Friday, December 24, 2010

New Razor Threatens Face of Arlington Resident

There's no doubt that a person faces change in life. So naturally now being well into my Farthood I have to complain about the old days being better in various ways. Well, as a matter of fact,  I don't think much about these modern razors we have today. 

I can remember my Father saying he missed the old blued safety razor blades. In his day the most modern razor was called a safety razor, and it had the common sort of postage stamp sized flat razor blade that just dropped in, then you closed the top flaps so that only the edges of the razor were left. What he must have been talking about was steel razor blades that became unavailable when stainless steel blades came out. In what I guess will have to be a different blog post some day, I'm going to sound off against dubious quality stainless steel taking over steel too often in all kinds of things, but for now let's just say from dealing with knives it's easy for me to believe the old blued steel blades were better, just needing to be replaced more often.

I really wasn't expecting to decide at some point razors were going to be a source of such disappointment in my life as well, but sure enough it has. Razor makers went from using stainless steel safety razor blades to designs that used what almost could be called a wire strip of stainless steel. These were marketed as multi-bladed almost immediately, with the famous illustration that claimed the first row of blades pulled the whisker out so that the second cut it even shorter when it passed through. Granted, you can shave pretty quick with these devices, but probably not for this reason. Needing a razor some 30 odd years ago, I wound up with the Gillette Atra, and I distinctly remember it was free, attached to a shaving cream can. There's no doubt that the idea is to get the razors out there to the public at a loss, then clean up on selling the blades at a huge profit.

I liked the Atra OK, and might concede it was possibly at least faster and somewhat safer than the old safety razors. Unfortunately it became impossible to buy the blades without getting this idiotic strip on them that ooze some kind of lubricant that is supposed to make shaving easier. I've always hated that stuff, as it doesn't work at all  and makes it hard to grab your facial skin for what for me is a necessary tug to splay out the beard at an angle so that a second swipe in the opposite direction of the first can finish off what's left (notably this does not happen as in the famous illustration but requires this step)

Fortunately, you can wash this lubricant off, and I just got used to having to do this when I had to give up on the Atra. The old razor wouldn't grab the blade cartridge anymore. Time for a new razor, and again I already had one I got free; I think it was also attached to a shaving cream can. I decided not to try to get another Atra as I have to believe new blades will not be available some day soon. So anyway I needed to rob a liquor store so I could buy some blades for the new contraption: a Gillette Mach3. From the name I guess we are to imagine we can shave at 3 times the speed of sound. This monster takes the idea of multiple blades further, using 3 rows, without question decreasing the safety of it. I also do not believe it shaves a lick better than 2 row systems like the Atra, reinforcing my belief that the claim that whisker get pulled out to be cut shorter by following blades is a canard. And of course it is impossible to buy blades without the lubricating strip. Worst of all, I can't as safely or as effectively shave the mustache area, the menacing 3 rows can't seem to be arranged safely for this, and I'm finding myself getting nicks there. As a compromise I shave with the Mach3 except for above the lip where I use a disposable 2 row razor. Sue has noticed I seem to be trying to grow a mustache! Maybe the next time you see me I'll have grown one out of desperation.

If you click on the link above, you'll see a section that says this:

"The latest razor introduced by Gillette is the Gillette Fusion brand shaving system, which utilizes a five-blade cartridge razor with an additional single blade for trimming."

What the hell is that thing? Entirely too scary to contemplate! These young whippersnappers in the razor business are just screwing everything up! Some day I'm going to have to use one of those things? I hope not, I'm starting to think I've got to find ye olde straight razor and learn how to strop it!

Wednesday, November 17, 2010

New Tires

In my life I have had more trouble with auto mechanics trying to cheat me than in any other business I conduct.

I got two more tires this week for the Honda. I had to make sure, though, that I got it somewhere else than Sears. That's a shame in a way, as I will explain.

So here is the whole story. Like most guys, tires became a subject of interest for me fairly early on. When you are a young man on your own, certain things about owning a car just come as a shock. As a teenager, you realize you can't even afford to put in the gas. When you get older than that, you realize you can't afford the insurance, not for what younger males get stung with. And the tires! buying the tires can kill a guy. So actually I became rather good at identifying good used tires. Brother Forrest actually asked me to check out what I could pick up for his cars when it happened I had some free time for that. It didn't bother me to pick up a pair that were in good shape, but that didn't have all that much tread [for my own use]. 10-15 thousand miles is a good 10-15 thousand miles at the right price. Once I picked up something like that and the mechanic who was going to put them on said he just threw away better tires than that! That I went and got those discarded tires out of the dumpster is a favorite story of Forrest's in fact. Well, in those days I was sometimes broke. But I knew what to look for, and my point is I know my used tires!

