April 28, 2007

It's Like Some Kind of Bonus

OK, I HAVE TO ADMIT I was enjoying watching Brady Quinn squirm like the overhyped wretch he is during Saturday's NFL draft. The boy shows up as if he's God's gift to the National Football League, and he gets passed over time and time again -- to the point where the NFL offered Quinn's party a private suite, so as to spare him any further public embarrassment. Then, after all that, who picks up Quinn but the Cleveland Browns!

As a Pittsburgh Steelers fan, for me this is like some kind of bonus.

Quinn strikes me as a good but not great quarterback who has been madly overhyped because he played for Notre Dame. Quinn performs well due to his coaches and teammates, but folds up whenever he faces honest-to-God pressure. In short, he's just as annoying and pathetic as Peyton Manning, except he doesn't have the modicum of talent Manning does. While some observers (hi Jesse) have said the Browns will have a good offensive line to defend their quarterback, I believe a rejuvenated Steelers squad will still be able to pressure Quinn -- especially considering that Pittsburgh drafted LaMarr Woodley, the noted defensive end from Michigan. Hell, it'll be old hat for him!

I think the Steelers have done OK in their draft so far, but I have to admit concern over the fact we haven't yet drafted a cornerback. Our secondary just got shredded last season and it bothers me more steps haven't been taken to address that. On the whole, though, I'm pleased with Pittsburgh's picks so far, and I can't really fault them for using their first pick to fill Joey Porter's shoes. But to see Leon Hall go to the Cincinnati Bengals -- that just hurt, especially when he was there for Pittsburgh to take.

Posted by Benjamin Kepple at 11:51 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

Youngstown, Tuned-Up

I HAVE TO ADMIT I wasn't all that confident about the Manchester Wolves' chances tonight in their home game against the Mahoning Valley Thunder. But once again, my minor-league arena football team surprised the hell out of me and got off to a screaming start against Mahoning Valley, which Loyal Rant Readers know is a nice name for Youngstown, Ohio. We won pretty handily in a 67-49 victory. That makes the Wolves 2-2, and Youngstown 3-1.

While that score may seem pretty lopsided, it should have been more so. The Rant assigns blame for this state of affairs to No. 8, defensive back Shawn Murray -- yes, you -- who was called not once, not twice, but THREE TIMES for pass interference while defending against Youngstown. I mean, come on. Three times?

What was really frustrating about it was that the calls were entirely justified. It wasn't like he was playing for the ball and got an unlucky break: each of these infractions were so blatantly obvious that the fans were openly scowling about the guy. So, The Rant hopes Mr Murray stops sucking in future weeks.

However, I saw two particular plays tonight that did not suck, and in fact were made possible due to the unique rules of arenaball. Both involved kickoffs. (In arenaball, unlike the NFL, the kickoff balls are live.) The first crazy kickoff happened when Youngstown's kick went up and bounced off the overhead scoreboard, which gave Manchester the ball at our own 20. In the second crazy kickoff, Manchester kicked the ball deep and it hit the rebound net's lower crossbar just so that it bounced back over the punt returner's head and onto the field. Who should recover it but Manchester's own Canadian import, linebacker Jesse Tupper, who scooped it up and ran it back into the endzone for a Manchester touchdown. Now that kicked ass.

Anyway, here's the recap:

MOST UHF-LIKE MOMENT: During a break, the PA announcer informed fans about such-and-such a local establishment that could handle all one's "tattooing and piercing needs." I was not the only one momentarily taken aback at this announcement. As one man in my section put it, "The team has an official tattoo parlor?"

NEXT MOST UHF-LIKE MOMENT: I think it's worth noting that tonight's featured celebrity guest once appeared on a show called "Battle of the Network Reality Stars."

MOST INEPT PLAY DURING GAME: Well, it's a close call between the entire Youngstown team, which got called for umpteen personal foul penalties, and Shawn Murray, he who got beaten like a steel drum on tonight's pass coverage. But I must award Mr Murray this Important Award.

COOLEST PLAY DURING GAME: Jesse Tupper, for recovering that kickoff and getting it into the endzone. That was tres sweet.

Next week, the Wolves will be on the road -- facing the Wilkes-Barre/Scranton Pioneers, who chewed up and spit out the Cincinnati Jungle Kats this evening by a score of 94-25. Christ. 94 points! Even for arenaball, that's a ridiculous score. So it looks like we'll have our work cut out for us again!

