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So apparently some genius decided to take a Checker Cab to a BB&T branch in Knoxville yesterday, rob the bank, and then make his cunning getaway in a bright yellow taxi. Naturally, this plan didn’t go so well:

At 1:23 p.m. [the robbery occurred at 1:16 p.m.], police had the cab driver stopped along Clinton Highway near the intersection with Treemont Drive. The suspect was arrested without incident, DeBusk said and the money from the bank was recovered.

So the guy got away with the money for a grand total of 7 minutes before being arrested. Talk about a truckload of fail.

Objectivists are familiar with BB&T. The Chairman and CEO, John A. Allison, is known to be a fan of Ayn Rand’s work and the Objectivist philosophy. These values are reflected in the bank’s philosophy and methods of doing business. BB&T has many branches in the southeast United States, and it’s well-known in Tennessee. Knoxville has been dealing with a series of bank robberies lately, mostly of BB&T branches, but the police don’t think this particular suspect is connected to that string of robberies.

Moral of the story is: There’s bad karma in robbing an Objectivist bank. The irony is that Objectivists don’t believe in karma, or mysticism in any form. I, however, do (I disagree with Rand’s definition of the term “mysticism”), so I’m amused.

RIAA has, for a while now, been suing people who illegally download various media like songs and movies. They have managed to make it illegal for someone to copy a DVD, even if the copy is for their own use. The concept of “personal use” with CDs, however, has enjoyed (and rightly so) protection from such prosecution. Until now:

In legal documents in its federal case against Jeffrey Howell, a Scottsdale, Ariz., man who kept a collection of about 2,000 music recordings on his personal computer, the industry maintains that it is illegal for someone who has legally purchased a CD to transfer that music into his computer.

The industry’s lawyer in the case, Ira Schwartz, argues in a brief filed earlier this month that the MP3 files Howell made on his computer from legally bought CDs are “unauthorized copies” of copyrighted recordings.

Seriously? Seriously?

Jeffrey Howell, bless his soul, has decided he isn’t going to just write the RIAA a check to make this go away. He’s fighting back in court. (FYI, for simplicity’s sake, I will use the term “MP3” to refer generically to any digital music media format. I know that MP3 is a specific format and that there are others.)

This is completely fucking ridiculous. My husband, Kyle, has an MP3 player. If the RIAA has its way, he could go to jail for ripping an MP3 from a music CD that we legally own and which he intends to keep for himself and only use himself. He would have to buy another copy of the song in MP3 format (presumably from Amazon’s MP3 download service, or something like Napster). We’re not talking about sharing the copy with a friend, or playing it on a podcast, or some other stupid shit. RIAA wants to make personal use illegal.

Is RIAA just determined to hasten its own demise? Of course, some people are just unclear on the entire concept of private property and copyright:

In a Los Angeles Times poll, 69 percent of teenagers surveyed said they thought it was legal to copy a CD they own and give it to a friend.

Those people are just retards. Giving someone a copy of your CD is illegal. That’s simple theft, because the other person is getting a free copy of something that’s copyrighted. The result is 2 people who have their own copies and only 1 was paid for.

But on the issue of RIAA’s general obsolescence, the WaPo article makes a good point:

The RIAA’s legal crusade against its customers is a classic example of an old media company clinging to a business model that has collapsed. Four years of a failed strategy has only “created a whole market of people who specifically look to buy independent goods so as not to deal with the big record companies,” [New York lawyer Ray] Beckerman says. “Every problem they’re trying to solve is worse now than when they started.”

Yes. I have, in fact, started to resort to buying old, used CDs and shopping at places like CDBaby.com (which deals in music labels and artists that are not beholden to RIAA, and so buying their stuff doesn’t enrich RIAA and the CDs don’t contain all that digital media protection bullshit). CD Baby also has the marvelous features of being able to search for music by type, by mood, and will show you similar music based on a selection.

CD “protection” is nothing more than an annoyance for me. I have an 11-year-old CD player on my home stereo, and a 14-year-old one in my car. Neither device will play some of the newest CDs I own, because the CD’s encryption doesn’t recognize them as “approved devices” (which really means: we think you’re trying to play this CD on your computer and we won’t allow that), and that’s just stupid. I have a legal CD and a legal device. I should be able to listen to it. For that matter, my computer is also a legal device. I used to listen to my music CDs on my computer. For the most part, I can’t anymore, if the CD is relatively new.

