I've also been told I have little tact, so if this offends you simply ride on.

Saturday, March 29, 2014

Credit Hell - Retailers roadmap

When was the last time you purchased something at a major retailer, say a Sears, or a Lowes, or a Target or some other major retailer and had the cashier didn't ask you if you want to put your purchase on a credit card? You probably can't remember that far back.  That questions is usually the first thing that pops up on the cashier's screen after your item is scanned.  You see retailers want you to buy on credit, they don't want you to pay cash.  Customers who pay with cash spend less money.  Retailers view this as a Cardinal Sin.  Even more important, they want you to open up one of 'their' credit cards.  'Their' credit cards are special.  They earn the slightest bit of a percentage more if your charge is on one of 'their' cards.  Now, doesn't that make you feel special?

Studies have shown that people will spend more if they're putting it on a charge, even if they really can't afford more.  Some people are always trying to rationalize how they can swing the monthly payments, even if it's only paying the minimum amount due.  The fact that minimum payments earn the credit card companies sometimes thousands of dollars in interest isn't factored into their thought process.  The means the $900 HDTV may, in the end, cost you $1300 doesn't connect and retailers could care less as to how much their product is actually going to cost you.  They are in it for the moment, that second of instant gratification they get when your credit card gets swiped.  I wouldn't be surprised if the next major financial upheaval we are for to deal with ends up being directly related to personal, credit card debt.

 Do you think the credit industry really cares about your personal finances?  Hell no.  They love shoppers, those foolish people who can't say no to a perceived bargain.  As someone who works in retail, I see these people all of the time.  They can't wait to pull out the card at the first hint of a deal.  Do you think retailers give a hoot about your finances?  Hell no.  That's your problem, not theirs, no matter how attractive they make their 'special financing'  Once that sale has been finalized, you are indebted to the credit card company, not the retailer.  The minute that receipt prints out retailers wash their hands of you.  True, they don't force you to buy from them, but they also do absolutely nothing to dissuade you from making the purchase.

This is one of the problems with the American Economy.  Credit is the food it eats and the air it breathes.  Credit is the lover the economy takes to bed.  If people were to stop buy on credit the economy would crash.  Recovery from the last recession took so long because people chose to pay with cash rather run up their credit card debt.  I know, I work in retail.  The numbers of people using their debit cards increased dramatically and those relying on their Visa, Mastercard and Discover card decreased.  Of course that's changed now and people are backing to back to burying their asses in credit.  Eventually credit card debt will hit the tipping point, like an old, fat cow, and it will flip over.  Then everybody will be pointing fingers trying to place the blame on somebody else.  Maybe if retailers chose to slow down their growth, decided to be satisfied with less then 5% or 6%, perhaps be happy with only 3% the fall into credit hell might be averted.  Perhaps if people realized their debit will, at some point in time, catch up to them and voluntarily charged less.  Maybe if they understood how using their credit card to go to the movies was not such a good idea.  Shit, there are a whole bunch of perhaps' and maybes people are ignoring constantly.  To slow down economic growth would be un-American and we wouldn't want that now, would we.

Thursday, March 27, 2014

PJ Travers - no one's special someone

This past Tuesday I went to see "Saving Mr. Banks" at the West Shore Theater, a movie house which only plays films that have already been through your local Megaplex, and I enjoyed it.  True, there were times when it seems as though nostalgia was seated behind me, tapping me on the shoulder and whispering "here's your tissue," but then that was to be expected.  Way back, when I was just a wee toddler, I got to see "Mary Poppins" when it was first released.  The experience was completely overwhelming for me as a small child, and I was not alone.  Disney had been hoping for a successful film and ended up with a blockbuster, with the film grossing over 100 million domestically.  Back then that was a lot of money.

Sitting in the theater this past Tuesday I was feeling more then a little intrigued.  I knew the premise was the clash between Disney and P. L. Travers, but since I knew absolutely nothing about the author I was pretty much in the dark.  Knowing this came from Hollywood, I was fairly certain there were not going to be a lot of warts on display.  I enjoyed the juxtaposition of stories, the Travers as a child and Travers as an adult, and knew it was mainly designed to make the audience weepy.  It gave reason to her almost childish demands concerning the script.  But what the movie really did was pique my interest in the Mary Poppin's author, so when I got home I hit the computer.  Wow!  In the real world she was worse then she was in the movie, and not just about the filming of Mary Poppins.  Sadly, of all the articles I read, only one came to her defense, and that one failed to mention so very much.

