Saturday, November 14, 2009

REAL CALIFORNIA MILK GONE BAD

A lot of Californians are getting cheesed off about a new California Milk Advisory Board ad campaign that promotes milk produced in the state. Why? Because the “Real California Milk” ad campaign is being filmed in New Zealand. They even have the nerve to post on their website that, “Real California Milk translates into hundreds of thousands of jobs and billions in economic impact.” Glad they care so much about jobs in California. You remember California, it's that place where they make television ads, except for Real California Milk ads. Read the article, Filming of state milk ads is heading abroad to save moola

RADIOACTIVE CONTAMINATION - FUN STUFF

The LA Times ran a story on Nov. 13 describing what years of underground nuclear testing had done to an aquifer beneath the site. They noted that the site had been used for over 41 years, and that 921 nuclear warheads had been detonated there underground. They also snuck this jewel of an understatement into their reporting, “When testing ended in 1992, the Energy Department estimated that more than 300 million curies of radiation had been left behind, making the site one of the most radioactively contaminated places in the nation.” Not the most, only one of the most? Are they insane? So there are other places in the U.S. that are more radioactively contaminated than the spot where we tested 921 nuclear warheads? Should that make us all worry just a bit? Here's the article: Nuclear scars: Tainted water runs beneath Nevada desert

Sunday, August 31, 2008

NOT A GOOD SIGN: MCCAIN’S VP RUNNING MATE

When Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin was about to be announced as Republican John McCain’s Vice Presidential running mate, she told her children that they were traveling to Ohio to celebrate their wedding anniversary. Once there, Palin checked her family into a hotel under a false name. Somehow the scheme worked, the veil of secrecy was preserved, but mark my words: we're going to have to keep our eye on these kids. If not even Palin trusts them, then they're trouble. You keep those lies flowin' Sarah, flowing like wine... 'cause we all know that sometimes it's all right to lie!

Saturday, April 26, 2008

THE MAGAZINE AND MIRTHALA

Los Angeles Magazine’s May '08 issue features an interview with Mirthala Salinas, the Telemundo news anchor placed on leave in '07, then demoted, after it was revealed she was in a relationship with the married Mayor of LA, Antonio Vilaraigosa, while at the same time reporting on him. While the magazine touts the interview as an exclusive and the first time Ms. Salinas has spoken with the media, I’m more interested in how they explained to her the interview would be presented. I doubt anyone mentioned that while the interview itself would be entitled “The Mayor and Mirthala”, the magazine’s cover would ignore that title, and instead loudly proclaim “The Mayor’s Mistress”. Doesn’t seem like the sort of PR plug anyone trying to rebuild a career would leap to agree to do. Classy work Los Angeles Magazine!

Friday, April 25, 2008

GAMING THE GAME SHOWS: PART I

There’s a dirty little secret in the TV game show industry, but it’s not what you think. The tip of the iceberg is that many of the contestants you see are actually actors. However, they’re not actors pretending to be contestants, they’re simply actors who happen to be on game shows, the same as when a plumber goes on a game show, or a librarian goes on a game show. Still, the shows go to great lengths to keep you from finding out. Why? Because SO MANY contestants are actually actors. Here’s why…

Most shows tape in Los Angeles, which is where they find a lot of their contestants. Each show has its own screening process, but basically: they test your gaming skills, they rate your likeability, they judge how you respond to personal questions… and no matter which show it is, one of the first questions they’ll ask is what you do for a living. You’re an actor? They’ll show you the door. Period. So what’s the dirty little secret?

They actually prefer actors as contestants, rather than plumbers or librarians. So much so that they actively pursue actors. Confused? Here’s the deal: Actors are good looking, charismatic, and they know how to put on a good show. So through winks and nudges they make it perfectly clear that all one needs to do is simply not mention that they’re an actor. You also temp? Voila, you’re a secretary. You also wait tables? You’re a part of the food service industry. So next time you’re watching a game show really take a look at the contestant and what they say they do for a living. Odds are you’re watching an actor who also happens to be a carpenter, or works as a hotel doorman, or makes their living walking dogs. But the truth is, they’re actors.

GAMING THE GAME SHOWS: PART II

It could just as easily be called “Show, or Not Show.” Another dirty, juicy, nasty little secret of the game show world, particularly the really high stakes game shows, is that there are MANY contestants who have taped appearances that will never be shown. Why? Because losing was such a devastating experience, and caused such a traumatic, emotional breakdown that the producers had no choice but to never let it air. I've heard first hand from crew members on these shows just how horrible it can get.

Tuesday, January 08, 2008

MET-Rx: PARTIALLY MENTIONED HYDROGENATION

It was a random purchase, just what was on the shelf. After buying a MET-Rx Big 100 Chocolate Chip Graham Cracker Bar (not for weight training, but for added jury duty stamina), a closer inspection of its ingredients revealed “partially hydrogenated soybean and/or cottonseed oil” not once, but three times (is that too many for a health conscious training bar promising "0g trans fat"). Checking the MET-Rx company website, their online list of ingredients for the same bar mentions nothing of “partially hydrogenated soybean and/or cottonseed oil.” Nothing. In MET-Rx’s defense, the government considers products with less then 0.5g of trans fats as being Trans-Fat-Free. But does it truly have 0g trans fats? It mentions them three times…. unless, of course, you’re scanning the ingredients online, instead of on the wrapper.

Saturday, January 05, 2008

ITALIAN TOURISM AD: COME TO ITALY, VISIT OUR RUINS, TOUCH THINGS… OH, WAIT A MINUTE…



Benvenuto! The Italian Government Tourist Board has unveiled a new advertising campaign that depicts a young couple visiting a picturesque Roman ruin, and they appear to have picked up some artifacts and are smiling and studying them.




FYI: If you actually were to travel to Italy and do exactly what this ad suggests, you would most likely be reprimanded, possibly fined, perhaps arrested.

Sunday, December 23, 2007

BABY GPSus

After Baby Jesus was stolen from a nativity scene in Florida, the replacement Baby Jesus was fitted with a Global Positioning Satellite System to deter future theft. The BBC quoted an overseer of the nativity scene as saying “I don’t anticipate this will ever happen again, but we may need to rely on technology to save our savior.” (The BBC article)

Saturday, December 22, 2007

TILA TEQUILA: ABSOLUTELY NOTHING BETWEEN HER EYEBROWS AND HER HAIRLINE

I didn’t watch her MTV reality show, I’ve never seen her MySpace page, and I have no idea why Tila Tequila's getting the mainstream press coverage she’s getting. I do know that the size of her enormous forehead hurts my eyes.

Friday, December 21, 2007

HUCKABEE’S CROSS TO BARE (–LY ACKNOWLEDGE)

Don't be confused, this isn't about religious beliefs, this is about honesty. When asked whether his recent political ad ”What Really Matters” intentionally depicted a cross like image behind him, Republican Presidential candidate Mike Huckabee responded, through various media forums, “It’s just beyond ridiculous … There was no hidden agenda … There was no floating cross … That is a bookshelf.”

Huckabee’s trapped in a dilemma: admit the obvious, that the bookshelf was placed and lit strategically to make it appear as a cross, or deny that was their intention, which is simply untrue. Huckabee’s chosen to lie, while accusing others of seeing imaginary images.



Campaign ads are methodically designed, and meticulously crafted. That’s what political campaigns do. That’s their job. It is virtually impossible that the cross like effect created by the bookshelf was accidental, or went unnoticed by his staff. Even conservative columnist Peggy Noonan agrees that the cross had to have been intentional, though she feigns not to have noticed it till after all the clamor began. This is hard to believe as well. The cross is obvious, whether you're looking for it or not.

The real question is, what level of honesty do we expect from our candidates? If Governor Huckabee is unable to be respond honestly to a simple question about a campaign ad, how can he be trusted to respond truthfully to the endless questions that are asked of a President? How often will he choose the political, mottled response, over the straight forward, possibly embarrassing, honest one?

Tuesday, May 15, 2007

Radio’s Dirty Little Secret

Recently there’s been a lot of press coverage of radio shows that have crossed the line of social acceptability, and about radio personalities being fired or suspended. Recently, CBS pulled the plug on two New York based radio hosts over their prank call to a Chinese restaurant. What’s interesting is that there’s an element to this story that no one’s reporting. Radio’s dirty little secret is that most on air prank calls are actually fake. That’s right, they’re scripted, rehearsed, fake. The shock jocks are actually pranking actors in-the-know, hired to be their foils. Was that the case in this instance? Don’t know. Maybe, maybe not. Live radio shows simply can’t take the chance and prank someone who might curse on air and violate FCC rules, or sue them for distress. Instead they hire actors and pass it off as real to their listeners. It’s an industry wide practice, and it’s interesting that not a single news article on this story has pondered whether the offending incident was even actually real.

Radio-Online.com story on the fired CBS radio personalities.

Monday, May 14, 2007

Conservatives Suddenly Warm To Science

For the past twenty-five years Liberals have been jumping up and down while pointing to scientific studies, research results, and comparative data to support their claims of global warming. Conservatives countered that the science was inconclusive, and further studies were needed. Leap ahead to 2007. Recent scientific observations seem to show that our planetary neighbors Neptune and Mars are warming, and that there could be a solar connection to these changes. Now it’s Conservative blogs and websites who can be found jumping up and down and emphatically pointing. They believe this shows that mankind’s not the cause of climate change, and that it’s actually a natural cyclical event caused by external forces. So is it true? Maybe. Could be. What’s fascinating is the philosophical shift that's taken place on the part of the Right. First off, this new solar warming argument implicitly accepts global warming to be, well... maybe, kinda, sort of fact. The big questions is: Where did their skepticism of global warming science go? After all, claiming the Sun's the cause is still Global Warming science. Why aren’t they clamoring for further studies, suggesting that the Jury’s still out, or spreading the word that the data’s inconclusive? Have Conservatives suddenly become the same sort of suckers for science that they’ve always claimed the Libs to be?

