Monday, December 17, 2007

Caffeine Withdrawal - Beware the Huckabee / Romney election of 2008

This is Future Brent again, backblogging illegally this time from the year 2021. We are now in the first year of Mike Huckabee’s fourth consecutive term as president, with Mitt Romney by his side. I risk the severe punishments against backblogging because it is imperative that you get this message in 2007: Do NOT let Huckabee & Romney get away with their backroom caffeine-withdrawal political dealings again. Do NOT elect the Huckabee / Romney ticket in 2008. Please.

Here’s the future that you absolutely must prevent: In late 2007, when it wasn’t clear whether Romney or Huckabee were the clear leaders in the Republican primaries, the two of them made a backroom deal. Romney agreed to step aside and let Huckabee take the lead, and in return Huckabee agreed to name Romney as his running mate and to fully support the only issue Romney really cared about: Caffeine Withdrawal, a.k.a. The Word Of Caffeine Wisdom, a.k.a. “CaffWiz”.
    The importance of CaffWiz may need some explaining to those of you back in 2007 (when Mormons where only 2 or 3 percent of the U.S. non-incarcerated population and the issue was relatively unknown,) so here’s the backdated background: There is a clause in one of the LDS religious texts, Doctrine & Covenants Section 89 (a.k.a. “The Word of Wisdom”) verse 9 which states “hot drinks are not for the body or belly.” Ever since the publication of that text in 1833 there had been a huge schism within the LDS scholars over the meaning of “hot drinks”. Some interpreted the Lord’s words to mean “hot drinks” while others where sure God meant to say “caffeinated anything.” Romney was in the “no caffeine” camp and, having failed to make headway within the church, he chose politics as his path for enforcing the Wisdom of the Lord.

      You’re probably wondering how Huckabee & Romney won the 2008 elections when Clinton / Obama where such a strong ticket and Bush had been such a disaster. Clinton did have a clear lead until the final debate, when Clinton let out what she thought would be the final nail in Huckabee’s coffin. She said, “Mike, are the rumors true that you killed a man?” The world gasped; could such an accusation be true; she wouldn’t say such a thing if it weren’t; was Huckabee’s career over. But he turned out to be a political genius: “Yes, Hillary, it is true. I’m not proud to say it, and I don’t like to talk about it, but in the interest of Arkansas security I did once have to take a man’s life with my own hands. May God have mercy on us both.” Huckabee took a long pause, lowered his head for a minute as if in brief prayer, and then faced his opponent: “Hillary, have you ever killed anyone with your bare hands.”… another long pause… “Could you?” And that one line is what killed Hillary Clinton’s chances. In an instant Clinton had become a weak pansy who had never even killed a man, and Mike Huckabee had become Jack Bauer in the eyes of the nation. Republican support was further strengthened when it conveniently leaked that Mitt Romney had personally broken the neck of at least one man just for counterfeiting Winter Olympic medallions. Barack Obama tried to salvage the situation by releasing a photograph of himself wielding a handgun, but seeing Barack with a gun just made America remember that he was half black; that photograph cemented the Republican electoral landslide.
The backroom deal was done. The election was won. Romney acted quickly and brilliantly, with the full support of President Huckabee. Romney’s first step was to introduce coffee as a substitute for the opium being grown in Afghanistan. Within a couple of years he was able to show that Taliban-supported Afghan terrorists were supporting themselves with proceeds from the coffee plantations. Coffee beans soon became regulated, as a temporary precaution in the war on terror. The price of legal coffee skyrocketed, leading to a large black market. Romney, with full support of Huckabee, who was too honorable to renege on his backroom deal, called in the National Guard to fight the coffee smugglers. Severe penalties were regulated against coffee contraband. Turf wars among coffee-bean traffickers led to danger-zones in certain urban areas. The situation became so bad, and the blame was easily placed on coffee and (it was hinted, those “coffee-colored” people who transport it) so coffee was mad illegal. Blame was placed on caffeine addiction and so caffeine, in any form, became illegal. (Romney’s religious prohibition had become national law.) But demand did not cease. To make the smuggling easier, the traffickers switched from coffee beans to pure caffeine, which was much more concentrated and easier to import. Caffeine addicts would pay whatever it took to get their fix (anything to wake up in the morning, clear their head, and take a nice big morning dump). They began snorting pure caffeine. Shooting it up. Rich people were lightly fined or let of with a warning when caught with a few lines of powder caffeine (“just an occasional snort, mind you, when necessary to work those long hours making the economy productive”), while the poor were widely rounded up and incarcerated for paying a few dollars to smoke what they called “Crystal Joe.”

By 2012, the situation was so bad that the Caffeine Wars had the country gripped in terror. CaffWiz detention centers could not be built fast enough to protect the general public from the low-class caffeine addicts. The problem was moving from the inner cities to the wholesome rural communities. There was no question that Huckabee / Romney would be re-elected in this time of war. By the time of the 2016 elections over 30% of the population was behind bars (and so couldn’t vote), another 30% was employed keeping them behind bars (and so was invested in keeping the Caffeine Wars going), and the rest of the population was stricken by terror. Wartime powers allowed the 22nd amendment to be temporarily suspended indefinitely.
    Ironically, the major beneficiary of the Caffeine Wars turned out to be Starbucks. By 2010 Starbucks was already the worlds’ largest seller of music, and so they quickly switched from coffee- to music-distribution. Their in-store cot-rental business was also a big moneymaker—people would pay top dollar to lie in a cot for a few minutes, escaping the terrorizing world of the streets while they listened to Starbucks’ exclusive line of sleep-inducing music.
And that’s the way it’s been. The War On Caffeine is a never-ending terror, and I don’t see anything that can make it change now. History shows that it’s much easier to make laws than to unmake laws, so I’m calling on the people of 2007 to prevent Caffeine Prohibition from happening in the first place. Only YOU can prevent Huckabee / Romney in 2008.

Oh, and in case you’re wondering how the whole war against terror thing worked out: The terrorists won. Was there ever any doubt?

Thursday, December 13, 2007

...except for condoms...

Reminder: The First Millenial Fantastic No-Plastic Friday the 14th is on! On Fantastic No-Plastic Friday the Fourteenth (FNPF14) all participants reject any single-use disposable plastic items. Did you forget?

Tuesday, December 11, 2007

There’s a right way to dress.

I always put my pants on right leg first, like any normal human being. Today, just to be different, I tried going left leg first.

It felt wrong. Oh so wrong! I immediately and instinctively knew that I’d made a terrible mistake. Clearly I’d performed an unnatural act and an abomination in the eyes of God, like having sex with someone of the same gender.

Saturday, December 8, 2007

Little Doggy Poo Poo

Friends, we have a new member of the family. She's a 10-year-old Shih Tzu named Tzunami. Here she is:Here she is watching TV with me (notice that I won't let her hold the remote, because she's always switching to Animal Planet):And here she is in a giraffe costume. Oh, the indignity! I expect PETA to show up any time now:When Tzunami needs to poop she first performs an elaborate dance over some special spot in the grass, a spot that changes every day and that that only she can find. Her dance steps trace a sequence of connected circles forming a figure 8. It takes a while. I don't have any videos of her doing that (I can't figure out how to work the video camera), but it looks a lot like this educational video:Click here for bee dance videoNow we know that she's not just pooping, but also telling us where we can find a field of pollen-heavy flowers, relative to the sun. I don't have any recording of Tzunami performing the actual act, so here's video of a bee doing it.
Click here for bee poop video

Saturday, December 1, 2007

Fantastic No-Plastic Friday the Fourteenth

Plastic is everywhere. It seems you can’t buy anything without it being wrapped, transported, displayed, packaged, repackaged, carried, and disposed in a new single-use disposable plastic item—a new plastic item for each stage of transport, display, packaging, etc… Plastic is so ubiquitous that we don’t even notice it.

Every now and then, a day comes along when must take a look at that which is normally invisible due to its over-familiarity. That day is coming in less than two weeks.
    Announcing: Fantastic No-Plastic Friday the Fourteenth.
On Fantastic No-Plastic Friday the Fourteenth (FNPF14) all participants reject any single-use disposable plastic item. Be it grocery bag, coffee cup and/or lid, sandwich plate, straw, or any of a million containers and decorations of any kind, just say, “no thanks, not today.”