It may come as a surprise to some people that I have never, in my entire life, illegally downloaded a song or movie onto my computer. I do not possess any pirated music. In fact, I’ve never even ripped a CD that I own onto my computer (although that may change soon now that I’ve figured out how to get my PSP to play MP3s). Even if I want to buy MP3s already made from someplace like Amazon, not everything is available in MP3 format. Many artists’ recording labels have not authorized MP3 releases of their songs. Artists like Madonna, Michael Jackson, Journey, Hall & Oates — that stuff isn’t available even if you want to buy an MP3 of it.

So how exactly are we supposed to get a “legal” MP3 of something that the label won’t release? The obvious answer is that we don’t. The RIAA is trying to hold onto its old business model, in defiance of obvious trends to the contrary and the massive market demand for MP3 music. People aren’t going to carry tons of CDs around with them anymore. It’s not necessary. And if we can’t “legally” obtain an MP3 of “Thriller”, we’re going to “illegally” rip it from the CD we legally own.

Count on it.

“It’s not difficult to be offensive when there are so many people trying to be offended.”

-KOOLmike (Fark.com)

On June 14, 2007, a mobile-phone salesman named Paul Potts won the 2007 competition on “Britain’s Got Talent”, a UK show that may be likened to “America’s Got Talent” or “American Idol” (all three shows are attributable to Simon Cowell).

While shows like this often provide what might be considered “flash in the pan” talents, some of whom win purely on audience appeal rather than any actual ability, Potts has earned his place. Below is his finalist performance on the show. He won, among other things, the privilege of performing before the Queen.

What does he sing? Opera.

There may yet be hope for civilization. Simon Cowell, when interviewed about Paul, said that it had always been his vision that the show would one day give wide exposure to someone who was otherwise ordinary, with an ordinary job, who had a remarkable, undiscovered talent.

Of course, Paul is not entirely untrained. He did take voice lessons in Italy, at his own expense (as a hobby). He has also performed without pay in various amateur venues. But as horrible auditions on “American Idol” prove, all the voice lessons in the world can’t help someone who has no gift.

I’m reassured by Paul’s win. His appeal was not only to the judges (Simon Cowell, who is notoriously blunt in his assessments, declared Paul’s first audition in Cardiff to be “absolutely fantastic”), but to the general public of Britain, who declared him the best of the contestants this year.

The first audition in Cardiff, (above) is worth a look, too. Not only is his performance astounding for an amateur, but the way the whole tone of the theater changes is unmistakable. His presence, his voice, electrifies the room. Anyone who likes this guy needs to check out some of the great masters like Pavarotti. There is a great art in music beyond the realm of MTV and ClearChannel.

I’ll be buying his CD.

So my mother bought a roasting chicken for us to have for supper. This chicken was labeled “all natural”, which should have been a clue. My mother split the chicken in half (butterflied it) to make it cook faster and more evenly, and put the chicken in the oven for about 2 hours based on its size.

When it came out of the oven, it was basically inedible. It wasn’t even close to being cooked through. The skin was the consistency of leather — you literally couldn’t chew it. WTF.

Okay, so dinner was kind of a write-off as far as the chicken went (luckily the rice turned out yummy, and we had just received a box of fresh pears from my in-laws). My mother put the chicken back in the oven too cook it some more.

And more.

And more.

Finally it came out done, as you see above. That bird was in the oven for a total of four and a half hours before it was done enough to be eaten. Here’s the kicker: it was a roasting chicken. It was specifically intended to be easy to cook and tender when done. Classic. My mother pithily commented “This bird must be 20 years old.”

There’s a reason chickens we eat have been specially bred and pumped full of vitamins, hormones, and other goodies. There’s a reason they’re kept in a barn and not allowed to run freely all over the place. It makes them fat, tender, and tasty.

Whether the problem lay with the chicken being “all natural”, or whether it was just an unusually tough specimen, is unknown. But personally I’ll stick with the kind that hippies say will kill me slowly. Life’s too short to eat (or not eat, as the case may be) a tough, rubbery chicken.

Today I saw this in the parking lot of West Town Mall in Knoxville, TN:

minivan.jpg

It’s creative, I’ll give them that. Sure beats the wreath-zip-tied-to-the-grill.

Usually when people make fun of Southerners, I’m the first to defend them. As a native Tennessean transplanted into Silicon Valley, California, I feel obliged to stand up for my fellow Southerners whenever people make fun of hicks and rednecks (not that hicks and rednecks don’t exist — we make fun of them, too).

homedepot.jpg

But I saw this today, and just had to take a picture. I’m staying with my parents in Tennessee for a month, and we went out to Home Depot today in Lenoir City. Anyone in the area can visit the store and verify for themselves that this picture is real. Even worse, there are 2 such handwritten signs on the store, one at each doorway, and they both have this error. Points for consistency I guess.

