Sunday, July 30, 2006

Catching Up

Sorry, I've been remiss in posting over the last few days. We successfully wrapped up our work in Milwaukee, and it is off to Cincinnati tomorrow. My friend Laura Werts lives there, so I will try to meet up with her for dinner or something and see how things are in Reds country. This trip will mark the first time that I am choosing a Best Western as my hotel for the trip. This isn't from a lack of choices, but rather because this hotel is a) close to the work site, and b) one that has been recommended to me by about half a dozen different people, so I figured I'll give it a shot.

In other news I have purchased the game Galactic Civilizations II for my computer, and it is threatining to take over my life. I played the first Galactic Civilizations game when it came out a few years ago, and it was much fun. This version, however, lets you actually design your own spacehips. And these ships can be visually customized with literally hundreds of items, some of which have game reasons for being there (like lasers and missile launchers and engines and so forth), while others are solely for visual flair. And we know that we all need 14 pieces of flair, minimum, so my ships have lots of flair. It is much fun.

The Mystery of Capital

The Mystery of Capital by Hernando de Soto, 2000, Basic Books

I have been hearing about this book for at least 5 years, and it was supposed to be an amazing, viewpoint-changing experience, so I figured that I should probably get around to reading it. I can't say that it radically changed my views of capitalism in respect to other competing economic systems, but the author does do an excellent job of explaining exactly why the 3rd world always seems to miss out on capitalistic expansions. While "the West" keeps getting richer, other people miss out and stay relatively poor. Why is this? Are they stupid? Are they lazy?

No, they aren't stupid and they aren't lazy. The problem is that everyone seems to have forgotten that capitalsim is all about capital (hence the name). And in the 3rd world, most people are not allowed to develop capital because they don't own official property. Why? I liked the flow chart that showed how it would take literally 18 years to follow all the legal channels to buy property legally in Haiti. It is so ridiculous, that nobody outside of the system bothers trying to get on the inside, so they just squat on land and "own" it in this fashion. Because they lack legal title, however, they can't use that land or house as collateral for a loan, a basic thing Americans like me take for granted. I must say that I had never thought about it before, but it totally makes sense.

My only problem with this book is that it felt too long. It's only about 230 pages sans end notes and index, so it isn't physically that long, but it really only takes the author about 150 pages to make his point, and the rest of the book is him hammering the same point over and over and over again. It gets tedious, but this is still an important book for everyone who cares about helping the poor attain the benefits of the global economic system.

Tuesday, July 25, 2006

Visiting the other beer town

So I'm in Milwaukee this week for another audit project. I like coming to Milwaukee, though I've never been able to pin down why. It is a fairly blue collar town, like St. Louis, and I like places like that. It is the home of Sprecher's root beer, which scores points. Other than that, I can't really say, other than that it simply has a good feel. It is a place that I could easily live, and if I ever needed to move to Milwaukee for work or other reasons, I would not be opposed.

The fact that Milwaukee also holds my favorites restaurant, Mo's Steakhouse, doesn't hurt either. I ate there tonight, in fact. It was excellent, as always.

Outside of that, I saw Al MacInnis at the airport yesterday. We nodded to each other. It was excellent, as always.

Thursday, July 20, 2006

My Posse

As I play around with my digital camera, I figured I would introduce you all to my posse this week, also known as my brother's animals.


This is Sadie, the dog (obviously). She is very needy and wants my attention all the time. You will note the plush squirrel she has defeated. She likes to use this to play her favorite game, "I have it and you don't." This game involves running around in circles while I chase her. It seems to be very exciting to Sadie, but it just wears me out.


And these are the rabbits (a.k.a., "the boys"), Whiskers and Butterscotch. Butterscotch is my personal favorite, mainly because he doesn't cause any problems. Unlike Sadie, these fellow require about 10 minutes of attention per day.

