Friday, June 14, 2002

Kinder, gentler extortion

I don't know about you, but most parking tickets I've gotten in the past generally strike a pretty authoritarian note: "You are a violator. You are evil," they seem to say. "We will hunt you down and make you pay. You and your little dog too!"

So while I won't say I was happy about receiving a ticket in Asheville, NC, they certainly tried to make it as painless as possible:


No one likes getting a parking citation. But it's the most effective way we have to manage downtown parking. Time limits promote orderly turnover and make downtown shopping and entertainment convienient for everyone.

Avoid the frustration of receiving a parking citation by using one of the three parking garages noted on the reverse of this citation. The first hour is free Monday-Friday from 10:00 a.m. Until 7:00 p.m.

I may not agree with what they had to say, but they sure were nice about it!

Thursday, June 13, 2002

So I arrive in today's city du jour and present myself at the hotel for checkin. Only to find out that instead of the plain non-smoking room I reserved through Expedia, they have booked me into a smoking room for people traveling with pets. And there are no other rooms. (In case you were wondering, I have no pets with me. My cat goes into therapy for months at the mere sight of the cat carrier. It would be suicide to travel with her.)

According to one of the front desk guys, I should have called ahead and verified that my reservation was right, since they always screw up stuff like this.

Now I am not an anti-smoking fanatic. But frankly I don't especially like the smell. And I was a bit perturbed by how they didn't really seem to think this was anything out of the ordinary. So since I had a few hours, I figured I'd make a point by finding somewhere else to stay.

After calling several places and finding that they were also full, I found a prospect -- A major hotel franchise had a location only a few blocks from my meeting. (I won't mention the chain's name to protect the guilty, but it rhymes with Less Pesterin'.)

So I get to the hotel and go to the front desk to check in. I guess the avacado carpet and aged stucco should have been my first tip off. But, hey, the desk clerk was kind of cute, and I figured I'll try anything once. I got my room key and headed up the elevator. (Dark pseudo-wood paneling, circa 1970.) I got out of the elevator. (Flourescent fixtures circa home of future 1967 and more patterned avacado carpet.) But I figured, "Hey, I'm renting the room, not the hallway."

Then I went into the room. Picture scary looking lamps in a pineapple-battering ram motif. Picture a tiny porthole of a window, last cleaned circa 1982. Picture noisy air conditioning stuck on the "stuffy" setting. Picture cigarette burns on the couch of the nonsmoking room. If they were going for the fleabag look, they had it down pat.

Now I'm not opposed to roughing it every once in a while. In fact, when I was a starving student, I stayed in some places that made this look like the Ritz. But I guess my standards have gone up just a bit since then. Plus, I was on expense account, so I couldn't even really congratulate myself thriftiness. (For that matter, I've stayed in nicer places for half the cost.)

So I did what any self-respecting creeped out traveler would do: I lied to the front desk guy (the cute chick was gone) and told him my plans had changed, I was leaving town that evening, and could I please "un-check-in" my room. He bought the story. I skeedaddled and found a more expensive but less scary alternative.

I know there's probably a moral here somewhere. Like maybe "Be happy with what you get, because it could be worse." But I'm too busy enjoying my clean sheets and working A/C to worry about it.

I'm traveling for work, so updates will be less frequent for the next few days.

On the plus side, I think I'm finally indexed on google. I can tell by the fact that someone searching for "uncensored lingerie catalogs" hit the site a few minutes ago. I've never really produced such a catalog, but who am I to argue with popular demand. Any volunteer models out there?

Tuesday, June 11, 2002

Susanna Cornett writes:
I'm for the death penalty, but I think it needs to be very narrowly applied, and more swiftly implemented. I think one of the reasons for the slow drag from sentencing to execution is the concern about whether the sentence is just. When it's used for situations where the crime is obviously egregious, and the evidence highly compelling, the public support for its logical follow-through will increase. Support for the death penalty is a two-step process: Is it morally appropriate? If so, is it fairly and appropriately applied? I think most Americans answer "yes" on the first question, but have been wavering - with good reason - on the second. More careful procedures, and a reduction overall of the types of cases allowed to be prosecuted toward a death sentence, will increase the "yeses" to the second question too.
When I was younger, I wavered a lot about the death penalty. After all, most of the people killed had committed egregious crimes. Wasn't this a good way to deter future violence?

