-{Background: Having finally moved into a larger house, we are able to unpack boxes that have been packed for a really long time. This included multiple boxes of bathroom utilities, where we found duplicates of a lot of things. Including, as you will see, a fair amount of soap. The following is based on a true story…}-

Clancy: Do you know how many bars of soap we have?

Will A lot, I’d bet.

Clancy: Eighteen! We have eighteen bars of soap!

Will That’s all?

Clancy: Why do we need eighteen bars of soap?

Will We don’t. I’m just glad we’re down to eighteen.

Clancy: Dare I ask how many we used to have?

Will I have no idea. You should ask when the last time we purchased soap was.

Clancy: When was the last time we purchased soap?

Will The summer of 2012. We’ve been coasting on inventory ever since.

Clancy: Why did we have that much inventory? And how do you remember the last time you purchased soap?

Will Well, remember Leaguefest? As you know – or maybe you don’t – I buy soap in three or four flavors at a time, and they come in packs of something like 12 or 16 each. Well, I noticed that we were running out and so I bought some before I went to Vegas. Then, when I got back, I forgot that I’d gotten it, and so I got another set. Then, when I next went shopping, I looked in the wrong cabinet to see if I’d already gotten it, and so I ended up getting it again. Then I found more downstairs.

Clancy: How many did we have?

Will I don’t know. I just put a freeze on buying more until we started to run low. If we only have eighteen, I may need to get more soon.

Clancy:

Will Why are you looking at me like that? Like this is any different from the fact that we found like seven bars of your deoderant.

Clancy: That turned out to be a good thing, though, because they stopped making it and now I have a supply.

Will Maybe this will turn out to be a good thing, too.

Clancy: Did they stop making your soap?

Will How would I know? I haven’t purchased soap since 2012.


Category: Elsewhere

A funny thing happened yesterday: Our house ceased to exist. In fact, our entire street.

On Google Maps, I mean. Put in our address and… nothing. Clancy was trying to map out her route to work, and this complicated that greatly.

Which led me to fear that our house did not, in fact, exist. So I went outside and looked. Huh. Still there. I looked at the street sign, and it was also still there.

I got some external validation when I went on Mapquest and it found the house easily. Whew.

Except when I thought about it, Mapquest has never been particularly reliable…


Category: Home

Among our biggest complaints about the new house was the seeming complete lack of water pressure. I have no idea how the family that lived here before us put up with it. The solution to which was purchasing a water pump. We hired our somewhat unreliable plumber, which made something that should have been done in a couple days take a couple weeks. Further complicating matters, he turned off the water on Tuesday afternoon and could not get it turned back on again.

It was about then that I realized that I needed to take a serious dump.

Before we moved in, when we met the previous owners of the house, they gave us a rundown of the neighborhood and the neighbors. All they said about our (only) next door neighbors was that we would never see them. We’d see the lawn guy, but not them. As it turned out, we met the lady of the house individually and she turned out to be quite chatty. I figured it was one of those introvert/extrovert marriages, but then I met the guy and he turned out to be very affable and pleasant as well.

Anyhow, I wasn’t going to be able to wait for the plumber to figure out how to get the water back on. My only two options were to go ask the neighbors if I could use their restroom, or get in the car and drive somewhere. I decided on the former. I picked up Lain, and we made the trek over (it’s not a long distance, but there isn’t easy passage).

The neighbors were extremely sympathetic to our plight. They said that if we needed to use a shower to please come on over. He gave us some bottled water in case we needed it. We formally exchanged phone numbers. When the previous occupants described the neighbors, this really wasn’t at all what I was expecting.

Anyway, the water did get fixed. Our plumber might not be a great Quality Assurance Analyst, if he were inclined towards switching careers. I know next to nothing about plumbing, but I figured out the problem (or a solution) before he did. If the water was going out of the in-pipe and not the out-pipe, then just reverse what is coming from where. After initially objecting to it under the notion of “You can’t hook up the pump to the in pipe!” he figured out that the pipes had merely been mislabeled.

Whatever the case, we have water pressure. The first shower I had afterwards was the best shower I’d had in years! It doesn’t take me fifteen minutes to clean out Lain’s bottles. I don’t have to soak all the dishes, and better yet it doesn’t take a half-hour to fill the sink if I did want to soak the dishes.


Category: Home

soupforslutsApparently, Connecticut’s response to the public school shooting is to target homeschoolers.

Christopher Howse is proud to be a member of the UK’s Dull Men Club.

How the feds set up a fake facebook account in a woman’s name in the name of law enforcement. It reminds me a bit of my friend tracking his ex-girlfriend by setting up a MySpace account in an acquaintance’s name (and immediately getting over here, realizing how banal she was).

