$13.99 a day for three days isn’t $39 total!

On Monday, I had the pleasure of renting a car. The insurance company was paying–the pleasure came courtesy of the 81-year-old woman who rear-ended my wife and son as they sat at a stop sign–but I learned a lot about rental company tactics.The insurance company was paying $24 a day, which would put you in a mid-sized car–roughly the size of a Toyota Camry or Honda Accord. So the rental company tried to upsell me. Enterprise stuck me in a Buick LeSabre once when the Dodge Neon I initially tried to rent had a flat tire. I hated the thing. It was comfortable, but it was huge, I couldn’t park it, the brakes were mushy, and the steering was mushy. I felt like I was stuck in a big bowl of oatmeal.

But they didn’t want to put me in a LeSabre. They wanted to put me in an SUV or a minivan. Completely impractical. Besides, I wanted fuel economy. I pointed to a Ford Focus. “How’s that gas mileage compare to my Honda Civic?” I asked.

“It has to be pretty close,” he said.

“I’ll take one.”

Once inside, he said he also had a Toyota Corolla. I lit up. “I’ll take the Corolla.” He said the last person who rented it got 38 MPG out of it. I like 38 MPG.

Then he took me outside to see the car. It was cleaner than my car, had fewer scratches on my car, when he put the key in the ignition and turned it, the engine started. It promised to cost less per mile to drive than a Civic, and someone else was paying the bill. What’s not to like?

Then he tried to sell me insurance. By then I was getting frustrated because all this upselling was making me even later for work, and I was plenty late enough. They had primo insurance for $23.99 a day, which was more than the daily cost of renting a Corolla. He said it would give me a million dollars in liability. I don’t remember what else. I probably rolled my eyes. I think he sensed there was no way, no how he was going to sell that to me, so he turned to the “cheap” $13.99 insurance.

“I don’t think I need insurance because American Family said they’d cover me since I have full coverage.”

“What’s your deductible?” he asked.

“I don’t know. I’ve never had to use it.” (Remember that second sentence.)

“It’s probably $500. So for $13.99 a day, we can save you the hassle of having to deal with American Family if anything happens.” Then he went over the things it would cover.

I started to get antsy, knowing how late for work I was getting. I tuned him out, which was the best thing to do. Otherwise I’d get even more irritated.

“So for just $39, we can take care of you for three days.”

I ignored the mathematical fact that $13.99 times 3 is $41.97, not $39. Any sixth grader should know that.

“$39 is a lot of money,” I said. That’s true, isn’t it? That’s about how much it costs to fill a Corolla’s gas tank in Missouri right now.

He laughed. “So’s $500!”

“Yeah, but I’ve never had to use that deductible, so the chances of me having to use any insurance this week on this car are about zero. So it really doesn’t make any sense to pay $39 for something I’m not going to use.”

“Suit yourself,” he said.

It suited me fine. The car was in our possession from roughly 9 AM on Monday until about 5 PM today (Wednesday). I guess that’s about 56 hours. My wife ran errands for a couple of hours each day and went to the doctor on Wednesday, but I think it’s safe to say that the car spent at least 41.97 hours sitting in our driveway.

Nothing bad happened in our driveway. I’m sure the dog sniffed it a few times.

I’m guessing the salesman who was helping me was probably 24 or 25, and in all fairness, when I was his age I didn’t think $39 was a lot of money either, even if it was really $41.97. Let’s face it. When I was 19, I was making about six bucks an hour. When I was 24, I was making a shade over $12 an hour, and after $6 per hour, that seemed like a lot of money. That was 9 years ago. Let’s guess this whippersnapper makes $15 an hour and made $8 an hour selling dishwashers at Best Buy five years ago. When you go from making $160 a week to $2400 a month, $41.97 seems like nothing. I’m sure he’ll spend more than that on dinner and drinks on Friday.

And I’m sure he and thousands of others like him manage to convince a lot of people every day that $41.97 is really $39, and $39 is nothing, so they sign on the line. All those nothings pile up really quick, and the next thing you know, you’ve got a $9 billion company.

Slick.

