wwcitizen: (Lincoln Tunnel)
This morning at QuikCheck, the cashiers were trying to lure customers into visiting any QuikCheck at lunchtime for a free submarine sandwich. In order to get the free sub, you had to succumb to a hand stamp.

I had stopped there for veggie snacks on my way to work. It's a "quik stop" off the highway. I overheard the cashier explaining the "Sub Club stamping program" to a female customer ahead of me: Once the cashier stamps a customer's hand, the customer can go to ANY QuikCheck today to receive a free sub sandwich for lunch. The female customer didn't seem to be heading to work (wearing jeans and a polo shirt) and even seemed to consider getting stamped for a free sub later. But she declined.

However, that QuikCheck gets a LOT of business folks throughout the morning on their way to their office. How could QuikCheck possibly expect that these business folks (like me) would want a "Sub Club Stamp" on their hand when they're heading to work (I don't know if that was the title of the program, but it sounds funny...).

My excuse? As I glanced dramatically at my hand and tie, I replied in a short burst of overacting, "Oh, I coudn't possibly have a stamp on my hand like that at the office. **sigh** Thanks, but no thanks."  <-- Not that I would return to any QuikCheck for a free sub for lunch today.  I wouldn't have returned to any QuikCheck even if they had offered some other form of "program conformity", like a paper coupon because I eat my lunch at work.  But, I if I had given the real excuse, I couldn't have been so audibly and visually dramatic this morning. It was invigorating to give the pretense of being high maintenance.  B-)

Somehow the previous customer's lack of enthusiasm left a morning drama void that I had to fill.

The whole thing was strange this morning. Even the cashier was visibly bothered and annoyed at having to ask me to stamp my hand - she even knew I was going to say, "Oh, huh-uh."

I'd never heard of any store offering a hand stamp in the morning for something free at lunch. Stupid campaign.
wwcitizen: (Car in the Country)
This is now my fourth week starting off at the North America Corporate Headquarters for Jaguar Land Rover. It's interesting work being a Senior Project Manager and Business Analyst for them. There's lots of work to be done, that's for certain.
It's also interesting working for a company where most of its employees can't seem to afford one of their products. But, there are plenty of opportunities to drive the cars, whether as part of the corporate fleet for work-related travel or as a demo run for a new car that's coming out.

I just missed the opportunity to drive an F Series, which they allowed employees to test drive the week before I joined up. Here's a video of the car traveling around France. VERY HOT!!
wwcitizen: (Uuuuuuh)
About a year ago, Matthew bought us an 8-cup ZeroWater filtering system. We had tried multiple filters over the years, but never really stuck to them. The absolute worst experience we had with the filtering systems was the PUR faucet filter. We threw it out within 6 months, I think.  We had been drinking the water straight out of our faucet for years and even did from time to time after trying out different filters. I had a Brita filtering system for years, but it was just a PITA, so we got away from it.

Test Scenario
This last month, I set up a test scenario because I wanted to know how much water we drank daily using the filter. I was also wondering why we were all of a sudden going through filters hand over fist - like two filters a month! The "test" was that each time we filled up the basin to filter water into the 8-cup pitcher, we ticked off a mark on a little pad.  We discovered that we drink at least 40 cups of water a day! This is, of course, including coffee, water itself, tea, and drink mixes (e.g. 4C drink mixes with Splenda). We also use the filtered water for steaming veggies and fish as well as for boiling things - even eggs! Who needs extra metals sneaking into our food?

Filtration & Measurements
The filtration system removes all sorts of metals and are certified specifically to remove lead and chromium, but also can remove chloramine, flouride, uranium, and other inorganic compounds.  The pitcher and filters we ordered and received came with a
TDS meter that determines how many "Total Dissolved Solids" are in the water before and after filtration. Prior to the hurricane last fall, our tap water was measuring in at around 230 parts per million. Our tap water now measures 350 parts per million TDS, which is substantially worse for some unknown reason. It is possible that the NJ water contains more chloramine than our neighboring states, which will substantially reduce the efficacy of our filters more quickly.

As a point of reference, Manhattan's awesome tap water is approximately 5-10 parts per million! So, as long as the tap isn't coming through lead pipes, the Manhattan water is really good. Our water? Not so much. The reported average TDS in our area of NJ is 100 (which I think is very wrong). Matt's sister's water about 20 minutes north of us reads at around 249 ppm. Once filtered through a brand-new filter, though, the water TDS measures in at 0-1 ppm.

