Monthly Archives: June 2011

A bizarre and unfortunate story of a Westpoint man that went from being a cornerback for the Black Knights to being demoted and deployed due to a confrontation with Patti LaBelle. The Westpoint kid is suing, LaBelle is suing back.

Macross Plus comes to life. Macross Plus is an anime where the major pop star of the day is an AI robot named Sharon Apple. Perhaps the best take on it came from a Facebook friend: “It’s not so much that they made the computer image look real, it’s that they’re trying to make the real girls look faker, so the Idoru doesn’t stand out.”

How can this surprise anyone? There are a lot of reasons that the south has a bigger obesity problem than the rest of the country. But it’s not entirely related to the heat!

Louisiana almost made littering an impoundable offense. It failed in the state house after clearing the senate by a near-unanimous vote. Astonishing. Even for Louisiana.

News of the Weird from a few weeks ago. Identical twin pastors die within hours of one another on the same day, at the same hospital.

A man in Utah was fined for trying to pay a $140 bill with pennies. It’s reminiscent of a man cuffed and arrested at Best Buy for wanting to pay with $2 bills.

This is a particularly weak argument against legalizing drugs. I’m not even sold on decriminalization (outside of pot), but come on. The end of prohibition didn’t destroy the mafia, but it made the mafia something that could be fought.

There’s apparently a documentary about the infamous McDonald’s coffee lawsuit. It’s called Hot Coffee, which makes me wonder if I will get any typo traffic. The film is coming strictly from the pro-litigation point of view, so there’s some pushback, pointing out that they’re not exactly telling the whole story. I don’t begrudge the lady her money. Or even the industrious lawyer(s). She suffered for her money and the lawyers played the game and they won. What kind of pisses me off, though, is how difficult it is to actually get a hot cup of coffee these days. The lawyers involved in the case say that anything that can quickly burn you is too hot.

Our cultural fascination with Camelot. As I’ve been diving into Game of Thrones, it reminds me of the love I had of the Arthurian legend. Nobody understood why I hated the Sean Connery movie that came out. Because it wasn’t King Arthur! Not in any meaningful sense.

Category: Newsroom

It’s amazing how empty this house feels but for a twenty pound mutt. I dropped her off with the Alvarez’s this evening. I got a text from Jack saying that she and their 70lb rottweiler are getting along swimmingly (which is a bit of a surprise, since when they usually see one another, Lisby growls the other dog into submission).

I will be leaving tomorrow. Clancy is slated to leave on Friday. I’ll be picking her up and we’ll be going to the Corrigan Compound (a group of houses on a private drive owned by her extended family on her mother’s side) for a couple days. I will be staying in Colosse for several days after she gets back. It’ll be a bit of a working vacation, as I have some Commodus stuff on my plate. Or I should, anyway. Also possible: Clancy can’t make it at all and I spend the entire time in Colosse. Also possible: I go on a business trip and spend little time in Colosse at all. Everything is in flux.

I posted just today about airline fees. By coincidence, we had to change out her flight and got dinged with the penalty. My criticism doesn’t really apply, though, since we’re only a couple days out. Charging us $150 is more than fair under these circumstances. Less fair is Delta not being up front about the cost of the new flight, throwing in an additional $250 at the end of the call because the price they gave us didn’t include the return trip (??!!). She will be flying US Airways. We never want to give Delta our business again (this is not the first Delta-related incident), but they have our money. So we’ll have to fly them again at some point. While I don’t begrudge them their $150, it’s annoying that they keep that and the money. On the other hand, Delta is a difficult airline to avoid out here with Deseret’s capital being one of their hubs.

Category: Road

The Atlantic has a list of the worst airline fees. I agree with the commenters, that some of them aren’t bad. In fact, some of them improved. Others, though are quite aggravating.

1. Pet aboard fee – In some cases, it costs more to fly the dog than it is to fly me. That strikes me as a bit excessive. On the other hand, It’s something that they’re very up front about and that you can make arrangements accordingly. Charging a fee for pets is definitely fair. And not something new.

2. Unaccompanied Minor – I am sympathetic to this one. You have liability concerns, for one thing. And kids require more attention and are more likely to make flights unpleasant for others (dealing with complaints costs money). Is $100 fair? Not sure. Like the dogs, though, you know well ahead of time.

