Thursday, June 15, 2006

Adieu, For Now

Yes, I'm cutting off the blog. On my first year anniversary.

It's not so much that I'm tired of blogging, nor is it that my numbers have dropped (although to be honest it did play a part). Nor is it running out of topics (you do enough reading anywhere, you can continue running into topics to talk about).

More to the point: I feel I have some other things I need to do more important than blogging. One of these things includes organizing some things, which have sort of fallen behind for the past couple of years (beyond the time of this blog). And I don't have any other time I can take.

As it is, It's a good time to rethink the blog thing. After all, in the past year I've learned a few things:
  • One easy way to get people to read you is to piss on a sacred cow of theirs .
  • You can also play to various choirs, giving them what they want to hear.
  • Probably the best way to blog is to pick a topic and work your way through it.
As it happened, I did things mightily slap-dash. I'd hit up a topic for maybe four or five blogging posts, then jump off onto something wildly disconnected. One month's blogging (November 2005, to pick a month) hit upon the following topics:
  • How long it was since I last went to Chicago
  • The differences between men and women, and how odd they actually are (two posts, separated)
  • Words of gloom and doom about intercity transit, and a comparison between toy depictions of busses and how they were viewed by the public
  • A jab at a conservative think tank for forgetting their champion (Shrub Jr) was disliked for reasons of actual competence
  • Whether the Republicans (more to the point: The Corporatista overlords) WANTED Roe v Wade overturned
  • What I disliked about Wal-Mart
  • Why doesn't Pat Robertson ask for Healing, instead of his constant litany for the damnation of what he hates
  • The seeming return of Anti-Semitism to the airwaves, with thoughts on whether the Xian right wanted Isreal established so Christ could return and they could watch the world fall apart for their entertainment
  • Bemoaning America's joyous underfunding of mass transit, and how we suffer when we need it
  • Two postings related to college football, one referring to the past, the other to then current outcomes
  • Trying to explain (to myself, mainly) why Prayer In School was so important to Fundamentalist Christians
  • Why women who seduced teenaged boys were usually treated differently than men who seduced teenaged girls (usually in favor of the women seducers)
  • Three postings stating the problem of Metra Electric service, positing a solution of mine, and listing the problems with such an answer
  • Ripping into 60 Minutes for a badly biased, badly done report on why "Plan B" isn't yet legal
  • A final posting in the month, stating why I consider myself a Democrat
In other words, a wildly varied set of postings, nothing uniting the whole. A few tendencies (and a definite leftward tilt) but a definite scattershot. Other months include postings on soda pop, home schooling (not all negative), intellectual property (usually wrapped up with music issues), Madalyn Murray O'Hair, my Toe, The Super Bowl (five postings!), book reviews on occasion, and New Orleans; among other things.

When I restart this blog (IF i restart this blog, lest we forget -- I plan on returning, but plans can change) I will do things a bit different. While trying to keep (make?) things eclectic, I might plan on setting up a topic for each month. That way, I have a focus that will keep me from scattershotting around. And the changes will allow me to change when things start getting boring (or at least institute enough change).

Anyway...adieu for now. Maybe we'll meet again.

Tuesday, June 13, 2006

Peanuts Releases In The Future:

This is the order of the books in The Complete Peanuts series (at least if the rumors pan out):
  1. 1950-52. CHARLIE BROWN
  2. 1953-54. LUCY
  3. 1955-56. PIG-PEN
  4. 1957-58. SNOOPY
  5. 1959-60. PATTY
  6. 1961-62. SCHROEDER
  7. 1963-64. LINUS
  8. 1965-66. CHARLIE BROWN
  9. 1967-68. VIOLET
  10. 1969-70. SNOOPY (FLYING ACE)
  11. 1971-72. SALLY
  12. 1973-74. WOODSTOCK
  13. 1975-76. PEPPERMINT PATTY
  14. 1977-78. CHARLIE BROWN
  15. 1979-80. FRIEDA
  16. 1981-82. SPIKE
  17. 1983-84. LINUS
  18. 1985-86. FRANKLIN
  19. 1987-88. LUCY
  20. 1989-90. CHARLIE BROWN
  21. 1991-92. MARCIE
  22. 1993-94. SNOOPY (PERHAPS LAWYER)
  23. 1995-96. RERUN
  24. 1997-98. PEPPERMINT PATTY
  25. 1999-2000. CHARLIE BROWN.
So CB gets 5 covers, snoopy gets 3, Lucy, Linus, Pepperment Patty get 2 and 16 other characters get one cover.

In a way, their pictures show them when they're big parts of the strip. While other characters came and went, these characters (and the way they're listed) is a good way of measuring where the strip was and how it went.

And if I live to 2016 (not necessarily a likelihood, considering how things are going) I'm sure I'll have a whole set.

Sunday, June 11, 2006

2nd Avenue Subway: Shrunken Dreams, Dying City?

So now it looks like the Second Avenue Subway (SAS for short) is finally going to be built.

And the present plan sucks.

When the IND Second System was originally put forth (probably with the idea of forcing the IRT and BMT to sell itself to the City), the SAS was planned to be four to six lines wide and went from the Bronx to Queens. Right now the SAS is planned to be just two lines wide (except for a crossing point with the 63rd Street subway section) and stay fully within Manhattan.

Maybe it's too much today for a transit system to dream of anything more than a subpar system, but where are the dreamers who can plan for something better? I cannot believe that the last person who could think big thoughts in New York was Mr. Moses with his expressways that threaten to choke the city into a smog-accelerated demise.

Anyway, here's my thoughts as to how the SAS should be built:
  • One or Two Express Lines in addition to the two local lines planned. Preferrably two.
  • Direct Connection to the Bronx, refitting Line 4 or 6 for use by the SAS. I'd prefer Line 4 so you could have transfer points (and possibly connect with the D train), but Line 6 will work out well enough (Line 5 is used by Line 2 as well, so there'd be a conflict there).
  • More Stops on the main line. Add one at 6th Street north of Houston, one between Seaport and Hanover Square, one near 60th Street (connect with the Roosevelt Island Tramway; would involve shifting the 55th street stop to 52nd street), and a stop at 78th Street (with the 72nd street stop shifted to 70th or 69th).
  • A link from near the Seaport stop to the Hoyt Street-Schermerhorn Street stop via Court Street, linking the SAS with lines in Brooklyn and Queens and integrating the Court Street stub (now inactive) into the system.
  • Build a 7 line station at 2nd and 42nd. With the SAS working as an intermediate point between the 7 and the surface, there's no longer a reason to not place a station at that point.
  • If you're going to put in an endpoint at 125th and Lexington, why not do the obvious: create a 125th line across to Broadway. With connections to the Broadway, Eigth Avenue and Lenox/Malcolm X Lines, it would allow for extra interconnectability plus a possible place for redevelopment further north in Manhattan.
  • You could even make build the tunnels in such a way that you could build an extension across to Broadway in Queens (I'd say La Guardia, but I'm guessing they'll want any route going in that direction to go to Uptown and Downtown Manhattan for that)
Maybe the last item was a pipe dreams (five miles without any point to drop off anyone, no real access to the centers of NYC), but everything else can be implimented with benefit to the system. While there would be some cost to all of these items, I believe it would all be worth it, especially the four-line idea and the extra stations.

A few thoughts. Likely just an unfulfillable wish list, but something I want anyway.

Friday, June 09, 2006

Something Distrubing Happened To Me:

No, it wasn't that I was kicked out of where I live.

No, it wasn't that the lady who cried "Rape" at Duke has been proven an all-around liar. (Complete with the damning of anyone who criticizes college sports thanks to this stupid bitch)

And no, I still have my job.

Actually, I found myself with nothing in my head for an extended period of time.

I was driving around, nothing out of the ordinary, then I found my mood dropping. Nothing unusual (it happens enough times), but this time I found myself with an absolute blank mind.

Which disturbed me.

After all, there should be something going on in one's mind. I understand the idea of "still mind," but there are times I want my mind stilled and times I want my mind to be active.

And when I'm feeling down, I want my mind active and fighting. Stillness is for when I'm in a position to let my mind go blank, and I don't like my mind blanking out on me when I'm fighting to keep myself out of the pit.

I just hope this isn't the start of Alzheimer's. This is just too early to suffer from that.

Thursday, June 08, 2006

An Interesting Look At The Past of Public Transit

So I'm looking through a Southern California Transit Coalition website when I run across a listing of historical maps. So I looked up the 1910, 1920 and 1949 route maps.

You would be amazed what the maps tell:
  • The 1910 and 1920 maps show only rail lines; the 1949 map shows roads and rail.
  • The earlier maps show how many tracks are on each route; the 1949 map only shows the routes.
  • The 1949 map shows which rail lines are transit routes and which are used only for freight. If I read the legend right, the area served by the trollies had retreated back to its 1910 range, only without the density.
  • The 1949 map shows what many people viewed a the benefits of busses over trollies. Where one line did all the business between Covina and San Bernadino in 1920, you had three bus lines covering the whole of the corridor in 1949 with convenience added in the mix. Busses also gave a direct transit connection between San Bernadino and Orange County -- a routing which would have been costly and bled red ink as a trolly line. Also note the area to the east of the Watts/Compton/Dominguez mainline
  • As interesting as the expansion of service via busses is, it's also interesting to see where the service was cut back. Redlands was now only an end stop (instead of a local transfer point), everything south of Inglewood had been abandoned (no buses, even) and Pasadina had become merely part of a loop (instead of a center of its own area and gateway to Mount Lowe and a view of the basin).
As one could see clearly with the 1949 map, the automobile was already affecting how people viewed the area and the options given. Transit officials were looking towards busses to expand and fine-tune service, allowing for a greater spreading out where needed.

