Tag: rant

Why I won’t gamble

Having seen that I am going to Las Vegas in March, I’ve had friends and family urging me to at least try some gambling. After all, why else go to Vegas? Having heard this enough, I’ve therefore decided to put down on virtual paper the reasons why I won’t gamble. So, what follows are those reason, in order of least important to most important. Hopefully, this will explain things once and for all.

Reason #1: I don’t think of gambling as fun
Some people go to Las Vegas (or any place with casinos) because they get a thrill from gambling, an endorphine rush, a kind of “high” from the experience. While I applaud these people and their ability to find enjoyment, and while I make no judgments, I can say quite firmly that I am not one of these types of people. I once spent $10 in a casino on a cruise ship and it was the least-entertaining $10 I ever spent. When I walked into the casino, I was happy; when I left, five minutes later, I was annoyed.

Reason #2: The house always wins
This is undeniable. Play long enough, and no matter how much you win, you’ll end up losing more. This is true of any game that is heavily dependent upon chance, but moreso when stakes like money are involved. Now, for someone who enjoys the thrill that comes along with the risk; for someone who enjoys the thought of potential winnings, this reason doesn’t matter. But as I stated in reason #1, I am not one of those people. Add to that the fact that I am too conscious that the house always wins that this would probably affect my decision-making negatively, almost assuring that I would lose whatever money I would have spent on a chance. I simply don’t see the fun in playing a game that involves money when the odds are stacked greatly against you.

Reason #3: I don’t want to throw my money away
This is really a corrolary of reason 2. Knowing that the house always wins, and knowing that I don’t enjoy gambling, it would be insane of me to throw money away on it.

Reason #4: What if I won?
I have always said that I never want to win money. I’m not even going to try and explain myself here, as when I have stated this in the past, people think I am completed nuts. But it’s true. I’ve never played the lottery or entered any luck-based contest where I could win money because I don’t want to win money. I’m not looking to get rich quickly. But what if I gambled and I won? It would be, in a sense, easy money, and might I not be tempted to try again to win even more? Might I not become so greedy that I become blinded to the fact that I don’t like gambling, and keep throwing away money, in hopes of that slim chance that I might win again? Might this not become addicting? I don’t honestly know that I would be strong enough to resist such a temptation if I were to win even once. It is for this reason, more than any other, that I will not gamble. We all have to know our limits–I was taught this more clearly than ever back when I was taking flying lessons. I might be able to throw away $50 at a blackjack table (unhappily). But what if, before my $50 was gone, I ended up winning? If that happened, then I might not be able to stop.

So then why go to Las Vegas at all?

I would think the answer there is an obvious one: to hang out with friends.

House inspection, concluded

So the inspector just left after spending 4 minutes looking around the house. Everything was fine and the only thing she noted were cracks in the wall above the front door and in the ceiling in the living room–which have been noted on every inspection I’ve had I think.

I couldn’t resist asking her about the fire extinguisher. First, she didn’t even check to make sure it was charged (it was). So when she was all done and filling out the paper work, I asked if the fire extinguisher requirement was new. She said yes. I then said, “So you check to see that the person has a fire extinguisher, but not if they are trained to use it?”

“Oh no,” she said, “It’s not in our codes that people be trained to use a fire extinguisher–just that they have one.”

Oh well, what are you gonna do.

The junk food lawsuit

While eating my peanut butter and jelly sandwich, Caffine Free Coke (TM) and chocolate brownie for lunch, I came across a news item on Yahoo! reporting that Nickelodeon and Kellogg were the targets of a lawsuit which cites a “recent report documenting the influence of marketing on what children eat”. You can link to the article here.

This is one of those lack-of-accountability suits like the person who sues McDonalds for gaining weight eating their food. This kind of thing drives me nuts for some reason. It’s a tricky thing to comment on, however, because it deals with obesity, which is a touchy subject for some people. Studies have shown that some people are more genetically prone to weight gain than others. But this is a tendency and while it may require some to be more disciplined than others, the bottom line on law suits like these is still accountability.

It seems to me the whole claim of the argument is that, when it comes to food, kids listen to their TV more than they listen to their parents:

Wakefield, Mass., mother Sherri Carlson said she tries her best to get her three kids to eat healthy food. “But they turn on Nickelodeon and see all those enticing junk-food ads,” Carlson said. “Adding insult to injury, we enter the grocery store and see our beloved Nick characters plastered on all those junky snacks and cereals.”

Correct me if I am wrong, but is this person arguing that her kids are so influenced by these ads, that she, the mother, is simply forced to go out and buy the junk food for her hopelessly influenced kids?

