Thursday, December 21, 2006

Christmas with Justin

Every so often, SNL comes up with something that's pretty darn funny. If you can't think of what to get your loved one this Christmas, they have an idea for you. For the love of Pete, if you're offended by the mention of male anatomy, specifically a term that is also a nickname for people named Richard, I'd probably move to the next post.

Wednesday, December 20, 2006

People Can Come Up With Statistics to Prove Anything, Kent. Fourfty Percent of All People Know That.

CNN has an article where apparently 95% of all US citizens (and, as any statictician knows, +/-4%) have had premarital sex. While I think it's certainly high (higher than is good for us), there is no way that the number is that high. The other interesting point is that it's been that high for decades. That seems to directly contradict this study right here that says incidences of premarital sex went from 32-45% from 1972-1982 then leveled off. While I'm sure that their statistical methods were sound, I wonder if their sample was an inaccurate sample. I could take a sample of people I know and premarital sex would drop down to around 20%. It's not going to be statistically accurate because of the high proportion of Mormons in it, but I think it illustrates the problem with the CNN study. Maybe they were just unlucky, or maybe they used some sort of push polling, or perhaps some other methods that tend to cause statistical anomalies.
Let's say for a moment that this is true though. What does that mean for society? It means that we're a nation of manwhores and people who don't care about the sanctity of sex. It's not just something to knock about with and have a good time. It should be taken seriously, and if the entire nation is having sex, not only are we all having affairs as well, but we're causing long term problems. Seeing as how most of the nation is still Christian in one form or another and that one of the tenets of all major Christian religions is that you should have sex within the bounds of marriage, then we're all condemned to Hell.
Of course, the good news is that this is almost certainly wrong, as that's such a high percentage as to call the entire study into question. They can always go back and do it again though.

Monday, December 18, 2006

This Wire Frame House can Kick Your House's Butt

Carson Williams, the maestro of last year's homebrew TSO lights extravaganza, has done it again, this time without causing more traffic problems than a Wii blowout at Best Buy. While I don't think that this tops the original (although the show he put together at a mall in Denver might), it's still awfully cool. I can see this guy rigging up his kids' caps and gowns so that as they graduate, they're blinking and going crazy to the graduation march. That'd certainly be one way to make it cooler than usual. I'd like to see some sort of uber-nerd High School, Tech School, or University do that. MIT, I'm looking in your direction.

Thursday, December 14, 2006


While I don't want to tell anyone to actually watch the full video, take a look at a few select pieces. Here's an aerobic class that (as far as I know) helps Japanese people get around Los Angeles.

Wednesday, December 13, 2006

Weee....Just [Looked Like We] Went Out of Business

There are a few businesses that just bug me, and one of them is Pa Pa's Southern Smoked BBQ. Right from the get-go this business annoyed me. They spelled Papa's Pa Pa. They have a little ugly pig on their sign. They have their little saying, which can only be said in the Cheeth's Little Kid From The South voice. Finally, and most importantly, they're not The Smokehouse. This is a shortcoming of pretty much every barbeque place west of Texas though, so it's tough to fault them for that. Unfortunately, as a connoisseur of barbeque, just existing isn't enough. I had tasted the sweet sweet taste of good barbeque on trips to Florida and Texas and some random place with bush league sauce just wasn't going to cut it. I have the same beef with Goodwood. Sure, the name is classic, but their sauce sucks. On top of that, they price their meals like they're gold plated. Anyway, I thought I saw some big crowds in Pa Pa's, which was unfortunate. Nevertheless, I drove past one night and it was quite dark with the only vehicle in the parking lot being a semi trailer. That's what happens when you're a start-up no-name barbeque place going into a former Tony Roma's (which also sucks, but that's beside the point) - too big a location, IMO.

EDIT - 3/6/08: a while back they moved across the street, so it was just a temporary relocation.

Tuesday, December 12, 2006

This Was Crazy

I was driving home yesterday for lunch and there was a dog meandering through the road. The road that I was driving on carries around 50,000 cars on an average day, so it's a busy road. Anyway, this dog was meandering through traffic at a light. The car in front of me stopped to let it pass, and I knew that disaster was imminent. Indeed, there was a Jeep Grand Cherokee that was chugging down the lane next to me and it plowed into the dog. Everyone in the car thought the dog was dead, but much to our surprise, the dog jumped right up after getting hit and took off at top speed. The dog must be mental though, because instead of learning its lesson and not running down the street, it ran down the middle of the road. It didn't look hurt, just scared. That was a shocker, as I expected dog pate instead.

Wednesday, December 06, 2006

I Rikee Mahketing

I've noticed this trend with Chinese restaurants here lately. The first was Chen's Noodle House. I got a flyer that is, to be perfectly honest, the best marketing thing I've ever seen in my entire life. It was rife with misspellings, bad grammar, and other Chinese translation errors ("Free Deliver!"). On top of that, the delivery logo guy had a hat on that said China King. It's like the people who started the place up just got off the boat and started it up. While I haven't gone yet, I must go because if they are real Chinese people then their Chinese has got to be better than the Americanized stuff at Panda Express.
Now there's the Asian Buffet. I've scanned the ad to the right and once again awesomness is in the cards. Take a look at the picture of the guy at the grill. You'd think, "oh, that's nice, a cooking guy." Instead, they want you to think "GRILL!" Fish on a plate? "SUSHI!" If that's not cool, I don't know what is. The other thing that I love is one of their big selling points right there on the side: "We Serve Beer!" Apparently they didn't realize that here in Utah the beer flows pretty freely. In fact, I think I've seen it at such places as grocery stores, convinience stores, and even other restaurants.

Monday, December 04, 2006

Stalking 2.0

I've seen stalking before, but not Web 2.0 stalking. Tom Brady's got someone who has a little more than just a man crush on him, unless of course it's intentional. Then it's just darn funny instead of creepily unintentionally funny.

Saturday, December 02, 2006

No, I've Never Seen That Before

I'll have a terrible camera phone picture to update this with on Monday, but I was driving home from work last night and I saw something that I had never seen before. Here was someone driving a mid-90s Ford Escort. That's not the something. The something was that the bumper of the Escort was a 2X4 that was nailed on to the frame. Now that's something I've never seen before. Is that even legal?

Saturday, November 25, 2006

Friday, November 24, 2006


Here's a great spot that someone made for Chevy. Of course, I don't think that GM was too happy about it.

Mass Hysteria

Black Friday is upon us. I was going to be out and about for an epic bout of deal-getting, but after driving past Best Buy at 8:30 last night and seeing over 100 people in line, my hopes of getting a $379 Core Solo laptop vanished in a poof of smoke. While I will testify to the goodness of the deals, isn't this getting a little out of hand? Sure, $350 is a lot of money and a lot of savings, but is it worth skipping Thanksgiving for? I saw (and this is no joke) people at Circuit City at noon yesterday just waiting. Why are you waiting?! Why aren't you at home deep frying a turkey/burning your house down? I would say that some of this is they typical college town mentality that we have here, but those students are gone. The people I saw at Best Buy were a cross section of society. I will say this, it's not worth my time. Most people would consider time more valuable than money, but not your typical Black Friday shopper. You can always get more money (sell your shirt, your pants, etc), but it's awfully tough to get more time. While I admire the tenacity of these deal hunters, maybe they're taking it just a bit too far. I skipped Best Buy and instead woke up an hour early to hit Target. It was a madhouse in there. There were people who just didn't get the concept of forward motion in addition to those who were parking their shopping carts anywhere and everywhere. It didn't matter if they were in front of the door or blocking an aisle, they just figured they'd cram them there. Some people get a rush in these giant crowds, but not I. I'll still brave them for a good deal, but it's not something that floats my boat. I spent most of the extra time I had this morning playing Company of Heroes, and that was a lot funner than killing an old lady for $50 off a television.

Tuesday, November 21, 2006

Will it Blend?

Does anyone else remember when Letterman used to do "Will it Float?" I loved that bit. It was surprising what would float - a 5 lb tub of potato salad for instance. Anyway, here's a twist on the formula that I quite like.

