Sunday, June 29, 2008

Daily YouTube: TV reporting is harder than it looks

Some of these are downright cruel...

Thursday, June 26, 2008

Dangerously confused

A little kid asks his father, "Daddy, is God a man or a woman?"

"Both son. God is both."

After awhile the kid comes again and asks, "Daddy, is God black or white?"

"Both son, both."

"Daddy, does God love children?"

"Yes son, he loves all children."

The child returns a few minutes later and says, "Daddy, is Michael Jackson God?"

Zimbabwe: Tales from the front

An unnamed Newsweek reporter recently saw, firsthand, the thuggery now ruling the streets of Harare, and files this chilling report.

It's a mess, obviously, and it's easy to shout, "Ian Smith was right". I have written a few things here which might sound exactly like that. In this case, events have validated some of the old RF fear-mongering. But I think that's more an unhappy coincidence than any kind of psychic ability or inherent rightness of the minority rulers of the past.

Rhodesia was, as has been pointed out here and in many other places, able to feed itself and economically sustain itself (at least in the short term) despite near-complete isolation from the rest of the world. No one, and I mean NO ONE, would touch Rhodesia, with the exception of equally-racist and equally-shunned South Africa. Yet, even with trade and diplomatic sanctions levied by nearly the entire world, Rhodesia was a pretty good place to be if you were white and willing to ignore outrageous injustice around you on a daily basis. The Lake Wobegone-ish hagiography which has grown around the old Rhodesia ("...where all the women are strong, all the men are good looking, and all the children are above average...") isn't totally made up.

So, nearly forty years after the white rulers were sent packing, Zimbabwe finds itself in serious competition with a host of other failed states for the unenviable role of "Most Screwed Up Country on Earth". Mugabe and ZANU-PF have taken a country blessed with natural resources out the kazoo, a ton of initial international goodwill, and a motivated population, and, through insane land and economic policy followed by retaliatory (and equally racist) treatment of the white landowners, have found themselves facing possible famine, hyper-inflation which makes Weimar Germany look stable, and a full circle back to international condemnation. Quite a record.

But, it's stupid, not to mention flat-out wrong, to generalize and say, "This is what happens when the 'civilized' folks bail and leave the 'savages' to run the shop." There are many, obvious examples of the complete opposite being true. Just in the southern Africa neighborhood, Zambia (formerly Northern Rhodesia) is a stable, relatively prosperous nation.

It's somewhat more than bad luck, but not much more, that a psycho like Mugabe winds up with his hands on the levers of power. The destabilization of the Rhodesian Bush War made it nearly inevitable that a violent nut-case would emerge as the strongest guy on the block.

For those "Rhodies" around the world who point to Zimbabwe as proof of the failure of majority rule, I would say Zimbabwe is reaping what Rhodesia had sowed.

That doesn't make it any less tragic, though.

Wednesday, June 25, 2008

Hamas' cease-fire: Disingenuous, hypocritical, and homicidal

As you no doubt have heard, Hamas and Israel recently agreed to a truce. This was HUGE news when it broke, and raised my level of optimism about the Middle East nearly to levels not seen since the heady days of Yitzhak Rabin.

Here we are, six days into this historic truce, and we're beginning to see that Hamas is not even remotely serious about it, and has pulled another publicity stunt which will result in yet more civilians in both Israel and Gaza being killed. In other words, Hamas is still full of sh**, always will be full of sh**, and anyone who thinks they've become less full of sh** is delusional, stupid, or both.

I hate those guys. Just in case you hadn't noticed.

The latest is this: Islamic Jihad launches rockets from Gaza into southern Israel. Israel responds by closing the border. Hamas says Israel has broken the truce.

Wait a second. Wasn't the truce broken when the rockets were launched?

According to Hamas, no. Why not? Well, because Hamas didn't launch the rockets, Islamic Jihad did.

Hang on. Islamic Jihad launched the rockets. From Gaza. Where Hamas is the governing force (such as it is). Now I'm really confused.

Hamas has tried to allay my confusion by clarifying thus: Hamas has declared a truce with Israel. Hamas has called on all Palestinian groups to honor it. But Hamas will not be "Israel's policeman" by enforcing the truce on any of the other groups.