During that one day, there will be ample reminders to think about plastic. Where does it come from? Where does it go? How did society live without so much of it 50 years ago, and without any of it 100 years ago? Does it ever biodegrade? Is it an appropriate use of 9% of our oil reserves? Can it really be successfully recycled? How much of the cost of everything goes into that plastic? How much would one of our ancestors have sacrificed to have an item as durable and long-lasting as a plastic Doggie Diner boat, used only once and only to transport a chili dog 12 feet from counter to table?

This may take a little planning (e.g. bringing your own cup, yesterday’s bag to re-use, or your home Tupperware for leftovers), may cause awkward moments, and may require us to postpone for one day some social interactions. Is that too much of a sacrifice for one day? Maybe. If plastics have inundated our lives as completely as I fear they have, we’ll learn on that one day that the idea of living within our sustainable means is hopelessly idealistic. But at least we’ll know.
    Friends, if just one person rejects single-use disposable plastic items they’ll think he’s really sick and they won’t serve him. If two people do it, in harmony, they’ll think they’re both eco-fags and neither of them will be served. But if three people do it, three (that’s right, three, as in every single reader of this blog) they’ll know it’s a movement. And that’s what it is, The Fantastic No-Plastic movement.*
I look forward with hope and fear for the upcoming Friday the Fourteenth, and the tiny sacrifices to be made on that day. Thank you for being a part of this movement.

*with thanks to Arlo Guthrie and Alice’s Restaurant

The 400 Year Old Virgin

Why does the latest issue of GC (the magazine that dictates my entire ever-changing wardrobe) declare Hayden Panettiere, the cheerleader from the Heroes TV show, our Obsession of the Year? It’s not because of the actress herself. She is cute as a button, but cute buttons don’t obsess GC (except in the bi-annual “buttons, cufflink, and tie-clasp roundup”). No, it’s because of her character on heroes. Not because she plays a cheerleader: cheerleaders aren’t obsessions, just whores—everyone in every high school has made it with half the cheerleaders squad, including the other half of the cheerleader squad. What makes this character obsession-worthy is her superhero ability to heal from all wounds in just a few seconds. We’ve seen, for instance, how this power can make broken bones miraculously reform, can make a person live for hundreds of years, and can make a chopped-off toe regrow itself in a few seconds. What the editors at GC implicitly assume is that this healing power applies to all of the cheerleaders organs, including the hymen and all parts thereabouts. And that is what makes Hayden Panettiere obsession-worth: she is always and forever a virgin. Every time is her first time, again and again, all… night… long.

Tuesday, November 20, 2007

A toast to our candidates from a glass half-full.

Let’s take a moment to say something good about society, for a change.

In all previous US presidential elections, every candidate with any chance at victory has been white and male; never black and never female. Now our society is finally breaking through these barriers. Currently, of the two top Democratic contenders we have one who is half-black, and the other who is half-female.

We’re making progress. Good for us.

Monday, November 12, 2007

Lively up your computer screen

Is your computer boring you? Are you tired of the same old bland desktop image day after day? I can help.

While traveling this week in New York and Michigan I took some amazing vacation photos. Right-click on any of these images, choose "set as (desktop) background," and voila, your computer screen becomes a work of art.

I call it "wallpaper".

Next week, how to cut and paste with something I call "scissors" and "glue".

Ten best things about having the flu

  1. chicken soup
I can't think of any more.

Tuesday, October 30, 2007

A fish rots from the head?

    Note from Brent Noorda, Founder, President, and CEO of BNB, Inc.: Today's blog post has been cancelled, which is unfortunate because it was extremely funny. It was a hilarious chronic-(what)-cle of my 3.5 years at Openwave—an insider's view of how management's absurdist antics killed a promising technology company. If you like the Three Stooges, you would have loved the cancelled blog post. One of my favorite bits was when the board was looking for a new CEO to head their leading-edge technology company: First, they found a clown who had a history of taking companies with leading technology and squandering that lead until they were almost worthless; and then (get this, because it is oh so funny) they hired him. I don’t know if the board was too hands-off, idiotic, immoral, or just felt bad for the guy and wanted to give him one more chance, but their choice to hire that clown at that time sure tickles the funny bone (remember that comedy is all in the timing). The CEO/clown then proceeded to follow his usual M.O., which was always to forfeit long-term viability and growth in exchange for short-term boosts in "this quarter's" numbers. His shtick was to halt nearly all development of future products, "reduce" those people working on anything in the pipeline, cut costs at all costs (occasionally new product work began, but only if another company had already proven the concept, and even then the me-too "next generation" projects were laughably understaffed and under funded), condense long-term contracts into short-term one-off deals to make a few end-of-quarters look good, milk the old technology lead (cutting edge circa 2002) for all it was worth and more, and report pretend deals to phantom customers made up on-the-spot during analyst reports (comedy improv is hard, but this clown could really think on his feet). His catch phrase was "we're following best practices"—that got a laugh every time. To spice up the act, he replaced any talented senior management with Larry, Moe, Curly, and even Shemp, all of whom spent most of their time poking each other in the eye, hitting each other on the head with cast-iron skillets, jockeying with each other for position and titles, throwing custard pies, and other such stoogey pratfalls.

    From inside Openwave we could see the clownishness work it’s way down, like a flesh eating bacteria (not the gross kind, but the funny clown kind) from the board and CEO, to Executive Staff, then to all levels of VP, Directors, and so on. But from outside the company it took longer for the world to get the joke. At first the stock did go up, peaking when Ringmaster Cramer at Mad Money Circus bellowed “buy buy buy” over his own laugh track. But eventually the same old shtick got old (hey, Scrubs isn’t as funny as it used to be, either), the market figured out that Openwave had nothing in the pipeline, and the stock made its way from over $23 to under $4, where it belongs.

    The cancelled blog was really really funny stuff, probably good enough to make you laugh and spit milk out your nose even if you weren’t drinking milk. The BNB writing staff spent weeks putting it together. The BNB fact-checking team understandably went over it with a fine-tooth comb, approving every accusatory punch line. But in the end we could not get approval from the BNB legal department. The lawyers said there was enough libel and slander in the post to sue all of BNB, anyone on staff, our advertisers, our investors, and possibly even our readers (all fourteen of you). The BNB fact-checking team went over it again, using a comb with even finer teeth; they found a few lice and a couple of extra commas, but no factual errors. Still, the BNB legal department said NO. They said the only way we could get away with publishing such accusations was to pretend that I was not me, to use cute nicknames for all of the principle characters, and to call everything a something-tard (e.g., “This is Fake Brent Noorda whining about the OpenTard BoardTards who hired JesterTard from Top Gun to crash their own company. What tards! Nanu nanu.”). But that is below my journalistic dignity.

    We can’t just cancel a blog post and do nothing. We at BNB have a business to run. We have deadlines to meet. Bills to pay. The ad space has already been sold. The show must go on! Fortunately, Intern Billy has come up with an alternative post that is completely safe because it has nothing to do with Openwave. Nothing, I swear! Billy, you’re up.
Hi. This is Intern Billy. At the start of my summer internship Mr. Noorda bought me a fish at the supermarket and gave me these instructions: "Take a picture of it every day. Learn how fish rot, educate and entertain the BNB audience, and answer this question: Is the old saying true that a fish rots from the head down? For bonus points, tell us what this fish taught you about business. But, whatever you do, don’t eat the fish." So that’s what I did. The pictures are here [link to Rotting Fish Pictures].

A time-lapse movie of the rotting fish is here:

On day 34 the fish was gone. I swear I didn’t eat it. As an intern I don’t get paid anything and I need all the free food I can get, but I’m not that desperate.

The fish did not rot in the way I expected. In the first few days the ants were all over it, but then they lost all interest. I expected there to eventually be cool maggots crawling all over, but again I was disappointed. After the first week it didn’t even smell bad. For most of the five weeks it just seemed to oh-so-slowly dry up. It was almost imperceptible. Watching this fish was, in a word, boring. I was honestly very happy the day I went out to discover that some animal had taken the fish away.

