Thursday, July 31, 2008

RECORD GAS GREED and SMOKE SCREEN

NEW YORK (CNNMoney.com) -- Exxon Mobil once again reported the largest quarterly profit in U.S. history Thursday, posting net income of $11.68 billion on revenue of $138 billion in the second quarter.

That profit works out to $1,485.55 a second.

That barely beat the previous corporate record of $11.66 billion, also set by Exxon in the fourth quarter of 2007.

Explain to me please how this can be when oil consumption is down? We're told prices are up due to short/tight supply and futures trading. So how does Exxon Mobil get MORE? Do they charge a fixed profit or variable percentage on each gallon AS profit?

Why don't we all rebel? What is it about everyday life that seems to suck the outrage out of such gouging? We have become a nation of sheep. It's sad, really sad.

This might be the answer, below. Where's YOUR outrage?

United States By Tom Doggett

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - While the U.S. oil industry want access to more federal lands to help reduce reliance on foreign suppliers, American-based companies are shipping record amounts of gasoline and diesel fuel to other countries.

A record 1.6 million barrels a day in U.S. refined petroleum products were exported during the first four months of this year, up 33 percent from 1.2 million barrels a day over the same period in 2007. Shipments this February topped 1.8 million barrels a day for the first time during any month, according to final numbers from the Energy Department.

The surge in exports appears to contradict the pleas from the U.S. oil industry and the Bush administration for Congress to open more offshore waters and Alaska's Arctic National Wildlife Refuge to drilling.

"We can help alleviate shortages by drilling for oil and gas in our own country," President Bush told reporters this week. "We have got the opportunity to find more crude oil here at home."


This just in: Can you find the hypocrisy?

NEW YORK - Investors holding stock in cigarette makers on Thursday will be weighing the passage of a House of Representatives bill that will require the U.S. Food and Drug Administration to regulate tobacco.

The bill also calls for a scientific review of menthol in cigarettes, imposes tighter restrictions on tobacco advertising and creates new federal penalties for selling to minors.

The bill, called the Family Smoking Prevention and Tobacco Control Act, passed the House overwhelmingly on Wednesday. It still awaits approval by the Senate and President George W. Bush. Bush's administration has already said he will veto the bill.

Lorillard Inc., which makes Newport, Kent, Maverick and other brands, said Wednesday night that "while it fully supports reasonable federal regulation of the tobacco industry, that the FDA is already overburdened and is the wrong agency to carry out this enormous task."

<< EXCUSE ME AS I CHOKE HERE. YOU SHOULD TOO. Lorillard is concerned ABOUT THE AGENCY BEING OVERBURDENED??? WHAT??? DO THEY REALLY THINK WE'LL SEE THEM AS CARING CONCERNED ENTITIES? >>

Lorillard added that it hopes the Senate will "find an effective regulatory solution."

BULLSHIT!

Friday, July 25, 2008

THE DARK KNIGHT IN IMAX

Performances are sold out here for some time. I applied online for tickets weeks ago. Yesterday was the big (screen) day for us and our neighbors!

I read that they filmed 6 scenes in IMAX, and wondered if the others would be shrunk, or obvious, or lesser.

Despite arriving early by a half hour, the best we could do was third row. That's pretty close to the screen, which is huge, as you may know.

Sitting that close made the plot sometimes hard to pay attention to - as I was distracted by the picture, and also waiting for IMAX to switch on or off.

First of all, this is IMAX 2D - no 3D, no glasses. The blew up the normal film to fill the screen at IMAX-sizing.
Second, the action sequences seem to be in IMAX, the rest, not. They are very good and seem real, i.e.: rarely computer generated.
Third, the IMAX experience isn't really that amazing since most of the scenes are semi-dark anyway. I'll bet if in bright sunlight, they'd be stunning. I noticed a resolution change but it was subtle. If the difference between standard broadcast TV and Hi-Def TV is 10 units, I'd give this a 2 to 3.

The whole IMAX-size screen thing is still impressive, even the non-IMAX scenes; on a screen that big you really ARE immersed! And yes, Heath Ledger is great, He eclipses Christian Bale by a wide margin, either as Bruce Wayne or The Batman. (I like that they keep calling him "The" Batman.) As an aside, Michael Caine and Morgan Freeman add a lot of class to the film - both are SO solid. Maggie G beats Mrs. Cruise by a mile as an actress, but personally I don't find her attractive enough for the role.

