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Life and Times of an itinerant slacker in Sacramento. Thrills, Spills Galore coming soon. Not to mention lots of opinions.

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Wednesday, April 29, 2009

Modern Finance Explained

It's hard to understand about the strange financial instruments that that have caused the financial meltdown that, after our collective trillion dollar handwringings, we still can't see clearly.

One piece of the picture is the the pseudoscience known as Financial Engineering. It was the unique application of Financial Engineering genius that allowed banks to be 100% sure that the varied and sundry mortgaged - base securities they hold are sound.

How did these folks develop so many unpalatable securities and convince financial institutions to gorge on the things?

Well, like most problems in life, you can find the answer inside a cow. This article in the New York Times exposes a line of thinking in the meat industry that is a clear and understandable analogue for Financial Enginering.

In a nutshell:

Cut it up in a different way, and pretend you have created something different.

Derivatives, CDOs and CDSs, it's what's for dinner. Yesterday,It was a chuck roast.


That's my story and I'm sticking to it

Tuesday, April 28, 2009

Madre De Dios!!!! It's a Grilled Cheese Miracle!

Guess who stopped by for lunch?

I am now a true believer! I thought it couldn't happen here. I stand corrected.


Ave marie, gratin plena!

This heavenly apparition happened right here in my kitchen. Honest. This is an actual photo. It has not been retouched, and it was delicious. Holy Communion has never been so cheesetastic.

That's my story and I'm sticking to it, like an overcooked grilled cheese sandwich on a posh LeCreuset pan.




Another Liberal Media Conspiracy is Afoot!

How come this vital news story has been supressed by those Ivy League cheese toast disdaining big city elitist Trilateral Commissioners?

Yes Jesus has once again made his appearence in the form of a toasted bread and cheese based snack. Actually,this has made me want to make grilled cheese sandwich for lunch. I will report if any miracles happen. Personally, I am hoping for an Obama apparition.


My favorite quote from the Chosen Person known to us as Linda Lowe:

'"I know there's a lot of people who believe there's some divine reason for it being there," said Lowe, who lives on Lake Bowen. "I just don't know, but I could never eat it."

Sorry about that, Catholics, but apparently eating God is a no - no.

That's my story and I'm sticking to it.

Sunday, April 26, 2009

Telemarketing Counter-terrorism

I tried a new approach with a telemarketing call yesterday. It worked pretty well.

What follows is the actual transcript of the call,which took about 30 seconds and made me laugh. I felt like Bob Newhart doing one of his telephone stand up routines. But seriously, I thought I was being rational.

Phone Rings:

Me: Hello.

Telemarketer: Hello, is Steve here?(with boiler room noise in background)

Me: Yes,to whom am I speaking?

Jeff: Jeff.

Me: Do I know you?

Jeff: No.

Me: Why should I talk to you?

Jeff: I don't know.

Me: I don't know either, bye bye.

I swear this is exactly what we said. I expected him to at least respond that he could give me a better interest rate or something or other. Strange.

I guess Jeff didn't have a script for my response.That saved me the rudeness of hanging up in the middle of a droning script, and gave me a chuckle as well. I think K had a laugh,too.

You can read more about this in the Simple Living Network Discussion Boards. Note, registration is required.

That's my story and I'm sticking to it.

Thursday, April 23, 2009

UPSP WTF?


This is not a test. I repeat,this is not a test. The U S Postal service has issued a series of first class stamps featuring The Simpsons. Note the 44 cent cost to come into play when first class postage increases this May.

But, hey don't worry about any rate increases, 'cause you can vote for your favorite Simpson, right on the post office website!

I really don't know exactly what to say about this. As a kid, I occasionally looked at my dad's stamp collection and I even collected a few stamps myself. I thought one of the reasons people collect postage stamps is that stamps tell us something about the nations that produce them. 'Nuff said.

I voted for Lisa as my favorite Simpson. And those latte-drinking beret-wearing meditating say that American Democracy is dead. I say,"Give me the right to vote for Lisa Simpson on a postage stamp, or give me death by modified mortgage".

That's my story and I'm sticking to it.

Monday, April 20, 2009

There is Hope for the Future

Yes, there is hope for the future. This clip from the new Star Trek movie actually made me laugh. The clip shows what happens when Kirk meets McCoy. I think Kirk sucks, but I have to admit I like the new Dr McCoy.

