Archive for the ‘The Lighter Side’ Category

Charity: Not Doing It Right

August 22nd, 2014 2 comments

There are supposedly heart-warming stories going around about people at Starbucks starting “Pay It Forward” chains. One customer decides to pay for their drink, but then adds the payment for the next customer. That customer, hearing the story, figures, “Well, I was going to pay this much anyway,” and so “accepts” the gift and then pays for the next person in line. In the end, you get something like 378 people doing this, one after another, until someone eventually says “no” to the “free” drink and pays for their own and doesn’t pay anything forward.

I don’t find that inspiring at all.

Essentially, what you have here is 378 people who can afford to pay $5 for a cup of coffee playing tag with their bills. All but two of the people in the chain are just paying for their own drinks and then feeling cool about themselves because they theoretically engaged in an act of kindness.

Here’s the kicker: in the story linked to above, the first person in the chain paid double for their drink, and the last person, according to the report, did not accept the previous person’s drink, and instead paid for their own. There is nothing in the report about anybody accepting a drink for free without paying for the next drink. Which means that the story is really just about one person paying Starbucks double for their coffee, and nobody getting any actual favor from anyone else—save for the super-rich corporation.

Hard to get all weepy-eyed about that.

And even if Starbucks did eventually give one person a drink and they paid nothing, then the end result is one person paid for another person’s drink, and everyone else was just saying “me too!” without actually doing anything.

Another way of looking at it is that you have hundreds of consecutive people refusing to accept a gift from someone because their sense of self-sufficiency won’t allow them to. Sometimes it is just as good to accept a gift as it is to give one—but people too often have too great a sense of personal pride, seeing the gift as an insult rather than a kindness.

You know what would have been a lot more inspiring? If 378 consecutive people at a Starbucks paid for their drink and snack, and then paid for a homeless person to get the same order. That would be cool.

Because that’s what “Pay It Forward” is supposed to be about: you find a person who is in real need, and you just give them what they need. When they ask how they can repay you, you tell them that when they are back on their feet, the next time they encounter someone in need, you do the same for them.

And when you do so, you don’t brag about it on Facebook.

This is also a good time to bring up the whole ALS “Ice Bucket Challenge.” I guess it’s a good way to generate publicity for a cause, but the challenge is supposedly about making a donation… or pouring a bucket of ice water over your head. Which means that all those people pouring ice on themselves are essentially saying, “I’m so cheap that I’d rather do this than donate to a worthy cause.”

Now, probably many people who do this also donate. However, people started criticizing others for donating and not pouring ice-water over themselves, as if it meant they somehow were being wusses or something.

At that point, it’s just a kind of messed-up dare.

A much better idea would have been to have people promise to pour the ice water on themselves if “x” number of people promised to donate to the charity. Then you would generate a lot more donations—“Hey, if we can get six more people to donate $20 to ALS, Frank will douse himself!”

The ALS Association says they got an extra $40 million or so in donations, so OK—but I think it could have been more had it been done right.

Or, you know, people could just donate to worthy causes without having to be goaded or anything.

Categories: The Lighter Side Tags:

In Your Facebook

November 6th, 2013 4 comments

About a month ago I got an email in Spanish from Facebook. Some guy with four names—two of them mine—had started an account on the service. Unfortunately, he appears to have made a mistake with his email address—he for some reason entered mine as his primary email account. I’ve had similar things happen before, when people who share my name get mixed up and enter my email address.

This one, however, was getting annoying. Every other day, I would get yet another email from Facebook, telling me about something or other that this guy needed to attend to. I tried sending him a message on Facebook, but no reply. I don’t know, maybe he’s sitting there wondering where his Facebook email is. Because I got the email notifying him that a message had been sent to him.

Finally, I got fed up with it. I realized that since my email was the one registered to the account, I could log in—and that’s what I did. I chose the “I forgot my password so email it to me” option, and got into the account. After checking, I discovered that after one month the guy had done absolutely nothing in his account. Feeling better about locking him out because I had changed the password, I proceeded to add a junk email address (thank you again, and then removed my own, and then I logged out, never to return. Hopefully.

If they guy is annoyed that his Facebook won’t work, tough cookies. He annoyed me over and over again for the past month, now it’s his turn.

Categories: The Lighter Side Tags:

Not All the Bugs Worked Out Yet

October 6th, 2013 Comments off

Computers have the ability to analyze scanned printed words and convert it to selectable text. This is called Optical Character Recognition, or OCR for short.

However, even with relatively clean printed text to work with, OCR still often fails to render the text completely accurately; An r followed by an n or m can get confused, or a d could become a c followed by an l, making the word “down” into the word “clown.”

This one has to be my all-time favorite, however:


Categories: Technology, The Lighter Side Tags:

Flying Chicken

November 3rd, 2012 1 comment

I must have passed this place near the south exit of Shinjuku Station a dozen times, and never noticed it—until today:

Skwereed Flying Chicken

This is one of those ones where you wonder if the sign is intentional…

Categories: The Lighter Side Tags:

Overweight States

August 17th, 2012 6 comments

The Economist released this map showing obesity rates by state:

20120818 Wom065 1

I compared this map to ones showing poverty, religious intensity, and many other factors of life, but could not find anything that matched well. One page found a very significant link between diabetes and poverty, but that seemed to indicate a more direct link between poverty and medical care than poverty and obesity.

Interestingly, this map from Five-thirty-eight constituted the best, if still imperfect, match:


It’s hardly a 100% correspondence, but the similarities are striking, are they not? The question is, does this mean anything? Does conservatism cause obesity? Does obesity cause conservatism? Or—in my opinion, more likely—are both conservatism and obesity symptoms of something else, like poor impulse control? Ask Rush Limbaugh, perhaps.

