Wednesday, November 11, 2009

Fox News Not Trustworthy?

Everybody (all seven of you), if you haven't already, go to Norm's blog and watch this clip from Jon Stewart.

Monday, November 2, 2009

Fictional Characters

Thanks to Norm (who in turn thanked someone else, but I've got to draw the line somewhere.)

Wednesday, August 5, 2009

Saturday, August 1, 2009

Best. Headline. Evar.

The Dangers of Auto-Replace

Conservative groups need to be careful, lest they appear to be idiots.

Thursday, May 21, 2009

The Big Show

Most days, I’m pretty well fed up with humanity.

Other days, I am immensely grateful to be part of such a vastly entertaining group.

Case in point.

Executive Summary: a 13-year-old boy has a very treatable type of cancer.  But the first round of chemo made him sicker.  (It’s called “nausea”, and is a common side effect of the chemo.)  So the family declined treatment on religious grounds.  The boy is a Medicine Man in some kind of native-American-ish cult.  A judge ordered him to undergo chemo.  Now he and his mother are fleeing.

For those who don’t know me at all well, I vote Let Him Die.  Darwinism, remember?  Let’s flush some of these substandard genes out of the system.

The funny part to me is that they want to rely on alternative treatments that they discovered on the internet.  Science is bad when it comes to medicine, but good when it comes to technology to use in order to prove that science is bad.

I love it so much that my heart grew three sizes today.  Love love love love.  You just do your thing, Humanity.  I’ll make popcorn.

Tuesday, May 19, 2009

Den of Uniquity

Here’s something for the “I want to be unique, just like everyone else” crowd: Where all boys end up nowadays

If everyone runs in the same direction, it’s called a stampede, and you are still part of the herd.  Take that, Austin, Jaydin, Jordan, Brendan.  Et al.

Recommendations and Caveats 3

TV Show:  24: Season 7

Okay, so Tony Almeida is back.  Yes, he died in Season 5, but that is easily overcome when ratings are on the line.  The day starts out with Jack appearing before a Senate committee to answer for all his crimes against humanity, but then of course he must dash off to save the world yet again.  A key subtext to the entire season is the debate between lawfulness, represented by some by-the-book FBI agents, and pragmatism, as demonstrated by Jack and Chloe.

We have a new President, Allison Taylor, whom I liked (although not as much as David Palmer).  And the President has a daughter, which brings us to-

Caveat:  Olivia Taylor

Dumb Chicks must be part of some Hollywood formula of which I am unaware.  (Maybe that’s why they are having such trouble with the Harry Potter movies.  They probably refer to it as “The Hermione Granger Dilemma”.)

At any rate, if Olivia Taylor and Kim Bauer ever actually met, the edifices of order would simply collapse to dust.  Instaspontaneously.

The two hour finale aired last night, and the entire season is available on DVD today.

Thursday, May 14, 2009

Leave Nothing But Footprints

2 Yellowstone workers fired after watering geyser

Two seasonal Yellowstone National Park concession workers have been fired after a live webcam caught them urinating into the Old Faithful geyser.

Shocked, I am.

Xanterra Parks & Resorts general manager Jim McCaleb says the former concession workers were hired at the Old Faithful Inn and that such incidents were rare.

When I worked at Yellowstone, it was called the IPOF (I Peed in Old Faithful) Club. We even had IPOF t-shirts. And I wouldn't describe such incidents as "rare", although I admit we didn't have to contend with a live webcam back then.

Although I never made it all the way out to Old Faithful (the ground feels really weird out there, like you might fall through), I did manage to get into some trouble. I still have the summons. Did you know that any crime you commit in a national park is automatically a federal offense? Even public intox?

Sunday, May 10, 2009

Recommendations and Caveats 2

Comic:  Louis CK

Caveat:  Louis CK

He’s not for everyone.

TV Show: The World Series of Poker

This is a fairly recent discovery for me, considering that I enjoy poker.  Poker is actually fun to watch.

Caveat:  Norman Chad

Norm is one of the two announcers on the show.  And he’s really annoying.  I don’t like his voice.  I don’t like his lame, self-deprecating jokes.  But for me at least, the poker is entertaining enough to overcome that and end up as a slight positive.

Movie: Koyaanisqatsi

I finally got around to watching that this weekend, thanks in large part to the fact that you can watch the whole thing at YouTube (click the link to watch).  It’s about an hour and a half long.  Inspirational and depressing.  Visually perhaps the most stunning movie I’ve ever seen.  The moonrise scene is my favorite.

Caveat: Original music by Philip Glass.  I won’t be rushing out to buy the soundtrack. If that name sounds vaguely familiar to fans of the TV show Frasier, here’s why.

Postal Rate Increase

I just read this article on the postal rate increase that goes into effect Monday.

