Saturday, June 30, 2007

The iPhone and Sushi

The iPhone is now out. Hurrah! I'll stick with my current phone, thank you. Here's why.

I have a $20 Sprint cell phone. You have a $500 iPhone. I make phone calls. You make phone calls. I send text messages. You send text messages. I go out for sushi. You go home and eat Top Ramen.

Update: The New York Times has a more positive than negative review of the iPhone that closes with this.
But even in version 1.0, the iPhone is still the most sophisticated, outlook-changing piece of electronics to come along in years. It does so many things so well, and so pleasurably, that you tend to forgive its foibles.

In other words, maybe all the iPhone hype isn’t hype at all. As the ball player Dizzy Dean once said, “It ain’t bragging if you done it.”
Financial decisions, like buying an iPhone plus AT&T service for $1200-$1400 are made on the margins. As in, "what else could I do with the money?" For all the glorious interface capabilities of the iPhone, I don't understand what I'm getting for my extra, say, $480. I'll admit that I don't want to surf the web or get emails on my phone. I want to be inaccessible in that way when I'm not at home or in the office. That $480 is just for useless, shiny things as far as I can see.

Not being a crow, it doesn't interest me.

A member of the iPhone's target audience.

Being an occasional contributor to the Festival of Frugality, I don't think the thing was made with me in mind in the first place. Of course, the sushi wasn't, either. I'll take that $480 and put it in a mutual fund instead. At an average rate of return, in 5 years I'll have $703. You'll be replacing your iPhone battery from Apple by mail for a hefty fee.

Friday, June 29, 2007

Poland's Bison Herd Wholeheartedly Join the EU

From today's WSJ comes an article (subscription may be required) that's almost too good for words.

Poland has a herd of bison. The European Bison Program is trying to teach them to migrate so they can mingle with other herds. The bison are proving to be too lazy to do it, even when shown the benefits of doing so.

To keep the animals from extinction, Mr. Niedzialkowski, coordinator of the European Bison Program, is trying to change the migration patterns of about 400 lowland bison (Bison bonasus bonasus) roaming the primeval forest in northeastern Poland. He wants to persuade Polish bison to breed with other wild herds of the same species in neighboring Lithuania and Slovakia.

To do that, the bison, which can weigh nearly 2,000 pounds, need to stop gathering in one large herd and eventually must learn new migration routes now possible with the expansion of the European Union. In this town of one-story wood houses on the edge of Bialowieza National Forest, Mr. Niedzialkowski runs a project to lay out trails of beets and hay -- food to coax the bison to take their first small steps beyond the forest and eventually, he hopes, across borders.

"It's not working very well," says Wolfgang Fremuth, a zoologist at the Frankfurt Zoological Society, which is helping to finance the project. "Bison are very lazy and they haven't understood where to go. It may take a couple of years for them to learn."
Too lazy to avoid their own extinction. What a metaphor for the EU.

I can't tell if this is a bison or a gigantic, ratty, old sofa.

Thinking about it some more, these don't sound like Polish bison. They sound more like unionized French or German bison to me. I would have expected Polish bison to have figured it out completely and to have raced about the countryside smacking the other bison upside the head and breeding at will.

Thursday, June 28, 2007

LOL Hamster

After seeing some of the fine entries here, I decided to make my own.

For more laughs, visit this week's Friday Ark.

A Comprehensive Immigration Reform Proposal

Now that the Kennedy - McCain amnesty bill has been taken out behind the barn and killed with an ax, the crack editorial staff here at The Scratching Post would like to propose our own Comprehensive Immigration Reform Bill.


A fence-like object.

Viral Marketing Jackpot

To satisfy my blogging ego, I keep a close tab on my SiteMeter traffic statistics. Yesterday's World of Good (WOG) post on volunteers for the Rochester & Genesee Valley Railroad Museum turned out to be HUGE viral marketing hit. I sent the link to my normal WOG Squad and got a link from Mark Shea. Mark's busy site sent me lots of traffic. I also sent the link out to one email address given at the bottom of the Rochester & Genesee Valley Railroad Museum web page. That has generated a TON of hits. I can tell because the referrals are either "unknown" or a web email client. There must have been 40-50 hits so far from those locations. That's a 40-1 ratio of investment to payoff. I love it!

I just wish someone would leave comments. I can't tell if they're emailing each other saying what a horrid job I did or if they really like it. :-)

Wednesday, June 27, 2007

World of Good, Railroad Style

For Wayne.

All aboard for another excursion into the World of Good!

Years ago, I had an officemate who was a huge railroad buff. Not model trains, but real ones, particularly the steam locomotive kind. He had train calendars, train photos, his vacations were built around the Amtrak schedule and most weekends, he volunteered at the local railroad museum. After some persuasion, I visited.

There's a certain glamour and romance to trains.

It wasn't a fancy place with multimedia displays and computer graphics, it was a slice of Americana from a time when traveling by train was commonplace. The museum, through its volunteers, tried to give you a look into the past. The Rochester & Genesee Valley Railroad Museum is another such place. It's another place where people donate their time to give us a chance to experience a time and place unavailable to us any other way.

The museum is run solely by dedicated volunteers and works in partnership with the New York Museum of Transportation to bring the visitor a unique dual museum experience in the railroad and transportation history of Rochester and Western New York...Beyond the depot, the museum's volunteers have built a five-track yard around the depot which allows for the display of some of the museum's railroad equipment. In 1995, volunteers drove the golden spike on a two mile, standard gauge demonstration railroad that joins the R&GV Railroad Museum to the New York Museum of Transportation. The following year joint public museum operations began offering track car rides between the two museums for visitors.

I lost $12 playing cards with the boys in that caboose. I shouldn't have tried to draw to that inside straight.

When my son was a wee lad, he loved trains. (Does anyone's son not love trains at some point in their childhood?) We took him to the railroad museum and he spent a wonderful day playing in and around the trains. The R&GV RR Museum is all about giving people that experience.

Not being too far removed from my childhood in spirit, this part really appeals to me.

