BlogSpot as Revenge

Got a little ditty in the email this afternoon that actually made me chuckle... the eternally circulated emails rarely do that.

Anyway, this kid buys a laptop on eBay from a dood named Amir, then two months later when it finally arrives, it doesn't work. Enter BlogSpot.

The rest is here.

Further to the story, Scotland Yard is looking into the matter here.

The kid who took matters into his own hands wins the "Cast Iron Balls" award,

and little Amir, well, he wins the "Moron of the Week" award.

This all sounds alarmingly like something I would do, actually. As soon as my feud with Dairyland Insurance is resolved to my satisfaction, I'll post the story here.

My New Job

So, after a frustrating month here at the office, I've decided to go to work in route sales for Acme International Urinal Cake, Inc.

I start tomorrow...


Interesting that as our little local economy picks up steam and chugs along at breakneck speed, per-employee productivity goes.... wait for it.... down the pisser. Hard to get anything done when everybody is standing at the urinal, touching themselves.


You're In REAL Oil Country

If you're not a hockey fan, you have not idea what this post is about, but that's okay:

Let us pray.

In the name of the Pronger, the Pisani, the Horcoff and Stoll.

Our Oilers, Who art in Edmonton,
Hallowed be thy Team,

Thy Sharks they come, Thy deed be done,
In Anaheim as twas in Detroit and San Jose.

Give us this win,
Shutout by Roloson,

And forgive us our neutral ice turnovers,
As we punish those who turnover against us,

And lead us not unto the links,
As we've lead those who played before us.

MacTavish (Amen)

So anyway, when the Oilers came to San Jose to play in the previous round, al the fans there boo'd their way through the Canadian anthem. The local papers there made a big thing about it, they were quite offended really.

Then came the next game in Edmonton:

There are a couple of priceless moments in this little clip:
Like the San Jose player who would rather be ANYWHERE than standing on the ice at that very moment in time - he would have traded is stick right there and then for his set of PINGS. That's okay - that happened about two hours later. :)

Here is a clip of the mayhem right after the Oilers eliminated the Sharks, same night:

To get the full impact here, you have to understand what hockey is to the City Of Edmonton. Right now the Oilers are playing in their first appearance in the Western Conference Finals in more than a decade. The last time they were there, there were still players on the team that were there during the dynasty years of the 1980's. Now there are none, a bunch of young-buck new faces. The coaching staff has been lacking for a long time, and it has only been in the last two or three years that coaching has been changed, and Craig McTavish, once a captain for the team in the dynasty years, is now the coach. A very cerebral and strategy-based one at that.

In actuality, the entire team management, from GM to coach, assistant coach, they're all players from the Glory Years. They have instilled in these kids what it was the Old-Timers accomplished, what it took to get it done. Now they know. And they are winning. They are battling through a nasty flu bug on the team, bad enough to force lineup changes, and still, they are winning through it. It is truly inspiring to watch this happening there. The fans view hockey in Edmonton like New Yorkers view the Yankees. It's an identity. A deep one. There's been a drought for a very long time. Looks like the drought might be over. I gotta think there's a good "Cup-Run" in the offing here.

I've sat in that building many times over the years, and I was lucky to be there when they won the first cup way back when... (I was a limousine driver at the time) Mark Messier took the cup across the street to the strip bar right after, where champaigne flowed out of it all night long. (Don't ask me how I know that...) This was not a private party or celebration either, he ran out of the Colliseum on foot, across the street full of traffic, and over to the bar with it in his hands, held over his head.

There is an interesting thing about the cup. If you look at it closely, you can see it is not exactly in pristine condition. There are dings and dents all over it. It has been in some pretty weird places.

Anyway, I digress... GO OILERS!!!

Absurdly Irresponsible Marketing for Absurdly Inefficient Vehicles

This week the marketing geniuses at GM announced a promotion to new buyers to help them swallow the massive gas price tag that comes along with single-digit-MPG vehicles.

The pitch: Buy one of these babies over here, and we'll give you a gas rebate, never letting YOUR price for a gallon of gas go over $1.99!!!
Freakin' GENIUS!! The guy who thought that up over a 6-pack of Red-Bull and a big bag of Flamin' Hot Cheetos should be given a MASSIVE bonus! Really, I'm not kidding.

Have you ever seen such a brazen show of corporate-team-player-mentality, in the face of near total public disgust at your company's products? It's incredible! He's the HERO!

How does the guy sleep? Nicely, thanks, because I just got a huge bonus - I figured out how to get these land-yaghts
off the lots of our poor suffering dealers across the country, AND I cleared the path for the company to ship even MORE of them!! I'm BRILLIANT!! Pass me another one of those redbulls... I'm still workin on getting the company to make those Bradley Fighting Vehicles for sale in the consumer market - that baby is gonna ROCK!

The offer is good for 2006 and 2007 model year vehicles. In California, eligible vehicles are the Chevrolet Tahoe and Suburban sport utility vehicles and Impala and Monte Carlo sedans; the GMC Yukon and Yukon XL SUVs; the Hummer H2 and H3 SUVs; the Cadillac SRX SUV.

They make you sign up for the On-Star service (again, BRILLIANT upsell), as that is how they track where you are, and how many miles you've driven, via the same feedback chip that tells the owner when it's time for service, or it has diagnosed another problem. They then send you a rebate. 1000 miles per month could get you $107 per month credited back to you via a pre-loaded debit card.

It's all about the Price-Per-Share for the shareholder, after all, we need to make that platinum-lined bonus for the CEO.

yay. that's just great. way to help out, GM. so much for corporate responsibility. (
full story here)


The Education of Hatred

Continuing on the theme of education, (see the previous post and its comment for good points abot the state of our local educational system - in which I claim, and still do, that it is, for all practical purposes, broken) here is a story from the Washington Post which has garnered a fair amount of press today. The article basically says that since 9/11, Saudi Arabian Islamic education has been changed to try and teach children the importance of living in tolerance of other peoples' beliefs.

The story states that a year ago, an embassy spokesman declared: "We have reviewed our educational curriculums. We have removed materials that are inciteful or intolerant towards people of other faiths." The embassy is also distributing a 74-page review on curriculum reform to show that the textbooks have been moderated.

