Brandon Starr's blog. Updated daily since March 2003. Welcome. Make yourself comfortable. Have a hot chocolate.

Brandon Starr's blog is not to be taken internally. All humor is intentional, unless indicated otherwise.
Do not read while operating heavy machinery. May cause intracranial short circuiting.
Not for children under four days of age.

If for some reason you wish to contact Brandon Starr, take a moment and reconsider.
No? Ah, well. His email is brandonstarr@yahoo.com.
It's your fault now, and don't blame me when it all goes terribly, terribly wrong.


New fiction story! Click here for "The Voice of Cassandra."

Click here for my ongoing novel: "The History of Magic in the 21st Century."

Click here for the lowdown on "The History of Magic"

Click here for my new investing blog, "Adroit Investor"

Click here for my anti-Bush shirts.

Click here for my favorite design: the 'tourist safety shirt.'

Brandon Starr is available in small, medium, and large. Contents may settle during shipping. Allow four to six weeks for delivery. Open carefully; contents under pressure. Do not incinerate. May be habit-forming--do not take if you are gassy or under the influence of mimosas. Improved; now non-staining. Ships in all colors, except puce. Prompt refund if not satisfied--simply return unused portion. All queries promptly ignored. Complaints resolved with deep, gut-blasting laughter, followed by posting complaints on nearest public wall. Not responsible for sunburns. All your base are belong to us. Act now. Beware cheap imitations. Insist on the original--Brandon Starr.

Update notification by email available below.

Some fun/useful/useless links:

The Internet Movie Database

My cousin back from Iraq, and how it changed me (my current favorite entry on this blog)

Zazzle.com

My Zazzle.com product page

Fun blogs:

infinitus opinio

Siren's Song

the mechanical jive

The Strange World

Thunderstorms in the Imajica

Librarianguish

Elven Sarah

Random Musings (Catcher)

Certifiable Princess (Sarah 2)
   

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Tuesday, November 16, 2004
Here comes my lunch

Time is debating who should be its Person of the Year (CBS Marketplace)

"Based on the enthusiasm expressed at the lunch for each nominee, it would seem that the frontrunners, for now, are President Bush, Bush campaign strategist Karl Rove, God and Jesus Christ."

I am going to ask my wife to cancel our subscription if ANY of those are chosen.

If God or Jesus Christ are chosen....

shouldn't the Person of the Year be an actual person?  Otherwise, why not call it Idea of the Year or Character of the Year?
 

Posted at 06:07 pm by brandonstarr
Comments (7)  

"We are the bor...n again. You will be assimilated..."

"...resistance is futile."

Another perfectly-named religious blog:  assimilator.

I love the November 16th entry about how new converts to Christianity are like rabbits:  they're skittish, they stay close to safety, they run away if you scare them.  A must-read.

My take?  Very typical of how I think many Christians think about new converts.

Or, as I commented on the blog:

"Also, 'rabbit' is a con man term for 'sucker' or 'mark.' So there's another parallel to converts."

What do you think?

Posted at 12:49 pm by brandonstarr
Comments (12)  

What's up in the stock market

This isn't meant to be an all-encompassing market view, just a highlight of some things I've been acting on.

First...

Google is down today on its first lockup period ending.  You may remember Google just went public a few months ago.  Since then, the price has more than doubled.  But the number of shares available for trade was limited to a few sold by the company to the public during the IPO.  No longer.  "Lockups" are for insiders holding shares during the post-IPO period.  Eventually these lockups end and the insiders can sell.  The first such lockup ending happened today.  More are coming.  Although I'm confident the company will do fine financially, stock-wise the price is just too high.  Thus, I have a bearish position in the stock (betting it will go down).

I don't have a position in Netflix, but it's been hammered lately because of all the big companies (Blockbuster, Amazon, and more) who have either gone into Netflix's movie rental service.  (For those who don't know, you pay a per-month fee, and you can have a set number of movies out at a time.  When you're done with one, you send it back and that frees up a slot--Netflix then sends the next one on your list to you.)  This relative ease of competition is ugly.  This is why I love love LOVE eBay as an investor.  I currently don't have a position, but I have in the past and probably will again in the future.  I was recently sold out via limit order on eBay's recent price jump.  eBay has the largest number of auction bidders and sellers, and this means that they attract the majority of FUTURE bidders and sellers.  After all, if you're looking for something obscure to buy, you're most likely to find it at eBay.  And if you want to have the widest audience to sell something obscure, you're most likely to do well with the millions of eBayers.  This creates a barrier to entry to everyone else in the industry.  Amazon, Yahoo!, and others have all tried to enter the auction business.  All are limping along or have shuttered.*

I have a position in Sirius Satellite Radio.  Why?  Two words:  Howard Stern.  I believe he will be the catalyst to both make satellite radio a common way of receiving entertainment and to vault past the current leader, XM Satellite Radio.  When the number of folks having Sirius in their car moves from its current hundreds of thousands to millions or even tens of millions, I believe that Sirius stock holders will benefit mightily.  That is why I made a gamble on Sirius, even though I usually only buy stock in companies who are both already profitable and reasonably priced.  With Sirius, it is not nearly profitable yet and a "reasonable price" is nearly impossible to gauge.

