31 October 2007

Perception Versus Reality

(G)Nat had a great time, but just said that she has to wait a whole year for it to come again. Ah to be young, when the interval of a year seems like a century – on the other hand, just because it seems like last year was last month, it doesn’t mean that every day wasn’t the usual ration with the usual rhythm. Even if it feels as if the boulder’s rolling faster down the hill, it still makes complete revolutions. He said, hopefully, putting a good spin on it all. Anyway, she had a great time – the neighbors have a big rope swing hanging from a tall tall tree, and all the kids took turns launching themselves into the shadows, high above the lights of the party down the hill. Happy, lucky, laughing kids.

See that's where you are wrong Mr. Lileks, each day is shorter than the last from a subjective standpoint. When you are ten years old, then one month is 1/120th of your entire lifespan. On the other hand at the age of 50, that same month only equates to 1/600th of your lifespan.

In summary, you are both right, (G)Nat is correct in seeing a month as a huge amount of time (from her perspective), and you are right that for a person of Mr. Lileks years, the months are already whizzing by (from his perspective), plus objectively, the next month (or year) is the same length for both of you, but your experience of that month will be entirely different.

And if it makes you feel any better, Mr. Lileks, I am going to buy your damn book!

Next up on "Perception Versus Reality", why the Laffer Curve really does describe economic reality, even if Democrats will never admit it . . .

28 October 2007

Thank God They Have Layers of Editors Around to Prevent Simple Mistakes from Hitting Print . . .

Whether you're a MySpace addict or a Luddite who logged on once to see what all the fuss was about, you've likely met Tom. As the public face of MySpace, cofounder Tom Anderson has become a celebrity since the site launched in 2003 because he's every user's first "friend": when you join MySpace, your profile is automatically linked to his. But it turns out that Tom, who, along with cofounder Chris DeWolfe, made a fortune when News Corp. bought MySpace for $580 million in 2005, may have a secret: his real age. According to public documents obtained by NEWSWEEK—including professional license information, voter registration and utility and telephone service applications—Anderson is five years older than he claims. His online profile currently lists his age as 32, but it appears he was actually born on Nov. 8, 1970, meaning he'll turn 38 next week, not 33. (Happy birthday, Tom!)

From the Nov. 5, 2007 print edition of Newsweek (or Newsweak, as the case may be, and Hat Tip goes to Keith Uhlich at The House Next Door). Notice anything wrong with that paragraph above? Other than a big fat dollop of who cares, there's the matter of what age Mr. Anderson will be turning next week. If I'm not mistaken, we are in the Year of Our Lord, 2007 currently and when subtracting 1970 from 2007, the sum you come up with should be 37 and not 38 as stated in the article. Maybe they are in such a hurry to get to after Hillary is elected president, that they are hoping the election is a week away rather than 53 weeks remaining.

I realize this sort of number crunching alludes many folks out there in MSM-land, but let's not make him a 38 year old any sooner than we have to (I'm there right now, and I wasn't born in 1970, I arrived on the scene slightly before Woodstock and the Moon Landing, not after like poor Tom Anderson). I love the phrase, "According to public documents obtained by NEWSWEEK", so pompous, and typical. Funny, when checking up on this, notice it was mentioned earlier this week on Tech Crunch, and they credit WSJ reporter Julia Angwin with digging up the dirt (intra-News Corp warfare going on, I guess). Where's the hat tip, Newseek?

When I was a returning student at UCR a few years back, I enjoyed freaking out people by telling them how old I really was (I lived in the dorms my first year, which added to the strangeness). Never occurred to me to lie about my age. But then, I wasn't trying to get in bed with any of the kiddies or try and convince them that I was 'with it' or 'cool' or that they should check out my social network, either. So that might have something to do with my forthrightness.

And sad but true fact, Tom is my only friend on Myspace (partly cause I forgot I created a myspace account, and also, whenever I get unsolicited requests for 'friend' status, I reject them).

But back to why this post exists, I don't really care about the founders of Myspace, the service they provide, or whether or not some guy named Tom here in Santa Monica is 1 year younger than me, or 6 years younger than me. But I do like catching a publication like Newsweek not being able to do some simple math. That's golden, right there.

27 October 2007

Weekly NFL Related Humiliation (Week EIGHT)

Another week of mediocre match-ups. 3 of the 13 games this week are between two teams with winning records, and none of those are amongst the four games being televised in Los Angeles. Way to go NFL! I'm going to break form a touch, since there are only four games on TV this week, and pick from the 3 games with both teams above .500, plus I'll add the Houston at San Diego game that's being televised here, along with the Monday night game, which almost qualifies (Denver's at 3-3, Green Bay is rocking it at 5-1). The two games being televised here that I'm ignoring are the NYG v Miami game being played in London, and the New Orleans at San Francisco game which looks like a suckfest between two teams that have no hopes of making the playoffs this year. And My Nemesis Bill Simmons™ has his picks as usual, check over there and compare, also his weekly podcast (link is to a direct download of the 10.1MB mp3) includes an interview with Charles Barkley, never miss a chance to here what's on Sir Charles' mind, he's always a good listen. Now, on to the picks . . .

Indianapolis (6-0) at Carolina (4-2) Carolina +7.0 BS Picks Indianapolis
Indianapolis remain undefeated, and played very well las week beating up on Jacksonville on Monday night. Meanwhile, Carolina had a bye week last week. So you have short week v. week off. Couple that with home field advantage, and I don't see Carolina losing this, or at the very least, losing by more than a TD. Carolina has a solid defense, and should be able to handle the explosive Colts attack, even if older than I am Vinny Testaverde is taking snaps under center.

Houston (3-4) at San Diego (3-3) San Diego -9.0 BS Picks San Diego (sort of)
San Diego seems to have righted themselves, and despite the very Norv Turner-ish behavior of Norv Turner, I don't see this team getting screwed up by the tumult from this week's fires. The game will be at Qualcomm, the ocean breezes are back so the air quality shouldn't be too horrendous, and Houston is dealing with QB issues. So I expect the Chargers to run away with this one. When he went to press, there was no line on this game since where this game was going to be played was still up in the air. So I'll just pretend BS went with the same pick I did.

Jacksonville (4-2) at Tampa Bay (4-3) Tampa Bay -3.5 BS Picks Tampa Bay
Jacksonville is coming off of getting beat up on Monday night, while Tampa Bay is getting over beating themselves with a late turnover against Detroit on Sunday. Home cooking, and QB questions with the Jaguars are the deciding factor for me. The Bucs should be able to handle a good Jaguars team and cover the spread.

Washington (4-2) at New England (7-0) New England -16.0 BS Picks Washington
I hate giving up 16.0 points. But the Pats are the Pats this season, and to go against them, even when taking the spread into account would be foolish. The Skins are a good team, but are overmatched here. And what's the deal here. Mr. Boston aka My Nemesis Bill Simmons™ is picking Washington?!? He expects them to still go 19-0, just not 19-0 against the spread, but the way they've been spanking teams, there's no reason to expect them not to win by at least 3 TDs, so if I'm wrong on any game this week, I hope it's this one.

Green Bay (5-1) at Denver (3-3) Green Bay +3.0 BS Picks Green Bay
So the oddsmakers thing these teams are about evenly matched. A field goal advantage is standard for the home team when the teams are equal. I don't see it. Green Bay has played well, while Denver has been beaten soundly by the better teams they've faced (though they did surprise Pittsburgh last week). Expect the Broncos to go down in flames as if they were the Rockies against the Red Sox.

26 October 2007

Just Cause They Quote Communists Doesn't Make Them Biased . . .

. . . OK, I lied. Yes, it does make them ridiculously biased that when the Washington Post journalists authoring this front page article from Wednesday want to go for a quote about the Southern California wildfires they turn to anti-American, anti-sprawl, anti-technology, ranting leftist ex-hippie Prof. Mike Davis of UC Irvine to get their pull quote.

City of Quartz made him famous in certain circles. He became the local prophet of doom du jour for a good chunk of the 90s, especially since it came out a few years before the Riots and seemed to be prophetic in its dystopian and jaundiced look at our little corner of paradise. But he was wrong, the area didn't collapse, and isn't collapsing. It continues to prosper, even if a little unsteadily and uneasily at times. There are huge problems associated with the sprawl that is Southern California, but with those problems also come amazing opportunities, and Prof. Davis' brand of anti-development and anti-progress rantings are based in a Marx inspired nihilistic disregard and disdain for people and their right to choose their own economic priorities.

The fires are tragic, and some people are building too close to wilderness areas for their own safety, but so long as they don't expect me to pick up the whole tab as they rebuild their lives, assuming some risk is a part of everyone's life. Also, newer communities and homes seem to have faired better than the ones put up in the 70s and 80s, so developers are getting better at siting and providing adequate clearance around developments to ensure safety.