But that “only” tactic doesn’t work on me anymore. Quote me $41.97, and I can tell you it takes me an hour and a half to make that, pre-tax. Factor in taxes, and it takes me more than two hours to make that. That’s a quarter of my day! If I’m going to waste $41.97, I can think of a number of things I’d much rather waste $41.97 on. Maybe a full tank of gas. Or half a week’s worth of groceries. Or 288 diapers, if I shop at Dollar General. That might last my son a month.

But I spared him the Dr. Walter Johnson Economics 51 lesson on Opportunity Cost ($101 per credit hour in 1994 at Mizzou). Like I said, I was already late for work. I’d probably already blown $28 worth of vacation time and I didn’t want to make it $41.97.

Relief for high gas prices?

My local paper ran a story this week about E85, which is a gasoline/ethanol blend that’s 85 percent ethanol.

The good news is, your vehicle may be E85 compatible without you knowing it.

E85 is difficult to find, and you don’t get as many miles per gallon with it, but when gas prices are over $2/gallon, the price undercuts gasoline enough that you get more miles per dollar with E85.

The fuel has its critics. No, you don’t get as many miles per gallon with it. No, it’s not as cheap to process as gasoline. But let’s think about a few things.

E85’s primary ingredient is corn. Corn happens to grow really well in the United States. Would you rather depend on American farmers or OPEC? I’d rather take my chances with American farmers. So it takes more energy to produce a gallon of E85 than it takes to produce a gallon of gasoline? Grow more corn!

Not all cars are E85-compatible. My Honda Civic is among them. While it’s theoretically possible to convert incompatible cars to run on E85, the EPA has made conversion illegal. I wonder how much OPEC and Big Oil had to pay to make that happen?

This is clearly a case of the government talking out of both sides of its mouth. Auto manufacturers get credits for making a certain percentage of its vehicles E85 compatible, but the end result of these incentives has been the production of ever-larger trucks. So if your name happens to be Ford or General Motors or Daimler Chrysler, you can use E85 as a loophole. If you’re a consumer looking to save a couple of bucks and/or support the farmer a few miles away and/or cut down on the amount of smog you produce during your commute to work, you can’t use it.

Another nice thing about E85 is that it does a nice job of cleaning out your fuel system. A clean fuel system is an efficient fuel system, so running your car on E85 whenever it’s convenient can improve your fuel economy when running on conventional gasolines as well.

Some people complain about the inefficiency and say it’s not that much cheaper. But cheaper is cheaper. If you have to fuel up four times a week and you save $2 each time you do it, at the end of the month you have $8. That’s more money than you save by using a credit card with gas-related incentives on it, and people don’t seem to object to using those.

I don’t know what it is about gasoline that clouds people’s thinking. I overheard a couple of coworkers talking this week about their vehicles and fuel economy. One is disappointed in his SUV’s fuel economy. It gets 20 miles to the gallon. So he wants to trade it in for a Suburban, because, in his words, “It only gets 4 miles to the gallon less.” Only four miles to the gallon? That’s 25 percent. When your fuel economy is that low, every mile to the gallon counts. That 25% decrease in fuel economy, at $2 per gallon, translates into $10 more per fillup. It’s worse at $3 per gallon, of course.

E85 isn’t the long-term solution (hydrogen is), but it looks like a reasonable way to take some of the bite from the current crisis.

Pretentious Pontifications: The needs of the fast-paced life

Since it would appear that David will be out of commission for a day or two, I have forcibly forecefully volunteered to fill in for him. And I must say, I read yesterdays tete-a-tete with great interest, and upon reading and reflecting upon it with a fine cognac and a cigar, I must come to one conclusion.
You are all, to use one of David’s favorite phrases of yesterday, IDIOTs.

Everybody knows that real men fly supersonic.

I will grant that I rather enjoyed David’s discussion of Station-wagon Utility Vehicles. Indeed, the typical SUV does look like an engineer took the body of a station wagon, put it on a truck frame, and put big tires on it. Very clever. Very observant. Obviously he must not have thought of it himself.

But before I extol the virtues of air travel, I must point something out to the SUV-defenders here. By the time you buy your status-symbol SUV and pay for the insurance and the fuel for them, you could have had yourself a Mercedes. And the Mercedes would be worth more by the time you finish paying for it. But the really big plus is that rather than looking like someone trying to act wealthy, a Mercedes actually makes you look wealthy.