From the “Wait, what?” department, today comes this. Fox News summarizes it nicely:


A British woman who had an abortion 10 years ago and was later sterilized did so because she believes pregnancy is bad for the environment, the London Daily Mail reported Sunday.

Toni Vernelli, 35, hopes her actions would ensure her carbon footprint would be kept to a minimum, the Mail reported. The environmental advocate also sees having children as an egotistical act.

“Having children is selfish. It’s all about maintaining your genetic line at the expense of the planet,” Vernelli told the Mail, adding she believes bringing new life into the world only adds to the problem.

Another person unclear on the concept. Having children is “about maintaining your genetic line at the expense of the planet”? Huh? The entire ultimate purpose of human reproduction is survival. In the full Daily Mail version of the article, she is quoted:


“Every person who is born uses more food, more water, more land, more fossil fuels, more trees and produces more rubbish, more pollution, more greenhouse gases, and adds to the problem of over-population.”

This sounds to me like Vernelli is against the entire concept of human reproduction, rather than simply making a personal decision to not have one more child in a world she views as over-populated. That means Vernelli is basically advocating the suicide of the human race for the “benefit of the planet”.

While that may sound completely insane (it is), this is not the first time I’ve heard of environmentalist nutcases state the opinion that humanity in general is a plague upon the Earth, and that the Earth would be better off without us. They seek to restore the Earth to some kind of pristine, human-less state. I’m always bemused by this idea, since the mental image I get is of the Earth, without people, going about its business of nothing in particular, with no one around to enjoy or appreciate it.

Also, the logical endpoint of such a belief is to commit suicide. These people don’t seem too receptive to that idea, or there wouldn’t be any of them around.

The assertion that the Earth is over-populated is also ridiculous. One only needs to look at a space-view of the Earth at night to see how barren human civilization really is on this planet. Perhaps such people are referring to the capacity of human civilization to feed itself. Even in that case, they are wrong. We have the ability to feed many times the people currently alive on the Earth. The problem is not one of food production, but of transportation logistics. Specifically, that the people most in need of the food are in countries run by tyrannical governments that actively prevent their people from getting it. Artificial famine is a tool of dictatorships to control the populace. People who are starving don’t riot or stage revolutions.

It’s also disingenuous of Vernelli to assert that her lack of a child somehow helps any perceived lack of resources. She lives in the UK. That country doesn’t have a problem feeding and providing for its population. One more person isn’t a strain. In fact, the fertility rate in the UK for 2006 was 1.84 children per female. That is below the level needed to replace the population, and while that rate has been growing in recent years, it is still very low. The UK needs all the kids it can get.

Okay, so Vernelli is crazy. That much is apparent. It’s one thing to become a vegetarian based on a shallow and flawed understanding of facts and logical thinking. But to abort a child? To have oneself sterilized? These are significant, dangerous surgical procedures. She underwent these operations on the basis of political beliefs that are not only false, but easily disproven with about 15 minutes of research.

Conclusion: she didn’t want to know the truth. She wanted to believe what she believes, and she will avoid acknowledging any evidence to the contrary. People like this think that wishing something will make it real; that reality can be shaped at a whim and that it is somehow different for everyone. To act with regard to something that is not so will lead only to death and disaster.

Last week I was driving home from my student shift at the hospital. Sailing along at 40mph on a 3-lane road (3 lanes each direction). Oh look, the light up ahead is green. Cool, I don’t have to stop.

Then I see a kid on a bicycle flying across the road at the crosswalk, against the light. I think, “What an idiot”. THEN I catch a glimpse of a girl, about 10-years-old, running full bore behind him. The left turn lane is stopped, but the straight lanes have a green light. And did I mention the light had been green for a while now?

I think to myself, “That girl can’t possibly be intending to just keep running on to the other side, on a red light, on a 6 lane road. But I’d better slow the fuck down to make sure.”

So I slow to about 20mph as I reach the intersection. The girl comes darting out from behind the stopped car in the left turn lane. I slam on the brakes (throwing everything in my car forward at a high velocity; fun), and the girl recoils in astonishment, as if the entire situation were a complete surprise to her.

I stop. She goes on running, WITHOUT LOOKING TO SEE IF THERE ARE MORE CARS COMING IN THE LANES NEXT TO ME. Thankfully she doesn’t get hit. If I hadn’t seen her, or if I had assumed she wouldn’t be so stupid as to run in front of a speeding car, she’d probably be dead, and I would have killed her.

