Monday, December 28, 2009

Airline Security Problems Solved

Okay, so one asshole tries to blow up an airplane with a pants bomb... Knee jerk reaction in three-two-one...


The following new rules are now being added during the last hour of flight:

  • no books or personal items
  • no items under the seat in front of you
  • no blankets or items in your laps
  • no bathroom
  • no television or position indicators

The implication here is that as long as no one blows up a bomb in the last hour of flight, we're all safe, so go ahead, blow it up in the first 5 hours of flight -- the joke is on you!

How the hell does this help? As if someone with one of those time-detection devices (wristwatch) couldn't just figure out approximate time to detonate. Or someone could use one of those light osmosis membranes (windows) to look out and see what their position or altitude was. Or blow it up on the runway.... I just can't quite fathom why the last hour of flight is sacred for bomb detonation prevention. It's as if the feds are saying "We don't know what to do but we have to do something."

And if the shoe bomber made us all have to stand in line and take off our shoes... does the underwear bomber imply that now we need to stand in line and strip naked? And if someone packs a bomb in little balloons ala heroin smugglers... does that mean we all need exploratory surgery before boarding the plane?

The more likely reaction is that a bored, cold mass of cranky travelers with ruptured bladders that have recently been strip searched will revolt and take over the airplane out of pure frustration.

You want my solution? All passengers will be cryogenically frozen 6 months before the flight. They are stored naked in a warehouse for the 6 months to allow for delayed detonation possibilities. They should pass through a hyperbaric chamber to simulate altitude to allow for pressure based detonation. The actual shipment would be at a semi random time and date in the 6 month quarantine.

Friday, December 11, 2009

That Pesky War on Christmas

Ahh... 'Tis the season for beautiful lights, secret presents and... self persecution. Yes, it's the magical time of year where a whole bunch of crazies stand up, lick their imaginary wounds and declare they are going to fight against... the war on Christmas.

Well, let me let you in on a teeny tiny little secret: there isn't one. There never has been one. It's all in your head.

Just because some greeter at Wal-Mart says "Happy Holidays" to you does not, in fact, mean he is on a jihad to wrestle your beloved religious beliefs out of your cold dead hands. It could mean lots of things. It could mean that saying the same "Merry Christmas" phrase over and over for 8 hours in a day is dull and tedious. It could mean that the corporation wants to sell trinkets to Christians, Jews, Muslims, and anyone that will fork over cash. It's not anti-Christian to say "Happy holidays" nor is it anti-Christian to say "Happy Hanukkah". I could take the extreme opposite approach and say your hatred of the Capitalist free market system this country was built upon is a war on Capitalism -- you commie pinko.

If, in fact, someone were to wage a war on Christmas, it wouldn't be by saying "I hope everyone has a nice time regardless of their religion". It would probably be in making fun of the whole story in the first place. You know -- virgin birth, seeing apparitions, stars leading wise kings around at night. This sort of thing just doesn't make sense and no sane person in modern times has seen this sort of thing occur. (Don't you scoff at the headlines in the National Enquirer ever! Alien babies are no less possible than an army of angels floating in the sky.) A war on Christmas would be in pointing out the worship of said birthday is really not part of the Bible, nor is there any reason that December was arbitrarily chosen other than as an invented holiday to coincide with the god-awful pagan solstice celebration.

As far as Christmas goes, it's a relatively new holiday, even if your earth is only 6000 years old. Remember that in the 19th century puritans strongly forbade their people to worship it -- as it was such an icky awful heathen tradition. Even in the god-fearin' US of A it has only officially been a holiday since 1894. That's only 2% of your 6000 year old planet's age. (Or 0% of my planet's near infinite age.)

And surely Christians must loathe Bing Crosby for his Christ killing 1948 hit "Happy Holidays" ... and don't get me started on the new-fangled hate in those new age "holiday songs" that ignore our beloved savior -- like "Deck the Halls", "Auld Lang Syne", "The Holiday Season", "Good King Wenceslas", "Jingle Bells", "O Christmas Tree" and "The 12 Days of Christmas". These all avoid the Christian message and do nothing but spawn Satanists and Muslims and Commie atheists.

So... this is just a reminder that probably needs to be sent out once a year now: the entire world is not out to forcibly squash your religion. In fact, many of us non-believers would probably go to pretty extreme lengths to protect your right to do something we think is ... well, rather silly. Calm down. Take deep breaths. Remember that you are 80% of the population of the USA and 100% of the governing body of the US. There is no one persecuting you. Get back in your Ford and be Bob of Taurus, not Paul of Tarsus.

Friday, November 13, 2009

I think I have a tear... in my eye

Let's ignore Taterize's love of socialized medicine for one brief shining moment. This demotivator photostream is teh awesome.

Spork silently bows his head in reverence.

Thursday, November 12, 2009

Rodentia: the battle of wits between man and beast

My life has been full of pitiful, awful, failed attempts to outsmart rodents.

I am hoping to add to that list.

To date I have concocted:
  • La Camera de la Rata - a junky, broken laptop hooked up to an outdated web cam pointed at a rat trap in the attic. The drivers were not available except on some South American warez site -- and only in Spanish. Quieres reiniciar? Si / No. No photos of anything but the tremors caused by the AC kicking on and off.
  • The Spörd - inspired by a Swedish friend. The Swedish Pool of Rat Destruction. A rolling platform baited with peanut butter and suspended over a drowning pool of deadly antifreeze. Utter. And. Complete. Failure.
  • The Mole Funnel - aka Project Fudd. A lame attempt to force the mole to go through the damn trap instead of going around it. This made me fall into daily affirmations: I am smarter than a rodent. I am smarter than a rodent.
  • And now I hear the words in my head again... "Wile. E. Coyote: Super Genius." Yes, in a burst of glory, I will now catch that last damn mouse in the shop with.... "Mickey's Bar and Grill." Pure genius, this is. The first four mice were just average every day Joe's. Hard working fellas that just wanted to come home to some peace and quiet. They fell to the normal mouse trap like man lured by pork products. But the last guy... the last guy is smart. Very smart. Two days have passed. And each day he licks the peanut butter off 6 traps like they were mere mice cream cones full of butter pecan. Oh but I will get you Smarty Mouse. I will get you.

    I have cleverly taken all 6 traps... and grouped them around one ice cold glass of beer. (I almost cannot type this without giggling... the smile frozen on my face... he will be mine.) Smarty Mouse will either get drunk and drown in his own beer... or stumble off to the missus and weave into one of my traps when his senses are dulled by the demon alchohol. I am unsure about the sex and the sexual orientation of Smarty Mouse. I considered placing a gaudy sign above the beer: "Live nude rodents" -- complete with lifelike animatronic silicone implanted female mice. My one worry here was that this might actually be some sort of overzealous feminist mouse. My lure might actually anger her, causing mouse protests in my shop -- maybe even little mousitov cocktails. No, this was too serious to submit it to this kind of risk. It must just be a friendly little place. A place where every rodent knows your name.

I will keep you posted...

[ updates in the comments section ... ]

Monday, October 19, 2009

the fireman comparison

It seems to be a new common comparison: Everyone likes the oh-so-socialist concept of the fire department. And it's just like universal health care! How in the world could you be against firemen, with their washboard abs and pinup calendars and fancy trucks and cute spotted dogs. They're the same damn thing as socialized medicine, so just get off your greedy bastard capitalist ass and pay up.

And to this I say: Non-sequitor much? They are exactly alike except that they're totally and absolutely different. In fact, they're different in so many ways that I'd have to attack them from multiple angles.

Mitigation v. Asset reimbursement

Let's be frank here. Health care insurance is -- well, insurance. Insurance is nothing more than a business contract where you (theoretically) enter on your own free will. You spread risk among a pool of similar risks. You insure some asset -- and if you lose or damage that asset, the contract agrees to replace or repair it. In the case of health insurance, your asset is your absolutely most valuable one: your own self.

Fire fighting is disaster mitigation. An asset (such as a home) has encountered a serious disaster (a fire, obviously) and firemen (with washboard abs) show up to intervene and keep loss at a minimum. This may mean they save a house. Or it may mean they contain the fire to one house to keep it from spreading to the house next door.

A more accurate analogy

Okay, come on. Let's think of another analogy that is more apropos that is similar to health insurance... Come on. It should be right there on the tip of your tongue. I'm practically giving it away. Still don't get it? Fire insurance, Einstein. Health insurance is to protecting your body as fire insurance is to protecting your house. Fire insurance is generally not considered a right (at least not yet). And fire insurance is not usually provided by the government with universal coverage. Why not? Because it's based on risk pools. Do you really want to pay your taxes in to a single universal pool where your house gets the same coverage (at the same premium) as the gasoline production plant across town? Your house -- worth maybe $200,000 -- versus a billion dollar petrochemical plant. Your house, where the chance of catching on fire are slim versus the plant that makes about 16 highly flammable materials. Why in the world would you not want to nationalize fire insurance and spread the risk for those poor petrochemical production folks?

