Gas Prices.

August 17th, 2005

The price of gasoline is getting ridiculous. I know that in other countries gas costs much more than it does here, so we have little room for complaint in the grand scheme of things, but we are American. We don't care about the grand scheme, do we?

I filled up yesterday after work. $2.759 for regular gas. As it does every year, price of gas is expected to spike come Labor Day weekend. "Experts" (Who I am convinced requires no education) are predicting the price of gasoline in the state of Michigan to exceed $3 per gallon.

The repercussion(s) from the exorbitant pricing has been little more than complaints from motorists, or so I have observed. Until Monday night. Josh and I were walking to get some food after seeing Broken Flowers. I am either offended or flattered by the events that ensued on our walk. A young woman who had her back against a building approached us, nay approached Josh.

"Can you spare a few dollars?"
"How many is a 'few'?"
"Whatever you can spare."
"I have A dollar."
"Thank you."

So did she talk to Josh because he had on slacks and a nice button down? Were my cargo shorts not upscale enough for me to have spare dollars? Maybe he has "SUCKER" written across his forehead in some special ink that only girls can read. (That certainly would explain a lot.) If I should be offended at her reasoning, I haven't lost any sleep over the fact that I was not the one put on the spot to not give her money. Maybe she is like an animal that can sense...that I wasn't going to give her any money.

Anyway, this young, semi-attractive (in that I've had too many and shouldn't drive home kinda way) girl was clad in a tank top and jeans. She was clean. She was well fed. She was by all facets of the imagination, not homeless. Strange that she was asking for handouts on the sidewalk in downtown Royal Oak.

It was not until Josh and I parted ways that I believe I found the answer to this mystery of mysteries. On my solo walk back to my car, I passed a group of "misfit" teenagers. Piercings, mismatched clothing, strange dye jobs, a few more piercings....I was in Royal Oak. You get the idea. One of the spawn knew a kid that was also walking past (ahead of me) and they talked briefly.

"How you been?"
"Nah man, everything's cool."
"Yeah, me too."
"What are you up to tonight?"
"Just trying to hit up some gas money."

Boom.

Did you feel it? There it is. This fine young upstart was probably going to employ technique similar to the one used by Josh's new girlfriend. Stand in a busy downtown area and ask people for money. If they don't ask, don't tell. Though I wonder what they would say if asked... What a strange way to pay for gas.

Maybe things have gotten a little out of hand with gas prices.

The Fred Hoiberg Rule

August 16th, 2005

The National Basketball Association (NBA) implemented an amnesty clause by which the teams may avoid luxury tax by releasing a player under the clause. This was a one-time deal for the teams to waive any player and be released from obligation to pay the tax associated with that player's contract.

For many years the state of economics in the New York Knicks' clubhouse has been the subject of many jokes. Over time the organization has become notorious for signing players at the end of their careers for long-term lucrative contracts. One such player is Allan Houston.

To further the humor cloud that hovers above New York, the amnesty clause became casually referred to as the "Allan Houston Rule". The clause was to allow teams to keep some money they would otherwise be forced to pay when waiving a player. As it is a once-in-a-lifetime option, it was understood that you would waive the player who is the biggest financial drain on the team. For the Knicks, that would arguably be Allan Houston. Or so we thought.

On the final day to waive players under the amnesty clause, the New York Knicks waived Jerome Williams a/k/a "The Junkyard Dog". Was this a joke? They did not call it the "Jerome Williams Rule" it was the "Allan Houston Rule"! I feel so lied to. Apparently the Knicks may be bailed out of all financial obligation by insurance money if Houston's knee prevents him from returning to action, but what an anticlimactic end to this story.

Other players' contracts waived by current or former teams were Michael Finley (Dallas), Ron Mercer (New Jersey), Calvin Booth (Milwaukee), Troy Bell (Memphis), Clarence Weatherspoon (Houston), Alonzo Mourning (Toronto), Vin Baker (Boston), Derrick Coleman (Detroit), Wesley Person (Miami), Eddie Robinson (Chicago), Howard Eisley (Phoenix), Doug Christie (Orlando), Aaron McKie (Philadelphia), Brian Grant (Los Angelos Lakers), Derek Anderson (Portland) and last but certainly not least Fred Hoiberg (Minnesota).

More details are available from Sportsline.

Dropped Change.

