Are people really that fucking darn stupid?

Okay, people are sheep, the bible tells us that. Even if you aren’t into the whole religion thing, just look at the way that we all flocked to buy the latest Harry Potter book. Yes, we are all into following trends, usually without actually taking the time to think about it: Would the latest Harry Potter book have failed to exist if you weren’t there to buy it at midnight on the day it was released? Did you then go home and read the whole book before morning? -mind you that if you did you have a completely different sort of disorder which is equally as bad.- I’m just saying people are sheep; once the herd is pointed in a particular direction, they go that way regardless of obstruction (remember the ‘tickle me Elmo’ doll?).

That was a really horrible parallel to use for the point I am going to try to make, but it was the first thing that came to mind. I am just saying that people follow. Would we have millions of people driving ugly, dangerous, gas-guzzling SUV’s were it not for the for the pack mentality?

The tangent that I am going to spin off on today is in regards to car commercials. Not the insane, often impossible, images that you see on the television, but the ads (promotions) themselves. The new best offer of all time is employee pricing. I have been thinking about this for a couple of months, while listening to the advertising, knowing that it is complete bullshit, but, it keeps going and going. Now every dealership is offering the “employee pricing” to anyone that walks onto the lot.

I have never been in the auto business so all I have to offer is common sense, but sense of any sort is more logical than the latest dealer fad(fraud).

The fad several years ago was to offer you 5,000 dollars for any trade, which seems like a good deal, what they didn’t tell you was that the offer was only on cars that the dealer designated. You ended up paying far more than the MSRP on any other car, even after they took the 5,000 dollars off for your trade in. Good deal? No. Good marketing? Well, it worked. Should it be legal to market so falsely? I don’t think so, yet, they were able to get away with it by marketing a car at one price, then follow that statement with the phrase “exclusive of that offer”.

The current fad/fraud in the auto business is the ’employee pricing’. It started off with Chevy (I think, at least that was the first ad that I heard it on) and it has snowballed since then. Major props to Isuzu, who is still making fun of the employee pricing. Everyone else in the auto business is trying to offer the same ’employee pricing’ deal to every mark on the lot. And people are still falling for it.

I don’t know how much simpler it could be to know that this is outright fraud; look at the MSRP (Manufacturer’s Suggested Retail Price) to the layman, of the auto that you see advertised on the television, go to the dealership to see the same vehicle, then notice how the MSRP seemed to go up by several thousand dollars while you were on your way. I guess the seatbelts must cost a lot of money? No fear though, they can get the auto down to only slightly higher than the MSRP once you have your ’employee discount’. Wow, pay more than normal now that I am an employee? I am on it! Wouldn’t common sense tell you that employees would pay the same, or possibly less, than the general public?

That must be a really humorous exchange down at the GM factory:

GM Exec: “You’re late.”

Employee: “My bicycle had a flat tire.”

GM EXEC: “You’re in luck, you can use our Employee Pricing to buy a new car.”

Employee: “But, I can’t afford to buy a new car.”

GM EXEC: “You should have thought about that before you slept in.”

Employee: “I have a wife and children.”

GM EXEC: “Don’t worry, they will get employee pricing too.”

Employee: “My children are too young to work, and my wife has to watch them during the day.”

GM EXEC: “Why not buy her a car? She could run errands while watching the children.”

Employee: “I can’t afford a car on the wages you pay me! You want more than 10,000 American dollars for a new car, you pay me 1.5 American dollars per day!”

GM EXEC: “I understand your position…You don’t want to spread the good name of the General Motors Company to others”.

Employee: “Kill me, just kill me now. Perhaps my wife and son could then live off of my death benefits.”

GM EXEC: “Sorry, you do not work within the contiguous 48 states, no benefits for you!”

Employee: “will you go ahead and kill me anyway… My son is starving, my wife is pregnant, if I come home without a paycheck I would be better off dead.”