Monday, November 20, 2006

The GOP's Not Dead Yet

I've been meaning to blog about the election results for quite a while now and the delay is because I've just ran out of time, not because I'm crying over the results. You'd think that a dyed in the wool Republican like me would be bemoaning the Democratic takeover of the House and Senate, but I think it's actually a good thing. The Republicans had been in power for 12 years and they were betraying their values in an attempt to stay in power. I'm not talking about gay marriage or anything like that. Instead, I'm talking about taxing and spending. During their 40 years in exile, the Republicans were always the party of less spending and less taxes. During President Bush's terms in office, however, they've become the pork party. They've ballooned the budget with all kinds of earmarks and subsidies, they've not cared about the deficit, and they've backed their way into huge increases in entitlement spending. They needed a reality check, and I really hope this is it. I would love to see them return to their former stance of "get the government out of people's pocketbooks." Let's lower spending, lower taxes, and see where that takes us. Laffer's Curve hasn't hurt us yet! Maybe in 2 years the Republicans will see the light. Maybe it will take longer. Either way, let's keep the Democrats in power until they do figure it out. We need 2 contrasting parties here, not 2 sides that do exactly the same stuff. Where's the choice in that?

Scholastic Aptitude

I've been out of town for a bit and will get a good post down a little later today. Until then, here's a little test to see how you'd do on basic school subjects:

Wednesday, November 08, 2006

I Will Soon Be Rich

Who knew that deposed leaders in Africa knew who I am or had this kind of money to split with me (although Nigerian leaders are more generous), and all for just sharing my bank account information with them!

From: Mrs. Bianca AlhassasCotonou, Benin Republic, West Africa.
Dear Sir,

I am Mrs. Bianca Alhassas the wife of Late Khadim Alhassas,former minister of defence and chief of army staff of the republic of Sierra Leone in the defunct Government of Bernado Viera. My husband died during the recent coup d'etat, which deposed the former head of state. In the wake of the incidence, I fled together with my family to Benin Republic and took refuge to avoid further oppression from the incumbent government who have seized all my family's properties and seized all accounts belonging to the allies of the deposed president.

Due to this unfortunate situation, I am desperately searching for a reliable and honest partner in your person to assist me in receiving as quickly as possible, the sum of Twelve Million United States Dollars only (US$12,000,000.00) which is the only money that is still safe and intact deposited by my late husband in my personal name in a Finance Firm in Benin Republic on my behalf.

I am therefore passionately requesting your kind assistance to receive this Fund in your country, for safety. I have solidified every arrangement to prepare Legal Documents at the High court of Justice / Finance Firm where the fund is presently deposited, making you the trustee and beneficiary of this fund for a hitch free withdrawal. If I will get your positive response to this urgent plea my good friend. As we meet in due course, we shall be discussing further on other important issues regarding mutual business relationship and possibility of securing a resident-permit for me and my two kids in your country.

I am not comfortable and do not feel safe staying here in Benin Republic due to security reasons as my life is at risk. I must confess that I repose much hope and trust in youassisting me out of this ugly crises.

I am equally willing my good friend to compensate your kind efforts and co-operation in assisting me and my two kids with Seven Hundred Thousand United States Dollars (US$700,000.00) only, if you can offer me this help. Please be informed that I am contacting you based on trust.
Do not disappoint me, your security and reputation is highly guaranteed; absolute confidentiality should also be adhered to. Please! Please! I pray your urgent assistance. Contact me immediately if you are willing to offer me this help, also send to me your full name and address, private phone and fax number so that we can proceed immediately with the change of Legal documents that covers this transaction. This transaction would be covered by the High Court of Justice Of BeninRepublic for your assurance and Utmost guarantee.

The United States of America High commission in Benin Republic is aware of this development. This is Legal and Hitch free. Waiting to hear from you. Your's Sincerely, Mrs. Bianca Alhassas

Tuesday, November 07, 2006

John Kerry: Still A Bonehead

I'm back! I'm immersed in wall-to-wall election coverage on CNN, Fox News, CBS, NBC, and ABC and following it on the internet and I happened to come across the Frankenstinian visage of John Kerry proudly touting that Ted Kennedy has been elected to the Senate 9 times. That of course reminded me of Kerry's idiotic comment about the soldiers and how they were idiots. Sure, he says it's about Bush, but that's BS. He defamed the troops in Vietnam and he's done it again in Iraq. For someone who was a war hero, he certainly doesn't think much of soldiers. Of course, he can't keep his snobbery to himself and as Jimmy Chunga said, he wasn't satisfied blowing one election - he had to go and blow his only other chance at winning the White House. At any rate, what kind of person says this stuff? You'd think that he wouldn't have ever been elected with the tin ear he has, but he is from Taxachussetts and almost anyone with a D after their name will win an election there.

Monday, November 06, 2006

More Carl Lewis Hilarity

If the post below wasn't good enough, take a look at this one. I thought I'd posted this earlier, but I didn't, to my everlasting shame. A few questions:
1) Is it just me, or does Carl Lewis look suspiciously like a woman here?
2) Speaking of women, I really want to know what the deal is with that old bag that Carl goes into the sauna with. It's not like he didn't have hot 80s girls hanging around. He didn't have to settle for the 80 year old.
3) Why did he think this was the career for him? He was a very successful runner after all.
Anyway, without further ado, "Break It Up"

America, Be Not Proud

Here's a gem from the YouTube Archives: Carl Lewis (the world class sprinter) trying his hand at singing (in front of a crowd!).

Sunday, November 05, 2006

Sweet x Awesome

I'm particularly proud of my latest purchase:

If that shows up as an empty box, my purchase is U2 By U2, a monster biography of the world's greatest band. Yeah, I know that a lot of people don't like Bono's pontificating or they think that The Beatles were clearly superior (they're not. Exhibit A: "Love Me Do"), but you can't deny that they have had a ton of success. The really amazing thing isn't that they've managed to stay both relevant and popular for nigh unto 25 years, but that it's the same band that entire time. I could say that no other band has ever been both popular and stable like this in the history of music and I would probably be right. It was 21 bucks at Costco, and when you see a discount like that on a book like this, you have to get it. It has all kinds of pictures, tales of the band and the music, and so forth. I have to say that if you are a U2 fan, this is a must purchase, even more than U2 At the End of the World (which I didn't think could be surpassed - and can't as a narrative of life with the band). I haven't read the whole thing, and I've got other books in the queue, but I recommend this sucker more highly than almost anything else.

Thursday, November 02, 2006

Dar the Halls!

One of the most annoying things in all the world is how Christmas tends to rampage over half of a calendar year. No longer content with throttling Thanksgiving, Christmas has steadily encroached on Halloween's territory. Now I'm not the biggest Halloween fan mind you. Sure, candy and dressing up are all fun and games, but it's more of fun and games for kids. Give me good old fashioned getting fabulous cash and prizes any day of the week.
What's even worse is the Christmas music. It's good for what it is, but no sane human could possibly listen to as much Christmas music as the Christmas Musicistas are pushing these days. KOSY 106.5 in Salt Lake has moved to an all-Christmas music format. They started on Halloween (you know, when other stations play Halloween music) and plan to play it for the rest of eternity. Seriously. How many different versions of "Jingle Bells" can you listen to before either grabbing a rifle and picking people off from a bell tower or adding to the higher holiday suicide rate? Even when you get every version that every artist in the history of music recorded of those songs, you still end up hearing the same version at least twice a day. Why do these stations do it? After KOSY went over to their all-crappier-than-usual-all-the-time mix, Star 96.7 pulled the trigger and I'm sure FM-100 isn't far behind. Can't I have some non-Christmas music stations here in Salt Lake please? It's not too much to ask.
Well, at least I have that Mexican music station that's not on the Christmas cycle yet.

Monday, October 30, 2006

Book Review: The Sword of Lincoln

576 pages

The Sword of Lincoln is not a hard book to read. I know that a lot of historical non-fiction is, and I've trudged through my fair share of them as a history buff and political science graduate. This is a very lucid, easy to read account of the formation and life of the Army of the Potomac. There are thousands of Civil War accounts out there, so what makes this different? I think that one of the things that it tries to explain is the link between the army and its generals. Because of the political pressure on the army to take care of the South and do it quickly, the Army of the Potomac was always under pressure to do something. This led to the undoing of a whole host of generals, the most notable of whom was William McLellan.
There are times when The Sword of Lincoln can get confusing, mainly because it doesn't have a nice set of maps to follow the battleground strategy. There are some in there, but as with any war book, you really need to have good maps to be able to tell what maneuvers are being done and why they are. Nevertheless, that doesn't prevent the book from being a fascinating read and really making the history of this army more accessible. I highly recommend it.

Wednesday, October 25, 2006

San Asqueroso

Yesterday the Wall Street Journal had a story on how the citizens of San Francisco's Tenderloin district (so known because of the cut of meat, not because of the clientele that visits the area) are up in arms about improving the area. You heard that right. They like the squalor that they live in, and who are you to plant trees or try to improve the area. What's the reasoning behind this? A misguided idea of how being a dangerous trashheap gives the area "character." By the same reasoning you could claim that the smell in Fuji gives that town character or that the raw sewage pumped into the East River gives New York a certain flair (although in fairness to the Greatest City in the World, they stopped that years ago because people do care about that city). From the Journal:

In San Francisco's Tenderloin, residents aren't fighting the usual gentrification battle over displacing low-income families. Instead, they are fighting for the neighborhood's gritty ambience.