If you really, really must draw an analogy to a fire department, the true analogy is a health department... You know, those folks that talk about washing your hands and give out restaurant scores -- not fricking nationalized health insurance. If you want an analogy to a fireman (with washboard abs) you'd be better off comparing him to a doctor or a nurse.

The problem of scale

And the analogy suffers from a severe problem of scale -- as if you finally agree your child can have a hamster and come home to find she's made a pet of a goddamn elephant. A fire department is a small, localized unit with a very defined task. Nationalized health care is an enormous undertaking on the federal level. It's a health program brought to you by the same health geniuses that brought you the food pyramid and the lipiphobic high carbohydrate diet that's turned us all into walking heart attacks while avoiding any semblance of science it can possibly avoid.

And on the topic of scale, I might also simply remind you: the US Constitution really does not apply so much to the ins and outs of local municipalities. It applies to the federal government.... you know, the one that wants to birth a behemoth.

One error means two is better

And why, oh why, do we think that because fire departments are operated in a socialist manner (assuming that really was true) that this would mean everything else in our lives should operate this way? Why not suggest the opposite? "The current mass of government regulation and intervention has totally trashed the business of health care. We should restructure fire departments in a way to totally avoid making this mistake. They should be paid for in a 100% voluntary manner." Add in our scale problems and the "it works for a fire department, so it must work for an enormous nationwide health care system" is sort of the same argument as "this fire in the fireplace looks pretty, why don't we set the whole house on fire?"

...if we did that, maybe those firemen would show up and we'd get to see their washboard abs.

Saturday, October 3, 2009

Roman Pole and Ski

[Perhaps a more appropriate title would have been "Roman Bone and Skate" ... since that is more exact vernacular... but I truly thought that was too much of a stretch for people to get. See, I do edit sometimes.]

As always, what is interesting to me is not the actual stuff that happens. It's the failure to generalize. That seems to be a real theme for me. We all know what happened. It's been in the news for 30 plus years. Roman gives hottie teenager booze and drugs. Roman bones hottie teenager. Roman confesses and is convicted. Roman jumps bail. Like I said: that story just isn't all that interesting.

And, to be honest, I've had a lifelong wishy washy feeling about statutory rape. I mean, I get it: it's wrong to bone a child. But let's be honest: there are some 13 year olds that are actually pretty mentally mature. And, furthermore, there is an ever growing pool of twenty-somethings that are still mental children. And I've been that 18 year old boy looking at jailbait very near my own age -- knowing that the girl was technically "more mature" than I was by physical, emotional and developmental scales and "less mature" only by legal scales.

And many, many cultures just don't have a problem with "under 18's" having sex. For grins, just check out the ages of consent over North America, South America, Europe, Africa, Asia and Oceania. You'll see that the ages are all over the board. And, in fact, it wasn't so long ago in the US that it was not uncommon for 13 to 16 year old girls to be married. So California's age of consent of 18 is really sort of an arbitrary number we've all sort of just had to agree on.

What is interesting (to me) is the Hollywood outrage over his arrest. And it's interesting for multiple reasons. Hollywood is aghast that someone would be so crass as to arrest this poor genius so long after we've put this all behind us. After all, he's a genius. Did I mention he was smart and really good at what he does? But, in our current culture and time, tell me exactly what Hollywood elites would think if it were Spork in this predicament instead of Mr. Pole-and-ski?

I can give you a hint... it would have most definitely turned out differently. I would have been charged with providing alcohol and drugs to a minor. I would have been charged with statutory rape. And I would most likely have been charged with real, honest-to-goodness "rape rape" (to steal a phrase from Whoopi-cushion Goldberg.) In almost every description of "rape rape" I have seen, giving someone (over 18) booze and drugs to get sex is classified as rape. And while that may shed a dark shadow on margarita night with the wife, it is most certainly universal in law.

And how would the Hollywood elite have felt if convicted child rapist Spork skipped bail and left the country? Would they be aghast if I was one day apprehended?

The answer to all of these (extremely) theoretical questions is pretty obvious. I doubt entirely that Whoopi-cushion or Debbie Winger would come to my defense. And just as a pre-emptive strike -- I publicly declare that if I am ever charged with a sex crime, Woody Allen is not to speak in my favor even if I am innocent. I just don't think the dude that married his daughter provides a whole lot of moral fuel to any cause. (But in Mr. Allen's defense: He is a genius and an artist.)

It's this same stupid, obnoxious thread of ideas that always lets the movie star and professional athlete get away with anything and everything... And the same ideas that even bubble down to looking the other way while our high school quarterbacks take their liberties with the law. If it's the law, it's the same law for Hollywood, football players and for Spork.

Now let's generalize one step further out -- because that was really where I was heading, even if the road was a winding one. Can you remember just a week ago when Hollywood moralists were telling us how we, as Americans, are morally responsible for the health care, housing, education and feeding of each and every citizen and/or non-citizen that happens to be standing on our soil? Remember how Hollywood elites strut with their noses in the air and tell us exactly how our money will be spent on their ideas of goodness and morality?

Yes, it's ad hominem. But it still works.

Thursday, October 1, 2009


Ah, at last! Here in the land of Jesus, where alcohol is banned from the entire county... We find refreshment of an interesting sort here at the county fair!

But if you look really really closely, you'll see the ultimate in marketing speak:

Pina Coladas and Daiquiris. REFRESHING DRINK MADE WITH RUM Extract.

Saturday, September 26, 2009

The Necessity of Proper

Well crap.

I've spent a good bit of spare time over the past week or so digging through government web sites. My intent was to show that the whole Constitutional argument for the power of Congress to create a new health care plan is based on the scoundrel's clause: that last line of Section 8 of the Constitution... the necessary and proper clause. I was planning on showing how that's exactly the same argument used to create Medicare and Medicaid. And using real life numbers, I was going to show how the last iteration was, in fact, not necessary and not proper.

And it's not like my opinion has changed. If I could have found consistent data, you would have seen some brilliant snazzy graphs showing the costs over time... the costs per participant and projected costs into the future. But the data is just inconsistent. What we do (theoretically) know is this: as of 2008 taxes no longer cover expenditures. That big nice trust fund of the original plan -- that big wad of cash that grows over time and provides for future claims -- is gone. Long gone. Medicare and Medicaid underpayments to health care providers over the years have driven up costs for all of us -- for those outside the plan -- and have created the current "health care crisis" that we all are arguing about.

I am amazed at how bad the data seems to be for this sort of stuff. You can look on multiple US government web sites and find multiple sets of numbers for the same statistic from different organizations. If they don't know how many people are in the programs and how much it costs, how in the hell do they expect to manage it? I am also amazed at the government's idea of numbers. If the enrollment for these programs grows at a rate less that it grew last year, it is deemed to be "shrinking." Growing slower is not the same thing as shrinking! What kind of math is that? Hey, my electric bill only went up 2% this year! It must be cheaper than it was last year!

So we'll continue to argue over whether Congress has the right to expand the program that is bankrupt. And this time we have the knowledge they didn't have then: We see how their previous programs have worked for us. The idea of expansion of a bankrupt program is akin to the thought that if Bernie Madoff just had a few more investors, his whole plan would have turned out a whole lot better. And just like Mr. Madoff: if you cannot explain the mathematics of how to expand coverage and reduce cost in simple 8th grade math -- you have no business investing in it.

Congressional Budget Office Director Douglas W. Elmendorf said it best when he testified before the Senate Budget Committee members on July 16 and said: "the federal budget is on an unsustainable path — meaning that federal debt will continue to grow much faster than the economy over the long run." What apparently was missing was where he must have said: "Now... go out there and expand!"

Saturday, September 19, 2009

I shouldn't watch Infotainment

The hard hitting journalism of the Today Show's Matt Lauer amazes me. This past Friday they did a special appearance from the new Dallas Cowboy Stadium. Matt marveled at the enormity and the luxury of the world's most expensive football stadium. He went on at length with billionaire owner Jerry Jones. Mr. Jones talked about how "he built this stadium this" and "when we did that."

Never at any time was there mention of who really built the stadium: the taxpayers. Yes, this billionaire couldn't be bothered to spend ''his'' money. He needed to spend someone else's money. Oh, but there would be "countless amount of return for the city" is the argument. But ignored is that there is a countless return for Mr. Jones as well.

And no mention of the fact that the land on which this gleaming monstrosity sits was once a neighborhood where people actually lived. They didn't just wake up one morning and decide to sell their house for Mr. Jones's profit. No, their houses were, in fact, taken from them by force using eminent domain laws. You know the laws: the ones intended to allow for "the public good" of things such as highways and courthouses. And while arguments of property theft for building roads are dubious at best, stealing property for playing a god damned football game is just not justifiable by any stretch of the imagination.