GM EXEC: “You’ve forced my hand, I will offer you employee pricing on your next GM automobile purchase.”

Employee: “You don’t pay me enough to buy an automobile! My son has died of malnutrition, my wife had a miscarriage and died. Thank you, Sir, for destroying my life!”

GM EXEC: “I see that you are upset…”

Employee: (whips out a gun) “Taste hot lead, asshole! Employee pricing my ass! Die you son of a bitch, die!”

GM EXEC’S Supervisor: “I wonder where that assault rifle came from… Calling number 3482, I need a new ambassador…..”

Bush’s master plan

Is it wrong to enjoy the fake news about Bush’s agenda more than the real news? Maybe. I will say that the fake news is far more realistic. Take this weeks top story from The Onion.

Bush Vows To Eliminate U.S. Dependence On Oil By 4920

Well at least there is a definite time frame there, something you would be hard pressed to get the Bush administration to assign to any of their current plans. Hell if the United States was led by Bush, or someone with similar goals, that might be far too optimistic of a goal. There would likely be more money going into deep space exploration to search for other planets with fossil fuels (which through some loophole would become the property of Bush’s successors) than to trying to harness all of the limitless sources of power that we already have, Solar and Hydrogen power for example.

The Onion frequently hits pretty close to home with its stories. This one is a bit too outrageous to fit into that context, but it is only barely satire. Bush is at the helm of the country, steering it with the confidence of a great and knowledgeable leader. Unfortunately he doesn’t seem to realize that he is not a great and knowledgeable leader, and those around him only add to his confidence. My only hope is that his eight years of rule will not have soured the entire world to the U.S., and that, with more responsible leadership, the next generation of Americans will have a country to be loyal to, not a crater left by the simultaneous nuclear (nukular) bombings aimed here by every other country on earth. One can always hope.

There was one quote in that fake news article that made me write this post, one which I think is more truth than fiction;

The proclamation comes on the heels of Bush’s plans to pay off the national debt by the early 6300s, and win the war on terror by 7450.

Perhaps a bit too optimistic, considering the current administration, but certainly an achievable goal!

Harry Potter and the Half Blood Prince

I am absolutely incapable of doing an objective review of anything. It is with that spirit that I will now delve into the many mysteries of the HBP. There will be spoilers galore so please don’t read on if you have yet to read the book.

The book seems to have left the entire world with two burning questions, the first being is Dumbledore really dead, the second concerns Snape’s true intentions. I am really up in the air about both.

Rowling has certainly made the books more complex as the series has evolved, but I find it hard to believe that she has added so much complexity to the characters and plot since the first book. While it is true that being wealthy enough to do nothing but work on the novels for the last few years should have given her enough free time to come up with elaborate plots, she hasn’t really done that. The characters have remained pretty static the entire series with only Harry himself appearing to grow in any noticeable way. The only other character growth seems to be in height, as Hermione is still a little bookworm, Ron is still an awkward pansy, Draco is still just an evil little pain in the ass, Ginny, while now having enough charm (read breasts) to attract the boys is still in every way just Ron’s little sister. I suppose Snape could be an exception, but his motives have been in doubt since the first book, he has not changed one bit, though the situations he is placed in may have.

I will address the Dumbledore issue first. The book leaves the possibility that he is still alive pretty wide open. Even before he is killed he is having a conversation with Draco in which he states “Voldemort can not kill you if you are already dead”, or something quite similar. This leaves the possibility that Dumbledore has the ability to fake death an open ended one. Is it possible that Dumbledore knew that he was going to be facing Draco atop that tower and hoped that Draco would not have the nerve to kill him? This would have forced Snape to complete the job as part of his unbreakable vow. But in an earlier book it was explained that the unforgivable spells could only be successful if the one who cast it had enough hatred and desire in them to actually kill. Perhaps Snape didn’t have that desire within him since he is really on Dumbledore’s side, so the spell appears to work yet it is all a clever ruse to keep Draco from performing the act with actual intent? Draco, however much an asshole he is, has still not actually killed anyone and if there is anything that Dumbledore has ever been guilty of it is believing in the good nature of the worst people (Snape for example).