The problem is: These claims are not true.

The point should be made here that elementary education is the foundation of Saudi Arabia's political ideology, and students are taught the "appropriate" interpretation of Islam. Islamic studies make up 25-30 percent of the daily educational menu. The public school system consists of 25,000 schools, educating about 5 million students, not counting those abroad taught in facilities in other countries (including the US).

I ask you, is this REFORM???


"Every religion other than Islam is false."

"Fill in the blanks with the appropriate words (Islam, hellfire): Every religion other than ______________ is false. Whoever dies outside of Islam enters ____________."

Fourth Grade

"True belief means . . . that you hate the polytheists and infidels but do not treat them unjustly."

Fifth Grade

"Whoever obeys the Prophet and accepts the oneness of God cannot maintain a loyal friendship with those who oppose God and His Prophet, even if they are his closest relatives."

"It is forbidden for a Muslim to be a loyal friend to someone who does not believe in God and His Prophet, or someone who fights the religion of Islam."

"A Muslim, even if he lives far away, is your brother in religion. Someone who opposes God, even if he is your brother by family tie, is your enemy in religion."

Sixth Grade

"Just as Muslims were successful in the past when they came together in a sincere endeavor to evict the Christian crusaders from Palestine, so will the Arabs and Muslims emerge victorious, God willing, against the Jews and their allies if they stand together and fight a true jihad for God, for this is within God's power."

Eighth Grade

"As cited in Ibn Abbas: The apes are Jews, the people of the Sabbath; while the swine are the Christians, the infidels of the communion of Jesus."

"God told His Prophet, Muhammad, about the Jews, who learned from parts of God's book [the Torah and the Gospels] that God alone is worthy of worship. Despite this, they espouse falsehood through idol-worship, soothsaying, and sorcery. In doing so, they obey the devil. They prefer the people of falsehood to the people of the truth out of envy and hostility. This earns them condemnation and is a warning to us not to do as they did."

"They are the Jews, whom God has cursed and with whom He is so angry that He will never again be satisfied [with them]."

"Some of the people of the Sabbath were punished by being turned into apes and swine. Some of them were made to worship the devil, and not God, through consecration, sacrifice, prayer, appeals for help, and other types of worship. Some of the Jews worship the devil. Likewise, some members of this nation worship the devil, and not God."

"Activity: The student writes a composition on the danger of imitating the infidels."

Ninth Grade

"The clash between this [Muslim] community (umma) and the Jews and Christians has endured, and it will continue as long as God wills."

"It is part of God's wisdom that the struggle between the Muslim and the Jews should continue until the hour [of judgment]."

"Muslims will triumph because they are right. He who is right is always victorious, even if most people are against him."

Tenth Grade

The 10th-grade text on jurisprudence teaches that life for non-Muslims (as well as women, and, by implication, slaves) is worth a fraction of that of a "free Muslim male." Blood money is retribution paid to the victim or the victim's heirs for murder or injury:

"Blood money for a free infidel. [Its quantity] is half of the blood money for a male Muslim, whether or not he is 'of the book' or not 'of the book' (such as a pagan, Zoroastrian, etc.).

"Blood money for a woman: Half of the blood money for a man, in accordance with his religion. The blood money for a Muslim woman is half of the blood money for a male Muslim, and the blood money for an infidel woman is half of the blood money for a male infidel."

Eleventh Grade

"The greeting 'Peace be upon you' is specifically for believers. It cannot be said to others."

"If one comes to a place where there is a mixture of Muslims and infidels, one should offer a greeting intended for the Muslims."

"Do not yield to them [Christians and Jews] on a narrow road out of honor and respect."

Twelfth Grade

"Jihad in the path of God -- which consists of battling against unbelief, oppression, injustice, and those who perpetrate it -- is the summit of Islam. This religion arose through jihad and through jihad was its banner raised high. It is one of the noblest acts, which brings one closer to God, and one of the most magnificent acts of obedience to God."

There is an interesting comment I am thining about making here, but I have chosen to NOT make it, to see if it pops up in someone else's head here inte form of a comment - we shall see.

On a contrasting note, I read a story this morning about the visit of Professor Elie Wiesel to Snow College 2 days ago. (here) Prof Wiesel is an Auschwitz survivor (I beleive - it isn't 100% clear from the text - but the assumption is easy, based on the context).

He spoke about forgiveness and tolerance. Excuse me, but is not this person, on behalf of all his fellow Jews, about the ONLY one around who has the right to the sort of hatred expressed above? But not so.

In Jerusalem, during the Eichmann trial, Prof. Wiesel recognized a man from Auschwitz. He was one who distributed soup, a German, riding on the bus now with Prof. Wiesel. Prof. Wiesel went up to him, asked him if he was from Germany, had been in Poland, in Auschwitz, in a particular block. The man shuddered with the recognition of what this meant. Prof. Wiesel had a few seconds to pass judgment on this man. He had beaten Prof. Wiesel, but he had not been particularly cruel. Prof. Wiesel told him not to worry. In all the time he had to judge, he did not.

There are some people on this earth who seem to melt through the hatred, through having been forced to swallow the fire for the sake of their own existence, and make the world a better place to be because they simply choose to be how they are.

"I do not believe in collective guilt or punishment. Children of murderers are not murderers; they are children. I believe in the responsibility of each of us to maintain the dignity of each other."

Once he went to Germany and talked, gently, about what had happened to him. It was a New Germany, one that had gone a long way in seeking reconciliation with the Jews. Prof. Wiesel was talking with the German Prime Minister and acknowledged all the good that the Germans had done. He then asked, “You have never asked the Jewish people for forgivness. Why not?” A week later, the Prime Minister flew to Israel and did just that.

He closed his speech thusly: "God is God and he judges. Sometimes my words carry. I thank you for being here tonight."


Do We (still) Have A Problem With Social Promotion?

As the school year winds to an underwhelming end, I look back at the year with kids in school. Our third of 8 is graduating from High School in a week or two, 2 more next year, one in 9th, one in 7th, and one in 5th, and so I have a little perspective from which to work.

Overall, my question is this: Is there (still) a problem with "social promotion" in our schools? For those unfamiliar with the term, it is the practice of moving children into and out of grades, or classes, in school based on age only, and not performance, or a level of achievement having been met.

