Tuesday, April 28, 2009

Bean Counters

This happened to a friend of mine. He works independently and bills his time through another company. This other company adds 10% to his bill to cover their costs. One of his clients has refused to pay the 10% because according to their contract with this other company, his cost should be passed through without any addition. Rules is rules, or in this case, a contract is a contract.

Well, the client wants the work done. The accountant, known affectionately as "The Bean Counter" says the client cannot pay the 10%. The billing company says it will not process the billing invoice unless they get reimbursed for their costs. And my friend says that he will not do the work unless he is assured that he will get paid.

The solution.

The contract allows the billing company to define my friend as a "contractor". As a contractor, they are allowed to add 25% to his bill. The Bean Counter says that's OK. It complies with the contract.

So everyone is happy.

Friday, April 24, 2009

When Is Torture Not Torture?

Maybe in this case.

Keith Olbermann is offering $1000 for every second Sean Hannity undergoes waterboarding. Hannity said on his program that waterboarding is not torture and that he was willing to be waterboarded for charity. Obermann is telling him to put up or shut up.

Come on Sean. Let's see how much money you can earn!

Thursday, April 23, 2009

Terrorism Works, Torture - Not So Much

Terrorism works. That's right. Want proof? Do you know who this man is?

That Dick Cheney, our former vice president.

The purpose of terrorism is to force the object of the terrorism to change their behavior. That is exactly what 9/11 did to the United States. Prior to 9/11 we supported the international ban on torture. Following 9/11 we gave that up. It became a matter of policy that we torture people and one of the biggest proponents of torture was Dick Cheney. He still supports it.

Documents just released over the past couple of days show that torture was approved at the highest levels of government. It became US policy to torture people. I understand that people get carried away at times, and may do inappropriate things to try to get information out of prisoners. But this was not the case. The government approved and, dare I say encouraged, torture. And it appears that it may have been to get false confessions that could be used to tie Al-Queda to Iraq for a justification for the war.

Terrorism changed our behavior. It brought us down to the level of the other terrorists.

And there are people saying that these people, the ones who set this policy, should not be even investigated?


Wednesday, April 22, 2009

How's Your BCM?

Yesterday, I had the pleasure of spending all day at the car dealership. But let me back up.

Sunday, I went out to the car to go someplace. Tried to open the doors with the remote and all that happened was the horn starting beeping. I pushed the button a few more times and the beeping stopped, but the doors still would not open. Had to use the key, like in the old days.

Went to start the car, and while it would turn over very good, the engine would not start. It sounded like it was out of gas, but I knew there was at least a half tank. Looked like it would have to be towed for service. Monday was out of the question, so I set up a tow and a service appointment for Tuesday, yesterday. The dealership is about 2o miles away and while dealerships are not the greatest places to get servicing (high prices), this seemed like a problem best done there.

Yesterday morning the tow truck came by. The driver checked out everything and said that I was out of gas. He said lets put some gas in and see what happens. I said go for it. Well, after running the battery down and hooking up his jumper cables, he got the car started -- and then the gas gauge showed over half a tank of gas. "Guess it wasn't the gas" said the driver.

So I was able drive the car to the dealership instead of having it towed. They looked it over and said it was a bad battery. Low voltage was causing the car computer to mess up. They put in a new battery and then said that there was something wrong with the air bags.

"How long has your air bag warning light be on?", he said.

"Never" I said.

"Oh, we better check a little further".

Turns out the BCM was having problems. Body Control Module. Sounds like part of a space craft. This is the computer that controls the car functions when the engine is not running, like doors and start up functions.

So, I have a new battery and a new BCM and the dealership is $800 richer.

I got there at 8 am and left at 4 pm. That was my day.

Sunday, April 19, 2009

Have You Wondered Why?

I was watching an ad on TV for a cell phone, an iPhone wannabe. The ad was all about the things that the phone could do that had nothing to do with being a phone. And it started me thinking...

Why have cell phones turned into hand-held computers. Why didn't laptop computers continue to shrink down to hand-held devices that could make phone calls? Top end cell phones today are basically small computers on which you can also make phone calls. Why did phone grow into computers, instead of computers shrinking into phones?

I have no idea.

