August 2005 Archives

Regular Unleaded

Gas is teh funnay !I went to the 7-Eleven to get some gas for my car on the way to work this morning. The pump ran slow as ever, as if it was scraping the sludge off the bottom of the underground tanks to recover a few more gallons to sell. It must have known I was in a hurry. I stood around waiting, leaning against the car, as I nervously watched a yuppie teenager light a Marlboro Ultra Ultra Light ("tastes like paper!") before he started the pump in his Hummer H3. At the time mine finally finished it's business, I hung up the nozzle and looked at the receipt to see the damage.

$30 ! Thirty dollars !! For a tank of regular unleaded !



Why is gasoline still so inexpensive ?!

Yes, you read that right. Gas is too cheap. We have some of the cheapest gasoline in the world. The cost hasn't even kept up with inflation. And gasoline should be expensive--it's not an infinite resource (like immigrant labor), yet we treat it like one. If it helps, you can think of gasoline like it's fine jewelry--the more it costs, the more you'll enjoy having it and showing it off to your friends. But the cost isn't directly why I want to rant today.

My rant is one of annoyance. Ever since I moved to Dallas and began fighting traffic, I've been wishing regular unleaded gasoline would get to the magic $5.00 per gallon mark. I think at that price, people will start seriously considering whether it's worth it to leave the house and go to the mega store, to visit their dying grandmother, or even to go to work on a daily basis.

Now before you get all huffy with me, there are cost saving alternatives for people who would find $5/gal gasoline unbearable and still need to go places. And these solutions I'm about to suggest would all be beneficial to me as well, so everyone wins.

  • When driving to work, people could carpool. For every additional person crammed in an old Cutlass Supreme without air conditioning, that's one less uninspected Ford F150 I have to deal with on the way to work in the morning.
  • These people could buy a bicycle, or perhaps even a moped. I don't normally drive on the sidewalks, so they would no longer be in my way.
  • They could take public transportation. Lots of companies are even subsidizing the metro passes these days. And here they have the bonus entertainment of the insane homeless people who somehow ride the rail continuously.
  • They could also learn to meditate and move their spirits to where they need to be (granted, this method isn't very effective for the body).

I think a higher gas price would have a very positive effect on my mental health and well-being. It's been taking me 30 minutes to get to work in the morning lately because of all the other cars driving on my roads. In my old age, I don't have a lot of time left on this Earth, so I really can't afford to waste an hour every day on a commute. Therefore if you live in the Dallas metro, and absolutely must be out driving, please at least pretend I'm an emergency vehicle if you see me behind you and kindly pull off to the right. Thanks .


Flying Spaghetti MonsterThose crazy folks in the Kansas State Board of Education are up to it again. We finally get them to agree that pi is an irrational number, and now they're trying to get equal time for teaching Intelligent Design in the classrooms alongside evolution. Well, okay, but it's only fair to consider there are multiple theories of Intelligent Design. The whole of the universe may have been created by a Christian God, Allah, or even the Flying Spaghetti Monster.

Well, why not ? It's all faith, and there seems to be a growing number of followers of His Noodliness--Pastafarians--such that it should be given serious consideration. If you're willing to broaden your religious horizons, you can find more information in the Wikipedia article.

Here are some things I learned about Pastafarianism:

Codes of conduct:
  • Prayers are ended with the word RAmen rather than Amen.

Benefits of conversion:
  • Like the great noodles they worship, Flying Spaghetti Monsterists have flimsy moral standards.
  • Promise of a stripper factory and a beer volcano in Heaven.

Sounds perfectly reasonable to me.

Goodbye T-Mobile

Hot on the heels of Famous J's switch to T-Mobile is my own hasty departure from their services. After years of frustration from dropped calls in my house, neighborhood, and country, I've finally decided to take my number over to Cingular, where the service isn't quite as terrible or quite as inexpensive.

I really tried to stay with T-Mobile though. I've been a customer of theirs for a number of years and old habits are hard to break. Repeated calls to Customer Service about poor coverage eventually degraded into a rep telling me to stick my phone up my ass to see if the reception improves. I tried to explain to him that I don't keep anything antenna-like up my ass anymore, but it fell on deaf ears.

Then I went to an actual T-Mobile store in the mall, which I found immediately upon walking in the mall entrance. This wasn't luck though, because I soon found out while walking around (looking for Victoria's Secret) that there were no less than 87 T-Mobile stores, resellers, and kiosks in Collin Creek Mall. Prediction: within 3 years, we will have malls that contain nothing but Starbucks and mobile phone resellers.

The guy working there, who we'll call Jeremy (because that was his name), was very enthusiastic about helping me out. In fact, he offered to fill out on my behalf the super-secret confidential trouble form for T-Mobile employees and their families. I guess I became his honorary second cousin twice-removed for the duration of this little stunt. Jeremy assured me that these form submissions go directly to the tech support people and receive priority attention.

