Friday, December 7, 2012

Why your next car may cost more than it should.

Image from the FiatUSA website - go visit for more!

I like cars, especially European ones. And Italian cars are my favorite of the Euros. My first car was Italian (Alfa Romeo), my second car was French (Renault), and I've owned a BMW along the way as well. I've also owned plenty of American, Japanese, and Korean automobiles (including a "Suzuki Forenza" - the ultimate amalgam of a worldwide automobile: the car was built in Korea by GM-Daewoo; styled by the Italian design group Pininfarina, although the hatchback version was styled by another Italian, Giugiaro; used an engine made in Australia by Holden, which was based on an old, German Opel design; and sold in America as a Suzuki). I've driven other European cars as well, including Mercedes, Peugeot, Volvo, other BMWs, some Mini Coopers, and a Fiat 500. But I still like Italian cars the best. That little 500 (I test drove a Sport model in B'ham on my way back south from a business trip in Huntsville) was a neat car - certainly not overly powerful, but handled well, and actually rode well on the interstate, too. I'd really like to get my hands on an Abarth model (hey, Christmas is coming!), and/or perhaps the forthcoming 500L. But I want to talk about the 500e for a moment, the Fiat token "electric vehicle" for the states (well, for California, anyway), which will soon be available (Spring of 2013, although, as mentioned, only in California).

Based on this article (and this one backs it up), Fiat USA will not make any money selling the 500e. In fact, they will lose approximately $10,000 on each one sold (pricing has not yet been established, or at least published, but prior indications suggest a $35-40k sticker). Yes, lose money, 5 digits' worth, on every one sold. "So, why would they do this?" you ask. Doesn't really make sense, now, does it? Well, it's the government's fault. California regulations require any manufacturer of a certain size to sell a minimum number of zero-emission vehicles. And hybrids, plug-in or not, or any other "partial zero emission vehicle," do not apply towards this minimum requirement. So, the state of California is requiring limited-range, loss-inducing vehicles to be sold. "What's the big deal? Saves the earth!" you say. Does it? really? Those electric vehicles don't get their power from the sun (well, they could, if your house is on a solar array, but otherwise, it's coming from your local power plant). Some of which may be good ol' coal plants, which (due to carbon trading) typically are somehow exempted from emission regulation (no, I'm not posting any links to back up this claim; you can look it up yourself, and comment if I'm wrong). Alternatively, they're (relatively clean!) nuclear plants, or possibly aero or hydro plants. And they do have limited range, so you'll have to plan your trips accordingly.

But the biggest problem with this "strategy" is the fact that the vehicles are going to cost more than they're sold for. Fiat will have to make that money up somewhere... likely in the sticker prices for their vehicles going up across the board (including Chrysler vehicles, since Fiat owns Chrysler). So, your 5.7L, Hemi-powered, 4x4 Ram Pickup, with its 13/19 EPA rating, is going to cost a little bit more (which you're paying to help offset the price that someone else did not pay on their Fiat 500e).

That's just bad governing, in my opinion. Personally, I think auto manufacturers should just all boycott California and quit selling cars there. Then they won't have to meet these ridiculous regulations and can keep prices low, invest in research and technology, and eventually sell electric/hybrid vehicles at a profit. Perhaps the neighboring states could just open up extra dealerships just across the California borders where Californians could go to buy their cars. Just a thought.

Saturday, December 1, 2012


Fancy title, eh? "Unicorns."  I always did like them; I think they're probably my third favorite animal (after elephants and ants). "But they're not real," you say. "They're only a myth!" you reply. "I like corn, but unitards are weird," you somehow only semi-relatedly utter.

And to that, I say, "Have you checked out the Korean Central News Agency (of North Korea) recently?" Apparently, per this article, "Archaeologists of the History Institute of the DPRK Academy of Social Sciences have recently reconfirmed a lair of the unicorn rode by King Tongmyong." That jewel was hidden among such great headlines as "Mongolian Delegation Goes back Home" and "Chinese Party Delegation Here" and (a day later) "Chinese Party Delegation Leaves," "National Exhibition of Liquor, Condiments Held in Pyongyang," "New Korean Film Produced," "New Kinds of Saunas Appear in Pyongyang" ("Where'd that new kind of sauna come from?" "I don't know, it just appeared!"), and the particularly exciting "Model Plane Operators of DPRK's Textile Mill Sports Team." (The news articles and information linked here are courtesy of the Korean News Service (KNS) in Tokyo.)

This was originally brought to my attention by this article by Alexander Abad-Santos (published on the Atlantic Wire web site), where he notes (per a commenter) that the Western Unicorn and the Korean Unicorn are actually somewhat different in concept; the following image depicts the concept of the Korean Unicorn, known as a "Qilin":

Kind of cool, actually.  Look at some other Qilin images, and it gets even neater. Maybe if they'd made it "My Little Qilin" instead of "My Little Pony"... wait, NO PONIES!

Anyway, there's a pretty good article on the Qilin here (which, incidentally, is the source of the image, above), related to its Korean Cultural Heritage, but the page is in Korean. Fortunately, if you happen to be browsing the web in Google's Chrome browser, when you go to that page it will offer to translate it from Korean to English for you (or, I assume, whatever language you happen to have as your default, but since you're reading this in English, I'm assuming English is your default; then again, maybe you're reading this translated by Google from English to your default language). Which is amusing in itself, attempting to read the automated translation (Asian to English translations rarely go well; I have enjoyed quite a few mistranslations over the years, and reading the instructions on most chopstick packs is quite amusing, especially the ones that end with, "Now you can pick up anything!"). So, it appears the Qilin is a "Chromatic brilliant divine splendor giraffe" with "Forehead, a long-horned giraffe Chromatic radiantly colorful multicolored hair-handed one-horned animal. In the body of a deer and the end of the tail, hooves and mane similar known for having imaginary animals. Example, from the dragon, phoenix, tortoise and forty Wed (四 spirit 兽) done, and has been recognized as a sacred animal." Cool.

So, in the west, "Unicorn" is typically a one-horned horse, while in Korea, "Unicorn" is a one-horned, brilliantly-multicolored "giraffe" (with the body of a deer). And apparently they were ridden by an ancient Korean king, who had a lair of them, which has been reconfirmed by DPRK archaeologists.

I guess this brings new life to the advice, "don't play leapfrog with a unicorn."

