February 23, 2008

Wikipedia is the Greatest Fount of Knowledge Ever

Or at least I now think so after Wikipedia listed my blog as a source in one of its articles. I'm footnote 2.

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February 20, 2008

Did John McCain Commit the Ultimate Flip-Flop With a Lobbyist?

I think there are three relevant points about the John McCain adultery story:

(1) It's not the infidelity, it's the favoritism. If the New York Times story about John McCain were solely about marital infidelity, I would say that, like the Times' similar 2006 story about Bill and Hillary Clinton's marriage (that one was even worse because it was all about salaciousness and had no lobbying angle), there is no news value and it's none of anyone's business. However, the McCain story has relevant news value because, if the allegations are true, McCain did something similar to what Paul Wolfowitz did as President of the World Bank — gave special favors to a female lobbyist and her clients in the context of a sexual relationship with the lobbyist. If McCain voted and helped procure favors for the lobbyist and her client companies, using our tax dollars, for reasons not solely related to the merits, that is a giant conflict of interest and ethical violation, and therefore it is an issue that warrants investigation.

(2) This story does not sprout from a clean slate. McCain has a history of both adultery (McCain reportedly began a relationship with his current wife Cindy while he was married to someone else), and corruption (McCain was one of the "Keating Five" senators cited in the savings and loan scandal in the late 1980s, which involved doing special favors for a wealthy donor).

(3) It's not the adultery, it's the hypocrisy. McCain constantly rails against the influence of the special interests (the ones represented by the lobbyists) in Washington. This alleged independence is the centerpiece of McCain's "maverick" and "straight talk" persona. If it turns out that McCain is just another Washington politician in the pocket of lobbyists, for whatever reason, then McCain becomes a phony and a total hypocrite.

This story will have to play out.

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February 19, 2008

Strippers at the Shoe Repair? It All Makes So Much Sense.

My neighborhood has a gem of a shoe repair shop. It is run by a gregarious Armenian named Harry. Every time I go to Harry's to get shoes repaired or shined, one or more attractive young women are inside. This happened again yesterday. A cute, petite blonde woman was negotiating with Harry over repairing her long black leather boots. Harry wanted to be paid upfront, in cash. The woman said she could not pay him until Friday. Finally, Harry said, "Okay, I trust" in his thick accent, and took the boots.

When the woman left, I remarked to Harry about his attractive clientele. He pointed to a wall full of head shot photographs, almost all of them women. "Dees are my clients," he said, his brown eyes burning brightly. "Day are so byooteefool!" I looked at the photos, but did not recognize the names or the faces. Some of the women had big blonde "bedroom hair" and blatant "come hither" looks.

"Are they all actresses?" I asked?

"Streepers. Most of dem are streepers."

"Strippers? Why do you have so many clients who are strippers?"

Then it dawned on me. Of course. Strippers wear those giant platform shoes, that are often transparent, sometimes with little fish swimming inside them. The strippers' shoes have huge stilletto heels. Strippers spend their time dancing in those stripper shoes on stage, swinging from their stripper poles, then walking among the tables to chat with clients, sell them more booze, arrange private lapdances, and other types of upselling. Or so I hear. Strippers must break their damn shoes all the time.

So it makes perfect sense to me that strippers are often in need of a good shoe repair shop. What a brilliant niche for Harry to carve.

I wonder what he does with the fish.

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February 13, 2008

Is Grouply Spamming and Phishing You?

Do you belong to any Yahoo! groups? If so, you may have been solicited by one or more group members to subscribe to a service called Grouply. I do not want to link to this company, but it's easy to find their website. Grouply says that it organizes your messages from your various Yahoo! groups (soon to expand to Google and other groups) into one account. To subscribe to Grouply, you have to hand them your user i.d. and password for each group that you want to include in their service.

A member of one of my groups recently posted a warning to the group, writing that "Grouply can obtain your work through individual members and a handy tool to access private groups. Your work (and all information in the groups' archives and other files) could be collected by Grouply members and posted to their account. A specialty tool gives Grouply members access to private groups, even without a membership. Grouply members can click on members with similar interests and enter their otherwise private groups. All content posted from these groups can also be used by Grouply."

This warning caused another group member to contact Grouply for an explanation. We received this reply from Grouply's creator:

"We do not SPAM. People are referring to the invites that enthusiastic
users are sending to their groups. We provide a template they can
use, but unfortunately most people do not change the text so it looks
the same to all groups (and may look like SPAM). People were not
choosing which groups to send (as we expected them to do) - so some
groups were getting multiple invites. Honestly, this occurred last
weekend and surprised us. We just changed it so that people cannot
send an invite to a group if one was sent recently."

