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Generic Confusion

When you leave, my blog just fades to grey
Nu ma nu ma iei, nu ma nu ma nu ma iei

News? Check. Politics? Check. Music? Check. Random thoughts about life? Check. Readership? Ummm.... let me get back to you on that. Updated when I feel like I have something to say, and remember to post it.

Tuesday, June 27, 2006

A public service announcement

From Waiter Rant, here's something that needed to be said, and said bluntly:


Some good points:

4. Talk normally. There’s no need to yell. If your surroundings are too loud maybe you shouldn’t be using your phone.

5. If you have to say, “Can you hear me now?” five times – they can’t. Hang up.

11. If your call gets dropped, wait a few minutes and get into a better coverage area before calling back. Don’t frantically try calling me back NINE times in thirty seconds forcing me to listen to static. I don’t like you that much.

18. Unless you’re expecting a call from God - turn off your phone in church, synagogue, or the mosque.

19. Set the ringer volume below an ear shattering 200 decibels.

Sunday, June 25, 2006

A new women's first

If you work towards equality of the sexes, you might want to know about a brand new first for women. It happened last weekend in an unlikely place, that bastion of Southern genteelness, Charleston, South Carolina. And this first came from a visitor from Japan.

Meet Katoaka Asami.

As part of Team Tottori 1 6 1, Katoaka-san placed high--in the money--in a Magic: the Gathering Pro Tour event. That's a first for women in the roughly 10 year history of the Magic Pro Tour.

Let's celebrate another victory against the misogynistic patriarchy!

If you're not at this point scratching your head, saying "What the heck is Magic?" perhaps you're not surprised that it's taken ten years for this to happen. Perhaps you even surmise sexism has nothing to do with this ten year male total supremacy. Perhaps you simply look at Magic as a geek hobby.

The vast majority of players of Magic: the Gathering are young men, and women who play are often introduced to the game by husbands or boyfriends (Katoaki-san is the girlfriend of top Japanese player Fujita Tsuyoshi). To compete at the top level of play, there are few people, and even fewer women, who want to put the time into reading about successful decks, practicing draft events, and running countless playtests to fine-tune a deck against the current dominant deck archetypes.

So if no woman won for ten years, it's not sexism, it's by choice.

Now, if you do promote the idea that women are held behind from the top positions in politics and business because of sexism or the "patriarchy," you had better not agree with the above statement. If you're willing to accept that women are simply less interested in Magic, then what else are women less interested in? Are they less interested in the 100 hour workweeks and constant on-call status that comes with being a corporate executive vice president? Are they less interested in the spotlight, the constant schmoozing, the need to smoothly lie that comes with top political offices? Are they more interested than men in staying home with the children?

As much as I'd love for more single women to participate in my hobbies, there's no reason to try to force gender equality. It's a free society, and if that means more men want to play Magic (or play poker, or golf, or watch NASCAR, etc.), that's no reason to assume our society is sexist.

Thursday, June 22, 2006

Take the quiz!

"Liberals have a preternatural gift for striking a position on the side of treason...Whenever the nation is under attack, from within or without, liberals side with the enemy."

"We must study this vile liberal technique of emptying garbage pails full of the vilest slanders and defamations from hundreds and hundreds of sources at once, suddenly and as if by magic, on the clean garments of honorable men, if we are fully to appreciate the entire menace represented by these scoundrels of the press."

And many more!

Can you figure out who said these quotes?

Is it Ann Coulter...

or Adolph Hitler?

Crime Doesn't Pay (II)

Someone finds or otherwise acquires a lost T-Mobile Sidekick phone, and uses its photo-taking and instant messaging properties. However, since those data are stored on the T-Mobile server, the phone's owner has the picture and AIM screen name of the person in possession of the phone. He asks for it to be returned. She says no. Thus begins the two-week odyssey of the Stolen Sidekick.

It quickly turned from documentation of attempts to get the phone back to an incredible Internet meme, with millions of hits on the Web page and an active forum. Most amusing are the Photoshopped pictures created by fans.

It ends with an arrest for misdimeanor possession of stolen property, probably the only instance of such crime covered with an article in the New York Times.

Wednesday, June 21, 2006

Crime Doesn't Pay (I)

SUV owners who are faced with rising gas prices have found a new way to get out from under their high car payments -- arson.

