Thursday, February 26, 2009

Cliché Football Movies

Dear Hollywood,
Please stop making movies about football. I mean seriously, every movie about football that can ever be made has already been made twice.Nobody thinks the ragtag bunch of misfits have a chance at the championship, but then they overcome their differences and against all odds...they WIN, gaining the respect of their hard-nosed coach and the opposing team. Wow, I totally didn't see that coming...not!

The world does not need any more movies about football. From The Waterboy to The Comebacks, The Longshots, The Replacements, The Longest Yard, We Are Marshall, Varsity Blues, Jerry Maguire, Gridiron Gang, Any Given Sunday, Remember The Titans, and countless others, football movies are nothing but cliché.

Speaking of clichés, the world already has plenty of superhero movies, computer-animated kids' movies, and movies based on TV shows. Now if someone could please stop Adam Sandler, Jack Black, Will Ferrell, Paris Hilton, and Jennifer Lopez from ever standing in front of a camera again, the world would be a much better place.

Thank you,

I am not the only one who feels this way:

Friday, February 20, 2009

Doublespeak, Jargon, and Other Crimes Against the English Language

Maybe it's a sign of the times, but it seems like the movement towards more politically correct language is spinning out of control. I don't have a problem with calling people "disabled" instead of "crippled" or "retarded." That's certainly a less hurtful way of describing their condition. It's the words that don't need euphemisms in the first place that bother me.

Today, words and phrases that are not even offensive are being "sanitized" to sound more pleasant than they really are. We no longer exercise at the gym, we exercise at the fitness center. We don't use banks, churches, or schools anymore. Instead we use financial institutions, worship centers, and learning centers. We don't live in neighborhoods, we live in communities.

In the business world, euphemisms are even more prevalent. We don't have layoffs, we have workforce reductions, outsourcing, downsizing, and displacement. We don't have problems, only challenges and opportunities. We don't have failures, we have deferred successes. We don't wish each other a Merry Christmas, we wish each other Happy Holidays.

I think these modern sugar-coated phrases are bullshit. Is it really necessary to sanitize words like "bank" or "school?" Saying things like "financial institution" or "learning center" is what people do when they try to sound smarter than they really are. I'm all for calling a spade a spade. If you can say something in two words instead of five, do it. Be clear and simple.

The other thing that's been bugging me lately is the explosive popularity of cutesy, mashed-up, hybrid, two-point-oh words that people are making up. Take for example the word "staycation," which is a short version of the phrase "stay at home vacation." I understand that because of the current economic situation, lots of families are still taking time off from work but aren't traveling out of state this year.

Call me old fashioned, but I wouldn't ever tell anyone I was taking a "staycation." I'd call it staying home and saving money. I'd call it not fucking going to Disneyland this year because the economy is in the shitter. Staycation? Give me a fucking break!

Another god-awful mashed up word is "ecopreneur," which refers to an environmentally-conscious entrepreneur. Boy, I couldn't take anyone seriously with a title like that! Then of course, there is the practice of "hypermiling" to conserve fuel when driving. How about slowing the fuck down and driving the speed limit?

I wish people would stop making up such ridiculous names for things that do not need them. It's getting annoying. For more words that disgust me, check out my previous post entitled Language I Loathe.

Thursday, February 19, 2009

Stupid Naming Conventions: Cell Phones

Today, cell phones can do everything from snap pictures to play music, go on the web, and even open and edit business documents. They have full keyboards that swivel, flip, and slide open in every way imaginable. To make these new phones even more appealing to teens, college kids, and hipsters, cell phone manufacturers began giving their phones names.

Just look at the Razr, the Rokr, the Chocolate, the Shine, the Instinct, the Secret, the BlackJack, the Scoop, the Cookie, the Lotus, the Renown, the Behold, the Saga, and the ubiquitous BlackBerry. This is a trend that's really, REALLY fucking stupid and I wish it would stop before it gets even more out of hand. These names are almost as generic and inane as colognes and fragrances at the mall.

