Loud Music is a $40 Fine

Just my personal blog.

October 1, 2007

Viva NBC’s Las Vegas?

I admit it. I’ve gotten interested in the NBC TV show Las Vegas. I’ve always liked James Caan as an actor, and the storylines were pretty entertaining.

So I was disappointed with Friday night’s fifth season premier. It resolved the cliff-hangers from season four in about five minutes, then took the viewer on a path leading to Caan’s character’s leaving. As far as Nikki Cox’s character, she was pretty much dealt with in the opening scenes. It just seemed like the writers were left with a “we didn’t know two actors were leaving when we wrote the cliff-hanger” scenario. The cell-phone video seemed a little too contrived for my taste.

The show’s producers would also have you believe that a casino president skips town because he’s wanted for murder (along with one of his employees) and a new guy comes in, pays the back taxes, and takes ownership in a matter of a couple of days. I know this is fiction, but they should have extended the time frame a little bit. Nevada State Gaming authorities aren’t just going to let some guy come in out of the blue as a casino owner without going through some kind of approval process. (I also know that the folks who monitor the cameras aren’t allowed on the casino floor, but I’ve managed to suspend that disbelief to watch the show up till now.)

It’s too early to say whether the show has jumped the shark. It’s still possible that Tom Selleck’s character can breathe some new life into the series.

In the meantime, I’m DVR’ing TBS’s rerunning of season one each weekday morning. I didn’t start watching the show regularly until last season, so it’s giving me a good chance to catch up with the characters. It’s interesting how Mike can go from a valet to a security guy.

September 27, 2007

Tipping

I don’t get tipping. I mean, I understand the concept of paying someone a percentage of your food bill, but I don’t get it.

You’re supposed to tip someone between 15% and 20% for waiting on you. That means if you have a $100 restaurant bill, you have to kick in at least another $15 to avoid being considered cheap.

If your bill was $20, then that’s supposed to be at least a $3 tip.

So I’m supposed to believe that the person serving me a $100 dinner worked 5 times harder than the one serving me a $20 dinner? Just because the price was five times more? Sorry, I don’t buy it. In both scenarios  the waiter comes out, asks what I want to drink, brings it, then takes my food order. Then either the waiter or someone else brings the food. If I’m lucky, the waiter will show up again to ask if everything is ok, and if he sees that we’re finishing up, will ask if we want desert. Desert will be brought, then we’ll get the check. The waiter will take the money, then I sign the credit card slip and leave.

That’s what, a total of maybe 10 minutes of time for the waiter? And I’m supposed to base that on  the amount of the check? Sorry, I don’t think so.

Here’s an idea: if you’re a waiter, tell me what you’re getting paid an hour. Then I’ll match that based on the actual amount  of  time you spend waiting on me. If you’re making $5 an hour, and you spend 10 minutes with me, then I’ll tip you 1/6th of your hourly wage, which would double your rate to $10 an hour. Seems more than fair to me.

September 26, 2007

NASCAR: Car of Tomorrow? Or Yesterday?

I really had high hopes for the Car of Tomorrow. It made sense that if the cars were more or less identical, that would put the driver back in the driver’s seat, as it were.

But it’s beginning to look like I was wrong.

About 7 or 8 years ago at a televised race at Nashville Speedway USA, I got to talk to Buddy Baker. I’d been mulling over an idea that I wanted to get his input on. What if all the cars in NASCAR were alike, just like the IROC Series? He didn’t think too much of the idea. If I remember right he said the well financed teams would find a way to tweak the cars so that pretty soon, despite being the “same”, they’d have the advantage back.

I guess he was right.

Dover’s race Sunday was the latest chapter in the Car of Tomorrow saga. Only six cars finished on the lead lap, and the margin of victory was over a half second. Now granted, the Dover races have always been some of the most boring races on the planet (I used to call them the 24 hours of Dover). They even reduced the races from 500 to 400 miles because they took so long. But I don’t remember the last time so few cars finished on the lead lap.

