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Please Shop On Thanksgiving.


I’ve finally seen enough of those posts yelling at me, or Kmart, or businesses in general for daring to suggest that people shop on Thanksgiving. Frankly, I’ve about had it with those of you who feel you need to be in charge of directing how others should operate their life, family or business.

The general consensus of these social media posts is that Thanksgiving is a time for families and they shan’t dare open their stores lest family time be ruined.

How about people who don’t have any family around?  How about families who choose to celebrate the big day on Saturday allowing for travel time? How about those who just don’t give a darn about overeating, getting drunk or watching football? How about circulating some new memes that say things like “Shut off the TV and talk to the family.  Thanksgiving is not for football”.  Or how about the popular “Minimize family fighting.  Serve no alcohol this Thanksgiving”.  Just a couple other ideas.

Think about those people who are glad to pick up a shift on Thanksgiving — helps them buy some Christmas presents, maybe pay the heat bill.  The concept that everyone working on Thanksgiving is forced to do so by their Evil boss is quite inaccurate. Oh, I’m sure some would rather not work. but even those who do won’t work from morning till night and will have plenty of opportunity to join the family if they so choose.

Kmart has been opening on Thanksgiving for many years.  Kmart and Sears told news media this year that employees working on the holiday have all volunteered to do so, and are receiving additional holiday pay.

Maybe some families think it is fun to spend the day shopping rather than watching football?  Ever think of that?  Makes for a nice family outing. How about the people who have jobs that are on duty year ’round? In my work in broadcasting I worked every Thanksgiving for decades, because radio stations don’t shut down for holidays. Same for my wife, the nurse. The list of workers in jobs that never close is pretty long. But yet all those people still get to celebrate Thanksgiving if they choose.

I suggest that if you like, get out there and shop.  Pump some bucks into the economy and help the retailers turn a profit this year. Or, if you don’t want to, don’t. But for Pete’s sake stop posting all those “don’t wreck family time” memes on the internet.  I personally know of two Thanksgivings where “family time” turned into drinking, fighting and the breakup of families.  Yippee for forced togetherness!  Perhaps the day should be spent teaching the kids in the family the truth about Thanksgiving.  How it’s often marked as a day of mourning among Native Americans.  How the traditional celebration the white man perpetuates is complete fantasy.

It’s not a religious holiday, either. To my knowledge no one’s God ever said “take the day off and eat and give thanks”.

So, go shopping if you like.


Into the Darkness (Death of the Incandescent Lightbulb)

December 14, 2013

My daughter recently posted a link to a news story on Facebook lamenting the demise of the incandescent light bulb. This is one of the biggest scam’s foisted upon the people of the USA in the last 10 years. Manufacturing and importing of most incandescents in the USA will cease on January 1, 2014.  Intending to write a quick response I instead went into “hyper typing mode” and with very little attention to contiguous thought spewed forth the following, which I belief makes my view rather clear. I’ll try to fix the typos, but no promises.

