just procrastinating

Monday, August 30, 2004

Another Chicago Trip
I'm off to Chicago again tomorrow to hook up with my wife who is already there attending some conference. I'll be there until Sunday, celebrating a few birthdays. Thursday (Sept. 2) has three: me (35), my sister (36) and my nephew (6), so it's nice to be in Chicago for that.

I'm still not sure where we are going to end up living, it all kinda depends on what UVA decides to do, and that type of thing moves a little more slowly than you'd like. I have to admit that I am pretty ambivalent on the Chicago/Charlottesville decision and wish I could find some kind of sign that would sway me in one direction or another. I'll probably know a lot more about this next week.

I admire George Soros for 2 things. He made a bunch of money for his clients (and himself) and he wants to end the war on drugs. Other than that, I think he is a bit looney, but when you have that kind of cash, you can pretty much do whatever you want.Here Jesse Walker of Reason rips apart Dennis Hastert on George Soros, who should know better:
On "Fox News Sunday," the Illinois Republican insinuated that billionaire financier George Soros, who's funding an independent media campaign to dislodge President Bush, is getting his big bucks from shady sources. "You know, I don't know where George Soros gets his money. I don't know where -- if it comes overseas or from drug groups or where it comes from," Hastert mused. An astonished Chris Wallace asked: "Excuse me?" The Speaker went on: "Well, that's what he's been for a number years -- George Soros has been for legalizing drugs in this country. So, I mean, he's got a lot of ancillary interests out there." Wallace: "You think he may be getting money from the drug cartel?" Hastert: "I'm saying I don't know where groups -- could be people who support this type of thing. I'm saying we don't know."

(Jesse Walker:) In addition to being baseless, Hastert's accusation doesn't even make sense. Drug prohibition acts as a price support and a barrier to entry; it helps the cartels maintain their market position. They're about as likely to fund a legalization campaign as they are to give Denny Hastert an all-expenses-paid vacation in Bermuda or -- as long as we're throwing around groundless insinuations -- a free sex tour in Thailand.
Exactly. No one wants drugs to be illegal more than the drug cartels. I mean sure, there are the risks of going to jail, but there is no money to be made if the stuff is legal.

Sunday, August 29, 2004

Bad Day
I heard that sorta new REM song on the radio today "Bad Day", and thought, hey, I like this. It kinda reminds me of "The End Of The World" but a little slower. A quick google search shows that I am not the only one that thought this, and this little interesting tidbit from some dude:
No surprise that it sounds like End Of The World, as it came out of the same sessions - yup, it's that old!
It's funny because I was thinking that it sounded like an old REM song, and I guess it is. I used to be big REM fan, and I guess I am still am of anything that they made in the 80s.

Political Quiz
I guess I've really bought into this libertarian stuff. Here is a quiz and here is how I did:
Your Economic Issues score is 90

Your Social Issues score is 95
The only places that I drift from the party line are that on economic issues, I'm not so sure about a national sales tax or VAT, and I don't think we should stop all foreign aid. Socially, I just can't get behind a lot of immigration. I mean come on, traffic is bad enough these days. Via Betsy's Page.

Saturday, August 28, 2004

Halloween Ideas
I know it's still a couple of months away, but why not get started early this year? Here are some fun ideas for the kids.

Thursday, August 26, 2004

This article strikes me as being a bit false. It talks about how micromanging may be coming back:
Bruce Tulgan, founder and president of Rainmaker Thinking, a New Haven-based consulting and training firm, believes it's high time to bring it (micromanaging) back. "At some point, the 'nice guy' manager came into fashion, and bosses started being afraid to act like bosses," he says. "But when we ask employees what they want from the people above them, the first thing they mention is never a raise. It's always more coaching, more guidance, clearer goals, more constructive criticism, and more recognition for achievements." The star performers in any organization always want a certain degree of autonomy and flexibility, of course. "But it turns out that the only managers who succeed in giving their best people flexibility are those managers who are highly engaged and hands-on and demand strict accountability for results," says Tulgan. "So who are the real 'nice guy' managers? Is 'micromanagement' a red herring?"
I'm gonna say that it isn't coming back. Everyone wants guidance, coaching, clearer goals, etc. but that sounds more like management. Micromanagement is when you have someone looking over your shoulder and checking up on you every step of the way, which, after a short time becomes incredible annoying and patronizing. I've personally always been more effective under the "nice guy" manager, who tough guy Bruce Tulgan (above), seems to resent. But then, what the hell do I know.

I never really thought about visiting Greece much, but after watching all this Olympic coverage it looks like a beautiful country. I have never been across the pond, so in my mind I have wanted to visit France, Italy, Spain, England, etc. in that order, but I'm thinking Greece just made it into the top four.

