Cold is now an objective thing

27 January 2009

I haven’t written in a while, so I’m going to start off this post with a PSA.

To the readers of Moral Hazard,

It’s important that you read to the end of the post and see who the post is by.  It’s listed at the end of each and every post, and should tell you whether the reprehensible opinions expressed within are authored by Dan, Patricia, or myself.  This is important!  It was brought to my attention the other day that people thought I (Mike) wrote all of the posts on this site.  Furthermore, some people thought I was actually in possession of the picture of Dan with chocolate all over his partially-covered form.

I want to make it explicitly clear that I am not in possession of the photograph, and quite honestly, it bothers me that it even exists.  I could take it off of this website but really, I know a copy of the bits exist out there somewhere.  Failing that, they existed at some point in time.  Really there’s no way to win here.  The crime against nature has been perpetrated and will continue for all of time.

Sincerely yours,

Mike.

Now, on to the meat of my post.  I talk a lot of shit about the south, but let’s be honest: I kind of like it there.  Really the south has no more problems than any other part of the country.  Sure, it has backwards racists but let’s not lie: so does the north.  At least the south has the distinct advantage of being warm, scenic, and pleasant.  In other words: I don’t feel like killing myself every single day of the winter, and North Carolina winters are beautiful compared to Pittsburgh.

Dog shit.

Dog shit.

It really bothers me when spoiled babies whine about “cold weather” when it’s in the 60’s, especially when I’m freezing my ass off in a frozen tundra.  I also realize that “cold” is a subjective notion; if you’re used to warm days all the time, then even a moderately unpleasant day is gonna make baby weal upset.

To prevent further misunderstandings, I’ve developed an “objective cold chart.”  It’s based around the following metric: freezing weather sucks, regardless of how used you are to it.  I can walk around in 20 degree weather without gloves because I’m used to it and I’m not a chump — but that doesn’t mean it’s not cold.  Referal to this chart is really simple; if you find yourself whining about the temperature, consult the chart.  The chart will tell you what you are, given the temperature.

Sub-zero: justified.

Sub-freezing: justified.  It’s worse closer to 0, obviously.  Around 32 isn’t so bad, and anything about 20 isn’t so bad IN MY OPINION, but I’m willing to concede that anything below freezing is terrible.

32-40:  Buck up and zip up your coat.  It’s chilly but it’s not that bad.

40-50: Poor baby.  This is sheer luxury in the winter.  If you find yourself whining about temperature in the 40’s you need a reality check.

50-60: Whiny baby.  If you’re whining about temperature in the 50’s, you need the taste slapped out of your mouth.

60 and up:  You deserve death.  Some real Al-Qaeda, Viet-Cong stuff too.

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ALIENS MAY BE CAUSE OF INEXPLICABLE PRINT ERRORS, CAUSING DEFAMATION OF WRITTEN WORKS!

27 January 2009

On the subject of typos in books and journal articles, there are some with obvious causes and some without.  Of the ones without, substitution of one letter in a word by another with a similar shape is the most frequent.  By this I mean that ‘h’ appears in a word in place of ‘b,’ ‘c’ instead of ‘e,’ and even, as I saw today, ‘r’ instead of ‘x.’  While I can see how an untrained machine converting handwritten letters to print could make such errors, I’m fairly certain that modern publishing companies do not create typed versions of written works by having a computer attempt to translate  some guy’s erratic handwriting.  Nor is it likely that translations from faded print text to new print text are performed on old works.

So how are ‘h’ and ‘b’ confused?  I suppose those two letters are fairly close on a QUERTY keyboard, but ‘r’ and ‘x’ are located in opposite directions from the home row, as are ‘c’ and ‘e.’  Furthermore, although these pairs are composed of letters similar in shape, they are by no means so similar that they could be interchanged and still escape the notice of a decent editor.

Is this the culprit?

Is this the culprit?

Unless this is some sort of game played by publishers, I can’t imagine how these errors occur.  I have heard that people are capable of reading words with scrambled letters, so long as the first and last letters are in their proper places.  Even so, to do such a thing would be idiotic.