In the middle to late 90's, this concept was more of a newsmaker than it is now. So is it still a problem, or have we moved on to more expedient political footballs?

In 1999, President Clinton spoke about social promotion in his State of the Union address, to sustained applause, noting that fourth graders should not move on in school unless they could read independently and well, and should not enter high school without a solid foundation in math skills. He called for a decrease in Federal funding to school districts who insist on continuing the practice of social promotion.

Clinton's proposed program called for 2 things, operating in tandem: an end to social promotion, and an increase in funding to support early detection and remediation of at-risk students with learning deficiencies. He also calls for "appropriate use of tests and other indicators of academic performance in determining whether students should be promoted." The key questions are whether testing is used appropriately in such decisions and whether early identification and remediation of learning problems can take place successfully.

My experience is this, from an anecdotal perspective: I have found that, especially in junior high, an average or even below-average kid (any and all kids actually), can earn so much credit in bonus work, bonus points, extra curricular contributions, bonus questions, etc, that grades are easily skewed to the point that they don't really reflect the level of proficiency of a given student. I've had kids come home from school with a grade on a test that is above 100%. Talk about "new math!!!"

This, coupled with a social promotion mindset, can lead to kids heading into and out of high school without having an appropriate baseline minimum education.
President Clinton told a "summit"” meeting of political and business leaders in October of 1999, "that students who are held back because they fail to vault newly raised bars should be treated with tough love, "‘look dead in the eye some child who has been held back, and say, "This doesn't mean there's something wrong with you, but we'll be hurting you worse if we tell you you're learning something when you're not."

And lest you think this is what all good Democrats should say, consider:

[From 1998] Governor Bush of Texas has proposed that "3rd graders who do not pass the reading portion of the Texas Assessment of Academic Skills would be required to receive help before moving to regular classrooms in the 4th grade. The same would hold true for 5th graders who failed to pass reading and math exams and 8th graders who did not pass tests in reading, math, and writing. The state would provide funding for locally developed intervention programs."

So, it's now 7 years or so since that time. Has anything changed? I don't think so. It's easy for us to wave the funding flag here. Real easy. Holding kids back is expensive. Some argue that the expense and emotional damage incurred by a hold-back does not necessarily remedy the original problem: an underperforming student.
In addition to the funding flag, there are other flags being trotted out too, most notably the race flag, culture flag, and the language flag.

All of these are issues that impact the effectiveness of teachers in our schools. And in fact, I would submit that test-based promotion is/would be harder to regulate and implement now than it would have been then, given these other flags that now play into the picture in a more prominent way.

Bottom line for me: With the atmosphere what it is, and funding what it is, and, from a local perspective, the state of our local school districts, it will be very hard to do anything besides promote students based on age-only, and we will continue to churn out high school grads who cannot read, write, or multiply. This has the effect of dumbing down our society over a long term. I come in contact with MANY people who couldn't write their way out of a rain-soaked paper bag. (One of my MAJOR pet peeves.) We continue to shrink the school year at the behest of the teachers associations, while simply allowing our kids to float through, paying good teachers poorly (pun intended), having dumbed our education system down to the lowest common denominators in the effort to "include" everybody. That's what daycares are for.

In the category of "don't get me started", why are there so many school districts here on the Wasatch Front? Granite school district purchased the MAMMOTH albatross otherwise known as the failed FHP HMO building, which has gone through several different entities. How much money would be saved for other funding issues (like per-student dollars) if the school districts around here were combined under one roof, one administration, one set of staff, etc., in that building? There is lots of administrative overhead that could be saved by combining school districts. Just my $0.02

Further geek-reading:

Forget Scientology, how about Opus Dei

From a little light reading on MSNBC:

Columnist Paige Ferarri suggests that Scientology is tired in the white-hot trend-setting town of Hollywood.

From her column:

‘Da Vinci Code’ group is perfect fit for celebrity religious tastes

These days it’s hard to keep up with the latest trends in celebrity worship. By the time I bought my red Kabbalah bracelet, it was about as edgy as Livestrong, and about as cool as last year’s pashmina. Same goes for my at-home Thetan measuring device, and my autographed copy of “Battlefield Earth.” Astrology lost its glamour back when Nancy Reagan left the White House, and the only time I’ve been relieved to find myself suddenly passé was midway through my silent birth.

Style watchers are tired of the same old fringe faiths. We cry out for our celebrities to adopt a hip new opium — something to fill up entertainment magazine side-bars, launch accessory trends, and inspire prime time investigations. But what group could possibly have enough hype and heft to usurp behemoths like Scientology and Kabbalah as the next great religious movement of the rich and famous? My money is on Opus Dei.

The entire column is here.


Moron of the Week: 2-time winner

Over the weekend Mayor Ray Nagin won re-election as the Mayor of New Orleans. The news ran a shot of his "acceptance" speech. In it, he noted, "to those voters that went over to the dark side, I forgive you."

Wonderfully unifying speech there - but then, he's not really known for his skills with regard to "unification", is he?

See his first appearance on my Moron of the Week list


Five Friday Randoms

1. In Red Deer, Alberta, in April, Jesse Maggrah, 20, listening through earphones to heavy-metal music while walking on Canadian Pacific Railway tracks, was hit from behind by a train moving at about 30 mph, but survived. In his hospital bed (broken ribs, punctured lung, other injuries), Maggrah said he remembers the immediate aftermath: "I thought, 'Holy crap, dude, you just got hit by a train.'" "Maybe the metal gods above were smiling on me, and they didn't want one of their true warriors to die on them." [Edmonton Sun, 4-18-06]


3. The Edmonton Oilers have made it to the Western Conference Finals in the NHL for the first time in more than a decade. Last year, Edmonton had to sit by while rivals Calgary Flames made it to the finals. Now, Flames fans get to sit by and watch in their stead. It's about time. The Oilers' series games have been reported as the best of the playoff season to this point. There is talk in Edmonton of a championship run, but they also use the ubiquitous sports euphemism: One game at a time.

