Tuesday, September 02, 2008

Ever notice...

Ever notice how when the 17-year-old child of a Democrat has a child out of wedlock, it is a degradation of our morals and ethics and represents a failure of the parent to teach self control and how important it is to obey God's law, but when the 17-year-old child of a Republican has a child out of wedlock, it is an entirely different reaction.

"It reinforces the fact that this family lives its pro-life values." —Grover Norquist

"Fortunately, Bristol is following her mother and father's example of choosing life in the midst of a difficult situation." —Tony Perkins

"This is the pro-life choice. The fact that people will criticize her for this shows the astounding extent to which the secular critics of the pro-life movement just don't get it. Those who criticize the Palin family don't understand that we don't see babies as a punishment but as a blessing." —Richard Land

"[The Palins] should be commended once again for not just talking about their pro-life and pro-family values, but living them out even in the midst of trying circumstances." —James Dobson

The kicker from the CNN article: "Some evangelicals gathered in Minneapolis-St. Paul, Minnesota, for the Republican convention speculated that the news would pose more of a problem for Democrats than for the GOP ticket."

Um... Excuse me? Bristol Palin gets pregnant, and it poses a problem for the Democrats? For the record, I couldn't care less that Bristol Palin is pregnant. I don't see her decision not to abort as some wonderful thing; it was her choice, more power to her, and I hope the child grows up in a loving family who is able to care for it. I certainly am not going to be any more or less likely to vote for McCain/Palin because of this news, and anyone who is swayed one way or another because of it is pretty superficial and short-sighted.

But what I can't help but boggle at is the unmitigated gall of those who hold such a blatant double standard of right and wrong, those who are trying to spin this news item as a positive thing. A 17-year-old girl was having sex out of wedlock and accidentally got pregnant. Forget for a second who she is and imagine that we're talking about the daughter of a woman living in the ghetto on welfare. Republicans point to her as an example of how immoral Democrats are, how immoral welfare recipients are, and if she's not white, even (among the racist of them) how immoral her particular race is.

Where have the Republicans been until now? Why have I never before heard them call babies of 17-year-old unmarried girls "blessings?" (Oh, I've heard plenty of other names they've used for them, though.) Why is it that I've heard so much criticism of the lifestyles and choices that lead to this situation, but now, such criticism is verboten? Why is it that the Democrats—you know, the people who are usually the ones who want to realistically address the problem of teenage sex and the consequences thereof—the ones that are going to have a problem with this?

And, although it might be a low blow, now more than ever, it HAS to be said: People who think that only abstinence-only is an acceptable form of sex education are hopelessly naive. Sarah Palin believes in abstinence-only education, and has undoubtedly practiced it. I strongly suspect that Bristol Palin has never had a serious conversation about sex with her parents or teachers beyond, "Don't do it." Obviously, her abstinence-only education has not provided her with the knowledge and background she needs to make informed choices and good decisions when it comes to having sex, and this is a direct result of it.

So as politically incorrect as it might be, I do criticize Bristol Palin for having a child out of wedlock at 17. I don't want to crucify her; she made a mistake and hopefully she'll be able to make the best of it that she can, and I genuinely do hope that her family supports her. But it absolutely kills me that the people who, for all of my life, have been the ones who sit back and judge people like Bristol Palin—and, let's not fool ourselves, will continue to do so—have suddenly decided that in this case, she's great and wonderful for being unmarried and having a baby at 17. Even more, I do criticize the Republican and religious right's push to not teach kids what they need to know about sex. If by some weird chance McCain/Palin manages to win this election, hopefully abstinence-only eduction will finally be relegated to the nutcase hokey idea that it has been all along.

Monday, April 14, 2008

Five-Dollar Subs

So, a funny thing happened today. I'm testing out some mailing list software, and I wanted to see how the HTML features work in it. I downloaded the latest version of Mozilla Thunderbird and fired it up. When I did, it had remembered all of my old account information for e-mail accounts that are still valid, but that I don't use.

In my inbox, I see a few very recent e-mails saying that my blog had comments on it. Comments? On a blog I haven't maintained for, wow, over a year? Sure enough, I saw where several people had commented on my Stamped or Metered? post. I couldn't help but start browsing around a bit more to see what else people have been saying. I deleted a few spam comments, and saw where one guy (I see you, Danny!) asked when I was coming back.