During college, however, I became increasingly convinced that the government should not be in the business of killing people. There were many reasons for this. Books such as A Lesson Before Dying, The Chamber, and Dead Man Walking certainly contributed. So did the strong arguments against the idea of the death penalty as a deterrent, the fact that the inevitable mistakes could cost someone their life. and statistical evidence of the unfair application of the penalty.

But most of all, my feeling that the death penalty is wrong is based on the conviction that premeditated killing is never morally justifiable. This is a hard position to take, because you have to fight the urge to apply it selectively. Viscerally, I feel that Timothy McVeigh got what he deserved. But I think that moral principles have to take precedence over gut-level reactions. I just don't think the job of our government should be to kill people, no matter how much we think they deserve it. A true life sentence without the possibility of parole achieves the same societal goals without the moral ambiguity. And if the conviction turns out to have been in error (which happens with alarming frequency) imprisonment is reversible whereas execution is not.

I also don't think state-sponsored execution is justifiable from a religious point of view. (Whenever I see one of those "What would Jesus do?" slogans, I always wonder if the bearer thinks that Jesus would pull the switch on an electric chair.) Most Christians believe that sinfulness is inherent in the human condition, and that ultimately forgiveness, redemption, and judgement are between the individual and God. The murderer will answer for his sins before God -- what right do we have to take a greater action than necesary to protect society from further harm?

The United States is the only major democratic power in the world that still imposes the death penalty. Worldwide, there is an increasing concensus that execution is a basic violation of human rights. Abolition is the global trend. "In 1986, 46 countries had abolished the death penalty. By 1999, 108 had abolished it in law or in fact." (ref)

This is a very condensed version of my feelings on capital punishment, but I figured I'd throw them out there anyway.

Quote of the day, stolen from the .net guy, who in turn stole it from Penny Arcade:
I'd had enough political and theological discussions by the time I was nineteen to figure out that they are functionally inert. No-one convinces anyone of anything, everybody just heaps their baggage on the table and gestures at it wildly.
IMHO, not always true, but probably more often than not.
In the slightly patronizing, but still funny department:
Being single means being good at waiting. It means having patience and not settling for something because you're bored with being single. Being single is often both an opportunity and a commitment to learn from the mistakes of relationships past.

Of course, telling single people they should not fall into the first available relationship is a little like telling aging NFL stars they should not do phone commercials with Alf. They already know it's not a good idea, but they can't seem to control themselves.

From a story in the Orlando Sentinel by Eric Edwards (via the KRT wire)

Monday, June 10, 2002

In case you didn't know, the "frownie" is a legally-registered trademark of Despair, Inc.. The company plans to sell the devices to the public, but supply is constrained due to the fact that the company only has one copy of Microsoft Word.

In related (silly) government filings, check out this actual patent for a method of exercising a cat. If only I'd thought of that one first!

Sunday, June 09, 2002

Am very confused -- I edit my template, I save it, and then the edits are gone. I edit my template, I save it, and then the edits are gone. Blogger problem, I guess?
On the off chance that whoever keeps stealing my Sunday paper is reading this... I know who you are. I know where you live. I know how to put a curse on your great-grandchildren. So KNOCK IT OFF!
Just rented the DVD of Spike Lee's film Bamboozled, a biting satire looking at racial humor in popular entertainment. A very strange film. It centers on a black TV executive who, tired of prodding from his wanna-be-black boss decides to get fired by producing the most racially-offensive show he can possibly come up with. But instead the "Mantan: The New Millenium Minstrel Show" is a huge hit.

If nothing else, the film gives you a fairly in-depth overview of the history of minstrel shows, blackface routines, and pickaninny imagery. And it makes you think about the ways stereotypes are still used to get a laugh.

Interestingly, most of the action in the movie was shot using consumer-grade Mini-DV cameras and edited digitally. The idea that you can use this type of equipment to produce a studio-grade movie release is very exciting. Movie making is becoming less mystical and easier for anyone with an idea to try. Hopefully at some point this will result in a wider variety of material making it into the local multiplex.

An interesting comment is buried in the director's voiceover on the DVD. Spike Lee says:

In my opinion, this gangsta rap is the 21st century version of minstrel shows. And what's sad is these brothers don't even know about it.