Saturday, February 07, 2009

I stopped by Circuit City today (it's right next to the bookstore that was my reason for stopping). You'd figure if they're going out of business, they might have some decent deals, right? Wrong. The signs say "Everything 20-40% off original price", but I'm assuming that the bottom half of the sign was cut off - the one that said "after we raised the original price 20-40%". Case in point: those $50 digital TV converter boxes (made with $5 worth of parts, but since there's a government subsidy involved, they go for $50) - they're "Originally $59.99, now just $47.99". Wow - what a deal.

Another thing I noticed was that all of their big-ticket items (TVs and amps) had no prices marked - any time someone inquired, the salesperson would "go check" and come back with a price. I have a feeling they're just trying to guess how much the customer might be willing to pay if it's "20-40% off".

Still, there were plenty of gullible people lining up for purchases. I took a quick swing by cameras, where nothing was reasonable, and told a couple that was checking out a Canon that it was $20 cheaper at Best Buy (which it was - I was there 30 minutes ago).

Buyer beware.

Monday, September 29, 2008

Law and sausage

Mark Twain once said "Those that respect the law and love sausage should watch neither being made." Last night, I hoped to get a chance to see law being made. I was in the area of the Capitol, and the Capitol Police told me that the Congress would be deliberating all night on the Emergency Economic Stabilization Act of 2008 (a.k.a. the $700B bailout). I got a gallery pass, and went up the the third floor. Once you get up there, they make you hand over everything with a battery (including a tiny LED light I have on my keychain). I walked into the gallery, and joined about six other people. The floor was empty, the Congress was on a break, but the session continued in less than 10 minutes. One of the first to enter was Jesse Jackson Jr. (D-IL), who pointed at me and waved. I don't know Congressman Jackson, and have never met him, but maybe he thought I was a constituent. After turning around to see who he waved at, and realizing there was nobody there, I turned around and waved back. He was soon joined by a few other members of Congress, and their various vassals. All told, when the gavel came down, there were about a dozen people on the floor (including security, stenographers, etc.). So much for what I had imagined: shirtsleeves rolled up, a flurry of activity, soaring oratory, and noses to the grindstone to do something about the current financial crisis. The news I've seen led me to believe they were in session until they came up with something. The Capitol Police told me they were probably going to be busy until 2AM. Okay, so I'm an idealist.

A Congresswoman from New York stood up and talked for five minutes about rules. Apparently, she wanted to increase the number of rules that could be discussed from four to five. When she was done, a Congressman from California (I only know this because they each referred to eachother as "my good friend and colleague from ______") stood up and talked about how busy we (the American people) were with football (yes, he mentioned several teams) and everything else, and how we need solar power initiatives, and somehow figured that we would be better off if our esteemed elected representatives would only discuss four rules at a time. He did mention that the bailout was imporatant, but made no other mention. A half-asleep colleague yielded his time, and he continued to drone on. No other Congresscritters entered - if you're an idealist, let's say they were in committee discussing ideas vital to our battered enonomy. If you're a realist, they were gone for the night (this was after 9:00).

I slipped on my boogie shoes after about 40 minutes of less-than-riveting dialogue. Don't get me wrong, it's neat to see the digs the Congress gets to call home, but if you want coherent discussion, catch the clips on CSPAN.
Posted by Picasa

Saturday, September 20, 2008

Radio Days

If you were living on the Gulf Coast of Florida in the 80's, in the area "from Cape Sable to Tarpon Springs" (as they always said in the ever-present hurricane warnings), you had very few choices in radio stations (unless you were into country). As far as the rock stations went, there were three:

  1. WINK FM 96.9 (Fort Myers): WINK97 was the closest "rock" station to where I lived, and had the best quality signal, but unfortunately rated a distant third in my book. Top 40, with 40-year old DJ's trying to "rap" (their word) with "the youth". Ouch.

