Wednesday, November 30, 2005

No identity theft this time

A couple months ago, right after returning from our 3-week vacation trip, I had a call from the folks at Discover Card asking me if some recent purchases on my card had indeed been made by me. They had NOT. (I wrote a post about it at the time.)

Discover said they thought not, and immediately suspended my account while they assigned me a new account number and issued me new cards.

All of this I greatly appreciated! Hey, it’s nice to know that they have methods on place to catch credit card fraud long before the credit limit on your card is reached. Or exceeded. And since I had not lost or misplaced my cards, I had no liability to pay for any of the fraudulent buys.

Why am I telling you all of this? I don’t know. I forgot.

Oh, yeah! After my post yesterday bragging about doing all my Christmas shopping on the internet... (If you haven’t read it, scroll down. It’s a pretty neat poem, if I do say so)... Anyway, it happened again.

No, wait! Not the fraud. But today Carol got a phone call from Discover checking on the flurry of internet purchases made over the last 2-3 days. And do you know what kind of merchandise we purchased that raised their suspicions?

We bought——wait. I can’t TELL you what we bought. Some of the people who we were buying gifts for read this blog!

Darn. Well, I’ll just say that the purchases included items of apparel, appliances, and a few kinda neat, eclectic things. Stuff we don’t ordinarily buy online.

Discover must have some kind of sophisticated computer program that analyzes routine purchases and creates a “user profile” for each cardholder. Then if all at once your purchases don’t match your profile, DING! A red flag pops up on somebody’s screen somewhere.

Pretty slick, huh? I’d much rather get that telephone call than a bill for thousands of $$ on stuff I didn’t buy!

This sort of “identity theft” worries a lot of people, but not me.

I’ll still know who I am!

Tuesday, November 29, 2005

Ode on a Black Friday

Our paper came on Turkey day.
It weighed about a ton.
'Twas full of ads for stores with sales
On stuff for play or fun.

Or maybe gifts for someone else,
Or items for our homes.
Seemed everything that stores can sell
Was offered in those tomes.

The Mall would open early,
And to get a super deal,
You had to rise at two or three,
(You’d better pack a meal!),

And stand in line outside the door
To be among the first,
Supplies were short. And all agreed;
To lose out was the worst!

So people from around the town
Did congregate and gather
Outside the doors of many stores,
And all were in a lather.

The folks would push and shove to be
The first inside to buy.
As “Don’t get in my way today,
I’ll knock you down!” they’d cry.

The traffic on the streets, it seemed,
Was packed and barely moving,
And tempers flared and teeth were bared.
'Twas not exactly soothing.

I wondered, in the midst of all
This snarling, angst, and hissing,
If maybe there was something here
That all of them were missing.

What happened to the “Ho, Ho, Ho!”
And “Peace on Earth!” we’d hear,
When friends and family gathered round
To share, from far and near?

This season is supposed to bring out
All the best in man,
Like loving, giving, peace and joy.
At least, that was the plan.

So what’s the answer? Is there, somehow,
Some sure way of stopping
The discontent connected with
Thanksgiving Friday Shopping?

For me it’s pretty simple:
When the mobs rush out to roam
The malls and stores and parking lots,
I’ll stay inside my home.

I’ll ponder God’s atoning Son,
The best gift given yet,
And do my Christmas shopping
On my high-speed internet!

Monday, November 28, 2005

Sunday was better. Monday...??

I successfully recovered from my Saturday shopping horror . Sunday turned out to be a pretty day in Victoria--suitable for golf--so we did. Golf, that is.

Plus I wrote. I've been going through my novel MS one LAST time incorporating the suggestions of my wonderful critique partner Katie Bryan. It took a LOT longer than I thought it would, but I made some significant additions and changes (all for the better, of course) and now have a 80,500 word manuscript all ready to sell.

I have just emailed off that revision to Katie for her to look at in toto and possibly tweak before I put together my irresistable query letter and dynamite synopsis to hook a top agent who will fall in love with the manuscript and sell it within a few weeks.



Anyway, Sunday was a good day.

Today... Well, today was a double-barreled Monday if there ever was one. Mondays following a four-day weekend ought to be outlawed. Or at least reduced to a four-hour work day so we could ease back into our work routine.

But no. I (and likely many of YOU) spent over 8 hours at work today. I was slaving over a hot HR manager's desk. I had to handle such earth-changing issues as some problems with employees' uniforms and a return-to-work fit-for-duty exam. I had to answer some questions about our 401(k) plan, and reply to emails, and even approve some invoices!

Can you IMAGINE!?

But now I'm safe at home, ready to have a relaxing evening with my wonderful wife. Who, by the way, spent the afternoon working on the ski sweater she's knitting for our grandson Trevor. And it is C-U-T-E!!

Once it's finished you'll all be treated to a digital picture of it.

If, that is, Carol and I ever find time to read the manual for our new digital camera so we can take pictures with it.

Stay tuned!

Sunday, November 27, 2005

A Confession

As much as I hate to admit it, I went shopping yesterday.

I know, I know! I swore I wouldn't do it. I made fun of those who DO do it. It was against my better judgment. In fact, it was against my will!

I blame Carol, completely. It is all her fault. I never would have gone if she hadn’t laid a giant guilt trip on me. She pleaded! And I, being a sucker for anything my wife asks me to do, succumbed.

What did we shop for? Ah, good question! Our digital camera arrived on Friday! I checked the FedEx Ground tracking number that morning, and the item showed to have arrived in Victoria, TX about an hour earlier. I was concerned that it might be put on the truck for delivery Friday, and we would be out playing golf! Since a signature was required for delivery, we would miss it.

I called the FedEx 800 number and explained my dilemma. The nice FedEx lady who answered the phone apologized, but told me they were not set up for customers to go to their terminal and pick up packages. They were in the package delivery business, not the customer pick-up business.

I told her Victoria was a small town and the FedEx ground terminal was only a 5-minute drive from my house. She reluctantly put me on hold. For a LONG time!

When she came back on the line she told me happily that she had called the terminal in Victoria, the folks there had found the package (which was not yet on the delivery truck), and that they would hold it for my pickup! I told her she was wonderful!

Five minutes later I arrived at the terminal, found the office, showed them my picture ID (my drivers license, natch) and signed for my package. Five minutes later I was back at home opening the package.

Oh, yeah, you asked what we shopped for yesterday. Well, a camera bag, of course! Something to carry the camera around in.

So there I was, on the Saturday after Black Friday, in a Super Wal-Mart, in a Best Buy at the Victoria Mall, in our local Office Max (which sells digital cameras, but has almost NO selection of camera bags), and in our local Target store.

It was horrible!

