Saturday, June 16, 2007

Do not read this blog while driving.

The headline in today's Philadelphia Inquirer caught my eye, as headlines are supposed to do:
N.J. bill targets distracted drivers
New legislation would ban text messaging while driving and toughen rules on cell-phone use
TRENTON - New Jersey drivers may soon have to quit sending text messages, yakking on a handheld cell phone and careening through red lights. Two Assembly panels yesterday pushed forward legislation that would make it illegal to send text messages while driving, give police more power to target drivers using handheld cell phones, and allow towns to install cameras to catch drivers disobeying red lights.
Hmmm ... don't we already have to stop at red lights? As far as the phone is concerned, New Jersey passed a toothless law in 2004 that "banned" the use of cell phones while driving, but the police can only ticket you if you get caught doing something else illegal - like running over a kid or crashing into a guardrail.
So, here we go again with another law. I'm fascinated by new laws designed to fight new technology. Generally, they make criminals out of people who are guilty of using technology that they were sold willingly.
The answer is not another law. We already have ten that we can't follow, and every new one we make only serves to compound the problem. The answer lies in the vehicle.
If we are Hell bent on stopping the use of cell phones while driving, then build cars where the phone will not work while you are inside. It can't be the hardest problem. Insulate the roof and door panels to stop the signal from coming in.
If we are supposed to wear seat belts, then build the car so that it won't start until the seat belts are buckled.
If we are not supposed to drink and drive, build a Breathalyzer into the vehicle's ignition so that it won't start if we blow alcohol into it. That one isn't a 100% answer to the problem, but it comes as close as we can get for now.
These aren't the hardest problems in the world, folks. The last thing we need are more laws and more fines that only lead to higher insurance rates. Stop the problem at its source.
Violators of the cell-phone ban would face a $250 fine. The fine for texting while driving would be $100. Safety advocates said New Jersey needs legislation tackling all driver distractions.
"We continue to believe that it's the conversation, not the cell phone, that causes distraction," said David Weinstein of AAA Mid-Atlantic. "AAA would be comfortable supporting an all-encompassing driver distraction bill."
Safety advocates - safety Nazi's - whatever. They tell us we need another law, and that distractions are a problem. OK, so let's do away with cup holders because they are distracting. Radios and CD players are distracting. GPS systems are distracting. Cigarette lighters are distracting. Air-conditioner and heater controls are distracting. Passengers are distracting, conversation is distracting and God knows kids are distracting. Meanwhile, we are sold cars with DVD players in the back seat so that the kids can watch while we drive.
Cars are increasingly distracting, and if you trace the development of the automobile, the one distinguishing characteristic is that we continue to build-in more and more gadgets.
The answer isn't more laws. All they do is make criminals out of people who are only guilty of using the technology that we are given. Require the auto makers to build cars that are less distracting or cars that prevent problems like cell phone use and seat belt use that are almost impossible for police to enforce.
If it is true that the distractions are the problem, then solve the problem. Machines are easier to change than the people who use them.

Friday, June 15, 2007

Mundane ramblings of someone with nothing of substance

A silver surfer? Are they serious? While I admit that I haven't seen a movie in a theater in about 4 years (when did The Wedding Crashers come out?) or read a comic book in 40, this Fantastic Four deal with the surfer destroying planets leaves me absolutely dumbfounded - which isn't a long trip these days. If they are trying to drag people into the theater this summer, they might drag somebody, but it won't be me. If I got comments, I'm sure somebody would comment on this and tell me how they are so looking forward to this movie, and how they will be lining up on Friday to see it. Go ahead.
Meanwhile, the band with the world's worst front man is back on the road. Genesis is adding shows faster than you can say "bald white guy" and Phil Collins will do his best to make people wish that Peter Gabriel was still dressing up like a flower and over-pronouncing words while they cough up a couple hundred bucks for these British geezers.
OK, so let me explain The Wedding Crashers thing. This is how I go to movies: Generally, showtimes are in the 3, 5 and 7:30 area. When I get the mood - which admittedly doesn't come along very often - to leave the house and sit in a darkened theater by myself, I plan on arriving at one of those times and take pot luck as to what is playing. It's the Magellan in me that makes me want to take a shot and see whatever is playing when I get there. The last time, it happened to be The Wedding Crashers, which wasn't the worst movie I have ever seen, but then again, I don't see every movie, so you never know, really.

