Saturday, December 24, 2005

Last Minute Shopping

I've honestly finished my christmas shopping three days ago. I only went down to WalMart this evening because I ran out of milk, which signals the necessity of a regular grocery shopping trip. It's just an unfortunate coincidence that the last-minute Christmas shoppers had overwhelmed the store. Ad to that the announcement being broadcast over the store loudspeakers at regular intervals:
Attention WalMart Shoppers, it is now 5:00, and the store is closing at 6:00. Please make your final selections and proceed to the front of the store for checkout. Thank you.
I swear I heard them make the same announcement twice for 5:15. I made my shopping list on the way out the door, and checked it twice while in the drink aisle, only to behold that I had yet to retrieve a bag of cat food. Having made my final cat food selection, I proceeded under pressure to the front of the store, only to find that the first checkout clerk was closing her lane. The second clerk, a miniature three-foot high 60 year-old lady, was finishing up with another miniature three-foot high 60 year-old lady, when she bungled the approval of the customers check. The customer wanted an extra $20 cash returned, and the added complexity was more than the two of them could collectively fathom at such a late hour. Customer Service was called in. Meanwhile, another customer placed his half-dozen articles on the belt behind my dozen articles, only to retrieve them upon seeing what was transpiring (or not) at the register. I had already had the same thoughts, but had determined that by the time I gathered my dozen articles back into my cart and had gone to another register, all avaible checkers would have either closed, or been transformed into Dumb Doris deer in the headlight register flailers. Or the impending 6:00 deadline would have passed, and I would have to spend Christmas locked in a WalMart store full of low-grade food, leftover Christmas merchandise, women's lingerie, and piles of beanbag furniture. So, I perservered, and remained in line while Dumb Doris (her name was actually Barb) mechanically checked an item, placed it in a bag, turned the bag turnstile, and repeated the process untill she eventually realized that she could put more than one item in a bag, and that she could actually fill both bags on the side of the turnstile before proceeding to the next side. So after enduring thirty minutes of last minute shopping horror, I managed to make it home, safe and sound, where I could snuggle sound in my bed with visions of Little Debbies cakes dancing in my head.

Wednesday, December 21, 2005

System Overload

I can’t keep up with all the nonsense that’s going on out there, and still blog about it all, and not only run an internet business, but build it up to sustainable levels, get more education in needed skills, do my Christmas shopping, and run a paper route, along with all the extra promotional campaigns the papers are running, all at the same time. To put it simply, System Overload! So I’ll just mention some headline stories that I wish I could write a full article about.

The War On Christmas. It’s now improper to use the word Christmas at Christmastime, so as not to offend those who do not actually believe in Christ. There was an article on this in the Denver Post, and somewhere else, probably many somewhere elses in the blogosphere. Somewhere in Kentucky, I think, school kids were sent home for saying “Merry Christmas” to each other. There’s even a book on The War On Christmas. Someone sent me a video clip (I wish I could post it) of some redneck reading the PC rendition of ‘Twas The Night Before Christmas. And the non-denominational holiday figure laughed “Lady of the evenin’! Lady of the evenin’! Lady of the evenin’!” Crap, can’t even say “Ho Ho Ho!” Any more. Now they got me counting the Christmas cards that mention the word Christmas, and those that don’t.

Iraq has a huge, successful election. Of course, nobody in the media seemed to notice. It’s one of those things that’s deeply emotional to me, because it’s a sign that we’re accomplishing what we set out to do in Iraq. And the clueless democrats and liberals wanted an immediate withdrawal. It’s a good thing they caught those trucks full of bogus ballots, ready to rig the election.

The Government is spying on you. According to a poll in USA Today, 52% of Americans are engaged in some illegal activity that they don’t want the government to know about, 47% of Americans have nothing to hide, and the other 1% presumably don’t know the difference between right and wrong.

What’ve You Been Smoking? (I’d sure like some of that) I’ll bet the 52% are all smoking pot. I never did use the catch-phrase, “What’ve you been smoking?” I found it offensive when that phrase was used in reference to me, because I’m not a stoner. It’s always the stoners that use that catch-phrase. If I asked a crowd of people, say, company employees, “Everyone who’s drug free, raise your hand” I’ll bet the 47% would proudly raise their hand, and I’d know that the other 52% were all stoners (and 1% are too dumb/stoned to know the difference).

Patriot Act is Killed. It’s always the democrats that use the polls to make their decisions. Since 52% of Americans are opposed to the Patriot Act because they have something to hide, then the democrats are in support of the legalization of marijuana. This has parallels to prohibition, somehow. I just don’t care to figure it all out right now. But it doesn’t seem to have much to do with finding the terrorists.