Posted by Benjamin Kepple at 10:44 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

April 25, 2007

Shock Horror as "Up to 80 Percent of Blogs" Host "Offensive Content"

LET'S JUST GET the obvious retorts, comebacks and insults out of the way now. That way, it will be easier to condemn the people at ScanSafe Ltd., a milquetoast English computer security firm that may soon prove as popular in the blogosphere as Arthur Batchelor.

Well, perhaps that's a bit harsh -- after all, ScanSafe, unlike Able Seaman (!) Batchelor, has not made the Royal Navy an utter laughingstock. Still, one does wonder what the people at ScanSafe were thinking when they developed the criteria for their most recent Global Threat Report, in which the firm says up to 80 percent of the world's blogs may have offensive material on them. Let's review some of the responses one might conceivably make when faced with such a claim:

* "What? Only 80 percent?"
* "Gee, thanks, Captain Obvious."
* "You're paid how much? And why, exactly?"
* "But Chad Johnson doesn't have a blog."
* "Ah, shit."

Of course, having just one profanity on a page is grounds for ScanSafe's system considering a blog's content as potentially offensive. This is a bit much, if you ask me -- if only because it's not all that accurate a gauge. After all, here at The Rant, I routinely mock and insult people I consider wretched, doltish or generally irritating. Why, in a typical week, as readers know, I may very well insult bad drivers, unthinking movie directors, dimwit criminals, irritating goody-two-shoes types and the entire state of Oregon. Yet I may do this without any profanity at all -- although there's certainly room here for a well-placed curse.

Heh. Oregon. Christ.

Anyway, I'll finish up with an excerpt from the actual press release, in which ScanSafe trumpets the virtues of its system to an audience it apparently thinks ain't all that with it:

"Blogs are a great vehicle for self-expression and the exchange of ideas," said Dan Nadir, vice president, product strategy, ScanSafe. "Employees visiting these sites can unknowingly expose corporate networks to legal liability, viruses and loss of proprietary information."

Why, in the name of God, would a writer put those two sentences back to back?

Posted by Benjamin Kepple at 09:46 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

April 23, 2007


AS A HISTORY BUFF, I have always found maps greatly interesting. Well, via Dean's World, I discovered this swell site: the Maps of War. It offers several interactive maps which, over the course of 90 seconds, display the ebb and flow of thousands of years of world history. It should be of interest to anyone with an eye for history.

It's pretty damned cool and I hope the site's designers will add more maps in future.

Posted by Benjamin Kepple at 10:50 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

If Knowing Is Half the Battle ...

... THEN NOT STUPIDLY TEMPTING FATE must be the other half.

At least, that's the conclusion I draw from this recent article in The Times of London, about which the headline says a lot: Catapult boy is eaten after taunting crocodile in pen.

Well, that leads us to The Rant's Post-Commercial Pre-Credits Moral Lesson of the Week for Kids!

Last week, of course, we learned about why you should never get involved in the Japanese yen carry trade unless you're under proper adult supervision. And then, the week before, we learned about how being irresponsible caused Shipwreck to spend months having his life turned upside-down by the Office of Naval Intelligence.

This week, kids, we've got another Important Safety Tip for you! When you're out "hanging" with your friends, don't break into your local zoo and taunt the angry wild animals with slingshots and sticks. The angry wild animals do not see you as the troublemaking yet lovable young urchins you are. Instead, they see you as steak tartare.

Plus, you don't want to end up as that One Kid From School Who Died in a Horrible Accident. Like that one guy I knew back in seventh grade who was on the wrong end of a truck-skateboarder accident when I was on vacation, and ended up getting buried out in Kalamazoo's Mount Ever-Rest Cemetery. What's that? No, I'm not kidding, they actually called it that. I mean, Christ, can you imagine the indignity of it?

Anyway -- now you know, knowing is half the battle, and The Rant has now satisfied its FCC quota for providing family-friendly content. And now, these messages!*


* Buy more! Buy more now!

Posted by Benjamin Kepple at 09:48 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

April 21, 2007

Manchester Wolves Win the Home Opener

ORIGINALLY, I WAS GOING to title this post, "They Came, They Saw, They Kicked Our Asses." That was my feeling at the end of the first half of tonight's home opener between the Manchester Wolves, my city's minor-league arena football team, and the Fort Wayne Fusion. But lo! in the second half, Manchester came roaring back and ended up winning, 54-41.