Conservative website NewsBusters.com article entitled "Global Warming Comes to Neptune"

Conservative website NewsMax.com article entitled “Sun Responsible for Global Warming”

Tuesday, September 26, 2006

Awful, Very Bad, Terrible Children’s Halloween Costumes







It’s a fine line between holiday mirth and child cruelty.

Thursday, August 17, 2006

M&M's And Stoli!

Oh those lovable scamps, the lil’ colorful creatures from M&M’s. Imagine a child’s glee as he or she plays with their very own M&M’s Poker Chips. Or their delight in every payout from their M&M’s Slot Machine Dispenser. Better get a miniature M&M’s Las Vegas Sign Sculpture to set the playroom's mood! And what child could possibly resist a 10oz M&M Martini glass or 13oz M&M Beer Stein? Order yours now!

Friday, August 11, 2006

BP, R U CR8Z?

THEM: British Petroleum earned $7.3 billion in the 2nd quarter of 2006, but hadn’t checked the structural integrity of thier Prudhoe Line oil pipeline in Alaska since 1992. Fourteen years of neglect. Now closed for major repairs, the loss of the pipeline could raise domestic gas prices by as much as 10%.

ME: If I neglect to have my car serviced as recommended I’ve been warned by the dealership that they'll void my car's extended 5 year warranty.

Thursday, August 10, 2006

Mel Gibson’s Unreported Anti-Semitic Comments

Despite endless stories and analysis on Mel Gibson’s offensive DUI rantings, few reporters or commentators have addressed the fact that the remarks attributed to Gibson were most likely only a portion of the anti-semitic comments he actually said. When L.A. County Sheriff's Deputy James Mee first described the incident he wrote:

“Gibson blurted out a barrage of anti-semitic remarks about ’Fucking Jews.’ Gibson yelled out ‘The Jews are responsible for all the wars in the world.’ Gibson then asked, ‘Are you a Jew.’”

Two offensive comments, and questioning whether Deputy Mee was “a Jew” doesn’t exactly sound like a “barrage of anti-semetic remarks”. Gibson most likely said far more that simply wasn’t quoted.

Sunday, August 06, 2006

Car Rental Savings – Hotwire.com

A few weeks ago I reserved a compact, 4-door car with Alamo for six days and was quoted $301 (rental+tax). It was the best rate I could find online. Today on a lark I checked Hotwire.com, a site I never use because while they’ll quote a price, they won’t tell the name of the hotel/airline/or car rental company till after you’ve charged it to your credit card.

For a similar compact, 4-door car for six days Hotwire quoted me $178 (rental+tax). What the Hell, I booked it, then found out that the rental company was Hertz. Jumping over to Hertz.com I found the exact same vehicle renting for $347 (rental+tax).

So Hotwire has won me over, at least when it comes to renting cars at airports. They really don’t have a choice, it’s going to have to be with either Hertz, Alamo, National, Avis, Budget, Enterprise, etc, so there’s a BIG difference between renting a car with Hotline and risking an entire vacation by committing to an unnamed hotel with them.

(Side note…. I always seem to find even better deals once they’re no longer useful to me, and it happened again after I charged the Hotwire rental. Try 4TravelCoupons.com, and you might be able to shave off even more $$$ when renting a car through Hotwire. Turn out I could have saved another $30, which would have made it almost $200 less then Hertz.com was renting the same car for.)

Saturday, August 05, 2006

Reeking Of Class

For the man who has everything but taste: Caesars Man Cologne, and Hummer Perfume for Men Eau de Toilett Spray. Yes, that’s right, fragrances inspired by a Las Vegas casino and a military assault vehicle.

Caesars Man Cologne is described as a scent that combines oak, moss, wood, citrus, and sandalwood… in other words, four ingredients you’ll never find, much less smell in a casino, and a fifth (citrus) that only comes mixed with alcohol. It retails for $42, but can be found online for $22.

Hummer Perfume is described as a scent that blends sandalwood, pepperacons, thyme, cardamon, tonka bean, patchouli, and leather. Leather? It has a retail price of $57, but can be found online for $26.

Thursday, July 27, 2006

Where Have You Gone, Robert Reich? A Nation Turns Its Lonely Eyes To You. (Woo Woo Woo)

I have great respect for the insights of Robert Reich, former secretary of labor during the Clinton administration. Though partisan, he’s not blindly so, and I find him humorous, straight forward, and insightful. His commentaries can be heard on Public Radio’s Marketplace, and his writings can be viewed at RobertReich.org.

Reich recently wrote a great overview of the current economic recovery, the impact of President Bush’s tax cuts, and our budget deficit. He actually does the one thing no one else seems to want to do: put figures and data into context so a rational comparison can be made to help determine the actual state we’re in. You can read this recent article HERE.

To sign up for his email newsletter visit THIS LINK. I recently signed up, but have yet to receive my first issue.

Wednesday, July 26, 2006

Ringo 'Round The Paul Pawl Bearer

Here’s something to ponder: who will eventually be the final Beatle? Not to be morose, and hopefully it won’t occur for a very long time, but think about it.

The first line of thought is that Paul McCartney, despite recent marital problems, is the Beatles' golden boy, living a charmed life. If past good fortune holds true to form, Paul will be the final Beatle, making a great deal of money off the fact, and enjoying old age by savoring the minor musical footnote that Michael Jackson will have become. An educated guess would be that McCartney will live to be around 146 years old, periodically releasing albums that while critically acclaimed, will be generally ignored by the public.

The other line of thought says it’ll be every die-hard Beatles fan’s worst nightmare: a Ringo finale. Imagine the final reflections, the final words for history, the final insider insights on the Beatles’ legacy all coming from Ringo. What a perfect opportunity to stand-up and announce that the whole Lennon/McCartney writing credit was an elaborate ruse to allow Ringo to write every Beatles song beyond the glare of public scrutiny. It could happen.

Monday, July 24, 2006

Strange Signs All Around Us

I became fascinated with funny, ironic signs at an early age when I spotted a crooked one falling off a wall that read, “Department of Corrections”. I’ve recently crossed paths with a few others:

In Malibu Canyon State Park (yes, that Malibu) they have trail signs warning hikers that no alcohol is allowed. The symbol used is a cocktail glass with what appears to be the silhouette of an olive inside. Are they concerned people might be hiking with martinis?

The elevator in our building has a sign that reads: “Should the elevator doors fail to open, or the elevator become inoperative, do not become alarmed. Press the red button marked ‘Alarm’ to summon assistance” Ah, the calming presence of a button marked “Alarm”

A synagogue near us has a permanent sign outside that states, “The path to God begins with fear.” Are you allowed to bring martinis?

Friday, July 21, 2006

Thank God I Was Wearing Glasses

Super glue should really be called Potential Disaster in a Little Tube.

Thursday, July 20, 2006

Advertisements – Deception & Truth

I was watching a television ad the other day where a woman was praising a product that had changed her life… defeating incontinence, reducing arthritis pain... I don’t remember the specifics. She was so earnest, so grateful, but all I could think about was the stage play I’d seen her perform in a few years ago, and how 99% of America would watch this ad and just assume she was a real person giving a testimonial, instead of realizing she’s a talented actress selling a product.

While not all ads deceive, there’s an element of deception in almost every one. That’s polite for saying they lie. Do we really believe supermodels and actresses who shill do-it-yourself at home hair coloring products would ever dye their own hair? Ever? An ad like that isn’t telling the whole truth, but we’re so inured, we no longer even recognize the deception.

In a strange twist on advertising the truth, a while ago Listerine ran ads quoting two medical studies that showed gargling to be as effective as flossing. The truth is that the studies in the Journal of the American Dental Association, and the American Journal of Dentistry actually suggested antiseptic mouth rinses could be MORE effective than flossing. A judge, however, ordered the ads be pulled for being deceptive, though the implication was that the judge simply thought it a bad idea to suggest people didn’t need to floss, when we’ve always been taught that we should. And who brought about the lawsuit that forced Listerine to pull their ads? None other than Johnson & Johnson, makers of dental floss, panicked that their floss sales might slump.

God bless truth in advertising.

Saturday, July 15, 2006

Video Store In A Box

Saw a new product called MovieBeam that I though was interesting. It’s looks like a cable box, but doesn’t connect to your cable system. You purchase the box, then at any given time it has a hundred movies loaded in it, and periodically updates itself with new releases. It’s similar to the OnDemand service most digital cable provides, but generally has newer releases. There’s no monthly fee, and you only pay for the movies you view (sort of like a hotel mini-bar): $3.99 for new releases, and $1.99 for all others (add $1 for HD versions). The only thing I don’t like about this product is their catchphrase “Never leave home for a movie again!” which you’ve got to admit would be somewhat depressing.

(UPDATE 7/21): they’re actually running a sale online at MovieBeam.com where if you type in code PR49B the box only costs $49.99, which is half the $99 sale price, which itself is a 50% markdown from the original $199 they advertised for these units.)

