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2009-12-27

Only some criminals have cachet

SEATTLE, Washington - The biographical page* of the Bantam paperback version of Genet's Our Lady of the Flowers states the following:

One of the most provocative literary figures of the twentieth century, Jean Genet - like Villon and Rimbaud - is in the great French tradition of the writer-criminal.
Should the writer be the only criminal that we romanticize in this way? I guess combining writer and criminal results in something interesting to us. I've tried to think of another example:

Milkman-criminal
(milkman)
The chef-criminal
The secretary-criminal
The therapist-criminal**
The engineer-criminal
The barista-criminal
The endocrinologist-criminal
The sculptor-criminal
The seamstress-criminal

Nothing seems to be working.

* I'm trying to find out what the biographical page of a book is called, without success.

** This one has potential, if you include Freudian psychoanalysis, which was one of the great frauds of the 20th century. I don't know if "therapist" instead of "analyst" is a correct term for those charlatans.

2009-12-16

Happy belated National Cupcake Day

WASHINGTON, DC - I guess repeatedly sampling cupcakes hither and yon made me so immune to cupcake news that I didn't even manage to notice that yesterday was National Cupcake Day (in the USA).

I need a new food hobby, as I've gained weight this year. Maybe time to move on to fine cheeses.

2009-12-09

Black women not making headway with Tiger Woods (or anyone else)

Can't a sister get a break?
tiger women
SEATTLE, Washington - It was only a matter of time before a commentator would note a certain similarity in the physical appearance of all the women popping up in the Tiger Woods conquest gallery. Eugene Robinson:
Here's my real question, though: What's with the whole Barbie thing?

No offense to anyone who actually looks like Barbie, but it really is striking how much the women who've been linked to Woods resemble one another. I'm talking about the long hair, the specific body type, even the facial features. Mattel could sue for trademark infringement.
..
..
But the world is full of beautiful women of all colors, shapes and sizes -- some with short hair or almond eyes, some with broad noses, some with yellow or brown skin. Woods appears to have bought into an "official" standard of beauty that is so conventional as to be almost oppressive.
Mr Robinson dances around a bit, but we know what your main concern is, sir - none of the women are black.

This reminded me of a comment about Tiger's preference in women that was made back in April of 2002, during the winning call of The Jim Rome Show's Smack-Off for that year. This was after Tiger had bagged Elin but before they were married, and the caller, Jeff in Richmond, made some comments about the relationship and then said "by the way, Tiger... can't a sister get a break?" (clip here)

Let us not single out Tiger for dodging black women - in fact, they're being dodged by American men of all races, at least if this analysis by okcupid.com is representative of the population as a whole. The two matrices below show write-back rates broken down by race; one is for female senders, and the other is for male senders. These are not across the entire population of responses, but only the responses where the sender and the recipient were considered a "match" by okcupid's match algorithm.



I circled the two lines of interest, but I didn't have to as they stick out just by their color-coding - black women are more likely to have their response to an ad ignored, and more likely to write back to someone who initiates contact.

Sounds like, no, a sister can't get a break.

chick gallery from Celebslam

2009-12-04

Important piece of equipment for a top golfer - a wife

SEATTLE, Washington - One of the common reactions to the recent Tiger Woods revelations is "why does he even bother getting married?" Athletes who are single, by definition, can do whatever they want with as many women as they want and it's not a scandal. Derek Jeter is often cited in such discussions - he's become a kind of reference point on how to get your groove on worry-free as a famous athlete. Don't get married at all, or get married later in life, don't gum yourself up at the peak of your fame and sexual magnetism. Why did Tiger not take the Jeter route?

This topic came up at Roissy and I made the following comment there:

Another thing to keep in mind, on the “why would Tiger get married?” question… having that “stabilizing influence in your life” wife seems to be part of the culture of professional golf.

Often golf commentators will be blabbing about a golfer’s wife, how she adds balance to his life, Jack Nicklaus talking about how being a family man made him a better golfer, blah blah blah.

And Tiger, so sensitive to the history and marketing of the situation, probably sees having such a wife as necessary.

I think this applies to “individual” sports and not team sports, where you have a team support structure and you can be Derek Jeter and bang hot chicks for 15 years and not be married and not be out of line with the culture of your sport.

Required equipment
tiger and elin
Seeing a golfer greet his wife and children when stepping off the 18th green after a big win is almost as common of a ritual as seeing them take off their cap and shake hands with the other players in their group. Most of the top golfers are married; of course you'll find some exceptions, the very young ones (e.g. Anthony Kim) and the ones who are embracing the Jeter/Roissy/Pacino/Clooney playboy ethic (e.g. Adam Scott and perhaps Sergio Garcia).

As I said above, Tiger Woods is especially sensitive to image and tradition, and probably takes it as a given that he must have the Golfer Wife - you can't step off the green after winning the US Open and be greeted by a Vegas cocktail waitress, or attend a banquet at Augusta with a nightclub publicist.

And if recent reports about the reworking of his prenup with his wife are to be believed, he's willing to shell out millions of dollars to maintain the tradition. In addition to modifying the dollar amounts and time horizons associated with a possible separation, there are allegedly clauses about Elin getting millions of dollars placed in her personal bank account right now in exchange for continued Golfer Wife behavior:
But apparently there's also a behavioral component to all this: Elin Woods must "be a dutiful wife in showing up with him at social events and in public as if they were still the perfect couple, and sign a nondisclosure form that will prevent her from ever telling her story."
This is big-money stuff, but I think this general behavior trickles all the way down to the common folk. I see women stay in half-ass, dead end relationships year after year and the only reason I can figure is that they don't want to attend wedding receptions without a date.

Prenup link found at Marginal Revolution

Football Lock of the Week

SEATTLE, Washington -

Record: 4-8

Last pick of the year! West Virginia vs. Rutgers UNDER 44.5

UPDATE: In a poetic finish, this ended 24-21 so I lose by half a point.

Finish 4-9 this year and 31-22-1 (58.5%) over four years.

2009-11-29

Science validates old Beavis and Butt-head observation about women

Astute observers of female nature
beavis and butt-head
SEATTLE, Washington -

From an old Beavis and Butt-head episode:
Butt-head: Whoa! This song's about like, some chick doing it with like, some other chick's boyfriend.

Beavis: Yeah! That's pretty harsh.

Butt-head: Yeah. So like, this chick will only do yo if you like, already have a girlfriend...?

Beavis: Yeah, yeah! A lot of chicks are like that. They don't wanna go out with you unless you already have a girlfriend...but like, you can't get a girlfriend because you don't have a girlfriend...so it's like...struss-frating.
Science chimes in:
Men and women in the study were asked to describe their ideal romantic partner and were told they would be computer-matched with a like-minded student. Researchers told half of the participants that the person with whom they were matched was single. They told the other participants that their “match” was currently in a romantic relationship. Participants then answered a series of questions on how interested they would be in pursuing a relationship with their match.

Surprisingly [not so surprisingly - jeff], single women were much more interested in pursuing a relationship with a committed man than with a single man.

Specifically, when researchers described the man as single, 59 percent of single women were interested in pursuing him. However, when they described the exact same man as being in a committed relationship, 90 percent of the women were interested.

Men did not show this preference, and neither did women who were already in a relationship.

Research found at Overcoming Bias. B&B transcript from WikiQuote

2009-11-27

Football Lock of the Week

SEATTLE, Washington -

Record: 4-7

This week: Carolina Panthers (+3) @ NY Jets

UPDATE: The descent continues.... Jets win, Jets win... now 4-8. Last pick of season coming next weekend.

