The World According to Nick
Politics, News, Photography, and Triathlons... What don't I talk about?
Friday, May 19, 2006
Surgeon General's Warning on Candy?!
So I was having a bit of a sugar craving, and went down to the vending machines to get my fix. After a bit of thinking, I finally decided on some Reeses's Peanut Butter Cups with Caramel. Peanut butter, chocolate, caramel, how could you go wrong? I opened up the package, and on the inside of the wrapper, there was a code for a contest they're running. So I read through the little spiel on how to redeem the code, to see if it was worthwhile doing... and then I saw this:

Candy is a treat. Please consume in moderation.

Are you kidding me? It's not like I went down to the vending machines to buy a liter of Jack Daniel's for God's sake.
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An English Question
I just had the following conversation via instant messaging with a coworker:

Coworker says:
I concede defeat. I'll start working on changing the algorithm

Nick says:
HA HA! Victory is mine!

Coworker says:
relish it while you can - I'm sure it will be short-lived.

Why would I want to relish victory? I really don't like sweet pickles at all, and like them even less chopped up and served on my victory with ketchup or mustard. Can I have fried onions on my victory instead? Actually... I think I might be in the mood for a big chili victory. That sounds pretty good right now.
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Campaign Marketing
I've noticed lately that campaign workers are failing to realize a very simple truth. They are marketing their candidate to people, and need to realize that when they talk to people about their candidate. Perhaps it's because people think I'm a Republican (I'm not), or because they think I'm an influential blogger (I'm not), or because the moons have aligned with the proper stars (I wouldn't know), but within the last several months I've been getting a lot more unsolicited emails from various campaigns. This isn't the first time I've blogged about this either. I make my email address publicly available on my blog, so I fully expect this. What bugs me is how poorly campaign workers treat those email addresses.

Lately I've started getting emails from Mark Green's press secretary. I did not sign up for any sort of mailing list, but I've gotten a couple in the last week that are all titled similarly... along the lines of "Green responds to DPW *blank*". Contained in the email is some pronouncement about how this group misrepresented Green's views on some issue or another.

What am I supposed to do with this? Are you sending this because I'm a blogger, and you naturally think that I'll simply regurgitate what you send me on my blog and help set off some firestorm of conservative backlash against these groups? Do you see a "Blogs for Mark Green" icon on my sidebar? Do you see a "Blogs for Bush" icon on my sidebar? Did you bother to even read my blog at all? Search my blog for Mark Green. You'll see one post, that's actually more about Scott Walker than Mark Green.

Those who read my blog know that I don't jump on popular bandwagons, and usually refrain from throwing my two cents on the latest popular meme. Maybe that's why I'm not as popular as other bloggers... I don't know. All I know is that I blog on what moves me, not what moves others. So if you want me to blog about something, then you need to tell me why when you send me something.

At the very least, you need to stop being rude. Sending an unsolicited email, with just a press release attachment is rude. To that end, here is a sample email that all campaign people can use when first contacting me, with a few added comments in italics:

Dear Nick, (Using my first name in an email will go a long way)

I found your blog recently (It's also really nice to tell me how you found me.), and have enjoyed what I've read so far. (A little flattery never hurts. In fact, because I have a large ego, it helps a lot.) I work for ___________'s campaign, and think that s/he is the type of candidate you'd be interested in. You can find out more about his/her campaign at the following website. (Point people to a place where they can investigate your person, if we really care then we'll go.) Periodically I send out emails to a group of bloggers, and I'd like to include you in my list if you are interested. (Once again, asking permission first is key. Not only is it more polite, but it shows that you're confident we'll take you up on your offer instead of being subjected to your emails like being served vegetables we don't want.) This is a ____ volume list, and I send out about ___ emails per week. (And be honest here. If you say its a low volume list, and I get 10 emails a day, you have no idea how pissed I'll be.) Just reply to my email, and I'll add you to the list, otherwise this will be the only contact you'll get from me.

Thank you for your time,

Joe Blow
___________'s Campaign for Some Government Job S/He Doesn't Deserve

After that, if I do agree to be included in your mass emails, it always helps to actually write a note in the body of the email, instead of just attaching a press release. Any stupid schmo can attach a press release. Why should I be blogging on this? This doesn't have to be personalized to me specifically, I understand that I'm on a large list at this point. But give me something here.