In other news, the Spanish Fort High School Toros defeated the St. Paul's Saints tonight in round four of the AHSAA state playoffs (5A division), and will be moving on to the 5A state championship game in Auburn next week (Thursday) against McAdory HS. Go, Toros! The first half was mainly a defensive battle, resulting in a 3-3 tie at the half, with several turnovers (often in or near the red zone) for each team. The second half opened with a scoring drive by St. Paul's, going ahead 10-3, which stood as the score until the fourth quarter, with more turnovers during the 3rd. Spanish Fort tied the game early in the 4th, and took the lead (17-10) with just under ten minutes to play. With St. Paul's failing to convert on 4th & four at midfield with under six minutes to play, Spanish Fort got their running game going and drove down the field to score again, making it a two point game, 24-10. St. Paul's did a good job moving the ball, but the drive stalled on the Toro side of the field, and on 4th & 9 the Toros intercepted St. Paul's QB, taking over on their own 2 yard line with 3:56 to play. Some good running plays (including a 67-yard breakaway which was unfortunately called back due to offsetting personal fouls during the run) allowed Spanish Fort to keep the ball out of the hands of the St. Paul's offense and run out the clock. St. Paul's QB made some phenomenal plays, avoiding would-be sacks (sometimes more than one on the same play) and scrambling to keep the play alive while his receivers somehow managed to find wide-open spots in the Toro defense. Unfortunately for St. Paul's, several players left the field injured, two of which were carried off the field by training staff (leg/ankle injuries). Prayers for their quick and full recovery are of course solicited! All-in-all, it was a good game by both teams, and now we just say "Go, Toros!" Bring home a second state 5A championship in three years! (SFHS was the 2010 5A State Champ.)

If you're interested in Alabama High School Football standings, rankings, and stats, as I think I've already mentioned, check out talsimanred's (note: link to the left goes to the base page, while link to the right goes to the AHS Football Ratings page) Alabama High School Football Ratings page.

And with that, I will bid you g'night (maybe it's day when you're reading this, but it's nearly 1 am while I'm writing it!).

Sunday, November 25, 2012

Diets, websites, and football...

The diet hasn't fared well the past few days... fortunately, I haven't completely undone everything since starting about four months ago.  At least I have a few weeks before Christmas comes in to further derail things.  And I did eat a salad as my last "meal" Saturday (after too much breakfast full of things on the "avoid" list, chips and chili-cheese dip which I'm pretty sure are also on the "avoid" list, chili, and too many desserts).  All-in-all, it wasn't nearly as bad as in years past (then again, I wasn't dieting then, so technically was it worse?).  But the time with friends and family (including a visit with one of my wife's best friends from high school that we hadn't seen in 21 years) was well worth the diet breaking menus, I think.

On a different note, I finally got my wife's website/store up & running, to much fanfare and trumpeting. OK, to much fanfare. OK, we waved our hands around a little. In our minds. This has been a long process... it really shouldn't have been quite a difficult to get this up & running, but the "online store and shopping cart" software just isn't exactly straightforward when you start throwing sales taxes, reporting, and so forth in the mix. However, it's finally done, and hopefully it will be successful. If you are in the need for a bag or purse, for yourself or as a give, head over to Creations by Ninfa and see if there's something there that might fill your need. Don't see what you want? Keep checking back as new inventory is added. (Need something special? I'm not going to make any promises, but you can contact us through the store and we'll see what we can do; given that Christmas is coming, I'm not sure how much time we'll have for custom orders, and obviously the sooner the better.)

And lots of football over the past few days. Hooray for the Redskins win, and Alabama's Iron Bowl victory was nice (and almost painful to watch). In Alabama High School Athletic Association news, Spanish Fort has reached the semi-final round of the playoffs, playing at home ("on the hill") every game thus far.  (If you're interested in AHSAA football ratings, check out Talsimanred - his web site is awesome! He's no longer even in Alabama, per his FAQ, but maintains this super-informational site, which is GREAT for Alabama high school football, regardless of your school's region.) Spanish Fort hosts St. Paul's this Friday (this will be the last game "On the Hill" as the following week will be the championship game in Auburn) - if you're in the area, come on out and join us for what should be a FUN game! St. Paul's defeated Spanish Fort earlier in the season (Oct 5), the Toros only loss of the season (but due to St. Paul's losing to Vigor, another 5A school, as well as to Fairhope, a 6A school, Spanish Fort ended up the 5A Region 1 champs, thus getting the home-field advantage for the playoffs). Spanish Fort has also knocked off some 6A teams this year, including Daphne (in the inaugural Spanish Fort/Daphne meeting) and Fairhope. Anyway, it should be a fun game, a challenge for both teams, with the winner going to Auburn to play for the 5A State Championship. Fun!

Sunday, November 18, 2012

Facebook? Can I have another (social network), please?

Something about "Sponsored Stories" on Facebook just irks me. It's advertising that shows up in my news feed. That is, when I'm trying to scroll through to keep up with friends & family, I have to see these "stories" (which take up more room than the usual stories) which look like ordinary posts, where someone explicitly shares something, but instead, it's some company's ad. Granted, an ad for a company that one of the people who show up in my news feed "likes," but it's not something that person actually intentionally shared with me - the company has paid Facebook to "place" this story in my newsfeed, as if my friend shared it. Yeah, that really irks me.

"But you can turn it off, right from the ad!" Facebook would say. True... but I have to do that individually for every ad that shows up, and only after it shows up. I can't preemptively say "don't show feeds from x." If they had an option for that ("turn off all sponsored stories"), then I'd have already checked it (and if I just haven't found it yet, and you know where it is, please let me know!). It's not as if they don't already have tons of ads in the non-scrolling region on the right hand side of the page (and I have even clicked on some of those from time to time!). But using my friends, and the "familiar" look, to promote companies, and trick me into viewing an ad? This is is getting quite irksome.

So, I'm seriously considering just ditching Facebook altogether. Granted, I'll lose some of the friends I have there (which I don't have elsewhere), and I'll miss things like the E. B. Erwin High School Marching Band group (where I found someone to send me some old band VCR video tapes, which I've converted to DVD and posted on YouTube - thanks, new friends!).

Looking at Google Plus - does anyone use that much? Any other alternatives to Facebook that may be "nearly" as good, but perhaps without the "forced advertising in the midst of your newsfeed that masquerades as stories from your friends"? Maybe I should start my own social network... would anyone be interested in a fresh alternative to Facebook?

Thursday, November 15, 2012

Technorati blog claim post!

If you're not Technorati (and I don't think this has anything to do with the Illuminati), you can skip this post if you wish. I'm just putting a claim token (FB593EGK6DE3) out there for Technorati to see and know that this is, in fact, my blog! That I am the owner of the blog, as much as I can be the owner (I guess it's really owned by Google?).

Anyway, dinner's ready shortly... just posting this for my blog claim!

Wednesday, November 14, 2012

Nothing much to say...

