Tuesday, December 30, 2008

Sifting the Rubble

I have some free time this morning. The kitchen manager called me a few minutes ago to tell me not to bother to come in as he already had five people in his kitchen. It would have been six, but the new "friends & family" guy that the owners hired didn't bother to show up on his first day. In any case, I'm on my own until noon-ish, so I thought I would sort through the dozens of open tabs I have in Firefox and inflict them on my five regular readers.

To lead off, we have one from the I Guess You Have To Be Known For Something Even If It Is Massive Suckage category. Referring, of course, to the most ineptly run football team in the history of the NFL. The last Superbowl appearance by the Detroit Lions was... oh wait; Detroit has never played in a Superbowl, hasn't won a championship since 1957, and has only been in the playoffs nine times in a half-century. But never fear, say the Fords; "His [Lions coach Rod Marinelli's] future has not been announced, but team owner William Clay Ford has decided the leaders of the front office, Martin Mayhew and Tom Lewand, will be back in some capacity." Lets see; in my lifetime, there has been a brigade of players and coaches with solid to stellar careers before and after playing/coaching in Detroit. Now I know basically nothing about football, but I can recognize a management problem from a mile away. Instead of firing yet-another coach, maybe the Ford family should fire themselves and all their croneys working "in some capacity." Or not. Every organization needs a buffoon, and given the kind of people they elect as mayor, why not Detroit? Paint the Lion's jet to look like a giant clown-car and you're all set.

Next we have one from the Are People Really So Stupid That It Has To Be Said category: don't take health advice from celebrities. I would also add, don't take political advice, scientific advice, economic advice, child-raising advice, fashion advice, or lip/breast/butt augmentation advice from celebrities. In fact, I'll make it easy: don't take advice from celebrities. On anything. Ever. Not even on how to become a celebrity, because most of them had nothing to do with it. They are celebrities due to a combination of family connections, luck and hard work by other people, and haven't a clue as to how it all happened. (I make an exception to this diatribe for Abigail Breslin, the cutest girl to stand in front of a camera since Shirley Temple.)

And one from the combination Holy Crap How Can People Who End Up Running Multinational Corporations Be So Fracking Stupid and the Ten Years Late To The Party file, we have the music industry deciding that maybe there is something to this so-called internet thing after all. Of course, they still don't get it. I've said it many times before. The music industry can have more money than God in four simple steps:

Drop all forms of DRM. It doesn't work. It can never work unless you prevent people from hearing music. If I can hear it, I can copy it. Period. Just accept that this is so, and live with it.

Fire all the lawyers at the RIAA. Suing college kids and grandparents isn't really making you any friends. It just makes everyone more determined to get music for free. Anyone that takes the time to punch the holes necessary in their firewall to make Limewire or Bittorrent work probably doesn't have the money to buy what they are downloading anyway, so the pathetic attempts to stop them will not result in higher sales. Use the money saved to do the next two steps.

Cut prices to $.25 for individual tracks and $2 or $3 for an album. And given that there is no size restriction on a digital album, that price should include no fewer than 15 tracks plus hi-res jpeg's of any artwork, band member photos, etc., and hi-def video of live performances, promotional videos, interviews, music videos, whatever. Set up a $10-per-month subscription service that allows unlimited downloads of anything more than a year old, some limited-but-still-generous downloading of current music, and access to the new stuff a week before the "official" release.

Empty the vault. Drag out all those recordings that are currently disintegrating and digitize them. Sell for $.05 a track, or unlimited downloading for subscribers. Even the federal government has figured out that keeping history locked in a vault doesn't accomplish much.

And that's it. More money than God. The music industry could make this recession their best financial performance ever. They won't.

And last but not least, we have the obligatory Holy Crap He's Still Beating That Same Patch Of Dirt That Used To Be Grass That Used To Have A Dead Horse On It category: 2008 will be remembered as the year that man-made global warming was conclusively refuted.

OK. I'm done for now.