This is impressive when one considers that at one point in the first half, Manchester was down 17 points. Our offense could do no right and our defense couldn't hold off Fort Wayne's attack. But in the second half, things went the other way. Manchester held Fort Wayne to just seven points, while the Wolves' offense caught fire and scored touchdowns right and left.

It was a good win -- and considering that we're now 1-2, a needed victory. However, the Wolves can't let up. Next week, the Wolves must face the Mahoning Valley Thunder here at home, and that's a game with trouble written all over it. You see, the "Mahoning Valley" is a nice name for Youngstown, Ohio, one of the roughest cities in the post-industrial Midwest. How bad are things in Youngstown, you ask? Well, consider this snippet of conversation I had some months ago with my brother back in northern Ohio:

ME: Hey, how far are you from Youngstown?
JESSE: Not far enough!

So we've got to be ready. Also, it might be a good idea to check under the team bus for any odd-looking items or protuding wires or some such. I'm just sayin'.

Anyway, now for the recap:

MOST UHF-LIKE MOMENT: A dental insurer sponsored tonight's game. As a result, not only was there a giant inflatable tooth outside the arena, thousands of "lucky fans" got -- wait for it -- FREE commemorative toothbrushes!

As this distribution seemed to violate the First Rule of Promotional Giveaways ("For the love of God, don't give 'em anything they can throw!"), I was half-expecting the toothbrushes to end up on the field, or protruding from the referee's eyes, or what not. However, everyone was on their best behavior and a fun time was had by all.

NEXT MOST UHF-LIKE MOMENT: Several fans in one row took part in an ice-cream eating contest, in which the prize was -- wait for it -- qualification for a second ice-cream eating contest two months hence. At this second contest, the winner will have the chance to devour a giant ice-cream sundae, with a reported 20 (!) scoops of ice cream in the mix. All this despite the clear public health hazards of an ice-cream eating contest. ("Dear God! He's ... he's got brain freeze!")

MOST INEPT PLAY DURING GAME: Area man takes part in trivia contest, shows absolutely no emotion when declared winner and given $50 restaurant gift certificate prize. Dude. Show some gratitude for winning, if only for the poor cheerleaders taking part in the embarrassing spectacle.

NEXT MOST INEPT PLAY DURING GAME: That would be me. You'd think with the cheerleading squad performing roughly twelve feet away that I could just sit back and enjoy things, right? Oh no. Every time I did look, I felt guilty. Also, I heard the tinny, quietly furious voice of Joe Lo Truglio from "Wet Hot American Summer" in my mind: "You loser! God, you are such a loser!" However, I'm confident I will get the hang of things eventually!

In the meantime, it kept me focused on the football -- and speaking of which, the new seat I have at the arena is fantastic. I had originally told some folks it was in the front row, but that was based on a misreading of the seating chart. As it turns out, I'm in the third. Quite frankly, I think this is better. Watching a guy fly face-first into the padded wall is impressive enough from ten feet away. One foot would be a bit much, even for a football fan like me.

Posted by Benjamin Kepple at 11:58 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

My Shares, Which On Monday I Bought ...

THE NEW YORK TIMES TODAY has published the fascinating cautionary tale of Mr David Hayden, an Internet entrepreneur who struck it rich back in the 1990s -- only to see his wealth disappear in the market crash a few years later. Unfortunately for Mr Hayden, he had funded a lavish lifestyle through borrowing against the holdings in his company, and when the shares crashed, he found himself upside down on his loan to the tune of, oh, $24 million or so.


Understandably, Mr Hayden's creditor -- Robertson Stephens, the investment bankers -- are not happy about this. They want their money and have gone after Mr Hayden to get it. Yet for reasons I can't fathom, Mr Hayden delayed the inevitable. Instead, Mr Hayden has been engaged in a four-year fight over the matter. Here's the gist of the story from the NYT:

And as with many entrepreneurs, Mr. Hayden never claimed expertise in the arcana of margin calls, puts, hedges and collars that are the engine of the investment banking world.