Saw Skyfall last night. I enjoyed the movie (unlike the initial Craig-as-Bond film, Casino Royale, and to a lesser unliking extent the follow-on Quantum of Solace). I guess I'm warming to Craig as Bond, although he still lacks the "suave" that characterizes Bond in my mind. Maybe he's getting better at the role. Or maybe the writing is getting better in the films involving Craig, perhaps catering to his abilities. (Interstingly, Craig is just 44 years old - makes me feel better about my near-41-year-old self! haha.)  I'd say more about the movie, but maybe you haven't seen it yet, so I'll let it go. Suffice it to say, I enjoyed it (and seeing the ol' DB5 back in action again was nice!), although my wife was less enthusiastic about it.

In other news, my 15-year-old is learning to drive, which is scary for most of us. We came to a conclusion the other day, though: driving is a lot like coloring. Stay within the lines and you'll be fine. What could be simpler? If you have little kids, teach them to color well, as it may one day save you some insurance. :)

In yet other news, I'm converting some old marching band VHS tapes to digital (DVD and YouTube). These were provided by a then-not-yet-friend through a Facebook group for our marching band. (Yes, we've since become "friends" on Facebook.) Unfortunately, she and her sister did not quite exactly overlap the time that my wife and I spent in the E. B. Erwin High School Marching Band, but some of the videos were available of my time in the band (she was a runner during my last season or two of marching band). With that, I offer these two videos, a "regular" show and our "special" (Halloween) halftime show (you may still enjoy the special show even if you don't normally like marching band shows):

And, with those out of the way, I'll bid you adieu.  There is another show I'd really like to get out here, with one of the coolest moves I've ever seen in a marching band, but unfortunately that's not in the collection I'm currently converting. Another band member says he has that show, and hopefully he'll send his collection of videos for conversion in the near future. Anyway, adieu! I mean, a topato!

Oh, wait, a PS: maybe I should go back and re-read all my old blog posts... found an interesting old strange dream post while searching for the topato link. PPS: if you haven't read it, check out A Brief History of Turquoise. And maybe the other stuff at Not-tional Geographic, my "other" blog (that I haven't written on since 2008 or so). And, finally, really, adieu!

Wednesday, November 7, 2012

Please don't misunderstand this post...

This is a little more serious than my usual posts, and may be a slightly long narrative; for that, I apologize.  The slightly long bit, I mean.  I am really interested in your response to the view that I am about to express, as this is a bit disconcerting to me at the moment.

Today, while mulling over a few things in my head, I think I've inadvertently come to a conclusion: America's political and judicial system is a crap shoot, a total farce.  No, this is not in response to the results of the presidential election; I came to this conclusion much earlier in the day yesterday, well before any polls had closed or any votes tallied.  Regardless of the outcome, this sentiment is the same.

Please, if you have something to day, let me know!  I don't know that a democracy, or a democratic republic (as is our government), is necessarily a "good" form of government.  (That being said, a monarch or a dictatorship isn't at all an improvement... I'm not sure there is any viable form of government, at least not with people involved.)

Here's why I've come to this conclusion.

Several years ago, I was privileged to be on a jury (if you consider that a privilege).  It was really an absurd, ridiculous case, a car accident where both parties claimed to have had the green light.  The plaintiff was suing the defendant for damages to his van, loss of supplies (paint cans in the van), and medical and time-off-job expenses.  His case?  He didn't recall the accident (memory loss from the accident), but he had his fellow employee in the passenger seat - who by his own admission in testimony was intoxicated and looking down when the accident happened.  The defendant was on his way to work and had, as a witness, an unrelated fellow employee who was behind him at the time of the accident and attested to the fact that they had the green light and the plaintiff had violated the red light.  (The plaintiff's girlfriend worked at the law firm that was representing him... I'm assuming he was getting his case tried for little or no charge because of that; otherwise, I can't believe he would have even taken it to court.)

During the trial, we had a lunch break.  One of the jurors, an older lady who seemed as sweet as she could be, almost caused a mistrial by being late coming back from the lunch break.  She got lost somewhere between the 1st and 3rd floor of the courthouse and couldn't find her way back into the courtroom.  (And, no, I'm not making this up.)  During the deliberation, which didn't take long, we were all in agreement to find for the defendant... all, except that one lady.  After a while, she eventually asked, "Where did it happen?"  When someone mentioned the intersection, she replied, "Oh, yeah, I've been there; sure, I agree."

That was justice?  Granted, it was the right decision (as far as the evidence would reveal), but really, "I've been there, I agree"?  Really sweet old lady, but she should not have been on a jury.  What if there had been someone's life at stake?  What if it would have been some major financial decision, with much less clarity?

Today, at the polling place, I overheard someone asking questions about the ballot, not realizing there was a second side, not understanding where things were located on the ballot, etc.  And, looking at the ballot myself, there was this fantastic wording:

Proposing an amendment to the Constitution of Alabama of 1901, effective January 1, 2014, to amend Section 247 relating to the authority of the Legislature concerning banks and banking, to repeal various other provisions of Article XIII concerning banks and banking; and to repeal Amendment 154 to the Constitution of Alabama of 1901, now appearing as Section 255.01 of the Official Recompilation of the Constitution of Alabama of 1901, as amended, subject to the contingency that a new Article XII of the state constitution is adopted that repeals existing Section 232 of the state constitution, and subject to the contingency that Sections 10A-2-15.01 and 10A-2-15.02, Code of Alabama 1975, are repealed. (Proposed by Act No. 2012-276)

Um, yeah, what?  "to repeal various other provisions"... and some numbers related to amendments or sections, none of which were included on the ballot.  "Pick yes or no."  Crap shoot.

There were also several items that were statewide constitutional amendments but which were actually very local in effect (for instance, Pritchard Water being consumed into the Mobile Water and Sewer System - that was a statewide item, such that Huntsvillians in north Alabama have a say into whether or not the water system in Mobile takes over the Pritchard water works).  And another item that, as worded, made it seem one way, but (based on what I've learned about the item in question) actually it went the other way (regarding government employee salaries).

So, you have (among other things):

  1. People who are, quite frankly, not capable of making the decisions to be made.
  2. People who have no idea what's going on with the ballot.
  3. People who do have some idea of what's going on with the ballot, but have not done research on the topics.
  4. People who have done research, but are still not qualified for the decision being made.
I am not a CPA or accountant, nor do I have a background in finance or investments.  How qualified am I to make decisions about banking legislation?  And, on top of that, there's not even enough information on the ballot to make such a decision, if I even knew what they were talking about.

Yes, I know: do my research before voting. I get it, I do.  But the point is: how many people do that?  How many people are even capable of doing that for all the items on the ballot?  And what does it matter, for instance, if it's a person on the other side of the state voting for my water works?  (No, I don't live in Pritchard or Mobile, that was a semi-hypothetical scenario.)

