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.





WRC loses Subaru

17 12 2008

You know things aren’t going the greatest when companies like Microsoft and Google put on hiring freezes, Yahoo! goes on a firing spree, electronics giant Best Buy making moves to reduce staff, folks out at Target Corp getting the chop, and every other person is out there job hunting because of this economic downturn. To make matters worse, credit card companies like American Express began lowering or freezing borrowing from their valued customers making matters worse for those looking to invest. Even my favorite blog site, The Consumerist, has fallen under hard times and is up for sale. You can tell times are bad cuz their ads are so big, they cover blog post titles.

And thereby, we can claim that the economy is just as miserable as the weather is right here in Minnesota.

Unfortunately, this trickle down effect has now hit the world of auto sports breaking the seemingly life-long bond between Subaru and the World Rally Championship. Without going into details, a statement from the parent company Fuji Heavy Industries (owned by Toyota) revealed that (Subaru) has officially pulled out of the 2009 WRC campaign. The economy could be one of the bigger reasons behind this decision but irrespective of the cause, it’s a sad day to see an icon like Subaru divest itself off of the rally championships. This from a company that made a name for itself by designing passenger vehicles from all of their testing and experience in the World Rally Championships. Truly a shocker!

All we have are memories…





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.





Peter Griffin’s Favorite Band Gave The World “The Bird”

23 11 2008

After seeing the Family Guy episode (Season 7 – Episode 2) featuring The Trashmen’s one verse hit “Surfin’ Bird,” I got news from a close friend that the band was actually in town playing on Saturday evening at a dive (The Turf Club) on University and Snelling in St Paul, Minnesota. For those of you who’ve heard of the Surfin Bird song (and who hasn’t?), you might be surprised to find out that the group is actually based here in Minnesota. They were also the original kings of surf music. Before the Beachboys. Before the Beatles. Probably even before you.

15 bucks and a few cover bands and beers later, Tony Andreason (lead guitar), Dan Winslow (guitar), Bob Reed (bass), and Mark Andreason (drums) were rocking it out at a packed house a quarter after midnight. Time meant nothing to these “geriatric rockers” as they let loose a barrage of 50s-60s surf rock to a frantic wild crowd, of which half appeared to be well over 40 years young. Songs such as Surfin Bird, King of the Surf, Gloria, I Fought the Law, and It’s So Easy were instantly recognizable which brings me to the big question as to why in all these years of my existence did I not know who sang them until recently. Maybe it’s because The Trashmen don’t have a website?

Mini-mosh pits formed and disappeared in seconds possibly due to the age of some of the patrons. My only disappointment with the event was that there were no body surfers present. Disappointment with myself – not buying memorabilia (cd/tshirts) because the line was too long.

Some classic covers were splayed out much to the happiness of the retro-loving crowd. At the very end after we heard the gurgling sounds of a wet surfin’ bird bailing out into the waters, masked members of the Neanderthals jumped on stage with their drums and clubs (along with the Trashmen) pumping the crowd to a exhilarating finale with more tunes from that era. Best of all, I got a chance to shake Mark Andreason’s hands after the gig. One cool cat.

And so in case you still don’t know THE BIRD, you might want to check out a clip from the Surfin Bird episode of Seth McFarlane’s Family Guy show below.

PS: They’re playing in GreenBay (Wisconsin – booooo) Sunday tomorrow which would be technically today since it’s almost 5am right now and I need to catch some sleep. G’nite!





Google Themes Your Gmail. Cloud Computing on the rise?

19 11 2008

While at work today sometime early afternoon, I happened to accidentally click on my GMAIL tab on Firefox to find new colors running across the screen. Was it the Websense filter doing it’s job by filtering out some color script? The blue was a deeper hue than I could recall and after going through the settings on the “settings” link, was not able to find a solution for the color change. The only thing referencing to “color” was the labels. Asked Kaci if her Gmail looked any different but she replied with a negative.

Got home and checked Gmail. Surely, this wasn’t the Google Gmail blue we’ve always known. Had to check again so clicked on “Settings” on the top right corner and booyah, there was a new tab “THEMES” listed at the end – not visible when I was at work. Was this merely a cosmetic upgrade?

It was a tough choice between “Planets” and “Ninja” but we now know who won.

After Microsoft launched a half-hearted theme option on their HOTMAIL/LIVE website 2 weeks ago, I guess this was just an inevitability especially since the iGoogle page had that feature as an option some years back. Also, the iGoogle page had been tweaked recently to get all the gadgets incorporated in a seamlessly convenient package. A positive step from Google but a giant leap towards the social acceptance of cloud computing.

When we say “Cloud Computing,” think of being able to use your computer anywhere you go without having to tug along your laptop. The concept thrives on the notion that any computer that can connect to the internet can connect to your “computer” which in actuality, exists on external servers. When you download an MP3 or movie or any file for the matter, or when you write up papers or make charts, they get stored on a server making them accessible from any internet ready machine at your disposal. The trick is to make the UI (User Interface) all effortless by blurring the lines between what is stored on your computer’s physical hard drive and what is stored on your “online” computer.

In the future, when you log on to your computer, the operating system you see and interact (Mac OS / Windows / etc) won’t be stored in your hard drive. Google Docs, Adobe’s Photoshop Express, and Microsoft’s Office Live Workspace are a few examples of commercial software backed by well known companies basing their ideas on online applications. The full featured desktop operating system is on it’s way out and even Microsoft’s making sure they don’t miss out on this trend (hint: Azure).

Simply put, Google’s Gmail themes is the tip of the iceberg of bigger things to come. We are going to be seeing another major technological paradigm shift in the next 5 years and whether we like it or not, it’s already taking place.





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.





Battle of new Operating Systems – Snow Leopard v Windows 7

12 11 2008

It’s no big secret that Apple’s latest Mac OS X Snow Leopard (OS 10.6) will be available for purchase early next year while rumors point out that the new Microsoft OS (aptly named Windows 7) should be out late that same year to replace the Titanic-esque Windows Vista operating system.

So as the armies of darkness gather up their zombie ponies to do battle with one another, it’s time we take a pre-war analysis before plunging head-first into the chaos to get a glimpse of what’s to come.

Hilarity brought to you by The Onion. 😀