While he went about the business of building companies, Mr. Hayden trusted the people who inhabit that world of high finance to take care of him. He paid advisers and lawyers to scour such deals, and put his faith in the investment bankers that would make him rich. And they did.

But his wild ride unraveled, and now he is assigning blame to those same bankers, who in turn have gone after him for all he’s worth — and more.

OK, a few questions on this. First off, why in the name of God do people think others will take better care of their money than they will? I don't mean that in a rate-of-return kind of way, but rather an attention-and-feeding type of way. After all, there's only one person who cares most about you, and that is you. Nobody else will brave the same risks and earn the same rewards as you do with your money. As much as people don't want to deal with that, it has to be addressed.

Of course, there's another side to this coin. According to the NYT, Mr Hayden has charged "that Robertson Stephens mismanaged his money and shirked its fiduciary duty by not informing him properly of ways he could have protected himself." So not only did the firm mismanage his wealth, Mr Hayden is charging, it also didn't tell him not to be a dumbass about things.

It's worth noting that an arbitrator has sided fully with Robertson Stephens in the matter, and awarded the bank $23 million and change. That aside, though, what really gets me is this.

According to Mr Hayden's story in the Times, he used Robertson Stephens to manage his wealth and take the second company he founded public -- even though, according to Mr Hayden's account, the investment bank backed out of the IPO for his first company! It then took one of his competitors public!

What the hell was that all about? I mean, I don't know about you, but if I was going public with a company I had busted my ass to build, and my investment bankers backed out at the last minute, I would have vowed eternal revenge so fierce it would have impressed James Clavell. I certainly would not have gone back and done business with them again, particularly if they were going to profit handsomely as a result, and I would have sooner eaten my hat than give the bastards a penny of my own money. Yet this man walked back into the lion's den carrying a sack of raw meat!

Posted by Benjamin Kepple at 03:31 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

April 17, 2007

Hook, Then a Slice

SO ON MONDAY the Boston Red Sox stomped all over the Los Angeles Angels at Fenway Park, with the final score being 7-2. I must admit that as a football fan, such a victory is not something that would make me joyous and gleeful. Sure, I was glad to see the Sox win, of course, but not to the point where I would really care passionately about the victory.

However, this game was also the scene of an Infamous Sporting Incident, in which a fan attempting to catch a foul ball was assaulted with a slice of Fenway Park pizza. The Boston Herald has the full story, but what really made it memorable was the reaction from the broadcast booth.

This story becomes even better when one realizes, according to the Herald, that the pizza incident stemmed from smack-talking between the assailant and his victim. The victim had been harrassing the assailant over the pizza, and when the foul ball came down, the assailant snarled, "You want some pizza now?" as he let the slice fly.

Of course, as a Michigander, I can take pride knowing that nothing like this ever happens Back Home, where fans act with all the ... what's that? Yeah, but that was a long time ago.

Well, 2004 was a long time ago. I mean ... oh, all right. Here's the tape.

Posted by Benjamin Kepple at 07:53 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

April 13, 2007

An Open Letter to That Guy in the Sedan

TO: That Guy Leaving the Mall of New Hampshire
About 9:30 A.M. in the Tan Toyota Sedan (yes, you)

FR: Benjamin Kepple

RE: Badassery


Dear Sir,

As a fellow motorist, I couldn't help notice your vehicle as I left the Mall of New Hampshire this morning. It is rare that one sees such an awesome display of cluelessness and braggadocio in the same instant, and the image of your vehicle was burned into my mind as I left the plaza. To spare you public embarrassment, I have redacted the numbers of your license plate from this post, but you should be aware this will not stop others who see you out from pointing and snickering in your general direction. You should also be aware your profane rear-window display does not, in fact, proclaim the message you are trying to get across.

Generally speaking, someone who is a badass does not need to proclaim this with a profane rear-window display. Rather, a badass person will engage in badass conduct, such as flagrantly violating municipal ordinances, drinking before noontime and smuggling cigarettes up from North Carolina. However, in the rare event a badass person would want to deface his vehicle with a giant, off-center rear window display, he would damn well make sure he spelled every word right.

You see, sir, proclaiming yourself the "badest bitch," as you put it, does not cause others to consider you a tough guy. Rather, you look like an ill-educated high school dropout -- a yutz, a schlemiel, a schnook so gullible you make Kevin Federline look like F. A. Hayek. In short, you do not come off as a bad moth--

But anyway. All that was bad enough, but your car made it even worse. You were driving what looked like a Camry or a Corolla. To be perfectly blunt, I haven't seen anything so pathetic since back in '79, when Carter got attacked by that swamp rabbit. I mean, are you kidding me?