Often described by tourist guides as San Francisco's worst neighborhood, the Tenderloin has for years been a gathering point for pimps, drug addicts and transvestites and transgender residents, some of whom work as prostitutes. Some residents say that's what gives the Tenderloin its personality and makes it a crucial piece of San Francisco's diverse cityscape. Cleanup efforts, these residents contend, threaten to destroy an atmosphere that welcomes people on the fringe of society, who otherwise could find no refuge. And it distracts from the issues the neighborhood really cares about, such as safety for sex workers and affordable housing.

This isn't entirely unprecedented. A few New Yorkers are still fighting for gritty, sex strewn Times Square and lots of people are fighting to have New Orleans return to the crime dump that it was before Katrina instead of having it be a place where you are, you know, safe. What is it that goes through people's minds? I understand that you want to live where you want to live, but nobody's saying that you can't. Instead they're saying that you should get rid of high crime low value areas. Instead of blowing it up and starting over, pushing out the pimps and the CHUDs might be a good start. Maybe you could plant some trees, reface a building or two, and start sweeping the streets.

Tuesday, October 24, 2006

Jack's Almost Back!

If there's one show that I look forward to throughout the year, it's 24 (although House is close). I'm proud to say that I've been there since the beginning and I've also gotten other people hooked. Long story short, Kiefer Sutherland is the coolest guy on television and kills people. Anyway, there's a new trailer that just debuted for Season 6 (starting January 14). Give it a peak, then give the show a chance. You'll have missed a lot, but that's nothing that watching 120 hours of DVD can't solve.

Tuesday, October 17, 2006

Those Wacky Swedes

Check out this sweet music video from Sweeden. I think you will find it's the best thing since Yatta (which was the best thing since William Shatner).

Monday, October 16, 2006

Dogbert's Tech Support

I have become a lot more sympathetic to those disembodied Indians on the Dell tech support line lately. Since I took over the IT department here at work I've realized that every one of those stupid questions they ask you are asked for a reason: people are idiots. Here's an example of one of the tech support conversations I had with someone here in my office this morning:

Employee: Excuse me, can you help me out?
Sorro: Sure, what's the problem?
E: My computer won't work. I move the mouse and the screen stays blank.
S: Let me come take a look.

I walk over to his computer, take a look at it, and press the power button. The computer immediately starts up.

S: There you go!
E: Thank you my friend.

This is the norm here. The vast majority of computer problems begin with "Is your computer on?" and end with "restart your computer." I know that
computers can be hard to use, but all I'm asking for is some basic knowledge. The on/off switch is the most basic of all switches. You use one with a cell phone, a light, a car (keys count). Why is the one on the computer so daunting?

Thursday, October 12, 2006

Must See TV?

This TV season has been a beast for me. I think part of it is the new addition to our family, the Dish Network 2-tuner TiVo. Suddenly the amount of TV recording time that we had doubled because it allowed us to take a look at some shows that would normally be considered marginal or not as good as whatever was on opposite it. As a result, we've got way too many timers. I'm sure that the network execs will do us a favor by killing a few new shows, but we should probably do a little culling of our own. One show that I would desperately like to eliminate, but for some strange reason just can't is Jericho. I don't know if it's the general absurdity of a town where Major Dad is the mayor, if it's the buggy eyes of Skeet Ulrich (best known from Scream), the sincere Jessica Simpson wannabeishness of the girl that looks like a poor man's Jessica Simpson, or if it's the fact that some amount of the US turned into radioactive ash and I still don't know what's happened quite yet. I would have to say it's the latter reason. So far we know that the following cities have been more or less leveled by a nuclear attack: Denver, Philadelphia, Dallas, Chicago, San Diego, Atlanta, Seattle, Kansas City. There are probably others (hinted at San Francisco, Los Angeles, Minneapolis, Boston, Cincinnati, Detroit, New York City), but the show has been sketchy on real details to keep people like me watching. Areas that haven't been mentioned are those that are actually strategic targets - Washington, DC; Cheyenne Mountain (NORAD); Strategic Air Command, etc.
I think that this show is kind of clueless. For starters, the area where Jericho is situated would have been able to see both nuclear explosions (Kansas City and Denver) if they had been able to see one. Second, the sophisticated nature of the attacks (explosions that large are almost certainly fusion reactions instead of fission - something that is currently out of the realm of possibility for everybody that's not the US, Russia, Britain, China, Israel, and France. Pakistan, India, and North Korea (maybe) have fission weapons) combined with the quantity (the only countries with that kind of capacity are the US, Russia, Britain, China, Israel, and France) mean that it almost certainly shouldn't have been terrorists, much less some sort of organization that
Token Black Man belonged to. Third, the supposed fallout from Denver (and there was bits of Denver in that rain, hence why Drunk IRS Lady was freaking out when she touched bits of it) would have given everybody in town cancer either by now or in the near future, as the fallout from the rain would have stayed around long after they would have died in their shelters. I could go on, but it's picking nits, and they've drawn me in until I can figure out what's going on. Once it gets to that point, I may bail, but who knows. It's no Lost or 24 on the addictive show scale, but it's doing its job thus far. I can only hope that I actually get a payoff here. I want to know who attacked the US, and I don't want a cop-out. I don't want to find out that it's al Qaeda or the Masons. Token Black Man better have a darn good backstory for this unless it's the Chinese or the Russians (who are the only ones who realistically could and/or would have done it, despite the fact that the Russians would have used missiles that would have sent the nation on alert. Instead, the President was in some joint session of Congress while the bombs were going off), in which case all is forgiven.

Monday, October 02, 2006

Now That's a Fashion Statement!

When I was in New York City recently, I saw this guy. Because I had to take the picture covertly from my cell phone, it's not a great picture, but that is one of those frisbees with the hole in the center (also known as an aerobie) around his neck. I know it was fashion week when I was there, but for as bizarre as fashion is these days, I don't think it's that strange. Nevertheless, Derek may want to start this trend in Japan, as Japan seems ripe for the neck aerobie to take off after the somewhat demise of the Ganguro/Yamamba trend sometime after I came back to the States.

Saturday, September 09, 2006

Jerry Seinfeld is Rolling Over in His Grave

Or he would be if he were dead. I am currently in New York City on business (I love New York! I've been waiting for a conference here forever) and tonight I went with a few coworkers to Monty Python's Spamalot. The play itself was awesome. There was a lot of little things they tossed in above and beyond the Holy Grail movie that made it highly enjoyable.
Unfortunately, I also had The Lady sitting behind me. You know who this person is. They're the one in the theatre who has to spend the entire time pointing out the blindingly obvious to anyone who cares to listen. She also ends up pointing it out to everyone else who doesn't want to listen, but there's no way around that when you're not whispering. Because it's not immediately apparent exactly how obvious it is, here's an example:
(Scene where Sir Robin runs away from the three headed knight [it was the black knight in the play, probably because of the logistical complexity of having a 3 headed knight appear on Broadway] and loses control of his bowels as a result)
Woman: He's got the diarrhea.
(Next scene, where Sir Robin runs into King Arthur and the Knights who say Nee, still looking like he's got something in his pants)
Woman: He's still got diarrhea.
Thank you for that enlightening commentary. I thought that's what I saw, but you know how the British are. It may not have been what I saw, because it was translated from the original Martian. She'd also point out what she felt were allusions to other plays.
(King Arthur sings a song)
Woman: That's "Mr. Cellophane" (from Chicago)
Woman: Yeah, that's "Mr. Cellophane."
Would repeating it make it any more true? Perhaps it would make it somewhat less annoying as well? Sorry, wrong on both counts.

Tuesday, September 05, 2006

The Crocodile Hunted

Before I go being all insensitive, I do feel bad for his family, however, you cannot deny the inherent humor in the Crocodile Hunter being killed by a stingray. It's like having Albert Einstein be mauled by an atom or, for that matter, Siegfried being mauled by his tiger.
Here you have someone who has done just about every stupid thing you can with a dangerous animal, including dangling your child over one, and nothing ever happened. You even have him, as my Australian friend said (which is most likely apocryphal) going out into the Outback with Paul Hogan and Yahoo Serious and returning later with only Paul Hogan. He's sold himself so out that some Australians won't recognize him as an Australian. Anyway, he's done all these dangerous things, but then he's killed by a stingray? That's like Evil Kinevil being killed while he's in an auto shop and having a motorcycle fall on him. Of all the ways to die, I didn't expect it to be that. Perhaps to have his head bit off by a crocodile or being bitten in half by a shark, but not stung to death by a stingray.

