Monday, September 15

divine retribution

Okay, I'm confused.

Everybody Knows (™ Fox "News") that Hurricane Katrina was divine retribution for a 2005 gay pride parade in New Orleans. And that Hurricane Gustav was divine retribution for the same parade (Southern Decadence) in 2008.

So what is Hurricane Ike divine retribution for -- Sarah Palin's nomination? Dubya's Presidency (since the target this time was Dubya's Oil Buddies)?

I'm just looking for the correct someone/something to blame.

Saturday, September 13

liveblogging Ike

Some people do a lot of liveblogging, but not me. Detailing events as they're unfolding is useful only in rare circumstances. Today I'll make an exception, as Hurricane Ike makes his way from Houston to Dallas.

Yesterday, the storm track appeared to veer east of Dallas, so I'm not expecting much more than heavy rain and wind, from noon to midnight. My preparations are really very minimal.

I scouted the yard for objects that could become airborne and moved them inside. Traffic moved smoothly on the freeways, with only a few areas of mild congestion. I tested Channel 8-2 (Digital TV) which has morfed into a live feed from KHOU-TV (Houston channel 11); they're showing the heavy surf at Galveston, saying it's the worst storm to hit Texas in 50 years; we'll see. Some comparisons with Hurricane Alicia (1983) which is ten years before I landed. Paid $7 cash for a car wash and notice NO LINES - surprise, surprise. Brought the car home, parked it in the garage.

I have a standing meeting on the second Saturday from 9 to noon - it was cancelled via email. The annual three-day Southwest Swap Meet is still showing "rain or shine" so if I go at all, it'll be Sunday.

Last minute: charged the battery for the digital camera, co-located some stuff on the kitchen table. Charged the battery to the laptop and DVD player, in case I want to watch a movie with the pets. Mentally made "compute plans" for any power failure: shut down the PCs but leave the router up (UPS) as long as possible - my Nokia 770 and PowerBook are battery powered.

06:16: Cloudy, 24C. Wind NE 4 m/s (9 mph).
Still dark, sunrise due at 07:10.
I expect to lose communication with the DirecTV satellite for much of the day. As long as it doesn't impact the 22:30 season premiere of Saturday Night Live, I'll be okay. No need to stock up as I have enough canned soups, etc to last until Thanksgiving.

06:46: Cloudy, 25C. Wind NE 5 m/s (11 mph).
Remembered to bring cellphone in from the car, where it lives most of its life. Fed, watered, medicated the pets (each gets one pill/morning). Checked channel 8-2 and they're talking generalities about the damage in Galveston - won't know more until after sunrise, at the earliest.

brief check of the latest National Weather Service info:

07:01: Cloudy, 25C. Wind NE 5 m/s (11 mph).
Noticed email from Mary-Bob regarding Monday lunch plans. No word on my Sunday afternoon event (distance: 11.81 miles Time: 21 mins), so will plan to attend per plan. Printed the map now in case power, Internet outage prevents that later. Think I'll take a nap, as the first bands of wind/rain are several hours away.

08:10: Cloudy, 26C. Wind NE 4 m/s (9 mph).
So much for my nap - the old man next door decided he needs to cut his grass so .. out comes the riding lawnmower. Radar shows rain bands have arrived in the south part of Dallas county. KHOU-Houston reports the storm has increased speed to 18 miles/hour - will convert that to meters/second (m/s) later. I remembered to install my rain gauge (capacity 4 inches) earlier this morning, but may need to empty it if we get heavy rain.

10:00: Rain, 26C. Wind NE 6 m/s (13 mph).
No rain here yet, but the Addison airport (nearest weather to me) is reporting some rain. I just listened to the Houston mayor Bill White's press conference where he made two requests: 1- stay off the roads and 2- boil tap water as a precaution (one of their pumping stations is down, I think). When he finished making his initial comments, he auto-switched to Mexican, although didn't know how to say "truck", or "boil" in Spanish. They're already predicting it may be two weeks (eek!) before power is restored to parts of the coast.

13:24: Rain, 25C. Wind N 9 m/s (20 mph).
Still no heavy rain/winds, although .. it may be "just the other side of the freeway" if the radar is to be believed. Wind has shifted to the north as expected since I'm on the clean edge of the storm. It's drifting closer to Dallas than earlier models indicated .. the eye may pass 50 miles east of me. We're under a TROPICAL STORM WIND WARNING, per the National Weather Service. Checked rain gauge - less than 1/10 inch so far, currently rain/wind but not severe. Noteworthy: normal (snail) mail delivery.

15:10: Rain, 26C. Wind N 12 m/s (27 mph).
Imperceptible change. Weather bug says winds up to 12 meters/second. Turns out the conversion to miles/hour is 2.2369363, so .. 12 m/s = 27 mph wind. Zzzzz. I entertained myself by updating the prior wind speeds on this blog.

19:00: Rain, 25C. Wind NW 10 m/s (22 mph).
Another wind shift, now from the northwest. Finally starting to see some moderate rainfall. The eye of the storm appears heading for Texarkana.

23:59: Mostly Cloudy, 23C. Wind WNW 3 m/s (7 mph).
Final entry. Rain gauge total 1.2 inches. No power outages, no storm damage. And, oh yes .. the new-season premiere of Saturday Night Live was Da Bomb.

Friday, September 12

and now, we wait

I haven't seen the Dallas population this nervous in awhile .. not since last winter when there was a prediction of two (2) inches of snow.

Traffic seemed lighter than usual when I dropped a friend at DFW this morning, although TXDOT's freeway message signs are flashing "AVOID TRAVEL TO HOUSTON AND BEAUMONT / TEXAS HURRICANE WARNING". The grocery store parking lots aren't full, although we should be getting some of the wind and rain by this time tomorrow, unless The Weather Gal changes her mind as to Hurricane Ike's projected path.

So far, I've learned two new TXDOT terms due to Ike: evaculane (road shoulders wide and smooth enough to be used as a travel lane during times of significant traffic congestion) and contraflow (opening all lanes for outbound traffic).

Unrelated deep thought: what do you call a person from Zimbabwe? A Zimbabwiccan?

Wednesday, September 10

Republicans using tactics #5, #8 and #10 today

Republican Campaign Tactics:
  1. Never, EVER take responsibility.
  2. Always blame the Democrats - for everything.
  3. Lie, then lie some more. Everybody Knows™ that if you repeat something 3 times, it becomes True! You may even start believing the lies yourself.
  4. Learn how to speak out of both sides of your mouth, without flinching. Develop a negative twist to everything your opponent does, even if it's just walking across the street.
  5. Trivialize everything your opponent says. Take a seemingly-insignificant phrase out of context (such as "lipstick on a pig"), and tell your audience that was the primary message. Say it with a sneer, if possible.
  6. If you're an elected Republic, learn how to obfuscate and delay - those are GOP SOP (2007-8 Republic senators have filibustered more bills than any Congress in history)
  7. Never forget that most voters do not follow politics, so pander to them, always. You are there to get their vote, not educate them.
  8. Distract the voters! When they ask about the economy, or the war, or health care, ask them why they're not wearing an American flag lapel pin, or why they hate America.
  9. Never admit you're wrong; that is a sign of weakness.
  10. Feign outrage - often.

As I explained to LWB:
One thing you have to understand about Republicans in general : they are simple people. They want easy, simple answers to life's problems and get confused whenever the answer is even mildly complex. If you try to argue with them, they'll become frustrated and angry, because they've already concluded that the simplest answer is the most logical.

I've found it easier to talk to them if I pretend i'm talking to an 8-year old, and explain things in very simple ways. Many of them made it through school either because their rich parents asked paid for favors, or the problem with education in general -- where there's significant pressure to pass students because it's just easier than dealing with them another year.

Have you noticed how few Texans can read/write without making frequent spelling and grammar errors? Their priorities are all wrong; they put more emphasis on the weekly football game, or how the cheerleader's hair looks, than education. There are exceptions, of course; those are called "Democrats".

It would be funny if it weren't so serious. Republicans vote like they're selecting a next-door neighbor. Democrats vote like they're selecting someone for a JOB - as US President, in this case.

