that 1-10 is the class of the league.  Isn't that worth it, just once, for some superstars to give up a little (okay, a lot) of their money in order to be known as part of the best team ever put together?

Thursday, February 12, 2009

Are You In Or Are You Out?

I was driving past UVU today and saw the following:

MC Hammer and Vanilla Ice in concert at the McKay Events Center February 27.
UVU - Orem, Utah.
80'S Dance Party. Featuring Live Performances from:
MC HAMMER with 24 person choir and dancers (performing
old school classics: Too Legit To Quit, Pray, Hammer Time,
Tell Me Have You Seen Her, etc).
VANILLA ICE with Crew (Performing old school classics
Ice Ice Baby, Ninja Rap, Funky Music, I Love Her, etc.)
Love You Long Time.
DJ Matt Hoffman and DJ Marcus Wing.
Dress 80's and bring your Hammer Pants because this event
will Re-Make History.
All ticket prices include $3.00 parking fee.

Who is in?  This has to be the greatest collection of old school washed up rappers ever under one roof!

Tuesday, February 10, 2009

Much Ado About A-Roid

So Alex Rodriguez took steroids.  I'd like to know what the big deal is.  I know that baseball's statistics are somehow considered more hallowed than any other sport, but cheaters have always existed in baseball.  Sure, they didn't inject TGH or HGH, but there are more ways than that to find your way to a higher batting average or more home runs than just chemicals.  There's pine tar, corking your bat, sanding the ball, and so on down the list.  They may not be as effective, but they were certainly designed to do one thing and one thing only: get better.  Just because the cheaters in the hall of fame (and you know there were many) weren't caught and/or weren't as technologically sophisticated doesn't mean that we should punish the cheaters of this day and age.
At the end of the day with Alex Rodriguez, Barry Bonds, Mark McGwire, and the 103 other positive tests, they shouldn't be punished for their perifidy with regard to the test.  The bottom line is that steroids were not banned in baseball when they took them.  That means that what they did, as stupid and life threatening as it was, doesn't matter.  Now they are, so it's a different story.  Anybody caught now should face the punishments baseball has meted out.
On the other hand, anyone who has lied under oath (i.e. Barry Bonds) should face the appropriate punishments in a court of law and the court of public opinion.  It shouldn't change their legacy, just how things end up with them. 

Monday, February 09, 2009

Watch for Spastics

Here's a sign I saw in Palmyra, NY yesterday.  Apparently we all need to know that these children are not just any youth, but slow youth.  We also need to know exactly where they congregate, for one reason or another.

Saturday, February 07, 2009

Illegals Must Be On The Rise

...or maybe Nancy Pelosi is counting everybody in North America, because otherwise this number doesn't make any sense at all. Of course, 200 million illegals would mean that for every 3 US citizens we have 2 illegals, but I'm trying to get the math here. That aside, isn't it just blatant fear-mongering to assume that if we don't pass the stimulus, every man, woman, and child in the country will be out of a job? I know that things aren't great, but they're not that bad.

Thursday, February 05, 2009

The Stupidity of Compensation Caps

The Wall Street Journal has done a great job covering the ongoing evolution of TARP, from its genesis at the collapse of Lehman Brothers up to and including today.  What I find amazing is how the government decided that it is now in their best interest and within their power to put in place whatever caps they deem fit for companies.  There is the much publicized $500,000 salary cap for executive pay for companies who take any additional TARP funds, but there are also revelations like the Treasury doing everything they could to force Bank of America to take on Merrill Lynch, regardless of Merrill's financial health. 
Then there's also the hand wringing about Citigroup's jet, BofA's fleet, Citi Field, apartments, junkets for high performers, and so on.  While I agree that some of these things are superfluous, some are necessary for their business.  Take AIG, the (now) government owned insurance and lending giant.  We hear about junket this and business trip that, and how can they afford to do that, they've lost billions.  Yes, they have lost a lot.  At the same time, the units that had these lavish parties - American General insurance, ILFC (a major aircraft lessor) - are units that are very profitable.  If that's the case, is the cost of these junkets really that big of a deal?  If the executives of these units feel that there is a good return on investment as a result of this (and knowing a thing or two about ILFC's chief Steven Udvar-Hazy, there is), shouldn't the government do what any good shareholder would do - shut up and let the managers manage? 
Ultimately, the way these bailout stakes are structured is as investments - ownership of large blocks of stock.  The #1 rule of stock ownership is to not write a letter to the CEO of the company you own every time something happens.  If you don't like the job that the CEO is doing, you get enough votes together to have enough board sway to replace the CEO.  That won't happen under the current structure in part because from the sound of things, nobody wants to have the government up in their business.  These leaders would be happier without the TARP money and are trying to get it paid back as soon as possible so they can take off the handcuffs and get back to doing business the way it should be done, rather than as a bloated, incompetent bureaucracy says it should.
Let's put this another way: who should we trust, people who year after year are trained to maximize profits and thus shareholder return in order to increase their company's share price, market cap, and market share...or people who continue to put money into a half a million dollar outhouse in Pennsylvania or the $650 toilet seat?