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Saturday, April 17, 2010

False Advertising

"Hopefully it's as slow for you as it's been for us for the last, oh, four hours," one of my co-workers said as he was walking out the door.

Yeah...slow? Ten calls in the last hour. That ain't slow!

Curse of the Golden Teapot

In the Hong Kong thriller Dragonheat, an unarmed Sammo Hung is fighting a baddie with a machete. Hung dodges every blow, which is, you know, Sammo Hung's thing. The fat acrobat. (Although in many scenes you can tell it's a stunt guy in a fat suit...Sammo is getting old, ya know.)

He flies over a table, throws a bunch of boxes, gets thrown into a shelf, and finally gets away long enough to grab...a tea kettle. He grips it with both hands, the look on his face saying "Now I'm gonna kick your ass."

Hopefully at this point, the audience is on the edge of their seat, going, "Yeah, fuck him up with that tea kettle, Sammo!" Either that or they're laughing.

A Special Customer

There was a knock at my door. It was the Fed Ex man, delivering my contacts. Not even a minute later, another truck pulled up, delivering some DVDs from Amazon.

"They sent two trucks?" I asked the drivers.

"You're a special customer!" one of the drivers said. We all had a good laugh at that one.

A Few Things

The SEC filed a civil lawsuit against Goldman Sachs, "Wall Street's most powerful firm," for fraudulently setting up side deals that give the term "designed to fail" a bad name.

Check this out:
John Paulson was among the first on Wall Street to bet heavily against subprime mortgages. His firm earned more than $15 billion in 2007, and he pocketed $3.7 billion. He has since earned billions more, largely by betting against bank stocks and then buying them back after their shares plunged.
$3.7 billion, $3,700,000,000, from playing the markets like a big slot machine. Ka-ching!

Never trust a gambler with your money. I think Jesus said that, or maybe it was in the I Ching.

Speaking of gambling, I found this question from an interview with Peter Gleick, "co-founder and president of the Pacific Institute," whatever that is, intriguing:
They grow a lot of bananas in Jordan, one of the water poorest countries in the world. Should Jordan be spending its limited water supply to grow bananas for rich people to eat in the winter?
That's an excellent question. (Clearly, when Peter Gleick is talking about "rich people," he's talking about rich societies, not guys like John Paulson.)

The answer depends on a lot of variables. In a perfect world, Jordan would grow bananas, sell them to the rich people in far off lands, use the proceeds to invest in smart water management, making it easier to continue growing bananas, and so on and so forth. But in the real world, this perfect cycle of life can get messy.

Jordan will grow bananas, sell them to the rich people in far off lands, use the proceeds to buy cars and houses and clothes and jewelry and all the other knick-knacks of life. Water management? Bo-ring. And it's not like the rich people are going to help them in that regard either. They just want the bananas.

Tricky thing, this globalism stuff.

Which brings me to the international effects of certain natural phenomenon, like volcanoes. Iceland has one that's been spewing so much ash that it's crippled flights in Europe.
The volcanic ash cloud moving east over Europe is costing the airline industry an estimated $200 million a day.
That's a big ash cloud!

No world on how this affect the banana crop in Jordan.

Friday, April 16, 2010

Asian Movies

Ever since I watched Red Cliff, John Woo's sprawling Romance of the Three Kingdoms epic, I've been having my own private Asian film festival. At this point I'm convinced that Asian cinema is not only massively underrated in the West, but in many ways it's superior to Western cinema in many regards.

Sure, you'll have the critics and the Quentin Tarrantinos and film buffs like me extolling the virtues of Asian cinema. Such erudite views, though, are few and far between. I don't see why the next big Asian movie can't be the next big American movie save for the fact that it stars a bunch of Asian people. We have no problem imaging Asians being funny --either Jackie Chan funny or Harold and Kumar funny-- and we do hold hot Asian women in particular esteem, yes, it's true. But we have trouble imagining an Asian as a leading man, for example.

Where, for example, would we put a guy like Simon Yam? Well, we already know the answer to that. In a stupid Lara Croft movie.

