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A Whole Lot of Good Stuff (Tidbits from the first 100)

March 31, 2010

Well, this is the 100th post since I decided to try this whole blogging thing.  It’s been fun, and I’ve had way more readers than I ever thought I would.  I was trying to come up with something really cool for my 100th post, but I’m not really close to finishing one right now.  Since it’s been almost a week since my last submission, I decided to do what they all do: a “best of”clip episode.  

I would want Joel to host

Before I get started, I would very much like to thank all my fans for their support and viewership and for making it feel like it’s been worth all the time I’ve put in to date.  (Almost 100,000 visits so far!  Small by internet standards, but plenty enough for me.)  Like I said before, the feedback has been more abundant than I thought.  (Most of it good, but I have certainly ruffled a few feathers along the way.  There’s a lot of critics out with keyboards)  To Mark, my first ever subscriber and frequent commenter, and all the others that have subscribed to and read my crazy thoughts, I thank you.  Maybe someday I’ll actually be able to make a little money off this. Hey, I can dream. 

How much I've made so far

Anyhoo, here are some of the pieces that my readers particularly enjoyed.  So far, my weird children’s books post has been by far my most read, followed by my recently posted costly clerical errors.  Out of the last 6 months of researching and writing, here are the favorites thus far.   

   

From the post: Bedtime stories gone awry (really weird children’s books)  

Who Cares About Disabled People?  

  

Price: $26.25 (WTF? It’s only 32 pages long!)  

This is part of a Who Cares…? series.  It basically is supposed to teach kids to love and care about everyone.  Another book in this series is Who Cares About Elderly People?  It was difficult to choose which wonderful life lesson to include here, as their titles are both equally head-scratching.  I chose disabled people mostly for the reason of who they decide to include as examples.  

  

So am I to believe that Kobe Bryant (athlete), David Hasselhoff (boozer), and Kevin Federline (fat kid) are all disabled?  OK, I’ll give you Hasselhoff and Federline, but not Kobe.   And what is the huffer in the this picture huffing?  It looks like a bag of bubble gum.   

____________________  

From the post: You can’t firewall stupid (criminals caught via the internet)  

Crime: burglary   

Downfall: Facebook   

There are tens of thousands of home robberies in America every year, most of them done by criminals smarter than this next guy.  A 19-year-old broke into a house in Martinsburg, West Virginia.  While going through the house looking for valuables, he decided that this would be a good time to log into his Facebook account and update his status.   

   

That’s all fine and good.  It can’t be easy to be that calm while in the commission of a felony.  Anyhoo, the homeowners returned home later that night and discovered several items missing.  They called the police and, while waiting for them to arrive, went to the computer to let people know what happened.  When they saw the screen, it was still logged in to the man’s account.  Needless to say, it didn’t take the cops very long to figure out whodunit.  The man was arrested and convicted of grand theft and trespassing.   Read more…

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Channeling your inner Jason Bourne

March 25, 2010

Some of my favorite scenes in the Bourne series are when he fights somebody using weapons of convenience from wherever he may be at the time.  This guy decided everyone should know how to beat the crap out of someone else using nothing more than a Clipper magazine.  I would think that you would need something a little thicker, maybe a Forbes or a Maxim, but he makes do against a guy in dire need of a decent haircut.

Just file it under “oops” (7 costly clerical errors)

March 23, 2010

Everybody makes mistakes.  I have been known to make a few here and there, or so I’ve been told.  It still pains me to look at my NCAA Tournament bracket.  But I’m not alone.  Smart people make little mistakes all the time.  Even Google was technically a mistake.  (It was supposed to be “Googol”, what they thought would be short for googolplex)

What almost was

That mistake, however, did not result in the loss of millions of dollars.  Quite the opposite.  But some simple errors have led to some very expensive consequences.  Whether it’s a typo, misspelling,  or simple forgetfulness, the following clerical errors ended up with a heavy price tag.