Did the fish rot from the head? Not that I could tell. In the first couple of days the eyeballs vanished, but other than that the head seemed to oh-so-slowly dry up just like the rest of the fish.

What can this fish teach us about business? That may not be a fair question because by the time Mr. Noorda gave it to me the guts had already been removed. I'm just an intern, but I don't imagine a business without guts deserves to be called a business at all. If I’m forced to draw a parallel to business from this fish, it’s this: First it loses its guts; then it loses its vision; then it slowly desiccates and rots from inside, becoming a shell of itself with anyone hardly noticing; until one night an opportunist comes along and steals it away to the relief of everyone.

On a personal note, I’d like to thank Mr. Noorda and everyone else at BNB for being so nice to me these past months, and for the honor of penning this entire blog all by myself. With this experience on my resume I’ve had lots of job offers coming my way: First from The Stinkymeat Project and Glorious Stench, both of which need people experienced in filming meat rotting, but I turned down both of those offers in favor of Cheddar Vision TV, where I will be in charge of round-the-clock filming of a block of cheese as it matures in a cave over the course of a year. I may have to kill myself.

Sunday, October 21, 2007

The Eyes Don’t Have It

Next weekend will be Amy’s birthday. She’ll be 33 or 36 or 30-something. Amy is just about the greatest wife in the world, and she deserves the best gift that money can buy (as long is it’s not expensive), but I had no idea what to get her. So I rode to the mall and trekked from store to store asking saleswomen for advice (they ought to know, right?), and every saleswoman said exactly the same thing: “Excuse me. My eyes are up here.”

What is it with women and their eyes? I mean, really, it’s like an obsession or something, and it’s not healthy. Recent lack of research shows that last year American women spent about 80 trillion dollars striving for some unrealistic ideal of eye beauty: 80 trillion on a wide range of cosmetics, elective lid-lifts, botox, bag-bleach, crows feet de-clawing, contacts, glass eyeballs, and superglue. I hate to throw big words around just to sound smart, but it’s called Occuloclusive Dysmorphia and it’s a real problem.

Women of the world, it's not what's outside that's important. What really matters is what’s inside. Inside your blouse. Ha ha ha ha ha ha.

No no no. That was a cheap joke and I apologize, because in resorting to such crudity I’ve weakened what is otherwise an important point: Women’s objectification of women’s eyes is just plain wrong. Get over it, ladies. Really, when you think about it, they’re just a pair of round, smooth, firm, glistening orbs.

Well, anyway, I didn't leave the mall empty-handed. Amy will love her new mascara.

Saturday, October 13, 2007

All work and no pay make Jack a poor boy.

The greatest thing happened today. I was the 15th caller into a radio-station contest and won the chance to talk via IM with Jack Whyte, who is about 40% of the hit musical group The Whyte Strypes.
    JW: Hello? Hello? Is this thing on?
    BN: Mr. Whyte? Is that really you?
    JW: Please, call me Jack.
    BN: Hi Jack. Call me Brent.
    JW: Hi Brent.
    BN: Hi.
    JW: Hi.
    BN: Hi.
    JW: Very well then. Will that be all?
    BN: No no. I'm so excited to be able to chat with you. I'm like your #1 fan. (I can hardly believe I've got Jack Whyte on IM.) My 20 other friends I'm chatting with now can hardly believe it.
    JW: This is the first time I've used IM actually. Excuse my ignorance. What do you want to talk... er, "chat" about?
    BN: I dunno. Um. Oh, I know. How's your sister Meg?
    JW: She's recovering. Thanks for asking. Actually, she's not my sister. That's a common misconception because we're both named Whyte. Truth is, we used to be married.
    BN: You're kidding, right? In an IM, when you're kidding you should add a little smiley emoticon, like this :)
    JW: No, I'm not kidding. Meg and I used to be married.
    BN: You married your sister?!! That is so... you artists really do live by a different set of rules. Right on, Mr. artist!
    JW: You misunderstand. I didn't have sex with my sister.
    BN: You didn't have sex with your sister/wife. Yeah, right ;)
    JW: Right.
    BN: Right ;) ;) ;) ;)
    JW: Huh? What's with all the weird punctuation?
    BN: It's an emoticon, like I was telling you about earlier. ;) is a winking face. I was winking when I said that thing about sex with Meg, your wife/sister. Truth be told, Meg is hot!!! If Meg Whyte were my sister, I'd have sex with her too.
    JW: Let's get off Meg!
    BN: Do you mean "let's get off Meg ;) " ?
    JW: Talk, I mean chat, about something else for fuckallsakes.
    BN: OK. Um... How about this topic: Jack, I'm a big fan of yours. I think you were great in "School of Rock" and "King Kong." :)
    JW: You're thinking of Jack Black... Oh, I get it. Another smiley. It was a joke.
    BN: Exactly.
    JW: Let me try one: I chat, therefore IM :)
    BN: Well done. Bravo!
    JW: So are you really a Whyte Strypes fan, or was that a joke too?
    BN: I'm a ginormous fan. I've downloaded all your albums from fan sites. All of them. I especially like "Take me from behind, Satan," and the follow-on "Sticky Rump," but the old stuff is good too, especially some of the studio out-takes. And the live MP3s like the 2002 show from Stuttgart, Germany: smokin' hot "My Balls and Biscuit" on that one!
    JW: Downloaded from fan sites? What are you talking about?
    BN: Fan sites. You know, like Pirate Bay, BitTorrent Trackers, Places like that where the real fans are.
    JW: You mean you have all my music and you never paid?
    BN: Of course I never pay. I'm a fan. I'm in it for the music; for you, Jack. Not for the labels. For the music. Besides, I did pay once, when I was in a hurry, I did buy one of your albums from allofmp3 for a dollar or so. And I bet you didn't see a bit of that dollar, did you?
    JW: You're right. I got none of the money you paid to allofmp3.
    BN: See? That's just what I told you. Those fucking labels!
    JW: You never pay The Whyte Strypes any money, you steal all our music, and you call yourself our biggest fan?
    BN: Don't say "steal." Say "share." Stealing is bad. Sharing is warm and fuzzy and good. And I don't share all your music. I don't have anything from that other band you're in.
    JW: You mean The Entrepreneurs?
    BN: Yes. The Enter.. Entrep... uh... that one. That word is way too hard to spell in the file sharing programs. If you want more fans you need band names that are easier to spell.
    JW: By "fans" you mean people like you, who don't pay. How am I supposed to make a living if nobody pays?
    BN: Wow, Mr. Whyte, for such an excellent musician, you sure don't know much about music, do you?
    JW: Uh. I don't know how to respond to that. Please educate me.
    BN: I'm no expert. You should read people like Cory Doctorow, who tells us that sharing is good, promotes free speech, helps artists, is inevitable anyway, and prevents the tyranny of artists profiting from their creations. Or read this Michael Arrington guy who has fancy economics talk to prove that music has to be free.
    JW: Are these guys musicians?
    BN: No, but they both have very succesful blogs: boing boing and TechCrunch.
    JW: Let me guess. They copyright these blogs to prevent unlawful copying and commercial sharing :)
    BN: Yes. Nice try with the emoticon... but I don't see your point. You're getting off-topic. I'm trying to help you here.
    JW: OK. Help me. How am I supposed to make money if people won't pay for my records?
    BN: It's in that last blog. I'll cut and paste it here: artists need to "stop thinking of digital music as a source of revenue and start thinking about it as a way to market their real products."
    JW: I can't believe you wrote that without using one of your smiley emoticons.
    BN: Those are only used after silly, funny, or ironical statements?
    JW: Ironical?
    BN: I don't know what it means either. Ask Alannis.
    JW: What are these "real products" I'm supposed to be marketing.
    BN: You're a creative guy. Surely you can come up with a creative new business model now that your old model is dead. I hear there's a lot of money in T-shirts. Or car commercials--get your song on a car commercial and you'll make a bundle. Maybe you could start a blog?
    JW: How about concerts?
    BN: I wasn't going to bring up concerts. First because I know that's a sore point since Meg had her little breakdown. But also because I've become enlightened to the fact that paying money for concert tickets is just as bad as paying for recordings. It's just another way to give money to the wrong people (labels, concert promoters, parking lot attendants, ticket-takers, beer-sellers) instead of to the real artists.
    JW: So now you're going to tell me, without a smiley, that concert tickets should be free too?
    BN: Yes. That's why I've started TicketShare Bay, where a true fan can send in a ticket and we quickly reproduce that ticket to share with tons of other fans. I don't mind telling you, I'm making a bundle of money. I love live music.
    JW: Is there an emoticon that represents slowly squishing someone's genitalia in a table vice?
    BN: No. Why do you ask? Is that going to be your next album cover?
    JW: Did you hear the real story behind Meg's emotional concert trauma, and why we stopped touring?
    BN: No. BTW, I lost a bundle at TicketShare Bay when you cancelled the rest of your tour. But, hey, I'm not mad. That's just business, right? Go ahead with your story.
    JW: We were going to do a little show in Dubuque. A small theater seating only 200, real intimate. By the time of the concert we'd only sold 3 tickets. Three! We say "OK, the show must go on," get into the hall, and it's a mad house. 3000 people show up with tickets!
    BN: My records show it was more like 2,787, but sorry to interrupt. Please continue.
    JW: The hall is overflowing onto the stage. I'm stepping across bodies. Someone pulls Meg down by the hair. The fire marshal comes in with his horn blaring, people think there's a fire, they panic. We barely got out alive! Oh my god! Oh my god!!!
    BN: Here's a little IM tip, buddy. Use OMG! OMG!!! It's a lot faster.
    BN: Hello? Hey, Jack. You still there? Hello?
    BN: Hello?
    BN: Hello?
    JW: Hello.
    BN: Hey, Jack. You've been gone a long time. What's up?
    JW: This isn't Jack, it's Meg. Jack won't be back for a while. He wasn't feeling so good and needs to rest.
    BN: That's terrible. What happened?
    JW: I don't know. Something got him really upset. He talked to our mom and dad for a while, but that didn't help.
    BN: Sorry to hear that.
    JW: Yeah. So I did what I could to make Jack feel better. Now he won't be back online to talk to you for a while, because he always takes a long nap after we make love. Goodbye.
Artists. They have sex with their siblings. They think we should pay for their creations. Artists truly do have different moral values than the rest of us.