I barely use flavoring, but attempts to ban flavored ecigarettes make me want to bang my head against the wall. if you’re worried about ecigarettes as a “gateway” (which I’m not, but if I were…) then why in tarnation do you want to insist that ecigarettes taste as much like real cigarettes as possible?

Paul Krugman, among others, has been trying to argue that mitigating climate change is not only within reach, but surprisingly affordable. David Roberts explains that this is simply not the case, and it would actually require significant sacrifices. {link via Dan Miller}

After a nerve-cell transplant, a paralyzed man with a severed spinal cord is walking again.

The Democratic nominee for Governor of Texas might just be a Karl Rove plant.

A couple of women in Maryland almost manage to steal six houses.

Roughly 90% of babies with Down Syndrome are aborted. Perhaps because loving kids like that is a waste. Relatedly, Jonathan Coppage argues that eugenics is build into the health-obsessed West.

Infoworld looks at seven myths surrounding programming.

A panda in China figured out that it pays to fake being pregnant.

David Frum is one of the leading voices against “comprehensive immigration reform” I listen to. Here he explains why he became disillusioned with the arguments of immigration reformers.


Category: Newsroom

BusinessWeek has a good piece on the inconvenient intersection between toll roads and rental cars. Where some might see inconvenience, rental companies see profits:

Rental companies don’t absorb the cost of tolls. Instead, they typically offer customers two options: paying a flat daily fee upfront to lease a transponder, or paying administrative fees of as much as $25 for each unpaid toll to the rental company, plus anything owed to the state. Both greatly inflate the cost of tolls for car renters.

That’s prompted demands by irate renters for states to intervene. “I’m angry beyond belief and can’t even imagine coming back to your state,” Roxanna Usher of Redwood Valley, Calif., wrote in a Jan. 13 complaint to Florida’s attorney general after Dollar Rent a Car billed her $30 in administrative fees for two unpaid tolls totaling just $2.74. “It’s disgusting what you’re doing to tourists.” Usher’s is among nearly 100 complaints received by Florida’s attorney general in the past 18 months from rental car customers.

The fees have led to lawsuits against rental car chains, including a suit filed against Dollar earlier this year by a Florida couple, Stephen and Anne Sallee, who rented a car in Dallas in November 2013 and got hit with $60 in fees for $4.70 in unpaid tolls. “Dollar’s charge is actually not an administrative fee; it’s a veiled, mischaracterized, and undisclosed profit center” that helps Dollar advertise low daily rental rates for their cars, the couple claim in their suit, which was filed in U.S. District Court in Tulsa. They’re seeking class-action certification for other Dollar customers assessed with similar charges. “Dollar prides itself on complying with all laws,” Paula Rivera, a spokeswoman for Dollar’s parent company, Hertz Global Holdings (HTZ), wrote in an e-mail. “We deny allegations that the company sells customers products they don’t want, and we intend to defend the case referenced vigorously.”

And this is why we can’t have nice things. Or, rather, why we can’t leave companies to their own devices when it comes to how to make a profit. Moneytraps, which I would define as a company’s ability to make a profit based on services uneasily avoided, rather than particularly desired. In an airline context, I consider luggage fees to be legitimate, but $200 charges on not-last-minute changed flights to be a moneytrap. In the banking context, it’s overdraft fees. In the rental car context, it’s gas refilling policies and… this.

It seems ridiculous that we should have to regulate what kind of administrative fees that rental agencies can charge, but when they use moneytraps like this for profit centers, outside intervention does start to become justified.

To be fair, the market itself may sort this out. The last time I was in Colosse, we rented a car that had a transponder in it for no fee if we didn’t use it, and a flat $2 (plus expenses) if we did. They made some money off of it, but not an unreasonable amount. Unfortunately, a lot of people really are fixated on the price tag, so a company like Dollar can advertise really low rates while making their profits off moneytraps.

The government itself shoulders some of the blame, in this case, and could potentially resolve the issue without any regulation at all. But the government, too, has incentives for people to drive through EZ-Tag lanes without having a tag. I was recently flagged for having gotten in the wrong lane, racking up a $4 in tolls… and $50 in administrative charges. No rental company involved.

Exacerbating the situation is that tag-only roads are becoming increasingly common. Where there is no toll booth and so if you don’t have a tag, you’re stuck. My view is that when states start doing this, they need to be really careful about either (a) offering tags at little or no cost, or (b) having cost-appropriate administrative fees for people who don’t have them.