What made it worse was: 1) I swore I wouldn’t go shopping this weekend, and there I was! 2) The crowds and traffic were JUST as bad as I knew they would be! And 3) We found a perfectly acceptable camera bag at Wal-Mart, our FIRST STOP(!!), and Carol wouldn’t let me just buy it and go home!

OH, NO! We had to see if, maybe, somebody else had a BETTER bag, or maybe the same bag for a lower price!

OH... My... GOD!!

I knew I’d died and gone to Hell. But to my everlasting and undying credit, I went with her to all those other stores. We found nothing better. I was ready to go back to Wal-Mart and buy the one they had when Carol suggested we go home and search the internet for what we need.


But that’s okay. We did our “due diligence” by trying local merchants first, and then we found the perfect bag, custom made for just the size camera and lens system that we have. We compared prices and shipping fees and delivery times for various on-line merchants, picked out the “best” deal, and ordered.

Ahhhhh! Shopping is done, Carol is happy, we’re going to get a bag that Carol is convinced will be PERFECT, and I didn’t have a heart attack as I had feared. The whole experience only took 2 ½ hours. The final (online) part only took 30 minutes. But at least now, it’s over.

If I’m lucky, that will be our LAST shopping excursion until after Christmas!

(Until the next time Carol pleads with me. Then I know I'll go again.)


Friday, November 25, 2005


A number of the blog posts I've read from yesterday listed things that the writers were thankful for. In my case that list would be WAAAAAYY too long to type out, and none of you would care anyway.

So, for today I'm thankful that I don't work in retail. (I have the day off, and a four-day weekend. Nyah Nyah Nyah!)

That mature outburst was directed at my wonderful blog regulars who DO work in retail. You know who you are!

I'm thankful that I have no need, desire, or plans to do any shopping of any kind today. Thus I'm doing my part to make the day less miserable for all of you retail types.

I'm thankful that I live in a part of the country where yesterday was sunny and mild. Why? Because after our noon-time Thanksgiving dinner with Carol's mom (grandma to most of us) we were able to...

But wait. Let me tell you about our dinner. Since neither of our daughters, nor their husbands, nor our one infant grandson were able to come to Texas for the holiday, we opted for a simple day. Carol baked pies (we couldn't do without ONE nod to tradition) -- three, to be exact. In accordance with OUR local customs they were: one coconut creme, one mincemeat, and (my favorite) one pecan pie with chocolate chips mixed in. MMMmmmmmmm!!

But we eschewed the traditional turkey, opting to wait until Christmas dinner for that huge array of stuffing and all the trimmings, in favor of tamales and beans. Mexican soul food! Simple, quick, and little clean-up afterward. Ideal!

Okay, NOW. After that wonderful but simple dinner at noon (including, for me, TWO pieces of pie), we went to our local golf course and played 18 holes of golf!

And today, while all the crazed shoppers are out working to near-death all you poor souls who labor in retail, we have another sunny day to go out and recreate! On the golf course!

Hey! Don't be cussing and throwing your 5-pound Thursday newspaper sales ad circulars at ME! You're the one who chose a career in retail, not me!

Besides, I don't get that nice employee discount that you get. There are trade-offs, but this is MY day to gloat. Just a little.

Be thankful for that, at least. I am!

Wednesday, November 23, 2005


To all my regular readers... And I guess I'll include those who suffer from irregularity as well... I wish you each a very happy day of giving thanks.

If you spend the day with family members and loved ones, you are all the more blessed. But even if you happen to be alone, you still have a lot to be thankful and grateful for.

If, like me, you acknowledge God, tell Him, "Thank you."

If you don't, tell someone you love, "Thank you."

On this uniquely American holiday, even if you live in South Africa, call someone special (Mum or Dad would be fine, or anyone you think of) who has made a difference in your life and tell them, "Thank you."

You'll BOTH feel good. And that's a good thing.

I'm always remined on this holiday of the child who asked his father, "Dad, what do they call those Army machines that run on treads and have a big gun sticking out the front?"

His father replied, "Tanks, son."

His son smiled and said, "You're welcome."

Now, about your irregularity...

Tuesday, November 22, 2005

Still Wailing? Don’t.

I have good news that will more than alleviate your angst at my announcement yesterday. You know, the one about short blog posts from me through the holidays? The one that made you wail?

You say you weren’t wailing? Of course you were. You can’t fool me.

I distinctly heard the sound of wailing outside. It reminded me of two cats about to engage in a fight. But I’m sure it was really my many readers bemoaning my notice. Don’t know why all that cat hair was on my back patio this morning.

Anyway, my good news? I just saved 15% on my car insurance with the Gecko.

No, no. That’s not right. Obviously I’ve been watching too many ads on TV.

What I meant to say was, my new digital camera has been shipped and should arrive this Saturday.


Christmas is coming early at the Earle household this year. Maybe by Christmas morning I’ll have figured out how to put in the compact flash memory card, charge the batteries, set up the time and date feature, use all the different modes and settings and controls, and actually download a clear picture onto the internet to show to all of you!

Knowing me, I’ll probably still be trying to figure out where to put in the digital film.

Aren’t you thrilled and ecstatic? Of course you are. You can’t fool me.

Monday, November 21, 2005

The holidays are upon us!

Here it is, Thansgiving week already! Not only have I not started my holiday shopping (except fot the gift Carol and I are giving each other, our digital camera!), I haven't even been THINKING about holiday shopping.

I've been thinking about writing, getting this book into shape to sell, getting a new agent and having good things happen in 2006.

Selfish? Yep, that's me.

But this week should be a relaxing one. Work is never very intense on holiday weeks. Neither of our daughters (or sons-in-law or grandson) will be here for this Thanksgiving, so our Turkey Day feast will likely be tamales and beans served at Carol's mom's apartment.

Unless something amusing occurs to me or something otherwise blogworthy happens, my posts will probably be a bit short this week.

It's OK. I hear all of you out ther wailing in despair at the prospect of short posts from me.

What's that? You say you're laughing in joy and relief?

Ah, what jokers all of you are!

Since I promised a short post, I'll close here. No, no. You can't stop me. I'm closing.

Come back tomorrow.


Sorry, Nankin!

It was Nan who asked me "Where do you find people like Katie," not Kenju over at Just Ask Judy.

See the post below.

I'd like to say I have so many readers and so many emails that I just can't keep track of all of them, but the truth is I just messed up. It wasn't intended as a slight, Nan.


Sunday, November 20, 2005

You don’t believe in angels?

Yesterday’s post brought this plaintive comment from Kenju of Just Ask Judy, one of my blogroll favorite reads.

“John, where do you find people like Katie?”

I don’t know if the question was rhetorical or not, but there is a story worth telling behind that question. So here’s the answer:

When I wrote my novel, I made a commitment to myself that I would follow through and “take my best shot” and getting it published. I’m glad now I had no idea what the process would entail. Otherwise I doubt I ever would have made that promise.

