Monday, June 30, 2008

Last Week in the WSJ

A really interesting article on how the mind works.  Apparently researchers have shown that you make a decision around 10 seconds before you are aware of it.  The actual impact of this is twofold.  First, they were able to predict people's choices before they were actually made with 70% accuracy, which either means they're good guessers, that there's something to this, or both.  Second, that your first impression is usually correct.  I remember that axiom from high school and college and tried to live by it on my tests, because more often than not you'd talk yourself out of the correct answer (your first impression).  I have heard and read a lot from different business leaders saying the same thing.  You don't want to go off half-cocked and just make stupid decisions, but at the same time, you don't want to be paralyzed by analysis.  However, if you have to choose between making a quick decision and taking ages to do it, you make the quick decision.  Poor leaders tend to be the ones who never make up their mind to do something.

Friday, June 27, 2008

The Global Marketplace

Things are constantly moving in and out of the US, and the NY Times Freakonomics blog linked to a site that gives you an absolutely fascinating view of it.  They give you (almost) real-time information on what is coming into the US through ports of entry at any given point in time.  Give it a look:

Import Genius

So You Think You Can Watch TV

A couple of my favorite routines from this season of So You Think You Can Dance

I love this Viennese Waltz. They did a fantastic job with the material, especially considering that neither of them were ballroom dancers.

Who knew that hip hop dance could be so good? It's never been my favorite style, but this is fantastic.
EDIT: (Added video)

Fast forward to the 1:00 mark here and take a look at this elimination dance. It's quite possibly the single greatest dance in the history of the world. From the predictable because he did it last week run/jump/splits in the air to the "crap, I ran out of room!" u-turn, there is nothing better than this here.

Thursday, June 26, 2008

An Open Letter to Jason Chaffetz

Mr Chaffetz,
Congratulations on your primary win. You certainly weren't my candidate, and you still aren't. Not that it matters a whole lot, because my write-in vote won't count, at the same time I would love to hear from you on the following issues:

1. Are you going to behave in Congress as you did in your campaign? I felt that you were full of a lot of talk (and a lot of it was not constructive, but rather crowd-pleasing - see your comments to your former boss "Mr. Huntsman, global warming is a farce" - as just one example), but not many real, constructive ideas. There's an old saying that you catch more flies with honey than with vinegar, and I felt that your comments towards everybody were more vinegar than honey. Do people feel frustrated with Congress? Absolutely. At the same time, as a (presumed) new member of Congress, you will have to work with the very people who you've slammed. Utah doesn't need someone who has a loud mouth and no influence. We need someone who will stand up for our values, but at the same time work with others towards common goals.

2. I really think you should take another look at your immigration stance. I know that the same anti-immigrant fears that have gripped every prior generation of Americans currently has us in its clutches, but for the most part it's just as irrational now as it was then. There have been a large number of illegal immigrants, but I would suggest the issue isn't as simple as rounding them up and loading them on C-5s that run hourly flights to Mexico City. The bigger issue is comprehensive immigration reform that would eliminate the benefits to illegally immigrating, namely that you can actually get into the US. If we made it easy to get here, illegals would become extinct. Before you go hoisting xenophobic, Tancredoesque solutions on us, step back and acknowledge their right to life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness too.

If you can get those issues resolved for me, I would be happy to put my support behind you instead of still unknown write-in candidate.

Tuesday, June 24, 2008

Primary Day

You still have a few hours left to cast your votes today to determine if we get Congressman Cannon returning or if everybody's favorite sound byte, Jason Chaffetz, will win.