The Rochester & Genesee Valley Railroad Museum is also home to a large collection of historic construction equipment. When you decide to build and run a railroad, you quickly learn how useful it is to have your own construction equipment. With a dedicated group of volunteers who maintain and restore the equipment, the collection has grown to over fifty pieces; most of them serviceable. The historic construction equipment collection is a real asset to the R&GV Railroad Museum!
Big, antique construction equipment! Hooray! (Insert Tim Allen ape grunting noises here.)

All aboard! Next stop, 1953!

The volunteers also run railroad excursions for visitors.

Open-air track car rides connect the New York Museum of Transportation with the Rochester & Genesee Valley Railroad Museum. The trip takes 15 minutes each way through unspoiled country scenery, and the 30 minute guided tour at RGVRRM visits a 1918 country train station and a host of railroad cars and engines on display.
Keeping this museum running is no joke. The organization, management and maintenance of this museum is a non-trivial effort and shows the volunteers' devotion to sharing their love of railroading with the rest of us. These people aren't shopping at the mall or taking in the latest movie at the theater, they're giving of themselves that we might experience the past.

Don't you be talkin' about the size of my caboose!

This last part requires you to turn up your speakers. If you've got kids, they'll enjoy this. Go to this page of their website and listen to the sounds of the railroad. What a clever idea! I love it. They've got a great collection of videos as well. I just wish they had uploaded them to YouTube so I could embed them here.

I'd write more, but I've got to run. The train to Dobbs Ferry is about to leave.

My officemate passed away about 15 years ago. I still tend some of the houseplants he kept in our office and every year a friend and I buy the same train calendar he used to have on his wall. For the rest of our lives, whenever we see a train, we'll think of him, his passion for trains and how he gave of himself to share his enthusiasm and joy with the rest of us. Whether he knew it or not, he was a part of a World of Good.

Tuesday, June 26, 2007

Eating out is not a Hunger Strike

At her visit to the vet early last week, our Maximum Leader was told to lay off the high carb cat food and go on the "catkins" diet. We purchased her some special, high-protein food which she seemed to like right away. All did not stay well, however.

She had gotten her annual shots and they did blood work on her, too, because of her age. She didn't like that at all and attacked everyone in the office when they tried to keep pressure on the spot where they had taken the blood. That's our Maximum Leader! A whirlwind of death and destruction when she's angry. To add insult to injury, I promptly went on travel and her Serene Furriness went on an apparent hunger strike in a fit of pique. Our neighbors came by to feed her, but her dish stayed full. When I returned, she simply refused to touch her food. I gave her some tuna, which she ate immediately, but her crunchies remained untouched.

She's starving! Absolutely famished!

Deeply concerned, I locked her in the house overnight. We have a cat door which is open 24/7, but I closed this off to her. Last night she ate all of her food. It's pretty clear what happened. One of our neighbors, perhaps as a result of some personal problems, has been appealing to the Mystical Powers™ of the Feline Theocracy by feeding our Maximum Leader. She's been dining out all this time.

Look at her! She's just skin and bones!

While we appreciate the fact that some have an urgent need for the intercession of her Serene Furriness, we really must find the source of these victuals and cut them off. I'm sure we can persuade them that her purrayers on their behalf will be just as strong if they but offer her substantial petting and praise.

For more posts on purring epicureans, visit this week's Friday Ark and Carnival of the Cats.

And the (Chinese) Beat Goes On

Today's Wall Street Journal has another chapter in the continuing saga of the Chicoms selling us total garbage.

About 450,000 Chinese-made tires sold in the U.S. -- and possibly many more -- may lack an important safety feature, according to federal regulators and the U.S. distributor that helped design them...The tire defect comes in the wake of several other high-profile safety problems involving Chinese products, including the discovery of lead paint on children's toys and hazardous materials in Chinese-made toothpaste and in wheat gluten used in pet food.
The American distributor of the tire began sounding the alarm when it discovered an abnormal number of incidents with the tires.

FTS knew about the tire defect, which it reported to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration earlier this month, as early as last year -- when it conducted its own tests in the wake of an accident in New Mexico that didn't result in any serious injuries or deaths.
It gets better. Just like in their software piracy industry, the Chicoms have either distorted the product numbers or left them out completely.

The case points to questions about the effectiveness of U.S. safety regulations as they relate to imported tires. Not only has FTS told NHTSA it doesn't have the money to pay for a recall, it said it can't even clearly identify the tires affected because the Chinese manufacturer has failed to provide it with the identification numbers of the tires that were made with the missing safety feature.
The article has lots more details. Read the whole thing.

Our Missionary to the Frozen, Northern Wastelands has more posts like this as well. There's enough to go around for everyone. China has recently or very soon will pass the US in carbon emissions. I look forward to Al Gore's visit to China where he roundly castigates them.

Ha ha.

Monday, June 25, 2007

Don't Ask

...just click here.

Two Very Different Blogging Groups

Take a look at the number of comments on this week's Carnival of the Cats and this week's Carnival of Family Life. I stopped by to say thanks in both places for linking to me and I noticed that the Family life one has about ten times as many comments, almost all thank you's, as the COTC. The lack of these has always struck me as a shame when I've hosted COTC. It's interesting to see that it's not like that everywhere.

I would argue that it's a matter of the moms who post things for family life being a different sort than the cat bloggers who post for COTC. It's more of a social group at the Carnival of Family Life and it would be bad form to not stop by and say thanks to the host.

Sunday, June 24, 2007

Why a Budget Matters

My hard drive on my big desktop machine crashed yesterday. That PC is the one I use for all my blogging and web surfing. It's about three years old and runs Windows XP. At first, I didn't know what the problem was so I went out shopping for a new PC. All I do with it is blog, surf, edit images and videos, store my AV files and a bit of MS Office. I don't need a big gamer's machine. At BestBuy I found a nice ACER desktop for $529. Offhand, I asked what a new hard drive cost, just in case that was the problem. They said about $120.

This is where I really needed a household budget. While I follow most of Dave Ramsey's advice, I don't keep a budget. I just don't spend money on anything I don't need. I've managed to pay off all my debts except my mortgage and have salted some cash away in the bank. I'm in good shape and this expense could be handled easily. I almost bought the machine.