Saturday, July 01, 2006

Seeing The Sites

We all stumble across websites that catch our interest, and sometimes even drop our jaw. Here a few worth visiting:

One Red Paperclip
Kyle MacDonald had an idea: Start with a red paper clip, and see if you can trade-up for something better, then trade that new something again for something even better, eventually trading all the way up to a house. He’s been pursuing this goal since July of 2005, and you can track his progress online. (UPDATE 7/10: a week after posting this link, Kyle succeeded in getting a house)

MenWhoLookLikeKennyRogers.com
I’ve been following this website for years. Average citizens, like you and I, take photos of random people they come across who just happen to look like Kenny Rogers. Mind shattering. Best places to discover men who look like Kenny Rogers? State Fairs, Boot World, Drag Races, Fish Fries, Beer Gardens, Home Depot, Sears, Feed Stores, Tire Stores, Sporting Goods Section at Kmart, Bar-B-Que restaurants, Swap Meets, Sand and Gravel Sales, and Renaissance Faires. Happy hunting.

Splatter Matters
Release your inner Jackson Pollock. Visit this website, click on the screen, and let the dripping begin.

DigHoles.com
If you were to dig a hole, where would you come out on the other side of the world? As a child, cartoons always told us that we’d come out somewhere in China. Turns out... that’s not necessarily the case.

Fly Guy
Possibly my all time favorite website. Feel your anxiety and daily worries drain away as you fly through the sky encountering soothing adventures along the way.

SizeMatch.com
Here’s a website where you input your height, and it tells you what other notable celebrities and public figures are your size, as well as who’s taller and shorter.

WriteBackwards.com
Type in a word or a sentence and it will show you how your writing would look if it were backwards. Not a lot of point to it, but you may have a bit of free time on your hands, so what the hey…

Psychic Numbers
A clever trick that confounds.

www.Pandora.com
Type in an artist or song, and Pandora.com will find other similar musical influences. Create “Stations” that play music in the genres you enjoy.

Saturday, June 24, 2006

Police Charity Scams

Last week I received a call from a police organization collecting donations to benefit charity. It all happened so fast that I can’t recall the specifics, but I instantly recognized the scam. Here’s how it usually plays out: You’re told they represent an area law enforcement organization that has a familiar, official ring to it, and then the charity they’re supporting. It always sounds above board and incredibly worthwhile. Far too often, what they don’t reveal is that only a small percentage of your donation actually goes to charity.

How it works: Professional fundraising companies approach police organization around the country and offer them a split/percentage of the donations they collect. In exchange they keep whatever remains. Some consumer fraud investigations have found that these companies keep up to 70% of the money collected, and because of the way the laws are written, it’s completely legal. What’s most despicable is that by attaching themselves to the police, they create a false impression that they’re trustworthy, playing upon your sympathy. After all, who can refuse giving to a charity supported by our boys in blue? And while I’m sure there are legitimate police fundraising efforts out there, it’s almost impossible to tell which are legit, and which are simply moneymaking scams.

Back to my phone call… I told them it was unfortunately a bad time, and we were on a tight family budget. They then told me about the lowest amount I could donate. I held firm, said I was sorry, and that I needed to care for my family first. At that point they hung up on me. No “thanks for listening”, no “we understand”, the phone just went dead.

Here’s an article by the Hartford Advocate that does a great job of covering this story. Wish I could find more articles that document this legal scam.

Friday, June 23, 2006

Minimum Wage, Maximum Politics

A few days ago (6/21/06) Senate Democrats proposed an increase to the Federal minimum wage, in increments of 70¢ over the next two years, to $7.25. They knew they didn’t have the votes, but were looking to position themselves as champions of a minimum wage hike during an election year.

Republicans then brought forward their own plan to incrementally raise the Federal minimum wage to $6.25, and included provisions that they claimed would help businesses, mostly through tax breaks to restaurants, and by reducing obligations to pay overtime hours. They knew that Democrats would never except their plan, allowing Republicans to say that they had tried to raise the minimum wage, but Democrats opposed it.

So there were two plans for increases, both were defeated, and the Federal minimum wage remains exactly where it's been for the last nine years, at $5.15. The only time since FDR and the New Deal that more years have passed without an increase occurred during the Regan/Bush Sr. administrations. Keep in mind that to meet the Democrats' proposed increase, the Federal minimum wage would have only had to have been raised 19¢ each year since 1996.

Republicans’ main objection (and some economists as well) is that raising the Federal minimum wage will cause layoffs and increase unemployment. They say this is a well known, proven fact… except that it isn’t. Clinton gave states the ability to raise their minimum wages above Federal standards, and since then ten have raised theirs $1 above Federal guidelines, while another ten states have raised it by over $2. Unemployment crises? Layoffs? Didn’t happen. Most statistics even show that the number of Americans living below the poverty line dropped in relation to the increases.

The press tells us where the parties stand on this issue, but seldom mention how anyone else feels. What about charitable organizations? What about minority organizations? What do religious organizations think? Doesn’t anyone have a quotable position on whether we should raise the Federal minimum wage?

Here are some recent survey findings:
•82% support raising minimum wage –Pew Research Center, 2005
•75% support raising minimum wage –Christian Science Monitor, 2001
•81% support minimum wage increase –Gallup Organization, 2001

Working a 40 hour week at the current minimum wage means you’ll earn roughly $10,712 a year. That's working fifty-two weeks straight, and before any taxes or withholdings. It's also $5,888 below the U.S. poverty line for a family of three.

You Thought Minimum Wagers Had It Bad

You might have missed this back in January...

Wages up by Smallest Amount in Nine Years
By Martin Crutsinger, AP Economics Writer
January 31, 2006

WASHINGTON (AP) -- Wages and benefits paid to civilian workers rose last year by the smallest amount in nine years, the [Labor Department] reported Tuesday. …. When inflation is considered, overall compensation fell by 0.3 percent, the first time there has been a decline since 1996.

Saturday, June 17, 2006

Broken Record “Record Breaking”


Countless indicators gauge how the U.S. economy is performing. While most of these are beyond our grasp, there’s one that we all understand: the stock market. Up means good times, down means we’ve got problems.

For the past few months the market has been flirting with setting a new record high, at one point even reaching 11,709.09, oh so close to the record of 11,722.98. And each time the market was on the brink, a multitude of pundits would glow about its significance.

Who could blame them, it’s great news! Why would anyone complain about a record high stock market?

What’s seldom mentioned is that the current record high was set on January 14, 2000, and it’s taken us 6 years to finally come close to besting it. In reality, the pundits are celebrating that we’re almost back to where we were in January of 2000. To place the date in historical context, George W. Bush became President of the United States one year and six days later (Jan. 20, 2001).

As of Friday, 6/16/06, the DJIA index value was 11,014.55, so don’t pop that champagne just yet. For an eye opening chart of the stock market since 2000 visit this link to Djindexes.com.

The Broken Record Never Bragged About

Here’s another indicator of our present economic state: the national debt has risen over 2.5 trillion dollars since 2000 to roughly 8.3 trillion. Unlike the stock market, that’s six straight years of constantly breaking records!

The most our government has ever been able to pay down our debt in a single year was 223 billion dollars back in 2000 (you remember… the Clinton administration). Do the math, and to eliminate our current debt we would have to match that record reduction every year for the next 37 years.

Thursday, June 15, 2006

Things That Can Drive You Crazy

Complete strangers who address you as “Buddy,” or “Fella,” or “Big guy”

Restaurants with items on their menu that they describe as being “World Famous”

People who use rakes on cement

Baby/Toddler clothes that are “dry clean only”

When you’re unsure whether “1” or “9” is the higher setting on your toaster, or the colder setting for your refrigerator

Drivers who don’t use turn signals, roll through stop signs, honk at pedestrians, or can’t park in the middle of a parking spot

Not knowing whether a beer bottle has a twist off cap, or needs a bottle opener. If a cap doesn’t twist off, shouldn’t they be obligated to warn you?

Credit card, cell phone, and cable/internet type companies with automated answering systems requiring you to dial in your account number, phone number, zip code, or social security number, then when you’re transferred to a living, breathing person they ask you for the exact same information

Sunday, June 11, 2006

Rock, Legal Papers, Scissors

Judge makes ‘Rock, paper, scissors’ ruling
Associated Press
June 9, 2006

TAMPA, Fla. --A federal judge, miffed at the inability of opposing attorneys to agree on even the slightest details of a lawsuit, ordered them to settle their latest dispute with a game of "rock, paper, scissors."

The argument was over a location to take the sworn statement of a witness in an insurance lawsuit.

Saturday, June 10, 2006

Hot Off The Digital Presses

I can’t imagine visiting this website on a regular basis, there just aren’t enough hours in the day, but NewsMuseum.org is a pretty impressive site for lovers of news. It documents every major paper’s front page from across the country with both flair and style.

Friday, June 09, 2006

The Big Lie About Your Car’s MPG

Those gas mileage stickers on the windows of new cars, and the MPG info you see in commercials, well here’s how our government certifies those numbers.

For city MPG they run a test that’s not too bad: the car starts with a cold engine, then gets driven for 31 minutes. They make 23 stops, spend 18% of the time idling to simulate being stopped in traffic (probably lower than reality), overall they average 20 mph (a bit slow, considering city speed limits are usually 35 mph), and simulate a short trip on a highway (which helps cheat up the car’s overall mileage). So the city test isn’t perfect, but it’s the lesser of two evils.

