Friday, October 16, 2009

Just another homely face.

They're going to do a makeover on Susan Boyle to glam her up for her new CD and some folks don't like the idea:
Britain's Got Talent judge Amanda Holden said: "She needs to stay exactly as she is because that's the reason we love her. She just looks like anybody who could live on your street.
"The minute we turn her into a glamourpuss is when it's spoilt. For now we'll keep her exactly as she is because that's why we've all fallen in love with her."
That's right - she said spoilt. They also call it Britian's Got Talent, so who knows what language they're speaking over there.
Anyway, I find it interesting that they seem to like her because she's not a "glamourpuss." I suppose, if she was an attractive woman she wouldn't have gotten on TV and become famous.
It's strange to me that her odd looks are what attracted some people to her voice, which is exactly what happened. As if they couldn't believe that a beautiful voice could come from a homely person. "Hey, listen to this - and look at her! Holy crap!"
Then, we'll attribute all sorts of "regular person" stuff to her, as though you need to look a certain way in order to do certain things. It's the same thing we do when we see a black hockey player. It doesn't fit our pre-conceived notion of what people in certain occupations are supposed to look like, and we throw a fit. Singers are supposed to be glamourous because somehow, the voice has to fit the face.
We're odd sorts, ain't we?
She's a good singer
with a face for radio.
It's Susan Boyle!

Thursday, October 15, 2009

The balloon has burst.

FORT COLLINS, Colo. – A 6-year-old boy was found hiding in a cardboard box in his family's garage attic Thursday after being feared aboard a homemade helium balloon that hurtled 50 miles through the sky on live television.
The discovery marked a bizarre end to a saga that started when the giant silvery balloon floated away from the family's yard Thursday morning, sparking a frantic rescue operation that involved military helicopters and briefly shut down Denver International Airport.
But Sheriff Jim Alderden turned to reporters during a news conference and gave a thumbs up and said 6-year-old Falcon Heene is "at the house." "Apparently he's been there the whole time," he said.
Yeah, no shit. How much would you want to bet that this attention-whore family knew the whole time that the little brat was at home and not in that home made Jiffy Pop balloon they profess to be able to fly?
I'm betting a year's salary.
They have already been on "Wife Swap," the TV version of whoring yourself for money, and this latest stunt is their best bet to be able to stay in the public eye another fifteen minutes until the rest of you figure out that they're a bunch of nitwits.
Television has managed to create more so-called celebrities than the entertainment industry has created in the last 100 years, so it's no wonder that a money-hungry, attention-starved group of Midwesterners would manufacture a little Internet fueled, TV news inspired police chase live on national television in exchange for some attention.
"Oh, we're so happy you're home, son." a tearful dad says to little whatshisname when he crawled out of the family attic. What a load of crap. Meanwhile, national TV (disguised as CNN) bit into this scam hook, line and sinker. It was all over the news this afternoon, presumably because a small child had escaped in a balloon and was drifting over central Colorado. Uh-huh. I'm listening. What a load of crap.
Sorry you fell for it.

Wednesday, October 14, 2009

My latest discovery.

The biggest scam in the history of retail has to be laundry detergent. [I know what you're thinking: "My God, he's been through every conceivable subject, and now he's onto laundry detergent - hand me the remote."] Is there an Internet remote?
Seriously (yes) I'm in the grocery store tonight, perusing my choices of detergent which, by the way, mostly have only one syllable [explain] when I notice that there is a wide swing of price from one product to another. I could have purchased the $7.49 container that promised to get my clothes clean, but instead purchased the $2.49 container which promised the identical thing. Is there enough of a difference from one product to another to justify a 332% difference in price? Methinks there is not, hence the scam.
Clean clothes are a priority in my life, but if I wanted to spend eight bucks, I'd just as soon take them to the dry cleaners and save the water. Maybe that's the trick?
After all, I'm not dealing with blood stains or some ground-in grime like the TV commercials tell us we have. I sit still most of the day, and at the most I perspire a little. I think $2.49 is worth that effort. Sometimes, I wonder if just running the water would be enough. God forbid we find that out.
And I'm still fighting over the bags. [I know - here he goes about the bags again] At the Wawa this morning, I walk up with two things - a package of trail mix and a sugar-free Red Bull (I'm off sugar) and the cashier immediately starts shuffling them into a bag. "I don't need a bag," I say.
I'm thinking of having a T-shirt made. They always look a little offended, as though they're being paid by the bag.
And tonight at the aforesaid grocery store, I brought in my own canvas bag with plenty of room for the detergent and a few sundries. The bagger at the end of the line says, "Do you want all of this in one bag?"
"Yes, but I'll need some help carrying it out." Is what I should have said.
But what I actually said was, "Yes."
I'm way too nice sometimes.

