Get taxed to drive?

4 01 2009

I know it’s been a while since I last posted and this post has very little to do with tech *cough-GPS-cough* but here’s an article from Autoblog that has got my blood boiling:

Oregon ran a pilot program in 2006 and 2007 that fitted 300 cars with GPS receivers, which kept track of the cars’ mileage. The receivers also kept records of when the cars were on the road, noting whether they traveled during rush hour or not. When the drivers went to several specially-equipped gas stations, they paid a mileage tax based on how far they had driven and when they drove, rush hour being more expensive than the wee hours.

Taxing mileage — as opposed to trying to raise fuel taxes — is an idea that’s not only raising eyebrows, it’s also raising interest. Seven other states are reported to be interested in finding a publicly-palatable way to tax mileage. A panel in North Carolina even recommended that drivers be charged a quarter-cent-per-mile for their year’s driving. In such a scenario, after 15,000 miles you’d owe the state $37.50.

GPS? The hell were they thinking? I understand states are losing revenues they normally would been counting on from gas tax but going the extreme route of charging by the distance traveled is a bit too much on the big brother side. When gas prices were this low 3 years ago, how were the states making money then? If people drove less, it would mean less stress on the roads which would also mean that there would be less maintenance required. Sleazy politicians always trying to find ways to tax the citizens to bring out short-term solutions for their own work performance shortcomings.

At this rate, small towns will be affected even more so. A lot of people commute to and from work from small towns or suburbs which would lead to some of them moving into the already crowded cities to avoid the “mile tax” or “toll booths”. I hate you Lou Dobbs because all you’ve been saying the past 5 or 6 years of your CNN existence has been about “heartland” and “illegal immigration” but now it’s about time you use your clout to stuff your big head into the courtrooms about those governments and do something good for once.

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LCD Monitors? NewEgg > BestBuy

28 11 2008

Went to the local BestBuy store by Rosedale Mall to grab a few items including an Acer 19″ LCD – X191 but by the time we got there at 6am, it was long gone. It was long gone after the 5th nerd joined the line at 6pm the previous day. But as luck would have it, there was an Acer 19″ LCD for $169 and one next to it for $179. The only problem was, the monitor-in-box was located between the two price tags.

Took the monitor to a BBuy clerk to run a price check and after he matched the model and SKU #, he advised that we were looking at the more expensive $179 model (Acer X193Wb) which retailed at $239. Fair enough. Along the way to the cashier, I picked up the latest Guns N’ Roses album – Chinese Democracy – on sale a few bucks less ($11.99), only found at BestBuys nationwide, and after 15 years of waiting. All was fine until the cashier lady punched in the items.

I immediately noticed the amount on the POS (Point of Sale) machine screen for the X193Wb was displaying $239. TWO HUNDRED AND FORTY BUCKS??? I had the cashier run a price check through an extremely rude sales associate. It seemed like she took forever to return and when she did, she was virtually yelling at me saying that I had the wrong LCD model and the one going for $179 was out of stock.

How could this be? I remember matching the SKU and model # with the BBuy clerk previously on the computer screen personally at the store location to make sure we had the right model and now I was being rudely told to dole out the full retail value for a product on sale? I had had it with that retarded sales associate. Told her I wasn’t going to get ripped off by BestBuy and promptly purchased my CD and left. Point to note is that the cashier lady was very kind and caring in stark contrast.

Went for a coffee break at a Brueggers and checked the prices on my phone. The X193Wb was shown at $179 on numerous Black Friday websites for Best Buy. Then saw that NewEgg had the same monitor for … $99 with the deal expiring on Sunday the 30th. I’ve bought a lot of stuff from them in the past and they’re quick to ship.

We all know what happens next. So if you’re in for a decent LCD monitor for your computer, grab one at NewEgg soon. They’re ending on November 30 but on limited stock.





Free iPod through your bank

15 11 2008

Free iPod deal. Sometime last week, I received a letter from my bank Wells Fargo in the mail. Seemed like the regular “SIGN UP FOR A FREE CAMERA” thing they sometimes send out. Only this time, it said a free Apple iPod Shuffle. Nothing extraordinary but could be worth picking up since it’s FREE. Didn’t think much about it until a buddy at work had one just like that, only his was through Bank of America. He found the iPod in the middle row on the scratch card.

