Tuesday, January 31, 2006

Quick & Dirty IQ Test

Your IQ Is 135

Your Logical Intelligence is Below Average

Your Verbal Intelligence is Genius

Your Mathematical Intelligence is Genius

Your General Knowledge is Exceptional

Logical Intelligence is Below Average? What a load of crap. I aced that test. Must be more dirty than quick.

Saturday, January 28, 2006

Ticketmaster Sucks

Ever try to buy tickets from these jerks? If you do, it quickly becomes obvious that absolutely their only concern about you, the customer, is getting your money. The website was obviously designed by illegal migrant farm workers who are too retarded to pick apples. Check out this amazingly inefficient way to piss off your customers:
  1. Find the listing for the show you want. OK, so far.
  2. Click on "Find Tickets"
  3. Select "2" from number of tickets drop-down. Leave "Best Available" for section and location.
  4. Click "Look for tickets"
  5. Enter captcha word and click "Continue" (prevents ticket resellers from buying up all the tickets... not).
  6. Watch a stupid animation screen while it "searches" for possible tickets. This takes 20-30 seconds usually.
  7. Finally, the screen that says "There were no tickets that matched your request."
  8. Scream for the 10th time at a stupid system that makes you jump through all these hoops to tell you the show is completely sold-out. It would take anybody who can pass a single 101-level programming class about 5 minutes to add the code to put a "SOLD-OUT" on the show listing, and save the load on their servers, but I guess the idea didn't occur to anyone at Ticketmaster.
But, why should they care? If it's sold out, they can't make any more money off it, so screw the shmucks who try.

Of course, if you do find tickets you want, get ready for Ticketmaster's little "convenience fee". Which is always set a level ($6.75 per ticket I saw) that makes it abundantly clear why a monopoly is so desirable for them, and so bad for consumers.

Jerks. Why can't some other company get into this business?

Friday, January 27, 2006

Fun with Witches

I just finished Taltos, the last book in Anne Rice's Mayfair Witches trilogy. Like the other two (The Witching Hour and Lasher), this story sort of just stopped because there weren't any more pages. It seems like Ms. Rice was overwhelmed by the world she created, and couldn't fit it into the regular novel format. The witch/Taltos world is amazingly rich. There are long passages that are basically historical expositions; back story, really. But it's all very compelling.

These are not your traditional witches, they are mostly normal (almost) human (women, mostly) who have special powers (and friends). Most Mayfair witches are beautiful (and irresistible when they want to be).

Somebody could make some awesome movies from that material. If they can come up with ending[s] that provide some closure.

Of course, there is the Harry Potter world of witchcraft and wizardry. Apparently, girls are witches, and boys are wizards in the Harry Potter magical world. J. K. Rowling's world is an odd mixture of the campy and the tragic. She's got it going, though.

I just got a new book called Wicked. On which is based a popular Broadway musical. A road show is coming to my town soon. I know that it's about the wicked witch of the west (or east?), from The Wizard of Oz, but beyond that, I only know it's a cool title. Must be cool, as it's sold out already. The resellers want anywhere from $140-370 per seat. Might be cheaper to run up to NY. Or not. I guess I'll read the book first, although I hear it's only loosely related to the show. Maybe I'll get the soundtrack. That's how I got sucked into Phantom of the Opera.

I could really use a friendly witch.

Wednesday, January 25, 2006

I Hate Writing

...my résumé. I wouldn't do it for less than $10/word if I didn't have to.

Unfortunately, I have to. The master plan of retiring with an approximate net worth of $8,000,000 is way behind schedule, and my current employer has found they no longer require OCR's services.

Well, they'll learn. Every company that's fired or laid me off has gotten bought out within five years. Some might say that's a coincidence. But what do they know?

Anyway, I might like talking about myself, but I detest writing about myself. Especially a résumé... it all sounds like so much bullshit. Even the true stuff.

Reminds of the old joke: “The key to success is sincerity. Once you can fake that, you've got it made.”