let x equal x.

"I'm not superstitious, but I am a little stitious."
- Michael Scott "The Office"
We really want to believe in stuff.
We want to think that the things that happen are the result of something other than our own stupid decisions, smart decisions or somebody else's decisions. We want to believe in some supernatural outside influence. We use words like "luck" and phrases like "it's better to be lucky than good." I think we do that because we're afraid to admit that we were the reason something went badly or that our well wishes had nothing to do with the fortunes of others. We like to think we are included, when in fact, we usually are not.
It's baseball playoff time around here (and other places) and the local sports talk radio is infested with stories of people who feel that by leaving the room, entering the room, standing still, moving about or even turning the game off has somehow influenced the local sports team to score some runs and win the game. It would be amusing to listen to these flights of fancy if it weren't for the fact that people actually believe themselves.
Seemingly intelligent people living in this 21st Century have somehow convinced themselves that wearing their hat inside-out or urinating in a circle has some influence on events thousands of miles away. We don't have that sort of influence on events in our own lives, let alone the lives of others. Besides, if you had those mystical powers, why wouldn't you use them to help you lose 20 pounds, quit smoking or stop masturbating so much? The local sports teams have all the help they need, thank you very much. Believe it or not, they win or lose with no help or hindrance from you and your "lucky shirts" or voodoo hexes. Try this: Sit down and watch the game.
We want to believe in things that we make up, like alien spacecraft, even when it's just a bunch of clouds. Sometimes - OK, all the time - it's just a bunch of clouds. Let x equal x, and stop trying to make it equal x + y (where y equals you).

A spokesman from Moscow's weather forecast said: "Several fronts have been passing through Moscow recently, there was an intrusion of the Arctic air too, the sun was shining from the west – this is how the effect was produced."
He added: "This is purely an optical effect, although it does look impressive. If you look closer, you can see sun rays coming through that cloud. Most likely, the sun was setting when the video was being made."

Tuesday, October 13, 2009

Reading this might make you sick, but you can't afford to go to the hospital.

