Friday, April 01, 2005

Quote of the Day

[Evelyn is cut off in a parking lot.]
Evelyn Couch: Hey! I was waiting for that spot!
Girl 1: Face it lady, we're younger and faster!
[Evelyn rear-ends the other car six times.]
Girl 1: What are you DOING?
Girl 2: Are you CRAZY?
Evelyn Couch: Face it, I'm older and I have more insurance!

- Fried Green Tomatoes

Google Gulp

Quench your thurst for knowledge this April Fool's Day.

Persoai Nik de Mi Saiki

I nit zim thra I lakta.
I ping te gaia, ne nit sent.
I de mi nilaksu,
Biovin solito en mi saiki.

Ye pasim I kemi’ I et zeded?
Kara’ te difdo kemi’ I nit hir?
Do mi kienekis cont kemi’ I liv?
O do tem vandar misme e zamza?

I ha quiled mi I hir
Oy I biovir kemi’ I nit hir.
Ke ye radenin thri n I nit thir,
Calcunalum thra I et latka en ventra.

Sleep deprivation is fun. I did mention I have my own language, right? Right.

Sleep Issues

I went Wednesday through Saturday without soda last week. But Sunday night, I was dead tired and had to drive the 2+ hours from Powhatan to College Park. I had a Coke at 6 pm and doomed myself for the week.

As you can see, I'm not exactly keeping normal hours today. I slept in on Tuesday. I went without caffeine on Wednesday and felt nauseous (though I blamed it on the three-week old deli meat I'd had for lunch). I ended up having chicken broth and Ginger Ale for dinner. Now, not only is my body confused about when it is suppose to sleep, but when it is suppose to eat. I slept from 6 pm to 9 pm on Thursday and ate dinner at 11 pm. And now I'm up, wondering what I'm going to do when daylight savings time begins and I lose yet another hour. Maybe I'll just stay up all weekend and blog. I wonder how incoherent my posts would get by late Sunday...

Lewis Black in Arlington

Attention D.C. area viewers! According to WaPo, Lewis Black will be at Olsson's Books and Records on Monday at 7 pm. Bring your angst!

Keeping Cars Forever

Cars don't give up on people. People give up on cars.

- My Dad

April Fool's Day Memories

Ah, April Fool's Day. Here I shall recount the greatest April Fool's joke I ever played... on myself.

My senior year in high school, I had an exam the morning of April 1. I parked my truck (oh, I had such a great parking spot, too. Really. It was right by the front entrance), gathered my stuff, locked the door, and ran inside for some last minute studying. I took my test. I went to my second class. I went to my third class. I went to study hall. It was there that a ninth grader in my study hall approached me and said "Do you drive and S-10?"


"Your truck is running."

Oh, ha, ha, I thought. April... I reached down to my pockets and, sure enough, I couldn't find my keys. I thought back and realized that I had left the truck running so I could listen to the radio while I gathered my stuff. And then I had completely forgotten to stop the truck and get my keys before locking the door and running inside. I remember that my dad had said this truck was notoriously difficult to break into (and, evidentally, easy to get locked out of, since he had this knowledge) and did not look forward to going out and checking on my truck. The teacher gave me permission to go check on my truck. Two others accompanied me, thinking they might be able to get into it if I had, indeed, locked the doors. I walked out to the parking lot and found my poor truck chugging along in its parking space as it apparently had been for four hours. Both doors were locked. Even the sliding window between the camper shell and the cab was latched. After exhausting all of the non-damaging methods of getting into the truck, I went to the office to call my mother. I just happened to catch her on her way out and she drove out, unlocked the door, and retrieved my keys. It had happened to her once or twice, too, so she wasn't mad.

My fourth class overlapped with first lunch, so by the time I had eaten my own lunch and gotten to fifth period, everyone had heard the news. Many people said they had seen my truck running - people who were in several of my earlier classes - yet they didn't say anything to me. Everyone got a nice laugh and I added something to my list of things to be paranoid about. To this day, I still carry a spare key in my wallet because of this. And that truck managed to serve me another 6 years until I gave up on it and bought my Matrix.

Thursday, March 31, 2005

Wouldn't it be lurvely

George Will (subscription required) has an interesting article in WaPo today about a bill to eliminate the IRS and income taxes and just have a national 23% consumption tax. When I heard about this a couple of years ago, I thought it was a great idea. Which is why it will never happen.

First, why is it a great idea? Well, it's harder to dodge your taxes when it's included in every purchase you make (unless you purchase things on the black market, in which case you're committing other crimes as well). Even criminals who don't report their illegal income will have to pay this tax. And because the U.S. has a tremendous tourism industry, we may even get some unexpected income from foreign tourists that wasn't possible with the income tax. The sales tax may not need to be as high as 23% because so much money will be saved by not having the IRS and so much revenue that tax evaders weren't paying would be regained. It could be 20%. Or 15%. You would never have to pay someone to do your taxes again. And neither would corporations. I think there would still be lobbyists trying to get laws passed that favor one group or another, but the financial rewards of such campaigning would not be nearly as direct.

