More Refreshing Than The Usual

Apparently the CEO of Seagate, Bill Watkins, is a very candid, down-to-earth sort of a fellow. He's impressed me with his honesty, and that takes a lot.
In an interview in San Francisco on Tuesday, Bill put it straight: "Let's face it, we're not changing the world. We're building a product that helps people buy more crap - and watch porn."

Thanks, Bill.

I mean, we pretty much knew that anyway. But it's really great to hear that you know it too. : )



This is quite possibly the best metaphor for the war in Iraq that I've ever seen. Go here.



I didn't have a word for it, before, but I knew the concept existed nonetheless. Apparently, what WalMart is, is a monopsony.


Also ...

I have a great idea for collection and recycling of valuable space junk that could make someone a mint. Anyone wanna spot me a few mil for research?


Please ... ?

The Best Thing I've Heard All Week ...

Ze Frank said, "You kill more terrorists with honey than you do with vinegar."

Good stuff.

From the show with Ze Frank. Always incredible. Always pertinent.


When in Rome ...

This was in this weekend's NYT. I couldn't find a link (read: didn't try), so I figured I'd post the whole thing. For those of us who already know our history and have an opinion on the current state of affairs, this is an affirmation. For the rest of you, this will be too long, boring, and not contain nearly enough of whatever it is that compels you to watch Prison Break.
In either case, enjoy!

Pirates of the Mediterranean

Kintbury, England

IN the autumn of 68 B.C. the world's only military superpower was dealt
a profound psychological blow by a daring terrorist attack on its very
heart. Rome's port at Ostia was set on fire, the consular war fleet
destroyed, and two prominent senators, together with their bodyguards
and staff, kidnapped.

The incident, dramatic though it was, has not attracted much attention

from modern historians. But history is mutable. An event that was merely
a footnote five years ago has now, in our post-9/11 world, assumed a
fresh and ominous significance. For in the panicky aftermath of the
attack, the Roman people made decisions that set them on the path to the
destruction of their Constitution, their democracy and their liberty.
One cannot help wondering if history is repeating itself.

Consider the parallels. The perpetrators of this spectacular assault

were not in the pay of any foreign power: no nation would have dared to
attack Rome so provocatively. They were, rather, the disaffected of the
earth: "The ruined men of all nations," in the words of the great
19th-century German historian Theodor Mommsen, "a piratical state with a
peculiar esprit de corps."

Like Al Qaeda, these pirates were loosely organized, but able to spread

a disproportionate amount of fear among citizens who had believed
themselves immune from attack. To quote Mommsen again: "The Latin
husbandman, the traveler on the Appian highway, the genteel bathing
visitor at the terrestrial paradise of Baiae were no longer secure of
their property or their life for a single moment."

What was to be done? Over the preceding centuries, the Constitution of

ancient Rome had developed an intricate series of checks and balances
intended to prevent the concentration of power in the hands of a single
individual. The consulship, elected annually, was jointly held by two
men. Military commands were of limited duration and subject to regular
renewal. Ordinary citizens were accustomed to a remarkable degree of
liberty: the cry of "Civis Romanus sum" -- "I am a Roman citizen" -- was
a guarantee of safety throughout the world.

But such was the panic that ensued after Ostia that the people were

willing to compromise these rights. The greatest soldier in Rome, the
38-year-old Gnaeus Pompeius Magnus (better known to posterity as Pompey
the Great) arranged for a lieutenant of his, the tribune Aulus Gabinius,
to rise in the Roman Forum and propose an astonishing new law.

"Pompey was to be given not only the supreme naval command but what

amounted in fact to an absolute authority and uncontrolled power over
everyone," the Greek historian Plutarch wrote. "There were not many
places in the Roman world that were not included within these limits."

Pompey eventually received almost the entire contents of the Roman

Treasury -- 144 million sesterces -- to pay for his "war on terror,"
which included building a fleet of 500 ships and raising an army of
120,000 infantry and 5,000 cavalry. Such an accumulation of power was
unprecedented, and there was literally a riot in the Senate when the
bill was debated.

Nevertheless, at a tumultuous mass meeting in the center of Rome,

Pompey's opponents were cowed into submission, the Lex Gabinia passed
(illegally), and he was given his power. In the end, once he put to sea,
it took less than three months to sweep the pirates from the entire
Mediterranean. Even allowing for Pompey's genius as a military
strategist, the suspicion arises that if the pirates could be defeated
so swiftly, they could hardly have been such a grievous threat in the
first place.