Originally posted on 8 July 2008

Wednesday, September 3

The Stupid Vortex

It seriously offends me that the average American voter makes choices based not on job qualifications, but on who would make a better next-door neighbor.

They* just admitted that "This election is not about issues." Out loud. They actually said that. And few people blinked.
* McCain campaign manager Rick Davis

I still think mandatory voter education classes Just Have To happen, if we're to ever dig ourselves out of The Stupid Vortex. Without a minimum passing score, the person doesn't get to vote. Naturally, I'll be the one to design the test.

The framing that the GOP is trying to achieve now regarding their party's message is quite unbelievable, and will undoubtedly be soaked up by a measurable percentage of the voter pool. That is more than sad; it is criminal.

For the rest of us whose brain cells have yet to be compromised, may I suggest an immediate re-read of George Lakoff's splendid book, Don't Think of an Elephant! .. or watch any of the classic propaganda films (The Birth of a Nation; any highlight reel of a Republic Party convention; Triumph of the Will; etc.).

Monday, September 1

He who controls the past, controls the future.

In 2006, a questionnaire was sent to all candidates for the gubernatorial race in Alaska. Although many of Sarah Palin's answers brand her a typical Republican, her answer to number 11:
Are you offended by the phrase "Under God" in the Pledge of Allegiance? Why or why not?
made me Laugh Out Loud. Sarah Palin answered:
"Not on your life. If it was good enough for the founding fathers, its good enough for me and I’ll fight in defense of our Pledge of Allegiance."
While I'm sure the small-brained ones (Republic Party) will clasp their hands and offer praise (ignoring Palin's incorrect punctuation, and threat of violence), those of us who studied American History in a classroom (i.e. not home-schooled) know that "Under God" was added as a knee-jerk reaction to the Commie Witch Hunts of the early 1950s, and became law on Flag Day 1954. Shocking reality: that's long after the last Founding Father was Dead And Buried. Somehow America did just fine without the religious phrase for nearly 180 years.

Future home-schooled generations will never know this; their parents will shirley keep them ignert [sic, sic]. Palin's bio on Wikipedia ("the Unquestioned Fount of All Knowledge") doesn't mention anything prior to high school, so I don't know if she attended public schools or was edjicated by her parunts .. out behind the barn.

Conclusion: The novel [Nineteen Eighty-Four] (prophetically written in 1949) is rapidly becoming less Fiction every day. Edward R. Murrow - who surely read the book - must be rolling in his grave.

Unrelated: I read that 17 year-old Bristol Palin is pregnant. I'm left to wonder why "abstinence only" didn't work for the Palins? Sounds like parental failure to me. Then again, Bristol's repeating the mistake her own parents made (the Palin's oldest son was born 7 months after her parents "eloped").

Sunday, August 31

does this meaning Wednesday's tornado siren test is cancelled?

The National Weather Service says:






Saturday, August 30

poor choice of words

I had to laugh when I read the headline for Peter Baker's column in today's New York Times: Choice of Palin Is a Bold Move by McCain, With Risks.

Now, I don't blame Peter because he didn't use the word "bold" in the article; thus, the error was induced by one of the editors.

You see, the correct term to use is not bold, but reckless. Contemptible, perhaps. John Sidney McCain has sunk so low in his quest for power that he's willing to risk America to the likes of a FAR right-wing female, whose claim to fame is that she looks like the proverbial "naughty librarian" of porn star fame. I suspect Reckless John thinks he'll snag some disaffected Hillary voters.

The only amusing part of this whole charade was watching Reckless John trying to sneak a peek at Palin's tits when he stood alongside her in Dayton. Maybe he was fantasizing about Wife 3.0 (Cindy has surely bitch-slapped him by now)

We don't deserve this. If, by some perverted fluke of fate, Reckless John were to be elected in November, followed by his inevitable death a few months later, we'd be left with this IDiot who denies global warming, evolution, and even the right of the Alaskan polar bears to survive.

It's not all Reckless John's fault, mind you. If Sarah Palin had an ounce of pride for her country, she would have (politely, of course) told McCain NO when he asked her to be his running mate. She knows she's unqualified, yet she (apparently) shares McCain's contempt for America, and said yes. Hell, there are sixteen (16) US cities with a larger population than Alaska .. why couldn't Reckless John pick one of their mayors instead?

While watching The Charade In Dayton, I had a flashback to 1988 when King George I introduced Dan Quayle as his running mate. I'll be the first to acknowledge that my first impression of J. Danforth was completely off the mark; I suspected Quayle would be a good choice and it wasn't until later that the extent of his buffoonery became apparent (his stupidity is legendary).

In about 65 days, I'm hoping this will fade away to just a bad memory. With far better access to archival information now, and The Blogosphere (not to mention The Daily Show), I suspect the extent of Sarah Palin's inner self will quickly become obvious. The Republic Party fully deserves the landslide it's about to face.

Friday, August 29

is this what they mean by a "Hail Sarah" ?

The First Big Test for the POTUS nominees is often their choice of running mate.

Barack Obama chose a sane, seasoned foreign policy guru.

John McCain chose an ex-beauty queen who was part-time mayor of an Alaskan village two years ago. And she could have her pretty little French Nails on the "nucular trigger" when John McCain dies early next year.

Rumor has it that even Dan Quayle and Geraldine Ferraro are baffled.

I'm guessing John Sidney McCain watched Obama's speech in Denver and threw Tim Pawlenty under the bus at the Very Last Second.

Worth noting:
The population of Alaska was 663,661 (2005).
Even Collin County, Texas (Plano, etc) is larger - at 748,050.
The population of Dallas (city) is 1,300,350 .. about double that of ALL of Alaska.

Wednesday, August 27

the faces of evil

A week ago, religious cult leader Rick Warren asked Obama and McCain about evil; wisely, they both acknowledged that it exists (wow! how controversial! what a lame question!).

Today, there are various Faces Of Evil:

# 1 - meth head assassins

I wonder if these White Christian Republicans [Tharin Robert Gartrell, 28; Nathan Johnson, 32; and Shawn Adolf, 33] knew they'd be famous more than 48 hours ahead of the time they planned to assassinate Senator Obama? I wonder how long it'll be before Gartrell and his gang are linked to Karl Christian Rove, and whether he financed them?

# 2 - swiftboat bigots

They may also wish to look for financial links from alleged white supremacist misunderstood tycoon Harold C. Simmons, who lives here in Dallas.

Simmons is the billionaire scumbag Texas sweetheart who's financing this year's swiftboat ad about Barack Obama. He has practice; he did the same thing to John Kerry in 2004 which is why we got Four More Years of George W. Bush.

At least Simmons is following Republic Golden Rule #3: Lie, then lie some more. He understands that the small-minded fools who make up the base of the Republic Party will believe most anything.

# 3 - Karl Christian Rove (and his co-conspirators at Fox "News")

I look forward to the day when the US version of The Nuremberg Trials are held, with these defendants getting the same fate as the Nazi leaders.

If we still had The Fairness Doctrine, they'd all be off the air by now.

Tuesday, August 26

the impartince of good speling

On one of the mailing lists I'm on, the following "conversation" took place yesterday:
... sent out a memo about using there name as a generic name for air ambulance. At our place the reporters were told to use "Air Ambilance"

then someone asked what an "Ambilance" was.

A third person chimed in with "So now we're complaining about spelling error's??"
Oy, vey.

Part of the reason the rest of the world (rightly so) sees Texas as a hillbilly backwater is because the vast majority of natives here can't spell (or grammar) their way out of a wet paper bag. In the first two sentences above, there are two errors. In the last sentence, there is one. I didn't see the use in correcting "error's" but couldn't help but feel sorry for the writer.

When I read something (whether online or in print) it's distracting to deal with the near-constant grammar errors, misspelling and misuse of punctuation. I don't understand how students can get a diploma when they can't complete even one sentence without an error that those of us with half a brain will trip over as we try to understand what they're saying.

Then, as seen in the second sentence above, someone else has the audacity to defend these errors under the guise that "smart people can figure out what he's trying to say". It's enough to make me want to take away "they're diploma" [sic] until they can converse like rational adults.