How could you ever tell someone that you got a new phone called "the Chocolate" and not feel stupid and embarrassed? What a dumb name for a phone! What a dumb name for anything other than a bar of chocolate! I'm just waiting for them to come out with a phone called "the Cliche." Better yet, the perfect phone for me would be called "the Critic," if only it made fun of all the other phones with stupid names. I would rather have a phone with an esoteric naming system like "A-100" than a retarded name dreamed up by some marketing executive.

Phone manufacturers: stop naming phones after random nouns in the dictionary. Seriously.

I am not the only one who feels this way:

Wednesday, February 18, 2009

Stupid Naming Conventions: Cars

In today's consumer-driven society, the market is full of all kinds of products to buy. In order to differentiate similar products from one another, manufacturers often give their products names instead of going by model numbers. Of course, some companies put vastly more effort into their product names than others.

Take a look at American car companies for example, which have historically given their vehicles real names. Cars like the Mustang, Thunderbird, Camaro, and Impala deliver strong visual images of power, speed, and strength. They just roll off the tongue. They may even influence the styling of the vehicle they adorn.

On the other hand, German and Japanese cars are seriously lacking in the imagination department. Rather than come up with clever or sexy names, they use esoteric combinations of letters and numbers to distinguish their vehicles. What comes to mind when you hear the name QX56, 740iL, and CLS-55? What does GS300 make you think of? They make me think of nothing. They make me picture hard-nosed designers who lack the human emotion that should go into building a car.

Before you go and point out that some automakers use these jumbled names to distinguish engine displacement, number of cylinders, or trim levels, I'm already ahead of you. Yes, a BMW 330 indicates an entry-level coupe with a 3.0-liter engine. And yet, the BMW 325 also has a 3.0-liter engine, not a 2.5-liter engine as the naming convention would indicate. It's completely meaningless when companies don't even adhere to their own rules.

Car manufacturers: start using the alphabet to make words.

I am not the only one who feels this way:

Tuesday, February 17, 2009

Ridiculous Subdivision Names

Since the end of World War II, land in Arizona has been cheap and plentiful compared to other states. This has made Arizona a prime location for building massive communities of residential homes, known as subdivisions or suburbs.

Housing mega-developers such as Del Webb, Pulte, D.R. Horton, Richmond American, Lennar, Meritage, and Taylor Morrison Homes have purchased hundreds of thousands of acres of land on the outskirts of Phoenix and built massive master-planned communities, also called "satellite communities." The explosive growth of these communities has kept Phoenix on the top 10 list of "fastest growing cities in America" for decades.

Aside from the urban sprawl and increased traffic, what really bugs me is the absolutely awful names these new subdivisions have. Most of them are designed to appeal to yuppies, and therefore incorporate some sort of pseudo-luxurious or elite sounding word into the name. Take a look at the examples below. All of these are real names of subdivisions in the greater Phoenix area:

Dynamite Ranch
Troon North
Desert Highlands
Whisper Rock
Pecan Creek South
Rancho Bella Vista
Serenity Shores at Fulton Ranch

You can find yuppies and real estate agents discussing pricing and locations of the various subdivisions on forums such as

How could you ever tell your parents or your co-workers that you just bought a new house in "Troon North" with a straight face? Not only is it an embarrassing name, but you are admitting to the world that you were seduced into buying an overpriced, cookie-cutter home that was made for people exactly like you by market researchers and focus groups. This is conspicuous consumption at its worst.

If the pinnacle of your adult life is moving into a stucco castle in some brand new master-planned community with a ridiculous name like "Tartesso" or "Troon North," then you should know that I hate everything about your priorities and your lifestyle.

Check out the master list of silly subdivisions in the Phoenix area.