I’m still waiting to find out the definition of “the big one.” In my mind, any wreck that involves nearly 25% of the field qualifies as a big one, but yet you only hear complaints about big wrecks at the restrictor plate races.

Carl Edwards “won” the race, but his car was impounded after the race to be taken to NASCAR for further evaluation due to the right rear being too low. Now maybe there’s a problem with the Car of Tomorrow, since this happened to two cars at New Hampshire. If that’s the case, then NASCAR needs to make it right with the two cars that were penalized then. But if not, then why should Edwards get credit for a win?

Earlier this year I was in favor of all the races next year being COT races, but now I’m not so sure that’s a good idea. Of course, it’s too late to go back to NASCAR’s original plan to run a partial schedule with the cars of tomorrow next year. However, it certainly looks like more R&D needs to be done on the cars.

September 21, 2007

Microsoft Goes “EU”

Microsoft lost their big court case in the European Union the other day. They’ve got to pay a 2/3 billion dollar fine and, get this, give the source code to Windows to their competitors.

I’ve often wondered why Microsoft just doesn’t take their ball and go home.

What’s to stop them from saying “OK, EU, we get it. You don’t like capitalism. We’ll leave then. Effective immediately, all licenses for all Microsoft products in use in the EU are revoked.”

If they don’t want Microsoft products, then why should Microsoft sell and support them in Europe? Are they really making so much money over there that they can’t afford to abandon the market? I doubt it.

September 21, 2007

Survivor: China – Episode 1

The new season of Survivor started last night. This time they’re in the middle of mainland Communist China instead of on an island somewhere. Actually, it appears that they’re on islands in the middle of China’s biggest lake.

I was disappointed in the outcome last night of Survivor: China. They voted off a guy named “Chicken” who’s, strangely enough, a chicken farmer. After arriving at camp, he was rebuffed when he tried to tell the rest of the tribe how to build a shelter. Unlike others who’ve taken a “leadership” role in previous shows, he basically decided to back off and let the others figure out how to make shelter. As a result, after three days, they still didn’t have anything.

So, instead of getting voted off for being the “leader”, he was voted off because did didn’t assume the leadership role.

I don’t get these folks. In every season of Survivor, the “leader” seems to be the one with the target on his back. It’s as if being leader is bad for some reason. And to top it off, of the two folks who assumed leadership roles, one was more bossy than anything, and the other didn’t seem to really want to do it. “P.G.”, the Chinese girl, almost seemed to expect to be the leader just because of her heritage. Your skin color doesn’t make you a leader.

You’d think that when folks arrived at camp, they’d ask who has what experience. So, if you’re an architect,  then you should be deferred to by the folks who don’t know how to build things. Or if you’re a farmer, then you might know a little bit more about being out doors than the blonde from New York.

Chicken was easily the most colorful character on Survivor: China. He was my early favorite, but now I’m not sure I’ll be as interested in the show. However, there is a guy from Nashville, but he was almost invisible last night (maybe by design or by editing). And I’m still interested in seeing how Jean-Robert, the pro-poker player, does. Judging by the previews for next week, he’s going to ruffle some feathers.

Survivor: China has about two more episodes to retain my attention before I delete the series recording from my DVR schedule.

September 19, 2007

Big Brother 8: The Finale

Well, I was wrong in my prediction that Daniele would win Big Brother 8. It pretty much came down to who played the game better, and I’ll have to begrudgingly agree that Dick did. He did what he had to do, when he had to do it to advance. Of course, that wouldn’t have been possible without the unwitting help of America via America’s Player Eric.

When the America’s Player twist was revealed the looks on the faces of the jury and Dick and Daniele were priceless. That twist, probably more so than the “former rival” twist, made the game more interesting to me this year than it has in years past.

I did watch the All Star version, but the year before I pretty much only watched the first few episodes. When Kaysar spouted off his ignorant views of the Iraq invasion, that pretty much turned me off that whole season. And when he got voted out of the All Star version, that pretty much kept me watching it.

