Well, since our dear leaders have decided that interest rates (that are exceeding low), and "crowding out", and Very Serious Invisible Bond Traders, which all allegedly come from federal deficits, as opposed to say, the unemployment rate that's up around 9%, it's very hard to find a job. So that's led to thinking about ideas on what kind of job I can make. Now, while I'd much prefer a job saving the world, and doing the stuff I spent years going back to school for, that's not worked so far.

Well, what about starting an engineering company? Well, there's issues there with getting a license, which requires working with already licensed engineers for a length of time, plus getting contacts for jobs, and starting something without a reputation or experience. So for the moment, that's not really looking practical.

Computers? Well, I know them, but I'm not a hardware guy, and I haven't kept up at all with programming languages, network stuff, or anything like that. So I could learn it, but I don't have any of the credentials or experience there.

Working for somebody else in retail sucks, especially in a crappy economy, which is where I'm currently stuck.

So, what kind of retail could I do? Well, the most obvious is a nerd shop, probably comics and games. I worked at a game store for five years, I've been friends with people who ran comic shops, I know both those markets pretty well anyway. And it'd give the possibility of creating a place for people to come and meet and have fun and interact, and that'd be good.

Comic/Game shops are hard, though. They're operating in a relatively small market, comics are non-returnable for little guys, and costs four bucks and up each. That aside, there's also a lot of stereotypes about comic and game shops, like they're essentially some dude's basement. And there really are ones like that. Or just look at The Ferrett's column about his FLGS. There is a comic shop chain here in Savannah, but as their webpage shows, they have a bit of hoarder in them too. Plus there's nothing else to that site besides that page. But the pictures, with the T-Shirts hanging from the ceiling and the confusion, that's not so appealing. The hobby shop I worked in had some of that too. We kept it mostly clean, but it was piled with stuff, especially trains, almost to the ceiling on a lot of shelves. So, obviously, I wouldn't want to do something like that. Running somewhere clean, safe, and welcoming to everybody would be the goal. There's no point in turning away customers by having the store look bad.

The problem there, even in a city like Savannah, with SCAD having its art college with a sequential art series, the market for comics isn't always that big. and the comics don't always help with that. And that's a little scary when looking at opening a shop. Comic stores are always shoestring businesses, which is part of the reason so many end up messy. There's lots of other things out there, and there's lots of TPBs and the like that provide more value for the money, but I'm not sure how easy it would be to try and change all of that. Or if I'd make any money doing it, and not just end up owing even more money when it failed.
Is the Daily Show seriously the only news show out there with a research team, and video archives? Or even Google?

EDIT: Okay, the embed worked on preview, but not when posted, so here's the link: The Parent Company Trap
So, a high school in Mississippi canceled their prom because a girl wanted to bring her girlfriend, and wear a tux. Seriously.

Now, I admit I didn't go to many school dances when I was in HS, and that was what, like a decade ago now, but I know people came to our proms with people of the same sex, generally two guys or two ladies who didn't have dates. And I know of women who came in tuxes, and by brother wore a skirt one yet (Yeah, okay, a kilt, but still), so the idea of dress codes that say guys have to wear tuxes and ladies have to wear dresses alone just strikes me as weird anyway. And isn't girls dancing with each other because there's lots of guys too shy to ask them to dance like, a staple of the high school dance experience?


Oct. 28th, 2008 12:15 pm
Apparently the latest gambit, a week before the election, is for John McCain and Sarah Palin to call Barak Obama a communist or socialist because he supports the progressive income tax.

I have known socialists, and Barak Obama is no socialist, for better and for worse.

(Progressive taxation I'm sure I explained before, but I'm not gonna dig up the link right now. Plus Obama's tax increase is all of three percent on the marginal income above $250K. Which means only your taxable income above $250K will be taxed at 39.something percent, rather than 36%ish it's at now.)

