Friday, February 14, 2014

Steve's Rule of Car Chases

If you are looking for real world car chase advise, just move along, nothing to see here.  Other than you can't outrun that cop radio, of course.

Rule 1: The MOPAR always wins.
Many cite the movie Bullitt as the movie with the greatest car chase, a respectable point of view.  On screen, the Ford won that one.  However, when one digs into the filming of that movie one discovers that the Mustangs were heavily beefed up and destroyed performing tasks that the largely unmodified Chargers survived.

In the 1971 release of Vanishing Point, the chase scenes were largely Mopar vs. Mopar, few modifications, lots of jumps, and the cars largely survived.  The police chases begin in Colorado and end in Cisco, California, on screen.  In reality, the chase ended in Cisco, Utah.  The crash that ended the show was performed by a Camaro,  not a Challenger.  If you like chase scenes, that is the car chase movie to watch.  If you like cool music, you might want to check out the soundtrack too.

Vanishing Point (1971) - High Octane chase by geekfemme

Another memorable Mopar performance was in Dirty Mary, Crazy Larry, where a 1966 Chevy Nova is "swapped" for a 1969 Dodge Charger R/T "440" for the chase action.  It was not a true 440, it was just acting like a 440 for the camera.  It and survived all of the stunts enough to be sold to some guy named Bert, and wrecked by his girlfriend's 13 year old sister.  From there it went to a dealership as part of a trade and was eventually totaled.

To Live and Die in LA is noted by many as having a great chase scene, but if you want to watch a chase through the concrete-lined Los Angeles river you might want to go with Grease instead.  In To Live and Die in LA, they manage to portray all of the traffic on a Los Angeles freeway going the wrong direction, while the movie stars are chased by underworld toughs in the correct direction.  Not much Mopar there either.

Okay, there you have it.  One rule, and one rule only.

Carry on.

Ⓐ Steve Ⓐ

Thursday, January 30, 2014

Tina Fey: Comedians in Cars Getting Coffee

In today's episode, Jerry Seinfeld chauffeurs Tina Fey around for some chat, laughs, and coffee.  Tina was the first female head writer of Saturday Night Live, and starred on 30 Rock.

Today's car is a red 1967 Volvo 1800S, 4 cylinder 105 HP, top speed 109 MPH, courtesy of John Holtzapple.  One of Jerry's neighbors has driven his over 3,000,000 miles.

Tina Fey reveals that she does not drive and she knows very little about how to drive.  That link goes to a post highlighting different aspect of her brilliance.

The comedians have their coffee in Harlem, at the Cuban restaurant Floridita, 2276 12th avenue New York, NY 10027.  Jerry has a little trouble finding the silver Acura SUV product placement vehicle for this episode.  While walking to the restaurant, they pass the world famous Cotton Club, or at least a building with that name on it.

At Floridita, the pair first order wheat-puff milkshakes, and then after Jerry's probative interrogation, Tina crumples like cardboard to a and blowtorch reveals that in the next year she would like to write another movie.  Eventually they start drinking some coffee.  They chat about holidays, both high and Christian, then Tina mentions her home feces duties.  She also postulates licensing Twitter users.

Eventually they drive over to The Village (Greenwich Village) for a cronut at the Dominique Ansel bakery 189 Spring Street, New York, NY, 10012, .  On the way, they pass a photoshoot on the 100 block of Greene Street of a model with a  fake (Jerry's conclusion) Porsche Spyder 550.  Jerry introduces Tina to Dominique, and the pair enjoys many tasty treats with more coffee.  At one point (about 13:30) , Jerry wonders if there are any Progressive coalminers.

Later Tina describes her writing session with Chris Rock, where all of the writers received $5,000 and a Rolex watch.  Louis C. K. was at the same gathering and told his version of the session in an earlier episode.
Ⓐ Steve Ⓐ

Wednesday, January 29, 2014

Is the Demos Study to be believed?

When I heard President Obama's vow to set a floor of $10.10 per hour for any worker on any federal project, I had to scratch my head.  I worked in the Defense industry from 1994 to 2010 and never once ever heard of any sort of federal contractor being paid that low, ever.

