Saturday, January 28, 2006

You Want Weird, You Got Weird- Late by 4 Days Edition

Warning: The following may contain adult humor that some of you family programming crybaby 's can't handle. If you don't think you can handle it, please leave this post now, or don't come crying to me. You have been warned.

I was tagged "it" by JW a couple of days ago and am just getting around to it now. The list is 5 weird things about me. I couldn't compile a list of just five, so I'm going to list more. The other cool thing about this, my wife compiled the list for all of you. So here it goes.

1- The hair on my legs starts growing about halfway up my calves, below that women would pay for my secret.

2- I have the bad habit of grabbing my manhood while I brush my teeth. This one even freaks me out. I don't know why I do it, but it's part of who I am.

3- When I eat a meal, I am a "food separatist". I can only eat one item at a time, never mixing items, never beginning a new item until the last is finished.

4- I have piercings that none of you will ever see.

5- I have a birthmark on the bottom of my foot that looks like a mini version of Gorbechev's mark on his head.

6- I have a 2 gauge hole in the top of my left ear, which I decided to punch out with a dermel punch for the hell of it. For good measure I used a scalpel to round it out better.

7- I have to have foot protection. Only time I take my socks off is to change them or when I am showering.

8- I still collect baseball cards like I did when I was a kid. Only their no longer 25 cents a pack, they are now 2 to 8 bucks a pack.

9- I can not drink out of plastic cups if I have a choice. Glass baby, glass.

10- I have to have the "home bowl" advantage. If number 2 is ringing, homeward bound or at least familiar territory. I will pinch it of for days if necessary.

11- I am scared of thunder and lightning.

12- I can't get enough of the Kosher Dill Pickle. Claussen preferably, but any will do. I can eat an entire jar over the course of the day.

13- I get chronic hives for no reason what so ever. At least the doctors can't figure it out.

14- If it looks like little trees, I can't eat it. (ie. Broccoli, cauliflower)

15- Chocolate makes me sleepy.

16- The first job I ever had, when I was 14, was at a Big and Tall store, yet I am short an thin.

17- I wear a "soul patch" for facial hair in tribute to Frank Zappa.

18- I am having a love affair with Jack Links beef jerky.

19- I played drums professionally for 17 year keeping rhythm, but under no circumstances can I keep rhythm and dance. I am Whiter then Steve Martin in The Jerk.

20- I have an infatuation with Puma clothes and shoes.

21- I own more clothes and shoes then my wife does.

There it is. Please be kind. I am not going to pass it on since I am so late. Next time e-mail me to let me know.

Thursday, January 26, 2006

NC Gas Tax Info

I was at the Great Stops (W. Market St, Greensboro)today and picked up a pamphlet on the NC Gas Tax. It is brought to us by the NC Petroleum Marketers Association. The pamphlet breaks down the gas tax, gives you the surrounding states, and lays out how much is raised and how it is spent.

I'll tell you how I feel about it at the end of this. It is lengthy, but I feel worth it. So please read on.

We currently pay 30.15 cents per gallon at the pump in NC. The tax in other states in the southeast is lower but varies as follows:
GA- 7.5 cents per gallon +3% sales tax
SC- 16 CPG
KY-17.4 CPG
VA- 18.1 CPG
TN-21.4 CPG

We have 78,844 miles of maintained roads in NC. That is 2nd highest only to Texas. The third highest state is Virginia with 57,000 miles of road, but they pay 12.05 cents per gallon less then we do. You get my point.

This all means that if gas is currently at $2.33, you are actually paying $1.8545 per gallon for regular unleaded, and 30.15 cents to NC tax, and 18.4 cents to fed tax.

In the pamphlet it says the state maintains two separate funds to build and maintain roads. The NC Highway Fund and Highway Trust Fund. Here's the breakdown:

NC Highway Fund: 1.403 Billion Dollars 03-04
781 million from Fed to NC for roads
1 billion from motor fuel tax(approx)
75 million from driver license fees
15 million from Financial Security Restoration Fee
48 million from International Registration Fee
18 million from penalties(over weight limit,etc...)
160 million from Staggered Registration Fees
67 Million from truck license plate fees
3 million from registration fees
4.5 million from annual safety inspection
12.5 million in Miscellaneous Fees

Highway Trust Fund: 985 Million 03-04
311 million from motor fuel tax(approx)
578 million from Highway Use Tax
94 million from Title and Registration Fees
2 million from Lien Recording Fees

Grand Total- Approx. $2.388 billion per year

The pamphlet also states that since the Highway Use Tax creation in 1989, $170 million per year has been transferred to the General Fund for the State. This transfer is intended to make the General Fund whole since the Highway Use Tax was moved from the General Fund when created. The approx transfer for 05-06 and 06-07 will be over $250 million based on collections.