  2. WYNF FM 94.9 (Tampa): when they went from playing Top 40 to AOR in 1980, 95ynf got immensely popular. Their taglines at the time varied: "95ynf: The Home of Rock n Roll", "95ynf: Tampa Bay's Rock n Roll Pirates", and my personal favorite: "95ynf: Kick Ass Rock n Roll". 95ynf played harder stuff than WINK 97, and was the first station in the area to play AC/DC and Ozzy. Probably the most popular station in the area, but frustrating to listen to due to signal quality. In 1993, they sold out to Cox and switched to the dreaded "contemporary".

  3. WQXM FM 97.9 (Tampa): Probably my favorite. 98 Rock was 95ynf's only real competitor on the West coast in the early 80's. Lots of kids on the Gulf Coast of South Florida (that were into rock, anyway) carried the "98 Rock Flock" card, which offered discounts to some Tampa-based businesses. Outside of Tampa, the card was not so useful for discounts, but identified the bearer as being cool.

The image above is a bumper sticker that fell out of an old book of mine tonight - I just scanned it in. Coupons on the back give us a clue to the age: one is "Save 98¢ off albums or cassettes (Reg. 5.99 and up) at Camelot Music". The other ("50¢ off Banana Boat tanning oils") expires 9/30/83.
Posted by Picasa

Saturday, August 23, 2008

We went dancin' across the U.S.A.

One VW beetle, three days, 1,900 miles, and a 7,175 ft. elevation gain.
Posted by Picasa

Mapped with my Garmin and the great GPS Visualizer

Monday, August 04, 2008

Road Warriors (Part 20)

We made it!

As planned, we pulled in 10:30 last night. It's been a long trip: 1900 miles. Would I do it again? In a heartbeat (except for maybe Iowa).

It's morning in Colorado Springs. Casa de Butler clings to the side of a mountain, and commands a great view of Garden of the Gods (the park and the road), Pike's Peak, and all of the other peaks that Pike didn't make it up. Actually, Zebulon (cool name!) Pike never made it to the top, but he did "discover" it.
Posted by Picasa

Sunday, August 03, 2008

Road Warriors (Part 19)

On the road

It's just after 8:00, and I'm enjoying the sunset and pondering the vast territory that is the Beetle's dashboard. In the old Bugs, your nose was about three inches from the windshield. In the new one, there's about 1/4 acre of space up there.

Having finally adjusted to the fact that we're traveling in excess of 65MPH, my GPS says we'll arrive at 10:30.
Posted by Picasa

Road Warriors (Part 18)

Double rainbow

Still someplace in northeastern Colorado. It's raining, but you won't find me complaining.
Posted by Picasa

Road Warriors (Part 17)

Why don't we make like a tree, and get out of here.

Posted by Picasa

Road Warriors (Part 16)

Deep thoughts

Somewhere in northeastern Colorado, Bryon ponders the existential despair of the lonely tumbleweed.
Posted by Picasa

Road Warriors (Part 15)


Better make that about four hours...
Posted by Picasa

Road Warriors (Part 14)

Colorful Colorado!

(at least that's what the sign says)

We made it to Colorado! About five more hours, and we'll pull in to Colorado Springs!
Posted by Picasa

Road Warriors (Part 13)


The sign is very are nowhere. Nowhere in this case is Ogallala (don't that just roll off the tongue?), Nebraska. We're just a short way from the Colorado border.
Posted by Picasa

Road Warriors (Part 12)


The Nebraska Strategic Air & Space Museum. We just stopped to stretch our legs, but didn't have time to see it. It did look like a good museum, but we were more intent on getting to Colorado Springs.
Posted by Picasa

Road Warriors (Part 11)


After a long drive through Iowa, we are finally rewarded with...Nebraska! But seriously, the best they could come up with is Arbor Day? Illinois and Indiana fight over Abe Lincoln, Iowa has its geodes (and you thought I was going to say corn!), but Nebraska gets stuck with a holiday where you don't even get time off from work (although the banks and government probably take it).
Posted by Picasa

Road Warriors (Part 10)


Welcome to Iowa: I hope you like corn. All kidding aside, corn is pretty much all you see in Iowa (at least along I-80). Its claim to fame is that it is number one in the nation in corn production (no surprise there). They have the distinction of holding the first caucus for the preseidential elections (every four years, a multitude of presidential hopefuls gather in Iowa to make believe they like corn for a week or two until the New Hampshire primary).

