Wednesday, December 29, 2010

A Manatee Christmas

Christmas was sunny and in the mid-70's, so we did what we were planning to do last weekend and ventured out to find Blue Springs Park. Like most of Florida, the whole place looked like the set for an episode of Scooby Doo; neither of us would have been surprised to hear Velma exclaim, "Jinkies! I have a clue!" (Click on any of the photos for bigger versions):

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We saw our first real live Florida Alligator:

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A dare-devil Turtle (Look ma! No feet!):

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It wouldn't be Christmas without a partridge in a pear tree:

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And the stars of the show; the manatees:

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The manatees hang out in the hot spring when the water in the St John's river gets cold. There aren't too many yet; they'll be more or less stacked in there in January and February. My parents want to go see them when they get done enjoying December in Michigan and get back down here to Florida. [Edited to finish what I was trying to communicate: We should have better manatee pics in a month or so when we take my parents to Blue Springs. This is what happens when you trying to write at 1am.]

A while back, Debbie got to chance to tour the Norwegian Epic. From the outside, the ship looks like the unholy spawn of an oil tanker and an aircraft carrier:

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But the chandelier is cool:

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and the carpet is guaranteed to increase requests for sea-sick pills by 70%:

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I also finally got around to putting up the photos I took of the inside of our apartment back in August. I'm nothing if not timely and efficient.

And Mickey's big hand says it is waaaaaaay past my bedtime.

Tuesday, December 28, 2010

Flotsam

In all the random debris on the Internets, the occasional jem:


Next year, both Groundhog Day and the State of the Union address occur on the same day, February 2nd.

As Air America Radio pointed out, "It is an ironic juxtaposition of events: one involves a meaningless ritual in which we look to a creature of little intelligence for prognostication while the other involves a groundhog."

I'm sitting here in our ghetto apartment with no running water for the fifth time since we moved here in August. I have no idea what the problem is, but given all the crap we had to go through to simply get the kitchen sink hooked up to the sewer instead of running out on the floor, I can guess.

And just to keep things interesting, the power goes out at least once a week.

Yea. Gotta love the ghetto.

Saturday, December 25, 2010

Merry Christmas!!!!

Merry Christmas to all you wonderful people out there. Wish we could spend the holiday season with you. Hugs to all!

Monkey bread is in the oven and almost done -- our traditional Christmas breakfast.

Friday, December 24, 2010

Merry Christmas!!

I'm posting this now just in case we get too involved in the Criminal Minds marathon to post later.

On Christmas Eve, 42 years ago, Frank Borman, Jim Lovell and Bill Anders became the first humans to directly observe the far side of the moon. While they were there, they took what has become one of the most iconic photographs ever:


I was one of those privileged to witness the first humans walk on another planet. It's looking more and more likely that I will also be witness to the last. We seem to have lost our nerve, but at least the Chinese are running hard; lets hope they can out-run Hubbert's Peak.

On a lighter note, how geeks get marshmallows into their hot chocolate:



Merry Christmas!!

Tuesday, December 21, 2010

Almost Something Interesting

I almost had something interesting to write about, but we got shut down by some serious rain. Given the general lack thereof and local concerns about drought, it was hard to complain, but it still sucked slightly. We had planned to make a run out to the local hot springs where the manatees spend the winter. Would have been cool. Ah well. I doubt the state park will be open over Christmas, so maybe sometime in January if I'm not buried in taxes.

This is from the Library of Congress photo archives. Apparently a cat wandered in during a photo shoot.


That's one cool cat.

From the What World Do You Live In department:

According to a new study conducted by the Parents Television Council (PTC), Hollywood is shockingly obsessed with sexualizing teen girls, to the point where underage female characters are shown participating in an even higher percentage of sexual situations than their adult counterparts: 47 percent to 29 percent respectively.

This isn't a Hollywood problem. This is a social problem. Teen girls are sexualized in every way possible in our culture: clothes, magazines, movies, TV, books. Advertisers use sex to sell useless crap to them, and use them as sex objects to sell useless crap to everyone else. Meanwhile, our government works tirelessly to jail any girl caught taking a photo of herself in anything more revealing than a chadri. And people wonder why so many teen girls have mental problems.

If you or I were to dump our trash some random place, we all know what the government would do to us. As if it were needed, more proof that our overlords expect far less of themselves than they do of us:

Bush Stadium in downtown Indianapolis was built in 1931 as a field for Negro and minor-league baseball teams. Today, it’s a historical relic holding hundreds of rusting vehicles traded in under “cash for clunkers,” a spooky memorial to waste.

The perfect monument to the stupidity that flows like an open sewer from Washington DC.

Another great idea in crowdsourcing:

DriveMeCrazy, developed by Shazam co-founder Philip Inghelbrecht, is a voice-activated app that encourages drivers to report bad behavior by reciting the offender’s license plate into a smartphone. The poor sap gets “flagged” and receives a virtual “ticket,” which may not sound like much until you realize all the information — along with date, time and location of the “offense” — is sent to the DMV and insurance companies.

Yea, I don't see any problems here. For every report of someone driving impaired (drunk, texting, arguing with kids in the back seat, reporting to DriveMeCrazy, etc.), there we be fifty from the steady line of asshats acting out scenes from Grand Theft Auto on their morning commute complaining about everyone else getting in their way. I predict this will last until the first lawsuit against any DMV or insurance company stupid enough to use this data.

One reason why I feel voting is a complete waste of time is that so much of what the government does is no longer controlled by elected officials. The FCC's insistence that it must fix a problem that doesn't exist is one high-profile example.

Tomorrow morning the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) will mark the winter solstice by taking an unprecedented step to expand government's reach into the Internet by attempting to regulate its inner workings. In doing so, the agency will circumvent Congress and disregard a recent court ruling. 

This isn't a case where Congress or the courts left things a muddle and the agency needs to make it up as they go along. That happens every time Congress passes one of its 1900-page bills that no one has bothered to read or the Supremes hand down a decision more opaque than their ridiculous robes. No, this is a case where Congress and the DC Court of Appeals directly told the FCC, "Do Not. Do. This." And they do it anyway. Regardless of your position on net neutrality (and nothing the FCC is considering sounds like net neutrality; more like rent-seeking), this is terribly disturbing. FCC Chairman Julius Genachowski's name has never appeared on any ballot in any election. If he cannot defer to those who have, he needs to be removed.

Speaking of disturbing (and sexualizing teens), Amazon has stopped selling a number of books that contain fictionalized accounts of incest. This includes deleting books already purchased by Kindle owners from their book archive and refusing to refund the purchase price. Here is the dark side of e-books and the cloud. Granted, this particular instance isn't likely to garner a great deal of sympathy, and it is likely that "Erotic Incest Fiction" isn't a category Amazon is eager to blaze across its home page. And as a retailer, Amazon has every right to not sell any particular title or author for any reason or no reason whatsoever. It has the right to remove any title or author that it currently sells for any reason or no reason whatsoever. It DOES NOT have the right to remove previously-purchased items from individual's Kindles for any reason, no more than it has a right to break into my home and remove a physical book that I purchased and Amazon later decided to stop carrying. Sorry Amazon; you are completely, absolutely, 100% wrong on this one. And before anyone gets all prudish, I do find it interesting that Amazon continues to stock countless versions of a popular book that contains what it claims is a factual account of incest, involving likely-underage girls and their father.

Well, time to go apply at potential employers that I'll never hear from again.

