Monthly Archives: April 2008

Mopar Military Madness

Single most important piece of bad news I’ve read in a while.  I’m left wondering if Cerberus is looking for it’s own private army, or, if they see enormous returns ahead in the form of fat, no bid contracts.

Dear Democratic Party.  If we manage to elect a Democrat for President, and his/her first order of business isn’t putting this company out of business, you’ve lost me forever.   Period.

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Ok, Free Market, Do Your Stuff

Yesterday, as part of a larger post, I linked here, to a story about the Ewert brothers, who converted their family’s Prius so that it gets 100 mpg, on about 35 cents worth of electricity.  This morning, they were interviewed on CNN, and the anchor asked them if they had been contacted by any major car companies.

Nope.

Then the anchor asked them “why not start your own business?”  They basically said that they did this because they didn’t like what was happening with oil throughout the world, but they hoped some larger company, with more resources, could do this on a massive scale.

It took them two years…one full year of research, then a year of installing and tweaking it until they got it right.  2 years, and roughly 3000 dollars.  100 mpg.

You cannot convince me that there is no market for these cars.  Why is it that this story is getting such little attention?  This seems to me to be a perfect opportunity for our beloved free market to do it’s thing.

I don’t even see that much buzz about this on blogs.  100 mpg.  Cut that in half, and its a god-send to millions of working families.  Not to mention the jobs!

Where the hell is the excitement?

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A Little Housecleaning…

First, I seem to have inadvertently dropped all of my google Talk fellow googlers off of my handy IGoogle widget thingie.  They are always there, these (I’m about to coin a phrase, i think) Frooglers (friends who have Igoogle) letting me know what their status is, should i feel compelled to send them a quick note.  Now, I don’t know fer sure if Ivy is still bat-shit crazy, if Rachel is “workity-workin”, (which, btw, makes her sound like that neighbor from the Simpsons) or if Ginger is, in fact, on a conference call.

I kinda miss them.

Also, thanks to whoever it was that posted how to turn off that whole “related posts” thing.

I’d like to know if anyone could beat Powers Boothe in an “over the top” contest.  Pacino doesn’t even come close.  Boothe makes Keannu Reeves look positively Burtonesque.

Who is this Miley Cyrus person all over the news?

I’m thinking about throwing some kind of bash here at the farm before it gets too hot.  Volleyball, kickball, sack races, shrimp boil, you know, fun stuff.  Anyone interested?  Should we invite Conservative people, and then pick them last when selecting teammates?  I’d like this shin-dig to be kid friendly, I mean, do you have any idea how fun it is to have kids turn around and around on a baseball bat, then try to run in a straight line?

Also, a fellow blogger is moving soon, and if a bunch of us pitch in, we can make this less stressful on his family.  I think he said he would spring for gas, food, and condoms.  I have two trucks, so I’ll need an extra driver.  Let me know.

A guy came out today to give me a bid on something, he was from the Montreal area.  Said it took him three years to get his Green Card, because of all the “9/11″ stuff.  3 years.  Let me tell you, that is lightning fast.  Had he been from Cuernavaca, it would have been closer to twenty.

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For Those On A Budget

I think I’ve been pretty clear about this over the years:  High gas prices are here to stay.  If you don’t know how this affects you and your family by now, I think I could make a pretty good argument for “thinning the herd.”

Some of my friends and acquaintances are complaining to me right now because they are having a tough time making ends meet.  I always feel so powerless upon hearing them, I know its hard out there, but I’m compelled to point out the fact that they don’t seem to be doing much to help themselves.

Most of these people have not curtailed their leisure driving one bit.  I know it isn’t easy relocating to be closer to work, but there are certain  logistical considerations at play when planning the rest of your life.  If you live 15 miles from work, you drive a minimum of 30 miles a day.  If your car gets 15 miles a gallon, it costs you roughly 7 dollars a day, times twenty, to just get to work.  Thats 140 bucks, minimum. ANY LEISURE DRIVING BEYOND THAT MUST BE FACTORED INTO YOUR MONTHLY BUDGET.

