Thursday, July 24, 2008

How Many Superheroes Does It Take to Tire a Genre?

“The Dark Knight,” “Iron Man” and “Hancock” test the limits of the superhero film. (In times of economic distress, people long for saviors, and fictional superheroes will do in a pinch.)

read more | digg story

One of the Things I Love About the Interweb!

I love when little ironies--perhaps intentional, perhaps not--pop out on the internet. For instance, here's a screen shot of a page I was looking at earlier on the New York Times website. You'll see that it's an Op-Ed piece referencing T. Boone Pickens's branding as "totally misleading" the GOP's cherished notion that the answer to today's high gas prices is "more drilling." It's fun that Pickens is one of the driving forces behind George W. Bush's ascendence to the White House, but that's not the ironic part. The irony lies in the placement of the ad directly to the right of the column, i.e.:

Yes, right next to the line that says "we can’t drill our way to lower gas prices" is an ad from "the people of America's Oil and Natural Gas Industry."

I didn't click the ad, but my guess is that "the people of," etc., aren't saying we can't drill our way out of the current state of affairs.

Gotta love it.

Wednesday, July 23, 2008

Promises, Promises

Some little while back I wrote about e-mail sent to me by Sprint upon my completing a customer satisfaction survey for them. In the survey I reported, truthfully, that I was dissatisfied with the results of an e-mail inquiry I had made of them previously (indeed, the survey was a "how are we doing?" follow-up to my e-mail query). (I wrote about that experience, too.) Anyhow, what they had to say at the time was this:

    Thank you for responding to our survey. We are sorry to learn that you have an unresolved issue as your satisfaction is very important to us.

    A Sprint representative will contact you via your PCS phone at no charge, within 3 business days to assist you.

    Please do not respond to this email. If you have any questions please contact Customer Service or visit one of our websites: or

As previously reported, that e-mail came to me on May 15. Today is July 23. No message from Sprint, via PCS phone, e-mail, snail mail, or homing pigeon, these past two months.

File that under Don't Make Promises...

Anyhow, last night I happened to be in the Verizon store as my daughter had her phone attended to. She's already made the switch, obviously, and seems to be happy as all get-out with their service. (I should have pulled out my phone to see what sort of coverage I had in the Verizon store.) Anyhow, I've already packed our bags mentally as far as abandoning Sprint...after something like ten years. It's not as amusing as you might think to be in a public place passing the time watching other folks chat away on their cell phones while mine is doggedly Looking for Service. And since both my son and I do a fair amount of texting--often with one another--it's also a treat to see what the next phone bill has in store overage-charges-wise. (That issue, you may recall, was the genesis of my original e-mail to Sprint, the one that got responded to but not answered
, which triggered the customer-satisfaction survey, which generated the above-mentioned e-mail, which did not produce the promised phone call, which lived in the house that Jack built.

But I digress.

It turns out that two of our three Sprint contracts expire in February, with the third ending the following October. That's a bit longer than I'd like to dally, but I'm unenthusiastic about spending money to get out of this indentured servitude. So it occurs to my to try a radical approach:

Ask them.

No kidding. I'm mentally drafting a nice, polite, even friendly letter to, say, the CEO of Sprint/Nextel. Something along this line:

    Look, I've been a customer of Sprint for something on the order of ten years. If you haven't made a profit on me by now, you never will. On the whole I haven't been hugely dissatisfied with Sprint--it clearly was the best game in town when I first signed up--but lately it's been losing ground, at least in my area. Coverage isn't good. Calls are frequently dropped. Indeed, I was sitting at my desk on the second-floor of my centrally located home, chatting with my aunt, when suddenly I was talking to myself when the phone lost its signal. And then I had to wait for it to regain its senses, go into Analog Roam, and then finally find a digital signal again. Not good. Anyhow, with this and that my family and I are, as the song has it, already gone. We're not renewing the contracts as they expire. Given that--and given that two of our lines runs out in February--how about we agree to an amicable split? Let us out of our contract and we'll go try somebody else. No hard feelings. There ain't no good guy, there ain't no bad guy; there's only you and me and we just disagree.

Yeah, I know: I might as well go talk to the side of the Sprint/Nextel headquarters building. But you never know. Might be worth a stamp. Stay tuned for further developments.

Who Pays? Who Doesn't?

As Bob is my witless, I will never know why people say things like this (from yesterday's edition of the local rag):

    In her letter in the July 9 Argus Leader, Lorri May praised Sen. Tim Johnson for voting to tax the windfall profits of the U.S. oil companies. Hello! Corporations do not pay taxes. They just pass the tax increase on to you and me with higher prices.

And so on. This is not the first person I've encountered who seems to have studied economics on the Bizarro World. Nor, I suppose with a sigh, will he be the last. Nevertheless, I posted the following pithy rejoinder to the rag's website:

    So if we rely on this kind of muddled "logic," we would conclude that corporations also "don't pay" electric bills, water bills, phone bills, insurance, etc., etc....they just "pass it on to you and me with higher prices." Hello! Corporations most certainly DO pay taxes, and all of the above. (Except when they dodge their tax responsibilities by moving off-shore.) Does some of it get "passed along"? Of course! That's how the economy works.

I might have added that it's simple-minded to imply, as do the letter-writer and his ilk do, that the entire tax burden automatically is passed along to the consumer. That's ludicrous. If any corporation raised the price of its goods or services that much in one fell swoop, it would soon find itself bleeding customers. And it needn't be taxes, although that's the favorite bete noire of the right-wingnut crowd: The same is true if, say, the price for hand soap in the bathrooms: Someone gets the fun task of deciding whether and how much of the expense can/should be absorbed in the form of higher prices, and how much can/should be absorbed from profits. The idea that if Conglomeroid Company has to pay a dollar in taxes it will raise its rates to get back that dollar is addled.

