Monday, September 28, 2009

Push Poll

I got an automated push-poll from Huckabee this weekend that really irked me. Now, I tend to get calls for polls all the time from a variety of sources and I usually participate. I was quite fun when I was targeted by polls from every single candidate in the last election --I was getting two or three a day for a while right before the election.

At any rate, this one seemed like a particularly egregious push poll. I know that writing poll questions is an art -- the slightest change of wording in a question can radically change the response, and skilled question writers are in demand to get the questions "just right" so they get the answers they want. It's usually fun to figure out what the goal of a particular poll is based on the questions, and some are so biased to one particular answer that they are hard to respond to at all. Equating two unrelated things, for example (Do you think Obama should force through a public option regardless of public opinion, or should he institute death panels?) is one common approach.

At any rate, this started off with Huckabee's cheerful announcement that we were facing the worst crisis ever in health care and we needed to act and asked if I was willing to answer a few questions on "issues facing the nation". Sure. Why not?

First question: Do you consider yourself "pro-life"?. In the politically charged parlance of the anti-abortionists agenda, no, I do not. (I am always angered by the semantics used by them, too - the opposite of pro-life is not anti-life or pro-abortion, but that's a screed for another time). In any case, I replied 'no' to the voice-recognition poll.

There was a pause, a click, and then "thank you. We have a few demographic questions for you. Are you male? Thank you." Click.

The poll was apparently designed to either ignore or minimize any "non-pro-life" respondents, as far as I can tell. It definitely felt as if it was just cut off when I didn't answer in the positive to their filtering question. Would there have been further questions about health care and immigration and the rest of the issues Huckabee is always peddling if I had said that I was a pro-life voter? Will my response, that I don't agree with his basic premise, even be counted? Push polls are generally biased and heavy-handed, but this was surprising.

Most of the time these things don't bother me -- I've been called with questions that are pretty questionable from politicians of all sides, so this is not a right-wing or left-wing problem--it was just the abrupt nature of "oh, you didn't answer our question properly, we don't want YOUR opinion" that I came away with that left me feeling angry and testy.

I'm just too crabby today I guess. Ishoudl be outside in the cool, cool weather and enjoying the beautiful fall day.

Over the line

I disliked George Bush a lot. I thought he was a nasty piece of work, as did a lot of Democrats, Progressives, and Liberals. For eight years, we criticized his policies and actions.

I don't recall seeing the sort of hate speech that is currently being directed at Obama, being said about George Bush. I see signs to "kill him!", quotes from teabaggers that he should be killed, people openly carrying guns to his speeches, the knuckle-dragging gun nuts buying up guns and ammo "just in case" -- and stuf like this - a facebook pool "should Obama be killed?" (not the actual poll, but a screenshot and note on another blog).

No, I don't think this was a "joke". No, I don't think this was even remotely funny. I hope the secrete service pays a visit to this person. I'm not sure what this says about the conservative mindset or "the base" who is screaming about Obama, except that these are not the sort of people that I want in control of anything.

Friday, September 25, 2009

Joy of...Reheating?

Isn't this just the most oxymoronic product that ever existed? The Joy of Cooking was supposed to bring fresh cooking to the family table easily and without any muss or fuss...and they are now marketing prepared-ready-to-heat foods in the supermarket.

"Our products conveniently located in a single freezer door"

Um, doesn't that sort of fly in the face of, say, cooking?

Sure, prepared foods are much easier on the schedule, but I have to admit that I laughed at the source. I haven't had any of them, but reviews online are not particularly positive. Like any mass-produced, pre-packaged meals, they tend to be overly salty and unimaginative.

Of course, I shouldn't throw stones from my glass house. We don't often cook anything more complicated than baked chicken or paninis at home anymore. We've succumbed to the idea that our time is better spent elsewhere (and indeed, while it was available, we relied on Entres Vous for our meals). But Joy of Cooking Foods? Couldn't they have at least changed the name?