As the article states, there will be plenty of real light bulbs floating around for years to come. Doesn’t matter to me, I’ve got two lifetimes worth stashed away already. There’s so much they don’t tell us about CFL’s and all the others. LED’s are the way of the future, but it’s gonna take a lot more time for the price to come down. CFL’s are evil. First of all they say we’ll save money. No, we won’t. I can buy regular bulbs for 25 CENTS each. I’ve not seen CFL’s anywhere near this. May be a couple bucks. So, out of the chute you’re already paying 8 times the price. Oh, but they last longer! Yes, they do. 8 times longer? Maybe under perfect conditions. If they’re installed upside down (socket end up) they have shorter lives. If they’re in an enclosed fixture, they burn out sooner. So install them upright in an open fixture — pretty much nothing other than a standard lamp. You can’t throw them away. You have to get rid of them through hazardous waste disposal. They must be tossed properly. You have to take them to a recycling place or store that accepts them for proper disposal. Every store around here charges for that. Last one I went to charged a buck a bulb. Add that to your cost, by the way. Unless you say screw it and toss ‘em in the trash like most people do. But that is a violation of Federal law. Ever read the package about what you should do if you break one? For God’s sake don’t vacuum or you’ll disperse mercury dust around the room. Oh, yeah, there’s a teeny bit of mercury in them. They tell you it’s such a tiny amount that it doesn’t matter. Then, why the rules on disposal and if you break one? Far less mercury than the old thermometers had in them. The difference is this is the kind of mercury that you can INHALE. And you may have had one or two mercury thermometers back in the day but how many lightbulbs are there in your house? Let me do a “from my head quick count”. I’m counting 43 but there’s probably a few lamps I’m not remembering . That’s a lot of fragile curleycues with mercury in them, eh? Oh, but they’ll save you money on your power bill. Meh. Lighting is roughly 10% of the typical home in the USA’s power usage. So, even if these fancy new bulbs used ZERO electricity, you might save 10%. Is that enough to offset paying 8x the cost or MORE PLUS the cost of disposal? Oh, wait, of course CFL’s won’t “dim” so if you have light dimmers they won’t work with CFL’s. OH, how about outside? If you live where it gets cold — like a large percentage of the country — CFL’s won’t come on when it’s blow zero for example. So those house lights, garage lights, won’t come on, and if they do (sometimes they start up after a long time) they don’t even come close to their normal output. Oh, yeah, you CAN buy special cold rated CFL’s for outdoor cold weather use — last ones I saw were $8 and $12. EACH. Few of those out in the garage and on the house and that’s gonna wipe out any potential savings you have. I have about 20 blow mold Christmas decorations out in the yard, with a traditional 40 watt bulb in each. Converting these to cold weather CFL’s would cost me a couple hundred bucks. A hundred bucks bought me 400 incandescent bulbs! Oh, and remember that a CFL is’t a simple device like an incandescent bulb. An incandescent bulb is just a filament connected to the base. A CFL has an electronic ballast built into it’s base with a couple transistors, a rectifier, capacitors, etc. It’s a far more complex device than a regular bulb. That’s why they can have issues when upside down or in an enclosure — heat build up causes these circuits to fail. Think of all the mercury that’s in the FACTORIES! think of all the mercury that’s being dealt with in disposal and recycling! A product so EVIL it was banned from EVERYTHING and declared extremely hazardous. Then, suddenly declared OK in homes and manufacturing for these wonderful new light bulbs! Yes, we have a few CFL’s in the house. The new living room light/fan came with them as it’s rated to have two 13 watt CFL’s in it (they’re about equal to 60 watts of light) but they come on slow (takes a couple minutes to reach full brightness) and aren’t nearly as white as the real bulbs. We have a few CFL’s in things at work and they do seem to last a couple years in an enclosed fixture, which is at least twice as long as a regular bulb has. But they cost 8 times more and we have to pay a buck to thrown one away — which means they now cost 12 times more. Did anyone mention that CFLs are all made in CHINA!!!! Heard about the smog problem in Bejing? That’s because OUR environmental laws make it too expensive (or impossible) to make them here as we don’t want all that SMOG, but in China, they crank ‘em out for us no problem. Oh, you CAN buy CFL’s “assembled” in the USA. All the components come from China, but they put them together here to make you feel patriotic. Oh, and I just checked, a 12 pack of those USA assembled CFL bulbs, as I type this are $76. Plus shipping. Keep in mind all the OTHER bulbs this company sells are made in China. They make this ONE bulb in the USA by putting together Chinese parts. A 12 pack of regular bulbs is $3. Yes. THREE dollars. So, yeah, I guess that’s worth it. Won’t take me long to earn that back in savings, right? Oh, and you’ll spend $12 throwing out those USA CFL’s if you do it legally around here. Oh, and that box of $76 dollars bulbs come with a 24 MONTH warranty. Hardly the 8 – 15 years the energy people are promising us. There WAS a thriving, 100% USA made and manufactured light bulb factory churning out incandescent bulbs up until 2010. General Electric was making USA made bulbs in Virginia, employing hundreds of US factory workers. After the drop in demand after the phase out of real bulbs started in 2007, the finally had to pack it in. So, what the heck, enjoy your hazardous Chinese lightbulbs, and the new industries they’ve created, mostly related to dealing with hazardous materials. Certainly no manufacturing jobs. The last bulb plant in the US was full of dedicated workers who had worked there 20 -30 years or more, earning up to $30 an hour — making a product used in the USA and made in the USA. To heck with that. Yeah, you don’t see my buying too many CFL’s. And it’s a good thing I hate typing or this would have been a lot longer.

So, I guess that pretty much sums it up.  Prepare for the usual onslaught of greenies who will tell me I’m wrong, but have no real life facts.