Found the iPod in the middle row on my scratch-off card also. You get 30 days to use the service (AutoVantage – similar to AAA Roadside Service) for free and you want to cancel before then, unless you’re up for shelling out $16/mo thereafter. The Shuffle will be mailed out 3-5 weeks after processing the application. Oh and remember to include the scratch-off card and the sheet holding your signature in the prepaid envelope before mailing em out. Keeping my fingers crossed.

EDIT (12/26/2008): This is so not worth the hassle. You send in a request to sign-up along with a free iPod card. Then you wait for 2 weeks and they mail you a membership confirmation packet complete with your ID card and some coupons and booklets. Then you have to mail out another free iPod card to confirm included in the packet you received from them. This is estimated to take 6-8 weeks to process and the whole time, you are expected to be a member of AutoVantage. Also be advised that the iPods are subject to availability. To top it off, it’s just a cheapo iPod Shuffle 1GB.





Republican National Conference in St Paul, Minnesota

3 09 2008

The corrupt politicians and their fake-smiling cronies are in town across the river in St Paul, Minnesota. So are a nasty bunch of anarchists and the usual assortment of hippie peace lovers. On tv, Rudy Guiliani appeared and started making small talk getting the crowd hyped up averaging around 3-5 words per sentence. The crowd cheered. More 3-5 word simple sentences with “9-11” thrown in randomly. The crowd cheered again.  The pattern continued and Rudy said “USA” with a swing to get the crowd going “USA USA USA” like sheep following the movement of a mindless herd. Wish there was someone out there asking Rudy about how he refused to help out the FDNY and NYPD who were volunteering out there during 9-11 and now suffering from various respiratory diseases.

We’re all getting used to Rudy’s stories of how he fought the terrorists during 9-11 but then he came out making fun of Barack Obama’s efforts to the streets of Chicago. Seriously. Rudy? You must be going senile. And as expected, he went on to praise McCain through out the years but failed to bring out 2000 when almost every Republican out there painted him as an unpatriotic American. Didn’t matter. The crowd cheered. Something about the honorable Joe Biden (Democratic vice-presidential nominee) flip-flopping. The crowd cheered around his feet.

Then the newly nominated VP to John “I was shot down in Vietnam” McCain showed up. Sarah Palin began the speech with family values and growing up in a small town in Alaska with her “Eskimo” husband who strangely enough looked white and very un-Eskimo. I bet he was discriminated quite a bit because he was an “Eskimo.” Oh puhleez. Don’t yell out saying Obama’s pulling the race card when you’re doing it yourself, only in your case, it doesn’t work at all.

Along the way, she talked about her activities in the PTA and being a mayor of a town of a few thousand. And do note that she said it was a “tough” job unlike serving on the streets of South Chicago. If that’s tough, I’d like to know what her understanding of the role of the VICE PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES OF AMERICA means to her. Then something about how she liked to drive in her car. WTF does this have anything to do with being qualified for the position? Then some lies about tax breaks and how Obama would raise taxes. Lies. More lies. Some history on her efforts which she lied about. If she was a murderer, the crowd could care less because this is the crowd that refuses to look at facts. The crowd cheered.

Like “9-11 Rudy”, wife of Eskimo and the Governor of the populous State of Alaska, Sarah Palin talked about all the torture” that John McCain had to endure in Vietnam. Only, I got 2 problems with that:

  1. Vietnam vets do not like to talk about what they did and saw there. They’re not willing to relive those memories. So why is Palin and Rudy going on and on about John McCain being a POW there?
  2. John McCain was NOT tortured. According to the US Government and our prez whom some call “Dubya” or “the original pothead”, worse acts were carried out to the fine residents of Guantanomo Bay and it was deemed normal treatment.

About John McCain, and please I do not have anything against someone who actually went there along with the likes of Democrat John Kerry (who was bashed by Repuglicans for not being a true veteran), although I respect his service, getting shot down isn’t something to be proud of. He is still an American hero but I severely doubt he is the right person for the job. And why are the Repuglicans now embracing him when they trampled down on him back in 2000?

Since she had nothing else to say about her experience and had exhausted her vocabulary of emotional keywords, she went on with some negative jabs on Obama. The crowd cheered. Sarah Palin mocking Barack Obama? Someone who’s had it easy all her life making fun of a social worker? Very classy indeed. Literally.

Republican speeches are always very interesting because of their over-use of keywords and suggestive terms and the blatant lies tossed callously in sentences filled with emotional moments. You can be Emperor Palpitine or Darth Vader and still come out after the speech looking like good ol’ Ben Kenobi. In short, all words and no substance. But be warned. If you’re not careful, you can get swept in with their lies just like how Anakin Skywalker turned to the dark side and became Darth Vader. We know Palpatine and Darth Vader are “evil” because they already look like villains and can’t afford the luxury to smile and make you comfortable unlike the Repuglicans you see on tv.