Sunday, January 22, 2006

57 Channels, Ain't Nothing On

I just paid the cable bill, $46.98, for the about 200th time. I'm starting to wonder why I keep doing that. I haven't had time to watch any TV for more than two years. Except for CNN Headline News in the morning while I get dressed (mainly because I like Robin Mead), and the weather radar channel when the wind starts howling. I'm not sure I'm getting my money's worth.

Wednesday, January 18, 2006

Yet Another Silly Quiz

You Should Learn Japanese

You're cutting edge, and you are ready to delve into wacky Japanese culture.
From Engrish to eating contests, you're born to be a crazy gaijin. Saiko!

Hmmm... good guess, blogthing. Already working on it.

Tuesday, January 17, 2006

King W

I can't see how we can keep on invoking the metaphor of Caesar crossing the Rubicon—it seems there are many Rubicons to cross these days in our country. But now, we have our semi-elected ruler essentially declaring himself Dictator, at least for the duration of the so-called War on Terror. Which, of course, will likely never end.

Crossing this Rubicon, El Presidente, the Commander in Chief, by virtue of a possibly stolen election, declares he no longer needs to observe any law whatsoever. He is the law, and if he determines something should be done, it will be done. Also, nearly everything done needs to be classified.

Somehow, word got out that Bush ordered the NSA to wiretap and monitor various forms of communication, without obtaining the required approval of the FISA secret court. This makes virtually no sense. The FISA court has reportedly approved 99.8% of all requests made, and the requests can be filed for quite a while after the monitoring is started. What is gained by deliberately, and wantonly violating this law? The typical thing to do would be to merely fudge the “evidence” on a monitoring request. Obviously the risk of being denied is small. So, WTF?

I can only surmise that the dictatorial party wants Congress to understand that they're the bitch now. They can spread the pork, and spend the money, and enjoy the life of the Whores of Babylon that they generally have. But they're now to understand that they have no business attempting to limit the executive branch in any way, any longer.

If you were instituting a dictatorship, what would you do differently?

Sunday, January 15, 2006

Harry Potter and the Old Cranky Redneck

Random thoughts about the Harry Potter movie franchise so far, and in the future...

Harry and Ron are played perfectly by Daniel Radcliffe and Rupert Grint. Hermione however... well, Emma Watson is a little bit cuter than Hermione is supposed to be. And looks to be on track to be a a real beauty. Nevertheless, it's far too late to change now. She owns the role of Hermione as much as Daniel and Rupert do theirs.

After reading through book six, I think Bonnie Wright looks to be really good as Ginny Weasley. The role has been a minor one so far, but she is obviously becoming more significant. But in the little screen time she's had so far, she's nailed the part. I think she shows the potential to be a star in OP and HBP if the scripts are done well. If the writers and directors get it right, we'll know why Harry falls for her. Although, she already looks like she's 27 years old:

The twins who play the twins Fred and George are fantastic. They're humor and energy make them two more perfect castings.

Rather than going over the adult roles one by one, I just want to note that it seems to me that British thespians always seem to have amazing (note that it is no compliment to call an actor "incredible") talent; particularly when contrasted to American "movie stars". Ian McKellan was a perfect Albus Dumbledore... too bad he was cast in "Lord of the Rings" instead. As it was, and is, Richard Harris and Michael Gambon are fine, and we can only wait to see how well Mr. Gambon handles the ever more inportant role. Most likely very well indeed; he has immense experience (and that British thing).

Alan Rickman as Severus Snape is the only other adult role that bears any comment. I didn't find him to be much like what I imagined Snape to be like, at first. But after four movies, I no longer can imagine anyone else in the role. And again, his talent exceeds my capacity to praise it. The other roles I recall seeing him in were funny, although depressive characters (Galaxy Quest, Marvin in Hitchhikers' Guide to the Galaxy). He got a nice chance at a funny situation in GoF, but in general he manages to play the mostly evil, but complex character perfectly.

