Beware the Evil Behemoth

By: Mr. Wilson on September 12, 2005
Clearly, Wal-Mart is evil:
  • On Wednesday, Wal-Mart made available its gift registry kiosks so anyone displaced by the hurricane can sign up for items they need. This allows people across the country to buy items for individuals in the same way that they’d buy a gift for someone who had registered with this Wal-Mart service for a wedding.
  • The on-line Emergency Contact Service established through in-store kiosks and on-line via and is helping the public to locate and communicate with their friends and family members. So far it has received more than 38,000 postings and nearly 1.4 million hits.
  • Any displaced associate can report for work at any U.S. Wal-Mart store. So far, these associates are working in stores as far away as Alaska, California and Nevada, but most are in states near the disaster area such as Georgia, Texas, and Florida.
  • Displaced associates are eligible for up to $1,000 from the Associate Disaster Relief Fund if their homes were flooded or destroyed. Cash assistance of nearly $4 million has already been provided to more than 6,100 associates.
  • The company has dispatched more than 2,400 trailer loads of water and emergency supplies to Wal-Mart and SAM’S CLUB locations in the affected areas.
  • Wal-Mart has donated the use of 19 vacant facilities to various relief agencies. More buildings are being evaluated for potential uses. These facilities are being provided at no cost to the agencies, and Wal-Mart is paying for utilities.
  • Wal-Mart has donated more than 150 computers to Red Cross Shelters, allowing evacuees to locate and communicate with family and friends via the Internet.
  • Wal-Mart has donated $17 million in cash to aid emergency relief efforts
And so on. Wal-Mart is bbeing sued by workers on four continents for labor and human rights violations.

Move Along, Nothing to See Here

By: Mr. Wilson on September 12, 2005
If I weren't so blasted tired I'd post something more interesting. I have a few good article ideas in my head, for example. Instead, I'm just going to recap my weekend. On Friday evening I ate with my family at Vincenzo's. They make a mean penne diavolo. I enjoy the atmosphere at Vincenzo's, but the quality of our service was nothing to brag about. It wasn't bad, but for a place like Vincenzo's I expect service above that which I could find a couple doors down at Old Chicago. Our waitress was really nice, though. Oh by the way, what's the deal with being charged for pop refills? Nobody charges for refills any more! We weren't even told we were being charged; the waitress asked if we wanted refills in a way that strongly implied they were free. We followed up dinner with dessert at Ivana Cone. My shake -- half butter brickle, half vanilla ice milk, plus caramel -- was outstanding. I love that place. On Saturday morning I got a little yard work done. In the afternoon The Missus and I played with Death By Brass at The N Zone for a couple hours before the Husker game. I had to take off early to get to a Creighton men's soccer game at beautiful Creighton Soccer Complex. I ended up having a fairly easy evening as AR2, although I nearly had to run onto the field to assist the center referee during a little skirmish in the first half. I didn't end up getting home until after 10:00pm, at which point I ate some buffalo wings and watched parts of the Husker game. Today Daisy woke me up a little before 8:00am. I took her for a walk on our usual weekend route along Beal Slough. I picked a few veggies in the garden, and then I had to leave for Wayne, Nebraska, where I had to ref a women's soccer game at 1:00pm. We listened to the Husker volleyball game as Nebraska beat Penn State 30-14, 30-27, 30-23. For some reason the guy driving didn't want to listen to the AM broadcast, so we had to deal with the FM signal cutting in and out every time we went up and down Nebraska's rolling hills. Fast forward a couple hours, and here I am. I think 9:30pm sounds like a good bedtime tonight. Not that I ever stick to my ideal bedtimes. Ten bucks says I actually head to bed at 10:15pm.

They Say It’s Your Birthday

By: Mr. Wilson on September 10, 2005
As of this moment -- "this moment" being 2:16pm on September 10 -- I'm officially older. I don't feel older. I still feel 21, except my muscles don't recover quite as quickly as they used to. Feel free to acknowledge this glorious occasion by showering me with affectionate greetings and, of course, fine gifts.