2009-11-24

The cupcakes of Austin, Texas

SEATTLE, Washington - I've been sampling so many cupcakes lately, I'm running out of things to say, but anyway here's the results of visiting a few shops in Austin.

I had never been to Austin and was expecting a roughly Boise-sized city, but it's bigger - the city itself has about 750K residents, significantly more than Seattle, albeit in a footprint about double the size of Seattle's. I passed through several Seattle-esque livable neighborhoods. I was intrigued, but I'd probably be a whole lot less intrigued in the hot summer - my years in Seattle have made me dislike day-to-day life under air conditioning.

My first cupcake visit was not in a hip neighborhood, but in the outer reaches of Austin's sprawl, at Cupprimo. A small place (with a weird, closet-sized room in the back with a couple chairs and a whiteboard, in case you want to hold a corporate event there) that was presided over by the owner or someone doing a good impersonation of a shop owner. Below are the Elvis cupcake (chocolate, peanut butter, banana) and a mini strawberry cupcake. The Elvis cupcake seems to appear everywhere I go except Seattle. These were probably the 2nd best cupcakes on the trip.


My next stop was Sweetish Hill. This cupcake is barely worth mentioning - this is a full-service bakery with a broad selection of stuff, and the cupcake was a refrigerated, undistinguished brick.


Next up was the Hey Cupcake! trailer on (in?) South Congress. Austin has metal trailers serving all sorts of stuff, from tacos to crepes. They offer a feature called the "whipper snapper", where the cupcake of your choice is injected with whipped cream to order. This is the "Michael Jackson" cake, chocolate cake with cream cheese frosting, with the whipped cream:


I think this cupcake had good cake, it had the fundamentals, but there were some issues. One, I guess due to sitting in a metal trailer in Texas, even in November, the cupcake was a bit warmer than you want one to be with cream cheese frosting. Second, while I like the temperature contrast of cool whipped cream, the injection created grave instability with the structure of the cupcake - the top was practically blasted off. Ultimately the whipped cream is a gimmick, unnecessary with an A-list cupcake.

Last on the trip was Sugar Mama's Bakeshop. A small place with an appealing selection. On the dreaded refrigeration issue, they put their cream-cheese-frosted cakes in refrigeration, but not the buttercream ones. I had the lemon (buttercream) cupcake:



Good stuff, in fact I went back here on Monday to fly some of their product back to Seattle, but... CLOSED Mondays.

2009-11-20

Football Lock of the Week

SEATTLE, Washington -

Record: 4-6

This week: Indiana Hoosiers (+2.5) vs. Purdue

UPDATE: Uh oh, Purdue wins 38-21, dropping me to 4-7 and guaranteeing me a losing season after three winning seasons. All the other dogs I liked came through. Sheesh.

2009-11-15

Knowledge at your fingertips (if your fingers are 100,000 miles long)

Knowledge so weighty, it has a gravitational pull
(alt text)
VICTORIA, Texas - I was reading an article from a late-1950s issue of Life magazine on microfiche and stumbled upon this ad (click image for full size), another dark reminder of the horrible days before the internet. This was the way things used to be - a massive stack of books, originating in Europe of course, stretching a good bit of the way to the Moon.

If you're looking for something to occupy your time one idle afternoon, head to the library and read the ads in an old magazine on microfiche. Just sitting in front of one of those reading contraptions gives you a veneer of intellectualism, if you want such a thing, and some of the ads are real howlers today. (Assuming you don't mind reading in photo-negative, I inverted the pic above).

Really, can someone not grab all these fiches, scan 'em, and just post them somewhere? And, while you're at it, do it with all the books too. But, oh then, we'd have no need for these big libraries, and where would the indigents hang out all day? Never mind.

2009-11-13

Football Lock of the Week

SAN MARCOS, Texas -

Record: 3-6

This week: Nevada (-7) vs. Fresno State

UPDATE: Nevada SMOKES Fresno, 52-14. Record: 4-6.

2009-11-10

We should see a lot more advertising like this

SEATTLE, Washington - I snapped a pic of this billboard (with dramatic sunset lighting) in Las Vegas last month, and was going to write about it but forgot:



Notice something unusual about this billboard? It's promoting the price of a medical procedure. Considering that about 16% of GDP goes to health care, we should be seeing stuff like this constantly.

Think about billboards (and other advertising) related to other large sectors - restaurants/food, hotels, consumer electronics, real estate, etc. - we are hammered relentlessly with the value proposition. Here's what you get, here's what it costs.

How many medical procedures do you even know the price of? All I could think of was laser eye surgery, because (at least at first, maybe it's different now) it hasn't been covered by health insurance. So they have to pitch it to you - here's what you get, here's what it costs. You've probably heard those radio commercials with the lifeless monotone of Tiger Woods telling you how great his laser eye surgery was.

The fundamental reason for this, of course, is that you don't pay directly for most of these things, your health insurance company does.

I was reminded of this sign when reading Reason's interview with Steve Forbes. Forbes mentions laser eye surgery, and he also provides the example of cosmetic surgery:

But we see from Lasik what happens when you get a real market. It costs a third less than it did 10 years ago. Cosmetic surgery hasn’t had inflation, like you have in the rest of health care, even though demand has increased sixfold in the last 15 years and even though there have been enormous technological innovations. Why? Because you pay for it.
Amazing, eh? If you have people paying for something out of their pocket, and with a competitive marketplace from which to buy it from, costs keep coming down and innovation continues briskly.

Think about automobiles: if you do the inflation-adjustment math, their cost today isn't much different than in prior decades, but today's cars are vastly superior machines to those of yesteryear.

So a fundamental problem with cost control in health care is that people don't pay directly for things; a third party pays, a third party you're usually tied to through your employer. The goal for health providers simply becomes satisfying a bureaucratic beast:
And you don’t get the kind of productivity you get everywhere else. We use phones and emails for everything now. Do you do consultation with your physician or nurse by phone or email? Rarely. Or hospitals giving warranties, like you have everywhere else, where if they don’t scope your knee right, you go back and don’t have to pay for it again. Why wouldn’t that be their dime? Because it’s not real competition. They know you’re not writing the checks, so therefore they don’t have to please you; they just have to make sure they get a bureaucratic insurance company to approve it.
(You know what I do see a lot of advertising for? Health insurance companies.)

Imagine if a third party (or even worse, the government) was responsible for buying your car and buying your gas? Or, for that matter, your food? It would be a debacle. Health insurance is tied up into every little medical transaction for one simple reason: Employer-provided health benefits were given beneficial tax treatment sixty or so years ago. This situation survives today. Employers will funnel money into anything that gets preferential tax treatment.

This situation needs to be eliminated. In my opinion, preferential tax treatment for health care should be eliminated. Both Forbes and Whole Foods CEO John Mackey (who caused endless hysteria in the granola-sphere with his health care op-ed) call for allowing individuals to receive health tax deductions similar to what employers get. (I suspect Forbes, at least, would also support simply eliminating the tax benefit altogether.)

So here's the simple health care recipe: (1) you eliminate preferential tax treatment for health care (2) employers, upon seeing this, stop offering health insurance. Every last penny they currently pay to health insurers goes right into your paycheck (3) You go out and buy insurance, which for most people would consist of a catastrophic plan, plus paying for more routine stuff out-of-pocket.

(Step 2 would be an effective tax increase; there should be a counterbalancing drop in income-tax rates to compensate).

Hope that's simple enough. Of course politicians are not going to pursue this, as it gives them less control, not more control.