The end result of our $54 bill was that Clancy and I finally decided to get EZ-Tags. Which a part of us resents, because as far as we were concerned, we’re willing to stop and pay a toll. But the cost of the tags are reasonable, in our state, and we’ll save money simply by not making errors.

I was actually pretty excited about our next trip to the airport, where we are most likely to get in trouble as far as tolls are concerns. The upside to resigning ourselves to the tags is that we’d be able to sweep right through the toll booths. Then we moved, and now the quickest routes to the main airport we use no longer require tolls anyway.


Category: Road

My Samsung Galaxy Note 4 arrived today. I am officially a phablet user.

This is the first phone that my hand can’t reach the upper-right of the screen. This has proven, thus far, to be less of an inconvenience than I had feared. I have to re-evaluate where I put things on the screen, which fortunately I have the ability to do. The only place it’s turned out to be a problem is that some apps put menu options up there.

I am rootless, which means that this is a problem. However, Google plans on addressing it for the next Android release. I have a workaround in the meantime.

I’m mostly looking forward to having 3GB of RAM. I was really hoping it would be 4,

As is often the case, there have been some compatibility issues with software that I use. I can’t use Astroplayer anymore (my backup all-media player), and neither Nova Launcher nor Holo Launcher work with it yet. So now I use Apex Launcher. All of which are very similar. Which on the one hand makes one think “What use is it to have all of these identical launchers?” and the answer is “Because when one doesn’t work, another does!”

Unfortunately, it didn’t fix some of the Bluetooth problems I had with the previous device. Somewhere in between the S3 and S5 they inserted what I believe is a battery-saving feature (a laudible goal) that turns of AVRCP (the part of a bluetooth that lets you pause and restart media).


Category: Market

When is somebody going to come up with the three-camera smartphone? Most come with a camera in front, and a camera in back. But I think two cameras are needed in back. There are far, far too many vertical videos on the Internet. Here’s one of a dog so excited to see its extant owner that it passed out:

Had a dream that we hired a yard man who turned out to be Phil Collins. Ever since I have had I Can’t Dance sick in my head. The dream also involved a stash of cash and some bad guys who wanted to take it from me. I shot a couple of them dead. I do not know where Phil Collins was at this time.

And lastly, here is former Hit Coffee reader and commenter Larry, talking about a proposed gun law in Washington State:


Category: Theater

Last year, a clerk failed to properly transcribe the VIN on the Camry. So we got the title for the Forester, but never got the one for the Camry. They sent us a form to fill out where we’d have a police officer verify the number of the car, but that fell through the tracks. It was important, but never urgent.

This year, I went to the DMV to turn in the form, and it created a problem. (Which would be, it turned out, one of several problems.)

Basically, the issue was this:
1) Without the VIN, the car was not officially registered.
2) Registration was required before they could accept the VIN verification form.
3) The car could not be registered without an accepted VIN verification form.

You can prove you have (unofficial?) registration by giving them the temporary registration card, but we didn’t have that. The lady at the DMV was actually skeptical there was any way out of this that didn’t involve buying a new car.

Other problems included the fact that the registration had expired on the Forester (I thought I had until the end of the month, but it turned out that it was the beginning) and that I didn’t have proof of payment of the property tax. That last one confused me a great deal, because we didn’t have to have anything like that the previous year. Further, how did they know we didn’t rent? To add on top of all of this, we moved without informing the DMV. I didn’t want to complicate matters by bringing that up.

It turned out that the state levies property taxes on vehicles. This isn’t too far from what Arapaho did, but in Arapaho they basically altered the cost of registration to meet (to some degree) the value of the vehicle. Here, you apparently have to make a separate trip to the Second County Tax Assessor. I went to the county courthouse to the tax collector’s office, and was told that I needed to go to the Assessor’s office. I went to the Assessor’s office, only to find out I had to go to the second assessor, because the primary assessor only dealt with land property. The Second Assessor was a little cubby hole in the back of the courthouse (metal detector and all).

Believe it or not, I found all of this easier than dealing with the DMV. The Second Assessor couldn’t give me a tax document without proof of registration, but when I explained the situation she did anyway.

When we got back to the DMV, we got a different lady who was much more helpful. Actually, she wasn’t helpful at all, but since it was a complicated situation and she had just started the job two days before, she took us to someone who could help us. Within an hour, everything had been settled. She basically called the person in the state capital who had transcribed the VIN number incorrectly, and they quietly corrected it, with everything quietly falling into place.


Category: Courthouse

Adam Ozimek has an idea for Republicans:

Here’s what they should do: offer a compromise to Democrats that passes a $15 federal minimum wage in exchange for cutting corporate tax rates.