The automobile would cause greater changes from here, however. The expansion of the Suburbs into and beyond the settled areas served by the rails and busses would cause traffic jams, and the busses would be subjected to traffic jams that even the trams wouldn't suffer from. Further, a grid of Expressways would develop, obviating the futility of bus usage for all but the poor and stubborn.

Eventually the need for a rail option on its own right-of-way would become known, and (only in America) would the idea of "the cheaper it is, the better quality it is" would lead to corners cut on the light-rail.

Still, it's interesting to see what had happened, on what was one of the best urban rail transit systems in the nation (in a place one would hardly believe it could have existed, in addition).

Wednesday, June 07, 2006

Can You Trust Your Vote To Count?

Levy: Will Your Vote Count In 2006?

The news is beginning to get into the mainstream press: Your Vote May Not Count.

I've always found paper more trustworthy than computers with my vote. You know what you vote, you can see clearly where your vote's been tampered with (at least before you cast it) and there a clear trail. Chads aside, it takes effort to fix the vote on paper.

On a computer screen, however, one can easily do things to fix the vote. The most subtle would be to shift the vote for each precinct by a specified number of votes (3 votes X 10,000 voting places = 30,000 votes shifted); one can also change the count, work by percentages, mysteriously disappear the votes, or a mix of these depending on precinct and what you want shown.

As it happned, every shift shown by these machines in 2004 seemed to magically go the way of the Republicans. However, I wouldn't be surprised to find some of the shifts in other races: I saw some really odd voting shifts in some precincts in the 3rd ward in Chicago back in 2003.

Saturday, June 03, 2006

What's More Important: The Jawbone Or The Hipbone?

My housemate takes Fosamax. It's supposed to strengthen the bones, and while it's a once-a-week thing, it seems to work.

But it appears that once again, every upside has its own downside. This time, it appears the jaw takes a hit to strengthen the hipbone.

Now I know everything has its downside. Even Water can kill in excess, and Oxygen was originally a toxic gas that some cell figured out how to use (and used its secret to push the rest of the cells to the margins). Indeed, the difference between benefical items and poisonous items is the lower level of tolerance we have for poisonous items.

However, there's millions of people taking these drugs (Aredia and Zometa for cancer treatments; Fosamax, Actonel and Boniva for osteoperosis) so even the smallest dosetaker is at some risk. The risk seems small (less than 1%, with cancer treatment doses, probably a smaller percentage with pill takers). Still, it's something to consider, especially when you're about to go through oral surgery -- which it turns out my housemate is about to do.

And now she's worried sick.

Thursday, June 01, 2006

Forces Out Of Control in New Orleans?

New Orleans Sinking Faster Than Thought

Thing is this: I wonder what the Dutch think of this?

After all, they've been fighting against the sea for four hundred plus years, adding new space wherever they can. They've even added on a large dike to reclaim large areas once underneath the harbor.

But then, the Nethernlands isn't on swamp land.

One thing that really puzzles me: Wouldn't things get really messed up when your land is changing at over an inch a year? That's nearly a foot a decade. How many of them buildings are actually built on a slab; that'd be the only thing that would keep them from really falling apart as the basement gets uncovered.

I still say "Rebuild On The Achafalaya." That land's high, whereas New Orleans should be under the Golf of Mexico by now.

Tuesday, May 30, 2006

One Of The Most Important Websites You'll Ever Come Across (NO KIDDING!)

Seven Points of View: From Left to Right And The Muslem View, Too

Very key in comparing the points of view. While it's biased towards New York and Britain, it's still a very good view of the biases out there. Plus I like the inclusion of the Muslim view; as I believe they've taken the Russian's place as the USA's (and The West's) main enemy.

(At least I hope it's like that. I'd hate to think we've taken the soviet's place and they've taken our place. After all, you know how everything turned out...)

Monday, May 29, 2006

Overloud Blowhards Win Their Fight Against Free Speech

Just heard that George W. Bush (our President, as I'm ready to state) just signed a law banning protests at "Military Funerals" in order to stop a group of lame idiots with too much money and time on their hands from doing their "Die America, Die" chants. (Actually it's more for stopping the motorcyclists protesting these idiots, but nobody want to think of that. After all, we're talking about people supporting our men in uniform; and we can't come out against THEM, can we?)

Just what I need to find out: Bury someone in a military fashion and the place becomes a speech-free zone where only those who are expected to speak can speak.

Where's the ACLU when you need them? With this precedent, the idea of free-speech free zones can expand to include every aspect of governmental action -- even when there's no sign of federal, state or local government around.

Saturday, May 27, 2006

A Jolt Back Into The Past

Ever listen to the radio (or to your collection of mp3s) and hear the song that jolts you back to when the song first came out?

I just turned on my iPod (while new to me, it's actually a refurbished 40 Gigabyte 4Gen iPod) and turned it to my collection of Tori Amos tunes (all legal, as I have the CDs they come from). The third song in the list was "Silent All These Years."

When "Silent..." came up, everything stopped. I remembered first driving a cab around Lansing Michigan and she would come up on the "Women's Show" on WDBM Sunday. I'd listen to that show just for her; and when the radio station stopped doing their "Women's Show" I ended up buying her CDs. Both the first two CDs of hers, plus the "Crucify" single (the one with the Garlic Necklace and her kick-ass version of "Smells Like Teen Spirit").

I lost track of her right after Boys For Pele (her third album). I actually went to a coffeehouse to listen to it on its release night; found myself turned off by the music (the repitition of the piano parts turned me off). Don't ask me about the words, all I remember is her bawking like a chicken at the end of one of the songs (Oh Yeah; and "Caught A Light Sneeze" was okay for a single)

Been a while since I kept up with her. I'm sure the library has plenty of her stuff, maybe I can catch up with her there.

Friday, May 26, 2006

No Longer The Detroit Baseball Putty-Tats

I'm looking at the Major League Baseball Standings, and I notice the team atop the American Central is Detroit. Not Chicago (although they've got a better team than last year's), not Cleveland and certainly not Minnesota (the team that's bedevilled Detroit, even before they got consigned to that Dome).

I would have been happy had Detroit been doing mere .550 ball (and they may drop to that level before the year is through). As long as we have a team able to win more than lose and what looks like a strong future, I'd have took it. However, this is a definite plus.

If this keeps up through the end of the season, the Tigers will have finally gotten out of the doldrums they were stuck in since the second half of the 1988 season. While Detroit came in second that season, the team stalled to a halt over the second half, and went to fall totally apart in the nineties and the early years of this new century.

And now? At the very least, I can call them the TIGERS!!! Yes, the Tigers. No longer the "Detroit Baseball Putty-Tats" (musn't confuse them with their football bretheren, who've perfected the art of sucking in another league), but now the "Detroit Tigers!"

Yes! Finally!

(Yes, it's been that long since I could point to my baseball team with pride.)

Wednesday, May 24, 2006

The Day After Roe

Interesting article. Jeffery Rosen (the author of the article) predicts that there would be a battle upon the repeal of Roe v Wade and that, should there be an end, we would settle on a middle ground that would give all early abortions a pass while putting restrictions on later abortions that grow stronger until the fetus is pushed out of the body by the mother-to-be.

I'm not sure I buy that.

First off, don't be too sure that such an outcome would occur. Remember, the anti-abortion side has been more organized and active all these years. They're not about to roll over and play dead over popular opinion; indeed they'll likely be emboldened by such a ruling, especially in states that still have abortion bans on their books (Michigan is one of them, let's remember). Don't be surprised if the Republicans, in desperate need of captive votes to continue their corporatista rampage, pass and enact national anti-abortion laws. Don't be surprised if secretly encourage Cuba to start providing abortions on its soil for Americans (why else are they offering Free Doctor Training to Americans? Ever think of that?)

Second, don't be too sure that the Supreme Court can only keep the South Dakota law legal by revoking Roe v Wade. Don't be surprised if they rule that the law fits in with the rulings of both Roe v Wade and Doe v Bolton. That would do more to limit abortion than a full reversal of Roe and Doe, as what South Dakota allows would work out to be a full ban (fact is, "danger to the mother" is too little to allow for abortion; at those levels it'd be easier, less costly and simpler to merely give last rites to the mother and pray the last rites were unnecessary).

Besides, it wouldn't be the first time a Supreme Court ruling was given flexibility with the okay (stated or implied) of the Court. Probably the most nortorious was Plessey v Furgeson; the phrase "Seperate But Equal" was readily redefined as "Seperate, Equality Impossible" by the states. The "Corporations Are People Under The Law" interpretation has been run with until it reads "Corporations Have Rights, People Don't (when they go against corporation rights)."

Something else to consider.

