Tuesday, November 01, 2005

Redskins Score At Will, Then End Up With Nil

Oct. 23 Washington, DC - Attended my first game at FedEx Field (thanx MS & MH!). We arrived at the stadium minutes before the parking lot gates opened. Then we set up at MH's usual spot and tailgated until game time. Dined on wings, sausages, snacks and sodas (The others had beer). Our seats were in section 416 in the end zone looking up the San Francisco sideline. The view was fantastic. Couldn't have asked for a better day, either. A far contrast to the rain and misery of the preceding few days. And what a glorious day it turned out to be! Brunell took 'em up and down the field all day, while Arrington brought the crowd to frenzy every time he joined the defense. Rookie 'Niner QB Alex Smith was welcomed to the league with a couple ball-jarring hits. Final score 52-17. And it wasn't even that close.

Oct 30 Meadowlands, NJ - Uh oh, I think they used up all the scoring last week. Glad it was a road game at least. New York's defense was only one spot above the 49'ers in the rankings up to this week. The Giants, however, were inspired by the death of their owner, Wellington Mara, who was beloved by the team and had done so much for the whole league. Redskins couldn't do anything right. Final score 36-0. Ouch. Hard to believe, but I think Philly may be an easier game.

At least my fantasy team has won two in a row....

Cognitive Byproducts ~ Part Seven

A continuing series of random thoughts, questions, and musings accumulated over time.
  • Why do they put the laundry instructions for shirts on a seperate tag along the bottom seam? I have several shirts that have a tag for the brand name inside the collar and another along side it for the size, but they put the washing directions on a totally different one that you have to go searching for. I understand that maybe the company makes all their brand and size tags at once, and the fabrics they use may vary, but mount the thing up there with the rest of them willya?
  • OK, gas has come down more than a dollar since it hit a high of around $3.50 a gallon several weeks ago. (See previous article for reasons gas prices rise). They haven't really fixed all the damage from those hurricanes already, have they? Now I'm even more annoyed because this proves that the ridiculous prices were basically caused by the speculation of petroleum futures traders and not supply and demand. Which translates into "Greedy suits - who contribute nothing in the way of products or services - are trashing the economy for the rest of us by driving up prices." Don't even get me started again....
  • I recently changed jobs, going from phone support to field work. The most interesting part of the transition has been meeting a lot of the personnel face-to-face that I had previously spoken with on the phone. It's funny how you form an image of someone by their voice or their name, but when you actually meet them, they are entirely different. This hasn't held true in every case, but a lot of them. I am also discouraged by the other technician's report that the vast majority of the female staff are married and generally disinterested in techie types on a social basis. Guess I'll keep waiting for the sale at eHarmony....

Friday, October 14, 2005

Cognitive Byproducts ~ Part Six

A continuing series of random thoughts, questions, and musings accumulated over time.

  • Yeah, I know, I continue to slack hard on posting regularly. This site was even refused from one of those blog collecting websites because there was too much time between posts. A lot has gone on in my life lately: I'm changing jobs and starting field work soon, my father discovered and started treatment for a medical condition, my mother was injured in a fall (she's fine), and it's both NFL season in full swing and the baseball playoffs. (Search parties have given up on my social life.) And frankly, I just haven't been inspired to speak volumes about anything in particular. Unless I was to turn this into a sports blog. And it's just not the right time to do the "religion post".
  • Here's one of those burning questions: If you use a dish or utensil that's part of a set - say a glass or cereal bowl - then wash it, is it improper to use it again right away? Maybe even without putting it away first? I sometimes feel a little guilty that I'm wearing out one piece while the others aren't getting used at nearly the same rate. Or maybe it's that I'm dirtying up what is probably the cleanest of the set. My concern usually lasts about thirty nanoseconds, but I figure maybe there are rules somewhere in the back pages of a dusty volume sitting on a shelf in the reference section of the main library in Heaven....
  • Hey Cingular! I don't WANT more minutes. What I'm really looking for is a plan that's about an hour's worth of minutes that I can use from anywhere to call anyone. Throw in free or cheap 'mobile to mobile' and a phone that I can read that doesn't have a lot of extra crap on it, all for about $20 a month and we can talk. I would consider a deal that includes more minutes per month with Catherine Zeta-Jones, but her hubby might object. :)

Tuesday, September 20, 2005

Charity in New York, Robbery in Texas

As my favorite NFL columnist would say, "Ere the clock struck midnight," the Redskins stole a victory from the Dallas Cowboys in Texas. Not only was it the first win for our side in a long time, it came on a night where the Cowboy hype was at a high level. "The Triplets" - Aikman, Emmitt, and Irvin - were inducted onto the Ring of Fame in Texas Stadium. The last minute scores by Brunell and Santana Moss brought a sudden end to the joy of Dallas fans, including those who were broadcasting the game. ABC commentators Al Michaels and John Madden practically insulted the 'Skins all night. Everything they said came from what Dallas was doing so great, even though the game was rather even. Now granted, the Redskins didn't do anything spectacular until late in the game, but Al & John were making them laughing stocks of the NFL. They glossed over facts like the Cowboys were forced to punt almost as much as the Redskins all night, and that the Cowboys had scored on a gadget play. The highlights during the game included only the Washington mistakes. It all turned around after the first touchdown came with 3:46 to go. It wasn't pretty, but it's a win. And with a bye week coming up, we have two weeks to savor it!