And if you're asking yourself, who the fuck is Simon Yam? I rest my case.

Historical Moments That Defy the Odds

During the Night of Sorrows, Hernan Cortes and his men fought their way out of Tenochtitlan against overwhelming odds. After gathering his remaining troops in Tacuba Cortes seemed concerned with the fate of only one man: Martin Lopez, the troop's master ship-builder. Assured that Lopez had survived, Cortes said, Let's roll, "for we lack nothing."

Cortes was already plotting his revenge. He would return to Tenochtitlan with more men, more horses, more guns, and a fleet of ships, built from scratch right there in Mexico.

Buddy Levy outlines the plan in his book Conquistador: Hernan Cortes, King Montezuma, and the Last Stand of the Aztecs:
The grand scheme was to carry the rough-cut planks and beams from the mountains to Tlaxcala and to fashion and finish them there, beyond Aztec reach and knowledge, whetting and drying and shaping them. Then the boats would be assembled at a makeshift shipyard on the edge of the Rio Zahuapan, which Lopez would dam to ensure a deep enough flow. The boats, which would be between forty and fifty feet long, would be tested for seaworthiness, checked for leaks, and then disassembled. Once they were deemed worthy, at Cortes's order the boats were to be transported some fifty miles over the mountains and down into the Valley of Mexico, to Texcoco, where they would (assuming that everything went according to plan) be reassembled. Then, under the direction of Lopez, an army of Tlaxcalan workers would dig a mile-long canal twelve feet deep and twelve feet wide, so that they could launch the reassembled armada of brigantines from a safe and defensible distance.
It's hard to believe that this plan was conceived much less carried out, but it was. They scoured the forest for lumber, built the ships, carried them in pieces over the mountains, dug the canal, launched the war boats, and in the biggest land-locked naval engagement in history, laid siege to Tenochtitlan and conquered the Aztec empire.

If things had been different, they'd all speak Nahuatl down in Mexico, which in some places, they still do.

A Shrewd Move

When I heard Obama was going to strip hospitals of the freedom to deny gay people visitation rights, I cried a little tear over yet another erosion of our rights and values as a society. This kind of sweeping totalitarianism is why you definitely should have voted Republican.

Sarah Palin would have never let the president tell hospitals how to manage their affairs. We go back to common-sense first principles set down during the founding of our country. George Washington said that visiting your gay lover while he's in a coma is a privilege, not a right. "The only right worth preserving is a hospital's right to be a dick," was the famous quote, I believe.

Actually what Obama has done here is a very shrewd political move. The memo is just a memo. It carries weight because it's from the president, but it doesn't carry the kind of weight that would stand up in a court room. But it concedes a long-sought goal of the gay rights movement while simultaneously eliminating one of the arguments for legal gay marriage.

He's like a butcher, cleaving away divisive bullshit and clearing the path for more enlightened arguments. I mean, who can oppose this? What cold-hearted jerk is going to stand up against the abomination of letting gay people visit their lovers in the hospital?

Oh, it's easy when we're talking about marriage. There's centuries of tradition there to fall back on to justify the distinction. But when we're talking about hospital visits, the over-riding principle is "your loved ones should be able to go," even if it's your gay lover. No justification needed.

It's going to be interesting where the argument goes from here.

Thursday, April 15, 2010

A Walk in the Graveyard

Since today was a beautiful spring day, I spent some time rooting around in the garden this morning. I've already planted lettuce, carrots, spinach, and peas. I separated the onions, turned the compost heap, and did some strategic thinking.

Then I went on a bike-ride along the High Line Canal, which sources tell me is over sixty miles long, most of it with trail. I had my BMX bike, so a long haul wasn't in the cards, but I did ride far enough to run into the back end of Fairmount Cemetery.

I parked my bike and took a stroll among the headstones. Even though it was a nice day and the sun was shining and I'm not the superstitious type, I grew more and more uncomfortable with each step. There was just something creepy about wandering a graveyard alone, the deftones playing on my iPod.

