Politics at it's worst, er, stupidest

From the December 22nd "i, cringely" column:
On this theme of corporate consistency I'd like to continue by looking at H.R. 4569, the Digital Transition Content Security Act of 2005, which proves the point I've made many times over the years, that when it comes to technology, government doesn't really know what it is doing. H.R. 4569, which was introduced in the U.S. House of Representatives on December 16th, is intended to protect the intellectual property rights of movie studios by MAKING ANALOG-TO-DIGITAL CONVERSION ILLEGAL.

I am not making this up.

Under the Act as proposed, manufacturers will have one year after passage to stop making devices that convert analog signals like music and video into digital forms unless those forms preserve some original Digital Rights Management technology present in presumably the pre-analog stage.

What this is about, then, isn't making it illegal to use a digital recorder to record from analog microphone. Heck, that would destroy the music industry. Congress's thinking (if we dare call it that -- I see no flashes of synapses firing) is that media are going digital more and more and the greatest opportunity for snatching content is during the actual performance when, for the sake of driving a screen or a speaker, the digital signal goes analog.

What's covered by this proposed law are things like TiVO and RePlay Digital Video Recorders, TV tuner cards for your PC, software intended to record audio or video streams, or just about any device or program you might use to actually implement that part of the Digital Millennium Copyright Act that says you have the right (though soon not the equipment) to backup or media-shift your own music and movies.

This is law-making at its worst. It isn't burning books, but very close to that since one could see how scanners, too, will be outlawed, making for some people the production of books more difficult. And of course it simply won't work. Since the act doesn't require destroying existing TV tuner cards, then the half dozen I own ought to be worth plenty on eBay. Same for every kind of DVR you can think of. And some people will still make their own devices, which won't be illegal as far as I can see, as long as they don't offer them for sale. We'll see TV tuner cards for sale minus a single resistor, thus turning them from products and into kits for, well, something. Could it be a TV tuner? Nah.

And of course the bill completely ignores the fact that the Internet is a global network. Expect our friends in Canada to create a robust industry in grabbing signals from U.S. radio and TV stations and feeding them back across the border, just as we can expect the French, who this week pretty much took all restrictions off peer-to-peer file sharing, to provide us lots of free music.

This is political posturing and special interest pandering at best and is unlikely to do much to protect intellectual property rights while doing quite a bit to alienate folks who actually understand the breathtaking inanity of what's being proposed.

Which sadly reminds me of a political fundraising breakfast years ago at the Yale Club in New York City. Bill Bradley was trying to run for President and raising money as fast as he could with events like this. Comedian Bill Cosby was there in the audience. "Bill, you are a comic, tell us a joke," asked Bradley.

"Senator, you are a politician, first tell us a lie," said Cos.
Whose interests are the pols in Washington representing? Who comes up with these ideas? The problem is that most people don't read Slashdot or Arstechnica and have no ideas that their "fair use" rights are being stepped on like this.

File this under: Female Teachers a Threat, Female Porn Stars Not

The Walkerville Weekly Reader has an article about a 29 year-old female high school teacher from New Zealand who was asked to change seats by an airline steward because she was sitting next to an unaccompanied 13 year-old boy on a flight. Huh?
When asked if the airline considered female teachers to be dangerous to children, Ms. Fualaau replied, “That’s not what I said.” According to Fualaau, “this is just as much to protect teachers from potential allegations as it is to protect children from predatory female teachers.”
One has to ask, if female teachers are such a threat, why would they be allowed to teach in the first place? I didn't realize that there were so many predatory female teachers outside of New Hampshire.

Message to unaccompanied 13 year-old boys: strippers are safer than teachers so it is OK to skip school and go to Centerfolds or Scores.

NB: The above post and referenced article are a joke. The real article is regarding the banning of men from sitting next to unaccompanied children on flights. Excerpt:

Auckland man Mark Worsley says an air steward approached him after take-off on the Christchurch to Auckland flight and told him to change seats with a women sitting two rows in front. The steward said it was the airline's policy that only women were allowed to sit next to unaccompanied children.

"At the time I was so gobsmacked that I moved. I was so embarrassed and just stewed on it for the entire flight."

gobsmacked defined


The Misadventures of Hello Cthulhu

This series has to be the most twitsted, yet funny sites I have seen in quite a while. Do take the time to read through as may of the comics as possible.


Which side are you on?

Well, the continent of Africa has spoken! They want to keep the Thinkpad black -- in fact, they're the only continent to feel that way.

You can vote here.


Who is this Hubble guy?

Another Beavis and Butthead moment over at CNN. How does stuff like this get past the editors?


Another excellent rant at one of my favorite blogs

Jeff Harrell over at The Shape of Days has another rambling rant that covers topics from XML and Web 2.0 to the current Presidential "crisis" over the "illegal" wire tapping that's been going on.
Good read, as always.


Barbie, uh, mods

Some British researchers have discovered what kids (girls as well as boys) do to Barbie. Mastectomy surgery wasn't specifically mentioned.


My State Legislators are Dumber than Yours

You think the Europeans think Americans are stupid already? Ok, you actually care what the Europeans think of Americans? I don't know what to say. This should give Hugo Chaves a shitload of ammunition against the people of the USA.

Why? I really don't know what to say.


If I knew how to do this in college

Hell, what about the kids working at A&F or J. Crew? They use those stupid plastic boards and the shirts never come out looking that good.


Stuck in Chelsea

One of the joys of owning a Blackberry is the ability Blog from it. Right now I am on a standing-room-only train stuck right outside the Chelsea station. The train hit a car and we have been sitting here for about 45 minutes. Oh, did I mention that we're also getting pounded by the snow storm from hell?

People really get agrivated. I really don't want to see what the bathroom looks like now.

What do I get when I get home? No power. Joy of joys. Thank God it's Friday...


What to do with free time in Ohio

Growing up in NJ I saw my fair share of gaudiness (and Guidos) but this Ohio family has set a new standard for over-the-top Christmas (yes Christmans, not the generic "holiday") lighting. The "geek" side of me says, "cool" while the homeowner says "not in my backyard."

Here is a link to an explanation of it all: how he did it, the song title, how he piped the sound through an FM modulator so the sound wouldn't disturb the neighbors, etc.


Palm Oil and Kyoto

What happens when one geographical region has to restrict the amount of CO2 it emits, and another doesn't? Gosh, that's a good question. Maybe some kind of arbitrage?

This guy talks about what's going to happen when Malaysia and Indonesia ramp up their production of palm oil to sell to the EU.


Dilbert Strikes Again

Found this through blog goddess Jane Galt, who is an MBA that writes for The Economist in her real life.

Scott Adams just nails it.
Best and Worst Jobs

Yet another “third highest ranking al-Qaida leader” has been killed, this time by a rocket attack from an unmanned drone. There are a lot of jobs that I wouldn’t want, and “third highest ranking al-Qaida leader” is right at the top. But I can tell you for sure that if I ever got that job, the first thing I’d do is narc out one of the top two guys so I could move up a notch. Apparently one of the perks of being in the top two is having a really, really good hiding place. The number 3 through 10 leadership guys are pretty much scurrying between mud huts and looking at the sky a lot.

Read the rest!

3D Pavement Drawings

Yet another linkblog entry (take that, Mÿke!):

3D Pavement Drawings from some crazy Australian artist. I wouldn't mind it if he spent some time here in DC; I'd like to see what these look like from non-favored angles.


Foresight is NOT 20/20

Even the best journalists get it wrong when they try to divine the future from the entrails of the present.

At least Forbes is willing to reach into the vault occasionally to pull up gems like this:
November 1, 1975

Toyota on Top

This is the year Toyota will become the top auto importer to the U.S. It may also be the company's last hurrah. With the lower end of the compact market increasingly crowded by Datsun and Chevette and Honda, and with the upper end increasingly preempted by Volkswagen, the next few years may not be such a happy ride for Toyota. Toyota Motor Sales' new president, Isao Makino, is watching nervously as GM's new Chevettes begin arriving on dealer floors.

I'm not exactly the picture of style tooling around in my Toyota Corolla but it beats the hell out of a Chevette. I suppose I'd be psyched to be driving one if my previous car was a Pacer. (I actually knew someone like that.)

Google Video Of The Day Blog

If you ever felt overwhelmed by the Google Video website, this site helps you wade through the morass of mediocrity to find only the best of the best.