It's postively scary how the movies go through directors like I do bottles of Coors. It's absolutely amazing that it's worked so well so far. While I tend to agree that Goblet of Fire may be the best movie so far, I think the credit for that goes to J. K. Rowling. The stories are progressing through deeper plots as the major characters age. For the record, Chris Columbus made two fantastic movies in The Sorcerer's Stone, and The Chamber of Secrets. It's not possible to make quite as involving a story with 11 and 12-year-olds as it is 13 and 14-year-olds. And the same goes for the next two movies. If I had a chance to write or direct them, I'd be stoned on the experience, but I'd have a major fear that I'd make the first Harry Potter bomb. Order of the Phoenix is going to be tough. It's a long, dreary story.

There's been a lot of talk about whether the three main characters (Harry, Ron, Hermione) will need to be replaced due to the movies not being made quite as fast as one per year. I think the danger of this being an issue is past. They've done the 14-year-old movie, and the 15-year-old movie is in progress. After that, well, teenagers have been played by 20-somethings for a long time.

Friday, January 13, 2006


Oh noes! Watch out, Mr. Black Cat. Sometimes the path crosses you!

Thursday, January 12, 2006

American Money is a Mess

I just got back from a periodic visit to the ATM. As is usual, I withdrew $200... I figure this makes the $2 fee more-or-less reasonable. (I have a young friend who gets $20 out at a time, to help him control his spending habits. Sheesh!)

Of course, I got ten $20 bills. Since I got lucky enough to get brand-new bills, it took me a minute or so to get them separated enough so I could count them. Given that the dollar has lost 95% of its value over the last century or so, why the hell don't we use fifty and hundred-dollar bills? In Europe, the €50 note is the most used. Why not here? Besides ATMs never dispensing anything larger than a twenty, it seems like a lot of places I spend cash at get rather perturbed about having to deal with a $50 or $100 bill, if they accept them at all.

Also, I don't understand our obsessive attachment to the $1 bill (not to mention total rejection of the $2 bill). They're almost always grungy and grimy, especially when I need to feed one into a vending machine. Why can't we use $1 coins, like the rest of the world? That is, there's no such thing as a €1 (or even a €2) bill. But they do have €5, €10, €20, €50, and €100 bills, all of which are used routinely, and can be had from an ATM.

In Japan, once I found an ATM I could use (with English and connected to my bank somehow), I requested ¥10,000 (which is a little scary, but was about $85 at the time), and out popped a single ¥10,000 bill. Easy to count. As best as I can recall, the smallest bill is ¥1000, and the largest coin is ¥500. You get used to using ¥100 coins like quarters, even though they're worth close to a dollar now. Japan's not cheap.

Europeans deal with 1¢, 2¢, 5¢, 10¢, 20¢, 50¢, €1, and €2 coins, evidently without getting terribly confused. Americans have 1¢, 5¢, 10¢, 25¢ coins, and people think dollar coins will get mixed up with quarters. I don't know why we don't seem to have any 50¢ coins in circulation anymore, either (I've heard they are popular in Las Vegas).

One big difference is that American money is still based on traditional real money, that had inherent value. Up until 1964, a silver dollar had about 99¢ worth of silver in it. And a half (coin) had about half the silver of the dollar, a quarter likewise half of that, and of course dimes were a tenth. Since our money was converted to subway tokens in 1964, it hardly matters what size they are, and the Europeans, getting to start fresh with token coinage, got to make a nice sensible range of coins.

Now, I've gotten to verge of going on about fiat money vs. hard currency, so I've got to stop. Otherwise, this post will fill up my entire allocation of space at Blogspot.

Tuesday, January 10, 2006

Not Wasting Water

Jeffery Tucker of the Mises Institute has an interesting blog article today about how the gi-normous federal government (protector of freedom everywhere), has seen fit to specify the maximum water flow of shower heads, and toilets. This isn't a new story at all. I was very fortunate to find a house that was built just before the start of the low-flush toilet era (ca. 1990). Dave Berry wrote about this several years ago, with of course, far better skill than me (with any luck, I'll find a link).