Alas, our hope is not a great hope. To borrow from the literary brilliance of Homer Simpson, Kirk sucks more than any suck has sucked before. Watch this video syrup of ipecac,if you dare.

That's my story, and I'm sticking to it, because I ain't no two faced Andorian.

Sunday, April 19, 2009

Rancho Seco Proves a Dead Nuke is a Good Nuke

I have always wanted to explore some undeveloped land in the southern end of Sacramento County, near the Consumnes River . So, we decided to go out yesterday on a walk sponsored by the Sacramento Walking Sticks. They sponsored a roughly 10K self-paced hike through both the Rancho Seco Recreational Area, which is owned by the SMUD, the local public power utility, and the Nature Conservancy's adjacent Howard Ranch property. It was beautiful, and we are still in our short wildflower season, before everything turns brown in May. The walk started near the man made lake, and went on for most of its duration through beautiful rolling prairie that formed a beautiful Monetesque foreground for Rancho Seco's long idle cooling towers. This picture doesn't do justice to the true of this prarie, but it can give you an idea.


The wildflowers were beautiful!



It was strange that this land was completely free of California poppy (Eschscholzia californica).

And, as an extra attraction the ranch had several. . . Vernal Pools!!!.


Lots of people were fishing in the lake,which I found interesting because the lake's original purpose was to be part of a Nuclear power plant's cooling system. I wonder if anyone caught anything like Blinky, the three - eyed fish. Actually, this nuclear power plant's story is pretty interesting. The power plant was decommissioned because it rarely worked well enough to produce electricity, and suffered one major screw up that came close to creating a meltdown, according to the Nuclear Regulatory Commission. I did a little investigation, and I think I found the cause of the mishap. . .


The guys in the black suits claimed the other guy was filling in for Homer Simpson that day.

That's my story and I'm sticking to it.

Saturday, April 11, 2009

All this and Flying Baby Excreta Too

My neighbor, recently returned from Nepal, lent me this air sickness bag from Yeti Airlines.


Cool illustration. But don't stop there, take a closer look at the instructions.


Two comments;

(1) I imagine most airlines are a little less permissive about "throwing baby's excreta in the flight period". In the spirit of the Hitch Hiker's Guide, I strongly recommend a towel when traveling on Yeti Airlines. You never know when you'll be too slow to duck.

(2) I think "throwing the wrappers of chocolate" is a uniquely polite and creative way to speak of barfing. Tossing one's cookies is so twentieth century. I imagine that at fraternity parties we will soon hear, "Dude, open the window, I'm about to be throwing the wrappers of chocolate".

Yes, Nepal really does have a Yeti Airlines . They are very proud to now be able to say, "we now have the largest fleet of ten aircrafts". Who wouldn't be?

That's my story and I'm sticking to it.

Friday, April 10, 2009

Machinima!

This relatively new animation tech-driven trend has come to the point where even I head about it.

In machinima, animators use Internet game environments as their studio. Apparently,this is a hobby for some professional animation folks in Southern California. This art form will probably always operate under the commercial radar, since ownership of the artwork would be subject to thorny legal issues that would arise with the game owners. This means machinima will probably remain a realm of artistic expression a little less perverted by corporate culture.

Kyle and Rosemary is a charming machinima about two high school kids who find themselves on the border where geek meets goth, and reality meets "videality". IMHO, this was worth the seven minutes to takes to watch. My favorite line was, "You want me to bring you a flaming skull in real life?"


Find more videos like this on Channel Frederator RAW


The teenage characters were just too darned sweet, but beyond that I thoroughly enjoyed this. That saccharin aftertaste is almost impossible to avoid when teenage dramas are created by a supposed hipster over age 35. We are all guilty of these sins, so I got over it.

That's my story and I'm sticking to it.

Thursday, April 09, 2009

More Fun With Tech-Mangled Language

A Denver woman's request for a vanity license plate declaring her love of tufo was rejected, since in the abbreviated and muddled language of license plates and text messages, ILVTOFU can mean one of two things;

I Love Tofu, or

I Love to Fu#&.

It's a great communication medium that can't differentiate between the Joy of Cooking and the Joy of Sex.

I guess it's really OK, since either might make an appropriate gift for newlyweds. Ba Ding!

That's my story and I'm sticking to it.

