Wednesday, August 31, 2005

Bill O'Reilly - Economic Genius

I was never that big of a Bill O'Reilly fan. He certainly brings a chuckle about every now and then when he pins someone down with a tough question (his notorious interview with Dan Rather springs to mind), but let's face it, that's why he's famous - because the rest of the press is too lazy to pressure interview subjects. After I read his book, I was left with the impression that he is little more than a self important blow hard.

Although pigeon-holed as a conservative, he holds a variety of beliefs which wouldn't get him past a Republican primary in 96% of the States, and he added one more belief tonight when I happened to catch him on the TV while I'm the road (...looking for Cartoon Network). When talking about the evils being perpetuated by Katrina, inevitably he turned on the oil companies and said that price gouging (whatever that is) shouldn't be tolerated and that OPEC nations should be forced to sell their oil for $4 a gallon (since that's what he says it costs them to get it out of the ground).

This kind of red meat rhetoric might play well for the rubes, but it ignores many facts of how the universe works. The first is realizing what a 'price' is. A 'price' isn't the amount of money that someone charges, it's the price someone is willing to pay for it. This kinda ignores how the oil market, and any commodity market works. How would changing the price by fiat change this? Of course this would lead to shortages since the price would no longer reflect the supply.

A side story should illustrate. Post September 11th gas prices spiked up and the mayor of Cleveland put her indignation on display and said she would go after 'gouging gas stations'. The next day my Dem coworker came in and said she couldn't believe what the gas stations were doing.
Me: "Did you fill up your tank last night?"
Her: "Yes"
Me: "Did you need gas?"
Her: "no..."
Me: "Well, suppose gas was $5 a gallon. Would you have filled up your tank then?"
Her: "No"
Me: "So the price would have kept supplies available to those who really needed it. Suppose a member of my family was having a medical emergency and I had to travel some distance to get to them. I might not like paying $5 a gallon, but at least there would be gas to buy; as it is, there isn't."

This is no new story. It ends in black market goods for the price controlled product and lines for the product from legitimate sources. You can see this happening in of all places Iraq where fuel prices are heavily subsidized by the government and do not reflect reality whatsoever.

Of course Mr. No Spin made a double gaffe when he said that a) Americans should use less fuel starting now so that supplies are readily available AND the price should be lowered by fiat. Now, if the price for a good or service is lowered, does the demand for it go up or down, Mr. O'Reilly?


Monday, August 29, 2005

Lazy Chicago Pics

Nothing like spooling out some of the hundreds of photos I've taken and calling it content!


Michigan Ave.



Mr. Kendall makes some freinds



Always pleases me!



$1378 for rent? Why it's practically free!



I guess you're screwed if your hotel room is on the 13th floor - because that's where the ZOMBIES are!




While riding on the train out to the museum we noticed something odd about the outlying neighborhoods. Either due to changing economic times, poor government housing choices (is there any other kind?), or misguided court decisions, these neighborhoods (I don't care for the word 'slum') looked like they had been firebombed about ten years ago: huge tracts of vacant lots were buttressed by poorly maintained and/or boarded up buildings. I don't offer up any extended commentary, just found it interesting - a bit of a harbinger for those cities, like Detroit and Cleveland that are on the shrinking end of the stick.

Sunday, August 28, 2005

Stem Cell Welfare

I can't comprehend why there is even any debate about this! Everyone chuckles when thinking of Ponce de Leon looking for the Fountain of Youth, but many of these same people can't wait to dump money down the voodoo science hole. Noted skeptic Steven Milloy breaks down the stem cell debate, from Stem Cell Smoke and Mirrors (emphasis mine):
The president's executive order only limited federal funding for embryonic stem cell research. It did not prohibit the research itself. In fact, privately funded researchers are free to destroy as many embryos as they like in their pursuit of embryonic stem cell research - but they must conduct such research with private, not public funds. Therein lies the rub.
The reason that embryonic stem cell researchers are agitating for taxpayer money is that their private funding has dried up. Private investors and venture capitalists are not investing in embryonic stem cell research because they perceive it to be a pipe dream unlikely to produce any progress and, hence, investment returns, in any reasonable time frame.
Researchers aspiring to be on the dole and investors whose money is mired in floundering stem cell research firms are looking to federal funds for relief. Such groups already hoodwinked California voters for $3 billion last year with Proposition 71 - a sum that pales in comparison with what Congress could slop in their troughs.
The bottom line is that if embryonic stem cell research had real promise, private investment would be overflowing into biotech companies. But it's not.
These crooks have done a great job of saying "No subsidies"="Making it illegal". The equivalent is professional sports franchises saying that their sport is being made illegal by the fact that suckers citizens won't pay for their new stadiums.