3. Carry on Baggage Fee –
I’ve commented on this one before. The long and short of it… I have no problem with it. It’s easier to plan around and the financial incentives should be towards checking, and not carrying on, baggage.

4. Pillow/blanket – Rubbish. I have never even taken advantage of this “service”, but still: rubbish.

5. WiFi fee – How quickly the world owes us something.

6. Non-alcoholic beverages – At least, unlike sporting events and the like, you can bring your own. I think that water of some sort should be guaranteed, but not necessarily soft drinks.

7. Headset fees – This is actually an improvement. Does anyone else remember when you used to have to put down a deposit on a rental that was more than the $3 that Continental is charging? I don’t even blame them for that. As with the WiFi, they need to be able to pay for these things and passing it on to the customers seems fair. I do find the “gotcha” aspect to be irritating (you’re paying $3 because you forgot to bring them from last time and not because you want a second pair). But it’s cheap enough not to be a problem. Especially considering that the pricing is probably in line with what it costs them.

8. Meal/snack fee
– If you want to pay for the food they’re selling, you deserve what you get.

9. Preferred seat fee – I do find this one somewhat aggravating, and petty. A sort of “we’re going to intentionally make things difficult for you if you don’t pay up” screw-you sort of thing. Paying extra for exit-row seats is completely fair, though.

10. Ticket Hold fee – I’m not sure about this one. I don’t think “buy your ticket or take your chances” is unfair, though it seems to me that if you’re doing so far enough in advance, it should be a courtesy.

11. Phone booking fee – $25? WTF?

12. Priority seating – Perfectly voluntary pricing discrimination at its best. No problems here.

Here’s what I don’t get, though. How can you list some of these penny-ante things without getting into what I believe is the worst:

13. Cancellation fees – If I cancel at the last minute, I should have to pay them something. If I cancel six weeks ahead of time, though, that’s pretty ridiculous. They have plenty of time to sell the ticket again. Whereas a lot of the others mentioned are completely voluntary, this is a case of turning the screws on someone who simply doesn’t have much choice. Even when no harm is done. It’s the sort of back-end pricing that annoys me. I might be more accommodating if the fees were remotely reasonable, but they aren’t. Change of plans? Screw you! Because we can!

Update: Apparently, US Airways charges an extra fee if you want to sit on the front half of the plane. No extra-legroom, or anything. You just sit near the front. We don’t get it. Last on and first off isn’t work $25, in my book. Not when for $40 you can get decent legroom.

Category: Road

RIP, Peter Falk. Columbo was an early favorite of mine. Though he’s an Italian-American in Los Angeles, the stealth intelligence hidden under self-deprecation makes me think of southerners. It’s kind of odd that they seem to be remaking everything, but not really Columbo. I guess it goes back to the ad campaign they had when they relaunched in the 90’s, showing various actors of the day (Mark Lynn-Baker, Fred Savage) wearing The Coat, saying “There’s just one… Columbo.” If they relaunched it, I wonder whom they would get to play the role. They’d probably screw it up, mixing some action, gunplay, and martial arts in there.

After France stuck by nuclear power, I decided to declare a moratorium on making fun of them. The moratorium is now lifted.

With USC having vacated the title, there is the natural question of who should get it. Oklahoma’s Bob Stoops says that he isn’t asking for it. Well. Nobody’s offering it. 55-19, the Sooners lost to the Trojans by. Texas Tech’s Tommy Tuberville argues that it should go to Auburn, which he coached at the time. The argument there is much stronger. Vacating titles is lame, but if you’re going to do it, it should go to the next team down the list. Another candidate would be Utah. But Utah’s coach at the time was Urban Meyer, who likely doesn’t give a rip about yet another one of those. Besides, after he left Utah (and spent time complaining there about how his team wasn’t taken seriously), he went on the record as saying that non-BCS teams should not be considered for championships. The BCS has basically said that they’re not going to give the title to anyone else.

I got a kick out of this story. Of course has the right to exclude whomever they like, and of course the Shrek virus was wrong… but still.

Our postal problems may be more severe, but Canada’s are more immediate.

The new rule is, we pass at the pleasure of security. Even if you’re elderly and presumably wealthy tourists.

