Wednesday, November 13, 2013

Head Cold

Someone thoughtfully shared their head cold with me and I've now felt continuously hung over for a week, without ever having abided in any spirits (which was rough for that Bengals game; seriously Marvin, can't you get that friggin' team to show up and be ready to play for at least one important game?).
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I saw some blurb about ABBA getting back together, and I know that I've waxed post-nostalgic about them before (they were slightly before my time).  I should point out though that a couple years ago the act Goldfrapp put out an album that's (intentionally) very reminiscent of that sound:

For fans of videos made in the early eighties, be sure to check out the videos that they made out of other tracks off the same album, somewhat amusing:
Alive: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=buKDrllsGAc
Rocket: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=rJppnG1tflU
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So "if you like your health insurance you can keep it"...
I'm surprised the Big Zero didn't state the obvious in defense of his lie: "who really liked their health insurance to begin with?"  No doubt these would be the same people who enjoy trips to the dentist. 

No one, I think, likes health insurance but the American health care system is so goofed that people are trapped and unable to escape the system.  It goes without saying that ObamaNotCare makes all this worse and makes health insurance even more unlikeable, so maybe that defense wouldn't work in the end. 

Now the financial mess of this is all fun and a further (giant) nail in the coffin for inevitable day of reckoning when there is a smoking crater where the U.S. Federal Reserve notes used to be; however, the true fun for me is the brutal, unholy, IT project failure that this has worked out to be.

Being in IT I've developed a bit of a fetish of reading up on IT project failures, which would include almost any large business project initiative since it would undoubtedly include IT components.  For instance here's a well known bungle where Lumber Liquidators took a big earnings hit because of an SAP implementation:
Lumber Liquidators problems arose because, apparently, the company did not anticipate the difficulty employees would have transitioning from the old system to SAP. Poor training is a common obstacle on enterprise implementations of this type.

That's ripe.  I've seen enough of this from the inside out to know that poor "training" is always a good scape goat ("last on the project, first to get cut" as I'd read elsewhere), but a failure of this magnitude will no doubt run the whole gambit of poor management, poor software, and (especially) wretchedly poor and no doubt corrupt consulting services.  As another example, here's a fun story about a jewelry retailer that went out of business due to an ERP implementation (SAP again).

As it turns out I'm a party to an IT project imbroglio of mega proportions at this very moment.  One of my company's larger customers wants to consolidate all of their accounting functions across their disparate divisions, plants, etc. from around the world and have their vendors use an electronic method to integrate in with the system in order to save everyone time and money.  This customer is very late in paying invoices and part of the problem is that they will fax POs from Europe to our plant in America for a product that's to be shipped to Mexico.  We send the invoice to Europe, and how they square that up with Mexico is anyone's guess; and judging from how our customer operates, they apparently didn't know either.

Sooooo anyway, this customer sits on us and says that we have to go live with this back in February.  So we dutifully go through the motions, but it turns out that Flex...er, the customer, wasn't even ready to trade data over the system until July.  It was at this point that the customer discovered that their method for implementing the package was goofed (for reasons I actually foresaw, but won't get into right now).  Point being, this is an organization that:
  • has on hand, in disparate systems, all the inputs and outputs that they need for the new system.  The integration is sure to be rough but all the 'buckets' already exist.
  • is affiliated with at least one, and probably several other, large tech companies (and is in many ways regarded as a tech company itself).
  • has a real, solid economic incentive to get this project up and running and into the review process.
  • still hasn't gone live with the implementation by the middle of November when the goal was to have people on it in February!
So to look at healthcare.gov none of those first three bullet points are true for that project; yet, they said that it would be fixed by the end of November?!?  They then make the same idiotic mistakes of throwing people at the project (which has the ironic effect of slowing a doomed project down further) and setting arbitrary deadlines that have nothing to do with what the project has to get done. Then there's the army of contractors, and sub-contractors (sub-sub-contractors), and government non-busy bodies and this thing has devolved from a project with an actual completion date to an industry all unto it's own.
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Just came by a story that the city of Desert Hot Springs in California is contemplating bankruptcy.  This story is interesting because the city is working off bonds from a bankruptcy back in 2001.  That bankruptcy was the result of a court decision against the city to the tune of $3,000,000 (population ~26,000) for violating the so called 'fair housing act'.  It turns out the developer had gotten government goodies aplenty to build low income housing in Desert Hot Springs, but the city council had (understandably) voted it down.  When did this situation first start out?  1990.  Uncle Sam has been sick in the head a long time.


Friday, October 11, 2013

Politics

This is a great bit:
How many more times an I going to have to listen to these marginally informed, unengaged voters mouth platitudes about wanting reduced spending and balanced budgets, only to soil themselves when someone actually tries the difficult task of getting the big govt junkie off the needle? 
They don't get that "work together for the good of the country" means ten different things to ten different people. Or that if fiscal responsibility were easy or popular, it would have been accomplished a long time ago. 
Make your conflicting, incoherent demands, ignorant public! Throw the people who actually tried to save us from ourselves out of power. I'm past caring.
As in the past, I've been a proponent of no more increases to the debt ceiling, only then can the minds in Washington be focused on what is most important.  What is actually 'most important' is an unknown at this point since it is debate that no one has had to have and the Republican efforts to divine some compromise out of the existing paradigm will prove fruitless in the end.

I appreciate them putting up the good fight, even though they don't seem to know what it's about.  It may be one of those things like the American civil war where only three quarters of the way through the war did people really focus on what they were actually fighting for.

Tuesday, October 01, 2013

September Notes (in October!)

There have been various complaints about a software package at work crashing and I finally tracked one crash cause down to running reports more than 75 times in one session (oh the fun!  Now you see why my posting has been sparse!).  The call into their tech support was like trying to talk someone to doing their job:
ME: Yes, it will run fine, but then when you run it the 76th time, KABOOM!
THEM: It works fine for me, perhaps you need to install we have that doesn't work.
ME: Wha..da...did you even try it?
THEM: Works for me, but I'm on the patched version.
later...
ME: I patched it and it still blows up.
THEM: Are you sure, maybe you should try it on a different-
ME: F'n Duh!  I tried it with different reports, different combinations of reports, different combinations on different PCs with different configurations.  76 times a pop, do the math!
THEM: So, 76 times...
ME: Yes.  Click 'Pick List' then Enter, then 'Pick List' then Enter, then 'Pick List' then Enter, and so forth until you reach 76, if you can count that high.
(much) later...
THEM: A bug report has been issued for your trouble ticket [You will be retired before we get around to patching it BTW].
At least they're American, I suppose.  On my last support call to Microsoft, the (worthless) Indian guy and I had a 'laugh' when he remarked that he couldn't hit our web server to which I said that it would work so long as you were in the U.S or Canada - HA!

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As seen from the iPhone:
A warning on a power box by the plant in Broomfield

Okami HD

Pumpkin pie soda

Off the treadmill tubbie.

My GPS insisted that I get off every ramp on I-25 and get back on the highway.