I am not saying that they can't exist, I am not even saying that I would deny they exist if presented with some reasonable evidence.  I'm just saying that if they did actually exist there would be some payroll record evidence for the hundreds of thousands of federal contractors out there.

So I checked around for a source, and I mean an authoritative source, some sort of government accounting of contracts and what the end workers were receiving.  I am still looking for that and it will appear here if I ever find it.

What I did find was what news writers were citing left and left, a Demos survey of some workers:  UNDERWRITING BAD JOBS: HOW OUR TAX DOLLARS ARE FUNDING LOW-WAGE WORK AND FUELING INEQUALITY

The title does not sound very impartial, neither does the organization.  I am still looking into this and will flesh it out here.  Until then, I would not put much stock into a survey that is not backed with actual payroll data.

Early on, one of the Demos gripes is that small business loans go to firms that pay less than $12/hour for some jobs:
Jobs Funded Through Small Business Administration Loans 
The Small Business Administration also subsidizes private sector jobs, principally through its 7(a) and 504 Certified Development Company loan guaranty programs. According to the agency’s financial report, these two primary loan programs supported $30.3 billion in lending in fiscal year 2012, subsidizing 609,437 jobs.8 An estimated 204,000 of these jobs were low-wage positions: about half of low-wage SBA-supported jobs were in the service sector and another quarter were in wholesale and retail trade.
Note that earlier in the report they define "low wage workers" as those paid less than $12/hr.
We define low-wage work as a job paying $12 an hour or less, equivalent to an annual income of about $24,000 for a full- time worker. Nationwide, a family of four trying to subsist on $24,000 a year hovers near the poverty level. Even a single worker with no dependents would find no room in a basic budget for health coverage, a retirement nest egg, or building emergency savings. (See actual report for associated footnotes)

They provide this handy table, to show I suppose, that every person who sees a federal dollar from any distance needs to receive a dozen of them every hour:

They quoted an anonymous worker, from some unnamed year (possibly 2011) saying they made $10.25/hr when they met their quota, but if the quota was not realized they received $7.25. This must have been before Obamacare, since the worker claimed to have company-provided health insurance with only a $3,000 deductible.  The worker was quoted saying newer workers are paid better.  No actual payroll information, not even advertisements for jobs printed in newspapers were included as evidence.

Next to the vignette by Anonymous, is a section that flows about the same as the rest of the report, and their citations leave something to be desired.  In this section, I will add their sources after their footnotes:

OUR TAX DOLLARS: At Least 11,000 Poorly-Paid Workers 
The U.S. apparel manufacturing employment peaked in 1973, when 1.4 million Americans were employed making clothing.11 (Murray, 1995) Due to technological change and growing imports from abroad, just 133,000 Americans worked in the industry by 2012.
Note they are using apparel industry-wide numbers, not government/defense industry.
Yet apparel manufacturing is worth highlighting because it is a predominantly a low-wage industry where nearly one out of every seven dollars in revenue comes from taxpayers. The clothing they make includes uniforms for the U.S. military.
An apparent attempt to confuse the issue.  One out of every seven dollars in revenue in the entire industry may indeed come from government contracts, but nowhere do they tie this to what the employees on federal contracts actually make through payroll records.
Overall an estimated 58 percent of U.S. apparel manufacturing employees earn $12 an hour or less: sewing machine operators, the largest occupational group, earn a median wage of $9.29; textile cutting machine setters, operators and tenders typically earn $9.90. More troubling still, a 2006 survey of workers at eight federal apparel contractors found that many employees were actually paid far less than the industry median, earning just $6.55 an hour on average.12 (UNITE HERE!, 2006) Most of the workers surveyed had no health care coverage and reported labor and employment law violations, including forced overtime and hazardous work conditions.
They cite items like "many workers," yet they never bother revealing exactly how many were surveyed nor how many from those samples reported earning $6.55/hr, etc.

While I am sure that UNITE HERE! had some fine folks in their 2006 statistics department, whatever study is being quoted in their name is not apparent on their website.

