Friday, December 23, 2005

Annual Gift Man

What do you want for Christmas? That's such an easy question when you're young. Of course, now that I'm older and I got pretty much everything I wanted before I got married (within reason, I didn't get that BMW 545i), it's about as easy to answer as it is to chew broken glass. Sure, I have a lot of things that I want (the aforementioned BMW), but is there anything remotely realistic out there? Something in the ballpark of those who are asking? Who thought such a fun holiday could be so painful? I guess there are a lot of kitchen gadets, but that's the problem with buying everything you want - there's nothing left for anybody else! Well, it's time for me to dab on a little Scorn the Fragrance and head out for some Christmas festivities. Have a great one, and leave some milk and cookies under the tree for Annual Gift Man.

Wednesday, December 07, 2005

This House Can Kick Your House's Butt!

Has the Griswold house become too passe in today's 1.21 gigawatts of holiday lighting world? If current trends are any indication, yes. While the houses at the site that Mickel blogged about a week ago are all bright and all, to be noticed in the Las Vegas Christmas landscape, you need something more than just a bunch of lights. You need music and lights. You don't need just any music though. I would imagine the conversation between husband and wife went something like this:
Wife: The Mormon Tabernacle Choir?
Husband: Too traditional.
W: Bing Crosby?
H: Too crooney.
W: Celine Dion?
H: Please. Do you want to look like a total loser?
W: Maybe Mannheim Steamroller?
H: Naw, they have synths and all, but it's not quite got the edge that we're looking for.
W: Maybe Trans-Siberian Orchestra?
H: Now that's what I'm talking about! We can rock this casbah with something from them!
And thus the coolest Christmas house of all time was born. While the first reaction I heard from my wife was "that's fake," trust me, it isn't. It was actually on the news a few nights back (well, not in it's full glory - you can't just have a picture of a house putting on a light show for 3 minutes on the local news unless there's lots of dead bodies in front). With a lot of time, some good solid technical knowhow, and a MIDI sequencer (oh, and a lot of money to pay for the power bill), you too can have a house like this. Of course, you may want to take it up a notch...maybe a holographic Santa going across the sky, or a manger scene acted out by the original cast of Les Miserables.

Update: Here's a site that will tell you exactly how to reproduce this (or so) if you really want to. Here's a segment on the Today show too.

Friday, December 02, 2005

Take a look at this!

I was reading BusinessWeek about the XBox 360 launch and they mentioned a commercial that was too hot for television. Well, thanks to the wonder of the internet, you can take a look at that spot right here. I can see why it was banned, but I have to say that it is one of the best spots I've seen in a while. Enjoy!

Wednesday, November 23, 2005

How Not To Be

I've been a pretty big fan of The Amazing Race for only a short time now, however, thanks to the wonder of the Game Show Network, I've caught every episode of the show, and as someone who has seen it all I feel qualified to say that the Weavers are the worst people to appear on the race. Worse than Flo, the lady who gave up every leg of the race; worse than Jonathan and Victoria, the fighting couple; worse than the girl and the midget...maybe; worse than Boston Rob and Amber, the only team to play The Amazing Race like Survivor. The other teams, while annoying (except Rob & Amber), all were pretty straight about being who they were. Instead, the Weavers are mean to the other teams, both in front of them and behind their backs, they malign whole states (Utah) and whole religions (Mormons) and yet they wonder why nobody likes them...why they've been yielded twice. I have some suggestions for them in the future to prevent people from yielding them in real life somehow:
1) Stop it with the holier than thou crap. You are not the only Christians who act like Christians, you are not God's Annointed, you are not even nice people. Take a step back and stop praying publicly for a moment. You pray "oh Lord, bless that Raliegh will be safe skiing down that ramp and into that pool" when it's quite unnecessary. Keep your prayers in your closets, for those who pray in the open, to be seen of men, have their reward.
2) Get over your father's death. Yes it's tragic that he died at a racetrack. Does that mean that you have to freak out any time you're at a race track? No. Get over it.
3) Be nice. Not everybody is as meanspirited as you are.

Have a good thanksgiving!

Wednesday, November 16, 2005

"Excuse Me, Do You Work Here?"

Do I look like this guy? Apparently I do, because it seems like I get asked this question ALL THE TIME! It's happened to me at Costco, at Blockbuster, at the Costco gas station, Albertson's, etc. It's not as though I am dressed for the part. I never wear those vests that grocery stores put on their people, nor am I standing behind the counter, nor am I not filling up my car with gas after putting my credit card through the reader. I generally think that I have a reasonable tolerance of stupidity, but these just get me going.

I think there are a couple of reasons why they bug me so much. One is the inherent age bias that I choose to see in it. If I was ten years older, I'll bet I wouldn't get this question. By the same token, if I was 40 years older, I'd probably get this question still. Just because I'm young doesn't mean that I don't have the requisite school and/or social standing to have moved past those jobs.

Will I beat anybody up over this? I doubt it. Do I wish that I had a great Bill Engvall "Here's Your Sign" comment to say to those who asked me these? You bet. Alas, I don't think I've had the requisite humour training to figure that one out yet.

Monday, November 07, 2005

The Free Market strikes again!

Remember how everyone was freaking out about how gas prices were going to go up to at least $3.00/gallon? I remember the hysteria from one of the executives where I work - he was predicting that gas would jump to at least $4.00 or maybe even $5.00 a gallon. I don't know where he was coming from. Maybe he had watched The O'Reilly Factor and listened to O'Reilly's insane populist "the oil companies are evil" schtick. Maybe he was just making a bad inferrence, or maybe he just didn't have a clue about what a free market is. I know that a lot of people threw the basic economic laws of supply and demand out the window after Katrina and Rita ravaged the Gulf Coast, but in the end it looks like economics trumped hysteria. Sure, gas prices shot up 50 cents a gallon in my town overnight and stayed there for nearly a month. O'Reilly was proposing that oil companies all lower their profits by 25% (which, technically, would violate the Sherman Antitrust Act of 1898, but never mind that), free market conservatives were hunkering down, and pro-regulation activists and environmentalists were frothing at the mouth that perhaps this time they could take on Big Oil and win. Fast forward one month. People had curtailed consumption - surveys from AAA showed that miles driven had decreased, Detroit was having a firesale on their truck-based SUVs, and there was a waiting list a mile long for a Toyota Prius. Meanwhile, ExxonMobil announced in as quiet a way as possible that they had just made $10 billion in profit in the 3rd quarter. Forsooth! They must be gouging the consumer!

The thing that most consumers didn't realize is that while Exxon was minting money, they were merely charging what the market would bear. If they had priced gas at 25 cents cheaper, they would have lost money on most of the gasoline they would have sold. Sure, they would have still made money on the gasoline that was refined at Exxon refineries, but, as the lines at my local Costco attested, they would have run out of Exxon gasoline quickly, forcing them to either close down or buy gas on the spot market. That would have raised prices elsewhere, and long explanation short, lower prices at gas stations would have led to increased demand, which would have led to shortages. I value my time at more than the increased price of gasoline, so I certainly didn't want to go back to the 70s and Jimmy Carter's gas lines. While everyone was fuming about Exxon's profits, a funny thing happened. Gas prices started going down, and not by a little bit. They started plummeting. I was in Seattle when it started, and gas in Utah went from $2.70/gallon when I left to $2.50 when I got back. Now I've even seen it as low as $2.30 a gallon - another 20 cents in less than a week. So what's going on here?

