Saturday, April 26, 2008

I'd like change for a penny, please.

As a child (when dinosaurs roamed the earth) I remember the local gas station selling petrol for 29 cents a gallon. Actually, it was 29.9 cents per gallon, which is where this little rant is going.
Now that gasoline costs more than crack, I think it's time to do away with the point nine cents at the end of the price. Here's a little exercise for you to try the next time you're drunk and/or pissed off:
Go to your local filling station and ask for a gallon of gasoline. When you pay for it, ask for your point one cent change. Watch and learn.
I know the psychology of the 99-cents at the end of every price. $1.99, $5.99 ... it makes you think it's a dollar less than you're actually paying. But that's OK, if you're stupid enough to think that $5.99 isn't six dollars, you deserve to be ripped off. At least the penny is an actual unit of measure. I haven't seen a Point Nine-cent piece, unless the mint is making sets and keeping it to themselves.
Do you think that we're really getting the point one-cent at the end of the road? No. It's priced into the per-gallon cost. If gasoline is advertised as $3.60 and nine-tenths, guess what? You're paying $3.61. I can't imagine a gas pump is calibrated well enough to give us a penny for every ten gallons pumped.
Round it up and finish screwing us. Putting it in 99-percent of the way just makes it more painful when you take it out.
This site on Arizona gas prices argues that the precision of nine-tenths gives motorists a "false sense of accuracy" over their purchase. It goes on to state that this method of pricing "requires that almost all purchases be rounded to the nearest whole cent," which benefits oil companies.
Dr. James Madachy believes it's primarily a marketing thing ("It looks cheaper"), but acknowledges charging nine-tenths of a cent can be unfair to the consumer. According to Madachy, the state of Iowa "outlawed the practice for four years during the 1980s." However, the movement (if you can call it that) didn't have much success.
Then, there's this that shows how those wacky Canadians do things.
Or this.
This came from Chevron:
A dealer does not have to use $.009 in his pricing. Historically however, the $.009 has been used as a marketing tool by many dealers. For example, rather than increase the retail price to the next whole 1.0 cent, a price of $1.59.9 may be more attractive to the price-conscious customer than the $1.60.0.
Sure. I'm a price-conscious consumer. I relish the 18 cents I save with every fill-up. Oh wait, it actually goes in Chevron's pocket because they charge to the whole cent. So, I'm screwed twice. Thanks.
Whatever the answer, "because it has always been that way" is an inadequate explanation. I think I abhor it so much because it's another dumbing-down procedure that plays consumers as dopes (which we are sometimes) and I can't stand being thought of as a rube.
I'm already being forced to purchase something that I am told I need. Don't compound the issue by making me feel like I'm getting a bargain in the process.
Aren't you glad I'm around to bring these sorts of things up?
You're welcome.

Friday, April 25, 2008

TGIF - This Goes In First.

This is another of those times when I realize I've spewed out just about every thought that has come across my [sick] mind. I realized it when I was thinking up an essay on the NFL draft, and suddenly (beer inspired) realized that I had already done one. Click on the link and change the date. Like all of this junk, it's inspired thought.
Wesley Snipes just got three years in prison for tax evasion. That sounds like a phyrric victory for the Federal government. If he's in prison, he won't be paying taxes, so they're out for 36 months. The judge said that he was "making an example" out of Snipes by giving him a harsh sentence. Isn't justice supposed to be blind? This is a nation of laws, not a nation of men and no one, no matter how rich or famous, should be made an example of. We were all created equally, according to that Declaration paper. I think the judge should be removed of his duties. Let's make an example of him.
There has been a big drop-off in readership over the last couple of days. Coincidentally, I've been writing about the upcoming election, so it figures. How they know there's an election post before logging in I have no idea. It's like those TV ratings where they tell us that an especially exciting Deal or No Deal garnered big ratings. How did viewers know before they tuned in? I think the TV rating system is fatally flawed. How else can you explain the popularity of Dancing With the Stars?
My condo association wants to spend $28,000 to fix the swimming pool and they've asked us to vote on whether or not we want them (us) to spend the money. I've been here 18 years and I've used the pool exactly 3 times. Swimming pools are large areas of stagnant filtered water that, besides being breeding grounds for bacteria, are so chemically altered as to not resemble water. It's a chemical by the time they get done with it. Water is the last thing it is. As you can guess, I voted no. I told them that (a) the people who use the pool should pay for it and that they should adopt a two-tier fee structure where the pool-users pay more than the non pool-users and (b) if I were in charge, the pool would be filled with sand and gas grills would be constructed. Give me something I can use. It's all in my letter which, as you can imagine is tersely worded and eloquently stated. I suspect that they will ignore me.
If I owned a home, a swimming pool would be the last thing I would want. They're money pits, and in the best of times they're a large ass pain, returning little of the reward that the homeowner pays for. Mostly they're status symbols brought about by whining kids. The kids can open a fire hydrant like we did in the 1960s. High pressure city water sprayed at their face will toughen them faster than some chlorine and a fiberglas diving board.
I'd be a horrible parent.

