Miscellaneous Blather

2 11 2009

I’ve been pretty busy buying and moving into a house here in the Shallow South, hence the lengthy gap between submissions. Now that my life is slightly less hectic, I’ll regale my few readers with some brain squeezings I’ve been collecting during the hiatus.


A couple of months ago, the Barefoot Bum abruptly closed his blog. He said that he’d run out of things to say. Fortunately for rational discourse, he has recanted that decision and returned to the fray. Please give him a read. I rarely agree with him politically, but he always makes well thought-out and supported arguments. This is such a rare commodity among internet denizens that we should all take notice- whether or not we agree with his conlusions.


There’s an excellent article over at City Journal describing the demographic penalties for high-tax states in comparison with low-tax states. The two primary comparisons are between Texas and California. I have a few issues with some of the author’s unspoken assumptions, conclusions, and methodology, but the trendline does appear to be significantly in favor of the states with lower taxes.


The wife and I have abandoned our previous internet and TV service provider in favor of two competing services whose aggregate payments are roughly 1/3 cheaper. While I’m on the subject, we’re saving better than a hundred dollars a month by moving out of our apartment and into our own house. All told, our monthly outlays will be reduced by about 25% because of this move- despite the added costs of sewer, garbage, and water.

How did we do it? Simple. We refused to settle for less than what we wanted for the money, we were willing to wait for the right circumstances, we’re willing to put in sweat equity, and we are not averse to paying for quality. We got a roughly $150K house for only $120K.


My wife and I did a lot of shopping around for goods and services for our new house. Consumer Reports was very useful in determining which appliances to buy, and some of the companies who submitted winning bids on the modifications and upgrades we wanted recommended other companies for specialty work. Note that the winning bids were not necessarily the lowest bids. I value quality workmanship at least as much as cost. One company showed up to do some electrical work within 20 minutes of our phone call, performed admirably and professionally, and charged a modest fee. Since this company also performs plumbing and other work, we’ve hired them more than once.


Usually pays off over time. In the case of some of our upgrades, we’re reaping dividends in the short term as well. Our top-end HVAC system is returning us approximately $4,300.00 in tax credits and rebates. All you have to do is learn the rules and exercise the grey material between your ears. Yes, Virginia, there is math involved.

Whenever a salescreature begins extolling the efficiency of his or her overpriced product of choice, calculate out how long it would take for the efficiency savings to pay for the higher price. Unless the product has a lifespan measured in decades, a return on investment time of 5 years or more is probably not worth it.

Your mileage may vary. Not sold in stores. Consult a physician or lawn-care professional before using. Offer void in Alaska, Hawaii, and parts of Tennessee.


One of the happier memories from my childhood was Halloween. These days, however, various strange bedfellows are working in concert (perhaps inadvertently) to destroy happy memories of the holiday for the current generation of kids. Wiccans, rabid evangelical christians, and helicopter parents all have their collective panties in a twist about Halloween.

Here in the Shallow South, the fundie-loonies are all up in arms over the supposed satanic nature of Halloween. Schools in this area can’t even refer to October 31st as Halloween. Now it’s the Fall Festival. It shouldn’t be a surprise that the evangelical wingnut fringe is making these claims- they don’t even know what’s in their sacred texts, so why should I think they’d be willing and able to read history and anthropology?

The helicopter parents at least have a few fragments of rationality behind their phobia against permitting their precious snowflakes to go trick-or-treating. There really are bad things which could happen to the puir wee bairns. The fact that a few basic precautions can eliminate or at least dramatically minimize the (already low) probability of those Bad Things happening has apparently not entered the vacuous skulls of the pathologically overprotective. So their crotch-goblins miss out on the fun of pretending to be goblins. Don’t worry- I’m sure the helicopter parents will pay for their paranoia, probably in the form of payments for the services of child psychologists.

Those wacky Wiccans are the real wild cards in the mix. For some reason, some Wiccans are upset that their holiday is being usurped by common folk for non-religious reasons. In my experience, Wiccans  are generally very tolerant of the real world around them. It’s disturbing to learn that even pagans have fundamentalist whackjobs.


… the police in San Jose, California, are escalating the general assault on the civil liberties of the citizens they allegedly serve. Apparently, police in that city have been arresting tons of people for the crime of … wait for it … resisting arrest. Furthermore- and this will shock you- the internal police department investigations into citizen complaints about this practice have found that the officers did not violate procedure.

Somebody call the Supreme Court. I’m reasonably certain that “dissing a cop” is not a valid criminal offense.


Some jackass-in-office in Ayer, Massachusetts got perturbed at the sight of a father pushing his kid on a swing while smoking. Outdoors. In public. How horrible! As a result, the stalwart city leaders of Ayer have banned smoking in all parks and public lands within their jurisdiction.

I don’t smoke, but the idea doesn’t fill me with horror or loathing either. I seriously doubt that anyone outdoors is likely to be exposed to hazardous levels of second-hand smoke unless they were literally nose-to-nose with the smoker. Simply walking a meter or so in any direction would reduce the potentially toxic emissions from the smoker to negligible levels- well below the maximum threshold value from the NIH. As a practical matter, the general level of toxins already in the atmosphere in most major metropolitan areas make second-hand smoke one of the safest pollutants to breathe. Of course, I’m talking about practicality in reference to a state founded by a bunch of bandy-legged, redneck, militia types (also known as Puritans). Logic and practicality never come into play when the chance arises to punish someone for enjoying himself.

Isn’t it about time we (the People) told the officious busybodies who supposedly work for us to keep their noses out of our business?

And that’s all for this show. Tune in at some indeterminate time in the future when I find something else to get irate about.

Current status: Tired and sore

Current music: Cygnus X-1, Book II by Rush