4. Earlier this week Money Magazine reported the results of Google's "see what people are searching for" lists. Using IP address information from their server logs, they've come up with the following:

Salt Lake City ranks first nationally in searches for "pornography,"” "strip tease,"” "“nudity,"” "“naked girls,"” "“gay pix,"” "“masturbation"” and "“masturbating."” We rank second nationally in searches for "“hot sex"” and "“big boobs"” and the rather innocuous descriptor of "“naughty."” We rank first and third in searches for female genitalia both in terms and manner that cannot be described here. We fall into third and fourth place in searches for subjects under the heading of "“lesbian"” and "“lesbo,"” respectively. Disturbingly, our fair city ranks fifth in searches regarding "“incest."”

I'’ve since taken a shower following my rigorous research but find it interesting on several levels. LDS Church members will no doubt boil these rankings down to the scourge of this city's Gentile populace, but I'’ve other hunches. When authority forces something as all-powerful as human sexuality into the forbidden zone, the curious are bound to sneak a peek or two, or three or four. Few entities beside the LDS Church have given Internet pornography so much publicity as of late.

The irony is, of course, delicious, even more so when served with a generous helping of hypocrisy. A fleet of Hummers adorned with "Support Our Troops" decals could not top it. Freud himself would feel compelled to rework his theories of repression, sublimation, fixation and regression. Because if Google'’s methodology is even half as accurate as it hopes, it seems clear that a lot of us have no need to sublimate our sexual desires.

5. This afternoon I had to run an errand from my office in mid-valley, down to 110 South and State St. On my way, I was turned back at state and 8000 South due to the amount of water in the tunnel there. The fire department had the road closed. As I got to where I was going, the rain hit me again, and about stuck me in my car... what a total deluge.

Funny thing is, as I was driving back, I was thinking to myself that I was feeling like Noah. There was lots of water.

Then I turned the corner, looked up and found myself staring at a sign that said: Ararat Foreign Engine Repair.

I laughed out loud. A bit Ironic.

The picture here is Mt. Ararat, where Noah's Ark is alledged by some to be lodged, discovered a while back.


My Solution For High Gas Prices

So, I've been rolling this around in my spacious noggin for several days now. And finally, I have come up with the solution to our high gas prices.

In a nutshell, the price you pay at the pump will be commensurate with the EPA officially published mileage rating for your vehicle.

What will this do to pricing at the pump? Nothing. However, nothing we as consumers do right now seems to impact prices at the pump anyway.
What this WILL do, is allow responsible users to pay LESS, and the ones who want to drive big crap on our roads will pay MORE.

Here is how it will work:

Say household ONE has one vehicle: a Toyota Camry. The EPA published mileage for that car is 22 (for example)

Say household TWO has one vehicle: A Ford Excursion. The EPA published mileage for that car is 16 (for example)

Say household THREE has one vehicle: A Honda Civic Hybrid. The EPA published mileage for that car is 43 (for example)

Say household FOUR has TWO vehicles: a Camry and a Ford F250 Truck. EPA mileage on the Camry is 22, and the F250 is 15 (for example). The AVERAGE mileage rating (or in my program, the MILEAGE INDEX), for that household is 18.5.

Okay. So, depending on your MILEAGE INDEX, the price at the pump is prorated for you. The bottom line result is that if you drive a hummer, you pay (for example) 50 cents per gallon OVER the base "sign price" than the Camry family.
If you drive a civic hybrid, you pay (for example) 15 cents LESS than the base sign price.

All vehicles registered to you will go into calculating your specific INDEX. Larger vehicles needed for commercial use could be exempted, by application, as would agri-vehicles, etc. If you have a car registered, but you don't drive it - it's parked, or seasonal, etc, there would be a way to calculate it into your index, based on the time it is insured for driving - days per year.

Get it? So, the problem I see with this program is programming your index at the pump. You would receive a little button, like the Discover Card pay button thing that looks like a watch battery attached to a fob, or some other item to go on your key ring. This button would store your index information, along with your name, and the names of those who drive and pay for gas in your family... this button would need to match up with the name on your credit card when you swipe it at the pump.

This "button" method does propose the problem of black market buttons that would become quickly available through nefarious means.

Therefore, another option would be to have issued to you a very small barcode sticker that would be attached inside your filler flap. There would then need to be a handheld reader/scanner that would perform the same function as the "button" method, operated by the gas buyer at the time of purchase. This would eliminate the black market for Index Buttons. It's permanently attached to your car, and embedded into the barcode. The is no way for an onlooker to tell what your index is.
Scanning another car's sticker while at the pump to provide a more favorable index price would be a criminal offense.

Anyway, the scanned code would have to match some other info you provide at the pump anyway, to help cut down that sort of activity.
There are kinks and costs to be worked out - most notably almost the entire paradigm of "the gas pump". Expensive and tedious. But it's a thought.

Would this make (average, or base) prices go down? No.
What it WOULD do, is help our people to feel the need to conserve energy and help cut down our thirst for that precious and finite resource, through choosing better and fewer vehicles to drive, and to drive them less often. The only language most of us consumers understand is that attached to our wallet.

How's THAT for all you "big brother" conspiracy nutjobs out there???



Do you give your spare change to panhandlers?

So, anyone who reads here often knows that I have a small vice for slobbery-sweet Americanized Chinese food, preferably deep-fried, dripping with MSG. Hey, what can I say, it's my only vice. (Right, and I have a bridge in New York State for sale.)

Anyway, when I need to get out of the office and decompress for 30 minutes, I head to the Panda Express, maybe once a month. While I was getting into my car yesterday with by booty (my food, not my arse - although I had that with me as well), I was accosted, as I am in different situations about once a month or so, by a panhandler.

He was a native American Indian, who explained his plight in coming here from North Dakota, and now not having enough money to get back or find anything to eat, for that matter. He asked if I could help him out with some money to help buy him some food.
There are people out there who would have taken this person and bought him some lunch and sent him on his way. I am not typically one of those people. I did, however, give him the change I received from paying for my meal.

Now, before you go all postal on me, let me explain: I gave it to him, not FOR him, but FOR myself.

You see, I'm not STUPID (quiet down, people), I know where that money goes. I know it walks two blocks down the street to the 7-11 beer cooler or the liquor store. I know it goes to the dealer, or whatever. That's why I don't hand over a five dollar bill.

