Wednesday, July 30

growing to (heart) $4 gas

As I started my day with a read of the New York Times* I noticed:
"Oil has dropped more than $23 a barrel, or 16 percent, and gasoline prices have fallen as Americans drive less."
Conservatives Small brainers will attribute this to Dubya's threat to open up more offshore drilling (even though the oil companies haven't drilled in 80% of the areas already permitted for same). The truth is that prices fell when the magical $4/gallon barrier for gas/petrol was reached and demand eased -- Americans simply started driving less. Part of this has to include the economic meltdown that's underway - just yesterday another restaurant chain (Benigan's/Steak & Ale), and another department store chain (Mervyn's) failed.

Dubya's Oil Puppets would like you to believe otherwise, but the offshore drilling threat was hollow and had no impact. This drop in oil prices was based on sticker-shock, and is temporary.

Oil producers know that "$4 gas" will soon become accepted as the norm, at which point they can aim for "$5 gas". I heard some MSM pundits muse "now we're paying European prices for gas!!!!" while anyone who can Google knows that's a lie; many Europeans would love to see American gas prices at their local station.

I suspect this will be similar to any plateau effect; Americans will grow to think of "$4 gas" as The Good Old Days and behaviors will slip away from our New Thrifty Habits:
  1. driving at the speed limit;
  2. combining trips;
  3. carpooling;
  4. buying more efficient vehicles;
  5. using mass transit
The local bus/train company (DART) has placed orders for larger trains - with better bicycle capacity - but by the time those orders arrive, I suspect we'll be back to Business As Usual as we'll have adapted to stagflation.

Likewise, American car makers are falling over themselves as they try to retool their factories for more fuel-efficient vehicles, but it appears they cannot turn on a dime and I've heard predictions of 18 months before those adaptations are complete.

I was talking to a friend last night about the price of new cars, and she said that while her paycheck has stayed the same, the price of her Target New Car has increased - on the order of 10% or so. My theory is that in order to make a vehicle 1% more fuel efficient, the price had to increase by 5% - the law of diminishing returns has begun to set in. As Americans return to our wasteful habits (outconsuming the world by 5:1 in some cases) this is only bound to get worse.
* the local newspaper (the "Dallas Managed News") has become little more than a repurposing of Associated Press stories, plus a hefty Religion section and right-wing pundits. They shouldn't let the door hit them in the arse.

Tuesday, July 29

Why did the Obama cross the road?

ah, politics.

A couple of us were talking about John SIDNEY McCain's latest slimeball All-Negative-All-The-Time Campaign tactics, and it was noted that they've decided to spin anything/everything that their challenger does into evil, no matter how pithy.

So, if Barack Obama crossed the street ..
.. on foot, they'd attack him for not using mass transit (thus pandering to the transit lobby);

.. in a bus, they'd attack him for trying to appease "blue collar workers";

.. in a Prius, they'd attack him for not using a Detroit-built automobile (pandering to the US auto industry);

.. in a Ford, they'd attack him for being "anti-General Motors";

.. in a GMC, they'd attack him for being "anti-Ford";

.. on a skateboard, they'd attack him for being a Liberal Elitist (conservatives can't ride skateboards)
You get the idea.

Friday update: my suspicions are confirmed.

Monday, July 28

here's your sign ...

make your own sign here

John McCain: LIAR!

I don't know if John McCain's staff has been talking to Hillary about how effective her "sniper fire story" was, but .. they're going into a tailspin and might as well cancel their convention and save us all a lot of money and trouble.

McCain's early promises of running a positive campaign are now at the bottom of the outhouse .. perhaps his latest wife Cindy is down there among all the feces, swimming in it like so much Evian in her billion dollar bathtub.

The latest SERIES of lies is coming from Karl Rove, saying that Barack Obama wouldn't visit our troops in Germany unless he could be assured of a photo op. What a crock of pig swill ... the good news is that this is being debunked all over the web, with McCain himself starting to look like The Fool.

At least they have a different kind of contempt for our veterans than Dick Cheney.

It's kind of sad. Sure, he's basically a hateful old man who has a lot of trouble remembering anything (much less taking responsibility), but you'd think he'd at least do The Honorable Thing and not resort to blatant lies, still 3+ months from the election. So much for the Straight Talk Express - it's become increasingly obvious that Arianna Huffington was dead on target with her book, detailing how Maverick John McCain - the Vietnam war hero - has ceased to exist.

Let's get this election over with and move on.

Tuesday, July 22

humor, defined

Not FunnyHysterical

queue the preachers!