This site gets 5 Rusties...


Friday Afternoon Cat Blogging

Say hello to Rusty. This 5-year-old picture captures Rusty at his best, sunning himself without a care in the world.


There are no words to describe this...

...I am speechless.

Take a look.


You can find the play-by-play for this "fascinating" two-part episode here and here.


The truth really does hurt

On one hand I can see why people are upset. However, it is kind of funny in a weird, sick way. Some people had a different view:
Kim Koster heard about it and brought her camera. "It's like putting Christmas lights up on your FEMA trailer. It just makes you feel better," said the New Orleans resident, whose home was flooded.
As children rode by on a motorized train that circled the display, Ray Smith and his wife, Marcia, chuckled at the "Caution -- Operates Only in Good Weather" sign next to a model of a Jefferson Parish pumping station. It was a wry reference to a decision by Jefferson Parish president Aaron Broussard to evacuate pump operators before Katrina hit on August 29, inundating the area.


Why meat is good for you (I)

What better than Thanksgiving week to remind some of our readers and contributors about the value of meat and hopefully, as implied by the Roman numeral in the post title, kick off a continuing segment on paci.blog.

From today's Best of the Web:
Meat saves lives, too, as the Chicago Tribune reports:

Mark Copsy saw the smoke inside the car, and watched as the vehicle careered into a curb in Northlake on Sunday afternoon. It took him only a moment to realize the horror--the car was on fire, and there were people inside. Copsy and his 12-year-old son ran the half-block to help.

When they got to the car, Copsy, 42, said he couldn't open the door. Inside, he could see an elderly man in the driver's seat. A female passenger sat next to him, her face white. He tried to smash the glass with his foot, but couldn't do it. In his hands, he held a 20-pound frozen Norbest turkey he and his son had just bought for Thanksgiving.

"I said, 'Hell, I'll just use the damn turkey.' And that's what I did," Copsy said. He yelled for the driver to cover his face, and used the turkey to smash out three windows.

Just try doing that with tofu!

Scotch® Tape Stymies Sony Copy Protection

It's nice to see that such hi-tech copy-protection, er, Digital Rights Management, schemes can be thwarted with such low-tech tools as Scotch® Tape. I don't know if the Scotch® Tape solution is higher-tech or lower-tech than the Magic Marker® solution to prior attempts to limit the fair-use of products consumers purchase.

I wonder if this will violate the Digital Millennium Copyright Act (DMCA)...

Stupid Sony.

Iraqi Factions Seek Timetable for U.S. Pullout

I must admit that when I saw the headline for this article, I immediately thought the the "factions" were the insurgents and had a picture in my mind of these masked gunmen holding a press conference. Twisted? I don't know, but I'm sure Senators Kerry and Kennedy would comply with the insurgents' demands.

(If that isn't dry-ass kindling for a fire, I don't know what else is.)


Austrian Town Gets no Sun, Hires Dr. Evil for Solution

Well, not really, but can't you just see it? Secluded mountain town gets no sun from November through February, large corporations (and the EU) foot most of the bill, genetic experiments ensue? Come on, with quotes like:
"I am sure we will soon help other mountain villages see the light," says Markus Peskoller, Lichtlabor's director.
...how can you tell me that nothing sinister is going on? Don't come crying to me when Austrian zombie mountain men start pillaging your town and eating your loved-ones' brains! Come on, the town is in the shadow of Rat Mountain! Something is amiss. I for one do not welcome our new mirror toting, German speaking, you-are-the-sunshine-of-my-life zombie-making masters.


SNL - Steve Jobs skit

This is a moderately humorous skit from SNL. However, like most SNL skits, it goes on a bit too long.


Fun with Photo Booth

What to do when you're wandering around the mall with the little lady and don't feel like going into Ann Taylor or 9 West? You got it, head for the Apple Store and browse the Internet. However, this time, I decided to post to the blog from the store. Below are some photos that I took with the new application Photo Booth which comes on the new iMac.


Ernie and Me

Cisco buys Scientific Atlanta

Arstechnica has a nice little writeup of Cisco's latest aquisition, Scientific Atlanta. Maybe we will now see cable boxes that have features that geeks and non-geeks can use. Since Cisco is in a buying mood, maybe they should pickup TiVO and integrate its technology into the cable box. Cable boxes will still be needed going forward until every last American replaces their analog-only TVs with CableCard 2.0 TVs which would remove the need for cable boxes in the first place. This is going to be interesting.

I've seen the next generation and WOW!

I was in the Best Buy at the Landmark Center in Kenmore Square last night killing some time before I went to a holiday party. I was roaming the isles looking for something to pique my interest when I rounded a corner and saw a bunch of college-aged guys standing in front of a 52" plasma screen watching the trailer to King Kong. Or so I thought.

These guys were playing, get the official title, Peter Jackson's King Kong for Xbox 360 in HD. Normally I am not terribly impressed by consoles and console games. Some may say that I am, in fact, behind the time. I am. Hell, I just played Halo for the first time. Anyway, the graphics and the motion were beautiful. If I had $399 for the Xbox AND $2,100 for a nice 46" or more DLP AND extra time on my hands, I'd be camping out at Best Buy at 0700 Monday just to have a small hope of landing one.

I also saw a demo of Call of Duty 2 and it too was incredible in HD. If this is what the Xbox 360 will do, I am really wondering what the PS3 will bring. (Also curious as to Nintendo's next offering. What will the next Metroid in HD look like?)

If you would like to see a comparison of what is known about the three new systems, click here for the take of Jon "Hannibal" Stokes from Arstechnica.


Cardinal Warns Parents About Giving Wireless Devices as Christmas Gifts

Cardinal Warns Parents About Giving Wireless Devices as Christmas Gifts -- Beliefnet.com
Actually, it should read "Cardimal Tells Parents to Parent their Children."

Music on my cell phone or "How to Give More Money to Two Industries I Already Give Too Much To"

Walt Mossberg over at The Wall Street Journal has written a review today in his Personal Technology column of the new SprintNextel music store. You need either the paper Journal OR an Online Subscription to read the article, sorry. I will, however, quote extensively...

What I find interesting (in a sad way) is that the music business and the cell phone business just don't get it. They seem to be looking at old economic models and stand in the wasy of technological advancement. Do you make more money selling 100 songs for $2.50 or 500 songs for $0.99?
... Sprint and the record labels have decided to spoil their breakthrough service by setting a stratospheric new price for the legal download of a single song: $2.50. That's 2.5 times the 99 cents that Apple and others charge on their online stores for a better-quality version of the very same song. Right now, Sprint is offering the first five downloads free, but starting with the sixth song, the $2.50-a-song price kicks in. The charges show up on your cellphone bill.

Sprint says its higher price is justified by the convenience factor, the ability to buy a song on the go, when the impulse strikes. The company compares this to paying more than usual for milk at an all-night convenience store, or for hot dogs at a ballpark. Also, Sprint contends, there are many people who find PC-based music stores too hard to use, and they will be willing to pay more for something simpler.

I believe something else is at work here: a lethal combination of two industries many consumers believe typically charge too much. One is the bumbling record industry, which has been seeking to raise prices in the fledgling legal downloading market even as it continues to bleed from free, illegal downloading. The other is the cellphone carriers, or, as I like to call them, "the Soviet ministries," which too often treat their customers as captive and refuse to allow open competition for services they offer over their networks.
Ok, I can sort of understand charging $2.50 for a song because there are some capital costs the need to be recouped AND the record companies need to be paid, but that's not what they're using for justification. They're using the convenience factor argument. However, buying a hot dog at Fenway Park for $3.00 is no a simple convenience, it's necessary if you want to each a hot dog and watch the Red Sox. You can't bring your own. (Though that does bring me back to that Oscar Meyer commercial of the 70's where the father pulls a hot dog on a bun out of his briefcase and hands it to his son. Let's have a weiner roast, you don't have to build a fire, all you need is Oscar Meyer...)

Anyone else wnat to comment on the stupid statement that a cell phone based music store is easier to use or simpler than a computer based store like, I don't know, ITMS? I know there are other stores out there whose interfaces aren't as good as the one iTunes has, but really, how bad of a designer do you have to be to lose out to a cell phone? I just don't buy it. If you can't figure out how to use a music store on a computer, I really don't think you have the cognitive skills to use one on a cell phone much less buy the right phone and purchase the right service. I don't think there's much of a "dumb people" market for Sprint|Nextel to tap into. Then again, people do pay $2.99 for ringtones, which are, for all intents and purposes, parts of songs.

