Jim Comes Out

In a post on Electric Venom, Jim of Snooze Button Dreams comes out of the closet:

And no, this is not an “I have a friend with a problem” thing, it really was my cousin. I’m in QA – I don’t have to deal with people outside of the company.

Shout it loudly, shout it proudly:

I’m QA and that’s OK!

Note: This is not a dig at everyone else in IT; it’s okay to be a developer, too. There’s nothing of which to be ashamed. Some of my best friends are developers. Or were, anyway, until they read this note.

Deep Thoughts

In today’s Washington Post, deep thinker John Handey Doug Henning Don Henley uncaps his fountain pen to decry the state of the music industry today.

To recap his wisdom:

  • The big corporations are squeezing out the small labels.
  • The big corporations are putting out crappy music because…..
  • Music executives don’t sign new artists that audiences really want because….
  • The big retailers are squeezing out the small record shops by stocking crappy music at high prices, but too low for small record shops to make a profit meaningful contribution.

Actually, I am not really sure what his wisdom is, much like he surely doesn’t understand how capitalism works. What the audience wants, someone will sell them, and the music industry is evolving beyond the traditional channels.

Others weigh in:

Cyber Keystone Koppers

I realize it’s probably the journalist adding drama to (that is, creating whole) an anecdote, but the lead from this SFGate story doesn’t portray the bastions of public safety in too good of a light:

Washington — Sitting at his home in Virginia Beach, Va., Joe Yuhasz almost reached for his wallet when an e-mail message popped into his inbox and told him America Online needed to verify his credit card information.

The site linked to the e-mail looked identical to AOL’s billing center, until Yuhasz noticed the domain name was a fake — a scam commonly known as phishing.

Almost reached for his wallet? Cheese, Louise, even my dear aunt knows better than that.

Maybe it’s part of a far-ranging ploy to lull the cyberbadguys into a false sense of superiority.

Missouri Pay As You Go

The Sophorist links to a person who links to a story about Missouri state government offering taxpayers the opportunities to add money to their taxes for common programs:

If passed, this fund would allow ordinary citizens and every special interest in the state to contribute additional tax dollars to their favorite cause, program, or policy. It would afford the average hard working taxpayers the luxury of avoiding to pay higher taxes in these difficult times, but permit all those people and interests who believe state government should be bigger and should allocate more resources to contribute generously.

On the whole, I think it’s a good idea, but I would hate to think of how much “Give Us Money” advertising the programs would spend the extra money on.

Were the programs to receive enough funding through the opt-in tax payment plan, I suspect that the state government would start reallocating that percentage of the program’s original funding to other, newer, and more profligate programs.

No Taxes for Ads

Today’s poster child for poor use of government funds: St. Clair County, Illinois, spends $500,000 to promote the only airline flying into MidAmerica Airport. An airport built with public funds an hour outside of St. Louis that had no airlines coming in when it was built. And now that Great Plains is broke, despite $500,000 of tax-paid promotion, MidAmerica Airport again sits idle, except for the tax-paid employees wandering around with nothing to do.

Which brings me to what might be the most blatantly bad waste of tax money. Advertising of any sort, for any reason. Particularly to promote private enterprises.

Whether it’s half a million to Fleishmann-Hillard to line the pockets of the influence industry in St. Louis or it’s a half percent tax here in Casinoport on hotel rooms to promote tourism–the government has no business redistributing wealth from its citizens to already affluent sectors. The government might claim it’s out to make the community better, but it means by community its tax base, and wasting tax money on advertising is only one more symptom of an organic government that exists to consume and grow, not to serve its citizens.

And It’s The Frontier

This Chicago Tribune story (registration required) discusses the Ohio highway sniper and the journalists hazards a guess why the wires aren’t picking up her story and why she’s not been making the rounds of cable news outlets:

The shootings remind a lot of people of 2002’s sniper attacks in the suburbs around Washington, D.C., which left 10 people dead before two men were arrested and charged with the killings.

The Ohio sniper case has garnered what appears to be less publicity, perhaps because only one person has died.

Perhaps. But some of us (which means “Brian J. Noggle”) in the middle of the country with a chip on the shoulder (not a cow chip, heinzenjohnkers) suspect it’s not garnering much media attention because it’s the middle of the country. Were someone to squeeze off a few rounds over the course of a year on the Beltway, that person would get a lot of attention, even if he or she were not shooting to kill.