Saturday, August 26, 2006

...Can I Get That Anal Swab in Mint Scent?

My wife and I have been planning a trip to Europe for quite some time now. We bought the tickets, decided to go to London and Rome, got hotel rooms, and so forth. Everything was going great and we were ready to go, and then the day before we left the British foiled another airline bombing plot. Wonderful! Now we can't take liquids on, and if the British didn't do something before we traveled to Rome, then we'd not have any carryons or any clothing. We ran into a host of problems along the way, from changing liquids rules (i.e. Benadryl is fine in SLC, but not in ATL) to the hidden no-chap-stick-corrolary that is active in the following areas: Britain and Italy. I think that between everybody in my travel party, we threw out enough chap stick to build a cabin out of.
On the travel end, we actually ended up in quite the good situation. Due to my status with Delta, we flew over on a jet that was sold as "all coach", but we got seats that were bigger than usual - 40 inches of seat pitch instead of the usual 31. We also got our own TVs to watch so we didn't have to sit through Robin Williams' latest crapfest, RV. The Ryanair flight we had from Stansted was interesting - it made Southwest look sane. The lines at the counter were an hour long, they were handwriting boarding passes (apparently the computer revolution hasn't reached European low cost carriers yet), and the baggage Nazi made sure that your luggage didn't weigh too much. We got to Rome, but instead of going to their big international airport (Fiumicino), we were at a small one on the other side of town (Ciampino). Here's a free piece of advice for any would-be terrorists who want to fly into Italy. Fly into Ciampino after 10 pm. In addition to waiting forever for your baggage, there weren't any customs agents. You could just walk into Italy with nary a question asked. They were actually stricter about getting back into the airport than leaving it.
Flying out, we went through Fiumicino, and what an experience that was. We found some Kinder Buenos at a store in the main terminal, then took a shuttle out to our gate. My wife wanted some more, so I thought it would be a simple matter to go back and get some. That wasn't the case. Apparently the Italians don't trust those who have already been screened and passed through metal detectors to have actually been screened and passed through metal detectors. I went from the gate back to the main terminal and had to go back through a metal detector. Mind you, it deposited me right back where I had been 20 minutes ago. It didn't drop me on the curb or out by the gates or anything. It was right back in the terminal. While I was in line, an Italian guy made a huge fuss about someone butting in line, which in the end didn't do anything other than slow the line down. He ended up being further back because he got out of line to go talk to the following people: the people who cut in line, the guy manning the security checkpoint, the airport police, the actual police. Seriously, doesn't this guy know when to give up? He should, he was Italian, and as every Italian knows, there's no such thing as an Italian queue.
(Sidenote: I was in "line" at the Borghese Gallery in Rome and this British guy with a French girlfriend got all hot under the collar because I sidled up beside him when a hole opened. When I say line, most people think of something organized like at Disneyland. This was more along the lines of this, and I kid you not. In the end, he didn't get tickets and I did. Here's the approximate conversation (keep in mind that I had picked up all the British talking things at this point):
Him: Excuse me, I was in queue ahead of you.
Me: I don't see a queue here.
Him: Well, it's an Italian queue.
Me: Like I said, there's no queue here.
Him: An Italian queue is where there is no queue until the person in front of you complains about it, and then you get behind them.
Me: You're full of crap.)
Anyway, I ended up back at my gate after an hour detour back to the terminal. When I arrived, I had some delightful news: I was getting an elusive Op-Up. This is the upgrade that the travel gods bestow on you for no reason at all. Instead of traveling in coach, I was able to get everyone upgraded to Business Elite. That's a nearly fully reclining seat, 5 course meal, 5 feet of leg room, and more. Oh, how sweet it was. It beat the pants of Korean's Business Class and it beat out Northwest/KLM's World Business Class as well. In the end it was as good as it could have been, what with the crackdown on my water bottles.

Sunday, August 20, 2006

There's No Crying in Baseball

Even though it happened a while back, this seemed to hit the national spotlight just before I left on vacation. In a Little League in Utah, the coach (of a team fittingly named the Yankees) pitched around the best hitter on the Red Sox to get to their worst hitter in order to win the championship. Everybody's pontificating about how it was so wrong for the coach to do that. Never mind that in actual baseball, it's done all the time. These are children - they have no business being exposed to things like competition.
Bull. Unless you're in the Special Olympics, every sport has winners and losers. It's the way things are. Is it the way things should be? That's not a question I have an answer for, but I know that on an everyday basis children are exposed to this in every sport they play. You may get a medal for showing up for soccer, but at the end of the day it is a competition. You do have winners and losers. You even have winners and losers in videogames. If you die, you lose and the computer's artificial intelligence wins. Of course, for those who don't want their children to experience the thrill of victory and the agony of defeat, they can give their child a set of rubber balls and let them kick them around the yard by themselves. Then they won't have their spirits broken. Of course, they won't have any friends either, but that's beside the point. After all, friends often break into groups of winners and losers. The winners leave the losers out, and that happens to kids constantly throughout their school years. That's just the way life is. However, on the bright side, it's not as though someone is a perpetual loser. Things have a way of evening out, just ask Jerry Seinfeld.
The bottom line is that what the Yankees coach did was right. His team was in a position to win and advance to the Little League World Series (not the title game, mind you, but the playoffs that lead there). If he didn't do everything he could to help them win, he not only shouldn't be their coach, but he wouldn't have a competitive bone in his body. Pitching around the superstar was the right play, and you can argue all you want about how you shouldn't pick on the cancer survivor, but what if he was just an ordinary kid who wasn't that good at baseball? Would that make a difference? He wanted to play to be normal, and by whiffing him instead of pitching to the beefcake, they showed that they considered him normal.

Wednesday, August 09, 2006

Book Review: Angels and Demons

Author: Dan Brown
592 pp

This is the second time I've read Angels and Demons, and it's as quick a read as ever. There's nothing quite like a Dan Brown novel to pass the time. They're a lot of fun and they're tough to put down. In general, it's got a great plot. The 24esque countdown, the twists, the turns, and the rapid-fire dialogue combine to make one of the most enjoyable books out there. I know there are a lot of people who think that Dan Brown is a literary Twinkie, and those people would be right. Nevertheless, who doesn't enjoy eating a tasty Twinkie every now and again? Okay, Twinkie might not be the best example of something that is empty calories and yet strangely enjoyable. Perhaps Sour Patch Watermelons are a better example. The Twinkie Experiments turned me off of Twinkies a long time ago. Anyway, it's a rollicking good ride, however there are a few plot twists that seemed a little out of place, most notably those that lead to the climax at the end of the book. I didn't agree with it at all. Brown had set everything up so that it was going along logically, taking the reader down a surprising, but still well choreographed path. Then, he suddenly tosses in a twist that didn't ever really end up flying. The rest of the book was still enjoyable, but it just didn't end with the same power and sense of cohesion that it could have if it weren't for that final twist. It's tough to discuss without giving it away, so I'll end here, but even with that caveat, if you haven't read Angels and Demons, give it a chance. You'll be glad you did (especially before the movie comes out here in a couple of years).

Tuesday, August 08, 2006

North Korea's Impotent Taepodong

Note: Yeah, it took me this long to finally finish it!
While I missed the actual launching of the missile (I was watching World Cup soccer instead), North Korea launched a series of Taepodong-2 missiles earlier this week. While it seems rather frightening (the Taepodong-2 is a missile that could theoretically hit Anchorage, Alaska) that the North Koreans have nukes and ICBMs, it's not quite as bad as it seems. The main reason for that is because the missiles didn't even fly far enough for our ABM systems to have a test-toast. Instead, they malfunctioned and blew up 40 or so seconds into flight - think back to your younger years, when the Challenger blew up over Florida. That was around 2 minutes into flight. For a missile of this size, it's the equivalent of trying to dunk a ball, but only getting 6 inches off the ground. Oh, and the diminuitive size of Kim Jong Il means that North Korea would be getting 6 inches off the ground as Earl Boykins. It's a failure, and a big one. Of course, they'll be back, but for now it's not such a bad deal. We're up to our ears in other, more pressing issues, and if Pyongyang can just sit tight until we've dealt with Hezbollah, Iran, and all those other madmen, then it would really help us out of a jam.