Ford's Microsoft Sync system was great when it worked, which was roughly 50% of the time.  The steering wheel had volume and track control, but no play or pause.  In the Fusion (Explorer pictured) the audio system would insist on using whatever connection (USB vs Bluetooth) that you did not want to use.  (I liked the Fusion the most as a car, but the interface on American cars is for sucks.  Check out the Fusion interface here and think quick, which buttons are for the audio and which for the climate control, and what does what?)

Scene from the Sandmich's epic $90, 5400 calorie binge that caused much controversy on the ol' expense report  (Although it was only ever mention to me in passing, confirming my thought that no one wanted to take on someone with enough balls to put a $90 Hooters tab on his expense report).


Wednesday, September 11, 2013

Right? Wrong.

Glenn Reynolds links to a piece harping on one of his favorite ideas as to the pointless expense of college, an idea I sympathize with:
It’s not exactly a shock at this point that college grads haven’t been able to make the most of their degrees, but when nearly half of the country’s college students are wasting money on degrees that they believe have done nothing to prepare them for their jobs, there’s obviously a problem.
Indeed, but there's some take-aways from this though.  My doctor buddy has brought up on more than one occasion that college, as originally designed, was never supposed to be a jobs training program.  My thought is "but that's what they're selling"; but to back up his point, it seems like an awkward fit.  It's as if American colleges want to be both an institution of higher education for education's sake and a career prep center, and they end up doing neither very well (lots of electives that are pointless to a chosen career path, and instructors who may, or may not, have any actual recent experience in a career field).   So why does this charade continue?

 In many cases, employers are just looking to a college degree as a quick signifier of an applicant’s determination and work ethic, not as a sign of skills learned.
A play on the 'a bachelors is the new high school diploma' reasoning.  Seems like waste though, doesn't it?  Isn't there a better way?

...job seekers and employers could be brought together based on aptitude and achievement tests rather than meaningless but expensive paper credentials 
Oh that sounds good, something that would be right to do, but it gets into an unavoidable tar pit: "DISPARATE RACIAL IMPACT".  I'm cribbing heavily from Steve Sailer here, but I'll point out that there is not a meaningful written test that exists that does not result in the dreaded DRI, and anyone who tells you that such a test can exist, is full of it.

For example, Karl Denninger bragged about the effectiveness of his written tests at his old company.  Karl is a smart guy (despite being an ass) and knew that this was an effective tool to eliminate the chaff, but he's also given to flights of fancy in imagining that he lives in an America that passed on 50 years ago.  A small company can get away with this to an extent, but any company, especially large companies, will find themselves on the wrong side of an Eric "My People" Holder lawsuit since such tests will by their very existence, eliminate more blacks than anyone else from the prospective hiring pool. 

How to handle this then?  How does a business administer a written test which they are legally unable to do?  Why they outsource it to someone who can, more specifically, a university of some sort.

Thursday, August 15, 2013

Prize Dream

Microsoft is encouraging their stable of development package subscribers to deploy services onto Microsoft's hosted/cloud Azure service by giving away an Aston Martin:

So I went through the procedure of putting some stuff out on Azure (which is actually rather impressive, considering it was vaporware only a few years ago).  I couldn't help but fantasize of driving around in my newly won Aston when I worked it back to the fictional, never to happen call from the prize committee telling me that I'd won:
Them: "Congrats! You've won the Aston!"
Me: "Awesome! Where do I pick it up?"
Them: "Well sir, we're guessing then that you'll have no problem paying the taxes?"
Me: "Umm..."
Them: "They will probably amount to more debt than you've acquired throughout your life, combined."
Me: "Ugh..."
Them: "And then you'll have to drive it with 'collision' insurance since even high deductible full coverage will be more than your house payment."
Me: "Well could I at least see it and maybe pet it a few times to help make up my mind?"
Them: "Sir you obviously are not familiar with how Aston Martins are manufactured. If you want it you can take delivery in a few months and start paying the taxes now."
Me: "Well...is there a substitute prize?"
Them: "A Windows RT tablet, but again, you could probably take the tax bill payment to put the money towards a tablet that you'd actually want."
Well I guess I don't have to worry about 'winning' at least. Which reminds me, I did play the Powerball. I played three tickets and so had an overall pool of 18 numbers (counting the Powerball number, which I shouldn't, but for this exercise I am). I'm not strong on statistics, but I figure that I should have gotten four or five numbers correct spread over the three tickets (again, counting the PB number, which wouldn't figure in typically). However, out of the 18 numbers, all of which were different mind you, only one of them matched one of the numbers drawn.

Wednesday, August 14, 2013

Obama VA

Attending my Federal House representative's veteran's forum, even though I'm not a veteran, just out of curiosity. Best question was "if I'm eligible for medical benefits from the VA, am I exempt from Obamacare's individual mandate?"

Answer: "Maybe."

Friday, August 09, 2013

Asides

Carspotting
I've seen some one-off vehicles like the Leaf or Volt on the odd occasion,  Neither car is ugly, but both are overpriced.  July, though, was a banner month for rarities.  At the beginning of July I was driving by our local Starbucks/buy-one-get-one pizza place and saw a white Lamborghini convertible.  For those of you not familiar with Parma, this car was easily more expensive than all the vehicles in that parking lot and the neighboring Taco Bell combined.  I lamented to my coworker that the car cost as much as a truck full of my car make/model...along with the truck itself.

Although the highlight, a week or so later on our way to Kent State we saw a Bentley.  I don't know the mindset of someone driving a car like that along such a route since it's quite possible no one around him has strong enough insurance and/or enough assets to cover repairs to the vehicle should something happen to it.  Exorbitant insurance and all, I'd probably drive the thing around like a hollowed out egg shell.

Lastly, at the end of July, while I was in Colorado I actually saw a Tesla Roadster.  Much like the Leaf or Volt, it is an attractive car, but part of the mind can't help but think "sucker" since for the same price as any of those plug-in jobbies they could have (nearly) gotten themselves two gas cars of the same class.

Guns
I am now the proud owner of a few different firearms and now find it difficult to go into the local gun store without mulling over another purchase (something that is, on it's face, completely illogical; kind of like buying multiple roofs for your house).  But anyway, such firepower calls for practice at the range which requires buying ammo.  One pistol (which actually isn't even mine) is a 22 and last year I bought a big box (500 rounds?) of 22lr when we went to the range; but a year later, it's missing.  I'm sure this is the typical household safety loss where you want to A) put it someplace safe and B) someplace that you'll remember.  Unfortunate 'A' and 'B' are diametrically opposed so the more 'A' you get, the less 'B' and vice-versa.  So I'm certain that it's somewhere very 'A' as I have no idea where it is.  It being completely inaccessible, it is completely safe (in theory at least).

Anyway, Mrs. Sandmich and I went to the range (where you could buy a few rounds of 22lr ammo in little sandmich bags; and they would only sell you two of those) and put some rounds through our firearms.  It was only later when I was doing the math on the range time and ammo that I realized that just about any other form of entertainment would have been less expensive.