[Updated to add: I officially nominate HCHSBTSPODTUTBGTUTHADHOI as the longest and most obscure internet acronym ever.]

We're Back

We made it back from Vegas in one piece, physically and financially. The credit card didn't actually catch fire, although I definitely heard a faint screaming. We didn't do nearly as much walking around and picture taking as we planned. The word for this trip was COLD. At least the snow was gone when we got there, but it was windy and COLD the entire time we were there.

We saw Ka as planned. It was a bit different than other Cirque du Solei shows I've seen. There was less acrobatics and more focus on the story line. It was good, and the engineering was the some of the most amazing stuff I've seen. There was no fixed stage; just two enormous hydrolic platforms. The one in the back was limited to moving up, down, forward and backward. The front platform was fully articulated, moving forward, backward, left, right, and tilting from level to fully verticle, and rotating 360 degrees while in any position. There was a six-on-six verticle fight scene that was awesome (as well as a bit vertigo-inducing).

Best line of trip was from a girl around three years old while we were waiting for the tram that connects to Excalibur, Luxor, and Mandelay Bay: "Daddy! It not a twain, its a twam!

Biggest annoyance of the trip (other than the COLD) were the timeshare sales people disguised as Excalibur hotel employees. Now if the Excalibur wants to pimp the timeshare they are investing in, that's fine. Set up your kiosks and have at it. But getting out of our room, getting in or out of the hotel, or getting to the registrations desk involved running a gauntlet of timeshare pimps that would do anything including stepping in fromt of you and blocking your path to drag you over to their stupid desk where they would go on and on about free nights and half-priced show tickets, but never ever mention "timeshare" or that you had to allow them to charge large sums of money to your credit card that they promise to give back. Over the course of our stay, we found ourselves becoming increasingly rude to the pimps, which only seemed to encourage them. The only defense seemed to be hiding in the ubiquitous large groups of Chinese whenever we had to pass one of the timeshare pimp checkpoints.

Speaking of which, I think we saw more Americans in the Vatican City than in Las Vegas. Large packs of Chinese, Korean, and Japanese could be seen everywhere and we heard a pretty fair cross-section of EU languages and well. I guess that's a better way to get all those dollars back than having the Chinese lending them to our government.

We had planned on stopping at the Hoover Dam on the way back, but when we got there, it seemed the rest of North America had the same idea. We got through that mess and didn't stop until we hit Chloride, Arizona. If there ever was a hair on the zit on the wart on the left butt-cheek of the world, it's Chloride, Arizona. 'Nuff said. (shudder)

Anyway, I need to get our Christmas pictures and road trip photos off the camera and on Flikr. Hope to get to that tomorrow or maybe Wednesday. So far, I'm scheduled to work all week, but my time at the cafe may be drawing to a close. I found myself saying out loud all the things I normally just say in my head. The owners seem to take great pride in displaying their stupidity in increasingly-obvious ways as well as pushing out all the original hires and replacing them with their friends and family. Especially friends and family that are as stupid as they are. Good luck with that, but I don't need to be a part of it.

Anyway, I need to try to get some sleep.

Wednesday, December 24, 2008

Economic News

Ho! Ho! Ho!

Retailers are so desperate that some are reverting to the Middle East bazaar model. What next? Retailers become like Egyptians and physically assault people in a vain attempt to turn them into paying customers?

Looks like my $25 floor on oil prices may have been overly-optimistic. Parts of this story make me want to cheer:
...Americans continue to cut back on driving amid the worst recession in a generation, leading to growing stockpiles of gasoline and eroding demand for motor fuel....

...Oil traders so far have brushed off attempts by OPEC to boost prices through production cuts....

Keep it up, America. Lets see those Arabs drink their oil.

Not really economic news, but we have the Notable Quotables for 2008. Some are economic, but due to the election, most are political. What would the world laugh at if there wasn't a Chris Matthews?

And the economy can't be that bad if the iFart application for the iPhone can make $10,000 a day.

Probably my last post before we leave, so Merry Christmas for real.