The fact that when she was 40 she decided she wanted a child and decided to adopt sounds good at first.  But then I found out she was going to adopt identical twins but then changed her mind and only chose to adopt one leaving the other behind.  Unfortunately she chose to tell her adopted son that she was his natural mother, never telling him he had twin brother.  Making this even more unfortunate was having the twin brother show up 17 years later unannounced.  I can't even imagine what that scene must have been like.

Not so special after all
I think it's interesting she hated "Mary Poppins" and Disney so much she put it into her will that none of her work could ever be produced by them again.  This is truly surprising when you consider how well they treated her.  True, they made it a musical, and they included an animated sequence, something she abhorred.  But they gave her $100,000 up front, which back in 1961 was a lot of moola.  Oh, they also gave her 5% of the gross which was roughly 5.5 million.  That's right, she made almost $6 million on that movie deal.  That's not too shabby.  

Evidently her grandchildren have said that when she died at 96 'she died loving no one and with no  one loving her,' which is such a sad thing to say.  Perhaps her problem was she spent her life foisting herself off as being someone special without understanding it's the people who surround you who make you special. 

Wednesday, March 26, 2014

Flyer hell

I always enjoy getting old fashioned snail-mail (do they still call it that?) because I never know just what's going to be waiting in my old fashioned, metal mail box.  Yesterday I received a brochure from Honda regarding their "Spring into a Honda Sales Event," which I found rather peculiar.  You see back in August of 2013 I purchased a brand new CR-V.  Now I know there are people out there who feel they need to get a new car every two or three years.  Not me.  When I get a new vehicle I plan on holding on to it for at least a decade, most of the time even longer.  Hey, if you're going to go into debt you might as well get your money's worth, right?  Yet after 7 months Honda seems to think I'm a prime target for a new car.  Actually, I know that isn't true.  By buying my CR-V I put my name and my address on their mailing list.  This means I will be finding their brochures in my old fashioned, metal mail box on a regular basis.  What a waste of paper and postage.  And it's not only Honda, Toyota does the same thing, as does Ford and GMC and every other car manufacturer who can access your information.  Now, through out the years, I have owned on various occasions a Ford Mustang and a Chevy pick-up but I've never owned a Toyota so why do I get crap from them?  I suspect it's because several years ago I paid a visit to Bobby Rahal Toyota in Mechanicsburg.

At one point I thought I might like to buy a Prius.  Of course the sales associate there, seeing I was driving an 11 year old Saturn, felt he should put me into a less expensive vehicle.  In fact, he pretty much came out and said the Prius was too expensive and I should look at cheaper models, cars I might better afford.  He did this without even asking about my finances. So I did what every smart customer should do, I walked, of course he already had my address.  What I ended up doing was going to Honda and buying an Insight, their version of the Prius.  I got great mileage but did not like sitting so close to the ground.  I also got the hankering to get another full sized Boxer.  I already had Gert and, weighing in at just under 80 lbs, she took up the back seat.  It was obvious another one just wouldn't fit.  So, even though I'd only owned the Insight for 4 years I started a vehicle search.  The idea of purchasing a Toyota RAV-4 never occurred to me.  I looked at a Jeep Compass, a Nissan Rogue and finally settled on the CR-V, and then got another Boxer.

Gert and Lilly watching me vacuum

As a result, I'm eternally going to be getting flyers and brochures from Honda about vehicles I have no intention of purchasing.  As I said, I hold onto my cars a long time.  Ford, GMC, Honda and Toyota are never going to wise up.  Oddly enough Nissan sends me nothing and I came really close to buy a Rogue.  Of course it doesn't really matter as it all goes into the recycle bin.  Twelve years from now, when I no longer have the dogs, I may trade in the CR-V or something smaller.  Or, maybe I'll just sell the house and move to the south of France where I can drink wine and ride my bicycle.