Wednesday, August 25, 2004

Old Navy Commercial
I like that Old Navy commercial that's been on for awhile now about history. You know the one with a cute chick who gets up in class and says:
"No way! History, I love history. Something happens, then later, something else happens. So sequential! Thank you first guy, for writing history down. Let's study!"
I don't usually like the Old Navy commercials, but I get a kick out of that one. People are so clever.

Tuesday, August 24, 2004

Why you been acting so messed up towards me?
Drudge is reporting the following call from Kerry to Robert "Friar Tuck" Brant, one of the swift boat bets:
KERRY: "Why are all these swift boat guys opposed to me?"

BRANT: "You should know what you said when you came back, the impact it had on the young sailors and how it was disrespectful of our guys that were killed over there."

[Brant had two men killed in battle.]

KERRY: "When we dedicated swift boat one in '92, I said to all the swift guys that I wasn't talking about the swifties, I was talking about all the rest of the veterans."

Kerry then asked if he could meet Brant ["You were one of the best"] -- man to man -- face to face.

Brant declined the invite, explaining that Kerry was obviously not prepared to correct the record on exactly what happened during Vietnam and what happened when Kerry came back.
So 20 years later, when he was confronted by them, he said "I was talking about those other dudes." That's bravery.

Monday, August 23, 2004

For me, the highlight of the Olympics is the men's 100 meter race, which was last night. These days, it's kind of hard to care who wins though, because the US team is usually filled with such a bunch of cocky assholes that I almost would rather some other country won. I was hoping that the more low-key Asafa Powell from Jamaica would win this time, but he was fifth. But I guess the winner this year, Justin Gatlin is an OK guy. Hopefully we won't see the men's team make asses out of themselves like they did in Sydney when they win the 4x100 relay.

Friday, August 20, 2004

Beach Volleyball
Isn't it kind of funny that men's beach volleyball is played by guys wearing shorts and tank tops, while women's beach volleyball is played by girls in tiny bikinis? How on earth did we pull that one off?

Thursday, August 19, 2004

Hey, remember awhile ago my wife interviewed for this job in Knoxville? She ultimately got the job which led me to tell my boss about it. This may or may not have resulted in me getting laid off back in April, and it definitely led to us selling our house. So then of course we packed up all of our things and moved.

Well, here we are at week 3 of my wife's job...and she wants out. Its a long story which has been brewing since about day 2 of her time there, the gist of it being that my wife would like to practice conservatively, ethically and within the limits of the law. Here is an article that explains some of her fears. Needless to say, I fully support her decision and think it is the right thing to do. Although, it certainly makes things a little more complicated.

So where does that leave us? We may have to lurk around here a little longer to fulfill part of her contract, but we aren't sure yet. Ultimately, we are headed back to a city that begins with a "Ch", and that could be Chicago, or Charlottesville, depending on a number of different factors.

So, I guess it's not that big of a deal in the vast scheme of things. Sucks, but hey, win some/lose some. Besides, Knoxville hasn't really clicked with me, and I can't stand all the orange that people wear around here.

Wednesday, August 18, 2004

I felt kinda bad for our women's gymnastics team, who ended up getting silver last night. They made some mistakes, and I feel bad because that Mohini chick, who made the team at 25, has a admirable perseverance story.

I was surprised and somewhat horrified to see the cold-looking Svetlana Khorkina from Russia still at it. Can somebody get that girl a sandwich? I don't know how she has the muscle strength to jump around like that. Being that thin can't be winning her any points because she doesn't really look graceful with those scrawny limbs flapping around like that.

Tuesday, August 17, 2004

I need to get a haircut this week so I need to find a new person to cut my hair. That isn't easy to do; it took me 2 years to find someone adequate when I lived in Charlottesville. I often wish I could fly Lennie, my old hairstylist from my days in DC, down here to fix my hair. No one knew my hair like Lennie. But, alas, I am not John Kerry:
Democratic presidential nominee John Kerry likes to style himself as the candidate of working folks, while scissoring President Bush as the protector of the rich.

"We have to bring back an America that values work and honors working people, day in and day out," Kerry urged in a recent stump speech.

But when every campaign stop is a photo op, even a man of the people needs a high-quality haircut.

I hear that when Kerry was in Portland, Ore., last weekend preparing to windsurf on the Columbia River Gorge, he flew his Washington-based hairstylist, Isabelle Goetz, across the country to give him a camera-ready trim.
He does have a good haircut.

Monday, August 16, 2004

Too Much Free Time
Something the other day made me think of the movie Ski School, which was a B-movie made popular on late night HBO and Showtime back in the early 90s. I always liked the actor from that movie, Dean Cameron, who was also in Summer School. I googled him, and what do you know: Not only does he have a website titled "hey you're that guy..." but he also has a blog that is related to a show he is doing in Scotland. Kinda like I expected, he seems like a pretty good guy.