Monday, May 22, 2006

I Still Say New Orleans Was "Benign Neglect"

And according to this article, it looks like EVERYONE'S responsible, from the federal government to the local crews constructing the dikes. From shoddy design to stuff built in too tight a space to knowing corner cutting, New Orleans was left to hold on with too little margin for error, and the margin was quickly passed through.

Some areas are improved, of course. New locks make the smaller dikes less open to breaking; some areas are actually rebuilt to proper standards.

I still say the best thing to do would be to rebuild New Orleans elsewhere. Like on the Achafalaya, forty-fifty miles to the west. Use the present Mississippi as a spillway for excess water; something is VERY wrong with a city when the city's high point is a riverbank.

Sunday, May 21, 2006

Now I Know Why The Right Hate Hillary:

S 2725; The Bill, The Minimum Wage...

That's right, Hillary put up a bill to link the Minimum Wage to the Congressional Pay.

Of course, there's always the possibility that Congress will wildly inflate their pay over the first part (where the minimum wage goes up by its own) then drop it with a Congressional Pay Plummit, making the minimum wage useless (or making illegals legal wage earners). (or more to the point, they'll likely ignore it. After all, it's not just her, but too many democrats and not enough republicans sponsoring this)

But at least someone's making an attempt to make government work.

Which explains their hatred of her (after all, when government doesn't work, corporations lord it over the people).

Friday, May 19, 2006

Christianity, Celibacy and "The Ring Thing"

Saving Grace (must register to read)

About time someone said sense about celibacy. And not "How Hard It Is Not To F%ck In Today's Society."

Thing is, I remember when I was a practicing Fundamentalist Christian. I was celibate. Not necessarily by choice, but I wasn't exactly hurting, either. I desired sex and connection, but I can't say that my life was missing things because I didn't get naked and swap body fluids with the girls around me. In short, I was celibate, and probably blessed by it.

Probably the one thing missing from this is the idea (pointed out by the story) that maybe Celibacy is a blessing. A blessing in that you're allowed to live a leaner life, unencumbered by spousal and parental duties, with more of your attention able to be turned to God. No distractions, no worry about whether you're about to raise children that would have been better destroyed in the womb (God Forbid(tm)!), less of a need to focus on money and things, more an ability to focus on the important things in life.

It's actually one thing I miss from those days. What with all the other stuff I pay attention to nowadays, I look towards the older days when I readily rode my bike across town to do church activities. And we're talking about across Flint, Michigan. Across the northern part, the poor black part, by the olde Buick Factory and across neighborhoods that probably don't exist (certainly a large part of the neighborhood just north of downtown doesn't exist anymore except as fields viewable from Saginaw Street).

And "The Ring Thing?" It can't work. That ring is a reminder that you're not supposed to F%CK. And guess what: enough reminders that you're not supposed to F%CK will lead to F%CKING, with lots of pre-F%cking activities beforehand. Remove the ring and instead meet once or twice a week with like-minded people and you'll find your celibacy more than a vow made in the heat of the moment (with all the arousal THAT implies).

Thursday, May 18, 2006

Interesting Note: Coppertone Girl Painter Dies

Joyce Ballantyne Brand, Creator of the Coppertone Girl, Dies

Remember the old Coppertone ads? Not the recent ones, the ones with more buttocks?

Yes, those ads used to run. Well into the seventies and eighties, even up to the start of the new millenium.

Thing was, back when the painting was in advertisements and on the packages people didn't think of a young girl's buttocks as sexually exciting. We were able to take the picture in context and understand what was being said.

Look at the old picture, and you'll see a girl looking at a dog who's biting her bikini bottom down. Her hand's holding onto the front of the bikini, and she's got a mortified look on her face. No sign of wanting attention of any kind, instead she'd rather disappear into the woodwork.

Not only that, but in a beach scene you'd understand that the girl was properly dressed. (Okay, she needs a top; but the bottom piece would not be out of place had it not been being pulled down by a dog.)

Admittedly, this was before the internet and the present-day hyperawareness of pedophilia. Before priests and scouting and junior high-school gymnastic coaches became objects of strong watchful surveillance. Before we understood that college wasn't the only place where teachers were bedding students (and that in college, the teachers are being logical about it).

So maybe it's better that there's less of the bottom shown, and that the image is smaller. Anything to not signal to pedophiles and their ilk that their perdillictions are gaining any acceptance.

Still, there's something to be said about a society that could accept such a picture, knowing full well what was meant (and what WASN'T).

Wednesday, May 17, 2006

Worries About the Macintosh Platform

Ctrl+Alt+Del Parody of The Macintosh "No Viruses" Commercial

I'm not so much laughing as cringing. Not so much at the idea of "Listen to the crowd yell out 'Look At These Suckers Trying To Get Noticed, They're Too Pitiful To Even Be Pitied' then walk away" cringing, but in the way of "Listen to the hacker crowd say 'Look At These Losers Act Like They're A Real Platform, Let's Crush Them Out Of The Internet And Out Of Business Once And For All' then walk to their computers to pilfer the Operating System" cringing.

Probably one of the blessings over the past few years has been the utter absence (sp?) of virii aimed at the Macintosh. Sure there's spies and similar items, but nothing meant to take the platform down.

And, sadly, I think this is because we've been blessed with an invisibility. We're still the standard for graphics related stuff and a favorite on colleges (and there's the iPod, natch) but there's a small enough group of us for the hacker group to ignore us. Makes things much easier.

But now with the commercials, I'm sure there's enough hackers out there ready to take aim at the Macs. Worse, they now know how to make things really bad for computers, having figured out ways to make people suffer and really damage things at the same time.

And with the Macintosh so long unattacked and open, watch could get as ugly as letting loose a fourteen year old redhead among a bunch of college-aged football players. (Me: I'm glad I've just read about the problem so far...)

Monday, May 15, 2006

Will The Fundamentalists ACTUALLY Stand By Their Threat?

Conservative Christians Criticize Republicans

What would be interesting if these guys were to bolt the Republican Party. Either someone would get them back on, or they would be written off for a couple of years.

Thing is, they could easily cause more ruckus on the off-year elections, when people generally don't pay attention to things because there's no governor or president being elected. They wouldn't even need to support anyone for President; all they'd need to do is act when everyone else is sleeping.

And they're the type of people who'd act when people are asleep.

And it's those type of people who succeed.

You know. The sleepy left derisively refers to them as conservatives. They then fall asleep and wake up again at the mercy of the conservatives.

Seen it too many times to cry anymore.

Sunday, May 14, 2006

Is This View Of the Grand Canyon REALLY Necessary?

Skywalk to offer thrilling Grand Canyon view

Okay, I understand why the people (The Haulapai Indian Tribe) would want to build it, and I can see why someone would want to take the view from such a point.

However: what would be gained from such a view that wouldn't be gained from the side? Even if we're talking about a view from the bottom, I'm sure there's plenty of helicopter and airplane tours that would give you that.

Friday, May 12, 2006

Love Thy PlayStation, Love Thy Self
Okay, I get it...I guess....

Thing is, there's other benefits to a wife/husband that don't come from a PlayStation (or another similar item):
  • Sex. And no, masturbation doesn't count -- it's not nearly as satisfying, especially when you get the other person to come. You'd be surprised at the ego boost you get from getting the other person to come, especially repeatedly.
  • Division of Labor. One person takes care of dinner, the other does the yard. One person holds down the fort, the other earns enough to keep it warm dry and shiny. One person rises up the corporate ladder while the other makes sure he looks the part. One person makes music (or art) while the other makes sure the art can be made and sold. Two people can live cheaper than EITHER could alone. You get the point.
  • Roots. From personal experience: I tended to go out every night when I was alone. Now, with someone, I go out maybe once a week (sometimes less) and am more satisfied with the nightlife I imbibe.
  • Balance. Simply put, two people together can balance each other out, holding back each other's excesses and weaknesses. Where one person is blind, the other can see and catch; thereby correcting possibly fatal mistakes. It's no accident that single people die sooner, single men average a decade less life than married men.
  • Investment Grows with Time. As your SO/spouse grows older, they grow in worth (they know you , you know them, you grow comfortable). Video games tend to grow stale as they grow older; even the long-lasting titles need revivification every so often.
I'm sure there's other ways a human beats out a PlayStation. However, when you consider that $100,000/year is more than most people earn even today, it should be obvious that a long-time love gives dividends that outpace whatever benefits a single life may give.

Wednesday, May 10, 2006

Before There Were Photographs, You Painted Your Family...

When Portrait Was Memory
(Must Register To View)

I know, I usually do current events, or various fixations (Universities, Soda Pop). However, this story touched on a couple of interesting memories which I'd like to share with you:
  1. In one of my last visits to a friend I happened upon a portrait I hadn't seen before. It was dark, but still viewable; I asked my friend who it was. Turned out it was his mother who was painted, and his father was able to win it at a carnival game.
  2. When I went to a party at a friend of a friend's house during the nineties, I should have looked around at how the second floor was hanging from the ceiling; but at the entryway was a really good picture. I asked where the householder got it, he said he inherited it, and that it was unusually good quality for a portrait. I had to agree, as it literally stole the show from the house itself.
It is interesting, in this age of digital photographs taking the photo beyond disposability to almost invisible overabundance, to view hints of a time when a portrait (however sloppily done) was given a place almost alongside the Bible in importance.