When the ZeroWater filters are full of filtered metals, water still comes through them. After about a week or so of regular filtration, we start testing the water. We throw the filters out once the TDS reading is around 20 ppm because the water starts smelling and tasting funky. If the water filter actually breaks (internally), the filters dump all the metals they filtered out into the pitcher that we're going to drink!!  Seems like bad design or a design flaw, but we're now aware of it. Our tap water smells like chlorine and bleach to begin with and when the filters break, we usually know it before we taste it. Yes. We've tasted the water after a filter has broken. IT.CANNOT.BE.SWALLOWED. It's so disgusting.

Cost Analysis
The ZeroWater filters are not cheap. In the store (e.g. Bed, Bath & Beyond or online), they can be about $15 apiece! We get them via Amazon's subscription service, which replenishes our stores every three months at about $8.50 per filter.  But, frankly, part of our test was determining whether filtering our water using ZeroWater was less expensive than just buying bottled water. A couple of weeks ago, we had to buy bottled water (in gallons) because we ran out of filters before the subscription kicked us out a new supply.

We even tested the water straight out of the gallon jugs for the fun of it. Spring water from Maine measured in at about 25 ppm and spring water from Pennsylvania measured in at 50-65 ppm. And the amount of TDS differed from jug to jug on all accounts.  Poland Spring (from ME) tasted the best.

Bottled water here (natural spring water is what we chose) costs anywhere from $1.50-$1.75 per gallon.  For the equivalent consumption of 40+ cups a day, we're paying slightly more than half the cost of an equivalent supply of bottled water. We're actually saving money using the ZeroWater filters!!

Environmental Savings
We're also saving the environment from all those bottles.The problem I have always had with bottled water was the bottles or gallon jugs. They get thrown away. Even if there's a promise of recycling them,  the plastic is still around. The ZeroWater company provides a recycling program themselves. All you have to do is ship back the filters to the company's Texas facility. Then they send you coupons for your next purchase, which can be used at Bed, Bath and Beyond or on the ZeroWater online store.

Better Health
Matthew and I have determined that by drinking more filtered water, we are thinking more clearly and sleeping more soundly than ever before. Our skin is also reaping the benefits of drinking better water.  We have paired up drinking more ZeroWater at close to 0 ppm with drinking less Splenda-sweetened drinks and removing all Aspartame (you make your judgement) from our diet; i.e. no drinks or food sweetened with NutraSweet or sweeteners containing Aspartame. We find ourselves drinking water straight more often than not now and can tell that our health is improving, which is an added bonus!

The end of the story is, use filters for your water, especially if you drink bottled water. It will save the environment from plastics.  If you have to choose a filter, Matthew and I recommend ZeroWater due to the better taste of the resulting, cleaner water, and its probable good health effects.

Fullscreen capture 4222013 104031 AM2
wwcitizen: (Uuuuuuh)
A couple of weeks ago, a headhunter called me into the city for an interview.  The interview is another story because, well, it was truly a story unto itself; a lot can happen in an hour.

The most expedient way into and out of the city without too much stress at all is via ferry. The ferry is about a 15-minute drive from our house and it's a pleasant way to get into the city and back. Plus, it takes about 30-45 minutes total from our garage to midtown, as long as the time line is honored to a "T". I hadn't really paid that close attention to the cost of getting into the city until about, well, this trip for the interview.

When I got to the ferry terminal and parked the car, the automated gate wasn't working. They had a guy out there hand-writing parking stubs (these always get paid for and validated when the ferry tickets are purchased).  I thought, "Oh, yeah, they're building the new parking garage and are probably bringing the whole system up online together." I parked the car about a mile from the terminal and had a leisurely walk to the terminal.

I walked happily into the terminal and up to the window for tickets to midtown and parking validation. The parking validation now was a separate line and the two were no longer combined onto the same charge. INCONVENIENT!  I scoffed.

I said, "One round trip, midtown, please."

The attendant said, "Eighteen dollars."

In my head, I screamed, "Eighteen dollars??!!"  I scoffed and gave the attendant my credit card.

Then I stepped over about 3 feet to the other line for parking validation.  The attendant took my hand-written parking stub and said, "That's twelve dollars."

I spoke at the attendant loudly and said, "TWELVE dollars??!!"  She nodded.  I scoffed and gave the attendant my credit card; it had been $9 about 6 months ago.

I walked away thinking, "OK. Inconvenience. Higher cost. More time consumption. Not a good means of travel into the city on a whim."