Saturday, April 18, 2009

Brace Yourself

A couple of weeks ago I wrote about my wife falling off a chair and injuring herself. Yesterday we went back to the doctor. He took off the cast and took another x-ray. Again it was inconclusive. There were a couple of things on the film that might indicate a break, but he was not sure. He poked and prodded her wrist looking for sore spots. He found a couple right where the things on the x-ray were, so just to be careful, he wanted to put another cast on. She talked him out of the cast. He said OK as long as she wears a heavy duty brace and only takes the brace off for showering. So, she is happy to have the cast off, but is kind of bummed about having to wear the brace.

We go back to him again in another two weeks.

The brace is kind of a story in itself. When he said "a brace", I was thinking of the kind that you see people wearing on their wrists all the time. They are usually brown like this one. I think you can buy them at any local drugstore for about $30. Boy was I wrong.

He wrote a prescription for the brace and sent us to an Orthotic & Prosthetic Services company. Their "drugstore" brace costs almost $400. Of course it is gray, not brown and they will bill our insurance for it.

I guess gray cost a lot more.

Wednesday, April 15, 2009

Tea Bagging

I know this is really stupid and I was not going to blog about it, but I can't help myself. I just have to laugh every time I hear something about the tea parties. They talk about teabagging and the teabaggers. Given the various definitions of teabagging, I just have to wonder if the people who thought up this idea had any idea what teabagging might mean. After all, many of them are nuts and their ideas suck.

What's next? A "round the world" tour?

Saturday, April 11, 2009

Rabbits, Eggs, and Jesus

Even wonder how rabbits, eggs, and Jesus got all mixed up together for a celebration called Easter? Well, it seems like I am not the only one. There is an article about it over on the Huffington Post.

There once was a mythical German goddess named Ostara (Oestre / Eastre) who is associated with Spring and is considered a goddess of fertility and friend of children. She changed her pet bird into a rabbit. This rabbit brought forth brightly colored eggs, which the goddess gave to the children as gifts. Hence Easter - at least the rabbit and egg part.

It is less clear to me how Jesus got mixed up in all of this, but I guess it is the Spring, rebirth-thing, all mixed up together. There is also a Jewish Passover connection with most European words for Easter coming from the Hebrew word "pasah," to pass over.

So there you have it. Rabbits, eggs, and Jesus all together tomorrow.

Happy Easter!

Wednesday, April 8, 2009

Kids Say The Most Amazing Things

One of the great things about having grandchildren is listening to the things that come out of their mouths, sometimes funny and sometimes sweet.

Last week I went to the eye doctor. Because my eyes were dilated, my son picked me up from the doctor on his way home from work. As a result, he was a little late and probably had to explain to his daughter why he was late getting home. A couple of day later I came over to their house, and the first thing out of my nine year old granddaughter's mouth was "Grandpa, how are your eyes?". I thought that was amazing. 9 years old and the first thing she asked about are my eyes. I was impressed.

My 3 year old granddaughter has amazing observational powers -- for her age. We recently got a new rug for the bathroom. A couple of day later, she walks past the bathroom door, stops, and says "Grandpa, you got a new bathroom rug." She actually noticed. If I had not been with my wife when she bought it, I probably still would not have noticed it and it been there for about 2 weeks.

Today when she came into the house after we picked her up from daycare, she walked through the door and "Celina was here". Celina cleans our house every two week. She noticed! Amazing.

But then, maybe our house is normally really dirty.

Sunday, April 5, 2009

Torture And Terrorism

Should torture be prosecuted? There has been some discussion about investigating the role of torture in our fight against terrorism over the last few years. I don't think anything is going to happen. There doesn't seem to be the will either from the people or from the Congress.

I find it interesting that torture (or "enhanced interrogation" as some call it) was even an issue under an administration led by a self-proclaimed born-again Christian. I don't think Jesus would really condone torture. But that is a whole other discussion and not my reason for writing today.

People supporting torture, Cheney in particular, say we are safer now because of the information obtained using such techniques. The ends justify the means, in other words. People against torture say the information gained by torture is notoriously unreliable and that many people have died because of the unreliable information thus obtained. Most, but not all, interrogation experts agree that information obtained under torture is unreliable.

Both arguments deal with the information obtained, not the act itself.

The poster boys for torture are probably Khalild Shaikh Mohamed and Abu Zubaidah. In fact, it has been reported that "most of the useful information from Abu Zubaida - chiefly names of al-Qaeda members and associates - was obtained before waterboarding was introduced".

