Wednesday, May 26, 2010

Where's My Flying Car?
an update

Eight and a half years ago, in one of my first columns, before we even had a true blog, I posed the question: Where's my flying car? I linked to the Moller Skycar and mentioned that it seemed that that project had been "stuck in limbo for 20 years". Add another 8 and a half to the total. Paul Moller & co. are still at it. They still are trolling for investors, and at least from an outsider's position, they don't look to be any closer to a working flying car than they were back in 2001. has posted a concise history of flying car projects. A recent flying car (and more feasible than the skycar) is the Terrafugia Transition. Pictures of the Transition from the Weburbanist article are at right.

Monday, May 24, 2010

BP's Plan to Increase the Brown Pelican Population -
Make ALL Pelicans Brown

The Googleteer on the Lost Finale

Last night was the grand finale of ABC's Lost. After 6 years of spoiler alerts, here's a NON-SPOILER alert. If you would have watched the 2 hours of pregame and 2.5 hours of finale, here's stuff you would NOT have learned:

The story of the Dharma Initiative
The story of the Hanso Foundation
How Jacob got back and forth into the real world
What happened to Michael and Walt
What was the deal with Mr. Echo
The story of the Cult and the Temple - and the Statue
Polar bears

Overall, I feel like Sally Brown after Linus talked her into waiting in the pumpkin patch all night, except in this case, all night was 6 frickin' years. The finale would have been better if Jack would have ended up in bed with Suzanne Pleshette, or if Kate would have opened the shower door and seen Bobby Ewing. The overall feeling of the finale was that the writers treated it like a course final paper that they forgot to work on until the night before it was supposed to be handed in.

My buddy, the Googleteer(tm), polled the general opinion and nailed it on the first try.

About 228,000 results (0.28 seconds)

Here is how the show should have ended.

Thursday, May 20, 2010

Shit My Dad Says and Shit My Kids Ruined

Comedy is spanning the generations today. The first highlighted page is the Twitter page for Shit my Dad Says. Justin Halpern lost his girlfriend, moved in with his father and gained a career just writing down the profane wisdom of his father. He turned his father's quotes into a website a book and soon a television pilot featuring Justin as Justin and William Shatner as dad. "Son - they aren't like us - they don't FEEL" "KAHN!!!!!" Don't even think of visiting Shit My Dad Says if you are offended by language or if you don't want to laugh.

Going down a generation, is a photo essay from Huffington Post, Shit My Kids Ruined.

Tuesday, May 18, 2010

Charity of the Week
"I'm here to assure you that we're going to spend every cent you donate building flamethrowers."

Not just any flamethrower, but a 2.5 ton, interactive, musical flamethrower.

Thursday, May 13, 2010

Funky Worm - The Ohio Players

While I'm posting weird songs, here's one I heard on XM radio 70s on 7 a couple weeks ago, a replay of Casey Kassum's American Top 40 from April 1972. I didn't remember this song at all. I looked it up, and it hit #1 on the soul chart and #15 on the pop charts. It was the first hit for the reformed Ohio Players, paving the way for later hits like Fire and Love Roller Coaster. That last song I definitely remember, because the rumor was all around my school that the scream on the record was a recording of a real girl getting murdered. Back in the day we really knew how to circulate a good rumor.

By the way, here's a link to a live version of Funky Worm performed in 2006 by the original lead vocalist and keyboard player, Billy Beck. The song is still funky. The audience, not so much.

Please Mr. Custer

My post on Tuesday that mentioned the cavalry made me think of this song. That and F-Troop.

For No Particular Reason

Wednesday, May 12, 2010

The Legend of Red Adair

While we are on the subject of Red Adair, he's the subject of an interesting urban legend. I think it was in the 1970s, Red's popularity had waned a bit from his 1960's peak (peaking again in 1991 when his company helped put out the Iraq War I oil fires), but he was still a C-list celebrity. Anyway old Red was in an airport lounge, and he sees two guys staring at him, talking between them. Then one of them approaches Red. "Say, you won't happen to be that guy, Red Addair, would ya?" Red says, "Yes, yes I am." The guy yelled to his buddy, "See, I told you!" Then he turned to Red and in an liquored-up whisper asked: "Tell me buddy, are you still f***ing Ginger Rogers?"

Thinking about the BP Oil Spill

I've had a lot of thoughts about the BP oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico, but until now, I haven't been close enough to the computer to tap them out.

Not to minimize the human and environmental tragedy of this, which is enormous, but look at the picture to the right. Blur your vision just a bit. Doesn't that look like a white baby seal with its guts blown out by a rocket launcher?

Here we are a little over three weeks into the oil spill. BP's stock is trading a bit over 48 dollars a share. Yeah, it was about 60 when the spill happened, but it's not even at its 52 week low. It's 1 year low point was last July at $46/share. What does it take to make them feel it.