I am not the only one who feels this way:

Monday, February 16, 2009

Verb the Noun Bands

Have you noticed how many bands these days are creating their names with the formula "verb the noun?" It mostly seems to happen in the hardcore, death metal, and screamo genres. At the time of this writing, all of these are real names of bands:
Becoming the Archetype
Before the Dawn
Bleed the Sky
Bury Your Dead
Clone the Fragile
Escape the Fate
Haste the Day
Hit the Lights
Pierce the Veil
Poison the Well
Protest the Hero
Remove the Veil
Salt the Wound
Scatter the Ashes
Sever Your Fall
Sound the Alarm
Swallow the Sun

Maybe it's too much to expect death metal bands to care about things like grammar, but it's also unoriginal when your band name sounds like every other band name out there. Can we please stop with the ridiculous band names?

I am not the only one who feels this way:

Friday, February 13, 2009

Language I Loathe

May I present to you the growing list of buzzwords and meaningless lexicon which I have come to abhor simply for their excessive appearance in popular culture and writing. It's time to put these words and phrases out to pasture because I'm officially calling them cliché and worn-out. If I didn't hear them again for a very long time, that would be just fine with me.

Blog, blogging, and especially blogosphere
Wiki-anything (as a prefix, suffix, or root word)
RSS feed
Web two-point-oh
Anything two-point-oh
Social networking
Social bookmarking
iPod, iTunes, and iPhone
"Hi-Def" and HD
Cloud computing
Microsoft and Yahoo
Eminem (honestly, who still listens to this guy?)
Monsoon Season
Rumored to
Think outside the (article)
and the no-longer clever Think inside the (article)
Limited time offer
Eco as a prefix in general
Hybrid (when refeferring to cars and otherwise)
Global warming
Greenhouse effect
Homeland Security

There are lots more words I hate but I cannot think of them at the moment.

I am not the only one who feels this way:

Monday, February 9, 2009

Modern Living

There are certain things in life that I think I will just never understand. One of those things is the "modern" or "contemporary" movement in architecture and design. I just cannot wrap my head around it.

I just can't see the appeal in bare, hardwood floors, track lighting, and wacky furniture. Who wants to live in a place furnished with $4,000 Swiss-designed ergonomic chairs and a wine bar? Why are people so eager to live in houses that look like art museums? It's ironic how the more "minimalist" an apartment is, the more it costs.

A perfect example of where you'll find such minimalist accommodations is the new Cityscape project currently under construction in downtown Phoenix. The developers behind the project are building two high rise towers of "living spaces," with prices ranging from $300,000 up to $3 million dollars. Yes, you read that correctly. Three million dollars...for a luxury condo in downtown Phoenix.

First, let's take a look at the term "living spaces." It sounds like a politically correct, sanitized term for "condominium." Who gets so offended by the word "condominium" that we had to switch to "living space?" People live in apartments, condos, and houses, not "living spaces." What a stupid made-up word!

The press is gushing with love and adoration for the Cityscape project, but I am still not convinced that it's a great idea. You might even say I am disgusted with the situation. I'll do my best to explain why.

The fact is, Phoenix was established in the 1860s as an agricultural community to grow crops for the workers of the now-defunct Vulture Mine near Wickenburg. It is and has always been a working-class city for everyday people. Of course, once word got around about the excellent climate and cheap land, the cat was out of the bag.

According to the US Census Bureau, the population of Phoenix increased by 35% between 1990 and 2006 with over 529,000 new residents. With a total population of over 4.1 million people, Phoenix is the 5th most populated city in America.

It should come as no surprise that our perennial blue skies and comparatively low cost of living are attracting people from other big cities in droves. The problem is that they're bringing their big-city ideas and attitudes with them.

New high-rise housing developments like Cityscape and the boondoggle light-rail project have invaded our humble, working-man's town! Next thing you know, our already-sprawling metropolitan statistical area will be even larger than the Beltway or Chicagoland. Every square foot of desert will be landscaped and paved over and we'll look just like all the other big cities out there.

Today, Phoenix has a bit of an identity crisis. On the one side you have the die-hard Phoenix natives who promote the historic preservation of landmarks, support museums and cultural centers, and seek to preserve our heritage. They're proud of Phoenix and its rich history of mining, ranching, agriculture, and water management.