Crap shoot.  And it's the same with the judicial system; who knows who you're going to get on your jury?  Maybe some sweet little old lady who'll say, "Where did it happen? Oh, I've been there, I agree!"

Voting - a right, a privilege, but should there be some additional requirements to vote?  Some qualifications, both in terms of ability and in terms of having done the research?  Similarly, should jurors be evaluated (besides just the series of questions they ask during the jury selection)?

I'm just no longer sure that a truly democratic process (even a democratic republic, like we have) is a "good" form of government.  As previously mentioned, a monarchy or a dictatorship (even a benevolent one) isn't necessarily any better, as you have the same inherent problems in the lineage, whether the follow-on rulers are qualified to rule.

Maybe I'm wrong. Hopefully I'm wrong.  Please, please... show me how I'm wrong.

Sunday, November 4, 2012

A Day In the Life (of a Wild Rice Hunter)

I was eating lunch today at Baumhaur's Wings (not really on my list of diet-friendly places, but I had some grilled chiken skewers), and part of my not-quite-diet-friendly (but about as close as I could get on their menu) was wild rice.  That got me thinking, as I started talking to the kids about wild rice, and the difficulties in harvesting the little critters.

Wild rice... much tougher to collect than your ordinary farm-raised rice.  Too small for a net (they'll slip through the holes in the net, although some like to go after them with the fish nets you use to pull the fish that forget their sense of "up" from your tank), and obviously too small for a typical bow, they are frequently hunted with a toothpick bow.  That's quite time consuming, however... in fact, my little plate of rice probably took a LONG time to hunt with a toothpick bow.  In fact, it's becoming harder and harder for the average wild-rice hunter to have a sustainable business (compared to those who raise domesticated, farm-raised rice).  It's one thing for the wild-rice hunter to hunt enough wild rice to feed his family, but quite another for a wild-rice hunter to hunt enough wild rice to turn a profit.

And what of government subsidies?  Where is the help and assistance for the American wild rice hunting industry?  This is a topic that you don't hear about in the media or from any political candidates.  Why not?  Too sensitive?  Chinese rice farmers are flooding the US with "fake" wild rice; rice that is supposedly wild rice, but was, in actuality, farm-raised, often fed with artificial rice food, fattened up and unexercised and unhealthy (vs. the leaner wild rice), and sometimes painted or packaged with a tiny little bit of wild rice to give it that "wild rice look" when, in fact, it's farm-raised rice.  American wild-rice hunters can't compete with the low cost, imported, fake wild rice that is flooding the US restaurant industry these days.  (FYI, consumers have a legal right to know; if you're thinking of ordering "wild rice" from your favorite restaurant, be sure to ask the origin of the "wild" rice - if it's of Chinese origin, and not American, you may consider letting the restaurant know that your dollars have "United States of America" on them and should go to support Americans, not Chinese, and that you desire that they reconsider their wild rice supply - sure it may cost a little more on the menu, but you'll be guaranteed to be eating true wild rice and supporting the American wild-rice hunting industry.)

So, what does the life of a wild-rice hunter look like?  Rough.  Anymore, wild-rice hunters have very little time with their families, instead spending most of their lives doing the hunting in order to eke out whatever meager living they can.  Up at 4 am, out on the trail, tracking down as many of the elusive wild rice as they can find and bag (and note: wild rice hunting is quite the fine art; have you ever tried shooting a wild rye with a toothpick bow?), hunting from before sunrise to well after sunset, breaking very little for a snack once or twice throughout the day, and getting back in bed around 5 am, meaning they're already an hour late on the next day's hunting.  Poor guys!

You can make a difference.  Do your research, and do your part: come Tuesday, GO VOTE!  Yes, you're only one in a million (well, one in over 314 million, actually - although not all of those 314 million are of voting age or, even so, are registered voters), but what if the "score" was "half" to "half minus one"?  Your vote would certainly be of importance then, wouldn't it?  Do your part - VOTE!

Yes, this is obviously facetious... but, it's important that you fulfill your responsibility and take advantage of your right and privilege as a US Citizen to vote for the candidate(s) that support your views and desires for our nation.

Thursday, October 25, 2012

Review of "How to Reach Your Full Potential for God" by Charles Stanley

I was very excited to read this book, based on the title of the book and the author.  I've not read anything by Charles Stanley myself before, but have been in various settings where his works were used (for example, my Sunday School teacher uses some of his works at times for our class).  However, I was very disappointed by the book.  It seemed to me too forced and not naturally flowing, and did not provide the type of insights that I was expecting.  Essentially, I found it to be a self-help style book with a spiritual slant, but not as well written as what I've heard in other works by Stanley.

The book itself was choppy and difficult to read, not a flowing work that grabbed my attention and encouraged me to read more.  Some of the other books I've read in this vein are difficult to put down, making you want to get on to the next chapter before taking a break; not so with this one.  I found little desire to continue reading, and had to force myself through the book (primarily for the sake of the review).  I presume this is not typical of Stanley's work, as (previously mentioned) I've been impressed by what I've heard from other of his writings, but this one failed to impress.  I'm sorry to say that I don't recommend this book, as I'm sure his other works are certainly worth reading.

Disclosure of Material Connection: I received this book free from the publisher through the BookSneeze®.com <http://BookSneeze®.com> book review bloggers program. I was not required to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255 <> : “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.”

Wednesday, October 17, 2012

Survivor recommendations

A couple of rule changes I think would have made #Survivor better this season, one related to the three-way tribes, and one related to challenges in general.

First, related to the three-way tribes, the combined reward/immunity challenges shouldn't have featured immunity/major reward, immunity/little reward, no immunity, it should have been immunity/reward, immunity (no reward), and no immunity. Thus, the "winning" tribe would have immunity and a reward, while the second place tribe would get only immunity (a reward in itself).

Second, related to tribes "down on numbers" in the challenges, I think the tribes that are ahead, number-wise, should be allowed to use all their tribe members instead of sitting out some to even up numbers in challenges. This way, winning challenges would pay dividends in the following challenges, as you'd have more members playing, which could reduce fatigue, give more options, etc.

Just some thoughts on thing that I think might make Survivor even more enjoyable.

Tuesday, October 16, 2012

What's in the cost of a tire?

I have no issue with trade policies that protect American jobs, unless the policies protect American jobs by protecting "gougism" (and thus hurting the consumer).

Take tires, for instance.  Trade policies that impact Chinese import tires that were "flooding the market with cheap, Chinese tires" and saving thousands of American jobs.

