Thursday, December 21, 2006

Back to the peanut farm, Mr. Carter

I've been toying with the idea of writing a book for a number of years. Of course, my book is going to be a work of fiction, which releases me from the burden of having to prove that I know what I'm talking about.

It appears that I'll be in good company because the world, it seems, is full of fiction writers, including our own former president, Jimmy Carter. However, Alan Dershowitz has very little good to say about Mr. Carter's latest work of fiction Palestine: Peace Not Apartheid.

Carter's book has been condemned as "moronic" (Slate), "anti-historical" (The Washington Post), "laughable" (San Francisco Chronicle), and riddled with errors and bias in reviews across the country.


Of course, Carter's book wasn't meant to be a work of fiction. It appears that he believes every single word that he's printed between the covers. I haven't read it myself and I'm no scholar on the subject, so my opinion is worth less than $0.02. But from an outsider's perspective, it appears that the naysayers are outnumbering his supporters.

People used to laugh at Ronald Reagan and say that he suffered from some sort of dementia toward the end of his presidency. Maybe Mr. Carter is having the same sort of problem now. There are those who thought he'd cracked up in holding the Camp David Accords in '78. Maybe the book's shortcomings can back that up.

I don't think we'll really know unless Mr. Dershowitz gets his shot at a debate. I really would like to hear from someone with some real knowledge on the subject.

Saturday, December 16, 2006

Humor: The original WMD

Rosie O'Donnell is a moron, something she makes abundantly clear each time she opens her mouth on her show "The View". I'd wager that most sentient beings on and off the planet are behind me on this one. But as I read and re-read these news clippings about Her Arrogantness this week, I was struck by a startling and totally obvious realization:

Humor, in nearly all its forms, is almost always at someone else's expense.

This is a simple concept. Every third grader on the planet is hip to this - tell a joke about someone on the playground and the laughter gets charged to their account. We've all done it. Sometimes we're the joker, and sometimes we're the butt of the joke. Personally I think the world should just get over this and move on. It's as if no one on the planet is capable of laughing at themselves any more.

Thursday, December 07, 2006

If this is what we have left, we are in trouble

So my company has this vendor we use for monitoring traffic on our web site. We'll call them "Fred" for purposes of this discussion.

It seems that Fred has the ability to get us real-time data about our web site in an industry-standard format, and they talk a big game in their documentation about how we could use the data to display up-to-date metrics about the site to our users. In other words, it sounds like we should be able to get that data any time we want in a split second, and our users would thank us for it.

However, after fiddling with it for a week now, I've found that isn't the case at all. And, to make matters worse, it's probably my fault.

You see, I take things literally. Like just about every other computer geek I know, written instructions are gospel. If it's on paper and the source is deemed reliable, it's as good as if Jesus himself had written it down. In my life, this is a gold standard, and I operate daily with complete faith in my library of O'Reilly, Sams and SitePoint books so that I can achieve my objectives.

And when Fred came along, with his twenty-page API on exporting data in real-time from his database, I was positively giddy. Just the thought that I could bypass his sluggish-ass GUI interface and provide a comprehensive "dashboard" application to the boss was just, well, delicious. I'd be like Scottie on Star Trek...providing the impossible in a crisis situation, and my boss would love me. Chicks would dig me. A general sense of well-being would ensue.

But no! It turns out that Fred's export mechanism crashes my browser or returns data in wildly different formats each time I refresh the page. There's nothing more infuriating than getting exactly the opposite of what your documentation tells you to expect, so my next trick is to call Fred's technical support and give them the big WTF. Here's how that went:


Me: Hi, I'm having trouble with your export mechanism.
Fred: That's a shame. Tell me about it.

Me: Well, you see, there's this page, and it has these nodes on it, and...
Fred: Sorry, you'll have to back up. What's a node?


Needless to say, I was nonplussed. I had called technical support, but had apparently reached a clerk instead. I went on:


Me: The data I'm expecting is <this> but I'm seeing <that>.
Fred: I'm seeing <that> too. Are you sure you have the right address?

Me: Yes, I'm positive. It came from your documentation.
Fred: Okay, let me try a couple things here.


The sound of keytapping emanated from his end of the conversation. This went on for about five minutes, during which time we said nothing to each other. It felt like a marriage, but I didn't remember getting to dance or even consummate. And then:


Me: So do you see what I'm talking about?
Fred: Yes, it all makes sense now.