On the other hand, you have hundreds of thousands of transplants who relocated to the Valley of the Sun to escape the high cost of living in other large cities. Their visions of concrete, steel, and glass monoliths towering over the desert with their "sleek, contemporary, and modern lines" just turns my stomach. So what if a couple of historic buildings have to get torn down? It's all in the name of progress.

These deep-pocketed developers see themselves as messiahs who will bring culture and contemporary art to the Valley and revive our struggling downtown neighborhoods. I wish they'd just pack up and go back where they came from.

We have our own culture here already. If I wanted the crowded feel of urban living, a bunch of overpriced boutiques and a coffee shop on every corner, I'd move to New York. Don't bring your pretentious, big-city ideas here.

The idea of a $3 million dollar condominium is simply absurd, and yet the Cityscape project will trump other luxury housing projects like the Grigio Lakefront Lofts in Tempe and the Optima Camelview condos in Scottsdale which go for a measely $1.6 million dollars. I was hoping the madness would not spread to Phoenix, but it looks like it's coming whether I like it or not.

The last thing I want in my hometown is a bunch of latte-sipping artists and interior designers squawking about dust devils blowing through their wine-and-cheese parties, scorpions in their boots, and the wicked hot summer heat.

Phoenix was never the shoot-em-up kind of stagecoach stop like in the old-Western TV shows and movies. It does however have its own unique culture and history. Phoenix has never been a "form over function" kind of place. Let's keep it that way.
[Note: This article was originally written February 1, 2008 and revised February 9, 2009.]

Friday, February 6, 2009

Not So Smart Car

In these uncertain economic times, it seems that change is the only certainty. Wild fluctuations in gas prices over the last few years are taking their toll on American drivers, who are once again demanding smaller and more fuel-efficient vehicles. It's almost as though we had forgotten everything we went through in the 1970s! The news media reports that the era of gas-guzzling Sport-Utility Vehicles has come to an end. But is the growing demand for shrinking cars really all it's cracked up to be?

Why I Hate the Smart Car
Let's look at some of the hottest selling compact and subcompact cars of today, such as the Honda Fit, the Toyota Yaris, and the Chevrolet Aveo. Compared to their mid-size and full-size counterparts which emphasize things like power, comfort, and performance, this new generation of super small vehicles sacrifices all of these attributes for the sake of economy.

By reducing everything from engine displacement to wheel size, subcompact vehicles can achieve more miles per gallon because they are significantly smaller and lighter than competing models. You cannot get something for nothing however, and there are some serious trade-offs to consider when purchasing a subcompact economy car.

While it is true that small, narrow tires offer reduced rolling resistance, they also have a smaller contact patch with the pavement which results in reduced grip and handling. Vehicles made of lightweight materials such as plastic and aluminum instead of steel may provide the benefit of weight reduction at the cost of occupant safety. Finally, vehicles with tiny, underpowered engines may cause drivers to ride the accelerator more aggressively in order to maintain speed. When looking at the trade-offs necessary to achieve fuel economy, I have to question whether those few extra miles per gallon are really worth it.

Take for example the Smart car. This darling of the media industry has been highly praised as the leader of the pack: it is the smallest, the lightest, and the most efficient gasoline-powered vehicle for sale in North America. From 2004 to 2006, Smart cars were available only as grey market imports which were sold through independent dealerships. These import models were modified to meet US DOT safety standards and were not affiliated with Daimler AG, the German parent company that owns Smart. In 2006, Daimler announced that the Smart car would be available for sale in the US starting in 2008.

The main difference between the grey market imports and the 2008 Smart Fortwo is the motor. The small, turbocharged engine has been replaced with a larger, 1.0-liter non-turbo engine. The new engine has just 3 cylinders and puts out about 70 HP. The Fortwo still holds just two occupants (one driver and one passenger), and it boasts an EPA estimated mileage of 33mpg city and 41mpg highway (see The 2009 Fortwo starts at $11,590 for the base model, $13,590 for the Passion Coupe, and $16,590 for the convertible model.