What makes the tires cost so much?  Consider this: a tire (a single tire) typically costs about as much as, say, a Nook Color.  Which is more complex?  Which cost more to design?  Which is more complicated to manufacture?

Tires are a bunch of rubber and steel (and perhaps polyester), while the Nook Color is glass & metal & plastic & motherboards & CPUs and ... yes, the tires cost more to ship, while the Nook Color costs less to ship.  But the tires are manufactured on assembly lines (that are probably paid for long ago).

Now, consider... the Chinese tires, they have to be shipped to the US.  That's not cheap.  And, yet, the Chinese tires are still cheaper.  Yes, there are employment differences, and wage differences, but really, how many people are involved in the tire manufacturing process?  Isn't a lot of it automated?  And yet a set of tires costs more than a laptop computer you can buy from the same place you buy your tires (Sam's Club, WalMart, etc.).

If the Chinese tires are cheaper, instead of blanket "trade sanctions" to protect the potential American Gougism, shouldn't we let the market make the sanctions?  If American tires have to be sold at a lower profit point to compete, isn't that good for the consumer?  And doesn't that leave more money in the consumer's pocket to stimulate the economy by buying other goods, perhaps that other Americans have made (like my wife, who is starting a business to make and sell bags of various types, such as purses and tote bags)?

If it's an "unfair trade balance" that is truly unfair (due to employment practices in the trade nations), sure, sanctions.  If it's "unfair" simply because the competition is selling at a lower profit point, should the gov't interfere to keep excess profits in the pockets of top executives (profits which the consumer ends up paying)?

Friday, September 7, 2012

Thoughts on recent Spanish Fort Notoriety

I recently sent the text below (mostly, it's been updated a little in this posting) to a friend regarding recent events in Spanish Fort, Alabama.  Figured maybe I'd share it with you, my faithful three readers!  WARNING: the word "sex" appears in the following, so stay out if that would offend you! :)

First, the sign.  Great "article" by an NBC Sports writer.  Some rebuttal:

"guy in crowd wearing sunglasses during a night game" - um, it was an AFTERNOON game
"your town being taken over by four different countries since 1712" - what the heck does that have to do with anything in your article, moron?
"Spanish Fort High's nickname is the Toros, which is associated with bullfighting, which is glorified animal torture" - must I even respond to this?
"All in all, Spanish Fort fails at being a high school" - thanks; that's really encouraging to all the students, parents, etc. Idiot.

How are you even writing for NBC Sports?  As my wife noted on Facebook, his article is at least as bad as the sign the students had, and they're kids, while he's an adult (maybe?), and has had time to think through this "response" he wrote about it.

The guy starts the article with, "Stay classy, Spanish Fort High School."  He failed to mention that 1) instead of a split-the-pot fundraiser like they usually do, the cheerleaders took up a collection for the Daphne coach who was recently seriously injured in a car accident and is undergoing physical therapy in Atlanta (they collected over $600 - from Spanish Fort parents & fans - to help with whatever needs the family has), or 2) the "moment of silence" at the end of the game to honor the aforementioned Daphne coach.

Another site mentioned "students laughing at the sign" - um, no, they were cheering for having just taken the lead.  The frequently-used screen cap from ESPN shows the score at "18-14" with 1:30 to go - that is, the screen capture was taken from between the go-ahead touchdown (with aforementioned minute and a half to go) and the ensuing extra point attempt (two-point conversion, actually, leading to the 20-14 final score).

Unfortunately, of course, there's the arrest of the star player (Deon Johnson, wide receiver, #13 in the state of college prospects, and University of Alabama commit) for "2nd degree rape and 2nd degree sodomy."  In Alabama, 2nd degree rape is defined as "having intercourse with someone younger than 16, but older than 12, as long at the defendant is at least two years older than the victim" - and then there's the sodomy addition as well.  Of course, officials were notified by the parents of the alleged victim.  What this sounds like to me is this: Johnson got with some girl, which eventually included something like oral sex, and she's probably 15.  Her parents found out somehow, and are pressing charges.  I could be wrong, of course, but very few of the media are pointing at the cause of arrest (and it's potential reasons), instead just saying, "Spanish Fort student charged with rape."  Several articles are calling Alabama to immediately drop him immediately.  For example, this article says, "This is not and should never be an instance where a second chance is allowed. Even to be accused of rape is a serious red flag about someone's character, and there's no room for that type of person on a college football team, especially for a program as prestigious as Alabama."  Um, "being accused of something is a serious red flag about someone's character"?  Really?  If he's guilty, then by all means, let's destroy his life, but if it's a case of consensual sex that happens to be with a minor high school girl, is that worth destroying his life?  And if he's not guilty of anything, then we shouldn't be pointing the fingers, now, should we?  (He's 18 - technically an "adult" - but really, he's still a kid, just like the alleged victim; this post notes that "The basis of the charge is the age of the person. And that is less than the age of consent which is 16. And he [Johnson] exceeds the 24-month requirement meaning he is more than 24 months older".)  Johnson turned himself in when the charges were filed (and is now out on $20k bond).

At any rate, life in Spanish Fort certainly isn't boring this week!  I just hope that the kids at SFHS aren't too negatively affected from all this "great publicity."  Already they're "disciplining the students" for the sign incident (really? for saying, "Man, that's gay!" as a "trash talk football banner"?)... hopefully it won't become a case of disciplining the whole student body and neighborhood for years to come.

Am I off base?  Your thoughts?

Wednesday, August 29, 2012

Rain and Wind

Got a little rain today, some wind, too.  Fortunately, nothing particularly bad.  Credit Isaac with the windy wetness; originally it was thought it would come a lot closer to our neck of the woods (um, where did "neck of the woods" come from? silly saying! but at least we have some woods around here, in particular a section that's pretty narrow, that could be a "neck of the woods"), but it decided to head a bit more to the west, and then some more, and eventually left us without any major storminess (there was a "regular" thunderstorm a few months back that had higher winds and more torrential rain than what we've seen thus far from Isaac).

While poking around looking at some weather-related sites, I came across this one, which shows the "dangerous areas" that may be impacted by a hurricane, and tends to show that the death toll may actually be higher away from the coast.  Per the article, "more than 60 percent of hurricane-related deaths occur inland and away from the ocean" (per University Corporation for Atmospheric Research).  Not to belittle their research, but consider: when a hurricane comes ashore, many residents don't stick around.  Thus, the population density is higher away from the shore than it was before.  In other words, there are fewer people to die near the shore when a hurricane hits, and more available death counts further inland.

