Review: Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter

Abraham Lincoln: Vampire HunterAbraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter by Seth Grahame-Smith
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Wow, just wow. Having read Pride and Prejudice and Zombies, I was already familiar with what Seth Grahame-Smith could do with a novel.

This was entirely different, but the writing style was fantastic. It was funny, engaging and most of all period based, which just made things fun. Written largely from the perspective of Abraham Lincoln himself, you learn about a whole different side of the President, and the real reasons for the Civil War.

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thoughts

busy day. total insanity at work as usual. this project is moving forward at 1000mph and it isn’t making any stops along the way.

Found this interesting today. This is the exact counter-intuitiveness one comes to expect with the telecoms industry.

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air quality action day

What the hell am I supposed to do about this?

I’m on weather.com earlier today and I see this “Air Quality” warning, so I click it. The warning reads;

THE PENNSYLVANIA DEPARTMENT OF ENVIRONMENTAL PROTECTION HAS DECLARED AN AIR QUALITY ACTION DAY FOR THE REGION… IN EFFECT FROM 9 AM TO 10 PM EDT FRIDAY.

AN AIR QUALITY ACTION DAY MEANS THAT AIR QUALITY WITHIN THE REGION MAY APPROACH OR EXCEED UNHEALTHY STANDARDS.

Confused, I head over to NOAA.gov to read about what the heck that means;

“Unhealthy” means that everyone may begin to experience some adverse health effects, and members of the sensitive groups may experience more serious effects.

Well, fantastic. What am I supposed to do about that? Just deal with it? If I stay indoors and seal my windows with duct-tape, will the terrorists win?

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on airlines & baggage

As anyone who has ever flown in, once seen, or thought about an airplane, I feel as though it is my patriotic duty to add my inflation adjusted $0.02 into the mix.

In-case you have been hiding under a rock for the past week, Spirit Airlines announced that they will charge up to $45 for passengers bringing carry-on bags onto it’s jets this summer. The announcement has been met with much controversy and has even sparked a new Bill in congress entitled the BAG Act (whose cutesy title makes me gag a little so I won’t repeat it here.)

The great Senator from New York (no, the other one… yes, Schumer… near-sighted protector of consumers everywhere… ok, no? yeah, the CARD Act was short-sighted wasn’t it… ok, that’s a whole other debate, let’s move on…) has received commitment from five domestic airlines that they will not follow suit and also charge for carry-on bags. Unfortunately, the Senator may be on the wrong side of this issue. Closer inspection shows that the argument isn’t so simple.

This is a problem that airlines brought on themselves. Ever since they began charging for checked bags individual consumers decided to outsmart them and bring ever larger bags into the cabin itself. A cabin which was never designed to hold the quantity of cargo it now contains. This causes multiple headaches, it slows down the check-in process, slows down security, slows down boarding and slows down disembarkment. It now takes a solid half hour to board an A-390 as little old women struggle to lift 45-lb suitcases above their heads and into the over-head bins.

Spirit decided to apply a tried-and-true (and effective) economic principle using a (dis)incentive to force people to make a conscious choice about what they are doing. Do I REALLY need my bag with me in the cabin, slowing everyone down, or can it go below?

Of course no one wants to pay any added fees for anything, but perhaps we should all take a good look at what Spirit was trying to accomplish. Maybe folks bringing 40-lb bags into the cabin should pay the fee for the added convenience (for themselves) and inconvenience (for everyone else.)  Then we can all return to sanity and vacationers can check their over-sized and overstuffed bags. While we are at it, airlines should also enforce the rule that your first carry-on goes under your seat. No more putting your coat and purse in the overhead so that your little feets can stretch comfortably. (I’m looking at you.)

Posted in economics, government, insanity, vacation, work | 1 Comment

sway

Sway: The Irresistible Pull of Irrational Behavior Sway: The Irresistible Pull of Irrational Behavior by Ori Brafman

My rating: 4 of 5 stars
The authors main premise is that we as humans are fundamentally flawed in our abilities to make rational decisions due to various factors in our upbringing and values systems.

Take for example the story about Who Wants to Be a Millionaire? In America individuals generally admire the wealthy, and as a result when a contestant on the show uses the Ask the Audience life-line the audience gives the correct answer more than 90% of the time. Russians are suspicious of the wealthy as they believe that they have gotten rich at the expense of the many. This was based on the experiences just after the fall of communism in the early 90′s. Subsequently, very, very rarely does the audience in the Russian version of the show ever give the correct answer. In-fact is seems like the audience purposefully gives the wrong answer, just to screw with the contestants. Different value systems, different responses.

Each chapter goes through a different factor that sways us from rational decision making, culminating in an ending that recommends.

The book is very light and airy, not delving too deeply into any one topic, and not really providing too much statistical information from the various studies reviewed by the authors. For this reason I think the book was a great primer on the topic of irrational behavior. Those seeking a greater understanding of why the human mind makes decisions the way it does, would be better served by finding a more technical book on the topic.

Those who enjoy books by Malcolm Gladwell and the Freakonomics-esque will definitely enjoy Sway.

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a lesson in changes

So I just spent the past ten hours diagnosing a problem with my mac mini’s ability to connect to my wireless network.

Earlier today, out of nowhere (or so I thought) my mac was no longer able to connect to my home wireless network. I received the dreaded “Unable to Connect” no matter what I tried. It could see the network, just wouldn’t connect. Same thing with other nearby networks.

I scoured the Apple forums, rebooted countless times, edited XML files buried in the guts of the system all to no avail. I could not possibly think of what I had changed on my system to cause this nightmare. And then it hit me. Earlier in the day I moved my external hard drive from next to the computer to on-top of the computer. You know, where Apple put’s it’s Airport wireless cards. Yeah. I move the drive back to where it originally was and everything is fine again.

Lesson learned, sometimes physical change has an impact too…

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life, death and taxes

Wow, the government is really fast at pulling money right out of your bank account when you owe them. I guess times are tough…

Speaking of taxes, I just finished completing the paper forms for my seventh and final state. Whew. If I was deciding where to live based solely on Tax forms I’m pretty sure that North Carolina would be at the bottom of my list. Delaware would be at the top. In Delaware all you basically do its copy over all of the lines from your federal return and tell them if there are any differences with your income or deductions with respect to their state. It’s two pages and your tax is computed on a simple ratio basis. Done in 7 minutes.

North Carolina on the other hand. Four pages long. The first page after you finish with the pleasantries of filling out your name, SSN and which horrible political party you want your money to go to, they have you jumping all over creation. I believe question 12 told me to go to page 3 and complete questions 37 through 52 and bring the result back here. Once on page 3 and you get to question 38 it tells you to go to the instructions and complete worksheet A on page 12. Once there one of the questions on the worksheet asks you to complete the Deduction Exemptions worksheet on the Federal 1040 instructions. So, here I am with two computers with four PDF documents open trying to complete these worksheets on pen and paper, only to get to the end of the worksheet and have it tell me that none of this matters and they are going to use the results on page 1 anyway. Oh and not to mention that Acrobat Reader crashed on me half way through and I tried to complete the forms again from memory and came out to a different result… I hate you NC Department of Revenue.

It was like one of those choose your own adventure books where you keep dying. Anyway, at least that is over.

I sure do hope that California doesn’t send me an IOU for the $2 they owe me… And yes, I will be cashing that check. It’s a principles thing.

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