Category: The World

Caveat Emptor

The other day I noticed a couple of light bulbs in the family room light fixtures had burnt out and we were short on replacement 40W bulbs, so yesterday afternoon I stopped by the Menards store to pick some up. I usually just get the Sylvania packs of 4 bulbs; they work fine, give off good light, have a decent lifespan, and they’re relatively cheap. As I walked in the door I spotted a display that had 3 x 4-packs of Sylvania bulbs for $5.96, so I grabbed one. I also needed a couple of bulbs for the medicine cabinet in the bathroom, so I went to the bulb aisle & happened to spot the single 4-pack Sylvania bulbs for 99¢. What the…???

Then I noticed the packages on the shelf right next to the 99¢ 4-packs; a 2 x 4-pack for $3.94 and a 6 x 4-pack for $9.98.

4-pack — 25¢ apiece
8-pack — 49.25¢ apiece
12-pack — 49.67¢ apiece
24-pack — 41.58¢ apiece (but it comes in a really nice corrugated paper box)

Either someone wasn’t thinking when they set the prices, or they were thinking & counting on customers to not think when they pick up light bulbs; counting on people making the false assumption that buying larger quantities automatically is a better deal. Menards is a pretty successful chain of stores, so I doubt they’d make a mistake like that by accident. Thinking about it kinda torques me off, because it’s not the first time I’ve seen that sort of shenanigans at Menards; when I was building a shed at our old house, I needed a 5lb box of nails. While shopping at Menards at the time, a 5lb box was priced at $11.99, while a 1lb box was 99¢.

These two examples are pretty obvious, but it makes me wonder how many other not-so-obvious but similar scams are hiding on the shelves at Menards, and every other big-box store. Yvonne really hates shopping, and is one who doesn’t pay much attention to price tags; if she needs it, she gets it. The problem is that I know some of the Sam’s Club “bulk deals” are only deals for Sam’s Coffers. Buyer beware.

Put Away The Leeches Already!

Here’s another good article from American Thinker yesterday…

There are two hypotheses, at least. One is the standard story of the government-as-savior crowd. TARP and other bailouts fixed the financial crisis and Obama’s stimulus stopped the economic recession that resulted. Without either one, things would have been worse, much worse.

Here is another hypothesis. We had a recession, just like the other ten times since World War II. As in every other such case, this recession would have ended in about a year if government had done nothing in particular. But this time, the extra costs and uncertainties caused by government “fixes” in fact prolonged and deepened this recession and threatened a double dip or stalling out of economic activity.

Neither hypothesis can be “proved,” since all we know is what government did and what happened. We do not know what might have happened had we done something else.

But here is my take. The times we let government do the most to “fix” a recession, meaning the Great Depression and our current Great Recession, were the very times the economy did the worst. When government let things more or less alone, the economy recovered fairly quickly and with minimal damage.

We also have the academic studies by, of all people, Christina Romer, Obama’s initial chair of the Council of Economic Advisers, that say fiscal policies (e.g. government spending or “stimuli”) did not get us out of the Great Depression or any of our postwar recessions.

The analogy is bleeding a patient. If the doctors bleed a patient and he gets better, they take credit. If the patient gets worse, the doctors say he was not bled enough.

I think, at this point, we have enough evidence for both bleeding as a medical cure and fiscal stimulus as an economic cure that we can stop killing patients by bleeding them to death.

We have two good pieces of advice in such matters, one from Hippocrates and the other from our space program. Hippocrates said, “First, do no harm.” Our space program’s rule of flight control was “If you don’t know what to, don’t do anything.”

I think we need people in Washington, DC, who follow the advice in that last paragraph. Lots of them.

Let’s Follow Mexico’s Lead

… At least on immigration policy. So many people have their underwear so incredibly bundled about Arizona’s new law giving police the ability to enforce existing US immigration laws. Those people somehow think it’s perfectly ok for the US to leave it’s borders wide open to allow illegal immigrants to flow back & forth across the Mexico/US border for any reason at all, and as long as they’re here anyway, it’s ok for those illegals take advantage of government-provided ‘entitlements’. After all, they’re just looking for a better life, right?

