19 posts

Doc on…the Judicial Branch of government in the U.S.

[Third in a series of essays on the current political climate in the United States. These are not meant as definitive fixes for anything but just bringing up ideas for discussion. But, should the become the basis Constitutional Amendments, I expect full credit. 🙂

Part 2: Doc on…the Electoral College
Part 1: Doc on…Ranked Choice Voting

Did you know that the Judicial Branch of the U.S. Government doesn’t have divisions led by an elected official, and is the only such branch?

The Legislative Branch has Congress, where they are all elected. The Executive Branch have the President and Vice President, who are elected, although I’d argue that the Vice President isn’t elected as such, but is “appointed” by the candidate…when has anyone ever changed their vote based on who the VP was?

But the Judicial Branch has the U.S. Department of Justice, which reports to the Attorney General, who is appointed by the President, and the Supreme Court, which consists of lifetime appointments made by – you guessed it – the President, although with the approval of Congress.

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Doc on…the Electoral College

[Second in a series of essays on the current political climate in the United States.

Part 3: Doc on…Judicial Branch of government in the U.S.
Read Part 1: Doc on…Ranked Choice Voting

Whenever a contentious presidential election comes up, especially when the popular vote does not match the electoral results, people call for the Electoral College to be abolished. I was one of those people. I don’t think that way now, but I do think a lot of changes are needed.

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Doc on…Ranked Choice Voting

[First in a series of essays on the current political climate in the United States.

Part 3: Doc on…Judicial Branch of government in the U.S.
Part 2: Doc on…the Electoral College

With a very contentious election coming up, I figured now is as good as ever to talk about some of the things that have come up a lot.

In Massachusetts, one ballot measure that is up for decision is Question 2: Ranked Choice Voting. Alaska voting on a similarly measure, and Maine has it already. It’s also used in a number of municipalities like Cambridge for certain elections, and has been used for years elsewhere like Australia. It is even used for voting on the Hugo Awards, the Oscars of science fiction fandom.

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Why ABC’s Battle of the Network Stars won’t survive – and why it should

I grew up with television from the 70s and 80s, and one of the things I looked forward to most was the once or twice a year specials which featured the stars doing different things…like ABC’s Battle of the Network Stars – that was reality TV back then. I loved it so much that I still have recordings of all but two episodes, and when ESPN Classic started showing the old ones, I watched them over and over…

The show was a variety sports competition based on the similar format of NBC’s SuperStars and SuperTeams, pitting three teams – one from each of the three major broadcast networks back then, ABC, NBC and CBS – consisting of eight to nine competitors from that network’s current shows. And it was very competitive…each were competing for real money, and some of them were just naturally competitive. There was a variety of competitions, from standard running, cycling and swimming relays, to more fun stuff like the dunk tank and Simon Says, as well as 3-on-3 football, the famous obstacle course, and the infamous finale, the Tug Of War. ABC’s own Howard Cosell would host with a different co-host each time, with the exception of the 18th Battle, filmed in Hawaii instead of the usual Pepperdine University and hosted by Joan Van Ark and Dick Van Dyke.

Who could forget the very first running relay, where ABC captain Gabe Kaplan protested the NBC team’s run as one of the men moved backwards to get the baton from one of the slower women early, and NBC captain Robert Conrad went NUTS, made some comments that would get fried on Twitter these days, and challenged Kaplan to a run off, which Kaplan agreed to…and Kaplan promptly blew the doors off the cigar-smoking Conrad…

The battles were filmed on location at Pepperdine University in Pasadena, California, over a couple days with live crowds with cheerleaders to help elevate the excitement and energy levels.

Looking back, it was interesting how ABC managed to get people from the other networks to compete, something that probably wouldn’t fly these days. But the other networks and their shows got promoted, and I don’t know if there was an agreement to co-share with the other networks – CBS had a “spiritual cousin” of the show, Circus Of The Stars. I can’t remember if NBC had one. Even for the second battle, it seemed as if appearances weren’t sanctioned by the other networks – the teams were instead known as “Friends of NBC”, etc. and logos weren’t used, but by the third battle that seemed to be resolved.
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What are french fries, really?

Just had a discussion about french fries. I am of the following opinion, which I have long held:

Fries are nothing more than edible utensils for condiments. As such, surface area is the most important aspect. Steak fries have a lower surface area to volume ratio, and therefore are not as useful. There is less for the condiments to stick to.

