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Category Archives: Wondering

Marketing 101

There is an idiom from the the 1800’s: “hang out one’s shingle” which means to put out a sign saying you’re open for business.  I suppose that was a sufficient way of doing things when the world was small and everyone you knew was right around you.  Plus, there was much less competition back then, too.  You had your town doctor, lawyer, barber, woodworker, etc.

That is not the world anymore.  Now there is much more competition and you must stand out from the others that would take your business.  You should always put your best foot forward (another idiom) to represent your business.

So why, why, why, do people make hard-drawn signs for their business?  Specifically, I am referring to a sign I saw over the weekend that gave me the chills.


That’s not the only time I’ve seen something like that, but it’s the worst example of its kind.  Now, aside from the spray paint stencil lettering that looks nothing like blood splatter, there’s the important information, like contact info.  It’s written in tiny letters cramped along the bottom.  How are you supposed to read that from your car?

Then there is the issue of legitimacy.  If you can’t see it, the sign says they are “License”, complete with quotation marks.  I don’t know if it’s worse that they don’t know that the correct term is “licensed” (which, btw, I followed a truck this morning that said “License and Insured”) or that they don’t know that putting things in quotes makes those things questionable.  In either case, I don’t think I would trust their intelligence to supervise children.

But let’s recap the idea of hanging out your shingle.  I’ve been involved in some business ventures.  It’s not easy; I’m not cut out for it.  But, I think if you’re going to go into business, you have an obligation to everyone to be professional.  You know, that sign on the side of the road doesn’t only represent you, it represents all of your customers as well.

Let’s say you personally don’t have an issue sending your kid to a place whose signage suggests it is a house of horror.  And if someone asks you for a recommendation, you say they have the sign out by the stop light down the road.  That person’s impression of blood-sign marketing may be disgust, which then alters their opinion of you.  As they say, you will be known by the company you keep.  Always align yourself with reputable associations.

If you’re going to go into business, do it right, or please don’t do it at all.


I Can’t Sleep – Web Crawl

This crawl started by seeing AK in a snapchat picture with a BK+Budweiser filter.  I wondered what that bullshit was all about and ended up reading a press release saying Burger King had a limited time burger for sale.

The burger was hyped as best as it could be, I suppose.  It was a double cheeseburger with more shit on it.  The part that caught my eye was “features two savory flame-grilled beef patties totaling more than ¼ lb.* of beef”  Wow, guys.  Two patties to make a quarter-pounder, huh?  I’m not going to say it’s more than a quarter pound, because otherwise they’d be bragging it was 1/3 pound.  Or maybe not, since stupid Americans don’t understand 1/3 is more than 1/4.

Anyway, that got me reminiscing about how I used to love double cheeseburgers at BK.  They were the absolute best value on the menu.  And then they shrunk the fuck out of them around the great recession, 2008 or so.  I wish I could prove it.

Maybe I can.  I went looking for nutritional information and ended up on a site that had these impressively accurate meter thingies about the BK double cheeseburger.


Does the taste good?  Of course the does!

And from this page, I got a number, a serving size.  171 grams, which is .377 pounds and must include the bun.  So, how do I find out how good things were back in the day?  Well, I use my favorite tool for exposing embarrassing facts, the Wayback Machine.

Looking at the nutritional info for the double cheeseburger on BK’s site from 1999, I get another number, 198, which is .436 pounds.  So, you do the math and see how much it’s lost over the years.  Tip, calculate it as a percentage to make it sound more impressive.  The Fake News Media does it all the time. (Seriously, I don’t care which side you’re on or what you believe.  If you see an article on anything that only uses percentages, be skeptical.  They’re selling it to you.)

But that’s not the end of the data.  After I got the serving size from the old archived BK website, I felt like an idiot for not just going to the current BK site instead of this “Durr, click Delicious or Disgusting button, pleez” website.  And when I went to BK’s current site, I got yet another number. As of May 2018, the size of a double cheeseburger is 148 grams, or .326 pounds.

To summarize, in 1999, BK’s double cheeseburger was .436 pounds, and in 2018 it is .326 pounds.  That’s a reduction of .110 pounds, which is a 25% reduction from the 1999 size. Oh no! Percentages!  I’ve destroyed my credibility by at least 108%.