Wednesday, September 23, 2009

Nerdiest Nerd Ever

Ok, I'm the nerdiest nerd ever. I just loved this! Brilliant!

Jones soda has released the Dungeons and Dragons Limited Edition Spellcasting Soda. It comes in Sneak Attack, Potion of Healing, Illithid Brain Juice, Dwarven Draught, and Bigby's Crushing Thirst Destroyer. I totally need some of this!


Tuesday, September 22, 2009

Fast Food Neophyte

We went to KFC for chicken for dinner today, as we are wont to do every so often, and as we sat in the restaurant eating our chicken bits and mashed potatoes...a couple and their little girl came in.

Their food arrives, and within seconds, the mom is back up at the counter 'returning' her mashed potatoes and gravy and asking for "fresh ones" because they have been sitting in the warmer for a while. (they package up the cups of potatoes and gravy and keep them warm, this has always been true). She is given a new order of mashed potatoes and gravy. Fair enough. Perhaps they were cold or the gravy was lumpy, I don't know.

But then, moment after she bustled back to her seat and rejoined her family, she is once again up to accost one of the clerks because her sandwich isn't "right". When poor employee made the mistake of asking what was wrong with it, she dragged him up to the counter to complain that her little snack sandwhich had 'the wrong bread' and didn't look like the picture on the menu. She actually pointed and demanded that this poor person acknowledge that the bread she had was different than the bread on the picture.


Really, lady? You're browbeating a minimum wage employee because your sandwich DOESN'T LOOK LIKE the picture on the giant menu?

Have you never eaten at a fast food restaurant before? The food NEVER looks like the picture on the menu. That food is carefully arranged and painstakingly photographed to be the best looking food ever. The food actually made at whatever restaurant you have decided to frequent, is usually hot, usually fresh, but it's not photo-ready.

Oh, but she continued her tirade, demanding to know the phone number of the "higher up" manager (as opposed to the teenage manager on duty) to complain about how this was totally unacceptable. It didn't LOOK like that picture, not at all, totally different bread and they spent twenty whole dollars on dinner and they could have, you know, gone somewhere else and gotten fresh, carefully prepared food. Yes, she actually said that.

It was all the Adorable Husband and I could do, to not laugh out loud at them. We just rolled our eyes and snarked quietly as they continued dinner, with at least one more visit to the counter to complain about something else.

For pete's sake, you went to KFC. What did you expect? Haute cuisine and lovingly prepared entrees? Get a grip!

Monday, September 21, 2009

Bad Logic

Discussions with your doctor...

It's somewhat funny (but sad) because it's true.

Tuesday, September 15, 2009

Trained Monkeys

I got clued in to some"online computer training' that was being offered (name withheld to protect the innocent) and I've just been laughing my butt off over this.

Go ahead -- try it! Mousing Around Training

Really? Are there actually people out there who don't have any clue whatsoever how to use a mouse on a computer? Well -- perhaps there are. My father is not the most computer-savvy person, and I suppose his first introduction was rather hard for him. But most people are at least familiar with what they are, aren't they?

But eleven slides about the mouse before you even TOUCH it? That has to be the most simplistic training that I"ve ever seen.

I suppose it is a way to make sure that everyone has the same, very basic, knowledge about how to use the mouse and navigate in web pages. Of course, it's a bit insulting that the training is at the "trained monkey could do this" level.

Monday, September 14, 2009

"Exotic" mortages

I wish someone would explain why this sort of loan is even legal -- interest only, or worse, an option that lets you pay LESS than the interest payment, so the principal of the loan actually goes up every month.

I know that this sort of thing was popular to allow people who normally couldn't afford the payments to get much more house than they could normally buy. If you only have to pay the interest payments (or less!) then you can get a much more expensive house! You don't need to be "limited" to the houses you can actually pay for, but you can move up a notch and get a bigger McMansion for the same price! (Well, not really, but a lot of people didn't really anticipate this).