Firefox 1.5 Beta 1

By: Mr. Wilson on September 10, 2005
The Mozilla Foundation has released Firefox 1.5 Beta 1. Give it a try, if you enjoy playing around with beta software (and are willing to put up with the risks). My immediate reactions:
  • 1.5 is much faster than the 1.0.x versions. Pages render more quickly and back/forward navigation is faster. I haven't seen any benchmarks yet, but my observations tell me there has been a dramatic improvement in the speed department
  • Most of my plugins don't work yet with 1.5. :-( I hope the various plugin developers get on the ball this weekend and release updated versions.
  • There are some bugs in the printing and print preview functions. Yes, that's bugs plural. I found three bugs just in normal use (one involving weird scroll wheel behavior in print preview, one involving the layout incorrectly refreshing when switching from portrait to landscape and back in print preview, and one involving magically disappearing content [!!!] in both print and print preview).
  • Another bug, or at least a poor user experience, appears on the extensions window -- the scrollbar disappears if the window is below a certain size.
  • The new error pages (rather than pop-up alerts) caught me off-guard. I suppose I like them; now the user doesn't have to click "OK" to dismiss error messages.
  • Tab re-ordering is cool, but I'm not sure I'm crazy about the implementation as it stands right now. It's not quite as slick as I had envisioned.
Overall I've been very pleased with the product, considering it's just a Beta 1. A lot of time and effort went into it. I look forward to the final, to be released in late October or early November.

5 Watt Powerhouses

By: Mr. Wilson on September 9, 2005
Have y'all seen the ads on TBS promoting Saturday's telecast of the Nebraska vs. Wake Forrest football game? Did you notice that the announcer describes both schools as "national powers"? When I first heard it I nearly chortled chips and salsa out my nose. Don't chortle while eating chips and salsa. The chips slice and dice, and the salsa really burns.

No Gouging in Nebraska

By: Mr. Wilson on September 9, 2005
Attorney General Jon Bruning took a break from his child sex fetish to look into everybody's favorite topic these days, gasoline price gouging. His conclusion? "I've looked at the numbers, I've looked at the details, and I don't think anybody's price gouging." I think most rational folks could have told him that and saved him a few hours of his time, but whatever. The Journal Star article does note that Bruning's office is looking into one (out of 300) complaint of price gouging involving an Omaha gas station that charged around $5.00 per gallon of gasoline. (The LJS doesn't say for how long it is accused of charging that price.) But why? A single station selling gasoline for a ridiculously high price may be involved in price gouging, but it is also engaged in business suicide, and it is not engaged in the more dastardly crime of price fixing. In a city the size of Omaha, does it really matter if one station -- or even a dozen stations -- charges $2.00 more per gallon than every other station in the city? In the Omaha area the ratio of stations charging understandable prices to those charging ridiculous prices was several hundred-to-one. Where's the crime? Where's the collusion? Where's the manipulation of poor, defenseless consumers in a restricted marketplace? We aren't talking about the lone retailer in Benkelman, Nebraska. We're talking about one moron in Omaha. Let him charge his $5.00 per gallon! If he actually got somebody to pay that amount, I say we give him the Savvy Businessman of the Year Award. Wasting government resources to investigate him for greediness in a competitive marketplace is stupid. If only somebody would investigate Bruning's office. Then there's the que stion of why gasoline prices drop so much more slowly than they rise:
City Councilman Dan Marvin has also entered the fray, asking Bruning why pump prices seem to rise commensurately with hikes in gasoline futures contracts, but don’t drop at an equal rate when the futures prices dip.
Bruning's analysis showed that profit margins at most gasoline retailers in Nebraska were around $.04 to $.05 per gallon over the past month. At times, retailers even charged less than they paid for the gasoline. Both those facts answer Dan Marvin's question: retailers get screwed when prices rise quickly, and they recoup their losses (or their lower-than-normal profits) as prices decrease. If Bruning wants to waste his time, he ought to investigate fireworks retailers, not gasoline retailers. Having worked in the fireworks business I can say with absolute certainty that price fixing goes on each and every year. Then again, fireworks price fixing is abetted by government market controls, so Bruning probably has an interest in not getting involved in that particular fleecing of the consumer.

Where’s All the Fuss?

By: Mr. Wilson on September 8, 2005
I'm a little perplexed that, despite all the media coverage, the University of Nebraska State Museum (aka Morrill Hall) isn't taking more flack for its new "Explore Evolution" exhibit, especially considering the near-simultaneous surge in media coverage of Intelligent Design. When I first found out about the exhibit several months ago -- a fellow bus rider works at the museum and he helped to put together the exhibit -- I predicted the Journal Star would overflow with letters to the editor condemning the godless heathens in Morrill Hall. Instead I've heard nary a peep. Lincoln has its fair share of Bible strict interpretationists, as we've seen countless times on the Journal Star's opinion page. Where have they been?