And furthermore…. the entire concept of “saving energy” that will “save you money” in the long run is nonsense.  Lets say, that by some miracle of science, we were able to wake up tomorrow morning to a nation that suddenly required one half the electricity that we needed today. Your $100 a month electric bill suddenly became a $50 dollar bill.  The entire population was using half as much power. Wow, are we saving!  Until the power company folks get to work Monday morning and realize they are now taking in half as much money.  Now, of course they won’t have to buy as much power from whoever is supplying it, but then the supplier also earns half as much.  But your power company, which now has half their usual income coming is still has their staff to pay.  They have the same miles and miles of lines to maintain. They still need substations, transformers, and the related maintenance. These costs did not go down just because you’re using less power. But it will be so nice when that power company has to write up the pink slips for all those employees they can’t afford to keep on now, and the remaining staff has to work twice as hard, give up days off, and hustle their butts compromising safety to keep things running.  So, what happens?  The rate goes up to compensate.  You don’t save any money, you just get less power for your money. This happens all the time.  All over this country, especially in California and Florida, water saving plans have gone into effect the past few years and the cost for water has gone up to make up the difference in lost revenue.  People are buying more efficient cars, buying less gas. You buy less gas the state takes in less road tax on gas, as the gas tax is added on to your gas purchase.  Less tax revenue from gas sales equals less money to maintain roads. So, in some States they raised the gas tax to make up the difference.  In others (really) they changed the law and they tax you on MILES DRIVEN not how much gas you buy! Yes, they now make you install a device in your car that electronically keeps track of how many miles your car covers, and they charge you the tax per mile. So, financially, in the long run, it won’t save you any money.  Then you read about how the mercury in the bulbs is offset by less mercury put into the sky by power plants because they’re generating less power. Umm, domestic lighting is less than 1% of the load on the nations power grid. And they never mention the increased cost of manufacturing and transporting the new bulbs.  They’re heavier.  Doesn’t make much difference in a 4 pack in your bag from the store, but check out the difference when it’s half a million bulbs on a ship coming from China.  Of course we don’t care about the pollution created from making the new fancy bulbs since they make them in China and THEY get all the pollution, but from a global perspective it’s a LOT of pollution. TOXIC pollution. Know what I have sitting here on my desk?  A box of 4 Sylvania 40 watt incandescent bulbs that I paid a dollar for at Target last year. They’re MADE IN THE USA!  Says right on the box and the bulbs!

Hello world! Have a cow!

OK, so this title was the “demo title” from the folks at WordPress when I fired up this new blog.  Yes, ladies and gentlemen, what was formerly “Tim Edwards Blog” is now “The Morning Cow”.  And yes, I bought “” just for your future reference. it’s for those of you looking for something to read in the morning, and perhaps something that will entice you to “have a cow” or to listen to me “have a cow”.  For now, that is all.

Hey! FCC! About Those Cell Phones

The time has come for the FCC to do for cell phone customers the same thing it did for wired phone customers many years ago.  Define a standard and then make everyone operate by the same rules and play together nice.  Imagine if your phone worked no matter where or from what company you bought it. And it worked on any network owned by any company anywhere in the country!  Standardization is the key to competition, excellent nationwide service, inexpensive featured filled phones and smart phones, and happy customers.

Standardization.  It’s been the standard for nearly every industry.  Phonograph records come to mind.  When they were first getting started the speed at which records were played depended on who made them!  Early records covered a speed range from about 60 to 130 RPM!  Naturally the record company that made records at a certain speed wanted you to buy the phonograph that would play at that speed. Wasn’t long before companies started making phonographs with variable speed knobs to get your machine to play any speed, but it was a huge pain in the butt to get the speed set right.  This was in the days of wind up phonographs.  You had to literally count the revolutions to get the speed right.  Then eventually there were standards set of 16, 33, 45 and 78.  Then there were other issues with sound equalization, which I won’t explain here — but the way the sound was recorded could vary greatly — finally the RIAA was created to set standards for this, too.  Soon, everyone could buy any record, any record player, and they would all be compatible!  Oh geeze! Then stereo records came along and another standard had to be determined. Same with audio CD’s today — there’s a set of standards in place to make sure they all work the same in all machines.

Electrical standards, plumbing standards, railroad track width standards, the list is nearly endless.  At first every company did their own thing until either an arm of the government or a 3rd party organization stepped in and set a standard.  Broadcast radio needed a set of standards for AM.  Then for FM. Then FM stereo. Now digital radio.  Imagine had the FCC never developed a standard set of parameters for FM stereo radio.  You Ford might pick up one group of stations, but your Chevy – choosing it’s own standard – would pick up different stations!  It would be chaos!

Same thing happened with telephones in their early days.  You couldn’t buy a phone and just plug it in.  It had to come from the phone company.  They insisted that a third party phone would wreck the system and to keep it working and secure you could only use phone company phones, which you rented from them!  Small phone companies in rural areas wouldn’t interface with the large systems. The phone company did all it could to fight to keep it all within their own system.  But finally the FCC and other government agencies broke up the monopolies, and made everyone play together.  Now you can choose from all sorts of local and long distance carriers.  You can buy a phone at Wal-Mart and plug it in and it works.  You can plug in your modem, your fax machine, your answering machine, all purchased from the store and manufacturer you prefer.  It was real close to all these items being available ONLY from Ma Bell!