Revisiting Taxes

For a few years, I used to do a post on taxes, specifically regarding the “marriage penalty”.  It was a rant post because I was married at the time and we were getting dicked over by this penalty.  Things have gotten a lot better in that regard lately (as in me getting divorced), so I stopped making those posts back in 2013.

I saw a post by someone who was complaining that the new tax laws were changing his taxes for the worse.  By using an estimating calculator, he had to increase his withholding rate, but was getting more back per paycheck.  It sounds like a strange con game, give me more and I’ll give you more.  And simply because of that weirdness, I got wondering how the marriage penalty shakes out under the new tax law.  So I went looking.

Here’s the surprise, there is no marriage penalty anymore (for the common person).  If you are a married filer, your tax table breaks at 2X the single income – at every bracket.  Except… if you make over $300,000 each.  Like I commented, not the common couple.

It would make sense that any tax “improvement” would offer a gain for normal income people and a proportionally higher gain for extraordinary income people.  That’s a gripe for another post.  The point of this post is that the marriage penalty is gone.

Just for retrospective kicks, let’s look at what could have been if we did not have the tax “reform”.  Looking at the 2017 tax brackets, as in all other years, the disconnect happens in the upper tier of the 25% bracket.  If you are single, you would be bumped to the 28% bracket at $91,900.  If you have two married people making $76,550 each, that couple will be taxed at 28%.  That is the marriage penalty – you are bumped to a higher tax rate sooner from your combined wages.  Said another way for clarity, if you and your partner made $77k each and were not married, you each got taxed at 25%.  Then you get married and with no change to your salaries, now you’re paying 28% in taxes.  And that sucks even harder if you get married later in the year, because your employer has been withholding taxes expecting you to be in a 25% bracket.  You will have less withheld when you do your taxes and learn you’re now at 28%.

You might think this new tax table is awesome, especially if you were previously hit with the marriage penalty, but it’s not better or worse, just different.  The marriage penalty primarily affects DINKs (dual-income, no kids), especially young professionals, and in these modern times, married gay people.  The tax system up to now has favored and encouraged one married member being a breadwinner and the other being a homemaker.  This high income of the breadwinner has no extra income from the homemaker and is able to utilize the full deduction of both people against one income.

So, now that the incentive is gone to have two people living under one income, all the people who structured their marriage in this way, on purpose, or by accident, or by default, they are going to pay more in taxes.  That could be the case for this post I read.

Florida, The Bakery

I’ve been seeing a lot of billboards lately with a new slogan: “Drive Baked, Get Busted”.  It just kind of appeared out of nowhere and suddenly, it was everywhere.  Ok, yeah, police want (stupid) people to know that driving after getting high is a bad thing. 

I looked this promo campaign up and yes, it is new this year.  Supposedly, it’s because of the new medical pot law in Florida.  If we’re going to have medical pot, we need to let people know that you can’t take your “medication” and go for a drive.  Here’s the funny part.  The ad campaign is primarily targeted to 18-34 year olds.  Exactly the ones that would need medical stoning plants.  Secondarily, the ads target 55-74 year olds.  You know, the ones that smoked pot all the time when they were… 18-34.  But anyway, fuck yeah, Gen-X!  You’re not targeted as pot smokers.  And I find that really dumb, because everyone I knew growing up was perpetually high.

It kind of got me thinking about the whole PSA campaigns for any sort of impaired driving.  First of all, what idiot doesn’t know that driving under the influence of anything is bad? (Anything but driving under the influence of Jesus)  Second, if the person doesn’t know naturally that it’s bad, is a billboard really going to educate them?  Sometimes, I see messages on the traffic warning signs that say, “DUI – Decide before you drive” and I think a lot of people are like, “Already done.”

You just wouldn’t believe the frequency I see impaired drivers on the highways.  If it’s not some drug, then it’s probably tiredness.  Tiredness is an impairment that doesn’t get enough attention.  Maybe a billboard or two would help: “WAKE UP, MOTHERFUCKER!”