Indeed, in a way I'm always interested in ways of doing stuff that predate what we have now. While it's fun typing stuff on the computer and other stuff, it's always good to see how things were done. Especially since civilization has gone backwards before, probably more times than we know about.

Tuesday, May 09, 2006

The Right Apple Wins!

From The BBC: Beatles Lose to Apple In Court

Okay, so you'd choose to disagree if you were rooting for The Beatles. Fair enough, but even you'd have to admit that the Apple Corporation of Britain has been badly serving the Beatles, what with their unwillingness to remaster their catalog and preferrence to sue anything that uses an apple in their logo instead of breathing new life into themselves by finding and helping new talent.

But be assured, the Michael Jackson owned blokes at Apple Croporation aren't about to take their latest defeat lying down. They're getting ready to a-ppeal (and no, I'm not making this up).

Sunday, May 07, 2006

Sallie Mae: Finding A Way To Make The 13th Amendment Moot

Sallie Mae's Success Too Costly For Students?

Yet another problem with Universities Today: The greater dependence of students on Student Loans.

The fact is, while many students are happy to get anything to go into college, the fact that they've become dependent on loans is a crime. Most students will, when they graduate, start their adult life in deep debt, which is bad enough -- but the system is now set up so that if anything goes wrong, the debt balloons and grows larger. Worse yet, you can't get any relief from it outside of paying for it, as the debt is protected in every way, from bankrputcy protection to the ability to take money from disability and retirement (something only deadbeat parents have to worry about). Sickness is no excuse, indeed it's a reason for them to get tougher.

It doesn't help, of course, that Sallie Mae owns some massive collection companies. So all they need to do is get a Default judgement, and their potential profit explodes. They get their money from the government (all principle, interest and fees from late or nonpayments), plus they split what they can extract from collections with the government, 25% to them, 75% to the government. Imagine: Automatic collection of the full debt and interest, plus the ability to collect as much extra money as you can get (including higher levels of interest, since they're no longer protected by the contract they signed). Sallie Mae profit, the government gets back some money (if the whole thing is collected, it's more than the original loan), and as for the former students unable to pay...well, they deserve your vindictiveness anyway, since they didn't insure their future would cover their loans.

Which makes sense if you study any of the Liberal Arts as a major. However, if you happen to suffer a sudden reversal, or don't find a job immediately, or get radically ill, or are unemployed for a period of time, or find yourself in desperate need of money; you've just had your life given away to Sallie Mae -- and there's no recourse to the 13th Amendment because there was no force in your signing of the loan papers. You gambled (although few think of school as gamling), you lost (although you had no idea that losing is what it's known as) and you're going to pay for the rest of your life (and not just in cash -- crappy credit now keeps you from good jobs, cuts you off from purchases, makes you pay more for less and even threatens to deny you the basic necessities).

So what should be done?

How about a looser system. One that allows for full forgiveness for people forced onto disability, one that allows for breaks and forgiveness, one that has a limit to what the former student needs to pay (try twice the original debt), one that doesn't allow Sallie Mae to profit twice from Defaulters (once from the government, again from the collection agencies it owns). One that allows for certain Bankruptcies (I'd say ones where the student loans account for less than half the total debt. After all, hospital debt can rack up fast, and sometimes you're stuck in a position where you can't halt the debt until it's too late.).

Also, better fund the universities. We need to make it so students don't have to throw themselves into hock just to gain needed skills or documentations. Maybe some of them can learn some trades; we're in desperate need for plumbers, electricians and other skilled trades. Maybe instead of Masters for teaching, a concentration that allows the student to gain their teaching certificate without breaking themselves with two years of higher costs. Maybe some of these jobs that supposedly require degrees could do without them, giving people unable to afford school a chance to prove they deserve a better life.

Sadly, the United States is working to become the first nation where ambition is a sure path to enslavement. The above suggestions can go a long way to stop this slide.

Saturday, May 06, 2006

Looks Like The Circle Line's The Favored Son Here At The CTA...

Circle Line Narrowed To Three Possibilities

Looks like they're opting for a smaller circle line instead of the more logical, more egalitarian mid-city line (Jefferson Park to Ford City alongside Cicero, then Ford City to Red Line 89th street alongside abandoned and presently used rail lines). There's also a couple other lines (as well as the mid-city line) I'd like to see done before this thing gets built, but you know how things are...

Nevertheless, there's positives from what I've seen, and they come from the fact that they didn't limit themselves to using the Paulina Corridor:
  1. One of the three accepted options goes all the way to Western Avenue, expanding service to an area with enough need that it has Express Service over much it. That could be the start of a Western Avenue El, which would benefit one of the busiest roads in Chicago.

    Looking at the poll, it looks like the people are with me on the Corridor to choose. The Western Avenue routing outpolls the two others (and if stuck with an Ashland/Paulina corridor route, avoid the Odgen routing, please). But why the popularity of Light Rail, especially since they already have a strong Heavy Rail Presence, is beyond me. Heavy Rail would allow interconnections and make ordering easier (one set of railcars, not two different types).

  2. Some of the other considered routings had positives of their own besides the circle routing itself. The Halstead and Canal/Clinton options could act as through routes connecting other routes through downtown, and the Ashland/Odgen alignment could allow for through-routing from the Howard to Douglas or Midway while bypassing downtown.
What's missing, imho, is a connection across from where this line meets the Orange Line across to Pershing Street. Since there's a connection from the Green Line to the State Street Tunnel, there's no need to jerri-rig a connection to the Dan Ryan Line. Plus, even if you use the Halstead Corridor, extending the line down to Pershing allows for expanding the el into areas it has never been before (instead of merely increasing service over two or three stations at best). You would also introduce time savings for people using the 95th Street Line going places other than downtown, something avoided by using the Orange Line.

Originally they talked about a three-part building plan for the Circle Line (one part finished, as shown by the Pink Line). Even if they end up doing the Western route, I'd allow for them to add on the Pershing Street connection after building the rest; just as long as the line is planned for and eventually built.

Friday, May 05, 2006

Vault Fully in NW Indiana

Finally saw some twelve pack cans of Vault in the stores.

I hope it was just the idea of rolling things out so that people drank it first, then the demand for other sizes would follow.

How big is Vault supposed to be? Simple: they actually have 1 litre sizes for this stuff. For Coke and Pepsi/Dew, litre sizes are used for the higher-selling brands. You don't see Fanta Pineapple or Pepsi w/Lime out in litre sizes, and for good reason: it's an extra size, one you don't want to put out unless you know you can make money on it.

More to the point: I saw Surge in Litre bottles. I didn't see Citra in litre bottles. You also saw OK in litre bottles when it came out, but that was more psycho-biological programming than actual expectation; as I doubt they actually expected people to get into OK longer than was needed to create a Gen-X Republican Robot Army.

But the fact that Vault came out in Litre bottles should show what Coke expects of Vault: A challange to the Dew.

Too bad I never saw dnL out in 1 litre bottles.

Thursday, May 04, 2006

What Do You Get When You Remove Neutrality From The Internet For The Sake Of SBC...

(Yes, I know, it's now called ATT; SBC bought ATT and used their name.)

What should one expect when the internet in the United States is robbed of its nuetrality? What happens when SBC and Verizon and Comcast and other similar companies are allowed to gateway the internet to their fun and profit? I can imagine a few things:
  1. A tiered Internet.
    There will be two ways to access the internet; one for people paying a small amount, the other for those willing to pay "more." Those who pay more will find a wider internet and quicker access, those who pay less will find slower access and limited options.
  2. Harder to get porn, Not necessarily harder to get kiddie porn.
    Those chasing after kiddie porn know damn well how to hide; they'll hide just a little better and everyone will adjust to it. Adult porn will find things harder as those who want it will pay more and find barriers still placed (thanks to those who think everyone's business is fair game).
  3. Death to P2P.
    The RIAA will cause the internet companies to put sniffers on the routers to figure out which programs the users are using. If you're using a P2P program, the server can then disconnect, slow down the connection so that everything gets downloaded at a creep, or act in ways that mess with the software or hardware, even with firewall and anti-virus software. The server may just erase the P2P programs, leaving the Browsers and other definitely legal (read: not widely used for "intellectual property theft") programs.
  4. Timed Internet Access.
    Since it's obvious that many in the entertainment and communications areas already believe that our basic needs can be covered by a slower connection, the next step will be limited access time. An extra charge will be done for those who want more time per day.
  5. Say Goodbye to Innocent Before Proven Guilty
    Since there's going to be a major need for entertainment and communications to make sure their intellectual property rights aren't trampled by the little internet user, internet spying will not so much become legal but mandatory. And with it: the idea that something not directly allowed becomes illegal (the reverse of what we have now)
  6. Much more restrictive file formats forced on us.
    Instead of .m4a formats which allow a limited amount of copies, you'll get something that won't allow you to copy. Worse yet, don't be surprised it you're forced to pay for every listen (or every 10 listens) or every X days of ownership.
I can see other things, but they involve software makers, not the tellecommunications/entertainment industry. No matter what, I can see the day when the internet becomes as boring as Television was in the seventies.

So goes all revolutions. First comes the moment of freedom, then the restrictions come in worse than before.