Let's review for a moment the folks who drive Toyotas. Oh, that's right. Soccer moms, mid-level managers, couples with dual incomes and three kids who are well on their way to joining the upper middle class. Notice how this group does not include "young people who desperately want to appear like tough guys." Crikey. Go out and buy a Mustang or something.

What's that? No, I'm serious. If you really have such little self-confidence that you must proclaim yourself a badass with a window decal, you may as well go out and buy a car with at least a little bit of backbone, or flair, or whatever you want to call it. But make sure your decals are spelled right this time around.

Posted by Benjamin Kepple at 09:44 AM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

April 12, 2007

Weather Report

When consciousness returned, after the darkening
Caused by my pity for the two kinsfolk
Which made me so sad that I was stunned

I saw then, all around me, fresh torments
And tormented spirits I had not seen before,
As I moved on, turning this way and that, and looking.

I was in the third circle, where it rains
Eternally, icily and implacably;
Weight and direction are invariable.

Great hailstones, muddy water, mixed with snow,
Fall through the darkened air without respite;
They rot the ground they fall on, and it stinks.

THESE ARE lines 1 through 12 of Canto VI in Dante's Inferno -- and a reasonable observation of how the weather was today here in Manchester, New Hampshire. Ugh. Ugh, ugh, ugh.

Posted by Benjamin Kepple at 11:39 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

Football Update

FOR THOSE READERS who are starting to bemoan the lack of football, don't worry -- starting this Saturday, NFL Europe games will be broadcast on NFL Network. This is a good way for viewers to gain familiarity with developing players and others who will fight for spots in the NFL during the preseason. As such, watching the games will make you seem incredibly well-informed when August rolls around and some guy hardly anyone has heard of is fighting for the third-string quarterback's job.

If you don't have NFL Network available, you should call your cable company and complain. If you've called your cable company and complained, but they won't do anything about it, you should write angry letters and complain at shareholders' meetings and act generally irritating. Eventually, they'll have to come around, especially when people they know start getting annoyed and snubbing them down at the country club and what not.

Posted by Benjamin Kepple at 07:06 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

April 11, 2007

Dec. 9 is the Day of Reckoning

OH, JOY AND RAPTURE. The NFL's 2007 schedule is out, and the Pittsburgh Steelers have a full five games scheduled during the evenings. How sweet is that! Well, actually, it's almost as sweet as the schedule we ended up with this year.

Admittedly, the schedule starts a little soft this year. We start out with a game against Cleveland, and then follow that up with Buffalo, San Francisco, Arizona and Seattle, in that order. While all the teams in the AFC North will face their counterparts from the NFC West this year, this particular arrangement strikes one as, well, not all that difficult. I mean, come on. San Francisco and Arizona back-to-back? That's kinda embarrassing.

However, it does get considerably tougher after that, and that should make for some great football as the nights grow longer and the air gets colder. Especially when one considers the matchups against Denver and Jacksonville and the New York Jets, and the grudge matches against evil Baltimore and iniquitous Cincinnati.

But best of all, on Dec. 9, the Pittsburgh Steelers will travel to Gillette Stadium in Foxborough, Mass., and there do battle with the aristocratic New England Patriots. There we shall fight, and God willing, Pittsburgh shall defeat them. That way, I can go into work the next day with my head held high, knowing that I will not be mercilessly teased by my colleagues. (Like the last couple of times.) Also, by that time in the season, Pittsburgh will probably need every win it can get as it scrapes its way into the post-season.

So mark your calendars, everyone. Dec. 9 is the Day of Reckoning.

Posted by Benjamin Kepple at 10:36 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

Trial Balloon

ONE DAY IN FEBRUARY, a Tennessee blogger displeased with the experience she and her job-seeking husband had at a local career-search company came home and wrote about it. Representatives of the company soon found out about her post, and had to decide how to handle the matter. Clearly the best decision was to hire a law firm, which then threatened to sue the blogger in question unless she retracted her remarks.

Based on the reaction to the firm's demand letter, one might suggest it would be a good idea for the company to drop the whole matter.