For all the cool graphics and other info not included here you should just stop by Great Stops and pick up a pamphlet.

You can get more info here by clicking on the "click here for new tax info" line. It is a PDF of the rise in the NC Gas Tax in July '05. The rate has raised again bringing the current levels to 48.55 cents per gallon(NC and Fed tax).

It is really disturbing what we pay in a gas tax here in NC. I have been in many other states with greater traffic and better roads, and lower gas prices. I just don't feel like we are getting our moneys worth. Maybe an audit of the spending of this money should happen to make sure where it goes? If they can prove to the public that it is the only way, then so be it. I doubt that to be the case. I'll see what else I can dig up soon.

George W Quote of the Day

I saw on the Situation Room(CNN) today our President actually say this, "The FISA Act was written in 1978. We are in 2006."(Para-phrased) This was in defense of his NSA eavesdropping program.

The implication is that the law written in 1978 was good then, but not now. That may be the case. But, the Congress went to the White House after 9/11 and suggested changing the FISA laws, which they did not want to do. With that in mind, the law is the law, and should be followed as long as it is law. I think that all sides can agree with that.

My point, the point I've been writing on this blog for some time, (here, here, here, and here) is that the Constitution of the United States of America was adopted in 1789 and that is that. Yeah, we are reading it in 2006, but it is still the basis of our country and should be followed until the Constitution is amended. The President and his administration have set out a track record of corruption, Constitution raping, law breaking and corporate pimping. The middle class is becoming extinct because of this. The country is living in a state of implied fear and propaganda. The truth is we are no more lily white then any of the bad people that they taut. We are no worse, but no better. There is a general difference in governance and ideology, that's about it.

If this is how the President is going to follow the laws of this country, then he is no more then a simple criminal, only difference is he's President. He should be impeached and order restored.
As a nation we write checks, but have no balances. When there is no balance in your account you close it or deposit more. In this case the account is our freedoms and liberties. So, make sure and balance your ledgers and keep the checks and balances in place. For all of us.

Wednesday, January 25, 2006

Why I'm Switching From Suntrust Bank

Lets start out with, I keep tight records in my checkbook.

Now onto the experience. It is a bit lengthy, but I think worth it. This is not just about me, this is about all consumers rights. Here we go.

I went to a merchant the other morning and made a purchase for $18.53 on my checkcard. The teller by accident ran through $53.18. The teller immediately refunded my card for the $53.18. The teller proceeded to charge the right amount of $18.53. No biggie, right? Wrong. After my correct purchase my account should have been left with $18.25 available. Yeah, I was cutting it tight, but who doesn't now a days.

I stopped by the Greene St branch, about 15 minutes later to make sure this would not be a problem, I have had several with Suntrust in the past months. All worked out for me in the end. I arrive to our Greensboro police force on site. Apparently they had been robbed a short time before. They tell me to call the customer service number, which I do, and their systems are down, no help. (Note: robbery is being kept hush-hush, I was told.)

Jump to yesterday morning. I go online to make sure my checkbook is in order and find $224.00 in NSF(Non Sufficient Funds) Fees. Holy Crap!!!!!

I go back to the Greene St branch and a lady proceeds to tell me that it was the merchants error and they will not refund the fees, I will have to get it back from the merchant. She calls and aggressively tells this merchant that they are responsible and pisses them off. I drive to the merchants to calm them down, I have a great business relationship with the merchant and I do not believe it is their fault. I then drive to the main Green Valley Rd branch where I get my answers and a refund.

Now ready, brace yourself for the explanation from the bank.

They use what is called a "memo post". This is when you swipe your card at a merchants machine they automatically check for funds and remove the amount from your available balance. This is what occurred with the $53.18 and $18.53 charges. The $53.18 refund doesn't need to be checked against your account so it takes 3 to 5 business days to clear. What!!!

Your telling me you can take my money instantly, but you are going to hold it for 3 to 5 business days? All the while the bank has your refund they collect interest on it. At the same time because the $53.18 was not returned instantly, everything else that would have cleared(7 items), leaving me with $18.25, is now insufficient and subject to the NSF fee of $32 per item.

Sounds a bit unethical, especially since this is nowhere in the fine print at all, or online in the FAQ's section of their website. The branch manager explained that not all banks work this way and that this was the "old-school" way of banking.

You would think that if they can take it instantly, they can put it back instantly.

This isn't going to end here though. I have been in contact with the State Attorney Generals Office. They are looking into the matter as you read. They will determine if it is something the AG will handle or if it needs to go to the state Congress for possible legislation against such practices. I will fill you in as I know more.