 

And I thought Southwest had the best fares…

Alitalia Airlines is a carrier out of Italy that made a slight mistake on its website in 2006 regarding a fare from Toronto to Cyprus.  The fare advertised was $39.  It was supposed to be $3,900.  The rate was posted on a travel website and the rush was on.  As many as 2,000 tickets were sold for this price.

Probably didn't even pay for the fuel

While Alitalia initially tried to cancel all the tickets purchased for the wrong price, they eventually decided to honor the mistaken fares.  If all 2,000 people actually used their tickets, it adds up to a $7.72 million loss to the airline.

 

Punctuation is important

Despite text messaging and Twitter completely destroying the English language one poorly constructed run-on sentence at a time, punctuation can still make or break a deal.  In Canada, Aliant Inc. had a contract with Rogers Communications to install about 90,000 utility poles.  They signed a contract and the installation began.  But soon, the construction of a sentence in the 14 page contract caused an 18 month legal battle.

Make fun if you want, but the comma is mighty!

Rogers Communications thought they had an ironclad five year contract with Aliant.  However Aliant, being the grammar police that they are,  saw it differently. They cited this sentence:

The agreement “shall continue in force for a period of five years from the date it is made, and thereafter for successive five-year terms, unless and until terminated by one year prior notice in writing by either party.”

Had the second comma not been there, Aliant would have had to honor the first five years of the contract before anything could be changed.  But because of the comma, Aliant cancelled it early and Read more…

Weekend Nothings

March 18, 2010

I’ve started writing a couple new posts but, unfortunately for my readers, I didn’t finish any of them before the first game of March Madness.  The first two days of the tournament I basically become a hermit and pay attention to nothing else.  So while I sit here and lick my wounds after my bracket suffered what I consider Black Thursday(Thanks to Georgetown, Vandy, and Notre Dame for my 9-7 first day.  Worst ever for me.) I’ll leave you with a few links to waste some time.  Hopefully, tomorrow will be nicer to my predictions than today was.  Have a great weekend.

  • There’s plenty of Nigerian Princes out there looking for people to give their money to, and folks are still falling for it.
  • Ever wanted to tell someone off using 19th century slang?  Just tell them to shut their bone box.  Or any of these other slang terms used back then.
  • Ever wondered who you’re listening to when you mis-dial a phone number?  Here is that and 9 other famous disembodied voices.
  • In case you happen to be the last person on earth, here is a practical guide of what you need to do.

And to close, a Youtube video that made me laugh.  Pandas are cute, right?  Well, this one knows it.  He distracts the zookeeper by performing a cute-style rollover while his buddy slips out the door and then totally makes a break for it himself.  Pandas are cool. (The fun starts at about the :35 mark)

I’m in the wrong business (10 people on the Forbes richest list who made their money in interesting ways)

March 16, 2010

Despite the recent global economic slowdown, there are more billionaires on the Forbes list this year than last year.  Among them are the normal assortment of bankers, real estate tycoons, oil men, media moguls, software developers, and those who were lucky enough to inherit a mass fortune. Mexico’s Carlos Slim Helu topped the list.  The telecom giant posted a net worth of $53.5 billion.  He was followed by Bill Gates and Warren Buffet.  In an interesting sidenote, the four Walton kids have a combined $83.6 billion, meaning that if Sam Walton were alive today he would be 56% richer than anyone else.

Paying for the ridiculously large inheritances of four people

It took me a while, but I went through most of the people on the list looking for interesting ways people made their money. (There’s over 1000 on the list, but I stopped after 750.  I had to click through and read them one by one and it took me forever.)  Not everyone made their billions from the traditional ways.   Here are a few that stuck out to me.

 

Kunio Busujima 

Rank: 143 ($5.4 billion)

Kunio is in the gaming industry.  Specifically, he owns Sankyo.  They make the classic pachinko machines that I didn’t even know were still being produced.  I have an old one that I’m trying to fix up right now.

This one

Maybe I should give this guy a call to see if he’ll give me a discount on parts.

