Monday, July 31st 2006

Indian outsourcing blows
posted @ 6:57 pm in [ ]

First of all, Daniel, if you’re reading this, I wrote your damn post. You should comment on it. I left it up front for soooo long that other folks were prodding me to write something else. Scroll down one, wouldja? Sheesh.

And now, for everybody, I want to say that sometimes I do in fact change my mind about stuff. A few quarters ago, I taught a writing class in which two of my students did papers about overseas outsourcing. One of them came up with some very interesting arguments in favor of it that made me think maybe it wasn’t as terrible as I had believed it to be in my anarcho-syndicalist soul. For example, this student had been a police officer and had changed careers to high tech, but the shocking poverty he saw while scoping out India for his company, well, alarmed a former police officer. While that paper convinced me that an upside to offshoring wasn’t out of the question, it is now back to pissing me off to the depths of the aforementioned anarcho-syndicalist soul. One of my favorite dudes, Lisa’s man, got seriously hosed by offshoring, and I for one am pretty pukey about it.

Tuesday, July 25th 2006

For Daniel: People vs. the Public
posted @ 6:05 pm in [ - ]

So I was at a party the other night, and we were all talking about how one of our friends really hates to teach, but up until that very moment, had refused to admit it. Not that we think any less of him, of course. Teaching is not for everybody. It can be frustrating, and it doesn’t pay so well. Personally, I think it’s obvious from my career choices and postings that I hate money and I’m something of a masochist, so it’s a great fit for me. Hell, I find teaching rewarding and fun. Our friend, though, not so much. He also hates it when he has to interact with the great unwashed, the hoi polloi, the pestiferous waves of humanity. I’m with him on that one.

Some of you may remember from previous postings that I like people just fine, but I hate the public. They’re always voting wrong, driving like retards, and carrying diseases such as monkey pox. That’s a big part of why I worked “in the back” at the bike shop, and why I got all anxious when I was the closest person to a ringing phone. Oh no! What if I answered the phone, and someone from (gasp) The Public were calling?

Let me just clarify what I’m talking about here.

People: sometimes have hard days. The Public: is just out to get me.

People: are individuals. The Public: is a pulsating glob of pestilent humanity.

People: have names and faces. The Public: is a seething mass of faceless, nameless demanding rubes.

People: are nice. The Public: is a barely-contained evil mob.

People: call you up to say hello. The Public: calls your place of business just to flaunt the fact that you’re stuck there and to make your life a living hell.

People: are unique and interesting, and sometimes fragrant. The Public: is rude and smells like an unfortunate chew toy.

People: come to your door as visitors or guests. The Public: has pitchforks and torches, and knows how to use them.

People: enjoy music. The Public: will buy any piece of shiny plastic with some sort of boom-thumpa on it, and allow same to ooze from their cars at levels that rattle one’s fillings.

People: sometimes read. The Public: consumes The World Weekly News at such a rate that paparazzi drive themselves into weeping depression trying to feed it images of grainy celebrity cellulite.

People: have pets. The Public: are responsible for pet overpopulation, animal testing, and flushing baby alligators into the sewer.

You get the idea. I bet you have more, people!

Monday, July 24th 2006

Das Spambot
posted @ 5:21 pm in [ - ]

The latest annoying spam blasts here at Megablog are German ads for poker and something called “mature porn.” If that’s old people getting busy, I understand why they feel the need for spam to sell it, but: yeesh! I wish those return email addresses did actually work, so I could chew them out in filthy, yet clipped, curt German. What really sucks about it, though, is that they’re sending me upwards of 30 spammessagen daily. The only positive angle is that every time I see the porn ads, I think of that South Park episode where Eric Cartman is obliged to ask his mother, “Mom, if you were in a German Scheisse video, would you tell me?”

Friday, July 21st 2006

An alarming confession
posted @ 8:02 am in [ ]

Not many of you know this about me, but I collect teapots.

I started the collection several years ago. I had one teapot that Lisa and I had inherited from some previous tenants in an apartment we rented, and I somehow acquired another one. I guess for some reason, two teapots seemed to constitute a collection to me.

Some of my teapots have been gifts, but a lot of them have come from local “antiques” stores. I say “antiques” because it cracks me up what passes for antique around here. There are enormous buildlings full of booths that in New England would be considered garage sale material. Seriously, some of this stuff is less than 20 years old. Where I’m from, that’s still used junk–it’s not antique yet.

The antique shops often have really good teapots, though. All different shapes, lots of bright colors (because tea should be cheery), and usually cheap. Not as cheap as a real garage sale, of course, but about half the price of the lone teapot I bought new (I think at Pier 1).

