Archive for October, 2010

Here’s your scary thought for Halloween.  Christine O’Donnell is gaining ground on Chris Coons in the state of Delaware.  Also, she might be a witch!  Or she might be you.  That means she is a demon that has the power to possess!  C’mon Delaware, do you really want a Senator that is a part-time witch, part-time demon capable of demonic possession?!  I know unemployment is bad, but I don’t think increasing the demand for exorcists is the way to go!

Chris Coons still has a big lead.  But if O’Donnell somehow finds a way to win in the liberal state of Delaware, then is it really a stretch to say that Sarah Palin could find a way to win the Presidency?

Just the thought even makes a pumpkin crap its pants!

Happy Halloween everybody!  And remember to study up and go vote on Tuesday!

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Damn kids! I know I saw the case law regarding kool-aid spills on suit jackets in here somewhere!

The professionals at the We Hate Children Firm understand.  Call now and we will make sure we take that little brat for all that he/she is worth!

Yes, 4-year-olds can be sued, so sayeth the honorable New York Supreme Court Justice Paul Wooten.  OK, the circumstances of the case are indeed tragic.  The 4-year-old girl (along with a boy of the same age) were riding bikes under parental supervision.  Unfortunately an 87-year-old pedestrian was struck and she fell, fracturing her hip (sadly she died 3 months later due to unrelated causes).  Now no doubt it’s not a good thing for an older women to get hit and injured by a little kid on a bike.  But still, can a 4-year-old be held responsible due to negligence?  Really?  Judge Wooten thinks it’s at least possible.

Some of the ruling is pretty comical:

  • “Defendant-movant correctly notes that infants under the age of four are conclusively presumed incapable of negligence……Defendant-movant Juliet Breitman, however, was over the age of four at the time of the subject incident.  For infants above the age of four, there is no bright line rule……”  – Nope, she wasn’t under four.  She was just a few months shy of five!  She’s practically an old lady herself!
  • “A reasonably prudent child, whom we may presume has been told repeatedly by the age of four to look both ways before crossing a street, knows that running across the street is dangerous even if there is a parent nearby.” – Is there any such thing as a “reasonably prudent” 4-year-old?  Has this judge ever been around a 4-year-old?  A lot of words may cross your mind, but I’m not sure “reasonably prudent” would be two of those.
  • “There are no exhibits containing evidence as to the defendant-movant’s lack of intelligence or maturity…..” – Hmm.  The defendant’s lawyer probably should have mentioned that the defendant is 4 years old.  Oh wait?  That is in the record?  Um, exactly what more evidence were they suppose to provide?
  • “….nor are there any other mitigating factors apparent in the record that would indicate that another child of similar age and capacity under the circumstances could not have reasonably appreciated the danger of riding a bicycle into an elderly woman.” – Really, has this judge ever been around 4-year-olds?  Sorry, I had to ask again.  I’m no expert myself, but I’m pretty sure risk analysis is not high on a 4-year-old’s agenda.

Maybe the judge is right, and a 4-year-old can be found liable due to negligence.  For that matter, given the intelligent, mature, prudent nature of 4-year-olds, I think they should be allowed full rights.  Let’s let them vote.  And heck, while where at it, let’s let them drive too.  And definitely let’s let 4-year-olds run for public office!  Could a 4-year-old really do much worse than Sarah Palin? 🙂

The thing I think I really find annoying about this is the whole idea that when something bad happens, somebody must be at fault and thus must pay.  There is no such thing as an accident anymore.   After all, I can poke fun at the judge, but just the fact that a group of people decided it was a good idea to sue a 4-year-old in the first place tells me that there is something very wrong .  (Um, exactly what kind of damages is the estate of the victim expecting to collect here?  Is the estate going to take possession of the little girl’s Barbie collection?)  If we have reached a point where a 4-year-old riding a bike on training wheels can land in court after an accident, it would seem to me that it is only a matter of time before the rest of us end up in court for something as well.