I decided to leave BestBuy and think about it. I tried to make a business case for the purchase. My choices were a new PC running Vista with all kinds of upgrades or a new hard drive and $400. It was then that I realized that my lack of a budget was damaging my decision process. Since I had no money set aside for computers or entertainment, I had no hard decision to make. It wasn't the PC vs. going out to eat, it was just a decision to buy a PC.

Good business decisions are not made like that. Sound decisions are made on marginal analysis. That is, will I get the same return by buying the PC vs. saving the money vs. $400 worth of clothes vs... Without the budget, the money simply came from out of the blue and had no intrinsic value. Had it been budgeted for clothes, my ugrade decision would have been new shoes and some shirts or a new PC.

After I went home, I was able to boot the machine and listen to the noises it made. It was clearly the hard drive and nothing else was wrong. I have decided to just replace the drive, but I'm really wrestling with the underlying problem of not having a budget. I've avoided it because it's a little work and I've been doing OK without one. This experience shows just how close I come, day in and day out, to making bad financial decisions without one.

So now that I'm done with that decision, I have to ask: Will I see you at the Festival of Frugality? I'll be there. You'll know it's me because I'll be the one talking about my new hard drive. And my new budget

Update: By the way, I lost ZERO data because I use Mozy to backup my files over the Internet. That was one of the best decisions I ever made. Mozy rocks!

I'm With Fred Thompson

Dude gets it.

He comprehends the nature of our enemies and the complex interrelations between them. Unlike the simpletons who need to see clear connections before they act, he understands that this asymmetric, networked war we're in does not have the direct linkages we're used to from previous conflicts.

I watched a few more of his YouTube speeches and liked what he had to say about our borrowing and spending as well. Reagan proved that charisma and speaking directly to the American people can bring great success to an administration. It's something that the others just don't seem to get. I like Mitt's positions, but he talks like a dork. His ads are all polished politician gobbledygook. He's John Edwards without the vacuous positions.

I've heard people criticize Fred because he hasn't come out with detailed policy statements. Frankly, I don't need a president who has great plans. I need one that understands that we need to divest ourselves of the hangover from previous great plans. We spend every penny we get in taxes. We spend all of our Social Security surplus. We borrow money and spend that. What are the other candidates talking about? Government health care. Where's the money for that coming?

Imagine sitting down with your spouse one night to discuss the family finances. They look like this and they have for years.

Income $48,000
Expenses $59,000

Imagine your spouse says that they think you ought to take out another loan and buy something new, a loan that will last tens of years. You'd think they were crazy, right? Well, that's what all the candidates are saying.

We don't need complicated, detailed policy statements. We need to stop spending money.

Lorrie Morgan as Fred Thompson's First Lady

Fred Thompson dated Lorrie Morgan for a while. Fred could be our next president, God willin' and the creek don't rise. While Fred ended up marrying Jeri Kehn, Lorrie still holds Fred in high regards, like all the rest of Fred's ex-girlfriends.

His ex-girlfriends still like him. Dude is a total stud.

In any case, imagine the White House with Lorrie Morgan as first lady.

Here's what part of what Lorrie had to say from the article linked above.
Morgan blames herself rather than Thompson for the break-up of their “serious” relationship. Although she is a Republican, the country singer believes that she was too politically incorrect to suit the role of senator’s wife. “Country music is all about glamour and shine and politics is a little more reserved,” she said. “I felt I had to change my whole wardrobe.”

She laughs at the thought that she could have become the first lady. “You know what?” she said. “The White House would never have been the same.”
What a contrast it would have been to a certain hag shrew harpy crone woman who is running for president. It's too bad that Lorrie and Fred didn't hook up. It would have been glorious.

Saturday, June 23, 2007

Our Maximum Leader's Got The Right Idea

Man, does this look good right now.

I've got a headache and am feeling generally blargh-y from travel and another late arrival. I think I need to take a cue from her.

See also: Cats, Carnival of the.

I Just Flew In...

...and boy, are my arms tired.

In fact, all of me is tired. It's 1:30AM and I can't get to sleep. I'm wired from travel and weird hours and all the rest. Our Maximum Leader greeted me with lots of love and affection. I really appreciated that.

As usual, I arrived in San Diego 90 minutes later than scheduled. I fly cross-country about 20 times a year. By my calculations, 75% of my flights are late. Both westbound flights and one eastbound flight this time were late, right on the 75% mark.

I didn't bring my camera this time, but I'll share a photo with you from the last time. It's some geese in the pond near the hotel I stayed at in Falls Church, VA.

It was a great trip in terms of work and on the way back I sat next to a SpecOps guy from the Marines. We talked shop and we talked Iraq. If I'm coherent later today, I'll post about it.

Friday, June 22, 2007

The Great Caffeine Experiment

A few days ago I posted about giving up the majority of my caffeine. I'm now down to just one cup of coffee in the morning. And no, it's not one of those 32 oz behemoth cups from 7-Eleven.

What I've found is that my energy level is much more stable throughout the day. I sleep better and I don't almost doze off in meetings unless they're really bad. Having said that, I think there's a drop in creativity. I no longer have peaks of energy during the day where the fog clears and I can write creative, preposterous, irrelevant, things. Maybe it's just my imagination, but it feels like I never get quite enough energy to break through that barrier.

It could be that I'm just imagining a lack of creativity or it could be the effects of my schedule for the last week, which has been pretty taxing. I finally cut off my afternoon Diet Cokes three days ago and that has led to some existential angst in the afternoons. Should I go back to drinking them? Here's your chance to have an input.

If you didn't get a chance to vote in the poll I posted last time, I'm posting it again. If you did vote, then by all means, vote again. If voting is good enough for illegal aliens, it's good enough for you!

When Should I Stop Drinking Diet Cokes
Slowing down caffeine intake? You must be mad!
Caffeine is a path to the Dark Side of the Force. You're already hosed
I don't like this poll. Make a new one.
I already told you, I don't participate in polls!
Free polls from

Thursday, June 21, 2007

Kathleen's Photos Are Cool

There's lots more to see!