In addition, plan to increase your monthly budget for utilities and food by at least 20%.  Then re-figure your budget again.  Eat less, or drive less, but the increased fuel prices will force you to make that choice, among others.  We have so many tools at our disposal for keeping in touch with friends, email, video-phones, cell phones, etc, why not use these instead of the car once in awhile?

Most of use grew up during a time when Americans didn’t have to think about the cost of travel.  The rest of the world did, and they built they built passenger railroads, bus-lines, and subways.  We built suburbs, and highways.  Until we make the inevitable transition to more accessible public transportation, we must protect ourselves by planning ahead in our own lives, and adjusting our habits.

I keep hoping that these higher fuel prices will bring about some positive changes in how we live.  Perhaps neighborhoods will be rejuvenated by doing business closer to home…perhaps small mom/pop operations will flourish since traveling to big-box stores will be cost-prohibitive…perhaps theres a couple of guys tinkering in their garage, who will figure out a way tweak a car so it gets 100 mpg.

Believe me, I know that those of us with children are forced to do more driving than we like.  I’m not making judgments about the driving choices people make, I’m saying that if you don’t factor in the almost 2oo percent increase we’ve had in less than 5 years, you are sticking your head in the sand, and something will surely bite your ass.

If you own a large truck or SUV and it is your primary vehicle….unload it now.  UNLOAD IT NOW.  I’ve never seen a weirder car market than what I am seeing now.  Large vehicle’s values are plummeting.  Older, fuel efficient cars are fetching ridiculous prices, but they are still worth the money, if you can trade.  There are things you can do, even if you are carrying negative equity on your current vehicle.

Good luck.

* Someone on another blog called me Chicken Little today.  I’m cool with that.  If I’m wrong, whats the downside for me?  If I’m right…whats the downside for you?

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For The Missus

I worked on this for three hours, finally enlisting the aid of my very own computer geeks, Peanut Fanatic and Supermousey.  They think this looks like me, only I’m way handsomer…

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Doctor, I Have A Pain

2000 B.C.- “Here, eat this root.”

1000AD- “Roots are heathen, here, say this prayer.”

1850A.D.-”That prayer is superstition, here, drink this potion.”

1940A.D.-”That potion is snake-oil, here, take this pill.”

1985A.D.-”That pill is ineffective, here, take this antibiotic.”

2000A.D.-”That antibiotic is not covered by your HMO, here, eat this root.”

H/T:  The Primary Wife

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Inviting the onslaught of mindless sychophants…

This is really a unique experience for me, because, typically, I don’t write these kinds of posts.  I’m kinda big on privacy, and sometimes, seeing a conversation you had with someone pop up on their popular blog is a tad disconcerting.  But since the guilty party in question told me to blog about it….I believe I will.

Ok, so, the other day, Aunt B and i were fussing like we do on the phone, when out of her mouth came something so completely foreign to me, that I have been unable to get settled down with it since.  I don’t exactly remember how we got there, (except that I know she wasn’t sayin it about me) but she essentially said that condescension and hostility are the same.  Wait, to be Fox News fair, she may have said condescension was a form of hostility.

Poppycock.  Balderdash.  Horseshit.  I was having none of it.  So, i think we made a bet, or, rather, i believe I said “I’ll bet you that if we asked 100 people if condescension was a form of hostility….

And I’m sorry, i don’t remember if i gave a number that would agree, or set some other standard, but i was basically claiming to be “right.”  Now, Aunt B will go to her grave insisting that I always have to be right.  I have to win.  Perhaps, but since the disagreement cannot be settled definitively, I will use quotation marks and state upfront that I’m only using this exchange between us to make a larger, if completely disjointed point.

Ok, so, B is fond of saying something to me that, on its surface, sounds perfectly reasonable, but when i think it through, i think its one of those verbal crutches we rely on to hammer home our point.  She says,”words either mean something or they don’t.”

Lets, then, for a moment, examine the words in question, right after i make this disclosure:

My manner of communicating often sounds condescending, whether I mean to sound that way or not.  Having not yet shed the last of my patriarchal pre-dispositions, and,  standing at the threshold of curmudgeon-ness, at 51, AND, AND, when I consider that speaking authoritatively has served me well at times, I doubt that I will ever stop doing it.