August 15th, 2005

Someone please explain to me the accepted course of action when it comes to dropped change. You may rifle through your pocket to fish out your car keys or maybe you had to dig through a purse with God knows what contents and oops, some change falls out. How the coins fall out is unimportant, what I need to know comes after the fact.

Do you pick it up? Is there ever a fear of looking too stingy with your pennies where you must pick up all change dropped? Is there a specific amount that below this threshold you do not bother? Perhaps only certain denominations are gathered, the rest left behind? May you then appear too snobby because you act as though your balance sheet can take the hit? Would you go so far as to chase a coin that happens to land on edge thus rolling away? What if you drop one or more coins at the feet of a stranger, will you poke around or write it off as a loss?

Have you ever picked up the change of another? Would you? I don't mean "Hey, I found a quarter" or a even a "lucky penny." I mean when you see someone drop a coin or two, maybe they can't find it, maybe they are the type not to be trifled with mere pocket change, or even better you beat them to it. It must then be fair game under the internationally accepted FKA, or Finders Keepers Act, which I believe was adopted at a Geneva Convention. So, do you pick it up?

I witnessed a man drop what, from a safe distance, appeared to be $0.06 (nickel + penny) as I approached the Post Office on Official Privatjokr business. He turned quickly to swoop up the change and place it in his pocket before it was reported missing. It looked as if he had turned so quickly that maybe he had more change in his pocket and did not know the exact damage. There is a good amount of foot traffic in and out of the Post Office at lunch time. You know that guy had to think about his actions while bending down to reclaim his 6/100 of a dollar, right? Did any of the questions above cycle through his head? Maybe they all did, each in turn. He was past the point of no return already, so even the conclusion that the money did not fit the equation equaling his picking it up was irrelevant, but he sure got me thinking. Where else to share life's many questions than with the three people that read my ramblings!?

Exam time.

August 12th, 2005

Exam week is almost over. For those of use who only have two classes, exam week is only half over, but who is counting? The question that popped into my head when I drove home last night after my test (by way of the Chinese restaurant) was a simple one, as most of my thoughts are.

Is there some rule that we learn at an early age whereby we feel that the harder we grip the pen/pencil and the harder we press it to the paper our words will become more intelligent?

When I had finished the second essay on last night's exam I couldn't put my pen down. My hand had actually cramped and was stuck in the writing position. Did I think the proctor for the exam may come and attempt to disarm me of my pen? Why on Earth do we hold on so tightly and write so darkly on the page in those situations?

I am anticipating having to switch to my off hand to finish the essay on tonight's exam. My writing hand might not be up to two consecutive nights of law school exams. Maybe I will soak my hand in a bucket of ice tonight.

Or maybe I'll just go to the bar when the test is over...

The Game of Golf: How Beautifully Obscene.

August 10th, 2005

There is a very unique phenomenon that occurs around the links that I will ask you now to consider. There exists a nearly perfect correlation between a player's handicap and his creative use of swear words. As you stray farther and farther from that elusive myth of "par", the creative juices begin to flow. I have heard stories of par, but never seen it myself. I am not even sure it even exists. Perhaps the idea was simply created by a man who was trying to invent vulgarity. If that was the case, good show! You have succeeded, my boy.

I have known some decent golfers in my day and might I say that they would make their mothers proud. They do not use any foul or offensive language. Basically this means that not only do they make you mad by beating you in golf, but they also prevent you from having any fun.

On the other hand, I have known my fair share of bad golfers. We are the majority; golf is not an easy game to play. I am a firm believer that swearing (or cussing if you prefer) was born on the golf course and from there golfers over time have developed some incredible phrases. We all have our favorites. If it were not for golf, I would have an empty bag of unnecessarily elaborate uses for a select few four letter words. "#$%@ me and the horse I rode in on" and "$#@& me running" were probably my two greatest take-a-ways from the golf course. There are some people I only golf with to hear what they will come up with next.

You never know when to expect the next gem, but the more time you spend on the course (with bad golfers of course) the more likely you are to be present at its birth. It is an exciting thing and I can only wish that you have the opportunity to hear some good ones in you time, though I am confident you will if you have not already.

Aug. 3, 2005. My day.

