My Two Cents Worth

Wrote a check the other day for a periodical subscription; and while I was writing it, it suddenly occurred to me "Why 19.97?"

I can sort of understand the old marketing approach of $19.99 is seen as $19 and not $20; but why $19.97? They had to consciously set that price. Do those two cents really mean that much?

"Hey, let's give 'em a two cent discount!"

It even makes less sense when you think about what the use of a penny really is these days. Can't even buy two cent gum any more. Don't even get me started about gas pricing. Does anybody out there realize that they still price it to the tenth of a cent, 9/10's to be exact? So that the $2.39 a gallon is really $2.40, less a tenth of a cent per gallon. What is the point of that? If a penny can't buy anything these days, what does a tenth of a cent get you?

"We saved 2 cents on that 20 gallon tank of gas, let's go get some gum!"

Why do they even bother pricing to the penny anymore? It costs more for the cashier to count correct change these days, than it would to price goods to the nearest dime; perhaps even setting prices to the nearest quarter dollar is warranted.

I still stop to pick up change these days. But I've been noticing a lot more pennies just lying around; and even penny pinching me will occasionally let the singleton just lie there.

Ben Franklin said "A penny saved is a penny earned". But Franklin's pennies were made of copper, rather than the aluminum alloy slugs we get today (not to mention they were a good bit larger then, too) I wonder if he would stoop to pick up a modern day penny.

I guess I should thank that publisher for starting me off on this rant. I've definitely got my two cents worth out of it...

Moderator no More

I've been pondering what to say on the subject of my hasty exit from moderating Liberty Dollar Online. Not that it's a stunningly popular site, or that many people will notice. It's just that events like this can be very instructional if one simply takes the time to ask "what happened here?" in the proper light.

So let's properly light the scene.

The forum owner, the administrator and the moderator, when those hats are worn by separate people, need to act as a team on issues concerning the operation of the forum. This may seem like an obvious statement; and since teamwork is an often overlooked part of management, perhaps it is 'obvious' in the true sense of the word. In this particular instance, all three hats were worn by different people; a fact I was unaware of until just recently, having not been informed that the owner of the site had farmed out administration duties to a third party.

In a team, the players all know who's on the field, what their roles are, and what parts of the field are used for what purpose. In a forum this constitutes as knowing what types of posts go where, what types of member behavior is allowed (or, perhaps more easily, prohibited) and what types of moderation response is expected.

If you look at the site "Liberty Dollar Online" and think about where a post on any specific topic might go, you'll find the first stumbling block. As a tangential issue, I'll just touch on this here and be done with it. Where do you put a post concerning the Federal Reserve and it's relationship to gold? 'general' is where they end up. Where do you put a post concerning an offer of ELD? Those to end up in 'general' as well. In fact, most posts went to general and then had to be moved to their proper place on the forum. Why? Because the topics of the different sub-forums are too limited, or the wording on the forum description doesn't illuminate the expected contents of the forum. Then there is the 'cover all bets' type threads that could just as easily be a forum (or a poll) in themselves. Heaven forbid a moderator touch one of those immortal sacred cows. The wrath of the heavens (that would be the members who created and continuously add tangents to said thread) will descend upon the moderator who does.

The lackluster forum names and the catch all threads were stumbled over and either dealt with or ignored based on who had admin rights for what and when; so basically, the team isn't really communicating well, and no one really knows where anything needs to be. But we are giving it the 'old college try'.

As a secondary light source, I would like to add that the forum 'klashistan' was described to me as a place where 'anything goes' (remember this point, there will be a test later) I liked the idea, myself. Someplace to consign threads, and the contributing members to same, that have descended into ad hominem hell. It saves the moderator from endless accusations of "you deleted" and "I've been wrongly banned" type bullshit.

...and it is bullshit, because moderating is an unpaid thankless job, and most of the ingrates who use forums have no idea just how thankless it is. The next time one of you average members out there posts criticism of site moderation on a particular site, and it stays there, you should give that moderator a medal. Hell, throw him a party. Because there isn't any reason that he had to leave it there.

That handles the lighting. Now for the play itself.

A pain-in-the-ass member from a Yahoo Group dedicated to the Liberty Dollar decided to join the "Liberty Dollar Online" forum; When I say Mark Queen is a "pain-in-the-ass", I have previous postings to prove it. That's a condensed version. The thread lasted at least a month in time and spanned at least 20 posts. Definition of "pain-in-the-ass".

And he wasn't the first one. A few others joined up earlier, and finding that I was the dreaded 'moderator' they left, letting the owner know that they were leaving 'because of me'. Good riddance, not that I actually cared one way or the other. None of them posted much of anything to credit or damn themselves with; I'll cherish a adversary who can put together a decent argument just as highly as I do someone who shares common cause with me; however, incompetent whiners I have no time for. It's not my fault so few of them are up to the task.