Some of you touched upon the hatred that often gets directed towards SUV owners. Yes, a certain segment of the middle class is learning about conspicuous consumption, and I applaud them. The upside to conspicuous consumption is that it gets you noticed. The downside to conspicuous consumption is that some people, such as my brother, have yet to learn how to appreciate it.

That is another advantage to a Mercedes. Since people see fewer of them, there is less hatred directed at them. The true upper crust learn how to conspicuously consume without drawing as much hatred as everyone else. I, of course, am a master at this, as I have so aptly demonstrated on these pages in the past. I am also quite humble.

Since some people are not born wealthy, they must learn how to create wealth. Buying a Mercedes instead of a four-wheel-drive station wagon is a good start. If you continue to spend your money wisely, by the time you finish paying for that Mercedes, you might be ready to graduate to a Rolls.

Now, of course, it is time for me to talk about flying. Some of us lead very hectic lives, and driving entry-level vehicles like David insists on doing is just impossible. On a typical day, I get up at the early hour of 10 a.m. You will find me unlike that sloth Raunche, who sleeps until 10:30. I have breakfast in bed, and then, while one of my servants bathes me, I usually take the time to smoke a cigar and read a newspaper or magazine. Usually there is no time to drive–most people worth keeping appointments with live too far away to make a 12:00 appointment by car. That is why a Tu-144 comes in most handy. Now, some people say that using an airliner designed to carry 170 people is wasteful for one person. What they forget is that when I travel, I do not travel alone. Besides my pilot and co-pilot, I also have a stewardess, a hairdresser, and a chef, just in case I decide I need a mid-morning snack. I find that when I travel with such a large group of people, a plane designed to carry 170 commoners gives me just enough space to myself.

Unfortunately, most people worth keeping a noon appointment with do not live anywhere near an airport. But some of them do not yet have a landing strip, or their landing strip is inadequate for a supersonic passenger liner. For that reason, I am usually in the habit of clearing an Interstate. Most Interstates make excellent runways for a plane such as the Tu-144. Some people complain about the inconvenience, but what about my convenience? Is that not important? We have had a few incidents where a vehicle or two was damaged, but the drivers of those vehicles should know to get out of the way. I like flying, and my tax dollars pay for those Interstates too. Besides, flying is so much safer than driving. More people should do it. Some people complain about the fuel involved, but really, what is more valuable? That fuel, or your time? I can always find more jet fuel. If I found more time somehow, my busy schedule would quickly expand to fill it.

And I can never have too much safety. If my safety puts other people at risk, they just need to make more money so they can keep up with me. Or they need to learn how to spend the money they do have. A helicopter costs much less to buy and operate than my Tu-144, and although it only has a fraction of its speed and its quarters is very tight, it does have the advantage of being able to land just about anywhere. I am no danger and no inconvenience to someone in a helicopter. More of the middle class should give helicopters serious thought.

For those who can afford it, I highly recommend the Tu-144. Unfortunately, there are very few of them left, and I have the last one that was still airworthy. With some refurbishment, however, there are a small number of them that could be made airworthy again, and they could save countless other people lots of time. Do not worry yourself with the noise or the pollution. People get used to it. Trust me. I know from experience.

The Tu-144 is conspicuous consumption at its finest. It is so uncommon, people cannot help but notice. And marvel.

Our inflated egos show on our streets

I hate SUVs. I hate irresponsible drivers. I hate Telegraph Road. I hate them I hate them I hate them.
There. It’s out of my system. I feel a whole lot better now.

Wait. I’m not supposed to hate drivers. OK, fine. I hate it when people drive irresponsibly. Put the newspaper away and save it for when you get there. (Not that it’s worth reading anyway, if it’s the St. Louis Post-Disgrace.) If you drop your cell phone, kick it away so it won’t get wedged under one of your pedals, then pull over to pick it up. OK?

And whatever you do, don’t ever, EVER, EVER (why don’t all browsers support the blink tag? This is perfectly appropriate use of it) stop for no reason whatsoever. OK?