Thursday, August 03, 2006

Springtime for Castro

Farewell Fidel, hello Dolly! Most everyone should know by now that communist leader Fidel Castro has handed the communist reigns of Cuba to his younger brother Raul.
This news most likely does not signal the end of Cuba as we know it. The change in leadership might just be temporary, depending on Fidel's health. The majority of observers, while optimistic, believe that communist status quo will continue, as will America's trade embargo. Now you know all that, but what you may not know is that Raul is more queer than a 3 peso coin.

In the book The Secret Fidel Castro: Deconstructing the Symbol, author and former political insider Servando Gonzalez speaks openly about Raul's secret penchant for a quality "cigar".

Similar to the Nazi party of yore Fidel's communist regime as managed to oppose homosexuality yet stock it's highest echelons with gay men. Although Fidel denies the allegations that he persecutes homosexuals, all credible intelligence suggests otherwise. It is widely believed that he locked up many homosexuals in concentration camps, giving a whole new meaning to the term "gay bar".
I personally am not sure if Raul Castro really is gay or not, he does have a wife and 3 daughters. In all fairness Cuba has been basically stuck in 1950, perhaps they apply the word gay in all its former antique glory. I think regardless of hard evidence I will choose to believe it, mostly for purpose of humor. I can now only imagine Fidel's long winded speeches soon to be delivered by Raul with a Latin lisp, backed by Cedric and Bob.

As we welcome in the new reign of Raul we must bid so long to Fidel. We'll miss your bushy beard of defiance, your commitment to communism, and your ubiquitous cigar.

Diet Coke + Mentos = Deliciousness

I've been busy at work, leading to a bit of a blacation (blogging vacation), but here's a little something that you may have already seen. Apparently chemical reactions between soda and The Freshmaker are a new scientific discovery, now these tricks are everywhere. This is one of the best though. Take a look at their version of the Bellagio fountains.

Tuesday, July 25, 2006

News for Nerds

This broke over the 24th of July holiday (well, it's only a holiday in Utah - we celebrate the pioneers who settled Utah on that day by getting off work, hiking, barbequeing and shopping), but in news that I care about, microprocessor company AMD is merging with graphics chip company ATI. Why does this matter? A brief history of computer parts for those who care to read it:
For the past decade or so there have been 2 options in graphics companies and 2 options in processor companies. ATI and nVidia have made graphics cards, with each company taking turns leading the other (I will try not to lapse into my techno-jargon here, so I won't spit out a list of graphics card numbers). These companies have competed fiercely competed, giving us the same graphics power on a $300 card in your computer as a $1 million supercomputer had a decade ago. It's been great for the consumer and great for people's World of Warcraft habits. The same type of situation has happened with AMD and Intel. Intel has continued to be the market leader, but AMD has made processors that have clobbered Intel at times and vice-versa. It's led to lower prices and incredibly faster processors for everybody.
So why am I a little wary of this? It's because of the situation that it puts nVidia and Intel in. Currently nVidia and ATI make graphics cards for everybody, ATI makes motherboard chipsets for Intel, and nVidia makes chipsets for AMD. The problem comes with the new competitive landscape. If nVidia makes chipsets for AMD processors, they are helping to popularize the AMD Athlon processor. If they do that, they're now helping AMD/ATI compete against them in graphics cards. That's money that will go straight to the competition and make them even tougher for nVidia to fight against. By the same token, if Intel allows ATI to make motherboard chipsets for their Core processors, then they are helping AMD increase their bottom line to fund their processor war against Intel. AMD says that they don't think that's the case, but I don't see how it couldn't be. Graphics cards will continue to work on computers powered by either company, but the only possible reaction that Intel and nVidia will have to this is to get in bed together. This may not be a full-fledged merger, but I can definitely see nVidia stopping production of their nForce chipsets for AMD and ramping up production for Intel. I could also see a merger as nVidia tries to get into Intel's deep pockets to keep competing. In the end, this may not be a win for the consumer as the two camps get more entrenched. We may even see a polarization where you will only be able to get a total AMD/ATI or Intel/nVidia solution, which wouldn't allow people to customize as well as we have been able to. It's too bad too, because I've been an Intel and ATI fanboy for quite some time now. Well, such is life I suppose.

Friday, July 21, 2006

Eyewitness Reports from both sides of the front

"I belong to a certain secret society, who's name needs not mention here." Well, nevermind. It's a message board community called FlyerTalk. Normally we're all concerned about how to maximize our travel dollar and get the most free stuff, however, I just stumbled across a thread there that is about the current war between Hezbollah and Israel. There are several prominent FTers who are involved in this conflict, and here's a point/counterpoint from one in Israel and one in Lebanon, both of whom are in range of the enemy's forces. It's not antagonistic at all and it goes to show that there are great people on both sides and that the real tragedy is that Hezbollah started this and Israel feels compelled to respond.
Read all about it here.

Tuesday, July 18, 2006

Tee-eye-double grunt-are

Well folks it happened, Japan has hit rock bottom once again. After finally recovering from the embarrassment of Yatta! Japan will once again be the laughing stock of the world.

This advertisement introduces Japan's latest tools for toilet training. Apparently the Japanese see the need for an "oh crap" handle which is well accompanied by a musical paper dispenser to soothe your child's bowels. With the way that kid is bearing down it is probably best there is bar to go white knuckle on.
We can all hope that an adult version will soon be released so that I can once again eat Mexican food care free.


I go out of town on business for a week and I miss being a current blogging guy with some huge events happening in the Middle East. I had half a post on North Korea and their missile envy done that will now have to wait because Hezbollah decided that they wanted to get in on the hot Gaza action that Hamas was dealing with so they decided to kidnap some Israeli soldiers. Here's why the Lebanese should do what Israel has been trying to do for the past week: eliminate Hezbollah once and for all.
Hezbollah was formed from the Shiite resistance movements in Southern Lebanon in the early 80s, during Israel's ill-founded invasion of Lebanon to try and stabilize the country. They were quickly armed and used by Iran and Syria as a proxy for their interests in the country. Over Hezbollah's 20 year history they've specialized in kidnappings, suicide bombs, and rocket attacks. Nevertheless, after Israel withdrew from Lebanon in 2000, things were pretty quiet with the group. They gained some power in the Lebanese government and fired the occasional rocket at Israel, but for the most part they seemed to behave themselves. Now they have decided that no matter the consequences to their host nation, they'll not give up the Israeli prisoners without a trade for some of their own. Israel has traded prisoners in the past, but it is a terrible policy. It invites kidnappings because your enemies will know that you will cave in when you kidnap their soldiers or citizens. Its why most nations have a policy of not ever negotiating with terrorists - it just invites more terrorist attacks. As a result, Israel has responded with it's largest military operation in years to force Lebanon to get rid of Hezbollah. While there are native Lebanese that make up the group, they don't care about their nation. They are devoted citizens of their cause: liberating Palestine. By liberating Palestine, I don't mean the West Bank and Gaza Strip. Israel exited Gaza last year and is on their way to leaving most of the West Bank to the Palestinians as a free-standing state with their own government. Nevertheless, Palestine is not just those areas - it's all of Israel. There is no other reason to attack Israel during a time of peace.
We're seeing the results of this on the 24 hour news channels now. Lebanon, after a relatively peaceful 6+ years, is now turning into the morass it was during the 80s. There is now talk of a new multinational force that would come in to southern Lebanon to stabilize the area, which would be just as disastrous as it was when the US was part of the MNF and 241 Marines were killed when a Hezbollah suicide bomber blew up the barracks on the grounds of Rafik Hariri International Airport. Hezbollah has no desire for peace in Lebanon, and that's why the government of Lebanon, as impotent as it may be, needs to mobilize the army to take control of Southern Lebanon. While it could provoke a new round of violence, one thing that the world should have learned now is that we cannot force peace in Lebanon. Well, I take that back. We probably could force peace in Lebanon, but it would involve regime change in both Syria and Iran. Unless Hezbollah's backers are eliminated, Hezbollah will always be able to operate independently in Lebanon. The Lebanese government may be able to persuade them out of the south, but it won't be the result of outside governments waging a proxy war in the nation.
Another key point to look at is why Israel cares so much about getting Hezbollah out of southern Lebanon. If you look at the range of Iranian rockets (which have already struck Haifa and may be able to hit Tel Aviv) and the apparent ease that Iran is having in getting their weapons to Hezbollah, then combine that with the news about Iran's nuclear program, and Israel has every right to be very concerned. Iran doesn't have to develop long-range missiles, they just have to supply their current units to Hezbollah along with some nuclear munitions and suddenly Israel's largest city is wiped out. That's Israel's worst nightmare and it's why Israel has a retaliatory nuclear arsenal that they are willing to use. Unfortunately a deterrant only works with an enemy who will be deterred. These radical Islamic groups have already shown that they don't value their lives. What matters is the glorification of their twisted view of Islam. "Allah would like to see Israel destroyed, and if it costs the lives of 4.5 million Syrians and 7 million Iranians, then it is His will." I can say right now that that isn't His will, and I'm not even a Muslim, but try telling that to the Mullahs and Bashir Assad.