The 80’s Synth Invasion

As my music collection grows exponentially, I find it doesn’t grow in any sort of order.  It grows opportunistically.  For example, I don’t particularly buy what I want, I buy what’s available.  And that’s fine, because my tastes are broad enough (and always growing) that there’s always something I’m willing to buy.

It was a little while ago that I picked up my first album by Survivor.  You know, Eye Of The Tiger and all that.  Actually, that was the album I got.  When you’re familiar with a band’s hits and you want to become invested in them, you can take the easy route and buy the greatest hits album, or you can be a man and just buy an album.  At thrift store CD prices, being a man doesn’t cost a whole lot, so that’s where I went.  And I liked it.  They had a good sound and I put Survivor on the list for future album purchases.

That day came a bit later when I picked up another of their albums.  It was my morning commute CD today.  And my experience with the album really led me to thinking deeper about music in the 80s.  Eye of the Tiger was released in 1982 and the album I was listening to came out in 1986.  My thoughts led me to create a shitastic “comic” to express my thoughts.


The initial point I was trying to make is that the ‘86 album had 10 songs, and 9 of those songs were all keyboard, with the guitar relegated to chunking out 8th notes for rhythm.  The closing track was guitar-driven and really felt out of place with the rest of the album.

Something clicked with me when I listened to each song as it started out with synthesizer chords.  I felt really sorry for the guitar player – well, main guitar player.  The keyboardist also played some guitar.  I suddenly understood the huge pushback against synths from rock acts, which, being a keyboard player myself, I never really appreciated.

Survivor isn’t the only recent instance I noticed this, although it was the most visceral.  I had recently picked up Europe’s album Wings of Tomorrow.  Everyone knows The Final Countdown, sure.  And if you heard the rest of The Final Countdown album, it is also very synth heavy, but it is also well-balanced with guitar work.  But on Wings of Tomorrow, which is the album just before The Final Countdown, there are hardly any synths at all.  The change is remarkable.  Also from the 80’s is the band GTR, a band that was formed by two guitarists who wanted a guitar-driven album.  That’s how bad it was back then.  I didn’t grasp how much of a statement they were making.

Then the Linn drum machine came along and it started to put the pressure on drummers.  Now they could be replaced with rock-solid precision that could be edited at will.  Gina Schock had to fight with the producer to play on The Go-Go’s Talk Show album.  And Mutt Lange, I love his sound, but his reliance on drum machines really grates on me.  I still remember when my innocence was broken when I realized the ZZ Top album I loved so much had no real drums on it.  And then it began a real-or-not hunt on every album I had, which is not how music is supposed to be. 

But there is an infinite palette of music out there for consumption.  I can lament Survivor softening up into a synth ballad band or I can just put on any hair metal from the same era and hear guitar.  There is always something on offer from some band, even if it’s not the band you want to hear it from.  Guitar songs never really went away, they just spread out.  And with my ever-expanding collection, I still find them.

Music Transcends Spirituality, Or Does It?

On my recent mega-thrift run, I picked up a particular CD from a thrift shop.  The thrift shop had one of those CD sections where everything was religious music.  The CD caught my eye because the title was “Portraits in Synthesis” and the cover was very new-agey, although the back design was a little chaotic.  The CD seemed like it would be a nice new-age synthesizer instrumental album, so I spent a couple bucks and got it.

When I got home, with my 19 other CDs, I took a better look at the back and saw the tracks were named all… uncomfortable names.  Things like, “Fairest Lord Jesus”, and “Lord Be Glorified / Spirit Song”, and the rest were similar.  Of course my reaction was, “Goddamn it.  This is a religious album.”  And I left it on the kitchen table while I cleaned up and cataloged my other finds.

The next day, I saw the disc sitting on the counter and picked up it again.  I read more of the back and realized, yes, it was a synth album.  It just had weird song titles.  I looked inside the booklet and there were no lyrics, so, yes, it’s instrumental.  What’s the deal with these titles?

I researched the label the album was published under and learned that it was a subsidiary of a religious music label.  This new child label was made to take advantage of the growing “new age” music popularity of the 80’s.  How weird.  When I think new-age, I actually think of “anti-religion”, not in any evil way, but you know, new-age spirituality. 