In case you were wondering, this is a "never the twain shall meet" situation. They have lived in the same house for over 4 years, but Sadie has never actually met the boys, because we don't think the boys would live through the encounter. Sadie likes to play rough.

The unGuide to Dating

The unGuide to Dating by Camerin Courtney and Todd Hertz, 2006, Revell

As a 32 year old man who has never been married, I must admit that I find the general American Christian church's approach to singleness to be disheartening. This is because the standard approach treats us all as glorified youth, and most Christian leaders simply can't imagine what our lives are like. The dating "advice" that they give is also really aimed at teenagers, and not at adults. Hence, the opening for a book such as this. Written by two magazine editors in their 30s who have never been married, the book focuses on the adult dimensions of the dating game. However, it isn't a dating guide as such, hence the rather odd title. I didn't like the title when I first encountered this book, but after reading it I must admit that it is rather apt.

Secular dating books will try to teach you how to be more attractive to the oppostite sex, or great pickup lines, or places to go to meet single people, that kind of thing. This book doesn't do that. This book focuses on how to approach relationships (including potential romantic ones) in a Christian way, as well as relevant topics such as should the man or woman make the first move, body image, inter-gender friendships, and so on. Interestingly enough, while many questions are raised, almost no answers are given. At first blush this might indicate that the book is failing. On the contrary, most of the questions don't have one set answer to begin with, and each individual must answer the questions for themselves.

The book itself is only slightly over 200 pages, and there is liberal use of white space, so it reads pretty fast. Overall, it does a good job with its topic and should prove useful to its target audience.

I've Never Seen Anything Like This

So say the people of St. Louis about last night's storms, according to our local paper. Last evening we had a super crazy thunderstorm tear through St. Louis. I was at my parents' house, as my Aunt Jane and Uncle Henry were in town, and I haven't seen Henry in, what, 10 years? So I had to be there. I also had no idea the storm was coming. First there was crazy wind, upwards of 80 mph. Then just sheets of rain and one hour of constant lightning. Really wild stuff. I thought it was pretty exciting, while my Aunt kept telling me to get away from the window.

The St. Louis area has roughly 2,400,000 residents, and over 500,000 homes lost power during the storm. According to the power company, they couldn't remember anything this widespread before. Last year we had bad storms come through in August, and 250,000 homes lost power, including my brother's, which was out for 3 days. I only lost power for about an hour, though. This year, I didn't lose power at all (or at least, it was on when I got home), but my brother's place did. I was really concerned, because it is supposed to be over 100 degrees today, and I'm watching the dog, and I didn't want to watch the dog in 100 degree weather. Luckily, his power came on about 5AM, so all is well.

Tuesday, July 18, 2006

Being a Responsible Family Man

This week, while my brother and sister-in-law are vacationing in Colorado, I have the job of holding down the fort at their place, which mainly involves feeding, walking, and trying to entertain their dog, Sadie. I have lived by myself for 8 years, so it is always interesting when I have to pay attention to someone or something else rather than just doing whatever I want to whenever I want to do it. Because I have these highly independent tendencies, I sometimes don't realize that the dog wants to play, and wants to play NOW. So, sometimes Saide scratches things and generally causes a scene as a way of getting my attention, because she can't understand why I don't play with her all day long. Of course, Sadie's idea of play is to grab something and then run away and have me chase her. She likes that. My idea of playing with a dog would be to have the dog chase after something and then bring it back to me, like a frisbee or a tree branch or something. Sadie doesn't do that, though. At least she seems to enjoy herself when I take her for walks in the evenings.

On top of dealing with the dog, I also get to take care of the two rabbits that live in the basement. The rabbits have been there a long time, and in fact one of them is old enough that he is having "accidents" on the floor, which I then get to clean up. Every. Day. Fun! Actually, the rabbits are very low maintenance, requiring about 10 to 15 minutes of work each day, which is infinitely less time than the dog wants, which is about 25 hours a day.