I had to remind myself of the “best shot” commitment a LOT of times over the next two years (and counting). I’ll spare you the gory details and just say that I found an agent (Lantz Powell) who worked with me far beyond what anybody else would have done. He signed me, pitched my MS to about a dozen publishers, got back some encouraging comments but no takers. There still remains one who has had it for months with no word.

This past July Lantz emailed me that he had done all he could, and that if I wanted to try another agent I should feel free.

Bummer! I was at a crossroads and had to decide if my “best shot” was over, or if it had any strength left. I emailed Lantz back and just told him I’d think about it.

The very next day I received an email from someone I’d never heard of named Katie Bryan. (And yes, she told me it was OK to link to her web site!) She had Googled my agent’s name and found my blog among the hits. She wondered what my experience with Lantz was like because she needed an agent in a hurry (a publisher was interested in her work, and she had just parted ways with a different agent.)

I’m always willing to talk, so I asked her in an email reply if I could phone her to discuss her question. We talked for nearly an hour. She seemed sincerely interested in what I had written, so I emailed her a synopsis and the first three chapters.

Katie shared all of that with her critique partner (a lady named Pat) who is both a published author AND an editor(!!). The two of them sent me back extensive comments on that portion and questions about the rest of the book. Both were extremely enthusiastic and thought it could sell!

Boy, you talk about an ego boost!! Katie offered to go through the entire book and make comments and suggestions. How could I say no?

But being just a bit cynical, I asked her bluntly if she was actually volunteering to do this, or if there would be a fee involved. She laughed and said, “No fee at all. I know the value of a good critique partner. If you like my ideas, use them; if not, toss them.”

So through August, September and October she has taken 30-page segments and gone through each extensively. A few, in her opinion, were fine the way they were. In some she would just say, “Give the reader some more insight here into what the character is thinking. Put us inside his/her head some more.” I others she would recommend a better job of “setting the scene.” Sometimes it was “describe the room.” Or, “Insert some current events here to give us a sense of the period.” And each one of her comments highlighted exactly what was needed there.

But throughout EVERY section she would also insert little “Perfect!” or “Outstanding!” or “Oh, God, you’ve got me in tears here!” comments. She was SO complimentary and enthusiastic that I would be almost drooling in anticipation of her next reviewed section.

I’ve just sent her my extensive revision of the last 50 pages including the new ending to the story. I tried to incorporate her ideas and suggestions. I am on pins and needles waiting for her response.

So, Judy, the answer to your question is: I wish I knew! Some have recommended to me various writers’ groups (like RWA – “Romance Writers of America”) as a source of critique partners. And I’m sure you could find some that way.

But to find someone like Katie? Ah, that would be a challenge. And since she found me, just when I needed her the most, well...

Refer to the title of this post.

Saturday, November 19, 2005


That’s what I’ve been doing. I seem to have new vigor and energy to direct towards getting this next (and I swear FINAL) re-write of my first novel finished.

Katie, my critique partner, just pointed out a major problem with a section near the end of my tale. It had nothing to do with my mechanics; it was all about content.

Without realizing it, I had portrayed my heroine as weak and indecisive (at best). Or maybe conniving, selfish, and uncaring about the pain she was inflicting on the hero (at worst). Katie was afraid I would alienate a lot of readers without some significant changes to that section.

With her prompting I was finally able to see the individual trees in the forest. Or is it that I saw the forest despite all those darn trees in my way? Whichever, it happened.

For the last few months Katie has been going through my manuscript about 30 pages at a time, making suggestions, correcting typos, telling me where I needed to add description and giving me insights that I had missed completely.

And she’s not even charging me!! WOO-HOO!!

Most of her suggestions have been right on. And while this novel will never be perfect (few are), it is now MUCH better than it ever was, or ever could have been without her help.

I figure I’ve got about another 2-3 days of work to get it finished. And I mean FINISHED! Ready to present to agents and maybe even publishers.

Hey, I can dream, can’t I?

After I’m convinced I can’t make it much better (and those 2-3 days may take me a month), I’ll rewrite the synopsis and then put together a dynamite query letter that nobody can resist and start mailing out copies to agents.

And if history (and everything I’ve read about the process) is any indication, I’ll receive back form rejections from about 90% of them.

But that’s OK. It only takes one who is in love with the manuscript and willing to go mile after mile in convincing an editor that it will make their house a lot of money.

Hope springs eternal, they say. So I’m taking one last shot with this book.

Then I’m working on the sequel. If this one doesn’t sell and the next one does, I’ll have a “prequel” all ready to go.

Stay tuned. I ought to have an answer back in about two years or so.

Friday, November 18, 2005

Digital anger

I think my fears from yesterday were confirmed today.

The online merchant is called Prestige Camera. They are in New York. Although the "average" customer rating is four stars out of a possible five and many of the individual reviews are glowing five-star beauties, there are also about a dozen "Slam" reviews alleging the very kind of practice I figured I was getting hit with.

You can read them if you're interested at this site .

A number of them relate experiences just like ours, with a requirement to call in to "verify" the order, followed by the merchant's attempt to sell the patron accessories they dn't necessarily want at grossly inflated prices. When the patron declines, the item ordered just never seems to ship.

I called today and was told that the order would ship later today. I asked for verification of that since I'd been told earlier that the item had been recalled (that's what they said??) and wouldn't be available for a few days. I had to call three times because I kept getting "disconnected."

Finally a rep told me that, no, it looked like the order would not ship for another "few days." How many is a "few?" He couldn't say, but probably next week.

I cancelled the order. At least they were willing to do that without a hassle. Some of those reviewers report that upon a request to cancel, the buyer was yelled at and rudely hung up on.

Yeah, I'm going to be paying a bit more. But thus far the outfit I've ordered from hasn't asked me to buy anything else besides the camera, and has promised that it will ship on Monday.

If I don't get a tracking number and do get a hassle, I'll let you know.

Meanwhile, I'd recommend giving Prestige Camera a wide berth as you pass them by.

I'll also be writing my own review later today. Guess how many stars they'll get from me!

Thursday, November 17, 2005

Digital suspicion(!)

Am I being scammed? Flim-flammed? Maybe a bit of the old bait and switch?

Here’s the story. We decided on a digital camera: model, brand, and “kit” number. We then shopped for price (on-line, natch). Found the lowest price offered through,, and Checked the merchant’s reviews to ensure legitimacy. Whipped out the old credit card and place the order.

WOO-HOO! Got back an email confirmation in minutes. All looked good.

Ah, but next morning when Carol returned to the house after running some errands she found TWO emails and one telephone message from the merchant requesting us to call and “verify the order” before it could process.