The highway MPG test’s another story. They test a car whose engine has already been warmed up, and drive it 10 miles at an average speed of 48 mph. That’s right, 48 mph. Talk about a free pass to the auto industry. If the speed limit on most highways is 65 mph, why in the world would you test at an average speed of 48 mph? Because the faster you drive, the worse your gas mileage becomes due to wind resistance. In essence, the EPA, and whoever makes your car, lie when they tell you what kind of gas mileage to expect. When you hear about a car’s highway gas mileage, most people assume it’s based on driving the speed limit. It’s deceptive, and worst of all, purposefully deceptive to help automakers meet federal CAFE standards.

Here’s a link to the EPA’s explanation of their testing methods.

Thursday, June 08, 2006

Vehicular Homicide: Who Killed The Electric Car?

Before the Prius, there was the EV1, which stood for electric vehicle. Finally, an American automaker had gotten it right, gotten there first: General Motors! GM had received massive funding from the government to design and develop an alternately powered vehical, and they had knocked it out of the parking lot. 800 were leased to consumers, with a long waiting list, and drivers showered the car with praise, even despite its limited range between charging. It cost the equivalent of 60¢ a gallon to run.

In 2003 GM announced they were pulling the electric plug, so to speak. They claimed the car wasn’t commercially viable, and recalled them all. There were lawsuits by drivers trying to keep the cars they’d grown to love, but the courts sided with GM, and every EV1 was recalled and destroyed. The most interesting aspect of the whole thing is that barely anyone even knows this occurred. Most people have never even heard of the EV1.

On June 28 (6/28/06) a documentary is being released by Sony Classics called Who Killed the Electric Car. It examines the rise and demise of the EV1, and the forces that conspired to keep it off the market.

Here's an interesting website that's campaigning to save all electric cars, it's called DontCrush.com.

Tuesday, June 06, 2006

Indelible Impressions

I will always remember June 4, 2006 as the day my son learned to take the caps off permanent markers.

Sunday, June 04, 2006

The Fake Reality Of The Janice Dickinson Modeling Agency

Tuesday at 10pm (6/5/06) The Oh! Oxygen Network will premiere its new reality show The Janice Dickinson Modeling Agency. Here’s how they describe it:

“Oxygen´s new show follows Janice as she opens up her own modeling agency… Unlike many "reality" shows, there are no fake contests or contrived situations. It´s a real business with real financial, personal and professional stakes for Janice.”

Here’s the reality about their reality: The show began taping in early November of ‘05, filmed for a few weeks, then shut down and went away. Within days the “real business” Janice Dickinson Modeling Agency looked like this:



Saturday, June 03, 2006

Possession Is Nine-Tenths Of The Law... ...unless that changes

I recently downloaded a gas pricing widget for my Mac that tells me where the cheapest gas in my area can be found. The information is provided by GasPriceWatch.com, and it’s a simple way to shave a few pennies off every tank of gas. What caught me off guard was the way gas is priced: $x.xx.9/10ths. 9/10ths? We’ve all seen it on the signs and on the pumps, but you never really process it, you’re just aware of the overall price. So what’s up with 9/10ths? What other industry is allowed to price their product to the 9/10ths of a cent?

The bigger question is if you were to buy only one gallon of gas at say, $3.42 and 9/10ths, exactly how would they charge you for one gallon? Wouldn’t they have to round down? If they round up, then isn’t the price per gallon actually $3.43?

Here's The Change Part...

I had a sort of similar experience with one of those change machines you find in drugstores and grocery stores. There’s a company called Coinstar that provides machines that count your change, charge you 8.9¢ for every dollars it counts, and then you take a receipt the machine gives you to the cash register and they give you money. Keep in mind that Coinstar’s trademarked motto is “You Give Us Coins, We Give You Cash.” So the idea is that you get cash for your coins….

Here’s the catch: Say you turn in $100.50 in change, you’re charged $8.90 cents for their service on the $100, and then roughly .04¢ on the remaining .50¢. So you take your receipt to the register, and they give you $100.50 minus $8.94, which equals $91.56. Okay, but think about it: They’re essentially giving you back .56¢ in change that’s absolutely no different from the change you originally put in the machine, and they’re actually charging you to give this change back to you. Transforming change into bills is a service, but taking change from you, and then giving it right back in the form of more change, why should you have to pay for that?

Lets go back to the “buy one gallon” analogy from earlier. Put .99¢ in one of these machines, they count it, subtract their 8.9% fee, and then give you back .90¢ in change. You’ve essentially paid them to simply count your change and give you back less change than the change you put in.

Now imagine tens of thousands of these machines all across the country, and every time they’re used they’re charging people for small amounts of change that they just wind up giving right back. What a racket.

Unrelated in a somewhat related way… don’t you think jukeboxes should give you the option of selecting three and a half minutes of silence?

Friday, June 02, 2006

Politically Correct To The Core

In the early eighties, right around the time buffalo wings and potato skins arrived on the scene, the term “politically correct” was added to this nation’s lexicon (PC for short). Almost immediately the political Right and mainstream middle latched onto the phrase, using it to chide and ridicule the Left. Even the Left used it to ridicule the Left, which just goes to show how strong the backlash eventually grew. And many PC belief’s did seem overindulgent, needless, ridiculous.

The fact is, there will always be some insane politically correct issue bubbling up out there, just like there will always be a few bad cops on duty among all the good cops, and a few corrupt politicians hidden in among all the honest ones. Still, you seldom hear PC critics acknowledge that universal access for the handicapped was actually a pretty good idea (you know, accessible bathrooms, buildings, public transportation). And when was the last time you heard anyone complain that women delivering the mail should still be called postmen, or long for the good old days when Asians were Orientals.

The odd thing is that the Right has so many of their own PC issues, but you just never hear them defined that way. For example, if it’s PC to bemoan negative, stereotypical depictions of blacks and Latinos in film and television, then isn’t it PC to wail and complain about negative stereotypes of Christians and Italians (you know, the whole mob thing). When public schools are criticized as being PC because of inclusive curriculums that try not to offend anyone, shouldn’t we think it’s PC when the FCC pressures networks to make television less offensive? And why isn’t banning flag burning considered PC? Isn’t that an attempt to stop someone from being offensive? And isn’t it PC when a handful of parents complain to stop elementary school Halloween parties where children dress up as ghosts and goblins?

And seriously, doesn’t it strike you as PC to claim that the Ten Commandments are historical when trying to justify why they should constitutionally belong in a courthouse. Removing religion from the Ten Commandments and redefining them as a historical document seems about as PC as PC can get (even if it’s only being done as a disingenuous, calculated political maneuver). And aren’t those who campaign for school uniforms, something I personal believe in, PC for trying to force everyone to be as neutral as possible. And I’m guessing there are just as many on the Right as on the Left who agree that outside of Vegas, smoking shouldn’t be allowed in restaurants and bars. Yet it’s always the Left that’s tagged as being PC for banning second hand smoke.

Just remember that it’s the liberal Left who over the years have been bizarrely branded as PC for trying to strip away myth and distortions from our history textbooks, while the conservative Right has actively pursued keeping history as inoffensive and safe as possible to America and Americans. They simply don’t seem to want to “Remember the Alamo” the way historians tell us it actually happened, or to teach our kids that the Boston Tea Party was more about money than about independence. Even science is constantly being branded as PC, mostly over global warming, despite the fact that core samples from Greenland don’t really care whether anyone believes in it or not, they’re simply showing us that carbon dioxide levels are at their highest levels in 250,000 years. Those crazy, lefty, PC core samples. Why don’t they just move to Hollywood and drive a hybrid.

(Update: NASA recently announced they were cutting global warming research projects)

Tuesday, May 30, 2006

People Food Can Make Them Very Sick

This Memorial Day I took my son to the zoo. It was sunny, and bustling, and we walked miles. He saw zebras, chimpanzees, seals, an elephant, a sleeping lion, and we worked up an enormous appetite.

Here’s what the Los Angeles Zoo says online about feeding their animals:

“All of our animals are on very specific and regulated diets, and people food can make them very sick. ... So please, keep your food on the outside of their exhibits, and let the keepers give them the best care possible.”

While the zoo’s “keepers” take great care to ensure their animals receive balanced, nutritious meals, the many restaurants inside the zoo seem to sell nothing but garbage: burgers, fries, corn dogs, chicken nuggets, 20oz sodas, and though they also offer salads, they still ought to be ashamed.

And if you want to argue that at least walking around the zoo is good for you, just remember that you’ll be constantly passing vendor carts selling kettle corn, candied pecans, cotton candy, ice cream dots, gummie worms, churros…

Zoos are for families. Zoos are for children. Maybe those “keepers” should care about our kids as much as they care about their animals.

Friday, May 26, 2006

So Pink And Green Would Be A Bad Thing?

Colormatch.dk….. I love this site. It’s really meant for website designers, but it’s still fun to play with. You pick a color, and the site generates 5 other colors that compliment your original color. What’s interesting is that this site was created back in 2001 as part of a competition to design interesting, functional websites that are only 5k large. That’s insanely small.

Saturday, May 06, 2006

Whoa, Wait A Minute

Driving past an open meadow today, I caught a glimpse of the strangest thing out the corner of my eye: a group of children riding horses, all wearing bicycle helmets. I guess it makes sense, particularly from an injury liability standpoint, but it was still jarring. Helmets to ride horses? What a different time we live in.