Oh, but this neighborhood was "crime ridden" -- that's the story we were told. Yet the crime statistics for that area included the crimes that were occurring just across the highway from the new football stadium.... in the parking lot of Texas Rangers baseball stadium.

You want a big damn pretty stadium for your football team, Mr. Billionaire? Then build one yourself with your own money or the money of your investors. You want land to build it on? Then buy it at the fair market price. How do you determine that price? It's the price the owner charges and you will pay.

Hard hitting journalism indeed Mr. Lauer. I fully expect the next day he never even noticed the extra 2% tax on his fancy schmancy hotel room or the extra 5% on his rental car.

Saturday, September 5, 2009

The right to health care

...or food or shelter or a job or really anything... I had intended to write a long ass sarcastic rant here... but the mood just wasn't there. I decided to go for simple... Here: Get it now?

Sunday, August 9, 2009

Lessons from the middle III: 1/4 cup less crazy; 2 cups more content

In my continuing series of "Lessons from the middle" I've previously offered advice to both liberals and conservatives. In this bit of continuing education, I once again offer advice to those right of the center line. In this particular bit I refer to government health care. But as always: I beg you to generalize. It's about so much more than that.

Now I feel I should offer a few disclaimers right up front, just so I don't blind side you or mislead you. First off, I am vehemently opposed to any form of government run health care. (Remember: generalize.) I will also offend you by saying I am NOT opposed to some sort of rational euthanasia, assuming the person receiving said Chinese child is a willing and knowledgeable participant. I certainly believe people own their own lives and are the final arbiter on the use and disposal of said life.

Now, as I mentioned, this advice is for those with only a right wing. (For those keeping track, this would be the ones that can only fly nowhere in counterclockwise circles.) Those in the left and center can move along. Have a nice day. Come back real soon.

Okay, now that we're alone, let me just tell you in plain English. You sound crazy. No, listen to me. You really do. You already know I totally agree with you on the whole government health care thing. I said that up front. And while we disagree on so many things, you should know this and know it well: you're attacking the wrong issues entirely. Instead of whining an moaning and bitching and complaining that the "Obama Plan"1 is going to create government sanctioned euthanasia, you should oppose the concept of government health care. Between you and me -- isn't that what you are really opposed to? Arguing over the specific rules in a game of "let's eat poo" is really only going to change which end of the poo you bite first and how much you are going to have to consume. Let's for a moment just not care what's in the damn plan. Let's -- for one split second -- argue that the general concept that one man's ill fate (be it disease or self inflicted wound) is another man's servitude is just wrong. It's wrong for health care and it's wrong for subsidized bubble creating housing and it's wrong for clunker cash and it's wrong in general. Taking one thing rightfully owned by one man and giving it to another -- even "for the good of society" -- is wrong. Period. End of sentence. Asking for help is fine. Giving help is fine. Taking help by force: not fine.

Now, back to the euthanasia. Between you and me -- I sent the liberals home, remember -- we know that's not what is going on, right? If there wasn't "end of life counseling" then you'd probably bitch and moan that you've turned your back on the poor folks in hospice and say the plan is wrong (while admitting to the left that you think the concept of a health care plan is okay). And when you bring up the whole "you're killing old people" thing, you sound frickin crazy. Seriously. Batshit crazy even.

It's like Looie Gomer Pyle actually standing in front of Congress to argue gay marriage and saying "the Bible says Adam and Eve, not Adam and Steve." And while that may perfectly be the case of what the Bible says, it has no bearing on the law and only serves to ruinificate the shreds of credibility Mr. Pyle has left. There may well be a perfectly logical argument for opposing gay marriage, but toss one crazy rancid bone in the soup and you've got rancid soup.

So. Please: Content, not crazy. If you oppose something on principle -- say it. Use nouns and verbs and logic. But when you make a bunch of scary noise and scream with wild animal eyes -- it doesn't help your cause.

Now. Go oppose this crap in general. Don't pick it apart. Knock it down.

    OCD footnotes

  1. which is really Congress's plan with Obama as a pitch man.

Monday, August 3, 2009

Crash (the economy) for Clunkers

Generalization. People can't do it. Take a concept, apply it elsewhere in a different, possibly wider context. Why is that so hard?

Most of us remember how the Federal government spent the terms of 2 presidents pouring federal money into building the housing market "to help those that could not afford it." Most of this was done by convincing folks to borrow. And most of us can remember the outcome: The crash of the housing market that drug the entire economy down with it. Thanks a lot guys. You helped the poor a lot.

Now take that same idea and bolt wheels on it. We want to take a bunch of folks that have a car that is most likely paid for... and replace it with a brand new car that comes with payments. And we want the taxpayers to shoulder this burden. Convert one asset (a car) into 2 debts (one for the consumer and one for the government). Oh, and it's "for the good of the environment." Oh, please.

I've mentioned before the intrinsic value of a paid for car (or house or tractor or ....) And our wonderful government is trying to remind you that it isn't cash that's important, it's credit. Forget the whole "greatest generation" that worked hard to eliminate debt and reach retirement. Pay for it later. Save for retirement some other time. There's always social security to fall back on. And medicare. It's not your responsibility anyway.

We're told this will help the economy... by asking people to reach out and buy something they weren't sure they could afford.

And remember: it helps the environment. You know, because getting 4 mpg more is going to save the planet. Forget, for a moment, that it actually takes some amount of actual resources and even petroleum based energy to produce a car out of nothing. Forget that the ultimate in "recycling" isn't taking a car and crushing it flat: it's reusing it for as long as it is usable. Come on -- it's more "environmentally friendly" to drive a clunker than to smash it, throw it away and build a new one.

And let's not forget that the "wonderfully altruistic" concept of asking me to subsidize someone's car they can barely afford removes their old car from the marketplace. And don't forget that the old clunker was destined for someone that really couldn't afford a car. In "helping" the new car buyer, the end result is hurting the used car market -- where there are now fewer inexpensive cars for the poor folk to choose from.

Does anyone want to make a prediction on the amount of increase in repossessed vehicles in 3 years?

Saturday, July 25, 2009

New Tax Form for 2010

I propose the following new tax form for 2010. It won't fix all the ideological problems with taxation. But it's a damn fine start.

Schedule E SPRKClick to Embiggenate

Friday, July 24, 2009

Shackled by religion

...and they're more than willing to admit it.

Apparently this downtown church is willing to loosen the old shackles just a wee bit if they're hurting you -- but they are in no way interested in having you remove them. You might escape.

Sunday, July 19, 2009

...and they're doing the wrong things

I'm sorry. It's really the same thing said once again. Or maybe not the same thing, but a continuation. About 9 months ago, I postulated that We're Electing the Wrong People. And, since they are the wrong people, I'd also like to mention: They're doing the wrong things.

And, oh my god, how wrong can they be? Those knuckleheads (and I mean pretty much all of them) shouldn't need a handbook on how to do their jobs -- or shouldn't need one beyond the one Thomas Jefferson helped to pen. But apparently they do.

It appears as if the current handbook they're issued is something along the lines of:

Hi. Welcome to Congress. Now we'll help you figure out how to work around the system to make money for you and your friends.

Gee your voice is pretty, make sure people hear it alot.

Let's face it: The original intent of this job was never intended to be a full time job. The idea was that the Constitution was such a strict framework that pretty much every thing that was allowed to be handled was, in fact, handled. And the little things that would come up over time -- we'd just work those out in our spare time. What a novel approach.

So since congress just has no sporking clue how to do their own job, let me just give them a little lesson.