Cat Heaven

See our Missionary to the Frozen, Northern Wastelands for the definitive post on this subject.

Clandestine Blogging

Shhh! Don't tell Blogger I'm on and blogging! They've done something to my account and now I can't log on with the Blogger main page. I have to log on by posting a comment at another blogspot blog and then sneaking back over here.

Shhh. I hear someone coming. It could be the Google Police. Gotta run.

Wednesday, June 20, 2007

World of Good, Style

Update: is reputed to be involved in lobbying for the use of embryonic stem cells for their research. Having given that warning, I took a long time to write this post and it still fits the bill as a World of Good post. I'll bet the donors and volunteers don't even know it's going on. There's still a World of Good to be found in the actions of these people.

Wow, has it been a long time since we've done a World of Good (WOG) or what? Today's WOG was inspired by a lovely young lady I met at a recent trade show who told me all about her work with the other volunteers at

There's not much worse in the world than receiving a diagnosis of cancer. After the shock has been absorbed, the first thing a patient wants to do is learn more. That's where steps in.

If you or a loved one has been diagnosed with lymphoma, the most common blood cancer and third most common cancer of childhood, the Lymphoma Research Foundation (LRF) is here to help. On this Web site you will find valuable information about the different types of lymphoma - Hodgkin lymphoma and non-Hodgkin lymphoma, diagnostic techniques your health care practitioners may use, and treatment options. Here you can also learn about the latest research findings and get help searching for clinical trials that relate to your condition. The Lymphoma Support Network can help you connect with a peer who is also living with lymphoma or you can find out how to volunteer at an LRF chapter near you.
Speaking personally, support groups of folks who have been through the same thing are invaluable. The more rare the problem, the more important the related support group as it is among these people that you find the most camaraderie and understanding. Sometimes just finding that group can be hard. The volunteers at have done all the hard work of organizing that group already. also sponsors fund raising events for lymphoma-related research and shares stories from cancer survivors. When you've received the diagnosis, it's important for you to now that the future isn't completely black. Hope needs a seed to grow from. Here's Wendy's story.

Healthy Survivor. That’s me! I’m a 52 year-old mother of three, doctor of internal medicine, author of several books on cancer survivorship, and 16 year (and counting) long-term cancer survivor who, as a Healthy Survivor has been getting good care and living as fully as possible.
There are lots more stories like these. Stop by and read a few.

The folks at are dedicating their lives and fortunes to improving treatements for the disease. Dig this.

LRF Board member Tom Condon and his family issued a $1 million challenge grant to the Foundation. They would pledge $1 million for follicular lymphoma research, payable over no more than five years, if LRF could raise another $2 million in cash or pledges by the end of December 2006.
What can you do with $1,000,000? Well, you could buy all of the following.

A Ferrari F430 Spider Convertible.

A 48' SeaRay power boat.

A condo in Telluride.

Or you could use the $1,000,000 to help people with lymphoma. The Condon family decided to forgo those material pleasures in favor of the joy of giving to others. Did anyone else?

LRF is delighted to announce that the challenge goal was exceeded and that, as of December 31, slightly more than $5 million has been raised to fund follicular lymphoma research.
Yep. Sounds like there's a World of Good out there.

We try to do this every week. We've got quite a list of previous WOGs for you to read. Check them out.

Tuesday, June 19, 2007

A Parable for Children Reluctant to Look up Things in Reference Books

This is inspired by Laurence Simon's bedtime stories and my own children's groaning every time they have to look up something in a book.

Once upon a time, there were two children, a girl and a boy. They were walking along a path in the forest. The girl was carrying a Children's Dictionary and the boy was carrying a complete set of the 1959 World Book Encycolpedia.


As they were walking, they came across a sign that said "Crocodiles Ahead." Neither knew what a crocodile was.

"Should we look it up?" asked the girl.


"Look it up?" groaned the boy. "No! That's the worst thing ever!"

"You're right," said the girl. "It's so horrible that I'd rather do anything than have to do that."

And so they did not look up the word crocodile and kept walking. A short while later they were both devoured.


Possible morals to the story:
  • The World Book Encyclopedia is too heavy and weighs you down if you are attacked by wild beasts.

  • The crocodiles were hungry and needed to eat the children. Mother Earth is satisfied with the result.

  • Stay out of the forest if you want to remain alive. Instead of taking walks, stay inside and play video games.
Please post your version(s) of the moral of this story in the comments.

For more family fun, visit this week's Carnival of Family Life.

Two Cool Blogs Worth a Visit

From my SiteMeter hit statistics, I found these two blogs.

Frugal for Life gives great tips on how to cut down your expenses. That blogger linked to How Watching "NO TV" Saves You Money over at The One Year Exit Plan. Here's a tidbit of that post.

When Dori and I got married we gave away our three TV sets. Since then we've experienced a very noticeable change in our spending. We stopped eating fast food and we stopped buying gadgets (my biggie). We crave less crap. We go out only when we feel like it. We have more friends. Things get done around the house! It is quite amazing.

TV keeps us in a constant stimulus state and feeds our feeling of inadequacy. TV fools us into entertainment but robs us of our worth. On TV there's no time to take anything seriously, even entertainment.
Read the whole thing.

It Never Fails

I got a link yesterday from the Wall Street Journal. Hits are coming in to read the post. Unfortunately, it's a throwaway snarklet on Airbus and not anything I'm really proud of. Visitors are just clicking in and clicking out.

How come my favorite posts never get a link? Maybe I'm just a big gasbag and no one wants to read the longer stuff.


Monday, June 18, 2007

Great Photos

Our Precentor of Measurements has some great photos to share with you. Once you get there, be sure to click on them.

Now, go! Go now! You! Go!

Why aren't you going?

Oh, sorry about that. Here's the link. Now go!