Wednesday, April 08, 2009

We Love O-baaaaaaah-ma,Dude,WTF?

The Daily Show With Jon StewartM - Th 11p / 10c
Moment of Zen - Turkey Loves Obama
thedailyshow.com
Daily Show
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Economic CrisisPolitical Humor

Looks like someone else will be getting the ovine vote in the midterm elections.

A Rare Example of Utah Humor or A Microsoft Evil Plot?

This is too good not to post. . .

I quote from the Associated Press:

"PROVO, Utah (AP) -- Thousands of issues of Brigham Young University's student newspaper were pulled from newsstands because a front-page photo caption misidentified leaders of the Mormon church as apostates instead of apostles.

An apostate is a person who has abandoned religious faith, principles or a cause.

The photo in The Daily Universe on Monday was of members of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles, a governing body of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, at the weekend general conference."

Conspiracy or Coincidence or a rare example of LDS humor? You be the judge!

The paper's editor claims this was the result of a student editor absentmindedly accepting yet another stupid spelling change from Word's spellcheck function.

A BYU spokesperson said, "The typo was an honest mistake." Perhaps,I say.

Perhaps it just isn't that simple. Perhaps this is the first evidence we've seen of Satan's (Jesus's jealous younger brother, or maybe not) ungodly influence over Microsoft. Perhaps the Prince of Darkness meant to keep his control of the Evil Empire under cover for a few more years, but couldn't resist the opportunity to pound an extra nail into the cross, sort of a warm-up for Good Friday.

We must remain vigilant here. This is not the first time we have seen the Devil infiltrate Christians' computers. Remember Jimmy and Tammy Baker and their satanically infiltrated PTL Club computer? I am sure this will not be the last time, either.

Bill gates is a Satan-worshipping-godless-communist. Here's even more evidence.


"I always presumed evil would take a fairer form." J.R.R. Tolkein (Frodo Baggins)

Pesach Yomtov, and Don't forget to splash that cleansing lamb's blood on your door tonight. (However, I've found that vinegar works better for wine and beer stains)

That' s my story and I'm sticking to it.

Tuesday, April 07, 2009

Kumar Goes to the Whitehouse, But Where's Harold?

I wish that I had made that up. Like some kind of April fools joke. I'd have been a comic genious.

No kidding, the feds have beat me to it. Kumar is putting his acting career on hold to become a Whitehouse glad-hander for Asians and Polynesians!

Imagine, it all started with a disenchanted cubicle - dwelling simp's craving for little square hamburgers!

Apparently Kumar (aka Kal Penn) spent last summer and fall campaigning for Obama.
That's nice, but putting this guy into an official position still creeps me out. If our previous presidents applied the same principals with their celebrity hacks, we would have just seen eight years with Chuck Norris as Secretary of State. Not to mention Babbs Striesand as the Clintons' emissary to Jews, or New York, or the tone deaf, or leisure suit manufacturers, or something or other.

Not to mention anything as wingnut moonbatty as nominating some senile retired B movie actor to run for president.

Well, I have come to the conclusion that this new administration aint gonna solve all our problems, no way no how. Guess we'll have to solve 'em ourselves.

That's my story and I'm sticking to it.

Monday, April 06, 2009

Barack Obama is Tired of Your MF'ing Sh*t

No, the Prez isn't channeling Dick Cheney on the Senate floor, but the Commander in Chief is swearing up and down a blue streak.

These audio clips are from the audio book version of "Dreams From my Father". One of the Prez-to-be's high school friends explored his racial identity though a rather colorful and expressive vocabulary. Since it's in the book, we get to her the prez say it.

This only increases my confidence in our Prez. What this country needs in these trying times, is a President who is willing to say it straight, to tell America, "You ain't my bitch (N-word deleted), get your own damn fries." Seriously,that's a message all us overstuffed, overspent hyper consumers need to hear.

I left out the N-word because because I have recently had to dealwith a student (now a former student) who used that word in an attempt to sound gangsta. Putting the same word in my blog would make me a hypocrite. No one would know but me, but that's enough.

Thanks to my hip New York Niece for leading me to this.

Dammit, bitch, I said get your own damned fries!

That's my story and I'm sticking to it.


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Friday, April 03, 2009

Bluebird's and Redbuds

I haven't been feeling great the last couple of days, so I decided to take a walk in the local nature preserve. I found the cure.

