An Unexpected Patriot

“If a person is selected to a team like this, it shouldn’t even be a question in your mind….It should be an honor to accept. If you grew up in the USA, you need to think of all the things the USA did for you — how it allowed you to support your family and be recognized as a household name.”

Pretty impressive. The source? None other than the unconventional Philadelphia 76ers’ guard Allen Iverson on being invited to represent the USA in olympic basketball. Wow. I, for one, am impressed. Too bad the rest of the team doesn’t share this attitude.

XP Pro and iTunes

I recently downloaded iTunes and have been giving it a test run to see how well it works. All in all, I have to say that I’m impressed. I rarely buy music these days, but when I’ve wanted something, I just jump over to the ITMS and pick it up. Pretty cool.

Well naturally, if I’m going to use iTunes for new music, I had to test it out with old music. I had ripped a couple of CDs and it was relatively painless. The first thing that tripped me up is that iTunes won’t do MP3 out of the box. You need to change the setting (Edit->Prefs->Importing). Easy enough. Once I did that, things worked really well. Except I could not get iTunes to recognize when I inserted a new CD. It was driving me crazy.

Continue reading “XP Pro and iTunes”

Toolbar Frustration

I’m trying to build a toolbar icon for Firefox. The strange thing is that I can create the toolbar icon itself (ie, when I drag it out of the pallete of potential toolbar items to put it on the toolbar), in both small and large varieties, but I can’t seem to get the icon in the toolbar palette display to work. It just shows a jumble of icons – looks like the default icons for the browser (arrows, print, etc, but all in one image).

I’ve looked at a handful of other extensions, and I don’t think I’m missing anything, but I’ve got to be overlooking something stupid. How can I create the toolbar icons, but the one in the palette doesn’t work? If anyone has any ideas, please drop me a line. I’m going to pull the rest of my hair out, and that means that I’d have to redo my avatar down there in the corner. That’s just something that I don’t have time to do.

Update: Got it. The final step was to make sure that the XUL was being registered with the CustomizeToolbar XUL. The CSS alone may work as well, but I used the XUL, which contains the reference to the CSS. Something like this should work:

<RDF:Seq about="urn:mozilla:overlays">
<RDF:li resource="chrome://global/content/customizeToolbar.xul"/>
</RDF:Seq>

Along with this…

<RDF:Seq about="chrome://global/content/customizeToolbar.xul">
<RDF:li>chrome://btoolkit/content/btoolkitOverlay.xul</RDF:li>
</RDF:Seq>

Added to the appropriate contents.rdf, and packaged back up – and then installed again – does the trick. Phew. For those who like reading into things, this does mean that the Bloglines Toolkit will have a toolbar icon in the near future. I just need to figure out some more code, and then hit up Mark for some new icons, and it’ll be ready.

Gone Googley

It’s official. The IPO of the millenium is done. The strange thing is that no one quite seems to agree on the results. At least one publication thinks that the IPO was a failure, yet in the same article, they mention that the company made around $1.67 billion in the auction. I don’t know about you, but most companies seem to reap far less than that when they go public. Many earn only amounts in the hundreds of millions. Still a lot by my measure, but they leave a whole lot more on the table.

Meanwhile, while Google didn’t hit the peak that the stock found on opening day, they pulled in a whole lot more than if they had gone through an investment bank and priced it at $15 each. A sale at that price would have instead found the company with only $300 million. I think they did pretty well. Did it revolutionize trading? Probably not. But they did figure out how they could get the rewards of the initial sale. I don’t see how anyone can see that as a failure.

Update: There are some people who agree that the process was a success. The only thing I question in this commentary is the final conclusion. I agree that the price of Google is probably unsustainable, but the current price (just shy of $110 at this writing) is what people will pay. Aside from a few morons who apparently bid the price up near $140 on opening day, that price has been remarkably stable. You can’t fault Google for trying to collect as much of that money that they can. I think that they did a remarkable job of it.

Student Insurance

So our fourth-grader comes home with a brochure about insurance. I recognize that we don’t live in the best part of town. I understand that a lot of the students in that school may not have insurance of any kind, and for that I can see the usefulness of such a program. What I don’t get is that the insurance is so bad.

Let’s look at my recent visit to the hospital. It started with the ambulance. The cost for that trip was roughly $600. For $43 a year, you can get a plan that will cover “usual and customary” charges, to a maximum of $200. Well, okay, you’re saving a bit – but come on. For $75.50, you can get a plan that covers you up to $400. A little more useful, perhaps, but not much. And that’s only the ambulance.

So there is an emergency room expense coverage, which is good. No mention of “usual and customary” on this plan, so that may be good or it may be bad. My cost is currently somewhere around $2500 (bills keep trickling in). Maybe I should run a dropcash fundraiser to help. Regardless, the basic plan (the lower cost plans) covers a maximum of $250 for emergency room visits. The high option, $500.

I’m all for making services available to those who won’t normally have the opportunity, but let’s get real. You approach someone without insurance, tell them they can get insurance for $X, they might look at it with interest. Then they actually get a bill and realize that the insurance they bought only covers a tenth of the cost? That’s just wrong.

Freedom of Choice

It seems that the governor of Illinois is planning to do more digging in the can of worms that is the prescription drug trade. By trade, I simply mean the process for getting the drugs to people who need them – not that he is involved in drug trafficking or anything. Though due to the vagaries of the way search engines interpret things, I’ll bet that a search for Illinois governor drug trafficking in the near future will bring you to this page. Heh. Guess that particular technology isn’t perfect yet.