(And calling somebody a commie? Seriously, the hell? What is this, the 1950s?)
The Federal Reserve is stealing their MO from Dr. Evil. (The resemblance is uncanny.) Why do we need to give $700,000,000,000 to Wall Street "geniuses" who lost trillions of dollars already?  Why that particular amount? "It's not based on any particular data point," a Treasury spokeswoman told Forbes.com Tuesday. "We just wanted to choose a really large number." Dr. Henry Paulson will hold the world hostage with the threat of RECESSION NOW! (while last week the "fundamentals of our economy were sound" of course) unless we give him SEVEN HUNDRED BILLION DOLLARS!  MWAHAHAHAHAHA! No. Just, no.
Ever wondered why the salad at a fast food joint is more expensive than the giant size combo burger and fries with a soda?

Because the government pays farmer to grow corn for feed and high fructose corn syrup, soybeans that get reconstituted into stuff that barely qualifies as food, cotton, wheat, and tobacco (?!).

It's almost enough to make one think the libertarians might not be THAT scary crazy.
There's a lot of talk about how corn ethanol subsidies are "responsible" for part of the way food prices have run up lately. And there's some truth to that, and besides, corn ethanol is pretty much a boondoggle anyway. But it's hardly the end of the story, it's just an easy target, especially for politicians who're opposed to sustainability.

But you know what consumes a lot more grain than biofuels?

Growing corn and wheat and so on to feed concentrated grain to livestock which are grown for their meat. That's not touching on any of the other problems that come with modern factory farming methods, such as the waste, spread of diseases, breeding of antibiotic resistant bacteria, mad cow, and the ethical issues with the way many of the animals are raised.

Plus, if America cut back on meat by about 20%, it'd save as much CO2 as if we all drove cars that got 50+ miles to the gallon.

We have so many systems in our civilization that need complete overhauls, or just to be junked and replaced with something better.
All those Republicans in Congress who tell you that government can't run health insurance?

Have health insurance provided by the government.

(Also, they're all rich)


Apr. 29th, 2008 11:03 pm
Which is scarier?

A) An angry retired black preacher

B) Rich old white guys who started a war that has killed more Americans than September 11th, along with probably a million Iraqis? And ran the economy into the ground, spied on Americans without warrants, let the city of New Orleans drown, let Osama bin Laden get away, and want to start a war with Iran?

Apparently, judging by the media, it's A.
Do you want to know why we're mired in a civil war we helped unleash in Iraq?

It's because the people who started the war know ABSOLUTELY NOTHING about the Middle East.

First, Republican presidential candidate John McCain has repeatedly claimed Iran is training Al Queda. Which is false. Iran hates Al Queda, Al Queda hates Iran. And, he conflates Al Queda, the terrorist network headed by Osama Bin Laden, with Al Queda in Iraq, a group formed in Iraq to fight the US occupation, which just took the Al Queda brand name. But that's standard issue stuff for Bush, Cheney, McCain, and the rest of the war crowd. But Al Queda in Iraq is a Sunni group, and Iran is mostly Shi'a, and the civil war in Iraq has largely been Sunnis killing Shi'a, and vice versa.

John McCain is running on his reputation as a war hero and tough guy, who'll be "strong" on Iraq and terrorism and whatever, but he doesn't have the slightest idea what he's talking about. Exactly like the current resident of the White House.

For instance, here's Matthew Yglesias on a quote from George W. Bush. And here's the quote:

Out of such chaos in Iraq, the terrorist movement could emerge emboldened -- with new recruits, new resources, and an even greater determination to dominate the region and harm America. An emboldened al Qaeda with access to Iraq's oil resources could pursue its ambitions to acquire weapons of mass destruction to attack America and other free nations

The truly stupid parts are twofold: First, the idea that Al Queda in Iraq could somehow take over the entire country, including the oil fields. A loose geurilla terrorist network can't take and hold territory. Plus the oil is in the Shi'a south, and Kurdish north, and Al Queda in Iraq is a Sunni group. This is truly stupid thinking.