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So the next time somebody asks me if I have ever done a half-marathon, I can proudly say yes, yes I have!  And thanks to a wonderful location (Apalachicola, FL) and great company, the whole experience was as much fun as I’ve had in a long time.

We  made the trek down from Birmingham early (oh so very early) on Friday morning for the Saturday morning race.  My training partner Lael, her husband Mason, and their 4-year old daughter were kind enough to let me tag along with them.  Also along for the ride was an old friend of Lael’s and Mason’s, Nick.  I hadn’t spent a whole lot of time with Mason and never even met Nick before Friday, but any fear of potential awkwardness (in the ‘oh crap, I’m stuck having to be around this guy all weekend?’ kind of way) went away very quickly as it was obvious that Mason and Nick were very cool folks.

Lael had found this awesome place right on the Apalachicola River called The Consulate.  The place was once literally partially a French Consulate before it burned down.  The building that now stands was built in 1900 and restored in the mid-1990’s.  Our suite was probably bigger than the house that I grew up in as a kid and just simply gorgeous.  Pine wood floors, tin plated ceilings, two balconies, a brilliant view of the river….I could go on and on.  I highly recommend this place if you ever decide to spend some time in Apalachicola.  As an added bonus, the place was within walking distance of numerous great restaurants (the seafood in Apalachicola is awesome!) and both the expo and start/finish line for the race.

It’s hard to describe how nice this town was.  Quaint.  Charming.  Picturesque.  Old-fashioned.  These are the words that come to mind, but I don’t think I can do it justice.  I will say it was very nice to be somewhere where as far as I could tell all the businesses were locally owned.  You will NOT find Starbucks, McDonald’s, or Wal-Mart in Apalachicola!  What you will find is friendly service.  It appears that the town somehow manages fine without having a store operated by a mega corporation.

I have to post a few pictures that I took while I was down there.  Hopefully pictures are worth a thousand words (though I do wish I was a better photographer, and I also wish I would have taken some pictures of the downtown area):

Taken from the balcony

Cool, a full moon.

Sandpipers?

Nearby St. George Island Park

OK, now about the race itself.  The race started at 7am est, so we were able to start off under the beautiful full moon.  The course takes you over a bridge that crosses Apalachicola Bay.  There we were able to see the sunrise as we crossed over.  It was absolutely stunning.  I can’t think of a course that could be more scenic than this one.  We received a very nice “tech” shirt and what has to be one of the nicer race medals out there for finishing.

But unfortunately I can’t say that it was all good.  I don’t like to whine too much, and to be fair this was the inaugural race.  But let’s just say there were some issues.  The main problem for me was a lack of water on the course.  I sweat a lot, so I have to hydrate more than the average runner.  I did bring my own fluids, but I had planned to supplement that with fluids provided by the race.  That was a bad idea.  I ran out and couldn’t get anything for several miles.  When I get dehydrated, I start having issues with cramping, and even though I had slowed my pace I started having spasms in my calves after about 10.5 miles.  Having experienced these before, I know if I ignore these it’s just a matter of time before I completely lock up with a major cramp.  So I tried to nurse myself home by going with walk/run intervals.  I started out doing 2 minutes of each, but when that proved to be too much, I cut back to 1 minute.

So this was working out fine (well as fine as walk/run can, naturally I would have rather been just running), but when I got to final stretch that was downhill, I thought I could run the rest of the way.  I get within probably 300 yards of the finish line when my right calf completely and painfully locks up (my left calf also temporarily locked up, but that went away quickly fortunately).  But I guess if I was going to have to get a big cramp, getting in right in front of Nick, Lael (who both had already completed the half-marathon) and Mason was a pretty good spot.  They helped me get the cramp out and get myself back together to finish.  And finish I did, in about 2:30.  I’ll take it!