New time assessment for the ferry into Manhattan:
  • 15 mins = driving to the ferry terminal.
  • 5 mins = parking
  • 15 mins = paying for ferry tickets & parking - separately
  • 10 mins = trip across the river once you get on the boat takes
  • TOTAL = 45 minutes (not during rush hour)
New cost assessment for the ferry into Manhattan:
  • $18 round trip to midtown
  • $12 parking
  • TOTAL = $30 for one person - add $18 per person added to your trip... consider a family of 2 parents and two teenagers - that's $84!!
For Matthew and me to take the ferry into Manhattan now, it would cost us $48 on parking and ferry. If we buy one Diet Pepsi for us at the ferry terminal, that's $2; i.e. we would spend FIFTY DOLLARS before we get to Manhattan. AND, the ferries stop running at 1AM, which would mean we would not be able to get a relaxing nightcap, if we wanted.  So, we will most likely not be taking the ferry across to Manhattan ever again, unless time-wise, there is no other efficient way there; then and only then we'll just have to suck it up.

Our most frequent means of getting into the city is by tunnel or bridge. We have E-ZPass (stuck on our windshields), which makes it easy (yes, it's E-Z); plus, where we live, we get into the Lincoln Tunnel or onto the George Washington Bridge right at the front. We don't have to battle the other NJ traffic. Still that costs $13 now. in 2007, it still cost about $5-6. With E-ZPass, there's a discount because of the convenience and expediency of it, so it costs us $9.50 to cross - $0.50 cheaper than a one-way ferry ticket!!  When we park on the street in Manhattan, there's sometimes a $1-5 dollar charge depending on how long we'll be there; otherwise, we can find free parking or park in a garage for upwards of $25. STILL cheaper for two people to drive into the city with E-ZPass and park in a garage than take the ferry across!!
George Washington Bridge Crossing
I checked into the MTA for subway rates within the city and they're now $2.25 per trip (in 2007 one-way was about $1.25).  If we cross the street from our place to a NJ Transit bus and take the bus to Port Authority on 42nd and 8th, one-way per person costs $4.25 (2007 = $3.25), but can take about an hour and fifteen minutes. So, taking public transport round trip into the city for the almost 90-minute trek costs $8.50 - $15 (if we take the subway or PATH anywhere). There's also a convenient light rail that goes by the ferry station and crosses our road about 2-3 miles from here. We could take combos of bus, train, and PATH into the city for a little more money and possibly a little less time, but it would be totally less hassle to stay on the bus.

The cost of living in this area is certainly going up - not only in food at grocery stores, but also in public transportation. And where is the extra money going for the bridges, the ferries, and the ferry parking, I wonder?!  There don't seem to be any visible improvements anywhere, but I know that the Holland Tunnel is being renovated, but I'm not sure if rates have gone up solely because of that. Whatever the case, I do remember Bloomberg mentioning that he was hoping to lessen traffic into Manhattan by raising the Hudson River crossing fares, which can't happen. It only angers people because it's still not fully cost-prohibitive.  It's also sad for people who don't make that much and how much these added costs cut into what they're bringing home; their salaries certainly aren't getting better!

Some things HAVE to change.
wwcitizen: (Car in the Country)
The other day, the NJ Motor Vehicle Commission sent me a registration form - standard every year - for me to register my car.  There's an envelope and a form to review containing all my current data, which is standard.  The form has a front and a back and you need to confirm data as well as fill in certain things, such as your social security number - something I don't like to write out and put in the mail.

So, I went online to re-register my car.  The form doesn't tell you that there's a $2.00 "convenience charge", but the website does when it tallies your payment. There's no tax for the registration, but there is this silly "convenience charge."  Now, if I were to fill out a check, pop this form filled out in the mail with a stamp, all-in-all it would probably cost me $1.00 total.

But, in principle, I have a problem being charged a $2.00 "convenience charge," when ultimately, it's more convenient for the MVC to have the online registration process. It's more convenient not to build up paper waste for the state. It's more convenient for there to be no human error at the state level for registration completion and fulfillment. Right?  Why should online users be charged a $2.00 "convenience charge"?  Because it probably pays for the website hosting, data fees, credit card transaction fees, etc.  I understand all that.

The "convenience" of online users is actually SAVING the state money, person hours, effort, and the possibility of human error.  People who choose to mail in their registration payments should be charged the $2.00 for adding extra work rather than online users - as an "inconvenience charge".