Now we’re in the same boat with cell phones. You buy an ATT phone, it only works on their system.  You buy a Verizon phone, it only works on their system.  Oh, sure there are a few independent phone companies that use someone elses system, after all there aren’t really 10 different cell systems and sets of towers in the country.  But basically what you buy is where it will work.  When we visit my in-laws in Montana my wife and daughters phones work, mine doesn’t.  I have ATT.  They have Verizon and Sprint.  Obviously there is a signal there, it just doesn’t jive with my phone’s system.  Conversely there are spots 20 miles from home where my ATT phone works, but the Verizon phone doesn’t.   Imagine a world where a standard was developed, where all phones had to be built to either work on all systems, or all phones and cell systems had to be built to the same standard!  Just like land line phones. Just like most everything else!  It may take a year or two to implement a system, and I’m sure the cell companies would fight to the death to prevent this from happening. But in the  long run it would benefit everyone.  Your phone and all it’s features would work no matter what company owned the tower you were connecting too. It would relieve consumer frustration.  It would add to the safety of everyone (doubling the chances your phone would work in a road emergency or other situation where you REALLY need it to work).  I would think the cell phone companies would do more business with happier customers who would more than likely spend more time on the phone, using up more minutes, sending more texts, and surfing the web. And while they’re at it they could upgrade their systems so they can handle the current and future load on their systems.

Just think about your regular home phone.  No matter what company you have for your phone service, you can call anyone you want no matter what phone company they may have at their house.  Not only that, no matter what home phone company you may have you can call ANY cell phone no matter what company the cell phone user has!  There is no reason for each cell phone company to have it’s own coverage area, and it’s own exclusive phones.  We all know the excuses the cell companies will give us why this must be so — and we all know it’s a bunch of horse poop.

While we’re at it something really has to be done about the monopoly on phones themselves that some carriers have. They maintain direct control over your phone.  Here’s what I mean.  I have ATT.  ATT phones have “SIM” cards.  Little tiny memory chips that are transferrable from phone to phone, that you can do yourself.  Last summer on the first day of a long vacation my cell phone died.  Complete and utter failure.  There was no bringing it back to life.   Since I have ATT, I realized I could stop at any Wal-Mart, K-Mart, Target, or any of thousands of other stores and pick up one of their $15 “Go-Phones”, pop in my SIM card, and it would work!  This is exactly what I did. Phone worked fine.  All my contacts were there as they should be, and I had communication throughout my vacation with no real inconvenience or expense.  When I got home of course I found out I couldn’t buy a replacement phone like the one I had for a good price (because to get that good price you have to start or extend a contract, blah blah blah) so I just went back to Target and bought a more expensive, off the rack Go-Phone, popped in my card again, and I’m good to go.  Eventually I’ll get something better, but for now it gave me the flexibility to stay in touch.

When my daughter wore out her fancy Sprint phone there were no options.  Pay $600 for a new one, or extend or renew your contract and get another phone for only $300.  It’s the same thing for my wife on Verizon.  If you stick with a company that uses the SIM card, you can switch phones as needed with no extra costs or contract negotiating. ALL phones need to have this ability.  If your phone becomes lost, damaged, or just plain conks out on you, you should be able to pick up a replacement and go on your way.  Just like you can buy a new phone for the house.  You should also be able to make copies of your SIM card and use the same account and number on any number of phones.  You can plug in as many phones as you like to your home system, why not your cell number?  Oh, I know it’s because they want to sell more phone lines, which of course uses up more numbers, and bogs down the systems.  Imagine having a cheap phone to take with you to the beach, and your iPhone or Blackberry when you’re off to work etc.  It only makes sense. If you had a spare copy of your SIM card (which in fact you own, and the data on the card belongs to the account you pay for and contains your personal information) if your phone were stolen or lost, you could just buy a replacement, pop in your spare SIM card and be on your way!

A phone standard common to all would allow more companies to design, build and sell cell phones.  Prices would drop.  ($600 or more for an “unsubsidized” cell phone?  We ALL know that’s a pile of hooey).  Not only would smart phones come down in price, but there would be competition to make better phones!

Imagine if no electrical standard had ever been devised. You would go to the store and have to determine if the electrical device you were about to purchase, be it a blender, radio, or electric drill, had the proper plug for the outlet in your house, determined by your power company or local building code.  Is it AC or DC (it actually used to make a difference in the early days of electric power in homes).  Standards were set, and we all play nice together.

I can only encourage you all to write to the FCC and try to convince them.  From a regulatory standpoint this would be easy.  All the technology exists, we just have to force the cell companies to comply.  Visit and write some email and letters today!

If I Were King – Garage Sales

If I were King of the Land, there would be some strictly enforced garage sale laws.  Summer is here and with it comes garage sales.  Apparently most people have no concept of courtesy or honesty. Individuals are as bad as the big corporations when it comes to the instinct to snow job the potential customer.