So, the guys who were wearing Hamas green last week now put on their Islamic Jihad t-shirts (red? orange? I don't know what color), scratch the Hamas slogans off their Iranian-made rockets and replace them with Islamic Jihad slogans, spin 'em up, and scatter some dirt and (hopefully not) body parts in Israel. Hamas is magically innocent of breaking the truce, and when Israel retaliates, Hamas gets to call a press conference to tell the world how the evil Israelis are not living up to their agreements.

No hypocrisy there, right?

Tuesday, June 24, 2008

Daily YouTube: Celebrities speaking on Burma

I normally have about zero patience for "celebrities with causes". I mean, what the hell does Pam Anderson really know about fur? Do you think Lindsay Lohan knows a frickin' thing about the science behind the global warming debate? C'mon.

Lately, a LOT of celebrities have have spoken about a story I follow closely: Burma. Now, do I really think Sarah Silverman knows anything about the history between the Karen and the Shan? Do I think Will Ferrell knows (or cares) about the role Buddhism has played in the subjugation of the population?

Of course not. They're celebrities. By definition, they don't know what they don't know. In this case, however, it doesn't matter.

Rarely does the real world resemble some random work of fiction. And, by that, I mean rarely is the world really white and black, good vs. evil. In Burma, however, it really is that clear. The "government" of Burma, that paranoid clique of superstitious, narrow-minded, and sociopathic senior military men, is so clearly evil, so clearly the "bad guys", that even empty-headed actors, singers, and other entertainers really can express valid opinions.

There's not much we can do about what's been happening, continues to happen, and will continue to happen in Burma. Keeping it up front, in conversation, in people's minds is really it. Everyone, including celebrities, needs to do his/her part.

Diatribe over. On with the video clip:

Friday, June 20, 2008

Zimbabwe: Mugabe's tactics may be working

Morgan Tsvangirai, the leader of Zimbabwe's opposition Movement for Democratic Change (MDC), is apparently considering withdrawing from the June 27 presidential run-off election.

The reason: As many as 70 MDC supporters and/or family members have been murdered in recent weeks. It's pretty clear that thugs allied with Mugabe and ZANU-PF are behind the violence, although Mugabe himself blames the MDC. Mugabe is, of course, a delusional, paranoid tyrant who will do just about anything to hang on to power, so I don't know that we should be taking his word for much.

The MDC is saying that, unless something changes dramatically, the election will be a farce. Difficult to argue with - how do you vote your conscience when some addled "war veteran" is holding a Kalashnikov to the back of your head?

I understand what MDC is doing here. They are trying to draw international attention to the travesty underway in Zinbabwe. They are trying to force the international community, particularly the African community, to pressure Mugabe to back off and permit truly free elections.

However, this tactic may well backfire. Zimbabwe's neighbors, esp South Africa, have been reluctant to get too terribly involved in Zimbabwe. It may very well turn out the MDC hands the election over to Mugabe, and Zimbabwe continues its fall from the ranks of democratic states, and into the status of the failed.

IT Project Management: Not for the faint of heart

I don't often write about work stuff here, as the seven of you who have been reading consistently for a while likely could not care less about the silliness of IT projects. However, we've picked up a few new readers (well, one - hi, Victor) who may actually find this amusing.

Here is a blog post from one Bruce Webster. Bruce is an internationally recognized expert on IT... well, you can read his bio as well as I can. To summarize, the dude seems to have a bit of cred.

In this post, Bruce offers a sanitized version of a memo he wrote describing the imminent failure of a mission-critical IT project being (poorly) executed for a major firm of some sort. It's not so much funny as it is scary.

Having been involved in a few disastrous technology projects in my time (the acronym "CFS" can still reduce me to tears), I can tell you that this is somewhat more common than you might think.

Best passage from the post:

The code base is very fragile. A lot of it is bad old code that BigFirm didn’t have time to rewrite two years ago, but now is five times its original size and even worse. One consultant said he took a code listing, picked pages at random, and found problems on every page he selected.

Oh dear. I have been there, my brother!