If you don't, then your press release will just get filed away in some folder I'll never read again, and I'll start blogging about what a poor representative you are for your candidate. Is that the sort of press you want? Remember, your goal is to build a relationship with some people here. Why not start off that relationship by putting your best foot forward? The internet may be relatively anonymous, but if you want us to help represent your candidate, then you need to personable.
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Try to Leave and We'll Kill You
I think this is the wrong message to be giving illegal immigrants (emphasis mine):

The world's busiest border crossing reopened early Friday following a nine-hour closure that occurred after federal authorities shot and killed the driver of a sport utility vehicle headed for Mexico, officials said.
...
U.S. Customs and Border Protection agents began following the black SUV after somebody reported seeing it pick up suspected illegal immigrants near the U.S. side of the Otay Mesa border crossing, said Lt. Kevin Rooney of San Diego Police Department.

As traffic backed up near the border, the vehicle stopped on the shoulder. When agents approached and tried to get the driver to step out of the SUV, the suspect "began to drive off and he veered hard to the left, trying to get back in traffic," Rooney said. Two agents then opened fire, he said.

Great, so now illegals will be more afraid to leave the United States than they are of coming here in the first place. Note to INS agents. If you see a vehicle pick up illegal immigrants and try to take them back to Mexico, don't shoot them. Give them an escort to the border, send them to the head of the line, then thank them for leaving when they cross.
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Thursday, May 18, 2006
Spivak & Bice Condoning Child Abuse?
Every now and then I perform the masochistic ritual of reading the Spivak & Bice Weblog. Today I was treated with this gem:

The changes did reduce welfare rolls by putting more single parents in jobs, but the programs came up short in helping the neediest of the needy. It also found that a large number of welfare applicants, particularly in Milwaukee, ended up being investigated for abusing or neglecting their children.

The New York Times reports today:

Experts said they were startled by the high proportion of welfare applicants in Milwaukee who had come to the attention of child welfare officials: in a five-year period, 40 percent of the parents were investigated for the possibility of abuse or neglect, and a child had been removed from the homes of 16 percent.

Maybe it's a good thing for Thompson that he didn't run for governor this time.

The NY Times article in question is here. Of course, had the two of them continued quoting the next paragraph, you'd see this:

Since most of these parents had already been investigated, the study did not indicate that the welfare program itself, with its required work or training efforts, was causing child abuse. But at the least, Dr. Courtney said, the findings show that many parents seeking welfare are having "a profound difficulty balancing the demands of work and parenting."

So if these parents were already being investigated, exactly how is an attack on W-2 justified? In fact, I have to wonder why the two of them seem to think that finding child abusers is a bad thing. Would they rather that child abuse not be investigated at all, and children continue to live in these homes where they are being abused?
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Truer Words Were Never Spoken
Via Ann Althouse comes this perfect little sound bite:

"I don't need to be lectured by you. You are no more a protector of the Constitution than am I," Judiciary Committee Chairman Arlen Specter, R-Pa., shouted after Sen. Russ Feingold declared his opposition to the amendment, his affinity for the Constitution and his intention to leave the meeting.

Wouldn't it be nice if all our Senators were protector's of the Constitution? The fact that Specter doesn't have an issue declaring that he doesn't protect the Constitution either just goes to show that he's been in office too long. Maybe we should make them swear an oath to defend it before they can take office. Oh. Wait. Never mind.
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The Ultimate Political Buzzword Trifecta!
I happened to read this little piece on MSNBC about what a Democratically controlled House might look like:

With expectations of success in the Nov. 7 congressional elections building among Democrats, let’s consider the size and composition of a House Democratic majority -- and what kind of leverage that majority would have.

If Democratic Leader Nancy Pelosi gets at least 218 seats to win a majority, a small but decisive number of her members would be centrist and conservative Democrats such as Rep. Melissa Bean of Illinois, Rep. John Salazar of Colorado, and Rep. Jim Marshall of Georgia.

Last week Bean, Salazar, and Marshall — all locked in tough races -- reminded Pelosi with their votes for the Republican-sponsored tax cut that they side with President Bush and the Republicans on some big issues.