But it was too late to raise such questions. By the oldest trick in the

political book -- the whipping up of a panic, in which any dissenting
voice could be dismissed as "soft" or even "traitorous" -- powers had
been ceded by the people that would never be returned. Pompey stayed in
the Middle East for six years, establishing puppet regimes throughout
the region, and turning himself into the richest man in the empire.

Those of us who are not Americans can only look on in wonder at the

similar ease with which the ancient rights and liberties of the
individual are being surrendered in the United States in the wake of
9/11. The vote by the Senate on Thursday to suspend the right of habeas
corpus for terrorism detainees, denying them their right to challenge
their detention in court; the careful wording about torture, which
forbids only the inducement of "serious" physical and mental suffering
to obtain information; the admissibility of evidence obtained in the
United States without a search warrant; the licensing of the president
to declare a legal resident of the United States an enemy combatant --
all this represents an historic shift in the balance of power between
the citizen and the executive.

An intelligent, skeptical American would no doubt scoff at the thought

that what has happened since 9/11 could presage the destruction of a
centuries-old constitution; but then, I suppose, an intelligent,
skeptical Roman in 68 B.C. might well have done the same.

In truth, however, the Lex Gabinia was the beginning of the end of the

Roman republic. It set a precedent. Less than a decade later, Julius
Caesar -- the only man, according to Plutarch, who spoke out in favor of
Pompey's special command during the Senate debate -- was awarded
similar, extended military sovereignty in Gaul. Previously, the state,
through the Senate, largely had direction of its armed forces; now the
armed forces began to assume direction of the state.

It also brought a flood of money into an electoral system that had been

designed for a simpler, non-imperial era. Caesar, like Pompey, with all
the resources of Gaul at his disposal, became immensely wealthy, and
used his treasure to fund his own political faction. Henceforth, the
result of elections was determined largely by which candidate had the
most money to bribe the electorate. In 49 B.C., the system collapsed
completely, Caesar crossed the Rubicon -- and the rest, as they say, is
ancient history.

It may be that the Roman republic was doomed in any case. But the

disproportionate reaction to the raid on Ostia unquestionably hastened
the process, weakening the restraints on military adventurism and
corrupting the political process. It was to be more than 1,800 years
before anything remotely comparable to Rome's democracy -- imperfect
though it was -- rose again.

The Lex Gabinia was a classic illustration of the law of unintended

consequences: it fatally subverted the institution it was supposed to
protect. Let us hope that vote in the United States Senate does not have
the same result.

Robert Harris is the author, most recently, of "Imperium: A Novel of
Ancient Rome."


More Delicious Rebuttal...

She had actually gotten up to speak on a different topic, but:

In light of the rantings that went on for 30 minutes by two colleagues from the other side, I'd like to state for the record that America is not tired of fighting terrorism; America is tired of the wrongheaded and boneheaded leadership of the Republican party that has sent six and a half billion a month to Iraq while the front line was Afghanistan and Saudi Arabia. That led this country to attack Saddam Hussein, when we were attacked by Osama bin Laden. Who captured a man who did not attack the country and let loose a man that did. Americans are tired of boneheaded Republican leadership that alienates our allies when we need them the most. Americans are most certainly tired of leadership that despite documenting mistake after mistake after mistake, even of their own party admitting mistakes, never admit they do anything wrong. That's the kind of leadership Americans are tired of." I'm not going to sit here as a Democrat and let the Republican leadership come to the floor and talk about Democrats not making us safe. They're the ones in charge and Osama bin Laden is still at loose
—Senator Mary Landrieu (D) Louisiana


Delicious Little Sundries...

Another fabulous quote from Bill Maher, in describing the right-wing view of those who disagree with them re: the war in Iraq being effective in the war on terror, "It's like saying to the exterminator,'Look, I don't think that hitting the vermin on the head with a hammer is the way we should get rid of them,' and being accused of being 'for the rats.'"


9:11 a.m.

I looked at my watch this morning at exactly 9:11. These little moments happen to me occasionally, it's a by product of having a (sometimes excessively) observant personality. In those little moments I used to think of the Porsche of the same name. 7:47 was another time of day which always inspired a moment like that. Today, being the 5th anniversary of the attack on the World Trade Center, the time on my wrist inspired different thoughts.
I, like the majority of Americans, was not directly affected by the attack. By which I mean that I didn't see it, I wasn't there. I don't live in New York, and I lost no loved ones or friends, or even any acquaintances. Not directly affected, but affected, to be sure.
I was disillusioned before 9-11. Most of us were, I would say. The idea had never occured to me that there are groups of people in the world for whom my religion, my lifestyle, my country are so grievous that my life is of no consequence to them. The very idea is so completely backwater and uncivilized that it stunned most of us, I think.
I'm not honestly sure anymore where I was going with this.

