Thursday, December 29, 2005

Flying!

A nut (I say this with the utmost of respect, the good kind of nut. Einstein was a nut, for example.) has created a non-official Boeing 737 website.

I ran across it because I finally learned the name of the little wings they're now installing on the various aircraft. Shockingly, they're called winglets. And they are there to spoil some air disturbances created by your standard wing tip. If you go to the site, click on winglets for a huge explanation. I was shocked to find out how much fuel those things can save. I just thought they were there to look cool. Hella cool.

Mug Shots of the Year

Hilarious. It's not schadenfreude*, I don't think, because I'm not enjoying their misfortune. Just their booking photos.

* How do I spell "schadenfreude" correctly on the first try, yet mispell "definitely" constantly?

Check out the photos of the "Lost" actresses who got busted for DUI. Cynthia Watros ought to be familiar, as she was on "The Drew Carey" show for a while, and was also the super-duper hot girlfriend in "Titus". Bloodshot!

Wednesday, December 28, 2005

Blog!

Did this story ever make the blogs? Perhaps a CO del.icio.us?

Story went that some college kid got visited by Homeland Security for attempting to take out Chairman Mao's Little Red Book on an inter-library loan.

It was not true.
Kirk Whitworth, a spokesman for the DHS—the U.S. cabinet department that oversees the Immigration and Customs Enforcement agency, the Secret Service, and Citizenship and Immigration Services, among others—said in the December 21 Standard-Times that the story seemed unlikely. “We’re aware of the claims,” he said. “However, the scenario sounds unlikely because investigations are based on violation of law, not on the books and individual[s who] might check [them] out from the library.”

Time Wasting!

I'm off this week (burning vacation time so I don't lose it), and just getting nothing done.

Who's the clown (as if I didn't know) who sent me "Dairy Goat Journal"?



I am entranced by the article titled "The Benefits of Al".

And now for some classic rural goodness.

Wednesday, December 21, 2005

Idiots

Stem to stern

Environmentalists: have you ever seen a picture of the ANWR? It's a desolate wasteland that even the animals don't want to see. But that's not the point, this is: It is a 19 million acre federally protected land, of which 1.5 million acres are in question. And even in those 1.5 million acres, the area actually exposed to oil purposes would be negligible. One oil derrick can cover a lot of underground area, area that the elks and cariboos and rattlesnakes can wander around aboveground unfettered (that can't be right). And I'm sure it could be legislated to make sure all the drilling is done in a environmentally pleasant manner. Shut up.

Senators: Quit playing this game. Quit being weasles putting these pet causes onto real legislation. Have the stones to debate the issue and then vote on it. If you want to make it look good, slap on a provision for wind power, etc.

Reporters: I am stupider for having read this sentence: "He briefly shook his head, a signal of his disappointment." Thanks for clearing that up.

Strike talk

This should be fun.

I am always resentful when people who make more money than me with better benefits than I have for a lower skilled job go on strike (teachers especially). Throw 'em in jail.

40 hour workweek? Check. Minimum wage? Check. Are your people being paid what is owed them? Check. Yep, that's about it. You've done your job as a union, get back to work.

I just read a bit more on this- they have a full-pension retirement age of 55, for which they contribute 2% of their pay. That's ridiculous. Could these people be any more out of touch? What is going to happen when these ponzi schemes run out and the PBGC has to foot the bill? Screwed, that's what.

Dear God!

I just opened a $1824.94 gas bill. For the 12 unit condo association. $1.39 a therm. Although I want like hell to open a bill that says "Please pay $1.82494 x 103 for 1.237238 x 1011 joules."

Monday, December 19, 2005

Dork Contest!

I believe I personally have posed in photos identical to every one of these. Except Eric, the Apple Newton dude. Get a life! Seriously though, the pre-queen years are the worst.

Sunday, December 18, 2005

Hilarious

This is a very funny picture. I had to make it a link because IMDB won't let you steal their pictures easily.

