Thursday, October 30, 2008

(More politics) For the capitalists among you: Oh. My. God.

The Economist has endorsed Barack Obama. The freaking Economist magazine.

Okay, for anybody reading this blog, are there any major, respected, but unexpected organizations endorsing McCain? (By "respected but unexpected," I mean anybody that wasn't already fully in the GOP tank before the election even started.)

Tuesday, October 28, 2008


Saturday night, by virtue of my genius wife being the Lead Editor on "Girls Next Door" for a few seasons, we went to the Playboy Mansion Halloween Party. And, yeah, it lives up to the hype.

I went as Dr. Jeckyll & Mr. Hyde. Molly and I had a thematic half-face thing going, as she went as a half-zombie pirate queen.

But enough about us. I know what you really want...


No? You want almost naked women? Well, if you insist...

The four seasons.

(Gotta admit, they look a hell of lot better than these guys:)

Breasts! Too... many... breasts... Must... remain... calm... BOOBIES!!!!

I'm pretty sure this is my doppleganger, Neil Patrick Harris. He's following me, I tell you!

And lastly, Bridget: the friendliest and coolest of the Girls Next Door. May the trapeze of her life swing ever higher.

I regret to say that my wife didn't take any good pictures of the COMPLETELY NAKED "painted women" at the party. It's a surreal moment in your life when you're close-dancing with a totally nude woman on a crowded dance floor. A great moment, but surreal nonetheless.

May Hugh Hefner live to be a thousand years old. Failing that, may he will it all to George Clooney.

While my wife, understandably, didn't take pictures of quite the same subjects that I would have, luckily, our friend Jeremy was there and he took pictures of exactly what I would have. Yay, Jeremy!

This is the aforementioned painted lady that I was close-dancing with.

And this is apparently Jeremy getting her phone number. Bastard.

All great artists sign their work.


Not because "They're eeeevil!" Or because "they're driving out small businesses." I hate them because they institute policies that make it impossible to come up with common sense solutions to simple problems.

Take a deep breath and come along with me on a tour through bureaucratic hell...

Molly wanted to surprise me with an iPhone for our anniversary. Because she's just that awesome. She goes to the AT&T store. She is told, brusquely, that she can't buy the phone and give it to me. She has to activate it first, meaning they'd need to deactivate my current phone. They are singularly unhelpful beyond that. She is told the only other place she could get an iPhone is the Apple Store, but it'll still be the same story. Still, they're being jerks, so she decides to take her business to Apple directly.

At the Apple Store, a salesman named Gilbert is much friendlier and helpful, but, alas, AT&T gets in the way again. After an hour and a half of trying to activate the iPhone for my account and talking to AT&T's technical support, he gives up. "You're going to have to go back to an AT&T store and do it through them directly. I can't make any headway here."

So, that was Sunday.

Monday, we go in together to the AT&T store, where we are told that a new phone was activated on Sunday. "How can that be? We never got a phone." "How do we know that," they asked. "Call the Apple Store and ask them," I reasonably reply.

"We're not allowed to call them," he said. AT&T and Apple, who have partnered to create and sell the iPhone, do not allow their employees to contact each other to solve problems!

"Yeah, you're gonna have to back to the Apple Store and..."

"Stop! Stop! My wife started here, went to Apple, was told to come back here and now you're sending us to Apple? We're not your messengers. Get on the GODDAMN PHONE and figure this out."

"But we can't call them. The most that can happen is our customer service can call their customer service."


So, then ashhole employee A starts telling asshole employee B everything he'll need to tell customer service when he gets them on the phone. That's when I make the mistake of being logical and reasonable again. "If you, Employee A, know everything that needs to be asked and explained, then why are you telling Employee B? Why not just get on the phone and tell them yourself?"

"I'm not allowed. It's not my job."


Of course, they are unable to help us, and end up giving us the number of an AT&T customer service rep. We talk to him for an hour on the phone. Eventually, he calls us back and tells us that everything is taken care of, and we just need to go to the Apple Store on Tuesday and get the phone.


Today, we went to the Apple Store and, after an hour of the manager talking to AT&T on my phone, he tells us that the problem is that AT&T doesn't have a record of my phone, that I've used for two years, in their system. So they can't deactivate it. Which means they can't activate a new iPhone in its place. And it will take SEVENTY-TWO HOURS for them to type in the id number of my phone into their system - just so they can then delete it.

So, in three days, we get to go back to the Apple Store. And, I'm sure, be told that something else incredibly stupid has gone wrong.

Vote smart

No, seriously, This is your one-stop shopping for all your political information. Not spin, not essays, not attack ads. Just pure information. Want a quick and easy way to check out the voting record of your favorite candidate? It's there. Want to read up on all the ballot initiatives coming up in your state? They're there. Take an afternoon, and prep yourself for the election.

While you're at it, wander on over to They cut through the bullshit of both candidate's and parties' ads and speeches, and let you know where they've lied, exaggerated, twisted, folded and spindled the truth.

Monday, October 27, 2008

Hey, more politics!