Now, I don’t have kids of my own, but I was once a kid, and sometimes, I like to think I still am a kid. If I begged and pleaded for junk food, and my mom or dad gave into me, the behavior I’d learn from that is that no self-control is required. I can just beg and plead for my junk food, and ultimately, I’ll get my way. My folks will cave in under the enormous pressure that me and my allies in the advertising industry place upon them.

What has happened to accountability in this country?

Maybe the right question to ask is: why are parents going after Nickelodeon and Kellogg? What do they expect to get out of this? I think there are two answers here: (1) publicity and (2) money, not necessarily in that order. This is about more than a parent’s concern for their child’s eating habits. It seems to me that if parents were really concerned, they wouldn’t hire a lawyer, they would instead find creative ways to make healthy snacks more enjoyable for kids. It’s not that hard to do, and you can see the results pretty quickly.

This is a slippery slope. Parents pawn of the responsibility to educate their children about nutrition and health to the very television set which they sit they kids in front of to babysit them. Nickelodeon and Kellogg are not forcing anyone to do anything. Are they putting ideas into kids heads? Sure. Are they putting pressure on parents to buy kids junk foods. Certainly. But who is ultimately responsible for going out and buying that candy bar? I’m not sure anyone could convince me it’s Nickelodeon and Kellogg.

Where does this lead? Will parents soon start suing other parents who allow their children to eat junk food at school because it sets a bad example for their children? This sounds facecious but I’m not kidding. Law suits scare people, and especially institutions like schools. Will schools start to ban junk foods, even in lunches brought by students because they will be afraid of the influence it might have on other students? Will we start to evolve legal definitions for “junk food”?

Unfortunately, things can only get worse with this kind of mentality. We are teaching children that there is no need to think for themselves. There are some smart kids out there. They see that junk food is bad for you in excess. They make the very rational generalization that anything is bad for you in excess. And they grow up to be well-adjusted adults. But not all kids have an equal footing when it comes to critical thinking, so the playing field now has to be leveled to the lowest common denominator. At the very least, let us not be hypocrites. The more we lower the expectations of our kids and ourselves, the less we should expect.

I can see the future now, and it is all gray. No one thinks for themselves, no one questions, no one cares.

If parents really wanted to tackle the obesity problem in this country, they wouldn’t sue a TV station and cereal company. They’d set their jaws, plant their feet, and do what my parents did when I was growing up and wanted to eat junk.

They’d just say No.

Fire extinguisher, anyone?

I heard from my landlord this morning, passing along information that the City of Riverdale code enforcement people are now saying that I need to have a small fire extinguisher in the kitchen because of the increase in the number of fires in Prince George’s County over the last few years.

There are several things that bother me about this:

  1. It was hard enough scheduling the inspection (for this Friday), now I have to dig up a fire extinguisher!
  2. I’m somewhat skeptical that actually having a fire extinguisher in the kitchen dramatically reduces the number of fires that people have in their homes. For one thing, not all fires start in the kitchen. For another, not all people who have fire extinguishers have the knowledge or forethought to use them.
  3. One would assume that for a fire to start in the kitchen, there would need to be some source for the fire, for instance, an oven or toaster left on. Since I use neither over nor toaster, that leaves spontaneous combustion–and for that, I am willing to take my chances.

I think I may still have my cockpit fire extinguisher from back in my flying days and if I do have it, I can throw it under the sink. This way, if an avionics fire breaks out in my kitchen, I’ll be well-prepared to handle it.

Please Put Litter In Its Place!

Every so often–perhaps once every few months–I emerge from the Metro on my way home from work, climb the six flights of stairs to the level of the parking garage on which my car is parked, and find every windshield (mine included) papered with a some sort of flier. Like today.

I have never once found any of the offerings of these fliers even remotely useful.

It’s gotten to the point where I don’t even look at them anymore. I simply crumple them up and toss them in the back seat, to be disposed of later. Truthfully, I am often tempted to toss the paper on the floor of the parking garage. After all, it’s the garage people that grew lazy in their security patroles and allowed people to make such a mess in the first place. But two wrongs don’t make a right, and so into the back seat they go.

It never ceases to amaze me the ridiculous lengths people will go through to sell a product. Is this type of advertising so effective that it requires repeating every few months? Or is it just cheap? There are just over 1,000 parking spaces in the lot. That means that someone has to be paid to pepper the parking lot with fliers. Assuming 5 seconds per car, that’s 5,000 seconds or nearly an hour and a half spent littering. Assuming also, minimum wage, that means someone was paid around $10 to perform this task. Like I said, cheap.