Perhaps they were home schooled, and their parents were incapable of correcting the errors, or didn't want Little Joe Bob to have poor self esteem, so they gave them a passing score although it was undeserved.

All of us make occasional typos, but with the ubiquity of spell checkers and grammar checkers, there's no excuse for such clumsiness; it simply breeds more and more bad behavior, until communication devolves into what passes for Acceptable via Text Messaging.

Monday, August 25

advice for Tuesday: DO NOT BREATHE


The Texas Commission on Environmental Quality (TCEQ) has issued a Level Red Air Pollution Watch for the Dallas-Fort Worth area for Tuesday, August 26, 2008.

Atmospheric conditions are expected to be favorable for producing high levels of ozone air pollution in the Dallas-Fort Worth area on Tuesday. Ozone levels could reach the Level Red "Unhealthy" category.

Elevated concentrations of ozone can act as a lung irritant. Individuals with chronic lung disease, such as asthma and emphysema, as well as the elderly and young children, are particularly sensitive to ozone and should attempt to avoid exposure. To avoid exposure, minimize exertion outdoors during the mid-day to early evening hours or stay indoors in an air-conditioned room during this time.

Saturday, August 23

John McCain: "a noun, a verb, and P.O.W."

I think I'm gonna like what Joe Biden adds to The Race, especially if he makes a slight modification to his comment that sunk Rudy Giuliani's campaign:

Related: Maureen Dowd's column: Too Much of a Bad Thing

Also, a quick comment about how John Sidney McCain doesn't know how many houses he owns: well, duh. Most of them are million-dollar condos that (2nd) wife Cindy bought; he's probably never even been in half of them.

Just like Cindy bought John McCain himself; she wanted a Trophy Husband (think: airhead) and that's what she got. As I've told people over-and-over-and-over: FOLLOW THE MONEY.

The one who pulls John McCain's strings is his chief financial backer: CINDY. That's what makes this a must-read article: Made Man - How Cindy Hensley invented John McCain, even if it is on the long side.

Thursday, August 21

A fable about Russia and Georgia

I know millions (billions?) of you are hanging by your fingertips, waiting on my opinion regarding the Russian invasion of Georgia. If you expect me to back John McCain, whose mantra is "War! War! Invade! Invade!" .. well, you're sadly mistaken.

Kindly allow me to paint a picture for you:
  1. Let's assume the USA decides to make Georgia a strategic ally.
  2. The USA sells lots of arms to the Georgians. Yes, they know Russia is next door.
  3. Separately, the USA announces plans to put missiles in Poland.
  4. Next, two of the 11 Georgian states (with large numbers of Russian expats) say they no longer want to be part of Georgia.
  5. Georgia sends in federal troops to prevent that from happening.
  6. In order to "protect the Russian expats", Russia invades Georgia.
  7. Now, the UN blames Russia for invading.
  8. A war-first US Senator (running for President) pledges his support for Georgia.
  9. Meanwhile, the USA sits back, ready to sell Georgia more weapons as soon as the coast is clear.
Now, for purposes of argument, let's switch the names of the players:

USA -> Russia
Georgia -> Mexico
Poland -> Cuba
Russia -> USA
  1. Let's assume Russia decides to make Mexico a strategic ally.
  2. Russia sells lots of arms to the Mexicans. Yes, they know the USA is next door.
  3. Separately, Russia announces plans to put missiles in Cuba.
  4. Next, two of the 31 Mexican states (with large numbers of US expats) say they no longer want to be part of Mexico.
  5. Mexico sends in federal troops to prevent that from happening.
  6. In order to "protect the US expats", the USA invades Mexico.
  7. Now, the UN blames the USA for invading.
  8. A war-first Russian Senator (running for President) pledges his support for Mexico.
  9. Meanwhile, the Russians sit back, ready to sell Mexico more weapons as soon as the coast is clear.
Now, what do you think? Still think this is worth (maybe nuclear) war?

Tuesday, August 19

Progressive Sockpuppetry 101

In the next 76 days or so, increasing numbers of progressives/liberals/Democrats will be called upon to perform sockpuppetry -- pretending to be someone you're not. This blog entry will explain the basics, so that you don't get busted immediately.
It's worth noting that regressives/conservatives/Republic(an)s have been sockpuppeting for years, although they're still not very good at it. It's not their fault; it's much more difficult for someone stupid to appear smart, than vice-versa.
Naturally, it's best to observe first, before jumping head-first into this (but don't observe too long; the election's only a few weeks away). Fortunately, there are millions of blogs; videos and media columns Out There, with comments enabled. Read and learn, then have some fun.

Progressives who wish to participate in this charade (presumably while commenting on a news column, or a blog) may find this list useful:
  1. Decide upon a right-wing sounding name. Republics love to think of themselves as Defenders of The Faith, so anything that reminds the viewer of that trait will give you an advantage. Examples: flagwaver911; jesuslovesyou316; proudirishgal (note that none of these use UCC) are all good examples that will be immediately accepted by the Right Wing Sociopaths. Names such as LiberalLenny or SatanWorshipper will get you busted before you can say "Gimme a Bud".

  2. Don't use your real email address. Almost anything with an @ sign in the middle will pass The Stupid Filter that's in use on most sites. Occasionally, clear your history by repeatedly pressing the [Delete] key while in the Name/Email field.

  3. It's probably best to leave the website field blank. If you must, I suggest you use one of the many "fake news" sites out there, like; or even

  4. (Optional, for the paranoid among us:) If you really want to be crafty, use an ISP with dynamic IP addresses (and reboot after each posting, being sure to set your DHCP lease to 10 minutes or so) ... or ... use one of the sites/plugins which masks your IP address.

  5. Even though most Republics are in the middle class, they fancy themselves as being Rich Rich Rich. This is one of the accomplishments of Karl Rove; he's convinced them to vote against their own best interests, to enact policies that help the richest 1% become even richer, while Royally Screwing everyone else. Very few Republics have discovered this fraud. Some Republics are spammers who live from one Get Rich Quick scheme to the next and live in single-wide trailers or their uncle's basement. Their diet consists of pork rinds and Easy Cheese. Yet, I digress.

  6. Turn off your spell checker and/or grammar checkers. Republics never learned how to spell or use correct grammar and view anyone who can do so as "elitist" (i.e. "smart"), which is immediate cause for suspicion. Be sure to misuse homonyms* such as "too/two/to"; "there/thair/theyre [sic]"; "hear/here"; ; "wear/ware"; "are/our". Try not to misspell too many words; even Republics can spell a few words. You might also trying writing like a 13-year old girl would text message ("OMG!! I M GNA B L8")
    * they think homonym means "Gay Word"
  7. Never use a word that would force a 10+ year old to consult a dictionary. If you're using "big people words" you'll be instantly spotted as a fraud.

  8. Use lots of exclamation marks, and capitalize the wrong words. Example: "Hear in AMERICA We love Freedom!!!!!!!!!!!" Complete throw out everything you every learned about punctuation, run-on sentences, etc.

  9. For American sites: use lots of Christian religious references, especially when they have no bearing on the topic. Example: "OMG!!!! It says in REVELATION thet the Antichrist will come from Lithuaina!!!!" It's best to avoid citing specific passages because some of Them have memorized everything, like Muslims who memorize the Quran. Sprinkle in an occasional "Bless your heart" or "Praise the Lord!!!" for added effect. Even They aren't stupid enough to think that "John 6:66" is a real reference, so don't attempt such a juvenile tactic.

  10. Above all, try to remember what it was like to argue with a 7-year old. Since the bulk of school bullies will grow up to be Republics, if you argue like a 7-year old bully, odds are nobody will out you. Don't forget to demean your opponent. Example: "Why doesn't Barry HUSSANE Osama ware a Flag!?!?! He must be a muslum who hats AMERICA!!!!" .. or .. "Are you stopid or WHAT!!!". This will endear you to White Christian Republics, who generally have an IQ around 75 - the median in their Grand Old Party. Be careful not to use reasoning in any argument; you'll be wasting your time. It would be easier to teach a pig to sing.

  11. Keep your comments brief. Republics have a very limited attention span and no ability to read more than a few lines without wishing for a cold Bud, or talkin' about theyre dream team, or what gun to use to Kill a Libreal, etc. Their distraction threshold is very low. As you've noticed with John McCain, you should avoid multi-part questions altogether.