Why would this deal represent a win for Republicans rather than just a compromise? Because regardless of the support it generates among fast food protestors and advocates, a $15 minimum wage would simply be untenable. The increase in unemployment would be swift and significant, and Democrats would be unable to deny it. The $15 minimum wage would be repealed very quickly in a bipartisan consensus.

Well, that’s certainly putting his money (or policy) where his mouth is, in terms of his opposition to raising the minimum wage.

The problem I see with the bargain is this: The effects of raising the minimum wage would be pretty unequally distributed. As would nixing the corporate income tax, though the effects there are harder to lay out.

minwagerentmapHigh-wage, high-cost places would likely not feel the increased minimum wage nearly as much. Nowhere would it be less felt, for example, in Western Dakota. After that, you’d be looking at New York City, San Francisco, Seattle, DC and other Democratic strongholds where you can afford to raise the minimum wage somewhat because (a) basement wages are higher to begin with, (b) there is more money flying around, and (c) it’s more justifiable there because of the cost of living.

This is why I don’t have any objections – or predict much in the way of negative consequences – when high-cost cities choose to increase their minimum wage. To the extent that we’re going to have a minimum wage, it makes sense that the minimum wage have some sort of relationship to purchasing power.

But that’s also why I am critical of the likely consequences of a state-wide or nation-wide bump. If you raise the minimum wage in Washington, you’re raising it in Seattle and you’re putting Eastern Washington at a distinct disadvantage. There’s less money out there to pay people $10-15/hr, and cities like Pullman would be at a disadvantage compared to cities like Moscow, right across the Idaho border.

minimumwageYou can get rid of the state line problem by raising it nationally, of course, but the disparities become more stark. Having the same minimum wage in Mississippi as in San Francisco makes little sense. The positive effects are more likely to hit the latter, the negative effects more likely to hit the former.

That’s a policy problem, but it’s also a political one. If the positive effects are felt primarily by the constituents of one party, and the negative effects felt primarily by the other, it’s hard to get that bipartisan consensus to repeal it. At the least, there would likely be enough support for it to hold the minimum wage where it is while inflation catches up to it. Which leaves some states better off and some states worse off (and I think this is an optimistic assessment, when we’re talking about $15/hr), if you represent the latter, you’re not doing your job if you sign on to this bargain. Especially when (by my seat-of-the-pants assessment) the benefits of the corporate tax elimination would primarily go to wealthy and blue states (and Texas).


Category: Statehouse

The employment premium for going to a for-profit college may be so bad (PDF) so as to not demonstrate any advantage over those who did not attend at all. Elite colleges, on the other hand, worth it.

Fargo Uber Alles! The Gateway to the West has been named the best small city for businesses and careers. (For anyone wanting to attribute that to the oil boom, just so you know it’s on the other side of the state. Here are some other booming towns and cities.

There’s an old saying that when an unfaithful man marries his mistress it creates a job opening. Turns out, it’s true.

The Economist looks at the costs of foreign aid, to the recipient nation.

Joshua Neuman said no to drugs, because of this comic book. Trainspotting and Requiem of a Dream both had indentations on my views of the subject.

Daewoo Shipbuilding and Marine Engineering is constructing and employing cyborgs. Well, more Iron Man than cyborg, but cool all the same. Cooler or less cool than cyborg moths, I’m not sure.

Coming soon to an eaterie near you: Cricketburgers! Or bugburgers. Or something.

Microsoft considered – and hasn’t ruled out – renaming Internet Explorer to escape its sketchy reputation.

The next big name in Smartphones may be… Lenovo! The prospect excited me a lot more before I discovered what Lenovo did to the Thinkpad line.

China bet big on Shale Gas, and it hasn’t worked out.

Stacking cells: A possible new innovation in solar energy could make it as cheap as natural gas.

Arguably, food trucks are safer than restaurants.

Does the college define its students, or do students define the college?

Shinzo Abe is standing up to China and Korea… but not the United States.

NASA and BYU are working on origami solar panels.

Good to know: Fictional products cannot violate trademarks.

Moscow has an army of online trolls at its command. Daisy Sindelar wonders how much they matter.

It’s kind of funny when conservatives are saying “OMG what about the birds!” and liberals are saying “They’re just birds, get over it.

Drill, Baby Drill! The benefits of rote memorization in math.


Category: Newsroom

Queenland

Greetings from Stonebridge a fictitious city in a fictitious state located in a tri-state area in the interior Mid-Atlantic region. We're in western Queenland, which is really a state unto itself, and not to be confused with Queensland in Australia.

Nothing written on this site should be taken as strictly true, though if the author were making it all up rest assured the main character and his life would be a lot less unremarkable.


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