Christmas Economy

Before getting to the economics, more from the stupid season files:

Atheists vs. Christians: Score-keeping taken to the absurd.
Nina Totenburg apologizes for speaking the word "Christmas".
Rescue a deer that breaks through the ice, get a fine.

Here in the United States, jobs are still in the toilet with the worst states being the usual suspects: Michigan, Illinois, Ohio, Florida, California, Nevada, etc. None of this is news to anyone looking for a job. Any openings here have 100's if not 1000's of applicants. The last time the library I volunteer at had an opening for someone to shelve books (the very bottom entry-level job that I do for free), they had over 100 applicants, most with Masters degrees. One factoid from the article that I found interesting: The employment hotspot of America is North Dakota with 3.8% unemployment. Maybe we should move.... I also got a giggle:

Another report showed the economy is poised to pick up in 2011. The index of leading economic indicators increased 1.1 percent in November, the biggest gain in eight months, the New York-based Conference said today.

Would that be the same index that showed the economy picking up in 2010? I think we need to go back to chicken entrails.

More banks closed on Friday including one in Florida. I don't know about other states, but the problem here has moved beyond residential real estate (which isn't doing well, just less bad) to commercial real estate. Plenty of empty strip malls and abandoned projects everywhere you look. If the recession is over, you can't tell it from driving around Seminole county.

Cities and states are in trouble. Tax receipts from sales, property and income taxes are all in free-fall. A logical person might think that all the extra money raked in during the boom decade would be enough to carry through a couple bad years, but like a bunch of ignorant children, not only was all the extra money spent, record amounts were borrowed besides. Perfect.

Our clueless overlords at the Federal Reserve keep doing the same thing over and over expecting a different result. What they have managed to do is shove food and energy prices up, both of which are excluded from the inflation figures used to calculate such trivial bits like the COLA for Social Security benefits. Ya know; because food and energy are such a small share of household budgets and not nearly as important as flat screen TV's and iPhones (which are included).

An article about Michigan and how the decline in auto manufacturing has decimated the economy there. No big surprises to anyone who has lived there other than the over-educated who continue to believe in the fantasy of re-training:

Gluskin Sheff's Rosenberg says that if he were in charge "I'd have a shovel in the hands of the long-term unemployed from 8am to noon and from 1pm to 5pm I'd have them studying algebra, physics and geometry."

Yea, right. Because those on the left side of the bell curve are so good at algebra, physics and geometry. Even assuming we live in Lake Wobegon where everyone is above average, just what are these newly-minted geniuses going to do? Instead of trying to turn everyone into Stephen Hawking, how about just teaching them how to add? To read? To tie their shoes? To show up on time? To shut up, sit down and listen? I'll make it real easy: How about teaching them the alphabet so I don't have to spend half my time at the library cleaning up behind the illiterate high school volunteer who thinks M comes after D? Oh right; that's "drill-and-kill" learning and we can't have that interfering with Self-Esteem Training.

Meanwhile, the Europeans continue their death spiral with the Euro looking like a worser idea by the minute, France looking to lose its AAA bond rating and riots in Greece, the UK and Italy. Kunstler may be right; the idea of Europe being the world's tourist destination may itself be going on holiday.

Merry Christma... Oops! Sorry about that! Happy Saturnalia!!

Climate

Here in Florida, we are getting back up around normal temperatures after a week in the deep-freeze. Which means getting back to high-60's/low-70's instead of high's in the 50's and lows in the 30's. I realize that's a joke to people who live up in the tundra in places like northern Michigan, but our apartment got a bit nippy; contractors in Florida assume that because it doesn't get very cold that buildings don't need such amenities as insulation, double-glazed windows, exterior doors with less than an inch-wide crack around them, functional heat, etc. Europe is still having a mini ice-age complete with people camping for days at airports trying to get on a flight home. (Remember when snow in England was a thing of the past? You would think the global warming hysterics could get something right even if by accident.) China's coal stocks are running low due in large part to politics as well as the cold weather increasing demand on the centralized heating systems.

All this should be expected, of course. Our overlords were in Cancun discussing our future. They thought they would be safe from the Gore Effect this year by 1) not having Al Gore at the conference and 2) holding it it the tropics instead of Europe like last year. It didn't work. Cancun set record low temperatures for six days straight during COP16. And unlike the fake record low temps elsewhere (lowest temp since 1998 or 1973 is not a record regardless of what the hysterical Energizer Bunny weatherman says), these were all-time low temps. I've yet to figure out the point of these conferences: The richest 0.00001% of the people from all over the world get together to generate more CO2 with their private jets, limousines, built-to-order hotels and conference centers, and flown-in food, booze and whores, than will be saved by the Mexican president's announced ban on incandescent light bulbs in 100 years. This is going to save the planet how? A four-part series from the Viscount Monckton of Brenchley gives a flavor for what these little shin-digs are really about:

From Nopenhagen to Yes We Cancun
Yes, we have no bananas
The abdication of the West
Mercury rising

And while we are on the subject of alarmists and never getting it right, global cyclone activity continues to defy the hysterical WORST YEAR EVAAAR predictions made by the climate politicians. The crazy old lady at the county fair with buggy eyes and a crystal ball is better than these guys.

Monday, December 20, 2010

14 Years Ago Today

December 20, 1996: Carl Sagan Dies.

I remember watching Cosmos. Surreptitiously, of course; Sagan is only one letter away from Satan, a common argument made by teachers in both my school and church as to why good little Christian boys shouldn't watch such filth. Seriously. Anyway, I re-watch the series on Hulu at regular intervals. It has aged well.

Friday, December 17, 2010

Wednesday, December 15, 2010

The North Point iBand

This is the kind of stuff that gives me serious Apple-lust:

The Problem with Work

Other than it being work, of course:

Tuesday, December 14, 2010

Bohemian Rhapsody

I don't think I'd want to live in a universe devoid of a Jim Henson.

Monday, December 13, 2010

But Seriously...

I'm past due for a normal post. Not that we've done anything other than freeze our tukases (what is the plural of tukas? Tukases? Tuki? Anyway...). We did venture out yesterday to spend the day with my parents before they head up to the Great Frozen North. They were in their church's Christmas program last night, and they've been after us to come hear their pastor. So we dragged our butts out of our nice warm bed at 6:30am and drove over in time to meet them at their place and do the morning church thing, then joined the rest of the Baptists at the buffet. We did the gab-gab until it was time to head back for the program. It's not a very big church, but the program was a fairly large, well-done production. We had a lot of fun and managed to get back to the apartment by 10:30pm.

And that's the highlight of our exciting week in Sanford, Florida.

Speaking of Sanford: Several numb-nuts broke into a local jewelery store with sledgehammers. A number of errors were made by said numb-nuts. First, their brilliant heist was witnessed by a long line of people with their children waiting to see Santa. Second, they made no attempt to avoid being ID'ed by the store's video cameras. Third, they helpfully left behind blood samples, fingerprints and the sledgehammer. And to cap off a fine day of stupidity, they made off with mostly cheap junk the store carries to sell to numb-nuts.

Just in time for the holiday driving season, oil is poking its head above $90/barrel in some markets. The current blast of global warming over the entire eastern half of the US certainly won't be helping.

FoxNews has a good summary of the Stuxnet code that crippled Iran's uranium processing. How it got into a secure facility with no connection to the internet is instructive: It infected home PC's physically located around the plant and waited for someone who worked there to bring documents home to work on. I'm not sure what bright boy thought it was a good idea to allow write-able media to be carried in and out of a "secure" facility, but I wouldn't want to be them. The $1 million question is still unanswered: Who wrote it? It must be killing them to know they wrote one of the greatest hacks of all time, but can't talk about it.