Think of the issues that come up when Christian music lovers can’t listen to new-age music because it conflicts with their personal beliefs.  “I can’t listen to this because it’s new-age, and that involves crystals and tantra and whatever a chakra is!”  Well, music finds a way, right?  We’ll publish the same kind of music, but we’ll use religious titles that invoke the names Lord and Jesus and then there’s no moral conflict!  What a genius idea!  It’s genius, but it’s sad, too.  Music doesn’t have any religious affiliation.  It’s agnostic.  And the sad part is that agnosticism isn’t good enough for devout believers.  If it doesn’t fully walk the walk and talk the talk, it’s evil.

I was testing out my car stereo after doing some work on it and the only radio station I could pick up was the local religious station.  Go figure, huh?  And some woman had called in to talk to the radio host and explain how she loved the station and how it gave her whole house a worshipping feel all the time.  That’s what you want your whole life to be?  Like you’re in church all day?

But I try to keep in mind the lyrics from NOFX’s Happy Guy, from Punk In Drublic (Something the devout would never hear anyway):

Don’t try to judge him, his theologian ideal
His hopes may be false but his happiness is real
Don’t try to judge him, he’s just a man

The Definitive Article On Bands

What a misleading title!  Too bad, you’re here now.  I have been puzzling a bit today over the use of “The” in band names when it is not officially part of the band’s name.  The best example of this is “The Eagles”, whom I happened to listen to on my morning commute.  The band is really “Eagles”, but most everyone says, “The Eagles”.  You know.  This oddity was best summed up on a post on a forum that said something like,

If I say, “I love Eagles!”, someone might think that I liked large birds of prey that symbolize freedom in America.  But if I say, “Man, I fucking hate The Eagles!”, everybody knows exactly what I mean.

I thought I had found the answer in an article dealing with this specific topic, but I was unsatisfied with its conclusion.  I delved into my own music library for examples to see if I could make any sense of this.  Here’s a list of candidates from A through C:

  • Acoustic Alchemy
  • Alpha Rev
  • Art Of Noise
  • Blind Melon
  • Blue Man Group
  • Carpenters
  • Cheap Trick
  • Chicago
  • Creedence Clearwater Revival
  • Crowded House
  • Curved Air

This is actually a very good cross-sample, because there are a couple bands in here that are definitely preceded by “the” regularly: Art of Noise and Carpenters.  There’s some you would never consider preceding with “the”, like The Crowded House.  And there’s some that could go either way, like The Blue Man Group.

I thought I was onto something when I made my first hypothesis that you cannot use a definitive article if the first word of the band name is a modifier, like an adjective – Cheap Trick, Crowded House, Curved Air.  So, what kind of guideline is there for say, Art of Noise or Blue Man Group?  I got a hint from the band name Art of Noise – the “of”.  The Blue Man Group is The Group of Blue Man.  The Art of Noise is, well, The Art of Noise.  You couldn’t say The Air of Curved or The House of Crowded, right? 

Let’s find some more examples that may fit this “of” guideline.

  • Dixie Dregs
  • Electric Light Orchestra
  • Hearts of Space
  • Jefferson Airplane (mentioned in the article)
  • Little River Band

And some examples of the initial guideline where an adjective is the first word:

  • Daft Punk
  • Damn Yankees
  • Deep Purple
  • Diesel Boy
  • Dire Straits (also mentioned in the article)
  • Dream Theater
  • Fine Young Cannibals
  • Flying Colors

In this second list, you cannot interject “of”, where in the first list, you can.  Ok, the hypothesis is holding up reasonably well.  That leaves single-word band names like:  Buggles, Carpenters, Chicago, Devo, Dokken.  And also, we have to consider bands that do formally use “the” in their name like: The Cars, The Doors, The Outfield, The Police.

The article I found proposes that if the band name is a plural or collective term, “the” is used or is assumed.  That explains why we force ourselves to say “The Carpenters”, but not “The Chicago”.  However, it doesn’t account for cases like “The Nice” or “The Who” except to potentially argue that excluding the article results in a shitty, confusing name.  “I have tickets to Who tomorrow.  Nice is opening for them.”