I saw the first bluebird of the season, perched on a stop sign by the entrance to the preserve's parking lot. Even the staff hadn't seen any bluebirds this year. Fortunately, I had photographic evidence so they didn't think I was a nut.





Not the clearest pictures. As I started shooting and zooming the lense from the car, the bird turned around and started to take off. Even with the blur, and the bird flying head down, the bluebird colors are unmistakable.

In an effort to stay on the color scheme, the redbuds are blooming. The Western Redbud is native to Local riparian forests.


May the Blubird of Happyness visit you as well.

That's my story and I'm sticking to it.

Our Desert Trip; Part 4

Part 3 in which we stay were on a mission; A mission to visit the missions.

We saw three missions on our trip, San Antonio de Pala Asistencia, Santa Ysabel Asistencia, and Mission San Diego de Alcalá. The Asistencia missions were smaller ‘helper’ missions set inland,rahter thanon the El Camino real. The missions existed primarily to minister to Indians rather than defend the royal road, so these missions did not have military presidios.

San Antonio de Pala Asistencia is by far the most interesting of the three missions to visit. It’s conveniently located about a mile from another giant casino, in the small town of Pala, on the Pala Reservation. The mission church still functions as a parish church, however the church has not been modernized as much as some of the other missions, and has an adjacent museum. Many of the other mission buildings are occupied by a charter school.
When we arrived on a Tuesday afternoon, we found the church occupied by a wedding. That gave us the opportunity to explore the grounds.

The graveyard is still in use, and most graves were heaped with all sorts of offerings; ceramic animals, heaps of well-cleaned plastic flowers, sporting equipment, framed photos, military emblems and even one pack of cigarettes. I dared not take any photos. I figured that if the Pala are this serious about graves, taking a photo might lead to an informal pugilistic encounter with an Indian twice my size. The graveyard photos on the mission web sights only show the oldest graves, which are not adorned at all. One thing I learned from looking at the headstones is that a lot of Indians die young. Hopefully, some of the new-found bingo revenue might be used for health programs.

The mission had a nice campanile (or bell tower in gringo). In this rural location, visitors are allowed to climb the steps up to the bells, and obey the signs asking us to resist the temptation to ring the bells to summon a posse to apprehend Zorro.



The original mission bells hang from the school building’s eaves. People make a big deal out of mission bells.



At this point, the wedding finally ended. We commented to each other that these Indians looked almost like Asians. After talking to the priest while we were touring the church, it turns out the wedding attendees were Filipino, as is the priest. This Filipino priest’s surname is Monahan, which he said is an endless source of humor with the older Irish priests in the area.

The church was pretty much modernized, and I didn’t want to annoy the priest who got stuck with the post-wedding cleanup, so I didn’t get any pictures of the church. The photos in the mission website show the original timber roof, which was the church’s most interesting feature.

The attached museum was a treasure trove of creepy iconography. The museum preserved an altar from the turn of the century. Much busier than the current décor.



Some of the artwork was amazing!
This is the bloodiest crucifix I have ever seen. Awesome!



The priest would wear this on All Soul’s Day. Can you get more goth than this?



I liked the style of these wooden statues.

This place may have spoiled me for all other missions.

Santa Ysabel Asistencia is located in a beautiful agricultural valley, not really near any town. The mission was completely in ruins in the 1920’s when an independently wealthy priest assigned to the mission’s parish led the effort to build a new church, rectory (his house) and parish offices. Since this is all modern, there was not much to photograph. The mission has a very small museum dedicated to bells that were lost. The museum had several interesting photos from the 1920s.

The mostly Indian graveyard by this church was similarly decked out. Again, I was too chicken to take any photos.

Our last stop was San Diego. We visited Mission San Diego de Alcalá. This mission was moved and rebuilt in the 19th century, and has been maintained in a somewhat bland fashion, however it is full of statues and other memorials extolling the virtues of Junipero Serra and the rest of his bunch of Franciscans. The mission gives a nice appearance from the front.

The mission’s original site is now taken by the museum in San Diego’s Presidio Park. The museum is currently closed until further notice, since apparently the foundation that ran it went broke.

We stayed near Old Town San Diego, which was in a great part under construction. Beyond good Mexican restaurants, we didn’t find the area to be terribly engaging.

So ends our desert trip.

That’s my story and I’m sticking to it.