Me: So what do you think is the problem?
Fred: Well, I'm not really up to speed on this product, so I'll have to elevate this to level 2 support. In the meantime, you should understand that you share our databases and hardware with all of our other customers, so issues like this will arise from time to time.
Me: I understand that, really I do. However, we pay you $x,xxx per month to supply these services to us. If this is how it will perform, I don't really feel like we're getting our money's worth. Would you?
Fred: <Silence>


And so our conversation ended after some assurances from Fred that he'd get working on the problem and that I'd hear from him soon, but as I hung up the phone I was struck with the feeling that I'd accomplished nothing, and that I could expect no solution to my problem. This frustrated me, and colored the rest of my day in that shade of light blue that has MALAISE written all over it.

And so I sit here, waiting for an answer, or at the very list commiseration. I'll update you when I hear something from Fred.

Oh yes, the whole point of my discussion. As America transitions from industrial powerhouse to a service-based culture, one can assume that this sort of so-what-ish attitude will become more prevalent with every passing day. Eventually you'll call 911 and get the exact same sort of response that I did today. Of course, your house will have burnt to the ground, but at least you'll feel safe knowing that Level 2 Support will be there shortly.

Wednesday, November 01, 2006

Western Pennsylvania politics (or How to Shoot Yourself in The Foot on Election Day)

Republican Rick Santorum is running in the race of his life this year, and he's behind Democrat Bob Casey by a varying number of percentage points depending on which poll you look at.

Most of my peers seem to be enamored of Mr. Casey of late, and I felt it was important to point out some things that will be lost in the glare of the election day hoopla. Regardless of your political slant, these items should interest you as a Pennsylvanian.

1. Santorum is a powerful voice in the Senate - He's been in Congress since 1990 and is now the third-ranked member of the Republican leadership. The man has historically championed the rights of the less fortunate and was instrumental in getting welfare reform legislation passed, which has helped thousands of Pennsylvanians to leave welfare behind and get a fresh start. If Bob Casey gets elected, you'll have a freshman senator in that chair, and freshmen are generally nobodys for the first couple years (it's during that time their party - and sometimes the other party as well - has their way with them). During these volatile times, do we really want a nobody responsible for the interests of Pennylvania in the Senate?

2. Santorum is a western Pennsylvania senator - If Bob Casey gets elected in a few days, we'll wind up with two eastern Pennsylvania senators, and you can bet that the federal money that comes to our half of the state will be diminshed. Imagine what the roads and other infrastructure will be like a few years after that. Whether you like Rick or not, if you're from western Pennsylvania, you'd be well advised to keep him in his seat.

3. Arlen Specter's days are numbered, if only because he'll retire some day. I've never been a big fan of the RINO but he's still a Pennsylvanian who fights for our state every chance he can get. He'll be eighty years old for the 2010 election. By then, we'll have Bob Casey, a four-year senator from Philadelphia, and possibly another freshman senator elected to fill Specter's seat, and maybe they'll be a Democrat. How many states fare well in Congress when their senate representation is 50/50?

So there you have it. In short, a vote against Rick Santorum is a vote against this half of Pennsylvania. Please bear that in mind when you're reaching for the lever in a couple days.

Wednesday, October 18, 2006

As if we needed more reasons to laugh at public education

Remember playing dodgeball in elementary school? Maybe you were the kid that got whacked in the face with the ball, or maybe you were the one who threw it. Either way, I doubt the experience enhanced or damaged your life in any real tangible way. Yet, not so long ago, schools everywhere banned the game because it was considered "exclusionary" and "dangerous".

Since then, we've all laughed at that sort of thing, but it's come back around and this time it has taken aim at something even more harmless: Tag.

ATTLEBORO, Mass. (AP) -- Tag, you're out! Officials at an elementary school south of Boston have banned kids from playing tag, touch football and any other unsupervised chase game during recess for fear they'll get hurt and hold the school liable.

Recess is "a time when accidents can happen," said Willett Elementary School Principal Gaylene Heppe, who approved the ban.


I'd like to call for a show of hands of all the people who have been irreparably harmed by something that happened at recess. Anyone? Bueller?

Seriously folks, it's time we find these people who have the time to pontificate about the benefits of banning games like tag and dodgeball and remove them from the food chain. Is this what they're training future teachers and school administrators at teacher colleges these days?!

I guess it's time to go study up on home schooling - at this rate, my one-year-old will be eating tofu for snack and meditating at recess to avoid personal injury.

Thursday, October 12, 2006

And this would be why we're alone in the universe (so far)

Some dork in the Ukraine thinks this is high fashion. A buddy of mine told me this weekend that art is "an independent voice", and so this must really be art. There can't be another person on the planet that's singing this tune.