Friday, September 28, 2007

Climatologists admit they’re wrong about global warming.

Climatologists at the National Snow and Ice Data Center report record loss of Arctic see ice this summer. Compared to the previous record, this year the Arctic lost 386,100 square miles of ice, or about the size of Texas and California combined.

This amount of ice loss is even worse than any previous estimate. In this Reuters article, one scientist says, “the sea ice is diminishing much faster than any of the models predicted.” And in this Scientific American article, they tell us: “Such precipitous loss of ice cover far outpaces anything climate models or scientists have predicted.”

So these “scientist” guys are admitting, right out in the open, that their estimates have been way off all along. They’re basically saying, “none of our predictions are accurate--we don’t know what we’re talking about.”

Are we supposed to believe these people, who have already admitted that that can’t make predictions worth beans, when they then predict that mankind's continued use of fossil fuels will lead to global warming, environmental calamities, and global devastation? Pshaw!

These Chicken Little, Henny Penny, Gore-osive, economy-hating “scientists” make me so angry! Arrgh!

I think I’ll go for a drive to blow off a little steam and cool down.

Wednesday, September 26, 2007

22 Racist Remarks

  • All races are equal.
  • Michael Jackson is black. George Hamilton is white.
  • Racial skin shade is directly correlated to how much sun exposure their ancestors experienced (combining latitude, foliage, and possibly temperature/clothing).
  • Most people’s ideal skin color is an average of all the skin colors they see throughout the day (beauty tends to follow this formula-of-averageness for all features). If you want to be a sexy movie star try to arrange it so that one grandparent is from Africa, two are from Europe, and the fourth is a mix of Asia and Pacific Islands. Think Halle Berry; she usually gets the coloring right.

    Three actors trying to achieve the color.
  • If you are 10% Race A, 10% Race B, 10% Race C, etc… Choose to call yourself by whichever race is the minority in society. That will make you the most special. Think Halle Berry.
  • Here’s my favorite racist joke: Race X excels in Characteristic A, but that’s only because Race X sucks at Characteristic B (it being understood that My Race, which is Race Y, excels in Characteristic B, which is the really important characteristic.)
  • Racer X, enigmatic driver of car number 9, was actually Rex Racer, Speed Racer’s self-exiled brother. He did what he could to protect Speed.
  • The difference in penis length between men of different races is statistically insignificant compared to the difference in penis length between the sexes.
  • Men’s penis sizes are more similar when they’re thinking about Halle Berry than when they’re not. [link]
  • Racial profiling doesn’t capture our best side.
  • Race-based affirmative action in college admissions will continually face heated opposition; wealth-based affirmative action won’t. (Intelligence-based affirmative action has yet to catch on.)
  • Racial minorities don’t prosper in a society if their ancestors did not choose to live within that society. Race matters less than choice (as shown by more-recent immigrants-by-choice).
  • All racist remarks are stupid, as are those who make them.
  • It is every tribe’s right to create a new term of pride for their people, to replace the previous generation’s term (which will have become an epithet). The new term should contain more syllables and/or more words than the old term (and the new term will become an epithet).
  • I am an Asian-American. More specifically: a Cauc-Asian-American (three hyphens!). Please don’t call me “Oriental”; I find that offensive. I’m also offended if you call me “Mongoloid.” Or “retard.” Or “fat-ass” (only fellow Fat-Ass-Americans are allowed to call me that).
  • I’m also African-American. My ancestors left Africa sometime in the last 50,000 years (give or take) and entered America sometime in the last 100 years.
  • Natural selection favors racism. Let’s hope “civilization” solves that problem as neatly as it solved the problem of nakedness.
  • Each tribe once ruled a territory, for a while. This may be known as their golden era. The golden era is remembered with sweet fondness and provides great inspiration.
  • Each tribe’s golden era ends when some other tribe viciously displaces them (through slaughter, genocide, subjugation, assimilation, and other atrocities). This is remembered with bitter hatred and provides great inspiration.
  • Each tribe’s golden era began when it viciously displaced the tribe that ruled before them. This is forgotten.
  • We all have ancestors who supported genocide.
  • All races are equal: rotten to the core.
Next week: We calculate fair victim compensation for Neanderthal Survivors.

Tuesday, September 18, 2007

Will the Alpha and Omega please rise?

A blaspheming Nebraska politician (state senator Ernie Chambers) is suing God, as reported here. He’s suing God for:
  • causing untold death and horror
  • fearsome floods ... horrendous hurricanes, terrifying tornadoes
  • making terrorist threats
I wish I could have made this stuff up.

God must be feeling terrible right now. Your first lawsuit, even if it’s purely frivolous, is always devastating. He is probably thinking the worst: What if they take everything?! What if they take the entire universe? Where will I live?!!

Problem is: God has no good legal representation: There are no lawyers in heaven.

He could represent himself, but a God who represents himself will have an Almighty Fool for a client.

God’s only hope of a fair trial is Satan and his Lawyer Minions of Hell. But it’s going to cost money. A lot of money! (The Lawyer Minions of Hell do not work pro bono.)

During hours of insomnia-induced research, there are two things I’ve learned from early-morning religious TV shows that can help us save Him:
  1. God is all-powerful, but for some holy reason beyond our terrestrial comprehension He is unable to create His own money. So call into those TV shows and send them all your savings.
  2. Prayer works. So pray. Pray very hard! Pray to Satan to make the best defense strategy possible for God’s case, or to at least cop a reasonable plea.
God must win this case. If we let Him go to jail he’ll never get out. No parole board, having read His rap sheet in the Bible / Koran / Torah, will ever let Him out early for good behavior.

