Tuesday, May 29, 2012

God Bless The Oil Companies

When I was a boy, gas stations raised prices by a nickel for Memorial Day, then lowered the price after. My dad would moan and complain, curse the local Shell station, but keep driving. This of course made money for the oil companies, but it was bad PR.

When I was old enough to drive, the ploy was the same but the ante was up to a dime. I would moan and complain, but keep driving.

About seven years ago, the oil companies came up with a scheme that made record profits and had the driving public singing their praises. Rather than raise prices 10 cents a gallon for holidays, like they had done for years, they simply raised prices 90 cents, then s-l-o-w-l-y lowered the price per gallon by 50 cents so that by the 2005 long holiday weekend, gas was cheaper than it had been in months – but still 40 cents more per gallon – and we all drove rejoicing that gas was cheap for the holiday.

It was a win-win. Right? The good times have gone on nonstop ever since.

Three months ago, local gas prices jumped 50 cents over four days. The price has s-l-o-w-l-y dropped since then to where yesterday, Memorial Day, the price was down 25 cents. Hey, cheap gas.

I shouldn’t complain, because gas where I live is 15 cents cheaper than the national average, and U.S. drivers have paid less per gallon than most of the world for a long time.

But still.

What annoys me about the constant surge and slow retreat in gas prices is that the blame is deflected to unpleasant but largely noncausal factors. Blame the hurricanes for high gas prices. Blame Iraq. Blame the government. Blame Dan Brown.

Why not blame Exxon? The world’s largest oil company, Exxon, had “the fifth highest quarterly profit for any public company in history” in mid-2006 That’s not just their history, it’s all of history. In mid-2008, they "reported the largest quarterly profit in US history" - $14.83 billion. Remember, that’s not nearly $15 billion in revenue, that’s $15 billion in profit, after paying all expences, including hurricanes.

Meanwhile, as the cost of transportation rises, the cost of EVERYTHING else goes up and up and it doesn't come down. But I'm sure the economy is good at ExxonMobile.

Perhaps this is a simplistic view, but it is a pretty simple issue. The reason the scam works is because we keep driving. And rather than complain, we praise big oil and join them in blaming weather, war and government.
Try not to think about those $15,000,000,000 profits the next time you fill your tank.

Monday, May 28, 2012

Speaking Of Worthless Pieces Of Chocolate, Why Do Companies Lie To Us?

While researching the previous post about chocolate, I came across this bit of good news about movie theater Raisinets. 

Yippee! Paying $5 for candy isn’t so discouraging because Raisinets come in a LARGER SIZE. Even bad candy is better when you get more of it. And, now there are no artificial ingredients.

This is exciting news.

Until you see the photo of the old Raisinets box.
New box: NET WT 1.1 OZ (31 g)
Old box: NET WT 1.1 OZ (31 g)

I’m no mathematician, but those are pretty much the same. Some shyster in some corporate boardroom somewhere made a conscious decision to dupe innocent movie goers – like us – thinking we just don’t know any better. And he was right.
If the box says Larger Size, then that’s good enough. If it says there aren’t artificial ingredients, then it is healthier, even though there weren’t artificial ingredients before.

If my corn flakes say, “This package is sold by weight, not volume. Some settling of contents may occur during shipping,” and it doesn’t bother me, then I will keep buying a 40-ounce box with 14 ounces of cereal.
If my shampoo has instructions that say “Lather. Rinse. Repeat” and I’m dumb enough to wash my hair the second time, whose fault is that?

We can’t really blame corporate America for taking advantage of us. Don’t we deserve what we get when all too often we just don’t pay enough attention? Or worse, when we notice we are getting swindled and we don’t say, “Um, excuse me, but you’re not doing this to me anymore.”

Saturday, May 26, 2012

A Worthless Piece Of Chocolate

Sister One and Sister Two were arguing, as they sometimes do, in that sisterly way sisters sometimes use, that dances around the edges of annoyance and irritation but seldom steps into genuine ire.
One said something pretty sticky, and during the long pause that followed, I wondered whether the other would escalate the problem. She looked her sister in the eye coolly and said,
“You are a worthless piece of chocolate,” and they both looked at each other and laughed and moved on. Whew!

Now, these two girls just survived middle school, where they heard no telling what every day, a constant stream of insults and vulgarity. It pleased me that this is the worst they can come up with.

They are new sisters still, and as their affection grows so does their desire to get along. They are rarely mean to each other these days.

Once I realized that no parental intervention would be required, and I was free to ponder life’s greater issues, I wondered: is there such a thing as worthless chocolate?
Chocolate is good and precious and wonderful. All chocolate. It’s all good. I like boutique chocolate, like Godiva, which our Mimi gives for holidays, and Candy House, but I also like Hershey's bars and even dollar store chocolate – especially for stress eating.