'Tis the stupid season: The nativity must go, but the Menorah can stay because it isn't a religious symbol. I'm sure that will come as an immense surprise to practicing Jews everywhere. And Santa gets fired after 20 years on the job for telling "naughty" jokes. What did he say that was soooo horribly offensive?

"When I ask the older people who sit on my lap if they've been good and they say, 'Yes,' I say, 'Gee, that's too bad,' " Toomey said Monday.

"Then, if they ask why Santa is so jolly, I joke that it's because I know where all the naughty boys and girls live."

I'm not sure why an adult willing to lap-dance a complete stranger in a red suit could be offended by a joke far more mild than the constant toilet humor and sex jokes in a typical SpongeBob episode. It sure is nice to know that every other problem in the world has been solved.

Two more stories from the Schools-Are-Day-Prisons category: Riots in NYC high school after principal bans taking a piss at school. With any luck, they'll burn down the school with the principal in it. And a school is reversing a ban on "dangerous" writing implements. I realize that schools stopped teaching quite some time ago (obvious from how well our best and brightest compare to the rest of the world), but most at least pretend. By banning writing implements, this bold principal had dropped the facade and completed the transition from school to day-prison.

Uh... say what? Oh. It seems the ban stemmed from something far more serious:

The superintendent provided another fact by noting that "[t]he student who was found with an altered pen was suspended ...." What diabolical instrument had this pen been altered to create?

A spitwad-shooter.

"The student showed me how it worked," said the local police chief, who said he had been approached by the student's parents after the boy was suspended for having the "altered pen." Based on his testing, the chief did not think the device posed any great threat. "I'd be surprised if the spitball traveled 4 feet," he said. "And at that, I'm not even sure it had any spit on it."

In these post-9/11 days, though, you can't be too careful. No, actually, yes you can. Searching underpants is being too careful, and so is suspending a sixth-grader for possession of a spitwad-shooting device. The superintendent suggested darkly that the police chief might have had a different opinion if he knew more about the "incident," but he did not elaborate, so I guess we'll never know.

Ye. Flippin'. Gods. No wonder alcohol and drug use is rampant in our schools; it's the only thing keeping the students from beating school administrators senseless.

Everyone knows that Bill Clinton is a media whore. That a sitting president would intentionally share a stage with the man says a great deal about said president's judgment. That he would walk off the stage and leave Clinton alone with a room-full of reporters is, well, I guess fascinating is the kindest thing I can say. We're being ruled by a complete rookie.

Obamacare is such a great deal that 222 companies employing over 1.5 million employees, including several of the unions that pushed Obamacare, have applied for and been granted waivers to keep them from dropping coverage completely. Under the new Obamacare guidelines, our insurance that we already couldn't afford will increase by another $150 per month. Remind me again how all this was supposed to make my life better?

Economic recap:

Home values likely to take another leg down in 2011.
Cities and towns swamped with property tax appeals as governments continue to ignore reality.
Food stamp rolls continue to increase.
Unemployment won't be going down anytime soon.

On the positive side, our completely-rational, totally-not-rigged, perfect-reflection-of-reality stock market is heading back up.

Well, that's enough holiday cheer for one day.

Saturday, December 11, 2010

Camel Crash

Why using live animals in a Christmas program is a bad idea:



Local EMS says no one called 911, so one can assume that camel and crowd were both OK.

Friday, December 10, 2010

Tis the Season...

...for silly YouTube videos. How do monks who have taken a vow of silence sing the Hallelujah Chorus?



Now you know.

What Religion Should I Be?

Tuesday, December 07, 2010

Hard Freeze!!

Like most of the eastern half of the US, we're at the leading edge of around 10 days of below-average temperatures. Against my better judgment, I flipped on the local news last night to see what was up. As usual with any local news show, the weather was the lead story. The following may or may not have actually happened during our local station's 11:00pm "news" broadcast:

(Scene: Bob, dressed in a suit he stole from Herb Tarlek, stands in front of a color-coded map of east-central Florida. One line in the pattern of his plaid jacket is the same color as the green screen behind him, causing little bitty strips of color-coded east-central Florida to appear to be shining through his body.)

We're in for a coooooold night! From here (gesturing wildly at color-coded map) alllll the way down here is gonna see a Hard Freeze! And over here is gonna have a Freeze! Not a Hard Freeze like from here allll the way down here! But it's still gonna be a Freeze! This dark blue area from here alllll the way down here is the Hard Freeze Area! This area of lighter blue is the Freeze Area! Not a Hard Freeze! Just a Freeze! (Launches into 10-minute dissertation in which he utterly fails to explain the difference between a "Hard Freeze!" and a mere "Freeze!")

For more, we go on location to Babsy Bimbo! Take it away, Babsy!

(Scene changes to barely-dressed "reporter" standing in the parking lot of one of the innumerable abandoned strip malls.)

Thanks, Bob! (giggle) It sure is coooooold out here! These babies (waggling breasts at the camera) could cut glass! (giggle) I can see my breath! (Exhales loudly) Can you see that?!?! (Exhales loudly again) I don't know if you can see that, but you know it's cold when you can see your breath! (Pulls out giant clown-sized thermometer showing the current temp as 45 degrees.) As you can see, Bob, we're closing in on the freezing point out here!

Back to you Bob! (giggle)

(Scene changes back to Bob.)

Thank you, Babsy, for that insightful reporting from ground-zero of tonight's Hard Freeze! And watch where you point those high-beams! You could put someone's eye out!!

(Camera shifts to the main "news" desk occupied by the obligatory pair of androgens ostensibly of opposite genders. Male-ish androgen speaking:)

And now for some sad news. Today, a school bus driver became agitated after learning, three days from his retirement, that his entire pension fund had been given to Goldman-Sachs executives as part of their year-end bonuses. In his blind rage, he drove through a group of children waiting to get on his bus. Just so sad. (Pauses exactly three beats with exaggerated sad face, then flashes a 100-Watt Smile® off camera.) So Bob, why don't you update us on tonight's Hard Freeze!

(Camera shifts back to Bob.)

Thanks, Male-ish Androgen! (At this point, whoever is running the green screen gets out of synch with Bob's script as he attempts to quickly run through current temps, current wind chills, predicted lows and predicted low wind chills. Sensing that things are going horribly wrong, he stops mid-sentence and begins to repeat the entire Hard-Freeze-vs.-Freeze bit from the top of the weather forecast.) ...and we're warning everyone! Both the Hard Freeze and Freeze areas! Cold! Parents! Bus stops! Children! COLD!

(Camera shifts back to now-thoroughly-confused pair of news-desk androgens. Female-ish androgen speaking:)

Um... OK, Bob.... Moving on! Now to prove how relevant and internet-savvy we are, we have a YouTube clip of some German moron who was injured doing something moronic as a participant on a moronic German reality TV show! We realize that with 500,000,000 views, it's a near-certainty that our entire audience has seen this a dozen times. But we have to fill up air time somehow!!

At this point, I shut off the idiot-box, recalling why I don't bother watching the local news....

Monday, December 06, 2010

Computer History

This is what a 5MB drive looked like in 1956:


The drive consists of 50 24-inch platters running at 1,200 rpm, and likely dimmed lights over several city blocks when being spun up.

