Gray Flannel Dwarf


Blue media outlets need to clean up their advertising.

Sometimes I wish it was as easy as… well, Pie.

Listening to Air America online this weekend, I noticed two irksome things. The first one is the fact that listening to the radio stream while advertisements are played opens browser pop-ups referring to the ad in question. That this happens over and over again — and thus, if you leave your computer for a while, there are twenty new pop-ups for the same thing across your computer monitor — is something of an annoyance. This said, however, it’s a revenue stream that Air America needs, and seeing as it was for a reasonably useful product (internet-based teleconferencing for business), I don’t have such a huge problem with it.
The other ad I heard a lot is problematic to me, and Air America isn’t the only one that seems to be ensnared. Read on…

The other ad I heard a lot on Air America was for the questionable See Clearly Method. One doesn’t have to be an optometrist to know that it’s more than “weak eye muscles” that cause bad vision, and nevermind that the concept is based on a readily debunked 1920s theory, See Clearly operates under the premise that people can miraculously improve their vision… all while having a disclaimer with holes large enough to drive a car through. Another article published by Columbia university takes a more open-mind at the approach, but even one of the most pragmatic doctors interviewed stated:
(All emphasis in the following quotes is mine)

“It’s not just can we peel back your power,” said Press. “It’s for someone who is -1 or -2 and who asks ‘Can I do away with my glasses?’”

…and any such claim is certainly muted by the advertisers of See Clearly.
So why is Air America taking advertising dollars from questionable businesses… and thrusting these ads upon its listening audience?
So, okay. Maybe there are some See Clearly believers out there. Maybe there is a grain of truth and/or hope in their claims. Thus, I guess I could’ve even let this one issue go, however… if I hadn’t read Raw Story today and seen an advertisement about “Americans getting free weekly checks from the Canadian Government!” that went to this dubious webpage. (I removed the referral credits in the URL)
Now of course, the old adage probably holds true… “if something seems too good to be true, it probably is.” However, I did some research on these claims. Sure enough, it didn’t take long to find some more realistic information…

I suppose what I truly dislike about these programs is that they were tax structures, and those inevitably turn out to be disastrous.
Then, speaking as a proud Canadian who thinks we overall have a superlative capital market, I just cringe when I see U.S.-based Internet marketing of these so-called Trust Programs.
Let me say that, with respect to the latter, I believe there is a direct correlation between the frequency of stock promotion by unlicensed promoters and the probability of fraud.
Many of these securities are businesses that will fail (or materially disappoint) as soon as interest rates in Canada move a level or two higher, or commodity prices fall a level or two lower, or the fast-paced Canadian economy starts to slow.
In other words, there is a level of risk here that traders are failing to recognize.
I think the authorities in the United States would do the world a favor if they were to clamp down on so-called investment newsletters that are stock touts for these “Canadian Royalty Trusts”.
Every cycle is the same at the top. Usually it’s the Canadian penny mining stocks. At the top they have moved from 25 cents a share to $2.50, or maybe $7.50 or $17.50, and then after the broad market bear sets in they fall quickly to less than 25 cents.
What bothers me is that it is not part of the Canadian culture that creates these financial disasters; it is typically (and I mean no disrespect to the country) American stock promoters who are working out of places like Orlando FL and Phoenix AZ and Las Vegas NV, but mostly via shell companies incorporated in places like Antigua, Bahamas, Belize, Cayman Islands, Costa Rica, and Panama (– Note the list is alphabetical). I speak from years of experience with these people.

Or this posting…

Be that as it may, the income Royalty Trusts have NOTHING to do with Canada’s social programs and are NOT (I repeat) NOT guaranteed by the Canadian Government.