I wonder how much these fliers actually improve the businesses who splash them about. Do people actually buy things, or order services, attend seminars, etc. based on what they see in these things? I can’t speak for what goes on in anyone else head when they see a flier on their windshield, but I can tell you what goes on in my head:

Having just climbed six flights of stairs, I somewhat out of breath but really, the sooner I can get into my car and get home, the sooner I can relax. It’s been a long day. Productive, but long. I need a break. Fumble for the keys, unlock the door, toss in the backpack, sit, shut door, seatbelt. Ignition! Finally I look up and see this thing stuck to my windshield. I roll down the window, but it’s conveniently out of reach. $#!+! Why can’t I just go home? Unbuckle the seat belt, unlock the door, open and out, grab the thing off the windshield, nearly ripping a wiper blade off, crumple, toss, back in the car, let’s go. But it’s too late. Now I’m in a foul mood.

As a matter of principle, I don’t think I could ever buy anything or use a service that was advertised on a cheap piece of paper stuck to my car windshield. To me, it’s blatent littering, no better than tossing an empty Coke can onto the street and it annoys me to no end. Isn’t there something like a $1,000 fine for littering in the State of Maryland? How is this not considered littering?

I’ve got to admin that curiosity got the best of me today. Before crushing the page into oblivion, I glanced at it. It was advertising a Church of some kind. And I wasn’t as upset as I normally get when I find trash on my car. I found a kind of perverse beauty in the irony of it all.

City of Riverdale Code Enforcement

Since late last year, I have been trying to get the annual rental property inspection scheduled for the house that I am renting. I’ve been playing “email” tag with the Code Enforcement people. About a week ago, I suggested that this afternoon at 4 PM would be a good time. I’d have to leave work a little early, but I’m willing to comprimise.

As of this morning, I hadn’t heard back from the Code Enforcement people, and so I called. I found out that 4 PM is no good. Either is 3 PM. Or weekends. In fact, the Code Enforcement office only does inspections Monday thru Friday from 10 AM – 2 PM.

Is it me, or is this somewhat inconvenient? Moreso since I am the only person in the house, I suppose, but still very inconvenient. What if I didn’t have the luxury of a job that allowed me to leave a few hours early, or work from home for half a day? I imagine there are budget constraints for this type of activity, but even that doesn’t make it any better.

Most frustrating of all is the fact that while I was willing to comprimise on the time of the inspection, I got the idea that the Code Enforcement people were ratcheted into their 10-2 M-F window with no leeway whatsoever.

In any event, I scheduled the inspection for Friday, January 20 at 1 PM. I’ll see about working from home that afternoon.

The frustration of false information (Or: searching for song lyrics)

There is a great song in the middle of Episode 12 (“Isabella”) of the Sopranos. It’s the scene where Tony Soprano goes out to buy a paper and some juice and nearly gets shot and killed by the two guys paid to kill him. I had the tune of the song in my head, but didn’t know the words, the name of the song or who sang it.

So this evening, I set about doing a search for the song so, perhaps, I could buy it and download it to my iPod.

It’s a pretty straight forward thing to do. I did a search for “Sopranos music” and came up with a number of hits, all of which listed songs by episode. Here are the songs that are listed for Episode 12:

  1. Tipsy – “Ugly Stadium”
  2. Thornetta Davis – “Cry”
  3. Garbage – “Tempation Waits”
  4. Tindersticks – “Ballad of Tindersticks”
  5. Al DiMeola – “Milonga del Angel”
  6. Cream – “I Feel Free”

I then proceeded to check for each song on iTunes and listened to the preview. And would you believe that none of the songs sounded like a match to what I had in my head? I thought perhaps there were different versions of the songs so I also listened to previews on Barnes & Nobel.com. Nothing sounded right to me.

I popped in the DVD and watched the scene to make sure I’d remembered it correctly, and sure enough, I had. But it didn’t match any of the songs on the lists. I went to the source, the Official Sopranos website on HBO.com. They had a music list by episode and that list was also identical to the one above.

To me, there were only two possibly explanations: either the list was wrong, or it left off a song.

So I listened carefully to the lyrics in the scene, and picked out a what I thought was a good sample, and typed those lyrics into a google search.

And I got a perfect match: Tiny Tears by the Tindersticks.

Now this is the interesting part. All of the song lists, including HBO’s “official” list, for that episode list a Tindersticks song called “Ballad of Tindersticks”. Clearly someone entered the wrong song. But all of these other websites probably never checked their facts, or even confirmed the lists were correct. They all took for granted what was there and reproduced it without question–which just goes to show you how useful the Internet can be for disseminating false information.

There is a happy ending, however. “Tiny Tears” was available on the Apple Music Store, and I’m listening to it right now.