Wednesday, July 27, 2005

File these under ...

... What the heck is wrong with people?

Wife who formerly went on strike is now itemizing and charging for all tasks performed during her marriage. Love is all about itemizing.

"Til death do us part" is soooo 1955. Clearly "as long as our love lasts" is just way more realistic. We don't want to suffer from sky-high expectations!

Words fail me to describe this one.
Johnson hosted weekly parties at her home over the span of a year and admitted to having sexual contact with boys 15 to 17 years old, prosecutors said. According to her arrest affidavit, Johnson said she also provided marijuana, methamphetamine, and alcohol to the teens because she wanted to be a "cool mom" and it made her feel like she was "one of the group." She said she was never popular in high school.
Sometimes I like to imagine these sorts of perverts (meaning the "cool mom", not the other stories above) attempting to explain their actions to people from 300 years ago, before being tarred and feathered or somesuch. "Oh, I see.....because you weren't popular in high school. It makes sense now!" Ridiculous.

Sunday, July 24, 2005

Supermarket cards threat to privacy?

More about the daily assault on our privacy. How much privacy will we be willing to give away merely for convenience and to save a few cents? Apparently the savings are a sham anyway.

Perhaps one of the most egregious aspects of shopper cards, according to Albrecht, is the notion put forth by supermarkets and other retailers that cardholders are somehow entitled to special savings deals.

In reality, Albrecht says, most of those programs are little more than ploys to get shoppers to use the cards and, hence, allow the retailers to collect personal data.

In a recent consumer study involving a Bloomington, Ind., Kroger's supermarket, the store's published advertising circulars were collected for four consecutive weeks prior to launching the e-card, and another six weeks after the card was launched.

The results were stunning, CASPIAN said. While the e-card was heralded as a way to save shoppers money, most of the tracked items ‚– 52 of 89 ‚– were unchanged in price, while a majority of the remainder, 24 items, were actually priced higher. Only 13 tracked items fell in price as a result of e-card use.

I do realize that the study of one store in no way approaches a statistically significant sample, yet I believe this same pattern would play out in most cases if it were repeated at other stores. Rather than increased savings once the card is implemented, a more accurate picture would be to state that you will be mauled if you continue to shop at the store and do not use the new card. Effectively your options are A) don't use the card and get mauled B) give up your privacy to retain the same prices you paid before the card system began. Does anyone see a big win for the consumer?

Some thoughts from the article on why any of this matters.

CASPIAN says the thing it hears most from nonplussed consumers who use the cards is this: "What's the big deal? I'm not doing anything wrong or buying anything illegal."

But that's the wrong way to look at it, says Albrecht, because that's not really what the card programs are about.

"I could say the same thing about tapping your phone ‚– 'Who cares if they know what you say to your friends?'" she said. "How about putting a tracking device in your car? 'Who cares if they know where you go?' Heck, why not let them install a camera in your shower? 'Who cares if they know what you look like naked?'

"The point is that there are many, many things that nobody's got any business knowing about anybody else. That's called privacy – the right to an unfettered, unmonitored personal life which is not subject to the scrutiny of others," she said.


Ways to fight The Man.

1) I favor shopping at non-card stores.
2) I've written protest letters to the card stores, including Albertson's when they started using the card system. I would give you excerpts from their reply, but I lost it when my hard drive crashed last year.
3) I've written letters to the stores that don't have a card system to thank them for it and let them know that they have increased customer usage because of it. FYI, Rayley's/Bel-Air wrote me back to say they would never have a card system. Perhaps not coincidentally, they have been rated the number one grocery store chain in America by Consumer Reports.
4) When I moved close to a Ralph's (owned by Kroger) that used a card system, I simply got a new card every time I went into the store and then threw it away as soon as I got home. Apparently they got wise to that tactic and started requiring you to fill out the personal info before you could actually get a card. In addition to hating that, I soon realized that Ralph's in general is overpriced and that that particular location always smelled like bad fish. I never went back. That location is now out of business. I claim a small victory.
5) Many supermarkets now have self-checkout lines. Also, in case you forget your card, you can manually enter in your phone number on the screen to get the card discount. Thus, you can play "Guess A Valid Phone Number"! Most of the stores are national, so it doesn't even have to be in your area code, but that's probably a good start.

Windfall for Washington

OpinionJournal - Featured Article The Laffer Curve right again?

Wednesday, July 20, 2005

Eco-friendly Wal-Mart where?

DenverPost.com : "The first store, in McKinney, features a windmill, solar panels and a drip-irrigation system for water conservation, Bentonville, Ark.-based Wal-Mart said Tuesday in a statement. Cooking oil from the deli and automotive oil from Tire and Lube Express will be burned to heat the building."

Here in Mckinney, we out-California California itself.

Thursday, July 14, 2005

Superman

4 or 5 years ago, I purchased a Superman t-shirt. For reasons I cannot explain, I have had many odd experiences in this shirt, and people who normally would never say anything to me feel compelled to speak to me solely because I'm wearing this shirt. This is (part of) its story.

