Friday, November 23, 2007

Too Many Lawyers

Further proof that this country has way too many lawyers:
A federal judge has blocked a middle school from enforcing an overly strict dress code that got a student punished for wearing Winnie-the-Pooh socks. The court ruling came in a lawsuit filed by the American Civil Liberties Union of Northern California against the Napa Valley Unified School District and Redwood Middle School.
Is this something that we should have to pay federal judges to worry about? Can schools not be trusted to determine what kind of friggin' socks the students are allowed to wear?
"We’re ecstatic that the court recognizes our kids’ rights to express themselves at school,” said Donnell Scott, mother of 14-year-old Toni Kay, who was sent to an in-school suspension program called Students With Attitude Problems because of her Tigger socks. “I’m only sorry the school district didn’t respond to our concerns when we raised them two years ago.”
'Students With Attitude Problems'? Of course given the attitude of her mother, I don't doubt that such a program is necessary.

OS Wars

From Slash-Dot:
About 200 people lined up in light rain to buy the software at Apple's
store in the ritzy Ginza district of Tokyo.
And that would be around 200 more people who lined up anywhere on the planet to buy Microsoft's Vista. Apple can get away with this since they have a more modest development cycle and can get away with charging $100 for a well rounded upgrade (though the security issues that have plagued the OS don't do as much to differentiate it from M$). Contrast this to Microsoft which puts out a modest upgrade, but has to price gouge out the wazoo to make up for their poor project management and outrageous development costs per feature (most of which were dumped in the final version).

In related news, Wal-Mart sold out of the first 10,000 of their cheapo $200 Linux machines. It will be interesting to see how well these hold up in the long run, especially since it looks like the majority of that first set went to Linux fan boys.

On both points, it would be nice to see some price pressure on Microsoft so that they might not get away with charging $200 for a crappy upgrade; but I'm not holding out hope.

Monday, November 12, 2007

NFL Notes

I know, football is incredibly boring to those who don't take an interest in it (few though you may be :), so I'll apologize ahead of time.

I'd heard that part of the reason the Dolphins were undefeated in the '72 season was that coach Don Shula himself helped at least influence who his team would play. A look at the stats over on the NFL site reveals that the Dolphins opponents had a combined record of 51-86-2. These stats are admittedly somewhat skewed since the Dolphins only had to play 14 games a season back then and eight of them were within their own division which apart from the Dolphins, looked pretty bad (the Jets had the best record of the bunch at 7-7, and only two of the other teams were over 500 at 8-6). As well, the Dolphins played no teams that made it to the playoffs.

Compare this to New England this season. The teams they play and will play have a combined record of 60-57 at this point in the season (a stat which is ironically skewed due to Miami's awful performance this year). New England will play/has played four teams which will win their divisions (PIT,IND,SD,DAL).

Not that the '72 Dolphins were bad (they did win the Super Bowl), but that they probably wouldn't have gone undefeated were it not for their schedule.

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For me there are three things that hang over the NFL ready to destroy it at any moment. I know the league is well aware of these issues too.

  1. Thug players. As I've said on many occasions, a more caring society would have had a public hanging for future hall of famer Ray Lewis for his part in this. To the new commish's credit, he has sought to rectify this situation by handing out much stiffer penalties, mostly in an effort to try and keep the NFL from going the way of the NHL which, a different points in its history, came to be viewed as a sport played by thugs, for thugs.
  2. Gambling. Anyone notice how Michael Vick admitted to all the horrid dog charges but was careful to point out that hey never gambled on the fights? There's a good reason for that. The NFL has a real wink-nudge relationship with the gambling community. The people who call games regularly point out the 'spread', something which the NFL makes no effort to squash. The theory (which is sound) is that if someone was given to gamble on x, they would probably gamble on y, where y might equal a game in which the player is playing. The NFL doesn't care too much about the dogs, but it's real sensitive to the gambling issue, there was a whole movie made about it as a matter of fact.
  3. Demographics. You don't have to wonder very hard as to why so many Viagra, antacid, and arthritis medicines are advertised during football games. It's still not as bad as the evening news which features Depends ads, and football games still have video game and computer ads, but it's still something the league is panicked about. Thus all the ads pandering to women, Hispanics and other people who will never watch it, as well as stupid stunts like that green version of the Sunday night football game. The last one is a good example because I had to turn it off, it's a struggle to attract new viewers without alienating the ones you already have.