So, I think I’ve satisfied myself as to when I can realistically prepend “the” to a band name even when the band does not explicitly do so themselves.  The exceptions to those guidelines, I’ll just have to chalk up to the bullshit of the English language.

Simple, Unhealthy Pleasures, Made More Expensive

I read a recent announcement that a new burger place was going to be opening in my town.  You would think I would be excited about something like that because I like burgers.  But unfortunately, the burgers of my era don’t really exist anymore.  They have been improved, upcycled, and gentrified.  They are now Gourmet Burgers.  And I fucking hate them.

Remember a time when you would go and have a beer?  Well, I don’t personally, because I don’t drink.  But I remember the reputation of people who would go and have a beer and it was, well, hmmm…. blue-collar.  But then, craft beers came along and drinking beer was hip and trendy and super cool.  And they also got super expensive, and there were so many variants it seemed impossible to keep track of what you might like, if anything.  And drinking craft beers gave you a way to serious discuss the various ways you get yourself drunk, with organic hops and brew cycles and fermentation in only the highest quality drums and ABV or drunkerness-value.

Remember when cupcakes were a simple treat?  You’d buy a half-dozen from the grocery store and eat them at a party or over a week or something?  Then came along a concept of gourmet cupcakes, where you buy one super-expensive cupcake and savor the fuck out of it to get your money’s worth.  But no one just eats one cupcake, so in the end, you’re just spending a hell of a lot more money.  But you justify it because the cupcake is of a much higher quality.  And the cupcakes aren’t just something simple, it’s a mishmash of crazy ingredients and flavors just to prove to yourself and everyone else that you have such a refined palate.

Remember burgers?  A chunk of mashed beef on a bun?  Well, that’s just too simple for the hip, modern person.  A burger can be anything according to these assholes.  Sure, you can put ground beef on a sesame seed bun, but where’s the challenge in that?  What if you want chicken?  Or fish?  Or vegetables?  Or… What if you want a wheat bun?  What if you want lettuce as your bun?  Those are all burgers!  A bunch of vegetables wrapped in lettuce – look at my fucking BURGER!  Bullshit!  Sacrilege!

Oh, and toppings?  Well, let’s just go right off the rails on this.  I haven’t seen it yet, but I suppose you could potentially get a ground beef patty as a topping for your chicken burger.  Why not?  There’s no damn rules anymore!

You know the people that don’t go to Starbucks because they feel they’d be laughed out of the shop for ordering a coffee?  “Get out of here, peasant!  Go to Dunkin Donuts for your… coffee!”  Well, that’s pretty much how I feel going to these places and asking for a plain cheeseburger.  I’m offending them.  And in a way, they’re offending me, too.  I don’t see it as a place that has to elevate something simple to the point of eliminating the basics, I see it more like, we can’t do the basics well, so we’ll hide behind fancy buns and toppings and other ingredients to make up for that shortcoming.  And people eat that shit up, literally.

This problem is everywhere.  Remember when you could buy a candy bar?  Now you can’t buy one.  You have to buy two.  They call it King Size, or Sharing Size, or whatever.  Pretty soon, they’re going to start mixing different candy bars and saying it’s the new hip thing to do to when you get say, a Mounds and a Peppermint Patty together and eat them together like a fucking BURGER.

Remember when you just went and bought ice cream?  Cold Stone Creamery took care of that.  Remember when you bought a fountain drink?  Coca Cola Freestyle machines to the rescue.  Remember when you smoked cigarettes?  Vaping gives you 50,000 different flavors and buzz levels.  Remember casino slot machines with three reels?  They got SO complex they couldn’t even be mechanical anymore.  They had to be virtual reels on a touch screen.

I’m old.  There, I said it.

How I Do Love Thee

Welcome to February, the month of lovers, where survivors and castaways of Dump Month find new hope.  Also, half home to Aquarius, despite whatever the fuck those people that think they can change the astrological calendar think.  In the spirit of this month, I wanted to do something a little XKCD-y, which was predicated on my wandering thoughts on the simple question, “Do you love me?”