And secondly, the claim that Al Queda in Iraq, or the original Al Queda, would get a recruiting boon from us leaving Iraq? The US military itself has profiled the average Al Queda in Iraq soldier as being there BECAUSE we've invaded and occupied Iraq. Here's a quote.

"Mr. AQI is a man in his early-to-mid 20s. Chances are he came to Iraq from either north Africa or Saudi Arabia. He's single. He's lower-middle class and has some high school experience, but probably not a diploma. To earn his wages he worked in construction or maybe drove a taxi. Mr. AQI probably didn't have any significant military experience prior to joining AQI. His relationship with his dad isn't so great. And while he's been religious for as long as he can remember, he wasn't, you know, a nut about it.

So what brought Mr. AQI to Iraq? At the mosque, he met a man who could tell Mr. AQI just wanted to belong to something. That man told Mr. AQI he had something Mr. AQI needed to see. Very often, according to Colonel Bacon, it was an image from Abu Ghraib. Or it was a spliced-together propaganda film of Americans killing or abusing Iraqis. The narrative that weighed heavily on Mr. AQI, Colonel Bacon said, was that it was his "religious duty go to Iraq," where he would serve as "an avenger of abused Iraqs."

But Iraq wasn't what he thought it would be. Mr. AQI wasn't an infantryman, where he'd bravely stand and fight Americans, he was pressured into being a suicide bomber. Nor were his targets the Americans he wanted to hit -- they were the Iraqis he came to avenge. According to Colonel Bacon, in some cases, Mr. AQI was happy to be in American custody, where he would no longer cause Iraq any more pain."

These are the yahoos we let lead us to war. They don't have the slightest idea what they're talking about, it's all just posing as "tough". This is why we're in the middle of a disaster, and it's why none of them are suited to be President. And why Bush should be impeached.
Apparently, Hillary Clinton's newest push has been that she's the "experienced" candidate.

Of course, John McCain's experience too.

But both of them are experienced in making gigantic mistakes about things like wars and then not realizing the mistakes they made.

That's hardly a good reason to vote for somebody.

Yeah, I'm "officially" for Obama, and have been for a while. Clinton would make a decent president, but even otherwise reasonable people have visceral hatred for her, plus we really don't need the last generation of presidencies to look like Bush-Clinton-Clinton-Bush-Bush-Clinton. That's way too much aristocratic succession bullshit.

John McCain, of course, would be a disaster, as I've stated before. I'll have more to say on him later, especially the whole "man of integrity and strong convictions" bit. (But for the moment, "strong convictions" aren't a plus when those convictions are completely wrong)
Articles and blog posts often have comment sections now. Which is a good thing, because it allows and inspires conversation, feedback, and interaction. Those in turn can make people more interested, learn things more, point out flaws, ask questions, etc.

And sometimes it reveals how completely people can miss the point. In this case? Comments I've seen on articles about global warming. One strain of argument I've seen occasionally is "Scientists are wrong sometimes, how do we know they're not now?" Which would be a fair enough question. The poster could learn about the process of science, repeatability, peer review, fake think tanks, astroturf campaigns, and lots of other stuff. Usually, they're not interested in actually finding out how scientists decide what's true, they're trying to discredit science and scientists.

But what makes some of these comments so unintentionally ironic, and reveal the poster's ignorance? I've seen a bunch saying "Yeah, but what about the ozone hole? Science said that'd kill us!" or even "What about how the Y2K bug was supposed to kill us?"

What makes those two in particular really terrible examples for the "global warming's not humans' fault and we can't do anything about it anyway and why should we bother it'd cost too much and China!" crowd?

Because both ozone depletion and the Y2K bug are examples of how reducing CO2 emissions could work. Scientists and engineers identified a problem, and showed how it could hurt us, government and industries took action on a global scale to address it, and it WORKED. Thanks to treaties and monitoring, CFCs were mostly phased out, and are rarely used any more and are fairly well contained. For Y2K, millions of man-hours were invested in checking and fixing code, old programmers were brought out of retirement because nobody else spoke FORTRAN, and after a lot of work, the fixes WORKED.