The fact that this raid was not about failure to pay student loans makes it a little less odious, but only a little. White collar crimes simply do not warrant the SWAT treatment.

Unexpectedly, we’re driving less. My first thought was that this was economic (fewer jobs to drive to), but that would show up before a recession and after, but so much between 2010 and 2011, both of which were the pits. Meanwhile, autotaxis now legal in Nevada!

A man was charged with a $275 fine for helping clear out tornado damage. Such vigilantism must be punished, of course.

An interesting chart of men of different heights and sizes. Having been some of the heights and weights listed, I can say that some of them are misleading.

Category: Newsroom

In writing about the the whole incident a while back regarding Apple’s factory workers in China, Dave Pinson makes the following point:

I can see how it might be tough for a company like Dell to manufacture low-margin laptops in the U.S., but doesn’t Apple have high enough profit margins that in can afford to manufacture some of its gadgets here? If New Balance can make some of its high-end sneakers here, why can’t Apple make some iPads and iPhones here? It can’t be for a lack of workers — Apple’s home state of California has a 12.9%. unemployment rate. Maybe it would mean lower profit margins — or maybe Apple could pass on the higher labor costs to its cult-like customers — but it still seems worth trying.

I’d actually be really curious to know what the markup would be if they made in in California. Or, for that matter, South Carolina. You would think that if anyone could afford to absorb some of the costs, it would be Apple. They remain an American company, though, and presumably do the vast majority of their design and R&D work here. My phone is an HTC, which is full-on Taiwanese, though they also do work in the US and are hiring from Washington to North Carolina. HTC actually used to be an English acronym High Tech Computers.

Incidentally, I got a couple new watches over the last couple of months. One I wrote about here. The other is a brown watch from the US Polo Association (though as near as I can tell, the watch doesn’t have anything to do with polo, and is not exactly the fine watch one might expect from our polo-playing elite, nor is it a sportsish watch). It has a little American flag on it. Want to guess where it wasn’t made? The watch was really cheap, so I wouldn’t expect them to make it here. But it was made in… Japan. That I don’t get. It can’t be that much cheaper to make them in Japan than to make them here, can it? I understand that with Made in China or Made in Thailand, there are tradeoffs. Maybe good tradeoffs, maybe bad ones. But it saves them money and so presumably it saves you at least a little bit. But… Japan?

Category: Market

I’ve gotten a couple of new watches over the last couple months. One of them is kinetically powered, meaning that you wind it and it is supposed to power as you move your arms. Apparently, I don’t move around enough in my sleep because every morning the watch is stopped or running very slowly. That I don’t move around a whole lot in my sleep would be news to my brothers. Clancy reminded me that I jerk my legs a lot in my sleep, so maybe I should put it on my ankle at night. Perhaps not coincidentally, the same site that sold me the watch was selling a watch-shaker a couple weeks later, to keep kinetic watches powered (which kind of defeats the purpose of having a self-powering watch). Coincidence?

What’s particularly frustrating is that I absolutely love the watch. I love watches and clocks in general, and this is one of the coolest looking ones I have ever had. But it’s usefulness is rather limited.

I am thinking I should maybe give it to a sexually frustrated teenager who has to gratify himself constantly. I would guess that’s about the only way to make sure it keeps a charge.

Category: Market

It’s been several years since the NCAA decided to start punishing schools that use tribal mascots and imagery. For the most part, it has shaken itself out and almost everybody has selected a new mascot. They became the Red Wolves, RedHawks, Warhawks, and Mustangs. The Illini are still the Illini, but without the imagery, and the Tribe are still the Tribe, but without the feather. The lone hold-out remains the University of North Dakota, and they’re about to pay a steep price:

When UND was accepted for Big Sky membership in November, the conference’s other colleges believed the issue was settled and UND would retire the nickname, Fullerton said in a letter to Kelley. Should UND keep the Fighting Sioux nickname and Indian head logo, the school could face boycotts from other colleges and cancellations of athletic events, he said.

“Boycotts by individual schools or leagues will certainly have a negative effect on all of your programs, including hockey,” Fullerton wrote. “Couple these issues with postseason restrictions, and we are concerned that this state law has the possibility of destroying Division I athletics at the University of North Dakota.”.