Another FEMA Goof-Up

By: Mr. Wilson on September 8, 2005
MSNBC reports that you can apply for FEMA disaster assistance online -- but only if you are a Windows user with Internet Explorer 6. But FEMA is going to get right on the problem:
When reached Tuesday afternoon, a FEMA spokeswoman said they were aware of the problem and had passed it along to their tech guys to try to resolve the issue. The spokeswoman I spoke with declined to venture a guess on when the problem might be solved, however.
Uhh, would those happen to be the same "tech guys" who caused the problem in the first place? I'm not holding my breath that the problem will be resolved any time soon.

The Wrath of God Shall Soon Strike California

By: Mr. Wilson on September 7, 2005
Gays can marry in California, at least in theory. Gov. Schwarzenegger could still whip out his veto pen; he has said that gay marriage ought to be decided by the voters (aren't they who elected the people who made this law?) or the courts (what happened to opposing "activist" judges?). Although I congratulate California's gay population on their success in pushing this issue, I'm still frustrated by my belief that government ought not be so heavily intermingled in marriage in the first place. Marriage essentially consists of two parts: the religious part (for most couples) and the legal part. Currently the government sanctions the religious part by giving religious (and "religious") leaders tremendous power over the marriage process. The government has also created impressive bureaucracies in order to support the legal (and, in some cases, state-sponsored paternalistic) side of marriage. Why all the hassle? Why the intermingling of government with religion? Marriage is, at its core, a special type of contract between two individuals. Who those individuals are and the restrictions they put on that contract ought to be up to them, not to the state. Couples should be able to establish a legal bond as loose or restrictive as they like, within a reasonably flexible framework established by the state. (The framework would have to differentiate a marriage contract from other types of contracts between individuals.) None of that has any effect whatsoever on the religious side of things. Weddings go on as usual, churches still get to sanction marriages before God, and couples can still bind themselves via whatever covenant they choose to establish in accordance with their religious beliefs. But priests should not have the right to sanction marriages on behalf of the state, whose interests ought to be strictly secular. Anyw ay, congratulations to California about five years from now when this decision actually takes effect.

Failed State

By: Mr. Wilson on September 7, 2005
In Failed State, Gregory Scoblete echoes the same basic theme I touched on last Friday. I don't know if I should be proud that my thoughts are echoed by an author writing for a major online publication, or if I should be ashamed that they're echoed in the odd little webmag known as Tech Central Station. Sometimes they feature pretty decent stuff, and other times ... well, other times they get a little goofy.

Bush and Dick on Bourbon Street

By: Mr. Wilson on September 7, 2005
The editors of National Review Online want the 2008 Republican National Convention to be held in New Orleans. Seriously. Can you imagine Bush, Cheney, Rove, and the gang whooping it up in the French Quarter? Neither can I. Poor Rick Santorum would have an aneurism, and he wouldn't be the only one. Can you imagine a more transparent attempt to burnish the party's image after the Bush administration failed with the initial relief effort? Oh wait...
Critics will call it a transparent attempt to burnish the party's image after the Bush administration "failed" with the initial relief effort. The gesture would, however, reflect the genuine sentiment of Republicans who, like all Americans, want to help a city facing such a bleak future. We heard similar complaints — easily brushed off — about the Republicans' coming to New York for last year's convention.
Damn, they really bitch-slapped me with that pre-emptive strike! Boy, I guess since they were able to predict my (and everybody else's) critique, I must be wrong and they must be right. Well then, laissez les bontemps rouler! All kidding aside, the Dems have to be really pissed off right now that they didn't make this announcement first. That dang Karl Rove is just too quick on the trigger. That'll just make their mockery of the GOP's decision even more bitter.