Sunday, March 23, 2014

Putin and flight MH370

I suspect some of Vladimir Putin's neural transmitters are misfiring.  Just like the pilot( and or maybe co-pilot) of the missing MH370, he doesn't seem to be maneuvering logically, except in his own head.  This whole bit about the Ukraine and Crimea splitting?  Weird.  I'd read one columnist who suggest ol' Vlad was trying to reunited Russia, return it to it's stature during the Tsar, perhaps even name himself Tsar.  Weird, you know what I mean.  There was a reason the Russian Empire failed - size.  That has always been the case of with Empires, they get too damn big, then they start to lose control and eventually begin spinning out of control.  Centuries ago it took a long time for this to happen but with the Internet years have been chopped down to hours and days.

I also suspect that in his chuckle head brain he thinks troops and time are the answer to any problems which may arise.  If you send enough troops and keep them there for a long enough period of time any and all opposition will fade away.  Doesn't work, never has.  How long were the Romans in Germany?  Centuries?  And there was constant opposition.  The people there did not adapt, they did not acquiesce, no they remained steadfastly hateful of the Romans and their Empire and, eventually, handed Rome a plate of shit.

And then there's the homophobic stuff about there being no gays, or lesbians (except for Pussy Riot) in Russia.  That sounds like the kind of crap you hear from the Crazy Christians in this Country, except I'm pretty sure he is not now, nor ever was a Christian.  I read in Wikipedia he attends the Russian Orthodox Church on high holidays, you know, to make himself look.  For all you know he's sitting in the pew playing Flappy Bird on his Iphone.  Anyway, this homophobic stuff doesn't make sense, especially when you consider all those photos of him shirtless wrestling tigers, or what ever.  My first thought when I saw one of those photos was "damn, that's queer."  I guess in his mind it's a demonstration of his virility.  Actually, all it really proves is that he doesn't have tits, nor much hair on his chest.

After years of reportedly womanizing, he divorced his wife one or two years ago.  And, of course, the rumor mills started and he was purportedly linked to several different woman.  One of those is  pictured above, her name is Alina.  I chose that picture to post because it reminded me so much of the locker room talk I heard when I was in high school.  You know what I'm talking about.  Guys saying "I'd bang that chick," and "she could sit on my face."  Well, it's obvious she does wonders with balls so who knows what else she's good at.

Putin is 61 years old and, again I suspect, those neural transmitters have been misfiring for quite some time.  It wouldn't really surprise me if he was secretly waiting for a telegram from Teddy Roosevelt inviting him to go bear hunting in Alaska.  That ain't going to happen.  He's going to keep on doing what ever he wants to do because he's very powerful.  This means Russians should probably be anticipating at least one more civil war.  The only thing which may stop him might be Malaysian flight MH370 flying into the Kremlin and, for all we know, that may be where it's headed.

Thursday, March 20, 2014

Messy Closure for MH370

Of course everybody has been talking about the Malaysian airliner which disappeared into thin air.  I saw this morning where one of the Aussie satellites had picked up images of things floating in the Indian Ocean.  The US did a fly over and said there was nothing there and, of course, no one believed us so they're all still sending air craft and ships to the area, which I find surprising.  Remember, we are the home of the NSA.  We have the best spy satellites circling the planet.  If anybody should know it's not part of the wreckage of MH370 it should be us, our eyes are everywhere.  Of course no one wants to believe us.  The whole world wants an ending.  They want closure.  Unfortunately, I suspect it's not going to be that easy.  There are too many unanswered questions.  This does not mean that nobody knows, somebody always knows, they're just not talking.

This closure thing I don't understand at all.  There are sad endings and then there are bad endings.  I don't think many people want to consider that this flight into nowhere might have one of those truly terrible endings.  If you ask, a vast majority of people will tell you the plane is at the bottom of the Indian Ocean.  They're positive it crashed, killing all on board.  Until there is concrete proof that is only an assumption.  For all we know the pilot may have been practicing simulated landings on uncharted islands.  He may have done scores of calculations on the survival rate of both he and the passengers on board.  We don't know, or if someone does they're aren't talking.  People want a black box so they can tick off the last seconds of the flight.  They want it to have crashed because for something else to have happened... well, that would be a truly terrible ending, wouldn't it?  That's an ending no one wants to consider.  They want the easy closure.