For the record I voted for Chris Cannon and Richard Ellis

Driving In Italy

I'll probably post a couple of different times on different aspects of my recent cruise through the Greek Isles and Dalmatian Coast, but I wanted to first talk about what I think is the most outrageous part of the whole trip: driving from Venice to Lake Como. I initially did it because some people in my group wanted to go to Como. It looks stunning, but it's 3 hours away from Venice. I got a 9 passenger van (and it was a bit of a hunk of junk) and went driving. I actually didn't have too much trouble for most of the trip. Italian drivers are infamous for their aggressive, insane driving tactics. For the most part, that didn't play on this trip. Scooter and motorcycle drivers had death wishes, driving in and out of traffic as though they were as visible as the Goodyear blimp. I was shocked I didn't see a few get turned into goo by a Maserati. At any rate, the trip to Como was good, although we didn't end up doing the whole itinerary. It was taking too long to get around the lake, so we decided to deep-six that and go to Milan. I've flown from Malpensa airport and that's the extent of my Milan experience. I had been told that it was mainly an industrial town and there wasn't much to see, but after reading Vince Flynn's book Separation of Power, I decided we should give it a shot and there was more to the city than industry and fashion.
A note to those who are thinking about driving in Milan: DON'T DRIVE IN MILAN. If you have a car for some reason, park it by the nearest Metro stop you can find when you get into the city and use the Metro. Borrow a bike, ride the bus, parachute in, or walk if you have to, but under no circumstances should you ever consider driving in that city. You might think you're a good driver. You might even be a good driver. However, Milan is insane. It has streets that make no sense, weaving in and out of buildings - one-way roads that intersect with other one-way roads that send you right back out from where you were going; street signs that are on the sides of buildings, if the building was built in the right historical era; and traffic that makes New York City look downright tame. If I had known what I was in for, I never would have done it. At the same time, if you don't take my advice, I have 4 more words for you: get a good navigator. Think of your car as an F-14 - you're flying at the stick, but you've got to have someone good as your navigator telling you where to go, because you're blowing past streets at such a clip that if they can't stay a few steps ahead of you, you'll end up as the hood ornament on that city bus that is coming your way. My navigator was average (in fact, judging by our trip to Austria and Germany last year, I'd take my wife over him), which is okay in a lot of instances, but not in Milan. The good news is that we made it into the center of the city and back out. The bad news is that it took an average of 45 minutes to get from the Autostrade (their interstates) to the center of town and vice-versa. My wife will disagree with me on whether I got lost or not. I maintain that I didn't, because I got us where we needed to go, and because I was reliant on the navigator.

Hoots the Commuter Owl

One of my favorite Sesame Street characters was "Hoots", the raggedy beatnik owl that lived in the alley and tinkered around on his saxophone. He had that slightly raspy voice and went from glazed over looks to wide eyed outbursts at the drop of a hat. In later years I liked to think Hoots puffed on the reefer as much as his saxophone.
This morning on my bus ride down to the office I was seated across the aisle from Hoots in human form. Slightly raggedy sporting a white goatee and clutching a case for a Selmer Saxophone. 20 minutes into the ride he reaches into the case pulls a dime bag and proceeds to roll a fat pouch. I thought for sure he was planning to spark it up right there on the bus, but he seemed content to massage it between his fingers like cat nip. I was happy to share a ride with Hoots, hopefully tomorrow the Count will show up and keep track of the number of cars we pass.

Monday, June 23, 2008

The New Seal of the President of the United States

Is it just me, or is this pretentious? Isn't it also bad latin?


To: The family seated in row 20 of Delta flight 97 JFK-SLC
From: Sorro
CC: Two Guys from Quantico
Re: Your behavior on 6/22/08

I hate to be the one to throw the first stone, but after the experience I had while sitting behind you last night, I'm grabbing a boulder and tossing it your direction. Your kids were awful on that flight. When I say awful, I don't mean that they were a little fussy. I mean that they were obnoxious. If they were 2, some of their behavior would be justified. The problem here is that they appeared to be around 8, 6, 4, and 1. The 1 year old was fantastic. I can't say anything else about her. Your 6 year old son appeared to be hacking up a lung and I just heard "cover your mouth" from you. People cough and can't help it, so I'll give you a pass, although 2 weeks from now I expect everyone who was on that flight to be sick. I don't blame them for their actions. Instead, I place the blame squarely on your shoulders. Why there instead of with the kids? Allow me to list what I saw that told me you two were not candidates for parent of the year.
First, the obnoxious whining of your 8 and 4 year olds. If they were actually saying something, this could be excused. Instead, they said something like this: "ehhhhhhhhhhh." Kids should be raised a bit better than that. My 2 year old didn't give me an ehh for 18 hours: 10 from Venice to Kennedy, 2 at Kennedy, 2 on the tarmac waiting for takeoff at Kennedy, and 4 to Salt Lake. If she can do it, I'm pretty sure they can do it to. What did I hear from you? Not one thing. You both sat there in your aisle seats and watched TV. Bravo sir and madam, bravo.

Second, I have to give your wife some sort of credit for noticing that I am indeed 6'4" and that if you kicked your seat back, I'd be in a world of hurt. To your discredit, you promptly did exactly that.

Thirdly, you should probably not lay down for a nap across 3 seats when 2 of those are occupied by your children. It's just one of those common courtesy situations. I don't do it to a stranger or their children, why in the world would I screw my kids like that. It's one more reason why they were clearly more harried than they should have been.

Finally, when a child throws up, you clean it up. There are few things more disgusting than vomit. Yet when one of your children did lose their dinner all over, what did you do? Apparently not much. You didn't notice it coming on to get it into one of those courtesy barf bags the airlines have been using for over 50 years, and so it ended up on the floor. How do I know this? Because I saw your pathetic attempt at cleanup when you left: 2 cocktail napkins. Did you bother to call the FA and ask for some help? Did you think that maybe those around you would have to smell it for the next 2 hours and wonder where it was? Did you think that maybe then the wife of someone who was sitting behind you might put her shoes on to leave the flight and then find that your child managed to toss most of his or her cookies right into her shoe? That's right - your child threw up in my wife's shoe, and then you acted as though nothing had happened when she disgustedly removed her soggy shoe and loudly proclaimed that there was indeed vomit in her shoe.
I wish you a Ryanair flight, middle seat, last row, surrounded by nothing but unruly 10 year olds headed to a Nickelodeon cruise. May you enjoy Frequent Flyer Purgatory.