She called and spoke with “Gene.” Gene reviewed the order with her, and then mentioned that she might want to consider an extra extended life battery pack since the battery pack that shipped with the camera didn’t last very long between charges.

A yellow caution flag went up in Carol’s mind. None of the extensive reviews we had read mentioned any concerns about the battery. And those reviews picked apart just about everything you can imagine, including the appearance and “feel” of the camera.

But we had talked about maybe getting an extra battery, so she said OK. He added, in glib tones, that we would want a charger for that, and he would add that in as well.

The discussion turned to filters for the lenses, and then a compact flash memory card (which she turned down because we had one ordered from another retailer), and then a carrying case, and more.

She asked him at one point what our new total for the entire order would be. He gave her the price.

It was HUNDREDS more than we wanted to spend!

Carol then understood what was going on. The camera was a “loss leader” and they made their profit selling overpriced accessories.

She promptly told Gene to cancel everything except the original order. He became snide and surly. His comment was, “Oh, come on. How much sense does THAT make?”

When she insisted, she suddenly heard a busy signal. She had been cut off.

About 30 seconds later my office telephone rang. Carol was spitting nails through the phone line! She asked demanded that I call Gene back immediately and find out the status of our order. If they thought we were going to pay for all that stuff they were mistaken!

The phrase, “Hell hath no fury...” ran through my mind.

I eschewed speaking to Gene, but rather asked for customer service, told the person who answered that there was some confusion about what we had ordered, and would he review it with me. He pulled it up on his computer and told me it was just the camera kit, at the total price we had agreed upon. I thanked him and hung up.

When I told this story at work today, a co-worker smiled and nodded. He said, “That’s what they did to me, too. And when I insisted that all I wanted was the camera, suddenly it was backordered. Indefinitely. They never did ship it to me. I finally had to cancel the order and bought mine through eBay.”

So, I will now check my order status daily, and if there’s no tracking number by tomorrow I’ll have to call them again. If they then tell me it’s backordered, I guess I’ll just cancel the order.

Other adages I’m reminded of (in addition to the "woman scorned" one) include:

“The bitterness or poor quality (or service) lingers long after the sweetness of low price is forgotten.”

“Caveat emptor.”

“You get what you pay for.”

At my age, you’d think I’d have learned some of this stuff.

Wednesday, November 16, 2005

An easy guide to getting published

Many of the blogs I read are maintained by writers. Most of us are not published authors, but we’ve all either completed a book or two (or more) and are trying to get it (them) published, or we’ve started a book (or several) and dream of getting published.

The blogs serve to chronicle our daily lives and foibles, but all have a recurring theme regarding the progress (or lack thereof) we’re making towards that elusive goal.

I’m no industry insider, but from everything I’ve been able to glean this is about as cutthroat a business as there is. Book readership is down as the myriad of alternative leisure-time activities and games and devices all compete for a share of the “entertainment” market. The profits of publishers from traditional novels are razor thin if not non-existent.

Breaking into the ranks of “published” is often as much a matter of luck and persistence as evidence of skill at the craft of telling a good tale. Is there any best-selling author (in the last 25 years) whose initial efforts met rejection after rejection before finally being “in the right place at the right time?” I’ve not heard or read of any.

But haven’t we all read a book or two over the years that we knew after the third or fourth chapter was schlock? I have. And then I’ve wondered, “How did THIS ever get through an agent into an editor’s hands and onto the store shelves?”

The best answer I’ve found is that it seemed to meet a perceived need at a given moment.

Huh? What do I mean by that?

Well, maybe an agent took an editor to lunch in New York, and the editor mentioned that her boss was looking for a great new thriller to ride the wave of, say, Tom Clancy’s successes. The market was clamoring for more books like Tom’s, and she wished she could find a good one to push.

That afternoon that agent is queried by an author with a thriller in a military setting. She emails the author and asks for the first three chapters and a synopsis. When she gets it she realizes that this guy is no Tom Clancy, but the poorly written book meets a “need,” so she helps the author clean up some obvious faults in the opening, signs him, and sends it off to her editor friend.

Her editor friend is not real impressed, but this is what her boss asked for so she forwards it on. The editing team agrees that it’s far from perfect, but it’s the closest thing they’ve got to what the boss wants, so they recommend it.

Bingo! We have a new published author!

Meanwhile a better manuscript with much more potential from an author wannabe who has plans for six sequels languishes because the agents HE has queried are looking for a different genre that week. They get 30-40 queries a DAY. Three weeks later when an editor mentions to the agent that she’s looking for a military thriller, that query letter is long forgotten.

Sound like sour grapes? Maybe it is. But if you read Karyn Lyndon’s blog post of Nov. 14th you’ll get a feel for the sometimes cruel nature of the business. There’s a lot more to her story than you’ll find in her post, but the frustration can be overwhelming.

Everything I’ve read on this topic (the journey to getting published) emphasizes the need for patience and persistence.

I can certainly see why.

Tuesday, November 15, 2005

Digital madness

Have any of you shopped for a digital camera lately?

No, I don’t mean did you go out and buy one, I mean did you shop for one. As in compare features and prices, figure out which features are worth the higher price and which ones aren’t, and then look for a camera with all the features you want and without those you don’t want to pay for.

Did that make sense? I hope so, but I’m so befuddled from all the choices that I have begun to understand why people don’t try to compare, but just go to a discount electronics store and buy what looks good that’s in their price range.

It’s not just megapixels and zoom. There are: Shooting Modes, Metering Zones, Sensor Types, Image Processors, Viewfinder Info Displays, Recording Formats, and more.

I’m sure all of those are important. Why am I sure? Because the reviews and comparisons all seem to make a big deal out of them.

But which are “better?” Which are unnecessary, and thus not worth the extra money (if optional). And which ones—although they may sound good, important, or even necessary—really only add complexity and are features I’ll never use?


And why don’t the reviewers include really useful information instead of all those technical specs? For example, which one is most likely to keep working after you drop it from eye level onto concrete? Or into a puddle? Or after you leave it outside overnight in the rain?

Hey, it’s the real world out there! Those things happen!

And how about temperature extremes? Like, if I leave it in the car parked in the sun in South Texas while I’m inside a restaurant eating lunch, is the plastic camera body going to be a sagging, misshapen gooey mess when I open the camera bag? Will I look through the 10 mm eyepoint viewfinder with the dioptric adjustment range of -3.0 to +1.0 diopters and see the word “tilt” flashing on the lower right side as the camera fails to function?

I’ve only been “shopping” for a couple of days, and I am beyond overwhelmed. We’ve even called our daughter Amy (who’s the closest thing we know to a digital camera “expert”) and asked her about some of these cryptic specs. She just shrugged and told us that she never uses many of those touted features.

I think this weekend I’ll just take Carol to the closest electronics discount store and pick up whatever camera model they have in stock that’s under $300.