And would Dr Athari be able to handle all the business?

p.s.: Read that whole Reason interview. Where the hell was that Steve Forbes in 1996 when he was running for office? It's amazing the things you can say when you don't have to cater to absurd interest groups and dance around "cultural" issues.

UPDATE: Right on cue, Arnold Kling points out a seven pundit commentary in the New York Times on "how to control health care costs". Some of it reads like parody - one of the pieces, with a straight face, is headlined "Be More Like Medicare".

Kling notes that his proposal has no chance of happening, and that the other six have no chance of actually reducing costs.

Only four of the seven pundits even bother to mention "patients", obviously thinking they can't possibly play a role in reducing the amount of money spent on health care. I feel like getting the email addresses of some of these characters and sending them my picture of Dr Athari's billboard.

2009-11-08

One clue that the golf tournament you're watching is in China

SEATTLE, Washington - It wasn't as big of a moment as Phil Mickelson whacking his ball into a garbage can on the 71st hole of the 2006 U.S. Open, but it was probably dirtier. Tiger Woods hit his ball into a garbage-riddled canal in the final round of the HSBC Champions in Shanghai:

[Woods] looked out of sorts from the start, missing birdie putts of 4 feet and 10 feet, then taking double bogey on the par-3 fourth when he hit into a canal left of the green where residents on the other side routinely dump their garbage.

2009-11-06

Football Lock of the Week

SEATTLE, Washington -

Record: 3-5

This week: Oklahoma (-4.5) @ Nebraska

UPDATE: A Keystone-Kops performance by the superior OK team resulted in a 10-3 loss. Record: 3-6

2009-10-31

Time for the Henry Miller tax avoidance strategy

SEATTLE, Washington - Henry Miller didn't know how to manage the piles of money he started making when his juiciest works were finally published in the United States in the early 1960s. He had been poor most of his life, sometimes getting by by sending out letters to friends, begging for food, clothes, whatever.

In 1963 he had high tax bills and a less-than-optimal liquidity situation and sought advice; some of his accountants mentioned that he could get tax write-offs by donating his watercolors to museums and universities. Upon hearing this, Miller (73 years old at the time) tossed aside any notions of making a painting when inspiration struck, and cranked out scores of watercolors which were promptly donated off.

Massive tax write-off
(writer painting)
I wish I had known this a few weeks ago, when I donated an old television to a nonprofit. I didn't even bother with donation paperwork for giving away that old dinosaur, but perhaps I could have thrown in one of my paintings, like the one pictured here.

"Yes, I'd also like to donate this painting to your organization. It's worth ten thousand dollars. Yes, yes, I'll need a receipt."

2009-10-30

Football Lock of the Week

WASHINGTON, DC -

Record: 2-5

This week: Missouri (-4) @ Colorado

UPDATE: big win for Missouri moves me to 3-5.

2009-10-24

Football Lock of the Week

SEATTLE, Washington -

Record: 2-4

This week: USC (-20.5) vs. Oregeon St.

2009-10-20

Notes on the Las Vegas cupcake scene

SEATTLE, Washington - I'll leave it to others to review Vegas strip clubs and escort services - I'll talk cupcakes instead. I just got back from a trip to Las Vegas (no, I didn't stay at the Mint, it was long ago integrated into Binion's) and while there I decided to survey the cupcake situation.

It's a tough job, criss-crossing the vast Las Vegas Valley with its ubiquitous strip malls and endless tracts of identical houses with identical tile roofs. The only rewards were the cupcakes and the occasional sighting of a trashy-hot woman leaving a Fuddruckers or Chili's.

Cupcake shop is in a strip mall unless otherwise noted. Actually, nothing to note, they're all in strip malls.

My first stop was Mad Hatter Cupcakes. The distinctive thing about Mad Hatter is that they frost and fill every cupcake to order. There's a few display items, but whatever you order gets put together right in front of you.

I went with a chocolate banana cupcake, which was a bit better than adequate. The cake was a bit on the spongy side, but that seems to be a frequent feature of banana cake. This store (unlike all the others I visited) actually had a few places to sit down.



As it happens, the strip mall right across the street from the Mad Hatter strip mall is the home of Cupcake Lane. They go with a geography-based theme for their flavors, so I went with Pike Place, which has a caramel-latte theme.

When I purchased the cupcake, the $0.30 in change I received was freezing cold, which was an ominous sign. There was no seating so the cupcake and its container are pictured below in my car. I thought putting the cupcake in a Pork Fried Rice container was odd, but I later found they weren't the only place that does this.

Well, the cupcake was a deeply refrigerated brick. I detected no espresso flavor. It's debatable at best whether a cupcake should ever be refrigerated, but this was absurd. Even if it was room temperature, both the cake and the frosting were of a density that suggested long shelf life more than sensual pleasure.



Next up, in some other anonymous part of the valley, was The Cupcakery. This place really pours it on as far as unique presentations and flavors. Pictured is the Strawberry Shortcake flavor, the cake color was a bit artificial-looking for my taste (and other flavors had other garish cake colors) but the taste and texture were decent and the two frosting textures was a good touch.



I also tried The Cupcakery's Elvis-inspired Trip to Graceland flavor (banana, peanut butter, bacon, and if you look real close there's some glitter-type stuff in the bacon); I will comment on bacon later.

When I left The Cupcakery, I started talking up a waitress at a Greek restaurant next door, telling her who I was, that I was researching Las Vegas cupcakes, and maybe she has some information she'd like to volunteer to me?... and she immediately pointed me to Retro Bakery.

This bakery was the best of the shops I visited. They have variety that doesn't descend into absurdity and the cake was moist without being too soft or spongy.

Below is the Coffee and Donuts flavor, which has donut glaze and a dollop of coffee buttercream. Unfortunately I forgot to photograph it until I had already started consumption.



One of the owners, Kari, served me, so I got to talk to Kari a bit... discussing cupcake issues theoretical and practical, the New York cupcake scene, the Seattle cupcake scene, etc. Kari is clearly a true believer... that's what I like to see.

Retro donates unpurchased cupcakes to a food bank nightly, just like Cupcake Royale, so there will be no refrigerated debacles at Retro Bakery. (update: due to distance, cupcakes are not donated every night to a food bank, but some days are simply dispersed to lucky people at other businesses, etc.).

The most notable thing to me about the Vegas shops, compared to other places, was the sheer variety (sometimes over-variety) of flavors and presentations. I don't know if this is a regional thing, or just new places trying to out-do each other. It certainly contrasts sharply with some of the Seattle shops and New York places like Buttercup, Two Little Red Hens, and Sugar Sweet Sunshine, all of which have a much more traditional vibe to their offerings.

bacon codicil: I had both the aforementioned Trip to Graceland cake from The Cupcakery and the Maple Bacon at Retro. In both cases, the bacon was in a chewier, more jerky-like state than I was expecting, and was a bit under-represented in the overall flavor. I don't think that texture works for me, but perhaps if you go with a crispy-bits bacon approach then other problems emerge.

2009-10-17

Did balloon boy Falcon Heene get the Ludovico Treatment?

Troubling question
(balloon boy puking)
SEATTLE, Washington - Allegations that the off-kilter Heene family staged the balloon-boy incident were bolstered by little Falcon stating that "you said we did this for a show" when asked why he did not come down from the attic.

Unfortunately, the next two times little Falcon heard questions about why he hid, he immediately vomited!.

What could cause this? It's almost as if he has been conditioned to have a horrible physical reaction upon hearing the very words...

Can we account for the whereabouts of Pat O'Day in the last 48 hours? Has he been to Colorado?

