Monthly Archives: July 2008

must. have. them.

words can not begin to explain…

I’m kind of surprised they’re at Pottery Barn, but not entirely.

note to family members:  MY BIRTHDAY IS COMING UP.
btw, I don’t have a twin bed anymore… pillow cases will suffice.

hat tip to my dear sister…

4 Comments

Filed under nostalgia

Little Mosque on the Prairie

I’m not kidding.

the thing is, it’s kind of funny.  it’s produced in Canada, so it’s not going to be big-three network quality.  but it’s Always Sunny production quality, just not quite as subvertedly funny.  it could definitely find a place on US cable TV… it’s certainly funnier than Corner Gas, which I’ve stumbled on a few times on WGN.

Leave a comment

Filed under attempt to be funny

McCain drawing retirement benefits — not sure where to begin

mrs.st4rbux just mentioned this to me this evening [via msnbc]:

McCain’s 2007 tax return shows Social Security benefits of $23,157 for the year, an average of $1,929.75 a month. He said he started receiving the payments “whenever I was eligible.”

McCain, who will turn 72 next month, was eligible to receive full-retirement benefits when he turned 65. In 2008, the maximum benefit for a person retiring at full retirement age was $2,185.

McCain reported a total income of $405,409 in 2007. As a senator, he is paid $169,300 a year. Last year, he donated $105,467 to charity, his return shows. […] McCain’s wife, Cindy, reported a total income of more than $6 million in 2006, according to the campaign.

I honestly don’t know what to think about this.  on the surface, it makes me mad.  it makes me mad that he is NOT retired and he’s drawing what is widely regarded as ‘retirement’ benefits.  but I guess the truth is that anyone can claim their social security benefits at age 62 and continue to work in whatever capacity they see fit.  it’s probably just incredibly rare for anyone in their mid-60’s — or 72 in his case — to have a $169,000 salary.  most people in that pay scale with decent retirement planning would have sufficient funds to quit working.  it makes me want to say that anyone with $400,000 in income shouldn’t be able to draw SS benefits… but

B.J. Jarrett, a spokesman with the Social Security Administration: “An individual does have the right to refuse his/her Social Security retirement benefit. However, Social Security is an entitlement program and an individual would essentially be forfeiting a benefit based upon contributions during his/her working lifetime.”

right — it wasn’t designed as a welfare program, and it shouldn’t be means-tested because it’s supposed to be the returns on their contributions over their work-life.  so I’m wrong to be mad — why wouldn’t he take the payout on his contributions over the prior 40+ years?  it would be irrational to refuse.  and, in effect, means-testing social security would be like means-testing my 401(k), saying I couldn’t withdraw it after 59.5 years of age if my other income was over a certain threshold.  there’s no way that makes sense.

but I’m still angry.  I think it’s because he could refuse his benefits, and if nothing else it would be symbolic gesture to show that he really believes the system is broken and is ready to sacrifice personally to help extend it.  a gesture that could go a long way when he asks others, as inevitably will, to sacrifice their benefits in order to maintain solvency.  maybe more than a gesture; it’s a chance to demonstrate leadership on the issue.

McCain reported over $100K in charitable contributions; forgoing an additional $20K wouldn’t be the end of him — not with Cindy’s $6M in yearly income (2006).  I’m not saying he should forgo it simply because he has the means (I’d never argue that), I’m just saying that $20K is a small price to pay to buy the moral high-road on this issue.  it’s chumpity-chump change compared to the television spots he’s going to have to buy to spin his current decision.