It's simple. The refineries that were damaged in Katrina and Rita are coming back on line. There were some refineries that produced upwards of 450,000 gallons of gas a day that were offline. Now that they're getting back online, more gas is going into the market, and that additional supply is lowering prices because demand is relatively static. Oil demand has gone down, which has led to lowering oil prices, which has been passed through the refineries and soforth. My prediction? Gasoline will be below $2.00/gallon by New Year's Day. Whether it stays there is a matter of opinion. If people keep their habits changed, you bet. If not, we're looking at that as the new floor for a bit of time until exploration and drilling catches up - not to mention refining. We're operating flat-out right now, and until some more refineries are built, I don't think that will change.

Thursday, November 03, 2005

Worst "TV Event" Ever?

After last year's 10.5 crapfest, I thought that the "event miniseries" genre had finally hit the bottom of an extremely deep toilet. Alas, I was wrong. As if we weren't punished enough with CBS' Category 6: Day of Destruction (and the killer tornados that leveled Las Vegas) last year, they've decided to take it up a notch with this weekend's sequel, Category 7: The End of the World. Apparently the Category 6 storm [brief aside here: let's not make up ridiculous numbers to take the danger up a notch. There is no such thing as a Category 6 storm, let alone a Category 7, and even if there was some sort of super-cyclone that formed, it wouldn't be able to sustain that strength for long (see Hurricanes Wilma, Katrina, and Rita for evidence of this), especially when (according to the previews) it's going to mop the floor with Mount Rushmore, Paris, Washington DC, and other assorted locales. It'd be dead before it hit the coast, seeing as how there is no moisture to suck up and increase the intensity - unless it's a rock storm. If it's a rock storm, we're all in trouble], anyway, the Category 6 storm that went to Chicago is now even more out of control than ever and can destroy parts of the world on a scale that even Deep Impact wasn't able to do.
Why is schlock like this churned out on a regular basis? I can see why in the movies - it was pretty cool to see that cow go flying in Twister, see Paris burn in Armageddon, and watch Dante's Peak try to kill Pierce Brosnan in Dante's Peak. That's the movies though - where special effects don't suck (or in some cases, don't suck as bad). The acting isn't quite as ham-fisted, the premise isn't quite as outrageous, and we aren't stuck with 4 hours of TiVoed crap clogging up our DVR.
After the old school disaster show (well, 1990), The Big One: The Great Los Angeles Earthquake, I thought that perhaps things weren't so bad. Sure, it stuck to the central miniseries premise - tease the first night, disaster the second; bad acting; etc, but it was still something worth wasting time with. After the last few years of crap, I don't see how I can support this movie, even though it will almost certainly be a Category 7 on the Unintentional Comedy Scale (to quote Bill Simmons, "those moments when something or someone cracks you up ... even though that wasn't necessarily the original intention"). (Since ESPN has Simmons' columns on their insider service, a good visual explanation of the scale is at this site, below the first blockquote.)

Tuesday, November 01, 2005

Foreplay/Long Time

So I've been gone quite some time. Work has been incredibly busy, and I have many stories of disaster (and not the natural kind) to tell. I hope to get back on some sort of normal schedule, so we'll see what that brings. I hope to update at least once a week, and hopefully more than that. Stay tuned...

Friday, September 02, 2005

The Katrina Blame Game

The situation with Hurricane Katrina is certainly one of the worst in US history. New Orleans has been tempting fate for decades, being situated in about as vulnerable a location as anywhere else. After the hurricane passed over the city and the levees broke, it seemed like the city would band together like New York did in the aftermath of September 11 or like Los Angeles did after the '94 Northwood earthquake or like the San Francisco Bay Area after the '91 quake. Instead, local officials perfected the blame game and roving bands of marauders are busy raping, looting, killing, and burning down the city. In short, nobody is stepping up. The federal government is on its way, and National Guard troops are in place, but with tens of thousands still in the city, it's not an easy job.
Of course, we have stories of how this whole thing is discriminatory. Yes, you heard it first in the NY Times that it's all because New Orleans is poor and black. The reasoning goes that this wouldn't have happened in Florida. What they don't note is that Katrina hit Florida as a Category 1 hurricane - nothing major. It was only in the 24 or so hours before it hit the city that the threat became apparent. Nevertheless, it's all about race.
It's all about global warming too. Yup, Katrina was caused by global warming. I don't know what caused Hurricane Camille in 1969 (a more powerful storm than Katrina), but the real reason for this is global warming. Never mind that El Nino played a part in this hurricane season, in addition to general hurricane trends and so forth.
The war in Iraq also caused this. "We can secure Baghdad, but not New Orleans" is the rallying cry I've heard, and the only good thing about this is that it's giving the Iraqis a rest from the 24 hour news cycle that reports on every little thing that goes wrong there.
Instead of blaming people for what did happen, let's focus our efforts on what we can do to help. Give money to the Red Cross or to one of the myriad organizations that are making a difference and put aside the petty carping. Chuck Rangel, Ray Nagin, Paul Krugman - I'm talking to you.

Tuesday, August 23, 2005

The Gaza Pullout

I came across 2 excellent articles in the WSJ today about the Gaza pullout. While we could argue who owns the land all day long, ultimately the way the IDF handled a very tense situation should be applauded. The key idea I see is
Ultimately, the settlers were either escorted or carried, sobbing, onto buses. But their rabbi, stressing the need for closure, requested permission to address the soldiers, and the battalion commander remarkably agreed. So it happened that 500 troops and 100 settlers stood at attention, with Israeli flags fluttering, while the rabbi spoke of the importance of channeling this sorrow into the creation of a more loving and ethical society. "We are all still one people, one state," he said. Together, the evicted and the evictors, then sang "Hatikvah," the national anthem--"The Hope."

It's an incredibly heartwrenching scene, just like what happened to the Palestinians. Again, ordinary people are being evicted from their homes and it's tough to see. There was a bit of a difference between the Israeli settlements and their Palestinian neighbors, and that was that the Israelis had some semblance of property rights. While the kibbutzim were owned by the state, the people there had yards, houses, and so forth. On the Palestinian side, the UN and the PA have crammed their people into refugee camps (for over 50 years!) and George Melloan's view on these places is pretty spot on:
The concrete hovels in these camps long ago became breeding grounds for Arab radicalism. The militant Arab socialist states that gained ascendancy under Soviet tutelage in the 1960s and 1970s wanted it that way. Yasser Arafat, chosen by these outsiders to "lead" the Palestinians, never deviated from his goal of mobilizing the discontented wards of the U.N. to drive the Jews into the sea. The Palestinians, in short, had few chances to express their own individuality and creativity unless they were lucky enough to escape the camps and find homes in the Arab emirates, Britain or the U.S.

Ultimately, this chapter in the story of Israel is over, but another one is beginning. Will Sharon's pullout from Gaza make things better or worse? Will Abbas step up to the plate and do what Arafat couldn't/wouldn't? At the moment, while Abbas looks better, I don't know if he can or will control Hamas, Islamic Jihad, or Al Aqsa, but only time will tell.