Because the important people would be in danger. Not mere citizens. The super-citizens who work for the influence industry or the government.

Lileks on Modern Art

James Lileks, in his column in the Star Tribune, muses on a modern art exhibit:

Headline in last week’s paper: “Walker’s attendance falls by 30%; Official blames 9/11 for decline in tourism.”

I have a theory, and I’ll admit it might be controversial: It’s possible that no one wanted to see the exhibits.”

and offers his grand unified theory:

Well, you say, you just don’t like modern art. Not true. I hate modern art. No, that’s not right, either. I may be a philistine, but I am a learned one. I have a complex and nuanced response to modern art, be it the rigors of De Stijl, the furious assertions of Abstract Expressionism, the romantic angularity of Lionel Feininger, the anguished gashes of Clifford Still, the whimsical recontextualizations of Lichtenstein and other Pop Art painters; I understand the challenges that Action Painting made to the outmoded bourgeoise notions nurtured in the dusty attics of the beaux-arts mind-set, and I appreciate the connection between surrealism and post World War I disenchantment with rationality, why Dali was a bit of a poser, why Klee makes us nervous, why Bacon horrifies, and Beckmann can best be understood in the climate of Weimar. All this I know. And my opinion is simple: Eh. If it’s not ugly, it’s banal. If it’s not banal, it’s pretentious. If it’s not either, it’s pointless. Sometimes it’s good. Sometimes it’s great. (Like Feininger.) But in general:

Eh.

If you’re not cyber-stalking Lileks’ writings and reading the Back Fence (his column in the Star Tribune and his weekly Newhouse News syndicated column, you’re pathetic. I mean, you’re missing out on quality writing. I didn’t say pathetic.

Tax Cuts for the Rich

Missouri Governor B. Holden announces a student loan forgiveness program for those who study life sciences and work in Missouri.

Why do I dare mock such a proposal? I mean, other than mockery is my first language?

This is a growth industry in our state, and it is an area that attracts the high wage jobs that we need in Missouri,” Holden said.

Because the johnking schnuck is going to forgive student loans for people who graduate college and then get high paying jobs in the state of Missouri. Because B. Holden thinks that eligible employees bring jobs to a state. Here’s a free clue, B. Holden: cheap labor brings jobs to a state, not a bunch of kids with college degrees and expectations of high pay. I guess that’s where you step in to offer other taxpayer-funded corporate welfare “incentives” to companies who would employ the graduates for whom taxpayers paid.

Instead of kids who can walk out of college into high-paying jobs, guvnor, how about some tax relief for the following:

  • Computer science students who end up as supervisors for UPS.
  • Liberal arts students who work as shipping receiving clerks, but who can recite the Porter scene from Macbeth when the delivery truck drivers ring his bell.
  • Drama students who serve coffee at Borders with flourish unmatched by others?

Those poor souls out there who went to college to better themselves but refuse to submit to cubicle, or laboratory, existence deserve more sympathy than fraggles who went to school and walked out of school into any job over twenty thousand dollars a year.

None of them, of course, deserve my fortuitously-earned tax dollars, though, but that sympathy’s better than your tax cut for the future rich you’re disguising as a program for the children.

Worthy Cause

Here’s an organization worth investigating: The Dollywood (yes, Dolly Parton) Foundation’s Imagination Library.

From the “About Us” page:

This program is one of the most important ways I know to improve the educational opportunities for children in your community.

When I was growing up in the hills of East Tennessee, I knew my dreams would come true. I know there are children in your community with their own dreams. They dream of becoming a doctor or an inventor or a minister. Who knows, maybe there is a little girl whose dream is to be a writer and singer.

The seeds of these dreams are often found in books and the seeds you help plant in your community can grow across the world.

I hope you’ll agree to become a champion of the Imagination Library in your community. You will be amazed at the impact this simple gift can have on the lives of children and their families. We have seen it work in our own backyard and I’m certain it can do the same in your community, too.

Here’s what the organization does:

Dolly Parton’s Imagination Library is all about inspiration and imagination. It was developed in 1995 by Dolly for her hometown of Sevier County, Tennessee. Dolly wanted every preschool child to have their own library of books. The effort received numerous awards and extraordinary media attention which generated interest from across the country. After much thought, Dolly decided to offer her Imagination Library for replication in any community that would support it.