No more tax forms. No more deductions (although, with the cost of living refund for low-income people that is proposed in the bill, there might have to be something). No more refunds, but also no more unexpected tax bills either. It's better than a flat tax because a flat tax will eventually re-evolve into a behemoth like the tax code we have now (after all, the income tax started out as a flat tax). A consumption tax is dependent on how much money is flowing into the economy.

Also, because you feel the tax every time you pay it, you as a citizen are more likely to question where all this money is going. The income tax is sneaky in that you never really see the money, so you're less likely to miss it. So it's easier to inch that tax up, giving the government more money to spend on whatever it can find to spend it on. The consumption tax makes the government more accountable for its spending habits by effecting the spending habits of its citizens.

But why won't this happen? So many reasons. First, sticker shock. Yes, people will be getting more money in their paychecks. But they’ll have to learn to save that money because the price of goods will, at least temporarily, go up. Depending on where you live, you may already pay 11 cents on the dollar for the things you buy. Add in another 23 cents, and even the cheap stuff starts looking a might expensive. Many people won’t understand that they were already paying that money before, just in a different way. Others will understand it, they just won’t like it. It may be good to feel the tax burden in terms of citizen oversight of government, but if you have the pay the tax anyway, most people don’t want to feel it.

Also, what would the economic effect be of eliminating the IRS and the primary business model for several different companies around the country? H. & R. Block and companies like them would quickly have to shift to being a better broader financial services company (they already have other financial services, but tax preparation is their primary source of income). All of those IRS employees would have to find work somewhere, too. The lives of accountants would become much less interesting (and you thought it couldn’t get any more boring). So because of a flood in the market of potential employees and a drop in the demand, accountants and financial advisors may experience a downturn similar to that of engineers and computer programmers after the tech bubble burst.

The payroll tax would also be eliminated under this system, so Social Security and Medicare as we know it would be dead. President Bush’s private accounts wouldn’t work under this system. Even the current system of tax-free IRAs and 401ks meant to encourage retirement savings would go away. So if we kept Social Security and Medicare, their funds would have to come from general revenue. But now that no one needs to report their income anymore, how do you determine who gets how much money? If your goal is to eventually eliminate entitlement programs like social security and medicare, this may actually hurt because all of the tax advantages of saving for retirement have gone away. And since a lot of people can’t think past the end of the day, even when they have the money to save, more people will be depending on that social security check to be there for them when they retire. At this point, to make it easier for people to have savings, you have to make it more difficult for them to go into debt. To do that, you would have to eliminate credit cards. I don’t really see that happening, either.

I think the consumption tax could work. All we have to do is build a time machine and go back to 1913

Quote of the Day

I think sick like ginger ale. My stomach turns and I exhale.

- "Inside Out" by Eve6

Wednesday, March 30, 2005

This one's closer, though...

Just 77 days until Batman Begins. This better be good. At least the suit is a good start. And it looks like Scarecrow's the baddie. Ooooh, this is gonna be good (just think positive).

183 Days to go...

Serenity is on her way.

Quote of the Day

Time keeps on slippin' (slippin') into the future.

- "Fly Like an Eagle" by Seal (or whichever cover you prefer)

Hollywood Conspiracy #1: Ideas in Pairs

I’m a tad confused about something. I’ve noticed that movies, tv shows, and miniseries with similar themes and/or plots are often released at the same time. In the case of tv shows, they are even put in the same time slot on different networks. Why do they do this? Particularly in the case of television, you would think they could move a show that competes with another show that appeals to a similar audience or has a similar concept. All of the science fiction on the planet seems to be on Friday night. Yet the rest of the week is barren. (Well, there’s Lost, but that’s spec-fi, not really sci-fi). Realty shows of similar themes get pitted against one another (though, if you ask me, you can let them self-destruct). Anyone else remember the year ER premiered? Chicago Hope premiered in the exact same time slot on a different network. The only two medical dramas on tv at the time and you could only watch one. Maybe it’s a “may the best show win” kind of thing. But I’ve seen a lot of cases where the audience just seemed to split, not giving enough ratings to either show, thus killing both. (Yes, I do watch too much television. Why do you ask?)

As for the movies: I took the releases of Armageddon and Deep Impact in stride, figuring that asteroid and end-of-the-world movies had been done before and would be done again. That summer was the summer of asteroid movies. Fine. In 1991, there were two Robin Hood movies – Kevin Costner’s version, and a version made for tv. Okay, Robin Hood’s been done before. We were long overdue for the latest remake anyway. Sixth Sense and Stir of Echoes? Ghost movies. Each a unique take on the usual ghost movie fare, but ghost movies nonetheless. Standard stuff. The Matrix and The 13th Floor – this is getting weirder. Two movies about living in virtual reality and how that virtual reality can become a reality all its own. Still, technology is up and coming. The role of technology and how it changes our perceptions of reality was eventually going to make it into a movie. Why not two at once?

But the thing that got me was Antz and A Bug’s Life. When was the last time you saw an animated movie about bugs? Never and never? Then suddenly, there were two released in the same year! What is this? Are Hollywood studios blatantly stealing each other’s ideas? Or is this a discovery of calculus thing playing itself out every year?