So, if torture was not effective and better information was obtained before such techniques were used, why is it being so strongly supported?

Maybe it is not about the information. Maybe what was done was first to get all the good information that they could, and then torture the bastards. It is not about justice. It is about information first, and then followed by punishment.

And Terrorism.

Yes, terrorism. Show the people bent on terrorism against us that if they get caught, they will be tortured. It doesn't matter what information they have. They will get tortured. Be prepared to suffer. And justice be damned!

That's the message that was being sent. And that is terrorism. And that puts the US, at least under Bush, in the same category as Al-Qaeda

And that's why Congress and we, the people, need to pursue an investigation of torture that has been done in the name of the United States - in OUR name, you and me.

Saturday, April 4, 2009

If You Were Pissed About the AIG Bonuses...

then take a look at this -- Kucinich to probe $3.6 billion in Merrill Lynch bonuses.

Bank of America CEO Ken Lewis (R) and Merrill Lynch CEO John Thain

Also, here is a video of Kucinich discussing these bonuses on FoxNews.

The AIG bonuses totaled $165 million. That's a lot of money and people were justified in being upset about the very people that helped get us into this financial mess being rewarded for doing it. But is pales in the face of the $3.6 billion in Merrill Lynch bonuses. $3.6 billion is $3600 million. A much larger number than $165 million.

Almost 22 times larger!

The article says:
  • Following the federal government's promise of $10 billion in TARP funds to buoy the ailing firm through it's roll-up, Merrill paid out $3.6 billion in bonuses

  • [T]he Merrill Lynch Compensation Committee awarded these payments on December 8, 2008, before the end of the fourth quarter, in which Merrill lost more than $15 billion, and after Merrill was informed that it would be allocated $10 billion in TARP funds

  • Bank of America, which absorbed Merrill in 2008, received an additional $25 billion from the government to facilitate the merger

  • Sources tell ABC News that a non-public agreement between Merrill and Bank of America was signed September 15th, 2008. The two companies initially agreed that Merrill Lynch could award up to $5.8 billion in performance bonuses, an amount that was later reduced to "under $4 billion" following a conversation between Thain and Bank of America's Steele Alphin, the top aide and close confidant of the bank's CEO, Ken Lewis

  • These payments raise significant questions about what information Merrill Lynch and Bank of America executives shared with federal officials that oversaw the Merrill acquisition by Bank of America
Where is the outrage about this deal? It makes AIG look like pikers!

Friday, April 3, 2009

Ladders and Chairs

Chairs are made for sitting. Ladders are made for climbing. Sometimes chairs are used as ladders. Usually they work fine. Sometimes they don't. Tuesday was one of the times when they don't. My wife fell off on a chair in our bedroom. She landed on her tail bone and it looks like she also broke her fall with her left hand and right elbow.

I was upstairs and heard her fall. I went into the bedroom and found her laying on the floor with the chair kind of wrapped around her legs. It was obvious right away what had happened. She felt sore, but was able to get up and move around. Her wrist and tail bone were very sore. We called the doctor and went to see her later in the afternoon.

The doctor had her get her left wrist and right elbow x-rayed. They both were swollen and sore. By the time the x-rays were taken, the doctor was gone for the day. I called her Wednesday morning but her office said that she would not be in until the afternoon. We went ahead and made an appointment with an orthopedic doctor who specializes in hands and elbows for early Wednesday afternoon. We had copies of the x-rays so we did not have to wait for her other doctor to get in. Whether or not she had any broken bones, she wanted to see the orthopedic guy.

He looked over the x-rays, poked and prodded, and said that the elbow was fine -- swollen and bruised, but nothing broken. He was not so sure about the wrist. To be on the safe side, he put a cast on her forearm to immobilize the wrist. We will go back in two weeks and he will x-ray the wrist again. If there is a fracture, it will show up then.

So, the score is:
  • Wife:
    • Possible fracture of left wrist
    • Cast on left forearm
    • Sore and bruised right elbow
    • Sore and bruised butt
    • Sore right leg
  • Chair
    • Nothing
She is moving around slowly and is concerned about how she is going to wash her hair. I may get to help. That should be an experience!

Please only use chairs for sitting.