Some notes from Week 2 in the NFL:
  • I thought Dallas had a good chance to win based solely on the fact that they were sporting those snappy throwback uniforms! I hate Dallas, but I dig the throwbacks!
  • Of course, that theory is only partially held up by Buffalo's 1-1 record so far. They've been in the retro threads for both of their games. Gotta love 'em! Don't see anything on their site about why they're wearing them. Is it an anniversary year or something?
  • With all the fund-raising going on in New York for the Gulf Coast hurricane relief, could somebody divert a little cash for the Giants uniform fund? Their outfits looked like something they got as a donation from three different high schools in the 70's. Yee-uck!!! Blue helmets, red and white jerseys they must've stolen from Ohio State, and those hideous gray pants and high red socks. [OMG, guess what, they're throwbacks too!] Send your dollars today...
  • Something tells me that 1) Donovan McNabb isn't hurt that bad, and 2) San Francisco is going to get a top 5 draft pick again next year.
  • YES! New England is mortal! Broadcasters across the country are mourning their favorite quarterback's loss this week. Look, I still say Brady is overrated. Belichick and his staff deserve more of the gushing love that Tom is given every week because they are the ones who devise the schemes that get the receivers open and keep the defenders out of his face. I could hit a receiver who has no one around him for ten yards too if I had all day to throw!
  • The Minister of Defense smiled down on his family and fans in Green Bay, but winced at the Packers loss.
  • Minnesota Vikings quarterback Duante Culpepper has been awarded honorary promotional cash from the Pillsbury company for all his turnovers this year. Also, they just signed Koren Robinson, former drop-prone Seattle receiver. Better get him a pair of oven mitts!
  • Alarming stat of the week: Kyle Orton and Gus Frerotte had more touchdown passes than Peyton Manning!

Thursday, September 15, 2005

A Full Tank of Greed

One summer a few years ago, I think it was 1999, I visited my aunt & uncle who live in California. On the way to the airport for the trip home, we stopped and filled up the car with gas. Of course, California gas costs significantly more than the rest of the country because of the environmental regulations in that state. Their gas comes special from Alaska and is custom formulated. So I took a picture of the sign at the gas station to show everyone back home the amazingly high price. The price at that time was $1.59 (and 9/10) for regular, 1.69 for mid-grade, and 1.79 for premium!

Oh, how we wish for those days again!

We've all seen the price at the pump soar to sickening levels in the last month and a half. The last boost was supposedly from the disaster in the Gulf coast states. Now rates seem to be receding like the flood waters in New Orleans, thank goodness. But why did it all really happen? I decided to do a little research and find out the real story.

The cost of a gallon of gasoline can be broken down into several parts. The biggest chunk is the price of crude oil, the raw material that gas is made from. Crude oil cost accounts for about 55% of the price of gas. The next piece of the pie is refining costs. This is the expense (and profit - more on that in a minute) involved in converting crude oil into auto fuel. It totals about 18%, but maybe higher than that recently. The remaining costs consist of taxes (19%) and distribution & marketing expenses (8%).

Looking at it like that, your first reaction might be to curse "those doggone terrorist ragheads in the Middle East" for gouging us Americans. But while they're not sacrificing much to meet our needs, there are several other factors behind the recent hikes.

So why hasn't OPEC done more to reduce prices? All of the oil producing nations, except Saudi Arabia, are at full production capacity. And the Saudis mainly produce a heavier grade of crude that we don't refine as easily. So OPEC is unable, to a certain extent, to meet the higher demand beyond what they are doing now. They have lost control of the market, in a sense. OPEC claims, according to their web site, that they do not directly dictate the price of a barrel of crude oil. It is actually set by three petroleum commodity exchanges. To me, this seems to mean that there are Wall Street types that are really in control. And from my perspective, that's usually a bad thing.

Okay, so OPEC aren't quite saints, but they do reduce the price of crude now and then. But have you ever noticed that gas prices don't usually follow immediately? Now when crude prices go up, the price of gas rises almost instantly! Consumer groups notice this, and have accused oil companies of taking too long to pass on reductions. But there is no government regulation in the industry, so consumers are basically on their own. [You can't really blame the service station owners, because they still pay more for wholesale gas.]

It's the oil companies that are at the heart of the matter, in more ways than one.

They say that all the easy oil has already been found and that it's harder and costlier to find new supplies here in the US. Now who's going to shed a tear for big oil?

In the fiscal year 2003-4, four major oil companies reported record profits, as well as record refining profits. Conoco-Phillips was up 44%, Exxon/Mobil 125%, British Petroleum (BP) 165%, and Chevron-Texaco a whopping 294%!! These companies are making money so fast they don't know how to use it all. What they are doing is giving dividends to their shareholders and buying back their stock. And of course, the CEO's will reap handsome bonuses. The rest of us go broke trying to get to work, and these guys are rolling in cash.

Along with the record crude prices, there have been several outages to an already strained refinery industry here in the US (some caused by the hurricane, and some not), as well as the usual seasonal demand spike that comes around Labor Day. Added to the mix is an increased level of demand by China on world supplies.

So recent refinery outages have contributed to price hikes. US refineries were running at 70% of their total output ten years ago. Today they are closer to 95%. Production is so tight, any time something goes wrong at a single plant, the price of gas jumps. More than 10 refineries have reported unplanned outages in late July and early August of this year. Even when the problems turn out to be minor, consumers take a hit. Aggravating the problem are state clean air laws that require the production of 45 different blends of gasoline across the nation. This makes refinery outages that much more significant.

Ten years ago, the five largest companies (Exxon/Mobil, Conoco-Phillips, BP, Valero, and Royal Dutch Shell) controlled a third of of all refineries in the US. Now they control more than half. This makes it easier for them to withhold production to drive up prices. The Federal Trade Commission (FTC) uncovered evidence in 2001 that they had actually done so. These actions have NOT been challenged by the government as yet. The only penalties so far have been in our wallets.

One fact that is always mentioned is that there have been no new refineries built since 1976. And, of the 325 facilities operating then, 176 of them are no longer running. Why did all those plants close? Some say the market was manipulated by the bigger companies. 97% of those facilities that have been closed were operated by smaller companies. Congressional investigations revealed memos from the big companies discussing strategies to maximize profits by forcing the smaller refineries out of business. But it may not be entirely their doing. From 1973 to 1980, the government subsidized smaller, less efficient refineries. When the price control programs ended, so did the small refineries.

So why aren't the big companies building more? From 1975 to 2000, there was only one request for permit to build a new refinery. That new energy bill gives cash incentives for new refineries, but it isn't expected to help. Bureaucratic red tape, Environmentalist protests, and the "NIMBY" (Not In My Back Yard) factor are normally blamed for lack of new construction. But instead of building new ones, companies are doing plenty of expansions and improvements to existing plants. This is a lot easier and cheaper, and since the normal profit for a refinery is rather small, they welcome any savings.