Thursday, July 06, 2006

Black Calderòn

Felipe Calderòn has won a Mexican election that is notable for several of reasons:
1. It wasn't a sham
2. It showed that not all countries south of the border are enamored with Chavezian populist politics
3. It's being challenged by Mexico's own version of Al Gore.
For all of Mexico's problems, starting with 70+ years of PRI rule, they have a great election process. It was transparent, overseen by a neutral group, and certified as fair by international observers. If Andres Manuel López Obrador doesn't move his masses out on the streets and instead respects the results of the election it will be a landmark in the history of the country. It will be a second peaceful election and the PRI's grip on the nation will forever be gone. Their candidate wasn't considered a serious contender and that's a good thing.
As far as the whole Chavez connection that Obrador has, he has blown long and hard about using it. He would mobilize the masses and march on the capital to protest the election and demand the presidency if he felt that it was unfair. That's bullying the system and that's not the kind of President that Mexico needs. They need someone who will continue what Fox started and try to get them out of the mess that they have dug into. Calderòn will do that. By continuing to liberalize their economy, he will get multinational companies to invest more heavily in Mexico, which will help lead to improving conditions in the country. Now if the US will get rid of its tariffs on cement, we'll be in good shape.
Finally, Obrador is Mexico's Al Gore. I think eventually he'll cave (he'll have to - if he marches on the capital, look for Fox to call out the army to keep the peace), it's just a question of how much damage he'll do before he does. If he decides to take the route that is best for his country then he'll cede and life will go on. If he decides to play the tinpot strongman and go that route, then things will get significantly more hairy and that's not good for anybody.

Tuesday, June 27, 2006

"It Was A Well-Run Campaign, What With The Midget And All"

The Primary results are in, and it looks like Chris Cannon outlasted John Jacob. This is now the second time in as many elections that the anti-immigration forces mobilized a candidate to try and unseat Cannon and it's the second time they failed. In a lot of respects their last favored candidate, Matt Throckmorton, was far superior even though John Jacob is having a better showing. What are the lessons we should take from this election?
1. Immigration is not the issue that will decide this election. There were many in the Republican party who looked at this race as a bellwether. With Cannon winning, the national party should take notice that this is not the gay marriage of 2006. Why is this the case? I think there are several reasons. One is that even though people are against illegal immigrants, far too often the organized forces against illegal immigration are not just against illegals - they're against all immigrants. The American Dream has been built on the back of immigrants and unless you're a member of an Indian tribe, you're the child of immigrants. It's patently un-American to want to close this country to those who didn't have the same opportunities that our ancestors did. Another is that people aren't ready to give up their inexpensive produce, clothing, and other goods and services. A lot of these things are built on the backs of illegals and without them prices would rise as too few people were chased by too many employers. The upshot? Illegal immigrants are as much a reason for our low-inflation, high-productivity economy as technology is.
2. Substance will always win out over pithy sayings and fluff. Everything I read and saw from John Jacob was something along the lines of "You can't judge a candidate on what he says, only on what he does. John D. Jacob." Did he ever propose anything? Did he ever give any specific proposals? No. He just repeated his maxims, quotes from Ronald Reagan, and jokes about how his name isn't John Jacobs. What did Chris Cannon have? Specific proposals. Answers about why he voted for things like NCLB. Some dodging about immigration. Face it, a lot of what the anti-illegal crowd said about Cannon is true. Will he change his tune? That's a good question. I think he will moderate his views on immigration, but he won't become quite the candidate that Tancredo and Bay Buchannan want him to be.
3. Incumbency is a powerful tool. In Utah if you want to beat an incumbent your best shot is in Convention. If you don't, chances are you won't be able to overcome the name advantage that the incumbent has. Jacob had a lot of money and a lot of support, but it wasn't enough. He still didn't have the recognition that Cannon did. In addition, incumbents usually have the support of the establishment. It really helped Cannon to get the endorsement of President Bush. Of course, Jacob may not have gotten it anyway with his anti-Bush positions. If he had been our Congressman and had been as against the President as he said he was, I would imagine Bush would have supported the challenger.
4. Satan is trying to stop you? Not a good campaign move. If Cannon had said Jacob said that, it would have been the 11th hour dirty trick that would have been credited with his win. As it was Jacob gave himself the dirty trick. How's that for shooting yourself in the foot?
Of course, the election hasn't officially been called yet. Cannon's up 57-43 with 50% of precincts reporting. If Jacob does pull out the win, then this will be my "Dewey Defeats Truman." Somehow I don't see that happening.

Friday, June 23, 2006

Satan Turns Sights from Dell Schanze, Aims For John Jacob

Apparently the hosts of Heaven and Hell care more about the Third Congressional District than they do about Totally Awesome Computers and the everlasting souls of the people of the world combined, because Satan is ruining John Jacob's campaign. From the Salt Lake Tribune article:

"There's another force that wants to keep us from going to Washington, D.C.," Jacob said. "It's the devil is what it is. I don't want you to print that, but it feels like that's what it is." Jacob said Thursday that since he decided to run for Congress against Rep. Chris Cannon, Satan has bollixed his business deals, preventing him from putting as much money into the race as he had hoped.

Honestly, what is he implying here? If Satan is ruining John's business deals, that must mean that Chris Cannon is Satan's candidate, right? Of course, that also means that Jacob is God's candidate. Among other things, that means that Jacob might be the most conceited candidate since General George McClellan. Why would Satan single him out? Is it because Satan wants the Mexicans to overrun the United States? According to LDS theology Mexico is also part of that same promised land - moving them from one part of the promised land to another hardly seems like a Satanic plot. Usually Lucifer tends to be smarter than that. It's this kind of thinking that turns the religious right (who, let's be honest, aren't the staunchest backers of Jacob, even though he's invoking more code words and phrases than Robert Langdon) from a sensible group of people into the laughingstocks of the Elitists on the Coasts.
Of course, John Jacob isn't thinking of the other possible option along this same line of thinking. What if God is on Chris Cannon's side? If that's the case, perhaps He is smiting Jacob for discriminating against Mexicans and turning from his actual beliefs (remember, before Merrill Cook lost in convention, Jacob did believe that there wasn't an immigration problem and that the Anchor Baby interpretation of the constitution was appropriate and accurate) to those of the "Close America First" groups like Team America and the Minutemen. Let's face it, Jacob is an opportunist, just like he accused Tom Tancredo of being. If Tancredo's beliefs and PAC (he's the power behind Team America, along with Bay Buchanan) make him an opportunist, tuning your campaign message to get their money supporting you in Utah makes you doubly so.
Of course there's always the third and most likely option: you're focusing on this race, and that's causing your business to suffer. Therefore you're losing money that you could put in your race, causing you to spend more time on it and letting the vicious cycle continue.

Thursday, June 22, 2006

Jacob's Ladder

Ah, another John Jacob related post (for the other ones, check here and here). I just can't help it. Jacob is continually making it difficult for me to do anything other than oppose him. Now he's decided to bash President Bush because Bush endorses Chris Cannon. I'm surprised he hasn't also stepped up and beat on Orrin Hatch, Bob Bennett, John Boehner, Rob Bishop, and the rest of the Republican establishment that supports Cannon. After all, they held a fundraising dinner for Cannon and not Jacob.
This isn't the best way to curry favor nor to gain influence in Washington. What Utah needs in a Congressman isn't an idiot who shoots his mouth off in an attempt to cast himself as an outsider. A Senator can play that game because every state is equal there. In the House, where Utah only has 3 seats, we need Congressmen who will actually work with others instead of playing the outsider card. I understand the need to stand out and differentiate yourself, I do. However, by tossing aside connections with your own party, you risk becoming Jim Jefford - an "independent" who is stuck in no-man's land and isn't a factor. As much as Washington needs fixing up, you can't go in with a billy club and start whacking people over the head. That's the easiest way to get them to not change anything. You need to work with people, win them over to your side, and change them from that perspective. For example, take Ted Kennedy and Orrin Hatch. I know a lot of people here in Utah bristle at the mere mention of the Kennedy name, but Hatch became good friends with him, and while he isn't exactly Barry Goldwater, he has changed. He's certainly a much better human being than he was in the past, and isn't that the most important thing? Everybody has different beliefs, but that doesn't make them evil. When John Jacob learns that that is the case and that you can't get things done, nor can you fulfil your "Contract with Utah" (if you actually believe he'll step down after his first term if he doesn't meet the requirements, I have some lakefront property in Delta to sell you) without playing nice and working with the party leadership to get things done. Outsiders may be loud, but ultimately they're the most ineffective people in Congress.