Perhaps I am selfish, but I give away my spare change because it helps me remember how fortunate I am. Life is hard, believe me, I know. Been there, done that. It seems sometimes that I (and maybe more of us than we would care to think) am not far from being there more often.

It keeps me grounded and humble, I think of my own kids, hoping that they will be able to do the things they need to in order to get security in their lives. I do it to help me remember how hard I need to work to make sure that my family is cared for. I have responsibilities, many of them, and I am fortunate to be where I am today. I am where I am today because of people who have handed over their spare change to me, figuratively speaking, when it has been needed.

Over the last year or so, I have been in the fortunate position to be able to help out a couple of family members who have needed bailing out. Although the people were different, I did it in response to the bailing out I was in need of in earlier times.

I gave some financial support when it was needed, and when times were better for those people, they approached me about paying me back. My response to them was that they should simply watch for other deserving people in their lives, and when/if the need arises, reserve that "payback" money to actually "pay it forward" to someone who was in need. All I asked of them both was that they send me a note to tell me what they had done to help someone else in their lives, and that they then tell that new person to do the same for someone else in the future.

The movie of the same name was inspiration for this thought. In both cases this concept was met with novel interest, and thankfulness on both parts.

Why do I write this here? I certainly don't seek to put myself on a pedestal or bring any kind of notice to myself. It is simply just to state that the satisfaction my wife and I have received from this has been very nice. Both of us feel fortunate to live the way we do, sure there are stresses, and we aren't independently wealthy by even the most wild stretch of the creative mind, but we are thankful. Thankful for people around us who have helped us, thankful to be able to help, thankful to be able to give examples to kids of what it means to truly have "Christian" values.

We try to show the kids that going to Church does not a Christian make.
If I can pass along ANYTHING to my kids, and others around me, it's that concept right there. So, yes, I do give change to people who ask, most of the time. It reminds me. It gives me perspective. "There but for the Grace of God go I."

The Moral/Political relationship

It's no secret that Bush won re-election on the backs of a relatively small group of very vocal Christian Activists. The question is this: is this a new development? I think not.

Several years ago, the Democratic party made what seems to have been a conscious decision to let go of, or ignore, the usual "Christian Values" voters. They weren't vocal back then, and didn't matter in a national political sense. However, in a seeming stroke of genious (genious no longer residing in that party), they saw opportunity, and the Republicans picked up that group. "Hey, let's get on board with these people. They're passionate, and we can throw them a bone or two on their issues, like abortion, etc., and we can get some major mileage out of the relationship." As we now know, that has been a very symbiotic relationship.

Since that time, through the increasingly loud talk of this group, the US political landscape has grown to include the platform planks of this group - even though one may argue that they are a relative minority, in it's structure. They tend to vote party-line republican, and that suits them fine.

While this has developed in favor of the Republicans over the last decades, it has been equally damaging to the Left. It has been proven time and again that when you are a group that DEFINES the debate, you WIN the debate. The republican party has beaten the Values-Voter drum for a long time now, very effectively. The Democrats, as a result, have looked for a long time like the group that eschews this religious group in favor of "the rest". Now, there are factions of this group that don't really like what the current administration has done for them lately, mostly because of Bush's casual stroll through major hot-button issues important to these passionate and noisy few.

As both parties now attempt to appeal to groups more in the center of the political spectrum, groups like these "values-voters", the Democratic party is beginning to see some traction with issues normally seen as being in the wheel-house of the Republican party.

As the steam builds in a positive way for the Democrats, the Republicans seem to be losing steam in the same arena, because of lackluster performance on key issues.

Even here in the west, and in Utah specifically, the atmosphere is beginning to give Democrats hope for the near future. A few weeks ago, the LDS church made a statement that pointed out, in part, that both political parties contain values that are identified with general LDS principles. This put a lot of wind in the sails of the group of people who have felt like black sheep for decades: the religious democrat. Couple that sentiment with less-then-average performance from long-time repubs representing the state, and you have yourself a race.

It will be interesting to see how the state races turn out, and equally interesting will be the national races. Utah is no longer the US's most ardent Bush supporter - that now falls to Idaho. Is there really a tangible shift coming down the Beltway?

As democrats continue to find their sea legs with regard to the religious voter, the republicans are having a hard time finding a cohesive identity within their own house. While there are many names still bandied about for a Republican presidential nominee, there are no standouts, and none of them seem to be looked at as being able to carry the water for the team.

It also remains to be seen who will float to the top of the Democratic ticket as well. Usually, two years out, the cream of both parties starts to show visibly, and although neither party is showing front-runners yet, I think the Republicans are going to have a harder time putting someone forward that will have enough traction.

Consider, from both parties:
Hilary Clinton - Too divisive
John McCain - Too ugly, from the west
Colin Powell - Too smart to run
Al Gore - Too charisma challenged (he's got enough to do managing his invention, the internet.)
Jeb Bush -– Too soon, wrong surname, wrong given name
Joseph Lieberman -– Too whiney sounding
Wesley Clark - Too tiny looking on TV
Howard Dean - Too crazy
John Edwards - Too goofy
Mitt Romney - Too Mormon

So, now it's your turn. Who do you think might float to the top of the dog-pile that is a national presidential campaign?

My thought:

Joseph Biden - an angry democrat. He appears genuinely pissed off, and that might just be a bit idiot-savant of him, but he does seem genuinely torqued right now. Maybe he will stir the anger of enough people to get out and vote AGAINST something, rather than FOR something. Then if he can ALSO come up with something to FOR, he'll be in good shape.

Your thoughts???


When is Amnesty Not Amnesty?

I spent the length of "The Speech" on the phone last night, and so didn't get a chance to hear it first hand. However, I did get the chance to read it, and have heard the reactions of many voices, from lawmakers, to border patrol agents, to border-living citizens, to regular folk like you and me.

After parsing those thoughts, and the ones that were my immediate reactions to the speech, I have come to some opinions.

There are, by estimate, between 12 and 20 million (maybe more - if we could track them and count them, we could "ask" them to leave) illegals within the borders of the country right now. A "proposal" from the President, or anyone else for that matter, and that's all it is, a proposal, that seeks to address the two-pronged problem of border security AND how to deal with those already here illegally, only waters down the critical points of both issues into a clear broth without much nutritional value in each direction.