I took a few pictures and then I split.
There were some interesting plots along the south side. Take this modern-art masterpiece. It's abstract, but it makes sense immediately.

Or this, with a Latin inscription that means "to the stars through difficulties."
This one was the coolest, though. A small stone bench that says Letty's Garden, with a small ring of various flowers, shrubs, and two little (for now) trees. There's just something beautiful in that.

Tuesday, April 13, 2010

Enough is Enough Already

This is too much:
OKLAHOMA CITY – Frustrated by recent political setbacks, tea party leaders and some conservative members of the Oklahoma Legislature say they would like to create a new volunteer militia to help defend against what they believe are improper federal infringements on state sovereignty.
In Oklahoma City?

The same Oklahoma City where you can go here? What a joke.

Matt Taibbi Rules

Here he is addressing the old "the poor are lazy" nonsense.
I would give just about anything to sit David Brooks down in front of some single mother somewhere who’s pulling two shitty minimum-wage jobs just to be able to afford a pair of $19 Mossimo sneakers at Target for her kid, and have him tell her, with a straight face, that her main problem is that she doesn’t work as hard as Jamie Dimon.
Jamie Dimon is the CEO of JP Morgan Chase, and presumably worth every penny of his $1.32 million salary and "$322,094 in deferred earnings and other forms of compensation." (Oh yeah, can't forget the "some $16 million in stock and bonds he received this year.")

The Golden Age of White Men

Like Alan Greenspan, I think libertarianism has a flaw. A couple of them, actually. This is why I never miss an opportunity to make jokes at their expense.

But with that said, it's nice to see a libertarian like Will Wilkinson make actual sense. In a debate about how America was more free in 1880 under Rutherford B. Hayes than in 2010 under Barrack H. Obama.

Of course anyone who knows anything about history knows just how dumb that is.

Wilkinson destroys the premise entirely:
It’s just plain wrongheaded to cast the libertarian project as the project of restoring lost liberties. Most people never had the liberties backward-looking libertarians would like to restore. I know the rhetoric of restoration can be very seductive, especially in a country unusually full (for a wealthy liberal democracy) of patriotic traditionalists. But restoration is a conservative project and liberty is a fundamentally progressive cause.
We've come a long way since Jefferson wrote the Declaration of Independence.

You are no longer free to beat your wife.
You are no longer free to "own" another person and force them to work for you without pay.
You are no longer free to kill the inhabitants of the land that you want to occupy.
You are no longer free to deny women the opportunity to vote or own property.

And yet losing these "freedoms" made us more free, not less!

Monday, April 12, 2010

The Loan

Today, I am posed with a unique question:

Do I want to pay off my loan this payday, or next payday?

The balance is now $204.70. It's getting paid off this month whether it likes it or not. When I got the loan, my goal was to pay it off in three years even though the loan was for a five-year term. I'm going to miss my target by one month.

Idiots

I'm 99% sure some lady called the cops on me this morning.

I was driving home after a good night's work and I wanted to change lanes. I put my turn-signal on, check my mirrors, and prepare to merge. Good thing I looked over my shoulder before I made any kind of significant move because this dumb lady was right in my blind spot.

Of course, I aborted the lane change, sped up a little bit until she was out of my blind spot, put my turn signal on again, and now with an open spot, I merged.

Next time I looked in my rear-view mirror, I see the lady taking a picture of my license plate with her phone! Of course, she's talking animatedly into the phone and then she gives me the thumbs up like, "Got you, sucker."

The bitch is ratting me out! I thought, but before I could get mad, I just got amused.

Is an almost collision a 911 worthy event? "911, what's your emergency?" "Some guy almost hit me!" "Almost? So wait...nothing happened?" "Well...not technically, but he almost hit me!"

I bet she neglected to mention she was driving in my blind spot. "I was driving in this guy's blind spot and he almost hit me while changing lanes!" Can't say that unless you want the dispatcher to laugh at you.

But then I started thinking, well, what if the cops come after me? I didn't think they'd come after me for that trash dumping incident, but oh did they ever!