Saturday, December 17, 2005

An Interesting Story about Cellular Telephones that I Wish Was a Bit More Clear

How a terror group cloned Ted Rogers' cellphone

1) I love the enterprising nature of the two victims here.
2) I love the first comment in the comments section. Bingo.
3) This paragraph makes no sense, in or out of context:
“They were using actually a pretty brilliant psychology. Nobody wants to cut off Ted Rogers' phone or any people that are directly under Ted Rogers, so they took their scanners to our building, like our north building, where our senior top, top, top executives are. They took their scanners there and also to Yorkville, where there are a lot of high rollers and like it would be a major PR blunder to shoot first and ask questions later. . . . Nobody wants to shut off Ted. Even if he is calling Iran, Syria, Lebanon, and Kuwait.”
All I get out of that is "nobody wants to cut off Ted's phone. The rest is gibberish. North building? Scanners? Yorkville? What?

And I thought cell phone cloning was made obsolete by the digital technology? (Unless you physically get your hands on the phone's SIM card.)

Friday, December 16, 2005

Too bad

John Spencer, West Wing's Leo McGarry, died today of a heart attack. I enjoyed his work on West Wing.

Wednesday, December 14, 2005

Fun with government

It's election time for the various exotic medical benefits. The flexible spending account, specifically. I have this internal battle every year, and it occasionally spills externally.

For those who are unaware of the concept, the point is that congress wanted to make medical expenses tax deductable. Instead of making it "easy" by letting taxpayers collect receipts and then deduct it at tax time, someone decided it would be better to involve private enterprise. So, your employer pays AFLAC (or whoever) to service the plan. You decide in December what your health care costs will be for the next year, and have a fraction of that amount deducted from each paycheck. So if you think you're going to have $1200 in medical expenses in a year, you have $100 taken out every month.

Now you go out into the world and incurr your costs. You then fill out a form, fax or mail it with copies of your reciepts to AFLAC, they approve or deny it, and cut you a reimbursement check. And, oh yeah, if you don't spend all the money by the end of the year, you don't get it back. If you get fired, the account is locked- if you incurred any expenses before the termination date, you can submit those. But suppose you save $20 each month in anticipation of a $250 full physical each November. You get canned in October. You just lost $200. You don't just lose the tax benefit, you lose the whole thing.

Nobody has yet explained to me who actually does keep it.

So, in effect, our government has:

  • Created a system where AFLAC gets to hold your money for a portion of the year, and profit from using it.
  • If you want it back, you have to fill out forms.
  • If you happen to be healthier than expected over the course of a year, you lose your money.
  • Added a layer of inefficiency to the health care and tax system similar to the manufacturer's rebates you get at Best Buy. Which were specifically designed to be an inefficient system.

    Fast fun facts?

    Not covered: Medical insurance premiums, vitamins, health club fees, drugs primarily for the benefit of general health, cosmetic dental surgery, veneers

    Covered: Orthodontia, fertility enhancement and service fees for Christian Science practicioners.

    So only certain kinds of vanity are acceptible. Also acceptible is if you happen to be stupid enough to believe that prayer cures cancer, and then to be even more incredibly stupid to pay for someone for said prayer. But if I want to hit the treadmill after work, I'm on my own.

    All this to save $35 (what I save by making a couple boxes of contact lenses, two office visits, various pharmaceuticals tax free).

    PS- [Insert a subtle reminder here for CO to expound on the economics of health care, especially as I mentioned earlier where the US spends twice as much per capita than any other country, including those with free healthcare]

  • Tuesday, December 13, 2005

    Depression in Color

    The Library of Congress has unearthed some depression era photos, in color: Bound for Glory



    CNN has a slideshow
    . I swear I've seen the photo of the little kid in the hat before.

    Monday, December 12, 2005

    Rockford!

    Didn't enjoy the 3 hour drive to Rockford this morning.