There are people behind you, and you’re encased in a two-ton deadly weapon. Don’t you ever, ever forget that.

Here’s what happened to me today.

It was 2:45 pm. I was on my way to church. Special service. I was scheduled to ush. What’s ushing? Whatever ushers do. It was the intersection of I-255 and Telegraph Rd. The bad news is, when you pass that intersection, your IQ temporarily drops to whatever the square root of your IQ is. The worse news is, so does everyone else’s.

Well, some IDIOT went through the stoplight and immediately slammed on its brakes (yeah, I know the proper is “his or her,” but when you’re that stupid, you relinquish the right to human pronouns) for no good reason. The woman in the SUV ahead of me slammed on her brakes. I slammed on my brakes. I skidded into her. My license plate slammed into her trailer hitch. A woman in an SUV behind me slammed on her brakes and slammed into me. She put a tear in my rear bumper and put a dent in my trunk. I didn’t notice the damage on the scene–only later. She tore her front bumper up pretty good–I think she hit me pretty hard.

The IDIOT zoomed off unscathed, and probably blissfully unaware.

We were all in a huge hurry–which probably square-rooted all of our IQs yet again–and we didn’t want any trouble. None of us was hurt, our vehicles were all capable of driving and just sustained cosmetic damage, and none of us needed our insurance rates to go up, and certainly none of us needed a ticket. We didn’t even bother to exchange phone numbers.

The lady who slammed into me was going the same place I was, it turned out. Good thing I kept my cool, eh?

But I’m really sick of how people drive these days. Everyone thinks they’re so blasted important. They drive around yakking on the phone. They slam on their brakes because they think they’re about to miss a turn. Well, if you miss a turn on account of your own stupidity, who are you to inconvenience the two dozen people behind you? Turn off at the next road and loop back. Yeah, it costs you five minutes. But who are you to take time from two dozen other people?

In my case, I’m going to have to take off work to take my car into the shop, its going to cost me a few hundred bucks to replace a bumper, and I’m going to have to get a rental. But at least that IDIOT wasn’t inconvenienced at all. And that’s all that matters. In the IDIOT‘s mind. And when you’re King of the Universe, that’s fine. You can think that way.

Incidentally, detouring when I mess up is my standard practice. It’s called courtesy. It used to be called common courtesy, but it’s pretty rare these days. Probably because people notice discourtesy, but it’s often impossible to see courtesy, so courtesy isn’t appreciated. But I’d rather be unnoticed than get noticed because I inconvenienced someone.

But stopping suddenly isn’t the only thing IDIOTs do. They cut you off and then they slow down. They run red lights because it’s much more important for them to get where they’re going than it is for you to get where you’re going. That’s my really big pet peeve. I stick my car’s nose into the intersection with my horn blaring when they do that. Usually they smile and wave. The nerve of them.

Once I even saw an IDIOT in a left-turn lane wait through a light, then cut across two lanes of traffic going straight and make a right turn! No one ever taught that IDIOT that three lefts make a right.

But rather than shaming people into obeying the law, or enforcing red lights with cameras, instead we buy ever bigger and bigger cars and Station-wagon Utility Vehicles. It’s a big arms race. Guys like me lose out. I’m 5’9″. A Dodge Neon has more headroom than I need. A Station-wagon Utility Vehicle is completely impractical for me. I can’t afford the sticker price, and I can’t afford to keep gas in it. Neither can most of the people who buy them, but I guess that’s what credit cards are for.

If the only people who bought Station-wagon Utility Vehicles were the people who really needed them, it wouldn’t be a problem. The problem is, every other person has one. So we make our roads unsafe by killing everyone’s visibility and ensuring that accidents are more serious by driving cars with twice as much mass as we need, and we make our world unsafe by unnecessarily funneling billions of dollars to the Middle East, so Mohammedan millionaires can turn around and fund terrorists who blow up Israelis and Americans.

So I guess it isn’t just the intersection of I-255 and Telegraph that square-roots our intelligence, huh? Maybe it’s the water. Nah, I’ll blame television.

