Wednesday, December 29, 2010

Ode to a Honeycrisp Apple

A short poem to my favorite breakfast food, as inspired* by William Carlos Williams
I have eaten
the last Honeycrisp Apple
that was in
the fridge

and which
you were probably
saving
for breakfast

Forgive me
it was delicious
so sweet
and so juicy
*And by "inspired" I mean "plagiarized"

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Wednesday, December 15, 2010

Mr. Emaw's Neighborhood: Chapter 1 — The Elevator Incident

It struck me one day that over the years, I've had some pretty interesting neighbors. In fact, the people I've lived and worked next to have always been much more interesting than I am. So I thought I'd do a series of posts about some of them.

This story takes place about ten years ago. It was shortly after the first internet bust but before that quaint little (by today's standards) Enron financial implosion.

When the web startup I'd been working at closed up shop and headed to New Jersey, I took my first job at a cube farm corporation. It was a pretty good gig. The hours were flexible and me and a few other guys had a shared hard drive where we stored all the mp3s we downloaded from Napster.

I was lucky as the new guy to get a cube adjacent to a wall, so I only had one cube neighbor. We'll call her Janet. She was a great cube neighbor. Pleasant personality, always smiling, great sense of humor. She was a recent college grad and had snagged her job after doing an internship for the company.

She kept me up to date on all the pop culture news of the day.
She was one of the first on the block with one of those new-fangled "TiVo" devices and would give us daily updates on celebrity gossip and the latest exploits of the characters on Survivor and
The Geena Davis Show.

Janet was the social glue for our core group. There were about five of us who started having lunch together daily. As a group it was easier to rationalize, or maybe just ignore, the fact that you're leaving for lunch a few minutes early and getting back a few minutes late.

It was during one of these lunch jaunts that The Elevator Incident happened.

On these lunch outings, we typically would pool rides since it was ecologically the right thing to do and it provided a certain level of mutually assured destruction for getting back too late from The Olive Garden.

Anyway on this particular day, Janet and I had arrived back at the office from lunch. We strolled into the elevator, hit the "6" button and waited for the lift to deliver us to our floor.

As a joke, I always used to like to bounce the elevator a little bit by doing a few quick knee bends — kind of a fake jumping up and down when the other person's not looking to make them thing the elevator is falling or something. You know, for the laughs.

Well, to this day I maintain that that little stunt had nothing to do with our elevator doing an emergency stop between the first and second floors.

Nonetheless, stuck it was. Not moving, door closed and to make matters worse the emergency phone inside the elevator didn't work. It could have been my imagination, but I swear the lights were flickering and the vent fan had turned off.

Janet was ready to freak out. To calm her down, I told her that the building probably wasn't on fire and there almost certainly wasn't a Twilight Zone-style nuclear holocaust going on outside.

Still,I knew that if I couldn't find a way out of this, it wouldn't be long before we hit DEFCON LUDICROUS. But before I tried my daring escape through the ceiling access hatch, I pulled out my cutting-edge circa 1999 Nokia cellular mobile telephone.

With my phone's antenna extended, I dialed up the security desk to apprise them of our situation and get a maintenance dude to get us out of here.

Next I called my manager to let her know that Janet and I are stuck in the elevator, no, for real, we're in the elevator and the elevator stopped between floors. No, she's okay at the moment What? Well… of course we both have all of our cloths on…I mean, I slipped my shoes off but we all have our own coping mechanisms…

Before I was done with the call, an elevator technician had opened the doors. About waste level (for me) was the first floor ceiling/second floor floor. We were looking up (to the second floor) and a small crowd of or coworkers who had come to watch our daring escape. You can imagine the entertainment value we were providing.

The janitor elevator technician told us the plan was to help us crawl up to the second floor, then worry about getting the lift running again. Being the chivalrous sumbitch I am, I insisted that Janet go first. I would be able to help boost her up and, more importantly, if the elevator were suddenly to let loose it wouldn't be me getting sliced in half by a gigantic guillotine.

Well, to make a short story longer, we made it out of the elevator car safe and sound and had a good laugh for the next few hours and came away with a mildly amusing story to boot.

Eventually, I left that company for other professional pastures. It was eventually acquired in a corporate merger, and I kind of lost touch with Janet and the rest of the crew. It happens sometimes. Friends and neighbors go their separate ways.

Janet and I actually work at the same company now. She sits not too far from me on the same floor, but we don't have the same rapport that we had then.

And she still refuses to ride an elevator with me.

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Tuesday, December 14, 2010

YouTube Tuesday: Word

Here's the Rated-PG version of this video that's been out for quite sometime. I just like the concept of a word association exercise in a video format.

You can see the PG-13 Rated version here if you want.



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Wednesday, December 08, 2010

New dirt on The Mission Dirt Pile

From what I could tell, the little tidbit of news didn't get much play earlier this week. At least if it did, I didn't see it in the usual local newscasts, websites and Twitters I follow.

Just a short few paragraphs from the Kansas City Business Journal that popped up in my RSS feed reader indicating that there might finally be some movement in the development of what has become known as The Mission Dirt Pile.

When the Mission Dirt Pile was first created, I was living a couple of blocks north in Roeland Park, a cute little inner-ring suburb peopled by families just starting out, elderly couples (and singles) who are dying out and your random urban chicken enthusiast.

