Friday, February 29, 2008

When I spell Hell I spell it D-M-V

Today I went to the DMV to renew my license. After waiting in line for an hour and a half I was given ticket with a number on it and then waited some more. My number was called and I had a new driver's license in my hands after 15 minutes. I starting to think that proving that you can stand for over 45 minutes is part of the driving test. "Hey," they may say, "if you can't stand up for an hour or so then you don't belong behind the wheel of an automobile."

What I found amazing was that I was one of only two people there with something to read. You would figure that if you know you are going to the DMV and you know you are going to be doing nothing for almost two hours but waiting in a line you would bring something to read. If not a book, magazine or newspaper at least a needle to poke your arm with just to remind yourself you are alive. A whole room of people staring at the walls. I don't get it. You'd figure with this being Charlotte there would be one or two people reading a bible and I didn't even see that.

I have to give some kudos to the employees there. They were swamped with humanity and they handled the crowd with undeserved professionalism. I couldn't do that job. What they handled much better than I ever could were the people that jumped out of line to ask a "quick" question and would just slow the excruciating crawl to a stop. It's got to be hard to work someplace that everyone in the world dreads visiting and still be polite and friendly. I'm still not entirely sure why the lady sitting next to me in the queue told me she would be right back when she got up to ask a pointless question.

In honor of today's endurance test I present to you a song by Primus called DMV.

Tuesday, February 26, 2008

Another video

One of my favorite songs of the last year has been a song by Sparks called "Dick Around." It's funny and clever, just the way I like it. A video is below.

I first heard of Sparks back when they appeared on Saturday Night Live in the early 80's. They were supporting their album called "Angst in My Pants." You can hear a song from it called "Mickey Mouse" here. It's actually a Youtube video with audio playing over a picture of the album cover.

So, if you have a few minutes watch the video below. This song could be the Internet's theme song, "Dick Around."

Sunday, February 24, 2008

Satellite go boom

Have you seen the video of the missile strike on that satellite? If not, you can view it here. Thanks to the One Big Loud Guy for the tip.

Saturday, February 23, 2008

Fun with a flashlight

Originally uploaded by zzazazz

Spooky, eh?

Hello from our porch

Originally uploaded by zzazazz

Fun with a flashlight and an open shutter.

Porch Panorama

Porch Panorama
Originally uploaded by zzazazz

Here is a panoramic view of our back yard and the porch. There some distortion and mistakes of the closer views but the background looks really good. It's cloudy out today but actually quite nice and pretty.

My elbow is still sore. I'm betting that doctor is going to want to give me another shot when I go in for a follow up tomorrow.

Friday, February 22, 2008

Me are old

So, here it is, February 22, 2008. Forty years ago today I was born. I don't really feel it since I started being tired all the time when I hit 30. I'm just wondering when I am going to go gray and bald so I can look really cool with my pony tail. I remember seeing the bass player for Molly Hatchet in the mid 90's with a bald top and gray long hair. He looked cool.

I spent the morning of my birthday at a local urgent care center to have an infection in my elbow looked. It started Wednesday night and it wasn't getting any better so Melanie and decided I should go see a doctor. The regular doctor was booked up so off to the Promed we went. I guess there are sacks in your elbows and the doctor thinks one burst. I've had some very dry skin on my elbows this winter and maybe applying all that lotion was too much for it. Hell if I know. All I know is I got a shot in the ass and some antibiotics and it's feeling better already. This is the second time in three months something weird has happened. Back in the fall I was stung by some fire ants and got a nasty rash all over my body. It scared the hell out of me but I was with friends and they were monitoring me. I guess as long as you can breathe you are OK.

Melanie bought me a few books for my birthday, a book of easy crossword puzzles, a book on Carolina oddities, a collection of Bukowski poems and a book of essays on atheism. I also received this item I purchased on eBay. I hope it's as fun as all the reviews say it is. Now I just need to get the four of us to sit down and play it.

Since I am feeling better we are going to go to the Comet Grill tonight and see Lenny Federal. I'm looking forward to it. Ever since we've moved into the house I think I've only been to the Comet Grill to see Lenny twice. It's hard to get out when you are so comfortable at home.