We'll move on. It will be slow, but we started on 9-12 and no one can stop us. Not Islamic or any other brand of terrorists, and not the elected officials who would try to leverage our fear.



People Who Say Things Better Than I Can

Author Resa Aslan, on my only source for fair and balanced news, the Daily Show, sometime last week: "This notion that democracy is a force that can transform that region (the Middle East), I believe this. But it's going to take a level of sophistication that I think this administration has yet to show."

And also: "The entire War on Terror is at its core a marketing campaign. Now, how the United States is losing a marketing campaign to people who live in caves, I ... "

I need to read this guy's book.


The Dumbening of America

The Fox network's fall season starts off with a bang tonight. They're back with their (insert superlative) new show Prison Break, and I, for one, won't be watching. It's crap. Complete and total crap. In fact, Fox is lucky I watch any of their programming at all, after they preemptively ended the absolutely amazing Arrested Development. That, and the fact that they have the Sunday cartoons Family Guy, American Dad (slightly less-good Family Guy) and the still-ok Simpsons are the only things keeping me around. I can honestly say that I don't feel like they've developed any great new shows for a good 5 years or so. I know I expect too much from the moving picture box sometimes, but jeez, guys. I mean, c'mon! My suspicion is that the American people, at least the TV-watching ones, are becoming more and more unintelligent, and thus demanding simpler television programming which is easier to understand for their tiny, tiny brains.
Tiny brains.
They're stupid.
They ... uh ... well. You get the point.

Random Haiku

Cold, lonely, smelly,
Destitute wanderer. I
Need to find a job.


My Philosophy is Validated

"It is impossible to enjoy idling thoroughly
unless one has plenty of work to do."

Jerome K. Jerome (1859 - 1927)


Speaking Of Enough Already ...

I've been hearing a lot about this whole todo with the airlines not allowing any liquids on the plane. Apparently, small personal electronic devices are now out too, at least for in-cabin use, which seems to have a lot of people up in arms. How is one to deal without one's iPod, for even the short duration of a continental flight? How could they do this? My music or my life! ... And other similar comments.
Now, without you even having to ask, here's my opinion: 5 years ago, you didn't have an iPod. What did you do then? Perhaps, if you were to crawl out of your own head (where everything is nice and comfortable and you can be safely apathetic) and strike up a conversation with the brown man in the seat next to you, you would find out that he's pretty much like you, and he also thinks that all of this is pretty fucked up, and maybe, between the two of you, you could come up with an idea that would fix things, not just cover them over, or shift the blame around, but truly, once and for all, fix things.


Oh wait, you have the new Killers album?! Is it any good? Can I get that from you?


As If I Wasn't Angry Enough Already

I just wanted to pass along a "website you should read constantly" kind of a tip, for all of those of you who are perfectly content in your complacent little lives, and are in dire need of a distraction. The Consumerist is a part of the Gawker Media series of websites, which also encompasses such gems as Lifehacker, Gizmodo, and Screenhead (formerly edited by the amazingly sarcastic Dong Resin), to name a few.
The Consumerist runs a bizarrely fine line between ombudsman, random complaints department and online bitch joint. They were the ones to break the now relatively widespread story of an AOL customer running up against the worst in Customer Service, as well as offering tips on how to deal with bad customer service, what to do if you're shafted by the Man, and who you should get in touch with when you really need something to happen. (Hint: The CEO)
Beware, Big Business. The little man has an outlet.
Just make sure that you're justified in your bitching, before you send them your story. Otherwise, you may find that you're the one being lambasted by their fiery tongue.


Who's Bitter? Not Me.

Love isn't blind, love is retarded.


Well, I did write the footnote...and the header...

I did not write this, but it echoes my sentiment pretty much exactly. I don't have the cable, I don't have the DSL, I don't have the home phone service. Maybe I'm picky, but until more consumers demand more from the telecommunications giants, we'll have more of the same. I used "more" way too much in that sentence. From this article at Salon.com, via an article on the issue of net neutrality at this place.