If we’d all just come down off our pedestals and realize our proper place in life, we’d all be a whole lot better off. We’d be a lot safer, and I’ll bet you anything we’d all get just as much done.

But the way we act right now? No wonder the rest of the world hates us. We deserve it.

Day Three after everything changed

On Day One, I reverted into news junkie mode. What I read, of course, sickened me. I undoubtedly have a few former classmates in New York, but no one I’ve seen or talked to in the last five years. Still, it wasn’t much consolation. They’re still my people.
When my dad died, I lost myself in whatever I could find around me. These days, when I miss my dad, I lose myself in work. I took a look around me, realized there was a lot of work that needed to be done, and did my best to lose myself in it. I didn’t get much done, and it wasn’t all my best work, but it was something.

I got home and realized it was the last place I wanted to be. I went to church.

When I got home, my mom had called. It was late, but I called her.

On Day Two, I got more information and more work done. It wasn’t a normal day, but I don’t feel the least bit guilty about the day’s productivity. Yeah, the world’s reaction to the previous day’s events made me weepy, and I talked to a friend from church who said he was ready to find out where to go sign up to kick some butt and I agreed with him.

I got home and realized it was the last place I wanted to be. I went to church.

Day Three was similar. People were smiling more–the previous couple of days made me wonder if I actually worked at a funeral home–and there was a lot to do. At the end of the day, there was more. So I stayed late and got stuff done.

I stopped at the grocery store on the way home. I was thinking about going to church, and I knew my chances of making it on time were slim if I stopped. I stopped anyway, and I didn’t just grab a few things. I stocked up.

The checker asked how I was. I told her I was good and asked how she was. She said she was good. She called her son yesterday. He lives in New York. He had no reason to be anywhere near the disaster, but she had to be sure. She asked if I’d heard about the five firefighters rescued in an SUV. I told her I had. She said she just had to hear some good news from New York. I didn’t have the heart to tell her the latest on that, that the report had been mistaken. So I asked her if she’d heard about the guy who was on the 82nd floor when one of the buildings collapsed and survived. Her eyes widened. I said that guy must have been surrounded by a whole legion of angels. No doubt, she said. I swiped my debit card and started bagging my groceries. I told her his only injuries were two broken legs. She smiled and started checking out the lady behind me.

As I loaded my groceries into my cart, the cashier turned back my direction.

“Thank you,” she said. “Thank you so much.”

And at that moment, I felt a whole lot better about being a human being.

03/16/2001

Mailbag:

Questions; CS UK; Music

Why didn’t I answer any mail last night? Because I was getting cultured. My friend Jeanne was planning a trip to a natural foods market called Wild Oats and asked if I wanted to come along. Another friend had recommended I go there to get some soy powder when she found out I’d temporarily become a vegetarian. So hey, why not? I’ll try anything once, right? Well, not quite anything, but what harm can it do?

An irony hit me, of course. The natural market called Wild Oats… A juice place in Columbia called The Main Squeeze… Why is it so many health-related places use double-entendre names? I mean, strip clubs aren’t that provocatively named. Oh well.

So I got there and I noticed an awful lot of signs that said you had to pay before you started eating. Isn’t that common courtesy? Sheesh. The first thing I set out to get was an eggplant. I know I can get eggplant at the regular grocery store, but hey, I was there, so why not? Besides, maybe organically grown eggplant is better for you. I just have a suspicion that eggplant would make a killer pizza topping. So I got myself a nice one-and-a-half-pound eggplant while Jeanne talked about this guy who used to wander around town holding an eggplant like a baby. Hey, I might be eccentric, but I’m not that eccentric.

Then I spied alfalfa sprouts, which I suspect would make a great soyburger topping. Probably even better on beef, but hey, I won’t be eating that for a while yet. Unfortunately they only sold those in huge packages that’d probably last me a month, but I doubt they’d keep that long. Then I spied seeds. “Make your own sprouts!” it proclaimed. A 4-oz. package of seeds is supposed to make several pounds of sprouts. Hmm, $2.99 for that, versus $1.99 for a pound of alfalfa I’ll end up throwing out because most of it goes bad, and I can make whatever quantities I want… Easy decision.