Hey! I'm A Muse!

It appears I am some one's artistic muse.

I have inspired creativity in another. Now if I could only figure out how to do the same for myself.

Here's what Maxine wrote in her very cool blog:

'Steve S. requested Arnold Schoenberg and John Philip Sousa. Sousa is coming. I had so much fun drawing Schoenberg that I couldn't stop, and he's a bit overworked.'
Her drawings are great. Take a look.

http://www.maxinefrost.com/blogengine.net/

Here's the inspiration I gave:

'I love your cartoon portraits.

Something within me is dying to see Arnold Schoenberg & JP Sousa here. I can't explain why, that's just the way it is.'

That's my inspirational story, and I'm sticking to it, in a most inspired way.

Thursday, April 02, 2009

Our Desert Trip; Part 3

Part 3 in which we stay at Julian, and visit Anza Boreggo Desert State Park.

Most of the drive from 29 palms to Julian passed through the fringes of San Diego’s part of Southern California sprawl. We took Highway 10 through the hillbilly fringe of Palm Springs, to the sprawl filled Moreno valley (yes, I couldn’t resist humming 'I Feel Pretty' from 'West Side Story').

Next, we endured more of the same for several miles on the Interstate 210 Freeway. As we came nearer to our exit, the monotonous scenery was occasionally broken up by gigantic casino hotel complexes. We were entering the tension zone between suburbia and Indian country.

We passed this fruit stand near the edge of the Pala Indian Reservation. I htought some readers might find this interesting. the had really good strawberries and dates.



Our trip turned east on Highways 76, 78 and 79. This was a beautiful road through fruit orchards, smaller desert mountains, and yet more casinos, one giant and one normally scaled. We passed Mount Palomar, we looked up and saw the famous observatory from the road. The rest of the trip was a gentle ascent into the mountains and to Julian.

Although Julian is a relatively short drive to the desert, Julian is in the mountains,full of greenery, and gets rain and snow in the winter. However, 5 miles further east begins desert for hundreds of miles. Julian has made an industry surrounding selling apple pies to day trippers from San Diego, and stuffing people at country style restaurants. It is almost living a lie, since the kind of small farm based country life city slickers like to see on outings (think natural foods commercials) never existed in California. Agriculture in California agriculture was large and corporate from day 1, when the immediate needed for food for over 30,000 49ers, demanded large scale investment in irrigation. No room for the small family farmer here. This town was full of apple pie and fruit jam. I was a little disappointed that the jam jars didn’t have little squares of gingham cloth tied around their tops.

Downtown was full of places to get pie, other restaurants, and lots of shops, featuring an amusing combination of country and new Age kitsch. Ladies and gentlemen, this is definitely 'faux country' (see previous lack of gingham). So there, the truth is out. However,the pie was delicious.

We stayed at the Butterfield B&B in Julien. The B&B, although in a suburban development and not terribly interesting, is an excellent place to stay. We stayed in the room they call 'Country Corner'. Not a surprise that our room’s decoration was a bit over the top, we had to throw about 5 sham pillows off the bed. There was also a teddy bear wearing a lacy ballerina outfit on the bed. I had to practice my best restraint to keep from hanging that thing on the blind’s pull string. The host owners were nice and chatty, both escapees from the 1990s Silicon Valley industries. I would never hang such a nice couples' teddy bear.

I found staying at B&B's to be good value. I figured out after working in the cost of a great breakfast for two, we were probably paying $10 or $20 extra to stay in a great place,rather than a stinky and drab motel room.

Anza Borrego Park greeted us with slightly warmer weather, but still not bad for a desert. I didn’t take many pictures, maybe the hike was a little more tiring than our previous walk at 29 Joshua Tree, maybe the second desert isn’t as thrilling as the first. We saw a few plants we hadn’t seen at Joshua Tree.

The desert valley was full of ocotillo plants. I think that’s a pretty cool sounding name. They had cool red flowers.



We saw a few other flowers we hadn’t seen before, here you go. Most of these were in slightly moister ground downstream from a palm oasis.







The endpoint of our hike was another palm oasis.



The next posting will feature my latest effort to find the creepiest Catholic imagery. California’s missions continue to provide great fodder.

That’s my story and I’m sticking to it.

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I must enjoy shouting into a vacuum, but I think about getting my act together one of these days. My mom says I am very handsome and intelligent.

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