This trend was spotted by a Southern California arson task force in the summer of 2005 when gas prices spiked. At one point, firefighters responding to a report of a vehicle fire arrived at the Los Angeles River Bed to find two SUVs burning at the same time.

Investigators found the arson-for-hire ring involved a new-car dealership in Cerritos, California. Debt-weary SUV owners contacted the finance manager, hoping to trade in their gas-guzzler for something cheaper. They were then put in touch with an arsonist who told them to leave the keys in the ignition and $300 cash in the glovebox. An arsonist would then take the car to a remote location and set it afire. After the car was torched, the owners would then contact their insurance company and report their vehicle stolen, expecting their debt to be cancelled. Instead, they were investigated for insurance fraud.

A sting operation was arranged and an undercover officer posed as an "upside-down" SUV owner who wanted his vehicle burned. "Upside-down" refers to a loan where more money is owed than the car is worth. The vehicle was left at a predetermined location with cash in the glovebox. However, the would-be arsonist didn't know there was a "dash cam" installed in the car to videotape his actions. When the arsonist removed the money and started to drive away, investigators hit a kill switch and triggered the door locks, trapping him inside. Simultaneously, warrants were served on seven other people involved in the arson ring.

Here's a crime that doesn't pay. It's too easy to determine that your car was worth less than its outstanding loan, so you're not simply going to be getting a check from the insurance company, no questions asked. Also suspicious is getting insurance coverage to cover the gap between the car's value and your outstanding loan. If the would-be criminal had any foresight, they'd have this coverage already; however, if they had this insight, they wouldn't have bought such a large car, and wouldn't be in a position where they need to torch their car.

Amazingly, this crime used to be more common:

In 1984, Mieth said it was "commonly accepted for Mr. and Mrs. Citizen to 'sell' their car back to the insurance company by lighting it on fire." To put a stop to that, the Burned Motor Vehicle Reporting Law was passed in 1987. This required the owner of a burned vehicle to complete and sign a report that must also be signed by a fire official from the department where the fire occurred. The new law was the most likely reason that vehicle fires dropped 95 percent, from a high of 5,116 in 1987 to 217 in 2004.

This is yet another example of a crime that hurts the honest among us, as fraudulent losses for insurance companies will be recovered by higher rates for your insurance.

Tuesday, June 20, 2006

Winning is a bad thing?

Discussed at the Volokh Conspiracy and elsewhere, Connecticut high school sports authorities want to stop embarrassing scoring margins in high school football games. Winning by more than 50 points is deemed to be "unsportsmanlike," and can result in suspensions for the coach.

That's a lousy approach. If you want to shut down the game, institute a mercy rule. But don't force people to, basically, throw the game. When the margin gets that big, the winning team brings in its second and third string. These players should have the opportunity to play solid football in a real game situation, even if it means they score more points. These players probably want the play experience, and the younger players want to become good enough to earn a starting role. Having them go through the motions, under penalty for playing, isn't going to help them.

Monday, June 19, 2006

Things you wouldn't think need to be imported

I passed a truck from a Quebec company that produces wood shavings. Strange. It's not like the U.S. doesn't have an extensive domestic lumber industry.

Now, what I found strange was that the "This vehicle makes wide right turns" sticker wasn't translated into French.

One problem with our litigious society...

...is that it leads to ridiculous amounts of disclaimers, warnings, and such. As demonstrated here. :)

I also suspect that there would be less of a need for animal testing (for example, horrible procedures like sticking cosmetics in the eyes of animals) if the assumed response to "I spilled nail polish in my eye" were "I shouldn't be so clumsy," not "I'll sue and make me and my own independently wealthy."

Wednesday, June 14, 2006

Like a Phoenix...

The Phoenix Life Insurance Company has adopted a new dove logo:

Okay, they call it a stylized phoenix, but really... does it look like one to you? All it needs is an olive branch.

This is a phoenix:

Carnival of the Vanities #195

Welcome to the 195th edition of the venerable Carnival of the Vanities!

This week's Carnival almost had an authentic old-school touch, when my cable modem service went down. Fortunately, it came back online, so this is not the 56k Dialup Carnival. With only two days left to assemble the Carnival, I finished just on time. Here it is, posted in fast fashion!


