Why Do the News Outlets Think We Care About Tiger Woods?

I’ve been listening all day to progressive talk radio and I’ve heard a report on Tiger Woods at the top of every hour. And then the host of one of the shows launched into the subject, and his audience emailed him en masse and asked him to SHUT UP.

I don’t give a frigging rat’s ass about Tiger Woods. And nobody who is not a member of his family or one of his corporate sponsors or a big golf fan really cares, either.

I just do not understand the way the news media think.

Why I despise Microsoft

I read in The Register today about Microsoft’s release of a plugin for Firefox that will allow you to view Open XML documents (MS’s controversial XML-based document format). But the article in The Register gave no download link, so I thought “Grrr. Annoying Register writers — don’t they have any sense?”

So, I went to MS’s download site, and put in “OXML Firefox” and got no matches. I tried some variations and got nothing. So, I went to Google and searched on “microsoft Open XML plugin for firefox” and expected to see a Microsoft.com link somewhere at the top of the search results. No dice — all the links were for third-party websites. So I went to a reputable one (ZDNet) and expected to find a link. Once again, as with The Register, no link at all.

Now I was getting *rilly* annoyed. So I saw a link that I’d missed at the bottom of the first page of results — it was a Microsoft press release and on MS’s website. “Eureka!,” I thought — “that will surely be it!” The press release itself offered nothing, but there was a list of links at the right and the first link was to “Open XML Document Viewer,” and so I thought “Eureka!” again. But when I went to the page, it wasn’t on MS’s website — it was an open-source project, and I didn’t think it could possibly be the right site for this well-publicized plugin, since it listed only 448 downloads.

So I went back to Google and visited the first link that Google had brought up, a website I’d never heard of, Softpedia.com (hence my skepticism in not going there first). It took me right to a download page, and I clicked the DOWNLOAD button. This (as is so often the case) took me to a second page that listed download sites, but there was only ONE download site, so I had trouble finding the link. Finally, I clicked it and started the download. In the meantime, I’d alread downloaded the viewer from the OpenXML Viewer Project’s website’s download page, and when the SAVE prompt popped up for the Softpedia.com download, I noted that the file name was the same as for the previous download. I renamed the file and then compared the two, and, of course, they were identical. *sigh*

This whole frustrating process left me with a number of questions:

  • Is MS trying to hide the fact that this is a non-MS project?
  • Are all the media outlets not providing a link because…um, well, er, because?
  • And why do download sites not have code that checks it there’s only one download site to choose from and automatically initiate the download from that single website, instead of offering the user the opportunity to “choose” the one site (which confused the hell out of me, because I couldn’t see the link).

One might get the idea that MS is not all that enthused about promoting this thing.

Oh, last lesson: always trust Google to give you the right answer at the top of the results page.

Why I Still Despise Apple

I’m not generally anti-Apple — I admire much of what they have done in making high-quality products and still do — but today I had problems with Safari for Windows 3.0.x crashing on me, so I figured it was time to upgrade to the latest. So, I Googled for it and came to the download page:

Safari Download Choices

Note the choices. First, email is checked off by default, whereas an honorable company would leave it *unchecked*. Secondly, there are two choices, plain Safari and Safari with QuickTime. Now, plain Safari is what is checked, and that’s good, since why in the hell do I want or need to download and install an update to QuickTime just to get Safari? At least it’s not bundled with iTunes as the QuickTime download once was.

OK, not too annoying, just uncheck the email and get on with the download. Wait! What’s this? The installer name is “SafariQuickTimeSetup.exe” — better cancel the setup and try again, since I must have accidentally failed to select the right radio button in the option group. OK, try it again, and, yes, the file for the *non*-QuickTime installer is definitely named “SafariQuickTimeSetup.exe.” Oh, well, must be some annoying thing they do, and I’d guess the other installer is different (or maybe the files have a different source but are given the same name on download. Or something).

Curious now, I start the download of the QT version and go on with the install from the original file. Well! Turns out the so-called non-QT installer *does* install QuickTime. And when I do a file compare of the two installers:

Safari Installer Files Comparison

well, what a shock — a file compare of the two files shows that they are IDENTICAL.

To add insult to injury, the installer puts a QuickTime link and a Safari link in my Quick Launch bar on my Windows TaskBar — the installer should have asked for permission to do that, not just do it by default. Who the fuck needs a shortcut to QuickTime anywhere on their computer? When does *anyone* launch the content viewer instead of letting the OS launch the appropriate app according to the content you want to view?