Well, I don't know if Danny is still out there, but I am.

I try to start posting again. After all, it's not like I've stopped observing stuff...

Say, that reminds me of something that I've been dealing with lately that has me scratching my head. Some of you might have noticed that Subway, one of my favorite restaurants, has a promotion going on right now where you can get any footlong sub for just $5.

Now normally, I just get one of the combos. A footlong sub, chips, and a drink for some slightly discounted rate than buying them all separately. But now, with $5 footlong subs, it throws a bit of a kink in the works. Which is financially better? Getting a footlong sub for $5 plus chips and a drink, or getting all three at a discounted price? I love Subway, but whenever I have to make a choice like that, I always have the unsettling feeling like they're out to confuse me with the options, and some guy is in the back room giggling with glee, saying "Look! We got another one!"

One day, while standing in line to order some vittles at the Varsity in downtown Atlanta, I noticed that they have combos consisting of various food items--a hamburger, two chili dogs, two slaw dogs, etc.--plus fries or onion rings and a Coke. Being pretty handy at math, I calculated how much the discount was for ordering a combo. I was sorely disappointed when I learned that the discount was exactly zero. If you ordered a number one combo (two chili dogs, fries, and a Coke), it costs exactly the same as if you order two chili dogs, fries, and a Coke, all separately.

So today, I went to Subway determined to get to the bottom of their pricing scandal. Here's what I came up with:

$5.99 for a BMT
$0.89 for a bag of chips
$1.29 for a small Coke
$1.49 for a large Coke
$2.20 to make a sandwich order into a combo with chips and a large Coke

Well, that's interesting! They don't post prices for combos like most fast food restaurants do. Instead, it's just a fixed add-on price. Separately, the chips and Coke will cost you $2.38, which means that by ordering the combo, you're saving a grand total of $0.18, no matter which sandwich you order.

So how do you come out better? By ordering the combo, or by taking the any sub for $5 deal?

Well, since a BMT is normally $5.99, you save $0.99 by getting it for $5. This is more than the $0.18 you save by getting the combo, so it's better to take them up on the promotion. All of the sandwich prices I was looking at are over $5.18 except for the Veggie sandwich ($4.99), so this is true in general as well.


All of this is assuming that you want a large Coke. What if a small is good enough? In that case, you can really rack up the savings! Note that the savings of a small Coke over a large Coke is $0.20, which is two pennies more than the savings of the combo. This means that even under normal circumstances, you save a couple of pennies if you forego the combo completely and buy the small Coke instead of the large. If you're actually eating in the store, this is a no-brainer. Besides, Jared didn't get svelte by being too lazy to walk over to the machine and get a refill. With the any sub for $5 promotion, you save those two pennies plus the $0.99 (for a BMT; your sandwich may vary).

So boiling it all down, here's how much your food will cost by ordering it various ways:

$7.18 for a $5 BMT, chips, and small Coke
$7.38 for a $5 BMT, chips, and large Coke
$8.17 for a normal-price BMT, chips, and small Coke
$8.19 for a BMT, chips, and large Coke combo

One final note just for fun. Next time you're in your local Subway, ask the person who rings up your food what BMT stands for. If they actually know the answer, leave your change in the tip bucket.


You know, I can't help but wonder if it's all worth it. Sometimes, I honestly believe that there's a market out there for a restaurant--or any type of retail store, really--that advertises that they will never have any coupons, specials, combos, or any other type of deals. The prices posted are exactly what you'll pay each and every time, no more, no less.

Monday, March 12, 2007

Shades of Gray

How often has some person of fame or notoriety been found not guilty of some heinous crime and everyone stands around and wonders, "How could that happen? Were the jurors on drugs?" Sometimes it just seems grossly unfair that someone who is very likely guilty as sin gets off scott free.

I think what a lot of people don't get is the whole "reasonable doubt" thing. This term is deliberately left vague by the law so that jurors—who are supposedly reasonable people—can decide for themselves exactly what reasonable doubt is.