But even refinery margins - the difference between the price of crude and wholesale gas - have been rising faster than OPEC's rates. In two weeks in August, pump prices increased 11%, while refinery margins went up 54%! The FTC was recently investigating why oil companies aren't expanding production since they're raking in record profits. For some reason, the investigation has stalled. (Can you say "stifled"?)

So it all comes down to one thing. GREED.

What they're doing is basically saying:

  • "Crude prices are going up, let's raise prices!"
  • "The terrorists are getting mad at the US for Iraq and Afghanistan, they may withhold supplies, let's raise prices!"
  • "The Chinese are wanting more and more oil, let's raise prices!"
  • "Refinery breakdowns may cause supply shortages, so let's raise prices!"
  • "The law says we have to make way too many different blends of gas, let's raise prices!"
  • "We're not making much on refining, let's raise prices!"
  • "The Americans won't be driving their gargantuan SUVs as much after Labor Day, let's raise prices!"
  • "We keep raising prices, and people are still buying! Let's see how high we can raise prices!"
  • "We have to go farther to find more oil ourselves, let's raise prices!"

Where does it all end?

The government won't do anything. They want their millions in campaign contributions, (or stock dividends) so they do just enough to stay in office.

The oil companies won't change anything. They control the whole process. They're making billions and we're letting it slide.

OPEC nations won't change anything. Most of them detest the US anyway. Except when we show up with money.

People keep trying to organize boycott days, but they'll just have to buy gas later. The revenues might be zero one day, but they'll be double the next. One theory was for everyone to boycott certain brands. Not sure if that would make a difference. Seems like all the stations get their gas from the same distributors or something.

Should we park our cars and trucks and buy hybrid compacts? Unfortunately, I think Amercans are too dependent of their massive SUVs. The soccer moms would be lost if they had to cram their 2.5 kids into less than 500 square feet. Plus, the car is such a part of the culture that we'll never get it down to a pure utility vehicle.

I guess we're left with praying for compassion from the CEOs of big petroleum and the Middle East oil barons.

Other than that, we'll have to do like the Army drill seargeants say: "Suck it up and drive on!"

Friday, August 26, 2005

Cognitive Byproducts ~ Part Five

A continuing series of random thoughts, questions, and musings accumulated over time.
  • Another addition to my Top 10 Death Wish Motorists made himself known a couple weeks ago. Guy in a silver Pontiac comes zooming up behind me in the merge lane where two highways come together. I was behind a big tanker truck. (Not sure what he was hauling, but was hoping it wasn't flammable.) There was no one behind me. Anyway, Mr. Grand Prik goes by me at warp 9 and ends up between the back of the truck and the guardrail just as the lane runs out. He slams on the brakes and got in front of me (since I was feeling charitable and decided he could live today). Then he got around me and went flying up the road like nothing had happened...
  • Is it just me or are people driving even faster since gas prices went above sanity levels? I could swear the number of SUV's traveling 90 or better while blocking out the sun has increased dramatically on the highway on which I commute.
  • Best wishes to TK in NYC, and especially to SW who's been on an unexpected vacation at Washington Hospital Center. See you both soon.

Thursday, August 04, 2005

I Have Been To The Promised Land

This past weekend, I made a pilgramage to America's Valhalla. The place where the greatest warriors are immortalized.

The Pro Football Hall of Fame in Canton, Ohio sits along the edge of Interstate 77 in the middle of the western third of the state. It was established in 1963.

Well, OK, in the last few years, the definition of hero has changed quite a bit. So I should temper the degree of reverance with humbleness to those who really deserve the title. It's not exactly Arlington Cemetary. But in the Hall is one of the greatest collection of sports heroes of all time.

I was actually a week too early (and way too late to get tickets and a room anyway) for the latest group of players to be enshrined. This coming weekend (Aug 6-8), four men take their place among the honorees: Dan Marino, record setting quarterback for the Miami Dolphins in the mid 80's through 1999; Steve Young, successor to Joe Montana in San Francisco who carried the 49er dynasty throughout the 90's; Fritz Pollard, the first African-American coach (and a great player) in the 1920's; and Benny Friedman, star quarterback from 1927 to 1934, who was a contemporary of Red Grange.

The Hall itself is actually three interconnected buildings, though when you're inside, it all feels like one. You enter at the front door and walk into a spiral ramp under the pointed "rotunda" of the football shaped dome. Most of the exhibits are on the upper floor, the first being the history and origins of the game. Then you go by displays of all the current NFL teams. The next section is the actual Hall of Fame, with bronze likenesses of each enshrinee, and interactive touch screen panels that show info on any of the men. After that, there is a room about the other leagues in history, plus artifacts from recent record breaking feats. Section 6 contains displays from all the Hall honorees grouped by team. The last part is all about the Super Bowls. And at the end, is the rotating GameDay Stadium theater, where you can watch a film about an entire season from training camp to the Super Bowl. The lower floor has areas with more interactive displays, including the Madden video game, trivia and play-calling games, and a carnival booth passing cage, along with artifacts from referees and famous fans. There is also another theater which constantly shows NFL Films programs every hour. Finally, of course, there is the gift shop, with sections for each team, and items emblazoned with Hall logos and the faces of the newest enshrinees. Throughout the entire museum, there are items from players and games throughout history that commemorate milestones and significant players (HOF members and others) from all over the NFL.

I didn't have my good camera with me, so we'll see if the pictures I took with the disposable cameras come out. Hopefully, they won't all be flash reflections from display cases. I got shots of all the Redskins stuff, an overall view of each section, and some shots of the exteriors and preparations for the induction ceremonies.

You can take your own virtual tour here. But it's much better in person, take my word for it. Hail to the Redskins and Hail to the Hall of Fame!

Thursday, June 16, 2005


I'm going to start a campaign - a quest to liberate syllables. And it's going to be worldwide.