Next week: RIAA sues The Muses for p2p sharing and copyright infringement.

Thursday, September 13, 2007

No Honor Among Hackers

Recent sequence of events:
  • The clever duck-haters at Apple create an iPhone and sell it (like hot cakes) with a clear agreement that AT&T is the carrier. Anyone who does not like that agreement is free to not give Apple and AT&T their money and instead buy any of hundreds of other phones from other carriers. Better still, they are free to create a better phone of their own.
  • These hackers (clearly adherents to FCE4AAA) are clever enough to hack the iPhone so it can use carriers other than AT&T, but are not clever enough to create a better phone of their own. They charge people $99 to use the hack.
  • A bunch of other hackers are clever enough to hack those hackers’ hack, but are not clever enough to create a better phone of their own. They tell people how to unlock the iPhone for free here.
  • This hacker is clever enough to socially hack those hackers’ hackers’ hack, but is not clever enough to create a better phone of his own. He almost claims a donation of $41,560.
We have hackers hacking hackers hacking hackers. If these adolescents (whatever their calendar age, their behavior is adolescent) were outright thieves they would show each other some respect. Is there no honor among hackers?

I don’t think any of these hackers broke the law. I do know that they did not bring us any closer to having a better phone. Even if they did break laws most of them are probably too young to go anywhere but juvenile hall. At the very least, their parents should send them to bed without supper.

Thursday, August 30, 2007

The age-old question: Surge or Pull Out?

When a question gets too complicated to understand and resolve I try to reframe the issue in terms that are easier to comprehend. Take, for example, the current US political debate about the major issue in the Middle East, which goes something like this:
    Should the U.S. stay in Iraq? Do we let the surge complete, or do we pull out before the job is finished?
One side argues that the surge is working; that even if the US shouldn’t have gone into Iraq in the first place, now we’re there and we owe it to them to stick it out until the end; that if we pull out now it will be a disaster for those we leave behind. The other side argues that our involvement is not working, staying only makes it worse, and the longer we stay the longer we’ll have to live (and die) with the failed consequences. Complex concepts are involved: Democracy, Self-Determination, Imperialism, Terrorism, Energy & Economies, Security, Life, Death, Right, Wrong.

Heady stuff. Too complicated for almost anyone to understand in these terms. So let’s try to reframe the issue in terms that are more familiar. Most of us are not familiar with finding ourselves, personally, in a mess in the Middle East. But of a lot of us may be familiar with this situation: you’re a teenager making out in the back of your parent’s car in a dark parking spot and you’ve gone farther than you originally anticipated. What do you do, continue the surge or pull out?

Continue the surge, or pull out?

For those of you not following yet, let me clarify the analogous substitutions:
  • For "Middle East" think "back seat of your parents’ car"
  • For "U.S." think "boy" or, if you must, "penis"
  • For "Iraq" think "girl" or, if you must, "vagina"
  • For "surge" think (come on, do you really need a new term?) "ejaculation"
  • For "pull out"? (you really want a new term? You don’t get one.)
So the problem is a lot easier to understand now. Right? Here it is again, written twice, once without substitution (for those with brains who can do it in their head) and written again for those who don’t like to think (that’s you, GWB):
  1. The question about the issue in the Middle East is this: Should the U.S. stay in Iraq? Do we let the surge complete, or do we pull out before the job is finished?

  2. The question about the issue in the back seat of your parents’ car is this: Should the penis stay in the vagina? Do we let the ejaculation complete, or do we pull out before the job is finished?
Now it’s an issue we can all understand and really debate. We can all now see how we might have gotten ourselves into a situation for which we weren’t fully prepared—how we may have planned for months to penetrate Iraq without giving sufficient thought about what to do after that primary mission was accomplished.

If we pull out now, before the job is finished, both parties are sure to experience a period of disappointment—they’re probably going to have to finish the job alone. Maybe there will be messy years of Iraqi-on-Iraqi action. But if we stay in, we’re going to have to do the decent thing and pay for our momentary decision for a long long time (at least the next eighteen years, or longer if the little democracy we've created goes to college).

There. Is it all clear now? I hope so.

It is my sincere hope that I’ve done my small part to make these important issues easier to discuss, and made the questions easier to answer. Most of all I hope that each time you hear a politician or pundit say "surge" or "pull out" you’ll feel a little tingle in your bikini area.

Posted From: The Cape
Mood: Tingly
Now listening to: Pair of Dice Buy the Baath or Shiites

Thursday, August 23, 2007

Apple’s new iPod Freestyle. Too good for our own good?

Anyone who knows me (which is to love me) knows that I’m generally a supporter of corporate trade secrets, IP, and so on. So when an Apple employee recently slipped me a working copy of their next iPod release, so I could blog about it, my first reaction was “No thanks. I’m not into the whole Apple Rumor thing. I already have a life.” The employee said “But this time it’s important. It’s a matter of public health. You must let people know before it’s too late.”

I honestly have no intention of harming Apple. I’m a huge fan of Apple, despite their sometimes-inadequate efforts to protect waterfowl. With my recent purchases of an iPhone, two iPods, and a MacBook Pro, I feel personally responsible for their latest record-breaking quarter. But the anonymous Apple employee had me a little spooked, and so I took the new iPod home, did some research on my own, and now I must reluctantly agree with the whistleblower. Someone has to spill these beans, and it may as well be me. This new iPod cannot be released; at least not now; not without more safety research.

iPod Freestyle Review: In one word, WOW!

First the good news. Apple has done it again! It’s called the “iPod Freestyle” and it’s truly a revolutionary leap forward in personal entertainment devices. I think we were all expecting Apple’s new iPod release to get a UI face-lift in the direction of their iPhone innovations; but they pulled a 180 and went in a completely new and minimalist and unexpected direction.

Within a few minutes of using the Freestyle, one quickly accepts the radical-but-complementary changes in both form and function. This new iPod makes the old iPod seem like a Walkman!

At a high level, this is what’s new in the iPod Freestyle:
  • Form: The Freestyle is no bigger than the headphones, and only as much of the headphones as needed to go from one ear to the other. That’s it! There’s no longer a question of where to hold the iPod, where to hold the long earphone cabling, how to keep them together, or how to untangle things. It’s simply one short unit that, when not in use, naturally stores itself as a high-tech, decorative(?) necklace. At the base of the headphone/necklace is a simple and small single- & multi-touch user input node (“pendant”).
  • Function: The Freestyle is the first iPod that streams audio directly over the air (in typical Apple style, they use the term “Freestyling” where everyone else uses “streaming”). The lines running to each ear act as the radio antennas. The iPod Freestyle itself has very little memory (only enough for intelligent caching of, at most, 30 minutes music); but because it has full WiFi or EDGE access, the Freestyle effectively has constant access to your entire iTunes or AT&T Music Store libraries. Combine this with podcast queuing, emerging internet-radio standards, and even FM radio (a nice little bonus), and it may be said that this is the first iPod with (effectively) infinite storage.
These pictures and comments should give a clearer idea about the innovative new Freestyle.

Here my unidentified spouse, wearing a disguise to protect her identity in case of litigation, demonstrates the iPod Freestyle as a typical listener. Note the size of the small “pendant” controlling unit, which is almost all battery. The battery is surprisingly lightweight. In our tests it supplied about 5 hours of listening time before needing a ½-hour recharge. My anonymous Apple source indicates there may be last-minute changes to the battery size to increase play time

In this series of images, we demonstrate some of the single- and multi-touch (a.k.a. “squeeze”) gestures for controlling volume, selection, pause/play, radio station, and so on. It only took us a minute to learn the controls, and that was without any manual.

Here we see that the Freestyle docks with any USB port for charging. My version of iTunes did not recognize the device. I’m told that the associated iTunes release will add support for selected favored radio stations (the unit we tested was pre-tuned to six popular Bay Area stations), and for intelligent queuing of podcasts.

These photographs demonstrate the kind of simple icing-on-the-cake features that make Apple products such a pleasure for consumers. When not listening to the iPod Freestyle it may simply be worn as a necklace. The earbuds are magnetized so they quickly snap together neatly around the back. Brilliant!