Pre-emptive disclaimer: I work for the post office.

This story points out that the post office does not receive taxpayer assistance.  Then it makes this comment about one of the ways the post office is trying to cut costs:

Postmaster General John Potter has asked Congress for permission to reduce mail delivery to five days-a-week.

First, somebody tell me why we have to ask Congress for anything, given that we don’t get any funding from them.

Second.  I don’t remember if I read this in a news story or an internal memo (if this part disappears later, you’ll have your answer), but the day of the week they want to do away with is Tuesday, which is typically the slowest day of the week for us.

Picture letter carriers getting Sunday and Tuesday off.  Now picture them coming on to work on Monday.  Hard to do, yes?

Now, whenever we raise our rates by two cents or so, there is inevitably talk of getting rid of our monopoly on first class mail.  (I haven’t seen anything yet this time, but if you look at the comments in the news story I linked to here, you’ll see a bunch of people calling for this exact thing, after reading the tragic tale of how we misdelivered one letter.)

So I’m going to pre-emptively take those people on, too.  I have given this idea a lot of thought, while on break, visiting with coworkers, or just daydreaming at my desk.

I simply don’t believe that UPS or Fedex can do it for less than a dollar.  For that matter, I don’t see how they could afford the start-up infrastructure.  I know they have an existing infrastructure, but they would need more.  More machines, more people, more trucks.  Lots more.  A quick check of Wikipedia indicates that we employ about twice as many people as UPS and three times as many as Fedex.

So imagine that the floodgates were opened, and these two companies started competing for first-class mail business.  Three companies would then employ enough drivers to go to every house every day.  Since the total mail volume would be about the same, how long do you suppose this arrangement would last?

Further suppose that UPS or Fedex wins the “postal war”.  How long do you suppose they would continue delivering to Podunk, Alaska?

Oh well.  Screw the Podunkians.  There aren’t very many of them, so who cares?

And to give you an idea of the magnitude of the mail, when postal workers went on strike years ago, the national guard was called in to handle the mail, but they couldn’t do it.  (I said, with a hint of pride.)

Anyway, feel free to whine about the postal rate increase in the comments.  Or tell the story of the really important postcard we lost just because we don’t like you.  Believe me, with 700 million pieces of mail each day, we don’t have time not to like you.

And if you want to find out how relatively exciting your job is, ask me what I do sometime.

Saturday, May 9, 2009

Recommendations and Caveats

These are not necessarily favorites.  Just things I enjoy that I feel like sharing with you all.

TV Show:  Boston Legal

Caveat:  It’s a wee bit over the top.

Caveat #2:  It contains William Shatner.

Shatner really pulls off the role of Denny Crane, an aging yet undefeated legendary defense attorney.  And James Spader as Alan Shore is at the top of his game.  Candace Bergen is outstanding as well.  After watching my first episode, I thought it was too ludicrous.  By the second, I thought it was just ludicrous enough.  It’s off the air now, but available on DVD.

Movie: Rosencrantz and Guildenstern are Dead

Caveat: Cast Interviews

This is one of my all-time favorite films.  Written by Tom Stoppard, it catalogues the adventures of two minor characters from Hamlet.  You should definitely buy the DVD and watch the interviews with the cast and Mr. Stoppard.  I say that because I did, and I want to spread the pain around.  Truly awful.  But the film is still awesome.  Heck, I even liked Richard Dreyfuss in it.  Gary Oldman and Tim Roth also star, and are just perfect.

Caveat #2: Maybe they are undead now.

Snack Food: Reese’s Peanut Butter Cups

I realize this isn’t exactly a groundbreaking revelation, but only Haagen-Dazs improves the Chocolate/Peanut Butter combo.

Caveat: 4 out of 5 nutritionists surveyed cliam that Reese’s and Mountain Dew should not comprise your entire diet.  But your dentist sends you Christmas and Birthday cards.  How cool is that?

Books: Tom Clancy’s Jack Ryan novels

This series, especially the earlier ones, are a bit dated, but still pretty damned good.  I recently reread most of them (something I tend to do every few years, which is why I keep them around), and enjoyed them again.

Caveat:  There is a lot of locker-room-style male-bonding going on.  This was particularly noticeable in The Sum of All Fears.  Lots of references to “big brass ones”.  It can get tedious.  The series is recommended anyway.  There is no reason to read beyond Executive Orders, unless watching the Rosencrantz and Guildenstern are Dead interviews wasn’t tedious enough.