The photo is from a Wired article listing Steve Wozniak's 9 Favorite Gadgets. Having used several of them, I don't know if I'd consider them "favorites" so much as "necessary evils."

How to Conduct an Interview

A great deal of material on life, death, regrets, cancer, and Pascal's Wager.




Saturday, December 04, 2010

...and now it's December

Winter must be here. I wore a long-sleeved t-shirt with my shorts this morning, and we had to get our summer blanket out of storage because it was getting a bit cool with just the sheet. Next week, the highs will only be in the upper 50's. I don't know if we'll survive. In the event we get snowed in, we (along with about 7.3 million other people) hit Walmart to stock up on staples (chips, Snickers bars, Lucky Charms, and a ham). We were mildly disappointed that we only saw one guy who should be featured at People of Walmart; the cold weather seems to have forced everyone else to cover up. A Saturday trip to Wally World normally serves up at least a half-dozen candidates.

Other than that, not much happened this week. I thought I had a temp assignment for the next few weeks, but given that it starts Monday morning and no one has called me with such minor details like who I'm supposed to be working for, where they are located or what time I'm supposed to be there, I guess I didn't get the job. Ah well; gives me more time to work on my last tax test. I made an attempt yesterday, but was foiled by Sec. 179 recapture rules, filing requirements for J2 visa holders and what tax credits you can claim for your non-working, live-in girlfriend's bastard child. I'll take another shot at it Monday morning when I have a four-hour block of time to work on it.

This weekend's big project is Christmas letters. Given that we hardly did anything in the last year (other than move again) it's a short one. One of these years, we'll stay in one place for two whole years so we can just send out cards instead of relocation notifications. Probably won't be next Christmas; if I manage to land any sort of job between now and next August, we're outta this ghetto apartment even if we just move a block up the road to where we wanted to live in the first place, but couldn't afford.

I did have an interesting little computer glitch when I went to print envelopes. Our printer has a bypass feed for printing directly onto envelopes, so I had the bright idea to save 75 cents in labels by hand-feeding 120+ envelopes, one at a time, through the printer. (It seemed like a good plan at the time....) I typed in the return address and mailing address, fed the first envelope and voila!! It worked! Changed the address to whomever was next in the Rolodex, fed the envelope and.... Crap! Everything is shifted like it thinks it's printing on letter-size paper. I messed with some settings, did it again and voila!! I fixed it! Changed the address to whomever was next in the Rolodex, fed the envelope and.... Crap! Shifted again. Long story short, nothing I did would fix the problem; one would print correctly, the next one shifted. Then correct. Then shifted. I spent a couple hours poking around on the web and I couldn't even determine if Open Office or the printer was the problem. I finally gave up and bought some labels while we were already at Walmart. Why fix a problem when you can ignore it? I remember a time when I would have dug around until I found an answer. Now? Meh.

Nobody will admit anything, but someone wrote a nice bit of malware that targets frequency converter drives used in uranium enrichment:

Frequency-converter drives are used to control the speed of a device. Although it’s not known what device Stuxnet aimed to control, it was designed to vary the speed of the device wildly but intermittently over a span of weeks, suggesting the aim was subtle sabotage meant to ruin a process over time but not in a way that would attract suspicion.

Iran is finally admitting what everyone suspected all along; the virus borked their entire uranium enrichment program. My guess is Israel as the source; if anyone at Langley had written it, they would have been arrested for DMCA violations.

Apple recently banned a magazine app because it primarily discussed the Android. Granted, this incident is in one sense, trivial given that 99.9% of people who would pay to read about the Android probably are not going to do so on an iPhone. But this does raise an interesting question: how is Apple's end-to-end control of the hardware, software and even the subject matter one is allowed to view, any different from Standard Oil in 1911 or Ma Bell in 1974? I have to admit to some serious gadget-lust whenever I see a MacBook or an iPad, but I'm not sure I'm ready to be borged by Steve Jobs.

Another sob-story about absurd amounts of college debt:

Kelli Space, 23, graduated from Northeastern University in 2009 with a bachelor's in sociology — and a whopping $200,000 in student loan debt. Space, who lives with her parents and works full-time, put up a Web site called TwoHundredThou.com soliciting donations to help meet her debt obligation, which is $891 a month. That number jumps to $1,600 next November.

Poor Kelli. Went to one of the most expensive universities in the country where she racked up $200,000 in debt getting a useless degree, and now is reduced to the web equivalent of begging on a street corner because the big, bad, meany bank expects her to pay back the money she borrowed. My take-away is simple: Any bank stupid enough to loan $200,000 to a clueless teenage rich girl for a degree in sociology deserves to lose their money, and any clueless teenage rich girl who would go $200,000 in debt for a sociology degree deserves to live in Mommy and Daddy's basement for the next 20 years while she digs herself out.

Breitbart is breathlessly reporting that out of 70 million people with credit cards a year ago, 8 million have gotten rid of them (or more likely, had them forcibly taken away by the issuing bank). Personally, I call that a weak start. I would have thought that number would be much higher by now. At least things are moving in the right direction.

I'll end with this:


Take a few minutes and check out some other storm photos by Sean Heavey.

Sunday, November 28, 2010

He died in a big building with patients, but that's not important right now.

Leslie Nielson, RIP.

Bad two weeks

This pay period that just ended has been the worst one for me since I started with this new job. For the whole two weeks I only got 12 bookings. Compared to last pay period that I got 45. On my 90 day review last week, I got marked down for sales quota. Only once (last pay period) did I actually make quota. I was told between now and the first of the year, it will be very slow; but after the first of the year I am expected to make quota. I certainly hope so! I would hate to lose this job because of not hitting goal the majority of the time.

As Ric mentioned our "Black Friday/Turkey Day Sale" was a bust. I know some people got some bookings, but I got nothing on Friday and only one on Saturday. Saturday I lucked out to get mostly customer service calls while Max got all the sales calls. The other girl working also mentioned he seemed to be getting all the sales calls too. I've wondered before if he doesn't sign into all our our queues. I know one other person that said she didn't think he did and he had been talked to about it before. It bothers me, but no way for me to prove it.

Hope everyone had a good turkey day and for those that braved the stores for sales on black friday, that you survived.

Saturday, November 27, 2010

Puce Friday

We spent Thanksgiving with my parents over in Zephyrhills. We didn't do anything fancy; just hit a local buffet. My parents' place was too small for us to make anything like a traditional Thanksgiving meal, so we let someone else do the cooking. It was just a quick trip over and back; Debbie had to work on Black Friday and today, so we couldn't hang around for the weekend. I don't know about anywhere else, but Black Friday was a complete dud at her job. Management had been hyping it for weeks talking about how busy it was going to be. The reality? Not one single booking. Maybe today will be better.

My Black Friday consisted of staying at home and watching the annual collective insanity from a safe distance:

A Marine working a Toys for Tots drop point was stabbed by a fleeing shoplifter. Important Shoplifter Tip #27: Try to pick stores that do not have a handful of Marines standing by the door.

Line-jumpers cause a near-riot at a Toys-R-Us. Upside-down shopping carts succeeded in controlling the crowd after store employees and cops failed. Which probably says all that needs to be said about the average IQ of Black Friday shoppers.

As does the woman who thought is was a good idea to make I'll-get-a-gun threats when told to get her ass to the back of the line.

At least as far as I've heard so far, no one actually died in this year's episode of mass insanity. I have no idea why anyone in their right mind would want anything to do with this.