It's not just that people across the nation have become rather upset, or that the local newspaper has taken notice, or that Instapundit is broadcasting it out to tens of thousands of people. It's not even because all that happened in just a matter of hours, and that the wave of publicity is still swelling. It's also because the potential plaintiff and his counsel now have a good idea of how a jury of God-fearing citizens would receive their claim.

Thus, it might be smart for the company to just -- I don't know -- pretend the whole thing didn't happen, if such an arrangement can be made in the wacky world of law. Barring that, maybe a gift certificate or some concert tickets might work.

Posted by Benjamin Kepple at 08:22 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

April 10, 2007

And Heaven Sent Hell Away ...

OVER THE PAST FEW DAYS, I've read with half-hearted interest the stories about a proposed "Blogging Code of Conduct," in which bloggers would tone down their most abrasive statements and prohibit readers from leaving comments deemed offensive, in bad taste, and so on. The voluntary code, according to its first draft, would also require adherents to not write online what they would not say in person, and resolve differences in private before doing so in public.

As a blogger, I find this idea completely and utterly lame.

I also find it tired and old -- and reeking of that nauseating, wretched stench of soggy institutional goo, the slop that so often passes for honest discourse these days. Naturally, The New York Times thought it was an amazing idea and devoted plenty of space to it. Why, I can't fathom. After all, a "voluntary" code is meaningless -- and arguably a solution in search of a problem.

Now, in saying that, I don't mean to downplay the fact that people on the Internet do, to use the technical term, plenty of crazy shit. Nor do I mean to make light of the very unpleasant conduct in which many people apparently feel free to engage -- up to and including posting personal information on-line, making threats, and otherwise going over the line. This is especially problematic for female bloggers, who God knows have to deal with various creepy situations every other day. However, I do think these things can be dealt with through existing means, whether banning IP addresses or removing unmoderated comments or calling the police if one receives creepy threats.

That said, there are a few more things amaze me about this entire debate. The first is this idea that bloggers need toning down, and the second is the idea differences ought be resolved privately if possible.

One of the reasons people like blogs is because they're opinionated and witty and they don't pull punches. Well, that's arguably three reasons, but never mind. The point is that being overly polite can also make one overly boring, and that's no fun for anyone. Basically, those who write on line have to take it as well as they give it, a skill which admittedly takes a while to master. Plus, if bloggers act juvenile on their blogs and write juvenile things, that's exactly how they'll appear to their audience.

As for the second item, I don't see why people ought remain private about disagreements if the matter in question is a public one. If Blogger A misrepresents Blogger B in one of his posts, Blogger B is not only within his rights to publicly call Blogger A out on this, he should publicly rebuke Blogger A for it. After all, why should Blogger B have to take the high road?

Lastly, I find it amazing that supposedly educated people would confuse the long-time tradition of editorial judgment with out-and-out censorship. This bone of contention is not aimed at the "blogging code" people but others out there, and it's a point The Times mentions in its story:

"A subtext of both sets of rules is that bloggers are responsible for everything that appears on their own pages, including comments left by visitors. They say that bloggers should also have the right to delete such comments if they find them profane or abusive. That may sound obvious, but many Internet veterans believe that blogs are part of a larger public sphere, and that deleting a visitor’s comment amounts to an assault on their right to free speech."

Well, that's a new one. Last time I checked, The Rant was produced solely through my generosity and goodwill, as well as my large and secret stash of Eurodollars in a certain friendly part of central Europe. As such, I get to run the show. While the comments don't work now -- and haven't for a while -- I definitely would delete someone's comment if it was truly awful. Heck, I deleted spam comments, so what's the difference? Since this state of affairs is pretty much constant throughout the blogosphere, I don't really see how anyone could suggest anything but it. If people don't like a particular blog, they can always start their own. These days, the only barrier to entry is typing proficiency.

Anyway, that's it for now. Must run -- tonight, I'm listening to Soundgarden before bed. No, really. Black hole sun, won't you come, and wash the pain away ---?

Posted by Benjamin Kepple at 09:31 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

April 09, 2007

Stones the Builders Rejected

IN AN EXCLUSIVE STORY, the Associated Press revealed this weekend that 1.4 million outstanding arrest warrants are currently active in Pennsylvania, a calculation made possible due to the Keystone State's new statewide court computer system.