Ruiners
So Obama wants to move blacks into white neighborhoods, not to mention using extortion on white neighborhoods in order force them to allow blacks to live their more easily..  This isn't something that they're couching in vague terms (like 'section 8 housing for the disadvantaged') , this is something that he's come right out and said: "not enough blacks in your white neighborhoods".  This is rather awkward for those who at least want to put on a face of "we're all equal" and "diversity isn't bad".  Oh, then why isn't there a program to settle whites (or for that matter, anyone) into black neighborhoods?  Why?  Because they suck.  Why do they suck?  Because of the people who live there.  This image has been wandering the interwebs:
 
Despite the Republicans being cast as the 'white' party (which isn't entirely unfair, or something bad), how about casting the Democrats as the 'black' party.  This is actually an old idea from Steve Sailer, but with black president glorifying/encouraging black crime, sacrificing white communities for the sake of black revenge, and trying to gin up a health care law that will sacrifice the health care of retired whites for all blacks; then the characterization isn't exactly unfair.  This would never be done though.  Being cast as the 'white' party by lefties is an effort to infer that the Republicans secretly hate other races, which is bad enough.  However, casting the Democrats as the 'black' party not only carries that meaning, but also carries the weight of a failed black society.  Kind of like if someone says 'black school' (What?  you're not sending your kids there?  Racist.)
 
 

Monday, July 15, 2013

Big Z Fallout

This whole honoring someone who beats people's heads into concrete thing is a new low for the Big Zero, which is really (really) saying something.  Looking to gin up black hate enough to get a few more votes in the midterms, he's now trying to bring the guns of the Federal juggernaut (captained by Eric 'my people' Holder) to bear on Zimmerman, a man who otherwise would seem to personify liberal squishiness.

Despite the horrible racism and race baiting of Barry the Terrible (stolen from a commentator on The Corner), a different commentator (NOT on The Corner) said that Zimmerman now has a license to kill. One can envision in the future some black 'yoof' approaching him menacingly in the future and ends up getting shot by Zimmerman.  Societal reaction: "Meh, again?  So what?"

Anyway, I couldn't let this go by without some quick and dirty 'art' inspired by the trial:



Monday, July 08, 2013

Word Failure

Looking for a picture of the American flag:

Monday, July 01, 2013

Out in the Open

I've been following the Zimmerman trial proceedings over at Legal Insurrection and it's been instructive what a waste of time this whole thing is.  Although The Derb thinks that a conviction is in the bag, I'm tending to highly doubt.  The state might, might, have been able to guilt the jurors into a manslaughter conviction, but murder 2?  It's a classic case of the prosecutor over-charging in the hopes of getting a plea deal, but when the defendant isn't even guilty of the lesser charge that they'd plead out to you have all the hallmarks of a circus of a trial.

There have been a lot of clowns, but by now everyone knows about Dee-Dee, or whatever her name is; the screenshot from YouTube says it all:
I have to say that this woman didn't even register anything on the ol' Sandmich-O-Meter.  I see 'Dee Dee' all the time coming out of the mall, complaining about the Ohio high school graduation tests, and picking through ice cream snacks at Wal-Mart.  The only thing that might be considered remarkable about her is how unremarkable she is*.

I guess though that the existence of Dee Dee is not supposed to be out in the open as the liberal press went into high octane mode in an effort to persuade people to ignore their own lying eyes and see that Dee Dee does not actually exist.  Stuff like "the defense was mean", "schools have let her down", and "white people just don't understand" was bandied about.  To a large part though, it seemed like the press was firing at itself with cannons full of PC grapeshot in an effort to convince themselves that they do not live in a world full of Dee Dees and that some magic formula will be found to convince the Dee Dees that they need to read the stupid newspapers that they print and the stupid news shows that they televise.  Good luck with that.
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On the Legal Insurrection page, the lawyer who was crafting the posts was also (kindly) answering comments.  At some point he got into the intricacies of proving self defense.  He went into the fact that Zimmerman is indeed innocent until proven guilty and that the prosecutor has to prove that something other than self defense occurred.  The lawyer then went on to say that this was the case in every state in the union save one: Ohio.  Yes, in Ohio when it comes to self defense you are guilty until proven innocent, thus the insistence on local lawyers that you invoke your fifth amendment rights and wait to speak with a lawyer even if the self defense was entirely justified (though if I had to generalize, in past cases it seems like the Cuyahoga county prosecutor is a pretty fair dealer).
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Of interest along those lines is the idea of 'open carry'.  This is where, instead of carrying a concealed firearm, you carry it outside your clothing in plain view.  I was curious about this, mainly because I was mulling over riding my bike to and from work and that open carry would work as a better outward deterrent than having to bother with concealed carry.  Firearm laws are a real sticky trap though.  This site has a memo posted that details some of the intricacies of open carry.  Probably the most interesting thing is that you can open carry, but if you open carry in a car you need a concealed carry permit, otherwise the firearm in the car needs to be unloaded and any ammo for the weapon cannot be in a clip/quick loader for the weapon.  On a different open carry site, from California, they also said that the open carry weapon cannot be loaded, but I've been unable to find any details related to this in Ohio.  Anyway indeed you do need a permit for concealed carry, but you do not need one for open carry (but do expect to stopped by the local police every now then to answer some questions).

*There was some criticism about Dee Dee's inability to read cursive.  To a large extent this is fair as reading it is not that hard, and, well, she said that she had written it.  I must point out though that since cursive writing appears on no standardized test that teaching students cursive has fallen by the wayside.  This doesn't just apply to 'Dee Dee' schools either.  It may well be that in 50 years that cursive reading/writing well be a lost art.

Wednesday, May 22, 2013

Portman Fisking

Nothing (NOTHING) fries my bacon worse than the handling of immigration by our elites.  Nothing destroys the character of a nation faster and depresses wages worse than what they're doing right now.  The fact that they need to make what they're doing even worse is bad governance on steroids.

I can understand some lefties to an extent since many of them hate America and would love to import people until it is properly destroyed.  However, even with lefties I'm puzzled since it would seem like they would want to defend the big government that they purport to love instead of saddling it with higher costs while further endangering the environment that they (supposedly) seek to conserve. 

In the case of the Republicans, idiocy abounds from every corner of their ill thought out plans:
  1. Hispanics will vote for us... (No, they won't, ever)
  2. Chamber of Commerce loves it... (Way to refute the idea that you're the 'party of rich elites' by siding with rich elites over the lower classes).
  3. We need 'talented immigrants'...(Because your native countrymen are too stupid?  Beyond that, using their current methods, for every ounce of gold they get they're going through ten tons of sand; what's the point?)