Sometimes it's good fun to post a random stupidity to one of their websites/blogs, since the odds of being discovered are slim-to-none. That said, this gets boring fast as there's little challenge involved. Going onto Bill O'Reilly's site and telling him "I watch yo show every Night and YOU KICK LIBEREL ASS!!!! I want to half your Baby!!!" will undoubtedly be approved by their screeners without a second glance.

Here's something that may annoy the sane people among us, so please don't overdo it: post nonsense to a sane website, sockpuppeting as A Republic. Example: when a scientist has explained string theory, comment (as flagwaver911) that "Yer String Thoery is NOT in The Bible and you will shirly BURN IN HELL!!!!!" which is both a non sequitur as well as a way for that site's sane humans to prejudge all White Christian Republics to be morons, saving them valuable time in the future when they encounter such oafs (oaves?).

Sunday, August 17

ordeal at the drive-thru

Last night, I moseyed over to a local store to fetch some CFLs that were priced at 59c each (I bought 6 of them - for me, that's a lifetime supply of these low-wattage bulbs).

Afterwards, I stopped at a local drive-thru for a sandwich and a drink, and that's when things got interesting.

I happened to arrive moments after two guys in a small white pickup attempted to place their order. Alternating ordering through their window, and opening the truck's door to talk .. they ordered about $30 worth of fast food (it wasn't hard to hear their order - lots of sandwiches with each condiment specified - e.g. "hamburger with lettuce, ketchup and onions .. (long pause) ... cheeseburger with mustard and tomato .." etc.) This should've told me that I was in for a long wait, but .. I decided to stay, since this was the last thing on My Agenda For The Night.

Next, they pulled up to the window and the clerk handed their four (4) drinks to the driver, then waited for the money. Another long pause. I guess Company Policy is that if someone leaves without paying, they didn't lose much since the profit on soda is about 96%. The driver handed two folded bills - one by one - out the window, over his left shoulder, without looking .. since he and the passenger were by then anxiously searching for something inside the cab. I mentally noted their license plate number.

Next, the passenger's door opens halfway, enough for him to stick his legs outside while continuing to search for something inside the truck. Then, the driver exited the cab, presumably to see if he'd been sitting on Whatever. It was then I could see he was wearing knee-length red satin trunks - something a Pimp Basketball team would wear.

Next, the driver got out of the truck completely and proceeded to walk past my car very slowly until he reached the drive-thru's order board. Still not finding what he was looking for, he came alongside my side of the car (by then I had locked the doors) and got back inside the truck, still searching.

At that point, I decided to cut my losses and backup .. perhaps leave. Once I'd backed up, the driver made another inspection of the drive-thru lane, a bit more meticulously than at first.

Now, this is the only drive-thru in Dallas with two lanes (like the In-N-Out Burgers on the west coast). Rather than leave, I decided to switch lanes, even if it meant stretching across the front seat to handle my transaction through the passenger window. Only then could I see that there were two SUVs in front of me. Lovely .. this had already turned into a 10-minute ordeal and was likely to be longer. Backing up from the left lane would be much more challenging. Now, I was stuck.

Eventually (another 5 minutes passed) I reached the window, and handed my cash out the passenger window, explaining to the clerk that I'd switched. "Yes, I noticed" he said, "... sorry about that". He then explained that the two guys in the pickup were Very Drunk and "had been smoking something they shouldn't have". Ah, that explained a lot.

So, the two guys in the little white pickup were drunk and stoned (hence the munchies), and had lost their bag-o-weed, hence the frantic search inside the cab.

This made me wonder what responsibility - if any - the fast food clerk had, to call the police and turn these drunk stoners over before they kill someone. Then again, they may still be at the drive-thru today, searching for Whatever.

Saturday, August 16

Republic Party Credo, pre-convention update

It appears the Republic Party Credo missed two items .. so, numbers 8 and 9 have been added:
  1. Never, EVER take responsibility.
  2. Always blame the Democrats - for everything.
  3. Lie, then lie some more. Everybody Knows™ that if you repeat something 3 times, it becomes True! You may even start believing the lies yourself.
  4. Learn how to speak out of both sides of your mouth, without flinching. Develop a negative twist to everything your opponent does, even if it's just walking across the street.
  5. Trivialize everything your opponent says. Take a seemingly-insignificant phrase out of context, and tell your audience that was the primary message. Say it with a sneer, if possible.
  6. If you're an elected Republic, learn how to obfuscate and delay - those are GOP SOP (2007-8 Republic senators have filibustered more bills than any Congress in history)
  7. Never forget that most voters do not follow politics, so pander to them, always. You are there to get their vote, not educate them.
  8. Distract the voters! When they ask about the economy, or the war, or health care, ask them why they're not wearing an American flag lapel pin, or why they hate America.
  9. Never admit you're wrong; that is a sign of weakness.

As I explained to LWB:
One thing you have to understand about Republicans in general : they are simple people. They want easy, simple answers to life's problems and get confused whenever the answer is even mildly complex. If you try to argue with them, they'll become frustrated and angry, because they've already concluded that the simple answer is logical.

I've found it easier to talk to them if I pretend i'm talking to an 8-year old, and explain things in very simple ways. Many of them made it through school either because their rich parents asked for favors, or .. just the problem with education in general where there's significant pressure to pass students.

Haven't you noticed how few Texans can read/write without making frequent spelling and grammar errors? Their priorities are all wrong; they put more emphasis on the weekly football game, or how the cheerleader's hair looks, than education. There are exceptions, of course; those are called "Democrats".

It would be funny if it weren't so serious. Republicans vote like they're selecting a next-door neighbor. Democrats vote like they're selecting someone for a JOB - as US President, in this case.

Originally posted on 8 July 2008

Friday, August 15

upcoming feature: The Bay of Pigs II

Doesn't anyone in Washington know how to read a history book?

After I read this in The Australian: Poland, US reach missile shield deal, I started counting how long it will take for the Russians to place some "defensive missiles" in Cuba, just like they did in 1962.

Now: lather, rinse, repeat.

For those of you who don't remember, read about the Cuban Missile Crisis, paying special attention to the part about the US missiles in Turkey.

George Dubya Bush, June 2001, on Vladimir Putin:
"I looked the man in the eye. I found him to be very straightforward and trustworthy and we had a very good dialogue. I was able to get a sense of his soul."
Well, golly, I feel better already. Guess it's time to update my will, not that there will be anyone left to inherit ...

Thursday, August 14

Wednesday, August 13

guilt-free in Arkansas

One thing that will probably not come out in the story about Timothy Dale Johnson (the Arkansas man who assassinated* Democratic super delegate Bill Gwatney (Arkansas Democratic Chairman)) earlier today:
What radio station was he listening to (in his blue pickup)?
I'd bet dollars-to-doughnuts that it was Ann Coulter, commanding him (and anyone else who would listen) to murder as many "Libbberals" as possible. The fact that he didn't use Coulter's designated implement - the baseball bat - is mostly irrelevant. Why he chose not to murder a security guard at the Arkansas Baptist State Convention office (a few minutes after Gwatney's assassination) remains a mystery.
Oddly, had he not threatened that security guard, he might have gotten away with the crime. That worker provided the man's vehicle description, as documented on The Arkansas Times' blog.
This comes just over two weeks after another Coulter disciple, Jim David Adkisson, murdered two (and wounded seven) people at Tennessee Valley Unitarian Universalist Church in Knoxville, which was known for daring to be inclusive/tolerant - something that Coulter (and her millionaire accomplices - Rush Limbaugh, Bill O'Reilly, etc) - find abhorrent.

As I understand it, Johnson was fired from his job after he wrote graffiti on a wall at the Target grocery in Conway, Arkansas. He went home, loaded his guns and proceeded to find the state's top Democrat and assassinate him. Ann Coulter must be very, very proud of her henchman.

* The fact that he asked for Gwatney by name makes this an assassination.

Friday update: looks like there are others advocating the killing of Democrats: The Right

Monday, August 11

history repeats itself ?

While watching the news of Russia's invasion of Georgia, I can't help but be reminded of the German invasion of Poland in 1939, which started World War II.