Categories: The Lighter Side Tags:

A Lot of Stuff Sounds Good…

June 8th, 2012 3 comments


Sure, popcorn shrimp sounds good… but then you buy the dollar-pocket of convenience store seafood and begin regretting it.

When Inferior-Quality Off-White Lard Just Won’t Do

June 6th, 2012 Comments off

Seen on the street near my home recently:



Car Doctor

June 2nd, 2012 Comments off

An aging sign outside a lot on a corner near our house. The lot is filled with old and rusting cars–not the best indicator of how good a “car doctor” the proprietor is. But the sign is the real deal-killer:


Nice aging, wouldn’t you say? The years have given him not only a double chin and some grid-like acne, but two bullet wounds in his right arm.

This sign always freaks me out. Look at the eyes–hell, look at the face:


I mean, damn. It looks like a clone of Super Mario accidentally hybridized with an albino goat, only this moment realizing in abject horror his monstrous fate. Even were the sign not aged and peeling, I feel as if I would recoil from it with a deep sense of hideous disgust.

Really, not a fantastic indicator of the owner’s good sense or taste–in that he not only paid for the thing, but he also has displayed it, for years.

Doctor Who?

May 23rd, 2012 3 comments

Screen Shot 2012-05-23 At 9.28.01 Pm

I can imagine he used the Tardis to help find bin Laden, but why did they send him to jail? Always getting into trouble, that Doctor…

Categories: The Lighter Side Tags:

None for You

April 2nd, 2012 2 comments

An advertisement seen on the Tokyo subway today:


Motto: “No Loan: We’re Just Here to Taunt You.”

And Get a Haircut!

February 15th, 2012 3 comments

At a local bank:


And while you’re at it, get a job! Move out of the garage!

How to Piss Off a Canadian

December 29th, 2011 1 comment

Rick Perry knows how:

“Every barrel of oil that comes out of those sands in Canada is a barrel of oil that we don’t have to buy from a foreign source,” Mr. Perry said in Clarinda, earning a loud round of enthusiastic applause.

One has to wonder exactly how many people in that crowd of supporters actually noticed the error.

One thing that you find out from being around Canadians (as I have here in Japan, where the working holiday visa has drawn a disproportionate number) is that they don’t particularly enjoy it when Canada is naturally assumed to be a “part” of the United States. If you want to really annoy a Canadian, ask them if Canada became a state before or after Hawaii. One interesting by-product of the resulting conversation is that you will learn how many and which Hollywood stars are actually Canadians.

That’s Quite a Cough

December 20th, 2011 2 comments

You have to wonder what kind of checking and oversight they do on spelling when creating these banners:


Now, that’s a natural misspelling, very understandable: the spell checker would not catch that “whopping” was a misspelling of “whooping.” If these are random, then they are at least explicable if not acceptable at that level.

Fox News, on the other hand, seems to intentionally make errors. The easiest place to see this is where they paint disgraced Republicans as Democrats, usually with a “D” before their name:



If this happened just once, even twice fully at random, then maybe… but it has happened several times under specific conditions. That’s not an error, that’s a pattern.

True, Fox sometimes makes actual errors out of sheer stupidity, as they did with the graphic of Japan showing a nuclear reactor in Tokyo named “Shibuyaeggman.” This does not, however, mean that all errors are due to ineptitude; quite few are demonstrably intended.

A real tell was with this screen:


No way that was a typo. That graphic could not have been made in “error.” It was clearly intentional, intended as a swipe at Romney.

In essence, Fox intentionally makes “mistakes” to even further slant the “news” they present.

Categories: Right-Wing Slime, The Lighter Side Tags:

Fun with Lip-Synching

September 28th, 2011 1 comment

It’s best if you don’t try to make any sense:

It reminds me of this TNG lip-synch:

Categories: The Lighter Side Tags:

No Need to Go Overboard

August 3rd, 2011 Comments off

Wow, I had no idea we were raising the debt ceiling by so much. From the Irish Times:


$900 trillion. Well, it’s in print, so it must be true!

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It Gets Better

June 9th, 2011 Comments off

Hilarious idea from Chris Hayes, via Josh Marshall: David Vitter and Eliot Spitzer should make an “It Gets Better” commercial for Anthony Weiner. Marshall suggested adding Newt Gingrich, John Ensign, and others of similar ill repute in sex scandals. I say throw in John McCain.

Categories: Quick Notes, The Lighter Side Tags:

Palin Again

June 1st, 2011 1 comment

Maybe Palin just can’t help but run again.

After all, “palin,” in ancient Greek, means “again,” or “once more.”

Categories: The Lighter Side Tags:

Newt Is So Hip

May 14th, 2011 Comments off

Newt Gingrich Tweeted his candidacy for president:

Today I am announcing my candidacy for President of the United States. You can watch my announcement here.

Note the “” URL shortener. One has to wonder if Newt is aware that he announced his candidacy via the usage of a Libyan top-level domain.

Not that this establishes any kind of improper behavior, it’s just kind of funny. is a widely-used resource and, outside of the domain suffix, has nothing to do with Libya. But imagine if Obama used a similarly innocent Iranian top-level domain link to announce that he is running for re-election, and what the right wing would make of that.

Categories: The Lighter Side Tags:


May 10th, 2011 Comments off
Categories: Right-Wing Lies, The Lighter Side Tags:

Snark of the Day

May 6th, 2011 Comments off

How come every time I spend billions of dollars and almost a decade to kill a guy in a suburban mansion, fly his body 800 miles, and dump him in the ocean I’m a bad guy?

Jeff Rowland

Okay, it was a few days ago. But still.

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