With the passage out of the Senate committee of their 'reform' bill (that's actually nothing of the sort) I messaged the people in Congress that represent me (well, supposedly...).  The law was bad enough to begin with, but then Orin Hatch found that he could only support it if it sold out the middle class via H1-B in addition to low skilled labor.  Rob Portman (RINO-OH) replied back with a nauseous, vapid spool of text that I feel must be picked apart:
Our immigration system is broken and is in need of reform.
And what exactly is broken about it? In Portman's mind, I'm guessing what is broken is that we have any immigration system at all. What's actually broken is that laws go unenforced while the ones that are enforced do things like set Islamic terrorists up with free school/food/housing, etc.
America is a nation of immigrants, and immigrants have enriched our great country.
This is feel-good nonsense and revisionism. America is a nation of settlers, and immigration has been a mixed bag. To the extent that it has been a success, the fools in Washington aren't making any effort to figure out what worked and what didn't.
We are also a nation of laws, and those laws must be enforced. It is the federal government's duty to enforce our immigration laws at the border and in the interior, to stop illegal entry of those who seek to harm us.
And? Well? Is the Federal government incapable of performing this or is it just unwilling. How will a new law solve this?
We need effective immigration regulations that will uphold our laws while continuing to bestow the privilege of American citizenship to those who pursue it through legal means.
How allowing people who have gamed the system to jump ahead of those who are playing by the rules is supposed to make sense then I don't know. It seems like at a minimum that a nation would favor immigrants who, you know, trouble themselves to not break the law as a matter of course.
We must never forget that the United States owes its solid foundation to the hard work of generations of legal immigrants. We are strengthened by being a nation of immigrants. This means that we should keep the doors of America open to those who come legally and enrich our society and contribute to our economic prosperity.
I doubt that even made sense to the person who wrote it. Proof for your assertion? None needed when it's PC boilerplate.
We should continue to welcome innovative entrepreneurs and skilled workers, as these men and women fuel our nation's economy by creating jobs, and promoting new technologies and ideas here in the United States.
In other words: have fun getting your wage diluted Mr. Sandmich, we don't like you anyway.  How about an American economy fueled by Americans?  Is that too much to ask for?

Tuesday, May 21, 2013

Cincinnati Dog Incident

Interesting:

Mr. Marx was sitting on a bench with his wife and friends watching his dogs play. Homer, the small Shih tzu started to scream and cry. An 18 year old woman's pit bull attached itself to little Homer's neck, pinned him to the ground,and shook him violently.
...
He shot the dog straight in the back with the bullet going into the dirt. He is an experienced gun owner and he took precautions to make sure the bullet could not possibly hit anything but the pit bull.
...
Marx is a licensed concealed-carry permit holder, police said. But Cincinnati police Sgt. Jim Perkins said that, under Ohio law, a dog is considered "property," and a person cannot legally use a firearm to protect property in Ohio.
There are a couple things about this that are worth mulling over.

The Brits were kind enough to post a picture of the pit bull owner and the other party, Mr. Marx, is a 74 year old man who has more fake parts than real. With that in mind, I must point out to the uninformed how incredibly strong pit bulls are.  I hit the gym a bunch and consider myself decently strong, but a friendly encounter with a cousin of the pit bull, the bull dog, left me wondering if there was any strength that could be obtained (naturally) by a human that would allow them to physically control such an animal.  The only thing I can equate it to is imagining the leanest, strongest muscle on your body, and then taking that and making a whole animal out of it, then putting a set of lethal teeth on one end, and then giving it a tendency to drift into violent moods.  There's a reason that they sell collars like this; a 74 year old man and an 18 year old girl (who doesn't weight much more than the dog) were never going to be able to convince that pit bull to do anything once it set it's mind to it.

Another issue is the whole 'property' thing.  No, I don't mean that dogs should be considered something other than property, but that someone (in Ohio) should be allowed to defend their property with a firearm.  I've written elsewhere (too lazy to find) that someone can ruin your life just as readily by doing harm to your property as they can to your person.  Just as a brief example, if someone is stealing a car that I use for my livelihood, why should I not be able to at least threaten the thief's livelihood in order to save mine?  Specifically to this case, besides a firearm (depending), I'm unable to think of a weapon more dangerous than an ill bred, uncontrollable pit bull.

In regards to this whole issue, I expected better from Cincinnati law enforcement.  I expect that kind of lunacy up here, but stuff like that should never even be brought before a grand jury.  How exactly do they expect that they're going to 'win' this for harassing a 74 year old man who was protecting cute pooches?

Lastly: dog parks are bad news.  They're like kindergartens where all the kids (who haven't been potty trained) have sharpened knives taped into their hands.

Monday, May 20, 2013

Remastered Trek

My doctor buddy related how he was envious of my acquisition of the DVDs  of the remastered three seasons of the original Star Trek series.  I thought that he was being funny (it's just Star Trek!), but I have to say that there's something to it.

I'm sure we've all had the experience of watching something as an adult which we enjoyed as a kid only to be embarrassed on some level that nostalgia fogged your mind as to the poor quality of the original product.  However, with these remastered episodes, it's like someone went back in time and made the show, not as it was, but how you remember it.  As well, I'm not sure where they found the prints, but the original show was barely 'standard definition', but most of the shots on this disk set look like they were filmed yesterday and polished with some 60s era styling (it's only noticeable because every episode seems to have a short shot or two which was obviously beyond salvage).

Sports Improvements

The Pro Bowl has been in the news continuously for ways to make the spectacle watchable.  This article puts forward the idea of a draft to draw interest.  I've heard different variations, but the one that sounded the most interesting was when the top vote getters in the AFC and NFC draw from a pool of pro bowlers irrespective of conference.  Commentators also put out the idea of putting serious money on the line.  The amount of money is unknown, but I would imagine that the amount would keep increasing until the players actually played.

Even then though, it's unknown how many players would risk their career for a one time payout.  I'm sure there would be a few, but it would be hard to get a whole team to gel around the idea (let alone two).  The idea of switching to flag football has also been brought up as an idea to minimize injuries and encourage more spirited play.  An even more interesting idea that was batted around was that a game shouldn't be played at all.  Instead, since being selected is an individual achievement, a series of challenges would be set out that all the players would compete in, such as throwing accuracy/distance, kicking accuracy, etc.  This might prove interesting in seeing what linebackers have the 'stuff' to pull off even a fifteen yard field goal.
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On the sports radio show they had a guy on who was decrying the designated hitter rule and predicted it's inevitable demise.  I got to thinking about football though and the fact that players don't play 'both sides of the ball'.  Before continuing, I should point out that even for football that the idea of having players play 'both sides' has been put out as an idea to improve game safety as teams would favor long-term speed and endurance (cardio) over refrigerator sized players who need oxygen after every two plays.  But anyway, point being that in football they want players who can excel at individual positions on offense or defense.  In sports like soccer or rugby, the best ball handlers also have to try and be the best defensive players as well, which keeps players from being a true master of any one aspect of the game.

The designator hitter rule would seem to be an acknowledgment of this fact, but still, baseball can be boring (face it).  Might it make sense to allow for roster expansions so that teams can field whatever offense they feel gives them the best advantage?  I previously defended the DH because of the poor batting quality of pitchers, but catchers, generally, aren't too much better and often bat at towards the bottom of the order.  As another example, it probably wouldn't boggle the mind to come by strong first basemen who can't hit.  Some 60/40 batting rotation of DHs and (probably) outfielders may only kick off an arms race where defenders get better and better along with the batting, but if football is any guide, defense can't keep up.