I really don't know what to think about Grouply. They don't "spam," they just send multiple invites to members of groups to purchase their service, using a template. They're surprised that their members used the template that they provided, and that their customers did not somehow coordinate amongst themselves to limit solicitations to one per group. Grouply now says that it will not send repeated solicitations to a group if a prior invite was sent to the group "recently," but their explanation does not define "recently."

I'm trying to keep an open mind about Grouply's legitimacy. But I don't understand their basic business premise. Why would someone need to organize their groups into one account, when one's groups are already neatly listed on one's MyYahoo! page or elsewhere, and one can already consolidate group messages into a simple digest form? One woman in my group says that she belongs to 250 different groups and has no problem keeping them organized herself.

One thing I do know: private online groups are no place for commercial solicitations, especially solicitations that are sent repeatedly using a template, which is spam by any common sense definition. If any of my groups get spammed in this manner, I'm going to contact the administrators pronto, and demand that the spammers be banned from the groups.

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February 10, 2008

The Layered T Shirt Look is Officially Retarded

Whoever thought that layering t shirts looked cool or stylish? Maybe the first guy who did it. But when the layered t shirt look filters down via television from Hollywood to New York City to Peoria, it, like many other fashion trends, begins to look ridiculous.

You have all seen the look -- a short-sleeved t shirt, usually in a darker color, over a long-sleeved t shirt, usually in a lighter color.

The layered t shirt look has been made famous by many a celebrity, such as teen heartthrob Drake Bell.

This look might work for a fifteen year-old, but it's kind of silly looking on an older guy. And ladies, it's none too flattering on you either.

In fact, the layered t shirt look reminds me of the long underwear section of the L.L. Bean catalog, or perhaps the Brawny paper towel lumberjack, neither of which are exactly bastions of style.

Speaking of style, there is one guy who has at least added a bit of style to the layered t shirt look. Rock Writer Neil Strauss, who, not coincidentally, goes by the moniker "Style" in the so-called "seduction community," wears his t shirt over a pink oxford dress shirt, of the type that can probably be found in that trusty L.L. Bean catalog.

The layered t shirt look reminds me of another regrettable fashion trend from the nineties -- the David Schwimmer "Friends"/Paul Reiser "Mad About You" v-neck over t shirt look.

If you wish to be ridiculed and typecast in future years as epitomizing the Bush Decade, be my guest. As for me, I'll stick to layering t-shirts invisibly under my ski clothes on very cold days.

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February 06, 2008

"It's the FBI's Fault"

So muttered the man to me as we walked past each other yesterday. When I asked him "how so?" he merely repeated, "it's all the fault of the FBI." Then he proceeded on his merry way.

I know it's dangerous to try to get into the head of a crazy person, but what the hell. I'm trying to figure out what this man was referring to. The only thing I have come up with so far is this story from last year, regarding the Bush FBI's abuse of the "national security letter" process to spy illegally on some three thousand Americans who did not represent a terrorist threat.

Are there any other major cases of FBI wrongdoing of late? Maybe the man on the street wasn't so crazy after all.

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February 05, 2008

Unfortunate Lawyer Name of the Day

I stumbled across this listing for one John Posthumus of the Greenberg Traurig law firm's Denver office. No jokes about lawyers as blood-sucking vampires, please.

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February 02, 2008

Wack Housekeeper Stories

Ever since I hired a new housekeeper several months ago, she has done some peculiar things. First it was the windows. I have windows that open in two positions. They swing open from the side, like this:

They also tilt open from the top, like this:

But the first time Consuela cleaned my house, I came home to find the windows open to a hitherto uninvented position -- dangling precariously by one lower corner, with my dining room chairs placed underneath as a safety net.

So I did what any normal homeowner would do -- I went online to find a Spanish-to-English translator, and then I drew a diagram with instructions in Spanish on how to open and close my windows to the side and from the top. Here's the diagram:

I show this diagram to my friends for laughs. I'm thinking of framing it.

The next funny thing Consuela did was to destroy my new box of Tide detergent. I bought a new box and did not yet open it. The box has a clearly marked, colored pull tab that opens around the perimeter of the top. There's no way that an adult, even one who speaks no English, could be unfamiliar with such an invention. But when I came home the other day after a visit from Consuela, I saw my new box of Tide with the top violently torn open, the way a three year-old would go after a cereal box to get at the toy inside. The pull tab was intact.

The last time Consuela came over, I had to search far and wide to find my skillet. I finally found it -- in the oven.

It has become quite entertaining to come home after one of Consuela's cleaning sessions and to discover, as if on a scavenger hunt, what adventure awaits me next.

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