The other issues of the race are being pretty well documented on Active.com.  General lack of support (there was also a full marathon, who REALLY need there to be water, sports drinks, and food on the course, as well as aid stations in case somebody has health issues on the course.  I did not see anything that I would classify as an aid station.), lack of traffic control, lack of organization, etc.  It’s all true.  So I think what I would say is that this race has a TON of potential.  But they have quite a few kinks to work out before next year.

But I did have SO MUCH fun.  Hanging out with great folks, eating great food, and enjoying great weather at a beautiful location.  You can’t beat that!  I highly recommend Apalachicola as a vacation spot!  By the way, there is no oil, the food is more than fine to eat, and these folks could really use your business.  You can come back now, BP managed not to break everything!

(A little note: searching around I have seen some folks wondering what happened to the “marathon kitten”, the kitten some of us saw that had become trapped on the bridge trying to avoid the stampede of runners.  I can happily report that apparently somebody was able to get the kitten off the bridge and placed the kitten safely into a box with a blanket beside the expo building.)

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We all know that one of the main planks of the Tea Party agenda (and thus the Republican agenda, since they are seeking to take advantage of the Tea Party wave) is to reduce the size of government so that we can eliminate the deficit and start paying off the national debt.  But do they really want smaller government?  Do they really even understand what that means?  Polls like this recent New York Times poll are very revealing!

So 92% of Tea Party respondents said they would prefer to have a smaller government that provides fewer services.  However, when asked if services such as Social Security and Medicare are worth the costs of those programs, 62% of those very same Tea Party respondents said yes.  Hmm, maybe Christine O’Donnell should reconsider her ad campaign where she said she is not a witch, because it is going to take some kind of spell to cut government spending while not cutting government spending!

I see this kind of stuff in other polls too, and not just those polling the Tea Party.  People say they want the size of government to be reduced.  But then when you start listing government programs, people will say “yeah, let’s keep this, and that, and that”.  This is why in the Republican’s “Pledge to America”, if you look at the items they say they are going to focus on to eliminate the deficit, they are only actually only considering 15% of the total budget, or about $530 billion.  OK, so the deficit is $1.3 trillion and the total debt is $13 trillion.  And we are going to get all that under control by focusing on reigning in the waste within a $530 billion piece of the budget?  I know I just work in the actuarial field, but that math looks a little fuzzy to me (but it’s OK, we will make it up through tax cuts……..um what?).

I think people really overestimate the amount of government waste or really underestimate the size of our deficit (or probably both).  To completely eliminate the deficit without raising taxes, the budget would have to be cut by roughly 35%.  I agree that there is government waste, but is there really 35% of waste to be found?  Of course, some people are even more clueless about our government than that.  We all remember hearing about the classic “keep your government hands off my Medicare” statement.  Or what about Craig T. Nelson whining on Fox News about government bailouts and then claiming nobody helped him out when he was on food stamps and welfare.  Where do these folks think stuff like Medicare, food stamps, and welfare come from?  I don’t know, but I would like to think it might be the something-for-nothing fairy!

Photo of what is believed to be the Something-For-Nothing Fairy. Must be protected from government at all costs!

Anyway, I think what people really want is big government spending and low taxes.  And that’s how you get trillions of dollars into debt!

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Ah, Fox News, how I love thee.  OK, Fox News is biased.  While this is not such a great thing, I would argue that it’s not the worse thing about Fox News.  In fact if they would just own their bias  instead of claiming to be “Fair and Balanced”, having a biased news network could provide a valuable service.  Such a network could serve as a watchdog to one of the political parties, while also covering news stories of interest to those of a political viewpoint that many Americans hold.  But there’s another problem besides the claim of unbiased news coverage.  The key to being a valuable source of news, unbiased or not, is the ability (and desire) to get the facts right.