It seems the timing of the Smart car couldn't be better, with gas prices soaring and drivers desperate for an easy answer. A reservation program launched in 2007 offered interested customers a spot on Smart's waiting list, which now has an estimated wait time of 12 to 18 months for delivery. Clearly, thousands American drivers are eager to get their hands on the Smart car.

To me, the Smart car phenomenon is absolutely baffling. I am shocked that American car buyers really are gullible enough to fall for the Smart car. Eleven thousand dollars for an EPA-combined 36 miles per gallon? Surely they must be joking! The Smart car strikes me as a rip off as both a driver and a consumer. There are plenty of ways to get better mileage without getting into this pitiful econobox of a car.

If miles per gallon are your top priority, you are probably the kind of person who has a panic attack every time gas jumps from $3.25 a gallon to $3.75 per gallon. The idea of paying more money and receiving less product just boils your blood! Well, that's exactly what buying a Smart car boils down to. Eleven thousand dollars for a car with no cargo space to speak of, a two-person capacity, and an engine that's less powerful than your average motorcycle. Hah! If you have ever considered buying a Smart car to save on fuel costs, consider the facts:

The 2009 Honda Civic and 2009 Chevrolet Cobalt both offer 4-passenger seating, an honest-to-goodness trunk, and 4-cylinder engines that are more powerful than the Smart car by 30 to 50 HP. Oh, and they get comparable mileage at 33 and 36 mpg combined, respectively. If you're going to buy a brand new car, why not get something you can actually use? Where are you going to put your groceries in a Smart car, on your lap? Are you going to pile in and take a road trip in that thing? The point is that the Smart car is not significantly more fuel efficient than a normal car, but its miniature size, high cost, weak engine, and limited cargo space make it significantly less practical to own.

Proof That the Smart Car Sucks
It is not at all necessary to buy a brand new car to get good mileage. On Internet message boards, drivers routinely brag about squeezing 50 to 80 miles per gallon out of conventional gasoline vehicles. How are they doing this? By pairing the most efficient vehicles on the used car market with special driving techniques in a combination known as hypermiling. All you have to do is pick up a used Geo Metro, Ford Festiva, or Honda CRX-HF in the AutoTrader, check your tire pressure, and just drive the speed limit. I'm not joking; it really is that simple!

According to the The Kelley Blue Book, you should be able to find a Honda Civic hatchback in good condition for about $2,000 bucks. If you were to buy one and spend maybe $4,000 dollars fixing it up on things like new tires, a new stereo, and maybe some body work or what have you, you would still save a pile of money compared to anyone who spent $12,000 dollars on a Smart car. Not only that, but you'll enjoy equal or greater mileage depending on your driving style.

Finally, if you really hate paying for gasoline SO much that you would sacrifice everything fun about driving (such as performance, handling, safety, and comfort) by purchasing a Smart car, then maybe driving is just not for you. Find a job closer to your home and ride a bike to work. You could also move to an area with a good mass transit system and take the bus, light rail, or subway to work. The idea that anyone can justify cramming themselves into a Smart car for a 30 mile daily commute and feel good about themselves is just preposterous.

You know, I think it's pretty ironic that they call them Smart cars, because based on the facts you'd have to be pretty freaking dumb to buy one (or just really poor at math).[Note: This article was originally written October 16, 2008 and revised February 6, 2009.]December 2009 Update: The Smart Car has been voted one of the ten worst cars of the decade by automotive review site

Thursday, February 5, 2009

Web Pollution 2.0

I've noticed something new on the web these days. Every story, every article, every post on every newspaper and blog is now adorned with a set of cutesy-colorful "social bookmarking icons." The madness is spreading like wildfire. recently ran an article about social bookmarking and of course, in the box right next to the story was a "submit to digg" link. It should come as no surprise that social bookmarking is popular with bloggers and websites with user-generated content such as Instructables and GetRichSlowly. What surprises me is how many major newspapers have also latched on to this Internet epidemic.

The New Yorker has stuck to text links for its social bookmarking, but still allows you to instantly add any story to digg,, and reddit. The Seattle Post-Intelligencer is out of control with a whole box of buttons after every article. The New York Times offers the same "convenience" in a collapsible menu.