The funniest thing about having a teapot collection is that, apparently, it’s not at all what people would expect. If I had told any of the guys in the shop I used to work in that I had a teapot collection, I never would have heard the end of it. Maybe I won’t here, either…

Thursday, July 20th 2006

Cat Dynasty update
posted @ 10:54 am in [ ]

Petra has been venturing out, hanging out outside the doorway, and occasionally coming to the kitchen around feeding time. The stalemate may be breaking up…

Wednesday, July 19th 2006

Whatsamatter with term limits?
posted @ 9:21 am in [ ]

I’ve been threatening to talk about this, and I’m finally making good. Let me start by saying that I understand why lots of folks whose opinions I respect like them. In theory, term limits should keep new folks coming into office and throwing the old cynical bums out, and they should keep people from hogging too much power for too long. I think those are noble goals, but I don’t think term limits accomplish them, and I don’t think term limits address the real problems in the electoral system.

For one thing, we already have term limits. They’re called elections. When somebody stops doing a good job, we shouldn’t renew his or her contract. “Well,” some say, “A lot of times, whoever has the most name recognition wins, and that’s not always the best person for the job.” I take their point, but the problem there is not the officeholder or the election cycle; it’s voter education. In that case, we should treat the real problem more directly.

Another major problem with trying to use term limits as a substitute for a well-informed electorate is that it ejects really good people from the system. Term limits do not discriminate between good candidates and bad, and an electorate should be doing that. Furthermore, a lot of folks people wish would not stay in office don’t go away just because their term limit is up. Instead, they just scramble to run for a different office, so term limits don’t even work in the situations in which they’re supposed to work best. It’s sort of a musical chairs proposition.

I think there is a twofold participation problem with the American electorate, and that term limits, while a reaction to both, simply don’t treat either one of them. The first is that voters often don’t take the time to educate themselves adequately. It’s been made pretty easy by this point: you get a booklet in the mail with all the ballot initiatives and candidates and all, and you can pretty much tell what’s going on with each if you just read the booklet. Takes about 20 minutes. I think some sort of public service advertising campaign about the booklet would help a lot.

The second piece of the participation problem is that not enough folks–particularly the young, energetic go-getters–run for office. I think that’s also related to the problem of not having enough time and thinking we can’t do it. Most citizens are really overloaded with obligations, and running for office seems impossible. The ancient Greeks solved this problem by allowing all the citizens sufficient time for public life, but we don’t do that here. What we need is not laws that eject people from a single office after a given period of time, but a wider applicant pool to choose from. We need to figure out how to get more folks to run in the first place, not eject both good and bad candidates based on the calendar. More competition should bring more appealing choices.

I’m not quite sure how we accomplish that. Clearly, running for office has to seem a lot sexier and easier to do that it does now. Maybe one solution is to have a reality TV show to pick which candidates should run for the primary. Thoughts?

Monday, July 17th 2006

Why the hell can’t I fly yet?!
posted @ 5:05 pm in [ ]

So this morning, I was on my bike, at mile 3 of a long, exploratory ride that I hoped would link up two of my most frequent routes so I could make a loop instead of going out and coming back along either one of them. I was minding my own business, thinking about how to stretch the observation that “Hezbollah” is not a Snoop Dogg word into a whole posting, when my front wheel slipped off the path I was on and I went over the handlebars of my bike.

Before I make sarcastic observations about all this, let me first say that I’m okay. I’ve been hurt a LOT worse than this (as you longtime readers well know). I have a few bruises on my right leg, a raspberried elbow, and it hurts, but it’s not serious. It’s Advil painful as opposed to Morphine painful. I iced stuff, took some Advil, took a nap… I imagine I’ll be more or less back to normal in a few days. Therefore, my experience is about to be comedy fodder. On to the sarcastic observations!

First off, I remember a few kids I went to school with who had broken both wrists doing what I did. I now understand that they failed to let go of their bikes at that critical moment when the bike stops and you keep going. I feel that this is both a poor strategy and denies one the pleasure of flight, however brief.

It also occurred to me that with all the character-building experiences I’ve had in my life, I really should be able to fly by now. I mean, I really should have super-powers of some kind. Being able to fly maybe 6 or 8 feet is really not sufficient, though. I think I should be able to fly — and hover — at will, and not need to be launched by a bicycle to do so.

The best part of the experience, after the miracle of flight of course, was being attended to by an extremely hot park employee. For those of you who haven’t experienced Colorado Man, he is emblematically ruggedly athletic, outdoorsy, and at this time of year, tan. A fine specimen asked me if I was okay a mere few moments after that bitch gravity had had her way with me yet again. I had just managed to roll myself off the trail and I knew nothing was broken, which I reported as preliminary information that I was probably okay. “Well, that’s always good,” he offered. He and his partner stuck around for a few minutes until I reported that I was sure I was okay, at which time they said that if I needed anything, I should give them a holler. I was too banged up to manufacture a clever and suggestive quip, which made me think that perhaps I was more badly injured than I thought.