Sunday, June 15, 2008

Maybe not Walt Whitman

I just can't do it -- feeling so unwashed and thin (yet runny). Walt is too much for me today. Sweeping majesty in my thickness is like second-hand underwear on my head. Unopened in this manner, I can only turn to one of my favorite bands -- Flight of the Concords. This New Zealand comedy music act have their own show on HBO -- I can't wait until the new season begins. Perhaps then I can be a man once more. But enough -- I give you "Business Time" (may be not appropriate for children under, let's say, 10 or so):

Saturday, June 14, 2008

I wanted to put a lit cigarette in my eyes and rip off my ears

Indeed, I somehow got hog-tied into seeing "You Don't Mess With The Zohan" today with my 10 year old son and his friend. I will never be the same again. I have been ruined in such a fundamentally soul sucking way that the mere act of thinking requires an effort tantamount to cleaning an elephant's anus with a Q-Tip. Or maybe eating a full meal consiting of haggis and maggot infested baby poop. This was my first experience with an Adam Sandler movie and it will certainly be my last -- unless, of course, that is, I become the type that revels in real pain.

Do NOT see this movie. Do not take children to see it. Perhaps we should send it to Iran instead of weapons. Maybe George Bush should be forced to sit through it in some sort of homage to "Clockwork Orange" (oh how delicious these thoughts become).

If someone would like to explain to me what exactly the plot of this movie is, my son and I are desperate to know. Also, what is funny about having a fish in your ass, playing hacky-sack with a cat, catching a bullet in your nose, or a codpiece?

It sucked all the fun out of my day. I am drinking heavily now in order to regain some sense of my own humanity -- and it is going to take quite a few drinks. I offered my son a beer, but he had the good sense to kick me in the nuts and tell me I was being "inappropriate". This is the depths I have sunk to thanks to Adam Sandler.

I want him dead. If I wasn't depressed and drunk I would do it myself.

Another sign of the Apocalypse: The Trailer for Mike Myer's new movie, "The Love Guru". These bottom feeders were never funny on SNL -- why do they still have careers?

I think it is to punish me somehow.

I miss Carey Grant. He was my friend.

Tomorrow is Father's Day. I think that may mean a revisiting of Walt Whitman on this blog.

P.S. I just finished reading Michael Chabon's new novel, Gentlemen of the Road -- it cascaded over me like melted butter mixed with cinnamon. Read this and be beatific.

Friday, June 13, 2008

Go enjoy a surreal compliment today

I stole this from Gordon Keith. Your tears evoke a taste as memorable as honey.

Daily YouTube: This is not good news

If this is real (and many of the comments say it's not), you may want to rethink that unlimited mobile plan you just signed up for...

Not a good day out

This sort of thing is rarely good news, and it sure isn't in this case. These photos are from Cedar Rapids IA.

I've never (thank God) been through ANYTHNG even remotely like this in my time on this planet. I can't even imagine what these people are facing. My thoughts are with them...

From a more literate time...

Courtesy of my parents:

Subject: When Insults Had Class.........

There was a time when words were used beautifully. These glorious insults are from an era when cleverness with words was still valued, before a great portion of the English language was boiled down to four-letter words!

The exchange between Churchill and Lady Astor: She said, "If you were my husband, I'd give you poison," and he said, "If you were my wife, I'd take it."

Gladstone, a member of Parliament, to Benjamin Disraeli: "Sir, you will either die on the gallows or of some unspeakable disease."
"That depends, sir," said Disraeli, "On whether I embrace your policies or your mistress."

"He had delusions of adequacy." - Walter Kerr

"He has all the virtues I dislike and none of the vices I admire." - Winston Churchill

"A modest little person, with much to be modest about." - Winston Churchill

"I have never killed a man, but I have read many obituaries with great pleasure." -Clarence Darrow

"He has never been known to use a word that might send a reader to the dictionary." - William Faulkner (about Ernest Hemingway).