Both started with fabricated "reasons" for the invasion, with both resulting in the capture of the (formerly) sovereign nation. Yes, I know Putin hasn't completed the capture of the Georgian capital yet - that's only a matter of time.

What am I missing with this parallel?

Tuesday update: McCain is "too dangerous and unstable to be president", says Josh Marshall.

Thursday, August 7

Fox "News" : even more unfair and unbalanced

News item: Bill Orally O'Reilly of Fox "News" threatens Barack Obama. The world yawns.

Bill O'Reilly Warns Obama About "Investigative" Campaign Coverage (with appropriate continued kudos to the News Hounds)

Wednesday, August 6

Hi, I'm Pete Sessions and I'm your moron

"Ignorance can be cured through education, but there is no cure for stupid."
- anonymous
For the past several days, I've been targeted by a thinly-veiled "auto-dialer to re-elect Pete Sessions" -- in theory, he's my US Congressman. In truth, he's just another Republic Party Moron, who only reaches out to us constituents when it's election time.

This one was a fairly typical Republic survey (lasting about three (3) minutes) where they ask loaded questions designed to pander to the Republic Party base. Only yes or no answers are accepted - so if you'd like to reply "maybe" or "it depends" then you're out of luck. In this one, he repeats "Pete Sessions, your congressman" at least 4 times. I suspect that's because surveys show he has virtually no name recognition, and does nothing other than vote the way his Republic Party leaders order him. Pete Sessions is incapable/unwilling to think for himself.

Sessions' claim to fame is that he's the one responsible for gerrymandering the district and taking away our real Congressman, Martin Frost, in a Karl Rove-inspired slander campaign. Since then, we've been without real representation.

The twist on this call is that it was recorded by the candidate, so it was almost like (golly!) he was talking to me. Of course, in real life that doesn't happen.
Two of the questions concerned nuclear energy, which Pete Sessions calls "NUCULAR" (just like his bootlicker, George Dubya Bush). One of my first insights into whether a person has an IQ above 100 is their ability to pronounce the word NUCLEAR and .. no surprise .. Sessions fails that test.
I've blogged about this before, but it bears repeating: my two US senators (Hutchison and Cornyn) and my US congressman (Sessions) are all Bush-licking Republics, which means that I have no representation. All three of these clowns are there to support Big Oil and other large donors, and couldn't care less about the people who live here, except in the few weeks preceding any election where they use their franking (free mail) and auto-dialers to give the illusion that they're doing something.

Sadly, most Texan voters are poorly educated and will re-elect these clowns year after year (none of the three have any discernable skills, other than pandering).

Monday, August 4

hot? that ain't hot!

One of the advantages of my conversion (years ago) to Celsius: in the summertime, it doesn't seem as hot when "the mercury" never hits 100 degrees.

So, just for Texans, here's a Simplificated Celsius Tempricher Chart:

40damn hot

Sunday, August 3

hello, digital TV

News item:
"full-power analog (NTSC) signals cease in the USA on February 17, 2009"
Stuart Smalley would want to know how that affects him and the answer is "maybe not at all". If you have existing cable or satellite service, your analog TV will be fine. If you've bought a TV in the past few years, odds are it already has a digital tuner, so that's okay. The changes coming in February only affect those of us with an analog TV that gets over-the-air [OTA] signals.

The bulk of my TV watching is either via satellite or DVDs. I have an old TV in the bedroom that my dog used to watch, but I dropped the satellite feed to that set so it's now just a dust magnet. I decided to experiment with digital TV on that box, which means I need to buy a CECB - Coupon Eligible Converter Box.

Weeks ago, I ordered the (free) $40 coupon; a few days ago, I noticed the VALID THRU date (eek!) on my TV Converter Box Coupon, so I decided it was Time To Research. Ideally, my needs are simple:
  • perform the analog:digital conversion
  • have the analog pass-thru feature
  • relatively small
  • decent remote control
  • built-in antenna
  • not cost an arm and a leg
Turns out that NONE of these include a built-in antenna, so I'll have to spring for "rabbit ears" -- the cheapest/basic ones with a coax connector are $6.

Next, I quickly found that only 16 of the available converters have the analog pass-through feature -- which allows me to continue watching analog channels until 17/2/9. The first CECBs that shipped lacked the pass-thru. The list of CECBs that I would thus consider are on the website, but I'll repeat it here:
  1. APEX DT250
  2. Artec T3AP Pro
  3. CRAIG Electronics International Ltd. CVD506
  7. DISH Network DTVPal
  8. Insignia NS-DXA1-APT
  9. Magnavox TB-100MG9
  10. Memorex MVCB1000
  11. Philco TB100HH9
  12. Philco TB150HH9
  13. RCA DTA800B1
  14. Winegard RCDT09A
  15. Zenith DTT901
  16. Zinwell ZAT-970A
It turns out the only one that's readily available locally is the Zenith DTT901, and the various online reviews were generally favorable, so I waddled over to Circuit City and bought one. After the $40 coupon and sales tax, my out-of-pocket cost was $21.44.

According to I should get 26 stations - some with multiple digital feeds. So, I connected the cables, turned the CECB on and got exactly ONE digital channel (KTVT-11). Argh! In a way, this doesn't surprise me because I frequently drive past their station and see the antenna (even though most of the local stations planted their towers in Cedar Hill, Texas .. the highest elevation in the area).

It turns out the antenna coming from the wall (presumably hooked to the Giant Antenna in the attic) apparently isn't connected, and the rat's nest of wiring means that debugging could/would be a royal PITA. I decide "life's too short; I'll buy rabbit ears!" tells me that 21 channels will be available if I spring for a "small multidirectional antenna", so .. it's off to the B&M store (probably Fry's for the best selection) in the morning.

Alternate resource: Antenna

Abbreviations I encountered:
ATSC Advanced Television Systems Committee
CECB Coupon Eligible Converter Box
DTV Digital Television
EPG Electronic Program Guide
NTSC National Television System Committee
OTA Over The Air
PSIP Program and System Information Protocol
TVGOS TV Guide on Screen
useful: FAQ: The $40 Coupon Digital TV Converter Boxes

Saturday, August 2

McCain - now synonymous with LIAR

(click for larger image, suitable for framing)

Kudos to, naturally.

Friday, August 1

Britney and Paris! Britney and Paris!

Just Say No To McBush
How bad does John McCain want to avoid talking about real issues? He's running ads with Britney and Paris.

Is that what Americans are concerned about? Britney and Paris?

Do you want to know how we are going to right the ship of our economy? Or do you want to hear about Britney and Paris?

Want to talk about how we are going to extract our troops from Iraq? Or do you want to hear about Britney and Paris?

(no, I didn't write this .. kudos to Talking Points Memo)

Update: Ed Cognoski agrees, in this scathing blog: Race and politics

Wednesday, July 30

growing to (heart) $4 gas

As I started my day with a read of the New York Times* I noticed:
"Oil has dropped more than $23 a barrel, or 16 percent, and gasoline prices have fallen as Americans drive less."
Conservatives Small brainers will attribute this to Dubya's threat to open up more offshore drilling (even though the oil companies haven't drilled in 80% of the areas already permitted for same). The truth is that prices fell when the magical $4/gallon barrier for gas/petrol was reached and demand eased -- Americans simply started driving less. Part of this has to include the economic meltdown that's underway - just yesterday another restaurant chain (Benigan's/Steak & Ale), and another department store chain (Mervyn's) failed.

Dubya's Oil Puppets would like you to believe otherwise, but the offshore drilling threat was hollow and had no impact. This drop in oil prices was based on sticker-shock, and is temporary.

Oil producers know that "$4 gas" will soon become accepted as the norm, at which point they can aim for "$5 gas". I heard some MSM pundits muse "now we're paying European prices for gas!!!!" while anyone who can Google knows that's a lie; many Europeans would love to see American gas prices at their local station.

I suspect this will be similar to any plateau effect; Americans will grow to think of "$4 gas" as The Good Old Days and behaviors will slip away from our New Thrifty Habits:
  1. driving at the speed limit;
  2. combining trips;
  3. carpooling;
  4. buying more efficient vehicles;
  5. using mass transit
The local bus/train company (DART) has placed orders for larger trains - with better bicycle capacity - but by the time those orders arrive, I suspect we'll be back to Business As Usual as we'll have adapted to stagflation.