Mail You Don't Want To Receive

Tonight I came home to a letter from the city with the words "Final Notice" on it and dire warnings of damage to my credit if I didn't pay up immediately. In fact, it suggested I might already have been dinged. I had no idea what they were talking about. I pay all my bills promptly. Fortunately, the city has representatives answering the phone unti 6:30PM. Thank God for good customer service!

It turns out that they thought my house was still a rental and they thought I owed them rental taxes. Not only that, they had been mailing the bills to my address from years ago. The pigs that live there now never told the city I didn't live there and never returned the mail. How they managed to finally send the notice to the right address is beyond me.

A form filled out and a follow-up phone call and this should all be cleared up. I thought I was going to have a heart attack when I opened that letter.

When Should I cut off the Diet Cokes?

A while back I blogged about reducing my caffeine intake. I'm down to one cup of coffee and one Diet Coke. I was planning on stopping the Diet Cokes today, but I really feel like having one.

Being a pusillanimous weasel, I've decided to allow you, my readers, to decide my fate. Here's your chance to weigh in on the Great Caffeine Challenge of 1:49 PM, June 19, 2007!

When Should I Stop Drinking Diet Cokes
Slowing down caffeine intake? You must be mad!
Caffeine is a path to the Dark Side of the Force. You're already hosed,
I don't like this poll. Make a new one.
I already told you, I don't participate in polls!
Free polls from

Craig's List and the Cost of Living

What effect does Web 2.0 and, more specifically, sites like Craig's List and eBay have on the cost of living? I would argue that we are living in an extremely deflationary time. I've been able to maintain a fairly good standard of living despite a huge loss in income. I would not have been able to do that without these two sites.

Witness Dr. Frankenstein's Stereo. I was inspired to start looking into this because of the stereo deals I found on Craig's List. In fact, I was on my way to buy a Craig's List one when I stopped at a thrift store to look at speakers. The Craig's List seller wasn't answering his phone, so I wondered if I could scrounge components elsewhere to build a nice system for my garage. I ended up with a stereo that probably cost about $1000 new. I spent $14.

People selling used gear and thrift stores have been with us a long time. Garage sales and estate sales have long been a staple of those living on a tight budget. What makes this era different is the access to information. Back in the day, sellers who had small, cheap items for sale would have just thrown them out rather than pay for classified ad space that might have cost more than the price of the item. Now that we can list items for free and the buyers can search quickly and easily for what they want, more items are available than ever before.

As an aside, this is greener than anything the environmental movement has ever done. Buying used products is the ultimate in recycling. I ended up with a stereo system that can annoy the entire neighborhood with bad music and other than those required for transportation, no raw materials were consumed to get it.

After 18 months of living like this, how much of an effect has it had on my lifestyle? Well, certain costs remain fixed. My mortgage is fixed. My car costs remain unchanged. You can't buy used gas and I don't scrimp on car repair. I've reduced my utility bills, but only marginally. Food bills have dropped, but only because I stopped eating out. I'm also growing a vegetable garden, but I don't think that will have much of an effect.

These costs represent a lower limit on your cost of living and are unaffected by greater access to information. For everything else, I've dropped my costs on the order of 90% and have still managed to make improvements to my home and lifestyle. That must have an effect on the cost of living, don't you think?

Elsewhere on the Web

Over at Metafilter, holyrood asks about the cost of living in LA. His little post is interesting in a Dave Ramsey way even though he doesn't know it. He's been living a productive life with very little money. Ironically, he's asking questions about the cost of living after having demonstrated that the standard government calculations are inaccurate.

The Technology Liberation Front goes completely off the deep end and claims that this somehow demonstrates problems in capitalism. A prolonged gloat about open source software follows. The free market is an organic, evolving thing. Improving access to information just changes the environment in which it lives. I think they really just wanted to write about open source software and this was an excuse.

Anomalous Presumptions discusses more alleged flaws of modern capitalism, using the TLF rant above as a springboard. Intellectual property rights are examined. At some point, both of these discussions leave Earth and head off into deep space, propelled by over thinking the problem.

NYMAG, being a Mainstream Media (MSM) publication, focuses on sex workers. It provides only the most dilatory examination of the economics of the situation and instead writes about pimps and escort services. The authors, Kate Pickert and Emma Rosenblum, might want to stop wondering why bloggers and other web writers are obliterating the MSM and instead start looking at Craig's List. Under "help wanted."

The Carnival of the Capitalists and the Festival of Frugality both have lots more good stuff like this.

Sunday, June 17, 2007

My Greatest Financial Decision of all Time

I just purchased and planted a curled leaf parsley plant. Why is this my greatest financial decision of all time? Well, many of my recipes call for parsley, typically to have it chopped and sprinkled on top of the dish at the end. I always buy it and then forget to use it. My costs continue to rise and my payoff remains at 0. By planting this little guy, I will never have to buy parsley at the store. I will continue to not use it, but it won't cause me grief when I realize that I wasted purchased parsley halfway through dinner.

Victory is mine!

Happy Fathers' Day

My two little cherubs got up extra early (5AM!) to make sure they could make me breakfast in bed. They knew that I am a very early riser, so they set their alarms and made this for me.

The little daubs of red are drips of my favorite Creole hot sauce. People can joke all they want about burned breakfasts and messy kitchens left by their kids after such things, but I won't. This was perfect and kitchen was in good shape when I went downstairs.

It was a lovely gift. I hope your Fathers' Day is as pleasant.

Saturday, June 16, 2007

Sometimes it all Goes Your Way

Sometimes everything seems to be going your way. That's the way I feel right now.

My son will be 16 next year. I've been looking for a project car for the two of us to work on this summer that he can drive to school. It's got to be one we can work on and it's got to look good. That means a mid or late 1960's car. I just got off the phone will a fellow who has a 1966 Mustang for sale for $2000. It's got a 6 cylinder engine and an automatic transmission. That means it looks cool, will be easy to work on, will get pretty good mileage and won't be a dragster. Perfection.

We had been looking at Chevelles and Camaros, too, but they all had monster engines and were about three to four times the cost for the project cars.

If you don't remember what a '66 Mustang looks like, here's one totally restored.