From a Time magazine with Barack Obama:

The biggest problem with our energy policy has been to lurch from crisis to trance. And what we need is a sustained, serious effort. [...] I was just reading an article in the New York Times by Michael Pollen about food and the fact that our entire agricultural system is built on cheap oil. As a consequence, our agriculture sector actually is contributing more greenhouse gases than our transportation sector. And in the mean time, it's creating monocultures that are vulnerable to national security threats, are now vulnerable to sky-high food prices or crashes in food prices, huge swings in commodity prices, and are partly responsible for the explosion in our healthcare costs because they're contributing to type 2 diabetes, stroke and heart disease, obesity, all the things that are driving our huge explosion in healthcare costs. That's just one sector of the economy. You think about the same thing is true on transportation. The same thing is true on how we construct our buildings. The same is true across the board.

For us to say we are just going to completely revamp how we use energy in a way that deals with climate change, deals with national security and drives our economy, that's going to be my number one priority when I get into office, assuming, obviously, that we have done enough to just stabilize the immediate economic situation.

I want a president that can think and talk about issues in this kind of depth. I am reasonably certain that President Bush has never uttered the word "monocultures," and I'm certain to the point of being willing to bet several of my fingers that Sarah Palin never has.

I also want a president honest enough to admit that there are conditions on what he can accomplish, ("assuming, obviously, that we have done enough just to stabilize the immediate economic situation."), rather than just promise a chicken in every pot.

Friday, October 24, 2008


I hope you can read this. I can't figure out how to make bigger, damn it.

Captured from at about 3:15pm, Friday, Oct. 24th.

Now, if you'll excuse me, I need to make a call.


Why? Why would somebody do this to themselves?!?

Tune in for details!

Tuesday, October 21, 2008

Republicans and Extinction Bursts

I'm watching the meltdown of the Republican party this election: The cries of "Kill him!" and "Terrorist!" at Sarah Palin rallies in reference to Senator Obama. The Willie Horton-esque scare tactics of accusing him of "palling around with terrorists." And, in general, the extreme avoid-the-issues, attack-the-man tactics that the McCain campaign is resorting to going into these final weeks of the campaign. And it's made me think of... dogs.

I've been taking classes in being a professional movie studio dog trainer - training Trooper Thorn and BeBop to be big time movie stars. So, I've been reading a LOT of information on shaping behavior and operant condition and positive reinforcement. There's a thing called an "extinction burst" that is very important to understand.

Say you have an animal (not just dogs, any animal, including humans) that has learned that if it acts a certain way, then it will get something it wants. A dog begs at the table and gets scraps. A child acts up and gets candy. If you wiggle the key on your classic car just right you can get it to start.

Now, make it so that that behavior no longer results in the reward. You can reliable predict following behaviors. First, the behavior will repeated multiple times, with variations. The dog will beg to one person, then another, offer paws, try different positions. The child will rapidly go through various tactics, from wheedling to crying to bargaining to pouting. You'll turn the key slow, fast, jiggle it up and down, back and forth, in and out.

The attempts will become more aggressive. Finally, just before the behavior is given up, there will be an "extinction burst"; one final, all-out, hold-nothing-back attempt to make the behavior that has always worked before work again. This is when you'll see the dog barking and spinning in circles, the child in an ear-splitting screaming rage, and you'll turn the key so hard it breaks off in your hand. (Probably while screaming "Start, you fucker! Start!")

After that, poof, the behavior is gone. If you never again feed the dog from the table, it will no longer beg after that. The child will stop causing a scene to get what it wants. And you'll finally give in and just take the car in to get a new starter and enough with this "wiggling" bullshit already.

If your attention span is long enough to remember where this post started, you probably see what I'm getting at here. Republicans have relied on negative campaigning for quite a while. With the Bush elections, they became an art. "Swift boating" has entered the political lexicon. A Republican representative (Michelle Bachmann, R-Minn) just said there should be an investigation of which lawmakers are "anti-American." Joe McCarthy would be proud. It is a behavior that has been consistently rewarding.

Until now. All of a sudden, for whatever sundry reasons, the negative campaign isn't working anymore. Moderate and undecided voters are turning to Obama in an unstoppable tide and the overwhelming reason given has been that the negative campaigning of McCain and Palin has turned them off. The response has been to step up the attacks even stronger.

I think... I hope... that what we are seeing is the extinction burst of the worst part of the Republican party, the part that abandoned actual principles of how government should be run (low taxes, lower spending, mild isolationism, minimal government interference in general) in a pursuit of simply winning, and principles be damned. I hope we are seeing the last tantrum of the politics of fear and suspicion.

Because if we are, then we should see a Republican party that is saner, fairer, more reasonable, less beholden to religious extremists and divisiveness. But here's the thing - we have to extra vigilant at this point. If you give that dog just the tiniest scrap during its extinction burst, if you finally give in to the child at the height of his rage, if the car suddenly stops just before you were about to haul it in for junk... then your behavior has been strengthened. Next time it will be even harder to get you to stop; you've learned that if you just try long enough, hard enough, play dirty enough, then you can get what you want.

And that's not a lesson the Republicans need to be taught. The politics of negative campaigns and smear tactics need to be wiped away completely from the party if it is to be saved.