That said, if i am unaware that the person on the receiving end is perceiving hostility, how can I be reasonably accused of being hostile?  Let me share a quick example.  (Again, i should state that this was not the catalyst for this post)  Aunt B has a very nice intern in her office, who I have met, and a few weeks ago Aunt B asked me if I would speak to her about buying her first car.  I am always glad to share an insiders perspective, so i agreed.  I am pretty sure this is what followed:

(in my head), ok, I know nothing about this person.  i don’t her finances, i don’t know her tastes.  I do know the working parts of a car deal, so i’ll  start asking what are known as qualifying questions.  I’m a little busy, and i know she (the intern) has work to do, so i am forced to speed through this important step and hope I can make accurate assumptions about what i miss.  Many of my questions probably started with “have you thought about this?”  and “have you looked into that?”

(in the Intern’s head) Sweet Jesus!  Does this guy think I’m a moron?  Of course I have considered my budget, and my driving habits, and my insurance costs, and cost of ownership, and resale value.  And why, yes, I’m perfectly comfortable walking onto a car lot and negotiating on my own.  I can’t believe he thinks because I’m a young woman, i’m automatically an idiot.

Pure speculation on my part, I’ll admit.  It may not be close to what she was thinking.  BUT.  I can say with all due confidence that she was not thinking…hmmmm, why is this guy being so hostile?  Why am i being attacked?

While I’m at it, the synonyms for hostile are here.

So, I say this about that.  Words do indeed mean something or they don’t, but condescension does not mean hostility, or that hostility even exists in the mind of the person being condescending.  I don’t believe it is rooted in hostility.

So, I think i win. Now I need around 99 people or so to back me up here.

Hows that for navel gazing, Garrigan?

Oh Shit!  Completely O/T, but has anyone else seen that Chase bank commercial where the guy gets permission from his wife to buy a new TV?  I loved it.  I’d like to see more of that kind of advertising.  (I’ll see if i can find it, hope that someone can walk me through embedding or embiggening or what not.)

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Dear Earth Mother

I regret to inform you that I murdered a dozen or so of your precious flying wasps today.  See, there is so much space out here, that I figure when one of them buzzes close to me he or she is intent on harming me.  In fairness to me, I will point out that I have severely decreased the use of aerosol sprays with handy 20 ft streams of wasp killing tonic.  No, today I did it the old fashioned way, with a chopped broom handle swung like Mighty Casey himself, only I cleared the fences more than I struck out.  This pleased me way more than what I did three years ago, after wasps stung me and my little boy, which, as you well know, consisted of me dousing the entire barn in diesel fuel.

I’m Green baby!  Green, I tell you!

I have to say, that after connecting solidly and hearing their little waspy bones crack, I wait for them to plummet onto the ground, and, if i can beat the dog to the carcass, I perform a little ritualistic dance and beat my chest before grinding their little orange bodies into the dust.

I decided long ago that these creations of yours were one of your few mistakes, but I feel compelled anyway to keep you informed when I remove a few of these demonic insects from my part of your world.

Thank you for this weather today.

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A Post That Will Get Me Labeled As A Communist

Obviously, I’m a bit distracted consumed by whats happening with The Economy. I was talking with The Missus the other day at our elementary school fundraiser, and she told me something I already knew, that everywhere you go, people are talking about high prices. I know I hold a minority opinion about gas prices…I think they need to keep pace with what the rest of the world is paying. The Age of Cheap Readily Available Gasoline is over. Period. Get used to that. But that isn’t what I want to talk about today.

But I have been kicking something around for months in my head, trying to shape it into a coherent possible solution for American working families. Actually, I started thinking about this almost three years ago, when The Missus’ husband, a man I admire greatly, casually remarked to me that it seemed ridiculous for each of us to own so much equipment. We both own zero-turn mowers, weed-eaters, saws, to name just a few. We live 10 minutes away from each other. I own a piece of property that used to be a working farm that supported multiple families. Tractors, tools, and food were shared out of necessity.

