Wednesday, February 28, 2007

More Quick Hits

Here's another chunk of thoughts that don't merit a full post:

I was at the Jazz/Lakers game on Monday night and I had one of those guys behind me. You know who I'm talking about - they can't help but make random noises, kind of like an Alzheimer's patient who also has Tourette's Syndrome. While he wasn't crass or foul (which made it funny instead of just downright unbearable), he was definitely a redneck. I think his favorite phrase was "Stay on 'em" as in "Stay on 'em...Jazz" just in case the Lakers thought he was talking to them. It eventually was shortened to "Stayonem." I think he must've said it 5-6 times every single time the Lakers had the ball. There was a time when Kobe Bryant was shooting free throws when the guy called him precious, which is the greatest nickname ever given by one man to another.

Channel 2's Roland Steadham has created his own 5-category storm system, ranging from something like "light breeze" to "avalanche from the skies." Really, is this that informative? You might as well just wear the snow jacket like Mark Eubank and get it over with.

Some TV related thoughts...
I love The Amazing Race. I hope Rob and Amber crush the competition this year. I also hope that Mirna and Schmirna leave soon. They're the second most detestible team ever to be on TAR (behind the Weaver family). Why are they so bad? They are so sanctimonious that it borders on insane. Both think that they are superior to everyone else and also that they are the most humble people in the world. Here's a clue: when you think that you're better than an entire state or that all beautiful people have had plastic surgery, you're not humble.
Heroes is the best new show this year, and it keeps getting better. I have a feeling that Jericho will go the way of all the world for me once they finally let me know but 2 things: what cities got nuked, and who is this conspiracy that made it happen. You can't tell me that the little group with the rental vans had the resources to build that many nukes and also release an EMP pulse via a nuclear missile detonation at 30,000 feet. It's laughably unworkable.

What would most companies do when employees decide to stop working, no matter what they had done up to that point? I would say they fire them. What does my company do? Nothing. Not one single thing. We currently have 2 executives who between themselves do about 10 hours of actual worthwhile work a month and spend the rest of the time working on get rich quick schemes and 2 director level employees who everybody agrees suck but that we just keep in their positions. Forro and I have been pushing for some fixes for months, but here we are and there they are. Can we agree that it's time to part ways for all of these people?

Thursday, February 22, 2007

Bank of Illegal America

I meant to get around to this earlier, but just haven't. The Wall Street Journal (subscription required) had an article last week about how Bank of America is now giving credit cards to people without social security numbers. Since those who don't have SSNs now are typically your undocumented immigrants, this seems like a bold move to cater to the illegal market:

The new Bank of America program is open to people who lack both a Social Security number and a credit history, as long as they have held a checking account with the bank for three months without an overdraft. Most adults in the U.S. who don't have a Social Security number are undocumented immigrants.
The Charlotte, N.C., banking giant tested the program last year at five branches in Los Angeles, and last week expanded it to 51 branches in Los Angeles County, home to the largest concentration of illegal immigrants in the U.S. The bank hopes to roll out the program nationally later this year.
"We are willing to grant credit to someone with little or no credit history," says Lance Weaver, Bank of America's head of international card services, whose team designed the program based in part on the bank's experience in markets like Spain, which lack conventional credit bureaus to rate a client's credit-worthiness.

In my opinion, good on them. Sure, this is aimed at illegals (protestations to the contrary), but what does that matter? By pushing illegals away from the systems we have built and into the arms of, oh, payday lenders or loan sharks, we make certain that they will become less than fully productive members of society. What does that mean for all the hardworking, decent Americans that the Minutemen and Tom Tancredo aim to protect? I'll tell you what it means. It means higher healthcare costs because those illegals who get treated at Emergency Rooms won't be able to pay for that healthcare because they're paying usurious rates upwards of 900% on other loans they have to get. What if they could put this on a credit card instead? Then they could get a rate more along the lines of 17-21%. That's actually workable. What if they could build a credit history? What if that credit history allowed them to purchase goods like cars, houses, designer clothing, and whatnot? Wouldn't that be a good thing?

The fact is that they aren't going away anytime soon, despite what Lou Dobbs says. You could turn the boats away during the 19th and 20th centuries, but it's tough to completely close a 3000 mile border, even with ceding Nogales and Galveston to Mexico and building the Great Wall of America. Besides, it's not just a border crossing problem - it also is an overstaying your visa issue, and you can't stop those people with a wall. At the end of the day, don't we really all want a society that is strong, that is American, and that is safe? How will marginalizing 12 million people do that? Isn't it better to bring them in from the cold and give them credit and the possibility of a better life?

I've already linked to it, but BofA had a response to criticisms about their new policies that they wrote on the Op-Ed page of the Journal (registration required):

There are two answers. First, the program is not about illegal immigrants, and never was. It is designed to help Bank of America customers build a credit history. Second, we believe we have an obligation to serve all those in our country who are legally eligible to receive services. To do less would be discriminatory and unfair.
This debate arises out of the identification laws and regulations in the financial services industry, and the facts may surprise some who have criticized this pilot.
Many of the laws the financial services industry follows today were put in place to help protect America. Shortly after 9/11, Congress, in near unanimous agreement, passed, and the president signed into law, the USA Patriot Act. This law has one provision that troubles many of its critics. It allows financial institutions to accept some official identification sources issued by foreign governments, including the matricula consular, an ID issued by Mexican consulate offices to its nationals living
outside Mexico, as valid.
Former Treasury Secretary John Snow wrote to congressional leaders in 2004, "Americans are better protected if consumers of all nationalities are invited into the financial mainstream." To do otherwise, the secretary warned, would "drive large sections of the U.S. population to underground financial services, [and] weaken the government's ability to enforce money laundering and terrorist financing laws."

