Sunday, March 29, 2009

Put yourself in someone else's shoes for a minute

Imagine some foreign government launches a covert operation, and deposes our popularly elected leader.

Imagine that the new leader imposes a brutal, repressive regime that shuts down all opposition, and installs a cult of personality for himself.

Imagine that the leader is eventually overthrown due to a popular uprising.

Imagine that the country that previously overthrew the government then supports our neighbor, which is ruled by an oppressive dictator.

Imagine that this dictator launches an unprovoked invasion against us, which is financed by the foreign government.

Imagine that he uses weapons of mass destruction on our civilians.

Imagine this war lasts for 8 years, and kills about half a million of our citizens, including many civilians.

Imagine the foreign government shoots down one of our civilian airliners, killing all of its passengers.

Imagine our emerging economy is destroyed as a result of this war.

Imagine that, after all of this, the foreign country demonizes us in front of the world, calling us evil, and declaring us war mongerers.

Imagine that one of the biggest leaders in the foreign power jokes about bombing us.

Imagine that for the last 30 years, the foreign power had issued unilateral economic sanctions, which have hurt us gravely.

Imagine the foreign power unilaterally invades our neighbor, overthrows their government, and threatens to do the same to us.

I can't imagine this. But Iran can.

I'm dead serious. Look it up. Here. Here. Here. Here. Here. Here.

People wonder why Iran hates the United States. Well, I'll give you a hint. It's not because of our freedom. We've done far, far worse to Iran than the U.S.S.R. ever did to us, over the course of its existence. I'm not a fan of Iran's government, and I'd like to see someone else running the place as much as anyone. But we're doing a good job at playing the boogeyman, which probably helps keep Ahmadinejad in power.

Did you not know these things? You're not alone. Most Americans probably don't, because most Americans are never taught these things.

Imagine that.

Yup. Zombies

My wife doesn't understand this, but I'm a big fan of zombie movies. I was thinking about why I like zombie movies more than other horror films, and realized that it's because zombies are much funnier than any other type of movie horror antagonist. There's a lot of slapstick, Three Stooges-type humor in zombie movies.

Vampires? There's nothing funny about a guy that looks like this:
You know who likes vampires? These guys:

Goth kids aren't known for their senses of humor.

Not funny. Furry, but not funny.

Ghosts typically don't have a sense of humor either. They have a lot of humor potential, but usually waste it.

The movie monster that comes closest is the mummy. But that's not really fair. Mummies are just zombies that happen to be from Egypt and wear gauze jumpsuits.

Don't get me wrong. I like a good ghost movie as well as anyone. The Shining is one of my favorite movies. But the beauty of zombie movies is that they're really hard to screw up. Even the bad ones are pretty good.

Thursday, March 19, 2009


"WASHINGTON – Cue the outrage.

For months, the Obama administration and members of Congress have known that insurance giant AIG was getting ready to pay huge bonuses while living off government bailouts. It wasn't until the money was flowing and news was trickling out to the public that official Washington rose up in anger and vowed to yank the money back." -AP Article, via Yahoo News

Every politician around is throwing a fit about these bonuses, arguably in support of the "taxpayers" who are on the hook for the $160-some million AIG is paying in bonuses. In response to the situation, some have suggested the AIG executives should kill themselves.

I don't like the fact that we're on the hook for $160 million in bonuses to under-performing employees of a failed company. But numerous lawyers have indicated that AIG was legally obligated to pay them. People complain that the payments wouldn't have been possible without the government bailouts. That's a very good point, but it's misdirected. Rather than ask why these people won't voluntarily surrender millions of dollars to which they're contractually entitled, why not ask why the government bailed out AIG in the first place?

These bonuses are a straw man, which distracts from the real problem. Consider this - the bonuses make up less than 0.1% of the money the government has given AIG. These bonuses, as outrageous as they are, merely constitute a drop in the bucket.

The fact that the Federal Reserve's new commitment of $1.25 trillion* yesterday received very little attention demonstrates how detached the public is from the real problems we're facing.

Look at this chart. The AIG Bonuses are on the left. The AIG Bailouts are in the middle. The Federal Reserve's money dumping announced on Wednesday is on the right.
I don't know about you, but my prescription isn't strong enough to be able to see anything in the Bonus column. I played with the numbers, and it doesn't even start to show up until it's multiplied by 100.

It's not due to poor eyesight, but rather because of how vanishingly small it is compared to the other two nightmares. Or more accurately, how huge the other two issues are in order to dwarf $168,000,000. The bonuses constituted .000128 of the Fed's money printing plans, but took up 95% of the news coverage for the day.

That's a major problem.

*I can't believe we're to a point where $50,000,000,000 is rounded off for convenience.

Wednesday, March 11, 2009

Unintended Consequences

"VIENNA (Reuters) – A U.N. anti-narcotics drive has backfired in part by making drug cartels so rich they can bribe their way through West Africa and Central America, U.N. crime agency chief Antonio Maria Costa said on Wednesday." via Yahoo News.

Even the UN has figured out that the War on Drugs is making things worse. And it's not cheap.

Government cures are usually worse than the disease.

Tuesday, March 10, 2009

Nikon D50's for sale: $300 [ALL GONE]

UPDATE: These were all sold well over a year ago.

I picked up a lot of D50's* from Craigslist. They come with lenses and extra batteries. I'm asking $300. Basically, a guy decided to start a photography business taking pictures of local kids' sports teams. It went under, and his investor/father-in-law liquidated his equipment to help recoup some of his investment.

They're in fantastic shape. I have extra batteries for most of them, and can hook you up with either a free or really cheap memory card, if you need it.

These are really good cameras. They're a little older than the Nikon D40, but are pretty similar. The main difference is that the D40 has a better LCD, but the D50 has a built-in focusing motor. Nikon removed it from the D40 to save on cost. Basically, this means that you can auto-focus with a lot more lenses on the D50 than the D40. It has the same resolution, and even the same sensor as my D70 which took this picture:

(full resolution)

Here's another example:

(full resolution)

It's a pretty solid deal. Let me know if you're interested.

*Technically, there should be no comma between the zero and "s", but some Nikon models end in "s". I don't want to confuse anyone.