Wednesday, May 15, 2013

Phillip K. Dick Books

Mrs. Sandmich bought me a Kobo at the going-out-of-business sale at Borders.  I was rather unenthused, until I got the idea that my primary 'shopping' site for intellectual content, PirateBay.org, might have some content that I could put onto the device.  It wasn't long before I had sucked down my primary target, a handful of Phillip K. Dick novels. 
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This post has actually been sitting in the ol' draft bin for quite some time and the Kobo has been dead for more than a year now at this point, but since a buddy of mine expressed a possible interest in some PKD novels, I figured I'd finally wrap this thing up.  Below is are my brief thoughts on various PKD novels, but I should point out that there are many that I have not read, and will probably not get around to reading.
  • The Simulcara.  John Derbyshire had once written that short stories are the natural format for sci-fi which I've found to be true.  Coming up with one clever idea is hard enough, but coming up with enough clever ideas to pad out a whole novel is a bit of a challenge.  In this effort Dick gets around the restrictions by basically going 'Pulp Fiction' and cramming the novel with a bunch of short stories that eventually intertwine.  The only downside is the ridiculous number of characters, but it is one of the few PKD novels that doesn't go off the rails into la-la land towards the end.  It's interesting too in that it pokes fun at various tropes that he uses in his other novels.
  • Lies, Inc.  This was a particularly egregious example of a PKD book straying far 'off the plantation' since it spends basically the back half of the book leaving the reader ungrounded to anything that happened earlier.  Late in the book Dick uses a literary device to provide a back story to the current events which in themselves make little sense, but by then it's too late.  Right when the rubber was hitting the road I turned to the next chapter hoping to see the novel finally form into some sort of coherent mess only to see "About Phillip K. Dick".  Huh?  It turns out the novel was originally presented as two parts and then a bunch of extraneous material that was near and dear to Dick was stuffed in as well.  Needless to say, it reads exactly as it sounds.  One interesting tidbit was that a pinch hitting author had to be brought in for one of the original reissues because some of the original pages were missing (I get the impression that the full version of the novel was the last thing published with Dick's name on it); that poor dude, it'd be like trying to graft a outboard boat motor onto a motorcycle.
  • Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep (i.e. Blade Runner).  I'd once heard that if anyone had read the novel, that they would know that Decker in Blade Runner was a replicant.  I can firmly say that anyone who says that is full of themselves.  By the end of the novel it's gets hard to tell if Decker even actually exists, let alone if he's a replicant. 
  • Our Friends from Folix 8.  While The Simulcara may be my favorite of the bunch, I have a soft spot for this one even though it's chock full of typical PKD devices.  Since the story revolves around efforts to bring down a corrupt government run by tyrannical, above-the-law elites, you may see why it has appeal to me.
  • A Scanner Darkly.  A cautionary tale against drug abuse, this story is basically a retelling of some of PKD's own experiences with a slightly futuristic spin.  The last few overly introspective chapters should have been trimmed down though; I found myself skipping whole paragraphs lest I fall asleep while reading it.  (The movie adaptation is notable for making the mistake of sticking very close to the text of the novel).
  • Flow my Tears, the Policeman Said.  Essentially a tear down on celebrity status, the few good sci-fi ideas (different grades of genetically engineered humans, drugs which allow a person to bend reality) sadly are only briefly touched upon.
  • The Crack in Space.  One of his better efforts at time travel/alternate reality stories.
  • The Three Stigmata of Palmer Eldritch.  There was a lot to like in this story about an intergalactic villain (Eldritch) and not very altruistic businessman's efforts to thwart him; but by the end I couldn't help but think that the story might have been better told by someone else.
  • Time out of Joint.  A good example of PKD's novels which view the future from a 50's "present" and follows a man who is trying to unravel a world in which he may be being manipulated.  This novel's most notable point is that since a lot of PKD novels become unglued towards the end, the ending of this novel is pretty much a mystery right up until the end.
  • Ubik.  Another novel where PKD uses a futuristic literary device to allow him to write about a past about which he is more familiar.  Although by this point, nonsensical story lines had become familiar to me in PKD's novels, this one went on for far too long and it probably should have been edited down to a short story.
  • The Man in the High Castle.  A clever story that revolves around an alternate history where the U.S. never entered WWII and the Axis powers are hunting down a man who wrote a story about an alternate history where the Americans did enter WWII and the Axis powers lost.  It's a very good take-down of this Pat Buchanan novel, though written several decades earlier.  It must be said though, that the novel really isn't sci-fi.
Notable short stories:
  • Minority Report.  It's interesting that the awful movie reversed the plot of this great  conservative law and order story into a liberal mess of 'release all prisoners now' gobbledygook.
  • Pay Check.  John Woo directed the movie which is about the only thing that I can fault it for.  This adaptation sticks pretty close to the excellent short story and actually improves upon it.
  • We Can Remember It For You Wholesale (i.e. Total Recall).  The short story is good (and rather short for even a short story), but if someone didn't know that the movies were based off of it, only the most careful reading would reveal that fact.
A final note, although some may find PKD tropes (perverted old men, mind altering drug use, poor editing, etc.) annoying, none is worse than when he goes on page-long rants in German.  If you encounter these, just skip them as he rarely explains what it means; I guess he expects his readers to be fluent in it.

Tuesday, May 07, 2013

Jobs Americans Won't Do

Freeing themselves from a basement dungeon, the tormentors of three kidnapped women are apprehended:

The men were identified as brothers, Ariel Castro, 52, the owner of the house and a former Cleveland school bus driver, Pedro Castro, 54, and Onil Castro, 50.

My feeling on this is that American justice is a joke and that the women shouldn't shouldn't press charges so that the fate of the suspects can be left to a pitchfork wielding mob.

Thursday, April 25, 2013

I Must Confess

I hate to say it, but I couldn't get all that fired up about the Boston bombings - our elites don't take such things seriously so any outrage that I could gin up would be pointless.  One of the core issues that we needed to fix in relation to the 9/11 attacks was our laid back immigration system, but Bush made it even more laid back and imported more Saudi 'students' (three times more as it turns out).  So their answer to fixing a problem is to make it worse.  The latest news is that the leftie types won't even reveal the large extent to which the bombers were dependent on America's welfare system to fund their terrorist fun.  The whole nation could be roasted on a nuclear flamed spit, so long as the teachings of the sacred socialist church are not called into question.

As can be expected, our treacherous elites are more concerned about the fate of their immigration bill, than actually making sure that America is set for, you know, Americans.

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I had given serious thought to picking up some silver coins at various times over the past year, but I held off because a sleeve of the things was between $700 and $800.  I decided that having $700 (if that...) was better than having a difficult to convert pile of coins.

My procrastination paid off when the price of precious metals crashed a few days ago.  No, I still didn't buy any, it just made me feel better about having not done so.  As can be expected, the gold bugs at Zero Hedge came out in defense of their stand with anecdotal stories of strong demand for physical gold (rather than futures) and veiled inquires that implied that some government conspiracy might be behind it.  I don't count out a conspiracy, but it would require a large player (TBTF) to be very exposed with fake (or semi-fake) futures contracts for which they do not own the product.  In this scenario someone would sell futures contracts with the idea that they will be able to acquire the gold later at less than the price of the contract and pocket the difference.