Wednesday, May 03, 2006

Plaigarism, Intended Or Not

In Internet Age, Writers Face Frontier Justice
Another Book Found Plaigarised, Maybe?
(Will need to register to read both articles)

Comment to the first link: I remember, when I was younger, I had caught the storywriting bug myself. One of the stories that I wrote involved a character named "Superbear" which was heavily influenced by an Underdog episode (let's just say there was more of that episode in the story than there was other input, including my own). When one of my classmates said he saw a VERY similar Underdog episode (something I never considered, believe it or not. I was nine at the time, so go figure), I stammered my way through, saying something along the line of "yes, I did use it as inspiration; but I added things of my own invention".

Lucky for me it was just in fourth grade. The worst I could suffer was a bit of embarassment and an "F," and have multiple chances to redeem myself (as the teacher liked to assign writing assignments on a frequent, regular basis). I wasn't eagerly waitied with a book ready to sell in a world with eight million critics, each one ready to point out where I stole stuff from.

Comment to the second link: Now this is beginning to be piling on.

There is such a thing as emulation. Indeed, it used to be that people used to say "he sounds like so-and-so" and people would have fun figuring out who influenced the artist, and where. Not it's almost like you have to be a tabula rasa to get your dues.

Here's the NYT article involving one line:

In one scene in Ms. Kinsella's book, which was published by Dial Press, the main character, Emma, comes upon two of her friends "in a full-scale argument about animal rights," and one says, "The mink like being made into coats."

In Ms. Viswanathan's book, Opal, the heroine, encounters two girls having "a full-fledged debate over animal rights."

"The foxes want to be made into scarves," one of them says.

Thing is, I remember watching a movie titled "The Opposite Sex" in which the first words in the song played over the first shot (a fur scarf, may I add) are "Why do foxes get willingly Trapped?"

Maybe I should shout about Ms. Kinsella plaigarising MSM? Or, better yet, assume that sometimes people hold interesting phrases, ideas and sentances they come across and they come out later.

Maybe because Ms. Viswanathan had already been found out as a plaigarist (as admitted by her, even if she claims it was unintentional) she gets a harder, deeper grilling that already assumes guilt where similarities pop up. An obvious move, since guilt in one area implies guilt in other areas. Otherwise, this would be treated not so much plaigarism as reuse; something every artist does.

And didn't we just see a case about someone using "similar plot points" fail; thank god?

Monday, May 01, 2006

The Worldwide Labor Day Has Passed

By the time you read this, May 1st will have come and gone. And with it, the worldwide Worker's Day.

True, in the United States it has been historically linked with the mandatory marches held by the Soviet Union and the Communist World (until Communism fell from the Soviet Union, and thus from Europe). However, the rest of the world has considered this its Labor Day since from before the establishment of "Labor Day" in the United States on the First Monday in September.

The reason for the establishment of a "Labor Day" is obvious. Mayday had become symbolic of revolution, and while there were portions of the working class who wanted revolution, the main part of the working class wanted better pay, fewer hours and a weekend to relax. "Labor Day" became a way to honor workers without referring to revolution and worker's republics.

Of course, now Mayday has been forgotten in the United States. Only immigrants would remember the importance of this day -- and they do. Look at which day they picked. True, it's a Monday, but no other monday but Mayday.

Friday, April 28, 2006

Two Updates: Vault In Different Sizes and More On The LaCrosse Stuff

Two Updates Today:
  1. Vault found in different sizes at various stores.

    I found cans at a nearby Meijers and some litre bottles at a Speedway gas station. So at least there's some different sizes out there; even if it's not getting the blanket coverage needed for a possible big explosion.

    But like I've said before, the sodapop market is conservative. The problem here is that Coke is still making Mello Yello; the stores would rather market a slow-selling known item (however much it may suck) than try out an unknown that may jump off the shelves -- or stay stuck, unable to move either into bascarts or back to the company.

  2. Looks like our LaCrosse "victim" had done the same thing before (charged someone with rape), when she was a YOUNG teenager.

    While it shouldn't have any impression on the case, I can't just push it aside, as we're talking about the same sort of thing happening again: Three men doing nasty things to her against her will. After all, you'd think she'd have learned how to steer from similar problems from the earlier situation.

    Besides, I'm curious as to whether they had tested the black LaCrosse player. Obviously the woman cried rape, she pegged three northeastern LaCrosse players in a Deep Southern Town (hence my thought that it was the locals who did it then forced her to blame the players -- the south may be hospitable, but northerners are outsiders by definition, yankees more so) and none of the LaCrosse Player's specimens matched. While the police may not have been able to test the black player (no probably cause), I am curious whether there'd be any match there.

That's it for this moment.

Wednesday, April 26, 2006

This Is Your University, Desperate for Bodies and The Money They Bring In

Brand U
(will need registration to view)

Welcome to the new economics of Universities. Schools, desperate for warm bodies to enter their hallways, are now trying to market themselves as something other than what they're supposed to be: Places where people learn job skills that will take them further and higher than they would have gone straight from High School.

Maybe we have too many schools around. Maybe we've overestimated the importance of learning from "professors" and forgotten about the idea of learning from ourselves. Maybe we're too fixated on that sheet of paper saying the person named upon it has jumped through enough hoops to deserve a look from employers.

Or maybe we've gutted our schools so much they feel a need to get bodies in and never mind the actual education.

Remember, the schools have been losing federal and state monies since the 1970s. You can tell this by seeing how many teachers now get Tenure, and what they have to do to get it. You can tell by how many people they pile into auditoriums for classes, and how many classes are now taught by Teaching Assistants. You can tell by all the new buildings for all the schools that bring in money from outside, while the other classes end up living in buildings slowly (and not-so-slowly) falling apart. You can tell when you hear that "UVA now gets only 6% of their money from the state"

I could tell looking at my Pell Grant from the years 1983-1990. Even though it increased from $600 to $766 per term, its coverage shrank down from 14 hours (and a decent weekend's partying) to ten hours of class credit (with twelve credits needed to get that). Another way of putting it is that per-credit prices DOUBLED during that time.

And the price increases didn't end when I got out of school. Indeed, you know people are getting desperate when the University Presidents put up a promise to "Keep Increases within the rate of inflation." Thing is, the promises always included the proper increase in funding, and those never came.

Then there's the prestige chase. New buildings constantly need to be built, complete with labs, offices (for the High-flying "professors" who need to hide from their students), lecture auditoriums (so the freshmen can be introduced to your classes as cheaply as possible) and other items to show the world you're a big-time university. Throw in a few classrooms for the illusion of a college hall, and you've got yourself a modern-day (post-1960) college building.

And now they need to get as many people in their buildings, or they'll lose money. And if you're from out of state, then better (since they can charge more). Price increases keep getting passed on more and more, with students gladly filling in the rest with student loans.

How long will this de facto privatization of post-secondary education continue? Sadly, I expect it to continue to the point of universities and colleges closing down. Not the big names (which have built up endowments to protect themselves from the vagaries of public funding) nor smallish ideologically driven private schools (with their backing and what-not), but the mid-level and branch campuses will end up closing up.

In short: Say goodbye, Northern Michigan. Say Goodbye, UofM-Dearborn.

Also, don't be surprised if the schools figure a way of closing colleges that don't make money but are presently being treated as sacred cows. As tenure fully dries up and corporate types continue to take over the colleges and universities, certain colleges will be seen as expendable and WILL be expended with when the time comes.

Fact is I doubt many Arts and Letters colleges in Universities will survive, simply because Arts and Letters are nowhere near as important as people think. Every high "Art" has a low art which has fully taken its place, and the main stories that we remember are forever being rewritten and retold. That the most extreme teachers are generally found in the Arts and Letters departments will make their dissolution that much easier, once the University Presidents get enough guts together to do what they want to do.

Gas vs Water: What's Not Being Said

I don't know about you, but I get sick and tired of hearing and reading "We complain about gas prices rising to $3.00 a gallon, yet pay a hundred bucks a gallon for a Starbucks coffee." or X dollars per gallon of bottled water, or something else.

The fact is, your average person can decide to go without the coffee or drink water out of the tap. Ergo, we choose to spend the money on the coffee and water. While I agree we'd be better off if we brewed our own coffee and drank out of the water fountain, the fact is the water or coffee is our choice in this manner.

But try to go without gas for a long period of time. Chances are, you'll find your car stalled on the road.

Most people don't live in a place where Public Transit is a viable option. Bus service is crappy, and limited to the poorer areas of town. Trains, where they exist, usually go to and from downtown and, if you're lucky, are able to go from there to another side of town; but there's no sane way to loop around downtown. And if you want to go somewhere for the evening, better plan a quick trip if you're using Public Transit -- usually it's done before the night life is.

And those places where there's good public transit usually end up having a bare-boned system made to maximize their market during prosperous years (when those using it either had to or made a statement by choosing it), leaving a system unable to make a suitable change for times like this (when gas doubles over a year and the need becomes obvious).