Remember that essay I wrote about healthcare reform? Well then, you'll remember its ugly stepsister Credit Card Reform. It seems that the good folks at Bank of America have found a little work-around to that piece of legislation:
NEW YORK – Bank of America Corp. said Tuesday it will charge a limited number of its credit card customers annual fees ranging from $29 to $99 starting next year.
"We're testing this to see what the feedback is. In terms of any plans going forward, we haven't made any decisions," said Betty Riess, a spokeswoman for Bank of America. She said the fee is being "tested" on 1 percent of its credit card accounts globally, but declined to give specific numbers.
Let me guess as to what "the feedback is." I guess -- um -- bad. Like, "Fuck you, you bastards" bad. Like the kind of bad that makes people transfer their balances and start screaming at Bank of America's customer service reps.
Oh, and guess who gets slapped with the fees? The people who don't use the cards!
The Bank of America accounts that will be charged fees were selected based on "risk and profitability," Riess said. That means customers in good standing who never carried a balance — and never incurred interest charges or late fees — could be among those getting notices.
Risk and profitability? Here's the equation that BoA uses to define risk and profitability:
Low risk to Bank of America + low profitability to Bank of America = Added fee.
It seems that they aren't satisfied with having you merely carry the card around in your wallet in case of ... God forbid ... a financial emergency, they want you to start using the damned thing. Run up a big balance and miss a payment or two, and we'll think about waving that pesky fee. Because it must cost a lot of money to not print up a bill and not have someone process a payment. You didn't think they were in the service industry, did you?
But gosh, Aunt Bea, didn't the company promise not to raise rates? Didn't the government promise to fix the problem so my credit card company wouldn't charge me so much?
The notices of the new fee comes after Bank of America last week vowed not to hike interest rates on credit cards ahead of the sweeping new credit-card reforms that go into effect in February. That pledge came as Congress considered moving up the effective date of the law to Dec. 1. Customers across the country have seen interest rates hiked and credit limits lowered since the law was signed in May.
But I thought they were going to help us?
Analysts have predicted banks would make up lost revenue by charging annual fees more frequently on credit cards and checking accounts, even for customers in good standing.
"We are making this change in response to market conditions, new federal laws and regulations, and the increasing costs of providing unsecured credit," states a letter sent to a Bank of America credit-card customer and obtained by The Associated Press.
Oh well, as long as it's in response to market conditions. Hey wait, aren't you partly responsible for market conditions, since you're kind of "the market?"
"But, I can reject the fee and cut up my card, right?" Not so fast, Lois.
Customers are told that they can reject the fee, but will subsequently have their account closed. The deadline to reject the change of terms is Dec. 16. Closing a credit card account can come with repercussions to a person's credit score, since it would lower the amount of available credit a person has access to.
Oh, OK - I'll just keep the card and run up more debt, that way the company won't charge me the fee and my credit rating won't suffer. That makes good nonsense.
See ... you people think government is out to help you, but what really happens is that big corporations have lawyers and really shrewd businessmen with college degrees and stuff. They spend days at a time thinking up ways to work around the pages of legislation that our government spends years writing. Before the ink is dry on the president's ceremonial pen the gang of thieves at your local bank or credit card company have laughed in the government's face, and like Rocky in that fight against Clubber Lang, they take the pounding and yell back, "Ain't so bad! Ain't so bad!"

Abandon all hope ye who enter here.

A recent article in Time magazine proclaims that the new healthcare reform planned by our federal government will wind up costing us more than if no plan had been enacted. I'll pause a moment now for you to partake in some quiet reflection...

OK. That was refreshing. I'm back. Here's a little parcel of info from the article that should help in your understanding of the issue...

Just two days before Tuesday's scheduled vote on the Senate Finance Committee's health bill, a report warning that the bill would result in sizable hikes in insurance premiums was released, and then widely panned as a flawed analysis of cherry-picked information. White House officials said they felt "misled" by the insurers, who they claimed gave no notice that they were about to release the study. And health-policy analysts fired out press releases all day Monday debunking various points made in the study, authored by consultants PriceWaterhouse Coopers, including its assertion that between 2010 and 2019 the Senate Finance Committee bill would cause the typical family health-insurance policy to rise $20,700 more than if no reforms at all were enacted.

Who'd-a thunk big insurance companies would raise rates? Would you guess that, regardless of healthcare reform or none that rates would rise? I would. When is the last time your healthcare provider called and told you, "Hey - you know what? We're charging too much and we're going to pass the savings on to you." If that ever happened, you'd die from heart failure. Then you'd really need the insurance. What do you think the odds are that our rates will increase whether we get reform or not? Even money is a start. I think our federal government is about to find out who is really wearing the pants in this relationship.

GOVERNMENT: We're going to reform healthcare.

INSURANCE COMPANIES: Oh yeah? Try it, we dare you. We'll just raise the rates.

GOVERNMENT: But if we don't reform healthcare, you'll raise the rates.