Although there are a lot of people thinking that way, I’m thankful there are a lot more who see the flaws in that kind of thinking, and they don’t all reside in Arizona. But Arizona, because of SB1070, has become the whipping boy for the open borders crowd. Everybody — from President Obama right on down to the foulest mouths in the blogosphere — is railing against Arizona, while not even understanding what’s in the bill. It’s like they’ve all heard that it’s awful and have no desire to learn any different. Heaven forbid they actually read the bill. The entire thing is only 17 pages long, and doesn’t take that long to read, yet even Attorney General Eric Holder admits he hasn’t read it, nor has Janet Napolitano or anyone else who says they don’t like the law, or so it seems anyway. It would take, what? 20 minutes to read it? I love how Holder claims he hasn’t taken the time to read it, but apparently formed a pretty definitive opinion of it based on what he’s read in the news about it. And this is the guy who is supposed to be briefing the President on this sort of thing; doesn’t give me much hope that Obama has much of a clue as to what’s in it either.

And things just don’t seem to be letting up on this subject; last week Mexican president Felipe Calderon visited Washington, DC, and did his share of taking shots at Arizona. But I wonder what Arizona’s critics would say if they were to examine Mexico’s immigration laws… Or if immigration laws in the US were modeled after Mexico’s?

Here’s an excerpt from an article that reveals some details about Mexican immigration policy…

Under Mexican law, illegal immigration is a felony. The General Law on Population says,

  • “A penalty of up to two years in prison and a fine of three hundred to five thousand pesos will be imposed on the foreigner who enters the country illegally.” (Article 123)
  • Foreigners with legal immigration problems may be deported from Mexico instead of being imprisoned. (Article 125)
  • Foreigners who “attempt against national sovereignty or security” will be deported. (Article 126)

Mexicans who help illegal aliens enter the country are themselves considered criminals under the law:

  • A Mexican who marries a foreigner with the sole objective of helping the foreigner live in the country is subject to up to five years in prison. (Article 127)
  • Shipping and airline companies that bring undocumented foreigners into Mexico will be fined. (Article 132)

From what I’ve read of the Mexican justice system, enforcement is probably a bit of an issue, but a bit of cash applied to the palms of the right officials will likely get them to look the other way. Even so, it’s pretty hypocritical for Calderon to be criticizing Arizona’s law.

Another thing that gets me is how government officials all over the US are overreacting to SB1070; last week a Chicago-area girls’ basketball team had to cancel a trip to Arizona for a tournament because the school district’s assistant superintendent thought the trip, “would not be aligned with our beliefs and values.” Funny thing is, the school district has sent groups of kids to China and the Czech Republic, so apparently the policies of those countries are more closely aligned with her beliefs and values?

Yup, the name of the game is hypocrisy. Just doesn’t get much better than this.

It’s A Passing Lane, Not A Parking Lane!

This YouTube video is a great reminder of why it’s a good idea to stay in the right lane unless you’re actually passing another car:

Yes, it’s true we don’t typically have Corvette’s screaming down I-90 or I-29 at around 160 mph (actually, that’s not outside the realm of possibility during Corvette Classic Rally week) but I’d still argue that it’s a good idea to reserve the left lane for passing. No matter how fast you travel, whether at the speed limit or a few miles over it, it seem that there’s always someone going faster. Driving the freeways around Sioux Falls, it’s not uncommon to find some yokel lollygagging along in the left lane while people are passing him on the right. More common though is to come up behind someone driving alongside another car at the same speed, creating a rolling roadblock.

I encountered this not too long ago… A pack of four cars driving about 60 (in a 65 zone where most people drive just under 75); three in the right lane and one in the left. I came up behind the car in the left lane & flashed my high-beams to let him know I’d like to get through. The guy in the driver’s seat turned himself almost completely around & to show me his middle finger! After that demonstration of civility, he did move out of the way, but swerved his car at me a bit as I passed him. I was able to resist the temptation to return fire.