Now I wouldn't have read the WaPo article if it wasn't pointed to by this TCS Daily article by Ralph Kinney Bennett (hat tip Instapundit, the STUPID HUMANS caption sucked me in). What's up with not linking the WaPo article itself? I had to look it up, but it was easy enough to find. Also, Bennett doesn't name Mike Davis in his critique of the article, even though the article mentions his name. That seems kind of silly, and as soon as I saw the reference to a UC Prof. quoted in an article critical of sprawl, I had a hunch it would be Davis, but Bennett could have saved me the trouble by first, linking the stupid article in the first place, and second naming the UC Prof, rather than refer to him obliquely.

24 October 2007

A Simple Palliative To Assuage the Conscience of Folks Who Wish to Be Good Citizens . . .

There's a certain faction within the Democratic Party (like nearly the whole party), that seem to feel Americans, especially those of means, are undertaxed. They argue that our tax code has become terribly unprogressive, and as everyone knows, the best things in life are progressive.

But, there's a simple method to decrease this regressivity, and increase the progressivity of the current system without altering a single line of tax code.

My simple suggestion is that all good Democrats of means should fire all their tax accountants. Pay all the taxes you owe, pay more than you owe, don't claim a single deduction, don't go searching for a single loophole, don't duck your share of the burden imposed by a caring and progressive government that yearns to provide all things to all people.

Given the amount of free monies they have to throw at a variety of candidates, I would imagine many of these folks could easily afford to pay the full tax rate at their income level without taking any deductions. Send it with a note to the IRS letting them know that the IRS should keep the excess payment and not seek to send a refund check.

Furthermore, as many of these progressive politicians are also campaigning for easing the income cap on Social Security payments, I would humbly suggest that they also voluntarily pay into that wonderful system 15.3% of all their income, with no cap, whether they make $98,000 a year, or $980,000. I realize that's the rate for the self-employed, and it's combined SS (12.4% capped at $97,500) and Medicare (2.9%, currently uncapped), but as both funding retirees and providing health care to all are laudable goals, I think any reasonably progressive person shouldn't flinch at paying the full rate that self employed entrepreneurs are currently expected to pay. Right now the cap is at $97,500, but I think every Senator (and former Senator) running in the Democratic primary who has taken a stand on this issue has pledged to work towards raising that cap (Hillary was a bit cagey with her answer, only Gov. Richardson rejected the idea). Why wait for legislation? Pay that money now.

The truly progressive thing to do would be to cut that check for the full 15.3% and enjoy the heartwarming feeling of knowing that you selflessly contributed to extending the solvency of that program into the latter decades of the 21st century. Couple that with not taking a single deduction with a top tax rate of 35% (on incomes above $336,551 for individuals, or joint filing couples), and these folks can happily cut a check for 50.3% of every dollar they take in. Given the number of wealthy Democrats in this nation, this simple measure by the committed, wealthy progressive would theoretically greatly increase the government's coffers.

There's nothing stopping these folks from leading by example, until they do so, I won't hear a thing they're saying on this issue.

Super Mega Humiliation (NFL Variety) Results Post (Weeks 5, 6 and 7)

Been slacking off on the results post, so rather than individual ones, thought I'd slap them all together into one big overview of the past 3 weeks of NFL Football.

The season is shaping up to be especially craptacular, excepting for New England and Indianapolis. The rest of the teams are in one huge pig-pile of mediocre to awful.

They should switch the playoff format now, to a seeded format that ignores conference. It'll be a shame for Indianapolis and New England to play for the "real" Superbowl two weeks before the scheduled Superbowl, but that's the way this season appears to be shaping up.

Not bothering with individual breakdowns, I'll just run the totals, and compare them to MY Nemesis Bill Simmons™.

Week 5:XWL 4-1, BS 1-4 Cummalative totals XWL 12-12-1 BS 12-12-1
Week 6:XWL 2-1-2, BS 1-2-2, Cummalative totals XWL 14-13-3, BS 13-14-3
Week 7:XWL 1-4, BS 2-3, Cummalative totals XWL 15-17-3 BS 15-17-3

As you can see, BS and I are an equally lousy 15-17-3 at this point in the season against the spread. Week 5 was glorious with only Buffalo's covering the spread versus Dallas in that amazing Monday night contest tripping me up, and Week 6 I only screwed up on Seattle, since I'd already assumed the Saints were done for the season. We won't talk about Week 7, the less said about this past weekend, the better. The only thing I'll say is that what crappy scheduling. Out of all the games last week, only two were between two teams with better than .500 records, the first one that comes to mind is easy, that was Indianapolis at Jacksonville, but you have to be a real NFL fan to know the other off the top of your head (Tampa Bay at Detroit).

10 weeks to go, I don't think I'll be going 50-0 over the next 10 weeks, but here's hoping, and with upcoming Thursday and Saturday games coming, I'll stick to picking just five games, even when more than five are telecast.

But screw football anyway, now's the time of year to start thinking about the NBA...

What Might Have Been . . .

If he were eligible for the office, given Gov. Schwarzenegger's commanding performance during the current fire related crises in this state, he'd be a lock for a Vice Presidential slot on a Republican ticket.

Giuliani/Schwarzenegger would have been an awesome ticket.

Tough to fit on a bumpersticker, though.

Here in Santa Monica, beyond a cough, red eyes, and a car dusted with ash, this disaster hasn't had an effect on me personally. I understand the attraction of hillside homes out in the 'burbs, but times like this make me glad to live in the middle of an older heavily ubranized area.

(of course, let's not mention that my house is directly above a spur of the Santa Monica fault...)

21 October 2007

The More Things Change . . .

The NYT has opened up their archives, sort of. Stuff from 1851 to 1922 is free, as is stuff after 1986, between you have to pay. Bill at So Quoted complains about this turn of events, here.

Out of curiosity, I checked articles about Warren Harding during the election year 1920. Election coverage was a bit lighter back then compared to now, to say the least. Here's Harding's answer to the NYT regarding why he should be elected, printed on Oct 31st 1920, along with his opponent's reply as well (PDF at this link). I've eliminated references to party affiliation (in brackets), for reasons that will become obvious as you read further:

You have asked me to state the reasons of [my party] for asking the nation's approval on Election day; I prefer with your permission, to state why the American people will give that approval. They will give it because long ago they turned away from an Administration and its proposal to continue its wastes, follies and perversion of constitutional government, by an extreme and undemocratic centralization of authority. The American people are now thoroughly alarmed by a regime of reckless waste, leading business toward chaos, and the American laborer toward unemployment. Unpreparedness for war and for peace has resulted in hideous losses, with the national burden upon the taxpayer. Throughout the campaign no admission has come from the [other] side of the grotesque errors for distended power misused for nearly eight years. No constructive suggestion for restoring America to firm prosperity or for uniting her people upon a program of going forward has come from the [other] party, nor from its representatives. Most of their attention has been spent upon an insolent suggestion that America shall accept without change of form a membership in a particular [foreign entanglement], as to which Americans were not consulted, and which they have long ago rejected. The election of a [President from the other party], provided he kept faith with his program, would mean four more years in which a President and the representatives of the people would each be able to block action upon the part of the other.

The American people, therefore, will turn to [my party] because it offers assurance of an end of wasteful, willful, and inefficient government, which has menaced our prosperity and the safety of our national institutions. They will turn to it because it offers a plan of peace in industry, a rehabilitation of our agriculture, and because its policies are based upon social justice and a united America. They will turn to it with relief from anxiety and gratitude for a common-sense future and assurance that only under [my party] may they expect America to work out her part in an association of nations which shall not wipe out the Constitution and the Declaration of Independence, but which shall represent in full our obligations to ourselves and to mankind.

Partisanship is nothing new. Fear of an overcharged executive branch is nothing new. For those playing along at home [my party]=Republican Party, [other party]=Democratic Party, and [foreign entanglement]=joining the League of Nations.

The more things change . . .

I wonder how much of this script will Sen. Clinton pick up? Will she suggest ending 'divided government' be a good thing? Will she suggest that she will rein in the executive branch? Will she offer a foreign policy that gives "peace in industry"? Will she offer the people "relief from anxiety and gratitude for a common-sense future"?

I think any of the potential GOP candidates this time around will have an easier time than Cox did in distancing themselves from the previous administration and run as an agent of change even as they run to extend the control of the executive branch under their party for another 4 years. And given that much of Sen. Clinton's appeal is as being deeply enmeshed in 'the establishment' for her to run as a DC outsider will be impossible, so the choice in 2008 is very different than the one in 1920, but there are a few interesting resonances between then and now, anyway.

20 October 2007

The Appropriate Reaction?!?

funny cat picture

Picture stolen from I Can Haz Cheezburger, truly this cat is worth LOL-ing at.

And what the hell is J.K. Rowling doing saying this, anyway? What other expanded back stories will we get?