Friday, June 15, 2007

A Fine Ending to a Great Week

I had a really good week this week. It was the last day of school for my daughter and she got her best report card ever. She earned it. She worked hard and cheerfully took instuction about ways to improve her studying and her school work. It was a good week at work and my son a nice first week of vacation. To top it all off, Here's what I found when I came home.

My little English Daisies, the ones I've raised from seed and that participated in the seed racing experiment I did were doing their best to say, "Thanks!" as I walked up the front steps.

Our Maximum Leader lay on the walkway, rolling around in pleasure right in front of some of the stipa tenuissimas I grew from seed. Both of them wanted to show me what a great week they had, too.

Please stop by this week's Carnival of the Cats for more feline goodness.

A New U. N. Headquarters

Today's Wall Street Journal, following an article discussing the civil war mild unrest in Gaza and the West Bank, asks the following Question of the Day: How should the UN address the violence in Gaza? Your choices are limited to deploying multinational forces, sponsoring talks or doing nothing. How unfortunate. The best choice of all is this.

Move the UN Headquarters to Gaza.

The new UN Headqaurters Building.

Think how synergistic this could all be. UN delegates could then live and work with the people that best match their notions of human rights, economic policies and proper international attitudes. It's a win-win for everyone!

A calm and pleasant speech by the UN's new hosts in Gaza.

By the way, the clarion call by this fellow that "Our people must unite in one trench" might be a good campaign slogan for Hillary. I know I'd vote for someone suggesting we do that. Er, maybe.

Funny, K T Never has More Than one cup at Home!

How many of you out there are old enough to get that reference?

A friend of mine recommended reducing my caffeine intake, so I'm cutting down to 1 cup in the morning instead of 2. I usually have another half cup when I get in to work and then a Diet Coke for lunch. We'll see if we can cut out one cup in the morning and that half cup when I get in. Eventually, we'll eliminate the Diet Coke, too.

Incidentally, at about $0.50 per Diet Coke and one can per day, that's an annual savings of about $182. That's the price of a fairly nice cell phone for my ghastly Sprint service or some additions to my threadbare wardrobe. Hmmm.

Hurrah for our Offical Artist!

I can't say enough good things about Justin, the Feline Theocracy's Official Artist. He convinced me to get into Twitter and it's been a huge hit at work, he convinced me to move my template to the new Blogger template and it's a vast improvement, and he dropped me this link to a site describing how to move the new Blogger template to my favorite 3-column style.

¡Muchas gracias, amigo!

Thursday, June 14, 2007

Changing our Template Today

I've been using the legacy blogger template. I'm moving over to the new one today.

Update: I love the new functionality, but why can't we get a 3-column template? I really need that left-hand column for odds and ends. Looks like I need to go seach for one. OK I did that. Here's a thread from a discussion board.

Wednesday, June 13, 2007

A Fred Thompson Catwa!

First of all, we are pleased to link to Fred Thompson's new blog, The Fred File. However, we noticed that IMAO, where FrankJ has been posting daily Fred Thompson facts, is not on Fred's blogroll! This is an outrage. The Feline Theocracy is hereby issuing a catwa and commanding The Fred File to include IMAO on their blogroll.

Our Maximum Leader calls upon the Mystical Powers of the Feline Theocracy to persuade The Fred File to blogroll IMAO.

We're sure that this was just an oversight. We look forward to the day when all FredHeads can be blogrolled in one glorious, bloggy paradise. Of course, everyone not supporting Fred will toil night and day in the tuna mines, but the less said about that the better.

Airbus Keeps Losing Altitude

From today's Wall Street Journal:

Airbus had hoped to shore up its credibility with customers before the industry's most closely watched trade show of the year. Five years behind Boeing in developing a new midsize long-haul jetliner, Airbus has booked only 13 firm orders for the A350, compared with nearly 600 for Boeing's 787 Dreamliner.

The European plane maker must move quickly. Customers are racing to secure delivery spots in the Dreamliner order book, making it difficult for Airbus to catch up. In recent weeks, Airbus has offered steep discounts and other incentives for A350, said one airline and others familiar with the matter.
Airbus, the product socialist and statist economics, is getting it's butt kicked by Boeing, a capitalist corporation. Something worth noting in this is that Airbus is now offering steep discounts.

Just think about things like big screen plasma TVs. When they first came out, were steep discounts offered? No. That's because first units are usually priced high to pick up the enthusiastic buyers and pay off some of the development costs. If you've got to discount the early models, you're in real trouble.

Update: Welcome WSJ readers! Here's another, longer bit on Airbus and a better one on the European Galileo project.

150 Down, Only 11,999,850 To Go!

Driving in to work this morning, I heard a news report saying that an immigration raid had caught 150 illegal aliens. That's fantastic! Another 100,000 or so raids like that one and we'll be in good shape!

All Hat And No Cattle

My daughter created this masterpiece yesterday while we were playing with Legos.

Tuesday, June 12, 2007

Blogging is a Matter of Comfort

My son had a sleep over last night. That's a wonderful way to kick off the summer vacation, but the little brutes are sleeping in the room where our desktop computer is. That leaves me blogging on a laptop. Ouch! Talk about uncomfortable.

Monday, June 11, 2007

Behind the Scenes at the Carnival of the Cats

Have you ever wondered what it takes to put on a Carnival like yesterday's? Well, here at The Scratching Post, we're releasing some candid photos of our Maximum Leader working on the Carnival with her staff. We hope it gives you an idea of what it was like.

The first thing our Maximum Leader did was to make a list of possible themes for the Carnival. A good leader always comes prepared to a meeting. She's not expecting the team to come up with ideas out of the blue. She knows what directions she wants to try. She reviewed this list thoroughly before meeting with the rest of us.

Next, she discusses her ideas with us. Here, she's stating her concept clearly and concisely.

After listening to our suggestions, she took some time to go off and think about it. She realizes that decisions made without dedicated thought are often inferior.

We reconvened after a while and had an open and frank discussion of the ideas again. Sometimes it got heated. Here, she's yelling at us for repeatedly suggesting that we build the Carnival around chasing yarn. "Enough with the yarn already!" she shouted. "I like yarn as much as the next cat, but it's just not the right theme for this week!"

