Saturday, December 31, 2005

Lord Voldemort, Dick Cheney & eBay

It came to me this morning in the shower- the cast of characters in Political America 2005 mirrors the cast in the Harry Potter series. Dick Cheney is Lord Voldemort, the evil wizard of the Nixon era who was banished when that Empire fell in flames and fury, but he bided his time in banishment while craftily plotting to regain his powers, and now he stands on the threshold of absolute power. Poor John Kerry is Sirius Black, gone down to defeat at the hands of the Death Eaters; John McCain is Snape, because nobody is sure which side he is really on, and while both sides want him, neither really trusts him; Karl Rove is Lucius Malfoy, and Tom DeLay is Draco; Condi Rice is Bellatrix Lestrange; Eugene McCarthy was Dumbledore; Ralph Nader is all three Dursleys; and George Bush? He's obviously Wormtail.

But who is Harry? Well, if we knew that we'd be a good deal better off, wouldn't we?

What I really want is one of those cool "Cheney -Voldemort in 08" bumper stickers...

I finally figured out what to do with my extra leap-second tonight.

I'm going to sell it on eBay.

Friday, December 30, 2005

Private Auctions, Impeachment & Caviar

A question came up on Bibliophile yesterday about why sellers run private auctions on eBay. While there are certainly some legitimate reasons to run a "private" auction, there are also some really sleazy ones, the top one being that you have ripped people off in the past and don't want them warning your current bidders. I know of a few sellers who run private auctions for this specific reason. Somebody in the thread suggested that a private auction is a courtesy to buyers, but that doesn't make any sense to me. While it is certainly true that bidders make note of other bidders who like the same stuff they do, and "stalk" them to find items they might have missed, any savvy bidder can defeat this by simply not bidding until the last minute -that's what eBay's "Watch-this-Auction" function, and bid-sniper programs are for. Besides, sellers want as many bidders as they can get, and having a private auction actually works against that, unless you have something to hide.

Today's Poor Taste Question- if (as some idiot such as Pat Robertson said) Hurricane Katrina was God's punishment against N'awlins for putting up with gays and other people having a good time when they should be praying, what are the Texas wildfires God's punishment against Texas for?

And speaking of George Bush...

Over at Beekslayers k told those of us who had been hanging out in the bar and not paying sufficient attention about the new "guerrilla stickering" campaign of the single word: "Impeach". Not that writing it on a napkin at the coffee shop and leaving it there on the counter, or putting a sticker on a telephone pole, will get the job done, but the more people see the word, the more they start to think about it, and the more they think about it the easier it will be to do it.

Works for me.

Now Reading- "Caviar: The Strange History and Uncertain Future of the World's Most Coveted Delicacy" by Inga Saffron. I know, what with Global Warming and all the Earth is going to Hell anyway, but it's always sad and maddening when another species dies because people are greedy and stupid. There's a lot more here than just the tale of an ancient fish going extinct, though. It's an engrossing book (engrossing- whatta great word -almost indecent). I bought my copy on remainder from Daedalus (hey, booksellers don't pay full #@%%$# price for anything). They still have some left at $4.98.

I bought ten...

Wednesday, December 28, 2005

Funny Customers, Mao's Red Book & Johnny Damon

Booksellers as a group tend to make too much fun of their customers, but let's face it, every once in a while they deserve it. There's a book called "Bookworm Droppings" that collects tales from booksellers, and some bookbuyers, of silly things the other guy said. Some of it simply reflects booksellers being a pain in the ass (nothing abnormal there) but some of it is pretty funny.

My favorite customer joke has nothing to do with bookselling at all. It came from a female department store clerk who was asked by another woman (who she didn't know from Adam, or Eve) "Do you think my husband would like this sweater?" "I don't know," the clerk replied. "Next time we're in bed together I'll ask him".

I see there's a new hole in Windows this morning, gee, imagine that. This one apparently might be exploited in Firefox too, so I canna get up on my horse too fast about it. But still, anyone still opening file attachments that they were not expecting might as well just take a sledghammer to their computer now and be done with it -it'd be faster and save the rest of us some hassles by not spreading these things further and faster. Really. Just go grab that hammer and whack away. Once more. Good. Thank you.

The story about that UMass student who says the Feds visited him when he tried to check out Mao's "Little Red Book" is still in the news. This time a teacher wants the student suspended. Seems wrong to me. Are you going to suspend every student who makes up a "my dog ate my term paper" story?

The fact of the matter is that the story might as well have been true-it was true, in a way, so the actual facts of one particular, isolated incident do not matter. People's belief in it -which was instant and widespread, makes it true, in effect, because it reflects our own understanding of, and perception of, the country and society we live in today. The country and society we live in are scared shitless and have become uber-paranoid, either about terrorist bogiemen or government bogiemen. The wildfire spread of that story is simply a reflection of that greater truth.

And who is to say such things do not happen? Since people who are the targets of searches or visits such as the one alleged in the story are prohibited by law from saying anything about them, the question of whether they happen, or how many have happened, or under what exact circumstances they happen, is moot. Nobody can know. I did notice one thing- in responding to the initial story, one Federal agent commented that it seemed "unlikely" that such a visit would happen. As somebody else commeted at the time (sorry, don't remember who -gotta cut out that second beer before breakfast) I'd feel a lot more comfortable if he'd characterized it as "absurd", "impossible" or "ridiculous" rather than simply "unlikely".

Still have to figure out what to do with that extra leap second this year. Maybe I'll spend it reviewing the Red Sox chances of landing a decent center fielder. I mean, not to cry over spilt milk but... but... BUT WHAT THE HELL WERE THEY THINKING??? Ok, I feel better now. Go Pats.

Post-Coffee Mutterings

So, here I am blogging. We'll see how this works. The first question is- write before or after the first cup of coffee? I'm actually a bit more coherent before the first cup; after the first cup I've had a chance to catch the morning news and read some email lists, so I'm usually in a pissier mood.

We'll try after.

So, how to spend that extra "leap second" we will get at the end of the year? And why wait until midnight for it? I want my extra second now, when I'm awake and more or less sober enough to take advantage of it.

In nearby Northampton they used to have the New Year's fireworks at midnight, but last year they moved them to 6 pm "so the children could enjoy them". What's up with that? If kids want to see fireworks they should either learn to stay up late or go make some flour bombs like we did when we were kids. Jeesh.

The RagNews is all aflutter because Desperate Housewife Eva Longoria and her Frenchy NBA-star boyfriend got into it with a traffic cop the other night. Earth to celebreties- if you are blocking the road and a cop asks you to move, move! If he happens to put his hand on your oh-so-fancy car, do not yell at him about it. What really annoyed me about the story was the story that called Longoria the "sexiest Housewife". Bull. Yes, she wears the sexiest outfits, but Marcia Cross is the sexiest actress on that series by a mile.

Over on the Bibliophile mailing list they're wondering how to actually get in touch with a human at eBay. I can tell you how- put up something that violates their rules. Otherwise, good luck. Ebay wants your money, not your whining.