So what exactly is the problem here? These sites are just making it convenient for people to integrate news, events, and information into their own little social networks. What's wrong with that?

Well, I'm kind of upset that major newspapers are even concerned with "social bookmarking" sites to begin with. To me, social bookmarking is nothing but a big popularity contest. Before social networking, writers, bloggers, journalists, and reporters wrote articles because they had something to say. They wrote to get a point across or to communicate a message to an audience.

It seems that now, articles are being written just to win the approval of a crowd. Newspaper columnists may add keywords like "Apple" and "Google" to their headlines more than they used to, because those terms rank highly on social news sites like Digg. Articles speculating on what a high-tech company may or may not do in the near future are hastily slapped together with little regard for facts. Journalism has been reduced to a beauty pageant in which the article the crowd approves of most wins, regardless of the contestants' true character.
Secondly, I cannot believe that every thought that moves from some hack writer's mind to their keyboard is WORTHY of such instant, overnight, global promotion on the mainstage of Internet news outlets. Basically, who decides what is news and what isn't?

When you have a fully staffed newspaper, it is often the editor who decides if a story is newsworthy. This editorial process helps filter out the boring, incomplete, inaccurate, and uninteresting stories from ever getting printed. With social bookmarking, any wacky story has the potential to become front-page news.

So you cracked the screen on your iPod nano and feel entitled to a replacement? SO WHAT. So you beat Super Mario on NES in five minutes? GOOD FOR YOU. So you compiled a list of the top CSS tutorials on the web according to you? GIVE ME A BREAK. This is not news.

The simple fact is that not every story, blog, or article ever written is worth reading. I have found many of the front-page articles on social news websites to be irrelevant and lacking in substance, facts, and even proper spelling and grammar. Whatever ridiculous story is headline news today will be forgotten by tomorrow in the wake of an even more fantastic story.

Please stop cluttering up my web browsing experience with your stupid social bookmarking icons. Good newspapers and websites are about CONTENT, not about how quickly they can be spread around the web. I'm not the only one who thinks this way. Check out:Signal vs. Noise: It's the content, not the icons
ProBlogger: Social Bookmarking Icons - Are they Worth It?

ValleyWag: Fight Social Bookmark Icon Pollution
MezzoBlue: Mooching 2.0
Shakk.Us: Mother of all social bookmarking services icons

I don't look at social bookmarking icons as adding convenience to users, I look at them as catering to lazy people. How hard is it to copy a link and email or IM it to your friend? If the article is really THAT good, it's no trouble at all. You won't see any of those fugly little icons on any of my articles as long as I can help it. That's all.

[Note: This article was originally written August 22, 2007 and revised February 5, 2009.]

Wednesday, February 4, 2009

Top Choice Digital Is A Scam

Recently I was in the market for a new compact digital camera. I looked online at the most popular models and read user reviews. I looked at sample shots, video reviews on YouTube, and compared specs on DPReview. After a couple of weeks, I chose "the one" for me.

I wanted to get the best price so I checked around on Amazon, eBay, Froogle, and PriceGrabber. My research led me to one merchant whose price on the camera was significantly lower than all of the competitors. The camera I wanted was selling for $269 at Amazon and $289 at B&H Photo, yet this merchant had it for $219. That merchant was

Before buying, I scoped out the website for contact information but couldn't find much. The website looked cheesy and I should have trusted my instincts and gone somewhere else, but this price was just too good to pass up! I went and ordered the camera from them.

After placing my order and completing the online checkout, I had this lingering bad feeling and decided to see what I could find on the company. A quick Google search led me to Complaints Board, Reseller Ratings, and numerous other sites warning people not to buy from TopChoiceDigital. Now I was starting to sweat.

Through user reviews and comments, I quickly began to understand the scam. It's a classic "bait and switch" technique. Once you take the bait and order the low priced item, TopChoiceDigital emails you and makes you call to confirm the order. When you call in, they try to upsell you on accessories. I felt I had made a grave mistake in ordering from TopChoiceDigital.