10 Comments

Filed under dumbfounded, I believe the children are our future, politics, stupid government

almost brilliant

driving home from work, I was so psyched to check out this web-base mini-series that they had talked about on NPR…

concept: Neil Patrick Harris as an evil genius, rejected from the Evil League of Evil, in love with a girl from the laundrymat, with a predisposition to breaking into song.  what could possibly go wrong?

before I get to that, more backstory.  during the writer’s strike last year, some tv/movie writer (I know, he’s a big shot and I could easily look it up, but this is a rant and not a piece of journalism) conceives of a web-based mini-series, supposedly to prove some kind of point about the crux of the writer’s-strike issue.  the core issue there was how writer’s would be compensated for TV work that was re-broadcast over the Internet.  really, that’s what they were fighting for — that’s what kept me from new episodes of The Office for what seemed like forever.  so he would make the mini-series semi-professionally but on-the-cheap, and broadcast it over the Internet, and prove… something.

k, but here’s the catch — I can’t watch the episodes.  and it’s not just me, here’s a list of people (scroll down to the Responses) who can’t watch it over the net.  there is a one-week free period (started 7/15) before it moves to i-Tunes only; then there will be a DVD release.  but all these people can’t view the free release.  apparently some people need to disable their firewalls in order to watch the video — some even had to disable the firewall on their Wi-Fi/Broadband routers… hardly a reasonable expectation.

when I go to Act I, I’m told “The video is not available at this site.”  the FAQ says some people have better luck when using Internet Explorer… great news for people who use Linux or Mac/OS X.  no, I’m not going to install Windows in order to watch this.  and yes, yes, there are plenty of good video web sites that work with Linux/Firefox.

some people said, ‘fine, I’ll pay the $4 on i-Tunes’ ($1.99 per episode or $4 for a ‘seasons pass’), but they can’t get the video outside of US/Canada.  did anyone tell them that the Internet tends to be somewhat global?  somehow the incompatibilities, the proprietary video format/site that only works if you disable firewalls, the i-Tunes tie-in — they all seem to fly in the face of the supposed “I’m going to skirt around the media establishment” motivation of the series creator.  instead of proving a point to the networks and studios that there are other viable options, they seem to be proving the opposite — web-distribution is plagued with problems.  I’d be better off if this was on TV; there’s no guesswork as to whether I’m going to be able to watch a show on NBC or AMC or SHOwtime (yes, yes, no).

so I turned to [uh] secondary markets (youtube and torrents) to see if I could view a copy of Acts I and II, but to no avail.

I understand, in a business-school kind of way, why they are going through hoops to lock down the video.  if it’s on YouTube, people can save it or re-share it and a big part of their business model seems to be the i-Tunes and DVD sales.  ok, I get it — if DVD-quality versions get shared now, you won’t get DVD sales later.  but here’s the thing — they won’t get DVD sales later if it doesn’t get big enough hype now.  it reminds me of BMW’s “The Hire” series years ago — their videos were online (ie, Ambush, The Follow), and they were great, and I was probably one of the first to get them on DVD because I knew on a big TV with big sound they would be even better*.  if I had never seen the online videos, I wouldn’t have bothered with the DVD.

and you won’t get DVD sales later if the steps you’ve taken upfront only frustrate a significant chunk of your market.

I imagine this is similar — who is going to buy the Doctor Horrible DVD without having first seen the video online?  how many more would possibly buy the DVD if they see the video online, through video services that work like YouTube, or streaming it from their own site (or partnering with Akamai or similar).  even if the video got loose on the torrents, I bet they’d net more DVD sales.

it doesn’t have to be all or nothing.  here’s my solution, and it’s not rocket science:  release a low-quality version on all available channels — youtube, torrents, whatever.  the video and audio quality should only be as good as is necessary to get the plot across.  anyone who wants to see it in glorious HD can get it on i-Tunes or the proprietary/DRM‘d web site or DVD.  nobody is going to bother pirating/selling a crappy 640×480 version of the series, or more accurately, nobody is going to bother buying a crappy 640×480 version.  but people who see the low-res version might be compelled to buy a better-resolution version.

long story short (too late): was psyched, now very disillusioned.  prognosis: wait until the DVD’s are released, then I’ll be able to find it online.  and no, the producers will not get a dime.