So people develop a dependence on automobiles (for obvious reasons), and economic development spurs the dependency further. Space becomes automobile-based, shoving businesses back for roads and garages to the front of houses (seen the latest developments?). Gas stations become oasis for multiple forms of refreshment, incorporating fast food joints and convenience stores in their (vastly expanding) spaces as well as ample space to drive around the feuling points and up-front parking. The idea of Sidewalks is consigned to bicycle trails that take over old rail lines, cutting off possible avenues of transit expansion while giving the illusion of expanding parkland. Wal-Mart and their Kin (Lowe's, Office Max and other similar stores, along with the ubiquitous Malls) become out downtowns, controlling how we deal with the world around us. Soccer Moms turn to Yukons and Hummers not so much as a driving statement but for the sheer comfort of being able to sit UP in an SUV instead of down in a Corolla or Probe (and not be subjected to a visual groping every so often by SUV driving men). And, since a lot of time is now spent in a car, you end up eating and drinking a lot in it.

And, of course, when Gas Prices go up, you end up with a lot of people unable to cut back on their consumption without compromising their lives. Hence their complaints.

But before you tear into them for their complaints, consider the above. And this: how many people were willing to sacrifice for "a more sustainable future?" very few, and usually they were viewed as fools by most of us who bought the cars and bought into the lifestyle implied. They sacrificed, and we got about a cent per gallon break, making it easier for us to buy the cappucinos and bottled water to fill the cupholders with. And since we're talking about few enough people, they end up being packed away in Urban Enclaves where the rest of us can ignore them in our gas-devouering Heavens. Their sacrifice, nothing gained for us.

And now, when the piper comes due, guess who gets looked at. That's right, the SUV mom whining about paying more for the gas she has (and we have) been suckled on since the birth of our consumer culture in 1956 (the year the Interstate Highway System was passed, along with the funding).

No, I'm not feeling sorry for the SUV Mom. But I'm not sitting on a high horse, either. After all, I've made a living off our gas-guzzling culture; usually at the lower realms of the pay scale. And I've seen how inadequate our mass transit systems have become. I've seen our hyper-low density developments of the past (and even lower density developments of the present) and wonder how we'll ever adjust to Europe-level prices (double what ours are now). I've seen how our lifestyles have abandoned any concept of a town center, focusing instead on corporate-made points where our behaviors all revolve around shopping instead of friendship or talking.

This has been going on for sixty years. I'm not sure we can reverse it without a collapse of our way of life -- economic, social, intellectual or religious.

Tuesday, April 25, 2006

Vault Still Not Fully In NW Indiana

Well, it's been over two months since Vault first made it into Northwest Indiana, and so far I've only seen it in 20 ounce bottles at POS locations and convenience stores.

Problem is, I've seen Black Cherry Vanilla Coke out in cans, 20 ounce bottles and 2 liter bottles, and it came out about the same time. I've also seen Berry Vanilla Dr Pepper soda come out in cans, 20 ounce bottles and 2 liter bottles, and that's about as boutique a flaver as you'll ever see in that wide a selection. Fresca got a remake with four different flavors and a wide range of choices.

I have seen a couple of 1 liter bottles, but it's always away from the NW Indiana area.

So what's my problem? Simply put, if you've got something you believe in you don't put something out in a limited selection -- you put it out in as wide a mix of choices as you can, so that people can get what they want when they want it. You don't put out one computer, you put out a group of four (or more) different types with different specs for different users. You don't put out one car, you put out four cars, with three or four versions each and a number of choices.

But what choice does one have for Vault in NW Indiana? 20 oz, regular or diet. No other sizes.

Methinks that the Coca Cola Company felt it had to put something out to make it look like it's competing against Mountain Dew, so they came up with this and did a half-hearted job in some markets. While NW Indiana may be a weak link, it's still a sign of how much Coca-Cola supports its products.

And appearently they don't think Vault will be that much of a force. After all, Mello Yello still comes in all formats (except 1 liter) in NW Indiana, and it's a failed product with a history of image changes that makes New Coke look solid as cement.

I could be wrong...

Saturday, April 22, 2006

In Time For An Earth Day Response: Wal-Mart Goes Green?

Wal-Mart has a change of heart?

Yes, I know about Wal-Mart, indeed I had posted a few things I disliked abut the megachain that owns the rural half of the United States. I have a respect for the company (a respect gained when I saw how they made parking easier for handicapped people, at the cost of a few of their own parking spaces), that doesn't reduce my dislike for them one bit.

Now Wal-Mart's considering their own "Go Green" movement.

Thing is, even if this company does a half-assed job, what they will do will spread out over the whole of North America and the world. Remember, we're talking the 800 pound Gorilla effect: Even if all Wal-Mart does is dictate standards for reduced packaging, make the suppliers take the costs of the efforts and grab up the glory for itself the effects on packaging will spread out throughout the stores and into the homes.

I just hope they go as far as the press releases claim they will. I want to see self-sufficient Wal-Mart stores made from technology that spreads to self-sufficient homes. I want to see innovative packaging that's sold wherever, not just in Wal-Mart stores. I'd like to see transportation advances make their way from Wal-Mart throughout the whole system.

In short, I'd like to see a positive revolution from this company. Not just an expansion of choices to communities where jobs no longer exist, not just cheaper stuff, all imported from China; but some benefits that extend their reach even to places where Wal-Mart cannot even think of establishing itself -- and worldwide, as well.

For once, I'd like to think that that wasn't too much to ask.

Friday, April 21, 2006

Okay Now, Everybody Say "Duuuh"

Sexy Women Make Men Stupid

Something which everyone knows, if only in a vague way through personal experience or personal observation.

So why do a study on "stupid stuff like this?"
  1. Objective Knowledge. There's stuff we know, and there's stuff we both know and can back up. We're more assertive and certain about knowledge we can back up.
  2. If it turns out what everyone knows is wrong, then it's time to change what you know, or at least adjust it.
Two good enough reasons, in my opinion. The truths get confirmed, and falsehoods get identified. Overall, everyone's knowledge is increased or firmed up; which is a good thing either way.

(although you got to admit, it's more interesting when "Everything You Know Is Wrong!")

Thursday, April 20, 2006

Just Read "Everything Bad Is Good For You"

Everything Bad Is Good For You: The Book

The premise of this book is that the Video Games, Television and other media that we so much fear has actually increased various components of our intelligence. This was done because the media has had to become more complex to hold people's interest, and those items that have developed in a way to be infinitely interesting and replayable/rewatchable are what's being emulated by both high and low arts.

An example: What's more interesting: All In The Family, or The Bachelor. AITF was the groundbreaking in that it dared to look at controversy, whereas Bachelor merely put twelve women and watched them catfight for a man acting like he had money (truly acting: he hadn't earned more than 30K per year). According to the book, if you said All In The Family, you hadn't watched The Bachelor, as The Bachelor led to talk about who was going to get picked, why a certain woman was (or wasn't) picked, and how stupid the women were since the Bachelor was becoming obvious in his poorness. AITF merely fed you stuff, The Bachelor gave you stuff to think about. (The author calls this the Sleeper Curve, after the Woody Allen movie where Junk Food was considered more nutritious than "health food" due to scientific findings in the next two hundred years.)

Furthermore, while the various versions of Grand Theft Auto may glorify Violence and sociopathic behavior, it also causes players to think and explore, thereby getting their brains in gear. Whether they'll turn out to be better rapists and carjackers is up for debate, but that thier minds are being lit up is nothing to argue against.

It's an interesting thesis, although it seems he talks more about mental fitness instead of actual intelligence. He does hit on the idea in his comments on book reading, but to truely figure out things, one needs a sizeable bank of knowledge gathered. It's not enough to be able to figure out everything from a simple set of instructions, you need to develop that knowledge over a period of time, preferrably years if not decades. And while working out various games and TV shows may be good mental exercise, you may be missing out on the sheer knowledge and value judgements that real life offers (or learning to dismiss them as you find multiple setups in various worlds).

Still, it's an interesting read, for the points he brings up. Especially about the rising intelligence of certain forms of media (TV, Video Games).

Tuesday, April 18, 2006

Duke Lacrosee: Walks and Talks Like a Duck, But It's Not A Duck

Charges Finally Given In Duke LaCrosse Rape Case

I remember my original reaction, how this case was in many ways a significator of how sports has ruined the university today. That was, of course, before the DNA tests showed that whatever sperm was inside her was from none of the Lacrosse players, and the prosecuter saying he'd prosecute someone anyway.

This has officially gone from story to circus.

Sad thing is that I had riffed on what I saw was a problem with Colleges in the US from the article, based on what looked like truth (College Players Gone Too Wild For Their Britches). Problem is, while my complaints about the College situation still stands, what has happened with this story has sullied my point. Any College apologist could say "They weren't even guilty, and they were being nice," and I couldn't argue with that point.

A bad example doesn't support a good point, no matter how much it sounds like everything you've heard before. That's why I titled this posting "WALKS AND TALKS LIKE A DUCK, BUT IT'S NOT A DUCK." replace the words "a duck" with "the truth" and you get the idea.