More Photos

In preparation for our trip to Vegas, I cleaned off the camera and found Debbie's photos from the Prescott Christmas Parade. We didn't go to the one last year because the weather was so bad and we were still unpacking from the move. Debbie ended up going to alone this year because I was working at the cafe. Someday, I may get to see one if we live here long enough.

Oh, Great

State and city budgets are or will shortly be collapsing due to falling sales taxes, real estate taxes, building permit fees, etc. No one is really talking about that yet, but they will be early next year. So what else is hiding in the bushes?

Insurance companies are imploding due to what logical people see as the predictable result of building mass concentrations of people below sea level, in the historic paths of hurricanes, on seismic faults and other places subject to periodic mass destruction. Increasing rates to cover the actual risk of living in high-risk areas is, of course, impossible. God forbid that someone stupid enough to build a wooden structure in an area swept by naturally-caused wild fires every year or so actually pay insurance fees in line with having their house rebuilt every few years. I mean, lets get serious. So in the past, insurance companies spread the risk around through re-insurance and bond markets. One small problem: those market vehicles have basically disappeared.

So guess who will be getting a bail-out in 2009.

Another surprise lurking in the hedge is regional banks. All the focus has been on the national banks with their too-big-to-fail status, ignoring that regional banks exist primarily to make residential and commercial real estate loans based on deposits from ordinary working stiffs. Well, the working stiffs more and more aren't and we all know what has happened to real estate. Most regional banks operate under tight scrutiny and don't have the luxury of Washington political connections. But there is a lot of money looking for a safe haven, and thanks to the internet, anyone in the United States can buy CD's from Bob's Bank, whether or not Bob's Bank is solvent or not. In other words, pretty much the same money (or what's left of it) that caused the real estate bubble that popped this year is now flowing into regional banks, many of which are is very bad shape. Deja vu all over again....

Merry Christmas.

In happier news, we will be heading out for Las Vegas first thing Christmas morning and will be back Sunday afternoon. I'm off work today, Debbie has a half day, then we are both free until Monday. We are mostly going to Vegas to see Ka, the Cirque du Soleil at the MGM Grand. We haven't seen it yet so why not? We'll also be heading over to Debbie's (and her mom's) favorite place in Vegas: Tower of Jewels. Somebody has a birthday coming up in a few weeks. The column of smoke you'll see coming from Vegas will be our credit card. We're not sure what else we will do, but we are staying on-strip at the Excalibur, so we will be able to hit Ethel M's for some nutritious snacks, and the M&M place and the Coke place for one day's main meal. And we will certainly check out all the stuff like the sea battle in front of Treasure Island, the fountains in front of the Belagio, etc. etc. We'll also try to get down to Fremont Street and see what's new downtown (other than the hords of tweakers hanging around everywhere). Expect lots of pictures on our Flickr account.

While we are gone, our apartment will be in the care of the killer chihuahuas next door. Seriously. Don't even think about it.

Sunday, December 21, 2008

Cats and Dogs

I don't normally post e-mail jokes because almost everyone has already seen them three or four times in their e-mail. But I liked this one. And it's my blog. Deal.

Dog's Diary:

8:00 am - Dog food! My favorite thing!
9:30 am - A car ride! My favorite thing!
9:40 am - A walk in the park! My favorite thing!
10:30 am - Got rubbed and petted! My favorite thing!
12:00 pm - Wagged my tail! My favorite thing!
1:00 pm - Played in the yard! My favorite thing!
3:00 pm - Ran back and forth in the hall! My favorite thing!
5:00 pm - Milk bones! My favorite thing!
7:00 pm - Got to play tug! My favorite thing!
8:00 pm - Wow! Watched TV with the people! My favorite thing!
11:00 pm - Sleeping on the bed! My favorite thing!

Cat's Diary:

Day 983 of my captivity.

My captors continue to taunt me with bizarre little dangling objects. They dine lavishly on fresh meat, while the other inmates and I are fed hash or some sort of dry nuggets. Although I make my contempt for the rations perfectly clear, I nevertheless must eat something in order to keep up my strength. The only thing that keeps me going is my dream of escape.