New Jersey is one of two states (Oregon is the other) that requires gas attendants to fill your car with gas. People who pull up to the pump are not supposed to get out of their cars and pump their own gas. It's nice not to have to get out of my car on a rainy, snowy, cold, or really hot day to pump gas into my car. I can stay in my comfortable car while someone else does it.  The thing is, having that "service" is actually saving the state and gas stations money!!  NJ gas prices are much lower compared to most other states. Primarily because of subsidies and low fuel taxes, sure, but then also because of the lack of the need for as much liability insurance at the gas pump.  There is also the increased maintenance of pumps from being regularly monitored.  Self-service contributes to unemployment – especially among young people - so, the NJ set up is keeping/creating jobs that would otherwise be given to machines.

Throughout the US, other states have pretty high costs of liability insurance to allow people to pump their own gas. That insurance cost is conveyed not onto the majority of gas pumpers, but to those folks who pull up to a full service pump. It's more convenient and safer for people to stay in their cars and have someone else pump their gas, but, frankly, it would save the gas stations and the state money and liability by not charging the "convenient pumpers" for the extra cost of running a gas pump.

Same issue: Convenience charges laid out on the people who, ultimately, would help save money overall.  The perspective is wrong and the people who'd be saving money, time, effort, and other costs are being charged, when all the folks who .
wwcitizen: (US - Gay Politics)
For those unaware of the ultra right-wing, Tea Party-backing, Bush-loving group of women One Million Moms, the funny part is that their Facebook fan page has only around 40,000 likes as of this posting. The first time I'd ever heard of One Million Moms was on Facebook. They posted this picture, which is not clear and I can't find it anywhere else on the web or on Macy's website for their fliers:

I've been holding back on an LJ posting on this particular issue simply because I don't want to give voice to One Million Moms, who I feel are helping in holding this country back from its true potential as a nation.

Their post stated "Sorry, not the best photo (but the best we have), and better than nothing...Macy's new Bridal Registry Ad." Granted, a weak start to more than 230 anti-gay and bloated religious comments, along with about 50 shares.

I thought, "I'll give this a go," and "liked" the page in order to comment on the post. By the time I commented, there were around 100 different comments already and this was my comment:

"You sound like terrible, hate-filled, and hateful mothers!! Granted, only 38k, not a million... I shudder to think of the gay children that God placed in YOUR care and households because there will be limited love in them - limited by hypocrisy, bigotry, spiritual myopia, and archaic theology. Open your minds and spirits to God's truths and relinquish your years of brainwashing.

You're the kinds of mothers under whose care 1000s of children commit suicide because they're gay. There is every possibility that your child has read this post, is gay, and could very likely consider suicide after reading about how his mother feels about her child. Consider the consequences of your words and hate.

For the record, God did create Adam and Eve. And Adam & Steve, Bonnie & Julie, Jane & Susie, Naomi & Ruth, and Nancy & Melonie. And you say you're Christians... children of God? Much like Anne Rice, confronted with people like you, I'm saddened that God accepts even YOU into our family. With you in the fold, I'd rather call myself simply a follower of Christ before saying I'm "Christian". You spew hatred and wickedness with such ease."

Of course within a couple of days, the owners of the page blocked me from the group so that I couldn't comment any longer and removed my comment. BUT, at least my comment was sent to at least 100 people who commented before me and possibly 100s more saw my comment before it was removed. One can only hope.

When Matt and I are finally able to get married legally in NJ, we're going to register at Macy's, of course.
wwcitizen: (Cross USB)
Who likes junk mail? What do YOU do with junk mail? A little while back, I posted about Andy Rooney's solution to junk mail - use the postage paid envelope to stuff with the information a junk sender sends you and send it back to them without providing them any information about you. In doing that, you support the US Postal Service and make the junk sender's money support the US Postal Service. It's a win-win for you, as well, because the junk mail is off your desk and won't fill up your local landfill. YAY!

Last week, we received some particular junk mail that REALLY twists my nickers! Here are some photos:

I can't stand this type of advertising. So many churches do it. What really bothers me is not that I'm receiving this crap, but other people who attend their church services like lemmings, who cannot discern that this kind of ministry is full of crap! They're sending around this "prayer rug" that's about 1.5' x 3'. After you've prayed for yourself to get financial gain - FOR YOUR HOUSE FIRST (the ad says) - you're supposed to give the "prayer rug" to someone else to pray, as well.

All of the verbiage instills subtle fears and threats that if the (unknowing and unwise) person doesn't use the "prayer rug" for its intended purpose and donate to the church and give the "prayer rug" to someone else in a reasonable amount of time, their prayers will not be answered.

It disturbs me when people prey upon the prayers of those who follow in blind faith. I'm glad we got this mail, so that we could shred it with glee.
wwcitizen: (At Puter)
Got this note from the bookstore in Greenville in response to my email to them about the shipping costs vs. the shipping time. I hedged my bets in contacting the guy and expected nothing more from him. But, this came along!