While we're on Black Friday, Lore Sjöberg has a bit of dark humor in this week's Alt Text. I didn't find myself laughing much; guess it was too much like a clown in the moonlight.

[If you're curious, this is puce.]

Another drug tunnel under the US/Mexico border. It's all Mexico's fault, of course. Nothing to do with the insatiable appetite in the US for all things psychoactive. Damn brown people.

Another Facebook feud, this time involving a knife and a frying pan. I think I liked it better when the internet was hard enough to use that dumb people couldn't.

GM's recent stock sale netted taxpayers less than a third of what was dumped into GM, and the original bond holders and shareholders are toast. Meanwhile the UAW rakes in the big bucks. More Chicago-style politics writ large.

There is a great deal of hype around the current round of insider trading busts. What I still don't see is the investigation into the massive fraud at places like AIG, Goldman Sachs, Citibank, BoA/Merrill Lynch, et al. This is chump change involving a handful of small fish. More theater from our over-lords.

In case anyone thinks the near-death experience of 2008 has taught the Masters of the Universe anything, you can stop being naive:

Facebook Inc.’s surging valuation is spurring shareholders to slice and dice their stock, giving investors everywhere from Silicon Valley to Wall Street a chance to bet on the company.

EB Exchange Funds LLC, based in San Francisco, as well as New York firms Felix Investments LLC and GreenCrest Capital LLC, have opened Facebook funds for investors looking to get a piece of the social-networking company and its half-billion users.

By creating derivatives of the stock, the investment firms are helping Facebook keep its shareholder count at 499 or less, the maximum number a company can have before it has to disclose results to the public. They’re also potentially creating a new class of assets for investors, letting them tap fast-growing private companies like Twitter Inc., Zynga Game Network Inc. and LinkedIn Corp. -- all valued in the billions of dollars.

I'm sure it's all done for the benefit of individual, small-time investors. There is no way the game is rigged.

In Europe, some are beginning to question whether Germany can reasonably pay all of the EU's bad debts, while Ireland continues its death spiral. Western Civ ain't looking all that good at the moment.

The TSA continues its scope-or-grope policy. Those who are supposed to be in charge are making a lot of noise while doing absolutely nothing about it. And due to my typical inattention to detail, I failed to notice the Penn Jillete story I linked to last week is over eight years old. I guess Penn got his happy ending and just dropped the whole thing. Driving it is.

I loved this article written by a college-level teacher of rhetoric. (Does such a thing even exist anymore?) On the surface, it is a hard take-down of the breathlessly optimistic Clifford Krauss article titled There Will Be Fuel. But like all quality writing, it is much more than that. I've read it twice and will likely read it again.

In local-ish news, another expressway jumper "accidentally" jumps off an overpass. (Note to the writers at The Palm Beach Post: in no sense of the word is a failed suicide attempt an accident.) This seems to be a state-wide hobby in Florida. I assume the frequency is related to the economy, and bridges are chosen because, at least around here, they are the tallest structures and are easily accessed. I don't recall this level of bridge jumpers anywhere else that we've lived. And from the same area of the state, we have a story that just doesn't add up. Guy from Arizona comes to visit family in Florida. Assumes his concealed-carry permit from Arizona is good in Florida. A bit of a dumb move. Sometimes states have reciprocal agreements about such things; sometimes they don't; sometimes they used to but since rescinded them. OK, so far just someone being bone-headed. But then you find out he's a retire cop. OK; boneheaded ex-cop. But he was also charged with carrying prescription meds without proper paperwork. Except that he wasn't. And that he supposedly had prior felonies, which seemed odd to the officer on the scene given that cop shops aren't big on hiring felons. As it turns out, he had zero priors. Even the original charge of carrying concealed without a permit is odd given that the gun wasn't concealed; he was openly carrying it (something allowed in Arizona without any paperwork whatsoever). This is just one of those stories that you know beyond all doubt that you are being fed a line of BS by someone.

And some geek news: Windows turned 25 last week. I remember Windows v1.0 (as well as IBM's TopView). Check out that PC in the video; I used one of those for many years. It took two people to move the thing. I think IBM got a deal from the military for left-over tank armor that it used to build the cases. And quickly switching from the past to the future, Audi sent a TTS up the Pike's Peak International Hill Climb without a driver. The record set by a human-driven car is in no immediate danger from robotic cars, but the first computer chess programs could be beaten by any above-average chess player. Moore's Law marches on.

And I need to knock this off and do something productive.

Friday, November 19, 2010

How to Start a Movement

TSA: Trouser Search Agency

The big news item this week is the TSA's new scope-or-grope policy; either endure an electronic strip search or get a "junk check" by a TSA perv. Several points occur to me:

Dangers of back-scatter x-ray: I think this is a red herring. If officials sources are to be trusted (which is never a given), the dosage the new machines subject you to is about 1/50 of what you are about to be exposed to while flying, and is far less than the continuous dose we were exposed to while living at one mile elevation for over two years.

The real issue with the new machines: You are being strip-searched. You are exposing your genitalia to person or persons unknown. Our over-lords try to assure us that the images have all the naughty bits obscured, that they are viewed remotely by people who can't see who is being scanned, that the images cannot be saved, that the images cannot be printed. And yet images keep popping up all over the place, some very graphic.

On being fondled by the TSA: A TSA employee who shall remain anonymous stated that no one was being groped; that the TSA agents merely run a hand up the inside of the person's thigh until they "meet resistance." Thought experiment: If I were to hop on the New York subway and run my hand up a fellow passengers inner thigh until I met resistance, I would be rightly charged with sexual assault. Based on Penn Jillete's experience with the TSA, at least the Vegas cops are willing to entertain the idea that wearing a badge doesn't exempt you from laws governing sexual assault:

The cop, the voice of sanity says, "What's wrong with you people? You can't just grab a guy's crank without his permission." I tell him that my genitals weren't grabbed and the cop says, "I don't care, you can't do that to people. That's assault and battery in my book."

The supervisor says that they'll take care of the security guy. The cop says, "I'm not leaving until Penn tells me to. Now do you want to fill out all the paper work and show up in court, because I'll be right there beside you."

There's a question I'd like to see asked by more local police and judges when dealing with any federal agency (IRS, FBI, ATF, DEA, etc.), not just the TSA: "What's wrong with you people?"

[Aside: Read Penn's entire account. It will do your soul good to see all the groveling by the TSA once they figured out they had just made a fatal PR mistake, including promises of a personal TSA escort (female) on Penn's next flight to make sure his trip is "very pleasant." One wonders just how pleasant....]

Response to all this from Big Sis: "if people want to travel by some other means," they have that right.

Yes. Yes we do. If we are lucky enough to live where there is bus or train service, we can do that. Or we can use the deadliest form of long-distance transportation: private automobile. Every time Napolitano opens her mouth, the radius of my personal no-fly zone increases.

All of this is deadly to the airlines and airports which are already on the ropes and don't need the TSA Gomer Gestapo driving away what's left of their customer base. Yesterday, the Sanford and Orlando airports both announced they would be kicking the TSA to curb at the end of the year. Best birthday present ever. I may actually become proud of our adopted home if this comes to pass.

Remember Grumpy the Clown, the illiterate clown elected to Brazil's congress on the slogan, "It can't get any worse"? Remember when I said the establishment wouldn't let him in? Well:

The Sao Paulo Electoral Court held a closed-door exam for the clown turned congressman-elect on Thursday to determine if he meets a constitutional mandate that federal lawmakers be literate.