Next time you sit down to pay your cable-modem or DSL bill, consider this: Most Japanese consumers can get an Internet connection that's 16 times faster than the typical American DSL line for a mere $22 per month.

Across the globe, it's the same story. In France, DSL service that is 10 times faster than the typical United States connection; 100 TV channels and unlimited telephone service cost only $38 per month.* In South Korea, super-fast connections are common for less than $30 per month. Places as diverse as Finland, Canada and Hong Kong all have much faster Internet connections at a lower cost than what is available here. In fact, since 2001, the U.S. has slipped from fourth to 16th in the world in broadband use per capita. While other countries are taking advantage of the technological, business and education opportunities of the broadband era, America remains lost in transition.

How did this happen? Why has the U.S. fallen so far behind the rest of its economic peers? The answer is simple. These nations all have something the U.S. lacks: a national broadband policy, one that actively encourages competition among providers, leading to lower consumer prices and better service.

Instead, the U.S. has a handful of unelected and unaccountable corporate giants that control our vital telecommunications infrastructure. This has led not only to a digital divide between the U.S. and the rest of the advanced world but to one inside the U.S. itself. Currently, broadband services in America remain unavailable for many living in rural and poorer urban areas, and remain slow and expensive for those who do have access.

*Contrast that with Comcastic's current offer of $33 each for their broadband, cable tv, and phone services. Yours for only $99 a month. Oh wait, shit! Didn't we mention!? That's only the introductory rate. After a month or so, you pay $54.95 for cable, (you get to pick 9 premium channels!) your phone service will be $39.95, and broadband will be $50 by the time we tack on all the surcharges. Once you add long-distance (did we forget to mention that the phone service you were getting for $33 a month didn't include any long-distance? Silly us. But it's all digital!) you can well expect to be paying close to $200 a month for your home telecommunications needs. Just wait til a company like Comcastic starts offering mobile services as well. Oh, right, there is one. It's called VerLieszon. Hmm. Bitter much?


Things Which Annoy Me, Article #1

This is by no means my biggest pet peeve, you understand, I just happened to be thinking about it.

If you were not raised in a Spanish-speaking family, if you are not from a Spanish-speaking country, if you are not fluent in Spanish in any way, professionally or otherwise, you, Sir or Madam, have no business answering your phone, "Hola!" Especially in that irritating nasally whine.
The same goes for those of you who would misappropriate "Ciao."



It's getting really hard to tell who the real stalkers are, now that we have MySpace.


The Model Ship Principle

I've discovered something which I refer to as the Model Ship Principle. Essentially, it is that I love the idea of building a model ship much, much more than I actually enjoy building one. I will most likely start many model ships during the course of my life, and someday, when I'm retired and have nothing else to do, I may actually finish one. But for now, I start and then something else comes along, or I'm not having as much fun as I thought it would be, or I get bored with gluing on the lapstrakes. (cause that's the worst part) In any case, this principle applies to a lot of other things in my life as well. I start many more projects than I finish and I'm fairly certain that I will never learn that I should think twice before jumping into the next big (insert unnecessarily complex hobby/activity here)


A favorite author of mine, one Nick Sagan (son of Carl), just contacted me to remind me that his new book Everfree is hitting shelves this coming Thursday, May 18th. Ok, honestly, by raise of hands ... how many of you have had a favorite author personally remind you about his latest book? Major cool points, Nick. Everfree will be the rightmost endcap of a trilogy of books, following Idlewild and its sequel Edenborn. Idlewild is truly one of the most deliciously twisty books I think I've ever read. Just when you think you've got it figured out, WHAM! it kicks you in the balls. Metaphorically speaking, of course. I urge you to check out the whole series.

Also check out Nick's website, and his blog. If you enjoy reading and you don't want the terrorists to win, you not only owe it to yourself. You owe it to America.


Me, me, me

I realize that I haven't posted for awhile, or emailed any of you, or anything. I've been incredibly busy, you see, saving the planet from the likes of the alien infestation and the birdflu, curing cancer, world peace, that sort of thing. Remember the SARS? What, you thought that it just went away on its own? All of that, and I'm spending some time working on my portfolio, so that I can graduate and have a career. Important stuff. You know.
As soon as I have some free time, though, I'll be back to writing ... well, I haven't really ever written here regularly, or anything, so what do you expect? You're lucky to get sporadically out of me. The only reason I'm writing here now is to put off writing a 10 pg thesis on copyright and software piracy. Right, I should actually go do that now.


What ... ?

