Friday, June 9, 2006

An Ever-Expanding List

I don't understand about diamonds and why men buy them. What's so impressive about a diamond, except the mining? - Fiona Apple, "Red Red Red"
Thanks, Fiona. Here are a few things that I don't understand:
UNTIED SHOES - The creative people at Nike and Reebok spend millions on research to figure out exactly how a shoe should fit, and a lot of people run around with the laces undone. A hundred dollars for shoes you aren't going to tie seems to me to be a waste of good technology.
PENNIES - C'mon with the pennies, already. Haven't we advanced far enough as a civilization that we can figure out how to price things so that we don't need pennies?
THE NINE-TENTHS AT THE END OF THE GASOLINE PRICE - Ditto. Try this: Stop by your local gasoline emporium and ask for a gallon. See how much it costs and try to get your one-tenth of a cent change.
TELEMARKETERS - I guess, if people weren't buying things from them, they wouldn't exist. But I have a hard time believing that you could sell something to someone with a cold call on the telephone.
MONEY CLIPS - Buy a wallet.
EXPENSIVE DRINKS - Eight dollars for a cocktail at The House of Blues in Atlantic City. Two of them and I could buy a whole bottle and mix it myself. They should hold AA meetings in there.
PANIC WHEN IT SNOWS - Here in New Jersey, an inch of snow is greeted with frenzied reports on local news and rushes of consumers to the local supermarkets for bread, milk and eggs. Apparently, snow makes people crave French Toast.
THE BALDY-BEARD LOOK - There are way too many guys running around with the shaved head and full beard. Either shave or don't.
THE COUPONS - Just lower the price and make all of our lives easier.
THE PANTS AROUND THE ASS - There are way too many guys running around with their pants around their asses. Pull up your pants and act like a grown-up. Nobody wants to see your underwear.
THE SHIRT DOWN TO THE KNEES - Buy a shirt that fits.
THE CAR STEREO BROADCAST - I don't need to hear Jay-Z at Space Shuttle lift-off volume rolling through my neighborhood. Keep your stupid music to yourself.
THE HEADPHONES IN PUBLIC - I think it says, 'leave me alone', which I can understand, but I'd like to tell them to tie their shoes, hitch up their pants and shave, but they can't hear me.
I also don't understand expensive handbags, but that's another story ...

Fendi, Schmendi

NEW YORK (Reuters) - Italian fashion group Fendi S.R.L. sued Wal-Mart Stores Inc. in U.S. federal court on Friday, accusing the world's largest retailer of selling counterfeit handbags and passing them off as genuine at its Sam's Club warehouse stores. In one example cited in the lawsuit, a black handbag bearing Fendi's trademark logo was offered for sale in a Sam's Club store in Miami for $508.25, 45 percent less than the retail price of $930 for a genuine Fendi bag.
I don't know which is worse; that Sam's Club is selling the fakes for over $500, or that Fendi sells the real ones for over $900. In both cases, I think women have lost their minds. It's a handbag. Any bag that costs more than what could potentially be carried in it costs too much. Fifty bucks - that's the limit, I think.
It's odd that Sam's price is considered a bargain. $500 would probably buy about 1,700 rolls of toilet paper, which to me is a more practical use of the money. Besides, how many Sam's Club shoppers could tell the difference between a fake Fendi and a real one anyway - or even care? Apparently, none of them.
Good for Sam's, I say. They have recognized a market and targeted it. They passed off seemingly genuine merchandise to an unwitting public at what is perceived to be an incredible bargain, and made a huge profit. Hurray for capitalism.
I say, if you're stupid enough to (a) pay $500 for a handbag and (b) buy a Fendi at Sam's, Fendi should be suing you for carrying the thing to begin with.