Wednesday, February 20, 2008

The Effectiveness of U.S policy towards Cuba

I think this cartoon spells it out perfectly. Whenever I hear about how we need to keep the pressure on Cuba I always think of what Winston Churchill wrote in his History of the English Speaking People. He said that a starving population never revolts. It seems to me that the restrictions we have had on Cuba have pretty much guaranteed that Castro would be in power all these years.
New Frontiers DVD

I didn't even know that there was a straight to DVD version of DC's New Frontiers coming out. This review has got me in high anticipation mode.

Cool cloud formation

Cool cloud formation
Originally uploaded by zzazazz

I was driving downtown on Monday to attend a short training session at the children's library that is called Imaginon. As I was rolling down Kings Dr. I saw this line of clouds framing downtown Charlotte. I didn't have time to get out and get a good shot but you can see the clouds here pretty well. It would have been perfect for a panorama. I consider it a missed opportunity.

Tuesday, February 19, 2008

Ed's Handy Dandy eBay Selling Strategies

I teach a class on selling your just on eBay at the library. In fact I am teaching it next month and I have been working on what I will use for tips at the end of the class. Here is what I have now. I've been selling on eBay since 1999 and I think this is all solid advice. The next time you sell some valuable family heirloom to a total stranger over the internet I hope you use a few of my tips. If you follow these seven strategies you will have a better chance at maximizing the selling price of your eBay goods.

1)Don't use a reserve. Your opening bid is your reserve. What are you afraid of? More than likely you didn't pay that much for what you are selling anyway. And if you don't want it don't be afraid to get less than you think you should. You'll get what it's worth without a reserve, believe me.

2) Set the opening bid low. I'm talking like $1.00 even if what you are selling may sell for more than $200. I have found that the lower you start the opening bid the more early bids you receive. The more early bids you receive then the more interest there will be in your item. More bids gives a potential buyer confidence in your item. If other people are interested it must be worthwhile. It's the same behavior you see at the library when someone brings a cart of books onto the floor for shelving. More interest equals more bids and more bids equals more competition. Competition means a higher selling price. It's a loop that fuels itself and it works. Don't be afraid. If it's really worth $200 then it will sell for $200 regardless of the opening bid level. The reward of a higher selling price outweighs the risk.

3) Set your shipping price low. Heck, set your shipping price less than the actual cost. A low shipping price shows your potential buyer that you are not looking to make every last cent off of him that you can. One of the biggest reasons I don't bid on an item is the shipping cost floating around ten dollars. Those people with high shipping costs are just trying to make an extra buck off their customers and, to me, that's just greedy. Just like a low starting bid a low shipping price may actually help drive the selling price of your auction higher and occasionally you make out like a bandit. Consider it a reward for not being overly greedy.

4) Avoid hyperbolic language. Don't call it rare if it's not really rare. The T206 Honus Wagner card is rare and what you are selling probably isn't. People know what they want and what you have. Getting carried away with your description causes doubt in the buyer's mind and you want them to have confidence in you. The more professional your writing the better off you will be.

5) Always, alway, always include a picture. Always. If you don't have a picture eBay now provides pictures for some items like books and DVD's.

6) Do not use the extra bells and whistles eBay offers to sell you. You don't need them. If you have something that people want it will sell without the extras.

7) Consider the timing of your auction. I like to end mine in the evening and, if I am on top of things, on Sunday evening. I know a lot of people can access the internet all day but there are some that can't. People like to bid late so why not end your auction when the highest percentage of buyers are at home, in their underwear and bidding on your stuff?
Old Newspapers Online

I just found today where the Library of Congress is busy digitizing public domain newspapers. There is a potential wealth of information to be had here some day. Today I'd like to point you toward this unfortunate headline about Ty Cobb. I'm not sure I'd want to be known as the league's "star whackster."

Monday, February 18, 2008

A Challenge to Kevin P.