August 3rd, 2005

In the song "Ride Wit Me" from Nelly's Country Grammar Album the lyrics read as

"I'm gettin pages out of New Jersey, from Courtney B.
Tellin me about a party up in NYC
And can I make it? Damn right, I be on the next flight
Payin cash; first class - sittin next to Vanna White." - OHHLA.com

Are we impressed by rappers because they make so much money? Or is there more? I can honestly say that I have never showed the slightest bias towards one rapper over the other due to the liquidity of his assets. Sure Nelly is paying cash...that's great. Is he better than Kanye West because maybe Kanye uses plastic? Maybe even using frequent flyer miles would have actually been the hot move for the last minute flight to the big apple. "You know Nelly really has sound investment strategies, yet finds a way to keep money in his pocket. It is really quite remarkable." Nope, never had that conversation.

On my way into work this morning I saw a man, maybe 55-60 years old, driving a VW Bug. It was a silvery color and otherwise ordinary save...the flame decals. They were placed on either side of the VW logo on the front of the car. Think that helps him sleep at night? Sure I drive a girls car, but these killer flames make it look cool.

Leaving the office to run an errand I had to wait at the exit from our parking lot for a break in traffic. While I idled in anticipation of my turn to join the free flow of cars I had the pleasure of watching a grown man in khakis and a button up shirt (tie included) jump rope in the shade on the sidewalk. I instantly recognized him as a building-mate from one of the businesses upstairs. I have never talked to this man; I know nothing about him. Except that he jumps rope at lunch.

I met my mother for lunch today at Chili's. We had a lovely time, it is always nice to have lunch with momdukes and see how things are. It doesn't hurt that she pays, either! Over my dear mother's shoulder there were two men having lunch together. One of the two was large, bald, hairy...well I guess "burly" would have defined this gentleman well. Bald, goatee, no sleeves, HUGE tattoo on his shoulder, dainty margarita in a cute little martini glass. This man was a walking oxymoron. Maybe he just likes the margaritas, who am I to judge? It seemed, well it seemed a little odd.

Just another day.

Decaffeinate your own tea.

August 2nd, 2005

HOW TO DECAFFEINATE YOUR TEA AT HOME:
Avoid commercially packaged teas labeled "decaffeinated." Many decaffeinated teas use potentially-harmful chemicals to remove caffeine. If you wish to lower the caffeine level of your tea naturally, it is best to do it yourself--without the use of chemicals

Because caffeine is highly water soluble, tea leaves release the majority of their caffeine content in the first 30 seconds of steeping. Therefore, “pre-brewing” tea for 30 seconds and then discarding the water will lower the level of caffeine in your cup by about 80%.

1. Brew your tea for 30 seconds.
2. Pour off the water completely.
3. Start again with the used ‘decaffeinated’ leaves, and brew according to taste.

*For best results, do not exceed 30 seconds of pre-brewing or you may wash away too much of the tea's flavor and healthy components. - Octavia Tea

Internet Access

August 1st, 2005

Whether wireless or not, the issues with distribution of internet access to customers is one that needs to be addressed. Some areas of today's economy still are slow to adopt this idea of free internet access. Airports highlight their status as wi-fi hotspots, which makes perfect sense when you combine the amount of business travelers with the number of pleasure travelers with DVD-ROMs in their laptop computers. I am paying $300 to fly to Baltimore yet I am not allowed on the internet for free? Are you serious?

Some hotels still think that charging $9.99 for 24 hours of access is a good deal. And the 24 hours is noon to noon. Say I sign up at 11pm tonight, I have access until noon tomorrow so the 24 hours of access may be a bit misleading. If I am at a major hotel chain location in the downtown portion of a large eastern city for business, my company is already paying $250 per night, why do I have to give you another 10 so I can check my e-mail? The room was small and unremarkable, give me free internet so at least I may be inclined to stay at your hotel next time I am in town! Alas, no.

The only industry that appears to understand how to use internet access to its advantage is the coffee shop industry. In their windows you see signs boasting free wireless internet within the walls of the location.

If I can bring my laptop with me and surf the internet, I am more likely to sit longer and buy not necessarily just one, but maybe two coffees. Sure, I don't drink coffee, but you get the picture.

Offer the internet for free and I will a) walk in the door and b) buy lots of product while I enjoy this service which you have bestowed upon me free of charge. This business model is one of harmony between retailer and consumer.

Why then would a company, that has generally kept me happy as a regular customer, such as Barnes and Noble not learn from the success of the coffee shops. I was sitting in their cafe of all places! Their network is run by one of the large telecom corporations. If I wanted internet access while I drink my name brand coffee, how much do you think that would run? Go ahead, guess.