Let's take the Michael Jackson case, for example. I wasn't a juror, but from what little I saw and heard on the news about the case, I had reasonable doubt that he is a child molester. Is he weird? You bet, he's very odd, and I think he might have done it. But that's not the standard we use to find a person guilty and to take away his right to life, liberty, and whatever bizarre pursuits make him happy. The fact is that I think that the accuser's family is seedy, and I think it's entirely possible that they were trying to use the boy's relationship to Michael Jackson to extort the famous star for lots of money. Therefore if I were on the jury, I would have likely gone with not guilty as well.

In the OJ case, I feel differently. From what I saw and heard on the news, I don't have a reasonable doubt that he is guilty of murdering his wife. The jury obviously felt differently. Maybe they saw and heard stuff that I didn't. Maybe I saw and heard stuff that they didn't, which is a problem that should be addressed. But as cold and selfish as it sounds, I would much rather OJ, who is likely a cold-blooded killer, go free than for there to be a chance that I get wrongly convicted of murder because the standards of conviction have been lowered.

Perhaps another problem is that there are no shades of gray in criminal case verdicts. The person is either guilty or not guilty. There is no "probably guilty" or "maybe a little guilty." Is this a problem that could be addressed?

Maybe instead of having to render one of only two choices, jurors can vote on how guilty a defendant is on a scale from one to ten. OJ? Nine. Michael Jackson? Six. When the trial is over, you average the verdicts and base the penalties on how high the verdict is and the crime committed. A ten for first degree murder will get you locked up for life with no chance of parole. A five will get you locked up for a few years. A two will just get you a stiff fine. Verdicts would be cumulative, of course, so if you get convicted with a seven, then you get out and get convicted again with a three, it counts as a ten and you get put away for life. Maybe after a period of time, old verdicts lose some points to account for youthful indiscretions. Maybe verdicts should even be published on the Internet so you can find out how likely it is that your new next door neighbor is a child molester. "Ew, a six? Well, I won't keep my kids locked inside the house, but they sure as hell won't be going to any sleepovers!"

Wednesday, September 13, 2006

We want your blood... but not all of it

Wow, I need to write more often. Oh well, I'll try.

Anyway, yesterday, the Red Cross came to where I work to take blood from donors. I've donated at every blood drive I could since the very first one I was eligible for in high school. I donated all through my college years and I continue donating to this day. (Well, yesterday, anyway.) I figured that now would be a good time to share a couple of some amusing (hopefully!) stories from my donating experiences.

I was always amused in high school when the jocks would race to see how fast they could fill their pint-sized bag with blood. More than once I saw guys pass out for doing so, and it was funny. Once, a girl actually went into convulsions, which was pretty freaky. The nurses were right on top of it, though, and she was okay after minute. (She ended up getting the rest of the day out of classes, though. Wish I'd thought of that earlier.)

When I donated once at college, the nurse asked how I was doing. I told her I felt a little light-headed, but was otherwise okay. I didn't mean that I was about to pass out or anything, but boy, did she ever take me seriously. Before I could say another word, there were three nurses propping my seat back and massaging my legs. (Wish I'd thought of that earlier, too!)

Fast forward several years. At one of my jobs, they had the bloodmobile come out. The nurse who asks you all of those personal questions ("Have you ever had sex with a prostitute, even once?") happened to be a man. Since they are kind of weird questions, I usually try to mess with the nurse a little, just to make the situation a little more light. ("Not that I know of...") The guy was completely oblivious, though. No pause, no smile, nothing. If anything, I think I was irritating him.

So when I got in the little donation pod thing and the nice lady who was my donation nurse came over and asked me how I was doing, I told her I was fine, although the guy who asked me the screening questions was a little creepy. She tells me, and I'm not making this up, "Oh, he's my husband!" I swear, I had a bruise almost from my shoulder to my wrist.

My worst donation experience was the one before yesterday. The Red Cross called me at home and wanted to schedule a donation at one of their donation centers close to where I live. Sure, I said, and I went by there. The nurse couldn't get the needle situated correctly so that she could tape it down, so she just stood there and held it. So far, so good. Except when another nurse behind her called her name. She turns around and says, "What?" as, I swear, I think the needle pokes right on into my elbow. I made a sound akin to a squealing, a sound that I really didn't know I was capable of producing. She turns around and says, "Oh, I'm sorry, did that hurt?" Um, YES!!! After that, the blood stopped coming through, and they had to stop the donation halfway through. My arm was sore for days, something that's never happened before or since. The worst part of it was that I didn't even get a sticker for trying to donate, and the lady up front told me, "You need to remember this, and drink more fluids before donating next time." (I drank two bottles of orange juice that morning, and it was only 11:00am. I don't know how much fluid she expected me to drink.) Obviously, I haven't been back to that donation center.