I am sorry you were unsatisfied with your experience with us. I have issued a refund of $3.99 for the shipping price on one book.

I ship all my orders via USPS Media Mail. All my book listings show this in checkout: my standard shipping period is from 4 to 14 days. For standard shipping Amazon.com automatically charges a flat rate of $3.99 per book.

Again, my apologies and I hope you have a happy holiday.

DE Books

YIPPEE!! It does pay to speak out! If not for your own personal vindication, but in the hopes that others do the right thing. Now this guy gets positive feedback.

The guy didn't go to school with me, though. I removed his name "to protect the innocent."

Happy holidays, indeed!
wwcitizen: (Santa Steve)
Most of my Christmas gifts get ordered online anymore. Ordering online, as you know, lessens holiday stress, saves gasoline & mileage, and just makes the whole experience fun in my book.

Speaking of books, one of the presents I got is a book (not revealing which book or for whom because sometimes my family reads my public posts - knowing one of my sisters, though, she'll go filing through their books to see which one it might be. Good luck, Deborah!!). Because the book is now out of print, I looked on eBay and Amazon through their extra sellers.

Well!! This particular extra seller ((DE Books on Amazon)) is located in my hometown of Greenville, NC. I thought, "Wouldn't it be funny to find out that the seller is a high school friend of mine?"

I placed an order with DE Books on Amazon on Dec. 9 for standard shipping, which would mean that the item would arrive at a cost of $7.98. The shipping rates are typically inflated to cover the cost of shipping materials and the time it takes to package up the items. I understand this process because Matt and I do it for eBay items regularly. This time around, though, in comparing $7.98 to online USPS postage pricing, I thought, "The book should arrive by Dec. 16 at the latest!" It arrived yesterday, Dec. 18, which is a day after I'd already packaged up items to send out to NC in time for Christmas; and I didn't spend a lot of money, but everything in the package is wrapped!

I was so livid that the book arrived late and wasn't included in the shipment to NC. Granted, I will be carrying it with me, but as an online seller myself, I take umbrage with the fact that these guys charged me more than twice the media rate and the item arrived late!! If they'd spent a little more (of my money), but still making $1-2, the book would have arrived by Dec. 15!!

Amazon allows you to contact the seller, (DE Books on Amazon), which I've done:

"Hi, On this order, I requested standard shipping, which is (oddly) $7.98, and the item arrived on 12/18. Standard shipping* (3-5 business days) should have helped the package arrive by 12/16 at the latest. On the package, you selected USPS Media Mail for books. While I realize this is a good way to ship books because it's less expensive, Media Mail takes longer to arrive. If you want to make money on the shipping fee during the holidays, resulting in later arrivals of shipments, that is really bad business (and can be reflected in feedback).

However, if you had chosen USPS Priority Mail as the option, the items would have been here in 2 business days (i.e. 12/14 at the latest) instead of 7 at a cost of $5.95. I am writing to request a refund of $4, which I think is fair (and you still make money on your shipping): As a result of your choosing the later shipping, I will not be able to send the package wrapped to its destination by Christmas, which is VERY disappointing.

* Please refer to the posted Amazon Shipping Rates & Policies at the bottom of every page."

I think this is a fair request. I don't really care about $4. It's the principle of the thing. Online sellers try to make extra money on shipping, I get it. Like I said, I've done it, but within reason. If the actual price of shipping items comes to less than half of what the person has already paid, without question, we will refund a split. It might turn out to be $2-3, but it's the giving thing to do. Around the holidays, I like to think (against my better judgment) that people will have a little bigger heart; when they don't, I call them on it.

I doubt this will come to anything and the guy will hang onto that $4 for all it's worth - in this economy. I completely expect that. While writing this whole thing out, I felt it was kind of petty. But, dammit, it's not. My feedback will not be positive, but at least in this little exchange, my voice will have been heard, and ultimately THAT is what's important and what makes me American.
wwcitizen: (Just before eating...)
Matt and I have found a hair stylist, Celia of Hair Dynamics, close to home and have been going to her for almost 3 years. Celia's nice, remembers all our stories, knows our heads of hair, and expects us every 4~6 weeks. Once in those almost 3 years, Matt and I had to get haircuts in DC because we were in dire straits - that was in 2009. When we told Celia about the trip and the haircuts, she scoffed (as only Italians can do) and said, "Yeah, I could tell they really messed it up, but if you needed it..."