I like to think that this experience is helping me grow as a persone, but what is really happening is that I am being reminded why I don't have a dog.

Monday, July 17, 2006

Saturday, July 15, 2006

Teavana

So I'm in my local mall this morning to buy some vitamins at GNC, and I notice that someone put in a tea store since my last visit. This is huge news, as I have been unable to find a tea store in St. Louis since I moved back. The place is Teavana, and it is part of a chain of stores. It sells loose leaf tea, as well as having a tea bar to serve tea beverages in the store. This is great. I didn't buy anything, because I am actually quite well stocked with tea at the moment, but the next time that I am low I know exactly where I will go to restock.

Thursday, July 13, 2006

Awesome!


California is always pushing the edge with things.

(first noticed at
HotelChatter)

Wednesday, July 12, 2006

Everyone is talking

Everyone in my office is talking about Jessica Alba being in a movie that is currently filming in St. Louis. In fact, the movie is filming literally across the street from my office, in the old GenAmerica headquarters, which has been vacant for around a year. It looks like they are turning it into a faux government office of some kind. From the best that I can tell, they are working on this film. The silly thing is that I couldn't even find any news about it on my local paper's website. And I have been out of town so much lately, that I didn't even know anything was going on until yesterday, when literally 20 trailers showed up, blocking most of the street I use to get home. Maybe tomorrow I will walk on by and see what is actually going on.

The Dying Earth

The Dying Earth by Jack Vance, 1950/1977, Pocket Books

Another cheap book fair grab, I figured I had to give this book a try as I had heard that the magic system in the Dungeons & Dragons RPG was ripped off from Jack Vance's stories. After reading this book, I can say that they ripped off more than just the magic system. I can also say that this book is fairly odd.

The basic premise is that the Sun is dying. The stories are set so far in teh future that the Sun has become a red giant, and will go out soon, leaving the world to freeze in darkness. At some point in the millenia since the present time, other intelligent creatures have appeared, and magic has also (re-)appeared on the Earth. The book contains six separate stories. The first three somewhat tie together, but the rest do not. The only real theme is the age old theme of "boy meets girl," which usually ends with the couple getting together, but in one notable case does not. Granted, that guy was an ass and deserved his fate.

Overall, the plots generally deal with someone trying to get knowledge, either magical, mundane, or metaphysical. There is a quest to some strange place, and the overcoming of obstacles to obtain said knowledge. The way this is done is different in every story, though, so that the stories didn't really feel repetitive. What makes them odd is the fact that the setting seems to be completely a throwaway contraption that doesn't matter. You could set these stories in any generic fantasy setting and they would fit just fine, with the possible exception of "Mazirian the Magician." The writing style is also strange to me, and it seems clipped, like the author is forcing things along swiftly. Maybe I am just used to the 800 page monstrosities that most companies publish these days, with page after endless page of description (which you in no way get here), such that the relative paucity of description is very noticeable. Not bad, just not what I am used to. Still, for $0.50, it was a good buy.

I am cold again

The repair man came out and fixed my A/C yesterday. The circuit board on the blower had burned out. Literally, there was a burn mark on the back of the fan controller on the circuit board. No idea how it happened. The repair man thought it maybe was the result of a power spike from a blackout or something, but we hand't had any of those around the time when the board died. It probably just committed suicide because it couldn't handle life anymore. Electronic components sometimes do that around me. At least I have A/C back, even if it did cost ~$350. Those circuit boards are expensive.

Tuesday, July 11, 2006

No A/C

My A/C went out on me yesterday. I turned it off while the carpet cleaners were here, as they had the front door open to run the hoses from their van. When I turned it back on, the blower wouldn't activate. The compressor works, but without the fan it isn't doing any good. So, yeah, no A/C. The big problem was the fact that my carpets were nice and damp after the cleaning, so I think I had about 70% humidity in the house. This made for an uncomfortable evening. A service man is coming today to work on my blower, so hopefully he can fix it.

