Odds and ends
Just a bunch of odds and ends, none of which is worth an entire post.
Low-carb gains a foothold.
First, I’ll start off with the good news, then I’ll finish with the bad.
I took the photo above yesterday at Raley’s, a giant supermarket (and I mean giant) in Incline Village, NV. There were no signs promoting low-fat foods anywhere in the store. I took this to be a sign that enough customers were looking for low-carb foods and had asked for help that management decided to make the low-carb section (there really is one) easier to find. I take this as a positive sign.
We’ve been skiing with the kids and grandkids, all of whom have come to town for spring break. We’ve had a blast, but family commitments have kept me from attending to this blog as much as I usually do. Family commitments along with a few snafus, more about which later. The picture below is from the top of a foggy ski run overlooking Lake Tahoe. It was taken Monday when the weather was less than optimal. Fortunately, it has improved since.
Airline/Expedia cautionary tale
One set of kids and grandkids flew in from Dallas and had a disastrous experience, which I want to relate in the hope of perhaps preventing it for some of you readers. The tickets for this trip were purchased long ago through Expedia and were on US Air from Dallas through Phoenix to Reno. When purchased, the confirmation had seat assignments for all four of the passengers. Our son and fam arrived at the airport about an hour and a half early and went through the automated boarding pass machines. The boarding passes that were issued them had no seats listed. When my son went to the counter to speak with an actual human, he was told there were no seat assignments because his entire family had been bumped from the flight. When he showed her the Expedia confirmation complete with seat assignments, she told him that Expedia travelers got bumped first. She also told him that it was the airlines policy to overbook by about 20 percent, which almost never caused a problem because of cancellations and no shows. She said that the only two times this didn’t hold was over Christmas and Spring break weeks, the only time, she said, that she really hated her job. It would seem to me that the airlines would realize this and maybe not oversell the flights during these periods, but that’s just me. I’m not an airline decision maker, but it seems pretty obvious. Especially since they had to fork over four free flights on US Air and a bunch of meal vouchers.
The fam was booked on a later flight, and, of course, had no seats together. So they had to fight that fight in order for a parent to be able to sit with each kid. Same thing on the flight to Reno. The kids got to the airport early in the day, waited around, and finally got to Reno at about 10:30 PM (midnight thirty for them and a long, long day for two little boys). The other part of the fam came into the Reno airport as well, and we had it timed so that everyone got in at about the same time. This airline fiasco caused a huge logistics problem for the family Eades, but we made it through it.
The moral of the story is to not book through Expedia and expect all to go smoothly, especially during busy times. The son involved called the airline and made sure they had confirmed seats on the way home. If you book with Expedia, I would recommend you do the same.
I use Expedia or Travelocity to find the least expensive flights and best routes between destinations, then I go directly to the airline site to reserve. It’s usually a little less expensive than Expedia or Travelocity, and I am confirmed with the airline directly.
Blog info and snafus
There are a few blog issues I need to deal with. First, I performed the much-loathed task of going through the stacked up spam caught by the spam filter and found about a dozen comments lodged therein. I don’t know why they got caught – they didn’t have a bunch of links embedded, which is usually what trips them up. I don’t know why the spam filter got them, but it did. If you have had a comment over the past week or so that has remained unposted, you’re probably one of the victims. I’ll get to them all soon.
Another thing I discovered, to my great chagrin, is that I have about 500 emails in my Gmail account from readers of this blog. A couple of years ago I hired a blog consultant to help make my blog better. The installed Feedburner to allow readers to sign up for the blog in their Google or other readers. It also allowed people to sign up to receive the blog via email. What I didn’t realize is that the blog came to those who signed up under my Gmail address. Many people simply hit reply and sent me a comment or a question about the blog – much as others do in the comment section. Problem is I never read my Gmail mail. I have it as a repository for all my emails, which I have forwarded from my regular email address. I keep all the emails in the Gmail account so that I will have them all in one place since I use so many computers. I want to have them in case I ever need them. But I never read them in Gmail. When I heard from someone that he had been trying to contact me numerous times and hadn’t gotten a response, I asked how he had been trying. He said through Gmail. When I went to the account and searched, I found hundreds of people who had done the same. I fixed the situation so that readers can’t simply hit reply. I can’t possibly deal with all those emails that are already there, so if you have been waiting for an answer, you had better resubmit through the comments section. Sorry for all the hassle.
Out of control taxation and regulation
The above sign affixed to the restroom door of the Squeeze In, my favorite breakfast restaurant in Truckee, CA is a symptom of the disease of a government run by Democrats allowed to go wild. If you are interested in seeing what the country would look like after many years of an unopposed Democratic government, you have to go no further than California. Due to a bipartisan gerrymandering over the past few years making basically all state legislative offices non-competitive, the Democrats have controlled the state government. And they’ve never come across a regulation or tax they didn’t like. (I’m sure that in Republican-dominated states there would be problems, too, but as far as I know, there isn’t a Republican-dominated state.) Not only does California tax and regulate the bejesus out of anything it can, it aggressively enforces all these taxes and regulations. Which brings me to the sign on the door at the Squeeze In. If a California regulator were to walk in to the restroom at this restaurant and find writing on the wall, there would be a fine. Which isn’t really a fine, but is a shakedown. When the state needs money, the regulators are on the prowl. Let me explain what I mean.