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A large part of New England's success has been the superior coaching of Bill Belichick. The difference between them and everyone else was on display yet again yesterday as Cleveland's poor coaching led to bad play calling and the burning of two consecutive timeouts towards the end of the game in a failed effort to get a play overturned in their game against the Steelers. It's nothing against Cleveland, lots (most?) of the other teams make the same mistakes, but it's interesting that Bill Belichick's team is very rare with those types of miscues: playing smart is a priority. I used to be indifferent towards the Patriots, but I've picked up some of the local hatred directed towards Bill Belichick that originates from his time has the head coach of the Browns (to his credit, it appears that he coached the last playoff win for the Browns back in '94). Still, I'm envious that being smart is so elusive to the teams I that want to win.

I'm not a big football expert by any stretch (I'm not even sure what have the positions are), so it aggravates me all the more when coaches and players do something so stupid that even I'm picking up on it. Don't use two timeouts when you only have a minute and a half to drive for a score!

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Did you know that the NFL doesn't own the pro-football hall of fame? It's actually a seperate entity. I've heard it said that they have an uneasy alliance: the Hall is dependent on the NFL for players and appropriate licensing, while the NFL needs an independent agency to house it's hall of famers. I guess the baseball one is the same way, but baseball is old, and it's the National Baseball Hall of Fame and Museum so it's generically related to baseball in general whereas the football hall of fame is the Pro Football Hall of Fame which is probably why there's a completely seperate College Football Hall of Fame. I figure someday I'll go down there and see if they have a broom closet set aside for the USFL and XFL players as a token showing of independence.

Sunday, November 11, 2007

Even More J-Candy

First off is a citrus flavored candy made by Lotte, a company who appears to love overly dramatic candy packaging*:

This one is odd since it has a picture of a lime/lemon thing on the front and it tastes about the same. It features a gooey center a the package includes two or three jumbo sized pieces (regular packaging is on the right, jumbo left). It's nice enough but it continues a disturbing feature that I see all too often in foreign candies: hard candy that tastes like cough drops. Thankfully this was more towards Ludens than Halls (Ludens being a cough drop that tastes like candy; how I loved having a 'sore throat' in grade school while using a pack of Ludens to treat it).

Next up is an adventurous attempt by Ribbon at a banana split type candy:

Despite having dehydrated strawberry bits in the candy, the mildly fake banana flavor runs roughshod over the delicacy of the taste. Again, it’s not bad, but little more than a glorified flavored Tootsie Roll.

Lastly we have a daifuku whose contents listed custard:

Oh my, it was all I could do to keep from woofing all these down in one sitting. They taste like a little flan pudding, except for the texture. I figured the great flavor would have wider appeal and my coworker volunteered to taste it. She of course liked it, apart from the raw bread dough like texture of the daifuku.

*If you think that's dramatic, check out their mission statement, or whatever it is.

Wednesday, November 07, 2007

Just What the House Needs....

...a TV that costs almost as much as it does.
103" 1080p plasma. I dunno but I'd have to think you'd need to sit pretty far away from it since even at 1080p you would still be able to count the pixels pretty clearly.

Tuesday, November 06, 2007

Business Smarts

Several issues of the latest series of WSJs have focused on the blood bath in the financial sector in relation to sub-prime mortgages.

When the subprime bandwagon was getting off the ground all I could think was "I sure hope the people who run my 401K are smart enough to realize that investing in ghetto housing isn't the smartest thing to do". I thought the same thing years ago when people were throwing money at tech companies that gave their product away. Umm, giving 4.3 billion to a company that doesn't even sell anything might not be the best idea. Likewise, there's nothing magical that happened on the planet to suddenly make unqualified home buyers suddenly liquid enough to purchase a house.

What kills me is that the European banks fell for the same bit. What am I missing? What did these idiots 'learn' in college that blinded them to the most simple of facts?

Further illustrating this absurdity is that Cleveland has another conviction under it's belt for mortgage fraud. It's not what you think though. How it worked is that corrupt lenders would team up with corrupt borrowers to get loans that they had no intention of paying on, all in an effort to bilk money from their 'betters' at places like Citibank and Merrill Lynch.

Monday, November 05, 2007

Spanish Death Watch

Guess Spain finally got around to convicting those terrorists that blew up that train station.
From Here:

Prosecutors were seeking sentences of up to 38,976 years each for the eight lead defendants — 30 years for each of the people killed in the attacks, 18 years for each of the wounded, plus more time for other terrorism-related charges. But the most time any can spend in jail is 40 years. Spain has no death penalty or life imprisonment.

Is this the same country where a couple hundred thousand died at the hands of their own countrymen not even a hundred years ago? And now they can't even bring themselves to send a mass murderer away for life?

I have a hard time believing that the commoners in Europe are okay with this, but of course as far as the elites are concerned only the little people take the train, so no biggie.