…which reproduces a quite pertinent Globe and Mail article on the topic…

What’s laughable is how the 12% Letter offers up yet another example of the cockeyed view Americans have of this country. But there’s a serious side to all of this, too. With its idealized picture of income trusts as a government-authorized investing bonanza, the newsletter highlights the way in which some investors in Canada misunderstand trusts. It also plays into some of the criticisms that the anti-trust crowd have raised.
According to the 12% Letter, income trusts are being referred to by some financial types south of the border as the “Canadian royalty checks program.” Readers of the newsletter are advised to think of trusts as an example of the great social benefits of being a Canadian.
“You probably already know that Canada is famous for its huge social programs — like free health care, the Guaranteed Income Allowance (otherwise known as ‘The Allowance’) and federal training and employment programs,” the promo for the 12% Letter says. “What you may not know is that there’s a unique situation right now in Canada that is allowing Americans to fund part or nearly all their retirement.”
The 12% Letter is written by Craig Walters, a former equity analyst and currently the managing editor of Stansberry & Associates Investment Research, which is based in Baltimore. Those of you who are familiar with the wacky and wild world of investment newsletters will have an idea of what we’re dealing with here. There are headlines about investments offering the moon and stars (43-per-cent bonds, for example) and breathless prose about opportunities.
The information about trusts — sorry, the “royalty checks” program — is a bit, um, garbled. But it does capture the gold-rush mentality that took hold of the trust market just before Finance Minister Ralph Goodale made it clear the government was taking a hard look at the trust sector.

So okay. There are scams everywhere, I know, a sucker is born every minute, etc. However in this instance, in a timeframe of less than twenty-four hours, I’ve seen two questionable business claims that are barely a step up from snake oil salesmen, and both have been seen on left-leaning media outlets.
While there is the question as to what degree of control Raw Story had over these ads — their third party ad agency might not have the scruples to leave such scams out of their rotation — the larger question still remains unanswered: Why are we seeing questionable ads which employ dubious practices appearing on the media outlets that we all read? Sure, “buyer beware”… but isn’t the left supposed to be mindful and protective of the masses, not a predator thereof. Likewise, shouldn’t such a courtesy be extended by the media outlets which promote left-leaning viewpoints?


Talkin’ David versus Goliath Bike Ridin’ Blues

Did a bit of biking today. I have really been enjoying my bike outings lately. I have been riding the Wake County portion of the American Tobacco Trail as of late, but since Chatham County is being lazy in getting their section complete… (in)convenienthly smack in the middle between Wake and Durham counties, it is getting boring riding the same stretch over and over again.

Thus, today, I got on the road, went about 2 miles down to the Log Pond portion of the Carolina Connection trail, which is also encompassed by US Bike Route 1. Rode that for a while and then looped back onto the ATT and rode home from there… probably did between 15 and 20 miles today, so I’m pretty pleased.

It’s always the first 2 miles or so of hills that get me, then I am fine. I would like to eventually be able to bike the Cape Fear Run, which heads into Wilmington. 140 miles or so… I’ll get there eventually.

Anyway, a large portion of my trip encompassed pieces of New Hill, NC, which is currently embroiled in a battle with schoolyard bully Cary, over the latter’s desires to build a waste treatment plant within the town limits. I lost count of how many Stop Cary signs I saw, and saw many other more amusing ones. Two notables:

  • A toilet sitting out near the road with a stuffed bulldog on top of it, accompanying a sign which read something to the effect of, “If you won’t take ours, we won’t take yours”
  • A sign sitting outside an old, vacant gas station (when was the last time you saw gas for $1.37/1.47?) that read, “Save New Hill, don’t “Waste” It!”

In any case, it was a good ride, and even kind of thought provoking. Next time I may try riding down the ATT, connect onto Log Pond and ride into Moncure, NC. I am sure there will be some interesting stories to learn there, too.



Gary nails it about perfectly, in my opinion, regarding this new weblog publicity service, BlogExplosion. The modern Internet has never been one of maturity, and as per usual, BlogExplosion looks to be the same puerile antics.

If I were in the same situation as Gary mentioned, would I get “mad” if someone rated me a one? No, and I certainly wouldn’t, in some weird revenge-laden moment, return the “favour” out of reciprocal spite, but at the same time, it’s still nothing I even need to get myself involved with, in the first place.

I’m a little smarter about these things now. It’s kinda along the same lines as what I said before about Friendster — I just don’t see the need to add more things to my agenda that can have the tendency to contribute to stress and animosity. I do find myself migrating, by choice, back to the outer edge these days, that’s for sure — even in times where I’m closer to the inner circle.

I’m sure there’s a little lesson of Dao in there somewhere, but I am not going to search for it.