2009-10-16

Football Lock of the Week

SEATTLE, Washington -

Record: 2-3

This week: Wake Forest (+7) @ Clemson

UPDATE: Wake was getting pummeled so badly, I'm not even going to look at the final score, but that drops me to 2-4. Already more losses for me than the entire 2006 season.

2009-10-13

How much stuff survives 13 address changes?

SEATTLE, Washington - While working on a sink in my house I found a bowling ball towel (pictured below) that I knew dated from way way back, back before I even moved out on my own in October 1992, seventeen years ago this month.

Which got me wondering, how much of my stuff, my physical possessions, dates all the way back to my first apartment? We accumulate so much stuff, most of it seems somewhat important when we acquire it, but how much has made it with me for 17 years, which includes 13 address changes in six states?

There is the towel and other items from my job at that time:



I still have the license plate from my truck:



My father's M5 Bayonet from his time in the USMC:



I over-did it a bit with gear in my first apartment, a bad move considering my income at the time; of all the furniture and kitchen gear the only survivor is this humble blender:



When I moved out, I figured a responsible fellow keeps track of his paperwork, so I got an accordion-style folder. It has assorted stuff like 15-year-old credit card statements, receipts, the kind of stuff I routinely throw away today. It also contains a small newspaper clipping, folded up, that my mother gave me when I moved out (she seemed convinced I hated her and the world was ending, what son moves out of the house before marriage?) and that I was instructed not to read until she dies. It is still in there, unread, awaiting her death.



Only a tiny crumb of the 450 or so books in my house have been with me 17 years. A few old college books, and a tiny selection of other stuff. I was not a reader then.



How has this survived the ages, this is a recording of a Dungeons & Dragons session I ran. It must date from 1984 or 1985. I don't have any technology to play it on, thank goodness.



And, my old Dungeons & Dragons dice have never left me. (My old favorites, the yellow d8 and the clear d20!)



I think that's it.

2009-10-10

Football Lock of the Week

SEATTLE, Washington -

Record: 1-3

Gotta go with home town love this week: Seattle Seahawks (-1) vs. Jacksonville

UPDATE: 41-0 Seahawks. The AP story on the game said the Jags looked "bewildered". Record: 2-3

2009-10-08

(Alleged) West Seattle pimps took notes from American Pimp

SEATTLE, Washington - From the 1999 Hughes Brothers documentary American Pimp, pimps in response to the question of what "cut" their prostitutes get:

Schauntte: "What cut they get? Oh no. They ain't get no cut."
Charm: "No percentage."
Bishop Don Magic Juan: "Zero Percentage."
Payroll: "Zero."
Kenny Red: "A bitch of mine better not keep a dime."
Fillmore Slim: "None. None."
Danny Brown: "If one of my women had proven to be stronger than me, a better manager than me, then she could have been the leader. But I was the master of the house, I was the leader of the program, so all the money came to me. It wasn't like I had part of the money, she had part of the money - that's like, a divided situation."
And now in an trial that opened yesterday of an alleged West Seattle pimp:
Clark is accused of pimping out three women, including two girls, through a prostitution ring run by a West Seattle gang, the West Side Street Mobb.

That, [Prosecutor Sean]O'Donnell told jurors, is Mobb with two Bs.

"Mobb is spelled M-O-B-B, and it stands for Money Over Broke Bitches," O'Donnell said. "And you will find that money is a recurring theme in this case. …

"You will find that this gang has an almost singular purpose. Money, money, money."

2009-10-07

New Mad Dog Radio host having pot-and-kettle issues

SEATTLE, Washington - Sirius XM's Mad Dog Radio sports channel has juggled its lineup and brought in a new host, Dino Costa, to work the evening shift. In his first hour of his first show, Costa noted how he thinks that sports talk radio has fallen on hard times in this country, how it's pandering to the lowest common denominator, it's not smart enough, on and on. I thought, okay, sounds good. Bring on the more thoughtful, eloquent sports talk radio.

The next night, Costa said he was going to call out a particular man who was dumbing down sports talk. The target was Jim Rome.

Can't ad-lib
(Jim Rome)

Costa went on an extended, screaming rant about Rome and his listeners. He bellowed, over and over, that Rome SCRIPTS HIS ENTIRE SHOW and has NO AD-LIB ABILITIES whatsoever! Over and over! Rome panders to the frat-boy, sideways-baseball-cap, moron portion of the country! That his listeners are idiots by definition! That the show is all ATTITUDE and no SPORTS ANALYSIS! NO AD-LIB ABILITIES! The callers script their calls! Rome always talks in STATEMENTS! He SCRIPTS THE SHOW!!!

He then decided to take callers who wanted to defend Rome, and as soon as some came on he called them morons, idiots, and punks, shouting over the callers. Must have called one guy an idiot and a punk dozens of times.

This is the new cerebral sports talk radio? Shouting down callers as morons and punks?

I've been paying to listen to The Jim Rome Show since 2002, I've heard at least part of almost every show in that time, and one thing I can tell you about it is this: Rome has never shouted down a caller, never told a caller he was a moron or idiot to get a rise out of them, in all the years I've been listening. If a caller his bad, he hangs up on them (accompanied by a buzzer sound effect.) Once in a while, he'll say a thing or two about a caller after they're off. If a caller is really profane, nervous, or incompetent, their flameout becomes a part of the lore of the show (like Vinnie Mac).

As far as Rome's show: Look, talk radio shows tend to establish their own ecosystem, a show culture, and some people get it and some people do not. Many shows have done this, from Rome, to The Howard Stern Show, the old The Don and Mike Show, on and on. People are welcome not to like Rome's show. Rome's wife didn't like it the first time she heard it. Even Rome admits he didn't like his show when he first heard it. You have to merge with the culture of the show.

Rome does script out some of the set pieces on his show, but he doesn't "script the entire show." Yes, callers will sometimes write out their calls, but understand it in the context of the culture of the show: this is itself a nod to Rome writing out some of his stuff (thus the listeners are known as "clones") and callers who are obviously reading are subject to derision. The Jim Rome Show airs from 9am to noon so there isn't much going on in sports at that time to ad-lib about.

I don't qualify as a punk or moron, and the list of past champions of the show's annual invite-only caller contest includes a dentist and a composer-turned-rabbi.

As far as hardcore sports analysis (and I just heard Costa mention how great Derek Jeter's "pitch recognition" is), this is not stochastic thermodynamics, it's sports talk. I'm listening for light entertainment. I only listen to sports talk all day because I've become so radical from an ideological standpoint, I can't stomach any current political talk offerings. The best parts of Rome's show usually don't have too much to do with sports. In fact, I don't listen to most of the interviews, because coaches and athletes tend to give lifeless, jejune interviews.

Jim Rome is at the top of his profession, and Dino Costa (who is several years older than Rome) has bounced from market to market and apparently once livened up his sports talk show by interviewing David Duke, so feel free to connect the dots on the reasons for Costa's attack.

UPDATE: Lee "Hacksaw" Hamilton is back on the air at a Mexican border-blaster. Let's face it - nobody blends the scripting skills with the ad-lib skills like Hacksaw. NOBODY

2009-10-06

Speed of reading

To be savored slowly... or not so slowly
(fear and loathing)

SEATTLE, Washington - Sometimes I think I read too slowly, slower than my capabilities allow, given my genius-level intelligence. Can something be done? I recently stumbled upon the video below, where the host reveals the secrets of this matter. Our reading is slowed because of subvocalization - when we read a word, we move muscles associated with saying the word. This slows us down. Train yourself to stop doing this, and you'll start flying through texts.