In an attempt to disgust them, I once again vomit on the carpet.

Today I decapitated a mouse and dropped its headless body at their feet. I had hoped this would strike fear into their hearts, since it clearly demonstrates what I am capable of. However, they merely made condescending comments about what a 'good little hunter' I am. Bastards!

They continue to pick me up and handle me, an obvious attempt to subvert me.

There was some sort of assembly of their accomplices tonight. I was placed in solitary confinement for the duration of the event. However, I could hear the noises and smell the food. I overheard that my confinement was due to the power of 'allergies.' I must learn what this means, and how to use it to my advantage.

Today I was almost successful in an attempt to assassinate one of my tormentors by weaving around his feet as he was walking. I must try this again tomorrow -- but at the top of the stairs.

I am convinced that the other prisoners here are flunkies and snitches.

The dog receives special privileges. He is regularly released -- and seems to be more than willing to return. He is obviously retarded.

Tonight I will again lay on their heads while they sleep and hope to smother them.

Saturday, December 20, 2008

Food or Fuel?

Feed 91 people for a year, or run your car for 21 seconds?

The One thinks this is a good idea. The one-fifth of the planet who are malnourished may feel otherwise. But they're just black (or brown) and poor, so who cares.

Merry Christmas.

...And All the Children are Above Average

Mongomery County will no longer recognize gifted students. Given No Child Gets Ahead, that's hardly surprising. But this is:
Two-fifths of Montgomery students are considered gifted on the basis of aptitude tests, schoolwork, expert opinion and parents' wishes.

Parents' wishes? How exactly does that work?

Parent: Gee, I wish my kid was gifted instead of being dumber than a rock.
School Administrator: Well, ma'am, call me Cinderella, because I can make your wishes come true.

But never fear because "School system leaders say losing the label won't change gifted instruction, because it is open to all students."

Ah. Yes. Well. That would certainly explain our academic declines in recent decades.


Still tweaking the blog layout. Removed some dead links, added some new ones, cut down on the number of widgets/categories, etc. I want to do some changes to the actual blog template at some point.

Yes, I'm bored. As usual.

Welcome to the 1950's

Here is a series of videos on Tech Ticker that feature the economist Gary Shilling. He's an older dude that's been around the block a few times and, unlike most of the MBA types that caused this mess, remembers when debt was considered slavery and saving a virtue.

Everyone would do well to adopt those attitudes. I've been saying it for a very long time: get fast, get small. The comet has hit, but the blast wave (wide-spread state and municipal bankruptcies) isn't here yet. Now isn't the time to stand up on your hind legs to see what that bright flash of light on the horizon is all about. It's time to duck.

Friday, December 19, 2008

Another Mega Post

Going back through the archives on Blogger, I noticed I seem to wander back and forth between making long, rambling posts once every few days that cover dozens of topics with no theme or organization, and making several short, to-the-point posts daily or near-daily. Not sure why that is. I think I prefer writing the long rambles, but when I'm on other people's blogs, I prefer to read the shorter, to-the-point posts. I'm sure a shrink could prescribe a pill to fix that.

Anyway, a group of American companies are joining forces to compete with Asian companies making lithium-ion batteries for cars. A fine idea, but I worry for the success of the project when I read this:
The National Alliance for Advanced Transportation Battery Cell Manufacture said lithium ion batteries "are anticipated to replace gasoline as the principal source of energy in future cars and military vehicles."

Um, no they won't. A battery is not a "source of energy" any more than an empty gas tank is a source of energy. A battery is a storage device for electricity generated by things like coal-fired plants that our next president wants to tax out of existence. It is precisely this sort of muddled thinking that forces me to bet on the Asians.

Crude oil futures are below $40. So much for my $100 floor, my $75 floor, and my $50 floor for oil prices. Maybe a $25 floor? Good thing I don't make investment decisions based on whatever is rattling around in my head when I write this stuff, and just shove our money into CD's instead. In any case, I still maintain that this is temporary and our future will look more like what we saw this summer. Probably not next year, but certainly by 2010. And best of all, no one will remember this post by then, including me. Sweet.