Spork's Congressional Newhire Manual

  • Keep it simple. Laws should not be 1000 pages or more. If they are, you've given too many lawyers too much wiggle room to work through. You want to bitch about judges legislating from the bench? Well, they can only do it if you make it complex. If it is short and sweet, the interpretation wiggle room just isn't that large. How many times did you misunderstand your dad when you were 5 and he said "Calm down or you're going to get a spanking?" If Dad can say something in one sentence that a 5 year old can understand, why can't an old fart with a law degree and 25 years of experience?
  • Along with simple and short comes an obvious corollary. You should not be editing the document in the wee hours of the morning before the vote. Make the rule simple: any change means it goes back to debate for another week.
  • And, oh my god: if you haven't read and understood it, you are not allowed to hold a vote on it. Did I really need to tell you that?
  • In continuing with keep it simple: keep it on topic. In no way should anyone be allowed to hide crap in the middle. If you're passing a law on "Voter's rights" there should not be something hidden inside it about conserving the habitat of the Atlantic Sea Chimpanzee or bee keeping or fuel consumption or bridges in Alaska. It should start with voter's rights, have voter's rights in the middle and then end with voter's rights. If I order a ham sandwich, I want a ham sandwich. I do not want a ham sandwich with a little bit of lutefisk in the middle. That's a lutefisk and ham sandwich. You may, however, add bacon. But that's off topic.
  • Laws should not duplicate other laws, hide other laws or contradict other laws. For example, if you have a laws against murder and assault, there is no reason ever to have a law against hate crime. Is it really intrinsically worse to murder someone because of their religion/sexual preference/gender/race than to murder someone for the $20 in their wallet? Sure, you can argue over the brutality of the murder when it comes to the sentencing, but it's still the same crime. Murder is murder. If the scumbag that perpetrates the crime is a Nazi skinhead, I just don't care what his motivation is -- just that he is removed from society.
  • Get the hell out of the superfluous. The government should not be involved in the inner workings of professional baseball, college football or the mating habits of lemurs. This is just proof you have too much time on your hands. Get back to your real job and go home to your family. You've obviously overinflated your own importance.
  • And last, and most important: learn what individual rights are. It's important. It's the entire basis of American government. Here, let me explain it to you in words that a senator might possibly understand. Think of the other side. Think of the hot button issue (HBI) that really pisses you off. If you're on the right, maybe it's legislation that murders babies and uses their parts for research changing god's own perfect creatures. If you're on the left, maybe it's some enormous monetary kickback to an evil capitalist banking institution. Everyone has an HBI.... think of yours. Now, consider the idea that you are being forced -- at the threat of arrest and incarceration -- to pay for that HBI. Does that seem a tad bit... wrong? Doesn't it seem even more wrong to do it on a massive scale, where people have to sit and count the zeros before they pronounce the monetary total? How many zeros are in gabnillion?

I am not sure why this sort of instruction seems to be necessary, but apparently it is. If only someone had been smart enough to actually sit down and enumerate the powers of the legislative branch in writing...

Oh, and while we're on the topic of Congress being without a clue, just an off topic hint: get rid of the printed poster boards. There's this thing called PowerPoint...

Saturday, July 18, 2009

Product Review

And now, for a change of pace, I'd love to give you the latest in product reviews. Welcome to: Spork's Consumer Corner.

A little more than a month ago, when I drove to the next county to buy liquor (you know, because selling it here would be... wrong) I bought me a big jug of Seagram's Gin. Sure, Tanqueray is better. But I should remind you: I am a cheap ass bastard. Seagram's is good enough. A commonsewer I am not.

When I picked up the bottle, it was a little heavier than I expected... and out of balance. Lo and behold I noticed: the gin came with a free trial pint of what they are calling Seagram's Grape Twisted gin. Free liquor? Yes, please.

When I got home from my drive, curiosity had the better of me. I twisted the top off and poured a tiny little shot.

A sip.

Now, I've found that when reviewing a product, it's best to compare it to the competition. In general, one should go with the "best of breed" in your comparison. So, let me say that on a 5 point scale, Seagram's Grape Twisted gin is a 2, with the competition - Triaminic Cough Syrup being the proverbial 5.


Discriminating tastes

So maybe this is a fart in church. But I'm going to say it: discrimination isn't in and of itself a bad thing. Whew. There, I said it.

Now hold on there. Don't go hanging your confederate flag across the gun rack in your big bubba truck just yet. Let me finish.

Typically, the American culture has defined "don't discriminate" to be "don't be stupid." And, well, that's a darn good idea. The issue comes when you pass a law saying "don't be stupid." When you do, you just make things worse. The discriminators now think "see, those lazy bastards couldn't make it without all that special help." In effect, you have cemented their ideas. They thought a person of a particular {pick one: race, religious idea, gender, hair color, weight, body type, handicap, earlobe size} couldn't get ahead on their own -- and you just proved them right in their eyes. Further, the discriminatee now can't catch a break. At this point if they succeed, they will never be given proper credit. If they fail, they get a "see, they can't even win when the game field leans their way."

The real way to deal with stupid is, in my opinion, to just make a big show of the stupid. Won't hire a black man? That's fine, it's your business. Oh, look, there's Morley Safer and his film crew. He'd like a short statement from you before the picket line shows up. Oh, and Wal-Mart (aka 'the Walmarts') just canceled their order for the 100,000 widgets they ordered. They don't want the bad press of dealing with a racist.

And as the lead in suggests: sometimes discrimination is totally appropriate. A local baptist church needs a preacher. Do you not expect them to discriminate on the basis of religion? Would you really want to force them to hire the extremely qualified atheist over a lesser qualified baptist? A company needs to hire an evolutionary biologist for a research project. Would you really want to force them to hire a well qualified creationist? Would you wish the NAACP to hire a white guy -- even one that is extremely progressive and fully believes in their mission statement? Should Hooter's be required to hire a big hairy man to wear their undersized orange shorts? Would you force a catholic church in need of a priest to hire a well qualified pregnant woman with no interest in young boys? (Did I lose you there? Sorry.)

I say all of these folks have their own agenda and are using their own money and absolutely should be discriminating on the basis of religion, race and gender. The sad thing is: I suspect any one of these has potential to win a court case.

Monday, July 13, 2009

Irony is always funny

The left is upset by the Texas Governor Rick "The Hair" Perry's appointment of a creationist to run the state education board. And, yeah, they should be. Mr. Hair chose the lesser of 2 evils by taking the "little bit crazy creationist" over the "totally batshit crazy creationist" -- you know, as a sort of compromise. For the benefit of the left. You can thank him later.

But I get why they're angry. They just don't get why it's funny.

They are angry for several reasons. The biggest really has to do with separation of church and state. Intelligent design is, at best, a hypothesis -- and really not a good one. It's not a theory by any scientific definition. It's religion, packaged in a shiny shrink wrapped bundle that we're told is scientific. Lefties are upset that something unscientific is being taught as science and "dumbing down" the next generation. And -- what is most important here and most likely to be misunderstood by the left: It is just plain wrong to forcibly take their money through taxation and spend it educating kids on something they are diametrically opposed to. It's wrong on so many levels. It's a question of their individual rights.

And yet, they're more than ecstatic to forcibly take the money of the right through taxation and spend it on educating kids on something THEY are diametrically opposed to. And even though I totally think the left is scientifically backing the right horse -- they have no more right to force feed the religious conservatives their science than the religious conservatives have to force feed their religious-based doubt to the left.

The problem here is the whole idea of public education for the public good. Who is the public? What is good? Who decides? Certainly not the individual. It's for the benefit of society as a whole. It was the left that told us that.

Is the public good decided by majority vote? If so, then -- go ahead, scream "evolution is only a theory" from the roof tops. Let's hand out fliers in the hall ways on the upcoming lectures on "strengths and weaknesses" of evolution. Let's offer a whole series of classes based on Micheal Behe's non-scientific works. Majority rules, buddy. Sorry. Thanks for playing. If you don't like it -- move to a blue state. Woodja like some sweet tea to wash down that bitter pill?

Or is the public good just decided by your own opinion? -- even if, in this case, I think you are correct. You are also so incorrect.

Oh, and remember this -- while you swing your big huevos around on the national level. The more you push outside the limits of the Constitution -- the more change and control you seize -- the more it will bite you hard on the ass some day.

The left/right pendulum never seems to settle somewhere moderate. The further it swings right, the more it swings back left. And when you over compensate left, you just make it worse again to the right. And they'll push the Constitutional limits just as hard. They'll push change you DON'T believe in. They'll seize control and expand the government more in ways you don't like.

So, back to public education: That knock on your front door? It's just the chickens. They've come home to roost.

Sunday, July 12, 2009

the Beauty Pageant

[ Note: This was topical (maybe) a month ago when I wrote it. I sort of saw it as a reject and never published it. I know what you're thinking: "You mean, there are actually rants you rejected???" But my lack of focus has led me to go ahead and plop it down, just for fun. ]

...and with the firing of Carrie Prejean, the spectacle we know of as "the beauty pageant" is fully exposed as the three ring circus that it always has been. Except in this case, we see that the clowns are hopelessly stuck in their undersized car, the lion has just eaten the trainer and two of the Flying Wallendas have just splatted on the ground -- while the ringmaster continues to bark his spiel under his magnificent big top hat... err, hair hat.

Look, I'm a heterosexual male and I enjoy being a pig and staring at cute chicks just as much as the next straight guy. But come on... these things are just stupid. How stupid? Well, Ms. Prejean shows us exactly how stupid. And let me qualify this by saying: It ain't about Ms. Prejean. She's just a slice of the meatloaf. It's the whole meatloaf that's the problem.