We really liked living in the RP. Characters like the crazy pot-smoking retired lady a few doors down just added to the texture of the neighborhood. So we were pretty happy with the then Mission Center Mall property was slated to be demolished.

It was quite something to see the old mall go through the stages of deconstruction on my way home from work each day.

The proposal was to replace the mall with a "lifestyle" center that would include a high-rise boutique hotel, condos and street level retail. Somewhere along the way large aquarium was thrown in for good measure.

Keep in mind this was back in 2006, a more innocent time in America. A healthier General Motors was reporting losses of only $8.6 billion, AIG gave a sincere apology to government regulators for its deceptive business practices, and the Blue-ray Disc format was introduced to American consumers.

More importantly, the country was in the midst of a real estate boom the most thought would never end. So when developers presented the renderings of The Gateway lifestyle center, most of us were pretty excited about it. It was reported at the time that some people even put down deposits on some of the condo units before ground had even been broken.

Of course, we all know what happened to the real estate market, not to mention the rest of the economy. All that was left of The Gateway development was a giant mountain of dirt and broken dreams.

Well, fast forward to last Monday when we learned that the development group has new partners and may be close to resuming work on the project, possibly breaking ground as soon as next summer.

According to the article in the Kansas City Business Journal, the developer, The Cameron Group LLC, received an extension on a critical deadline that allows them to retain $63 million in sales tax revenue bonds for the project.
[Cameron Group's] Tom Valenti said his new partners, which include RED’s Tim Schaffer and Caymus’ Dave Harrison, add credibility to the project.

“Having RED and Caymus being involved sends a message to the community here that this is real and it is going to happen,” Valenti said.

Valenti said the Gateway project will be built in two phases, beginning with the aquarium and apartments.
It all sounds very promising. Certainly a nice retail/business district will bring in more revenue than a big pile of dirt. Definitely it will look much nicer, though the opossum's and foxes that now live there might have some objections.

Of course it remains to be seen whether we are near enough to the end of the current recession for this to actually happen.

I guess we'll know by the end of the summer.

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Tuesday, December 07, 2010

YouTube Tuesday: Happy Birthday Dave Brubeck

Yesterday was Dave Brubeck's 90th birthday, which still makes him a youngster to my grandmother.

Anyway, he probably doesn't hang out much on the internet, but I wanted to post this video of one of his most recognizable and most covered songs in honor of the occasion.



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Friday, December 03, 2010

Friday Blogthing: Merry Christmas from the Cup Size Choir

It's about that time of year for the more cutting edge of creative agencies to begin releasing their Holiday viral advertising tactics.

While the effort by European lingerie maker La Senza lacks the cute innocence and tongue-in-cheek humor of local shop VML's Handbell Hero from a few years ago, but it does have several elements that make for a good viral tactic: It's interactive and empowers the audience to be content creators, it provides easy sharability, and most importantly it has seven scantily clad hotties. Here's the link to my little musical masterpiece.

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Thursday, November 18, 2010

Putting the T&A in TSA

Just a few of my own thoughts (well, I suppose I'm not the only one with these thoughts) to close out the discussion on the TSA's aggressive security screenings…

Our own Midtown Miscreant rightly pointed out the other day that airport security screenings are not really that much worse than anything most ex-cons experience on a daily basis during their time in the big house.

His basic point, as with other proponents of the new measures, is that yeah it sucks to treat everyday, law-abiding citizens like the worst criminal in the world, but you have to do it for safety.
Is it the perfect fool proof solution? No. But I've yet to hear a workable alternative.


And this is part of the problem. MM, like decreasing majority of the American public, has bought into the scare tactics employed by bureaucrats and lobbyists who basically say "If you don't let us take naked pictures of you and grope you, you are going to be killed by terrorists."

In fact, many security experts have gone on record as saying none of these tactics would have foiled any of the terror plots that we've seen. Furthermore, the recent "tonor cartridge bomb" plot was discovered by other, less intrusive security measures.

Now don't get me wrong. I'd probably avoid the super backscatter scanning X-Rays they're using since I'm not crazy about having 1.21 gigawatts of radiation sent through my body (I like my chromosomes they way nature intended, thank you very much).

Of course, those of you more worried about modesty than radiation might not feel all that comfortable with a bunch of mall cop rejects checking out high-resolution scans of your nether regions. If you're one of those people, you might want to invest twenty bucks in some special X-ray shielded panties.

Personally, I enjoy a good groping by strangers as much as the next guy. And while I might consider having a sweaty, overweight guy with bad breath put his latex glove-covered hands down my pants at the airport a bonus, I can certainly see how some might find it objectionable, even invasive.

What concerns me more, however, is how we got to where we are.

It's like we've lost our minds here. We've been scared witless, and we're not thinking rationally. All the threats we've heard of — Shoe Bomber, Crotch Bomber, Tonor Bombers — are threats from abroad. Yet now we're clamping down on flights from Kansas City to Tallahassee? And that was only three or four cases out of hundreds of millions of flights.

So these measures, which are really just a kind of theater to make people feel like they're safer, have little real effect on a statistically insignificant problem.

I think a better approach is prudent and reasonable police work. The Israeli approach is probably pretty good. Use multiple checkpoints with security people actually trained in spotting real suspects — not frisking your 5-year-old niece.

Let's use our brains, citizens.

And there's one other germ of a thought that's been bouncing around in my brain lately. We, as a society, are expecting way too much out of our government.