Anyhoo, we wind upshooting a couple of ironic points.
  1. Low-flow devices almost certainly cause more water to be used, as showers must be longer to get cleaned and rinsed, and it often takes several "low-flow" flushes to dispose of a man-sized output, if you know what I mean.
  2. MY favorite point, which is that water doesn't really go away. It is not consumed. Whether you want to or not, it's always recycled. Endlessly. Human activity has nearly no effect on the amount of water on the planet.
I'll belabor point number 2 further. There is a process for breaking down water into its components, hydrogen and oxygen (if you didn't know that water is made up of hydrogen and oxygen, go away). It takes a lot of energy to do this, but hydrogen has its uses. Oxygen is easily available from other sources. Water is created when hydrogen is burned, but all-in-all, we're not talking about anything close to a significant fraction of the earth's water. So, the amount of water we have is fixed.

The only problems are that a lot of the water is dirty, or pretty salty; and some places don't have very much nearby, even though they are otherwise wonderful places to live. Las Vegas, for example. I've never been there, but there must be some attraction to a place that gets untold billions of our discretionary income spent there, 24 by 7 (hate that phrase, I will never say it again).

Anyway, without piping in a bunch of water, everyone there would die an ugly death from thirst. But they can afford it, although the price is likely to keep rising as they expand; that's fairly basic economics. Of course, no one likes to pay more for the same thing, especially something as mundane as water. What to do?

Of course! Force everyone to use no more water than you think is appropriate. That's what government's for, to force everyone to conform to the majority will, right? Actually, no, that's not exactly what's in the constitution, for what it's worth. But of course, it's hardly a majority that gets laws passed, it's more like a certain critical mass of money and leverage. There's a reason 40,000 lobbyists work in Babylon on the Potomac.

So, even though there's plenty of water here where I live, there's little benefit to be foresighted enough to plan for that... I still have to suffer with low-flow shower heads and toilets so as to supposedly subsidize people who think they have a right to live in a desert with no compromise to its arid reality.

And there you have it. A shining example of government at work. Take a non-problem, attempt to solve it with a non-solution, and wind up making things worse, and destroying liberty as well.

In that last sentence, I started with "freedom", and changed it to "liberty". Why is that? I'll need to think about that.

Saturday, January 07, 2006

10 Things That Make Me Cranky

  1. People who drive in the left lane on an interstate highway all the time. (A man I greatly respected told me he did this, and said "the people who want to go faster can weave in and out". He's dead now. Keep that in mind, slow-poke.)
  2. People with college educations who can't remember the difference between "its" and "it's", "your" and "you're", "their" and "they're".
  3. Republicans.
  4. Democrats.
  5. Software that forces you to upgrade (at extra cost) to continue to use it. I mean Quicken.
  6. Taxes. Nearly half my income is confiscated to pay for things that mostly shouldn't be done, at least not involuntarily.
  7. Health care spending accounts. A giant pain in the ass just to shelter a little bit of my income from #6. Couldn't they just make medical expenses fully deductible again?
  8. Store sign that have prices like .79¢. Especially when they don't even get it when I tell them to keep the change from the penny.
  9. The TSA, and the unconstitutional violation of person and property required to fly anywhere. How about a non-sissy alternative airline, where there were no checks, and you could take on whatever you liked... guns, knives, spears, etc.
  10. Everyone who thinks the USA's security is advanced by anything the current government is doing.

Geeks 'R' Me

I ran across "The Geek Test", and of course I got sucked in:

i am a total geek

Fortunately, there are 5 higher ratings:

+ Geekish Tendencies................................≥09%
++ Geek.............................................≥15%
+++ Total Geek......................................≥25%
++++ Major Geek.....................................≥35%
+++++ Super Geek....................................≥45%
++++++ Extreme Geek.................................≥55%
+++++++ Geek God....................................≥65%
+++++++! Dysfunctional Geek.........................≥75%

If you actually go all the way through the test, face it, you're a geek (even if you checked nothing). Bonus for me: I knew how to fix the broken link to the button above.

p.s. Actual writing will resume soon.

Friday, January 06, 2006

Modern Astrology

OK, here from the scientific research available at blogthings.com, all there is to know about me:
Your Birthdate: October 13

You're dominant and powerful. You always need to be in charge.
While others respect your competence, you can be a bit of a dictator.
Hard working and serious, you never let yourself down.
You are exact and accurate - and you expect others to be the same way.