My guesses:

  • Mrs. Weasley was a popular stripper (stage name, Cherry Bush) before she married (and the ravages of childbirth changed her body).
  • Harry did indeed use his invisibilty cloak to check out the female students in the showers and locker rooms, just like any other red blooded (hetero) male his age would.
  • Hagrid was featured in a series of "Bear" videos (non-sex, just him posing . . ., naked . . ., with real bears)
  • Hermione had "an experience" with the hot French chick during the Wizard competitions in Goblet of Fire, but didn't get past "second base".

Any others I'm missing?

Weekly NFL Related Humiliation (Week SEVEN)

Another week of lousy football. There are no match-ups between two good teams on Sunday, televised in L.A. or not. It'll be a good Sunday for doing other stuff, enjoy the crisp October air, avoid football all together. The only game worth watching will be on Monday night with Indy heading to Jax. Here's my picks for the 4 lousy contests (plus 1 good one) being broadcast in LA this week (and here's the link to all of BS's Picks, plus commentary on the comparative difficulty level between going undefeated in an NFL season and going undefeated in a Fantasy Football League):

San Francisco(2-3) at New York Giants(4-2) San Francisco +9.0 BS Picks NYG
San Francisco is a bad team, and have lost 3 straight. NY Giants, are also a bad team, but they've won 4 straight. I think the Niners will have a bounce back game, and the Giants will return to bickering and trying to get their coach fired. I'm picking a team QB'd by Trent Dilfer to cover the spread, probably a mistake, but I think the Giants' win streak is a mirage.

Minnesota(2-3) at Dallas(5-1) Minnesota +9.5 BS Picks Minn
Dallas are a good team, but they're coming off of a humiliating thumping at the hands of New England. Minnesota are better than their record would indicate, and they have their key strength matched-up against Dallas' key weakness. The Minnesota running attack will control this game, and Dallas doesn't have the defense to stop them. Even if Minnesota doesn't pull of the upset, they'll keep the score close.

Kansas City(3-3) at Oakland(2-3) Oakland -3.0 BS Picks Oak
Neither of these teams are any good, the entire division is mostly crappy with teams that will finish between 6-10 and 9-7. Oakland gets the nod for home field advantage, and they can't be as bad as San Diego made them look last week, they need to bounce back, and they will.

Pittsburgh(4-1) at Denver(2-3) Pittsburgh -3.5 BS Picks Pitt
Denver is a really bad team, and their home field advantage ain't what it used to be. Pittsburgh are a cut below the elite two of the league right now (that'd be Indy and New England) but they are probably the best of the rest (along with Jacksonville). I expect them to handle the Broncos, and beat them handily.

Indianapolis(5-0) at Jacksonvillle(4-1) Indianapolis -3.0 BS Picks Indy
The only good game of the week, and it's happening on Monday night, ESPN must be thrilled. Undefeated Indy goes up against once beaten Jax. Ought to be a good game, or a blowout, not sure yet. Either the Jaguars hold down the score and control the tempo, or the Colts make a few big plays and run away with this game. Jacksonville wins if it's low scoring, Indianapolis wins if it's a touchdownfest. But, that's obvious, so which will it be? I'm going with TD-fest. Indy are close to unstoppable at the moment, and Jax won't be able to keep up.

19 October 2007

"More Shimmery"

(via Drudge)

I would imagine that is a phrase that Prof. Johnny Marr of Salford University in Manchester will be saying quite often.

His shimmery guitar playing framed Morrissey's plaintive whine in the 80s to create the Smith's version of pop perfection.

It's great stuff in small doses (in large doses, might lead to wrist slitting).

But when you have a guitar player with such a distinctive 'shimmery' sound, I wonder how useful he'd be in teaching technique to other students.

Does Johnny Marr even know himself how he came up with his signature sound?

Often with leftfield musical artists with very distinctive sounds, their methods are mysterious, and their knowledge of traditional composition weak. They wouldn't develop in a unique way if they didn't come by their talent in a unique manner.

I don't think you can instruct uniqueness, but I admire Johnny Marr for trying.

Here's the video for How Soon is Now, listen to the shimmer, feel the whine (or is that listen to the whine, and feel the shimmer?).

18 October 2007

Planet Killer of the Month, (Possibly Year)

I nominate Jimmy Kimmel for Planet Killer of the Month.

He's filling in for Regis on Live with Regis and Kelly in NYC next week, but he's not taking any time off from his other job as host of Jimmy Kimmel Live from Hollywood, CA.

He's flying back and forth twice daily the whole week. Ten transcontinental flights in one week. He'll make the baby Goracle cry salty tears.

I'm in awe. His carbon footprint for that week will be off the chart.

I don't normally watch Live with Regis and Kelly, but I'll be watching that week (or maybe not watch, but at least I'll record it and fast forward through most of it).

Bravo, Jimmy, keep up the good work.

I doubt he's flying commercial (he can't afford getting delayed and dealing with all that, it'd be a lot easier to fly in and out of regional airports capable of handling private jets like Teterboro Airport and Santa Monica Airport), so if he's Gulfstreaming it ten times in one week on the Disney Corporate jet, that's even better.

14 October 2007

Weekly NFL Related Humiliation (Week SIX)

Another week, this time 5-0 or bust! The games being televised are all pretty crummy. Can anybody explain to me why the New England at Dallas game isn't being televised in Los Angeles? CBS has the broadcast rights, and they are televising the late game on Sunday, but instead of a battle between undefeated teams, we get to see Oakland at San Diego instead. Grrrrr. Arrrrgggghhh. On the plus side, saves me the trouble of making a selection in that game. I've got nothing to say about any of these games, I'll just give a quick summary of all my picks with links to the usual ESPN intel reports. Also, here's the link to My Nemesis Bill Simmons™ picks for this week.

Tennessee (3-1) at Tampa Bay (3-2) (Tennessee +3.0) BS Picks Ten

Washington (3-1) at Green Bay (4-1) (Green Bay -3.0) BS Picks GB

Oakland (2-2) at San Diego (2-3) (San Diego -9.5) BS Picks Oak

New Orleans (0-4) at Seattle (3-2) (Seattle -6.5) BS Picks NO

NY Giants (3-2) at Atlanta (1-4) (NYG -3.5) BS Picks Atl

Tennessee is coming off a bye week and look like the better team. Green Bay should bounce back off of a tough loss last week. San Diego played very well against Denver, and should do just as well at home against Oakland. Seattle doesn't look very good, especially after getting shut out by Pittsburgh, but New Orleans looks worse. The NY Giants are an iffy team, but Atlanta is Atlanta this season, so the NYG should handle them. I ought to catch up some more ground on BS, his picks this week are inexplicable.

UPDATE 9:56am
Adjusted the lines so that mine match the ones BS uses, doesn't change any of my picks, but could potentially effect the outcomes.

10 October 2007

(Ugh, TimesSelect, come back! Untear down this paywall!)

I'd been toying with a similar comment for awhile, but Choire at Gawker beat me to it. TimesSelect has been unwalled for some time now, yet I haven't felt the need to praise or throw tomatoes at, or even pay much attention to any of their stable of OpEd writers.

Did the wall lead to their increased irrelevance? Or did it merely reveal how uninteresting most of their observations have been? When you couldn't link to them, you didn't really miss linking to them, and now that you can link to them again, it hardly seems worth bothering to link to the latest entirely predictable screed from Friedman, or Dowd, or Hebert.

The article by Thomas Friedman that hacked off the blogger at Gawker enough to unload both barrels of snark at Friedman was an article about the current college age generation. He's determined that letters continue to be the best way to define generations, so he assigns "Q" to the current kiddies, for the 'Quiet American' generation. He praises them for all their commitment to service, and derides them for not noisily protesting crap the way the 60s generation did.

So dumb, but where to begin with how and why it's dumb? Seems the 60s is remembered differently than it actually was, for one thing, the majority of folks, even the majority of college aged folks, weren't full time marchers, protesters, and hippies. Nixon won the 'youth vote' in both 68 and 72, so this perception that kiddies then were all this progressive vanguard doesn't match the facts. The hippies and freaks dominate the discussion and the nostalgia industry about those years, but they were never the majority, just a vocal, dirty, hairy, drugged-out minority (I forgot smelly). The squares were the 'silent majority' then, and continue to be the silent majority now. Friedman is just seeing that fact with different eyes when he looks at people his daughters' age.

So the kiddies today would rather meet and greet via facebook and myspace instead of at a sit-in, march or rally in the quad. The end result is the same, though. The dirty secret of the protest movements back in the 60s, is that for a great many of the participants the primary motivation was avoiding military service (for the guys) and getting laid (for both the guys and gals). The internet makes it so the kiddies can hook up much easier now, no need to pretend to care about more than getting sweaty together, and the lack of a draft makes protesting the current conflict about politics only. Today's kids aren't political in that sense, they're joiners, and doers, and even activists, but they've also grown up with a touch of a libertarian streak and appreciate being left alone to do their own thing, and seem to understand that implicit with that expectation is to get out of the way and let others do their own thing, too.