Back in September I ruined a tire running over a piece of jagged metal, and bought two new tires, as it is best to buy them in pairs. The salesman at Sears was bound and determined to sell me four tires, though, and proceeded to dishonestly represent the situation and scare me into buying four. He was the type of salesman that is a disgrace to the profession, caring nothing about the customer but caring bigtime about his short term earnings. First thing he does is point to some aging on the sidewall and claim it was a sign that the tires were on their last legs. This was to dispel any notion that the mostly sufficient tread would mean the tires are still good for some more miles. Little did he know I was a used tire connoisseur! Those tires were fine, and if there is anything wrong with the sidewall, it would be road damage or the telltale sign that the tires had been sitting flat with the weight of the car on them for a period of time. Furthermore he had a cock and bull story about how he wasn't a salesman, but a mechanic just helping out for the day. Unfortunately it developed that he had to assist the other salespeople with this and that, his competence exposing this lie. He probably was in management, teaching the other salespeople to lie and claim, as a purported mechanic, he wasn't trying to sell me something for the commission. Not that he perhaps wasn't indeed originally a mechanic, their training does seem to revolve around how to artificially drive up the price of repairs. The guy was unbelievable, actually, really making wild claims that I was no more than going to go out of the parking lot than have blowouts on those tires. He just wouldn't quit with it. I'd like to think he couldn't make his balloon payment on his sub-prime mortgage that month because of holdouts like me!

The shame of it all is that I had come to pretty much want Sears to be the place I bought my tires. I had gone through local retailers "Merchants Tire" and a place I think is now called "NTB". The problem with those places was that you could get good service one time, then the next time you went back it was all new people and you would get lousy service. The Sears place, though, seemed consistently good. Then I ran into this guy. Of course I couldn't get what he said totally out of my mind, which included a claim that tires simply get old and have to be changed purely for that reason. I checked this out online and sure enough you can find some not too convincing, clearly very conservative claims that tires ought to be changed every 6 years even if they have good tread. That age was approaching on these tires, and I felt I couldn't take a chance I'd regret not getting new tires, what with Sue also driving the car.

So I just got two new tires. Took it to a mechanic I trust and definitely paid a little more. But it was damn important to me that Sears not get the business. I'd like to think the younger person at that shop said,  "hey these middle-aged guys throw away perfectly good tires!" and put them on his own car. That would bring a smile to my face.

Monday, November 15, 2010

It's been too long since my last post. I have been spending more time at work, where I never have liked to work on a blog. Perhaps this sounds odd, but the extra concentration means I don't like to be interrupted, while, on the contrary, now especially I need to be ready to drop anything and exploit opportunities.  

I've got a couple of posts I am working on. The one on salt is taking a long time, maybe it ought to be two posts. And I need to post about buying tires, perhaps I can get that out soon. I don't think I am going to post about Fantasy Football though [g].

Wednesday, September 1, 2010

Some Kids Had All the Fun

I think the only reason my parents didnt get one of these for me or one of my brothers was that it cost too much.

Saturday, August 14, 2010

Gaming the System with Credit Cards

This is not about trying to get cash back on your credit cards, although we do that on some cards and there is plenty to commend that. We sometimes make out better on that than other times, and I notice it is hard to follow how the rewards are earned on some of the better paying cards. Right now they aren't kicking in so much, as can be expected.

It is also not about credit card "surfing", where you go from one card to another looking for zero or low interest rates. That might be a good way to game the system, but you have to be on top of the fine print I'm sure, and that's not for me. I also have to wonder what such activity looks like on your credit report.

My 'gaming it' is about avoiding interest and maximizing the time you have to pay. I have to say almost no one seems to agree that the latter is of much importance, truly a notion not to be confirmed in personal discussion nor in articles online or otherwise. Nonetheless I happen to believe it is one of the best ways to game the system. I will have to admit that perhaps the satisfaction comes only from knowing they don't intend for you to use your cards this way. Certainly for now there is no way to earn significant interest on the "float".

The idea for this for me came from noticing that sometimes we would only have a couple of weeks to pay for some purchases, it was all about the timing. So once I had more than one card I started to be a little more careful about making sure the billing wasn't almost due on a certain card when I used it. Later I just waited till I got the bill in the mail, then I knew that it was the best time to use that particular card. Then I found myself marking on a calender when the account statement was supposed to come out, and either calling the number on the back of the card or going online to confirm it, then switching to that card even before the statement was received in the mail.