Thursday, May 04, 2006

This Is Getting Old Fast

A letter recently arrived informing me I would not be receiving my entire tax refund because records indicated that either my wife or I were not eighteen years old in 2005, so we couldn’t claim a tax credit on our retirement savings. Calling the IRS, they admited they weren’t sure how to categorize my problem, because their records showed that I was born on November 30, 1889. Doubting I was 117 years old and married to a woman 80+ years younger, as well as father to a 21 month old baby, they weren’t sure what to do, so they just sent off their “not yet eighteen” letter. Not only that, but the IRS said that it was Social Security’s records that had informed them I’d been born in 1889. That would mean the government owes me almost fifty years worth of retirement checks, so maybe I shouldn’t make a big deal about the couple hundred dollars withheld from my refund, and just go after the big money.

[UPDATE: I called Social Security, and they actually had no birth date whatsoever for me in their system. I told them I could fax them my birth certificate, but they said I had to go into a local office to correct my records. No apology, no “sorry to trouble you and make you come in”, the burden was all on me to set the record straight again.]

Tuesday, May 02, 2006

E-Mail's For Chimps - Try Monk-e-Mail

E-mail revolutionized communication. Monk-e-Mail evolutionizes it. Not to be a corporate shill for CareerBuilder.com, who provide Monk-e-Mail for free, but they’ve created a real big-wow-fun-ride here. And I don’t say that often. Actually, I’ve never said it ever. Give a big click here to send a monkey message, and just swing with it baby. Good times.

Yes, But Does Anyone Know The Second Verse?

Big brouhaha after some artists recorded the national anthem in Spanish, and many on the Left and Right tried to score political points over what language the anthem should be sung in. It’s a little ridiculous, and I suppose the story was amplified by its proximity to all the stories about immigrant rallies across the nation on May 1st. It does shed a little light on the political pressure that's applied to our leaders, forcing them to comment on every little thing that could potentially become a wedge issue. President Bush was forced to take a position, and the Associated Press recently reported “Bush said Friday the national anthem should be sung in English - not Spanish - in a blunt rejection of a new Spanish-language version.” (4/30/06).

Statement made. Simply put. Done. End of story?

ThinkProgress.org then posted that Jon Secada sang the national anthem at Bush’s 2001 inaugural ceremony in both English and Spanish (reported by Cox News Service) and that Kevin Phillips’ book American Dynasty has a passage in it describing Bush campaigning in 2000, and that on occasion “he would drop in at Hispanic festivals and parties, sometimes joining in singing “The Star-Spangled Banner” in Spanish.”

In an unrelated story, one that also involves national anthems, only a week earlier the Associated Press reported that during a White House ceremony attended by President Bush and Chinese President Hu Jintao, the national anthem of the People’s Republic of China was introduced as “the national anthem of the Republic of China,” which is actually the official title of Taiwan. Easy mistake, but a gigantic oops in the world of diplomacy.

And in a completely unrelated related story, AFP reported today on a Roper Poll establishing that young Americans are essentially geographically illiterate. (5/02/06)

And finally, in yet another completely unrelated story... Nat King Cole recorded his swinging 1964 hit song L.O.V.E in English, Spanish, Italian, French, German, and Japanese. Just think of the brouhaha if he'd gotten his hands on the national anthem.

Monday, May 01, 2006

Sundowning Blinded Me With Science

What are the most popular myths in science? Funny you should ask that, click here. For insights on current science findings, it’s hard to beat LiveScience.com.

Sunday, April 30, 2006

She's Got Condolezza Eyes


This needs to be put delicately. Browsing books I ran across a paperback of Their Eyes Were Watching God, by Zora Neale Hurston. Remember when Oprah produced this best seller as a movie-of-the-week? Glancing at the cover, I immediately thought of a young Condolezza Rice. I don't mean this as an insult, I was just struck by the image. If you see it in a bookstore, make your own decision. (Note: I added the yellow Oprah sticker on Condi's picture to help you visualize... please don't sue me Oprah.)

Friday, April 28, 2006

Snow's Job, Have You Heard?

So it's official, Tony Snow's the new White House press secretary. I'm just curious about one thing.... At a time when leak investigations are so prominent in the news, isn’t it odd that "unnamed sources close to the White House" revealed Snow was on the verge of accepting the position long before any official recognition of the fact? It was everywhere: NY Times, Fox News, CNN, everyone was quoting unnamed sources, and I didn't hear a single person complain about it. Sure, national security wasn’t at risk, and obviously White House strategy was to get the word out so their eventual announcement wouldn't come as a shock, not to mention wanting to gauge how the public would react….. but isn’t a leak a leak? Couldn't they have just released a statement that Tony Snow had been approached? Does this sort of thing really have to be released through back channels? And leaking news about a new press secretary, isn't that a bit ironic? Is this really how our government's supposed to work? Floating an appointment's name like it's office water cooler chatter?

Sources: Tony Snow to Be Named White House Press Secretary
Fox News (4/26/06)
WASHINGTON — Tony Snow will be named new White House press secretary on Wednesday morning, FOX News has learned. Snow is expected to be at the White House for the announcement. He has been mulling the offer for the last several days.
(Here’s the FoxNews.com article)

Sources: Tony Snow likely to take White House post
CNN Washington Bureau (4/25/06)
WASHINGTON (CNN) -- Sources close to the White House said Monday that Fox anchor Tony Snow is likely to accept the job as White House press secretary, succeeding Scott McClellan.
(Here’s the CNN.com article)

(An interesting side note: Snow was once a speech writer for President Bush Sr.)

Monday, April 24, 2006

Need for Speed?

How fast is your internet connection? Well, here’s how to find out. Visit SpeakEasy.net and click on a server in your region. They’ll calculate your upload and download speed and let you know. Figuring out what the numbers mean? Well, there you’re on your own.

3.1 Quadrillion Gallons All Around you

Here’s something interesting. A company that makes a water cooler that is self-sufficient, connecting to no water lines, no pipes. It pulls water from the air, between 2 to 10 gallons a day depending upon the humidity. They're the Air to Water Co., and they’ve been producing this unit for three years, and spent five years before that in development. And while the thing has some problems, consuming electricity similar to a refrigerator, you can’t help but marvel at the idea, and the execution. You can learn more at AirWaterUSA.com. And the 3.1 quadrillion gallons all around you? That's the amount of water estimated to be hanging in our atmosphere, just waiting to be plucked.

Saturday, April 22, 2006

Terribly Sad, Terribly Hypocritical

I found this interesting, though terribly sad. It's an Associated Press article describing how illegal immigrants inside Mexico have a terrible, harsh life. They’re abused, mistreated, and prayed upon by both the military and law enforcement. The Mexican government has always held the United States accountable for its handling of illegal aliens detained within the United States, but they have very little power to stop horrible abuses taking place within their own borders.

My only issue with the article is that it’s mostly hearsay reporting, rather than documented instances. If the claims made are as pervasive as they seem, and I believe they are, there should be at least a few instances where legal action has been taken, or facts documented and supported by human rights organizations. Perhaps I didn’t read the article thoroughly enough.

Click here for the AP Article

Tuesday, April 18, 2006

Flight Sickness

Returning home on American Airlines, we were again forced to watch a mixture of corporate videos and infomercials thinly disguised as entertainment. Quick recap: I didn’t bother renting a headset, but from the footage I gathered there’s a cheesy guitarist who looks like he’s on the cover of a romance novel, and he’s backed by a group of overweight, middle aged, balding Spanish/Flaminco/Cuban salsa musician’s, and touring the country with twenty pretty, thin, young female dancers. Sort of Riverdance meets construction workers playing guitar and violin. Gotta love a mock documentary that scrolls tour dates and locations where the end credits are supposed to be. They also flashed their web address, Benise.com.

After that, we were almost entertained by the less-than-smash blockbuster film The Thing About My Folks starring Paul Reiser. Released in ‘05, this film grossed less than a million dollars. This was our movie. Except that the flight crew couldn’t get it to play in English, so instead they forced us to watch promo clips of CBS programming (Ghost Whisperer and Cold Case) as well as endless ads for new DVDs (King Kong, Narnia, Chicken Little). Between that and my complimentary copy of SkyMall Magazine, I now understand why they call them commercial airliners. (To be fair, there was an episode of the show Everyone Hates Chris tucked in among the endless ads and promos, but it was the same episode they played when we flew eastbound 5 days earlier.)

Two parting shots...

The “Welcome/Safety” video shown at the start of the flight depicted bright, shiny, smiling American Airlines personnel greeting fliers, and joyfully going about their business. As for the actual crew on our flight, they seemed miserable the whole five and a half hour trip, probably because they were working on Easter Sunday.

The video shown also plugged a charitable website called CBS Cares, but when written as a web address CBScares.tv it has a sort of subliminal message quality about it that makes you think “CBS scares”.

Friday, April 14, 2006

Union Facts (well, you know, the negative ones)

On Tuesday (4/11) I noticed a full page ad in USA Today, the 6th page in the first section of the paper. The ad attacked unions, and I just couldn’t resist visiting their website UnionFacts.com and digging deeper. Turns out this is a campaign that began mid-February in The NY Times and The Wall Street Journal, essentially by a Washington lobbyist trying to undercut public support for unions. Now, I’m a union member, and while I sometimes throw my hands up at the bureaucracy it injects in my life, I still thank God they represent me. Without my union I might not have insurance, a pension plan, and I certainly wouldn’t have such thorough work/safety guidelines.

The non-profit organization that placed the ads is the Center for Union Facts, which claims to be supported by “foundations, businesses, union members, and the general public.” Their stated mission says they’re “dedicated to showing Americans the truth about today’s union leadership.”