The objective is to convert

"Doubleyoo doubleyoo doubleyoo dot <insert website here> dot com"


"Triple dubya dot website dot com"

See how much easier that is?

I've had this idea for years, and I'm reminded of it every time I hear a radio or television commercial that cites a web address. They buzz along through the whole sales pitch, and somewhere toward the end, the whole thing slows down while the voice-over plods through what should be a very simple utterance. They could be promoting http://www.llanfairpwllgwyngyllgogerychwyrndrobwyll-llantysiliogogogoch.com/, but you can hear 'em bog down in the first three letters. "Click now for all the latest information... Dub .. ul .. yoo .. Dub .. ul .. yoo .. Dub .. ul .. yoo .. dot reallylongwebsitename dot com"

It's not all their fault, though. How did it end up that the most complicated letter in the whole alphabet appears in triplicate on the forward end of the universal format for internet information across the entire planet? And of course, it's from the most complex and patched together language available to man today ~ American English. It's too bad we don't call the internet something like the "Great Global Grid". That would cut the syllables by two thirds! "Gee-Gee-Gee" would be awesome! It just flies off the tongue. But no, we have to deal with the one letter out of the whole twenty six that doesn't even have its own original name. It's a modification of a letter before it! There's U, and then, (not even side by side in order, mind you) there's Double-U. Should've been Double-V if you compare 'em. It's the only polysyllabic letter in the whole bunch. Oooh, polysyllabic ~ Word of the Day.

But I digress...

So my solution is to cut the nine syllables of "doubleyoo doubleyoo doubleyoo" down to four with "triple dubya". Nice, clean and simple.

Now I must pause for a disclaimer at this point. This phrase in no way originates from any political enthusiasm or scheme to subliminally promote the current President. While I did, in fact, vote for the guy - not because I loved everything about him, but because the other dude was so much worse (the exact reason why 90% of the opposition voted for their guy, as opposed to actually liking what he had to offer. But that's for a whole other post.) - but I have no agenda or reason to give him free endorsement. It is simply a phonetic pronunciation of the letter, nothing more. I dare say millions of people were saying "dubya" before he ever came along.

Whattya say world? Try it for yourself. "Trip-ul-dub-ya yadda yadda dot com". Let's spread it from Delaware to darkest Africa. (OK, maybe theirs would come out more like "tree-pull-doob-yeh", but hey, it still beats what we started with.)

See how many you can spit out in ten seconds. I got two of the long ones and about ten "triple w's". That's 500% more efficient, I'd say!

And Lord knows, anything that gets advertisers to shut up quicker has got to be a good idea.

Thursday, June 02, 2005

Cognitive Byproducts ~ Part Four

A continuing series of random thoughts, questions, and musings accumulated over time.

  • Shucks, seems like once a month is becoming my regular pattern. I could change my style and post little blurbs every couple days, but I don't think they'd be as refined and relevant as the bigger articles...
  • Congratulations to the two drivers I saw today who join my Top 10 Death Wish Motorists. The first is the little hottie doing 75+ and passing trucks on the curvy part of the interstate while on the phone with one hand and taking the other off the wheel to play with her hair. The second is the young brainless bastard in the compact hatchback who couldn't wait to blow by me (I was doing 70) and weave through the other two vehicles ahead so he could break the freaking sound barrier. Keep it up, you'll be dead by 20, sucker!
    I don't flip 'em off, I just salute as they go by and shake my head....
  • Went to my first Nationals game on Memorial Day. Great time. A couple strange plays that we couldn't see changed the outcome of the game. I'm listening to the last game of the series with Atlanta as I type. GO NATS! We figured out the secret to the subway ride back: Get into the end of the line into the station, and then take the next train after the crowd stuffs into the first one. Plenty of room for everyone. Thanx EW!
  • Still on my To Do list: 1) Find a gym, since I'm not leaving the desk job any time soon. 2) Speak to a patent lawyer. 3) Go to an Orioles game. 4) Get new glasses.

    Wahoo!! Nationals came back from a 6-3 eighth inning and won it 8-6!

Thursday, May 05, 2005

Brain Dump In Aisle 5

Mankind's continuing quest for self-actualization does not center itself in churches, temples and synagogues, really. The greatest debate for a man to resolve is not the origin of the species or the nature of the afterlife. None of these debates induces the duel between emotion and intellect like this one. Surrounded by so many choices, man must search his soul and weigh each with equal consideration, because he knows his selection will affect his life each and every day he wakes. Will he make the right choice and face all challenges with his head held high, or be cast into misery, struggling to merely survive until tomorrow?

OK, maybe it's not all that, but why else does it take me twenty minutes to pick out a breakfast cereal at the grocery store?

I have to put the basket down and walk end to end a couple times. Then there are other questions. At what point do you stop feeling guilty if you get Captain Crunch instead of something healthy? But I guess that only really lasts until I leave the parking lot.

Every aisle is another deliberation. If it says 100% real ingredients on the package, is it any less real after being fully cooked, freeze dried or flash frozen and served in less than ten minutes by adding only water or milk? There's an evolution taking place these days from"Just like Grandma used to make" to "Just like Uncle Fred used to unwrap and microwave for a minute forty-five".

And it will never be my motto that "I shop, therefore I cook."

By the way, where do all the single women shop? Everyone buys food, but I must not go at the right time. All I see are toddler herders and teenyboppers on cel phones consulting their friend on which one is better: Gummi bears or Gummi worms. Then there's the occasional poor soul waiting by the pharmacy who's gonna need help loading their prescription order into the car.

It is a good place to meet people, if you think about it. You can't hide who you are. Your basket gives you away. If you're carrying frozen Stouffer's and Hamburger Helper, you're definitely single. And don't be flirtin' with the gal pushing the cart and a half of full size roasts and four gallons of skim milk. You need to hang by the salad bar and watch for someone who doesn't get everything else from the organic section.

With my luck, my dream girl will pass me by while I'm crouched down squinting at unit pricing. But just in case, what wine goes with Spaghetti-O's?