This is why beings from beyond our planet have quietly passed us by. They've slipped into our solar system and tuned into the electromagnetic waves that flow from Earth. After bouts of hysterics, they've pointed their star compasses in the opposite direction and kept on trucking.

Monday, October 09, 2006

Sorry guys, you can't have it both ways

They squawked when he called them a part of the "Axis of Evil", and now they're angry because he hasn't done anything about them.

WASHINGTON (AP) -- Democrats seized on North Korea's brazen act to criticize President Bush's record in confronting the communist regime, contending the administration's focus on Iraq ignored legitimate threats.

Democratic Sen. John Kerry, the president's rival in 2004 and a potential 2008 candidate, assailed Bush's policy as a "shocking failure," and said, "While we've been bogged down in Iraq where there were no weapons of mass destruction, a madman has apparently tested the ultimate weapon of mass destruction."

(snip)

Sen. Mitch McConnell of Kentucky, the Senate's second-ranking Republican, accused Democrats of playing partisan politics with a nuclear weapons threat. "Listening to some Democrats, you'd think the enemy was George Bush, not Kim Jong Il," he said.


Well, which is it, fellas? The rhetoric coming from the lefties would lead you to believe that George gave them the bomb, but anyone with a brain knows that this is a worldwide diplomatic issue.

What worries me most is not the bomb itself, but rather its timing and the Democratic response - there is obviously a partisan political element to both.

Everyone send Mr. Steinbrenner a hanky

The New York Yankees have been to the World Series so many times that it just isn't funny, but Mr. George Steinbrenner is really upset that they aren't headed there in 2006.

NEW YORK (AP) -- Yankees owner George Steinbrenner said he was "deeply disappointed" at his team's elimination in the first round of the AL playoffs, calling it a "sad failure."

(snip)

"I am deeply disappointed at our being eliminated so early in the playoffs," Steinbrenner said in a statement issued Sunday by spokesman Howard Rubenstein. "This result is absolutely not acceptable to me nor to our great and loyal Yankee fans. I want to congratulate the Detroit Tigers organization and wish them well. Rest assured, we will go back to work immediately and try to right this sad failure and provide a championship for the Yankees, as is our goal every year."


So throwing $194.6 million at your players isn't a guarantee of a championship any more.

I wonder how long it will be before Wal-Mart is blamed for this...

Tuesday, September 05, 2006

Hitler, Stalin, Ahmadinejad: A very select club

Looks like Ahmadinejad wants to purge his universities of the sort of people he doesn't agree with.

TEHRAN, Iran (AP) -- Iran's hard-line President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad called Tuesday for a purge of liberal and secular teachers from the country's universities, urging students to return to 1980s-style radicalism.

"Today, students should shout at the president and ask why liberal and secular university lecturers are present in the universities," the official Islamic Republic News Agency quoted Ahmadinejad as saying during a meeting with a group of students.


Things are going downhill fast over there. I just hope Europe, Russia and the rest of Asia can get their collective arses in gear to contain this mess.

Wednesday, July 26, 2006

From the DUH! files...

Another thing that I'm sure nobody saw coming:

NEW YORK (AP) -- Lance Bass, band member of 'N Sync, says he's gay and in a "very stable" relationship with a reality show star.


Who knew?!?

Tuesday, June 20, 2006

Hopefully this will put that stupid fad to rest

If you've ever chuckled at those dorky teenagers that run around in pants that A) won't stay up, or B) are wider at the leg than they are at the waist, this article will give you reason to pump your fist in the air.

I was a teenager 20 years ago, and I recall that we wore some pretty wacky stuff, but none of it was as impractical as the low-rider jeans you see kids wearing these days.

Now if we can just get them to wear baseball caps correctly, all will be right with the world.

Holes in the floorboards

If you don't have access to western Pennsylvania news, you probably haven't heard about the murder of twelve-year-old Gabrielle Bechen by a total scumbag.

Maybe that's too harsh a word for the suspect they've arrested. Maybe the problem isn't him, but the system that let him loose from the chains that should have kept him out of society in general and poor Gabrielle in particular.

If you haven't the time to read the article, here's the Cliffs notes. He's been in trouble with the law for things ranging from DUI and bad checks to telephone harrassment. In almost every case, he was let off of probation while still owing something, whether it be fines, restitution or services required to expunge his record. And to make matters worse, the system knew he wasn't going to make good, and still let him loose:

"He's not really capable of holding a job," said Craig Wise, Greene County's chief probation officer. "We try to hold people in the system for as long as we can in hopes of getting the money they owe. He's one of those who would never be able to pay."