    Sunday, December 11, 2005

    You be Tipping

    I was listening to the radio the other day, and the hosts were talking about an article in the Red Eye (the local hipster/short-attention-span free tabloid) that discussed tipping, especially the yearly Christmas variety. It was mostly correct sounding, but my eyes nearly bled when I heard the tip suggestion for a personal trainer: an amount equal to one season's service fee. What? Even if you get the cheapest conceivable PT plan, once a month for half an hour a shot, that's got to be $50 a session. So you have to throw down $150 for this person at holiday time? That's ridiculous. (rereading this, I have to assume that they misread, or someone misprinted "season" in place of "session". it seems impossible otherwise. but that's what they said.)

    The rest of the advice was pretty much: throw 'em a $20. Garbage man, newspaper person, doorman, UPS driver, etc. Hairdresser/barber gets an amount equal to their usual fee, since that service ranges from the $9 supercut to the hundreds of dollars.

    In trying to find the article for mockery purposes, I could only find this.

    I'm not sure I agree with some of that stuff. I will, in famous form, mock it piecemeal.

    Counter service tip jar: Nada. "If you want to work for tips, get a waiter or waitress job." Fair enough. If you're in there every day and they are nice to you, a little something couldn't hurt. Is 15% of a cup of coffee going to kill you?

    Restaurant wait staff : 18 to 20 percent of bill. If service is poor, give at least 15 percent but speak with a manager. I'm down with the 18-20%, but 15% as a bare minimum? Heckey-naw. I do agree that if you're going to go below the standard 15%, it's only fair to speak to someone and tell them why (nicely).

    Movers: 10 to 15 percent of total cost or at least $20 to $30 per person. I have no experience with this.

    Restaurant with drop-off service: 10 percent if server cleans up after table. What, like Culvers? Where you order at the counter and then wait at the table? Madness! They'll get nothing and like it.

    Hotel housekeeper: $2 per person per room for each night. I'd say this depends on a couple of things. First, how much of a slob are you? Second, did you make any unreasonable demands? Finally, if you're in the place only one night (and don't make a mess, I'm thinking the businessman crashing for a night), I'm not sure anything is expected or necessary. Two nights, give them a $5. Three or more nights, then this formula seems appropriate.

    Cabdrivers: Add $1 on to service at the very least, but tip 15 percent for prompt, polite service. I'd stab someone in the arm for only tipping a dollar.

    Food delivery service: 10 percent of total bill. Here's $1.60, thanks for the pizza? 20% minimum, $2 minimum.

    Furniture delivery service: 10 to 20 percent based on level of service, such as installation, required. Again, no clue.

    Skycap: $1 per small bag and $3 per large bag. Carry your own bags, Mr. Governor.

    Valet service: $2-$3. So you're giving the guy who drove (or walked or biked) your pizza to you $1.60, but the guy who illegally parked and/or joyrided in your car gets $3?? This depends on the charge for the valet service itself, I'd think. I'd imagine you tip more for the free ones than not.

    Hair salon : 20 percent for stylist, $2-$5 for shampoo. No tip if the stylist's "name is on the door," according to Ingram, since they are directly benefiting from the shop's profits. What about Sport Clips?

    Body spa services: 20 percent of total fee. Are they talking non-theraputic massage here?

    Bathroom attendant: $1. Only if you can't avoid making eye contact.

    Saturday, December 10, 2005

    Control Room?

    I thought we were supposed to respect al Jazeera?

    This picture doesn't seem respectful of this hostage:



    From this story. I watched Control Room, and found the reporters to be biased assholes. Which they're allowed to be, of course- as long as they don't try to pretend they aren't. They are the Fox News of the Mideast, as far as I can tell.

    Tuesday, December 06, 2005

    You're joking, right?

    This is so impossibly ironic I can't even believe it.
    Some megachurches closing on Christmas
    Pastors anticipate low attendance because day falls on Sunday
    You lose your tax exemption for something like this, right? Please?? Seriously- this is shameful.

    Monday, December 05, 2005

    Circuit City!

    I don't shop there because they suck worse than Best Buy, and because they use commissioned salesidiots. This proves it, of course. And I know computer salespeople.