Take this clip from an episode of Fox and Friends this week:

Of course, the hosts couldn’t pass the opportunity to be all “The government is so stoopid!” for buying a bunch a jetpacks.  Of course, to be fair, 10,000 jet packs for emergency crews does seem like a whole heck of a lot, especially at $100,000 a pop (that’s $1,000,000,000 folks!).  That’s not to mention the safety and effectiveness concerns.  So maybe for once, I’m with Fox News on this.  But doesn’t that story seem really a little too fantastic?  Absurd even?  Why on earth would Los Angeles want or need 10,000 jetpacks?  Ah, it is because the story is totally bogus.  If you watched the video until the end, you know that even Fox figured that out.  I guess that when somebody heard the story out loud, it didn’t even sound right to them and decided maybe they should actually check it out.

So where on earth did Fox News come up with such a ridiculous story?  The source was:  Weekly World News

Yes, THAT Weekly World News.  The one you used to see with the other tabloids in the supermarket checkout lines.  So somebody at Fox News doesn’t realize that Weekly World News is not only not a credible news source, they also don’t even pretend to be.  Not only that, Fox News doesn’t even bother to double-check their source to confirm the story before the run with it.  You know, maybe just put in a call to the city of Los Angeles just to make sure.  No, just find stuff on the web and go with it.  Is that journalism?  This is just a story, not something they are trying to spin.  So we have every reason to believe they were TRYING to get this right (which is certainly not always a given with Fox News), and failed miserably.

This is not the first time Fox News has reported a completely fabricated story as being factual.  This is not ever the first time they have reported a completely fabricated story as being factual that didn’t really even have a political spin.  They are a pretty sloppy news organization even when you strip out the bias.  This is probably because Fox News is a personality-driven network.  This means that instead of spending money on newsgathering resources, Fox News spends most of its money on hosts like Bill O’Reilly, Glenn Beck, and Sean Hannity and on other personalities like Sarah Palin and Newt Gingrich.  CNN spends roughly 57% of its budget on newsgathering, while Fox News only spends roughly 28% of its budget for the same purpose.  But I guess getting the news is overrated for a supposed news organization.  Analysis from such political wizards as Sarah Palin is much more important!

I really can’t wait until Fox News runs its investigative report on Bat Boy sightings all across the nation, and the possible connection these sightings have with Obamacare!  When all you budget for  journalism is just enough for an intern to do Google searches for you, there’s all sorts of cool sensational stories you can run!

 

Future Fox News Story

 

Of course, Fox News could have chosen to do what Keith Olbermann did.  If a story sounds like it might be a myth, call the Mythbusters!

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Because really, a little noise is just asking way too much!

OK, I’m not going to lie.  I’m not exactly Mr. Environment when it comes to how I live.  But even so, if there are things we can do that aren’t as harsh on our eco-system, then I have to believe that’s a good thing.  Anyway, I’m on my way home from work today and listening to NPR.  NPR is interviewing representatives from Frito Lay.  As it turns out, Frito Lay had developed a biodegradable bag that they have been using for their Sun Chips product over the past year.  Hey, sounds like a win to me.  Unfortunately, they have made the decision to pull the bags for most of their Sun Chips products, which is why they were on the radio.

That’s too bad.  So why did they make this decision?  Was there something unforeseen, something that impacted product safety?  Did the bag somehow affect the taste of the product?  Or the quality, maybe somehow the chips didn’t stay as fresh for as long?  No, no, it was none of those things.  Frito Lay has decided to pull the bags because its customers complained about the bags………being too noisy.  So Frito Lay is making a return to non-biodegradable bags because consumers simply could not handle a little noise.

As it so happens, I have a case of individual bags of Sun Chips in the apartment right now.

 

So noisy, even this picture is making noise! BOOM!

 

Whoa!  Sorry, I didn’t mean to scare you all with the noisy chip bags!  Should have given you all fair warning!  The neighbors are constantly complaining.  I keep telling them that with proper ear protection, it really isn’t that big of a deal!  But they keep going on, “blah, blah, blah”, so eventually I just grab a bag so I can tune them out.

