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  • Adventures in Bitcoining - Awhile back I posted on my fascination with bitcoin. As it turned out, the post was inspired by the all-time high price of bitcoin . . . up to that point. ...
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Friday, November 28, 2008

TGIBF

So here it is, Black Friday. One day we spend giving thanks for all that God has given us. The next day, we dedicate fully to complaining about how there's entirely too much.

Let's remember something, people. Black Friday isn't a celebration of how greedy we all are. Black Friday is a celebration of how cheap we all are. The crowds camp out all night in the hopes of finding something far more elusive than a giant LCD flat screen or a Wii. Oh, no, the thing we covet more than any good or service is the almighty bargain. The stuff they're selling on Black Friday has been there for quite some time. It's the deal that is available only at 4 am. The stores aren't packed at dawn because people want to revel in how much we have. No! We want to boast about how little we paid! We love getting stuff for as little as possible.

Look, I know it looks bad to see people camped out in front of a Best Buy. Sure it makes us look greedy to see shopping carts overflowing with swelling waves of retail crapola. But nobody would be complaining if this were National Garage Sale day. And you don't think those people will wake up ridiculously early at the hopes of paying next to nothing for something of questionable value? If the day after the first Thanksgiving feast had been followed by a mass flea market bonanza, and that tradition had stuck, we wouldn't find ourselves bemoaning the excesses of American consumption. Heck, if any day is marked by how much we consume, it's Thanksgiving, is it not?

I'm convinced. We shouldn't call it Black Friday. We should call it Frugal Friday. 

The hypocrisy of it all is that as we shake our heads in disgust at the stampeding herds of customers trampling over each other in the hunt for an off-brand digital photo frame, we hope they spend enough to give the economy a boost. We want to cast superior sneers at the shoppers (especially when we're in line behind them), but we're secretly praying for a retail boom and a boost of consumer confidence. It may be greed, it may be frugality--whatever it is, we hope it leads us to solid financial footing.

So don't give in to the temptation to judge society based on one day or even one season of shopping habits. Weren't we just giving thanks a few hours ago as we sat around tables that groaned beneath the seismic weight of homecooked hyperbole? Are we suggesting that God provided the food but Satan brought the blu-ray? Come on. Gratitude for what God has given should last at least as long as the leftover turkey.

Overheard . . . Two Passions


"Hey, guys, we should play baseball. . . . And we should fight crime."
Addison, during playtime. 

Wednesday, November 26, 2008

New Blog

I know, it just doesn't seem right. I'm barely able to keep this blog fresh, let alone the other (oh, crap, I don't even want to count them) blogs I have suspended in lethargy. So why start a new one?

Because my friend wanted to start a new one, a blog that was mainly political . . . basically, it's the blog you never talk about at parties. But you want us on that blog. You need us on that blog. We'll try to keep it funny, fresh, and . . . for some reason I can't think of a third F word that really fits.

So, we'll both be contributing to it. I'm excited for a few reasons: The elections brought arguing back into fashion; I love distractions; I can free up this space to offend people in less traditional ways than religion and politics; But mostly I'm excited about yet another opportunity to collaborate with one of my favorite people. She's a gifted, sharp, wickedly talented writer and an all-around awesome human being.

I can't promise a steady font of political commentary like we're some sort of 24-7 news outlet. But when something major/controversial happens, you'll know where to turn for an unexpected and irreverent take on the news . . . or the olds. We'll keep you guessing like that.

So please, feel free to check out Satirically Correct at your leisure. Not much to look at yet, but it'll get there.

Monday, November 24, 2008

Hypocritical Holiday

Yeah, so maybe it's a bit hypocritical of me to chastise Yahoo! for changing their look right when I'm set to give my own blog a facelift.

I'm okay with that.

Because all of a sudden, I'm in a Christmas kind of mood. So the holiday tunes are a-playin', the wintry colors are overtakin', and the apostrophes are invadin'. And Addison is suddenly speaking Canadian. Here's a sample:

"So, I'm wearing my Devin Hester jersey today, and I think I'll wear it tomorrow, too, eh?"

Friday, November 21, 2008

What Happened to Yahoo!?


Over the 15 or so years I've been using the Internet, I've grown accustomed to seeing my favorite pages undergo changes, tweaks, and massive overhauls. But there is almost always some indication given by the Web site--some warning, some note, some acknowledgment given to draw my attention to what the change is and why it was made.

Yahoo!, the longstanding bridesmaid to Google's bride, has for the past year or so been the target of a potential Microsoft buyout. But I haven't really cared about their financial troubles, because I just like their page. I like how they organize information. I like the look of it. I like the . . . je ne sais Yahoo! of it all.