Just as I was ready to proclaim that there is no such thing as worthless chocolate, I remembered Raisinets.

Raisins. Barely covered in chocolate. Ugh!
I got no beef with raisins, but Raisinets are a waste of perfectly good chocolate.
As our girls and all reasonable people know….

Tuesday, May 22, 2012

High School With Grace

Another daughter finished high school last night – six down, two to go. Grace is an excellent student, engaged in the classroom, involved on campus, active at sports. Unlike her old man.

Grace took mostly honors courses and finished with a high GPA, in the top 10 percent of her class. I have no idea what classes I took and finished just outside the top 60 percent of my class with a GPA closer to the average number of children per US household in 1974.

Grace had many friends, was liked by students and teachers alike, and belonged to several clubs and organizations. My only friends were Jerry and Larry, and a wildly unpopular guy named Billy Bob who thought he was a radio announcer who interviewed everyone within reach with a cheap Bic pen. I’m unaware of any clubs or organizations at my high school, but Mr. Jackson, my cranky English teacher, let me borrow books.

Grace was the best one on color guard, always in time with crisp steps and accurate throws. She went out for track so she could run for fun and ended up as a pole vaulter who jumped a lot higher than I am tall. She took one tennis lesson and the guy insisted she try out for the school team the next day. She ended up on the varsity squad. Me, I was fifth-string running back on our football team, only because we didn’t have a sixth string. I didn’t play my Junior year. I did play tennis, and was pleased to beat out Jerry and Larry, both long-time players. I was offered a scholarship for baseball, but didn’t pursue it.

Grace earned more than $60,000 in scholarships, which will pay her way through the college of her choice, where she already knows what she wants to do. College never crossed my mind until six years after high school when I was about to have the first of eight children and realized that I had no marketable skills and no education. It took seven years to get my BS and longer still to get a real job. I’m guessing Grace will do both in much less time.

They say the apple doesn’t fall far from the tree, but Grace rolled away enough to plant deep roots in well-nurtured ground, and has blossomed in every way, ready to produce real fruit. Grace, I’m proud of you, you big creep.

Saturday, May 19, 2012

Cease The Day!

As college instructors, Kelly and I find lots of word abuse and misuse from students, but we see a lot of homophones in other places, as well. A billboard that used capital when they meant capitol, for example, or food going to waist. Those always makes us laugh.

My Swagbucks Daily Poll this morning asked: “Which best describes how you wake up in the morning?” As always, the choices were in descending order, with the second through sixth picks being:

“Where’s my coffee?”

“Hit the snooze button multiple times.”

“Oscar the Grouch.”

“Another day, another dollar.”

“I wake up closer to the evening.”

At the top of the list: “Ready to cease the day!”
While that’s not exactly what the author meant, I’m sure, it’s probably closer to the truth for most of us, most days.

Have a good weekend.

Friday, May 18, 2012

Final Signs I’m Not Much Of A Man, Part 4

You knew there must be more, didn’t you.

I don’t own a pocket knife or a gun. I don’t play pool or watch car races. I won’t play shirts and skins basketball. I don’t tell dirty jokes, and I cringe at foul language. I don't gossip.

I like quiche, spinach, and yoghurt. I don’t like steak, onion rings, or hot wings.

I button my shirts up to my neck. I like wearing a tie. I like bolo ties. I like shopping, except at the mall. I’ve never worn penny loafers with shorts and without socks. I own no shoes with tassels.

I don’t use whitening strips. I don’t go tanning. I drive under the speed limit. I don’t rev my engine at lights. I have never peeled out in my car, and I can’t ride a wheelie on a bike. My bike is a red, one-speed, retro Schwinn with big tires and a wide seat, with a milk crate bolted to the back. I haven’t chopped wood as an adult.  I mow my own yard but I’ve never changed my own oil. 

I cry watching The Parent Trap, both versions, and I feel bad for that actress, how she turned out so far, but I can’t think of her name. I would rather have carry out Chinese on the couch with my wife and a Meg Ryan movie than anything else, except maybe watching The Backyardigans with one of my granddaughters. There isn’t much better than having everyone in the house on the bed late at night, talking and laughing.
I made fun of my dad for years that he was Chevy Chase in that Vacation movie, but now I realize that it’s me wanting to show the kids the biggest ball of yarn in the world. Before they’re all gone.
Man oh man.

Read Part 1.

Read Part 2.

Read Part 3. Tell us what you think....

Thursday, May 17, 2012

Signs That I Am Not Much Of A Man, Part 3 Of 3 (Unless I Think Of More Before Tomorrow)

I own a few hand tools, and a few power tools, all neatly arranged in the basement, but my skills are extremely limited. I can add the odd shelf in a closet or unplug the garbage disposal, but that’s as handy as I get. I wear gloves working in the yard because I don’t have calluses and I don’t like the dirt under my nails.