The “individual schools” joining the boycott include the nearby University of Minnesota, an important rival for their hockey program (UND’s primary sport is hockey, their football program being overshadowed by North Dakota State). Losing their spot in the Big Sky Conference is itself quite a big deal, as the Big Sky is one of the better FCS-level conferences and includes some pretty big western schools. The mascot has already cost them a spot in the Summit League and Missouri Valley Football Conference, which the other three Dakota schools, as well as Nebraska-Omaha, will be playing in soon. Their hockey program will also be sidelined from playoffs.

The school had already announced an intent to change mascots, but they were overruled by the state legislature. Also important, some very big UND donors have threatened to stop donating money to the program if they make the change. This puts the university in a really rough place. The legislature and boosters are counting on the NCAA flinching, or else gambling with their entire athletics program to hold on to the tribal connection. Is it worth being the Sioux if nobody will play you?

A lot of this points back to the poor way that the NCAA handled this. The NCAA doesn’t have the authority to make any schools do anything, but they nonetheless played a pretty heavy hand. They allowed waivers that let Florida State, Utah, and others get through if they had the support of one or more tribes that they were representing. But otherwise, they set a pretty high bar for any school representing a tribe with more than one faction. North Dakota actually has the support of one Sioux tribe, and in my mind that ought to be enough. Making their continued use of the name contingent on tribal approval strikes me as a good compromise.

In addition to avoiding this trainwreck, it could have been a truly beneficial exchange. Things worked out very well with Florida State, where the school started changing its iconography and imagery to that of the actual Seminole tribe. Likewise, had UND been required to retain the goodwill of the Sioux, they could have asked for the same. Or money, for that matter. Or admittance and scholarships. This could have been a win-win. The origins of UND’s selection of the Sioux are actually known. They were chosen because the school wanted something that was good at killing Bison, which is the mascot of their in-state rival, and they researched it and determined that the Sioux were great bison-hunters. Putting UND’s specific situation aside, schools with generic names like Indians could conceivably have even be asked to emphasize the name of their sponsoring tribe, which for a lesser-known tribe that would like a higher profile, would be a positive. Especially if it came out that they were good hunters.

Category: Downtown

There are two district stadia. The second is below the fold, at the bottom. The first is above, neatly nestled in town. Half of the bleachers actually sit atop parts of the school. This picture is from the special ed room, below said bleachers.

This is outside Lewis Elementary. Considering that Lewis is the worst school in the district, it fits. The school was, until somewhat recently, a middle school. Dwindling population lead to the decommissioning of an elementary school and Lewis’s conversion, sending all of the district kids to Clark Middle. (more…)

Category: School

Colleges apparently getting people’s hopes up in order to dash them:

The 18-year-old high school senior in Thornwood, New York, said she spent about $780 on 12 applications after mailings from top schools like Duke, which sent a wall poster. She was rejected by Duke, Columbia and Cornell University in Ithaca, New York, and plans to attend the University of Maryland.

“I thought, ‘Oh my gosh, someone is interested in me,’” Ederer said in an interview. “They attract you with an e-mail and a few pamphlets and big envelopes filled with a ton of information and make you want to go to that school, and they don’t accept you.”

The rationale of this behavior being pretty simple: it looks better when you reject a higher percentage of your applicants. There’s actually a sign posted at Redstone High School wherein a few dozen colleges have a “common application process.” Apply to one, apply to all! That’s a bit of an exaggeration, but they basically make it easier to apply to as many as you want to. In part, I suspect, so that these schools can come across as being more selective than they otherwise are.

My alma mater, Southern Tech University, is trying to join the University of Delosa as a state flagship university. The goalposts that the state has set up for Sotech make it pay for the university to become more selective. More admissions typically correlates with lower medians, higher drop-out rates, and higher acceptance rates. All of which allow DU to turn their nose up at us and say “you have more in common with Delosa Polytechnic than you do with us.”