Apparently, the implication is supposed to be that many Democrats aren't super left wing nut jobs like their self proclaimed leader Ms. Pelosi. I got a kick out of this part of the article (emphasis mine):

On each of these votes, Pelosi, Emanuel and most House Democrats voted in opposition to maverick conservative-centrist Democrats. Despite their ideological differences with the conservative-centrists, Pelosi and Emanuel have thrown their fundraising weight behind them.

Maverick conservative-centrist? I think that may be the trifecta of political buzzword bingo! If they could only figure out a way to fit "mainstream" in there without it conflicting with maverick, it would be perfect. How do they do it anyway?
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Wednesday, May 17, 2006
Carnival on Hiatus This Week
I have gotten a volunteer... but really I think it's too late in the day to do a decent one given that there are very few submissions in the Inbox. So I'm going to make the decision and say there is no Carnival of the Badger this week. It's going on hiatus for one week.

But next week, we'll be back on track, and I'm going to host. Not only that, but I'll be hosting from my brand new blog home, which I'll be moving to this weekend. Stay tuned to see where it is. After that, Sex in the Mil-town will take the reigns (sounds hot).

If you'd like to get in on the action, be sure to let me know.
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The Barbershop Is In Vogue Again
The barbershop is on the comeback!

For decades, barbershops were a safe, dependable and consistently profitable business. "You didn't have to worry about the plant closing, you didn't have to worry about a bad crop," says Charles Kirkpatrick, executive officer of the National Association of Barber Boards of America (NABBA) and also a practicing barber in Little Rock, Ark., since 1958. "The barber was, and still is, the most independent business in town." It was also a part of the American cultural fabric, serving as the unofficial Elks club, where men could gather while they waited for a shave and a cut and discuss the all-important issues of the day, such as who should be playing third base for the Cubs and whether a Mustang or a Corvette was the sweeter ride. In 1960, there 350,000 licensed barbers in the U.S., according the NABBA. Then the Beatles came along and ruined everything.

Apparently now there is a resurgence in demand for the barbershop. One thing that the article doesn't mention however (not surprisingly) is that barbershops also declined because many states (like Wisconsin) require barbers to go to cosmetology school in order to get a license now. My barber mentioned this to me one time. He was basically grandfathered in to the system, and that this was why there were so few traditional barbers out there.

Here is the syllabus for a qualifying cosmetology school, as set by statute in Wisconsin. It amounts to 1800 hours of instruction. The majority of the items to be taught are things you would go to a "stylist" for, while probably less than 1/3 is spent on traditional barber skills that a barbershop owner would need.

The Beatles didn't kill the traditional barbershop, the state (and probably cosmetology lobbying organizations) did. Via Instapundit.
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Tuesday, May 16, 2006
Where's The Carnival of the Badger This Week?
Your guess is as good as mine. Would you mind if it crashes at your blog for a week? I promise it won't eat that much, and it doesn't stay up real late.
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Blame Sesame Street
Right on the heels of this controversy, a number of smaller special interest groups have come out in favor of removing certain programming from Sesame Street, saying that it has continued the culture of divisiveness in this country.

CTW - Several influential groups held a joint press conference today on Sesame Street, demanding that certain items be removed from their programming rotation. First to the podium was the spokesshoe for the "National Organization for One of These Things" (NOFOOTT). "From a very young age, children are taught by Sesame Street to group things by common traits, and shun those that are different. Repeatedly telling children that 'One of these things is not like other' teaches them that not everything in this world is the same, and that inherently there is something wrong with that."
...
Later to speak was the Number 13, who represents the "American Union for the Rights of Large Numbers" (AURLN). "Why is that every time they show a fun pinball game on Sesame Street, they stop at the number 12? Children are indoctrinated with the notion that there is something wrong with the number 13, and it only continues from there! 14, 15, 100, 12648 all suffer because of it. We at the AURLN believe that it is never too young to teach children the wonders of infinity, and that all numbers are equal!"