However, what really struck me was this quote:
"Another strange result is that areas with more men may be more vulnerable; for unclear reasons, 71 percent of hurricane-related flooding victims are male, according to the release."
Really? "Unclear reasons"?  Think about it; I'll offer two reasons, off the top of my head:

  1. Men are stupider than women about this sort of thing ("oh, no problem, I can make it across this flooded street...").
  2. Men are more likely than women when it comes to, you know, doing stupid things ("hey, watch me - I'm going out in the hurricane to swim!").
Both reasons above would tend to lead to a higher percentage of male victims than female during storms.  (There's also the chivalrous possibility, of men wanting to rescue and protect women, but I'm betting the two reasons listed above are plenty.)

Ah, rain, wind... hopefully we'll still at least have a yard when all this is over.

Monday, July 30, 2012

Something's Wrong with our Legal System

Today I got notification that I'm part of a class identified in a class action lawsuit against Netflix.  Settlement of the suit is that Netflix will put $9 million into a fund (awesome!), to:

  • Make donations to Court-approved not-for-profit organizations, institutions, or programs.
  • Pay notice and settlement administration expenses.
  • Pay attorneys’ fees of up to 25% or $2.25 million of the Settlement Fund, plus up to $25,000 in expenses.
  • Pay a total incentive award of $30,000 to the Named Plaintiffs.
Wait, what?  Let's look again:

First, the settlement fund will be used for "Court-approved not-for-profit" stuff.  OK, that's nice.  (Actually, that's not "first" - that's "last," after all the other settlement things have been paid.)

Second, it will pay for notice and settlement admin expenses (makes sense).

Third, the attorneys doing this will get $2.25 million (25% of the settlement amount), plus $25k in expenses.  (Yeah, it says "up to" - but you know that receipt will be for $25,000.00.)

Fourth, the "Named Plaintiffs" will get an incentive award of $30k.

So, of the $9 million, the lawyers are getting 25% of it, or $2.25 million, and then get their expenses paid on top of that for up to another $25k.  How'd you like to be part of that group, suing Netflix and splitting well over 2 million bucks?  The "named plaintiffs" (according to the actual settlement agreement) are the six individuals who initially brought the suit.  Again, not bad - they each get $5k for, essentially, hiring the lawyers.  But, of the $9 million, the plaintiffs are receiving 1/3 of one percent.

And what about the class members?  The ones allegedly harmed by Netflix?  Zip.  Nada.  Nothing.  That's right - of the $9 million settlement in a lawsuit claiming rights were infringed (privacy rights, no less), those whose rights were infringed get absolutely nothing.

In fact, I'd wager that the suit will actually cost those who were infringed, as the rates may end up increasing due to the extra cost associated with the settlement.  How's that for fair?

Tuesday, March 6, 2012

Another controversial post

Have a look at "Something Evil This Way Comes" - an article I recently saw referenced on a friend's status on Facebook. Then come back for my own comments on the topic (if you're interested).

"After birth abortion" - how can this even be justifiable as "not murder"? Because the child "lacks a moral status that would" - what? - presume its right to life? From the article: “The moral status of an infant is equivalent to that of a fetus in the sense that both lack the properties that justify the attribution of a right to life to an individual.”

Hmm... how far are we going to go with this "argument"? What about those with Alzheimer's? Or general dementia? What about the mentally retarded, is it now an option to simply "terminate" them at any point that caring for the individual (oh, wait, they're not justifiably individuals, right?) becomes an "unbearable burden"? Perhaps the "unbearable" should outweigh the "right" anyway - maybe I should be able to just "off" my kids when I decide that it's unbearable (because, you know, I can't go buy a nice Porsche, since I have all these child care expenses).

I personally am anti-abortion in general, but I think the absolute limit should be the point where a fetus has some chance of surviving were a premature birth to occur. At that point, the fetus has some chance of developing into a viable individual, and that chance should be afforded, not snuffed.

So, what do you think? Should post-birth abortion be our "next step" in making a greater world? At what point does the individual's "right to life" trump the caretaker's "right to an easy life"? (Oh, sorry, was that a pointed jab?)

Monday, January 30, 2012

When clicking an ad isn't enough...

As if it's not bad enough that certain Facebook pages require "liking" the page to see anything, now certain Facebook advertisers are not letting you view their web sites without first "joining" their e-mail list. For instance, the "bearded beanie" - I clicked the ad, and was greeted with a page that says something like, " features daily specials... join today!" I was intrigued enough to want to click the ad, but now, in order to see anything on their web site, I have to provide an e-mail address (so they can spam me all day long and, I presume, sell my e-mail address to other spammers). Really? I click your ad and I can't see the stuff or buy from you unless I give you my e-mail address? (And this isn't the first "advertiser" I've seen that requires you "sign up" in order to even browse their site.)

Sort of like the various news sites that have news videos, but when you click the video, you can't actually watch it unless you sit through a 15-second ad video first. What? This is getting ridiculous. And say you take the time to watch the 15-second ad because you really want to see the video you clicked (which was on their home page, and they have on-page advertising all over the screen elsewhere, too, both on the original page with the video link and on the page you're on now), and then there's a "related video" shown on the page after your video concludes, and you click on that one... guess what? You have to watch another ad video before you can watch the next video on their web site.

And what about the internet pages that, when you go to visit them, display a full-page ad in place of whatever it is you wanted to see, with a "click to skip this ad" link somewhere on the page? Really? You want me to view someone else's ad instead of your page?

I'm sorry... internet "advertising" is getting ridiculous. Not only that, but your various ads are actually costing me... as well as the internet community. That "extra page" is a bunch of overhead (bandwidth) that is wasted, overhead that I have to pay for either in time or perhaps in money. For example, if I'm out & about and surfing the web on my phone, or with my MiFi from Verizon (I don't have a MiFi, but a lot of people I know do), I'm getting "charged" for every Megabyte. Yes, I have 5GB included with my monthly access fee (5GB is the basic MiFi package), but that correlates to a specific $/MB, and once I've used up the 5GB (or whatever my limit is) I get charged per MB. So now I'm paying for you to advertise to me. That just seems wrong somehow.

Now, go click my ads over on the right hand side of the page and make me some money! :)

Monday, January 23, 2012

American Intelligence?

I was at a Burger King tonight (out of town), wearing my i3 shirt (I work at i3, or Integration Innovation, Inc.). The cashier asked, "So, what's i3?"

I replied, "Integration Innovation, Inc."

Cashier: "That's interesting."

Me: "The group I'm in writes software for the military."

Cashier: "Doubly interesting."

While I'm waiting on my food, the cashier then calls me over. "So, maybe you can help me with this... do you have a keygen for Windows Ultimate? Mine got corrupted and doesn't work now." (For those who are wondering, a "keygen" is an illegal piece of software that creates activation keys for another piece of software; in this case, the guy was wanting to use a keygen to create activation keys for Windows Ultimate, instead of having to buy Windows.)