Of course, this sort of things works fine when the housing market is booming - your house will increase in value, so you will always be "ahead". But a slump in housing? You might owe substantially more than your house is worth, if you weren't making a dent in the actual loan amount.

That people were encouraged to get loans like this -- and sought them out because of greed or ignorance-- means that these homeowners are now behind the eight ball. They owe more than the house is worth, they are looking at payments that are going to reset and go up dramatically, and they can't afford to actually pay for the house they have already bought. I feel some sympathy for them, but it's tempered with the thought that they should have been more conservative and planned ahead. It's like all the poeple who got adjustable rate mortgages and were "surprised" by the huge increase in their payments as the rates went up 2 or 3 or even 5 percent at a time. How did they not know that was going to happen?

During the worst of the mortgage idiocy, people with no income, no savings, no jobs (I think they were calling them NINJA loans) were getting loans to buy houses. Now, I'm all for home ownership...but if you don't actually have income, you should never qualify, period. Irrational exuberance isn't going to pay the mortage payment when it comes due.

The housing market has improved some - it seems to be on the road to recovery here in Denver, anyway. But still, the house next to us - a new, custom-built home, is still sitting empty after nine months and the asking price has fallen from 740 to 620K. And still, people are just not nibbling. (Well, it is the most expensive house on the culdesac and while it's a nice house, it doesn't look like that much more house than the rest of us.

All the people who are now 'upside down' on their houses are in more desperate straits - many of them are going to just walk away from the deal. I wonder if we're going to see another wave of foreclosures even as the housing market improves, as these loans are adjusted.

And I still see ads on television for loans with no credit check. Aargh.

Sunday, September 13, 2009

FINE Scottish Weather

We spent the day up in Estes Park at the Highland Festival -- and it was cold and rainy and gray the whole day. We were bundled up in good rain jackets and it didn't slow us down at all . Well, a little bit, sitting in the bleachers during the piping competition did get a little chilly and damp, but otherwise, it was a lot of fun.

We watched the Highland Games competition -- who on earth decided that flipping telephone poles end-over-end (caber tossing) was a good idea? Or throwing a 56 pound weight straight up over your head and over a bar 16' up in the air? Throwing rocks, hurling a hammer (a weight on the end of a pole) and flinging weights on's a show of pure strength in mots cases. The guy who won most of the competitions looks like an Iowa farmboy (well, a bit older now, and he's actually from Missouri, but you know the type). It was a ton of fun and everyone really got into cheering, even in the rain.

We learned the differences between Irish step dancing and Scottish step dancing (not the least of which is that the Irish step dancers have super-extra-curly-bouncy-hair), and sat out in the rain to hear the Piping Band competition - and even spent some time watching the herding dog demonstration. It was a ton of fun.

Lots of people in tartan, men in kilts and women in skirts, bagpipers everywhere, "traditional food", pints of Guinness. It was interesting to watch the men who were wearing the full kit (kilt, sporran, gillies, sporran, etc) : about half of them looked and acted like they were wearing a costume, and the other half were simply wearing clothes. Obviously some are more comfortable in the kilt than others. I think more men should wear them!

I found out that there is a local Gaelic-speaking group that meets in Boulder every week, so I may have to sign on and learn a bit of Scots Gaelic (as opposed to Gailge, or Irish Gaelic). Could be fun - and the group of people at the booth seemed really nice.

Friday, September 11, 2009

Wild Weekend

We're heading up to the Estes Park Highland Festival this weekend (even though the forecast says 'rain' - we've been toughened up by the recent trip to Scotland and we are quite sure we won't melt). Love the bagpipes, though!

But we are also considering attending the Eagle Potatopalooza! A potato festival! It just makes my little Polish antennae perk right up. A whole day devoted to POTATOES! Woot!

Potato races, baked potato contest, a street fair. All about potatoes!