Can anyone recommend a good bank? I'm looking.

By the way, between the two mornings of running around to straighten this out, I missed a combined full day of work, and wasted a lot of precious and pricey gas. That's the cost of banking.

Self Check Out Rant

I arrived at Lowe's today to purchase some supplies for my paint company as usual. What I didn't know is that besides paying for them, I'd have to work for them. Lowe's has put in self checkout lines. There was one regular teller, 13 empty teller stations, and 4 self checkout lines. I guess the way to get you to use these new lines is to have one teller with a line so long you are forced to use the other self lines.

As part of the shopping experience I kind of enjoy the teller scanning my stuff and telling me what I owe them. I figure it as part of being in business, it's surely written into the cost already. I feel that if you use the self checkout lines then maybe your overall purchase should be reduced in price a little. They are saving money, after all. This is another way for a company to increase profit-margins.

My point is, self-help is really just help. Self checkout is really just a checkout. The only difference is, it's you doing the chore.

To reinforce this point, a self-adhesive bandage doesn't magically stick itself to you, you still have to adhere it. Be leery of anything with self before it, because it is yourSELF who will be doing what that happens to be.

Maybe I can start doing self-bidding at my company, where a client will bid their own house. Better yet, self-painting, where a client will pay me to paint their house, but do it themselves. You get my point, self-anything is bad for the consumer. For it is the consumer who will buy and do the work in all cases.

One more economic point, self checkout lines also put people out of work. Machines taking jobs from people who need them. This is technologies downfall. One of few I can think of.

Friday, January 20, 2006

No Global Warming, Huh?

January 20th. Outside painting an exterior of a house. Buzzed by a bee on the roof. But, there's no global warming. Can't be. Just saying.

Two Men Named Davis, Two Suspensions, One Messed Up League

I've been stewing over this rash of NBA suspensions this week since Thursday. The more I think about this the angrier I am getting. Two men named Davis, Antonio from the NY Knicks and Baron from the Golden State Warriors, were both suspended this week.

Both broke the rules.

Baron unleashed a punch on a fellow player from the opposing Seattle Supersonics. He was ejected and suspended for one game.

Antonio witnessed a fan bothering, physically, his wife and two young children. Antonio went into the stands to protect his family. He never threw a punch. Antonio was ejected and suspended for five games.

Both should be ejected for their actions by rule. The suspensions should have been reversed.

Message from the NBA- We would rather see player on player violence, then support a player who goes to help his family. Shameful.

I can tell you this much, if I were a player and my family was in danger, I assure you I would be in the stands protecting the family I love. Basketball is a game with rules and that is the point, it is a game. Family is life, not a game. The NBA should support a player with family values over a player who resorts to violence. They send a very bad message to young fans who look to league players as role models. The players themselves haven't done such a great job with the role model issue either. Hopefully, these overpaid brats can respect the game they play and each other a little more. If they can't they should go become the hoodrat they portray on TV and see how long they can stay alive. With the lap of luxury they enjoy now, I would bet on not long.

Truth be told, I stopped watching pro ball a few years ago, as I saw this problem become a part of the game. Grow up NBA(players and owners), until then I can't watch anymore.

Baron's suspension coverage from the SF Chronicle.

Antonio's suspension coverage from the NY Times.

Friday, January 13, 2006

Coffee At The Summit- You Must Try This New Cafe

I returned to Coffee at the Summit today to speak with owner Stan Montgomery about what led up to the cafe and what is in the future for the cafe. I reported yesterday that today the 13th was the opening and I was wrong, the opening is tomorrow, Sat the 14th at 8am.

Stan Montgomery is a quiet man. In the past two days I saw a man of large stature giggle inside like a little boy. He giggled because his vision of opening a cafe is finally a reality, and more so the neighborhood faithful gave him a resounding thumbs up. Stan is a life long resident of Greensboro, NC, graduating Dudley High School in 1978 and attending NC A&T University for accounting thereafter. He has worked for himself for many years. He doesn't take anything for granted and he looks forward to Mondays. Stan owns a real estate agency The Montgomery-Davis Group, LLC. He loves his agency. When Stan first saw the property at 623 Summit Ave, he had a vision. His vision was Coffee at the Summit, a place where people of all types could come and relax and enjoy. When I first met Stan two nights ago, I was greeted with a smile and a "Hi, I am Stan. Welcome to Coffee at the Summit". It is always first impressions that count. I was blown away with the decorative interior of the historic house that is Stans cafe. I learned today that Stan himself designed the interior and he did quite a job. The cafe has a "home like" feel to it, relaxing and comfortable. Coffee at the Summit was over a year in the planning.