It all sounds very straightforward and scientific, except that it may all be hot air. Subvocalization is real (it can be detected with subvocalization-detection equipment) but many experts call bollocks on the idea that it negatively affects reading speed.

I tried the exercise in the video a bit, and I don't think it was helping much, and like any practice exercise in anything (e.g. painting) I bail out quickly.

Even proponents of various speed reading schemes usually concede that it's useful for absorbing information but doesn't let you appreciate style.



Video found here

2009-10-02

Football Lock of the Week

SEATTLE, Washington -

Record: 1-2.

This week: BYU (-24) vs. Utah State

this game starts in 20 mins! Lay the lumber RIGHT NOW

UPDATE: Utah State scores a touchdown with five seconds left to cover the number??? 35-17. Jesus mary and joseph. Mark down the Utah St. coach as a guy who knows the pointspreads. Record: 1-3.

2009-10-01

On the Roman Polanski situation

You know what happens to nosy fellows?
(pic of Polanski)
SEATTLE, Washington - When the French government bails out on you, that usually means your goose is cooked - at least that's what Roman Polanski should be thinking right now.

Now, I have not exactly been calling for Polanski's head on a spear for the last fifteen years, so I've asked myself - should I have been doing just that?

If you asked me two weeks ago, "why did Roman Polanski flee the United States?", I would have said something to the effect that he kinda-sorta got down with a just-short-of-legal girl, and it came to light, and he left rather than deal with the static.

Polanski in fact had negotiated a guilty plea in 1978 on "unlawful sexual intercourse with a minor"; when you read that it kind of settles the issue of whether he had sex with her. So perhaps I have simply been Jedi mind-tricked whenever reading old accounts of why he left the country. Not even old accounts: the story linked above, written today, puts it thusly:
He is accused of having unlawful sex with 13-year-old Samantha Gailey in Los Angeles in 1978, before fleeing the country and spending the intervening period as a fugitive, mainly living in Paris.
That's a bit of a tinted view of the facts, and I suspect everything I've casually read about the circumstances of his flight had a similar ring.

The word "rape" had not entered my thinking, but if it had, I think I (like Whoopi) would have assumed it was a-few-weeks-short-of-legal rape, not "rape rape."

Once you read the details of the legal wranglings, and Gailey's testimony, it certainly puts Polanski in a rotten light. Sounds like "rape rape".

Now, I have also thought about taking a more libertarian perspective on this - specifically, the fact that Gailey has stated that she'd like the dogs called off. Crimes, even a person-on-person crime, are technically regarded as crimes against the state (Polanski v. California, as opposed to Polanski v. Gailey), so Gailey doesn't really have such power. Should she? It is a mainstream libertarian position that her wishes should override the wishes of the state?

Are we (through the government) sticking our nose where it doesn't belong? As Polanski himself said - "You're a very nosy fellow, kitty kat. Huh? You know what happens to nosy fellows?"

Turns out, it doesn't seem to be - I can only find evidence of the most hard-boiled anarchists (and a few Hollywood types) clamoring for a reduced role of the state. Mainstream libertarian opinion (if I may use the term) is much more sympathetic to the government than usual in this matter.

2009-09-30

A few reasons to prefer cats to dogs

Clean - like my conscience
(cat)
SEATTLE, Washington - Cats have quite a few characteristics that make them better to have around then dogs. The first one is obvious - the typical cat has much more contempt for humans than the typical dog. I like that.

One other thing is the cleanliness angle. I was at a friend's house last weekend, and they have a dog, and the dog smelled a little bit. Not a lot, probably the average dog smell, but it's noticeable and this is in spite of the dog getting bathed.

I've had my cat for 11+ years and never cleaned her. Yet, I just took a deep sniff of her torso, and she smells like she just popped out of the clothes dryer. They handle this themselves.

2009-09-27

The cruel inevitability of the Seahawks key lime jersey


SEATTLE, Washington - When the Seahawks unveiled their uniform overhaul in 2002, it was noted that there was some really loud lime green piping in the uniform, and in the little eye of the (now slightly edgier, more angry) hawk itself. At the time it would have been absurd to have an entire jersey in such a color.

When Deion Branch arrived with the team in 2006, he was sporting receiver gloves in the lime color. It looked bad, but that's as bad as it could get, right?

A lime jersey appeared this spring as part of a April Fool's hoax... a Photoshopped lime green jersey, ha ha.

The next day, April 2, a more official-looking green-jersey graphic was leaked, and the TNT Seahawks blog wondered whether "that’s the imagery you want to project to an opponent like the Chicago Bears on Sunday."

Now, today, against the Bears, they arrived, and they were the disaster everyone thought they would be.

2009-09-25

Football Lock of the Week

SEATTLE, Washington -

Record: 1-1

This week: Georgia (-12) vs. Arizona St.

UPDATE: When did Dennis Erickson teams start showing spine and grit on the road? They lost 20-17, so I fall to 1-2.

2009-09-23

Now that's what I'm talkin 'bout... The Swinery

SEATTLE, Washington - The Swinery is in full effect. Maybe it's time to watch the carbs again, after probably averaging a pint of ice cream every other day for the last four months.

The chicken liver pâté - very smooth, a bit more sherry flavor than most. Still has a bit of a pink hue, so it's not overcooked (as people so often do with liver, pâté and otherwise).

Bacon burgers - ground beef with bits of cooked pancetta right in the mix. Allegedly a 75/25 mix, it looks less than that, but it's certainly enough to give the burger a bacony flavor. The grind is very coarse, barely burger-ish if you're used to wispy supermarket grinds. I like the change of pace and the mouth feel.

If you're panicky about the prices at a small shop like this - the ground products did seem a bit on the spendy side (in the $10/lb neighborhood) but are certainly distinctive products, and the whole cuts are not much pricier at all than other higher-end places (e.g. New York steaks at $18/lb). Creatures like quail and goat were in the case.

There's plenty of variety, cheeses, bulk and cured chorizo, assorted forcemeat products - something for everyone.

2009-09-22

Where were these chicks when I was at Clemson?

Another Dagny wannabe
(dagny)
SEATTLE, Washington - I noticed in the October 2009 issue of Reason that one of their summer interns, Amanda Carey, is a student at Clemson. She is the editor of the miniscule "right-wing" student paper, the Tiger Town Observer. Very cute, as you can see. Per Reason she talks "a little natural rights, a little Atlas Shrugged" in a regular Friday get-together, followed by a trip to "Super Taco."

Where were these types when I was prowling Tiger Town? I knew one of the members of the Observer staff at the time and he never mentioned cuties (or any women at all, that I recall) at the paper. Otherwise, I'd have also been hanging out with them, talking natural rights.

And Super Taco must be new, because I was quite well versed on cheap eats when I was there and I don't recall it. Does the local Pizza Hut still have a $4 lunch buffet? For the sake of the current students, I hope not. Is Nick's still peddling cheap pitchers of Lowenbrau Dark? Is it a good thing or bad thing if they are?

2009-09-18

Football Lock of the Week

NEW YORK, New York -

Record: 1-0

This week: Cardinals @ Jaguars UNDER 42.5

UPDATE: Jacksonville got garbage-time points, unfortunately, to push the game over. Record: 1-1.

2009-09-14

Haven't been to Barnes & Noble in a while - rather traumatic

NEW YORK CITY, New York - I've turned into a real grinder in book buying. Used, over-runs, Half Price Books, yard sales - anything but actually walking into a big-ass Barnes & Noble.