What’s the matter with iPod Freestyle?

I love this new device. Its drawbacks are barely worth mentioning (e.g., it still will not play side 2 of Abbey Road in correct sequence when in shuffle mode). If the Freestyle is released I predict it’s going to be a huge, huge hit.

So, what’s the problem?

Numerous studies have indicated that there is potential harm from close exposure to RF radiation emitted by cell phones and WiFi devices. The FDA has called for more testing. Until now the risks have seemed acceptable because devices are only used intermittently. But with the iPod Freestyle the RF antennas will be wrapped directly around our heads and are in constant use. This is very different than holding up a cell-phone for the occasional phone call--this is constant exposure! And with kids expected to be the most frequent users! Do we want to risk the brains of our future generations on technology that has not been fully tested?

The iPod Freestyle must not be released until proper scientific testing has been performed to verify that this device is safe, or to correct any problems if it is not safe. I don’t want to be alarmist. I just want to be careful. At most this is a delay. Apple will have its groundbreaking product. Just... all things in good time.

A call to action. What can you do about it?

Wireless products such as the iPhone are regulated by the FCC. But related health matters are only understood by the FDA Radiological Health Program. This is a fundamental disconnect, which only be remedied by an act of Congress. This remedy must come soon, before Apple unveils the iPod Freestyle at the September 5 Event and it becomes too late to control this product release in a safe manner.

Remember how society used to love the wonderfully innovative used of lead? asbestos? mercury? CFCs? thalidomide? These dangers were all embraced before their health effects were thoroughly understood, and the children overwhelmingly paid the price. Let’s not let that happen again.

Please, write your Senator and Congressional Representative now with the simple message: “Do not allow the FCC to approve the Apple iPod Freestyle until the FDA has thoroughly tested and approved the device.” Do it now. Do it for the children.

Sunday, August 19, 2007

The Sounds of Nature

    Note from Ranger Nancy Rickman
    National Park Service
    U.S. Department of the Interior

    The following text was found among the scattered belongings at the last campsite used by Brent Noorda and Steve Moehle in the Ansel Adams Wilderness. From what we can ascertain, they must have run out of toilet paper sometime last Wednesday, and by Thursday morning all civility and rationality and decency was lost. Nine times out of ten this is how these wilderness expeditions go tragically astray: first the toilet paper runs short, and before you know it… just last week I rescued a woman running through the forest, half-naked (bottom half), shouting, maniacally, "does a bear wipe in the woods, does a bear wipe in the woods, does a bear..." And she was one of the lucky ones. The whereabouts of Brent and Steve remain unknown and, considering the activity level of wildlife in the area, increasingly unknowable. In Brent’s pack was an Emergency Relief Kit, lovingly supplied by his wife Amy, containing many medical items, a small stack of writing paper, and a pencil (Note to backpackers: In these parts the way we spell "Emergency Relief Kit" is "T.P."). In most cases these victims use such paper to write a farewell letter to their loved ones and a last will and testament, but in Brent’s case he choose to scribble out a final blog entry. Because this last blog was so obviously important to him, Google and Blogger have allowed me access to Brent’s Blogspot account to copy this final blog for him. What follows is Brent’s text, as near as I can decipher it. The only changes were to link to real pictures rather than try to reproduce his horrid drawings.

    - Ranger Nancy

I’m backpacking all week in the Ansel Adams wilderness with my pal Steve. We had a similar adventure twenty years ago (when I must have been about forty years younger—ow, my back). Occasionally we’ve skirted the John Muir trail, but mostly we’ve stuck to the M.C. Escher trail (no relation to M.C. Hammer, whose trail we can’t touch). The artist portrayed his trail something like this:

Amazingly, we always seem to be on the part of the trail going up (ow, my back).

One’s hearing becomes more finely attuned when one gets away from the clang and the clatter of civilization. These are some of the sounds of nature I’ve heard most often this week:
  • "Ungh, ungh, ungh" – This is the sound heard almost constantly with every step up the Escher trail. It becomes loudest (“UNGH!”) whenever I try to lift my pack from the ground to my shoulders, via my herniating discs.
  • "rrrrrrrrip" – This sound emanated from somewhere behind me when I was bending over. I later found a huge hole in the seat of my pants, so that must have been the sound of a viscous Yellow-Bellied Marmot that had attacked me from behind. The little cowards, always attacking from behind—I can’t think of any other reason why they call them "yellow bellied".
  • "Go away, bear. I have an itchy finger and I’m not afraid to scratch it. I also have a gun." – That’s the sound heard from my tent all night long whenever a twig so much as rustled on Escher’s Mountain.
A translation of those Sounds of Nature, for all you city folk who don’t understand nature-language, goes something like this: "You’re old, you’re fat & out of shape, and you’re a pussy."

Future generations of backpackers will thank us for our latest invention. It is a new backpack compartment for holding a helium tank. Two hoses run from the tank. The first hose goes to a balloon to be filled with helium so as to make the pack as light as desired. The second hose runs to the hiker’s mouth so he can take a drag and say "follow the yellow brick road" in a munchkin voice any time he wants to... again and again... "follow the yellow brick road"... over and over... all day long... until it stops being funny... which is never.

Wednesday, August 8, 2007

Photo Fun with Heads of State

Amy and I were shocked to get to Mount Rushmore and see our heads up there with other American notables. (Shocked, honored, humbled, confused.)
Ha ha. Fooled you. Our heads weren't really up there on Mount Rushmore. The above photo was made using a simple camera trick. (If you know how this trick was done, please don't tell anyone--real camera magicians never tell our secrets--this means you JBQ and Eugenia).

Next I tried to crush George W's head, but it was as hard as stone. (Talk about hard-headed!)
Ha ha. Fooled you again. Another camera trick. (Reminder to Camera Magicians: shhhhhh.) I wasn't really pinching George's head; I'd never do that to the father of our country.

Finally I took the following picture, which I admit is using a camera trick so complicated that even I don't know how I did it. (Camera Magicians, it's OK to break the Honored Rule of Secrecy now because I do want to be told how it was done.)

That is how I see the world, but usually the camera doesn't capture it.

Monday, July 30, 2007

Night of the Ungrateful Dead Project

I think of myself as an intellectual, scientifically-grounded, skeptic, not at all prone to metaphysical perturbations in my clear, solid, logical, belief system. But then there was the night I channeled Jerry Garcia. It is difficult for a rational mind such as mine to accept, but for a few minutes my actions were not my own: my entire body and being were totally controlled by the spirit of our dear departed Jerry Garcia. I was as surprised as anyone to learn that he’s kind of an asshole.

Saturday, July 28, 2007

“Remaking Classic Films”, or “This week I solve the nation’s healthcare crisis again”

I assumed that “Sicko” was going to be an inferior rip-off of the Gus Van Sant classic “Psycho,” and so I was reluctant to see it. I hate it when they remake classic films (e.g.; Poseidon Adventure / Poseidon; Casablanca / Copacabana; Gilligan’s Island / Lost; Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid / Brokeback Mountain; Das Boot / Das Boob; Bush Administration / Bush Administration). But everyone said Sicko was good. So I went, and I’m mighty glad I did.