A law out of the House will do the same, under this same outline. Therefore, a discussion regarding each item separately:

First: Border Security. Let's face it, you can couch this all day long as an issue with all border crossings into the US, but at the end of the day, the southern border of our country is a shambles and a rotting symbol of the impotence of our government to come to a viable "secure" measure to CLOSE the border in areas where there is not a manned crossing. I am from Canada. I don't know how many times I have been across the border into/out of Canada from here. I would hazard a guess to say that it numbers in the DOZENS of times. I think I have been across almost every border crossing into or out of the states along the Alberta/British Columbia border area - a distance of several hundred miles. This doesn't include the MANY international airports I have flown into, effectively crossing the border through customs at that time as well.

Without fail, every time I cross, I have to provide my proper documentation, which includes my proof of legal residency here.

In that area of the country, the other parts of the border are cordoned off with a fence, even in the most difficult mountainous areas. Crossing through the fence will get you arrested and detained. Why is it then, that we cannot expect this nation's government to enforce that same policy along our southern borders? There are a few lawmakers calling for the erection of a high concrete fence along the southern border. There are others calling for that fence in only the remotest locations, so as to "herd" the traffic to more easily patrolled areas, such as ACTUAL LEGAL BORDER CROSSINGS... and thereby protecting the rights of (legal) property owners who live along those border areas.

How many years and how many salaried bodies does it take to provide the money to get that done? And moreover, how long does it take for us to enact laws with teeth that actually PUNISH those that cross illegally, either by providing false documentation, or simply by running across the desert? I dare say the days of chain-link are through. Leaving it the way it is makes a mockery of the actual border crossings that exist and are staffed with Federal personnel. It's either sealed or it's not. I think it should be. No forthcoming bill with have teeth anywhere close to this sort of action.

Incidentally, it was the Minuteman group who said they were prepared to begin building fence on private land, with landowners' authorization, and with public funding, beginning May 15th, if the Federal Government didn't take some sort of stand by that date - that was yesterday. The Utah Minutemen (speaking for the national organization) are not really pleased with the thoughts put forward by the President. Their next move remains to be seen.

Second: Amnesty/Legalization of current criminals. The president stated that offering citizenship, or legalization to those already here is amnesty, and he doesn't support that. In fact, that is basically what he did, however. He mentioned a plan under which those that are already here illegally would be put into either a guest worker program, or would be put to the "back of the line" in terms of gaining access to legal residency/citizenship. There are several problems with this approach. First of all, there are about 20 million of these people, all of whom don't give a rat's arse about obeying any law, as proven by their very presence here.

How does the President expect to bring them out of the woodwork to get into such a program in a manageable way? He mentioned different categories of people here, based on length of time in the country, proven ability to hold a job, obey the laws, etc. These people would be put at the back of the line for legal residency applications.

How does he propose to allow these people to PROVE where they've been, what they've been doing, and whether they can obey the law? We have no records of these people. False documentation is unfortunately a problem with a large percentage of this group of people. They've already proven themselves as people who don't mind disregarding the laws here. Does he just expect them to willingly show up for this voluntarily? He mentioned that they would also be forced to pay some sort of monetary penalty as part of this program. Umm, aren't these people COMPLAINING that they are the low-wage earners of America already? Does he expect this money will magically appear? This will be a totally unmanageable Fuster-Cluck. Given the typical paradigm we're dealing with here, that money WILL in fact magically appear seemingly out of nowhere. Should it be sourced and seasoned for 60 days in a proper bank account? OOPS! These people SHOULDN'T HAVE a proper bank account, because you need legal and proper documents to be able to open a bank account. (Don't get me started on the financial institutions' total neglect in the area of "proper documentation" in order to open a bank account.)

Then there's the "guest worker" program. It's the one where you come here legally, for a time, work, and then go home. Right. Wait wait, I have an emerging primate, and it's got WINGS!!

The one part of the speech I support in principle is the unique identifier card. For many years, the usual Social
Security Card has been an easily rendered document. Although it's printed on the same cotton paper as our money, it's the most easily counterfeited document out there. On the other hand, my "Permanent Resident Alien" card has no less than 8 unique identifiers that make it impossible, or at least BRUTALLY expensive, to copy in a format that would actually pass muster.

Additionally, that card has parts that have embedded information, like the m
agnetic strip in the back of your credit card - except this one isn't magnetic. This area contains all sorts of information about me, my address, SSN, Country of origin, the results of my medical tests that were required for entry into the US, the consulate where I applied, etc. A MYRIAD of information. This card, while not underestimating the criminal mind, would not be reproduced easily.

Which brings me around to the other point. There was only cursory mention of an aspect here that I believe is critical to the success of any program of reform in this area: That of gaining a viable and usable person-verification program to be MANDATORY for all employers' use. If there was a way to make it mandatory for an employer to provide a security authorization code to the government, proving that they logged in to the authorization database and got a positive response, along with the other forms that have to be completed to begin paying an employee, there would be a much greater possibility that we would nip a big part of this whole problem in the bud.

Let's face it - if a company CAN'T remain in business without having to pay employees 1.75 per hour, they shouldn't be in business. And if these jobs were not out there, there would be less temptation to get across the border to take.

The bottom line for me: If this problem is not addressed in a tough and meaningful way very soon, there will always be an illegal third class of people here who will never be allowed to move above the limits of this day-laborer classification. I don't care what Vicente Fox says, I don't care what the pansy congress and house say, it HAS to be done. I'm all for all that crap written on the plaque at Ellis Island. Just do it legally. I did. It's hard, long and expensive - which makes it more sweet when it gets done.


"That One Guy" gets honorable mention

From Scott Adams' (Dilbert creator) blog: Pet Peeves - in the comment section, a professional musician adds these peeves to Scott's set of Peeves:

Going through security at airports = pain in the ass...yes I'm glad you think my horn looks pretty...no I won't play it for you, I have a plane to catch and no, I think Kenny G is a punk ass bitch. No I will not check my instrument, it will fit in the overhead bin.

Any situation that I might play with my case open for tips... My instrument case is NOT a trash can. If you don't like the way I play, don't listen. By the way, I make a point to return all trash I receive to its rightful owner, which usually makes them feel like a jerk.