Inflation jumped again.  Energy and food made the overall inflation number jump a huge 1.7%, the largest since 1990.  Even when you strip out those often-gyrating factors, the "core inflation" rate was 0.3%, more than the 0.1% expected.  When inflation raises its ugly head, gold and silver benefit.  I think silver is a better bet than gold, for reasons I've talked about before--it boils down to the fact that for the last 15 years, more silver has been used by industry than was pulled out of the ground.  This is leading inexorably to a scarcity of available mined silver.  I believe that this will continue to help the price of silver, possibly even leading to a real jump in prices.  I've chosen SSRI (Standard Silver Resources, Inc.) because they are a pure silver mining play and because they have a good reputation, as far as I have been able to determine.

Again, this is why I'M doing things in the market.  This doesn't apply to anyone else.  I just hope it's at least vaguely interesting to a few people out there.

* Minor exception:  Yahoo! got into the Japan market early and managed to create the necessary critical mass of auctions first there.  eBay then tried to enter Japan, and hasn't been successful there, despite the millions elsewhere that they have.  THAT is how impassable a barrier to entry eBay's "big dog" position is in every other country they've entered.
 

Posted at 09:39 am by brandonstarr
Your thoughts?  

Monday, November 15, 2004
In other news, man bites dog

Principal has himself whipped by teacher to punish boys for kissing girls.

Several things strike me about this story.

First:  The principal got the idea for this while praying.  So you know his mind was on torture and mayhem.  He then adds that most religious of ingredients, martyrdom.

Second:  But really, we know this isn't about him letting the discipline get lax and that he needed to be punished, as he says in the article.  It isn't really about self-sacrifice at all, once you scratch the surface.  This method of punishment is about guilt.  You do something wrong, and an innocent victim gets hurt.  It's like when the drill sergeant punishes everyone else with pushups while Gomer Pyle is forced to just watch in "Full Metal Jacket."  Or when kidnappers start beating one person to keep another one in line.

It's a pretty sick thing.

By making the innocent victim in this scenario himself, he was hoping to evade punishment.  Instead he got canned.  Fine by me.

Third:  What about the sexism shown by punishing the boys for kissing in the locker room, but not the girls?

Fourth:  Really, should the punishment for kissing really involve whipping anyone at all?  Was the principal afraid the kissing would lead to other things, like going to movies?  Is the principal having problems with his own sex life?

Found via fark.com.  If you go there today, November 15th, or perhaps the 16th, you can find a link to some genuine Fallujah fighting footage, where no one shoots at anyone closer than 100 yards away or so.  No enemy can be seen at all, though some distant AK47 fire can be heard.  Look for (ugh) a Drudge label to the left of the description, saying:  "Raw footage of Fallujah soldiers being told to STFU."  If it's not there, let me know and maybe I can set you up.

Posted at 06:48 pm by brandonstarr
Your thoughts?  

Tunnel system below Fallujah

On NPR, I heard about the steel-reinforced tunnel system below Fallujah.

The speculations are that 1) it wasn't from the Saddam era, it was made by the insurgents, and 2) it generally went from mosque-to-mosque in the heavily mosqued city.

The U.S. troops have been using bombs to close off the tunnels as they find them.  They have also found many caches of weapons in this tunnel system.

Fascinating stuff.  It seems to me that this is an indication of more money and personnel in the insurgency than previously believed.  It would take a ton of effort to make something like this.

I'm not sure it matters how many insurgents are killed in Fallujah.  If the population doesn't like the multiple babies being killed and maimed during this attack, they'll be replaced.  And the speculation was that most of the leaders had already left by the time of the attack.

Thanks to LowRentRat for finding the Fallujah pictures that won't be on your TV set any time soon.

To sum up, it's time to quote again from the masterwork, Sun Tzu's "The Art of War," specifically a principle that both sides are trying to utilize now:

19. Rapidity is the essence of war: take advantage of the enemy's unreadiness, make your way by unexpected routes, and attack unguarded spots.
 