Especially if it comes in a blue case; my favorite color.

Monday, November 14, 2005

Lynch mob?

Last week I wrote a brief post about my fondness for puns. I received a mixed bag of comments and emails, many of which expressed an understanding of my fondness, but only a few claimed to actually share that feeling about them.

Well, yesterday one of those opportunities presented itself on a silver platter, and I was compelled to take advantage of it.

The day before—Saturday—Carol and I had been joined on the golf course by our good friend Ruth. We three play together frequently enough that all the course personnel know us and have almost come to expect to see us together.

One of those employees is called the “Starter.” Our course has three nine-hole layouts, and the starter’s job is to assign golfers to different nines when they begin their round to spread people out and thus speed up play. Sometimes he will ask two small groups to join together. His goal is to keep things flowing and moving while maximizing use of the entire course.

On Sunday Carol and I presented ourselves to the starter (whose name is Al) as ready to start. He asked me conversationally, “Ruth not coming out today?” He was looking around for another twosome or a single to put with us.

I told Al, “No, she couldn’t make it today.” As I was saying that, it hit me.

I paused just a couple of beats and remarked deadpan, “Yeah, Carol and I are going to just be Ruthless out there today.”

He looked up at me with a blank expression. Then understanding came. (It’s all in the delivery.)

He had the good grace to laugh. And once he started he just couldn’t stop. He must have repeated that line to everybody he saw that afternoon.

I’m hoping that by next weekend it will be safe for me to show up at the course again. There have been rumors that a lynch mob had formed, but I’m sure that’s just an exaggeration.


Sunday, November 13, 2005

Good news...

For all you regular readers who urged me to please get a digital camera.

No, I don’t have one yet. Which doesn’t matter, because there’s nothing around here I want to take pictures of right now.

The good news is this: Carol and I have decided that for Christmas this year our gift to each other will be a nice SLR digital camera with at least a couple of lenses. Maybe three. We want enough optical (as well as digital) zoom to get closer shots of wildlife (like the raccoons on the golf course in Georgia.)

So we’ve begun the process of self-education. Next comes compare features vs. cost. Then come the decisions about which features are most important (and damn the cost) and which ones are unimportant (so cost means a lot).

These processes will likely take us most of the intervening time between now and Christmas. Either that or, we’ll get so confused and overwhelmed with all the details that we’ll just give up and buy what a local store has in stock in our price range.

In any event, our goal is that by next year’s Ski Vacation (early February) we’ll be taking digital pictures. So stand by for lots of shots of a big family group in matching sweaters. And of a little 10-month-old grandson experiencing snow for the first time ever.

Should be fun.

Saturday, November 12, 2005

A nearly perfect Saturday

And you know that it had to include some golf, right?

But first, grandma is home from the hip replacement surgery and doing just fine, thank you very much. She would like to show her hateful physical therapist how well she is getting up by herself from her home furniture. We stopped by today to check on her, and have called her twice, but she has no need of us.

She even got up this morning and fixed her own breakfast. An amazing lady at 82 with two artificial knees and an artificial hip. I'm calling her the bionic woman. She just smiles knowingly.

We put the pop-up camper up this morning and I spent several hours removing the gas stove to gain access to the built-in microwave/toaster oven combination mounted underneath. On our last camping trip (with Ruth a few weeks ago) the oven had shifted in its cubby hole and needed to have its shelf reinforced, its little plastic/rubber "feet" re-attached, and the strap that is supposed to hold it in place tightened.

I was able to get all that done with cordless drill/screwdriver, some screws, some glue, and a fair amount of ingenuity. I contend that short of a wreck on the highway it will not shift its position again. We'll see.

Ruth joined us for golf at our local public course and both the weather and the pace of play were excellent. Too bad about the quality of play, but I'm sure you don't want to hear about the 12 I carded on the first par 5, so I won't tell you about it. Suffice it to say that those 12 strokes inclued a tee shot out of bounds (and across the road, and lost in the weeds), a few hacks here and there, one really good long straight shot in the middle, a missed green, a pitch over the green into a bunker, a bunker shot short of the green, a chip and two putts. Plus a couple of... but no, you don't want to hear about all that, right? Right.

Other than that one hole, I played pretty well. Not as well as the ladies, but that's normal.

Back at the house we had long telephone calls from both of our daughters, including an update on grandson Trevor's latest escapades. Among these are scooting across the room in his little walker, sitting up by himself, and drinking from a little "sippy cup."

(If you don't know what that is, you haven't been around infants recently.)

After a scrumptious dinner of carry-out pizza, we retired to the bedroom for some... no, that's what Joy would call TMI.

Anyway, all in all not a bad day.


Friday, November 11, 2005

More bizarre banking stuff

First read yesterday’s post, if you haven’t already, for the background.

When I called my bank yesterday I was placed on hold several times while the person checked with several other people to be sure her information was correct. Even so, I later called back with a follow-up question and spoke with someone I know who works at the bank. She, a very careful and reliable professional, further confirmed the earlier information that my personal payroll money would be available to me on Friday morning (today).

This morning when I got to my office, a message was waiting on my phone. Here’s a transcription:

Mr. Earle, this is _____ Bank, and we talked to you earlier on the payroll that we thought was going to be memo-posted for Friday? They will not memo-post until Saturday morning.

“Uh, we just wanted to let you know that, uh, you were told in error. Those payrolls for, uh, your company, will not memo-post until Saturday morning. And I, we apologize for the error. You can give us a call at _____ Bank if you have any questions. Thank you. Bye

Now, I’m usually a fairly calm person. I don’t have much of a temper, and can control it pretty well in most instances. But I was flat-out fighting and cussing MAD!

What’s wrong with that message?

Well, for starters, the person (substitute a pejorative of your choice here) who left it did not give her name. So when (not if) I DO call the bank on Monday when they next open, I won’t know who to cuss out, blame, ask for.

Next, her tone was flat, matter-of-fact, and informative. Her words said “I, we apologize...” but her tone said “Oh well, there you have it, like it or not.”

I had made it clear yesterday to the bank’s spokespersons that I would pass on to ALL our employees what the bank’s procedures were—to reassure them, or at least to inform them. Now they were telling me that I had given everyone incorrect information. Since I had asked multiple people and all had assured me that the information was correct, I had passed it on in very certain language.

This was going to reflect on MY credibility. I’m usually very careful to include “weasel words” and caveats and so on in my messages to employees if there’s any doubt about the information. I hadn’t done that.

Resigned, knowing what I would find but wanting to see it anyway, I logged onto my bank’s online banking web page and viewed my account. Sure enough, there was nothing...

Wait a minute... The money IS there! And it shows that’s it’s available to me NOW (7:00 a.m. Friday).