Wanna bet that "constitutional mandate" is more like a penumbra formed by an emanation?

Orcas in New Zealand like to body-surf:

Orcas, or killer whales, positioned themselves prominently and made it clear they were the real experts -- and that no mere human on a surfboard was going to deny them whatever waves they wanted.

... since orcas can weigh up to eight tons and are atop the food chain, surfing alongside them can be unsettling, to say the least.

"Some of the surfers, like the orca, just go for it and have an absolute buzz," Visser said. "And then other surfers freak out and tell people how it was a life-threatening situation, so you get both extremes."

Sweet. I already have a DVD of me getting a belly-ride on a dolphin; I'd love to have one of me surfing with a pod of orcas. Now if I just had some clue how to surf....

According to an article on the CNBC site, 1 in 5 Americans is mentally ill. While I'm willing to support the idea that there are a lot of stupid people out there, I'm not ready to concede that 20% of the population is mentally ill (and by definition, in need of chemical treatment). Clearly, the Psychiatric Industry ® is out of control. Like the TSA, it is time and past time that the adults say, "Enough!"

Remember that place called Haiti? That had a earth quake a while back that killed a quarter million people? Now there is a cholera epidemic; 1,200 dead in a month with many more to come. Right on our doorstep while we spend blood and treasure on towel-heads. Don't get it. Guess I'm thick.

Secret Walmart survey shows inflation is already here. This is news to the ignorati, while the rest of us living in the real world have known this for a while. Welcome to reality ya pile of putzes.

The War on Normal Children (what most people refer to as "the public schools") continues:

School reverses order for student to remove American flag from his bike. If it takes mass community protests for the flock of pansies running the local school to recognize the difference between flying a foreign flag and flying the American flag, then it's time to assign them duties more fitting to their talents. Like maybe picking up litter at the local park.

Principal denies ambulance access to injured player. Because the school had a rule against motor vehicles driving on the football field. The bigger story is that yet-another high school student suffers a serious injury. Fear of (non-existent) injuries forced the elimination of science labs in our schools, yet every Friday, the relatively wide-spread carnage on athletic fields continues without question.

You've probably heard about the "miracle" Wheel of Fortune solve of a 28-character puzzle with nothing but an apostrophe and a single "L." But was it really a miracle or just something much more mundane; like work. Why is "miracle" and "cheating" always the first hypothesis considered rather than "intelligence" and "preparation"? The same with The Price is Right's miracle moment; why assume brains and hard work  when cheating provides a much sexier story (and avoids the ego-deflating admission that we couldn't duplicate the feats of others because we are dumb and lazy)?

As you probably noticed, nothing has really changed around here. I finished up my tax class on Wednesday, so other than turning in the last of the work tomorrow, I'm done with the long part. I'm still waiting to be sent the links for the on-line tests, and I need to do the sample returns. That part will likely have to wait until after Thanksgiving because the person with the keys to the office won't be around much if at all next week. Tomorrow, my parents are scheduled to show up to check out our ghetto apartment and go out to dinner with us for my birthday. We may be heading over their way for Thanksgiving, if they don't have anything else going on. Debbie has to work the Friday and Saturday after Thanksgiving, so we didn't have any real plans other than frozen pizzas and Hulu. We're such party animals.

That's it for now; off to read a little Nassim Nicholas Taleb.

Gotta Share

Thursday, November 18, 2010

Happy Birthday Ric!

Happy, happy birthday to that one special guy in my life.

Sunday, November 14, 2010

Waffles

Finally talked Ric into making waffles this morning .....mmmmmmmmm.

Next Saturday his parents are coming over to "celebrate" Ric's birthday. They will finally get to see one of the places we live since not in Michigan. They had previously complained about not seeing any of our other places -- not even pictures. This past summer, Ric made a few picture DVD's they can "play" in the DVD player we gave them that had pictures of Arcosanti, our Prescott apartment, and our Swanzey apartment, plus ALOT more. Now, they can see in person and take their own pictures and develop them of our first Florida apartment.

It was funny when he told me about them coming over Saturday. While at work yesterday I was talking to one of my coworkers about things to do for Ric's birthday over the weekend. The last thing I came up with as a joke was to drive over to see his parents' place in Z... Hills. Steven laughed and I said, Nah, Ric would kill me! Imagine my smile when I heard his parents were coming here instead. Oh well -- Ric didn't want to spend money to do anything for his birthday. I guess we will wait and do something over Christmas and then my birthday in January.

Well--- first waffle is almost done -- gotta go enjoy!

Friday, November 12, 2010

The Warm is Back

After most of a week of below-normal temperatures, we are back where we belong in the high 70's to low 80's. I didn't know this when we moved here, but apparently Seminole county has been in a serious drought. It's hard to believe that when there is water everywhere, but They tell me that it is true. It has been a lot drier than I expected. It rained once for about two minutes in the entire month of October and we've had one day of rain so far in November. The ten-day forecast keeps showing rain about five days out, but it never gets any closer; it's been going to rain in five days for almost two weeks now.

Not much else to report as evident from the lack of posting. Debbie's work is going good; my work is non-existent other than the unpaid kind. Tax class is wrapping up; class on Monday and final exam on Wednesday. Then all that is left is the online testing, renewing my EFIN/PTIN numbers (which the IRS now charges for), and completing the 17 or 18 sample returns. I should be all set by Thanksgiving, then it's just waiting until the tax changes come out and then jumping back into the soup on January 15.

Having solved every other problem, Miami cops have declared war on unlicensed barbering:

Berry said deputies entered his store and told his barbers to stop cutting and put their hands behind their backs. As barbers sat on the ground in handcuffs, he said, deputies removed his customers — including children — from the store, and began searching workstations and checking licenses without explanation.

Barbers and witnesses at several shops told the Orlando Sentinel that deputies shouted and cursed during the raids, demanding the location of illegal drugs, which they searched for extensively. They never found more than misdemeanor amounts of marijuana at eight of the nine shops they raided.

The War on Poor Brown People continues.

There is new web browser coming out: RockMelt. To use it, you have to have a Facebook account and provide your user ID and password. I assume that somewhere in the EULA that no one will read and requires a Harvard law degree to understand if you did, you will be giving Facebook permission to data-mine everything you do on the internet rather than just what you do on Facebook. What a great idea, especially given that Facebook and its third-party partners have proven to be grossly incompetent (or profoundly malicious; take your pick) in the handling of personally identifiable information. Now combine that with this:

“It was easy to break into those Web browsers’ password storage”, says ElcomSoft leading IT security specialist, Andy Malyshev. “Compared to all the trouble we had breaking into Internet Explorer 8 protected storage, these were a piece of cake”

"Those Web browsers" are Firefox, Safari, Chrome and Opera. ElcomSoft is a legitimate company that sells a product intended to help businesses retrieve data they legitimately have a claim to. For example, I bought a very early version of this in order to crack the passwords a fired employee had put on all the Word documents she had created for her employer. But if it's a "piece of cake" for ElcomSoft, then it will be a "piece of cake" for anyone else. I doubt RockMelt will be any more difficult to break into than the rest of the web browsers already out there. And on a side note, never ever ever allow any web  browser to save your login information.

The second-to-last shuttle launch ever has now been pushed back to the end of November:

Engineers have found two cracks on the external tank of the space shuttle Discovery after delaying its launch until the end of this month following a hydrogen leak, NASA said Thursday.