So, Dick’s going to take a trip around the world. Wonder if he’s going to share any of the money (after Uncle Sam gets his half) with his daughter? Hopefully he’s learned the lesson that Richard Hatch didn’t seem to get and will pay the income tax on his winnings.

Survivor China’s up next on the reality front. I understand they’ve gone back to the basics and done away with Exile Island and will only have 16 to start with. Interestingly enough, I’m familiar with one of the contestants. That would be the professional poker player, Jean-Robert Bellande. I didn’t think much of his poker playing tactics when I saw him on TV, but those skills could come in handy on the show. I’d have to say he’s an early favorite to advance. Should be an interesting season.

September 17, 2007

Big Brother 8: The End

I watched the penultimate episode of Big Brother 8 last night. It’s funny: early on I was rooting for the Donatos, but then Dick started his stuff which totally turned me against them.

I guess I’m rooting for Daniele, but it’s hard not to hold some of Dick’s actions against her. She had every opportunity to denounce his actions, but pretty much chose not to. And the producers should have disqualified Dick anyway. Seems he’d set up a code with a family member so that when he won HOH and got the letter from home, the code would tell him who to trust. Maybe they’ll let him get away with it like they did Johnny Fairplay on Survivor getting his “news” about his grandma’s death. Hopefully they’ll close up that loophole by next season.

Speaking of actions to denounce, the producers weren’t too kind to Amber last night. It’s pretty cruel to set someone up by showing them talking about being a model and then to show her in a bikini. I mean, I know she’s in la la land, but that’s really uncalled for. Although they apparently did give her a break by not airing her anti-Jewish views on network TV. Would have been nice if they’d not aired Dicks anti-Christian views. It’s interesting that Amber’s anti-Jewish views made the news (or at least made some web sites), but Dick’s much worse anti-Christian ravings didn’t seem to get on anyones radar. At least Amber can maybe claim ignorance; not sure what Dick’s excuse could be.

I must say however that Amber and Jameka didn’t come over as being good Christians. It seems like they treated God as their personal wish-granter. Plus they both had potty mouths that should have disappeared when they became Christians. I do agree with Dick though that God has better things to do than help two people on a game show win the thing.

It should be interesting to see the looks on everyone’s faces when Eric is revealed as America’s Player. I think he was my favorite player, and I wish he hadn’t been constrained with playing “America’s game.” Oh well.

So, I’ll predict that Daniele will win, and Dick will obviously be second. From last night’s episode, you could tell that Dick was expecting to get more than the $50,000 that second place pays. I have no doubt that he’d split his money with Daniele if he won, but I don’t see that happening with her winning.

While it looks like their relationship is on the mend, I predict that the money will come between them and they’ll become estranged again. That’s sad.

September 14, 2007

Charity Fatigue

It’s getting about that time when employers waste their employees’ time by having some of them hit up their fellow employees for donations to this charity and that charity.

My employer has a big deal every fall where they anoint someone in each area to do this. They give you this pre-printed form with your personal info already on it (that info used to include your social security number) and, even if you don’t want to give anything, you still have to fill it out.

Then there are the countless “walks” and “food drives” and I don’t know what all.

It’s annoying at best and a waste of time. I’m looking at my health insurance costs going up (again) in January, and they want me to pledge a monthly amount to United Way? Forget it.

And then you’re kind of made to feel guilty because you haven’t been “charitable”. Give me a break.

I’ve finally gotten to where I tell them that I give to the charity of my choice, and what that charity is is none of their business. It irks me that countless man hours are spent collecting this money and pledges, when those same man hours could be used for normal business operations. I wonder if the productivity that would be gained by having those folks actually do their job instead of beg for money would help the company enough so that they didn’t have to raise my health insurance costs every year?

Look, if people want to give money to the United Way or whatever their employer is hitting them up for, then that’s their choice. If it makes them feel good, great. I’m not saying that people shouldn’t give to charity; they should. But on their own terms. You shouldn’t need a third or even fourth party collecting the money to hand out to the charity.