Let's look at what a typical beauty pageant entails:

  • Evening gown - This, in my very important opinion, is the biggest wtf of the lot. What the hell is the evening gown competition but "which chick can shop best?" Sure, it may be indicative of some culture flaw but -- seriously -- She can buy and fill a pretty dress? Really?
  • Talent competition - Well, this actually might make a little sense. A little. Now, let's google and figure out what Ms. Prejean's talent was... Oh. My. Miss USA is a "no talent" competition. Hmmm. Next.
  • Intelligence/Interview - This, in theory, is a half decent idea. Now, I'm the first one to be unable to intelligently rub a subject and a verb together in front of an audience, so I get how these chicks may feel -- afraid of looking stupid and allowing their nerves to take over and sink them like a rock. But the bits and bobbles (or boobles) I've seen in the past were pretty inane questions... generally "are you against hunger?" and "wouldn't world peace be swell?" are about as controversial as it gets. So asking questions that require a thought provoking answer... that's actually not such a bad idea.

The idiocy comes in the judgment of her answer. Let's not quibble here. I totally disagree with her answer. But the hooha over her answer was a bunch of dummies that agreed with her versus a bunch of dummies that disagreed with her. Never did I hear commentary on the mistakes in her reasoning or her lack of presentation skills. I just heard a bunch of bible thumpers taking her under their wing and a bunch of ad hominem attacks calling her a biatch for having a different opinion. I do, however, find it overly amusing that the bible thumpers are ready to make her a traditional marriage icon while ignoring her nudie pictures . And they are apparently okay with...

  • Swimsuit competition - Can we not mince words here? We know what this is. This is a "who is the best piece of ass?" competition. We all know it, so let's just say it. It's not a "scholarship program." It's not like chicks in high school earn a letter jacket in "sweet bikini." In theory, I guess, it's a judging of natural beauty, which brings up a couple of thoughts: First off, is natural beauty really something to brag about? I mean, it's not like its something you create. It's a dice roll of Mom and Dad's DNA. It's like being judged on the fact you have 2 perfectly working kidneys -- nice to have, but really not an accomplishment to brag about. And secondly, the irony. The natural beauty of Ms. Prejean is being judged... with her bleached hair and saline filled breasts. Apparently dark haired, small breasted women need not apply to Miss USA. Heaven forbid you think like yourself and look like yourself.

So let's either chuck this type of competition entirely... or embrace it for what it is. It's those popular chicks in high school with their big hair, perky boobs and cliquey groups admitting they still haven't graduated high school, still don't like you but still want to be adored for the fabulous piece of ass they are. And that's what the contest promoters want: a pretty ornament to send to ribbon cuttings, not a controversial icon to divide the crowd into us versus them.

Saturday, June 27, 2009

the King of Poop the 24 hour a day news coverage of Micheal Jackson's continued death I start wondering: just what is it we are so upset about?

I see all these crowds of adults bawling over his passing... and flashbacks to said adults in orgasmic ecstasy just seeing this guy walk down the street under his eunuch's umbrella... or dancing on a car roof. Now, my musical tastes are so cemented in the '70s that I just never connected to this guy musically. Sorry. It just doesn't do anything for me. Outside his top 40 bubblegum pop, he was an (alleged) drug addict and (alleged) child molester. Financially he is someone that made $20 million annually and managed to still be continually broke and bankrupt. I'm no psychologist, but I think it's pretty easy to say from a distance that he had some serious problems that led to (minimally) anorexia, body dysmorphic disorder and the previously mentioned (alleged) substance abuse. He was beloved by the black community... yet continually seemed to show his hatred of his own race by trying to become white.

Now, I didn't necessarily want to see ill come to him, but still... remind me: why are we so upset?

Thursday, June 18, 2009

If superheroes really existed...

Clickificate to Embigenify

What's up with Docs?

[Editorial note: my one professional critic would tell me "it's too long" (if she's still reading this). Yeah, sorry.
And it might be a little... over emotional. Yeah, sorry.
As these things often do, this ball of bile built up from a Facebook discussion on socialized medicine .... oops, I mean Universal Health Care. They're different. Really. No, really. Hey, look, a bird.]

Well, sure... we should totally regulate medicine. It's just a bunch of money grubbing, Porsche driving bastards that hold us hostage for our own health and close their office 2 days a week so we can pay them to play golf. Socialize the bastards...
...not so fast there, Bub. This seems to be the general consensus. But -- as someone that grew up in a doctor's house, if you feel this way, you might just be... wrong. And I don't mean a little wrong.
Let me give you a character sketch of the guy in the white coat. You probably see him one time for 15 minutes... and you're already crabby because the magazines in the lobby are 14 months old and are were not a subject matter that is in the least bit interesting. You're sitting there naked under a rustly paper smock and you aren't feeling good in the first place or you wouldn't be here. So let's meet Dr. Joe Average, shall we?
A doctor is the ultimate small businessman. He's like an electrician or a plumber -- except maybe not quite as wealthy.[1] He runs a very small business. In the old days it was just Dr. Average and one sidekick that played the role of receptionist, secretary, nurse and billing department. Now with the complexities of insurance, government rules, FDA, HIPAA, Medicare, Medicaid.... Now it's more likely that the small business has dedicated salaried positions for each of those roles. It's just more complicated.... Not the actual healing part, but the business of healing. And unfortunately that adds tremendously to the cost of health care. But I am sure some sort of Presidential edict or some nice Congressional reform will somehow regulate the business in a way that will allow those 4 positions to go away to reduce costs, right? Or maybe the reform is part of that "job creation" we are always hearing about and we'll get 4 more dedicated resources.
...But we're getting ahead of ourselves. If you want to know Dr. Average, you'll need to go back a ways. Like many of us, Dr. Average went to college. You know all those science courses you hated and bitched about? You remember changing your major just so you didn't have to take so many? Well, Dr. Average had to take lots of them. They were hard. Some so hard that he barely squeaked by... but he squeaked. Those that didn't were weeded out, which was the intent. Following that, he applied to medical school, which is damned hard to get into. He did 4 years there, working some on the side to try to cash flow the whole operation. Next was a year as an intern. He then applies for a residency program where he spends 3 years specializing in surgery. Note that each of these steps is a weed out... and not everyone makes it. People wash out at every step of the way.
During much of that training, he is technically a doctor, but not paid like one. He is paid $25 a month -- yes, per month.[2] For that paltry sum, he works 36 hours on and 12 hours off -- with most weeks being 100+ hour weeks.[3] He is a proud guy and totally against any such nonsense as government sponsored public housing.... Yet, unfortunately that's the only place he can afford to live. Gunshots outside were a regular occurrence. You learn the only way to safely dry clothes is to hang them up inside -- otherwise they'll just get stolen.
Once the hell of the training is over, real doctoring begins... and to be honest, the schedule is pretty similar. A normal week is probably 70 hours. A rough week is 80-100. There is no such thing as night and day. Things happen. The phone rings. He goes. Weekends... well he might get every other one off if he's lucky. But 7 day weeks are pretty normal. People will laugh and poke fun and talk about how his office is closed on Thursdays so he can play golf. But Dr. Average never corrects them. The office is closed so he can schedule surgeries starting at 6 am and lasting until well after his supper is cold.
And lets not forget Emergency Room on call rotation. This is in addition to his regular patients, who pretty much feel they can call him any time of the day or night and he will cheerfully help them. ER on call is another level of hell... another layer of hours that come at odd times and interrupt an already filled schedule. And while we're on the topic of ER on call, I'd like you to think back to all those child rearing memories... to all those family gathering times: Christmas, New Years, Thanksgiving, Easter, 4th of July. There will be none of those memories for Dr. Average. For the first 20 years of his career he will almost always find himself holding the on call pager during traditional holidays. In fact, this is the supreme sacrifice Dr. A faces. Many of these interruptions are normal everyday folks that are super grateful for his work, but they are just as likely to be drunks, prison inmates, wife beaters and drug addicts. But it doesn't really matter if they are a drug addict or the mayor -- they all trump the holiday.
Due to the life and death nature of his work, he never gets the time he wants with his wife and kids. And by the time he has enough seniority to pull a few strings and try to spend the time, the kids will invariably be sullen, snotty, difficult teenagers that don't appreciate him. And he'll just smile and swallow it. They'll be in their mid 20s before they realize what a heroic, hard working, honest man he really is.
On the odd night, he will finally get time away from his super stressful work. Most of us would vegetate in front of a television. But Dr. Average will go and sit in a big overstuffed yellow chair and worry and fret and contemplate on every patient he has in his little black book and when he's done with that he will beat himself up for every patient he couldn't help. Sure, he comes across as sort of quiet and stern, but when no one is looking he sheds tears for those losses, too.
Government sponsored Medicaid for the indigent? Dr. A. really doesn't need that. He gets lots of patients that can't pay at all or maybe just can't pay the full price. He just lets them pay what they can... or nothing at all. Some of them bring him produce or meat they grow themselves. And the bill is marked as paid because that's just the right thing to do. Making people better is a passion. He'd do it for free. Getting paid is just a nice benefit when it works out. This sort of stupid, silly, backwards way of thinking will eventually be impossible. Between tax laws and Medicare and Medicaid and various regulations too numerous to list, this sort of "Just fix them" attitude will become a thing of the past. In fact, at some point folks will start telling him exactly what he can charge for each and every procedure. His desire to fix folks that just can't afford it will prompt him to take trips to places with awful conditions in Africa and Central/South America. Here folks will walk an entire day for his treatment and pay him with nothing but a smile -- a payment he is more than willing to accept.
In fact, government regulation will turn that one man/one jack-of-all-trades secretary shop into a huge paperwork factory that requires 2 additional workers to handle. And the current over-litigious society we live in doesn't mean he possibly will be sued. It means he most probably will be sued some day. You see: people die. Some people die no matter what you do. There might be 5 right choices for treating someone... and all 5 might still not fix them. It's just how it is. We are mortal. And some folks just won't understand that. The real cost of this is that no hospital is going to let Dr. Average walk in their super secret doctors-only back door unless he is fully insured. And that insurance will cost him more than $100,000 a year. Don't you bitch and moan to me that you cannot afford $1000 a month for health insurance. That guy that's treating you is paying 100 times that amount of money just for the right to treat you.
Sure, you see some stereotypical doctor driving a red Ferrari and living in a 42 room villa. And you think "He's gotten rich off of my ills." But I really don't think so. You'd be awfully surprised at just how little he's making after expenses:
  • office space rent in probably one of the higher cost parts of town
  • salaries and benefits for all the office staff
  • equipment for the office
  • malpractice insurance and various and sundry legal fees
And while there are doctors that live that way -- more than likely they either shrewd businessmen with side business ventures or they are living well above their means.[4] Dr. Average has a nice house, but it's not off the scale or opulent. And he's lived there 45 years now that he can afford to live outside government housing. His "BMW" is a squeaky GMC truck that is over 20 years old. He's never played golf in his life. His retirement portfolio is adequate, but it's no more than Joe the retiring plumber or Mike the retiring electrician.
So now, there you sit in your crinkly paper gown, hating this rich son of a bitch for making money off your sickness. You want to regulate his life some more. You want to stick it to him and those awful insurance companies. And I'm here to tell you the saddest news of all: He'll let you. He'll let you because unlike you or I, he doesn't have a job. He has a passion. He can't NOT do what he does. Doctoring is what he is. It's his identity. It's the reason he wakes up in the morning. He'd do it for free and he'd do it for a loss.
This is the guy you want to enslave.