Thursday, May 7, 2009

Some Stuff You Might Not Know About Gambling For A Living

  • Professional blackjack players have an average advantage of about 1.5%, according to the books I’ve read.  And yet, even with that edge, at most 1.6% of the time, you reach an all-time high.  The rest of the time (over 98%) your bankroll is lower than it was at some point in the past.  Meaning, most of the time it seems like you’re losing.
  • For a given size of bankroll, and a given percentage advantage, there exists an optimal-sized bet amount.  Bet lower than this, and you won’t be making as much money as you could be making.  Bet higher than this, and your risk of ruin increases.  In fact, if you exceed this by too much, your risk of ruin becomes 100%.  To see how this might work, start with an imaginary bankroll of, say, $100.  Flip a coin twenty times, betting 50% of your bankroll on each outcome.  (Remember to adjust the bet size for each flip.)  This would seem to be an even-money proposition, yet your bankroll will trend downward.
  • For a given size bankroll, a given precentage advantage, and a given bet size, your risk of ruin can be calculated.  (No, I’m not going to show you how here.)  Imagine a poker player with a $10,000 bankroll playing a $20-$40 Holdem game.  Imagine his edge yields, on average, $40 per hour.  Interestingly, if he takes $40 per hour out of his bankroll as his pay (you know, to eat and pay the bills and such), his risk of ruin is 100%.  (Depending on the size of his bankroll, this may take a long time, but it WILL happen.)  So that’s what professional gamblers have to cope with.  (The way they do that is by taking a smaller amount out of their bankroll, and if they do experience a large downturn, finding another game with lower stakes.)


Professional Blackjack, by Stanford Wong

The Mathematics of Poker, by Bill Chen

Thursday, April 16, 2009

Susan Boyle

You've all probably seen this already. I don't care. Here it is again.

Susan Boyle on Britain's Got Talent

You go, girl!

I like watching Simon's face change when she starts singing.

Never before have I purchased an album from a contestant on one of these shows. I think that will soon change.

Wednesday, April 15, 2009

Tea Party

This rambles a bit.  You have been warned.

There’s something called a Tea Party Movement happening in the US.  My understanding from reading a bit about it is that it is comprised of people who think we need to go back to Bush’s policies in order to get out of the recession that was caused by Bush’s policies.  The organizers behind it are “conservatives”, such as Fox News.  (I used quotation marks because I don’t think today’s “conservatives” have any understanding of conservatism.  But I digress.) 

And speaking of digressions: I wonder what the present value would be of all the tea we tossed into the harbor, lo these many years ago.  Just wondering.  Good tea is pricey, after all. 

But this Tea Party thing concerns me in another way.  I don’t know if people have noticed or not, but President Obama, the times I’ve seen him, has not been playing the blame game.  He has bent over backwards to not blame his predecessor (George W. Bush, for those who may have forgotten) for the ills faced by our country.  Even as he spent the first 10 minutes in office reversing all those executive orders. 

The word is Class, and it’s something that has been noticeably absent from politics for, um, a while. 

But the GOP, instead of praising, or even acknowledging it, is instead moving to capitalize on it.  (Get it?  Capitalize?)  It seems that the Tea Movement is the first step in shifting the blame onto Obama, by taking advantage of the fact that he doesn’t seem to want to play dirty. 

Now, for the intelligent in this country, such as myself, this is not a credible threat.  I see through it, thus it has no effect. 

But what we keep underestimating is the vast sea of genetic curiosities who are, believe it or not, actually registered to vote.  They’re out there, folks.  They are the reason I bemoan the anti-poker legislation this country has passed.  Those were good times.  All in with 6-2 offsuit.  Really.

But now they are being whipped into a frenzy, with talk of revolution.  The GOP leadership (by which I mean Rush Limbaugh) is behind it.  Which, in my book, constitutes evidence that their ideology is unsound.  Rational presentation of their case has stopped working, so now they have to do this.  At no point does it enter their minds that some of their ideas might actually be wrong.

And the longer-view prospects are dim.  Should they succeed, class (remember class?  This is an article about class) will be forever removed from the political arena, because it just doesn’t work.  So think about that.  And if you know some of the aforementioned curiosities who cannot think, just start a cult and invite them all in.

Tuesday, April 14, 2009

Dissin’ the Post Office

It must have been a pretty slow news day in Modesto, CA. 

The headline reads, “Couple’s Tax Documents Certifiably Lost”, by Jeff Jardine.  Basically a couple had sent their tax stuff to their tricky accountant, and the package was instead delivered to the IRS in Fresno. 

Several things: 

1.  I love the mean, ‘unamused’ look the couple gave for the picture.  Perfect indignation for someone so very wronged. 

2.  Their tax documents, according to the story, are not lost, as the headline proclaims.  Their location is known. 

3.  I was awestruck by the coincidence that their tax documents were mistakenly delivered to the IRS.  Perhaps the mail clerk was merely clairvoyant, and expedited delivery to the final destination.  Or perhaps the couple in question accidentally put the IRS label on the envelope.  Choose for yourself which scenario is more likely. 