$19.99 per month. Oh wait, there's more. There is a minimum obligation of 1 year. So I can now drink my name brand coffee, thanks to the strategic relationship between B&N and the coffee company, while I surf the web. It will just cost me $240. Yes, they did have the option to buy a 2 hour segment for maybe $4, but I only wanted 10 minutes or so.

You use the free internet access to get me to walk in and sit down. The longer I sit in your store, the more likely I am to buy something, in theory.

What gets me most is that B&N lets us pay annually for our Readers' Advantage card so we receive a discount on our purchases. This is done to create loyalty to the store. Because of this card, again in theory, I will not buy books elsewhere. Giving free access to all would be out of the question I imagine? Why not either grant us access based upon our card holder status? Just a suggestion.

Research & Development.

July 28th, 2005

The ability for constant change is an advantage in today's economy. One area that appears to see this most is in fast food. Sure the big players stick to what made them popular, but there is an increasing trend towards product development recently.

For many different "restaurants" in the fast food mold, adopting a new menu item seems to not require much more than buying into a proposal made to them by a supplier. Often times the new item is a different type of chicken in the same way more than using the same chicken in a new and exciting way. Note: Wendy's would be an exception to this, though their new and exciting ways are typically limited time engagements.

One that seems to have nailed the best way to use all of the same ingredients (for the most part) in different ways is Taco Bell. Sure "Mexican" food is based upon using the same four ingredients in different ways to make 7 different dishes, but try to get past that.

Consider the opportunity to work in R & D for Taco Bell. You sit in a "lab" (kitchen) and "run experiments on" (eat) various different "potential menu items" (tacos).

"Is this Jim?"
"Yes, may I ask who is calling?"
"Hi, Jim. This is Steve from Taco Bell. We found your resume online and we would like to set up an interview if you are available."
"What is the position?"
"It is a job in Research & Development. You will be conducting various tests and studies on our products in hopes of providing new products or viable product extensions."
"Oh?"
"Well, Jim. Basically you come in at 8am...or whenever. You get to work at a lab table that is covered in both hard and soft taco shells, marinated chicken, ground beef, lettuce, tomato and cheese. We want you to sit and play around until you can show your supervisor a "different" way to make a taco. You will be required to tell us if it tastes good or not. Unfortunately you will have to eat a lot of tacos...and probably some nachos."
"Steve, may I call you Steve?"
"Go ahead."
"Ok Steve. So you will pay me for this?"
"Well yes, of course."
"You will pay me to play with tacos?"
"We will. And we at Taco Bell like to consider ourselves competitive and we see what you are making currently as it is listed on your resume. If you make it through the interview process we would be willing to at least match your current salary. We feel that would be fair."
"Steve, I love you."

Would the use of illicit drugs be a requirement for such a position? Where do they find people for these vacancies? Do I actually have to be a scientist? Or would "single guy that lives alone" qualify? I know the target market better than some scientist anyway, right?

I need closure.

July 26th, 2005

Yesterday the Detroit Red Wings placed an 11-year veteran and fan FAVORITE Darren McCarty on waivers. No one worked harder on the ice. Mac was not necessarily the most gifted hockey player out there, but I want him on my team every time. Heading into this first season with the new Collective Bargaining Agreement is no different.

http://www.freep.com/art/2005/july/26/home_front.jpg

Here is a player that simply made things happen for his team and for this city. He came through. Darren McCarty was a player any coach could count on. And now he and his $1.71 million contract are on waivers.

I need comfort. I need a voice to guide me. There is something I am not seeing here which has made the Re Wings go forward with this move. Where is Mitch Albom when I need him most? He has not written an article in one week. This is unacceptable. The Detroit Free Press got Bill McGraw to write the article. Bill McGraw? This is Albom-time. This is a story worthy of him and he is worthy of this story.

Mitch Albom, through thick and thin, has seen this great sports city flourish. He has been there to put many things into a necessary perspective. He has more than once helped us gain insight into Barry Sanders' retirement. He covers the status of the Pistons coach du jour. Darren McCarty being placed on waivers is a big deal. There are many Red Wings fans that are not happy. We are looking for that comforting perspective to guide us through this, yet another storm to hit Detroit.

If he is going to rant I will rant with him. Let us all storm the Red Wings organization together. If Mitch wants to tell us this is a calculated move that could not be avoided, then I want to hear it. But I do not want to hear it from someone else.

I am calling out Mitch Albom. Where is my story? You know you should have been on this one. I'm waiting...