Archive for February, 2009

Ranting in the Supermarket

I was standing in the grocery store, trying to decide on a brand of canned tomatoes, when out of the corner of my eye I noticed someone making off with my grocery cart. I turned to pursue the thief, and then noticed it was my old friend Rick O’Shea. He looked into the cart with a look of disgust.

“Why do you buy so much fruit? It just ends up rotting on your counter.”

I’m trying to be healthy. Plus, I want to wean myself off of junk food before it starts being taxed at a higher rate.

“Well, maybe you should consider a bunch of canned foods, instead. You know, in case the government collapses and there is anarchy – you don’t want to be without baby peas in a situation like that.”

I don’t think things are exactly to that point.

“That’s fair, but when they do get to that point, do you think there will be any canned goods left on the shelves? Plan ahead, I always say!”

I’m trying to remain positive. Hopefully, the economic stimulus plan will help to rebuild things.

“It might. I’m curious, though, if the billions of dollars in the plan that are earmarked for ‘neighborhood stabilization’ will just end up in the pocket of ACORN. I mean, I guess they expect to get paid for helping with the election, but I don’t see how that is going to help the economy more than, say, tax cuts that might create jobs.”

Rick, you’re being too negative. I mean, just look at Massachusetts. The governor ran on a campaign based on doing things differently – changing the status quo and fighting the traditional bureaucracy while lowering our property taxes. Now, in two short years, look at all he has accomplished.

“Oh yes. Looks like both the gas tax and the tolls are going up. It’s interesting how making serious cuts to the bureaucracy, or taking down the tolls, is never really on the table. Business as usual on Beacon Hill. Together we can!”

And just think, in a few years you might have the privilege of being tracked with a GPS device on your inspection sticker. That’s more than a little frightening. Although, I’m sure that the people who have told me that they want to move out of the state are just being paranoid. Our benevolent government would never use a power like that for ill gains. Big Brother is just a fictional idea…right?

“Don’t you trust your government? After all, when the economy was booming, all of the Democrats said that it wasn’t the right time to honor their promise to lower the state income tax to 5 percent. Is now the time? I know I could use a little extra dough in my pocket.”

(At this point I began to laugh until I choked a little bit). It’s interesting that the Turnpike Authority actually has the gall to suggest that these toll increases are just temporary, maybe until the end of the year. Honestly, what evidence do we have that any tax or other source of income for the state government will ever be just temporary? Why do they think that people will buy that?

“Maybe because only 32% of the people voted to eliminate the state income tax? And because the same people continue to get re-elected as senators and reps, no matter how they vote? If the people cared about this stuff, would the central and western Mass reps really be able to go along with their constituents footing the bill for the Big Dig at the toll booths, while everyone else gets a pass?”

Well, people voted against cutting the income tax because they thought that the other taxes would go up. Now, we still have the income tax, and the other taxes are going up anyway. I’d maybe even agree with a gas tax to pay for all of this stuff, but only if the toll booths come down. That seems like a fair and equitable solution. Of course, that would eliminate too many patronage jobs, so I’m sure that we’ll get both the tolls and the tax. When times are tough, soak the people.

“Yes we can!”

We certainly can. Now give me back my cart.

Rants Tim 26 Feb 2009 No Comments

Why Me Weight Loss Update

Ok, so I was down to 297.4 on Sunday morning, but I am back up to 299.4 this morning. It’s a struggle.

Yesterday I went to the gym and ran 2.5 miles on the treadmill after lifting. I felt pretty good, so today I decided to run 3 miles at lunch (in Cambridge). I jogged down to the Boston Museum of Science, then headed back toward the Longfellow Bridge. I went past the Longfellow and toward the Harvard Bridge. About halfway to the Harvard Bridge, I thought, “wow, I’m dying.”

I finally got to the bridge and started back toward the Longfellow. To be fair, if I didn’t have a meeting at work to get back for, I would have stopped. But, I kept going, thinking all the time, “Wow, this is a long 3 miles.” Death was near.

When I finally finished and got back to my office, I looked at the little map I have with running distances on it and discovered…that it was 3.72 miles. Yes, I am an idiot. I’m shocked that I was able to finish such a run, and hopefully this means that I can start going 3 regularly.

Also, there is a small chance that I might need a blood tranfusion. Is it possible to bleed to death from the nipples?

Why Me Weight Loss Tim 24 Feb 2009 3 Comments

Being Polite Doesn’t Pay

For some reason, in movies like The Sting, “grifting” or stealing people’s money, is portrayed as an art form; something done with skill that can be appreciated. The con jobs portrayed in those movies, however, are designed for mass audience appeal – complex scenarios constructed to bilk some deserving criminal. Evil is punished, and everyone goes home happy with popcorn grease on their pants. It’s not like that in the real world. People want your money, and they will do what they have to do to get it.

It’s not just the government (although don’t be surprised when they want to put a chip in your eyelid to tax you for blinking). Also, it’s not only the guy who sells you magazine subscriptions for magazines you will never receive (yes, this happened to me once), nor the guy with the brick lurking near the ATM machine to steal your beer money. As you may have seen on a TV news segment at some point, people use the internet as a way to steal.

These people, hiding behind anonymous email addresses, will take your money without bothering with a brick, but it’s not art, it’s just theft. Sure, there is the old scam where the son of a prince wants you to launder some cash for him. That one seems to take advantage of greedy people, and is so old that they talk about it on sitcoms now. The scammers keep sending them, though (at last check, I had received 2,542 of those emails…that’s a lot of princes), so there must be some rate of return. But, there are other scams out there that don’t prey upon greed; rather they take advantage of people’s inclination to be polite.

Generally, when I think of those scams, I usually assume that it is the elderly who are being targeted. But, then my 36-year old, internet-savvy friend – let’s call him Barry – told me about something that happened to him recently:

“My girlfriend and I listed a shelving unit for sale for $230.00 on [an online site that provides classified advertisements].

“An interested buyer, John, responded and said he was traveling for business, but that a friend in New Jersey, David, would handle payment and pick-up of the item. David sent me two money orders, each for $950.00 (total $1,900.00), without ever seeing the item. The money orders came in an envelope with a return address in Woodbridge, NJ.

“John then emailed to tell us that David had sent too much money (we had not received the money at this point), and John asked for us to send the difference to him in London, UK, via Western Union. He gave me an address that was associated with yet another person, but we assumed that he was merely staying with that person.

“I deposited both money orders in my bank account on October 16. The money was cleared into my account on October 17, and I sent John $1,567.00 ($1,900 minus $230 for the item and $103 for the Western Union money transfer fee).

“We then attempted several times to contact the buyer to come pick up the item, but he did not respond. After a few days, we became suspicious and found that the bank had deducted $950.00 from my account on October 23, and then deduced another $950.00 from my account on October 24.

“I called the bank to demand an explanation, and they explained that they had determined that the two money orders were not authentic. They also told me that under US law, financial institutions must make funds from money orders quickly available to customers – whether the money orders have been validated by that time or not. They explained that the money made available to me was a credit, and not from the money orders themselves. They then explained that the bank is not liable for my loss.”

Barry lost, in the end, $1,670.00 (the $1,567 he sent to John, along with the $103 Western Union transfer fee) because he was trying to be helpful and polite and wasn’t familiar with US banking law. I hope Justin Timberlake plays him in the movie.

The Day to Day Grind Tim 19 Feb 2009 No Comments

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