Thursday, June 19, 2008

Not Surprising

I know by the time this is published, this will be old news, but I love that it's somehow news that the NBA uses referees to manipulate games. Sure, some of those can be overcome with a player playing out of his mind, but I think it's a fair estimation that the NBA wants the best matchup possible in the playoffs. Take Jordan's shove off Bryon Russell in the 1998 NBA Finals, or the insane free throw disparity between the Jazz and the Lakers in their most recent series, or Kobe shooting 24 foul shots in one game, or Dwayne Wade shooting more free throws than the Dallas Mavericks in Game 5 of the 2006 NBA Finals, or any number of other questionable calls. I think it's clear that that's the case, especially when everybody knows when the NBA will call out Bennett Salvatore and/or Joey Crawford to work a game, because they're just that notorious. The question is if there is anything that can be done, and I don't mean Congressional Hearings. I could care less about that crap (seriously, let the sports leagues do their thing and butt out - Arlen Specter, I'm talking to you). They can run the league how they want, but there will come a time when the calls will be so bad and the public outcry so great that it could topple The Commish himself if he's not careful

Tuesday, June 17, 2008

GINA the Living Vehicle

This car has no seams, just openings that pop out of a living skin type of tissue. It's amazing that BMW has done something like this - the hood opens from the center, not popping up like anything you've ever seen. Take a look at the video from BMW:

Friday, June 13, 2008

A-Rod Strikes Back

I had this conversation on Wednesday with the fabled A-Rod, the Destroyer (of companies).

A-Rod: Yeah, can I get my Quickbooks running again? It says it needs administrator or something like that and can I get that done if I bring it in?

Me: Yeah, we can get that done.

A: Do you need to do it, or can Nick and Jayne do it?

M: They both can, but I don't think Nick will be in tomorrow, so you should probably go to Jayne.

A: Okay, and you're not going to be there?

M: No, I'm going out of town for a week.

A: Okay, so is Jayne certified to do this?

I think: No, I just told you that she could because I wanted to confuse you. She's actually not certified to do anything.

I say: Yes.

Seriously, who's the idiot who feels the need to say that? I ought to beat him with a tack hammer.

Thursday, June 12, 2008

Out of Town, Still Not A Virgin

I'm leaving for a trip to fabulous Italy, Greece, and Croatia today, so my posts won't be the freshest things around, but I do have several scheduled over the next few days to publish so that I won't be looking for a Wi-Fi hot spot. First on the list is Venice, which I found out when I went there in 2004, is certainly not for not lovers. With my wife coming this time, perhaps it will be more movieesque and less...muggy.

To kick things off, a great article in the NY Times about a debate within Islam, especially in Europe about virginity. Women are having their hymen surgically repaired in order to be a "virgin" on their wedding night. If that's what you want to do, that's fine. Whether you do this or not though, you certainly are not a virgin. Virginity is more than just having a membrane to punch through - it's a certain state of existence. You haven't had sex. That's what qualifies you as a virgin. Anything else you tell yourself to make you feel better is just empty words.

Wednesday, June 11, 2008

Games: Worse than Porn

This story in the Boston Globe is ridiculous. While I have no doubt that people can get hooked on games and that there might even be a psychological problem involved with it, and both can cause a lot of problems in your life...okay, so maybe it's not as far out there as I think it is. However, I do think that the same could be said for TV and a whole host of other things that people may potentially perhaps get addicted to. I would proffer the position that it's something to be careful with, but not as demeaning to women (unless you're playing that new Conan MMORPG) and not as damaging to your pocketbook as gambling or smoking.

Another Annoying Trend

It bugs me that people put those ridiculous family stick figures on their cars. I don't quite know why, I think it's because suddenly they're more popular than Calvin defacing another truck's logo, but I have seen them everywhere here in Utah. I don't quite know what the motivation is to tell everybody "We're the Johnsons and we have 6 kids - Billy, Joey, Jane, Malcolm, Samuel, and Jill. Oh, by the way, we have a dog, and I love skiing." If you're going to do that, put it on a blog and publish it. Don't buy the 21st Century's equivalent of a pink flamingo and slap it on your van.

Tuesday, June 10, 2008

Desert Island Albums

You know the're on a deserted island. Just you, some trees, bananas (or whatever) and an old school Discman and some CDs. Oh, and it's somehow solar powered. That's important. In that situation, where your iPod is dead, what would you choose to listen to for what could very well turn out to be the rest of your life? 8 discs (no compilations or collections) - here are my choices.