Thursday, September 10, 2009

Something's off

There is something wrong with the fact that a Kentucky school has not censured or even reacted to the fact that one of their coaches bussed the team to his church and had them baptized without telling the parents...

...yet the same school required parental permission slips for the students to watch President Obama's speech about staying in school and working hard.

Wednesday, September 09, 2009

Giant Maps

Mae was kind enough to come over and install the huge mural map that we bought - now we have a fabulous National Geographic map in our upstairs sitting room, just ready for pins and flags and pictures. It covers the whole wall -- it's about 9' x 6'.

(The picture is not our house, though -- my camera battery died and so I didn't get a picture of it in situ. I'll replace this one when I get the batteries charged!)

The Adorable Husband and I did not attempt to put this up ourselves - we know that wallpapering is dangerous work. Married couples should not wallpaper - they'll end up yelling at each other. Or at least, crabbing at each other quite seriously.

So I was a bit surprised when Mae (who owns brought her husband (my co-worker) to help. They've put up a few of these, she says. Hah! We definitely detected a bit of snarking between the two of them as they measured andpasted. We stayed far away, and sipped wine in the kitchen with their son (our housesitter). We all got a laugh out fo the fact that we had to cut a hole in the map for the light, which got was smack dab in the middle of Kazakhstan. Since we probably won't be visiting there in th enear future, we aren't going to miss it much.

But we solved the problem with the proper application of good steaks, wine, and fettuccine. Yeah!

Friday, September 04, 2009

Go Green!

Oregon State University researchers say that if you're serious about reducing your carbon footprint, the best way to do it is to have one less child. They claim the effect is almost 20 times greater than recycling, driving a high-mileage car, or using energy-efficient appliances and light bulbs over your entire lifetime.
I am hereby going to stop feeling guilty about my carbon footprint and my refusal to use fluorescent light bulbs (which I hate with a white-hot passion that their icky light can't match).

Thursday, September 03, 2009

Onion Strikes Again

BBC: Two Bangladeshi newspapers have apologised after publishing an article taken from a satirical US website which claimed the Moon landings were faked.

The Daily Manab Zamin said US astronaut Neil Armstrong had shocked a news conference by saying he now knew it had been an "elaborate hoax".

Neither they nor the New Nation, which later picked up the story, realised the Onion was not a genuine news site.

Both have now apologised to their readers for not checking the story.

"We thought it was true so we printed it without checking," associate editor Hasanuzzuman Khan told the AFP news agency.

This is not the first time the Onion has fooled a foreign journalist, but it is pretty funny. I even saw a couple of nutty posts on local forums about how the conspiracists had been Right! All! Along! Heh.

"We didn't know the Onion was not a real news site."

Tuesday, September 01, 2009

Missed Marketing Opportunity

The venerable geeky shop RadioShack has decided to 'upgrade' their image and is currently marketing themselves with the oh-so-hip "The Shack" moniker. Same store, same we-have-everything-you-need stock of electronic gewgaws and connectors and bits and pieces, just a new, hipper, younger image.

Well, they think it is, I guess.

It's pretty lame, if you ask me. Their marketing department has missed the actual demographic pretty widely if they are trying to attract a younger market segment. 'RadioShack might sell mobile phones now but they are primarily a techno-nerd source for parts and bits you can't find anywhere else.

The new name, 'The Shack', is not cool, it's awkward in the way that your parents tried to be all cool and shit when you were growing up. Embarrassing, maybe, trying just a little too hard to be "hip" and use all those words that 'young people use today', without quite recognizing how weird they sound. The first thought I had was that the marketing decision was made by a 50-something white guy in a business suit. (Of course, the whole campaign is probably the brainchild of some edgy new marketing company where the median age is 20, so I'm completely off base)

If they were actually tuned in to their real demographic, they'd have renamed the entire operation Electrode Hut.We'd all get the joke. And we'd think they were pretty cool for doing it, too.