Monday, July 10, 2006

Steam Power

I worked from home today, so that I could be around when the carpet cleaners came by. After living here for a year and a half, I figured it was time to get the carpets professionally cleaned. I used Stanley Steemer (because that was the company that came to mind when I decided to call somebody to clean my carpets), and they were quick and friendly and did a good job. After getting the bill, though, I now understand why people will go and rent a Rug Doctor and just do it themselves, as that was pricey. The carpet does look good, though.

Friday, July 07, 2006

A Better Explanation

In an earlier post, I noted that stock trading stories are total garbage, filled with information that is, at best, harmless garbage, but usually totally wrong. Ben Kepple has noted the same, but actually provides some nice background on why things are so bad.

Wednesday, July 05, 2006

Does This Mean I'm Cool Now?

After my heavy travels for business the last 3 to 4 months, I have finally stayed at enough Hilton properly hotels to have earned Diamond status, the highest status class in their Hilton HHonors loyalty program (no, I didn't spell that wrong). This means that I get a 50% bonus on points earnings and at the nice hotels I get access to the executive club where I can buy over-priced alcoholic beverages in a snooty environment. I'm not sure what good this is actually going to do me, but sometimes you have to take what you can get.

Having the Blues is Great

After the joy that was the 2006 NHL entry draft, I zoned out for about 10 days and didn't pay any attention to what was going on with the NHL or my own St. Louis Blues. Yesterday, I decided to catch up and see what had happened during my exile to focus on the World Cup.

All I can say is, "wow!" Boy, has a lot happened. I thought it would take Dave Checketts and his group at least 2 weeks to finalize financing and close the deal to purchase the team, but they closed it before the month was out. This meant that on 7/1, when the free agency season began, they were in full position to make some moves. The following things worthy of note have occurred:
  1. John Davidson was brought in as team president, replacing Mark Sauer. This was widely anticipated, but Mr. Davidson refused to comment on it until Dave Checketts actually owned the team. Once that hurdle was cleared, it took him about 10 seconds to sign the papers and make it happen. This is big because Mr. Davidson used to play in St. Louis (30+ years ago, but still) and the fans are excitedabout it, which is going to sell some tickets.
  2. Doug Weight resigned with the team. This was somewhat anticipated, but there was always a good chance he would stay in Carolina. I am very, very excited about this, as Doug Weight has meant a lot to the team over the years.
  3. The Blues went out and signed Bill Guerin. Let's be honest; Guerin sucked last year with Dallas. However, the Blues aren't paying him too much, and if he can regain some of his old form he will be worth the money. Besides, this means that the Blues are looking a lot like the US National team, which while not perfect, isn't a bad thing.
  4. Dan Hinote signed for way too much money. I'm not sure about this one, but at least we can say that the new ownership is willing to actually spend some money on players, which was NOT the case at all last year.
  5. Mike Kitchen was re-hired as head coach. Yes, last year was a travesty, but that was not Mike Kitchen's fault at all, since the man had nothing to work with. Some fans didn't like Kitchen, but I do, and I think this was a good move.
  6. Dallas Drake was also re-signed. The man is 100 years old, and was expected to move to another team, but he did a very hard job as team Captain last year, and signing him again was the right move by the Blues, even if just as a locker room presence and a stabilizing aspect for the younger players.

So, yeah, lots happened, and there is scuttlebutt that the Blues are pursuing Brendan Shanahan. He is 100 years like Drake is, but of all the ex-Blues out there in the league people (including myself) love Shanny the most, so signing him again would be majorly awesome. He might be too expensive, though, so I'm not holding my breath.

Tuesday, July 04, 2006

New Comic Reviews

New comic book reviews are up on my website.

Quote of the Day

"She's like a taller, smoother Mother Theresa in fishnets."

from Scary Go Round, 6/27/06.