Tuesday, March 29, 2005

Car Sharing

WaPo has an interesting group of articles about car sharing. I personally like my car. Because I'm so short, it's difficult to find a car that fits me. Plus, I seem to drive out of day-trip range every weekend. But for people who aren't freaks and who live and work close to public transportation, it sounds like an interesting idea. I have to wonder, though, how often the companies that rent out these cars check on them to see how they're doing. Is there a system inside the car that tells home base that it's nearing time for the 30,000 mile check-up? And how do they determine where to place cars and how many to keep there? Is it based on membership? Is there a minimum number of members who must live within a mile of a parking lot before they'll place a car there? And what if you need a specific vehicle, like a truck for a trip to Home Depot? There are some setups like this in other cities (though D.C. is the only place with more than one company offering the service), so it will be interesting to see how this works out.

Gentle Waking

They stole my idea! I so need this. It's bad enough that I don't get enough sleep, but when I do wake up, my alarm tends to go off in the middle of a sleep cycle. This leaves me groggy and more prone to consume caffeine. Amazingly, on the weekends, I don't sleep in all that much. Maybe an hour. If I'm in bed longer than that, it's mostly likely because I woke up and went back to sleep. (Of course, this morning, I slept in about two hours... stupid dropped alarm clock. Thank goodness for flextime! And I still beat my co-worker in. Bwahaha!).

Sluggy in Blacksburg

Gaaaaaaaaah! I spend 5 years at Virginia Tech, and when does Pete Abrams decide to visit Blacksburg? Now. And he's going to be playing Kill Dr. Lucky! Why, I ask you, why?

Sunday, March 27, 2005

Why Don’t “Total Jerks” Ever Die in Tragic Accidents?

The obvious answer to that question is “Because it wouldn’t be tragic, then would it?” But seriously (or not), why are people who died in a fire or car accident or random act of violence always remembered by friends and neighbors as kind, friendly, nice, funny, smart, full of promise, or loving. If their neighbors knew them, they were a pillar of the community. If not, they were quiet and kept mostly to themselves. It’s never the total idiot with the social skills of a donkey who blasts honky-tonk until four in the morning, beats puppies, and cusses out four-year-olds.

Wait a minute. Aren’t these the people nominated for Darwin awards? Darwin award worthy deaths may make the news, but as a “ha, look how weird and/or stupid other people are” story rather than an “ohmigosh, this could happen to me too!” story. The latter type is more commonly referred to as a human interest story in which the news focuses on average people (instead of the famous and infamous). The former type is there to distract the journalists and their viewers/readers from the fact that the news is depressing. They stir some dark humor into an already dark brew, giving some a good laugh and others a bad taste in their mouth.

But I digress. Death resulting from a person’s own stupidity accounts only for some of the jerks who aren’t dying accidentally (or at least tragically). Unfortunately for the gene pool, stupidity does not weed itself out as readily as one might expect. So what else is killing jerks before an accident can take them out of our misery? Well, seeing as how they’re jerks, they have probably made a few enemies. So some jerks are being killed by significant others, people who like sleep, people who like puppies, and parents of four-year-olds. But since jails aren’t filled with members of PETA or the PTA, there must be more to it.

What about not speaking ill of the dead? A simple social rule which may not have been employed by the deceased themselves would only account for the lack of completely negative comments. But adjectives that could go either way are noticeably lacking as well. Words like “interesting”, “different”, “rambunctious”, or “memorable” rarely make the list of adjectives that reporters list followed by the phrase “are just some of the words used to describe X.” Maybe reporters are leaving all of the negative and neutral comments out. That way, other jerks who happened to like that particular jerks can’t call, e-mail, fax, or write them and complain. Or maybe reporters just don’t focus on jerks who die in accidents because, as I said before, it just wouldn’t be tragic, then would it?


I’ve been doing a lot of driving lately and I’ve noticed a lot of vehicles on the road with on-board entertainment systems of one kind of another. I drove by one car with a DVD player on the back of each front seat (both screens playing the same movie – I thought the point of having two was so that each kid could watch their own thing). This evening, I drove by a car where someone was playing a video game. Now, I don’t know about anyone else, but I got car sick as a kid. As much as reading can mess up your internal sense of motion, I can’t image what watching a move or playing a video game would do. And while I recognize that getting your kids to sit still for a long road trip can be difficult, but whatever happened to looking out the window?

File this under weird things your family did when you were growing up that never really occurred to you as being particularly strange: to get me to look out the window to prevent or at least reduce my car sickness, my parents created a game called “dish”. I have no idea where they got the idea for this. I don’t know if someone else came up with it or if my parents based it on an existing game. But here it is. The idea is to spot as many satellite dishes as you can. This was back when dishes were too big to really put on your roof so you could see them from a good distance. To avoid confusion over who got which dish, radio and television towers counted only once. If you spotted a cemetery, you could bury two dishes of one of your opponents. Simple. Effective. But it definitely worked better when you drove through rural areas. These days, with small dishes replacing the behemoths of old, it’s getting harder to play anywhere. Of course, now that I do most of the driving, car sickness is not an issue. But what will my kids play? “Cell tower”?