Now everybody is throwing out ideas to cap the oil spill. The latest one is that BP is going to throw garbage at it. I started thinking about videos I'd seen of famous oil fire expert He'd use explosives to put out oil fires. Maybe they could use explosives to seal up the hole that the oil is coming out of. Then I read a little more and found out that on land they don't use the explosives to seal the hole, they use explosives to put out the fire by depriving it of oxygen. Then I figured if you used explosives and took a nice orderly hole and turned it into millions of fissures and cracks, maybe that wouldn't be too cool. Maybe we could throw garbage at it.

The Cavalry is Coming to the Aid of the Consumer Protection Agency

Well, kind of. The Pentagon has taken interest in the Consumer Financial Protection legislation that is working its way through Congress. Lobbyists have been doing their best to water down the bill. One area that consumer activists thought was threatened was the inclusion of automobile financing in the bill. Even though after your house, your car is your biggest purchase; and for young people most at risk of a financial downturn, it is perhaps their biggest investment, and even though various automobile related frauds, scams and sharp dealing makes the industry right at the top of the complaint lists of the Federal Trade Commission, and attorneys general offices; the auto industry trade associate has been doing its utmost to get car dealers and auto financiers excluded from the jurisdiction of the new Consumer Financial Protection Agency.

Now the dealers will have to fight the United States Military. It has come to the attention of the Pentagon brass that a soldier give his/her all in Afghanistan or Iraq if he's worried about a crappy car deal in Fort Benning. Here's how the New York Times puts it in an article in the online edition of today's paper:

In February, Clifford L. Stanley, the under secretary of defense responsible for troop readiness, wrote in a letter addressed to a Treasury official that the Pentagon would “welcome and encourage” increased protections against “unscrupulous automobile sales and financing practices.”

Mr. Stanley reached that conclusion, he wrote, after an internal survey of domestic military bases revealed cases of “ ‘bait and switch’ financing, falsification of loan applications or other documents, failure to pay off liens on trade-in vehicles, ‘packing’ loans with items whose price tag bears little or no relationship to their actual cost or value, and discriminatory lending.”

For Matthew Garcia, a 25-year-old Army specialist stationed at Fort Hood in Texas, a car deal gone sour has been “one more giant thing to worry about” as he prepares for a deployment to Afghanistan as early as June.

Consumer advocates call it the “yo-yo deal.” In September, Mr. Garcia found a 2005 Dodge Neon he liked at a used car lot near the barbershops, tattoo parlors and check cashing stores that invariably line the main roads just outside any military base.

He agreed to a deal in which he would pay 19.9 percent interest on a $12,000 loan and signed what he believed was a binding contract. He drove off. But several days later the salesman summoned him back to the lot, Mr. Garcia said, to tell him the financing had fallen through.

He had signed only a conditional contract, he was told. If he wanted to keep the car, he would need to put up an additional $2,500 in cash. Mr. Garcia refused, but by that time someone had blocked his car so he could not leave. He said the dealership would not return his $1,500 down payment.

“I was tricked, manipulated and lied to,” said Mr. Garcia, who earns about $20,000 a year. “And I feel like it was intentional.”

Ross G. Lavin, a lawyer for the dealership, Payless Car Sales, said a change of heart by the company putting up the financing for the car was to blame, and not his client. “Nobody lied to anybody,” he said, but he also acknowledged the dealership had made a mistake by not immediately giving Mr. Garcia his money back. The case was settled last week for an undisclosed amount.

(By the way, the car deal in this article is a typical "puppy dog", "yo yo" or "gimme back" car scam. The lawyer for the dealer is right that that dealer should have given the money back immediately. If the deal didn't go through, the soldier had an unconditional right to a refund. In most cases, the car buyer leaves the dealership with an installment sales contract that is binding, and it is the car dealer's problem if it can't find a finance company to take the contract off the dealer's hand. If you find yourself the victim of a similar yo-yo car deal, you should immediately consult an attorney who is a member of the National Association of Consumer Advocates.)

Image, Charles Schreyvogel's "Saving the Dispatch" info here used without permission under claim of fair use.

Wednesday, May 05, 2010

People Who are Banned from Wal-Mart (OR Should Be)

I've had 3-4 clients who have called me over the past few years complaining that they are banned from Wal-mart. One might expect that it would involve suspected shoplifters, but in fact, from what I can tell, that's not usually the case. Most of the cases that I've seen involve "uppity" shoppers. Generally, they're just people who argue with Wal-Mart security personnel.

Apparently it's not uncommon to be banned from Wal-mart. I asked my friend, the superhero, the Googleteer(tm), to check on the situation. Here's the search

"banned from wal-mart" returned 21,800 hits. The most prominent of the hits involved For more creative ways to be banned from Wally World, check out this blog post. Despite Wal-mart's efforts to weed out undesirables, quite a few strange and barely functional people are welcome in Wal-mart's aisles. These denizens are called Walmartians, and they gather at Wal-mart from planets all over the universe.

Tuesday, May 04, 2010

World's Oldest Person Dies

According to wire reports, Ms. Kama Chinen, of Okinawa, Japan, the world's oldest person, died today, just shy of her 115th birthday. On deck to take her place, Larry King.