Sickening.

If something like this were to ever happen to my child, I can guarantee that the system wouldn't fail her: He wouldn't make it into the system, if you know what I mean.

The things we talk about at work

One of my coworkers is a huge fan of HBO's Big Love series (Bill Paxton, polygamy, you get the picture), and conversations about the show always lead to polygamy. We decided as a group that polygamy just doesn't make a lot of sense. Really, who needs more than one "honeydew" list? And just how would you work out things like living wills, powers of attorney, and deciding who is the benificiary of your life insurance?

After a time, this discussion migrated toward its natural end: the NHL. We decided that just as polygamy is a bad thing for America, so is NHL expansion into areas of the country that aren't naturally covered in ice for part of the year. We feel pretty strongly that hockey should not be played in places like Arizona, southern Texas and Florida. Hey, we don't have championship rodeo and frog-gigging contests up north here, so please leave the hockey to us.

Yeah, it's starting to look like a slow day here at the office.

Thursday, June 15, 2006

Yep, let's all go home now

"Stay the course", he said. "We won't leave until we achieve victory", he said. Well, hells bells!

BAGHDAD, Iraq (AP) -- A blueprint for trying to start a war between the United States and Iran was among a "huge treasure" of documents found in the hideout of terrorist leader Abu Musab al-Zarqawi, Iraqi officials said Thursday. The document, purporting to reflect al-Qaida policy and its cooperation with groups loyal to ousted President Saddam Hussein, also appear to show that the insurgency in Iraq was weakening.

<snip>

While the coalition was continuing to suffer human losses, "time is now beginning to be of service to the American forces and harmful to the resistance," the document said.

The document said the insurgency was being hurt by, among other things, the U.S. military's program to train Iraqi security forces, by massive arrests and seizures of weapons, by tightening the militants' financial outlets, and by creating divisions within its ranks.


What would these captured Al Qaida documents be containing right now if John Kerry had been elected in 2004? I'd wager Iraq would be making the seventh circle of Hell look like Club Med.

Tuesday, June 13, 2006

Stupidity in media

If you've been shacking up with bin Laden over the last few days, you probably missed out on the exhaustive media coverage of Ben Roethlisberger's motorcycle crash. The rest of us in western Pennsylvania did not, I can tell you, because we're all fervently praying for "one for the OTHER thumb" in 2007.

The most interesting aspect of all of the coverage is how the media is driving local watercooler discussions, rather than just feeding them content. An excellent example is this headline from today's post-gazette.com:

Ben's case unlikely to change Pa.'s helmet law

This is an obvious "well, duh!" moment if ever I've seen one. Of course it isn't going to change the law. Even if Ben's gourd had been broken into three pieces that resembled Donovan McNabb (though you can bet that goldenpalace.com would have paid top dollar for them), the law would still be there the next morning, month, and year.

Just another example of how the media thinks we're all stupid.

Friday, June 09, 2006

Living in the dark ages (or how Pennsylvania could grow if it really wanted to)

Here in the commonwealth of Pennsylvania, we can't marry our sisters any more. That was a great first step in moving the social direction of our state a little closer to the rest of the country.

However, we still have to buy our wine and liquor from approved state-owned retailers, and a big chunk of the price of a bottle of Mad Dog 20/20 is tax. According to this article, we've been paying an 18% tax on liquor to pay for the clean up of the Johnstown Flood.

Now I understand that over 2,200 people died that fateful night in 1889. It's a tragedy in anyone's book, no doubt. However, I can't believe we haven't paid for the damages many times over already with that 18% tax. In fact, a quick examination of this PLCB audit shows that they took in an average $173,000 each year over the last five years in "Emergency Tax". Work that forward for seventy years and you get a little over twelve million dollars.

Another example of this at the Federal level is the Federal Excise Tax, which was enacted in 1898 to pay for the Spanish-American War. It was repealed just recently. It manifests as a 3% charge on all local and long-distance phone services and is also paid on cell phone bills. Imagine how much coin this one brought into the government coffers over the years. Makes you wonder why they even need income tax.

Wednesday, May 17, 2006

So I guess it pays after all

Crime dramas rule network television, or so CBS seems to think.

NEW YORK (AP) -- CBS is canceling its Sunday movie in favor of two successful crime procedurals and will add a new Thursday series next fall with James Woods portraying a defense attorney who becomes a prosecutor.


CSI is about all I can stomach of these shows, and that's largely due to the scientific undercurrents that weave in and out of the plot lines.

So what do all of these shows promote? Is it the crime, or is the real aim to make the legal profession look fun again?