Likewise, American car makers are falling over themselves as they try to retool their factories for more fuel-efficient vehicles, but it appears they cannot turn on a dime and I've heard predictions of 18 months before those adaptations are complete.

I was talking to a friend last night about the price of new cars, and she said that while her paycheck has stayed the same, the price of her Target New Car has increased - on the order of 10% or so. My theory is that in order to make a vehicle 1% more fuel efficient, the price had to increase by 5% - the law of diminishing returns has begun to set in. As Americans return to our wasteful habits (outconsuming the world by 5:1 in some cases) this is only bound to get worse.
* the local newspaper (the "Dallas Managed News") has become little more than a repurposing of Associated Press stories, plus a hefty Religion section and right-wing pundits. They shouldn't let the door hit them in the arse.

Tuesday, July 29

Why did the Obama cross the road?

ah, politics.

A couple of us were talking about John SIDNEY McCain's latest slimeball All-Negative-All-The-Time Campaign tactics, and it was noted that they've decided to spin anything/everything that their challenger does into evil, no matter how pithy.

So, if Barack Obama crossed the street ..
.. on foot, they'd attack him for not using mass transit (thus pandering to the transit lobby);

.. in a bus, they'd attack him for trying to appease "blue collar workers";

.. in a Prius, they'd attack him for not using a Detroit-built automobile (pandering to the US auto industry);

.. in a Ford, they'd attack him for being "anti-General Motors";

.. in a GMC, they'd attack him for being "anti-Ford";

.. on a skateboard, they'd attack him for being a Liberal Elitist (conservatives can't ride skateboards)
You get the idea.

Friday update: my suspicions are confirmed.

Monday, July 28

here's your sign ...

make your own sign here

John McCain: LIAR!

I don't know if John McCain's staff has been talking to Hillary about how effective her "sniper fire story" was, but .. they're going into a tailspin and might as well cancel their convention and save us all a lot of money and trouble.

McCain's early promises of running a positive campaign are now at the bottom of the outhouse .. perhaps his latest wife Cindy is down there among all the feces, swimming in it like so much Evian in her billion dollar bathtub.

The latest SERIES of lies is coming from Karl Rove, saying that Barack Obama wouldn't visit our troops in Germany unless he could be assured of a photo op. What a crock of pig swill ... the good news is that this is being debunked all over the web, with McCain himself starting to look like The Fool.

At least they have a different kind of contempt for our veterans than Dick Cheney.

It's kind of sad. Sure, he's basically a hateful old man who has a lot of trouble remembering anything (much less taking responsibility), but you'd think he'd at least do The Honorable Thing and not resort to blatant lies, still 3+ months from the election. So much for the Straight Talk Express - it's become increasingly obvious that Arianna Huffington was dead on target with her book, detailing how Maverick John McCain - the Vietnam war hero - has ceased to exist.

Let's get this election over with and move on.

Tuesday, July 22

humor, defined

Not FunnyHysterical

queue the preachers!

News item:
HOUSTON (Reuters) - Tropical Storm Dolly churned toward southern Texas on Monday, and forecasters said they expected it to grow into a hurricane before hitting land near the Mexican border later this week.
Once it makes landfall, America's White Christian Preachers should immediately POUNCE, and tell everyone that the hurricane struck Texas because of its wickedness, for electing George Walker "Dubya" Bush as POTUS; Rick "Pretty Hair" Perry as Governor; Kay Bailey "Bootlicker Sr" Hutchison and John "Bootlicker Jr" Cornyn as US Senators.

Monday, July 21

where have I seen that face before?

News item: John McCain will name his running mate on Wednesday - Louisiana's (insane, first-term) Governor, Bobby Jindal. He's the one who claims to have cured cancer by performing an exorcism, so that may come in Real Handy when 72-year old John McCain drops dead a few weeks after being elected.

Sunday, July 20

the local coffee shop

Before there was Starbucks®, the "local coffee shop" usually meant an independent donut shop. In my case, the only nearby "dedicated coffee shops" are in/near office parks and are open 9-5 weekdays. Starbucks changed all that, extending their hours, creating atmosphere, and putting them on every corner -- hence their current saturation problem.

There are nine (9) Starbucks locations within three (3) miles of my home - two are inside grocery stores. Two of the remaining seven are on The List To Be Closed in the next few months, and only one of the seven has a drive-thru. I was mildly surprised by one of the closures .. Preston/Beltline (actually it's closer to Preston/Alexis) which always seemed to be busy - located between a Blockbuster and Wendy's. Granted, there's another Starbucks a hundred yards away, but it's inside a Tom Thumb grocery store and lacks the ambiance (!) of a Real Starbucks.

I waddled over to the 4th-closest Starbucks yesterday (the nearest one with a drive-thru window) to try their new smoothie - er, Vivanno™. There are only two from which to choose: banana-orange-mango or banana-chocolate. I could definitely taste the "whey protein and fiber powder", but it was otherwise unremarkable. Noteworthy: just like Jamba Juice®, you can add extra stuff (in Starbucks' case, that means a shot of espresso; matcha green tea powder; or substitute nonfat milk to shave 20 calories).

Vivanno verdict: it's okay but not sure $4.06 (with tax) for 16 ounces is something I'd go out of the way for. I found McDonald's Iced Coffee more refreshing at less than half the price (also more healthy if you opt for the sugar-free vanilla flavor -- 60 calories). I suspect I should compare it with an offering from the local Jamba Juice (co located with Whole Foods), smoothie-to-smoothie:
16 oz. Vivanno (banana-orange-mango): 250 calories, 16 grams protein, 6 grams fiber, 2 grams fat, 1 fruit serving. (No artificial colors, artificial sweeteners or high fructose corn syrup.)

16 oz. Banana Berry™ (Jamba Juice): 280 calories, 3 grams protein, 3 grams fiber, 1 gram fat, 2 fruit servings. For comparison, add the "whey boost" to get ~16 grams protein and 4 grams fiber.

For an apples-to-oranges (er, banana-to-coffee) comparison, here's the info on the McCoffee:

16 oz. McDonald's Iced Coffee: 60 calories, no fiber or protein.
Premium Roast Coffee. Light Cream: Milk, cream, sodium phosphate, sodium polyphosphate, DATEM, sodium stearoyl lactylate, tetra sodium pyrophosphate, sodium hexametaphosphate, sodium citrate, carrageenan. CONTAINS: MILK. Sugar Free Vanilla Syrup: Water, erythritol, natural (plant source) and artificial flavors, cellulose gum, sucralose, salt, malic acid, potassium sorbate (preservative), acesulfame potassium, caramel color (with sulfites). Ice.

Thursday, July 10

credit card trivia

So I've only been using credit cards for what - 30 years? I thought I knew everything, but found a few gems I didn't know on
  1. Unsigned cards are not valid and merchants can and will refuse them
  2. The maximum liability for unauthorized use of a credit card (not Debit/ATM cards) is US$50 according to federal law
  3. Merchants cannot require you to present ID, unless your card is unsigned
  4. Merchants cannot require a minimum transaction amount
  5. Merchants cannot charge a surcharge for using a credit card, however, they can offer a cash discount
  6. Many credit cards have programs that will automatically double the manufacturer's warranty and other excellent benefits
  7. Merchants are not allowed to make you give up your right to a chargeback
  8. Merchants are not allowed to place a hold for the estimated tip
  9. If merchants suspect you of fraud they are supposed to call with a "Code 10"
  10. If merchants break these rules, you can report them to the credit card company
Full article: 10 Things You Might Not Know About Your Credit Card

Tuesday, July 8

Republic Party sundry

Credit where credit is due

The Republic Party has done a spectacular job at one thing: convincing 51% of the people that they should always vote for what's best for the top 1% (wealth) - of which they are NOT a member.

Louisiana : go direckly to jale, do not pass GO

Spotted: New legal threat to teaching evolution in the US

The good news? 48 states still don't have Republic Party Stupid laws on the books.