And condiments are defined as salt, ketchup and grease (preferably of the oft-banned trans fat variety). I’ll accept Malt Vinegar from the Brits though.

“Illegal” marketing calls from “Out of Area” – phone spam

They seemed to go away for a bit, but they are back…its those phone calls you get at home, to let you know that your auto warranty is expiring (yeah, in 2 more years), or its your “credit card company” that wants to tell you something, or some other jazz like that. It’s a pre-recorded message, which at the end it tells you to press 1 to talk to someone, or press 2 to stop receiving calls. Amazingly, pressing 2 seems to have no effect. So, how do you stop them from calling? Continue reading

Now BVHE won’t honor 5 free Blu-Ray offer due to “missing” UPC code

Just not my day today…after a lovely day at work which will end up with me working all night because a customer decided at the last second they don’t want to do any of the work, I come home to an envelope from Buena Vista Home Entertainment, the Disney arm that puts out DVD and Blu-Ray discs, and was offering 5 free BD discs (from a limited selection – only one of which I would have actually purchased, mind you) for buying a qualifying Blu-Ray player (like the Playstation 3). My 5 free Blu-Ray discs I’m supposed to get for buying my PS3 has been rejected because they claim I didn’t include the UPC symbol. I most definitely DID – I checked several times before sealing the envelope that it was in there, and all I have now is a hole in the box where it was. So what am I supposed to now? They are asking me to send them the UPC code, which I already did, and THEY lost. Sigh…

Update [2/5]: I e-mailed. They said to call. I called. They said to fax…we’ll see…

Update [2/23]: Called again today…they apparently “received my request into the system” last week. Only took them 10 days from when I faxed. Supposedly I’m qualified now, but it can be another 5 weeks to receive the discs. We’ll see…

Update [3/30]: 5 weeks TO THE DAY of my phone call, the movies arrived – even though a few days ago the web site still listed me as unqualified. At least now I have a couple movies I actually want to watch…

CompUSA clearance sales – not exactly priced to clear

I’ve dropped by the local CompUSA several times since it was announced that they were sold to a liquidating company, figuring I’d see some good deals. After over a month, most of the discounts are still around 15% – but look closely. It says its off the “original price”. Apparently the original price means the price it had over a year ago, in some cases.

For instance, I was looking for a MicroSD memory card for my new mobile phone. I looked a couple weeks ago, and they wanted $69.99 less 10% for a 2GB card. That didn’t sound right – I checked online, and the same exact card was $25. Well, I checked back today, and it was the SAME price – but the discount was now 15%. I went to Costco and paid $24.

I looked at a 4GB USB thumb drive. They wanted $99 less 20%! Costco had a 3-pack of 2GB thumb drives for something like $45. If they think these discounts are going to clear merchandise, they are sadly mistaken – but I don’t think that’s their intent. As I was there, they were taking all the recordable media, etc. and taking them off the shelves. I think their intent is to liquidate wholesale to other retailers, and not provide any real value to consumers any more.

Useless technologies – USB key to limit child’s computer access

Japanese toy company Bandai has teamed up with network device maker Buffalo to develop a USB key that prevents children from accessing harmful websites, and limit their computer time. Branded with Disney characters and playing a Disney video when first plugged in, it also limits the programs a child can play. But I wonder if this conversation ever took place:

“So, you plug the USB key in, and the child can only use the computer for what we say they can.”

“Wow, that’s kind of neat. But what happens if the key isn’t plugged in?”

“Well, then the computer acts normally so the adults can access whatever they want.”

“So, what requires that the key be inserted if the child uses the computer?”

“Ummm…the parent?”

“And what if the child removes the key?”


Perhaps it would make more sense if the computer was limited UNLESS the key was inserted, and the parents keep them locked away with their guns and alcohol…

Disney takes money, cancels program, goes silent (resolved)

Anybody who knows me knows I am a Disney fan, enough to start my own web site about it. I couldn’t tell you why – perhaps watching old black-and-white reruns of The Mickey Mouse Club with my dad or something. I never went to Disneyland or Walt Disney World until I was an adult though, and I’m thoroughly hooked now. I just bought into the Disney Vacation Club, paying for trips for the next 50 years for my family. Imagine my delight when Disney re-opened a dormant project that I wanted to participate in. Imagine my disappointment when they abruptly canceled the program after taking my money, and won’t tell me what happened or when I’ll get my money back. Read the full article for more details and updates. Continue reading