I cannot *stand* this kind of behavior. First, I end up not getting what I asked for and then it installs things I didn’t want in the first place (and thought I was avoiding). And didn’t give me any choices about those things (not that at this point I’d even trust it to honor those choices…).

Last of all, making things worse still, I suspected that the installer probably put a system tray (MS keeps telling us that it’s not the “system tray” but the “notification area,” but I don’t give a crap) icon launcher in the Run line in my System Registry, so I fire up RegEdit and, yep, there it is, in all it’s glory — not only does Apple think I need a useless icon in my Quick Launch toolbar, but I also need another useless icon in the system tray. That is, I need TWO USELESS ICONS in my TaskBar from which I can launch QuickTime, but never ever *will*.

What is *wrong* with these people? Don’t they use computers? Don’t they recognize the pollution of the system tray and the Quick Launch toolbar that is endemic, with program after program installing their icons there for no good purpose? Well, no good purpose for the user of the computer — it’s an advertisement for the software, but that doesn’t do *me* any good.

To be fair to Apple, they are certainly not the only ones sticking icons where I don’t want them. But I must say I’ve never seen such a blatant overriding of the end users’ wants and needs as a download page that gives you the same installer regardless of which you choose. Assuming this is not simply a coding error on the download page, that kind of autocratic approach is exactly why long-time Windows users like me can never ever recommend Apple products — because Apple lies to you, telling you you’re in control and then doing whatever it pleases in the background.

The “Wisdom” of the American People

Just when the election of Obama has made you think the American populace has come to their senses, we have this:

Sales of handguns, rifles and ammunition have surged in the last week, according to gun store owners around the nation who describe a wave of buyers concerned that an Obama administration will curtail their right to bear arms.

How incredibly stupid *are* these people? To my way of thinking, pretty damned dumb.

There is no evidence whatsoever that Obama’s position on gun ownership constitutes any alteration of the status quo. Secondly, most gun laws are local and not Federal. Maybe Obama will push for the assault weapons ban to be revived (which would be very good), but none of the reports I’ve read or heard on TV have suggested that people are buying anything but semi-automatic rifles and handguns, neither of which there is even the merest suggestion whatsoever that Democrats/Obama would try to ban.

Surely this whole thing has been stoked by some right-wing moron like Limbaugh? Please?

Too Dumb to Vote

From the LA Times article on Prop. 8 (as of 2:08am Wednesday morning):

Amy Mora, a 26-year-old teacher, came with her mother to a polling place in Lynwood on Tuesday morning. She said she believes gay people have the right to marry one another. But she said she voted in favor of Proposition 8 because she does not believe students should be taught that gay marriage is acceptable.

In a rational world, the only correct response to such a belief would be:

Congratulations, Amy Mora! You have forfeited your right to vote. Ever.

Regulation vs. Good Business Sense

With all this talk about the financial crisis, I can’t help but wonder how stupid the people running these firms really are. Couldn’t they tell that the mortgages and investments that have gone bad were bad ideas in the first place?

Take the so-called “liar loans,” where there was no effort to verify income of potential borrowers, and borrowers were encouraged to inflate their income so that they’d be able to get bigger mortgates (and, hence, bigger houses). Why did anyone think it was a good idea to disconnect the mortgage from a realistic assessment of the borrower’s ability to pay?

Of course, it’s not like this tendency in lenders is new. In 1987 I bought a used car (with an insurance settlement to replace an old beater that was stolen), and I had to fight with the car dealer over the price I was willing to spend. I had so much money from the insurance settlement, and wanted to pay a certain amount per month in car payment and no more. But the dealer kept arguing with me, saying my income would allow me to afford a lot more car (with a much longer loan period and a higher monthly payment). I kept insisting that I didn’t *want* to pay more. This was met with a blank stare, something the salesman couldn’t seem to comprehend. I eventually got exactly what I asked for, and a $110/month car payment (I think it was a 2-year loan period, but can’t recall for certain).

Why would any sensibly-run lender want to loan not just more than what the borrower wants, but more than the borrower’s income justifies? Is that not just a really bad business decision?