Me; I try to stay out of the left lane on the highway whenever possible. Of course, there are times when not always possible to get out of the way as quickly as some people would like… But that’s their problem!

The Slaughter Solution?

They really can’t be serious about this, can they?

House Rules Chairwoman Louise Slaughter is prepping to help usher the healthcare overhaul through the House and potentially avoid a direct vote on the Senate overhaul bill, the chairwoman said Tuesday.

In the Slaughter Solution, the rule would declare that the House “deems” the Senate version of Obamacare to have been passed by the House. House members would still have to vote on whether to accept the rule, but they would then be able to say they only voted for a rule, not for the bill itself.

This is only another attempt by the Democrat “Leadership” to obfuscate the fact that even with the huge majority they have in the House, Nancy Pelosi still is unable to muster the votes to push this thing through. The Representatives know a ‘yes’ vote would be political suicide, so they don’t want to touch it. Comically, the story from Nancy is still that the Republicans are the problem (cue rolling of eyes). Even if they proceed with this cockamamie plan, a vote to accept the rule will still have the stink of death on it, so the issue is pretty much moot.

Speaking of leadership (or the lack thereof), for the last few weeks President Obama has been insisting that Congress get this healthcare thing put to bed before Malia & Sasha’s Big Adventure (featuring stops in Guam, Indonesia & Australia; one can only wonder whether a visit to Dad’s birthplace is on the itinerary…) The Southern Hemisphere Tour was supposed to take off March 18, but has been pushed back to March 21. Again, he has drawn a line in the sand, and allowed that line to be moved. Is it any wonder that his job approval numbers have tanked? Or have they tanked because he’s pushing so hard for something so many people don’t want? Which came first, the chicken or the egg?

The Amazing Snowflake

Last Sunday our Adult Community class at church began a study of our church’s Statement of Faith. That document begins with the belief in the Word of God, so our study dealt with the ways that God reveals Himself to us; General Revelation and Special Revelation.

As part of the evidence of General Revelation, the teacher showed us some microphotographs of snowflakes, and I was amazed. Amazed that something so small and so commonplace (especially this year!) could be so beautiful and so complex. The photographs he used (and that I have linked below) came from SnowCrystals.com, which is part of CalTech’s website.

“How full of the creative genius is the air in which these are generated!
I should hardly admire more if real stars fell and lodged on my coat.”

— Henry David Thoreau, 1856

Robots in the Cowshed

A couple of years ago my sister-in-law met and married a Dutch dairy farmer; around here that wouldn’t be much of a feat because there are plenty of Dutch dairy farmers in Northwest Iowa… but they now live on the farm in Holland! Keeping up with family means Skype and long airline rides are pretty much the norm. They made the trip back for a holiday visit a couple of weeks ago, and had some fun showing off (via photos & video anyway) the new toys they installed in the dairy barn; two milking robots.

astronaut-3

The robots were designed & built by Lely, a Dutch farm equipment manufacturer. And they truly are robots; aside from routine maintenance, they require no human intervention to milk the cows. They and the cows just hum along, day and night, and in the process milk production is bumped up by a decent amount, which allows the dairyman to increase the size of the herd and focus on other details of running the farm. They really are pretty amazing:

  • The cows are trained to walk into the machines when they feel the need to be milked (on average, 2.8 times a day)
  • RFID tags allow the machine to recognize individual cows as they enter.
  • A portion of feed is dispensed that is custom blended to meet that particular individual’s nutritional needs.
  • The robot cleans the udder & teats,
  • It then uses a laser tracking system to locate the individual teats and attaches a suction device to each and begins milking.
  • When finished, it detaches from the cow and turns her loose from the stall.
  • The robot then cleans the suction devices and prepares for the next cow.
  • As the milk is drawn, the quantity tracked, and the chemical composition is analyzed to diagnose potential health problems in the cow.
  • If the analysis shows the milk fails to meet predetermined quality standards, the milk is discarded.
  • The computer controlling the robot also keeps statistics for the entire herd, allowing the dairyman to keep track of trends and potential issues with individual cows.

