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Dec. 26th, 2010

Livejournal, thou art finished.

On Christmas eve 2010, I imported my livejournal postings to wordpress.  It was time, said I, as LJ seems to be on life support.  Those who followed me on livejournal are now facebook friends, and this blog is dead.  It now continues at ctliotta.wordpress.com, where you can find my old postings and new grumblings.

Adios, old friend.

Dec. 5th, 2010

0% financing for 24 months.

Amazon.com offered me a sweet deal of 0% financing for 24 months on their big screen televisions.  I’m a huge fan of 0% financing, because I’ve never accepted such an offer without paying the loan off several months ahead of schedule.  OPM is excellent to use if you can be responsible about it and not be slammed with 24 months of back interest at the end.

That said, 0% financing on a television may be a fool’s deal.  Assuming I bought a $600 television, over 20 months it would cost $30 per month. Not bad, except that if I saved $30 per month for 20 months in a savings account, at the end of 20 months I would have significantly better, newer technology for the same price.  It’s really a matter of patience.

Payoff is no fun when what you’re paying off is yesteryear’s technology.

Jul. 29th, 2010

Macabre.

When somebody dies, and a picture is published of the deceased, I’m always happiest when the picture is several years old.  If the picture is too new, I’m distracted by background objects.

For example, when Vonda McEroe dies at age 77, and there’s a picture of her in 1985 with a console television and an old VCR, I think “Yeah – she lived a full life.”  But, when Vonda McEroe dies at age 77 and there’s a digital image of her holding the most recent iPhone to hear ear, and I can see a Netflix DVD resting on the same Ikea bookshelf that sits in my living room, I think “JESUS.  Here today, gone tomorrow.  I could be next.”

Therefore, when my time comes, please publish only photographs of me that are at least twenty years old.  I will look significantly better, and people will be less provoked.  However, if I die of a heart attack, and there’s a picture of me eating a Double Down from KFC – that would be funny, and I would want that blown up, framed and placed on an easel at the head of the casket.

Jul. 23rd, 2010

A spoon.

From British food critic Egon Ronay’s obituary in the Economist, June 26, 2010:

WHAT, Egon Ronay often asked himself, was the most unforgettable meal of his life?

It was, in fact, a mere cup of tea, costing a few pence, bought around 1950 from the buffet at Victoria station. It came from a big tea-urn at the corner of the counter, dispensed by a woman who slopped it into the cup and then indicated the sugar. That was heaped in a bowl, and dangling near the bowl was a spoon, which had somehow been tied to the ceiling with string so that customers would not steal it.

The sight of the spoon was a Damascene moment for Mr Ronay. It summed up all the culinary horrors of the country to which, in 1946, he had fled. By and large he admired his adoptive land, but for one thing: the British would never complain about their dreadful food, but soldiered on, inured to suffering by wartime austerity and Dickensian public schools. Venturing into a restaurant, they would quietly and even gratefully accept some tepid muck masquerading as Brown Windsor soup, with a smear of margarine on bread, followed by Spam and bottled salad cream on two wilting leaves of lettuce, topped off by jelly and custard. It would not do. In that station buffet, Mr Ronay was launched on a tide of anger into the crusade that came to consume his life. He would tell the British what good food was, and where they could hope to find it.

Jun. 20th, 2010

Sofa.

As I wandered through the U---- Furniture showroom near the mall, I was approached by the usual variant of furniture salesman and knew, in the deep recesses of my soul, that I was about to get hosed.  Furniture salesmen are like the bastard brothers of used car salesmen, working on commission and I suspect having conversations that parallel Glengarry Glen Ross after hours.

As a value-oriented consumer, my needs were simple: neutral, comfortable, made of material that belied the price, and able to withstand the occasional spill of wine or drunken bowel movement.  Microsuede was probably the best bet.

I give the sales guy credit – one look at me, and he pointed me to the “popularly priced” furniture.  I congratulated him for knowing his clientele. He smiled with his gnarled, yellow teeth.

I’d been eyeballing a sofa at Big Lots for some time, but I didn’t want to pay a delivery fee if I couldn’t find a matching chair.  There, at United, was the same sofa for $40 less, with a matching chair.  Red microsuede. $288 divan! $259 chair!  $60 delivery, besting Big Lots $70 delivery! Also available in “Cocoa!”  Score!

I told the salesman I was interested, and we made ten minutes of small talk.  Somewhere toward the end, I said that I was impressed that I could get a mocha-colored sofa and chair combo for $547.

“Oh,” he replied.  “That price is for the red.  Cocoa is $50 extra per piece.”

I was sure he just made that up, right there, on the spot, like my old window contractor who said “Oh – you want both panes of the double-hung window made of frosted glass? That’s $75 more.”

I can’t be blamed for not arguing with him – supposing that I put on a show and threatened to walk out, and he knocked it down $50, there was still a box left blank on the receipt where he could have charged a “set up” fee… probably $50.

I have a strange feeling the red sofa and chair combo carry a $100 set-up fee.

But yes.  My bill states “Sofa and chair, $547.  Cocoa, $100.”

Bastards.

May. 29th, 2010

The fourth wall

In theater, I never cared for the cast breaking the fourth wall.  Like movies in which the characters turn to the camera and say things, I find myself distracted, and begin to think about other real-world bothers like where I put my dry cleaning ticket, and whether two hours and fifteen minutes in the parking meter is cutting it too close.