But, Pain-in-the-ass Queen is savvy, so he posts his attacks directly to Klashistan, and refuses to elevate his discourse above the ad hominem level. When he first posted his issues with ALD, I dutifully created a poll that highlighted several of his points, in the proper forum, and invited everyone to come on in and discuss it. You could hear the crickets chirp.

Months go by. The new members come and go, not much happens, and Mark Queen is still pissing in the wind. Then he insults my dog. Well, I'm impervious to most attacks these days, but my dog was deeply offended. After pondering my response (the umpteenth response to the same question, mind you) I decided that 'anything goes' (I said there would be a test later) meant for the moderator as well, and I locked the thread in question, giving myself the 'last word' in the thread, as it were.

"Pain-in-the-ass" Queen complains to the site owner, Frank Motley. The site owner listens, his willingness to listen being only slightly effected, I'm sure, by the fact that Mark Queen has done business with him in the past, and is a friend of his. If I had known the number of relationships involved in this little fiasco (this wasn't the first time I had a run in with a 'friend of the owner') I would never have volunteered to moderate in the first place. When the members can go whine to the boss directly, and he listens, then the 'writing is on the wall', so to speak.

The site owner has the administrator reverse my judgment. No questions of "hey, why did you do this Anthony?" No "would you mind changing this back?" Just a slap in the face by someone I've never met or conversed with, and a public statement of my lack of authority; albeit a feel good "he's a great benefit to the site but has no real authority" type statement.

I'd been toying with bowing out as moderator for awhile anyway, and this had a 'straw that broke the camel's back' type of feeling to it, so I made my stand on principle, knowing what the outcome would be.

...If a moderator can't moderate, then what is he? If anyone can whine to the site owner, and he'll reverse the moderator's judgment, then who is really the moderator?



Not surprisingly, Frank has his own spin on things:
Not that I think it matters, but I have not "chosen Mark" over Anthony or anyone else. I made myself perfectly clear above.
It does matter, and you did choose. Not one person over another perhaps, but the troublemaker with whom you identify over the office of moderator (the hat I was wearing at the time) that you despise. Perhaps despise is too strong a word, but your adversarial relationship with moderators in the past has definitely negatively colored your perception of what a moderator's job is, and has left you with the tendency to side with the troublemakers, even on your own site.

Mark Queen may have been instrumental in Liberty Dollar circles once upon a time, but he has ceased being anything other than an agitator looking for reasons to snipe at alternative currencies. The only reason he would want to know the data he keeps demanding and stating "isn't a problem to collect" (as long as you ignore the facts concerning validity, privacy and compensation for work performed) is so he can damn the entire system as ineffectual; because the data will look ineffectual alongside the data from the Fed that he wants to compare it to.

[It is a 'Mark' of Dumb-ass Queen's cluelessness that he would attribute my locking the thread to my somehow 'loosing the argument'. As if mindlessly repeating the same objections for several months constitutes an 'argument'.]

Additionally, if you had wanted to post a response to Mark Queen's objections (objections that had been offered several months previously) it could have been done in the appropriate forum, just like you ended up doing anyway. There was no need to unlock the thread in question, no need to post to klashistan at all, except to show the moderator just who was boss. There was never any question who was boss. The only question was "who's the moderator?"

It was never me, apparently.



So, what was learned, what information can be taken from this little charade? With tongue in cheek, I offer the following:
  • Never volunteer for a job. Any veteran of the military can tell you that; I should have listened to one of them.
  • Know who the Boss' friends are, and make sure you have the good dirt on them first. They'll make up dirt about you if they have to, so you better be prepared.
  • Make sure to 'disappear' any posts that offend your dog, rather than violate some unwritten rule that only applies to moderators.
  • Make sure that the forum headings are clear enough that people can figure out where posts should go; and be flexible enough to change them when the membership still can't figure it out.
  • Make sure the next moderator understands that "anything goes in Klashistan" applies to everybody else but him.
  • Make sure the next moderator knows how to contact the administrator directly; and let him know that it's actually a different person, not you with a better attitude.
...and finally:
  • When a member horrifies you by childishly defacing the entire forum with blank posts, and the forum owner confides in you that the member learned that behavior from the owner himself on another forum, quit right then. Don't wait for the other shoe to drop. You'll thank yourself later.
I don't know what the future holds for Liberty Dollar Online. I had great hopes for it once. The forum traffic that I had anticipated, never materialized, in part because the libertydollar site itself has so far refused to direct traffic to it. There is no better place on the web to get quick answers to ALD questions, but it remains largely under utilized. So to for Frank's other site, Liberty Auctions, which is a great auction site that allows for the use of alternative currencies...

[in stark contrast to e-Bay, a site worried about you not using dollars to pay for transactions, but apparently unconcerned when false car auctions are listed. That's another story]
...but is largely unknown even in alternative currency circles. Don't ask me why, the sites work well. Perhaps it's a marketing/exposure question. Maybe it's just a matter of time.

No hard feelings Frank. I'd do business with you in the future. I'm just done with LDO for now.

...and with that, I return you to the regularly scheduled rant.