Tuesday, April 11, 2006

"Religion of peace" my ass

They're at it again, these so called "peaceful" muslims. Why does the world tolerate this?

KARACHI, Pakistan (AP) -- A suicide attacker detonated a bomb during an outdoor Islamic prayer service Tuesday, killing at least 41 people and wounding dozens, police said. An angry mob burned cars and threw stones at police, who fired into the air to disperse the crowds, a witness said.


Someone needs to sit these assholes down and say Look, you claim to be peaceful and tolerant, and yet you kill innocent people every day like it's going out of style. Either put your houses in order, or we (as in the world) will do it for you.

I know I'll catch hell for this, but I'm beginning to believe there's some truth to the new addage that Not all muslims are terrorists, but all terrorists are muslims. These people are an afront to the rest of the human race.

And where is the outcry from the international Islamic community, those muslims throughout Europe and Asia who are peacefully moving through their daily lives? Do you realize how pathetic these people make you look? Is this the legacy you want attached to Islam for the rest of eternity?

I won't pretend that other religions haven't had their problems. Pope Pius XII turned a blind eye to the Third Reich's brutality during World War II. However, there's no evidence that shows people went out of their way to burn Jews by the millions in Nazi death camps in the name of Catholicism, but the same cannot be said of the islamic extremists in the middle east today.

Anyone want to count the seconds until some twit on television declares this act of violence as yet another side effect of decades of U.S. foreign policy?

Monday, April 10, 2006

I'm no evangelist

but this latest RFID story has me wondering.

When Brenden Walker got his new MasterCard PayPass ATM card in the mail last month, he headed to the gas station to try it out.

To test the card's "Tap N Go" convenience, he passed it in front of the scanner, which activated with a beep and displayed the word "authorizing ... " on its LCD screen.

-snip-

Pets and people are getting chip implants under their skin that carry identification or medical information. Governments are beginning to use radio chips in driver's licenses and passports. Retailers use them to track inventory. The banks that are now using chips in their credit and cash cards say they make transactions more efficient -- and more convenient for customers.


If you've ever read the Bible (specifically the New Testament), Revelation 13:16-17 should sound familiar to you:

16He also forced everyone, small and great, rich and poor, free and slave, to receive a mark on his right hand or on his forehead, 17so that no one could buy or sell unless he had the mark, which is the name of the beast or the number of his name.

You won't see me out on the sidewalk preaching fire and brimstone any time soon, however, we've seen it before and we'll see it again. With any new technology comes a thousand ways to exploit it to the detriment of society. This one's no different.

Friday, March 31, 2006

Pet peeves in Pittsburgh

I haven't had a whole lot to say recently (hold your applause, please) so I thought I'd just rattle off some of the local things that really raise my blood pressure:

Revolving doors
I'm on my way into PPG Place for lunch and I'm the only one pushing to keep the revolving door moving. The next time some tie-wearing twit enters the revolving door and doesn't pull his weight, I'm going to let go of the handle and watch him slam his nose off the glass. This is just one example of society's ever-widening departure from common courtesy.

Passing lanes
For the love of Christ, people! The left lane on any highway (and Rt. 28 in particular) is there for only one reason - PASSING. If you are toddling along over there and there's no one in front of you and a herd of cars behind, chances are real good that you are the reason we have traffic reports on the radio every ten minutes. Get the hell out of the way! I'm not above high beams, the horn or even a vertical digit aimed in your direction. If only grille-mounted machine guns were legal...

The 'Pittsburgh Left Turn'
I can understand that you're in a hurry, and I really feel for you. However, turning in front of me as the light goes green will likely get you a honk at the very least and some foreign paint on your car at the worst. Yes, I know, you'll be sitting there waiting for the rest of us who have THE RIGHT OF WAY but you'll be guaranteeing your own personal safety if you just take a deep breath, relax and wait for an opening. Really.

Picksburgh?
I don't care what race, creed, color or level of education you have. If you pronounce it 'Picksburgh' in my vicinity you will get a hairy eyeball and perhaps my verbal estimation of your level of intelligence. The same goes for just about any street-level misuse of our language. And don't even think about 'axing' me a question. You'll be greeted with a blank stare or maybe the finger.

Spend a little more time buying your clothes
I saw a DHL delivery employee running up the steps of a local building at lunch time. He had a package in one hand while the other hiked his pants up no less than three times in seven steps. I know you think it's cute to have your boxers exposed in the back but isn't it a pain in the ass to have to pull your pants up every three steps? If nothing else, buy a goddammned belt.

