Saturday, July 15, 2006

North Carolinians On the Web

A citizen addresses the Rogue Helicopter Problem at a Charlotte City Council meeting.

More On the Carolina Cougar

More Mountain Lion Sightings Reported: Experts may remain skeptical, but the number of people reporting mountain lion sightings to The Pilot has now risen to more than half a dozen.

The four sightings reported since the publication of an article Sunday suggest there may even be more than one of the animals, which are known variously as cougars, pumas, panthers and catamounts.

Reports of big cats have come from Seven Lakes North, Seven Lakes West, Beacon Ridge, north of Seven Lakes and even in the back area of the Country Club of North Carolina.

Friday, July 14, 2006

You Just Don't Get It, Do You?

From In 1998, three Texas men attacked a 49-year-old African-American named James Byrd. They cut his throat, chained him to the back of a pickup truck, then dragged him along a road for several miles. Byrd was alive for at least part of the ordeal; a forensic pathologist said that Byrd lived until he hit a culvert and his arm and head were severed. His attackers dragged what was left of his body for at least an additional mile.

Gruesome? Yes, but it's apparently no worse than what happened to Ken Lay.

The former Enron chairman died of a heart attack at his vacation home in Aspen, Colo., last week. At a memorial service in Houston Wednesday -- with former President George H.W. Bush in attendance -- a local pastor likened Lay's prosecution in Enron's collapse to the attack on Byrd. 'Ken Lay was neither black nor poor, as James Byrd was,' said the Rev. William Lawson, pastor emeritus of the Wheeler Avenue Baptist Church. 'But I'm angry because Ken was the victim of a lynching.'"

Actually, there are probably a lot of people who would have enjoyed seeing Ken Lay dragged to his death behind a pickup....but see, that didn't actually happen, because Ken Lay was rich, beyotch. But for other rich Republicans, Lay's trial --and conviction--for crimes that ruined the lives of hundreds of thousands was equivalent to being tortured to death.

John Edwards' "Two Americas" theory is begining to look more and more plausible every day.

The Military Recruiting Crisis Is Worse Than We Thought

They're Apparently Accepting Muppets Now.

(Video after a brief ad)

Thursday, July 13, 2006

Coo Yah, Mon!

My good buddy Bob Morris, author of Bahamarama, Jamaica Me Dead, and the upcoming Bermuda Schwartz, joins the blogosphere with Surrounded on Three Sides. (I think the title has something to do with the fact that Bob's one of them Floridians).

Sorry you missed the bit where he was giving away free rum. But Bob's a great storyteller, a connoiseur of good food and drink, and a blast to hang out with. Check it out.


Gandolfini knee surgery delays 'Sopranos'

PASADENA, Calif. - Fans of 'The Sopranos' will have to wait a bit longer for the mob drama's final chapter.

Because of 'unexpected' knee surgery for series star
James Gandolfini, the concluding episodes that were expected to begin in January will be delayed about two months, HBO Chairman Chris Albrecht said.

The surgery alone would have pushed the season start back just a few weeks, but that would have put 'The Sopranos' up against the football playoffs and the Super Bowl, Albrecht told a television critics' gathering Wednesday.

A specific air date for the Sunday-night series has yet to be determined but it's likely to be in early March 2007, he said.

First there was the half-baked "season" we just went through, now we have to wait till friggin' MARCH to see if the show rallies for its last hoorah.

I want my bloodbath, and I want it NOW!

Wednesday, July 12, 2006

They're Droppin' Like Flies

Enron witness found dead in park

A body found in north-east London has been identified as that of a banker who was questioned by the FBI about the Enron fraud case.

Police said they were treating the death in Chingford of Neil Coulbeck, who worked for the Royal Bank of Scotland until 2004, as "unexplained".

He had been interviewed by the FBI as a potential witness.


Tuesday, July 11, 2006

Starship Troopers!

Marines Want to Develop Drop-Ship...errr....Spaceplane

Unlike the Air Force, Navy and Army, all three of which sponsor expensive satellite programs, the cash-strapped Marines are pushing just one space concept. It's called Small Unit Space Transport and Insertion, or SUSTAIN, and it's a reusable spaceplane meant to get a squad of Marines to any hotspot on Earth in two hours -- then get them out. The idea is to reinforce embattled embassies, take out terrorist leaders or defuse hostage situations before it's too late. "The Marine Corps needs [this] capability," Brig. Gen. Richard C. Zilmer told Congress in 2004.

"The Corps has always been an expeditionary force, a force of readiness, a 911 force," Wassink says. "All SUSTAIN is, is a requirement to move Marines very rapidly from one place to another. Space lends itself to that role."

Freakin' Awesome.

(Sorry for the geek stuff, Kim, I can't help myself).

Shine On, You Crazy Diamond

Pink Floyd Founder Syd Barrett dies aged 60.