Sure, the government likes it that way. The self-perpetuating bureaucracy loves the opportunity to assume more and more our responsibilities and is happy to accept more of our money and liberty in exchange for trying to keep us safe.

But the truth is, we have no reasonable right to expect to be 100 percent safe 100 percent of the time. A long, safe, healthy life is great. But for human beings, that's the exception, not the rule.

If I had lived 100 years ago, I'd probably have died before I reached my 38th birthday. Now I realize we live in the future and we've made advances in medicine and technology, but we're on a course toward asking our government to encase the world in Nerf for our own protection.

Anyway, there may be more on that line of thinking later.

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Wednesday, November 17, 2010

Guest Post: TSA is here to protect the ingrates

As you know, from time to time I'll post guest editorials about various topical subjects. These guest posts do not necessarily reflect the views and opinions of the editorial staff of 3 AM. Today's guest post is from Nathan R. Jessep, a mid-level Transportation Security Administration agent, in response to recent criticism of the agency's aggressive screening tactics.
What? So a few prissy travelers in their faggoty business suits think I'm invading THEIR privacy? That's funny! That's a joke!

You want the truth? You want the TRUTH!? You can't handle the truth! Son, we live in a world that has airports, and those airports have to be guarded by men with latex gloves. Who's gonna do it? You? You, Mr. Jillette?

I have a greater responsibility than you can possibly fathom! You weep for your groped genitals and you curse the TSA. You have that luxury. You have the luxury of not knowing what I know: that the groping of your private parts, while tragic, probably saves lives. And my existence, while grotesque and incomprehensible to you, saves lives!

You don't want the truth, because deep down in places you don't talk about on your blogs and on Twitter, you want me in that airport! You need me in your underwear! We use words like "bend over", "spread 'em", "cop a feel". We use these words as the backbone of a life spent defending something.

You use them as a punchline!

I have neither the time nor the inclination to explain myself to a country that rises and sleeps under the blanket of the very safety that I provide, and then questions the manner in which I provide it! I would rather you just said "Thank you," grabbed a tissue to wipe your tears, and went on your way.

Otherwise, I suggest you pick up a body cavity search kit, and stand a post. Either way, I don't give a damn what you think you are entitled to!

You fuckin' people. You have no idea how to defend an airport. All you'll do with your National Opt Out Day is weaken the illusion of safety that I provide. That's all you'll do. You'll put people's lives in danger.

Sweet dreams, son.

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Friday, November 12, 2010

The Groupon Paradox

I was having a quick lunch with a few of my closest friends a few weeks ago when the conversation wound around to the topic of Groupon.

I'm sure that by now, most of you are aware that Groupon isn't some kind of 1970s lingo for a swingin' good time. The social buying service has been around since 2008, and it's become a popular method of local advertising and deal hunting for today's cash-strapped consumer.

But for you nifty neophytes, the basic premise is that a business will agree to give a deeply discounted price on a service or product in exchange for a guarantee that a certain volume of that product or service will be purchased.

For example, today's deal was a 50% discount on carpet cleaning from a local service company, but only if at least 50 people bought the deal. As of this writing, they had sold 257 of the deals.

So you can see that for the savvy shopper, you can save a lot of money on some useful and neat stuff.

Except, there's a bit of a flaw in this plan, at least for me.

The first (and only... so far) time I bought a Groupon deal was when a new bakery in my neighborhood advertised a special. Natasha's Mulberry & Mott (which is fantastic, by the way) was selling $10 worth of pastries, coffee, ice cream or whatever for only $5. You could buy three of the Groupon's for a total outlay of $15 for thirty bucks worth of fancy pants breakfast.

Which is what I did. And apparently a lot of other people thought this was a great deal as well since they sold 1,451 of this particular Groupon. A little quick math puts the total take for Natasha's at a cool $7,255 American in just a few hours.

It was a few weeks before I made it down to the bakery to cash in on my deal. I printed out the receipt and stopped by on my way to work one morning. When I opened the door, there were about half a dozen people queued up in front of me.

And here's the thing: They all — every last one of them — were holding the same kind of Groupon receipt that I had. When I first noticed this, I kind of smiled ironically to myself. "Heh, we're all cheap bastards aren't we?"

But as I waited in line and watched everyone peruse the bill of fare, make their choices trying to get as close a possible to the $10 spending limit and then watch the harried woman at the check-out counter perform acts of mathematical heroism to get any additional money owed by the patrons, I just became more and more uncomfortable with my own cheapness.

After all, I don't need $10 worth of pastries. I don't even need $5 worth. Truth be told, my doctor would prefer I eat a bowl of oatmeal or an apple for breakfast.

And dire as the financial times are, I don't really need to save $5 on the pastries that I shouldn't really be eating in the first place. Don't get me wrong, we're not rolling in caviar and champagne. But we're gainfully employed and sticking to our financial plan, so if I wanted to drop a Hamilton on some expensive coffee and croissants it's not going to break the bank.

When it comes down to it, the only reason I bought the Groupon in the first place was because I could get for $15 something that I perceived to be worth $30. It was like getting free money.

But as I had time to stand there and stew in my guilt, I realized that another way to look at it was that I only bought the Groupon to screw the owners out of $15 worth of food (food that I don't particularly need).