What would be the point though?  A giant bank sells these contracts to artificially reflect a stronger production of gold and silver to drive down the price and...what?  Get liquidated by the government when they're caught so badly on a monster stupid-trade that even Fed money printing can't cover it up? And anyway, if the 'paper gold' was all that bad, and since "one in the hand is worth two in the bush" then the price of physical must be more sticky?  But no, it's down in the dumps as well.  A more likely explanation might be that the economy is (re)skidding and that in a deflationary (re)collapse, it's best to cash out while you can.
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In lieu of an 'investment' in precious metals, I thought that I could likewise buy a firearm that could later be pawned for whatever the currency in the future is.  As Karl Denninger pointed out in relation to precious metals, the value of 'things' remains the same in relation to other 'things', so if I could buy a $500 firearm, but sell it for $400 (a $100 loss, ouch!) then I could at least get something back, which is probably asking a bit much from other investment vehicles.  And if later I'm able to sell the firearm for $4,000, I can still buy 400 loaves of $10/loaf bread.

But I have to say, that idea doesn't appeal to me either, better to retire some (outsized) debt I suppose, or buy 40 $10 pizzas.

Wednesday, March 27, 2013

Idiocracy Watch

A few months ago during the sequester debate (or whatever that was), I was accidentally watching CBS evening news and they had a story on about how people were going to be furloughed, etc. The whole story had an odd tone though as they couldn't bad mouth Obama (heavens no!) since the sequester was his idea and they couldn't bad mouth the Republicans because it's not like we have the money (we don't). It was just a story about people caught up in this otherworldly experience caused by forces beyond the control of man. It reminded me, greatly, of the scene in Idiocracy where a manager of some sort was complaining about how the computer that actually ran the factory was firing people.  The causes and reasons behind what was going on seemed beyond the comprehension of those involved, in both cases, even though the actual reasons were quite simple.

The Plain Dealer has been repeatedly outdoing itself in regards to Obamacare/PPACA with doozies like this about Baldwin Wallace dropping it's health care plan for students:
The Affordable Care Act increases benefits of student health plans, but at a cost.
DUH!
The fact that something so stupid could be written without someone drooling on their keyboard is a sign of how far we’ve regressed. “Man buys more pizzas, amazed that he is charged more”.

Wednesday, March 13, 2013

Never Gets Old

I still hold that the best multiplayer game ever was the multiplayer mode in 2001's Return to Castle Wolfenstein.  Various add-ons and patches made for massive 64 person (32 vs 32) matches of non-stop (sometimes literally) carnage.  The flamethrower was fun with the screaming and cooking of the guys getting flambéed, but the 'panzer'/rocket launcher never got old.  Someone even immortalized it in the clip below (skip to the final 30 seconds or so for those not reminiscing):


What was unfortunate about the old RTCW is that the single player was...well 'awful' would be strong, but it was certainly 'not-very-good' (the two pieces were actually developed by two different developers).

It's actually rare in my mind for video games to pull that off: the one thing that you can hold onto even if the game goes sour on you.  Superpowers that are acquired late in many games can be pretty fun, but the balance is often off.  Part of the fun of the 'panzer' in RTCW is that although you could wipe a squad of guys in one shot, you were equally likely to blow yourself to bits by hitting a wall that was too close (which was still funny).

Just Cause 2 comes close with it's bevy of non-stop explosions in a fictional southeast Asian country that seems to be built of paper mache and natural gas:


It even had an interesting story in a mild anti-colonial sort of way before it went of the rails with a fake W. Bush CIA character, a 'big-oil' conspiracy (that, as usual, didn't make a lick of sense), and gnashing of teeth about plots by 'neocons' (yes the word was actually used, and yes, as usual, the person using it doesn't know what it's supposed to mean).  Unfortunately all the explosions in its large game world weren't enough to make me want to recommend that anyone sit through the tiresome story.

With Far Cry 3 it's interesting in that the setting reminds me of Just Cause 2, but just about everything is way better, apart from the story which probably shouldn't exist.  The story isn't bad per se, it just seems like it was written by a sixth grader who'd sat through one too many Criminal Minds episodes.  Beyond that though the voice acting is great, the graphics may be the best to be had on the PS3 outside of games without the word 'Uncharted' in the title, and the gameplay is solid.  But like RTCW, it also has something that keeps me coming back: the knife stabbing NEVER gets old.  It often requires patience, but, well, this short clip explains it all:

Saturday, February 09, 2013

Government Gardening

The Plain Dealer lays the headline on thick:
Ohio will share in $9 million USDA funds to promote farmers markets

Now I will admit that I have very mild soft spot for farmers markets (very), but if their greatness requires government gravy, then they must not be all that great.  Ohio will be getting $450,000 of the $9,000,000, but it largely won't even be going to farmers markets at all:
$39,995 to Famicos Foundation, for a door-to-door and robo-call campaign to let people know food stamps can be used at many farmers markets.
This was an old post that I had tooling around in the draft bin, but I have to wonder: how much food, farmer's market or otherwise, can be purchased for even $40,000.  If I spent $20 a day on food (which is A LOT) I come up with five and a half years worth of food.  Almost hard to believe our government is financially self-destructing...

Gym Thoughts

So while at my brother/sis-in-law's posh gym I was ever more depressed about my home gym which is an old Y.  Sure they have a glorified indoor water park and exercise equipment with TVs, but my Y at home thoughtfully has pieces of carpet already removed from where you might want to drop a weight.  Sure they have a half dozen giant flat screens, but my Y is environmentally friendly by still using ten year old tubes and you can listen to them over an FM radio, which would work if anyone carried one of those...or if they actually had hooked up the transmitters.  Anyway...
  • There was a teenager at the gym with a hoodie on which said 'Hard' on one side of the zipper and 'Candy' on the other side, *groan*.  Anyway, she had 'skunk stripe' dyed onto part of her hair (not down the middle) and my only thought was "there was a girl in my high that did her hair like that..."
  • I had accidentally left my brother's water bottle at the gym previously and when I went to retrieve it there was another one just like it, but it was green and I said "like that, but blue" and the gym attendant said "like a standard Nalgene water bottle then?"  A what?  Water bottles have brands?  Even those that are just glorified, plastic quart jars?  Further research though shows that the Sandmich's water bottle of choice is the same brand.
  • While I was on the elliptical type thing an over-weight ethnic woman got on the device next to me.  In my mind I couldn't help but what wonder what the odds were of her giving up on the workout before I was even done.
  • It's a great workout facility, but it also hosts various kids sporting events, thus this is the only gym that I've been to that has a hot dog cart in it.
  • At my Y there's a nurse workout 'buddy' who will wipe off equipment before and after she uses it.  I always figured that she was some sort of germ-a-phobe (I suppose a medical job would do that), but at the posh gym I wiped off the exercise ball and the sheet came back brown.  Better safe than sorry I guess, though it's not like I was going to eat it or anything.