First of all there has to be some sort of minimum standard for the right to write “Huge Sale” on a sign pointing to your garage. If you have a ping pong table covered with baby clothes, a card table full of rusty tools, a couple 13 inch TV sets from the 1970’s, and a seized outboard motor from 1957, you do NOT have a “Huge Sale” and calling it such should get you sued for false advertising. But people seem to think if they don’t put “Huge Sale” no one will come.  Face it, if you don’t really have enough stuff to make it worthwhile, don’t bother having a sale.  Which leads us to…

Multi-Family Rummage Sale!  Just because the neighbor gave you an old Mix-Master to get rid of, that doesn’t give you the right to call it a Multi-Family Sale. The concept here is you’ve got as much stuff as if 4 or 6 or however many families who were going to have individual sales got together and dumped all their crap into one garage.  Not that among 4 households you managed to find enough stuff to just barely have a sale.

If you sale is over, take down the sign!  Nothing frustrates me more than following all your signs to a sale that closed 2 hours ago. Or yesterday. If you’re done, go get all the friggin’ signs. And for Pete’s sake, put the HOURS on your signs.  Put 9-3, and the DAY! “Sat” will suffice for Saturday if you’re not up to spelling it out. And if for some reason you sell all your stuff by noon, TAKE THE SIGNS DOWN!

And another thing: Don’t put a sign on the corner of the paved county road pointing down some dirt road that says “Sale Today 9-3” with an arrow, and then have your sale 8 miles from that sign after following 5 more signs.  Put the miles ON the sign, so if I don’t have a half hour to kill tracking down your “Huge Sale”, I don’t wind up getting there all torqued off.

Oh, and quit trying to sell me garbage.  No one wants a flashlight with corroded batteries in it. No one wants a doll with no legs. Throw that crap out.

And while we’re at it, don’t try to sell your stuff at eBay prices.  If you want to get eBay prices for your stuff, put it on eBay.  When it’s on eBay you’re selling your stuff to millions of people world wide, you’ll be lucky to get a couple hundred at your rummage sale. And just because someone sold a left handed nostril inhaler with your state motto on it for $86 on ebay, doesn’t mean the guy down the block will pay that for it. He’d probably just throw it out.  But the “I can get ______ for this on eBay” mentality is a topic for a separate article. And yes, people are at your sale looking for stuff for a nickel that they can resell on eBay for $86 dollars. Don’t feel like they’re ripping you off.  It’s a lot of work to sell that doodad on eBay. If YOU wanted to set up an account, get verified, take pictures, write descriptions, sign up for Paypal, pay the various fees, pack and ship the stuff, deal with goofy buyers, and all the rest you too could sell it for $86 on eBay.  Just remember, the guy who bought it from you for resale has to WORK to sell it.  If you don’t want to do that kind of extra work, don’t try to make that kind of money.

Take some time to think about your shoppers and try to make your signs and advertising accurate with information that actually helps them find your sale and know what to expect!

Good idea to check your spelling before putting signs up

The Priority Mail Scam Part 1

I really do like the post office. I sell a lot of stuff on ebay, and I buy a lot of stuff mail order.  I have to say that if you want it fast, and shipped for a reasonable price the post office beats the heck out of the competition. A package from the other side of the country to me takes 2-3 days via priority mail, but for more money the same package gets here in a week or 10 days via UPS. So, I dig their service.  And I consider it somewhat of a modern miracle that they can move all that mail (80% of which I don’t want) all over the country day in and day out and do it with a pretty good rate of accuracy.  But here’s what bugs me:

I ship a lot of stuff.  95% of it goes via priority mail. The post office advertises that you can get  “free priority mail shipping supplies”.  In fact, they’ll even deliver boxes, labels, envelopes and more right to your house and not even charge you postage!  Of course you have to agree that you will only use it for sending priority mail packages. You can’t turn a priority box inside out and use it for parcel post, etc. OK. That’s fine with me. But here’s where the problem comes in.