Thursday, August 18, 2005

The Palestinian Lie

The New York Times has printed a few things – an Op-Ed and a front page article on the Israeli withdrawal from Gaza. They both boil down to “Israelis stole Palestinian land.” While I know that Yassir Arafat and the rest of the Arab nations have perpetuated this view for over 50 years now, it’s interesting to go back and see who stole (or rather attempted to steal) land since the UN partitioning of Britain’s Palestinian Mandate in 1947.
Jews fleeing from Europe became a majority in many areas of Palestine from the rise of Nazi Germany until 1947. They bought their land, worked on it, and did their own thing. Of course, they also had some conflicts with their 3000-year-old enemies, the Palestinians. Both groups had legitimate claims on the land, but it came down to whoever owned it had it. In an attempt to pull a Solomon, the UN split the land into semi-equal areas that roughly equated to where the different groups lived and made Jerusalem a city under UN control.
The big problem came when various Middle Eastern nations (Syria, Transjordan, Egypt, Lebanon, Iraq, Saudi Arabia, and Yemen) attacked the Jewish nation. Their stated objective was to drive the Jews out. Of course, there were hard-line Jewish elements that caused problems as well, especially in Jerusalem, but for the most part the IDF were fighting a defensive war. Nevertheless, a numerically inferior IDF prevailed over a Trans-Arab army. During this time, the Arab nations told the Palestinians to leave to protect them. Palestinian civilians fled across the borders into Egypt and Transjordan, deserting their homes. When the smoke cleared, Israel was much larger in size (although it was still only 6 miles across at its narrowest point). In addition, the West Bank was controlled by Transjordan (soon renamed Jordan) and Gaza was occupied by Egypt.
In 1967, the Arab nations began preparations for another attack on Israel to regain what was lost and more. Israel launched a preemptive strike and took the West Bank from Jordan, Gaza and the Sinai from Egypt, and the Golan Heights from Syria (all of which were needed when the Arabs attacked again in 1973).
The Palestinians were culpable in all these battles. They were on the side of the Arabs and they lost the battle as well as more land in each successive war. The Israelis didn’t steal it, so much as the Palestinians lost it (Israel wouldn’t have invaded if they didn’t feel they needed it for security). Of course, now it’s hard for them to give back, but the Palestinians haven’t made it easy to do.
Israel can’t be seen as giving in to terror, so they can’t really cede the land until the intifada stops. Of course, the intifada also had the side effects of Israel walling off the occupied territories and eliminating jobs for Palestinians, but of course it’s not easy to think about those downsides to the glorious struggle.
I have to run, so I may continue in another entry, but the bottom line is that the Palestinians brought most of this misery on themselves.

Tuesday, August 16, 2005

The link between Imperial Japan and Jihadist Islam

The Wall Street Journal had an excellent Op-Ed today that briefly discusses the links between World War II Japan and the various sects of Islam that advocate martyring yourself to kill others. The link is below, but because the WSJ is a pay site, here's the money quote:

Islam and Shintoism have very little in common, the one coming out of the Old Testament tradition and other with roots in far-eastern Buddhist and Confucian philosophies. But in the hands of power- hungry politicians, any belief capable of stirring human emotions will serve the purpose.

Yet another weapon familiar to us today is the inducement of youngsters to commit suicide to further the political goals of crazed power seekers. It was in Japan where the "kamikaze" was born. The word means "divine wind" and was derived from a typhoon that saved Japan from an invasion fleet in 1281, according to legend. In the late stages of the Pacific war, it described the young men who volunteered to crash airplanes into American warships to bestow honor and glory on themselves and their families.

The Japanese military chose not to use experienced pilots, who were in short supply. But they had no trouble recruiting idealistic young men to learn the rudiments of flying and then take to the air in obsolete aircraft loaded with a 250-pound bomb. The young martyrs were similar in purpose to the youths terrorists recruit today to explode bomb vests in crowded places, exploiting that latent impulse that, once awakened, propels some youths toward seeking a glorious, self-inflicted death.

By war's end, Japan had sent almost 4,000 youngsters out over the ocean to be shot down or consummate a fiery, metal-wrenching life's end crashing into an American ship. The U.S. Air Force credits them with sinking 34 Navy ships and damaging 368 others, killing 4,900 U.S. sailors and wounding about the same number.

That was a heavy toll but it didn't win the war, just as it is highly unlikely that today's brainwashed martyrs will change the course of history. One reason a victory is unlikely can be adduced from what happened in Japan after its government surrendered to U.S. Gen. Douglas MacArthur. It took awhile for the militarist fanatics, who claimed they had been betrayed by the emperor, to quiet down. But once they did, a new Japanese leadership class began, with MacArthur's guidance, to build a new Japan.

Recalling the Kamikazes of 60 Years Ago

If we were able to turn around the kamikaze culture in Japan, why can't we do it in the Middle East?

Monday, August 08, 2005

Hiroshima Revisionism

With the 60th anniversary of the end of World War II upon us, it's time for another round of revisionist history. As usual, it tends to focus on the dropping of the atomic bomb on Hiroshima and Nagasaki. The LA Times has an editorial on the extreme dovish side of the argument that a) it didn't save lives and b)it was an unnecessary show of force against the Soviets. Let's look at this a little closer, shall we?
A) It didn't save lives
This is the argument that seems the weakest of all to me. The number killed by the direct force of the bombs and the subsequent radiation poisoning was in the vicinity of 250,000. For the sake of argument, let's say that lasting fallout, combined with genetic disorders and whatnot brought that up to 500,000. That's a big number. Nevertheless, it's still less than the number of casualties from the invasion of Japan. US Military planners based their figures on the invasion of Okinawa. For Olympic, they assumed 35% casualties, of which 1/5 would be deaths. It came out to be around 50,000 US deaths and 250,000 casualties. Then, in addition to the US deaths, 5 Japanese soldiers usually died for every 1 American, which would give the Imperial Japanese Armed Forces 250,000 deaths. So far, we're at 300,000 deaths for Olympic alone. Of course, those numbers could be massaged up and down - according to Gerhard Weinberg's Herculean work, A World At Arms, kamikaze resistance at Okinawa was relatively light because the Japanese were saving their aircraft for the final fight on Kyushu and Honshu. Even with that relatively light resistance, 250 ships were hit with kamikaze aircraft. Now imagine 5000 kamikaze planes attacking the 800 ship invasion force of the 5th Fleet. A conservative estimate would be damage on 20% of those ships, but with 5000 kamikaze at their disposal, it almost certainly would have been larger. With the high proportion of landing craft and oilers in the fleet, it could have gotten ugly really quick. This doesn't even scratch the surface of suicide implements the Japanese had built - suicide motorboats, suicide torpedos, suicide bombers (a forerunner of the modern Islamic Fundamentalist - they would strap a bomb to their chest and lie between the treads of tanks to disable the tank and kill the crew), suicide cruisers, battleships, and destroyers. It would have been bad for the US, but it would have been devistating for the Japanese. Note that we haven't included civilian casualties yet. Increased firebombing of Kyushu cities, combined with the Emperor's edict to defend the country, would have caused an additional 5 civilian deaths for each US death at a minimum. That brings the combined death total to 500,000+ for Olympic alone.
Coronet, the invasion of Honshu, would have been even more disastrous. Remember, the Japanese at the time believed the Emperor to be God incarnate, so transfer the current Wahabbi-style Islam of Osama bin Laden to Japan and you have an idea of the level of fanatacism we would have expected. Barring the capitulation of Showa, a million man invasion force would have landed on Honshu in Spring 1946 and we could have expected a similar situation to Olympic on Kyushu - 35% casualties, 1/5 of those deaths, 10 Japanese dead for each US soldier, a total body count somewhere in the vicinity of 750,000 dead. Add that to Kyushu, and you have about 1.5 million deaths, both Japanese and American. Of course, it's all guesstimation, but that's about as accurate as we can imagine. Combine that with continued fighting in Indochina, China, and Korea, and you have even more dead.
The invasion of Japan would have been the bloodiest battle in the Pacific war and would have been disastrous for everyone involved. This brings us to their second point.
B) It was an unnecessary show of force to the Soviets
The authors argue that we didn't want to split occupation duties with the Soviets in Japan. This was a moot point, because at Potsdam and Tehran, it was already agreed that the occupation of Japan would be under General MacArthur and the invasion force would be a US/Britain joint operation. The Soviets weren't going to invade Japan. They declared war on the Japanese, but got low-lying fruit - areas that weren't heavily defended. Stalin didn't want to add to the 10 million Soviet deaths in an unnecessary Asian war. It's a red herring.
Ultimately the atomic bombs pushed the Emperor to cede because of the awesome destructive power caused by just one airplane. He saw how many B-29s flew over Tokyo, and he extrapolated what could have happened. Even then, his cabinet tried to overthrow him to continue the war. In the end, troops loyal to the Emperor prevailed, but it shows how ridiculous their arguments really are. Let's stop guessing a decision that saved that many lives.