So that brings me to yesterday's donation. They did something new yesterday, they did an apheresis donation. They wanted just my red blood cells, so they hooked me up to a machine. A pint of blood came out, and the machine spun it and separated it into its components. There were two bags hanging on the machine: one bag held really, really dark blood, and the other held yellow goo. The yellow goo got pumped back into me, and the process was repeated. That way, they get twice the amount of red blood cells than a normal donation.

It was pretty cool, I suppose, although being a relatively new process, and not used to having stuff actually put back into me, I was a little nervous. After it took the first round of blood and I was waiting for it to finish separating it, I was looking down at the "input" tube filled with saline. ("Starter fluid" that gets pumped into you until the yellow goo gets pumped back in.) I asked the nurse, "You know, I probably should have asked before, but am I going to be writhing in pain in a minute when the pumping back in part kicks in?"

She said no, but she did say that the saline and the goo would feel kind of cold. See, body temperature is 98.6 degrees Fahrenheit. Room temperature in there was around 70 degrees Fahrenheit. The saline was 70 degrees, and the goo had lost several degrees while it was in the bag waiting to be pumped back in. She said that it would lower my body temperature, and asked if I wanted a blanket.

I told her no, I was fine. I was a little chilly already, but I can usually handle cold okay. Within five minutes, though, I was freezing my butt off. It felt like cold water was being poured down my arm. That wasn't so bad, it was actually kind of neat. But when the coolness started circulating, I was begging for that blanket!

I don't think I'll do apheresis again. They said I have to wait twice as long before donating again. In my mind, that kind of defeats the purpose of taking twice the red blood cells. I mean, in the end, it all comes out the same. For another, when you give whole blood, they get the red cells, the platelets, and the plasma, and they use all of it. Maybe I'm missing something, but I just don't see how it benefits them. If I do donate through apheresis again though, you can be sure that I'm going to be bundled under that blanket before I start!

Saturday, February 11, 2006


You know what word I absolutely hate? Food. It's just an ugly-sounding word. Say it out loud. "Food." Say it slowly. "Fooooood."

This is the word we give to the stuff that we need to live. Food. Rhymes with rude. And lewd. And crude. Nasty words, all. Food, yuck.

The Spanish-speaking world has a cool word for food. It's called comida. That's a cool word. I can't think of anything that it rhymes with right away, but it's got spunk. There are three syllables, which means it has some meat to it, something you can really sink your teeth into. At the same time, that "ee" sound in the middle makes the word almost playful, something that tempts you, something that you desire.

I think I'm going to have to give up the word food. I just don't like saying it.

"Hey, you want some food?"

"No, thanks."

"Why, not hungry?"

"No, I'm starving, but it just sounds nasty."

I've been thinking of what word I can use instead of food for food. Sustenance. Too hoity-toity. That's like calling your dad Father. Something that only Rockefellers and Vanderbilts use. Hmmm. Grub. No, that's even worse than food. I don't like the idea of calling the stuff I eat the same word that means a small worm. How about chow? Not bad, not bad.

Wait, I've got it. Vittles. It's perfect! Playful and colorful, and as a bonus, it's a word that reflects my Southern heritage. It rhymes with little and middle. Hey, little middle, it even conveys a sense of heath and fitness.

"Hey, you want some food?"

"No, thanks, but I could sure go for some vittles!"

Help me out, folks, let's get the vittles ball rolling. After that, maybe we can do something about the word gum.

Sunday, January 22, 2006


What kind of punishment do you think a guy should get if he pours gasoline on his wife, who is recovering from knee surgery, and throws a lit newspaper on her, killing her by burning her alive? What if he said that the reason he did it was because of years of emotional and physical abuse, a claim that her relatives say is just plain not true?

Death? Life in prison? How about only 25 years in jail?

Well, to my knowledge, that's a purely hypothetical situation. But with the genders reversed, it's not. A woman in Missouri who did just that to her husband was sentenced to 25 years in jail.