But this morning, I woke up to this new layout . . . and I hate it. 

I can't even look at it. I'm not even willing to try it out. It reminds me of AOL, which I despise, but mostly I'm offended because there was no warning. There is no mention of what they're doing or why. There is no little link saying, "Why has my page changed?" or "Go back to old Yahoo!" It's just a radically different page with zero communication about what the crap is going on. Is it a test? Was I randomly selected? I don't know. And considering I visit the page compulsively about 15 times a day, there is no way I missed the memo.

Sorry, Yahoo! You had me, then you lost me. It's time to hand in your exclamation point. You're done.



Thursday, November 20, 2008

Redbox


The first time I heard of Redbox, I thought it was a business model doomed to fail. DVD rental for a dollar made absolutely no sense to me. Yeah, I knew they could operate with a fraction of the work force of a Blockbuster. Yes, it removed the postal fees from the Netflix equation. And yes, they could get by carrying fewer titles than either competitor. But how could they make money?

Then I rented from Redbox. Four days later when we returned our first movie, it hit me. Redbox is pure genius.

By taking your credit card info, they don't ever have to hassle you about paying late fees or returning movies. Frankly, they don't care if you do . . . you pay a dollar a day and will end up buying the movie for $25 dollars if you keep it that long, and they'll still think of you fondly.

And if you go to their Web site, you'll see what clever geniuses they are, too. While you'll never see a single employee face to face, the site does a brilliant job of communicating clearly and--shockingly enough--personally. They get the idea across in two- to three-word sentences for the benefit of those with no attention spans, they overcommunicate to those for whom the most common knowledge is far from intuitive, and they supply a steady string of tongue-in-cheek jabs to keep their wiser customers laughing instead of feeling like the brunt of school-marm condescension. 

The beauty of Redbox is, allegiance isn't required. You don't need to be a member to be a customer. You can sneak a quick Redbox flick from time to time, and your friends at Blockbuster and Netflix never have to know. You can sneer at the cheery, cherry vending machine . . . but if you get the urge to spend a buck on Kung Fu Panda, you can snatch it while you wait for the mailman to bring you the next installment of The Wire

Hooray for you, Redbox. I'm sorry I ever doubted you.

Sunday, November 16, 2008

Perfectly Simple

Ernest Hemingway's "Hills Like White Elephants" has been on my mind a lot, lately.

As the election was approaching and since it has passed, I've had a lot of discussions about abortion. And when I have a lot of discussions about anything . . . actually, when I even think about having a brief discussion about anything . . . my mind obsesses over it. It stays with me when I'm trying to go to sleep and waits with the alarm clock to wake me up. In between, the topic usually pokes its head into a dream or two.

So I've been thinking a lot about the abortion issue. The way it's divided, the way people on both sides talk about it, your stance should be perfectly simple. But one tiny question just jumped out of my head, and I pose it to you to ponder along with me. It's really bothering me, because the answers I can come up with are either insufficient or horribly troubling or both.

Why is abortion a religious issue, or a political issue? 

I mean, come on. Nobody of any political party or religion or nonreligion believes it's okay to kill babies. I suppose there are, or there have been in this world's history, religions that included baby killing as part of their religion, but those are hardly part of the contemporary discussion. And there have been and are people so deranged, demented, de-whatevered that they actually have killed their babies. I know this. But they are the freaks, the horror shows, the grotesque monsters on the fringe of the outskirts of the wasteland of society.

Normal people don't believe in killing babies. 

With abortion, the question that divides us is . . . well, the scientists would argue it's a scientific question, I suppose; I'd expect religious people to say it's a theological or moral question; politicians would argue correctly that it's a political question, because . . . anything that determines someone's vote is a political question. But whatever category the question falls into, the question itself is simply stated: "When does life begin?"

People on the pro-choice side of things, I think, tend to take the position that life begins at birth . . . or they pick an arbitrary point in the development of the baby when he or she would be able to survive on its own (which I always thought was, like, 18 years, but if the third trimester works for them, hey, that's why they're getting paid the big science bucks). But from a legal standpoint, birth is really the definition, isn't it? Once a baby is born, it is not okay to kill or abandon the baby. In fact, it's more than not okay . . . it's awful. It's the worst thing a human can do. Killing a human being is terrible. Killing a baby is horrific. All the sane people are agreed on at least that.