Thursday, April 24, 2008

The re-focused crystal ball.

Wendell: It's a mess, ain't it, sheriff?
Ed Tom Bell: If it ain't, it'll do till the mess gets here.
- "No Country for Old Men"
Today, I'm more sure than ever that this Democrat race for the White House is going to be a giant mess. As we have seen in past elections, there is a difference between the delegate count and the popular vote. Popular vote can be translated to "what the people want", and we all know what happens to what the people want. We have at least two sets of numbers working, and maybe three if you count political spin...
This is the delegate count:
Obama - 1724
Clinton - 1593
A candidate needs 2024 to get the nomination.

This is the popular vote count:
Obama - 14.4 million
Clinton - 13.9 million
Clinton - 15.1 million
Obama - 15 million

Or? There's an or, folks. There's always an or.
Clinton is including Michigan and Florida, primaries she won after all the candidates agreed to boycott the states for holding votes too early for party rules. Obama had his name pulled off the ballot in Michigan, so he doesn't get a single vote from that state. "I'm very proud that as of today, I have received more votes by the people who have voted than anybody else, and I am proud of that," Clinton said at a rally in Indianapolis. "It's a very close race, but if you count, as I count, the 2.3 million people who voted in Michigan and Florida, then we are going to build on that."
If you count as I count. That's a classic. If you count as I count, I make a million dollars a year. If you count as I count, my penis is 12 inches long.
The re-focused crystal ball is saying (1) It will be politics as usual and the old-school politics will win out. Hillary is setting up the numbers so that the party will back her. (2) The excitement created by the Obama campaign will be dashed when old-school politics wins out. All of those sign-carrying Obama supporters will have their tiny hearts ripped out by the Machine. You know The Machine. It's the same machine that ruined Al Gore in 2000, Kerry and Edwards in 2004, pulled the rug out from John Edwards a couple of times and hung Howard Dean out to dry. It's a big machine but it needs a tune-up.
The third and most depressing thing that the ball is saying is that John McCain will be inaugurated in January. This in-fighting is bad for politics, people and elections. Neither one of them will back down and it just makes things worse for people like me who find John McCain a slightly more intellectual version of George W. Bush. That's the best thing I can think of to say about him, and I would say the same thing about my cat.
I am left to amuse myself with a Primary Haiku:
Obama might win,
or maybe Hilliary will.
Let's just hope we win.

Wednesday, April 23, 2008

The crystal ball.

"Some people ... said to drop out," she said, "but the American people don't quit, and they deserve a president who doesn't quit either."
- Hillary Clinton after her victory in the Pennsylvania Primary last night.
The problem is that the American people may not be deciding whom the Democrat nominee will be. After her victory in Pennsylvania yesterday, Hillary has 1,557 delegates, trailing Barack Obama by only 140 with North Carolina and Indiana voting on May 6.
The bigger problem is that Hillary seems determined to carry this fight to the convention in Denver in August. That's a problem because there are still 245 so-called Super Delegates who are currently undecided. What that will amount to is a lot of arm-twisting and deal-making to insure that they decide one way or the other.
Should Hillary still be trailing in the popular vote and the delegate count as she is today, a significant amount of political wrangling could bring her the nomination. That should discourage the still goose-bumpy newly registered voters, most of whom Obama is responsible for.
After the 2000 election was stolen from the Democrats and the 2004 election was equally fishy, voters don't need another political whitewash, especially in the Democrat party.
If Obama goes to Colorado still leading Clinton and the suspected political nonsense occurs, millions of voters will be justifiably turned off by the process and see their support and hard work washed away by more backroom deal-making.
I hope it doesn't happen because Americans deserve to be able to have the nominee of their choice, even if it's by one vote or one delegate.
How ironic that Obama preaches change, yet he could be done in by more of the same-old-same-old politics.
Keep your fingers and toes crossed.