Trent showcases Wall Street at its Ugliest at Stock Market Beat. It just goes to show that everything counts--if you don't keep your eye on all aspects of the business, someone will take advantage of your lapse.

Barry Welford at The Other Bloke's Blog asks a different question: Should I Be Polite To My Clients? He suggests one needs to get the balance right between explaining how your company can help the client and coming across as self-congratulatory.

Dan Melson at Searchlight Crusade gives us a Buyer's Basic Guide to The Foreclosure Market and REOs. Here is the house buying advice if you're looking to profit from investing in distressed real estate.

Paul M. Secunda at Workplace Prof Blog presents a surprising and shocking Report: Five of Top Ten Grossing Class Action Settlements Involved ERISA Claims. These suits work off the conflict between company executives in their dual roles as corporate heads and fiduciaries for the company retirement plans, and claim that by not disclosing information, they damaged people in the plans. I can't help feeling that the only people benefitting from these suits are the lawyers.

Wayne Hulbert at Blog Business World reminds us to Be Prepared for Change. It's only a question of time before you will see change in your profession. Those who can adapt will thrive.

Steve Faber tells us Why Boring Stocks Can Be Oh So Sexy over at Debt Free. Tech stocks are the rush of a fast car or the excitement of a hot party, and they're as ephemeral. Take a look at quiet stocks that pay good dividends.


GrrlScientist shows us how the battle between offense and defense goes back long before humankind got involved. Check out the new life form discovered, a Giant Armored Dinosaur, over at Living the Scientific Life. How about naming this beast after Sherman or Abrams? From large armored dinosaurs to small sauropods, learn about how scientists determined that fossils represented a new species, at Europasaurus holgeri: the Smallest Giant.


Reb Chaim HaQoton presents Understanding Proselytes, a term originally meaning those who converted to Judaism. Many suffer well for following this calling.

Ali Eteraz at Unwilling Self-Negation learned more about life and honor from the flawed hero of a literary creation than from the unreachably flawless depiction of the Prophet; this virtual halo of goodness renders childhood irrelevant. As a result, he sees himself in the former, not the latter: "I am a Dark Elf."


The Key Monk remembers umpire Eric Gregg, who passed away recently. He was criticized for his calls at home plate, but respected for his treatment of players and coaches. Read The Largest Ump, RIP.

Josh Cohen at Multiple Mentality points out that the old Sports Illustrated cover curse has been surpassed by the curses of Madden and Campbell's. Shaun Alexander and Ben Roethlisberger are Asking for trouble with their current endorsements. And then it begins....


The ever-clever Buckley F. Williams at The Nose On Your Face has a new Top 10 list, 10% off, for today only! See the Top 9 Things Overheard Coming From The Hippies Who Were Pepper-Sprayed At A Recent Anti-War Protest. I just can't get enough of these lists!

At Avant News, where they present Tommorow's News, Today, you may gain insight about the new math of troop reductions: U.S. Military to Reduce Iraq Troop Levels From 138,000 to 163,000.

Don Surber has a copy of New York Times reporter John F. Burns's coverage of the recent Yankees-Red Sox series. It's as stripped of bias as his war reporting. Follow along at The Quagmire at Yankee Stadium.

Gnotalex at Dodgeblogium gives us Die, Man, Rhymin’: The Wit And Wisdom Of Zakaria Amara. Yes, he found poetry from one of the recently arrested Canadian terrorist suspects. It's no good, but Gnolatex suspects it'll be good enough for the International Library of Poetry.

Callas at Catnabbit! warns us about the "furr-ener" threat: "Furr-eners" Featured in All-New "Deck of Terror". Easy, Tiger... and Rocky, and Spike, and Sylvester....

Attila at Pillage Idiot asks the important question: What's that smell? What to do if you're breathing in fumes? It's a good thing the New York Times Business section is covering this important topic.

Darcy X attacks spam at A weigh with the words, posted at Catymology. A serious cat doesn't want to know about your new painkiller or limited time giveaway!

The decline in the number of pirates is not the cause of global warming? Just blasphemous rumours from the Noodly Norsemen! Mark A. Rayner at The Skwib continues his saga of the schism among worshippers of the Flying Spaghetti Monster at Pirates, Vikings and The Lost Boys.