So who are they? Essentially they’re Rick Berman’s lobbying company Berman & Co. So who's he? He began as a labor law attorney representing Bethlehem Steel in the 60's, which is almost all you need to know. He founded his lobbying group in the 80's, and had a hand in creating the Employment Policies Institute, an opponent of minimum wage, the Center for Consumer Freedom, a pro-tobacco organization, and the American Beverage Institute, who oppose drunk driving laws. I’m not making this up. Good stuff.

SourceWatch.org has a great web page on Berman and his history. I did find that UnionFacts.com had an interesting database that you can search through for unions and litigation, but there’s absolutely no source for comparison, so its difficult to determine whether the numbers provided are high, low, or average. I’d love to see what sort of litigation comparable businesses deal with (say, a corporation like GM) to get a little perspective.

(Update 6/15/06: since posting this we've had three visits from someone surfing the web from bermanco.com. They're certainly thorough over there at Berman & Co. They're checking up on what bloggers are saying about them)

Wednesday, April 12, 2006

Fantastic Show, but an Unwelcome Welcome


We saw Sweeney Todd at the Eugene O’Neill Theatre in New York City this afternoon. An old friend I worked with is starring in it alongside Patti LuPone. Fantastically staged, amazingly conceived, it was wonderful. One of the finest Broadway shows I’ve ever seen.

The show’s ushers were a true New York experience. Outside, the ticket taker yelled at us to keep moving, so we moved, about a foot forward before having to wait for the people inside to move further in before we could enter. So I turned to the ticket taker, now standing beside us, and yelled at her for yelling at us.

Next, just inside, we couldn’t find an usher, so we asked the first usher-like looking person we could find, and she was less than thrilled at having to help us.

Finally in the correct aisle, a third usher approached barking, “Come on, your tickets, come on!” She was chastising me because I didn’t have our tickets in hand, ready to be looked over. That’s because they were in my wife’s hand, which had been outstretched toward the woman ever since she’d headed toward us. I was actually kind of nasty back, which I’m not very proud of, and told the woman to take it easy, that our tickets were right there in front of her, and we didn’t appreciate be treated like that.

We spent $202 to see a Wednesday matinee, (that’s right, $202), and while the show was incredible, I can’t get over the treatment we received just to get to our seats. Imagine buying a plane ticket, only to be browbeaten by the flight staff right up until you took your seat. Would you ever fly that airline again? I guess the ushers assume they don’t have to worry about whether you’ll ever come back and see the same show again.

Tuesday, April 11, 2006

Airport Security

My wife and I were in line to pass through airport security today when I started telling her how the last few times I’d flown, just as I was reaching the front of the line I was suddenly diverted through the rope line to another area, only to realize I was now at the very end of a much, much longer line. This didn’t just happen once, but twice. The third time it was about to happen, I refused to budge from the line I was in.

So I was telling this to my wife right when we noticed that the security line ahead of us had split into two paths, one being much shorter than the other. Seeming to be too good to be true, I asked a security person whether we could go down that line. She said, “That’s what it’s there for.” So we did.

A half hour later I was ready to strangle someone. As the other line’s fliers rushed past us, moving through security like clockwork, our line was in a perpetual standstill. Finally grumbling aloud about our situation, the fellow ahead of us turned to explain that what security hadn’t told us was that this was the “heightened security” line, and that everyone ahead of us had been pre-selected for additional screening. While I’m all for a “heightened security” line, I just wish we’d stayed in the line we were in. Being a mom and dad with a stroller and a twenty month old baby, the security guard could have been a little more helpful.

Saturday, April 08, 2006

Tell the Truth, Get Punished


After five years of gainful employment in California, I recently applied for unemployment benefits. The paperwork was ridiculous, with the same questions being asked over and over again.

I was soon notified of a required phone interview, but needed to reschedule it to another date. I called, they were friendly, no problem, they simply needed to know the reason I had to reschedule. I explained it was the week of Passover, and that we were traveling east to observe the holiday with my Wife’s family. They asked when I was leaving, when I’d be returning, and informed me that rescheduling would mean a delay in my first check’s arrival. Another option would be to call in during my scheduled time. I said fine.

Before hanging up, I asked what sort of questions to expect. They said two areas: whether my sole proprietorship was generating any income (it’s not), and they would want to know more about my traveling east for Passover, since being out of town six days meant I was unavailable for work, so they weren’t required to pay my benefits those days.

What?

That’s right… answering a question honestly now meant I’d be losing six days of unemployment benefits. If I’d just said I had to go to the dentist, or an interview, or any number of untruths, I’d still be getting a full week’s coverage that could be applied to all sorts of things like, oh, I don’t know, rent at the start of next month, food for my wife and baby, maybe utility bills. These are the kinds of things that don’t differentiate between holidays and non-holidays. Kind of like the deductions that were always taken out of my paycheck for unemployment whether it was a work week, a sick day, or a paid vacation.

If I actually had a new job, or had been offered a new job, I wouldn’t be away this week, I’d have stayed in California. It was only because I was unemployed and because I’d yet to be offered work that I decided I could go. You know, religious holiday and all. I doubt anyone loses a day of unemployment benefits on Christmas or Easter each year, though I think the government has a pretty good sense that very few are available to work those days, and if they are, they’re usually paid time and a half.

UPDATE: I called unemployment services at the appointed time, was transferred to my “interview officer” and then sent directly to her voice mail. Her outgoing message said she would try to get back to me within 24 hours.

(In a related final note… when my father died, it was September 30th. Since there was still one more day in the month, and since dad never lived to see October 1st, Social Security made me return the entire month of September benefits dad had received. The entire amount. If dad had died within the first week of the month, or even the second week, maybe I’d understood. But when you live thirty out of thirty-one days, you’ve obviously spent the money you received that month. And since that’s the case, the government’s asking for their money back, your money really, can only cause more hardship. It can only cause more pain and suffering in what is all ready a traumatic time for any family. The craziest thing about it is that I’ve never heard anyone else ever raise this issue. Ever. It’s essentially an invisible tax that hurts the poorest among us the worst. Isn’t this the kind of thing AARP should be rallying against?)

Saturday, March 25, 2006

A Story I Could Never Forget

I’ve always been haunted by a news report I read years ago about a pilot who took his son on a flight, and tragically allowed the son to accidentally crash the plane. I could never remember where I heard the story, or exactly what all the details were, and always worried I was mixing it up whenever I told it to others.

Here’s an overview of the facts that I recently found online. One detail that’s not mentioned, is what affected me the most when I first heard about this story. I remember the news report clearly stating that when they eventually located the flight’s black box the pilot’s last words were “Don’t touch that!”

Date: 23 March 1994
Location: Mezhdurechensk, Russia
Airline: Aeroflot
Aircraft: Airbus A310-300
Registration: F-OGQS
Fatalities: 75

Details: The aircraft crashed after a captain allowed his child to manipulate the controls of the plane. The pilot's 11 year old daughter and 16 year old son were taking turns in the pilot's seat. While the boy was flying, he inadvertently disengaged the autopilot linkage to the ailerons and put the airliner in a bank of 90 degrees which caused the nose to drop sharply. The co-pilot pulled back on the yoke to obtain level flight but the plane stalled. With his seat pulled all the way back, the co-pilot in the right hand seat could not properly control the aircraft. After several stalls and rapid pull-ups the plane went into a spiral descent. In the end the co-pilot initiated a 4.8g pull-up and nearly regained a stable flight path but the aircraft struck the ground in an almost level attitude killing all aboard. The aircraft was named Glinka, after Mikhail Glinka, the father of Russian music.

Source: www.crashdatabase.com (not exactly the most uplifting of websites)

Thursday, March 16, 2006

Numbers Don't Lie

I recently installed some html code courtesy the website StatCounter.com (a great, free service), and I’ve learned some fascinating details about visitors who view this blog. 10% of all visitors stay for over an hour. To me this only makes sense if people are falling asleep at their computers. Another 10% of all visitors stay at this site from 30 seconds to 5 minutes in length. This is a little more realistic. The remaining 80% visit this blog for less than 5 seconds. I find that final statistic completely believable.

Tuesday, March 07, 2006

A Little Swagger


My wife brought home a men’s health care product sample the other day. A friend’s husband had gotten it in a swag bag at a Los Angeles event, but just couldn’t bring himself to use it. What was it? Why it’s L’Oréal Paris Men’s Expert ADS Active Defense System Vita Lift Anti-Wrinkle & Firming Moisturizer (w/ pro-retinol). Not only does it claim to revitalize skin, reduce wrinkles, and firm your face and neck, it also provides 24 hour hydration (the packaging refers to this as “24H Hydration”).

In addition to this product, the directions suggest you “complete your regimen with: Power Clean Anti-Dullness Face Wash and Power Buff Anti-Roughness Exfoliator." And for after shaving I should “try Comfort Max Anti-Irritation After Shave Balm with SPF 15.” Maybe my wife’s friend’s husband will get a few more swag bags in the near future.

Find expert advice at lorealmen.com. I’ve yet to visit.
Read the definition of swag bag. (link to come)

Wednesday, March 01, 2006

The Wisdom (Teeth) of Intelligent Design

We all have a right to personal beliefs, but when it comes to teaching evolution or intelligent design, I admit I fall firmly on the side of evolution. While both camps present detailed arguments I won’t get into, I do have a question for the intelligent designers: What’s up with wisdom teeth? Why would an intelligent designer create a tooth that most of us need to have extracted. Evolution argues that our ancestors had much larger jaw bones, and that modern man’s smaller jaw is the root, yeah… pun intended, of our wisdom tooth problems. Not sure how intelligent design explains this situation. That said, don’t even get me started about the appendix, tonsils, gallstones, male pattern baldness, or why I’ve had to wear glasses since I was twelve.