This is why it annoys me that the government seems to be stepping in to buy the bad investments, and so many commentators seem so willing to say “there’s enough blame to go around for everybody.” No, there *isn’t* — if the lenders had followed good business practices, none of this would have happened. They didn’t and now the whiny-assed titty babies want to be rescued from their bad judgement.

It pisses me off a lot, especially given that the same people championing the bailout (I mean *you*, John McCain) were perfectly happy last Spring to tell the borrowers that they didn’t deserve a bailout themselves because they’d made bad decisions in taking out these mortgages.

Scott Adams — Still Dumb as a Post

Scott Adams paid out of his own pocket to do a survey of economists on Obama’s and McCain’s economic policies. While the survey decisively picks Obama’s policies over McCain’s on 9 out of 13 of the issues (6 by >50%, 3 by plurality). McCain is chosen as superior on only one issue (international trade), and beats Obama on only one other issue (waste in government), but even on that issue gets less support than “neither will make a difference.”

So, the poll is pretty darned clear in picking Obama’s policies as vastly superior to McCain’s in almost every respect — it really isn’t even close.

What is Adams’ take-away? That 48% of the respondents were Democrats. His conclusion? They are partisans, so their answers have no merit at all. This is despite the fact that independents (27%) plus Republicans (17%) plus Libertarians (3%) add up to 47% of the survey respondents, which, statistically speaking, exactly balances the Dems in the sample. If the survey numbers entirely stem from party ID, then it must show that the group of non-Democrats agree with Obama’s positions a significant portion of the time. And on 4 issues, McCain can’t even retain the 20% of his own partisans (presumably, Republicans + Libertarians) and on 1 other, can’t exceed his partisans (i.e., reaching only 20% support).

There are statistical tests that can be done to see if partisanship skews the survey results, and Adams himself is forced to admit (in a followup post) that there was a rather large degree of party-line crossing on several of the issues considered.

Adams seems completely unable to conceive of the idea that economists might support the Democrats more than Republicans because the Democrats over the past 25 years have not pushed a whole succession of batshit-crazy economic ideas as the basis for their governing philosophy. Republicans TELL LIES about the economy (for example “reductions in capital gains taxes always increase revenues”). They still subscribe to the completely discredited supply-side economics. They still think there’s no such thing as a bad tax cut (or a good tax increase). They have shown themselves irresponsible in governing, racking up record deficits and mis-spending what funds are available inefficiently.

In other words, if you look at the way Republicans act once they are in power, they implement economic policies that no economist but a partisan hack would consider good. Is it, then, surprising that most economists would not rationally pick the party that has been promoting economically sensible policies over the one that talks economic nonsense?

This is not something Adams seems able to imagine, since he lives in that disconnected fantasy world where, Nader-like, there is no difference between the two parties. In fact, there are long-term massive objective differences between the two parties on facts and on support of widely-accepted best practices in the field of economics.

But Adams got an answer he didn’t like (he wanted a tie or a McCain win) and must explain it away with accusations of bias. In doing so he plugs into all the right-wing memes about academic political bias, as well as subscribing to a strong current of anti-intellectualism, this latter despite the fact that he paid a lot of money to consult with experts.

Scott Adams is simply a moron.

If you’ve been paying attention, though, you already knew that.

Addendum: Adams has the honesty to post a comment by an economist that explains the party ID differences thus:

In general, I suspect the economists who favor Obama tend to have a greater relative weight on equity vs. efficiency compared to economists who favor McCain. Both groups might agree that both efficiency and equity are important, but they disagree PHILOSOPHICALLY (outside of their training as economists) on the relative importance of these two social values.

A preference for equity over efficiency would likely make these economists vote Democratic, since the history of the Democratic party’s economic policies has been almost entirely a succession of efforts to improve economic equity.

The Profound Stupidity of Slashdot Users

I am amazed at how profoundly stupid the readers of Slashdot (or, at least, the people who post) really are. Not a day goes by but that hundreds of Slashdot posters completely miss the point on just about any issue that is discussed there. Today’s annoying topic is campaign finance. I simply can’t stand people who complain about the system and won’t vote. And the ignorance of the way in which the multiple systems regulating political contributions actually work is astounding. Yes, I’m an insider to this (having a major political campaign fund as a client), but I knew the basics long before I ever got involved with it on a regular basis. Free speech as practiced on Slashdot is, I guess, a good thing, but gad, these people are so frigging stupid it’s astonishing.