Over the course of time I accumulate a lot of used priority mail boxes.  I save darn near every box that comes into the house because I either reuse it as is, or cut it up into cardboard for backing when I mail a photo, or a record, etc.  So a while back I used a hunk of cardboard from an old, used priority mail box to mail a 45 rpm record.  I folded 1/4 of the box (I used one side) put the record in, taped it up, and sent it off first class.  When it arrived the man getting the record was charged over $3 postage due because I had used a priority mail box, which required priority postage to be paid!  Now, hang on there Mr. Zip! I used 1/4 of an already USED priority mail box, that would have wound up in a landfill had I not reused it.  Not to mention I had sent this first class, taped around the edges with brown sealing tape.  There is NO WAY it could have been determined for certain that this was a piece of a priority mail box unless it was opened or tampered with.  However, it is AGAINST POST OFFICE REGULATIONS to open someone’s first class mail!  Even if it’s ticking and dripping toxic waste, there are a lot of complex hoops to go through before anything that’s not classed as “media mail” can be opened or inspected. So, how did they KNOW?  Second is the fact that they charged him for a service he did not receive!  Priority postage is REQUIRED when priority materials are used — so — ok, this would make some sort of sense if when SENDING the package priority mail postage was demanded, and the package went priority mail.  But when it’s arrived via first class which took a week, isn’t it a bit much to demand getting paid for a service you didn’t get?  So, basically the post office is demanding that ALL priority mail cardboard, boxes, envelopes, supplies, that have been USED not be recycled but destroyed!  I asked if I could return them to the post office, since they insist they still own them, and was told no.   Now remember, I didn’t try to commit fraud by trying to use a new priority mail box to send something in another class, I had used a scrap of a box that would have otherwise been garbage to send something in. By the way, I then wrote to the postmaster of the post office there and he wrote back telling me that someone had overstepped their bounds and he would refund me the $3.05.  I told him not to bother.  But since then I have had two other mailed records arrive to me from other sellers that had been marked “improper use of priority box” so apparently this has become their newest area of enforcement.

So they argue that the cost of the priority mail supplies is figured into the cost of priority mail shipping, so they MUST be used for nothing else.  Ah-HA! So the supplies aren’t FREE as they advertise — you PAY for them when you use them and ship via priority mail.  But if you’ve PAID for them, why can’t you use them as you see fit?  At least, why can’t you use them, once they’ve been used for their purpose once, as you see fit?  But wait just a cotton pickin’ minute here.  Every week I send priority mail packages that use NO priority mail packing supplies at all, simply because the priority boxes are not the correct size.  So, I’m paying priority rate which includes the cost of the packaging supplies, but I’m not getting the benefit of the supplies?  Now, wait just another cotton pickin’ minute here — just today I packed up THREE packages that are going out in USED priority mail boxes that I received items in, so I’m paying full priority rate, which includes the cost of “free” priority supplies, yet I’m not actually using any supplies? I’m getting SCREWED here.  I should be issued a credit every time I ship priority without using priority supplies, or whenever I reuse a used priority box!  I’d be happy if they gave me a free stamp every time I sent something priority and didn’t use a priority (free) box.

It’s all part of the priority mail scam, but you can work within the rules and come out OK if you use your noodle.  Up next: Flat Rate Boxes and how they hurt you! Stay tuned.

About this BP Oil Spill

Just some random thoughts since this will be in the news for the next 5 years.

First of all, it’s not a spill.  A busted pipe, a gusher, a leak maybe but not a spill.  When a water pipe in your house breaks do you call the plumber and say “We’ve got a spill”? No. Nothing has been spilled, it just sounds better in the news.

Second the mess could be contained and cleaned up for a small fraction of the cost that someone is going to pay. The use of natural bacteria and grasses and other plant life can soak up and eat up this mess easily.  It’s done all the time in other countries.  The problem here it’s a US mess being handled by a corporation, and being overseen by a government that has already admitted they don’t know how or what to do.  Other nations handle this type of thing quickly and relatively inexpensively.  Trouble here is when this sort of thing happens we just must involve every corporate engineer, chemical company, etc to insure that everyone gets to make a huge pile of money.  There’s no way BP is going to lose any money.  Their costs will come back to them in expenses passed on to the government and the consumer. Don’t think BP execs are going to have to start driving Kia’s to work because they can’t afford their luxury cars. It will make no difference.  They will make it SOUND like it makes a difference, but it won’t. In the meantime this whole mess is a huge money windfall for dozens of companies and hundreds if not thousands of people.

Third, this whole mess is the result of the greenies — the environmentalists — getting what they demanded. We could have been tapping this oil from locations much closer to shore. But the Green Team insisted we drill way out in the ocean to prevent oil getting to shore should something like this happen. Well, it happened.  The oil is here. And because we’re forced to drill way off shore, it’s 5,000 feet down where no human can get to it.  Were they drilling in 500 feet of water divers could have got to this easily and taken care of it quickly.  But noooo, we had to drill in 5,000 feet of water because having it inaccessible is better!