Sunday, February 26, 2006

Dubai-ous

There's a firestorm of controversy raging over Dubai Ports World (DP World) of the United Arab Emirates taking control of operations and security at New York, New Jersey, Baltimore, New Orleans, Miami, and Philadelphia ports. What I haven’t heard debated is the fact that DP World isn’t simply a UAE based company, it’s actually owned by the UAE.

Set aside security concerns for a moment, and simply look at this in relation to our belief in a capitalistic democracy. Why in the world are we contracting a company that's owned by another government to run our ports? If you were to propose to this administration that the United States create a state run company to administer our ports, they would immediately reject the idea.

An overview of the DP World/port security situation can be found at this link to UPI News Online. Also, here’s a great link to blog article written by Carl Pope laying out the many port security issues we should be concerned about.

[UPDATE: U.S. State Department spokesman Adam Ereli has acknowledged that the UAE observes the Arab Leagues' boycott of Israel. He also added that "it has renounced or does not enforce the secondary and tertiary aspects of the boycott, which means it does business with companies, including American companies, that do business with Israel," What a relief. Isn't Israel our #1 democratic, stable ally in the region? Would we take issue if the UAE boycotted any of our other major allies? While the UAE's boycott wouldn't affect U.S. ports, it prevents any goods that have even the smallest component made in Israel from entering their UAE ports.]

(Interesting side note: you might not know it, but our very own Amtrak is technically owned by the U.S. federal government, since the government owns all Amtrak’s preferred stock, and the President appoints its board of directors. Its official name is actually the National Railroad Passenger Corporation.)

Sunday, February 19, 2006

Hats Off To Corporate Sponsorship!

Turns out thirty German skiers at the Winter Olympics have been wearing hats bearing the Belgian national colors (black-gold-red), rather than the German colors (black-red-gold). The caps were provided by Adidas, who have said they won’t be able to get the Germans the correct ones till the Olympics are over. I have two questions: how could Adidas get the right hats to most of the German team, but wrong hats to thirty of them; and are German teammates with the right hats sharing with those wearing Belgian colors?

In truth, I haven’t watched any of the 2006 Winter Olympics in Torino. As a kid I remember being inspired by them. You were rooting for gifted, amateur athletes, striving to be their best. We were proud that they represented the U.S. These days they’re no longer amateurs, and it feels more like they represent Nike, Visa, Coca Cola, and McDonalds. (Of course, this is a gross exaggeration, but the spirit of the Olympics have definitely changed.)

In the lead up to the Olympics you could find ads on buses and billboards featuring NBC's logo and glamour shots of presumably our most photogenic Team USA members. Beside each would be an oversized name like “Apolo”, or “Lindsey”, or “Bode”, and the whole thing felt as if they were promoting rock stars, rather than athletes. Visa ran ads featuring Lindsey Jacobellis clearing hear head before a big race by taking comfort in the fact that if her check card were ever stolen, she’s protected. Come on. At least in the old days a Wheaties box covers came after the competion.

For a very general overview of amateurs and professionals competing in the Olympics you can visit Wikipedia.com

Wednesday, February 15, 2006

Made In Italy, Mad In The USA


For all the complaints on either side of the political aisle about the media coverage and White House’s handling of the vice president’s shooting his friend in the face while hunting, I’ve yet to hear anyone raise any issue with Mr. Cheney's shotgun being an Italian-made 28-gauge Perazzi. Where are all the “Buy American” advocates?

Reminds me of the Bush debacle back in January of 2003, affectionately called BoxGate (sure, this is a stretch, but it’s such a great story). Bush was in St. Louis announcing his new tax plan to a warehouse full of business leaders and local supporters. Behind him was a painted backdrop depicting crates with “Made in U.S.A.” stenciled on them. Only problem was that all the other actual real crates stacked around the warehouse were stamped “Made in China”. What did Bush’s advance team do? They slapped “Made in U.S.A.” signs over the “Made in China” ones, and would have gotten away with it if a curious reporter hadn't peeled one back to discover the deception.

But back to Cheney for a second: I still can’t get over the fact that out of 1.08 million hunting licenses issued in Texas in 2005, there were 30 reported accidents. To get a broader perspective, the most recent available national statistics show that in 2002 there were 17.9 million active hunters, and 850 reported accidents. I assume that in most cases law enforcement interviewed the shooters as soon as possible, rather than waiting fourteen hours till the next morning. As for the Italian-made 28-gauge Perazzi shotgun, I didn't think they even allowed foreign guns in Texas.

Tuesday, February 14, 2006

The Straight Doping

The first Olympic athlete suspended for doping in 2006 was Russian biathlete Olga Pyleva. Not the kind of 1st place you brag about. Pyleva won a gold and a bronze medal at the 2002 Salt Lake City Games, which is a bit unsettling.

The first athlete caught doping and sent home even before the Torino Olympics began was Brazillian bobsledder Dos Santos. The four-man team he was on, however, was not disqualified, so in a way, I guess it pays to have at least one guy on your bobsled team on the juice to give you an edge qualifying. Just ask the Australian team. That's who the Brazillians beat to get into the Olympics. Don’t you think that if one member of a multi-person team is disqualified, the whole team should be disqualified? Wouldn’t that be an incentive to not test positive for a banned substance? By the way, Santos was caught using nandrolone, an anabolic steroid that actually occurs naturally in the human body, though in very small quantities.

Q: What is the Olympic oath?
A: The Olympic oath is a symbolic gesture of sportsmanship that traces its origins to the 1920 Olympic Games. One athlete from the host country takes an oath at Opening Ceremonies on behalf of all the athletes. The oath is "In the name of all competitors, I promise that we shall take part in these Olympic Games, respecting and abiding by the rules which govern them, committing ourselves to a sport without doping and without drugs, in the true spirit of sportsmanship, for the glory of sport and the honor of our teams." A similar oath is also taken by a judge from the host country.

Saturday, February 04, 2006

Famous First Words

Dick Cheney accepting the GOP nomination for vice president at the Republican Convention 2000:

“George W. Bush will repair what has been damaged. He's a man without pretense, without cynicism, a man of principle, a man of honor. On the first hour of the first day, he will restore decency and integrity to the Oval Office.”

“He will show us that national leaders can be true to their word and that they can get things done by reaching across the aisle and working with political opponents in good faith and common purpose.”

“You will never see him pointing the finger of blame for failure; you will only see him sharing the credit for success.”

You can read the full speech transcript HERE

Oh.... and recently in the news:

Bush blames Democrats for Social Security impasse
By Bill Sammon
THE WASHINGTON TIMES
February 3, 2006

MAPLEWOOD, Minn. -- President Bush yesterday said it appears that "there will be no solution" to Social Security's looming insolvency because Democrats are blocking reform with "too much politics."

(UPDATE – 4/11/06)
Bush Blames Reid on Immigration Bill
April 8, 2006
WASHINGTON (AP) - President Bush blamed Senate Democratic leader Harry Reid on Saturday for the potentially fatal blow dealt to compromise immigration legislation.
The landmark bill, which would offer eventual citizenship to millions of illegal immigrants, fell victim Friday to internal disputes in both parties.
But Bush - echoing earlier complaints from Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist, R-Tenn. - sought to place all the blame on Reid, D-Nev., who refused to permit votes on more than three Republican-backed amendments.
"I call on the Senate minority leader to end his blocking tactics and allow the Senate to do its work and pass a fair, effective immigration reform bill," Bush said in his weekly radio address.

Friday, January 20, 2006

How Much Is WAY Too Much

I don’t think I’ve read any criticism anywhere connecting the recent astronomical quarterly profits by the oil companies and the impending bankruptcies facing our nation’s major airline carriers, not to mention massive layoffs recently announced at both GM and Ford. When one industry threatens to bankrupt another through their actions, and stockholders and taxpayers will eventually be the ones to really pay for these bankruptcies, shouldn’t someone raise the issue? Was this connection ever mentioned in the Senate hearings
that were held? I think Senator Dianne Feinstein (D-California) may have connected the two in a statement, but I haven’t been able to find the transcript.

If you really want to get worked up over a bit of insanity that many are still unaware of, check out this link. It describes the SUV tax break/loophole created by Congress in 2003, and revised in 2004. Growing out of laws originating in the 70’s that were aimed at helping farmers purchase heavy equipment, the 2003/2004 updates were also intended to help support sagging SUV sales, now ridiculously critical to American auto manufacturers. Ironically, at a time when politicians are thumping their chests about our need to break our dependence on Middle Eastern oil, an SUV can fetch you a $25,000 tax break, while the purchase of a hybrid/electric car will reward you with only $2000. Of course, the SUV tax break was even larger when first enacted in 2003. Back then the deduction was for up to $100,000.

Sunday, January 15, 2006

Got The Picture

I’ve got a problem with photographers. I’ve got issues. Now I don’t mind that they own the negatives of the photos they take, or that they make people sign release waivers, but I just don’t get why they’re the only ones who get credit when their photos are published. What about the person in the photo? What about the make-up artist? Who styled the hair? Who did the lighting? If there’s a building in the shot, who’s the architect. I can’t think of another artistic medium where only one person gets credit, even though an entire group has worked to create the final product. Okay, maybe painting, since only the artist gets to sign their work, so maybe the Photo Credit is simply a practice that descended from painters signing their work.