Thursday, June 8, 2006

No Joy in Mudville

No less a group of philosophers than major league baseball players have been weighing in on the Jason Grimsley saga. Faced with the prospects of seeing one of their own lose both his source of income and integrity, they have rallied around the guy. Oh ... did I say he lost his integrity? Read on:
PHOENIX - As Jason Grimsley's career screeched to a halt in the Dimaondbacks clubhouse, in the Phillies' room Sal Fasano shook his shaggy head in sorrow. "It hurts my heart," Fasano said.
"One thing about Jason is, he's a man of integrity," Fasano said - Grimsley's alleged cheating notwithstanding. Fasano pointed more toward Grimsley's departure and his naming names: "He's going to tell the truth. That's what he does."
Chicago White Sox reliever Jeff Nelson was upset Grimsley apparently identified several other players as using performance-enhancing drugs in an affidavit filed by IRS special agent Jeff Novitzky. "[Taking steroids] is something that's wrong to do, obviously. But to go and start throwing other guys under the bus is definitely wrong as well," says Nelson. "Take the blame. You should take the hit and not have to be putting it on anybody else or [saying], 'Hey I got caught with it. I think I'm going to bring some other guys down with me.' That's what's wrong."
Is that what's wrong? I'm not sure I agree. Maybe what is wrong is players earning more money than teachers and doing whatever they believe to be morally right in order to continue to earn the money. They are paid so much to play a game for our entertainment, that morality and propriety go out the window. Now, the backlash of the so-called "rat" is rearing it's head, and the players whom Grimsley supposedly identified are firing back at him for telling the Feds.
If Nelson believes that using steroids is wrong, then it is wrong regardless. There is a reason that the players are scared of Grimsley's disclosure. After all, if one has integrity, as Fasano said, his sense of honor will lead him to do the right thing. And, as far as integrity is concerned, here is what Wikipedia has to say about it:
Integrity comprises the personal inner sense of "wholeness" deriving from honesty and consistent uprightness of character. Integrity is holding true to one's values. Said another way: being one's word; doing what you said you would do by when or how you said you would do it. Integrity is knowing what is important to you and living your actions accordingly.
So, when we examine this issue, words like integrity may be the last ones we should be using. Grimsley knew that his earning potential was the only important thing, and lived his actions accordingly, even if it meant he had to break the law to do it. It is a difficult issue, and the last thing we need are the offenders engaging in a philosophical debate over the actions of the worst of the bunch.

How Many Federal Agents Does it Take...

PHOENIX - Pitcher Jason Grimsley was released by the Arizona Diamonbacks on Wednesday, a day after his home was searched by federal agents following his admission he used human growth hormone, steroids and amphetamines. The raid - and Grimsley's implication of other major league ballplayers - was the latest sign that widespread investigations into drug use by athletes are still active, even in the era of tougher testing. "Clearly," U.S. Attorney Kevin Ryan said, "we're not done."
For the record, Jason Grimsley pitched in 552 games and compiled a 42-58 record with a 4.77 earned run average. He pitched for the Phillies, Indians, Angels, Yankees, Royals, Orioles and Diamondbacks while allowing opponents to bat .265 against him. If that speaks for the success of HGH and amphetamines, then perhaps athletes need to look elsewhere for inspiration.
Meanwhile, the minimum salary for a major league player is $316,000 a year, so perhaps the use of steroids and other performance-enhancing drugs could be justified by the salary? You tell me, if it was a choice between making $316,000 and working at Wal-Mart, would you take the drugs?
As we saw in 1998, baseball fans want home runs. Mark McGwire and Sammy Sosa gave them what they wanted - balls flying over their heads - and regardless of the methods used, fans were happy to see it. Now that we know what the methods were, we are outraged at the very thing we knew was going on at the time. You knew, didn't you? Meanwhile, pitchers were laughing up their sleeves at the swollen hitters who were implicated in steroid scandals.
If you or I were allowed to earn $316,000 a year pitching baseballs, we might be persuaded to take steroids too, if the alternative was to make $15,000 a year greeting customers at Wal-Mart. So, don't be too hasty to judge professional baseball players for doing what they needed to do in order to continue to earn a huge salary. The average salary for a major league baseball player is $2.6 million - and that buys a lot of HGH. It also encourages players to take it, since they would rather not give up that huge paycheck.
Jason Grimsley makes much more than the minimum, and he makes a lot more than the office worker who stops to get a cappuccino on his way to the cubicle. It's all about performance enhancement, and whether it's steroids or coffee, the drugs are used to enhance ones performance. If your morning caffeine break gets you through the day, think about Jason Grimsley and thank whatever God you pray to that you won't be going to jail for using performance enhancing drugs to make you work better and more efficiently.
Illegal or not, it's the availability that is the issue, not the legality. So, don't be too quick to judge Grimsley or his bretheren over doing what they needed to do to maintain an edge over their opponents. The system encourages the behvavior.

Tuesday, June 6, 2006

How Many Gorges Does it Take?

The last cofferdam protecting the just-completed main wall of Three Gorges Dam on the Yangtze River is blown up as the 12-second series of blasts sent the 30-meter (30-yard) top section of the cofferdam tumbling into the river in Yichang, central China's Hubei Province, Tuesday, June 6, 2006 the official Xinhua News Agency reported. The 1.4-mile-long Three Gorges Dam now holds back the full force of the river and assumes its role in controlling the deadly floods that have regularly ravaged China's farming heartland. (AP Photo/Xinhua,Liu Chan).
And the hand of God formed it into a huge representation of ... oh, you figure it out.