Perhaps we should start blaming aliens.  Of course, that's a fairly unrealistic approach, still it does provide an answer.  I'd seen something about a news report on CNN that mentioned a black hole - that, too, is a possibility even though it sounds very much like a premise for one of the Syfy Channels notoriously bad B movies.  Until there is an answer, any crazy concept, no matter how absurd, should be given at least some consideration.  For all we know the pilot and co-pilot may have handed the plane over to terrorists for a king's fortune, or they might have discovered the long, lost route to Shangri-la.  There may even be a James Bond super villain out there who has plans to take over the world.  The easy closure is to say it crashed into the sea.  Of course everyone and his brother will be trying to cash in on the mystery.  It would not surprise me if, when the truth comes out, this has a pretty messy closure, the kind of sad ending that breaks people's hearts. 

Tuesday, March 11, 2014

Ego at the Oscars - McConaughey fails

I like watching the Academy Awards.  For years I would host small parties where friends and I would gather around the TV rooting for our favorites and booing at those winners we didn't like.  Times have changed and I now I usually sit watching the awards nodding my head with approval when some deserving film wins awards.  Most of the time I enjoy listening to the winner's speeches since they actually do tell you a little bit about the person behind the performance.  This year, however, I was a little stunned by Matthew McConaughey's speech.

As I listened to the words fall out of his mouth, I couldn't help but wonder "is this guy for real?"  So I was not surprised the next day when others, writing about the awards, called it bizarre.  One said it was "pure McConaughey."

  I also started to see a lot of angst flying around the Internet because he had failed to mention AIDS, which soon turned to irritation and anger.  The LGBT community had supported this film from day one and he didn't even give them a nod.  First of all, those complainers need to understand he didn't accept the part in "Dallas Buyer's Club" because he was a great humanitarian who felt he needed to shine a bright light on the early days of the AIDS epidemic.  He took that role because he wanted to win an Oscar.  Why do you think he lost so much weight?  To bring realism to the part?  Hell no, he wanted to win an Oscar.  Unfortunately the LGBT community made the sad assumption he took on this role because his heart was in the right place.  They failed to understand this was all about ego and nothing else.  That was made perfectly clear in his "pure McConaughey" acceptance speech.

In fact, I suspect he has some serious ego issues and working with him is going to become very difficult.  It wouldn't surprise me if from now on, if it's not done his way, it doesn't get done... at all.

Aren't I just too precious?

Too often people take characteristics of their favorite actor's screen persona's and apply them to real life.  Quite a few, no doubt, have made the assumption Matthew McConaughey is an easy going guy in real life.  Me?  I think he's pretty self-centered.  If you're not with him, you're against him.  From what I've read, he's still good friends with Lance Armstrong, whose character is reprehensible at best.  You know what they say about birds of a feather?  They stick together.  Still, you would have thought he would have had enough sense to keep from rambling on about his 'old man' and 'light beer.'  He sounded too much like an actor who really doesn't give a shit about anything but himself.

Sunday, March 9, 2014

Always a good laugh - CPAC

This year's CPAC ended yesterday and, as always, I did get a hearty chuckle out of listening to this conservative block party's speakers beat a dead horse.  You have to remember, those who attend are the diehards, those who wear the blinders, and those who have surrounded themselves with a bubble of denial.  They go to chew on the red meat thrown to them by the likes of Ted Cruz and Sarah Palin, not the slowly awakening awareness of Paul Ryan.  They don't understand Ted Cruz thinks the whole country is like Florida and by playing 'Stand your ground' he's going to go far.  He isn't, but that's beyond their ken.  They let that haus frau Sarah Palin, with her early 60's dated look, take the stage and ride another dead horse, Obamacare, even further into the ground.  Mitch McConnell took the stage brandishing a rifle.  A coonskin hat would have completed the parody, of course that's something the party loyalists will never understand.