One terrific slapstick moment occurred when Phillip came to pick me up in The Den (his wild shaggin’ wagon of a conversion van, complete with mood lighting). As I loaded my bike into the back compartment, I pranged my bruised and bloody elbow on the top tube. I made a noise that even surprised me. I can’t even describe it — I’m not sure it had vowels, and not in that Welsh way. Back at home, while cleaning out the fresh wound with alcohol, I swear the stinging made my socks roll up and down. Had I been wearing a bow tie, it would have spun like a propeller.

Good thing I’m an amazon.

Thursday, July 13th 2006

The worst drivers in the world live right HERE!
posted @ 9:02 am in [ - ]

You know, every city in America has crappy drivers. I submit to you, though, that each city has its own BRAND of crappy drivers. Those Who Refuse to Hang Up and Drive are universal, of course, as are the clueless and the testosterone-driven road warrior and the “dent driver” as Lisa coined in a comment on the last posting. What is unique about the crappy drivers you have to deal with, though?

For example, in the northern midwest, especially in Indiana, I have observed that in order to get around people, you must ride up someone’s ass who is in the left lane to force them to get over, even if they are driving some sort of farm equipment down the interstate at 30 miles an hour. Here in Denver, there are three things that really smoke my cachongas:

  1. People do not drive different speeds just because there are different lanes. You can have four lanes of traffic and four cars abreast of each other, all going 60 mph so there is no frickin’ way around them. They do not understand that the leftmost lane is for passing/recklessly speeding, while the rightmost is for geezing.

  2. People will often cluelessly not let you into the lane in which they happen to be driving. You can have your signal on, try to get in front of or behind them, your exit can be fast approaching, and the other driver will just cluelessly fail to cooperate in any way. Because I am from the east coast, I honk if necessary to get their attention, and if that doesn’t work, force my way in. It’s like the Prisoner’s Dilemma at 60 mph. To defect or cooperate? That is the question…

  3. Clueless, unsignalled lane changing and stopping. It is a secret as to what the other driver is doing, and woe to she who years to know the secret. Hey, if you want to slow down and pull over, that’s great. Just clue me in, wouldja?

So what are you putting up with?

Wednesday, July 12th 2006

When will they ever learn?
posted @ 9:28 am in [ - ]

I can’t help but notice that a lot of people who are doing stupid things in traffic have cars that display damage that was likely caused by doing precisely that stupid thing. Personally, if I had an accident where I smashed up some bit of my car, I would think, “Huh. Better not do that again.” Apparently, I’m in the minority.

Tuesday, July 11th 2006

A Prank Story
posted @ 3:19 pm in [ ]

Once upon a time, there was a talented young astronomy student at a random university. As part of his dissertation project, he built a telescope that would sit on top of the physics building. In order to protect the telescope from the elements, he built a small corrugated shed to house it. The shed was not visible from much of anywhere but the roof of the physics building, except apparently from the university architect’s office.

The day after the student had put up the shed on the roof, he got a call from the university architect demanding that the shed be taken down because it was ugly. Of course, it was sitting on a huge, hideous cement monolith that could not have been made uglier by mildew, spray paint, or even fire, and the student was a scientist and a very utilitarian kind of guy. The shed was necessary and practical. After some go-rounds and the involvement of the student’s advisor, a compromise was reached: the student would paint the shed dark brown.

The student did paint the shed, and the whole time he was up there, he was looking around at the various spires on the newer buildings on the campus of this random university. You know what would be really funny? he thought, If I put a papier mache spire on top of this shed. That would be hilarious. Shortly thereafter, one of the student’s friends (a student in another department) came by to say hello and see how the project was coming along. Upon hearing about the papier mache spire idea, she immediately offered to help build it. The two of them priced materials and determined that plywood and sparkly gold paint were probably the way to go.

One night, the student and his friend set to work. They cut out four 8-foot triangles out of sheets of particle board and screwed them together in one of the building’s work bays. They then took their creation outside and spray-painted it gold. Next, they carried the spire parody up to the roof, then made another trip for the two 75-pound sandbags they had bought to weight it down. After some precarious perching, swearing, sandbag hauling, and what-not, they had the tower in place. They lashed it to the shed and weighed down the tower with the sandbags, then floodlit it for the whole city to see.

Before going home to bed, the student and his friend christened their creation The Johnny Cash Memorial Tower and took some pictures. The most entertaining picture was probably the one with the two friends shaking hands in front of Cash Tower while holding masks over their faces — masks that looked just like Geroge W. and Saddam Hussein. One of the other pictures ended up in the campus newspaper, but the undergraduates who ran the newspaper really didn’t get it and printed the photo with a stupidass caption. It was still satisfying to see the picture in print, though.

The next day, the two co-conspirators began taking bets as to how long the tower would stay up. It remained proudly atop the shed for several days. Even after it came down, the student and his friend were departmental folk heroes, and the tower, although no longer visible from the university architect’s office, still resides on the roof of the physics building on the campus of a random university. Everybody lived happily ever after.

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