Monday, June 19, 2006

Book Review: Manhunt

Genre: US History
Length: 464 pp
Amazon Link
This has been one of the hot non-fiction books of the spring, and it's easy to see why. Swanson has an incredible writing style and the story is an incredible one. What most of us have heard about John Wilkes Booth is that he killed Lincoln, jumped from Lincoln's box at Ford's Theatre, and must have gotten caught because that's pretty much all we know.
The real story is much different. Booth nearly got away with it. He broke his leg in the fall and led the authorities on a chase through Washington, Maryland, and Virginia in a time where Rebel armies were still marching abroad. Sure, Lee's Army of Northern Virginia had surrendered at Appomattox, but Jefferson Davis was still on the run and the Army of Tennesee and the Army of the West hadn't surrendered yet. The South was still a dangerous place for the Union troops who followed the trail of Booth and the book vividly portrays that. Add in the little known comedy of errors (some errors not very comic) that accompanied his plot to kill Andrew Johnson and William Seward (Secretary of State), and this book is the definitive reference to the 12 days surrounding Lincoln's death. One thing that Swanson brings up that can't be underestimated is that perhaps Lincoln wouldn't be nearly as great of a president if he hadn't been killed. With Booth martyring him, he became untouchable as the first president to be assassinated and who brought the Union back together. If he had been in Andrew Johnson's place instead, it might have been very different for him. I can't recommend this book more highly. It is well written, informative, and crackles along like very few non-fiction books can. If it wasn't demonstratably true, it would sound like something out of a modern day crime novel, and the prose fits that well. Get this book!

Tuesday, June 13, 2006

Here's Why The Xenophobes Are Wrong

While these are just 2 stories out of 12 million plus, I think these illustrate the follies of those who are saying that we should just pack up the illegals and send them all back. Of course, there are the economic arguments, which I have mentioned before (also here), but more than that are the moral arguments. Take for example the story of the Sahs from today's Salt Lake Tribune. Here's a good hardworking family who has been here in the States for 16 years. They came in legally and then applied for asylum when ethnic tensions in their hometown threatened them if they went back. It took 10 years for the government to reject that claim, and now after all their appeals have been exhausted after 16 years in the country, they're going to be deported. The worst part of all of this is the following exerpt:
"Ken's mistake was that he played by the rules," Lawrence said. "Because he applied for asylum, he got into the immigration process. Once in, there are only two ways out: You get benefits [of residency] or you get deported."
Green River's former mayor, Dale Johnson, sides with the Sahs. "They are good people. I have watched them work their tails off," he said. "They have earned the right to stay." After a decade in Green River, the Sahs have been embraced by the community - and they have done the same. Ken is active in the chamber of commerce, volunteers at the Green River museum and helps lead a volunteer emergency response team.

That's why illegals are still illegal. We do everything we can to ensure that they will be shipped back to Mexico (or wherever) because we're into punishing. I realize that there are a lot of people who are against illegal immigration and aren't xenophobic, but the larger part of that group not only wants to kick the illegals out, they want to make it so that people can't come in. If your problem is really illegal immigration, you shouldn't have a problem with increasing immigration caps (or eliminating them all together). That will allow people to enter legally, satisfying your demands for the rule of law. Likewise, it allows them to pursue the American Dream, which, let's face it, isn't just the American Dream - it's the Human Dream. Who doesn't want life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness? It not right at all that we should deny somebody that opportunity, even if it means that they come here, just because their name is Klopek.
While we're on this kick, let's talk education. I know more than a few people who are angry about how Utah educates illegals in its public system because there is a law that says we'll do that. However, even if that law didn't exist, they'd still get their education here under the Equal Protection Clause of the 14th Amendment to the United States Constitution (Plyler v. Doe established that). If you don't like it, repeal the amendment or move to Canada. I for one am glad we have that clause. If we denied them the education that they need, where would they turn? I'll tell you where, they'll turn to gangs and hooliganism, that's where. If we actually educate them and keep them out of trouble, then we have a good chance not only of decreasing the potential crime rate, but also of churning out some superstar students like Dan-el Padilla Peralta. The Wall Street Journal had a front page story about his plight back in April. Here's one of the brightest students that has come along in a long time and we're looking at booting him out of the country. No wonder we are losing's because we're forcing them out with our immigration laws. Here's the fair use excerpt from the Journal:
The worry about what he would do after graduation -- without a Social Security number or the right to work -- had been hanging over him since he started college. His hope to build a life in the U.S., where he wants to pursue a teaching career, required legal status. The chance to attend Oxford spurred him to act. If he goes to Oxford without resolving his status, he won't be able to return to the U.S. for a decade. He wouldn't be able to visit his mother or brother.
Even if he didn't go to Oxford, he would be unable to obtain any legal employment in the U.S. upon graduating from Princeton or receive admission to a graduate school program because they require paid teaching responsibilities..."It would be a waste to give Dan-el's potential to another country," says Mr. Cowen, who hasn't seen Mr. Padilla since 1999, and only recently learned of his predicament after getting an email from him. "It is education itself that Dan-el used to pull himself out of the ghetto...The future of the U.S. depends on education."
This pulls back to my main thesis that most illegals are indeed good, honest, hardworking people. We hear about the negative examples with gangs, crime, and whatnot, but a lot of that crime is perpetuated by us. We ghettoize an entire sub-nation of immigrants, forcing them to find help from the only people who will help them - criminals. Until we radically reform our immigration process to make it easier to get a visa (i.e. raising or eliminating visa caps) and give exceptions to cases like those above we will continue to have these problems. A wall isn't going to stop this, so we might as well lose that false hope right now. Deporting them all won't solve it either, John Jacob's assurances to the contrary. Mexico may have lost 12 million to the US, but that has happened over 20 years. You can't round up that same 12 million in any kind of short time period and send them back without massive shockwaves hitting the country, affecting every aspect of our lives. We may not want to acknowledge it, but those illegals are one of our hands, and you don't just cut off the hand because a fingernail has gone bad. You fix the nail, and that's what we need to do here.

Tuesday, June 06, 2006

Lies, Damned Lies, and School Districts' Statistics

An interesting battle is brewing in Orem, one that could shape Utah education for years to come. The traditional approach in Utah has been to allow school districts to grow larger and larger, keeping their historical boundaries intact at the expense of cramming more and more students in already large districts. Utah has 4 of the highest enrollment districts (Jordan, Granite, Davis, and Alpine) in the United States, and those districts tend to wear that size around on their sleeves like a badge of honor. They talk of economies of scale (not mentioning that economies of scale follow a bell curve, and at their size, the economies have probably been lost) and of their heft - heft that they have used to not listen to citizens. As a result, recently there have been groups testing the waters in Jordan and Granite Districts (The Smaller Districts Coalition) and in Orem there is a group that has organized to pull out of the Alpine School District (Friends of Orem School District [FOSD]). I am somewhat familiar with the groups in Salt Lake County, however, FOSD has already caused change in the main issue of contention. Alpine introduced a $250 million bond (this is on top of a $200 million bond that was passed in 2001 that raised taxes throughout the district) and didn't have anything in the bond for Orem. That meant that Orem businesses and citizens would have paid for buildings that they never would have used. After FOSD pressured the Orem City Council, suddenly Alpine started introducing new projects for Orem, including completely rebuilding a high school they just finished renovating for electrical and seismological reasons. Does Orem need any new building projects? No. These are sops given to the citizens so that Alpine can trick them into voting to stay with the district so their tax base can pay for that bond without higher taxes on those who will actually be using the schools.
At least ASD has woken up a little. They still won't listen to parents. They won't acknowledge that the reason for having so many charter schools in the district's boundaries isn't because it's the "newest toy on the block," but because they've done such a lousy job educating the students, with the latest mumbo-jumbo swinging around the block (Investigations Math - where you can't learn things like times tables or basic arithmetic is the most egregious example). Parents don't want their children to end up years behind on such college basics as calculus and they want to have their voices heard by the teachers and administrators. That's why charter schools are successful. That's why Orem is trying to split off of Alpine. That's why Alpine can publish surveys like the one that the Deseret News reported on that use techniques like push polling, small sample sizes, and so forth, and think that nobody will notice that their statistics are misleading. They've come to believe their own press that they are "the best education in Utah" at "the best value in Utah." The fact is that Alpine is a dinosaur of a school district, caught in an evolutional shift that will make it as extinct as the creatures of the Jurassic era that they teach so much about.