You were caught on the crossfire of childhood and stardom,
blown on the steel breeze.
Come on you target for faraway laughter,
come on you stranger, you legend, you martyr, and shine....

"Kinky," Si! "Grandma," No!

Texas says "Kinky" can be on ballot:

HOUSTON (Reuters) - Writer and musician Kinky Friedman, who once sang 'They Ain't Making Jews Like Jesus Anymore,' may include the name by which he is best known on the ballot to choose Texas' next governor in November, the state's top election official said on Monday.

Texas Secretary of State Roger Williams said Friedman's nickname was not a slogan and thus did not violate state law. His name will appear on election ballots as Richard 'Kinky' Friedman.

But Williams, a Republican, said Carole Keeton Strayhorn, who is also running as an independent against incumbent Republican Gov. Rick Perry, cannot include 'Grandma' as a nickname on the ballot.

Sunday, July 09, 2006

The Worst Person in the World, Part IV

Ann Coulter on Adam Corolla's Radio Show.

What's French for "WTF"?

The Head-Butt Heard Round the World, from today's World Cup final.

Zidane was red-carded (tossed out of the game) for that, and he damn well should have been.

Every Game You Play, I'll Be Watching You

Latest Newspaper Column:

When New Yorker Vincent Ferrari tried to cancel his subscription to America Online, he ran into the same problem that a lot of people run into who try to log off for good from the popular Internet service provider: It's like trying to get out of a bad marriage.

See, you can't just quit by the press of an online button. You have to call a "customer service representative," and I put those words in quotes for a reason.

The guy Ferrari got hold of, who called himself "John," didn't want Vince to leave AOL. I mean he really, really didn't want Vince to go. He stalled. He argued. He offered deals to get Vince to stay. He argued some more.

"What's the matter, man?" "John" said plaintively at one point, as Vince got testy. "I'm just trying to help here." Finally, with ill grace, "John" gave in and let Vince cancel, with this parting shot: "Someday you're going to realize it was actually in your best interest to listen to me."

When Brian Finkelstein of Washington State called for someone from Comcast, his Internet service provider, to come fix his broken cable modem, a tech finally showed up after three missed appointments. The tech had to make a call to Comcast's headquarters to resolve some issue and was, of course, put on hold. The tech then fell asleep on Brian's couch.

How do we know these horror stories? Because Vincent and Brian discovered how to harness the power of modern technology to expose lousy customer service. Vincent, prepared by stories of AOL hell, recorded his ordeal with "John." Brian recorded footage of the sleeping technician with his digital video camera. They then posted their recordings on the Internet.

Vincent used his weblog, entitled "Insignificant Thoughts," whereas Brian posted the video on, a Web site where subscribers can upload their favorite videos to the net for all to see. Brian even made "Sleeping Beauty" the centerpiece of a little music video, complete with title cards thanking Comcast for "weeklong outages, long hold times, high prices, three missed appointments, promising to call back and not calling thanks, Comcast, for everything."

The recordings got thousands of hits on their respective Web sites, so many that Vincent had to go offline briefly because of the traffic load.

Vincent and his battle to get free of AOL were profiled on the "Today" show, where he played a selection from the tape. Both men's stories were featured in an article in the New York Times.

The two got more that just 15 minutes of fame, however; they got results. Vincent received a letter of apology from an AOL vice president, who claimed that "John" was "no longer with the company." Brian posted later that his problems with Comcast had been resolved.

Complaints of lousy customer service are nothing new on the Internet. There are even whole sites devoted to them. But thanks to small, cheap, and easy-to-use video cameras, cell phone cams, digital recorders and mp3 players that can record audio, people can document their grievances.

A company called Pure Digital is marketing a "point and shoot" video camera that runs on AA batteries, holds up to 30 minutes of high-quality video, and can instantly transfer the images onto your computer, ready to be uploaded for viewing worldwide on sites like YouTube. Price: a dirt-cheap $125.

Imagine the possibilities. Getting the runaround from the guy at tech support? Record the call and upload it. Surly teenager behind the counter refusing to come and let you pay for your rental videos until she's hashed out her boyfriend problem on her cell phone? Whip out the vidcam and make her a star. Smile, Suzy, you're on "Candid Camera."

Science fiction writer Robert A. Heinlein once famously observed that "an armed society is a polite society."

The saying has been cited for years by gun advocates, but upon reading the story in which it appears, I doubt that anyone would really enjoy living in the heavily armed and duel-intensive fictional society he describes. On the other hand, if everyone were armed with a video recorder and a fast Internet connection, society might very well be a more polite place.

Now, before some ninny jumps up and accuses me of being inconsistent on privacy issues, understand that I'm not talking about recording private interactions among third parties without permission. But you've got a right to record your own dealings with people.

And certainly anything that happens to you in the street or in the shops is fair game for you to record.

So the next time a telephone customer service rep informs me that "your call may be recorded for quality assurance purposes," I may just respond, "you can count on it."