It will be interesting to see just how much BlogExplosion takes off, or if it collapses under its own weight. The whole weblogging thing, to me, has seemed kind of “organic”, very much meme-based, where loose meshes of content are created by discovery. I don’t really mind ping services. and even things like Daypop kind of collects URLs and does a bit of statistical analysis, but still leaves it up to the reader to explore. BlogExplosion, however, does the discovery — if you can even call it that — for you. It’s like a 24-7 pizza buffet or something. It’s like people-watching at Wal-Mart — or perhaps more like dropping the same Wal-Mart down, smack in the middle of the Redwood Forest.

It is far too early to say whether BlogExplosion will have a big change on the weblog world, and admittedly, if it doesn’t, something else like it will, in all eventuality, succeed. It does signify a big change in how weblogs are accessed, however — though this sort of thing has, arguably, been evolving for a while now — and whether I necessarily like it or not, it’s going to happen.

In any case, when I first started weblogging in 2000, I said I was writing for me, and although it is fun, simply for the statistical side of things, to see how people encounter this weblog, I guess I don’t actively seek out a smorgasbord of readers, either.

Tags: , , — cswiii @ 8:46 am


Returned from Toronto

Had a good ole time up in Toronto over the holiday weekend… as if I ever have a bad time up there.
Arrived in Toronto. Didn’t do much that night, except relax.

Went to the CNE roaming up, down and around the venue.
Apparently we went one day before all the excitement, however — although I do remember standing right next to that ride. It wasn’t bad, but it seemed pricy, considering we had to pay $10 CDN to get in, and then were nickeled and dimed everywhere we went. Did get to introduce her parents to the wonders of international foods — Indian, Greek, Jamaican amongst them — albeit they were your typical, dubious fairground versions.

From a distance away, we could see the more interesting bits of the air show, and I saw the various fighter jet units all over the sky during the entire weekend, regardless of where I stayed.

I tried my hand at a few of the skill games, most notably of which was the one where you try to throw a baseball and bust a plate. Two throws for five bucks; two shattered plates equalled a big prize. My first pitch was a dead ringer, shattered the plate fantastically. My second pitch — well, I can’t believe it. I have little accuracy when it comes to throwing, but unbelieveably, I hit the exact same spot where the previously shattered plate was — so no prize for me.

Finally, we went to one of the few free events, to see the RCMP Musical Ride. It was fairly interesting, although it seemed a bit hokey — but I can’t be so culturally ignorant as to bust on it. The RCMP are an indispensable bit of Canadian culture. I guess it was just the music that bugged me. Other than that, the precision involved w/ the horse processions reminded me at least somewhat of the US Army Drill Team.

I got to grill for about 20 or so family members, which was, to date, my most intense venture yet at grilling. Grilled three pork loins in a BBQ sauce; it was mostly the same sauce I used in the past, but wasn’t quite as good this time around. I also grilled six chicken breasts in a simple marinade that was mostly cheap red wine and soy sauce. On top of that, I grilled three top roasts and attempted to do them in something of a Jamaican style, but they turned out a bit bland… mostly though, in my mind anyway, because one of the younger faces in the crowd would’ve refused to eat anything w/ the slightest bit of heat to it.

Finally, I grilled some stuffed tomatoes (put the guts in a bowl; add various italian seasonings, breadcrumbs, and parmesean or asiago or romano; drop a chunk of mozarella in to the tomato and re-fill them; sprinkle the top w/ more asiago) and some garlic (chop off the top; drizzle with olive oil and add basil, oregano and a bit of salt). In all, the meal was pretty good, along with what everyone else brought… although I am still disappointed in the beef.

Monday was a bit of downtime. We went to go see Vanity Fair which I really can’t say impressed me too much, although to be… uh, fair, I was kind of drowsy about 1/3 of the way through it (probably due to the several glasses of caribou — no, not the meat, but rather some strong, Quebecois port wine and alcohol concoction — that I had w/ her dad at lunch). A lot of the guys looked a lot alike, and I just generally had a hard time following it, although the story, in my mind, wasn’t too interesting… it just wasn’t my cuppa.