When it was my turn at the counter, I ordered the items I'd been considering while waiting. Then I deliberately ordered a little bit more so that I ended up paying more than the five-dollar bottom line on my Groupon coupon, just to prove that it's not all about getting free stuff for me.

I've still go two more to cash in, and I'm sure I'll do it before they expire in January.

But the guilt will probably kill me.

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Tuesday, November 09, 2010

YouTube Tuesday: Photoshopping Life

Technology is supposed to make things easier. Wouldn't it be great if you could use the image editing tools in Photoshop to edit your real life?

Like maybe cloning in a couple of extra Scarlett Johanssons?

Yeah, I think this guy's got the right idea.



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Friday, November 05, 2010

Guest Post: November 5

Greetings, Internet.

Allow me first to apologize for this interruption. I do, like many of you, appreciate the comforts of every day routine — the security of the familiar, the tranquility of repetition. I enjoy them as much as any bloke.

But in the spirit of commemoration, thereby those important events of the past usually associated with someone's death or the end of some awful bloody struggle, a celebration of a nice holiday, I thought we could mark this November the 5th, a day that is sadly no longer remembered, by taking some time out of our daily lives to sit down and have a little chat.

There are of course those who do not want us to speak. I suspect even now, orders are being shouted into telephones, and men with guns will soon be on their way. Why? Because while the truncheon may be used in lieu of conversation, words will always retain their power.

Words offer the means to meaning, and for those who will listen, the enunciation of truth. And the truth is, there is something terribly wrong with this country, isn't there? Cruelty and injustice, intolerance and oppression. And where once you had the freedom to object, to think and speak as you saw fit, you now have censors and systems of surveillance coercing your conformity and soliciting your submission.

How did this happen? Who's to blame? Well certainly there are those more responsible than others, and they will be held accountable. But again truth be told, if you're looking for the guilty, you need only look into a mirror.

I know why you did it. I know you were afraid. Who wouldn't be? War, terror, disease. There were a myriad of problems which conspired to corrupt your reason and rob you of your common sense. Fear got the best of you, and in your panic you turned to the now high government. It promised you order, it promised you safety, and all it demanded in return was your silent, obedient consent.

Last night I sought to end that silence. Last night I wrote this blog post, to remind this country of what it has forgotten. More than four hundred years ago a great citizen wished to embed the fifth of November forever in our memory. His hope was to remind the world that fairness, justice, and freedom are more than words, they are perspectives. So if you've seen nothing, if the crimes of this government remain unknown to you then I would suggest you allow the fifth of November to pass unmarked.

But if you see what I see, if you feel as I feel, and if you would seek as I seek, then I ask you to stand beside me one year from tonight and together we shall give them a fifth of November that shall never, ever be forgot.

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Thursday, November 04, 2010

Who will saaaayave our souls?

I was humbled to get some link love from the great Joel Mathis at Cup o'Joel who latched onto my continued frustration with both political so-called parties after this week's elections.

He wonders if the government is even capable of governing anymore, and he rightly noted that we both think "that there's something unsustainable about the governance of our country."

I agree that our current government and bureaucracy is unsustainable. But it's not just our governance, it's our entire culture. As Americans we eat and drink more than is healthy. We consume way more than our fair share of energy. We live in homes that are way bigger than they need to be and pay for them much more than we should (indeed, much more than we can afford). We're more interested in voting results for American Idol than for American elections.

We demand free health care, free retirement, free food and water — hell, free digital cable converter boxes — even though, in the long centuries of human existence, no people have ever dared to dream of such things.

Somehow, over the last 80 years, we've become entitled.

So when Joel asks in the title of his post, "Can anybody save us?" The short answer is, no. If something is unsustainable and can't continue, it must come to an end.

The longer answer is something Cassius hit upon when he was having a beer with his good buddy Brutus at his boss's beach house in the hit film Weekend At Caesar's:
The fault, dear Brutus, is not in our stars, but in ourselves… Hey, what's that thing stuck in Ceasar's back?

If we're honest with ourselves, we see that Obama isn't to blame for "the state of things," nor are the Republicans, the Democrats or the Tea Party; it's not Glenn Beck or Jon Stewart or Sarah Palin or Rachel Madow or that other guy who's name I can't remember from MSNBC...

When you get right down to it, we have no one to blame but ourselves.

We voted ourselves money and spending and benefits that we don't really deserve and certainly can't afford. And really, I can understand why we did it. That unsustainable culture I mentioned earlier? That's a fun culture to be a part of. I mean, who doesn't want to rock 'n roll all night and party every day?

It beats the hell out of allowing banks to fail from their own malfeasance... dragging us all into a great depression with them. That's just… depressing.

And aren't we all more than willing to take off our shoes and allow strangers to look at our naughty bits at the airport in order to feel a little safer about flying out to Las Vegas and maxing out our credit cards on overpriced booze and glorified money-sucking video games?

But we got ourselves into this mess. And we're going to have to get ourselves out. It's not going to be easy. I suspect that it will get much, much worse before it gets better. But I also think the best place to start is in your own neighborhood, in your own town, in your own city and state.

Democrats nor Republicans nor presidents nor senators will be able to help us. Relying on the government isn't the answer. We all need to pull together. Find people who need your help. There are a lot of great organizations and churches that are dedicated to feeding the hungry, housing the homeless, trying to heal the sick.

We need to focus on our responsibilities as citizens, not our rights. Make personal changes like eating better food and less of it, maybe start using less energy (I personally have lowered my body temperature to 94 degrees).