Wednesday, August 03, 2005

Paging the ACLU

I'm back from my latest trip for a while and hopefully I'll be able to write more regularly now that that's taken care of. While I was gone, however, all sorts of things hit the fan. My sister-in-law's parents were put in jail, essentially for adopting the child of a drug addict. They housed her for a time and through talking with the mother and whatnot, they (and she) decided that the baby would be adopted by them. They have had it for around 6 months now, essentially since it was a newborn, they have documents that show the adoption proceeding and retained the counsel of a (almost certainly) cheap adoption lawyer. The lady apparently is mentally challenged, and decided that she wanted the baby back. The local police advised her after several false calls from the lady and harrasment threats that due to her current state and the unsavory characters (read: druggies/drug dealers) that she was hanging around with that it would be best for her to leave her house and lay low for a while. She went to her daughter's house (not the daughter who married my brother, another one) in Minnesota and after she left the South Beloit PD issued a warrant for the arrest of her husband and her. They've both had bail hearings, and the mother's extradition hearing is today. I don't know about the father, but the mother wasn't given legal counsel during her bail hearing and she isn't being given counsel today either, a direct violation of Gideon v. Wainwright; which essentially says that you have a right to counsel according to the 6th and 14th amendments, even if you are indigent and if it's a non-capital crime. The media's been pretty harsh on them, mainly because they're getting the DA office's side, as the family doesn't have an attorney. (Here's some stories from the Rockford Register Star here and here.) Any links, help, or otherwise would be great!

Monday, June 27, 2005

Follow Up on Kelo v. New London

Initial reaction to the 5-4 decision that massively expanded cities' eminent domain rights was scathing to say the least. One interesting aspect is that this ruling doesn't override any state laws on the subject. It allows it to still happen, unless states make a law that forbids it. Right now Arkansas, Florida, Illinois, Kentucky, Maine, Montana, South Carolina and Washington all forbid the taking of private land for anything other than urban redevelopment (i.e. blighted - truly blighted - areas only). Meanwhile Sen John Cornyn (R - TX) has introduced a bill to try and blunt the impact of the SCOTUS ruling, but who knows what impact it will have. Because state governments can override the SCOTUS ruling with stricter laws with regard to eminent domain seizures, it's in everybody's best interests to work on their local government officials rather than national ones. It's easier to move a state Senator than a national one, in large part because nobody focuses on them, so constituent letters and the like will be noticed much more than if it were to your US representative.
One key thought that I pulled from Justice Thomas' dissent: "Still worse, it is backwards to adopt a searching standard of constitutional review for nontraditional property interests, such as welfare benefits, while deferring to the legislature’s determination as to what constitutes a public use when it exercises the power of eminent domain, and thereby invades individuals’ traditional rights in real property...Though citizens are safe from the government in their homes, the homes themselves are not."

Thursday, June 23, 2005

Supreme Court: Your Homes Are Not Your Own!

The Supreme Court just issued it's opinion that local governments can kick you out of your home any time they want. It was a close 5-4 decision, but now if your city wants to build a Wal-Mart where you live, you best take the money and run. Really, if a big company comes and offers you top dollar for your property, it might be worth it lest the local government come in and eminent domain you out of it for less. This wasn't a good decision, but at this point there's not much that could be done about it, other than perhaps a law in congress - but because this decision was based on the 5th Amendment, it might take an amendment to fix it.
The breakdown of votes is what was interesting. I figured that the conservative judges would have said yes and the liberals no, but it's reversed:
Against: Rehnquist, Scalia, Thomas, O'Connor
For: Ginsburg, Breyer, Kennedy, Stevens, Souter

Monday, June 20, 2005

Back from Hawaii...

I was in the Sandwich Islands for the past couple of weeks. I know, I know, it's a tough life. While I was there, I heard a lot of dumb commercials on the radio. I normally don't listen to a lot of radio because it's a wasteland. One set of commercials that was particularly bad are the Freddie/Millie SoBe Lean commercials. I can only assume that SoBe is going for the elusive "make fun of Hispanics" demographic. They're difficult to come across, but if any set of commercials could, it's these ones. Take a listen...maybe I'm just smoking crack, but they seem pretty stereotypical to me.

Thursday, June 02, 2005

Kenbot, RIP

I have sad news to report, which people have known about for at least a week. Ken Jennings, beloved game show contestant, was given a hard-core smackdown by Brad Rutter in the Jeopardy ultimate tournament of champions.
It was really sad to see. Here was Kenbot, the master of trivia, the real life Cliff Clavin, looking like a deer in the headlights. It was eerie, seeing Ken with the Drew Bledsoe Face (a phrase coined by ESPN's Sports Guy to describe somebody who looked like they were just hit by a truck; so named because Bledsoe was the master of the face) in his natural domain. He should have mopped the floor with those guys, but I wonder if there wasn't a little deck-stacking there. When I used to compete against Jennings in Jeopardy, I was pretty good, but the questions they used were so obscure and so arcane that it's a wonder they got any points. If I was up there, I would have looked like Sean Connery from SNL's Celebrity Jeopardy. It was really too bad, because in his prime it was amazing to see him chew through opponents like the Wehrmacht crossing the Maginot Line. Instead, he looked very human, and while he got second place, he wasn't the same Ken who rolled over opponents by $50,000 an episode during the summer.

Tuesday, May 31, 2005

Beware the Leaven of the Pharisees...

There's a train of thought that has been traveling through my head for quite some time now. It first popped up about 7 years ago, when I went to Tokyo for a couple of years to do some work for a group whos name need not mention here. While I was there, I noticed that my fellow missionaries broke down into 2 broad but distinct categories: the liberals and the conservatives.
First, for a definition or two. When I say liberals and conservatives, I don't mean it in a political sense. Instead, I mean it in a loose/strict sense. The liberals ranged from those who were on a mission because of all the wrong reasons and so they spent all their time goofing off to those who were wanpaku (Japanese, lit. like a little boy) to those who were doing things for the right reason and good people, but they wanted to enjoy themselves so they acted like most men would when put together with a bunch of other men - there was lots of horseplay, practical jokes, and so forth. The conservatives ranged from those who were majime (Japanese again, lit. a stick in the mud) to those who were anal about lots of things to those who wanted to enjoy themselves, but were just very straight about it.
I fell on the liberal side ever so slightly, and as such I was one of the many who deplored The Pharisee. When I say Pharisee, I don't mean the guys with phylacteries who strictly observed the law of Moses (a precursor to today's ultra-orthodox Jews), but rather one who strictly observes any set of rules or commandments. It was slightly perjorative, but what way is there to really describe these types? I suppose that overly anal retentive may work, but it just takes too long. Anyway, there was a constant battle between these two groups - not a real battle, but more a battle of minds.
The regular guys would be just having fun, goofing around, talking about life, and being regular in every way that you could expect from young men. The Pharisees on the other hand, tried to erase the past, like some sort of neo-Khmer Rouge/Jacobin/Commie-Nazis. When they started their mission, that was Year Zero and nothing happened before then. They never talked about anything other than the here and now. In addition, they couldn't just obey the rules we had, but they had to make up their own rules too. The thing that got me thinking of this was a letter from my brother who is in Minnesota on a mission currently. His prez doesn't want them to take any pictures that are unbecoming of a missionary. First, what does that mean, and second, why? That's just a little harsh. Second, why not let them loosen up? They'll have more fun and be happier as a result and that will get better results. So what's the deal with that? Thoughts?