Why don't these jackasses go out and make an honest living instead of thieving from taxpayers?

Wednesday, August 24, 2005

The Bald Boys

I have some friends that are concerned about growing bald, but lucky for them Cecil over at the Straight dope has a solution (emphasis mine):
The researchers, led by Markus Nothen of the University of Bonn, rounded up several hundred balding and nonbalding men and compared their androgen receptor (AR) genes, which are located on the X chromosome. Androgens (male sex hormones) play a key role in balding--castrated men don't go bald--and the AR gene helps them do their work.
Well you heard the man - Chop! Chop!

Worst. Packaging. Ever.

Due to a persistent lack of funds (and the fact that Mr. Kendall buys them anyway), I haven't kept up on my Simpson's DVD box set purchases. I think I have the first two seasons and with the release of season 6, I've pretty much given up hope of ever catching up.

I did notice the packaging though while in Chicago. I liked the old packaging and the new one seemed more novel than anything. I guess it was even worse than that since Scott Tobias over at The Onion complained about the slip shod nature of the packaging. He hits upon other examples, and I was pleased to see that the 'planet' version of Total Recall, which I do own, didn't escape a ribbing (although he fails to note the foam pad protector which is a dust magnet that does its best to keep the DVD perpetually dirty).

On an interesting note, in a comment Mr. Tobias notes that for $3 you can get replacement packaging for the new Simpson's season.

Monday, August 22, 2005

Trunk Monkey

And yes boys, it does appear that the Trunk Monkey has his own site:

This probably isn't a surprise to hardcore Internet junkies; but by the speed of the site, I'd say the Monkey's site is being hosted in an area of Indiana where dial-up web site hosting is still the norm. (Alt site that has slightly better bandwidth)

Saturday, August 20, 2005

Traveling

It would appear that I'm in Chicago. I've developed a love of big cities, which is pretty much a fascination I've always had. I love walking out the door and having so much readily accessible - movies, food, groceries, all within walking distance; and owning a bike brings more to do than even most small cities have via a car. (Though, to be fair, the prices do more than enough to make up for the convenience. The price to park our car will wind up costing almost as much as it did to rent it!)

As an aside, I was amazed at the absolute penetration of iPod usage within the city, I noticed something similar in Toronto. I figured Steve Jobs could fire up his secret mind control firmware at any point in order to turn entire metropolitan areas into his willing zombies (i.e. Mac fans).

Wednesday, August 17, 2005

Found on the Net

I remember doing something similar many years ago with a coworker, though we had cheated and made the arch against a wall. It gets me wondering if a larger one is possible....time to check the recycle pile behind the offices...

Tuesday, August 16, 2005

Sexual harassment Panda

They'd never had one before, but our new politically wise HR person put on a mandatory class on sexual harassment today. And no, it wasn't a class on how to do it (but then again...). Our place of business is a manufacturing environment that is, ironically, dominated by women, whose smaller stature (ie, they don't have big gorilla paws like yours truly) allows them to work with the itty bitty pieces that our company makes. Still, it's the kind of place that you'd half expect to see the sign "Sexual harassment will not be reported - However, it will be graded."

The whole exercise would be mostly pointless, apart from one point that I'll touch on in a moment. My big problem with the whole idea is:

  1. If someone is a jerk, why can't they just fire the jerk? They had video taped examples of dudes being jerks (and to be fair, women coming onto men, which of course, the few men in the class were indifferent to (which to be fair, the women in the class were rather indifferent as well)) - anyway - the behavior was so patently offensive that I would question the sanity of any business place that would hire such an individual (apart from strip club, etc.).

  2. In other instances, and the HR person said as much, the only thing that made the matter offensive was the way it was taken by the recipient of the behavior. So fire up your ultra-sensitive mind readers so that you can take in someone's attitude!

So why did the company have the class? The same reason companies are stuck with 'super sensitive pain in the asses' and 'complete jerks'. The telling line came when the HR person was playing the video tape of different examples and pausing it between scenes so that we could guess beforehand if the legal wrangler that was to come on would judge it sexual harassment or no: "Was it right or wrong? Let's ask the lawyer."