The DC hair stylist:

We swore we wouldn't go anywhere else again, unless we were out of the country or state and really needed a hair cut; i.e. we wouldn't seek out someone new in our area. However, a few weeks ago while waiting for our tanning booth, we noticed a very handsome Italian man across the street who seemed to be working in a hair salon. The tanning salon manager told us that the hair salon had moved from around the corner to our street, which gets a LOT of traffic. Our interest was piqued and we went over there to get information. The place was named, "Chez Paul" and had 80s gauche decor.

When I met Paul, he seemed nice, very personable, and hungry for business, which, I thought, was a good thing! Matt and I agreed on our "dire straits" we'd detail to Celia the next time we saw her. So, Wed., we made an appointment for Thu. @ 12:30PM. Here's my hair before the cut:

Before the Chez Paul haircut:

We entered the salon at the set time: 12:30 PM and immediately, Tabatha's checklist started running. You know, Tabatha of Tabatha's Salon Takeover. Great show and we love her. She's also helped bring out our inner salon divas; i.e. she's open our critical eyes to the whole (possible) salon experience. Here's our "needs improvement" Tabatha checklist of Chez Paul:

1) No one looked at or greeted us for 5 minutes, but they saw us.
2) NOTICEABLE: A CACKLING group of 3 women - #1 getting a hair cut, #2 sitting on a styling stool, #3 the hair stylist.
3) They were all yelling at each other and laughing loudly - for 30+ minutes.
4) Paul, in starting to cut my hair, exchanged my small-necked drape from the cackling girl (whose hair was in progress) with the one he'd tried on me. Ew - a piece of that girl's hair fell off the drape between my legs.
5) He didn't pay good attention to my existing hair style. He just started cutting after I told him where it parts and what was going on next week: the interview and Puerto Vallarta.
6) He and I had to yell at each other over the women cackling behind him (as the owner, he should notice that kind of interference).
7) He used the buzzer too much on my head instead of scissors for layering. Big no-no.
8) His shirt was filthy. I understand you might get soap or coloring agents on your clothes. Looking presentable goes a long way in the salon industry. If you don't attend to your own appearance, how are you going to attend to mine?
9) The salon's decor was 80s glam: silver, neon, and purple everywhere.
10) There were 3 uncomfortable chairs in the waiting area and 6 piles of mags PILED 5 deep on a table.
11) Not much product and some of the stuff they had there was very vintage - especially the hair brushes.

Matt's experience was OK and better than mine because by that point the women had finished up. But his hair was worse than mine and uneven on top. We compared our notes on our way out of the salon to tan across the street and throughout the rest of the day. Needless to say, we won't be going back to Chez Paul again. My hair looked OK yesterday afterward; it's not a bad haircut. It just didn't feel that it looked as fabulous as after Celia cuts it. The sides are too short now in my book and will poof out when the top starts to grow back in. The good thing about a bad haircut is that hair always grows back. Here's my current haircut.
After Chez Paul's clippers:

I just notice how the back and side are a little choppy!! Celia's haircut never did that. Meh.
Celia cutting my hair (handsome Jay in back):
wwcitizen: (Laughing Bear)
An Italian walked into a bank in New York City and asked for the loan officer. He told the loan officer that he was going to Italy on business for two weeks. He wanted to borrow $5,000 and let them know that he was not a depositor of the bank.

The bank officer told him that the bank would need some form of security for the loan, so the Italian handed over the keys to a new Ferrari. The car was parked on the street in front of the bank. The Italian produced the title and everything checked out. The loan officer agreed to hold the car as collateral for the loan and apologized for having to charge 12% interest.

Later, the bank's president and its officers all enjoyed a good laugh at the Italian for using a $250,000 Ferrari as collateral for a $5,000 loan. An employee of the bank then drove the Ferrari into the bank's underground garage and parked it.

Two weeks later, the Italian returned, repaid the $5,000 and the interest of $23.07.

The loan officer said, 'Sir, we are very happy to have had your business,and this transaction has worked out very nicely, but we are a little puzzled. While you were away, we checked you out and found that you are a multimillionaire. What puzzles us is, why would you bother to borrow $5,000?'

The Italian replied: 'Minga! Where else in New York City can I park my car for two weeks for only $23.07 and expect it to be there when I return?'
wwcitizen: (Airplane Travel)
American Airlines just announced new fees - for front row seats in COACH! There are government subsidies that should be helping out the consumer, but all the subsidies do is help airlines fly empty planes!

