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.

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