Also, if you want that song you just downloaded onto your cell phone on your computer? You need to download it again (no extra charge!!) ON YOUR COMPUTER which was too difficult for you to use in the first place. Hmmm. Your're dumb, just dumb enough to buy our crap!
The high costs don't stop there. The new music store can be accessed -- so far -- on only two new high-end phones, from Sanyo and Samsung, which cost more than $200, even after rebates. Even then, if you want to store more than about 32 songs on your phone, you'll have to spring for a larger memory card, which costs anywhere from $25 to $100. You have to pay at least $15 a month for a data plan that allows you just to access the music store, though you also get other services.
I really don't think I will be buying one of these phones. Besides, I am an online music success story! I've purchased more music from iTunes in the past year than I had CDs or Vinyl in my life. I'm saving the record labels tons of money on distribution. They should thank me.

Now get out of my pocket.


The Intelligent Designer

I'll break with my standard practice of linkblogging to spit out something that's been bugging me for a while: Intelligent Design.

Let's look at the question: "Is the state of the natural world, in particular the existence of human beings, the result of intelligent design?". This is equivalent to "... the work of an Intelligent Designer." So far, so good, and it's all neutral inquiry.

Now we come to a fork in the road: is this Intelligent Designer part of the natural world, or not? That is, is the Intelligent Designer natural, or supernatural?

If the answer is "supernatural," then we're not doing science anymore. Go directly to theology class, do not pass Go, do not collect two hundred more freaking signatures.

If the answer is "natural," then we have to ask a whole bunch more questions about the nature of the Intelligent Designer, starting with, "Dude, what's up with the human appendix?" and moving on inexorably to "Wait, if the Intelligent Designer is a natural being, then he's bound by all the laws of nature, just like us, and, uh, where exactly did he come from?"

You can now choose again from "supernatural" and "natural"; if you finish at all, you finish on "supernatural", and we can dump all this putatively "scientific inquiry" back over on the Humanities side of the fence where it belongs.


Yo, Adrian! I got WiFi !

Was strolling through Philly today and came across this story in the newspaper boxes. (You don't necessarily find everything first on the web).

Wi-Fi highway is uncertain route for several cities

It's about the city's plan to provide WiFi to its residents, which I think is a dubious idea given the town's record of disposing (or not, when they have garbage strikes) of taxpayer dollars.

Here's a couple points of the piece to ponder:

Will the initiative help reduce the digital divide?
Getting more low-income people online is one of the primary objectives behind what Philadelphia is doing. According to Neff, about 42 percent of the city's population now has no Internet access.

In the effort to get the number down to 20 percent in five years, EarthLink is expected to offer rates of $10 a month for low-income users ("low-income" has yet to be defined), as opposed to a standard rate of $20. That rate already is offered in about one-third of the city by Closed Networks Inc., a local company.

Those prices are lower than cable, comparable to dial-up and some DSL rates. (In San Francisco, Google has proposed providing free citywide wireless for everyone.)
But the current cost of Internet service - and its unavailability in some pockets of the city - may not be the biggest obstacles to expanding access; 36 percent of Philadelphians don't have computers.

Wireless Philadelphia plans to use revenues from EarthLink and other sources to help bring computers and computer-training to the poor.

"If the prime focus here was really broadband access for impoverished residents, there are other, simpler ways to go about it," said Ellen Daley, an analyst for Forrester Research, an independent, Massachusetts-based company that studies the business of technology. "You might target subsidies to the poor through the existing providers."

Is the plan realistic, economically and technically?
Berryman says that he's confident that EarthLink will be able to make money. But Michael J. Balhoff, a Maryland-based consultant whose research has been financed by established Internet service providers, says the numbers don't add up.
He and other experts say that EarthLink also is underestimating the difficulties of covering a vast, urban area and the cost of operating and maintaining the system. The vast majority of signal boxes will be on utility poles, exposed to weather and vandals.

If it all goes wrong, they may need Rocky to devise a lower tech mass broadband scheme the way he did his own phone system:

Yo, Paulie -- Ya sister's with me! I'll call ya later.

New and nifty web statistics

In the sidebar at the bottom you should see a new icon with the hit count for this page. It's a freebee from a company called Sitemeter. Click on the icon to see detailed statistics on traffic to this page. Right now there are a total of 4 records there. It will be interesting to see how many people actually find their way here.


Silly String in Iraq

Maybe showering 80s kids with all those toys worked out well after all. Last year, they used remote controls from toy cars to prematurely trigger IEDs; now it seems Silly String (which even I let my kids play with) has a military use.

No word yet on whether Raytheon is tendering an offer for Toys [Russian vowel yoo] Us.


It's Math Riddle Monday!

No really, it is. I'm not kidding.
Here is this Monday's question:
You're in a dark room with 50 quarters, 18 of which are heads up. You are allowed to move around the coins or flip some or all of them, if you wish. Problem is, it's too dark to tell what you're moving or flipping (no, you can't figure it out by touch either). Your job is to split the coins into two groups, each of which has the same number of heads up coins. How do you accomplish this?
Post your answers in the comments field. I will post the correct answer when I figure it out.

Note to George: This is the question I called you about on Saturday. Thanks for calling me back after "a few minutes."


The Shape of Days

I don't know what's going on over at The Shape of Days, but there's a timer counting down to sometime on 11/9/2005.
It's a good site, you should try and find some time to look through his posts. Some are political in nature and some are just strange. I hope he gets back soon as I have already read the Internet in English. Next I think I'll try Esperanto.

The house is done

I forgot to post the latest picture of my house. As you can see it has been completed. It's amazing what new siding and new windows can do to a house!


We went from drafty, crappy vinyl replacements to new Ultimate Double Hung windows by Marvin. The difference is amazing -- they're bigger, quieter, and a lot better looking. The siding is a vinyl shingle called Cedar Impressions by Certainteed that looks like stained cedar. Well worth the time, money, and effort to have this done.

Man Sticks to Toilet, Sues Home Depot

CNN.com - Glued to toilet, man sues Home Depot - Nov 3, 2005
Fist of all, the CNN headline makes you think that the man is suing Home Depot while glued to a toilet. That would be kind of amusing to see, don't you think?
However, the lesson to learn here is that because of stuff like this, you don't take dumps at Home Depot -- liquid nails on the seat is MUCH worse than Saran Wrap over the bowl. Sometimes, though, you've got to go -- I've been there. However, who the hell doesn't notice GLUE on a toilet seat? Who doesn't at least wipe a foreign seat down with TP before sitting? He's suing Home Depot because they ignored him for 15 minutes, NOT because they let someone apply glue to a toilet seat in their store. I'd be suing the guy who put the glue on the toilet or at least applying glue to his door locks and windshield wipers.
This reminds me of Freshmen Year at college where I would torment my friend Shem's roommate Brian (who later I became friends with) by gluing most anything he owned to his desk, the ceiling, the window, him. Boy, those were the days.

In other news, I think I have finally finished tweaking the site. Let me know what you think.



I need a little Web Developer help here...

For some reason or another the sidebar wants to render below the main section of the blog. I don't know why IE6 does this, nor do I care. (Actually, I do care.) Firefox on Mac and Windows looks fine. Safari on the Mac looks fine. However, IE6 doesn't and I need help. As you can see from the design of this blog, my design skills are a bit limited and I've been away from HTML for so long it all looks Greek to me.
This is a call out to all of the young HTML/CSS Jedi out there to help me out.


9:30 AM: [****Never Mind. I got some help and the issue has been resolved.****]


What do you think about this for the marquee?

My Photoshop skills are lacking. However, here is my best effort...
Let me know what you think. I know it's small...it will have to be twice as big...(Zoolander reference? Anyone?)

[Too late, it is now the official paci.blog marquee until, of course, I change it. That could be tomorrow, next week, or the month after.]

[Jen, notice the "Harvard Comma" above.]

Saw II and Other Cinematic Topics

Just got back from watching Saw II on screen number 2 at the Tremont Street Lowes Theater in Boston. While a lot has already been written about the original Saw and how it had a cop-out ending -- I don't agree. If you hated the first one, don't go see the second, you're not worthy. I don't know if it's more gruesome or less than the first and I don't care. At the end there is another one of those "flash-throughs" that rub in your face all of the little clues you were too stupid to miss. If you saw the first one and you weren't looking for obscure clues in the second, you'll be had. The writers did a fine piece of work here.