This in part might explain the core of the young Ron Paul supporters, they've been so used to being told that everything must be designed to cater to them, and that limits must be put on all their activities and options, that when somebody comes along saying the only limit that should be put on a citizen is what the constitution says, and beyond that, you should be left to your own devices, that message strikes a chord. Unfortunately, Paul is a nutbag who adds in all sorts of extreme isolationism and entirely unrealistic economic policy ideas to destroy the good of his core libertarian message, but it's forgivable for young college kids not to get how dangerous Ron Paul would be if he actually got the job of President. Nothing explains their insistence on wasting their time and subverting every poll that his name pops up in, though, that's just being asinine and demonstrates nothing more than too much time on their hands.

07 October 2007

Thou Shalt Completely Misinterpret the Old Testament

NY Times article, "Thou Shalt Not Kill, Except in a Popular Video Game at Church ".

First off, when interpreting the thou shalt nots of the Ten Commandments, this always seems to be a popular one with certain folks who dislike certain Christian groups. Matt Richtel uses that line as a cute hook for his article, ignoring that this admonition applies to all the Abrahamic faiths as they all consider Moses a prophet.

That's never stopped Jews, Christians, or Muslims from "killing". Clearly the intent, and the more appropriate translation from the original Hebrew commandment into English should have been "thou shalt not murder with criminal intent". I don't ever recall a pacifist movement within the Jewish faith (before WWI), but I'm not a scholar in that area, so maybe there has been a movement sometimes in the past 3700+ years since the Ten Commandments have been followed that there have been Jews that extended the admonition against taking a life to not only include murder for personal reasons, or wrath, or jealousy, but even in self-defense, or to defend your faith and your country (and in the case of Halo 3, the very existence of the human race). Moses "kills" in the bible, yet God doesn't get down on him, cause clearly the commandment isn't an absolute ban on all taking of life, in all circumstances. When googling "Jewish pacifist" it seems pretty clear that this concept didn't exist until the 20th century.

It's a popular slam against Christians, to call them hypocrites for being pro-defense, but anti-abortion, or pro-death penalty (not to say Catholics are wrong to suggest scripture supports their anti-death penalty stance, but Christians who support the taking of non-innocent criminal life have plenty of scriptural support as well) and this NYT headline is yet another example of this anti-Christian prejudice. Seems if there was ever a "Just Cause" for war, and for killing, the preservation of the entire human race against a horde of space aliens (on a religious crusade of their own) ought to be a cause that God (as interpreted by just about any faith) would be on board with.

Matt Richtel, the San Francisco based tech issues reporter for the NYT, sounds clueless about Halo and Christianity in this article, but that's to be expected. This article is meant to be consumed by liberals so they can feel superior to those hypocritical pastors who push their faith by pimping violent video games. And the article is a broad side at teen boys, who will go any where, and listen to anything to play their violent video games.

(and did I include his homebase of operation as an insult or a statement of fact?)

05 October 2007

An Insidious Conspiracy With Which to Ensure a Victory by Sen. Clinton in November 2008

The Democratic primaries and caucuses are already over before they even began. Sen. Clinton has won, and her opponents are behaving as if they are already campaigning for her by making dumb mistakes that can only help voters' perception of her (Obama's flag pin nonsense as one recent example).

Have Sen. Edwards (or at least his wife) and Sen. Obama (and definitely his wife) been running in support of Sen. Clinton all along? Has this been as real as WWE Wrestling? I don't know the answer, but I feel the answer, and I feel that the dems have been working to get Hillary elected since about 2005.

But they have one big problem, Sen. Clinton doesn't have a penis. That lack does matter, and it will put an effective ceiling on the amount of support she can garner in the general election (she will poll 5-10 points better than the actual votes she'll get). To think otherwise is to ignore how people really think and act. It's not a bar to the election of senators, congresscritters, or even governors, but the electorate views the presidency differently (and rightly so), and I don't see as many people convinced in their heart of hearts that Hillary would make a good Commander in Chief as the polls will suggest. Any woman would have a problem, not just Hillary, but the right kind of woman would be able to overcome that prejudice. Hillary's not that woman, though. Too much baggage, too many statements that would give security minded voters pause, and she will have trouble looking tougher on those issues than any of the potential GOP candidates.

So what should the Dems do about it? Depress the turn out, of course. They need to do everything they can to tilt who shows up to the polls on Nov 4th, 2008 in their favor. One of the constituencies that will be most likely to hesitate to pull the lever in favor of Sen. Clinton will be single men ages 18-44. They may not vote in huge percentage, but they vote enough that they can influence close states all across the country. They also vote in higher percentages than their single women counterparts (young single women are the least likely demographic to bother to vote, or be politically engaged). I don't think Hillary will engage enough single women to drive first time voters to the polls to counteract the voters that will form a visceral dislike to her style and the thought of putting her in charge of the military (especially when they are comparing her to Giuliani or Thompson).

With that in mind, the Dems need to figure out a way to give the men ages 18-44 who might otherwise bother voting something else to do on Nov 4th, 2008. They need to convince Rockstar Games to push back the release of GTA IV to Nov 3rd, and convince Microsoft to rush development of Halo 4 and get that to market the same day (nobody's talking about a Halo 4, but given the huge success of 3, it's only a matter of time). If both those games came out that Monday, there wouldn't be a man in that demographic who would be able to tear himself away from his game console long enough to get to the polls. If the Dems can manage to get the software publishers to help Hillary out in this way, they'll win in an electoral landslide.

04 October 2007

Things Expressly Designed to Irritate Me (Or So It Would Seem)

[photo borrowed from the webpage of Southern California Disposal, also the same folks who are choosing to fly this flag]

Something new has popped up on the Santa Monica landscape, catching my eye, and irritating the hell out of me. We have a 100 foot tall tower adjacent to the Cloverfield onramp/offramp of the 10 Freeway (yes, I used an article before the name of a freeway, wanna make somethin' of it?) from which flies a 30'x50' American flag usually, but Old Glory has been replaced.

The owner of that mast has decided to fly the goddamn dirty hippie "American Ecology Flag" instead.

Here's what they have to say for themselves on their webpage (and the PDF of their press release here):
SCD Flies World's Largest Ecology Flag

Since the late 1960's, the Ecology flag has been an icon of the Ecological movement.

We are flying our large, 30 foot x 50 foot Ecology flag as a symbol that we are doing our part to reduce global warming through our recycling services and by our use of renewable, earth-friendly B100 Biodiesel fuel made from soybeans. By using Biodiesel, we are significantly reducing greenhouse gas emissions, a leading cause of global warming. We are also lessening our nation's dependency on foreign oil while at the same time supporting American farmers.

Our hope is that the flag will serve as a daily reminder that all of us can play a role in reducing global warming by making environmentally sound choices in our daily lives.

For more information on the benefits of Biodiesel, please visit the National Biodiesel Board website at: http://www.biodiesel.org/.

Learn what you can do to reduce global warming by visiting: www.stopglobalwarming.org/sgw_actionitems.asp.

If GLOBAL WARMING (sorry, seems you always have to shout at the top of your lungs and intone the words with as much gravitas as you can muster) is your main concern, then you should be troubled by mounting evidence that switching to biodiesel is counterproductive.

I'm guessing the city is harassing them over some petty issue, so this is Southern California Disposal's sly way of tweaking our city over their green nonsense. At least I hope that's what they're doing. Clearly, 'going green' is a great excuse for garbage haulers to charge more fees, so all this green nonsense could be good for SCD's business. I'm hoping that their flying of that goddamn dirty hippie "American Ecology Flag" has more to do with motivated self interest than any desire to 'save the planet'. I don't mind greedy businessfolk duping idiot hippies into thinking they are on the hippies' side, I do mind dumb hippies duping businessfolk into following silly and counterproductive practices just because of the latest faddish nonsense regarding the latest push to 'save the planet'.

I'm Sure All You Noticed Was That Most of These Boots Are Kind of Ugly (Except for the Green Lace-ups)

Yeah, me too, all I noticed were the boots

That's the point of posing the model that way, right?

(and the link is safe for British newspapers, but it might be borderline NSFW here in the United States)

Word of the Day (It's the Wrong Time of the Year for Lords a Leapin' Anyway Edition)

Wow. I really am gobsmacked on this one.

(and where are the other nine lords?)

Mildly Amusing Moments In Other Blogs' Comment Sections (An Irregular Feature)

Bill at So Quoted posted about the similarity in appearance between Nosferatu and Truett Cathy, the subtitle of the post was, "Wherein pretty slim pickings lately".

Well, being who I am, that lead to this speculative comment:
Why don't vampyr ever look like Slim Pickens?

Ain't one dem vampeeers ever get the hankering for a southern good ol' boy before?

(I'm just seeing a new comedy/horror movie starring Larry the Cable Guy, Foxworthy, and Udo Kier as the effete Eurotrashy vampire who turned a couple of good ol' boys into vampires after a moonshine fueled bender, expect much mayhem and hilarity to ensue...)

Being who he is, Bill responded:
It's "Interview with a Vampire" crossed with "Deliverance."

I think we could sell that.