So I was looking in the rear view mirror, just hoping to get pulled over. I wanted to see what the cop would say. "Sir, we got a report that you're driving erratically."

"Yes, officer, if you call driving the speed limit, using turn signals, and NOT hitting stupid old ladies driving in your blind spot driving erratically, then yeah, I guess I was. Might as well cuff me now."

Well, I made it home without incident. And we'll see if the Aurora PD come knocking on my door again, wrecker in tow. I say:

Bring it on, bitches.

Why I'll Never Play the Stock Market

Because the game is rigged. Also from Business Insider.
This chart clearly shows that 10% of the population controls almost 90% of the stocks, bonds, and mutual funds.

You know what that means? You will never win. Forget about your shareholder vote counting for anything. You can't buy enough shares.

Are you hoping to make gains from a growing market? Guess what? A gain on 10% is NEVER going to beat a gain on 90%. That's right, if you make a dollar...the rich fucker's going to make 9. You think you can catch up, Horatio Alger? Don't think so.

Check your calculator.

Why I Don't Cry For CEOs

A graph from Business Insider.
For years, we've been told that "a rising tide lifts all boats" and that pro-business policies lead to economic prosperity for all.

As you can see here, that's bullshit.

As CEO pay has tripled and corporate profits have doubled, worker pay has remained remarkably consistent. Consistently in the single digits!

It's a Hoax!

Back in January, I heard several people --all of them reliable Republican voters-- laughing about how much it was snowing. "Global warming is clearly a hoax. Look at how bad it's snowing."

In January.

My thought at the time was, I wonder how this logic will hold up in the summer? You know, when the mercury is hitting triple digits in July, will these guys say to themselves, "Wow, it's really hot. Maybe there's something to this global warming stuff."

But nah...that's just wishful thinking. Most of the folks who think global warming is a hoax came to that conclusion because of their dislike of Al Gore, not because they're experts on meteorology or environmental studies.

I wonder what they think of this.
As Denver flirts with a record high temperature today, the entire Front Range will be under a "red flag" fire-danger warning until 8 p.m., the National Weather Service said Sunday.

The forecast high for today in Denver is 78 degrees. The highest recorded temperature for an April 12 is 79 degrees, set in 1976. The average high is 60 degrees.

Sunday, April 11, 2010

True Story

The Southern Republican Leadership Conference conducted a straw poll for Republican primary candidates for the 2012 presidential election.

There were 9 contenders:
Newt Gingrich
Mike Huckabee
Gary Johnson
Sarah Palin
Ron Paul
Tim Pawlenty
Mike Pence
Mitt Romney
Rick Santorum

Only three of them (Paul, Pawlenty, and Pence) currently hold elected office.

Meanwhile, Huckabee, Palin, Santorum, and Gingrich all work for Fox News.

Conclusion: Fox News is either becoming the "Official Network of the Republican Party" or the Republican Party is becoming the official political wing of Rupert Murdoch's business empire.

Is there another possibility?

PS. Mitt Romney won, with Ron Paul coming in second. In other words, a second term for Obama is all but assured.

More of This, Please

The University of Wisconsin canceled its licensing agreement with Nike Inc. on Friday, becoming the first university to take that step over concerns about the company's treatment of workers in Honduras.
Not because Nike's products are inferior or because they cost too much money, but because of how they operate as a business.

I admit: I'm very anti-Nike.

Nike has made millions using third-world labor to sell over-priced products to first-world customers and then they have the gall to try all these exclusive agreements with the Olympics and sports teams across the country? I'm supposed to give them a slap on the back and say, "Heckuva job, Nike?"

I don't think so.

Nike is also back to running Tiger Woods ads, too. Once again, paying a rich celebrity millions for being in a commercial but they're skimping on severance payments to laid off workers in Honduras?

Pathetic.

Tea Party Jesus

This coincides with my Easter joke-post.
It comes from a website that puts real quotes from right-wingers into the mouth of Jesus Christ. This one I believe comes from Tom Tancredo.

Ah, the Christian right. Always good for a laugh.