  1. Seriously. You should read The Millionaire Next Door. The author was interviewing the wealthiest folk in America. He expected a bunch of slick doctors, lawyers and investment bankers... and found out the average millionaire was an average Joe that lived within his means.
  2. Oh, sure, you'll say "but that was back then... there's been a whole lot of inflation." Okay, if you do the math then that's $200 a month or $0.50/hour in present dollars. You live on that!
  3. People will argue that this is lunacy. Why would we want them sleep deprived? Well, because they need to figure out that this is how they are going to live for the next 20 years. Sure you can say "just hire more doctors" but if you turn around and bitch about the cost of health care, I'll punch you in the crotch.
  4. If you live in a 3 million dollar house with 100% mortgage your net worth in this venture is still zero.

Friday, June 12, 2009


Ok, first let me say: I know nothing about the folks that write these. But for some reason I have found them to be extremely off beat and funny. I'm not getting a free house or 0.0001 cents a click or anything. Basically this is just a sign that I've had too much time to spend giggling at other people.
  • Your Inbox Is Full Of It - snarky replies to the load of crap well meaning do-gooders are always sending you. Snopes, it is not. This one is new, but it started off just fine.
  • The Problem With Young People Today Is... - I don't know why, but I find this blog to be absolutely hilarious. Maybe it will fade with time, but it's damn funny. Oh, and if you for a minute start taking anything here seriously then ... well, oops.
  • Bad Questions for Yahoo Answers - Whoever said "there are no stupid questions" surely was underestimating the depth of the ocean we call stupid. This is one of those blogs that writes themselves.

Wednesday, June 10, 2009

Quitting the quitting

Even as a quitter I am a quitter.

I officially accepted an offer today. Don't ask me who with -- I just sort of like to keep names and, you know, facts, out of my rantacious musings. Things are much easier when you deal with loose conjecture, rambling, lampoonery and much less subpoenable items. If your curiosity is killing you, look me up in linkedin under less pseudonymous nomenclature. Obviously my geeky interview skills are at least semi passable... or I was the only applicant -- a possibility that is extremely plausible given the narrow scope of my experience and the job description.

I must say it is seriously weird to think of returning to work after almost 3 years of vacation. I know Ellie doesn't necessarily view it as vacation, but I certainly did. I fully expect to think back of the days living in a toolshed as "good times." But life has been on hold for a while -- no significant investment, no house, limited entertainment and toys, hillbilly bifocals... It will be nice to get back on the road to retirement (though my supercool cacti retirement graphs have come really close at times to hitting the target.)

That probably means fewer rants here... and maybe, just maybe -- more entries on house building.

And a big "thanks" to those of you that may have given references -- whether they called you or not. I'll assume they did and you and you alone were the sole reason I got the job. How's that?

Monday, June 8, 2009

Who's watching TARP?

...and what the hell is her agenda?

Oh, it's not an actual question -- more of a metaphorical question. I know who's watching TARP. Officially, it's Elizabeth Warren. If you're not familiar with her from the talk show circuits, let me give you the Spork's eye view: She's a Haaavad Law professor that goes on all the talk shows. She comes across as approachable and homey and then goes on to tell us how all the debt we have is just not our fault. It's those wicked credit card companies and marketers and advertisers and banks and all those awful people asking us to spend money and we cannot help ourselves, boo hoo hoo. It just costs sooooo much today as compared to our parents, who had it so good with their backbreaking labor, 1200 square foot houses, 3 fuzzy TV stations and total lack of iPhones. Oh, the humanity. In the richest country in the world, we just cannot earn enough to pay for our poor sad lives. It's not our fault. Someone needs to save us.

Oh, please. And she is the one now chairing the TARP Congressional Oversight Panel. When I've heard her talk about THAT she's livid (of course) trying to find out where the money went. (I'm sure the problem is with the evil companies that got the money, not with the idiots that were dishing it out with a big soup ladle.)

Anyway, the semi-point of this semi-rant is that she's written a new study on bankruptcy due to increased medical expenses in the US. Oh my god, if you read it, you'll find out medical bankruptcies have increased to 70% of all bankruptcies. And oh my god, we're all going to die. We're all going to go broke and it isn't our fault. Someone help us please. Now, I must remind you again: She's a Haaavad Law professor, specializing in bankruptcy. And she's put out previous boo hoo medical bankruptcy studies that have been criticized because the statistics included bankruptcies of which only $1000 were medical expenses.

Her agenda is clearly that the government owes us free health care. So before you swallow any of her bait or shed any tears from her boo hooing, check out this article exposing her ability to lie with statistics. Sure, while medical bankruptcies might now account for 70% of bankruptcies... the actual numbers of medical bankruptcies in the studied period are half -- yes half -- of what they were in previously studies.

Oh, but I'm sure that was an honest mistake, right?

I can't wait to see what her oversight committee will come up with.

[Later edit: a second followup article by the same author.]

Friday, June 5, 2009

Our 6000 year old planet is getting hotter all the time

[Editorial note: I am not actually taking sides on either of the following issues. And I am not really interested in arguing the specifics of either. And, in fact, I am not necessarily even presenting my own arguments here. If that's what you come away with, I didn't get my point across.]

This is a tale of two subgroups. Group number one is extremely right wing politically. And extremely religious. They think anthropomorphic global warming is bullshit. And they have a whole list of reasons:

  • AGW takes an extremely complex climate model with millions of variables and makes finite predictions based on very small fluctuations in a single gas (CO2)
  • AGW is generally politicized science -- and government involvement in science is bad for government and bad for science
  • AGW proponents spout: whether we know if this is real or not, we should do something about it. It cannot hurt. (Pascal's wager)
  • AWG proponents pretend to be science by using the word "theory" in a scientific context when they really mean "hypothesis". Theories, in a scientific context are "reserved for ideas which meet baseline requirements about the kinds of observations made, the methods of classification used, and the consistency of the theory in its application among members of that class. ... In general theories are expected to be functional and parsimonious: i.e. a theory should be the simplest possible tool that can be used to effectively address the given class of phenomena." (from Wikipedia). AGW is does not meet these baseline requirements... and is certainly not the simplest explanation.
  • AGW proponents ignore theories of cyclical cooling/warming, sun/oceanic cycles, even though these ideas seem to successfully explain past events and have successfully predicted future changes
  • AGW proponents present a whole list of facts that are, well, not facts. This list is long but examples include: Arctic passage is open now for the first time in history, Greenland has always been an arctic climate and is dangerously melting, polar bears are in decline and are going to become extinct, glaciers everywhere are all melting and getting smaller, etc.
  • One of AGW's biggest hurdles isn't a problem with AGW at all. It is that it is represented by hucksters -- like Al Gore -- who obviously do not believe in AGW as they live a lifestyle that is incompatible with their own teachings and seem to be in the game for their own profit.