Still being who I am (and that's all I can ever be), I responded to his response:
Co-directed by Spike Jonze and Sofia Coppola (sure those crazy kids ended their marriage, but that doesn't mean they can't make a film together, and then somebody could film a documentary of the backstage tensions of making the film, also).

(and yes, I'm really, really, really, looking forward to Spike's next film)

Well it amused me. So there. I started calling this "great moments...", but upon further reflection have since downgraded to "mildly amusing...", trying to keep the bar set high.

"Keats and Shelley’s contemporaries might have called them “star-fornicators” instead of the cruder expression we use today,"

Blogpost composed a few miles above the Protestant Cemetery behind the Pyramid Cestius on revisiting the internet cafe during a tour, October 3, 2007.

Or something like that, Ken Jennings makes an observation about the cult of fame, of course that other Ken (Russell) kind of beat him to the punch a few decades earlier with his film, LISZTOMANIA (which for some unknown and probably really dumb reason still hasn't been released on DVD) but it's still an apt observation, and many folks do suggest that the cult of the international superstar began in the early romantic period, Shelley and Byron fit the bill. Keats was the first James Dean. He was the first posthomous superstar whose supporters puffed up after his death, and even suggested his death was a result of the criticism he received while alive. Live fast, die young wasn't invented in the 1960s (can't add the 'pretty corpse' part, drowning, battlefield wounds, and TB don't tend to leave pretty corpses)

(and was my Wordsworth reference oblique enough?, or too obvious?)

And speaking of copyright issues (what we weren't?), I agree with Prof. Glenn Reynolds (at least I think I agree, he doesn't actually state his advocacy), in a post lamenting the high cost of picking up the DVD for Last Days of Disco (probably Whit Stillman's least good film, but his least good film is better than 95% of films out there) that cases like that (and the unavailability of Lisztomania) are good arguments for compulsory licensing.

License holders shouldn't be able to hold content hostage, if there are those willing to produce a product, and those willing to buy a product, then the license holder shouldn't be able to withhold a particular piece of IP off the market indefinitely (so long as the folks who are producing are willing and able to cough up reasonable license fees and royalties). From video games designed for bygone game systems, to books with a small but loyal following, to films that have missed out on the DVD era because of gaggles of lawyers, intellectual property should be handled in a way that still respects the rights of the license holder, but those rights should come with a little responsibility, too.

IP copyright shouldn't be extendable ad infinitum, either, the public domain is essentially dead, the only time anything produced since the 1940s slips into the public domain, it's because some lawyer really screwed up, that's not the spirit of the original copyright laws, and this subversion helped birth a culture where IP theft seems like a morally defensible act for many consumers.

I'm Not Ashamed to Admit...

... this particular lolcat actually made me LOL.

(more of a hearty chuckle out loud, but HCOL isn't an accepted abbreviation, yet)

03 October 2007

LOL Leonard?!?

No Mr. King, sorry, you can't haz a fag.

This is a snap of Leonard King, the poor sod who got nicked for smoking in his lorry.

(I loaded up this post with Britishisms, despite my aversion to their creeping into American English, cause it sounds funnier, and I'm all about teh funny)

Word of the Day (Dog Catcher Edition)

Wow. Just wow. Just go ahead and make the stuff illegal then. A first offense fine of £260 (that's $530.77) seems pretty crazy. Wonder what truck drivers (I refuse to call him a lorry driver) make over there? Probably cost him a few days pay for that one cigarette.

Not to be left out of the anti-smoking hysteria, the fine city of Calabasas bans indoor smoking, bans outdoor smoking in public areas, they even ban smoking on your own patio if it's too close to public areas, they're proud of themselves over this draconian infringement on personal rights.

My hometown of Santa Monica is virulently anti-smoking as well, though, that's caused some friction with the city's "compassionate" attitude towards homelessness.

Back to the Daily Mail article, my favorite part is that he was caught by the "council dog warden". Their job is to protect citizens from mad dogs and smoking Englishmen, I guess.

Weekly NFL Related Humiliation (Week FIVE)

What a lousy week of football on TV. This is the best the NFL could do? (looking at the other available games, seems that this is the case, d'oh!) As usual here are my five picks of the five games in the L.A. TV market.

Seattle(3-1) at Pittsburgh(3-1) (Pittsburgh -6.0) BS Picks Seattle
Pittsburgh didn't perform well losing to Arizona last week, that can't be good for a team. Seattle has been winning, but they haven't really made any sort of impression this season. I think Pittsburgh will bounce back from a bad week last week and remember to get the ball in the endzone as well as play some defense. Pittsburgh has more talent than Seattle, and they're at home, so that settles that.

Jacksonville(2-1) at Kansas City(2-2) (Jacksonville -2.0) BS Picks Chiefs
I don't care about either of these franchises, but this is what's on TV, so I'm going to make a pick. KC are home underdogs for a reason, and Jax is coming off of a bye week which should be of some benefit (although if I checked the records since they've gone to the 17 week schedule, I might find that teams coming off of a bye playing teams who played the previous week do worse than normal cause of rust and too much time off, or not). Will be low scoring, whichever team pulls of the victory.

San Diego(1-3) at Denver(2-2) (San Diego +1.0) BS Picks San Diego
In Norv I trust. OK, not really, but San Diego just can't be as bad as they've been. It's not possible. They haven't lost any big players from last year's squad that had 11 players in the Pro Bowl. Are you telling me that Marty was that great of a coach and Norv is that bad of a coach? Don't answer that. Denver's been so-so this year, and even though they are at home, I think the Chargers are capable of digging deep inside themselves and eliminate the mistakes on offense that have cost them three ball games in a row (really 2 of 3, as nothing would have helped against New England). I just believe in San Diego a little more (despite all the evidence) than I do Denver at this point in the season.

Chicago(1-3) at Green Bay(4-0) (Chicago +3.0) BS Picks Green Bay
If Chicago would listen to my all Devin Hester all the time suggestion for their offense they'd be unstoppable, but they aren't ready to do something so radical. They've been terrible and they're going up against an undefeated Green Bay team at Lambeau, and yet I pick the Bears. Why? The Packers have no run game whatsoever, and against the Bears linebacker crew, that's going to be a big problem. Favre has avoided making crazy throws and kept the INTs way down compared to some of his gunslinger years, but he hasn't faced a defense like Chicago's yet this year. Chicago's offense just has to hold on to the football, and they'll be able to win this one. It's simple really, and yet that's proved impossible for them this season so far. But against a division rival, after getting embarrassed by Detroit, I think they'll turn things around.

Dallas(4-0) at Buffalo(1-3) (Dallas -10.0) BS Picks Dallas
It's early enough in the year so that the field in Buffalo won't be covered in ice and snow. Lucky for Dallas, but there is rain in the forecast, which might slowdown the Cowboys high powered offense a touch. Dallas will win this game, Buffalo is overmatched on both sides of the ball, but there's a small chance that Dallas will not score as much as they normally do if conditions are crappy. They may end up going up big early, and then letting Buffalo come back enough to beat the spread but not win the game. I hate it when road teams are favored by better than a TD. Chances are they'll score their usual 30+ and Buffalo won't get more than 13, so this pick should be safe.

Checking in with My Nemesis Bill Simmons™ (I've decided to start the process to register a trademark on the phrase, "My Nemesis Bill Simmons™", that's right, if you want to declare Mr. Simmons as your nemesis as well, I expect some recompense), his picks for week five aren't out yet, I'll update this when he gets around to it. Meanwhile, you can listen to this BS Report focusing on him and Cousin Sal guessing the lines on the Week Five matchups.

(and I may be exaggerating a bit about starting the process for registering the trademark on the phrase, "My Nemesis Bill Simmons™")

(also, didn't realize till I looked it up that it's UNLAWFUL to use ® unless you've officially registered your trademark with the proper agencies)

UPDATE: My Nemesis Bill Simmons™ doesn't make his picks till Friday, and the lines move a little bit between my picks on Wednesday, and his on Friday, I'm adjusting the post to reflect the current lines, and I'm including his picks right next to mine, to make figuring out our respective results easier. For his picks column this week he did an extensive break down of where all the NFL teams stand with respect to each other. It's a good read, I don't agree with all his ratings, but he gives good reasons for his rankings.

And in his breakdown of the Bears he has this, "And why didn't anyone mention the easiest possible fix for the Bears' offense, the one that was e-mailed to me 25 times last weekend ... namely, that they should just stick Devin Hester 20 yards behind the center and snap to him on every down?", I guess my suggestion about making Hester the "QB" wasn't unique.

My Nemesis Bill Simmons™ doesn't seem to follow his own advice when it comes to one pick. He's picking the Chiefs over Jax, even though he has Jacksonville 8th in his rankings and KC 26th. He's really giving that home crowd in KC a lot of credit.

