Thursday, May 28, 2009

Things That Are Just Plain Inappropriate, Part I

Going to fetch a sandwich just now, I saw a Ford F-550 with a 6.8 liter V-10 engine pulled up outside a local hotel, for the purpose of delivering some boxes of pansies.

Wednesday, May 27, 2009


I've been writing a lot of rants, lately. Rants about credit card legislation. Rants about the so-called "First-Time Homebuyer Tax Credit". Rants about health insurance companies, and drug companies. And so forth. But I don't publish them, because I realize how incredibly cantankerous and pissed off I am about things, and I don't want to be that. But I am. But I'm trying not to be. Any suggestions?

Wednesday, May 20, 2009

Signs of Civilized Cities, Part II

London, I read today, just created 900 free, dry, indoor parking spaces for two-wheeled vehicles in its downtown garages. It also lowered the existing cost of an all-day street parking pass for scooters and motorcycles to £1 (while cars pay £4/hr.) London is slightly behind such forward-thinking cities as Lancaster, PA, which created similar spots two years ago. But apparently the mayor of Lancaster owns a scooter, so that might explain that city's lead. In Christchurch, NZ (population: just slightly more than the Smallish City) there are 34 outdoor parking locations, and in the garages scooters are "fine"-- they just have to find a corner that doesn't take up a car space, and pay half the usual parking fee.

Meanwhile here in the Smallish City, I'm pretty sure our mayor doesn't drive a scooter. Winter is over, but scooterists are still without any legal place to leave their vehicles downtown for longer than two hours-- and that only outdoors, at parking meters, for the same price as parking a Hummer. Ironically, if you're going to be in town for an 8-hour workday, you can bring your Jeep Grand Cherokee and park in a garage-- but your scooter is banned from the garages, so you can't drive that to work (unless you're willing to go move it to a new parking space every two hours.) We await the implementation of a city council directive to create 8 free outdoor parking locations; there was an indication that this might happen by Memorial Day, but that's this weekend and I haven't seen any action at street level yet.

And scooters will still be banned entirely from the covered garages here, rather than invited in for free as in London and Lancaster. Which really makes no sense if you're trying to have a city with fewer cars, less congestion, less pollution, easier parking, and less acreage dedicated to vehicle storage, and you would like people to opt for a scooter rather than a car even if it might rain today.

On the other hand, it makes sense if-- well-- if I don't know if what. Maybe on another planet.

Thursday, May 14, 2009


I don't believe I've mentioned that about a year ago I bought a second-hand Vespa scooter. Actually it was barely used; the 69-year-old woman I purchased it from had won it in a raffle and put only 80 miles on the odometer before running it off a corner on her dirt road and crashing it into a horse pasture. She was okay but felt no further interest in scootering.

I, however, adore the scooter. It's cool-looking and extraordinarily fun to zip around on. In spite of having only a 0.125L engine, it has pretty much cured me of the desire for a sports car. It can get up to 60mph but gets roughly twice the gas milage of a Prius, three times that of a Civic, and five or six times that of a Hummer. I would never say it's better than riding a bicycle, environment-wise, but in city traffic it sure feels a lot safer.

I've pushed its limits a bit. A few weeks ago I drove it to Green Acres, which is 118 miles round-trip. It took a bit longer than driving, but only because I wasn't on the interstate. It was a much more enjoyable sensory experience, though. Word spread quickly at GA that the crazy shrink had ridden "that little thing" all the way from Smallish City. People were impressed, but they don't know that other people have driven scooters all the way across the country. Now that sounds fun. Partly. I might try an interstate-trip soon.

The one frustration I've had, ironically, is parking. The downtown business area of Smallish City is truly littered with perfect scooter parking places on the sides or nooks of various plazas, alleys, etc. Also each parking garage has many areas of "leftover" space, too small for a car but perfect for a couple scooters. But all of these options are illegal. Any place that isn't at a two-hour street meter is either defined by the Parking Department as "sidewalk", or is private property (often it's hard to know which.) And the garages forbid scooters and motorcycles altogether. I've tried various strategies to bring my scooter to work. For instance, I've tried parking it at right angles to the curb, at a double meter, exactly between two parking spaces and thus leaving space for cars to park in both. In my mind, I'm taking up no parking space at all. But the mind of the Parking Officer, evidently, I am in both spaces, and thus fair game for a ticket if either meter is expired.

To their credit, the Smallish City Council passed a resolution last month authorizing the creation of 31 street scooter/motorcycle parking spaces. I wish they'd give us some space in the garages (parking out of the rain being somewhat more important for a scooter than a car). And I'm a bit perplexed at some other aspects of the plan-- in one place, for example, they are turning 18 feet of curb into just two parking spaces, when you could easily fit four or more. But it's a good start. Or will be, if it turns into reality.

Monday, May 11, 2009


It is possible-- possible-- that at some point in the next few weeks all of the following will be simultaneously true:

- I will have no overdue bills, parking tickets, or hospital paperwork;
- I will have no cavities awaiting fillings;
- Both the cat and I will be up-to-date on our immunizations;
- My house, car, boat, and scooter will all be free of serious mechanical problems.

I'm not saying it's likely, just possible. And that alone is quite unusual.

Wednesday, May 06, 2009

Revolution Will Be Televised, But Not Announced In TV Guide

In the "I didn't realize they could do that" category, today we learn that GM plans a "100-for-1 reverse stock split". The result will be that current stockholders, such as myself, will go from owning 100% of the company to owning 1% of the company. Or, as Reuters puts, it, "GM plans to wipe out current shareholders." The U.S. Government and United Auto Workers will, by receiving newly-minted stock, become the major owners of the company.

For me, this will likely mean losing several thousand dollars. I currently own about 0.0004 % of GM; after, I will own 0.000004%.

Karl Marx said the revolution will be recognizable when the people-- or more specifically, the proletariat-- come to own the means of production. I can't think of any more obvious example than the UAW owning a third of GM. And taking my share in the company away seems not much different from the proletariat breaking down the door to my bourgeoisie house and hauling off my jewels for communal ownership. I guess it's slightly better than taking the current shareholders via ox-cart to the guillotine; but if I had all my money invested in GM, it would be about the financial equivalent of execution.

I would, of course, prefer that they start with the really wealthy people of this country, rather than people such as me. In fact I just did a bit of research and found that the average UAW electrician made considerably more than me last year. Also, though I'm generally in favor of it, I would've liked a bit of warning before we started in on socialism. But I guess that's sort of how it is: revolutions don't involve advance notification.

Tuesday, May 05, 2009


Do I have any readers in NZ these days? Could you please raise your hand?

(Do I have any readers anywhere these days?)

Where I Invested, and What I Invested For

Last fall I decided to empty out my change-jar and purchase some stocks. Here is what I bought, why, and how they have performed so far.

1) General Motors. Purchased because: It was cheaper than any time since before WWII, it seemed patriotic, it was a fun conversation item, it seemed possible that it might actually go up. Return: -28.5%

2) Johnson & Johnson. Purchased because: Someone told me it was a good investment. She also said that birth control was a recession-proof product, and J&J makes that. And other stuff. Return: - 6.5%

3) Petroleo Brasileiro. Purchased because: Its stock symbol is "PBR", which is the same as the abbreviation for Pabst Blue Ribbon, which is a beer I was drinking a lot of at the time, because it's what GirlTuesday drinks. Return: +101.5%