WTF? The whole exercise reeked of lawyers doing their damnedest to suck the life out of society. I hope they burn in hell...

I was surprised, though, that the class didn't touch upon an even more prevalent form of implied quid pro quo sexual harassment wherein a manager imparts favors upon a(n) underling(s) because they're 'a thing'. This is more likely to screw over peoples of all genders, orientations, etc., but it wasn't touched upon in the tape, documentation, or anything else. They were more obsessed with BS like forceful touching - "This is wrong!" would go the tape. Well no shit sherlock! Why don't you grow some balls and bring up a situation that some managers in the past at this very company have been involved in? (Though to be fair, they never involved me).

(Fun fact: I misspelled the word 'harrasment' every time in my first draft).
(Fun fact2: I'd swear the women in one section of one of the old plants would break their data collection system just so they could look at my ass when I went in to look at it (the data collection system). For some reason, I never got around to reporting it, though it did seem to distress Mrs. Sandmich when I related the tale to her).

Bento Watch #25

Instead of making the miso soup at home, I just put a shot of miso paste along with a few seaweed flakes into the soup bowl and mix and heat it at work. As well, a shrimp stir fry I made with cabbage and carrots and some secret sauce mix I got down at the Asian market.

This shot has the miso soup after it's been mixed. I rounded this one out with a couple pieces of maki-sushi, a tofu pocket dealie, and a tomago (egg) nigiri, I made with a press(second item) I picked up recently.

Saturday, August 13, 2005

Greenspan's concerns

From Robert Novak: Greenspan's concerns:
A footnote: High officials in the Japanese Ministry of Finance recently commented privately that the vibrant U.S. home mortgage market is supporting an otherwise shaky global economy.
You've gotta be kidding me. What in the hell is wrong is the rest of planet? Then one image sprang to mind from my recent DVD acquisition:


"It hungers.......for more!"

Thursday, August 11, 2005

The Vacant Lot of Corporate Welfare

I remember way back, years ago, when the debate over welfare reform was going on, conservatives would detail the damage done by welfare and the need to end it as it currently existed. Liberals would respond "Well if you're going to get rid of welfare, then we'll get rid of corporate welfare!". This was obviously designed to evoke an emotional response, one that would make the conservative give up on the welfare reform idea; however, all I remember thinking at the time was "blah...whatever".

Nowadays, I wonder what happened to the liberals of old. Truth was, they never had anything against corporate welfare since that allowed them some form of control over the businesses receiving it. The fact that they would let the 'poor and oppressed' in their mind get 'screwed over' while letting corporate conglomerates off scott free should frame it up nicely. The more ignorant among the Republican representatives (which, unfortunately, probably constitutes the majority) have long had mental issues separating the fact that 'pro-business' and 'pro-free market' are completely separate, often competing ideals; but I guess I expected more from the Teddy Kennedys of the world (well no, I didn't, but it sure sounds good).

Anyway, with the debate going on over whether governments should sign checks over to those who say they're doing 'stem cell research' and the signing into law of the bloated federal transportation bill, I figured I'd finally get around to posting this picture of a local corporate welfare project:

The domed building in the back of the picture is all that was completed of a construction project that was actually part of a glorified Ponzi scheme. Of course before that all went down, the mayor made a point of eminent domaining away some existing businesses which were located right behind the fence behind the fuel pumps. Of course the mayor got to choose the winners and losers and actually bragged in the local paper about how he was going to eminent domain away an Arby's that is next to the now vacant lot.

I've no idea how he came about to such a decision (...I'm sure it was all clean...), but it should give pause for thought for anyone who thinks the government should be given the job of handing out favors to business - government rarely 'creates', it is usually just a destroyer. Whether it's looking the other way on illegal immigration as a cheap labor sop, handing out checks to their buddies for some miracle medical cure which will never come about, or abusing power for special favors - it brings up the old line: the only way to eliminate corruption in high places, is to eliminate high places.

(Fun Fact 1: I live in Parma Heights which is just west of Parma. The man who originated the modern Ponzi scheme, Carlo Ponzi, was born in Parma, Italy.)

(Fun Fact 2: Many moons ago, the state of Ohio voted to give Cincinnati a pork project in the way of the Aronoff Center, conveniently named for the a$$hole state senator from the area who coordinated its approval. The locals were so ticked that they held a vote, which passed, that in essence told the statehouse to go screw themselves and give tax money back instead of pork. Needless to say, the state said "too bad, we're keeping your money and building it anyway". That's why I think this whole issue that there needs to be handouts to districts is B.S., no one would care if nobody got pork; but let one person get their needless project cum corporate welfare and it just gets out of hand.)