Friday, May 27, 2005

Nick Burns, My Company's Computer Guy

While I wouldn't call Jimmy Fallon a comic genius, he was right on the money with his impersonation of your average company computer guy. I actually see him every day in my office. He's supposed to take care of everything computer related, but instead he likes to pawn things off on others (i.e. me). While I'm sure that he does a lot of work on the weekends and at night when people aren't here, I see a pattern developing.
The Boss: Sorro, will you come over to my house and install x on my computer?
Me: You should have Nick Burns do it, that's his job, and if anything goes wrong with it, he'll blame me.
The Boss: I would, but Nick told me to ask you.
And so the pattern goes on. Then of course, because you're actually doing things without his sanction, as he empowers everybody by doing not much, you do something that he doesn't like, so he gives you a verbal smackdown. Of course, there's no reasoning with Nick Burns, because you don't want to suddenly have your computer explode, so it's a Catch-22.

Tuesday, May 24, 2005

The Revenge of Doug Warren

Nope, this isn't a post about the lastest Star Wars movie - although I probably will say more about it at some point in time - but just a bit more about Doug Warren. I've had to go waste another 4 hours of my life the past 2 weeks. I think that in general people have finally realized that his training sessions are a lot like having sex with a eunuch - there's a lot of movement, but it's not going anywhere. Fortunately, if things go as I think they may go, we're going to get this guy out of here and actually stop wasting lots and lots of valuable time.

"[Best] Movie Ever" - Comic Book Guy

It isn't often I get so excited for a movie that I'm about to pee my pants, but Revenge of the Sith made me question my bladder's iron constitution. Admittedly I'm a pretty big nerd about Star Wars, but this movie was just freakin' awesome. There were a few scenes were the acting was a bit overboard (which I attriubte to the fact that the scripts were kept from the eyes of the actors until the 11th hour), but other than that it was everything and more than I hoped it could be. For anyone has managed to be absent from existence for the last decade ROTS puts the final pieces of the puzzle in place as to why young Anakin Skywalker turned to the Dark Side and became Darth Vader. My absolute favorite scene in the movie (and in the running for best scene of all time) is the moment when Vader, now masked, takes his first ominous breath. According to Box Office Mojo ROTS grossed an amazing $303,949,700 worldwide in a mere 5 days. In North America it grossed $158,449,700, Western Europe pushed $56m, even Serbia rolled in with $62,284 (thanks Serbs). If you haven't been out to see it, I can't urge you enough to get off your can and get to the nearest theater, afterall 300 million people can't be wrong.

Forro's Girl's Restau-rant

Written by: Forro's girl
Last week my boyfriend and I were enjoying dinner at a local sit-down Mexican restaurant. While chatting casually and eating our nachos, we were rudely interrupted with an obscene version of Happy Birthday being hollered at a table 15 feet away. Loud clapping and some tune that neither sounded like Happy Birthday, nor resembled anything previously rehearsed, suddenly drowned out all attempts of relaxed conversation.

Disgusted, I rolled my eyes and complained to my boyfriend about these restaurants that find such a scene witty and comical. Of course, my comments went unheard drowned out by a military sound off version of Happy Birthday. I took this moment to myself (trying to disregard the noise consuming the restaurant) to look around. I saw an embarrassed birthday boy being screamed at by restaurant personnel, parents trying to keep control of their children as they attempted to groove to the annoying “tune,” and a boyfriend across the table from me that suddenly seemed separated from me by a Spanglish sound barrier. The cherry atop the fried ice cream was the baby on her mother’s lap that lost her balance and nearly lost her life because the mother used both hands to plug her own ears.

Who defines this as merriment? Who wrote these lame songs? The fact exists that Happy Birthday is a copywrited song, requiring that restaurants pay the rights for permission to sing it in their restaurants. They are too cheap to pay for it so they write their own crap. But really who cares? Who cares if it is somebody else’s birthday? In the words of Jerry Seinfeld, “You lived another 12 months without dying. Congratulations.” Birthdays are a time for celebration but not for over-exuberance and downright annoyance.

It’s obvious that the wait staff doesn’t care to sing the songs either. Their walking and clapping from the kitchen to the table with a loathing look of “I-should-go-apply-at-McDonald’s-because-at-least-they-don’t-sing-there,” presents the wonder of who really thinks this is pleasurable? In my opinion it’s almost as cool as all the pathetic and ridiculous buttons worn by the employees at a popular international food chain.

Wednesday, May 18, 2005

Don't Ever Count the Bronx Bombers Out

One thing I haven't talked much about is my love for the Yankees. The main reason is because they have stunk up the AL East, but they're on a tear now. I know that there are probably more Yankees haters than Yankee lovers out there, and everyone was reveling in the collapse of Steinbrenner's $200 million roto league team. Nevertheless, you can't count them out yet. Sure, they're older than dirt, but they needed a bit of time to gel, get some players healthy (or at least have them contribute), and give everybody hope. While I don't think this win streak will continue indefinitely, watch for them to still make the playoffs, although unless they show this kind of play in September, I wouldn't bet on them being the MLB champs just yet.

Tuesday, May 17, 2005

A Quick Freak-out

So I went to lunch today and I got a call on my way home that I needed to get some MiniDV tapes and set up a camcorder to record a seminar that one of our nurses was conducting today. Well, I said I would, then went home to lunch. I was there for no more than 20 minutes when I got another call from the same person saying that the nurse was wondering where her recorder setup was. Well, I still had a good half an hour before it was needed, so she should have held on for a bit. Then, while I was on my way back to the office, I got another call, this from an exec saying basically the same thing. Well, I told him essentially the same information. All was well, and so I got to the office and headed in, and I got a call from another exec asking essentially the same question. That's 3 calls in 20 minutes for something which was set up and ready to go before she even got in the room. It was absolutely ridiculous!

