Monday, September 11, 2017

Rost in transration

I'm certain this prognostication is genuine and meant specifically for me, but sometimes those Mandarin translators get confused, mangle punctuation, and add too many words or letters. As a renowned Anglo-Sino scholar, I Enigmatically deciphered the true and correct message:

He/she probably meant "cheerful outlook, your a$$".

Friday, September 1, 2017

Thank You Desert Pete

Today I hear people telling of t-shirts saying "I survived the gas crisis of Thursday".  Nonetheless, some stations are still devoid of the flammable liquid.  A guy told me his GF's car was on fumes and the nearby Exxon was dry - could he run Tru-Fuel 4-cycle to get to another station.  I advised him it was an expensive work around, but that yeah, they could do it.

On my way home, I saw another Exxon that had regular unleaded at $2.59.  With my needle just making it to 1/4 tank, but not much travel planned over the next few days, I stopped in and added 2-3 gallons, and thought of this song:


There's a better recording of this song, but I didn't locate it on the u-tubes.

If you're not familiar with old water pumps, the parable may not make much sense. In the olden days, the sucker rod of a pump used a leather washer to create suction to draw the water up from the ground.  After a period of dis-use, the washer would dry out and wouldn't create a seal - hence no water would flow.  In the parable, a parched traveler happens upon a pump in the desert.  An old timer - Desert Pete - has left a bitters jar (think vanilla extract or other flavoring bottle) of water with which to wet the leather, under a rock.  The traveler must decide whether to drink the water - taking the small, but immediate gratification - or have faith and use the tiny bit of liquid to 'prime the pump' and loose all the water he can use.  The lesson is two-fold, having faith, and paying it forward by leaving the bitters jar for the next traveler.

As I was readying for work this morning, a normally market-wise radio commentator was fielding calls about stations charging $4-5 per gallon for gas.  He was indignant about the "gouging".  Some caller said "I can understand 10-20¢ more during the shortage, but not those prices."  I really had thought the host had more market savvy than that.  (I also heard from one of the doctor assistants yesterday that a friend of hers reported a Boyd retailer charging $4/gallon.)

To be clear, I'm not condoning collusion by retailers to drive prices higher, which is anti-competitive.  But, if, in the face of a perceived outage of a commodity, a retailer over-reaches and sets prices 'too high', he/she may retard the depletion of the scarce goods, but risk alienation of buyers, and/or - in the case of a gas station/c-store, diminish sales of 'add-on' purchases (drinks/snacks/candy).  In my experience this afternoon, the station where I stopped ($2.59/gallon) had correctly judged the market, about 6 of its 8 pumps had customers, and presumably some of those customers went inside to buy other items. Down the road, I passed a QT that I have often frequented.  I don't know if they had or hadn't raised prices, only that there were no cars there, because they had no gas.  At the other end of the spectrum, I suspect that a retailer charging $5/gallon or so, in the age of social media, would immediately become a market pariah, selling only a minimal amount, and squandering future goodwill from customers.  The market works.

In the fractional reserve system of banking, there's a similar calculus at work.  The entire banking system is premised on the notion that everybody doesn't withdraw all funds at once.  If that were to occur, they system collapses, because the assets are illiquid, at least beyond the typical reserve requirements.  Nonetheless, within the envelope of prudent management, and intelligent customers, the system works.



Away from economics now, I caught part of Micki & Maude last night on the rerun channel.  The story, of course, is of Maude (Amy Irving) - a concert cellist - who gets caught up in a web of deceit with multiple baby-daddies.  No, wait, that's a different story.  Maude is impregnated by Rob (Dudley Moore) because his wife Micki (Ann Reinking) is reluctant to have children.  As fate has it, both become pregnant, and end up in the delivery ward at the same time, assuring that hilarity ensues.  I had forgotten that Wallace Shawn and André the Giant were in this movie (though not in the same scenes), which was filmed a couple of years before they appeared in The Princess Bride as Vizzini and Fezzik, respectively.

Who needs friends like this?