It must be pointed out that this is all fairly pointless unless you pay off the statement in full, not using the revolving payment program, and paying no interest. Since I believe it is important to avoid these charges, I highly recommend life without credit card interest. If you live that life, or would like a reward for doing so already, then I highly recommend anyone maximize also the time for payment.

I checked recently and found out that it works even better than I thought. In the best timed purchases we get about 7 and a half weeks to pay, and for the worst timing, not less than 4 weeks to pay. The satisfaction I get from knowing that 7+ weeks was never intended is immense and makes up for the necessary evil of having to have these cards. And, yes, sometimes we get cash back too to top it off.

To do this, you want to have two cards and have different dates for when the statement comes out, by two weeks. The card companies will accommodate requests for the time of the month you want your payment, you know, but be aware these are two different things, payment date and statement date. I think you would confuse them if you tried to get a certain statement date, better to request a different payment date, in order to change the statement date as well.

So you've done it. You can wait for the statements to come in the mail if you think that is a more sane approach, but online calenders now will email you. Then the mailed statement backs it all up as a reminder. And if life has you to busy to fool with it all, you can just drop the practice anytime. When you notice you are paying for a purchase you just made, though, believe me you will be thinking about going back to it.

IMO this is enormously beneficial for large purchases, as it allows a little planning on how you want to pay for it.

Well that's how I "game the system". You could go a little more crazy and game it with three cards that have statement dates 10 days apart, but I think we can agree there might be a limit to sanely managing the whole business.

Thursday, July 29, 2010

Hating Your Car

There's an ad we've seen where a couple of people are shown muttering and then yelling about how they hate their cars, and are so ready to buy a new car. Clearly the car manufacturer is hoping this will resonate with a lot of folks and spur them to buy a new car.

I have to say, I have held on to some cars until they were real clunkers, but I never hated any of my cars, and can't relate. This in spite of the fact that in many ways I am just not the sometimes seen male infatuated with cars. They also fail as status symbols for me, I'm afraid those out there trying to impress with that are falling flat with me. If I am not in the market for a car, I even start to ignore the new models until I am back in the market for one. Most remarkably of all, I tend to fail to notice what cars my fellow employees are driving, and sometimes have to sheepishly admit to someone I couldn't pick out their car from the lot!

So I'm not that interested in cars, but this does not mean I don't like to drive. And I do sort of bond to my own car once I own it, even if everybody else might think it's not much. So I never hated one, and instead always felt kind of sad to part with one due to what it was costing to keep repairing. All this got me to trying to remember each and every car I ever owned, something I have been musing about for a couple of months, realizing I was having trouble remembering all these cars! I started to make a mental list, and it was bugging me to think of the ones missing in that list. I actually woke up from a dream the other night in which one of the cars I had forgotten about was featured somehow in that dream. I can't remember a single detail of the dream except that when I woke up I knew that the car, in the dream by name, an Olds Cutlass Supreme, was one of the cars I couldn't come up with in that mental list! Further thought had me realize it was actually a similar car, the Cutlass Calais. Thanks to what we can do online, further thought and research has me now with the full list. I realize I am starting to lose folks on this, but of course I must now show that list starting about 1976. Here is what I can remember in order of purchase date [largely not known]. All bought used unless noted as new.

*Datsun 510, from a Rolls Royce dealer. Must be a story there for the former owner?

*Dodge Aspen station wagon *new* At the time this type of car was useful for my work. Generally the purchase was greeted with great puzzlement.

*Dodge Polara, from the neighbor in Youngstown Ohio. Purchased in a bad trade. This bad trade was forced on me by being broke, nobody was scamming me. Car ran great if you constantly checked and topped off all the fluids all the time, and I mean them
all, including the brake fluid. Some of you may remember the glass-pack muffler.

*Dodge Aries. I always called it the K Car. Bought from man who placed an ad, northern VA resident. It was custom in that it had manual transmission.

*Dodge Dart Swinger V8. Lotty's car that Forrest and Linda wound up with, then sold to me. I am more struck now than I was then by what this car was, Candy Red, V8 and all, and who first bought it and that whole picture! Darts were designed to be V6, and the V8 crammed into it somehow wore out the alternator, which had to be replaced every 6 months.

*Oldsmobile Cutlass Calais. Bought from a Maryland Af/A woman who inherited it from her deceased Mother and placed an ad. Kind of an odd car to own for me in a way, but it was a great deal.

*1993 Ford Taurus, from Sue's friend Cheryl, first car on the list that I can be sure of the year of manufacture.

*1994 Dodge Dakota pickup truck, bought from Sylvester Kyle, still own it. 113k miles (I think) and going strong.