I don’t burp the alphabet nor expel gas around other people. I don’t chew tobacco. I don’t chew gum. I don’t chew ice. I chew with my mouth closed. I generally know which fork to use. I know what a ramekin is. I like to cook and love to bake. I mostly keep our kitchen clean, and our toilets, and our floors. I like to iron my own shirts. I like doing laundry, and would do Kelly’s if she let me.

I wear sweater vests because they are warm and I am cold most of the time. I haven’t been outside without wearing a shirt since 1976. I’ve been outside barefoot fewer than 7 times since sixth grade.

I dislike shaving, but dislike facial hair more. I squeeze toothpaste from the bottom, I don’t leave clothes on the bedroom floor, and I always, always, put the toilet seat back down.

I can do 200 pushups, but it takes me 40 days. I don’t watch scary movies, unless you count Pee-wee's Big Adventure as a scary movie.  The last time I arm wrestled, a 14-year-old girl beat me. I have trifocals. I don’t wear contact lenses because I can’t touch my eyes.

Read Part 1.

Read Part 2.

Wednesday, May 16, 2012

Signs That I Am Not Much Of A Man, Part 2 Of 3

Unlike most men I see....

I rarely play sports anymore, and I don’t watch or follow games at all. I own a couple of old Cardinals t-shirts, but I rarely wear them. I don’t know anything about the NFL standings or college draft picks, or who won the Heisman. I am aware of the NCAA Basketball Tournament each March, because the ads are all over the grocery stores, but I haven’t watched a game in many years, and I couldn’t tell you who won the last one. I don’t know who won the last Super Bowl or the last World Series. As near as I can tell, the only difference between the NBA and professional wrestling is the ball. I like World Team Tennis, and Vania King is my favorite athlete.
Mighty, mighty Vania King.

I don’t whistle at women who walk by. One, I can’t whistle, and two, as a married man with seven daughters, I learned long ago that ogling women is degrading, to them and to me. I notice women, I suppose, more than I notice men, because there is nothing attractive about men. I might notice a woman’s hands, or hair, or even a nice shape, but I don’t stare after women. Generally, my reaction to most females is “put some clothes on.”

I know nothing about cars, except where to put in the gas. I wouldn’t know a carburetor from a solenoid, and I had to look up how to spell both. I know what an antitragus is but not a carburetor. I know a Mustang when I see one, and Volkswagon Beetles, but otherwise I can’t tell the make or model of a car unless I’m close enough to read the emblems on the back. I’ve driven nothing but mini vans for about three decades, which is fine by me, and I haven’t had a moving violation since 1985.

My bedroom is two shades, pink and burgundy, with white trim. There are not one but two ruffles around the pink bed (I painted it myself) and doilies everywhere, with embroidery and plates and hats from the 50s on the walls. There is lots of lace, three hat boxes, a basket of linens, several quilts, bowls of jewelry and a handful of dolls of various sizes. And I like sitting in there.

Read Part 1.

Read Part 3, tomorrow.

Tuesday, May 15, 2012

Signs That I Am Not Much Of A Man, Part 1 Of 3, At Least

I look around and notice that I am not like the men I see.

I don’t wear gold chains and watches that weigh more than a small dog. I don’t wear cologne or after-shave, and I don’t use hair product. All the gray and white above my ears doesn’t bother me. I cut my own hair but don’t comb it. I pluck my eyebrows to get rid of the big, bendy ones, and the little hairs that grow from my antitragus.

I don’t cuss, unless crap is a cuss word. I’ve never smoked and I’ve never used drugs, except for a brief flirtation with Certs with Retsin. I was young. I’ve never tasted alcohol, I don’t drink soda pop, and I don’t eat cheese from a can. I don’t know how to bar-b-que.
I don’t hunt or fish. I don’t mind that people kill animals, whether they eat them or not, but I have no desire to be in the woods with a bunch of tough guys who drink beer and carry loaded rifles. I don’t fish because I can’t imagine anything more dull. You sit there swatting flies and wait and wait and wait, and even if you do catch one – which is exciting for those few seconds – in the end, all you have is a dead fish. I can back up a trailer, but I have no interest in boats. Bass Pro Shop holds no allure for me, although I like to go at Christmas and look at all the lights.

I would rather read than sleep or eat. I can type 72 words a minute. I own a bass guitar but can’t play it. I don’t like bands like KISS or Black Sabbath or AC/DC, but I do like the Everly Brothers, The Monkees and Ricky Nelson. I love Roy Orbison but I don’t get Jimi Hendrix. When I play music in the car, people outside the car can’t hear it.

Tomorrow, Part 2.

And then, Part 3.
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