Real life, however, also offers fourth wall-breaking moments, and in those cases I am overjoyed to see it happen.

Point in case: At the airport today, there was a kiosk run by a credit card company promoting the Southwest Airlines Visa Card.  Sign up!  Get a free gift!  “Good morning!” said Ron, a man of color in Armani glasses. “Sign up and get a free gift? No? Have a safe flight!”

(DORA, also in a Southwest polo shirt, enters.)

DORA

Good morning, Ron.  I spoke this morning with the regional manager, and she wants to make sure that you’re not offering free flights with the credit card sign-up.

RON

Now, why the hell would she say that?  I say the same thing everybody else says. “Sign up and get a free gift.”  I never say anything about free flights.

DORA

She just wants to make sure.  She’s received complaints.

RON

(louder)

I got the same damn training as everybody else. I say the same goddamn thing as everybody else, to everybody I see. 

(RON points to various people in the audience.)

I say it to that guy in the chair, and that woman over there, and that woman walking down the hall. “Sign up and get a free gift.” Nothing ‘bout no free flights.

DORA

Ron, you’re being loud.

RON

(now screaming)

Don’t you fuckin’ tell me that I’m being loud! It’s the way I talk, especially when I’m pissed off!  I signed twenty of these damn things yesterday!

(He turns to a PASSERBY, his voice becoming friendly and quiet)

Good morning, ma’am – sign up and get a free…

(She walks past without looking.  He yells after her.)

Have a good flight, then!

(He turns back to DORA.)

Don’t anybody fuckin’ tell me how to do my job, like I don’t know what I’m doin’.

 

Anyway, in the above example, I was the guy in the chair who Ron points to.  What a delight it was to be in the audience, drinking my coffee and eating my Egg McMuffin!

May. 26th, 2010

Alejandro, old bean, you asked for it.

It has been over a year since my last Livejournal update, as Facebook and Twitter have taken market share and consumed my time.  Instead of creatively blogging about the absolutely inane and stupid aspects of my life, I have been reading about what my friends ate for lunch, or that they were off to Boston in a half hour.  Some of my friends have taken pictures of their various meals for the world to see.  Often such pictures were taken at such prestigious establishments as Applebees or, in rare cases, the Cheesecake Factory.  On occasion, the pictures appeared to be taken as an afterthought with an iPhone, as there was clearly food missing from the plate. 

Rather than spending another second admiring the latte that somebody drank this morning, knowing that the contents of the cappuccino mug have since been processed and voided, I am reopening my blog to do some voiding of my own.

Let the fucking begin.

Feb. 16th, 2009

Economic Stimulus Plan.

As a lifelong Democrat, I've never been entirely opposed to big spending by the federal government.  I admit, however, that the close-to-a-trillion-dollar stimulus plan due to be signed into law tomorrow gives me pause. 

Why?

Because I'm not sure that it's stimulative.  I'd rather it just be called the "big government spending bill."  That way, it's honest and I can get behind it.  I do, after all, agree with much of it - even if it doesn't stimulate. 

As it stands, I can only pretend that it will stimulate the economy while knowing that much of it won't, and I feel like I'm telling a half-truth when I talk about a stimulus plan.

Oh - did I mention that I like Arlen Specter?

Jan. 31st, 2009

Losing my edge.

I've felt hopelessly mundane over the past year or so, disinterested in doing anything but sitting around and paying the bills.  Granted, I have a very busy life that doesn't keep me at home much, so perhaps when I am home I have the right to just sit around and pay the bills.

I fear irrelevancy, and it seems that the fastest way to that is sitting around and doing a whole lot of nothing.  But I just can't seem to muster the energy to do much else.  Blah.

Jan. 17th, 2009

Product Review: Beaumont canned Decaf

 

Beaumont Naturally Decaffeinated Coffee (canned)
13 oz

I love two things for the purposes of this article - coffee, and my local Aldi store.

For those of you unfamiliar, Aldi is a German grocery company that, in the US, sells common and basic grocery items under house brands for about 40% less than the local grocery store.

One won't find Folgers decaf, but one does find "Beaumont" coffees of every stripe.

Aldi has impressed me over the past few years in some of the house-branded items they've offered, and coffee under the Beaumont label is no exception.  In addition to the canned stuff, one will also find bags of 100% arabica coffees that compete quite strongly with other premium blends.  One of my favorite recent offerings has been their Donut Store Blend with pink packaging suggestive of... well, you know.

To cut right to the chase, I picked up a can of Beaumont Naturally Decaffeinated coffee yesterday for under four bucks.  The verdict?  Love you Aldi, but Beaumont Naturally Decaffeinated is undrinkable.  When it hit my lips, I thought that I might have accidentally filled the coffee filter with cat litter.

I'm no coffee expert, but I do wonder if Beaumont decaf has a high robusta bean content.  That might explain the bitter, dirty taste and the punishing, rotten finish

I was most surprised by the fact that I find Beaumont's instant decaf - probably a lower grade than this, even - much more palatable and even, sometimes, enjoyable.

I'm sure that Beaumont decaf's failings have little to do with Aldi in general, and it is probably a fitting substitute for people used to Maxwell House or Chock Full-O-Nuts canned decaf.  For people who like to buy their coffee in bags, however, stay away.  You'll only find yourself pouring your coffee from the carafe into the drain, bypassing the mug altogether.

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