I missed the fourth anniversary of this blog, and the 1,000-posts milestone. We've been doing this on Blogger since September 21, 2004 and this is something like post number 1,145. The original web journal that we started out with begins on April 1, 2000. I had intended to transfer some of the more meaningful posts here, but have never gotten a round tuit. I may still do that. All the entries are on my hard drive, although the vast majority of them are "Work and school." Probably what most of the entries here will be from January through May.

And no, there was no point to that paragraph.

Central Athens is still a cloud of tear gas. This all started over a teenager killed by a police "warning shot." I'm not sure that the people rioting even remember that, or what, exactly, setting the town Christmas tree on fire has to do with protesting police brutality. I guess you need to be Greek. The police could probably end this with a few more well-placed "warning shots."

The NewTek TriCaster looks to do the same thing to video production that we saw with music about a decade ago. The current version is $4,000. Moore's Law will halve that in 18 months, putting it in the same price range as a decent PC. Content delivery over the internet can now be considered a solved problem. Anyone care to predict how long before the internet does to cable TV what cable TV did to broadcast TV?

The Trek universe has lost another of its icons. The voice of the Enterprise is now silent.

At work yesterday, we only had about 20 customers all day. I still don't have an actual job that I do while I'm there. I spent seven hours cleaning out and organizing storage areas, refrigerators and freezers, and talking about what exactly it is that I'm supposed to be doing while I'm there. Yet-another line cook was supposed to be the answer, but it looks like they will need a full-time prep guy. Hopefully, when we come back from our Christmas Las Vegas trip, my hours will change to something like 5am to noon and I will be rolling meatballs, making soup, slicing, dicing, chopping, and generally getting things ready first for breakfast, then helping with the transition to lunch, then I'm gone for the day. That will certainly help with the college thing by consolidating my free time into a single block instead of my current three-hours-in-the-morning, scamper-off-to-work, few-more-hours-in-the-evening mode of operation.

We had dinner at the restaurant I worked at way back at the beginning of the year. They are still hanging on, with with less than half the staff they had when I was there. There were only four other tables while we ate. When I worked there, Thursday night was the busiest night of the week. (It's a Prescott thing; don't ask.) They are now open only four days a week. I haven't been by the bakery lately, but based on the rumors around town, nothing has changed there, either. Every prediction has next year being pretty much more of the same that we have seen this year, so Prescott may start looking like Flint did in 1982.

Time to scamper.

Almost Not Funny

This exact scenario played out so many times in my 22 years in a cubicle that it almost isn't funny. Almost.

Wednesday, December 17, 2008

Work and Randomness

As I predicted, the uptick in business at the cafe after the radio ad blitz on Thanksgiving weekend has proven temporary. It looked for a while as if it would sustain, but as of about a week ago, it completely fizzled. The last two days have been the worst since the place opened. As of yesterday, I don't even have a job to do while I'm there. I literally stand around polishing the tile on the walls for six hours a day. Everything I was assigned to do has been given to other people, but for some reason, I'm still there. The best part is that the owners seem determined to keep me for reasons that are a complete mystery to me. Monday was absolutely hysterical. There was one person running the cash register and waiting on customers with only occasional help running food and bussing tables. All day. One person handled every single customer. Meanwhile, in the kitchen, there were five people working to make the food orders that that one person was taking.

Anyone expect this place to survive long? Me neither. The owner freely admits he knows nothing about the restaurant business. Ya think?

In other news, global warming strikes North America with ice storms, snow storms and record cold temperatures. And it ain't even Christmas yet.

Flat-dead-tree media continues to decline into irrelevance. I can't remember the last time I read a newspaper, and I was about twelve when I figured out that the most truthful part of a newspaper was the comics page. Dead man... er... make that, "Flat dead tree walking."