We walked down the vitamin/mineral/herbal aisle. I picked up some manganese because it’s hard to find. And I found soy powder in some manly-sized containers. My friend Brenna had said to put a scoop in the blender along with some fruit. Cool. I had my powder, now all I needed was some fruit and a blender… Then I realized a manly man doesn’t need a blender. Why blend with a blender when you can blend with a Dremel?

We walked down the snack aisle, where I spied Soy nuts. Barbecue flavor. “These’ll be good for my image,” I said, grabbing a bag. I’ll keep the empty bag at work when I’m done with it. Cubicle decoration.

We walked up and down the store. In the pet food section I spied something curious: vegetarian dog food. I picked up a can. “Yes, some people force it on their dogs too.”

“Forcing vegetarianism on your dog is just wrong,” I said. “It’s not natural.” I half-regretted it afterward, seeing as there were probably a lot of vegetarians around, but I didn’t get any dirty looks.

I noticed Wild Oats was very heavy on people with dreadlocks and tattoos. I noticed I got a few looks, mostly from girls. I suspect it’s because I was dressed conservatively. Not that there’s anything at all wrong with looks from girls, mind you.

“I bet I was the only Republican in there,” I said as we left the store. Jeanne laughed. “I should have applied for minority status.”

And after we walked out to the car in the rain and drove off, I realized I hadn’t inspected the lot too closely. “Was that an SUV liberal place?” I asked.

“Yes it was,” Jeanne said.

I said there weren’t many things more hypocritical than a big, oversized SUV with environmentalist bumper stickers on it. She agreed.

Mailbag:

Questions; CS UK; Music

03/05/2001

Dual CPU blues. I’ve had my dual Celeron-500 apart for a while, for reasons that escape me, and over the weekend I finally got around to putting it back together. At one time this would have seemed an impressive system–Aureal Vortex 2 audio, TNT2 video, dual 500 MHz CPUs (which I’m actually running at around 510 MHz because I bumped the FSB speed up to 68 MHz, within the tolerance levels of most modern peripherals), and 320 MB RAM. But let me tell you–it’s a lot faster than it sounds. The 733-MHz Pentium IIIs at work used to make me jealous. No longer. I’ll put my dualie 500 up against them any day of the week.

Just out of curiosity, I tried my CPU stress test from last week on it. No matter what I did, I couldn’t get CPU usage up to 100 percent. I’d top out at about 96 percent. I’m not sure if that’s because of the dual CPUs or because I’m running Windows 2000 on it instead of NT4. I’m sure a complex Photoshop filter could max both chips out, but that’s not what I do. I fired up Railroad Tycoon II, and it was unbelievable. CPU usage hovered around 60 percent and it was smooth as silk, even with the more system-intensive scenarios from the Second Century add-on pack.

Unfortunately, the golden age of inexpensive multiprocessing is over, at least for now. Current Celerons won’t do SMP. I understand why–Intel doesn’t want you to buy two cheap CPUs instead of one expensive one. Like I said, I’ll take my dual 500s over a P3-733 any day of the week. A P3-733 costs about $200. My 500s were 40 bucks a pop. So, unfortunately, to get dual processing these days, you have to get a pair of P3s, which will start at about $140 apiece for a P3-667. The least expensive SMP board I know of is the VIA-based Abit VP6, which sells for about $140. So you’re looking at about $450 to get into dual CPUs by the time you get the board, CPUs and fans. That’s not an outrageous deal, but seeing as an Abit BP6 and a pair of Celerons with fans used to set you back about $350, it’s a shame.

If AMD can ever work through the problems they’re having with the AMD 760MP chipset, it’ll help a little but not as much as you may think. The AMD-based boards will be expensive–expect them to start at $200 or possibly even $250– because they use a different bus that requires a lot more pins and a lot more added expense. So while you’ll be able to multiprocess with $60 CPUs again, you’re looking at higher up-front cost. The least expensive dual-Duron rig will only cost about $50 less than the least expensive dual-P3 rig. But the dual-Duron rig stands a decent chance of outrunning the dual-P3, because the clockspeed will be higher, and the CPUs each get their own path to all the relevant buses.