Monday, August 08, 2005

Bento Watch #24

Continuing on with my theme of "stuff I found around the kitchen the night before" I have some grilled teriyaki chicken thighs, rice, grapes, and cauliflower...

Although my fancy-schmancy bento box came with some chopsticks, I generally use the ones in my office that I got from a Sogo in Japan:

Sunday, August 07, 2005

Jealousy

Although Mr. Kendall has a think stack of autographs, I've never gotten a worthwhile piece of celebrity memorabilia, mostly because I don't care for celebrities. However, Mrs. Sandmich was able to track down one Bruce Campbell at a book signing (promoting a book that was on my wish list) and it was an offer I couldn't refuse.


Hail to the king baby

I was pretty surprised when he came out and took questions from the mob. I would have expected that someone who plays characters with a quick sharp wit would get sick of people assuming he was always on; however, he was 'on' and it would seem his current career is 'professional heckler manager'. Although...Bruce Campbell does seem to be the odd duck who relishes his typecast, and instead of just resting on it, he seems determined to pump it up.


All this, and my wife got a book signed to her as well.

When he saw my video game jacket, he gave me the inside scoop on the upcoming sequel! I guess it's coming out in the fall and he was talking about some of the technology in it. One of the best bonuses with the original game was a short 'making of' where Bruce was taking the game for a test drive. I guess he really does eat that stuff up. How about a quote that sums it up?
I urge fans to do what they damn well please, but they can know that my goal is never to write beneath them, and that entertaining them is my #1 priority.

Friday, August 05, 2005

Hiroshima at 60

I think one problem with coming to grips with the actions of the allies during World War 2, is the fact that the conflict was so very bloody. The current lethality of the U.S. military makes it almost impossible to comprehend the loss of life in one battle back then, let alone the whole conflict. From VDH:
But in August 1945 most Americans had a much different take on Hiroshima, a decision that cannot be fathomed without appreciation of the recently concluded Okinawa campaign (April 1-July 2) that had cost 50,000 American casualties and 200,000 Japanese and Okinawa dead. Okinawa saw the worst losses in the history of the U.S. Navy. Over 300 ships were damaged, more than 30 sunk, as about 5,000 sailors perished under a barrage of some 2,000 Kamikaze attacks.
The whole piece is good, but it concludes:
The truth, as we are reminded so often in this present conflict, is that usually in war there are no good alternatives, and leaders must select between a very bad and even worse choice. Hiroshima was the most awful option imaginable, but the other scenarios would have probably turned out even worse.

More From here(thnx corner):
Sixty years later, Tomiko Morimoto West still remembers the low drone of the B-29 that flew over Hiroshima and changed her life forever.
She was just 13. The horrific atomic blast on Aug. 6, 1945, all but wiped out her hometown in an instant. Her widowed mother was killed, and her grandparents would die later in agony.

"They left me all by myself," she said.

All alone, she suffered the effects of radiation sickness, which may have contributed to her inability to have children. But she is not bitter.

West, now 73 and a retired Vassar College lecturer, believes the atomic bomb that robbed her of her family and her innocence saved countless lives - Japanese and American.

"If it was not for the atomic bomb, we [Japanese] were in such a mental state, we would have fought until the last person," said West, who was taught as a little girl how to fight with a sharpened bamboo stick in the event of an invasion.
VDH alludes to this in his piece where some Americans were against the bomb because they were robbed of their chance to wipe out Japan.

Wednesday, August 03, 2005

Rubber Glove Treatment

I e-mailed this over to Mr. Kendall, but I've decided that it's just too darn delicious to keep to myself. I guess a married guy with two kids who taught (notice the tense) at a fancy trade high school got a little...er...rambunctious with one of his students. Just to keep it extra secret, they took pictures of themselves and put it on their Live Journal pages:


HELLO!

What a genius, it's not like the WHOLE FRIGGIN' PLANET can't see your blog site!
I learned of this from here (they also have a couple more pics and more info, as well as a lot more B.S.). I guess the only caveat is that I guess she's eighteen...sooooooo...that makes it okay right?