Speaking of global warming, our temps here have been running about the same as in Michigan. There was even snow on the ground when I walked to work yesterday. Well, more like slushy water. We were supposed to get hit with a snow storm today, but it didn't materialize. Just cold, windy and cloudy.

Paul Graham has an interesting post about credentialism and the changes taking place in the US economy. I think it answers the questions that Scott Adams posted a couple days ago about the future of capitalism. In many ways, smaller is better now that technology has removed many of the barriers to entry that for over a century have made "bigger is better" synonymous with capitalism. The question is will Washington mandate the bigger-is-better model? Bigger is certainly easier to regulate, and we seem to be heading toward every facet of our existence being micro-managed from the Imperial City. Will small once again out-manouver the regulators? The next ten years could be very interesting indeed.

I mentioned a while back that I will be starting up college again around the end of January. The load will be pretty heavy; I will be taking regular on-line classes plus dropping into a series of cohorts to finish up as quickly as possible. At a couple points, I will be in three classes at the same time, something I haven't done since the last time I was a full-time college student in 1983. I don't know if I can do it, but it would be nice to be done by next summer. Then I would be a dishwasher with a BS degree. Or more likely, an unemployed dishwasher with a BS degree. I'm almost hoping to get canned before my first class starts up January 26. It won't help our budget any, but at least I would have time to sleep.

Speaking of which, I need some.

Sunday, December 14, 2008


[Update: According to Scott Adams's blog, this is most-linked-to Dilbert comic ever.]

Saturday, December 13, 2008

Want a pen pal?

I came across an article in a magazine --- you can visit this website (http://www.adoptaplatoon.org/) and sign up to be pen pals with an active service person.

I just started --- they will call you to explain their programs -- I chose the pen pal program -- and then will send you an email with your person's name and some info about them. I have two -- one is from NJ and the other is from Hawaii. They were both deployed to Iraq. (No, you don't have to worry about international postage --- you mail things to the APO address given)

I may ask Ric to write some notes also ... I think it would be great if a family "adopted a soldier" ... then each person could take a different week to write/make a card/send pictures etc.

I know how much I love getting cards/notes/emails/phone calls. Just think about those that are not here in the USA and have easy access to those things. Take a moment and see if you would like to give somebody a quick note each week.


Yellow, pink, blue, orange, green....some colors of highlighters.

What was the highlight of your 2008? Something that stood out/that you want to remember/something that you would highlight when reading about your life in 2008...............

The year is coming to a close, think back on the events of your life; the good and the bad. We all have our ups and downs. I hope your ups outweigh your downs. I wish I was like my friend Kim back in Michigan --- she journals --- and never has to wonder what happened and when or forget "little" things.

I think that will be one of my New Year's resolutions. I have a small journal that I received from a coworker when I was leaving. I did write in it when we started our trip from Michigan to Arizona (via Florida). I like revisiting it --- especially the day I wrote down that Ric told me loved me first. It meant so much to have him say it to me -- not repeat it back to me. And to see my note the day we left Michigan --- I believe I wrote "the first day of the rest of our lives" -- or something like that.

Friday, December 12, 2008

Moral Defectives

Moral defectives in Washington DC are refusing to disclose to whom $2 trillion was given and in exchange for what. One presumes an honest accounting will include a great deal of booze and whores, but even a less-than-honest list of just what collateral a bunch of bankrupt banks could put up in exchange for $2 trillion would be enlightening.

Meanwhile the moral defectives in Chicago, political birthplace of our next president, are... um... doing what the moral defectives in Chicago have been doing for going on two centuries.

In other words, nothing new.

Merry Christmas.

Thursday, December 11, 2008

MPEG Player

OK, so I'm poking around this morning and happen to visit the VideoLAN web page. There is a new version of VLC (still pre-release, but newer than what I'm using) that has a much better user interface and video playback is much closer to what Windows Media Player and the Quicktime player give. So strike what I said about epileptic camera men. VLC is shaping up to be a decent video player while not being "improved" to the point of inutility.