I wore the shirt on a visit to LA to meet up with my buddy Seth from college over Thanksgiving weekend several years ago. We're rolling through LA in his rental car when we come to a stop in traffic somewhere near Hollywood. It's a pleasant day, so I have the window rolled down. Suddenly I am accosted through the window by a man repeatedly shouting, "I THOUGHT YOU WERE DEAD!" and then "Superman, they told me you were dead but I never believed them, and now here you are." At first I smile courteously at the joke, but after he continues on for a while, I'm not too sure this guy is all there. He also appears to be trying to physically touch me through the window. Traffic is now starting to move again, but I'm not too sure Seth is fully cognizant of the potential loony I have on my hands so I discreetly say to him out the side of my mouth "drive, Seth, DRIVE". Probably the guy was harmless, but it was one of my first exposures to the power of the t-shirt to break down normal barriers between strangers.

Later that same day, we are on Hollywood Boulevard, walking by Mann's Chinese Theatre, where a lot of movies premier. "Actors" dress up as famous movie characters in front of the theater and pose with tourists for $5 or more. Yes, it's ridiculous. So, of course today there happens to be a guy there posing as Superman. For some reason two older ladies are excited that I am wearing a superman t-shirt AND here is a guy dressed up as superman - that's real Hollywood entertainment for you, I guess. Naturally (?) the other Superman starts taunting me and wants me to take my picture with him. My thoughts: I'm not paying money to have my picture taken with a guy wearing his underwear outside of his pants.

hmmm

Philippians 4
11I am not saying this because I am in need, for I have learned to be content whatever the circumstances. 12I know what it is to be in need, and I know what it is to have plenty. I have learned the secret of being content in any and every situation, whether well fed or hungry, whether living in plenty or in want. 13I can do everything through him who gives me strength.

Contentment has been sort of an issue this week, with a lot of things...

States visited



Create your own visited states map

The other day my Mom mentioned that a recent trip meant that she had visited all 50 states. I decided to try to map out how many I had visited. I'm not counting airports landed in, as I think that would give me at least 3 more, including Alaska. I had to actually spend time in the state. I need help from some family - am I forgetting anything? I think we probably hit Connecticut on our trip to Maine when I was a freshman or sophomore in high school, but I couldn't remember it specifically. Likewise I think we may have ventured into Wisconsin on a trip to Chicago some time, but I'm not sure. I think the 36 states I have here are the minimum number I've visited, and it's probably higher.

Sunday, July 10, 2005

Art

I find this painting oddly fascinating. What do you think that says about me? What do you think the painting means?

Books

A list I got tagged for by my Aunt a while ago. Took me a while to answer it, mostly due to struggling with saying which 5 books have really influenced me. Now some of the answers have changed, so I just added them in.

Total books owned, ever~
My wife would say way too many. Hmmm...total, I'm going to guess around 2000? It seemed high, but then I thought just all my college and grad school textbooks probably hit in the hundreds right there, to say nothing of all my recreational purchases.

Last book I bought ~ They Smell Like Sheep (reviewed below) and The 16% Solution
Now, after our trip to Powell's - The Love of God by John MacArthur and The Francis A. Schaeffer Trilogy.


Last book I read ~ I just finished The 16% Solution, which is about investing in tax liens. I'm now just about to finish The God Who Is There, the first book in the Schaeffer trilogy that I just purchased.

5 books that mean a lot to me ~ This is the hardest one, as it changes as you change ...
  • The Screwtape Letters by C.S. Lewis
  • Mere Christianity by C.S. Lewis
  • The Great Divorce by C.S. Lewis. Notice a theme?
  • The God Who Is There by Francis Schaeffer. Putting this here even though I haven't quite finished it, because of how it is already challenging my thinking.
  • Atlas Shrugged by Ayn Rand
Runner-up: Every Man's Battle, by Stephen Arterburn

Back from the great Northwest

We just got back in tonight from our visit to Washington, Oregon, and California, so I thought I would put up a quick post to end the dearth of them from our vacation. We left Friday, July 1 after work and arrived in Vancouver, Washington (just across the river from Portland, OR) that night, where we stayed with my best man from our wedding. He has a mammoth house, able to hold quite a few people. Several of our friends from Sacramento arrived on Saturday; eventually I think we had ten people staying at his pad. I'll expound more on our activities later, but for now, we had a great time seeing old friends, putting on our own fireworks show, hitting Powell's bookstore, etc. Tuesday, we drove down to Brookings, OR to stay with my wife's parents at their house right on the Pacific Ocean. It was so foggy that that first day we couldn't even see the ocean from inside their house. Normally one has a fantastic panoramic view of the ocean from their living room, which is lined with huge windows. The next day we relaxed by taking a quick 10 mile hike through the redwoods in California on the James Irvine trail to Fern Canyon and then out to the ocean. Even for someone who doesn't get too much into scenery, this was some pretty impressive stuff. The next day we took a 100+ mile jet boat ride up the Rogue River. Incredible scenery and wildlife again, and a great time in great weather. Again I will expound more on this in later posts. Saturday we drove back up to Portland, but not before swinging down to Medford to have lunch with my Aunt and Uncle, who live there. My wife is now convinced Medford would be a great place to live. The thing my wife and I both enjoyed the most from the whole trip was the wonderful cool weather. The bad news is that this made it that much harder to come back to the Texas heat today!