The Joshua Tree - U2. This is one of the best albums ever made without question. The way the songs compliment each other and sound together as a whole make this an easy choice.

Achtung Baby - U2. Another U2 classic, and one that vies with The Joshua Tree for my ongoing "best U2 album" affection. They're two completely different beasts and I think that is what, more than anything else, makes it so hard for U2 fans to decide which is best and also to leave it off this list.

Slippery When Wet - Bon Jovi. This is absolutely not a highbrow pick. Nor is it anything that influences music much, at least in my opinion. It's a hard rock album that knows what it's meant to do and it does it very well. I defy anybody who grew up in the 80s to not know at least 3 of the songs off of this album enough that you could still sing along with Jon in the chorus.

Led Zepplin (IV) - Led Zepplin. Another album that represents the peak of a great band. This is a shorter album than the others in the number of tracks on it, but it has some epics like "Stairway to Heaven," which a lot of people consider to be the greatest rock song ever made.

Hotel California - The Eagles. This is a choice that, assuming you could do compilations, would be different. Hell Freezes Over is a better album in my opinion in large part because of the arrangements of the songs. This is an acceptable replacement and has a bunch of great tracks on it, but I like what age and 14 years apart did to the Eagles.

Gladiator - Hans Zimmer. This is the only instrumental selection on this list, but I tossed it on because I think Zimmer is an amazing writer and even though a lot of people look down on him as too low brow, as the cameraman on the Simpsons reminds us, "I'm quite low brow!"

Phantom of the Opera - Andrew Lloyd Webber. Another choice that perhaps reveals a little more proletariat side of me. Yes, I love musical theater. Yes, I love a lot of Lloyd Webber. Yes, I know I would get blasted for this opinion by "serious" theater goers.

The Ricky Gervais Show - Ricky Gervais, Steven Merchant, Karl Pilkington. This 3 disc set chronicles a series of 12 podcasts that remain to this day some of the funniest material ever put into an electronic format. It was originally released this way, so it's included. It's also 9 hours, which helps when you've got not much else to listen to. You always know there's someone around who is in a worse situation than you are (usually it's Karl).

Monday, June 09, 2008

Network Issues

Remind me to tell my SysAdmin to never change our network name again. This has been a beast of a nightmare. He was in all weekend trying to get it squared away and I've spent all day fixing user issues that will invariably pop up as a result. On the plus side, we're not running our domain (which really is the most important thing we can run on the server side) on a regular old desktop PC anymore. That's always a nice benefit.

Wednesday, June 04, 2008

Making An Ass Of Yourself

I put the punchline in the title, so sue me. The latest drug craze in the NY party scene is none other than noted hemorrhoid cream Preparation H. Apparently you rub it all over yourself to get more ripped so the ladies will give you some action. The problem with this approach, of course, is that once the ladies get that shirt off and they smell an 85 year old man's rear end, you won't get the action you're so desperately craving. I think I would choose a different approach, say, going to the gym and eating sensibly.

Tuesday, June 03, 2008

You Belong In The City

While a giveaway like this is pretty amazing anywhere, it's especially true in Japan. A small town in Hokkaido is giving away property to people who will move there. That seems like a pretty attractive offer. At the same time, it's a different world. Here in the States, it's still annoying to live in a 5000 person town, but in Japan it's death. I was annoyed when I didn't live in the midst of half a million people because the conviniences weren't there. Supermarkets are fewer and farther between and unless you want to pay an outrageous markup to some local proprietor, you'd better get used to commuting. Also, while the trains are fantastic there, it takes ages to get anywhere unless you're on the shinkansen. Even an express train seems like it takes forever. That's the biggest reason why this attractive offer hasn't already filled everything up, because it's just too inaka (i.e. middle of nowhere) for it to succeed. Stick a Daiei there and some jobs and maybe that would change.

Monday, June 02, 2008

Will Smith Would Beat Me

One more wacky test, thanks to my wife. Will Smith did a good job in I Am Legend and I think he would be more secure than me against zombies, except I wouldn't go crazy and talk to mannequins.


OnePlusYou Quizzes and Widgets

Is This Good?

Thanks to the Cheeth for the link...I think this is average-ish.


OnePlusYou Quizzes and Widgets

I Love This Ad

I got back from a quick business trip to St George this past weekend and found this circular from Tenochtitlan Market (only the greatest Mexican foodstuffs store I've come across) in my mailbox. The thing that caught my eye wasn't the cut-rate prices on meat or vegetables though, it was the seeming rape-in-progress up in the top corner. I would guess what they meant to have happen was Montezuma is helping her after she fainted from seeing just how low the prices were. Instead, what happened either through poor planning or an appeal to people who are quite low-brow, he's raping the maiden who just so happened to have her legs get chopped off by an unknown force.