Not surprisingly, this last comment brought about quite a strong reaction from the The Mathematical Association of America:

While we at the MAA certainly sympathize with the plight of large numbers, it would be very dangerous to our society to teach children that all numbers are equal. By their very nature, numbers have different values, some greater than others. Teaching anything other than that to our school children would destroy the very fabric of our nation.

When asked to comment, a spokesman for WEAC had the following to say:

While we understand the concerns of the MAA, we at WEAC take diversity training very seriously. We think it is an important step in our society to begin to treat numbers with the dignity they deserve, and give them equality. As to their specific concerns that children's grades in mathematics would decline as a result, we don't share that concern. We stopped giving failing grades to children several years ago.

Update: As usual... real life mimics parody. The Agitator points to this new definition of racism in the Seattle Public School System (emphasis mine):

Those aspects of society that overtly and covertly attribute value and normality to white people and Whiteness, and devalue, stereotype, and label people of color as "other", different, less than, or render them invisible. Examples of these norms include defining white skin tones as nude or flesh colored, having a future time orientation, emphasizing individualism as opposed to a more collective ideology, defining one form of English as standard, and identifying only Whites as great writers or composers.

So with this definition, exactly who isn't a racist?
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Short of Deploying Land Mines...
... I just don't see the National Guard at the border doing much good. I think this is especially true given that they won't be doing any actual guarding, just providing surveillance and technical assistance to the Border Patrol. I'm sure there are very good reasons for doing this having to do with the Posse Comitatus Act, but still... it will make them less effective.

Frankly, I waffle back and forth on walls and troops at the border. While at first blush it may seem like a simple and effective solution, I always end up having a flashback to Star Wars when Princess Leah says to Govenor Tarkin, "The more you tighten your grip, Tarkin, the more star systems will slip through your fingers." I can't help but wonder if the same is true here. (Yes, I am a geek.)

In the end, America is a damn attractive place to live for illegals. As long as the benefits of living in the United States (jobs and welfare) are greater than the cost (crossing the border), they will keep coming. It's really just that simple. So how do we make the United States less attractive to illegals coming over the border? I've discussed these issues at length previously:

Replace the Income Tax with a National Sales Tax: I'm convinced that one of the main reasons why so many employers hire illegals is because they can pay them cash, and just not deal with the paperwork involved with the IRS. It's not that the employers hate the idea of taxes all together. It's just that its too much of a confusing paperwork burden to place on employers... especially small employers. By removing that burden, it puts all potential employees on a level playing field. And I do believe that given an equal choice, employers would rather pick citizens than illegals.

Require Proof of Citizenship to Get Welfare: And something that goes hand and hand with this is changing the Constitution to require that someone born in this country have at lease one citizen as a parent to be considered a citizen.

That's it. That's all it would take. The beauty of these two ideas is that they actually save us money, and don't require Orwellian national identification databases, land mines, or troops flying choppers over southern states. Of course, simplicity was never something the government excelled in.
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Monday, May 15, 2006
Not Just Cell Phones... Speaker Phones Too
Instapundit has another interesting take on the NSA phone number database:

YES, THE NSA NUMBER-TRACKING PROGRAM isn't really "eavesdropping" on calls. But as reader Liz Mauran notes, the misleading press coverage probably doesn't matter: "It seems to me, judging from the number of people in airports, restaurants, and other public venues talking on their cell phones, that it's just fine to have a non-private telephone conversation."

There is something to that. And we're not just talking about people on their cell phones either. Right now I'm listening to my cube neighbor on his speakerphone with a tech support group in another state, even though he's the only one here on the phone call. Even when they don't use speaker phone, I still get to listen to people talk about paying their mortgages, being condescending to their wives, and using baby talk to speak with their children... or the wives, sometimes it's hard to tell.

Remember... phone conversations carry over the cube walls! Unfortunately for me, I forgot my MP3 player in my car today.
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Analyzing Song Lyrics
So I was listening to "Don't Know Why" by Norah Jones on my MP3 player while I was driving into work this morning (I have very eclectic music tastes), and I was struck by a thought. Is this song about her not going to see someone when she should have, or about her being "unsatisfied" by the man she's with at the moment?
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Open Up Your Wallet Cheapskate
Kinda defeats one of the purposes if you buy them used doesn't it? Say it with me... Ewwwwwwwww.
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