Tuesday, April 26, 2005

Posters and Wall Flowers

As I move through the world and observe people (resisting the urge to mutter to myself how silly "these humans" can be) I often find certain situations that seperate people into groups. There are lots of jokes expressed by that old saying "There are two kinds of people..." like this, but it's still rather amusing to see it manifested out in public. Anyway, here are the (hopefully amusing) categories I've come up with, and maybe a few I read somewhere....

There are two kinds of people in the world: Those who keep up with the latest technology, and those who have VCR's that blink 12:00 all their lives.

"There are 10 kinds of people: Those who can count in binary, and those that can't."

There are two kinds of computer users: Those who call tech support and ask about programs and email, and those that ask "you mean the box you look at or put disks into?"

There are two kinds of people waiting at the carry-out counter: Those who stand back and wait for their number to be called, and those who practically climb over the counter in anticipation.

There are two kinds of annoying drivers: Those who worship speed limit signs and won't go any faster than three mph below it no matter how many people are lined up behind them, and those who aren't happy unless they are doing 30 mph more than anyone else on the road.

There are two kinds of people that put ketchup on their french fries: Dippers, who squeeze out a large dollop and dip each fry into it, and Spreaders, who crisscross the whole pile of fries with narrow streams.

"Today, there are three kinds of people: the have's, the have-not's, and the have-not-paid-for-what-they-have's." -- Earl Wilson

"People can be divided into three groups:
1. Those who make things happen
2. Those who watch things happen
3. And those who wonder what's happening." -- Anonymous

There are two kinds of bloggers: Those who post, and ThÖ$Σ w╫Θ PΦ$τ

Thursday, April 21, 2005

Cognitive Byproducts ~ Part Three

A continuing series of random thoughts, questions, and musings accumulated over time.
  • Haven't posted in a month, I'm slackin'. See next item. I'm becoming such a sports fan. I guess there are worse pursuits to get lost in...
  • I've jumped on the baseball bandwagon and am following the Nationals and Orioles every day. I think I like listening to games on the radio better than watching on TV. Seems to me that it wouldn't be that tough to get tickets to the average night game at RFK, since the crowds total about 25000 and the stadium holds 40000. Going to a game in September already, but may try to go to one sooner. And the Orioles are cheaper....
  • I'm seriously considering writing to the local government and law enforcement to find out how to start a public campaign to educate people on acceleration lanes and how to legally and safely enter a highway. Every day I see people with an unconscious death wish who pull right out into the traffic lanes doing about 30 instead of speeding up to 55 first. And some will cross both lanes. Wake up people! It's a highway! That's not the shoulder, it's a lane for you to use so you don't kill yourself or anyone else!

Saturday, March 26, 2005

100 things about me

Here is my "100 things" list. They are things about me or my opinions or thoughts on particular subjects.