I have been enjoying articles about the Light Attack Experiment aircraft that are being developed or modified for a world in which F-22s or F-35s are just too much dog for the fight.  The F-16 was initially designed for this role, and still performs it well, but there are many countries and missions where even it is more aircraft than is needed.  I can see this airplane being useful on our southern, and even northern borders - in the event that Bob & Doug McKenzie try to sneak in without bringing the requisite complement of a few cases of Molson or Moosehead...



Thursday, August 31, 2017

Does Anybody Remember Kodak Moments?


Well, good for you!



A youngster at work is studying photography.  I was surprised to hear that he is planning to create a darkroom in his house.  Apparently film endures, at least a bit.  There is also chick at work who is studying design, and pretty much typifies the millennial fascination with selfies, some of which she ropes me into. 

When I was about 11-12 years old, I had a Vivitar or Beseler enlarger, and blacked out the bathroom that joined my room with the spare bedroom to create a darkroom.  Oh, those wondrous days of Pan-X and Tri-X film!

This song dates to pretty much that same period:


Crazy on Me

This morning I had routine blood work done.  The lady doctor said my A1C dropped 0.2, and my triglicerides were 86.  She told me to keep doing what I'm doing (few people tell me that...).  This was only my second or third visit to this doctor shop since my insurance changed - one funny [to me] difference between this and the prior doc store is that this one has a simple aluminium electric urn with hot water, plain white disposable cups, and jars of freeze-dried coffee (one Folgers, one Kroger store brand). Although I always enjoyed the fancy-schmantzy pouch type (not Keurig) coffee and pseudo SB cups at the other place, it warms my heart to see a frugal medicine practice.

They also ran some test on my sympathetic and para-sympathetic autonomies. I dunno what that means, but they let me go home on my own recognizance, so I guess my autonomy is OK.

Of course, having fasted since last night, and because of the good numbers, I figured I needed to raise my cholesterol and caloric intake (I'll probably have tilapia and green beans for dinner), so I went down the street to the golden arches for a burrito breakfast.  Fun fact: Even though my little town has grown explosively over the years, I knew people at about half the tables there.

When I was at the McD, I noted two or three patrons (who were not among the people I knew) wearing neckties, and waxed a bit nostalgic for the days when I did the same. Later, at the resale shop, I scored a new Arrow tie for 37.5¢ (Thursdays are 25% off), and a cool safari shirt with epaulet loops, for like when I have to command some anti antifa forces or whatever, for $3.00. 


Also at one of the resale shops, the guy [about my age] who checks electronics in was playing some heavy metal stuff that was wafting into the store. I thought it was kinda Black Sabbath-ish, and I heard him telling a young volunteer there, that "they included one song like this on each of their albums". Intrigued, I poked my head into the testing room to wait for the punch line - the song was by The Osmonds.  I had no idea.

It wasn't this one, but he also played this, after, from his playlist:


Are they using George Clinton's tailor?

Overheard a young man today telling someone his parents were divorced. The older one replied "I'm sorry to hear that." The younger one continued, "No, it's cool.  My dad remarried and my mom is bat-s*** crazy. When I was in the service in [country sort of between Iran and Pakistan], she opened credit cards in my name."

I used to enjoy John Stossel on ABC's 20/20. He has, of course, since left, and does other commentary. They replaced him with John Quiñones doing Candid Camera-type pieces to catch people being politically incorrect, insensitive, or somesuch (initially, some of the scenarios were OK, but the bits sort of  'jumped the shark' at some point). Anyway, now comes Stossel arguing against price controls during natural disasters - just letting the greedy capitalists and corporations stick it to the poor, tired, thirsty masses with $5 water bottles and other inflated commodities.

So now I am in the position of saying...I don't disagree with Stossel. His reasoning (NPI) is spot on. Prices are the information vehicle by which we allocate scarce resources, to try to allow/ensure a steady pipeline of such resources to reach the marketplace. In today's semi-socialist culture, it's heresy, but I'd like to think that a couple of generations ago, most Americans would have easily discerned that artificially manipulating the market is not a good thing. Before they ran out earlier today, stations in my town were at $2.49 for regular unleaded. Maybe higher prices would cause some motorists to ponder how much travel was necessary, and possibly hold off purchasing more than needed, while those who had pressing needs to travel would find the pumps stocked, albeit at a premium (again NPI) price. Retailers who raise prices are not punishing drivers, only seeking a price point that will ensure that there is some fuel available - motorists ultimately make the decision as to how much their travel is worth, and purchase accordingly.