Y2K and the ozone layer are both examples of how large-scale major changes and fixes can actually work, and even work so well that people can look back and laugh at how scared we were of the problem. I don't think that's the point the "It's not our fault and it's too hard to fix anyway!" crowd quite intends to make.
So, retail sales over December were flat at best. (Here's some stats) And credit card debt went up over that same time, which meant people were spending money they didn't have just to stay where they were.

Federal Reserve Chairman Ben Bernanke yesterday said "The outlook for real activity in 2008 has worsened," and "We stand ready to take substantive additional actions as needed to support growth and to provide adequate insurance against downside risks,"

The second translates to interest rate cuts. But basically he's saying the economy is not doing so hot, which most anybody could tell you. o in response?
"Stocks in Canada and the U.S. shot up in the hours after Mr. Bernanke speech."

The stock market reacts exactly opposite to how common sense says it should. A company lays people off, its stock goes up. The chief banker of the US says the economy sucks, stocks go up. These people are insane.
Mike Huckabee, Chuck Norris approved Republican Presidential Candidate:

"I consider myself a conservationist. I think we ought to have some cap and trade. It worked with acid rain. I think it could work with Co2 emissions. I think we ought to be out there talking about ways to reduce energy consumption and waste. And we ought to declare that we will be free of energy consumption in this country within a decade, bold as that is."

Ending energy consumption in the US within a decade! Wow, that is bold! Is he going to include chemical energy consumption, or just electricity? Because ending electricity consumption just requires a Day the Earth Stood Still style magic ray, ending chemical energy consumption would require killing all life on the continent.

He said this on a national television program. Katie Couric was asking candidates about global warming. And Mike Huckabee is so clueless about the basic matters of energy use he was just spouting inanities, or he meant something else and got flustered by Katie Couric's instense scrutiny.

The other Republicans weren't much better, Giuliani rambled something about energy independence and somehow using coal that doesn't add carbon to the atmosphere, Mitt Romney brought up the same mirage, and claimed that China's the largest emitter of carbon dioxide, which is false, we are. Fred Thompson denied global warming exists, and said that the mythical Social Security shortfall is more important. McCain's response was actually fairly decent, though I must admit to skepticism about how tough an environmental bill by him and Joe Lieberman is. But most of the Republican field is still in denial.

But Huckabee just got another endorsement, besides Chuck Norris, from the founder of the vigilante border guard "Minutemen" guys. A preacher flanked by Chuck Norris and a crazy "Minuteman" seems like the perfect depiction of what the Republican party has become.
I noticed an article in Business Week yesterday, called Little Green Lies. It's about Auden Schendler, an environmentalist who got a job at Aspen Skiing Co, as their environmental advocate. It starts off talking about how he's achieved"a lot of sexy projects", but doesn't feel they did anything.

The real story, as I read the article, is how every time he tried anything that would actually work, he was stymied by executives who were either baffled and confused by his insistence, or would rather spend the money on something much more short-term or just that they're used to. The most flagrant example?

" Thwarted on guest rooms, Schendler switched to Little Nell's underground garage. Guests never saw it because valets park all cars. For $20,000, Schendler said he could replace energy-gobbling 175-watt incandescent light fixtures with fluorescent bulbs and save $10,000 a year. Unimpressed, Calderon again balked. If he had $20,000 extra, he would rather spend it on items guests would notice: fine Corinthian leather furniture or shiny new bathroom fixtures."

He finally did get them to convert the lights, two years later, and after getting a $5,000 grant from a local non-profit. That's right, a big profitable company had to get a donation from charity to install equipment that would pay for itself in two years, and then save them $10,000 a year every year after that. Much more than would have been made in new bookings due to leather chairs or shiny faucets, I'm willing to bet. That's a 50% return on investment, better than anything you can find on the stock market. Later they talk about partially funding a solar energy farm outside Aspen, which would have a "paltry" 6.5% ROI. So it'd pay for itself in 15 years.