Like many readers, I was astonished at just how many active warrants were outstanding. After all, that's like 1 warrant for every 10 Pennsylvanians. However, after doing some digging, I was able to learn more about the problem. Here, then, is a handy graph showing the proximate causes for why arrest warrants were issued to all those Pennsylvanians:


NEWS ITEM: The AP recently revealed
1.4 million outstanding arrest warrants were
active in Pennsylvania. What kicked off the
chains of events that led to these warrants
being issued?


:-D :-D :-D

Posted by Benjamin Kepple at 12:01 AM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

April 08, 2007

Now, I Am Alarmed

DID I MISS SOMETHING? Since when did the Government Employees Insurance Co. try to get "cool" and "with it?" It's an insurance company. It's a subsidiary of Berkshire Hathaway. It has 22,000 employees and billions of dollars in annual revenues. In short, it is not supposed to be cool and with it.

Still, I'm pretty damned impressed with the firm's Subservient Chicken-like marketing campaign, in which one may snoop around the GEICO Cavemen's Crib. It's pretty clever.


ALSO: GEICO's media strategy, explained.

Posted by Benjamin Kepple at 09:08 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

April 07, 2007

Yet Another Reason to Buy Off-Brand Products

AS AN ALLERGY SUFFERER, the arrival of spring has always been a two-sided affair for me. On the one hand, I'm thrilled the godforsaken and wretched season of winter will be held at bay for as long as seven months. But on the other, I know the April thaws and later sunsets mean the true horror of springtime -- weeks of sinus inflammation and congestion -- are soon upon me.

Like many sufferers, I rely on an extensive and expensive cocktail of over-the-counter medicines to get me through this dreaded malaise. I also have my "favorite" medicines, which have become so primarily because they work better than others on the shelf. Well, not the shelf, actually, because the medicines I like still have psuedoephedrine in them. I have this issue about the medicines actually working.

Anyway, as a result, the Government requires me to stand in line at the pharmacy, present my papers to the pharmacist, and have my personal details written in a logbook that in theory the authorities could easily scan. Only after all that am I allowed a small box of medicine containing the ingredients that actually work. This is because the Government considers suffering from allergies prime facie evidence that one cooks up methamphetamine in his backyard. Thus, I'm not allowed to buy two or three boxes of medicine at the same time. Nor am I permitted to apply for an exemption on the grounds I still have all my teeth and my gums aren't gangrenous.

A side effect of this Government policy is that the medicines I like may not always be available. This is because they're placed on a high shelf behind the pharmacy counter and if the medicine one wants isn't there, one is -- to use the technical term -- generally shit out of luck. So you can imagine my discontent one recent day when I noticed my favorite medicine -- which we shall refer to as the green box -- was not apparently in stock at the pharmacies at which I went shopping.

However, this also prompted to make a startling discovery, which was that the stuff in the green box apparently wasn't all that unique after all. Upon scouring the pharmacy's aisles for a substitute, I was able to compare the active ingredients in many medications, and to my horror and chagrin found the active ingredients in the green box were identical to those in a medicine from the same company that we'll call the red box.

While this DID allow me to acquire the medicine I needed, I was furious with myself for not having realized this dodge earlier, as I could have saved myself time and trouble by not searching for the green box. Also, as a notorious cheapskate, I was infuriated that I had wasted money on the products, when I probably could have gotten a cheaper generic. So I'll hopefully get over this misplaced loyalty and save time and money in the process; or at least make it until June, when I'll be sound as a pound again.

Posted by Benjamin Kepple at 01:00 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

April 06, 2007

I Am So in Trouble for This

YOU KNOW, BECAUSE I haven't added enough years to my eventual sentence in Purgatory, which will undoubtedly prove Not Fun and require me to spend millenia in excruciating pain. Anyway -- the reason I'm in trouble is because this is Holy Week and specifically Good Friday, and despite my best efforts, I still find this unbelievably and hysterically funny.

The link -- I don't know how long it will last -- leads to a video clip of an old sketch from "The State," a comedy show which once appeared on MTV. For those of you who aren't familiar with it, this page might help explain things. For those readers who do remember it, I would simply note the following line of dialogue:

"Judas? Judas, why did you invite Louie?"