Minority rule - for smokers only!!!

It's no secret that the majority of Texans have IQs smaller than their SUV's gas capacity (31), so I wasn't surprised to see some pea-brain mouth off about how a proposed smoking ban should not be implemented because "The fact that 70 percent of people support this ban is no reason to pass it." Ah, so now they support minority rights, while before they were part of the Bully Republic Party who bellowed "we won the election so you have to do what we tell you." Speaking out of both sides of their mouths appears to be Standard Operating Procedure.

Sunday Letters: Smoking ban

The Republic Party Credo - to be repeated in unison at their convention
  1. Never, EVER take responsibility
  2. Always blame the Democrats - for everything.
  3. Lie, then lie some more. Everybody Knows™ that if you repeat something 3 times, it becomes True! You may even start believing the lies yourself.
  4. Learn how to speak out of both sides of your mouth, without flinching. Develop a negative twist to everything your opponent does, even if it's just walking across the street.
  5. Trivialize everything your opponent says. Take a seemingly-insignificant phrase out of context, and tell your audience that was the primary message. Say it with a sneer, if possible.
  6. If you're an elected Republic, learn how to obfuscate and delay - those are GOP SOP (2007-8 Republic senators have filibustered more bills than any Congress in history)
  7. Never forget that most voters do not follow politics, so pander to them, always. You are there to get their vote, not educate them.

Money quote

"The Republican brand is in the trash can. I've often observed that if we were a dog food, they would take us off the shelf."

-Tom Davis (R-Virginia) 19 May 2008

Everybody Knows is a trademark of FOX "News" and Rush Limbaugh, the $400 Million Man.

Sunday, July 6

news item: Jesse Helms died Friday

Deep Thoughts:
  1. I wonder who His family will choose to be pallbearers? (see photo at right)
  2. It's a pity He (R-North Carolina) chose to die on the 4th of July; that will forever taint this holiday.

    I was amused at PZ's take on the timing: the fireworks will forever be a celebration of His death. Hmmm.
  3. I wonder if Fox "News" will cover the funeral live, with all the "reporters" wearing black armbands.

Thursday, July 3

you've been crammed!

A month or so ago, I decided it was a complete waste of money to have multiple phone lines that I'm not using, so .. I dropped 2 of my 3 phone numbers. Today, some company decided to charge me for voicemail service on one of those 2 dropped phone numbers.

I suppose they think they're doing me a favor, but .. all AT&T provides in the email notice is the total amount billed:
A new bill for your telephone number ending in xxxx is now available to view online. You can print a copy of your paper bill by selecting the link "View/Print copies of your paper bills" on the Account Manager Home Page.

To view your bill, log in to AT&T Account Manager and select the > View My Bill link, found under the Current Bill Summary section.
The email makes it sound simple enough, but it's not, since some Rocket Scientist decided the best way to annoy the customer is to shove so many choices onto the website so that most people would simply throw up their hands in disgust. They achieved their design goal, for sure.

This "simplification" (email with the total charge only) has opened AT&T up to additional fraud, far as I'm concerned - it's now much harder to spot fraudulent charges.

So, I logged onto AT&T's site to find out that a sleazebag company called TRIVOICE INTERNATIONAL added a $14.95 monthly charge for voicemail service to my phone bill. No, I didn't authorize it - I've used an answering machine for a long time. The referenced number is one of the two I "threw away" while simplifying my home phone situation; it also couldn't be used to dial out -- it was merely a "special ring" number that sits atop your regular line, but double-rings to let you know that it's a business call (or whatever).

Questions? Call: 1 866 473-1999
Itemized Charges and Credits
No. Date Description

Naturally, the Trivoice number says they're closed until Monday. Ditto for AT&T Customer Service. At least AT&T's website has info on cramming, so this must be very common. I tried sending them an email but had to do it several times (their website returned me to a very pretty, yet completely WHITE screen on multiple occasions), and have zero hope they'll read it before Monday - if ever.

I searched the web for info on these crammers and quickly found something on describing the procedure I'll have to follow if they're uncooperative.

Tuesday, July 1

Retired General Wesley Clark: "not backing down"

Related: Wes Clark Responds To McCain Campaign’s Hysteria

It's no surprise that al Qaeda strongly endorses John McCain for President, since he'll continue the Iraq war for another thousand years, greatly helping their ongoing recruiting drive. If Obama is elected and the war ends, they'll have no Americans to fight other than cardboard cutouts.

Ref: hero, redefined (10 April 2008)

Monday, June 30

first victim of new Dallas City Council policy?

Just thirty days ago, I predicted it wouldn't be long before someone dies as a result of the recent Dallas City Council vote to tow vehicles if they're uninsured. Today, this article landed on the local paper's website:
A woman died this morning after she drove off the road while fleeing during a traffic stop, Dallas police said. Lillian Volk was pulled over around 3 a.m. in the 18100 block of Preston Road and sped away in a 2003 blue Ford pickup before receiving her ticket, according to police.

The officer did not chase her but found her vehicle about 10 blocks away in the 17000 block of Preston Road where she had driven off the road, struck several trees and flipped over, Dallas police Senior Cpl. Kevin Janse. Ms. Volk was pronounced dead at the scene, according to the Dallas County medical examiner's office. A cause of death was not immediately available.
Coincidence? It will be interesting to see if Ms. Volk had insurance, or if this was caused by something else (warrants, blood alcohol, drugs, etc.) Sadly, she's dead so she won't be able to provide her side of the story except via autopsy, or a media reporter who's willing to do some digging.

Saturday, June 28

100% green electrons

For the third time in five months, I have a new electricity provider. I switched because my last provider's promotional rate of $138/mwh zoomed to $168 in June -- that's the highest I've ever paid, although still far from being Texas' most expensive ($206).

I now look back to 2005 with fondness, when I was paying $92/mwh!
In Texas, the market's deregulated, which means you're not stuck with the default provider (TXU @ $159). All your choice really means is (a) who you pay and (b) who feeds The Grid on your behalf. None of the infrastructure (cables, meters, repair crew) changes.
My last provider's business model is: "attract new customers with a low initial price, and hope they're too oblivious/lazy to change when we raise the rate after 30 days". It's not like I wasn't warned; the contract terms said:
"The promotional month-to-month electricity rate is for new customers enrolling for the first time beginning May 1, 2008. This rate will transition to a variable rate at the end of the Promo month period. Current variable rates for service are published on our website."
The good news is that their contract was month-to-month so no early termination penalty applied.

Electricity rates in Texas are among the highest in the country - typically 10th. The highest are (in order) Hawaii; New York; Connecticut; Massachusetts; Rhode Island; Alaska; New Hampshire; California and Vermont. Is deregulation working here? Since The Texas Republic Party has been in power (and lining their pockets with oil money) for the past 20+ years, it's obviously their fault. But, they are the party of Never EVER Taking Responsibility, so .. the high prices will continue until they're thrown out - probably in 2072 or so, given the stupidity of the electorate.

Given the wild fluctuations in the energy market, I decided to seek a fixed rate for a year. There are 27 providers (!) and 80 different plans (!) available for my ZIP code .. lots of companies want my money, apparently. Of those 80 plans, fifty (50) are fixed rate contracts.

The choices

The cost/megawatt hour ranged from $138 to $220, and I could choose between fixed and variable rates; 0-100% renewable; 1-60 month contracts; and a $0-399 (!) early-cancellation penalty. The ideal contract doesn't exist, of course:
  • lowest rate/kwh
  • 100% renewable
  • 60 month lock-in
  • $0 early cancellation penalty
In the past, renewable providers charged significantly more than traditional providers (coal and lignite; natural gas; nuclear) but the fixed rate plan difference is now $146 vs $153, so I'll pay the few extra quid to be 100% Green.

Twelve (12) providers matched my criteria (fixed rate, 100% renewable, 12+ months) with rates ranging from $153 to $206/mwh. So, my new provider is Gexa (JEKS-uh) Energy. The Gexa Green 12 plan is 100% wind energy.

There was a matching company: YEP Energy (same criteria and price) but Gexa will give me AAdvantage Miles (!) so that clinched the deal.