Local news stations, eager to get the 'scoop' on one another, have likely exacerbated the gasoline situation by showing long lines at the pumps, resulting in a herd mentality that has caused many to shut down for lack of fuel. My tank is closer to E than F, but I'm not anticipating much driving in the next few days. If it comes down to it, I'll ride my bike instead of driving for light grocery shopping and such, and cancel any non-essential trips.

ComKev often notes that he weeps for the species. I get that. A woman bus driver in our nation's capital had a cup of urine thrown on her because she apparently wasn't Paul Harvey enough in telling a rider to 'have a nice day'. When I first read the article, I naturally wondered,  "Who the heck carries a cup of urine around with them?" The article explains that she had collected the, uh, specimen en route and apparently didn't want to let it go to waste. It's not just the politicians who are crazy in that town.

Thursday, August 24, 2017

Gettin' Nekkid

Did I fail to hear the heart that was beating alone? On the naked ride home.


Wednesday, August 23, 2017

Absolutely West 4th Avenue

Sometimes I think about the small town where I was born.  If you drove the DeLorean to West Fourth Avenue in, say, 1959 (before I was born), with a current FWST or a tablet wtih Fox News or somesuch, they would not believe what has happened to the world.  Of course, the locals outside the pharmacy soda counter might try to arrange a clandestine contest between Patrol Officer Fife's cruiser and the DeLorean.

Fourth Avenue was the main business thoroughfare - angled parking on each side of the street, no center median - and all of the important community activities were based there: Banks, furniture store, grocery and drug stores, insurance agency, 5&10, hardware, Chevrolet dealer, movie theater, and filling stations.  And of course, the old High School and churches, including the one my parents got married in (a couple of years after they'd graduated from the HS).

I took a virtual tour of the street this morning on Google Maps.  Some of it looks outwardly the same, but most of the businesses are gone or changed.  A resale shop has retained the 5&10 sign of the store I frequented as a kid.  A couple of doors down was the insurance company where my grandmother worked part-time - I can't tell from the picture if there's a business operating there now. My grandparents weren't wealthy, but they were well-known and respected around town.  I can remember being amazed that my grandmother would send me to the grocery store to pick up some incidentals and I didn't have to pay any money (they put it on her monthly account) - it didn't work like that at the Kroger in Irving.

One thing that made me smile was that the old spiral slide in the city park seems to still be there.  As a kid I was endlessly entertained on that slide.



Shifting gears - a co-worker who's almost ten years older has shared with me that he's prepared a set for open mic night at a local nightspot.  I was quite impressed with his proposed setlist: Gentle on My Mind, Sloop John B, and Tomorrow is a Long Time.  He's even working on an acoustic Hotel California.

Speaking of Hotel California, I recently packed a sack lunch/dinner and traveled east of TX-360 to wish a Happy Birthday to one of its composers (and Dallas resident) at the AAC:

Seven Bridges Road (ft. Schmit & Walsh)
Dirty Laundry
Sunset Grill 
That Old Flame
Witchy Woman
When I Stop Dreaming
Talkin to the Moon
One of These Nights
I Can't Tell You Why (Schmit)
End of the Innocence
The Last Resort
- introductions- 
Just Ain't Enough (duet Patti Smyth)
Heart of the Matter
Everybody Wants to Rule the World (TfF song)
Leather & Lace (ft. Stevie Nicks)
Boys of Summer
Rocky Mountain Way (Walsh & Schmit)
Life in the Fast Lane (ft Walsh/Schmit)
Hotel California (ft Walsh/Schmit)
Wasted Time
Desperado
All She Wants to Do Is Dance (Stevie on tambourine)
Birthday (Beatles song, ft. Nicks, Walsh, Schmit)

The show ran nearly three hours, with no intermission of encores.  Opportunities for Donald Hugh to rest his voice came in the form of Timothy B. doing I Can't Tell You Why, and Joe Walsh's Rocky Mountain Way (probably the best version I've ever heard), along with the Smyth and Nicks duets.