Tuesday, April 22, 2008

Some thoughts while sitting around the Earth Day tree.

Today is Earth Day. I don't know. It strikes me as being a little like Valentine's Day. One of those days where we are supposed to do something nice for someone that we should be doing nice things for all of the time, but we forget.
Anyone who stops here regularly knows how I feel about a myriad of subjects vis-a-vie the Earth. I hate excess packaging, gas-guzzling wasteful vehicles and anything that spews smoke into the air or dribbles seepage into the ground. It's pretty simple, really. It will even rile me to see someone throw a cigarette butt out the window of their car. I see that just about every day, so you know how often I get riled.
Earth Day was founded by John McConnell in 1969. It's a day set aside to remind us that the Earth is a fragile place and we're supposed to treat it as such. Good luck.
I stopped at the grocery store (another of my favorite places) yesterday. I needed two things. A salad for dinner and soap for my morning shower. Before I could wave a finger and mumble something, the clerk had placed the soap into a small plastic bag so that it wouldn't contaminate the salad, which was (naturally) encased in its own plastic container. The soap, meanwhile, was in a cardboard box wrapped in more plastic. So now, I have three bars of soap in three boxes wrapped in plastic inside a plastic bag protecting it from a salad in a plastic container - which probably was contaminating my garden greens more than any fumes from soap could possibly do. I understand that the store makes the clerks put the soap in a little bag. They need to stop that. Now I'm feeling like a fool because I bought Bath Soap and I take showers. I hope it still works.
I'm constantly amazed at the size and weight of vehicles traveling paved roadways. Vehicles that are made for life on the Serengeti are rattling down the road - you know that sound - the sound of the knobby tires on pavement. Usually, it says "Off-Road Package" on the thing, the door frame is three feet from the ground (so the Kangaroos can't get you) and there's enough armour on it to fend off a herd of rhinoceros. Trouble is, there isn't a Rhino within a hundred miles of Philadelphia (unless you count the Zoo) and the biggest thing it has to negotiate is a pothole that isn't big enough for the giant tires to find the bottom of. Generally, there is one person inside. They hold significantly more than one person, but I'm guessing that the people who buy them are doing it because they hope that the sight of them in a big truck will make other people wish to have sex with them, thus producing the offspring to make the vehicle necessary. It's an ecological circle jerk.
The Earth keeps spinning, no matter what we do to try to stop it. I think that's why we're so careless with it. That, and the fact that the people abusing it (us) will be long dead before any of our destructive habits take their toll. Our mortality makes us careless.
Now that a gallon of gasoline costs almost as much as a pack of cigarettes (how ironic is that?) I see that people are starting to conserve. Soon, those weird leers I get from people when I ride my bicycle to the store will be replaced by envious wonder and I'll be asked "Where did you get that?" We're funny that way. It's the same way that people get to be 300 pounds. A pound here or there (or five) doesn't seem to matter until we can't get through the doorway. Then, once it's too late, we decide that we have to stop drinking twelve Pepsi's a day and eating cheeseburgers for breakfast. By then, the gravitational pull on our heart and our developed sloth makes it doubly difficult to get back to normal size.
All of those giant vehicles that we were told have a utility (it's what the big U stands for) now make us think that maybe ... well, they make us think. I suspect that the same thing will happen to the Earth, albeit more slowly and generational.
We'll build so much junk and have so many resource-consuming children that we'll (a) run out of space and (b) run out of ways to feed us. That's a long way off, but anyone who has lived a while already knows a dozen places that used to be woods that are now shopping centers or housing developments. Take a picture of a wooded lot and pull it out five years from now and tell me if it's still a wooded lot. I'll bet you it isn't. It's a minor issue now, but we're starting to encroach on some National Park lands. How soon will it be before your trip to Acadia National Park includes a view of the new shopping center?
The big problem is that when you talk about such things you're called a "Tree-Hugger" or "Environmental Nut" and asked to step aside to let the backhoe through. It's a simple matter: There's a limited amount of space and an unlimited number of people. Something has to give, and I'm guessing that the limited amount of space is going to be the big loser. I won't be around to see it, but that doesn't stop me from imagining that it will happen.
Just like the fat guy, we need to do something about it before we can't fit out the door, because once it's too late, it's really too late.
I hope I don't sound like a douchebag.

Monday, April 21, 2008

What else is new?