I don’t suppose that an editor would enjoy reading Quine so much that the actual editing of his papers would be neglected.

Brilliant mind, perhaps poor penmanship.

Brilliant mind, perhaps poor penmanship.

This is as much a question as it is a quick comment, since I know far too little about the publishing process to speculate further as to the explanation for this strange occurrence.  Any insight would be greatly appreciated.


New In Box

21 January 2009

This is somewhat old news, but I’ve just now found the time to comment on it: a girl named Natalie Dylan is auctioning off her virginity, and bidding has reached $3.7 million.  She’s supposedly doing this to raise money for a master’s degree in marriage and family therapy, which I’d classify somewhere between astrology and “creation science” in terms of legitimacy.  Practicing therapy doesn’t require a master’s degree, just the ability to repeat “and how does that make you feel?” while furtively looking through a yacht catalog attached to a clipboard.  Anyway, for $3.7 million, this chick must be really, really, REALLY hot, right?

PD*26205411

I got five on it.

Wrong.  And the fact that she’s not particularly attractive is but one of the reasons her bidders must be out of their fucking minds.  Anyone who’s ever had sex with a virgin knows that it’s more awkward than erotic.  I’ve often wondered why Islamic terrorists are promised 70 virgins in heaven in the event of their martyrdom; I’d much prefer 70 sluts.

Besides, what proof is there that she is indeed a virgin?  Will there be a medical exam beforehand?  And, if she is a virgin, she no longer will be after the initial penetration, so technically she could stop the act at that point.  Whoever wins the auction had better get a good lawyer to draw up a thorough contract.

Though her bidders are fools, Natalie is pretty shrewd.  She’s going to make millions of dollars for fifteen minutes of work, and she’s already inked a book deal (though why anyone would want to read a book by some whore who sold her pussy on the internet is beyond me).   In fact, she’s inspired me to do likewise: I’m hereby auctioning off my anal virginity.  The bidding starts at $500,000, or you can “buy it now” for $1 million.  Good luck, and happy bidding.


Practice Makes Pointless in the Marketing World

16 January 2009

The fact that advertising is both pervasive and eerily powerful is by no means a new topic of counterculture discourse.  (Although for an interesting discussion, watch the below YouTube video for Shepard Fairey on the Henry Rollins Show.)

What’s more annoying than advertising?  The type of advertising which doesn’t have a snowman’s chance in hell of selling its product.  I didn’t think such failure was even possible anymore, but two recent experiences have changed my mind.

I flew on US Airways and United in December, and I can’t remember for sure which was the culprit, but if it was US then their Hudson River landing yesterday was certainly a punishment for stupidity.  Not only do they now charge outlandish prices for drinks and snacks as they tighten their belts in the face of economic problems, but they have taken to forcing flight attendants to advertise their frequent-flyer reward Visa cards and offer applications during the flight, when passengers have no choice but to listen.  I’m sure these cards somehow make money for the airline, but soliciting people on the plane?  Who actually signs up for a credit card on an aircraft with all of the other passengers watching?  I’m guessing that even if the deal sounds appealing, most people will be unwilling to raise their hand and publicly request an application out of embarrassment, since whether they save money or not, such offers have the smell of a gimmick.  Nobody wants to look like a fool in front of a bunch of strangers – at least not with alcoholic beverages costing 8 bucks in-flight.

While the airline’s strategy probably has low profit, at least its only cost is dignity.  An example of grosser incompetence:  I recently attended a hockey game and witnessed a slew of McDonald’s advertising.  Standard, I suppose, but probably not a wise move on the part of their marketers; these ads must be both costly and ineffective.  Granted I can only make this inference “from the armchair,” but does anyone really see a broadcast ad at the Pens game and decide to try the new special at Mickey D’s?  It’s undoubtedly only a slightly different combination of the same ingredients from which all their other menu items are made.  The kind of person who eats there all the time will continue to do so independently of advertising activities.  Those who eat there out of necessity at highway rest stops certainly aren’t basing their decisions on such an unspectacular ad.  Intermittent samplers surely stop at McDonald’s more because they happen to be near one than because of some commercial in the background at a hockey game.