The following are some of the most popular keywords in a typical Republican speech: God, good, evil, victory, America, Americans, bless, values, faith, terrorist, protection, death tax. Nauseatingly childlike and corny but certainly very definitive and divisive words for the simple-minded. You’re either with us, or against us. Sounds familiar? You know what, the American public has had enough and can see through their lies and know that they’re going to get 4 more years of the same terrible 8 years we’ve gone through. If you want to take advantage of unsuspecting people, go do that elsewhere. My word of advice to republicans is to “Pack up your lies in your suitcases and get out of our country!”





The Greatest Olympics Ever?

24 04 2008

As China steadies itself for the media onslaught in the summer, for the first time in history, the Olympics will be held in a Communist state under Capitalistic economic policies and a Totalitarian-styled regime. Quite reasonably, there have been a lot of concerns voiced by various nations about the clash in the true ideals of the Olympics and China’s heavy-handed approach in attending to “domestic” matters. Never before has the prestigious games been opposed so openly by citizens behind the geographical, cultural, and political boundaries that separates them.

For one, the ethnic Tibetans in the “Autonomous Region of Tibet” have been suppressed since 1949. The history books in China paint a picture of Mao’s troops liberating the Tibetan “slaves” in a class-based society. Sadly, what is failed to be mentioned are that many millions of Tibetans died working against their wills in slave camps for the Communistic beliefs held by China. Those that survived died from malnutrition after being forced to follow Mao’s failed economic and agricultural programs which led to a long famine in the harsh climates of the Tibetan plateau. The nation lost over 50% of their lands through China’s renaming and rezoning of their provinces. Even today, their senior monks are hand-picked by Chinese government officials instead of by the monasteries and their spiritual leader, the Dalai Lama, is still banned in Tibet. Possessing a picture of the Dalai Lama or uttering his name in public are deemed serious offenses. The ubiquity of CCTVs (closed-circuit television aka security cameras), plainclothes cops, and cops disguised as monks on the streets of Lhasa ensure that nobody steps out of line. In fact, it’s a boot camp and not many people like boot camps when you’re forced to live in one for all your life.

So what’s going on with this summer Olympics in Beijing? Is it because of “western bias” against the communist state? Or is it “racism” as some Chinese blogs pout on the interweb? The IOC Olympics Games was revived in 1896 in Athens, Greece to promote peace and harmony through the enabling of ordinary citizens to participate in a global sporting event. Unfortunately, the Olympics is marred by a history of problems, political boycotts, and corruption. One of the nations that tried to boycott the Olympics was China who in 1976 forced Canada to withdraw Taiwan from the games who ended up missing 2 Olympics Games until 1984. What a bag of hypocrites.

Truth be told, ideally the Olympics should never be boycotted because of the values it tries to promote. In reality, something needs to be done and there is a definite need for a stronger person at the helm. Someone who can claim that his/her values firmly match that of the Olympics and is able to stick to them. A person without a conscience will continue to support the management at the IOC and the 2008 Olympic Games in Beijing because of their hypocritical stance in that human rights in China shouldn’t be the concern of the citizens of the Olympic world. Whatever happened to peace?

In Nepal, an unidentified mountain climber was “deported” after security found a “FREE TIBET” flag in his backpack. The Nepalese police and soldiers are guarding Mount Everest to protect China’s interests with the authorization to use “whatever means necessary, including use of weapons” to stop the protests in the region. Media coverage in the region of Tibet and Lhasa has been neutered while government propaganda blankets the airwaves in mainland China. Oh and the whole bootcamp thing. Tibet has been turned into one after thousands of soldiers (not cops were brought into the capital) are now camping by Everest on China’s side of the mountain.

Chinese immigrants (legal and illegal) abroad have taken various stand-points. Some are of the belief that China-can-do-no-wong while others have realized the importance of human rights. To all you Chinese who actively support China’s activities, let me make it clear – the protests aren’t against the Chinese, but rather directed towards a government that has been corrupted by power and is now out of control socially.

Is this a case of too little too late or is the IOC simply not doing it’s job after failing to enforce China’s promise to clean-up their acts upon winning the bid for the 2008 Games?

It’s like fucking for babies instead of pleasure. Corporate money over ideals.

Screw human rights and peace. Let the Games begin!