Now, I know that eventually, the multiple family working farm model of living will be embraced on a large scale. It may have to be. But, for now, it occurred to me that one way for working families to cope with runaway inflation is to share domiciles. Remember when 1200 sq foot was the average home? People had to wait to use the bathroom. Kids bunked in together. There was more room outside, so people actually, you know, went outside.

We have over-built in the suburbs. Before long, the cost of heating and cooling these 5000 sq ft faux rancheros will be prohibitive. Local services will be cut, and/or property taxes will rise to the point of forcing many people out of their homes.

What if those costs could be shared by two or more families? What might happen if we figured out a way to find compatible families and shacked them up? Split the mortgage or rent, share the upkeep, share the chores. I mean, it seems to me that the Amish and Mennonite families are well positioned to weather this economic crunch, as they are pretty much self-sustaining and embrace a communal style of living.

I know it won’t come easy. There will be logistical problems, legal problems, (after all, we are a Nation of lawyers) but none that I see as insurmountable. I think it could actually be beneficial to this country for a generation or two to learn a little about shared responsibility, and I would think we’d learn a little about patience, diplomacy, and courtesy.

I think it can be done. In fact, I’m betting that before long, we will see Craigslist ads and websites devoted to matching up families.

If you were to list yourself on such a website, what skills could you offer? Or, if you prefer, what would you look for in a compatible family? “Family’ doesn’t necessarily mean there are children, though i imagine those with children would benefit the most from this type of arrangement.

I’ll be looking for a family with a Wii.

Edited to add:  Expect more of these stories, and thank your personal God for the internet.

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Choices

“If you choose not to decide, you still have made a choice.”

Lets go ahead and count on gas staying in the 3.25-3.50 a gallon range for quite some time, and then we can adjust again when it gets up to 4.00 a gallon.  With that in mind, I’m wondering what gets tossed from a family’s budget when there is more month left than money.  Assuming that credit becomes harder to get, people will at some point need to make sacrifices, right?

Ok, if fuel has gone up by roughly a third in one year, chances are that utilities increases are not far behind, and I can attest to skyrocketing food prices, since I do the shopping.  If prices for necessities have gone up by 25%, and fuel by at least that much….what will go unpaid once the envelope is empty?

I’d like to think people will make fewer car trips, but I’ve seen no evidence of that thus far.  If conservation isn’t embraced on a large scale, something will have to suffer as a result.

Will it be cell phones?  I doubt it.  They have become almost indispensable in a fast-paced, sometimes hostile world.  Would you want your loved one broke down somewhere with no way to summon help? Perhaps people will once again view them as a tool to use in an emergency, instead of as a way to stay connected to their friends and family 24/7.

Food?  This is actually an area that it is pretty easy to slash expenses in, provided you have time to prepare real food.  The pre-packaged, pre-cooked frozen stuff is quite expensive.  If Mommy and Daddy both work full time jobs, and are expected to shuttle kids to soccer, or karate, or what-have-you, there will be no time to plan and prepare meals.

Television?  Depending on the type of service you have, you might be able to do without and save somewhere between 40-100 bucks each month.  Thats 25 a week on the high side.  Our family doesn’t eat out, we don’t go to movies, and rarely rent them.  Television is our sole entertainment.  Even so, this is our first budget cut.  We will ditch the Dish.

High-speed internet.  Fuggetaboutit.  Too valuable a tool for this family.  Also, we can watch re-runs of television on our computer.  10 bucks a week seems reasonable.

You see where I am going with this.  We are re-working our budget, constantly tweaking it to adjust for rising prices and a stagnant income.  I will find places to save…but I am wondering what are other people’s priorities?  I’ll give one more example:  Vacations.  I will not sacrifice our family vacations.  Sure, we won’t be traveling the globe, staying at 5 Star hotels and the like, but we will find interesting and fun trips to take as a family each and every year.  I know that soon, the kids will have less and less interest in hanging out with Mom and Dad, so I plan to make use of this time.

What do you think people will do without, or, better, what cuts will you make in the future?

(I’m exempting Democommie from this exercise, as I kinda figure he already lives within his means, kills what he eats, etc, in his cabin there in upstate N.Y.)

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