What's that thing on your head?
A while back I was stepping out of my car in the Giant Eagle parking lot when a teenager got out of the riced-up Acura that had just pulled into the space in front of me. His hat was on sideways with the brim inverted and pointing skyward. As his girlfriend exited the car, he asked me what I was looking at, as if his 17-year-old machismo was any match for mine. I replied that it was obvious that his hat had come with out proper directions, to which his girlfriend howled in laughter. The poor lad was crushed. He'll probably be doing 3 to 5 for grand larceny soon as I think I stripped him of any self-respect he may have had to that point.

Monday, March 13, 2006

If I never win the lottery

I'll settle for this:

OSLO, Norway (AP) -- It almost seemed like a miracle to Haldis Gundersen when she turned on her kitchen faucet this weekend and found the water had turned into beer.

Two flights down, employees and customers at the Big Tower Bar were horrified when water poured out of the beer taps.

By an improbable feat of clumsy plumbing, someone at the bar in Kristiandsund, western Norway, had accidentally hooked the beer hoses to the water pipes for Gundersen's apartment.


Now why can't stuff like that ever happen to me?

Wednesday, March 08, 2006

Today's WTF?! photo

I don't know what's more troubling - this woman's hairdo or the fact that the U.S. Postal Service is considering a 63¢ stamp.

I don't care who the stamp honors. Who is going to be using the U.S. Postal Service by then? I mail three bills a month. The rest are paid online. If I start getting my bills online, I'll be able to remove that unsightly mailbox at the end of my driveway and replace it with something that can keep my empty garbage can from rolling into the street.

I wonder how long it will be before my garbage can be picked up online...

Monday, March 06, 2006

Oh the years have been unkind


I got just one question: What the hell happened to Eddie Van Halen?!?!

I guess Valerie must have put a physical, mental and spiritual hurtin' on the poor fellow. Either that, or David Lee Roth has some sort of special equipment at his radio show booth than can suck your will to live.

Thursday, February 09, 2006

Reidey, you got some 'splainin' to do!

The Associated Press is reporting that Senator Harry Reid has collected nearly $68,000 in Abramoff-related donations, and even wrote four letters on behalf of Abramoff clients in the past. This surfaces after Harry himself went on camera and proclaimed proudly that this was a Republican scandal, and that he'd never met Jack Abramoff.

This whole thing stinks, but now it's in stereo, with the odor wafting up from both sides of the aisle. Will you hear about this with the same amount of zeal and fervor as before, or will the MSM sweep this under the rug?

Revisionism on Capitol Hill

Wikipedia, the popular online free-content encyclopedia, is a wonderful example of the goodness that ordinary people can create on the Internet. It's a great source of information on nearly every subject on the planet, and if it's lacking on a subject you happen to know something about, you can go in and start educating the world by adding your information.

But the BBC is reporting that the staff of members of Congress have been making partisan changes to the Wikipedia biographies of many members of the American political scene. In fact, so many changes were made to George W. Bush's entry that it had to be locked down to prevent further updates.

In one example, Minnesota Senator Norm Coleman's biography was changed so that the word "liberal" was replaced with "activist". Staff also deleted references to Coleman's voting record in 2003 (he voted with President Bush 98% of the time in 2003, even though he ran as a moderate).

And who could forget about Senator Tom Harkin's imagined combat missions over North Vietnam? You won't read about that in Wikipedia any more either - his staff has removed all mention of it and his recantation.

So now we have to add Congressional staffers to the list of folks we can't trust in Washington, D.C., though they were probably there in the first place.

Google is everywhere (George Orwell, call your office)

SAN FRANCISCO (AP) -- Google Inc. is offering a new tool that will automatically transfer information from one personal computer to another, but anyone wanting that convenience must authorize the Internet search leader to store the material for up to 30 days.

<snip>

"We think this will be a very useful tool, but you will have to give up some of your privacy," said Marissa Mayer, Google's vice president of search products and user experience. "For many of us, that trade off will make a lot of sense."

Why in the world would I want the contents of my PC stored out on the Internet?! If I wanted my old tax returns, bank statements and family photos out on the web, I'd put them there myself.

I love Google, I really do. Well, maybe not in the physical sense. Maybe more like the love you might feel for a pet or a sibling. But even the people we love deserve a slap across the face from time to time, and I think Google's is coming very soon.

These same people are pissed at George W. Bush for wiretaps. Unbelievable.