The theme chosen, she took a much-needed break while her staff got to work executing her orders. The team had gotten the message and the Carnival was produced. She reviewed the final product and it ended up released ahead of schedule and under budget. The results? Hundreds and hundreds of clicks from happy readers.

She was thorough, she was prepared, she listened to her staff, but she made her own decisions. And that, dear readers, is why she's our Maximum Leader.

Please stop by this week's Friday Ark!

Sunday, June 10, 2007

The Feline Theocracy Hosts the Carnival of the Cats

Welcome to the 168th Carnival of the Cats. This week, the Feline Theocracy's Maximum Leader will not only host the Carnival, but will also provide an important public service message. Have you ever had to do the laundry and change the sheets, but found the cat laying on the bed? Today we will show you how to remove the sheets without disturbing the cat.

First, however, we will kick off the Carnival. Our instructional photos will be interspersed throughout.

First up, Mog's Meowza celebrates tummies. Mog is being followed, too. Watch out, Mog!

Ollie has passed away. Would you mind stopping by to leave some good wishes?

As Siofra can tell you, that tissue paper will get away if you don't jump on it. Watch the movie over at Chasing Grace.

Missy finally has her own blog. And quite a bit of cattitude.

Friday's got his paw stuck. Where? Well, visit the blog and find out!

Are there ever enough pictures of tummies? The Whole Kitten Kaboodle says no. I agree.

This Green life has an entry worthy of a World of Good post.

Step 1. Assess the geometry of the situation. It is important that the cat be on a comforter or bedspread prior to beginning this procedure.

Holy Tuna, Batman! Max has turned 20!

Science Blogs has a post that I wouldn't have believed if I hadn't read the whole thing. There are cell phones and there are leopards. What happens next?

Bebe. Don't ask, just click.

Allan says Mr. Jones is upset. Check it out.

Texas Oasis has an outstanding story about a seeing eye cat. No, seriously.

Ahh, to be young and full of energy! Ping is and Manx Mnews has the story.

Parker has a boo-boo. Poor Parker! She needs some tuna to help recover.

Jixie Juny is in a movie along with one of those crazy guys from No Pasaran! Brigade de l'Argent des Fran├žais has the movie and the story.

Step 2. Remove the corners of the sheet farthest away from the cat.

Mean Kitty responds to a snark. And then he bares all!

Lovely cat. Lovely art. Visit The Wide Awake Cafe for the details.

Samantha and Tigger will make you smile. Guaranteed.

Stereophile had me laughing out loud. After that, Bagheera plays Gloria Swanson to Stereophile's William Holden.

Do you know how to massage a cat?

Mr. G strikes a pose over at Pencil Roving.

Step 3. Remove the corner of the sheet second closest to the cat.

It wouldn't be a Carnival without Elms in the Yard. Go see what the lovely Missy is up to now.

The Feline Theocracy's Poet Laureate has some lovely flowers that Aloysius manages to outshine. Meanwhile, Krazy Kat dishes out wisdom.

Composite Drawlings plays host to some strays. Dinner is served. The Puppy Blender calls for a ban on cats. This ban is protested vigorously.

Sisu shows pictures of a cleverly colored Tiny. The cats help out on some resolutions. Tiny the cat performs ballet. With sneakers? You'll just have to go see.

Step 4. Remove the corner of the sheet closest to the cat. You should now have all four corners removed.

Momma Grace plays "Gotcha!"

Irishcoda has some ominous felines. The growlery has been entered!

Sisu is cooking and Tuck is the chief taster. Yum!

Rico Loco is playing "Gotcha!", too.

Step 5. Have an assistant gently wrap the cat in the comforter and lift the cat so that you can remove the sheet and put it on the floor

Over at Val's Bien, Bows is recovering from that dreadful Chinese cat food problem. Click on over and give Bows some good vibes.

Creatures of the Earth ties cats and Tony Soprano together. Not literally, of course.

It's over a hundred at Mog's. Cats or degrees? You have to go see to find out! Meanwhile, Meowza's out painting the town.

No Deep Thoughts has a kitty music video. Cats and cool music. They go together.

Bengals! There's not much prettier in the feline world. Life, Florida, Bengals, Whatever has it all.

Orloff chooses a good place to hide. Behind an elephant of all things!

Strange Ranger, do you give your cats perms?

Does Morris have an Ego or does Ego have a Morris? Go see for yourself.

Solidly Average has a cat that's just laying down on the job.

Step 6. Have your assistant gently lower the cat back onto the bed and unwrap her. Admire the cat. After all, she did all the hard work. You were just lucky enough to be there to see it. Or something like that.

And that's it! That's the Carnival and that's the instructions on how to undress a bed without bothering the cat. I hope you enjoyed both.

Is There Anything Good on TV These Days?

In an attempt to join this century and stop living in the past, I scanned through the prime-time TV listings to see if I could find something to start watching. All I came up with was The Office and Scrubs. Everything else looked like total junk. Any recommendations?

Getting Ready for the Carnival

Today we'll be hosting the Carnival of the Cats. Our Maximum Leader is really excited about this. To take the edge off of her nerves, she's been relaxing and playing some video games.

The Carnival will be up around 6PM Pacific Time. Come on back around then and see what we've got for you. I think you'll like it!

Why Now?

I've been trying to figure out just why the immigration bill was such an imperative right now. The vast majority of the country didn't want it, but there seemed to be a mad rush in the senate to get the thing passed. Why?

Well, Right Wing News has part of the answer.

I also asked my source why he thought so many Republicans had been supporting such an incredibly unpopular bill. He gave three reasons:

First off, there was what he referred to as the "Rovian School of thought," which says that passing this bill would capture the Hispanic vote for the GOP for decades to come.

Next up, there's the "Chamber of Commerce" vote. He says these Republicans were heavily influenced by business groups that want cheap labor no matter what the cost is for the rest of the country.