I ordered my camera on a Sunday night. Sure enough, I got an email on Tuesday that my order needed to be confirmed by telephone before it could ship. This defeats the purpose of ordering online, it is neither fast nor convenient! The telephone confirmation is the critical part of the TopChoiceDigital scam.

I had to call four times before I could get a person on the line, and this was during the middle of the day. The person who finally answered asked for my confirmation number without so much as a "Hello." He confirmed the model number of the camera and I asked for the final price. He quoted me the same price as the email I had received.

Just as I thought we were finished, the salesman asked me "You do know the battery that comes with the camera will only last 30 minutes, right? Would you be interested in an additional high-capacity battery today?" Aha! I was prepared for this, and politely told him no.

He persisted, and then tried to sell me a memory card. I told him I already had one and that I just needed the camera today. He scoffed at me and told me that the camera takes a new type of memory card and that these high capacity cards are not sold in stores! The man was flat out lying to me! Of course they sell them in stores! Best Buy, Wal-Mart, and Fry's Electronics all carry SDHC memory cards. I have seen 4GB cards for sale at under $30 in these stores. Not only are they widely available, they are fairly inexpensive.

I said no, no, and no again. This guy was persistent! He tried to get me to upgrade to a "battery, memory card, and cleaning kit" package plus the camera for $280. That's $60 dollars for accessories that are not necessary to use the camera!

He finally realized he wasn't going to upsell me, and then hit me with the clincher: the "required" shipping insurance of $13 dollars. At this point I should have just cancelled the order, but alas I did not want to be on the phone any longer and said "OK."

The camera finally arrived nine days after placing the original order. I bought a high-capacity Kodak SD card from Wal-Mart for $20.88. Since the date of purchase I have taken over 200 pictures with the image stabilization turned on, and the camera still shows 2/3 battery life remaining.

Everything the Top Choice Digital salesman told me about the battery and memory card was a confirmed lie. I knew he was lying because 1) there's no way a reputable camera maker like Panasonic would produce a camera with a 30-minute battery life, and 2) I read plenty of user reviews that discussed battery life on this camera in depth before buying. I knew exactly what I was getting.

I was very fortunate to have received the item I ordered at all. Other TopChoiceDigital customers have posted horror stories involving missing or partial shipments and fighting credit card companies for a chargeback. Don't let this happen to you!

The bottom line is this: DO NOT buy from They are a bunch of liars and scam artists and are not to be trusted. They will try to sell you accessories you don't need and add bogus insurance fees to your order.

Why Motorcycles Suck

Less than three miles from my house, there is a large trade school where men and women go to become certified motorcycle mechanics. It is such a well-known school that students move here from all over the country just to go to this particular campus.

As you might have guessed, many of the students and staff at this school own motorcycles. Many of the apartments and homes near the school are rented by students who commute to class. This results in a very high percentage of motorcycle riders in my part of town.

Because the school is so close to my house, I see people riding motorcycles all the time. They're on the surface streets, on the freeways, at gas stations and stoplights and parking lots. They are everywhere!

To tell you the truth, I think motorcycles are a real nuisance. I just don't get why anybody would ever own a motorcycle; to me they don't make sense. Motorcycles are inferior to cars in almost every way I can imagine. For example:
  • Cars have larger and more powerful engines
  • Cars provide better grip and handling
  • Cars offer better safety and occupant protection
  • Cars can carry more than one passenger
  • Cars have space for cargo
  • Cars (and trucks) can tow trailers / other vehicles
  • Cars are quieter and smoother
  • Cars can be safely driven in bad weather
  • Cars are easier to see at night
  • Cars offer more amenities like air conditioning, heat, and a radio
From a practical standpoint, a motorcycle is not a very useful thing to have. It may get slightly better mileage and cost less than a car, but the benefits of owning one do not come close to offsetting the costs.