The Best Enemy Money Can Buy

Listening to ol' Joey today, and I heard the Great Fat One bragging about how he predicted that we were going to 'deal with' Iran two years ago, and how this was now about to happen.

The day Bush named Iraq as the next target in the 'War on Terror', it was clear to me that the Joint Cheifs wanted to establish a 'beachhead' in the Middle East, a place from which to stage the pacification of the entire region, as needed. Obviously, Iran would be the follow-on target. That was a bit more than two years ago. If ol' Joey only figured it out two years ago, then he must be slipping in his old age.

...The real question is, are the Iranian's engaging in nuclear weapons research in anticipation of this event, and do we really want a nuclear Iran? I think the answer to the second question is "no", but are we prepared for the consequences of that answer?

We've handed these people our money, hand over fist, for 4o years now. We've built up their infrastructure and taught them how to drill for oil. Sold them our weapons and trained them in their use. As always, we've gotten the best enemy money can buy. I wonder when we'll learn to quit doing that?

Isn't it Obvious?

Every time I hear that phrase, I think "yes, it is".

All over the internet (if you Google it) are sites and messages from well meaning, angry people attempting to point out a fact or a situation that is "hidden in plain view".
Can't you see it? Can't you see it? Why can't you see it?
Why do I say 'hidden'? Well, it must be. Why else would someone ask a patently obvious question? (aside from the rhetorical. Obviously) They don't see the answer though it is right before them. It's not a mark of stupidity, more a problem with perception.

I looked up 'obvious' on several dictionary sites in an attempt to confirm the nuances of meaning that I see in the word. None of them seem to see the obvious differences between obvious and similar words like apparent and evident. Appearances can be illusory. Evidence reveals the evident answer.

You can be blind to the obvious, because it is 'in the way' (as the Latin states) a can't see the forest for the trees type of situation. So look carefully before asking that next 'obvious' question, or be prepared to literally stumble over the answer when it is pointed out to you.

Corporate correspondence

In the continuing saga of "The Quest for Sobe Black Tea":
A Message from Consumer Relations 011015940A
Hello Anthony,
Thank you for taking the time to email us here at SoBe Beverages. It's always a pleasure to hear from lizard lovers like yourself.
Unfortunately, the product that you are asking about is no longer carried by the local distributor in your area. However, keep your eyes open for new beverages from SoBe in your area. In the meantime, your comments will be shared with our sales team and senior marketing staff. I apologize for any inconvenience this may cause.
Again, thank you for contacting us. We appreciate your interest in our company.
Lauren Napolitano
Consumer Relations Representative
lauren.napolitano@pepsi.com
011015940A
--------

Couldn't care less about any other flavor of beverage that you produce. I have been on quest for Sobe Black Tea since I first discovered Sobe on a road trip to West Texas nearly 10 years ago. Following that discovery, I went to more than 50 quickshops in the Austin area, personally, in order to get Black Tea from the local distributor. Instead I get all the other flavors BUT Black Tea.

I can't even buy it online. I can't even buy it directly from you. I am beyond pissed at this point, I'm just about livid. I would really like some answers as to why I can get 19 other flavors of Sobe in Austin, but I can't get Black Tea? Does someone need to be replaced at the local distributor? In my opinion, the answer is yes.

I would really like a response that answers questions rather than a blow off note that suggests I find something else to like. As someone who will special order Cokes, Dr. Peppers and 7-ups with real sugar in them, just to get the 'real thing', I think it's a more likely possibility that Satan will ice skate to work tomorrow.

Also, I noticed that the domain name changed from lizmail.com to pepsi.com. If you notice my list of favorites, you might come to realize that there isn't much love lost between me and Pepsi.

Your turn at bat, swing and a miss?

Car Trips; Travel

Heading out in about 5 hours to deliver the children to their grandparents for a few weeks of vacation (theirs or ours, it's hard to guess) and I suddenly realize just how much I've come to hate sitting in a car.

I used to hunger for the freedom that a car represented; and when I finally got my drivers license, you couldn't get me out of the vehicle except to sleep. I'd plan trips like the impending one to the nth degree, mapping out which way to go, picking just the right music; and I'd spend the day proceeding it cleaning every inch of the vehicle inside and out.

These days I don't notice the car is dirty until I can't see out the windows. I don't even want to talk about sitting. Legs hurt, hips hurt, back hurts; and you just have to sit there. Music is secondary now, too. If we're lucky, the wife and I will hit a good conversation rhythm, and we won't even notice the radio is off.

I don't drive by myself any more, maybe that's what's different. I doubt it, though. Given a choice, I'll play the passenger rather than have to concentrate on driving for hours at a time.

Maybe car trips are like the other trips; drug trips specifically. At first it's a mind blowing change, to be in control and able to do anything (at least in your own mind, which is where it counts when it comes to trippin') and then as the number of trips piles up, they start turning into bad trips, and you wonder why you ever wanted to do that shit in the first place.

...Or maybe I just need to take up flying.




Made it back alive though. It's always a wonder when that happens, even though it has happened every time.