Another Daniel Boone wanna-be

Every year CPAC holds a straw poll to vote for the most conservative, most Republican man they would like to see as president.  Notice I say man, not individual.  No woman has ever won.  Now tell me that doesn't sound sexist.  Anyway, this year Rand Paul won.  He won the straw poll last year, too.  If he wins it one more year you could say he's on a hot streak.  This is not a good thing for Rand.  Romney won it four times and failed in his bid for the presidency.  Rand's own father, Ron, won the same poll three times and his failed campaigns were pretty much the stuff jokes are made of.  If Rand does run, he will have to deal with the fact there are a lot of people out there who think of him as a word thief, thanks to his exploits in plagiarism.  Every word he speaks or puts out in print is going to be checked over and over again.  Most people in this country have a problem with those who steal.

Paul Ryan was the one voice which seemed to make any sense what so ever, of course he's been through the presidential campaign grind and is well aware of all the mistakes which were made.  He talks about a more inclusive umbrella in which the party diversifies it's constituents.  He's on the right track.  Of course, he was playing to the wrong crowd.  All this group wanted to do was gnaw on their bones of hate.  They are killing the GOP. 

Thursday, March 6, 2014

Multi-tasking failures

A few years ago studies came out proving that women were better at multi-tasking then men.  We compartmentalize.  This does not mean we can't multi-task, just that men work better when the start a project, finish it and move on to the next.  Women jumped on these studies using them to justify their superiority in certain areas.  Now, I'm not one to disregard these studies, I've seen women talk on the phone and perform data entry at the same time.  However, I will also add that their data entry numbers increased when they weren't talking on the phone.  What this tells me is that, while it's true women can multi-task better then men, the complexity of those tasks does come into play.  Would you want your heart surgeon making reservations for dinner while she's opening up your chest?  Of course, it doesn't have to be a heart surgeon, it could be a dentist.  Would you want your dentist making dinner reservations while she's filling one of your cavities?  Would you want your hair stylist making an appointment to take her dog to the Vet while she's cutting your hair?  Hell no!  Now I know there are some out there who are going to point out that these are professionals and it's totally unprofessional to talk on the phone when you're with a customer, or a client, or a patient.  So, let me phrase this differently.  Would you want the woman in the car behind you talking on the phone?  If you think there's nothing wrong with that, then you're an idiot.

I bring this up because twice yesterday women talking on the phone, while driving, demonstrated unsafe behavior.  I always take I81 over to my Mom's because it cuts the driving time in half.  Just past the Progress Road exit a middle aged woman pulled in behind me.  She got close.  How close?  So close I couldn't see the front of her car in my rear view mirror.  I could clearly see, however, that she was talking on the phone.  I don't like people sitting on my ass when I drive so I shifted into the left lane to let her pass.  To my surprise, she followed me.  That's when I realized in order for her to multi-task, to drive her car and talk on her phone at the same time, she needed to be really, really close to the car in front of her.  That way she could focus on her conversation and not her driving skills.  What would have happened if I had needed to slam on my brakes?  I have no doubt, at the speed I was driving, she would have died... for a phone call.

Fantasy bullshit

Four hours later I had to hit my brakes in order to keep from being hit by a young woman who turned right in front of me.  She too was talking on her phone.  I was going west on Cumberland Road and she was going east and she turned on to Altoona.  Maybe, had she used her turn signal, I would have had some indication she was going to turn.  Unfortunately there was no turn signal and I did have to hit my brakes, and she was talking on her phone.  

Now I have no doubt that were I to ask either of these women if they were good drivers both would assert that fact.  Just as I have no doubt they believe being women means they can drive and talk on the phone at the same time because they can multi-task.  This is horse shit.  The more complicated the tasks become, the more difficult it is to perform two or more at the same time.  The picture above demonstrates my point completely.  If that toddler were screaming and hitting her with his fists, there is no way she could talk on the phone, let alone reach for an egg to fry.  That picture is a fantasy women have been using to enable their limited capabilities.  

Of course there a men who drive cars and talk on their phones, too, and they are just as stupid, I just haven't run into any of them lately.