Group number two is extremely left wing politically. And generally buys into anthropomorphic global warming. They think intelligent design and religion are bullshit. And they have a whole list of reasons:

  • ID takes an extremely complex model of how we got here with millions of variables and makes a finite conclusion based on one or two things it deems "irreducibly complex."
  • ID is generally associated with politicized religion -- and government involvement in religion is bad for government and bad for religion
  • religious proponents spout: whether or not you believe in god or not, you should try to believe. It cannot hurt. (Pascal's wager)
  • ID proponents pretend to be science by using the word "theory" in a scientific context when they really mean "hypothesis". Theories, in a scientific context are "reserved for ideas which meet baseline requirements about the kinds of observations made, the methods of classification used, and the consistency of the theory in its application among members of that class. ... In general theories are expected to be functional and parsimonious: i.e. a theory should be the simplest possible tool that can be used to effectively address the given class of phenomena." (from Wikipedia). ID is does not meet these baseline requirements... and is certainly not the simplest explanation.
  • ID proponents ignore theories of evolution even though these ideas seem to successfully explain past events and have led to further scientific discoveries.
  • Religious proponents present a whole list of facts that are, well, not facts. This list is long but examples include: the world is only 6000 years old, the entire world was destroyed by a flood that covered the entire land mass, radiocarbon dating is inaccurate by billions of years, evolution violates the laws of thermodynamics, etc.
  • One of religion's biggest hurdles isn't a problem with religion at all. It is that it is represented by hucksters -- like Benny Hinn -- who obviously do not believe in religion as they live a lifestyle that is incompatible with their own teachings and seem to be in the game for their own profit.

The failure to generalize will one day make your head asplode.

Wednesday, June 3, 2009

Oh bother

Probably nearing a year ago I noticed was changing... and not necessarily for the better. As I actually use that as a free hosting spot for miscellany -- files and a few scripts -- I figured I might ought to look at the details.

Oh cwap. It appears it is changing so much as to be unusable... and it appears the urls will not seamlessly forward/rewrite forever (if at all when it comes to the seamless part.)

It's odd that the world's leader in internet technology can't figure out you might want a static url that lasts from now until eternity. Or that you might want to use google map API inside some other google web application. (Oh, there are workarounds, but... being a cranky old bastard, I don't like change.)

Anyway, the short bit of this is that bits and pieces will probably be broken here as I move some of the static and some of the very old bits off of googlepages and onto... well, I'll figure that out when I get to it.

Tuesday, June 2, 2009

The Geek Interview

I suck at the job interview. I truly mean that from the bottom of my blackened and shriveled heart. And it's my fault, really it is. Self promotion does not come naturally to me... and generally when I see others do their self promotion, my eyes roll back into my head and a little remote control in my head changes the channel to something more interesting.

I also just have, over the years, found absolutely no use for storing detailed, cataloged memories of stuff I have done. From a geek point of view, that data is stored on tape.... and not in one of those tape silos where a mechanized robot hand can grab it and spin it up. No, it is stored off site in a cardboard box in a warehouse on the bad side of town in my brain. And while the tape is probably labeled properly, the box isn't -- and it's on a big ass shelf with about 8000 other unlabeled boxes. And the tape isn't some fancy schmancy reads-almost-as-fast-as-a-disk-drive tape. It is some old 2.5G 8mm Sony video tape that you have to shove into a sometimes flakey Exabyte tape drive.

It's the same reason I do piss poor when fighting with a spouse or girlfriend (and no, dear, I do not mean to imply I have both.) I don't have all my transgressions indexed neatly in an optimized sql database either. It just never seemed that important. Never you mind the fact that the lyrics from every single song I ever heard in the 1970's -- even the ones I didn't like -- are filed neatly in cache and are indexed by artist, title, subject and album cover. I might need that data. Really. I might.

So I don't do well with "You have never been supportive in this relationship" and I don't do well with "Tell me about a time when you overcame conflict in a workplace situation." I don't freaking know. I really don't. I could probably take that as an essay question, take it home, mull it over for a week and write up some long ass bullshit answer and ... it would probably give a 4 out of 5 or better. I mean: that's what school taught me -- if you can write a 5 paragraph BS answer that vaguely dances around the question asked, you get an A+.

Take that philosophy of how school works, let 20 plus years go by without any practice, add a nearly 3 year resume gap, a razor thin area of expertise and 4 cups of introverted[1] and that's where I am now.

Someone needs to sort out a proper method for interviewing geeks. The behavioral interview style just doesn't work. The best interviews I ever participated in involved beer. One was by the pool with a beer... and I worked with him for over 15 years. The other was a weekend kegger in Austin with barbecue, beer and 4 hours of in depth technical screening.[2] Both of these worked for me... and both landed me a job.

  1. Oh crap, the recipe only called for 1 cup. Ooops.
  2. Truth in lending laws require me to mention I worked here one day and quit, but my point was about the interview style, not the job itself.

Friday, May 22, 2009

More fun with math

This is what happens when you're walking through the woods and you aren't thinking of things that are important: You start thinking about stuff that isn't important. It was one of those times that I realized I seem to have a propensity for the underdog.

  • 74% of the US population is christian. 1.7% is jewish, 0.7% Buddhist, 0.6% Muslim, 0.4% Hindu, 1.2% Other. I am none of the above (which puts me in a 16% grouping).1
  • 43% of the US population is Democrat. 33% is Republican. I am neither (24% grouping).2
  • 80% of the US population lives in urban areas. That puts me in the 20% group.3
  • 89.9% of computer users use Microsoft. 9.1% are Mac users. I'm left in the 0.76% using some flavor of Linux. (My previous home desktop flavor of choice was SunOS, which presumably is rolled into the 0.01% 'other' category.)4
  • I am in the 44% of folks that are childless by choice.5

The population of the US is estimated to be 304,059,724.6 Assuming that the percentages above have no significant grouping (i.e. assuming a Linux user is no more likely to be non-Republican, non-Democrat, childless or live in the country...) and assuming no substantial geographic grouping (which is a bad assumption) this means there would be a 0.0025% chance of meeting folks like myself. If applied to the population of my county (201,277), there are 5 of us and I am married to one of them. No wonder I have issues making friends.

I tried to find statistics on people's views of low-fat vs low-carb and really couldn't find anything useful. I suspect if I had found these stats and applied them to my "study" that I would be required by law to leave the county.

  1. Wikipedia: Religion in the United States
  2. Wikipedia: Democratic Party
  3. Population: USA Facts
  4. StatOwl: Operating Systems Usage
  5. Wikipedia: Childfree. This is a little fudged since the statistic is for women. Men's stats are a little hard to find, presumably because of the cost of cross referencing the DNA of every person that could possibly be your child.
  6. Google: Population

Wednesday, May 20, 2009

from the mailbag...

Interesting... I just got an official memo. I have been approved for mowing.

Subject: Please open immediately. Urgent material inside. (bulk postage)

Dear Farm Boy,

The Flower Czar has determined that as of May 20, 2009, the following areas may be mowed:

* The entire cleared "homestead" area, including up the hill towards the uphill neighbor, around the grapes/bonusberries and around the butterfly garden.

* The front woods, both sides of the driveway. The Flower Czar can help you pick out things not to be mowed.

* The meadow, down to the bee tree, avoiding the Indian paintbrushes and the planted flowers (there are t-posts).

* A small area immediately around the pecans, to keep them visible and to keep them from competing for water.

Areas *not* ready to mow:

* The power line right-of-way is just beginning to bloom. Please wait until the black-eyed susans have finished blooming before mowing, possibly right before July 4.

* In the meadow, from the bee tree to the back of the property, there are some wildflowers (coreopsis/black-eyed susans) about to bloom. You should be able to mow this area at the same time as the right-of-way.

Thank you for your cooperation.

Flower Czar

Mandating technology

Let met get this straight... The government wants to mandate (or up the mandate) technology with new CAFE standards. And then the government wants to actually build the cars that meet the standards. Is the next thing on the agenda a mandate as to which car I should buy?