The World We Live In

Mensa Barbie at Mensa Barbie Welcomes You links to a powerful video, with photographic evidence of the atrocities suffered under Sharia law in Iran. See the Video: Ending Theocracy of Sharia Law. As she says: "Today's disappearance, tortures, or executions of journalists and bloggers, as apostates... must end."

Bull Jones at The Bull Speaks! looks to Iraq. Somebody who deserved it is dead, and Bull honors a good man, and a good turtle, serving our nation. It's at Salute to our Flag, our Sailors, a Victory, & Franklin.

Francois Tremblay tackles one condemnation of free market anarchism, the argument that reducing the power of government is necessarily bad for the poor. Join in the discussion at Using "the poor" as a moral totem, posted at The Radical Libertarian.

Doug Mataconis at Below The Beltway looks at Tiananmen Square Seventeen Years Later. Who can forget the courage of a lone man, staring down the barrel of a gun?

John discusses Blogs for Outright Insanity at Hell's Handmaiden. Just because some people treat sex as "something to do," doesn't mean they support sexual slavery.

Muse at Shiloh Musings points out the New York Times has an agenda, as demonstrated by easily disproved facts in headlines. Hamas ends a truce after 16 months? Don't trust the NY Times. Told you so!

Adam Graham at Adam's Blog looks at the cultural and religious aspects of marriage, heterosexual and homosexual. He asks, What is Marriage? If one says, "I feel loved," is that all that matters?

Jon Swift comments: Ann Coulter Tackles the Menace of Widows and Grieving Mothers. If people think she will find shame in her most recent comments, just look at everything else she's said over the years.

Watcher of Weasels cheers: Zarqawi Has Been Terminated... w00t! He has harsh words for the world full of nothing that is the liberal response to this momentous event.

Mike Taylor at Et Tu Bloge looks at the impact of Daily Kos on our political atmosphere; he sees many a black day to come, if this be the future. Read Those Cute Kos Kids and The Future Seen.

Life in General

Shang Lee at Shang Lee.com thinks about the precious lessons learned from two thin pieces of wood he's used all his life. Read about it at The Wisdom of Chopsticks.

Free Money Finance presents Chocolate is the Path to Wealth and Long Life. The bottom line: Enjoy chocolate in moderation. The health benefits may be minor, but the happiness it provides is always good.

J.D. at Get Rich Slowly has a thoughtful post about balancing the benefits of organic food with its costs, an analysis that can and should be done in many aspects of life. Clean, wholesome food isn't cheap, and what about those who can't afford it? His post is at Organic Produce: Price vs. Ethics.

Dayton Daily News reporter Kristin McAllister, blogging at Making Cents, reminds us about Kids and jobs. Don't miss out on being a kid. Work will come. If you want your child to work, she has some advice.

Douglas Sorocco at Rethink(IP) wonders Whatever Happened to Manners? When a passenger on a plane refuses to be flexible, even when it's just as easy to be polite, his neighbors respond. It's nice to see some people still have a sense of decency.

Jack Yoest takes an old quote from an auto ad, Scars Are Tattoos... With Better Stories, and looks at how pain changes a man. Would I be able to turn life changing pain into a pain I'm used to? I don't know.

Miriam at Miriam's ideas bemoans the great ideas lost when Blogger was not functioning to record them. Curse Blogger! I had a similar thing happen, unable to start this CotV while Internet access was down, and I hope these tools never let me down again.

Paul at Paul's Tips draws a lesson from a chance encounter with teenagers and their world. He compares their world with the adult world, and concludes: High-school style popularity is effectively worthless in the adult world. In the teenage world, petty divides are created because they have no real authority. When moving to the adult world, they find the landscape is changing, and those who don't change are left behind.

Koranteng at Koranteng's Toli brings us Boycott and the Gospel of Toli. All those passwords, technology problems, regulations... it's enough to render you comatose.

Elisa Camahort at The Browster Blog brings us stories of old (a week old) with The week that was in the blogosphere.

Lisa at Lil' Duck Duck reminds us that toddlers and electronics don't mix. Look at More keyboard decor... he definitely shouldn't have done that!

Paula Gregorowicz at Coaching4Lesbians realizes Pop Art Questions Convention, You Can Too!. When you feel your life or your business is in a rut, think about how an artist would see you and your life.