4.  I’m a postal employee, so perhaps my opinion should be taken with a grain of salt, but the US Postal Service processes about 700 million pieces of mail each day.  Why is it that when one gets lost (or misdirected), it is newsworthy?  All the people I know at the post office are hardworking and conscientious.  And sometimes make an error (most often resulting in delay rather than misdelivery). 

5.  The writer mentions at the end that the couple will send their copies either UPS or FedEx.  They’re willing to spend more money on a company that, in their eyes, has a less than 1/700 million chance of “losing” their package.  Dave and Ann Milhous, I salute your acumen. 

6.  This is.... aggressive: 

Nor has she gotten an explanation from the post office about how their information wound up in Fresno which, if my AAA road map isn't outdated, is still due south of Modesto. San Jose is due west. 

What kind of explanation would satisfy them?  Do they think that one of us, in the process of delivering it to the wrong destination, thought to scribble down the reason for doing so?  I have encountered many such people in my time, “demanding” an explanation, when there is no way of knowing.  However, I refer the reader to Number 2, above.

And Mr. Jardine's smart-alecki-ness seems unwarranted as well.  Does he think we sort the mail by the direction it's heading?

7.  While not the subject of my rant, I am amused that they think anyone at the IRS has the time to stop what they are doing at this time of year, and go sort through what must be a mountain of post looking for a package with a specific return address.  That borders on delusional.

Saturday, April 11, 2009

The Sixth Sense

This looks like a technoweenie's wet dream.

Discount Rate

So I'm putzing around at IMDB, and for whatever reason I'm reading the little bio on Charlie Sheen.  Included therein is this tidbit:

In 1995, the same year he was briefly married to model Donna Peele, he was called to testify at the trial of Hollywood madam Heidi Fleiss.  At the trial, while under oath he admitted to spending nearly $50,000 on 27 of Fleiss' $2,500-a-night prostitutes.

Seven of which, I must assume, were freebies.  Or fourteen 2-for-1 specials.

Friday, April 3, 2009

Extreme Golf

I'm not a golfer, but check out this hole.

Par 3, my ass. Story here.

Wednesday, April 1, 2009

Two Unrelated Items

A couple of news items lately have piqued my interest, so here I am, sharing.


Ballpark Figures are Too High, Fans Say 

A poll shows that baseball fans are unhappy with high ticket prices.

Margaret Costello, a retired teacher from Sandusky, Ohio, assessed blame across the board.

"I'm not happy about the prices," she said this week at the Indians' new camp. "Every sports team in America, every professional athlete, is out of line.

"We have people losing their jobs, and CC Sabathia — I love him, he was my favorite — he gets more millions than a third-world country's national budget?" she said.

"I'm here for spring training, but I think this is the last time. Every year, I get more disillusioned with the millionaire players. Now, with Americans really in a financial bind, these guys keep getting richer? It has to stop." 

I disagree; I don’t think she “assessed blame across the board”.  In fact, she left out the actual guilty party: the fans.  In other words, herself.  If no one bought a ticket to a game, I guarantee prices will drop next season.  A lot.

But that's not going to happen:

Overall, almost 60 percent of poll respondents said going to a game was more expensive than other entertainment they might consider. Yet there was no indication they would stay away because of the prices — only 11 percent who went to a game in 2008 said they aren't likely to go back this year. 

Sports franchises exist to make money.  They’re not out to “get” anyone; they are interested in maximizing profits.  Period. 

Do you know what the difference is between selling 1 ticket for a million dollars, and selling 20,000 tickets for $25? 

Half a million.  Guess which way?

Point is, selling fewer tickets for a higher price can be more profitable.  The teams will continue charging whatever the market will bear. 

And I love that another thing sports fans whine about is the high player salaries.  That tickles me.  High ticket prices and high player salaries.  Hmm.


And now for something completely different:


9 patients made nearly 2,700 ER visits in Texas 

AUSTIN, Texas – Just nine people accounted for nearly 2,700 of the emergency room visits in the Austin area during the past six years at a cost of $3 million to taxpayers and others, according to a report. 

The $3 million figure comes from this: 

The average emergency room visit costs $1,000. Hospitals and taxpayers paid the bill through government programs such as Medicare and Medicaid, Kitchen said. 

Now, before you cry a river for those poor hospitals, bear in mind that these are the same people who charge you $20 for an aspirin.  Or a band-aid.  Or $40 for one of each.  So I’m guessing that the $1.000 figure just might be inflated a bit.  I wonder if the statement that hospitals and taxpayers are footing the bill means that taxpayers are only paying $10 for the band-aid. 

And as for the fact that such a small group accounted for such a large number of visits: doesn’t anyone keep records?  Couldn’t they have figured this out sooner?  Or is it just possible that $10 for a band-aid still shows a profit?