*2005 Honda Accord *new* still own it. Very low mileage, 31k I think. Ruined a tire last week, and the tire salesman says I am looking at replacing tires before the tread wears out, tires are just too old. Not why the tire got ruined, though, that was a road hazard. But I bought two tires so the process of replacement has begun. This isn't making me hate the car [g].

And didn't hate any of the others, although there are more maintenance headache stories that could be told!

Wednesday, June 16, 2010

The Nuclear Option and Other Thoughts on Credit Cards

I have to admit that the recent reforms forced on the credit card companies is a good thing, the word for what they had been up to is gouging, nothing more or less. Most distasteful of all, these things were all directed at the vulnerable type of person, who got into trouble with the cards. Once that happened, it was open season on the poor saps [and I say that as someone who has been a sap in my day]. Unfortunately, it turns out that this was a great part of the profitability of that type of business, actually part of the reason investment in financial stocks have suffered recently it seems. Better keep an eye out for how they might be maneuvering to get some of those profits back, I say.

So yay! for the reforms, pretty heart-wrenching to know personally someone getting clobbered and to see what they have to go through. But to tell you the truth, if I was being selfish, I'd be for the old system, not being a target myself. What the reforms actually mean to me is nothing, I don't care about any of them personally. Furthermore, the things that do irritate me about these outfits is going untouched.

So what are these things? A#1, I resent totally and absolutely the fact that in order to function fully in this society, you must have credit cards. You can't properly and conveniently buy airline tickets, items on the internet, etc., but especially can't make hotel reservations and rent a car without these things. Apparently we can expect this to get worse if the ideas from some quarters prevail. I'd actually prefer to live my life without them, and trust me, the cost of living goes down when you pull out hard earned cash for everything, as anybody sure thinks twice.

And there is a host of other BS practices that are going to be allowed to go on unchecked. Such as continuous unsolicited offers for more cards, just rope to hang yourself if you don't use these cards properly.

Such as offering "no payment this month". Ever get one of those offers? Of course this is an attempt to lure you into paying interest. They may only send those to those of us who pay off the bills every month.

Such as sending checks to use in the mail, unsolicited. It is my firm opinion that this is an attempt to get you to think this is just another usual way to use your credit card. Full disclosure that you are dipping into the high cost cash option, in my experience, is lacking or written in gobbledygook. Seeming indications that it is not cashing out are not to be trusted IMO. You could get cash with that check, couldn't you? That should be all the thinking you need to do on that.

Such as constantly trying to get you to sign up for protection on your cards. Seems to me this protects them, not you. You have the limited liability of $50. In a related matter, in my line of work, I used to constantly have American Express users get denied when larger purchases were involved. The irritated customer would have to call this card company so they would know that it was a proper and legitimate charge. The customer would be told that this was to protect the consumer. Of course, it was only to protect American Express. This practice would sometimes freak a customer out and you'd lose the sale. I have never forgiven that outfit for this, although in the last few years it seems to have stopped.

Such as dazzling offers in the mail for things I care nothing about. You can get a card that will say "you are some kind of hot shit" when people see it! Sure. BTW there are credit card websites where people get together to talk about the cards. I've lost the links, but apparently typically it's all about who has the flashiest card, the most perks, and the highest limits. Yawn.

Such as being transferred to an operator who tries to sell you something when you are just trying to activate a card. I've had some ugly experiences with this, getting my jollies first by asking them why it would be that they have to ask me who I am. It finally occurred to me that you have activated the card using the automated system (they don't want employees in that!) and when you realize you are being transferred to talk to someone, it's just time to hang up.

Such as bad service when you have a problem. It just should not be the case that you would have trouble getting through to a human being! Yet it is often so, I've run into things like being asked for a security phrase when I never set one up! Not to mention plain old ridiculously complex phone trees to wade through, causing you to have to go nuclear to get service.

You see, I'm not crazy enough to want to go through all this baloney if I could get it out of my life. But I can't, you must have these horrid things.

BTW did you hear what happened when the Soviet Union collapsed? Former bureaucrats of that system said the dossiers they supposedly on all their citizens were about totally non-existent except for special cases. What was impressive, they said, was the credit card histories kept on all the citizens of the west. Now that was something the Communist secret police really envied!!

Bottom line, I resent this system, this necessary evil. I get even by gaming the system. That will be a future post.

Oh, yeah, I promised to say what going nuclear is. What you want to do is find and call the number that is for lost and stolen cards. You'll get an operator right away, no phone tree to navigate. Ummm, before you sign up to "protect" your credit cards, guess what this shows about who is actually liable for unauthorized charges?