Isn’t it an extremely odd coincidence that Dumbledore decides to take Harry to the cave at the precise time that the Death Eaters are going to come flooding into the castle? Did he just discover the Horcrux at exactly that moment in time? Even if he did what would be the importance of having Harry take his invisibility cloak? He takes it off nearly the second they leave Hogwarts, but he is instructed to put it on before returning, why? Was Dumbledore trying to make doubly sure that his death was witnessed by someone that everyone had to believe (what with no one believing Harry the entire last book even though he was telling the complete truth)?

Dumbledore seemed to know exactly how to get to the the Horcrux that they were looking for. Beyond that he knew that he needed blood to open the door, he knew where to find the chain for the boat, and he attempted to stick his hand into the murky green water without a thought. He then decided that his best option was to drink the strange liquid, knowing nothing about it, but told Harry to force feed him all of the liquid. It seems Dumbledore might now a tad more about that cave than he is letting on. Near the end of the book, when the locket appears next to Dumbledore’s body, the note is signed by R.A.B.. So someone had been to the cave before and taken the initial Horcrux, but Dumbledore said that it would take two people to do it. I am guessing that it was Regulus Black that left the note, but who was his partner, possibly Dumbledore? That would have given him all the necessary information on how to get there and retrieve the locket. But why retrieve the locket if Dumbledore knew it was a fake? To get the note which had been left behind all those years ago, in the hopes that Harry would be able to figure out who R.A.B. was.

The book also leaves open the possibility that, since the Horcrux had already been removed, whoever took it could have replaced the liquid in the bowl with any potion of their choosing. Not to mention that if it really was Regulus Black and Dumbledore that were there to take it in the first place, and Black drank the potion, but died a few days later, it could be that Black is not dead at all, but that he too was able to use the effects of the potion to appear so dead as the wizarding community simply forgot about him (that theory really doesn’t hold any water though, as Kreacher would have had to be loyal to Regulus if he were still alive, yet he was forced to be loyal to Harry). At any rate, Dumbledore could have been in that cave previously, broken all the enchantments and set up some of his own. Dumbledore mentioned that he burnt his hand in search of one of the Horcrux items, perhaps it was this one and it really didn’t require any help to obtain, but the potion he left in its place must be administered, since you won’t drink it of your own free will after the first couple of cups. Then again Dumbledore may have been acting as he seemed to lose so much of his physical capacity, perhaps he thought that Harry would not believe him dead unless Harry saw his slow decay before being finished off by an inferior wizard.

I am not making predictions here, I am just saying that it is plausible that Dumbledore is still alive.

Snape is a completely different issue.

Who is Snape loyal to? Which side is he playing? No one will know until Rowling releases the next book of course, but I have my suspicions. Snape is far too evil to be evil. Wouldn’t make for much of a septology if he was simply evil for the sake of being evil. Harry obviously hates Snape and that hate is clouding Harry’s mind. Dumbledore has said, again and again, that he trusts Snape implicitly. Maybe Snape really is on the wrong side but I doubt that. Snape has had many opportunities to betray the order and hasn’t really acted on any of them. Sure he is harsh on Harry, even knocked him down a couple of times while Harry was in pursuit, but I don’t see him as being the villain that Harry thinks he is.

While Harry is pursuing Snape on the grounds of Hogwarts, well when he catches up to him really, Snape does not allow Harry to actually cast an unforgivable spell. Snape actually says “No unforgivable spells for you, Potter.”, or something very similar. Is Snape trying to protect himself? It seems unlikely given the fact that Harry can’t seem to cast a stone in the water at his feet, let alone a decent spell. Why does Snape then go on to tell Harry that he needs to be better at Legilimency and non verbal spell casting? Perhaps Snape knows that without Dumbledore in the public eye (apparently dead) he, Snape, will not see Harry again until the very conclusion of the conflict. Snape just wants Harry to know what he needs to work on.