Oh - did I mention that the health insurance industry funded the research? Well they did. And that prompted a retort from one of those high-end smarty-pants guys at a big college. To wit:

Jonathan Gruber, a respected MIT economist who has advised lawmakers on health reform, released his own analysis asserting that insurance premiums for young adults, typical families and older Americans would actually decrease by hundreds to thousands of dollars per year under the Senate Finance Committee bill.
What accounts for the discrepancies? One problem with the industry-funded report is that it bases its prediction on provisions in the bill that increase costs, while ignoring others that seek to mitigate those costs - such as subsidies to help many currently uninsured Americans purchase coverage. The report also makes broad assumptions about the impact of reform that conflict with the assessments of the nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office. For example, the report assumes that the bill's proposed tax on pricey "Cadillac plans" will not impact how many businesses continue to provide such plans to employees.

I could go on, but you get the picture. Suffice it to say that I live in New Jersey. We have the highest property taxes, among the highest auto insurance rates and a 7-percent sales tax. Every now and then, somebody running for office promises to reduce our taxes. They use the word "reform" a lot and promise to get big insurance companies off our back. How'd that work out for us? Not too good.

Still, behind all the debunked and debated facts lies one irrefutable truth: even Finance Committee staff admit they do not know the precise effect the bill will have on private-insurance premiums. "It's impossible to figure out what the bottom-line impact is," a committee aide admitted in a Monday afternoon conference call with reporters.

So don't hold your breath over healthcare reform. Take it from someone from New Jersey who has been listening to government talk about it for 20 years. Besides, holding your breath will make you dizzy and you'll probably fall and hurt yourself.
Then, what would happen?

Monday, October 12, 2009

Thank you, well meaning dolts.

I'm not sure whom to thank. Should I thank Franklin Roosevelt for making October 12 a federal holiday in 1937 or Richard Nixon for making it the second Monday in October in 1971?
Or should I thank Major League Baseball for scheduling a playoff game for 10:07pm EDT so that clowns like me could stay up until 2:15am to watch Brad Lidge's last pitch and the Phils' 5-4 victory?
Or should I thank my employer for recognizing this strange day as part of a three-day weekend so I could stay up until 2:15am?
So many choices. Let's call it a four-way tie.
And by the way, a special "thank you" to Major League Baseball and TNT who couldn't possibly give up their NUMB3RS and Law & Order repeats so that a baseball game could be played at a reasonable time. The Yankees/Twins game ran late, so the start of the Phillies/Rockies had to be moved from TBS to TNT, where tens of viewers were no doubt chomping at the bit (is it champing or chomping?) to see NUMB3RS for the tenth time. Why is it such a problem to have two games on at the same time? I'd guess that TNT could make a lot more advertising money on a baseball playoff game than they make on a repeat of a show that nobody watched to begin with. But I digress.
Columbus Day is one of those goofy holidays (maybe they're all goofy) that we celebrate without question. People say "Columbus Day" and we just nod and go about our day. When I was a kid (when dinosaurs roamed the earth) they told us that he "discovered America." I was never really sure what that meant, since they also told us that there were people here already.
Then they went into that whole "the world is flat" monologue that makes for funny cartoons and nice images of sailing off the edge of the world, but even to a kid doesn't make a lot of sense.
What did Columbus really do? As often happens in history, the myth outweighs the truth. Just like Christmas. In the interest of injecting the day with a few facts, here are some:
In time for the observation of Columbus Day 2004, the final volume of a compendium of Columbus era documents was published by University of California, Los Angeles's Medieval and Renaissance Center.
Geoffrey Symcox, the general editor of the project asserted: "While giving the brilliant mariner his due, the collection portrays Columbus as an unrelenting social climber and self-promoter who stopped at nothing — not even exploitation, slavery, or twisting Biblical scripture - to advance his ambitions. Many of the unflattering documents have been known for the last century or more, but nobody paid much attention to them until recently.
The fact that Columbus brought slavery, enormous exploitation or devastating diseases to the Americas used to be seen as a minor detail - if it was recognized at all - in light of his role as the great bringer of white man's civilization to the benighted idolatrous American continent. But to historians today this information is very important. It changes our whole view of the enterprise."
It's so perfectly American to celebrate a self-promoting, exploitative disease spreader and then completely ignore the facts and plow forward, lest we lose one of our sacred holidays.
Happy Columbus Day.