And I’ve reached a new low. Last night I had a craving for a burger. So I did what any self-respecting part-time vegetarian who didn’t know any better would do: I went on a quest to find soyburgers. My friend Jeanne, who says I stole the idea of giving up meat for Lent from her (and maybe subconsciously I did) warned me they won’t taste like meat. And I’m pretty sure my dad–whose idea of four servings of vegetables a day was the pickles and ketchup on two hamburgers, beef of course–was rolling his eyes at me from Upstairs (If God has a sense of humor, which wouldn’t surprise me, He opened the portal so Dad could get a good look at the look on my face after the first bite).

And? Well, I guess soyburgers aren’t too much of an atrocity. Better than McDonald’s? Well, yeah, but then again so’s the cherry-flavored flouride treatment at the dentist’s office. They’re somewhere between beef and imitation bacon bits in both smell and taste. You definitely want to put other stuff on it to distract you–I got some good pickles, some good mustard, and ketchup, and wished I’d gone further. Hmm. Lettuce and tomato, no question. And I’m wondering if alfalfa sprouts would be good on a burger? I’m also wondering where you buy alfalfa sprouts. Oh, and get REALLY good rolls.

I can probably develop a taste for them, but it will definitely be an acquired taste. There was a time, back before I realized I wanted to live past age 27, when I could eat real hamburgers two meals a day for weeks at a time and be perfectly happy–and jokingly wondering why I didn’t eat them for breakfast too. That won’t happen with the soyburgers. I think what’s left of my package of four should get me through Lent.

Oh yeah. They aren’t as good as the real thing and they cost a lot more. What’s up with that? I thought stuff that was lower on the food chain was supposed to be cheaper. I guess that’s only when it’s not being marketed to SUV liberals. (Psst. Marketing tip: SUV liberals like unbleached paperboard. The paperboard that went into my packaging is definitely bleached. And lose the plastic wrap on the burgers. SUV liberals hate that. Good move on putting two burgers per plastic bag though–you’re at least thinking a little. But you gotta go all the way. That’s why they put two “Be Kind to Mother Earth” bumper stickers–printed on unbleached material, of course–on their Ford Excursions.)

I think I’ll be eating a lot of mushroom ravioli for the next few weeks, if I can ever find someplace that sells it again. You’d think in St. Louis, of all places–where there are almost as many good Italian restaurants as there are stop signs–you’d be able to find mushroom ravioli. I guess true blue St. Louisans like beef.

A retraction, and a t-shirt saying

A profuse apology. Some months ago I posted an incorrect recollection that self-help pioneer Jess Lair, author of I Ain’t Much Baby, But I’m All I’ve Got, among other books, had committed suicide. I, regrettably, speculated as to why. Unable to find any confirmation one way or the other, I posted both the rumor and the speculation (I know better than to do that but I didn’t). Dan Seto, master researcher, quickly refuted it.

Then, today, Dr. Lair’s granddaughter e-mailed me to give some specifics. She confirmed that no, Dr. Lair did not commit suicide in the 1970s or anything else of the sort. To an extreme contrary, Dr. Lair was the ultimate survivor. He got his first pacemaker 38 years ago. He went through a total of three of them in his life. He survived six heart attacks. (Many of us don’t survive our first.)

When he died, she said he struggled for each breath for half an hour before finally walking to the light.

It’s unfortunate that those details aren’t widely known. This sounds to me like a man who said what he believed and believed what he said, pubished it, and lived it. That kind of genuineness is rare.

Do yourself a favor and give Dr. Lair’s I Ain’t Much Baby, But I’m All I’ve Got a look if you’ve never heard of it before.

Once again, I am terribly sorry. (And when I get a chance later tonight, I really need to go find that page and change it, leaving only the retraction, to prevent that rumor from perpetuating.)

Thanks to Dan Bowman for finding the link for me. But the FTP server is now refusing connections. I hate my other frickin’ ISP… Don’t they understand, this is important!?

Farquhar’s Law. I should have some t-shirts made with this on it. Repeat after me. Cable connections are the last thing most people check. Make them the first thing you check.

Got it? Good. I bring this up because I had a CD-RW fail yesterday. The culprit was a poorly seated firewire cable.