What the HELL is going on?!

Lydia (who works with me in HR) checked her account at a different bank (using the internet). Her payroll amount was likewise in her account and available.

We called Jane. Her bank is a small rural one and doesn’t have online information, but they DO have ATMs. She did a “balance verification” at an ATM this morning and reported ruefully that her money did NOT show up in her account.

If she’s not gong to change her spending habits, maybe she need to change banks.

If I ever find one that has its act together, I’ll recommend it to her.

Thursday, November 10, 2005

It’s always something...

I guess that’s the nature of the HP profession. Although in today’s case it involves payroll more than HR.

I told you about our employee who is under a court-ordered tax lien. He has little choice—he has to live “paycheck to paycheck.” But I have other employees who live that way routinely (by choice, I would say, but they’d claim necessity).

Our payroll is handled by direct deposit only. No paychecks at all—you have to have a bank account to work here. And we pay every other Friday (biweekly).

Today (Thursday before our Friday payday) our employee Jane — not her real name — called to tell me that since tomorrow is a bank holiday (Veterans Day), her bank told her that she wouldn’t have access to her payroll money until Monday, 11/14.

At this point I thought, “So? If the bank is closed you couldn’t get your money out anyway.”

It never occurred to me that she had already written checks against that deposit figuring that they wouldn’t clear until Friday, and by then her pay would be in her account. Plus, she had planned to access some of the money from an ATM machine so she’d have cash for the weekend.

She was fighting back tears as she explained how much the bank would charge her for overdrafts.

Just FYI, this is a woman who earns over $60,000 a year working just her regular schedule. In addition she works a lot of overtime. So we’re not talking a minimum wage/poverty case here.

We contacted our payroll service (ADP), but it was too late now to change the pay date from tomorrow to today. Then I called MY bank and asked them about their procedures on Friday holidays.

MY bank told me that if the “transmittal” (from ADP) was in their hands today, there would be a “memo posting” tonight and I would have access to my money (via ATM, or whatever) tomorrow as scheduled. I asked if they would check to see if the transmittal was there. It was! Further calls revealed that the transmittal is usually at the bank on the Wednesday before a Friday pay date, and ALWAYS there by the Thursday before.

I thought back and realized that we had never before had any issues with pay being delayed when pay day fell on a bank holiday.

I told Jane to call her bank back and verify her earlier information. She did. The bookkeeper at her bank insists that the payroll deposit is set up to credit her account on Monday the 14th. ADP, however, insists that the entire payroll run is set up to be paid on Friday, November 11. Nothing in the transmittal, according to ADP, mentions the 14th.

I suggested that Jane call her bookkeeper back again and ask if that 11/14 date was the result of an internal bank process, and could she fax us whatever she's looking at that says 11/14 on it so we can send it to ADP.

I don't know if she's done that or not. We left things this way: Jane will check via online banking tomorrow morning and see if her funds are in her account or not. So will I (check my account). We'll decide what, if anything, to do based on our results.


To me the whole thing should be a non-issue, because a little prior planning can prevent this last-second panic.

Well, that non-issue occupied the better part of an otherwise routine Thursday afternoon. I guess I should be grateful.

As I said, it’s always something.

Wednesday, November 09, 2005

A pun? My word!

I’ve been taken to task many times throughout my life for my fondness for punning. Not only do I enjoy a good, clever “groaner,” I always think myself very sharp when one just occurs to me on the spot. And most especially when I get to use it in a group.

An example? Sure!

I recall a situation in the Mediterranean port of Barcelona, Spain, when I was serving as a Liberty Boat Officer. In this exalted capacity I had to ride a shuttle boat back and forth between the USS Forrestal and “fleet landing,” transporting boatloads of gleeful sailors to shore liberty, and bringing back boatloads of drunks who usually took the opportunity of the boat ride to either pass out or lose their last meal in a puddle on the boat deck. (I was a young, junior grade lieutenant. Primary duty: pilot in an F-4 Phantom squadron. This was back in the 1970s).

High winds at sea brought rolling waves into the port and made the boat ride quite similar to a roller coaster. At one point the Shore Patrol Officer announced to the 6 assembled boat crews that if the waves got any higher he would cancel liberty for the sailors and suspend boat operations. I pronounced, “Oh, swell!” At that, although we were standing on the dock, the boat crews began throwing up.

Oh, and I just saw in the newspaper comics today a woman’s definition of being asked out “Dutch treat.” She called it “an un-funded man-date.” I’m going to be looking for an opportunity to use that one soon.

I’ve been asked (most often in a disgusted tone) if this trait was learned or innate (though what Nate might had to do with it I have no clue). After some careful thought on the subject, I have concluded that I developed this proclivity from my father.

I can remember my dad grinning in glee when he would tell me that 2:30 was “time to go to the dentist.” (“Tooth-hurt-y”)

His favorite old-timey song was “Mairzy Doats.” (Look it up if you’re too young to know about that one).

A normally taciturn gentleman, he would become animated when telling a story that involved a pun in the PUNch line. I always wanted to be just like my dad!

I think I’ve passed the trait down to at least one of my daughters. Joy thought my confusion between “weight” and “wait” was hilarious (see my post of Friday, Nov. 4). Amy, however, who takes more after her literal and logical mom, would have rolled her eyes.

Carol has advanced over the decades of our marriage from eye-rolling disgust, through stages of marginal tolerance and then resigned acceptance, to the point that she now not only appreciates a good pun (oxymoron there, to some), she will now occasionally think of one and actually SAY it!

I know, some of you are thinking, “That’s regression, not advancement.”

And Carol herself is quick to point out that the very WORD “pun” starts with “P-U,” and is likely a shortened form of the word “PUN-ishment.”

She always liked my dad, too.

Tuesday, November 08, 2005

Generation gap

I would imagine that about 250 billion words have been written on this subject over the last millennium or two.

An aside (since I mentioned “millennium”): If any of you found the pictures we took of the polished “Cloud” sculpture in Chicago’s Millennium Park intriguing, check out This Web Site for some aerial pictures and more information. It’s worth seeing the aerial shots of the park. We’re just in awe of the fact that our daughter Amy lives within easy walking distance (about four blocks) of the place.

Now, back to my topic.

Carol’s mom, age 82, underwent hip replacement surgery last week. This week she is in the hospital’s rehab wing going through physical therapy twice a day.

The ultimate purpose of this care is to get grandma to the point that she can take care of herself. This includes cleaning herself, preparing meals, getting up and down from bed or sofa or chairs; that sort of thing.

This is something she wants to be able to do very badly. In fact, this is the reason she underwent the surgery in the first place. It was elective surgery, intended to improve her mobility and, by extension, her quality of life. In the past three years she has put herself through replacement of both knees and now her hip in pursuit of this goal.