See? Complaining works! Better yet, my powers of self-justification and rationalization are undiminished. Even if I'm still out $20.

Hungry. Must eat generic Lucky Charms NOW!

Catching Up

And a week flies by while I try to finish off Infinite Jest. The book covers a lot of ground, then just sort of ends on page 981. OK. Well.

So today was catch-up-on-everything-I-haven't-been-doing-for-a-week-because-I-was-plowing-through-a-book day.

Yea. One of those posts.

Anyway, human-caused global warming continues to get hammered. And even really smart people who think there is something to it argue that there are more important things to spend resources on. Not that any of it will make any real difference. I do find that news of layoffs at Yahoo! and Google getting more attention than the world ending in 20 years hysterical. Nothing like the threat of having to use the same PC for 18 months to knock that whole everyone-will-die thing right off the national agenda. Good to see we still have our priorities right.

A guy invented a robot wife that can cook, clean, hold up her end of a conversation and slap at anyone other than the husband who tries to cop a feel. Apply Moore's Law. Factor in sex-selection abortions and China's one-child policy creating a generation of men with no hope of marriage, and it's pretty easy to see where this is going. (No place good, if you were wondering.)

The EU is starting to fray a bit about the edges. As the most entitled-feeling generation in human history gets pinched harder and harder in the next 12-18 months, we'll see much more of this. Realizing of course that "pinched" in this generation's estimation means Basic Cable, a Dell instead of an Alienware PC, and making due with last year's 40" LCD instead of a new 60" plasma TV.

Scott Adams is a god:
Comic strips are supposed to be an exaggerated world, but lately it has been hard to concoct ideas for Dilbert that are more absurd than reality. For example, when Dilbert's company develops a new product, I want it to be worse than any product you have ever seen in real life. I thought I was ahead of the curve until I saw my dog's reaction to her dog food. Let's start by saying she doesn't care for it.

Now you might think this is not the least bit unusual. Pets have preferences just like people, so it should be no surprise that she wouldn't like a particular brand of dog food. At least that's how I saw it until I reflected on the things she DOES like to eat, including every other type of food, the cat's food, mud, twigs, bugs, cat vomit, and her own turds.

If you ask me, the bar has been set low. How bad does your company's product have to be before your target market prefers eating its own poop? If I wrote a comic along those lines it would be too absurd to work even as comedy.

Remember that line as you Christmas shop: "How bad does your company's product have to be before your target market prefers eating its own poop?" That pretty much expresses what I feel walking through any store at Christmas.

Did I mention that Scott Adams is a god?

And just in time for Christmas:

Speaking of preferring to eat my own poop, I bought something at the Apple Store last night. See, I've been in the market for a decent video player that supports MPEG-2 (the encoding used on standard DVD's). I have been gradually building up a movie collection for a couple years now. At first, I watched them in Windows Media Player. It worked, the video was good, blah, blah. Somewhere along the line, Microsoft "improved" the software so that it gets all confused because the video's have 5.1 surround sound and our laptop only has stereo. The movie plays, but the only sound is left-front and right-front. Given that 99% of the dialog is on the center channel, our movie watching began to lack something. Although given Hollywood's typical output, some movies were improved.


The first try was VLC, an open source project that gets a lot of positive geek chatter. And installing and using that did indeed solve the audio problem. The downside is that the video quality is, to be charitable, slightly less visually appealing than WMP. So for several months now, I've been on an on-and-off quest for another media player. I found several mentions of a Quicktime (Apple's video player/format) add-on that would allow Quicktime to play MPEG-2 videos. But it costs $20. Not a lot of money, but still. I kept poking around, not finding alternatives and ending up back at the Quicktime add-on. So in a moment of weakness, I bought it last night. Download, install, fire up a movie. The video is gorgeous.

And amazingly silent. That may work for Charlie Chaplin, but not for The Dark Knight.

There is, even in the universe of paid software, nothing that remotely resembles a help desk. So I hit the forums, and, not finding anyone with my particular problem, started a new thread. The answer was a link to a FAQ page in 6-point text, with an oh-by-the-way buried two-thirds the way in saying that the add-on doesn't support AC3 audio.