News item:
HOUSTON (Reuters) - Tropical Storm Dolly churned toward southern Texas on Monday, and forecasters said they expected it to grow into a hurricane before hitting land near the Mexican border later this week.
Once it makes landfall, America's White Christian Preachers should immediately POUNCE, and tell everyone that the hurricane struck Texas because of its wickedness, for electing George Walker "Dubya" Bush as POTUS; Rick "Pretty Hair" Perry as Governor; Kay Bailey "Bootlicker Sr" Hutchison and John "Bootlicker Jr" Cornyn as US Senators.

Monday, July 21

where have I seen that face before?

News item: John McCain will name his running mate on Wednesday - Louisiana's (insane, first-term) Governor, Bobby Jindal. He's the one who claims to have cured cancer by performing an exorcism, so that may come in Real Handy when 72-year old John McCain drops dead a few weeks after being elected.

Sunday, July 20

the local coffee shop

Before there was Starbucks®, the "local coffee shop" usually meant an independent donut shop. In my case, the only nearby "dedicated coffee shops" are in/near office parks and are open 9-5 weekdays. Starbucks changed all that, extending their hours, creating atmosphere, and putting them on every corner -- hence their current saturation problem.

There are nine (9) Starbucks locations within three (3) miles of my home - two are inside grocery stores. Two of the remaining seven are on The List To Be Closed in the next few months, and only one of the seven has a drive-thru. I was mildly surprised by one of the closures .. Preston/Beltline (actually it's closer to Preston/Alexis) which always seemed to be busy - located between a Blockbuster and Wendy's. Granted, there's another Starbucks a hundred yards away, but it's inside a Tom Thumb grocery store and lacks the ambiance (!) of a Real Starbucks.

I waddled over to the 4th-closest Starbucks yesterday (the nearest one with a drive-thru window) to try their new smoothie - er, Vivanno™. There are only two from which to choose: banana-orange-mango or banana-chocolate. I could definitely taste the "whey protein and fiber powder", but it was otherwise unremarkable. Noteworthy: just like Jamba Juice®, you can add extra stuff (in Starbucks' case, that means a shot of espresso; matcha green tea powder; or substitute nonfat milk to shave 20 calories).

Vivanno verdict: it's okay but not sure $4.06 (with tax) for 16 ounces is something I'd go out of the way for. I found McDonald's Iced Coffee more refreshing at less than half the price (also more healthy if you opt for the sugar-free vanilla flavor -- 60 calories). I suspect I should compare it with an offering from the local Jamba Juice (co located with Whole Foods), smoothie-to-smoothie:
16 oz. Vivanno (banana-orange-mango): 250 calories, 16 grams protein, 6 grams fiber, 2 grams fat, 1 fruit serving. (No artificial colors, artificial sweeteners or high fructose corn syrup.)

16 oz. Banana Berry™ (Jamba Juice): 280 calories, 3 grams protein, 3 grams fiber, 1 gram fat, 2 fruit servings. For comparison, add the "whey boost" to get ~16 grams protein and 4 grams fiber.

For an apples-to-oranges (er, banana-to-coffee) comparison, here's the info on the McCoffee:

16 oz. McDonald's Iced Coffee: 60 calories, no fiber or protein.
Premium Roast Coffee. Light Cream: Milk, cream, sodium phosphate, sodium polyphosphate, DATEM, sodium stearoyl lactylate, tetra sodium pyrophosphate, sodium hexametaphosphate, sodium citrate, carrageenan. CONTAINS: MILK. Sugar Free Vanilla Syrup: Water, erythritol, natural (plant source) and artificial flavors, cellulose gum, sucralose, salt, malic acid, potassium sorbate (preservative), acesulfame potassium, caramel color (with sulfites). Ice.

Thursday, July 10

credit card trivia

So I've only been using credit cards for what - 30 years? I thought I knew everything, but found a few gems I didn't know on
  1. Unsigned cards are not valid and merchants can and will refuse them
  2. The maximum liability for unauthorized use of a credit card (not Debit/ATM cards) is US$50 according to federal law
  3. Merchants cannot require you to present ID, unless your card is unsigned
  4. Merchants cannot require a minimum transaction amount
  5. Merchants cannot charge a surcharge for using a credit card, however, they can offer a cash discount
  6. Many credit cards have programs that will automatically double the manufacturer's warranty and other excellent benefits
  7. Merchants are not allowed to make you give up your right to a chargeback
  8. Merchants are not allowed to place a hold for the estimated tip
  9. If merchants suspect you of fraud they are supposed to call with a "Code 10"
  10. If merchants break these rules, you can report them to the credit card company
Full article: 10 Things You Might Not Know About Your Credit Card

Tuesday, July 8

Republic Party sundry

Credit where credit is due

The Republic Party has done a spectacular job at one thing: convincing 51% of the people that they should always vote for what's best for the top 1% (wealth) - of which they are NOT a member.