"Poor Faulkner. Does he really think big emotions come from big words?" - Ernest Hemingway (about William Faulkner)

"Thank you for sending me a copy of your book; I'll waste no time reading it." - Moses Hadas

"He can compress the most words into the smallest idea of any man I know." - Abraham Lincoln

"I didn't attend the funeral, but I sent a nice letter saying I approved of it." - Mark Twain

"He has no enemies, but is intensely disliked by his friends." - Oscar Wilde

"I am enclosing two tickets to the first night of my new play; bring a friend.... if you have one." - George Bernard Shaw to Winston Churchill

"Cannot possibly attend first night, will attend second... if there is one!" - Winston Churchill, in response.

"I feel so miserable without you; it's almost like having you here." - Stephen Bishop

He is a self-made man and worships his creator." - John Bright

"I've just learned about his illness. Let's hope it's nothing trivial." - Irvin S. Cobb

"He is not only dull himself, he is the cause of dullness in others." - Samuel Johnson

"There's nothing wrong with you that reincarnation won't cure." -Jack E. Leonard

"He has the attention span of a lightning bolt." - Robert Redford

"They never open their mouths without subtracting from the sum of human knowledge." - Thomas Brackett Reed

"In order to avoid being called a flirt, she always yielded easily." - Charles, Count Talleyrand

"He loves nature in spite of what it did to him." - Forrest Tucker

"Why do you sit there looking like an envelope without any address on it?" - Mark Twain

"His mother should have thrown him away and kept the stork." - Mae West

"Some cause happiness wherever they go; others, whenever they go."- Oscar Wilde

"He uses statistics as a drunken man uses lamp-posts... for support, rather than illumination." - Andrew Lang (1844-1912)

"He has Van Gogh's ear for music." - Billy Wilder

"I've had a perfectly wonderful evening. But this wasn't it." - Groucho Marx

Why let the truth interfere with the campaign?

This cartoon made me giggle a bit and think "Right ON, brother!" when I first glanced at it - pretty juvenile of me, I know, but I kinda dig mild racial and ethnic humor.

Then I read the stuff in blue below it. And had a bit of a reaction.

Obama was sworn in using the Quran? Um, no he wasn't. Won't say the Pledge of Allegiance? He never claimed that. Won't salute the flag? The way I remember it, he didn't hold his hand over his heart during the National Anthem. I usually don't either. Look around you at your next ballgame and you'll see that probably 75% of the Americans around you don't either.

Here's a site, courtesy of Barry, which lists the various lies being told about Obama.

Listen, I still haven't made up my mind. I have serious questions about this guy's experience and inner circle. But total crap like this can't be allowed to be a part of the debate. Tell your friends.

Wednesday, June 11, 2008

Are you ready to be a "locavore"?

Ever hear the term "locavore"? If you haven't, you will soon. And you may be one in the not too distant future.

As fuel and food prices climb, the idea of shipping food hundreds, sometimes thousands of miles, becomes more and more economically daunting. Grapes from or apples from New Zealand may not sound so good at $10 a pound.

In an effort to keep food prices reasonable, more and more people are thinking about buying food produced locally. They are becoming "locavores". It's not as difficult as it sounds.

Beef and poultry can be, and are, produced almost anywhere. Fish may be a little harder to come by, but if you're down with catfish, trout, or bass, you can find those in many locations.

Fruits and vegetables? Well, that's a bit harder. But, when you think about it, here in North Texas, we can enjoy most warm weather veggies, peaches, citrus, all kinds of goodies grown within a hundred miles or so.

The part I don't know about is what do we get during the off-season? I'm sure there are answers to that, especially here in Texas. If you live in Minnesota, well, I don't know.

Regardless, some are looking into this already. The rest of us may be forced to move in this direction in the near future.

Tuesday, June 10, 2008

Daily YouTube: Gnarls Barkley. Twisted. Genius.

No doubt I am the last person on the planet to see this one.

This song caught my attention the first time I heard it. Not sure what I would have made of it if I had seen this clip around the same time...

The City of Dallas steps on it's weenie yet again

I haven't written a rant about the sheer ineptitude of the city government of Dallas in a while. This is probably because I'm trying to give Mayor Tom the benefit of the doubt. I'd really like to see him to get control of the mess at City Hall, and do a better job of reining in the inflated egos and deflated IQs on the City Council better than his completely ineffective predecessor did.