Posted at 09:05 am by brandonstarr
Your thoughts?  

Sunday, November 14, 2004
For the God-lover in you

Here's a perfectly-named religious blog, in my estimation:

"God-dependent"
This isn't one of those ugly political blogs, just a Christian psychologically dependent on his God like a baby to the bottle.

Remember, it takes an awful lot of chanting and repetition to get a falsehood into your brain.  That's why you repeat so many things at church, and are asked to do more on your own, which they call prayer.  They even have premade prayers so that you can make sure you stay on the "right path."

Happily for the rest of us, the good news is, when something is objectively true, it's pretty easy for your brain to accept.  No washing of the brain necessary.  Down is the way the Earth's gravity pulls.  Paper cuts hurt.  Julia Roberts is overrated as an actress.  Dogs have a great sense of smell, yet they stink.  Facts like these you don't have to repeat over and over in order to "accept" them.

But you really, really have to try hard to get your brain to "accept" Christ.  It'd take a lot of chanting and repetitive indocrination to believe in anything invisible and unfelt that yet is supposed to be everywhere and has immense power and influence over your life and the entire universe--or to believe in anything false, say, right-wing politics; why do you think they're called "dittoheads?"  In fact, a lot of folks go through the motions of their religion, doing their best NOT to think about their "chosen" religion 98% of the time.  It's a form of denial.  If you don't think about religion AT ALL, you can pretend you're an okay Christian and get on with earning a living and so on.

If you're going to to church today, enjoy your indocrination, and hope it holds you over until your next brain-soaking session.

But know this:  you can live a very happy, giving life and not believe that there's a deity out there watching your every move, and just waiting for an excuse to torture you until the end of time, and asking for a handout every week.

Posted at 10:53 am by brandonstarr
Comments (7)  

Saturday, November 13, 2004
Anyone remember Tom Swifties?

Tom Swifties (the link gives the description--but they're pretty self-explanatory after you've seen about two of them).  I remember them from when I was a kid.

I even enjoyed making them up.  Here's a few of my own, sometimes more obtuse, Tom Swifties:

"This tomb sure is dark," Tom said cryptically.

"I'm gonna sue you!" Tom cried plaintively.

"I've been working all day," Tom said laboriously.

"You can't charge a Senator for postage," Tom said frankly.

"I'm an expert plumber," Tom said wrenchingly.

"Where's my lithium?" Tom asked maddeningly.

"All I need is a pipe and a cobra," Tom said charmingly.

"I love Scott Joplin!" Tom chimed in entertainingly.


...as you can tell, I don't have a whole heck of a lot to write about today.

Posted at 04:02 pm by brandonstarr
Comments (2)  

Friday, November 12, 2004
Outsourcing companies cheer Bush reelection

Indian outsourcing companies cheer Bush election

Another benefit of voting for Bush.  Way to go, 52%!

Found via ElvenSarah's blog.

Posted at 09:57 am by brandonstarr
Your thoughts?  

"Inconceivable!"

It's Wallace Shawn's birthday today.

Wallace Shawn is perhaps most famous for playing Fizzini, the not-quite-clever-enough criminal mastermind in "The Princess Bride."*

But he's been in some other good movies, too:  "Manhattan," "Clueless," "Toy Story," and now "The Incredibles."

Plus, he's been on some of my favorite TV shows:  "Family Guy," "King of the Hill," and "Taxi" among them.

Happy birthday, Wallace, and remember:  the wines are BOTH poisoned.

It's perhaps appropriate to quote from Fizzini, only a week or so after the reelection of Bush:

On starting a war:

"It's a prestigious line of work, with a long and glorious tradition."

On where NOT to start a war:

"Never get involved in a land war in Asia!"


* Though I've never really hashed out a formal list, "The Princess Bride" has got to be on my top 20 or so movies of all time.

Posted at 09:49 am by brandonstarr
Comments (4)  

Thursday, November 11, 2004
Oil slipping

Just a quick one this time.  I don't think I've gotten less feedback on any regular topic than I have for oil.

Oil is dropping pretty steadily.  Apparently the market is convinced the worst is over for the supply deficit.

I remain unconvinced, but certainly we've at least put the hurricane damage behind us.  I still don't think oil prices will steady out in the low 30s, as some experts do.

FULL DISCLOSURE:  I have a bullish position in Maverick Tube, which supplies pipeline to the oil industry.

Posted at 04:44 pm by brandonstarr
Comments (2)  

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