Monday, May 16, 2005

Follow Up on America West

If my rant about America West this morning wasn't good enough, I recently found out that it was timely as if ripped from the pages of this morning's paper. My father-in-law is a consultant and he was on a trip to do some training with ConocoPhillips and he had the misfortune to be on America West. He was going to be routed through Las Vegas, then to Dallas where he would have a 5 hour layover (during the night) and get on an American Airlines flight to his final destination. Well, he got to the airport and found that for no apparent reason at all, America West had cancelled his flight. They booked him on the next flight to Vegas and confirmed that he wanted to be on the 12:40 am-ish flight to DFW. Well, they didn't confirm it. He got to Vegas and they wouldn't let him on the flight. So there he was, stranded in Vegas. He thought that they had then confirmed him for the first flight to DFW in the morning, so he checked into a hotel and slept for a bit, only to wake up, go back to McCarran International Airport, and find that they did the exact same thing to him. Long story short, there were no flights to either DFW or his final destination available until he went down to the Continental counter where they did their best to get him to where he needed to go. They got him directly into where he needed to go, no thanks to either America West or American. This is especially disheartening with all the news about America West and US Airways possibly merging. I have been bequeathed Gold status on US Airways because of my American Express Centurion card, and now I find out that the airline I got status on is one I will probably want to avoid like the plague. Fortunately, I still have Delta and Continental status, so it won't be as bad, but I do have a request for the good people at American Express: please replace US Airways with United! Sure, they're both on death's door and in bankruptcy, but at least one isn't going to have America West hosing their passengers!

Back Again, for a bit

I have been out of town again for the past few days...we took a family vacation to Flagstaff, AZ. I know what you're thinking - you've never heard of a family vacation to Flagstaff before. The reason behind it is because my wife's brother got his Masters' Degree from Northern Arizona University and so we went down to see his commencement and spend a few days down there with him and his wife and son. All-in-all, it was a lot of fun, but it's more driving than I've done for a trip in probably 10 years. If it weren't for the Grand Canyon, it would have been a lot more direct of a drive. Instead, you have only a couple of options from Utah - you can cross the Colorado River just below Lake Powell at Page, AZ; you can cross at Navajo Bridge, about 10 miles south (but unaccessable from) of Page; or you can go to Las Vegas and cross in front of Lake Mead at Hoover Dam. What makes things even tougher is that that's the easiest way to get there. Last summer my wife flew down there (she didn't drive because I couldn't go, so in gas and wear/tear on the car it was cheaper to fly) for a few days and, when you add in the time waiting at the airport, it actually took longer to fly there.
Okay, a quick story about that. Unfortunately for everyone, the only airline with service to Flagstaff is America West Airlines. They fly those little turboprop puddle jumpers from Phoenix to Flagstaff - and that's the only service. There's nothing else. So I drove her to the airport at 6 in the morning for her 8 am flight. Well, as is typical for America West, she was delayed. Her flight didn't leave until after 10. It was delayed for some reason or another, causing her to miss her connecting flight in Phoenix. When she finally got there, she ran to her new connecting flight, which she barely made, but which was also promptly delayed as soon as it was out on the tarmac and not at the gate. I can't think of a worse fate than being on a turboprop aircraft with no legroom, little air conditioning, and in the middle of a Phoenix summer. After an hour of torture, she was able to go to Flagstaff. Final time spent travelling: 10 hours. Then her flight back was delayed in Flagstaff, then her connecting flight to Salt Lake was delayed, then they lost her bag in the process too. Again, it took about 10 hours to get back here. You wouldn't think it'd be quite so difficult, but such is travel on America West. This, of course, is in contrast to 8 hours of driving each way. The moral of the story: Flagstaff is far enough away from everything that it's tough to get to any way you travel.

Wednesday, May 11, 2005

An Engaged Guy's Worst Nightmare

I've been too busy traveling and getting ready for Star Wars III to really pay attention, but what about this story? The girl up and ran away from the guy she was engaged to. First of all, she should have just cancelled the wedding instead of staging the whole kidnapping thing, and second of all the guy should move on. It's pretty clear that she's not going to be marrying him anytime soon. I know it's easy to say and hard to do, but unless he wants to be known as the guy that she keeps running away from, it'd probably be best for him to move on. In the words of Mark Rumsfeld, "Why don't you take your balls out of your wife's purse; make a stand for once in your life?"

Tuesday, May 10, 2005

I Get Results!

If you remember all my consternation some months ago about the word specialists, I thought I'd just update you on the situation. Long story short, specialists will not be part of the new company name. Sing praises to the gods of common sense!

Sorro < Hitler?

I had a disagreement with one of my employees yesterday, and very long story short, after he/she walked out, I had some discussions with upper management, after which they sent in HR to smooth things out. We had a long talk, during which the HR person asked my employee to name one good thing about me. Now, you wouldn't think this would be too hard. For example, Hitler was an incredible motivator. Stalin and Chairman Mao both led their countries to make great strides in modernization, moving from peasant class societies to industrial ones in very short periods of time. Even William Henry Harrison was nothing if not eloquent.
Despite how easy it is to come up with at least one good thing about anybody, this employee couldn't come up with one good thing to say about me at all. The HR person even said that they'd accept "Sorro combs his hair nicely" or anything at all, but this employee didn't want to make any effort at all. Suffice it to say, the situation is developing.

Friday, May 06, 2005

An Open Letter to Michael Dell

Mr. Dell,
Hi, how are you?
I really like your company, I do. The computer I'm at right now is a Dell, my laptop is a Dell, and I work on a Dell. Nevertheless, I'm sick and tired of the calls from your financial division. Fortunately, I don't get them at home, but I do get to deal with them at work. Our payments aren't always at Dell on the due date as a result of our A/P cycle, and that's where my beef comes in. Almost immediately after that due date passes, one of your Indian reps gives me a call asking where the money is. I proceed to give him/her the check information, including what check number it is and when I sent it out. Of course, it takes several minutes to get things right, because the reps you hire don't speak good enough English, or else they aren't used to American accents, but that's beside the point. For most companies, that would be enough. They say thanks for the payment, and end it there. For your financial division, however, that's just the beginning. They then proceed to press for an additional payment to "save me from finance charges." After all, you can't wait for the check to be processed through your mail department - it's got to be right this second!
I give your rep the information to the bank account, because 200 dollars being late by a day or so is just murder for a company with $50 billion in revenues. It takes several minutes because I have to keep repeating myself, trying to speak as clearly as possible so that I'm not misunderstood by your guy in Bangalore. Finally, the transaction's done and I don't have to pay interest, right?
Wrong! I now find out that on my next bill, I'll be charged a "convenience fee" of $15 for the privilege of not getting charged late fees. Strangely, that $15 fee is more than I would have paid in interest. Also interesting is that I'm actually saving you money by doing it this way - it costs between 1-5 dollars to process a check and only $.60 to do an EFT. Therefore, I'm being charged for saving you money. Strange how that works, isn't it? Take the charge off my bill, stop bugging me, and maybe give me a new computer with that Pentium Extreme Edition 860, and we'll call it even.

Thursday, May 05, 2005

Yeah, I've Been Sparse

I've been on the road for most of the past month - first on business to Washington, DC; then to Japan for my honeymoon (we're late, I know, but such are the vagaries of weather and redeeming free tickets from the airlines. In addition, Forro hasn't exactly shown up much either, it must have something to do with school, or a bad case of scurvy. Anyway, hopefully they'll pick up again after my diatribe against Doug Warren. I'll probably regale you with some travel tales at some point in time, you lucky person you!

Tuesday, May 03, 2005

The Worst Consultant of All Time

Well, I just had the least productive morning in the history of mankind. Well, maybe not quite - but it was up there. We have a consultant coming in now who, in theory, is supposed to teach us all about Total Quality Management. In theory, that's great. I think a lot of companies can benefit from it, as demonstrated by places like Toyota. Nevertheless, to implement TQM, you first have to learn what TQM is, and this is where our consultant, Doug Warren is having problems. I was in this meeting for two and a half hours this morning, and maybe heard 5 minutes total about what TQM actually is and what it does. The rest of the time, I heard nothing more than factual inaccuracies. Really, to call them that is being generous. It was more like out and out BS. I think the easiest way to do this will be to break it down by subject.