Seriously, I suppose now that they have mentioned it, the bags may be slightly louder than a normal chip bag.  But had I not heard the story today, I don’t think I would have ever made any special notice of it.  But apparently Frito Lay has had many complaints.  Sun Chips sales have dropped by 11% since the bags have been introduced.  And there was a big Facebook campaign to change the Sun Chips bags (ah, the power of the “social network”, making a difference in such important issues as chip bag noise levels and SNL host selections!).

So those who would tout that the free market always makes the best choices, let me ask you this.  Apparently the free market says that having non-noisy potato chip bags should be a higher priority than protecting our environment.  Is that really the best choice?

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Yeah, I know that will not come as a shocking revelation for many of you.  But I am becoming increasing frustrated with the “procedures” that our government have set up seemingly to make sure that it is as ineffective as it can possibly be.  Take for example the Haiti situation.  After the earthquakes in Haiti, the U.S. pledged $1.15 billion in humanitarian aid to support the country in its rebuilding efforts.  Do you want to know how much of this money has been delivered?  C’mon, take a wild guess.  If you said anything higher than zero, then you have way too much faith in our government!

Keep in mind it is now October.  The earthquake occurred in early January.  Also keep in mind we promised Haiti this money.  Both the House and the Senate approved this expenditure.  So what’s the hold up?  Well first, it is “procedure” that you have one vote to authorize the expenditure, and then you have a second vote to authorize how and when to spend the funds.  You would think it would be more efficient to do that all at once, but what do I know?  Still, it took until July just to get past phase one.  Better late than never I suppose.  So we are good to go, right?  Just get the second vote done, and let’s start the flow of money that, you know, we promised.

But no, that’s not happening.  Because there is another “procedure” that allows any one U.S. Senator to put the kibosh on having a vote on any bill at his or her own whim.  Even better, they don’t even have to tell anyone who they are.  That’s because the “hold” can be “secret”.  Simply brilliant.  Republicans have loved using this “procedure” to block many (many, many) of Obama’s nominees.  And right now there is an assclown in the Senate that loves using this “procedure”.  We know who he is because with the increasing frustration these “secret holds” have caused, there are people not willing to keep the “secret” if they know and will leak the info to the press (fortunately).  So we know the assclown is Tom Coburn of Oklahoma.

So what is Tom Coburn’s problem with allowing this bill to come up for a vote?  Oh, he says that a coordinator and staff to oversee this project is unnecessary.  See, we already have staff in Haiti.  Hmm, this really strikes me as being like objecting to funding a book budget for a library because, hey, the library already HAS books!  But anyway, let’s suppose it really is a waste.  How much money are we talking here?  As it turns out, it would be at most $1 million per year for five years.   So Coburn is going to hold up this bill over a provision that is less than 0.5% of the bill’s total cost (not to mention 0.0001% of our total national budget)?  Really?  This while millions of Haitians still have nowhere to live?  Wow, you really are an assclown!

Archived photo of Senator Tom Coburn (R - Oklahoma)

OK, cynic time.  This whole “secret hold” business in not about principle.  It’s just about trying to make the government as ineffective as possible while Obama is charge.  Then in 2012 the GOP will say, ‘Hey look, Obama can’t get anything done, put us back in charge.’  Really the GOP could have saved a lot of time with their Pledge To America by just making it a one liner, ‘We will stop Obama from doing anything”.  Or maybe just one word, “No”.  I think that’s what a lot of people want anyway, so let’s just cut to the chase.

But just the fact that the “secret hold” exists at all shows the stupidity of government.  Why should one person be able to totally hold up the works on anything?  If Coburn really objects, bring it to the floor and convince 50 Senators that you are right and to vote the bill down.  Doesn’t that make more sense?  I guess if it is any consolation, other governments are stupid too.  Out of the $8.75 billion promised by governments around the world, Haiti has actually received less than 15% of that.  That’s OK governments of the world.  I’m sure the Haitians that are living in tents think you are awesome!

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