* also, I’ve had an obsession with BMWs since before I could drive.

6 Comments

Filed under dumbfounded, rant

I think the New Yorker cover is brilliant

clearly, clearly satirical.  if it was only one of the allusions (Muslim Obama, Michelle the Militant, Osama on the wall, the burning flag), it wouldn’t be very effective, but through them all together and almost as good as eating babies.

shame on all the talking heads who say, “well, I get it, but the problem is most Americans won’t”.

as uncomfortable as this might make some people, I believe the discussion it creates will do more to dispell the incorrect depictions of Obama than his Fight The Smears website ever could.  anything that gets us one step closer to Grandma no longer thinking he’s Muslim is good in my book.

and no, this doesn’t make me any more likely to vote for him.

1 Comment

Filed under politics

get out of my dreams, get into my electric car

she wants a 100 mpg car too, and thinks electric is the way to go.  like I said before, I don’t care how I get 100 mpg equivalent (let’s say $0.04/mile, where right now my commute costs $0.14/mile), I’d just like to get there sometime soon.

moblogic.tv seems to have an interesting vlog each and every day, with a libertarian bent (though they never come right out and get preachy about it).  if the hostess looks familiar, it’s because she stars in Crest Whitestrips TV ads where she has a smile so bright it makes mere mortals look like a spokesmen for Hedley & Wyche.  she’s also in an ad that, for about 15 seconds, actually made me want to have four periods per year.  (when Logical is doing all the research and web-surfing, I felt I could really relate.  and when Emotional is dancing around; well don’t we all want to feel that carefree?  seriously, she’s that good.)

unfortunately, she’s looking to Detroit for a solution.  good luck getting anything innovative out of them, I’m still looking towards Silicon Valley…

here’s moblogic’s inaugural post with a brief introduction:

Vodpod videos no longer available.

2 Comments

Filed under energy policy, freedom

not so, smart

Some responses to my last post recommending looking at a smart fortwo.  from smart’s web page:

What is the gas mileage of smart?

Engineering and testing continues to take place on the vehicle that will be produced for the United States. The vehicle is designed to achieve 40 city/45 highway mpg according to 2007 EPA standards and 33 city/41 highway mpg according to 2008 EPA standards. The mpg rating for all vehicles will decrease in 2008 due to new calculation methods that the EPA has adopted.

So the mileage is barely better than a Mini, which is a real car and a blast to drive and gets 28/37 mpg (2009 model).

And what’s the deal with mpg standards changing to decrease EPA stated values?  I mean, if congress passed that 35 mpg law last year (did they? or did it get vetoed?) this means that it’s now going to be that much more improbable that automakers to reach the threshold.  I mean, the city mpg for the smart decreased by over 17% when they used the new measures…

I’m doing my part

I used to get about 360 miles out of a 15.5 gallon fill up.  My onboard computer would report 23.5 mpg.  I used to think that was pretty good, as it was combined city/highway driving (about 80% highway) and the EPA mpg estimates for this car was only 16/24.  So I was at the top end of the spectrum, right?

I remember not so long ago when I cut the speed back a little bit and got 400 miles out of a single fill-up.  I actually took a picture of the tripometer with my phone to capture the occasion (also because I rolled into the gas station with the remaining range reading “0” miles*).  That was a little under 26 mpg.

The last three fill-ups, I’ve kept it over 29 mpg, flirting with 30 mpg.  I now roll past 400 miles and the Range reports 70 more miles.  Unfortunately, the estimates are a bit aggressive, but it was really cool to hit 450 miles the other day.

The extra five or six miles per gallon is 20-25% improvement, resulting in $650 in savings per year on my 20,000 miles of commute.  I’m sorry, I just will not drive a Prius — this is me doing my part.

The secret?  Hypermiling.

* yes, I’ve gone past zero/0… it reads “—“

3 Comments

Filed under energy policy