As I said before, Stan is like a little boy inside. So much, that he is installing a model train set outside in the garden area of the cafe. He will also serve ice cream. He is also working on food and drinks for the kids. My daughter loved her Strawberry Smoothie the other night at the opening party.

Stan is also about honesty and purity. He told me today that, "I would be a horrible car salesman. I probably wouldn't last a shift." I believe him. We discussed the future of the cafe and one thing is certain, Stan is keeping his vision pure and he is keeping this a safe place for people to enjoy life and some damn good coffee.

Important to us bloggers is the question of Internet access. Stan said today that Clearwire is going through the process of certifying Coffee at the Summit a Wi-Fi Hot Spot. He expects this to happen over the next week or two.

Also on the agenda for Stan is the addition of a piano and musical acts from the local talent pool. He says, "I don't want this to be a nightclub, if I did I would have opened a bar." Stan also purposely left open a lot of wall space for local artists to display their artwork. He will hold, what he calls, "exhibition cooking", where his cook will prepare requested foods of a certain genre. Say omelets, whatever omelet you want will be prepared for you. You get the idea. Stan loves local, he is local, we must support local. He wants to know what is good and what is not, that way he can keep his customers happy. I hope for a long time to come. A genuinely great place for coffee and atmosphere, brought to you by a genuinely nice man.

Coffee at the Summit is located at 623 Summit Ave, between Yancyville and Murrow Blvd. Hours of operation will be Monday-Thursday 6am to 8pm, Friday 6am to 10pm, Saturday 8am to 10pm, and Closed on Sunday. See you there.

Thursday, January 12, 2006

Bye-Bye Starbucks

I went to the special grand opening for the Aycock Historic District residents of Coffee at the Summit tonight. Tomorrow is the official grand opening to the general public. I was greeted by very friendly service, an affordable menu, and primo food and drink. Coffee at the Summit will serve sandwiches, salads and desserts. All the sandwiches are named after neighborhood streets. The atmosphere is wonderful. There is a patio and garden area outside that is beautiful. Tomorrows opening is at 6am and they are opened until 8pm. The shop is located on Summit Ave, between Yancyville and Murrow Blvd, across from the Womens Resource Center.

Stan Montgomery is the owner and I spoke with him this evening. I will bring you more from Stan, likely tomorrow, as I will sit and interview him in detail on the new shop. Stan did tell me this evening that he plans to bring in local artwork and local music to the coffee shop. As a guy who drinks coffee on a too frequent basis, I tell you, you have to go try this shop. Wonderful job getting the shop ready and I look forward to drinking a lot of your coffee. Bye-Bye Starbucks, Hello Coffee at the Summit.

Monday, January 09, 2006

Finally, Howard Arrives

I am sitting here listening to Howard Stern on Sirius Satellite Radio. It's about fucking time. Your fines have paid the employees of the FCC for to long. Congrats on being truly free. Living in a "free" country and being censored must have been agonizing.

If you don't have satellite radio, I got my wife and I Sirius receivers for the holidays and they are liberating. I can hear music without censorship. Comedy without censorship. News and talk radio without censorship. This is the best thing since sliced bread.

It's sad that in a free country that I have been forced to have to pay for the freedom to listen to the radio uncensored. I pay for TV service(cable) and it is still censored, what a shame. People should be able to handle language in this day and age, but instead freak out like people are lining up for sex with their moms. Chill out folks, it's just words and images. If you don't like or can't handle them turn it off. There is plenty of unpaid stations in this country to tune into on TV and radio. Please tune into those. If you must have the others, it should be uncensored for everyone to see and listen. Please don't fuck it up for everyone else by censoring media.

In a side note and maybe related note, Dick Cheney was rushed to the hospital this morning with shortness of breath. Wonder if he was listening?

Harry Belafonte For President

Harry, you are my hero. Thanks for speaking your mind. Check out Harry in Venezuala here.

Sunday, January 08, 2006

I'm Not Dead, Just Busy

I know I haven't been posting a lot lately. I have been swamped with work and my family. I am currently enjoying the temperate weather on a 4100 sq ft Victorian exterior. I am also going inside on those rainy days in a historic house that has been gutted and redone. I promise more posts here soon, please be patient. Running your own company is very time consuming sometimes.

My dad was in the hospital for about a week as well. I finally got him to go get checked and they admitted him in the first 10 minutes. If he would have waited, he would have lost his legs to his diabetes. He is starting to get back on the right path and his health is starting to improve. Thanks to all who have reached out to him in his time of need, he has got every e-mail you have sent.

I have a lot to catch up on, but I am reading blogs I enjoy when I have time and when I can keep my eyes open. Keep checking back and I will post more soon.
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