 

Dietrich Mateschitz

Rank: 208 ($4.1 billion)

This guy made all his money off the caffeine craziness of the world today.  He threw together a couple of ingredients, put it in a blue and silver can, and said “I think I’ll call it Red Bull.”  We all know where that went.  He currently owns 49% of the beverage company that sold $4.7 billion worth of heart explosions last year. Read more…

Goodbye cruel world! (7 bizarre and/or ironic deaths)

March 12, 2010

People die all the time.  It’s an unfortunate but unavoidable part of being alive.  Some people, however, have more notable deaths than others.  Last year I listed a few deaths that occurred as a result of stupidity, but there are also those where just strange and/or ironic.  Like the woman who never wore a seatbelt when she drove until a passenger in her car told her to buckle up.  When she turned to put it on, she missed a curve and drove off a ridge.

What she should have done instead

When people have a certain occupation or live their lives a particular way, and then die in a way that mirrors or contradicts those, it can be funny.  I don’t wish to make fun of the deceased, but… well, yes I do.  How can you not in the following situations?  (Except for the woman who was murdered.  Interesting situation, but hard to laugh at.)

 Jim Fixx

 Jim was a health-nut guru.  He wrote a book in 1977 called “The Complete Book of Running” which was a best seller.  He made a lot of money telling people that running could greatly extend your lifetime.  He was a member of Mensa and wrote a book of puzzles for geniuses, which means was also probably pretentious.

Afterword by the Grim Reaper

One day when he got home after his daily run, he had a heart attack and died.  An autopsy revealed he had coronary arteries 95%, 85%, and 50% blocked. 

Clement Vallandigham 

As a lawyer in the 19th century, Vallandigham had made quite a name and fortune for himself.  He was also politically active and made news for opposing slavery while at the same time calling for the removal of Abraham Lincoln as president.  In 1877, he took the case of a man on trial for an alleged murder that occurred during a barroom brawl.  He argued that the deceased accidentally shot himself during the melee and set out to prove it was possible.  It was very possible.  During his reenactment, he shot himself in the head and died.  

Can you name another lawyer who would die for his client? Didn't think so.

While that sucks for Vallanigham, it was golden for his client.  The jury decided that the deceased very well could have shot himself and acquitted the accused. Read more…

Gordon Gekko had it right (5 pre-Enron financial scandals)

March 9, 2010

“Greed is good”.  That was Gordon Gekko’s mantra.  Apparently, he wasn’t the only one to live by that code.  The last several years have seen corporate greed and fraudulent activities at an amazing pace.  It started with the Enron failure and moved on to Worldcom, Tyco, Adelphia, AIG, and then was capped off by the wonderful personalities of Bernie Madoff and Allen Stanford.  While this recent trend is disturbing, it is hardly original.  Scandals, frauds, and corruption like this have been going on for hundreds of years. 

Greed may not be necessarily good, but it has certainly been popular.  Here are five financial scandals that happened before the current wave of bad headlines was written.

Credit Mobilier

Back in 1864, Credit Mobilier was a construction company started by executives of Union Pacific Railroad.  They then had Union Pacific make contracts with Credit Mobilier to build railroads at inflated prices.  These payments would in turn go to buy Union Pacific stock at par value and sell them at market value, generating huge profits to the tune of over $43 million.

Here’s the thing: the contracts were being paid with generous subsidies from the U.S. Government.  Then a man named Oakes Ames, a U.S. congressman, was tabbed to head the firm.  He started offering other members of congress stock at the par value, giving many of them a chance to earn a huge profit.  The whole thing came crashing down when a New York newspaper published a story about how Credit Mobilier built $53 million worth of railroads while receiving $72 million in payments.  The resulting downfall implicated several executives and politicians, including future president James Garfield.

Samuel Insull

Insull was an major player in the early electricity industry.  In 1892 he became president of the Chicago Edison Co. and 5 years later merged another power company with his to create Commonwealth Edison.  He then started purchasing portions of other companies that included Read more…