Voting is nice. But it is more important to get out and help than it is to get out the vote.

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Wednesday, November 03, 2010

Not so fast, my friend…

The Facebook message came through pretty early this morning. "I bet you're on cloud nine with the big Republican takeover in last night's elections..."

I responded with a rousing and resounding "meh…"

From what I can tell, in the scheme of things we still haven't seen any proposals for real change. And even if we have seen ideas for meaningful spending cuts and tax reforms from the newly minted House majority, there's no reason given the history of the last few decades to actually believe any meaningful steps will be taken.

I mean, many of the people who voted for Republicans actually think President Obama is solely to blame for "the state of things." But, for example, while Obama definitely had a role in the huge deficit spending stimulus packages that may or may not have had an affect beyond plunging us (and our grandkids) deeper into debt, the whole idea of TARP came about and was passed during the Bush administration.

The problem with campaigning against someone, as the Democrats have found, is that you're not really campaigning for anything in particular.

Of course, the problem with campaigning FOR something these days is that in order to really solve our most pressing national problems, you have to be an advocate of doing stuff that nobody wants to do. Nobody wants drastic, Grecian Formula spending cuts, but that's what we need. Nobody wants major tax and fee increases (certainly not me), but that's what it will take to balance our budget even if we cut spending.

So you get what we have now (which interestingly is frighteningly similar to what the Romans had near the end of their republic). Politicians make promises that, while popular, have little hope of coming to fruition without bankrupting the country. Political expedience makes meaningful reform impossible.

But at least we've got the new season of Dancing With The Stars to entertain us.

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Monday, November 01, 2010

TARPography

The comment from Lodo came, not apropos of the post it was on but certainly an apt continuation of a conversation we've been having here for some time.

The comment was thus:
All that TARP money everyone was harping about has been paid back with interest.
We've been tossing ideas back and forth about the TARP and various government bailouts. My point is that the financial bailouts in toto are a bad idea because of the monetary cost and the long term cost of cultivating a culture reliant upon bailouts instead of sound business judgment.

Lodo's point is that, as a practical matter, the bailouts and stimulus plans are necessary to stabilize the economy. And whatever the risks happen to be, they're better than the certainty of a second Great Depression (I hope I've characterized the point fairly).

So, it's only fair for Lodo to point out that all of the TARP money has been repaid in full, with interest. I assume he's referring to a White House report that was released last month.

Now, I have no reason to think the White House would tell us something that isn't 100 percent true. What motivation, after all, could they have for not being completely forthcoming about a program as popular as TARP has been — especially in this climate where pretty much everyone is strongly in favor of doing all we can as a country to make sure that the poor banking executives make it through this trying time of tumultuous tribulation with their multi-million dollar bonuses intact?

I mean, what could they possibly gain especially since their party is poised to make such great gains during this election season?

But, out of habit I guess, I just had to do some double checking on this claim "fully repaid with interest." So I jumped over to one of the only journalistic enterprises I know of that still has any integrity left. The amazingly awesome website ProPublica.

ProPublica maintains a Bailout Scorecard website, where they track how much taxpayer money has gone to whom and how much has been returned. And incredibly, the numbers they have on their site show that not only has the TARP program NOT been repaid in full with interest, there is still almost $170 Billion in loans/investments outstanding.

I just found this almost impossible to believe. I was shocked, SHOCKED, to learn that there may have been a bit of fibbing going on from the White House.

I just assumed that perhaps the database at ProPublica may not have been quite up to date. So I fired off a quick email to one of the contact email addresses listed on the site…
Hey Paul,

Let me first say how much respect I have for the ProPublica organization. It has become one of the only news sources I really trust. Thank you for your efforts.

My question is about the Bailout Tracker portion of your website (http://bailout.propublica.org/main/summary), specifically the information on TARP. When the White House recently announced that all TARP money had been paid back in full with interest, I thought I should really check with you guys before I believed them.

So I looked at your site and saw that, according to you, there is still quite a bit of TARP left outstanding. I just wanted to check to see if the numbers on your site have been updated recently.

Thanks again for the great work you guys are doing.
Within a few hours, Paul wrote back…
Thanks.

The short version is if you really listen to what the White House is saying, they’re not saying all the money has been paid back. They’re basically saying that they expect the money to be paid back eventually. Our database shows things as they currently stand (and yes, it’s up to date). Even if the administration is right and we’ll be paid back, that won’t happen for years.

Separately, you have to be careful when talking about this stuff whether you’re including Fannie and Freddie or just the TARP. We include Fannie and Freddie in our database because, even though it was a different pot of money, it’s still one of the big bailouts that was started in the fall of 2008. And as you can see from our site, that’s involved nearly as much money as the TARP, and it seems like it won’t be long before there’s more outstanding from that bailout than from the TARP.

Also, here’s a recent roundup post we did on the 2 year anniversary of the TARP: http://www.propublica.org/article/the-bailout-yearbook-the-stars-and-the-slackers

Best,
Paul
So, there you have it. Don't take my word for it, I'm just a cave man. Take the word of someone who tracks this stuff for a living and who doesn't have a political interest in trying to make everyone feel like hope and change will get us out of this mess.