Anyway, I have a few guesses about what has and will happen:
  1. I believe the woman was raped. The rapists were local boys, sons of heavy-duty Duke Lacrosse Boosters, who were probably invited to the party and took advantage of the place. She, of course, thought they were LaCrosse players, so she acted "logically" and charged the team with rape.
  2. It will turn out that the prosecuter went ahead with the case because he felt he had to. There was proof of rape; some genetic material which wasn't hers. He also knew whatever was out there would exhonerate the Lacrosse players, and thus felt the case had to go to trial in order to get the players (and, by extension, the team) exhonerated.
  3. The Lacrosse players will be judged "Not Guilty" in the trial that follows. Some sections of the society will make it a point not to exhonerate the boys, and many who do exhonerate the boys would have done so ANYWAY, whether they had done so or not.
  4. The real rapists will get away scot-free because of their local connections and the fact that the Lacrosse players were YANKEES and therefore Outsiders despite their sports affiliation. Duke Lacrosse will take the fall for local actions.
And remember, you read them here first (that's if I'm right. If I'm wrong, remember: I called them guesses; although I believe them pretty accurate).

Sunday, April 16, 2006

Is That Stuff Diluted, or Full Strength?

BasketBawful brings you...The Gatorade Conspiracy
BasketBawful brings you...The Gatorade Conspiracy, Part 2

So what did I do? I looked at the bottle and my penis.

And guess what: the bottle of Gatorade looked exactly like my penis. Even down to that slight shift in the top.

Actually, let me correct myself: It looks like a circumcised penis. I haven't seen that many penises (being straight and not very athletic, after all) but I'm aware that what most men from the US have is not what they were born with. With most of us, doctors were allowed to cut off a small flap of skin that covered the head.

And you need the 32 ounce bottle for the best comparison. Other bottles sizes, while they're similar, actually follow general "rules" which all bottles share. No, we're talking about something specifically designed with repeat consumption by men and boys in mind. Something made to attract without being obvious. Something we'd like without making the obvious connection that would raise our hackles.

But...the similarity is obvious and there.

And when you consider that the bottle has a very dilute salt mixture in it...

Just saying.

Saturday, April 15, 2006

Rush Limbaugh And The Birth of Participatory Radio

Watching a WTTW show on Eric and Cathy, it hit me just what the real change in Radio has been.

Think of it this way: In the seventies and eighties, would you have heard music on the radio, maybe some wild stuff on the morning shows, but little in audience response, and almost nothing in appearances from the musical stars. Think of it: Would Bad Company (never mind Led Zeppelin) have shown up at the Rock Station you listened to? Highly Unlikely, that was the level of separation between star musician and DJ. DJs communicated with their fans through requests and contests, but the fans rarely talked outside of that. WTRX had a talk-show in the evening (back when it was Adult Contemporary) in the seventies and early eighties, but that ended when the station went all Heavy-Metal in the mid-eighties.

That change started with Rush Limbaugh. Never mind that you had a conservative voice broadcasting nationwide in the middle of the day (after all, Sunday Mornings had Christian Church shows all over it); what made the show big was the fact that he took (well-screened) calls from a nationwide peanut gallery (aka Dittoheads). Thus, not only did you have a leading conservative voice on the radio talking about his beliefs, but you had thousands of conservative voices making cameos on that show, adding their assent, developing points, making distinctions and generally adding to the shared beliefs of the movement.

Participatory radio, in other words.

Sports radio would take that concept further, allowing for discussions that ranged from blindingly local (Junior High gymnastics sex scandals in the making) to national (Steroids and the Home Run Chase of 1998). Eventually, music radio (in part thanks to one of the few positive effects of Napster and P2P) started bringing in bands to play in the studio, hosting bands in intimate settings (complete with DJs working overtime) and even having working vacations where DJs mixed it up (pun not intended) with a group of fans who came for the priviledge.

None of this was seen in 1985. Back then, you listened to radio either for news or for music, and that was it. Minnesota Public Radio had a variety show that was beginning to go national, but that was as much a throwback as anything else. Otherwise, chances to talk on the radio were small and limited, and no one saw the need for change, outside of a few AM stations noticing their audience growing smaller and older.

Now there's a national dialog going on at various levels, over numerous subjects, over the airwaves. Plus the fans are actually closer to their stars than before, talking with them and spending real time in intimate settings. And guess what: these are the stations which are big, or getting big.

Things have changed.

Thursday, April 13, 2006

If You Pay Off Your Credit Card Debts, You're Paying Off The Debts of Osama Ben Ladin

Pay too much and you could raise the alarm

I'm not sure what's more worrysome about this: That this happened in a blue state (Rhode Island), or that one could see the Government (in the form of Homeland Security, or the War On Blacks -- er, I mean Drugs) confiscate the money for their sake, making sure the payers stay deeply in debt?

I suppose I could see why the government would do this: If someone were to spend lots of money then suddenly pay them all off, someone would want to make sure it's all your money and you got it legally. Still, it looks like the Government has sold itself out to the Creditor companies.

Be afraid. Be very afraid. If you can stay away from the credit cards DO SO; otherwise every attempt to pay off your debt will be rebuffed and possibly lead to felony charges!

(No I don't like this. At All.)

Tuesday, April 11, 2006

Three Deaths This Past Year...

First a friend of mine, unexpectedly but from a known cause.
Second, someone from the past, from a long-term debilitative disease.
And now, someone with a cancer that spread too far to be fought.

A thought that comes into my mind:

Is the brain the last thing needed to hold onto life? Does being bright indeed hurry death when it appears near?

I'm sure you've heard about the apocryphal story about the Russian trapped inside a freezer car for the night, writing letters to mark the hours before he died. When he was found in the morning, he body was found stiff -- and the freezer care was 55 degrees farenheight, slightly WARMER than the surrounding air. Turned out the motor was broken and the comrade inside was warming things up, only he thought he was freezing to death so he did.

Now, consider this contrast:
  • Terry Schivo, with a shrunken brain, probably blind and unable to recover from what happened, lives fifteen years with the only addendum being a feeding tube.
  • The lady with cancer goes through one bout of chemo, decides to accept her death, AND DIES THE NEXT DAY!
Maybe the religious radical right understands something: Don't Think, Just Live and you'll live a full life, loaded with love and heart. Think too much, and you'll kill yourself before you can even raise your hand to do the actual deed.

A bit much, I admit, and adding in the Terri Schivo angle unhinges things a bit more. However, I do remember reading this person's entries in a journal that she was already ready to die and wanted it to be peaceful.

Everyone else figured she had six months to a year before she died. Even I, ever the pessimist, figured two weeks to two months (with the latter more likely). Who would have thought that two DAYS would have been wildly optimistic?

And outside of the idea of an assisted suicide (always possible but not likely, especially since she was still in the hospital), I can't help but think that she died because she was ready for it and probably set her mind to it. In short, she created her own death.

New Age bullshit? Maybe, but then our minds have been shown to control our bodies even down to a molecular level. So maybe we're not talking bullshit, but truth here.

Sunday, April 09, 2006

Megabus Starts Serving Chicago

The Megabus USA Site

Today Megabus added in their two cents to the competition between Amtrak and Greyhound, adding eight runs between Chicago and Milwaukee and three runs between Chicago and its other destinations (Saint Louis, Minneapolis, Detroit, Cleveland and Indianapolis, with Indy buses going further to Columbus (2) and Cincinnatti (1).).

What ought to be interesting is to see how much of their schedule Megabus is able to keep. The Greyhound schedule has varying times for their trip between Chicago and Milwaukee, based (I'm guessing) from eighty years of experience and a keen eye as to how the day's traffic affects bus service. Megabus is expecting a strict 1:45 for each of its trips; we'll see how long that lasts.

Devils, No Matter The Color -- Alas...

Blue Devils Made Them Do It
(you will need to register to read)

Probably one of the better items I've read of what's been happening to the universities over the past twenty years, at the very least, and probably for much longer.

It starts off with a look at the rape charges aimed at Duke LaCrosse Atheletes and the aftermath. The, the surprise that the players came from the northeast, followed by a look at the development of the university, the image and how it's kept up, and the costs of such an image. Next comes words on how the Universities in the United States, once places where the elite, the elite-wannabees and those who wished to know more than their immediate life (remember, Michigan State University was established to educate FARMERS, many other universities were established to educate teachers) could share a higher culture with each other and bring it to the surrounding peoples, are now massive boarding houses for our excess unemployed youth, with sports the symbol of its existence.

Naturally the conservatives (of all stripes) latch onto Charlotte Simmons and its mix of pseudo-intellectual gay-write (yes!), but more to the point, we make the men act up and the girls won't need to worry about unremitting debauchering. But then, that wouldn't be interesting, would it? No need for an unrepentable devil (someone that can be gleefully consigned to hell), no need to do anything about the culture around you (other than withdraw) and no need to worry about how you'll be impacted. Besides, ask many conservatives (again, of all stripes) the right questions and you'll uncover that they believe your average Chinese is more truely American than your average American -- they just disagree on which Americans need to have their rights revoked.

And the universities become more and more cesspools.

Again, wonderful Benign Neglect in action. And this time, I'm talking about present tense.

Friday, April 07, 2006

Da Vinci Code Not Guilty of Infringement!

"Da Vinci Code Declared Not Guilty of Copyright Infringement"

Thank God!

I could understand if "Holy Blood, Holy Grail" were advertised as a fictional book. But even then, I'd be leary of the lawsuit brought up, as there are very few "new" plot twists, plots or ideas. Much of creativity isn't "what's new" but "how do you tell it?"

But here's a guy who tried to state that "nonfiction" was stolen for fiction. Never mind whether "Holy Blood, Holy Grail" if fact or (as I believe) fiction, the idea of nonfiction barring itself from fiction is criminal in and of itself. Imagine writing total fiction without any ripple of fact to base itself on.