And as a New England born and raised sports fan, his love for the Pats pre-exists their clear dominance so far this season, but I can't help thinking he's got a bit of the typical Boston area sports fan expectation that things are going to turn south at some point. He writes,
However you feel about the Pats, at the very least you have to admit Moss has catapulted them to another level and transformed Brady's career. Even during the three Super Bowl seasons, they never had a closer, a big-play guy who could knock the lead out of reach. Now they do. In all four victories, Moss scored the touchdown that put the game away. He also has given them a swagger that they've never had, an invincibility they desperately needed. If they can keep him on the field for five months, and if they can stay healthy, they're going to be nearly impossible to beat.

I think he's half-expecting Brady and Moss both to get injured this season and watch what would have been a 19-0 season turn into a legendary missed opportunity. It might even make his Levels of Losing with the next revision. The heavy use of "if" in that section suggests he's waiting for the other shoe to drop. When things seem way too good to be true, you know they'll turn to crap, soon enough, that's what it means to be a sports fan in New England (with the exception of the Pats recent success, and the 60s and 80s Celtics, and that one magical World Series run for the Sox).

(I can't talk, though, if I were to do an NBA preview column, I think I'd have to rely pretty heavily on the word "if" to describe my thoughts on the Lakers this season)

The Hidden Cost of Free Ponyism...

Pastor Jeff has a good post explaining why free ponies (aka Universal, Affordable and High Quality Health care) can't possibly work. 2 out of 3 wouldn't be bad, but politicians insist that 3 out of 3 is possible.

With that in mind, I find it interesting the differing price of the new PS3 bundle. It's not yet official, that'll be next week, but the nearly official numbers are that the exact same console will be USD$399, €449, £299, and AUD$699, with slightly less certain rumors of CDN$449, and ¥47600 in Japan

Using current exchange rates that translates to $399 in the USA, $637 in Europe, in Great Britain $610, in Australia $620, in Canada $451, and $411 in Sony's home market of Japan.

So we get the cheapest PS3s in the world, and Europe has to pay a 59% premium for just being so damn European. Sony is taking advantage of the low value of the Yen versus the Euro, but rather than lowering the price of their console to match the price in Japan and North America, they're extracting a bigger profit margin. Another big chunk of that 59% price difference is the cost of all the different kinds of 'free ponies' that Europeans enjoy (in the form of VATs). You pay for your cradle to grave entitlements with every purchase you make.

Do we want an economy distorted by free ponyism?

(and as I mentioned over at Pastor Jeff's post, I don't care what color my free pony is, so long as it craps ice cream and urinates root beer...)

Pony picture borrowed from here, if you are in the vicinity of Dallas, your princess can ride a pink pony, too! (but not for free, this is still America)

UPDATE: Pastor Jeff links to my linking of his piece, and has expanded thoughts (which I've now just linked to as well. I know, I know, links to links, linking back on links, it's linkeriffic). This got me thinking, Amazon.co.uk, and Amazon.com would be an excellent reference for comparing costs on a variety of consumer goods. I'll limit my study to five goods, an electric tea kettle, the complete Buffy TV Series DVD set, an expensive treadmill, an 8 pack of razor blades, and a complete set of the Harry Potter novels in hardcover. I'll focus on goods that are identical (or nearly identical) in both places, I'm going into this assuming all the American prices are cheaper, but I'm not sure...

Krups Electric Tea Kettle, on sale at Amazon.co.uk for £44.99 (or $102.05), comparable Krups Electric Tea Kettle is available at Amazon.com for $69.99. The model numbers aren't exactly the same, but that's just cause of the different plugs (I think). If you look at the specs for the two items, they are identical. You'd think demand in Britain would be higher for this item (in theory putting downward pressure on the price as there's a bigger market for competing products), as they remain a country that loves their tea, yet this item costs 46% more on Amazon.co.uk. I threw in this item to help the Brits, I even chose a European brand, I doubt it will get better from here.

Buffy, the complete boxed set. For the Region 2 coded edition it sells for £119.98 (or $244.93), the Region 1 coded set of all seven seasons of Buffy goodness (and it is a great show) goes for $164.99. Both come in special boxes, the US version contain 40(!) discs, yet in Britain you have to pay 49% more (and the British boxed set is missing the last bonus disc).

Treadmills should be a good thing to check, both the American and British press (as well as political establishment) are 'concerned' about all the chubbies running around. Found one with the same model number and everything. The Tunturi T20 goes for £849.00 (or $1733.17) in the UK, and in the good old US of A the same item sells for $1399.00. That's a minuscule (by comparison) 22% difference. I wonder if there's some sort of gov't subsidy thing going on with work-out equipment?

What about cheaper consumables like fancy-schmancy razor blades. The 5+1 blade Gillette Fusion Power is sold both in the UK and USA, and the real profit is in the blades (Gillette sent me one free in the mail a few months ago, the non-powered Fusion razor with one cartridge). In the UK, an 8 pack of blades costs £15.99 (a whopping $32.64), while in the USA the identical item costs $17.95. That's the biggest percentage so far, an astronomical 82% difference in cost for these little items. Next time you go to London, smuggle some of these buggers into the country, you could turn a nice little profit for yourself. Also of note, it appears YOU MUST BE at least 18 years of age to buy razor blade refills in the UK. You can't send little Tommy to the cornershop to pick up your replacement blades should you suddenly run out. Nope, that'd be dangerous. The old cutthroat's friend, a deadly, super sharp straight razor, no age verification required. Don't you just love nanny-laws (and their arbitrary enforcement and nonsensical application)?

On to Harry Potter. The boxed sets aren't identical, so this isn't a completely fair comparison, but both in the UK and USA the complete 7 book extra super-cool hardcover boxed sets are being released. In the UK their "children's" edition of the boxed set is £68.25 ($139.33) while the comparable set for the United States is $116.99. These aren't identical, but the book dimensions themselves are similar, and the US edition comes in a box that looks like a chest. I'm guessing these are about the same edition, even though the US edition isn't the "children's" edition, the trunk-like box and stickers would suggest that's the target market (Scholastic never bothered coming out with an Adults/Children's version of each title the way Bloomsbury has in the UK). $116.99 for 7 hardcover books is pretty reasonable, especially given the bloated length of the latter titles. The difference in price between the two markets is pretty small at 19%, that barely covers the 17.5% VAT that gets factored into the UK price, so I'm guessing the US edition is slightly better quality, or the US customers are getting a raw deal for a change. If you want to prove your undying love for all things Harry Potter, though, the super-duper edition boxed set available in the UK for £148.00 ($302.13) is your only choice. There are no American equivalent of the Bloomsbury "adult" editions it would seem, so Americans who want to overspend for their Harry Potter will have to sneak one of those $300+ UK boxed sets back over the Atlantic (and Amazon.co.uk would probably even ship it to you in the USA if you really want to spend the money, I've bought some items at Amazon.co.uk, most items they'll send to the United States, it just takes extra time, and extra money).

Ouch. VATs alone don't account for the differences. Likewise the smaller market that makes up Great Britain doesn't account for what seems to be a fairly consistent mark up on most items sold in the UK well beyond just the VAT. The dollar is taking a beating in currency markets, but that doesn't seem to effect our purchasing power. If anything we have much greater purchasing power in the United States, even as our currency gets killed by the Euro and GBP. The products I picked were arbitrary, and non-random, so this isn't an entirely fair comparison, but I doubt a more thorough study would produce stunningly different results. Our larger market, freer and more ruthless competition, relative lack of barriers for imports, and relatively low tax burden combine to hold prices down on nearly everything we buy in the United States. I was in Best Buy on Saturday, walked in behind a group of non-English speaking tourists (I think French, but not sure) and they seemed downright giddy when they viewed the price tags of various items (OK, allowing themselves to appear giddy in public would strongly suggest these tourists/students were not French).

Free Ponies don't come cheap, the cost of Free Ponyism should be obvious to anyone paying attention, yet politicians around the globe insist that there are only benefits and no costs to unrestrained Free Ponyism (I also changed one of the tags on this to "Free Ponyism" from "Free Ponies" and altered this post's title to reflect the coinage of this seemingly new phrase). Interestingly (at least to me), the only hit on google for "Free Ponyism" (when the phrase is put in quotes) is Pastor Jeff's blog (but not the specific post) pointing to this post, but this post itself is absent from the first page of results, oh well. The number one hit for "free ponies" is the Daniel Drezner article where I first remember reading the phrase as a put down against reflexive social welfare statism. I guess I get credit for turning "Free Ponies" into an -ism. Seems like a natural evolution, we'll see if it catches on...

Also all currency conversions were done using today's numbers at OANDA.com.

02 October 2007

Word of the Day (Rhyming Assaults Edition)

I'm giving into the goofy irresistibleness of the Daily Mail and just turn this into a daily Daily Mail feature. Today we have a granny assaulting her partner over a piece of pork. There's something fishy about this story, maybe it's a case of overzealous prosecutors insisting on following the letter of the law even though the injured party would have preferred no charges brought. Or it's an abusive woman who injured her partner a bit more than she intended. The tone of the piece is to suggest it's all a goof and a mistake, but it's hard to imagine that a man doing the same thing would have avoided jail time.