I'm just saying: this doesn't sound like it would go well. Presumably GM was already making their best guess at what was "most sellable" vs "most efficient". I say presumably because -- well, they haven't quite been successful lately. So mandating what will be sold via CAFE ... I'm not entirely sure that is going to go in GM's favor. The most recent numbers I could find online (or the most recent I found when I stopped trying) show the Honda/Toyota crowd to be well ahead of GM... almost to the point of meeting the new proposed standards. My guess is that a chip tweak and they are there (at the slight expense of horsepower).

If I were in charge of one of the auto companies, this would be my plan:

Let the government test it at full efficiency... Then let the consumer choose.

The whole thing reminds me of A Nice Morning Drive -- which was a fictionalized product of the same type of government mandates as it was applied to safety. And if you don't recognize Morning Drive... shame on you.

Tuesday, May 19, 2009

The face of the housing crisis

Okay, there are a million guilty faces in this crisis (besides Alan Greenspan). This is only one of them. But this guy sort of makes me sick. You can read the article if you want to. (But NYT will probably make you register. I'd use bugmenot if it were me.) But whatever you do, DO NOT buy his book. You're already going to be bailing out his mortgage -- probably both on the bank end and on his end. I see no reason to give him any more money. If you don't bother reading it, here's the highlights:

  • a financial reporter for the New York Times. Yes, I said financial reporter.
  • $120,000 base salary and about $50,000 annual alimony/child support liability, leaving him with a $33,000 take home salary after taxes.
  • buys a $460,000 house knowing ahead of time he cannot afford it
  • attempts one of those "liar loans" with full knowledge he does not qualify and having written about how stupid they are. (Oh, and full knowledge on the part of the mortgage broker, too.)
  • gets rejected on the liar loan ... due to, well -- what appears to be excessive lying
  • reapplies for a "no ratio loan" (which to me seems to be just another type of liar loan) with some seemingly ridiculous piggy back loan -- both primary and secondary loans have a rate adjustment in 5 years.
  • very little down, no emergency fund, living paycheck to paycheck... and broke and unable to make the payments in 5 months.
  • no change in spending habits when they bought into their "dream" -- high end groceries, Starbucks, clothes, vacations, big christmases
  • began to finance daily expenses on their credit card to the tune of about $50,000
  • refinanced the house (you know, they always go up in value) into one of those famous subprime loans and tossed the credit cards into the house payment -- turning stupid unsecured debt into stupid secured debt "because of the great tax write off". Yeah, now non-payment on your new tie and half-caff latte will put your ass on the curb. Smart.
  • refinanced again. (geez, I hate to see how much closing fees this guy paid.... oh, wait, I bet those are tax deductible. That makes it "smart.") This time he'd brought his FICO up because he had actually paid his bills (with his house) and had lots of available credit.
  • puts a little dig into his wife, who at this time loses her job. Never you mind that there is no cushion. Never you mind that they are living at about twice their means. The financial genius makes it her fault. (Don't get me wrong, she's partially to blame here. Marriage is a business partnership.)
  • gloats that he "outlasted" the original mortgage lender, who went belly up. This, to me, is a way of saying that the taxpayer was already on the hook for the mortgage.
  • is offered a "catch up plan" by the 3rd generation mortgage rescuer. This plan is where he pays more per month and gets forgiven, yet he choses to let the mortgage go unpaid longer so he can see what sort of (probably government backed) loan modification program he can qualify for. Oddly, there's no talk of earning and banking that $3700 a month payment -- you know, just in case the modification comes through. Maybe he did. I have my doubts.

Sadly, the article ends with no mention of if (or how) he got out of the mess. My guess is that he's still in it... and hoping you'll buy his book to bail him out.

This is the face I now have on the whole situation. Forget the "poor me, I didn't understand, the bankers took advantage of me" guy. Mortgages should be understandable by someone that passed 6th grade math. It isn't that complicated. If it is, then -- well, maybe that's a sign you shouldn't be doing it. This makes me an even bigger fan of the Dave Ramsey crowd. There is no freedom like the freedom of owning your own life. Sure, there are days I panic. I've been out of a job for almost 3 years now. And I've lost lots of stock market opportunity by not being able to invest like I would like to in the down market. But, here I sit, still living on my own dime... and still friends with my wife.

So tell me: Why are we bailing out these people? If you ask me, both the borrowers and lenders here should be prosecuted for fraud, not bailed out.

Saturday, May 16, 2009

Lessons from the middle: The conservative's guide

As a serious proponent of capitalism, I read my handful of conservative blogs. Conservatives think they are capitalists. They're not. Anyone that can make any apology or excuse for Bush Jr. is not even close. Being a true capitalist, I also read my share of blogs that are pretty liberal. Liberals don't seem to understand economic freedom and conservatives don't seem to understand personal freedom. But I can't bitch about both of them in one rant. I've already ranted about Lessons from the middle for liberals so this time the bitchiness is awarded to: the conservatives.

What has my ire up is the total failure of conservativism. In fact, the term is no longer even meaningful. They don't conserve anything. At least "liberal" is still correct -- they are liberal with the use of public funds. What the hell does conservatism conserve? Even amongst the conservatives that consider themselves skeptical, capitalist and politically centrist -- they are none of these. Zip. Zero. Zilch.

And if you look at the trends, the party is shrinking. It may be in the minority now, but you just wait. The downward curve is pretty steep and if you want to ride that curve to the bottom, then feel free. But if you want to fix the problem, listen up. If there is one key divisive issue it's religion. I am not saying you have to abandon it in your personal life. I am saying that if you want to grow your numbers or even have a chance in your hell of winning, you'd better listen up and get it out of your policy.

Conservatives pride themselves on being the party of "freedom." Put your party planks where your mouth is.

  • Quit arguing over endorsing religion by trying to put the Christian Protestant version of the ten commandments in public places. Put them in your churches where they belong and will be revered properly. You know you don't want some icon of Islam in your courthouse (even though there is an extremely similar set of Islamic commandments) and you don't want some silly atheist "there is no god" plaque either. We also know you don't want the Catholic or the Jewish versions -- and yes they are different. The reason you don't know about them is that you're too busy nailing up your own version.
  • Stop your arguing over abortion. And yes, this is a religious issue. You don't have to change your opinions. You don't have to stop peacefully protesting. Just stop trying to legislate. This is an individual rights issue and if you think the rights of the fetus are in conflict with the rights of the mother: check your premise. Individual rights do not conflict. (I actually have some ideas here... I just don't have the science background to back them up. Maybe someday...)
  • Stop trying to outlaw gay marriage. It's contract law. You make the same silly stupid arguments here that you made in the sixties about mixed race marriage. Tradition is not a logical reason for anything. We all damn well know you have no legal argument against this and it is all about what you've read in Leviticus. But we all also know you're picking and choosing your Leviticus references. When you have a Defense of Edible Crustaceans Act alongside your Defense of Marriage Act, I'll start to believe you endorse the whole book.
  • Don't argue over endorsing religion on your currency. Don't try to appeal to tradition and pretend it's been there all along. It hasn't.
  • Don't argue over endorsing religion in some silly pledge of allegiance. Don't pretend that religion has been there all along either. It hasn't.
  • Quit the war on drugs. Prohibition has never worked and never will. Criminalizing something stupid just creates a dangerous industry of organized crime. Don't play into that. Will smart people do stupid things and do drugs? Will innocent people die? Probably, but those things are happening now when it's criminalized. It's odd that you whould outlaw drugs because they are dangerous, but would defend your guns to your death. (And no, I am not arguing for gun control.)
  • Stop trying to insinuate religion into public schools. If you want to start a private school and teach it there -- go for it. But don't use the tax base to support it. This applies to prayer and it applies to teaching the "theory" of intelligent design. ID is not a theory. It's barely even a hypothesis. And if you say "it's only a theory" one more time about evolution then I'm going to require you say the same about Newtonion physics. "Theory" means something specific in science, and apparently not what you think it means.
  • Don't ever ever ever try to rationalize or apologize for Bush or anyone in his empire. (I know this doesn't apply to religion, but golly gee whiz, this is still so frickin common that I cannot ignore it.) His economic policies that got us into this mess and his economic rescue plans are philosophic equivalents for Obama's plans. Sticking up for Bush while you bash Obama makes you look foolish.
  • Fully and completely understand that separation of church and state protects both the church and the state. Christians cannot even fully agree how to interpret their own bible. (Wikipedia lists some 37 distinct different sects and sub-religions.) Just remember that yours may not always be the one on top making the laws. Maybe that's why some smart folk wanted them separated so long ago.

You want to be the party of freedom? Then embrace freedom -- all of it. Freedom includes the freedom to be stupid and the freedom to do things someone else doesn't agree with. If you want to waggle your tongues about freedom then drop religion from the party and try to bring the moderates and the libertarians back into the fold. If you don't want to do this, then drop out and get out of the way so the libertarians can make something of themselves.