Don't put anything in the bell of my horn. It isn't funny. My instrument is expensive and is what I rely on to make money. I don't come to your office and mess with your computer.

That one guy that thinks it is hilarious to request "Free Bird"...at every gig I ever play at.

(I guess I'll have to stop yelling that at every concert I go to. Too bad... Maybe I'll start requesting something from Barry Manilow or the Pointer Sisters.)

And finally (this happened to a friend of mine in Tokyo) don't walk up to a street musician and grab him in the crotch. That is seriously f*ed up. Perhaps that might be a cultural difference, I don't know. I would be surprised though.

The Bottom Line:


The Effect of "Interest-only" and "Option-Arm" Mortgages

I read this morning that Freddie Mac (Ferderal Mortage Giant - which has been under federal investigation a few times in the last couple of years for unfair market domination, etc.,) is going to introduce a 50 YEAR MORTGAGE TERM program. That follows a widely available 40 year, and a few investors that offer a 45 year term. Interest-Only and Option-Arm mortgages were "invented" in the last few years by Investors (those who buy loans as securities on Wall Street) who needed to get creative in the development of new loan products that would bouy up their production (read: stock price) after the refi boom ended about 24 months ago. They are meant to allow buyers to qualify for more home for the money by qualifying, debt-to-income wise, by subtracting the "principle" portion of the payment from a traditional PITI (principle, interest, taxes, insurance) calculation.

For example, a traditional PITI mortgage might carry a payment of $1500, while borrowing the same amount of money (ie buying the same house) using an IO option would yield a payment of only $1150, effectively getting somebody into the same house for less money. The downside here, obviously, is that you are not gaining any equity through your payments. Setting appreciation aside for this case, two years from now, or five or ten, depending on how long that IO period is, you would owe the same amount of money on the loan as when you originally signed the loan documents.

With an Option Arm, the risks are magnified by an exponential amount. An option arm allows you to make payments, if you wish, that do not even cover the interest amount on the loan you signed, and that short amount is tacked onto the back of your loan as more principle. That means that when the initial period is over, you could potentially owe MUCH MORE in principle on the loan you originally signed. (and more than your home is WORTH - making it very hard to get out from underneath - if you sold your house, you would have to bring money to the closing table to get out of the house.)

For wise and disciplined borrowers, wisdom would dictate that the extra money one would save from that type of mortgage would be better spent going into one's IRA or other form of long-term savings, and you should NEVER just make that minimum payment, putting principle amount on the end of your loan, except in very dire circumstances. This is a great loan for people in certain circumstances, but it has become a vehicle for buyers who would not otherwise qualify for a given home on their income. Not good. Here is what is happening: From a recent CNBC

Nearly one in 10 households with a mortgage had zero or negative equity in their homes as of September 2005, according to First American Real Estate Solutions, an arm of title-insurance company First American Corp. The study of 26 million homes in 36 states and the District of Columbia found that one in 20 home borrowers was upside-down by 10% or more.

The situation is even grimmer for recent borrowers. Of those who bought or refinanced homes in 2005, 29% had zero or negative equity, and 15.2% were underwater by 10% or more.

Interest rates on about a quarter of all mortgage loans outstanding, or $2 trillion, are scheduled to reset this year and next, according to Economy.com. Homeowners who opted for extremely low teaser rates in recent years could see their payments eventually double, said Christopher Cagan, First American's director of research and analytics.

Defaults and foreclosures are already on the rise, thanks in part to higher interest rates, cooling real-estate markets and overextended borrowers. Nationally, 117,259 properties entered some stage of foreclosure in February, according to foreclosure-monitoring firm RealtyTrac, a figure that's up 68% from February 2005.


You gotta love the potty humor on a Friday.

Careful What You Ask For - Friday Randoms

1. Saw this pic posted somewhere:

My Reply: "and your point is....?"

Submit your own caption now via comment...

2. Edmonton Oilers finally showed up to play the other night - they won the third game of their series in the third overtime period - it was almost 1 AM local time. Oilers player Smyth took a puck to the chops and they had to stop the game to scoop his five teeth off the ice with a small snow shovel, to which I loudly observed, "Cool!" Incidentally, it was another Oilers player na
med Smith SEVERAL years ago, who took the puck behind his own net to set up an offensive drive, went out from behind the net, AND SHOT THE PUCK OFF HIS OWN GOALIE'S ARSE AND INTO THE NET, SCORING FOR THE OTHER TEAM. The oilers lost that game, that series, and I dare say Steve Smith never recovered from that unfortunate happening.

3. My big black nasty toenail finally fell off the other day.

A dude the size of a fridge stepped on it at the beginning of December last year, when I was playing in a three-on-three basketball tourney with two of my kids. By the
time I took off my sock, it was already black like (your euphemism here).

When it finally came off, the new toenail had grown about halfway under the old one, but it's shiny and new.

I broke that toe, in another basketball game, when I was 12 years old, and ever since then, that toenail has had a cleft running from front to quick. We are holding a family pool to see whether that cleft will still grow there, or whether my toenail will be cured of its ailment and grow like a champ toenail for the first time in 30 years.

Interesting side note, Big Black Dog, otherwise known as Cinder, otherwise known as "95 pounds of four-legged hairy human", ATE THE TOENAIL. "Mmmm, chips!!" she said to me. We found it a couple of days later on the kitchen floor, in a "non-regular" state of matter.

4. You would think that with the contraction and consolidation in the mortgage industry in the last 12 months or more, that it would be the INCOMPETENT ones that are weeded out and go back to selling cars. Unfortunately it seems the opposite is the case. We have more barnacles than ship, it seems right now.

5. Observations shared with the lovely wife this morning over coffee and newspaper: It seems ABC has hit on a nice solution to the TIVO problem. Background: The advent of TIVO has made it so people who want to watch TV don't HAVE to watch commercials anymore. Great for the TIVO people, lousy for the Cascade and Tide people, and consequently bad for the ad revenues of network TV outlets. As more people watch TV through TIVO, burning past the commercials (we watch our TV alm
ost EXCLUSIVELY through TIVO, never through LIVE broadcast - we NEVER watch commercials - and I don't think we are unique in that way), advertisers are less willing to pay top dollar for ad spots, because there are demonstrably fewer people who watch them. Broadcasters don't like this. In the past, the audience was "captive" to the ads if they wanted to watch the TV show in question, allowing a network to charge top dollar for those ad spots.