Also, Y.E.P. sounded like a funny name .. which wasn't in my criteria. Their tagline is "The Official Sponsor of Absolutely Nothing" (keep rates low by not sponsoring sports stadiums, etc.)

Now, I've locked in a fixed rate of $153/mwh for a one year term -- with a $150 early-cancellation penalty. My usage troughs in April (<1 mwh) and peaks in September (>3 mwh), so .. keep those wind turbines turning.

Thursday, June 26

there's nothing to see here

It's not often I have trouble with my DirecTV satellite service. The most common problem is when there's Weather in the southern sky, interrupting the signal. That results in temporary pixellation of the image, and when the storm passes everything's back to normal.

With that in mind, I'd never seen this Error Message before today .. as far as I know there wasn't any storm activity when the show was being recorded, and the message doesn't look at all like anything from TiVo*, so ...
*although there was an automatic TiVo software upgrade a few nights ago. I know this because there's a new folder: [Recently Deleted] now lets me recover stuff that I recently watched/deleted. The only documentation on this feature is a screen that says "Here you'll find a list of programs that have been deleted and may be recoverable" .. but that's it.
Naturally, this error ("there is no need to call us") came at The Most Critical Part of the show, and disappeared soon thereafter. Murphy's Law strikes again.

Wednesday, June 25

Legislating from the bench

It's no secret that when White Christian Republicans (led by Rush Limbaugh, Ann Coulter and James Dobson) disagree with the ruling of a court - any court - they scoff and pound their fists, saying that the court is "legislating from the bench". This is obvious code for "voted the other way".

That said, I have to wonder how each side feels, given that the Supreme Court [SCOTUS] voted twice (already) today .. one liberal verdict and the other conservative. I'm sure opponents will accuse the other of "legislating from the bench".

The first ruling cut the damages from the Exxon Valdez spill in Alaska to 20% of what a jury awarded as punishment. Environmentalists will say that the R-SCOTUS (Republic Party Supreme Court) caved (5-3) to the interests of Exxon Mobil and sent a clear signal that it's okay for other companies to spill oil and pay a fine, then go about their merry way.

The second ruling outlawed (5-4) the execution of men convicted of raping a child. This case was set in Louisiana, but Texas and three other states (Montana, Oklahoma, South Carolina) allow an execution when the defendant is convicted of raping a child - presumably any such verdicts will be commuted. The majority from the D-SCOTUS [Democratic Party Supreme Court] apparently feel that death is not a proportional punishment for this crime.

Regardless of which side of either issue you're on, odds are you think the SCOTUS overstepped its boundaries and is guilty of legislating from the bench. Welcome to The New World Order.

Monday, June 23

Voluntary Simplicity

A few weeks ago, I participated in an eight (8) week discussion group: "Voluntary Simplicity". This is the one created by the Northwest Earth Institute. While there was certainly too much information to cover in a single blog entry, suffice it to say that it reinforced many of the things I've taken to heart in the past several years: reduction of clutter; efficient time planning; being green; and the Evils of American Society.

Okay, so I made up that last one .. at least, renamed it. That's because the terms used in the reading material sugar-coated the phenomenon: egregious American consumerism, where we're trained to be lifetime gluttons about most everything. So many people fall into the lifetime trap of buying/buying/buying stuff they don't need to impress people they barely know. And guess what - many of us that are the potential impressees come away with the opposite impression: that you're an IDIOT when you live above your means and buy Stuff just to have More Stuff.

I've seen truly amazing (read: disgusting) examples. One friend-of-a-friend lived in a ~5000 square foot house which was not only packed wall-to-wall with Stuff but also floor-to-ceiling. There were precarious paths leading from room to room, and I felt as if I was in an Antique Mall that was designed to pack items so close together that the patrons couldn't avoid breaking something (ca-ching!).

Some families have 5+ children (gag) and need an SUV to transport them, but many don't .. and have large, wasteful vehicles that are used for everything. Those families each need a Smart car, or a Honda Fit, or something equally gas-friendly for 98% of their trips. I've never bought the argument that Big Vehicles Make You Safe, since my theory is that they make you into a Sloppy driver who takes excessive risks because You're The Big Dog and who cares if I crush The Little Dog?
Noteworthy-but-unrelated: as I've driven around the past few weeks, I notice that few drivers are bothering to slow down to conserve fuel. Many of them are either incapable of changing their leadfoot habits, or have the same moronic attitude I saw with snow/ice drivers here - the idea that if you drive faster, you'll get through the ordeal faster. As a rule, the larger the vehicle, the more likely it is to be going 20+ miles over the limit. Dallas remains The Place To Be if you want to speed anytime and never be pulled over - enforcement here is a joke.
To be sure, even I (gasp!) have room to improve, but I'm trying. Example: my CD rack hasn't been touched in a couple years, ever since I dumped everything to the iPod. My book collection's still massive and I'm coming to grips with the concept of giving away books (to a charity such as a local Veterans Administration hospital) rather than let them languish on the shelf, never to be re-read. I no longer buy trinkets of any sort, since those are destined to be dust collectors. Yes, I take lots of photos, but carefully organize them on my home network -- without taking up more physical space (I almost never get prints - aside from samples I printed years ago so my walls wouldn't be blank).

Via the local Freecycle group, I've given away some specific things but surely need to advertise Stuff I'm no longer using. The alternative is a Garage Sale, but I don't need the hassle involved with that, since my goal is merely to get rid of excess Stuff. You know, to Simplify.

Sunday, June 22

Boycott the AP!

In case you didn't hear, the Associated Press will now charge you a minimum of $12.50 if you use more than four of their words in a blog posting, even if you give them full attribution.

That's easy to address: just use any different source. Henceforce, the AP does not exist (AND I removed all AP articles - I always attributed them - from this blog).

Thursday, June 19

BANNED: The Christian Discount

Despite my NO SOLICITORS sign, somebody left a copy of a telephone directory (you remember, those quaint paper books of a bygone era -- before the Internet). This one - "The Shepherd's Guide" - is a bit different as it proclaims that the bulk (all?) of the advertisers are guaranteed to be Christian. Advertisers must affirm that they are "born again" and clients must be treated with respect and integrity. Translation: hold onto your wallet.

If you go to their website, you'll find the publisher has been at this since 1980, although the Dallas version is only vintage 1992. The local edition has a Roanoke, Texas return address - about 30 miles west of me.

Before I pitched it in the recycle container, I thumbed through it (for amusement sake). On page 11 of the Greater Dallas County edition, there's a full page which warns against asking for The Christian Discount:

The reason that The Shepherd's Guide has worked so well is because it has provided a means for honest and reputable business and professional Christians to advertise their services to other Christians. Please do not expect any of them to provide their service free or at a reduced rate unless they feel led by God to do so, and not because you have pressured them for the discount.

Stop and think about it this way — Would you want to pay a business more because they felt that you, as a Christian customer, should feel compelled to help other Christians by paying them more for their services?

We feel that God wants us to treat each other in love and esteem. The advertiser's purpose in this guide is to do their best at a fair price. They deserve the opportunity to serve you and to be paid for their services.

  • 115 pages
  • Approximately 6x9 inches
  • non-revenue pages: a LOT (including about 30 White pages for churches; ministries; Christian schools)
  • most amusing concepts: Christian lawyers; Christian plumbers; Christian pest control
At least it didn't contain any toxic chemicals - my recycler will like that.

Deep thought: I wonder if there are directories for other religions: Jewish; Muslim; Catholic (as John Hagee reminds us: Catholics ain't Christian). Me, I'll probably stick to my favorite secular online directory:

Tuesday, June 17

Firefox 3 will have to wait

Dear Mozilla:

I appreciate your desire to rack up the numbers, as you release Firefox 3. The problem appears to be that you didn't spec a wide enough pipe for us.

Why do we want it? Well, this hype (from
"According to Mozilla's performance tests, Firefox 3 is twice as fast as Firefox 2 and nine times as fast as Internet Explorer 7. Mozilla's memory usage tests found Firefox 3 twice as efficient as Firefox 2 and more than four times as efficient as IE7."
And finally, in the Excuse-Me-Maybe-I'll-Stick-With-Firefox2 Category: Google Browser Sync Discontinued, No Firefox 3 Support