I'm getting a little tired of holding doors for people. Lately, it seems that not only do I have to hold it open, but I have to wrench my elbow holding it while they walk all the way through. Aren't you supposed to at least touch the door while the person in front [me] is holding it? I think so. At least make an effort, so I don't look like a disjointed stunt man trying to hold a door backward, walk out and still maintain my balance. Touch the door.

As if that wasn't enough, now we're running out of birds:

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - Some common U.S. birds - like sparrows, chickadees and meadowlarks - are in deep decline due to suburban sprawl, big agriculture and pesticides, the National Audubon Society reported on Thursday.
I'm telling ya, folks ... soon ... we'll run out of space. Then, where will we be?

Thursday, June 14, 2007

Make up your own headline

Finally ... a headline I can get excited about ...
Now, I can start getting those 20-year old's to start looking at me. I'm your daddy.
Meanwhile, some guys are at Oakmont playing a golf tournament. Something called the U.S. Open, or so I hear. The girls are taking the week off, so I might tune in. This story on Yahoo News talks about the autograph seekers waiting in the hot sun for players to sign stuff.
By Wednesday afternoon, some autograph seekers were already posting their goods online. Several white U.S. Open flags, featuring Oakmont's squirrel logo, were selling on eBay with as many as 50 autographs on them. Bids on most started around $199.
Pikers. That hat I had autographed at Bulle Rock last week ... you'll pry it from my cold, dead hands. And Paula's pink golf ball -- I might be buried with that baby.
On reflection, it was as great a week as I have had watching any sport, and as long as none of them beats up John Daly, they have a fan for life. Even though, I'll bet Annika or Suzann could take him. You'll forgive me for going on and on about it, but no one I know really cares much for the ladies golf, so this is my only outlet. They're playing the ADT Championship in West Palm Beach, Florida in November. Methinks that would make a Hell of a vacation.
It appears that reports of President Bush's wristwatch being stolen were greatly exaggerated. Shucks. However, stealing is running rampant at your local Wal-Mart:
NEW YORK (AP) - Shoppers at Wal-Mart stores across America are loading carts with merchandise - maybe a flat-screen TV, a few DVDs and a six-pack of beer - and strolling out without paying. Employees also are helping themselves to goods they haven't paid for.
Maybe if they paid people a decent wage, or didn't convince us that we cannot live without the crap they are stealing, or figured out a way to increase the standard of living for people at the low end of the economic food chain they wouldn't feel the need to resort to stealing. Merchants like Wal-Mart are victims of their own marketing. Tell us we need junk and don't pay us enough to actually buy it, so the evil shopper takes over and, lacking usable credit or the will to find it, steals. It's pretty simple, really.
About 47 percent of the dollars lost came from employee theft, while shoplifting accounted for about 32 percent, according to the National Retail Federation report. Administrative errors account for 14 percent, while supplier fraud accounts for 4 percent. The remaining 3 percent is unaccounted for.
Unaccounted for. The perfect crime and imperfect grammar. Is that which is unaccounted.
Eduardo Castro-Wright, president and CEO of Wal-Mart's U.S. store division, briefly acknowledged the theft problem in a mid-May conference call with analysts. He cited shrinkage as well as increased markdowns and higher inventory for dragging down first-quarter profit margins. "We are concerned about shrinkage and are investigating the cause and are taking steps to correct it," Castro-Wright said.
Eduardo, my friend ... we are all concerned about shrinkage.
We so really are.

Wednesday, June 13, 2007

Start checking Ebay

Hands reach out to grab the arms of U.S. President George Bush, as he greets crowds of Albanians in Fushe Kruje, Albania, in these Sunday, June 10, 2007 file photos. There were rumours on Tuesday that US President George Bush had lost his watch while greeting crowds in the Albanian town of Fushe Kruje on Sunday.
One moment Bush was greeting Albanians who had turned out to meet him, and was wearing a watch with a dark strap on his left wrist. Moments later, it was gone. Did it fall off? Did one of his bodyguards remove it?
Or did one of the crowd artfully slip it off his wrist and pocket it? The White House on Tuesday emphatically denied that Bush's watch was stolen during his visit to the country, where he was warmly welcomed and acclaimed as a hero.