But as you can see above, corporate honchos aren't thinking long term. Even if the things they are thinking are completely pointless and would make less money than simple efficiencies. The moral of this story is, corporate execs aren't going to change how they do things, even if changing simple things would be a better investment. And since they won't change on their own, they need to be required to change, which means government has to get involved.
When are the frickin Democrats gonna grow a frickin spine and realize they're the frickin MAJORITY in Congress, and don't need to bow down to the whims of a criminal president and his lackeys? Cripes. Now they're caving on the bullshit warrantless wiretapping (aka the President can spy on anybody he wants) bill, and including provisions retroactively declaring the phone companies who broke the law by letting the NSA etc spy on Americans without a warrant don't have to face any punishment.

Glenn Greenwald explains here.
This article, Neocons on a Cruise: What Conservatives Say When They Think We Aren't Listening, made the rounds a few months back, came to mind recently.

There are a signifigant number of people out there who think hordes of "terrorists" are going to invade America and force us all to live by fundamentalist Islamic law. Many of these people think this is already happening in Europe. (see: America Alone, or better, don't see it.)

This belief is without any kind of basis in fact. It is, frankly, not true in any sense. Yet this fear continues to drive many people. If you doubt me, read some of the reviews of the book on Amazon.

People are voting and making policy on the basis of a fear we're going to be invaded by "terrorists" and "islamofacists". And people are actively pushing that idea. No matter how stupid or obviously false it is.
The following is the text of an email I sent to NPR's Marketplace show today, after they had a hack from the WSJ editorial page spouting nonsense straight out of the "Fairtax" book. Here's the article in question.

And my letter:
This morning, on the Marketplace Morning Report, you had Stephen Moore on, praising the benefits of a national sales tax.  His ideas and numbers come entirely from the book "FairTax" by Neal Boortz and John Linder.  And unfortunately, most of what he quoted is inaccurate or false.  A 23% sales tax would not replace all of the government income, the percentage was picked as near the maximum amount people would tolerate as a sales tax.  A national sales tax, despite his claim, would be extremely regressive and complex.  Most families who are out of the top 1% spend most of their income each year, which would make their net tax rate at LEAST 23%, plus the increases in cost that would come from this kind of tax.  Whereas the richest few don't spend all their money, which would make their net tax rate far below the 23% the rest of us would pay.  That hardly qualifies as "fair" by any stretch of the imagination.  And his idea of a $20,000 rebate for the sales tax spent?  That would be at least as complicated as the current income tax.  The rest of the work of tax collection would then be pushed on to the companies who sell products.  It would require just as much work, and we would still require the IRS to investigate cheats and other things.

His entire presentation was misleading at best, and outright false at worst.  The entire idea of a "fair" national sales tax is snake oil, designed to cover up for a gigantic tax cut for the rich and a tax hike for the rest of us, not any kind of serious policy suggestion.
If you're looking at buying a new USB thumb drive, make sure it doesn't have the "U3 launchpad" on it. If it does, the thumb drive's been preformatted with a second partition, which has been made read-only. That partition contains the "U3 Launchpad" program, which autoruns every time you put the thumbdrive in. Every single time. And it installs files from that on your computer, which it claims to remove when you take the thumbdrive out. And you can't disable it, since the partition is read-only. It's slow, annoying, eats six megs of the thumb drive, and it's on no matter what. Plus it doesn't do anything the Portable Apps launcher doesn't do better, and less annoyingly. They finally made a U3 uninstaller, but to uninstall it, it has to reformat the whole drive and wipe everything you have on it. So if you're unlucky enough to get one with this piece of crap, use the uninstaller before you put anything on it. It's really not worth it at all, and annoying as hell. Another example of Stupid Lame Design.



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