Alright, tough guy, now you can show the world just how much you really loved those new crappy Star Wars films.
Another Snoozefest at Daytona

I know the national media that requires NASCAR to have high ratings in order to make money is going to pound you over the head all week with proclamations that this Sunday's Daytona 500 was "one to remember." Sure the last 20 laps were exciting, if only because restrictor plate racing causes wrecks when the race is winding down. I hear almost nothing now from the current drivers about restrictor plates. Jeff Gordon is pretty much the senior competitive full-time driver and restrictor plate racing was four years old when he started his first Cup race. I did notice when he dropped out late in the race that he was visibly pissed off about the mandated springs the cars were running.

During the long, long, long, long, long, long, long, pre-race show that was on while I was taking pictures of superhero figurines, I saw the segment where an obviously emotional Darrell Waltrip discussed the departed Dale Earnhardt. It was genuine and touching, something that was missing during the rest of Fox Network's horrible, horrible, horrible, horrible, horrible, horrible, horrible and quite lengthy pre-race show. I guess since the Daytona 500 is referred to as the "The Superbowl of Stock Car Racing" then it deserves a pre-race show as long and pointless as the Superbowl's. Is that the reward for a sporting event, the bigger and more successful you get the more embarrassing the programming leading up to it is required to be? That is how we measure success in our country, by what brings in the most money. Advertising fuels the pre-game programming so the more slop you can sling the more dough you can ring up. I guess we can congratulate NASCAR, the apparent departure of any vestige of dignity other than the race itself has cemented stock car racing as a major league sport in our country. I'm so proud to be a part of this number.

Boba Fett Bobblehead

Boba Fett Bobblehead
Originally uploaded by zzazazz

I know that you are wondering whether or not I have a Boba Fett bobblehead. as you can see, the answer is "yes."

Sunday, February 17, 2008

Captain America

Originally uploaded by zzazazz

I played with the lightbox again today. I took this shot of the old school Captain America. This is the Captain America I like: the one that's fighting Nazis.

Friday, February 15, 2008

Lightbox Fun

Originally uploaded by zzazazz

I made myself a lightbox today and this shot was the best one I took so far. I need to mess with it some more and figure out how best to use it. I think I need to break out the tripod to steady the camera and use a lower F stop setting.

Wednesday, February 13, 2008

Adjusted ERA by season

Adjusted ERA by season
Originally uploaded by zzazazz

Are you familiar with the statistic called "adjusted ERA?" This stat takes the league average as 100 and through a formula determines just how far above or below your ERA is compared to the league average. Here I have compared the season ERA's of Roger Clemens, Greg Maddux and Nolan Ryan. I used these three because Ryan had a productive late career and Maddux has two of the five best all-time adjusted season ERA's (1994-1995) and he is the last person you are going to hear any steroid rumors about and I used Clemens because he spent his morning getting grilled in Washington, DC.

Tuesday, February 12, 2008

Great big gobs of greasy, grimy gopher guts

Freeze, gopher!


I just found one of the funniest videos I have seen in a while. Found via Metafilter.
Jackassiness, Supreme Court Style

What I find most amusing about the far, far right is that they want so bad to either live during World War II and be heroes or they want to live in the world of the television show 24.

For example I give you Justice Scalia. It's an amazing interview. He even manages to insult all of Europe after talking like a he's the fictional tough talking sergeant played by the equally chickenhawkish John Wayne.

Have you noticed the most ridiculously macho rhetoric always comes from someone that didn't serve a day in the military?

Monday, February 11, 2008

Blue Marble Tour

Check out this cool animation that NASA put together showing how our planet looks as the seasons change.

Another One

This one is of Eastern North American. Check out how you can see the topography.

Sunday, February 10, 2008

Michael Swanwick's "The Dragons of Babel"

Right now one of my favorite writers of speculative fiction is Michael Swanwick. I just finished a novel by him called "The Dragons of Babel." It's a fantasy novel but it's about as far as you can get from the traditional Lord of the Rings "high fantasy" as you can get. The world he has created, and used for a few short stories and one previous novel, is a world of magic and the modern. You will find familiar and unfamiliar fantasy world denizens that can speak in the purple ways of an imaginary past while simultaneously speaking like someone born in 2009. I don't know if I ever read stories like his before. It's like they exist in two worlds at once. The obvious influences are there yet the dichotomy of his world is what makes it unique, rich and very lived in.