(AP Photo/Gerald Herbert, file)
They love him in Albania. Come back, George; we need more jewelry. Where else but in a pack of thieves could this guy be welcomed as a hero? I hope the irony isn't lost on you, because I'm sure it is lost on them.
It's also cool how the administration can "emphatically deny" something to which there is photographic proof. Top photo - watch. Bottom photo - no watch. Watch stolen? Nope.
US: Hey, umm ... what happened to your watch?
HIM: Nothing.
US: Well, you were wearing one earlier and now you're not, so I figured...
HIM: No, I wasn't wearing a watch.
US: There are photographs.
HIM: Rats.
US: What time is it?
HIM: I don't know.
US: Why not?
HIM: I gave the watch to Tony Snow. He's going to wear it up his ass for 20 years, then give it to your son while he's at home watching TV.
US: That's Pulp Fiction.
HIM: OK, look. Maybe I had a watch, maybe I didn't. Is that as important as the War on Terror? We need to fight for freedom, no matter what time it is. Heh-heh. It's very important.
Sing it, Sam.

Tuesday, June 12, 2007

Stop thy name-calling or I will smite thee. You're not the boss of me.

"Now you're going to get a ticket for calling GOD a goofy fuck."

- Kimmyk, June 10, 2007

You'll be happy to know Kimmyk (if that is your real name), that I have been driving summons-free since Sunday. However, the demons that infest my life have seen fit to provide me with added impetus to believe that God is both a goofy fuck and a bit of a sadist.
Just as Lenny Bruce used to tell the police, "I defend you guys all the time" before they would arrest him on some dopey public indecency charge, my vengeful God smote my TV just hours after I posted that I said He was a goofy fuck. You really know how to hit a guy where he lives, and You know better than to mess with something useless like my genitalia or my self-esteem, so You go right to the heart of my existence - my TV.
On Sunday, I decided to forgo the return-return-return trip to beautiful Bulle Rock to watch the girls play golf in lieu of watching the live coverage on The Golf Channel. A few volunteers told me that the crowds jam the course and I could see more on TV than I would at home. Since Paula Creamer was realistically not a factor for the win, I figured I would take their advice and watch on TV. That was going great until the TV stopped being a TV and started being a large black piece of furniture. No picture, no sound; or in layman's parlance, fucked.
Suzann Pettersen was putting for birdie on the 16th hole just as my TV was sinking into its own hole.
Truth be known, the TV has been acting strangely for a few months. It would turn off at random - sound but no picture - so I figured all it would take would be a gentle nudge to the powers above to render it completely useless. Now, I am the proud (i.e. indebted) owner of a 37-inch LCD TV that will soon be hooked up to digital cable, thereby completing the Satanic cycle of TV technology that ends when the world does. Of course, we all like these things to happen on our terms, but the world does not (and never will) revolve around us, so we have to adopt, adapt and improve - motto of The Round Table.
As faithful readers with good memories know, I bought the TV in direct response to my ex-wife walking out 11 years ago. It remained the one lasting remnant of my failed marriage. Now it is a heavy carpet ornament waiting for my one drunken rampage that sends it plummeting to a fitful death over the ledge of my balcony onto the grassy lawn below. I'll wait until my neighbors are away.
As for You, vengeful God, if that is your real name (sometimes disguised as golf course volunteers) I'm warning you, you goofy fuck, keep your hands off my cat.
I'll find a young priest and an old priest and fix your ass.