Being realistic, Harry is a loser. He has never done a damn thing other than survive an attack that his mother seemed to take the major force of. He has never succeeded without the help of several friends. His sudden potion mastery came from Snape himself, who likely knew that there were attempts being made on Dumbledore and made sure that Harry got the potions book with the helpful hints. All Harry can do is use his invisibility cloak (doesn’t it seem odd that he is the only one in the entire wizarding world that has one of those?) and get caught doing it a good half of the time. He is the chosen one why? Oh yeah. Some witch with thick glasses foretold it, though she wasn’t able to foretell being thrown out of a room seconds before it happened, she was able to foretell the fate of all wizardkind many, many years in advance. I’m thinking that Trewlany and Dumbledore may just have picked the wrong kid: A three year old with a crayon would be a more formidable opponent.

If Harry Potter, the most inept wizard since Rincewind, is actually the ‘Chosen One’ then it is a pretty dark day in the wizarding community. If I were the wizarding gods (if they have them, of course) I would have chosen someone more like Hermione Granger. At least Hermione can perform the simplest of spells, even some of the more advanced ones. Harry, on the other hand, was able to call a Patronus at the age of 13, yet somehow completely forgot how by the age of 16. Harry doesn’t even know how to repair his own bloody nose. How sad is that? If Harry actually defeats Voldemort in the final book it is gonna take a lot of doing, considering the fact that he seems to know about five spells, only one of which is used for offense, none of which have the ability to kill. Unless the grand finale involves Harry standing around singing old Beatles songs, since, All You Need is Love. As luck would have it, that is all that Harry has. No skill, no ability, but he can love…Where was that three year old with a crayon at again?

A ring is forever

In a previous entry I mentioned that the diamond on my wife’s wedding (engagement really) ring was lost. The loss has turned out to be a good thing though.

Now for a bit of the back-story about the ring in question.

I am a cheap bastard through and through. I get annoyed when there are lights left on in rooms that aren’t occupied, even knowing that it only costs a couple of cents a day to power a light bulb. I wear a pair of shoes long after my feet begin to stick out the torn seams since they still protect the bottoms of my feet, that is the point of shoes, right? As long as my underwear have a waistband they are still in the rotation, regardless of the number of holes in them. My wife has been trying to help me to change some of the cheap bastard in me, as far as clothes are concerned, and I suppose I do look more presentable when not one (visible) article of clothing has a hole in it. I am still a cheap bastard though.

When I went to find an engagement ring the first thing I did was to throw the two months salary rhetoric right out the window. Not that I don’t love my wife, more that I don’t see how having a huge rock means that you somehow love her more, in fact it seems to work inversely; the women with the huge diamonds generally have the most adulterous husbands. I was looking for ring set (you know, the engagement ring and wedding band fit together) that was simply very pretty. When I found the one that I bought for her I paid far less than I had expected, but the center stone was quite small, I only found out how small after she lost it when my Mother-in-law said that it was only 1/10th of a karat (which was not what it was advertised as, but judging by the price I paid, and the fact that the Mother-in-law has been in the jewelry business, I must assume that to be true).

When I initially bought the ring I wanted to be able to pay cash for it, my intention was to upgrade the diamond somewhere around our 5th anniversary. I wasn’t sure how big of a diamond I would be looking for at that point, but definitely bigger and more sparkly, as the little sliver on what I bought her could barely catch enough light to reflect anything. I have heard people argue that the meaning is lost once you alter the ring, but I simply have to think back to an axe (of all things) that my dad had to disprove that notion.