Sunday, February 05, 2006

A fool and his life, parted

Timothy Treadwell
1957 - 2003
Spent a couple hours watching Grizzly Man, a film about a misguided and naive animal lover who ultimately is loved (savored even) by the very animals that he wanted to protect from humanity's sprawl. The story is gripping and confirms several theories that I've held for a long time:

  • Nature can kill you
  • Humans who ignore this fact and try to make friends with it are stupid

The movie is about Timothy Treadwell, a recovering alcoholic wannabe actor with no formal training in the area of Ursus arctos horribilis, who spent thirteen summers living among wild grizzlies in an attempt to understand and protect them from poaching. Using video cameras that he carried into the wilderness, he would document his brazen attempts to humanize these bears. To him, they weren't dangerous, only misunderstood. The footage shows him within inches of these half-ton behemoths, sometimes touching them and always talking to them in a sing-song voice.

Do you suppose those bears looked at him the way that Wiley Coyote saw the Road Runner? In a few scenes the bears would swipe at him or otherwise make it known that they felt threatened, but you never really see any fear in their faces. To a thousand pound bear, a hundred-weight human is but a morsel.

So, to sum up, the movie isn't really about bears, but more about human stupidity. We live in this world and we pretend that we're the dominant species, but take us out of the cities and we're just another prey animal.

The folks who pretend that nature is the Coca-Cola polar bears-love-seals commercial are doomed to be dinner.

Friday, February 03, 2006

I'm a nerd (betcha didn't know that)

I am nerdier than 98% of all people. Are you nerdier? Click here to find out!Found this intriguing quiz page on the web that rates your nerdness after answering some questions. As you can see, I scored well (depending on your perspective):

Amazing what amuses me these days. I can remember a time when I would have laughed at someone who scored well on this test (or even took one to begin with). Maybe you're laughing right now.

Thursday, February 02, 2006

Like they say, pimpin' ain't easy

From this Associated Press article:

MARTINEZ, Calif. (AP) -- A married couple pleaded no contest to charges they ran a brothel across the street from a Concord police station, Contra Costa County authorities said. Debra Watts, 52, will serve one year of home detention after pleading to three felony counts of pimping and pandering, prosecutor Jose Marin said Monday.

Doing something this stupid takes balls. Or a total lack of brains.

Wednesday, February 01, 2006

Why 200 lawyers on the bottom of the ocean is a good start

Look no further than this article. The NFL works very hard to make sure that advertisers refrain from using the phrase "Super Bowl" in their ads this time of year.

Don't those people have anything better to do? I think we should pass a law that says a lawyer (and the plaintiffs) must perform community service each year with the number of hours contributed equal to the time they spent working on frivolous lawsuits.

Wednesday, January 25, 2006

Humans argue politics without their brains

Or so it would seem in this article over on LiveScience.com. The premise makes sense. I know I find myself heating up when I engage in political chitchat with friends and family. When I step back to ask myself why, I always feel like I've been slighted by the other person. I tend to overreact.

After reading the above article, objectively approach your own views on things like abortion, the growth of government or whatever else you feel strongly about. Maybe it will help you understand how the folks on the other side see you and your point of view during an argument.

Of course, they're still wrong, aren't they? <grin>

Sunday, January 22, 2006

Time...is on (someone's) side (but it ain't mine)

I'm one of those people that you might accuse of living in the past. I love '80s music and yearn for the years when I was too young to pay taxes or do anything other than go to school and play in the yard. In short, I long for a simpler time.

I'm also one of those people who marvel at how fast time slips by. As I've gotten older, the sands seem to have picked up speed on their way to the bottom of the hourglass. I dread the day that I will look in the mirror and finally see those signs that I've reached middle age. People tell me it happens to everyone. I keep praying that it skips me.

But one thing that makes the passage of time somewhat bearable are the memories that come to the surface when I think about key events in history. A few big ones have happened in my 34.83 years on this rock: Watergate. Vietnam. The end of the Cold War. Hostages in Iran. September 11th. And of course, the Steelers dynasty of the '70s.

Our boys are headed to Super Bowl XL. They've been there five times and won four, and as I looked over the list today, I was reminded of what I was doing when those games occurred:

1996: Dallas Cowboys win 27-17
Worked for U.S. Steel. Drove an '89 Ford Tempo, which put a serious bite on my wallet. Dated a few women but no real stand-outs. Lived in Monroeville in a crappy garden apartment with my kid brother. Ate a lot of pizza. Quite a lot, in fact.