In any case, someone (it may have been the governor himself) was on a morning news show this morning. Sorry, I don’t know which one. I think it was CBS, but I’m not really sure. I don’t pay too much attention to the TV, and just happened to hear what was being said.

To summarize: The drugs are apparently the same drugs that are sold in the US, manufactured by the same people who make those drugs. Sounds good. If they can be had cheaper, why not get them?

There was a comment about terrorism, but I don’t buy it. Terrorism itself is a very valid concern. It may one day even include issues such as this. But terrorism as it exists today, and has for a long time in other parts of the world, has rarely (if ever) had anything to do with things of this nature. Bombs and the like are typically much more terrifying, and in most places of the world take a whole lot less effort to implement than taking over a supply chain. Terrorists supplying fake medicine will also only terrorize those who take prescription medicine, and a decent percentage of the population don’t (on a regular basis anyway). Heck, many people now don’t because they can’t afford it. Isn’t that a concern?

Don’t get me wrong: The concern about fake prescription drugs sounded valid, but he had an answer for that too: People looking for drugs at a cheaper price are likely to get knock-off drugs in this country if they can’t get them elsewhere. According to this person, this is the only type of case that the FDA has seen thus far. That will surely increase, but is nonetheless a valid point. People in the US are probably more likely to have access to fake-drug-making equipment than those in other countries. I just think it’s more likely to be people bottling whatever they can to make a quick buck than it is to be terrorists.

I also recall reading about the ability to choose regulation. I’ve written about it (actually about drugs too), but that’s not what I’m talking about. I read in a book once that regulation itself isn’t inherently bad. It’s forced regulation that is a problem. If I don’t have a choice but to purchase “approved” products, I’m really not free to do as I please. But if I’m free to purchase any product, the approved ones happen to come with a better pedigree and I choose to pay a bit more for the regulated product, so be it. That’s my choice. I can just as easily choose a non-regulated product.

I am free to make the choices I like. If I choose to buy non-approved cereal (for instance) and then turn around and purchase regulated medicine, I’ll be able to do so. But making every product undergo regulation means I don’t have that freedom, and that stinks.

My final thought is that the other countries apparently have lower prices beceause the governments of those countries enforce price controls. Not sure I really like this either – if the countries are paying a part of the cost of the drug, then it’s no better than some of the subsidies we have here. But if they simply regulate the cost and the companies have to bear it? I’m not necessarily against that: Except as it means that we have to pay more to make up the cost.

I have an idea: Why in the world can we not just adopt a system that allows those who use services to pay for them?

Repetitive Events

I find it interesting how certain events can repeat year after year (or even more frequently), and yet people still attend in droves. It’s not so much the people who visit for the first time that have me puzzled – it’s those who go time after time after time.

I can understand people who go to an event because they’ve never been. I can even understand people who go to an event time after time because it’s different. Though I don’t particularly care for them too much myself, I’d put things like car races and most sporting events in this category.

Sure, now and again a baseball game in the middle of summer when the nights are warm, but not too warm, is a great way to spend an evening. But to go day after day? Doesn’t work for me. Still, there is enough variance from game to game (or race to race) to make it not quite the exact same thing. So I can understand.

What I don’t get are those things that just don’t change. The Renaissance Festival. The Greek Festival. Both are entertaining, and both are worth seeing at least once. But year after year? I just don’t get it. Maybe it’s me.

What About Taxes?

Another batch of statistics is out – this one showing the percentage of our income that goes to different expenses. What I don’t get is why the government can leave out the largest expenditure that any of us are likely to have – taxes.

In the last year, approximately 10% of our spending went to the home. This includes the mortgage as well as home improvements, maintenance and the like. This is well below the average in the chart you’ll see above, and that’s okay – but it is easily our largest single category of spending. Except taxes. They rang up a whopping 26% of our spending last year.

Please note that this is slightly different from the chart that I linked above. That chart considers expenditures as a part of income. I didn’t do that. I just used the amount that we spent, as that seems to me to be a more appropriate measure. But I find it terribly convenient that the government study leaves out taxes entirely, even though that expense accounts for a quarter of what we spend in a year.

Update: True, we don’t generally spend much for taxes. That’s not possible because we never actually receive most of the money that we pay in taxes. Instead, the government introduced withholding – by which they get the money withheld from your paycheck so you never even notice that it’s gone.

Truth in Advertising

Watching the Panthers game last night, we saw some of the new Miller commercials. The commercials appear to specialize in honesty. The problem is, the honesty is so hard to find that you might miss it.

First, the commercial talks about taste preferences, and then moves to taste tests and finally explains how more people find that Miller beers have more flavor than Budweiser beers. All completely true (presumably) – but make sure you pay attention to the details. Never does the commercial mention that people actually like Miller better than Bud. All it says is that people find that Miller has more flavor than Bud.

Even the “taste test” commercials, that have a single person doing the deed, have the person saying an unlikely “This one has more flavor”. If I like something, I’ll say “Damn, that’s good”. Or even “Wow. Great stuff”. Not “This one has more flavor”.

Still not with me? Check the fine print on the “summary” commercial (not the one with the individual taste test). It says something to the effect of “Results reflect those noticing more flavor, not preference”. The taste could be that of a landfill, and people might not care for it. But hey – at least they’re being honest. You just have to look for it.

Sour Grapes

New research has surfaced that sheds some doubt on particular quotes from the Quran. I don’t know enough about any language to offer insight into the interpretation, so I’ll leave that to someone else and I’ll just look at the conclusions in this particular article. Other information, as always, is welcome.

So apparently the bit where martyrs will end up with 72 virgins in heaven when they die? It might not be correct. They may end up with white grapes (presumably 72 of them) instead. Talk about disappointment.