1. I like making lists. Must be my analytical mind combined with the computer geek in me. Organizing data, etc...
2. I'm tempted to post lists like "My top 10 favorite comic book characters" or "Top 25 greatest guitar solos" but they wouldn’t fit in with the level of maturity I'm trying to keep on this blog. (The easiest would be the list of the hottest celebrity babes, but
FHM and VH-1 do fairly well themselves anyway, plus I'd probably offend some of my regular female readers.)
3. I'm not attracted to the waify supermodel type. I don't think the beauty standard of being so thin was a man's idea. I think people who encourage women to be so skinny should be assassinated.
4. I think the media influences culture way too much. There is bias in the news media (mostly bleeding heart liberal) and entities like MTV and broadcast networks dictate too much of what is acceptable and hide a lot of things that should be seen.
5. I'm not much for politics in general, though I do vote. I am not a member of any particular party, because I have opinions on specific issues that crisscross party lines. I generally vote Republican, but hate the fact that they're in bed with large corporations and the Religious Right. Don't like Democrats much either, because I don't like big government, free welfare, and militant vegetarian hippie tree-huggers who think anything man-made is satanic evil.
6. While I think diet is important for good health (see #7), I do not believe in the concept that we all build up pounds and pounds of "toxins" that only seem to come from artificial ingredients. (That may be the subject for a whole other post.) The average person consumes just as many potentially harmful substances (which means "if you ate a thousand times more of it, it would be dangerous, but nobody does) that occur in nature as they do those that are artificial.
7. The only thing worse than my usual diet is my continuing lack of regular exercise. My only saving grace is that I still maintain about 180 on a 6' 3" frame.
8. I had the cleanest bachelor apartment most people had ever seen, and my current place stays pretty close to that too. I was raised by an Olympic cleaning champion.
9. So far I am putting way too much detail in this list.
10. Geek factor #1 ~ I built the two computers I use at home. I used to build them professionally.
11. The other term for a computer is "machine" or "PC". A "box" is what you ship it in.
12. I believe in "Keep it simple", but not in "Trash the entire system to accommodate the stupid people".
13. I think Microsoft is still the Evil Empire. And that AOL is becoming one too.
14. My first computer was a Commodore 64 that my parents bought me. I learned DOS (5+) and Windows (3.0+) on the first computer I bought, a 386. I also still have a working Kaypro 4 that runs CP/M.
15. I still use some DOS style commands to this day. I do, however, usually prefer to use the mouse than the keyboard.
16. I think spammers should be forced to manually compose letters of apology to every single recipient they've ever emailed, and then be stripped of all wealth gained in the process of spamming. They should be then banned from doing business of any kind online.
17. My lucky number is 17. Though not lately.
18. I share a birthday with Richard Nixon, Crystal Gayle, and Jimmy Page. Missed Elvis by a day.
19. I am old enough to remember black and white TV, Johnny Carson on the Tonight Show, dial telephones, gas prices under a dollar, and Watergate.
20. I am not old enough to remember the Vietnam war, the Beatles, or the Washington Senators.
21. I recently got back into collecting sports cards. Mostly football. Redskins & Priest Holmes.
22. I’ve been to Redskins games (once in 1974, once in the 80’s), Colts, Baltimore Stallions (CFL), and Ravens (2005).
23. I am a two time fantasy football champion. I love the NFL.
24. I have never been much for college sports.
25. I don't like the NBA at all. Between the primadonna Olympic team and the fights in the stands, they lost any respect I had for them.
26. I'm on eBay all the time. (For #21, and computer parts)
27. Geek Factor #2: I also revisited my comic book collection even more recently.
28. I have discovered that the concept of "These (cards/comics) will be worth a fortune in 20 years" was largely a myth, due to market saturation and the internet.
29. I probably wouldn't have sold them anyway.
30. Most of my hobbies are expensive.
31. Anti-Geek Factor #1: I have never been into video games. They just never keep my interest for long. First person POV games make me nauseous after about 20 minutes.
32. Geek Factor #3: I have been a Star Trek fan for many years. Though I haven't watched a show since Voyager went off the air. Never got into the Enterprise show. I used to go to conventions in the 90's and actually own two uniforms. Don't think they fit any more.
33. My DVD collection is mostly action movies & sci-fi.
34. So is my laserdisc collection.
35. I prefer widescreen to full screen. Movies are shot in widescreen. Full screen is a distortion of the original film.
36. I did not see Titanic until after the year 2000.
37. I like anything Pixar does.
38. The Matrix is the coolest movie ever, but the second one was only okay, and the third one was kinda lame.
39. I am not opposed to watching a "chick flick". Though I rarely ever do it on my own.
40. I get my hair cut in a fancy salon, and get massages at a spa. People are confused as to why I go to girly places like that. I tell them "Those places are full of beautiful women getting (or making others look and feel) beautiful. What's not to like?"
41. I don't go out much. Can you tell?
42. I don't smoke. Well, I haven't had a cigar in years. And they almost don't count.
43. I don't drink (often enough to mention.)
44. I don't like the taste of beer. Or rather, I don't like the gasoline aftertaste that occurs beyond the first sip.
45. I don't cook. But I reheat a lot.
46. I can't stand sauerkraut, mushrooms, or rye bread.
47. Although I like Pepsi and Coke, I'd rather have Black Cherry, Grapefruit, Grape, or Orange soda.
48. I can feel the effects of caffeine if I drink one cola without eating something else with it.
49. I have never tried drugs or marijuana, and don't have any interest in doing so. I didn't even like the smell of weed in college.
50. I am not working in my degree field.
51. I once worked for the Smithsonian Institute, and another time for Toys'R'Us.
52. I was once involved with Amway.
53. Once at an Amway function, I met ZZTop in an elevator, but didn't get any autographs.
54. My favorite music is 80's metal.
55. I like country too. Mostly female artists. But I don't listen to country as much as rock.
56. I don't have that many mp3s.
57. I used to read a lot more than I do now.
58. I own a lot of books, mostly hardcover, bought cheap. I like buying them more than reading them.
59. Right now those books are packed in boxes awaiting shelves. There are almost as many boxes of VHS tapes piled in with them.
60. One of the other rooms in my house is decorated in a jungle motif.
61. I have several friends originally from African nations, including Nigeria, Gambia, and Togo. Other friends are from India, Peru, Uruguay, Ecuador, and Ethiopia.
62. After being around them for several years, I still don't know Spanish except for a few words. I know a few Amharic words too.
63. I took French in high school, so that didn’t help.
64. I’m good at imitating accents, though.
65. I think speaking with an accent makes a woman sexier.
66. I have never traveled outside the US, except for just over the Canadian border.
67. I have been on driving trips to Colorado, New York and Florida, and flew to California (twice) and Washington state.
68. I like airports and don't mind flying.
69. Some time I'd like to take the train.
70. I'd like to visit the town my family is from.
71. Both sides of my family are from Germany.
72. My last name is ten letters, but is a lot easier to pronounce than people think at first glance.
73. I am an only child.
74. I have one half sister.
75. I think my family line will end with me. I'm not sure how I feel about that.
76. I'm glad my relatives are all comparably sane and supportive. I have no fear of ending up on Jerry Springer or any other daytime talk show.
77. I know a few people who probably don't have that same feeling of security.
78. I'm not rich, but I feel I manage my money well. I have great credit.
79. I have always considered it more important to like what I do for a living than to make more money at something I may not enjoy as much.
80. I like working for a school system and getting the minor holidays off.
81. I think a good boss is someone who is not beyond "getting their hands dirty" and working alongside their employees. A boss should be one of the gang, not someone you stiffen up and look busy around.
82. I try to treat people with respect and dignity, but I don't like unnecessary formality.
83. I'd rather wear jeans and a sweatshirt, but I like dressing up every once in a while.
84. I sometimes like to wear military or police style BDUs, usually black or blue.
85. I only own one suit. Which I bought last week.
86. I can tie my own tie. And without a mirror.
87. I recently learned how to fold fitted sheets. I didn't think it was possible for a male. (Thanx D!)
88. I sort all my laundry and read every tag.
89. I've been told I have decent taste in decorating for a straight guy.
90. I think being gay is abnormal. It's not so much a moral question as it is biological. The parts don't fit, there's no reproductive purpose, so it's incorrect.
91. I think there are far less gay people in the world than the media make you believe.
92. I don't think legislation helps reduce drug abuse, abortions or handgun crime.
93. I think war is sometimes necessary. There are some people you can't negotiate with.
94. My patriotism far outweighs my enthusiasm for religion.
95. I was raised with and hold Christian values and principles. But I have too many technical questions to call myself a Christian. And I can't deal with blind faith.
96. I believe in God, but more as an abstract force. I don't follow any particular denomination because I think they're all interpretations of the same basic themes. I don't believe any major religion is valid over any other. There are too many other choices to say one is right and the others all wrong. (For a list, go
97. I accept my mortality.
98. I think there is life on other planets. I don't think they visit often. I don't think they are still in Roswell, NM.
99. I believe the assassination of JFK was performed by more than one person. I believe the investigation was completely mishandled. I think that's when corruption in government and politics began to flourish.
100. I think I would have enjoyed living in the 1940's or 50's.

Well, that only took three days. Now I have a few ideas for full posts too.