Louisiana : go direckly to jale, do not pass GO

Spotted: New legal threat to teaching evolution in the US

The good news? 48 states still don't have Republic Party Stupid laws on the books.

Minority rule - for smokers only!!!

It's no secret that the majority of Texans have IQs smaller than their SUV's gas capacity (31), so I wasn't surprised to see some pea-brain mouth off about how a proposed smoking ban should not be implemented because "The fact that 70 percent of people support this ban is no reason to pass it." Ah, so now they support minority rights, while before they were part of the Bully Republic Party who bellowed "we won the election so you have to do what we tell you." Speaking out of both sides of their mouths appears to be Standard Operating Procedure.

Sunday Letters: Smoking ban

The Republic Party Credo - to be repeated in unison at their convention
  1. Never, EVER take responsibility
  2. Always blame the Democrats - for everything.
  3. Lie, then lie some more. Everybody Knows™ that if you repeat something 3 times, it becomes True! You may even start believing the lies yourself.
  4. Learn how to speak out of both sides of your mouth, without flinching. Develop a negative twist to everything your opponent does, even if it's just walking across the street.
  5. Trivialize everything your opponent says. Take a seemingly-insignificant phrase out of context, and tell your audience that was the primary message. Say it with a sneer, if possible.
  6. If you're an elected Republic, learn how to obfuscate and delay - those are GOP SOP (2007-8 Republic senators have filibustered more bills than any Congress in history)
  7. Never forget that most voters do not follow politics, so pander to them, always. You are there to get their vote, not educate them.

Money quote

"The Republican brand is in the trash can. I've often observed that if we were a dog food, they would take us off the shelf."

-Tom Davis (R-Virginia) 19 May 2008

Everybody Knows is a trademark of FOX "News" and Rush Limbaugh, the $400 Million Man.

Sunday, July 6

news item: Jesse Helms died Friday

Deep Thoughts:
  1. I wonder who His family will choose to be pallbearers? (see photo at right)
  2. It's a pity He (R-North Carolina) chose to die on the 4th of July; that will forever taint this holiday.

    I was amused at PZ's take on the timing: the fireworks will forever be a celebration of His death. Hmmm.
  3. I wonder if Fox "News" will cover the funeral live, with all the "reporters" wearing black armbands.

Thursday, July 3

you've been crammed!

A month or so ago, I decided it was a complete waste of money to have multiple phone lines that I'm not using, so .. I dropped 2 of my 3 phone numbers. Today, some company decided to charge me for voicemail service on one of those 2 dropped phone numbers.

I suppose they think they're doing me a favor, but .. all AT&T provides in the email notice is the total amount billed:
A new bill for your telephone number ending in xxxx is now available to view online. You can print a copy of your paper bill by selecting the link "View/Print copies of your paper bills" on the Account Manager Home Page.

To view your bill, log in to AT&T Account Manager and select the > View My Bill link, found under the Current Bill Summary section.
The email makes it sound simple enough, but it's not, since some Rocket Scientist decided the best way to annoy the customer is to shove so many choices onto the website so that most people would simply throw up their hands in disgust. They achieved their design goal, for sure.

This "simplification" (email with the total charge only) has opened AT&T up to additional fraud, far as I'm concerned - it's now much harder to spot fraudulent charges.

So, I logged onto AT&T's site to find out that a sleazebag company called TRIVOICE INTERNATIONAL added a $14.95 monthly charge for voicemail service to my phone bill. No, I didn't authorize it - I've used an answering machine for a long time. The referenced number is one of the two I "threw away" while simplifying my home phone situation; it also couldn't be used to dial out -- it was merely a "special ring" number that sits atop your regular line, but double-rings to let you know that it's a business call (or whatever).

Questions? Call: 1 866 473-1999
Itemized Charges and Credits
No. Date Description

Naturally, the Trivoice number says they're closed until Monday. Ditto for AT&T Customer Service. At least AT&T's website has info on cramming, so this must be very common. I tried sending them an email but had to do it several times (their website returned me to a very pretty, yet completely WHITE screen on multiple occasions), and have zero hope they'll read it before Monday - if ever.

I searched the web for info on these crammers and quickly found something on describing the procedure I'll have to follow if they're uncooperative.

Tuesday, July 1

Retired General Wesley Clark: "not backing down"

Related: Wes Clark Responds To McCain Campaign’s Hysteria

It's no surprise that al Qaeda strongly endorses John McCain for President, since he'll continue the Iraq war for another thousand years, greatly helping their ongoing recruiting drive. If Obama is elected and the war ends, they'll have no Americans to fight other than cardboard cutouts.

Ref: hero, redefined (10 April 2008)