(Of course I could never be a teacher, but not for the reasons above. I never could, and still cannot, stand to hear teenage girls 'talk'. It's like fingernails on chalkboard. Think I'm being a mean prude? Try putting up with this crap for more than five minutes.)

The Red Zone

A little while back, I put in a link to "In the Red Zone", in my little blog roll. The content, by Stephen Vincent, is a realistic accounting of what is happening in Basra, Iraq. Although he didn't have any bias per se, his articles put a definite frame to how difficult any realistic Iraq reconstruction would be. Unfortunately, many may not have taken to kindly to his reporting, from CNN:
A U.S. Embassy spokesman confirmed Steven Vincent's body was found, and that his family has been notified.

A Western official said Vincent suffered multiple gunshot wounds. He had been abducted earlier by unknown gunmen.

A Basra police official said Vincent and his female interpreter, Nuriya Tiays, were abducted about 12:30 a.m. (4:30 p.m. Tuesday) in the Ashar area of central Basra.
The western press has been abysmal at reporting out of Iraq and Mr. Vincent's content was some of the only reliable reporting being done from the area. Few can blame other journalists for not taking the risks Mr. Vincent did, especially now, but it grates me that they think they're actually doing a job that only Mr. Vincent had the guts to really do.

One of his last pieces appears here.
My prayers go out to him and his family.
(More Here)

Green Bigots Aim For Astronauts

I guess Nasa has been using more environmentally friendly products for their programs, much to the detriment of space flight. From Investor's Business Daily:
Hannes Hacker, an aerospace engineer and former flight controller at NASA's Johnson Space Center in Houston, states: 'The risk of a piece of debris falling off and causing significant damage to the shuttle's thermal protection system was 10 times greater with the new material than the old material.'
Indeed, NASA found in 1997 after the first launch with the politically correct substitute that the Freon-free foam had destroyed nearly 11 times as many of the shuttle's ceramic tiles as had the foam containing Freon.
Similarly, the explosion of the Challenger after hot gasses burned through an O-ring joint on one of the shuttle's solid rocket boosters came after NASA was encouraged to use a new type of putty to protect the O-rings - one that didn't contain particles of environmentally unfriendly asbestos.

Monday, August 01, 2005

War Crimes

In the process of reading a Something Awful article commenting on the defacing of a Hiroshima memorial in Japan by a Japanese nationalist, I was reminded of an article about a guy who was the book keeper at a concentration camp:
After two months in the camp, Gröning is given an additional task. More and more trains are now arriving at the ramp, and someone has to stand guard to make sure none of the luggage is stolen. It is on the first day of his new assignment that he witnesses the baby's head being smashed into the truck.

He lies in bed at night, unable to sleep. You've gotten yourself into a vile situation, he thinks. He draws a line between individual excesses and mass murder committed by the society as a whole. He believes the excesses are barbaric, but the mass murder legitimate. [emphasis added]
I.e., like every good German, he likes sausage, he just doesn't want to see it being made. This pathology is definitely difficult to overcome. The author over at SA attempts (and largely succeeds) to make the point that, although the allies made a point to shove the facts of the Nazi atrocities down the throats of the German people, resulting in some success; the Japanese got off a little more leniently:
US intelligence had learned of the existence of Unit 731 [which performed horrific medical experiments] before the end of the war and it covertly rounded up as many scientists associated with the Japanese bio warfare program as possible. After thoroughly extracting information from these people the United States reached an agreement with Ishii and others that would allow them to maintain their secrecy and go unpunished. Not only did Ishii and most of the others responsible go unpunished, they wildly prospered in post-war Japan. Ishii himself became a multi-millionaire and founder of Green Cross, a Japanese medical supply corporation specializing in human and artificial blood. No one associated with Unit 731 expressed even a hint of remorse until very recently. Some even seemed angry that their work was halted by the end of the war and all of their valuable research was not allowed to continue.
I guess it's a bit easy to question the motives of those that had let these people off the hook. I'm sure part of which factored into the mentality of the Americans was the fact that, although Japan had treated us and our prisoners poorly, it was nothing like what the Chinese and Koreans were subjected to. And unlike in Europe, the others that were abused in Asia were (largely still are) not countries we consider to be our friends. An equivalent might be if the Nazis performed all their war crimes in Russia. We'd pass out some slaps on the wrist and say something like "Yeah, too bad for those Russians...". Of course, like Russia, I might feel a little worse for you if you weren't bragging about HOW YOU'RE GOING TO NUKE US.