Medicine Kills. Now, even more slowly. A good friend of mine has an elderly mother that is in the hospital dying. I’d rather not, and don’t have explicit permission to give all the details. Over the past few months I’ve heard reports of this elderly woman going from a relatively healthy, although diabetic and wheelchair bound person to a dying, half-dead person, carved up like a Thanksgiving Turkey. Every step along the way, the doctors were careful to point out the worst of all possible outcomes. And then, the worst of all possible outcomes happens. Have you guys ever heard of psychosomatic illness? Have you guys ever heard of the power of suggestion? Far be it for them to actually encourage a person’s will to live. It’s been said that more money is spent on health care at the end of a person’s life than at any other time of their life. I’m convinced that doctors like this take advantage of the health care plans of well-to-do families in such a way as to prolong the demise of the elderly, maximize the amount of extraordinary health care services provided, and extract the greatest amount of revenue from the insurance companies. I think it’s disgusting.

Tookie Who? Okay, so this guy started the Crips gang, was convicted for murder, never confessed his crimes or showed remorse, but managed to write a children’s book. So, because he wrote a children’s book, some moonbat wants him pardoned. And since Governor Schwarzenegger won’t pardon the guy, poor, poor Tookie gets the death sentence, and Arnold gets a bad rap as Governor Terminator. Arnie, you can terminate all the Tookies you can find, as far as I’m concerned. More power to you.

Angels among us. I’ll end this rant on a positive note. I’ve discovered one of the best Iraq-based military blog I’ve seen. Michael Yon’s Online Magazine. Reading through his archives, I’ve gained a lot of respect for his perspective, just how much progress has been made there, how little of that progress has been reported in the media, and what the soldiers stationed there experience. In one of the most interesting posts: Lost In Translation, Michael interviews a family man who spent most of his adult life either imprisoned or conscripted in the wrong army because he believed in Yezidism, an ancient offshoot of Judaism that believes in angels as central to their faith. Another interesting article is Angels Among Us, where a group of marines get their humvee blown up by an IED. When asked how they all escaped being killed, a soldier looked straight at Michael and without hesitation said, “We had angels watching us.”

Thursday, December 15, 2005

Christmas Wish List

Well, the Christmas tips have started to roll in, and I’m looking at how I should spend the money. As I said before, I’m not going to disclose how much I get in tips, because it makes people jealous. If you have such feelings, consider how much BS I have to put up with from idiotic management and angry and forcibly subscribed customers, all the risks I take, having to save for and pay my own income taxes, having to run around in the cold at night, wearing clothing that makes me look like a burglar in order to keep warm, having to pay for auto maintenance and gasoline – don’t you think I deserve some consideration? So I smile when I get a $50 check from someone in the rich neighborhood, and I pass the smile right back to them with the best possible service. After all, TIPS stands for To Insure Proper Service.

It’s not really in line with the Christmas giving spirit, but in keeping with the commercialization of Christmas, I’m giving my Christmas tip money to the merchants and service providers in exchange for much-needed goods and services. So here’s my Christmas tip spending list:

  • Gasoline to feed the ever-hungry gas hog. With the price of gas down to $2 per gallon and my mileage hovering around 13 MPG, depending on the temperature, gas only cost me $7.70 per day, instead of the previous $10 per day when it was at $3 per gallon. It’s nice to see that the gulf coast refineries are back in operation, or whatever is making gas relatively affordable again. Thank you.

  • Lunch. This is another item that a certain portion of the pocket cash goes to. In fact, with gasoline, and an occasional random purchase at Wal-Mart, this is the only other item I spend cash on. For all those who send me cash in the mail (which you’re not supposed to do anyway), that just offsets the amount of cash that I take out of the paychecks in order to sustain a standardized cash level for the gas fund. But those paychecks always feel like something worth celebrating, and I do so by splurging on lunch from the value menu at Wendy’s. Thanks to the cash givers, doing so just feels a little bit easier.

  • A new clutch. Here’s where I start into the auto maintenance category. Last year about this time, the clutch started making a funny noise. Funny noises from the truck really make me nervous, so I had the mechanic investigate, and he said the clutch would eventually go bad, and have to be replaced. Like, any day now. He offered to replace it right then, but said it would slowly go bad over the next few months. I haven’t done the clutch in the 100,000 miles that I’ve driven it, so like Yellowstone Park exploding, it’s due right about now. Like “The Big One” knocking California into the ocean, it’s due any day now. I keep listening for that funny noise again.

  • A new steering wheel cover. I like cheap things. They cost less. When I decided that I needed a special steering wheel cover with enough grip to quickly spin the wheel around while flying through all those cul de sacs, I found a cheap one with knobbies at Wal-Mart for $8. Well, like all cheap things, it’s falling apart, so I’d better put another one in the grocery cart at Wal-Mart next time I’m there.

  • Body work. They told me that this model of Toyota had problems with the bed rusting out along the seam. The rust is starting to work it’s way along in a big bubble. And the paint is peeling in other places. I don’t know how much the discount auto body repair guy would want, but the Bump Shop offered to replace that panel for a mere $2,000. Outch! I think I’ll save my money until it becomes as critical as the clutch, then talk to that discount guy.