Then there was the last group, the smallest group in his opinion, who were willing to sign onto a terrible bill just so they could say they were part of a big reform that had bipartisan support.
I think the first reason applies to the Democrats far more than the Republicans. The odds that these new citizens would vote against more freebies from the government seem pretty long. I think the third reason applies only to megalomaniacs like John McCain. The second reason is the key.

Businesses that rely on exploiting illegal aliens to make hefty profits are scared to death that the border will be closed. As soon as it happens, they'll have less access to low wage illegals and they'll have to look at hiring Americans and paying normal wages. The bill was being rushed through because the fence is being built. I would bet that if you looked at the legislative calendar and compared it to the construction schedule for the fence, you'd see that this was the last chance to give these business assured access to low wage employees before that labor pool began to dry up. That also explains the Wall Street Journal's editorial page support for the bill.

Don't think of the government as a monolithic entity, either. Since the passage of the fence construction bill last year, there is a part of the government whose jobs and performance reviews depend on construction of the fence. The contractors building that fence rely on the execution of those contracts, too. There is a natural tension between those forces and the amnesty forces going on. The mad rush to get the amnesty bill passed was a manifestation of those tensions.

That's the only reason I can think of to blitz this bill through right now.

Saturday, June 09, 2007

Dr. Frankentsein's Stereo

Today here at The Scratching Post, we assembled a stereo for our garage out of various odd components. We found some fantastic tower speakers at a local thrift store, we got God's own amplifier out of my parents' attic and used my little Rio Karma to drive the whole thing. It looked like this.

The full set up in all it's not-quite-so-finished glory.

I use a Rio Karma to host my music instead of an iPod. Yes, I'm weird, but I just like it's ergonomics better.

The McIntosh 2100 amp. God's own amp if ever there was one.

I found these awesome Technics SB-2665 speakers at a thrift store for $14. It was a caveat emptor purchase, but they turned out to be in perfect shape.

Our Maximum Leader supervised the assembly. Here, she's listening for the low notes to make sure the bass has been adjusted properly.

So what was the first song we played on it? Why this one, of course.

Friday, June 08, 2007

You Can Lead a Horse to Water...

...but you cannot make him post comments on your blog.

I've introduced blogging at work. It's been reasonably successful. I had a recent post where I proposed a new marketing strategy. The post got several hits because I sent the link out via email to people I thought would be interested. In the email, I ask for comments on the blog post. One email recipient forwarded on the email to another person and they proceeded to discuss it via email instead of posting comments.


Resting Up

Here at The Scratching Post, we're resting up, getting ready for the big day on Sunday when we'll be hosting the Carnival of the Cats. Our Maximum Leader has spent the whole day in and out of the sunbeams, training for the event.

In Defense of Jeri Kehn

Have you seen this picture yet?

It's Fred Thompson and his wife, Jeri Kehn. All kinds of swinish posts are being written about it. She's in her 40s, he's in his 60s. She's being called a "trophy wife" and criticized because she signs her name with a happy face over the "i".

What kind of pathetic, dreary life do you have to lead to find fault with her? Has anyone who is carping about this actually dated in the their 40s? She's old enough to know about men and make informed decisions about who she marries. Jeri could probably have had almost any guy in her age range she wanted. She could have found a lawyer or doctor with as much money as Fred and just as many social connections. She could have found a brilliant man or a gentle man or any kind of man she was looking for.

She wanted Fred.

All the feminist harpies and frigid martinets who are criticizing the situation don't give her any credit at all. Like he's never looked at her like that before. Do you suppose it happened while they were dating? Don't you think she's seen that look before?

They ought to go back to parsing Shakespeare for sexism or whatever it is they do in their spare time, the frickin' joyless, bitter shrews. Jeri got what she wanted and she looks like she's happy with the way it turned out. Not only that, Fred's ex still respects him and his ex-girlfriend, country music recording star Lorrie Morgan still respects him.

Dude is a stud. He makes the people around him happy and Jeri recognized that and decided to marry him. All this bagging on Jeri is pathetic.

If you want to read some of the posts about the subject, try these. Link1, Link2, Link3.

Update: This post is an expansion of a comment I left over at Ann Althouse's blog post on the subject. I'm so dumb that I totally misread her post and went after her with this 2x4 while all the time she had pretty much the same view as I did. What a dope. Luckily she runs a blogspot blog and I could delete my stupid comments. I'm sorry, Ann.

Now it's the Germans who are Running Away

...from Germany, that is.

Joe Noory, the holder of the Feline Theocracy's coveted Cardinal Richelieu Chair for Advanced European Studies, has posted this fascinating bit about educated Germans fleeing Germany.

Last year more than 155,000 Germans emigrated from their native country. Since 2004 the number of ethnic Germans who leave each year is greater than the number of immigrants moving in. While the emigrants are highly motivated and well educated, "those coming in are mostly poor, untrained and hardly educated," says Stephanie Wahl of the German Institute for Economics.
Let's do some quick, back-of-the-envelope calculations on this. First, we assume a 1600 hour work year for Germans. Where I work, we use 1750 hours per year. The Europeans, being European, work less. Let's also assume that these educated Germans would earn, say $30 an hour. That's an annual salary of $48K. They're being replaced by manual laborers from North Africa and the Middle East. Let's assume a $10 per hour wage for them. That's a $20 per hour difference.

Over a 1600 hour year, that's a loss of $32,000 per person for Germany. Multiply that by 155,000 and you get a loss of $4.96B per year. The World Fact Book tells us the population of Germany is 82,400,996. Dividing gives us a per capita income loss of about $60 per year for the country. That same Fact Book tells us that the German per capita income is $31,400. A $60 loss is a 0.2% drop in per capita income. Their growth rate is 2.2%. That means that a single year's loss of skilled, young Germans drops their growth rate by about 10%.

It's cumulative, too. Those 155,000 Germans who left in 2006 won't be coming back. The 155,000 who leave in 2007 will add up to 310,000 who have left. In 2008, another 155,000 will leave making a total of 465,000 Germans who have bailed out. Who's going to be left to pay for that welfare state ten years from now?