And finally, Great White Snark has a News Flash: "Good Girls" Don't Run Off to Jordan. What would lead a girl to con her parents into getting her a passport, then sneak off to a foreign nation? Sounds like a clear-cut case of useless parents.

That's all for today. The next carnival will be hosted at... *ahem* ... (uncomfortable silence) ... there will be another one, right? Contact Zeuswood if you're interested in hosting.

(And ten points if you detect the common thread in the entries for this week's Carnival.)

Monday, June 12, 2006

Fox sighting

I haven't seen a fox in my back yard in about 20 years, and that sighting was nothing like this fox, caught on video experiencing a trampoline for the first time.

Thursday, June 08, 2006

The estate tax: not a problem for Paris Hilton

The Wall Street Journal has a good editorial today on the estate tax, and how it's not really serving the purpose liberals claim it serves.

For proof that they're right, they need only watch the current debate. The superrich or their kin--such as Bill Gates Sr. and Warren Buffett--are some of the loudest voices opposing repeal. Yet they are able to shelter their own vast wealth by creating foundations or via other crafty estate planning. Edward McCaffery, an estate tax expert at USC Law School, argues that "if breaking up large concentrations of wealth is the intention of the death tax, then it is a miserable failure."

Do the Kennedys or Rockefellers look any poorer from the existence of a tax first created in 1917? The real people who pay the levy are the thrifty middle class and entrepreneurs who've built up a modest nest egg or business and are hit by a 46% tax rate when they die. Americans want family businesses, ranches, farms and other assets to be passed from one generation to the next. Yet the U.S. has one of the highest death tax rates in the world.

Honest Partisan asked "what if the estate tax was raised so that it hit at $10 million instead?" That's like suggesting "Let's ban abortion, but only in the 9th month of pregnancy." If something is right or wrong on principle, you don't go against that principle just because it's a small exception. The estate tax is a key principle of Marxism. And can anyone point out a significant difference between saying "You're dead and rich, so we'll take half your estate" and "You're rich, hand over half your property?"

This latest article also highlights that the estate tax is quite possibly a regressive tax! Specifically on Paris Hilton:

The American Family Business Institute has found that the bulk of the Hilton estate has long been sheltered from the IRS in tax- free trusts.

That leads me to suspect that there exists a number Y between X ($2/$4 million, the current level of exemption for the estate tax) and Z (Bill Gates' wealth*) such that if the estate tax exemption were raised to Y, there would be virtually no money collected by the estate tax, a rate far, far below the nominal percentage rate of the tax.

The estate tax is not meeting its goal (unless you're in that field of law). Dump it.

*Well, the total amount of wealth Bill Gates will pass to his heirs, in both tax-sheltered and taxed forms.

The Carnival is coming!

The 194th installment of the Carnival of the Vanities is up at Punny Money. One ninety five will be right here! So send in your best post, using the Carnival submission form or directly to reylance at aol dot com.

The Carnival is all about highlighting your best recent work, on any topic... it's you putting your best foot forward. All posts will be included in the Carnival, subject to normal standards of decency, and trackbacks will be used, subject to the whim of Haloscan. Please, submit recent or otherwise relevant posts, and please again, one submission per blog.

Check back Tuesday night or Wednesday morning for the Carnival!

Wednesday, June 07, 2006

This is cool

Wired has an article about the return of the choose your own adventure format. And the article itself is in choose your own adventure format.

I read several choose your own adventure books when growing up. (For example, I remember the name "Turtalia"; Google it and see what you find!) I would read each book to try to find all the scenes and all the endings. I preferred books with some bad endings and some good endings, rather than ones that would eventually reach the end, no matter what you did. And I absolutely hated books that talked about "you" without establishing that "you" were a character in the novel. A phrase like "You can't wait to get home and see your pet dog" is just wrong if you don't have a pet dog!

Amusingly, these books are about the only time one will see writing in second person format.

(Via Riding Sun)

Tuesday, June 06, 2006

Indiana in the news (2)

Back in April, a semi (whose driver likely fell asleep at the wheel) crosed the median of I-69 and collided with a van carrying several Taylor University students, killing five. One survivor, in critical condition, was identified as senior Laura VanRyn.