The cracks were found late Wednesday on an aluminum strip separating the liquid oxygen and liquid hydrogen tanks, after technicians removed a segment of foam insulation that developed a 51-centimeter (20-inch) fissure during the November 5 launch attempt.

I'm thinking that NASA pushing ahead with this launch by attempting a never-before-attempted on-the-pad repair would be at best reckless, and at worst, criminal.

Focusing on things NASA can do well, Opportunity is still chuggin' away on Mars covering better than the length of four football fields in a week. Spirit remains silent, but there is still hope she will wake up. I wouldn't bet on it at this point, but it was still a good run.

Remember when all we had to worry about was being turned into radioactive dust by the Ruskies?

NDM1 is an enzyme that confers resistance to one of the most potent classes of antibiotics, known as carbapenems, but what has been observed is different in many ways to what we have seen to date. This new resistance pattern has been reported in many different types of bacteria compared to previously and at least one in 10 of these NDM1-containing strains appears to be pan-resistant, which means that there is no known antibiotic that can treat it. A second concern is that there is no significant new drug development for antimicrobials. Third, this particular resistance pattern is governed by a set of genes that can move easily from one bacterium to another. Fourth, NDM1 has been found in the most commonly encountered bacterium in the human population, E. coli, which is the most common cause of bladder and kidney infections. A further concern is that of the two drugs potentially capable of treating an infection due to one of these new multiresistant strains, one of them, colistin, causes toxic effects to the kidney in about a third of people.

For most of human history, people got sick, then they either got better or they died. Seems our ability to sidestep that reality has run its course.

It's good to see the antibodies kicking in:

Hundreds of residents in Weston, Mo. -- as well as people as far away as California and -- rallied in support of Sgt. First Class C.J. Sadell, who died from injuries suffered during a surprise attack in Afghanistan.

The residents sought to block Fred Phelps, leader of the Westboro Baptist Church in Topeka, Kan., and his followers from picketing Sadell’s funeral, according to the station.

The answer to people like Phelps is for the adults to forcefully say, "No!" And ridicule. Never underestimate the power of public humiliation.

Our "leaders" are now fully committed to openly printing money to solve the current "recovery." It's likely been going on secretly for at least a decade, but now any pretense that US dollars are anything but Monopoly money has been dropped. This has been tried repeatedly and it always ends the same way: Badly. But I'm sure this time will be different, which is why oil is up and treasury yields are crashing.

In other economic news, foreclosures are down due to fraudulent paper work and endless TV ads featuring lawyers willing to bugger up the foreclosure proceedings on the house you haven't made a payment on in two years. And the PIIGS are back in the news with Ireland on the brink. Good thing we're in global recovery. James Kunstler tells us how to cope:

Don't worry folks, that sound of heavy breathing you hear is the exhalations of the big banks reviving on their IV drip lines of financial liquidity. Pretty soon, the nurses will bring them Kansas City strip steak dinners, with truffled mashed potatoes, asparagus flown in from Chile, and even a nice year-2000 Clos Du Val reserve cabernet. You - you can go down to the food pantry and get yourself some government cheese. Melt it over some ranch-style Doritos and hunker down with Fox News where a dry drunk will explain to you the morbid workings of the Trilateral Commission and how the Rockefellers are scheming to take over the National Football League for the greater glory of Karl Marx while selling your daughter to Albanian white slavers. You'll think you understand the world. You'll feel fulfilled and easy in your mind.

Government cheese over Cool Ranch Doritos. Mmmmmmm. Must go to Walmart......

Tuesday, November 09, 2010

Second in office

Last week I finally had a decent week for new bookings. I ended up with 25 new bookings and came in second in office after our Jamaican guy who had 27 bookings. Hopefully things will continue and I can get into the hang of this new work environment (call center) and make it work for me.

Friday, November 05, 2010

Sparky Anderson RIP

Sparky Anderson died yesterday. Sparky will always be Tiger baseball for me. I've never been a big baseball fan and barely paid attention even when Detroit won the World Series, but Sparky strolling out to the pitcher's mound has somehow been indelibly etched in my brain right next to the word "baseball."

Still nothing much to report around here; I'm still in job limbo while trying to complete my tax class, Debbie is still working at the cruise place, we still live in our ghetto apartment and we still haven't ventured any further than work and Walmart. Someday, maybe, but not today. Tomorrow isn't looking good either. For one thing, we're freezing to death down here; lows in the fifties and highs only in the mid-sixties for the next three days. Brrrrrrrr! Cold combined with general laziness doesn't make exploration likely.

Scientists continue to make progress towards a Harry Potter-esque invisibility cloak. Previous versions only worked at wavelengths longer than visible light, making them somewhat less than useful for sneaking around after curfew and pranking classmates, but the current version works for visible light. The article leaves a little vague what is meant by "works," but still. (And to be un-vague, by "a little vague" I mean "completely vague.")

"Any sufficiently advanced technology is indistinguishable from magic." - Arthur C. Clarke, "Profiles of The Future", 1961. How far are we from B5-style technomages?

In an effort to convince everyone that schools only hire First Degree Pansies as administrators, a kid was suspended for riding a horse in the parking lot. According to the school, a horse is equivalent to a "loaded firearm." This caps a week that saw a boy expelled for growing his hair out to the required length for donation to the Childhood Leukemia Foundation, and the Wakefield Track and Field boosters getting into hot water because the team's initials happen to be WTF. Remind me again why any parent would voluntarily subject their children to this passive-aggressive BS?

The biggest non-news item of the week is that the Republicans came storming back in the mid-term elections on Tuesday with a large majority in the House, a likely working majority in the Senate and the vast majority of state governorships and state houses. This is about as surprising as the massive wins for the Democrats in the 2008 elections. However, I remain to be convinced that more than a handful of those Republicans are getting the message; people didn't vote for them. This was a vote against the Nuts who missed the same message in 2008. (Election of the Nuts was a side effect of everyone voting against the Creeps.) I will be convinced when I see the following hitting the floor of both houses the first day of the new Congress: repeal of Obamacare, repeal of Dodd's financial "reform" bill, reinstatement of Glass-Steagall provisions separating investment banks from depository banks, anti-trust action against any too-big-to-fail institution with the goal of breaking it up into a number of small-enough-to-fail institutions, immediate and full disinvestment from GM and Chrysler, and an Congressional investigation into why the Justice Department has failed to criminally prosecute those involved in the massive mortgage and securities fraud. I expect to be disappointed. Oh, there will be plenty of talk about my list and more. What there won't be is any action.

A bored TSA agent decides that it would be hysterical to pretend to find cocaine in air passenger's carry-ons. I'm rolling on the floor in laughter, barely able to breath. This is one of those stories that cause you look twice then a third time to make sure you're not at The Onion. I feel so safe.

Does it ever feel like global warming is blamed for some new disaster every week or so? It's not just a feeling. A theory than can explain everything really explains nothing. And it barely deserves mentioning that the hypocrisy by our Global Warming Overlords continues:

Annual car usage (12,000 miles @ 25mpg)            9,391 [lbs CO2]
Obama Entourage to India (all sources)        27,921,100        "
U.N. Climate Confab (Copenhagen)              89,100,000       "

Now that we are closing in on the 99-week limit (remember when that seemed like forever?) on unemployment benefits for the first of the current round of unemployed, at least one state feels the need for armed guards in their unemployment offices. Probably overkill given the lethargy of Americans. I wonder how much it will take to wedge people off the couch and into the streets? Not that mobs are a good thing; the last time led to assassinations, riots and burning cities. I just can't imagine my neighbors, some of whom are so lazy that they drive to the pool located twenty steps from their apartment door and the rest are illegal immigrants, marching down the streets of Sanford. Unless free beer was involved. And a bus so there wouldn't be any actual marching.