Now I'm assuming "priority attention" means that they might get around to it sometime before mobile phones become obsolete. After one week, I called him at the store because nothing had improved. Although Jeremy had assured me that it would be taken care of within one week's time, he now said that sometimes it takes longer and I should give them another week. Clever bastards! After another week of extreme patience, George* and I decided I wasn't going to be fooled again.

Time for the big switch. I'm not big on commitments unless we're talking about something frivolous like marriage, so I didn't want a 2-year contract. This news came as complete shock to the Cingular guy at Best Buy, who reacted as if he had never heard such blasphemy before. As he incredulously repeated to me "You don't want a two-year contract??!!!111one" like it was the nicest thing he had ever offered someone, I slowly backed away, hoping to not provoke him further. I don't think I could have gotten a more shocked reaction out of the guy if I had dropped my pants and assaulted him right there in the store.

So I went to the Cingular retail store where they do offer single-year contracts. I didn't want a new phone or anything, so I just got a shiny new orange SIM card for the SE637 I already have.

The good news is, my efforts do not appear to be in vain. I've had several phone conversations over the weekend and not once did I hear a complaint about my phone cutting out. The other good news, as I mentioned before, is that my phone number hasn't changed. So, you know, go ahead and call me right now and tell me how awesome I am. If you want. Thanks.

* Fool me once, shame on — shame on you. Fool me — you can't get fooled again.

I Want to be a Coffee Snob


cremaOne of the pages I read somewhat regularly linked to, a site dedicated to the simple pleasures of coffee, and the making of coffee though the use of not-so-simple machines.

I was given a Mr. Coffee espresso maker (who says appliances don't make great gifts?) that I use frequently to turn Starbucks beans into Starbucks liquid, and I enjoy the bitter results immensely. However, it would seem in the world of brushed stainless steel machines with fancy foreign-sounding names, there is no appreciation for my little black plastic workhorse with its respectful appellation. Nowhere will you find a review of the Mr. Coffee, Mrs. Coffee, or even Recently Divorced Coffee (which produces a very bitter cup).

Instead, we have reviews of a wide selection of espresso makers that many people would have to take out a loan to purchase. I found out in fact, for the price of a small car or a mail-order Russian bride, you can make in your very own home the same coffee the professionals make at Jack in the Box and other fine establishments. And you can obsess about getting the perfect layer of crema to adorn your espresso shot.

That's a little much for me. I'm going to continue to be ignorant of the possibilities of the home-brewed goodness. Instead, I want to go to classy coffee shops, sit on nice furniture planted on hardwood floors in a dimly lit room, and enjoy the product of freshly roasted beans prepared by someone who regards espresso as an art form.

But where do I find an experience like this, and how far am I willing to travel ? Well, from reading CoffeeGeek, I discovered a few things. The most recent article posted described a coffeeshop in the DFW metroplex that sounded promising. I was surprised to be reading about a place that appeared very close to me, until I realized this coffeehouse is in the FW part of DFW. I might go there once if I have another excuse to travel west, but surely there's something closer.

So where do I find a good coffeeshop in Dallas ?

Return of the Circus Peanut


Circus PeanutsI was browsing through the local Minyard's grocery store this noon looking for something to eat for lunch*, because none of my coworkers will go out to restaurants with me anymore after the incident, and I came across something totally unexpected.

You'll never believe what I found. There it was in all of its orange and dimpled lumpy goodness: a bag of Brach's Circus Peanuts.

Now you're certainly thinking to yourself or possibly saying out loud, "big deal" those nasty marshmellowey things are everywhere. And that's almost true. Other brands are found in every grocery, convenience, and inconvenience store in the country. But not the magical brand from Brach's, the company who uses 120% pure Circus in the manufacturing of these candy delights.

The problem is, I'm almost certain that Brach's stopped manufacturing this stuff sometime around 1984 when the FDA declared Circus Peanuts unfit for human consumption, and all remaining inventory was relabeled as pest control.

And there's plenty of credible evidence to support my claim that these particular candies I'm holding are older than my Buick. The package, as you can see in the photo, clearly indicates Circus Peanuts should be soft and chewy. Either this is a cruel joke by the Brach's company to drive up my dental bill when I unsuspectingly bite into one, or these little Peanuts have been absorbing atmospheric contaminants for eons. They're so hard I'm considering selling them to NASA for use in the outer hull of the next space shuttle.

Then there's the layer of dust on the package. I haven't seen this much dust in one place since I was at a movie rental store that had a shelf of Adam Sandler movies.

Finally, I distinctly remember these things tasting good. Or at the very least, not bad. Yeuck.

I think it's wildly irresponsible of Minyard's food stores to sell me this candy. At the very least, the package should contain a Surgeon General's warning like you see on packs of cigarettes. "Consumption of this 'food product' causes an elevated risk of obesity, dementia, and delusions of creative writing ability."

* I settled on a roast beef with swiss sammich from the deli, since you were wondering.

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