  • Software. I’ve pre-spent some of my Christmas tip money on this item. Preventative maintenance, and spending money to keep spam, viruses, and other people’s nasties out of my system. Here, I have to make a sub-list
    • System Mechanic 5, and

    • An expensive upgrade to System Mechanic 6. This might actually have saved my butt a few times.

    • Diskeeper 9 defragmenter. I’ll skip the upgrade to Diskeeper 10 defragmenter. It just doesn’t solve my system performance problems.

    • Error Nuker. Like Diskeepr defragmenter, it didn’t really fix my performance problems. But it’s already paid for.

  • System Mechanic, after having the system do a boot-time disk check, which I could have and did do anyway, seems to be telling me that my hard drive is unreliable, and that it can’t quite pinpoint and flag exactly what spot on the drive is causing the problem. To compensate for this, I should probably buy another hard drive, possibly from a different manufacturer. But then I’ll have to clone the drive data. Yuck.

  • Since all that maintenance software won’t change the fact that I’m just running way to much software on my computer, I should be thinking about getting a new system. It’d really be nice to have one of those 3 GHz systems – are they up to 4 GHz or something higher now? – instead of my old 800 MHz system that can barely keep up with itself. Then I’ll have to contact all those software makers and get my licenses transferred to the new system. Maybe I should take the traditional do-it-yourself approach and just get a new 5 GHz motherboard, and a case to match it. And then watch the system try to re-configure itself, and end up in some crippled state that I have to fix manually. Hmmm, decisions, decisions.

  • I’ve really been wanting to get that Access 2000 book, so I can do more better database work. I haven’t seen any good classes for Access. Classes cost ten times as much as books anyway, and you still have to buy the book.

  • Before I do that, I might want to upgrade to Access XP++ 2006, or whatever is coming out next. Naw, why buy the same software twice?

  • In spite of what I just said about classes, I want to take the AWAI copywriting class. I’ll probably have to commit myself to a year of studying to match the year’s worth of monthly payments. Or I could just pop for the $500 right now. Are you kidding??? My Christmas tip money is already spoken for by everything else on this list. This is one of those potentially get-rich-quick schemes. Besides, I was fired from my first job for “poor communication skills,” and now, it’s my life’s mission to learn and practice good communication skills. Why has nobody bothered to use even the 10% discount coupon code I set up on I dunno. Either just saying there are discounts and freebies, and one is a storewide discount isn’t “good communication,” or my web visitors are all illiterate.

  • Income taxes. Sigh. I must’ve been blocking this out of my mind throughout the rest of the list. Well, I’ve still got four more months to save up enough to pay my income taxes. See, as contract labor, my “employer” doesn’t consider me to be an employee, and so doesn’t withhold income tax for me. So I have to come up with the money myself on tax day.

  • Credit card debts. Sigh. Another thing I’ve been blocking out of my mind. When I get the time and energy, I’m going to invent some scheme to take advantage of these zero interest, introductory offer type things to actually pay down the principle instead of continually throwing money away at these creditors.

  • There’s an options-trading newsletter that makes claims of having an 80% success rate of recommendations that at least double your money in an average of six weeks. The cost is $89 each month. If I can start out with some $500 out of my current portfolio, and if it does what it says it does, I should be able to leverage that into a substantial sum fairly quickly. Call it a get-rich-scheme. Call me crazy. But I’ve been a gambler for these types of things before. I’m willing to give this one a shot. And if it doesn’t work, I’ll hold them to their money-back guarantee.

Well that’s about it for my Christmas wish list. Now, to go do some actual Christmas shopping for the family.

Merry Christmas

Monday, December 05, 2005

Wind Chill Factor

With the onset of cold weather, my thoughts are turning from politics, business and the holidays to the hazards of an outdoor / nightime occupation in the cold winter months.

Last night, the low temperature was 17 F. Winds were especially strong. I estimated gusts up to 20 to 30 mph. A quick Google search for "wind chill factor chart" brought me to this page, with this chart. That puts the wind chill factor down to -17 F to -26 F. I could feel it. Even though I wore extra layers of clothing and nylon ski pants over my blue jeans, the thinness of my hat and the exposure of my face felt like I was going to freeze my face off. According to the chart, there is greater danger that exposed flesh will freeze.

Tonight, the low is again 17 F. But Tuesday and Wednesday, the low temperatures will be down to 3 F and 1 F. I don't get wind speed forcasts from my desktop weather tool, downloaded from If the wind continues, the wind chill factor could easily be in the region of -40 F.

There's one fella that oddly shows up wearing shorts and sunglasses, no matter what the weather, or time of night. If you're a religious or spiritual type, prayers for myself and the others in the newspaper carrier business would be appreciated at this time. If you have to be out in the cold weather, be sure to dress appropriately.