Monday, January 28, 2013

Completely Unrelated

On a completely incompetent judge that even her liberal peers say should be sacked:
I've detailed complaints about her before, in a 2009 story and 2011 column. In the latter, I urged voters to look past her political name and support her opponent in her re-election bid. I pointed out that Stokes had received a zero rating in the fall of 2011 from four separate legal groups, which go to great lengths to vet judges.
Stokes, on the bench since 1996, easily won another term.
On a (pointless) drive to make testing in Ohio public schools more difficult:
If the cut score were set where it's expected to be, 77 percent of Rocky River eighth-graders -- instead of 96 percent -- would pass the math test. At the other extreme, 4 percent of East Cleveland eighth-graders -- instead of 37 percent -- would pass.
Even more fun in that last story is the high-to-low pass chart listing the school districts. Locals will immediately notice the demographic differences between the top and bottom, though everyone else can make a pretty good guess.

Thursday, January 24, 2013

Grand Theft Auto IV

Open world games or sandbox games, are video games where the player is given a great deal of freedom on a large map. The grandfather of these is Grand Theft Auto 3. I never played any of the older GTA games because, although they were widely praised by players and critics, the small print would state stuff like 'but the driving controls aren't very good...'. But the driving controls aren't very good?! That sounds like a rather critical flaw in a game with a lot of driving! Anyway, they had the fourth iteration of the series on sale on the Playstation store and figured I'd give it a shot since surely they had enough time to figure out the driving controls in the intervening years, right?


Were it that the driving controls were all that was wrong with this floating turd of a game. The character walks around as if his head were a balloon with his body hanging off of it.  The combat controls are sluggish (if an enemy sees you before you see them, you're dead, and likewise for any close quarters combat whether you see them first or not).  Auto-targeting combat AI would often choose the least threatening enemy to lock on to (the one furthest away with the weakest firearm), and the 'free aim' mechanic that's supposed to allow you to escape the auto-aim's grip rarely worked (as in 'broken').  The schizophrenic controls make helicopters operate like a one wheeled motorcycle. Then there's the game itself. There's no checkpoints (NONE) so even dying at the very end of a mission requires painfully re-driving to where the mission starts, then re-driving to a different location where the conflict starts, dying, and then having to re-do the mission..again, minus whatever ammo and armor that you happened to use during the failed mission attempt (have fun driving and buying that stuff first before re-attempting the mission) and a huge 'hospital bill' that stands in for a respawn penalty (I guess forcing the player to drive around for fifteen minutes in order to die again isn't penalty enough).

Speaking of which, I have a friend who won't play games in this series because portions involve killing cops in firefights, but if it makes him feel any better 99% of the game involves either running from or (more likely) being killed by the police force (the rest of the time is spent mowing down fellow criminals).

It's not a completely ugly game, but its five year old graphics haven't aged well and are fairly ugly compared to even contemporaries of the time like Uncharted. As well the game suffered from pop-in issues where when driving an obstacle would suddenly appear in front of the vehicle making it impossible to dodge. This all culminated during one mission where during yet another high speed driving attempt the entire screen was left undrawn, leaving my smoking, poorly drawn car to wander a pitch black waste full of unseeable obstacles for several seconds.

Is that all?  Of course not.  The game gives you a raft of friends that will nag you to death to play un-fun mini-games (or worse, go to un-fun places with no mini-games).  Objectives in the mini-map will show as above or below you even if they're standing on a the curve of the road that you're driving on.  The alert level is a joke (anything above 'minor disturbance' means that a restart is in your future).  When engaging in any form of parkour, be prepared to die falling off of buildings while fumbling with unintuitive controls.  The story is like a depressing drive through the welfare-crime ridden news pages from the bad part of town.  And, insult on injury, the horrific leftist radio/TV sounds like something piped in from MSNBC.  For example, the main news station is Weasel News, get it?  Funny! Not.  Just like the rest of the game, one giant unfunny joke that the writers/developers thought was oh so clever.

One star is in the offing for the game though because it uses a clever graphical technique to allow the player enter and exit buildings without seeing a loading screen.  I have to admit that my eyebrows went up the first time that I saw this and even Kid Sandmich saw this happen while I was playing and remarked "how'd they do that?".  He then wisely put in his Skyrim disk when it was his turn at the PS3.

Wednesday, January 23, 2013

Ow my Brains!

A few days ago I was trapped on a piece of aerobic equipment when I looked up from my magazine and glanced the Big Bang Theory for the first time, long enough to catch one joke.  I'll precede this by mentioning that I've had various acquaintances talk the show up, but something never added up in the back of my head: if, say, 'smart' people like myself were supposed to find it amusing, what then was in it for the people who were recommending it to me?

Anyway, the joke.  A sub-character mentioned something about 'cheap science fiction' to one of the shows main male protagonists at which point the protagonist was taken aback and hilarity ensued.  "Ah there it is", I thought "it isn't a show where smart people are funny, it's a show where dumb people make smart people look funny."  This isn't too far separated from It's Always Sunny in Philadelphia in the sole episode that I watched where I thought that they were making fun of PC mores, but in reality they were making fun of people who make fun of PC mores.

I thought that perhaps I had given Big Bang an unfair judgement after a few seconds of viewing until I caught this Penny Arcade comic* which affirmed my suspicions: Big Bang Theory is just another brick in the road to Ow my Balls!

*The comic is tied to this post in which it is posited that 'there is no such thing as nerds'.  This is something that I hadn't thought about any time recently and a little further pondering has me half believing that the age of the nerd has passed into the great beyond.

Thursday, January 17, 2013

2012

Since I often am lagging in media acquisitions, it feels like I'm always running a year behind when it comes to 'best of the year' lists, but it's worth a shot:
  • Video game:  I actually purchased a goodly number of 2012 video games in 2012.  In a world of niche markets and small ball portable crap, it was refreshing to play something as large as Darksiders 2.  Again, it's a shame that THQ probably isn't a going to be a 'going concern' for too much longer as they can crank out a great game every now and then.
  • Movie: The Avengers, a great movie by any measure.  It speaks volumes about the movie industry though that the next best movie was the latest Resident Evil movie.
  • TV: Football.  Okay okay, that 50 Years of Bond Cars by Top Gear was pretty good.
  • Music: Most of the stuff that I picked up was old(er).  Mindy Smith put out what is probably her best album, but I also did get this nice dance tune.  However, what may be the best song that I acquired this year is Röyksopp's Alpha Male, from 2005.  For 2012, nothing beat cruising the dark Colorado roads with this cranked:


Wednesday, January 16, 2013

Tuesday, January 08, 2013

Vile Foods

It would seem that anyone who has known me for more than thirty seconds knows my least favorite food: canned peas.  Of course my hatred of this concoction goes far beyond I-don't-care-for-it and into I'd-rather-eat-the-can-they-came-in territory.
Same look, taste, and smell as rabbit poo
Last year my mom gave me some excess protein powders that she had and one of them tasted like dirt and I still had a (slightly) easier time choking it down than canned peas (it goes without saying what one of the ingredients was).