Monday, June 11, 2007

Media Manipulation 101

Subtlety, I have learned, is lost on people. Generally, if you are trying to tell someone something and want to be subtle so you won't hurt their feelings, you may as well not bother, because they won't pick it up. Equally lost is subtlety in artistic expression, because it requires deep thought and analysis, two characteristics missing from the mind of modern man.
I have been listening to people on the radio and TV discussing the last episode of The Sopranos for most of the day, and I can assure you that whatever David Chase was trying to accomplish was lost somehow in the artistic translation. Mostly, folks are puzzled about the ending, and many people called their local cable operator complaining about losing their signal when the screen went blank at the end. In this case, their reaction to subtle artistic expression was confusion followed by a complaint.
I for one, don't know what all the fuss is about. I don't subscribe to HBO, have never seen The Sopranos, don't know anyone who watches it and am having a hard time figuring out what all the fuss is about, if there is any actual fuss.
What I'm hearing is coming mostly from media sources who may or may not be owned by Time Warner, the parent company of HBO. Interestingly, the chief rival to The Sopranos final episode was the NBA finals on TNT, who are also owned by Time Warner. Leading up to Sunday, questions were raised over the timing of the two events, but in the final analysis, why would either of them care?
Approximately 8 million people watch The Sopranos every week, with possibly a few more watching on their cable system's On Demand or other delay system. Eight million viewers is low enough to get a show cancelled if it is on "free" TV, and is probably less than was watching The Class or any number of other shows that were axed over the summer - most of which may be better than The Sopranos.
You see, I really don't know how good or bad The Sopranos is, because the people telling me about the show may be working for a subsidiary of HBO's parent company, either in print, radio or TV. With the advent of this parent/child media relationship that goes on - consider the Disney Company family tree and you will find yourself wondering whether something is really popular or made to seem popular by the company that is producing it, under the guise of independent opinion. Here's the key to the issue: Sometimes, we can like something because we are told we like it. We were told the final Sopranos episode was the TV Event of the Year, so we believed it.
Questioning things like that make the questioner look cynical and the person being questioned appear disingenuous - either or both of which may be true. However, you do need to question these things, and ask yourself if you are really out of touch or just the victim of a clever marketing scheme dreamed up by people so far down the corporate food chain that you would never see it coming.
Which is why it is a perfect marketing scheme. Media is controlled by maybe six or seven different large companies and they spread themselves into print (newspapers and magazines), video (Network TV, local TV, movies and DVD) and radio and the parent uses the children to subversively infiltrate the public by appearing to represent opinion, when in fact, they are representing themselves. It's perfect, because they will deny being biased, and it cannot be proven because the people doing the research are representing the people being researched.
The one thing they do not represent is you.
So, do I think The Sopranos is an over-hyped pay-per-view event made to appear popular by the same people who are making the program?
What do you think?

Sunday, June 10, 2007


I try to take something of interest from everything I do, and make an effort to dig a little deeper into the situation than may be required. Usually, this gets on people's nerves, which may or may not be a side benefit.
On Thursday, when I arrived at Bulle Rock for the start of the McDonald's Championship, the first threesome's of the day were teeing off. When a player tees off on their first hole of the day, their name is called by the Marshall at the tee and they are announced like a boxer before a fight.
Ladies and gentlemen, please welcome to the first tee, from Miami, Florida; Christie Kerr!
It's like that. One by one the girls are announced, and they make these dead perfect drives down the first fairway. The tee is elevated from the ground, so the ball is at eye-level when they hit it, and it's an impressive sight to see them hit it high, long and straight. Most of the girls hit their drivers about 240 yards.
Then, up stepped Debby Pinnell, from New Port Richey, Florida. The Marshall said she was a teaching pro representing the Southeast something or other. She isn't an LPGA member, so she likely got an exemption from the club or a sponsor to allow her to play.
The crowd politely applauded and she waved, took a few practice strokes and addressed the ball. She took a mighty swing ... and ... hit it about 90 yards into the high grass in front of the fairway, spending its entire flight about three feet from the ground. That's when it occurred to me that there is no God, or if there is, he is a mean and vengeful one.
If He were a kind and loving God, He would have given Debby her moment in the sun. A long, straight drive off the first tee of the only major tournament she will likely ever play. But no, it went short and left.
He could have said, "Here ya go, Deb. I'm gonna give you a moment of glory, but in return for it, you're going to shoot 11 over par and probably get a traffic ticket on your way home."
I think she might have taken that trade, but as it turned out, she shot 11 over anyway.
Maybe God is just a goofy fuck with a strange sense of humor?