And because we all agree that killing is really, really bad, I'm not sure why the terms would be defined so differently according to religion or the lack thereof. Is that really the determing factor in answering, "When does life begin?" Is it faith vs. science? Does the Bible speak louder for the unborn than science? I don't think so. I'm sure someone somewhere has a statistic about how many verses in the Bible refer to unborn children. But I would think there would be thousands, maybe tens or hundreds of thousands of scientific studies on babies at every stage of development in the womb, none of which could possibly reveal that unborn babies are lifeless.

I really don't see how you could persuade a scientist to tell you life begins at birth. I would expect scientists to give zero point zero zero credence to the idea of a change of existence at the point of birth. In fact, I'm not sure how scientists even define life to begin with without breaking their dorky little Jedi code of honor about only investigating measurable, observable things. The questions of life, existence, identity, and value have no place in science. I would expect scientists to care most about truly observable, measurable activity. Once egg fertilization whips things into a zygotic frenzy, cells start dividing, DNA starts doing its job, and the whole biology thing really gets interesting . . . I would think that would be the most significant thing to a scientist. Scientifically speaking, birth is nothing but a change in geography. Sure, there are plenty of physiological changes, matters of dependence, sustainibility, whatever. But, scientifically speaking, do those changes really compare to the metamorphosis from bodily fluids into . . . a body? I think not.  It seems that from a purely scientific argument, the phenomenon commonly referred to as life would begin at some point other than birth.

And then you have the pro-life side of the argument: Life begins at conception. How the mantra, Life begins a couple days after sex, could become so closely associated with religion escapes me . . . maybe it's the dogma. Because for the hard-core pro-lifers, a Plan B pill abortion is just as atrocious as any other abortion. Agree with it or not, you have to at least admit it's a dogmatic view. Dogma is religion's best friend. Maybe people who aren't religious can't bring themselves to be so dogmatic about baby killing that they would actually call it murder whan a women takes a pill within the first week of her pregnancy. Maybe religious people know that if you don't draw the line (and seriously, we draw a lot of lines) at the very beginning, you're subjecting a sacred human life to the sacrilegious whims of human discretion--allow the murder of a few thousand cells, and you're approving the murder of several million babies.

But then, isn't it dogma that stretches the laws of the land and the opinions of the public in the opposite direction? If you don't allow a woman to choose to terminate her pregnancy at 9 months, how can we stop the restrictions from appearing even earlier in the pregnancy . . . at 8 months, at 4 months, at 4 weeks . . . just after conception? Would the Plan B pill eventually be illegal? What's next, the banning of the morning-after contraception pill or all contraception whatsoever? Isn't it that sense of all-or-nothing dogma that leaves the blind scales of justice with only two possible options: life begins either at birth or at conception, with somewhere in between being an absolute impossibility? We all do so fear a slippery slope, don't we?

So again, I'm left with that same question . . . why do some think life begins at conception while others believe it begins at birth? The answer I'm beginning to settle on is the dogma-killing philosophy-class what-if discussion. You know, the hypothetical scenarios in which a decision that can't be ignored pits two undesirable results against each other resulting in dilemmas of the ethical and moral nature. The Anne Frank/Rahab questions. Is it okay to lie if it the death of a friend is the alternative? Or the hand-grenade questions. Someone throws a hand grenade into the room. Should you fall on it, thereby committing suicide while saving everyone else's lives, or should you avoid the sin of killing yourself, thereby risking the deaths of everyone around you . . . including you? Or, in the more appropos hypothetical . . . if the development of an unborn baby threatens the life of the carrying mother (which, some could argue, it always does to varying degrees . . . I will not argue that, but some could), is it okay to attempt to save the mother's life by ending the baby's?

I have this feeling that most people would say, yes, with heavy hearts. I think most people would at least say that the mother should be allowed to choose. And the sense of dogma (or is it the rebellious child) in me begins to push the matter, asking, well, if it would be okay in that instance . . . how do we draw up a law that only allows for it in that instance in a way that doesn't crumble to pieces when the hypothetical becomes real, when legislation leaves the quills of the lawmakers and enters the realm of physicians treating patients?

So why do some scream fiercely for anti-abortion legislation while others do the same for the opposite? Do we really disagree on the question of when life begins? Somehow, I don't think so. But I think both sides cling to dogma, and both sides fear abuse. Pro-life people fear that abortion legislation will kill babies by the millions. Pro-choice people fear that women's lives and health will be decided by James Dobson. Democrats and Republicans fear they will lose votes from the die-hards if they waiver at all from their parties' traditional positions. 

But I think we all agree that killing babies is an awful thing. And I wonder what would happen if everyone stopped arguing about whether abortion should be legal. Do you think both sides could agree together that it needs to stop being fashionable?