Wednesday, March 09, 2005

Cognitive Byproducts ~ Part Two

A continuing series of random thoughts, questions, and musings accumulated over time.
  • What exactly does it mean to be flossin'? I'm not talking about the dental application, I mean the hip-hop street lingo definition, like the J. Lo song among others. The white boy don' unnastand. Holla back!
  • I figured out why my memory is so bad. The reason I can't remember current things is because my head is so full of 80's song lyrics and useless TV knowledge. I was driving home today and found that I still knew every word to an old Night Ranger tune, and could even tap out the cool drum part at the end. How much brain space are all those songs taking up? And how much is wasted on goofy stuff like MC Hammer and other genres that I don't even listen to? I can recall commercial jingles from 1973, but I can't remember my savings account number. Have they come up with a storage device that you can plug into your head (like Keanu Reeves in Johnny Mnemonic) yet? I need a data dump!
  • You know, I miss the Muppet Show. Guess I'll have to buy the DVDs....

Sunday, March 06, 2005

Bean 9 from Outer Space!

I've been convinced for years that soybeans are an alien substance. No other edible object can be made into as many different things as soybeans, and it's this diversity that freaks me out more than a little. The following is more a warning than a promotion.

Soybeans start out as beans, but they are far more than just vegetables. They can be baked and turned into soynuts. They are liquified into soy milk, and then that can be heated and curdled into tofu. Tofu is weird enough by itself because it comes in crazy colors like pink. And did I just say curdled? Normal dairy products are normally thrown away if they're curdled, aren't they? (The Wack-O-Meter is jumping...) But let's continue. There is also soy sauce, the most common condiment on Chinese food. A lot of vegetable oil used to make different foods is soy oil. Soy flour is ground roasted soybeans. And then, my favorite screwy adaptation is the meat alternatives like soy burgers. Go here for more details on soy foods.

(A side note: I always thought that vegetarians who made substitutes for meat products were cheating. If they say that people shouldn't eat meat, or it isn't natural, why do they make the substitutes? Stop cheating and do without, you hypocrites!)

So let's review. We have beans, milk, flour (for breads), and meat substitutes. That's ALL FOUR food groups! That's just not right. It's a freakin' bean! They were originally planted by little green men, I'm tellin' ya!

But wait there's more. At this site, they list some other applications for soybeans. They list real products for body & hair care, candles, cleaners, crayons, diesel fuel additives, fabric conditioner, paint removers, pens, polishes, solvents, furniture and waxes. Ye gods, it's a full scale invasion! It's like that old Saturday Night Live sketch: "New Shimmer is a dessert topping AND a floor wax! Mmm, tasty! And look at that shine!" There are some clever ideas, but several of the items in the list seem to me to be the result of bleeding-heart liberal tree-hugging lobbyist groups. I'm all for recycling and conservation, but sometimes it can go a little too far.

So next time you order a veggie burger on a soy flour bun with tofu and milk in a Chinese restaurant, get 'em to throw it all in a blender and puree it. It's all the same anyway. Just be sure to look for UFOs in the parking lot when you leave.

Cognitive Byproducts ~ Part One

This is the first in a continuing series of random thoughts, questions, and musings accumulated over time.

  • TD Waterhouse: Knock it off with the hipster editing style on your commercials. You're a highbrow financial corporation, why are you trying to appeal to the MTV crowd? Those insert shots that are off angle to the Law & Order guy aren't innovative, they're annoying. Keep it simple.
  • I've already discussed people talking on cel phones while driving. Today, I saw the next level. People REALLY shouldn't talk on cel phones while driving if they talk with their hands. This lady behind me was basically driving with one wrist while carrying on an enthusiastic conversation and gesturing with the other hand. I doubt she'd maintain control if I were to slam on the brakes....
  • Is it just my home system, or is Yahoo! mail starting to break down? I've had a couple different malfunctions in the last few weeks....
  • Part two will have some positive things to say, I promise.

Thursday, February 24, 2005

Jack Frost: Son of Satan

Snow fell on my area again today. We're supposed to get between three and eight inches here in western Maryland, north of DC, depending on who you listen to. When bad weather hits, you'd think we lived in Yuma, Arizona (91% sunshine annually - see record here) the way the locals deal with it.

The government should import the unemployed from the Buffalo area and set them up here to teach courses on winter weather. Classroom instruction would include discussions of supply allocation and that wearing a coat will not drastically reduce your hipness. Then the group would go outside for a practical hands-on lesson in clearing your WHOLE vehicle, (not just the front window), and using gearshifts to slow down.

When I was working my first job ever at the grocery store, I observed the most ridiculous phenomenon. Whenever there was snow or sleet or ice in the forecast, the whole town would be in the store to stock up on bread, milk, and toilet tissue. (At least they've got both ends of the process covered.) Like they're going to be stranded in their homes for a week and a half if we get four inches. But that's not the worst part. If we didn't get any snow, (or even if we did), and there was another forecast for some a couple days later, they'd all be back!! What did they do - have french toast fart parties?

The media just encourages the panic too. (That's their job in general, but that's a whole other post). TV and radio stations sensationalize the snow forecasts like it's going to paralyze the community for months and wipe out half the population. Tune in at six and eleven to get the up to the minute best guess by our certified meterologist and his InstaDoppler 25000 AccuZoom satellite technology that can detect temperature differentials with such a fine resolution, they can tell you've left the fridge open again.

I'm sure I am not the only one in the blogosphere that has that one relative who will watch six hours of the Weather Channel straight through. Anything more severe than a drizzle happens, you can forget about your regularly scheduled programming, it's Updates on the Eights until the system is over the Atlantic. I personally prefer to skip all the hype and crisis coverage and LOOK OUT THE WINDOW for myself. Maybe even walk outside!

A late afternoon report of snow showers provokes claims of "Watch out! there's BLACK ICE out there!!!" As if Lucifer himself is hosing down the pavement, and then waiting for innocent victims by the side of the road. Black ice is the most feared weather condition of all. It is spoken of in a tone usually reserved for campfire stories of the undead.