An axe is a very simple tool, well it used to be. A wooden handle with a metal blade. Yet men take their tools seriously, well they used to, some still do. Tools would pass from generation to generation of men much the way that precious china does among women. I guess all men are cheap bastards at heart though, as the tool never moves to the next generation the same as it was in the last. Take the axe in question for instance. It was allegedly my Great Grandfather’s axe. The one he used every day to chop firewood. Through even twenty years of use the axe must have had the handle broken and replaced several times. The blade must have been dulled and re-sharpened to the point that it had to be replaced at least once, yet the tool, which likely had no part of the original was still considered the same tool. Considered so some sixty years later! I suppose that it is possible that my Grandfather touched the same handle as my Great Grandfather, possibly even used the same blade, but at some point Great Grandpa died and Grandpa had to repair the axe himself, slowly making a newer axe that had never been touched by his father, but it was still his father’s. Sentiment is a powerful thing.

But back to the ring. The loss of the stone prompted my wife to try to find some replacement estimates, which seem astronomical since some were damn near half of what I paid for the whole thing in the first place. Thankfully, my Mother-in-law stepped in to say that she still had the ring from her broken marriage with my wife’s father, and that she could have it for free (which translates to owing a lot of favors but no cash). The diamond on this ring was 1/4th of a karat and a different cut, but it was still far less expensive, while much larger, than the original stone. That stone was added to my wife’s ring. The ring looks absolutely gorgeous with the new stone. Many kudos to the Mother-in-law.

My plans to enhance the ring are still not gone though. I may put it off for additional years now that it looks so perfect, but I do have a goal. Among the rhetoric in the diamond commercials it sometimes mentions that less than 10% of women will ever own a diamond of 1 karat or larger size. My wife deserves to be in that less than 10% bracket since she has been 100% perfect to me since the day we met.

At the risk of sounding campy, if love could pay for the diamond, my wife’s would be this one. If love is never recognized as currency, however, I may have to set my sights a bit lower.

Using your body in odd ways hurts

No, not like that you sick freak. I just had one leg suspended by a ceiling fan while the other was attached to the far leg of the bed. It was all going well until someone turned on the damn ceiling fan. Ouchers… I only wish I was so flexible.

The action in question is much more mundane; I was trimming the limbs from a tree. That doesn’t sound like something that would lead to discomfort, but it sure did. The tree is pretty tall, probably about 18 feet at its highest point, but I was trying to trim away the smaller branches that were growing down instead of up. Since the tree had portions of nearly every limb touching the ground this took quite some time. About thirty minutes into it I had all of the small, off-shoot limbs taken care of, which simply left a huge tree with large branches still touching the ground. Bring on the pain.

I was equipped with both a hand saw and a pair of lopping shears. While the saw was easier, the lopping shears were faster by far. Of course they aren’t really designed to be lopping dozens upon dozens of 1.5″-2.5″ thick limbs that happen to be above your head, did I let that stop me? Hell no!

Imagine, if you will, trying to do a standard Butterfly press (I apologize for the lack of linkage, thing is I was not able to find an example of someone actually doing the press ((in image form anyway)), all that I was able to find were images of the butterfly stroke ((in swimming)) and pressed butterflies ((in some pseudo art type thing)), I was able to find a machine that allowed you to do the butterfly press for weight training purposes but that would hardly help to illustrate my point), you know, with your arms out to your sides and bent to square at the elbow, the weights are set up so that they are moved by the pads on your forearms. When you bring your arms together (looking like you are praying basically) it burns in your Pectoral muscles. Now imagine a similar action, but above your head. Arms outstretched moving towards the center, but above your head. The Pectoral’s sure aren’t helping there.

I would like to get into a long-winded rave about how this exercise has helped me in some way, but the fact is that all it has done has made it so that my shoulder hurts so bad that I can hardly move it. If you want to hold a sword above your head and scream “I have the power” then, by all means, do it. Don’t try to actually chop shit up while you are doing it though, it will hurt the next day…Mostly in the shoulders.