Now for the more important part -- the Trailers. Two trailers really stuck out in my head -- one whose movie I will go see and second where the jury is still out.

First, let me tell you about Underworld: Evolution. It's got Kate Beckinsale in it. Need I say more? Ok, I will. She looks HOTTER than she did in the first one. It also looks like there will be a hell of a lot more action with flashbacks to early battles between Werewolves and Vampires. Why are all female vampires hot? Why do all male vampires either look like Abe Vigoda or Eurotrash? If there's ever a movie I will camp out for, it'll be this one. If I lived in England, I would stalk Kate. (However, Claire Forlani also lives in England...choices! choices!)

The second film, however, I might just never go see as I am already having nightmares from the trailer and I haven't even gone to sleep. What kind of sick director directing what kind of sick movie could do that to me? Well, that would be Hostel directed by Eli Roth and produced by Quentin Tarantino. It's the story of three backpackers who...never mind here is the IMDB blurb:
Three backpackers head to a Slovakian city that promises to meet their hedonistic expectations, with no idea of the hell that awaits them.
Imagine being taken to a place where you are helpless and there is no hope. A place where people pay to torture and murder people they don't like. Imagine drills, saws, scalpels, bald dudes in blood-soaked leather aprons with instruments of torture and YOU ARE STRAPPED TO A GURNEY. Scary shit. I really don't think I could take this movie. Hell, 8mm still gives me the creeps.

I really home more than two or three people read this. I would like some feedback...





Template redesign, again

I'll tell you right now, I am NOT happy with this redesign. However, my blind brother George was getting headaches from reading light colored text on a dark background. This is for you, George. I will tweak it a bit more for your sake (yes, all 3 of yours) in the coming days. It's much easier than adding any actual content that would draw people here.

On one of my original posts about my house (the one where I mention the tree not being there anymore) a guy whose blog I read regularly, came to the site and even left a comment. Since then the only comments I've received from people I don't know have been from spammers. Too bad.

I leave home in the morning before the sun rises and get home after it sets, so I've had no time to take a decent picture of the finished renovations. (Why not take a picture on the weekend you may ask? It's been raining cats and dogs for the past few weekends, that's why!)

Enough for now.



One post accomplishes mentioning my favorite blog, name dropping, tying in to Lawrenceville, and jazzing Mike

From Best of the Web Today . (Butterfield is a reference to Fox Butterfield, a L'ville grad and NY Times reporter who covers crime by writing articles bemoaning the fact that more people are being locked up even as crime goes down. Full disclosure: I had dinner with him last year in Boston [the one at Morton's you didn't get invited to, Mike].)

Butterfield in Reuterville

From a Reuters dispatch on U.S. crime statistics:

The U.S. prison population continued to grow last year even though reports of violent crime during 2004 were at the lowest level since the government began compiling statistics 32 years ago, according to a government report released in September.

The other night, we realized that our degree of drunkenness was continuing to grow even though the liquor in the bottle was at the lowest level since we opened it. Life is full of paradoxes, isn't it?


Raaaanch... Ranch!

Bring me my ranch-dressing hose!

Blogging isn't easy

There's so much to this blogging thing that isn't easy. You've got to find material, find time, find more time, hope people will read your stuff, take shit when they disagree with you, and correct people after they take you to task for something one of your brothers wrote. Shared blogging, ouch!

Here on Paci.blog we have three distinct personalities...

First there's Rob who takes after our father. He likes to tell you what you NEED to do -- just look at some of his posts. Even when I agree with him, I get worked up because his delivery is so...grating.

Next there's George. He spends his time looking around the web for that one, single, perfect link (usually something nerdy, but that's ok) to post to the blog. Problem is that George is pretty well-read and can do much better than the sophomoric drivel he posts normally. Maybe he thinks he's too smart for our readers (all what, 3 of them) and your measly brains can't handle serious thought. Then again, probably not--he just doesn't have the time with 2 kids and a job and all. I don't even think he has Internet access at home. Poor bastard.

Then there's me. I tend to post stuff that may or may not piss you off and if it does it's probably not that bad and you deserve to be pissed at yourself for getting so pissed at something so innocuous. Make sense? Didn't think so. Unless, of course, you know me. I have the incredible, unmatched ability to get under people's skin and stay there...slowly driving them insane. It's quite fun. A buddy of mine, Doug Mazzoni, helped me hone that skill to perfection.

Look back to some of the early posts of this blog. You should see someone named Breedo taking all sides of an argument just so he can be right. That's unfortunate because he is usually wrong. I don't know how he does it, but he tends to have a cloud following him as well. He envies Charlie Brown's good luck.

I'm basically running at the mouth (keyboard?) here because I haven't posted anything to this site worth a damn in a long time and probably need to sit down and think of something funny or good or such. I know I could write thousands of words on my cats but most people would only read tens of those words before they go elsewhere and look for boobies on the net.

It's amazing how easy it is to get distracted with this net thing. Think of something **ZAP** there it is -- that can be both good (once and for all settling the argument of which blood is the universal donor O+ or O- ... it's O-) and bad (I wonder if there are any nude pics of Kate Beckinsale out there on the interweb .. there are) and ugly (you don't need an example of ugly, it's just way too easy to find.)

I really don't want to use this site to push an agenda (I'm way too lazy for that -- having an agenda, pushing one is way too far out there), but I also don't want it to become a poor-man's fark where it's just another place to go to get to boobies or stupid stuff.

ORIGINAL CONTENT! That's it! We need some original content here that will engage the reader and keep them coming back so that my google ads at the bottom may help me pay off my mortgage...(if you purchase one single ad...)

Just random Sunday night thoughts. Have a good week.



Getting it exactly backwards

Derrick Z. "The Z stands for zstupid" Jackson of the Boston Glob makes the conventional wisdom case, rather poorly in this instance, that the GM/UAW healthcare coverage agreement shows why we need single-payer (i.e. socialized) health coverage in the USA.

He gets it exactly backwards. GM's health plan is the closest thing we HAVE to middle class national health care for all ages (Medicaid is for the poor, Medicare is for the old) in America. It has proved unaffordable because a) it is demographically unstable and b) there is no incentive for the consumers to consume rationally.

What were seeing is GM instituting rationing by raising copayments because it has become clear that no more big piles of cash exist to shore up the top-heavy system.

At least GM has the Chapter 11 gun to hold to the head of the UAW. We would have no such recourse against ourselves as taxpayers.


Gift Idea

Go see Serenity and you'll understand why I want this t-shirt.


First Simpsons Post

Nice new template, Mike.

Correct me if I'm wrong, but I think this is paciblog's first Simpsons post.

Here's and article from the WSJ (registration required?) on the new arabized Simpsons.

Among the many issues is this one, which also includes a favorite quote:

Few shows have more obsessed fans than "The Simpsons," and their vast online community is worried about whether classic Simpsons dialogue can even be translated. One blogger wrote, "'Hi-diddly-ho, neighbors!' How the h -- are they going to translate that? Or this great quote: Mr Burns: Oooh, so Mother Nature needs a favor?! Well maybe she should have thought of that when she was besetting us with droughts and floods and poison monkeys! Nature started the fight for survival, and now she wants to quit because she's losing. Well I say, hard cheese."


A Preview of the Miers Confirmation Hearings

... is over at Hubris.

Nice job if you can lose it

The last sentence of today's WSJ cover story (subscribers only link) on the bankruptcy of auto parts supplier Delphi (formerly a part of GM) goes a long way to explaining why it (and most of the rest of the auto industry) is SCREWED.

The company spends about $400 million annually to cover costs on about 4,000 laid-off workers.

Doing the math, that's $100K per laid off employee. Now some of this is benefit cost rather than cash but still.....

These numbers check out with this recent Forbes article on GM's laid-off community.


Movie Trailer

If you haven't already seen the trailer for this Jack Nicholson movie, here it is.


The French

From Taranto's Best of the Web, which you NEED to read every day.