Apparently I got stuck in a time warp back to the 80s, because as far as Mr. Warren is concerned, Japan is the boogeyman.

Factual Error 1

Japan is the best economy in the world!
Actually, that is false. According to one of the best internet reference sites out there, the CIA's World Factbook, Japan's GDP was $3.7 trillion, and grew at 1.9% last year. Meanwhile, the "inferior" US was at $11.5 trillion, and grew at 4.4%. By every economic indicator, the US' economy is better. There isn't any disputing that, and actually the US has been pulling away from Japan, so the gap is getting wider.

Factual Error 2

Total Quality Management (well, the Japanese implementation of it) and W. Edwards Deming were the cause of the fall of the Soviet Union!
Really? Why hasn't anybody pointed this out before? Certainly Japanese textbooks would toot this horn if they felt that it was the case. Of course, it's a lie. I think that liberals and conservatives can agree that Deming and the Japanese had very little to do with the fall of the Soviet Union. Instead it was (conservative opinion) Reagan or (liberal opinion) Gorbachev who caused it. Nope, according to Warren, we should be paying homage to Deming because he's the greatest man in history!

He has this irrational view of Japan as some sort of Superman, when anybody who has lived there, or even seen the movie Lost in Translation would know that it's not exactly paradise.

World History

I really don't know where to begin with this one. Perhaps I'll just give you a broad sweep of The World According to Doug Warren®, which is even less accurate than Mel Brooks' History of the World.
Okay, so the reason that our history comes primarily through the Greeks and Romans is becasue The Man is keeping Northern Europeans and their TQM achievements down. That's right! The Goths, Vandals, Vikings, and other assorted Barbarians were actually TQM masters, but the Romans kept them down. This was in part because of Charlemagne, who was an English general that the French appointed to be emperor of the Roman Empire. He moved the Roman capital to Constantinople and started the Crusades, which can be learned about by watching the movie Sahara (yes, Clive Cussler is now a noted historian!).
Then we found out that The British started out in 449 AD when the Mongol hordes under the combined leadership of Genghis Khan and Atilla the Hun pushed the northern Europeans out on an island (England). There, they practiced TQM and moved to New Foundland, where Henry VIII broke away from the church, became the leader of it, and defeated the Spanish Armada. Following this, he colonized the American continent. He also, along with nomadic peoples from elsewhere, drew up the Magna Carta. Then the king of England decided to have a war with France, which he won, which made him the king of France. Samuel Adams (the brother of John Adams) didn't like that, so he wrote a letter to the king. The king then said that they couldn't cross the Appalachian Mountains because all the land out there was his, so Sam Adams wrote 7 more letters, and then got the colonists to start the Revolutionary War. Following this, the Romans ended up in the South and the Northern Europeans in the North. Well, Abraham Lincoln read the Magna Carta, decided that the South wasn't following it, and started the Civil War, which apparently the South won (because they were the Romans, and as we all know, The Man is still keeping TQM down).
I'm not going to do a point by point rebuttal, because none of it is true, and all those Wikipedia links should rebut just fine for me. Then in his CV, he has the gall to call himself a historian!

Final Thoughts

He also fluffed himself more than anybody this side of Donald Trump. Of course, Trump can back it up, but Warren can't. Take a look at the electronic version. Try as I might, I can't find anything about how influential he was, being a political appointee, a powerful member of the Nixon advance team, and so forth. In addition, he's written a history (supposedly non-fiction), a book (that will be bigger than Harry Potter), and a musical. I could go on, but I think you get the point. This guy was a meatball! And I have to listen to 6 more sessions of this!

Wednesday, April 06, 2005

Marrying Product Spokesmen

Maybe my wife and I are the only people in the world who would do this, but have you ever married the spokesmen of various products? I don't mean literally - taking the Brawny Man and Betty Crocker to a priest and having him marry their images or anything, but just having them be married in your mind. The above pictured combination is just one of the ones we've done. The Tapatio man and the Cholula lady just seemed like a good match. They're both Hispanic, they're both into hot sauce, and the Tapatio man has a killer sombrero. Well, I have to go marry off Mrs. Butterworth to Mr. Clean!

Friday, April 01, 2005

Who Puts Soup in the Freezer!?

As an April Fool's Day treat to you, the loyal 1 people who come here, I have a story from hallowed antiquity (i.e. 3 years ago). At the time, I was still living with my parents, and I was tending my sister, who was needing tending because of her tendencies to perform unsavory acts with certain humps, who shall remain nameless. Anyway, I was looking for a quick snack, along the lines of a Jell-O Pudding Pop™ or a small parakeet. So, I opened the freezer, and out slid a frozen can of Campbell's Chunky Soup, as hard as a rock. So it fell on my toes, and as a result of the force of the violent pincing action of the tile floor and the solid soup, it broke them. After writhing in agony for a while, I took a closer look at the offending can. It was partially eaten. So whoever (and nobody's ever fessed up to this) decided to have some soup thought that instead of doing something normal like oh, putting it in a container and then into the fridge, that they would perch it precariously in the freezer as some sort of medieval booby trap.
So I ask you again...who puts soup in the freezer?!

Wednesday, March 16, 2005

This seems a little strange to me...

My mother is very interesting. She always seems to call at precisely the wrong moment - I'm carrying things, talking to someone, going to the bathroom, having sex (well, not that last one - at least she hasn't called then yet), and inevitably I'll hear her ringtone. Anyway, besides her terrible sense of timing when she calls, she calls me for things that I don't know about. For example, today she called me about some sandals she was buying for my wife...she wanted to know sizes, colors, and all of that. Being a guy, I had no idea what any of that was. The thing that's really strange is that she could have just called my wife directly and asked her. Instead, she uses me as a middleman, and that's about as ineffective as anything that I can imagine. Call my wife!!

Does this happen to other people, or is it just me?

Send this to 43 people and something good will happen

Junk mail is like getting raped in prison, you don't know when or how often, you just know that it's on its way. I'm exhasted from the overflow of trite Christian anecdotes, "what women really mean," and most of all chain letters.
I'd like to say it boggles my mind that people are dumb enough to think that this type of correspondence is humorous/inspirational/fun, but I can't. I'm fully aware of how many dumb people exist out there, and based on my inbox I seem to be associated with all of them.

Friday, March 11, 2005

Free Digital Cameras

The good folks at Gratis Networks have come out with a new promo: a free digital camera. The way it works is thusly:
You sign up using the link I am providing here: . You complete an offer (there aren’t many freebies on there, but one that I did notice that was free was a 30 day trial to Not only is that one free, but you get 5 bucks of postage for free too. Just cancel before your month’s trial is up – it’s easy to do so via their website). Then you get 10 friends to sign up using a link that you’ll be getting after you sign up. They’ll complete the offer, and BOOM! - you’ve got yourself a free 5+ megapixel digital camera!

This is a legitimate thing! I signed up for their free iPod offer (same type of deal), and I’m loving it! Shipping is free, the product is free, everything is free. Just make sure you don’t sign up for anything in the first several screens. When it gets to the page where it says that you have to complete 1 of the following offers, that’s the only stuff you have to sign up for, and just one of those. The other stuff won’t give you credit (i.e. everything before that screen). Also, I’d advise against checking the 2 boxes on the opening page – they will most likely lead to spam offers being dropped in your e-mail box.