The other thing that bothers me about motorcycles is the lifestyle and culture of riders. I'm sure there are plenty of safe and responsible riders out there, but there are also negative stereotypes associated with motorcyclists including: the "badass" rebel rider, the violent gang member, the mid-life crisis weekend rider, and the young punk on a street bike who does wheelies without a helmet and weaves in and out of freeway traffic at 100mph. If you ride a motorcycle, you will never be fairly judged by co-workers, police, juries, or insurance companies.

At the other end of the spectrum you have the explosive popularity of "custom choppers" such as those featured on American Chopper and Biker Build-Off. These TV shows feature custom-built bikes with even less practicality than regular motorcycles. Common modifications include fat rear tires, low ground clearance, stretched forks and handlebars, skulls, iron crosses, and way too much chrome.

The cost of these custom-built bikes can easily surpass that of a luxury passenger car. How can anyone think it's cool to own or ride one of these monstrosities? Especially one covered in skulls, flames, and other tacky motifs? Call it cheesy, cliche, or just plain silly.

And yet in spite of all this, motorcycle registrations in Arizona have jumped 51% from 2002 to 2009. There are now over 200,000 motorcycles registered in the state of Arizona.

I wouldn't have a problem with that if they didn't roar down my alley with no mufflers, weasel by in the shoulder lane during traffic jams, and if they could actually be seen at night.

Motorcycles: who needs them? Definitely not me.

Sunday, February 1, 2009


If you have ever taken a philosophy class or seen the movie Bill and Ted's Excellent Adventure, you've probably heard of Socrates. He is remembered as an influential Greek philosopher, but during his life he was not admired like he is today. That's because ol' Socrates was a royal pain in everyone's ass.

Socrates questioned everyone and everything. He started philosophic talks or "Socratic dialogues" with anyone who crossed his path. The dialogues were of a very serious nature, such that the townspeople people would pity those who had engaged Socrates in discussion. The man loved to expose ignorance in the name of wisdom and virtue. He made the weaker argument appear to be stronger and would never answer questions directly. He even went so far as to label himself the "Gadfly of Athens."

A gadfly is a pest which bites the hides of other, larger animals when they are moving too slowly. Like a gadfly, Socrates often found himself being swatted at (figuratively) by those he spoke with, especially civic leaders.

Near the end of his life he was put on trial for corrupting the youth of Athens, for believing in deities (Gods) not approved by the state, and for making the weaker argument appear to be stronger. Because he spoke his mind so freely and frequently, Socrates was put to death by hemlock. He even had the audacity to tell the citizens of Athens that his death would hurt them more than it would hurt him!

Socrates was a pest in every sense of the word, and you can bet the Athenians were glad to be rid of him. For all of his wit and wisdom, he did not have the common sense to just shut up once in a while.

In the past I have been very hesitant to share my views on "hot" issues like politics, economics, government, and society. I do have opinions about what's going on in the world, but I felt it wasn't polite to tell them to anyone and everyone I met. Call it common sense.

Seriously, does anyone really care what I think about every little thing under the sun? I doubt it. What benefit would there be to expanding on every thought and opinion like old Socrates anyway? All it ever got him was an early grave and a few paragraphs in my philosophy textbook.

Lately though, I have been finding more and more things to gripe about. So much in fact that I could probably complain about something every day for a year. Hey, sounds like a great idea for a blog! Better yet, I can post my thoughts anonymously to avoid becoming a persona non grata in my own social circle. In this way, I can "dish it out" without taking any criticism from others.

The point of the Modern Gadfly is not to stir up controversies for publicity's sake (like radio shock jock Howard Stern). I also do not intend to beat any dead horses such as airline food, which has been thouroughly trampled by the likes of Jerry Seinfeld, Woody Allen, Andy Rooney, Dave Barry, and so many others.

Like Socrates, I have taken on the role of a gadfly (only in modern times). I shall sting with words those who move too slowly or in the wrong direction. I shall say the things I have always wanted to say without fear of repercussions. With my sword of knowledge and the light of truth, I shall defend the world from the darkness of ignorance.

With that said, I'd like to welcome you to the site. Thanks for reading and I hope to see you again soon!