Rage Against the Machines

Rolling Stone magazine's National Affairs Daily published the following interview with Howard Dean today, 6-6-06.
Portions appear below:
Rolling Stone: How confident are you Ohio in 2004 was fairly decided?
Howard Dean: I’m not confident that the election in Ohio was fairly decided. We did our own Democratic party study in Ohio with a panel of experts. We absolutely know that there was a systematic voter suppression. We couldn’t say one way or another if the election was stolen. We couldn’t rule it out, but we couldn’t prove that it was. We know that there was substantial voter suppression, and the machines were not reliable. That’s clear.
...of the reports that we’ve received, where you push the screen for one candidate and the other name comes up repeatedly — most of those reports are on Diebold machines. In the governor’s race last year, we had reports from a southwestern district in Virginia that people were in fact pushing Democrat Tim Kaine’s name and Republican Jerry Kilgore’s came up.
This is going to be a very critical election in 2006. We’re very aware that there’s huge potential for additional mischief in 2006. We have no doubt that some of the folks who were active in vote suppression will be active again. It’s very, very difficult to deal with it. We just have to keep pushing forward doing the best we can. The real question is why the mainstream media won’t write about this.
It is supposed to be bad for the Democracy to allege such impropriety, but when a great American like Dr. Howard Dean brings the subject up, one has to take another look. However, the allegations and suspicions bring up the prospect that the whole thing is sour grapes from the Democrats, which masks the potential accuracy of the story.
In other words, I'm sure there was voter fraud and I'm sure we will never be told the truth.

Monday, June 5, 2006

An Unpopular Argument

NEW YORK - As the fight over immigration reform drags on, an ominous undercurrent to the debate — racism — is becoming more pronounced. From muttered ethnic slurs to violent attacks, activists say an anti-immigrant backlash seems to be growing in America's neighborhoods and workplaces. A few political leaders have called proposed immigration measures before Congress "racist." "The climate has gotten demonstrably worse and it is racially charged," said Devin Burghart of the Center for New Community, which tracks anti-immigrant activity. "It's not simply a debate about immigration policy. It's about race and national identity and who and what we are as Americans."
Well ... who are we, exactly? We are a country that shows television programs like the ALMA Awards tonight. The ALMA Awards are sort of a Hispanic Golden Globes - as if the Golden Globes excludes Hispanics. It doesn't, of course, so why segregate a race with a spotlight on their glory and not everyone elses? Isn't that why minorities got upset with us in the first place?
We are also given the Miss Black America Pageant, which is the black version of the Miss America pageant, which also does not prohibit blacks from entering.
There are publications like Jet Magazine and entire network called Black Entertainment Television, as though People Magazine and NBC do not have sufficient exposure. There are two Spanish language channels on my cable. I do not speak Spanish.
The reason all those things exist is because there is a market for them. Minorities feel suppressed. They feel that their best interests are not being served in the traditional markets, so they have made their own. We cannot act together, so some of us have decided to act alone. It seems to me that it is the concept upon which this country was founded. So, perhaps the "racist society" remark is a bit late in coming.
The point is, we are a racist society. Each of us alone makes the effort to treat everyone the same, but somehow, society drops the ball. Not being a Sociologist, I cannot make the connection, but the forces of ignorance must be more powerful than the forces of good, because a lot of people think the way I do on the subject, and even though we have legislated other emotional issues, no amount of legislation seems to be enough to make people's attitudes change.
So, we will continue to be segregated as a society, albeit less so because many of the offending actions are now illegal. They treated a symptom, but the disease goes merrily onward. Why it is a news story is beyond me.

Sunday, June 4, 2006

Whose God is it, Anyway?

WASHINGTON - Is Tuesday's date 6-6-6 merely a curious number or could it mean our number is up? Something about the number 666 brings out the worry, the hope and even the humor in people, said the Rev. Felix Just, a professor of theology at the University of San Francisco. A Jesuit priest, Just has taught both apocalyptic theory and mathematics and maintains a "666-Numbers of the Beast" Web site that contains history, theology, math and precisely 66 one-line jokes about 666.
Oy. So, what happened on the original occurance of this date, June 6, 0006, and the subsequent one on June 6, 1006 to cause theologians and other people of a confused mindset to think that something was going to happen on Tuesday?
They're just numbers on a calendar that we made up and doesn't necessarily coorespond to calendars in other parts of the world. So what makes us think that our calendar is the one on which God deems to act? Are we that pompous as Americans to think that God singles us out for special treatment? Apparently we are. He's our God, after all.
On behalf of the United States of America, to whom I pledge allegiance, I apologize.