(and if the woman pictured is really only 45, then she's certainly hasn't been following Annie Lennox's sensible health and beauty tips, that's for sure)

And the rhyming assault, wasn't actually a rhyming assault, but the headline writer of the Daily Mail used the facts of the case to come up with the clever little rhyme. Pays to go to college, I guess, that headline writer probably graduated from Cambridge or Oxford, I'd wager.

Because I Am a Connoisseur of Really Bad Pop Culture Trash . . .

. . . I'm going to watch Cavemen and Carpoolers tonight so that you don't have to. I imagine that it's a task best left to professionals, but I'll endure this experience as an object lesson on what corporate America thinks will entertain the average American male.

How stupid do they think we are? The only way to know for sure is to watch this stuff, if I survive, I'll post about it later this evening.


That's 22 minutes I'll never get back. It's crap. It's the crap that crap would crap if crap had a digestive tract. Actually, it's the crap that crap's crap would crap if crap's crap had a crapper.

(how's that for a review?) A review of Carpoolers to follow, along with a lengthy thought exercise on what these programs mean with regards to representations of masculinity in current American pop culture (or not).

UPDATE, Part II, The Quickening:

About Carpoolers, OK, that was just crap, but not what crap would crap if crap had a digestive tract.

About what this means for perceptions of masculinity being foisted upon folks by TV writers, they hate guys. They hate family men, they hate them with a passion. They view them as a collection of neuroses and driven by a constant fear of not measuring up and are perpetually one incident or comment by the women in their lives from being utterly emasculated. To be a 'man' on a sitcom, is to be completely and utterly dick-less and ball-less. All sitcom men are Ken dolls, with smooth plastic areas where their sex organs should be. I don't get it, I don't understand how they think this kind of programming should be attractive towards men (the advertising for this craptacular hour of 'comedy' pushed it as a "Mandate"), and I don't understand where this contempt comes from.

It's unfunny, uninteresting, and unfortunately, unsurprising. If advertisers wonder why they can't find the coveted 18-34 year old male audience watching this stuff, this is why. Belittling your target audience isn't a formula for success. No wonder your target audience for this crap² spends their time playing Halo 3 instead.

NMT: 02 OCT 07 Annie Lennox --- Songs of Mass Destruction

BLOGTOBER brings the return of New Music Tuesdays. This week Annie Lennox has a brand new album out after a four year wait. Her last album Bare, was brilliant, this one, not so much, but it's still better than most, and easily recommendable.

Don't let the title fool you, this isn't an album long screed against the Bush and Blair administrations, rather the songs of mass destruction are more along the Raymond Carver type lies of mass destruction rather than anything political.

She's in fine voice here, and the production and soundscapes are such that this album sounds as if it could have easily been released 20 years ago, but for me that's not a negative. There's big dollops of later period Eurythmics to this work, and even though Dave Stewart isn't involved, Ms. Lennox managed to find a producer (Glenn Ballard) who provided some very Dave-like settings for her voice. It works well, I'm not complaining.

One song that does feel like a bit of a nostalgia fest is Sing. It's a collaboration of 23 female artists singing in support of providing AZT in South Africa to women so that their babies don't share their HIV status. Here's what her wiki has to say about the song,
For the album, Lennox has gathered together twenty-three female artists for a collaboration on the song "Sing". Anastacia, Isobel Campbell, Dido, CĂ©line Dion, Melissa Etheridge, Fergie, Beth Gibbons, Faith Hill, Angelique Kidjo, Beverley Knight, Gladys Knight, k.d. lang, Madonna, Sarah McLachlan, Beth Orton, Pink, Bonnie Raitt, Shakira, Shingai Shoniwa, Joss Stone, Sugababes, KT Tunstall, and Martha Wainwright are all part of the line-up delivering this "powerful feminist anthem". The song is born out of Annie’s involvement with Nelson Mandela’s 46664 and Treatment Action Campaign (TAC) – organisations fighting for human rights, education and health care for those affected by the HIV AIDS virus. Included among the group are TAC activist members own vocal group known as "The Generics", whose CD of music inspired Annie to make "Sing".
Recalls all those songs for causes from the 80s, it's also not a very good song (same as all those causes song, except for Free Nelson Mandela, that song still rocks, or more accurately, skanks).

This isn't an exercise in nostalgia, though. Rather, it's an artist who recognizes where her gift lies, and surrounds herself with sounds that highlight that gift. Bare was raw, tortured, she let all the cracks show, this is back to the more polished Annie we were used to. It's not an essential album if you were never a fan of hers, but it's a solid effort if you already enjoy what she's about. There are no stand out tracks, and there are no dogs on this album, it's a good album through and through.

Perusing Annie's official webpage, I notice she blogs, too. She seems to have been bitten by the BLOGTOBER bug as well, posting 3 times yesterday, her site is flash-based (boo!) so I can't link directly, but I'll reproduce in full her latest post here, cause, it's unexpected...
Tips and Hints!
October 1st 2007

This is where I get light and fluffy! At the throwaway suggestion of skin care, hair care and grooming it seems to have created a a small ripple of anticipation, so today’s the day when we can get down and get girly..

1. Your body is a temple...cleanse it every day! Showering is faster, greener and more cost effective...but do keep it clean. Use a loofah or brush to promote circulation, and exfoliate the skin. A hot bath, on the other hand is excellent for unwinding, and relaxing those tired stressed muscles. A little essential oil and a few candles help to soothe the mind. So take the time to say hello to your body. After bathing or showering...i recommend you use body oil to condition the skin. There are some fabulous oils available..but you can simply use sesame, almond or olive oil. Because you’re worth it!

2. Some people think the best way to condition hair is by not shampooing it too frequently. That’s fine for them, but I have to admit that I wash mine every day. If your hair is dry or in poor condition..always use hair conditioner, and make sure to rinse it off thoroughly behind the ears. You’ll have the pleasure of smooth silky hair that does what you want it to do. Get your hair trimmed regularly. And once you’ve found a hairdresser who gives you the kind of cut you like..stick with them, and don’t forget to tip.

3. My nails are appalling..I‘m far too busy to go to a manicurist, so it comes way down on my list. But a regular manicure can’t be a bad thing. Even you gentlemen out there might want to consider this. I gather lots of men do these days! Check your toes on a regular basis. Your toes are your most forgotten friends. They walk you through the day in oft times tired and painful circumstances..and do they get a word of thanks or appreciation??? No they don’t!! They get forgotten because they are just lowly toes!! Why don’t you take a moment each day to tell your toes you love them? You’ll find they’ll give you good service for the rest of your life! Remember..talcum and toes make great company!

4. How many people out there floss? How many people even know what “flossing” means? Well..flossing can be a little strange at first, but once you’ve got the habit of it, boy do your teeth and gums love you for it. Those crevices that have all kinds of aggravating food remnants harboured for days, will suddenly realise that they’ve been discovered! Out out damned food remnant! I will have thee no longer in the refuge of my tooth crevice! My gums will be pink and healthy..they will swell and bleed no more..they will lay down and be at the mercy of the deadly flossing device! Further more..all toothbrushes with “splayed out” bristles are well past their sell by date, and must be binned..( unfortunately I don’t think there’s a toothbrush recycling facility anywhere to be found.. hey ho)

5. Do face creams work? Do they really have the capacity to smooth and soften the appearance of wrinkles. Can they plump out those dry and desiccated skin cells like the Mohave desert after rainfall? I don’t know. And it’s completely baffling every time I enter the cosmetics department of a big department store. I have absolutely no idea where to begin. We spend billions on all these products, but hand on heart..do we really know whether they make any difference? Do check out the packaging..You’ll often find that the most expensive stuff is presented in a way that conceals the actual reduced size of the contents. It only looks big and shiny. Inside it’s something tiny! I don’t know...Here’s what I like, but it’s not an endorsement, “cause they’d have to pay me hint hint !!! (Kiels and Dr Haushka..there you go) I’m probably just suckered in by the packaging. Aren’t we all!?

That’s the end of my beauty tips for now folks. Hope it lightened up your day. Moving on to health and cookery next..after that back to misery and despair on the planet. Love Annie.

She's always come across as very well groomed, so I can accept grooming advice form her, now if ratty old Bruce Springsteen were to start blogging about his exfoliation routine, I might not heed his advice... (and if you thought I was going to force myself to listen to his crap album that also came out today, you have another thing coming, Cavemen will be bad enough, don't have to compound it by listening to Broooooooooooce)

LOL Serena?!?

In numbers too large to ignore, oh what the hell, below is some YouTube-age of Helen Reddy singing (and three young woman dancing), cause you know you want to hum along...

And yes, this video is a horrible and corrosive subversion of the sentiment expressed by Helen Reddy's song . . ., I love it, and it's kind of brilliant. These young woman and amazing athletes like Serena Williams are illustrative of all the doors that are now wide open to women in our culture.