These two extremes he combines in setting, character and language he also uses in his storytelling. In "The Dragons of Babel" he takes us from the humblest of villages, to refugees fleeing a massive war, a dirty, but still magical refugee camp and then to the throne room of the most powerful nation in the Land of Faery. Along the way we encounter handsome and cruel elf princes and dog-faced rapists and a ten year old girl with an ancient soul and a troop of randy female centaur soldiers and a city alderman who is a haint and can literally feel the pulse of his city and a metal dragon fighter/bomber who cruelly rules over a small village he crash landed near. All these settings and characters enrich this most realized of fantasy worlds. The novel is a mystery, a comic romp with palace intrigue, a love story that starts during a treasure hunt in giant landfill and a tale of the traditional hero's journey. It's a genius display of an imagination that has been released of all its bonds.

I understand from Swanick's blog that he is working on another book in this world. I can't wait.

Saturday, February 09, 2008

Major League Season Home Run Leader

Major League Season Home Run Leader
Originally uploaded by zzazazz

This one charts the Major League leader in home runs from 1910 to 2008. I think you'll see a steroid-induced spike somewhere in there.

To respond to Kevin's comment earlier today, yes, this steroid stuff has gotten under my skin. The game will survive but no sports lives on its statistics like baseball does and these jerk offs have ruined the statistics for a long time.

Another Baseball Chart

Career Batting Average
Originally uploaded by zzazazz

How about the top 22 career batting averages? Are these getting old yet?

Ty Cobb, Rickey Henderson - Runs scored per season

Ty Cobb, Rickey Henderson - Runs scored per season
Originally uploaded by zzazazz

Ty Cobb retired with a total of 2246 runs scored. Rickey later passed him by scoring a total of 2295. Cobb started his career at 18 and finished at 41 while Rickey started at 20 and finished at 44.

Missing Warts

If the baseball hall of fame celebrates baseball "warts and all" then where is Pete Rose? Where is Sholess Joe Jackson?

Thursday, February 07, 2008

Originally uploaded by zzazazz

As you can see here the jump in the late 90's of the single season homerun record is unprecedented (excepting, of course, the original jump created by Babe Ruth at the beginning of the homerun era). It's almost like they had outside help. Maybe it was God?

Homers hit in a season by age

Homers hit in a season by age
Originally uploaded by zzazazz

As you can see the only player of all these great athletes that didn't either plateau of get worse as he hit his mid to late 30's was Barry Bonds. Up until that point Bonds wasn't that special. It's almost like he had some extra help from somewhere. Maybe it was God?

Tuesday, February 05, 2008

Why in the hell?

You know, it's stuff like this that really makes me wonder sometimes. It's almost like these people sat down and said, "let's do something as asinine and polarizing as possible that will allow right wing pundits to raise hell over something essentially unimportant and nonbinding."

"Hey, I know!" Says another, "We can insult the Marine Corps, one of the most respected organizations in the whole world."

"I love it! Let's roll!"

Stupid ass hippies.
I fill your election day needs

Google has made a gadget that you can embed in your website and allow your readers to follow the election without having to hear people yelling on cable news.

Monday, February 04, 2008

Superduper Bowl

We had a nice little Super Bowl gathering last night even though Michael couldn't make it because his boy had an ear infection and Lajuan couldn't find the house and forgot to write down my phone number. Those of us that were at my place (and probably at yours) were treated to an incredible football game. I can't believe how well the Giants defense played. Each time I thought they were on their heels and the Patriots were mounting one of their charges they were stopped cold (those illegal motion calls didn't help either). Of course, what everyone is talking about today is that amazing play by Eli Manning and the receiver, Tyree. First Manning is all but sacked, gets away heaves a prayer to Tyree who catches the ball with one hand and his head. It's been a while since I hooted like that during the Super Bowl. Probably not since the Panthers played in one.

That pass from Manning to Tyree was such a great and miraculous play that is deserves a name like "The Immaculate Reception" or "The Catch." I'm going to call it "The Scramble." How about you?

If you haven't seen the play you can watch it below.