I said I did not and asked the guy what he used his computer for. "Going online," he replied. I suggested that he should try Linux. "No linux, it doesn't work, and it's too hard to use," he replied. "Oh, I also sometimes fix other people's computers. Say, do you have the linux CD that resets Windows passwords?" (Note: that actually can be useful, when used appropriately, such as when there is a generic office computer that is used for giving presentations that no one can remember the password to.)

"No, I have one at home, but not with me." I then try to explain how Linux has improved significantly, and supports a lot of new hardware and is a lot easier to use than before, and also how he can download a password reset image.

The guy then starts talking about how he is unable to download it, something's wrong with his computer. I suggest perhaps he can try a Linux live CD to see if that will let him download the password reset image. He then goes on to tell me how he thinks it's not his computer but rather his network connection, that he's using his neighbor's wifi...

OK, dude. I tell you, "I write software (professionally) for the military." You then proceed to 1) ask if I have a key generator for Windows; 2) tell me you're leeching your neighbor's wifi (which, if you don't already know, is illegal). I'm guessing you're not in the "advanced" classes in school, huh? :)

*note: his name is on the receipt, along with the time of the order; fortunately for him, I'm not a good person, in the vein of, "All it takes for evil to to triumph is for good people to do nothing." I'm going to do nothing related to this incident. Hopefully I've planted a seed of Linux and he will turn to the open source community for his no-cost computing needs instead of to the hacker community. As to his stealing his neighbor's internet, well, let this be a lesson to you: put a password on your router, or lock it down by MAC address if you prefer. Just don't let someone else use your wifi without your permission.

Tuesday, January 17, 2012

Ain't technology grand?

I just loaded the Alabama Driver's Manual on my just-turned-15 son's Nook Color. Ain't technology grand? (And I'm telling you all about it via a web log, or blog, as I sit on my back patio, typing away on a tiny little keyboard on a handheld computer known as a smart phone.) I recall having to go get a physical copy of the driver's manual from the DMV's brick and mortar building when I was ready to study for my learner's permit. And I recall the "early days" of e-mail, or "electronic mail," as I was in school (college) in Worcester, MA, and connected my computer (via a 9600 baud modem over a phone line, which tied up the phone in my dorm room and would get interrupted if someone called unless you dialed *70, to turn off call waiting, before dialing out) to a local "Bulletin Board System" (or "BBS") and could then e-mail my aunt at UAB in Birmingham, which she would receive within a day or so.

And my youngest sons are watching "old episodes" (things we'd used to call "reruns") of Malcolm In the Middle (funny show, if perhaps inappropriate humor at times) "on demand" streaming from Netflix, where for $10/month you can have many shows or movies available on demand, waiting on you, instead of having to drive to the store to rent them, or plan your life around an HBO schedule, or wait until next week when the next episode airs on TV.

As a matter of fact, I currently work from home, connected to all my colleagues, scatered from Panama City to Huntsville to Texas to somewhere in Colorado, and we have regular weekly meetings that I attend on my computer, and the software I work on is hosted across the bay in Mobile, while I work on multiple virtual computers hosted on my laptop.

Ain't technology grand?

Potentially Sticky Post...

Preface: I'm not going to try to explicitly sway the opinions of any readers. I'm just sharing some links that I found interesting this morning; I'm not even going to comment on them (at least not yet), just putting some info out for your perusal. Feel free to share your own thoughts in the comments (and I may offer my own there as well).

An interesting video about the NDAA. Note: I am not suggesting that I endorse anything in the video, just sharing some information I found interesting. I definitely am not endorsing the incorrect grammar in the titling screens, such as "it's" when it should be "its"... :)

And an interesting article about the NDAA as well (a journalist is putting together a lawsuit against Obama regarding the NDAA; the article is worth reading for the additional background information it provides).

And, did you know that Obama, having taken the oath to "defend and support" the constitution, apparently considers it "fundamentally flawed" (also noted in the first video)?

Like I said, I'm not trying to push my thoughts on you; just offering some information, something to jog your curiosity, make you go research it for yourself, come to your own conclusions, and decide what (if anything) you're going to do about it.

Sunday, January 15, 2012

Savings with an F150?

Have you seen the new F150 commercial, the one that talks about cutting back on family vacations and cell phone minutes to save money because gas prices are so high and "you still have to work," and then suggests you save by cutting back on gas by buying a new F150? How about we do some math on that.

Let's consider you have, say, a 2006 F150, and you go buy a new 2011 F150 with the 3.7L V6 (which gets 23 MPG highway). Per the epa ratings, let's look at the new vs the not so new,  here. Per that chart, you'd save anywhere from $500-1,000 per year in fuel costs (assuming "regular" gas, not E85, which gets significantly worse fuel mileage). Or, in other words, somewhere between $42 and $84 per month. But that's not the whole story.

Consider what you'll get for trade in on your 2006 F150 toward the new one. KBB shows trade-in value of an 06 F150 Super Cab XLT with 6.5' bed a bit under 10k (w/ 76k miles on it, good condition, and "usual" options and drivetrain). KBB shows a "fair purchase price" of the 2011 F150 Super Cab V6 with 6.5' bed as $28677. Subtract 10k and you're facing a trade difference of over $18.5k (and that assumes you have no outstanding balance owed on your current truck). Without interest, at 84-month financing (or 7 years), that's a bit over $220/month, or between $180 and $140 per month more than you're saving in fuel. Looks like you'll be cutting back even more on family vacations and cell phone minutes if you follow Ford's recommended savings plan!

In fact, if you can get a 10k trade on your current truck against the new F150, your current truck would have to get an average of around 0 MPG in order to break even with the new truck payment. You'd actually have to be getting negative MPG to save anything! Now, if you can get something near your current truck payment, then, yes, you'd perhaps save some money. Then again, this doesn't take into account any increased insurance premiums or reduced maintenance (if your current truck is old enough that maintenance costs are significantly increased vs a new truck). So, can we now sue Ford for false advertising? I really don't see how a new F150 can really save you any money.

Now, if you can "work" with it, a 2011 Ford Ranger with a four-cylinder and manual transmission would save you another $500/year in fuel costs (I'll leave it to the reader to do the math to find the break-even and savings points with the Ranger; if interested, the KBB "fair purchase price" on the Super Cab Ranger XLT with 4cyl is $20,480, note that all prices are based on my home zip code of 36507).

Truth in advertising? I think not.