Which is what every movie made since the invention of the DVD is encoded with.

So the add-on will work with any MPEG-2 file other than all of them, excepting (some) home movies.

So I'm still watching movies that jerk around like the camera man has uncontrolled epilepsy and my wallet is $20 lighter. Merry Christmas to me.

Work has been up and down. Since firing the manager, sales have increased dramatically, food costs are much lower, we don't run out of things nearly as often. I've gotten most of my hours back on next week's schedule, although we still have at least one and more likely two superfluous kitchen staff. The owner is still injecting cash to keep the paychecks from bouncing, which wouldn't be bad in a two-month-old business, except I don't think he has enough cushion to do it for much longer. And, as is natural when something like this happens, there are a lot of babies getting tossed out with the bathwater. Inevitable, but unfortunate.

And I'm off to bed. Enough for now.

Friday, December 05, 2008

Sleepless in Prescott Again

Sitting up and blogging because every time I lay down and try to sleep I wake up choking from my lungs filling up with fluid. I went to the doctor Tuesday who said I need to just "fight it off" because it was "just a virus" as he ran off down the hall, having already given me my 2.47 minutes of face time.

Pneumonia can of course be caused by a viral infection. Must be another bit of knowledge that hasn't made it out here to the Territories yet.

As predicted, the cafe manager is history. I hung around and talked to the owner and it sounds like they had good reason to doubt the guy's competence and basic integrity. I'm sure I would hear a very different story were I to bother to look up my now-ex-manager. My personal experience lends a certain credibility to the owner's version of events, but every story has at least two sides. In any case, I have no intention of falling on my sword for the guy. Every one that works there gets along pretty well and business has, against all odds and expectations, been picking up since The Big Day. Who knows? I may have found a job that will last more than three months after all. Mild optimism is beginning to intrude.

Then I make the mistake of looking at the market data from today. Maybe not.

Well, I'm off the see what other happy news I can find on the web. Then I'm going to bury myself into Infinite Jest until I get the thing done. It's 1,000 very-dense pages of the most convoluted storyline I think I've ever encountered. Don't get me wrong; it's a great book and gets better the further I dig into it. But a casual read it ain't. And it's due back to the library on 12/12, so I need to put it to bed.

And maybe sleep. Or not. Waking up feeling like I'm drowning in the fluid from my not-pneumonia isn't a lot of fun.

Monday, December 01, 2008


So much for the market rally.

Holiday sales were up, but only with discounts that resulted in a cash loss on every item sold. And so far, the numbers say the usual loss-leader effect was not there. People came in, bought what was 50% or 60% off and left. Given that a record percentage said that they were done Christmas shopping, don't expect even this vaguely good news to hold up.

The automakers are due back to beg Congress for money again. Maybe this time they'll car pool. Idiots.

At least gas prices will stay low. OPEC is leaving production at current levels, driving oil back below $50. I just hope people are smart and keep doing what they've been doing. We may be at a turning point where people are tired of being jerked around by inbred Saudi princes, and dumb-ass auto companies, and the profit-before-all-else oil companies, and are just refusing to play anymore.

Uncle Henry talks to Congress. Whenever I see one of these ass-clowns talking, I respond to every single statement with "Why?" "How?" "Says who?" Probably one reason Debbie doesn't stay in the room. Domestic tranquility aside, I think I have a valid point. When Uncle Henry says more people should own their own home: "Why?" All the data shows that a lot of people own homes that shouldn't. The only way to make it possible for more people to be able to own a home is for homes to be cheaper. But then Uncle Henry says that we must stop the slide in home values: "Why?" It's pretty clear that a lot of people can't afford a home at current pricing levels. So which is it Uncle Henry? Higher prices or more homeowners? Don't tell me that the head of the US Treasury never took Econ 101.

Anyway, give it try. At a minimum, you'll annoy the crap out of your spouse.