As a proud Pack alum, I wish my university well in its goal. The better it does, the better my degree looks… but a lot of it is tribal pride. Most alums seem to feel the same way. Of course, it becomes paradoxical after a point. A lot of people that got in under previous, more lenient admissions, would be less likely to get in under more recent standards. They’re wanting the university to attract better students than they, often, were. Whether I would get in to Southern Tech or not simply wasn’t a question. And indeed, I would likely get in under the newer proposed admission policies, as well. Though as they attract a better class of student, I would be less likely to get into the Honors College, which was one of the real boons to my time at the U. Beyond that, the fact that the university was less selective made it more attractive to me to begin with. I had deferred acceptance into DU, but I was intimidated by the prospect of going to a school that I “barely got into*.”

* – I didn’t fully appreciate how good my high school was and how much of a “leg up” I would have on a lot of my college classmates.

Category: School

A while back, in response to responses to the Anthony Weiner scandal, Megan McArdle wrote:

Society takes a greater interest in marriages than in other relationships because society, as well as the individual, has an interest in strong marriages. Strong marriages support a strong society. And society supports the marriage by encouraging people to do the very hard work of keeping their promises. One of the ways in which society ensures strong marriages is by tut-tutting (or worse) at people who don’t keep to their vows: who abandon spouses, treat them badly, or yes, violate their trust by engaging in covert sexual activity. I’m a big fan of sexual privacy. But you cannot have a public institution that rests in part on fidelity, and also complete privacy on those matters.

Call me old-fashioned, but I think that social sanction can be very helpful in assisting us in doing important but difficult things. Marriage is stronger if people who find out that their friends are cheating don’t say, “Awesome, is he hot?” but “How could you do that to Jason?” Marriage is stronger if people who cheat are viewed with slight revulsion, and so are the (knowing) people who they cheat with. Marriage is stronger when people who decide not to care for seriously ill spouses are met with an incredulous “What the hell is wrong with you?”, not “Yeah, I couldn’t handle that either.” Of course it would be nicer if we didn’t need this sort of help. But we are a flawed species.

This is, to be sure, a bit trickier in an era when people like me and Andrew accept that there can be healthy non-monagamous marriages. Maybe, folks have suggested, she was totally okay with this! This seems possible, but not really very likely. I know a decent number of people in open marriages, but they are very far from the majority of the people I know. Looking at what polls and research we have on this sort of thing, plus an unscientific survey of my friends and the women who have written me, I’m going to go out on a limb here and speak for heterosexual married women as a class: I’m pretty sure that most of us are not okay with our husbands sending racy photos to strangers, or engaging in phone sex with same within weeks of our wedding day. And if she’s totally okay with this, how come she hasn’t said so?

To some, marriage is a covenant with God. To others, it’s an agreement with the state. And others, it’s merely an arrangement between two people. I fall into the view that it is a covenant with society. As such, I agree with McArdle on the lack of complete unimportance of Weiner’s infidelity. Society is conferring benefits – tangible and intangible – to married couples, and I believe that married couple in turn should meet some rather basic expectations.

I believe this enough that I am uncomfortable with the notion of “non-monogamous marriages.” Not that I don’t think they can ever work. Not even that I disapprove of non-monogamy. But rather, that I think what is being described is something other than marriage. I don’t think that these people should be prevented from being married, but rather that individuals in society, as well as society as a whole, can pass judgment.

Except, of course, that there is not typically a way of getting marital benefits without it being called marriage. This is where I think the concept of Civil Unions can be rather helpful, for straights and gays alike. On the other end, I am actually sympathetic to the notion of “covenant marriages”, the marriage-plus deal that some states have tried to institute. By and large I would have the law look at all three in the same way, except for making it easier to get in and out of some than others, but a clearer outlining of expectations would ultimately be helpful, in my view. Before asking “Will you marry me?” I wish that more couples had a clearer idea of a fundamental pre-requisite question: “What does marriage mean to you?”

I am, to some degree, skeptical of the notion that we should always approach these questions individually. Without common definitions, and common expectations, society lacks a structure that is ultimately beneficial. Legislating morality is tough, and often undesirable. It’s social norms, and social expectations, that remain the best tool to make it largely unnecessary. And so when Anthony Weiner introduces his wife, I should have the reasonable expectation that they are monogamous. Even if his wife is okay with what he did, you still have a situation where Weiner sold us on one persona “Happily married man!” while in fact being another “Someone with looser notions of marriage than you!”

Category: Coffeehouse