I’m too shocked to do anything but sit there as my light finally turns red. I exchange amazed looks with the elderly couple in the car next to me. They shake their heads and I’m sitting there flailing both hands in a “OMGWTFBBQ” sort of gesture. I’m sure it scared about 2 years off my life.

Can somebody please tell me what the fucking hell was going on in that child’s head that she ran across a 6 lane road, against a red light, without even looking?

Comedian and celebrity impersonator Mike Kaminski has produced this fantastic re-dub of George C. Scott’s speech from the movie “Patton”. General Patton has come out of retirement to explain why we are fighting in Iraq, and what it all means.

Everybody needs to watch this. I mean, c’mon, music by Jerry Goldsmith, right? Here’s a transcript, like I promised. I did this one myself and I believe it is accurate.

At ease.

I want you to remember that this War on Terror, as well as our presence in the Middle East, is necessary and inevitable. To those who can’t understand that, they need to spend more time on the History Channel and less time in the Goddamn chat rooms.

In this time of nuclear weaponry, we cannot afford to wait for the fight to come to us. You need to understand that. This political correctness stuff’s a buncha crap! This generation is so Goddamn spoiled and lazy, they wouldn’t know a real threat to their freedom until it interrupted the power source to their Xbox and killed a half a million people! “The complacency of fools will destroy them.” That’s written in the Bible.

My God, I really wonder where we’d be today if some of our current members of Congress were presiding during World War II. I think we’d all be speaking German right now, and the world would have a serious shortage of Jews. These people like Harry Reid. That son of a bitch is like a man in combat who won’t provide you the cover fire you asked for so you end up getting your Goddamn head blown off! People like him don’t know anything more about the process of defending modern freedom than they do about fornicating.

Now. All this stuff you’ve heard about America not wanting to fight, wanting to pull out of Iraq, is a lot of horse dung. Americans, traditionally, will protect their freedom. All real Americans love a good fight. When you were kids, you all admired the champion football player, the fastest gamer, the greatest superhero, the toughest boxer. Americans love a winner and will not tolerate a loser. Americans play to win all the time. I don’t give a hoot in Hell if you’re a Christian, Muslim, Jew, or Buddhist. If you intend to take up arms to harm America or Americans, you will lose.

Now we have the best equipment, facilities, the most technologically advanced weaponry in the world. And you can be thankful of that. Without it, there’d be a Hell of a lot more dead.

Now I say to the Iraqi citizens that if you know of people planning insurgency, stop them! If you see or hear about someone planning a roadside bomb, stop them! Shoot those bastards in the guts! Report their activities! That is the only way to build a truly great nation. The people must get involved and take it back, just as Americans did against the British in the 1700s. Being free is part of every religion, but a lack of freedom, and misguided education, can create enormous setbacks.

In 1939 when the British ally Poland was attacked and occupied by Germany, do you know that that small island of Britain had the balls and fortitude to declare war on those Nazi bastards? While we did nothing. We didn’t want to get involved, we said. How dare we not learn from such things!

This is not a God damn video game! This is a modern fight for freedom, and security of this nation and the world.

Now the current leader in Iran has made it very clear that he wants to destroy America, and threatens a second Holocaust against the Jews. And this leader is obtaining nuclear technology right under our noses. The difference between him and Hitler, is that Hitler built up his war machine in secrecy. How stupid and ignorant should we be? If Hitler would have had nuclear weapons, he’d have used ’em. If Japan would have had them, they’d have used ’em. You had all better wake up. If it were up to me, we’d already be in Iran, and their leader would be one dead son of a bitch!

After World War II there was a plaque laid in Germany which reads:”Never again fascism”. How dare you forget and allow it again! You all know the old saying, “History repeats itself.” Well. Here we are.

Now there’s another thing I want you to remember. I don’t want to get anymore messages saying that we need to pull out Iraq. We’re not pulling out of anything. Let the enemy do that. We are advancing constantly and we’re not interested in pulling out of anything except a parking lot.

Now. There’s one thing that you men and women will be able to say when you get back home, and you may thank God for it. Twenty years from now, when you’re sitting around your family with your grandson on your knee, and he asks you what did you do in the Great War on Terror, you won’t have to say, “Well, I listened to far left bullshit, sat on my ass, and was more concerned with American Idol than I was about American security and freedom.”

All right, now you sons of bitches and women, you know how I feel. I would be proud to lead you wonderful people into battle. Anytime. Anywhere.

That’s all.