Thursday, June 01, 2006

It's the Sauce that Makes the Boss

If there is one thing that amuses my wife more than anything else I do, it's my obsession with barbeque sauce. She likes a good sauce as much as the next person, but it's not anything like how I do. I wasn't always obsessed with the perfect sauce, but after a trip to Moses White & Sons in Tampa, Florida, I decided that something needed to change. That something was the bland ketchupy sauces that I had purchased in the past (KC Masterpiece, I'm looking at you). Instead I went on a quest. This was a difficult quest, as Utah didn't have any barbeque joints at the time, so I was confined to store-bought concoctions. Fortunately around the same time, the Cheeth turned me on to a sauce called Stubb's. It was a culinary revelation. While Moses White's sauce was still better, here was a store-bought sauce that had a bold body, spicy kick, and smooth aftertaste that are the hallmarks of a fine sauce. For a long time, that was the best there was here. Then a restaurant called the Smoke House came to town and the world was changed forever. Their spicy sauce was an eastern-style sauce instead of the Texas-style that I was accustomed to. The Smoke House's sauce embodied everything that I wanted in a good solid barbeque sauce, with a spicy kick that still lingered in the back of my throat for a good 10 minutes after I was done eating. It's the first sauce that I can actually eat straight. I've tried it on eggs, macaroni and cheese, baked beans, sundry meats, and assorted other things, and it hasn't let me down yet. The best thing is that I've been able to buy it direct from the Smoke House, thus completely eliminating my need to grab some Stubb's, as good as it has been to me.
Now there have been some other imitators come to Utah since, notably Goodwood (which has the best name I've ever heard. It's just awesome), but their sauce is a bush league sauce in comparison. Their spicy was the same stuff as their sweet, just in a different bottle. They have done some reformulating, but it still pales in comparison. Then there are the really local places like Lon's Cooking Shack or PaPa's (which has the most ridiculous name and sign that I've ever seen - it's got a little pig and then it says that Weee [haha, the pig noise they say] do what we can to serve you, or something like that). They're all bush league. Anyway, I got on this tangent because of a story in the New York Times about another man's obsession with a fine sauce. I'm tempted to order some of the sauce mentioned in the article myself to be honest! All this leads to the question that I'm sure you're just begging me to answer, what kind of barbeque guy am I? I love using my stainless steal homage to outdoor cooking, but when it comes right down to it, I'm a true saucier (sauce-i-eh, like the French) and find that a good sauce can make anything better.

Tuesday, May 30, 2006


I went to the movies yesterday and for the first time in quite a while I splurged for popcorn and a beverage for my wife and I. Little did I know that apparently inflation has hit movie theatres a lot more than the rest of the nation, with snack prices going up 50% since the last time I splurged at a theatre (about a year ago). I know that oil and gold prices have gone way up, but last I saw there isn't anything else in the rest of the consumer world that has increased that much in a year. It's now $6.15 for a large popcorn - more than the cost of the actual movie ticket (assuming you get a discount ticket). I can get a value meal at Wendy's for that price, and it's got some substance (and a drink). Let's not forget the cost of theatre beverages - $3.00 for a liter of Dasani or $4.00 for a 32 oz soda. I'm into my theatre "meal" ten bucks without trying. That's almost a meal at Chili's.
While the prices are outrageous, I will say that it is capitalism and they have every right to try and extract a premium price for the same old goods that I can get elsewhere for cheaper. The problem comes with complaints about the black market in smuggled candy, soda, popcorn, and food. Of course, theatres have their goodie nazis watching to make sure that you aren't getting anything blatantly obvious past them, but as all good Americans do, we usually hide our booty in my wife's purse, which they choose not to search, based on the fact that we aren't at the airport and they aren't the TSA. The bigger issue here is that theatres have gotten themselves stuck in a self-perpetuating problem. They raise concessions prices to try and maximize revenue, then they lose additional marginal revenue as the black market (let's face it, Wal-Mart's selling $.85 movie theatre size candy for a reason here) takes those sales away at a price point consumers will pay. Sure, you lose out on the convinience of not having to smuggle and to not have to buy your concessions at the theatre, but at the price of today's concessions, that's not a bad deal. I hear of the dire problems facing theatres and I think that a lot of them are their own fault. How about some actual innovative thinking here? Let's start with lowering prices. If I could get a large popcorn, beverage, and candy for a fiver, I'd be lined up before every movie to get it. I will not, however, pay $4.50 for $.25 worth of pop or $2.50 for candy that retails for less than a buck. While we're at it, try introducing some limited meals. Larry Miller's theatres in Salt Lake City do it, and I haven't noticed any adverse effects to the moviegoing experience. You could welcome in an outside vendor with an exclusive contract of some sort. Maybe bring in KFC with their popcorn chicken (a food item that's just begging to be brought into theatres) and they can charge street prices for their food (or maybe even a little more, but that's KFC's option). The theatre gets rent from the Colonel, people get more choice, maybe with the combination of lower concession prices, then they get some candy and that beverage, and suddenly you're, well, maybe not minting money, but certainly making more than before. I would also like to see ticket prices lowered, because when it costs as much for 2 people to go to a movie as it does to buy a DVD, again you're going to lose the consumer - especially with Hollywood compressing the release cycle more and more all the time. A movie needs to be an impulse purchase, something that people will do because they're bored and they don't have anything better to do. Instead, by pricing it so high that people have to contact their CPA and take out a second mortgage on their house to see a movie, they're only ensuring their own obsolecense.

Wednesday, May 24, 2006

Cannon Fire

I thought that because I've laid out why I don't like John Jacob, I ought to say why I do like Chris Cannon. Sure, there's senority issues in Congress, but senority doesn't mean a whole lot to me. I realize that it's an important tool, but at the same time, in this age of the incumbent super-advantage (a bone to pick in another post) I want to do my part to eliminate that as best as I can. Nevertheless, Chris is my favored candidate for a number of reasons.
The first reason is his immigration stance. I know that it's not popular to actually be pro-immigration, but I am. This country was built on immigrants and we will continue to be so as the current group of citizens are de-birthing their way towards a welfare state. The biggest example of this is in Social Security. Right now there are about 3.3 workers for every 1 retiree, and that will fall to 2 by 2020. That means that the government's Ponzi scheme (don't let anyone tell you otherwise - if this was something like 12 Daily Pro, the SEC would be all over it like bears on vacationing celebrities) will start to run out of funding. The easiest way to get this fixed, or at least prolong the scheme by doing something other than killing people when they reach a certain age, a la the Charlton Heston classic Soylent Green, is to bring in more people. Any good Ponzi artist will tell you that.
Next is education. Did he make a bad decison on No Child Left Behind? In retrospect, yes. NCLB is a law that is trying to do something noble but proceeds to muck it up. It's unfortunate, but in a lot of cases that's what the government does. Cannon has said that he'd like to get rid of the Department of Education, which is a pretty good idea. We do need local oversight and tuning of education rather than federal because it has created a big bureaucracy that hasn't done anything to actually improve the education standards here in the US. We're still behind all the bogeymen of the 70s and 80s, and we have less money in our pockets to show for it.
He's behind a comprehensive energy policy that will do something. I'm all for that, rather than the bogus legislation that's being proposed now. He's talked of new and bigger refineries, expanded drilling areas, and working on alternative energy technology. That's all good policy. We can't just attack this in one area. In addition, it's good for Utah. Right now we have a company named Wolverine Oil who are working on a field that some project could produce 100,000 barrels a day of oil to people here in the US in Sevier County. There isn't anything that he could be doing back in Washington that would help our state's economy more than pushing to open BLM lands to more exploration and incentivising companies who will try new techniques to extract more oil here at home.
Finally, I think he gets it on health care. He did vote for the prescription drug bill (Medicare Modernization Act), but that isn't necessarily a bad vote. Newt Gingrich, who I think is pretty forward thinking in this area, supported it and he sees it as a way that we can actually get out of the Medicare morass that we are starting to find ourselves in where it will go broke before 2020. Anything that can prevent that is something worth doing, and I haven't seen any better proposals on the issue. I would explain Newt's ideas, but you're best served to go straight to the source on this one. If people can get past their Cannon antigonism, they might be able to see that there's a little more than just immigration with him and Utah would be well served to keep him in office.