Coach was always that place on the plane where the working class folks or normal travelers sat, fell asleep, enjoyed their Diet Coke and peanuts, then got off the plane to their destination. The "good travelers" had very few carry-on luggage and were polite. Sometimes they had reading material and some enjoyed chatting for a bit with their neighbor.

The Business Class was reserved for people whose companies were paying for the flight. Or First Class for those who could afford better seats, but not their own chartered airplanes.

Those days are really gone. The separation between coach class and business fares is getting narrower and narrower. Soon, just to be "done with all the mediocre extra fees for this or that", it'll just be easier to purchase a business class seat and not have the headaches.

Bigger airlines these days figure with all the business travelers, they can charge out the ass. But in reality, it's going to start killing domestic tourist travel. Better yet, the smaller airlines will get ahead. But then, they'll take over the routes of larger, more established airlines, which will fall apart, and the cycle will start again.

There are fees now for: 1) check-in luggage (higher cost if handled at the counter), 2) emergency row seating, 3) carry-on luggage (not all airlines), 4) snacks or food, 5) trip insurance (a policy to protect a trip were it canceled, bags were stolen or a traveler needed emergency assistance), 6) EARLY BOARDING (nope, not the frequent flier membership), and many many more things.

Matt and I have planned (and spent money for) our trip this next week to the NC Outer-banks, so that we only have to take carry-on luggage. Who wants to pay an extra $50 each round-trip for luggage? If we want more leg room, though, that will be roughly $180 extra round-trip for EMERGENCY SEATING. Yes, that would be $230 APIECE on extra fees for a more comfortable flight without the hassle of luggage. The round-trip ticket price for me is $250 and for Matt is $217, which is GREAT. But with the extra fees for this and that, the flight alone to NC would become almost $450!!

For our LA flight a couple of weeks ago, which started out at a "bargain" of $530 round-trip apiece, in actuality we paid $760 apiece - WITHOUT FOOD on the return flight! To LA. No, not to Paris, Aruba, or Cancun (no, those flights were actually cheaper than $760 apiece without extra fees for nonsensical crap).

How do you combat companies that piss you off or take advantage of people? Boycott them (starting to hate that term and process) or sue them? What if you need to get to Raleigh, NC, and the fastest way to get there is via the company you hate or want to boycott? If hundreds or thousands boycott that same company and they go under or nix THAT route, then what? It usually takes years of negotiations and agreements with airports, state governments, and the FAA for a new airline to get a new route or hub in a given city. I guess we're all SOL in a shitty creek without a blooming paddle!! I guess we'll have to straddle our coach seats, buckle in, and bend over. Makes for having an otherwise nice, relaxing vacation very frustrating from the get-go!

Here is a video of a "House hearing [that] addresses growing concern for the numerous fees air travelers are forced to pay." - from CNN

wwcitizen: (AnxiousFace)
We've been boycotting Sonoma County, CA, for months by not buying wines from there (not easy to do!) because of the mistreatment of an elderly gay couple. The court case was finally settled on July 25th with pretty good results, but the entire outcome for the couple (who'd been together for 20+ years) was so sad. Not sure if our and others' boycott of Sonoma County products was helpful in the process, but we like to think it was. We are lifting our boycott of Sonoma County wines due to the fruitful outcome of the settlement. BTW, "the settlement also prohibits the public guardian's office from moving people against their will."

However, now Target is supporting opponents of the LGBT Community and specifically opponents of gay marriage, which, as everyone that knows me knows we support same-sex marriage (the terminology is unimportant, but the equal civil rights and federal & state benefits are important). We'll be boycotting Target now.

The substance of the issues that sprung up in Sonoma represent the need for same-sex marriages or civil unions (whatever they end up being called) across the country. A business that supports candidates that oppose same-sex marriage should not be financially supported by the LGBT community.

Out of the 308 million Americans estimated by the 2010 census bureau, there are roughly 5 million Americans (using 1.5% as based on earlier estimations) who acknowledge themselves as LGBT. If every one of the 5 million people spends $100 a month at Target, then we are supplying Target with $500 million per month to spend as they like. If, however, we decide to boycott any specific company, like Target, and remove that $500 million we spend with them in a month, we send them a distinct message that we don't like how they're using our money!

Just so companies realize, the US Gay Buying Power is estimated at between $732 and $734 billion for 2010. Wake up people! Money talks!
wwcitizen: (Car in the Country)
These are GREAT! I found these from a friend in Australia with whom I worked in Germany. I owned a Trabant for about 6 months in Leipzig before I moved to Austria. That was the first car I worked on and fixed!! I replaced the starter.

I love how the "scientists" run to the car:

Good music to this one (and no German):

Trabi (Trabant) Safari through Berlin!!!