People are still getting laid off, but we're told it's OK because the employees still working are more productive. That sounds like a good thing, but anyone who has held a job in the last ten years will tell you, it isn't. "More productive" just means they are being paid for 40 hours while working 50-60. These hours are rarely if ever tracked, so there is no possible way they are included in productivity statistics. This practice of pretending not to know that your employees are working overtime also makes enforcement of minimum wage laws impossible. [Update: just before I hit Publish, a new report shows a jump in new jobs. A bottom? Or just a blip?]

I know I'm the suspicious sort, but does anyone else find it odd that the amount of treasury bills that will be bought by the Federal Reserve with non-existent money is just about equal to what the federal government will need to borrow over the same time-period? Does that mean that our own government is acknowledging a general lack of interest by foreign governments in being our bottomless ATM? How is this "buy-back" any different from the Weimar Republic? It hasn't even happened yet and oil, gold, silver, copper, et al are jumping in price.

In food news, India's Premier announces that India needs to "scour the globe" for energy, not just for oil for transportation and coal for electrical generation, but for food production. Over the last 45 years, India's population has tripled while it's available farmland has been cut in half. The only way that can work is through massive fossil fuel consumption in agriculture. The problem is that only works as long as cheap fossil fuel is available, hence the globe scrubbing. And by good old fashioned colonialism. My irony meter just caught fire.

I was supposed to be in tax class today, but the instructor canceled again, so today will be a general-cleaning-and-job-hunting day instead.

Tuesday, November 02, 2010

DUDE

What does that word mean to you?! LOL

Saturday, October 30, 2010

At Long Last

I finally convinced someone to give me an interview yesterday. I thought it went OK (meaning that no one flat-out told me to go piss up a rope), so.... And Debbie's news I mentioned last week was that she'll be getting a 20% raise. This week was too hectic for her to have any blogging time, so I get to blab it to everyone.

Because of our schedules, we don't seem to be home on the same days anymore, so we've done zero exploring or picture-taking. Not that there is much to take pictures of around here unless you're into abandoned strip malls and boarded up houses. I did spot a couple Sandhill cranes standing in the grass strip in the middle of the road this morning. They're a bit creepy; I'm not sure I'm comfortable with a bird that can stand on the ground and look me in the eye. A tad too Jurassic Park for my taste.

While spending some time on Facebook last night, I noticed a theme: everyone wants to tell all the politicians to SHUT UP! Not that members of the ruling class ever listen to us mere plebeians. Otherwise, there would have been no bank bailouts or Obamacare; but that's a whole 'nother kettle of fish. From what I've seen of political ads here in Florida: If they are capable of convincing anyone of anything other than all politicians are moral and mental defectives, then we need to bring back IQ testing at the polls. And fast.

[We interrupt this blog post to bring you the following message: Blogger decided this morning that it no longer recognizes the user ID I've been using for years. In the attempt to figure out what the heck it was doing, Blogger may have sent e-mails to anyone who signed up waaaaaaaay back in the dark ages to post to this blog. If you get an e-mail from Google, just ignore it. Anyway; back to our regularly scheduled blog post.]

Two more Florida banks did the ol' face-plant last week along with five others, bringing the year-to-date total to 139. That's just one shy of last year's 140 bank failures. Good thing the recession is over and we're in a recovery. In a glimmer of good news, it doesn't look like any banks were shut down yesterday.

Food prices are back in the news. The so-called "core price index" (yet another doctored government statistic) has been flat or showing deflation for a couple years, but as anyone who eats or drives has probably already noticed, food and energy, both of which are excluded from the core index, have been pushing steadily upwards. Naturally, the linked headline is alarmist, along with the prominent link to an article stating that the UN views any food shortages or price increases as an opportunity to meddle. For perspective, we're not even back to where food and energy prices were in 2008. What should be noted is the cause of increase in food prices: Biofuels. I'm all for turning inedible stuff into alcohol, assuming it can be done economically without tax subsidies, but burning food in our cars is just plain stupid.

After extracting its pound of flesh, Big Green is allowing a full-scale solar electric plant to be built. I've liked the idea of solar power towers since reading about them back in the 1970's. Like all solar, they can't be used for base load, but they may make sense for daytime peak load in desert areas. Given the billions we've pissed into the sands of the Middle East, $6 billion to see if the thing will work is probably worth it.

Still more on the is-higher-education-worth-the-cost question:

Over 317,000 waiters and waitresses have college degrees (over 8,000 of them have doctoral or professional degrees), along with over 80,000 bartenders, and over 18,000 parking lot attendants. All told, some 17,000,000 Americans with college degrees are doing jobs that the BLS says require less than the skill levels associated with a bachelor’s degree.

...the growing disconnect between labor market realities and the propaganda of higher-education apologists is causing more and more people to graduate and take menial jobs or no job at all. This is even true at the doctoral and professional level—there are 5,057 janitors in the U.S. with Ph.D.’s, other doctorates, or professional degrees.

Many years ago, Scott Adams imagined Dilbert's garbage man being a member of Mensa. It seems less funny now that reality has caught up.

What I do find amusing is the constant use of religious terms by supporters of anthropogenic global warming/global climate change/global climate disruption/global whatever-term-they're-using-this-week:

The title of the article itself is rather astonishing.  The Wikipedia defines heresy as: “Heresy is a controversial or novel change to a system of beliefs, especially a religion, that conflicts with established dogma.”  The definition of dogma is “Dogma is the established belief or doctrine held by a religion, ideology or any kind of organization: it is authoritative and not to be disputed, doubted, or diverged from.”   Use of the word “heretic” by Lemonick implies general acceptance by the “insiders” of the IPCC as dogma.  If the IPCC is dogma, then count me in as a heretic.  The story should not be about me, but about how and why the IPCC became dogma.

That's from a blog post by Judith Curry, a climate scientist who was completely on-board with AGW and accepted the work of her colleagues at face value, just as most scientists do in every field of science. All was well until she started asking inconvenient questions regarding the IPCC; now she's been branded a heretic by (un-)Scientific America, and labeled a "monster" that will undue all scientific progress if she isn't silenced. We live in interesting times.

Some good news: At least one US car company is capable of building cars that people want to drive and making money without sucking on the government teat. Go Ford. This is certainly good news for an area of the country that has had three decades of consistently bad news.

A prominent black on the education of minority children:

The quest for esoteric methods of trying to educate these children proceeds as if such children had never been successfully educated before, when in fact there are concrete examples, both from history and from our own times, of schools that have been successful in educating children from low-income families and from minority families.  Yet the educational dogma of the day is that you simply cannot expect children who are not middle-class to do well on standardized tests, for all sorts of sociological and psychological reasons.

I'm still waiting for someone to explain to me why assuming black kids cannot be educated like other kids and cannot do well on standardized tests isn't just as racist as Black Codes and Jim Crow. Guess I'm just a hopeless Florida cracker.

Anyone who thinks being a cop in the US is a tough job should try it in Mexico:

All 14 police officers in Los Ramones, a rural town in northern Mexico, fled the force in terror after gunmen fired more than 1,000 bullets and flung six grenades at their headquarters on Monday night.

Yet more collateral damage in the drug wars, but it's no big; just some poor brown people.

And I'm off to do some laundry.