September 11, 2007

September 11

As everyone knows, today’s the anniversary of the terrorist attacks on the World Trade Center and the Pentagon.

Perhaps fittingly, I won’t be at work today; I’ll be helping our democratic process by working at my local precinct for the Nashville run-off election.

I’ll be a “machine operator”, which means that I take the application to vote, activate the voting machine, and instruct the voter on how to use it. Then I get out of their way.

I was supposed to work in the general election in early August, but that was the day we flew out of town to go west. The last election I worked (last November) was a busy one. It was the first election with the new machines, so no one was familiar with how they worked. To add to the confusion, there were about 13 or 14 screens that the voters had to go through in order to cast their ballot for all the races.

Even though our precinct had 6 or 7 machines, the wait time to vote was an average of 45 minutes. By law, anyone in line at the time the polls closed is still allowed to vote. So we didn’t finish voting until 8:00 pm or so. I think I finally got out of there around 9:45 pm, after having gotten there at 6:00 am. By the time I left, my voice was gone and I was wore out, since I didn’t have much of a chance to sit during the day.

Still, I’m looking forward to working the election again. And on this day, of all days, it’ll be more meaningful.

September 7, 2007

NASCAR: Cha-Cha-Changes

Quite a few major changes have been going on in NASCAR lately. Here’s my take on a few things:

  • Toyota’s first year in the Cup Series hasn’t been much to write home about. The teams they signed up weren’t very good with their prior manufacturers, so I’m not sure why anyone figured they’d do any good. But this week they announced that they’ve signed Joe Gibbs Racing to run the Toyota next year. Gibb’s seems to change manufactures every few years (if memory serves, he started out with Ford, then with to Pontiac, then to Chevy). This should give Toyota a good benchmark for how good their cars really are.
  • Little Earnhardt will be driving the number 25 next year. Teresa didn’t want to give up the 8, and Yates didn’t want to give up the 38. I wonder why they didn’t go to Team Red Bull and try to get the 83?
  • Another former F1 driver is looking to make the move to “real” racing. Jacques Villeneuve will be driving for Bill Davis Racing next year. I have to say that Juan Montoya is doing better than I expected, and that bodes will for Villeneuve. I guess it’s now official: you can pretty much write off the local stock car tracks as breeding grounds for new NASCAR Cup drivers. Teams seem to want to go with what to me seem illogical choices for drivers. I’d think the learning curve for a driver with several years of oval track stock car experience would be less than for a driver with several years of road course open wheel experience. But what do I know?
  • There’s an Edsel in NASCAR’s future. Edsel Ford II is set to become the newest director on the board of International Speedway Corp. I wonder if it’s wise that NASCAR’s sister corporation have a Vice President of one of the auto manufactures on its board?
  • ESPN’s coverage of the NASCAR Cup races this year has not been up to the standards they set when they were in it before. Jerry Punch is good, and Rusty Wallace is OK. But Andy Petree should go back to being a car owner; he was better at that than announcing. Please, please, please, someone go get Buddy Baker.
  • Speaking of ESPN, they really need to take a page out of Fox’s book when it comes to high definition. They’ve got so much wasted space in the crawl area at the top it’s ridiculous. The crawl should go all the way across the top, not stop about a third of the way from the left side. Plus it’d be nice if they brought back the old scoring pylon that showed the top 10 or 15. They could put that on the left side of the HD screen and not really take up any more screen real estate.

NASCAR returns to Saturday night racing again this weekend with the Cup race at Richmond. It’s on ABC, so it should be interesting to see what the ratings are. TV ratings for races have declined over the years after the “Earnhardt death bump” had inflated them to higher than normal ratings. NASCAR was smart to take advantage of that from a financial standpoint, but I think the racing coverage has suffered as a result of the TV deal. That combined with just the excruciatingly boring racing has caused a drop off in folks watching. Not sure if I’ll be among those watching this weekend. I usually don’t remember Saturday night races are going on until it’s too late. Wonder how many other folks have that problem?