And don't let them announce any accidents on the highways. That'll prompt a call by itself to warn about the fifteen car pileup near exit 37. Of course, what I encounter when I actually get there is one cop, a tow truck, and some jerkweed sitting off in the ditch. This is the guy who still hasn't figured out that slamming on your brakes on a slushy road (which is not the ice-encrusted path of doom that was foretold) is STILL a really bad idea.

But he was never in any danger of being stranded. He was probably on his cel phone already.

Tuesday, February 22, 2005

It slices, it dices, it connects at 56k baud....

I'm waiting for the collapse of "pop" technology, especially cel phones. They're just getting out of hand.

I've got to give them credit, though the people who invent and market these things are pretty savvy. They draw two crowds: the people who never stop talking, and the gadget people.

The first crowd is larger than I thought it would be. In all the public places, you always see people walking around shopping, eating, and attending events, all while talking on the phone. Maybe it's just because I'm slightly antisocial or that I'm comfortable being by my self, but WHO ARE THEY TALKING TO? Cashier lines have gotten just a little longer while the person in front fumbles for change while keeping their head cocked to one side. A lot of times you'll see a group of several people together, either a family or a group of friends, and one of them is on the phone. I say, you should've invited that person along too! I mean, I can see if you're shopping for something and you have to ask a question, but the majority of callers I see seem to be having regular conversations. What is it that couldn't wait until you got home?

And don't get me started on those who do it while driving. They sure as hell aren't controlling the car by voice command! It should become part of the licensing procedure to test whether you can maintain the speed limit and position in your lane while on the phone. If you can't, you should be banned from talking while driving. A few states already make it generally illegal, but it's not enforceable. I sometimes think it would be worth the FCC penalty to have a device that would disrupt the signal to the guy in the next lane who's doing 48 and drifting. Bzzzt!! Hang up and drive, sucker!

I wonder how much money is spent annually on cel phone bills just for this conversation:

"Hey, what are you doing?"

"Nothing, what's up?"

"Just seein' what you're up to."

"Where you at?"

"The mall."

"Okay, call me later..."


What a waste. I'll bet we could get a lot of better use out of all that money. Put the figures on the news, and the bleeding hearts would have a protest. I think there's even one wireless provider whose slogan actually is "Where you at?"

The other audience is the gadget fans. Nowadays, a wireless phone can have special ringtones, a color display with custom background graphics, internet access, photographic and video capabilities, and oh yes, unlimited call minutes as well. All those people like me who either run out of people to call, or run out of things to say after the first few hours, now have all these other wonderfully convenient (aargh) devices built into the phone that you carry everywhere. Hey, let's blind the world by giving them a screen two inches wide and tell them to compose pictures and read web pages on it! It's like the digital camera and laptop computer are too complicated, so let's make a simplistic versions that will fit in a three cubic inch space and operate with less than a dozen buttons! Nobody needs all that, the novelty's gotta wear off at some point. Just ask my PDA. (Of course, I put that down because I could put all my phone numbers on my new cel phone!) It's all got to crash at some point. People will get tired of buying laptops, PDAs, portable video cameras, and remote controls just to have them replaced by inferior versions on a telephone.

Maybe the monthly bills will get them. I can't find a phone plan for less than $40 any more. Pretty soon, they'll have financing available for qualified buyers on the latest model wireless digital color picture-taking, internet ready, car DVD remote controlling, mood sensing, stress relieving, variable speed massage wrist phones from the new monopoly corporation Cingurizint & T-MobileOne.

"For just $369 a month, add unlimited second lines so everyone you've ever met can ask you 'where you at?' for free."

Friday, February 18, 2005

Found on beach after channel surfing

Been watching way too much TV lately. A few observations, some old, some new:

BASF - "We don't make the products you buy, we make the products you buy better." So WHY do you advertise??!!!!

College football may be the purer game, but commercialism rules off the field. In my opinion, the only way a sponsor should get their company name into the name of the bowl game is if they had an active role in establishing that bowl game in the first place. If Nokia financed the development of the Sugar Bowl, then we'll call it the "Nokia Sugar Bowl". But if not, it should be the Sugar Bowl sponsored by Nokia.

Same goes for corporations putting their names on the stadiums. Are they financing the construction or maintenance of the building or just paying for the ad space? Large structures like that should still be monuments to the people that made them possible. Name the stadium after the late great founders of the franchise, or the revered coach that brought glory to the team. The company names keep changing so much that they're insignificant.

And why do they have to list the sponsors of a game, college or pro, after the commercials for those very same sponsors? It's not only annoying, it's redundant.
The Westminster Dog Show did one better. After a commercial break, they came back and showed all the logos for the sponsors in a graphic frame which had the main sponsor's logo (Pedigree dog food) in the corner the whole time. And what do you think the last one in the list was? Pedigree! The Westminster dog show sponsored by Pedigree, brought to you by Company A, Company B, and Pedigree!

The other thing about televised sports that causes forehead smacking in my living room (especially since the NFL basically became my religion in the past year or two), is when announcers use the term "nicked up" to describe an injured athlete. Players, especially in football, don't get "nicked" up, they get beat up. The only way to get nicked up is with a lousy razor in the morning. Bad shaving will never make the highlights. (I submitted this to my favorite column on NFL.com ~ Tuesday Morning Quarterback, but wasn't published this time. Watch this space for more references to that column, I'm sure.)

AOL, the exploiters of computer amateurs around the globe (and now in Spanish too), says in their ads, to try their service "for a better Internet". Sorry guys, IT'S THE SAME INTERNET no matter what service you use. Yours just has more extra areas that aren't really internet at all. (Not to mention the extra poppups and junk mail.) AOL, the Wal-Mart of Internet providers.

Super Bowl ads were a little thin this year. But the best one is a series that is still running. The Wuss, Suck-up and Mama's Boy action figures. Took me three viewings to realize they're deodorant ads.

Journey of a thousand miles...

...begins with the first step.

A dear friend recommended I explore writing and suggested blogging as a starting point. So here goes.

Hmm. Ok, I guess you have to save something in order to see what it looks like.

Is it just me or does anyone else get worse at typing as time goes by? I thought dyslexia was a predominately vocal affliction. All hail King Backspace!