She also has painful shoulders due to arthritis. This limits her ability to lift herself out of a chair using her arms.

Yesterday she had a bad experience with a physical therapist. The younger lady wheeled grandma into the hospital “gym” (physical therapy equipment room), place the wheelchair next to some parallel bars, and told Grandma to hold the bars, stand up and walk.

Grandma asked for some help getting up. The PT just shook her head.

Grandma tried to explain about her shoulders. The PT cut her off as if she didn’t want to hear it, simply shook her head and said, “You HAVE to get up by yourself.”

Grandma tried to point out that if she were placed a little differently with respect to the bars, or if the seat were a little higher, she might be able to, but again the therapist cut her off and began to lecture her about the purpose of the therapy, and didn’t Grandma WANT to be able to get up by herself?

Grandma began to get just a mite irritated, and started her own standard lecture lead-in, a snippy, “Now let me tell you something—” but the therapist cut her of again.

Then came the lecture about independence, and questions like, “If you won’t even try, how do you ever expect to be able to get up?” The therapist was speaking as if to a recalcitrant child.

At this point I’d have expected Grandma to pull herself up, pick up the wheelchair and throw it at the therapist. Instead, she began to cry. The therapy session was over, and it took grandma nearly an hour to get herself under control.

Later the therapist DID listen as Carol explained about grandma’s shoulders. Carol, you see, is not as old as grandma, and therefore might still have a few active brain cells. (That was our opinion of the therapist’s view of “old people.”)

Our mistake was in NOT having the doctor write in the therapy orders a note about grandma’s shoulders.

Yeah, the therapist probably DOES get a lot of older people who won’t try very hard to get up when they really could, and thus negate the beneficial effects of the exercise and therapy.

In fact, Tisha Sharp is a physical therapist who can tell you lots of horror stories about recalcitrant old folks. This is not intended to vilify all physical therapists.

But the girl should have been willing to listen to grandma. Her refusal to just listen was what caused all the conflict.

Later in the afternoon the therapist came into grandma’s room to apologize (afterCarol had filled her in on the pain in grandma’s shoulders). She then DID listen to grandma explain how she has her home arranged with extra-high bed and seats so she CAN get up and down without help.

The therapist, now properly humbled and contrite, asked if grandma would forgive her.

Grandma said, “Well... I’ll think about it.”

If I were the therapist, I wouldn't hold my breath.

Monday, November 07, 2005

Four Passes

About 15 years ago Carol and I decided to take our (then) teenage girls out to Colorado for a winter ski vacation.

What really planted the seed was a local sporting goods store that offered a spring 75%-off sale on all their ski apparel. We’re talking about jackets, pants, thermal underwear, socks, hats, gloves, goggles, and more. Now that stuff can be really expensive, but at those sale prices we were able to outfit 4 people for the price of one. So we bought the whole shebang in May of one year and planned our trip for the following winter.

(Kinda like buying all your Christmas decorations in early January at the clearances.)

Anyway, we’ve gone skiing for one week every winter since then. And yes, we’re still wearing much of the same stuff we bought 15 years ago. (Well, think about it. We live in South Texas. We only wear the stuff 5 days a year!)

As the years have passed, the price of an all-day lift ticket has escalated to upwards of $75. Per person, per day! Do the math... we’re now a family of 6 adults, times 5 days of skiing, times $75... let’s see... that’s... WOW!! THAT’S A LOT OF MONEY! And that’s just for lift tickets!

Then, three years ago, the resort (Winter Park) came to our rescue. In an effort to promote skiing by Denver-area residents, they began to offer what they call a “Four Pass.” This pass is FOUR all-day lift tickets, to be used almost anytime during the season (very few black-out dates), and it only costs $89 each! That averages out (calculator...) to $22.25 per day, instead of over $75 per day. Hmmm, is that a good deal? DUH!!

So what’s the catch? There’s ALWAYS a catch, right? Right.

The catch is, you must buy them in person, BEFORE the season starts (this year by October 17).

Two years ago Amy knew someone in Denver, and he bought the passes for us (we sent him the money).

Last year he was no longer there.

Dilemma: How do we manage to buy these things long-distance? I tried calling the sales locations and offering them a credit card. No dice. You HAVE to buy them in person.

“Well, can I pay for them NOW with a credit card and you can HOLD them for me until I get there in person?” No.

Damn. Who do we know in Denver? Nobody!

Then Carol had a brainstorm. (Hey, I was first attracted to her because of her looks, but I married her because of her brains! And no, I still don’t know why she married me. You’ll have to ask her.)

For years we have driven into Denver after our last day of skiing, had supper, spent the night at a motel, delivered some of our travelers to the airport the next morning and then driven home. But that night in Denver we always (here picture Topol in his role as Tevye in “Fiddler on the Roof,” holding aloft his right forefinger and saying, “Tradition!!”) go to eat at a specific Romano’s Macaroni Grill restaurant. We love their Italian food. Of course, we all show up in our matching, hand-made (by Carol) ski sweaters!

Well, four years ago we had a WONDERFUL waitress/server named Katie. She joked with us and took wonderful care of us. She even talked her manager into giving us a free dessert to sample and pass around. Of course, we tipped her lavishly.

The next year we asked for her, and sure enough she was on duty. She was thrilled that we remembered her and we again had a wonderful time with her serving. She just happened to give us her email address.

Carol’s brainstorm was this: Email Katie, tell her about the Four Passes, and ask if she would be willing to buy us a handful if I sent her a cashier’s check for the full price plus $100 for her? She said she would, and we did, and so we saved HUNDREDS and HUNDREDS on our lift tickets!

In addition, Katie asked what night we’d be eating at the Macaroni Grill and said she’d make us a reservation for 7:00 p.m. that evening. Yes, she got another big tip!

This year I emailed her again with the same result. She knows us all by name now, and has already bought my Four Passes and made my reservations for dinner. For February!

She’s looking forward to meeting Trevor.

The moral? Be kind to, and make friends with, servers in out-of town places. You never know when that relationship can become very valuable to you!

Sunday, November 06, 2005

An excuse

Carol’s mom had hip-replacement surgery this past Wednesday.

And that’s good, because after recovery and rehab she should be a whole lot more mobile than before. So, for example, next time a category 5 hurricane a la Rita threatens this area, grandma will be ready and willing to evacuate with the rest of us.

So why did I title this post “an excuse?”

Well, grandma is doing great after surgery, but Carol and I have been spending much of our otherwise free time in the hospital with grandma as she recovers and begins rehab. That takes time from all of our other, normal, free-time activities. Like blogging (for me).

Thus recent posts, and possibly posts for the next week or so, have been (or may be) somewhat less well thought through or entertaining, or even as frequent as those to which you have become accustomed.