I went into one in New Jersey and I've been grinding for so long, I was shocked by the prices. The minimum I saw for a novel was $13.95, and many were $16.95+. I'm used to paying $4 to $7 nowadays. If I really need something that's not available via my usual channels, I'll order it on Amazon for about $10.50 max, and I pay for that with a voucher from a Coinstar machine so it feels like it's free.

Oddly, given my parsimoniousness on this issue, I never read a book from the library.

Do the authors make any money when I buy used? No. Do they make less when I buy at clearance? They must make less, or none at all. What can I say, write for the love of the game. Many of the authors I buy are dead anyway. Our Leaders have blessed us with the First-sale doctrine - take advantage.

2009-09-11

Football Lock of the Week

SEATTLE, Washington - I was 8-5 (61.5%) last year and 27-13-1 (67.5%) over 3 years.

So let's get started!

This week:
Wake Forest (-3) vs. Stanford

UPDATE: Wake scores a TD with two seconds left to cover the number, 24-17!

Record: 1-0

2009-09-02

300th Post - greatest hits

SEATTLE, Washington - Some hits and misses from the last 299 posts:

The Arts, broadly defined

DeQuincey on drug prohibition

Did N.W.A. lift lyrics from Vladimir Nabokov?

On putting a supercomputer in a former chapel

Review of The Decline and Fall of Practically Everybody

Some people drop Big Oil into every conversation


Seattle and Washington

Useless "Landmark" Denny's in Ballard finally allowed to die

Washington State - similar to the Moon

The (former) momentum at the West Seattle Whole Foods site


Celebrities

Harrison Ford looks like a Cap Hill old gay guy

George Takei: similar to the losers from your small hometown

I knew Christina Ricci was short, but holy crap

Orson Welles and the Islamic Revolution


Gambling

Sports betting gene isolated

Fantasy vs. reality for California card rooms

Should you masturbate before gambling?

2009-09-01

Movie Review - District 9

SEATTLE, Washington - There was a bit of buzz about this movie before and immediately after its release - that it was a bit more thoughtful than most sci-fi fare, a little more cerebral. Some of these same thoughts were expressed upon the release of The Matrix in 1999.

I've now seen District 9 and it's competent and entertaining enough but it's also utterly conventional. Where exactly is the nuanced, cerebral part... the parallels to apartheid that are as subtle as a brick hitting you in the head?

This movie does what many movies do, rolls out an interesting concept and then ends the movie with a 30-minute shootout that could have been lifted intact from another movie. In fact, that's the exact criticism Roger Ebert had of The Matrix when he reviewed it.

This phenomenon is not limited to sci-fi... L.A. Confidential established a great, Chinatown-ish mood through most of the film, then ended with a big gaudy shootout. The powers that be must have demanded a sweaty Guy Pearce in a firefight. Chinatown has a bullet or two fired at the end, but it's faithful to the tone of the rest of the film.

How far back do we have to go to find some sci-fi without a long concluding firefight? 2001: A Space Odyssey? How about THX-1138? And the latter probably doesn't have a shootout because George Lucas didn't have the budget. I'm surprised he hasn't gone back and plopped a Clone Army into THX.

2009-08-29

All you need to know about the "housing crisis" in one press release from nine years ago

SEATTLE, Washington - Via Cafe Hayek, a press release from Wells Fargo in August 2000 (text not bolded in original):

A new home financing program, designed to spur homeownership among California’s educators, may receive an “A” from teachers throughout the state. The program, announced today by Wells Fargo Home Mortgage, Inc., the California Housing Loan Insurance Fund (CaHLIF) and Freddie Mac, allows teachers working within the state to purchase a home with a downpayment of just $500.
The program also offers teachers relaxed credit guidelines – making it easier to qualify for the program – and higher qualifying ratios, which allows homebuyers to qualify for more home. Wells Fargo Home Mortgage will be the exclusive provider of these loans; CaHLIF will provide downpayment assistance and mortgage insurance; and, Freddie Mac will purchase the loans.
..
..
A starting salary for a California public school teacher is $29,000 a year, according to the California Teachers Association, while the average teacher’s salary is $44,000. Meanwhile, the median home price in California is $217,520.
..
..
While California educators will only need $500 for a downpayment, the remaining downpayment will be funded by CaHLIF in the form of a 3 percent simple interest loan with payment deferred until the end of the loan term, or when the home is sold or refinanced.
As a commenter at CH noted, a $200K loan under these circumstances would be about $1,300/mo for someone making $44K a year. I make more than triple that and I consider my mortgage of under $1,600 to be approaching the upper range of what I consider acceptable relative to my income.

The "crisis" has repeatedly been spun in the media as crazy, gambling, out of control banks making bad decisions, but in this case all the bank (Wells Fargo) is doing is writing an ill-advised loan, scraping off a bit of vigorish, and dumping the turkey loan off on the only kind of entity that would want such a thing, a government mutant like Freddie Mac.

This particular example is doubly odious, doubly indicative of the danger of having a government entity tinkering in the housing market, because not only was Freddie gobbling up absurd loans, but in this case it was a special for teachers!. Why are teachers making $44K more deserving of cushy loans than anyone else making $44k? At least it was available to both public and private school teachers... cold comfort.

2009-08-24

More reasons not to declare a national crisis when someone misses a mortgage payment

SEATTLE, Washington - We the public continue to receive news every month about the percentage of homeowners who are behind on their mortgage payments or in foreclosure. The impression usually given is that every one of these parties just needs a helping hand - that they're scouring through the couch cushions and hitting up relatives for a few bucks, just so they can scrape a payment together. Can't we as a society help these people? Who could possibly want to miss a mortgage payment?

Turns out, a lot of people. I already discussed people intentionally getting foreclosed and making a few bucks in the process last month. Now there's more: a long Time piece on Las Vegas real estate presents another variation of such a strategy. This variation involves short selling (which is the lender agreeing to let a house be sold for less than the value of the loan and letting this amount fully satisfy the borrower's obligation) and is being promoted by Vegas agent Brooke Boemio:

Boemio specializes in short selling, in a particularly Vegas way. Basically, she finds clients who owe more on their house than the house is worth (and that's about 60% of homeowners in Las Vegas) and sells them a new house similar to the one they've been living in at half the price they paid for their old house. Then she tells them to stop paying the mortgage on their old place until the bank becomes so fed up that it's willing to let the owner sell the house at a huge loss rather than dragging everyone through foreclosure. Since that takes about nine months, many of the owners even rent out their old house in the interim, pocketing a profit.
There you go. Creative, perhaps even profitable - but is it ethical?
It's an entire city of John Dillingers, feeling guiltless for stealing from the banks. Boemio is well aware that short selling isn't ethical [emphasis mine - jmr] and is exacerbating Vegas' economic problems. People, she believes, should make their payments, accept their paper losses and ride out the crash. "Guess what, a______s of Las Vegas. That's what gambling is about. That's what investing is about," she says. "It's greedy. But we're all doing it. Because why not?" It's very hard, she says, to suffer as the one honest person in a town of successful con artists.
I'm not a real estate guru but I've been researching and googling this and I'm not really seeing what's inherently unethical about short selling. First of all, the lender has to agree to it - it's their choice to just go ahead with a foreclosure if they so choose. From the seller's perspective, it's their choice to pursue a short sale and there is damage to their credit (albeit not as bad as a foreclosure) but as the article notes, under the Boemio strategy, "they just bought a new house, so they don't care."

There do seem to be some "ethical" concerns around short selling, in such areas as how and when to disclose to the buyer that the property is a short sale, when to list the short offer as "pending" in the MLS, and the fact that some lenders will drag their feet on approval of a short offer, hoping for a slightly better offer to materialize. I don't think any of this renders the whole concept inherently unethical.