I am similarly amused/amazed/annoyed by the various business types who warn against any proposed increase in minimum wages because it will "force" them to increase their prices or lay off workers or sacrifice a virgin over an active volcano or whatever the issue is supposed to be. Again, it's only their having to pay workers that will cause their business to teeter on the brink of's never the price of the goods and services they must buy in order to do business. (Damn that Abraham Lincoln for ending slavery! Just another example of the government butting in and crippling the small-business owner! They should let The Market decide what wages should be paid. If any.)

But now that the minimum wage has gone up, well, it develops that it wasn't such a big deal after all. This too from the daily rag:

    Minimum wage hike won't have big effect
    Many Sioux Falls jobs already pay more

    South Dakota's minimum wage Thursday will rise 70 cents to $6.55 an hour, but it appears the increase will have little effect on most Sioux Falls businesses.

    The South Dakota Department of Labor estimates that of Sioux Falls' 132,000 workers, only about 3,900 or 3 percent will be affected by the latest increase in the minimum wage.


No pandemonium? No rampage in the streets? Not even a little one?

Well, I could hardly let that pass unnoticed (obviously), so I posted this to Hearing Voices or In Your Voice or The Voice in My Head or whatever they call the comments section:

    Golly...when the new minimum was being discussed awhile back, we were assured by several local businesspeople that it would be the end of civilization as we know if it they were "forced" to pay a semi-decent wage. Now we're told that it "won't have big effect" because "many Sioux Falls jobs already pay more." It's almost as if the sky wasn't really in danger of falling after all!

Personally, I'm of the opinion that a business, large or small, that "can't afford" to adequately pay its workers doesn't deserve to stay in business. Isn't that the way of The Market that we're all supposed to bow down and worship?

Tuesday, July 22, 2008

Cities, Customers Launch "Save Our Starbucks" Effort


Starbucks' disclosure of the 600 locations it wants to shutter has given rise to a phenomenon: the Save Our Starbucks campaign. Across the nation, customers and city officials are pleading with the coffee giant to change its mind.

read more

    As I said when I posted this on Digg:
    Since none of my local Starbucks is on the endangered list, I know this is easy for me to say, but still: It's just a coffee shop!!

Monday, July 21, 2008


Tobacco 'could help treat cancer'

Tobacco plant
The tobacco plant may provide a cheap vaccine factory

The tobacco plant - responsible for millions of cancer cases - may actually offer the means to treat one form of the disease, a study suggests.

Read the article at

Trust Issues

At this moment, tells me that the current temperature in my locale is 84°F with a RealFeel® of 87°F. But says it's 85°F and "feels like" 85°F. Whom to believe?

30 Most Incredible Abstract Satellite Images of Earth

The images were taken at the turn of the Millennium, when NASA’s scientists had a brilliant idea: to scan through 400,000 images taken by the Landsat 7 satellite and display only the most the most beautiful. A handful of the best were painstakingly chosen and then displayed at the Library of Congress in 2000.

read more | digg story

Sunday, July 20, 2008

Aw, Shucks

So I took this Personal DNA test ("Your True Self Revealed!"), and it turns out I'm a Generous Idealist. So my "swatch" looks like this:

For what that may be worth. It says I'm supposed to be able to mouse over the various colored patches to reveal what they mean, but it doesn't seem to work for me. That's probably not a good thing. On the other hand, I should imagine there are worse things to be than a Generous Idealist.

Here's what they have to say about me. Trust me, I'm blushing.

You are an Idealist

As an IDEALIST, you are distinctive for your integration of confidence, imagination, willingness to explore, and desire for competence over style.

You have a strong capacity to comprehend the inner workings of things, finding new ideas and innovative insights to feed your curious nature.

You are quite comfortable in the realm of abstract thought. You don't need a practical solution to every one of life's questions.

You are comfortable with the decisions you make in life. You don't need to second-guess yourself, or seek a lot of opinions before you make up your mind.

You enjoy the routines that you have created in your life, and don't feel the need to shake things up just for the sake of change.

You generally succeed at what you do, and others would describe you as successful.

It is important to you that products be efficient – looking good has to come second to working well.

You aren't the kind of person who needs to collect stylish items in an attempt to create an attractive environment – you know that what matters most is function, not style.

You're not afraid to let your emotions guide you, and you're generally considerate of others' feelings as well.

You prefer to have time to plan for things, feeling better with a schedule than with keeping plans up in the air until the last minute.

You do your own thing when it comes to clothing, guided more by practical concerns than by other people's notions of style.

You are Generous

Your awareness of those around you, along with your nuanced perceptions of the world at large, makes you the GENEROUS person that you are.

You value time to yourself and understand how rich your private world can be—you know that you don't have to go wild to have a good time.

You are excited and energized by ideas and often enjoy things more through observation than through experience.

This tendency gives you an appreciation for different perspectives and opinions about the world.

Being as aware of others as you are doesn't mean you find it easy to trust them immediately—this is something that happens more slowly for you.

Despite this, you are aware of the complexities of many situations and are reluctant to pass judgments on others.

Although you have fewer friendships than some people, those that you have are meaningful and are important to you.

You value spending time alone—it is while reflecting on the world around you that you often learn something new about yourself or begin to understand something that's been bothering you.

Shucks. Of course, it does occur to me that a lot of the above is simply parroting back to me what I told them in the course of their quiz, but at least I can place a high premium on its accuracy.