Wednesday, May 28, 2008


Interesting post on renting versus buying: Why We Rent. I came across the link at The Simple Dollar which is a "frugal" blog I check in with now and then. The NY Times also has another buy versus rent story today:
As Home Prices Drop Low Enough, a Committed Renter Decides to Buy
. I just find it interesting that after years of advocating home ownership as the Bestest Investment Ever, people are actually saying, "Hey, wait a minute..." I shall feel vindicated when I write my landlord a check on June 1.

Sunday, May 18, 2008


I've given up explaining the economics of high gas prices to people. Truth be told, I'm not an apologist for the oil and gas industry, even though that's what's been keeping me gainfully employed for the last five years, but there are many things the industry does that I don't approve of, but price manipulation isn't one of them. Price manipulation is what people come up with when they are unwilling to face the plain and simple truth -- consumption is coming to bite us all in the butt. You combine consumption with any number of geopolitical factors (Hello Iraq! Hello weak US dollar! etc) and the price of oil is going up and it's going to keep going up. I think we're going to see $4 gasoline in the next 2-3 weeks easily, if not by the end of the Memorial Day weekend. I think it's going to keep going up all summer and no gas tax holiday is going to stop it.

I find it fascinating that ordinarily intelligent people just refuse to believer or understand in the concept of supply and demand. I find it amazing that they believe that oil prices are US-centric rather than existing in a global market where the US is no longer the prominent, influential player it once was. I think people refuse to understand because it's difficult, it's complicated, and they don't want to have to make sacrifices. It reminds me a lot of that book -- "What's the Matter with Kansas?" -- where the GOP made in-roads in Kansas by focusing on a "simple" issue: abortion. It was easier for people to focus on abortion rather than the economic issues and as a result, Kansas went red, when in truth, going blue is probably best for most people there. That's how I feel these days when I'm trying to explain the new oil economy -- people could understand, but they don't want to, especially since the explanation invariably means some kind of sacrifice on their part.

So I've decided to stop explaining because it takes too much effort and no one really cares about complex situations that have no easy answers. If people really want to understand, they will make an effort. But most people like the idea of price manipulation -- even though it's patently false -- because it's simple to understand, even if there is no basis in reality. "Price manipulation" is a great bandwagon for politicians to pander and it allows people to shift "blame" to the oil companies, rather than focusing on why they're driving 80 mph in a Hummer in an urban area that looks nothing like a war zone.

Tuesday, May 13, 2008

Looky, looky

Frontline has a new Everest film! And it looks like you can watch it online as well, which is great, because I'm rarely home in time to watch Frontline here in Sweat Sock City. There can never be too much Everest!

Friday, May 09, 2008

Color me unsurprised

The Duggars are going to be twenty strong soon as baby number 18 is on the way. I saw the announcement on the Today show this morning, and honestly, I could have predicted it. They teased the "big announcement" for the first hour and it was too much to hope that the Duggars had decided to start their own football team or joined the Peace Corps or opened a swimsuit store. What is astonishing is that the pregnancy is only six weeks along. I know the Duggars are old pros at this, but announcing a pregnancy at six weeks on national television? I dunno about that. But as a friend commented, it shouldn't be that surprising; babies, lots of babies, are the Duggar family business.

Thursday, May 08, 2008


I'm losing my battle with the ants, I'm very tired due to lots of extracurricular activities, and the mercury is rising. But, all is well because I have discovered Tofutti Cuties. I've always wanted to try these, but my usual grocery store doesn't carry them, and my back-up grocery store doesn't either. But tonight I went to a third grocery store that has a ton of vegan food and found the chocolate Cuties. Really good, and honestly, if I didn't know they were vegan, I would have assumed they were real ice-cream. The price point is steep though, especially when you compare these to regular dairy ice cream sandwiches, and while they were good, they weren't as satisfying as my fruit bars, not to mention that at 130 calories per snack bar, I might as well eat the real dairy version. But all in all, very pleased -- these things are goooood.

Thursday, May 01, 2008


Some of the most expensive gasoline in the world is in Sierra Leone. Cost is somewhere in the neighborhood of $18 plus a gallon. My mind boggles at the very idea that it could cost $180 to fill my Corolla or a total of $720/month.

I looked up Sierra Leone in the CIA Factbook because all I know about the country is the blood diamond thing and civil war thing and that I believe it's in western Africa. Literacy rate is 35.1 percent (US = 99 percent). The country's a constitutional democracy, which surprised me because I was sure it was a dictatorship of some kind as 70 percent of its population lives below the poverty line (12 percent in the US). Sierra Leone's GDP is $4.83 billion (US = $13.86 trillion) but it has a higher growth rate than the US -- 6.8 percent versus 2.2 percent -- but then Sierra Leone has to deal with an inflation rate of 12 percent versus 2.7 percent in the US.

In 2007, Sierra Leone's GDP per capita was approximately $800 -- or about the amount it would cost to fuel a Corolla for one month. Comparatively, the US GDP per capita is $46,000, which is very close to the average income for an American family. In Sierra Leone, the average income is $200. You put all that together and look at $18 plus a gallon and then you think about what it might cost to feed a family on $200/year and just... wow.

We've got it good.