Red Light Cameras a Blessing or teh Devil?

15 04 2008

Most people are against red light cameras. Heckeven I’m against red light cameras. The long history of increased accidents upon installation of the cameras and the various scammer like activities from the local authorities in doling out tickets certainly don’t make things better for the advocates of those cameras.

So what exactly is a “red light camera?” It’s not a camera by your local red light district, nor is it a special infrared camera and it certainly does not remove the “red eye” effect. A red light camera is an actively computer monitoring system that snaps pictures of the license plates and sometimes, faces of the drivers in the event of a violation – more specifically, running a red light. They’ve already been banned out of Minneapolis-St Paul due the ruling that they were unconstitutional after a slew of tickets were mailed out to supposed violators.

Usually, RLC (Red Light Cameras) are placed at 4-way intersections with 4 cameras … one facing each side of the street. Do note that the cameras in question are mounted up high on tall structures like lamp-posts. They’re usually not situated by the traffic lights themselves so don’t go thinking every infrared sensor (used by cops and emergency vehicles to alter traffic lights) is an RLC. Also, the cameras look like the regular security cameras you see at government locations. For more info on RLCs, click here.

Below are 2 RLC locations in St Cloud, Minnesota, which in my opinion has definitely shortened the AMBER/YELLOW light times. Both locations are notorious for their rather long RED lights especially if you’re heading NORTH-SOUTH (or vice versa) on either 9th Ave S or 5th Ave S.

If you’re heading north on 9th Ave S (Great River Rd) and attempting to make a LEFT on 10th St S, you’re SOL during rush because the GREEN light arrow pointing LEFT changes to AMBER in 3 seconds which takes under 3 seconds to turn RED. Otherwise, both locations have now improved the RED light waiting period. I don’t have to dread driving near it because I know that it will turn GREEN soon. The short AMBER/YELLOW light period is annoying but nearly not as the waiting periods for the RED to turn GREEN from days of yore.

This article on Autoblog highlights six cities that were caught red-handed for shortening the yellow light wait period to snare unsuspecting drivers with fines. Rumor is that the companies that install those cameras charge the cities a boatload of fees and the only way those cities can recoup the costs was by increasing the number of violators.

So the question remains, are Red Light Cameras a “Blessing” or teh “Devil?” I guess only time will tell but for now, let’s just hop on that bandwagon to vilify our cold-hearted robotic overlords.





John McCain’s dumb “Gas Holiday” strategy = EPIC FAIL

15 04 2008

Didn’t mean to cut your moment of zen after that silencio I promised but couldn’t help writing how steeply biased in stupidity John McCain’s idea of a gas tax removal period between the summer days of Memorial and Labor Day. Well if it’s not stupid, it’s a down right sham mean to scam the sheep that follows the herd to the slaughterhouse. Of course we all would like lower prices … FOR EVERY GODDAMN THING and not just gas.

The Republicans are all about how the market will even things out so removing taxes will eventually hit back at the consumer if not in the summer, then maybe in the fall. This would be hard for the poor and especially students who are working 40+ hours weekly in the summer months cuz once school starts, they have to cut back their work load to accommodate classes.

But to be more clear on the matter, McCain said, “The people who drive the furthest are the lowest income Americans.” His advisor then chimed in, “We know that in the summer gas prices peak and it’s when people do a lot of traveling, so if you give them a break just from Memorial Day to Labor Day… if you could do it even just for those three months, it would give people some short-term benefit on inflation.” [source]

WTF are they smoking? He claims that it would benefit the poor but aren’t mass-transportation the way to get the economically strapped/smart people to travel? How bout a TAX FREE month for mass-transport users? That would make a far more important impact on the economy, the environment, and the future. That and tax exempt status for veterans, retired citizens, and those living on food stamps.

Unfortunately for the hypocritical John McCain, his buddy Bob Dole presented the same gas holiday idea 12 years ago when he (Dole) was up against Bill Clinton only to succumb to a painful defeat. The signs aren’t good. The implementation of stupid short-sighted ideas are what got us in the current mess in the first place. McCain needs a good plan or should just shut up for the sake of the good of this nation.

Instead of focusing on turning this nation into a smarter group of people, all they’re (GOP) trying to do is keep building a wall of people to protect the rest from the inevitable tidal waves. Getting people to slowly overcome their heavy dependence on gasoline and reward them is what the big cats in Washington should be proposing. So until then, keep throwing your bullshit John McCain. Only the clueless will bite em.