Then came the shocking news: the woman in the hospital was not Laura, but a similar-looking student named Whitney Cerak.

The family of Laura VanRyn set up a blog to discuss the young woman's long recovery. It's painful to read the archives knowing what would be revealed mere weeks later. Now, the blog has been shared with the family of Whitney Cerak.

Indiana in the news (1)

And not in a good way, with a shocking execution-style murder in Indianapolis. Seven members of a blended family were killed.

The two suspects, Desmond Turner and James Stewart, have lengthy criminal records, listed here by the Indianapolis Star. Check out that longest sentence by triggerman Turner:

• Longest sentence: Six years, in 2002, for illegal handgun possession.

In case you can't do math, six years from 2002 is 2008, which is after the current year. Had this criminal served his entire sentence, seven people would still be alive today.

Check the paper, and you may see stories along the lines of "Despite rising incarceration rates, the crime level keeps dropping." Here's an example of why that's no source of surprise. Were these cases not so tragic, the liberal amazement that keeping criminals in prison lowers crime rates would be laughable.

Friday, June 02, 2006

Everyone has to deal with security hassles....

Even fantasy adventurers.

Thursday, June 01, 2006

School Food

School Food is right up there on the oxymoron list with Jumbo Shrimp and Military Intelligence.

It turns out school lunch is a big topic in the blogosphere today! There are all sorts of debates about vending machines in schools, and if that's contributing to obesity.

Don Surber has a column reminiscing about what he did for lunch "back in the days." The obesity rise came at the same time as increasing government school involvement in feeding kids, though I think that might just be coincidence. Several other things happened around that time: larger portions in restaurants, video games, computers, an increasing fear in letting kids be on their own in the neighborhood.

In elementary school, I ate the hot lunch, but grew sick of several of the foods (icky, microwaved, rubbery pizza), and started bringing a lunch on occasion. Junior high had more palatable a la carte purchases. By the time high school came around, I brought my lunch most days (there was no actual cafeteria building at the time). Most memorable, though, was the school's open campus. Those students with cars could go out for fast food. Other students could walk home. While I wasn't anywhere near close enough to school to walk home at lunch, I did occasionally go to a friend's home for lunch, some quick Nintendo action, and to see his cute baby brother.

Moving to a second high school, with a closed campus, I was finally sick of packing lunches, so came full circle, eating the hot lunch once again.

Strange, though, is that no one is talking about the nature of school lunches themselves as a cause of obesity. The food is high fat, high carbohydrate, and designed to provide enough Calories to benefit a student without enough to eat at home. That's not the case nowadays, for the majority of the poor and basically everyone else.

The meat is not lean ground beef and boneless skinless chicken breasts. It is, to quote The Simpsons, Grade F meat (Mostly circus animals, some filler). Vegetables are cooked until all the nutrients leach into the cooking water. Milk is the higher Calorie 2%.

One particularly gross item was the croutons, made from recycled grilled cheese sandwiches. Here's how I imagined the ingredient list:

HIGH SCHOOL CAFETERIA(tm) brand Croutons.
Ingredients: Oil, Salt, Grilled Cheese Sandwiches (Oil, Bread, Cheez(tm) [Oil, Water, Salt, Milk, Enzymes]).

Serving healthy (and more expensive) meals in school cafeterias won't solve childhood obesity, but it wouldn't hurt.

To understand Africa

R. J. Rummel at Democratic Peace has an interesting post discussing the failure of Africa. He (or rather, a commenter) suggests taking a look at tribal culture.

Those of us from more individualistic backgrounds assume that our accomplishments, our savings, our capital accumulations and our property are our own--to keep and use as we see fit. But the tribal staff members were powerless to resist the demands of their families, and other members of their tribes, who immediately made claim to what they perceived as the accumulated wealth of their compatriots.

What good will starting a successful business do if tribal culture demands this wealth be shared among tribesmen? Compare to America, where a new and successful business will likely benefit the "tribe" (community), but in a distinctly different way. The business becomes so big that help is required, so someone from the community offers to help the business, in exchange for a fair wage.

Of course, I was all over this topic, as you can see in my advice to Axis of Evil Overlords:

4. Before I appoint my son, brother-in-law, or other member of my tribe to a position of power, I will first check to see if someone better qualified is available.