The sound at IMAX theaters is awesome - and that held true - the score pumps away and heightens the tension. It's loud and undistorted, arguably as good as cinema sound can be.

A fine effort for all. A tragedy that Heath Ledger isn't with us to accept the accolades.

Thursday, July 24, 2008

DOLLY RAIN


Can the weather ever be too nice? Well, having spent almost 5 years in San Diego, I can answer yes. But it isn't about NICEness, it's about monotony.

Here, we've had little rain this year (about 50% deficit) and that means a lot of hot days with sun, followed by warm nights. 100 days, 75 nights. We like that (certainly over cold and damp) but it can get boring. So Dolly's bands are bringing in some gulf moisture as I write this... pretty spotty and very brief.

When we lived in Houston, I stood in our floor to ceiling glass windows at work, watching a Category 1 hurricane blow outside. It was really just a lot of rain where we were. There were power failures throughout the city, and the windows did bow in a bit.

This far inland, I don't know what actually could get here beyond rain and non-hurricane force winds (hopefully). The real issue in our years here so far has been hail, though not Dolly hail. And occasional tornadoes.

Wednesday, July 23, 2008

"I LIVE FOR THESE KIDS."

That was my line in a commercial today. I was "Mr. Farmer." The kids were goats. (There was no romance involved in a backstory.) The commercial was for urological and gynecological robot-assisted surgery in Cedar Rapids, Iowa. What's it got to do with goats? Good question. It has to do with answering the question of what people live for. I will probably never hear the assembled commercial which involved a cast of four. None of the others were at the session.

I used to do commercials and other voicework for a living. This is when I lived on the west coast - I had 3 agents - San Diego, Orange County and Los Angeles... and they kept me busy and nicely employed. Even then, it was a career move full of rejection. Many auditions, considerably fewer jobs. All too often I would drive 125miles to LA, fight traffic, audition for one line or two, then haul ass back down the freeway.

It's worse today. I am told that each job requires about 200 auditions. Agencies search for the perfect voice (of course it's all subjective) and maybe pad their hours worked by doing so. Beats me. I am far down the line.

What really changed everything was the internet. Now anyone anywhere can be 'invited' to audition by agents or paid services. You have to have a home studio and be able to send the audio via email. So what was once a smaller large group is a virtual huge group all competing for the same work.

Those lucky enough to be at or near the top of the food voice chain are hired by those who know them. The rest of us struggle. I doubt I could survive very nicely on this today, the way I did back in the 80s.

Today's session required a drive to the studio (about a gallon away.) After a nice chat with the engineer, he hooked me by telephone line to the ad agency in Madison Wisconsin, and, as standard practise, I began 'doing' my line so he could set up levels, etc.

"That's terrible" came back the voice from Wisconsin. Wow. Immediate bad feeling. The producer then explained gruffly that he meant the quality of the connection. But to an actor, when you hear those words, it's tough to recover. Sensitive folks, we are, after all the rejection we get just in the auditioning process.

Well, I gave them the line this way and that and that and then with direction another dozen times, never ever feeling I really nailed it. Who knows?

Mr. Farmer and his goats won't likely even be noticed by those preoccupied by or suffering from urological or gynecological problems in Cedar Rapids anyway.

Sunday, July 20, 2008

SKONKADILLO

I think we have SKONK trouble. Not the stink part but the rip-up-the-mulch-in-the landscape part.

I have done my research. Trapping is the way to go. But then you have a skunk in a trap, likely pissed off, maybe carrying rabies, and accurate with spray to 10 feet. Sure, put it into the car.

The instructions online say to approach the trap without scaring it, to casually move it with a tarp on top to catch any stink. Huh? You can smell a dead one a COUNTY away. Tarp? Also, I can't imagine a trapped wild animal thinking, "Here comes a nice fellow. He seems calm. Now what was my mantra again?"

A neighbor farmkid many years later tells me even if you catch and release they'll come back. He says let them eat all the grubs till there aren't any and they'll go away.

Okay.


There's also a possibility we got armadillo woes. I don't know, but I am not going to put out a trap and catch a skunk in it, that I do know.