For those not familiar with the “Sicko”, it is a Michael Moore documentary about the miracles of modern medicine. For example (spoiler alert for the rest of this paragraph), early on we meet an 80-yr-old man who, thanks to modern medicine, is still able to work a full day, every day, cleaning up a store. Then we meet some people who’ve had fingers severed, then reattached! Then we meet a couple of grandparents, one of whom has had three heart attacks and the other has had a stroke and, get this, they’re still alive! (Sorry if I may have got a couple of those details off—was it 2 heart attacks or 3?—but those little details aren’t important—it is a Michael Moore movie after all.) You can’t watch the film without a renewed sense of wonder and gratitude for the miracles that modern medicine have bought us. Through most of civilization’s thousands of years few people have survived even one heart attack, or dismemberment, or stroke, or 80th birthday). Later on we learn that even in a place like godless Cuba, with an average income 1/13 that of the good ol’ USA, modern medicine is a marvel of life-saving technology. Same thing in France (France! Who woulda thought!). Everywhere, it seems, we have medical miracles happening every day--everywhere except England where dental care remains a problem.
    BTW, Mr. Moore. You did not need to taint an otherwise excellent documentary by belittling the people of other countries and exhibiting such rah rah “we’re number one” US patriotism. OK, so the English have bad teeth; so what! And the French talk funny; so what! OK, maybe those are just for comic effect, but to make the Canadians look so stupid by showing that one of them will cut off all their fingers, while one of us will only cut off two, is just mean and uncalled for!
But “Sicko” is not just a feel-good summer movie about the wonders of modern medicine. Occasionally, if you view between the lines, you’ll see catch hints of a subtle subtext about a potential health insurance problem in this country. If Mr. Moore had spent more movie time on this healthcare payment problem, instead of so much patriotic praise of our best-in-the-world medical miracles, perhaps he could have done some good and come up with a way to solve the problem. But he didn’t. Sigh… So, I guess it’s up to me, again, to solve yet another major healthcare problem in America.

Most people think the answer is easy: simply implement government-funded universal healthcare, as found in other first-world countries. Take England, for example: As Sicko points out, England was able to quickly switch to free social health care at the end of WWII. Their society had been devastated by years of war, depravation, missiles of mass destructions, and mayhem. Being in total disrepair, it was easy to start something anew. Here in the U.S., at this time, we haven’t recently suffered years of a real, hard-fought, devastating war. Just our bad luck, I guess.

We can’t so easily switch because we currently have a semi-working system composed of these components:
  • Health insurance provided by employers, for well-to-do employees

  • Health insurance provided by the government, for less affluent

  • Emergency rooms that don’t turn away critically sick (critically sick because they couldn’t afford to get medical services before they were critical) and ultimately pass on the cost to those in the other two categories

  • Morgues that accept any kind of riff-raff
OK. It’s not a great system. It’s too expensive. It punishes employers. But the thing is, it exists now, it kinda sorta works, and, most importantly: it employs a lot of people. Moving to a free-healthcare plan would mean that all of those people who now work for insurance companies, work in HR managing insurance plans, or work in doctor’s offices filling out paperwork, would lose their jobs. There is no possible way that politicians are going to vote for any program that puts that many people out of work, no matter how much money it saves in the long run. (For example, take military bases (please), which almost never close no matter how useless their location, or how ancient the war they’re fighting, because closing them would put people out of work.)

To get to a point where we can switch to free healthcare, we have two options:
  1. Suffer some cataclysmic event that destroys society to the point where we can rebuild it anew

  2. Reform healthcare in such a way that nobody loses their job
Our current president is doing his best to solve the problem using the first option, but I prefer the second. We must provide free healthcare without putting any of the people involved in the health insurance process out of work.

It is time again to learn from the lessons of history. By 1933, the people of the United States realized they had erred in affirming the 18th amendment, prohibiting alcohol. It would seem like a simple thing to just repeal the 18th amendment and be done with it. But, no, after years of prohibition entire industries had emerged to employ a huge number of people based on the 18th amendment: smugglers at all levels to bring in contraband, law-enforcement at all levels to fight the smugglers, jailers, judges, speakeasy proprietors, hidden-flask makers, and on and on. Simply repealing prohibition via the 21st amendment would have put all those people out of work, and elected officials would have been in deep doo doo. So the politicians came up with a plan whereby they could make alcohol legal again, and yet all of those same people could keep their jobs: they made other things illegal in place of alcohol (marijuana, barbiturates, cocaine, eventually amphetamines and hallucinogens, and so on).

So, learning from history, the trick now to making healthcare free is to simultaneously come up with a way so that all of the people now involved in healthcare insurance can keep their jobs, or at least jobs nearly identical to what they are now doing.
    ... phew, everything so far has been easy. Simple, clear, logical, thinking. Now it gets hard… hmmm…. What to do… what to do...
I got it! It may sound a bit convoluted and, dare I say, “stupid” at first (unlike my usually incredibly-clear blog reasonings), but most political solutions to national crises must be convoluted and stupid if they’re going to be accepted, so follow carefully.

First, Congress shall enact a single-payer, universal, everyone-is-free healthcare system, so that no patient will ever again need health insurance.

Simultaneously, Congress will enact a law stating that if any physician should ever cause any harm, whatsoever, to any patient (and “harm” shall be interpreted extremely loosely from here on) then that physician will be sued, disbarred (or however physicians get dissed), and sent to jail. The only out will be if the physician has purchased insurance before interacting with each and every patient.

“First, do no harm” (“primum nil nocere”) is a revered expression of every medical student. “First, do no harm” (FDNH) is hallowed Hippocratic advice. Now let’s make it THE LAW! Let’s make FDNH insurance necessary for any doctor before treating every patient, and on a per-treatment basis.

From minute 1 of the new laws passing, the same people who two minutes earlier had been involved in insurance for every patient to be allowed to see any doctor, will instead be involved in insurance so that every doctor is allowed to see any patient. At every level of the health-insurance chain, everyone will continue to do what they did before, except in reverse.

Yeah, that’s the ticket. Everyone gets free medical care. No one loses their job. We might even be able to employ more people with this scheme. It’s perfect, except maybe for a few physicians who will forget their FDNH insurance and end up in prison. But every prison cell needs someone they call “Doc.” All the classic prison movies have a character named “Doc,” and isn’t recreating classic films what this is all about?

Tuesday, July 10, 2007

Yon Coal Train

The fashion trend this season is layers. When dressing for a Midwest summer, or a summer anywhere that experiences temperatures regularly above 80° F along with high humidity, be sure to bring wool sweaters, coats, ski caps, leggings, and fur-lined gloves. These accessories are necessary because, although it may be 100° outside with 90% humidity, the instant you step indoors the temperature will drop so quickly to the arctic extreme that the sweat on your skin will, if left unprotected, instantly freeze into what Midwesterners call Ice Scabs. Ice Scabs are not as painful as they sound, but if you’re inexperienced with Ice Scabs and try to bend your limbs before they are scraped off, then Ice Scabs will turn into Dermal Ice Fractures, which are as painful as they sound. The trick is to add the layers on each limb as you walk through the door, in one fluid motion—-easy once you get the hang of it.

I learned about summer layering during a recent visit to Lawrence, Kansas. I wondered why they needed to keep buildings so damn cold—why cool would not be enough. Haven’t these people heard of global warming? (Turns out they haven’t—many of them went to see “An Inconvenient Truth” last summer, but because the theaters were so cold they were all wearing earmuffs and so no one heard what Al Gore was saying—with all the graphs on screen they assumed it was a longer, more-boring, live-action version of “Harold and the Purple Crayon.”)

I had idle time to think upon these things when I was in Lawrence, stopped at a railroad crossing, waiting for a long long train to pass. I decided that they—we—keep it so damn cold because we can. We must prove we’re stronger than nature. When it’s night time we must light ever square foot of land with street lights: Darkness is conquered! And when it’s hot we must prove to nature that we can beat her heat.

The train I was waiting on was a coal train, delivering its regular load of coal to the nearby power plant. 143 cars stuffed with coal that will warm the globe so that we can chill every bit of indoor space to temperatures lower than those we bundle up against in the winter. As the last of the 143 cars rolled on by I thought about our collective societal I.Q and wondered: If only we could use our stupidity for good instead of evil.

    If only we could use our stupidity for good instead of evil.
Then the train was gone, the railroad crossing gate rose, I pressed on the accelerator, and I stopped thinking.

Summer safety tip: If you’re visiting Walmart this summer, be sure to bring along a thermal reflective emergency blanket in case you get lost in an aisle. You don’t want to end up like this guy.

Tuesday, July 3, 2007

We have met the enemy and he is [player to be named later]

Memo to military spokespersons
RE: No more Insurgents in Iraq

In recent polling the Iraq war appears very unpopular. Those same polls give record low levels of support for our Commander in Chief. Among our test sample, only "Al Qaeda" registered with lower popularity than "President Bush". The term "Insurgents" barely registered on the unpopularity scale.