Notice what's missing from this picture? No government "rescue" of borrowers, no posturing politicians, no snouts in the trough - just a resolution of the bloat in real estate using existing processes. The banks may take some losses and try to stick their noses in the trough, and unfortunately they'll probably succeed. Still, let's not think of every borrower behind on their payments as a helpless victim.

Found @ The Conspiracy to Keep You Poor and Stupid

2009-08-15

Seattle voter guidance for Aug 18

SEATTLE, Washington - Looking through the voters' pamphlet, many of the candidates sound alike and some positions simply have no one on the ballot deserving of support. To simplify, I identified trouble phrases in the statements of the candidates - stuff that tells you right away, no need to read the rest of the statement and no need to color in the dot next to their name.

"living wage"
"Web 2.0"
"affordable housing"
"we can design an innovative education system"
"lifelong musician"
"create good jobs"
"community activist"
"green jobs"
"stimulus funding"
"tax incentives"
"free college education"
"Nickels"
"stimulus dollar"
"job training"
"pursuit of true public benefits"
(and scariest of all):"new era of action"

2009-08-10

The big question facing Jets QB Mark Sanchez

SEATTLE, Washington - Mark Sanchez is in camp with the New York Jets. He has some questions swirling around him - can he handle the media pressure in New York? Will he be the opening-day starter as a rookie? Can he focus on football with all the distractions that his high profile will bring? But most importantly, will he ever be called on the carpet over the photo with the white jeans?

Sanchez did a photo shoot with GQ in May, and most of it is what we'd expect - Sanchez posing with a hot chick in a bikini, etc.

But this one shot... white jeans? White jeans? And a tight shirt that barely reaches his navel with colored horizontal stripes? He looks like a character in Querelle. This can't possibly help his standing in the locker room.

2009-08-05

Some suggestions on "Japanese Techniques" for Starbucks

SEATTLE, Washington - Starbucks has started performing time-and-motion studies on its baristas in an attempt to increase efficiency and throughput. The WSJ article on this claims that this is an introduction of "'Lean' Japanese Techniques".

This is probably a good initiative, I'm just not sure how "Japanese" it is. The only evidence the WSJ gives of this is that a former Toyota executive is consulting their "lean team".

One of the tests the "lean team" performs on baristas is having them assemble a Mr. Potato Head doll. That certainly sounds Japanese.

But why not go all the way? There's plenty of other "Japanese Techniques" that Starbucks can try:


found @ Starbucks Gossip

2009-08-01

Rolls-Royce keeping it classy in Bellevue


SEATTLE, Washington - The Rolls-Royce dealership in Overlake has a fine red-and-blue neon OPEN sign in their showroom window. What says "we sell dignified $400,000 cars" quite like a neon OPEN sign? As of this writing, they even have a picture of this travesty on their website.

The nearby Jaguar dealership has not stooped to such garishness.

Why not go all the way and drop a Ca$h for Clunkers sandwich board out front?

2009-07-27

Time magazine on the end of handwriting

SEATTLE, Washington - Time has an article this week from a twentysomething woman discussing handwriting - her incompetence at it, a bit of history of it, and some hand-wringing over its demise.

Everyone except college professors of literacy understands that computers are the reason for this:

The knee-jerk explanation is that computers are responsible for our increasingly illegible scrawl, but Steve Graham, a special-education and literacy professor at Vanderbilt University, says that's not the case. The simple fact is that kids haven't learned to write neatly because no one has forced them to. "Writing is just not part of the national agenda anymore," he says.
This is an example of why it's not a good idea to have "national agendas" driven by professors (or maybe anyone else either).

Penmanship was where I was a consistent underperformer in grammar school, and when the report card would come my father would then assign me writing drills, usually transcribing from a book of essays by Andy Rooney.

I haven't tried to write entire sentences in cursive in many years, so I just gave it a shot:



My hand was sore after this effort. Turns out, the hardest part was crossing the t's and dotting the i's... when writing single letters, you do that right away, but with cursive you have to go over the whole word after writing it. This was old hat for many years, but I just now struggled horribly with it.

found @ Slashdot

2009-07-23

Lindsay Lohan's dad attempts hot Tiffani-Amber Thiessen pose

SEATTLE, Washington - A sheer top doesn't work for everyone. It definitely worked for Tiffani-Amber Thiessen back in the day. I thought the pic of her below was just about the hottest pic on the young mid-1990s internet. It has an understated sexiness to it. The clothing is perfect. The hair, perfect.

Now we have Michael Lohan, in what looks like a man-version of the same clothing? Why the hell are there pictures of him on the internet at all? Never mind one where he looks like he's trying to imitate one of the great photos of the 1990s.



I spotted Mr Lohan at Just Jared

2009-07-19

Astronaut and ape, forever linked, at least in the movies

SEATTLE, Washington - Looks like a small model kit is available (or was available a few years ago) that is a conceptual cousin of one of my 2001: A Space Odyssey paintings.

A modeling fanatic went into detail on all the various flaws and difficulties of the kit. I'm not one of those model kit guys.

At least the kit does not have any features that unsophisticated observers will keep mistaking for a penis.



2009-07-16

Summer Glau may be the Russell Branyan of science fiction

Warning: mixing of sports and science fiction ahead

NEW YORK, New York - I've finished watching Firefly and it's clearly another instance of Summer Glau not being given the chance to show her full potential. She spent most of her time prowling around the ship in her muumuu, having the occasional breakdown or uttering a cryptic comment or two. She did not have a prominent role until the final episode.

She had a beefier role in Terminator, but still was not the featured player.

And now, she's going to play second or third fiddle to Eliza Dushku on Dollhouse. Eliza Dushku!

I've questioned Glau's potential before, but after seeing a lot of her work I think she can handle something big. She's just not being given the chance.

Things like this happen in sports. Look at Russell Branyan. For years, he's only been given a chance to be a part-time player: he strikes out too much, he can't field, he can't stay healthy, he can't hit left-handed pitchers, etc.

Now Branyan has been given a chance to be a full-timer in Seattle this year, and he's having a big season. His hitting against left-handed pitchers is not great but is adequate, and he's doing everything else asked of him.

Someone needs to do this with Summer Glau. It's a shame I'm not a television producer, because I'd do it. I'd throw her into the fire, work her hard. To quote from The Mack, I'd work that broad like nobody's ever worked her before. See if she can handle it. I think I'd have a star on my hands.


2009-07-09

Powerful drug offered at Cupcake Royale

SEATTLE, Washington - Cupcake Royale has placed a large, well-labeled shaker of nutmeg on their condiment bar. Do they not know that nutmeg is a powerful psychoactive drug? Maybe they do know and that's why it's there.

William S. Burroughs discussed nutmeg in a letter to The British Journal of Addiction in the 1950s, a letter that was reproduced in some editions of Naked Lunch:

Convicts and sailors sometimes have recourse to nutmeg. About a tablespoon is swallowed with water. Results are vaguely similar to marijuana with side effects of headache and nausea. Death would probably supervene before addiction if such addiction is possible. I have only taken nutmeg once.