If Wal-Mart Ran FEMA…

By: Mr. Wilson on September 6, 2005
Jerrson Parish President Aaron Broussard on Sunday's Meet the Press:
Let me give you just three quick examples. We had Wal-Mart deliver three trucks of water, trailer trucks of water. FEMA turned them back. They said we didn't need them. This was a week ago. FEMA--we had 1,000 gallons of diesel fuel on a Coast Guard vessel docked in my parish. The Coast Guard said, "Come get the fuel right away." When we got there with our trucks, they got a word. "FEMA says don't give you the fuel." Yesterday--yesterday--FEMA comes in and cuts all of our emergency communication lines. They cut them without notice. Our sheriff, Harry Lee, goes back in, he reconnects the line. He posts armed guards on our line and says, "No one is getting near these lines." Sheriff Harry Lee said that if America--American government would have responded like Wal-Mart has responded, we wouldn't be in this crisis. [Emphasis added]
That Sheriff Harry Lee is a smart man. The same is actually true for a lot of companies and private organizations, including the Red Cross and Salvation Army. What saddens me is that the American taxpayer will learn the exact opposite of what this lesson ought to teach, begging to have more tax dollars thrown into the abyss of promised government "solutions" and getting little to nothing in return. Never mind that this is the same government that caused or exacerbated a whole host of deadly problems in Katrina's wake. It's like putting Homer Simpson in charge of the power plant under the assumption that since he caused the nuclear meltdown, he surely must have the ability to halt the damage, or at least to prevent a similar meltdown in the future.

The What Was in Town?

By: Mr. Wilson on September 6, 2005
The State Fair wrapped up this weekend. Lincoln puts up a huge fuss any time anybody dares mention the possibility of: 1) dismantling the Fair; or 2) moving the Fair out of Lincoln. And yet while the Fair is actually in town, Lincolnites ignore it. I can't think of a single friend, family member, or acquaintance who went to the Fair this year. I take that back, I know of five guys who went: the members of No Better Cause. I wonder if they actually performed in front of anybody? The State Fair is an anachronism, a money pit, a miserable shell of a past reality kept on life support by taxpayers who know the Fair for what it was, not for what it is. Lincolnites foolishly want to keep the Fair in town because it brings in a few tax dollars each year. Psh. You want tax dollars? Turn the Fair Grounds over to real estate developers. They'll bring in tax dollars. Millions and millions and millions of tax dollars. But no. We want our corn dogs and funnel cakes. 'Tis a shame.

TGI Labor Day

By: Mr. Wilson on September 5, 2005
Reffing college soccer games is great, but boy can it wipe you out. I reffed three games this weekend, and if today weren't Labor Day I would have been one worthless employee today. On Saturday I worked a mens game at Doane College in Crete. The two guys I worked with were great. As a bonus, the esteemed Jimmy Norris tagged along to assess the crew. Actually, it was the center referee who was being assessed as part of his effort to become a national referee, but assessors always give feedback to the whole crew. Save for one minor brain fart -- my brain froze up on me and I delayed way too long on one call as a result -- Jimmy said I did very well. Cool. Oh by the way, Doane ended up losing 2-1 to Newman College. Yesterday turned into an 11-hour work day. I left the house at 10:45am, and I didn't get home until right around 10:00pm. Ugh. I had a mens and womens game up in Sioux City, Iowa, at Briar Cliff College. For some reason I didn't work lunch into my plans, so all I had in my gut before the games were a PB&J and 32 ounces of Gatorade. Real smart, I know, especially with temps in the lower 90's. The games went fine. Briar Cliff won the womens game fairly easily. The mens game not only started 20 minutes late, it went into extra time. That, combined with a bunch of stoppages for injuries and various discipline problems, made the game last nearly three hours. Briar Cliff eventually won that game as well. When I finally got some food after the game I opted for chicken McNuggets, a big bag of chili cheese Fritos, and a Sprite. I had dessert when I got home: Campbell's chicken noodle soup. Can you tell I really crave salt after I exercise? I fell asleep on the floor in the living room after I had settled in a bit at home. I think I could have slept there all night, except for one little thing. Around 11:30pm, a very strange sensation yanked me from my slumber. I was so tired, it took me a while to figure out what was wrong. And then I jerked upright. No matter how much I love my dog, I do not care to be awakened by her licking my lips. Ew. I guess that was her polite way of saying "I would like you to let me out to pee, take off my collar, and open the bedroom door so I can crawl into my bed and go to sleep." Message received. I then proceeded to sleep until 10:17am this morning, totalling about 11.5 hours of sleep time. I haven't slept that long in a long, long while. I'll tell you what, it felt gooood. My day so far has been pretty relaxed, primarily because my body is too fatigued to do much of anything. I grabbed some fresh veggies out of the garden, whipped up a tasty lunch (sauteed green pepper, anaheim chile, kung pao chile, zucchini, garlic, worcestershire sauce, and soy sauce on top of rice), and practiced my trumpet. Eventually I need to take Daisy for a walk and (irk) mow the lawn. The former will happen; the latter, well, I'm not making any guarantees.
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