Friday, November 14, 2008

In Cognito


Addison is a huge fan of disguises, and he puts complete faith in their effectiveness. Yesterday he came down in his Iron Man costume and asked if I knew who he really was.

"Who are you?" I asked, shamelessly indulging his confidence in the getup. He then lifted the mask and pulled down the top of his costume to reveal his face and Cubs t-shirt.

"It's me, Alfonso Soriano!"

Awesome.

(He then asked me who Mike Fontenot was, pronouncing it Font-uh-NOT . . . I have no idea from where he pulled the name of the Cub's bench player. This kid is even more like me than I am.)

Thursday, November 13, 2008

Car Czar

So . . . Obama wants to install a czar to oversee U.S. automakers. I'm sure there's a lot of commentary to be generated over this idea, but my main question is this:

Would that make the U.S. an autocracy?

Go ahead and groan. I think it's funny.

The Three Democrat Pigs

Once upon a time there were three Democrat pigs who received rich inheritance from their wealthy investment banker mother who manipulated a loophole in the tax code to completely evade any estate taxes. They all went off to save the world.

They went in together and bought a foreclosed mansion at auction. They outfitted the place to serve as their central campaign office--the oldest was running for president! Just as they began their first meeting, they heard a knock on the door.

"Little Pigs, Little Pigs, let me in!" roared the Big Bad Wolf.

"Umm . . . why?" asked the youngest pig who had run to the door to greet his guest.

"I'm hungry," said the BBW.

The second pig asked his big brother, "What should we do?"

The oldest pig responded without delay, "Invite him in without any preconditions!"

The youngest pig smiled, opened the door, and said, "Well then, we shall feed you!"

And they did.

The Three Republican Pigs

Once upon a time there were three Republican pigs who received rich inheritance from their wealthy investment banker mother who manipulated a loophole in the tax code to completely evade any estate taxes. They all went off to pursue their fortunes independently of any help from Uncle Sam.

The first pig built himself a house made of straw and invested the rest of his inheritance into subprime mortgage securities. He lived there quite happily until one day when the Big Bad Wolf showed up.

"Little Pig, Little Pig, let me in!" cried the wolf.

"Not by the hair of my collapsing portfolio!" answered the pig.

So the BBW huffed, and he puffed, and he blew the house down while also short selling the pigs' junk-bond investments. Meanwhile, the first pig ran to the house of the second pig, who had built a house out of sticks . . . and used the rest to buy a small-market NHL franchise. The second pig gladly welcomed his brother into his house of sticks, and they got dressed in hockey jerseys in preparation of that night's game.

They never reached the game, however, for the BBW showed up straightaway, yelling, "Little Pigs, Little Pigs, let me in!"

"Not by the hair of Evgeny Artyukhin (my stud Russian forward . . . Right Wing, of course)!" the second pig replied with full-throated hockey angst.

So the BBW huffed, and he puffed, and he blew the house down (and instigated a players' strike that effectively crippled the small markets). In a panic, the two pigs fled to their brother's brick mansion.

"Brother, brother, let us in," they cried, pounding on the tall oak double doors. "The BBW has blown down our houses and spoiled our fortunes!"

The voice of their brother rang out over the intercom. "Really? You're gonna blame the wolf? You've made foolish choices, and I will not bail you out. Get a job."

The pigs stood there in shocked disbelief. A menacing, pointy-eared shadow rose up the face of the door, paralyzing them with abject horror. The beady-eyed wolf put his arms around their porky shoulders, drool dribbling down his chin and onto their pot bellies. And right before he devoured them he whispered into their ears.

"Gotta love the open market."

Monday, November 10, 2008

We the Peephole

This is unacceptable. It's a Yahoo! news story that paints a bleak picture of the next four years, a picture that does not include laughing at the president.

First, let me acknowledge that the title of this blog has almost nothing to do with anything. I just thought it was funny. In its unrelatedness, however, it makes my point perfectly. Comedy does not have to be just a caricature of the obvious perceptions of the masses, which is what SNL and most late night monologues has become. W sounds dumb in his press conferences, so let's make him super dumb. Bill Clinton is a letch, let's make him Hugh Hefner. Jesse Jackson waxes poetic, let's turn him into Dr. Seuss. This is what most modern political satire has become, with the Daily Show and the Colbert Report the exceptions. Those shows make fun of the situation, the media, the politicians, the country, the world, and without just inflating the obvious weaknesses of the famou--granted, they do inflate the obvious weaknesses of the famous, but they do it well.