Tuesday, July 15, 2008

CAR AND PHONE

Car: I took mine in for a vary major service this AM. I hung around the dealership (Audi) pretending I owned this one or that one, but the one I wanted to pretend most wasn't in stock - they are presold for 3 YEARS (the R8). Have a look.

I'm also pretty sure they started to pass out party hats when they took my keys into the back...

Phone: For the second time in only a few days I have been contacted for whatever reason by obviously outsourced call center persons who sound like they are in India. I write "for whatever reason" because even though I can tell they speak English, I can't understand but maybe every fifth word.

Sunday, July 13, 2008

TERRI SKYDIVES -- THE VIDEO

video
From about 2 miles up...
Still shots of better resolution are a post or so below this one.



I thought it would be interesting (okay, geek-interesting) to compare the BLOGGER video to the YOUTUBE VIDEO of exactly the same file. This means they both were fed the exact same data and you see what you get. And if you care, you border on the geek side.)

Friday, July 11, 2008

SNAKE IN THE GRASS

Terri had a few minutes this AM and we decided to go out for coffee and donuts. As I pulled the car out, I spotted a snake's head and a bit of body about to come out from the grass beside the house to cross the driveway. I decided to confront my fear and got out of the car with the camera I carry in the back. As I approached, the snake took a look and went back into the grass toward the house (the same grass I planned to cut tomorrow, though it's not high.)

The amazing thing is I was only a few feet away and a few seconds away from where it disappeared and yet I couldn't see it anywhere. Which kinda gives Mister Lawnmower pause.

I've been in certain social situations where that ability to blend in would have been really very nice. You too?

Speaking of snakes, why is it that when the price of gas goes up, it's immediately reflected in the pump, but when it goes DOWN, it isn't? Why does congress let those companies get away with it? Why does the press?

And to think I sold my Vespa in 1969. Sad.

Thursday, July 03, 2008

TERRI'S EXCELLENT ADVENTURE


"...just 35 minutes from Austin" turned out to be 47 miles from where we live. Highway, expressway, expressway, rural road, farm road, farm road, farm road... seas of corn. Threatening skies. It has rained here one day (Sunday overnight into Monday) in the last uncountable days. We are in a bad drought. Imagine! The day Terri picked to skydive, (her birthday present to be enjoyed what turned out to be exactly 90 days from her big day) as we drove and drove, the skies turned into rain showers and microbursts.

We arrived at the little airstrip and watched a group be instructed, suit up, and the little plane then mushed into the threatening sky. Shortly after, we learned they had diverted to another airport 8 miles away due to the closing hole in the clouds and gusting winds, and rain. We sat sheltered under the tin metal porch roof and waited. Maybe an hour and a half later, the sky cleared, the plane droned overhead, and tiny dots emerged way up... there.

After all were safely back on earth, parachutes repacked, two other tandem jumpers cast the bounds of earth for their adventure. And wouldn't you know it - the guy was someone Terri knew from work! They first-time jumped tandem with certified serious guys who had experience and grit and jumpsuits.

Everyone came back with big smiles.

The issue then became gusts. Apparently steady winds are no problem but a gust can inflate the chute just before touchdown, pop it back up into the air, then if the gust stops, the chutees hit the ground hard. "...never even a sprained ankle..." said the website.

Repeatedly I was asked if I was going. "Nope." Apparently that's the protocol... "You jumping?" "Yes" buys you into the fraternity/sorority. "No" buys you pity. I bought myself a candy bar.

An old couple arrived with daughter and granddaughter - the older couple were jumping - first timers - for their anniversary (tandem, with the grit boys attached to each.) "Why not, we don't have much to lose at our age" said the old guy.

Finally Terri was instructed, harnessed, and the plane was started... we had waited about 3 hours to that point. And off she went - I, apparently more nervous, than she.

The day had turned back into blue skies and the rain had cooled the day down into the low 90s at the ground. At 10,000 feet it'd likely be in the 50s for a few seconds as she fell... it takes maybe 15 minutes to climb, 30-40 seconds of freefall, then maybe 5 minutes of float...

We bought the video package, some of which is still photography. Bless digital cameras. I only have the stills so far - the video will be mailed and if I can, I'll post some of it (so come back).

Meanwhile, here she is... Terri... her birthday present, an adventure to remember with a free shot of adrenaline. (I'll add more stills later, too, as I took some from the ground as they neared earth.)