Tuesday, February 20, 2007

Beam Me Up, Timmy

George Takei, a gay man and a gay actor, had something to say about Tim Hardaway's comments last week about how he hated gay people. Take a look:

Tuesday, February 13, 2007

"Look At What We Can Do With Science"

There are some incredible inventions happening in this day and age. It really makes you wonder if anything is impossible. The first article I happened across in the Wall Street Journal (subscription required, but contact me if you want me to email you a copy of the full article)yesterday:

Five soldiers at a military base in Texas are about to participate in a remarkable test to see if they can regrow portions of fingers they lost in the war in Iraq.
Doctors plan to treat them with a fine powder called extracellular matrix, harvested from pig bladders. The material, found in all animals, is the scaffolding that cells latch onto as they divide and grow into tissue and body parts. In the human body, it was long thought to be inert. But scientists have discovered that it appears to activate latent biological processes that spur healing and regenerate tissue.
Medical researchers have been making intriguing progress in the field of regenerative medicine. The pilot test in Texas shows how doctors are trying to apply their recent discoveries to a pressing challenge: helping thousands of Americans returning from Iraq to recover from wounds that would have killed soldiers a generation ago...

...In 2005, Dr. Spievack's brother, Lee, who runs a hobby shop in Cincinnati, accidentally lopped about three-eighths of an inch off the top of his middle finger on the propeller of a model airplane. He decided against the skin graft recommended by a hand surgeon and consulted his brother. Dr. Spievack sent him a vial of matrix powder.
Lee Spievack applied it every other day for 10 days, until he ran out. By that time, he recalls, "I could already see the finger was starting to regenerate itself." In four weeks, the wound was healed. In four months, he says, except for a tiny scar, "it was like the finger I always had." Winter, he says, has revealed one difference: "The finger is only about 2 years old, whereas the rest of me is 68. In the cold weather, all my finger tips have cracked except this one."

In addition to actually creating new digits and hopefully soon limbs for people (not to mention things like aorta, bladders, and whatnot), scientists have found ways to turn carrots into carbon fiber:
FROM dangling to angling. The humble carrot is set to be used in ways never imagined before, thanks to a discovery by two Scottish scientists who have found a way to convert the vegetable into an advanced material to make products from fishing rods to warships.
The development is the brain-child of Dr David Hepworth and Dr Eric Whale, who have created the material, named Curran, at their company CelluComp in Burntisland, Fife. Their first product - a rod for fly fishing - goes on sale next month.
But they are not stopping there. The pair now plan to move on to make snowboards and car parts and say the material could also be used to make engineering components and even battleships.
It sounds like the USS Carrot Top could become a reality after all.

Monday, February 12, 2007

I'm A Gay Man and a Gay Basketball Player

So John Amaechi announced he's gay. Then he goes on to blame all his problems on the basketball court on the fact that Coach Sloan and Larry Miller were bigoted against him because he was gay. Never mind that he didn't tell anyone or that he was the worst player to wear a Jazz uniform since Jose Ortiz, it was the gay.

Amaechi really showed the size of his balls though when he mentioned that the Jazz should have scouted him out better and known that if he got a guaranteed contract for more than one year that he wouldn't do one thing afterwards. From Amaechi's British-accented mouth:

"The problem was not my commitment to the game. I was working as hard, with what I had, as anyone on the team. The truth is Sloan and Jazz management hadn't done their research - otherwise known as scouting. They could tell you all my court tendencies, how I played the game and why I should fit into the system. But they knew nothing of my character."

It's always good to say that it's the team's fault that you suck and not that you're a lazy sack of crap who will take whatever money's given to you and not give anybody anything in return. It's as if Enron blamed all the investors for investing in them - "you should have dug into our 10-k and tax forms, looked past all those shady investments and seen that we were really just smoke and mirrors. If you had done that, we wouldn't have lost all of your money."

This book of his was a quick cash in, probably because he ran out of the money the Jazz gave him, so he might as well beat a dead horse a little bit more while he's at it. I have a suggestion for Jerry Sloan: write a book of your own. I've even got a title for you - "Now You Know Why John Amaechi Was In My Doghouse." I'd buy it.

Saturday, February 10, 2007

Quick Hits

Some quick thoughts from the past couple of weeks that don't merit their own post, just because I really don't have much to say about them:

  • Shirley's Bakery (from the Dead to Me list) continues to justify my putting them on there. When asked if there was any way to avoid waiting in line to get some rolls, they told my mother-in-law "come earlier." Honestly, who does this? Can you come up with a system, say actually baking the rolls ahead of time, to improve your customer service?

  • I was behind a guy at Costco Gasoline today who went through all the motions of actually pumping the gas - swiping his card, putting the nozzle in his gas tank, squeezing the handle, etc - without actually pumping gas. The guy sat there for a few minutes as though it was working. He got out of his car to put the nozzle back and collect his reciept only to find out that he was the dumbest person alive. That's right, he hadn't pumped one ounce of gas. It's times like these that make me think that maybe Oregon (California's Canada, and one of two states that won't let you pump your own gas) might actually be on to something.

  • Is Hugo Chavez insane, or does he really think that he wants to turn Venezuela into a paradise a la Cuba? Since when did being insanely poor and destitute despite a wealth of natural resources become something to aspire to?

  • The bank that my company banks at (AmBank) hasn't had internet banking for the past 3 weeks. The main reason is because they must want to lose all their customers. I haven't seen anything like it since Al Gore invented the Internet.