“Do you love me?”  This question is more polarizing than say, “Are you a Trump supporter?”  Whereas an answer to the latter will give you a pretty good indication of how well your relationship is going to work out, the former simply brings up more questions.

First, let’s list through some context scenarios.  In no case is any answer a safe answer.  Consider if any of the following came up to you and asked, “Do you love me?”

  1. Friend
  2. Co-worker/colleague/superior
  3. Significant other
  4. Family member/pet
  5. Stranger

I say that there is no correct answer in any case.  That is because yes and no are absolutes, while love is not an absolute.  There are limitless types of love.  Here is another helpful list of potential love types:

  1. as a fellow human
  2. as someone whose company you enjoy
  3. as a friend
  4. as someone you want to see happy
  5. as someone you want to see naked
  6. as someone you only want to love you in return

For the sake of brevity, I kept this list short, but I did order the list in least to most creepy.  And when you map these simplified types of love to the context of the requester, things get a little tricky.  Please note that “yes” could mean “as a fellow human” as well as “I want to own you exclusively”.

1 2 3 4 5 6
1 Good Good Good Good Weird Bad
2 Good Good Good Weird Bad Bad
3 Bad Good Bad Good Good Bad
4 Bad Good Good Weird Bad Bad
5 Good Bad Bad Weird Weird Bad

And even that mapping doesn’t tell the whole story.  And part of that is because the list of love types is not exclusive.  Multiple types can be valid at once.  When you get into that, you have to start assigning points for goodness/badness/weirdness and sum them all together to determine if the end result is good, bad, or just weird.

And after all that analysis, maybe that’s the only types of love there are.  Good love, bad love, and weird love.  But, the asking of the simple question, “Do you love me,” can result in the exposure of which of those three types your relationship is then based.  Unless you lie.

Where does lying get you?  Let’s go back to a simple yes/no answer for this, because if your answer is, “In what way?” you’re immediately in the weird zone.  Unfortunately, the most logical response, “Why do you ask?” puts you in the bad zone.  The most rational response, “Yes, of course!” is also the most risky.  To which I repeat, there is no safe answer.  Ok, maybe answering a stranger, “No” might be valid, but who ever wants to heard they aren’t loved, especially when they asked the question?

Congratulations, One Way Or The Other

January is officially ending.  January is unofficially “Dump Month”, so either congratulations on making it through and keeping your relationship intact, or hats off to you for making the decision to move on and have a better life in the future.

January is classified as Dump Month because no one wants to ruin the December holidays with a breakup, but no one also wants to try and fake it with Valentine’s Day.  And hey, new year, new you, right?  Resolutions and all that stuff.  And if you’re the one who didn’t make the choice to end the relationship, fuck that other person.  You were being held back anyway.  2018 is going to be the best year yet, and you are going to be the one responsible for it.  There is no loss, here.

But, if you are happy in your relationship (as I have been for a great many years), or if you aren’t in a relationship at all, go ahead and get smug.  If you are paired up, love your partner.  If you’re more than paired up, love them all.  If you’re not paired up, love yourself.  For all of you, the only thing you have to worry about is taxes.

In just a few days, everyone is going to be losing their mind over valentines and candy and hearts and pink and OMG, the special dinner that you can’t get reservations for anymore because there’s so many fucking people now and they all want to make things perfect for their SO’s when a certain number of them are probably thinking, “I missed Dump Month again this year and now I’m stuck paying for Filet Mignon for two.”  So, you newly single and not-newly single can get your smug on in just a couple of days.

In the “research” I did for this post, I learned that January is also Slow Cooker Month, which is a stupid name contrived simply to avoid using a trademarked name.  It’s fucking Crockpot Month, people.  And for those with crockpots, you should make a dump meal in honor of this event.  A dump meal is a stupid name also, because poop.

I also learned that the film industry has “dump months” where all the shit movies are released because expectations are lower.  January is a dump month for them too. 

See, it’s all about getting rid of the junk.  Whether shitty plotlines, shitty actors, shitty leftover food, or shitty partners, January is the month to dump them.  There’s still time left.