Every once in a while, though, the city leaders make it impossible for me to lay off.

Today's case in point is the renaming of Industrial Blvd. This thoroughfare, which winds from Market Center Blvd and into the west side of downtown, is rife with crappy liquor stores, bail bond shops, and dodgy taquerias. It's not on anyone's "Driving Tour of Dallas", believe me.

However, once the much-ballyhooed (and LONG overdue) Trinity River Project works its urban-renewal magic, Industrial will be the gateway to the spectacular parkland, the on-ramp to the object-of-contention toll road, and the entrance to Dallas taxpayer Nirvana.

As such, it obviously can't be named something as down-scale as "Industrial Blvd", now can it?

So, the city leaders, in their great wisdom, set out to engage the public in a little "name the street" contest, via email, phone, and fax. First, there were the nominations. Eddie Bernice Johnson Blvd, in honor of our long-serving, and, I suspect, barely literate Congressperson, was one. TrinityView, or something like that, was another, except the levee prevents you from actually, you know, viewing the river from there. Riverfront Blvd was also suggested. You get the idea.

Also nominated was Cesar Chavez Blvd. This to honor the Mexican-American activist who fought for farmworkers' rights back in the day. It's also worth noting that downtown Austin's riverfront thoroughfare is named for Chavez, as are parks, libraries, streets, etc throughout this fair land of ours.

After the nominations were in, the people were invited to vote. And so they did. In large numbers. And more than 10,000 of them, the clear majority, voted for Cesar Chavez Blvd.

The people have spoken, right? Decision made, right? Um, not so much, buddy. You see, when it comes down to it, the city leaders aren't so keen on naming this centerpiece of the project after some Mexican Communist.

The vote? Oh, that wasn't really a "vote". It was more of an "informal survey".

This was front page news here in the DFW Metroplex of Love today, kids.

Amazon Kindle - maybe?

Here's a post from Doyle Albee on his to-date experience (30 days) with Amazon's Kindle wireless reading device. It sounds pretty good...

I read a lot, and I suspect I would love this thing. Its tough to rationalize a $359 price tag at the moment, and I'm not a fan of v 1.0 of anything that costs more than about $50. However, with that said, I am keeping an eye on it.

I'll also keep an eye out for stories from users. I hope its good, I really do...

Southeast Asia is a strange, strange place

Someone has abandoned a Boeing 727 at Hanoi's Noi Bai airport.

The plane has Cambodian flags on it, along with the name, likely of the owning company, "Air Dream". It's been sitting on the tarmac in Hanoi since late 2007, when it arrived from Siem Reap.

The Vietnamese have no idea who "Air Dream" is, and are about to sell the thing off for scrap.

It isn't new or spiffy or anything like that, but an airworthy 727 is worth some dough.

I'm not going to say, "This could only happen in Southeast Asia," but it somehow makes more sense that it did...

Monday, June 09, 2008

Not saying for whom, but this might be a good Father's Day gift...

From the immortal Fail Blog:

The Jerry-Dome

Anyone who has driven thru central Arlington TX lately can testify to the sheer size and scale of the new Cowboy stadium, which is being assembled (in a manner which reminds me an awful lot of the "refit of the Enterprise" segments from the first Star Trek movie) just west of Six Flags.

Here is a weekly series of photos, all taken from the same spot on the north side of the monstrosity, chronicling the ascent of the modern-day colossus. This does not in any way give you a sense of just how frickin' huge this thing is, but it's fun to see anyway.

A long way to go...

Jesus and Satan were having an ongoing argument about who was better on his computer. They had been going at it for days, and God was tired of hearing all of the bickering. Finally God said, "Cool it. I am going to set up a test that will run two hours and I will judge who does the better job."

So Satan and Jesus sat down at the keyboards and typed away. They moused. They did spreadsheets. They wrote reports. They sent faxes. They sent e-mail. They sent out e-mail with attachments. They downloaded. They did some genealogy reports. They made cards. They did every known job. But ten minutes before their time was up, lightning suddenly flashed across the sky, thunder rolled, the rain poured and, of course, the electricity went off.