Each month, from the day the child is born until his/her 5th birthday, a carefully selected book arrives at the mailbox. Kids across the country have shared the excitement of running to the mailbox to retrieve their book. More often than not, the child wants the book read to them now – not later, not tonight and not tomorrow. Right now!

As an attempted author, I can think of no better goal than to increase future readers. For the children!

A Voice of Authority

The Meatriarchy Guy, who’s Canadian (not that there’s anything wrong with that), has some ideas about how to improve hockey:

1 Eliminate the two line pass offside. This really is the only change you have to make.
2 On a penalty kill the short-handed team can no longer ice the puck.
3 A player has to serve the full two minute penalty even if his team is scored upon.
4 Move the nets back to their original location (they are talking about doing this)
5 Impose a weight tax on teams so that they pay extra if they draft big dumb slow players – the Leafs gave up a perfectly good defensemen Jason Smith and tried to turn oversized Chris McAllister into an NHL player. The only thing he had going for him was size – a trait that NHL GM’s are over enamored with and in the end he failed miserably. Bring in a weight tax.

Some good ideas, but let’s not forget the prospect of enlarging the ice surface.

Fast skaters and skill players can go around the hookers, and hockey team owners get to hold up their cities for even newer arenas. Win-win! Unless you’re a Canadian city and the Americans are about to get serious about the dollar’s exchange rate again, bit who cares about the Canadians, eh? What do they know about NHL hockey?

Research Assignment

Does anyone know anyone who enjoyed the Super Bowl halftime show? I need to know, because Bob Rybarcyzk is looking for one single person who liked the show:

You find me a soul on this earth who will publicly admit to liking any part of that halftime show, and I will run through West County Mall wearing a tutu and asking passers-by to please call me Nancy.

Anything to get “Nancy” and her tutu off the streets of Casinoport, Missouri. “She” will catch cold in this harsh, pseudo-winter weather we’re having.

New Competition

Based on this post at A Small Victory, wherein commenter JW says:

I think the memes are ways for unknown bloggers to get their name [sic] out.

I am an unknown blogger; I need to get my name out. I need a meme!

JW also says:

    You, Michele, seem to be among the creme de la creme and not need such tawdry devices.

and I am inspired! I need a meme to get my name out. What about a competition? Call it the

La Creme de la Meme

competition, wherein everyone submits a meme repeated throughout the blogosphere, and people or the judges select the best and….

Sounds like a lot of work, though. Never mind, I don’t need to get my name out if it takes effort. You guys can use it, though, as you like. Just credit JW me when you do.

Sometimes Recognizing a Slippery Slope Helps Stop the Sliding

I share the Chicago Tribune‘s Steve Chapman’s sentiments regarding the FCC’s investigation of Janet Jackson’s teat (registration required):

Freedom includes the freedom to be offensive, but in other media, we’d much rather make our own choices than let the government choose for us. The only TV Michael Powell should have the power to regulate is the one in his living room.

I’ll let him expand his powers to the televisions in his family room, kitchen, bedroom, and children’s bedrooms. I am a compassionate libertarian.

Elevating the Level of Discourse

Courtesy of Andrew Sullivan, I suffered through this article on the imbalance of political viewpoints in academia today. And I had to suffer through this:

“We try to hire the best, smartest people available,” Brandon said of his philosophy hires. “If, as John Stuart Mill said, stupid people are generally conservative, then there are lots of conservatives we will never hire.

“Mill’s analysis may go some way towards explaining the power of the Republican party in our society and the relative scarcity of Republicans in academia. Players in the NBA tend to be taller than average. There is a good reason for this. Members of academia tend to be a bit smarter than average. There is a good reason for this too.”

Burness also noted that the humanities may be particularly oriented toward Democratic minds. “If you were to look at most business schools, you might find more people that were Republican than Democratic,” he said. “If you look at the humanities in general, there’s a great deal of creativity that goes on. In a sense it’s innovation, and a perfectly logical criticism of the current society, in one form or another, that plays itself out in some of these disciplines. It doesn’t surprise me that you might find people in humanities are more liberal than conservative.” [Emphasis mine, and I wanted to embolden the whole thing because each word made me madder.]