    I feel for the person, as I was shocked to find that not all laptops have I/O ports when purchasing my own laptop last year. I don't feel that much, though, because salespeople aren't to be trusted. It's really as simple as that.

    Speaking of computer salespeople, I went to a tigerdirect.com store the other day. ASS. I personally could (have!) run a computer store that's cleaner and more organized. It also had that creepy loser vibe that you'll occasionally get in a computer store or Radio Shack. It's similar to the music store vibe, but with less positivity and delusions of grandeur, but the same drooling over expensive hardware, rationalizing why you aren't purchasing it, and walking out with drumsticks, guitar strings or a hard drive cable. Saxophone!

    Idiots

    Some guy got a fancy iPod accessory for $4.99 by changing the UPC label.

    Of course, stupid reporters make it seem like there's magic in the barcode that contains the price, so the receipt would say "iPod - $4.99". But that's not true, it's far simpler. The barcode is just an automated way of typing in a number (the number that's written on it). That number is then looked up in the database to find out the price, and track inventory and such. But the point is that this kid's reciept said "Gummi Bears - $4.99" and he tried walking out with an iPod item. He didn't really even need the software, he could have just Xeroxed the UPC from the the Gummi Bears onto a sheet of labels at the school library and been done with it.

    Again, the barcode doesn't contain any "coded information" except what you see printed on it. You cannot change the price of an object by changing the UPC, you can only change what the computer thinks it's selling. (That's not specifically true: the first half of the barcode is unique to the manufacturer, and the second half is unique to the product. Beyond that, there is no standardization or magic in the label.)

    *** NOTE: His receipt actually said headphones, not Gummi Bears. I used that because it was funnier. Don't try suing me, asshole.

    Economics talk!

    1) The study of Economics as the Study of Theology?

    2) I see tons of oil talk on the various blogs, almost exculsively linked to from here. Thanks!

    3) Anyway,

    4) What about the notion of percentage-based gouging? The refiners and distributors seem to have made windfall profits in response to no business changes except a restriction in supply, and the resulting increase in prices. Since their expenses didn't go down (right?), their revenue must have gone up. We're assuming that there was no overt gouging, so how did it happen? Volume didn't go up, so margin must have gone up. The only conclusion I see is that they charge for their services on a percentage basis, rather than on a per gallon basis. The overhead of refining a gallon of gasoline doesn't change with the price of crude, as far as I can tell. But that's how they are charging, also as far as it seems. That's how they gouge. (He theorizes.)
    Example: At some point, crude costs $50 a barrel. I, gasoline manufacturer, know that it costs me $10 to turn that into gasoline. So, I mark it up 25%. I cover my costs and make $2.50 a barrel. Tomorrow, crude goes up to $100 a barrel. But I've set my prices based on a percentage rather than a per-unit dollar amount, so now I'm making $15 a barrel for the same effort. Phase 3, profit.
    5) Didn't we learn in California that there doesn't have to be Collusion® and Gouging® for there to be the effects thereof? The timely plant maintenance shutdowns, etc. I wouldn't be surprised if there were dirty tricks policies to promote the NIMBY attitude, so they can say they'd build all the plants in the world, but those darn environmentalists keep fouling it up! Blame them for the high prices (and, cough, convenient high profits)!!

    6) (Changing subject): Poor Microsoft. Even though they can (or could) easily compete on a better product basis, AND a better support basis, they still need to push around poor Linux. They'd do well to embrace, or at least tolerate, its existence. They (MS) have the resources to blow away the free software people at their own game and still make a profit, but seem to be refusing. (For example- you want the free OS, you pay for support. You want free support? Pay for the OS. Done.) There is still a healthy software market for people who DON'T want to fuck around with config files just to be able to send a GD email.

    Thursday, December 01, 2005

    Fantastico!

    Remember that show?

    Signed,
    Johnny Bluejeans

    PS- Look at Michael Ian Black's IMDB photo. Creepy.