Playing Poulet
"Two years after relations between the US and France soured over the Iraq war, French-bashing in America appears alive and well in light of a recent ad campaign by a fast-food chain linking France and cowardice," Agence France-Presse reports:
The ad by the Subway chain touted a cordon bleu chicken sandwich with the words "France and chicken, somehow it just goes together." A photo of a chicken dressed like Napoleon accompanied the advertisement.
Subway ran the ads in about 10 US states for nearly a month and pulled them in September following an outcry by members of the French expatriate community and other customers offended by the racist undertone.
Mark Bridenbaker, a spokesman for Subway, which has outlets in France, defended the campaign telling AFP it was aimed at lauding French cuisine.
"The perfect match of French cuisine and the Subway chicken . . . that was the intent of this advertising," he said. "But once we realized that people were taking offense, we removed everything from stores right away."
OK, first of all, the French are weasels, not chickens. Second, it's pretty rich for the people who run a company that knuckles under to "an outcry by members of the French expatriate community" to be calling anyone chicken.

I love the Internet

Without it, how would we ever know what in-flight meals look like on the various airlines around the world. You can't make this stuff up.

(Now, for those of you who think I actually go looking for this stuff, I followed this link on Google News. Once I got there, I clicked around. What can I say, I like airplanes!)


When MTV didn't suck

This past week, for some reason, the Nick Lowe hit Cruel to be Kind got in my head and stuck there.
So today, after two and a half years, I finally got myself an iTunes Music Store account and grabbed some singles from Back When MTV Didn't Suck, a historical era even older than Back When MTV Actually Played Videos Once In A While.

The list so far includes a couple Flock of Seagulls tunes, Graham Parker's "Don't Bother with the Local Girls", the song (from Back When MTV Couldn't Even Get Any Advertisers) "Ghost Town" (anybody remember the name of the band?), Aldo Nova's "Fantasty", "Once in a Lifetime" by the Talking Heads (I can't believe I didn't like that song at first; I guess it becomes more relevant in your 20s and 30s than when you've just turned 10), "Six Months in a Leaky Boat" by Split Enz (though I saw a Wiggles version of it, too), and "Rainbow in the Dark" by Dio.

I'm anxious for more suggestions; use the comments thread.


Some kraut with your frank?

Here's an interesting take from VodkaPundit on how to deal with France & Germany.

Very incisive and funny.

The EU wants a permanent seat on the UN Security Council. Fine, give it one. But take away France's. The rational is simple: France already has a seat (a WWII anachronism) and would still be represented by the EU. With the stroke of a treaty pen, France and Germany would be forced to coordinate their foreign policies, even when their national leaderships and national interests are in contrast.
France and Germany want to be treated as equals. Fine, treat them that way. Never consult one without consulting the other. Or better yet, do all the consulting through their EU bastard child. Either way, eventually France and Germany will be back at each other's throats – a condition as natural as a hooker with her heels in the air.


Quantifying crackpottery

Every once in a while, you may get the sneaking suspicion that what you're reading was, in fact, written by a crackpot. And occasionally the crackpot nature may be blindingly obvious. But what we really need is a comprehensive, quantitative theory of crackpottery (frangiceramics?); John Baez gives us a first step.

Clearing My Head

I was wondering why I have been thinking much more clearly the past few days. Unfortunately, I have not been able to make it to the gym this week, so that's not it.

Then I realize that it's been over a WEEK since I read a New York Times op-ed columnist because I will not pay $49.95 for the privilege. I am not opposed to this on principle because I do pay more than that for my online WSJ subscription. I must admit to missing their newest columnist John Tierney but otherwise my mind is clear of the natterings of Ms. Dowd and Mr. Krugman.

It seems that lots of other folks do not see the value proposition of TimesSelect either. Mickey Kaus has done a wonderfully snarky job covering this. He's always worth a read and doesn't drown his readers in frenetic posting.

His take today:

Does the NYT have an exit strategy? If they pull the plug on TimesSelect, do they have to give all the sucke ... I mean, customers who signed up their $49.95 back?


Leftists Thwarted By Mass Transit

The irony here is delicious that some of those protesting the "War for Oil" got snarled up in a Northeast Corridor power failure on Amtrak.

An electrical failure in New Jersey disrupted train service between New York and Washington for five hours yesterday morning, leading to confusion, delays and an impromptu protest outside Pennsylvania Station by antiwar activists who gave up on plans to join a larger rally in the nation's capital.

Service was shut down just before 5 a.m. Vernae Graham, a spokeswoman for Amtrak, said the electrical failure occurred in Rahway when a crane accidentally dropped a beam on the wires that provided power to the trains, severing the connection.

I feel almost as sorry for this Mahattanite as I do for Martha Stewart:

Julie Finch, a pastry cook and actress from Manhattan, was on the 6 a.m. train for two and a half hours before she joined three other activists in trying to rent a car. She said that she was scheduled to help lead a silent peace vigil at 11 a.m. in Washington, and was heartbroken to discover that she would not arrive in time.
"I don't want to burst into tears," she said after walking out of Penn Station. "I have a hand-quilted peace banner that I was sewing last night, and I was up far too late."

A hand-quilted peace banner. How precious. Look on the bright side: some poor slob with a half-assed magic-marker-and-cardboard job didn't have to feel inferior in your presence. A good thing, wouldn't you say? NOW STOP YOUR CRYING!!!!!!

Of course, in the iron-clad logic of the protesters, the war itself was responsible for the train snafu:

They walked in a circle, denouncing the war, but some seemed to have amended their grievances to include train travel. A group of young women known as the radical cheerleaders, dressed in pleated short skirts, with pompoms made of plastic trash bags, shouted: "Let's get on the right track. Get the troops out of Iraq." Another chant went "Money for trains, not war."

Amtrak struggled this spring and summer with delays, pulling its high-speed Acela trains off the track in April after brake problems surfaced. Ms. Levine, responding to yesterday's unexpected trouble like a politician pretending to have seen it coming, said that the connection between the war and less reliable train service was obvious. "We want money for trains, for schools, for hospitals and other human needs and not for war," she said, adding that she planned to seek a refund from Amtrak for the chartered train car.

I love these people, not only are they stuck on stupid, but now they're stuck on Amtrak, too.


I love these things...

It's one of those "political" tests that asks you a number of questions and then tells you where you are on the scale. Here is my result.

I love the Donald!


Metro Rack

OK, I know Mike and Rob are fans of Metro Rack shelving, so they'll waste an hour apiece browsing the on-line catalog and idea book.

Maybe our two non-related readers will get hooked, too.

(Note the extra-super-adjustable split sleeves, and the conductive sleeves.)


If that's not dorky enough....

Well, looks like Boston has finally lost Mac World (perhaps due to an evil Microsoft plot) but now can look forward to hosting a bunch of even harder core geeks.

Pat Moscaritolo, president of the Greater Boston Convention & Visitors Bureau, also lamented the Macworld shutdown, but added that other shows will take up the slack. Next year, the LinuxWorld show, dedicated to the popular open-source operating system, will move from the Hynes to the new convention center. ''That's where the real growth is," Moscaritolo said. ''I think that LinuxWorld, within a three-year span, will make you forget Macworld."



Goldilocks and the Three Bears, with a guest director.


Just read this

Michael Barone (of US News) has another spot-on column discussing how Adam Smith didn't just get it right on economics, he also got it right on social issues.

"In every civilized society, in every society where the distinction of ranks has once been completely established, there have always been two different schemes or systems of morality current at the same time, of which the one may be called the strict or austere; the other the liberal, or if you will, the loose system. The former is generally admired and revered by the common people; the latter is commonly more esteemed and adopted by what are called people of fashion."


Ruinous to the poor: Smith anticipated the New York City of the Lindsay administration, which I wrote about in its first month in office. As Myron Magnet has explained in The Dream and the Nightmare: The Sixties' Legacy to the Underclass, published in 1993, 117 years after Smith's book, the "loose" morality promoted by affluent liberal New Yorkers may not have hurt them very much, but it hurt the poor of New York and all our major cities very much indeed. The "common people" were onto Lindsay. In two general elections for mayor he lost the four outer boroughs of New York City. He was elected, with pluralities rather than majorities, because he carried Manhattan, especially its affluent neighborhoods, by wide margins. It was a contest between the beautiful people and the dutiful people, and the beautiful people won—with horrifying results for the city.

Follow the link in the post title and read the damn thing (especially if you can't figure out why non-wealthy people voted for Bush).



As Bugs sang,

Carrots, they are so divine / You get a dozen for a dime / It's maaaaa-gic....