This is low hanging fruit though because lots of people hate canned peas, maybe not quite as much as myself, but still.  Why do you think that 'veg-all' is a fan favorite for pantry cleaning canned food drives?  Because it has been contaminated with nasty little green orbs and now just tastes like a multi-colored can of peas.  Beyond that I'm not a picky eater (unfortunately) but some acquaintances do wonder if even have any other food hang-ups.  A few come to mind:

  • Canned lima beans come in second to canned peas, but they still sport much of that nasty taste because their delicate sugars have been nuked into some horrible amino acid stew by the heat of the canning process.
  • Dinner dishes that have fruit in them (especially raisins which always cook up like something that comes out of my cat).  I can get past pineapple somewhat for short periods of time, kind of like if your buddy is listening country music in the car for a fifteen minute drive.  But cherries on chicken?  Raspberry gravy?  Disgusting.  
  • On a related note, I'll include Indian curry dishes that have coconut milk in them (which would be most of them); nasty.  Tastes like someone was making you a piña colada and accidentally dropped a day-old, over-spiced chicken into the blender.
  • For fast food the McRib is pretty nasty, but I can choke one down before remembering how bad they are.  The McDonald's fish sandwiches though?  That's like some hate crime against us Catholics.
  • Any piece of chicken that has even the faintest feather still sticking out from the skin.  I can't relate the number of times I've almost lost my cookies at a bar when I've been sober enough to notice this on chicken wings.  (I don't know if that counts since it's not even a taste/texture thing as my solution is to just not look).
  • Banana 'flavored' stuff, such as banana fry pies, taffy, etc.  Inevitably tastes like banana juice that's been aged in a can of WD-40.
  • Those assorted 'chocolates' with any filling that isn't brown colored or coconut.  You know the ones I'm talking about: those nasty, cheap chocolates full of some florescent pink or yellow colored goop.  Chocolate-fruit combos generally aren't a big thing for me, but that stuff, well, everyone hates that stuff I guess.
  • This one might surprise: tea.  Yes I drink one glass every day for (real) health reasons, but I think it's nasty.  It's kind of like if you were given to chew tobacco but you decided to make juice out of your slobber.  I've conditioned myself to drink it, but if I didn't have to I wouldn't, ever again.
Then there are those things that many people hate that I don't have an issue with:
  • Anything with too much vinegar in it.  Pickles, sauces, etc.  Hot sauce is a beverage, not a condiment.  (However, the dinner/fruit rule must be obeyed.  I once had a jar of Indian picked limes which was it's own special sort of horror; I'd still have them over canned peas though).
  • Peanut butter and anything, or even better yet, just peanut butter.  (Note though that the fruit/dinner rule again comes into play here.  If someone goes all peanut happy on some Thai dish then it starts to taste like some peanut butter and shrimp sandwich).
  • Cottage cheese.  Like peanut butter, I can eat a tub of this fatty product fairly easily if I'm not careful.
  • Buttermilk.  A coworker was amazed that I drink the stuff as she always pitches it after she uses what she needs for a recipe.
  • Unflavored soy milk, which is a challenge to find at times.
  • Fruitcake, which I avoid like the plague because each tablespoon has enough calories to keep a man alive for a week and I can eat a whole one in one sitting just like that woman eating a block of cheese.
  • Past due goods.  What a crock, tasting is believing.
Not in either list are alcoholic products, such as Jägermeister.  If you think they taste bad, that means that you haven't drank the proper quantity yet (but there are exceptions to even this rule). 

Tuesday, January 01, 2013

Invaders from Space!

One of the best things ever posted on the Internet is this bit posted by one Nick Bostrom.  In it he posits that we may be alone in the whole universe based upon what he calls 'The Great Filter', which is basically a series of high hurdles that molecules on some rock in space most overcome in order to advance to the point of being able to launch a rocket into space:
You start with billions and billions of potential germination points for life, and you end up with a sum total of zero extraterrestrial civilizations that we can observe. The Great Filter must therefore be sufficiently powerful--which is to say, passing the critical points must be sufficiently improbable--that even with many billions of rolls of the dice, one ends up with nothing: no aliens, no spacecraft, no signals. At least, none that we can detect in our neck of the woods.
In the book Sphere, Michael Crichton's character Harry (played by Samuel L. Jackson in the dreadful movie adaptation) also voices extreme skepticism, pointing out that the Drake equation used by alien cheerleaders could be rendered moot if any of their assumptions weren't greater than zero:
“What it means,” Harry Adams said, “is that the probability, p, that intelligent life will evolve in any star system is a function of the probability that the star will have planets, the number of habitable planets, the probability that simple life will evolve on a habitable planet, the probability that intelligent life will evolve from simple life, and the probability that intelligent life will attempt interstellar communication within five billion years. That’s all the equation says.”
...
“But the point is that we have no facts,” Harry said. “We must guess at every single one of these probabilities. And it’s quite easy to guess one way, as Ted does, and conclude there are probably thousands of intelligent civilizations. It’s equally easy to guess, as I do, that there is probably only one civilization. Ours.”
I bring this up as Glenn Reynolds has an affinity for posting alien invasion/contact stuff, the latest linking to an article by Gregg Easterbrook that argues that any aliens would probably tend to be aggressive just due to natural selection:
James Trefil, of George Mason University, has cautioned that if evolution functions approximately the same way on other worlds that it has functioned here -- conferring survival upon the fittest -- advanced extraterrestrials might still be aggressive, territorial, and quick to reach for the sword. In that case, counting on poor alien marksmanship might not be prudent.
This is cherry picking on his part though.  At first I had the article pegged as a rehash of the Nick Bostrom article that I cited earlier, but it turns out to be the other way around as the  Easterbrook piece was written 20 years (1988) before the Bostrom piece (2008), and only a year after Sphere wherein Crichton's character derides the same Drake equation that is poked at in the Easterbrook article.  All come to the same conclusion: interstellar life is exceedingly rare, perhaps to the point that it only exists here.

Maybe it's not that bad though.  What's rarely brought up in these articles is the matter of life as it is on Earth.  For how long was the Earth ruled over by creatures that couldn't even rub two sticks together?  It can also be argued that were it not for quirks of geography and culture (and race?) that formed Western European thought, that mankind would still be living under some sort of backwards Northeast Asian / Ottoman Empire style feudalism, possibly in perpetuity.  Tribes in places like Papau New Guinea, where people can practically sit under a tree and have it feed them, can scarcely be bothered to build a boat to go to a nearby island, let alone build a rocket the moon.

And those are the easy barriers to overcome.  Researchers have said that one reason that New World tribes were held back in being able to advance was their lack of a draft animal along the lines of an ox or horse.  What if a planet never had those?  Maybe didn't have fossil fuels?  Or perhaps didn't have any minerals of any worth close to the surface?  The more barriers thrown up, the more zeros that come after the decimal point for cheerleaders of advanced alien civilizations.

Life is indeed rare, but maybe not to the extent that skeptics would have.  But what of intelligent life?
That's certainly nearly non-existent.