Oh yeah, it's already happened...

Wednesday, April 05, 2006

CBS News Starts Official Meltdown

A Katie Couric Fansite, hopefully updated by the time YOU read it.

So now it's Katie Couric as anchorwoman of CBS news evening edition. Katie Couric, hostess of the Today Show.

Not saying she's a fluff person (she does deal with some heavy subjects), but what the heck is she doing going to anchor CBS News? I understand her angle (wanting to earn more, get higher visibility, etc.), but CBS News? The newscast of Walter Cronkite? The news that singlehandedly stopped both Joseph McCarthy and the Vietnam War, let me remind you.

Sadly, that CBS News had died. What was an independent 60 Minutes willing to take on advertisers has essentially become a shill for disconnected, half-baked stories with no understanding of what's going on and puff pieces that gloss over anything with a hint of controversy. The Main news show, once home to "Uncle Walter," became the focus of a bizarre story involving faked papers and a news story that wasn't listened to when it aired four years before. And now, with no one to adequately fill in the footsteps of Dan Rather (although, to be honest, anyone would have been an IMPROVEMENT) CBS turns and poaches someone from NBC.

Neocons, rejoice: CBS News, long the flagship liberal of the Big 3 Networks, is beginning its final collapse. FAUX NEWS: Prepare to attack your next target.

Polygamy vs Moderation

Truth Bearer dot org -- Polygamy as "Biblical"

So this is where "Freedom defined is freedom Denied" is leading us? As the corporatistas strive to divest themselves of any and all responsibilities towards keeping society running (removal of laws that require corporations to act responsibly), their individualist tools (too often liberals who wish for individual freedom from any and all responsibility for one's actions, less often conservatives warping their understading so as to grant themselves surreptitious forgiveness for their sins) seek out ways to expand personal actions permitted.

So now, having opened (and tolerated) divorce for thirty years and helped foster (some willingly, some not) the ability of women to earn their own keep without a wedding ring to identify them as accepted by society, we now have the development of a s0-called polygamy movement. One that's obvious for the rich, but with its Religious Arms, both Xian and not.

Sure, monogamy is the newer historical reality. However, the wisdom of the people usually leads to monogamy at least for the majority of the population. Those people who think themselves rich and powerful enough to have multiple wives are few and far between, and more often than not have brought trouble and strife to their surroundings by their selfishness.

Reason Magazine makes a congent arguement on why polygamy is frowned upon today based on simple social dynamics. In it, they focus on the men who would be left behind by the polygamy movement in their rush to satisfy rich (and powerful) men's wish for more than one wife. What's really intriguing is how a small proportion of men (10%, according to the article) could mess up a bunch of lives, all the while living WELL within the dictates of Muslim law (four wives, max, and only a very few of those doing the polygamy thing).

Of course, what they don't get into is why the women would put up with sharing a man.

Simply put, when you see a taken man, you see a man who has something. That guy has proven himself, the evidence of which is the woman on his arm (or nearby, who comes when he calls her name). If she could remove the other woman with said man, a smart woman would choose the taken man over the untaken man.

Now, presently there'd be few women willing to share the man, and any woman willing to share a man will likely figure a way to milk said man for as much as possible. But...if it turns out the wife of said man were willing to share him with the other woman, how many would join in the agreement?

Now, few would and they would probably be Fundamentalist Mormon Women (yes, they exist. Polygamy separates them from their mainline, monogamist bretheren) unable to see a world outside their villages. But imagine if, in twenty years, the idea of every third night with a man who'd be able to spoil you materially and let you work (or not) according to your wishes or whims was a better choice than all the attentions of a man who had to yet to be able to earn his full keep and whose future earnings didn't look that good. Would your average woman be willing to put her support behind such a lesser man, knowing that that lesser man may be a failure and that a man with two wives and enough to spend spoiling a third is hitting on her? And those who take the lesser man, would they wonder about life with the other guy?

That's the thing: Once Polygamy gets legalized and slides past that "Ewww, who'd want to share?" reaction, you're going to get female selection towards those men with a wife (or even more). And that means more men stuck without wives. Not the abusive, of course -- they'd probably be among those with multiple wives -- but the more conscientious men trying to make it, who need a helpmeet to make it and won't be able to do so.

And that's where patriarchy becomes, instead, gang rule. Few polygamous societies are democracies, for the wealth descrepancies that allow for one man to have multiple wives either call for constant war (to cull the excess men) or a police state (to criminalize and separate the unworthy men from the rest of society). Either way, any form of "equal rights" or "social contract" (I'll talk more about the latter concept at some point) would go by the wayside as those with multiple wives take measures to protect their investment from the men looking to prove themselves by whatever way they can.

Maybe this is where things stop going further to the extreme and start moderating. After all, there's only so far things can go before the social fabric starts falling apart.

And maybe from here, they moderate on all fronts. After all, you can't have high morals with dropping wages and the accompanying hopelessness in the poorer areas.

Monday, April 03, 2006

Congratulations Florida On Your NCAA Basketball Championship

Florida Defeats UCLA, 73-57

After a near-miss six years ago against Michigan State, Florida finally reaches the peak of the NCAA basketball world, to give its football championships some other-sports companions.

I just ask one thing: act like you've been there before. Leave your campus and neighborhood neat. Let at least ONE *$^%^%* university have enough pride in itself to keep things neat.

Saturday, April 01, 2006

The Dan Ryan Reconstruction Project Begins...

And so today the Dan Ryan has half the lanes it usually has had.

Reconstruction is supposed to make better pavement for the next 40 or so years, and an extra lane besides. However, over the next two summers, we're going to have to deal with overcrowded streets that are able to handle all the local traffic but now have to handle hundreds of thousands of extra vehicles.

You think the Dan Ryan was bad during rush hour, wait until you deal with Stoney Island with its lights and sections that go under railroads that shrink from four to two lanes each way. They should have invested in some reconstruction of those instead of trying to "refit" lights to work better. Plus those projects would improve things when the Dan Ryan is again finished.

It's gonna be an other six months before things are anywhere near normal, then we're going to get back to the troubles again. At least they're trying to do something.

And trying to do things as adults (but then we're talking about roads here. Something the powers that be in the United States considers important -- unlike mass transit...).

Wednesday, March 29, 2006

Genetic Knowledge Grows Yet Again...

A Hunt for Genes That Betrayed a Desert People

I remember talking with a woman who was very interested in Genetics, and she asked me what groups I would think would have genes worth studying. My answers were the usual ones:

  1. Iceland, where the people can be traced to a specific group of people
  2. The Amish, whose separation has led to them escaping certain diseases around them and having diseases no one has, and
  3. The Mormons, another small group with Polygamy included.
She took me to task with the last answer, stating that the genetic group has been expanding over the past fifty years. I reminded her that the original group itself was smallish, plus their history includes lots of polygamy, leading to a narrower genetic base than would be normal.

Turns out my thoughts were a bit limited. Now I'd include a few other groups:
  1. The Australian Aboriginies, as they've lived separated from the rest of humanity long enough to show up genetically
  2. The European Jewish populations, who like the Amish have been separated long enough to avoid the usual diseases and suffer from others.
  3. The Negev Bedouins (see link above), whose inbreeding is causing problems.
I'm sure there's many others. After all, things keep being learned.

Tuesday, March 28, 2006

Programmable Soda Pop???

Ipifini's Programmable Liquid Container Technology


Okay, maybe it's a decent idea. But I'm not sure the customer would want something that they'd have to make choices on. That's why there's a large choice in Sodas right now: You want what you want, not necessarily a choice once you have it.

Besides, I get the feeling the taste of the included flavors would suffer. Think of it: you get your choice of four different flavors, instead of a good flavor you get sixteen mediocre flavor possibilities. The formulation for a straight Cola soda will be different from lime-flavored cola flavor will be different from cherry-flavored cola, while something made to cross-flavor will end up either uninspired or unbalanced.

Not only that, but imagine if you could pop the caffeine button separately. I could see someone saving eight or ten of these, then popping the caffeine buttons and pouring the liquid into another beverage for a super-caffeine buzz.

Like I said, a decent idea. Now work on it and make it better. Or better yet, let it be -- usually we KNOW what we want.

Sunday, March 26, 2006

My Beefs With Greyhound

OK, what do I NOT like about Greyhound?
  1. To start with, their busses are small, dingy and generic. Even their new busses.
  2. They try to get away with as few busses as possible. That means: instead of adding a bus when it's needed, a bunch of people run late as the company hopes things settle down a bit.
  3. Their new terminals suck. They're too small, their roofs are too low, and every time there's more than two busses waiting to get filled the lines bisect the stations. The old stations may never have been the cleanest buildings in town, but their high roofs and softer lines made them welcoming; the new statins focus more on making the passenger want to get out of their buildings as soon as possible
  4. If you're going to cut back on your services (which I understand is necessary), when why not add flexibility to your schedule. Not everyone wants to go from Chicago to New York, why not allow for busses to go through but allow for the occasional stop with a call from the intermediate terminals/businesses? That way the bus can go straight through when it can, will pull aside to stop when there's the need.
And they wonder why no one wants to ride their busses anymore.