Your strength: You always get the job done

Your weakness: You're a perfectionist to a fault

Your power color: Gray

Your power symbol: Checkmark

Your power month: April

Thursday, January 05, 2006

How about them Longhorns

I don't follow football much, but last night's Rose Bowl was really something. I turned it off with Texas down 12 points, and 7 minutes to go in the game. Figured USC had it in the bag. Wrong. I guess it's nice for my father, my son, and a few cousins, all huge Texas fans (for about 75 years, in my dad's case).

Pretty funny, given I'm an Aggie. Gig 'em!

Wednesday, January 04, 2006

OK, I'm back to earth now

Obviously, I should not have stayed up all night to finish the Half-Blood Prince. However, even if my first post was a little wild-eyed crazy, I stand behind it in substance.

I guess it's going to be at least a year before we see how this all turns out. I like the idea I read that the 7th book should be released on 7/7/07. That happens to be Robert A. Heinlein's 100th birthday, by the way, may he rest in peace. On the other hand, 7/31/07 would be (I think) Harry
(the jerk) Potter's 27th birthday.

The Harry Potter Lexicon is a fantastic reference for virtually everything in the wizarding world. It's hard to stop exploring, so don't start at work.

Tuesday, January 03, 2006

This is So Wrong

Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince

I just finished Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince and I am pretty depressed. I surely never believed Albus Dumbledore could possibly be killed, and his demise and funeral were certainly an emotional blow, by far the most tragic death in the saga so far. Sirius Black's death, while obviously a major blow to Harry, could never have the impact of losing Professor Dumbledore, who from the first page of the series has been the very foundation of all that is good and right in the world of wizards. But I come not to praise, or bury, Albus Dumbledore, not yet. While his death was a terrible knife in my metaphorical chest, my concern now is the awful twist of that knife that came at his funeral.

Where Harry, being “noble”, informed Ginny he “can't be involved” with her any more. Never has a fictional character broken my heart so completely. I cried over this. Six years of his life I've lived with him, feeling the joy of his triumphs, and the depths of his fear and despair. Nothing in his life compares to the thrill and pure joy he finally experienced with his relationship with Ginny. I so fell in love with her... and I damn well expect Harry to honor and be true to her, and love her, love her like he loves Ron and Hermione, love her like he did Sirius, and Dumbledore, and Hagrid. Love her even more, for who else will love him like she can, she will, she does?

Yet, in the most stunning blunder of his young life, he tells Ginny he “can't be involved” with her any more, because Voldemort might use her to get to him. O, may he be delivered from what his hubris deserves. Isn't Harry smart enough to see how completely lame and useless this is? Could Voldemort not get to Harry through Hermione? Ron? Luna, for crying out loud? Or, more to the point, Ginny! Does he think Voldemort will see much difference in his leverage on Harry whether they're “going out” or not? Frankly, it's hard to believe that Harry wouldn't give up his soul and the eastern hemisphere to save Hermione or Ron. There's nothing Harry could do to discourage Voldemort from trying to threaten them. Harry, through Ron, is fairly close to the entire Weasley family. Any of them would serve as a terrible hostage, but perhaps the youngest, and the only girl might be the likeliest choice. So, how does their relationship really matter as far as Voldemort is concerned?

As a sixteen year-old, with no mother figure, with both father figures now dead, it seems incredible that Harry could have the strength to push away the one he must know, in his heart, is his true love. It was a difficult journey to be able to finally express his feelings just a short time ago. Life is hardly worth living without love. How can he possibly push Ginny aside, when virtually the only family he has is the Weasleys? Ultimately, I'd expect Ron, Hermione, Fred, George, Bill, Fleur, Lupin, and Tonks at least to come down on Harry with wands high to straighten him out. It's senseless for Harry Potter to fight Voldemort alone, rather than with the backing of all his friends. Including the one who claims his heart.

Finally, and most importantly, Ginny deserves better than this.