In addition to the intrinsic merit of the story itself (including where they point out that baby carrots are not the same as baby-cut carrots), I found the "Related Links" box, um, interesting.

Union hires non-union workers to protest working conditions

This is a classic. From the article:
They're not union members; they're temp workers employed through Allied Forces/Labor Express by the union—United Food and Commercial Workers (UFCW). They're making $6 an hour, with no benefits; it's 104 F, and they're protesting the working conditions inside the new Wal-Mart grocery store.
Is union labor too expensive to use to protest and picket? Does it matter if the people you hire to picket believe in what their picketing for? Apparently not:
But standing with a union-supplied sign on his shoulder that reads, Don't Shop WalMart: Below Area Standards, picketer and former Wal-Mart employee Sal Rivera says about the notorious working conditions of his former big-box employer: "I can't complain. It wasn't bad. They started paying me at $6.75, and after three months I was already getting $7, then I got Employee of the Month, and by the time I left (in less than one year), I was making $8.63 an hour." Rivera worked in maintenance and quit four years ago for personal reasons, he says. He would consider reapplying.
Understanding unions is right up there with understanding airline prices and solving Fermat's equation thingy...

Boston Globe to Bush: Don't mess with Taxes

Leave it to the Globe to frame Katrina as an argument for socialism:

Katrina is a good reason to create a new political vision of prosperity for all, one that rejects ill-advised budget and tax cuts that cripple the country's ability to invest in its people and its future.

Read the rest here.

Great Moments in Bureaucracy (I)

The Roman numeral I means, of course, that this is an innaugural post in a new category.

It's a short piece but here's the title, which should whet your appetite:

Report: Rat Catchers 0 for Decade

Also, a question: does the fact that it's from India make it even more funny?

Perhaps they can band together and form an outsourcing shop.



...Land of Smug Socialist Giants and $10 beers.

At least their elections are boring, though.

Note to our reader...

Ok, readers. I know of at least two people besides my two brothers who read this. Anyway, each of you has made the mistake of accusing me of writing something you didn't agree with. Here's a little primer:

See what it says in the red box at the bottom of the post? Yes, it says Posted by followed by who posted it.

If it reads Posted by Robert, then my brother Rob posted it. If it reads Posted by George, then my brother George posted it. If it reads Posted by Mike, then I posted it and you're more than welcome to accuse me of whatever you want because you don't agree with me. Just don't yell at me for something Rob wrote. Since George doesn't really contribute more than a few links here and there, I can't see either of you disagreeing much with him.


Cool Spy Tradecraft

I started reading this article in a CIA journal about one of the most important walk-ins in Cold War history, and I just couldn't stop. I know Rob will have the same reaction, and maybe Mÿke and Breedo and our other two readers, too.


You know Boston has an image problem...

...when people who have nothing, and their nothning is under 15 feet of water have this to say about Boston:
"Boston? Isn't it cold up there?" said a woman listening nearby. "There is nothing for black people in Boston," said Senecia Williams, 44, who was also standing in line.
It kind of rings true. Go see a Red Sox game? Damn, only black people are the ones on the field. Patriots? Few rich-white people can get tickets. Southie? Forget it. Cold? You betcha and it isn't just the weather.


I'll Huff and I'll Puff...

If any of you are not familiar with the Huffington Post, I don't recommend visiting unless you are in a place where you can shout at your screen in peace. With a few exceptions, it is the biggest collection of poseurs ever assembled, with its founder and namesake the biggest of all.

Anyway, its main redeeming feature is that they have retained one Greg Gutfeld as a sort-of internal critic/court jester, who from time to time performs merciless takedowns on above mentioned poseurs.

UPDATE: I wasn't immediately able to confim it but I have verified that Gutfeld is the editor of Maxim UK.

Anyway, something about HuffPo's coverage of New Orleans last week broke Greg's internal levee and, given the depths of stupdity and hypocrisy to which HuffPo had sunk, a massive flow has innudated the lot of them.

Excerpts follow, but READ THE WHOLE THING , this time in a place where you can laugh at your screen in peace.


Do you often find yourself fantasizing about becoming a Huffpo blogger? Do you love to read other blogs, digest their info, and then expel pre-chewed nut-bag assumptions into a concerned and earnest post? If so, you might be perfect for this blog!

So... how do you get the job?

Just tick the boxes!


Are you famous?
Do you know someone famous?
have you ever brushed up against someone famous?
Was it Warren Beatty?
Did you think he'd be firmer?

Is your husband famous?
(check one of the following)
- Yes I am Rebecca Pidgeon.
- Yes I am Laurie David
- Yes, I am Shiva Rose
- No, but my wife is rich AND famous, I am Brad Hall
- Other lady of leisure:____________________

Where did you spend your summer vacation?
- French Riviera
- Camp Casey
- Deepak Chopra's Seducing the Spirit Retreat
- working as Sean Penn's personal photographer

Which of the following countries have you threatened to move to (check all
that apply):
- France
- Canada
- Monaco has no taxes, right?

-Can you work the phrase "tipping point" into a sentence, without actually
reading the book, "The Tipping Point," or even understanding what this
tipping point thing is? Can you pretend to know something without knowing


Do you believe people are too afraid to discuss the "taboo" of race?
Yet you can discuss it for hours, insert it into any topic, from natural disasters to footwear?
Do you feel compelled to let blacks know immediately where you stand on the topic of race?
Do you feel compelled to tell blacks how much you admire Spike Jonze?
Do you realize the next day that you meant Spike Lee?


-do you wear a baseball cap when you go to REM concerts?
-does it hide your bald spot?
-do you write for numerous alternative newsweeklies?
-Do you ignore the fact that they survive off escort ads?
-Which you swear you're never calling again.

Just a small rant...

Why don't web sites trust me to enter in my own state's two letter abbreviation? Why must I pick from a drop-down menu? They trust me to enter my name, address, zip code, phone number, and credit card number (not to mention my credit card's security code), but not the two letter abbreviation for my state. Besides, if I enter my zip code, the state is not necessary as a zip code can exist in only one state. Why? Also, why, when I go to choose a country on a website is the good old USA at the bottom? The site is in English and there's a good chance that more than 50% of their visitors will be from the USA -- why the hell are Afghanistan and Angola at the top? Are we that PC these days or are we just LAZY!

Enough about Gas...

...on to conspicuous consumerism!

Yesterday Apple announced two "new" products to the market. The first, and most anticipated since it's non-debut at CEBIT in March, is the iTunes-enabled Motorola ROKR cell phone on the Cingular network. It holds "100 songs" and is compatible with both Macs and Windows PCs (sorry, no Linux) through iTunes. I think it's obvious that Apple had very little input on the ROKR's designs.

The second, and much cooler looking product, is the new flash-memory based iPod Nano. Dude, this little product is sweet. It comes in two colors (black/white) and two capacities (2GB/4GB) at two price points ($199/$249). Let's see how many of these little guys Apple can sell...


Gas Price Q&A From the Boston Globe

Click above for a little Q&A the Boston Globe did about gas pricing here in the State and what caused it.

Here is one of the questions that a friend of mine asked me (ok, it was Breedo) in a discussion (ok, argument) we had last week:
Q. Pump prices went up sharply overnight after Katrina. How can gas station owners justify raising the price 50 cents a gallon for fuel they've already bought that's sitting in their tanks?

A. To make sure they can afford the next load of gas coming tomorrow or next week, station owners say. In a notoriously low-margin business where lottery tickets and cigarettes are far more profitable than gas, few station owners have much working capital on hand, so they need to raise prices on today's gallon of gas to pay for next week's price increase, said Tom Pickett, owner of Arthur's Sunoco in Dorchester.
''Your next delivery is going to cost $10,000 more, and then what happens if the price goes down?" said Paul O'Connell, executive director of the New England Service Station and Automotive Repair Association. ''You can't stay 30 or 40 cents ahead of the competition. It's a tough game right now."

Breedo has started to become a celebrity here on paci.blog. Maybe I should start a blog with him and argue incessantly until we turn blue in the face...

Haunting Recriminations

Here's a great backgrounder on the disaster "planning" in New Orleans which explains a lot about the grim result.


The evacuation plan was a plan, but it was really just a ghost plan with ghost buses and ghost drivers, with ghost emergency supplies kept in ghost "shelters" under control of a ghost police force with a ghost emergency communications system overseen by a ghastly governor.