The items in parenthesis in the quoted passages are the references in their endnotes.  If I ever handed in a set of endnotes like this report uses, for any course, at any time, especially in any Statistics, Accounting, or Finance class I would have earned an F.  It is safe to say that this report is not referenced at all.

They follow the same pattern through food service and other industries, citing estimated revenue of the industry as a whole, then citing a few low paying positions, like waitress and line cook, then bringing up this:
In 2012, nearly a billion dollars in federal contracts went to this industry, subsidizing an estimated 13,000 low-wage jobs. While the federal footprint in the industry is small, additional low-wage food service jobs were subsidized through SBA loans and through the National Parks Service and other public agencies that grant concessions to low-wage restaurants, snack bars, food carts and other food service establishments to operate on public land.
The "federal footprint in the industry is small" part brings a chuckle, as "nearly a billion" is certainly a small footprint in a $630 Billion industry.

There is a quote by name a bit later, one Guadalupe Rodriguez who is alleged to have been on the janitorial staff of Union Station:
My name is Guadalupe Rodriguez and I work for a janitorial company that cleans the commercial area of Union Station, a federal property. For 19 years I have cleaned this building, yet I only get $8.75 an hour – without benefits. Throughout all these years, I have received increases only when the federal government raised minimum wage, which helps, but is not enough to live on…I hope the company I work for would offer me health benefits someday.
Turns out she is quoted just that way quite a few places around the internet.  Many of them are the same article by someone named Martha Burke, whose author profile at OtherWords is nothing but a face shot, without any words.  Finding precisely which janitorial firm Ms. Rodriguez works for is a bit difficult, since there appear to be several and no article mentions the one she works for.

The overall story, like the "strike" of non-union Pentagon employees is of a circular nature too, since Salon does not bother quoting what any of the striking employees actually make, they merely point back to the flimsy Demos report.

Bloomberg reports that there are some concessions outlets in some federal buildings that pay less than $10.10, which is really a stretch for this topic.  Those are separate businesses that the feds charge rent to, as if the feds are operating a shopping mall with a food court.  They are not, and never should be confused with, and executive dining room or such.  What is next?  Demanding that the entrepreneur employing her entire family in a string of food carts across the street be included too?

Again, nowhere in the report, nor in any of the reports they claim were used in their report, nor in the Burke story, nor anyplace else is any actual payroll data cited.  Yet the Washington Post, Slate, and others are using it as their basis that there is a federal contracting employee out there, somewhere, making less than $10.10/hr.

By-the-way, if $10.10 is supposed to be such a dandy wage, why isn't the President cutting everybody else in the federal government to that rate?  According to him, "At some point you've made enough money."
Ⓐ Steve Ⓐ

Tuesday, January 28, 2014

Tina Fey, Genius

Tina Fey, the genius of two coasts...
Fey: "Your kids, where are they on Santa Claus?"
Seinfeld: "Well, we're Jewish."

See the whole trailer here.
Ⓐ Steve Ⓐ

Thursday, January 23, 2014

Comedians in Cars Getting Coffee: Todd Barry

Jerry's Guest is Todd Barry, dry humorist from The Bronx, New York.

Todd Barry gets coffee with Jerry in this weeks'
Comedians In Cars Getting Coffee

Season 3, Episode 4
Jerry borrows Kim de Bourbon's 1966 MGB Roadster, Tartan red, black leather interior. 89 HP, 4 CIL, 1.8L engine and it is Todd's first ride in a real sports car.
Episode begins in the East Village, New York.
Jerry takes his first trip EVER through a tunnel in a convertible.
They talk about the Tom Hanks movie Captain Phillips.
Todd's famous orange joke is a recurring item.
They visit The Cyclone at Coney Island.
Jerry talks about his famous bumper car joke.
They have their first coffee at Tom's in Coney Island.
Then they visit Nathan's for hot dogs, then top it of with a bags of candy dessert from a candy store.
Jerry informs Todd that the NYC Marathon begins on the bridge leaving Staten Island, so the first steps of the race are out of Staten Island.
Afterwards, the boys go to a fancier coffee house, Everyman Espresso, 136 E. 13th (East Village location) where they have to wait for a table.  They waited for a short while and walked out.