Afterwards, we went to the always tasty Margarita’s for dinner to introduce her parents to yet more foods — this time it was chorizo chimichanga, steak tacos and chicken fajitas. The fried ice cream left something to be desired, however — it seemed a bit… stale? Dunno, but the outside was kinda chewy, not even reasonably crispy as I’d expected.

Departed Toronto. Taxi was running late to the airport, the line at the United desk was unbearable, and the US Customs and Immigration lines were terrible, although they let me cut ahead since I had a 10:20 AM flight.

That is, my flight was supposed to be at 10:20.

I huff it and puff it down to the gate w/ about thirty minutes to spare, knowing that they normally start to board flights 20-30 minutes beforehand. I get down there to Gate T, however.. and there is no status on the screen and no one at the desk. 10:00 rolls around, 10:10… no one. Finally, I query someone doing security and they told me they just found out that the flight was delayed. Mechanical problems in the flight departing from Dulles or something.

As it turned out — or what they told us — someone had mistakenly turned on the heat, rather than the AC in the cabin, and they had to de-board and let the cabin cool on its own accord. However, that may or may not explain what they told us, upon boarding, that the auxiliary engine was not working, and therefore we would not have AC before takeoff or after landing.

In any case, our flight was supposed to depart at around 12:45, and I guess we boarded around that point, but I dozed off shortly thereafter, but I’m guessing — and United’s website seemed to confirm this — that we didn’t leave until after 1:30, because I didn’t arrive at IAD until nearly 3:00.

Interesting observations on my way back.
* Guy sitting in the lobby whose otherwise short hair had a long strand a la one of Lucas’ jedi knights. My first judgement was to assume he was some sort of sci-fi geek, but I decided I’d better not be so rash as to assume this; perhaps there was some actual religious or cultural meaning to it, and that it just resembled the jedi hairpiece…. and then I saw his book. He was reading Stephenson’s Cryptonomicon.

Yep, sci-fi geek.

* As we approached landing, I was looking down at the busy suburban streets. As we passed over an intersection, I noticed that there were about four or five vehicles all lining up at a light — and all the cars were red.

* On the shuttle back to the main terminal, I saw some sort of letter callsign/identification/something on the side of a larger jet… I think it was Air Lingus. Anyway, the callsign was almost very close to dubious: “I-DEID”

In any event, it was a busy day… but a shutout in kickball was a good capstone, busted-up legs notwithstanding.

Tags: , , , — cswiii @ 12:16 am


Some Toronto thoughts.

I may add to these as I remember them.

* Mamma Mia! is a really, really fun musical. You should go see it if you get the chance. I don’t particularly like much disco, but the way this was done was both unique and great.

* Dining at the CN Tower is okay; The food is decent, but not worth the price — good thing the seats came as part of a tourism package.

* The Queens Quay Il Fornello makes pretty good stone-oven pizzas, but their service leaves a fair bit to be desired.

* The new Korean bbq buffet place near Queen and University (or McCaul?) is fantastic.

* And finally… seeing a Chinese restaurant with a funny name (“HO KING“), made me giggle a bit. Seeing a quite (obviously) manly transvestite in a sorta slutty get-up, with hot pants and ‘revealing’ tank top made me chortle a bit. But seeing said transvestite leaving said Chinese restaurant was tremendously amusing.

Tags: , , — cswiii @ 12:48 pm


I’m back….

I didn’t post it here because I was too lazy to make special “friends” groups, and thus couldn’t post it in any way shape or form, without giving away the secret…

Friday morning, I left from Reagan National Airport to Toronto. Why’d I head up there? Because it was chinchin‘s birthday today (Sunday), and I wanted to give her the best birthday gift and weekend ever.

In any case, I arrived in Toronto pretty darn early — I got to the airport very much ahead of schedule, and thus got to leave two flights early. Arrived, navigated my way west-to-east across the city on an amalgam of transportation modes: bus, train, foot, to my hotel room.

From there, I got my stuff ready — but here it was, around 1.30, and she wouldn’t be off work till much later! So I hoofed it around the city… it’s amazing how clear all the sites were in my memory, and how easy it was to find my way from my hotel on Ryerson and Queen, to the intersection of College and Yonge, based solely on visual cues that correlated with mental notes.