1980: Steelers over the L.A. Rams, 31-19
Eight years old, skinny and mouthy. Rode my bike all over the West End of Butler. Walked to West End Elementary every day, and wound up being in the last class to graduate from that building. Ms. Mroczek was my teacher. She was fresh out of college and I had a gigantic crush on her (and her white Pontiac Monza). My Dad bought a used Ford pickup from his company that year. I think our other car was a '73 Impala in a hideous green color. I remember slamming my finger in the door of that car. It's still a little crooked.

1979: Steeler beat the Cowboys: 35-31
Seven and scrawny. Mrs. Winters was my teacher, a stern short-haired woman with a penchant for sweaters. Had a gold metalic bike with chrome fenders and a banana seat to which I had affixed a blue Ranger Rick sticker. It also had one of those handlebar gadgets that made a motorcycle sound.

1976: Steelers and Cowboys, 27-10
Four years old. I barely remember anything from back then, except that it was the bicentennial and my father's parents came to visit that summer. Tornados went through western Pennyslvania that summer and we toured some of the damage. I distinctly remember our old house in Valencia and the two friends I had back there.

1975: Vikings 16-6
All I remember of that year was that my Mom was pregnant. My baby brother would arrive in early December of that year. Everything else is just a fog.

Wednesday, January 18, 2006

Serendipity and The Dream

Does anyone else find it interesting that TV Land chose to run an All In The Family marathon on the day before Martin Luther King Day?

Their web site purges the programming schedule after a time but I took this partial screen shot for proof.

So, was that a statement or just coincidence? I wish I had caught this earlier; I would love to have seen what their programming schedule included over the week of Kwanzaa.

Tuesday, January 17, 2006

All roads lead to Detroit (after they pass through Denver)

Our Steelers are headed for Denver. I hope they spent the night there on Monday, as they'll need time to get themselves adjusted to the thin mountain air they'll be running through next Sunday. My only hope is that the referees from the Indianapolis game are as far from Denver as humanly possible.

I still cannot believe that the NFL doesn't have a set of checks and balances in place to prevent this kind of crap from happening. The officiating at that game was atrocious. I've seen better play calling in midget and college football.

Someone told me that NFL referees are not professional referees (that is, they all have regular jobs and work for the NFL on Sundays). If it's true, it has to be fixed. The league needs the people in striped jerseys to have a singular focus on the task at hand.

Either that, or all of us that threw beer bottles through our TV sets on Sunday should band together and file a class-action lawsuit against the NFL.

Thursday, January 12, 2006

Iran may be next, if the Europeans can stomach it

BERLIN (AP) -- The British, French and German foreign ministers said Thursday that negotiations with Iran over its nuclear program had reached a "dead end" and the Islamic republic should be referred to the U.N. Security Council.

I doubt very much that the Europeans have the stones to put a stop to Mahmoud Ahmadinejad's nuclear aspirations. Should it fall to the rest of the world to do so, I hope that it isn't done with an "Ivory Soap" coalition like we have in Iraq (99 44/100% U.S.).

Speaking of which...have we heard any press reports on how many Islamic countries are involved in the coalition in Iraq? Are there any? Would you see the Saudis involved in a possible conflict with Iran?

Wednesday, January 11, 2006

"It wasn't me" the watchword in D.C.

So it looks like Senator Harry Reid (D) has taken as much as $61,000 in Abramoff money.

Yep, it's an entirely Republican scandal alright.

Thursday, January 05, 2006

Western culture has an expiration date

Mark Steyn has written an excellent piece on his theory about the West being in danger of disappearing. Here's an excerpt:

Most people reading this have strong stomachs, so let me lay it out as baldly as I can: Much of what we loosely call the Western world will not survive this century, and much of it will effectively disappear within our lifetimes, including many if not most Western European countries.

It's long, but worth the read. Big nod to the excellent blog Irish Pennants for pointing this out.

Sago tragedy and some personal reflection

There are days when I don't like my day job. Hell, there are days when I downright despise it. But after watching the Sago mine tragedy unfold, I've decided that I need to be a little more thankful for the direction my life has taken up to this point. I have a decent job in a department full of good people, and I don't have much chance of dying at my desk or going home covered in dirt. After some thought, it has occurred to me that I've got just about the best job there is.

Of course, even if I wasn't doing what I do, I still wouldn't be working in a coal mine. I'm claustrophobic as hell, and just mentally putting myself into a coal mine gives me sweaty palms. I've been saying now for a couple of days that I'd rather scrub sidewalks with a toothbrush than work in a coal mine.

That being said, my heart goes out to those families. My standard of living (and the fact that electricity in Pennsylvania is cheap and coal-driven) is enabled by the hard work and dedication of people like the Sago 13, and I hope that this incident will drive an effort to make things safer for the people who do that thankless job.