From this point forward, the opponents in Iraq operations are no longer to be termed "insurgents" but are to be called "Al Qaeda in Iraq". We expect this new war against Al Qaeda to be much more popular than the old war against Insurgents. In all interaction with the press, every opportunity should be taken to use the term "Al Qaeda", and 25% of these should be the full "Al Qaeda in Iraq".

For example, this is an ideal response to a typical reporter’s question:

    Reporter: What additional security measures are you putting in place to protect the Green Zone? Does that involve additional troops? And are those additional troops deployed as part of the surge or are they being reassigned from other areas around Baghdad or elsewhere in Iraq?

    Military Spokesperson: Blah blah, blah. Blah blah Al Qaeda, blah blah blah blah blah. Blah. Blah blah. Al Qaeda blah blah blah blah. Blah blah blah blah. Blah blah Al Qaeda in Iraq blah blah blah blah. Blah blah blah Al Qaeda.
A special Pysch-Ops team is developing a new label for our enemy, in hopes of discovering a term more unpopular than "Al Qaeda". "Yellow-Green Bile" is showing promise, although testing is incomplete. At your own discretion, you may choose to refer to the enemy as "Yellow-Green Bile" or possibly "Yellow-Green Bile in Iraq", but until we receive more polling data the official enemy is now "Al Qaeda".

Wednesday, June 27, 2007

I had an iPhone before you did. So ha ha ha on you!

I had my first iPhone in late 2000. It had a nice big touch screen with a few major icons to make phone calls, browse the web, or manage emails. A glowing review of that iPhone is here. That review ends with the minor complaint that the iPhone did not come with an SDK, and then with this prediction: "mark my keystrokes, in a few years, every phone will have the capabilities of this nifty little gizmo".

I had the iPhone because my company, Nombas, was working with InfoGear (who made the iPhone) to get a combination of client- and server-side scripting to work on the device. InfoGear was claiming that the touch-screen interface was so intuitive that anyone could use it to manage emails and to browse the web. So I gave it to my mother.
    "Here mom, it’s something I’ve been doing at work. Now you can send me email messages anytime. Or browse the web. Or make phone calls without remembering anyone’s phone number. Try it. Send me an email."

    "That’s very nice, dear. Send you what?"

    "Email. It’s like a letter that goes directly to my computer."

    "How do I send you a mail?"

    "There’s three big icons on the screen. One says 'phone', one says 'web', and one says 'email'. Touch the one that says 'email'."

    "Touch? What do you mean."

    "I mean touch the picture."

    "Touch it with what?"

    "With your finger."

    "Oh, this is too complicated. Can’t I just call you?"

    "Sure. It’s also a phone. Touch the big phone icon and all your contacts will show."

    "Touch it with what?"

    "Oh, never mind."
I won’t be giving mom a new iPhone.

Sunday, June 24, 2007

Why I hate bottled water

I just read that San Francisco banned bottled water. Right on, bottle-free city by the bay! I hope that the rest of the world follows your shining example (although that hasn't happened so far with cable-cars, pyramid buildings, or Twinkie-inspired political assassinations).

A lot of people hate the bottled-water fad, for a lot of reasons
  • Environmental: The most frequent complain against bottled water is its high environmental cost.

  • Financial: One of Mayor Newsom's reasons for banning bottled water is simply to save the city a lot of money.

  • Embarrassment: It just makes us feel stupid, as a species, if even Andy Rooney can see how easily we'll fall for the lure of paying for what is inferior to the free product.

Those are all good reasons to hate bottled water, but I have a bigger complaint. The primary reason I hate bottled water is social: if the bottled water trend continues it will soon lead to severe hardship for the poorest 20% of our society. Here’s how that will happen: As potable drinking water because privatized, through the growing tend to buy bottled water, affluent citizens will see fewer and fewer reasons to pay municipal fees to make tap water drinkable. (Current laws regulating the purity of tap water are stricter than those regulating bottled water. Meeting these strict standards costs money.) Affluent taxpayers will look at their water bills and think "I get my drinking water from bottles, I would never drink water from a tap. Why should I pay hard-earned money for something I never use?! I demand cheaper water. I demand smaller government, fewer special interest regulations, and taxpayer justice." These affluent taxpayers will stop funding such a high level of water purification and, soon, public water will no longer be pure enough to drink. Most people will be able to afford bottled water, but some, the poorest 20% of the economy, will not. The underclass will be forced to drink unsafe water from the tap.

And that’s my main complaint against privatized (a.k.a. bottled) water.

Think that won’t happen? Think again. We have plenty of examples of what transpires to society when a previously public resource becomes privatized. Always the bottom 20% get the shaft. It happened with public transportation when privatized transportation (a.k.a. the automobile) caught on (brilliantly documented in "Who Framed Roger Rabbit"); the issue is now less about who has to move to the back of the bus than it is about finding a bus route that’s still in service. It happened again with the telephone: with so many affluent people now using privatized roaming phones (a.k.a. cell phones) the number of public phones (those that the poor rely on) has plummeted. In some areas we’re starting to see the same thing with privatizing security services versus the municipal police.

Let us learn from experience of other countries experimenting with privatization and see where that leads. Take Belgistan, for instance. Early in the previous century the Belgistanians were going through the same industrial revolution as were other European countries. The resulting air pollution problems plagued Belgistan, as it did other countries. But Belgistan took a different approach to solving the air pollution problem. Where other countries took steps to regulate clean air for all, Belgistan privatized clean air. The bulk of Belgistanians purified their indoor air, and when out in public wore oxygen tanks. The wealthiest of the Belgistanians purchased tanks of air imported from far-off exotic lands such as Tonga, Finland, and NYC. Middle-class Belgistanians bought more-generic brands of air, in bulk, from CostCo. The poorest 20% could not afford bottled air and just had to make do. As a result, these poor were often sick (the wealthier citizens wondered why the lazy underclass lacked the moral will to take care of themselves and their children), often missed work, or simply died without the good sense to call in to their employer first. Without a living, breathing underclass no one was left to mow lawns, wash pots in the restaurants, clean house, or do any of the other tasks that the superior 4/5ths of society are no longer able to perform (those skills having been lost through atrophy). The eventual collapse of the Belgistanian government, while not the sole reason behind Europe’s instabilities of the time, is certainly recognized by most historians as one of the precipitating causes of the continental slide into World War I.

There are numerous other historical examples of what happens to a society when public resources become privatized. For further research into this topic, I suggest the excellent documentary, Urinetown, about what happened when public urinals became privatized. Also, for the exception that proves the rule, look at the record of Stanstanistan, which recently reversed the privatization of sex (a.k.a. prostitution), made sex workers freely available to all citizens of every socioeconomic class, and is now a veritable utopia (I’d provide a link and more details on this story, but it has come to my attention that my recent blogs have been tagged as "possibly offensive" by some RSS readers, and so I leave it to you, dear reader, to conduct your own research into the flowering revitalization of Stanstanistan).

So what will our world be like when everything is privatized? The poor underclass will get wrenchingly sick on tap water (due to privatization of drinking water). They’ll be unable to catch a bus to the hospital (privatization having led to public transportation disappearing). They’ll be unable to call an ambulance (privatization having led to public pay-phones disappearing). If they do find a phone they’ll be unable to dial 911 (privatization of education leading to them being unable to count that high). If they do make it to the hospital, they’ll be unable to pay (privatized medicine). Their dead bodies will litter our sidewalks (privatization leading to all the poor people being dead, leaving no one to operate the leaf-blowers that clean our sidewalks). Do we really want that? Search your soul, America, do you really want messy sidewalks?

And it all begins with bottled water. I consider the public availability of potable drinking water (first accomplished on a large scale by the Romans) to be the single greatest advancement in the history of civilization (barely ahead of the invention of beer, and only slightly beating out the creation of the nonstop farting kitty). This greatest of all civic achievements is being undermined by bottled water, and San Francisco is coming to the rescue.
    You are a hero, San Francisco
    You built that city on Rock & Roll
    Now you save its soul on H2O

End of part 1. Next week: Government of Poopoopistan finds itself in deep doo doo after banning public toilets.