My excuse is Grandma. And believe me, she’s a good excuse as she expects much of Carol’s time while in the hospital.

Don’t misunderstand. We don’t begrudge her the time. She deserves it, and then some.

But if you HAD been wondering why my posts seemed less frequent or less entertaining than some in the past, that’s my excuse. If you hadn’t... Well good! It’s all the excuse I have.

Take it or leave it.

Saturday, November 05, 2005

Pictures! (As promised...)

Yeah, promised a LONG time ago.

I know, I know. Mea Culpa. So sue me.

Anyway, as I've written in the past, this blog is primarily devoted to the written word, not to imagery. So if you want to see some of the pictures from our not-so-recent-anymore (September) vacation trip, you'll have to CLICK HERE.

If you don't, well... you're not going to get much entertainment from THIS blog today.

Unless, of course, you scroll back through previous posts and delight in my humor and wit and poetry. And, of course, marvel at my modesty.

Oh, if you DO scroll though the pictures at the above link, you'll see a couple of shots of ME on the golf course. That oughta be enough incentive to send you SCURRYING to that link, right?

Whatever. Come back another time for some clever writing.

(You never know when I might plagiarize somebody REALLY clever!)

Friday, November 04, 2005


I promised a lighter post for today. That brings to mind weight loss. Which, of course, makes one lighter!

Which in turn reminds me of a story. A true one. It happened to me.

Last week I went to the drive through window at a local burger joint. I ordered two burgers — NOT the meals, just the sandwiches. That’s it. No drinks, no fries, no desserts. I pulled forward to the pick-up window, paid, and waited.

This particular chain doesn’t make the burgers until you order (“We Make It Just For You!”) so it took a while.

Eventually the burger-person slid open the little window and handed me TWO bags. Usually when I order two burgers (and btw, they weren’t both for me — it’s important that you know that!) they put them both in one bag.

Now these bags felt a bit bulky and heavier than I’d expected, so I glanced inside one and saw fries.

I immediately held the bags back to the burger-person and said, “These aren’t mine. I didn’t have fries.”

He said, “Oh, I know. I just put them in there for the weight.”

Say what? I hefted the bag, and said, “You needed to make them heavier?”

He looked at me with an uncomprehending expression (come to think of it, it was the same expression he always had), and said, “No, man, for the weight.”

As if speaking louder would help me understand.

I glanced down at my waist, wondering if I looked obese to him. Or maybe, I thought, he thinks I need to GAIN some weight?

Seeing me continue to hesitate, he explained, “I didn’t charge you for them.”

Oh. Well THAT certainly cleared things up. He wanted the bags to be heavier, but not cost more. Uh huh.

What the HELL was he talking about?!

I shrugged, put the car in gear, and started to raise the window. He tried one more time.

“It’s because you had to WAIT so long.”

With a bright red face and feeling like a TOTAL idiot, I pretended I didn’t hear him and drove away.

And I thought HE was uncomprehending! He probably thought, as I drove off, “That’s the last time I’ll try to be nice to a customer.”

So the next time a drive-through person is rude or indifferent to you, blame me. It’s probably the guy who threw in some free fries to my order because he thought I’d waited a long time.

(Actually I drove around to the door, parked, and went inside to tell the manager how nice the drive-through person had been. Probably got him fired for giving a customer free food!)

(And, FYI, I’m 6’1” tall with a 36” waist. Not that it’s any of your business.)

Wednesday, November 02, 2005

Not very romantic, but...

An AP article in our local Sunday paper (business section) has had me thinking this week. Some would dispute that, saying they have never yet caught me actually thinking about something. Carol might even be among those. However...

The topic is the price of gasoline.


Here’s the first quote: “‘A surplus of supply is not good for the industry,’ Shell Oil Co. president John Hofmeister said. ‘Just as a surplus of demand is not good for industry. We strive for balance.’”

My response: Bullsh**! You strive for profits. Period. And that’s OK in an open, free market.

“Keep in mind, Hofmeister said, that ‘high-priced oil at 60-plus dollars leads people to seriously question their use of energy. And as they question that use of energy, they use less ... let the market do its work.’”

My response: At YOUR salary, you don’t care about $3.00 per gallon gas, but my daughter making $12 per hour DOES care. A lot! YOUR industry thrives on $60 per barrel oil, but few others do.

YOU say, “...let the market do its work.” That might be valid in the market we had ten years ago. But what happened? Now we have Exxon-Mobil, Conoco-Phillips, Chevron-Texaco-Unocal, BP-Amoco, and more. Where are the many small and medium sized oil companies that actually competed with the big guys? GONE! Where are many of the big guys? GONE! Swallowed up in mergers and acquisitions until now there are a relatively few giants who are less prone to compete than to cooperate with prices and production levels.

They can thus manipulate supply and demand, and by extension pricing, without illegal collusion or price fixing. There’re no longer any smaller, maverick companies to under-price them and grab market share.

What is Washington’s response to all this? “Let’s propose a big Windfall Profits Tax and punish big oil for making all that money!”

BAD idea! That just tends to keep prices high to cover the cost of the tax.

So how do you encourage smaller-capitalized entries into the oil business to provide competition? You ease up on both the tax burden, and on the prohibitive environmental cost burden of oil exploration, production and refining.

Uh oh. I just touched a lot of people’s hot button. The Holy Environment just got threatened by me. With all the “education” and scare tactics we press on our children these days from pre-K all the way through secondary school, nobody will touch the environmental folks.

So, what’s the answer? Probably high-priced gasoline (compared to historical levels) for a loooong time.

For a certified optimist, that’s a pretty drastic statement. But on a more typical (optimistic) note, I doubt very much you’ll see environmental disaster or global warming horrors (a la the movie “The Day After Tomorrow”) soon or ever.

OK. Again I apologize for getting all serious on you. Tomorrow will be lighter.

Tuesday, November 01, 2005

I win! Norton loses.

Sort of.

At least Ruth’s computer now has a working, updated antivirus program protecting it. It includes automatic updates of virus definitions, email scanning (inbound and outbound), real-time protection, and pre-scheduled full system scans.

It installed properly the first time and works as it’s supposed to.

Thus armed with a bit of power, I have communicated with Symantec explaining my feelings about their product’s ease of use (HA!) and its shortcomings.

I have also sent them their disc back for a refund of the purchase price.

I’m still out the price of the working competitive package and many hours of time and frustration. So it may be a bit of a Pyrrhic victory.

Oh, go ahead and look up Pyrrhic. You can probably figure it out from the context, but if you look it up you’ll be more likely to remember it and might even use it yourself some day. I’ll be right here when you come back.

Feel better now? I certainly do. I can now give Ruth back her machine in better shape than when I first started the “update the antivirus” process.

That’s a REAL victory. Nothing Pyrrhic about it.