Random photo of Serena courtesy the AFP.

"I honestly just read the most unbelievable and enlightening article I have ever read."

Guess who wrote that sentence. Which torturer of the English language could conceive of that nonsense? I'll only give you three guesses (but you'll probably only need one)






don't cheat and click on this link before guessing. Soak up the dishonesty, doublespeak, logorrhea, and obfuscation, it's intoxicating (in a vomit inducing way).

01 October 2007

RESULTS (Week Four) Weekly NFL Related Humiliation

What a wild weekend of football! Bet that cliche was uttered in nearly every broadcast across the country. Given all the upsets in college (and near upset of the USC Trojans) on Saturday, and the many surprising results in the NFL on Sunday, you had a week full of surprises.

As far as my picks went, got the early games, and blew it on the later games. San Diego defies explanation (beyond the obvious, Norv Turner should never be allowed to be head coach anywhere, ever, retroactively for all of time, if you had a time machine available, or some mystical influence were throwing you back in time, then you'd be doing the world a favor in convincing all GMs not to even think about promoting Norv Turner beyond 'offensive genius' as a coordinator status). Likewise, the Philadephia Eagles' inability to block the previously porous Giants defense also leaves me gobsmacked. On to the individual game breakdowns . . .

Oakland 35 Miami 17
Woohoo! The Raiders (2-2) destroyed the home team. Culpepper scored 5 times (3 with his legs (and knees), 2 with his arm) and I completely forgot to mention the revenge factor going into this game. Miami (0-4) is poised to win a bunch of meaningless games at the end of the season like they do every year. Once they're eliminated from playoff consideration, suddenly the 'Phins become unbeatable. Oakland, all the sudden has a fantastic running game. If Justin Fargas' performance in this game wasn't a fluke, then the Raiders might not only break .500 for the first time since their Superbowl season, but they might even win their suddenly crappy looking division. They are still a couple of levels in quality below Indianapolis and New England, but you might be able to consider them in the 2nd tier of AFC teams along with Pittsburgh, Tennessee, Denver and Jacksonville (right now formerly top tier teams like Baltimore and San Diego aren't even in the second tier of teams).

St. Louis 7 Dallas 35
Woohoo! Can't take much credit for calling this game right. St. Louis (0-4) has been hit by injuries, and a general lack of talent. Dallas (4-0) are clearly the class of the NFC right now, no other NFC team is close (with the possible exception of Green Bay). The Cowboys haven't been 4-0 since their last Superbowl winning team in 1995. This team isn't as good as that team, but with the state of the NFC at the moment, this team doesn't need to be that good to make it to the Superbowl (winning it all is a different story, though). We'll found out whether this team is for real or not when they play New England the week after next (assuming they don't have a let down when they travel to Buffalo next week).

Kansas City 30 San Diego 16
D'oh! San Diego (1-3) has already lost more regular season games than they did all of last year. Plus this loss was at home, something that hadn't happened to them all last year. This team has almost all the same talent as last year's squad, and yet they stink. All those fantasy football folks who were lucky enough to get the number one pick in their drafts and immediately jumped all over drafting LaDanian Tomlinson must be feeling really crappy about now. Serves them right for wasting their time with fantasy football. LT had his best game of the year, but it didn't matter. A -2 t.o. rating will screw up even the best teams, that's been the story in all 3 of these San Diego losses. If they win their next two games, they'll be in OK shape, if they lose either or both of their next two, their season is over. KC (2-2) is still a bit enigmatic, Huard is pretty awful, and Johnson is going to have to carry a huge load. They're going to win some close games, and lose a few more close games, I suspect, they are one of the many 7-9 or 9-7 teams making up the bulk of this league.

Philadelphia 3 NY Giants 16
D'oh! 12 sacks! 12 sacks!! 12 sacks!!! How do you give up 12 sacks!!!! You have a supposedly mobile QB in McNabb, but the Philadelphia (1-3) offensive line just fell apart in that game. Understatement of the week spoken by NY Giants' Defensive End Osi Umenyiora, "We knew we would eventually get some sacks. We have some of the best pass rushers in the league on this team. We put it all together today." I guess collecting six sacks in one week will make you say stuff like that. I still don't think the NY Giants are very good. Their defense went from giving up 97 points in their first 10 quarters to holding their opponents to 3 points in the last 6. Which team is this? I was certain their season was done at halftime last week, and they were working to get Coughlin fired, now who knows? As far as Philly, the loss of Westbrook makes them one dimensional, and extremely vulnerable, it's going to be a long season, good thing the Phillies made the playoffs, that takes some pressure off them for a few weeks.

New England 34 Cincinnati 13
Woohoo! Didn't take a football expert to pick the winner in this game (even against the spread). New England (4-0) are the best team in football right now, and Cincinnati (1-3) has talent, but are screwed with multiple injuries to their LB corps. Even if they were at full strength, wouldn't have mattered against the Pats. Brady did throw an INT, so maybe there is a sliver of hope for the rest of the league. Also, the two teams didn't combine for over 100 points as I half expected, so the Cincy defense has to take some pride in holding New England to their lowest point total of the season (34 instead of 38 like in the previous 3 games). There's a tiny chance that New England will look past Cleveland (and the big showdown in Dallas against the Cowboys on Oct 14th, circle your calendars) and forget to win next week. (but that might all be part of Belichick's master plan, to refocus the team, and get the distraction of going for a 19-0 season out of the way early, that guy's a genius, if they lose on Sunday, it will because he wanted them to)

This week's 3-2 performance brings my overall record to a still lousy 8-11-1, while my nemesis Bill Simmons has managed to match my 3-2 record for the week (on the picks we picked differently we split, I got Oakland right, he got NY Giants right), so he sits at a less sucky 11-8-1. I have been getting killed with these night games. My Sunday night record is 1-3, and my Monday night record is 1-2-1 (thanks to jumping on the New England bandwagon for this week's Monday night contest). So for day games I'm a less awful 6-6. I might look like I knew what I was doing if it wasn't for those Sunday and Monday night contests.

I Love the Modern Economy

First businesses outsourced their complaint and service departments to India.

Now customers can outsource their complaints and request for services to India as well.

The modern world kicks ass. Also, if I were the governor of one of the poorer Mexican states, I would change the official language to English, insist that all school instruction be given in English, attract businesses to set up these schools by offering cheap labor and low taxes, and reap the same kind of benefits that India has even while a world away.

Keep your culture, the Spanish language isn't the source of Mexican culture, it's part of it, but it doesn't have to be. Make the transition to English, educate your poor, and you can transform your economy and quit wasting your human resources (or outsourcing them to north of the border). If you produce citizens whose main value is as manual labor, than they will have to export themselves where the best jobs are, disrupting families, and alienating the economic migrants when they get to where the jobs are. If you produce citizens whose main value is providing intellectual services, then they can do that anywhere in the world, including smack dab in the middle of the poorest villages, and you can leverage their smarts in ways that all those manual laborers sending their paychecks back south simply don't provide.

Mexico's population is industrious, but ill educated, and limited in their value (by language) in the kind of global services that tens of millions of Indian nationals now provide. Embrace English as the language of commerce, embrace education, and you can turn Mexico into a country folks won't want to leave to the tune of 1% of the entire population every year.

It's Been Awhile, But Time For What's Up with Kobe Bryant . . .

Kobe showed up to the Laker's training camp, no hold out, no more talk of trade demands. Inside the Lakers compiled all his statements in one easy to read blog post.

While not sounding entirely gruntled, Kobe no longer sounds disgruntled, that's progress. I think a deal is in the works, or a hold out would have happened. It was nice knowing you Andrew Bynum, your time as a Laker was a short one. Enjoy yourself with whichever team takes you.

Phoenix and Utah have some very talented unhappy players, if the Lakers could some how add Marion or Kirilenko without losing Lamar Odom, that'd be a tremendous boost to this team. Probably won't happen, but it would be nice to see. To get Marion, Odom would probably have to be in the mix, and that really wouldn't be a huge upgrade, despite Marion's great talent. Getting Marion while keeping Odom would give the Lakers a lot more depth and roster flexibility, however, but Steve Kerr isn't stupid, and I doubt he'd make that move.

Kobe looked healthy, lean, mean, and focused during the FIBA tournament. He was easily the best player on the court, even amongst a team full of all stars, and all the other all stars readily admitted this fact. What really stood out was his commitment to defense. He hounded the other team's best player in most of the contests, and against the solid guards of Puerto Rico, made them look like high school players, not the NBA level talent that they were.

If the Lakers can add one more talented player without giving up Odom, and Kobe's new found love of defense continues, they have a real shot at being a force this season. Derek Fisher returning to the Lakers is a lot bigger deal than people realize, bad point guard play was holding them back the last two seasons, and with a PG who is careful with the ball, along with a commitment to playing defense, the Lakers have potential to be pretty damn good. When you have the world's best player, you should be one of the top teams, that the Lakers haven't been lately has been perplexing.