Roamed around. Stopped into a cigar shop, a few drug stores, and into a Pizza Pizza and had… a stuffed burger (ha ha, fooled you!).

Had a few coffees throughout the day, each time correlating with different Second Cup stops, and each involving a phone call with her, taling about the boring “meetings” etc., which were my excuse as to why I wasn’t online on a work day ;).

Rain poured down Friday afternoon, so I dodged heavy pockets of rain, using carefully timed hops across the streets when traffic lights permitted. Made it to her apt., the same apt. where her cousin lives. The same apt. where they were going to get together for a “girls’ night out”. However, she was the only one in the family that didn’t know I was arriving.

Needless to say, the rest of the weekend was fun. Saturday involved a trip with the family out to a sichuan hot pot restaurant, which, after the beijing trip, is by far one of my favourite Chinese dishes these days. Headed back to DC today, after dealing with some intense security checkpoints in Toronto.

It was such a good time, so much fun, and so good to see her so happy.

And I’m happy too :)

Tags: , , — cswiii @ 10:45 pm


June 04 Reflections.

Today is the thirteenth anniversary of the Tian An Men Square massacre. Should you not be familiar with this event, The China Reader has quality articles and excerpts that show great contrast between what outside observers and Chinese nationals saw, and what was published by the State. Particularly interesting was Chen Xitong’s “editorial”. If I can find a piece of this propaganda online, I’ll do so, but until then, you’ll have to get the book to read it.

I had a great time in Beijing when I was there, and recommend the trip to anyone interested in seeing a whole new world. Any visitor to China will tell you it’s certainly not “communist” in any economic sense of the word. Yet, while China can hardly be called “socialist” anymore, it’s certainly still a totalitarian regime. There is progress, but sometimes it just seems painfully slow. The massacre at Tian An Men, though, is key in that the force used in quelling this protest has sadly discouraged a lot of dissent since.

I’ve been doing some gardening this spring. My balcony is covered in all sort of herbs, peppers and other vegetables. Some of these were destroyed in a recent storm. Some, while heavily damaged, have come back strong. Some weren’t affected.

It occurred to me soon thereafter, and in the light of things, people, and places I’ve recently experienced, that nations and opinions are like plants and wind. If the wind is too strong and the plant is too young, the plant can be dealt a devistating blow, there’s always a chance of that. Sometimes this is a risk you have to take. Sheltering a plant from the wind may protect it from immediate dangers, but this is a false strength; This same plant may even topple due to the sheer weight of its initial fruits because it has no strong foundation.

On the other hand, it’s well known that plants generally do better if they are subjected to continual, gentle breezes. Their stalks strengthen to resist the elements, thus leading the plant to grow strong over time, eventually bearing much fruit.

Expression of opinion, even dissenting, is of utmost importance in the building of a strong nation or other structured organization. Not allowing this to occur can only stunt growth… if not cause the whole thing to topple.

* Renmin Ribao (People’s Daily) April 26 editorial, prior to the massacre.
* Deng Xiaoping’s speech to martial law units, following the events.
* China’s first game in the 2002 World Cup coincides with the massacre.

Tags: , — cswiii @ 9:08 am


Sir Paul

Bought tickets to go see Sir Paul McCartney at the MCI Center, on the 24th. Hopefully I’ll be able to get enough work done to go, otherwise I’m gonna give the ticket to my sister, or something. I dig Paul enough, although I like the Beatles better than any of his solo work, and he’s not my favourite Beatle to begin with.

Went walking around Clarendon today, walked up and down two of the major streets through town, whatever they are, I can’t remember. Stopped in Morpheus Music (?), a used music store. An absolute vault of vinyl… almost makes me want to go get my old record player from my mom’s place and try to jerry-rig it to my current system. In any case, didn’t buy anything. the guy who owns/manages/works at the place was giving everyone, including us, the evil eye.

Stopped down at the Barnes and Noble there. Bought a book of poetry by W.S. Merwin. It is actually a collection of four books, the last of which (Writings to an Unfinished Accompaniment) I used to own… I haven’t seen it in years though, so it is presumed dead. Merwin’s a brilliant poet; jazzyjupiter and miyeon1121: If you haven’t read this guy before, do try and check him out. A touch abstract at times, he’s amazingly vivid.