Saturday, August 14, 2004

We watched 50 First Dates tonight, and it was OK. It is kind of a cross between Memento and Groundhog Day. Which reminds me that Memento is a cool movie and Carrie-Ann Moss was in that. And that reminds me that I just saw the final Matrix movie, and man, was that disappointing. One difference between the first Matrix and the last one, is that Carrie-Ann Moss was kinda cute in the first movie, but not so much in the last.

New Olympic Sports
When did synchronized diving become a sport? It's kind of silly. Makes me think that it won't be long before Harry Shearer and Martin Sheen can finally compete in Men's Synchronized Swimming.

Thursday, August 12, 2004

All right, I just have to laugh at this. Commerce One just can't catch a break. Three years ago, over 4000 people worked there (I was one of them). Now, they did $309,000 in license fees in the quarter? Such a huge waste of time, effort and money to create something that brings in about as much revenue as a convenience store.

This article in Wine Spectator says that humans evolved to enjoy alcohol. Here is the reason, but I think it might be a bit of a stretch:
Ethanol is found widely in ripe wild fruit, Dudley explained. When wild yeast lands on the fruit and feeds on the sugars, fermentation occurs. The riper the fruit, the more alcohol it produces.

Many birds and mammals, including our primate ancestors, depend heavily on fruit, Dudley said, and they may have learned to find this food source quickly by following the scent of ethanol. Basically, the smell may act as a chow bell, signaling animals from afar that dinner's ready.
Although, this theory might need some more work:
There are still gaps in the hypothesis, said Levey, such as how one makes the leap from low-level consumption of ethanol in wild fruits to the drinking habits of modern society to full-fledged alcoholism.
Keep trying.

Remember back in the late 70s when people were starving in Cambodia? I seem to recall back in grade school getting this little box and collecting change for Unicef that was supposed to go to the Cambodian refugees. Anyway, that's what I remember about Cambodia. John Kerry seems to remember some other things about Cambodia, and it's looking like they aren't exactly true.

Instapundit is doing a good job of following this story. The bottom line appears to be Kerry testified that he was in Cambodia during Christmas of 1968, but it's looking like he probably just made that up to bolster his case. I guess this just confirms my feelings about the guy, that he is a blowhard who needs to pad his resume and lie about his accomplishments, because...well, he's better than us. At least George Bush's "lies" (if you can call them that) are lies of omission or misinformed judgement, rather than outright deceit.

Tuesday, August 10, 2004

Good Movie
In my household, whenever my wife has control of the remote, the surfing stops for two reasons: 1) any period piece circa 1880-1920, or 2) the actors have accents. Last night she stopped on Bend It Like Beckham which was on HBO, and I decided to sit though it, if only because it stars Keira Knightley (the hot chick from Pirates of the Caribbean). Anyway, it was a great feel good movie, and one that I would not otherwise have seen.

The movie is about this girl Jess who is a a Sikh Indian and is a very talented soccer player (which they call football). Her family is very traditional and don't like that she is out doing that kind of thing, and want her to be more like her sister, etc. Anyway, it was very funny an English sort of way, and since it is on HBO, it will probably be on every day for the next month.

Tribal Sovereignty
I like George W's answer (audio) to this question about tribal sovereignty. He answers it exactly the way I would. Via Liberty & Power: Group Blog.

Monday, August 09, 2004

Since moving here, we had to switch our cable provider to Comcast, which, I've decided is vastly inferior to Adelphia. Comcast's on screen guide is absolutely worthless. However, one nice thing about it is that I now get Chicago's WGN. That, coupled with the fact that the local 94.3 radio station has Mancow, it's almost like being in Chicago again, without the traffic, or the cold (or the friends and family). It's too bad they don't have Howard Stern here, but even when I was in Chicago and they had him, sometimes I would just listen to Mancow because he was local.

That Duck
I've always liked that Aflac duck. Here is an article that talks about how successful that duck has been in creating consumer awareness for Aflac. Excerpt:
Aflac, or American Family Life Assurance Co., is a multibillion-dollar purveyor of supplemental workplace insurance with a 49-year history. But few people had ever heard of the Columbus, Ga., company until four years ago, when the duck arrived. Since then, Aflac's sales have increased by 20 percent, and its "consumer awareness" shot to 90 percent from 12 percent. The duck's "Aflac!" quack is part of the vernacular, and toys and T-shirts abound.

What's notable, though, is that Aflac did this on the cheap. Creating a brand icon often takes years and can require a massive ad budget. Aflac spends only $45 million on commercial time annually, a relatively paltry sum in the ad business.

By contrast, a significant portion of McDonald's Corp.'s $680 million annual ad budget supports Ronald McDonald, who has a lower Q score, the measurement marketers use to rate a character's familiarity and appeal. Energizer Holdings Inc. has lavished about $1 billion on its veteran Energizer Bunny over the past 15 years, also with lower Q results.
Met-Life sort of had the same thing when they used the Peanuts characters for their commercials. Another relatively boring financial services company that got brand recognition through catchy marketing.

Thursday, August 05, 2004

Product Recommendation
If there's one thing I know, it is cheap cheesy poof-type products, and these are frickin' awesome. Note that they are hollow like macaroni, which adds to their distinctive texture.

The Friendly Folks in HR
Man do I hate dealing with HR, which is something I have been doing a lot lately. Today I was treated quite rudely by someone who made a point of letting me know that "no one gets hired here unless it's through me", when she sensed that I wasn't giving her quite the respect that someone in her position of authority deserved. Normally, I shrug this kind of thing off, but in this case the HR rep works for a company that happens to be the financial institution that currently is in possession of what I consider a to be a non-trivial amount of our money.

But I don't think I'll make anything of it. It would just be nice to have a normal conversation with HR and not have to feel like a beggar asking for spare change. Part of it is that I feel like I am better than them, and maybe I shouldn't; but when it comes right down to it, I am! I don't treat people like that.

Wednesday, August 04, 2004

Potential Sell Signal
I spent part of the morning moving money in our IRAs from the Schwab money market fund (which earns a fat 0.38%) to some index funds that mimic the S&P 500 and the Russell 2000. I've been sitting on my hands the past couple of years waiting for the perfect moment to get back in, but I could end up waiting forever with that strategy.

No more picking stocks for me or messing with the high risk stuff. I did OK in the boom years and got out of some things in time, but not everything. It was fun when they were going up, but it's a lot less fun when they go down.

Pet Stuff
I don't know how you can take a rubber ball that probably costs a total of 44 cents produce, package and ship and then turn around and sell it for $6.99, but these pet supply stores are able to do it. The mark up on these silly dog toys is pretty amazing. I foolishly bought one of these Kong rubber balls the other day and I have already lost it. I could probably find the same type of thing for a buck in some bin at Toys R Us.

Monday, August 02, 2004

Getting Carded
I've always liked to get carded every now and then. It makes me think that I'm not losing whatever remains of my youthful looks. But now, it's kind of silly. You'd have to be blind or a little confused to think that I might not be 21. Last weekend my wife and I were just at a local Mexican restaurant and I had to personally vouch for her so that she could have a margarita because she didn't bring her ID. These days it seems like most supermarkets or liquor stores are carding people unless they look to be over 40. In some places, even if you hobble up to the counter with a walker, they are still going to ask for some ID:
It had to happen, I suppose, but my local supermarket, a branch of Food Emporium, has now succumbed to the curse of Elizabeth Dole. It has instituted a mandatory carding policy for anyone, regardless of age, who wants to buy some beer. Adding insult to injury, the birth date of the suds-buying Methuselah has to be noted down before the sale can be rung up. Now, you'd think that this policy is dumb and demeaning enough for the Food Emporium's fun police without any added refinements. Unfortunately, you'd be wrong. A loathsome little sign boasts (I hope I have written this down correctly - a red mist of rage was beginning to obscure my vision) that this insolent imposition was part of the company's commitment to "our community" and, wait for it, you know what's coming, "its children". Bah!

Where is the ACLU when you need it?
I can't imagine what the poor kids nowadays have to do to get beer. At 16 or 17 we could buy beer at a couple of the more lenient liquor stores in town by just saying that we were 21.

Tax Hypocrisy
Ben Affleck is an idiot, and I think that he might wear a toupee. That being said, if he wants to send some of his tax cut to a worthy cause, I can think of a few.
In his speech at the convention, Bill Clinton delighted the crowd by complaining about the unnecessary tax cut he had received. At a breakfast with Florida delegates, the actor Ben Affleck got into specifics, explaining that the Bush tax cuts had provided him with $1 million last year that he didn't need.

It was a smart strategy to please the faithful in Boston, but the protests may raise a question for some voters: If you think the government has a better use for the money, why not give it back? When The Nation urged readers to send their tax rebates to the magazine, the editors were criticized for hypocrisy: given their beliefs, shouldn't they want those rebates to pay for public programs instead of remaining in the private sector?

We asked Mr. Affleck if he had considered sending the $1 million back to Washington. "No," he said. "I'm not Jesus Christ of the tax code. I can't completely martyr myself."
I saw him being interviewed by Katie Couric at the Democratic convention, and she asked him if he was considering running for office at some point. He said yes. I can't wait.

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