I took this picture in Walcott, but most of the drive through Iowa on I-80 looks like this. Sure, there's the occasional corn silo or corn procesing plant to break up the monotony, but other than that, it's a lot of corn.
Posted by Picasa

Road Warriors (Part 9)


We started looking for a hotel when we hit Iowa. After about ten tries at three different exits (it doesn't seem accurate to call them "cities"), we found a fleabag Econo Lodge. One room left (and they had free Wi-Fi). Sold!

This is no ordinary Econo Lodge, though - it's essentially in the parking lot of the World's Largest truck stop! Iowa's gotta have some claim to fame, and the Iowa 80 truck stop is it! A 200-acre oasis in Iowa, the Iowa 80 has shops, restaurants, a truck wash, and its own dentist (no cologne machines in the bathroom, though).
Posted by Picasa

Road Warriors (Part 8)

Missed opportunity

Dang, too bad we already ate - a "Southern style chicken McSkillet burrito double quarter meal" sound delicious!

Incidentally, this gas station had the funky rest room cologne dispenser.
Posted by Picasa

Saturday, August 02, 2008

Road Warriors (Part 7)


We stopped at Aurelio's in Tinley Park for dinner. Very good pizza - we got a deep dish with pepperoni, mushroom, and sausage. Pizza for dinner tonight, "cold italian breakfast pie" for breakfast tomorrow...
Posted by Picasa

Road Warriors (Part 6)

It's 106 miles to Chicago...

...we've got a full tank of gas, half a pack of cigarettes, it's dark and we're wearing sunglasses.

Hit it!

Indiana lays claim to having been Abe Lincoln's boyhood home (he lived there for 14 years), but Illinois gets the big prize: the Land of Lincoln. Other than that, it's dinner time, we're hungry, and Chicago is known for its pizza.
Posted by Picasa

Road Warriors (Part 5)


We made it to Indiana! Okay, it's really not that exciting - just lots of farmland, but we made it out of Ohio.

I hereby award Indiana the Lifetime Achievement Award for the worst bathroom EVER. We stopped at a rest stop to get some caffeine, and I walked into the restroom...then walked right out. I've travelled quite a bit over the years, covering a lot of the U.S. at ground level, and I've got to say this was the foulest restroom I've ever seen in my entire life. Now I'm not going to sit here and describe the odors, stains, and sights of this bacetrial circus in depth, but I wanted to point out that it has a shoe shine machine. A rather fancy one, with multiple brushes, multiple choices of polish, and a dollar-bill acceptor. Why have a shoe shine machine in a restroom this sleazy? The only explanation I can think of is that after tip-toeing through the feces, you'll need to clean your shoes somehow. Sadly, I didn't see a coin-operated antibiotic dispenser near the shoe shine machine, so I ventured no closer.
Posted by Picasa

Road Warriors (Part 4)


After a "continental" breakfast, we stopped off to visit some friends of Bryon's from Argentina (now living in Ohio). We left their place at 2:00, and set out for points West. The elaborate-looking structure in the picture is a rest area along I-80. Having grown up in Florida where a rest area was a tree and a bench, or, in more frequently traveled areas, a can and a soda machine, I gotta say it looks like Ohio does it right.
Posted by Picasa

Road Warriors (Part 3)

Gas stop

We made our first stop for gas in the bustling metropolis of Barkeyville, PA. We knocked off driving after midnight, having made it to Toledo, OH. Sorry, no pics. But then again, it was just Toledo.

We ended up going to five different hotels before finding one with a vacancy. What ever happened to "No vacancy" signs? You'll still find old-skool motels that have them, but what have the newer places got against them?

Another sign you don't see much on hotels is "Color TV" (that's been replaced by "Free Wi-Fi").
Posted by Picasa