There is plenty to make fun of about Obama being president. I'd love to see a sketch about Obama's first press conference as president in which he requires the press corps to conclude their questions with "Amen" in order for him to answer. I'd love to see a comedian do a whole monologue in praise of Obama . . . no jokes, no punchlines, no innuendos. Nothing. And that's the joke. I'd love to see someone dressed as Obama do this . . . 



No more laughs at the White House? May it never be.

Friday, November 07, 2008

Quick Questions


Do you think it's ironic that the church wants our government to be small when it comes to our money but big when it comes to enforcing our beliefs?

Is it hypocritical that we vote based on values but spend our money based on value?

Do we really think the only place the Spirit can move in this country is in a voting booth? 

Why do we depend on the law instead of the Spirit?

Why do we spend so much time arguing and so little time helping?

Why do we get irate instead of getting involved?

Does the separation of church and state prevent our faith from leaving the building?

If you only love people who agree with you, do you really love anyone but yourself?

Is it logically possible to correct arrogance in anyone other than yourself?

If the climactic event in all of Christian history culminated in the death of the Son of God, why do His followers still have such a problem with defeat?

Monday, November 03, 2008

The W Years

For the past 7 years, I have felt 9-11 was like a really bad case of abuse on a national scale. I don't think America really knew how to handle it. How could we? It seemed to change everything, but nothing anyone did in response really seemed to change anything. We went through all the stages of grief, except instead of acceptance we bought a lot of flags, started singing "God Bless America," watched the Taliban get pummeled, and then we sort of moved on.

At the time, I thought Bush's presidency was ruined. What could he have done? After the invasion of Iraq and the troubles that eventually spread throughout it all, the missing Weapons of Mass Destruction . . . I just thought, Bush can't win. I didn't hate him as a president, I just thought he inherited an impossible situation. But he did win. The Democrats' best option was that bad. If I'm not mistaken (which would be shocking) I think Bush's take in the election was higher than his approval rating. That is to say, he got 51% of the vote while only 42% of America approved of his performance as president. I guessed on those numbers, but I don't think either of them are far off. Yikes.

In the second W term, the W stood for Waiting. We were just waiting for the next batch of candidates. I think the whole world was waiting. I think Osama bin Laden has been in a cave somewhere just scratching his head and saying, "Man, I can't believe he's still president. I'm out of ideas." A quarter of America still approves of how he's doing . . . but that's not good. It's twice as good as Congress's approval rating (12% last I checked). 

It leads me to believe that America is just fed up with the whole government. We want to start over. We want to see a president on TV that doesn't remind us of 9/11. We are desperate for a fresh start. We want a guy who, policy be damned, commands respect, inspires hope, and unites like-spirited Americans who are anything but like-minded. I say "we" knowing there are a great deal of people who wouldn't agree with these statements. But I speak for them nonetheless, because . . . it's my blog.

But I'm focusing now on George W. Bush and Dick Cheney. I recently came to the conclusion that, disappointed as 75% of America is in Dubya, had we known in November of 2000 that within the year, America would suffer a major terrorist attack on our own soil, the majority of America (myself included) would have wanted the Texan and the Evil Genius at the helm. I refuse to call George W. Bush the worst president of all time or even include him in the argument, because in the 8 years since I first voted for him, he has carried us past a great tragedy. 

Call the Taliban a scapegoat. Call Osama bin Laden our common enemy. Call Iraq the country we had no business attacking. But I think George W. Bush was the one America has blamed the most. I truly believe that all the negative trends in America, all the major sources of dissatisfaction in the American public, have some roots in 9-11. After 9-11, everybody said, "We will never forget," but most everybody did. I think the negative effects of that tragedy linger on oppresively, but we thought Bush would have done something about them by now. We don't associate our country's problems with the numbers 9 and 11 anymore, we associate them with the letter W. 

(What did 9-11 have to do with Katrina, you ask? I think the Bush administration has been completely disorganized from September 2001 on. I think on some level, a culture of hopelessness and purposelessness overtook the federal government. A better leader would have done a better job, but no qualified applicants stepped forward for the job in 2004 because 9-11 was still only 3 years in the past and frankly, the Oval Office was damaged goods in the eyes of most people capable of leading this country. So they Waited, with a capital W.)

Maybe I'm wrong. Maybe W would have stunk even without 9-11. Maybe our country would have recovered if anyone else had been in office. But I respect George W. Bush because he took it. He ran again for president when being president had proven to be a crappy job. He served his country, which is more than I can say for myself. And quite honestly, I can't wait to read his memoirs.