Friday, November 22, 2013

Oswald Did It

Fifty years ago today, Lee Harvey Oswald fired three shots into the back of JFK's head from the book "suppository" building overlooking Dealey Plaza in Dallas.

He was a lone gunman who committed the crime alone.  The day before the assassination, he read in the newspaper that the president's motorcade was going to be passing outside his workplace and either at that moment or shortly thereafter decided he was going to shoot Kennedy.  He was a committed communist in a volatile marriage and on that day, politics and mental illness converged.

There was no conspiracy.  Oliver Stone's film is probably the most cerebral thriller ever made, but it's factually bunk.  My favorite novel, American Tabloid, immerses you in a dense and not implausible conspiracy to kill the president, but it is and remains a complete fiction.

Here are a couple photos my Uncle Jim took the last time I was at Dealey Plaza.
The window on the end, above the tree line, was Oswald's sniper nest.
The legendary grassy knoll.  Just a grassy knoll.
My brother demonstrating the angle the "second shooter" didn't take.
My Uncle Jim demonstrating the approximate spot where Oswald's shots connected with Kennedy's head.
And finally...the jump off.

Walmart Stuff

I've posted before about how abjectly awful the Walmart near my house is.  I have, on at least two occasions, been so discouraged by the long lines that I pushed a full cart into a dark corner and walked out without purchasing a damn thing.

That's why it amused me to read this article in the paper last week about my hated Walmart.
Walmart officials told police this year that the store at 7800 E. Smith Road loses $1.5 million each year to theft, putting it among the top 5 percent of the chain's locations nationwide for shoplifting. The store is far and away the city's leading destination for shoplifters, with 283 offenses reported in the past year — 179 more than the second-highest location, a Rite Aid on the 16th Street Mall.
The article talks about how the lack of door-greeters and Walmart's reluctance to prosecute first-time offenders may be a factor.  From bitter personal experience, I have a different take.

This Walmart is poorly managed.  They skimp on staffing, causing the long lines and the messy shelves and have several basically non-functioning departments.  I mean, good luck finding someone to help you in the paint department..... 

This dude from Slate, who has never been to the Stapleton Walmart, figured it out by looking at Yelp reviews. 
How does all this relate to shoplifting? Research has shown that shoplifters seek out cluttered stores with indifferent employees.
The Denver Post article hints to as much when it talks about how susceptible the Stapleton Walmart is to scams:

The Smith Road store saw some improvements after police counseled managers on dealing with what Perry called "resurrection cases," in which thieves try to return items they never purchased in the first place to earn store credit.

The shoplifter who tried to take the futon and pillows on Nov. 8 produced an old receipt for the items and tried to "return" them to get money for bus fare, according to police reports. The next day, a suspect attempted a "no-receipt return" of $47.92 at the customer service counter then left without paying for other items in a cart.
I mean, we're not talking about people sticking merchandise up their shirts and walking out.  We're talking about employees doing a piss poor job of "minding the store." What this does is create a situation where the paying customer must tolerate the poor service while the scammers actually rely on it.  This should kind of scenario should put any store out of business, but of course, Walmart's size inures it to that kind of market discipline.

The cause --and the solution-- to this problem seems obvious to me.  This Walmart already has the best employees their low wages can attract. 

If they want better labor quality, they'll have to pay better wages.

Beating a Dead Horse - Game of Thrones Edition

I know, I know.  Why do I punish myself?

But it's always a surprise to see how consistenly wrong Alyssa Rosenberg gets things because of her liberal feminist views.  The latest example:
After all, I’m an enormously dedicated fan of Game of Thrones, which has as one of its major subjects how omnipresent violence against women poisons all aspects of a society.
 I'm bolding that part, because I think if you watch Game of Thrones and come away with the conclusion that "one of its major subjects" is "how omnipresent violence against women poisons all aspects of a society," then you should put down the book you've been reading, close the laptop, hit rewind and re-watch the show.

Now I shall not deny that Game of Thrones has depicted violence against women.  That is true.  But it has also depicted violence against men and children and beast.  Indeed, some of the most violent and frightening characters on the show are women.

Cersei had no problems with throwing an innocent kid out a window.  Lady Arryn had no problems ordering Tyrion's execution for a crime he didn't actually commit.  The Khaleesi with her dragons and dreams of conquest, or Melisandre, with her magic and evil plots?   These are not bloodthirsty, violent women

And who was it that shot Jon Snow full of arrows?  That's right.  It was his wildling girlfriend Ygritte. 

Ned Stark was decapitated, Jaime Lannister lost his hand, and Theon Greyjoy his nuts.  But Catelyn Stark gets it at the Red Wedding and Joffrey tortures a hooker and the show becomes about "violence against women?"

Way to miss the point....

Monday, November 18, 2013

Amazon\Audible Pro-Tip

I've been a loyal customer of both Amazon and Audible for years, and even more so since I got my Kindle.  (It's like it was all part of some kind of plan...)

But having a membership at Audible can be tricky.

As a Gold member, I pay $14.95 a month for 1 credit.  I also get a 30% discount on all other purchases.  That right there is worth the price of admission, especially considering that for my $14.95 credit, I can download a book that costs much more than $14.95.

Example:  Stephen King's Doctor Sleep, which is worth 1 credit, is normally priced at $34.99 (although members can buy it for $24.49).  I paid:  $14.95.

Now here's where it gets tricky.

The pricing is such that not all audiobooks cost $14.95.

Example:  James Ellroy's Hollywood Nocturnes, also worth 1 credit, is in my wish-list.  The non-member price is $13.21 while I can pick it up with my membership for $9.25.

If I were to use my monthly credit to pick that one up, I would have paid $14.95 for something that would otherwise cost me $9.25.  That's kind of why that one is still in my wish-list rather than my library.

Here's another trick, although at the opposite end of the spectrum.  Since Audible is an Amazon company, they are able to offer combined deals that could result in getting more for less:  Literally.

Example:  If I were to buy the ebook version of Lawrence Block's The Burglar Who Liked to Quote Kipling for my Kindle, it would cost me $4.74 and I would have the opportunity to buy the "professional narration" (ie, the Audible audiobook) for an additional $2.99.  Total cost for both ebook and audiobook:  $7.73.

Just buying the audiobook from Audible would cost $18.11 with my membership or, if I used my monthly credit, $14.95, and with that option I wouldn't get the ebook version with it. 

Buying both would save me seven to ten bucks!

Long story short:

A)  Don't waste your credit on anything that costs less than $14.95.


B)  If the ebook/audiobook combo is cheaper than $14.95, buy that instead.