Monday, March 3, 2014

Stinko Man of the Year - Bruce Broughton

As someone who likes movies, I always make an attempt to watch the Academy Awards.  I think last evening's telecast was better then most.  Not only will it be remembered for the winners but also for the 'selfie' sent round the world... and the pizza delivery guy.  Who ever would have thought you'd see Brad Pitt handing out paper plates, or Kevin Spacey handing out paper napkins.  This was the first ceremony in which the actors, even those who didn't win, seemed to be having a good time, as though it really was a celebration of film and not death match competition.  I felt a little sorry for those who felt "Gravity" should have won Best Film but they should understand it is a work of science Fiction, a genre which never wins.  The one thing I did find curious was Best Song category, I'd thought they'd nominated five not four.  Surprisingly, there had been 5 Best Songs nominated but one nomination was revoked.  Curiosity demanded I do a little research.

The song which had its nomination pinched was by a composer name Bruce Broughton, lyrics by some guy named Spiegel.  It seems that for 9 years, from 2003 to 2012, Mr. Broughton was a Governor of the music branch of the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences - the group which votes on the songs which get nominated, and he is still on the Executive Committee of that group.  There are 239 members of this branch, that number is important.  Since there were 5 songs nominated, a song needed to get at least 48 votes in order to get a nomination.  The songs are sent on a compilation DVD to the voting members with no information as to writer, composer, or lyricist in order for them to be reviewed solely on the merits of the song.  Broughton sent emails identifying his song and asking voters take it into consideration.  How many emails did he send?  About seventy, he claims, and he only needed 48 votes to garner a nomination.  Perhaps this is how a song which no one had heard of, from a movie which only made $134,000 on it's release, managed to get a nomination.

Stinko Man of the Year!

Because this guy wanted to win an Academy Award for Best Song he pretty much shit away his moral ethics.  According to him he wasn't using his influence as a former Governor and still current Executive Committee Member to insure his song would get enough votes.  That's horse shit.  He knew exactly what he was doing.  True, as he points out, there is no specific rule that forbids actions such as his, but that's the kind of argument you hear from someone who is morally corrupt.  For him, the only thing that counted was getting the award.  Since he is on the branch which compiles the songs the voters get to preview, one can only wonder if his dirty little fingers were stinking around in there as well.  And, if the Academy hadn't revoked his nomination, one can only what kind of influence he might have smacked around during the actual voting for the award.  In case you haven't realized it, I think Bruce Broughton is pretty much of a scumbag.  If he gets any award it should be for Stinko Man of the Year.

Sunday, March 2, 2014

Juliet Macur - Cycle of Lies

This morning, while looking though my news feed from the New York Times, I spent some few minutes on an article by Juliet Macur in which she discussed her new book, "Cycle of Lies: The Fall of Lance Armstrong."  I am not a fan of Armstrong.  In fact, to my mind there are very few who epitomize failed American values as much as he.  The excerpts I read were interesting.  They irritated me... actually, they pissed me off.  You see I have often wondered if he ever really was a great cyclist, or just a mediocre one who relied on performance enhancing drugs and procedures to shit on cycling.  I've written before on how I've felt for some time that for Armstrong the sport was always secondary.  Now, thanks to Ms. Macur's book, we may find out it may not even have been that high on his list of priorities.  This is a sad statement because we would like to believe our sports stars give it all for the sport, whether it be Cycling, or Football, or Baseball.  More and more we are being told that if you take away their steroids they are average, that if you cheated the same way they did you'd be just as good: anybody could be a Bobby Bonds or a Lance Armstrong.  Ain't that the shits.  We want our sports stars to be special because they work at it and earn it, not because they cheat.

Being a cynical person, I will admit to have never being what I call a Lancling (someone who deified Lance as a cycling god) because I always felt there was something a little too good to be true about him.  I remember watching him sip champagne from a flute while riding into Paris on his fifth tour win and thinking 'there's something wrong with this guy.'  There was no arrogance or cockiness in his look, something you would expect from a five time tour winner, only smugness.  The only time cheaters actually look astonished or angry is when they lose; they cheat to come in first, not second.  Why did he cheat?  Because he could.  Because there were hundreds of Lanclings who were so entranced they had no problem turning their heads or averting their eyes.  He was good for the sport of Cycling.  A lot of people made money because of Lance.  Hell, he made a lot of money.  Now he is on his way to being a bad footnote.

Will I buy Ms. Macur's book?  I am seriously considering it.  I'm certain there are certain parts which will piss me off.  But then, the only way you learn how to deal with cheats is to learn as much about them as possible.  I'm sure this book will be a major learning experience.