Thursday, March 10, 2005

The Apprentice: Negotiating with Musicians

It'll be interesting to see what happens on tonight's Apprentice. Who knows how the team shuffle will work, and which team will be weaker. The most obvious weak players have been ousted now, so there's no Omarosa to make the early decision about. I imagine that it will come down to whoever is negotiating the best deal from the performers - I see this as a lot like the auction task from Season 1. Put together the best package, and you'll be in good shape.

Monday, March 07, 2005

Reply to all abuse

Who else is sick of this? I am on a mailing list, where, long and uninteresting story short, people like to chat back and forth. The way it works, you can either send to the e-mail address that shoots it out to everybody, or you can reply to the person via their e-mail address, which is in the "reply to" field. These people e-mail and call back and forth amongst each other. I got involved in it because I went to a conference a month ago and ended up in it. Anyway, if you got an email sent over the list like this:
"I am looking for people to call other than my group, because sometimes I cannot reach them, so if any of you don't mind if I call on you, let me know. Vice Versa."

what would you do? I think I'd probably respond to this person by doing something along the lines of sending an e-mail directly to the person. Is that what this group does? Not hardly! Instead, the following e-mail (with names changed to protect the retarded) was sent not only to her, but also to the entire group - she deliberately added in the entire group, which means that the original e-mailer got this message twice.
Hi Janet,
This is Jillian.
I love you. You can call me.

How ridiculous is that? Why did I need to know anything about that? Things like that have turned this mailing list into a dumping ground. My wife has it all sent to the trash, and I think I'm going to do the same.

Thursday, March 03, 2005

The Apprentice: Clown College

We saw Alex step up last week, and lo and behold, he gave a performance that was so night and day from what we have seen from most other candidates that you'd almost think we were back in Season 1. He actually talked to his target audience and tried to sell the product, as opposed to making a pretty mural that he liked. He's no urban candidate - his terrible use of "mad props" showed that - but he knows what the urban market wants because he asked.
In this week's task, watch for Audrey to further embarass Utah with her mouth (seriously, did she get a mouth transplant from a sailor or something?) and actions. What a horrible candidate. You can definitely tell that she's only 22. Also, watch for another Net Worth loss, because as anybody can tell you, clowns are scary. Kids will not like clowns. For the few who consider Ronald McDonald their best friend, they'll be okay, but I tend to think that that's not their target audience. Clowns are too polarizing, regardless of the task.

Wednesday, March 02, 2005

Quick and Dirty

I've grown ever so weary of the business buzzwords around my office, more specifically from my boss. Inevitably when he opens his mouth I find myself being smothered under the flow of oral crap that spews forth. Everyday it is a constant stream of "let's take this offline", "think outside the box", "sharpen the saw" and so on. He recently added the phrase "quick and dirty" to his already weighty repertoire. Let me just explain this about my boss, much of what he does is dirty, but never is it quick. Generally it is a painfully slow process in which he repeatedly thrusts his ideas until you relent and agree.
I understand that such phrases have their time and place, and can add illustration to an idea, but it seems that 90% of the time they are tossed in as nothing more than executive bull honk. I don't know if you are equally annoyed with all the buzzwords, but my advice to you when presented with the comment "let's have a quick and dirty about this". Follow your gut instinct and run, run like a small boy from a beefy schoolmarm.

The Way to M&A

As a follow-up to my last entry, currently Blue Ribbon is also in the process of purchasing a company that we'll call Edge Health Care. The normal procedure in an acquisition is this: Company A buys Company B. Company B and Company A become the same company, and B's identity is subsumed. A gets B's assets, jobs and overlapping functions are merged, and life is good. However, here at Blue Ribbon, we don't do that so much. Instead, Edge will be moving into our building. So far, so good, right? Well, then they'll become a separate company, with some merged back office functions. The reasoning behind this is because people who wouldn't go with a big company like Blue Ribbon will go with a small company like Edge. Here in the area, word will certainly get out that Edge is part of Blue Ribbon. Therefore, people won't refer to the small company that's part of a big company, and you lose the small company advantage as well as the opportunity to show that a big company can treat you well. On top of that, a lot of operational efficiencies won't be realized because we're still 2 companies in many respects. Mergers and aquisitions pay off through operational efficiencies as much as anything else, and by making sure that we don't get those efficiencies, we're making sure that we'll merge like a bunch of retarded monkeys who have fallen out of the trees one too many times. Eventually this will change - they will be completely integrated, but that's been put on hold indefinitely.

Friday, February 25, 2005

Business 101

I've never taken a business class, but I would imagine that if I did, one of the basic concepts would be "give your company a good, easy to remember name." Of course, this was lost on the powers that be at my company - let's call it Blue Ribbon Health Care. In and of itself, it isn't a bad name. Sure, I'm not a huge fan of blue ribbons, but let's just let that slide and say it's good. Then, a few years back, a doctor came and said, "if you add 'Specialists' to the end, then doctors will think that you're specialsts and use you more often."
There are some things I'd trust a doctor with. One is if my spleen was going to explode. Another was if I had some drugs that I invented that I wanted the FDA to approve. One of those things is not, however, marketing. You would have thought that the lesson of The Apprentice's doctor David would resonate a little more. The guy couldn't sell lemonade on the street, let alone a multimillion dollar company. Anyway, long story short, instead of listening to somebody - anybody - else, they listened to the doctor. Now I work for Blue Ribbon Health Care Specialists. I've actively been campaigning against that cursed word, in part because it's lame, but also because it's superfluous, inane, and it makes the name of the company harder to remember. So instead of going along with the flow of established and reputable (or formerly reputable, but certainly better at branding) companies like Hewlett-Packard (HP), Procter & Gamble (P&G), International Business Machines (IBM), and American Telephone & Telegraph (AT&T) and shortening our name or going by an acronym (let's face it, BRHCS is a terrible acronym), we did the opposite and made it more convoluted and harder to remember.
Recently we decided to branch out our company from just health care, to say, health care and insurance. As a result, more name was needed. In this case, I'd say it's pretty legit, and it got rid of the specialists, so that's all I care about. Therefore, we are going to be Blue Ribbon Health Care and Insurance. Still unwieldy, but I can live with it. Well, then some bright management types got to thinking: maybe it would be better if it was Blue Ribbon Health Care Specialists and Insurance! Or perhaps Blue Ribbon Health Care and Insurance Specialists! Or maybe even Blue Ribbon Health Care Specialists and Insurance Specialists!!! Fortunately, the documents are in to the government for the name change and Tax ID, so it won't happen, but I was on pins and needles for a while because it's just too much. We don't need a name that rivals the length of Dostoyevsky's The Brothers Karamazov.
Remember. For consumers, simple and easy to remember=good! Convoluted and needing a guy with a photographic memory to remember=bad!

Thursday, February 24, 2005

The Apprentice: Sony PS2 Task

This has to be the greatest reality show of all time. Nothing can top it, and it just works so well. You learn while being entertained, and isn't that what matters?
I have just a few thoughts on things in general. First, Alex will win. That's all there is to it. He totally has the " Eye of the Rancic" - just like Bill did before him, and Bradford, before Trump dumped him for no apparent reason. Really, how could you pick Kelly over Bradford? I'd never have dropped him for waiving his immunity. It was a wise move because he did so well in that task and wanted to gain the allegiance of his team. I don't fault him at all. Anyway, back to the task at hand, watch for Alex to continue to bide his time, and watch for a train wreck somewhere along the line, likely involving Stephanie.