It was a plan for a ghost town. That plan worked.

And here come the ghosts.


Failing the Turing Test

Here is an amusing little article about a guy who was added to some IM list (mistakenly, of course)* and started to get a flurry of people inquiring into if he were a celebrity or some kind of AIM-bot. He was able to convince people he wasn't a celeb (not hard, show some intelligence), but he wasn't able to convince people that he is a person. Funny.

*I've taken to adding one of my buddy's AIM id to all of the computers at the Apple Store at the Northshore Mall in Peabody, MA. He gets all kinds of random AIMs from people -- amusing as hell, for me. It's been a while since I've re-added his ID there...

Mmmmm, Burger

I really don't know how I got to this article -- I think it was a conversation I had with a co-worker on what it means to be Chief Justice of the Supreme Court. I thought it was just a cool title and the power to wear a funny hat while hearing arguments. Apparently, there's more to it. Read the article...
(Keep in mind it is published in the San Francisco Chronicle)

A quote:
Within the court, the chief justice is just the first among equals -- nine strong-willed, independent jurists -- but the office has powers that can be used to expand its influence.
Most important is the ability to decide who will write the majority opinion after a case is argued and the justices vote. That authority exists when the chief justice is in the majority, and otherwise passes to the senior justice in the majority; some insider accounts of the court have included accusations that Rehnquist's predecessor, Chief Justice Warren Burger, often switched his vote so he could join the majority, commandeer the opinion and narrow its scope.

I'm sure this behavior wasn't limited to Justice Burger.


Economics Lesson

A hat tip to Don Luskin who passed this on from a presidential economics report. (Follow the link find the link to the full PDF report if you are so inclined).

2004 Economic Report of the President (p.155):

Market Responses to Unexpected Shortages

When there are large, unexpected increases in demand or decreases in supply for a good, a normal market response is for prices to increase by enough to restore balance between supply and demand. Consumers might accuse sellers of “price gouging” when such price increases occur in response to a natural disaster or a failure of supply infrastructure. A number of states have laws that make price gouging illegal. Even without such laws, some businesses might choose not to increase prices during an emergency for fear of a consumer backlash.

If prices do not increase, however, consumers do not receive a signal to cut their consumption and suppliers might not have the proper incentives to increase supply adequately. By not allowing market forces to restore the balance between supply and demand after the shock, nonprice rationing must be implemented instead. For example, after a pipeline break reduced the supply of gasoline into the Phoenix, Arizona, area in August 2003, press reports indicated that some stations ran out of gasoline, consumers waited in line for hours, and some drivers started following gasoline tankers as they made their deliveries.

Changes in demand can induce shortages as well. For example, in the days leading up to the arrival of Hurricane Isabel in the Mid-Atlantic states in September 2003, press reports indicated that many retailers sold out of flashlights and D batteries. The flashlights and batteries went to the first people to show up at the store, rather than to those who valued them the most. It also meant that people who were able to buy the goods might have bought more than they would have at the higher price, leaving fewer for others. Without price increases, there was no mechanism to allocate the available goods to their highest valued uses. For example, if prices were higher, early customers may have decided not to buy new batteries for their fifth flashlight and later customers would not have been forced to sit in the dark.

While allowing prices to increase in the face of a natural disaster or a supply disruption may seem unfair, the alternative would be to restrict the allocation of scarce supplies and to possibly keep supplies from those who need them most. Artificially low prices remove incentives for consumers to conserve and for suppliers to meet unfilled demand, potentially prolonging the shortage. Society must decide whether the perceived fairness resulting from regulations to hold down prices is more important than allowing the market to provide incentives for resolving the shortage as quickly as possible, while making sure that scarce resources are available for those who value them the most.

Got that, Breedo?

Anyone? Ben Stein.

Here's a good summary of common sense on the politics of Hurricane Katrina written by Ben Stein.


On the lookout for stupidity.....

In the spirit of our former school-teacher FOP (Friend of Pacis), I'd like to see posts of the dumbest statements on the part of politicians (or others but politicians are most likely the leaders in this category) about rising gas prices.


But Breedo is somewhat relevant

Since I've been driving a 40 mile stretch of non-interstate highway repeatedly over the past few days, I've been keeping track of gas prices and am amazed. Not so much at how expensive some stations are (there are big problems in the major domestic supply and refinery region in case certain people -- GEORGE -- haven't bothered to pay attention to the news) but rather the price range.

Yesterday I got gas at a BP for $2.56/gallon and saw prices ranging from $2.53 to $2.99. Today the same BP station was at about $2.79 and the price range on the road was about $2.65 to $3.15. Additionally, the overnight price shock seems to have set off large lines at the cheaper stations (no surprise really).

What I found interesting was that Exxon and Mobil, which generally are the highest priced stations in an area tended toward the lower end today. Several generic stations had some of the highest prices.

My hypothesis (not really developed enough to be a theory) is that the lower priced stations have somehow locked into a lower supply price for at least a period longer than overnight. This can be done by long term contacts or futures market hedging. Brands such as BP and Exxon/Mobil have the additional advantage of being fully integrated companies who are essentially hedged by the fact that they are suppliers to themselves. My guess is that the generic stations with high prices have little choice but to pay overnight prices for their supply and therefore must charge enough to at least break even or choose not to sell gas at all and risk losing all their customers.

What is interesting is that the stations with presumably lower supply cost (especially the brands that are customarily premium priced) are not taking better advantage of their position by marking up their prices under the generous umbrella provided by the competition.

My best example is the main street in my town, where the generic station is priced at $3.15 while the Exxon down the street (within sight) is priced at around $2.75. To top it off (bad pun, I know), the Exxon has much longer opening hours.

Any thoughts?

Breedo is SUCH a commie

I second Mike's motion.

Good thing you're no longer exposing impressionable young minds to your shocking ignorance, Breedo.

The only other graduate of our fine high school who might possibly believe that tripe is my buddy Jay, and he is also a commie.

I Think Breedo is a Commie...

I got this from Breedo today:









First of all, I refuse to do anything with the Canadians. Secondly, this is STUPID, STUPID, STUPID. It ranks up there with:

"The Big-Dig was supposed to get rid of all traffic in Boston"
"We've gotten rid of Saddam, why are we paying so much for gas?"
"Reagan's gonna bring back slavery!" *

The first place to go to debunk urban myths like this is Snopes where you will, in fact, find this debunking of the above mentioned stupidity.

I was getting better, now I am especially petulant.

* Seriously, I remember hearing this in 1980 when I was in third grade at the Joyce Kilmer Elementary School in Trenton, NJ. It was an integrated, inner-city school with 700 kids -- all but 7 of whom were non-white.

I Think Breedo is Dutch...

See numbers 6, 11, and 25.


I know, I shouldn't be so PICK ONE: (captious, irascible, petulant, bellicose, pugnacious, truculent). The problem is that I just can't help it. It makes me feel better if I point out other people's flaws (not saying Breedo has any flaws. He is always right. I see the error in my ways. Now where did I put that tulip?) (See #6)

Who said the following?

"I am not German. I am Dutch."

More changes in guidelines...

I got spammed again. I have since deleted the spam and it is no more. However, what I am going to do now is require all posters to have a blogger ID. Breedo, you're going to need to sign up. (It's free, you cheap bastard!)


Somedays I just want to get away...

It's been almost 5 months since Manuela and I were in St. Croix for my cousin's wedding -- I can't wait to go back. My uncle has lived down there for 30+ years and I waiting until 2003 to go. The crazy thing is, it was a buddy of mine's wedding that took me there in the first place. Sure, we visited with my uncle, got a "native's" tour of the island, and got to see and experience things tourists never do. I love that place.

Here is what I'd much rather be doing right now:

Rampant Sexism

More disturbing gender bias.

Changes in posting guidelines

Due to the fact that paci.blog is starting to get some spam in the comments field, I decided to turn on "word verification" in order to leave a comment. That means you will be presented with a hard to read graphic with what looks like words and numbers. You will need to retype this word as verification.

Out! Out! Damn Spam!

Inside Look: The Apple Product Cycle

A funny read with very good insight into how unsubstantiated rumors float out there and the level to which people try to believe them. I guess one would have to know the Apple side of things to appreciate the quality of this satire. Give it a whirl...