Interestingly, the logo for Everyman Espresso (on left) looks a lot like the logo for the Fifth HOPE hacker's conference.
Logos: Everyman Espresso vs. HOPE 5
I heard somewhere that the Fifth Hope logo was inspired by the 1860 Democrat Convention, but I could be misremembering.  I thought I heard it in an audio file by the creators/decorators for the event.

As usual, a great show by Jerry Seinfeld!
Ⓐ Steve Ⓐ

Tuesday, January 21, 2014

Dig Ace!

I suppose anybody glancing over my fledgling YouTube channel can see than I am a bit the Barney Miller fan.

Additionally, I am a long-time Adam Carolla fan and highly recommend his podcast empire to all.  My favorite current shows of his are with Dr. Drew, and I listen to the Adam & Dr. Drew show first before listening to (in this order) The Adam Carolla Show, Alison Rosen, and my most recent like Ace On the House.  I might be listening to more, but right now I am unemployed and looking for work, so my job all waking hours is looking for work or writing freelance articles.

Not sure when he started doing it, Adam started saying "dig" like an old time comedian, or a new time #Occutard, or something, and it threw me back to a 1975 episode of Barney Miller (Season 2 Episode 11 "Rain").  I forgot until I saw the episode again that the comedian in the episode is "Jackie Ace."

Enjoy (or enjoy it on YouTube)!
Ⓐ Steve Ⓐ

Monday, January 20, 2014

Dear United States Bureau of Prisons and USPS

Dear US Bureau of Prisons and your buddies at the United States Postal Service,

As you may know, you are one of the most well funded incarceration bureaucracies in the history of the world.  Some might say over-funded.  So, it pains me to ask:  Why you can't you find your own inmates or return mail in less than a month?

You certainly have a spiffy website, the Healthcare.Gov folk would have done well to take a peek at yours before making theirs.  On the two occasions, both related to a True Crime book project of mine, I've had to try to track down guests, or former guests, of yours.  I can say you batted 1.000 in determining if they were ever located in your fine facilities.

However, recently a little flaw in your system cropped up.  While searching for one of your guests, a former FBI agent who has been occupying various suites of yours since around September, 2013, you had him listed as "in-transit" in December, 2013.  Just between us, I understand the concept of diesel therapy, and if that is what was going on, while I do not condone it, I do understand completely that you might not be able to get a letter onto a moving bus.

What I do not understand is how I can mail a letter, addressed to your headquarters at 320 First St. NW, Washington, DC, care of "Inmates" with the man's name and register number and you folks cannot manage to get it to him.  That is supposed to be the procedure for in-transit guests.

The letter was postmarked 10 DEC 2013, and I know he did not receive it because I received it on 18 JAN 2014, with a "Not at this address" message scrawled across the front.  Yes, I noticed you opened it too and thank you for not keeping the SASE contained for your guest.

To make matters more interesting, I did a new search and found your guest in Ohio.  Apparently everybody on the internet knows where he is now, except you.  Hopefully, your friends at the USPS will have to handle the next mailing just once.

Now, for the folks at the USPS, I hope you had a fine day off for the MLK holiday, but it seems like every day is a holiday for you people.  The letter mentioned above, that you poor people had to handle twice, had $1.12 cents worth of postage.  That amount was calculated by your crack staff, using the finest scales of the realm, and affixed in a timespan that a Subway employee could have made foot-long sandwiches for three customers and checked them all out too.

Since I've been in contact with several former Weather Underground terrorists, along with performing additional terrorist bombing research, it seems to me that sending letters to prisons with excessive postage might be a tag I could do without.  Especially since I did not select or affix double the needed postage to the letter.

I returned to the post office with my newly repackaged and addressed envelope during the Martin Luther King holiday, used your state-of-the-art self-serve machinery, and discovered that my envelope only required $0.66 worth of postage.  An interesting multiple of what I was charged for the round trip through Washington, DC.  I also discovered that you would not issue postage through your machine because the transaction was less than $1.00.

Please, spare me any discussion containing the statement "underfunded."  If you people can't properly calculate postage, or keep tabs on your prisoners, then you don't need to be funded at all.

Ⓐ Steve Ⓐ