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Sunday, October 31, 2010

Wednesday, October 27, 2010

3AM Poll: Ad nauseating

In case you haven't noticed, there have been a lot of campaign ads on the television box lately. I was tempted to write that there have been a lot of classless campaign ads, but I like to avoid redundancies where possible.

Anyway, its easy to see that the entire commercial television industry is being kept financially afloat in these trying economic times by political advertisements and ads for erectile dysfunction remedies — both of which make me reach for the DVR fast forward button quicker than Larry Moore reaches for his jumbo bottle of Geritol.

But that may be just me. What do you think?


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Tuesday, October 26, 2010

YouTube Tuesday: The sunny side of The Force

Imagine this scenario: A crazed evil dictator has seized control of your government and killed all but a handful of your religious order. You're left to go into hiding on a small desert moon in the outer rim, but you still have to find some way to make ends meet.

So, you change your name to Ben and hang out a shingle as a private dick.



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Tuesday, October 19, 2010

YouTube Tuesday: Ripped from the headlines

The headline today of a 300-pound chimp loose and rampaging in Kansas City brought to mind my favorite outlaw virtual simian technopunk hip-hop quintet, Gorillaz.

Here to commemorate the occasion, one of their recent releases, Stylo...



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Wednesday, October 06, 2010

Random Photo XXXIX: Steamy autumn

Air and temperature conditions this week have been perfect for creating these romantic mists on the ponds in local parks. Just one of the many reasons I love this time of year in KC.


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Tuesday, October 05, 2010

YouTube Tuesday: Shut your festering gob, you tit!

Today's edition of YouTube Tuesday comes to you in honor of the original first-air date of Monty Python's Flying Circus on BBC television on October 5, 1969.

Yes, 41 years ago today national audiences (in Great Britain) were introduced to the genius of a comedy troupe that predicted nearly half a century in advance what the state of political discourse would be like in the United States.



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Thursday, September 30, 2010

Woohoo! Road trip!

A cool new headline in the old feed reader this morning read: US scientists find potentially habitable planet near Earth".

It turns out that planet Gliese 581g (orbiting the Red Dwarf star Gliese 581 — only 20 light years away) may have areas that would support human life.
The planet… is orbiting in the middle of the "habitable zone" of the red dwarf star Gliese 581, which means it could have water on its surface.

Liquid water and an atmosphere are necessary for a planet to possibly sustain life, even if it might not be a great place to live, the scientists said.

The planet… has a mass three to four times that of Earth and an orbital period of just under 37 days. Its mass indicates that it is probably a rocky planet and has enough gravity to hold on to an atmosphere…
Given the close proximity of Gliese 581g to Earth, it seems a road trip is definitely in order. But before you pack your bags, there are a few things you might want to keep in mind.

First, scientists say the planet is "tidally locked" to it's star, meaning it's always daytime on one side and always night on the other. The planet is theoretically habitable in the "twilight zone" where it's perpetually evening (or morning, depending on your perspective).

This isn't terrible, given that you potentially would have a nice romantic sunset all day long. Unfortunately in that habitable area, temperatures are thought to range from -24 to 10 degrees Fahrenheit — much like North Dakota.

The other hitch is that the planet is three to four times more massive that Earth. This is good, since it means that it can hold an atmosphere, which is nice if you plan on breathing.

But you'd better be in some pretty good physical shape by the time you get there. If you weigh in at a svelte 180 pounds on Earth, you'll have to lug around a 720 pound body on Gliese 581g. And that Quarter Pounder with Cheese that you packed for a snack just became a One Pounder with cheese.

Still, it may be cold, rocky, and dark, and it may make your butt look fat in those jeans, but I bet Gliese 581g is still ten times nicer than Uranus.

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Tuesday, September 28, 2010

YouTube Tuesday: The adventures of Dot

Today's edition of YouTube Tuesday is a cute little stop-motion animation in it's own right. But even more interesting, it was filmed with a cell phone camera using an attachment called a CellScope…
Professor Fletcher's invention of the CellScope, which is a Nokia device with a microscope attachment, was the inspiration for a teeny-tiny film created by Sumo Science at Aardman. It stars a 9mm girl called Dot as she struggles through a microscopic world. All the minuscule detail was shot using CellScope technology and a Nokia N8, with its 12 megapixel camera and Carl Zeiss optics.




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Tuesday, September 21, 2010

YouTube Tuesday: Extruded light art

Most people who don't have posters of Steve Jobs on their bedroom walls agree that the Apple iPad is pretty much useless. And I totally agree.

Which is why I guess it's good for Apple that there are people out there with more money and time than they know what to do with who can work on coming up with gimmicks and cute ways to try to find SOMETHING worthwhile to do with these things.

Enter the creators of Making Future Magic, Dentsu London. The creative agency put their considerable talents to work developing a new sort of stop-motion animation using the iPad's screen.
This film explores playful uses for the increasingly ubiquitous ‘glowing rectangles’ that inhabit the world.

We use photographic and animation techniques that were developed to draw moving 3-dimensional typography and objects with an iPad. In dark environments, we play movies on the surface of the iPad that extrude 3-d light forms as they move through the exposure. Multiple exposures with slightly different movies make up the stop-frame animation.




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Monday, September 20, 2010

The Hunt, Part 3: Parting shots

Capturing a good photo of the elusive white squirrel proved more challenging than I had originally expected.

I can only assume that growing up a white squirrel in a gray squirrel's world must be a lot like Johnny Cash's Boy Names Sue. You either have to become very quick and elusive, or you get eaten by hawks.