Fortune magazine just released the latest Fortune 500. The top 10 is dominated by big oil, credit cards and automobiles. Happy Earth Day.
10. AT&T
Evil empire Wal-Mart is at the top. For all the whining I hear about their unfair labor practices and the various lawsuits filed against them, one thing remains constant: We like low prices. So much so that we're willing to overlook some labor injustice because toilet paper is twelve cents a roll. That's why I don't get too worked up over such nonsense. The reason the prices are so low is because they (a) don't pay high salaries and (b) don't waste money on benefits for their workers. When I stop seeing them at the top of these lists I'll start thinking that people are finally paying attention. Meanwhile, my conscience is clear because I don't shop there.
It's also no surprise that two companies making fuel-consuming motor vehicles and three companies making the fuel are in there. Round it out with Citi and BOA, and you have the final side of the great triangle of life. For everything we hear about the choking price of oil and the consuming credit card debt I don't see much that makes me think that people are changing their behavior. I think we're only happy when we're miserable.
OK, so that's all kind of depressing. Here's some good news:
Frequent masturbation may help men cut their risk of contracting prostate cancer, Australian researchers have found. It is believed that carcinogens may build up in the prostate if men do not ejaculate regularly, BBC News reported on Wednesday. The researchers surveyed more than 1,000 men who had developed prostate cancer, and 1,250 men who had not. They found that men who had ejaculated the most between the ages of 20 and 50 were the least likely to get cancer. Men who ejaculated more than five times each week were a third less likely to develop prostate cancer.
Five times a week? I'll have to quit my job.

Sunday, April 20, 2008

Car-free Sunday.

These "Car-free Sunday's" are getting easier to take, now that the price of unleaded regular (is there a leaded regular?) is close to $3.30 a gallon here in the Garden State. It helps that (a) we had a nice weather day and (b) I had no particular place to go. That'll save money all around.
Yesterday's wedding took its toll on me emotionally. For a while, I can keep up the facade, but eventually the idea that I'm at a social event alone wears on me. It seemed like I was there for a lifetime, but I found myself out the door and in my car by 9:15 - shortly after finishing dinner and watching the dance floor fill.
I'm not a dancer and don't understand the need to do it, so at a function like that I'm left in the chair looking a little like a potted plant. It doesn't take long for that to wear me down and I find myself quietly slinking out the door, figuring that the alternative is being a drag on the event and (more importantly) on myself. A wedding of people a generation younger than me is no place for a 50-year old single person, and I find that the realization comes down on me quickly. It probably left a few people wondering "What happened to Anthony?", but at the time, that wasn't a priority for me. I just wanted to get out of there.
By the way, the official count of "cell phone rings" during the church ceremony was three. Three times I heard cellular phones ring during the church service. Really, why do people need to bring their cell phones to the church during a wedding ceremony? Unless they're working for NORAD or a member of the Secret Service, they can live without the phone for an hour. It's Re-Goddamned-diculous.
Danica Patrick won a car race. That was the big sports story over the weekend. To hear the big media tell the story, it was a big deal. I wonder how much they would care if she looked like Laura Davies or Hillary Clinton. We make a big deal out of looks when it comes to accomplishments, especially where women are concerned.
I lost track of how many cable TV stations carried the Pope's speech at Yankee Stadium today. I think it was at least 7, including Fox News, who is used to making a big deal out of men who are supposed to be above the rest of us.
With just days to go before the Pennsylvania primary, Senator Barack Obama Friday night appeared before thousands of roaring supporters in Independence Mall, and pledged to "declare independence" from Washington politics. "In four days, you get the chance to help bring about the change that we need right now, Philadelphia," Obama said. "Here in the city and the state that gave birth to our democracy, we can declare our independence from the politics that has shut us out, let us down, and told us to settle."
We'll see how much Americans want a change from politics. Something tells me that regardless of a victory in Pennsylvania, Obama faces an uphill battle against "tell them what they want to hear" John McCain and his Bush was right politics.
"I'm not running to fit in Washington. I'm running to change Washington."
Change is easier said than done. The biggest enemy Obama has is the fact that he is running against an administration that could be replaced by a chimpanzee, so a McCain administration (as lowly and disgusting as it appears) would be a marked improvement over the worthless protoplasm in office now. Perhaps that is the best case the Republicans can make. "Hey - it's better than Bush" could be their 2008 slogan. Of course, the SPCA could run a candidate on the same logic.