Saturday, January 14, 2012

Ampersand slash ("& /")

I admit, I'm guilty of this, but when did "slash" become a substitute for ampersand (or "and" when spelt out)? Or for "or" or for "I can't decide which of these two words I want to use so I'll put them both and put a slash between them"? (And how'd you like the start of that last sentence? "or" and "for" for the first five words; three letters used twelve times in five words!) This is becoming more and more common/frequent (see?). Are we, as a literary nation, becoming:

  1. more efficient - using fewer characters in expressing "and" or "or" (then again, wouldn't it be more efficient to just pick one of the words and omit the other word and the ampersand/and/or/slash altogether? especially in a tweet, where you're limited to 140 characters, saving the two spaces around the "&" seems to pale in comparison to saving the spaces, the slash, and the characters of the second word)
  2. lazier - putting the slash instead of the whole and/or/ampersand thing (then again, laziness would tend toward omitting one of the word choices, too, wouldn't it?)
  3. less decisive - perhaps the "/" is seen more as a "I can't really decide which word I want to use, so I'll give you options, pick the one you like the best (then again, why do you need the slash in this case? wouldn't the "and" or the "or" or the "&" be just as good?)
  4. too "techy" - I mean, hey, there are "//" in web addresses and stuff, so why don't we start putting some "/" in our text, too?
This is, I think, just another step in the degradation of the English language (see my other related posts). Then again, is written communication itself becoming a thing of the past? Think about it (warning: another numbered list is coming!):
  1. text to speech and speech to text are quickly becoming commonplace; modern cell phones have the processing power to handle both tasks in a fairly quick manner, and are fairly accurate about it, too.
  2. neuroscience is advancing (how quickly? I don't really know, but this site has some interesting information about it); how long will it be before brain-computer interfaces (BCIs) replace input/output devices (note: input/output, or I/O, is an accepted term, and has been around a while), such as keyboards and screens? Instead of pulling your phone out of your pocket, you'll be thinking about who you want to call, then you're "thinking" with them if/when - sorry, if and when - he/she answers. (OK, not sure about the he/she; should it be "s/he"? should it be "he or she"? should I just use the masculine "he" as a reference to a singular entity regardless of gender?)
Science and grammar - hand in hand, or is the one defeating the other?

Sunday, January 8, 2012

Samsung Stratosphere and Verizon.

Battery remaining: 65%. Time on battery: 10 hours. Yes, I'm pleased with the battery life on the Stratosphere (especially compared to the MyTouch 3g slide i had on T-Mobile previously, which typically wouldn't last even 15 hours). I'm also pleased with the Verizon coverage, which is why we quit T-Mobile (or will quit them this week). I think my wife is happier with her Android phone (a Pantech Breakout) than she was with the Nokia E73; happier than she thought she'd be with a touch screen phone, too. So, happy mobile technology here.

Wednesday, January 4, 2012

Pageviews and Phones and Payments, oh My!

Interesting: my Lapse... Brain Dead blog has 10,236 page views, while my Not-tional Geographic blog has 3,203 pageviews (per Blogger's statistics). Yet Lapse has 428 posts to Not-tional's 7. That leads to a per-post pageview average of 23.9 for Lapse and 457.6 for Not-tional. And this despite 7 followers of Lapse and only 1 of Not-tional, and Not-tional hasn't been updated since 2008 (May of that year, specifically). I guess I have better quality on Not-tional (and obviously higher quantity of crap over here), huh?

I must say, I think I'm happy with my new phone, a Samsung Stratosphere (on Verizon). We'd intended to go to the T-Mobile store (on New Year's Eve day) to add a 5th line to our plan (we get our kids phones when they turn 15, which my third child turns this January) and replace my wife's phone (hers had quit charging), and decided to drop by the Verizon store just to see what they could offer, as T-Mobile's service is pretty lousy in our area. I hadn't expected much, as the few times I've priced Verizon online it was pretty expensive (T-Mobile is still the value-leader, and in places where it works - Birmingham, Atlanta, etc., it's pretty good).

Enter Angelica. (Well, enter us into the Eastern Shore Verizon store in Spanish Fort, where Angelica was already.) I explained what we were doing, and she said, "Let's see what we can do." She then looked to see if my company had any agreement with Verizon for a discount (which they didn't), and then asked if I was retired military. "Not retired, but I was in the military previously." She asked if I had a veteran's card, I said, no, she asked about a DD-214, which I do have (that's the military discharge form). "Oh, we can get you a 15% discount off your base plan rate with that!" Kept going, and she managed some discounts on the phones themselves through her manager (although we're waiting for some mail-in-rebates, too). Very pleasant, and very helpful; if you're in south Alabama, I'd highly recommend her if you're in the market for a new phone or cellular service! She even drove across the bay to Tillman's Corner to pick up the phone I wanted that they didn't have in stock in the Eastern Shore store, and then back, called and met us at the store, and worked past their closing time on New Year's Eve to get my phone set up and configured.

Anyway, to the phone... while, no, it's not the latest & greatest (I was tempted by both the Motorola Droid Razr- super thin- and the Samsung Nexus S- Ice Cream Sandwich, and if that doesn't make sense to you- it's Android 4.0, the latest- you probably don't are much about the technical details of the phones anyway, or maybe you're an iPhone person), and the hardware specs aren't particularly dazzling these days (single-core, 1GHz processor, for instance). However, it has a nice display, and a good slide-out QWERTY keyboard (with a dedicated row of number keys), something the super-phones don't offer (yet, anyway; maybe in a couple of years when I have an upgrade available there will be a Droid Razr QWERTY with ICS). But it's much better than the HTC/T-Mobile MyTouch 3g Slide that it replaces (for instance, Words with Friends actually runs decently on the Stratosphere), and has room for apps (unlike the MyTouch, which nearly has "storage space low" with nothing more than the stock HTC firmware). The battery life even seems good- I unplugged it yesterday afternoon and it ran for well over 24 hours before getting to the "critical battery alert" a little while ago. And, yes, I used it - some phone calls, emails, lots of Words with Friends. Of course, I may still want to get one of the extended batteries (and their ugly covers) at some point.

I got the younger boys each a Nook Color (refurbished, from Barnes & Noble via eBay) for Christmas, and also got some covers for them off eBay. However, the covers didn't fit - they were about 1/2" too short (that is, they were for the Amazon Kindle Fire or the Blackberry Playbook, but not the Nook Color). I double-checked the eBay listing, and it definitely claimed compatibility with the Nook Color (technically the Nook Tablet, but it's the same form factor). So I contacted the seller, and they offered to refund the purchase price, and asked that I return the items. In retrospect, I should have just kept them and relisted them on eBay myself, as the return shipping cost pretty much wiped out the refund (yes, the seller is out his "free shipping" cost, but I'm out as much, and it's his fault due to the incorrect listing). Ah, well, next time, I guess.

So, anyone need some T-Mobile phones? I will have some for sale very shortly!