Although my collegiate preparations should have cultured me to craft a proper response to this assertion, perhaps something as simple as a quip to deflate the head of the pompos squad here, dancing up and down and chanting his ignorance, instead my baser, city-bred id bursts forth with a hearty, and sincere:

Fock you!

I am sorry, gentle reader, if you were reading this blog with your children; you should probably browse from work where it’s safe.

This Robert focking Brandon is the chair of the philosophy department, so that should indicate how focking out of touch he is from real life. No, I forget, friends, not many of you managed to slough through a degree’s worth of philosophy, so you don’t understand. Within the humanities, philosophy and literature especially, it’s not just that the academics are isolated from real life, but they’re further isolated from dealing with real issues. Academics working in chemistry and sciences and whatnot are researching real things; philosophy professors research other academics. Let Brandon chortle about his probable misrepresentation of Mill (sue me, I haven’t read much utilitarian schmaltz). Mill’s been dead a long time, and his views of stupid people are irrelevant except to offer Brandon a cloak in which to hide his own fockedness.

But another academic at Duke suffers infinite monkey moment, wherein even a random collection of letters and syllables coalesces into a rational thought:

Burness added that the course imbalance Kitchens described was also not surprising. He argued that, because gender and race are lively forms of scholarly inquiry today, it is natural that a number of courses should treat these subjects.

To put it succinctly, Those who can, do, and those who cannot get TAs to teach their courses so they can write Marxist feminist inquiries into how television altered and enforced the hegemony of bourgeois taste in the post World War II period as filtered through relevant ads in House Beautiful and seminary Marxist/feminist tracts of the past.

Unfortunately, unlike other useful dreams of snakes eating their tails, this one doesn’t yield a loud enough Eureka! moment. Of course, academics tend to procreate; the ideas and viewpoints emphasized in college as worthy of study will be studied, and the next wave of untenured journeymen humanities professors will write and research the same crap as their mentors.

Meanwhile, conservative students with a broad and almost classical education will go out into the real world and make something of themselves.

In the midst of all my succeeding, though, sometimes I still get pissed.

Blackfive Tries Too Hard

Matt Blackfive’s got a really well documented entry about how George Bush is not responsible for the loss of 2.21 gigamillion jobs. I don’t know who he’s writing it for, though. People who will vote for Bush understand the limited effect the presidency and the entire government have on the grand economy (which is too much as it is, but not much overall). Some people who won’t vote for Bush mutter that those who lost jobs were all whistleblowers almost capable of exposing the vast Haliburton-Texas Rangers conspiracy.

So Matty’s wasting his time if he thinks he’s going to convince anyone with facts and reason. As a matter of fact, much as dogs only hear part of what is said to them, Bush opponents will only hear a certain portion of what Matt writes.

When Matt says:

Jobs lost in the first 8 months January 20th to September 11th is pegged at 1.2 million. How much of this is actually attributable to President Bush is the question. In April of 2001, the U.S. lost 423, 000 jobs. Can someone tell me exactly which policy was responsible for this?

Jobs were lost due to the teror attacks of September 11th (obvious ones like travel and lodging industry, aerospace, transportation). Boeing cut 30,000 jobs. New York City alone lost over 80,000 jobs due to the attack in the year after 9/11 . 22,000 jobs were in the vicinity of the World Trade Center. 800,000 jobs were lost in November and December of 2001.

The fact is that a lot of jobs were lost over the last few years for many reasons; however, it will be tough for Democrats to accurately pin them on the Bush Administration and not a world-wide recession, the dot-bomb bust, corporate corruption (Enron, World-Com) and 9/11.

Now, what about recovery?

The biggest indicator of an economic turn around, IMHO, is my place of employment. We were directed by our (very conservative) board to cut 20% across the company on October 1, 2001. I lead the IT Department. It didn’t matter if one department had a greater need or not, everyone had to cut 20%. This was a defensive reaction to September 11th. No one knew what would happen to the economy (which was already weak), and, when there is economic uncertainty, jobs get cut through various means – for example, hiring freezes and position consolidations. Also, think about your own spending after September 11th. Did you change your vacations, savings, will, retirement plan because of September 11th? I did. I put more into savings and spread it out among different banks. When you spend less money, less items are bought. When less items are bought, supply goes up and productivity goes down. When productivity goes down, jobs get cut.