The first poem contained in Writings…:

Early One Summer
Years from now
someone will come upon a layer of birds
and not know what he is listening for

these are days
when the beetles hurry through dry glass
hiding pieces of light they have stolen.

(More Merwin, including an audio bit)

Ate at a Greek restaurant in Clarendon, Aegean Taverna. Food was pretty good, but the service was downright miserable. We were seated at a table, but it was a good five minutes before anyone came and took our order. We ordered, food took forever — which I took with a grain of salt, since it was a Saturday night, after all. Our waiter, however, seemed to lose track of us all night. I think he stopped by once during the meal to see if everything was okay — and then, we didn’t see him for a long time, long after I’d finished my meal — 15 minutes, I’m guessing. Finally, when I ended up getting my check, it was another 10 minutes before he came back and collected it. Grr.

Came back, watched Killing Zoe. Wasn’t as good as I’d hoped — it’s one of M’s favourite films.

After M left, I called up xiao Q and talked with her on the phone for a good while. She’s just so wonderful :). Don’t get me wrong, I have a helluva good time with M, but I really wish I could spend more time with wo de ai. I can’t wait to go to Beijing.

Tags: , , , — cswiii @ 1:47 am


Final Toronto updates and observations


* She got me the watch pictured above. I had to modify the image — there is something wrong with the one on their website… all of the orange portions there appear yellow. I felt kinda bad at first because I didn’t want her to spend that kind of money on me, but she got a really, really good deal on it. And I suppose it’s the first nice watch I’ve owned. I must admit, I like it a lot.

* Watched some curling bits on TV. I kinda got into it, even though I didn’t quite understand the scoring — I’ll have to read up on that. It’s so curious, but watching the men’s Canadian Olympic Curling Trials, it was amazing to see the sheer accuracy that some of these guys have. Also, I think that the guys roaring, “harder! harrr-derrrr!” to the others who have the brushes… it’s satisfying in some weird, viking sorta way.

* You know you’re in Canada and not the U.S., when you see liquor commercials on TV. Some of these were fun. Made me wish the ban on liquor ads here (albeit self-imposed, I think) didn’t exist.

Tags: , , , — cswiii @ 11:23 am


sociedad con queso

These thoughts are not really nicely organised.

I posted a comment in someone else’s journal, regarding the fragmentation, compartmentalisation of our culture, and it got me thinking: How can we have such a big, bloated American culture, and yet have all this ethnic and cultural strife?

When you order nachos and cheese, what have you got? You have that big, soft, all-encompassing goo that pervades and envelops the plate of sharp, non-pliable tortillas.

We’re not a melting pot, we’re not a salad bowl. The American culture is a big plate of nachos and cheese. There’s this big “American Culture” that encompasses all that we do and who whe are. Underneath that culture, however, you’ve got numerous subcultures and sects that are not as prone to change, and that have the desire to stay visible amongst all backdrop.

Now, having a so-called “American Culture” can be a good thing. It holds groups together and tightens bonds. However, when it starts to go bad, things fall apart. Henry Rollins once labelled it as “a culture that’s evaporating”. I tend to agree. The reduction of quality in our culture has people grasping for whatever they can find, whatever group with which they feel comfortably identifying. The commercials culture, disposable society, the lack of any real handles is leading people to fall back into small ethnic and sub-cultural groups.

Now, a culture starts to die if there’s nothing new and worthwhile created. The inability of the American Culture to absorb and apply some of the subtler aspects of sub-cultures leads to alienation; And while nothing new or creative is being formed in in today’s entertainment world, nor does anything that doesn’t quite fit into the supraethnic mold boil its way to the surface.

We have Britney Spears, an artificial cultural icon created and released into the public. Now, while the phenomenon might be pleasing to the eyes and ears, it’s candy. It’s not sustenance. Meanwhile, musical geniuses and fresh sounds that could really give a stagnant culture a breath of fresh air, instead are trampled underfoot.

Why do we fall apart into thousands of fragmented subcultures and microcommunities? Because we’ve got nothing to grasp in the American Culture, nothing to hold onto, we are creating nothing of which we can be proud.

Tags: , — cswiii @ 3:46 pm