Anyway, LOST is now running SHOW-SPECIFIC ads during the broadcast as well, making the entire hour (and not just the 42 minutes of actual programming) part of the show. It's just starting to take shape, but it looks like a possible wave into the future of broadcast media (TV, WEB, etc.), combining to blur the perceived boundaries of each. This should be good news for both advertisers AND the networks who have been scrambling to find a way to convince advertisers to spend money with their companies, in spite of the TIVO generation.

BRILLIANT. Now viewers look for show-related commercials mixed in with the regular commercials, making the broadcast TIVO-Proof, and turning the experience into a multi-layered, multi-faceted story development vehicle. If you watch LOST, you know what I mean. If you watch LOST and don't know what I mean, you're missing something - check here for more info.

If you need more, check out:


That should do it for now.


Enough is Enough - I'm calling the fashion police.

How much can one peasant be forced to endure? What is it about politicians and the cereal box, 2 button POS Navy/Gray suit and the (gasp!) red tie?? On a "feeling frisky" day, it's a (double-gasp) blue tie!

Please, make it stop. Why can't somebody in Washington learn to dress these dopes? We need the Queer Eye guys to take Washington by storm.

Meanwhile, on this morning's Morning Edition, the new Italian Prime Minister is being hailed as the most cultured, well-dressed, well-spoken politician in Europe.

But alas, even in the birthplace of the Fashion Suit, the dude seems to have the same disease as the American politicos:

I just can't stand it anymore, somebody send them a gift certificate to Brooks Brothers or Jos. A. Banks or something. Bob, what were you thikning - dark suit, all drapey and foldy, and GOLD BUTTONS? Hell, I'd settle for sending them all down to Men's Wearhouse. Please, just make it right.

Stop the madness.

Judge rules in Apple v. Apple

So the London judge has ruled in favor of Apple Computer in a case where Apple Corps sued Apple saying Apple Computer has infringed on an agreement between the two under which Apple Computer was not to distrubute media under the Apple logo. Apple Computer earlier paid Apple Corps 27 million dollars for the rights to use the apple symbol, but the agreement stated that Apple Computer would not be allowed to sell entertainment media under an "apple" logo.


The suit is over the iTunes music store, which allows downloads of music to be played on the company's hardware, the iPod. The judge basically stated that when the original agreement was contemplated, there was no way to foresee the surge in online technologies that have spawned the online music download concept. The judge basically said that the spirit of this agreement is not being violated by Apple Computer and Apple Corps has no basis to make a claim that they are selling media as defined in the agreement. (The concept of the agreement was to keep Apple Computer from selling things like CDs and such - hard media - from a store front or online, like a record store might. He further said that there is no basis for a consumer confusing the two brands, and there is no violation.

Apple Corps is the "record company" started by Beatles management when they were producing records. Apple Corps has not released new product in the last 40 years, and as really simply become a holding and management company for Beatles beneficiaries and family to protect royalty issues and address other rights-related issues with the Beatles catalog. This ongoing dispute has kept the Beatles catalog OFF iTunes to this date, dispite Steve Jobs' love of their music. He commented in a statement that he hoped to soon be able to get that music catalog onto iTunes.

Here are MY thoughts regarding the case:

Let's have a little talk about tweetle Beatles....

What do you know about tweetle Beatles? Well...

When tweetle Beatles fight,
it's called a tweetle Beatle battle.

And when they battle in a courtroom over music from a fiddle or music that is “faddish”,
it's a tweetle Beatle fiddle faddle courtroom battle.

AND when tweetle Beatles battle with trademarks in a courtroom over music from a fiddle of music that is faddish, they call it a tweetle Beatle fiddle faddle courtroom trademark battle.


When Beatles battle Apple in a courtroom trademarks battle over music from a fiddle or music that is faddish,
and the Beatle battle courtroom is a courtroom in

...they call this a tweetle Beatle London courtroom fiddle faddle trademark battle muddle.


When Beatles fight these battles over music that is from a fiddle or music that is faddish, in a courtroom with their trademarks and the courtroom is in
London and the judge uses his noodle...

...they call this a muddle courtroom tweetle London Beatle fiddle faddle noodle trademark battle.

There you go. Clear as mud now. :)


Bush Legacy Needs More Input

ORLANDO, Fla. - President Bush suggested Wednesday that he'd like to see his family'’s White House legacy continue, perhaps with his younger brother Jeb as the chief executive.

The president said Florida Gov. Jeb Bush is well-suited for another office and would make "a great president."”

"I would like to see Jeb run at some point in time, but I have no idea if thatÂ’s his intention or not," Bush said in an interview with Florida reporters, according to an account on the St. Petersburg Times Web site.

Maybe it's just me, but haven't they done enough already? Can't they just go back to Texas and thumb their noses at the rule of law from there? Heck, Barry Bonds will beed a team to coach soon, won't he? I mean after he serves his time for perjury. After all, he'd make "a great coach."

I'm just sayin....

More Drive Time

Not sure, buy I just might NEED one of these bad boys.... I've been a fan of the original Toyota Land Cruiser since my Jr. High gym teacher drove us around to wrestling meets in one. That was in the days before all the rules about teachers driving students around, etc.

Anyway, when Toyota re-introduced the Land Cruiser in its current incarnation, I was bummed that it looked NOTHING like its father at all.

It seems they heard all the hubub, and have now put it back on the road, in a comparably diminuitive package, compared to the current Land Cruiser. (The current LC sells abuot as well as it floats, at this point.) They should have taken the name back and put it back where it belongs - on this unit instead of the Escalade wannabe.

Intead they used the letters from the original: FJ Cruiser.


Tuesday Drive Time

I drove home last night behind a POS late 70's model Plymouth Reliant. That's right, a K-Kar. It's bumper was listing on one side, and a tailight was out. Duct tape on one side window - the whole package.

BUT, I'll be damned if it wasn't sporting the spinny wheels.

Gotta have the spinny wheels.