Thursday, May 20, 2010

Unacceptable Practices That Go On Anyway

It struck me today that Americans are putting up with some ridiculous practices by business today, and I can hardly believe there hasn't been a revolt. Two I thought about today:

*The ubiquitous phone tree you get when calling for service, that all companies seem to be using now.
Even small companies who clearly need to establish that they are 'all about service' sometimes use them, which really makes me shake my head. The odious practice of never offering to connect you to an operator seems to be growing as well. Yeah, I know you can surf around on the internet and try to find how to defeat these trees, sometimes just by hitting zero, but I do not think we should have to do that if zero doesnt work. And don't get me started on the systems that make you say words without an option to hit a number instead.

*Parking garages that charge to park but do not have attendants. I can't believe it is coming to this, and brother I am totally against it. I feel I have had at least one close call where I hadn't somehow satisfied the system that would open the gate and lucked out getting an attendant anyway. And at Union Station, we were surprised recently to find that there was a screwy method of paying to get out with no attendant in sight. I noticed every person in line to pay at this machine had a look of horror on their face, wondering what kind of hell they were about to go through if, say, their credit card wouldnt work when swiped .

Today I was treated to various phone trees with a credit card problem. Stay tuned for a post about how to be prepared to use the Nuclear Option when dealing with those folks.

Tuesday, May 4, 2010

"Reports from the US say Mr Shahzad recently returned from a five-month visit to Pakistan. "

What an enormous Red Flag it is when these people go back to their countries. Each and every one of them gets recruited by their radical elements it seems.

Why are we making citizens of people from countries where they hate us anyway? Diversity Freak Elites ought to be hanged!

See the link of course. Un-American as it may seem to be, we have to be immensely stupid not to be following up on each and every person traveling to these countries. And, yes, especially for those born there and, yes, especially if Muslim. Sorry.

"Reports from the US say Mr Shahzad recently returned from a five-month visit to Pakistan. "

Tuesday, April 20, 2010

It's Eyjafjallajökull, OK!!!

Sue and I noticed when it was the Philippines, you heard about "Pinatubo", but now it's just the "Iceland Volcano", not Eyjafjallajökull.

BTW the pronunciation provided here is much appreciated. It's not that hard once you've heard it, but, Icelanders excepted I'm sure, it's impossible to go by the spelling.

Saturday, March 27, 2010

Starting to see Obamacare Information

Pilosi said we should just pass this thing and figure out later what we did. Looks like that is starting.

Friday, March 12, 2010

Good News For California Amongst the Bad

No doubt the price of a tomato at the stores will soon be shocking. Frozen tomatoes in Florida merely prove global warming though of course, to some folks. Maybe California will avoid general default on its bonds with a boost in these prices. Looks like a 5-fold price increase may be possible. LINK

Wednesday, March 3, 2010

Apparently the Downside is Exaggerated

The downside of cancelling credit cards is supposed to be that it can hurt your credit rating, but my opinion has been that it is something to do fearlessly with perhaps only some caution if you are about to apply for new credit somewhere. Finally here is an article that says much the same. Note that they don't say it is a complete myth, however.

Sue and I are on guard for shenanigans, like all of a sudden an annual fee.

Friday, February 12, 2010

Good thing Hawaii has mountains

Check this out. Hopefully the link hyperlinks, had a prob. last time.

Monday, January 25, 2010

Boy Are We Dumb

" [The underwear bomber] spoke openly about what he'd done and why, and provided valuable intelligence...But when they read him his legal rights nearly 10 hours after the incident, he went silent. "

I'm starting to feel sorry for those East Coast Nazi Sabateurs now, clearly they had rights we violated.


Sunday, January 17, 2010

Object Lesson

I think it is best not to really know what goes on with "helping the homeless" etc, etc, etc. Every once in a while you get a glimpse of the ugly side of it.

I'm not saying to quit giving, I'm saying it comes with the territory and you can't think about it if you are going to try to help people.

Sue and I will give something to some organization to help Haiti. But we got treated to watching a reporter go in to Port-Au-Prince, and he was talking about how riots could break out easily. He finally showed some irate guy they were having to deal with, and it turned out he was vigorously objecting to the MRE's being past expiration date. Turned out he was wrong. But what the hell was he doing? People are starving to death and he's going ape over the expiration date? The reporter didn't seem to see the irony, at least it wasn't in the report.

Clearly this guy was just some trouble-maker with God knows what motivation. Another case, no doubt, of the help not going where it was needed. I am quite convinced he himself did not actually need anything to eat, perhaps just had some plan to profit from getting the supplies.


Yep, best just not to know what really goes on.

Friday, January 8, 2010