I have a friend who works as a consultant for many different industries. He recently had a gig working for a financial institution with offices all over California. One of the California regulations is that the lettering on the signs in these facilities giving the interest rates must be two inches high. Regulators recently did a savage burn on all these facilities throughout the state, descending upon them with rulers in hand. They measured the height of the letters and found in multiple instances that the letters were from 1/16 to 1/32 of an inch short. They then levied fines of almost two million dollars. These institutions then had to hire a legal team to do battle with the state, which ultimately reduced the fines to about $150,000. This was a shakedown for money pure and simple. It may as well have been Tony Soprano.
Los Angeles is the second largest city in the United States and has no (none, zero) Fortune 50 companies headquartered there. Why? Because of the outrageous tax situation. Why do business there and deal with all the tax and regulatory nonsense California slings out when you could headquarter your offices in Texas, where the population is growing by about 1,000 people per day? And those people ain’t going there for the weather, let me tell you. I’ve spent a lot of time in one other high-tax state, that being Massachusetts. But there, people have learned to deal with it by creating and underground cash-based economy. I can’t tell you how many businesses we ran into in Cambridge that took cash only. No checks, no credit cards, cash only. Anyone who came to work at your house demanded to be paid in cash. It doesn’t take a rocket scientist to figure out what’s going on there.
In California people are inured to it, I guess, because they simply pony up and keep on electing the same people again and again. Now the residents of the state have been saddled with a huge tax increase that all share in. Increased gas taxes, sales taxes, car fees, and income taxes – all went up. It should be no surprise that a state as burdened by taxes and regulations as California should be the one in the most trouble due to the recent downturn. People are out of work, houses are being foreclosed on right and left, the economy is in the tank, and, as a consequence, the state government is short of funds. So instead of working to help business, which is the machine that drives the economy, the state did the only thing it knew how to do: raise taxes on those workers and businesses still standing. Makes a lot of sense. At least to California legislators.
Underhanded internet sales technique
Some of the comments on the recent post about Pentabosol reminded me about how some sleazy operators do business online. If you’ve never been involved in a direct response (selling directly to customers) business, you probably don’t have any idea what kinds of shenanigans people pull to try to sell products. Let’s look at how it works with weight loss supplements. You want to make some money selling a weight loss supplement, but you don’t have the funds to mount a normal direct response campaign, so you decide to let others do the work for you. You start your company to sell your supplement. Let’s call it Weight Be Gone. You create a website extolling the virtues of Weight Be Gone and set up a shopping cart so that people can buy it. Then you create another website called something like Webscamsreview.com or weightlossscamreporter.com or something similar. Then you write reviews of all the other legitimate supplements out there – Pentabosol, for example – and you find them all wanting. You then say that the only supplement that you have tested that passes the stringent requirements for your Webscamsreview company is Weight Be Gone. And, of course, you provide a link to your own website. Then you go out and buy Google placement for other supplements, such as Pentabosol, and when people look up Pentabosol on Google, they find the Pentabosol site listed first but right below is a site supposedly providing an unbiased review of Pentabosol. Who can resist taking a look? Often the people who do take a look end up purchasing Weight Be Gone because they believe the fake reviews (both positive for Weight Be Gone and negative for all the other supplements) on the allegedly ‘independent review’ site, which is actually an ad and portal for their own supplement.
Sugar, the new health food
Finally, some bad news. It looks like sugar is making a comeback. And not just a comeback, but a comeback as a health food. Expect to start seeing more sugar and less high-fructose corn syrup HFCS). It’s easy to see why. HFCS has a real image problem. After all, would you feel better about eating something containing organic pure cane sugar or high-fructose corn syrup?
Both are about the same. HFCS contains a little more fructose, but not a lot. And the little difference that it contains probably doesn’t make much of a difference unless intakes are huge, in which case it doesn’t much matter anyway.
The problem I see with HFCS is that it works much better than sugar as a food additive. It has properties that sugar doesn’t have, making it perfect for many processed foods that otherwise wouldn’t contain sugar. As a consequence we now have a lot of foods with sweetener in them that we didn’t have when sugar was the only sweetener available. Problem is that the battle between sugar and HFCS isn’t fought on the field of these small amounts of additives, but on the field of products such as soft drinks that contain a ton of one or the other. People will still get the additional sugar from HFCS in all the small portions added to processed foods and will get sugar instead in drinks and other highly sweetened foods. And they’ll think they’re eating a health food because it is pure cane sugar and not that nasty HFCS. I suspect that all this will do nothing but bring about an increase in sugar intake. Why?
Because HFCS is sweeter than sugar. And since people have become accustomed to this level of sweetness, when HFCS is replaced by sugar, more sugar will be required to give the same degree of sweetness. And so sugar intake will increase. All in the name of health. A sorry situation indeed.