That being the case, it wouldn't have taken me this long if I hadn't had some of the defections among my crew. When my plan to trap the beast met with mixed results, I decided to hire a couple of guys to help out with this little project. But one by one they abandoned me the the quest.

First, Ishmael decided go to back to teaching when the school year started again. Then Starbuck decided to go open a chain of coffee shops (Hope he's doing well with that. There's a lot of competition in that sector these days.) And Queequeg had to quit when one of his new tattoos became severely infected.

Be that as it may, I persevered. Camera in hand, finger on trigger, er, shutter release as I passed through the beasts feeding grounds daily. I spotted it often, but as I've said before, a clear focused image remained out of my grasp for weeks.

Until one still, lazy afternoon in the late summer, after the season's heat had broken, but the sun was still bright, I decide to take a leisurely stroll up up the street. Almost out of habit, I'd taken my camera.

I walked casually up the street to the squirrel's feeding grounds. Sure enough, there he was. I stopped for a moment, not evening bothering to raise my camera. I knew from experience that in a split second it would bolt up the tree or into the bushes, so why bother taking off the lens cap.

But for some reason, this time was different. I don't know why. Maybe Moby had grown accustomed to my face, or scent, or whatever, because I'd stopped by so often. Maybe at this point he sort of considered me the squirrel equivalent of a friend (a squirrelfriend?).

Perhaps he was just tried of the whole game, tired of continually being pursued and running away. It could be that in his tiny squirrel brain, life just wasn't worth living when your always on the run.

Whatever it was, this time he didn't bolt right away. He sat there, still as a statue, his little black eyes watching me. He twitched his tail a few times as I raised my Nikon and removed the lens cap. He put his paws to his mouth, nibbled a bit on an acorn, then proceeded to ignore me.

By now of course, I'm clicking away like mad, capturing as many frames as I can with Moby posing like a Vogue model during fashion week. After weeks of hunting, the actual moment of capturing the prey was exhilarating.

The photo session seemed to go on for hours, but I'm sure it only lasted for a minute or two if even that. Soon, it seemed the white squirrel's survival instincts took over. After a quick glance back at me, he took two long hops and landed on a tree trunk.

He ran a lap around the base of the tree, and then instantly shot up into the branches of the of the oak canopy 30 feet above me.

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Wednesday, September 15, 2010

It's a mad, mad Mad Men world

One of my favorite local bloggers recently tried to watch the hit TV show Mad Men, but couldn't get through an entire episode because it's so booooooorrriinnnnggggg.
People blather on about how beautifully the show captures the 1960s—the clothes, the sexism, the smoking. I got over that in about 15 minutes. Yes, you’ve done your research. Now have your characters DO something.
And you know what, I'm with JJS on this. I mean, if something doesn't have loud music and sparkly jingly things within the first five minutes, I say "see ya, wouldn't want to be ya."

It's like, what am I watching TV for, to be intellectually stimulated? To have to actually THINK about what I'm seeing? Hellz no! I'm watching TV so I DON'T have to think, so I can just see some holier-than-thou never-was tell some untalented nobody that "You Suck!"

Now THAT'S entertainment!

And I don't want to hear any of you book lovers tell me to go read a book, either! Have you ever TRIED to read something like The Great Gatsby?! Yeah, right. "Great" my ass. If it's so great, why doesn't anything happen until, like, the second chapter.

No thank you. Give me some good wholesome Deal or No Dancing with America's Top Survivor Idol. At least something actually HAPPENS in those shows.

But Mad Men? Yeah. Nothing EVAR happens.



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Tuesday, September 14, 2010

YouTube Tuesday: Instant Billy Joel

If you keep up with tech news — which is way less depressing than the real news — you no doubt heard about Google's launch of Google Instant last week.

Google Instant is an essentially useless feature that allows you to get "instant" search results rather than having to wait 0.8 seconds. I say it's essentially useless because it's only available on the Google home page, which, let's face it, nobody uses anymore.

But it is useful for the production of a nifty and moderately entertaining keyword search video set to the music of Billy Joel's We Didn't Start The Fire1. You might want to click full-screen mode to get full enjoyment from this video.



1. When is someone going to do an update to this song using references to the first decade of the current century?

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Friday, September 10, 2010

Random Photo XXXVIII: PACing KC

A few weeks ago I got a nice shot of the continuing construction of the new Performing Arts Center in Kansas City.

Shot from atop the Liberty Memorial, I think it's clear this building will be a great addition to the downtown skyline.
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Thursday, September 09, 2010

Soy un perdedor

It's been growing, like another wart on the ugly face of American pop culture, for a few years now.

I'd hear these rumors and rumblings and increasingly regular references on popular fake news television shows. Like jungle drums starting in the distance and getting closer… "beck"…"Beck"…"BECK"… For some reason, everyone seems to be talking about Glenn Beck. Especially the people who hate him the most.

They have virtually canonized him in the social media circle jerks like Twitter, where it's common to see attempts at wise cracks from 140 character pundits such as ... The thing that doesn't make sense to me is why, when so many people dislike him so much, do they devote so much of their cognitive energy him.

I mean, it's one thing to listen, read, talk to people with whom you disagree. This is a sign of healthy intellect. But eventually.you have to realize where a person stands and that person isn't likely to change their position (especially when their career and their millions of dollars are dependent upon them being in that position).