Clearly these children were at the Pens / Capitols game.

These children were OBVIOUSLY at the Pens / Capitols game.

But wait!  Is there an untapped resource out there of people who have never before tried McDonald’s, but will now be inspired to give it a whirl?  Perhaps foreigners and children fall into this category, but they seem far more likely to patronize such a place because family or friends introduce it to them than as a result of clever marketing.  Maybe the marketing people over there have some “data” they’re using to strategize, but I fail to see how this technique is getting them anywhere.  Real data might be superseded by denial.

Would these companies go into battle and massacre their opponents as a way of getting attention for their own ritual suicide?  Everyone loses when they operate in such a way.  They waste money and we have to put up with it.  Ads are annoying however they’re done, but what I don’t understand is the persistent incompetence and imprudent allocation of advertising funds despite continuing research in psychology and marketing.  If you’re going to force advertisements down people’s throats, at least do it in such a way that you have a chance of profiting.   This late in the game, even the worst players should be learning the rules and scoring some points.


Crappuccino

10 January 2009

As one may gather from my previous posts, I’m something of a coffee snob: I drink plenty, have very high standards, and am fairly knowledgeable about it.  Until yesterday, however, when my friend Einam pointed it out, my knowledge did not extend to the existence of something called Kopi Luwak.  He saw it mentioned in the movie The Bucket List; I’ll take his word for it, since I’d rather take a battery acid enema than watch Jack Nicholson overact and Morgan Freeman play the wise, world-weary old black guy AGAIN. Morgan, how about expanding your range and playing a wise, world-weary old white guy?  Now that I’d watch.

But I digress.  Kopi Luwak, for those of you too lazy to click the link, is coffee made from coffee berries that have been eaten and egested by the Asian Palm Civet, which is basically a house cat on meth:

paradox_hermaph_060924_ltn

Never feed it after midnight.

Kopi Luwak is the most expensive coffee in the world, costing up to $600/pound.  I find it odd that people are willing to pay that much money to drink coffee made from cat turds, but I’m willing to acknowledge the possibility that it really does taste fantastic.  What really blows my mind is thinking about how this stuff was initially discovered.  At some point an Indonesian must have come across a pile of shit and thought, “I should sift through this to see if there’s anything inside I can turn into a beverage.”

I can’t get over this.


Why Passwords Suck.

7 January 2009

Here’s a quick rant about something which has always been annoying, but seems to worsen every year.

Every time I do anything on a website, whether it’s use e-mail, buy something, manage insurance or bank accounts, even view the newspaper or edit my running log, I need to provide a password.  This is good in theory; it ensures that random people don’t have access to my private information and that they can’t, for example, change my settings at nytimes.com on a whim or write obscenities in running log.  Passwords of some sort are clearly essential, as much important financial business is now conducted via the internet.

When creating a password, the common advice is to pick something not easily guessed or itself private; birthdays and social security numbers are obvious poor choices.  To encourage a degree of cleverness in password selection, many sites require that both letters and numbers be used, and give length requirements.  Some allow or require special characters, and some even detect repetition of characters or the use of one’s name or username.  Bank sites especially use multiple passwords under different names along with “site keys,” or pictures to which the user gives a caption.

All well and good, except that with the different requirements of every site, I have to make up new passwords all the time while the restrictions become tighter and tighter.  Sites now make it so hard to create a password that not only could no other person guess my password, I can only guess myself perhaps 40% of the time.  I realize that the purpose is to prevent the theft of my private information, but do passwords really need to be so tricky that I get locked out of my own running log?  This seems extreme.  I’d much rather run the risk of someone breaking into my log and finding out (gasp!) how many minutes I ran on some date in 2005 than having to go through the routine of having my password emailed to me or changed every time I use a different computer which hasn’t already saved it.  After all, isn’t it my own choice to pick simple passwords, knowing the risk?  If I use my birthday as the password to my bank account and someone guesses it, I’m clearly at fault for my unwise decision, not the bank.  So why do they persist in making me create one complicated username and two complicated passwords?