One of my favorite sections:
Wall Street analysts appear on CNBC to explain that Apple's device will never be able to compete with the onslaught of cheaper Windows-based competitors. Apple's stock plummets. Idiot technology investors experience a brief moment of deja vu before they return to masturbating to photos of Maria Bartiromo.


Interior Woodwork

The house is just about finished. The contractor still needs his guys to do the aluminum work (gutters, facia, etc) and that should be done this week.

Take a look at some of the finished interior woodwork:

Ollie (l) and Rusty (r) rate the airflow between the two windows.

Close-up of the rope-molding in the front bay.

Wider view of the front bay's woodwork.


History NY Times style

Contained in an article about why trusting in the NJ state government (especially when a dirtball named McGreevey is governor) to carry out a massive building project in conjunction with local officials is never a good idea, is this gem that points out why you can never quite trust the NYT as a paper of record:

In the early 1990's, gangs and crack began to seep into Newark.

Funny, I must have been severly mistaken when I noticed, from casual car and train rides through the city, a teeming river of crack-fueled gang activity as far back as the mid-eighties.

Microsoft Targeted by Overseas Virus

News? You call that news? Of course MS is being targeted by virus writers! What's so new about that? Well, if you read the article, you'll see that someone who works for MS came back from overseas with a virus. Not a computer virus -- the measles. Who gets the measles these days? Did he miss MMR day at school?

Uh oh, I get it, it's probably a foreigner who brought it in. You know how health conscious they are -- he's probably French.


More iBook-related idiocy

Bruce Schneier comments on the case of the Kutztown 13. (I happen to know someone from Kutztown.)


Word of the day... [Ok, it's really filler]

galactophagist (n)

a milk drinker

George and Molly were determined to raise a brilliant child. "Here you are, my little galactophagist," they said as they gave James his bottle.


Confirm him now

The WaPo presents, to my mind, incontrovertible evidence in favor of confirming John Roberts to SCOTUS.

The paper dredged up some of his writings during the Reagan administration including his thoughts on our greatest 20th century president giving a community service award to Michael:

On April 30, 1984, Roberts wrote to oppose a presidential award that was to have been given to Jackson for his efforts against drunk driving. Roberts particularly objected to award wording that described Jackson as an "outstanding example" for American youth.

Roberts wrote: "If one wants the youth of America and the world sashaying around in garish sequined costumes, hair dripping with pomade, body shot full of female hormones to prevent voice change, mono-gloved, well, then, I suppose 'Michael,' as he is affectionately known in the trade, is in fact a good example. Quite apart from the problem of appearing to endorse Jackson's androgynous life style, a Presidential award would be perceived as a shallow effort by the President to share in the constant publicity surrounding Jackson. . . . The whole episode would, in my view, be demeaning to the President."


Toaster-Pastry Contest Entry

Nothing happens in my life, so I'm reduced to raiding other blogs — but at least I pick the good stuff, like this Pillsbury contest entry from Hubris.

WAHHHHH! I didn't get an iPod

This article in the NY Post covers the trials and tribulations of a woman who was paid $1500 to appear in an iPod ad. That's $1,500 for 3 hours worth of work. While I don't think that she is really crying that she didn't get a free iPod OR that she cannot afford one, the author - Julie Moult - sure as hell tries to spin the article that way.

She was paid a flat fee of $1,500 for the shoot - a tiny fraction of the billions Apple has reaped from the sale of its sleek portable player. But Coulton - posing here with one of her ads - says it still wasn't enough to buy one of the must-have gadgets.

What? iPods cost more than $1,500? Damn, I got a good deal on my iPod Photo! Oh wait, two paragraphs later we get this quote from the dancer, Mandy Coulton:
"I would like one - but $400 for an iPod is too much for me at the moment. I can't justify spending that much money when I have day-to-day stuff to pay for, like the car and rent."

That's better. She sounds downright reasonable. She wants one, but cannot afford one because she has other day-to-day expenses like housing and transportation. She says that she's not bitter and I tend to believe her.

The article goes on to say that she lives with her [not very successful if you can't afford an iPod] venture-capitalist husband and she works as a nanny to keep the pennies coming in as her dance jobs are fairly sporadic.



More house photos

As you can see, the house is coming along nicely. In fact, the contractors finished all of the interior woodwork today. That means Manuela and I can start priming and painting the woodwork. We're once step close to putting our house back together!

(OK, Manuela will be doing most of the painting. My job is to supervise and take pictures for the record.)

Wrong, so wrong... [The Onion]

Iraqi Cop Moonlighting As Terrorist Just To Make Ends Meet


iBook Stampede

Southern gentility went head-to-head with thoughtless government largesse in Richmond, VA, recently — and got beaten down with a folding chair.

($50? What were they thinking? Have they never heard of eBay (which, incidentally, has been stampede-free since 2000)?)

Congratulations Dave!

I just got news yesterday that a good friend of mine, we'll call him Dave, landed a job as a Field Service Technician for a bank in NC. He'll be driving all over the state supporting branches of the bank -- installing hardware, troubleshooting PC issues, kicking ATMs, you get the picture.
Dave has been out of work for the better part of a year since he left teaching. He's put his nose to the grind stone and went back to the books to learn so he could change careers.
Hats off to you Dave and best of luck!

(now call me you bonehead)


Smart Idiot

Take a look at the idiocy a little knowledge can bring — specifically, a little specialized knowledge of computing combined with a remarkable ignorance of economics: Robotic Nation.

I especially liked this sentence:

Keep this fact in mind: the workplace of today is not really that much different from the workplace of 100 years ago.

Actually, it is different — because it's not a farm. Gosh, what happened to all those farmers we don't need anymore because of mechanization? Are they standing around in unemployment lines? Arrrrgh.

PS: Yes, I know this is Breedo bait.


Flashback (no pun intended)

This is one of my favorite time wasters on the Internet. I can still sit and watch this over and over and over again. If any of you know where to find the "Hat Dance" flash video, please post it in the comments section.

"all your base are belong to us"


Oldie but goodie

When you get right down to it, it's always all about the fembots.



Check out BackPack — a very cool organizational tool.


Jump the Snark

My geek world is political news and commentary and the personalities behind them. While my brothers nurse their tech hobbies at geek gatherings, I attend political conventions and media personality appearances. Here's a good one I saw today.

"Wolf, you could be on the FBI's 10 most-wanted list, host a nightly program on MSNBC and be perfectly safe. No one would have any idea where you were. Ask Tucker Carlson.'" -- Jack Cafferty on CNN's "The Situation Room"

Some before/after pics of the house...

Here is the front of the house before the new windows...

Here is the front with the new windows. Notice how much wider the small window is.

Here is an exterior view of the old window bank on the back right side of the house.

Here is the interior view of the new windows.

Martian Monologue

Jack Handey writes, What I'd Say to the Martians (via Phil Greenspun).

I'm Rick James...

Ok, not really. Here is a pretty good article on Daring Fireball that systematically picks apart another article [boingboing] which was written based on information from this Slashdot article which was based on information from this blurb which came from information a bunch of NDA-burning developers who have their hands on the x86 version of MacOS X.

My favorite blurb:
"I travel in the kinds of circles where many people use GNU/Linux on their computers — and not only use it, but actually call it GNU/Linux instead of just “Linux,” in the fashion called for by Richard Stallman. Some of these people give me grief over the fact that I use Mac OS X instead of GNU/Linux on my Powerbook, because the MacOS is proprietary."

There is a word for these people. That word is asshole. No, wait, zealot. OK, there are two words for these people.

At least I found it funny. Does that make me a geek? So what if I am. I did still find the above clip from the article to be pretty funny.

Home renovations are amazing...

Sorry, no pictures today -- I just didn't have time to take them and download them to iPhoto, export them, and upload them to blogger. I'll have more for you tonight when I get home.
The contractors removed a bank of three windows in the back hall and replaced it with two new windows that fill the space. They also installed a window in the downstairs bathroom. It will be great to have natural light and fresh air in there.
That's all for now, no links, no photos.


It's coming along...

I was in NC for the past few days hanging out with a number of fraternity brothers for our anual Outer Banks Fishing Trip*, so I haven't been able to update you (whoever you are) on the progress on the house. Since a picture is worth 1,000 or so words, I'll let them speak for themselves.

* There is absolutely NO fishing at the OBFT. Who the hell is going to go ON VACATION just to WAKE UP AT 3 AM and go fishing? Thought so.