That’s it for computer stuff for the day. But fasten your seatbelts for a long post anyway. I rode a roller coaster yesterday, and now I’m taking you with me. (Hey, you agreed.)

Time to preach again. I’ll keep it short. I know some of you love it when I do this. Some of you absolutely hate it. What writer could possibly resist a subject that stirs such strong reactions?

I was talking after church last night with a relative newcomer. She’s been a Christian for about six months, she says. She was talking about her upbringing, and in trying to understand it, I used the word “hollow,” and she agreed. She talked about how the past six months have turned her life around, telling story after story, and I just couldn’t help but get excited. I was nodding and saying, “yeah!” a lot. The last person I talked to who was struggling so much and yet so happy was the man in… my… mirror. A few years ago.

And then she did a funny thing. She apologized for taking so much of my time. For one, I like being useful (that’s part of the reason for this site, after all–if people stop telling me it’s useful, it’s history). The other reason should be obvious. God is a relationship. So think about other relationships. How many sappy love songs talk about love when it’s new? Relationships just seem more exciting when they’re new, for some reason. So here’s someone telling stories that sound just like my experiences when my relationship with God was newer than it is now. You think I’m gonna get tired of listening to that? Not on your life.

If you’re living Psalm 51:12 (“Restore to me the joy of my salvation…”), try talking to someone who’s still experiencing the newness of theirs. It’s contagious. You’ll be singing a different tune real quick.

I got my Missouri Constitution Article X Distribution yesterday. That’s also known as the annual Mel Carnahan illegal taxation refund. Mel Carnahan, in case you don’t know, is the former two-term governor of Missouri, killed in a plane crash last month and elected posthumously to the U.S. Senate. He has attained something resembling sainthood here in Myzurah.

I try not to spout off about politics too much anymore, but this just makes me too mad. So, rant mode equals one, here we go.

I remember Carnahan for taxing Missouri citizens at levels deemed illegal by the Missouri constitution (forcing the use of state funds to return that illegal money, money that could be used for something else) and for demanding that Missouri representatives and senators fire their interns if they crossed him the wrong way. (I personally interviewed a fired intern who fell victim to Carnahan’s rage for a story back in 1993.) Carnahan was Missouri’s king of overtaxation and political dirty tricks.

Let’s say my refund was for $50. (It wasn’t, but that number works for this exercise.) That means the Missouri government willfully tried to steal 50 bucks from me over the course of the past year. Now, the kicker. I messed up my 1998 state taxes and got hit for a penalty. So for 1999 I had an accountant do them. He got my Federal return right, but my Missouri return was off by about 20 bucks. So Missouri nailed me for underpayment and charged a penalty. Then I got a check at the end of the year for considerably more than the amount I underpaid!

So, Tax Man Carnahan’s thugs did steal the amount of that interest and penalty (whatever that was) from me. Who knows how many other people this happened to? The amount was fairly small, so there’s no point in fighting it or whining about it any more than I already have, but I wonder how many people who aren’t so well-off (whom Carnahan’s cronies supposedly want to help) bounced checks or had to go without something because the government had stolen money from them and held it hostage for seven months? How many of them slightly “underpaid” (Carnahanspeak for paying something closer to the legal amount), then got slapped with interest and penalties that weren’t refunded? What if some of them actually need that money? Do these limousine and SUV liberals know what it’s like to be literally a couple of bucks short of being able to pay their bills? I understand that situation because I’ve been there. I work hard and live cheap and save to try to ensure I never will be in that situation again. I’d rather teach government to work hard like I do at being fiscally responsible, so as to not lay an overly heavy yoke of a tax burden on the poor (who, if they’re making less than 15 Gs a year, shouldn’t be paying any taxes anyway) or on anyone else.

Liberalism, particularly Carnahan Liberalism, isn’t about compassion. It’s about money and power–specifically, grabbing as much of it as possible, whatever the price. Even if it means breaking the law.

I’m sorry he’s dead. I don’t wish sudden death on anyone (or their families). But I’m not sorry he’s not going to Washington. I am sorry the citizens of Missouri are too stupid to elect lawmakers with enough regard for the law to follow it themselves.

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