Satan stared at his blank screen and screamed every curse word known in the underworld. Jesus just sighed. The electricity finally flickered back on and each of them restarted their computers.

Satan started searching frantically, screaming "It's gone! It's all gone! I lost everything when the power went out!"

Meanwhile, Jesus quietly started printing out all of his files from the past two hours. Satan observed this and became irate. "Wait! He cheated, how did he do it?"

God shrugged and said, "Jesus saves."

Sunday, June 08, 2008

I HATE TicketMaster!!

Every summer, I take the fam to see Ringling Bros. circus. The kids love the show, esp Drew who has been ga-ga over elephants since the first time we saw them three years ago. The tickets are expensive, but not outrageously so - compared to sports tickets, they're an absolute steal. The AAC is a great venue, and we always look forward to the whole bit.

Except for one part: TicketMaster.

If you're going to buy tickets to the circus (and many other events) online or over the phone, you are going to have to deal with TicketMaster, which is easily the biggest rip-off in the entertainment industry. And just think about all the giant rip-offs there are in the entertainment industry, right? I mean, from bands touring with one guy from the original line-up to Robbie Knieval, there is no shortage of rip-offs out there. TicketMaster, however, is the worst.

First, their crapola Web site: Would you like to pick your seats from among those available in a section or price range? Well, too bad, because the TicketMaster site doesn't let you do that. Instead, you choose a price and the site shows you the "best seats available". Are they really the "best available"? Hell, I don't know, because that's all you get to see. If you don't like those seats, you have to go thru the entire process again, and more often than not, you'll see the exact same seats.

Beaten yet? Oh, it gets MUCH worse.

Once you finally give up and take the "best seats available" (I will bet you $500 that I see better seats unfilled at the performance we go to, and not just a few), you're ready for the real screw job.

How about some fees for you? Let's start with a 10% "convenience fee" PER TICKET! Then, let's tack on a $3 "processing fee" PER TICKET! What, the "convenience fee" doesn't cover the processing by these crooks?

Wait, we're not done.

Then there's a delivery fee. I didn't even look at the mailing prices. I, instead, chose to print my tickets at home. All TicketMaster has to do is email me a .pdf, right? How much effort is involved in that? Not much, esp since I got my email within 3 minutes on Sunday afternoon. Not a lot of human-power expended on this. Yet, for reasons I cannot even begin to fathom (oh, wait, yes I can - the reason is TicketMaster is out to gouge as much dough out of me as possible), I have to pay $2.50 PER TICKET to print them out.

Tickets and a parking permit, which cost $195 face value, wound up costing me $223.

Listen, if that's the price, then that's the price. What absolutely chaps my posterior is this is not the price. For the privilege of using their automated systems and never asking them to expend one second of a human's time, I have to fork over $30 to those crooks at TicketMaster.

I hate those guys. I wish I could avoid them.

Saturday, June 07, 2008

Zimbabwe: The sh** is about to hit the fan

The showdown approacheth, as Zimbabwe's High Court has decided to cross swords with Mugabe's government by lifting the ban on opposition rallies.

Whether this has any practical effect remains to be seen, as the thugs allied with ZANU-PF have repeatedly ignored court rulings. Regardless, it is now (or at least, it should be) clear that Mugabe's actions are illegal no matter how you slice it.

Anyone really think he's giving up power voluntarily? If you answered "yes" to that question, please email me. I have all sorts of stuff I'd like to sell you.

This was the breadbasket of southern Africa, folks. Take a look at this graphic from BBC, which indicates which sections of the country face famine, and please tell me how things are better now than they were in 1979?

The GREAT Jim McKay has left the building

Let us pause for a moment and reflect on the greatness that was Jim McKay, who died today of natural causes at age 86.

How best do we remember him? As the voice who solemnly intoned, "The thrill of victory, and the agony of defeat," during the legendary open of Wide World of Sports? Or as the first (but, sadly, not the last) sports anchor thrown into the role of conveyor of the worst possible news when he told us, "They're all gone," at the Munich Games of 1972?

Jim McKay was a giant. He contributed. He will be missed.