UPDATE: I just heard on the news that this “spill” will cost the economy somewhere between 10 and 200 billion dollars (all depending on which news report you read). Really?  REALLY?  Exactly where it the economy going to spend those 200 billion dollars?  Oh, I know! It’s going to be spent on salaries, materials, transportation, communications and a myriad of other things that cost money.  The mess will cost jobs, the mess will create jobs.  it’s just like when someone rants about the cost of war. Sure war costs money, that’s because it’s great business.  Think for just 60 seconds about all the jobs that rely on war.  My Son once worked in a machine shop where they made one little part for a gun on a tank. He earned a good wage there. That small shop that employed a dozen or so workers needed it’s military contracts to survive.  Think how many individual parts there are in one tank. How many jobs are needed to make all those parts? That 200 billion dollars that this “spill” will cost is not money thrown into the sea to appease King Neptune, it’s money paid to people to clean up this mess. A long chain of people and companies from small shops like the one my Son worked in to huge plants. What this is going to really do is dump 200 billion dollars INTO the economy, much of it coming from BP’s tightly knotted purse strings and more flowing freely from a government that is really hoping to look like the Lone Ranger coming to the rescue. Look at the big picture, people.

Damn, I’m Letting the Record Companies Win!

I hate the music industry.  Specifically I hate the RIAA, an organization whose original purpose was to come up with a standardized equalization curve for recorded music many many years ago.  They seemed to do a fine job with that, but what the hell happened since?  Copyright law, DRM and the entertainment industry generally torque me off — but that’s topic for a different day when I have a lot more time.  Here’s what’s really got my goat today:

I have been an avid record buyer, collector, trader since I was 4 years old (that was in 1962).  I have literally mountains of vinyl, which I play. Last year I became an ipod owner. 90% of my iPod use is being plugged into the stereo in my car, set on “shuffle”.  I have 1800 songs in it right now nearly all came from digital sources — ripped from my CD’s, downloaded from iTunes, EMusic, etc, or ripped in from friends CD’s (a way to get music into your system with out dealing with any DRM — about 4 of us have literally exchanged CD collections hauling them home in CD cases of 30 at a time to rip what we like into each others devices).  But now I find myself wanting a LOT of the music I have on vinyl in my ipod.  This is where the industry has got us by the short hairs.  The time involved into dumping vinyl or other analog sources into the computer is almost not worth it compared to the cost of just buying the stuff AGAIN in digital form. So, they’re winning, making us buy things we already own.  Granted there are a lot of vinyl LP’s I’ve converted just because they’re not available digitally, and I always make SURE to make copies available to anyone I know who wants one as I feel the industry owes me for making me buy so much over again, just to play it on a modern device.  I’m sure this was all part of their original plan. They can just keep on selling you the same thing over and over again!  Just torques me off is all.  Oh, and as much as I adore Apple computers, devices and their operating systems, and even the App Store, I must steer you toward EMusic.  EMusic has tons of music, especially if you want oldies, jazz, blues, vintage country — pretty much anything that’s not a current hit, and the price is generally 1/2 to 1/4 the cost of the same tracks on iTunes or from Amazon. They often have specials where you can buy “booster packs” of downloads, e.g. a recent one was 50 tracks for $19.99.  Couple this with the fact that often many albums have special deals, e.g. an 18 track album may be a deal of the day for only 12 download credits.  So, you’re already at 40 cents a track, now you’re less than that depending on the number of tracks in the album that’s got a deal going on.  Oh, and they’re all good ol’ mp3’s.  No DRM, and they play in anything. Oh, and you get the image for the cover art with it!  It’s a subscription deal, but it’s cheap and fun.

Now I’m reminded of Disney.  Sold me all those VHS tapes with the fancy pants copy protection built in. So, now that I can’t even BUY a decent VHS player I can’t watch the expensive Disney library I accumulated while my 4 kids were kids.  And damned if you can copy them to DVD!  Their copy protection makes my VHS to DVD machine pop up with all sorts of warnings and alert boxes telling me I can’t possibly copy this. So, the old ancient tapes can’t even be copied to fresh tape, much less a DVD — even though I’d still only have analog, old tape quality. Grrrr.  But wait!  Here’s a little device I can buy from a seller in Israel!  It lets me play my copy protected VHS tapes into my DVD recorder and takes out the copy protection!  Yeah!  I can now watch what I own!  And to get even for Disney’s screwing with my property I made copies for my grand kids!  HA! Including some titles that are currently not available from their “vault”  Double HA!  And now I find that the device I bought for my computer that lets me convert my own VHS tapes to DVD will also let all that copy protected analog stuff too!

The industry seems to not care that all they’re doing is making regular customers angry, while the pirates who want to sell this stuff always find ways around it all and make millions of dollars anyway.

The Windows 7 Whitewash

Maybe you’re not old enough to remember “whitewashing”.  That’s where you take a bucket of cheap, thin, white paint and basically slop it on the fence, barn, house, or whatever to make it look pretty good.  For a little while at least.

Computer people come in mostly two forms (yes, I know there are other much smaller groups) PC people, and Mac people.  PC people are brain washed into believing their machines are the only way to go, the only ones that work with what they need to do, and are the best thing since sliced bread.  The Mac people on the other hand are a cult and know for fact that they are more efficient, don’t need repairs, and don’t ever never crash. (Yes I know that was bad grammar).