There are a number of narcotics of the nutmeg family in use among the Indians of South America.
Wikipedia also has some information on the *power* of nutmeg:
Large doses can be dangerous (potentially inducing convulsions, palpitations, nausea, eventual dehydration, and generalized body pain). In large amounts it is reputed to be a strong deliriant. Users report both negative and positive experiences, involving strong open-eye-visuals (hallucinations), and in some cases quite severe anxiety. Users may feel a sensation of blood rush to the head, or a strong euphoria and dissociation.
This probably isn't much of an issue at the West Seattle location, because there aren't enough people around with either the knowledge or the desire to dip into the nutmeg. But, Cupcake Royale is opening a Capitol Hill location later this month, and I'm pretty sure the Capitol Hill hipster/indigent population will blast right through the nutmeg supply. May want to keep the nutmeg behind the counter there, just like how Twice Sold Tales in the U-District can't leave Kerouac books sitting around on the bookshelves where poor students will take them and shove them into their pants.

2009-07-06

Sometimes foreclosure is a strategy, not a disaster

SEATTLE, Washington - Media treatments of foreclosures often have an air of treating the foreclosee as a noble victim, someone who's trying to do the right thing but has fallen victim to extraordinary circumstances. An example of this is a Seattle Times story from May on government help for these unfortunate victims:

Aurora Loan Services is set to foreclose on her home overlooking Seattle's Puget Sound on Friday. Despite numerous calls, e-mails and letters, she says she's only been able to have one phone conversation with a company representative.

"It's like this huge, concrete thick wall that you cannot get through," said Inman, 58, who is working as a human resources consultant, but making much less than she was before she was laid off by the City of Seattle.
Let's ignore for a second that we have a city employee who can afford a Puget Sound view property - the tone of the entire article is (1) foreclosees are victims and (2) President Obama is riding to their rescue.

I get an image in my head after reading stories like this, of a cruel bank sending four masked goons to haul the hapless residents from their properties, one goon on each limb, perhaps as a hungry child looks on with a tattered doll in her hands.

First of all - if you're a paycheck or three away from falling into a foreclosure that you don't want to fall into, you should have mortgage insurance. I get solicited for such insurance every month, and I've determined that I don't need it. The woman above (in a view property on a municipal salary where a pay cut has resulted in her not being able to make payments) has simply not been responsible. But I guess this is why the people have elected the politicians that they have elected - to dig them out of these holes.

But beyond that - getting foreclosed is often a strategy for a property owner, not a disaster to be averted at all costs. A friend of mine back east is doing it, and explained his plan to me in detail. He has an underwater condo with a paying renter. He's done the math on his income from the rent and his various costs (mortgage, taxes, condo fee, etc.) and has decided that the best move is to just stop paying everything, keep collecting the rent, and let the slow slow process of foreclosure grab the place when the time comes. He's 60+ years old and doesn't give a damn about his credit rating.

I've always sensed that situations like my friend's are more common than the media are letting on, and now I have some evidence to back me up: analysis of the causes of foreclosure show negative equity to be the leading cause of foreclosures in the second half of 2008, not the reasons more commonly cited in the media (e.g. evil banks offering "teaser" loan rates that roll into higher rates that the victimized borrower cannot afford). Negative equity does not in and of itself make you unable to afford payments, but it may make a thinking owner (like my friend) decide that walking away is the best option.

Of course, all the government "fixes" to the foreclosure "crisis" are either shooting at the wrong targets or aren't likely to lower foreclosure rates much even if they hit their targets (as the WSJ article above discusses in some detail).

codicil: When it comes to real estate, nobody has a more blinkered, myopic view than realtors. An Arizona realtor has dubbed people like my friend "sympathy foreclosees" (who is being sympathetic to whom, I'm still not sure) and declared that Something Must Be Done:
Everybody loses in a sympathy foreclosure, the lender loses money, the buyer damages their credit and usually they neighborhoods with many foreclosures are less attractive to buyers due to high crime in some of these abandoned homes. Something must be done....

2009-06-30

Jackson postmortem starting to look like a Howard Hughes re-run


SEATTLE, Washington - I'm well versed on the details of the life and legacy of Howard Hughes, and I know a re-run when I see one. The whole Michael Jackson situation is starting to sound familiar. The large entourage who depended on Jackson for their daily bread, the drug talk, the personal physicians lawyering up immediately after the death - it's all cut from the same cloth as the aftermath of Hughes's death in 1976.

Yet another parallel has popped up - looks like we're now in for a battle over which will, if any, is the legitimate last executed will of Michael Jackson. Michael's father Joe is allegedly not mentioned in the alleged most recent (2002) will, so of course he's now allegedly saying that that will is not valid.

The Hughes will situation became a total circus (with dozens of fakes and alleged wills popping up) that eventually resulted in an award-winning film but never resulted in finding a binding legal will.

2009-06-29

Nevada seems to have a secret

SEATTLE, Washington - I have a laminated map where I've marked with a black marker everywhere I've been. Given my prodigious memory, I think it's close.

Nevada has a bit of a unique look on the map - it looks like it won't let intruders into its interior. I have six entry/exit points, from lonely Jackpot in the north (where the desolate two-lane road generously grows a turning lane to allow for easy access to Jackpot's modest casinos) to several entries near Las Vegas. It looks like I have entered and been steered right back out, like there is some great secret in Ely or Winnemucca that I'm simply not allowed to see.

Compare this with nearby, promiscuous California, which I have crisscrossed with impunity.

2009-06-24

A painfully frequent misinterpretation of the First Amendment

SEATTLE, Washington - You see this over and over and over, but in this case it's someone who should know better. The Associated Press has issues some guidelines to its employees regarding their use of Twitter and Facebook. This comes in the aftermath of a comment critical of a newspaper publisher appearing on the Facebook wall of an AP reporter.

The president of the guild representing AP reporters, Tony Winton, responded with this:

“I am unaware of anything else like that... parts of the policy seem to be snuffing out peoples’ First Amendment rights of expression by a company that wraps itself in the First Amendment.”
Grrr. Here is the text of the First Amendment:
Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances.
The First Amendment speaks to government* restrictions on speech, not restrictions on speech imposed by one private party on another. An employer restricting the speech of employees is out of scope:
The U.S. Supreme Court has never interpreted the First Amendment as having the same power to alter private property rights, or provide any other protection against purely private action. When considering private authority figures (such as a child's parents or an employee's employer), Constitutional free speech provides no protection. A private authority figure may reserve the right to censor their subordinate's speech, or discriminate on the basis of speech, without any legal consequences. For example, per the at will employment doctrine, an employee may be fired from their occupation for speaking out against a politician that the employer likes.
People make this goof all the time, but people should know better, and anyone working in media really really really should know better.

* I'm using the word "Congress" in the amendment to mean government generally; the actual meaning and scope of the word "Congress" here and elsewhere in the Constitution is actually a matter of some debate

2009-06-22

Now they tell us

SEATTLE, Washington - West Seattle Golf Course was built in 1940. I'm betting that the current practice green has been in its current location for a long time, if not for the whole history of the course.

So now, in June 2009, they finally decide to warn people that errant drives from the 18th can pepper you while you're working on your putting? We already know this. In fact I launched a ball there once from the 18th tee myself.

I think an especially wild long-hitter could whack you from the 17th tee, too.

I don't know how you're expected to take "due care" while practicing your putting. Someone yells "fore" or they don't.

The sudden appearance of this sign can only mean one thing... someone got their ass crowned recently.

2009-06-12

Fall of a once-proud piece of outdoor advertising

NEW YORK, New York - The large outdoor advertising at Madison Square Garden used to be elite advertising space. Usually, high-powered stuff like the latest Harrison Ford movie or the T-Mobile G1 would be on display in these slots.

Now? This is not a Photoshop. Bob's Discount Furniture is peddling their wares in this space. What the hell? We've gone from summer blockbuster films to Bob's Discount Furniture informing us of their new Poughkeepsie location?