Posted by Benjamin Kepple at 08:47 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

April 03, 2007

Nightmare at 20,000 Feet

GOD-FEARING PEOPLE across America ought take a moment to reflect on the glory of life's majesties. For in a wonderful decision issued earlier today, the Federal Communications Commission said it would continue to ban the use of mobile phones during airline flights. Oh, joy and rapture.

Apparently, some technical considerations prompted the agency to maintain the ban, but I don't care about those. The important thing here is that today, the Government struck a powerful blow for silence, order and common decency.

I mean, my God. Could you imagine how horrible airline travel would be with people talking on cell phones? It's bad enough now as is, with the wretched service, cramped quarters and the poor manners of some fellow travelers. Why, a man is lucky if he manages to get just one segment of his journey free from the distractions of cretin seatmates, boorish imbeciles or obnoxious, sugar-crazed (or sugar-deprived) minors. And don't get me started on those people who reportedly bring their pets on board in those little pet hamper things and suddenly decide, without so much as a by-your-leave, to let their little furballs roam loose around the cabin. Keep the pet in its cage like the rules say.

Of course, even these indignities notwithstanding, air travel remains a tolerable experience provided one primes the pump beforehand with a bit of gin. But allowing people to use their cell phones would clearly be intolerable.

I mean, you know how you're in a restaurant and you start overhearing other people's conversations and then, no matter how much you try, you can't help but listen, even though the conversation is entirely idiotic and it makes you want to gouge your eyes out with the butter knife? Yes, of course you do. Now, imagine that feeling when you're trapped in a middle seat heading from Detroit to Newark. I submit, dear readers, that any airline passenger subjected to this would end up like Bill Shatner in that one episode of The Twilight Zone.

As such, airline passengers must remain vigilant to ensure that air travel remains a mobile phone-free zone. That's because the moment mobile-phone service becomes available, air travel will be ruined forever for all decent, right-thinking people. Not even re-regulating the air travel industry would fix things. That's because the people who could still afford to fly in such an environment would almost certainly have mobile phones, as well as offices which they had to call immediately and speak to in an obnoxiously loud voice.

Posted by Benjamin Kepple at 09:56 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

April 01, 2007

April Showers Bring May Vacation Plans

BOY, I LOVE APRIL. It's the first true month of spring, of course, and it brings with it so many wonderful things. For instance, April brings its attendant rush of allergen-induced sinus headaches, clogged nasal passages and general wheezing. If I seem out of it for the next six weeks or so, it's not my fault -- I've simply taken enough antihistamines to knock out a herd of cattle. But I can assure you this is far better than the alternative, in which I lumber zombie-like throughout the day and intermittently groan in agony.

Anyway, that's one reason I've been away from the blog as of late. But I've also been busy with other fun stuff, such as vacation planning. I'm taking a major road trip in May and as a result, I've been spending a good deal of my limited free time planning. One key component of the trip, aside from hitting my usual destinations such as New Jersey and Michigan, will be a swing down south.

I've never really been to the South*, so I figure I should go. There's a lot of history there and it's pretty country. Plus, as a dyed-in-the-wool Northerner, it probably would do me some good to spend a week down South. With the influence the South has on American life and culture, it makes sense for me to see the place and experience it at least a little.

Besides, I've never had decent barbecue. Ever. My Southern readers may be a bit puzzled at the idea one can go through 31 years in life without experiencing at least one honest-to-God great barbecue, but it's true. It's not like you can just get good barbecue up here -- that's as ridiculous as the idea of getting decent clam chowder in Tulsa, or getting good Maine lobster in Arkansas. It is fundamentally impossible.

So, as I said, I'm planning a trip down to Dixie, confident in the knowledge that I'll be welcomed with the traditional Southern hospitality we have so often heard about up north. That's because it will be obvious to everyone that I'm a bloody tourist. I mean, crikey. I can't even say "y'all" without it sounding forced, much less some folksy saying such as, "All y'all are dancin' on my last damn nerve with the Trace Adkins marathon." But despite that, I'm confident that I'll have a great time and plenty of memories to share in the months ahead.


* The Rant considers Florida an Eastern state -- at least those parts of Florida where I have traveled. However, I've had no desire to return to the Sunshine State since. For one thing, the place is awful humid. For another, any state with a town named "Yeehaw Junction" must have a few jokers to hide.

Posted by Benjamin Kepple at 07:18 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack