Friday, September 23, 2005

Thoughts That Kept Me Out of the Really Good Schools

Does anyone else see a parallel between a salesman who comes to your home and is unable to sell you something, and a bad first date? We had a guy giving us a quote on a new furnace and air conditioner last night. The price was a bit more than we planned to spend, so we said, "thanks, but we're going to shop around some more." The next couple minutes were really awkward, kind of like when you're on a bad date and realize that you really don't want to see this person again (and believe me, I've been on both sides of that exchange). He packed up his sales materials silently, as I wondered, "gee, what else do I say? 'How bout those Giants?' 'Looks like rain, huh?' 'Is that mustard on your shirt?'" Nothing seemed right, so we stood there in silence for about 60 seconds. Following that uncomfortable silence was the obligatory, "well, if you change your mind, here's the number" exchange.

Actually, I suppose that's one thing that separates an unsuccessful sales call from a bad date.

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Signs that I've watched a few too many episodes of "Law and Order": at my office, there's a bathroom down the hall. The light is on a motion detector, so if no one's in there for 20 minutes or so, the lights are out. I'm in the office pretty early every morning, and so the bathroom's dark. Every morning, when I go into one of the stalls, I expect to see a dead body and have Detectives Briscoe and Green show up.

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http://www.cnn.com/2005/WEATHER/09/19/storm.names/index.html

I thought this was really interesting. Do they have a jersey with "Andrew - 92" on it, hanging from the rafters at NOAA? Will the "Katrina Retirement Ceremony" be broadcast live on the Weather Channel? Will Hysterical Ray be the guest speaker at Katrina's induction into the Hurricane Hall of Fame?

If you want to know what kind of twisted person I am, I'm waiting for Hurricane Philip to swamp some small island (or France, even though that may be impossible) and get its jersey retired, too.

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With all these problems with hurricanes, why hasn't the NCAA asked the University of Miami to change their nickname, on the grounds that it's offensive to thousands of people along the Gulf Coast?

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I consider myself a manly man. I like football, beer and red meat, all in large quantities. However, my masculinity was called to question the other day because a woman cuts my hair. Frankly, I never considered this before. As a kid, the only haircut in town was from my dad's friend's wife (unless I wanted my mom to cut my hair, which had the advantage of being both unmanly and pathetic), so the concept of a man cutting my hair never really occurred to me.

That said, I really don't know what to call the lady who cuts my hair (apart from "Sandy"). She'd probably bristle at the term "barber". But she's certainly not my "hairdresser". "Stylist" might be most appropriate, except for the fact that I have no real "style" to speak of. Some time ago, I tentatively settled on "scissor operator". I haven't told her this yet and probably never will.

I thought that maybe I'd recapture some of my street cred by going for a hot lather shave at a barber shop, but frankly, I'm scared to death. I mean, have you seen "The Godfather"? I know what happens in those barber chairs, and I'm not sure I want anything to do with it.

I suppose even the manliest man has some failings.

Thursday, September 22, 2005

The Other White Meat

Mmm...pork. Good for me, good for you (unless you keep Kosher), good for politicians.

But bad for fiscal solvency. Tim Chapman has an article (graciously sent to me by Stacy) that's a must-read on this topic.

Hurricane Katrina (I hate people who simply call it "Katrina"; that's going to give a lot of little girls a serious complex, and little girls have enough problems as it is) and it's subsequent rebuilding and reconstruction project is threatening us with a $200 billion price tag.

There's a movement in Congress right now to slash other transportation projects in an effort to make up the difference, since President Bush refuses to raise taxes. The whole thing is called "Operation Offset", with the noble goal of not letting this cost get passed down the road. There's also talk about delaying the Medicare prescription drug entitlement, which would save $40B. Tom DeLay, with whose leadership I become more disenchanted with every passing week, has all but shot down the Medicare benefit. But the former idea is gaining a little steam.

I emphasize the word "little".

So far, only Rep. Nancy Pelosi has committed to sacrifice the transportation spending slated for her district. Pelosi, in case you rely on the Daily Show for your news, is the Democratic minority leader and hails from a district in San Francisco. She's not exactly one who springs to mind as a fiscal conservative. Yet, she's put $70 million on the line here. That's a long way from the $200 billion shortfall we're facing, but still, that's a hefty chunk of change.

Personally, I question Pelosi's reasoning here. I think she knows this movement isn't going anywhere and wants to simply score some points. If she actually had control over how this might go, I tend to think she'd sing a different tune. Still, right is right, and sometimes you can't pick your friends. So, good for her.

A few other Congressmen have joined in with similar pledges, most conservative Republicans, all probably similarly empty. In the end, we'll probably have a few symbolic cuts (like that $200 million bridge in Alaska that's apparently going to service an island with 50 people, which is arguably the dumbest thing I've ever heard, when one considers that we could probably move each of those people into a bigger, nicer house on the mainland for a total of $5 million), and the budget deficit will balloon some more. We're already around $400 billion, depending on who you ask.

Bush won't raise taxes, and Congress won't cut spending. So the deficit will go up, however this comes out. You know what I say? Cut the Hurricane Katrina price tag. That's right. Let's start taking a good, hard look at exactly what we're throwing money at down there, and let's see if it's actually worthwhile. We're throwing massive piles of cash, without any hesitation, into a situation administered in large part by the corrupt and incompetent City of New Orleans. WHY are we spending $200 billion in the first place? WHY are we rebuilding these levees when they seem to have created much of the problem? WHY are we trying to rebuild a city to its original capcity when it was: 1. overbuilt in the first place, and 2. will almost surely have a massive population decline as people who left simply opt not to come back after this?

I'll note that we can ask even more of the same questions about Iraq.

I am sick of my party, historically the guardian of fiscal responsibility, spending the money that I will earn over the next 40 years now and sticking me with the bill to no benefit whatsoever. At some point, someone with some backbone HAS to start putting a stop to out-of-control federal spending. It is getting to the point where it is as bad as anything Lyndon Johnson propogated. As much as I've defended him, President Bush isn't up to it. The people running the country right now will bear no burden for the time when this creates a problem down the road. It's pretty sad when, as Chapman says, I have to look to Nancy Pelosi as the best fiscal conservative we have to offer.

Friday, September 16, 2005

A Good Cause, Gambling and more on The King

Let me open by pimping for a good cause. Chances are, if you read this blog, you already got an email from me on this subject. Nevertheless, here goes...

Polycystic Kidney Disease (PKD) is the most common, genetic life-threatening disease affecting 600,000 Americans and 12.5 million people worldwide. In fact, it is twice the size of multiple sclerosis and PKD affects more people than cystic fibrosis, muscular dystrophy, sickle cell anemia, hemophilia and Down's syndrome combined.

This is a very important cause to me, because I have people close to me who are afflicted with PKD, so I have signed up for the Walk for PKD this Sunday in Buffalo and would like your support in helping to work towards a cure.

You can make a secure donation online by simply clicking on the link at the bottom of this message. Whatever you can give will help! I truly appreciate your support and will keep you posted on my progress. All donations must be made by Sept. 30.

Click here to make a donation.

Thank you for your support!

On with the blog post...

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If you want some picks for this weekend, here goes. First the college games, then pros. Home team in caps...

NOTRE DAME - 6.5 over Michigan State
The Fighting Irish are good this year. Real good. Kev doesn't want to hear it, but from where I'm sitting, that move to fire Ty Willingham in favor of Charlie Weis is looking pretty shrewd.

Tennessee + 6.5 over FLORIDA
I think the Gators will win outright, but when a top 5 team is getting 6.5, you take it without further discussion unless they're playing USC.

Ohio + 33.5 over VIRGINIA TECH
Ohio beat Pitt last week! Of course Tech will hammer them, but 33.5? Seems a bit much. By the way, I love to see lines like that. I remember the good old days when Nebraska and Oklahoma would cover 50 point spreads over schools like Kansas and Baylor. That was fun.

NFL games:

Cleveland + 6.5 over GREEN BAY
Green Bay is terrible this year. And now they're making do without their best receiver? This is not to say that the Browns are good, but they're good enough to play this one close. We'll look back at 2005 as the year Brett Favre stuck around just a little too long.

Jacksonville +9 over INDIANAPOLIS
Way too much of a line for Indy to cover against a very strong Jacksonville team. Wouldn't shock me at all if J-Ville won it outright, in fact. Speaking of outright winning underdogs...

Miami +6 over NY JETS
The Jets were three steps beyond terrible last week, and I'm not sure Chad Pennington is cut out for the Mike Heimerdinger offense. The guy was a very successful West Coast Offense QB, and suddenly they're trying to turn him into the new Steve McNair? Terrible move. The Jets offense might struggle all year. Meanwhile, Miami looks 100x better than last season. I think the dogs take this one outright.

NY GIANTS -3 over New Orleans
Seriously, stop bothering me with feel-good stories about the Saints. At the core, this is a team with a lousy coach and no defense to speak of. Meanwhile, Big Blue looked STRONG last week. And yes, I know that, technically, the Saints are the home team here, but it's being played in New Jersey, not New Sodom.

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Quick addendum to my BK vs. McDonald's story. My dad told me that he was at a BK once, while on the road, and was taking a piss. One of the employees started pissing in the urinal next to him. All of a sudden, he heard the employee shout, "Welcome to Burger King, can I take your order?"

Man, those cordless headsets are a wonderful thing. That said, I'm not sure I'll ever go through a BK drive-thru again.

Enjoy your weekend!

Thursday, September 15, 2005

Burger King vs. McDonald's

Until the last couple weeks, I hadn't eaten lunch at a fast food restaurant more than maybe 3 or 4 times in the previous 2 years. Seriously. Unfortunately, I've been doing a lot of work in one of the more remote cities in my beloved home state. And since I don't know the lay of the land so well there, when it's lunch time, the King is calling me.

God, that guy creeps me out, what with the massive plastic head and perma-smile. And yet, I digress.

While eating there, the big difference in recent marketing between BK and it's rival, McDonald's, struck me. If BK and McDonald's were a family, McDonald's would be the older brother, who's better looking, insanely rich and gets more ass than a toilet seat, while BK is like the little brother who's just plowing away at his crappy 40 hour a week job at the Youngstown Metal Stamping plant, working next to Maurice Clarett and picking up trashy chicks 10 minutes before close at the local dive bar.

(Note: To expand on the analogy, I think Wendy's would be the retarded kid sister they visit in the home on weekends, and Subway would be the gay cousin no one invites to Thanksgiving because they can't stand his ultra-flamboyant life partner, Jared, but that's just me.)

BK, understandably, is tired of that crap. His job sucks, he hates hearing about Clarett's horseshit 2002 National Championship (pass interference, my ass), he's pissed about that mysterious rash on his crotch, and he really hates his lousy job. So he's doing something about it.

If you'll notice, McDonald's, over the last couple years, has tried to cater to the "health-nut" audience. Salads are on the menu, as is some sort of yogurt parfait, and other relatively healthy options. They don't push the Big Mac or Quarter Pounder with cheese much anymore. Maybe they're resting on their laurels, figuring, "ah, they know about the Big Mac already."

BK, on the other hand, is going totally the opposite direction. For an extra 39 cents or something, you can get bacon on your burger. You can get bacon on anything at BK these days. I'm pretty sure they'll put bacon on your apple pie, if you like. They're marketing the TRIPLE Whopper. You know, because the already-massive regular Whopper wasn't enough burger for some. They introduced something called "chicken fries", which I suppose is like their chicken tenders, but with less chicken and more fatty, fried exterior. They came out with the Enormous Omelette Sandwich, which has your recommended daily allowance of calories and fat in three bites. And if you King Size your meal, they'll throw in a free cookie. Pretty savvy, if you ask me. I mean, really, who's more likely to order a cookie than someone who thinks that 128 oz. of soda and a pound and a half of french fries are what they need to accompany the 3 pounds of ground beef, cheese, bacon and mayo they just ordered?

So who's got the right idea? Well, let me put it this way, have you ever heard anyone say, "hey, let's go to Mickey D's and get a salad"? I sure haven't. But if you go to Burger King at any given time of day, you will see people that weigh more than any two people you know put together. They will be wolfing down Triple Whoppers with bacon two at a time and gargling with milkshakes.

Seems to me that The King, even with his massive head, creepy smile, and mysterious crotch rash, knows his clientele a little better than his big brother.

Monday, September 12, 2005

Dolphins Opening Day

So this is my first post in over a week, and it's a link. You may feel gipped now, but if it makes you feel better, it's a pretty lengthy article.

http://www.finheaven.com/cms/191.html

Friday, September 02, 2005

Hurricane Scorecard

This morning, a pair of quotes came to mind. One from the big screen, the other from the small screen...

"People are smart, they can handle it."
"No. A PERSON is smart. PEOPLE are panicky, dangerous animals and you know it."
- Men in Black

"New Orleans!
Home of pirates, drunks, and whores!
New Orleans!
Tacky, overpriced, souvenir stores!
If you want to go to hell, you should make that trip,
To the Sodom and Gomorrah on the Mississipp'!"
- The Simpsons

Matt Groening, James Brooks and the rest of the Simpsons crew got in some hot water for that, but it's sort of hard to argue that they were wrong right now. I fully expected that watching the events of 9/11 on TV (only a couple weeks after I'd been in both NY and Washington for job interviews) would be the most horrifying experience of my lifetime.

I was wrong.

It's one thing when some foreign madmen commit an isolated act of devastation and chaos in your country. It's another thing when your countrymen do it to themselves. In watching the footage on CNN, I'd swear I was seeing scenes from Liberia, or Congo or Rwanda. Starvation, corpses lying in the streets unburied, complete lawlessness...well, you've seen the footage, there's little point in going on.

I was talking to my wife about this last night. She blamed the President. Of course she did. Bush could cure cancer and bring peace to Israel, and she'd think he was a failure. She asked, "why didn't they evacuate those people out of town. They had the warning! They just stuck these poor people in the Superdome and said 'good luck.' Why not bus them to Houston or San Antonio or Baton Rouge?"

How the President was responsible for the city transportation system of New Orleans was beyond me, but I responded that as people were trying to get out, the roads were packed as it was. And in any event, no city in the US, aside from New York, has the capacity to get 300,000 people out of town to safety in the span of 12 hours or so.

"Even so," she responded, "they haven't done enough now."

And you know what? I'm not sure I can argue. While I seriously doubt that Bush and Congress are sitting on their collective thumbs right now, it seems incredible to me that we can get supplies almost anywhere in the world in 24 hours, but we've got thousands of people in New Orleans that haven't eaten in days. Can't we, for the time being, air drop food near the Superdome and other central areas?

"But that would create huge chaos as people started fighting each other for the food."

How, precisely, would that be any big change from now? You can have chaos and starvation, or you can have chaos.

Let's break down some of the other players in this sad act...

Cops - I can't really blame them. Newest reports are that most cops are sitting in their precincts, armed to the teeth, shooting anything that carries a weapon without a uniform, fighting not to be overrun. To those who would say "they need to be risking their lives to help people", I'd respond, "a dead cop helps no one."

Of course, the cops are taking some heat because there's been some tremendous desertions from the police force. We're not evaluating them right here...

Ex-cops - Cowards, weaklings, and scum of the earth. Worse than the looters and armed thugs. Some precincts have seen 60% desertions, a number that's probably only going to increase. I lack words strong enough to display my contempt.

The Rev. Jesse Jackson - The consummate Monday Morning Quarterback, I might as well call him Rev. Peter King, but I have far too much respect for King to do that. Jesse had his usual mix of piety, pity and pompousness on display. My personal favorite was his line that "maybe we could have prevented this hurricane from happening", and he referenced the lousy environmental policies of the Bush Administration. Of course, Rev. Because, as we all know, hurricanes haven't been happening for a few thousand years or anything. Maybe we can pin the 1900 hurricane in Galveston, TX that killed 6-12,000 on Bush. After all, it was in his home state, right? Unfortunately, that little sound bite will probably get lost in the shuffle.

Mayor Ray Nagin - Am I the only one that thinks he's about half a step from a complete nervous breakdown?

CNN - I hate to find humor in a bad situation...wait, no I don't. The funniest thing about these broadcasts is watching all these field journalists practically tripping over themselves to one-up the previous story. "You've got guys shooting at cops? Guess what, I've got guys blowing up a train yard! And we can't turn the camera on that, because we'll be a target!!! Network, here I come!" Meanwhile, all the anchorpeople are blatantly gunning for Wolf Blitzer's job, desperately trying to hit just that right chord of emotion while still looking professional.

President Bush - Readers and friends know that I give Bush the benefit of the doubt the vast majority of the time. The whole thing about "the military and National Guard should have been there right away" doesn't wash. This isn't a video game, folks. You don't push a button and have the 82nd Airborne magically appear. It takes time to mobilize troops. It's even harder to get them to places where they can do much good when the infrastructure of a city is wiped out. Nevertheless, I think Bush could have and should have done more. Again, airdropping some food and water to these people and hoping for the best, while not a perfect solution, is better than the alternative.

For the short-term, it's easy to say WHAT needs to be done: plug the holes in the levees, pump out the water, get a military presence in place, declare martial law, impose a curfew and shoot anyone that gets out of line. It's a bit harder to say HOW. Gov. Blanco says she needs 40,000 troops, and that sounds about right. Figure 10,000 to enforce law and order and 30,000 to work at establishing supply lines and infrastructure, and attending to medical problems. How, exactly, are 40,000 National Guardsmen going to get there in the next few days? I wish I knew. But I sure hope someone figures out a way.