This brings me to my next gripe.  These sites are aware that people have trouble remembering their own passwords.  Their remedy is to place convenient “Forgot your password?” links next to every sign-in box.  Enter your username, or e-mail address, and maybe answer a few “secret questions” and your account is magically reopened for you.  But wait: passwords must be impossibly complicated to prevent fraud, yet getting access to another’s e-mail or finding out what hospital they were born in, or their pet’s name, or whatever other bullshit they ask is ridiculously easy.  Someone who wanted to break into my account would simply have to get into my e-mail or find out an account number (not very secret ) and supply the name of some family member and they’d be in, no matter how sneaky of a password I chose.

Furthermore, passwords themselves are routinely saved on computers or written down, in hopes of recalling or circumventing them later, rather than committing all 75 of them to memory.  How hard can it be to just use someone else’s computer and get into their accounts with the passwords saved in there already?  Probably not very.

My advice to the website gods out there:  find a system that might be both effective and tolerable.  Please.


When I Was Your Age

5 January 2009

You know you’re getting old when you start talking about how rough you had it when you were a kid.  Such is the case with me whenever conversation turns to the Internet.  Born in 1980, I came of age along with the ‘net; people born just a few years later often fail to realize how different things were in the early days of computer networking.  The example I like to cite, as is usually appropriate when discussing the Internet, is pornography.  Nowadays, you’re never more than a few clicks away from whatever you happen to be into, be it vanilla hetero porn or gay midget donkey sex.  Not so when I was a lad.  You see, in the early 1990s there was no World Wide Web or sophisticated file sharing; the Internet consisted of e-mail (pine!), BBSes, and newsgroups.  For those of you under 25, newsgroups were basically electronic bulletin boards, like discussion boards on websites but text-only.  There were newsgroups for all sorts of topics; I remember frequenting rec.sports.baseball, alt.tv.simpsons, and the like.

I spent most of my time, however, browsing alt.sex.pictures.  As far as I knew, this was the only way to get porn off the net, and it was a Sisyphean process.  People would post binary files to the newsgroup; some had descriptions or informative filenames, while others had neither.  Due to the high failure rate, the reasons for which I will explain shortly, I would start downloading 20-30 of these files at a time.  All I had was a 4800 bps modem; again, for those of you unfamiliar with these terms, a “modem” was a device that connected to the Internet via telephone lines, and “4800 bps” means it was slow as molasses in January.  Downloading these files took all day, so I would set it going in the morning and let it sit, praying that nobody picked up the phone and that the connection didn’t break on its own, which happened all the time.  When it did, I was screwed; there was no way to reconnect and pick up where it left off.

If I was lucky enough to keep the connection, maybe half of the files I started downloading would finish successfully.  Now I could open the files and go to town, right?  If only it were that simple.  These were binary files, so I had to run them one by one through a program that converted them to images (usually .gif).  This added another half-hour or more to the process and presented another failure point, since some of the files wouldn’t convert.  After this step, there might remain four or five of the thirty files I started downloading.  Now I had to open yet another program called “see” in order to view the files.  When I did, I’d find that some of the files were corrupt and couldn’t be viewed, others could be viewed but turned out to be pictures of a boat or something, and still others were pornographic but not exactly the type I was interested in (and trust me, I was not very particular at this point in my life).  If I got even one decent image, I considered it a smashing success; unfortunately, this did not happen often, and I wasted untold hours of my youth in pursuit of what spoiled kids nowadays can get in a fraction of a second.

If I ever have grandchildren, they’ll probably be able to beam virtual reality porn directly to their mobile devices in real time.  I look forward to sitting them on my knees, opening a bag of Werther’s, and telling them what Grandpa had to go through when he wanted to have a wank.