Now, I'm not saying that her gender has anything to do with her sentence, but 25 years for killing a person by dousing them in gas and setting them on fire? That's just not right.

Tuesday, December 20, 2005

On the Transport Workers Union Strike

You know, I've been disappointed with unions in this country lately. For the most part, they are organizations that work in collusion with the management of the companies where their members work and try to screw their members out of dues without providing any kind of meaningful representation.

That's why it's refreshing to see a union like the Transport Workers Union (TWU) in New York City finally take a stand for what's right, even under the intense threat of severe penalties imposed by the "company," which in this case is the government, that its members work for.

Mass media news gets on my nerves, because it tends to focus so much on the results of the strike—commuters having to walk across the Brooklyn Bridge and such—and neglect the issues that underlie the strike.

The Metropolitan Transportation Authority (MTA) is trying to change the contract with the TWU in two important ways that are the basis of contention: First, workers' pensions will only be fully vested when they turn 62 instead of 55, and second, the MTA wants to have all new workers pay for their insurance benefits.

Now, if the MTU were about to go belly-up, I would say that they're justified in cutting costs to ensure the long-term financial health of the system. But that's not the case. The MTU actually has a surplus to the tune of a billion dollars. So why is an organization with a billion dollars in the bank trying to screw its workers out of health insurance and pension benefits?

Something else really bothers me about this case, too. If these people worked for a private company, they would be fully within their rights to strike as a tactic to get what they need. However, these people happen to work for the government, not a private company. So unlike a private company, the government can use its police powers to try to force these people to work, and it's already done so. Unlike unhappy auto workers, when the TWU members strike, it's against the law.

The MTU decided that it would flex its government muscles to try to keep its workers from striking. It got a court injunction against the strike, and its workers are now being fined for being off the job. That's right, not going to work is now a criminal offense, and I think this sets a very dangerous precedence for the future when our government—the country's largest employer—mistreats its employees.

Another thing that really bothers me is how badly government officials are maligning the union in the press. George Pataki, the governor of New York, said, "They have broken the trust of the people of New York. They have not only endangered our city and state's economy, but they are also recklessly endangering the health and safety of each and every New Yorker."

Mayor Michael Bloomberg said, "You can't break the law and use that as a negotiating tactic. This is unconscionable."

Why does this bother me? Because these guys are playing two roles in this little dispute. First of all, they are the leaders of the city and state of New York. As such, their job entails looking out for the health and wellfare of the citizens of New York City. With words like these, these two men have the power to scare the bejesus out of people, and that power shouldn't be taken lightly.

But these men also have another role in this dispute as well. They are leaders in the government, which is the employer of these workers. As such, that makes them the very same management that is fighting the union. In other words, in this case, they are clearly not merely observers making disinterested comments on the strike. The are trying their best to shift the blame for this fiasco off their own backs and onto their opponents by abusing their positions as government leaders. That is something that the mass media press clearly isn't stating enough in its reports.

Michael Bloomberg says that the works are "thuggishly" turning their backs on New York City. Let's see who is acting thuggish.

An organization with a billion dollar surplus is cutting retirement and insurance benefits of its employees. When the employees resort to the only method available to them to fight back, the organization fines their union an unheard-of five million dollars, plus one million dollars a day. Further, the individual members of the union are fined $25,000 a day. These are workers that make between $47,000 and $55,000 a year. So much for the Eighth Amendment, which requires that excessive fines not be imposed. Now, who is resorting to thuggish tactics here?

I'm annoyed at the people out there who think that the TWU should just go back to work, or that think that the union is using strong-arm tactics to get unreasonable demands. I always thought that the American Way was to cheer for the little guy, and the TWU in this case is definitely the little guy. They are being hammered incredibly hard, I think, to serve as an example to others: Don't mess with the government. If they lose this battle, it will be just another win in a long string of victories by large organizations and companies to screw average joes out of what they work hard for. Worse, it will be a strong incentive for other government organizations around the country to use screwing its employees as a means of saving more money, even if—as in this case—there's really no need to. We should all be standing behind the TWU and cheering them on!

MTA Chairman Peter Kalikow said the strike is "a slap in the face" to all New Yorkers. I couldn't agree more. But he left out the part about how he is the one slapping.