Since the thing is controlled by standard PC hardware, they were able to pull up the machine via VNC to check up on things; it was evening when he was showing this to me, but about 3 am local time at the farm, and we saw that a cow had just stepped into the machine. Apparently one of the things that helps to boost milk production is that the old way of doing things — milking twice a day — doesn’t really fit with a cow’s natural cycles, as is shown in the stats with the robot; on average, they will go in to be milked 2.8 times a day. And they will go in at all times of the day and night, whenever they feel the need to be milked, which I would think makes for happier cows!

The video below shows the machine in action;

Terrorist or Non-Denominational Miscreant?

Great article about the shooter in last Thursday’s massacre at Ft. Hood over at NYTimes.com.

With all that has been discovered about this ordeal and the guy behind it — Maj. Nadal Malik Hasan — it’s amazing that there is so much handwringing over whether to call it an act of terrorism or not. The media and the politicians seem to be going way out of their way to avoid stating the obvious, seemingly motivated by out of an over-developed sense of political correctness.

The good news is that he was denied the reward he was likely seeking from a ‘martyr’s’ death; he was shot four times, and survived. Even though to him, being held by infidels is a punishment worse than death, I’m not sure if that’s quite enough.

Feeding Frenzy at Ewe-Pullet!

Yesterday was Harvest Days at the local self-serve parts yard known as Nordstrom’s Ewe-Pullet (yeah, I know, corny), and it was downright crazy.

I had heard about their Harvest Days deal a while back, and had held off going there because of the deal… Fill a wheelbarrow with as much as you like/need, and it’s yours for $40, provided you can push said wheelbarrow for 40 feet in 40 seconds without losing anything from your load. I planned to get out there early to grab a bunch of miscellaneous stuff from the 735iL and the 525i they have on the lot. I got there at 10 am (they opened at 9) and ended up parking about as far away from the gate as possible. The place was packed.

I chatted with one of the guys directing traffic who said they had people show up at 4 am & wait for the gate to open. The gal signing people in said she had seen more than 500 people go through the gate already. When I got inside, it was pretty clear that most of them were still there; people everywhere! And a line of guys waiting for wheelbarrows. The times I’ve been there before, there might be a dozen or so people there at one time, but it’s a big enough place that it’s possible to get in & out without seeing another customer; not yesterday though. Everybody I talked with who worked there was shocked at the turnout.

It took me a couple hours to pull the parts I was after; some of the larger parts I would like to have grabbed — front suspension bits, brakes, rear axle halfshafts — were either too far gone or too difficult to pull, so I left them and got the low hanging fruit instead. Both the cars were already pretty well picked over, and for most of the time I was the only one grabbing stuff off them, but I still got some good stuff. While I was there a couple of groups of guys came by trolling for turbochargers; they had several stacked up in their wheelbarrow, and seemed to be grabbing them and other high-dollar items from random cars. Pretty sure they’d turn around and eBay those parts & turn a few bucks off their wheelbarrow load!

After stacking the stuff I wanted near the cars, I went to find a wheelbarrow, hoping nobody would want what I wanted. After standing in line for a half-hour or so, I finally got loaded up, then went & got in line to check out. Decided to grab a couple of the free hotdogs they were handing out & watch some of the action; it was pretty entertaining! Some of the guys that were there had their wheelbarrows really loaded down; some with entire engines, others with transmissions, many with wheels & tires, and a lot with various body parts, stacked ridiculously high. One bunch of guys had four or five bumper skins, a couple of doors, and a bunch of other stuff I couldn’t see, all piled on; something in the load shifted as they were approaching the start line and it all came tumbling down. I sure wish I had taken a camera along… I’m sure there will be some photos up on the Nordstrom’s site at some point.

It started raining a little while I was waiting (the forecast was for a sunny Saturday!) so I bugged out before it got too miserable. All in all, it was a decent deal. I grabbed several items that can be used on my 528 and 735, and several other things that can maybe be sold to offset some of my expense (and time!) But was interesting to see was how people were out to get the most for their $40, and all they were willing to do for it.