I realize I've been a little less than my normal happy-go-lucky self lately. I apologize. I hope I didn't scare anyone off?
I'll try to come up with a nice piece on bunnies, or puppies, or flowers or something ...

Who am I kidding. Until I'm done with this quarter of school and successfully graduate, there will be nothing but massive amounts of bitching from me, like you've all come to expect and love.


Something is Terribly Wrong

I'm merely extrapolating this information from various things that I've heard from different sources, so forgive me if I'm wrong. (I just don't care to do the research)

But I believe that the America in which I live has the highest percentage in the world of those people who are both clinically obese AND live below the poverty line.

I'm so very sad.


From Bill Maher's show, the other day...

"5 bucks an hour, in an America where the luckier ones spend that on a coffee, is a cruel joke."

He's talking about the fact that the federal minimum wage hasn't been raised since 1997, making it (when adjusted for inflation) lower than it was in 1968, when a Coke was about a dime.

George Bush, our President, who doesn't read, by the way, keeps telling us about how wonderfully our economy is doing, how the joblessness rate is at its lowest point since whenever. Well, yeah, that's because everyone has to have two jobs just to make enough to survive.



Indulge me for a second, if you will. It's taken a lot of people a long time to realize the enormity of this, and I'm certain there are many who still haven't got it.

Our President ... My President, the leader of this great country and the "free world," doesn't read.

He doesn't read. Just ... doesn't.

I'll let that sink in for you. I'm gonna go punch a wall for awhile.



I don't like spam. Well, I don't really know anyone who does, I suppose, but I really, really don't like spam. But more than the spammers (they're just trying to make a buck, ya know?), I don't like the companies that resort to spam. If you can't develop a decent marketing campaign to put behind your product, maybe you should re-examine what, exactly, it is that you're trying to sell.
Then there are other products that would seem to have a never-ending supply of good, quality marketing behind them, and still, the company producing them feels they need an extra edge, or something. I got a spam email advertising Dyson vacuum cleaners the other day. I like Dyson. I think they're great, or at least that's the impression I get. I've never personally used one of their vacuums, but I like their ads, generally, and if I were in the market for a new vacuum, theirs would be in the list of vacuums I would be willing to consider.
It would have been, that is, until I saw a spam with their name on it. Now, I'm taking a stand. Let it be known. (music swelling) If I receive an email from someone I don't know with your company's name on it, I will never buy any product you have to offer now or ever. Up until the point at which all food is marketed through spam, of course, but even then, only when your company apologizes to me in writing. And some flowers wouldn't hurt either.
Rise up, brothers and sisters with the clogged email. Take this stand with me.


Lack of Posting Haiku

I need to post more.

I've been a bit lax lately.

You'll get over it.


I've recently developed what I've come to refer to as The Unified Theory of GirlScout Cookies as Metaphors for People. Don't let the title scare you, I really haven't thought it out that well. Suffice it to say that a friend and I were talking about another friend's boyfriend, and in the course of conversation, he was referred to, by me, as sort of a Tagalong. I didn't mean it in the GirlScout Cookie sense, of course, but when my friend suggested that perhaps he was in fact more of a Do-Si-Do, things took off from there.

I've decided, in the course of developing this theory, that I am, in fact, a shortbread sort of a person. I've always thought that I should strive to be more of a Thin-Mint, I think we all have. But I've definitely gotten to a very comfortable place as a Trefoil. I'm delicate, kind of buttery, and honestly, who doesn't like shortbread? It's not the first thing you think of when you think GirlScout Cookie, but that's ok.

Thin-Mints, well, we all know them. The type-A personality, the flamboyance ... the mintyness. They're great, really. But you can have way too much of them, way too quickly. And you can go through a pack of Thin-Mints and not even remember the next day, except for that faint twinge of guilt and heartburn.

The afore-mentioned Tagalongs, well, you like them at first. They have that rich, chocolatey coating, after all. But there's really no substance there. You'd feel bad stopping, cause it's not their fault, but damn it, every time you turn around they're right there. You just need something with a little more trans fat.

We all know at least one Samoa, don't we? He's that tall, dark and handsome, vaguely foreign guy, who elicits drool from any girl you happen to be with at the time. You'd love to hate the Samoa, but he's such a cool guythat you'd just come off as jealous and bitter. Luckily, he attracts more Thin-Mints than anything else.

There're more, obviously, but I'm done with this now. Feel free to elaborate on your own time. I trust you.

I can't help it, I'm shortbread.