This is a Wartburg - cool car and heavier than the Trabant:

wwcitizen: (Face-Serious)
I'm participating in a movement. Please give me a hand by taking action and passing this information to others - via email, FB, or LJ post.

Discovery Channel is giving a nature show to Sarah Palin, and paying her more than $1 million per episode (!!). Yes, bendy-straws Sarah "Drill, Baby, Drill" Palin. They're actually going to air it on The Learning Channel, of all places.

And if you visit Disneyland, Disney World, Animal Kingdom, Hollywood Studios, or buy a Mickey Mouse watch, a Mickey t-shirt, or a ticket to a Disney movie (including Pixar, unfortunately), you may be paying for it, unless you take action now.

Disney is a long-time advertiser on The Learning Channel, and unless the company specifically demands that its ads not be shown during this Palin show, that ad revenue may be funding the Palin monstrosity.

We can stop this. Disney is very sensitive to customer feedback, and has done the right thing in the past when challenged. Write Disney today to demand they not support this show.

wwcitizen: (At Puter)
Matthew and I have been on a search to find out some of the political and religious slants of Overstock.com. They are an online powerhouse. Though we have purchased things from them in the past, we haven't bought anything from them after realizing that they're based in Utah, home of the Mormon church (The Church of "Jesus Christ" of Latter Day Saints).

We've done searches on the SF Gate database for companies and employees of companies contributed money to the campaigns supporting and opposing California's Proposition 8. Here are the names of the three people on record as working for Overstock.com who helped fund Prop 8. Notice that they weren't afraid of entering their employer on the information; i.e. they didn't stand on their own, but mentioned their employer.

Prop 8, for those who aren't familiar, is the proposition in California a couple of years ago that banned same-sex marriages, although for a short period of time, same-sex marriages in CA were legal. Basically, Prop 8 allowed people to vote to discriminate and deny people their civil rights, which they already had.

Here's an email that Matthew sent them last night and their response:

Matthew: "Is Overstock.com a predominately, Mormon Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints owned and operated company? I know that it is a public corporation - but what about the leadership and the board?"

Overstock: "Hello Matthew, Thank you for contacting Overstock.com regarding weather we are a predominately, Morman (spelled wrong!! and they're in Utah!) Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints owned and operated company. I appreciate the opportunity to assist you today. Let me reassure you that we are a diverse company, we are not predominately Morman. Overstock.com does not sponsor, support, or endorse the views and opinions of any political party, organization, personality, or issue. We simply provide a great selection of quality merchandise at deep discounts. It is our desire to allow vendors the opportunity to display items on our site that provide discounted products for the benefit of all our customers. Please let me know if I can be of further assistance on this or any other issue. I hope you will visit us soon for great savings on name-brand products. Sincerely, Lance H.
Customer Care

Questions to everyone reading this:

1) Is Overstock.com a Mormon company?

2) Would you buy things from Overstock.com, knowing that at least 3 employees proudly sent in almost $600 toward a hate-driven proposition denying people their civil right and reversing a law?

3) How many companies have you ever boycotted for less? (We boycotted Whole Foods for about 6-9 months because of the CFO's statements against health care reform, and Sonoma County - wine - because of the County's harsh and illegal treatment of the elderly gay couple in nursing homes)

4) What impact does boycotting have ultimately in your opinion?
wwcitizen: (NJ Quarter)
Yesterday, we got an interesting advertisement from our bank. Matthew and I both have our investments spread around, hopefully, changing the "money game" in our favor long term. But, we share at least one financial adviser between us. Somewhere along the time line of our working with him, Matthew mentioned to him that we were a gay couple. He had to have realized it anyway, since either of us answers the phone and passes the phone to the other when our adviser wants to speak to the other. THIS is what happens and THESE are the advertisements you get when you tell your banker or financial adviser that you're gay:

I like it!! I'm not going to respond to the advert, but it's pretty cool! Granted, I bet they don't have these pamphlets laying around the banks or anything yet, though...
wwcitizen: (Uuuuuuh)
This weekend, I made my first foray into returning junk mail in its own envelopes!!

Ref: http://wwcitizen.livejournal.com/219502.html

It felt good...
wwcitizen: (Default)
Read up on this movement! Very cool. It was apparently "born" in my birth year - 1968. Read about this through an LJ friend also on Facebook, and like what I see and read.


(I really like their CafePress notation about no price increase for their own profit.
Haven't donated or bought a shirt, but I like the sentiment.)


wwcitizen: (Default)
Stephen Lambeth

May 2017

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