Today, lets have a review of a review. Windows 7 is due out shortly (depending on when you read this it may be out now, or could even be old and replaced by now).  Reviewers are going nuts over it claiming it’s the second coming of PC operating systems.  It will save the world from Vista, and they usually try to compare it to the Mac system.  But if you really READ the reviews you can see that the reviewers brainwashed right along with the rest of the sheep.  Lets have a look at a recent review from the Wall Street Journal.  The opening slug line “Microsoft’s New Operating System Is Good Enough to Erase Bad Memory of Vista” written by Walter S. Mossberg.

Mr. Mossberg writes “After using pre-release versions of Windows 7 for nine months, and intensively testing the final version for the past month on many different machines, I believe it is the best version of Windows Microsoft has produced. It’s a boost to productivity and a pleasure to use. Despite a few drawbacks, I can heartily recommend Windows 7 to mainstream consumers.”  He goes on to say  “Windows 7 is packed with features and tweaks that make using your computer an easier and more satisfying experience.”  A few drawbacks, eh?  Lets continue reading.

He goes on to say how he used the new system on 11 different computers, different brands, different types, etc.  He reported the system to operate “snappily”.  OK, snappy is good. Then he went on to say “I did encounter some drawbacks and problems. On a couple of these machines, glacial start-up and reboot times reminded me of Vista. And, on a couple of others, after upgrading, key features like the display or touchpad didn’t work properly. Also, Windows 7 still requires add-on security software that has to be frequently updated.”  OK, so it’s snappy, but some of it’s much touted features don’t work on some machines.  And of course like any Windows system, security is already an issue, it’s not built in, so you better sign up for a good security and virus system and get it going before you even so much as dare to connect to the internet.

OK, so a few glitches.  I guess we’d expect that in any new system.  But thankfully this new Windows 7 will at least have all the basic stuff we need in it, right? Um, no. “Microsoft has stripped Windows 7 of familiar built-in applications, such as email, photo organizing, address book, calendar and video-editing programs”. So after you get this fancy new system and you want to set up your email, import 10 virtual shoe boxes of your favorite photos, load up all your contacts, maybe edit some video footage for Youtube, you discover NONE of this is included with the system. The good news is you can download these features for free.  Wow, that’s handy.

The reviewer states that it is no longer true that the Mac OS is “much better than Windows”, then goes on to report “I still give the Mac OS a slight edge because it has a much easier and cheaper upgrade path; more built-in software programs; and far less vulnerability to viruses and other malicious software, which are overwhelmingly built to run on Windows.”  If that’s a slight edge I’d hate to see what the definition of a big edge is.

Networking, you ask?  Windows 7  “still isn’t quite as natural at networking as I find the Mac to be, but it’s better than Vista.  A new feature called HomeGroups is supposed to let you share files more easily among Windows 7 PCs on your home network. In my tests, it worked, but not consistently, and it required typing in long, arcane passwords.” I’m confused. Why is Windows 7 so great again? Because it works AT ALL compared to Vista? Alright, maybe the new system is at least fast.  After running Windows 7 on  several different computers the report is “The Mac still started and restarted faster than most of the Windows 7 PCs.” He did state that ONE Windows 7 PC actually BEAT a Mac in start up!

Maybe the good news is in the simple installation, eh?  Reviews state that upgrading from Vista takes about 45 minutes and isn’t too painful.  The problem of course, is that most PC users gave up on Vista and are still running XP.  Just how smooth is that upgrade from XP to the new Windows 7?  The answer is right in the review. XP users will  “have to wipe out their hard disks after backing up their files elsewhere, then install Windows 7, then restore their personal files, then re-install all their programs from the original CDs or downloaded installer files. Then, they have to install all the patches and upgrades to those programs from over the years. Microsoft includes an Easy Transfer wizard to help with this, but it moves only personal files, not programs. This painful XP upgrade process is one of the worst things about Windows 7 and will likely drive many XP owners to either stick with what they’ve got or wait and buy a new one.

The conclusion in the review is that  “Windows 7 is a very good, versatile operating system that should help Microsoft bury the memory of Vista and make PC users happy.”

Let me make it completely clear that I am not picking on Mr. Mossberg’s review specifically as I have read dozens and dozens of reports on the new Windows 7 system all of which claim it’s the savior PC users have been yearning for, headlining with statements like “It’s a Revelation” then go on to say how great it is then listing how it’s impossible to install, saying it’s almost as good as a Mac now, listing the things that don’t really work, and comparing it’s new features to the Mac with sentences that end with “just like the Mac has for several years”.

The brainwashing is complete, Mr. Gates.