They hear:

Jobs lost blah blah blah blah blah is actually attributable to President Bush blah blah blah blah blah blah blah blah blah blah blah blah blah blah blah blah blah blah blah blah ?

Jobs were lost blah blah blah blah blah blah blah blah blah blah blah blah blah blah blah blah blah blah blah blah blah blah blah blah blah blah blah blah blah blah 800,000 jobs were lost blah blah blah blah blah blah blah blah blah blah.

blah blah blah blah blah a lot of jobs were lost blah blah blah blah blah blah blah blah blah blah blah blah blah blah blah accurately pin them on the Bush Administration and blah blah blah blah blah corporate corruption (Enron, World-Com) blah.

blah what blah recovery?

blah blah blah blah blah blah blah blah blah blah blah blah blah blah blah blah blah blah blah blah blah blah blah blah blah cut 20% across the company on October 1, 2001. blah blah blah blah blah blah blah blah blah blah blah blah blah blah blah blah blah blah blah blah blah blah blah blah blah blah blah blah blah blah blah blah blah blah blah blah blah blah blah blah the economy blah blah weak, blah blah blah blah blah economic uncertainty, jobs get cut blah blah blah blah blah blah blah blah blah blah blah blah blah blah blah blah blah blah blah blah blah blah blah blah blah blah blah blah blah blah blah blah blah blah blah blah blah blah blah blah blah blah blah blah blah blah blah blah blah blah blah blah blah blah blah blah blah blah blah blah jobs get cut.

Nice try, Matt, but you’re scolding deaf puppies on this one.

Unfair and Imbalanced

Number 1 headline on this Sunday’s St. Louis Post-Dispatch: Dangerous Cargo on Our Roads, Rails. Of course, if you were expecting a good, balanced view of the sometimes dangerous but necessary transporation of hazardous materials, you should wait for the story in the Atlantic Monthly.

How’s the Post-Dispatch do? Well, let’s see what we have. Lead:

PALMYRA, Mo. – First came the early morning rap on the door. Then came the coughing, the burning eyes.

In the frantic moments that followed a May 17, 2003, hydrochloric acid spill on nearby U.S. Highway 61, Shorti Garner and her husband, Steve, woke their children and piled them into the family camper to flee their home.

“My kids – in blankets and all – I scooped them up,” Shorti Garner said.

A nice play-on-the-emotions anecdote. Anecdotes! Who can deny that it’s a frightening situation? I live within a mile of the confluence of two Interstate highways and have train tracks. (Well, I am not a naturalist, but I assume a train left them. They’re two big for cat tracks.) I am right in the danger zone for a spill, but I don’t worry about it.

Why? Because every year four hundred people die from these sorts of accidents. That’s not a high number, considering all the stuff travelling about. I would expect more hit and run deaths than deaths from hydrochloric acid exposure from these things leaking.

But that’s not the Post-Dispatch’s point. Now, they don’t delve into issues such as alternate means of transportation, such as dogsleds, homing pigeons, or anything that would be safer. They also don’t explain why dangerous chemicals are transported this way, that these chemicals are used to make things people want to buy.

No, I guess the only thing the Post-Dispatch wants to do is panic its stupid readers (whether it thinks its readers are stupid, or whether the people who read it and panic are stupid, I leave to history to decide) and blame the cause of the panic on big greedy corporations who behave irresponsibly at the expense of the little man. Unlike Pulitzer Publishing.

Conspoonmer’s Report Best Buy

Conspoonmer Reports labeled the PlayStation 2 game Karaoke Revolution a Best Buy (much better than its prequels The Karaoke and Karaoke Reloaded), so Heather and I got it last night.

We didn’t have the headset controller, so we bought a kit with a headset in it; unfortunately this proved to be product that fit into the back of the PLayStation to make it into a DVD Karaoke machine, not the USB headset that lets you interact with the game. Oops. Well, it came with a karaoke DVD of its own, so we could attempt to sing along with Avril Levain’s latest hits, or we could buy a USB headset. So we went out. And spent another thirty bucks.

Well, instead of lamenting our stupidity and or returning the karaoke kit, I think we’ll have to have a karaoke party.

However, don’t compete against Heather in Karaoke Revolutions. I think the designers probably expected normal people to take more than one run through every song to win the game. But Heather has never been normal.