I mean, if you're a hemp wearing, flag burning, drum circle sitting hippie and you've regularly listened to Rush Limbaugh for the last 20 years -- well, you might want to reconsider the hemp thing.

You know what I'm sayin?

If you're one of those delusional Hope&Change suckers with your head stuck firmly in Nancy Pelosi's assets and your pink blinders filtering out all rational evidence that both so-called political parties have failed The Republic (if you can still call it that) miserably and you still bother to scour YouTube for Glenn Beck's latest screed, then I can only conclude that you're either not-so-bright or you're some kind of rage addict.

Or both.

Look, I like you guys. I really do. That's why it's so awkward to try to explain to you how you're being used. But I'll do it anyway. Because when you care about someone, you keep their best interests in mind even when it's uncomfortable.

You see, son, Glenn Beck doesn't give a flyin' FOX what your opinion is. I suspect that he doesn't even care what his own opinion is. To Beck, it isn't important to have the "right" opinion, or even to have a well considered and rational opinion (obviously). It's only important to have an opinion that a lot of people (not to put too fine a point on it, but YOU) disagree with.

In fact, the more irrational and polarizing his statements, the better. This will get people reacting, talking to their friends, posting on Twitter and Facebook and blogs. That keeps him on the top of the consideration ladder. Keeps his audience numbers high (again, that's you).

And that keeps the advertising dollars rolling in.

It's a pretty old game. Something that Limbaugh and Howard Stern have been doing for years, not to mention a certain dumbass from the west side of Topeka and even local bloggers. People like Keith Olbermann and Rachel Maddow do it as well, they just don't seem to be as good as Beck at manipulating large numbers of people who both agree and disagree with them.

So to sum it all up: You are being used1.

If you hate Glen Beck so much, you should stop paying attention to him. To be ignored is the biggest injury you can inflict upon his ilk.




1) Yes. I do realize that by posting this on my blog I have been drawn into the whole affair of promoting Beck by criticizing him. And it does make me ill. But it's a sacrifice I'm willing to make to try to get you people to see that you're being manipulated
.

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Wednesday, September 08, 2010

YouTube Tuesday: History of Greed

Another animated short from the Vancouver Film School examines the roots of greed and lust in the human condition. It's cute and profound.



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Tuesday, August 31, 2010

YouTube Tuesday: Conference calling

I'm fairly certain that anyone who works in a professional environment has dealt with this issue at some point.

If you're like me, working with agencies and colleagues on both coasts in a time when conference rooms have tended to become a virtual phenomenon rather than a tangible one, it's probably far more common that you prefer.

But at least we can still joke about it.



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Thursday, August 26, 2010

A tale of two cities

There's been quite a public debate of late regarding the fate of a certain parcel of land in a certain highly-prized district that also carries with it a significant emotional attachment for certain groups of people.

Now I'm not one to casually dismiss the emotional attachment people have for places, buildings, cars, or whatever. Especially when the place and buildings in questions are now so intricately woven into our collective identity.

But in cases that involve private property rights (which, really, are just an extension of personal freedom), it's helpful to take an objective look at the facts, lest we inadvertently set a precedent that we might live to regret later.

So the facts are these:
  • The property is privately owned.
  • The city has zoning codes and usage ordinances in place to ensure that any construction is appropriate for the site in question.
  • Our laws and constitution guarantee protection equally to everyone, regardless of gender, ethnicity, religion, etc.
I understand that to those with a strong emotional interest in the preserving the purity of this historical site, the proposed building project seems insensitive and inappropriate. Those people certainly should voice their opinions, as they have a constitutional right to.

But let us not use the heavy hand of government to deny those with whom we disagree the very property rights we hold dear for ourselves.

Change can be scary, but it can also be positive and is often accompanied by opportunity. Highwoods Properties and Polsinelli Shughart should be allowed to build the building they proposed*.

Let us not stand in the way of economic progress and cultural understanding. It's fine to remember the past, but not at the price of sacrificing our future.



*Perhaps they could gain public support by including an "Islamic Community Center" on one or two floors of the building.


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Wednesday, August 25, 2010

Random Photo XXXVII: Liberty Memorial

We hit up the Liberty Memorial and the National World War I Museum last weekend. We really enjoyed ourselves, though we didn't allot enough time to tour the museum. Unfortunately, it closes at 5:00 and we didn't get there until around 3:30 p.m. An hour and a half sounds like a good amount of time, but not when you consider all there is to see.

One thing we made a priority was a trip to the top of the Liberty Memorial. That's where I snapped this shot looking down at the plaza 217 feet below.

You can tell that it was late after noon by the quality of light and the length of the tower's shadow. I also shot a pic of the tower from the bunker museum below.

If you haven't visited the WWI Museum/Liberty Memorial in a while, I highly suggest you make it an item on one of your weekend itineraries.

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Tuesday, August 24, 2010

YouTube Tuesday: Empire 1900

Sometimes, all it takes it a little old-fashioned sci-fi get to you through the day.

And it doesn't get much older-fashiondier than this clip of the penultimate scene from The Empire Strikes Back (by far the best of the Star War's movies) passed through an old-timey filter and set to silent movie music.

It's like Industrial Light and Magic meets Metropolis. Anyway, not sure I'd want to watch the entire movie this way, but this scene makes for a nice distraction.



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