Still, can you imagine a film where only the director received credit for the finished product? An album that only listed the singer, and ignored the band, the producer, and the song’s author. Okay, sure... maybe the subject, or the model, or the celebrity gets their recognition by simply being in the photo.

One other thing… I also don’t like people who wear Panama hats as if they're normal, day to day hats.

Monday, January 09, 2006

A History Of Crime Pays

I find it a bit depressing that my annual income is below what the stipend the average person in the government’s Witness Protection Program receives to live on each year. It makes you stop and wonder, what have I not been doing wrong?

Actually, I think it’s called the Witness Security Program, and there are roughly 8,000 people in the program. I grew up in a town with a population of 8,000+. I’d like to think they were all in the program. It would certainly explain a lot.

(A side note: I remember walking through Penn Station in New York in the early 90’s and seeing fliers someone had stuck up that said Sammy “The Bull” Gravano was a rat. They had drawn a rat and pasted the head of Mr. Gravano upon it. I remember thinking at the time that I was amazed someone would post something this anti-"anti-mafia", and that no one working at Penn Station was going around and pulling them down. They were up for a full day.)

Tuesday, January 03, 2006

Here's A Great Website

I seldom visit this site, but when I do I'm always amazed how much I enjoy visiting it. So if you've never gone, check out
HowStuffWorks.com.

Wednesday, December 21, 2005

A Consumer Reports

I am so tired of being a consumer. It seems everywhere I turn someone is trying to pull one over on me, or railroad me into a commitment. The cable company does it, your internet company does it, your cell phone company does it, and from company to company to company you’ll find they all have the same essential policies and practices.

Example: My DSL provider SBC locked me into a 1 year commitment with a $250 early termination fee, and this is the kicker… if I move to an area where SBC can no longer provide me with DSL service, I still have to pay the early termination fee.

But what really kills me is that essentially they all make their rates artificially high, then offer you a reasonable, lower “special rate” if you’ll agree to a 1 or 2 year contract. Where are the consumer advocates? Republicans and Democrats are so busy trying to take each other down, and not lose a potential corporate donation, that no one is standing up for the consumer. I always thought that the central tenant of capitalism was that the market (aka you, me, and everybody else) essentially regulated industry, but if you think the market has even the slightest chance of forcing SBC, or Sprint, or United Airlines into changing all the minutia that’s essentially sticking it to us, you’re living in a dream world.

The cherry on top: I just started researching resort vacations for my family for over the holidays, and time and time again there was an astrix beside the room rate that said the listed price didn’t include a daily $20 resort fee. That’s the fee they charge for using the pool, the hot tub, the sauna, the hotel gym, and for enjoying a walk on the grounds. Shouldn’t that just be part of the room rate then?

As consumers, we’ve been terrible at standing up for our rights. If audiences had simply booed continuously every time an ad came on before a movie in a movie theatre, no companies would have wanted to have been associated with that. If audience had put up a fight there would be no ads before movies today. Instead, we all just rolled over and took it.

Thursday, December 15, 2005

The War on Christmas

76.5% of the United States is Christian. 3.7% are other religious groups (Jewish, Muslim, Buddhist, Hindu, etc.). 14.1% are members of no religious group, which I assume means they are not involved with organized religion (of that 14.1% .5% are agnostic, and .4% are atheists.). What the remaining 5.7% believe is anyone’s guess, but I assume they’re either “don’t know” respondents, or simply couldn’t figure out the questionnaire.

I recently saw an online editorial railing against the White House for sending out a Happy Holidays card rather than one that said Merry Christmas. They suggested that 96% of all Americans celebrate Christmas, and that a majority so vast shouldn’t have to bow to PC pressures. Where they came up with their 96% figure is beyond me, but I have to assume they’re referring to the 96% that take the day off from work, you know... since it's a national holiday.

Claiming there’s an anti-Christmas movement is simply bizarre, and seems to me more of a shrewd fundraising/ratings ploy than anything else. You want donations/viewership from the majority of the country, then plant the idea that there are forces trying to take away thier most joyous, festive holiday.

Do we really believe there are people striving to keep Christians from celebrating Christmas? If atheists and non-Christians only constitute 4.1% of all citizens, are they really so powerful that they’re on the verge of eliminating the second most important Christian holiday? I do think that group has a right to say, “Please, go ahead, celebrate Christmas, but don’t make our kids sing Silent Night in their elementary school, and every year re-learn the story of the birth of Jesus.”

Christmas is a national holiday because if it weren’t, an overwhelming majority of the population would take the day off anyway, just as members of every other religion take time off from work during their own high holy days. Do the math, and you realize that the United States would have a frighteningly difficult time functioning on Christmas with 76.5% of the country opting out of work. The intelligent thing to do was make Christmas a day off for everyone. And what do the non-Christians do on Christmas? They go out for Chinese and take in a movie. Everybody wins.

And speaking of which, if the religious right wants to blame anyone for diminishing Christmas, why aren’t they going after the$159,388,918 in ticket sales that were taken in by movies during last year’s Christmas weekend. Odds are that 76.5% of all holiday tickets purchased were purchased by Christians, so maybe that's the real problem.

Saturday, December 10, 2005

How Much For The Crockpot? Oh, And I'm Writing You Up

This morning we held a yard sale, with very lite turnout. However, one person who did manage to show up was an enforcement officer from City Hall informing us that we needed a yard sale permit. She then proceeded to write us a citation. A permit to hold a yard sale? Come on. Seriously? In America? How did it come to this?

Friday, December 02, 2005

Salt in the Wound

The other night I cooked a romantic meal for my wife, and along the way taught myself what not to do when cooking a romantic meal for your wife.

First, hide the picture of how the meal is supposed to turn out. Recipes in magazines usually show the final product. Your final product will never meet this standard, so protect this image like it’s your PIN number, and everyone around you is a criminal.

Next, read the recipe well before you start the actual cooking. Don’t just read along as you go, because you might come across things such as “allow to cool to room temperature,” and even later, “permit to cool completely” which suddenly means there’s like three hour of downtime in the middle of your recipe, and dinner’s not going to be ready in the thirty minutes you imagined.

A quick aside: homemade pasta’s a lot more complicated and difficult than it sounds, and your wife’s not criticizing you by pointing this out, she’s only trying to help.

And finally, make sure you actually bought all the ingredients you’ll need. See, sometime you’ll write an ingredient at the very bottom of your shopping list, sort of off to the side, you know, in tiny little lettering because you ran out of space, and then for some unknown, probably completely rational reason, you overlook that ingredient while you're shopping. All hypothetical, of course. Suddenly it's no longer a recipe for pasta, you have a recipe for disaster. This only escalates when in a panic, with the memory of your wife’s comments ringing in your ears, you start contemplating how to get around not having things like basil, or butter, or maybe flour. See, there aren’t a lot of things that can take the place of butter and basil, no matter how much you wish there were. I’ve learned that flour falls into this category as well.

Monday, November 28, 2005

When I Run for Office

I pretty much hate politics, at least the distortions and shallowness it breeds. Personally, I don’t think I could ever run. I think I’ve visited far too many dicey websites, and must be on a half-dozen government agency Watch Lists at this point. But if I did run for higher office, taking what I’ve learned from politicians who have actually won elections, I think these are the core principles I’d run upon: I’ll be tough on crime; for a strong national defense; against drugs and violence in our schools; believe in the need for a strong economy and jobs; I’ll be for education, and pro family (interpret however your politics spin this in a positive way, I need your vote). My opponents might not like these positions I plan to take, and I might be criticized for them, but I accept this burden. You can’t stick your neck out without expecting someone to try and take a lop at it. God bless America. Or Gods if you’re Hindu, though I’ll probably never work that into a stump speech, since you’re not that large a voting block.

Thursday, November 24, 2005

To Your Health

Thanksgiving. It was always a grand holiday where the family would join hands before the meal and say at least one thing that we were each thankful for. Most of us could think of far more than one thing, and it was always a great time just before Christmas to kiss up to the rest of the family, but mom and dad always looked at my sister and I and said that they were thankful we were healthy. Later, once we’d left home for college, mom and dad’s thankful declarations would tend to begin with how happy they just were that we’d come home to visit, and the whole good health thing sort of became secondary, or implied. Sure, there was kind of an unspoken parental guilt attached to that new “Home for the Holidays” thanks, almost an unsubtle threat in case we ever tried to escape our holiday obligations, but it was always spoken with a warm heart.

Families collect stories, and Thanksgiving is a natural generator of stories. There was the year dad bought a turkey that was too large to fit in the oven, or the year the turkey wasn’t fully cooked till 10 PM because no one turned on the stove. One constant of my childhood was having the Detroit Lions football team break my heart year after year. I would sit there and watch as they always seemed to discover a new formula for self-defeat. Sure, in Michigan New Year’s day meant witnessing yet another Rose Bowl defeat for the Wolverine’s, but Thanksgiving Day was strictly reserved for watching my Lions get carved up and served to an opponent. Of course, in later years I realized that the rest of the nation only paid attention to the far more interesting Dallas Cowboy game that would follow. Ah, good times.

So what am I thankful for? Now that I have my own family, and my own son, I realize you are always thankful for your child’s health, you just tend to keep it inside till a holiday allows you to speak what you’ve been silently thinking the other three hundred and sixty-four days of the year. And as for today, November 24, 2005: the Detroit Lions lost to the Atlanta Falcons 27-7. Ah, Thanksgiving… good times.